On Morality: The Argument For Abolitionist Veganism

Veganism 01

Here is the basic argument for Abolitionist Veganism. I’ve incorporated a couple different major Animal Rights theories into one:

1. Nonhuman animals feel pain, pleasure, fear and other sensations. If they feel these sensations, then they have an interest in not being used merely as a resource for human pleasure, amusement, or convenience.

2. There is no necessity for human animals to intentionally exploit nonhuman animals and cause them to suffer or die except our own enjoyment of the taste of their flesh/secretions and the convenience that animal exploitation affords us. Humans have no dietary need for flesh, dairy, eggs or honey:

https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/do-doctors-think

We have no need to use animals for clothing; we have no need to use them for entertainment; not only is it morally unjustifiable to use animals in bio-medical research, but more humans suffer and/or die when we do so than if we didn’t use animals at all:

http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/vivisection-part-one-the-necessity-of-vivisection

http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/vivisection-part-two-the-moral-justification-of-vivisection

3. When something is unnecessary except for our trivial pleasure or convenience and that thing causes some being (for example, a nonhuman or human animal) to experience pain, fear or other kinds of suffering, then the harm being done to that being’s interest in their continued survival, freedoms, or not suffering is more important than our interest in our own mere pleasure, amusement or convenience.

4. We claim to believe in “fairness/ethical/moral consistency” as a “moral good”, which means we believe in treating similar cases similarly when it comes to ethics/morality. In other words, if we believe it’s wrong to beat a human child for no good reason because they will suffer from a beating, then we should also believe that it’s wrong to beat a dog, cow, or chicken for no good reason because the nonhuman will also suffer.

So, if we value moral consistency at all, which means we treat similar cases similarly, the minimum and only criteria needed to include nonhuman animals in our moral sphere (meaning we believe we should not harm them at all for no good reason) is that they feel pain, fear, and other sensations, since that is the minimum criteria we use to include humans in our moral sphere.

5. Any characteristic that humans claim to have that we claim makes us morally superior to nonhuman animals cannot be factually proven to be a humans-only trait. Unless we can prove that we are morally superior to nonhuman animals, any argument that we claim justifies intentionally harming and exploiting nonhumans can also be used to justify humans intentionally exploiting other humans:

https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2015/02/07/are-humans-superior

This means that if we personally are in favor of violating nonhumans’ right to be safe from being enslaved, raped, tortured or killed by humans then we have no claim that we ourselves should be safe from having those same things done to us by other humans. Any argument we try to use to justify harm to nonhumans can also be used successfully by other humans to justify harming us in those same ways.

6. If we accept premises 1 through 4, our ethical/moral obligation is to either a) cease any actions that intentionally cause unnecessary suffering and death to other beings such as nonhuman and human animals, in which case we can claim that our interests in avoiding the same harms should not be dismissed without due consideration, and we can point to the fact that this is because we are morally consistent, or b) admit that we are not morally consistent and that any human who wishes to dismiss our interests in avoiding the same harms without due consideration is also morally justified in doing so.

Conclusion: If we don’t stop intentionally exploiting nonhumans to the best of our ability, all the systemic violations we consider atrocities and major problems in the world will never end. We also will not be able to consider ourselves truly morally consistent people. To stop intentionally exploiting nonhumans completely means Abolitionist Veganism.

Abolitionist Veganism also means we do our best to eliminate speciesism (which is the intentional, harmful discrimination by humans against individuals and groups of other species based solely on the morally irrelevant criteria of species membership) within each of us. Speciesism is the tree from which springs all intentional, harmful discrimination against any individual (nonhuman or human) on the basis of any morally irrelevant criteria. Speciesism is rooted in the myth that human animals are morally superior to nonhuman animals.

Ergo, if everyone becomes an Abolitionist Vegan and exclusively advocates a 100% clear moral baseline of Abolitionist Veganism, all of the atrocities we abhor such as world hunger, poverty, ecological destruction by humans, systemic human rights violations, and discrimination against any individual beings based on any morally irrelevant criteria, will either be severely decreased or eliminated. Every living being on the planet, from nonhuman animals to human animals, will be much happier and healthier.

The crucial point here is that if you have moral concern at all for nonhuman animals or human animals and so you want these problems to be decreased or eliminated, it makes no sense for you to participate in actions that will increase or foster those problems. It is your moral responsibility to stop engaging in actions that increase those harms, which means going Vegan (and, if you want to help everyone further, educating others about Veganism).

Final thoughts: If you’re not already Vegan, and you think animals matter morally, then please go Vegan. It’s incredible for the animals, great for you, and wonderful for the planet. If you’re already Vegan, please educate non-Vegans about why they should go Vegan. Please rescue/volunteer/adopt/foster/spay/neuter the nonhuman refugees of domestication whenever you can. Please feed your nonhuman family Vegan where and when you can. These things are the most important, morally responsible things to do and are desperately needed by everyone.

Disclaimer: My only goal with this list is to produce as comprehensive a resource for Vegan information as possible. I am 100% Abolitionist Vegan and 100% against exploitation of nonhuman or human animals, any type of violence against human or nonhuman persons or property, welfare regulation, any form of speciesism, ethnic bigotry, genderism, ableism, heterosexism, etc., any of the large governmental or non-governmental nonhuman animal organizations, “happy meat,” vegetarianism, veg*nism, Meat-Free Mondays, or other forms of reductionism and anything else that makes it seem like any form of violence or exploitation of animals is ok. If any of those positions are endorsed on any site in this list, or any language is used to imply that, it’s not that I included that link because I agree, but simply because I don’t control every bit of information on all of these sites.

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“Abolitionist Single-Issue Campaigns” Are In The Domain Of Welfarism Too

Protest Signs 01

There are quite a few people involved in “the animal movement” who support what Prof. Gary Francione has termed “new welfarism” (that is, the idea that we can achieve the abolition of all animal use through implementing a gradual buildup of  individual reforms of our treatment of animals) who have presented the idea that there is a morally significant difference between single-issue campaigns that they claim are “abolitionist” in nature and ones that are overtly welfarist.

But this thinking is logically unsound.

These people claim that there are SICs (if you haven’t read anything before on why SICs are problematic, you may want to do so now and then come back to finish this essay) that are not welfarist because they attempt to abolish a particular kind of animal use -instead of changing the treatment of only a certain species of animals- and so are not “reforms” and/or are not speciesist and so are supposedly not problematic.

SICs of that type are merely “incremental” reforms, in that the people engaging in them are trying to abolish all use by abolishing one type of use at a time. The campaigns for these kinds of incremental reforms are still part of what makes the mindset of welfarism so harmful to animals. They seem like Abolitionism but they are merely welfarist types of actions; just bent and twisted so they can be disguised as Abolitionism and used to a welfarist purpose.

Welfarism is concerned with incremental reforms for “farmed animals” and “pets” etc. “Non-Welfare” SICs are merely incremental reforms for all different species of animals. They purport to abolish harms to each species as a whole, but doing that is just incremental in the overall arena of the exploitation of all species. The main problem with these kinds of campaigns is that they unfortunately focus many people’s attention  -inadvertently or not, it makes no real difference- on the idea that by eliminating whatever one type of animal use that the campaign is focusing on, that they can discharge their entire moral obligation to animals and thus go back to their complacent, speciesist lives. They also cause the observers to believe that if  they’re not one of the people who participate in the type of animal use targeted by the campaign, that they have no need to change their behavior towards animals and thus, no need to learn why they need to live Vegan.

In this way, all SICs can clearly be seen to be closely tied to welfarism. The key here is that they’re single issue campaigns. By definition, since they’re concerned with single issues, they are not campaigns to advocate Veganism as the moral baseline, which makes them inherently speciesist.

In contrast, Creative Non-Oppressive Vegan Advocacy abolishes all exploitation at once. Anything that focuses on a single issue is just an incremental half-measure; but they are not productive half-measures by any means. Almost all half-measures in regards to Animal Rights are profoundly counter-productive. And the main point here is that single-issues are always something that we need to avoid focusing people’s attention on if we’re serious about our efforts to advocate for the nonhuman animals who we share this planet with.

Many SIC supporters also claim that “rescue” (trap-neuter-return/adopt/foster/volunteer/etc.) of cats and dogs (and other animals) and Creative Non-Oppressive Vegan Advocacy are also SICs, in an effort to paint Abolitionist Vegans as somehow “hypocrites” or in some other way confused about why they should criticize SICs. This is simply not true. There are 3 main categories of action we can take regarding nonhuman animals: Single-Issue Campaigns, Direct Action, and Vegan Education. These 3 forms of activism can be distinguished from each other in these ways: single-issue campaigns involve engaging in a public plea to observers -who may or may not be in the immediate area- to change their behavior in some way as it relates to a single type of animal use, to change their treatment of animals in a single specific way, etc.; direct action involves directly physically intervening ourselves and taking a nonhuman out of whatever situation may be harming or threatening to harm them; and Vegan Education involves explaining to others why Veganism is the non-negotiable moral baseline and thus why it’s their moral obligation to live Vegan.

In this way we can see that things such as protests, petitions and the like are examples of SICs, while “animal rescue” is an example of Direct Action (although not the only example by far and DA certainly includes many problematic kinds of actions), and Vegan Education is by definition not in either of the other categories.

Again, if we claim to take seriously the idea that we need to represent the interests of nonhuman individuals and so attempt to bring about an end to the agony, misery and despair that we as a species subject each of them to every second of every hour of every single day by the thousands, we need to reject the use of any speciesist or otherwise counter-productive activities and stick to exclusively engaging in the education of others on Veganism as the moral baseline. Here’s how to start:

https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/how-to-create-vegans

If you’re not already Vegan, and you think animals matter morally, then please go Vegan. It’s easy and great for you, incredible for the animals, and wonderful for the planet. If you’re already Vegan, please educate non-Vegans about why they should go Vegan. Please rescue, volunteer, adopt, foster, spay, and neuter the nonhuman refugees of domestication whenever you can. Please feed your nonhuman family Vegan where you can. These things are the most important, morally responsible things to do and are desperately needed by everyone.

To learn more about Abolitionist Veganism and the issues I’ve outlined in this post, check out The Master List Of Vegan Info:
https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/master-list-of-vegan-info

Disclaimer: My only goal with this list is to produce as comprehensive a resource for Vegan information as possible. I am 100% Abolitionist Vegan and 100% against exploitation of nonhuman or human animals, any type of violence against human or nonhuman persons or property, welfare regulation, any form of speciesism, ethnic bigotry, genderism, ableism, heterosexism, etc., any of the large governmental or non-governmental nonhuman animal organizations, “happy meat,” vegetarianism, veg*nism, Meat-Free Mondays, or other forms of reductionism and anything else that makes it seem like any form of violence or exploitation of animals is ok. If any of those positions are endorsed on any site in this list, or any language is used to imply that, it’s not that I included that link because I agree, but simply because I don’t control every bit of information on all of these sites.

Guest Blog: Lab Flesh And Anti-Speciesism

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The following post about why “lab flesh” is non-Vegan was post by Dan Kelly on his Facebook timeline. It’s one of the best posts on this subject that I’ve seen:

“ ‘Clean meat’ is a speciesist term meaning flesh made from animal cells, blood products taken from fetal calves, hormones, antibiotics and additives to keep the cells growing. I’ll call it “lab flesh,” but it can be called biotech flesh, bioengineered flesh, clean flesh or any other indication that it’s not directly from a slaughtered innocent.

As most of you likely know, lab flesh is being developed for benefits related to the environment, health, and animal welfare. Industrial animal agriculture 1) is the worst polluter on the planet, especially when you combine air and water pollution; 2) damages ecosystems; 3) is a leading cause of deforestation; 4) generates salmonella, listeria, E. coli and other contamination of flesh and downstream vegetables, causing severe illness and death to humans; 5) is a major cause of heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses, and 6) is a life of torture, terror and hell to 65 billion innocent land animals and hundreds of billions of water animals, annually. If there were an Ig Nobel Prize for Stupidity, animal agriculture and its customers and supporters should win it annually. The developers of lab flesh seek to significantly reduce the six problems, even if they can’t eliminate them.

Antispeciesist vegans oppose lab flesh for the same reason most people would oppose creating human flesh for consumption (aside from cannibal diseases): flesh isn’t food. Lab flesh is a speciesist “solution” to the six problems.

Antispeciesist vegans are well-aware that there’s no stopping lab flesh from coming to market in the next 10 to 20 years, except possibly for difficulties in mass production. It will be one choice of many kinds of flesh available on the market, from traditional flesh from slaughtered or “hunted” innocents to lab flesh from various species: cows, chickens, pigs, dogs and others. It will amount to more speciesist choices of thousands of speciesist choices in a global, capitalist system. There are plenty of bioengineers and others who would love to get wealthy on the idea, and several billionaires and the giant corporations of animal agriculture are eager to invest in it, so it needs no encouragement from speciesist vegans. (Yes, some behavioral vegans can be quite speciesist in attitudes and beliefs.) Lab flesh will happen.

Lab flesh won’t put a dent in speciesism, though. People will still stalk and kill millions of free roaming innocents annually; still hook and net billions of water animals annually; still breed, confine and slaughter tens of billions of innocents annually; still go to zoos and rodeos; still wear skin and fur coats; still experiment on millions of dogs, mice and other innocents annually; still own and torture “pets”; and still bash vegan and antispeciesist advocates. Lab flesh will, at best, keep traditional animal agriculture at its present levels, instead of doubling over the next 30 years, and that’s if people actually choose it over traditional flesh. There will be marketing pushback against lab flesh, and it’s likely that many nonvegans won’t choose lab flesh over traditional flesh.

Lab flesh is what speciesists do, even if those speciesist are behavioral vegans and otherwise avoid using or consuming animal products. Being vegan and doing vegan and antispeciesist advocacy is what antispeciesist, abolitionist vegan advocates do. They are two different paradigms.

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is one of the best known books in the philosophy of science. In the book, Thomas Kuhn popularized the phrase “paradigm shift” and explained that there is usually a lot of resistance to new scientific paradigms, and it often takes older generations of scientists dying off before new scientific paradigms are accepted, no matter how powerful the new paradigms are or how much evidence supports them.

Although there are significant differences between scientific paradigms and moral paradigms, including differences in the reasons for resisting new paradigms, resistance to new paradigms that are eventually accepted is at least as common for moral, social and cultural paradigm shifts as it is for scientific ones.

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The strong similarity between scientific and moral paradigm shifts is that proponents of each paradigm generally talk past each other when arguing for their paradigm, sticking to the logic internal to the paradigm they’re defending, logic which makes little or no sense outside of their paradigm. It’s like looking at the duck and rabbit photo and defending one without seeing the other. This doesn’t imply the paradigms are equally sound, or even close. Unlike the duck and rabbit photo in which both views are equally sound, in scientific and moral paradigms, one paradigm is usually far better at describing reality (in science) or far more coherent with generally accepted underlying values, such as objectivity and fairness (in morality).

As superior as a new paradigm may be, the new paradigm requires strong advocates if it is to ever replace the old paradigm. Without strong advocacy from start to finish, the old paradigm, with its own internal logic, will stay in place indefinitely.

Lab flesh is a small modification of the old, broken paradigm (speciesism and welfarism) that is incommensurate with the new paradigm (antispeciesism and abolitionism). The old paradigm relied on previous generations’ ignorance of modern nutrition science and other technological advancements. Modern nutrition science and other non-food advancements in technology have made the old paradigm obsolete. We have no need to use nonhuman beings. We must reject speciesism, reject lab flesh, be vegan for life, and strongly advocate that others do the same. You can’t expect new paradigm thinkers to accept old paradigm nonsense.

Antispeciesists are in this for the long haul over decades. We know we’re on the right side of history. We know lab flesh will come and go, eventually replaced by vegan meats as society’s moral paradigm gradually changes.”

If you’re not already Vegan, and you think animals matter morally, then please live Vegan. It’s incredible for the animals, easy and great for you, and wonderful for the planet. If you’re already Vegan, please educate non-Vegans about why they should go Vegan. Please rescue, volunteer, adopt, foster, spay, and neuter the nonhuman refugees of domestication whenever you can. Please feed your nonhuman family Vegan where you can. These things are the most important, morally responsible things to do and are desperately needed by everyone.

To learn more about Abolitionist Veganism and the issues I’ve outlined in this post, check out The Master List Of Vegan Info:
https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/master-list-of-vegan-info

Disclaimer: My only goal with this list is to produce as comprehensive a resource for Vegan information as possible. I am 100% Abolitionist Vegan and 100% against exploitation of nonhuman or human animals, any type of violence against human or nonhuman persons or property, welfare regulation, any form of speciesism, ethnic bigotry, genderism, ableism, cis-sexism, etc., any of the large governmental or non-governmental nonhuman animal organizations, “happy meat,” vegetarianism, veg*nism, Meat-Free Mondays, or other forms of reductionism and anything else that makes it seem like any form of violence or exploitation of animals is ok. If any of those positions are endorsed on any site in this list, or any language is used to imply that, it’s not that I included that link because I agree, but simply because I don’t control every bit of information on all of these sites.

“Reducetarian Steps” Are Neither “Beautiful,” Nor “A Contribution”

I recently came across the following article after it was shared by someone in a Facebook group for Vegans and non-Vegans:

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2018/09/24/650437498/opinion-as-florence-kills-pigs-and-millions-of-chickens-we-must-open-our-hearts?

This article will do worse than nothing for animals. Why do I say worse than nothing? Because of this line in the article:

“So here’s a personal note for everyone out there who isn’t prepared to give up all meat, cheese, and dairy: Taking reducetarian steps makes a beautiful contribution, too.”

We live Vegan because we understand why we need to observe the right of nonhumans not to be used merely as chattel property of humans. Just as we reject human slavery or the rape, torture or murder of humans for any reason, so too do we reject all of those same things when it comes to nonhumans. The basis for our rejection of the idea that nonhumans should be used as property is exactly the same as it is with humans: the fact that, just as we know that humans are capable of feeling pain and other sensations, we also know that nonhumans are capable of this; this makes them -if we value moral consistency- part of the same moral sphere as humans. This also means that they inherently have the same basic, most important pre-legal negative moral right that humans have: the right to not be used as the property of humans.

There is one other problematic point in the article that I’d like to touch on before I get to the main point though. It’s that the wording “who isn’t prepared to give up all meat, cheese, and dairy” makes it seem as though only “meat” (a term we need to stop using as in reality it’s the flesh of a nonhuman and the term “meat” is just a euphemism that was fabricated specifically to divert our attention from this fact) cheese and dairy (cheese is dairy by the way) are the only things that we need to reject if we care about animals’ rights.

If we are committed to moral consistency, as we all need to be, then we should recognize that all use of nonhumans is morally wrong: there is no moral distinction between inflicting unnecessary suffering and death on nonhumans for the purpose of eating their flesh or dairy and inflicting unnecessary suffering and death on them for the purpose of eating their eggs, their honey, using their skins as clothing, using them for entertainment, or any other use that is unnecessary.

Now the main point of my concern: let’s say that in this day and age that we’re talking about the idea of humans being used as slaves -as we actually did allow legally in the US before 1863- and we already understand that slavery is morally wrong, as (hopefully) you and I already do. In other words, we already take the moral stance personally that it’s wrong to use humans as slaves at all. We have this idea that we may be able to get people to stop hurting humans unnecessarily through their use as slaves by talking to them about how we see the issue, so we decide to mount a campaign to educate them about it.

Within the context of this campaign, let’s say that we said to all the people who buy slave-made goods that “we know you’re not interested in eliminating the amount of those goods you buy completely” and so -instead of abolishing human slavery- it’s morally acceptable to “just partially reduce the amount of slavery-based products you buy;” or perhaps we would tell slave-owners that instead of owning 50 slaves they should only own 15 slaves. Would that sound like a rational response to the fact that we knew that slavery was morally wrong?

Of course not. Advocating for only owning 15 human slaves is still advocating for owning human slaves. If we human animals think that using other human animals merely as chattel property is wrong, we have a moral obligation to not tell people that there is a moral distinction between only using *some* humans as slaves and using some other higher number of humans as slaves. There may be a quantitative distinction in the utilitarian calculation of amounts of suffering, but that does not mean that there is a qualitative distinction regarding the morality of slavery. In other words, we have a moral obligation -if we think that it’s wrong to use humans as slaves- to only tell people that we think that all slavery is morally wrong. And that is what was called “Abolitionism” prior to 1863 and that is exactly what was advocated for by any morally consistent humans at that time.

After all, if we think that we’re doing something morally wrong in taking away the lives and freedoms of humans by taking their mere existence out of the realm of “someone who has moral value” and placing them into the category of “property of a human,” then what sense does it make to argue that we should merely “cut down on the number of property that we use” instead of being direct and telling someone that they are doing something wrong by using humans as property? If we care about the individual humans who we want people to stop using when they reduce their use of humans, then what about the individual humans who they are still going to be using? Does that mean that we don’t take a moral stance against the taking away of the lives and freedoms of those humans? Do we think that those humans -who are ceaselessly having their lives and freedoms taken from them and being subjected to enormous amounts of unending suffering- feel good about the fact that we advocated for a mere partial reduction in the number of humans being used? Because that is how it would look to anyone observing our campaign.

