What DxE Doesn’t Understand (or doesn’t want to) About “Baselines”

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There’s been a lot of talk recently from “DxE” (Direct Action Everywhere) supporters about how “activism,” and not Veganism, is “the moral baseline.”

You can read a great article about this whole phenomenon here. What I want to address with this piece is the fact that this stance by DxE betrays a fundamental lack of understanding on their part of what “a moral baseline” actually means. I’ve previously written something on what a moral baseline is (and why that baseline is Veganism), but this time I’m going to use a different analogy to attempt to get people’s thinking back on a logical track regarding this issue.

Let’s say that you’re standing flat on the ground, on bare dirt. Someone hands you a shovel. You begin to dig. You want to go higher, but since all you have is a shovel and soft earth, you start digging. You dig down to about 10 feet below ground level. As you dig, you slowly realize that you also have the ability to use your mind to make yourself hover above the ground. So you stop digging, and you start hovering. And you go up to about 6-10 feet or so (for example, not necessarily exactly that) above the original ground level that you started from.

So, when you were standing on the ground, without digging, you were at the lowest point you could be without digging. You were also at the highest point you could be without hovering. With me so far? (If not, please see the man in the shorts in the image below)

Now, imagine that standing on the ground without digging or hovering is “moral neutrality.” In other words, it means that we are not doing anything morally negative, such as intentionally inflicting unnecessary suffering or death on beings who can feel pain. But we are also not doing anything morally positive, such as trying to go out of our way to support the affirmative interests of those beings either (feeding them, helping them to heal from sickness or injury, etc.).

Now further imagine that engaging in any action that means intentionally inflicting unnecessary suffering, for any reason (be it food, clothing, research or entertainment), is the equivalent of digging down into the ground. In this instance, we would be at the position of the man in the suit in the below image. Conversely, trying to engage in some action to positively support the interests of these pain-capable beings (feeding them, helping them to heal from sickness or injury, etc.) is the equivalent to hovering upward from the ground. Still with me? In this latter case, we would be hovering above the head of the man in the shorts.

Standing on the ground without digging or hovering is the base position you start from, before you could start either digging or hovering. It’s standing on a horizontal line, and it’s the base position that you start from in beginning your actions of going either up or down away from that line. It’s the base, and it’s a line. Base-line. Get it? This is why we call “moral neutrality” the “baseline for morality.”

Now, Veganism is by definition the attempt to do the least amount of intentional unnecessary harm we can. In other words, it’s not doing anything morally positive. It’s not a diet either, but it’s the moral stance against doing any intentional harm that our society is already (erroneously) telling us is morally acceptable. It’s not the act of doing even more than just refraining from harm, but it’s just “do no harm.” Don’t do anything morally negative, even if you’re not going to do anything morally positive. Being Vegan doesn’t mean that we must intentionally refrain from doing anything morally positive, it just means that we must intentionally refrain from doing anything morally negative.

The Baseline 01

The reason that it makes sense to call Veganism “The Moral Baseline” is because refraining from intentionally doing any unnecessary harm is the least that we can do if we claim that animals have moral valueBeing Vegan doesn’t mean that we’re doing the most that we can do for animals. That would be an added action that we can do once we’ve gone Vegan, however. So, this means that “activism” could be called a “moral opportunity” rather than a “moral baseline” or “moral obligation.” We don’t have a moral responsibility to engage in “activism,” while we do have a moral responsibility to refrain from engaging in morally negative actions.

One reason we can’t make The Moral Baseline “doing the most that we can do” for animals is because no 2 people can do exactly the same positive actions or the same amount of positive actions for animals (in other words, positive actions above and beyond simply doing no harmful ones). To try to tell someone that a baseline for that person is to do more than just refrain from causing harm would be to put an unfair strain on those people who can’t do more. It also muddies the waters regarding the way people think about morality (see the above explanation about the difference between a “moral obligation” and a “moral opportunity”), at a time when we need for others (and ourselves) to be perfectly clear and consistent on this issue.

