Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Supply and Demand: Enabling the Cycle of Slaughter of Nonhumans

I read some blog posts earlier today by someone who'd commented here recently in a discussion concerning the difference between welfarism and abolitionism. The individual decided to set up a blog to comment further on some of the points raised and debated, coming to the conclusion that

[I]t’s not the capitalist followers of big business that are to blame (i.e., furriers, factory farmers, vivisectionists, etc.). It’s not welfarist organizations whose operations only thrive because their “non-profit disguised as for-profit” business model thrives the best within the capitalist structure - take down PETA, and some other welfarist organization will rise up to take its place, following along the same lines as mink farms and animal labs, in which the dissolution of one (farm or lab) will inevitably lead to another that takes its place. And, finally, it is not the individual who is at ultimate fault; we have all been brainwashed daily to believe that the food we eat is not a moral wrong.
I found it particularly disconcerting that this commentator would choose to assert that individuals are somehow absolved of any sense of accountability when it comes to consuming animals and perpetuating the cycle into which animals are bred and raised specifically to be slaughtered. Maybe I've read too much Sartre, but I'd like to think that we live our lives at least somewhat deliberately, with every action triggered by a bona fide decision to follow through with that action. Sure, we may sometimes lack sufficient information to make the right decision, but to generalize that "we have all been brainwashed daily to believe that the food we eat is not a moral wrong" side-steps so much.

On his Unpopular Vegan Essays blog, Dan Cudahy wrote about how individuals do perpetuate the cycle, mostly by feeding money into a system that regulates how the animals that continue to be raised to be eaten by them are treated, yet stopping short of making the conscious decision of actually (and effectively) removing themselves from the cycle altogether. As Dan wrote: "We cannot regulate the holocaust. We need to stop it by going vegan and encouraging others to do the same."

How long will we shirk responsibility? How long will we shrug off any sense of accountability? As Dan wrote, "It is a classic circular farce and would be a knee-slapping hilarious example of human stupidity if it were not so tragic." It's up to each and every one of us to work towards stopping the cycle and we need to realize this now.


wchanley said...

Ultimately, it's just lazy to shunt it all off on the Big Mean Faceless Corporation.

Yes, I'm a leftist.

Yes, I'm critical of capitalism.

In this instance, that doesn't matter a teeny, tiny little bit.

The issue is demand, it has always *been* demand, and it will *always be* demand. Provided there is *demand for animal products*, persons and companies will act to fill that demand, *because there is commercial incentive to do so.*

Yes, I'll allow, humans are influenced by a big huge pile of conflicting messages coming from industry.

Big deal.

We're still *making a choice* each and every time we sit down to plates full of dead flesh at any given meal. ADM, Monsanto and Smithfield didn't force us to buy those things.

Are people *influenced* by corporate interests? Sure. Not to put too fine a point on this, but *grow up, people.*

You're *still* making a choice.

It's not capitalism's *fault* that you chose to eat animals. You made a choice to do that.

Ken Hopes said...

She has a point about how corporate America is feeding consumers lies and misinformation. However her argument that individuals thus are not responsible for animal exploitation, no longer applies when those individuals become informed. It's the mission of abolitionist blogs to inform people so that hopefully they will make the right decisions.

I don't understand how holding corporations responsible without first changing the mindset of individuals, will work. In our representative democracy, laws prohibiting corporations from exploiting animals will not get passed without sizable public support. From a practical standpoint I see no alternative to demand reduction as a way to achieve abolition. It has to start with the individual.

Brandon Becker said...

We must expose the structural factors that facilitate speciesist exploitation. Industry seeks to create, sustain, and grow demand for its products of suffering and death. Promoting veganism counters cultural indoctrination and builds social support for political change. It is the starting point on the path to justice.

See this excerpt from an interview with David Nibert:
MFA: In arguing for a movement towards a sociological approach to animal rights, you advocate speaking in terms of groups of people acting certain ways rather than individuals. This includes a critique of animal rights activists’ tendency to focus on the actions of individuals. Where do you think individual actions come into play in the animal liberation movement?

Nibert: In Animal Rights/Human Rights, I maintain that the movement for the liberation of other animals will be limited in its effectiveness if the primary focus of change is on individual consciousness and morals as they pertain to our treatment of other animals. While such transformations in individual consciousness are necessary, individuals must also develop awareness about the culpability of the capitalist system in promoting oppression. Movement strategies should be geared both to educate the public about the injustice and atrocities that are at the base of our daily existence and the suffering of the oppressed and to make them aware of the necessity of a substantial social transformation.

wchanley said...

I think given where we are in society right *now*, there's no disincentive for corporate exploitation of animals. I'm not *defending* it; I just think it's tactically a mistake to make broad, sweeping claims that individual change doesn't matter, and we should "go after the abusers" instead.

The "abusers" (in this context, commercial enterprises engaged in animal exploitation for profit) are simply selling to a market that has expressed a demand for animal products. We can dance *around* that fact all we may like, but it will, at the end of the day, remain true.

We HAVE TO attack demand, and right NOW that means grassroots vegan advocacy. When we start to see a general shift in the culture toward vegan/AR values, *then* we can meaningfully legally regulate the behavior of the animal enterprises, but it's beyond unrealistic to expect this approach to be effective right *now*.

Elizabeth Collins said...

Abolitionist advocates are not sitting around pointing finger & finding fault for the sake of finding fault as the end result—it is about being practical! As a strategy focusing on consumer demand is practical! It is reasonable & dare I say it, logical.

The following is from the one of the essays referred to in this post: "...finally, it is not the individual who is at ultimate fault; we have all been brainwashed daily to believe that the food we eat is not a moral wrong..."
What then, is practical & valid, if not combating the brainwashing? What is the solution proposed by the writer of the above observation? In fact, if anything is wasting time on useless finger pointing that is pretty much devoid of any kind of practical solution or suggestion at all, it is the essay from which the above comment was taken. Discussing the failure of welfare reform & the fact that vegan education is the only practical & morally consistent way to fundamentally change anything is not sitting around looking for a scapegoat. If anyone has any better ideas, please help us discuss it. Forgive me if I missed it, but what is the solution proposed in the above-mentioned essay?

"...As long as people’s misconceptions are reinforced by lies all day, it will be near impossible to change the socio-economic structure that exists. The lies that come from the top need to be exposed, & the corporate killers must be held accountable..."

Has the author read anything beyond the actual arguments on welfare that are going on at the moment & actually studied the abolitionist approach as a theoretical, practical analysis? i.e to combat the above-mentioned lies & socio-economic structure that exists by telling the truth & being morally consistent while doing so. The more people who do that, the more it will help people to see through those lies. That is what the abolitionist approach is about, at least as far as I understand it, & please correct me if I am wrong—I am open to constructive criticism! I WANT TO HELP! Telling the truth about veganism & non-violence, every day in whatever form is practical & effective is what I am trying to get the people in my community who are currently promoting welfare to do & I am pointing out the empirical strategic flaws in NOT unequivocally promoting veganism & non violence because I strongly believe anything less than that is morally inconsistent & doesn't work. It is not about hurting feelings, there are very important monstrosities occurring & we need to do something about it now, all of us. The abolitionist approach is ultimately about peace & telling the truth, & we will start with the consumers because they are providing the demand. That is all that means, it is not about finding fault as an end result.

The abolitionist approach DOES incorporate
"..into animal rights ideas a much broader set of insightful topics & issues that are affecting the real world (opposed to someone satisfying their interest by only reading books, blogs, & essays on one chosen particular animal rights theory or by just concentrating on animal issues in general)...."

I couldn't have made a better analysis of the abolitionist approach if I had tried!
I strongly suggest that one go beyond the arguments about welfare currently occurring & actually study the fundamental & practical philosophy of the abolitionist approach, objectively & with an open mind. To me, it makes perfect sense, in fact is the only thing that makes any sense at all, & everything else that I am aware of that is going on is counterproductive & so needs to be re-examined.

Cavall de Quer said...

Not 100% relevant to this discussion, but couldn't resist passing-on this:

list of ways to be persuasive - No 18, for example could help us out in vegan arguments.......
Fighting fire with fire.

gfrancione said...

Dear Friends:

The post which is being referred to is one by someone called "Vegan Evolution" who says:

"Why did I bother listening to it?…I don’t know. It's the same ol'. While interviewed by Adam Kochanowicz, Gary Francione once again repeated his line about how the individual is ultimately responsible for animal exploitation, not the furriers, factory farmers, and vivisectionists. Somehow it keeps slipping his mind to mention the corporate killers at the top of the totem pole. He misses the main target."

Although corporations certainly facilitate our desires for particular things, they only appeal to a receptiveness that is already there. Yes, a corporation can tell me that I need an iPod to be a complete human being, but I only hear that message if I believe that my happiness is in some way contingent of my having things. I only buy the iPod if I choose to buy the iPod.

We have all had the experience of educating someone about the moral issues involved in animal exploitation only to have them say, "Yeah, you're right. But I really like to eat cheese pizza [or whatever]." And that is the fault of the "system"? This is not the moral responsibility of the individual? I suggest that is complete nonsense.

We certainly do need to educate people about how our economic system(s) perpetuate oppression and hierarchy but, in the end, change can come only when individuals become aware and make moral choices.

We certainly need to recognize that corporations and governments lie to us. But we also need to see that change cannot come until individuals desire to have and to find truth.

If what Vegan Evolution says is correct, then change is impossible because no one will ever be able to climb outside the reality that has been created by the "bad guys."

Ironically, the position defended by Vegan Evolution--that it is the institutionalized exploiters who are the main problem and that individual choice is a sideshow at best--is exactly the line peddled by the large animal welfare corporations who want to continue to sell indulgences to meat-eating and mucous-swilling dog and cat lovers. It looks like Vegan Evolution is a victim of the corporate propaganda that s/he sees as the "main target."

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

Sarah said...

Wow. This person really has a vendetta against all abolitionists, but particularly you. S/he also sounds eerily like a cousin of mine, who I had to recently block because she kept sending me long, unsolicited emails about how I was wrong for being a vegan (bear in mind that I live in Australia, and my family lives in the US, so she's really got to grasp at straws to claim I am "pushing" veganism on her).

At any rate, this is just a typical arguement of convenience. It's easier to blame, as Babble says, 'Big Mean Faceless Corporation' and shirk off personal responsibility. To me, this is very much like the arguments from people that the US has pushed their way of life on them, and the US is to blame for their own careless consumerism. Australians do it all the time. But the fact of the matter is that the US does not shove big screen TVs and urban sprawl down their throats. The US takes a big part of the blame for the spread of consumerist culture, but so do the individuals who buy into it. Most people are not ignorant of the effects of living a life driven by consumerism.

In the same way, animal agriculture as an industry takes a lot of the blame for the way it operates, but the consumer is not immune to criticism. Yes, agriculture supplies us with our food, but they respond to demand. If people stopped buying meat, they wouldn't (after a long campaign, so they wouldn't lose money on their existing "products) supply it. Just like the consumerism example, most people know about the negative impacts of animal agriculture and the cruelty it entails. This is why they often become aggressive when merely confronted by the face of a vegan (let alone if the vegan...*gasp* ...mentions the reasons why s/he is a vegan). Anyway, that blog is full of contradictions and illogical arguments, but it is not because s/he is stupid. I think this person is grasping at straws, trying to find a place to put the blame, because it's too heavy for s/he to bear.

wchanley said...

When s/he was here, I got the distinct impression that s/he was doing a version of the "abolitionism means doing *nothing* in the meantime." (I've actually just posted a rant on this very thing, but I'm trying not to make it... *cough* all about me *cough* ... all over Mylene's blog. Hehe.

I get the motivation to do something, anything, that you think will wave a wand and create instantaneous, massive and global change (go see his/her comments in the Shapiro post here: the whole point of "holding the abusers accountable" is because we're at the "11th hour of ecological collapse").

*Quotes aren't to mock, but to attribute, badly. oi.*

S/he wants massive, rapid change and vegan/abolition outreach works too slowly.

I understand the desire for something that works faster. Nothing works fast enough. I hate that fact, but it is what it is.

M said...

Hey Babble: Fais comme chez-toi! Mi blog es tu blog. You get the drift? Feel free to post whatever you think helps to educate people about veganism or to get the abolitionist message out. That's what's important right now.

wchanley said...

Thanks bunches :)

gfrancione said...

Dear Friends:

"Your position is utopian; animal exploitation is just going to be abolished overnight."

"You do not think that any incremental measure is not worth taking."

"You do not care about the animals suffering now."

Take a guess as to how many times in the past 20+ years I have had these statements made to me--often by very angry animal advocates. If your guess was less than a number ending in 000, you underestimated.

I always respond:

1. I have never said that exploitation is going to be abolished overnight or anytime soon. My position is not utopian; on the contrary, it is relentlessly practical. Vegan education is the only way that the paradigm will shift and, like it not, that is only thing that can or will make a difference. What is not realistic the fantasy that welfare reform will do anything but lead to more animal use and a more complacent population.

2. I am in favor of incremental measures: veganism and creative, nonviolent vegan education.

3. Animal welfare does nothing to help the suffering of animals today. There is often a significant delay in the implementation of these measures (e.g., Proposition 2 in 2015), and these measures, even if implemented immediately and even if enforced (another big problem), do virtually nothing anyway in terms of protecting animal interests. What would reduce suffering is a significant decrease in demand.

My guess is that this will continue. The welfarists have little of substance to say so they recite these vacuous statements.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University