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The Animals We Use

After failing miserably at a long pamphlet in 2007, I decided to shorten it by 50% and focus on a different audience: people who use animals. I think part of the original work’s problem was that it was too ambitious–not to mention expensive to produce–and everything suffered. I wanted to reach people who use animals, but also people who don’t, yet who nevertheless advocate for the regulation of the use of animals or give money to organizations that do.

This pamphlet, by the way, is the same one I gave to someone whose response was: The argument for using animals isn’t the problem. The argument’s flawless. It’s just not gonna stop me from eating a steak if that’s what I want to eat.

So we already know that, at least for some people, words aren’t going to make them care. Words, apparently, do not engender empathy. Or a desire for justice. For that, we need images, I’m afraid. We need to see individual animals and read/hear their stories.

And we need support. I don’t know what the effectiveness of online support is, but I do know that talking to people, eating with them, shopping with them, surfing the Internet with them, sharing cooking tips with them, cooking for and with them, and making yourself available for sharing the emotional and social difficulties of a transition from using animals to using them less, does work. That’s what I do, and it works, as in–people go vegan and stay vegan.

Thinking Critically About The Animals We Use can be printed on one 11 x 17 sheet and folded in half and isn’t designed to make anyone into an activist. But it is designed to help its readers face their own rationales for continuing a behavior that they themselves probably don’t agree with. Like part of the original, it traces the conversations I have over and over again, with good people who simply aren’t educated about what’s involved in the use of animals, or they are, yet they continue to not align their actions with their knowledge and what they believe to be right.

And that disconnect is deadly and reeks of injustice.


I thought about calling the pamphlet Thinking Critically About The Ways We Use Animals, but liked the current title because I wanted to bring attention to The Animals first. I did create a but of a grammatical issue, but I’m not sure if it’s a distracting one. What do you think?

22 Comments Post a comment
  1. Great idea!
    I, too, have been thinking about who are we talking to when we advocate veganism. And I believe the simpler and self-explanatory the message, the better it's got!
    Things like answering "thanks, I don't use animals" and "(whyyy?) because of respect", "because animals feel as we do", etc.

    January 5, 2011
  2. Deb #

    I love the new pamphlet (of course I loved the old one too), and I'm really excited to make some copies to put out at PSAS. For the people who visit the sanctuary, I really think this is the perfect approach in a pamphlet. It's approachable, they'll pick it up for the cute pictures alone, and they have all kinds of resources to use.

    I did not even notice the grammatical issue so it was not distracting for me!

    The only possible things I would consider updating is on the first page when you are talking about sentience, and you list specific animals, I wonder if there is a way to keep that more general or do something to make it clear that it's not a complete list.

    Also, would it make sense to note somewhere in there that animal agriculture impacts wild animals as well – both in terms of policy (ranchers and F&W officials killing wildlife so they don't compete with or prey on cows) and habitat destruction?

    I guess that might be over-reaching the scope, but it would be great to mention wildlife/the environment in some way.

    January 5, 2011
  3. @Pablo – Thanks! Whenever I say "use animals" to most people, they get a strange look on their faces. They've clearly never thought of it that way.

    @Deb – Great ideas. I'll e-mail you about them. I mentioned the animals at the beginning because I was thinking "food," as that's responsible for such a large number. By general, do you mean: mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians? That might be a better idea.

    January 6, 2011
  4. I like it very much. It's the best vegan education brochure available. I'm looking forward to translating it and give it out everywhere.

    It was handy to restrict the topic to "use" and that it fit a sheet.

    I missed one thing in the "Now what?" section, an encouragement to get active in educating others and advocate for social change. It only mention personal consumption and support of other organizations.

    A problem that's common for this kind of material is that it's very US- centered. It talks about spesific US conditions and therefore cuts itself of from an international audience. I mentioned this to Vegan Outreach too. This is not a big problem with this brochure, only minor formulations about "we americans" and "our country", that I'll edit away to make it more general for my Norwegian translation.


    January 6, 2011
  5. @Arild – My thinking about further Now What is that, in my experience, asking people to eat fewer animals and transition to veganism is the very least I can do, and frankly, it's probably the MOST they're going to do at first. I also wanted to say: "And on the upside, it's not like you have to join some group or campaign." In a way, it comes from learning to lower my expectations. A lot. And from the reality that this is probably nearly overwhelming as it is. I simply don't think most people have it in them to respond for a plea for social justice *the first time they're encountering this kind of information.* Yes, they should be doing much more, but realistically? Not yet.

    As for it being US-centered, I agree. I actually made it a point to make it clear that I'm from the US (as if you can't tell) because I really don't feel comfortable claiming to speak for people all over the world.

