Q&A: Speaking For The Animals
The following is Q&A for animal advocates wanting to speak for animals.
There are also Q&A pages in these areas:
No, they aren’t.
All such campaigns do is give the false impression that McDonald’s and KFC are somehow worse than other businesses that sell animal-based foods - and they’re not.
Consider this question: does the meat, dairy, and eggs that McDonald’s and KFC sell come from animals who suffered more than the animals whose flesh and secretions are sold in the other cafés and restaurants along the same street?
The answer is no, of course not. Why would they be? How could they be?
McDonald’s and KFC don’t shop at the Extra-Torture Animal Farm while all the rest of the cafés and restaurants in the world shop at the Mild-Torture Animal Farm. Without exception, ALL animal farming - including organic and free-range - is animal harming. So wherever any animal-based product comes from, the animal did suffer and the animal was killed.
Interestingly, these anti-McDonald’s and anti-KFC campaigns are deemed ‘successful’ when people who usually eat there decide to eat at other establishments instead. But those people still consume animal products - just at a different venue. And a change of venue doesn’t help animals at all.
No, it doesn’t.
While banning is better than regulating, trying to ban one specific practice - eg. bullfighting - transmits the false message that some types of animal abuse are more egregious than others. And, of course, that's not the case at all. Bullfighting is no worse than rodeos, which is no worse than bear baiting, which is no worse than dog races, etc.
Further, in cases where a ban is put in place, it never leads to meaningful change, because making something illegal doesn’t change people’s hearts with regard to animal exploitation. The fact is, bans don't work if the demand remains.
example, past bans on bullfighting in certain cities in Spain have ended
up being reversed. In other words, the law banning bullfighting was
ultimately useless while the demand for bullfighting remained. A similar
thing happened when the international sale of ivory was banned in 1990,
to try to stop elephants being hunted. As with bullfighting, the demand
for ivory remained, and because of that the ban was lifted and ivory
sales resumed in 1997.
Trying to ban specific industries takes time away from vegan advocacy, which is where the real action is: that's where true and lasting transformation will occur within individuals and ultimately within societies.
No, it doesn’t.
Telling someone that not eating meat is all they need to do to reject institutionalised animal abuse is telling them a lie. Why give a false impression when you can tell the truth, which is that all animal-based products are essentially ‘meat’ because they're the result of abusing and killing animals.
No, it does the exact opposite.
Regulating certain practices - that is, making animal abuse more supposedly 'humane' by making small changes to it - only compounds the problem by making the abuse seem 'better' and therefore more acceptable.
An example of this is the type of campaign that seeks to put farmed animals into bigger cages. The claim is that this will somehow make the animals’ miserable existence less horrendous. True, it might give them a few centimetres of extra space, but that doesn’t make anything less horrendous. (If you were locked in a cupboard your entire life and then moved to a marginally bigger cupboard, you’d have those few extra centimetres, but it wouldn’t really change a thing.)
Campaigns that seek to regulate animal use imply by their very nature that there's no issue with animals being exploited, and that the problem instead lies in the conditions the animals are forced to live in. But we all know that the problem is the exploitation itself, because animal use is abuse - no matter how it's done.
In cases where such a campaign achieves its goal, the result is that the public breathe a collective sigh of relief because the animals have a couple of centimetres more space to suffer in, and everyone says: “Now that animal farming is all lovely and humane, let's go out to celebrate with a burger!”
So the ‘success’ of such a campaign is not helpful to animals - it only achieves more complacency about animal exploitation.
I used to sign petitions. Dozens and dozens of them a week. Then I stopped when I realised how useless they are.
Although petitions are a way of showing you care (albeit the laziest possible way of showing you care!) they ultimately do nothing to change the vulnerability of animals. For animals to truly be protected from humans what's required is an overhaul of how people think about them. Humanity must develop a healthy respect for ALL non-human life in order for animals to be safe from us.
The current ‘normal’ is for a person to love some species of animals, but to eat/wear/abuse other species of animals. This is called speciesism. And for as long as it remains the norm to abuse and kill certain animals by the billions (mainly cows, pigs, chickens, and fish) then other species within our reach (eg. dogs and cats) will be susceptible to abuse too.
Because for as long as casual violence towards ANY type of animal is a considered a normal part of life, violence towards ALL types of animals is entirely possible.
Once society learns to value animals, things will change. And society can only change when individuals change. As more individuals go vegan, the world improves for animals, because more vegans = less violence.
So do the animals a favour and stop wasting time signing petitions. Instead spend your valuable time advocating for veganism where you can really make a difference.
No, single-issue campaigns (or SICs) like the anti-fur campaign don’t help animals.
“But surely,” I hear you say (as I once did), “the anti-fur campaign still does good despite the fact that it doesn’t show the whole picture.”
That’s what you’d assume...but you'd be wrong. Consider the fact that the anti-fur campaign is the longest running, most well-funded and most well-supported campaign in the history of animal campaigns - yet not only is fur still around, the fur industry is booming! It’s more profitable than ever, which means that more animals than ever are being skinned. With that in mind, isn’t it glaringly obvious that the anti-fur campaign has done nothing for the animals?
So then what does a campaign like this achieve?
Well, the animal organisation wins: they get lots of money. The public wins: they feel good about donating to a seemingly worthy cause, and making the token gesture of not wearing fur. And the fur industry wins: they just keep chugging along and business flourishes, because all that anti-fur campaigning has changed absolutely nothing.
So everyone wins, right? Well...not quite. There are losers in the game of single-issue campaigns. And those losers are animals. That’s right: everybody wins except the animals - the very individuals purported to be helped by such a campaign.
At best, a campaign like this shifts what the public buy. Because, sure, some people might stop wearing fur, but they’ll happily continue to wear all other animal-derived clothing. And that means that they're eyes haven't been opened at all.
You can't make people listen. You can only communicate with them in an open manner and hope that they care.
So keep talking to people, posting on Facebook, tweeting, writing letters, writing articles, making videos, organising vegan parties and picnics, etc, etc. In other words, keep doing whatever you do best and you'll find people (like yourself) who do want to listen.
All the vegans in the world were told about veganism, and they all listened. So it's not true to say that absolutely no one wants to know - plenty want to know.
And don't worry about the people who don't care - they won't care no matter what you say. Just worry about reaching those who do care...and if you communicate with enough people you'll surely find them!
Three things: be vegan, talk to others about veganism, and adopt homeless animals.
Staying vegan is straightforward enough. You can do vegan advocacy in many different ways: flyers, blogs, social media, stalls, dinner parties. And in cases where you can’t adopt, you can foster animals.
Once a person awakens to the truth and decides to go vegan, one of the hardest parts of the experience is knowing the terrible reality of what happens to so many billions of animals year after year.
To cope, always keep in the forefront of your mind that, as hard as it is for us to know this, it's even harder for the animals themselves to endure it. Furthermore: act. Advocate for the abolition of animal use by educating others about veganism. After all, the more vegans there are, the less violence towards animals there is.
Between the reality check of your suffering compared to the animals' suffering, and taking action through vegan advocacy, you'll be able to deal with the burden of knowledge just fine.
When I first went vegan I had some cravings, which I’d combat with a two-pronged approach.
One, I’d recall a photo or footage I’d seen of a farmed animal being abused or killed.
Two, I’d used my love for my dogs to help me. I’d ask myself: if this flesh was from my dogs would I eat it? Or, if this was the milk of abused dogs would I drink it?
So whenever you have trouble with cravings, remember the images you’ve seen, or imagine your beloved companion animal in place of the farmed animal in question. Between those two things, you should feel disgusted enough to no longer crave whatever it is you’ve been craving.
On top of that, you can start changing your palate by eating vegan versions of whatever you're craving. Then, as time goes on you’ll find that cravings are no longer a problem. Your palate will change as it catches up with your heart. The change of heart you had that caused you to go vegan in the first place will become a change of palate. The cravings will totally disappear to the point where you can't believe you ever wanted to eat meat, dairy, eggs, or honey.
The truth of it is that no amount of guilt you feel will ever free animals. No level of misery you feel on behalf of these poor creatures will bring happiness to them. And no amount of crying will stop the torture and killing.
This is certainly not to dismiss these thoughts and feelings. They are totally valid.
I myself am often struck with guilt at having a good life while others (both humans and non-humans) suffer. And I don't always feel comfortable laughing and having fun when I know that innocent animals are being hacked to death in a slaughterhouse every second of every day all over the world. And if often feels that all I want to do is cry.
But, when that thinking arises, I remind myself that guilt only saps my energy and wallowing in sadness only makes me ineffectual. I have a good cry and then tell myself "onward and upward!" - because, really, that's the only place to go.
Allow yourself five minutes of guilt, misery, and crying, and then divert your energy into action. Because while your guilt, misery, and crying will not help animals in any way, your vegan advocacy will.
So: feel it, release it, then act.
A difficulty one encounters after a vegan awakening is feeling frustrated by those who don't seem to care.
Sometimes you'll share the truth about what's happening to animals to some people, but they:
They are the main excuses people tend to give for not going vegan. The fact is that at the root of the excuses is a lack of moral concern for animals. And nothing you will say or do can change that. Developing moral concern for animals is something an individual must do themselves; you can't do it for them.
So don't waste time and energy being frustrated by people who have no moral concern for animals. Instead, move on and speak to someone else about veganism. If they have moral concern, you may be able to help them have a vegan awakening.
Ex-vegans give a stunning array of excuses as to why they’re no longer vegan. All unimpressive, of course. And I’ve heard them all: "It’s annoying having to explain to others why I’m vegan"; "It’s embarrassing when others who invite you to dinner have to make an effort for you"; "It was too extreme"…blah blah blah.
Whatever form the excuse takes, it’s little more than self-involved nonsense, and only proves that the person never really made the connection in the first place. I mean, how could you possibly go back to supporting animal torture if you really, truly made the connection to begin with? You couldn’t.
So after spouting lame excuses about why they’re no longer vegan, the ex-vegan then desperately scrambles to justify their decision. And the justifications are as underwhelming as the excuses themselves.
“I’m an ethical omnivore!” they claim.
“I'm still on the same page as vegans,” they state.
“I’m essentially vegan - except that I eat some animal products,” they declare.
So while the excuses are self-involved, the justifications are self-deluded. They know better than to believe that animal products are ethical. They know better than to believe that being non-vegan puts you on the same page as being vegan (it's not even the same book, let alone the same page!). And they know better than to claim they're vegan in spite of the fact that they consume animal products. Of course they know better. But, somehow, they no longer care.
Given that, I guess my answer to the initial question of how you deal with nonsense from ex-vegans is to treat the situation as a lost cause. Someone who’s been vegan knows precisely what’s going on - they know the egregious abuse animals are suffering, and at one point have let it pierce their hearts. They don’t suddenly un-know and stop being vegan. Rather, they continue to know, but simply stop caring. And there’s nothing you can do about that.
Still, you might want some ideas for replies for when ex-vegans spew their excuses and justifications at you, so I’ve provided three examples below to get you thinking. You’ll notice that the replies involve no attempt to convince the ex-vegan of anything, but simply aim to question their priorities. (Note: it’s optional to shake your head in disbelief and/or disappointment with each reply.)
Ex-Vegan: I’m not vegan anymore because I got sick of being asked why
Ex-Vegan: I’m not
vegan anymore because I missed eating cheese.
Ex-Vegan: I’m not vegan anymore because it was too hard.
Well, I don't know how helpful this Q&A has been, but I hope that something I've said is of use to you when dealing with nonsense you hear from ex-vegans.
This is a strange one because the disbelief tends to be confined to specific areas of animal abuse.
So everyone readily believes stories of abuse towards dogs and cats. With not even a request for proof (it’s just assumed that the authorities have that covered), the public demand that the abuser’s head be immediately delivered on a platter. They call for justice to be served, and yell and scream about how the abuser should be subjected to the same torture they inflicted upon the animal.
People also tend to believe what’s done to animals in laboratories. But then they usually dismiss it as a ‘necessary evil’. (Even when told how unscientific animal testing is, they’ll typically stick to the ‘necessary evil’ story.)
Some people are affronted by animal abuse in certain types of so-called ‘entertainment’. But again, there’s paradox involved there too. Generally, the public decry dogfighting, while saying not a word about (and often supporting) things like horseracing and rodeos.
Yet, when it comes to animals used for food and clothing - but especially regarding animals used for food - they go into deep denial. Suddenly, no quantity of images, video footage, or first-hand accounts is enough to convince them that this abuse is going on.
So what can we do?
The only thing we can do is keep telling people what’s going on and keep showing them evidence of it. At a certain stage, people reach a tipping point: they get to a moment where they’ve been given the exact same information by enough different sources that they can’t continue refuting the truth. Essentially, their denial gets obstructed and they must finally admit to themselves what's going on.
The bottom line is, don't worry about people's denial as that will eventually take care of itself: just keep speaking for the animals.
Unless you're lucky enough to have been born and raised vegan, you will have been directly responsible for the abuse and killing of animals. In this respect, we all have blood on our hands. And while we'll never be able to wash that blood off, by living vegan we can ensure that we add no more.
There’s no point wallowing in guilt, as it wastes time and saps energy. Simply liberate yourself by living vegan, staying vegan, and encouraging others to go vegan.
By explaining the obvious, which is that it's possible for a person to care about more than one thing at a time. Just because vegans advocate for animals, it doesn't mean they don't care about human issues.
This is what I say when someone who doesn't realise I'm vegan gives me a non-vegan gift: "Look, I don't mean to be ungracious, but I'm vegan and I don't use any animal products. It was very kind of you to think of me - thank you - but I can't accept this."
Well, no, of course you can't. You can never be certain of someone's response about any topic. It's foolish to expect that, and even more foolish to want it.
The fact is, no matter how mature and intelligent someone might come across, they might have an immature and unintelligent response towards the topic of veganism. And vice versa. Sometimes the least likely person will respond positively, while someone you’re certain will get it fobs you off. You just can’t tell, so don't pre-judge.
Now stop fretting about things you can't control (like the response you'll get), and start speaking for the animals. They're counting on you.
Unless you're speaking to someone who's a nervous wreck and frightened of absolutely everything, saying "I'm vegan" shouldn't scare anyone.
To illustrate the difference between a scary phrase and the words "I'm vegan", here are two examples: "I'm a murderer" or "I'm a rapist". If someone said either of those two things to you, it would be unusual to not be at least a little bit scared. Now compare those two phrases to "I'm vegan". It's completely un-scary, don't you think?
One could argue that someone reticent about saying "I'm vegan" doesn't think people will actually be scared of them, but rather of the whole idea of veganism. True, talking about veganism is confronting, as you're challenging a deeply indoctrinated immorality that is very much cemented into most individual's minds. But that's no reason to not speak about it.
It occurs to me that people who don't tell others they're vegan, because they say it scares others, might actually be scared themselves of having an uncomfortable conversation. Understandable as that may be (after all, who enjoys uncomfortable conversations?), it's still no reason not to talk to people about veganism.
Next time you shy away from telling someone that you're vegan, remind yourself that your level of discomfort in talking about the subject is nothing compared to what the animals endure. So suck it up, and have the conversation. Because if we don't speak for the animals, who will?
It can be, yes, but why would that stop you from trying to help animals?
Sure, some people get hot and bothered about veganism, but that’s only because somewhere deep inside they feel uncomfortable about what’s happening to animals and the part they play in that. I guess you have to decide what’s more important to you: your fear of a heated discussion or helping animals.
Animals are being brutalised, but it’s too much trouble for you to talk on their behalf? If you find it to be a nuisance to open and close your mouth to make sounds come out (ie. to speak) for animals, I can only wonder how much you really care.
Personally, I think the animals are absolutely worth the (supposed) ‘angst’. And, let's put this in perspective: any difficulties we might experience in speaking for the animals is nothing compared to what the animals themselves suffer. So put aside your own qualms and speak the truth…even if your voice shakes. Remaining silent only makes you complicit in the abuse.
No it won’t. But who’s suggesting that you push, rant, or cajole? I’m suggesting that you present information, ask questions, and challenge commonly-held beliefs.
The bottom line is that animals can’t talk about what they’re enduring, so it’s all up to us. They’re suffering because of us, so we must endeavour to help them. Albert Einstein put it well when he said: “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” I, for one, will not stand by and do nothing. And neither should you.
Animals are suffering in ways we only experience in our most terrifying nightmares, so SHAME ON YOU for saying that talking on their behalf is a waste of time.
Further, it’s insulting to say that non-vegans are incapable of change, not to mention straight-up untrue: you changed, I changed - almost everyone who's now vegan changed. (The only exceptions are the lucky few who were born and raised vegan.)
And, last, it's a sadly defeatist attitude to give up without even trying, and cowardly to keep quiet while animals suffer.
Billions upon billions of animals are being tortured and killed and you’re concerned about being judged? Stop worrying about yourself and start helping animals by speaking out.
What, just by magic?
People can’t magically know about what’s happening to animals. No one totally figures it all out for themselves - at least some of the information has to be presented to them. They’ll then make up their own minds about whether they'll do something about it, but the seed must be planted first, and it has to be planted by a vegan. (Who else will do it - the slaughterhouse workers?)
Not much we can do, except avoid them. I do.
