Vegan Society Ambassador Fiona Oakes: Veganism is not “for everyone” and “it’s not probably for very many people.”

Marathan runner Fiona Oakes is an “Ambassador” of The Vegan Society.

Here’s what Ms. Oakes had to say in a June 2014 BBC Radio interview (at 3:00 minutes in):

I run in a positive proactive kind of way to promote a vegan diet…I’m not saying that it’s for everyone, I’m saying that it’s not probably for very many people…

Listen yourself:

Ms. Oakes fits perfectly with The Vegan Society’s position that veganism isn’t a moral baseline; it’s just a matter of consuming vegan trainers, lipstick, etc.

Veganism, which involves not eating, wearing, or using/consuming animals, is for everyone who believes that animals have moral value and are not just things. Indeed, veganism is the the only rational choice for those who believe that animals are not mere things.

**********

If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

©2014 Gary L. Francione

ADDENDUM, added July 20, 2014:

Yesterday, Martin Morgan and other supporters of Ms. Oakes participated in the discussions of this matter on my Facebook page: (see 1; 2). Subsequently, an
“official” response
was issued.

Ms. Oakes takes the approach that is taken by all of the bloated new welfarist “flexible-vegan” animal charities, including The Vegan Society: we cannot promote veganism as a moral baseline because that would be to tell people what to do, force people, dictate to people, be perceived as fundamentalist, radical, etc.

Promoting veganism as a moral baseline does not involve “forcing” anyone to do anything. It is a matter of explaining to people that for the very reason that they think that it’s wrong to harm dogs or stuff cats into rubbish bins, most people already accept the moral principles that make veganism anything but “radical.”

That’s the whole point. I am sorry that Ms. Oakes missed it.

And, as is typical of the welfarist/flexitarian crowd, Ms. Oakes does not engage the substantive criticisms. Rather, she reprimands those who criticize as being “aggressive and hostile.”

No, Ms. Oakes, I am just critical of your making a statement on BBC Radio that trashes veganism as a moral principle and states that veganism is not “for everyone” and “not probably for very many people.”

And I am critical of your now attempting to cover by negatively depicting those who regard veganism as a moral imperative and saying that the alternative to selling out is forcing people and “dictating to everyone what they should and should not do,” etc.

Ms. Oakes is reinforcing the very stereotypes she claims to want to distance herself from. Rather than making it clear that veganism makes a great deal of sense given other beliefs we unquestionably have as a cultural matter, she reasserts and reinforces the notion that those who believe, through reasoned analysis, that veganism is a moral imperative are “fundamentalist nutters.”

FionaOakesMeme
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Ms. Oakes’ statement refers to the “masses” who won’t be able to understand veganism as a moral principle. What elitist rubbish. And what a convenient excuse for someone who wants to be as uncontroversial as possible because she thinks that is the way to get more radio spots.

It’s a good thing that the slavery abolitionist movement was not dependent on people like Fiona Oakes. The slaves would still be picking cotton. But Ms. Oakes would be doing more radio shows.

Creative, nonviolent vegan advocacy is the opposite of “forcing” and “dictating.” It is using reason, and commonly shared moral principles, to get people to see a moral issue in a different light.

Fiona Oakes ought to try it sometime. It works.

ADDENDUM, added July 29, 2014:

Fiona Oakes was invited to appear on Go Vegan Radio with Bob Linden on August 3, 2014, to discuss this with me. Through her spokesperson, she declined. The response stated that the debate would be “essentially detrimental to the animals and the vegan cause” and that my comments on this matter were “abusive.”

PROFILE OF A MODERN “ANIMAL ACTIVIST”: JENNA WOGINRICH

Jenna Woginrich, supposedly a former vegetarian/vegan (she has used both terms), has been aggressively pimping “happy meat” for about five years now. She claims:

My beef, after all, wasn’t with beef. It was with how the cow got to my plate in the first place. One way to make sure the animals I ate lived a happy, respectable life was to raise them myself. I would learn to butcher a free-range chicken, raise a pig without antibiotics and rear lambs on green hillside pastures. I would come back to meat eating, and I would do it because of my love for animals.

She advises those who care about animals:

If you really care about the humane treatment of livestock then I strongly suggest you eat them.

jenna

Jenna Woginrich with someone whom she will kill out of love, respect, and gratitude

Ms. Woginrich has a new essay: An Open Letter to Angry Vegetarians.

It starts:

This is a letter for the angry folks who think not eating meat makes them morally superior to those of us who do.

Oh, oh: we can see where this is heading.

She goes on to tell us that she was a vegetarian/vegan (she uses both terms) for nearly 10 years, a PETA supporter, and “animal activist,” but has decided that all food involves killing because animals are killed in plant agriculture and harvesting, and growing crops involves other harms, including war, so she produces and promotes “happy” meat.:

The simplest backyard salad from your own organic garden to the fake bacon in your shopping cart — both take lives. I have simply chosen to take lives in a way that causes the least amount of suffering and causes the least amount of wasted global resources. And yes, it means there is blood on my hands now.

The truth is there is no meal we can eat without killing. None. A trip to your local grocery store for tofu and spinach may not include a single animal product but the harvesting of such food costs endless animal lives. Growing fields of soy beans for commercial clients means removing habitat from thousands of wild animals, killing them through deforestation and loss of their home.

Eating meat you raised means eating food infused with integreity [sic], sweat, loyalty, determination, love, friendship, memories, loss, perserverance [sic] and respect.

And none of these things are ingredients you will not find on a package of tofu no matter how close you look.

And Ms. Woginrich complains that those who disagree are violating her human rights:

Eat in whatever way invokes respect and gratitude in your soul. Be grateful we live in this time of contrived and soon-to-be over luxury and abundance. But do not come to battle here, accusing those of us raising good meat of murder. Those are fighting words, unkind words, and for someone so intensely passionate about treating animals well you seem to have no issue treating human beings like crap. I’m an animal, too. I would appreciate some ethical treatment.

So what is there to say about Ms. Woginrich’s position? I could say a great deal. But I think four comments will suffice.

First, and as a preliminary matter, Ms. Woginrich should not confuse disagreement with “anger.” It is very common these days for those who are criticized for promoting animal exploitation to whinge about being “attacked” or “bullied,” or lament their status as victims of “anger.” I certainly agree that people should not address Ms. Woginrich in uncivil ways. But disagreement with and reasoned criticism of Ms. Woganrich, who is profiting from exploiting and killing animals, and who is actively promoting animal exploitation, does not amount to incivility or anger.

Second, Ms. Woginrich has no clue about basic ethical reasoning. She appears to think that morality is a matter of personal preference and nothing is inherently morally wrong. People may be put in jail for killing other humans, but that’s just a matter of a legal convention. There’s nothing inherently morally wrong with intentionally killing a human.

I suspect that this is a good part of the reason why Ms. Woginrich sees herself as victimized by disagreement. If she sees fundamental moral issues as involving nothing more than a preference, then it would be natural for her to think that disagreement, including substantive, principled, and reasoned disagreement, is an expression of “anger.”

I note that her blog says that we can look forward to see her writings about the Civil War. Given her moral subjectivism, I will be curious to see if she defends human slavery as well. After all, on Ms. Woginrich’s view, the morality of human slavery is just a matter of preference. There’s no moral truth there.

And if Ms. Woginrich maintains that there is moral truth where humans are concerned but not where nonhumans are concerned, then’s she is merely another speciesist who begs the question from the outset and engages in circular reasoning.

So, without saying more, if you don’t accept moral subjectivism (and no one does except when they are thrashing about continually trying to convince themselves that exploiting the vulnerable is morally acceptable), and you reject speciesism, then Ms. Woginrich’s position collapses.

I should add that Ms. Woginrich seems to think that murder, as a legal term, involves killing with “malevolent intent” and that deliberate killing done with “gratitude,” “respect,” and “love” is not the requisite culpable mind state for murder. That’s wrong. Murder involves killing a human in a premeditated or deliberate way. The mercy killing of a loved one suffering from a painful illness done out of love and compassion is premeditated killing and constitutes murder. And Ms. Woginrich clearly is killing animals with premeditation even if, as she rather incredulously claims, her heart is overflowing with “gratitude,” “love,” and “respect” for the nonhumans she exploits and kills. This is, of course, not to say that Ms. Woginrich is guilty of murder because murder is a crime defined to involve humans only. But her claim that her mind state in killing animals is not the mind that would allow for a conviction of murder if a human were involved is, like most of what else she says, wrong.

Third, Ms. Woginrich’s argument in a nutshell is: we can’t live perfectly so it’s fine to kill nonhumans. But that’s just silly.

I agree that living involves indirectly harming nonhumans and humans. When we build a road, we know that some humans will be killed on that road. Does that mean that there’s no difference between building a road and intentionally killing humans? Of course not.

I agree that everything we consume involves indirect harm to nonhumans and humans, and that we all need to consume a great deal less. But does the fact that the manufacture of a product may have resulted in the negligent death of a human or nonhuman mean that there’s no difference between that negligent death and an intentional killing of a human or nonhuman? Of course not.

I agree that the harvesting of crops involves unintentionally harming animals and humans who are killed or injured in the agricultural process. But if we were all vegans, there would be many fewer acres under cultivation. Professor David Pimentel of Cornell University has written that livestock in the United States consume 7 times as much grain as is consumed by the entire U.S. human population and the grains fed to livestock could feed 840 million humans who had a plant-based diet.

Should we do everything possible to avoid any unintentional nonhuman (and human) deaths that occur during harvesting? Of course. But does the fact that unintentional deaths will occur however careful we are mean that intentional deaths of nonhumans and humans are morally justifiable? Of course not.

And if we all took veganism seriously as a fundamental moral issue, would we develop better ways to avoid that unintentional harm? Of course we would.

Ms. Woginrich proudly proclaims that the animals that she raises and kills are being fed with “local non-GMO feed grown by our neighbors.” And do her neighbors harvest that feed without unintentionally killing animals? No, of course not. So she’s participating in the unintentional deaths and the intentional ones. It is clear that her position–that unintentional deaths cannot be avoided so the intentional ones are morally acceptable–is frivolous on this basis as well.

In a passage that actually caused me to laugh out loud, Ms. Woginrich, who remarkably appears to think that her happy exploitation of nonhumans is a matter of progressive politics, claims that because plant fertilizers are made from petroleum and because petroleum is used to transport plants, the choice is between supporting local farmers or supporting wars that are really about oil. This is political analysis that makes George W. Bush look like Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Fourth, and most problematic from my perspective, Ms. Woginrich is the quintessential modern animal activist. She represents the happy exploitation movement that is the modern “animal movement.” She is the result of an ideology that expresses “appreciation and support” for the “pioneering” happy exploitation of Whole Foods.

support1

(Click to make image larger.)

So according to Peter Singer, PETA, Farm Sanctuary, Mercy for Animals, Compassion Over Killing, Vegan Outreach, and the other welfare charities that compromise the “animal movement,” Ms. Woginrich is doing just fine. I am surprised that she has not received a letter from Singer. Maybe she has. After all, there’s no difference between Ms. Woginrich and Whole Foods CEO, John Mackey. I am shocked that HSUS CEO/President Wayne Pacelle, who sits on the Board of Directors of the Global Animal Partnership, has not visited her farm for a pre-slaughter photo opportunity with her animals.

Ms. Woginrich’s animals have it great:

They have had one bad day, one bad moment actually, and that moment surprised the hell out of them.

That’s actually even better than Whole Foods’ Animal Welfare Rating Step 5! I don’t think John Mackey would make that claim.

Indeed, what Ms. Woginrich is promoting is sounds similar to what Singer describes:

[T]o avoid inflicting suffering on animals—not to mention the environmental costs of intensive animal production—we need to cut down drastically on the animal products we consume. But does that mean a vegan world? That’s one solution, but not necessarily the only one. If it is the infliction of suffering that we are concerned about, rather than killing, then I can also imagine a world in which people mostly eat plant foods, but occasionally treat themselves to the luxury of free range eggs, or possibly even meat from animals who live good lives under conditions natural for their species, and are then humanely killed on the farm.

(Peter Singer, Interview in “The Vegan,” 2006)

So where’s her letter from Singer? Where’s her award from PETA, who gave Whole Foods an award?

ScreenHunter_266 Jul. 17 10.52

(Click to make image larger.)

Interestingly, the large animal charities also embrace the moral subjectivism that informs Ms. Woginrich’s position. There is no moral truth; it’s just a matter of preference. But you cannot have a movement for social justice that sees justice simply as a matter of preference.

So, alas, in all respects, Ms. Woginrich is the “animal activist” that Peter Singer and the rest of the “movement” want her to be.

Ms. Woginrich even has a “donate” button on her page. That makes perfect sense. The whole happy exploitation movement is about buying indulgences for engaging in morally unjustifiable behavior. So I don’t blame Ms. Woginrich for cashing in as well.

ScreenHunter_265 Jul. 17 10.27

(Click to make image larger.)

And the fact that Jenna Woginrich fits so comfortably as an “animal activist” is precisely the problem. She is a perfect illustration of the animal confusion movement that embraces happy exploitation.

*****

If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.

And never, ever buy into the nonsensical notion that we need to promote “happy exploitation” in order to get people to go vegan. In addition to the whole “happy exploitation” effort being profoundly speciesist, the “happy exploitation” effort has one goal: to make the public more comfortable about animal exploitation.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

©2014 Gary L. Francione

This Morning’s “I agree with you but” Email

I get hundreds of emails and private messages every day. A common theme is “I agree with you but” and a common version of that theme is to criticize me for not patting people on the head because they are not vegans but are on “journeys” toward being vegan.

Here’s one that greeted me this morning:

“I really like your abolitionist position but I think you are too judgmental. I am a vegetarian and I know that going vegan is the right thing to do. I am on the journey towards being vegan. I think it’s wrong that you don’t give positive reinforcement to people like me and I think it ultimately hurts the cause.”

My reply:

Going vegan is not about anyone’s “journey.” It is remarkable how, in 2014, the observation of the most fundamental moral principles gets presented as a matter of narcissistic autobiography.

Not exploiting other sentient beings–not treating them exclusively as resources–is not a matter that involves some trivial option similar to where you will take your next vacation or what movie you will choose to view tonight.

It is a matter of fundamental moral obligation.

And this talk about “journeys” is even more annoying because it’s almost always articulated by people who claim–like you–that they already recognize it’s wrong to exploit animals. They just need the time for the “journey” needed to conform their conduct to what they claim to acknowledge as their moral beliefs.

Sorry, that’s not a matter of any “journey.” That’s nothing more than a matter of being too selfish to conform one’s conduct to what one claims to believe.

If we have a moral obligation to do X, continuing to do not-X is morally wrong. End of story.

Telling yourself it’s a matter of a “journey” is just a way of excusing yourself for doing something you know is wrong.

If you think I am being “judgmental,” you are right. I judge the exploitation of the vulnerable–be they human or non–to represent a profound sort of immorality. You claim to have made that judgment as well!

You already know that going vegan is the morally right thing to do. So just do it.

Here’s a related blog post.

*****

If you are not vegan, please go vegan. It’s easy. It’s better for you and for the planet. But, most important, it’s the morally right thing to do. It’s what we owe other sentient beings.

Do it today. Right now.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

©2014 Gary L. Francione

I Brought The Vegan Society “Into Disrepute.” I Insisted That The Vegan Society Be Vegan.

I have been critical recently of the “rebrand” of The Vegan Society, which, as I have explained has a major flaw: it doesn’t promote veganism.

I have in the past been critical of The Vegan Society for taking paid advertisements in in its magazine, The Vegan, which promote non-vegan restaurants and inns. For example, I was critical of an ad in which a non-vegan restaurant was described in The Vegan as “A Haven for Peace & Inspiration.” It’s not any sort of “haven” for the animals who were exploited to produce those foods.

The Vegan Society announced that, on July 19, 2014, there would be a members-only Q&A session in London to address concerns about the new “rebrand.”

I asked to attend by Skype and offered to pay for a membership:

July 9, 2014

Jasmijn de Boo
The Vegan Society
Donald Watson House
21 Hylton Street
Birmingham
B18 6HJ
United Kingdom
By email (scanned PDF):
Jasmijn De Boo <[email protected]>
[email protected]

Dear Ms. de Boo:

I am requesting to be able to attend the July 19 meeting by Skype. I would like to hear firsthand what you all have to say about what I regard as a most serious departure from the progressive vision of Donald Watson.

I am doing research into Watson and it is clear to me that Watson was a moral realist who would never agree with the relativism that is the very foundation of your new approach.

In any event, I would very much like to attend but given that I am in the United States, I am requesting the accommodation of being able to attend by Skype.

If you want me to pay a membership fee as a condition of my virtual attendance, I will remit that to you immediately.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

/s Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

I received the following reply:

ScreenHunter_238 Jul. 11 08.06

(click image to enlarge)

I have brought The Vegan Society “into disrepute.” I have insisted that The Vegan Society promote veganism as a moral baseline.

How very sad.

**********

If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.

It’s easy to go vegan and if you agree that animals have moral value, it’s the only rational thing to do!

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

©2014 Gary L. Francione

New to Abolition? Start Here.

Are you new to abolition? There’s a lot to learn, and, if you have been a member of one of the large animal welfare charities, a lot to unlearn!

If you are interested in learning about the abolitionist approach, I recommend you start with these three essays:

1. Animal Welfare Regulation, “Happy Exploitation,” and Speciesism

2. The Four Problems of Animal Welfare: In a Nutshell

Here’s a PDF of this second essay.

3. Veganism: Just Another Way of Reducing Suffering or a Fundamental Principle of Justice & Nonviolence?

**********

If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.

It’s easy to go vegan and if you agree that animals have moral value, it’s the only rational thing to do!

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

©2014 Gary L. Francione

The Modern “Animal Movement” in a Nutshell (5)

Namaste5

**********

If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.

It’s easy to go vegan and if you agree that animals have moral value, it’s the only rational thing to do!

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

©2014 Gary L. Francione

Abolition: Simple Concepts and a Pop Quiz

Once again, I start my day, sit at my desk, and, before I even get to take the first sip of my tulsi tea, I read, in response to my claim that we need to encourage people to understand that veganism is the only rational response to the moral status of animals:

I would love it if everyone went vegan straight away, but the world doesn’t work like that.

I get this sort of message at least five times a day.

Okay. Listen up.

No one is saying that there is any chance that the world will go vegan overnight.

Let’s focus on the words: “NO ONE” (emphasis added).

Let’s be clear: The world will not go vegan overnight.

Okay, are we good so far?

Good.

Let’s move on.

In light of the fact that the world won’t go vegan overnight, the only issue is whether:

1. We make crystal clear that veganism is the moral baseline and is a moral imperative. That is, we make a moral judgment that exploiting animals is wrong as a matter of morality–not “lifestyle,” preference, opinion–but as a matter or morality. We make clear that if someone chooses to do less than go vegan, that is there is their choice and not what is a morally justifiable or morally acceptable or respectful response as far as what we owe morally to animals;

or

2. We tell them that lesser steps (giving up meat once a week, eating “happy” meat, being “vegan before 6″, etc.) are defensible moral positions.

It is the abolitionist position that #2 is speciesist. In order to understand this (although we would clearly see this in any human context if we thought about it for 5 seconds), read this essay.

It is the abolitionist position that #2 is ineffective as a practical matter. In order to understand that, read this essay.

It’s really simple. You just need to read a little and think a little and not swallow the propaganda of the large animal charities that promote some version of #2 (and they pretty much all promote some version of #2) and need you to donate to their welfare reform campaigns.

Okay. Now let’s take a simple two-choice quiz based on the above (I can’t help it; I am a professor and I test people as a big part of my job).

When someone says, “hey, I’ve given up meat on Monday,” you should say:

A. “See how easy it is? But morality is not something to do one day a week. We need to take fundamental morality seriously every single day. And morality is not about arbitrary lines; it’s about principle. There is no morally coherent distinction between flesh and other animal products. So if you agree–as you clearly do–that animals matter morally, then you’re morally obligated to go vegan. How can I assist you in achieving that goal?”

B. “Wow. The Meatless Monday campaign is totally awesome. Although I am a vegan, it took me ten years to get there so it’s perfectly morally okay for everyone to do it in their own time. It’s about baby steps. We can’t make moral judgments. That would be judgmental! And every little bit matters so what you’re doing is great even if you never go vegan.”

If you chose B, you flunked.

*****

If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.

And never, ever buy into the nonsensical notion that we need to promote “happy exploitation” in order to get people to go vegan. In addition to the whole “happy exploitation” effort being profoundly speciesist, the “happy exploitation” effort has one goal: to make the public more comfortable about animal exploitation.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

©2014 Gary L. Francione