Monthly Archives: January 2010

Victor Schonfeld: “The Five Fatal Flaws of Animal Activism”

Dear Colleagues:

In 1981, Victor Schonfeld did the influential The Animals Film, narrated by Julie Christie. The Animals Film was the first film to document the ways in which humans treated nonhumans. For many of us who saw it back then (I being one), the film burned images deeply into our minds and helped to motivate the then-emerging animal rights movement.

Schonfeld recently returned to do a two-part BBC World Service program, One Planet: Animals and Us, in which he asked the question whether we have made any progress? Is our relationship with nonhumans still as exploitative as it was back in 1982? In the first segment, he explored our use of animals for food, focusing on factory farming. In the second segment, he focused on vivisection. At the conclusion of the second segment, he expressed concern that not a great deal of progress had been made and he included the call for veganism to become “the moral baseline” of the animal rights movement.

The BBC World Service is the most widely-listened to radio program in the world. It is exciting veganism was discussed on the program. If you have not listened to both portions of Animals and Us, please do so. I do not agree with everything that Schonfeld says, but he did a terrific job given the complexity of the issues and the short period of time that he had.

In today’s Guardian (U.K.), Schonfeld published an essay, Five fatal flaws of animal activism. The tagline:

From tacky nude posters to dubious concepts such as ‘happy meat’, animal rights groups are losing the fight for real change.

Schonfeld states that his examination of the contemporary scene in making Animals and Us

made vivid that the organised group efforts on behalf of animals have been largely fruitless to date, in terms of the end goals, and campaigns for small changes are quite possibly counterproductive. The organised activism is sorely in need of fresh perspectives.

He identified five particular problems: (1) the failure of the animal movement to reach out to become connected with other progressive social causes; (2) the use of sexism supposedly to promote animal rights; (3) the partnership that has, in effect, developed between the large animal organizations and institutional exploiters; (4) the promotion of “happy” meat and animal products; and (5) the general lack of strategy.

Schonfeld ends his essay:

Animal activists have not been asking themselves the difficult questions, and organisational self-promotion stunts substitute for the less glamorous work of figuring out how to help each of us change the way we live. Much noise, little change. Perhaps it’s time to reverse that.

I end this essay with three thoughts:

First, Schonfeld is probably already being bombarded by the large animal welfare organizations and their followers who are criticizing him for daring to criticize the tactics of the large groups. We all know that to express any disagreement with the tactics of the large groups, or even to request debate about those tactics, is to invite recrimination and accusations of being “divisive” and “not caring about the animals.” Drop Schonfeld a line at [email protected] to tell him that you appreciate that he had the courage to raise these issues.

Also, leave an intelligent comment on the Guardian site. Many of the comments presently posted are doing nothing to provoke debate and discussion.

Second, today, the day that Schonfeld’s essay appeared in the U.K., is Martin Luther King Day in the United States. Unfortunately, there is still a great deal of racism here and everywhere and today (and everyday), we should reflect on ways to better achieve equality in our world. To connect the ideas in Schonfeld’s essay with MLK day, ask yourself: would Martin Luther King have promoted a campaign, “I’d rather go naked than sit in the back of the bus?” No, of course not.

Third, remember: THE WORLD IS VEGAN! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

Commercializing THE WORLD IS VEGAN! If you want it.

Dear Colleagues:

It has come to my attention that some “animal people” are marketing t-shirts and other items with THE WORLD IS VEGAN! If you want it. They are also attaching our website. They are apparently making a profit doing so.

Please understand that neither I nor this site has anything to do with these efforts and we will not solicit or accept any money for promoting this idea of peace and nonviolence. The use of our URL on these products conveys the false impression that we endorse these products or that we have some connection with them. As we become aware of these situations, we are notifying suppliers.

The point of the virtual billboard campaign was to spread the idea of veganism and our ability to have a vegan world. The idea was not for some “animal people” to turn this into a commercial venture.

If you see any of these products being sold, please contact our site.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

Commentary #14: Analysis of Second Segment of “Animals and Us”

Dear Colleagues:

The second segment of the BBC’s One Planet: Animals and Us, hosted by Victor Schonfeld (who did the influential The Animals Film in 1982), focused on vivisection. Schonfeld ended the program by agreeing that the animal rights movement needs crystal clear guidelines and he explored veganism as a possible way to deal with the problem of animal exploitation.

