Aug 26, 2009

One Track Animal Rights Advocacy - BUS - ted!

Because there is some division amongst activists concerning the usefulness (or hindrance) of direct action to animal rights efforts, Gary Francione released a podcast on The Abolitionist Approach stating his views on the matter: That in essence "we" the consumers create the "demand" so who should action be directed against? At about 6:15 of the podcast he asks "How are the institutional abusers any more culpable than the people creating the demand?" And my contention is that this "demand" is being manipulated by government agencies through tax dollars. It is not people "demanding" but rather government manipulating reality. 

I recently co-authored on this Camille Marino blog: Negotiation's Over - Go Vegan - Or Die This piece was written to challenge the belief that the single approach of "demand" will eventually influence animal rights. My contribution was focused on the economic truth that this "demand" approach will never be effective as long as tax dollars are used to support animal industries. Not included in this piece is a reference I give here - That indeed there is a lack of "demand" for animal products. And here is a more recent example (not cited) that feedlots are on a downward trend as well. And all this should be good news for our cause however, lobbyists buy favors and the government subsidizes these industries via the U.S. "feeding programs". So demand is a toothless and unworthy single approach strategy. At about 8:55 in the podcast GF says that, of course animal users are going to promote what they do, and that the industries are going to tell us we have to eat meat to be healthy, even though it's a lie... "SO WHAT"? The "SO WHAT?" is the responsibility such institutions have, (especially since they are partially funded by us), to put aside profits for the sake of the public good which relies on honesty to make purchases according to the facts they are given. Dare I point out the tobacco industry that showed cigarette smoking doctors advertising their products? Violations of TRUST which encourage people to consume based on that knowledge is deceit in it's greediest form... There is a responsibility to be truthful about the products you are selling - Where is the rage of the violation of this trust? Or did it get lost in the 'So What' of it all?

And while it's true people can question anything they choose, but with mainstream media being the mouthpiece for corporate greed, how is anyone to know that there is even anything to question? And here is where advocacy holds it's most important role and nothing can replace this valuable tool. We must continue to make everyone aware of the misconceptions and fallacies regarding our use of animals. This advocacy is our most important asset.

But to say that no direct action can ever be justified, totally removes another useful tool. And it is one that, if done correctly - goes totally unnoticed by the public. There are no negative consequences to the movement as most trivial "direct actions" go unreported. These industries stand more to loose under a spotlight, than what it's worth for them in the exposure of their practices. They are the bad guys and have more to hide from the public than not. And so some direct actions do hinder animal users by causing financial and operating inconveniences. And as Mr. Francione says at 21:00: That every dollar, every second that we spend on something, is less that we spend on something else. And surely this must apply to institutional abusers as well? And here as in everything, of course are "lines" - And each action should be cautiously measured as to not do more harm than good in promoting veganism and abolitionism. They of course should be "non-violent" acts - As one cannot be "violent" to a chair, or shoe or any other non-living "thing". The best of these acts in my mind is open rescue, as they immediately save lives. Open rescue, if noted at all in the news, is generally not viewed in a harsh light. There is cultural meaning to saving lives. Recall the occasional animal which escapes slaughter. He is generally cheered by the community who then also rallies to home the animal in a sanctuary as a "reward" for it's "will to live". One story about an "escaped" animal can generate a massive amount of community involvement and awareness that slaughterhouses actually even do exist. And that animals actually are sent there to be killed. Also, if one can make hunting more inconvenient and remain anonymous odds are that these acts will not be viewed as negative either, as most people do not approve of hunting and 95% of the people don't participate at all. And in the case of rodeos, some have made it "illegal" to film any of their torturous events - If you can get footage to expose their doings - I'd say that's a positive action as well. So these are just a few examples of instances that cannot be dismissed as ineffective, meaningless or even detrimental to animal rights.

How does the saying go? That one must pick their fight? Not all direct action is wrong. Even the Dalai Lama supports the efforts of Captain Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd crew. And back to "demand" - I think the movement as a whole, completely missing the mark by not addressing the economic handouts doled to these industries. Although PCRM does have a campaign to encourage healthy school lunches, little is being voiced about the stolen billions that go to supporting "cheap" meat, dairy and eggs in grocery stores. I think more advocates should reveal this theft to the meat-eating public. When we hear an outcry that "a vegan diet is too expensive" - We ought to educate them that it doesn't have to be, and that a healthy vegan diet can be thrifty. But we should also educate them that their money is being diverted through the collusion of government and industry.

I think too that if anyone wants to propel the movement they should get political in their community and state governments. On a grassroots level, vet your candidates to know where they stand on animal rights issues! Better yet, run for these offices yourselves! If we are advocating to work within the system for change - Representation is critical. Finally, I can not help but admit that not all "welfare" campaigns are totally meaningless either. Some do raise awareness, and some do cause animal industries monetary consequence... Again, if the principle holds true that everything you do means your not doing something else, surely this is the case for industries that must commit dollars, time and energy to fend off legislation? It was a welfarist site that got me and hundreds of people to go vegan - Certain endeavors do have cultural significance. And with critical thinking they lead to an abolitionist point of view. For me, it is necessary to judge each action on an individual basis. I know of no other way to remain objective...

And if animal rights were simply a matter of educating people about "rights" we would never have to adjust our arguments according to other issues that might persuade a person to listen and learn. If "rights" were the only message - we would not keep ourselves diversified with information regarding health, sustainability, the environment, world hunger, etc. The truth is... and we all know it - we need every advantage that we can claim. I believe the obstacles are too numerous to just depend on a single facet strategy. Aren't we suppose to advocate doctrines of inclusion? If some choose to veer beyond the restrictive "party line", is their advocacy to be criticized because it does not coincide with "ours"? I have no problem with those who focus mainly on the difficult and endless activity of spreading words and ideas... I also have no issue with those who adopt other methods within the scope of "non violence". Nor do I judge all welfare measures across the board as all ineffectual or "damaging" to abolitionist goals. To do any of the above would be as silly and as elitist as activism directed only towards one's ethnic group, or activism directed only towards one religious belief, or only one age bracket, or gender, etc....

This movement is going to require all the messages given in every possible way. And some at times, may include non-violent direct action... I can live with that, because from where I stand there aren't masses beating down the door to join this mission for animal rights. And I will be darned if I shun those who risk personal freedoms to strategically place little bits of sand in the animal killing machine of which I am fighting against. As I see it... Animal Rights as a destination has many buses traveling on that road... We can either all ride the same bus and tolerate each other's methods of advocacy; or we can waste precious resources by turning away fellow advocates because their efforts just don't reflect our exact view. Meanwhile we each are idle,   awaiting "our" bus to fill: 

 If we are asking the world for a more inclusive view to Others - why is it we don't expect the same from our own movement?


Ana said...

Great post! You should get it published someday. Save it!

Roger Yates said...


I don't understand your contribution to Go Vegan Or Die. The economic case you make does not, I think, do what you think it does. For example, in one of your links, - read the second comment from harleydecal. Of course governments will prop up ~massive~ industries (note the smaller ones go to the wall first) whenever they can but they can only do that if they get no ~substantial~ negative response from doing so. If the numbers of ethical vegans rise, each of which has a vote, politicians will begin to pay a price for supporting these industries.

Secondly, you are citing sources that speak of very recent developments. If the trend was year on year for many years, as it would be given a rise in ethical veganism, these industries would be forced to respond to the market and could no longer rely on being bailed out by taxpayers.

best wishes,

Bea Elliott said...

Hi Roger - The comment by harleydecal gives me hope. Yes, change will be possible through electing better representation... And we should inform everybody, vegan or not, that tax dollars are funding the dirtiest deals. And the dollars we think we're "voting" with are going to support the very institutions that contradict our values.

The way we spend our money should align with our beliefs accordingly. I feel very strongly that this is a liberty, cunningly being denied. "Demand" shouldn't be manipulated by by favors or "cheating".

I know that this requires putting honest people in office.

But thus far, we haven't. These corruptions have been going on for decades. The Farm Bill, lax labor enforcement, lowered (or nonexistence) EPA standards, land grants, etc. all allow animal industries to operate outside the reality of "market demand" --- These are not "recent developments" by any means.

What I'm looking for is transparency - I think people would make better choices, if they had more truth. And exposing a deceitful political system is just as important as disclosing the greedy animal industries. Challenging the political/economic structure is just another layer of (my) advocacy. Demand of products alone won't make a difference. We must "demand" responsible government as well.

I think we both see what the problems are... Government merely reflects what the culture accepts. Yes, addressing these false perceptions and electing honest leaders is the way to a repair...

Thanks for the exchange. BTW - I enjoyed the podcast & am anxious to hear the next. :)

Bea Elliott said...

Hi Ana... I actually like what you had to say about tactics and strategies as well. Trying to remain objective - And not throw out the baby with the bath water... Alienating anyone leaning to "my side" is the last thing I want to do! :)