Sunday, January 17, 2010

Thoughts on Gary Francione’s HSUS Vegan Twitition

I'm going to carve a small chunk out of a Golden Calf of the animal rights world: Gary Francione. I'm already outside of his 'circle', so i'm not afraid to critique or challenge his ideas. Sadly, the reality is that if you want to remain on speaking terms with GF, you must also agree with him (at least to his face.) I know several people who have been ousted from GF's world (such as recently being blocked on Twitter) for uttering something as simple as 'i don't agree with all your ideas'. Whoops! No more GF Tweets for you!

I think it's funny that GF has a locked - aka hidden - Twitter account...despite the fact his followers re-tweet [repost] his every utterance. GF's Twitter account is here: - the message you're likely to get is: "This person has protected their tweets." Again: no Tweets for you too!

I suppose some of this is 2nd-hand knowledge, as i haven't bothered to request acceptance into the GF Twittersphere, but here's the Twitition, and it's apparently started by GF according to the page:

The text, presumably from GF, says: "The promotion of cage-free eggs and supposedly more "humane" forms of animal torture is wrong. We ask that HSUS use a small portion of its considerable resources to promote a clear, explicit, and unambiguous "Go Vegan" campaign."

On the surface this seems like a good idea, right? We want more campaigns for veganism, right?

I think this is a not-so-secret make-work project for GF, who apparently doesn't have enough to critique already. Allow me to explain:

In the Twitition statement, GF points out cage-free eggs and 'humane' animal products, two practices which HSUS supports and advocates for. True that. Hopefully this topic gets more discussion (which is perhaps a valid use for a model like an online petition, although I generally believe them to be useless..please tell me about an online petition that has resulted in some real change...)

HSUS also advocates killing healthy and adoptable cats and dogs in shelters (rather than ensuring they find homes.) They're also advocates (and founders?) of the 'Canadian Seafood Boycott', part of their Seal Hunt campaign. Apparently it's okay to leverage one animal species over another...not to mention that sea life from other country's waters are okay to consume. (And the term 'seafood' is offensive as well, implying that these animals are 'food'.)

These are just a few examples of the quality of 'animal advocacy' that HSUS perpetuates. It's really quite abysmal. And GF wants HSUS to begin a vegan campaign?! Considering how poorly HSUS represents other aspects of animal advocacy, does this make any sense?

Has any thought been given to how HSUS would represent veganism? All we have to do is take a look at their buddies over at PETA to predict how this would unfold.

One example is PETA's section of 'Accidently Vegan' food products. They highlight a significant proportion of junk foods that are 'accidently vegan' - almost all are from multi-national companies that profit from exploiting massive numbers of animals. And further, there's a footnote on the front page that indicates:

"*Items listed may contain trace amounts of animal-derived ingredients."

Gaaaah.. So items aren't necessarily vegan at all, but being offered as vegan fare.

There's no need to critique PETA further at this point (just scroll down to previous entries of my thoughts on PETA), but you can be assured that this type of listing would appear on an HSUS site, and offered as vegan food options. (For a further critique of PETA's list, check this blog:

If HSUS started this campaign, we would undoubtedly see them present veganism as an anti-factory-farming movement - not unlike Vegan[sic] Outreach. (When factory farms are gone, we can eat animal products again?)

It’s safe to say their campaign would see veganism reduced to a diet. And to assist in the 'transition', i would be willing to bet the left hemisphere of my brain that they would encourage lacto-ovo-vegans. No joke.

This is the quality of advocacy that we *know* we can expect from HSUS. This is no surprise. And already there are too many groups that misrepresent veganism, and degrade the meaning.

Why on earth would Gary Francione want to encourage yet ANOTHER group to join the ranks of those already mis-representing veganism?? There are too many doing this as it is! So very few promote veganism in a meaningful, honest way. And HSUS is anything but meaningful and honest when it comes to animal advocacy (check this piece about their requests for money to help animals in Haiti: ). I do NOT want to see them present their version of veganism...and it would be spread far and wide, considering their influence and money. This might actually be one of the WORST things that could befall veganism.

