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On Individuals and “Low-Hanging Fruit”

Yesterday, Dan directed us to his blog post, "Picking the Low-Hanging Fruit: What is Wrong with Single Issue Campaigns?" If you're interested in the place single-issue campaigns have, and the problems they create or perpetuate, I highly recommend reading it.

With regard to Paul Watson, however, and to a lesser extent me, there is another factor in the single-issue equation: the individual. Watson describes a pivotal day for him in a Greenpeace whale campaign in 1975 . . .

 ". . . the harpoon cannon thundered and the harpoon flew over our head and slammed into the backside of one of eight magnificent Sperm whales that were fleeing for their lives. It was a female and she screamed and then suddenly the large male struck the water with his tail and tail and disappeared. We thought it would attack us but instead the whale swam underneath of us and erupted from the sea behind us and hurtled himself at the harpooner on the Soviet vessel. But the harpooner was ready for this and had already loaded an unattached harpoon into the gun. He pulled the trigger and hit the whale at point blank range in the head. The large bull screamed and fell back in the water in a spreading pool of its own hot blood. And as the whale struggled in agony on the surface, rolling and thrashing, I caught his eye and he saw me. Suddenly I saw a trail of bloody bubbles coming swiftly towards us and the whale rose up out of the sea at an angle directly beside us and was about to fall upon our small fragile inflatable boat. And I looked up into that eye, an eye the size of my fist and what I saw there changed my life forever – I saw understanding, I saw awareness. That whale knew what we were doing and with a great effort pulled himself back and sank into the sea and I saw his eye disappear below the surface and he died. He could have taken our lives but in his last moments he spared us and thus I am indebted to that whale for my life."

For some people, a single issue campaign that does indeed save lives (Watson has saved well over 1,000) often comes from an experience with an individual that results in a form of calling or obligation to seek justice for that individual and have his death not be in vain. When I moved to South Florida and discovered that I was living in the state that has enslaved by far the largest number of greyhounds, I decided to do something about that. Not on a Paul Watson scale, but in my own way.

That's not to say vegan education doesn't matter, as I can do both–simultaneously. In fact, greyhounds provide a perfect segue to veganism. Would you want your Golden to be kenneled for 20 hours a day and forced to race?  . . . How would you feel if a Golden were on the table at Thanksgiving? . . .

Some people, by accident of geography, end up surrounded by a particular form of exploitation that they cannot ignore and focus their efforts on. I think of pattrice, in the midst of all of that chicken slaughter (and her response: Eastern Shore Sanctuary & Education Center–and this isn't to say pattrice, the person, is a single issue person), and the amazing vegans up in Whitehorse (Yukon) who fight to abolish the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest (and run and the Animal Advocates Society).

At the Community Foundation building where I have meetings about the documentary I'm working on (the plight of youth who have aged out of foster care and what your community can do and what you as an individual can do to help), it has come to my attention that there's a feral cat colony in an abandoned building nearby. I've inadvertently become the spokesperson for TNR and–like I have extra time–I'm recruiting people to help implement the program. I assume that anyone who volunteers is already sympathetic to the plight of at least some nonhumans (cats), and my goal is to help them make connections between cats and chickens and cows. In my mind, like with the single issue of greyhound racing, it helps my vegan outreach because I already have an audience who has demonstrated they're thinking and they care. My odds of success, therefore, are better than if I approached a person on the street with a pamphlet. This makes perfect sense to me, and maybe it's when it's done on a large-scale level that it becomes  problem–I don't know.

What are your thoughts about single issue campaigns and whether they're useful for vegan education?

35 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dan #

    Captain Paul Watson’s testimony is very moving indeed. The injustice against the whales is palpable and despicable, as are most of the injustices that nonhuman beings routinely undergo for the trivial pleasures and preferences of speciesist bigots (such as the harpooners) and those who are simply uninformed.

    Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary has the same focus on the individual that is so moving in Watson’s testimony. Read their blog and you’ll read similar stories that go right to the heart. The difference is that Peaceful Prairie spends from 25% to 40% of their entire budget on *vegan education*, about 5% or 6% of their entire budget on fundraising and administration combined (this is because PPS is currently 100% volunteer and pays no compensation to anyone), and about 45% to 65% of the entire budget on the care, shelter and feeding of dozens of rescued “food” animals. Peaceful Prairie is a *model* for the rest of the movement, NOT because they are all volunteer (which could possibly change someday), but *because so much of PPS’s mission is focused on vegan education.*

    By contrast, while visiting Sea Shepherd’s website, I could only find one instance where the word vegan was even mentioned on Sea Shepherd’s site, and that was in one of the Board member’s bios. Sea Shepherd, at least by their website, doesn’t seem to get the link between a non-vegan, speciesist society (i.e. the root of the problem) and their mission to stop the killing of whales, dolphins, sharks, and seals. If they understood that link, you would see at least one section of their website devoted to an explanation of the importance – excuse me, the moral imperative – of going vegan if we are to make any sense of Sea Shepherd mission at all. But no, it appears – like the rest of society – that they don’t get it. Here’s a question to ask: What percentage of Sea Shepherd’s contribution revenue comes from people who write a check, perhaps a very large check, to Sea Shepherd after finishing a “grass-fed, organic, Rancher’s Choice” steak or “free range” eggs? Are all of the members of the Board of Directors vegan? They may be; I don’t know – I’m just asking the question. But if they aren’t, that’s a big problem right there. There is an uncomfortable degree of hypocrisy if and when one is telling others not to intentionally kill while intentionally consuming dairy or eggs, or even meat.

    When Sea Shepherd forcefully puts the vegan message front and center along with their mission at sea, then I’ll support Sea Shepherd wholeheartedly. Until then, they are just one more entity that, like HSUS, refuses to deliver any vegan message, much less a strong one.

    As I said in the essay you linked to, Mary, single issue campaigns would not be a problem (or at least not a significant problem) if the vegan message was forcefully front and center with the campaign, but the vegan message is almost never seen in single issue campaigns, or single issue organizations like Sea Shepherd. THAT’S that problem. We pick the “fruit” in single issue campaigns, which perpetually grows back because we blithely ignore the root and truck of the fruit tree: the fact that so few people are vegans.

    If Sea Shepherd wants to prove that it really takes its mission seriously and intelligently, it needs to promote veganism unequivocally. Otherwise, the $2 million dollars in revenue annually is being spent carelessly.

    October 29, 2008
  2. Nick #

    I think single issue campaigns and vegan education go well together. In the case of greyhounds and whales, most people, including omnivores, feel that it is wrong to exploit and kill these animals. This can lead to veganism. You described exactly what I'm trying to say with "Would you want your Golden to be kenneled for 20 hours a day and forced to race? . . . How would you feel if a Golden were on the table at Thanksgiving? . . . "

    There's no denying that a ban on greyhound racing or enforcement of anti-whaling laws isn't improvement in the abolitionist direction.

    October 29, 2008
  3. Nick,
    That depends on whom you're speaking with. Abolishing greyhound racing means ending the use of dogs for racing. They won't be replaced with a different type of dog or a different activity that uses animals. In my mind, that's an abolitionist measure.
    Stopping someone from killing whales isn't abolition, but it is nevertheless saving lives. I'm no longer one to say that unless some activity meets an abolitionist criteria of some sort, I'm not supporting it. Saving lives–that won't be replaced with other lives that will be ended–is also important to me.

    I think I wrote my post wrong. I was talking about the individual activist. Watson is being compelled to do what he does, and he's saving lives. I am compelled to help greyhounds because they're all around me. pattrice's sanctuary is filled with chickens for a reason that has to do with pattrice and where she is.

    That's why I mentioned that the group (like Sea Shepherd and its budget) isn't what I'm talking about. I'm merely saying that what drives us as individuals sometimes isn't something that is optimal for someone else's or a movement's goals. So the individual vegan says: "I have to do something about this particular situation right now," due to something that is occurring or an encounter with an individual. (Sort of like how many people become vegans.)

    October 29, 2008
  4. Dan #


    It sounds like we agree, except perhaps for some small differences that aren't worth going into.

    I realize that some people are driven, as individuals, by some particular issue or event so that they’re compelled to focus on it, perhaps even make it their life’s work. I don’t have a problem with that at all (I’m quite the individualist myself in terms of enjoying and respecting choices or activities that aren’t harmful, etc). I would even encourage it, especially if someone has an expertise in an area such as a wildlife biologist focusing on anti-hunting measures or a dietician focusing on the health aspects of veganism. To some extent, I even support/encourage organizations that capitalize on such expertise. For example, it makes sense for PCRM, as physicians and dieticians, to focus on health reasons to go vegan and on anti-vivisection, and although they don’t mention the moral side of veganism as much as I’d like, they do have veganism front and center of what they do. I support that (I don’t donate to them because I see more pressing needs elsewhere [i.e. abolitionist groups like PPS] that are ignored by the rest of the movement). I also support PCRM because, to the best of my knowledge, they don’t support welfare measures or animal products in any way: implicitly, explicitly, indirectly, or directly.

    To emphasize again: My problem is the organizations, like Sea Shepherd, that don’t tie veganism in with their mission or, if they do mention it (to my knowledge, Sea Shepherd doesn’t at all), it is not front and center, as it should be. Again, if Sea Shepherd strongly promoted veganism as a moral imperative as an integral part of their mission, I’d fully support them.

    Any animal-related nonprofit organization that is not strongly promoting veganism along with their single issue “revenue generator” is sucking valuable resources from more effective activism. Any organization that is promoting veganism, but ALSO promoting welfare campaigns (e.g. PETA) is sending a contradictory and very confused message. I strongly reject all such organizations because they are harming the movement by diverting funds from effective vegan advocacy and perpetuating speciesism.

    October 29, 2008
  5. I’ve been giving single issue campaigns a lot of thought since reading Dan’s article yesterday — how these campaigns focus on 3% of the problem while ignoring the 97% which takes place every minute of every day in factory farms. I see how a vegan should consider the opportunity cost of devoting resources to a single issue campaign. But then I look at the effect of these campaigns on omnivores. Others have talked about the potential progression in the thinking of a non-vegan (you love your dog, guess what, horrible things are happening to equally sentient equally deserving farm animals). But I’m thinking of the sum total of all resources that go toward fighting for animals. It’s not a zero sum situation. For example, I have a neighbor named Mary. I’ve been working hard, so far unsuccessfully, to get her to adopt a vegan lifestyle. So she’s been exposed far more than most people to vegan education. When it comes time for her to decide what to do with her money, she will eagerly donate $100 to Sea Sheppard. But she won’t donate a dime to vegan education. She just won’t. So that $100 of hers will either go to Sea Sheppard or it will go toward a night on the town. If Sea Sheppard didn’t exist, the sum total of all resources that benefit animals would be $100 less. So when vegans use their resources to support single-issue campaigns, it’s true, it comes at the expense of attacking the root of the problem through vegan education/outreach. However, when non-vegans contribute resources to single-issue campaigns, it adds to the sum total of all resources without decreasing the resources that could be expended on vegan outreach. I’m still thinking, so I might revise this view, but this is where I am on the topic today.

    October 29, 2008
  6. Dan #


    It very much is a zero-sum game when it comes to the decisions on how the organizations use the money and what they promote.

    To use your example of “Mary” (I’m going to call her “Brienne the Plumber” so as not to confuse her with this blog’s author), would Brienne donate to Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary? You say she wouldn’t donate to “vegan education”, but would she refuse to donate to Sea Shepherd IF or BECAUSE they also promoted veganism? If she would refuse to donate to Sea Shepherd *because* they also strongly promote veganism, then she’s an absurd hypocrite who really shouldn’t be worrying about what happens to whales in the high seas and we ought not to attach our organization to the support of such people. If Brienne would donate to Sea Shepherd, either not minding their vegan promotion or agreeing with it, then while she may still be hypocritical in not being vegan, at least she’s not so hypocritical as to dismiss her as an idiot not worth our time.

    The bottom line is this: nonprofit organizations are ultimately dependent on their donors, BUT they also choose their donor base by their choice of mission. If an organization’s mission is to get big or stay big and wealthy, and nonprofit work is to them more of a business that a mission, then sure, do like HSUS and PETA do and cater to donors who hypocritically cut big checks after finishing their steak and eggs with dairy ice cream for dessert. Be in bondage to the animal exploiter that gives money conditionally and very hypocritically. The execs of such organizations might as well leave the facade of an NPO and get well-paying jobs as “animal welfare consultants” to McDonald’s or ConAgra.

    OTOH, if an organization’s mission is to fundamentally change society’s hypocritical and confused attitudes toward animals, and if they realize that nothing less ambitious will change much of anything, then the organization must realize that they have to say no to donors who will stop donating because of a very strong vegan message. They must be free of bondage from animal exploiters who insist on refusing to support veganism – their mission and principles demand it.

    October 29, 2008
  7. I'm not going to get into this much because veganism and AR are not my top priorities, and mine aren't the priorities of people here–that's fine. People have different opinions and motivations. I just want to say, because I didn't notice if it was mentioned, that Sea Shepherd ship meals are vegan, which I understand isn't enough for some folks.

    October 29, 2008
  8. greentangle,
    I believe most of us know that Sea Shepherd meals are vegan. I think that the two problems people have are: the single issue, as well as the method. Neither is a problem for me. But I'm less interested in telling than I am in questioning and getting other people to question. What is your "top priority?"

    October 29, 2008
  9. Dan #


    You say that “the method” isn’t a problem for you. Could you elaborate? Is it not a problem for you that Sea Shepherd doesn’t even mention the word vegan on their website?

    As for “telling” versus “questioning”, I’m less interested in those than in reasoning consistently. I’m not interested in any discussion as a Q&A where people offer their gut reactions or “feelings”, supported or not. I am very interested in giving and receive *good and consistent reasons* for our conclusions. But that’s probably my “INTJ” Myers-Briggs personality coming out – particularly the T-thinking and J-judging (in reference to a topic a couple of weeks ago). At any rate, good and consistent reasoning is what supports my comments here and my blog essay, and if anyone can show me where I'm employing poor or inconsistent reasoning, I'll change my mind.

    October 29, 2008
  10. Mary, I've been making notes for an eventual post of my own about the comparative ranks of my values. The major influence has been deep ecology — respect for all species and their value regardless usefulness to humans, living simply, a much smaller human population. I care more about the natural world and ecosystem interactions than human civilization, and think wild animals are more important than domestic animals (but have loved the time I've spent at a farm sanctuary).

    I think veganism and concern for animal ethics (I dislike the AR label and also don't call myself an environmentalist) are great things but only possible because of the type of civilization we are in at this moment in time. I think many AR folks are too urban-centered and unaware of nature, and many environmentalists have no concern for individual animals. I support taking minks out of fur farms; I oppose setting them all loose in the area. I loathe modern hunting but expect hunting would be part of how I think humans should live–more connected to the natural world. I'm in favor of wildlife rehab and pets.

    While I enjoy its short-term benefits and don't play primitive on the weekends, I think this civilization does far more harm than good to the natural world, to animals and humans. And I think and hope this civilization is winding down. My top priority is that we do as little damage as possible in the time we have left.

    I'm the direct opposite of Dan–I think we need to operate more on the basis of intuition and emotional connection than on reasoning, and wrote that on the very first post of my blog.

    October 29, 2008
  11. Not that anybody here could possibly care — but my little brother saw the open article on my computer and submitted the previous response under my comment box and my name, which again doesn't matter since nobody here knows me anyway. But what does matter a little is the neighbor Mary (his current; my former) actually has finally weakened and succumbed to our arguments. She has agreed to finally cut out dairy and go vegan. So that's one more down, 6.7 billion to go. Sorry for the topic interruption.

    October 29, 2008
  12. Dan,
    The method I don't have a problem with is the property damage.
    Their mission is very specific and isn't related to veganism (here's the mission if anyone is interested: ). Because vegan education isn't their mission, it's tough for me to criticize them for not having the mission I might want them to have. Grey2kusa says nothing about veganism and I'm willing to bet that most people involved eat animals all day long. Sure, I wish I could report something different, but they're making a dent and that form of exploitation won't be replaced, and they're saving lives. A small dent, but a dent. (And I realize some people don't see it as a dent at all.)

    You and I have different styles and different intentions in a way. My goal is to get people to think critically about, well, everything. And question why they use the words they use and how they use them. And of course, more often than not, do that in a context of our relationship to sentient nonhumans. Thoughts and language affect action and behavior. We simply are interested in different angles and approaches to the same issue.

    October 30, 2008
  13. margaret #

    Hmm, let's compare…
    Captain Paul spend his days risking his life to protect whales.

    this Dan person, from what I can see, is a CPA who spends his days in an office (what does he tell his clients to do with their con agra stock?) every few weeks he writes a derivative essay that's read by a few people who already share his views on a topic that has already been written about by gary francione a million times better in books read by a million times more people than these unpopular vegan essays.

    and the winner is … captain paul

    October 30, 2008
  14. Dan #


    I should have read Sea Shepherd’s mission before commenting on them. Given that they were one of the top sponsors of AR2008 (in money provided) and given Paul Watson’s quote sounds remarkably more like an animal advocate’s quote than an environmentalist’s quote, I was duped into thinking they considered themselves an animal “rights” or “protection” group. Now that I’ve finally read their mission (and I’m a little peeved with myself that I hadn’t read it up front), I see that they are really an environmental protection and “law enforcement” group for whom animals are merely an indirect part of what they do. So, in this light, I suppose there wouldn’t be much hypocrisy in them having a whale meat feast on their way down to block whalers from illegally hunting whales, so long as the whale meat was obtained legally.

    I won’t comment on Sea Shepherd anymore for the same reason I won’t comment on the ELF or any other environmental group – they have nothing to do with animal rights or even “animal rights”. Lesson learned by me: READ MISSION STATEMENTS! 🙂

    OTOH, any group whose mission statement is primarily about “protecting animals” has an underlying commitment, whether they realize it or not, to promote veganism. Without the underlying commitment to veganism, any animal rights/protection organization falls into a more than trivial degree of hypocrisy. Missions are not sacred or immune from criticism. In fact, they are more subject to criticism than even the less significant policies because they affect the organization so much.

    I’m with you that our approaches and/or intentions are different. For me, non-AR issues like atheism and politics are very interesting to discuss in a detached and panoramic intellectual way, but I would not strongly advocate for atheism (even though I’m a strong atheist) or strongly advocate for a certain political theory (even though I do have fairly well-defined opinions here, too). In these areas, we’re more alike, and if I weren’t an animal advocate, I’d probably have general philosophy blog to get people to think about things (but mainly because I’d enjoy it) instead of a vegan/AR blog to attempt to persuade people through reason and empathy (which I’m enjoying less and less as months and years goes on).

    In contrast, what we do to nonhuman beings and the scale on which we have been doing it during the past approximately 160 years (and especially the past 60 years) is the single worst atrocity humanity has ever engaged in, bar none. I’m not an animal rights advocate to merely “explore the issue” with people (although exploring the issue is certainly part of it). Again, I’m an animal advocate to persuade people, through both reason and empathy, to go vegan because our attitudes and behavior toward animals is such an atrocity.

    October 30, 2008
  15. Dan #


    I disagree with you that Gary Francione writes “a million times better” than I do. I think he writes a billion times better than I do.

    As far as what I do as a CPA firm partner, I perform financial statement audits for local governments and nonprofit organizations and provide them guidance on how they can help prevent errors and fraud in the entities. I perform all of the accounting and IRS reporting requirements for Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary, entirely pro bono, and wouldn’t even remotely consider taking any compensation for it. I have nothing to do with advising individuals or corporations on investments or taxes.

    If I were to “speculate” on “captain paul” in the same ad hominem manner you just speculated on me, I would say he loves the sea and lots of adventure, like many sailors do, and has found a way to get other people to fund his exploits and entertainment (using whales and seals as the excuse). It would be kinda like me climbing mountains (I’m also very adventurous and have risked my life in the mountains just for the sheer fun of it) to save the mountain goats or people (and I have been a volunteer for mountain rescue in central Colorado for seveal years – a few years "active" and a more few years "inactive, but on-call").

    However, because I don’t assume the worst about people, I think Captain Paul has much better intentions than that. I think Captain Paul has a passion to save as many whales as he can. In fact, he may well look on what he does at sea as an undesirable chore, somewhat like I now view my “derivative essays” that are also unpopular (which is the main reason I chose “unpopular” as part of the name – I know that only a small handful of people will ever read them). I think Captain Paul is an excellent person, and my criticism of Sea Shepherd was never personal; I just mistakenly thought they were an animal protection and advocacy group instead of what they are, an environmental protection and law enforcement group, and that IF they were an animal protection group, they ought to strongly promote veganism.

    October 30, 2008
  16. Dan #

    BTW, Margaret, one of my favorite “demotivators” from is about blogging. The caption below the poster picture says, “Never before have so many people with so little to say said so much to so few.”