In the past I’ve tried explaining to angry vegans that people are less likely to listen to you if you’re foaming at the mouth, but they just get angry (with the anger now directed at me - no thanks!). So now I just stay away from them.
Still, even though I keep my distance, I do acknowledge that they care. I might not be as frenzied or as loud as they are, but I definitely understand why they’re so upset. I’m just as upset, but I control my emotions for the sake of the animals.
Asking if some forms of animal abuse are worse than others is like asking if some forms of child abuse are worse than others.
Certainly, if you desperately wanted to create an abuse hierarchy where you graded different types of child abuse, I’m sure you could do it…but why would you want to? Isn’t ALL child abuse vile? Of course it is! And the same goes for all types of animal abuse: you could grade it, but why would you? It’s ALL horrendous!
Let’s look at the real-life example of Korea, a country often lambasted and threatened with boycott for their practice of eating dogs. Imagine, if you will, that Korea is boycotted by every person in every country in the rest of the world (including those people who, hypocritically, are happy to eat the flesh of other animals besides dogs). And imagine that, in order for Korea to be accepted into the international community again, it must be seen to stop that practice. Surely that would stop dog-eating, right? Wrong! The attitudes which formed the practice in the first place would still be very firmly in place, and all that would happen is that Korea’s dog meat market would become the dog meat black market. That's right, all the big boycott would succeed in doing is driving the dog meat trade underground.
What does change people’s hearts and minds with regard to animals, however, is veganism. So rather than wasting time with petitions to boycott countries, you’d help animals more by going vegan, staying vegan, and advocating for veganism.
Animals are being tortured and killed by the billions, and you won’t speak for them because it’s too upsetting for YOU? Vegan advocacy mightn't be a bed of roses, but things are infinitely worse for the animals!
Responding to the misery and torment animals endure with inaction is an act of cruelty in and of itself, and you really need to stop being so anxious about your own feelings, and start being more concerned about those who are truly suffering: the animals.
That’s very misguided thinking.
If you hate a certain country for atrocities towards animals you may as well hate all countries - including your own - because they ALL commit atrocities towards animals.
Stop wasting your energy on country-based hatred and focus your efforts on helping animals through vegan advocacy.
That’s what I used to think when I supported the RSPCA. But I was wrong. Supporting the RSPCA doesn’t mean you’re supporting the fight against animal abuse at all, because RSPCA supports animal abuse.
But doesn’t RSPCA stand for "Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals"? And isn’t their slogan “For all creatures great and small”?
Yes it does, and yes it is. However, when RSPCA say “animals” they’re only referring to a small handful of species - mainly dogs and cats, but occasionally hamsters, rabbits, and guinea pigs. So their slogan should really be “For all creatures great and small…as long as those creatures are dogs and cats (and sometimes hamsters, rabbits, and guinea pigs).”
In other words, RSPCA’s definition of “animals” doesn’t include many animals at all, and it outright excludes the species who are the most abused: that is, cows, pigs, and chickens. In fact, RSPCA actively supports their abuse under certain so-called ‘humane’ conditions which aren’t humane at all (and could never be: after all, the animals always end up in the slaughterhouse, don’t they? And there's nothing humane about that).
The point is that animal use is, by default, animal abuse. And because RSPCA supports animal use it supports, by default, animal abuse.
But surely RSPCA prevents some kind of animal abuse, right? Well, kind of.
RSPCA provides a minimal level (in accordance with the extraordinarily lenient law) of protection to companion animals. Where I live in Sydney, Australia, the law says that a dog can be chained up 23 hours a day, and as long as he or she is off the chain for one measly hour a day, that’s just okey-dokey. Like I said: the law is extraordinarily lenient when it comes to animals - embarrassingly so (and we call ourselves a civil society! Ha! What we are is a DISGRACE) - and RSPCA’s attempt to protect animals means upholding lame laws such as this.
And, yes, they do their best within the law for the few species they favour, all the while happily supporting of the abuse of other animals: the billions of cows, pigs, and chickens who so desperately need protection.
So by all means, support the RSPCA’s efforts on the part of companion animals. I am all in favour of them doing the little they can do within the bounds of unjust laws. But I certainly don’t support their stance on every other species of animal.
If you truly want to protect all animals (not just a chosen few), then go vegan.
Of course vegans rock the boat. The proverbial boat we’re talking about is society’s acceptance of animal abuse - and that the boat desperately NEEDS rocking!
I honestly can’t fathom why someone wouldn’t want to be friends with another vegan simply because they don’t toe the line. It sounds like cowardice to me. Personally, I’d rather be friends with people who dare to speak out against injustice, than with people who remain safely within the status quo.
Because an anti-fur campaign makes money, and an anti-animal-based clothing campaign doesn’t.
This is because an anti-fur campaign is something almost everyone can get behind. Both vegans and non-vegans can be on board, so the donation base to fund such a campaign is potentially very big.
An anti-animal-based clothing campaign, on the other hand, interests only those who have dug deep enough to realise that all animal-derived clothing (not just fur) are products of abuse. In other words, such a campaign only attracts vegans, a mere three percent of the population of the world - and that’s comparatively not much of a donation base at all.
So that (ie. money) is why the animal organisations focus so much on the anti-fur campaign: it’s a good money-maker.
Since when was it not your place as a parent to teach ethics to your children?
Are you also not going to tell your kids that it’s wrong to steal, because you don’t want to force that ethic onto them? Will you also neglect to mention that punching someone in the face when you don’t get your way is wrong, because you don’t want to force that ethic onto them? What about rape - will you avoid saying that it’s wrong to rape, because you don’t want to force that ethic onto them?
It seems to me that the sticking point is that veganism is an issue related to animals. Because I could list any number of immoral acts against humans and most parents would say, “Of course I would tell my children that’s wrong”. But when it comes to animals, some people (even some vegans) don’t want to take a stand. And if you ask me, it’s weak.
Ultimately children will decide for themselves whether or not to follow the ethics their parents endeavour to pass on to them, but you can’t tell me it’s not the parents’ place to try to instil ethics to begin with. In fact, in my opinion, teaching children morals is a major part of being a parent.
No one is expecting everyone to suddenly go vegan overnight, so it’s a pretty silly premise from which to ask a question. But, as it’s something I hear all the time, I’ll tackle it nonetheless.
Supporting welfare reform won’t lead to the end of animal exploitation, it’ll only uphold it. So if animal liberation is where you want to go, the road of welfare reform won’t lead you there.
The fact is, welfare reform and abolition are two separate roads.
I used to support such campaigns, until I started asking questions about them.
Thinking out loud, I said to another vegan: “Why so much focus on McDonald’s and KFC? How is what they do any different to what other businesses that sell animal-based food do? How is the meat, dairy, and eggs McDonald’s and KFC use any more torture-laden than that used by any other café or restaurant?”
She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Maybe they use more animals than other businesses?” Her reply was in the form of a question because she didn’t really know the answer. She (like me, up to that point) simply assumed that the animal organisations were helping animals through these campaigns.
I pointed out the illogic of her proposed reason by saying: “It can’t just be about numbers. Because if you add up all animal products collectively used by all the McDonald’s and KFCs in the world, it wouldn’t even come close to all the animal products collectively used by all the other cafés and restaurants in the world. If it were simply about volume, as you’re suggesting, the animal organisations should be targeting every other establishment, and not McDonald’s and KFC.”
From that point on I saw that these campaigns would, at best, simply draw people away from the targeted businesses (in this case, McDonald’s and KFC) and into other establishments that sell the very same animal products. And this meant that these campaigns didn’t help animals at all, so I stopped supporting them.
There's nothing wrong with exposing what goes on in specific industries.
It's this information that is often the turning point in a person's mind
that leads them to going vegan. But campaigning for each and every
specific abuse, one by one, really is the long way around.
Campaign 1: Get bigger cages.
There is no big deal with veal - at least, there’s no more of a big deal with veal than any other type of animal product. It only seems that way because of all the anti-veal campaigns that animal organisations run.
Campaigns about one particular issue - in this case veal - are called single-issue campaigns (or SICs). And what they do is give the impression that the issue being campaigned about is the absolute worst of animal abuses. Not only do the campaigns themselves tell you this, but it’s also implied in the fact that, of all the abuses, THIS was the one chosen to campaign against. So even if the animal organisations didn’t (erroneously) state that veal is more immoral than other types of flesh, the suggestion is there in the very existence of the campaign itself.
And that’s why for the longest time (in my pre-vegan life) I thought I was making a big moral stance by not eating veal. Now it’s absolutely true that veal calves are treated differently to the way other animals reared for flesh are treated…but so what? All farmed animals are abused just as egregiously as veal calves - just in different ways.
