|Enewsletter • June 5, 2003|
Still Soliciting Donations
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To help us print more copies, please send a donation!
If you donated to Vegan Outreach via NetworkForGood.org during April or May, we didn't receive payment. You should have already received a note from NetworkForGood regarding this; if not, you should receive it soon. They do appear to be dedicated to taking care of all "lost" donations, but feel free to contact your credit card company to cancel the transaction.
We'll be speaking at various gatherings and conferences this summer, so the Vegan Outreach office will be staffed sporadically. Be sure to contact us well in advance if you need materials. You can order directly at veganoutreach.org/catalog/
The New Meet Your Meat
In my outreach work with Compassion
Over Killing, I've found no video more effective in explaining why some
people choose to eat vegetarian than PETA's Meet Your Meat. Whether
showing it in classrooms, on the street, or in living rooms, I've never had
a showing which didn't touch someone. No video does a better job of giving an
overview of the worst standard practices within animal agribusiness, and the
new, narrated version is much better than the previous! If you haven't seen
it yet, watch it. If you haven't shown it to all of your friends and family
yet, there's no better time than now. The animals need all the help they can
get, as "Meet Your Meat" clearly demonstrates.
"Africa's bushmeat trade, which is forcing several rare species towards extinction, is fuelled by European Union policy, a leading British scientist says."
Includes the new Vegetarian Food Guide.
Often – especially of late – people ask, “How can you focus on animals, when X is going on?” Although sometimes used as an excuse by meat eaters to dismiss the vegetarian message, anyone looking to focus their limited time and resources on the worst problem may also wonder if promoting vegetarianism is the right choice. I often question / reevaluate my focus and method of activism. I don’t trust anyone who thinks they have considered all the questions and have all the answers – there are just too many variables and unknowns, including the level of suffering involved and the ability to clearly specify and directly address the root of a problem.
I also recognize that nearly everyone is more affected by suffering the closer it is – in terms of kinship, nationality, or species. Even when it comes to animal activists, a high-profile case of abuse will take a vastly disproportionate amount of time and resources. Including fish, about 99% of the animals killed in the U.S. every year die to be eaten, but nowhere near this percentage of the animal movement’s attention or resources go towards working for those tens of billions of individuals. This is understandable, since it is more gratifying to save known, identified individuals than unknown animals on farms.
Despite the uncertainty and emotional distance, I do think a rational calculation clearly shows the efficacy of taking part in the work of promoting veganism. Yet these numbers can’t speak to the pull of human suffering, nor the immediacy of cases of blatant cruelty to animals. Words cannot create a personal attachment or commitment to the individuals hidden from sight, as can a trip to a factory farm or even a visit to a farm animal shelter.
In the end, it comes down to simple beliefs. For me, I believe that a good, meaningful life requires living ethically. I believe that a consistent and thorough ethics doesn’t mean doing the easy or immediate, but working to maximize the impact I can have, regardless of the visibility of any “victory.” Because of that, I strive to lessen and prevent as much suffering as possible. And that is why I am dedicated to Vegan Outreach.
Of course, you hit the nail on the head: We make on our choices based on the consequences. Namely, we work to lessen and prevent suffering.
How to do this is neither simple, nor straightforward, as you point out. The path of causation is rarely short and direct. Consuming animal products doesn't cause suffering – the animal is already dead and can't suffer any more. Buying the product contributes money to the machinery that causes suffering; in other words, we are taking part in a boycott by choosing to be vegan.
The individual, specific product doesn't matter; the chances that my purchase of one burger at McDonald's will have any actual effect on the amount of suffering in the world are so vanishingly small as to be unworthy of concern, if not laughable.
At some threshold, though, the signal is strong enough to make a dent in the economics of animal exploitation; if half the population went veg tomorrow, it would make a difference in the number of animals bred, imprisoned, and slaughtered! Somewhere between an instantaneous change in half the population and a purchase of a bean burrito with cheese is the point where a measurable impact is made on the total amount of suffering in the world.
We don't know where this point is, of course. The ethical imperative, in my opinion, is to do everything we can to reach that threshold as often as possible, and to thus lessen, as much as we can, the amount of suffering in the world. To this end, we need to make as big a change as possible with as many people as possible, rather than, as you note, worry about honey or sponges.
As we say elsewhere, the most powerful tool we have for preventing suffering is our example. When we insist on making our actions or veganism the issue, we are not making optimal use of our main resource for reducing suffering. Our example must be one of joy and fulfillment to reach as many people as possible.
In the end, this is all I care about: reducing suffering. If eating meat would lead to less suffering, I would do it. (For example, I have known people who eat discarded food so as to save money for supporting vegan outreach; others don’t buy organics or shop at natural-food stores for the same financial reason.) Given the unfathomable amount of suffering in the world, I cannot, in good conscience, focus on anything else.