Thursday, May 31, 2007

Lets get tough on activism!

(Contains some non-PG material :D)

The importance of good, effective, vegan activism and outreach cannot be overstated. In some way, I’m sure it’s responsible for you becoming a vegan or considering becoming one now. I would like to address a specific part of effective activism, the part I would consider the most important, talking to people about veganism. Obviously, we can’t do very effective outreach if we don’t engage in a dialog about our veganism with our non-vegan acquaintances. However, many people much to my surprise, are very uncomfortable talking about their veganism to the point that they deem any day to day outreach efforts as evangelizing and imposing our collective vegan will on others.

One of the most frustrating aspects of this anti personal outreach trend is this demented live and let live attitude that comes along with it. “I don’t care what other people eat; they can do what they want.” Seriously!? If you really believe that then why the fuck are you a vegan in the first place? You might as well just keep eating animals at that point since you seem to have no problem with animal consumption. Lets face it, you alone don’t make that big of a difference to the animals as a vegan if you do nothing but try and hide your veganism every chance you get. It’s when we help other people to go vegan that we really become useful to the real animal rights movement, ourselves, others, and the animals.

Now I’m not saying we should go around punching everyone in the face that eats a turkey sandwich (although that might be effective outreach too :D). What I am saying is that it is vitally important that when the topic comes up you do engage in a conversation about veganism. You don’t necessarily have to make a compelling case for abolitionist theory the first time you talk to someone, but strive to drive home main points such as: animals should not be used by people for any reason, there is no morally relevant distinction between using animals and using humans, and if you take animal interests seriously you must be vegan.
I strongly recommend visiting Professor Gary Francione’s website to learn more about abolitionist animal rights. It’s always much easier and fun to talk to someone about something you are familiar with and veganism is no different.

In conclusion try to talk to everyone you can about veganism, make it a goal to talking to at least one person a day about it. Start slow, just make sure you don’t make concessions in your argument to makes the conversation more pleasant. Other people may not agree with you and that’s fine, but for veganism to mean anything it must be a moral baseline, it must be nonnegotiable. Now get out there and talk to people!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Vegetarians and Animal Rights

I’m sure we have all met the vegetarian that claims to support animal rights. Maybe you are that vegetarian and if so you might just be wondering where this is headed. If so, I ask that you merely wait to dismiss what I have to say until the end of this post.
(Vegetarians as I will speaking of it them here is meant to refer to people who do not eat animal bodies or slaughterhouse by-products, such as gelatin, but who do still consume eggs and dairy products and may wear wool.)

The vegetarian lifestyle as defined above is still participating in the exploitation of animals. By consuming dairy, you are still directly supporting the veal and leather industries. By consuming eggs, you are complicit in the killing of billions of “spent” hens yearly. The most important point to understand about the dairy and egg industries is that they rely on the eventual, untimely killing of the cows and chickens that are enslaved to them as much as meat producers do. it makes no difference whether the farm is organic or “free-range” or “humanely raised” with Whole Foods seal of approval, the process is the same. Therefore vegetarianism, wile still much better than eating animals, is inconsistent with basic animal rights theory as it violates the most basic right not to be treated as the property of others by requiring animals be enslaved and killed to bring said vegetarians milk and eggs.

For the rights of animals to mean anything even if just in theory at this point in time, the people who champion the cause cannot be living a lifestyle incompatible with rights theory. Would you take someone seriously who spoke of equality for men and women if you knew that person beat their wife? Why should anyone take a movement seriously that speaks of rights for animals, most importantly the right not to be treated as property, when some in the movement continue to exploit animals and are complicit in their use as property?

If you are already a vegetarian going vegan is a quite easy next step. Eliminating dairy and eggs is almost effortless if you take a week to research other food options to prepare to replace dishes you currently eat that contain eggs and dairy products.

