Vegan activism: the difference between individuals and groups

Vegan and animal rights activists come in different shapes and sizes, and there are several possible ways to categorize them. Let me suggest one way: we can distinguish between those who are working or volunteering for an organisation, and those who act individually.

I am aware that I am simplifying and generalizing, but bear with me for a moment, because I think what category one falls into, may often determine part of one one’s activist style and philosophy.

Faithful readers of this blog will know that I often make a distinction between pragmatic and more ideological activists or activism. Now the thing is that when you work or volunteer for a veg/animal rights organisation, you will often be a lot more pragmatic. You will have to be. This is because organisations tend to do different work than individuals. Organisations often became organisations (this is to say individuals joined together to form them) in order to have more influence and impact. Trying to establish alliances with institutional agents can increase this impact. So especially bigger groups often put a fair amount of resources into institutional change.

stick to ideology

The institutions that animal rights/veg groups try to influence, can take many forms. They can be political: local, regional or national governments, political parties… They can be corporate: businesses in all shapes and sizes, from food producers to restaurant chains to any business with a restaurant in it… They can be other organisations in civil society: environmental or health organisations who may be natural allies and help spread a message. They can be academic: schools and universities. All these institutions can have a multiplicatory or leverage effect: if you can move them, they’ll move many other people for you.

It is definitely possible to move institutions from an individual or grassroots position, and in fact it probably happens all the time. Yet it is undoubtedly often easier to do so – and to do so at a bigger scale – from a position within an organisation – changing laws, for instance, is not something easily done as an individual.

There are several reasons for this. Organisations represent a group of people, and some institutions – especially political ones – will only be moved if they see the organisation speaks for or can influence a certain number of people. Organisations also often have several resources available that individual activists or smaller groups do not always have: the means to do research and show certain results to institutional partners, or an outreach channel of many thousands of followers. They can use these channels to advertise what the “partner” did – which is of course great to either put pressure or incentivize them. Organisations also have more money, which may be useful for certain purposes, like campaigning, lobbying, etc.

These institutional allies will not always want to do exactly as the animal rights/veg groups suggest. They will not necessarily spread the message in the exact same way. This could because they don’t believe in it the same way we do, or because they think their own constituency is not ready for it. In my experience, for instance, when institutional partners want to do outreach about plant based food among their audience, they feel more confident emphasizing health and environmental reasons, than animal rights reasons.

When others don’t want to take on our exact message, we have the choice. The first option is to take an absolute stance and refuse to work with them. The second is to be strategic: we compromise and accept the way in which they will bring the message to their voters, members, employees etc. Of course, in our decision a lot will depend on the perceived gains and the perceived sacrifices. But the point I want to make is that generally, if we don’t want to be pragmatic and just stick to our strict ideology, have way less chances of starting alliances that may help influence big numbers of people. Don’t compromise, and you may end up working and preaching on an island.

The work that individuals (not affiliated with groups) do, is often more about reaching out one by one. It is easier there to be stricter and uncompromising: if a person doesn’t want to listen, one moves on to the next person. But the more one is out in the real world, away from the internet, partnering with other actors, the harder it becomes to maintain a strict ideology if one wants to have results.

I can understand that some activists do not want to be pragmatic. I understand they don’t want to advocate for meat reduction rather than full blown veganism, for instance, because they believe this can’t be reconciled with their views. That is fine. But at the very least, I hope those people can grant other people – and groups – a more pragmatic approach, without accusing them of betrayal or being greedy for funds, or whatever arguments animal rights groups get thrown at them these days.

Because there is no betrayal. I have said this before: we should be true not to our ideology and its rules (for instance veganism), but to the values and objectives below the ideology: decreasing animal abuse.  

It is good to bear all this in mind when forming an opinion of (big) organisations. Also remember that you rarely have all the information about them (practise slow opinion). You probably don’t know their entire strategy. Just assume that their intentions are the same: putting an end to the use, suffering and killing of animals.

Of course organisations have their own challenges. They may evolve in a wrong direction, become less efficient, more wasteful, bloated etc. But that doesn’t mean this is a given, or that the net benefit of these organisations is not good. Just like individuals, organisations will probably never be perfect. But we need them. As a movement, we need their resources, their expertise, their experience, their outreach and their influence to make the difference we want to make for animals.

See also:

the danger of big animal rights organisations
money money money in our movement
 compromise isn’t complicity

76 thoughts on “Vegan activism: the difference between individuals and groups

  1. You know, I’m reading Kim Stallwood’s excellent GROWL at the moment and just came across this around the time that you posted this blog:

    ‘Animal rights campaigners can no longer fight dogmatically on their own for no one wins who fights alone. The issue of animal rights has to be linked into human liberties and the links made between their suffering and ours… We should never lose heart as animal exploitation is inextricably interwoven into human exploitation and their liberation is our liberation.’

    As it happens, it’s an excerpt from a magazine feature Kim wrote back in 1986. Still applies today, eh?

  2. It can be extremely difficult to be pragmatic when so much needs done and to change right now, but it’s easier when I realize this is an alternative:
    “Don’t compromise, and you may end up working and preaching on an island.”

  3. I would prefer to join a group rather than working as an individual, but the vegan organisation in my area is even more radical than your old friend Gary. They think talking about sentient being is wrong because oysters have the right to live too, that talking of something related to humans (health, environnement,…) is wrong because we should only talk about animals as they are the victims,…
    So, to understand them, even as a vegan, is really a challenge (I can’t follow most of their reasoning) and I can’t join them. The only way for me to work as a group is to build one.

    1. interesting. it’s very tricky and delicate though to talk about mental issues, even when they are obviously present. they are kind of taboo. and they can’t be diagnosed as easily as physical ailments can.

      1. Even when people are mentally “normal” when they become an active advocate in a cause, there is the real possibility of that involvement itself leading to “minor” mental illnesses and issues, such as burn out, compassion fatigue, & vicarious trauma.

        While these may be considered minor in comparison to more severe mental illnesses, anybody involved in a cause can be affected them, often without even realizing it. This is especially true when the cause the advocate is working on is very emotional, such as veganism and life or death for animals.

        In my experience as an advocate, I’ve found that issues such as burn out, compassion fatigue. & vicarious trauma are not well very known or taken into consideration, even among the activist community.

        While I don’t know of any studies or papers on this subject, I think a lot of the animosity and negativity seen is due to activists being affected by these issues without recognizing it. An activist may leave a negative comment for someone, but it can be more about the unaddressed anger that activist has themselves, rather than subject at hand in the comments. The unaddressed anger is just being channeled in a negative way.

        Then one comment leads to another, and before you know it… 🙂

      2. p.s. I’m not suggesting that is an excuse for negative behavior…it can just sometimes be the reason behind the negativity.
        I think we are most effective when we work to channel our anger in positive ways if possible. This is why I wish things like compassion fatigue, trauma, and burn out were more well known and present in the activist community.
        If we can recognize these issue in ourselves when they arise, we can then learn the ways and tools to work through them, instead of the negativity being the one calling the shots.
        I’ve discovered over many years as an activist that learning about our own personal psychology and our own strengths and weaknesses is just as important as being able to understand that in others..
        Ok, I’m off to see my shrink now..
        lol 🙂

        1. Hey Christine, a couple of books on this topic that I found quite interesting include Aftershock: Confronting Trauma in a Violent World by pattrice jones, and Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky. The latter doesn’t focus on animal activists per se, but much of it is still applicable. Also, Hillary Rettig’s The Lifelong Activist: How to Change the World Without Losing Your Way, is also worth a look. 🙂

          1. Hey havegonevegan! It’s seems that good minds think alike because I already have all those books and have recommended them myself on Tobias’ blog. 🙂 Hillary recently just had a guest post here and she has also commented frequently (not sure if you’ve seen).

            But thank you very much for taking the time to leave a comment about the books. I really think we need to work to get compassion fatigue, burn out and trauma to be much more recognized in the AR community. I think a lot of the negativity we see is simply due to activists not knowing about these issues and if they are affecting them, and what to do if they are encountering them themselves.

            Have you heard of IDA Sustainable Activism campaign? It’s a great resource, too.

            There is also this I just found last week:

          1. Yeah, it can get kind of confusing with all the comments and replies and replies to replies and replies to replies to replies… . 🙂
            The only way I’ve found to be sure I’m replying to a certain comment is if you get the email updates when there are new comments, there is a link in the the email where you can reply to that specific comment.
            Anyway, I did see the floating comment you left for me… thanks again! 🙂

          2. Well, my reply for you is now floating below, havegonevegan! I dunno…! 🙂

            Also, I forgot that I wanted to pass on IDA’s latest Sustainable Activism Webinar, “Despair Repair”.

            “Anger, sadness, and despair often go hand in hand with awareness of the state of the world. This session will look at ways to turn the emotions into healthy positive action. With a few simple tools, you will be able to remain a strong positive voice for all beings and the planet we call home.”


            1. Thank you Christine. Yes, I’ll make sure IDA (and this webinar in particular) makes it onto my blog sometime. I know a couple of my readers in particular who would find this helpful for sure. Thanks again. 🙂

    2. I agree with this comment. I also very much prefer to work with a group than as an individual, and fortunately in our area there is one (“Denver Vegans”). But the situation of needing to start a group, or participate in a toxic one, is more common than people think, and I know of several examples.

      There is another dynamic here, which is just plain old mental illness among group leaders. In this connection, check out James LaVeck’s comments on the subject of “toxic leadership” and the book “The Sociopath Next Door.” In my view this is just as serious an issue for the movement as the ideological problems related to “purity” which you are addressing.

