Tag Archives: vegan education

On Advocacy Media Preferences

Absent any comprehensive studies on what media are most effective for persuading people to go and stay vegan, we are left with searching for reasons why one medium of advocacy might be more effective than another. Further, any reasons we do come up with for preferring one medium over another would likely be speculative (i.e. empirically untested) and depend more on personal preferences and learning styles than any obvious or universal advantage.

Of books, magazine articles, scholarly journals, blogs, forums, emails, street stalls, leaflets, event tables, speeches, presentations, casual discussion, and whatever other forms of communication might be effective, it seems to me that what is communicated and how it is communicated is far more important than where or through what media a message is communicated.

We have reason to believe that, all other factors equal, books — to the extent that they are read — are the most effective media simply because of the time it takes to read a book compared to other media. Other than time spent, however, there is no reason to believe that, word for word, books would be any more effective than any other mode of written communication.

It is likely true that our individual learning styles vary in many ways. For example, Alice might respond best to a well-reasoned argument supported by verified facts, while Bob might respond best to a video and a plea for empathy. Alice might be interested in reading a 250 page book written for academics, while Bob might not get past page 2 of such a book. Alice may cross the street to avoid the vegan education table at the summer festival, while Bob may be drawn to a long chit chat session at the vegan education table.

The reason I’m writing about advocacy media is that I’ve seen many opinions, seemingly unsupported with facts or reason, that we “need to get out in the streets” or engage in some specific mode of communication, rather than another mode, if we are to move things along. This seems misguided.

We very much need to 1) get our message right, 2) deliver our message in a palatable manner, and 3) target the appropriate audience (i.e. non-vegans), but it really doesn’t matter whether we choose popular non-vegan forums on the Internet or the library or the table at the summer festival to communicate our message. Chances are excellent that vegans are a proportionate cross-section of those non-vegans we wish to educate. As individuals, if we focus on the media in which we are most comfortable communicating, and the media to which we would personally be most receptive, chances are that, collectively, we will have all bases covered regarding the non-vegan public in proper proportion to their preferred media.

In other words, focus on the modes of communication in which you prefer to communicate, and to which you would be most receptive, and let others focus on the modes they prefer and to which they are receptive. If you like spending time educating on Internet forums, then educate on Internet forums! If you like to chat with random people in the city or at the festival, do that! Both? Fine. Just don’t make unsupported statements that either one or another is ineffective or that your preferred mode of communication ought to be the preferred mode for everyone.

Most important is that we should get the message right. Very briefly, 99.999…% of nonhuman animal exploitation and harm is unnecessary. Unnecessary nonhuman animal exploitation and harm is wrong. Therefore, 99.999…% of nonhuman animal exploitation and harm is wrong. Therefore, avoid it by going vegan and encouraging others to go vegan. Being vegan is far from the most we can do; it is the least we can do.

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On Indoctrination and Education (Part 2 of 2)

Part 1 of this essay defined indoctrination, contrasted it with education, and briefly described the indoctrination process from early childhood through our teenaged years. Part 2 continues with the on-going indoctrination we receive as adults and concludes with vegan education as the antidote to indoctrination at any age.

Indoctrination as Adults

As we enter our adult years, the indoctrination and pressure to conform continues relentlessly throughout our lives. From working and business relationships to friendships to family and romantic relationships, most of us have far more contact with people who have never questioned the speciesist indoctrination of animals-as-things than people who have rejected speciesism in favor of animals-as-persons [1] to be respected. Not only have most people not questioned it, but the indoctrination is so entrenched that they are likely to find our rejection of speciesism odd and even personally threatening. As such, depending on the relationship, we will usually find reactions to our sane, nonviolent views ranging from evasive to defensive to passive-aggressive to hostile.

Indoctrination also continues heavily in entertainment, news media, and advertising. Virtually everywhere we look in our commercial society, we are constantly bombarded with the speciesist assumption that animals are things with only instrumental value, and no more intrinsic value than dirt.

Indoctrination is even strong in religious and other groups known for promoting nonviolence, justice, and compassion “for all sentient beings”, such as Buddhists. Animal exploitation, animal product consumption and the adamant “defense” of them are almost as common within such groups as in the general public.

Can we look to large animal “protection” groups, such as PETA and HSUS, to challenge our indoctrination in any meaningful way? No. Instead, they send us a mixed message: “animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use or entertainment” mixed with “animals are ours to eat, wear, experiment on, and use for entertainment, if we win this welfare campaign or single issue campaign. So send us your donation today, and then it’ll be okay.”

The speciesist indoctrination is a self-perpetuating vicious circle, similar to when child abuse continues to occur across generations, in which formerly abused parents become child abusers themselves, perpetuating the cycle indefinitely until some strong, educating agent breaks one or two generations free of it.

As individuals, can we overcome such indoctrination? Many of us who have overcome speciesist indoctrination provide conclusive evidence that it is possible through vegan education.

Vegan Education

Vegan education seeks to inform people about why and how to avoid animal products and use as far as is reasonably possible, and does so without the use of undue influence, power, coercion, or appeals to authority or tradition. It is generally one-sided because the opposing side is already overwhelmingly present in speciesist indoctrination. It is also “one-sided” in the same way that racial tolerance education is one-sided: racial tolerance education does not promote racism or unjustified and unnecessary harm and killing of people of other races or it would not be racial tolerance education.

The reasons to avoid animal products and use include the fact that more than 99.999% of nonhuman animals we exploit have the same morally relevant characteristic (sentience) as we do when it comes to a fair assessment of inherent value, as opposed to instrumental value. Just like certain abilities – such as abstract reasoning – do not count when it comes to assessing the inherent value of a human being, such abilities do not count when assessing the inherent value of a sentient nonhuman being. Another way of saying it is that if sentient nonhumans do not have inherent value, then neither do any humans have inherent value. To think any other way is pure prejudice: it is no different from denying a sufficiently-abled human a university education or vote based on her sex or race. Speciesism is the same underlying wrong of favoring morally irrelevant characteristics over morally relevant characteristics that is found in sexism, racism, and heterosexism.

The way to avoid animal products and uses is to learn all you can about animal ingredients and vegan alternatives to your food, drink, clothing, personal care products, and entertainment choices, and act accordingly.

A well-planned diet free of animal products is very healthy. Also, like any other kind of diet, planning should include both the nutritional profile of various foods and an individual’s particular needs. Fortunately, there are plenty of vegan cooking, baking, and nutritional resources available in books and on the Internet (see the side bar of this blog for links). Also, consider seeking out other vegans, either on the Internet (forums and social networking sites), and/or, if you live in an urban area, vegan social groups. It is much easier, especially as a new vegan, to socially identify with others who have rejected the violence and injustice of speciesism.

Finally, as a new vegan, constantly remind yourself why you are vegan to offset the incessant speciesism that you will encounter in your everyday life. Remind yourself that, as a vegan, you are one of the strong, independently-minded people who has made their own choice — despite being heavily indoctrinated otherwise for years or decades — to reject the blatant injustice and unnecessary violence of speciesism and animal exploitation, and embrace veganism as a minimum standard of decency.
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Note:

 [1] Many people get confused when they hear or read animals referred to as “persons”. This confusion stems from two misunderstandings. First, in a speciesist society, animals are defined, referred to, and thought of, literally as things, both legally and in common language use. Second, people get confused between the words “people” and “persons”, which have very different meanings. “People” is a synonym for “humans”, plain and simple. Animals are not people. “Person” has a much broader meaning, both legally and in common language use, but especially in law. A person is an entity due moral or legal consideration, and can be a human; a legal entity, such as a corporation, foundation, or trust; or a nonhuman animal. Animals are persons.

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On Indoctrination and Education (Part 1 of 2)

Introduction

Indoctrination and education are similar processes except for two differences: one conditional difference, and one crucial difference. The conditional difference is that indoctrination is one-sided and uncritical, while education is multifaceted, allowing for free and critical evaluation of at least two perspectives, either intentionally or by default. This difference is “conditional” (a difference depending on circumstances) because education can be entirely one-sided in an environment of indoctrination and still be education, since the existing indoctrination serves as the strong presentation of the other side of the issue.

The crucial difference is that indoctrination necessarily involves some sort of influence, power, coercion, or appeals to authority or tradition to maintain a monopoly or similar control over information, and thereby control agreement or consensus; while education shuns influence, power, coercion, and appeals to authority or tradition of any kind as a method of controlling agreement or consensus. It is this difference that essentially distinguishes indoctrination from education.

The influence, power, coercion, or appeals to authority or tradition that defines indoctrination can come in many forms, and does not necessarily use any kind of violence or threats to maintain agreement and consensus. For example, the power inherent in financial or economic control over mass media and what information mass media presents is the kind of power that does not involve any violence or threats whatsoever against the public, but it is extremely effective in maintaining control over public opinion. Similarly, parents’ sheltering of their child from information and reasoning that encourages the nonviolence of veganism can be entirely free of any violence or threats of violence. Even the momentum of mass market economics and widespread cultural prejudice itself is a form of domination, undue influence, and power over belief that qualifies it as a strong – and perhaps the strongest – mechanism of indoctrination.

