Single Issue Discussion, 2

This post is in response to my assertions about Single Issue Campaigns, and is continued from the first follow up discussion post.  The comments I’m responding to are italicized.

Thanks. That does help clarify. Part of what bothered me about your post is that it didn’t seem to convey what you actually believe. I also think this is the most important issue among abolitionists, and it is really important to address, head-on, the precise points raised by opponents of your view. Of course that may not have been the goal of your post. ;) That was just my initial reaction to it.

I do appreciate the feedback.  The goal of writing what I did was really to get some concepts off my chest, which have not been adequately addressed in opposing arguments to Single Issue Campaigns.  Someone once told me that eliminating the use of fur is like freeing only slaves named “Bob” — it wasn’t complete enough.  And yet when we (arguably) freed the slaves called Homo Sapiens, that was lauded as a huge victory (and of course it is).

The fact is, there are multiple species of animals that would not be used by humans if they aren’t used for fur – that matters to all the creatures living in tiny cages who would not be there if people would stop wearing their skins.  It matters to all those baby seals (and their families).

Sometimes I think some abolitionists are trying to say that we should work to save the forests, but that it’s somehow wrong to protest the cutting down of pine trees or oak trees or birch trees.  When all the oak, pine, and birch trees are gone, what will be left of the forest to save?  Furthermore, if single beings matter to us, then single injustices need to be addressed and protested.  Massive injustices are made up of these.

I also worry about putting things out there that may:

1. Encourage people with less knowledge of the issues to embrace anything that sounds like it might be a good idea, anything that “helps nonhuman animals now” when actually we don’t know if it is a good idea or even have evidence that it probably isn’t. I felt like your story seemed to do that. I realize you are aware of the issues, but many of your readers may not fully understand the issues, or even know that they are there at all. It makes intuitive sense to “do whatever we can to help now” even though that may not always be the best course of action in the long run.

My supervisor at work sometimes has to remind me (rightly so), not to “overthink the problem.”  Is there ever a situation where AR advocates think it’s wrong to stop wearing fur… or eating meat?  People who have “less knowledge of the issues” can still do these things, even while being educated.  Learning something is generally a process and a journey, but not wearing fur or eating meat right now… do matter.

The sticky wicket with vegan education alone is that, in order for people to become educated, they have to be willing to learn and then act on that knowledge.  For example, Sea World has apparently failed to “learn” that keeping wild animals in swimming pools is a problem, and even if they know it, they aren’t acting on it.  But get enough (lawful, non-violent) social pressure on Sea World and other aquatic animal prisons… and their closure will become meaningful not only to the animal called “Tilikum,” but all those animals named Orcinus Orca as well as many others.

Put another way, do we care why someone doesn’t rape or murder us?  We would like for people to understand that it’s morally wrong and choose to do the morally right thing… but if we are seeking justice, it becomes imperative to protect individuals from those harms, whether or not a woud-be perpetrator understands all the issues that make rape and murder morally wrong.  Again, by all means, the effort to educate them should be there… but by itself, it’s not enough to ensure justice.

2. Give opponents reason to dismiss the supporters of abolitionist SICs (I’m not sure what the best way to refer to them is) as having no substantive claims. I didn’t feel like you really addressed the issues in your post, and I felt like you didn’t make what are actually the strongest arguments in favor of your view, one of which is laid out very nicely in the last paragraph of your response to my Twitlonger.

I’m afraid I don’t even know what an “abolitionist SIC” is (that in itself is a problem with specific definitions and jargon, noted by others in previous comments).  Sometimes there is a huge tendency in some philosophical circles – again – to overthink the problem.   Animal justice, like human justice IS intuitive.

The bottom line is, I do want to make it illegal for people to own elephants and orcas and other non-human animals.  For starters, I want them to stop being used in circuses in America.  That doesn’t negate my desire to see them not being used for other things, in other places… but it is within my reach to protest, write letters, and boycott circuses – and to encourage others to do the same.  Is there any usefulness to telling people that my efforts there are “misguided” or “confused”?  Again I would ask, who is really the misguided, confused person… the one who acts, or the one who is philosophically against but who fails to act?

I do agree that campaigns which argue that killing animals “humanely” are not useful.  I sincerely believe that these “happy meat/eggs/dairy” campaigns only serve to make people feel better about their injustice to animals.  Animal agriculture BANKS on convincing people that it’s okay to kill animals for food… many so-called animal welfare campaigns put forth by some large organizations are in full cooperation with that lie.

So that’s really the best explanation I have for why I defend “single issue” advocacy.  I don’t expect to convince anyone who has their mind made up otherwise, but I do think it’s valid.  What I’m proposing is action, and what I’m opposing is broad-brush criticism of those who are involved in activism.

And by the way, for those animals lovers out there who may not be vegan… loving animals means not using them – how loved would you feel if those around you were using you for food, clothing, entertainment, or making money by selling your offspring as “pets”?   I hope you will come to see that saving a cow is as meaningful as saving a dog or a baby seal.  But I wish you the best in saving whomever you can.

Single Issues, Discussion

This comment came from one of my Twitter Friends, so I’ll just address it here as a followup (mind you, I’m only on my first cup of coffee so bear with me):

@LeafyV you said: “I don’t see freeing human slaves as analogous to anything less than freeing animal slaves.”

What is an animal?  A chimpanzee?  An asian elephant?  A human?  We need to be careful not to make an “other” out of all animals versus our own species.  It’s not us and them.  It’s us, and a gazillion other species here on this planet, all interacting in various ecosystems and habitats.  Freeing human slaves is akin to freeing all of any other single species of non-human animal.

But if I wanted to start a campaign to free “all” asian elephants (Elephas maximus) from being owned by humans (Homo sapiens), some people would call that a “misguided” single issue campaign.  That’s why I say it is speciesist to say that emancipating all humans was a good and worthwhile, but emancipating… oh … I don’t know… all orcas… isn’t.  No one should be able to own an orca (or an elephant, or a chimpanzee) any more than they should be able to own a human.  I don’t think that is misguided at all, do you?

But suggesting that engaging only in vegan education is the same as standing around and watching animals die because they can’t all be saved doesn’t make sense and it seems insulting, though you may not have intended it that way. That may be a fair criticism of vegan non-activists, but vegan education does save lives, now and in the future.

I don’t think vegan education is worthless.  Some people write books, some people cook food, some people petitition the government to ban a hunt on a single species of wild animals. All are useful. All are needed.

The old man in the story who leaves the starfish to die, carefully avoids stepping on them and killing them himself, but he does leave them where they are.  Maybe he told some other people along the way that they also should not step on the starfish because it will kill them.  Maybe he goes back to his office and writes a book about not killing starfish, telling people it’s wrong to use the remains of any dead starfish regardless of how it died.  That’s a great thing, and I sincerely mean that.  Of course we’re all rooting for the kid who is actually picking those starfish up, and helping them out of a bad situation.   The kid is not telling the old man that his book is wrong, or that educating people about not killing starfish is wrong… he’s just… saving starfish.

The question is, what kind of activist do we want to be?  Granted this story is not a perfect analogy, but I think it’s fairly close.  I’m not criticizing any real or hypothetical book writers, or anyone else.  But the book writers should not tell the picker-uppers that throwing the starfish back in the water is somehow “misguided.”  Who is really misguided and confused here?

Many people think I have not read the arguments against single issue campaigns but they are mistaken.  I have read them, I do understand them, but I vehemently disagree that all of these campaigns are inherently wrong.  Some are wrongly implemented, some do send the wrong message… but in and of themselves, they are not wrong.

When you write, “If we reject campaigns against fur, meat, bashing baby seals, or any other specific injustice, what is left to promote in the real world? Nothing.” it sounds like you are denying that vegan education works, which I know is not what you believe.

I don’t deny that vegan education works, it should be used in tandem with whatever other activism people choose to do.  I question whether it works fast enough by itself to save the many species of animals that are disappearing from the earth because of our use of them and the rest of the natural world.  The habits of using animals is deeply ingrained over many generations of humans.  Extinction is forever.  It’s real and tangible, not philosophical.  And it’s happening very quickly.  Therefore we should not criticize those who peacefully and legally engage in tangible activisim, whether it is to free the furbearing animals from being trapped and farmed, or orangutans from losing their habitat.  Sometimes we have to criticize their methods or other messages they are sending… but saving a single species of any other animal is just as valuable as emancipating the single species of homo sapiens.

On the plus side, I love the look and feel of your blog! It’s beautiful :)

Aww thanks :)  I wish I could take credit for it LOL!

Anyway, I hope that clarifies my opinion, thank you for bringing the discussion, and I would be glad to talk more about it if anyone wants to.

In Defense of the “Single Issue”

Much ado has been made by some AR activists about the “profound lack of understanding” involved in advocating campaigns against fur, meat, pet abuse, and other activism that centers around one or another animal justice issue.  I understand the argument is that animals should not be “used” at all… it isn’t the treatment, it isn’t that furry animals are cute, or that we have social mores about eating or beating cats and dogs.  It would be nice if all people who called themselves “animal lovers” would first and foremost stop eating some and pampering others, and take a consistent moral ethic (i.e., go vegan).  That would obviously solve a great many problems we have with animal justice, and I do promote veganism on a daily basis.

But I don’t agree that these so-called “single issue campaigns” are somehow misguided.

When human slavery was outlawed in America, that freedom did not guarantee against other abuses of former slaves.  Indeed, in many cases, those who were freed continued to live on their former master’s land as sharecroppers, and lived much as  they had as slaves.  The social change involved in true freedom for former american slaves did not come until much later – and continues to evolve.  Even to this day, human slavery and trafficking exist – but we  continue to strive for a higher ideal for society, even though it has been a slow process.

I can’t imagine anyone in the abolition years shouting out to other activists that freeing the slaves would be useless, since it doesn’t address all human rights issues.   I believe it is nothing less than speciesist  to accept single issue campaigns for humans, but reject campaigns for specific animals.  Consider:  Child abuse, elder abuse, gay rights, women’s rights, minority rights, religious discrimination, racial discrimination… after all, perhaps some people advocate against child abuse because they feel that children are “cuter” than, say, elderly people.  Maybe they feel that women’s rights are more important than not being discriminated against for being pagan or Muslim.