Is it possible for people 'unsign' from a Twitition? (I’m not going to sign it to find out!) At the posting of this, there were 618 people who signed it...

While GF has many good ideas, not all of them can be, or are. PETA and GF are similar in one respect: they both encourage us to question authority. Well, so long as it's not their authority.

If you do, PETA sends you a form letter. GF deletes you from Twitter, or sends his stooges after you. To disagree with GF can be a death sentence, so to speak.

If enough people speak up (yes, risking expulsion from his camp), perhaps GF will realize he makes mistakes, and will even be willing to admit as much. This would be better for activism and the movement. And if you're an activist, it's time to activate. Tell GF this is a bad idea, that HSUS would only misrepresent veganism, and that the petition should be shut down immediately.

Discussion, as always, is welcome.


My name came up in a Google Alert on Francione's blog, the text from the message is:
On Johnny Weir, Single-Issue Campaigns, Treatment, and ...
By Gary L. Francione
Perhaps that explains why FoA's David Shishkoff was opposing the “Go Vegan” approach that I urged HSUS to adopt. FoA tries to distance itself from HSUS and has done so historically. As I mentioned in the earlier essay, I have extended ...
Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach -
Yet, the actual blog entry, as of 9am PST on Feb 1st is:
Perhaps that explains why FoA was opposing the “Go Vegan” approach that I urged HSUS to adopt. FoA may have been trying to avoid becoming “HSUS lite” [...]
Has FoA been vocal on this issue? Any references there Gary, or when you type something we're expected to take it at face value? In case it isn't clear from the lack of my mention of FoA, this blog is my own independent project. When i comment on behalf of Friends of Animals, i'll sign my name with my FoA credentials (which i clearly haven't done here.)
Further, why did GF edit his blog and not post that corrections or updates were made? In other words, it could change from day-to-day, and no one would ever know. He can implicate someone, make accusations, and then simply edit it out once confronted..or make false claims, then simply pretend they never existed. Oddly, he's made the wrong edit here, and should be challenging me directly, not Friends of Animals, who's opinion on the issue i'm unaware of - although i would suspect it parallels my own.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Explosions and Animal Rights

Today i read something that really upset me.

I co-run an email list called AR-News. Its intention is to distribute animal rights-related news stories. It's been around for two decades, and i've been at the helm since around 2001.

Earlier today was a posting that was a 'media release' to the North American Animal Liberation Press Office, describing an event in Mexico that used two incendiary devices.

Thankfully, no humans were injured, but i cannot say if the resulting blast or concussion spared any other animals that may have been in the immediate area: insects, lizards, birds, rodents...even a passing cat or dog..?

I feel i summed up my thoughts well in my ADMIN NOTE that follows. Read both here:

How is it that an action that hurts other animals can be considered 'animal rights', or tolerated by vegans?

Further, i wonder what culpability comes from me running an email list that distributes (and could be viewed as advocates) this type of behaviour?

I spoke out against it, i hope it's clear that i am opposed to this type of action, and nearly every form of 'militant' action i can conceive. Further, i hope other activists take the time to speak out against this. Silence does not help our case, and i believe it's important that we make the distinction that this is clearly not 'animal rights' or 'vegan', and that these actions are something vegans and animal advocates disapprove of.

Peas out..

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Vegan Take on Meatless Mondays

Across the US, Canada and elsewhere, we're finding websites promoting 'Meatless Mondays'. One example from my country:

This blog entry, as usual, is a critique of vegans (and animal rights activists) participating in non-vegan activities. That is to say, i'm not criticising *all* who promote MM, although i believe a number of the points i bring up apply to others who promote MM (such as environmentalists - more on that below.) I really don't see a point to it from any perspective i can think of, but my imagination has its limits.

If today is Meatless Monday, what's tomorrow, Bloody Tuesday? Meatless Monday's follow the Sunday Slaughter? And in fact Monday will be just as bloody, if eggs or dairy are included. MM is definitely not a 'vegan' message from any angle. It isn't encouraging the end of animal exploitation. Nor is it promoting vegetarianism. I don't really know *what* the message is supposed to be. If there is enough of a reason to be meatless on a Monday, shouldn't it be good enough to be meatless every day?

