In the wake of a controversy in Britain over the sale of halal meat, which involves exsanguination rather than stunning, and the comment by British new welfarist organization Viva! that, “Consumers can do their bit by boycotting places that persist in selling meat from unstunned animals,” I wrote two essays.
In the first essay, I pointed out that, in addition to jumping on the Islamophobic bandwagon being driven by reactionary media, Viva! was promoting a supposedly “happier” form of animal slaughter when it should be promoting the notion that the only coherent response to a moral concern about animal exploitation is to stop eating, wearing, or using animal products altogether and to go vegan.
Viva! responded and I wrote a second essay in which I noted that Viva! distinguishes between flesh and other animal foods and promotes vegetarianism as a morally coherent choice, characterizes veganism as difficult and “daunting,” sells vegetarian cookbooks with nonvegan recipes, and advertises vegetarian restaurants/inns that serve dairy products. In short, Viva! promotes animal exploitation of the non-flesh variety.
Well, Viva! has just issued an indictment of the RSPCA, which sponsors the Freedom Food label, claiming that the RSPCA is not properly monitoring things and “happy” eggs are not really “happy.” But Viva! is not telling us anything new. It has been clear from the inception of the Freedom Food scheme that it is nothing more than a marketing device to enrich the RSPCA and producers of “happy” animal flesh/products and that Freedom Food animals are tortured just as much animals whose suffering and death are not blessed by the RSPCA. Nevertheless, welfarist groups from the U.S., U.K., and other countries are falling over themselves in a frantic effort to form new partnerships with institutional exploiters that will involve even more “happy exploitation” labels.
Back to Viva! vs. the RSPCA. We have one organization that supports animal exploitation accusing another organization of supporting animal exploitation. I can hardly wait for Viva! to trot out some of its nonvegan celebrities to tell us all that RSPCA nonvegans are less “compassionate” than the Viva! nonvegans. Perhaps PETA can sponsor a “compassionate” mud wrestling contest between scantily-clad nonvegans from Viva! and the RSPCA. Anything for the animals.
But every cloud has a silver lining. Sure, “happy” animal products are not really happy (unless, apparently, they are served at a nonvegan restaurant promoted by Viva!). But you can help. Directly to the right of the Viva! indictment of the RSPCA is the solution: “Help us save animals. Donate to Viva!” and there is a space to put in an amount and a “donate” button.
Ah, yes, the standard refrain of all of the large groups: things are bad for animals but we can make it better. Send us money and we’ll solve the problem. We’ll “save animals.”
That is, of course, a fantasy. The only thing that you will save by clicking the “donate” button is the jobs of the people who work for Viva! There is one way to solve the problem of animal exploitation; there is one way to “save animals”: shift the paradigm away from animals as commodities that exist as human resources and toward the view of animals as members of the moral community, as nonhuman persons. But that will never happen—can never happen—as long as animals are sitting on our plates or are on our backs or feet. The paradigm will never shift in the absence of a strong movement of ethical veganism.
So you can help but not by sending money to anyone. You do not need a large group or a “donate” button. These large animal businesses are obstacles to change and not facilitators of it.
You just need your decision to do the right thing and go vegan.
Make no mistake about it: if you are not a vegan, you are participating directly in animal exploitation. There is no morally significant distinction between flesh and other animal products. There is as much suffering in a glass of milk or a piece of cheese served at some “happy” exploitation restaurant promoted by Viva! as there is in the flesh sold with some “happy” exploitation label. And all animals, whether used for meat or dairy, or whatever, and whether the products are promoted as “happy” or not, end their lives amid the noise and squalor of the same hideous slaughterhouse.
If you are not vegan, go vegan. Despite the negative proclamations of Viva! and many other large animal businesses that veganism is difficult or daunting, it is very easy. And however difficult you may find it to be a vegan, just think of how difficult it is for animals that you are not vegan.
Veganism is better for your health and for the planet. And, most important, it’s the morally right and just thing to do. Ethical veganism is a powerful way of saying “no” to animal exploitation.
If you are vegan, then educate others about veganism. Your own veganism and your efforts to engage in creative, nonviolent vegan education are the most effective ways to help.
Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione