Monday, December 10, 2012

The "Little Steps" that Count

The response to my post from Friday on Mercy for Animals' failure to both combat speciesism and promote veganism has been almost overwhelmingly positive, whether from emails I've received, to comments left on the  blog's Facebook page. Many have agreed that it's essential for animal rights advocates to know the actual ethical positions on which these large groups are basing their advocacy.

Elsewhere on the interwebs, particularly in the anti-abolitionist slanted vegan subreddit of the social news website Reddit, the old familiar accusations of nit-picking and being divisive were the norm, along with my personal favourite: "Well, if you have such a big issue with them, why don't you shut up and go out there and do it better?" As if one wee blogger should be shamed into silence for not being able to compete with the $1.3 million in annual revenue enjoyed by a group like Mercy for Animals! It's funny, though, how none of the negative responses to my blog post actually addressed the content -- and legitimate concerns -- of the blog post. "Every little bit counts," they said about Mercy for Animals' campaigns. " When those so-called little bits involve placating the general public into feeling comfortable with continuing to participate in the exploitation of others, though, where is it that they actually count? Surely not in the interest of those other animals?

Each time HSUS insists that it's not out to end the farming of animals for human consumption, it's telling the public that it's alright to use animals. Each time that PETA or Farm Sanctuary -- a sanctuary, for pete's sake! -- chooses a non-vegan celebrity spokesperson, it's telling the public that it's alright to use animals. Each time Vegan Outreach insists that vegans should shrug off easily avoidable animal ingredients when around non-vegans to avoid looking nit-picky, it's telling the public that it's alright to use animals. Each time Mercy for Animals insist on its website that asking members of the public to go vegan is off-putting, it's telling them that veganism is too hard. And when abolitionists say that veganism is a first step, these groups tell the public that we're extremist and unreasonable. When abolitionists say that all animal advocacy should have veganism as its moral baseline, these groups tell the public that we're critical and divisive. Joe Public nods in relief, forks over a donation and signs a petition, then goes home to a roast chicken dinner.

How absolutely sad that it's become taboo in animal advocacy circles to actually assert unequivocally -- to even merely suggest -- that other animals aren't ours to use. How so very much more crucial it's become for those of us who do reject animal exploitation to speak out. If we agree that veganism should be the starting point for any meaningful advocacy in our fight against speciesism, we should not allow ourselves to be shamed and silenced by those groups who profit from its perpetuation. 

We may not have the millions these organizations do, but every single one of us has the ability to affect someone -- to change someone's heart and mind. Those are the real "little steps" that do count. We need to speak out. If we don't, who will?

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