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Contribute to Abolitionist Literature

Because I want to create material that is as useful as possible and addresses gaps in other leaflets and pamphlets, the best people to help me are those who actually use such things. (I don’t  . . . go figure.) This is what I had envisioned:

  • Animals are not ours to use, rather than "look how much they’re suffering." I’d love to touch on religion, as so many people use the idea that God gave us animals as a reason to eat meat, etc… (If I quote anyone, maybe Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins or some funny stuff from Christopher Hitchens).
  • Sentience. If you wouldn’t do it to a dog, don’t do it to a chicken or fish, yada yada yada. (And now sentience is a scientific fact. Maybe some Jonathan Balcombe and some Jeffrey Masson, the latter to show different kinds of intelligences, as "because we’re the smartest" is often a reason given to use animals.)
  • Property. The root of the problem. Lots of quoting of Gary Francione here, as you might imagine.
  • Maybe a page of tips for how to get going and how to deal with family members, social events, etc…
  • Obviously veganism as baseline, but it’s not just about food and shoes (other consumer products, investments, philanthropy, and as Professor Francione wrote yesterday . . . Ibuprofen).
  • Also, there’s got to be a differentiation between rights and welfare. I wouldn’t want people to go join PETA as a result of anything I produce (I’m not asking for a welfare/abolition debate, here). I want to try to show how to look at the world around you with a critical eye.
  • I’d imagine links to the health and environment material (protein, b12, climate change, etc…).
  • The whole thing could probably done as "Myths and Facts about" veganism or animal rights or abolition or even abolitionist animal rights.

Here are my questions:

  1. What do you think about all the references? Do you want links, names and books? None but Professor Francione are abolitionists (maybe Jeff Masson and Jonathan Balcombe, but I haven’t asked them for a confirmation, and they certainly seem like abolitionists but I wouldn’t want to put words in their mouths).
  2. This seems like it could be quite lengthy. What’s too long? Is there such a thing as too short?
  3. Is there anything else you’d like to see? Please note that I’m not trying to duplicate what’s already out there. I’m trying to do something a bit different.
  4. How important is it to have the word Vegan in the title?
  5. How important are photos? I want to make a product that is easy and inexpensive to reproduce for everyone (remember, I’m not getting into the pamphlet production and distribution business). Are photos a must-have?

Again, as a businessperson, I want to know what the users of my product need and want, and the best way to learn that is to ask them. I’m all about community creation of the best material to fit your needs.

Thanks, in advance, for your help (and thanks to everyone who e-mailed and commented). I’m at and I look forward to hearing from you.

16 Comments Post a comment
  1. I wouldn't recommend quoting Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, or Christopher Hitchens unless you want religious people to immediately reject it. I don't think religious-minded people care what these guys think or say. I certainly don't. Why would someone with a strong faith in God be persuaded by these staunch atheists? They're not going to think, "Oh, Richard Dawkins knows God's will better than anyone." The view on these folks is that they're unfortunate to have such perverted intelligence. It would be better to quote actual religious authorities, or at least promote arguments that do not challenge people's faith in God. Already you're threatening their way of eating; if you challenge their religious faith at the same time, people will reject it.

    I am not an expert on the Bible, but as far as I know, the best, most direct argument, which should appeal to the good sense of any religious person, is in Isopanishad, Mantra 1 ( )…

    "Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong."

    There is also Mantra 6:
    "He who sees everything in relation to the Supreme Lord, who sees all living entities as His parts and parcels, and who sees the Supreme Lord within everything never hates anything or any being."

    August 20, 2007
  2. Pandu,

    My issue isn't with God. Religious texts are the work of people. Even eastern texts (and I was initiated into TM and am familiar with the vedas). When people say: God said so-and-so. Look, it's right here in (insert any religious text), that's what I have issue with. If there is a god, we have no idea what that god will say until the day we die. Many of the things that humans do in the name of God are despicable, and I would want readers of my pamphlet to question why they believe what they believe, as some of them get their beliefs about nonhumans from religion. In other words, there's no good reason to hold their beliefs other than: God told me so in this book.

