Jul 26, 2011

Vegans Judged 5 Star In Compassion Rating System

For those who may have missed it here is A four-part video presentation and companion essay by James LaVeck titled Let's Not Give Up Before We Even Get Started
What the British anti-slavery movement can teach animal advocates about overcoming the politics of pessimism

In this essay the historical perspective of social struggle is examined.  It's used as a reference to compare today's "compromise" with advocates of "humane" meat to efforts of slave owners who warped language and used other cultural conditioners to maintain acceptance.  Nothing illustrates this shift more than Whole Food's deceptive 5 point animal "welfare" system.  And this essay exposes the con for what it is... 

I think LaVeck's words and powerful ideas stand on their own merit - But I would like to take this opportunity to interject a little project I've been working on regarding the notion of eating animals "compassionately".  

Whole Food's standards on the surface seem to successfully convince some consumers that their flesh choices are honest and pure... It involves human"e" 3rd party auditors and "experts" that define what would make a meal gotten from spilling blood tolerable to one's "sensitive" conscience.  Of course these steps to a "clean" conscience come with a price tag... And one can spend just a few minutes in front of a Save-A-Lot chain to see where and how most meat clients shop. This insures that WholeFoods will maintain their elitist brand of "compassion".

Even so, their 5 tier "kindness" system deserves a closer look.  If one were to imagine two shoppers at a register - One with a high rated #5 welfare chicken carcass among the top honored to be killed, and the other customer with a bird who's "value" scores only a 1 or 2.  What oh what are we to think of her?!?  Is she not "as kind" as the other?  Couldn't she have done without the $12 jar of imported pomegranate jam to compensate for the taking of this poor, poor chicken's life in a more friendly way?  I know it's absurd - but stay with me please...

Doesn't this WholeFoods 5 tier welfare standard also attempt to reflect consumer kindness or lack thereof?  And if so... If we could have visual models defining "conscientiousness",  might they not look something like this?

Let's say there was a 
And if the legend could show that red was reserved for those who would be genocidal maniacs...
Then dark green would symbolize those who'd never take a life unless absolutely necessary. That bar would be raised to uphold vegan standards.

This could even be illustrated with the good old fashioned grade-school "gold-star" system:
Now somewhere in between those who have total disregard for life... And those who champion to save lives, are those who would use war as offense, war as defense, pleasure killers - like hunters or hit men.  There would also be people who in their considerations would privilege humans exclusively to that "life right".   And others... Who would not condone taking any life unless it was under the extreme urgency of survival to do so.  Yep again.  That would be the 5 star vegans!

Now, I'm not judging anyone harshly without some reasonable position to make these claims.  Killing without necessity is never kind!  Besides... I'm not WholeFoods putting levels of "value" or price tags on other's lives, and then assigning some type of false "conscientiousness" rating to it.

So does it make any sense for a society to encourage anything less than the highest criteria?  Shouldn't our culture be demanding the most elevated standards to live by? Shouldn't we be encouraging non-violent, inclusive kindness to all beings - Rather than making pitiful excuses to permit the middle of the road compromises?  More importantly... If you are not vegan - Shouldn't you expect this from yourself?  And if not - Why not??? 

In truth... There is no "5 star" prize for being vegan.  It is the very minimum one can do to lead a compassionate life... No bravery required.  You don't have to be an ALF liberator or an "animal rights" activist.  The very minimum of true kindness mandates someone who doesn't want to take anyone's life, for any reason.  And in my book... Buying 5 star "compassionately" slaughtered animals in Whole Foods fails that test miserably. 

Please do not buy into the humane myth.  No being, no matter how happily he or she is killed wants to die.  You already know those rules... Please live by them.


Harry said...

Hi Bea

Yes, Yes and YES again. 'It is the very minimum one can do to lead a compassionate life ...' It is as simple as your beautiful charts show. One cannot be anywhere near the top end as long as one continues to eat, wear, race, experiment on or just generally inflict the most horrific hurt on our fellow VERY sentient beings. Whether that be through direct action or indirectly through choices made.

It is common for omnivores - particularly 'conscious' omnivores - to complain that we do not understand how they too are being kind to animals. But how, just how can they possibly be doing that? Omnivore does, after all, come from the latin 'devour all'. What a true description.

Said and illustrated so simply, this gets noted as one of my favourite posts.

CQ said...

Like Harry, I rate this as one of my "favourite" (even favorite!) posts by Bea! The concepts and clever charts that support them are beyond BRILLIANT, Bea!

By the way, welcome back to the world of blog-writing; you were missed, sorely.

Putting hunters and hit men in the same league is perfect, because they are identical in their self-centeredness. One targets nonhumans, the other humans. Same sociopathic mentality. Same dirty deed. (One could argue there's a difference between sport hunting and survival hunting, but you made the distinction clear elsewhere.)

And, Harry, I usually love to pick apart words, but I hadn't yet gotten 'round to realizing that omni-vore means "to devour all." And, as we know, carni-vore means "to devour flesh." Both, when applied to humans, makes them sound like vultures. But that demeans the bird, who performs a valuable service on earth (see http://www.care2.com/causes/environment/blog/vultures-are-worth-saving).

One more thing: the Seneca quote cited above this comment box is well suited to this blog: "Extremism in the cause of compassion is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit ... of justice is no virtue."

It reminds me of another Seneca gem, which was referenced on the VINE Sanctuary blog recently, and which applies to Whole Foods' "inhuman(e)" five-star rating system: "It is not goodness to be better than the worst."

Bea Elliott said...

Hi Harry - I know these are very simple illustrations but the only way I could show my thoughts on the distinctions between viciousness and virtue. Sadly, most stop somewhere in between the two and use that as a standard of morality. And as you expressed as well - This is a total FAIL as it should only be the starting point. We have such a way to go don't we?

It's an eye opener to know "devour all". The large part of the population (for now) follows that command gleefully... Glad to be working/hoping with you to change all that! ;)

Bea Elliott said...

Thanks CQ - I'm glad my copy/paste abilities weren't hampered - It allowed me to at least keep up with some correspondance. I will remember it as my "ditto" week. ;)

Sports hunters and survival hunters for sure have a distinction - As do people who would war in offense and those only in defense. As I worked on this I saw the gradiations even within each catagory. But even in shades of grey... There comes a point where much grey is seen as black - And little seen as white. I know my culture and the times are beginning to remove nonhumans from that "grey" uncertain area - And figuratively into the "light". The good. The kind, the harmious and the just... And as they should - There's just no need to harm them at all. (I know you ditto that!)

From omnivore to carnivore and here I make it all the worse by this: "Technically speaking, humans are not carnivorous hominids. Humans fall into the necrovore category which means the eating of dead flesh. Humans do not kill their meat so much as they scavenge it. Even hunters do not kill and eat the hot living flesh of their victims. They wait for the meat to get cold and to begin the putrification process before consumption." Paul Watson has a point... :/

"It is not goodness to be better than the worst." Yes! I like that a lot! A gem for sure! Thanks :)

Have Gone Vegan said...

Hi Bea!

Well, I kinda feel like I should separate this comment as I love your charts, but wasn't too impressed by James LaVeck's article.

So first, in my eyes you're a 5-star vegan and your charts rock! May we all achieve the dark green bar. :)

As for the article, first, I wish someone would teach James the value of being more succinct because it IS possible to make your points without having to use a million words. Second, I always think you have to be careful when using the slavery analogy because unfortunately there are more slaves today (an estimated 27 million worldwide in 1999!*) than ever, so slavery is certainly not abolished by any means. Third, while I don't think there's any such thing as humane slaughter, I DO believe there are better and more compassionate methods, and frankly, until the world inches towards the mythical one James believes exists, I don't have a problem with trying to improve treatment. And why why why is it always either/or? I'm so sick of that. We can fight for ending use AND improve treatment while we're doing it. Fourth, James has done too much bashing of other vegans and organizations like Farm Sanctuary for me to give too much credence to what he says. Even the first two paragraphs made me want to give up reading the essay before I even got started (ironic I thought given the article's title) as I felt it was a twisted view of what's going on. While I'm not saying there's no merit in anything he says, I find it hard to trust a person who would have us believe that certain organizations are no longer concerned about animal use.

