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(trigger warning: contains interesting thought experiments! :-))
As readers of this blog may know, I like to challenge the cherished and well established vegan concept now and again. Why? Because 1) I think everything – everything – should be questioned, again and again, not for the sake of questioning itself, but to make our thinking, or ideologies, our dreams, our tactics better, sharper, and more effective. 2) Because I think there is so much more to helping animals than just being a consistent vegan.
Obviously, not everyone appreciates this questioning of veganism, as a concept, as a practise, as a strategy. Many people believe they know exactly what veganism is, what role it plays, how necessary it is, and who is a vegan and who isn’t. For those people, everything is simple: veganism has been defined, some decades ago, by Donald Watson (as the avoidance of animal products in as far as practical and possible). You just do as he says. Never mind that that is quite a vague, subjective phrasing. Never mind that Watson and his friends at the early UK Vegan Society welcomed everyone who agreed with the objectives, independent of whether they practised veganism or not.
Like I have stated before, I have been vegan for 17 years, so my critical comments on vegans and veganism are to be read in a different way than those of your average omnivore. I make them, like I said, in the hope of making us more effective. What I want to do here is take a brief, closer look at why people are vegan, what the impact of it is, and what some of the issues that I have with it are.
Let’s start with a very simple question: Why do vegans eat only vegan food? Why, in other words, are they vegan?
Most of us vegans may think they have a definitive answer to this, but let’s investigate.
When we judge the morality of an action, we can judge it in terms of 1) its results and 2) whether it is right for wrong for a person to do that action. These are two different things. To see this more clearly, imagine that for every person who becomes vegan, an imaginary, quite mean omnivore commits to eating twice as many animal products, thus neutralizing any effect vegans may have. The vegans’ action thus has no results (point 1 above). Being vegan in this case seems to become much less important or urgent, but most of us – including myself – would still do it, simply because we find it wrong to eat animals (and there may also be disgust or health concerns, but these are another matter).
Reason number one (the results) is my main reason for being vegan. I believe that enough vegans, together with the bigger group of vegetarians and the much bigger group of reducetarians, are slowly but surely changing demand, and thus production (stimulating the development of good alternatives and lowering the demand for animal products). Thus, we save animals from a life of suffering (by them not needing to be born). When a life is more misery than happiness, it is better that that life was never there.
Reason number two, the morality of an act, is important to me but is secondary. If one agrees that eating animals is wrong, it seems that it is always a wrong thing to do, independent of the circumstances and consequences. It is easy to imagine situations where whether you eat or don’t eat a product with animal ingredients makes no difference whatsoever in terms of results. When something is offered to you (i.e. when you don’t intentionally buy a piece of meat, for instance) your refusal to eat that product will have no impact on demand itself. Of course, with your behavior you can still show others that you don’t eat animal products, which is about raising awareness. But let’s say that there is no such awareness-raising factor involved. Let’s say there’s some leftover piece of meat somewhere, and no one sees you eat it. What exactly is the problem with eating it? There’s no impact on anyone, and no impact on demand. It is a piece of meat that would be thrown away. Foods thrown away by supermarkets would be a case in point.
I am not saying there is nothing wrong with eating thrown away animal products, but if there is, it will not be in terms of results. In the above case, whether you are consistent or not is neutral in terms of results. I, for one, can imagine circumstances in which being consistent results in a net negative effect. I have previously posited the thought experiment of whether you would eat a steak that was about to be thrown away, if you were offered 100.000 dollars for it, given that you could help a lot of animals with that money. People who would say no to this money, are attaching a lot of importance to reason number two, more so than to reason number one. Or imagine that someone tells you they’ll go vegan if you eat a steak.
Of course you can just not play along and hate thought experiments like these (though I would have hoped you wouldn’t still be reading after the “trigger warning”). But if you take them seriously, as I think you should, you can see that consistency doesn’t automatically deliver the best results for animals.
Apparently – judging by some of the criticism I get for these posts – it is necessary for me to point out that I’m not advocating vegans to make exceptions for no reason. And if vegans don’t want to make any exception, in no matter what circumstances and for no matter what consequences, who am I to fault them for doing so? Maybe their 100% consistent behaviour has some possible benefits or consequences too. It’s just not the approach that I would choose. It would be nice though, if conversely, someone like me, making these pragmatic considerations for the benefit of animals, would not be accused of all kinds of things (like not being a vegan or even an anti-vegan – even though I’m only talking about micro-incredients, and not even about a small bite or slice of cheese).
I am not attacking people who want to be entirely consistent and pure (most people would call me pretty consistent and pure, by the way). What I am saying is that sometimes, in some situations, it is worth considering an alternative to being entirely consistent. Or rather, one can consider being consistent with the aim of veganism (reducing suffering) rather than the definition of veganism.
All of this may seem trivial and unimportant, but it’s not. What I’m talking about – and will write about more in the future – is the difference between ideology and concrete impact. Far too often, I think, we follow ideology for ideology’s sake, without having much attention for the actual effect of following that ideology. It is, in the end, results that we are about. Or at least, it is what I am about.
127 thoughts on “Veganism: ideology versus results”
Interesting point of view. Maybe the challenge to eat meat is not possible too just because for some vegan people it is physically impossible ?! when moral commitment becomes a complet “habitus” of your body.
Something sounds fatalist when distinguishing the difference between sake and results. Probably the truth takes part in a shared territory wich consists in observing results growing up – even if slowly – and continue to believe in our basic convictions.
Thinking in progress; anyway…
I think what would make all the difference in the world is one simple thing…if “behave & speak respectfully as far as practical and possible” could be added to the definition of vegan.
Yes, of course, we are morally justified and correct to point out inconsistencies, such as those non-vegans who recently spoke out for Cecil the lion.
But when we call out these inconsistencies…
if we want our message to be received…
if we want our movement to be respected…
if we want to speak for the animals in a voice that will be heard…
then we need to behave & speak respectfully ourselves.
I’m not saying to refrain from speaking the truth or to not be angry. But a screaming voice along with a pointing finger is not a voice that’s going to be heard.
If we want to be heard, we are left with no choice but to speak in a voice that will be heard. If you make only one exception as a vegan, please choose to do this. The impact of this simple act holds enormous potential for us and for the animals.
I was going to post the exact same thing Christine. The damage it is does by screaming a point across is far reaching. It does more harm to the welfare of animals as a guilt ridden omnivore will just scream back and declare not eating meat has made you crazy!
Quietly spoken and sensible actions instead of reaction will always get results.
I thought about the “thrown away meat” before and IMO it is better to make some use of it than to let it among the trash. If you don’t eat from the trash, you are increasing the demand for some food that will potentially affect wildlife (like cereals that kill many rodents). So you are harming more animals than if you ate the meat with 0 negative impact. That said, I think it is even better to give it to a cat that really needs it.
I think what Christine and Naomi said is the main point that I got from this; you can be the purest vegan in the world but if you’re aggressive and nasty (or continually interrogating other vegans about how they live their lives in a derogatory way) you will actually be more damaging to the movement.
Wow – what a great topic. I believe as a vegan, our propensity for non-violence can be misapplied. I believe Christine and Naomi are completely incorrect. If one believes that killing non-human animals is morally wrong, who but the vegans are going to speak and speak angrily on their behalf?
Here is the problem. We are dealing with a heavily entrench social norm – eating animal flesh. Unlike the civil rights movement, we don’t even have people paying lip service to our cause. We are terrified of offending, terrified of identifying publicly something that we know in our hearts is immoral and reprehensible. We are as guilty of denial as is the average meat-eats – we deny our own sense of morality for the sake of civility. And believe me, your meekness will not in any way be persuasive.
It is possible to express anger at a practice and a behavior without directing that anger to those of us non-vegans who are in a state of deep denial and moral conflict. Why do you think people buy cage-free eggs? Its because they have a latent moral conflict they are struggling with. I believe the best strategy is to patiently but directly help that innate sense of morality that most of us feel, rise to the surface of consciousness.
Reductionism sounds like a rational and useful step – but is it really? If you believe a person is wrong to kill 10 chickens for his or her pleasure, is it less wrong to kill 5 or even 1? This is not a matter of “purity”, its a matter of an advocate being taken seriously. Would Hitler be a nicer guy if it were 2 million Jews as opposed to 6 million?
As far as the thought experiment. I have to point out what I consider to be an incorrect assumption in terms of economics. I’m sure most here are too young to remember our revered president Ronald Reagan and his economic side-kick David Stockman who created out of whole-cloth the phony doctrine of supply-side economics. It seems Tobias is falling prey to that disastrous concept. Industry does not create meat that will not be bought. Singling out an individual who doesn’t “intentionally buy a piece of meat” is not a meaningful concept or thought experiment. If people stopped buying meat, industry would respond. Vegan menus and dishes are significantly increasing purely in response to consumer demand, not because some advocacy group demanded it.. The only “signal” that the market responds to is consumer demand. Beating up on farmers and ranchers with restrictive legislation will have no impact on the animals. When the market dries up, alfalfa farmers will switch to rice, quinoa and legumes.
Consumer demand: do you think price is not an issue in that? Lobbyists who lobby for animal husbandry reforms make meat more expensive, thus making the alternatives more competitive. This is obviously an important factor for increasing demands.
i think i’m gonna stay away from replying until you have watched my videos, because a lot of answers to your objections are in there :p
Fair enough but I hope my POV will also be seriously considered as well….
Try making a clean slate of your mind for a minute and pretend u learned nothing abolitipnist-approachy. Just for an hour.
I have been where you are. That’s how it goes: people are frabolitionists for awhile and then come to their senses and turn more pragmatic. I haven’t seen the other way round yet 🙂
Regarding your “clean slate” suggestion, I do try as hard as I can to always keep from jumping on one bandwagon or another. While I am very impressed with Francione’s philosophies, I believe he is severely lacking in the public relations department that Hillary referred to. I am constantly looking for flaws and inconsistencies. I am starting to discern, however, that it may not just be a matter of strategy, and that your ultimate goals may actually be different than his. I believe veganism may be a quest to conquer a much deeper flaw and sickness in human nature – nonhuman animal suffering is only a consequence of that. But, as I said, this something I’m wrestling with.
I agree with the latter. We have so much need and maybe even potential to become much better beings, and becoming vegan is only a part of that shift.
I have watched your videos and will probably go over them again as you provide many valuable insights. I am becoming more aware that language, semantics and missed nuances play a big role in the apparent vegan divide. I do believe the divide is real however, but the true differences in philosophy seem to get lost in the us-versus-them traps that we fall into.
For instance, I see that even the word “vegan” has a different emphasis. You may believe veganism is a means to an end and seem somewhat ambiguous – sometimes its a diet, sometimes a value system. I see veganism as an end in an of itself and will only come to pass if we as a culture have reached a tipping point away from greed and self-interest and toward compassion. Without that there is no hope for any of us earthlings. It may be that the impending global climate catastrophe will force the issue.
I also see a wavering and tentativeness over the word “morality” – only to be whispered in the privacy of one’s mind. I believe there are clear lines of morality. What I don’t believe, and I don’t think Francione does either, is that people who commit acts with immoral outcomes are necessarily immoral. The intention and awareness behind that act plays a major role. So when you warn against bringing morality into the discussion, I believe you are throwing away the validity of morality. Specifically, when you encourage people to reduce animal consumption it begs the question, why? Just for the heck of it? Clearly the reason is a moral one. So right there you have injected morality into the message. You can sugar coat it by being disingenuous (‘Did I say the word morality? I didn’t say that word’) but you are nevertheless using a non-vegan’s innate sense of morality and guilt to shift behavior to reduce animal consumption.
I believe there is a proper and non-accusitory way of acknowledging the moral foundation of veganism. First, speak in the first person. Speak of your own struggle with the reality versus what you were raised to believe. Let the non-vegan hear your personal pain and what you wished society would encourage, etc.
I apologize for going on and if I am in the wrong discussion area.
The economic points here aren’t that accurate, at least for the United States. The United States via the USDA has a variety of price supports for agricultural products, the programs are free-market operations so they simply buy the products to support the price which obviously guarantees a certain level of demand. As such a consumer reduction in demand only very crudely effects the aggregate output for the product.
Due to the governmental, industry and cultural support here…..you really do need a sort of critical mass to achieve anything because small number just won’t shift the system. Also, as far as industry goes, being able to isolate vegans (and vegetarians) into a small niche, and fairly nutty, community serves their interests pretty well. In this situation vegans end up just being like an annoying fly in the room rather than something that can promote real systematic change. After all, they’ve been flying around for 60+ years….and the system has only gotten worse.
In some ways your critique makes my point. The USDA and the meat industry are by law, one and the same. The USDA has the schizophrenic role of supporting public health and the agricultural industry. You will never get the USDA to abandon that role until there is a public outcry. Ranchers and farmers are American icons. My point is that going the regulatory route is a dead end – only scratching around the edges.
So I agree that a small number of vegans will not have an impact – exactly the reason to encourage large numbers of vegans. That you are naysaying that possibility, does not make it false. In terms of industry successfully isolating us as a fairly nutty niche, am sorry but you are wrong in my personal experience. When I ask for vegan dishes in a restaurant I am met with a genuine effort on the part of the server to accommodate me. The world is changing Mr. Toad.
There has been no vegan movement for the last 60 years, only isolated loosely connected groups of individuals with a heightened sense of compassion. That is changing rapidly.
The USDA and the meat industry are not “one and the same”, the USDA regulates and promotes all agriculture and doesn’t run or own farms. I don’t think the regulatory route is a dead end, these regulations can make people safer and can slowly improve the conditions on farms which acts to increase the cost of the underlying products. Obviously it shouldn’t be the only focus, but I don’t think anybody would claim that. But different groups and individuals have different resources and skills, I’d glad there are people out there that working on this political stuff. I know I don’t have the patience or talent for it.
And, yes, I’m naysasying the possibility. I don’t think you’re going to tip the system by encouraging people to become vegan for two reasons. First the vegan community is a disaster and that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. Secondly veganism is ideologically problematic, it requires one to believe a number of views that are philosophically contentious.
I don’t think restaurants trying to accommodate you refutes what I’ve said, after all, they would try to accommodate anybody the best they could even if they thought you were a nut. In any case, I’m just not seeing much change. I see some over hyped start-ups many of which are likely to fail, I see some faddish interest in vegan food, etc……after the dust settles I think things will be back at the starting point.
Whether you’re talking about veganism or anything else, angry denunciations and guilt trips – no matter how much you think your audience deserves them – will accomplish nothing. Actually, less than nothing because they will influence people away from your viewpoint.
Vegans who hope to be effective need to study marketing, sales, and persuasion. The information is out there, and it’s widespread. Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People is a good place to start. Those who don’t – who are just winging it, or letting their emotions dictate – are doing the opposition’s work for them.
I agree with you 1000%! I believe the current strategy that Tobias relies upon does not send the right message and doesn’t take advantage of the vast store of knowledge that has been developed over the years. Madison Ave and businesses, on the other, have down to a fine art.
I think I’m doing the exact opposite. Can u elaborate?
Tobias – turns out I have seen one of your videos earlier and have revisited it in light of our conversation. Trying to find the time to view the second one. I will respond then.
Being likable and a good public speaker are one thing, being a good business person or marketer is a much different thing. Marketing is very much a dark art, the goal of marketing is to manipulate the public into some action by any legal means possible. For example, by preying on human insecurities, using the latest psychological research to manipulate, etc.
Peta is the only group that seems to be experimenting with serious marketing.
I think you are correct. PETA wields a lot of power. Unfortunately just having the megaphone and that power of persuasion doesn’t mean it will be used responsibly (e.g. the tobacco industry). Personally, for what its worth, PETA, with all its resources has had zero impact on me or any connection with my decision to go vegan.
You say, “The USDA and the meat industry are not “one and the same”, the USDA regulates and promotes all agriculture and doesn’t run or own farms. ” I know you must know this that industries belong to, as an integral part of their corporate structure, trade associations that “promote” their interests. If you watch the videos of the USDA panel on diet recommendations you will see that the industry view is deeply sought after and given deference. So, yes, legally the USDA is not a private entity (like the Fed), but for all intents and purposes they fulfill the role of a trade association.
Considering that the abolitionist vegan movement is in its infancy, I believe your pessimism is premature – just a gut feel on your part.
I think restaurants responding to consumer demand does refute your contention that regulation will force businesses to change, even if consumers (nuts) don’t demand it. Did I miss your point?
My only point about Peta is that they seem to be experimenting with marketing, but different people are going to be impacted by different messages. Also I think its really difficult to pinpoint exactly how one was influenced since one has likely heard a number of things over time and may go back-and-forth for a long time. The USDA is a bit like a trade association, but that doesn’t make it “one and and the same” as the meat industry. The USDA deals with a variety of interests, some of which conflict.
I don’t see the abolitionist vegan movement as being in its infancy, these ideas have been around for 20+ years and I think my pessimism is based more than on a gut feeling. For example, what group is out there effectively promoting this position? But my comment was actually about veganism as a whole, in this sense my position is different than people like Tobias who support veganism. To me veganism is a sub-culture that is philosophically empty, so the only reason I’d ever think about supporting it is if it was an effective way to promote change…..but I have no reasons to believe that is the case, in fact, many reasons to believe its not.
I didn’t suggest that regulations will force people to change, instead they will change incentives which will change economic behavior in the aggregate. The current incentive structure is a big reason why people eat so much meat, so changing it is an important part of changing the system. The problem with focusing on individual demand is that the system is fairly resistant to small groups shifting intake, its like a large rock on top of a cliff. A few people pushing on it isn’t going to move the rock, you need sufficient energy to push the rock and until that happens nothing changes. This happens because there are a variety of price supports for animal products, the meat industry can increase demand in other segments of the population (e.g., paleo dieters), export its products, and so on.
toad, i am actually accused of being an anti vegan by some, because i advocate that we should talk about reduction than veganism. just fyi 🙂
Tobias – you asked:
“my ideal world/ultimate goal: a world where no (sentient) beings suffer/are killed/used against there wishes and where happiness is as big as possible for everyone. what’s yours? :)”
I want the same.
For me the word “vegan” expresses just that vision (like your happy image of a vegan world) It seems to me that veganism symbolizes that goal, and rather that hiding that powerful symbol under the bed it should be displayed and allowed to radiate. By speaking in hushed tones regarding the state of humanity we both wish for, we are unintentionally sabotaging the message. What other symbols do we have to represent your ideal world? Doesn’t, “Go Vegan” say it all?
You think you can reach that works by just telling people they have to be like you want them to be. I don’t believe that’s enough, by far.
You said, “You think you can reach that works by just telling people they have to be like you want them to be. I don’t believe that’s enough, by far.”
No, no, no – I never said that by a long stretch, and if I did, I will retract it. I was clearly referring to the deliberate act of NOT saying something honest as a strategy. (If “go vegan” is the genuine goal.)
why would not always and in every circumstances mentioning your end goal be dishonest ? people may have to be warmed up to things. i have made the comparison with meeting your dream girl/boy. you’re not gonna tell them you wanna marry them and have babies with them on the first date, are you? 🙂
You said, “why would not always and in every circumstances mentioning your end goal be dishonest ?” I think this does get to some of the differences in thinking. Why is “mentioning” veganism so taboo except in the perfect circumstance where the victim is prepped?
I don’t really like your marriage proposal analogy and your veganism across the precipice image either because they don’t capture my view of the situation (and maybe not even yours since you don’t want to tell him about the vegan cliff on the other side until he is in mid-air!)
I’d rather see the non-vegan on a dwindling tropical island on the verge of submersion, a situation of which he is oblivious to. A ship is approaching and he has enough coconuts, papaya and mangos – is not concerned to even notice the ship. The job of the advocate is to 1) alert him to the imminent danger taking advantage of his innate (moral) desire for self-preservation. and 2)point to the rescue approaching on the horizon. He may have to swim to reach the ship but you will help him. (call in the art department 🙂
it’s not about taboos. it’s about doing what we think is most effective, based on research, rather than saying vegan vegan vegan all the time because we think or little ideology requires it. Please check
Encouraging report but the whole focus is on the diet aspects of veganism – which is not my definition. Will we just soon be keeping the cow skin and throwing away the carcass? Don’t you think that most of this change is due to health concerns where the fate of non-humans rests in the capricious vanity of humans? Skipping meat once a week is not much of a conscience soother. And even if reductionist tactics have made this huge dent – when will you feel it safe to start promoting for the animal rights you believe in underneath it all? So if the goal of veganism were brought into the message, are you so certain that people would have then said, “forget it, I heard the “V” word so I’ll stick with the heart disease and diabetes”
It’s circular reasoning to claim the vegan message doesn’t work while reductionism does when the vegan message has been systematically and meticulously erased from the public eye.
First of all, I’d just like to say how much I appreciate everybody sharing their thoughts and points of view here. Everybody doesn’t always agree, but our being able to discuss these differences in a civil way is wonderful and really nice to see.
If I could respond to some of your thoughts regarding reductionism, Paul Spring:
You wrote, “Would Hitler be a nicer guy if it were 2 million Jews as opposed to 6 million?”
No, I don’t think anybody would consider Hitler to be a nicer guy in that scenario…but I’m sure those 4 million Jews who weren’t killed would be thankful.
“If you believe a person is wrong to kill 10 chickens for his or her pleasure, is it less wrong to kill 5 or even 1?”
No, it’s not less wrong…but what would the chickens who weren’t killed in that scenario think & say if you could ask them?
Going back to the Hitler example, just imagine you were there and had the power to help save millions of Jews, but you weren’t able to stop the larger holocaust…would you turn your back on the Jews that you were able to save? Could you look even one of them in eye and not help them because your philosophy says the only acceptable thing is that all the Jews must be saved and the entire holocaust ended…that saving just a couple million Jews isn’t good enough?
If you had the power to save just one sow in a gestation crate going crazy because of reductionism, could you tell that sow you couldn’t help her because reductionism isn’t good enough?
In these examples, isn’t reductionism is a rational & useful step?
This is where I personally feel the most frustration with abolitionist vegan philosophy. Yes, in an ideal world everybody would be vegan. But the cold hard fact is that we don’t live in an ideal world, and if something like reductionism is going to save even one animal, then I’m going to support it. This doesn’t mean I think it’s ideal and I’m going to continue to on like usual working towards creating an even more vegan world.
And if I could respond to this, too:
“If one believes that killing non-human animals is morally wrong, who but the vegans are going to speak and speak angrily on their behalf?”
Yes, of course, vegans should speak for the animals. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be angry, and in fact, we are right and morally justified to be angry. I think the one big key here, however, is how that anger is spoken.
If I’m speaking on behalf of the animals, I owe it to them to think and try and figure out the best way to speak so that their voice will be heard. I’m not at all saying to do this at the expense of speaking the truth, but if I speak that truth in way way that turns non-vegans away who may have otherwise listened, isn’t that morally wrong, too?
>If you believe a person is wrong to kill 10 chickens for his or her pleasure, is it less wrong to kill 5 or even 1
it matters a hell of a lot to the chickens, and I thought we were supposed to consider their view.
if Hitler had only killed one million people – or one person – he would still be evil, but there would be 11-12 million people still alive (plus descendants) – and yeah that matters. In my view, any theory that ignores or deprecates that fact is a bankrupt theory.
Wait a minute – I see your objection but it is not responding to my apparently poorly posed question. If you, Joe Nonvegan, decide to kill 5 chickens instead of 10 this month, are you, Joe Non-vegan, to be praised for that? I am not saying, as you inferred, that losing 5 chickens isn’t better than losing 10; I am saying to the killer, aren’t you still culpable for this immoral act? (Note – I am trying to separate the good person from the bad behavior – is that naive?)
If you consider people to be killer robots that we need to somehow trick, cross their wiring, to make them less efficient killers, I find that view of mankind very disturbing.
Well said, Paul Spring. Just one thing; anger CAN be expressed in a civilized manner.
W.r.t. the question of whether it is less wrong to go from killing 10 chickens to killing 5 (I restated things for higher fidelity to what is really of interest here):
I think at stake here in the way you frame the question, Paul, is an expectation that ethics concerns only what is good and what is evil.
Ultimately, ethics concerns what course of action is right and what course of action is wrong for humans’ lives. Now, one may resist this at first, but surely not for mundane meta-ethical reasons: there can be little doubt that ethics is largely defined in the way I have stated it*. Our resistance comes from our insistence on categorizing specific states of the world (good and evil) rather than looking at the actions that lead outcomes given a set of circumstances. It is part and parcel with what Tobias outlines in his post above.
In understanding ethics this way, we arrive at the answer to your apparent dilemma: reducing the amount of killing one does is the right course of action, we can praise that change of course, still killing some animals is a wrong course of action, which we can admonish. It is unnecessary to make sweeping judgments that must be compressed into one utterance. We can say it is good to reduce and we can say it is bad to kill animals at the same time. Both are certainly coherent ethical statements.
Paul, I hope that gives you a framework for thinking about how to relate to reduction as an ethical question associated with the actor rather than with those who are impacted (or not!) by an action.
(Let me know if I should link to further sources with equivalent explanations)
Good points and think I should clarify. I was referring to the strong message to the non-vegan implied by the reductionist approach: Those non-vegans who feel they are “saving” non-human animals by killing fewer of them, have a real moral dilemma on their hands. It implies that we, as humans, through our immense power over animals, may occasional deign to spare a few.
Aside from this twisted though unintended portrayal of human vs non-human relationships, I believe the reductionist approach, as implemented today, has only a very weak relationship to the survival of farm animals. It may help a bit but people are just setting their gunsights on other species and products (dairy,eggs, fish). You could say, well if it only helps to save one life in the short run, isn’t that worth something? Only if it doesn’t thwart other approaches that could be much more effective in the long run. I believe it very well might.
As an aside, I think there is a presumption here that the abolitionist approach involves direct anger and finger-pointing at non-vegans. From what I’ve seen, this behavior would go very much against the ideals of the abolitionists I’ve heard, Francione included. On the other hand, don’t confuse this with the anger directed at other vegan advocates. It is a battle of ideas over strategy and ultimate goals not directed at the general public.
I find one of the major problems of abolitionism is that it seems to be rooted in a sort of fairy-tale where humans and other animals can live happily-ever-after with never conflict. But that just isn’t accurate, the interests of animals and humans will always conflict and the only real question is how we deal with those conflicts. When do we, as humans, have the right to kill another animal for our interests? If the answer is “never”, then we are talking about the end of our species. If you’re answer is “only in a life-death situation”, then you’re talking about living as an ascetic in some cave somewhere. This is the difficult issue that abolitionists aren’t addressing.
Therefore, non-vegans don’t have a moral dilemma on their hands. The systematic use of animal products in society is not something an individual can change and its this systematic use that makes avoiding them entirely difficult. Does one have a moral obligation to stop any practice that harms or kills animals even if doing so is difficult or impractical? If so, then one is going to have trouble justifying much of their activities in modern life.
I think the reductionist approach might work as a strategy. Animal agribusiness depends on economies of scales. A reduction in demand might just make it unprofitable, and it might go bankrupt (at least the big farms).
if we all agree that we have to increase demand in order to have an impact, then what sense does it make to focus on making a few new vegans that are 100% pure? Wouldn’t we have more impact with a much larger amount of reducetarians, vegetarians, 80% vegans?
You portray the ideal vegan world in your PPT slide, but if you look at the real trajectory of the new-welfarist approach, it does not point in that direction. Correct me if I am wrong, but the message I really hear from you, despite your depiction of the ideal world, is that using and killing animals is fine as long as they live very content lives and that the act of killing is without any stress or pain. That is where the arrow of your message lands.
I have no problem with people finding their own way of extricating themselves from a lifetime of denial and relentless social indoctrination. But to explicitly recommend “cutting back” on eating meat as a strategy, blindly ignores the subliminal message that is clearly given: killing and using animals is OK as long as we do less of it and with less suffering. If that is the message you want to convey, we clearly have different core philosophies and clearly have a different view on human capacity to change.
I have really no idea how Thatcher can be your conclusion… It’s a completely incorrect interpretation of my message.
Thatcher? Confused – sorry.
Lol, mobile typo. Should be “that”
(And your not even British 🙂
I did carefully watch your videos – you are a very good, compelling and disarming speaker. But I found the message to be so diluted that I’m not sure what your formula in the end is. I don’t believe I am intellectually challenged but if I missed your point so easily, is it only my fault? It seemed to be mimicking the Republican “big tent” claim – everyone who has any inclination to reduce animal suffering is welcome aboard. We are not that desperate, in my opinion. With that basis, the matter of each persons definition of “suffering” comes into play. The abolitionist message is crystal clear – humans have no right to exploit animals in any way. The abolitionist strategy is up to the creativity of the particular activist or advocate and certainly can make use of all of the persuasive techniques that Mr. Toad referred to.
haha no, i’m sure i can still improve the clarity of my explaining, and i’m constantly doing that, trying to refine my views and present them better, because indeed i can they are so often misunderstood.
but that being said, i’m not sure what to add at this point. i don’t care abou the chrystal clarity of the frabolitionist message or how coherent it is, i care about whether it works or not. what i think i can safely conclude is thatthat message (assuming it is given in a friendlier way than it usually is) is not enough by itself and that like chrstine just said, we need both approaches and they are not mutually exclusive.
i just think that we’ll have a lot more impact on demand if we don’t just focus on turning people vegan at this point in time, because that is too slow a process, imho
I believe we actually may have different ultimate goals and are speaking a different “language”.
Clearly I’m not getting my message across – a great exercise in humility.
My mind is still taking it all in. Thanks for the back-and-forth!
my ideal world/ultimate goal: a world where no (sentient) beings suffer/are killed/used against there wishes and where happiness is as big as possible for everyone. what’s yours? 🙂
Tobias said, “my ideal world/ultimate goal: a world where no (sentient) beings suffer/are killed/”
There will always be suffering as long as there are sentient beings because there are diseases, birth defects, bodily parasites, earthquakes, floods, etc. There will be killing as long as there are carnivorous species (unless we create fake meat and feed them all?).
“used against there wishes”
We can only demand this from moral agents. We cannot demand that a cuckoo birds stop using other birds to raise their young.
“ and where happiness is as big as possible for everyone.”
And who is going to provide that happiness?
“ what’s yours?”
An ideal world, a world with zero suffering, would be a world that has no sentient individuals in it (look up: antinatalism). But what we, animal rights advocates, should fight for is a world where moral agents (that’s us, all humans of average and above average intelligence) respect the basic rights of all sentient and autonomous individuals, rights such as life, liberty, bodily integrity and self-determination.
what your saying does in no way exclude an “ideal” concept.
Btw, check http://www.hedweb.com
Can I ask about this subject? Please know that I’m asking sincerely, because I realize it could be read to be snarky, but I don’t mean it to be.
I’ve seen the idea about this subliminal message presented a lot, but I have no idea what actual basis in reality it has or comes from:
“But to explicitly recommend “cutting back” on eating meat as a strategy, blindly ignores the subliminal message that is clearly given: killing and using animals is OK as long as we do less of it and with less suffering.”
I can see how it’s perfectly plausible for that subliminal message to come across, but how do we know that is actually what’s happening in reality?
Isn’t is plausible for numerous other subliminal messages to also come across? Such as:
“I see cutting back isn’t as hard as I thought it would be, so maybe I’ll try it even more.”
“Cutting back does cause less suffering, but what else I might be able to do to help animals even more? I mean, I wouldn’t have considered cutting back in the first place if I didn’t care about animals to start out with.”
By opening one small door to reducing a person’s intake of animal products, many other doors are also opened. What if a person thought, “Meatless Monday is going pretty good for me. Maybe I’ll join that local veggie meetup group to see what they’re all about.”. What further changes could that possibly hold? What subliminal messages would they now be exposed to that they wouldn’t be otherwise & if they didn’t try Meatless Mondays?
There are countless possibilities of what messages a person cutting back may get subliminally and/or consciously. If the only message a person got was that “killing and using animals is OK as long as we do less of it and with less suffering”, then why would vegans who started out as reductionists eventually become vegan?
Christine – I am no social scientist and have to speak from my own limited experience, personal reaction and personal sense of logic. To pick one, I believe that it is possible that “Meatless Monday” could lead someone down the path as you describe. I think there are much better, equally less judgmental, and more direct ways that don’t lead to the scenario I described. I do believe in “hooks” , even ones that are indirect. For instance, the boom in the public awareness of the health benefits of going vegan gets people in the door. When this is followed up with an intense campaign to introduce people to amazing vegan food, a major section of the wall of denial begins to breakdown. Humans are concerned about survival and pleasure – taking away meat, in their minds, deprives them of both. They won’t listen to the vegan message if they feel threatened. Once that threat is shown to be an illusion, that barrier melts away partially and allows the core vegan message to be heard. This is one path toward veganism and abolitionist veganism that I know for a fact works.
Here is the subliminal message in “Meatless Monday”.
1) “Monday” happens every week – the message is clearly that this is meant to be an ongoing institution and practice. If not, why use the day of the week? (Remember it used to be meatless Friday for Catholics – not much of a dent on veganism there.)
2) “Meatless” – do you think people don’t switch to eggs, fish and diary in the effort to “do the right thing”? It has no educational value.
3) To answer your question with a question: why would anyone go “meatless” if they didn’t already have concerns about eating “meat”. Its putting the trailer before the truck 🙂
4) Some vegans hate the analogies to slavery, rape and other socially agreed-upon taboos – but to make a game and marketing ploy out of an ethical and moral choice has all the appeal of a racist joke to me.
Tobias believes I am impractical, I just have a different view on what is the most effect strategy and that some strategies should have no place in a vegan movement.
Why doesn’t the anti-choice movement have such moral dilemmas? It doesn’t ask questions like whether restricting abortion rights is the right thing to do. It does whatever it can to reduce abortion rights, and therefore reduce the number of abortions. And no one is accusing it of being hypocritical or questioning its ideology. For example, it is pushing for a ban on abortions after 20 weeks. No one is accusing it of supporting abortions of 19 week old fetuses.
I hate to compare AR to anti-choice, but I am only comparing strategies.
Paul, my mind is still taking all this in and I appreciate the back and forth, too. 🙂
I think that in the end we have much more in common than differences, and this can sometimes get lost in all the discussions. The animals need all of us working for them in whichever way we can.
I think you may have more hope and faith in the human race’s ability to change than I do. Having been working on these issues for a long time now, I know I’ve become pretty jaded at what humans will do, even when they know what’s morally right and they are capable of doing it easily. Humans can’t even treat other humans humanely.
Maybe I put too much emphasis on “taking what we can get”, such as reductionism…but it’s also true for me that it’s one of the few things that actually creates tangible results towards the world we want to see. I’ve yet to meet a person who became vegan immediately because of any argument or movie or presentation. It would be wonderful if that actually happened in the real world, but experience has shown me different.
I’m now beginning to think of something that may be adding to our back and forth, and that’s how each of defines the different terms we use, such as reductionism, etc. Just to clarify, for me reductionism isn’t an end, it’s a first step and a means to an end. Whenever I promote reductionism to non-vegans, that promotion also includes the further steps beyond that are possible.
It would be wonderful if people would just change based on the moral argument, but in the real world, they just don’t…even when they know it’s true. Like you, I’m also big fan of “hooks” and presenting ideas like the health argument. I also use the arguments of pollution, antibiotic resistance, world hunger, hormone use, etc. (I’m spacing the others out at the moment). Basically, if it puts a dent in factory farming and somebody on the vegan path, then I’m going to support it.
Maybe that’s accepting too little because I’ve seen that’s all I can hope to expect from most people. I used to think the rest of the world was like me…that they would change once they were made aware of the truth…they just aren’t aware, like I was. Reality sadly changed that for me and I discovered that I’d be waiting a very, very, very long time if I waited for people to change based on morals alone. Like I said, humans can’t even treat each other humanely.
So, over the years my focus has changed from living on hope to doing what I discovered actually worked to create change. I grew frustrated and tired of depending on and having faith in others, because that simply wasn’t working.
Maybe I need to go back and reassess things, and I would see things differently if I something could restore my faith in humanity. It’s good to have people out there who do have that faith in humanity & haven’t lost it. Working together, maybe we can get to that world we want to see. 🙂
I have tremendous respect and admiration for those who have been fighting this for so long – I’m embarrassed to realize that I was among the walking deniers until fairly recently whereas people like you had the moral clarity almost innately.
It is demoralizing to be confronted with the ugliest side of human nature and our supposed advanced civilization on a continual basis. I see that ugliness though as a hard crusty shell around an inner core of kindness rather than something that permeates us. I am no more compassionate than a meat-eater or hunter or my mother, sisters and brother (all meat-eaters) – Don’t you think there has to be a way to release the light within most of us?
I get angry with Francione, but I have never heard him advocate for pointing the accusing finger at a non-vegan. (We have to separate the advocates from the general public – he has plenty of anger directed toward those advocates who he feels thwarts his message ) He has a burning faith in the goodness of most people – maybe naively, and wants to be a catalyst to unleash that innate sense of morality within us.
I have an example regarding the value of using direct moral tactics to change entrenched and highly devastating public behavior. I was president of the largest chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving in my state. MADD pulled no punches – Grandma who drank a little too much wine at a restaurant was equal to a teenager in terms of deserving real jail time and fines. Lenient judges were harassed and to MADD, manslaughter was manslaughter. And it worked. Drastic reductions in drunk driving related deaths due to their pointing the finger at the average citizen. It is no longer cool nor funny to boast to having driven under the influence. I’m not saying that there is a one-to-one parallel to the more entrenched hurdles we face in promoting animal rights, but it should make one think – is it a mistake to run away from making moral arguments for moral causes? Clearly as you said, awareness just isn’t enough – the defenses are that powerful.
I am also deeply disappointed and disillusioned with the almost bizarre lack of involvement and indifference out there. If a boulder were rolling down a mountain directly towards us, would we move out of the way? On the other hand, if it is true that we as a species can’t or won’t do what it takes to save ourselves, why bother? I am not religious but it strikes me as quite ironic that our devastation of other species is causing the devastation of our biosphere and ultimately us. Is that poetic justice or what?
Don’t take this the wrong way. But just as we are instructed by the flight attendant to put the oxygen mask on ourselves before our child, I think we have to unleash our own encapsulated morality before we can hope to save the species we are in the process of exploiting and destroying. My sisters may not “get it”, yet they love me enough to take my pain seriously. I can’t put a smile on that pain.
Paul, did u see the part in my presentation about behavior being able to change before attitude? That should inspire hope, i think?
(This discussion is getting difficult for me to negotiate – hope my response is appropriate to the post)
Regarding changing behavior versus changing beliefs, I believe its not an either/or situation. If you know a little bit about electronic circuit theory, there is a common effect called positive feedback where an input to an amplifier creates a bigger output which is then wired back to mix with the input, to lead to an even stronger output – around and around it goes – usually leading to a bad situation – screeching microphones. If, however, that input is Jimmie Hendrix fretting a note next to his amplifier, that runaway howl you hear is exquisite and emotional ( to some of us 🙂 I believe that can happen in movements as well – they can either lead to a screeching dead end or a perfectly in-tune and powerful result.
Case in point. I am a member of a very successful “plant-based” meetup – the potlucks are growing exponentially – had to change venues twice in one year to accommodate the new people. However, general discussions on animal rights is discouraged. Its all about health and maybe environmental concerns. A good number of the people in the meetup are oblivious to the concerns of animal rights. So the behavior has snowballed but the awareness is still stunted and weak. Unless someone (like me) takes advantage of this captive audience and injects moral concepts, it will continue to spiral up the plant-based road and the animals will be left behind.
So yes, changing behavior can set the stage, but leaving out the moral aspect to guide this positive feedback in the right direction can result in a huge drain on resources and leave the “movement” in a limbo state (where we are now).
It’s not an either out thing. Im just saying that the other direction (beh leading to att change) is mostly ignored in our movement
If there were some magic argument that would persuade everyone to stop eating animals immediately, it would have been discovered by now. Experience has shown that very few people are willing to make (and maintain) rapid, major changes to their diet.
How many vegans can claim they didn’t start out take a reductionist approach themselves? Unless you were raised as a vegan from day one, and you yourself instead became a vegan by a slower approach, how can we deny that opportunity to other people? Why do we expect anything different from other people? What are the approaches that exist today that “could be much more effective in the long run” that didn’t exist when you began your vegan journey?
Reductionism is actually the very reason we have to thank for the majority of vegans that do exist now. How many vegans would be left if we removed those who didn’t have a reductionist beginning?
“You could say, well if it only helps to save one life in the short run, isn’t that worth something? Only if it doesn’t thwart other approaches that could be much more effective in the long run.”
Doesn’t that go against the vegan ideal that all animals lives matter, that each one is an individual in their own right? Billions upon billions of animals are suffering absolutely horrific cruelty right now, right this second, every second of their lives, literally from the day they are born. They don’t have the long run to wait. They need our help now. If we aren’t capable of creating a perfect vegan & humane world for them right now, does that mean we should deny them the help that we are quite capable of offering them now?
Maybe there is something I don’t quite really understand, but I don’t see why we can’t do both… support reductionism while still continuing to work and promote veganism. I understand the concern some feel that reductionism may actually lead to feeling better about the animal products a person still does eat, but the exact opposite happens, too… just ask all the vegans who exist now because they began as reductionists.
Please know that I’m speaking from my own experience from many years of animal advocacy and fighting factory farming, but If anybody knows of any studies, works, websites, etc., comparing the number of vegans resulting from taking a reductionist approach vs. the number of vegans resulting from changing drastically, please let me know.
I believe we may be talking past each other somewhat and I so much want to avoid that. You have invested a large part of your life to your strategy and I respect that. I keep harping on semantics for a reason, the subliminal messages that get sent. I am very much in favor of “reducing” animal suffering and human-imposed death, what I am objecting to is providing that as a prescription to the public. Reducing consumption is a natural and the only logical response from a person whose consciousness has been raised out of the dungeon. The goal is reduction to zero. Let each of us determine how we will accomplish that. Yes, provided cooking classes, health seminars and posters, environmental movies, etc etc. At some point, a person must be enlightened to his or her own cognitive dissonance – giving soothing incremental solutions thwarts that much-needed emotional and logical evolution.
On the subject of movies, I believe Cowspiracy’s message has had an incredible impact on people’s attitudes. It presents itself as an environmental movie but the subliminal message that is impossible to ignore is “Go Vegan”. The graphic and chilling cold-blooded slaughtering of the duck was in there for a reason and it wasn’t environmental. That the environmental “left”,supposedly our allies, is also in a state of deep denial, doesn’t speak well of the impact of the current incremental approaches used so far. If it doesn’t work for them, who will it work for?
So yes use the persuasive tools to bring people into the fold but be very careful about the unintended messages. I see you believe the end result is worth the risk. I see too many 10 and 20-year “vegetarians” in meetups comfortably continuing their oppression of animals. Its not a “gateway” but a long tunnel.
When we talk about getting messages over to people, and what the messages are really saying, perhaps we should consider who we think are hearing the message. Promoting veganism as a matter of consumption immediately assumes that people have choice in terms of what they consume. Some people have limited choice. Frabolitionism makes no concession for circumstance – poverty, deprivation, adversity are no excuse for them because you can walk the extra miles to get the vegan food and you can spend the extra time cooking it. I am sorry but Frabolitionism reeks of white privilege. The problem for Frabolitionism is that it cannot concede the point about circumstances because then the whole moral campaign world-view (which is the heart of Frabolitionism)is severely damaged. As Christine as pointed out knowing something is wrong does not necessarily translate into a change of behaviour even when there are no practical issues to consider.
As for the reductionist message actually entrenching the idea that it is OK to exploit animals so long as we are humane, the question is (as Christine asks) does it? Well Francione says it does, but does Francione present evidence? Unfortunately Francione says a lot of things without evidence.
I think the question is, is veganism as a current practice essential for working towards animal liberation? Could a current omnivore work towards that liberation? If you think animal liberation is about political change (in a variety of ways), then the answer is “yes” . However if you think that the real issue is moral change on the individual level (and then assume that enough individuals will add up to a critical mass that will achieve politically) and that that moral change must correlate to change in current consumption practices, then the answer is “no”.
The killer with Frabolitionism is how all those vegans are going to be achieved – those millions (billions globally) will come about by individuals talking to other individuals. So, you and I, as individuals, educate ourselves (which means we read everything that Francione has written, because nothing else is required), and then, thus equipped, we talk to members of our family, to friends, to people at work, etc, and they become vegans, and educate themselves, and talk to other people. No organisations, no media campaigns, no direct action (however Ghandian), no political action, no demonstrations, just individuals talking to other individuals. That is really it. And if that doesn’t kill the credibility of Frabolitionism, I don’t know what will.
very good comment, leone. i agree with everything. though i believe that policical change can lead to moral change 🙂
How do you define political change? Don’t you think that there is a distinctly different sense of morality between the Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders? Of course there are interest groups that play heavily in the political process, but when it comes to social change, doesn’t politics just implement an underlying moral belief? Raising the minimum wage, for instance, is ultimately a moral issue in my opinion. Even if regulations to require cage-free hens came to pass, that would be based on a moral principle (despite the now recognized economic advantages to the industry).
When you use the term “Frabolitionism” and other mocking labels, its hard to then engage in an honest discussion where I feel I can personally gain from considering your points. But, what the heck, I’ll ask anyway.
Why do you believe Francione does not take into account the economic circumstances of people? Is this a pervasive theme in his writings or just a few nuggets that caught your eye to confirm your disagreement? He clearly distinguishes between an immoral act and the person and their necessity to survive (he even can justify cannibalism – immoral, but may be necessary in extreme circumstances).
In America, the notion that going vegan is expensive has been demonstrated to be, in reality, not true. More than half of my meals come from cans and dried legumes – have you seen the price of fish lately? Compare soy milk to subsidized cow milk. What is your basis for saying this?
You seem to claim to understand how social change works – and flatly discount the moral impact. And why do you assert that moral and political change are distinct. Our politics represents the implementation of our morality.
I don’t think there is a solid understanding of how such a non-linear and multi-faceted mix of unpredictable forces leads to social change. A “movement” is a nebulous thing, especially when you are in the midsts of one. ” How will all those vegans be achieved…” – Not without a strong moral component and basis. Gay marriage is a perfect example – we didn’t need “billions” of gays to force the issue. It was the appeal to our glimmers of a sense of morality that pushed the tipping point last year. Without that moral basis, I contend you will get no movement and no change.
Can an omnivore work for animal liberation? – Only in the very early stages of a movement until his or her position is seen as such a hypocritical practice and deep contrast with where the movement has progressed, that it makes the message inconsistent. Virtually all of us began as omnivores (force-fed by our parents) but don’t you think its time to move on and take off the training wheels?
The cultural shift on gay marriage was hardly an appeal to “a sense of morality”, after all, if that were true why did it take so long? The shift was the result of a decades long effort to normalize gay relationships, this was frequently done on a variety of TV shows and movies with no moralizing at all. Just the portrayal of gay couples as culturally norm. Cultural shifts occur without any moral basis all the time, and even in cases where there are relevant ethical factors the shift can be motivated by non-moral means.
The meat and dairy industry have been devilishly successful at changing the way people think about meat, dairy, etc over the last 50 years…..if they can do this without moralizing why couldn’t you do the opposite?
i think that even if we could prove that a non moral approach works better,a part of our movement (frabolitionists) would still insist on moral campaigning…
You say, “The cultural shift on gay marriage was hardly an appeal to ‘a sense of morality'” – I’ll try to refrain from making arguments from assertion if you will 🙂 My position is that a variety of techniques to persuade and change attitudes should be applied but the core guiding value should not be hidden.
What does the length of time required to change entranced societal values have to do with anything? If it was based strictly on utilitarian grounds as you claim, why did it take so long? The answer, in my opinion, is that it takes awhile for critical mass.
You could interpret your claim that over the years the movement has forced society to see LGBT people as people and not “things” – as brothers, sisters, cousins, friends, coworkers.This is very similar to an abolitionist tactic asking what is the difference between your family pet and the cow you kill. You wouldn’t deprive your gay daughter of her happiness (Mr. Cheney), why persecute someone else’s daughter. If this isn’t an appeal to a moral basis, I don’t know what is. This is a direct appeal to our innate sense of fairness, compassion and logic, as difficult as that often can be. This is very different than saying, Gays are useful to society and should not be imprisoned for indecency.
So, do you believe the best approach is to meticulously leave the moral message out until society is ‘ready’ to hear it?
So you believe the abolitionist approach is to solely rely on moral campaigning? Maybe its the word “moral” itself which conjures of visions of TV evangelists and scarlet letters. If so, that’s a very limited definition. I see the abolitionist approach to be based upon a belief that, other than sociopaths, people have innate sense of fairness and compassion and a craving for consistency, and we must tap into that if we are to change cultural behaviors that are inconsistent with that side of human nature.
Why shouldn’t the core guiding value not be hidden and really…..what exactly is the core guiding value of veganism? Ask 10 vegans what veganism means to them and you’ll get 10 different answers, the issue here is that being vegan is a matter of following vegan lifestyle doctrines and not having some particular moral view. But even if we assumed that there was a “core guiding value”, talking about it is unlikely to be the best way to promote social change in today’s society.
I think you’re misinterpreting what I said about gay rights, my point was that a good deal of the efforts to change societal views on gay relationships were non-moral in nature where as the tactic you’re talking abou is moral in nature. For example, having a gay male on a TV show doing normal things, having normal interactions, etc….doesn’t make any moral statement but it does help to normalize gay men to those watching the show. The first step in people accepting gay rights was that people needed to relate to gay people in some way, they need to see it has norm in some sense…..after that talking about gay rights is much easier.
In a similar fashion, people have a variety of views about meat/dairy, they don’t have any cultural knowledge of plant-based cooking, etc…..a diet without meat and dairy is just very foreign to them. So until you can dis-arm their views, increase their understanding of plant-based cooking,etc…..your moralizing is likely to fall on deaf ears.
So, yes, I think its best to leave moralizing out until one has weakened/dis-armed a variety of culture views and have ameliorated people’s understanding of plant oriented cooking.
Yes, veganism means different things to different vegans. I was referring to the meaning presented by Francione – that if animals have moral value, we have no moral right to use them and do so only due to our “might”. He has no problem bringing in the impacts of animal use – to our health and our planet – but he begins with his premise and uses those impacts to get the attention of non-vegans.
I agree that he personally can be too academic and loses people, but his less socially inept proponents do incorporate the familiarization techniques you describe. I don’t see them as mutually exclusive at all. Integration, by itself, did not cure Jim Crow attitudes – moral indignation, as in Black Lives Matter, is playing a huge role now.
At this point I’m not really sure what moral value you think should be promoted, you seem to be suggesting that we should be promoting Francione’s view of matters. But many people disagree with his view, not just from a strategic point, but philosophically as well. So without any unified moral theory, exactly what moral position is going to be advocated?
In any case, I wouldn’t reject the use of all moralizing….but if you’re going to say something moralistic you should do so very carefully and make sure you’re not going out on a limb. Talking about “animal rights” is the exact opposite of that, animal rights are a fuzzy notion with a lot of philosophic and legal issues.
Quick responses – I am sorry the term Frabolitionism offends, but I think it (or Frabolitionist) was used earlier by another participant without comment. I use it to distinguish between abolitionism that follows Francione and other types of abolitionism, although I am sure we are all aware that a number of commentators have complained that Francione attempts to appropriate the term while casting all others into the pit of “new welfarists”. With regard to politics and morality, I must clarify and perhaps amend that I am not saying there are no moral stances in politics, but that to reduce politics to morality is dangerously naive and simplistic. In my opinion animal liberation as politics must be embedded in a human political movement, and the strongest force in human politics is group interest. It seems to me that what lies behind the morality- vegan-critical mass notion of political action is a tired, old liberal notion that we are rational individuals who act rationally when given the facts and a logical argument, and, therefore, when we understand that basic moral principles are being assaulted we will change our own behaviour and alter our society. The problem is how rational and moral are we as humans? Where do we factor in psychological, cultural, social, religious, material and financial considerations. When do we face the driving force of self and group interest? As for Francione-abolitionism and material circumstances, Francione may well allow extreme exceptions but if pslebow can find an exaample where Francione says unequivocally that people living in a food desert can not always be consistently vegan, I’ll concede I’ve harsh. Also pslebow jumps to the possible expense of vegan food – I think this is a simplification and distraction. There are more issues than the price of beans. What if a person is periodically dependent on food banks or hand outs? What if after working for a pittance in a soul-destroying job, they don’t always want to cook from scratch? What if those ultra cheap chicken wings are an addictive pleasure born of being worn down and worn out? What if working out how you are going to get your B12 becomes another burden in a life of burdens? When vegan consumption is made the essential it can exclude a whole load people that are really allies.
Frabolitionism is indeed a very useful term to make some distinctions. Francione tries to appropriate the term abolitionism, while we are all abolitionists. So we need to distinguish between francione abolitionism and the other kind
Leone – I probably agree with 99% of your points. Where I am having a problem is with the characterization of Francione’s position. I have read his writing and more importantly listened to him speak many many times and come away with a much different impression Does he actually refer to indigent people as immoral?
It also seems to me that the distinction between “use” and “treatment” is pretty clear. Francione seems to employ suffering and treatment arguments as information to bolster his “use” philosophy. I don’t think it is giving up too much to allow him to own the term “abolition” and accept the “welfare” label. They are both honorable goals with very distinct core principles.
paul, seriously, the way GLF (ab) uses these labels is blatantly dishonest. welfarism is traditionally about not wanting abolitionism, about continued but improved use. that is NOT what all the organisations and people that GLF criticizes constantly are about. the ARE abolitionists. implying something else so incredibly dishonest and disrespectful to the hard work of all these people and groups that it really makes me angry
This is important for me to understand. I am not challenging you but I would like more specific examples of how he is twisting the truth here.
I explain this here: http://veganstrategist.org/2015/03/02/on-gary-francione-and-the-abolitionists
Paul – first of all I have not accused Francione of saying that indigent are immoral; I asked whether he has ever stated unequivocally that people living in a food desert may not always be able to be consistently vegan, that is different. You can swap food desert for being dependent on food banks or any thing equivalent.
I think with Francione (and this is not peculiar to him) one has to assess every communication in terms of its format, the circumstance and the audience. So, when he writes a book he will be careful with regard to style and to deal with qualifications. Similarly, in front of an audience, he will tailor content and presentation. But one has to throw into the mix what he writes on his blog-site and on his Facebook page. I think with his Fb page it is reasonable to take into account the vigorous and stringent admin there – the page is as much the public face of Francione and Frabolitionism as anything else.
So, having such a panorama, there is cause out there to argue that Frabolitionism does not acknowledge circumstances such as food deserts as genuine reasons for not being consistently vegan. How can it? When Frabolitionism throws out lines such as one is either a vegan or an animal exploiter, where is the room to list exceptions? I give Francione the credit for knowing where the weak points are – but it is his choice whether he clearly and thoroughly addresses them or not.
Also, I would argue that at the theoretical heart of Frabolitionism is the individual and the moral campaign. If you start taking into account structional issues about a society, e.g. how the socio-economic system creates poverty and how certain groups, for socio-economic and historical reasons, are those who mostly make up the poor, you are shifting into politics at a social level, a national level, a global level and leaving the individual, their morality and the correlating moral campaign behind. If Frabolitionism did that, it would collapse.
As well as Frabolitionism reeking of white and class privilege, I would argue that there are number of other probable characteristics. I think some could well label it colonialist. The consistent, “logical”, moral message could well be heard by native peoples and people in other cultures as white men/ old imperialists/American devils telling us how to live. If Frabolitionists want to grow vegans in all communities in the West and in other cultures, I would argue that you have to allow individuals and groups in those settings to develop as vegans and develop veganism and abolitionism in their own way and according to their own lights. Such an approach is absolute anathema to Frabolitionism, which is a top-down, our way or no way ideology.
Seems that I am in an awkward position of defending Francionce, even though I am still in the process of finding my own vegan center. I’ve read a lot on all sides and, despite Tobias’ critique, I just don’t respond the same way to Gary. I have no love for him. I don’t see the elitism, I don’t see the personal intolerance, I do see patience on his part. I see the snarkiness and attacks directed to insiders and those large groups who he considers an anathema and who have dismissed his heart-felt philosophies.
I don’t see how taking an individual approach precludes sensitivity to large scale inequality. Again, I grew up in the midst of the women’s movement and the focus was very much on individual and small scale conscious-raising. I don’t see the colonialism nor any evidence of dismissing other cultures. If you are hinting at afro-american culture for instance, here in DC, veganism is alive and well in the black community. I don’t see any conflict with Gary’s moral message and theirs. It seems that you are expecting him to tackle the devastation due our sick capitalistic culture – I don’t think that’s fair since non of the other approaches are expected to either.
It almost seems that Gary’s style, more than his message, makes some people want to dislike him. If you grant that he truly believe’s his basic philosophy, that sentient beings have moral value, many (not all) “pragmatic” approaches, by their very nature, contradict that. What do you want him to do, disavow his own beliefs?
The odd thing is that, if its true that Francione is just a minor actor with no impact on the large scale organizations and utilitarian groups, why the intense animosity toward him? Shouldn’t he be included in the big tent even though he does not accept that membership? And if, in ten years, it turns out his approach is bearing fruit, will his critics be willing to be pragmatic enough to embrace it?
you’ll have to look a bit closer and learn more then, paul. I get a bit tired pointing out the obvious here. no offense.
From your critiques, I have seen clear examples of what can be considered ‘rudeness’ and bad politics on his part, but no clear analysis nor rejection of his philosophy on animal rights. I will have to “learn” more from other sources I suppose.
Politically he rejects any partnerships with organizations that either directly or indirectly allow for the “use” of non-human animals, even as a transition. You, from a practical standpoint, do not reject those associations.
personally my critique of him does not focus on his animal rights theory. that is fine, as far as i’m familiar with it (though not particularly original or whatever). the point is about the fact THAT it is just a theory and everything is offered on the altar of internal consistency of that theory, while taking little or no account of the real world, including psychology, sociology etc.
I agree. But I think that is his personal issue. There are plenty of his “followers” who ignore his luddite attitude.
Some things rather haphazardly. Is Francione elitist? I have seen no evidence that be is consciously elitist. But there are certainly things in Frabolitionism that hinge on privilege. Does he dismiss other cultures? I have seen no evidence for that. But are there things in Frabolitionism that can be read as colonialist, I think there probably is. On this point, I think we must take into account Francione’s adherence to moral realism and his rejection of anything that smacks of moral relativism. So, on this point, Frabolitionism would bounce into a Muslim country or community and, if it is consistent, condemn the sharing and donation of meat at the feast of Eid the same as condemning happy meat – do you think some Muslims might see this as American cultural colonialism? With regard to your particular point of African-American veganism, within that there are examples of linking veganism with food justice. Francione certainly talks about various inequalities (and I think his concern is genuine) but Frabolitionism doesn’t link itself up in terms of activism with anything else, it is, strangely, a type of single issue campaign ( a hated SIC). Groups within certain communities can’t afford to be single issue. They can’t afford to follow “animal whites”. As for tackling capitalism, I think all approaches sbould be assessed in terms of a systemic understanding of how animal exploitation fits into capitalism. On this point, Francione is dismissive of an anti- capitalist approach to animal liberation. I think he has to be – such an approach, which looks for a systemic political answer, is a million miles away from his moral campaign. As for Francione being in the big tent, hey, he wants to burn that down! And if we see if his approach is right and bears fruit – remember that Francione’s strategy to grow vegans is individuals talking to individuals, full stop, no organisations, no direct action, no demonstrations, no media campaigns. You want a
critical mass in the US and that’s your way of achieving it? How can anyone take that seriously?
I don’t think Francione rejects organization and media campaigns in general. (You mind is probably set on him and I don’t expect that you spend much time listening to his discussions.) For me, his lack of savvy when it comes to tactics is besides the point.
I agree some may want to interpret his approach as colonialist, or white-priviledge – I just don’t see it. (Don’t understand your “food justice” comment) Chris Hedges, a staunch anti-capitalist seems to feel veganism fits very nicely within his broader philosophies of justice and equality.
Your Muslim example seems like a red-herring to me. As a Jew I see no insult to not eating meat nor displaying it as religious symbols on Passover. In fact, veganism feels much more in line with the basic values of most religions. Do you doubt there are vegan devout Muslims?
To call a philosophy which seeks to complete the circle among all living sentient beings, “single issue” is for me a huge stretch of the meaning.
Yes, reductionism is an anathema to what he believes, but again, since the reductionist tent is so huge and robust, just ignore him. According what others have pointed out here, abolitionist veganism will never have any impact anyway.
Its odd but his actual philosophies on animal use and justice don’t seem to be discussed here. Its a non-sequitur to claim, as I’ve heard, ‘yeah, I believe in abolitionism and most of what Francione believes’ and at the same time propose tactics that, by there very nature, are antithetical to his message. All I see is general dismissiveness – not very convincing to a person who sincerely want to hear all sides.
paul, all due respect, but i personally find it a bit frustrating to read your posts (which doesn’t mean they are not welcome). i would like to believe you are thinking critically, and i honestly believe you are open minded, yet at the same time i see you repeating the same things over and over and not nothing much seems to sink in at all. keep commenting and dicussing, but i think i’ll take a little break from it.
(this probably sounds paternalizing and smarter-than-thou, but it’s not meant like that. I’m just frustrated, i guess – a result of generally coming across the same old, tired, unthoughtful clichés again and again by people who think that the thinking has been done and they don’t need to think anymore.
That’s fine, its been interesting – I feel the same frustration as you and for the same reasons. However, I am on this site to try to understand why vegans can’t discuss these things and continually talk past each other or fling talking points. I don’t like when Francione does it either. This is a very familiar situation I’ve seen in other grass roots movements I’ve been involved with and I wonder if we are genetically predisposed to certain stances and postures. If so, that’s scary. The animal agriculture industry is sitting back smiling.
Maybe when we are thus passionate about something, the small differences that there are get magnified?
I’ve also struggled a lot and spent a lot of time trying to understand the roots of infighting among groups and “why vegans can’t discuss these things and continually talk past each other or fling talking points.” I mean, we have so much more in common than differences…why do the differences seem to slowly take center stage?
This is something that apparently affects all kinds of groups universally, but especially those working for a cause larger than themselves & those groups involved in activism. Maybe it’s simply like Tobias wrote, that “Maybe when we are this passionate about something, the small differences that there are get magnified?”
I’d like to make a personal plea to Hillary Retting and/or Matt Ball (if they can find the time! 🙂 ) if either could help us to understand the roots and psychology of infighting among groups. Do you have any insight you could share with us, or any books, resources, links, websites, etc?
I think understanding this is key to helping to stop the infighting. You can’t work on or fix something if you don’t understand how it works…especially if you are on the “inside” yourself and part of the “something” yourself.
I’m constantly surprised at how much of our behavior and thinking goes on subconsciously, and in turn we behave the way we do without really knowing why, or even thinking of questioning why.
Anyway, if Hillary or Matt or anybody else is up to the challenge of helping to enlighten us, please do! 🙂
I don’t think there is any big mystery to why people fight, including in-fighting, its a matter of status. Humans, like other great apes, are hierarchical animals and are always going try to gain status relative to other members of their society, group, etc.
Yeah, Mr. Toad, I agree completely. I think the fighting can be related to status, but also to territory (physical land now being replaced by cyberspace territory). Maybe “territory” is technically included under and is a part of “status”, though?
I wish there was some way for humans to look at ourselves and come to an understanding of our “weaknesses” and that can be attributed to our evolutionary past and tribal roots, and how those traits in turn can make us behave today. Maybe we can’t “fix” those things, but if we at least understand them we can try to work around them or with them.
If something is jerking you around on a chain, you are way ahead of dealing with it if you understand how the chain works, vs. not knowing and only being aware of the fact that you’re being jerked around. Maybe the jerking around is only happening in your own mind…?!? Hummmm….??? 🙂
Dear Mr. Leenaert –
Just found your site and so far I am finding your words to be interesting and thought provoking. I also agree that we should question everything in an earnest attempt to find what is most effective.
I do have a question in response to this article. You wrote that “When something is offered to you (i.e. when you don’t intentionally buy a piece of meat, for instance) your refusal to eat that product will have no impact on demand itself.” I suspect that this might be incorrect in terms of future demand. As a very simple example, let’s say that you attend a dinner party where each guest is served a game hen. If you choose to abstain from eating the game hen, then the host may take note of the wasted food and purchase one less game hen the next time they throw a dinner party, thus decreasing future demand. Would you say that is correct, or are there other factors that I have overlooked?
Pardon me if this question has already been answered in the comments (I only skimmed them).
Thank you ~
good point, if you put it like this 🙂
so an extra condition would be that the people serving the food couldn’t know if it has been eaten or not. in any case, i don’t think that in the case of one steak not being eaten, staff would ask a lot of questions about demand 🙂
I don’t think one less purchase even appears on the radar of the food industry. And if the US went fifty percent vegan in it’s purchases tomorrow, how would that stop investment and the transfer of business to the massive and growing markets for animal products in China and India? We are in a world where every new vegan is out numbered greatly by growing onmnivorism
yes, but it’s gotta start somewhere. i guess for a whole time whenever we win somewhere, things will shift to somewhere else: beef to chicken, western to upcoming countries… but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start with certain areas and go from there. otherwise there would be no hope 🙂
“but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start with certain areas and go from there. otherwise there would be no hope”
Exactly! A little movement forward is preferable to none at all. I don’t think the animals want us to wait until the world is caught up to us, they’d want us to do what it takes to help them now. Don’t hide the truth and don’t stop spreading the vegan message, but also do what you can now. The animals care more about being treated humanely than whatever morals are behind making that happen.
Wow, 72 comments! I have a lot of catching up to do! 🙂
In the meantime, I saw this earlier today and wanted to pass it along since it’s about the marketing & rise of vegan food and options:
“A new report from global market research firm, Mintel further underscores this shift that seems to be happening in American food habits. The report identified meat and dairy alternatives as one of the 12 key trends set to impact the global food and drink market in 2016. “Veggie burgers and non-dairy milks have escaped the realm of substitutes primarily for people with dietary concerns and followers of vegetarian diets. Instead, the growing ranks of novel protein sources and potential replacements appeal to the everyday consumer, foreshadowing a profoundly changed marketplace in which what was formerly ‘alternative’ could take over the mainstream, ” said the report.”
This is also stated further down the page:
“Choosing to skip meat once a week or once a day is becoming the norm and these consumers are driving the demand for healthier meatless and dairy-free options.”
So, according to this report, reductarians are “driving the demand for healthier meatless and dairy-free options” and “the growing ranks of novel protein sources and potential replacements appeal to the everyday consumer, foreshadowing a profoundly changed marketplace”.
Of course, vegans & vegetarians also help to drive that demand, but they are only 4-7% of the U.S. population vs. 33% of the population who are reductarians.
(“While the total number of Americans that identify themselves as vegan or vegetarian remains around the 4-7 percent, one-third of the population (over 100 million people) now say they are trying to eat vegetarian meals at least occasionally.”)
So, if this report is correct, it shows a significant breakthrough & tremendous growth in the vegan & vegetarian marketplace being driven not by vegans & vegetarians, but by reductarians.
Of course, this isn’t the ideal vegan world we’d like to see, but it does show that reductarians are helping to pave the way, whether they are aware of it or not.
Thx Christine. Been saying this for a couple of years now and that’s reason enough apparently to call me an anti vegan 🙂
So, I’ll call you an anti vegan and you can call me a poopy snickleberry walrus hubabaloo ding dong…names don’t matter, results do. 🙂
Reductarians will create incentives for businesses to create more meat-free options, they will put pressure on the meat industry, etc…..but that doesn’t mean they are helping pave the way to a vegan world. Many of us are opposed to veganism and that isn’t going to change.
Ok, how about “as vegan and humane a world as possible”? 🙂
Why not “as humane a world as possible”? By adding vegan, its a tacit admission that being vegan involves something else. Of course, I think that’s right…….which is why I oppose veganism. But I doubt you think that.
Hi Mr. Toad,
In reply to “Why not “as humane a world as possible”? By adding vegan, its a tacit admission that being vegan involves something else.”
Can you elaborate on what the “something else” is that you’re referring to?
I’m also not really sure what “tacit admission” there is in what I wrote? Maybe I’m just too naive in my thinking…but when I wrote ““as vegan and humane a world as possible”, I was thinking of it terms that if vegans behave humanely in their interactions with all beings, both animals and humans, then vegan and humane are one in the same.
There was nothing else intended in my wording except that if a person lives as a respectful vegan, it goes without saying that their life consists of what makes as a humane a world as possible.
How are people using “humane” here? (I always found it ironic that those words are somehow related). Is “humane” an ultimate goal (as in a humane method of execution).
I thought the wording was curious, for example if they are one and the same why does one need to mention veganism? But I commented on it because I don’t think that “it goes without saying that their life consists of what makes as a humane a world as possible.”. There are two reasons why I don’t think veganism is equivalent to making the world as “humane as possible”: 1.) Veganism insists on some actions that have nothing to do with the reduction of suffering. For example, the avoidance of animals that don’t have the capacity to suffer or products derived from insects. 2.) Veganism ignores environmental action entirely, you can be vegan by definition and have wanton disregard for the environment. That is to say, veganism is primarily about reducing the suffering of domestic animals rather than wild ones.
I agree to some extent – veganism is not THE solution but it represents a big chunk of it. It would be difficult to achieve a vegan world without major shifts in the levels of compassion (reduction of suffering), major reductions in environmental impacts, and significant improvements in health and well being. So promoting veganism, in my opinion, implies doing what is needed to make the world as humane as possible. Inversely, without veganism, there is no chance of a humane world.
>I’d like to make a personal plea to Hillary Retting and/or Matt Ball (if they can find the time! 🙂 ) if either could help us to understand the roots and psychology of infighting among groups. Do you have any insight you could share with us, or any books, resources, links, websites, etc?
First watch this important video:
The infighting is inevitable in any social movement. I don’t think it’s evidence of any particular dysfunction in veganism, and I wouldn’t take it to heart. I would just focus on doing your brand of activism and doing it as well as possible. Activism is an ecosystem with many niches–we need the purists because they keep us focused, with the goal strong in our minds. And I believe they need us too (even if they don’t realize or believe it) because we incrementalists have the more realistic strategy for achieving this goal.
Also, diversity is good for the movement the way it’s good for any system–multiple ideas, viewpoints, experiences, etc., strengthen us.
My specialty is perfectionism and helping people overcome it. The idea that a large group of passionate activists should all believe the same thing and act the same way is perfectionist, and thus unrealistic. The important thing is, despite all the schisms, this has been a very effective movement and is getting more effective every day.
Thank you so much, Hillary!
The video is just over a minute long, so I hope everybody watches it. As somebody once said, “never a truer word was spoken in jest”. 🙂
You’ve included a lot of good advice & info. The big take away for me is the idea of perfectionism vs. being realistic.
So, if the infighting in inevitable in any social movement, do you know of any resources for understanding and explaining the psychology behind that happening in the first place?
I can’t help believe it has something do with our tribal roots…that we have evolved externally, but internally we’re still much in a tribal state of mind… ???
I have seen this same split happen in other advocacy issues I was personally involved with. At the risk of boring you, the bicycle advocacy groups divided into two camps:
1) We have a wonderful existing network of roads, they should be made safe and accessible.
2) In order to get people to ride bicycles we need to build very expensive separate trail systems.
There was mutual hatred between the two camps, each feeling the other was sabotaging the goals of the other. Advocates wouldn’t even talk to those in the opposite camp. 20 years later we have a mixture of half-assed compromises – trails that sometimes go nowhere and streets that are safe intermittently. (Our dying economy has pretty much ended the debate.)
I think the stakes are much higher in the vegan movement – there is a life or death aspect – but it has the same pathology. One can be talking cordially to a fellow vegan at some event and learn he or she follows Francione or is an enthusiastic PETA member – suddenly, depending upon your position, that person becomes an object and it takes a strong effort to push that response away. It is a distinctly human failing (another data point attesting to our inferiority to non-humans)
Vegans say such horrible things about each other, on both sides. It is extremely depressing and deflating for me.
with climate change unfolding, even things like bike lanes are fast becoming life or death, as Naomi Klein points out.
Thanks for that example, Paul. I completely relate to feeling depressed and deflated due to how vegans can treat each other, Paul. I say this only half-jokingly, but this is why I’m working to save animals and not humans… hardy har har…
It has been a longtime struggle for me to understand the infighting and why it exists. I know I don’t agree with every vegan, but I still try to behave and speak respectfully, while still staying to true to how I feel and what I believe. I know that I’m not perfect, though, but I do try my best…not for my own benefit, but for the animals’ sake, and especially because like you said, there is a life or death aspect.
I really believe that if we can pin down our human failings and where they come from, it provides us with the power to work to change them. Or if they can’t be changed, to work around them. We need something like a car owner’s manual, but for humans. Is there a “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Humans”? 🙂
You may be right about tribalism, etc., but I think you’re asking the opposite question. In my view, the amazing thing, given the differences in backgrounds, etc., is that anyone manages to get along to accomplish anything. 🙂 How does THAT happen, and how can we have it happen more in the name of good causes? I’m guessing psychologists, social psychologists, organizational science people, historians, etc., have many answers and explanations. I’m not joking, btw.
Yes, how does THAT happen and how can we have more?!
Whenever I go take my dogs to the dog park, I’m always amazed at what I see. All these different dogs, different sizes, shapes & colors…after an initial sniff & greeting, everybody’s all friends and they play and romp and get along fine.
Maybe it would do humans good to sniff each other’s butts when meeting?? 🙂
Its not funny – but why am I laughing so hard?
Paul going back somewhat. If I was focussed on Francione rather than what he says I would mention the various issues regarding his personality and his behaviour – I don’t because I don’t think these things really matter, it is what he says that matters. With regard to his position on organisations, consider the International Vegan Association, which produces Frabolitionist educational material, and which are 100pc in line with Francione’s ideas. They are quite clear that true activism is the action of individuals and that organisations are inevitably corrupt,distracting and ineffective. They are endorsed by Francione. For Francione organisation will always tend towards the evils of welfare organisations – concerned more with institutional survival, making money and careerism. You place the tactics Francione promotes as of lesser importance. I think we should give him the credit of identifying tactics that follow logically from his ideas. If Francione was just theory that would be one thing, but he isn’t. The strategy and the tactics he promotes tell you as much about his over-arching view as anything else. In my opinion, he is an ideologue, a moral crusader and, indeed, a millenialist. As for privilege and colonialism in Frabolitionism, you can’t see it, well, believe me, others can. If you don’t think individuals and groups within various communities are sensitive to white, middle-class, settler, Western, etc (whatever particular relevent to case), then you are innocent on this matter. I, for example, am tired of middle class/privileged voices, and I feel quite alienated from the vegan movement as a whole where such voices are frequent and dominant – they don’t speak the reality I see, they don’t connect with the reality of the people around me.
very well put again leone (the first part especially – i haven’t studied the whole privilege thing yet).
it is indeed not about GLF’s personality and behaviour (which is at least online quite horrible) and not even about his theory (which is ok in itself) but about the way he kind of anally wants to apply that theory in the world – which of course doesn’t work.
It’s interesting that you say you haven’t studied the privilege thing yet. Do you mean you haven’t heard much about it or simply haven’t looked at it more thoroughly? I am not criticising you personally, but the fact that someone like you isn’t familiar with the issue really shows, I think, what the vegan movement is like. And I think it is dominated by middle class/privileged people who are often white aswell. A good read on the issue from personal experience is “Recalling the Animal Rights Conference 2013” on https://animalvisions.wordpress.com
The author Anastasia refers to food deserts, intersectionality, systematic oppression, racism, sexism, homophobia and other things.
I am familiar with it, but what i actually mean is that i haven’t formed a definite opinion about it. My main resistance comes from the fact that so many people accuse others of being a certain -ist. I have a problem with call out culture and i think it’s taking on absurd proportions sometimes. That said, i di believe that 1. Veganism is a lot easier for priviliged groups, who have no right to expect it of everyone and tout it as the moral baseline for everyone. And 2. That veganism/not using animal products is just one issue among many
I agree with some of the characterizations of Francione. His own variety of anarchism flows from what I can see as his core vegan philosophies. I am still sorting out for myself what to keep and what to reject (Sorry if I don’t come across all-knowing here). I do get the privilege concern, but as I’ve given examples earlier, veganism resonates with members of the black community in my area (maybe privileged blacks you might argue). While those in the middle class may have the luxury to reflect on more remote atrocities, I just don’t see how a non-privileged person should be considered less compassionate than any other human being. In my view, the sinister side of human nature that has sparked the “black lives matter” response is at work in our disregard for non-human animal life – from the blatant to the subtle.
Paul – I am not sure who has said less privileged people are less compassionate. But what some people have argued is if you have an approach that pushes veganism as a matter of basic morality, and you don’t clearly allow exceptions to being consistently vegan according to genuine circumstances, you are setting the stage for a kind of mental flip where, simply, “vegan=moral” and “not vegan=not/less moral”. There are a lot of pernicious little views out there. One such is the old eating vegan is cheaper one, as if money was the only issue. Another is the vegan is healthier argument, so poor people should do it – which allows the festering of class-prejudice thoughts such as those poor who aren’t vegan don’t care about their health because they are just feckless. Another is “I know poor people who manage to be vegan”, which, of course, sets the stage for thinking that poor people who aren’t vegan are just lazy. In my opinion, all this kind of thing is inevitable when you have a moral campaign outlook, which is what all schemes that place the spread of veganism as a primary or exclusive strategy to achieve animal liberation are.
You have said that there are black vegans. Yes, of course. There is no essential opposition between people of colour and being vegan. The issues arise when veganism is pushed as the essential element in a moral campaign to achieve animal liberation. It gets difficult when moral campaign hits structural inequality and the challenge of facing up to the need for political action.
As for the sinister side of human nature, I don’t bother to look at things from that perspective. The more fruitful question, in my opinion, is what groups benefit from this?
Ok, wait. Re: the author’s contention, ideology does not necessarily mean results–Sure– but, taking this out of the hypothetical scenario where someone offers you a hundred dollars to eat a steak and you donate it to like..a shelter?? or you go “freegan”, what are we talking about? In what concrete, meaningful ways to do I need to be mindful that I’m not getting stuck in ideology and ignoring results? Like, it’s an interesting point but I need examples that are less theoretical and more practical. If I dumpster-dive meat I’m not hurting animals…but I’m not helping them, either, so what is the point of that example in the context of results? Is the author suggesting I eschew ideals for results and go put up a sign in the parking lot outside of a football game that says “vegan, will eat steak for one hundo, cash only” with the goal of donating 1k to Mercy for Animals? Would someone please explain the takeaway?
I’m on my vegan journey. Because of my medications being made with animal products, there is a part of my diet that will never be vegan. But the rest of it is moving in the right direction. The reason why I mention this, is because I want to give an opinion from someone who has heard the hard-liner vegans, and heard the softly spoken ones who are pragmatic. I’m moving on my vegan journey not because of the hard-liners – all their yelling does is entrench a position and turn it into an us vs. them. The good guys vs the bad guys. I started moving on my vegan journey because of Edgar’s Mission “If we can live happy and healthy lives without harming others, why wouldn’t we?” and Bed and Broccoli (a vegan B&B). Both in Australia. They behave on the idea that people prefer kindness, and you support that. If it had been up to the hard-liners – I would have stayed eating bacon. Now I don’t eat any red meat or eggs. (And working on dairy).
If you’re trying to convince the government, by all means get angry and yell. But if you are trying to convince a person, then show them the same kindness that you would want every animal to have.
Thanks a lot for sharing your experience with us, celebkiriedhel. I really liked your last sentence where you wrote, “…if you are trying to convince a person, then show them the same kindness that you would want every animal to have.”
Reblogged this on Dragon Mother.
I think that at least three different issues are being more or less conflated here: (1) What is the most ethically appropriate response to the speciesist system? (2) What tactics or strategies make the most sense for our movement? (3) What should the tone and tenor of our discourse be like, when we make arguments and engage non-animal rights people over these issues? These are all distinct questions, and they should be handled as such.
In my opinion, Tobias, I think there is a huge problem with the way you are framing the issues. First of all, the problem isn’t “meat,” and the solution to the problem therefore isn’t “veganism.” The problem is a totalitarian, global system of domination and exterminationist violence–speciesism, a mode of producing life. The solution to that problem therefore cannot be “veganism” per se, but animal liberation or abolitionism (either term will do). I agree with the person who wrote in and brought up the Holocaust analogy. In fact, the only way we can get our minds around the unspeakable violence now occurring is by comparison to previous historical institutions and atrocities, including the Atlantic slave trade and past genocides. Moral decency alone, questions of tactics aside, therefore compel us to speak with urgency, anger, and focus about what is happening, and never to sugarcoat the situation. Nor does it make any sense to me, morally or strategically, to make “reduction of suffering” the center of our game plan. Animals suffer as a consequence of the fact that they are being raised to be killed. Period. Therefore, to waste time trying to make cages bigger, or chains longer, and so on, is worse than a distraction–it positively feeds into the speciesist logic that the lives of other animals are without inherent worth or dignity. I do appreciate that so-called “pragmatic” critique that abolition seems so far off, so implausible, that we need to “compromise” and work on minor reforms. However, since the real problem is not “suffering” per se but, rather, the mass enslavement and mass killing of billions of sentient beings, it is critiquing and delegitimating that system that we need to focus on. Not because we think abolition is possible in our lifetimes, if ever; but because until and unless other human beings grasp the essential nature of the problem–murder, domination, exploitation–we have not begun to lay the groundwork for unravelling it.
As for how we should speak to other people, I largely agree with Tobias and others here that most of the time we are better off speaking civilly to others, rather than in a self-righteous fury. However, anger is called for in this situation–anger and urgency. It is vital that we speak passionately and without moral doubt about what we are doing, even as we treat our interlocutors with respect and listen to their perspectives too. For my moral compass, I often think of William Lloyd Garrison’s remark in “The Liberator,” his anti-slavery newspaper:
“I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or to speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm… tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; — but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.”
Garrison, incidentally, was sympathetic to animal rights. He wrote (in a letter to an animal rights advocate in 1861): “My heart actually leaped within me as I read the expressive title, “The Rights of Animals”! Garrison signed off, “Yours, for the recognition of ‘the rights of man’ and ‘the rights of animals’.”
thanks for your feedback.
as to what is “called for in this situation”, to me it is only what works. If anger works, then anger. If anger doesn’t work, then something else. I’m not gonna be angry because it is “called for” or because i have the right to be outraged or because the situation is just so absolutely horrible (which it is). I’m gonna be angry if i feel it helps. The rest, in my humble opinion, is feel good talk to rile up the troops, but not necessary helpful 🙂