In this Commentary, I have an extended discussion with two abolitionist vegan advocates, Jeff Perz and Renata Peters. Jeff and Renata live in Alice Springs, Australia, a remote and small city in central Australia dominated by the cattle industry and exactly the sort of place where you would think it impossible to generate enthusiasm about veganism.
But Renata and Jeff prove that anywhere can be the home of a vegan movement—if you want it!
Jeff is a Canadian; Renata is Australian. Together, these two vegans, who are also into non-violent communication, discuss with me how they became vegan, why they are abolitionists, and what they are doing in Alice Springs to educate people about veganism.
Renata and Jeff will show you that you do not need a large organization or a big budget to do effective vegan advocacy. All you need is the willingness to work hard and to think creatively about how best to educate the community in which you live. Vegan cupcakes help!
I found my discussion with Jeff and Renata to be inspiring and I know that you will as well.
At the outset of the Commentary, I discuss briefly a new campaign by the British welfarist group, Animal Aid, which is:
calling for CCTV to be installed in all UK slaughterhouses and for the footage to be made available to independent parties outside of the slaughterhouse. We also want better independent training, regular retraining and assessment, rigorous enforcement of the laws and an end to those with outstanding convictions for violence or animal cruelty working in slaughterhouses.
A slaughterhouse whose contract with a large British supermarket chain was suspended after allegations of animal cruelty by Animal Aid had its contract reinstated after “improvements at the abattoir, including the introduction of CCTV” as demanded by Animal Aid.
Andrew Tyler of Animal Aid commented:
“It shows quite clearly the importance of our investigation that the company says its own standards have improved dramatically,” he said.
“That underlines in absolutely clear terms that what we are doing, and what we will continue to do, is a vital task “We are pleased that CCTV has been introduced. It’s absolutely vital that the footage is not just collected, but is regularly scrutinised by Sainsbury’s and the regulatory authority,” said Mr Tyler.
As you might guess, many animal advocates are understandably outraged that Animal Aid is now forming partnerships with institutional exploiters to promote and sell “happy” meat.
A colleague from Britain wrote to me and shared a reply that she had received from Tyler in response to her objection to this foolish campaign. Tyler attempted to justify the CCTV campaign with the following example:
Take this example: you are at a ‘livestock’ market and see a sheep repeatedly kicked in the head and stamped on. Do you intervene to end that extreme abuse or would you regard that as ‘welfarist’ given that, even if you stopped the kicking and stamping, the sheep will still be slaughtered?
Ingrid Newkirk of PETA made the same argument almost 20 years ago when, in the context, of promoting animal welfare reform that she claimed would move us closer to animal rights, argued that those who opposed welfare reform would deny a thirsty cow water on the way to the slaughterhouse.
I discussed Newkirk’s position in my 1996 book, Rain Without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement. I argued that if I were a guard in a concentration camp, I would certainly give water to a political prisoner being taken for execution. But if I concluded that the concentration camp for political prisoners was, as a general matter, an unjust and immoral institution, I would quit my job and campaign for shutting down the camp. I would not campaign for giving water to prisoners about to be shot, or other measures designed to whitewash the immorality of the institution.
My reply to Newkirk applies to Tyler’s example. Sure, I would stop the sheep from being kicked. I would imagine that most sheep owners and slaughterhouse operators would do the same. After all, kicking the sheep causes carcass damage and that reduces the value of the sheep. But would I campaign for more “humane” treatment of sheep? Absolutely not. That does nothing more than whitewash an inherently immoral institution and make the public more comfortable about eating meat.
And that is exactly what Animal Aid is doing. It is encouraging the public to believe there is a right and a wrong way to exploit animals.
There is not. There is only a wrong way.
People should not engage in child molestation. But if there are going to do so, it is better that they not torture the children as well as sexually molest them. But should we campaign for more “humane” child molestation? No, of course not. There is no right way to engage in child molestation, just as there no right way to engage in the torture and killing of animals.
It is disturbing to see how many meat/dairy consumers are praising the Animal Aid campaign. But it is to be expected. Animal Aid is selling them an indulgence and, for a donation, telling them that they can continue to exploit, as long as they buy from a supermarket that gets its meat from a slaughterhouse with CCTV.
It’s really appalling and I ask all abolitionist animal rights advocates in the U.K. not to support this ill-advised campaign (although I am sure that the U.S. welfarists will jump on this bandwagon as well). And, while you are at it, U.K. advocates: please write to Viva! and request that they stop selling non-vegan cookbooks, stop promoting non-vegan restaurants and inns, and stop portraying eating dairy products as morally better than eating flesh.
I should add that 20 years ago, Newkirk was saying that we had to support welfare to move us closer to animal rights. Well, it’s 20 years later and if Newkirk thinks we’re any closer—even an inch—she is in deep denial. And we now have Tyler trotting out the same ridiculous argument.
If you are not a vegan, go vegan. It is easy, better for your health and the planet, and, most important, it is the right and just thing to do. It’s what we owe other animals. If you are vegan, then educate others about veganism.
Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione