Saturday, September 2, 2017

Vegetarian Defensiveness

Things we vegans hear over and over from (some) vegetarians when we bring up the ways in which being vegetarian still exploits animals and causes them to suffer and be killed are very much the same as what we hear from meat-eaters: "You're attacking me"; "You're mean"; "You're rude"; "You're holier than thou/you think you're better than me"; "You're shoving your views down our throat"--a bunch of stuff about either the supposed character of the vegan or how they're not being "nice" or "polite," usually merely because the vegan brought these issues up. Anything to change the subject away from the animals, anything to not talk about what's happening to THEM. It's remarkable how similar it is to what we hear from meat-eaters.

Yeah, most of us animal rights activists ARE pushy about our views even though we are generally polite about it, because we really, really want people to stop hurting animals unnecessarily. But does it ever occur to non-vegans who object to our "shoving our views down their throat" that when people eat animals or dairy products, eggs or honey, wear their skin or fur, go to animal circuses, etc., those people are imposing their views on the ANIMALS? And it's no mere matter of somebody's feelings being hurt by having the ethics of their behavior questioned; it's a matter of being caused immense physical and emotional suffering and, ultimately, an early death. Vegetarians, think about that the next time you get the urge to object to vegans bringing up the fact that even vegetarians still cause a great deal of unnecessary harm to animals.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Go Vegan, John Mackey

If you've ever encountered an animal rights activist, odds are they've told you to “Go vegan.” What does this phrase mean? We can readily determine from looking at how it is used that it advocates the behavior of refraining from using animals for food, clothing, entertainment, or other purposes, with emphasis usually being on diet. Veganism—meaning, according to some definitions, refraining from the consumption of animal products or other animal use—has been referred to as the “moral baseline of the animal rights movement," the least we can do if we subscribe to the philosophy that exploiting animals or killing them unnecessarily is wrong.

To be sure, no one would “go vegan” other than diet-wise if they did not believe in that philosophy, and veganism is generally defined as both philosophical opposition to animal exploitation and a lifestyle consistent with that philosophy. But the point remains that going vegan and, according to some usages, veganism, is a behavior involving personally avoiding participation in animal exploitation, and that if someone does at least that, they have minimally discharged their moral obligations to animals even if they do not actively promote animal liberation. Given the limitations on people's free time and their possible devotion to other time-consuming pursuits, this seems like a reasonable standard. But is it?

Enter John Mackey. Mackey is the co-founder and current co-CEO of Whole Foods, which has sold meat since its inception. With its over $15 billion in sales, it is one of the largest retailers of meat and other animal products in the United States. Selling the products of exploitation and slaughter has helped make Mackey, whose net worth is estimated at $100 million, an extraordinarily wealthy man. Yet, ironically, he is also a self-described ethical vegan. Mackey went vegan in 2003 when, following animal rights activists' protests at a Whole Foods shareholders' meeting over cruel treatment of ducks and extensive conversations with one of the protesters, he read Animal Liberation and other books about animal rights.

But while his response on a personal level to what he learned was to take up a vegan lifestyle and promote it to friends and in occasional public appearances, as a businessman his response was to promote welfare standards for the animals his company was exploiting and killing. At an animal rights conference where he spoke in 2005, he claimed that Whole Foods was going to set the "gold standard of standards" for animal agriculture. The result was collaboration among "farmers and ranchers, animal welfare advocacy organizations, scientists, and retailers" to develop a five-step animal welfare program and an organization called the Global Animal Partnership to oversee the regulation of supposedly humane farms raising animals for flesh, dairy or eggs. Mackey is also a founding member and current chairman of the board of Farm Forward, an organization focused on promoting "humane" animal products.

And promoting animal products is exactly what Whole Foods does. Whole Foods is a co-sponsor of Meatopia, a festival specifically intended to promote meat consumption. It also sponsors a “Best Butcher Contest.” Whole Foods' marketing tells us that their animals are “responsibly raised according to strict animal welfare standards." Customers are told that they will "enjoy meat from animals raised with respect" who are depicted roaming free on open pastures and enjoying natural lives. Whole Foods suppliers "put the animals first", Whole Foods informs us. Above the meat counter at every Whole Foods are large signs that say "A hearty helping of Animal Compassion with every order. Meat is labeled according to its 5-step rating system based on the Global Animal Partnership's standards. Customers can literally choose their level of cruelty when they buy meat. A Whole Foods store in Maine even offered to “humanely” electrocute lobsters for customers who were squeamish about boiling them alive at home. In the face of criticism stemming from a scandal about price gouging, high prices, and its decision to sell rabbit meat, Whole Foods launched a $20 million marketing campaign in 2014 with the slogan "Values Matter." "Know what kind of life your dinner lived", proclaims a poster of a woman holding a chicken. In short, a concerted effort has been made to convince customers that Whole Foods cares about the animals whose body parts wind up in its freezers and ensures they are treated humanely. John Mackey has participated fully in that effort, claiming that “We do not offer meat produced with low welfare standards” and that “Animals are raised with care and respect."

This is the Orwellianfairy tale that John Mackey and Whole Foods sell customers. So successful is this hype, remarked animal rights organization Direct Action Everywhere's co-founder Wayne Hsiung, that people who buy meat from Whole Foods "think they are doing something kind for animals. It's almost like they think they're donating to an animal shelter." The reality documented by numerous investigations is starkly different. A US Department of Agriculture investigation of a Whole Foods supplier revealed young rabbits deprived of water in filthy cages before being slaughtered for meat, with as many as 30 a day found dead before they could even be sent to slaughter. Direct Action Everywhere investigators found widespread disease and suffering and crowded, filthy conditions at a “Certified Humane” cage-free egg supplier. Last year, investigators from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) documented pigs crammed into crowded sheds on concrete floors.

Nowhere is the contrast between hype and reality more glaring than at Diestel Farms, one of Whole Foods' turkey suppliers. In a report entitled "A Deadly Feast: what you are not told about your Thanksgiving turkey," Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) investigators documented what appeared to be deliberate deception by Diestel and Whole Foods regarding the treatment of their turkeys. A Diestel Turkey Ranch promotional brochure prominently displayed at many Whole Foods meat counters claims that "Our birds live in harmony with the environment and we allow them to grow slowly and naturally with plenty of room to roam." Turkeys raised at Diestel's Sonora, CA ranch do indeed enjoy such conditions. Turkeys from this farm have received a 5+ rating, the highest in the Global Animal Partnership's rating system. However, investigators discovered, no turkeys raised at the Sonora farm were actually being sold at Whole Foods. Instead, the vast majority of Diestel turkeys come from facilities in nearby Jamestown in which thousands of birds are crammed together in dark, filthy, disease-ridden conditions. Investigators found it difficult to breathe in the ammonia-filled air, and saw many turkeys with open wounds, covered in feces, missing large patches of feathers, and/or with grossly inflamed or swollen crops. Records showed up to 7% of the birds dying from the horrific conditions within a single week.

While at first glance it seems shocking how little correspondence there is between what Mackey and Whole Foods claim and what actually happens, DxE's investigation found that Whole Foods puts minimal resources into enforcing the standards it claims to have. The Global Animal Partnership that oversees enforcement is 90-95% funded by Whole Foods even though it claims to be independent, and has a tiny staff paid less than $100,000 in total salary to supposedly oversee conditions for the 300 million animals Whole Foods suppliers are raising at any given time. In addition, GAP's former executive director, Anne Malleau, previously served as Whole Foods' Global Meat Coordinator. Investigators contend that these facts make clear that the whole enterprise is a marketing scheme rather than a genuine attempt to improve animals' welfare. "They have the thieves guarding the house from bandits," said DxE's lead investigator Wayne Hsiung. "The system is set up to deceive customers."

How can someone like John Mackey, who claims to be ethically opposed to the tremendous harm people do to animals, sleep at night given the colossal deception he and his company are pulling off? How is hoodwinking people into believing that farm animals are being treated humanely and buying their flesh and secretions from Whole Foods consistent with being a vegan? In a revealing response to writer and animal rights activist James McWilliams' open letter asking Whole Foods to stop selling meat, Mackey gives a litany of excuses for their continuing to do so. In addition to reiterating the claim that Whole Foods' animal welfare efforts are significantly bettering the lives of hundreds of millions of animals, he claims that if Whole Foods stopped selling meat its customers would simply buy it from other retailers who "have not invested millions of dollars and many years of hard work to ensure that animals are raised with care and respect, and slaughtered with a minimum amount of stress." In addition, he asserts that it is "our job" at Whole Foods to supply its majority of meat-eating customers with what they want—which, evidently, is overpriced meat and misleading claims about high standards of animal welfare. If they fail to do that "job," he claims, Whole Foods will go out of business. (Never mind that there are a growing number of successful vegan businesses.)

Mackey has also argued that even if he wanted to stop Whole Foods from selling animal products, Whole Foods is a public company and he does not have the power to do so. But even if he is right, that is not the point. He claims to be a vegan, and vegans philosophically oppose exploiting and killing animals. Yet, given numerous opportunities to address findings that Whole Foods' treatment of animals is wildly discrepant from its claims, he has thus far avoided the issue even while responding to other criticisms of Whole Foods. Worse still, he has actively promoted the myth that there is such a thing as humane meat and that Whole Foods is selling it, and he continues to do so. Even if he is 100% right that he cannot stop Whole Foods from selling animal products, that is no excuse whatsoever for helping them do it. He is a millionaire dozens of times over, has stated that he no longer has any desire to make more money for himself, and only takes $1 annually in salary from Whole Foods, so what's stopping him from at least speaking honestly about the ugly reality behind Whole Foods' marketing hype? What's stopping him from acknowledging that one cannot humanely kill animals who don't want to die? What's stopping him from acknowledging that exploiting animals for food is inherently inhumane? In other words, what's stopping him from taking the philosophy he says he believes in--veganism--seriously enough to express it in the context of talking about his own company's "products"? And if Whole Foods' owners and upper management are indeed uninterested in making a vegan shift, what is stopping him from starting a vegan grocery business? If Jan Bredack can start a vegan grocery chain in Europe, why can't John Mackey do it in the United States? It might not become a multibillion dollar behemoth like Whole Foods any time soon. But even in the unlikely event that it was an utter flop, wouldn't that be better than living a lie?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Unrealistic Objections

So tired of the silly, poorly thought-out objections to Direct Action Everywhere's protests at Bernie Sanders' campaign events, which have brought enormous mainstream media attention to the issue of animal rights, often quoting the protesters at length. One of many examples in the same vein was this one: "By repeatedly sabotaging Bernie Sanders speeches, DxE is effectively giving their partisan support to the Hillary Clinton campaign." This is not only false, but patently absurd.

Even if we WANTED to sabotage Sanders' campaign, there's no way a handful of protests of his animal rights stance could do that. It's one of many issues, not one that is really on the radar in terms of issues that most people care deeply about (which is what we're trying to change), and not one on which the candidates meaningfully differ. The issues that Sanders is strong and outspoken about have deep resonance with his supporters, and they're not going to change their votes. Most of US in DxE still support Sanders despite his position on animal rights, and we care deeply about the issue; why on earth would his other supporters who currently aren't nearly as passionate about the issue change theirs? The whole notion is just absurd. Not to mention, Sanders has no realistic chance of catching up to Clinton in pledged delegates anyway. Almost 300 behind with only 851 left to be decided on; do the math. And the only way there's even a remote CHANCE that the superdelegates, almost all of whom are establishment Democratic politicians or lobbyists, aren't going to vote overwhelmingly for Clinton and give her the nomination is if Clinton is indicted by the FBI between now and the convention. Barring that, Sanders' chances of getting the nomination at this point are virtually nonexistent, given that they depend on him winning 67% of the remaining primary votes.

In case anyone hasn't noticed, there ARE people who have been trying to sabotage Sanders' campaign since it began. There has been vote rigging and voter suppression in Clinton's favor to such an extent that her margin of victory vastly exceeded the margin of error of the exit polls in over a dozen states. There was the rigged state convention in Nevada. Several hundred superdelegates publicly declared their support for Clinton before the race even began. Yesterday the mass media declared the race over and Clinton the winner, based on a poll of superdelegates taken a month before they actually vote. There were over a dozen negative stories about Bernie Sanders in less than 24 hours in the Washington Post, as one of many examples of negative media coverage. THOSE are the people Sanders supporters should be upset about for sabotaging Bernie's campaign, not animal rights activists who have drawn attention to a genuine shortcoming in Sanders' political positions, and to one of the most important issues confronting human society.

Friday, May 20, 2016

"Abolitionists" need to stop attacking animal rescuers

Some animal rights advocates, such as Gary Francione, claim--without ever presenting any evidence--that organizations that do open rescues are focused on raising objections to the treatment of animals rather than advocating an end to their property status and exploitation. This is false. To quote from DxE's open letter to Whole Foods, one of the companies from whose suppliers we've rescued animals, "Whole Foods deceives the public by marketing as humane an inherently inhumane practice, raising animals for food." Since I wrote that sentence myself, I'm pretty damn sure I didn't mean that it was okay to keep holding animals as property and exploiting them as long as we treated them nicely. Nor does anyone else in DxE advocate anything less than ending the property status of animals, as stated on our FAQ page (Q: What do you mean by animal liberation? A: "...We mean an end to the property status of animals...")

Similarly, Animal Liberation Victoria advocates nothing less than a complete end to animal exploitation: "What sets Animal Liberation Victoria apart from the majority of other animal organisations is that we will never support calls for bigger cages or more ‘humane’ killing, we are fighting to end violence against animals, not regulate it. We believe that all sentient beings, regardless of species, have the right to be treated as independent entities, and not as the property of others. Animals are not ours."

If activists have legitimate, evidence-based criticisms of other activists' work, fine. But denigrating the work of others who want to abolish animal exploitation just as much as you do based on figments of your imagination is not okay.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Why This Socialist is Voting for Bernie Sanders

I’m not the most likely of Bernie Sanders supporters. I haven’t voted for a Democratic Presidential candidate in a general election since 1992. I voted for Ralph Nader in 1996, 2000, and 2004 and Green Party candidates Cynthia McKinney and Jill Stein in the next two elections. I ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate myself in 2002. The Democratic Party has long been described by some socialists as the “graveyard of social movements,” and I’ve seen evidence consistent with that description in my lifetime. The last progressive Democratic campaign to achieve major success in the primaries, the 1988 Jesse Jackson campaign, had no lasting impact. In 2004 I watched a powerful antiwar movement vanish before my eyes as far too many activists threw their energy behind the Presidential campaign of John Kerry, who supported the very wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that they were struggling against. For me, the Democratic Party has long been, and still is, the Tweedledee to the Republican Party’s Tweedledum, a party with important differences from the Republicans but ultimately subservient to the same corporate masters.

I was quite excited when Bernie, the first self-proclaimed socialist to be elected to Congress in decades—and one who pulled off the rare feat of being elected as an Independent—came to Washington in 1990 and challenged the bipartisan consensus to do corporations’ bidding from the get-go. Not only was Sanders literally standing right behind Hillary Clinton in that now-famous photo of Clinton giving a policy speech about health care, he was out in front of her and most Democrats on health care policy itself, and many other issues, back then and ever since.

My enthusiasm didn’t last. I wasn’t so thrilled with his decision to back the proposed Sierra Blanca nuclear waste dump in 1998, the bombing of Kosovo in 1999, the Afghanistan war in 2001, military aid to Israel, and one after another bloated military budget. And as an animal rights advocate, I was not exactly overjoyed to learn of Sanders’ strong support for Vermont’s dairy industry and animal agribusiness generally—support reciprocated by Ben and Jerry’s founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, who recently personally served a flavor of their ice cream named after Senator Sanders to his supporters. Though he has always held office as an independent, Sanders often acts like a loyal Democrat, voting with the party majority 98% of the time and often supporting Democrats’ electoral campaigns. In 2004, he said of pro-war Presidential nominee John Kerry: “Not only am I going to vote for John Kerry, I am going to run around this country and do everything I can to dissuade people from voting for Ralph Nader… I am going to do everything I can, while I have differences with John Kerry, to make sure that he is elected.” Meanwhile, I was enthusiastically introducing Mr. Nader to an audience at his campaign stop here in Bloomington, and urging them to vote for him.

In light of all this, when Senator Sanders announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination a year ago, I was not brimming with excitement. Having seen one after another progressive run for President within the Democratic party—McGovern in 1972, Jackson in the ‘80s, Kucinich in 2004 and 2008—ultimately accomplish nothing in terms of advancing a left political agenda, I expected much the same from Sanders’ candidacy. I wasted no time informing all my friends who expressed enthusiasm about his candidacy of the aforementioned less-than-progressive policy choices. I pointed out that since he advocated a welfare-state version of capitalism rather than public control of productive assets, he wasn’t a “real socialist.” And I told them I didn’t see how a candidate who announced right from the get-go that he was going to endorse whoever the Democratic nominee was (presumably Clinton) if it wasn’t him, thus keeping progressives stuck in the trap of “lesser evilism,” could meaningfully advance a progressive agenda. Many on the left shared my assessment. Black Agenda Report’s Bruce Dixon said that Sanders was “sheepdogging for Hillary and the Democrats.” Socialist Worker editorialized about “the problem with Bernie Sanders,” opining that because it was taking place within the confines of the corporate-backed Democratic Party, his candidacy was a dead end for progressive politics.

What a difference a year makes. Nobody, not even Sanders himself, imagined that his campaign would take off like a rocket ship, vaulting from single digits in the polls to a statistical dead heat with Hillary Clinton. Nobody imagined that Sanders would achieve virtual rock star status, speaking to overflow crowds often numbering in the tens of thousands, often waiting in line for hours to see him, in cities all across the country. And so I—a socialist for most of my adult life who subscribed fully to the “revered first commandment” of the US radical left that “thou shalt not support, endorse, or even smile at a Democrat” (as William Kaufman of Counterpunch recently put it)—did the unimaginable. I smiled. Finally, messages that I have been shouting into the wind for 30 years—that every wealthy nation on earth has better and cheaper health care than the US, that paying full-time workers less than a living wage is a criminal state of affairs, that everyone should have the opportunity to attend college without being saddled with debt, that our country was ruled by a corrupt and filthy rich elite hell-bent on destroying the middle class to further enrich themselves, and that the corporate media, part of that elite, actively censored such messages—are reaching a mass audience. And just as Ralph Nader did 16 years ago, Sanders has slammed not just the Republicans but many Democrats as well, including his opponent, as beholden to that same elite—but unlike Nader, he has been able to bring that message to the masses to a historically unprecedented extent.

Most importantly—and without precedent among Democratic Presidential candidates—Sanders has hammered home the message that achieving social progress is not a matter of getting the “right” politicians elected. As he puts it, "This is not about Bernie Sanders. You can have the best president in the history of the world but that person will not be able to address the problems that we face unless there is a mass movement, a political revolution in this country. Right now the only pieces of legislation that get to the floor of the House and Senate are sanctioned by big money, Wall Street, the pharmaceutical companies. The only way we win and transform America is when millions of people stand up as you’re doing today and say 'Enough is enough.’” History repeatedly suggests not only that Senator Sanders’ words are true, but that we don’t even need to elect him or someone like him to achieve many of the reforms he advocates. Women’s suffrage was made the law of the land by male politicians elected by male voters. New Deal reforms were enacted by a President who came into office as a political moderate from a wealthy family. The civil rights legislation of the ‘60s was signed into law by Lyndon Johnson, widely known as a racist who liberally used the n-word. Richard Nixon, a conservative Republican, founded the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. None of these changes would have happened without mass movements in the streets pushing for them. Thanks to Senator Sanders, the vitally important idea of the power and importance of mass movements has impacted the political consciousness of millions of Americans. Of course, that level of consciousness is still a ways away from understanding that capitalism needs to be overthrown altogether for social justice to be achieved, but it is a major first step.

Am I “feeling the Bern” yet? Not exactly. Although I am voting for him today in my state’s primary and wish he could somehow overcome the long odds against winning the Democratic nomination and become President, my criticisms of Bernie’s politics and record still stand. I remain a principled opponent of war and big military budgets, of US military aid to Israel, and of the notion that animals can be exploited or killed humanely, and I will not stop speaking out about those or other political disagreements I have with him. For me, socialism is not a welfare state version of capitalism where economic life is governed by a less-wealthy elite, but a society where grassroots democracy extends to all realms of life including the governance of the economy. And much as I am thankful that the success of his campaign--which, it must be acknowledged, would not have been possible had he not run as a Democrat--has allowed him to articulate the ideas that he and I share to an unprecedentedly large audience--and, as a byproduct, to expose the corruption of the Democratic Party's primary process--I still believe that for the changes we seek to happen, social movements must act independently from the Democratic Party and maintain that independence during election season, in part by forming a viable third party. But the political revolution of which he speaks can only start with mass awareness of the issues at stake, and his campaign has made an important contribution to making that happen. The rest is up to us.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

To Answer Your Question, Gary...

The day after Wayne Hsiung and Gary Francione debated July 26 on Bob Linden's Go Vegan Radio show, Gary posed a question to activists associated with Direct Action Everywhere (DxE):

“A serious question for supporters of Direct Action Everywhere (DxE): Wayne Hsiung acknowledged last night on Go Vegan Radio with Bob Linden that people don't have to be vegan to participate in DxE 'activism.'

So let me see if I have this right: a non-vegan can participate in a DxE action and go into Chipotle's and chant, 'It's not food, it's violence' to other non-vegans.

Can someone explain this to me? What's the difference between the DxE non-vegan and the non-vegan Chipotle customer, other than the former is wearing a coordinated t-shirt with a DxE logo?”

Yes, Gary, although it is rare for non-vegans to participate in our protests, non-vegans are allowed to participate in our demonstrations, just as they are allowed to participate in most other animal liberation protests. As I'm sure you are aware, having participated yourself in animal liberation protests in the past, it is not as though the “vegan police” are standing at a gate checking people's “V-cards.”

Should there be such vegan policing at our protests? The general consensus among DxE activists is that this would not be productive. Although not formally incorporated into our organizing principles, informally we follow an open model of organizing. That is, in all that we do, we default to inclusiveness—to supporting, encouraging, and welcoming other activists even if they are not yet fully on board with everything we believe and do. An example of this is that we allow people to join our protests if they are not yet vegan.

Yes, Gary, there is a huge difference between someone who has begun to take to heart such ideas as that harming animals is wrong and that animals are not ours to use sufficiently that they are willing to take a public stand in favor of these ideas and, often, have already expressed serious interest in going vegan, and someone who has not had that sort of epiphany, even if neither one is yet vegan. And research suggests that when people are put in situations that call attention to hypocrisy on their part—to a discrepancy between their professed beliefs and some of their actions—that they are very likely to act to eliminate that inconsistency. In this case, that would mean that, having publicly expressed a commitment to DxE's view that animals are not our property or our slaves, they are not likely to continue treating animals as if they were for long.

Scott, who joined our protest in Bloomington, Indiana a couple of months ago, is a great example of such a person. Scott was a student in my Introductory Psychology class last spring. In my Intro. Psych. classes I show a video about attitudes toward animals and discuss animal rights in the context of showing how attitudes toward animals are arbitrary and culturally shaped. Scott immediately seemed to “get it” and expressed an intention both to go vegan and to come to one of our DxE protests and see what it was like. A couple of weeks later at our May Day of Action, we protested at Chipotle and at Chik Fil A. Scott came to our pre-protest meeting, and told us that although he still intended to go vegan, he was not there yet, and said that if we didn't think it was appropriate for him to participate, he would understand. We told him that, as he knew, he needed to go vegan in order to live consistently with his newfound value that animals should not be treated as our property, but we were fine with him participating, and so he did. Not only did he participate, but he also spoke at Chik Fil A. I have no doubt that he will stick with his commitments to be vegan and continue being a voice for animal liberation. Other core activists in DxE have reported similar stories of non-vegans joining their protests and becoming vegan soon thereafter. There have even been cases of spectators at our protests joining us, and often also expressing an intention to go vegan, on the spot. And there have been other cases where non-vegans who have joined our protests have gone on to become not only vegan, but core organizers.

Now that I've answered your question, I have a couple of questions for you, Gary. First, how can you continue to claim that Wayne Hsiung or DxE are “hostile to veganism” after it has been made so abundantly clear to you by Wayne and others in DxE that this is not the case? In his debate with you, Wayne said that “I just want to emphasize...that DxE, and I, believe in veganism. We believe in veganism fully, our house is a vegan house, and at many of our demonstrations we talk about veganism extensively.” Later, he followed that up by saying that “Every single one of our core organizers is vegan, it is a requirement to be a core member of DxE we make it absolutely clear that we believe in total animal liberation, which includes but is not exhaustive of the idea that animals should not be ours to use,” and that “All of us [in DxE] agree that veganism is a necessary condition to achieving animal liberation.” In a blog post the following day, Wayne also pointed out that he and many other core DxE organizers (myself included) refuse to even eat with others who are consuming animal products.

We often talk to people about going vegan at our protests, as Rama Ganesan does in this video in which she successfully convinces a vegetarian to go vegan. We also do literature tabling and many other forms of vegan/animal liberation education aside from our protests, such as my weekly Farmer's Market table. Some of us even sing about going vegan. It's true that often we don't tell people to “go vegan” at protests—just as you didn't in an interview with CNN a few months ago. When we chatted back in May on Bob Linden's show, we agreed that in the brief time you had you got the point across that animals should not be our property and that no use of animals was necessary, which is indisputably a message implicitly advocating veganism. Similarly, at every single one of our protests, we get that same point across, whether or not we use any v-words, with chants and speeches that make clear that animals are not ours to use, such as “Their bodies, not ours; their milk, not ours; their eggs, not ours; their lives, not ours.”

The second question I had for you is: What is the basis of your claim that Wayne and DxE are “new welfarist,” that we support animal welfare reform campaigns and organizations such as PETA, Mercy For Animals, Compassion Over Killing, or Farm Sanctuary who engage in them? What welfare reform campaigns do you think we support, Gary? You have never named any of them. Wayne explicitly rejected the new welfarist point of view when he was on Bob's show with you: “...the reality is that we are not working with Peter Singer, we are not working with Bruce Friedrich, we are challenging them. I agree completely that welfarism makes people complacent, that there is no evidence that it leads to real improvements for animals in the short or long term...But the difference between you and me, Gary, is I challenge people publicly but I also am willing to engage in dialogue because I think these people can change.”

There is a huge difference between being willing to engage in dialogue with Bruce Friedrich, Ingrid Newkirk, and other leaders of the large animal advocacy organizations and agreeing with or adopting their approach, or being uncritical of them and their organizations. Wayne, I, and many other DxE activists have been publicly critical of the approaches and tactics of these organizations. More broadly, in all of our activism, we make clear that we do not support welfarist tactics but, rather, directly advocate an end to all animal exploitation and killing. That is made abundantly clear in numerous blog posts as well as on our Frequently Asked Questions page. We have made many detailed critiques of the inadequacies of a new welfarist approach, such as those here, here, and here. Common chants at DxE protests include “Someone, not something!”; “Their eggs, not ours! Their milk, not ours! Their bodies, not ours! Their lives, not ours!”; “Humane killing is a lie; animals do not want to die!”; and, of course, “It's not food, it's violence!” (the “it” being the animal products served in the establishments we protest). Indeed, the entire basis of our “It's Not Food, It's Violence” campaign, and the reason why it has targeted Chipotle and Whole Foods more than any other establishments, is our belief that there is no such thing as humane animal agriculture. Our objective is not to focus on alleviating "animal cruelty" or asking for "more humane" methods of exploitation, but to demand an end to animal exploitation and killing altogether. The objective of building an animal rights movement powerful enough to bring down the system of animal slavery mandates that all of us willing to make that unequivocal demand collaborate with each other. It is not served by attacking and misrepresenting those who are doing the same.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Time For Vegans to Get Off The Fence: PETA is a Disaster for Animal Advocacy!

Some vegans say that PETA has done a mixture of both good and bad things in their work as an animal advocacy organization, and so they have neutral or mixed feelings toward them. But whether a neutral attitude toward an entity that does both good and bad things is appropriate depends on how bad the bad things are. If they're sufficiently bad then a neutral attitude isn't really appropriate. So if someone helps old ladies across the street, donates to charities, volunteers at the soup kitchen...but they rape their mom, then no one would take a neutral attitude toward that person; their bad action has "crossed the line," so to speak.

And such is the case with PETA. Yeah, you can find promotion of veganism (mixed with a hell of a lot of welfarism and promotion of less-than-veganism) on their website, yeah they've made some good videos, yeah Ingrid Newkirk has written that there's no such thing as humanely raised and slaughtered meat, addition to their sexist advertising and their welfarist campaigns and positions, PETA has killed healthy, adoptable animals, lots of them. It's not just inconsistent with their name (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), it's absolutely inexcusable, and anyone associated with PETA who has been involved with this ought to go to jail just as Michael Vick did. It's puzzling why they would do this. Part of the answer can be found here: Warning: This article contains pics of some of the healthy, adoptable animals PETA has killed. In addition, it contains a postcard from Ingrid Newkirk to Nathan Winograd (a leader of the no-kill shelter movement) stating that PETA does not believe that nonhuman animals have a right to life! This stunning admission ironically puts PETA, thought to be an animal rights organization, squarely on the opposite side of the "right to life" issue from the majority of Americans, at least insofar as animals considered "pets" are concerned.

All in all, the attitude PETA takes toward animals can only be described as speciesist. Not speciesist in the same way that most people are, as they don't make the same illogical distinction between "food" animals and "pets," but speciesist nonetheless. How else can we explain things like their giving an award to Temple Grandin for designing "more humane" slaughterhouses or their campaign to get KFC Canada to switch from suppliers that slit chickens' throats to suppliers that gas chickens to death instead, and their praise for KFC when they did so? Can you imagine a supposed human rights organization giving an award to Himmler for coming up with the bright idea of gassing Jews and other Holocaust victims instead of shooting them? And can you imagine our reaction if an organization supposedly devoted to the welfare of children advocated rounding up homeless children and "euthanizing" them? Because that's what PETA advocates, and engages in, for stray cats:

In short, the bad so far outweighs the good in PETA's case that not only does PETA not deserve either financial or rhetorical support from any genuine animal rights advocate, but our movement (and animals) would be far better off if they ceased to exist altogether.