Ep 58: Listen here -> “A**hole Abolitionists”: Reflections on Language and Violence”
Discussing the “7 dirty words” (and more) and their relation to violence That and much more.
Ep 58: Listen here -> “A**hole Abolitionists”: Reflections on Language and Violence”
Discussing the “7 dirty words” (and more) and their relation to violence That and much more.
My latest Vegan Trove podcast Ep 28- Listen here -> “What’s in a Word; The Rebranding of The Abolitionist Vegan Society”
I generally try to ignore and avoid faction fighting because it’s energy draining and time consuming and is frequently personality based, but I decided to address some of the issues that have arisen from recent claims by a small few that the abolitionist movement is “rampantly racist”, “sexist” and “hostile to people of colour”. If you are not involved in the abolitionist community you may wish to skip this one.
I discuss the history of the term “abolitionist” and why it is not racist to use it in relation to veganism and why it is not appropriating the term if we look at history. I talk a little about overt and structural racism, credentialism and tokenism. I ask the question, has the movement become more about the messenger than the message?
Please read my disclaimer about any pages, groups, sites, individuals, opinions, etc mentioned in this podcast episode or any episodes past and future.
In episode 27 (Listen here), It’s a mixed bag I talk about a number of topics. How the holiday season can be difficult for vegans but it doesn’t have to be. I share tips about how to survive it and how to help spread veganism at this time. I discuss the massive bee die-off globally and how if we are not vegan, we are participating in this. I speak about other causes of this massive bee die off including GMOs, pesticides, and honey production and our part in this. I discuss climate change again in relation to animal agriculture and how independent news and individuals from large green organisations virtually ignore animal agriculture’s tremendous contribution and a number of other miscellaneous issues. I talk about generosity. More links and information on Vegan Trove site.
Welcome friends to my third podcast (listen here). I was going to focus on a number of issues in this podcast, but an essay by Chris Hedges (Pulitzer Prize recipient) came to my attention titled “Save the Planet: One Meal at a Time” and I thought I would discuss some of the aspects of this essay.
Here’s an excerpt:
“Animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all worldwide transportation combined—cars, trucks, trains, ships and planes.3 Livestock and their waste and flatulence account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51 percent of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.4 Livestock causes 65 percent of all emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 296 times more destructive than carbon dioxide.5 Crops grown for livestock feed consume 56 percent of the water used in the United States.6 Eighty percent of the world’s soy crop is fed to animals, and most of this soy is grown on cleared lands that were once rain forests. All this is taking place as an estimated 6 million children across the planet die each year from starvation and as hunger and malnutrition affect an additional 1 billion people.7 In the United States 70 percent of the grain we grow goes to feed livestock raised for consumption.8
The natural resources used to produce even minimal amounts of animal products are staggering—1,000 gallons of water to produce 1 gallon of milk.9 Add to this the massive clear cutting and other destruction of forests, especially in the Amazon—where forest destruction has risen to 91 percent10—and we find ourselves lethally despoiling the lungs of the earth largely for the benefit of the animal agriculture industry. Our forests, especially our rain forests, absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and exchange it for oxygen: Killing the forests is a death sentence for the planet. Land devoted exclusively to raising livestock now represents 45 percent of the earth’s land mass.11
And this does not include the assault on the oceans, where three-quarters of the world’s primary fisheries have been overexploited and vast parts of the seas are in danger of becoming dead zones.”
I speak about the so-called “Ag Gag” laws and the problem with focusing on animal agribusiness instead of addressing public demand for animal use. I speak also about the problems with promoting welfare reform and the problems associated with large animal organisations and their undercover investigations. I touch on a few other issues as well briefly.
Thanks for listening. I look forward to your company again.
From early childhood, I’ve always had an interest in other animals. When I was a child in the ’60s, small frill-necked lizards dotted our old wooden fence. I loved to watch them and on occasion I would pick them up to look closer. Occasionally there would be a very large Bearded Dragon in our yard. My interest in our nonhuman residents was more than a superficial fascination with their appearance. I would find solace in their company. I’ve always felt different to others and I wonder if perhaps it was because I was adopted. I think in some odd way, I identified with my nonhuman friends and their obvious difference. Even at that early age, as I observed them, I remember wondering what they might be experiencing, what they might be feeling, what they thought of me, and so on.
As with most Australian families, my parents bought us “pets”. I don’t recall ever asking for a “pet”. We looked after guinea pigs, fish, and it was often the case that an abandoned neighbourhood cat would find a loving home at our house. When I was 7 or 8, I bonded with a little black fish in our aquarium. He would swim to the surface and I would scratch his head. I remember also bonding with an Angelfish and when he eventually died, I wrote a poem about my grief. I placed the poem with his little body in a match box, and buried it.
When I was 8 my grandmother took me fishing for the first time. I really had little interest in catching fish, and more interest in spending time with my Grandma. Unfortunately one fish found my line. Grandma took the fish down to the edge of the ocean to wash the sand away. As she did, the fish slipped through her hands and swam away. I was not disappointed. I look back and feel sad that children are encouraged to engage in activities that result in violence. My point in relaying this story is that like most children, I seemed to be swept along with society’s speciesist activities. Each generation is a victim of the earlier generation’s speciesism.
During my young adult life in the late ’70s/early ’80s, I mixed in circles who were engaged in social justice causes, alternative theatre and music. There were a number of vegetarians within those groups. At the time I thought that it made sense that we should not eat animals, because it was obvious that “meat” was flesh from a sentient being and because killing is wrong ii. But I never really had a conversation with anyone about this issue. Vegetarianism seemed more like a “personal choice”. Even in these circles, the issue of nonhuman animals being used as resources was not included among their social justice issues. Now when I look back at this period, it shows how very deeply ingrained speciesism is, that even intelligent, socially conscious people had not thought through this issue and did not include other animals in the moral community. Even those who had made a personal choice not to eat “meat”, did not extend this concern to animal advocacy.
I vividly remember one exchange in the early ’80s which, for some reason, has stayed with me till now. I asked my artist friend Holly (a vegetarian) why she didn’t eat fish. She was rushing through the house at the time on her way out the door and she quickly replied “because it’s an animal that lives in the sea”. It was unfortunate that Holly was rushing out the door, because I would have liked to have talked to her further about it. Generally speaking, most people I knew at that time, except for Holly, went through periods where they were vegetarian, and then returned to eating flesh and other animal products.
Likewise, I had been vegetarian on and off from the time I left home at 17, but during this time I was still consuming and wearing animal products. There was even one stage where I was pescatarian. I do not count being vegetarian as anything significant in my journey to veganism. To be clear, vegetarianism and veganism are quite different. Vegetarianism still involves eating animal products, wearing animal products and using animals for entertainment or other reasons. Veganism on the other hand is an ethical position which rejects using animals for food (dairy, flesh, eggs, honey etc.), clothing (wool, leather, silk, fur etc.), entertainment (horse-riding, animal circuses, petting zoos, zoos etc) or other reasons. I often refer to this period of my pre-vegan life as living in a speciesist haze. Basically I was living unconsciously as regards other animals. I find that disturbing since I have always considered myself reasonably aware of justice issues and I aspired to live a nonviolent life, but this was not true before I became an ethical vegan. Throughout my life, I couldn’t bear seeing any animal being abused. I would intervene if I could. I was always rescuing some injured or abandoned animal, but it never really occurred to me that I was participating every day in violence by consuming and wearing animal products. It is true that most of us think about important moral matters in a completely confused and incoherent way.
In 1994, approximately ten years before becoming an ethical vegan, I became Buddhist. I found confusion regarding animals in Tibetan Buddhist circles. Buddhist centres warn not to kill insects, and some Buddhists release captive animals (after purchasing them), so Buddhism appeared to take nonhumans into their regard. Like many people, I assumed Buddhists would be vegetarian, but found students would eat vegetarian food at Buddhist centres, and then eat flesh and other animal products away from the centre. Tibetan Buddhist teachers would instruct students to pray over flesh before eating it, and instruct them to not eat flesh when they were taking 24 hour precept vows or on particular auspicious Buddhist days. Many teachers would, themselves, eat flesh at other times and generally eat and wear animal products. I questioned senior students about eating flesh, and got rationalizations that didn’t entirely satisfy me.
I don’t remember the exact incident which finally woke me from my speciesist haze, but if I recall correctly, it was in early 2005 when I happened across some information about the dairy industry. It was the same year Donald Watson who coined the term vegan in 1944, and who pioneered the vegan movement, died at the age of 95. At that time, I also remember a conversation clearly with a friend about how chickens are raised and murdered. I felt sick. I remember feeling horrified that this was seen as acceptable. After further investigation, I could no longer participate in this violence by using animal products and became an ethical vegan overnight. The moment I became fully aware of the reality of animal use, there was no turning back. Up until that point, I’d bought “free range” eggs, and had not realised the great harm in dairy and other animal products. I had not fully considered that we have no right to use other animals as resources. I had been mentally disconnected from the flesh and other animal products I was consuming in my daily life. I shudder to recall my former state of ignorance and I greatly regret all those years I used animal products.
After I became vegan I realised that becoming vegan personally was not enough. We wanted to stop animal use altogether, so we naively started trying to lobby government. Our brief experience in late 2005 to mid 2006 was very frustrating and disheartening, since government obviously was not interested in accepting that animal use simply needed to be abolished and mostly resisted “reform”. We soon realised they were clearly only interested in “reform” which benefited industry economically. It was also clear they were interested in co-opting us and were also protecting animal use industry stakeholders. We saw clear evidence of this when we met up with one government representative who was actively pursuing “Controlled Atmosphere Killing” (“CAK”), a “humane” slaughter “reform” which PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has been promoting to industry for a number of years. PETA claims CAK reduces carcass damage, slaughterhouse worker injuries, and has other economic benefits for industry.
A watershed for us was when we were asked to make comment on the “draft policy” for treatment of pigs. All animal groups were advocating for slightly bigger cages, slightly “better conditions”, than the draft policy suggested. We could not, in good conscience, recommend welfare “reform”, so we commenced our submission by stating we opposed animal use. To proposals that minimum space for pigs be increased to about 1 square meter, we responded that the natural requirement for a herd of pigs was several square miles of forest understory. In disgust, at this point, we decided to stop lobbying government for “welfare” improvement (or any other reason). We could not support it because we wanted to end use and had always felt uncomfortable with advocacy which included and was limited to regulation.
Before I continue, since there is so much misinformation and disinformation about veganism, I wish to re-emphasise that I do not see any significance or benefit whatsoever in vegetarianism. None at all. Nor do I conflate vegetarianism and veganism since they are entirely different for reasons I have explained earlier. If I mention that someone is vegetarian, it’s just a statement of fact, and is not an endorsement, as if being vegetarian is beneficial, or a step towards, or similar to being vegan. For me there are those who are non-vegan and those who are vegan. There is no in between. If I could put flashing lights above this statement I would 😉
In mid 2006, my partner (who had become vegan at the same time as myself) and I decided to start a vegan not-for-profit organization called LOBSA (Liberation of Brother and Sister Animals) which we originally formed to bring veganism to the Buddhist community. I found many texts where Shakyamuni Buddha said we should do our best to avoid harming nonhuman animals (including insects and invertebrates) and that we should avoid eating and wearing animal products which were the result of intentional killing and harm. To my knowledge, in the Tibetan Gelug-pa tradition there is only one Geshe who teaches these Sutras on occasion, but he is not vegan and does not ask students to become vegan.
Since speciesism is so pervasive I knew there would probably be resistance to vegan education, but there was much more resistance than I expected when we joined an international Mahayana Buddhist organisation. I was particularly disappointed since the Lama who is spiritual director of the organization is vegetarian, and frequently talks about not harming animals, including insects and worms. Unfortunately, to my knowledge he would never actually state that his students should become vegetarian. Resistance increased from those who thought what we were advocating reflected badly upon some teachers, including H.H. the Dalai Lama who consumes flesh and other animal products. Sadly after a year, we decided there was not much point in continuing with their organisation and we left.
In early 2007, we asked Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo (a Kagyu nun and subject of “Cave in the Snow” by Vicki Mackenzie) to be the patron of LOBSA. Jetsunma said she would be “delighted”. We also asked H.H. the Gyalwang Drukpa to be a patron. He happily accepted. Both were already vegetarian . Both Jetsunma and the Gyalwang Drukpa had made statements instructing their students to become vegetarian. Unfortunately, beyond these measures, they have not adopted veganism. We later decided to de-register our organisation but we have continued to maintain the LOBSA.org website. We had registered LOBSA as part of our association with the Buddhist organisations, but had never intended to use it to get money, or pay ourselves anything, even as a non-profit organisation. I do not have any intention to do so in the future.
For almost 3 years I was on the mailing lists of many large animal organisations. I constantly networked online with these organisations – domestic and international. During this time, I was uncomfortable that all their single issue campaigns never seemed to mention becoming vegan, and increasingly would suggest “humane” animal products or to boycott the industry until they “improved” conditions for animals. I couldn’t recognise that my discomfort was valid, because every large animal organisation appeared to be using this approach. In retrospect, I can now see that despite claims they were for animal rights, they only seemed to promote “humane” use and they rarely, if ever mentioned veganism. In the rare occasion they mentioned veganism, it was soft-peddled, human-centric, conflated with vegetarianism and presented as a diet or as “hard”, “extreme” or optional. They seemed to avoid using the term vegan in association with their single issue campaigns, but instead always asked for donations. What I did see at the time — which I found most disturbing and noticeable — was how all large animal organisations seemed to be intentionally moving closer and closer to industry, and this appeared to be escalating. I was only able to articulate this discomfort later. A pivotal moment for me was when awards were being given to animal use industries. About this time, there was also a proliferation of support for “happy” meat. I felt frustrated and at a loss, and felt like the promotion of “humane” use was selling out animals. I was looking for a way to articulate my position and why I was not comfortable with this, and that’s why it was such a relief to come across Professor Francione’s work.
I can’t talk about my awakening and journey to becoming an abolitionist vegan without talking about the importance of Professor Gary L. Francione’s work for me, and how greatly his work has influenced my life. There were two stages to my becoming an ethical vegan. The first was the time prior to finding Professor Francione’s work, when my veganism included an intuitive but unformulated abolitionist viewpoint, but I was also lost in mainstream advocacy confusion. I was never comfortable with the welfare “reform” which all large animal groups and many animal advocates seemed to be promoting, but I didn’t know how to go forward. Abolishing animal exploitation seemed to take a back seat, and as I mentioned earlier, I didn’t feel at all comfortable promoting “better conditions” which were really just a slightly different and slightly less torturous form of animal exploitation. I had come across “abolitionism” earlier, but it was misrepresented. As a result, I responded negatively.
The second phase began when I had the good fortune to be properly introduced to the abolitionist approach to animal rights by Prof. Francione himself in August 2009 on his private Facebook page. It immediately resonated with me. Until hearing some of his arguments, I had not felt the confidence to fully articulate my thoughts about speciesism and “reform”. His explanations made a great deal of sense and I decided this was definitely the way to proceed. Prior to Francione’s work, no one had clearly argued that sentience alone is the only criterion needed to be a member of the moral community and that no other cognitive characteristic is necessary; that membership in the moral community means that you cannot be used exclusively as a resource (the pre-legal right not to be treated as property); that promoting welfare reform is not only morally problematic but practically problematic in that the chattel property status of animals results in a structural inequality that necessarily limits the level of protection accorded to animal interests; and that veganism must be the unequivocal moral baseline of anything that claims to be a rights movement.
Something that particularly attracted me to the Abolitionist Approach is that it is holistic and includes supporting civil rights, women’s rights, LGBTI rights etc and because this is a logical extension of justice. All forms of discrimination are related and represent violence. I truly believe, as Professor Francione says, that veganism is the single most important form of social activism that anybody can engage in and that any serious social, political, and economic change must include veganism.
Veganism is a nonviolent, grass-roots political movement. It is the heart of nonviolence. It is not a “personal choice”, it’s a moral imperative. Promoting nonviolence and social justice for nonhumans (and humans) is very important in the world today. We are all interconnected. And as long as we eat, wear and use other animals for our pleasure, we engage in daily violence, and we will never know peace.
Some of the issues I have come to understand through Professor Francione’s work is the way welfare “reform” or regulation of animal exploitation further enmeshes animals in the property paradigm, and does not move them closer to nonhuman personhood; “Animal welfare ‘reform’ only makes our exploitation of animals more economically efficient; it does nothing to recognize their inherent value (as moral persons).” “We have had welfare reform for 200 years now. We are using more animals in more horrific ways than at any time in human history. Welfare reform does not work. It cannot work. Animals are chattel property. Given that status, and the reality of markets, including and especially the fact of international markets and ‘free trade’ agreements, animal welfare will rarely if ever provide more protection to animals than what is economically justifiable.” “Veganism is the only coherent response to our recognition that animals are members of the moral community.” His work reinforced my belief that not only do animals have an interest in not suffering, they have an interest in continuing to live and that a “humane” death is still unjust.
Finally, Professor Francione maintains “if you accept that animals are members of the moral community but you are not vegan, it is either because: 1. you don’t take morality seriously enough to act on your own moral views; or 2. you have some speciesist view that animals are “inferior” members of the moral community. There are no other choices.”
In conclusion, I always considered myself as someone who acted for social justice and nonviolence, yet I had been participating in violence and animal slavery for most of my life. My greatest regrets are the years I spent eating and wearing products of violence, and how long I thought it was normal that we use other animals as resources. I was, on the whole, living unconsciously. I’m a fairly private person. I try to live a very simple life. I’m fortunate to live in a relatively harmonious country, in a beautiful rural area. But it is difficult to truly enjoy this while seeing nonhuman slaves in the fields, and being aware there are 56 billion other animals (not including aquatic animals) being tortured and murdered for our pleasure each year. Now I try to spend as much time as I can in vegan education. I strive to incorporate Ahimsa into every aspect of my life, into my thoughts, words and actions. I don’t know how successful I am, but I try. I find that veganism has had a wonderful and profound effect on all aspects of my life. I’ve become so much more aware of not harming, of protecting other animals (including insects etc), and I have a much better understanding about my own place in the world. I’m so glad that I did not leave the world before becoming vegan, and I hope that I am able to spread veganism to as many people as possible before I do. Veganism will solve many of the world’s problems. In short, I dream of, and work towards, a vegan planet.
Finally, I would like to share this quote:
“All slaves want to be free—to be free is very sweet. I have been a slave myself—I know what slaves feel—I can tell by myself what other slaves feel and by what they have told me. The man that says slaves be quite happy in slavery—that they don’t want to be free—that man is either ignorant or a lying person. I never heard a slave say so.” ~ Mary Prince (1831) Bermudan author who was once a slave)
If you’re not vegan, please go vegan. It’s much easier than you think. Please start here
i I put “meat” in quotes to indicate that this word is one that, in English, is used to create cognitive distance between reality and our comfort. In general, saying we eat flesh has far more emotional accuracy. Likewise, we disguise our actions by a double system of labeling: e.g. a cow becomes “beef”, a pig, “pork”, a sheep “mutton”.
ii I focus on flesh consumption in describing my early life, not because I think eating animals is more significant than other forms of animal use, but because that is what people around me focused on. Likewise, in later references to Buddhism, teachers focus on eating “meat”, and did not even consider other animal products or many forms of animal use were the result of violence. As a vegan, I see any use of animals as equally morally unjustifiable, and do not personally make distinctions between eating animals or animal products and other forms of animal use. All use is morally unjustifiable.
I was reading today that slaughterhouses in New South Wales (Australia) have been employing a “new” and “improved” method of murdering animals. It’s considered a “humane” alternative to the current torture which occurs routinely in every slaughterhouse worldwide. If you have been paying attention to my blog and my abolitionist page LiveVegan, you would probably understand by now there is NO such thing as a “humane” slaughterhouse and even if there were, it would still be unjust.
Here we are again, with yet another myth about “humane” murder using “controlled atmosphere killing” (CAK) slaughterhouses. It is claimed to be the “biggest” and “best” and “state of the art equipment”. Why CAK? Because it’s cheaper, it reduces worker injuries, ensures that animal’s flesh is “undamaged”, cuts down on bacteria and is a public relations exercise in which industry can tell Australians that these pigs were killed “humanely”.
PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has been promoting “controlled atmosphere killing” in Australia for a number of years now. What happens inside a ‘state of the art’ Australian execution gas chamber? Recent evidence reveals crate after crate of pigs thrashing and screaming and gasping for air. Is it any surprise filling a chamber with CO2 would make anyone panic and feel terrified? The company which uses this method would be aware that using CO2 would produce a sense of asphyxiation and they would be aware that using an inert gas instead would not produce this same feeling of suffocation, but CO2 is cheaper and industry is about economic efficiency, not any concern for nonhumans. Nonhumans animals are viewed as mere economic commodities. In any event, whatever the method, all methods of killing are morally wrong and death is the ultimate “harm”.
Remember that this “improved” slaughter method has not been employed because it’s “humane”, it’s been employed because it’s economically efficient. In short, animal welfare is all about economic efficiency, not about nonhumans. That’s the first thing we need to understand about welfare. The second thing to understand is that welfare is designed to make people feel comfortable about consuming animals. The third thing is, as is evidenced here, that it does little or nothing for animals and is just a slightly different form of torture. But even if we stroked their heads, cuddled them, talked to them calmly and played Mozart while we murdered them, it would still be unjust and morally wrong. Despite what utilitarians like Peter Singer claim, nonhuman animals have an interest in their lives continuing.
Abolitionist veganism recognises that it’s not HOW animals are being used that is the issue, it’s THAT they are being used at all that is the problem. We recognise that nonhuman animals deserve one very basic right — the right not to be used as property. If we believe animals matter morally, then we need to stop eating, wearing and using them.
What is beyond sad is we have an entire animal movement dedicated to promoting “humane” use of animals, instead of promoting the solution to ending animal use – veganism. What those who promote welfare “reform” do not seem to understand is that they would get their reforms anyway if they promoted veganism to the public, because industry would respond with these reforms. Industry would do this to prevent people from rejecting animal use, and to make people “feel better” about using animals. In fact if everyone promoted veganism clearly, industry would probably go above and beyond these pathetic “reforms”. Instead, all large animal organisations like PETA, HSUS, Animals Australia, Mercy for Animals etc., partner with industry, help them peddle their products, assist them with their PR campaigns and regularly promote the idea that it’s morally acceptable to use animals as long as it’s “humane”. They are the self appointed “watchdog” for industry.
Speaking of the lengths we go to find “better” ways of doing the wrong thing. Yesterday I saw this article; “Scientists race to develop farm animals to survive climate change” in which it says “The idea is to create animals that are more efficient“. I mean seriously? Scientific evidence (ignored by mainstream media and played down by the IPCC) about climate change would strongly suggest our species only has a few decades left before near-term extinction, and we are engaged in this kind of irrationality? Species fail.
Let’s stop the nonsense and stop looking for “better” ways of doing the wrong thing. Please go vegan and educate others to do so. It’s the minimum standard of decency. If we claim to be against violence and injustice, it is the only rational response.
If you’re not vegan, please start here
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As the title “Why Vegans Criticise Vegans for Promoting Veganism” suggests, it would appear we advocates are confused and rendering ourselves ineffectual. If I didn’t know better I would think that there were agent provocateurs amongst us, but no, it’s really a simple matter of speciesism…. and in some cases career advancement.
On various social media sites there appears to be much confusion amongst those who claim to be vegan over what veganism and being vegan entails. The most obvious confusion amongst those who claim to be vegan is the mistaken belief that veganism is a diet, and is a matter of personal choice. Conflation of vegetarianism and veganism is common. Advocates also seem to be under the impression that it’s morally acceptable to promote “humane” use and “humane” slaughter of animals and single issue campaigns (SICs) as part of vegan advocacy. It is interesting to note that amongst proponents of these ideas, there is a general intentional avoidance of the words “vegan” and “veganism”, and in the case of large animal organisations this is done so as not to challenge their predominantly non-vegan donor base. There is also increasingly an appropriation of the term “abolitionist“, just as the term “animal rights” was appropriated.
These are ongoing problems so I thought I would share some thoughts. I invite you to listen to the podcast here.
Claiming We are Vegan but Continuing to Use Animals.
There are some of us who claim to be vegan, and think we can be vegan and continue to use animals in our personal lives with the excuse that we treat them “nicely”. Where have I heard before that it’s morally justifiable to use animals as long as it is “humane”? Oh yes! Large animal organisations consistently promote this notion to the public. And because large animal organisations also conflate vegetarianism and veganism, there is a common misconception among advocates who support them that veganism is a diet. This leads some to believe that being vegan means as long as they aren’t eating animal products, then they can still use animals. But veganism is much more than a diet, it’s an ethical position which rejects using non-human animals for food (dairy, eggs, flesh, honey etc), clothing (wool, leather, fur, silk etc), entertainment (zoos, animal circuses, petting zoos etc), or other reasons.
We need to be clear. If we are vegan, we cannot pick and choose and redefine veganism based on our personal choice of how we like to exploit animals.
It is confused thinking to say:
Well I like horse-riding, so that’s OK because I treat my horse “nicely”.
I love honey and I buy it from a small farm where the bees are treated well, therefore that makes it OK.
Well my uncle keeps some backyard hens, and he “allows” them to live out their natural lives. He looks after them well and he thinks of them as “pets”. He finds good homes for the male chicks, so therefore I eat their eggs.
I have a rescued sheep in the back paddock. She produces a lot of wool and I have to shear her anyway, so I may as well collect the wool, spin it, and use it for clothing.
No. It doesn’t work like that.
First it assumes that animals’ lives, their body parts and secretions are ours to use. Second, no matter how “nicely” we may use animals, it doesn’t make it morally justifiable.
Claims that Single Issue Campaigns should be included in Vegan advocacy
I’m not sure why anyone thinks it is necessary or logical to focus on and promote the idea that one form of animal use as worse than another, or that one species is more important than another. Are we not vegans? Isn’t it morally consistent that if we reject animal exploitation, then we should reject it all equally? Doesn’t being vegan mean we recognise that all non-humans are equally morally important? Apparently, not according to some. So why are we doing this? First, let’s remember that 99% of our use of animals is for food (which is “unnecessary” since we can meet all our nutrition needs from plants [and non-animal sources]). That’s 180 million plus *land* non-humans who are tortured and murdered every day mostly for food and many more aquatic non-human animals suffer the same fate. Something to consider is that if we — the non-vegan public — care about what’s on our plate – something we sit down to 3 times a day – we will care about the small percentage of animals used for entertainment, clothing, animal experimentation, and other reasons.
Single Issue Campaigns: Illogical, Speciesist and Futile
Despite decades of SICs targeting those who wear fur (mostly women) and targeting business that sell fur, statistics show that fur sales have been increasing globally. According to the International Fur Trade Federation (IFTF), fur sales have been increasing year on year since 1998, reaching £10.3bn for last year alone. Unfortunately anyone who may have stopped wearing fur due to a fur campaign is most likely still eating and wearing animal products including “leather”, silk, wool etc and is still using animals in general. We need to understand that using leather, wool, silk etc are equally as bad as wearing fur and involve at least as much suffering and death. Leather is not just a by–product of the flesh industry. Cows and calves are not only killed for their flesh, they are killed specifically for their skin as well. Due to the fast pace of the “production” lines, cows and calves are often conscious at the “hide-ripping” machine. Why do so many people who stop wearing fur continue to eat, wear and use animals? Because large animal organisations and their supporters do not promote veganism, and instead make moral distinctions between different species and different forms of animal use.
One reason fur campaigns are so popular with large animal organisations is because animals used for fur are generally popular with the non-vegan public and viewed as “cute” and “exotic”. Asking the public not to wear fur from these animals is not much of a challenge to their personal behaviour, therefore fur is an easy target and a reliable source of donations. Think of all the hundreds of millions of dollars given by non-vegan donors over the years to large animal organisations which were spent on “vegan” celebrities and fur campaigns. How many unfortunate sexist and misogynist “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” soft porn ads have we been exposed to over the decades? Yet despite this, fur sales keep increasing! Imagine if all those millions of donors had been asked to go vegan and all those donations had been used to promote veganism only?
Despite decades of live export campaigns, many “cruelty” investigations, including a feature on ABC’s 7.30 Report, and despite millions of dollars in donations to large welfarist organisation, Animals Australia, by its non-vegan donor base, Australia’s live “cattle” exports to Indonesia are expected to increase by more than 70 per cent in 2014.
Lynn White, campaign director of Animals Australia was asked by ABC’s Landline (16th June, 2013) “Does Animals Australia have a policy of opposing the rearing of livestock for human consumption?” Lynn White responded “No, we certainly don’t“. Why do some advocates who claim to be vegan vehemently defend Animals Australia, “Humane Society of the United States”, RSPCA and others when they have each stated publicly they have no interest in ending animal exploitation and moreover, promote and peddle animal products for industry? They clearly do not have veganism as their moral baseline.
In a vegan society, there would be no legal fox hunting because nonhuman animals would be recognised as moral persons and not viewed as legal property. Hunting foxes would no longer be viewed as a form of entertainment. Fox fur (or any other nonhuman’s skin) would not be used in clothing, or any other apparel any more than a baby’s skin would be used for a purse. There would be no domesticated animals trapped in pastures, runs, or barns who need “protecting” from predators like foxes. How do we achieve a society where foxes and ALL animals are safe from being hunted and exploited? By promoting clear consistent veganism to the public.
In a non-vegan society, cows are viewed as mere economic commodities. There is evidence that cows infected badgers with bovine tuberculosis. Badgers are now vectors of the disease and are passing BT on to cows and because they can pass on this disease on to cows, this means farmers lose profits since they “have to” kill infected cows. Therefore badgers are viewed as “pests” by farmers. In a vegan society, there would be no badger “culling” because there would be no animal agriculture and no cows to “protect” from bovine tuberculosis. In other words, if cows were not property and if there was no animal agriculture, there would be no need to murder badgers. There’s literally millions upon millions of “wild” animals tortured, murdered and displaced each year so farmers can “protect” their “livestock”. How do we achieve a society where cows and badgers, foxes, coyotes, wolves, kangaroos, wombats, mountain lions, lions – and any other non-human who might threaten farmer’s profits – are safe from being hunted and being exploited? By promoting clear consistent veganism to the public.
Recently there has been a single issue campaign on ending the Western Australian shark “cull”. If society were vegan, we would not be decimating shark’s food supply, and in turn sharks would not be in need of frequenting swimming beaches in search of fish. If society were vegan, China and other countries would not be looking to Western Australia and other countries to supply them with shark fins for their “delicacy”, shark fin soup. If society were vegan, there would be no “fisheries” that need to be protected from sharks. How do we achieve a society where sharks (and all other nonhuman animals) are safe from being hunted and exploited for their body parts and for other uses? By promoting clear consistent veganism to the public..
Single Issue Campaigns, Hunters, “Poachers” and “Wildlife”
Interfering with hunters and “poachers” is a complete waste of time and resources. There would be no hunting or “poaching” if society were vegan and there were no demand for animal body parts or skins from gorillas, elephants (“poachers” recently poisoned a water hole which killed 80 elephants ), sharks, rhinos, tigers, bears, etc. There also would be no hunting or “poaching” if society no longer viewed non-human animals as “things” and resources, and no longer viewed murdering and imprisoning non-humans as entertainment. In other words, there would be no hunting of whales, dolphins, foxes, tigers, ducks, lions, elephants, rhinos, marlin, deer, sharks, moose, tigers, bears, wolves, etc, and no need to protest hunting and “poaching” if society were vegan. The non-vegan public create demand for animal products and animal use and they are our target for change, not hunters or industry who are meeting that demand.
There would be no KFC, McDonalds, animal circuses, zoos, animal “research” laboratories, puppy mills, fur farms, whaling or dolphin industries, tiger hunts, “poaching”, factory farming, bear baiting, bear-bile farms, canned hunting, trophy hunting, aerial wolf hunting, “organic” farms, gestation crates, live export, battery egg farms, “free range” farms, fur-seal industry, etc, if the public were vegan.
We are exploiting more animals in more horrific ways than ever before, despite two hundered-plus years of welfare and despite thousands and thousands of single issue campaigns. What does this tell us about single issue campaigns and welfare? That they’re not working. What does it tell us about large animal / “vegan” organisations that promote them and which do not have veganism as their moral baseline? That they’re confusing the public and are worse than useless. When are those who claim to be vegan going to understand this?
Promoting Anything Remotely Pro-Animal Instead of Veganism
Why do we promote anything remotely pro-animal instead of promoting veganism? Here’s a few questions we might like to consider.
Is it that we refuse to read anything that counters what we are already committed to? Is it because we support large animal organisations and therefore cannot bear anyone criticising them? Is it because we have been told by large animal organisations that this is the way it must be done and we are so used to not thinking for ourselves, we just do as we are told? Is it because we have been told we need to be pragmatic? Is it because we refuse to budge from our belief that political systems, capitalism or religion are responsible for animal exploitation (even though speciesism existed long before any of these religions or systems)? Is it because we are always told that the “enemy” is out there, instead of us looking at ourselves and what we are participating in? Is it because most of us can’t concentrate on anything longer than a tweet and are incapable of reading animal rights theory or a vegan blog which might challenge our current beliefs? Is it simply that we do not like being told that we might be wrong?
Vegan Education is Boring?
I heard someone once say once that promoting veganism only is boring. When did veganism become all about us? Is it all about our comfort zone, our advocacy social circles and whether or not we are entertained? What would we do on Saturday if we couldn’t hang out with our friends at our local KFC protest? What would we do if we couldn’t go down to the docks with our friends and visit the “Farley Mowat” or sit round with our vegan friends and watch “Whale Wars” and remember the time we met Captain Paul Watson? Do we enjoy yelling at hunters and trying to sabotage them? Is it exciting to don balaclavas and go out with fellow advocates at night and release hundreds of thousands of animals who, by the way, will probably starve to death and eventually be replaced. Do we feel like heroes entering factory farms and “exposing cruelty“? Why be bored when we can be rewarded for writing books about factory farms but neglect to mention that veganism is the way to abolish animal use. Why be bored when we can show a little skin, be sexy, get some notoriety, travel the world, create big expensive animal events for the purpose of peddling books and revitalising one’s career, or be a CEO of a large animal organisation and get a six figure salary and talk about “humane” use and puppy mills all the time? It’s exciting “going naked” for the animals. It’s exciting dressing in animal costumes and making people giggle, or throwing red paint onto women wearing fur coats and abusing them. (Interestingly we don’t see advocates hassling bikie gang members who wear leather jackets, do we? So there’s an element of misogyny in fur campaigns which usually targets women.) All of this on the backs of animals and not one mention of veganism.
If non-humans could tell us to just STOP because we are worse than useless, they would have done so quite some time ago.
Large Animal Organisations and Their Avoidance of Veganism
Large animal organisations have different (commercial) reasons for avoiding promoting veganism. One reason is because single issue campaigns are a never-ending source of donations. If they promoted veganism this would challenge their non-vegan donors and effect their organisation’s financial bottom line. It’s much better to mollycoddle non-vegan donors than to ask them to go vegan. Donors give over their money, eat “happy animal products”, and sleep easy at night knowing animals were used and murdered “humanely”. It’s consoling to know that we – the non-vegan public – are not the problem. Instead we are told “Factory farming is the problem! Industry is the problem! Slaughterhouses are the problem! Large animal experimentation labs are the problem!” They tell us “Feel good, non-vegan public! Give us your money and we will help animals. We have it all under control.” Large animal organisation are the industry’s monitor for animal “abuse”. They make sure that “non-abusive” murder can continue in our slaughterhouses!
One of many examples of moral confusion caused by large animal organisations was the criticism of Olympic skater Johnny Weir, who wore fur during his performances. Welfarist organisations – “Friends of Animals” and PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) – criticised Mr. Weir’s fur use and ignored the fact that he wore leather and wool and ate animal products. Some members of the non-vegan public pointed out this moral inconsistency to large animal organisations, a sad indictment of the speciesism and lack of internal consistency of these organisations.
Suffice to say using single issue campaigns in advocacy is like trying to stomp out thousands of burning embers, while the raging forest fire of speciesism goes unabated.
We have to ask ourselves the question: If we claim to be vegan, why aren’t we promoting veganism? Why are we promoting anything remotely pro-animal and calling it “animal rights”? Why are we promoting anything other than veganism and treating the word “vegan” as if were a dirty word? I’ve already addressed a few reasons why large animal organisations do this, but the answer as to why those of us who claim we are vegan do not promote veganism may be quite simple.
Here’s a few thoughts.
Is it that many of us are afraid of a little social rejection because we’re being clear? Is it because many of us deep down do not believe that non-humans are our moral equals, which in turn effects our message? Is it because many of us deep down are speciesist and pessimistic and we cannot recognise it in ourselves? Is it because we want a “quick fix” because it makes us feel better? We talk about “compassion”, “mercy”, “loving animals”, “being kind”, and forget about justice and nonviolence. It fact, for many of us, we haven’t internalised the ethical position at all. In my experience some of the most vehement defenders of animal welfare “reform”/”humane” use, vegetarianism, and single issue campaigns have been those who claim to be vegan.