This response can be repeated from nearly every angle. Why is it only good for the environment to eat no meat on only one day of the week? Wouldn't it be seven times better for the environment to give up meat every day of the week? (That seems significant to me.)

Or if it's being argued because people care about animals.. Why is Monday the only day of respite from breeding, imprisoning and then murdering an intelligent, sensitive creature? If it's worth giving up one day a week, why not all seven?

Perhaps even more troubling is that these efforts fail to ensure that 'less meat' is being consumed! Consider: are people who participate in MM actually buying less meat? Is there any evidence for this? Or do they buy the same amount, but compensate over the rest of the week by eating more over six days?

As an example, if someone normally buys a pack of lunchmeat for their pig-flesh sandwiches every day at work, will they carry the 'extra' over to the following Tuesday, or do they just eat the 'extra' over the rest of the week? (Or are there special, smaller 'Meatless Monday' packs from meat companies? HA!! If you don't find that funny, think about it for a moment.)

There's a very good case to be made that this is actually doing NOTHING - not even what the weakest-willed advocates hope for. What's worse, what if other animal products are being consumed to compensate for the lack of meat (since people are brainwashed into believing that they HAVE to eat animal protein)? If people are eating more eggs and dairy on these days, i don't believe that there is really any net gain (for whatever cause that is promoting this.)

Back to reasons for doing this, like for the environment. Why is a cow or bull who is used for their flesh 'worse' for the environment than a cow who is used for her milk? If this is being done for environmental reasons, the hypocrisy is evident: cow dairy is as harmful as cow flesh. The same can be said of chicken flesh and chicken eggs.

`Give up meat for Monday!` is well-meaning, but like `Give up war for Monday!` Peace is an everyday concept. - Lee Hall, aka @VeganMeans on Twitter

If you think that MM is good for animals, think again.. I feel like i'm getting repetitive, but the exact same issues come up as with the environment. Animals used for their excretions (cows for dairy, chickens for eggs) end up slaughtered for their flesh in the end as well...after spending several years as biological machinery. Their lives are not enviable, and no better than the animals used for their meat.

Meatless Mondays result in a false sense of accomplishment from their participants. In doing little-to-nothing (when looking at the bigger picture, and factoring in that they may not be eating less meat at all), they are rewarded, and feel entitled to joining the ranks of those of us who have made meaningful and serious commitments and sacrifices through changes in our lives.

Perhaps they are beginning to join vegans in spirit, but in all honesty that is not enough. Real change is needed. According to the World Watch Institute, 51% of all greenhouse emissions are from animal agriculture. To give that perspective, all cars, trains, planes and boats, the ENTIRE transportation sector, would amount to perhaps 7% of total emissions. The impact is tremendous, and the report is here: - it's a worthwhile read.

Instead of Meatless Mondays, these activists should be promoting meaningful efforts. Encourage more vegan meals. Start with getting participants to eat vegan breakfasts. These are easy, with cereal, oatmeal, toast, fruits and other common foods. This is a meaningful, positive change. And it's getting people to actually think the way they need to: that meals need to be *vegan*. Not 'meatless'. From there, encourage working up to lunches, and dinners. By preparing vegan meals, they're actually practicing veganism, and being mindful of real change.

If veganism is our goal (and nearly all who promote Meatless Monday would say this is the case), then we NEED to ask for veganism. Not 'Meatless Mondays', and then sitting on our laurels and hoping that they'll progress from there. Weak-willed, apologetic campaigns have dominated the world of animal activism for the last century, and relatively little has changed (well, if anything, people are generally eating MORE animal products, and actually feeling better about how 'humane' it is.)

I know numerous people who have been vegetarians for years and DECADES, yet still haven't gone vegan (although they claim it is their 'goal'.) The evidence is clear: asking people to go vegetarian generally results in vegetarians, not vegans. The type of activism that results in vegans needs to be vegan from the get-go. And Meatless Mondays is an even weaker degree of activism than vegetarianism. We need to stop watering down the message, and stepping further backwards. It's not working.

In summation: let's stop doing activism that doesn't work.

(Note: i can be found here on The Twitter. ;)