Moreover, if anyone who had never heard the idea that there was anything wrong with slavery was observing us say that we should merely “reduce the number of slave goods that we buy,” one of the obvious thoughts that would occur to them would be that we actually don’t care about whether people used humans as slaves in general, because we’re not clearly and unequivocally advocating for all humans to be free; they wouldn’t think that someone who is merely concerned with the partial reduction of the number of slaves who exist is morally against the institution of slavery at all.

They would automatically think that we were merely concerned about humans as some sort of aggregate of suffering (and most likely that we thought that the people being used as slaves should have about the same moral status that we currently accord nonhumans, as that is exactly what did happen in the past) rather than the idea that each human is an individual who we believe has a right to their own lives and freedoms; they would probably think that we merely thought that the overall treatment of the human slaves was not up to some arbitrary level of “kindness” that each individual campaigner had created in our own heads. And this makes it exceedingly easy for pro-slavery campaigners to argue unceasingly about whose arbitrary level of kindness should be the standard, which is exactly what they are doing regarding the slavery of nonhumans right now.

Contrary to what many people believe, the humans who use slaves are not so stupid that the majority of them won’t immediately realize that if someone is morally against slavery, that the most logical thing that person could do is immediately make the statement that all slavery needs to end immediately. Conversely, those same people will recognize that if someone is unwilling to make that claim, then they don’t actually believe that slavery is a moral wrong.

Both of these problems are exactly what we are seeing right now in regards to the nonhuman animals who we currently use as slaves in our society. Just as it happened before 1863, there are some people arguing that we don’t need to live Vegan, but just “reduce the number of others that we harm” -by using them as slaves- by an undefined but always arbitrary number. It’s no coincidence that these people are almost always the ones who argue that merely changing the way we treat the animals who we use as slaves eliminates the need to observe their actual rights as well. Those people who argued for better treatment of human slaves also often argued against the abolition of human slavery. In the context of human slavery they were arguing merely for the “welfare” of the slaves, as opposed to “the abolition of slavery.” That’s why we now have the terms “welfarist” and “Abolitionist Vegan” regarding the slavery of nonhumans in our current society.

There are also people in our current society who try to argue that we can make a claim for better welfare of slaves while still calling for slavery to end. These people have been dubbed “new welfarists” by some. However, the very fact that a person argues that we need to treat slaves better while we’re using them necessitates the position that using them is not a morally reprehensible crime that needs to end immediately. We can’t argue on moral grounds that something needs to immediately end if we’re arguing that it should be improved in some way. It just doesn’t work, from a moral standpoint or a tactical one. New welfarism and Abolitionist Veganism are by necessity contradictory positions.

It’s a major problem in our society that some people -who should understand that it would make no sense for those morally opposed to human slavery to argue that we should just reduce the number of human-slave-made goods that we buy- tend to make that exact argument when they talk about what we should do when deciding whether to buy the products of nonhuman slavery. When we change our moral argument from a categorical rejection of slavery to the idea that it’s morally acceptable to us to merely reduce the amount of slavery we engage in, solely because we have replaced the species membership of the human victims with “nonhuman,” that indicates an arbitrary moral double-standard that’s been dubbed “speciesism.” Speciesism is a product of a myth that we’re indoctrinated in since birth called “human supremacy.” Speciesism is every bit as much of a problem as racism, sexism, homophobia, or any other moral double-standard based on any other physical characteristic; in fact it’s even more of a problem, since it’s the root cause of all of the others.

Speciesism is the real threat from human animals to nonhuman animals in this world. When we make a speciesist argument like “we should reduce our consumption of meat or dairy” -rather than saying that we should end all of our participation in all forms of slavery- that has the unfortunate consequence of reinforcing the speciesism that is already saturated into every part of our society. The more speciesism in society, the more people will inflict completely unnecessary suffering and death on nonhumans. That is the main reason why I said the article will do more harm than good.

The article starts out ok by making the point that we should have moral concern for the nonhumans who are being killed, but it’s the conclusion they come to in the end that is counter-productive to the stated goal. If we truly want people to stop inflicting unnecessary suffering and death on nonhumans, the only thing we really need is for the highest number of people to reject speciesism. That is the only way that we can put an end to the root cause of the problem that is illustrated here, and keep things like these pointless deaths from happening over and over again for the rest of time.

Some people have criticized the idea that we need to verbally take a clear, strong and unequivocal moral stand that it’s wrong to use nonhumans as slaves by saying that “attacking people” for taking “reducetarian steps” will cause them to hate Vegans, or at the very least become defensive and choose to not make any changes in their consumption of nonhumans at all. There are several problems with this position however. Number one, criticizing the idea that as “animal advocates” that we should not be telling people that reducetarianism is morally unjustifiable is not “an attack,” any more than -if we are against human slavery- telling people that it’s wrong to engage in human trafficking -or rape, or murder- in this day and age is “an attack.”

When someone is doing something wrong to a human, then it’s our moral responsibility to speak out and explain why what they’re doing is wrong. Changing the species of the victim from human to nonhuman doesn’t change this. Claiming that it does is purely due to speciesism. And there is a difference between saying that an action is morally wrong and saying that someone is a bad person. If we’re doing our jobs as Vegan Educators in the only morally justifiable and effective way that we can, then we’re criticizing the moral action, not attacking the character of the moral actor.

Number two, no one is making the moral claim that the act of reducing one’s consumption of animal flesh, dairy or any other form of animal use based on their moral concern for animals is a bad thing in and of itself. It’s very easy to praise someone for “taking steps in the reduction of their consumption of animal products” due to their moral concern, without implying that they don’t need to go all the way and live Vegan. It’s not the “taking steps” that are at issue, it’s the idea that we should merely say that taking steps is a good thing, and say nothing else. The idea that taking steps is a good thing does not mean that it’s morally justifiable for us as Vegans to be telling people that the way to express their moral concern for nonhumans is to merely “take some steps.”

Also of note is that when we verbally take a clear, strong and unequivocal moral stand against all animal use, those who are observing are most likely to understand why we think that they need to live Vegan. The highest number of those people will positively consider the idea of living Vegan out of any results from any different kind of advocacy that we can do. Out of those who don’t start living Vegan soon after, some will merely choose to reduce the amount of animal products they consume, and some will choose to do absolutely nothing at all; but that does not say anything positive about the idea that as Vegans we should be pushing for mere partial reduction of animal use as a tactical matter.

As I just said, when we advocate for unequivocal Veganism as the moral baseline, we get at least some portion of people going Vegan immediately or soon thereafter. But in contrast, if we advocate for mere reduction and don’t take a stand for Veganism, we don’t even get anyone to go Vegan at all. The most we get in that case is reduction, and in many cases, nothing at all. So we can see that even as purely a tactical matter, advocating for reducetarianism makes no sense. It also makes no sense that someone observing our advocacy for reducetarianism -or indeed, any single-issue campaign- will somehow magically discover their moral obligation to live Vegan by some sort of weird osmosis, as is being claimed by quite a few new welfarists.

The rejection of speciesism as a moral wrong is the real meaning of living Vegan. If we reject speciesism by living Vegan, then we need to understand that we must also reject the idea that it’s morally justifiable to claim that “Taking reducetarian steps makes a beautiful contribution, too.” If we think that nonhumans matter morally and that they are entitled to their lives and freedoms, then it rationally follows that we have a moral obligation to -if we’re going to say anything to anyone on the subject of nonhuman slavery- explain to them why they already agree that they need to live Vegan, although they don’t yet know it. This means that we need to be exclusively engaging in creative Vegan education, as that is the only way to get people to reject speciesism.

Please live Vegan friends, and educate others about why they also need to live Vegan.

More reading on the problems of reducetarianism:

http://blog.veganeducationgroup.com/on-welfarism-abolitionism-and-playing-well-with-others

The most effective way to educate non-Vegans on why Veganism is our moral obligation to animals:

https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/how-to-create-vegans

If you’re not already Vegan, and you think animals matter morally, then please live Vegan. It’s incredible for the animals, easy and great for you, and wonderful for the planet. If you’re already Vegan, please educate non-Vegans about why they should go Vegan. Please rescue, volunteer, adopt, foster, spay, and neuter the nonhuman refugees of domestication whenever you can. Please feed your nonhuman family Vegan where you can. These things are the most important, morally responsible things to do and are desperately needed by everyone.

To learn more about Abolitionist Veganism and the issues I’ve outlined in this post, check out The Master List Of Vegan Info:
https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/master-list-of-vegan-info

Disclaimer: My only goal with this list is to produce as comprehensive a resource for Vegan information as possible. I am 100% Abolitionist Vegan and 100% against exploitation of nonhuman or human animals, any type of violence against human or nonhuman persons or property, welfare regulation, any form of speciesism, ethnic bigotry, genderism, ableism, cis-sexism, etc., any of the large governmental or non-governmental nonhuman animal organizations, “happy meat,” vegetarianism, veg*nism, Meat-Free Mondays, or other forms of reductionism and anything else that makes it seem like any form of violence or exploitation of animals is ok. If any of those positions are endorsed on any site in this list, or any language is used to imply that, it’s not that I included that link because I agree, but simply because I don’t control every bit of information on all of these sites.

Guest Blog: Why do I do it? How do I do it? Background issues and more.

Pierre and his nonhuman family, Aura, who is thriving on Evolution plants-only dog food.

The following was posted on the Facebook timeline of Pierre Roland Roy-Parent who is an AbVegan friend of mine and a great writer on the subject of Veganism. I’m happy to be able to present his writing here:

“Why do I do it? How do I do it? Background issues and more.
I fully realize that talking about the ethics of veganism turns some people off or makes them feel uncomfortable. I get it. I really do. This discomfort stems from the way most of us have been taught to think about animals from the time we were little kids; that it’s okay to love some while it’s also okay to eat/use others. This speciesism (which exists in every culture) is deeply ingrained in our minds and it has had and will continue to have a variety of serious repercussions over the years, obviously for the animals, the environment and for everyone’s health.

Why do I do it? So why do I talk about veganism and the importance of going vegan if it makes people feel uncomfortable? Well, I believe that one’s temporary discomfort (as it was for me when I was first exposed to veganism) is worth it, especially if it can lead to a re-conceptualization in the way we regard animals.

How do I do it? I often start with a basic question: “Do you believe that it’s wrong to inflict unnecessary harm on animals?” 99.99% of people will agree that it is wrong. So, in essence people believe in the concept of veganism. The problem is that about 98% of people’s actions do not align with their beliefs. We call this cognitive dissonance. There is a long list of reasons for this cognitive dissonance.

Ethical vegans see veganism as a social justice movement in much the same way as abolitionists did when they wanted to end slavery back in the day. Many of those who worked to abolish slavery would never have pushed for reducing slavery or making slavery more humane. It had to go. It was a violation of a person’s most basic right – the right to not be someone’s property.

Now when it comes to animal rights there are some similarities and there are important differences. Slaves are human. Many could and did speak up and did a lot more than just speak (they fought, they escaped, etc.) to gain their freedom. They also had a number of non-slave advocates who fought on their behalf. Animals now have more and more advocates who are willing to speak up on their behalf. They need us because they obviously cannot fight for their own freedom or escape in order to obtain the basic right not to be property.

I see the pursuit of animal rights as a question of fairness, as an extension of basic justice. Yes, we accord some basic justice to a few animals, especially those we anthropomorphize – the one we deem cuter (puppies, kittens), smarter (dolphins, great apes), magnificent (lions, elephants). We often regard these species as worthier of greater human care, kindness and justice while other species (typically those regarded as food animals) are viewed as dirty (pigs), dumb (cows), scary (sharks) and thus unworthy of extended human consideration pertaining to their rights.

None of the positive qualities we accord some animals or the negative qualities we accord to others should matter with respect to all animals having the right to live their lives. The only thing that should matter is that they are sentient, that they feel pain, can suffer and want to live. Their lives are important to them even if they are of no importance to anyone else.

I am always glad to keep the discussion with non-vegans going, to answer questions, to recommend books, films or websites. I am not going to condemn a person who eats/exploits animals (I was once a part of this group) but neither am I going to praise him/her/they (once they have understood the simple concept of veganism) for reducing their intake of animal products via a meatless Monday approach for example or a poorly defined baby steps approach having no defined end date in mind.

Praising a person who employed either of these strategies would be like praising someone for subscribing to racist-free Fridays or misogyny-free Mondays. I would no more throw the animals under the proverbial bus than I would people of colour or women. All of these prejudices are morally wrong (speciesism, racism, sexism) and they need to end.

I can’t (obviously) force anyone to end any of these prejudices by imposing my beliefs on them. It is something that people have to work out for themselves once they have examined the facts. I think that those who truly take the time to discuss the issues, do some reading, watch some films, check out some websites will begin to see that veganism makes sense and is the morally correct path to take. However, I do understand that just because it makes sense and is fair/just does not mean that people will all become vegan in the end. Some people have powerful conflicts of interests which will lead them to advocate for their continued use and exploitation of animals. Most of us do not have these powerful conflicts of interest.

I refuse to hate anyone who does not see things my way, frustrating as that may be, whether they do so through benign neglect (the willful ignorance approach) or by mounting a stringent defense of their self-interest in continuing to exploit animals. The law will nearly always reflect the opinion of the majority of us out there and until the tide shifts and people begin to extend an invitation to non-human animals to join the moral community the laws protecting some animals while allowing us to use and exploit other animals are not going to change.

Going vegan right now does not require anyone to wait for new legislation or new technologies to pave the way forward. It really is the easiest grassroots approach to making a change that will make a real difference for every species that exists.

So in the end, I am more than happy to engage in discussions with people, sharing food and recipes but I won’t advocate for better welfare regulations, reducing one’s animal intake, etc. If people choose to take any of these paths rather than immediately going vegan once they have examined the issues and checked out the facts, then they will do so anyway and they won’t need a pat on the back from people like me in order to do so.

Veganism is as close to a social justice/peace movement for all that there is out there. I hope in the end people will see it this way and embrace it.

Peace. Love. Justice.

Pierre

If you’re not already Vegan, and you think animals matter morally, then please live Vegan. It’s incredible for the animals, easy and great for you, and wonderful for the planet. If you’re already Vegan, please educate non-Vegans about why they should go Vegan. Please rescue, volunteer, adopt, foster, spay, and neuter the nonhuman refugees of domestication whenever you can. Please feed your nonhuman family Vegan where you can. These things are the most important, morally responsible things to do and are desperately needed by everyone.

To learn more about Abolitionist Veganism and the issues I’ve outlined in this post, check out The Master List Of Vegan Info:
https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/master-list-of-vegan-info

Disclaimer: My only goal with this list is to produce as comprehensive a resource for Vegan information as possible. I am 100% Abolitionist Vegan and 100% against exploitation of nonhuman or human animals, any type of violence against human or nonhuman persons or property, welfare regulation, any form of speciesism, ethnic bigotry, genderism, ableism, cis-sexism, etc., any of the large governmental or non-governmental nonhuman animal organizations, “happy meat,” vegetarianism, veg*nism, Meat-Free Mondays, or other forms of reductionism and anything else that makes it seem like any form of violence or exploitation of animals is ok. If any of those positions are endorsed on any site in this list, or any language is used to imply that, it’s not that I included that link because I agree, but simply because I don’t control every bit of information on all of these sites.

On Strategy In Advocacy: The Mistake Of Trying To Convince Those Who Don’t Care

Image credit: The Washington Post

Image credit: The Washington Post

AbVegans, we need to stop talking about Veganism with the people who ridicule us and ignore our arguments.

Something Our Species Is Doing That’s Wrong

Every year now, the human species confines and kills around 70,000,000,000 land-dwelling nonhuman animals (the latest written information I have on hand is from a few years ago, but I know it has recently risen to that figure) and somewhere between 1,000,000,000,000 and 3,000,000,000,000 sea-dwelling nonhumans, for no better reason than our palate pleasure.

Yes, you read those numbers right; and I did not exaggerate or make any kind of error.

I say between 1 and 3 trillion because what we do to the sea-dwelling nonhumans is we drag them up from depths of the sea where they live -an action that kills many of them in and of itself- in such high numbers that we can’t even keep track, merely because we want a small portion of their numbers to sell to people and to consume as food, and then we dump the dead bodies of the vast majority of those who we’ve drug to the surface back into the ocean, since we didn’t really want that portion of their numbers in the first place. The institutional fish exploiters’ apathetic term for those animals killed and then dumped in this unbelievably horrific activity is “bycatch.” Because these animals are measured by we humans in the tons -rather than by the individual animal- we have absolutely no way of really knowing just how many of them we’re killing. And that circumstance is unlikely to change until after this activity itself is entirely eliminated by global Veganism.

Our best guess is that we kill somewhere above 1 trillion -but possibly not more than 3 trillion- nonhumans per year. And that is just to use them for “food,” which is completely unnecessary. This does not even include the numbers of animals used for such things as “pets,” hunting, fur, vivisection, “conservation culling” etc., which taken together are a much smaller number than the nonhumans we use for food. Indeed, using nonhumans for food isn’t morally distinguishable from any other way in which we use them: it’s merely the way in which we use the highest number of them. Regardless, for the sake of my ease of calculation in this argument, let’s cut the total overall number of animals killed by humans each year to an even number that’s easy to work with. Let’s say that it’s a mere 1 trillion.

This translates to roughly 2,739,726,028 sentient beings dismembered per day, or roughly 114,155,252 vulnerable individuals butchered per hour, or roughly 1,902,588 defenseless innocents slaughtered per minute. That’s 31,710 animals -sweet individual beings who feel all of the agony and horror of what we do to them; who want nothing more than to live their lives and enjoy their freedoms and to not suffer, and the same for their loved ones- who are all being completely annihilated every single second, precisely as you read this.

What We Choose To Do About It

Abolitionist Vegans are people who recognize that because nonhuman animals are capable of feeling pain, that all of this is an injustice to them, and that if we mean what we say when we say that it’s wrong to inflict unnecessary suffering or death on others (including nonhumans), that the least we can do is to stop using them for food -or any other one of our interests that is not provably necessary- in every set of circumstances where we have a choice of whether to refrain from using them or not. This is what is meant by “living Vegan.”

However, this does not speak to any added morally positive action -what I would call “Moral Opportunity”- that we may be able to engage in if we want to do anything above and beyond just the morally neutral action -aka the Moral Responsibility- of living Vegan. In that case, what Abolitionist Vegans understand is that the only action that is both extremely effective in getting non-Vegans to understand why they have a moral obligation to stop using nonhumans and also morally justifiable, is Creative, Non-Oppressive Vegan Advocacy (CNOVA).

At this point in time, many AbVegans are engaging in CNOVA with a certain percentage of non-Vegan listeners who are happy to learn about Veganism and prone to living Vegan at some point -let’s call those people “pre-Vegans”- as well as a certain percentage who are hostile towards the argument for Veganism, will give us multiple nonsensical speciesist arguments and reject our arguments without even really listening, or even may become angry at us and storm off, etc. (let’s call those people “anti-Vegans” from here on).

Although it’s true that we can never predict exactly how -and when- in the future any one person is going to react to our arguments and decide to change their behavior towards nonhumans in whatever way they do, it’s usually pretty easy to immediately determine who is either overtly welcoming or overtly hostile towards the argument for Veganism when we’re talking to them face-to-face.

Units Of Advocacy And The Mechanism Inside Our Moral Opportunity

Let’s say that each AbVegan can do CNOVA for 24 hours a day, every day of the rest of our lives (this is unrealistic but let’s just use the numbers I’m using for the sake of this argument). Let’s be conservative and assume that each conversation takes an average of 5 minutes, and also that -initially, for our calculations- there is no difference in the length of a conversation that we have with someone who is interested in learning about Veganism, or someone who is hostile towards the idea.

Going by those numbers (24 hours divided into 5-minute increments), each day we can talk to a maximum number of 288 people, which translates to 105,120 people per year. Now, I’ll ask you to imagine that we have something called “Units Of Advocacy” (UOA) that we can use up in any way that we want to in regards to how we educate people about Veganism. Each UOA is a 5-minute block of time, and we have 105,120 UOA per year to use up as we see fit. The reason those UOA are 5-minute blocks is because we’re operating under the idea that 5 minutes is approximately the minimum amount of time necessary to get across the gist of the AbVegan argument in a way that causes the listener to both grasp it and become interested in learning more.

Let’s say now that we spend 100,000 UOA in just under a year talking to 100,000 people about Veganism over the next 500,000 minutes (rounding the total time period down just to make the math easier). However, only 3 out of every 5 people are pre-Vegans and will seek out more information about Veganism by other means after we finish talking, the other 2 out of 5 are anti-Vegans and never show any sign of being happy about our conversation or interested in learning more. Going purely by the experience of many Abolitionist Vegans, that fraction is not too unrealistic to be unworkable in our analogy here.

This translates to 60,000 pre-Vegans within that 100,000, and 40,000 anti-Vegans. Now let’s say that in each of those conversations, it took 1 minute just to determine whether the person was likely to be a pre-Vegan or an anti-Vegan. That 1 minute is obviously indispensable in the conversation because the initial determination of whether we should keep talking to that person about Veganism at all is absolutely necessary. But that leaves 4 more minutes in each 5-minute conversation we had with the anti-Vegans that were not obviously/overtly productively spent time. This translates to 40,000 anti-Vegans x 4 minutes each = 160,000 minutes which also equals 32,000 five-minute UOA. With me so far?

