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Posts Tagged ‘animal rights’

Just a brief note to share, this was actually my response to an email from a friend who expressed some pride at how his congeniality resulted in a positive relation with a young stranger. Just one problem. Part of what enamoured him to the other man was an innocent and jovial imitation of another race… something of a racial “joke” if you will. I attempted to convey the enormous implications of making such a thing *commonplace* in our day to day lives:

“One of the reasons your remarks resonate with young(er) people is because racism, like sexism and all other forms of discrimination, are pervasive among many young people. They get passed on as easily as from one generational slip of the tongue to the next.
I hate to rain on your parade, because I absolutely know you don’t *mean* these impressions with hate, but just hear me out. For the victim, it’s always there whether overt or buried in the background. The vast majority of us are guilty of slurs, no matter how innocently they are intended. Since I awoke to Abolitionism, I’ve found myself trying to make the connection for people in comments and posts on threads on Twitter and Facebook because it relates directly to the speciesist discrimination we inflict on nonhuman animals. It’s this speciesist discrimination that enables and perpetuates their violent exploitation and consumption. And so it is with human on human violence as well.
If you ever start to read up on Abolitionist animal rights (Professor Francione’s books and website I’ve referred you to) you will find the message relating to nonviolence and justice and respect. It applies to all sentient beings—nonhumans and humans alike. I have now become very aware of the many ways we are taught to discriminate and thus exploit and I’m much more conscious of it today. Even a saying like, “I killed two birds with one stone” as an example, that we use to innocently describe the efficient execution of chores, carries with it an extremely violent history. Violence is pervasive in our lives. And so I encourage others to rid themselves of the same conditioning and behaviour in their own lives.
The more you think about justice and respect and nonviolence in your daily life, the more likely you will be to understand why Veganism is not just a diet. It’s a rejection of violence (including “violent speak”) and exploitation in how we think and act, in everything we do.
I hope you read this in the constructive spirit in which it is meant, instead of being offended and getting needlessly defensive.”
For those who are currently not Vegan, I hope this note sheds a positive perspective on the subject. Always consider the victim’s point of view. It is always horrific. Being Vegan is easy.

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I read the Manifesto of The Netherlands’ Party for the Animals recently. Marianne Thieme’s election victory last year, I think, was certainly exciting. And I do think it is crucial to change Governments’ behaviour toward nonhumans. But what really changed? I am skeptical about the value and effectiveness of an Animal/Environmental political party that does not clearly and unequivocally promote the rejection of *all* use of any sentient being—human or nonhuman. Unfortunately, change will not come as long as voter thinking does not change. And I am convinced voter thinking will not change without widespread grassroots Vegan educational efforts. As an example, just look at the membership rolls of any large animal advocacy organization or those who vote for any Green Party candidate. The sad truth is, I suspect, very few are actually Vegan. Voters need to hear a clear and unequivocal message that rejects the use of sentient beings. In order to get elected, if a “Green” political party must water down the animal use plank in their platform so much as to assure animals will continue to be enslaved or without any mention whatsoever, then for what change do they stand? For as long as we continue to use and exploit other species, we will *without question* continue to use and exploit each other.

I have several particular objections to the approaches of Animal/Environment parties—even my Green Party of Canada, whose platform seems entirely devoted to human interests. It’s all well and good to appeal to the public to give more consideration to the “interests of animals.” The most glaring failure in the Netherlands manifesto is to have confused this message with distinctly Welfarist language like “if we deem their use as necessary” or to “use sustainably.” As Professor Gary L. Francione has argued so eloquently, the one “right” that urgently needs to be accorded to nonhumans is the right not to be *property*. This simple right addresses the injustice of the commodification of sentient beings and all the misery that goes with it. At the same time, a Vegan moral view eliminates their use to the greatest possible degree.

As with almost all animal advocacy and “environmental” organizations, the Party for Animals suggests that some use might be acceptable if the user gives a greater degree of acknowledgement of the nonhuman’s “interests”. This is an extremely contradictory message to the one of “respect” since to use anyone requires a rejection of their interests.

In the Welfarist – Abolitionist debate, all Welfarist precepts come down on the side of ‘use is permissible’. That’s what 200+ years of Welfare regulations have been about. Welfare laws have *only* resulted in increasing the efficiency of our use. They’ve done nothing to release nonhumans from our domination. The key to understanding Abolition is to recognize that use—any use—must be rejected. Use *can be* rejected. It’s as easy as going Vegan. The crucial detail which the vast majority of organizations fail to recognize is that Veganism is a primary moral obligation of us all. And that requires Vegan education. And only a Vegan electorate will bring change to Government.

Thank you for considering my observations.

