Monday, June 16, 2014

On Speciesism and Token Gestures

The bottom line is that for any animal advocacy to bring about meaningful long term change for the billions killed each and every year for human pleasure, it needs to address speciesism. Convincing someone to give up beef for climate change, fishes to save the oceans or meat on one day a week for personal health? It merely persuades people to make token gestures for themselves -- often just temporarily -- rather than to initiate meaningful permanent change for other animals. People are left feeling better about choosing the other animal products they'll invariably choose to replace the ones they may omit or use less often. They become convinced that those other options are better or more ethical choices. They’re left feeling good that they’ve done “enough” – and hey, if animal advocates are patting them on the back for it, then surely they’re doing enough, right?

Some animal advocates argue that "something is better than nothing", assuming that getting non-vegans to shuffle animal products around is actually "something" in the first place. How is it "something" if instead of having a burger for lunch on Meatless Monday, someone instead has an omelette? How is it "something" if someone decides to stop consuming beef, but instead chooses to eat chickens or fishes? And why this false dichotomy, as if the only two options available in animal advocacy result in varying degrees of the continued deliberate exploitation of others? Is it not incredibly arrogant for us to think that although a message got through to us and we went vegan that the same could not possibly occur with others?

Those advocates insist that getting non-vegans to "lower" their animal consumption is some sort of "step in the right direction", when the truth is that unless that direction is towards veganism, there are no actual "steps" being taken. When we try to persuade non-vegans to make small token gestures for themselves – for their health, their environment – rather than attempt to persuade them to make meaningful changes for the sake of those billions of others whose lives we steal each and every year, we are bargaining away the lives of innocents. Without addressing the underlying problem of speciesism and turning people’s focus to those others, we have no hope of seriously shifting the status quo.

Worse is that when animal advocates convey to the public that veganism is "too hard" and applaud token gestures, they actually leave the general public less willing to hear and weigh animal rights advocacy and an actual vegan message. After all, why would they listen when they’ve been told that they’ve already done enough? This is the horrible damage caused by groups like Vegan Outreach and all of the other large welfarist groups who pump their fists in the air over false victories. This is the horrible damage which we’re left to undo.


M. (known as) "Butterflies" Katz said...

I agree.

Oide_Schachdl said...

Wonderful and crystal clear. Thanks a lot!

Unknown said...

The longer folks adopt the 'easy out' approach, the longer animals needlessly suffer & day, and the longer it takes for true compassion to spread.

Love your thinking on this. Hope it's ok that I posted it on my site

WritePublishDie said...

I wholeheartedly agree (as all vegans should) that the message being conveyed must be unequivocal and uncompromising.

However, I cannot stand behind someone like Gary Francione whose puerile antics reveal him to be nothing if not divisive, domineering, and self-important. He alone created the nonsensical rift between all of us who stand for exactly the same principles in exactly the same cause.

So there now exists an organization that he deems superfluous. So what! Only a massively inflated ego would critique its existence and not be willing to share some of the spotlight with those who merely sought to honor his message. Instead of the sullenly dismissive attitude he displayed toward The Abolitionist Vegan Society (TAVS), he should should have felt flattered.

As of now, it appears that you operate 100% his way or you are 100% condemned. This guy might benefit from an inspection of his own methods, not just his motives and message. All of the time and energy he diverts towards distancing himself from his allies could be better spent on the daunting task that confronts us.

I’ve sat quiet too long while he has ridiculed science, badmouthed atheism, and made enemies out of friends. If you disagree with him you are patently wrong, but if you emulate him in an unapproved way then you also deserve to be ridiculed and shunned. He gives the overall impression that negativity is the key to success in winning the world over to veganism.

I fully regret that someone who could craft such an intelligent approach regarding the vegan message could also be so absurdly acrimonious. It taints the whole idea of abolitionist indignation.

Obviously, I feel strongly about this; yet, I still want to thank Mylene for remaining impartial. Her blog is too important to become partisan.