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PPS Calls for Change in Direction of Vegan Advocacy

Peaceful Prairie is calling for a "Change in the Direction of Vegan Advocacy," which I think many of us have intuitively begun for our own reasons. The change has two components: language and strategy.

Twenty years ago, vegan advocates could use the term "factory farming" because, at the time, there was no mass marketed "humane" animal farming alternative that could be readily found at fast food restaurants, grocery stores, etc.

Now, sometimes you really are talking about what is known as "factory farming" for whatever reason. But if you’re not, and if you believe there’s no such thing as humane farming, you do your own message a disservice by using "factory farming" as your descriptor because that creates an opening for the acceptance of an alternative.

Furthermore, the focus on "meat" is a mistake, as it leads people directly to lacto-ovo vegetarianism, where we’ve all seen people spend years, if not decades. I’ve often spoken about how I like to begin with eggs and products made from milk in my advocacy because I think that’s more efficient and effective. If you educate someone about what is involved in milk production and they object to it, they have nowhere to go. They likely already know that animals we use for food are treated horribly and unjustly, so if you begin by discussing the animals most people don’t know are treated horribly and unjustly, you’ve just given the person you’re speaking with the final bit of information they need that will position them to eliminate all food products made from sentient nonhumans. (Not that they’ll do that overnight).

The PPS statement expresses a similar sentiment, but also gets into the more basic notion that:

The strategy of prioritizing our anti-meat message over anti-dairy and eggs has failed the animals miserably.

We all know that this really is a matter of education. My guess is that most vegetarians simply have no idea what it takes to produce their beloved cheese, and would in fact never think of cheese as a sibling of the product called "veal" that they vilify.

I do understand that there is a difference in the way we (aesthetically, emotionally and mentally) experience flesh on a plate and cheese on a pizza. But I think that the difference is largely learned as it’s associated with the source of the food and what occurred at the point of origin (i.e., they myth that someone died for steak, but not for cheese), and I think it can be unlearned. But not by itself.

And that’s where we come in. Send your "conscientious omnivores" to The "Humane" Farming Myth, send your consumers of cage-free eggs to "Can You Tell the Difference?" and don’t forget the "Happy Cows: Behind the Myth" slideshow at for your pizza and ice cream lovers.

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Roger #

    Hi Mary,

    This post says some interesting things about "being divisive" methinks. I guess the Humane Myth initiative will seem divisive to some but, equally, I think there is a case to made that a notion of "we're all in this together" is bound to lead to the prioritising of vegetarian advocacy over the advocacy of veganism.

    From a British perspective this effect was seen when the likes of Compassion In World Farming were seen as part of the "animal rights movement" – the fact that they opposed factory farming was indeed 'enough' for them to be included. I tried to reflect some of the complexities involved in this blog entry which, although long, provides a useful snap=shot of the British scene:

    Look out for the note about the banner associated with the British live exports campaigns: "You Don't Have to Stop Eating Meat To Care". Riiiight!


    June 23, 2008
  2. mary martin #

    Thanks for the link, Roger. When I hear "divisive," it usually means someone wants to have their cake and eat it too and I'm getting in their way (or someone else is). In 2008, there's simply no excuse to eat the eggs and milk of another species–whether your objection is based in suffering or exploitation. I suppose those who cling to their milk and eggs see no reason to be "extreme" or "fanatical." They also must not have an urgent need for consistency, either.

    Nevertheless, I do still know plenty of vegetarians who are in the dark about these two important issues (eggs and dairy), and honestly don't know that cage-free isn't what they think it is, and they're not receptive to the argument that sentient nonhumans aren't ours to use. Now that I have some new sites (and thanks for the video–I'll post about it tomorrow!), maybe they'll be instrumental in helping my vegetarian friends understand that what's really going on is contrary to what they've been told.

    June 23, 2008
  3. Bea Elliott #

    "My guess is that most vegetarians simply have no idea what it takes to produce their beloved cheese"….. that was me. "Ethical" vegetarian for 5 years – till I (accidentally) discovered "factory farmed" and swore to "vegan" overnight. You don't need to know "my vegan story" except to illustrate indeed that there is a world of deliberate, sinful omissions in the egg and dairy industries.

    Similar to those who kill more beings by reducing red meat in lieu of "poultry"….. most "vegetarians" compensate their diet by consuming abnormally large amounts of cheese and eggs. In this respect, Peaceful Prarie's message is urgently clear: Veganism is loosing headway.

