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On Organizing. Again.

First let me say I understand anyone's wariness regarding large animal rights groups. Mission creep is their middle name, due to a need for the victories that bring the donations, and due to the desire to appeal to a broader base.

No one wants what happened PeTA to happen again. But why can't we learn from that? Why does organizing = PeTA and all of its shortcomings? Why jump straight there?

We don't have anywhere near the quantity of PeTA supporters, and there's already a place for those people to go, so why is it that anyone equates the idea of us organizing with what happens to "large organizations?" Why is not organizing at all better than giving it a go?

I'm one of those experience-type people. I'll try pretty much anything just to have the experience. I've jumped out of planes and bungy/bungee jumped and traveled to foreign countries by myself and, as I've said before, in my nonvegan days I'd try human steak if given the chance. I do things and fail all the time, but at least I do them (can you say wrote a book about animals that I can't get an agent for?). I'd love to experience pregnancy and childbirth.

Our mission and objectives and programs (education, outreach, specific campaigns that would end the use of an animal or group of animals) would be different than PeTA's, and I don't understand why there's such resistance? Are we more powerful as individuals than as a group? Or is it that we have so many among us that are anarchists and think that means they cannot be a member of an organization of any kind? Is it that if there's hierarchy you don't want any part of it and you don't see a way to do it without that?

From what I've seen, there are many creative, outside-the-box thinkers who are vegans. And there are many people (but certainly not everyone) who crave a group that is aligned with their beliefs. Organizing locally is a fabulous idea, and I was thinking that the larger group could help individuals organize locally. So there would be a local–> larger, larger<– local movement/progression. Each would inform the other.

What's great about PeTA is it's a fantastic, 25-year model to study of what not to do (but from good intentions at the beginning). It's like process of elimination. We know that some things were a disaster and we wouldn't do them. Others were less disastrous. Some ideas or executions were great.

There are some things we can tackle ourselves. A 40-count feral cat colony, for instance (okay, I definitely needed help, but at least I could start). Getting local restaurants or animal groups to introduce veganism. Community outreach. But individuals can only do so much and their reach is limited. Less so these days because of the Internet, but still limited as opposed to a worldwide network (or something like it).

And I don't mean this facetiously, but not everyone knows that Responsible Policies for Animals exists, or that Friends of Animals exists. Check them out and see if they're a good fit for you if a group is what you want.

There's always Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, but I have a feeling it's not exactly what people are referring to when they talk about what they want in a "movement." And Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary serves animals directly as well as provides educational material. And HumaneMyth is a great place to go to delve into the issues and needs support, as does Tribe of Heart.

And none of those provides you with what you want, what do you want? Or what don't you want? Both are good places to start.

Finally, I'm no people person, and I'm not someone who wants to belong to a group, but I do have knowledge and experience in/of the nonprofit that might be useful and all I want to do is help. That is my motivation.

12 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dan #

    I think there are already as many abolitionist organizations (i.e. genuine animal RIGHTS organizations) as current abolitionist individuals and funding can support right now (Peaceful Prairie and Boston Vegan Association are the only two that come to mind). The sad fact is that there is simply not enough support, even (or especially) among vegans, for a large national, abolitionist, non-single-issue organization to exist. I'd say wait another 10 to 100 years until we have 100 times the number of abolitionist (genuine AR) vegans (IF that ever happens).

    February 4, 2009
  2. Dan,
    I didn't mention Peaceful Prairie because they are a sanctuary and do direct service and my mind doesn't put them in the same category. And BVA is local. What people are craving, from what they tell me, is a national/international, better-organized movement and are grasping for a way to do that.

    I think I'll update as HumaneMyth and Tribe of Heart deserve support, as well.


    February 4, 2009
  3. I'm not sure I understand what you mean by Peta being a failure? Or am I misunderstanding?

    Peta has managed to become a real almost mainstream force in animal rights. Many many people owe their initial exposure and subsequent veg*nism to Peta. We can point fingers at Peta for doing things we don't like, but I actually think that without being the Peta that many people dislike, they wouldn't be as effective as they are.

