“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 slavery to argue that we should just reduce the number of slave goods we buy that are made by human slaves- 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 in this day and age, or rape, or murder 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.

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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.

Animal Welfare Is A Trap

Welfarism is a trap; one that our entire society has been caught in for around 200 years.

Our society begins our indoctrination in welfarism since the day we learn to talk, and doesn’t stop piling it onto us until the day we die. Those people living right now who call themselves “vegan” but repeat the mantras (which they erroneously call “arguments”) supporting welfarism are merely repeating the same ideas propagated by non-Vegans that we’ve been bogged down in for all this time regarding how we should be *treating* nonhuman animals. The same ideas, over and over. Where has that gotten us? We’re currently enslaving or needlessly slaughtering many times more nonhuman animals each year than we were 200 years ago.

In reality, the process we call “going Vegan” has been corrupted by welfarism into something that most people -even those of us who think we’re Vegan at first- completely misconstrue. We think that once we’ve gone Vegan, that means that if we care about getting people to stop hurting animals, we need to sign petitions, engage in “protests,” tell people “baby steps are good” or “every little bit helps.”

In short, this is because welfarism has corrupted the meaning of “going Vegan” to support itself. When we really live Vegan, we completely reject everything that is not part of a coherent, consistent framework of Animal Rights. Welfarism is directly opposed to that framework, so one of the only ways that welfarism can counteract Rights is to corrupt people’s understanding of Rights to support welfarism.

However, once someone who has been indoctrinated in welfarism recognizes this, they can then begin the process of freeing themselves from it. This is actually like a second “going Vegan.” If we recognize this, then we have begun a process which should culminate in our understanding of what really does constitute Animal Rights and what doesn’t. This is not an instantaneous process in almost any cases, but usually spans a bit of time spent researching and learning, even for the most astute among us. But as I said, once it’s over, it means that we reject any and all of the activities that support welfarism (after all, how can making the same old mistake over and over again get us a new, better result?).  The people who have already done this are called “Abolitionist Vegans.”

The tenets of Abolitionist Veganism -in stark contrast to those of welfarism- are that nonhumans have the right not to be used for human interests, regardless of how “nicely” we use them; and that their use -being wrong- is what we need to abolish, not that we need to merely change our treatment of them. It’s really not that difficult a concept to grasp.

The tenets of welfarism -which are meant to divert our attention from Animal Rights discussions and reinforce the ideological framework of welfarism- include the ideas that: we don’t need to stop using animals as long as we change their treatment; that animals don’t care if they or their loved ones die, they only care whether they suffer in the moment; that there is a hierarchy of species with humans at the top, which means that our interests are more important than theirs; that there is a moral hierarchy of wrong acts so that some are more wrong than others, which allows us to somehow “rank” how bad other people are in comparison to ourselves and each other; that Veganism is a matter merely of human health or some other human-centric concern; that we need to focus our anger on the human “abusers” instead of focusing our peaceful education efforts on all non-Vegans; that hating other humans because they “torture” nonhuman animals and inflicting violence or destructive acts on them or their property is not counter-productive to our goal; that even if petitions, protests, and other such campaigns on behalf of nonhuman animals are speciesist (and they are, all of them), that this doesn’t matter because “at least it’s DOING SOMETHING”; that “getting someone to ‘go vegan’ is progress” even though what the welfarist who is saying this doesn’t realize is that the people they are talking about are actually now just “plant-based” welfarists; and more.

Some of you may ask, “but if you don’t do all these old types of ‘activism,’ then what do you do instead?”

The answer: we do the only thing that isn’t harmful -which welfarism is- and that has the ability to help instead – we educate people on why they need to live as Abolitionist Vegans. This activity is what is responsible for *any* progress that has been made in regards to Animal Rights in the past few decades.

If you think it’s wrong to hurt animals and that’s why you’re Vegan, please join us in educating people about why they need to live Vegan. Here’s how we start:
https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/create-new-vegans

And here’s much more info on which actions are counter-productive to the Animal Rights Movement:
https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/welfare-watch

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.

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

grave-six-feet-under

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 -in the image below- we would be at the position of the man in the suit. 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.” In other words, “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.

Human society at large 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 and without their consent- 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 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 metaphorically “hover above the ground” in regards to our moral stance. It’s merely an attempt to rise back up to ground level in regards to that stance, since -before going Vegan- almost all of us were inarguably participating in various intentional morally negative 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 actionare counter-productive, and therefore harmful, ways of attempting to advocate for animals. These counter-productive actions are made to seem by our speciesist, morally confused society 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). All the 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.

Re-blog: On Militant Direct Action

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.


Truth.

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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Re-blog: Vegan and vegetarian – why they are not similar

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.


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

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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Re-blog: Dealing with the nightmare

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.


Perfectly captures the reasons we need to stop using graphic imagery in advocacy… a must read.

There's an Elephant in the Room blog

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I was first introduced to images of animal suffering through mail drops by animal welfare organisations. They use such images as a tool to trigger a vague and unresolved sense of guilt in order to gather donations and the word vegan is never mentioned as a necessity. Why would it be? For any business that makes their income from the exploitation of nonhuman individuals, of course they don’t mention veganism. Why? Because veganism marks the end of their business venture.

The unspoken dialogue that the images suggest, and this is true not only of animal welfare groups, but of other charities too, goes along the lines of, ‘ Look at this. Isn’t it shocking? Give us money and then leave it with us to make it stop.’ Really, if we examine that concept a bit more closely, it begs far too many questions. But it’s very effective. I know it is because before I was…

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