    Cruelty in slaughterhouses is obvious and inescapable to most….. Intensive confinement, Cafo's, Factory "farms", and the billions of "wrong sex" murders has to be the focus of the movement or we're just spinning our wheels……

    June 23, 2008
  4. "I suppose those who cling to their milk and eggs see no reason to be 'extreme' or 'fanatical.' They also must not have an urgent need for consistency, either."

    To be fair, consistency is over-rated and often unrealistic. We're not perfect human beings and we'll always have some inconsistencies.

    I clung to milk and eggs for so long in large part due to the real and perceived impracticality of veganism. If you do not have total control over your environment, it's impossible to be a complete vegan. (That's why prison inmates sometimes have to sue in order to get vegan meals.) In junior high school, when I first attempted veganism, omnivorous kids messed with my food (and toothpaste once) to make it nonvegan. Outright hostility like that coupled with things like restaurants that lie about ingredients, etc, I simply gave up and said to myself that vegetarianism was more practical.

    I knew it was wrong to eat dairy and eggs, but… I was vegetarian, and that's more than most people so I justified it as enough. Something really is better than nothing. I still think that's true. And I still celebrate anyone's decision to go vegetarian. I urge veganism, but I never act like vegetarianism isn't a fantastic thing to do. It is.

    Quite honestly, when I was a vegetarian I had a very hard time distinguishing between the vegans who told me vegetarianism was hypocritical and the omnivores who said the same thing. The arguments are the same when based on consistency. Both the vegan and the omnivore says, "Your vegetarianism is BS and you shouldn't be a hypocrite, so come be like me instead." It's a stupid argument because consistency isn't a worthy goal.

    We're humans, we're fallible, we're inconsistent.
    We should strive to be better, not strive to be consistent.

    June 24, 2008
  5. Elaine,

    I think perfection is an unrealistic goal, but that consistency is a way of saying you'd like to avoid hypocrisy if you can, and I think that's realistic. I'm not equating consistency with perfection.

    I do agree that the average person living in mainstream American society in 2008 will not be 100% vegan because of all of the items they come in contact with, even in a day.

    I can see how both vegans and omnivores would say vegetarianism is hypocritical. It's like taking a stand–but not really. But that's assuming the vegetarian has all the information. However, I'm realistic and think that many vegetarians probably don't know what is involved in the "production" of eggs and dairy, so calling them hypocritical is ridiculous as theirs is more a matter of not having information.

    June 24, 2008
  6. PS
    I'm pretty sure that people who were raised vegetarian are more likely to go vegan than people who were raised omnivorous. So there is another reason to promote vegetarianism (if you're inclined) because it can easily be an incremental/generational shift towards veganism.

    I don't know how accurate it is, but the Vegetarian Journal 2005 poll on veg youth said,
    "The vegan figure fits our past estimates of one-third to one-half of vegetarians being vegan. From our observation, this appears to have changed greatly in the last 20 years. For example, in a 1992 Vegetarian Times survey, the magazine stated that 4 percent of self-reported vegetarians from the general population were vegan, avoiding all animal products, including milk, cheese, and eggs. It seems surprising that today such a large number of youth are vegan, but perhaps those born in the U.S. who become “true vegetarians” (never eat meat, fish, or fowl) and who remain vegetarian tend to become vegan."

    My younger sister is a good example of this. She was raised vegetarian and so her attitudes about food are somewhat similar to the habitual animal eating of many omnivores. And in fact, she doesn't much like most animals and she never, ever tries to convert anyone to vegetarianism. She wouldn't be vegetarian if she hadn't been raised that way, but since she was, she's far more open to vegan persuasion than the average omni.

    June 24, 2008
  7. Dan #

    I agree with Mary that many L-O “vegetarians” simply are not aware of how much cruelty and torture is involved in eggs and dairy products (including the new so-called “humane” alternatives). In fact, from purely a treatment standpoint, and ignoring the use question (the only answer to which is veganism), one is much better off giving up eggs and dairy and just eating meat if avoiding cruelty is the concern.

    For those who ARE aware, it is not just a matter of a little inconsistency or impurity; on the contrary, being an L-O “vegetarian” for ethical reasons is like avoiding brown cows in favor of black and white cows – laughably arbitrary and nonsensical. If one judges omnivores in the role of an L-O “vegetarian”, then one is guilty of gross hypocrisy also, not merely the innocuous, subtle hypocrisy that is universal in human nature.

    In short, the L-O “vegetarian” diet makes no sense from any standpoint: health, ethical, whatever. It is grossly arbitrary to anyone who has all of the relevant information and knowledge at hand.

    June 24, 2008

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