    I think that caption is hilariously true, but it’s also sadly ironic, because for people who blog about peace, nonviolence, and justice for all, including animals, we have a lot to say. Unfortunately, very few want to hear it. Most people would rather hear a gunshot or flesh sizzling on a grill than hear that it would be a better world if innocent humans and nonhumans weren’t shot or slaughtered for political views or food.

    October 30, 2008
  17. Bea Elliott #

    Mary, I totally agree with your logic of getting people who already sympathize with (some) animals to be receptive to extend compassion to a wider circle of animals… like the ones they eat… You know I have rescued chickens and in a way – this has introduced many in my circle as to how remarkable chickens really are. Determined, playful, happy, frustrated, inquisitve, etc. When people interact with them, I can almost see "wheels turn". Of course I often remind them that the beautiful egrets they'd never think of eating are just kissing cousins… And people feel bad when they learn why their beaks were cut and why they had to be "rescued". I love these birds – they are my "pets" – but they are also a spring-board to conversations that lead to veganism as well… Guess I'm "over-bearing". All roads for me, eventually lead to veganism…

    Dan, I really enjoyed your essay and all your valid points about "low-hanging fruit" – sadly, I think that is what pace some people need to (not) change in. Campaigns that advocate "for animals" yet don't promote veganism are destined to continue because it allows it's donors to "believe" they are helping animals and they can justify consuming them simultaneously. Welfarism, low-hanging fruit campaigns and pupply-mill pity allows them some outlet to hopefully discover and connect with the rest of the (meat) issue. One can only hope. I try to ignore these (other) organizations… but consider them a necessary evil toward change. Doesn't mean I like it -or support it… It's just the way things are.

    Margaret, Francione is a brilliant writer, it's true. And he has substantiated his position extensively… Francione used his own words in his own rhythm of thought. I am "student" that appreciates the thrill of reading convincing logic… I enjoy reading the varied ways others come to similar conclusions. The reiteration by others (for some of us) is not only refreshing but vital. To keep the messages alive they must be said with as many impassioned words as possible.

    Hearing the truth for me never gets old and I don't discourage anyone from speaking those truths in their own words, with their own effectiveness. To do otherwise would be like telling an artist (such as I am) that billions of landscapes have already been painted with much more talent and skill -so why bother with my own canvas and my own vision?… I'd rather not extinguishing creativity or expression, especially regarding animal interests.

    Keep writing Dan – I am in your devoted audience of readers.

    October 31, 2008
  18. Dan #

    Thank you for your response to my essay, Bea. I like your comparison to artists. The subjectivity of evaluation is similar in both art and writing.

    In reply to what you’ve said here regarding welfarism and SICS-without-veganism, I want to point out the importance of distinguishing what is necessary, i.e. what *must be* the case, from what *merely is* the case.

    As for welfarists (both new and traditional), it may merely be the case that they will stubbornly cling to welfarism and single-issue nonsense, and that SICs (without veganism front and center) will, as a matter of mere fact, go on for decades or even centuries, but to say this view and behavior is “necessary” for change is incorrect.

    In fact, what really is *necessary* for change is precisely for this kind of postponement attitude of welfarists and single-issue campaigners to stop. Until we get over the idea that abolition is something that future generations will deal with, we will go nowhere. Until we get over the idea that welfarism and SICs (without veganism front and center) do anything positive whatsoever for an abolition movement, we will go nowhere.

    I fully agree with you on ignoring welfarism and SICs except for to the extent that we need to know what nonsense is going on so we can criticize it properly.

    As a very small minority, it is only in constantly and forcefully pointing out the folly of welfarism and SICs (without veganism front and center) that abolitionists will make any difference at all. Saying that welfarism is a “necessary evil” is to plainly agree with the welfarists. Welfarism is certainly an evil, and I agree with you that it’ll probably go on for a painfully long time, but it is not necessary, any more than dairy and egg consumption is necessary.

    October 31, 2008
  19. kim #

    First off, Dan, you might get more readers to your blog if you allowed and encouraged comments. I only read sites that offer interaction when I go online. Considering how much you enjoy Mary's hospitality here, it seems odd that you don't afford the same courtesy to your readers.

    As such, I didn't read your post, but I completely disagree that single-issue campaigns do nothing to assist vegan education. As has been mentioned, donors will not give money to fund purely vegan campaigns, which puts outreach ambitions at a disadvantage against ag industry dollars. Anti-wefarists always claim money spent on such campaigns is money that could have gone towards vegan outreach, as if the money would magically be available without the campaign and fundraising efforts put forth by that particular group. Or it's claimed that money isn't needed to push veganism. Either you need money for vegan outreach or you don't. Pick one.

    When single issue campaigns get national recognition, like Sea Shepard's upcoming series on Animal Planet, or when popular talk shows devote an entire show or segments to animal issues, like Oprah and Ellen did with Prop 2, that introduces the uneducated public to the very notion of animal issues. Most of the public has no clue that they should even be concerned. That enables me, as a vegan advocate, to start the conversation with some awareness on their part.

    People will always be drawn to advocate for issues that they favor and can feel passionate about. I think it's natural for humans to have preferences, even when it comes to non-humans. That's the reality. The challenge is to take advantage of that phenomenon and use it to our advantage when promoting vegnanism. Do we really have any other choice?

    October 31, 2008
  20. margaret #

    I'm a big Captain Paul groupie and I got a little worked up when I first read your post about him.
    I should have taken a deep breath.
    Instead I wrote an unfair criticism of you.
    BTW, your esssays are actually written very well 🙂

    October 31, 2008
  21. Dan #


    It appears that not only have you refused to read my blog essay, but you also refused to read my previous comments on this topic, since you clearly missed one of my main points: SICs without veganism perpetuate speciesism by implying that other forms of animal abuse are fine and divert funds away from vegan education by not also promoting veganism.

    There’s a very simple solution if an organization wants to or insists on doing SICs: include vegan education. How can you possibly reject that unless you have a speciesist and narrow-minded agenda? How can you reject that unless your primary goal is some kind of hypocritical revenue optimization at the expense of a pro-animal mission?

    Do your SIC, but INCLUDE the vegan message front and center, and there’s no problem of speciesism, ineffectiveness, or hypocrisy with the SIC.

    Thanks for your advice on my blog, but I’m doing just fine. If you look at the length of time my blog has existed and the number of subscribers it has, it’s really not as “unpopular” and Margaret and I made it out to be, especially compared to other animal-related blogs. And while I’m no Gary Francione, my writing is generally very clear and well thought out – even my detractors usually admit that much.

    When I included “unpopular” in the name, I meant that it would not be popular compared to, say, self-help blogs (which are probably the most popular in America) or, say, Huffington Post, which blogs on all things human. I also meant that the content is telling people the ultimate “inconvenient truth” about the atrocities inflicted on the innocent, a truth which people run from like cockroaches when the lights are turned on.

    The main reason why I don’t allow comments is that I’m often very busy and/or away from the Internet for days at a time, and it would be difficult for me to timely moderate comments and especially reply to them, which would certainly be necessary in many cases given my content. It’s much easier, when one has a more-than-full-time job, to pick the hours, days, and weeks to disable the mind’s firewall and let the mind clutter of debate flow freely. I can be flexible commenting and debating on Animal Person, but not so much on my own blog without irritating readers.

    October 31, 2008
  22. Dan #


    Thank you. I understand (been there myself) and I appreciate your kind words very much.

    Best regards,

    October 31, 2008
  23. I think single issue and even single animal campaigns work. These videos remind me of that:

    Moreover, I remember when my husband said to me, "Now, I think eating animals is like eating babies. I think of our cats and how each is an individual." He became vegetarian for health reasons, but they evolved into animal rights reasons.

    October 31, 2008
  24. Deb #

    I wasn't going to say anything about Sea Shepherd, because if people won't read what Paul Watson himself says (please read "a really inconvenient truth" for starters) you're not likely to read what I have to say, but it was pissing me off that people seem so inclined to have a knee-jerk reaction to any message that doesn't simply say GO VEGAN. Dan, your statement on whether sea shepherd would serve whale meat as long as it was obtained legally was absurd. Here's a good, if extremely short, example of what Paul himself says (so you don't have to guess anymore), which is an extremely important aspect of his environmental stance, and thus SS's stance:


    I wanted to get back to the topic of the post, of single issues. I did actually think about this on my bike rides this week, as it was raining and I didn't even try to ride fast. And something I kept coming back to was that single issues, when handled in a thoughtful way, are tactics necessary to the overall strategy (if only there was something clearly stated w/in the movement or movements or whatever yo want to call it or them). Single issues are nothing more than pieces of the bigger issue, or the intersections between and within the bigger issues. We can't approach everything at once, we can't educate people on everything at once, the human brain just isn't capable of that. We process things in chunks, and focusing on subsets of groups lets us get a handle on that.

    So single issue campaigns and groups and discussions are not only natural, I think they're necessary.

    As formulaic as it is to make a statement like this, it is nevertheless true that "issues don't exist in a vacuum." And neither do we…it is rare that our interactions (other than leafleting, perhaps) are so brief that the single issue discussed (or educated via printed material) in a single instant is all the interaction we ever have. Talk to someone about "black diamonds" one day, and you can talk to them about worker treatment in slaughterhouses the next and animal exploitation another time.

    So, tactics vs strategy. Mary's end goal is to eradicate all exploitation, and a subset of that is the greyhound racing. The best way to end greyhound racing is not to advocate veganism to the greyhound activists, but to rescue and educate us all and advocate against racing (and gambling).

    What's the saying? If all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.

    I think that's something every activist should be wary of.

    October 31, 2008
  25. Dan #


    First, I never said Sea Shepherd “would” serve whale meat on the cruise. I said that it would not be too hypocritical (i.e. necessarily contradict their mission (or “mandate”)) the way it is currently written. And it wouldn’t. Their mission is the environment, not animals. Watson may talk and write about animals a lot, but that’s not what SS does, according to their mission statement (“who we are”).

    I think we need to separate Watson from Sea Shepherd; they aren’t synonyms. I’m sure Watson has a lot of influence over Sea Shepherd as its founder, but so do a lot of non-vegan donors and directors on the Board, which is perhaps at least one big reason why you don’t see animal rights or veganism on SS’s mission or mandate.

    Second, my essay was referring to the animal “movement” as a whole. It was NOT referring to every tiny little discussion we may have with others about certain issues or our little pet projects, although when we have these discussions and pet projects, we should look for opportunities to bring up the vegan issue as the root of all animal abuse and exploitation (because it is the root of all animal exploitation). Vegan education is NOT at the front and center of the animal “movement”, but it should be. What is front and center is single issue campaigns that dance on the periphery of vegan education, but never address it.