Society at large (every human as one large group) is already engaging in massive morally negative actions towards nonhumans. This is due to a phenomenon called “speciesism” that you can read more about here and here. Due to speciesism and the myth of human moral supremacy, we are currently breeding, against their will, many many billions of nonhumans per year, who we use merely as replaceable resources. Then, when they’re of more use to us dead than alive, we slaughter them (which is impossible to do without using violence) and we use their bodies and secretions whenever and however we wish. We are also engaged in intentional actions that harm many other nonhumans who do not fall into the category of animals who we use for food. These actions are all completely unnecessary for us, and are all massive violations of the inherent rights of those nonhumans to their own lives and freedoms.

In essence, society at large is already engaged in digging a massive hole of morally negative actions when it comes to animals. Veganism is not an attempt to “hover above the ground,” it’s merely an attempt to rise back up to ground level (in regards to our own moral stance), since before going Vegan, almost all of us were inarguably participating in various morally negative intentional actions. Veganism is an attempt to climb out of that speciesist hole, by recognizing the rights of nonhumans and therefore acting in a morally responsible and morally consistent manner towards them.

When we educate others about Veganism, that would be considered “hovering.” In other words, a morally positive action that goes beyond just standing on the baseline (the figurative “ground” in our analogy). Nonhuman animal rescue, adoption, foster, etc., when done in a way that doesn’t encourage animal exploitation (which is considered peaceful Direct Action), is another powerful way of “hovering.” In fact, these are the only 2 forms of action on behalf of animals that can easily be done without encouraging speciesism, and can also be combined.

So, we can see that, since society is engaged in all of the speciesist, morally negative actions, there are many people who erroneously believe that we don’t need to live Vegan, but that we can still “do good for animals.” In other words, for instance, we have people who engage in “animal rescue” who are not Vegan. They eat, wear, and otherwise use some animals, while trying to save some other animals from being intentionally harmed, or harmed through neglect. Any Vegan worthy of calling themselves Vegan knows that this is an enormously speciesist stance and indicative of massive moral confusion on the part of the “rescuer.”

Welfare reform campaigns and other single-issue campaigns, as well as militant direct action, are counter-productive, and therefore harmful, ways of attempting to advocate for animals. These counter-productive actions are made by our speciesist, morally confused society to seem like they are ways to hover, but are actually causing the hole we’re digging to get deeper instead. Even many people who self-identify as vegans fall prey to the idea that we don’t need to stop engaging in morally negative actions to do good for animals. I’ve seen countless instances of “vegans” online saying that we can engage in welfare reforms, for instance, and help animals, even though welfare reforms are proven to increase harm to animals, not help them. If you view, read or listen to more than one of the hyperlinks embedded in the paragraph you just got through reading, you’ll understand exactly why this is (Also worth noting: DxE’s stance on the “animal organizations” who promote these welfare reforms and other speciesist campaigns the hardest is that we must not criticize them for this at all).

Likewise, all of the people who are trying to save wild animal species from harm or extinction, but are having barbecues and other such animal-exploitative events in order to raise money, or simply awareness (almost always money though) are suffering from the same moral confusion. This doesn’t mean that they’re “bad people” by any means, simply that they’re confused about morality, and need to be educated on that subject or to educate themselves. Indeed, almost all of them obviously have their hearts in the right place, but that has never stopped people from committing a harmful action in regards to any other issue.

There is massive confusion among “animal people” as to what moral consistency regarding animals is. Society keeps on trying to dig the hole regarding animals deeper, and “animal people” in general are (ostensibly) trying to learn how to hover (read: help animals), while they are also for some as-of-yet-unexplained (and probably inexplicable) reason using those shovels right alongside everyone else. And some of them think that they’re hovering, but not everyone thinks that hovering at the same height is the moral baseline, etc. etc., ad nauseam. In this way, DxE is just another organization that is promoting the same confused, speciesist stance in regards to animals that society in general has been following for all of recorded history. They are nothing radical nor revolutionary, in a time when a radical, revolutionary idea on peaceful ways to shift the non-Vegan paradigm to a Vegan one is the only thing that animals really need.

And this is the crucial point: How can hovering 5 feet above the ground be the “baseline,” when the ground itself was already “a baseline?” If your idea that “doing something beyond Veganism” which in your opinion is hovering at 5 feet up (or whatever it is), is the baseline, then what about the non-Vegan who says that you must do something even more, while still being non-Vegan, to be at “the baseline?” Why is their idea of hovering 100 feet off the ground  (while still being non-Vegan) not the baseline? Why is being in a pit 10 feet below the surface not the baseline? What makes your arbitrary “do something beyond Veganism” more valid as the moral baseline than anyone else’s arbitrary “do ____ or ____ for animals?” And this is why DxE’s position on “activism” being the moral baseline makes no sense. It’s really nothing more than an attempt to contradict an already rationally sound premise in order to somehow score some sort of points; to try to show the public that DxE is somehow different and “knows their stuff” more than the people who are involved in the only real movement that’s making any significant headway in the struggle to end animal oppression.

You see, if we make the baseline something other than moral neutrality, the term “baseline” becomes open to interpretation as anything, by anyone, and so becomes totally meaningless. And this is the whole point of making “moral neutrality,” which is, inarguably, living Vegan, as the only rational moral baseline. Because, do anything else, and we’re just digging our hole deeper. And morally speaking, none of us wants that for the animals. It means that we’re burying them right alongside us.

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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, cissexism, 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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Gee Krupke’s Take On The A.L.F.

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The following item was posted on Facebook by Gee Krupke:

Why I don’t support Animal Liberation Front:

1. They increase the amount of suffering due to taking one suffering individual to have them replaced by another individual who will suffer.

2. It’s a poor use of time and resources towards something that will never change until people reject the use of animals, i.e. accepting veganism. They should use their limited time and resources to educate [everyone], because that is only when the widespread use of animals will end.

3. They engage in and encourage criminal acts which paints the movement as being about violent extremism. That pushes people away and makes the job of education that much harder.

With that said, I, of course, support rescuing but not when it increases demand for individuals to be birthed into bondage: adopt at a shelter or any place outside the forces of objectification. They need our help too, and it doesn’t conflict with justness, like the activities of ALF.

A question posed to this argument:

“What if you were the suffering, sentient being that was being held & tortured, wouldn’t you want someone to do something illegal to get you out?”

Not at the expense of others. And with that argument, it would happen in perpetuity, if all were given the option (due to the issue of supply and demand). A more concrete example: I would not want to be rescued from a concentration camp if it was on the condition of another person being born or captured to take my place. So it seems to me an argument that is based on tokenism, not equality, that results in condemning one individual to suffering while aiding another (who will very often succumb to a really miserable end anyways, due to their unhealthy breeding and conditions they were kept in). On top of that, we have the option of rescuing others who are in need and without increasing suffering that necessarily occurs while animal use is demanded. It’s not an issue of illegality here but of wrongness in further compounding the problem.

In response to the position that “every movement needs radicals”:

What’s truly radical, meaning going to the root, is challenging the notion of animals as property by advocating for their right not to be used. That is what undermines the system in a fundamental way; people no longer taking part in the use of animals. I want nothing more than non-humans to be safe and free, like all vegans, but we must do it in a reasonable way that, at the very least, doesn’t increase the body count.

And as a finale, a recapitulation of the argument in the form of a question:

If you could rescue a dog/cat/parrot (or any other animal that when rescued would not result in someone being bred or captured to take their place) or a chicken/cow/mink (or any other animal that when rescued would result in another individual being bred or captured to take their place) which would you choose? And this is the reality. To me it’s a simple equation of quantitative value.”

Indeed. Militant Direct Action makes no sense from any standpoint. Forget M.D.A. and start educating people on Veganism as the moral baseline instead. If you want to rescue animals, make sure that you’re not just adding to the problem instead of the solution, and feed them Vegan wherever and whenever possible.

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.

On Militant Direct Action

Truth.

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.

UVE Archives

“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root, and it may be that he who bestows the largest amount of time and money on the needy is doing the most by his mode of life to produce that misery which he strives in vain to relieve.”

~ Henry David Thoreau, Walden, Economy (Chapter 1-E)First, do no harm.

~ Origin unknownDirect action is a catch-all term for any action taken on behalf of animals with the intention of rescuing, liberating, or saving them, individually or collectively, from exploitation, imprisonment, enslavement, torture, or intentionally inflicted harm or death.Direct action can be legal, as in the case of adopting a rescued dog from a local shelter or taking a stray goat or chicken to a sanctuary that will provide a permanent, loving home.