    If there's anything you'd like to change for your edition, I'm happy to do that for you if you'd like.

    And thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

    January 6, 2011
  6. Deb #

    @Mary – what first caught my eye about the animals listed was that pigs were missed! And so then I looked closer and realized that turkeys weren't on the list either, and that got me thinking about how long that list would be if we were to list all the animals that people eat just in this country. I think no matter how many specific species you listed, you'd miss someone, so yes I do like the idea of going with something like your suggestion, "mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians".

    A potential issue with that approach is it misses the opportunity that might arise from listing cat and dog along with farmed animals, and the way it might make people think a bit harder.

    Something to think about anyway!

    January 6, 2011
  7. In terms of the possibilities and challenges of vegan living, there's not big difference between US and Europe or the middle and upper class anywhere in the world. It's a matter of class, not nationality. So I don't think the americanized perpective so common for advocay material is helpful. It's a turn-off because large part of the world hate the USA. In Norway, as in other european countries I quess, people have this nationalromantic view of the conditions in their own country, and think cruel conditions of factory farming is mainly an american problem -specially when the example that's given is from there. We only speak for our self, but we shouldn't associate our self with only our own country. The main message and questions of this excellent piece is universal.

    As I said, I only find this a minor problem. For the translation I'll make suggestions for some very small changes, like a couple of words or formulations. When I've translated it I'll send it to you so you can approve it.


    January 7, 2011
  8. @Deb – and GOATS! Every time I meet someone who says she's a vegan but eats goat cheese (first of all-wtf?), I send her to HumaneMyth and Cheri's story: and recommend they see Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home. I think I'll ask Jonathan Balcombe for a sentence.

    @Arild – yes, class is definitely an issue. And every time I leave this country I am made aware of how viscerally many people hate us (not that that's not clear from right here in my living room).

    I welcome suggestions, now and in the future.

    January 7, 2011
  9. Why no graphic images? In my experience, graphic images help break through the speciesist barrier and create empathy for other animals. The reality of factory "farms", slaughterhouses, and other places of horror is ugly. We ought to expose the hidden truth to the public and encourage them to take action by going vegan and supporting abolition.

    Matt Ball from Vegan Outreach makes a perceptive point when he says:
    "Of course, we know that exposing what goes on in factory farms and slaughterhouses isn’t going to change everyone. But at this time, there simply is no magic argument that will change everyone. Although there are always exceptions, we have found that arguments that avoid the horrors of meat production are generally not compelling enough to create consistent change. We don’t want people to nod in agreement and continue on as before. At this time, it is far better if 95% of people turn away revolted and 5% consider the animals’ plight, than if everyone smiles politely and continues on to McDonald’s for a 'healthy' chicken sandwich or salad."

    January 8, 2011
  10. Brandon,
    I do think it's true that graphic images help, particularly when it comes to empathy, as I said.

    "So we already know that, at least for some people, words aren't going to make them care. Words, apparently, do not engender empathy. Or a desire for justice. For that, we need images, I'm afraid. We need to see individual animals and read/hear their stories."

    I didn't think twice about using the photos from the original, though, because I also believe that looking into the eyes of an individual is powerful and that individual doesn't have to be suffering for you to consider him/her.

    January 8, 2011
  11. Why not juxtapose images of a happy individual with a suffering individual? I think this approach will help make it more effective.

    January 8, 2011
  12. It's very many pro-animal leaflets and brochures that display horror graphics already, we don't need another one of those. And it doesn't fit with the critical thinking approach of this one. When we want people to read and think then disturbing images is turn-off. If we want to appeal to moral shocks, then it's enought with the graphics and a little text. Different approaches appeals to different people. I'm all i favour of a lot of different ones. But horror graphics doesn't fit this one.

    January 9, 2011
  13. Have you seen the "Respecting Animals…" pamphlet from Boston Vegan Association:

    It makes a logical argument for veganism and abolition while exposing the awful reality of factory "farms" and slaughterhouses. The photos included focus on the exploited individuals – juxtaposing those suffering as they are confined and slaughtered with those happy when they are rescued and living on a sanctuary.

    January 9, 2011
  14. Hey Mary, everyone:

    A couple of things. While I don't disagree with the sentiment (or the claim as it's made), it'll be tough to sell the notion that nonhumans possess morals or culture when I use this at a table. It's a small niggle, but inevitably goes to the heart of *why* humans disconnect themselves from nonhuman sentience in the first place. I suppose it's a bit of a no-win argument, really; when I've tabled with other handouts in the past, inevitably there's at least one (usually more) person who says they only ever eat "humanely slaughtered" animals who were "humanely raised." Relying on suffering alone isn't enough, but suffering is *all* folks tend to pay attention to. The idea that nonhumans are anything more than automatons with a capacity for pain sensation tends to be too large a leap for folks to take, at least within the context of doing a table and handing them something to read.

    On a related note, I wonder if it's worth noting some specifics around the myths of humane marketing? We're really (REALLY) fond of telling ourselves that oodles of the animals we use have been treated "humanely" (which we're all aware is largely marketing, and largely a myth, but a darned persistent one) thereby rendering use a moot question.

    January 11, 2011
  15. The Boston pamphlet – It's good, but I' not overly enthusiastic about it. It reminds me of brochures I've seen before from Vegan Outreach or Vegan Society, but with twists to fit Francione's abolitionist approach. The frontpage is nice, but the title seems a bit too obvious. I don't disagree with it, but I think it's a turn-off for many people, that just think "oh, another vegan propaganda thing", and might feel slightly offended because it implisit says that they don't show respect.

    The definition of veganism that reduce it to consumerism, to avoidance of animal ingredients gets a bit to narrow. And I've never been a big fan of the cat/dog analog – that it's no morally relevant difference between them the one that's sent for slaughter – so what? I understand that one want to appeal to people affection for pets, but it's not like pets are treated with genuine respect either, their still seen as subhuman. And we should not idealize petkeeping.

    The focus on conditions of factory farming in US makes it not that fit for us living in the world outside.

    January 11, 2011
  16. "The idea that nonhumans are anything more than automatons with a capacity for pain sensation tends to be too large a leap for folks to take"

    The animal movement is partly to blaim for that since the message they give in their outreach ofte portrait animals as sentient biomass as opposed to inviolable subjects.

    January 11, 2011
  17. Thanks Mary for creating this new and improved version of the original pamphlet. I like the series of questions you put to the reader… It helps when people must answer specific questions which we know inevitably will invalidate their reasons for using animals. And even if they don't answer those questions there and then – You've planted the very important seeds from which good thoughts/clear thinking will grow.

    And as always thank you for helping guide me on my journey… And for all you do for the animal people. <3

    January 11, 2011
  18. @veganimal: "The animal movement is partly to blaim for that since the message they give in their outreach ofte portrait animals as sentient biomass as opposed to inviolable subjects."

    Perhaps (no particular disagreement from me if your target here are moneyed organizations with a need to appeal to a non-vegan donor base) but essentially misses the point. Mary Martin isn't PETA or HSUS or the animal movement in general. She's asking for comment on a specific piece of writing.

    January 11, 2011
  19. veganimal, I agree that the BVA pamphlet isn't perfect – it's true that dog/cat comparison is primarily a pyschological one, as breeding animals for "pets" is still exploitation (see, from Ida Hammer: I've made suggestions to the BVA last year and in 2009, but it seems they are weddded to promoting Francione's theory, which has problems, too:

    Have you seen LOVE's "You Can Help Stop This" pamphlet?:

    It documents speciesist oppression while promoting veganism, anti-speciesism, and liberation. Also see the video LOVE created at

    Just as with Mary's pamphlet, you have to print the LOVE pamphlet at home.

    For those who need literature in large quantities and don't have the money to print materials, I recommend:

    – "Why Vegan?" (order from Vegan Outreach):

    – "Vegan Starter Kit" (order from In Defense of Animals):

    Both cover factory "farms" and slaughterhouses, but considering that 98% (or more) animals exploited for food go through industrial systems, what's wrong with this focus? You can also use "Don't Buy The Myth" pamphlets from along with any of these.

    January 13, 2011
  20. Thanks for the tips:) The LOVE pamphlet looks interesting.

    January 16, 2011
  21. Thanks for sharing. Education is important. People can't shift there ways if they don't have the knowledge to make educated decisions. Also, they can't change what they don't acknowledge.

    July 11, 2011
  22. peace #

    I like your brochure and mostly agree with it, but I disagree with the inclusion of Nathan Winograd's argument that there is no pet overpopulation. The argument that pet overpopulation doesn't exist was originally advanced by animal industry and breeder groups like the National Animal Interest Alliance. Winograd has since become a hero to breeders because he lets them off the hook. The Center for Consumer Freedom champions him. He himself also has some shady connections that indicate he is obviously NOT an animal rights person.

    Any tour of a shelter indicates that there obviously IS still a serious problem with the overpopulation of unwanted cats. Entire litters of kittens are surrendered at a time.

    October 26, 2011

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