Why we will win

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Animal liberation is maybe the most challenging and the biggest social justice issue that humans have ever taken on. The stakes are high, the steaks are on every table, the task seems incredibly daunting. Yet I am sure that we will win.

I just attended the animal rights conference in Los Angeles. One of the functions of such a conference – apart from informing each other, sharing best practices, and spending a few days with like-minded people – is that we get motivated, that our batteries get reloaded, and that we go home re-energized. To this aim, there’s obviously quite a lot of motivational speeches, clapping, and cheering at a conference like this (which can actually be a bit of an assault on one’s ears at times, particularly for a European among a sea of Americans).

After the cheering and the good news show, one usually gets a bit of a cold shower when leaving the conference and entering the real world again. Animal products and cruelty – or at least indifference towards animals – once more seem omnipresent.

Still, I share the sentiment expressed by a number of keynote speakers at the conference: that we are approaching a tipping point, and that for the first time, still far away but coming ever closer, we can catch a glimpse of the end of the road.

Let me list a few of the reasons why I’m sure we will win. Some of these reasons are old, some are newer.

Copy of Copy of great vegan food

We are dedicated.
The dedication of animal rights or vegan activists is impressive. This is not a team that is going to throw in the towel any time soon. The compassion for animals and the horror at their suffering are what drive this movement. I’m sure that in the eyes of others we may look like a bunch of crazy fanatics at times, but it takes but one look at a picture or video of a creature suffering intensely at the hands of humans, to realize that our objective is far from fanatic.

We’re getting more results-oriented
In recent years (thanks to people like Nick Cooney, Faunalytics, the influx of the effective altruism movement, Animal Charity Evaluators, and other people and factors), we have started to pay much more attention to actual results – and to measuring these results –  rather than “just doing something”. We’re looking at input-versus-output and return on investment. And when some of us prioritize the high numbers (like those of factory farmed animals) over the few (like circus animals), it’s because we know that those high numbers are just bigger collections of suffering individuals.

We’ve professionalized
The days that this was a movement of rag-tag groups of protesters shouting angry slogans in stores or at passers-by, are long behind us (or are they?). We are sitting together with companies and governments. We are hiring great professional talent. We are producing professional looking print and video material. We are setting measurable goals. Professional is the new radical. 

Technology can be our ally
Technology can be put to both good and to bad use. It has been used to make raising animals for food more effective – and more horrible for the animals – but today we are seeing some incredibly promising new technologies emerging. Apart from using technology to create better meat alternatives than just tofu (think Beyond Meat, Gardein, Impossible Foods), there is of course the promise of labmeat (or cleanmeat) to create meat that is is indistinguishable from the “real thing”. Imagine what a gamechanger this will be (here’s your chance to support this “Supermeat“)

People can make money saving animals
Love it or hate it, but there is a whole new argument for veganism: making money. Some entrepreneurs have noticed that the current situation with animal products is untenable, and are seeing a lot of merit and profit in developing alternatives. Just the last few years, venture capitalists have literally put hundreds of millions of dollars into meat (and other) substitutes. This is something we have never seen before.

Thanks to these and many other factors and reasons, we will win. And when we will win – in god knows how many decades – this win will be a win for everyone. It will be a win for the animals and for our planet. It will be a win for us, the people fighting this fight, and it will be a win even for those who fear they might lose something.

Till then, we have to work. I want to echo one of the speakers:
Our time has arrived. Be kind. Be compassionate. Be positive. And let’s do this together.


26 thoughts on “Why we will win

  1. This is such an encouraging piece, Tobias. I think you’re right. I definitely think vegan foods are having a breakthrough moment, and hopefully veganism soon will be too. The conference looked so amazing – I was following it on Twitter. It seems like an amazing event. I’d love to go next year!

  2. These aren’t “conferences”……but instead conventions. An actual conference would invite people with a variety of views on animal rights…..not just one.

    Results oriented? Can you point me to the vegans discussing the recent surge in per person meat consumption in the US? That isn’t just a rhetorical question, I’m legitimately interested in reading vegans respond to what is actually happening.