Direct action can also be illegal, and range from…

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Vegan and vegetarian – why they are not similar

Why we need to forget vegetarianism and go Vegan – better than I could have said it myself.

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.

There's an Elephant in the Room blog

1013974_407459766056297_898097802_nI’ve written on this subject before but it definitely bears repeating. I used to eat a vegetarian diet and although I eventually became vegan, eating that vegetarian diet was not ‘part of my journey’, or ‘a step in the right direction’, or ‘raising my awareness’ because my awareness was utterly dead in the water, wallowing quietly in the misplaced confidence that the donations I sent in return for the horrific images in the mail were helping to ‘stop cruelty’.

No, being vegetarian did not lead me to veganism and I’d still have been vegetarian to this day were it not for Facebook. I became vegan because I stumbled across information that taught me that because I sincerely cared about animals, I logically had no choice but to be vegan. It’s as straightforward as that. Vegan education was what it took.

The light bulb moment

The decision to become vegan is a light bulb moment…

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Abolitionist Vegan Memes From The Legacy

I’ve been thinking about making a page for the memes I made for a while now.

General thoughts on Veganism and Animal Rights:

Non-Vegans 01

How do you Veganize a welfarist meme? Advocate Veganism and nothing less:

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A little humor and awareness combined:

Cognitive Dissonance 01

PETA kills 01

Green Party member 01

The Preducator:

The Preducator 01

Tradition tho:

Tradition Though 01

Those ****ing Vegans…:

Fucking Vegans 01

Welception:

Welception 01

Defensive Welfarist Bingo:

Defensive Welfarist Bingo 01

That’s it for now. Hopefully soon I can get back on my desktop and make some more

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.

What To Say When Someone Says “What Would The Animals Choose?”

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The notion that a nonhuman, if granted the ability to understand human communication and then given the choice between a bigger cage for themselves or freedom at some unnamed future time for their descendants, would choose to not sacrifice their own life or endure suffering for their descendants, is speciesist, pure and simple.

It assumes that other species, if given a human-capable choice, would not be capable of choosing a noble sacrifice in the same way as a human would. Put simply, it’s a product of the mindset that humans are morally superior to nonhumans and that we are the only ones who are awesome enough to make correct decisions for everyone else based on what we deem necessary for them, based on our undeniably limited understanding and arbitrarily self-created hierarchy of different beings various interests, needs and preferences.

In reality, our decisions are based on what we in our arrogance believe to be the flaws in others that we don’t have in ourselves. So if we feel that humans would be incapable of sacrificing our own lives or enduring incredible suffering for our offspring or sacrificing the lives or suffering of our offspring to ensure freedom for billions of our descendants, we of course assume that no other beings would be capable of doing the same. After all, they’re not human, so they must be less than us, not greater, right?

I think that if we asked all the nonhumans whether they would rather see humans scattered in our advocacy, engaging in speciesist single-issue campaigns, promoting bigger cages, vegetarianism, “open rescues” and other such nonsense, with a good chance of random instances of slightly better immediate conditions for them (What I’m saying here is that this is the idea that humans would present to the nonhumans, not that that is the outcome in reality), or if they would rather see every single “activist” doing nothing except strong, clear Creative Non-Oppressive Vegan Advocacy which has a great chance of freeing all animals in the future (and even if this weren’t true, is still the only morally justifiable choice, as well as still being much more effective than SICs), I think the answer would be clear. Just like the majority of human slaves would choose to have slavery ended completely in the future rather than slightly better conditions in the present, if nonhumans could understand the question, they would choose Abolitionist Vegan Education, and nothing less.

If you want to actually learn rational arguments as to why SICs and other such actions are counter-productive to Animal Rights, check out these links:
https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/welfare-watch

If you are really interested in helping animals, stop the Single-Issue Campaigns and do this instead:
https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/create-new-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.