How We Can Upgrade And Improve The Mechanism

Now I’d like you to imagine a different scenario. In this scenario, we do some of those actions similarly, but instead of talking to the anti-Vegans who are overtly hostile towards the argument for Veganism as the moral baseline for the full 5 minutes each, we merely use that first 1 minute to decide whether to proceed with the rest of the Vegan argument, or to avoid the person and move onto the next person who may be more interested in learning about why they need to live Vegan. As long as the person is overtly happy -or at least interested- in hearing our argument, we make sure to spend the full 5 minutes on them though.

This translates into a full 32,000 more people per year who are much more likely to end up Abolitionist Vegans relatively soon -compared to the hostile people- than if we spent those other 4 minutes continuing to talk to the anti-Vegans! We eliminated the equivalent of talking to 8,000 anti-Vegans at all just by eliminating 80% of the time that we talked to each one!

Plus, even if we take it as a given that only a percentage of all the people who hear our arguments will go Vegan at all, that only a percentage of those people will call themselves AbVegans, and only a percentage of those people who call themselves AbVegans will engage in CNOVA, the math still scales along with all these variables as to whether talking to the anti-Vegans was time well spent or not. Plus of course we can consider other variables such as the time needed to sleep, eat, go to the bathroom, and engage in non-advocacy activities; but none of this invalidates the argument regarding how well our time is spent.

Please note: no part of this argument relates to whether CNOVA is more effective than single-issue campaigns or how we need to craft our AbVegan message in terms of rhetoric or other tactics. For all responses to your arguments on those issues, please read the previous links in this paragraph.

Now, let’s scale that down a little and say that we can only talk to 1000 people each year about Veganism as the moral baseline. That’s around only 3 per day. That translates to 600 pre-Vegans and 400 anti-Vegans. Which translates to 320 more pre-Vegans each year that we could include to increase the number of Vegans if we avoid talking to the anti-Vegans for more than 1 minute (80 anti-Vegans eliminated!). Out of all the people we talk to who are going to be interested in Veganism after that (920 total by eliminating the other 4 minutes), let’s assume that only 5 of those pre-Vegans become both AbVegans and practitioners of CNOVA each year.

When we run the numbers -including the activity of all of the educators and compounding the number of new educators for every year- we can see that in 10 years we would have over 60,000,000 AbVegan educators! And that is not even including all of the people who would be Vegan but not practicing CNOVA. That number would be much more gigantic. If you want to check my math, I’ve spelled it out in this blog post.

Many people have tried to argue in favor of using that extra 4 minutes of discussion (and much, much longer!) to really “press anti-Vegans” with arguments like “we don’t know for sure if someone is going to refuse to go Vegan forever” and “you never know what seeds you may plant” and “but I just know that I can get through to ______ if I chip away at them long enough.” But my argument is that it’s not more probable that we’ll get those people to live Vegan sooner than it is that we’ll get the people who are happy to learn about Veganism to live Vegan sooner.

What Are We Striving For, Really?

As Abolitionist Vegans who are in favor of engaging in CNOVA, we actually have 2 main goals. The first goal we have is to get individuals who were previously non-Vegan to live Vegan because each human person who lives non-Vegan is intentionally inflicting unnecessary suffering and death on thousands of nonhuman persons over the course of their lifetime, and that’s morally wrong behavior for them. But the second goal we have is to build a grassroots movement -a groundswell of Veganism if you will- that eventually will cause our population to hit a tipping point.

What we have to remember is that every person who we get to go AbVegan sooner is one more person who would be eligible to join the ranks of the CNOVA educators sooner -and thus start explaining Veganism as the moral baseline to non-Vegans sooner- which translates to a groundswell of Veganism that would arrive much sooner than if we waste time talking to the people who don’t show us immediate signs that they care. And we also should take into account that according to our best information on the subject, in order to get the other 90% of people in the population to go Vegan much quicker, we only need as little as 10% of the population to go Vegan initially.

By all the evidence and indications we currently have on the issue, the majority of humans have moral concern for animals. Coupling that fact with the evidence we have on how a 10% groundswell should cause Veganism to spread through the other 90% of the population much more quickly, we can come to the conclusion that at least 50% of people will most likely end up going Vegan with much less resistance than most people think if we can only refine our approach enough and decrease or eliminate that portion of “the animal movement” who are insisting that we shouldn’t be educating people about Veganism as the moral baseline.

With enough AbVegans in the overall citizenry, a paradigm shift will occur; the speciesism in our culture will be dismantled, restructuring it into a brand new egalitarian society, where the majority of our systemic problems will be severely decreased, if not eliminated altogether. Our goal at this point in time should never be the mere extended grinding down of single individuals into grudging compliance with a set of moral rules that they don’t actually agree with and don’t even really understand, but rather to build our grassroots movement toward that total societal paradigm shift as quickly and effectively as possible.

It’s That Time – Let’s Draw Our Conclusions Already

If we remember that for every second we take in discussing Veganism with anti-Vegans, a full 31,710 sentient individuals will be killed, I fail to see how anyone could not understand how our moral responsibility becomes clear. It’s not about knowing whether your good friend who’s full of nonsense or that dairy company executive or that rancher would go Vegan if you just hammered on them for 3 more months. It’s about whether we can afford to spend each of those seconds -which are so precious for those nonhumans- on the less probable chance that we can get another person to stop harming them because we want to do that because of who those humans are in relation to us and our emotional investments in them; or whether we have a moral responsibility to each one of the nonhumans -who we might have eventually kept from ever having been born into this nightmarish hell that we call animal use- to stick to what we know by all logic and reasonable calculation to be the most probable path to keeping the highest number of them from even being bred into a world of suffering in the first place.

To be clear, I’m actually not arguing that there will never come a time when any AbVegans should try to convince staunch anti-Vegans to live Vegan: in fact there is going to come a time -after we have enough AbVegans for this to become effective- when all we’re going to be doing is trying to convince those anti-Vegans to live Vegan. But since we’re nowhere near that groundswell I mentioned earlier, that time is definitely not now. When will it be, you ask? I can’t give you the answer to that right now, but I am convinced that we’ll know it when the time is right; because we’ll be able to feel it out, based on the evidence we feel in the rest of society all around us.

Please consider ignoring those who ridicule AbVegans or continue to spout irrational nonsense at us, and quickly move your educational efforts on to those who will joyfully become our allies at moving our species into the Vegan future we’re all yearning for. No one will thank us more than the nonhumans.

If you’re not already Vegan, and you think animals matter morally, then please go Vegan. It’s incredible for the animals, easy and great for you, and wonderful for the planet. If you’re already Vegan, please educate non-Vegans about why they should go Vegan. Please rescue, volunteer, adopt, foster, spay, and neuter the nonhuman refugees of domestication whenever you can. Please feed your nonhuman family Vegan where you can. These things are the most important, morally responsible things to do and are desperately needed by everyone.

To learn more about Abolitionist Veganism and the issues I’ve outlined in this post, check out The Master List Of Vegan Info:
https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/master-list-of-vegan-info

Disclaimer: My only goal with this list is to produce as comprehensive a resource for Vegan information as possible. I am 100% Abolitionist Vegan and 100% against exploitation of nonhuman or human animals, any type of violence against human or nonhuman persons or property, welfare regulation, any form of speciesism, ethnic bigotry, genderism, ableism, cis-sexism, etc., any of the large governmental or non-governmental nonhuman animal organizations, “happy meat,” vegetarianism, veg*nism, Meat-Free Mondays, or other forms of reductionism and anything else that makes it seem like any form of violence or exploitation of animals is ok. If any of those positions are endorsed on any site in this list, or any language is used to imply that, it’s not that I included that link because I agree, but simply because I don’t control every bit of information on all of these sites.

On Morality: Why Not Use Speciesist -And Other Kinds Of- Oppressive Language?

 Confused (1)

Our language is a window into the way we think.

The way we think about nonhumans informs the way we speak about them, and the way we speak about them influences the way others think about them. And finally, that influences how they act towards them. So we can see that our language is vital in taking not just the first but many important steps towards ceasing to harm them.

Carefully choosing the words we use is incredibly important. If you’ve ever had someone make a completely inadvertently insensitive remark in your presence and you’ve been offended, or even if you’ve been blatantly insulted on purpose, you know exactly what I mean. And yet, pretty much every one of us has made a slip like the former at one time or another, and most of us have intentionally done the latter. The hallmark of a truly wise person is how they learn and grow from their mistakes. Criticism -the constructive kind, naturally- is a valuable tool in helping us learn and grow.

Part 1: The Vocabulary Of Speciesism

Part 1a: Establishing Our Moral Agreement
The first part of this post is about how we refer to nonhuman animals in our daily language. But before I get into examples, I’d like to pose a question: Do you think animals matter morally? I’m going to assume for the sake of argument that you’ve already read at least one of my pieces on our moral obligation to live Vegan and stop our “physical” (as opposed to what we would call “verbal”) violence towards nonhumans. If not, please read something here, here or here and then come back to finish this essay. If you need a definition of speciesism, the gist is when a human animal places a different moral value on a member or group of members of one species than we do on another species because of their species membership. This includes thinking that the human species is morally superior to any nonhuman species (“anthropo-centrism” aka “human supremacy”), and also that any nonhuman species is morally superior to any other nonhuman species. To understand why this is problematic from a moral perspective, go ahead and read one of the above linked items.

If you do think that nonhumans have moral status of any kind, then you should want the intentional suffering and death inflicted on them by humans to decrease, shouldn’t you? And if you want that to happen, as a way of effecting that, you should want others to feel that way as well, shouldn’t you? And if you want that, then it only makes sense for you to think and talk as though nonhumans have moral status. Which is why using the correct words in referring to them only makes sense, right? In other words, we don’t want to give other people the wrong impression, and so cause them to get the wrong idea, which they would then logically act on by committing wrongs on sentient beings.

Part 1b: Pronouns And Other Such Problems
I’ve seen a lot of people in our current speciesist, morally confused societal paradigm use extremely problematic words to refer to nonhumans. And I’m even talking about people who “rescue” animals and claim they have moral concern for animals; even some people who call themselves Vegans. Words like “it,” “that,” “thing,” “where,” etc. As in, “I saw a pig, it was running across the street,” “I saw a cute pig that was running across the street,” or “We should respect the rights of every living thing that feels pain, even pigs that are running across a busy street,” or “Where did this meat come from? Did it come from the pig that was killed while running across the street?” etc.

If we think that nonhumans matter morally (and so we want others to consider them as beings who are morally worthy of not having their rights violated) we should recognize that, in any discussion that refers to others who we consider worthy of moral concern (aka “moral discussion”), beings who can feel pain (which is what we mean by “sentient beings“) are completely different from insentient objects, that can’t. Words like “it,” “that,” and “thing” are used to refer to insentient objects, such as rocks, metal, plastic, and trees. These are objects –whether they are “living” or not- that cannot be proven to feel pain and therefore are not owed any moral weight by us, as opposed to subjects, who we do owe our moral concern. Before anyone reading this is tempted to argue that plants are sentient beings, read this or this, and understand that I’m not interested in that debate at all.

