Chris Hedges has written a terrific essay, “Retribution for a World Lost in Screens.” Although Hedges does not discuss the animal issue, his essay can help us to understand the present animal “movement” and why it is failing. Hedges argues that in our modern computer-focused culture, we no longer seek the ability to understand or empathize; we seek only self-gratification, the illusion of empowerment, and entertainment. Anyone who does not paint a smiling happy face on any problem and a propose a quick fix is dismissed as “negative” and “pessimistic.”
We are presiding over the ruthless treatment and killing of billions of sentient beings that is unparalleled in human history. It’s happening on our watch. Instead of rising up as a unified nonviolent force to say “no” to this unimaginable suffering and death, we seek to turn this moral black hole into entertainment. We have galas hosted by nonvegans with streaming video that allows us to see a group of pathetic narcissists receive awards, naked women who sit in cages “for the animals,” and animal welfare leaders who join with institutional exploiters and assure us that the “worst” aspects of animal exploitation can be addressed through meaningless reforms so we can just relax and be happy because it’s all going to be fine—as long as we donate, of course.
We have constant entertainment from “conferences,” which are nothing more than trade shows for large animal welfare corporations, to “walks for the animals,” so that those concerned can get together and feel good about expressing their support for “humane” treatment and “compassion” and to protest “abuse”—notions which are vacuous and with which no one disagrees with anyway as an abstract matter. We are offered contests to design T-shirts with slogans about factory farming and movies about “visionary” slaughterhouse designers who receive awards from “animal rights” groups.
We are told that saying “no” to participating in animal exploitation by being vegan and advocating veganism as a clear moral baseline is neither necessary nor desirable. It is not necessary because welfare reforms and “happy” exploitation can address the problem in a more “practical” way. It is not desirable because we do not want the public to be unhappy and any solution that requires real change might interfere with the relentless quest for entertainment and easy solutions. The public can do just fine by being “conscientious omnivores” or “compassionate carnivores” and eating meat or animal products with a “humane” label sponsored by this or that large animal organization.
Criticism of the bloated, ineffective entertainment machine called “the movement,” which is a misnomer because it’s moving nowhere but backward, is not tolerated. It interferes with our desire to believe the corporate welfarists who tell us that we can cure the moral cancer by writing a check, shutting up, sitting down, and watching the show. It’s like someone talking in a movie theater when we are trying to watch and enjoy some mindless movie. It interferes with the entertainment. And in our society—and within “the animal movement”—that is the gravest sin of all.
If the planet survives and history judges us about anything, it’s not going to be that we should have contributed more to animal welfare corporations so they could have had bigger campaigns about cage-free eggs or crate-free veal. It is going to be that in the face of the ruthless destruction of the most vulnerable among us—human and nonhuman—we just watched the show.
If you are not vegan, go vegan. It is very easy, better for health and for the planet. And, most important, it’s the morally right and just thing to do.
If you are vegan, then educate others in a creative, nonviolent way.
Ethical veganism is a powerful way of saying “no.”
Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione