On Deep Vegan Outreach and Dr. Ray Greek
This week I asked "Is this 'War'?" over at Animal Rights and AntiOppression and I welcome comments (and will respond to the current ones shortly).
I also saw two items of particular interest to the mission of Animal Rights and AntiOppression as well as Animal Person on the Interwebs: An introduction to "Deep Vegan Outreach" and an open letter from Dr. Ray Greek.
1) "Introducing 'Deep Vegan Outreach': The Time for Change is Now" begins with photos of vegan and King of the Cage World Champion, Mac Danzig. I never understood the appeal of beating others or watching such activity, but I cannot deny the level of fitness that must be involved in reaching Danzig's position in that world.
But as far as the article goes, I particularly like:
- "a radical new vision is needed to rescue the importance of the vegan message for global crisis and situate it in its full social and ecological context."
- The General Principles of Deep Vegan Outreach, including addressing "Economically-disadvantaged individuals and families, and racially and ethnically diverse populations" and the enormous implications of the increase in animal consumption among developing nations.
- Immediate Projects and Short-term Goals include a letter writing campaign to policy experts "to encourage them to emphasize veganism as crucial for avoiding runaway ecological crisis and renewing the earth and all its inhabitants."
Of course, the name brings Deep Ecology to mind, which is a plus in my mind.
What do you think about Deep Vegan Outreach?
2) If you live in Los Angeles, you are probably more aware of the goings-on around the panel discussion that will involve Dr. Ray Greek and members of the Pro-Test community at UCLA. Here's "An Open Letter from Dr. Ray Greek on the Feb. 16 UCLA Panel Discussion," which raises a handful of interesting issues about panels, debates, the importance of airing both on the Internet, and the realities of setting up a panel or a debate with people who are on the opposite side of your issue.
I recommend reading the entire letter. You don't have to have any prior knowledge of the controversy or live in LA to appreciate Dr. Greek's thoughts.
One problem with "Deep Veganism" is the same problem I see with deep ecology: in the decades since the idea was introduced it has completely failed to catch on in any remotely mainstream way. We need to reach the mainstream with the message. I definitely like the idea of espousing the deep vegan idea, and working with it, but that message might not be the most likely to reach large numbers of people.
In reading the book Operation Bite Back (a really good book) a few months ago, I read that Deep Ecology was espoused by the founding members of Earth First!. Many of them were hunters and seemed to care more about the ecological balance for their own sake than for the ecological system itself. They apparently had no problem killing nonhuman animals, so long as they deemed it a beneficial act overall. This has tainted my view of that movement, though conceptually I agree with it, and there aspects of it that we can learn from.
I have for some time believed that nature itself deserves rights. There seems to be a movement emerging in Latin America – in Ecuador and more specifically Bolivia – that is championing this idea: http://boliviarising.blogspot.com/2009/12/bolivia-we-must-support-universal.html . I think this is AMAZING. Yes, of course, veganism is not exactly an explicit part of the message, but I still think that for any government or world leader to make the claim (legally, no less) that humans are not of paramount importance, and that instead humans are just one small part of nature in the bigger scheme of things, is wildly progressive and a step in the right direction.
I have read past essays that Steve Best wrote on his ideas of Deep Veganism. I think if one is to latch onto the ideology of Deep Ecology, it makes sense to take it to its logical conclusion and add the vegan message – in that way, he has hit the mark. On the other hand, I think the biggest problem in many climate/environmental justice endeavors is the false hope that we are going to “forestall” climate change. The CO2 is already in the air. Changes are GOING to take place. It is a fact that the effects of CO2 are delayed (and it takes hundreds to thousands of years to reverse the effects). “Breakdown” is going to happen. “Collapse” is going to happen. I sound like an alarmist, but it’s only because people, including the most outspoken climate justice activists, are afraid to openly say it – they want everyone to feel like there is hope so that we can make the changes necessary for survival. But I have recently migrated over to the Lovelock(ian?) camp – I think we need to accept the inevitable. Face it – look around you. The government, the corporations, the average citizens of the Global North – not one meaningful lasting step has been made by anyone on the necessary scale to avert whatever changes that are to come (and the time to do something about it was yesterday). I watched the tail end of a discussion panel with Elizabeth Kolbert (who wrote a great book: Field Notes from a Catastrophe) on the UW channel the other day, and it was the first time I heard an “authority figure” (Ron Sims) say that we need to prepare and that the world is going to be a very different place in the years to come (though he also viewed it as a “wonderful opportunity to make changes” and that consequently today is an “exciting time to live in” – ha. That’s some freaky optimism.). Steve Best mentions sending letters to climate justice activists like James Hansen. I have a deep respect for Hansen and admire that he relentlessly goes out on a limb with his message about global warming and his acts of civil disobedience, but I think he also is not emphasizing enough that the time has come to prepare. If you write him a letter, please ask him how we can start preparing for survival.
Many of the actions to avert the worst of climate change are the same as those actions to prepare for it. But “preparing” takes on extra actions (like preparing for floods, droughts, wildfires, crop failures, sea level rise, influx of insects, etc. – AND helping other free-living animals to survive what’s to come, which I’m equally worried about). I already gave Best one suggestion on how to prepare. *Actively* promote veganic farming. No one else is doing it, and it’s going to be really necessary in the days to come that individuals and communities learn to grow their own food sustainably (and this is the only sustainable way to grow food). All in all, I don’t agree with militant direct action, so I really don’t follow all he is about. But I think Deep Veganism could be a step in a positive direction, so long as he doesn’t delude himself about the state of the future, and he includes steps to help those prepare for what’s to come. Sorry for the long comment. I really should write about all this on my own seemingly defunct blog.
I would suggest one other thing to Steve Best. That is to follow-up regularly on how he is achieving his goals. *Show* what he and others are doing in terms of Deep Veganism in the community or otherwise (with stories, photos, etc.). This is not a challenge. This is a practical tip. Marketing oneself is one thing (such as what Francione does), showing how your goals are actually being achieved is another – it's inspirational and informative and allows others to follow by example.
“The very words deep ecology, in fact, clue is into the fact that we are not dealing with a body of clear ideas but with a bottomless pit … Does it make sense… to counterpose deep ecology with superficial ecology, as though the word ecology were applicable to everything that involves environmental issues? Given this mindless use of ecology to describe anything of a biospheric nature, does it not completely degrade the rich meaning of the word ecology to append words like shallow and deep to it-Is there perhaps a deeper ecology than deep ecology? What is the deepest ecology of all that gives ecology its full due as a philosophy, sensibility, ethics, and movement for social change? Deep ecology, with its Malthusian thrust, its various centricities, its mystifying Eco-la-la, and its disorienting eclecticism degrades this enterprise into a crude biologism that deflects us from the social problems that underpin the ecological ones and the project of social reconstruction that alone can spare the biosphere from virtual destruction”.
Perhaps deep veganism is the answer to the ‘shallowness’ of deep ecology? Shallow veganism confines itself to lifestyle, while deep veganism is about social reconstruction and it’s potential to save the planet .
I’m not sure about Murray’s position about humankind being ‘second nature’, but the essay makes for interesting reading.