    I said it in my blog, but I’ll say it again over and over becuase it is extremely important for progress: at least 97% of the animals we exploit and kill are for FOOD, not including sea animals (which would make the percentage even higher). Please, tell me why vegan education isn’t of the utmost importance again? Please tell me why we should put 97% of the problem on the back burner? Please tell me why almost all of our advocacy should not be "reduced" to GO VEGAN. The answers? When what you have is 97% nails, you should pay 97% of your attention to your hammer.

    November 1, 2008
  26. Deb #

    Dan, Sea Shepherd is about saving the oceans. You might not understand why that makes even legal whale meat against their ethics and their mission, but you should. The reason that AR is not part of their message is because *they are not an AR organization*. Paul says it over and over. He's an animal advocate, not an animal activist. SS is an organization that is, by nature of trying to save the oceans, an animal advocate. But not an animal activist. Paul, and SS, are *environmental* activists. The focus is on the environment. And yes, that is WHY they tells people to go vegan. You really need to stop judging Paul and SS for the lack of AR message, since he's kind enough to not judge you for your lack of ER message.

    And, sorry to say, I haven't read your post, so my comments after the SS stuff were all in response to what Mary wrote.

    November 1, 2008
  27. Dan #

    Okay, it sounds like we agree that PW and SS are enviros, not ARAs. But most enviros object to veganism as an ethical or moral baseline. Are you saying that SS is different? Also, can you show us where SS advocates veganism on their website? If vegan advocacy is on their site, I must have missed it. But you said they do advocate veganism.

    Also, if veganism is so important to saving oceans, then why isn't veganism strongly promoted on their website?

    November 2, 2008
  28. Dan, do you understand that if the ecology of the planet is destroyed, there won't be any animals for you to worry about? Or for that matter, you won't be here to worry about anything. I'm overstating of course, but just as you see veganism as the central issue, it's entirely possible to see it as a trivial matter and be just as ethical as you.

    Personally, I think a vegan who eagerly embraces the lifestyle of accumulating more money and stuff, or who travels constantly promoting AR issues, or who has a bunch of vegan kids, is a much bigger problem than a nonvegan who lives simply. Do you care about how many animal's homes are destroyed every day in the name of development, how many become roadkill for the sake of human vehicles and convenience?

    What do you think are the relative chances of success of 1)ending the hunting of whales and 2)turning every human into a vegan (which I assume would be your ultimate goal)? Not that you shouldn't work toward your idea of utopia; just that you shouldn't expect everyone to share it and ignore matters they consider more important or realistic.

    November 2, 2008
  29. Dan #


    When people put the Environment before the basic rights of sentient beings not to be exploited (seriously harmed or killed or wrongly imprisoned), it's called environmental fascism.

    I'm all for small footprints, but adamantly reject environmental fascism.

    November 2, 2008
  30. Deb #

    Dan, I believe the point that greentangle, myself, pattrice jones, SS and many others are making is that protecting the environment IS a fundamental aspect to not harming sentient beings. If you are unconcerned about destroying the environment, you are killing animals. If you care about the lives of animals, you really can't ignore the impact you're having on the environment.

    I've never heard the term "environmental fascism", sounds like a term made up to try to marginalize environmentalists.

    The reason, I'm guessing, that SS doesn't have veganism prominently discussed on the website is to keep the message simple and focused. They are going to talk about the oceans, about the whales and other animals they are protecting. Talk to people who are knowledgeable about web and/or graphic design, about getting the message to people, and what you'll hear is to keep the message simple. SS's primary task is likely seen as convincing people that the oceans are important. That's a big enough task, as most people have very little understanding of the role that oceans play in the global climate, just for starters.

    Where you will find the message is when they talk about how cows are the largest consumer of sea life, etc.

    November 2, 2008
  31. Dan, I guess you don't understand that there are no rights if there is no 'environment' or no societal stability. Or maybe you don't recognize the difference between the environment as a political issue and ecological systems which all our lives are dependent upon.

    A "right", whether animal or human, is an abstraction which only exists if it happens to be acceptable to the majority or the most powerful at the moment. You might think that's immoral or unethical but it's reality. Starving homeless people aren't going to care about being vegan anymore than the average American cares about destroying the natural world as long as s/he can keep on living wastefully for another week; heck, they'll probably be eating vegans.

    I prefer ecofascist myself, and I'd be quite willing to be one to save ecosystems and the animals who live in them.

    November 3, 2008
  32. Dan #


    I completely agree with you, et al, that many environmental concerns (but certainly not all) are integral to animal protection and animal rights. I’ve been an environmentalist for several years longer than I’ve been an animal advocate. I’m very aware of the interconnectedness of the environment with all sentient beings. I’m also very in tune with how large footprints in affluent and industrialized areas impact the environment and the deadly combination of the current proliferation of such affluence and industrialization (large footprints) to large human populations in Asia and eventually Africa. In fact, those who are regular readers of by blog have seen me specifically address that issue as it relates to the need for widespread veganism. The need for small footprints and lower human populations (by birth control) is also critical for everyone.

