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Vegan Outreach is a 501(c)(3)
nonprofit organization dedicated to
reducing the suffering of farmed animals
by promoting informed, ethical eating.

Donations to VO are fully tax-deductible.
VO’s tax identification no. is #86-0736818.

Vegan Outreach
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Vegan Outreach Enewsletter  •  November 16, 2002

 

More from Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People:

Remember that the other person may be totally wrong. But they don't think so. Don't condemn them. Don't attack them. Any fool can do that. Try to understand them.

There is a reason why they think and act as they do. Find that hidden reason, and you will have the key.

Try honestly to put yourself in their place.

If you say to yourself, "How would I feel, how would I react if I were in their shoes?" you will save yourself a lot of time and irritation, for "by becoming interested in the cause, we are less likely to dislike the effect."

"Stop a minute to contrast your keen interest in your own affairs with your mild concern about everything else. Realize then that everybody else in the world feels exactly the same way! Success in dealing with people depends on a sympathetic grasp of their viewpoint."

Therefore, if you want to change people without giving offense or arousing resentment, Rule 8 is:

Try honestly to see things from the other person's point of view.

 

News

Office Note

The Vegan Outreach office will be closed from November 23 to November 30.

 

Shopping

Remember all of Vegan Outreach's affiliates when shopping online. GreaterGood.com encompasses many of the large merchants, providing a percentage of your purchase to print more Why Vegans!

 

Consumer Reports: How safe is that burger?

Sidebar – Ratings: Veggie burgers

 

Food for Thought

A new documentary on food issues is coming out. You can watch a 3-minute promo.

 

Is It True What They Say About Soy?

 

Rights, Liberation, and Uncertainty: A Call for Strategic Advocacy

—Matt Ball

In his keynote address at the Animal Rights 2002 Conference, Professor Peter Singer commented that the distinction between "animal rights" and "animal liberation" was, for the most part, irrelevant. However, in the mindset of advocates, I think that there is an important distinction that can have an effect on our dealings with the public and their possible reception of our message.

"Animal rights" is often offered in a simplistic manner that is given to internal contradictions. This can lead to distortions and parodies which distract from the animals' actual suffering. The lack of both subtlety and focus in the general presentation of animal rights can be seen in many aspects of advocacy, from the almost inevitable degradation of most conversations to "your baby or your dog," to the claim that any animal's death at the hands of humans is immoral.

This latter focus on intentional death, while providing a single simple concept, greatly detracts from our ability to convey a powerful and compelling message of change. Do we really believe – and think the public will agree – that any animal who dies at the hands of a human should not have existed, no matter how pleasant their life or how painless their death? Do we really believe that every animal who dies of "natural" causes lived a desirable life, regardless of how much they suffer from cold, starvation, disease, and/or predation?

Is the world really this black-and-white?

The idea that it is wrong to kill animals for food may be very obvious to animal rights activists. But to most of society, it is a foreign idea. Most people currently see these issues in shades of gray. One such person is Michael Pollan, who recently wrote a powerful article regarding animal interests and rights. Although the cover's title – "The Unnatural Idea of Animal Rights" – implies a critique of the animal rights philosophy, Pollan's article actually serves as one of the most devastating critiques of factory farms ever to appear in the mainstream media:

More than any other institution, the American industrial animal farm offers a nightmarish glimpse of what capitalism can look like in the absence of moral or regulatory constraint. Here in these places, life itself is redefined – as protein production – and with it, suffering. That venerable word becomes “stress,” an economic problem in search of a cost-effective solution, like tail-docking or beak-clipping or, in the industry's latest plan, by simply engineering the “'stress gene” out of pigs and chickens. “Our own worst nightmare” such a place may well be; it is also real life for the billions of animals unlucky enough to have been born beneath these grim steel roofs, into the brief, pitiless life of a 'production unit' in the days before the suffering gene was found.

He has obvious sympathy with the reaction of most activists:

Vegetarianism doesn't seem an unreasonable response to such an evil. Who would want to be made complicit in the agony of these animals by eating them? You want to throw something against the walls of those infernal sheds, whether it's the Bible, a new constitutional right or a whole platoon of animal rightists bent on breaking in and liberating the inmates.

However, having rejected a simplistic parody of the animal rights view that could justify continued complicity in the cruelty of modern agriculture – indeed, he does a commendable job of refuting many common anti-animal arguments – Pollan also doesn't accept the world-view offered by many animal rights advocates. Rather, he offers a thorough presentation of utilitarian animal liberation philosophy – one that doesn't see the world in black-and-white. His personal conclusion is that while factory farms should be boycotted, humane farms are okay, possibly even preferable to a vegetarian society because of the good lives the animals on the farms are able to live before they are killed.

His conclusion against the importance of vegetarianism is debatable. It depends on a number of factors that we can't know for sure, including what makes a life worth living, how much pleasure farmed animals can experience compared to their suffering on farms such as those endorsed by Pollan, and how "humane" these farms actually are. (See also "Vegetarianism vs. Mindful Meat Eating," in AlterNet.)

However, reaction among animal advocates to the publication of this cover story for the New York Times Magazine has not been totally positive. Rather than advance this mainstream condemnation of factory farms and call to avoid complicity, some have spent their time condemning Pollan for not advocating strict vegetarianism.

Compare this to the almost universally positive response that greeted Time Magazine's cover story on vegetarianism. Even though Time completely ignored the vast cruelty of factory farms, and implied grave nutritional difficulties in being vegetarian, it was widely cited by "the movement."

These differing responses indicate that some ethical vegans may be so caught up in their ideal of a vegan world that they cannot see when we have been presented with a tremendous tool to help us work against cruelty to animals. But we need to ask ourselves: Do we want purity, or progress? Do we want to spend our limited time and resources trying to "set straight" someone like Pollan because he doesn't toe the animal rights party line? Shouldn't we focus on reducing as much suffering as we can, rather than upholding a rigid dogma?

As pointed out in the AlterNet article: "The large majority of the population are not going to turn vegetarian tomorrow...even vegetarians must be concerned for how the animals that are still kept in agriculture are treated. They can't say, 'because I'm vegetarian this is no longer an issue for me, this is someone else's worry. Because, of course, the animals are still being kept by society.'" And from the online discussion of Pollan's article: "A conversation about the pros and cons of various diets should be open-minded.... Does characterizing meat-eaters as 'barbarians' really advance the debate?"

In the New York Times, Michael Pollan has exposed the ''stupefying crime'' of factory farms, calling for a boycott to avoid complicity in the animals' agony. He contends that, if not vegetarian, we should personally witness exactly how the animals we eat live and die.

What more can we honestly expect from society today? Rather than argue details – distracting from the main point of cruelty and complicity – we should promote this view to a public that, while not generally opposed to killing animals for food, might act to oppose the cruelty of factory farming, if they would merely recognize its nightmarish existence.

 

In the library, my son picked up your booklet, with all the terrible pictures. We've always eaten meat, but after seeing the booklet yesterday, we won't anymore. My husband and I made a pact – the pictures upset us so much. We can't believe that actually goes on. I love animals, but I had no idea.
RE, Riverside, CA, 11/9/02

 

Every Donation Prevents Suffering

Vegan Outreach is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the suffering of farmed animals by promoting informed, ethical eating.

All donations are tax-deductible.

Vegan Outreach

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