Thursday, October 30, 2008

Omnivore Outreach

I was recently reintroduced to a Vegan Outreach article the group touts called ‘How Vegan?’ by Matt Ball.

VO (Vegan Outreach) is very troublesome, in my opinion. They purport to promote veganism, but fail utterly to acknowledge where veganism even comes from (which seems ridiculous for an organization labeling themselves as such to do.) A search on their website for Donald Watson, who coined the term and defined veganism yields zero results on the date of this publication.

Of course, to recognize Donald Watson, or the Vegan Society would be a further step towards admitting that what they’re advocating isn’t actually veganism.

It’s very clear from VO literature that they’re all about suffering. We must do what we can to reduce animal suffering, even if it means eating or using the animals themselves (as suggested in the article I reference above.)

Imagine if I were to say that to better combat sexism, we should occasionally behave in a sexist manner in order attract more people to the cause.

The fallacy of this is evident, yet VO thoughtlessly makes this specious claim when dealing with veganism (or speciesism).

Isn’t this actually an argument against veganism? That it’s such an unimportant cause that we can at times participate in the system we supposedly oppose, in order to appear more acceptable to the general public? Must we put ourselves down and demean our own activism in this way?

This is patently wrong, just as how VO defines veganism, as some systematic approach to reducing animal suffering. Veganism has virtually nothing to do with suffering. Watson was keen, and the definition of vegan does not mention suffering at all. It is very explicit that animal exploitation is what is to be of concern to vegans. And this is a radical way to deal with the issue: exploitation is the root, and it is the cause of this suffering. To try and combat suffering is to respond to a symptom, but ignore or bypass entirely what’s causing the symptoms…and in all likelihood will only allow the illness to fester.

VO would likely define veganism as a diet. To me, this would be akin to defining feminism as ‘equal pay’. It totally strips away the rich and progressive views that are imbued in feminism -- and veganism.

More thoughtful activists would describe veganism as a lifestyle, but this still misses key points. To me, and others who have spent time reading what Watson wrote, it’s very evident that veganism is most accurately described as a philosophy. It is an outlook or perspective that seeks to actively oppose the exploitation of animals (including humans).

To ignore this is to ignore why veganism was brought about in the first place.  Watson was well aware that even in 1944 vegetarianism was becoming vague. There were vegetarians who ate animal products (dairy, eggs), which undoubtedly led to the deaths of the animals being used, not to mention that the exploitative mentality was also very present.

Vegetarianism was fundamentally veganism, but this message was being eroded away in order to make it more popular or acceptable. So, Watson envisioned a more consistent and progressive movement, and coined the term ‘vegan’ to label this outlook.

Today as you’ve probably already concluded, veganism faces this exact same problem. Instead of being a vivid and clear message against exploitation, it’s been dumbed-down to a diet – and in VO’s terms, not even a consistent one (as they try to include non-vegan things like honey as being vegan).

Sadly, very few ‘vegan’ groups have any idea where veganism came from, let alone the deep and important message that is trying to be conveyed. (I’ve seen that some even believe that VO or PETA came up with veganism!!)

It seems to me that Vegan Outreach is really Omnivore Outreach, as they seem entirely fixated on farm animals, and how they’re treated and should be treated. And at the end of the day, they’re missing entirely the scope that veganism covers, from the wide array of other animal products such as leather and fur, to free-living animals (who are the ones benefiting from a vegan human society.)

There is so much more to vegan advocacy, and for them to have ‘vegan’ in their name, and this degree of ignorance and divorce from the term itself is nothing less than shameful.

It’s time vegans consider more deeply what this movement is about, and recognize that we’re a part of a serious and important social movement, and by thinking and acting this way, we’ll eventually be accepted as such. I, for one, want to be recognized for more than being an advocate of a ‘diet’. That isn’t veganism.

(Note: I don’t mean to put Watson on a pedestal, hero worship is something I oppose strongly, however he is a handy reference point, and deserves credit for the vision and social movement he initiated.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Veganism and Religion

There are a few groups out there that try to tie vegetarianism (or sometimes a vegan diet) and religion together, but i'm not sure that it can be very effective..after all, these same books also justify exploiting animals and perhaps play a big role in why animals are treated so poorly. After all, if they don't have souls, and don't go to heaven, and there's no punishment for having your way with them, why not..?

Sure, select animals are spared depending on the religion (Jews and pigs, Hindus and cows), but with the near-exception of Jainism (which is also problematic, but at the other extreme, where they won't euthanize a terminal animal as an example), none of them lay down a comprehensive vegan message.

Here's a recent item from a Canadian outlet that motivated this entry:
TORONTO — It is impossible to eat meat without violence. An animal,
after all, has to be killed before it can be con­sumed. And that means
Jessica Smith, a Hindu, doesn't eat meat.

"It has to do with the Hindu belief in non-violence," the 32-year-old
Toronto resident says. "And reincarnation."
In fact, it's an impulse as an­cient as most faiths. The Hebrew Bible,
known as the Old Testament to Chris­tians and considered a holy book
in Islam, for instance, in­structs man to care for creation —
including animals.

So it is not surprising that animal welfare groups are drawing a
connection between religious teachings and animal rights.
full story:

Friday, October 3, 2008

Irish Group Says No to PETA

I came across this inspiring posting on an Anti-PETA group on Facebook. I'm simply going to reproduce it in its entirety:

Misrepresenting Animal Rights: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA).