If you take animal interests seriously, and I hope if you are reading this that you do, then I urge you to consider making the next step. Become Vegan.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Q & A

Question: I am vegetarian, but I still eat cheese. I have been trying to research the treatment of organic or biodynamic dairy animals. I want to know if they are only milked when they have had calves naturally, or if they treat them the same as intensive dairy farming where they keep impregnating them. I can't seem to find the right information.

Answer: Their is a pervasive misconception among many that organic is synonymous with "cruelty-free". This could not be further from the truth. The practices engaged in by organic dairy farmers are identical to the handling practices of conventional farmers in all important ways. All the organic label is signifying is that the milk is supposed to be hormone and antibiotic free, and that the animal was fed on organic feed. Even the so called "cruelty-free" products are hardly what they claim to be. for dairy and egg products to be produced animals must die. Unfortunately their is no way around the reality of this situation. For this reason vegetarianism is incompatible with the animal rights position, because vegetarians still engage in easily avoidable exploitation and by consuming dairy and eggs condone the killing of the animals they claim to want to accord basic rights to. It is important that we make every attempt to be ethically consistent in our positions and therefore we must become vegan and quit using animal products all together. To fight for the rights of animals wile still willingly participating in the exploitation of animals or condoning their use in any way is effectively shooting yourself and this movement in the foot.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

When fish tanks are no-no's, go SCUBA diving instead!

As a vegan, keeping a fish tank presents some fairly obvious ethical problems. That's why I have finally decided to take up SCUBA diving. I've always been fascinated with underwater life. Cliche or not, it is another world down there. So if we can't keep the fish in our home (and with all the work that entails, especially for salt water, who would want to anyways?) we'll just go to were the fishies live.

I'm still trying to save up the money to begin my training but once I do I'll be sure and keep you posted about the underwater world.

I would love to hear your stories about SCUBA diving or related pursuits. Leave me a comment with your story's.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

"They're not vegans. They're baby killers!"

Full article

ATLANTA (AP) — A Superior Court jury convicted a vegan couple of murder and cruelty to children Wednesday in the death of their 6-week-old, who was fed a diet largely consisting of soy milk and apple juice.

...prosecutor Mike Carlson told the jury Tuesday during closing arguments: "They're not vegans. They're baby killers!"

It's horrible that a baby died at the hands of these morons, but I'm thrilled that the prosecutor said, "these people aren't vegans..." and that the paper printed it. I'm so happy that in a case that could potentially carry so much negative publicity for vegans that the point was made that A. vegans can raise their baby's without killing them, and B. that killing your baby is not a vegan thing to do.

Fun little point by point

I don't know about you guys but I find it fun to read others aguments from time to time. So here is a short point by point responce to a fellow user on Yahoo! Answers:

“A lot of people are against eating meat because they think that killing animals is the same thing as killing people. Let me be one to pop that little bubble of delusion.”

-Oh god, thank you. You have no idea how long I’ve waited for you to come set me straight.

“To all animal rights advocators,”

- Err, let me stop you right there, the proper word is this situation would be advocate. Anyways, go ahead…

“ to all vegans, to all those who believe eating meat is morally wrong. WAKE UP!!! We are not talking about humans: we're talking about animals. ANIMALS!!”

- You know, you’re smart, I never thought of it that way.

“ Creatures incapable of reason or rational thought. Animals don't think the way humans do."

- Easy there buddy. Why don’t you take your half-baked pre 18th century philosophy somewhere else? Plenty of animals express all those qualities and there are many humans that do not. Therefore, the above characteristics are not valid reasons to exclude animals from the moral community.

“...They don't have human emotions, they don't have brains as advanced as we are. Why? Because they're animals.People need to stop equating the life of an animal with the life of a human. You have to make the comparison. If dogs and cats and cows and chickens were just as important as humans, and could think as humans, then why haven't they changed?”

- I find it quite ironic that you ask such a question wile we could shortly be facing a crisis due to honeybee’s, of all things, becoming under populated. All things are connected, and all things are equally important. Lets be realistic here, I couldn’t care less if you died today, I probably would never even find out. Yet to you this is a great harm. Some may say, and I would agree, that this is the ultimate harm. Similarly, the cow that your beloved steak comes from is quite harmed by your decision to set in motion the machine that will kill him or her. Point being, this is not an issue of cognitive ability. This is an issue of sentience, and it’s an issue of suffering.

“ Where are the signs of rational thought and behavior in the animal kingdom? There are none. Why?”

- How about Elephants banding together to help rescue other trapped Elephants? Orca’s working together to hunt their prey, and sharks that do the same? How about Alex ( )? I could go on but I think you get what I’m saying. You see none because you don’t look, not because they are not there.

“Because animals are not human, animals are animals.”

- Humans are animals as well. Of course, this is only accepted when meat eaters are making an augment for how “natural” meat eating is.

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with eating them or killing them.”

- Then there should be nothing wrong with killing and eating similarly abled humans, such as the mentally retarded or infants. But there is because this is about more than the level of cognitive functioning one possesses.

“You talk about morals. Aren't morals found in religious texts such as the Bible? Take, for instance, the Bible. In the Bible, the Jews were allowed to eat certain kinds of meat. You can read about this in Leviticus. OK, now let's take the Quran. In the Quran, Muslims are given guidelines as to what meats they are allowed to eat. “

- Your ignorance is showing. Plenty of moral systems are build upon secular believes.

“So, the next time you see a skinny, anemic-looking vegan holding up a poster that reads, "save the cows," give a little chuckle, turn away, and enjoy your slab of ham.”

-And I hope right as you turn away, someone takes a bite out of you. That would give me a little chuckle.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Happy Meat!

The above term is one of my favorite circulating in the abolitionist animal rights movement currently. These two simple words illustrate much of what is wrong with the new-welfarist approach to animal rights, at once describing activist policy and public perception.
The public views Happy Meat (humanely raised, free range, etc.) as a morally superior choice to non-humanly produced meat, or rather a morally superior choice to meat that is not marketed as humanely produced. When it comes right down to it the real difference is in the labeling. The suffering the animals experience sure doesn’t change much with free range production, and humanly raised animals are still killed. The public’s perception of happy meat and the so-called animal “protectionists” that peddle it as morally superior is that they are doing something good for the animals. More importantly the consumers feel their choice to eat “happy meat” is sufficient. I can’t tell you how many people I have talked to that say “well I only eat free range, isn’t that ok?” The more informed ones might even bring up the fact that animal “protection” groups endorse and fight for humanely raised products, assuming a seal of approval from these groups. The fact that some deny the incredibly negative impact this sort of campaigning has on public perception and more importantly; the number of animal lives lost is astounding. Maybe I live in some backwards bubble unaffected by the rest of the world (and somehow judging from the stories of others I doubt it) but where I live people that are uncomfortable with eating regular animal products are just fine with eating free range animals. I call them Whole Foods customers, but whatever terminology you like is fine too. We are effectively taking people who may have went vegan given some encouragement, and delayed their growth by making them complacent with a “kinder, gentler” form of exploitation. This is also quite a poor move from an activist standpoint because it causes us to spend money campaigning to get people to eat happy meat, and then we must engage these same people again to try to get them to go vegan. The money and time wasted getting people, companies, university cafeterias, and the like to adopt free-range options would be much better spent getting people and establishments to adopt vegan lifestyles and offer vegan options.
Of course as an abolitionist, I would love to see a real focus on vegan abolitionist education campaigns on a large scale. I feel we give the public too little credit for their ability to change their perceptions sometimes. Maybe I’m mistaken, but if people understood the life’s of the animals they ate and the effect their choices really have, I think they would be less likely to continue their current habits. By peddling happy meat as animal protectionists do, we abandon the very animals we claim we are fighting to protect, and retard the growth of a strong coherent vegan movement.

P.S. The image above is of a "free-range" egg facility. You can make your own judgements as to the appropriateness of this title.