Monday: Your Choice

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We keep hearing welfarists say that most people who go vegan went vegetarian first, so we should promote going vegetarian.

We keep hearing welfarists say that if we promote “happy” meat and other “happy” animal products, that will lead people to go vegan eventually.

This is all nonsense. There is no empirical evidence that establishes a causal link between any non-vegan situation and veganism.

To the extent that people go vegetarian before they go vegan, or eat “happy” meat or eggs or whatever before they go vegan, is it any surprise?

Animal organizations all promote vegetarianism and “happy” exploitation. Not one promotes veganism as an unequivocal moral baseline.

It is our responsibility to make clear that if animals matter morally, we are obligated to go vegan. If someone cares about animals but wants to do less, that should be their choice and never what we promote.

Telling people that vegetarianism, “happy” meat, “Meatless Monday,” “vegan before 6,” or “flexible veganism” are morally acceptable will just delay progress, and not lead to it.

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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

Interview on Brian Oxman Show

On Wednesday, June 25, 2014, I was a guest on the Brian Oxman Show.

You can listen here.

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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

Message to The Vegan Society: It’s About Justice

The Vegan Society has obviously gotten a significant critical reaction to its explicit rejection of veganism as a baseline moral principle as represented in its “You don’t have to be vegan” campaign.

The Vegan Society has been going in the wrong direction for a while now. In 2011, the Society banned me for promoting veganism after I started a discussion you can read here.

In any event, here is their latest unsuccessful attempt to justify the new campaign: a 1952 statement from Muriel E. Drake, then TVS Vice-President, in which she calls veganism a “new way of life” and the decision to go vegan “momentous,” and states that we should “bring the ideas of veganism to the notice of others . . . but we have no right to attempt to make up their minds for them.”

Drake

First of all, Drake made those comments 62 years ago. Veganism was a relatively new idea back then, particularly in the West. So was racial equality. So was the equality of women. So what? It’s 2014 now.

Second, no one disputes that we cannot make up anyone’s mind for them. People have to make up their own minds. And that is precisely why we must be crystal clear that veganism is the moral baseline as it represents the only rational response to recognizing the inherent value of other animals.

We must be crystal clear that veganism is a fundamental matter of justice.

The Vegan Society thinks that our inability to make up anyone’s mind for them means that we should not promote veganism as a fundamental moral principle.

That’s completely wrong and we can see that by looking at the human context.

We cannot make up anyone’s mind for them about the equality of women. Does that mean that we should be characterizing accepting their equality as a “momentous” decision about which we cannot take a clear, strong, and unequivocal moral position? Does our inability to make up anyone’s mind for them mean that we should not be crystal clear as a fundamental matter that patriarchy is morally wrong?

Of course not.

We cannot make up anyone’s mind for them on veganism or any moral issue. But that does not mean that fundamental moral principles cease to be such or that we do not have an obligation to be crystal about these moral issues. On the contrary. Our obligation to be clear is itself clear, and is more compelling–and not less–to the extent that discrimination is pervasive.

In 1944, in the first newsletter of The Vegan Society, Donald Watson, who founded the Society in 1944:

A common criticism is that the time in not yet ripe for our reform. Can time ever be ripe for any reform unless it is ripened by human determination? Did Wilberforce wait for the ‘ripening’ of time before he commenced his fight against slavery? Did Edwin Chadwick, Lord Shaftesbury, and Charles Kingsley wait for such a non-existent moment before trying to convince the great dead weight of public opinion that clean water and bathrooms would be an improvement? If they had declared their intention to poison everybody the opposition they met could hardly have been greater. There is an obvious danger in leaving the fulfilment of our ideals to posterity, for posterity may not have our ideals. Evolution can be retrogressive as well as progressive, indeed there seems always to be a strong gravitation the wrong way unless existing standards are guarded and new visions honoured.

Read those words. Think about them.

Seventy years later, The Vegan Society says: “You don’t have to be vegan to love vegan things” and transparently promotes moral relativism–it’s all about optional choice–and the idea that we should not promote veganism as a fundamental moral principle.