Although Irish organisations and individuals have sought to care for nonhuman animals for many years, animal rights advocacy ~informed by rights-based theory~ is a very recent development in Ireland. Grassroots animal rights advocates in Ireland intend to defend animal rights from the threat of neo-welfarism.

The Literary and Historical Society at UCD are hosting a debate next Wednesday (24th) entitled "The Animal Rights Debate", featuring Mr. Bruce Friedrich of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA). We believe that Mr. Friedrich will be contacting the media in Ireland to publicise this event and PeTA in general. He will characterise himself as an animal rights advocate even though he and his employers reject and marginalise animal rights theory.

We, the grassroots animal advocates of Ireland, we who take rights, animal rights, and animal rights philosophy seriously, are furious about PeTA's distortion of animal rights, and we want no part in it. PeTA is not an animal rights group even though it claims to be (it claims to be the largest AR organisation in the world). This is misleading: PeTA do not promote animal rights beyond using the term as a rhetorical label and they purposely act against animal rights philosophy.

PeTA are inspired and influenced by animal welfare ethicist Peter Singer (author of the famous non-rights text, Animal Liberation).[1]

PeTA promotes NO animal rights philosophy on their web sites, eg:

"Animal Rights" to PeTA is just a slogan – they are not interested in the philosophy of animals rights and they never promote or mention AR philosophers such as Gary Francione [] and Tom Regan [ animalrights/about.html].

Instead, they deliberately misname Singer as an animal rights advocate (see "why Animal Rights?" / – the 'learn more' tag links to Animal Liberation, a utilitarian text by a leading utilitarian philosopher. Animal rights is based on deontological ethics).

Laura Broxson, spokesperson of Dublin-based National Animal Rights Association, said: "We are just beginning to make a mark for animal rights in Ireland. The last thing we need is for people to believe that PeTA's childish stunts [2] and sexist campaigning [3] have anything to do with genuine animal rights campaigning. PeTA cheapen and trivialise animal rights. The message from Ireland: we don't want PeTA's silliness".

Speaking about NARA's philosophy, Laura Broxson said: "We say clearly and openly on our web site that we are opposed to rights violations. Animal rights is more than reducing suffering. It is a vegan position on human-animal relations that says we humans should not use nonhuman animals but respect them as a matter of justice. We at NARA feel we are making headway with our rights-based campaigns and the Irish public are beginning to understand that animal rightists believe that nonhuman animals are rights bearers who rights are frequently and routinely violated. We also would never engage in sexist campaigning like PeTA do".

Asked to comment, Dr. Roger Yates, sociologist and social movement theorist at UCD, said: "It probably would be a serious blow to rights advocates in Ireland if PeTA muddy the waters here with their rhetorical version of animals rights. From the perspective of effective advocacy, it seems logical that it is best for animal rights to be represented by those genuinely committed to rights-based philosophies about human-nonhuman relations. I doubt that Irish animal rights advocates will think that gassing millions of chickens, PeTA's latest 'victory' in Canada in partnership with KFC, has anything to do with animal rights. It is far from certain that such initiatives have much to do even with animal welfare".

"There has been a long standing belief within the animal protection community, at least among animal advocates in the USA and Britain, that animal rights and animal welfare are compatible ideas about the use and treatment of other animals. However, there is growing evidence supporting the contention that traditional animal welfarism and its newer formulations ('new welfarism' - represented by organisations such as PeTA) are antithetical to the aspirations of animal rights advocates", he added.

Laura Broxson, spokesperson for NARA – 086 8729 444
Roger Yates (UCD)
– 01 716 8586 [mobile 0863912018]

[1] Ingrid Newkirk, president of PeTA, endorsed Peter Singer's 2006 collection, In Defense of Animals: The second wave (Blackwell), thus: 'Peter Singer's writings changed my life. I have waited for this book a long time, a quarter of a century in fact...'
[2] 2008/09/here_comes_the.php
[3] 6a00c2251f31f3f21900cd970fc4d0 4cd5.html

PETA-Style Animal Rights -- Kill the Rabbits in Kelowna!

Welcome to my new blog. Let's get on with it!

From a story here, about the rabbit killings in Kelowna, BC (Canada). Kristian DeJournett, PETA cruelty case worker is quoted as saying:
"[...]we understand that sometimes animals do have to be euthanized"
This is typical rhetoric from PETA. They bob their heads and idiotically refer to themselves as an 'animal rights' group.

What kind of rights are they advocating? The right for these animals to be killed by humans?

Activists in the area are working desperately to stop the killing of these rabbits. (I've emailed one group in the area, who tells me that PETA contacted NO ONE there. They just write up their media release, and send it out without making any contact. Nice. This isn't at all uncommon either, PETA is infamous for just stomping into areas blindly and doing whatever it is they want to do with little consideration for the local activist community.)

And here is PETA, completely undermining the efforts of these activists, and worst of all: JUSTIFYING the killing of these rabbits!!

And to call it 'euthanasia'? Look it up -- you cannot euthanize a healthy animal. It is an act reserved for the terminally ill. The rabbits were getting along fine. PETA is advocating the KILLING these rabbits, if one wants to utilize accurate vernacular. Someone ought to write to PETA and get them to brush up on their reading comprehension skills.

All the best to the groups in Kelowna who are working to save these rabbits..