Veganism isn’t something we should simply *hope* people catch on to, because more often than not they don’t. The non-vegan public often default to welfare, or they fetishise certain species. Why? Because those of us who claim to be vegan do. Many advocates are promoting “humane” use and “happy animal products”, and they are fetishising certain species and making moral distinctions between different kinds of animal use. All the while those who are supposed to be our target audience are eating, wearing and using animals *every single day*. We tell them fur is bad, so they stop wearing fur or curse others for wearing fur and continue on eating, wearing and using animals. We tell them using ivory is bad so they make sure nothing contains ivory while they chew on their cheese-burger and wear their leather shoes and woollen coat to a zoo.
I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a single issue campaign which has a strong vegan message. Single issue campaigns are inherently problematic and speciesist. Why are we highlighting one form of use? Yes it’s good if people understand what is wrong with dairy, eggs, honey, etc, because most of our use of animals is for food. Explaining what is wrong with these products on occasion is good, but veganism is the umbrella which covers all forms of animal use. Since 99% of animals used are used for food, focusing on one species like whales, even though they are used for food, is an easy target. Most people don’t eat whales. Most people don’t eat dolphins. Most people “love” whales and dolphins. Even most governments “love” whales because the “whale watching” industry pays a lot of taxes to government. That’s why the Australian government has an interest in “protecting” whales. It’s not that they think whales deserve moral consideration. No. “Protecting” whales means profit. The Australian government lets the speciesist organisation “Sea Shepherd” – do their job for them. For those who are not familiar, Sea Shepherd has stated they are an environmental organisation, not a vegan organisation and Captain Watson has stated publicly that whales suffer more than chickens. Despite this, surprisingly, vegans give millions and millions of dollars in donations to Sea Shepherd each year so crew members can play pirate on the high seas. But that’s another topic for another time.
It is an unfortunate fact that many of us who claim to be vegan are speciesist. Most of us have come to advocacy by way of large speciesist animal organisations that promote “humane” use of animals. As I mentioned earlier, there were members claiming to be vegan on LiveVegan recently and defending their own private use of animals. Many of these same vegans (usually those who support large animal organisations) criticise promoting veganism as “extreme”, or criticise promoting veganism only as “absolutist” or “purist”. On a regular basis I hear vegans criticising vegans for promoting veganism only. Included in those who criticise vegans for promoting veganism only is Jon Camp the director of “Vegan” Outreach. In fact on Twitter recently, the director of “Vegan” Outreach criticised me for not promoting “humane” use of animals and only promoting veganism.
Groups who promote speciesism but claim to be abolitionists
And then we have about three groups who have formed in recent times (2013/2014) that claim to be abolitionist. The 1st one states that they are the oldest abolitionist organisation despite being aware that at least one much older and well-established abolitionist organisation exists. Then, despite the “abolitionist approach” which they embrace which clearly rejects all forms of discrimination in its theory, this “abolitionist” organisation states we need to put human rights issues first and foremost and THEN after we have addressed them, we can advocate for nonhuman animal rights when these issues of racism, sexism etc are addressed. It would seem we would never get to address nonhuman animal rights if we were to follow this idea. And unfortunately they use issues like intersectionality in dishonest and confused ways as a means of making ad honimem attacks on abolitionists who they deem represent “white” patriarchy.
The 2nd group who claims to be abolitionist formed more recently. They perform flash mob-style protests (sans the promotion of veganism) in mostly business establishments to the chagrin of the business owner. This group’s leader promotes speciesist single issue campaigns and states we need to “build bridges” with welfarists like Bruce Friedrich (PeTA, Farm Forward and Farm Sanctuary) who promotes “happy” animal slavery/”happy” animal products.
The 3rd group that claims to be abolitionist also is similar to the 2nd group and performs flash mob-style protests (which also does not promote veganism) and these protests take place mostly in business establishments. Evidence would suggest that all most of these protests manage to achieve is to annoy the business owner and confuse or annoy the customers who are sometimes eating animal products. Neither the 2nd or 3rd group promotes veganism in any of these protests and the 3rd group’s website claims “veganism is not enough”; that vegan education is not activism, that veganism is all about social gatherings, “eating kale” and potlucks. Certainly not something I have ever experienced in the abolitionist movement.
When you consider it all, is it any wonder vegans are confused?
Finally, here’s a good gauge of whether an activity is speciesist and non-vegan. Consider the activity while replacing non-human with human and it will give us some indication.
If you’re vegan, please promote veganism only, and if you’re not vegan, please go vegan. It will one of the best decisions you will make in your life. It’s easier than you think. Please start here and here .
For further information:
To illustrate the extent of confusion, check out this blog post on the unfortunate direction “The Vegan Society” has headed.
Here are some excellent blog posts by Gentle World a vegan intentional community
What’s wrong with wool?
Cage Free Eggs: Not free enough
What’s wrong with Leather?
Why vegans don’t use silk
Why vegans don’t eat honey
What is pain to fish?
What is wrong with backyard eggs?
How are down feathers collected
And an excellent post by UVE archives “What’s wrong with vegetarianism?”
Discussion on LiveVegan about the moral compartmentalisation concerning the murder of Maurius the Giraffe