    Profit in plant-based products is nothing new…..

    In any case, okay veganism is going to win. Let’s ignore surging global meat consumption, the philosophic issues with veganism, etc…..its going to win.

      1. Any Nomous,

        I’ve talked about this in the past and it didn’t go over well here so I’m not going to say much to this end. But veganism is fundamentally vague, at the core its just a consumer boycott of products that are deemed “non-vegan” and even here its riddled with inconsistencies. So the primarily philosophic issue is that veganism isn’t grounded on any sort of moral position and the minute you try to do that….you just fail to establish veganism. The underlying ethical issues here are complex….but people in the vegan movement just don’t seem very interested in addressing them.

        1. Isn’t veganism grounded in the belief we should end suffering for all creatures and promote the happiness of all beings as far as possible/practicable? Of course it’s complex, but just because it’s complicated doesn’t make it wrong! All the technical problems connected to veganism either have technical solutions today, or will in the near future.

          1. ModVegan,

            No……not in its origins nor today. If you ask 10 vegans what veganism is about…you’re likely to get 10 different answers. The only consistent meaning from vegan to vegan is that they all avoid a particular class of products. But I have no idea what it would mean to promote the happiness of all “beings” as for as possible/practicable. Nor do I know how we can end suffering of “all creatures” when our interests routinely conflict with them.

            I didn’t say veganism is complex, I said the underlying ethical issues are. I’m not sure what technical problems you have in mind…..but I’m not sure how you can know what happens in the future.

            1. Good point. It definitely seems to mean different things to different people. Btw, our interests conflict with many other animals today, but that doesn’t have to be the case in the future. I think a lot will change over the next 1000 years, hopefully much less. Eliminating human suffering is definitely on the horizon, as well as the suffering of domesticated animals. I think wild animal suffering will take longer, but it’s not impossible. Insects are an even bigger challenge obviously, but I think even that will eventually be addressed. And now you probably think I’m completely insane 😉

              1. ModVegan,

                I have trouble understanding your perspective here, for example, the idea that the elimination of human suffering is on the horizon when there is still massive global inequality and social injustice and those at the top, namely, those in developed nations have no interest in giving up their lifestyles so others can have, well, basic health care, food, etc. Massive numbers of people are suffering and dying of things that we can, in the west, resolve with little error. So, no, I just don’t see the horizon you see….and instead I see a limited ability to progress socially due to our underlying biology.

                I guess I don’t find much use to talking about some utopia….a utopia that I can’t even imagine how it would work. Plus…..I think there is another issue on the horizon that is going to dramatically change the world, namely, artificial intelligence/sentience.

                1. I somehow missed this comment before – I would only add that I disagree. Artificial intelligence IS on the horizon and it is precisely that which will allow us to address suffering in an unprecedented way. I do think augmentation will be required to make these changes. But this is quite off topic, and might not really the right place for discussing the future of technology 😉

                  1. ModVegan,

                    Once there is artificial sentience….it will no longer be about *us* but instead *them”…they will quickly exceed us and and we will be pushed aside as the dominant intelligence on the planet. But whether its us or them driving the future, the underlying philosophical issues still have to be addressed and at the movement nobody seems to be doing that in the vegan movement.

                    But in the context of a global surge in meat consumption….talking about some utopia where human and animal suffering doesn’t exist has no practical significance. Similarly……nor does veganism.

    1. If you’re interested in the recent surge in meat consumption per capita, it’s very likely a direct result of the popularity of the paleo diet. In the early 2000s, meat consumption was about 220 lbs per capita, vs. 211 last year and 202 in 2014. We are obviously still way below the consumption levels of the early 2000s.

      1. The paleo-diet is likely a factor……and the paleo-diet did more than just increase meat consumption in some market niches….it changed the entire conversation about meat. Meat is no longer something you should eat less of…..its the precise sort of food you should be eating! A brilliant marketing ploy if I ever seen one. What is the vegan movements response? There isn’t one…..because apparently vegans are winning.