Our Speciesist Indoctrination

We live in a society that heavily indoctrinates us, throughout our entire lives, to accept the widely shared dogma that animals are things, property, and commodities here for us to use, consume, and exploit in virtually any way we desire, as long as we do it “humanely”. (“Humanely”, as used in this context, is so inaccurate and misleading from a practical point of view as to be close in meaning to its antonym. See Note [1] at the end of the essay for an important elaboration on this point.)

The remainder of this two-part essay will focus on how, and how much, we are indoctrinated, in the hope that seeing the power-based, one-sided, and uncritical nature of such indoctrination, along with vegan education as an antidote to indoctrination, will help in overcoming it.

Indoctrination in Early Childhood

Our indoctrination begins when we are, as infants, fed certain foods before we have any idea what (or whom) we are eating. When we find out as children that we are eating the bodies of dead animals, many of us are uneasy about our new-found knowledge. Our parents or guardians, heavily indoctrinated for decades themselves, try to assure us that some animals are “meant” for us to eat, and that we “need” to eat animals to be healthy. Many of us continue to question such assurances, but even the most precocious of us will generally get no more of a “reason” from the adults in our lives than some form of “that’s just the way it is” (e.g. the Bible says so; God put them here for us; they had bad karma in previous lives; they’re not rational like us) or false statements to ease our consciences (e.g. they don’t mind being our food; they couldn’t live comfortable lives if we didn’t eat them, and so on). Either way, the vast majority of us are forced – whether by threats of punishment for not eating our meat, or by duress in wanting to please our parents and siblings – to accept that animal products will be what we eat, whether we like it or not. Note the influence and power differential involved in, and uncritical nature of, our “learning” about animals-as-food, and how our concerns are almost always dismissed out of hand by the vast majority of non-vegan parents.

Indoctrination in Youth and at School

From pre-school to high school, the indoctrinated beliefs formed in our early childhood are further reinforced by teachers, other students, the school lunch menu, the “food pyramid” and nutritional “education” (formed by a political process heavily involving animal agribusiness interests), and a constant bombardment of advertising by industry on television, radio, billboards, and in newspapers. For the vast majority of us, there are no alternative perspectives. Our society and the institutions of which it consists have an extremely powerful monopoly on the information and perspectives we receive. Not only that, but almost without exception, the influential people in those institutions have been heavily indoctrinated themselves, whether or not they are aware of it.

We are to uncritically accept the claim that dairy, eggs, and meat are “necessary” for our health. We are to uncritically accept that there are no satisfactory alternatives to animal products. We are to uncritically accept that killing, enslavement, and exploitation is “humane”, necessary, and morally acceptable.

Most of us, if we critically challenge or reject animal products in our diet and life as school-aged youth, are swimming upstream against an overwhelming current of parents, teachers, other students, the school lunch menu, and relentless advertising. Critical challenges of society’s dogma regarding animal product consumption and animal use are often met with hostility and even ridicule. The exception is when we have parents who either are vegan or strongly support our decision to be vegan. Even then, however, indoctrination and hostility from non-parental sources is strong, and our sense of independence must be equal to the task. Again, the power differential is strong, and the nature of the reinforcement of the paradigm of animals-as-things is almost always blind and uncritical.

Indoctrination as Teenagers

As we enter our teens, the same indoctrination continues from the same sources as when we were younger, but there is perhaps a shift from parents and teachers to advertisers and our peers being the most influential on us. Most of us start attempting to create an identity for ourselves, and often choose role models to assist in this process. Our peers and potential role models will rarely, if ever, be vegans who have rejected the cultural prejudice of speciesism. In fact, as victims of powerful and heavy indoctrination themselves, they are just as likely to be as deeply prejudiced regarding species membership as anyone else.

Even if we are exposed to a positive vegan role model as a teenager, indoctrination from other sources continues, powerful and uncritical, and again, our sense of personal independence from those speciesist sources must be equally strong.

This concludes Part 1 of this two-part essay. Part 2 will continue with the on-going indoctrination we receive as adults and will conclude with vegan education as the antidote to indoctrination at any age.

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Note:

[1] “Humane”, under the law, means no more pain, suffering, and torture than is approximately deemed “necessary” by the owner of property to achieve the instrumental goal in question; therefore, enslavement, solitary confinement, burning, torturing, beating, rape, stabbing, shooting, bone-breaking, electrocuting, inducing psychosis, inducing drug addiction, inducing severe mental illness, severe psychological torment, electrical shocking, and just about any other form of torture you can think of is perfectly legal, as long as it achieves legally established industry-specified or owner-specified instrumental goals set by animal experimenters, hunters, trappers, family farmers, dog owners, or any other industry or adult human. Even when the torture can be shown to be “gratuitous” or “unnecessary” for achieving the owner’s goal, and violates a welfare law, the animal is still property, and therefore the legal consequences are trivial enough to almost never act as a deterrent to the cruel behavior. Consider reading Animals, Property, and Law (see recommended books on the side bar for a link) by Professor Gary Francione for more details on why legal welfarism protects, and will always protect, almost every kind of torture imaginable.

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The Classical Circular Farce of Welfarism

The (vast?) majority of donors to PETA, HSUS, and similar groups are not vegans. They are the same people who literally create the problems that these big welfarist groups feebly attempt to ameliorate.

So, the donors create the problem through the extreme speciesism of consuming animal products, which leads to the breeding, confining, torturing, and intentional killing of the innocent. Then the donors send their money – tens of millions of dollars of it annually – to PETA and HSUS to attempt the absurdly impossible: regulate a perpetual holocaust of billions of victims annually. These big groups are beholden to the very donors who are creating the problem that needs to be fixed.

It is a classic circular farce and would be a knee-slapping hilarious example of human stupidity if it were not so tragic.

We cannot regulate the holocaust. We need to stop it by going vegan and encouraging others to do the same.

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Abolitionism versus New Welfarism: A Contrast in Theory and Practice

A Contrast in Theory

The abolitionist approach is a rights-based approach that identifies the core issue of violence inflicted on innocent sentient beings as rooted in the fact that these beings are considered property, commodities, and “things” under the law. This property, commodity, and thing status is at the root of our “moral schizophrenia” regarding nonhuman beings. As long as nonhuman beings are considered “things” or commodities that we own instead of beings like us who have important interests in their lives, we will continue to torture and kill them by the tens of billions while we acknowledge that it would be horrific if someone did such things to young, orphaned children (despite the striking similarities in mentality, sentience, and innocence among nonhuman beings and young children). Therefore, the abolitionist approach as currently conceived advocates a single right for innocent sentient nonhumans: the right not to be property. But as long as we continue to consume the flesh and bodily fluids of these beings, this one right can never be achieved. Therefore, the only way we can break the socially-sanctioned perpetual holocaust and moral schizophrenia and work toward achieving the one right for nonhumans is to go vegan and encourage others to do the same. Therefore, as both a moral and practical matter, vegan education is the only activity that makes sense if our goal is to achieve a minimum standard of decency and civilization regarding nonhuman beings.The new welfarist approach, in contrast to the abolitionist approach, is a utilitarian-based approach and a bizarre and confusing hodgepodge of traditional welfarism and “animal liberation” philosophy. On one hand, new welfarists want to “liberate” animals from the tyranny of “factory farms”. On the other hand, new welfarists (amazingly) see regulating the perpetual holocaust as one way to achieve such “liberation” (despite 200 years of welfarism resulting in ever increasing cruelty, both in the severity and the mind-boggling numbers of victims). New welfarists engage in ‘vegan’ education, but because treatment rather than use is the primary issue for them, new welfarists generally see veganism as a (temporary?) “boycott of cruelty” and as merely a(n) (optional?) “tool to reduce suffering” rather than as a minimum standard of decency. The Road to Hell Is Paved with Good Intentions and a Permanent Non-profit Business Cycle: Welfarists “Versus” Industry’s Strength

Industry’s strength is its financial wealth and power, which translates into media, advertising, and information power, as well as political and legislative power. Industry’s weakness is that it is morally deplorable and environmentally disastrous (the eco-disaster will become ever more obvious as huge Asian markets increase demand for animal products). We cannot defeat an opponent of industry’s size and power by mostly avoiding their weakness and attempting to take on their strength, yet this is exactly what the new welfarist movement tries to do.With welfare reform campaigns, the new welfarist movement seeks to at least weaken industry through legislation, and more ambitiously, legislate and regulate industry away. Most new welfarists call their approach the “two track” approach, and they believe that regulations are an integral part of ‘dismantling’ the giant. One track for them is ‘vegan’ education (albeit ‘vegan’ being merely a ‘boycott’ or ‘tool’); the other is welfare regulation.

But this approach of making welfare regulation a substantial part of eliminating animal agriculture plays to industry’s strength by 1) taking them on where they’re strong (in politics, legislation, and deal-making; see above), 2) diverting resources from the attack on where they are weak (diverting from vegan education), and 3) reinforcing the legal structure and regulated property rights paradigm that animal exploitation is founded upon.

As long as animals are considered property and commodities, it is impossible to balance their interests fairly against human interests. This is not “merely legal theory”, as some new welfarists claim it is (although even in legal theory alone the property status problem is overwhelmingly supported as insurmountable due to the legal trumping power of property rights over regulations, as a matter of the inherent hierarchy of legal concepts [which have very real consequences]).

Rather, we also have overwhelming empirical evidence that this is the case by observing the endless efforts over centuries to regulate chattel slavery, which remained viciously cruel to its very end. As additional evidence, animal welfare laws have been attempting to regulate use for 200 years now, and animals are treated more cruelly and in greater numbers now than ever.

Although we don’t need a slave history scholar to vouch for the utter failure of slave welfare laws and reforms, there is a preeminent non-vegan slave history legal scholar, Alan Watson, who entirely agrees with Gary Francione 1) on this historical empirical fact and 2) that the property status problem will prevent meaningful change in the use and treatment of animals until it is abolished. To quote Professor Francione in Animals As Persons (p. 162), “The interests of slaves will never be viewed as similar to the interests of slave owners. The interests of animals [who] are property will never be viewed as similar to those of human property owners.”

More and more regulations add a regulating structure to animal exploitation supported eventually by more bureaucracy, more inspector jobs, and more ‘legitimacy’ to the entire enterprise, entrenching animals ever deeper into property and commodity status. It’s true that more regulations put short-term profit margin pressure on industry, but industry is very resilient and has a number of options to restore the profit margins, including moving to less restrictive legal jurisdictions (including other international jurisdictions).

On top of regulations reinforcing the property/commodities paradigm, we should ask, what message do these welfare regulation campaigns send to the public? The message, when the regulations are promoted by so-called animal ‘rights’ organizations, is that animals are here for us to exploit and kill, we just have to do it more ‘humanely’ by regulating it more. Also, once the welfare law, regulation, or agreement is made (but usually not enforced), the false public perception is that we are exploiting and killing more ‘humanely’ (so you can feel a little better; after all, there are ‘inspectors’ looking after every animal as if she were his own daughter). Does it shift the paradigm at all? No, it obviously doesn’t. In fact, people feel better than ever about animals as commodities.

What motivation does a new welfarist organization have to do these campaigns? Victories! And the ‘victories’ lead to more donations, permanently supporting the organization’s basic business cycle. If the campaign is directly ‘against’ a particular exploiter, such as in the case of KFC Canada and PETA, PETA will actually do a public relations campaign on behalf of the exploiter as part of the deal. PETA wins with a ‘victory’ to brag about to their donors, leading to the endless cycle of more donations and campaigns. KFC Canada wins PETA approval. The customers win being happily duped into believing that KFC’s chickens are treated ‘humanely’. The animals? Well, PETA, KFC Canada, and KFC’s customers just struck a great deal; what more do you want?

Consider the case of HSUS (a traditional welfarist organization) and Farm Sanctuary and California’s Proposition 2 in November of 2008. HSUS and Farm Sanctuary bragged about getting Prop 2 passed, which doesn’t come into effect until 2015, and when and if it does, will not result in a significant decrease in suffering (especially compared to the public perception of the decrease). Further, if some exploiters don’t like Prop 2, they will merely relocate to another state or to Mexico and ship the product into California. For more on welfare and single-issue campaigns that are so popular with new welfarist organizations, see Picking the Low Hanging Fruit: What Is Wrong with Single-Issue Campaigns?

It is interesting to note that HSUS and PETA sell their welfare reforms to industry based on how profitable they will be for industry to implement, essentially acting as strategic advisers. Some of the welfare reforms, like “controlled atmosphere killing” and crate elimination, are things industry was planning on doing anyway for profitability. For solid evidence of the industry-welfarist partnership in action, see the various links in Four Problems with Welfare in a Nutshell.

Ultimately, as Gary Francione has said countless times, it is a zero-sum game. Every effort made and every dollar spent by a vegan or a pro-vegan organization on welfarism is effort and a dollar directed away from vegan education. Vegan education efforts are causally connected to welfare concerns, but the reverse is not true. Welfare concerns are not causally connected to vegan education. Only vegan education itself creates new vegans. Currently, far too much money and effort of the animal movement goes toward welfarism (for abolitionists, no resources should go to welfarism).

For more reading on this, the following are some links:

Gary Francione’s analysis of Prop 2

Gary Francione’s reply to new welfarist Martin Balluch

The Great ‘Victory’ of New Welfarism

The Industry-Welfarist Partnership

The Road to Justice Is Paved with Creative, Non-violent Vegan Education: Abolitionists Versus Industry’s Weakness

I stated in the previous section that the animal agriculture industry’s strength is its wealth and size, which results in political, legislative, media, and deal-making power. Its weakness is that it is morally deplorable and environmentally disastrous, and that vegan living is deeply satisfying, delightful, and healthy. Most people, however, are unaware of exactly what industry does; how cruel it is both in intensity and magnitude; what speciesism is and how identical it is to racism, sexism, heterosexism and other prejudices; and how, why, and in what specific ways industry is so disastrous to the environment. Most people are also unaware of how delicious and satisfying vegan food is, especially in 2009, with more options available than ever. The possibilities for education are immense, if only we would direct more resources toward them.

There are three (or four, depending on how you count them) prime areas of vegan education, which combined, would provide overwhelmingly strong, positive reasons for insisting on the permanent elimination of animal agriculture, and to which industry and the general public has no adequate rebuttal (“but they taste good” sounds absurd in light of these three areas of vegan education).

The Moral Issue

Two people of approximately similar intelligence, but of different race or sex should be granted equal consideration regarding their important interest in a university education based solely on their similar intelligence. The irrational cultural prejudice of racism and sexism ignores the morally relevant similarity of intelligence in favor of recognizing the irrelevant difference of race or sex.

In the same way, two beings of approximately equal sentience, but of different species should be granted equal consideration regarding their important interest in not being enslaved, exploited, or slaughtered based solely on their similar sentience. The irrational cultural prejudice of speciesism ignores the morally relevant similarity of similar sentience in favor of recognizing the irrelevant difference of species.

We are not very deep into moral philosophy here. Indeed, a dim-witted 10 year-old should not have any problem comprehending the moral argument above. Why doesn’t the animal rights and vegan movement broadcast this basic and irrefutable argument constantly over years, like a well-known advertisement, until it becomes part of the general public’s collective psyche, as a major component of vegan education? Industry’s only reply would be to restate their irrational prejudice. Granted, in our era, the public generally shares industry’s bigotry on the matter, but over time, it should be increasingly difficult to embrace the prejudice in any serious discussion. Eventually, the truth of the matter will weigh heavily on the conscience of decent people, and change will result, perhaps more rapidly than most of us might think likely today.

The Environmental Issue

As set forth in my blog essay entitled On the Environmental Disaster of Animal Agriculture and the important links therein, it is obvious that animal agriculture is the single worst enemy of the environment and a sustainable future.

As animal agribusiness grows into Asian and other markets, adding three billion or more people as customers and quadrupling the number of animals bred, raised, and slaughtered from the current number of approximately 50 billion annually, it is clear that the long-term effects (perhaps even the short-term effects) will bring the Earth’s biosphere into collapse. We simply cannot afford the gluttonous excesses that the combination of animal agriculture and modern technology has enabled. Our survival as a species depends on waking up to animal agriculture’s impact on the future.

Vegan Food and Nutrition

In addition to most people being completely ignorant of the shocking and horrific details of the lives of ‘food’ animals, speciesism, and the environmental disaster created by animal agriculture, most people have no idea what vegans eat or how nutritious and satisfying vegan diets are or can be. Fortunately, there are a lot of great vegan food blogs on the Net these days, and well-planned vegan diets are endorsed by the American Dietetic Association and similar mainstream, science-based organizations. But there is still tremendous untapped opportunity for vegan culinary and nutrition education, including education on deleterious effects of the standard American diet on public health, which is high in damaging animal fats, including cholesterol. Anybody who makes it easier for non-vegans to go vegan is doing effective vegan education in that respect.

Vegan Education and New Welfarists

As I stated in the previous section, new welfarists engage in what they call “two-track activism”, one track being vegan education and the other being welfare reform. So, as a secondary activity to welfare reform advocacy, new welfarists are already engaged in many activities that fall into the above categories. But to the extent that they spend time and money on welfare reform or single-issue campaigns when the opportunity for vegan education in society is so unimaginably vast, they inflict a severe opportunity cost on genuine societal progress. That’s not even to mention the confused and contradictory message they send that I mentioned above, which acts not merely to forgo opportunity, but is counterproductive and regressive.

For a deeper exploration of the topic of abolitionism versus new welfarism, consider reading the following links:

Gary Francione on vegan education

Gary Francione and Anna Charlton’s abolitionist pamphlet (it’s also available in several other languages)

Boston Vegan Association’s (excellent) pamphlet

In praise of vegan food blogs

Vegan Education – Part 1

Vegan Education – Part 2

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Just Being Vegan

Three of the last several essays on this blog have been about vegan education. Based on what I’ve written in those essays, one might get the impression that I believe that everyone who goes vegan ought, as a moral imperative, to engage in a significant personal effort to educate others about why and how to go vegan; but that is not the case, and the purpose of this essay is to elaborate on and/or clarify what I see as a behavioral moral baseline – that is, being vegan – as contrasted with behavior that is highly desirable and strongly encouraged, but not morally imperative – that is, being active in vegan advocacy beyond merely being vegan.

When discussing animal rights, people sometimes object that there are too many problems in the world involving humans, and that once we get our global or national house in order regarding humans, then we can worry about nonhumans. Ignoring the embedded speciesism and “othering” in this line of thought, even if one prefers assisting humans prior to assisting nonhumans (which, just like the reverse, is fine), there is no reason for contributing to the intentional harm and exploitation inflicted on nonhuman beings. In other words, other than changing habits, merely being vegan requires no significant time or effort that would take away from one’s time or energy available to help humans. Being vegan does not entail becoming an animal rights activist any more than avoiding cannibalism entails becoming a human rights activist or avoiding a career as a pimp entails becoming an outspoken feminist. One simply refuses to engage in exploiting nonhumans (or humans or women) and goes on with life as usual.

Another problem with the objection that we need to “take care of humans before we go vegan” is that so many human problems are directly rooted in our consumption of animal products and the deplorable animal agriculture industry that supplies this consumption. One of those human problems is world hunger. A large portion of total demand for grains is made up of the animal agriculture industry’s demand for animal feed. Animals always consume significantly more calories, nutrition, and protein in plant-based food than they provide in animal products (meat, eggs, and dairy). This artificially high demand makes the price of those grains – which could instead be allocated to feed starving human populations – rise to a significantly higher level. In addition, more large populations of humans in places like China that used to be almost vegan are being introduced to larger quantities of animal products, artificially increasing demand and price for grains even more. Sadly, perhaps even potentially catastrophically, the world demand for animal products is expected to double over the next couple of decades, putting enormous upward pressure on the price and supply of grains, and causing even more human starvation for the have-nots. Another human problem solved by veganism is the animal waste and digestive gas, particularly from pigs and cattle, released into our air and water which has a devastating effect on our environment by polluting our water and air and contributing to global warming. A third human problem that is significantly reduced by veganism is the health problems brought on by moderate to heavy milk, cheese, egg, and meat consumption, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity. So do we really want to help humans, ourselves included? If so, then we should go vegan.

Once we go vegan, we are no longer directly contributing to various human problems and the problem of animal exploitation, and as long as we are “just vegan” and don’t do anything to promote so-called “humane” animal products, we are blameless for what goes on regarding our society’s exploitation of nonhuman beings. As vegans, we have met a minimum standard of moral behavior with respect to nonhumans. At this point, as vegans, if we believe that there are other areas we would prefer to spend our time on other than animal advocacy, such as working at the homeless shelter, then that’s fine. Active animal advocacy, while highly desirable, is no more a moral duty than getting involved in any other cause or movement. There is nothing wrong with spending our volunteer time engaging in what interests us most (e.g. the human rights cause), but we should not contribute to a major problem like animal exploitation and all of its extremely negative external costs to humans and nonhumans and use the failed excuse that “there are more important things to do” than going vegan (or refraining from violence in general).

A Caveat

So, being vegan, by itself, achieves the moral baseline of avoiding the exploitation of others, and vegan or abolitionist advocacy beyond merely being vegan is very desirable and strongly encouraged, but it is ultimately supererogatory. There are, however, as I discussed in the three recent essays on vegan education, certain activities and types of supposed “animal advocacy” that are counterproductive and that vegans ought to steer clear of: namely, getting involved in efforts to regulate animal exploitation and promoting supposedly more “humane” eggs and dairy.

As vegans, we ought to either promote vegan living (including, for example, vegan food-only blogs and promotion) or decline to get involved in advocacy. Joining with those who promote exploitation, even if described and marketed as “humane”, is inconsistent with our behavior and beliefs as vegans, and in the long run promotes and reinforces animal exploitation instead of eroding it. Also, while it is true that, as vegans, we would like to see less suffering of those exploited than more suffering, there are two additional interrelated reasons why we ought to refrain. One reason is that we have limited time, money, and energy for advocacy, which makes our decision in what to invest them a zero-sum game. Every quantity of time, money, and energy spent on promoting so-called “humane” animal products is necessarily diverted from vegan education. The other reason is that abolitionist vegans are outnumbered by consumers and advocates of “happy eggs” and “happy milk” by several orders of magnitude. The movement for “happy” animal products, which is ultimately a boon for the industry and its long-term profitability, is going very strong and only shows signs of growing stronger at this time. However, there is no evidence whatsoever that welfare reform efforts lead people to go vegan. People may become interested in reform efforts and then eventually go vegan, but what gets people to go vegan is vegan education: people go vegan when it is understood why we are not morally justified in killing animals for food and other trivial purposes and when it is understood how delicious and nutritious vegan food is.

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Abolitionist Vegan Education: The Vehicle of Progress

Where We Are versus How We Arrived There

Vegans who support new welfarism [1] and the growing profitable market for happy meat sometimes claim that they arrived at veganism through choosing more “humane” animal products (i.e. “happy meat”), and therefore, based on personal experience, they see welfare reform and happy meat as a way of getting others to arrive at veganism. On the surface, this sounds plausible, but closer inspection uncovers a fallacy lurking in this line of thought. The fallacy is in confusing where we are with how we arrived there, and there is a simple intuition pump which should make the difference clearer.

