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On “Hogwashing”

If you consider yourself an environmentalist, you’re probably familiar with the term "greenwashing," which is a marketing strategy that paints a corporation (usually one with a less-than-stellar reputation regarding its treatment of the environment) as environmentally sensitive or friendly when the opposite is the case.

Last year, we were introduced to "hogwashing" by James LaVeck, who defined it as "the practice of generating the public appearance of having
compassion for animals while continuing to kill millions of them for
profit." In "Hogwash! Or, How Animal Advocates Enable Corporate Spin," Lee Hall of Friends of Animals is rightfully stunned that Niman Ranch presented its "infomercial" at the "Taking Action for Animals 2007" conference (and the Animal Welfare Institute probably footed the bill and may even have paid Niman). Add that insult to the injury of Wolfgang Puck, the national obsession with cage-free eggs (because they’re humanely-produced, you know), and the spate of labels that now tell us, thank heavens, that animals really are okay to eat. And what’s worse, all of these developments tell us who is on the cutting edge of animal welfare: ranchers, chefs, and vegan grocers who sell dead animals.

Hall writes, "Viewing animals as commodities, even well-handled commodities, isn’t animal protection. . . . To take animals’ interests seriously is to opt out of animal agribusiness." And later, "We the people of the already affluent world, who have been able to make time for activism, ought to provide rational advocacy models, in which the point is not to accept animal use."

(I think I’ve got a new quote for my pamphlet!)

Telling people (as I once did, remember) whom you do not think will ever give up meat to eat free-range, grass-fed beef is not rational advocacy. It’s intellectual dishonesty. And it’s not helping the animals. Oh, and it’s making us look like fools.

There is one solution and one solution only. It’s easy, it’s affordable, and it’s light on the conscience: stop using animals. Period. And tell others to do the same. Maybe just one day a week at first, or even one meal a week, but it’s better than telling them that if they shop at Whole Foods or dine at Wolfgang Puck’s, the animals will thank them.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. JT #

    Not related to this post, I just wanted to thank you for the comment you left on my blog a couple weeks back. As you know from my post, your blog has been influential on my own decision to stop eating meat. I find I am learning a lot just through reading here. I am fairly well-educated but just haven't heard enough of these particular ideas. So thanks.

    August 31, 2007
  2. Ellie #

    I agree, Mary, there is really only one honest and logical solution– stop using animals. I think Lee Hall wrote another great article , and I appreciate the call for "rational animal advocacy".

    Perhaps most animal rights advocates were once animal "protectionists", including me.

    August 31, 2007
  3. Mary, thank you for your message of hope. Just thinking aloud here: As for
    how people will change, I would say reliance on animal products is in the
    sphere of addictions, with all the physical, emotional, and familiar
    attachments that go into addictions generally. And that it's important to
    remove them from our lives entirely (as it would be for any addictive
    substance) in order to get past this. For example, and I think John
    McDougall and others note this, cow's milk is extremely seductive because
    nature makes it so. Calves who come into the world knowing nothing else must
    have this strong desire for the milk that's meant to sustain them, and it
    seems that we have perpetuated this craving in strange and extreme ways.
    Humans use cows as wetnurses throughout their lives wherever cows
    traditionally live — or, now, where they are introduced, as in China, where
    they were brought by the British colonists. (And we wonder why humanity
    seems to act in infantile ways so much of the time?)

    Back to your main point: Surely it's not too much to ask that thoughtful
    people provide rational advocacy models, models based on integrity and
    confidence. This means thinking about what is rational and stop going down
    an irrational road. Once we understand we've taken a wrong turn, do we just
    keep going? People can relinquish problematic ideas and habits, and change
    their approaches. Thank you for your openness and example. We all need this.

    And thanks ever so much for encouraging the work of others who are committed
    to animal rights. We need this in our movement as well.

    September 1, 2007

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