The issues chosen for SICs are picked by the animal organisations not because the abuse is super-horrible, but because it’s easier to get people to donate towards one specific issue than to develop a donation base to do vegan advocacy. Not only that, even the staunchest non-vegan can get behind them (and therefore donate to them). I’m living proof of that: I was one hundred percent behind the anti-veal, anti-fur, anti-experimentation, and anti-foie gras campaigns…but no way was I vegan (I didn’t even know what the word meant!).
So please don’t be fooled be the efficacy of SICs as I once was: the aim of SICs such as the anti-veal campaign is not (as I once thought) to eradicate the practice. Proof is in the fact that, despite this long-running campaign, the veal industry is as strong as it ever was. The only thing SICs (like the anti-veal campaign) succeed to do is to make plenty of money for the animal organisations that run them.
Why would initially advocating for vegetarianism ultimately get more results? The only results it will get is that some people will go vegetarian. And since vegetarianism supports animal torture why in the world would we want people to continue to support animal torture?
The fact is that the more we advocate for vegetarianism rather than veganism, the more time we waste advocating for something we don't actually want. Luring people to vegetarianism in order to then present them with veganism afterwards is not an honest approach. If we want people to go vegan, we should be honest and say so.
And when someone is presented with the vegan message they'll do one of three things:
So, no, not all people will go vegan as a result of vegan advocacy: but absolutely no one will go vegan as a result of vegetarian advocacy.
Educating children about where animal-based food comes from is important. However, making them witness a vicious bloodbath in a slaughterhouse is not the way to do it.
Better to give the children information, and show them non-graphic images of farmed animals. For example, photos of animals being herded into the slaughterhouse, or baby cows being taken from their mothers.
Still, it’s kind of pointless talking about this because it will never happen while 97% of people enjoy the products of animal torture too much to want to face reality themselves: as long as that’s the case, there’s no reason society will want children to know the truth.
There is some good news, though, because the tide is quickly turning. With the internet disseminating previously-hidden information, the vegan population has doubled in the last couple of years. So change has occurred rapidly and will continue to do so.
Plus there's the environmental side of things that will force people to face the devastation caused by animal agriculture. So even those who don't care about animals will eventually have to concede that planetary destruction is too big a price to pay just so they can stuff their faces with the flesh of the innocent.
I hope the day will come where children are educated about the reality of animal agriculture. And I hope that will lead to them rejecting it completely. But the way to do it will be through education, not traumatising them by a visit to a slaughterhouse.
Attending a protest or demo to object to one particular practice or industry (as though it’s somehow worse than all the others), makes no sense if you want to educate people as to why ALL animal use is unjustifiable.
I know it seems that protests and demos against certain practices and industries will, bit by bit, lead to the abolition of animal abuse, but history tells a different tale.
For example, the anti-fur campaign is the one of the longest-running campaigns the world has ever seen. Million of dollars have been spent, thousands of hours have been worked, rivers of tears have been shed…and where has it led? To a fur industry that's stronger than ever!
This is because single-issue campaigns (such as the anti-fur campaign) don't change people's hearts and minds in the way veganism does. Think about it: in a world where people reject animal violence in all they do every single day of their lives, how would a fur industry even exist? It wouldn't - in fact, it couldn’t! Nor would any other type of animal exploitation.
Many complain that vegan education is too long a process - but doesn't the above example of the fur industry show that single-issue campaigns are an even longer process?
Vegan education creates vegans. In other words, it creates people who outright refuse to participate in the exploitation of animals on any level. The single-issue campaigns that protests and demos are attached to just go round and round in circles. So don't waste your time. Instead do vegan advocacy by educating others about veganism.
Refusing to buy vegan products from a business that also sells non-vegan products is misguided. Not only that, it’s impossible. Certainly you can (and should) buy products from exclusively vegan businesses, but even your average fruit shop sells non-vegan products, so what are you going to do - stop buying fruit and veg altogether?
But let’s imagine for a moment that you do manage to purchase every single product you use from businesses that sell exclusively vegan products. The fact is that the employees of those businesses won’t necessarily be vegan, because it’s not uncommon for vegan businesses to employ non-vegans. And by supporting a vegan business with non-vegan employees, you’re helping pay the wages of those non-vegan employees, who will then buy non-vegan products with their earnings…making you an indirect contributor to animal abuse.
I’ll take it a little further by reminding you that the manufacturers of vegan products and all the employees that work to make those products won’t all be vegan either: the vegan population is just too small right now for that to ever be the case. So, as you can see, even if you could go as far as shopping from exclusively vegan businesses, your shopping is still not one hundred percent vegan.
This is the unfortunate way of things right now: that even when you reject animal products by living vegan, you will still somehow indirectly contribute to animal abuse by supporting the non-vegans involved who directly contribute to it. Does this make living vegan futile? Not at all. But boycotting vegan products because there’s a non-vegan component of a business is both silly to attempt and impossible to do.
Finally, I’ll drive home my point by asking you these three questions:
I hope you can see that only ever interacting with vegan professionals and supporting vegan businesses is currently unrealistic.
So, yes, do buy from exclusively vegan businesses where possible. And, where possible, do support vegan professionals. But don’t delude yourself into thinking that you can get all the products and services you need only from vegans, because there simply aren’t enough vegans in the world for that. Not yet, anyway.
No, that would be silly.
If we boycott all the countries in the world that abuse animals, we would need to boycott every single country on the planet - including whichever country we live in. Boycotting countries as an action against animal abuse is impossible.
If you want to boycott animal abuse, there are three things you can do: go vegan, stay vegan, and advocate for veganism.
Only if we want to waste our time and not help animals.
Farming animals means harming animals - no matter what type of farm they happen to be kept in. In other words, the way animals are abused is not the issue - the issue is the abuse itself. So why would we want to spend time trying to change the type of farming when we know very well that it's the farming itself that's the problem, not the method?
The fact is, each of us only has a limited amount of time we can spend on anything - including animal rights advocacy. And if what we want to do is stop abuse altogether, then spending our time on changing the method of abuse is counterproductive.
I for one don't want to waste my time, so I never participate in welfare campaigns. I stick to vegan advocacy, as stopping animal abuse - not changing it - is the only thing that will help animals.
No, we shouldn’t.
Because campaigning against the dog meat trade doesn't show that all use of animals is wrong. Campaigns singling out the dog meat trade only reinforce the false notion that some animals (in this case, dogs) are more important than others. Not only does that not help other species of animals, it also serves to further mire people in the status quo view that some animals are more worthy of our care than others.
Any use of animals is abuse, so campaigning for veganism is what will help animals - not single-issue campaigns that solidify the widespread paradigm that some animals are important while others are expendable.
That kind of campaigning is futile.
While it might appear that by shutting down institutional exploiters you're tearing the problem out at the roots, what you're really doing is pulling off some leaves which quickly grow back. This is because the root of the problem is not the institutional exploiters, but the demand itself.
Remember institutional exploiters only exist because the demand for their products exists, so while the demand remains it will be met by one business or another. If, for example, you shut down one dairy facility while the demand for dairy remains, the surrounding dairy facilities will increase their production to meet that demand. In other words, closing down any type of institutional exploiter while demand still remains only results in other facilities picking up the slack...therefore leading to no change at all.
The only way to properly shut down the institutional exploiters is to eliminate the demand for what they produce. And the way to do that is vegan advocacy, because veganism is what will make the difference: if institutional exploiters are selling but no one is buying, they'll have no choice but to shut down for good.
Why shouldn't we? Abuse is abuse, right? No matter the victim. That's why we're vegan in the first place, isn't it - we realised that abuse is wrong, no matter the species?
Strangely, a lot of vegans disagree with me. Apparently, despite the fact that they ostensibly believe it's wrong to exploit or kill any species of animal, they think that comparing the plight of non-human animals to the plight of human animals is just plain wrong. Hmmm. Sounds like speciesism to me.
Recently I was asked where I stand on comparing animal abuse to human abuse. Specifically, where I stand on comparing the killing of animals to the killing of jews during World War 2, and comparing the slavery of animals to the slavery of black people in the USA.
My answer was that I don't see a problem in either comparison. And, I added, I think that vegans who say it's wrong to do so are allowing remnants of their own speciesism to creep in to their mind. Think about it. When vegans say "You shouldn't compare the killing/slavery of animals to the killing/slavery of humans" what they're essentially saying is that we shouldn't compare animals ('inferior') to us ('superior').
The friend who asked the question went on to recount what he'd recently read a black vegan say, which was something to the effect of: "It's all very well for white people to compare our struggle in slavery with animal exploitation, but saying that is like making us out to be non-humans too". In other words, making the comparison is taking black people 'down' to the 'inferior' level of non-humans. And, like I said earlier, that is speciesist thinking (ie. they're 'inferior', we're 'superior').