Imagine that we want to go from the City of Omnivoria to the Town of Veganville, and that the Town of Happy Meatberg, a suburb of Omnivoria, happens to be on the road between Omnivoria and Veganville. Omnivoria and Happy Meatberg overlap boundaries and the distance between their outer borders to each other is short enough for most of us to walk, but Veganville is far enough away that we will want to use a vehicle – a car or bicycle, or vegan education – to cover the distance. Note that we may pass Happy Meatberg on the way to Veganville, and we may even stop there for a while; however, it is our vehicle (car, bicycle, vegan education), not Happy Meatberg, that will get us from Omnivoria to Veganville. In fact, if Happy Meatberg did not exist, it would not affect our trip from Omnivoria to Veganville at all. If anything, Happy Meatberg is a noxious distraction on our journey to Veganville. Any given town or location between Omnivoria and Veganville is where we are and the vehicle (e.g. car, vegan education, bicycle) is how we arrived there.

Adequate vegan education will show us that there is a vast amount of horrendous cruelty and exploitation between Happy Meatberg and Veganville, and that Veganville is not only the necessary moral destination, but it’s also a healthy, tasty, and environmentally responsible destination. Essentially, vegans need to help provide the motivation and the map to get to Veganville instead of acting as the Mayor, Director of Tourism, and Chief of Police for Happy Meatberg, which is not only a suburb of the City of Omnivoria, but is also in the process of being annexed by Omnivoria and is nowhere near Veganville.

The Cruelty Inherent in Happy Meat

Another grossly mistaken view held by some new welfarists is that abolitionists are limited to giving philosophical arguments against the justification of animal use and, since we don’t support welfarism as a solution to the problem of cruelty, we cannot or should not disclose cruelty to the public as part of our vegan education. To directly quote a new welfarist vegan in a recent Internet discussion forum, a quote which subsequently received significant praise by a few other new welfarists in the forum,

“To truly avoid supporting welfarism is to limit one’s advocacy to philosophical arguments about whether use of animals is ethically justifiable – no undercover video showing how cruel slaughterhouses are; no talking about how male dairy calves are sold to veal farms, no distributing information about the particularities of how animals are treated in laboratories, no photographs of pigs in gestation crates. If welfare doesn’t matter, then welfare doesn’t matter. Period”

This is nonsense. First, the writer confuses 1) disclosing evidence of cruelty with 2) supporting welfarism, which are two entirely different activities that have nothing to do with each other, despite the tendency of some new welfarists to conflate them. Displaying cruelty, both traditional and more importantly, happy meat cruelty, is NOT supporting welfarism at all, but providing additional reasons as to why veganism is the only answer to the problem.

Second, instead of limiting the display of cruelty, etc to the most severe cases (which is precisely what welfarism does), the abolitionist approach broadens the display to include not only the most hideous cases which are profitable for industry to eliminate anyway, but the inherent, inevitable and severe cruelty in organic, “free range”, and cage-free special marketing labels, too. On top of that, abolitionists do have excellent philosophical arguments based in long-established, well-reasoned, and widely accepted theories of justice and deontology to say that there is no justification for any exploitation or cruelty, and therefore veganism, NOT happy meat, is the only solution to the problem.

By focusing on only the most hideous cases which are profitable for industry to eliminate anyway and ignoring the inherent severe cruelty and exploitation in happy meat, new welfarist vegans assist society in making happy meat, instead of veganism, the default moral baseline, and then complain when books like The Compassionate Carnivore are published.

The Vehicle of Progress

Vegan education, including a display of the full spectrum of the inherent cruelty in animal exploitation, especially in “free-range”, grass-fed, organic, and cage-free animal agriculture, along with all of the delicious and nutritious vegan alternatives, is our vehicle of progress toward a morally respectable human-nonhuman relationship in our society. We can and should skip the completely extraneous and immoral stop at Happy Meatberg and go straight to Veganville via the vehicle of unequivocal vegan education.

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[1] New welfarism is defined as using welfare reform and the promotion of more so-called “humane” animal products in an attempt to bring about the eventual abolition of animal exploitation. The abolitionist approach rejects new welfarism and holds that it is impossible for welfare reform and related efforts to ever bring about the abolition of animal exploitation. Further, the abolitionist approach maintains that efforts at welfare reform not only drain resources from genuine abolitionist efforts, but also strengthens the economic commodity and property status of animals and the exploitation paradigm by failing to challenge exploitation, per se, and by adding more rules and regulations which further legitimize and entrench the institution of animal exploitation.

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