Oct 31, 2008

Thoughts on the Animal Exploitation Tree

After reading "Picking the Low-Hanging Fruit": What is Wrong with Single Issue Campaigns? Posted by Dan at UnPopular Vegan Essays I'd like to respond with this: Dan, I agree that SIC actually promote speciesism. Seals trump caged mink, puppy mills trump hog houses and equines trump bovines. You're also correct in your analysis of how SIC raises (and wastes) precious funds that should be used to advocate veganism. Energy that could be used to promote abolitionism. I appreciate your analogy of "the animal exploitation tree". Huge investments are tied into welfare "campaigns" and "propositions", just to net a bigger piece of paper for chickens to stand on. One could build a career (or an empire) crusading for a few more inches every few years, couldn't they? And now that you know I'm aware of the evils of "low hanging fruit"... Of "compromise". That I too am frustrated (and angry) that we aren't (all) striking at the obvious and critical "root". That we (all) aren't using "creative and intelligent ways to get our (vegan) message across". That animal exploitation might continue to infinity. That they (the animals to whom we are kin) - are forever destined to abuse... to pain and suffering. It is seeing this possibility that makes their plight ever more urgent - and makes most of our efforts seem that much more inadequate. We are silenced by their moral apathy... by their pragmatism. It really stinks when those who profess to be champions for animals are the very ones that delay their liberties... Your outrage is heard - and echoed. But for my own sanity... and the "practicality" of the matter - I try to ignore the "campaigns" and "propositions", and their hollow "victories". I think animal abuse (and "ownership") is so pervasive in our culture that it will take all efforts coming from every direction imaginable to create "change". Sadly, there will be much time and many resources wasted on the way. I've come to recognize that they (who pick the low fruit), may be necessary (and unavoidable) increments to change. In my perfect world - All injustices would be now be axed till the jungle of exploitation was leveled. But in reality, I must allow others to "prune" what they will... This picking of low-hanging fruit, and pruning will provide clear access (someday) to the essential root... BTW I discovered "factory farms"/"veganism" through a PETA site. I hardly knew what "PETA" was, but was directed there by a friend when I mentioned "circus tickets". I never knew about any of it - the animal abuse... the caged pigs, chickens and calves... My friend was (and is still) an omnivore. She had sympathy for the elephant, but not the cow (?). This illustrates the all too common speciesist, "moral coma" you brilliantly coined. Most do not want their "privileges" challenged. Others, decide differently. Patience...


unpopular vegan essays said...

Thank you for your response to my essay, Bea.

In reply to what you’ve said here, I want to point out the importance of distinguishing what is necessary, i.e. what *must be* the case, from what *merely is* the case.

As for welfarists (both new and traditional), it may merely be the case that they will stubbornly cling to welfarism and single-issue nonsense, and that SICs (without veganism front and center) will, as a matter of mere fact, go on for decades or even centuries, but to say this view and behavior is “necessary” for change is incorrect.

In fact, what really is *necessary* for change is precisely for this kind of postponement attitude of welfarists and single-issue campaigners to stop. Until we get over the idea that abolition is something that future generations will deal with, we will go nowhere. Until we get over the idea that welfarism and SICs (without veganism front and center) do anything positive whatsoever for an abolition movement, we will go nowhere.

I fully agree with you on ignoring welfarism and SICs, except for to the extent that we need to know what nonsense is going on so we can criticize it properly.

As a very small minority, it is only in constantly and forcefully pointing out the folly of welfarism and SICs (without veganism front and center) that abolitionists will make any difference at all. Saying that welfarism is a “necessary evil” is to plainly agree with the welfarists. Welfarism is certainly an evil, but it is not necessary, any more than dairy and egg consumption is necessary.

Bea Elliott said...

Good call Dan - Guilty of the erroneous cop-out of "necessary evil" - caught me in a defeatest mode... It's an insult to you and me... but most of all - to the animals. The time to do the right thing is always "now" and not in "degrees" that "wefarism" promotes. The more we accept these "welfarist" measures the longer animals will stay in peril... The "fighter" in me understands all this.

But as a strategist, I can't help think that all great change has come about with reluctance and by incremental change. As frustrating as this is I see how even during human slavery opposing states, one by one, began to re-consider their stand. And laws were gradually changed... For example, certain laws that prohibited beating a slave (in public) became laws that banned beatings (even in private) on Sundays... These laws are horrible to discuss because we see them now as the foot-dragging compromises that they were. But wasn't it these changes (the only ones society would accept at the time) the same laws that kept issues alive till enough momentum was gathered to enter into civil war and (eventually) prohibit slavery completely?

Maybe the (loudest) voice animals have (for now) lies in the large organizations that pander to the "feel-good" requirements of their contributors and supporters? Maybe the "low-hanging fruit" sustains a cause just enough to advance it toward a future tipping point?

As lame as the "humane slaughter act" is - aren't vegans now in a better position to move forward because at least there is the "recognition" of the need for "humaness"? That at least there is the acknowledgement of
the possibility that animals (may) suffer? I'm not intending to play
devil's advocate here... I really do dispise "compromise" and have an unquenchable thirst for animal liberation NOW... But at the same time, I realize it will be a long fought "war" with many foi gras and battery-cage "efforts" along the way to it's hopeful end. I just don't know of any change or any wars that have been won without tiny battles and small "victories" en route. Do you?

I'm told by other vegans that if someone makes an effort to eliminate animals from their diet (even one day a week) I should be supportive and offer praise for
those efforts. I do see the point. If I'm critical (and demand too much too soon) I'll alienate them completely. If it's correct on a one-to-one level why would this not be correct on a larger scale that involves eventual massive social change?

Even as vegans - we are there in "degrees"... Most of us still drive cars, own computers and homes that are made from animal parts... In order to live (practically), it is unavoidable.

And one final point - if veganism is the only acceptable message - why is it that so many vegans arrive via exposure to factory farms? Most became aware of animal suffering (and the ethical alternative) not through being told immediately to "stop consuming animals" but rather were eased into new thinking by seeing a "degree" of animal suffering on factory farms. Some ignore the cruelty totally, some opt for "happy meat" and still others decide the only ethically consistent course is veganism. In any case... most of the time it was exposure to a "degree" of animal suffering that got them to change - usually not the immediate exposure of the wrongness in using/killing the animals in the first place. In the end, doesn't welfarism (like factory farms) just "get their attention"? Short of insane or demeaning "PETA" antics, isn't this at least a start to get people to think? Welfarism, and low-hanging fruit isn't a "necessary evil", man "could" change without the increments. But human nature also drags it's feet to reform social injustice. Maybe in this respect welfarism isn't a "necessary evil" but rather an inevitable one?

unpopular vegan essays said...


I don’t think much about the future regarding animals, and here’s why. First, I cannot predict the future, especially the future 10 or 30 years from now, so even if I did think about it, I couldn’t rely on my projections very much (and neither can anybody else).

Second, we can think of the best case and worst case scenarios for animals. The best case is that veganism and abolition catches on and it cascades into a mild, nonviolent vegan revolution; within 20 years we have a “critical mass” of vegans making up about 30% of society’s population; and in 40 or 50 years major political battles are being fought in the mainstream on the legality of killing animals at all. The worst case is the status quo continuing with only insignificant welfare measures being passed during the next 50 to 100 years and veganism and abolition eventually completely fading out as a topic, even among animal advocates.

What actually happens will likely be somewhere between these best and worst case scenarios. Knowing that we cannot predict where along the continuum of these scenarios reality might fall, how should we advocate? Should we just accept the worst case scenario and forget about vegan education, focusing instead on the welfare measures of the worst case scenario? Or should we *do what we can* to create the conditions, even if they never ultimately come about, that are necessary for the best case scenario? And if we should do what we can to create favorable conditions, shouldn’t that be to engage in vegan education right now as much as possible?

Third, even if I was almost certain that the worst case scenario was inevitable, I would still, out of pure principle alone, advocate for what is *right*, and NOT for what is wrong, but likely to happen. In fact, given the tenacity of so many new welfarists to cling to welfarism and SICs, I sometimes do advocate assuming the worst case scenario out of pure principle.

It may happen that things go a certain way in the future. The certain way may include endless and meaningless welfare changes. But that is not my concern. My concern is solely with advocating what is right and doing that now, and what is right is not welfarism or hacking at the leaves and branches. We can psychologically brace ourselves for a very dim future, but we should always advocate as if our advocacy was exactly what will make a world of difference. We should always advocate with the end in mind, which means advocating as if we really believe in the end ourselves (which I do wholeheartedly), which means advocating FOR the end we seek. We should always advocate for the right thing to do. Period.

Bea Elliott said...

Thanks Dan - you actually did answer a lot of questions for me. Or at least reaffirmed what I already knew - "The time to do the right thing is always NOW".

I like your vision of the progress that could possibly be made in 20 or so years. Promoting veganism, front and center is what will hopefully get us to that future -

Thanks again for your clear-headed thinking... and for all you do for the animals.
Go Vegan.

unpopular vegan essays said...

Thank you, Bea.