    I specifically defined environmental fascism in the only way use of the phrase is appropriate – that is, putting the environment before the most basic rights of individual sentient beings to not be exploited. Unfortunately, many environmentalists do exactly that – ignore the rights of sentient beings – but it’s completely unnecessary to preserve the environment in any important sense. I’ve never used the phrase to marginalize environmentalists and never will (although I realize some anti-environmentalists have bastardized the phrase and entirely changed its meaning to (attempt to) marginalize environmentalists; fortunately, environmentalists are not easily marginalized these days except among the idiots of the far right). To marginalize non-fascist environmentalists is to marginalize myself.

    We will probably have merely acknowledge our disagreement and move on regarding Sea Shepherd’s failure and/or refusal to add the vegan message to their website and overall message, regardless of what their mission statement says. Given a human population of 6.7 billion, expected to rise to 9 or 10 billion before too long, and given that the animal exploitation industry (including the fishing industry) intends to grow into serving that population animal food (including animals of the ocean), I think it is foolish to ignore the vegan message (or something very close to it), even if one’s only concern is the environment. I don’t think it complicates anything sufficiently to justify ignoring it. It is the elephant in the room that nobody wants to address. If one’s concern is also animal protection, then veganism is THE essential message to get across. It can be as simple as saying to the general public: “The best single thing you can do in your way of living to help the oceans is to go vegan.”

    I doubt I’m going to have any more to say after this. I’m tired of repeating myself.

    November 3, 2008
  33. Dan #


    All along I’ve been advocating for animal rights, a small footprint, and veganism. What is it in those three that you think will destroy the environment? I’m not your obstacle or enemy, GT. The NON-vegan “environmentalists” with kids and a relatively large footprint are your enemies.

    As to “reality”, you state that animal rights is an “abstraction” (I might remind you that “the environment” and “protection” and most of what we’re talking about here are just as much abstractions as animal rights). You further state that AR and veganism are “utopian” (two comments ago) and imply that AR and veganism will only happen if the most powerful agree with it (your last post). I hope you realize that the exact same can be said just as legitimately regarding the environment and our ultimate demise in an eco train wreck. That is, radical environmental change will only happen when the powerful agree that it should, which is to say that it’ll only happen after it’s too late. It is to say, as I believe Steve Best has put it, our “technological genius and moral imbecility” will combine to destroy us. I am almost certain that it is only a matter of when, not if. The only other thing that might kill us off prior to our species doing it through either war or eco-destruction or both is a big bumbling asteroid slamming into the Earth.

    I’m not going to get into my personal lack of hope about the future regarding animal rights or the environment or human/nonhuman survival on the planet, because it has nothing to do with my advocacy/activism. I advocate for what I think is right regarding sentient beings and the environment, regardless of my doubts of ever achieving it. That it’s the right thing to do and that I know beyond any doubt it’s the right thing to do is more than enough to motivate me. I have no need for hope.

    What I do want to re-emphasize, however, is that I’m not your obstacle or enemy, GT. As someone who promotes AR, veganism, human population reduction (through birth control, etc), and a small footprint for families and individuals, I’m very much an ally of the environment and its future (to whatever extent it has a future with human apes inhabiting it). The reverse, however, is not the case. Environmentalists who dismiss AR and/or veganism as you do are obviously a serious obstacle and enemy of AR and veganism until or unless they change their mind. AR and veganism is perfectly compatible with saving the Earth and its inhabitants. But ecofascists who dismiss AR and veganism are not only obstacles to AR and veganism, but also foolish regarding the benefits of veganism (or something very close to it) for the environment.

    As I said in my reply to Deb, I don’t think I’ll have anything more to say on this topic. I’ve repeated myself on several occasions in this comment section and it has become a waste of my time.

    November 3, 2008
  34. Dan, apparently we have much more in common than either of us realized, differing mostly in what we consider more important. I never thought you were my enemy; I thought you were a single issue person without appreciation for our ecological destructiveness and future and I was wrong.

    As I wrote somewhere here, I don't use the environmentalist or AR labels for myself. I'll skip most of my reasons why and just say one of the main ones is because the two groups tend to oppose/ignore each other when I think they should be complementary, at least compared to how either relates to mainstream society.

    I tend to argue against whichever makes up the majority in a group–that's why I'm being the eco person here. A few months ago I was the one arguing the veggie perspective at a table of environmentalist locavores.

    November 4, 2008
  35. Dan #


    In my last comment, I said that I wouldn’t say anything more on this topic; however, I was pleasantly surprised by your last comment that apparently we have much more in common than either of us realized. I agree. I have no problem with having different priorities, as long as one isn’t dismissing an important issue that doesn’t happen to be one’s priority.

    For me, this "non-dismissal" essentially means that Earth activists and animal activists should accept and encourage each other’s “minimum standards” so to speak. It means animal activists, in addition to being vegan, should have a small footprint, live simply, and encourage the same. It means Earth activists, in addition to having a small footprint, should be vegan and encourage the same. The priority difference should only manifest significantly in what one spends one’s activist/advocacy time on. If a “priority difference” manifests in rejecting the minimum standards of the “non-prioritized” issue, it is no longer merely a priority difference, but a rejection or dismissal of the other issue as a problem. The two issues are sufficiently interrelated and complementary (and, most importantly, not opposed in any meaningful sense) that we should be united at least in the minimum standards, and at best strong advocates for both. Based on your last comment, I think we largely agree here.

    November 4, 2008

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