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.