  4. I think the internet allows people to be more purist/ aggressive/ fundamentalist/ forthright etc. than they would be if they were talking to you in person. And, as Christine has suggested, when you have a group of people debating an issue together on, say, facebook or in the comments section of a blog, it can all get very heated indeed.

    And I think we all, on some level, disassociate our ‘real’ lives and interactions from our ‘virtual’ lives online. So, while the virtual self might be involved in a flame war on some thread, the ‘real’ self can just suddenly jack out of that and next thing you know you’re calmly having dinner with your family or chatting amicably to work colleagues.

    All of that type of behaviour is more common, I reckon, with ideologically-driven individuals than it is with groups. I mean, take Vegfest’s recent behaviour online. Much of the criticism they received in the aftermath was re: the unprofessionalism of such: people expect individuals to be involved in flame wars online, but not groups.

    1. I completely agree, falsealarmboy. People will write things to someone online that they would never even think to say to that person if they were face to face.

      I thought this was also really insightful where you wrote, “And I think we all, on some level, disassociate our ‘real’ lives and interactions from our ‘virtual’ lives online.” I never really thought about that before, but it’s really true.

      1. We’ve all been guilty of that kind of behaviour, right? I remember, back in the days of message boards, being a big fan of theological debates (I’m an atheist) with christians. And they’d go on for days, everyone typing out these long diatribes to each other… geez, just thinking about it now makes my face go red 🙂

        These days, I’m much more relaxed online but remembering that enables me to better understand those who still take that approach, maybe. I try to be patient and I think to myself, ‘How would I respond to this offline?’ and try to be that same person online.

        But, yeah, going back to the whole question of mental health, I think the internet and our perception of ourselves online raises some real interesting points re: multiple personality type disorders. Is it a concern when so many of us can so easily jump back and forth between our ‘real’ selves and ‘virtual’ selves with often little connection between one and the other?

        It’s really interesting, isn’t it? 🙂

        1. falsealarmboy, yes, I’m guilty of not always being on my best behavior. 🙂
          I feel lucky, though, in that I quickly saw how all that did was alienate most people. And I also saw how that in turn was only making even more work for me as an advocate. Being negative just makes the task at hand even bigger.

          You summed up how I try to be now, too, where you wrote, “These days, I’m much more relaxed online but remembering that enables me to better understand those who still take that approach, maybe. I try to be patient and I think to myself, ‘How would I respond to this offline?’ and try to be that same person online. ”

          And yeah, as far as mental health and our “real” and “virtual” selves…I’ve never really thought too much about it, but I think you are on to something as far as how we can jump back and forth between them. I guess the way we communicate is always evolving…I wonder when there is little connection between those “selves”…what impact that is having…?

          I don’t know how that would have any impact as far as causing a person to actually develop something as serious as multiple personality disorder (if they weren’t already predisposed)…but it’s very interesting to think of how many different selves we “normal” people have and how we behave and speak for each one. Even just how we speak around friends vs. family vs. co-workers, let alone to people we may hardly even know online.

  5. I’d rather like to see a response to falsealarmboy’s first comment – the necessity of placing animal rights/liberation within a context of human politics. I think that unless that is done, it will always be an ephemeral issue, only having an ococcasional day in the sun when fashionable. I don’t think Tobias’ piece touches on this angle, which could be seen as a different approach from campaigning organisations and individual activists.

    I also wonder where things like SHAC and ALF fit in, as they are neither the type of organisations or individual activists that Tobias speaks of. Perhaps DxE, aswell.

    I have to say that the picture of “institutional partners” kinda gives a very politically quiescent feel. It makes me feel that alliances at the bottom around exploitation have no place in Tobias’ picture, where the focus is partnership at the top.

    1. ‘I’d rather like to see a response to falsealarmboy’s first comment – the necessity of placing animal rights/liberation within a context of human politics.’

      That’s something that I personally have a big interest in. I think, in many ways, that work is gathering steam through the political animal parties such as Animal Welfare Party in the UK (whose tagline is ‘For People, Animals and the Environment’), Animal Justice Party in Australia and The Humane Party in the US – among others. The main focus for that work is in terms of speciesism and breaking down barriers re: such. If you’ve any interest in this area, Leone, please check out my monthly blog series ‘The Political Animal’ hosted by The Animalist:

      (Sorry for the pimpage! 🙂 )

      And yes, I would very much like to hear Tobias’ views in terms of how such an approach might work on a grassroots and NGO level. I rather expect he’d talk of initiatives such as One Step for Animals and Veganuary which try to make vegan advocacy of more interest to people (ie. with Veganuary, appealing to those looking to make health changes for the new year).

        1. I’ve never gotten into zombies, but maybe your website will convince me otherwise. 🙂
          Do you have any tips for dealing with zombies will also work with the unthinking zombie-like people in our real world? 😉
          I have wondered, though…can only humans become zombies, or are there animal zombies, too?

        2. I’ve written about zombie cats. Oh and zombie birds. The Resident Evil films and games have zombie dogs and kind of zombie toadmen… things. So, I guess when it comes to zombiedom, speciesism ain’t so much of a thing 🙂

      1. Any takers on SHAC, ALF and DxE? Tobias spoke of influencing “institutions” but framed the discussion as corporate-charity type organisations and activism on the individual level. I think, just for the sake of argument, we can consider other ways and means.

        As for the politcal angle, what about anti-capitalist and anarchist?

        The defence of large organisations, stems, I believe, in part, from countering the Francione oppostition to these. However, frequent referral (overt or covert) to Francione’s ideas can keep us tied into certain boxes, So, in this instance, I don’t think the overall topic is just big org’s and individual activists.

        1. leone, at the beginning of the piece i wrote that indeed it is just one distinction we can make. you make a good pointbrnging up DXE, SHAC, ALF, who are indeed also trying to “impact institutions” and i’m not sure where to place them. but the piece was mainly an attempt to shed some light on the criticism from individuals towards organisations. not sure how critical towards organisations these grassroots groups that you mention are.

          As far as anticapitalists and anarchists, i’d intuitively say there would be a big correlation with an anti-organisation sentiment 🙂

        2. OK. But can we broaden the discussion? Does anyone see a useful role for DxE and SHAC-like and ALF-like action. Are they irrelevant because they don’t aim for vegan critical mass? Are they in some way unacceptable – aggressive, illegal, etc? And on the political angle – are people happy with animal parties that work within the status quo but less happy with positions that take a systemic political view like anti-cap’ and anarchist?

          I am trying to dig below the surface – it’s necessary to really get a grip.

    2. Why would one need to place animal treatment issues within a context of human politics? Many cultural shifts have been apolitical, why can’t this one?

      1. Mr Toad, I note that you use the term “animal treatment issues” and also focus on “cultural shifts”. I am not sure that “animal treatment issues” equate with animal rights or liberation. I do not think that animal rights or liberation can be achieved except politically because they entail property issues and economic interests or systems.

        You may wish to dispute the justification for the concepts of animal rights or liberation, but that would be a different argument …

      2. Mr Toad, I note you use the term “animal treatment issues”, and I am not sure that this equates with animal rights or liberation. Since you are a consequentialist it may well be the case that you have serious reservations about rights, and “animal treatment issues” is an appropriate term for your consequentialist view. I would be interested to know how you see a global problem, basic in all societies, with a history stretching thousands of years, being resolved on the cultural level alone. Ofcourse you may not see the problem in these terms, but that is a different argument.

        With regard to rights/liberation, it seems to me that these require political action as they entail major changes in property and economic interests and systems. A consequentialist reservation with regard to the notion of rights is a different argument.

        Would you like to make a statement of how you see the problem (perhaps expanding on “animal treatment issues”) and the corresponding resolution?

        1. Leone,

          I was using a more general term that would include, but not be exclusive, of animal “rights”. Is the vegan movement an animal rights movement? Or is it more general in character? Its hard for me to consider animal rights because I don’t think its a coherent notion. What societal changes would be required if we were to grant animals rights? It would seem that modern life as we known it would no longer be possible, so I guess in this sense it would be political. In any case, I’m speaking from the perspective that I understand which is animal protection and I can’t think of any reason why a dramatic shift in animal protection laws would require a political shift. It would disrupt some business activity (but so does new technology) and require a variety of cultural changes but all that can occur within the existing political order.

          So “the problem” for me is the treatment of animals and the fundamental questions are: 1.) Are we justified in using animals for our needs? 2.) When are we justified harming an animal for our desires? I’d answer 1.) with a “yes” but 2.) is a difficult and I’m still thinking about it. The answer most people want to give is “never”, but this would have far reaching consequences (more or less denying modern life). But what I do think its relatively clear is that, assuming one thinks harming sentient animals is bad, there is no good justification for harming animals in cases where alternatives are (after a period of adjustment) just as pleasurable. And this would pretty much rule out most animal agriculture.

        2. Your response is much appreciated, Mr Toad, and raises important and interesting points.

          Of course when you query if it may be justified to use animals for our desires, you are, and I am sure you know this, invoking the charges of specieism and humanism. Can you tell us briefly why you think it could possibly be justified to use non-human animals in this way? I am assuming you do not think such use could be justified with humans – or perhaps you think there are queries here too.

          With regard to animal protection – what are your views of the animal enterprises act and Ag Gag law? Can it be argued that animal protection can only go so far before economic interests use their political influence to squeeze things off? It seems to me that your view (so far as it has been presented) is that animal protection can progress and increase without any serious clash of interest groups and within a political system (representative democracy) that is assumed to be integrally impartial even though people within it may be corrupt. I think there are very strong arguments to counter both these views

          We might consider one of Francione’s arguments that property can never be sufficiently protected against property owners – owners will always win out. You may argue that at a business level it is possible to ban certain types of business activity. Since you think there is a good case for “ruling out” most animal agriculture, how would you enact this – would you ban the beef industry? But what would a ban need to be? A ban on farms? A ban on imports aswell? A ban on any investments in that industry? Would the ban encompass Wall Street? Would it be allowed to encompass Wall Street?