    Just because an organization isn't what we want it to be, or what we would like, doesn't mean that it isn't successful. They've managed to find what works to get animal issues into the public eye and talked about. Pushing at the boundaries of what we are comfortable with is a very effective way of bringing these issues to light. Reduction of Peta to "a fantastic, 25-year model to study of what not to do" is simplistic and ignores their successes.

    In other words – you can't have success without failure.

    February 4, 2009
  4. Mary Martin #


    You are correct in that PeTA is a huge success for what it is in that they have a lot of money, have incredible exposure, and animal rights has become synonymous with them.

    And yes, 25 years ago, they were the first "animal rights" group I joined, when Alex Pacheco was heading it.

    PeTA has morphed into something I do not like, however, and I won't count the ways. They have allowed not only mission creep, but mission near-reversal, it seems. That's "the study of what not to do" part. They went from calling for the ceasing of the use of animals to sitting at the table with Temple Grandin and Burger King and exploiters of all kinds. They make people think that certain eggs are okay to eat. And certain "meat," if killed a certain way. That's not the original PeTA.

    Glenn, I worry about the messages the public gets about "animal rights" because of PeTA and I spend a considerable amount of time distancing myself from them because everyone assumes that I must support them. They send a mixed message, and that's what Gary Francione means when he says "new welfare:" they are the new version of welfare. They believe that welfare reforms will lead to abolition and there's no evidence of that. Not to mention it's dishonest. If you want people to stop using animals you should say that.

    So for PeTA, they are an enormous success and I supported them for a long time. But for the cause of abolishing the use of animals? Time will tell, but we're certainly not going in that direction. We simply have no evidence that changing your mission and becoming a worldwide group that focuses on welfare affects the number of animals used by people. I'd love to say it does, but so far it hasn't.

    February 4, 2009
  5. Dan #

    In addition to what Mary said, while PETA may be extremely successful in the way they currently define success, from the way an abolitionist defines success, they are the biggest and worst failure in the history of genuine animal rights. They have completely changed their mission from animal rights to animal welfare in a Faustian bargain with animal exploiters (people who consume animal products). Indeed, the vast majority of PETA donors are not vegans. PETA’s VP Dan Matthews has said that half of PETA’s donors are ‘vegetarians’ (only a portion of the ‘vegetarians’ are vegans) and half think it’s a good idea (but aren’t l-o veg).

    PETA is now in an industry-welfarist partnership with Big Food. PETA serves as the long-term strategic advisors to KFC Canada, et al, giving them a push into 21st century welfarism and a thriving business of animal exploitation. There’s no end in sight to the mutual benefit these organizations can provide one another.

    Also, PETA trivializes and alienates feminists concerns. The only feminists who defend PETA’s sexism are people who are first and foremost PETA supporters. Rather than building bridges with other causes, PETA is trivializing them. PETA should expect no different when feminists who think as myopically as PETA dismiss animal protection and veganism and promote fur and animal products.

    With friends like PETA, animals don’t need the Center for Consumer Freedom to keep them in slavery, exploitation, and slaughterhouses. PETA can do that all by itself.

    February 4, 2009
  6. Deb #

    I think one way to approach this is to think about what we, as activists spread thin on the ground in all parts of the world, need.

    For me, I think something resembling a collective with a library would fit the bill. I want resources, and I'm not talking about money. I want an ever-growing repository for research (links, papers, posts, pamphlets, videos, etc) that people have done on various issues, from the general to the specific. I want to somehow be linked to people who can help me do the research, review research I've done, and who I might be able to call on when I need letters written. And who I'd be there for when they needed these things as well.

    This is what came to mind between wrestling with css at work. I meant to think more about it on the way home, but instead thought about what I could morph into dinner from the contents of my pantry. (I was hungry!) So I haven't thought this through in great detail at this point. I'm sure what I've said could be greatly expanded on.

    But coming at it from this direction helped me see what I'd really want. I think that as soon as you say "organization" or "movement" the big bads come to mind. Maybe that's just the reaction I have, but I'm guessing not based on the reactions others have had. Someday maybe we can get over that, but for now, bypassing that knee-jerk reaction by coming at it from a different direction helps. (helps me, anyway.)

    I strongly disagree with the earlier commenter who said that there are as many abolitionist organizations as can be supported right now, as if having a place to give money is the only point of a movement/organization. The people who just give money and call it a day are not the ones who'd like to see a movement of the kind you're suggesting in this post.

    February 4, 2009
  7. Well said Dan. And yes, I became vegan because of a short PETA video – BUT… within days of further investigation, I realized they did not reflect what I wanted my "new found awareness" to be expressed as. I'm still searching for a unified group that represents my beliefs. For now, Responsible Policies for Animals comes the closest to being that "organization".

    And as far as funding being the key problem – doesn't a large "institution" cut operating costs down and reach more people? Instead of having 100 smaller groups scrambling for funds to print out 100 different brochures and flyers… One organization can print millions at a fraction the cost. One large organization can buy air time… instead of a small group budgeting for a 2 inch ad in a local paper… When it comes to fighting the animal ag industries – and educating the public – money and influence seem to be what we as a "movement" lack and so desperately need.

    I'm so sorry that HSUS is such a welfarist bunch. They present themselves in a fairly good light. I don't think their campaigns are offensive in the sense that most people are not "turned off" by their methods. But, it must be true that the reason they are so big, is that the majority of their members are nice, mainstream, happy-meat, non vegans. Maybe not so much in 100 years… but for now – it's just sad for what they could be doing to help the animals that is their "cause".

    February 5, 2009
  8. Thanks Brandon.

    And let's not forget Nathan's materials: and the 8-pager I produced, complete with gorgeous Deb Durant photos It has recently been translated into French, and I'm currently formatting it.

    I think local organizing is great, and frankly I'm not sure we need to do anything other than that. Just look at Eric and BVA and the variety of things that can be accomplished in your local area. However, what I keep hearing is a desire for a national–which doesn't mean big bureaucracy–effort that doesn't focus on welfare. I'm just raising the issue (again) because it hasn't gone away.

    Great work in NC! I know someone there who recently went vegan (who contacted me by Facebook to tell me and apparently I was instrumental in that) and evidently she's the only vegan within dozens of miles, or so she thinks. She'll be thrilled!

    February 5, 2009
  9. Dan #


    It seems that you are reading your own thoughts into what I actually wrote. Nowhere did I implicitly or explicitly say that funding is the only way to support an organization. Abolitionists are very few in number. We can only support so much. That is the problem.

    Brandon – way to go!!!

    February 5, 2009
  10. Mary,

    Yes, we're using Nathan Schneider's new poster, too. I like your 8-page guide, but we don't have the money to print and use it extensively.

    The problem with all the large "animal protection" organizations is that they rely on donations which make them inherently conservative to win support of the non-vegan masses who want to feel comfortable with their choices. I think if a large abolitionist group was created, it would have to be a confederation of grassroots groups that have the ability to hold it accountable.

    Overall, though, I don't think we need large budgets and centralization to campaign in defense of animal rights. We just need every animal rights advocate to speak up for nonhuman animals and leaflet on a regular basis. The bottom-up approach will help build the critical mass of abolitionist vegans that can then work to dismantle the system of speciesist exploitation at the structural level.


    Thanks! Keep writing your essays, they are a great source of information for our movement.

    February 5, 2009
  11. Mary Martin #

    I don't see why it wouldn't work grassroots –> national/international. But I also don't think a "centralized" group would need a large budget.

    February 5, 2009
  12. Dan #

    Thanks Brandon.

    I like the idea (eventually) of something like a "National Association of Abolitionist Organizations" funded and controlled by dozens of grassroots orgs, but we're not there yet. For now, what groups like PPS, CVA, and BVA are doing is excellent and exactly what we need more of.

    February 5, 2009

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