Isn’t the bottom line about justice to all people?  And isn’t veganism about justice to all animals?   If we reject campaigns against fur, meat, bashing baby seals, or any other specific injustice, what is left to promote in the real world?  Nothing.  Out here in the real world, entire species of animals are becoming extinct by our use of them and their domesticated relatives, at a rate faster than chanting mantras about “vegan education” in the desert will save them.

I would end this post with a call to action and one of my favorite stories.

One day an old man was walking along the beach. It was low tide, and the sand was littered with thousands of stranded starfish that the water had carried in and then left behind. The man began walking very carefully so as not to step on any of the beautiful creatures. Since the animals still seemed to be alive, he considered picking some of them up and putting them back in the water, where they could resume their lives.

The man knew the starfish would die if left on the beach’s dry sand but he reasoned that he could not possibly help them all, so he chose to do nothing and continued walking.

Soon afterward, the man came upon a small child on the beach who was frantically throwing one starfish after another back into the sea. The old man stopped and asked the child, “What are you doing?”

“I’m saving the starfish,” the child replied.

“Why waste your time?… There are so many you can’t save them all so what does is matter?” argued the man.

Without hesitation, the child picked up another starfish and tossed the starfish back into the water… “It matters to this one,” the child explained.

Advocating is a verb… it means using our voices and doing what we can to effect change around us.   Donate to a sanctuary.  Help an animal rescue agency. Protest the fur industry, the horse racing industry, the pet breeding trade… whatever is within your reach.   It all matters to someone.

Me and the Cello

I have a new book.  The blog posts about saving the world will be slow for a while.

Sometimes I just do this… as one good friend told me – it’s a marathon, not a sprint.  Music re-charges my spirit.

Eenie Meenie… Chili Beanie!

I couldn’t choose just one recipe, so I combined elements of several.  This has distinctive southwest flavor and heat, by far the best chili I’ve made yet.  I did not measure anything very carefully, but this is the general outline – adjust it to your own liking!

Into a large crock pot, dump:
3-4 Cups Dry Beans – I used Navy and Pinto.  Black beans would also be great.
6 cups water (or half water and half beer – don’t use the good stuff!)
1 (8 oz) can tomato paste
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
3 or more stalks celery, chopped
1 Tbsp Cumin  – to taste
1 Tbsp Chili Powder – to taste- I used New Mexico, which is fairly mild
1-2 Tbsp Blackstrap Molasses – to taste.  This adds a nice flavor and reduces the acidity of the spicy ingredients a little.
Fresh chopped cilantro (Like it a lot? Use a lot. Don’t like it? Leave it out)

In a large skillet, saute the following:
A little oil
2 Shallots, chopped
1 Yellow Onion, chopped
Chili Peppers, chopped, to taste.  I had 3 small red chilis from this year’s garden, still hanging around.  Hot little devils they were though!
5-6 Tomatoes, peeled and chopped. I had 6 of this year’s tomatoes from the garden, frozen

Add the spices and cook a bit longer (don’t let them burn):
1 Tbsp Smoked Paprika
1 Tbsp Cumin
1 Tbsp Chili Powder

To the skillet of goodies, add, mix, and simmer on low heat until water is evaporated (or mostly evaporated):
2 Cups dry TVP
1.5 Cups water
2-3 Tbsp Soy sauce (to taste)

Add contents of the skillet to contents of the crock pot and simmer on low until the beans are tender.  The length of time for this will depend on whether or not you pre-soaked/pre-cooked the beans.  If you’re in a hurry, you can use canned beans, but you may want to reduce the amount of soy sauce you use, if you are concerned about sodium.

Serving suggestion – I made Chili Sweet Potato Fries – Yum!!!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

These are quite tasty and my fiance ate them for dinner.

2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
1 (15 1/2 ounce) can solid pumpkin puree – I used 2 cups of pumpkin that I grew, baked and pureed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or plain cinnamon)
12 ounces vegan semisweet chocolate chips

Cream the sugar, oil, pumpkin and vanilla together. Mix until well blended. In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and spices. Stir the flour mixture into the creamed mixture. Stir gently until combined. Add the chocolate chips. Mix together. Drop by teaspoonsful onto an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake at 375 degrees F. for 12 – 15 minutes.

Vegan pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

The (Not) Secret In A Gadda Da Vegan’s Other Blog

“Please Lord, WHY is she making another blog?” *weep*

Well, for one thing, I have a blog with a readership that is not vegan.  I’ve come to see it as a place for helping promote veganism to the general public, and share great recipes with those who are inclined to try them.

But there are topics I’d like to write about to share ideas with other vegans and activists.  Those topics aren’t always appropriate or of interest to readers of the other blog.  This is where those will appear.

This is in no way a secret blog for my alter-ego… just an alternative venue.  There will likely be some cross-over between the two sites.  Hopefully my fellow vegans will find this alternate blog of interest, or if not, hopefully I will find it a useful place to spout nonsense that no one else cares about ;)