        3. Leone,

          I phrased my questions more generally than talking about “use”, that is, I asked about harm. One of the tacit assumptions of vegan doctrine seems to be that there is a morally significant distinction between harming an animal from direct use or harming them from more indirect action. If you remove this assumption and then answer my question with a “no”….you’ve just denied modern life. In terms of humans, the situation is more complex because we have inner and outer group dynamics. Within a given society, I don’t think this would be justified because it would disrupt the social contract between members of the society. But such issues don’t exist between conflicts between two or more societies. Are we justified in harming people in other societies for our pleasures? Well…..we do just that. Its a tricky issue, if you say “no” you’re committed to a sort of global re-distribution of wealth.

          I think “economic interests” are more likely to squeeze off a move towards animal rights, which aren’t clear, than they are animal protection laws which fit nicely within the current legal system. But you seem to be speaking as if the laws will proceed a cultural shift, but I’d suggest the opposite. As cultural views on the treatment and use of animals change so will the laws. This is precisely what happened recently with gay rights in the US, cultural attitudes towards gays in the US have been changing for decades and it just reached a sort of critical mass that allowed a change in the legal status of gay marriage.

          I think Francione argument ignores culture, laws are a reflection of our culture….not the other way around. Within western culture we have examples of good animal protections (dogs) and bad (chickens) and it really comes down to our culture, we consider dogs a part of our society, families, etc where as we consider chickens food. So, at the moment, I would enact change by promoting a cultural shift. Nothing is going to change until the culture, as a whole, shifts the way they think about animal use, food, etc. Once such shifts gain critical mass, we can start to ban industries.

        4. Hmm … interesting response, Mr Toad.

          With regard to harming humans, you present a distinction between the situation within a society (where there is a social contract) and between societies (without social contract). You state that we do harm humans outside our society, and this is true. You suggest that to take a view that this should not happen leads to a commitment to wealth redistribution. First of all, before we get to wealth distribution, the question is, is it immoral or unethical to harm outsiders for our pleasures? Or indeed for “modern life” (which you use with regard to harm to animals), for example, stripping countries of their natural resources for the benefit of Western or developed countries? Also, what do we really mean by society? Do you think that the US as a society has a social contract where the harming of some of its citizens for the benefit of others doesn’t happen? Or do we need to shift to group here, so that the US is a society or nation where groups harm other groups while generally refraining from harming individuals within the group? I rather think that whatever “social contract” actually exists is one which is being constantly fought over, fought against, re-negotiated, regressed.

          “I think “economic interests” are more likely to squeeze off a move towards animal rights, which aren’t clear, than they are animal protection laws which fit nicely within the current legal system.” This seems to be an appropriate place to tell us your view of AETA and AgGag laws. You frame the issue as what “sits nicely” within the current legal system, rather than competing groups trying to make and remake, or subvert, or break, law for their own interests or goals.

        5. continued … Is there not a clear case to see and to expect that economic interests will oppose anything that is contrary to, harmful to, their benefit? I don’t think an analogy to gay rights works. What you are leaving out is property, wealth, and the facility to accumulate more wealth. With regard to animals, cultural change may well soften things up to enable more protection, but only economic change can foster a greater degree of protection. An analogy may be the abolition of slavery in the UK and its territories – new sources of wealth demoting the sugar industry, a shift from mercantile to industrial capitalism. Your dogs and chickens protection example surely illustrates the importance of economic interests – chickens are an industry, to give them protection on a level with dogs would be injurious to the industry. And the distant day when we can start banning industries, do you also see legislation to curb activities on Wall Street, e.g. investment in animal industries in China?

          I can not help but think that your focus on cultural change relates to your own political conservatism – is this unfair and inaccurate?

        6. Leone,

          I’m not sure why you’d make a connection between discussing culture and conservatism, I focus on culture because we are cultural beings. Everything we do and think is related to our cultures. Politically I wouldn’t be considered conservative.

          Economic interests will oppose what they see as harmful to their interests but this only goes so far because there are always competing interests. If the established corporate order was able to prevent change we’d all still be traveling by horse and buggy. But culture is a factor as well. My analogy to gay rights was to note just one factor, namely, how shifts in cultural attitudes proceed legal changes. There are economic interests in the case of dogs and chickens, my point of mentioning dogs was to point out that we do have cases of animals being well protected in our society. If dogs can be well protected, why can’t other animals? While its true that the chicken industry would fight any move away from chicken consumption, that doesn’t create an insurmountable problem. Cultural views can change and there are competing economic interests, after all, if people aren’t eating chicken they will be eating something else. Banning investment in other countries would be difficult, but I think if the west moved away from animal agriculture other societies would as well. Part of the issue with meat is that its a high status food, that is rooted in our culture, if meat is no longer seen as high status and instead as crude and primitive…there will be little motivation to produce meat other than out of necessity.