        And, no, we aren’t way below the consumption levels of the early 2000’s. The per capita figures for 2016 are projected to be the same as the early 2000’s.

        In any case, to anybody that is results focused…..the stabilization in meat consumption starting in 2010 and the recent increase should be *very* important data points….and very worrisome if your goal is to reduce meat consumption. And this is to say nothing of the surge in global consumption. So what gives? Why isn’t this being addressed? What does it mean for “vegan strategy”?

        Tobias argument here is strange, the meat, dairy, egg, etc industries have far more brains behind them, are far more results originated and are far more well funded than some small food start-ups. The beef checkoff program in the US spends around $38 million a year promoting beef…..that’s just one program, one country……$38 million.

    1. Tobias, that is nothing new…..you get fed up and ask anybody that actively disagrees with you to leave. This is an echo-chamber to support your career.

      In any case, you can ask….doesn’t mean I’ll listen. Of course you have the power to make me go away….but only here. You do whatever you think best suits your interests.

      1. you know that if that were true, i would have kicked you or others out long ago. but so far no one has been kicked out yet and only one or two comments have ever been deleted, in spite of many of them being critical. so at the very least, don’t be dishonest.

        i’m just tired of the predictability, the tediousness, and the unconstructiveness of your criticism. i’m serious: you should start your own blog or at least have one page with your opinion out there, that is not just breaking down what other people write, say or do and that is not reactive but original.

        1. Tobias,

          You tend to ask people to leave or make a snide comment to them rather than removing comments and I have, in the past, given you credit for not moderating the hell out of your blog comments like some other vegan bloggers. But you only get credit because other vegan bloggers are so bad…..that’s the sad thing. You’re still creating an echo-chamber here….and I partly get it. This is about your career just as much as exploring “vegan strategy”.

          In any case, you still don’t seem to understand the value of “breaking down what other people write” and exposing vegans to criticism (of veganism, not the inner-drama of the vegan movement) rather than pumping their heads with hot air.

          1. Critiscism is indeed a good thing, but only when it’s constructive, not when it’s too vague, when you refuse to elaborate, and when you just repeat the same thing all the time, all while not being open for discussion

            1. Any Nomous,

              Refuse to elaborate? When? When I’m asked a sincere question….I respond. Its strange to claim I’m not open for discussion when I’ve been responding to your comments and having a discussion with you.

              1. Sure, you’ve been responding. Usually with unconstructive vagueness.
                What i find the most frustrating is that you consider this blog to be a vegan do chamber while within the movement is probably one of the most critical blogs of veganism you can find. But you just keep repeating the same things.
                So yes, you are very close to being censured for wasting everybody’s time.
                And if I might add as an aside, you’ve been criticizing and criticizing in the safe cloak of total anonymity, which I find a bit cowardly.

                1. Tobias,

                  I’m not holding you to the vegan standard and censuring me would have little to do with “wasting everybody’s time”.

                  You can find it cowardly all you wish, but the vegan community is rather hostile to criticism and I have a family and business interests to protect.

  3. Great blog, Tobias, and wonderful to see you at the conference! We are grateful for the recent *extra* focus on measurement and evaluation and effectiveness from Nick and ACE and others. But it’s worth mentioning that a small handful of us have been beating that drum for a long time. Faunalytics appears to have been too ahead of our time to get much credit for changing the culture, but we’re just happy that the movement is focusing more on evidence-based strategies. These are exciting times for animal and veg*n advocacy.

    1. I’m so glad I finally figured out who you guys are! Faunalytics looks absolutely amazing, but you need to update your gravatar profile unless you’re trying to be mysterious, lol. I can see you’re very well represented elsewhere in social media, but I’d hate for anyone else (as clueless as me) to be unaware of the awesome work you’re doing 😉

      1. Thank you, Tobias. And thank you, ModVegan, for the kind comments! And the Gravatar suggestion… now fixed!

        1. My pleasure. I’ll be publishing a quick post on my blog tomorrow and I hope it sends more people your way! I know I’ll be using your resources a lot myself 😉

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