That’s a very clear example of moving in a backward direction; this is exactly what Watson was referring to when he said that change can be “retrogressive.”

It’s 2014. It’s easy to go vegan. It’s better for human health and for the health of the planet on which all life depends.

But, most importantly, it’s the morally right thing to do. It’s what we owe other animals. Veganism is a matter of justice.

And it is our obligation to make that crystal clear in creative, nonviolent ways.

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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

By way of background, I am adding the text of a Facebook post that I wrote on May 16, 2014:

A MOMENT OF SILENCE FOR THE MEMORY OF DONALD WATSON (1910-2005), WHO FOUNDED THE VEGAN SOCIETY IN 1944

The Vegan Society has recently decided to explicitly disavow the idea of veganism as a moral imperative.

In this essay, “CEO” Jasmijn de Boo explains why here.

According to CEO de Boo: “Research shows that young people don’t want to be talked at or made to feel guilty about issues, instead they want the freedom to choose for themselves, to come to their own conclusions and reach that moment of realisation.”

But creative, nonviolent vegan advocacy is not about talking at anyone or making anyone feel “guilty.”

On the contrary.

It is about helping people in a constructive and caring way to put into practice an idea that most people already have: that animals matter morally and that we have moral obligations that we owe directly to them.

It’s about recognizing that our moral concern about animals should be applied throughout our lives, and not just in sporadic moments when it feels good or fits in with some superficial concept of “lifestyle.”

CEO de Boo sets up a false choice between making people feel “guilty” or promoting a most flexible version of “flexible veganism.” Those are not the only choices, unless, of course, one wants to defend marketing a “flexitarian” approach, which is what the “new” Vegan Society has clearly opted to do.

Imagine where the civil rights movement would be if we had decided that market “research” showed that people did not like being made to feel “guilty” about racism so, instead, we promoted a “treat a person of color nicely when you feel like it” campaign.

CEO de Boo explicitly adopts the language of the “happy exploitation” movement, claiming that many people won’t go vegan “overnight.” Well that’s no surprise, particularly given that none of the large animal charities–and now The Vegan Society–do not promote veganism as a moral imperative that grows out of a consistent moral commitment to justice and nonviolence, which, by the way, is explicitly what Donald Watson promoted.

But the issue is not whether anyone does anything “overnight.” The issue is whether The Vegan Society should promote a clear moral message that veganism—whether achieved “overnight” or not—is the only rational response to the idea that most people already accept: that animals matter morally. The Vegan Society says that it will not promote that idea, instead opting for a celebration of non-veganism.

CEO de Boo writes: “Everyone is now free to embrace veganism, not only those who are already vegan, but those who are thinking about it and want to start bringing more plant-based dishes into their diet, or replace their leather shoes with vegan versions.” That is an even looser version of “flexible veganism” than something like “vegan before 6,” which, although nonsensical, promotes not consuming animals for at least a part of the day.

The Vegan Society under CEO de Boo has joined the other corporate charities that have abandoned the idea that there are meaningful moral principles that we are obligated to respect. But what these corporate charities do not seem to understand is that you don’t effect a shift in moral paradigms by rejecting the idea that moral principles matter.

In 1944, Donald Watson wrote:

“We can see quite plainly that our present civilisation is built on the exploitation of animals, just as past civilisations were built on the exploitation of slaves, and we believe the spiritual destiny of man is such that in time he will view with abhorrence the idea that men once fed on the products of animals’ bodies. . . . A common criticism is that the time is not yet ripe for our reform. Can time ever be ripe for any reform unless it is ripened by human determination? Did Wilberforce wait for the ‘ripening’ of time before he commenced his fight against slavery?”

In 2014, CEO de Boo writes: “We are not here to tell people what to do or how to live. We are giving people the choice and the chance to join us. We are here to support anyone moving towards a more ethical and sustainable lifestyle. It’s not all-or-nothing. It’s about starting a conversation, or planting a seed.”

Seventy years separate Watson from CEO de Boo. The word “progress” does not come to mind.

The Vegan Society has just joined the “happy exploitation”/”flexitarian” movement.

Please: a moment of silence for the memory of Donald Watson.

Gary L. Francione

The Economics of Animal Welfare: Some Brief Comments

Some welfarists say that welfare reform will help animals because reform causes a price increase and that decreases demand.

This position shows that welfarists do not understand the economics of animal agriculture or of welfare reform.

Since most welfare reform campaigns address inefficiencies in the production process, many welfare reforms increase production efficiency so production costs can actually decrease.

If there is an ultimate price rise for any reason, that price rise generally usually does not affect demand because demand for animal products is often inelastic–demand is not very sensitive to price in a range–and the price rise generally does not go outside that range.

Moreover, if the price of an animal product goes up, that does not mean that consumers go vegan. Far from it. Generally, if someone cannot afford beef, they buy lamb or pork or chicken. If someone cannot afford chicken, they buy chicken pies or some cheaper form of processed meat.

And, in the end, the best that welfarists can do is help industry create niche markets, like Whole Foods “5-Step Animal Welfare Rating” happy meat, where affluent people can pay a higher price and get a stamp of approval from the animal groups that praise and express their “appreciation and support” to Whole Foods:

support1

Welfarists are claiming victory because, in recent years, meat consumption in the U.S. has dropped. They claim that this is because of animal welfare campaigns. There is *no* support for that and the far more likely explanation is that meat prices have remained stable or even increased and the economic slump is affecting the ability of consumers to buy the forms of meat measured in those surveys. Second, there is increasing concern about the detrimental health affects of animal foods.

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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

“But it took me 10 years to go vegan.” So What?

I never cease to be amazed by those people who say that we should not promote veganism as a moral imperative because they took a long time to go vegan.

What is the relevance of how long it took someone to see that going vegan was the right thing to do? Answer: it has no relevance whatsoever.

Frankly, I am not all that surprised that it took a lot of people a long time to go vegan given that none of the large animal charities present veganism as the moral baseline and they all promote welfare reform and happy exploitation to a greater or lesser degree. I routinely encounter people who have been vegetarians for 20 years and only went vegan after they encountered the abolitionist approach. Although these people were almost always volunteers with one or more animal charities, no one ever asked them to go vegan, much less made clear to them that veganism was a moral imperative–an unequivocal moral baseline. Indeed, most animal charities continue to promote vegetarianism as an alternative to veganism. That is not consistent with presenting and promoting veganism as a moral imperative.

But the point is that the the validity of moral principles does not depend on how long it took any particular person to recognize their validity. None of us would doubt this where humans are concerned. For example, if it took someone ten years to recognize that racism was wrong and to stop using racist epithets, does that mean that we should not be crystal clear that racism is wrong? Of course not. Would anyone suggest that we have “Racist Joke-Free Friday” to provide a “baby step” approach for those on the “journey” away from racism? Of course not.

Similarly, the fact that it might have taken some people many years to see that the moral status of animals required that they go vegan does not mean that we should promote “Meat-Free Mondays,” cage-free eggs, crate-free pork, and all of that other nonsense to accommodate those who are still on the “journey” away from speciesism.

We should always be clear that we cannot justify animal use and that veganism is a moral imperative; a moral baseline. If someone wants to do less than go vegan, that should be that person’s choice and never because we have put a stamp of approval on any form of animal exploitation.

And being clear about moral obligations does not mean judging people. I have many acquaintances who are not vegan. I do not judge them, but I am always clear with them that we cannot justify animal use morally and veganism is a basic moral obligation for us all.

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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

What? The Humane Slaughter Act is Not Being Enforced?

Farm Sanctuary has done a Freedom of Information Act request and has discovered that the United States Department of Agriculture is not doing a good job enforcing the Humane Slaughter Act and the problem is apparently particularly bad in Des Moines, Iowa.