          The social contract I’m referring to is, more or less, our bills and laws. In terms of the issues relating to harming others, I was primarily noting that they are difficult questions with far reaching consequences….especially in the case of animals where nearly everything we do has some impact on them.

        7. Mr Toad – the speculation about a possible link between a focus on cultural change and political conservatism was crude. My view is that while efforts to shift culture are important, to focus on this to the exclusion, or diminishment, of other angles can be a ploy by those who actually don’t wish there to be any change that would affect the status quo.

          Considering your gay rights example as cultural shifts preceding legal changes, what preceded the cultural shift? Could it have been the Western form of capitalism and the focus on the individual that has been/is integral to it – possessive individualism through to consumerist individualism?

          Competing economic interests will indeed act to win markets, and so new products push out old products. But with animals perhaps there is an overarching formation – what has been called the “animal industrial complex”. The range of animals industries having various connections, so that shifts in one industry do not threaten the overall formation.

          I can see no reason why, in the future, people in China and India should be influenced by what people do in the US. Why would it matter if the US dropped meat, when there are enormous growing markets for meat elsewhere in the world.

          As for meat being high status and changing this culturally what do you mean by high status? Are fast food chicken wings high status? Whose culture would you seek to change?

          I would still be interested in your view of AETA and AgGag laws (third time of asking).

        8. Mr Toad, response above – I don’t know why but sometimes comments post out of sequence (this one will probably do the same, in which case meaninglessness…)

        9. Leone,

          I’m not really sure what you have in mind when you suggest that a focus on culture could be a ploy. In terms of gay rights, it didn’t happen in a vacuum so there are a variety of relevant ideas, but ultimately it started with certain philosophic beliefs about human rights and then was campaigned for over decades. The cultural shift didn’t randomly occur, it was encouraged in a variety of ways. But activism played a pretty small role, what I think was instrumental was that a lot of gay individuals and people that supported them used their positions in media, etc to influence the culture.

          I don’t think there is any “animal industrial complex”, each industry acts on its own with its own interests. But there is a common thread, but its actually plant agriculture…..its plants that fed all these animals and its often the same crops.

          What do you think would happen in a school where all the “cool kids” where vegetarian and thought non-vegetarian kids were unsophisticated? There would be a huge incentive for the other kids to be vegetarian…..because humans are status seeking animals and will duplicate the behavior of those deemed high status. The situation is the same for nations, China, India, etc are duplicating parts of the western lifestyle because they are associated with higher status. If the views in wealthy countries changed, if they thought that not only was meat not a high status food…..but a crude and primitive food…..that would have a huge impact on other nations. And, yes, chicken wings are a high status food in the scope of what the average human eats on a daily basis. Not so much in the scope of developed nations.

          This is the second time you asked about AETA and AgGag laws and I didn’t say something earlier because I didn’t think it presented any issue that wasn’t already discussed. That is, these are just attempts by industry to prevent certain actions that may damage its interests.

  6. I just wanted to share this…great article/interview for those who may not have seen it and are interested:

    I really love this quote from the interview:
    “…keep the animals in mind at all times. They have little voice or recognition; animals are relying on advocates to keep calm, appeal to reason, and set a good example to others … long-term change comes often from being genuinely convinced, not from being exposed to strong or dogmatic viewpoints.”

    1. I’ve never understood the focus on activism in the vegan community, in isolation its not likely to change anything. I just seems to be that vegans are going to keep doing the same things regardless of the results……the results so far are very bad.

      1. can i ask you again: what are you saying yes to? You’re saying no to veganism, no to rights, no to activism, no to almost everything discussed here.
        Do you care about animal suffering, for instance? Do you think it would be good to reduce that?

        1. Tobias,

          I say yes to corn dogs, but don’t worry I only eat the soy ones. But, more seriously, I really don’t know what you’re asking with this question. But I did say a bit on the latter question in my reply to Leone.

          1. i wrote this already, but you just don’t seem to agree with everything and to criticize everything, even things that are far apart. you’re against veganism, and now i’m seeing in your latest comment that you also disapprove of a reducetarian approach. really, it’s starting to feel like you just want to waste people’s time. because i don’t want to believe that, i ask what you believe in. you still never said anything to that point.

        2. To be fair Mr Toad has said he favours animal protection. Perhaps he can expand on what he thinks is the best way to achieve protection measures.

        3. Tobias,

          Yes, you’ve said that before….and I’m still not sure what you expect. I’m just commenting on your blog, I don’t understand your expectation that I’m suppose to be able to articulate what I believe in a few comments. But I have certainly expressed some of my thoughts, but you seem more focused on my disagreement with veganism. I guess this is somewhat my fault, I’m commenting on a vegan blog as if it was a more general forum for discussion.

  7. I think one needs to make a distinction between social organization (a group of people getting together for some goal) and corporate organization. You seem to be largely talking about corporate organization and didn’t seem to mention one of the biggest issues with it, namely, that once you’ve organized yourself in this fashion the continued existence of the corporation becomes one of the primary objectives. A corporate organization needs revenue, and it will need to get it from donations, businesses, etc….which will all tend to corrupt its actions.

    Nothing wrong with organization, but its hard to see how corporate organization is critical to social change.

    1. i don’t follow this at all. it’s not because your prime objective as a corporate organisation is to make money that you couldn’t make a very important and even critical contribution to social change.

      1. Tobias,

        I’m not sure how your comment relates to what I’ve said. My point wasn’t that corporate organizations can’t, in principle, contribute to social change but rather than their need to secure revenue from donations, etc will tend to corrupt their actions. Also I don’t see why corporate organizations would be critical for social change.

        1. i’m not even clear now what you mean with corporate organisations. You mean big non profits? Or you mean corporate enterprises? as you talk about donations i assume you mean the first.
          I think this is quite a cynical and also absolutist view. How would you define “corrupt their actions”? It’s a heavy word, with a big range of meanings. I think it’s quite problematic if we are going to think and encourage the thought that almost by definition corporate organisations get corrupted – at least if you mean corruption in some serious sense, and not in the sense that yes sometimes they have to do some things to keep existing.
          And you don’t know how people at the head of organisations think, and if they think all the same. basically an organisation’s aim should be to make itself redundant. that is not to say concerns about jobs etc may not seep in there, but in my experience non profit people always do their very best not to lose sight of the aim, and frankly i really dislike implications to the contrary, which our movement, mainly thanks to our friend GLF, is rife with.

        2. Tobias,

          By “corporate organization” I’m referring to larger non-profits which are generally organized as corporations. But my comment would apply to any non-profit with financial obligations such as rents, employees, debt, etc. I suppose you could call my comments cynical, but I think what I said is a basic consequence of human psychology. While possible, I’m not suggesting that the people at these organizations are taking donations and lining their pockets with them. I’m talking about something more subtle, namely, once money comes into play, once people’s incomes are at stake,etc it creates a situation that is very prune to cognitive bias. So, for example, an organization may continue some action even-though its clearly not productive because it meets the financial needs of the organization. Or it may counter-productively promote products because the business is a big donor. And so on.

          1. Yes, that’s all true. I just think the word corrupted is not the best to describe this situation.
            also, it may be interesting to keep doing something that brings in money if that fits in the bigger picture

  8. Well, leave it to me to tell someone what they already know, snort. Haven’t been following Tobias’ blog for that long, so likely started after you had made those recommendations yourself. And yes, enjoyed Hillary’s post!

    Absolutely agree with you that compassion fatigue and burnout are not discussed enough. Especially with younger and newer vegans. We spend time getting them to go vegan, but not enough time getting them to STAY vegan. In a way, it was an advantage for me I think that I went vegan at a later age (46), so that I knew that if this vegan thing was important enough to me, that I should pace myself if I wanted to be in it for the long haul. And 8 years later, I can quite proudly say that being vegan is probably the longest commitment I’ve made to any cause, interest, or even job for that matter. 🙂

    No, I had not heard of IDA, so thank you for the link to that, and to the other one as well. I’ll check ’em out! 🙂

    1. Hey havegonevegan,
      Thanks for sharing your background story on going vegan. Did you start out as a vegetarian, or did you go right to being vegan?

      I also just wanted to quickly share another couple books I just thought of:

      “Perseverance” by Margaret Wheatley
      I usually get these kinds of books and they seem too “fluffy”, but I love this book. It has short one page entries on different topics. I highly recommend it.

      “Perseverance is designed to offer guidance, challenge, clarity and consolation to all the people doing their work day-by-day. The topics are not the usual inspiring, feel good, rah-rah messages. Instead, Wheatley focuses on the situations, feelings, and challenges that can, over time, cause us to give up or lose our way. Perseverance is a discipline—it’s a day-by-day decision not to give up. Therefore, we have to notice the moments when we feel lost or overwhelmed or betrayed or exhausted and note how we respond to them. And we have to notice the rewarding times, when we experience the joy of working together on something hard but worthwhile, when we realize we’ve made a small difference.”

      “The Power of Joy in Giving to Animals” by Linda Harper and Faith Maloney
      I haven’t read this one yet, but immediately bought it when I found it, as I’ve found compassion fatigue/burnout/trauma resources for animal advocates to be few & far between. It looks like a very promising read (once I find the time! :). 🙂

      “THE SECRET TO HELPING MORE ANIMALS What would it take to give all the animals the kind of lives that they deserve? How do we work together to attain this vision? The answer to both of these questions can be found within the hearts of the animal advocates and the beloved furry friends who they help. The secret is joy. Read on and uncover the infinite power of joy that is already present on your life-saving and life-enhancing journey of giving to the animals.”

        1. Thanks for thinking of that book, Tobias. I think it’s the one book on trauma that I think I’ve seen more highly rated than any other. It’s in my leaning tower of books to read. 🙂

        2. I just found out about this class and wanted to pass it along. I can’t recommend the class one way or the other as I haven’t taken it myself, but here is the info:

          UFL Compassion Fatigue Strategies
          “I’ve teamed up with the University of Florida’s Maddie’s® Shelter Medicine Program to create Compassion Fatigue Strategies a four module, online, self-paced class for people who work with animals.
          Class starts February 1st, 2106
          Enrollment is open through March 1st, 2016.”

          Here is more about the instructor:

          “No matter what I’m doing – Compassion Fatigue education, writing about animal welfare issues, or taking care of my clients’ dogs – my work is ultimately all about:
          Helping people feel less isolated, more empowered, and better supported in their role as caregivers to people, pets, and our planet.”

      1. Hi Christine, straight to vegan. Although I had already eliminated almost all dairy products for health reasons, so didn’t find it too difficult to forgo the rest.

        Thanks for the book/site recommendations. I’m making a list. 🙂

    2. p.s. Yeah, the IDA Sustainable Activism Campaign is the first campaign like this I’ve found among animal welfare organizations. If after you check it out and if you feel it would be something you’d like to do, maybe you can help to get the word out on your blog. 🙂

  9. Mr Toad, thank you for your latest response above. I particularly appreciate your expansion on cultural change.

    Gay rights – philosophic ideas about human rights. Historically, what type if socio-economic condition fostered rights philosophy, the protection of the individual and their property? This reprises my question of where culture has its foundation.

    Gay rights – gay individuals using their position in the media, etc, to change culture. You must know that this sounds the strategy of privilege for the privileged. It sounds supremely politically quiescent.

    “Each industry acts in its own interest” – yes. It is also connected to other industries. So plant industries produce crops that feed animals, this connects to animal agriculture, animal ag connects to fertilisers and other industries, animal ag has an interests in breeding that connects to bio-tech, and so on. Furthermore, there is the level of investment and stock. You don’t think there is enough there to think of a complex?

    “Cool kids”. I am going to be blunt, Mr Toad. What really is the difference between your cool kids and vegan kids? Appeal to moral sensibilty or appeal to status anxiety. Or do a Peta and combine the two (vegans are sexier).

    I have said that cultural efforts are important but things like AETA and AgGag help to put things into perspective. “…Just attempts by industry to prevent certain actions that may damage its interests”. “Just” economic interests being able to use the legislatures of a representative democracy, being able to turn arson and criminal damage that does not threaten the general public or the state into terrorism, and to impinge on civil liberties. What we are talking about is enormous power, economic, political AND cultural. Am I wrong to suspect that cool kids, media employees, and aspirant middle-class Chinese may not be enough

    1. Leone,

      In terms of gay rights, you can obviously go much deeper but I was talking about it assuming the existing cultural base that was already relatively conductive to rights, etc. So given this, how did gay rights get promoted? That is the question I was addressing.

      The point of mentioning “cool kids” was simply to note our social hierarchies and how these hierarchies influence behavior. Some vegan groups have certainly tried to take advantage of this aspect of human behavior but I’m not sure how doing so equates this aspect of human behavior with veganism. Veganism is an ideology where as I’m describing an aspect of our nature, one that I think is contributing to the rapid increase in meat consumption in the developing world.

      I don’t think the meat industry has “enormous power” and you have plenty of cases of large powerful industries being displayed by new ones. While industry certainly has influence on government, a relatively free market has the ability to change over time and we’ve seen this again and again. What is special about the case of meat? I think what is important to note is what players in the food industry are fundamentally at odds with a shift away from meat and which ones aren’t….which is not something most in the vegan community are doing since all big business is demonized.

  10. Hello Tobias

    I’m wandering, if any organization has been using another strategy with different arguments (different from the animal well-being) and targeting different people.

    Targeting and/or partnering with health groups like people affected by cancer, diabetes, heart disease… if they show them that all these diseases are caused mainly by animal products and by-products, and that, a plant based diet can prevent or even reverse these health problems, maybe they can reduce or even eliminate this products from their diet.

    And doing the same with environmentalists, groups that work on climate change, deforestation, water waste, wild animals… The main cause of these problems is animal agriculture.

    Are there organisations working on that? if not, Would it be a good idea?

  11. This is a fantastic idea! I would also like to ask that question and would also like to add religious groups and organizations that value acts of compassion.

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