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I was raised an omnivore. When I went Vegetarian I, like most other Vegetarians I observe today, thought I was “doing my part” to help animals – lots more than anyone else I knew. I figured I don’t eat meat anymore, I’m making a real statement! But without a second thought I continued to eat eggs, not too often though. They’re very high in cholesterol – not very healthy, right?. And I loved pizza with cheese. I knew it was loaded with saturated fat but hey, it tasted so good. Once in a while can’t be all that bad eh? I went happily about my life wearing leather shoes and using products made with and routinely tested on animals in horrific ways. I was raised ignorant and I continued to be blissfully ignorant. But my conscience was clear. Now, I was helping animals because I didn’t eat them. I was saving animal lives! It made me feel kinda good.

Well during that whole period I knew no other Vegetarians. I was not an animal rights activist by any stretch of the imagination. My initial motivations after all, probably had more to do with reducing saturated fat in my diet than any real awareness of the ethical issues. And without the internet, I had no familiarity with the horrors associated with eggs or dairy or the products made with them and so “understandably” I really didn’t give morality a second thought.

But then I came into contact with someone who said they were Vegan. I’d never heard the term before. A decent seeming person, though their grilling of waiters or waitresses over whether their meals had eggs or dairy in them appeared a little excessive at the time. And I remember their non-leather shoes were not particularly fashionable and though they didn’t have a problem with foot odour, I always imagined their shoes were hot and sweaty because only leather could “breathe”, right? (Of course today, there are all kinds of fashionable, breathable, non-leather products available to consumers.) But my most vivid recollection of this person’s Veganism was that to me and others, they were very subdued about it. Maybe they just didn’t want to “push too hard” or come off as “preachy”. But there was never any discussion about animal exploitation or cruelty or whether animals can feel pain, or shifting paradigms… nothing. They probably had never heard the term “Abolition”. Coincidentally, I do recall they made donations to a group called People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. I thought that was probably good of them to support an organization that was looking out for animals’ welfare because surely no one should be going around hurting cats or dogs, right? I mean they’re so cute! [Of course I now suspect this person was probably lulled into that false sense of security that Peta and other Welfarist orgs are so good at dishing up to their supporters in their almost endless stream of direct mailed, funding raising literature – “Send us money – for this or that cause of the month – and we’ll make sure animals aren’t abused”.]

And so went my (Vegetarian) ignorance… for another 10 years! No one helped me to understand that much like my Omnivore lifestyle, my Vegetarianism was still responsible for phenomenal pain and suffering. Or that in fact egg and dairy production involves even more prolonged suffering than that associated with the eating of meat alone! It would be another 10 long years until my light bulb moment and the flood of personal research that followed quickly, the details of which are irrelevant to my point here. That point being, if someone… anyone!… had the courage of conviction to speak to me more illustratively, more passionately about Veganism and especially about its relative Abolitionist theory I feel sure, knowing what I have learned up to today, that I would have embraced Veganism and Abolitionism much, much sooner! And the double benefit is I would probably have passed on that knowledge and influence to many others in the interim.

And so, I see it somewhat differently than some “quiet” Vegans. I don’t think flattery, forgiving, or tolerance has anything to do with a Vegan message. I do feel Vegetarians, like anyone else including nonhuman animals by the way, deserve respect! But since I have lived the life of an uninformed, disconnected Vegetarian, I feel the most urgent and important duty of a Vegan is to inform… politely, yes, but clearly and consistently inform. We do ALL animals a grave injustice when, given any reasonable opportunity, we do not at least make sure a Vegetarian is fully informed about how much more they could be doing to eliminate animal suffering… and how easy it is. We are not here to force anyone to walk in our foot steps. We should be here to beat down the path whenever and wherever we can.

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The term Vegetarian by its popular & commonly accepted meaning is one who does not eat meat, but who also does not avoid dairy & eggs.

People who become Vegetarian do so for their own reasons, which may include health and/or ethical reasons. Each of these reasons are severely problematic for one who is Vegetarian. One would be hard pressed to find anyone in modern medicine or the alternative health community who does not agree eggs and dairy consumption are related to a whole host of disease. And since it is a fact that billions of nonhuman animals continue to suffer producing eggs and dairy, there is no ethical justification to be Vegetarian. A lack of clear understanding, therefore, still exists for Vegetarians.

It is my strongly held opinion now, since embracing the Vegan ethic, that if one truly feels animal exploitation is wrong (and unhealthy), they should NOT EVER suggest that being Vegetarian is a morally acceptable behaviour nor “a good step”.

Bottom line: It is up to the individual to make the decisions that affect their behaviour. The best I, or anyone else, can do as a Vegan is present the facts and encourage Veganism as the right behaviour. It would go against my entire belief system (which is basically the Vegan ethic), to do anything otherwise.

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