What this person was ignoring (besides her own speciesism) was the ENTIRE PREMISE OF VEGANISM, which is that exploitation is wrong no matter the species, that we shouldn't love one type of animal but abuse the other, and that we shouldn't be outraged at the killing of certain species while accepting the killing of another.
My friend concluded our conversation with this sentence: "It's the struggle that's comparable, not the species", and he was absolutely right!
To find out what? What we already know - that animals are being abused and killed in farms, slaughterhouses, laboratories, and for so-called 'entertainment'? How much more proof do we need of what we already know?
You're better off putting your money elsewhere. Instead of donating to an animal organisation for yet another pointless undercover investigation to 'discover' what we already know, use it for vegan advocacy. You might want to set up a stall or get leaflets printed up to educate the public about veganism. That's what will help animals - not flinging more money at another useless undercover investigation to find out what we already know all too well.
Rather than doing that, give your donation money to sanctuaries which house rescued animals, and to no-kill shelters or rescues that rehome abandoned animals.
The reason I’m steering you away from giving money to one of the many animal organisations out there, is because - believe it or not - giving them money means you're backing the wrong team.
To explain: all the animal organisations (at least those in existence as I’m writing this) are advocates of welfarism. So if you gave your hard-earned money to them, much of it would be used to drive pointless welfarist campaigns, like those for slightly bigger cages or marginally less painful killing techniques - none of which ultimately help animals, and none of which will lead to animal liberation.
No, don't bother. Petitions seek welfare reform - either to regulate specific practices or ban aspects of certain industries. So neither their existence nor their (unlikely) ‘success’ will change people's overall attitude towards animal use. Signing petitions wastes your precious time on welfare reform which ultimately does nothing to help animals - advocate for veganism instead.
There’s no good reason to stop using the word “vegan”.
However, this question comes up often, and it’s useful to understand why this is so. It’s an often-discussed topic for one simple reason: because there are a handful of aggressive vegans who many other vegans don’t want to be associated with. And, frankly, I can understand that. But changing the term “vegan” won’t ameliorate the situation, because the aggressive people won’t magically calm down due to a change of name.
Furthermore, using another term would not only not solve the problem of aggressive activists, it would also create other problems. To start with, it would immediately confuse things, and instead of using our energy to advocate for veganism, we'd spend a lot of time explaining the reasons behind the new word. Plus there's the very important fact that the term "vegan" is just now becoming common and widely understood - why would we start from scratch by suddenly using a different word?
Another suggestion people make is to not choose another term, but rather just avoid using the word “vegan”. A ridiculous idea, because doing that will only result in a lot of beating around the bush in a desperate attempt to avoid using the v-word. And what a colossal waste of time when you can just say “vegan”!
The problem of aggressive advocates is a problem with any activist community, and we can only hope that they change their attitude.
Meanwhile, why, when there are billions of animals suffering, would we spend even a moment fiddling about with changing terminology? Our time is better spent advocating for veganism and thereby making the world a more peaceful place. Conclusion: the word “vegan” has a clear and appropriate meaning, so let’s just use it.
No, we shouldn’t.
The Meat-Free Monday campaign is an exercise in the ridiculous. Think about it: participating individuals refrain from eating meat each Monday, but continue to consume all other animal products on that day, and consume every manner of animal product (including meat) every other day of the week. Not consuming one specific product one day per week is little more than a token gesture, so Meat-Free Monday is as meaningless as having Wool-Free Wednesdays, or Fur-Free Fridays, or Silk-Free Saturdays.
When vegans encourage people to participate in Meat-Free Mondays as though it’s a meaningful practice, it does two things, neither of which helps animals. One, it compounds the entrenched and erroneous viewpoint that meat is somehow worse than all other animal products. Two, it makes people feel better about their complicity in animal abuse (“At least I’m doing something!”).
For a long time I supported single-issue campaigns (or SICs), until I finally realised that they’re counterproductive.
My first suspicion that there was something wrong with SICs occurred while writing a letter to a shop telling them to stop selling fur. I stopped mid-sentence and thought, “This is ridiculous. This shop sells other animal-based clothing like leather, suede, wool, sheepskin, feathers, and silk…so why am I asking them to specifically stop selling fur? Why am I singling out fur, of all the animal-based clothing, as though it’s the worst of the worst, when they’re all bad, just in different ways?”
After that epiphany, I thought about the matter a great deal, and realised that SICs do nothing to help animals. I realised that SICs are, in fact, counterproductive in that they reinforce the very status quo that vegan advocacy seeks to break.
There are product-specific SICs such as the anti-fur campaign, which reinforce the ubiquitous and incorrect notion that some types of animal abuse are worse than others. Sure, the details of different types of violence towards animals vary, and you could divvy up the abuses into ‘worse’ and ‘better’, but they’re all animal abuse in the end.
There are welfarist SICs such as those that seek to ban the battery cage, which reinforce the ubiquitous and incorrect notion that changing the way animals are treated eradicates the abuse. The truth is, though, that all animal use is -in and of itself - abuse, because no matter how it’s done, all animal use amounts to torture and killing.
And there are speciesist SICs such as those against the kangaroo cull, which reinforce people’s favouritism based on species, and the ubiquitous and incorrect notion that some species of animal are more worthy of protection than others.
So SICs are not the way forward. The only means of truly eradicating violence towards animals is by encouraging people to reject ALL types of violence towards ALL animals, and that can only be done through vegan advocacy.
Singling out a certain industry - or a specific product, or a particular practice, or an individual business, or the abuse of one particular species - is known as a single-issue campaign (or SIC). And SICs are a waste of limited resources because they don’t work.
A good example of the failure of SICs is the anti-fur campaign. It’s the longest-running animal-based campaign in history, and has had huge amounts of money funnelled towards it for decades…yet the fur industry is not only still around, but it's stronger than ever.
Besides not working, SICs also send the message (implied by their mere existence) that a specific industry/product/practice/business/abuse is especially bad. This is a false impression, because all animal abuse is immoral.
So rather than focussing on one animal abusing industry at a time until we get through the many hundreds out there, it’s more efficient to put our efforts into giving people an honest and complete picture through vegan advocacy.
Once upon a time, the term "vegetarian" was used to describe a person who did not consume any animal products.
Then "vegetarian" eventually came to mean a person who abstained from flesh but continued to eat animal secretions and participate in other violence towards animals (eg. by wearing animal-based clothing, using products tested on animals, etc).
And so the term "vegan" was coined in 1944 to describe someone who lived in a way that rejected all violence towards animals.
Now there is a movement within the vegan community which seeks to reclaim the word "vegetarian" to mean what it used to mean: that is, to mean "vegan".
I think this is an utterly useless endeavour and a complete waste of time.
When there are literally billions upon billions of animals tortured and killed every single year, why spend even one second worrying about the meaning of the word "vegetarian"? I mean, what's the point of arguing over a collection of letters when animals are suffering so terribly?
"Vegetarian" used to mean one thing, and now it means another: get over it.
Time to focus, friends. If you care about animals, don't worry about campaigning to reclaim the word "vegetarian". Worry instead about educating others about another much better word: "vegan". Because that's the campaign that will save animals.
No, that would be pointless.
To begin with, how would you choose which farms and slaughterhouses you’d try to shut down? Would you try to find the ones that are the most abusive? If so, what the hell does ‘most abusive’ mean when all animal farming and killing is abuse, in and of itself?
So what about just shutting them down one by one? Well, that would be futile too. If you shut down one farm, the others would simply absorb their business. If you shut down one slaughterhouse, other slaughterhouses will simply pick up their work. In other words, in closing one business down, you only end up enhancing the others in the same industry.
Without striking at the roots - in other words, without targeting the demand for animal products - you’re not achieving anything. Because as long as there’s demand there will be supply, one way or another. The solution, therefore, is advocating for veganism.
It's thoroughly bizarre to me when vegans say: "We shouldn't encourage people to go vegan. What we should do is encourage the improvement of the conditions of the animals being used."
It makes no sense because ALL forms of animal use is abuse, no matter what conditions they're living in. (That's why we're vegan in the first place!)
I mean, what's the point of having animals frolic in the sun and have plenty of food and water only to meet a brutal death in a slaughterhouse anyway? Sure, it's better if animals are not in filthy, cramped conditions, but the point is that they shouldn't be there to begin with.
And even with 'better' conditions, the females still get raped regularly, the males are either killed as little babies while the ‘lucky’ few are allowed to live and get regularly masturbated to harvest semen. The whole thing is thoroughly perverted to say the least, and the abuse is (clearly) still there even if the living conditions are improved.
Conclusion: better treatment in the abuse of animals is just not the way forward. NO use of animals is the only way to stop animal abuse.
Animal use = animal abuse. Solution? Veganism.
While it certainly would be better if animals used by humans were treated better, treatment is not the most significant factor in animal use. The most significant factor in animal use is the use itself. And abolition of animal use (ie. veganism) is the only way to right the wrong of animal abuse, not to improve treatment.
When we talk about the conditions animals live in we're taking the
spotlight off the most important thing of all: that treatment shouldn't
be an issue to begin with, because the animals shouldn't be used by
humans in the first place.
As long as you’re not purposely rude, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be forthright. In fact, no matter how polite you are, people will get offended if what you say pushes their own guilt up to the surface. The fact is, animals are suffering terribly, and it would be cowardly of us to not state this loud and clear.
What unambitious thinking!
Tell me this: would you encourage someone who kicks their dog to simply kick the dog a little less? I’m guessing your answer is “no”. So in that case, why in the world would you encourage someone to do anything less than stop abusing animals altogether?
Whether a person chooses to go vegetarian after you tell them about veganism is up to them. If they’re only willing to make that token gesture, it’s their choice. But don’t make that decision for them by actually encouraging them to continue to abuse animals by being vegetarian.
When you think about it, it’s actually pretty insulting to treat someone as though they’re incapable of doing the best that they can do. It’s like telling them: “You’re too stupid to understand the big picture, and you’re too callous to care even if you do get it...so you might as well just go vegetarian.”
That would be a horrible thing to say to someone, right? But it’s precisely what you are saying (even without expressing it in those exact words) when you encourage people to go vegetarian, despite knowing full well that the best a person can do for animals is to go vegan.
The animals cannot speak for themselves. They’re depending on YOU to speak for them, so aim high: advocate for veganism!
The problem with encouraging people to go vegan for environmental reasons, is that the conclusion of less consumption (rather than no consumption) of animal products being a solution can too easily be reached. Here’s a sample conversation to illustrate my point:
Vegan: Animal agriculture is destroying the planet.
As you can see, an environment-based conversation quite easily leads to the conclusion that reduction of animal consumption is the answer. And the thing is, it is the answer…IF the environment is the core issue.
If you’re happy to advocate for people to continue to hurt animals, but on a somewhat reduced scale, then by all means talk about veganism from the environmental point of view. But if you want to stop violence towards animals, then advocate from a moral standpoint.
Focussing on one issue at a time is also known as doing single-issue campaigns. Unfortunately, as practical as it might initially sound to focus on one issue at a time, it only creates confusion and wastes time and resources.
I'll use the example of eggs to show how focussing on single-issue campaigns is unhelpful and confusing (not to mention an insult to their intelligence). Here's what single-issue campaigning looks like in conversation form:
Vegan: Don't buy cage eggs.
You can replace "caged eggs" with anything else. For example:
Vegan: Don't go to rodeos or circuses.
Here's another example with regard to sheepskin:
Vegan: You shouldn't wear sheepskin from that manufacturer because
they skin sheep alive.
As you can see, asking people to do something, but then immediately changing the rules once they do it makes for very confused campaigning. It's also a waste of time and resources. Single-issue campaigns can take decades to 'succeed', and they achieve nothing but a slight shift in what kind of abuse people participate in.
Let's not insult people's intelligence. Give people the entire picture, and from there they can decide for themselves. It's true, they might not go vegan. They might take just change one or two things, but that's out of our control anyway.
The problem with doing that is that someone interested in halting climate change can easily say, "Well, one steak won't destroy the planet" or "Just one milkshake won't lead to that much more climate change" or “Only the one omelette won’t lead to environmental desolation”. And they'd be right. One steak or milkshake or omelette will not ruin the Earth. But that same steak, milkshake, or omelette will hurt an animal.
The thing is, if every human being drastically reduced their consumption of animal products so that we could go back to the farming practices of the past, we could very well stop climate change without everyone going vegan. Industrial farming with huge output (to meet huge demand) has been the environmental disaster - not animal agriculture on the much smaller scale of days gone by. That fact makes less consumption of animal products a salient argument against the idea of going vegan, IF you’re talking about it from the point of view of climate change.
Advocating for veganism simply as a way to combat climate change is like advocating against rape because it's bad for the economy to have lots of rapists in jail. I personally would never advocate like that. People shouldn't rape because it's morally wrong, and that's the way I'd speak about it. (Sure, I might mention the fact that it's also an economic burden on society, but that would never be my main driver in speaking out against rape.)
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying we shouldn't get behind the fight against climate change. We absolutely should, and when we do, we should that through the lens of veganism. But to talk about veganism through the lens of climate change means that most people will come to the (correct) conclusion that the solution is a drastic reduction in farming. With that solution the planet might be okay…but the animals wouldn’t be. The animals would still be abused and killed, and THAT is the problem.
At the end of the day, anyone can advocate any way they want. If you think it's best to do it from a climate change standpoint, then do it. But when people come back at you saying, "I'm going to reduce my carbon footprint by reducing my consumption of animal products" (which is a legitimate decision to help stop climate change, and precisely the angle you were advocating from) what will you say to that?
Touting veganism as a diet might be appealing to some people - a balanced vegan diet is a more healthful diet, after all, than a diet laden with animal products. But if your aim is to help animals, encouraging people to follow a vegan diet isn’t going to achieve your goal.
One of the issues with advocating for veganism for health purposes is that, by reducing veganism to just a diet, you’re ignoring all the other ways in which animals are abused. So someone who merely eats vegan is still directly contributing to violence towards animals (eg. through what they wear).
The other reason is that people invariably cheat on a diet, so if someone eats vegan solely for their health, they will see no harm in occasionally eating animal products. And unless they awaken to the ethics of veganism somewhere along the way and start living vegan, they’ll most probably go off their vegan diet at some point - because that’s what people usually do with diets.
Certainly the health advantages of veganism can be mentioned as an aside - you could say that it’s a happy side-effect of a moral decision - but plugging veganism as a diet will ultimately do little for the animals. Bottom line: veganism is not a diet. It’s an ethical stance - a rejection of violence towards animals - and that’s the best way to frame it.
Very important. You’re only going to be able to help animals if you know what’s going on.
This, however, doesn’t mean that you have to read about every horrendous detail daily, watch every gory video available, and see every single revolting photo in existence. I mean, in order to help animals you do have to remain sane.
It’s bad enough that the animals themselves endure such terrible torment, and while none of us should turn away from their suffering, absorbing it to the point where it makes us so depressed that we’re no longer functional doesn’t help animals one little bit.
But, yes, you must learn. You'll have many conversations about veganism and animal rights and you need to learn some facts, some figures, and lots of answers to frequently asked questions. (On that last point, that’s why I created this Q&A - to give animal rights advocates help in this area.)
But no matter what you learn, always be perfectly clear to anyone you speak to that, regardless of the details, the use of animals is abuse in and of itself. Encourage them to lump all manner of animal use together under the heading “Animal Abuse” and to unequivocally reject it all by going vegan.
I can relate to that. Many vegans can.
It’s true that the wider you open your eyes, the darker the world becomes. And no matter how hard you try, you can never close them tight enough to block out the images you’ve seen of animals suffering.
But there is something you can do about it, and that is to advocate for veganism.
You can: write blogs, do Facebook posts, make Tweets, produce pamphlets, hold vegan stalls, cook vegan food for friends, run cooking classes…or whatever educational advocacy you can think of that best suits your personality and skills.
Doing this certainly won’t magic away the pain you feel, but it will lessen the pain that the animals endure.
So, no, it’s not always easy to cope now that you’ve made the connection. And you’ll never un-know the terrible truth of what animals suffer at the hands of humans. But remember that no matter how hard it is for you, it’s immeasurably harder for the animals.
Allow yourself to feel your feelings, and then put the energy behind those emotions to good use by channeling them into vegan advocacy.
Any time you feel that being vegan is difficult for any reason at all, think about the animals. Think about them and realise how very okay you are, and how small the difficulty of being vegan in a non-vegan world is compared to every single aspect of their existence.
Many things have been called impossible…before they were done.
One of the reasons animals continue to suffer is apathy. Inaction is a plague, and I for one is refuse to be infected. You might not bother - that’s your choice - but I’ll continue to advocate until my last breath, because the animals are depending on those of us with the courage to speak out.
I'm often told that I shouldn't bother to advocate for veganism because not everyone will want to go vegan.
I'm then told that, instead, I should advocate for reforms to the system: to make the cages a little bigger, the killing in the slaughterhouses a little swifter, and the torture in vivisection labs a little less painful.
Yet no matter how many times I'm told the above, I still advocate for veganism.
To begin with, I'll never advocate for welfare reform because I'm not interested in making animal torture slightly less torturous or the killing a little quicker. I'm interested in stopping the torture and killing altogether. In the same way that I'd never in a million years advocate for 'humane' rape or 'humane' paedophilia, I'll never in a million years advocate for the 'humane' torture and killing of animals.
Secondly, many groups of people throughout history have been told that certain things could never happen...but they did.
Some examples are those who wanted to: abolish human slavery in the USA, end Apartheid in South Africa, give women the vote, have civil rights for black people in the USA. They were all told it could not be done. They met with ridicule and violent opposition - just as I (and all animal rights advocates) often do.
But, they pulled it off. All of those things did happen. And so will a vegan world. The fact is that while not all people will go vegan for moral reasons they will, ultimately, be forced to go vegan so that the Earth remains inhabitable. So either way it will happen.
I might not live to see it (I hope I do!), but it will happen nonetheless. And I'll advocate to that end until my last breath. So should you.
It's true that, generally speaking, people don’t change easily. But they do change. You changed, I changed. Very few people were born or brought up vegan, so they all changed too.
Even if the person with whom you’re directly engaging (either in person or on social media) doesn’t seem to be taking anything in, someone else might be listening to what you’re saying or reading what you’re writing.
As journalist and author Christopher Hitchens (RIP) said: “The grave will provide plenty of time for silence”. So speak up for animals while you can!
Campaigns like those against McDonald’s and KFC (called single-issue campaigns or SICs) are simply an easy way of making money for the organisations that run them.
Sounds like an outlandish accusation to make, but let me explain how it works.
First, the animal organisation identifies an issue that’s an easy fix. For example getting establishments like McDonald’s or KFC to phase in so-called ‘free-range’ eggs, or ‘organic’ milk, or flesh from supposedly ‘humanely-raised’ animals. The phase-in period is often a ridiculously long period of time (sometimes several years), which makes the transition easy for the establishment to do, and therefore the ‘victory’ easier for the animal organisation to gain.
Second, the animal organisation asks for donations from supporters to fund the campaign. And, because of the nature of the campaign, they can ask for money from everyone - even from non-vegans (they are, after all, helping those who consume animal products ease their conscience by making the post-‘victory’ version of the products more acceptable). So the money rolls in.
And, finally, the animal organisation runs the campaign, claim a massive ‘victory’, and everybody’s happy!
McDonald’s and KFC are happy because the public is super-pleased with them. The farmers are happy because all they had to do was change a meaningless aspect of their standard practice (eg. putting all the hens into one giant barn instead of a few hens into lots of smaller cages), and then it was business as usual. And the public is happy because they think they’ve been part of a huge ‘victory’. To celebrate, everyone goes out to get some McDonald’s ‘free-range’ scrambled eggs, or maybe an ‘organic’ milkshake, or maybe the fried limbs of a KFC ‘humanely-raised’ chicken.
So if everyone’s happy, what’s the problem?
Well, it’s not quite true to say everybody’s happy. Because the animals are still suffering you see. They’re still being routinely tortured. They’re still being brutalised and killed. So everybody’s happy…except the animals.
Then what was it all for if the animals are not winners in all this? Wasn’t it all meant to be for them? And who wins if they don’t?
Well, to begin with, the animal organisation wins because ‘successful’ campaigns lead to more donation money (“Look what we did last time - help us do it again in the future by donating now!”). Next, animal agriculture wins because they’re the good guys now that they’ve made this token change, and business is stronger than ever due to renewed public support. And last, the public wins because they dupe themselves into thinking that because of their heroic actions (that is, donating a few bucks and signing a petition) the animals are no longer suffering and that it’s now okay to eat animal-derived products.
So everyone’s a winner…except the animals. They lost. And they’ll always lose as long as this little game continues.
Impossible. Welfarism and abolitionism go in opposite directions.
If you support singling out a specific species to help, you’re not on the same page as vegans who want to put an end to the abuse of all animals.
If you support making tiny insignificant changes to the abuse animals suffer, you’re not on the same page as vegans who want to put an end to it altogether.
If you support so-called ‘organic’/‘free-range’ farming and so-called ‘humane’ slaughter, you’re not on the same page as vegans who want to put an end to any kind of animal farming and killing.
Vegans who support the continuation of violence towards animals through welfarism can’t possibly be on the same page as vegans who strive to stop every type of violence towards animals. How can they be? Welfarism and abolition are in direct opposition to each other: a person who supports the former can't be on the same page as someone who supports the latter because, quite simply, they're polar opposites.
In a word, no.
Still, there’s a great deal of support for welfarist campaigns - such as that to ban the battery cage and to ban the sow stall - one from non-vegans and vegans alike. So why is that if it won’t result in the abolition of animal use?
The reason for the support by non-vegans is obvious. If the battery cage goes, then egg-eating will be deemed morally acceptable…and then everyone can eat eggs with a clear conscience - hooray! If the sow stall goes, then pig-eating will be deemed morally acceptable…and then everyone can eat pigs with a clear conscience - hooray!
The reason for the support by vegans is less obvious. Vegans don’t use animal products because they deem animal use immoral in all its forms. So then why do so many vegans support welfare reform such as the banning of the battery cage and the sow stall?
I can speak from my own experience: when I first went vegan I was under the impression that welfare reform could somehow lead to abolition. I didn’t understand until much later that welfare reform only leads to more animal use by making it seem more ‘humane’ (and therefore making it more acceptable). Once I understood this I was an abolitionist and no longer supported welfarist campaigns.
The fact is that the only thing that will lead to the abolition of animal use is people not using animals (ie. going vegan) - not welfare reforms that make their use ‘nicer’!
For many years I thought that I was doing all the right things by not wearing fur, not using animal-tested cosmetics, being against circuses that used animals, and not eating veal, foie gras, or cage eggs. I truly thought that I wasn’t harming animals.
I had seen campaigns against the above products and practices, and so rejected them. After all, I figured, if those specific products and practices were what the animal organisations campaign against, they are the products and practices I need to avoid.
Based on the information I had, my reasoning was logical...but it turned out that I was very wrong.
It turned out that rejecting those specific products and practices were merely token gestures: I discovered, through reading and research, that ALL use of animals is abusive, and that only by going vegan would I truly be non-violent towards animals.
So why did I have the impression for all those years that I was doing the all the right things by rejecting the aforementioned products and practices? The answer is: because of the single-issue campaigns (against fur, animal testing, animals in circuses, veal, foie gras, and cage eggs) that are run by animal organisations.My experience isn’t unique - many others have, or have had, the same false impression because of SICs. And it goes to show that SICs only delude people (like me, in the past) into thinking they’re rejecting animal abuse by doing a few choice things, when in fact they’re supporting animal abuse in countless other ways.
Let’s imagine for a moment that the welfare reforms currently being strived for - eg. the banning of battery cages and gestation crates - were put into place. What that would lead to is the public thinking that animal use is now supposedly ‘cruelty-free’ and make them feel comfortable about it.
This sense of comfort won't - in fact, cannot - lead to the abolition of animal use. Instead it will lead to greater complacency and even more use of animals because it’s supposedly ‘cruelty-free’ after those welfare reforms.
People not using animals is the only thing will lead to the abolition of animal use and that is achieved by people, one by one, going vegan.
The results of single-issue campaigns (SICs) show precisely what’s wrong with them. Below are some examples.
Due to SICs:
The list could go on, but I’m sure you get the point.
So due to SICs, many people are under the impression that some forms of animal exploitation are bad while others are acceptable. This is, of course, not the case at all.
Some might ask: but aren’t some forms of animal abuse worse than others? That’s like asking if some forms of child abuse are worse than others. If you really wanted to create an abuse hierarchy where you graded types of child abuse I’m sure you could do it…but why in the world would you want to? Isn’t all child abuse vile? It absolutely is, no question!
So why not apply the same logic for animal abuse? You could grade it, yes, but why the hell would you? All animal abuse is horrendous, so let’s not separate each form and ask people to stop one but not another. Let’s lump all animal abuse together in one bundle (where it belongs) and say it’s ALL wrong! Because that’s the truth.
What’s wrong with welfarist campaigns is that they simply don’t help animals. In fact, they make the consumption of animal products more acceptable and therefore worsen the situation.
Sounds like a strange thing to say about something which professes that it aims to help animals, but think about the following two examples:
The fact is that the changed conditions which the welfarist campaigns are trying to achieve are only mildly different (and certainly not truly better) to the conditions the animals currently suffer. Furthermore, all rest of the usual abuses are still in place (eg. the mutilations, the forced impregnations, etc), and ultimately the animals end up in the slaughterhouse anyway.
Yet, due to welfarist campaigns, the public are led to believe that slightly altered conditions makes animal exploitation acceptable, and that it’s okay to consume animal products as long as they’re produced under certain conditions. And that's just not the case: the slight alterations made to conditions due to the so-called 'success' of welfarist campaigns might make the abuse the animals suffer different, but it still amounts to abuse.
So in conclusion, what’s wrong with welfarist campaigns is...well...everything.
Because some vegans are misunderstanding the meaning of the word “voiceless”. They’re taking “voiceless” to mean “soundless”.
Of course many animals make sounds - they have a larynx and can make noises. But so does a screaming newborn baby. That doesn't mean that baby can speak for him/herself any more than the non-human animal can.
So, yes, many animals have a larynx, and yes, animals can and do communicate with each other using both sounds and body language, but they don't have a voice in our society because they can’t use the primary method of communication used by humans: language. Our society is built on a language non-human animals cannot use, and therefore they are rendered voiceless.
So vegans who talk about speaking for voiceless animals are referring to the fact that they’re using spoken and written language to speak on the animals’ behalf.
There are a few reasons some vegans don't like PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).
PETA are well-known for killing (via euthanisia)
huge numbers of healthy companion animals. And with the many millions of dollars they have, there's no reason
for them to
kill even one - they have more than enough money to provide sanctuary
for all the homeless animals that come to them.
Last but not least, PETA does a lot of welfarist campaigns (eg. to ban battery cages) and vegetarian campaigns (when being vegetarian is not much different from being omnivore). Welfarist campaigns do nothing to help animals - in fact, they do more to harm them than anything.
Note that this final problem doesn’t just pertain to PETA but to every animal organisation currently in existence. Here in Australia, for example, Animals Australia, Voiceless, and Animal Liberation all do welfarist campaigning. It's why I don't support any of them.
Because Sea Shepherd compounds the speciesism entrenched in most people’s minds. They do this by choosing one particular species (whales) to protect, rather than seeking to protect all animals.
Interestingly though, Sea Shepherd ships are vegan and they also sometimes advocate for veganism. So while their main work saving whales compounds speciesism, the occasional vegan advocacy they do confronts the very speciesism they help perpetuate.
And all this makes for a rather confusing (and therefore problematic) message. So while I'm glad Sea Shepherd are helping whales, their confused message does more to maintain the speciesist status quo than break it.
Because they’re buying into this ludicrous idea that the word scares people. They usually refuse to use the term “animal rights” too.
This idea of not using a word or term because it’s not mainstream, and therefore supposedly scares people, is ludicrous. The only way new concepts seep into society and become normalised is through use.
Should those who sought the abolition of human slavery not have used the term “abolition” for fear of scaring people with this ‘bizarre’ notion that human slavery is wrong? Should Gandhi not have spoken about the emancipation of India from British rule for fear of scaring people with the ‘radical’ concept of independence? Should the suffragettes not have talked about women getting the vote or not used the word “feminist” in case they scared someone with such ‘outlandish’ ideas?Clearly, the answer to all of the above is no, of course not. And, similarly, vegans shouldn’t shy away from using the terms “vegan” and “animal rights”. To do so is ultimately harmful as it keeps the ideas out of mainstream society and therefore helps people continue to remain ignorant of them.
Because, generally speaking, animal organisations run welfarist campaigns, and vegans like me don’t support welfarism. Vegans like me want to stop animal abuse - not make animal use slightly ‘nicer’ or more socially acceptable.
Vegans like me are abolitionists, and we're not interested in campaigning for a hen’s right to languish in a slightly bigger cage, nor are we interested in implementing slightly less torturous killing methods. Abolitionists like me therefore don't support the existing animal organisations, as they all advocate - to one degree or another - for this kind of meaningless change. We abolitionists, on the other hand, are interested in completely empty cages and no killing at all.
Because they uphold the moral paradox that some species of animal are more worthy than others.
As such, many non-vegans will get behind petitions that demand a boycott in the name of justice for abused cats and dogs…yet they themselves abuse other species of animals such as cows, pigs, chickens, and fish, without a second thought.
Some of these boycott petitions are supported by vegans who should know better than to encourage speciesism like this. Unfortunately, many vegans have the commonly-held (but misguided) notion that you can encourage others to care about all animals by asking them to care about some animals. Asking people to make a token gesture, like signing a petition, to show that they care about a species of animal they already care about doesn’t automatically transfer this care to all animals. In fact, it does quite the opposite: it only reinforces the speciesism.
But if vegans help to keep people’s speciesist blinders on in this way, how can they expect non-vegans to ever make the connection? Better to partake in a speciesism-free form of activism by advocating for veganism.
Because, despite the fact that the boycott petitions attract huge attention, get squillions of signatures, and invoke public outcries of fury...they never actually get any results.
The first reason is that for most people the big ‘action’ (if you could call it that) against the country being petitioned, begins and ends with the few seconds it takes to sign the petition. So: useless.
The second reason is that those rare few who try to carry out the boycott often find they can’t do it, because some countries, like China, are an international force impossible to boycott. In fact, I would bet that not a single person of the tens of millions who’ve signed one of the very many “Boycott China” petitions has been able to 100 percent boycott Chinese products. And even if a couple of people did miraculously manage, their little boycott made no impact on China whatsoever. So, either way: useless.
The third reason is that in cases where lots of people can effortlessly carry out the boycott, it’s only because the country in question is easy for people to boycott (eg. because it’s not a big exporter or a popular holiday destination). People succeeding in boycotting such a country aren’t really boycotting anything, because a boycott just isn’t a boycott if no action at all is required to make the boycott. So, again: useless.
The final reason is that for the boycott of countries that abuse animals to have any significance at all, we’d have to boycott ALL countries that abuse animals. And that would mean we’d have to boycott each and every country on the planet because they ALL abuse animals. That is both a ludicrous idea and an impossible task. So, once more: useless.
Petitions seeking to boycott a country for animal abuse make no difference at all and are a waste of the two seconds it takes to sign them. If you really want to make a difference, advocate for veganism.
It sounds counterintuitive to say that welfarist campaigns increase the consumption of animal products, but stick with me and you’ll see that it’s true.
Despite the fact that the changes which welfarist campaigns seek are miniscule, when such campaigns succeed in making whatever meaningless changes they sought, people erroneously conclude that the product in question is now no longer abusive. And the result of this collective sigh of relief is that the consumption of said product goes up. And I’m not just speculating here: this is exactly what happened with battery cage and sow stall bans.
So welfarist campaigns do NOT, as so many welfarist advocates insist, bring us closer to ending animal exploitation. All they do is make animal use more acceptable, and therefore result in an increase in the consumption of animal-derived products. In other words, welfarist campaigns don’t just not help…they actually make things worse!
So then what kind of advocacy does make things better for animals? The answer is: vegan advocacy.
Yes, I’m well aware that welfarist reforms are easier to campaign for. (Why do you think animal organisations do them? They’re great money-makers because even the staunchest omnivore can get behind them.) So of course welfarist campaigns are more straightforward to advocate for than veganism. But who cares if it’s an easier sell? Because if something is not part of the solution (and welfarist campaigns are clearly not), then they’re part of the problem.
Vegan advocacy might not be an easy sale like welfarism is, because it does require an overhaul of long-held beliefs about animal use, but it’s ultimately the only thing that will truly help animals.
>>>Go on to more Q&A:
SAY NO TO PUPPY MILLS! SAY NO TO ANIMALS IN PETSHOPS! SAY NO TO BREEDERS!
Adopt a homeless animal instead - they all deserve a second chance
It's estimated that 130,000 dogs and 60,000 cats are killed every year in Australia because there are not enough homes for them all. And the global numbers amount to millions upon millions every single year.
Puppy mills are a major contributor to the terrible problem of overpopulation. Puppy mills are essentially 'dog factories' where dogs are forced to churn out litter after litter, with no thought for the welfare of the dogs and all thought for profit. The dogs live in appallingly dirty, cramped conditions all their lives, and when they no longer serve their purpose they're killed, dumped or sold to vivisection laboratories.
Petshops fit into the picture because puppy mills are generally where petshops get their animals from. Furthermore, having animals in shop windows encourages impulse purchases, and adding an animal to your family should be a conscious, careful decision - NOT one to be made while shoe shopping.
Breeders contribute enormously to the tragic statistics above too. And it doesn't matter whether they're professional breeders or backyard breeders, and whether they breed for profit or not, because while there are homeless animals sitting on death row in shelters, any and all animal breeding is utterly irresponsible.
Now, here's where you come in. You can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. You can either buy animals from puppy mills, petshops or breeders and be part of the problem. Or you can adopt from a shelter or rescue organisation and be part of the solution.
If I haven't convinced you, visit your local shelter to see the homeless animals. Let their innocent faces convince you that adopting is the only responsible choice to make.
All information and photos are copyright © Despina Rosales.