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.