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The Animal Person Minute: On Non-Violence and Books for Newbies


Today’s photo is my first crack at vegan chocolate chip scones with the recipe from Colleen from Compassionate Cooks‘ book The Joy of Vegan Baking. I could’ve left them in for another couple of minutes and browned them up a bit, but I didn’t want the inside to get to crackly. They were fabulous, took like 20 minutes, and were gone in a day. And we didn’t have any visitors that day.

There are two topics I need some help with today. The first is a bit of a can of worms. I used Gary Francione‘s definition of the abolitionist approach in my pamphlet, but then I added a sentence of my own clarifying that non-violence includes intimidation, force, property damage and physical harm. Then it was brought to my attention that I might want to insert a sentence that says there is a debate about the definition of non-violence, particularly with regards to property damage. Now, I still think that’s violence, and I also think sexism is violence and I didn’t include it (though I thought about it), so I’m coming to you all for guidance.

I can’t ignore that there’s an issue, here, and I don’t want to make decisions for people. My job is to say: this is what’s going on. Now, what do you think about it? If, among abolitionists, there is enough of a split to warrant a comment, I need to be responsible and comment in a helpful, informative way. I’m a bit out of this particular loop and I’m asking for your help.

Thank you in advance.

And the second topic for today is another favor. A good friend who has been altering the way she does things, piecemeal, since I met her about seven years ago, recently read Jane Goodall’s Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating, and for some reason that was her tipping point and she is now on a mission. Each year, this friend gives a book to 20 powerful people she knows (as she says, "They’re stupid people, but very influential, very wealthy, stupid people"). As you may know, Goodall’s book, though pro-vegetarian, isn’t pro-vegan and definitely could result in happy meat-eatin’ readers.

So favor numero due for today, is: what book, and I’m telling you right now not to suggest an animal rights book, would you give to 20 clueless yet well-meaning people? Diet for a New America? (Okay, I’m dating myself here, but that book did it for me.) The Food Revolution? This is a crowd that includes inherited wealth, so I was thinking that John Robbins would be someone they could relate to on some level. My requirements would be: accessible for regular people, deals with the myriad environment issues, describes animal treatment (but doesn’t focus solely on it), explains prevalence of drugs/pesticides, genetic modification, and health. And if I forgot anything let me know. I’d probably stay away from Dr. Barnard’s books because this crowd will instantly say, "Oh, he’s the ED or President at some organization? He’s got an agenda!" I want the message to not start out with a bunch of strikes against it as it’s going to be tough enough as it is.

I’m grateful in advance for any help.

And the insane random bold of my post at Rethos has been fixed, by them I might add, as I wouldn’t know how to do such things. Plenty of people are reading it, which is fabulous, but it sure could use comments and some ratings if you like it.

Thanks in advance for that too.

17 Comments Post a comment
  1. Regarding your definition of violence, you can say something like "I define violence as….". It's your pamphlet, so stick to your agenda…otherwise you'll only confuse people.

    Regarding book suggestions, the obvious choice would be "Introduction to animal rights" by Gary Francione. Perhaps a book that might interest you (an easy read) is Victoria Moran's "Compassion the ultimate ethic: An exploration of veganism".

    October 16, 2007
  2. Wow, "I define violence as . . ." Why didn't I think of that? So simple.

    Thanks, Kenneth.

    The books can't be about animal rights, at least not obviously so. That just won't cut it with this crowd. It's got to be diet and environment. The biggest problem is going to be to find something that is mainstream enough and DOESN'T advocate "sustainable farming" and "humane yada yada yada."

    October 16, 2007
  3. Erica #

    Hi, Mary. This is my first comment here, but I've been reading for a few months now and find your blog to be amazing. Thanks so much for all that you do!

    Anyway, I think that the Robbins books you mention are a good idea (though I haven't read The Food Revolution). Fast Food Nation might be another good one? I read that awhile ago, so I can't remember if it sends any mixed messages regarding free range, happy meat, etc. I just remember having a very strong reaction to the descriptions of animal treatment after reading it (at the time, I was a new vegetarian and not yet vegan).

    Thanks again for all the wonderful information and insight!

    October 16, 2007
  4. megan #

    Keep your pamphlet simple.

    October 16, 2007
  5. Yes, Erica, Fast Food Nation would be a good book, but unfortunately it is just about fast food, and not meat consumption in general. I don't remember anything in the lines of happy meat etc. I believe it doesn't address the issue, though I may be mistaken. It's been ages since I've read that book.

    October 16, 2007
  6. Beth Erickson #

    Oh… this one's easy. Either of Howard Lyman's books work for me.

    Most people I encounter don't care about the state of factory farming. They just want their meat.

    However, mad cow definitely gives them a reason to pause.

    Howard's older, not remotely threatening, an ex-rancher, has a fantastic conversational writing style, been on Oprah, and is all around fabulous. His message resonates well with most people. He has a kick-butt DVD as well. Oh, and (in case you're unfamiliar with him) he's most certainly vegan.

    Highly recommended.

    My two cents,


    October 16, 2007
  7. IMHO if you are trying to make a pamphlet that is easy to understand and has impact, words should be used according to their most common current meaning. I think that would make violence physically hurting people and, for most people, also includes rape. If they are thinking about your defintions they may miss your central point. Is it crucial to define the term in this context? Would people using a less inclusive defintion walk away with a qualitatively difference message?

    October 16, 2007
  8. Deb #

    "Diet for a Dead Planet" might fit your bill, though it does focus on intensive animal agriculture. It is from an environmental standpoint, mostly, but it also talks about social justice, such as the poor communities that have the animal agriculture farms shoved down their throats, and then suffer the lowered property values, increased health issues, etc. The author also talks about the issues of slaughterhouse workers, which would apply even to the happy meat crowd (unless they think to avoid that by doing their own killing, I suppose – and those might be the people that are unreachable in any case).

    The author did not flinch away from describing the horrors of what the animals go through, but it is not an animal rights book, and the entire issue is actually addressed from an environmental and social justice point of view.

    October 16, 2007
  9. Deb #

    Oh, and I was starting to think the same thing as Emily – does non-violence need a definition in this pamphlet?

    October 16, 2007
  10. Such helpful info! I never heard of Diet for a Dead Planet, Deb. Thanks. I did offer Lyman to my friend, who was like, "How come Oprah isn't talking about this! We've gotta get on Oprah!" And I was like, "Um, where were you during that whole lawsuit thing? Oprah knows, has already done something, it sort of backfired a bit, she clearly isn't going veg anytime soon, and other than her purebred labs, she hasn't demonstrated she is open to seriously considering sentience." That might sound rude, but I have heard her say that God put animals on the planet for us, and although she is remarkable and has done wonderful things for the people of this world, I think our efforts are better if concentrated elsewhere.

    You know what? Forget non-violence. The nuances could very well be completely lost on newbies at best, and confuse at worst. It does have 2 parts though (nonviolence toward animals and nonviolence in strategy) and at most I'll state that and run, unless someone presents a compelling reason to do otherwise.

    October 16, 2007
  11. Ellie #

    That's an idea. Instead of explaining violence, defining non-violence may be the way to go. Most people who oppose violence don't include animals because they take animals and the industries which violate them for granted. True non-violence would include non-human beings.

    (Re: property damage, it's fortunate no one has been seriously hurt or killed– yet, but there's always a risk this can happen. For that and other reasons, I think it's a very bad idea.)

    October 16, 2007
  12. It sounds to me like you're getting into a lot of stuff with this pamphlet. What is the exact purpose? What is it you want a person to do once they've read the pamphlet. I know we're looking at literature that will convince people to go vegan for abolitionist animal rights reasons, even if they don't quite get every nuance of the theory. Anything that goes beyond that and starts getting into discussions about what is or is not controversial will diffuse the message, I'd think.

    As for the book, I think TFR is great, but some have taken issue with John's figures. What I like most about it is that it pitches living in alignment with our own best values, but some parts do come off a little new agey to more cynical people, and that could be a strike against it when it comes to more hard-edged types.

    October 16, 2007
  13. Mad Cowboy was a good idea, too.

    October 16, 2007
  14. This whole non-violence thing is over one sentence, but it's an important one, particularly if I do it incorrectly. When in doubt, leave it out, I always say . . .

    The Rethos post is over 2/3 of the pamphlet (and I've decided to leave out religion), so if you've seen that, add Deb's fabulous photos and there it is. By the end of the week I'll post the rest of the common beliefs and the Now What? section, which includes consumerism and philanthropy.

    October 16, 2007
  15. Hi Mary – yay! So glad you liked the scones. It's a rainy day here today – PERFECT for scones and tea. What time will you be over?? 🙂

    The ONE book I would give (besides Slaughterhouse by Gail Eisnitz) is Will Tuttle's World Peace Diet. Without a doubt.

    Off to cuddle with the cats before my day begins……

    October 17, 2007
  16. Dustin #

    Oh, I forgot about that one: World Peace Diet. I agree; that's a great book to give!

    October 17, 2007
  17. Porphyry #

    Famous Vegetarians and Their Favorite Recipes: Lives and Lore from Buddha to the Beatles
    by Rynn Berry

    While it does have vegetarian in the title, it is “just” a brief quirky history book after all. There are no health or disease claims, gruesome animal stories, calls for animal emancipation, or over-reaching goals for the reader to save the planet. This book does not advocate what the reader should or shouldn't do.

    Each vegetarian bibliography is short and concise in eloquent story-book prose, making the book very approachable. The reader can jump to any section and read about Paul and Linda McCartney, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mahatma Gandhi, Frances Moore Lappé or Leonardo da Vinci in whatever order of interest they please.

    The vegetarian bias of Berry is present as there is no way around that and it is probably better off that the reader is aware of it up front. However, the subject matter is meticulously researched. Nothing was written without first being substantiated by historical reference (although there is no extensive bibliography as it is not meant to be a reference book per se).

    Famous Vegetarians probably won’t make someone vegan overnight. However, it takes an innocuous approach that offers historic and rational defense of vegetarian practice.

    So while you may not get an immediate conversion, you have a good chance of getting an empathizer with a solid basic understanding of the ambitions of the movement.

    October 17, 2007

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