    I wouldn't want to alienate people intentionally. But if educating them to think critically (about their beliefs and where they come from) alienates them, so be it.

    August 20, 2007
  3. prad #

    "animals are not ours to use" and "property" is repetitious – one or the other should be fine … and one of these should be the baseline not veganism (since that is a more complex concept).

    a good thing to remind the 'biblically religious' would be the bit in genesis (1:29-30) where the destiny of all creatures is to go veg.

    links are a good idea for sure.

    i think it is a good idea to have vegan in the title, but one should make sure that it is not confused with its common and incorrect usage as a dietary choice (eg vegetarian = lacto-ovo, vegan = strict veg). the word should be given its proper and historic significance.

    August 20, 2007
  4. "If there is a god, we have no idea what that god will say until the day we die."

    Why not think critically about that statement, as makes some important assumptions about God… Specifically, it says that God is either unable to communicate with living people or does not have that desire. Why can't God speak to living people? The only possible answer is to say that God does not exist, as inability is contrary to the concept of God. However, it is also not possible to prove the absolute nonexistence of God, given our limited and imperfect senses, and therefore the idea that God cannot speak to living persons is nothing more than an unsubstantiated belief. Moreover, if there is no God, then the value of life is only imagined to exist for a brief time before again becoming undeniably zero.

    Personally, I've subjected my beliefs to extensive critical analysis, but the overwhelming fact is that I only joined the Hare Krishna devotees after meeting face to face with Sri Krishna when He gave me a few hours of personal instruction out of Bhagavad-gita As It Is. It was a life-changing event, after which I could understand that not only can God communicate perfectly well in a book, but He can and does personally live more or less concealed in His books. His devotees can easily see Him, and atheists can avoid Him, each according to their desires.

    What I'm trying to say here is that a better approach is to tell people that by being kind to animals, God will be more kind to us. By showing mercy to animals, we become better able to catch God's causeless mercy. Even in the Bible it is clear that meat eating is not God's preference for humanity. As someone else pointed out recently, even the pope has some understanding of the importance of being kind to animals. A Christian is going to care more about the pope's opinion than some loud atheist. They may not be following the most pure of religions, but at least they're more or less trying to cultivate love of God. Trying to undermine that is a disservice to them spiritually, and would make your task much more difficult as it ridicules their religion and condemns their diet all at once. Just try to help people to evolve ethically and leave their faith in God alone.

    August 20, 2007
  5. Pandu,

    I specifically said that God isn't the issue. God is immaterial. I do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, not to gain approval of anyone.

    Perhaps you might want to look critically at your statement about Christianity not being of the most pure of religions.

    As far as I'm concerned–and I'm aware that many disagree–helping people think critically about what they eat and why is the same as helping them think about what they believe and why. I do understand that trying to get them to think about both might be intimidating, though, and I don't think I'll address religion the way I'd like to. But I will mention it.

    And with regard to your earlier comment about sheep, when you say they have a product they do not need that we could use, and that you must shear them, I suggest you look critically at that, as well. Sheep do not have products for us unless we view them as commodities, which I do not. And as far as I know (and I have asked an expert about this), sheep were doing fine before we came along and it is not true that they need us to shear them to be healthy. Again, I will let you know when I hear back (that's why I didn't respond to that immediately).

    August 20, 2007
  6. I don't think you need to use the word abolition at all. So long as the message is veganism, non-use I think you'd be in good shape.

    I could brainstorm with you about family and social situations–I feel like after all this time I'm starting to get a handle on those types of things.

    On religion, you may not want to get really into it because it's so complicated that I'm not sure you can really cover it as just a side note. Though we can email on some thoughts on the topic–more than I think I can leave in a comment, and you know I leave looooooonnnnggg comments. It seems to me that while most churches in the US don't specifically ban eating animals, there's really nothing in any faith that requires it or says we can't adjust our ethics to be more compassionate. There is a lot in many religions that suggests we should treat animals well and even things that hint at vegetarianism, and of course some religions specifically recommend or require it. But then I've known a lot of people who use religion to justify whatever they feel like doing.

    In any case Pandu, not all Christians are Catholic (so to non-Catholics the pope doesn't hold much influence, even for many Catholics actually. They don't put absolute stock in everything the pope says.)

    August 20, 2007
  7. Becci #

    Frankly, I would not rely on religious arguments. Since secular does not imply "non-religious" I'd stick with things that include everybody the way you already have. At the most I would consider including some sort of quick run-through of world religions and how they support vegetarianism. Based on a skim of your conversation with Pandu, I'd guess you agree. But anyway, I think all your ideas are great–maybe you could put things in this format:

    Kittens are great. Everybody really freaking loves kittens.
    Scientists say that kittens are great because they are fluffy and adorable. Sometimes they chase yarn. Isn't that great? They haven't quite gained the typical grace and self-control that adult cats have, and that's adorable. And great!

    Basically, a summarized fact in bold with a more detailed explanation below. That way you would (hopefully) reach the people who are just going to skim the brochure, as well as providing evidence, etc, for those who have more questions.

    August 20, 2007
  8. Becci #

    This line is supposed to be in bold…I think you probably realize that, but:

    Kittens are great. Everybody really freaking loves kittens.

    August 20, 2007
  9. joey #

    Pictures: CERTAINLY.

    abolitionism: if not mentioning the word then at least make the message clear (obviously) through explicity stating that it is the abolishment and not regulation that it needed (which you mentioned)

    title: need not have veganism in the title, it could be something similar to "animals and food" or the like. As long as veganism is stressed throughout then thats totally fine.

    References: No quotes from anyone who is not vegan, unless it is Bentham or others old folk. For further reading, you dont need much: 1- Francione is perfect (Intro to AR), 2- Becoming vegan, 3- recipe website and maybe veganessentials for ideas. Also, for those who will be printing, make coupons for 10-15% off of these books to be used at local book stores and include them in the pamhlet – or get local librarys to get the books and mention they are at the library in the pamhlet

    Length: The longer it is the more expensive. Try and keep it as short as possible (8 pages or so). Also, single sheet pamphlets on property status, equal consideration, the 'necessity' of animal agriculture, and so on, would ne helpful.


    August 24, 2007
  10. Ellie #

    Mary, I've spent a lot of time on the ABC TV message board, Religion and Science Forum. Surprisingly, animals come up a lot, so I've had the opportunity to post the animal rights perspective.

    I've noticed religious folk (fundamentalists in particular) will adhere to scripture that suits their lifestyles, and gladly ignore the rest. I think for such people, religion is not faith, it's an identity. They are the perfect welfarists, "with God on their side". And I haven't found a way to reach them, but maybe other advocates can.

    The doubters, agnostics, atheists, and even religious scientists seem more willing to think critically, but they don't see animals as personal beings. And many have their own brand of arrogance.

    So I think abolitionist literature should speak for the personhood of non-human animals vs. their status of property, as you've said you would include.

    I don't think veganism should be the central point because it doesn't address animals who are not regarded as food.

    If photos are impractical, would it be easier to print a drawing?


    August 25, 2007
  11. Thanks, Ellie.

    The religion thing is so tough, and I just happen to know of another couple of people who are doing a pamphlet on that ALONE, which is very exciting. I don't think I can mention who they are right now.

    Veganism does include all animals used by people, as opposed to "strict vegetarianism" (and mind you, I just learned this), which is only about food and food animals. Then again, I'm sure someone out there will be happy to disagree about that.

    It's good you mention that, though, so I include a proper definition and all that veganism encompasses (the "way of life" spiel). You've been so helpful.