The BBC World Service is the most widely-listened to radio program in the world. It is exciting that veganism was discussed on the program.

In this Commentary, sociology instructor Roger Yates and NZ Podcast Producer Elizabeth Collins will join me for a commentary on the second segment of “Animals and Us.”

We will also discuss Norm Phelps’ most recent endorsement of new welfarism.

THE WORLD IS VEGAN! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

Play

The Importance of Adoption; There are So Many Christines

Dear Colleagues:

Several weeks ago, we adopted Christine. She is a 9-year-old golden retriever who was surrendered at a local kill shelter by her human family, which “no longer had time for her.” She was adopted and then returned one day later by someone who said that she did not get along with the other dog in the household.

We adopted Christine because it is harder to place older dogs, particularly when they have been returned. She is an absolute joy and from the moment she entered our house, she has gotten along very well with our other dogs. She loves playing in the snow and she is slowly but surely getting over the confusion that necessarily occurs when you’re someplace for nine years and then you’re not there anymore. And she absolutely loves her vegan food! (But in fairness, she is a golden and would eat cardboard so we regard our more selective canines as better indicators of how much dogs like a good vegan meal.)

There are always nonhuman animals who need homes but given the current economic crisis, many people are losing their homes and many shelters are reaching or have reached capacity. There are so many sad stories out there.

Please, if you can adopt a homeless animal—a dog, cat, bird, mouse, fish—anyone who needs a home, do so. Adoption is an important form of activism; they’re in this mess because of us. The least that we can do is to take care of some of them.

And if you do adopt, remember that it may take some time and effort to get a new family member accustomed to and comfortable with her new family. Don’t give up if a new dog or cat has some difficulty adjusting. That’s normal. We have had a good many “problem” dogs over the years and we’ve always been able to solve the problem with love, patience, and understanding.

And one thing I can say with certainly: all of that love has been returned by our canine family many times over.

So please adopt if you can.

THE WORLD IS VEGAN! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

Newsweek: “Happy” Meat

Dear Colleagues:

Newsweek magazine has an article, No More Sacred Cows, the tagline of which is:

“Some longtime vegetarians are returning to meat, but only with sustainably raised, grass-fed livestock like these cows at Ghent, N.Y.’s Hawthorne Valley Farm.”

This is where the “happy” meat movement is leading. The animals are still being treated horribly and they all end their lives amidst the noise, stench, and terror of the slaughterhouse.

The primary difference is that humans feel more comfortable about consuming them.

THE WORLD IS VEGAN! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

Short Videos on Animal Rights, Rights vs. Welfare, Animals as Property

Dear Colleagues:

I get literally hundreds of emails weekly from people asking basic questions about animal rights, the difference between rights and welfare, and the implications of the property status of nonhumans on matters involving welfare regulation.

I try to answer as many of these questions as I can. It may, perhaps, be helpful if those who have such questions take a look at the brief videos that are available on this site on our video page. There are three videos that are particularly relevant to the questions I get: Theory of Animal Rights, Animals as Property, and Animal Rights vs. Animal Welfare. These are available in English, French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish. Theory of Animal Rights is also available in Japanese.

These videos were designed to be teaching tools to explain the basic ideas in a simple but not simplistic way.

There is also an FAQ section that is taken from my book, Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child or the Dog?, published in 2000 by Temple University Press.

Remember: if you are going to educate others, you need to educate yourself first! These videos and the FAQs are a great way to begin to become familiar with basic concepts in a way that will not overwhelm you or those whom you seek to educate!

THE WORLD IS VEGAN! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

BBC World Service Program “Animals and Us” Ends on a Vegan Note!

Dear Colleagues:

Although the second segment of the BBC’s One Planet: Animals and Us, hosted by Victor Schonfeld (who did the influential The Animals Film in 1982) focused on vivisection, he ended the program with the suggestion that veganism may be the way to deal with the problem of animal exploitation.

The BBC World Service is the most widely-listened to radio program in the world. It is exciting that veganism was discussed on the program.

I hope that Roger Yates and Elizabeth Collins will join me for another podcast analyzing Schonfeld’s program.

THE WORLD IS VEGAN! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione