|Enewsletter • July 30, 2002|
National Day of High School Leafleting
The sign-up form for the September 17 event is now online here.
Want to be a local Vegan Outreach contact?
We often receive email asking for information in a specific area. These queries include meetings, demonstrations, shopping and restaurants, etc. If you or your group would like to be a contact in your area, please email us with the contact information. We will create a new web page with the list of email addresses and web sites listed by region.
If you are looking for an email group in your area, see this list.
If you've been a regular browser of our website, you might have noticed some changes recently. Mostly, the Vegan Starter Pack has been revised and expanded, although new information is being added throughout as we have the chance. Feel free to pass along feedback and/or suggestions!
Knowing the health hazards of saturated fats in meat, dairy, and eggs, many vegans extrapolate this information to condemn all fat. However, not all fat is bad – quite the contrary. As Walter Willett, the leading nutritional epidemiologist in the country, writes in an interview:
Milk and Crohn's
Previously in Spam, we referenced an article by Michael Greger, MD, regarding the possible links between Crohn's Disease and dairy. Recently, NPR did a story on Crohn's that parallels Dr. Greger's article in many respects.
This is just
a small donation to the group that has given me so much (info.,
support, materials). Keep up the good work. More donations to come,
as I get money in. Thanks again, you guys are the best organization
out there for animals today.
I just got my Vegan Starter Packet and Why
Vegans in the mail...awesome info! I have begun distributing
the pamphlets and talking to people. Keep up the great work!
We just passed out 800 free vegan lunches
with a Vegetarian Living in each one. It was great success.
From the previous Taco Bell-triggered "Setting Priorities" article, as well as the E Magazine articles regarding vegetarianism, follow-up discussions have occurred concerning the relative importance of alliances with other organizations.
This seems straightforward enough. I'm sure that many animal advocates have found themselves thinking, "If you care about wild animals, Mr. Environmentalist, why do you eat 'domestic' ones?" "If you oppose killing human criminals, Ms. Anti-Dealth Penalty, why don't you oppose killing innocent animals?" Many "progressive" groups seem like obvious allies who should be promoting animal liberation and vegetarianism.
The obvious question is, "Why don't they?" One member wrote to us:
Message and Tactics
There are two aspects to this – the message on which we focus, and the tactics we use to get this message heard. In their issue devoted to vegetarianism, one E Magazine article, under the subheading, "Forward in All Directions," concludes: "But if the disparate movements galvanized around a single, easy-to-understand message of vegetarianism for health and concern for the planet...". Clearly, the message isn't "forward in all directions." Rather: Appeal to people's self-interest. Don't bring up factory farms, slaughterhouses, or animal cruelty.
Tactics are another issue, however. The member quoted above continued:
Of course, we should strive to be respectful of other concerns because: 1) we advocate respectfulness, and 2) when vegans alienate people, it hurts the animals.
Efficacy and Offensiveness
That being said, in order to be heard above the cacophony of voices screaming for public attention, sometimes we need to push the envelope to be an effective voice for the animals. It is inevitable that anything successful in reaching the public is going to be upsetting to at least some people. We can never know for sure if the new people who are reached offset those who are offended, but we have to take both groups into consideration – not just the latter.
For example, the McDeath campaign, organized by Peta, handed out UnHappy Meals to children at McDonalds. It was criticized for how it would affect children. These are legitimate concerns, of course, but they were not enough, IMO, to have canceled the campaign. It is a tradeoff worth making – upset parents and children for the advances made.
This is not to deny the validity of the views of those who are upset. However, instead of attacking the messenger, it might be best to realize that, in almost all cases, their efforts are motivated by a heartfelt desire to make the animals' case as efficiently and effectively as possible. These efforts can't adhere to everyone's political agenda (and this is true in my case as well, even regarding some of Vegan Outreach's efforts). But I believe the suffering in factory farms and slaughterhouses has to be addressed right now, instead of after society has adopted all other progressive causes.
Some might not share these priorities. But we shouldn't spend our limited time and resources attacking those trying to speak for the animals. Rather, we should work hard to develop other campaigns that are optimally effective at exposing the animals' plight. The animals deserve all our focus and efforts.
History and Bridges
The feedback continued:
The latter goal is noble, and I am certain many activists and organizations would be open to campaigns that can optimally speak for the animals while meeting these criteria. However, I think the former history lesson is the more important point. Should other social movements have waited for purity? Should the Union army only have had those with no prejudice fighting at Gettysburg? Should the civil rights movement have refused to support relatively progressive legislation during the Johnson administration in order to protest Vietnam?
Can we realistically expect environmental / women's rights / anti-death-penalty groups to promote the animals' agenda? While the logic seems obvious to us, consider how it looks from the "other" side. Shouldn't animal advocates be promoting an agenda that is pro-environment, anti-abortion, pro-Christian, anti-sweatshop, pro-U.N., anti-globalization, pro-choice, anti-fundamentalism, pro-Palestinian, anti-isolationist, pro-Israel, anti-GMO, pro-affirmative action, anti-discrimination, pro-organic, anti-terrorist, pro-pacifism, anti-technology, pro-free trade, anti-luxury, pro-raw foods, etc. etc. etc.?
Specific to our efforts: should Vegan Outreach promote veganism, or small-community local farm socialist handcrafted veganic living? Should we only accept money from and send booklets for distribution to members who fulfill all these requirements? Given our fundamental goal – to prevent animal suffering and promote animal liberation – I don't believe so.
Knowing what goes on in factory farms and slaughterhouses, billions of times over every year, I do vegan outreach because I do believe it is the most important, most pressing issue. Given inherently limited time and resources, I have no choice but to prioritize, which means not always addressing social concerns that, in my opinion, are not as pressing as the unimaginable torture and slaughter of billions of animals in the U.S. each year.
I certainly don't want to alienate anyone. But it is most important to be active in today's society on behalf of the animals as effectively as possible. If, for example, someone chooses to ignore what goes on in factory farms because Why Vegan mentions Taco Bell, I am not confident that they were truly willing to consider a non-speciesist view of the world. In a society where one in four people eat fast food once a day, I will not ignore the importance of convenience just to avoid allegedly giving an anti-Taco Bell person an excuse to continue to eat animals.
Given this, I have to accept that the argument cuts both ways. I can't expect other groups with different fundamental goals to adopt and promote any other agenda. Because of the possibility of some common ideas, these other groups may be fertile grounds for reaching new people. Successful outreach is desirable when possible, and offending others should be avoided when possible. But we must remain focused on the main issue: the immense suffering of the animals. I don't think that the animals are best served by spending an inordinate amount of our limited resources on trying to build certain bridges. I believe we are ethically required to work based on our best estimate of what the payoff of our efforts will be, not on what it should be.