In regards to moral discussions, nonhuman animals are considered sentient beings and so should be referred to as “she,” “he,” “her,” “him,” “they,” “them,” “who,” and “being,” etc. As in “I saw a pig, they were running across the street,” “I saw a cute pig who was running across the street,” “we should respect the rights of every living being who feels pain, even pigs who are running across a busy street” or “who did that oink come from? Did it come from the pig who was running across the street?”

The fact that we use the same pronouns for nonhuman animals as we do for inanimate objects and that we would not use for human animals under the same circumstances shows a profound lack of respect for nonhumans.

Note: Some people have criticized this word choice by claiming that it makes no sense to use the pronoun “they” when the singular subject’s gender is in doubt. Really, it makes all the sense in the world. It may be awkward in our mouths when unpracticed, but it works  for us to use it every day for humans who are oppressed -when their gender is in doubt- and so it should work for us. People have criticized this choice of wording by saying that using “they” is confusing because it implies plurality, as in more than one human or nonhuman. This is patently false in any case where it’s already been established how many beings are the subject of a sentence. When we’ve already established that we’re only talking about someone, and not more than one someones, there is no problem there.

Plus, we already do use it in that way. Think about it: If we were referring to humans, we wouldn’t say “I saw a cloaked and hooded person walk down the street, and then I lost sight of it when it turned into an alleyway.” No, we would say “I saw a cloaked and hooded person walk down the street, and then I lost sight of them when they turned into an alleyway” because the being in question is a “person,” but we have no idea which gender that person is.

Humans are sentient beings, so we usually consider it disrespectful to refer to a “human person” as “it.” But when it comes to nonhuman persons, our speciesist society refuses to grant them the same consideration. This is the way we frame things in our minds so we can turn sentient beings into objects, which is the only way we can reconcile what we know, if we really examine them, to be massive atrocities our society commits daily on those innocents.

Some further criticize our anti-speciesist word choice by giving the example that we commonly refer to human babies as “it.” As in “Mary just had a baby, I wonder which sex it is?” I don’t think this proves that the word “it” should also be used for humans, however. Rather it betrays a lack of respect for children on the part of the speaker. It should become common practice for us to say “I wonder which sex they are?” or even better “I wonder what their sex is?” instead.

It may feel strange when we try to retrain ourselves to use non-speciesist terminology in the matter, but that is purely a result of the speciesist conditioning that our society puts us through, not whether it’s “wrong” to use the non-speciesist term.

Part 1c: The Euphemism, or “A Great Way To Distract You From The Truth”
The second point I’d like to make is about how we talk about the nonhumans who we humans use for our interests. Or more specifically, I’d like to talk about them as well as their flesh and secretions. If we’re going to talk about nonhumans and their rights, let’s be perfectly clear: The term “meat” is really a euphemism meant to divert attention from the real issue, which is that we’re talking about the flesh of a being who is easily provable, using only fact and logic, to be morally equal to any human. An innocent being who could feel pain, fear and other sensations, just as much as humans can. A being who had an interest in their own survival and freedoms just as much as you and I do. The reality is that it’s impossible to obtain the flesh of those beings for us to consume without inflicting unnecessary suffering and death on them. Every nonhuman whose flesh or secretions we consume was forced into existence, exploited, and then slaughtered using violence, and it was completely unnecessary.

Using nonhuman animals for their flesh is also not morally distinguishable from using any sentient being merely as a replaceable resource for any other human purpose either. All forms of exploitation of any animal, nonhuman or human, are equally morally wrong. Furthermore, to distinguish morally between different kinds of exploitation ensures that the people observing our arguments will inflict even more unnecessary suffering and death on nonhumans (and humans) than before.

So we can understand that using the term “meat” to refer to animal flesh is highly problematic from a rights perspective. It creates and reinforces the notion in others that who we’re consuming is merely an inanimate object, completely divorced from the breathing, sentient being who was unnecessarily harmed in order to obtain it. Similarly, words like “pork,” “beef,” “bacon,” “mutton,” “veal,” “leather,” “wool,” “down,” etc. are equally problematic.

Coats are not made of “leather,” they’re made of the skin of sentient beings who were killed for completely unnecessary reasons. Sweaters are not “wool,” they’re the hair of sentient beings who have immense suffering inflicted on them and then are killed for their flesh when they can’t produce enough hair to be profitable anymore. Pillows aren’t filled with “down,” they’re filled with the feathers of sentient beings who are fully capable of desiring not to be used as resources or killed, and who have been proven to care about their families as much as we human animals care about ours.

When you think about it, the very existence of “cheese” is completely messed up, let alone the word itself. Do we see any other species enslaving other animals so that they can use the milk that rightfully belongs to them and their babies to make “cheese?” Using that word in reference to animal dairy is adding insult (and by extension, further injury) to an already grave injury. These are the lives and secretions of sentient beings; we have a responsibility to the nonhumans who lived and died in humans’ immoral quest for our own palate pleasure to call these substances what they are: animal flesh and animal secretions at the very least, products of suffering and death if we want to bring passion to our rhetoric. But never “meat,” “leather,” wool,” “down,” etc.

Part 1d: Possession Is 9 Points Of The Very Speciesist Law
Also very similarly, we should avoid using the term “my,” “mine,” “ours,” etc. when talking about nonhumans. Although they are most certainly our property in the sense that the laws and conventions of our society renders them thus, they are not possessions in the moral sense. That distinction is extremely important for us to make in our advocacy. Morally speaking, they are not ours to use; their lives, freedoms, family, and suffering are not ours to exploit; they belong to themselves. So, it’s not “my meat,” it’s the flesh of an individual who was immorally exploited and caused to suffer and die for unnecessary reasons. To me, the nonhuman animals I rescue and keep in my home are not “my cats” in the sense of them belonging to me as mere possessions, they are “my family” in the same way that other humans are my family. They certainly have a relationship to me -as does any human I interact with- and this latter usage is the version of the word “my” that we can use and still observe a sense of justice for them. It’s the only non-speciesist way in which we can refer to nonhumans as being “mine.”

Moreover, we don’t think that it’s necessary to use euphemisms when referring to circumstances where humans have been exploited, oppressed, or otherwise harmed. If a human is intentionally killed by another human merely for selfish reasons, we decry that as “murder.” If a nonhuman suffers the same fate, we call it “putting them down,” or even more divorced from the act, “harvesting.” If a human is used as a replaceable resource to perform unconsenting labor of any kind, we call them “a slave,” but if the victims in question are nonhumans, we call them “livestock,” “units” etc. This is purely speciesism in it’s most obvious form. In fact, these are only a small portion of the instances where speciesist language occurs. Pointing out every instance in just the English language alone could fill an entire book.

Part 1e: A Little Pejorative Goes A Long Way
Another way in which we use speciesism to reinforce the idea that nonhumans are our moral inferiors is to use terms that pertain to them as pejoratives. To make but one example, we think absolutely nothing of using the terms “bullshit” or “horseshit” to describe something that we find objectionable or a lie. Let me ask the obvious question: why is a male bovine’s excrement morally worse than that of any other being? If it’s not, then why do we need to point out that the thing we find objectionable is like it? This is only the tip of a very large iceberg when it comes to this particular form of speciesist language.

Some other problematic phrases are “dumb as an ox” (this is both ableist, as it uses a word for not being able to speak as a pejorative, and speciesist, as it implies that all oxen are stupid), “the world is your oyster” (implies that we should own nonhumans and therefore use them as we see fit), “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” (both ableist and speciesist as it implies that all elderly humans or dogs are incapable of something that younger ones are capable of and also that we should be teaching dogs to do tricks for our amusement), “use ____ as a guinea pig” (implies that using nonhumans as unconsenting test subjects is justifiable), “hold your horses” (implies that we should own and use nonhumans as we see fit), “pick of the litter” (implies that we should use nonhumans as we see fit), “like shooting fish in a barrel” (should be obvious), “like a bull in a china shop” (implies that all bulls are clumsy and destructive), and these are only a few. I’m adding a bunch of alternatives to phrases that normalize and trivialize violence and exploitation here:

Note: although I am vehemently opposed to using the concept of “compassion” as a good idea to base a rights movement on (and am similarly against promoting “vegetarianism”), this video by Colleen Patrick Boudreau is a good source for the following phrases (and quite a lot of other clear thinking on speciesism in our language as well):

  • Instead of “Kill two birds with one stone” we can say “cut two carrots with one knife.”
  • Instead of “More than one way to skin a cat” we can say “more than one way to squeeze a lemon” or “more than one way to peel a potato.”
  • Instead of “No use beating a dead horse” we can say “no use watering a dead flower” or “no use feeding a fed horse.”
  • Instead of “Take the bull by the horns” we can say “take the bicycle by the handlebars” or “take the rose by the thorns” meaning to “jump in with both feet” or to “take the plunge.”
  • Instead of “Open a can of worms” we can say “open a can of spaghetti” or “open Pandora’s box.”
  • Instead of “Don’t put the cart before the horse” we can say “don’t put your shoes on before your socks” or “don’t slice the bread before it’s baked.”

Again, there are quite a few more; some of which are also outlined in this excellent essay:
http://veganvine.blogspot.com/2016/06/speciesist-language-reinforces-animal.html

When we try to liken something we find problematic or objectionable (and it’s often some action that we humans engage in that we can be blamed for, but nonhumans can’t) to nonhuman characteristics or behavior, or just plain present nonhumans as things that are normal for us to own and use, we make obvious our lack of respect for them.

Part 1f: A Note On Miscellaneous Problematic Terms And Ideas
I’ve heard many Vegans say that nonhumans “should have rights.” Regarding pre-legal morality as a concept, nonhumans already do have rights. As a society, we’ve merely been violating their rights all along. We can’t give them moral rights nor take them away. Whether we are going to keep violating their rights -by living non-Vegan- or respect their rights by living Vegan does not change whether they have them or not. If we talk coherently about “giving them rights” this is only in regards to their legal status as property or persons. This is an important distinction to make (in those very words) in our speaking and writing.

Other speciesist phrases that our society sees as normal are ones such as “you’re an animal” in the context of vilifying someone for their negative actions. This is probably because most people are under the mistaken impression that any suffering and death inflicted by nonhumans on other nonhumans is somehow morally blame-worthy. So not only do we -often only subconsciously- excoriate ourselves for treating nonhumans in a way we -rightfully- know to be wrong, but we -often simultaneously- excoriate nonhumans for seemingly not being able to live up to some standard that we set for ourselves (confusedly, since most people don’t really understand morality from an academic standpoint and also aren’t following a consistent moral code in the first place). And throughout all of this, not only do we not realize the arbitrary and even contradictory nature of our mindset, we don’t even realize that all of this suffering we’re intentionally inflicting is completely unnecessary in the first place.

It’s only through Veganism (and by that I mean learning what Abolitionist Veganism means and thereafter practicing it) that we begin to untangle this ridiculous Gordian Knot of irrational, confused moral contradictions and myths that we’ve constructed about nonhumans. Only through recognizing what is unnecessary suffering; why sentient beings have rights and what rights those are, and how many different aspects of human and nonhuman behavior have been mythologized can we then fully realize just how deep our societal programming really extends; and thus, begin to reverse that programming. And one of the most effective tools for that reversal is in recognizing our problematic language and striving to choose our words more carefully at every opportunity.

Part 2: The Vocabulary Of Human Oppressions

Part 2a: Identifying The Underlying Problem
“The vegan movement” is rife with not only speciesism, but also racism, sexism, ableism, hetero-sexism, cis-sexism. and other oppressive positions of all kinds. The first rule in any human rights social justice movement is that you must listen to the members of a marginalized group and believe them when they tell you what is oppressive and offensive to them. When you are not a member of the group in question, you are not the person who decides what is oppressing them and what is not.

All forms of oppression reinforce and sustain every other form of oppression. This is why people who identify as vegan will never achieve the true end goal of the vegan movement as long as they are engaging in any of these forms of oppression. This is also why people who wish to end the injustice of “racism” or any other form of oppression will never achieve their goal while they are still engaging in speciesism or any other form of oppressive action. How can someone know how to help end oppression when they themselves are engaging in the worst forms of oppression? You can literally never eliminate violence being inflicted on one oppressed group by engaging in ableism, genderism, ethnic bigotry, or *any* other oppressive behavior.

When we engage in any form of oppression we are promoting the idea that it’s morally acceptable to dismiss others from our sphere of moral concern based on some sort of physical characteristic that they have that we don’t, or that we have that they lack. With speciesism, that characteristic is their species membership. It makes no sense to discriminate against others morally based on their species membership because if we do so, then that promotes the idea that others should be able to get away with discriminating against you based on your physical characteristics, such as your sex, gender, ethnic membership, sexual orientation, etc. This also works the opposite way, which is why it makes no sense to say that it’s morally wrong to use nonhumans as mere replaceable resources for our interests but then turn around and show the same lack of moral concern for other humans based on some physical trait.

And it isn’t just a case of men discriminating against women, white against black, etc. Promoting the use of animals is just as effective in encouraging P.O.C. to harm each other, white people, etc. and women to discriminate against others, and so on. Promoting violence encourages violence in all its forms.

Part 2b: Identifying Each Problematic Term And Why It’s Wrong
When we use a word that was created to mean a disability -such as “dumb” means can’t speak, and “lame” means has trouble walking- as a pejorative (a negative connotation towards a thing or person we find morally wrong or objectionable) we cause the person with the disability to fell as if they are being vilified as a person. Even if the thing or person we’re using the term against has nothing to do with the disabled person. Just like saying “that’s gay” makes a gay person feel vilified. Or “that’s retarded” vilifies intellectually underdeveloped persons.

You may think that it’s not abelism to use “innocuous” terms like “dumb,” “lame,” “moron,” “idiot,” etc., but you are not the one with the disability being vilified! You using terms like “dumb” when *you* are not a speech-impaired person is ableism. You are not the oppressed, but you are being the oppressor. You have the privilege of being able to speak. Or being able to walk or get around without inconvenience or pain. Or you have a higher IQ than some people. You are not mentally impaired.

Problematic terms to use as pejoratives include, but are not limited to: “retard” or “retarded,” “idiot” and “moron” (vilifies the intellectually underdeveloped), “dumb” (vilifies people who can’t speak), “lame” (vilifies those with mobility problems), “gay” (vilifies those who are of a different sexual orientation than “straight” people), “bitch” (this term is both sexist and speciesist, as it not only vilifies women -comparing them to female dogs as a negative- but also vilifies female dogs as being somehow objectionable), “dick” (vilifies those who have a penis or who identify as male), and “pussy” or “cunt” (vilifies those who have a vagina or identify as female). It’s also problematic to use sex-negative terms like “cocksucker” as a pejorative because you’re vilifying both women and non-straight men.

Part 2c: How We Defend Our Problematic Behavior
I constantly see those who are unwilling to consider the problematic nature of their speech making the claim “That term isn’t oppressive because _____ .”

If you’re not the one who is offended by the remarks, then chances are you’re not one of the people who has the trait that’s being vilified. Ergo, you have no standing to make any claim as to whether the remarks constitute oppression or not. Telling people who are being oppressed that they are not experiencing oppression is oppression! It’s marginalization through silencing dissent.

Also, the argument that “most people don’t use that term to mean _____ anymore, but now they use it to mean this non-oppressive thing instead” is not a valid argument. The argument I’m making has nothing to do with whether the person remarking is intentionally trying to hurt the person offended by  the remark or “aiming” it at that person, it has to do with whether any observer is offended or not. If you’re unintentionally doing something that’s hurtful, you have the same moral obligation to moderate your behavior that you would if you were intending to hurt that person.

If I, as a “white” person, went up to someone and attempted to insult them by calling them a “nigger” and a P.O.C. was nearby and was offended, would it make sense for me to say to the P.O.C. “I wasn’t using that term to mean you, I was using it to mean this other thing or person I meant?” No. The term was created to mean something offensive. If we use it as a pejorative in regards to something not connected to the original pejorative it was coined to mean, we can’t expect the person who belongs to a group whose members were the target of the original pejorative to not be offended.

“That isn’t as bad as _____ (something someone else is doing) so it’s ok.”

“I’m doing a lot of good for _____ (whatever group) so you should overlook it when I do this much smaller wrong thing.”

Neither one of these arguments is valid when it pertains to any problematic behavior such as slavery, rape, torture or murder, and so it’s not valid in the case of any problematic behavior. For instance, we don’t expect a claim such as “There will always be people who murder other people, so me beating my spouse or children is morally justifiable” to be taken seriously, likewise with a claim such as “I contribute a lot of money to/support organizations that fight child poverty and hunger, so it’s morally justifiable for me to kill other humans merely for my own interests occasionally.”

In the same way, it’s unreasonable to claim that just because someone else commits moral harms that you perceive as “worse” than merely using speciesist, racist, sexist, ableist, etc. terms, that it morally excuses us to do that. And the same can be said of claiming that just because we engage in some form of morally positive action that this excuses us from any blame for using various forms of problematic language either. In all cases, our moral responsibility is to not only refrain from committing the morally “worse” actions, but all morally problematic actions that we can refrain from.

Yet another argument that I see people trying to use to justify their oppressive language is “I have a friend(s) who are ______ (insert characteristic the person just got through using as a pejorative) and they told me that they aren’t offended when I say ______ (insert oppressive term).” In other words, these are people who will claim that they have black friends who give them a pass for using racist terms, gay friends who give them a pass for using the term “that’s gay,” friends who are disabled who don’t care if they use terms like “lame” or “dumb,” etc.

This argument is not valid in this context, however. The argument against using oppressive terms hinges on the people who are offended by those terms, not the people who aren’t. Morality is about causing the least amount of harm, not seeing how much we can get away with before we’re called out on our behavior. In order to cause the least amount of harm we need to live by the precautionary principle. Which means that if an action is unnecessary (meaning that it’s not something we need to do to thrive) and we know that there is a chance that any others could suffer because of that action, even if we don’t have direct knowledge of who those people are and where they are in relation to us, then we have a moral responsibility to err on the side of caution, which means not engaging in that action. So if there are 100,000 people of a marginalized group in existence, and you only know 10 of them personally -and those 10 people tell you that it’s ok to use any term you want around them, regardless of what it is- that doesn’t mean that the other 99,990 people of that grouping would agree with that. Which means that you going out into public and openly using those terms is going to oppress someone from those groups, which is the only criteria necessary to make doing so morally wrong.

Conclusions I’ve drawn from the last few years of Vegan advocacy
If we really want to insult others -although as someone who tries their best to follow a moral stance of non-violence in thought, word and deed, I think that idea is really problematic (and just about the farthest thing from what we should be sticking to, which is peaceful Vegan education)- there are plenty of much more egalitarian insults we could use. I am not going to teach these to people, since as I stated, I think that insults are one thing we should be decreasing in our society.

In any moral discussion, the best way to react when someone brings up the idea that we’re doing something wrong is to carefully consider their words and ask ourselves if there is any way that we can make positive changes to our behavior. If we want to ask respectful questions to see if the person we’re talking to has any further information for us or suggestions as to how we can do this, that’s a great second step as well. The worst thing we can do is become defensive and angry at the messenger, as this keeps us from thinking clearly and hence, blocks us from any positive change.

If you’re not already Vegan, and you think animals matter morally, then please go Vegan. It’s easy and great for you, incredible for the animals, and wonderful for the planet. If you’re already Vegan, please educate non-Vegans about why they should go Vegan. Please rescue, volunteer, adopt, foster, spay, and neuter the nonhuman refugees of domestication whenever you can. Please feed your nonhuman family Vegan where you can. These things are the most important, morally responsible things to do and are desperately needed by everyone.

To learn more about Abolitionist Veganism and the issues I’ve outlined in this post, check out The Master List Of Vegan Info:
https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/master-list-of-vegan-info

Disclaimer: My only goal with this list is to produce as comprehensive a resource for Vegan information as possible. I am 100% Abolitionist Vegan and 100% against exploitation of nonhuman or human animals, any type of violence against human or nonhuman persons or property, welfare regulation, any form of speciesism, ethnic bigotry, genderism, ableism, heterosexism, etc., any of the large governmental or non-governmental nonhuman animal organizations, “happy meat,” vegetarianism, veg*nism, Meat-Free Mondays, or other forms of reductionism and anything else that makes it seem like any form of violence or exploitation of animals is ok. If any of those positions are endorsed on any site in this list, or any language is used to imply that, it’s not that I included that link because I agree, but simply because I don’t control every bit of information on all of these sites.

Let’s Turn Off The News And Focus On Solving Our Problems

So now, we’re being told that we need to pay attention to the fight over whether an interpreter should testify about whether the president is lying or not…

Our species is made up of around 99% of individuals who are intentionally committing unnecessary violence against nonhumans on a daily basis. More than half of those people -probably much, much more- are intentionally or unintentionally committing overt acts of sexism/misogyny/cis-sexism and probably around the same number for racism and various kinds of homophobia/other discrimination based on sexual orientation. Those stats probably equal out -or come pretty close to it- for ableism, ageism, and many other less-talked-about forms of discrimination. This is not even taking into account all the people who merely benefit passively from those forms of oppression.

In a just world, our government would be educating us against such discrimination by focusing our attention on what each of us is doing wrong -including the members of our government- and explaining what they are doing to eliminate their own oppressive behaviors and how we could also try to do this ourselves. That is because this is the only way to solve any of the systemic problems that most of us keep wondering about how to solve. They would be doing this for each of us from the moment we entered public school, if not sooner.

In reality, instead of doing this, our government uses our mainstream news media outlets to pull our attention away from those things that are the root problems that we could easily change to stop our systemic problems and puts that focus directly onto the superficial symptoms of those systemic problems. They do this so that we’ll spend all of our precious time thinking that the symptoms *are* the problems and arguing about those symptoms instead of addressing our own complicity in the problems. This has the (intentional) result of actually *encouraging* many of the forms of oppression that we’re complicit in.

To give just a few of many, many examples:

Racism:
We have a huge problem with racism in our world. One of the ways in which this manifests itself is that white police officers sometimes murder black people. Then, an anti-racist group says “black lives matter.” So then cue a group of white people arguing with the first group, saying “blue lives matter.” And then a third group, saying “all lives matter.” People from all 3 groups argue, people from all 3 groups protest, people from Black Lives Matter get arrested, etc. etc. The mainstream news media covers all of this, and the people watching the news argue on and on about whether black lives or blue lives or all lives matter more.

Ever notice the mainstream news media never actually has any programming on about what racism really is and how those of us with white privilege could actually eliminate most of the racism from our world by simply taking the time to identify specific kinds of ideas and actions that are racist and making an effort to repudiate those ideas and actions every single time we encounter them in ourselves and others? All of the leaders in our government actually want us to perpetuate racism, since they stand to benefit most from that, so there’s no way they would let the media report on that.

Gun Violence:
Violence in general is one of the roots of most of the problems in our world. One of the ways in which this manifests itself is that sometimes a person takes guns and shoots a bunch of people in a school. Then one group of people starts saying “we need to ban _____ kind of guns” or “we need to make people wait ____ number of days to get a gun” or “we need to check their background before we allow them to have a gun” and another group says “no, it’s the opposite, we need to give more people more guns” and the mainstream news media covers this, so many groups of people who are watching argue on and on about what kind of guns are acceptable or not acceptable for random people to own and how many days we should have to wait to own those guns. In essence we are arguing about not only whether gun control laws reduce the amount of violence in the world but also whether it’s morally justifiable to enact such laws in the first place.

And the mainstream news media intersperses their stories on this issue with stories on how we need to “support our troops.” Even those people who are anti-standing-military or anti-violence need to support our troops, right? I mean, we should divorce the fact that those troops are being used by the government to inflict violence on innocent people and support the actual troops, because the actual people who are the troops are “good people,” so we need to support them *as* troops, right? That isn’t any kind of conflict with our stance against violence, is it?

Ever notice the mainstream news media never actually has any programming on about why violence in and of itself is wrong and how those of us who consume violent programming -and espouse the idea that responding to violence with violence is productive- could actually eliminate most of the violence from our world by resolving to disavow violence in all of it’s forms? Programming about how it’s not our laws about guns that are going to precipitate any truly meaningful change when society itself is saturated with a love of violence that gun violence is only one symptom of? All of the leaders in our government actually want us to perpetuate violence, since they stand to benefit most from that, so there’s no way they would let the media report on that.

Non-Veganism:
Human Supremacy is the root cause of pretty much every problem in the world. One of the ways that this manifests itself is that almost all the humans on the planet are currently enslaving and/or slaughtering over ONE TRILLION (that’s 1,000,000,000,000) nonhuman animals EVERY YEAR purely for the interest of palate pleasure. Almost everyone, including our government, thinks that “cruelty to animals” is a problem, so we argue and argue about which welfare reforms to implement to decrease the amount of  cruelty we engage in regarding our use of animals. The mainstream news media has numerous programming about this issue, not to mention all of the other shows about it, including fiction, documentaries, you name it. We keep watching and keep arguing about those welfare reforms, and wringing our hands at all the “cruelty,” and meanwhile we take a break from that to sit down and eat “our” bacon and “our” eggs and drink “our” milk while wearing “our” leather and wool and watching a show about which breeds of “our” dogs are the the best.

Ever notice the mainstream news media never actually has any programming on about the fact that just the mere action of using nonhumans against their will is inherently cruel, and that we could easily eliminate the majority of this problem of “cruelty to animals” simply by living Vegan and educating as many people as we can about why they also need to live Vegan? All of the leaders in our government actually wants us to perpetuate human supremacy, since they stand to benefit most from that, so there’s no way they would let the media report on that. In order to perpetuate the human supremacist paradigm they need to perpetuate the paradigm of welfarism, so the benefits of welfarism are the only thing they can allow the media to report on.

Two-Party System False Dichotomy:
We are told in the USA that we need to pick between Republican and Democrat or nothing will ever get done. Supposedly, the Republicans are the conservatives who want to oppress everyone by keeping our world the same as it was in “the olden days” and the Democrats are the liberals who want everyone to be sexual deviants and foreigners to come here and take over. So the mainstream news media covers only those 2 parties and the people watching argue about whether it’s better to be a Republican conservative or Democratic liberal and pretty soon we have a president who is sexist and racist and ableist and the list goes on and on.

And the people who are arguing about which of 2 parties is better are told that now they should argue about whether Russia is hacking us (flash info!: many other countries are also hacking us, Russia is just the target of a new cold-war-mongering campaign) or whether our President wears a toupee and now we have to argue about whether his translator is going to testify or not.

Ever notice the mainstream news media never actually has any programming on about the fact that the people who make up the leadership of both the Democratic party and the Republican party are just identical sides of the same two-headed coin, all of whom abuse whatever power they acquire as soon as they acquire it, who are all in bed with Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Animal Ag, and all the other corporations that seek to enslave us; programming about how we could ignore all of the stuff about Republicans and Democrats and actually solve the problems we have with our elected officials by refusing to vote for people from either of those parties; by finding people who belong to other political parties to vote for instead, as well as writing in candidates who belong to no political party at all? All of the leaders in our government want us to keep believing that we have only 2 options, because that is the only way they can keep us voting for someone who belongs to the power elite, so there’s no way they would let the media report on that.

The Point:
So the point to all of this, in case you haven’t noticed yet, is that it’s very easy to grab our attention and redirect it away from the real problems that we’re facing, which are problems of OUR making. They’re problems that were almost always created by each one of US at some point in our lives. Or at the very least, they’re problems that we each need to focus on avoiding participating in at every turn. When our focus is redirected away from the root problem and onto some idea about something trivial like whether the president is lying and why that makes him the real problem we need to address (of course he *always* lies, and he’s not the real problem, he’s just another symptom of the real problem), then it keeps us from looking hard at our own problematic actions and how we can deal with those.

When we focus on whether black lives matter or blue lives matter; whether guns should be more prevalent or be banned; whether the latest victim who speaks out in the #metoo movement is lying or not (rather than focusing on why sexism and the patriarchy are bad and how to eliminate them) *as if those are the root problems*, what almost always happens is that we end up creating a false dichotomy where we are the “good person” and the other people are all “bad people” because we think they’re all racists, sexists, homophobes, or some other kind of human supremacist, all the while forgetting that even though we may not overtly engage in some specific racist behavior, if we’re not a victim of racism then we most assuredly still benefit from racism in some way. Just like if we’re not a victim of the patriarchy, then we most likely benefit from sexism in some way. Even if that is something that we don’t want to happen. And the same can be said for all other forms of oppression. And this false dichotomy we create makes it very easy to keep all of us -both “conservative straight white male” and “liberal queer black female” alike- grinding along as mere gear-slaves in the giant machine that’s being controlled by a very small percent of people who have no interest at all in the well-being of anyone but themselves. The primary tool used to refocus our attention in this way is what we call the mainstream media. “The News,” in other words.

That’s not the only way that The News keeps us enslaved though. Another tactic they use is reporting on a preponderance of negative stories compared to the tiny fraction of positive ones. And when they do report on a positive story, it almost always is something that supports the overall false narrative they’ve concocted about what issues are the main problems that we need to focus on, or at least doesn’t actually contradict that narrative. This also has the effect of keeping us perpetually depressed or at least drowning in negative thought, and someone who constantly feels bad about the world is extremely unlikely to attempt to effect any changes in it.

What Can We Do About All This Though?:
The solution to this (the first step of it anyway) is to turn off The News. It’s full of lies, and watching it has actually been shown to make us less intelligent (The opening remarks about sugar in the preceding link are off the mark, but that is neither here nor there), not to mention less willing to make any positive changes. If we want to be informed, we need to find alternative news outlets, if we’re going to watch any “news” at all. And another step is to learn what critical thinking actually means and why we need to do that and read some actual science or other such facts instead of just believing whatever someone tells us, just because a bunch of other people are telling us that that person is an authority on that subject. These are not the only steps we need to take, but just taking those steps would at least put us well on the path to figuring out how to obtain a lot more of the truth than we’re currently getting. Something that we could substitute for watching The Mainstream News is to actually go out in public and find a person who is oppressed by the systemic power structures I’ve mentioned and ask them what they feel may be a solution to the problem.

As always, I’m going to leave you with the idea that another huge step is to think about whether nonhuman animals are mere things for us to use for our trivial interests, or whether we think that they are part of our moral community and should be respected, which means we shouldn’t be using them for our interests as much as we can help it.

If you want to find more information on these issues, here are some sources I would suggest you start with:

https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2015/02/07/are-humans-superior (my piece on why eliminating systemic nonhuman rights violations will also incidentally eliminate most systemic human rights violations).

http://www.vegantrove.com/2016/12/01/vegan-trove-0046 (this blog is filled with great links to alternative news sources that present progressive takes on human rights issues).

If you’re not already Vegan, and you think animals matter morally, then please go Vegan. It’s incredible for the animals, easy and great for you, and wonderful for the planet. If you’re already Vegan, please educate non-Vegans about why they should go Vegan. Please rescue, volunteer, adopt, foster, spay, and neuter the nonhuman refugees of domestication whenever you can. Please feed your nonhuman family Vegan where you can. These things are the most important, morally responsible things to do and are desperately needed by everyone.

To learn more about Abolitionist Veganism and the issues I’ve outlined in this post, check out The Master List Of Vegan Info:
https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/master-list-of-vegan-info

Disclaimer: My only goal with this list is to produce as comprehensive a resource for Vegan information as possible. I am 100% Abolitionist Vegan and 100% against exploitation of nonhuman or human animals, any type of violence against human or nonhuman persons or property, welfare regulation, any form of speciesism, ethnic bigotry, genderism, ableism, cis-sexism, etc., any of the large governmental or non-governmental nonhuman animal organizations, “happy meat,” vegetarianism, veg*nism, Meat-Free Mondays, or other forms of reductionism and anything else that makes it seem like any form of violence or exploitation of animals is ok. If any of those positions are endorsed on any site in this list, or any language is used to imply that, it’s not that I included that link because I agree, but simply because I don’t control every bit of information on all of these sites.