Abolitionism From The Mouth Of A Former Welfarist

It’s always a great pleasure for me to find that I’ve influenced a pre-Vegan so much that they’ve become Vegan. This is the only form of activism that Vegans en masse need to be doing, without a doubt. However, there is only one thing that gives me greater pleasure – seeing someone who was seemingly hopelessly mired in the morass of welfarism have that light bulb moment and recognize that they need to reject the single-issue campaigns and switch over to only Vegan Education efforts.

The change from welfarist to Abolitionist Vegan is the single most important change we need, for everyone, and it can happen at different points for everyone, whether or not they were still consuming non-Vegan food or had any particular stance on any non-food form of exploitation (When it happens with pre-Vegans, they go straight from non-Vegan to AbVegan). Unfortunately, with some people, it never happens, but that is true of most movements.

If we educate pre-Vegans correctly we get this automatically, but it’s even rarer that we can get someone who’s already seemingly well on down the path of eliminating speciesism from their life to immediately recognize the wisdom in our position. This is why it’s my supreme pleasure to note that I have a guest blog today from someone who I personally influenced to learn about the difference between welfarism and Abolitionism.

Without further ado, I’ll let you hear it from the man himself, Mr. Keith Berger:

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In defense of abolitionism… again

I had a light bulb moment recently when thinking about welfarism vs. abolition. I’m sure it comes from Professor Gary Francione’s work (www.abolitionistapproach.com) and exists in much simpler terms, but I suddenly saw it so clearly that I practically danced around the room:

When we educate a person that veganism needs to be the moral baseline for our treatment of individuals of other species and s/he stops eating animals and starts living vegan, that person pretty quickly ceases complicity in most of the atrocities and abuses that single-issue campaigns (SICs) focus on and will usually carry the vegan message to others, hence much is accomplished. Conversely, when any of the donation-based welfarist groups I call Donations Over Animals educates a person that fill-in-the-blank-single-issue is wrong and leaves out the vegan education component, that person *may* withdraw their support from that particular issue while remaining complicit in all the rest, hence nothing meaningful is accomplished and a valuable opportunity is wasted.

I’ve been accused of having an attitude of “you have to choose one or the other”, however that is not my attitude.  Everyone is free to do as s/he chooses and will make the choice that suits them, their morals and their ethics.  My belief after a decade of welfarism is that if we have the opportunity to choose to educate people about veganism as the moral baseline, then as vegans it is incumbent upon us to do so.  Educate one person to become vegan and you eliminate support for dozens of animal exploitation issues. Educate ten and you multiply the effect accordingly. Educate one person that fur is bad and s/he may or may not stop wearing fur, and probably won’t make the connection about animals not used in the fur trade. Which sounds more effective?

Once a person stops going to the circus… well… they stop going to the circus. For most people, that’s pretty much where it ends: “Look, people with signs!  Losers!  Get a life! –>Huh? Circuses hurt elephants? That can’t be! –>Oh, here’s some literature about circuses, maybe they’re right  –>Well, I don’t want elephants to be hurt –>OK, I’ll stop supporting circuses –>I did a good thing! —–>I’m hungry, I think I’ll have a cheeseburger and a glass of milk (it’s elephant-free)”.  They don’t necessarily go vegan or stop being complicit in any other form of animal exploitation, and why would they if no one has taken the time and effort to educate them properly?

And again, it’s my belief that single-issue campaigns too often leave out the vegan piece almost entirely. I can point to numerous publications and campaigns by Peta, Mercy for Animals, Compassion Over Killing, “Vegan” Outreach (more like outrage…) that either don’t mention the word “vegan” at all or bury it so far in the conversation that it’s hardly noticeable. After all, donation-based orgs don’t want to alienate the donor base and risk losing the donor dollars.

One of the SICs I worked on passionately for ten years, both through protests and legislative means, was Ringling Brothers and their treatment of elephants and other exploited animals.  When the news broke recently that Ringling is planning to “retire” their performing elephants, everyone and their mother trumpeted “VICTORY!” from every last mountaintop.  I also thought we had achieved a victory – for about five minutes, until I looked a little more closely and saw the reality of the situation: Ringling has agreed to do nothing more than move their slaves off the road – years in the future – and back to their own breeding facility in Florida (it ain’t no sanctuary…) – the SAME facility in which these suffering individuals were tortured (Ringling calls it “training”), had their spirits broken as babies, were introduced to bull hooks and electric prods and completely subjugated to the will of men. What kind of victory is that?

They’re returning them to the exact location where their physical and psychological trauma was born, which is tantamount to sending a neglected foster child back home to her abusive parents except that, in the elephants’ case, they’ve been with their abusers the entire time. Does anyone believe life is gonna get better for them once they’re “home”? Oh, and they’re also going to loan them out to zoos (I believe that’s being done already) for breeding purposes, as they are still property to be used as Ringling sees fit, which continues their enslavement and brings in a new generation of slaves. The slaves remain slaves – we just don’t get to see public displays anymore. Also, Ringling is bringing other animals on the road to replace the elephants, so we’d better hurry and get out our markers and change our protest signs from elephants to camels.

This is not a victory – this is a ploy to appease some activists and remain profitable. Ringling didn’t suddenly have a change of heart and realize that what they’ve been doing for over a hundred years is wrong. They just found a way to do damage control.  I never once saw anyone doing vegan education at a Ringling protest, as these events are simply not conducive to that. When we did manage to turn people around from entering the circus, we can rest assured they simply went home a few hours earlier to the neighbor’s barbecue and stopped at McDonald’s on the way. I find that kind of “victory” hollow at best and counterproductive at worst.

I’ve been told by animal welfarists that “there is room for us all”, which is almost an exact quote from a presentation I attended by World Heavyweight Champion welfarist Wayne Pacelle, CEO of H$U$, “the nation’s largest and most effective animal protection organization” (I recall him using the phrase, “We’re a big tent movement”, which at the time I thought was great. I washed it down with a cup of Every Little Bit Helps Kool-Aid). This guy is head of an organization that, in the course of raking in hundreds of millions of dollars a year, offers bacon coupons(!!!) on their Facebook page, has a pig farmer for a vice president(!!!!) and cozies up with animal agriculture/exploitation organizations while promoting countless SICs every year to make sure the animals their friends are going to kill, butcher and eat are comfy in their slave quarters beforehand. Animal protection, my ass. I can’t be the only one who finds those kinds of mixed messages maddeningly confusing, utterly disheartening and completely unacceptable, and yet the donations keep pouring in.

If we should be out protesting something, it should be against welfarist organizations like that, which gives us the perfect opportunity to blend protests and vegan education: “Hey, if you’re vegan, why are you picketing Peta?” “Because, while Peta is pointing you in these fifteen directions, here’s the most important thing they’re NOT telling you…”.

I was asked if I want a vegan world. Absolutely. That’s why I’m doing what I believe will have the greatest impact and leaving behind that which I believe will not.

When it comes to SICs, my contention is that we are striking at the branches of a very diseased tree rather than at the root where the problem begins, and are therefore keeping the status quo rolling along. Working to find acceptable ways to do unacceptable things normalizes the unacceptable thing – namely, killing animals for food – and makes it seem acceptable. While doing welfarist outreach, I’ve spoken with countless non-vegans who said the same thing – “Eating animals is fine, it’s normal. I’m never gonna stop. They shouldn’t abuse them, though.  That’s just wrong”.

If we work on minimizing the discomfort of the animals who will be killed and eaten regardless of their comfort level, it only serves to make it even easier for people such as I’ve described (again, those were actual experiences and quotes) to keep on eating animals, drinking their excretions, wearing their skins and lining up for seconds. If those people felt a twinge of conscience for a second about the abuses we showed them, that’s sure to be alleviated once the abuses seemingly stop. So it seems when we work to reduce – but not eliminate – animal suffering (as is the hallmark of the welfarist organizations), there’s a secondary gain – non-vegans can keep eating animals now with a clear conscience and no reason nor desire to ever stop.

From my perspective, that’s the opposite of progress.

Keith Berger, June 23, 2015

For more information –

http://www.howdoigovegan.com

http://www.abolitionistapproach.com

http://www.internationalvegan.org

https://www.facebook.com/veganeducationgroup

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The number of people who are recognizing that SICs and welfarism are immoral is rapidly growing. Please use your best judgement and join the movement?

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.