So I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on this. Cuz we're still vegan buds, right? :)

* from A Crime So Monstrous: Face -To-Face with Modern-Day Slavery by E. Benjamin Skinner

Bea Elliott said...

Hi Have Gone Vegan - Great that you can appreciate the message in my simple (childish?) charts... I am glad though that there are others who fill in the blanks with the million words that I can't/didn't do.

I know you left comments about strategy elsewhere here and on Harry's A Gentle Place blog - So rather than try to continue a conversation in the awkward comments format I hope we all talk more in upcoming posts.

For now, I understand your concerns with the slavery analogy that LaVeck uses... I can only defend it briefly here by reminding myself that the *concept* of slavery has been abolished - At least in civilized worlds... Perhaps this understood idea is part of what happens in "reform" and then eventual acceptance and implementation? More on that later...

You are right - I don't like the exclusive either/or either... But I don't mind discussion about them. And unless we have the advocates of "extremes" where are we to find our own personal "middle ground"?

I did not agree 100% with everything LaVeck said - But I understand his intent was meant to inspire. And it's a starting point for further "tweaking", "compromise", and re-evaluations.

For now, I'll just re-state what I left in another comment... That I think there's plenty of room for everyone in this effort. I don't believe there is a one-size-fits-all answer.

Rest assured - there is common ground between LaVeck's oration on the commitment to liberty and my "basic star" rating system of "ethical" behavior.

And of course we're still buds! All the more because you're serious about ideas!

Animal Rights is a huge, huge book of issues and tactics... The odds of being all on the same page at the same time is slim - But it doesn't mean we all aren't reading towards the end chapter of "rights" in our own manner.

Hope that makes sense...
***** stars back at you!

Have Gone Vegan said...

Hi again Bea,

Absolutely it makes sense! And I think in part it's BECAUSE we as vegans are all ultimately working on the same goal that I sometimes get so frustrated as it illustrates the enormous task in convincing those whose goals are often the complete opposite of ours. Of course it doesn't help that I have a quick temper to boot, snort.

It probably did not come across in my comment that I didn't 100% DISAGREE with LaVeck (I mean, I'm certainly not saying yay, John Mackey, let's give him an award, for example), but I think what may get me riled up so quickly when I read certain articles is not always even the message as the attitude. I should probably expand upon this in a future post but I suspect that when someone writes in absolute terms and as if they know the answers and others don't, I automatically get annoyed because I feel like we don't even know all the right questions yet. That of course may be a personal preference (as is preferring brevity over wordiness and moderation over extremes), but veganism doesn't occur in a vacuum. We DO bring to it our own prejudices if you like, temperaments and baggage even. Anyway, before I use more words than I'd like, LOL, I so appreciate being in the same book (and more often than not on the same page) with you! :)

Bea Elliott said...

I agree with much of what you say Have Gone Vegan... Among fellow advocates it's easy to expect and understand that everyone "has gone vegan" for the same, mutual reason: We all wish to give nonhumans the respect we know they deserve. Ah, but speaking with carnists that language may just have to adapt to what they are willing to hear...

It's not my favorite way of communicating either - But I understand that there are those compelling speeches that are meant to inspire advocates... And there is the RW that looks at you like you've got two heads if you suggest not eating nonhumans. :/

The object is to get people engaged - Not enraged! I know that all activists have their own approach to what methods they see best...

As far as Mackey goes... I know we'll all have plenty of opportunities to set his false notion of a "rated welfare" system on a corrected course. And at least we all agree what that end should be! ;)