    As for photos, the outrageously talented Deb from invisible voices ( has agreed to give me permission to use some of her photos (and of course I'll credit her) and she'll even take some requests. I'd like to refrain from gore and, along the lines of what you are saying, show animals as individuals. Look into their eyes. Have them look at me. She's capable of the most incredibly evocative images, and I think they are more aligned with personhood than showing slaughter. Or maybe that's just in my pea brain.

    August 25, 2007
  12. Ellie #

    Hi Mary, I wasn't aware of this new definition of veganism either. Now that I'm thinking about it, I wonder if it will be confusing. It probably sounds less challenging than abolition, and maybe that's a good thing. But there are vegans who still espouse animal welfare. Well, as long as the philosophy behind the term is truly animal rights, it's ok by me.

    I can't wait to see the pamphlet on religion. I give the authors credit just for trying.

    If I've been helpful, that makes me happy. Thanks for saying so.

    August 26, 2007
  13. Wow, Ellie, if I'm reading you correctly, you're the first person I know to equate veganism and abolition immediately and say something like: "But there are vegans who still espouse animal welfare." I LOVE THAT! As far as I know, vegan welfarists (abolition is their goal, and they plan to achieve it through incremental reforms) outnumber vegan abolitionists by 15:1. I'll find the reference (and I have no idea how the source arrived at the number). However, some "new welfarists," like me over a year ago, had no idea there was such a thing as a legitimate theory of abolition (all we see is PETA and HSUS, after all), and if approached and educated (I sort of stumbled on it, but still), they'd convert (I did so overnight). Thanks this time for pointing out how important it is to articulate the difference between strict vegetarianism and veganism, and that among vegans there are (probably) welfarists, new welfarists, and abolitionists (the jargon is unavoidable . . .sorry).

    August 26, 2007
  14. Ellie #

    You're very welcome, Mary, and thanks for your replies. I do think this can get confusing, and it seems advocates are often wrestling with terms. That's why I have to wonder if the advocates who are enhancing the meaning of veganism are right about this (?) They may well be, and I might just be too cautious.

    August 26, 2007
  15. Heya Mary – me again. =)

    Great idea about producing lit. Of course, i'd say approach an abolitionist group to help produce and promote it, but that's just me. 😉

    re: your questions:

    1) references are great. For the inquisitive, finding authors and writings that also share this perspective (they're presumably now attracted to) is essential. Else they open Google and end up on PETA's site. (Note that a search for AR in Google results first in the Wiki site, then PETA.) Get Lee Hall mentioned in there too. =)

    2) Touch on the subject, and then create a website that houses more information. Maybe a message board. 😉

    3) Yes, religion! Other people are telling you to stay away, i say ATTACK!! We need to get atheist and agnostic folks on board with veganism and AR. It matters little what committed religerous people think of this particular leaflet/literature, the idea is to draw people who *do* think this way.

    And of course, don't pander to these people — trying to convince a Xian that Xianism is pro-vegan is an insane endeavor. As someone pointed out in this posting, anything that might be pro-vegan will quickly be countered by some other anti-animal scripture. Resistance is futile in the Jesus borg.

    Another suggestion for 3: have fun with it. If you think that you need to 'appeal to everyone', forget it — you simply cannot. So appeal to the people you can appeal to, and do so with style.

    4) Absolutely essential. What good is 'The Secret Society of Veganism'?? The term needs to be associated with sanity and rationalism, and described appropriately. I believe you can accomplish this. Same with AR and abo. Connect them with goodness, don't hide them away.

    5) I'm glad we share the same perspective: no need for shots of animal cruelty. If our message is that animals deserve respect, then depict them at their height, not when they're subjugated and oppressed. PETA literature is like having a zoo in your hand, and i think totally misses the point.

    Feel free to respond via email, i'm not sure i'll get back to this thread. All the best. =)

    August 27, 2007
  16. Looking forward to this, Mary. I wish I had the time to properly reflect on the ideal pamphlet, but I'm still settling into my new place in Boston and trying to dig myself out of a two-week plus backlog.

    September 5, 2007

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