WHAT? The USDA not enforcing the Humane Slaughter Act?

Come on, Farm Sanctuary. It’s well known that slaughter not in compliance with the Humane Slaughter Act occurs all over the country. And it’s been well known for a long time now, as this 2001 article from the Washington Post makes clear: Warrick, They Die Piece by Piece (2001).

And it was well known before 2001 and was apparent to anyone who ever visited a slaughterhouse.

The USDA couldn’t possibly enforce the Humane Slaughter Act in any meaningful way (even if that was even possible) given the billions of animals that go through slaughterhouses every year–any more than the Animal Welfare Act can be enforced to ensure that animals exploited in labs are treated “humanely.”

And even if the Humane Slaughter Act was to be enforced perfectly, the process of slaughter would still be unspeakably horrible for the animals who end their lives amidst the terror, noise, pain, and squalor of the abattoir.

And the Humane Slaughter Act was never really about anything more than preventing worker injuries and carcass damage anyway.

Bottom line: ALL slaughterhouses are hideous places. All of them.

There is no “humane” exploitation.

There are only welfare campaigns that are recycled again and again and again to literally sell the idea to the public that the problem is “abuse” in one place or another.

There are only welfare campaigns that reinforce again and again and again that the issue is a matter of treatment and not one of use–and that the solution is to donate to animal charities so they can do research and undercover work to reveal what is already well known and has been well known forever, and “fix” the problem by having a plant here and there fined or closed temporarily or even permanently as animal charities declare non-existent victory (and as production just shifts to another slaughterhouse).

There are only welfare campaigns that again and again and again promote the idea that the problem is the slaughterhouse, the factory farm, the livestock market, the individual worker or some other supplier of the products of death when the real problem is that we demand the products of death in the first place.

The problem is one of use and there is one and only one “fix”–going vegan and having a grassroots movement that makes crystal clear to the public that moral concern about animals means going vegan.

Let’s start educating the public with the right message–and not reinforcing the wrong one, which is what animal welfare charities have been doing forever.

This is all part of the same thinking that leads animal welfare charities like Farm Sanctuary to make public statements expressing “appreciation and support” for “pioneering” programs of happy exploitation:

support1

Although I do not question the sincerity of those at Farm Sanctuary, I sincerely believe that this is all wrong.

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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

“Kicking Animals is WRONG.” So Is Killing Them.

Animal welfare charity Mercy for Animals (MFA) has a new “undercover” video.

Guess what? They have discovered that animals are kicked and otherwise treated badly at livestock markets.

Imagine that.

MFA is outraged:

ScreenHunter_187 Jun. 25 07.54

Sure it is. But MFA, here’s some news: using animals for food–whether they are kicked or not–is WRONG.

MFA urges: “SPEAK OUT AGAINST ANIMAL ABUSE: Sign the petition calling on the Livestock Marketing Association to protect animals.”

The Livestock Marketing Association is going to “protect animals”? Really?

Once again, MFA perpetuates the idea that an industry that exists to kill animals to satisfy our palate pleasure can “protect” them.

Once again, MFA promotes the fantasy that there is an abusive and non-abusive way to exploit.

Once again, MFA assures the public that animal exploitation can be effectively regulated.

Once again, MFA brings out people like Temple Grandin–the queen of happy exploitation–to support their campaign:

ScreenHunter_186 Jun. 24 11.36

Once again, MFA pretends that the people who “abuse” animals are different morally from all of those who demand and consume meat and other animal products. The livestock market and, in particular, the workers at the livestock market, are the problem; the “bad people”–not those of us who happily demand and consume the products of that industry and who may even donate to groups like MFA so that they can continue to consume animals with “compassion” and “mercy.”

This is all part of the same thinking that leads animal welfare charities like MFA to make public statements expressing “appreciation and support” for “pioneering” programs of happy exploitation:

support1

Although I do not question the sincerity of those at MFA, I sincerely believe that this is all wrong.

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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