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Vegan Outreach is a 501(c)(3)
nonprofit organization dedicated to
reducing the suffering of farmed animals
by promoting informed, ethical eating.

Donations to VO are fully tax-deductible.
VO’s tax identification no. is #86-0736818.

Vegan Outreach
POB 1916, Davis, CA 95617-1916

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Enewsletter

Vegan Outreach Enewsletter  •  January 18, 2002

 

Another Resolution

Contents

 

Announcements

First Run of Vegan Outreach Ad; E Magazine Articles on Vegetarianism

Take a look at the Jan./Feb. issue of E Magazine (cover story online). On p. 19, you will see Vegan Outreach's ad.

Do We Matter?

In an article accompanying the cover story, the author concludes:

Both the environmental and animal rights communities make convincing arguments about the best way to proceed toward a bright future, but they have vastly different ways of looking at the world. And rather than a unifying force, vegetarianism has become something of a litmus test that some animal activists use to exclude would-be allies…. Davy Davidson, the San Francisco-based owner of Vegtime … would be happy if every environmentalist became a vegan, but she realizes that isn’t likely to happen soon. “Environmental people will go to such lengths to try and prove, for example, that beef can be raised in a sustainable way. I think, unfortunately, that they’re as loathe to give up their meat-eating habits as the average American.”


Here is a letter sent to E's editors (you can submit your own):

It is easy for us to criticize the prejudices of our grandfathers, from which our fathers freed themselves. It is more difficult to distance ourselves from our own views, so that we can dispassionately search for prejudices among the beliefs and values we hold.
Professor Peter Singer, Practical Ethics, 1993

To the Editor:

Unlike any other issue, the arguments surrounding vegetarianism bring into focus the basic motivation for an environmentalist. Is our primary drive enlightened self-interest, wanting clean air and water for ourselves and kin? Are we innervated by a certain set of desires, for natural spaces and charismatic macrofauna? Or are we environmentalists for reasons larger than our personal well-being and desires? Can we think beyond ourselves and the norms of society? Do we recognize and oppose the suffering of others, regardless of race, class, or species?

The best an environmentalist can do is to help lead forward the evolution of our ethics. As pointed out by The Economist (8/19/95), “Historically, man has expanded the reach of his ethical calculations, as ignorance and want have receded, first beyond family and tribe, later beyond religion, race, and nation. To bring other species more fully into the range of these decisions may seem unthinkable to moderate opinion now. One day, decades or centuries hence, it may seem no more than ‘civilized’ behavior requires.”

Sincerely,
Matt Ball, Vegan Outreach

 

No Good "Cheeses"?

In a recent issue of Spam, Matt wrote: "there are no good vegan 'cheeses' out there." Several members contacted him about this, saying that the Tofutti slices are very good. Another member says Soya Kaas Vegan cheese is very good and melts.

 

News

From Time Magazine:

"Playing Chicken With Our Antibiotics: Overtreatment is creating dangerously resistant germs"


From the Sacramento Bee:

"Vegging Out: For vegetarians, food can represent one of travel's biggest challenges"


Genetic basis for lactose intolerance revealed

 

Feature Article

A number of Vegan Outreach members have written lately, stating that one of their New Year's resolutions is to increase their efforts for the animals. At the end of last year, we ran excerpts from "Tips for Spreading Veganism", from the Vegan Advocacy Booklet. Here, we excerpt from another advocacy essay, "Activism and Veganism Reconsidered: Personal Thoughts at the New Millennium" (Formerly: Veganism: The Path to Animal Liberation).

 

The Vegan Outreach Approach to a Better World

—Matt Ball

In the U.S., given the quantity of non-human animals suffering, the extent to which they are suffering, and the reason they are intentionally made to suffer, I believe that animal liberation is the moral imperative of our time. Our entire focus should be on ending the suffering as efficiently and quickly as possible. What is the best way to go about this?

During the time the AR movement has been visible in the U.S. (since ~1980), AR activists have stopped some abuses, received media attention, and become a fixture of pop culture. Yet after two decades, with hundreds of millions of dollars spent and possibly a similar number of hours of work devoted, almost twice as many animals will be killed in the U.S. this year as were killed in 1980. This is mostly due to an increase in meat consumption.

Over 99% of the animals killed in the U.S. each year die to be eaten:

  • Animals killed for fur - approximately equal to the population of Illinois
  • Animals killed for experimentation - approximately equal to the population of Texas
  • Mammals and birds killed for food - approximately equal to one and two-thirds the entire population of the Earth.

Because most people eat animals, society as a whole believes that animals are tools and commodities. There are a million symptoms of this view, and visible abuses constantly demand our attention. These include canned hunts, circuses, cockfighting, fur, horse-racing, etc. This cycle will continue until there is a fundamental change in society. The only way to make this happen is by convincing people to stop eating animals. In fact, we don’t need a majority in order to make a huge reduction in animal suffering by spreading veganism: if 5% of Americans were to stop eating animals, more suffering would be prevented than if we completely abolished every other form of animal exploitation in the U.S.

In my years of activism, I have come to believe it is not possible to make a blanket statement that a specific tactic is unquestionably positive or always harmful, given the wide range of animal abuses and the various situations in which activists find themselves. Just as we must decide where to focus our limited resources, we must choose tactics in the larger context of our goals. Why are we doing this (e.g., is it because of anger and guilt, or because it is a strategic step that serves our larger goal)? What is the most probable outcome? What effect will it have on the public? On other activists? What other activities could we do with the same time and resources, and would one of those options have a greater effect overall? I believe that we have an obligation to ask these questions.

For all these reasons and more, Vegan Outreach focuses on promoting veganism. Spreading information about how veganism prevents animal suffering helps to move individuals (and thus society) away from relying on animal exploitation for a fundamental, daily activity—eating. Once individuals have broken their attachment to a daily reliance on animal exploitation, it is much easier for them to reject all animal exploitation, rather than just the high-profile abuses committed by others. As more people understand and act by the tenets of veganism, it will be significantly easier for others to join them. This will bring pressure to bear on other animal issues, and achievement of our goals will be accelerated.
Promoting veganism brings about the fundamental change that is needed. Done at a reasonable pace, it can sustain activists who would otherwise burn out in the face of endless “battles."

How to go about promoting veganism is a subject of much debate. Many activists believe the health argument to be the most effective for promoting vegetarianism because it is the least threatening and appeals to people’s self-interest. We question whether this is really the best tactic for the following reasons:

  • Even if ethics is not as effective as the health argument at initially persuading some people, those who are motivated to change based on ethics will be better spokespersons for veganism. In the promotion of animal liberation, each individual’s example and actions as a spokesperson are at least as important as the economic impact their individual choices have. Promoting a “plant-based” diet for health reasons reinforces the idea that animal suffering is not worthy of concern. It delays the time when we, as a society, will come to terms with our treatment of animals.
  • Diets based on health claims are subject to further change based on new, low-fat animal products and fad diets (The Zone, Eat Right for Your Type, etc.). People who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet to feel healthier will resume consuming animal products if they feel no improvement. Because they do not necessarily have their hearts into being vegetarian or vegan, they often will not experiment with it long enough to find a way of eating that makes them feel healthy. This can have far-reaching, negative effects as they go on to tell others how unhealthy they felt when they were veg.
  • In the past twenty years, the number of animals killed has skyrocketed because of the move toward eating more chickens and fish, brought about in part because of people trying to eat less red meat for health reasons.
  • Health claims regarding the benefits of vegetarianism can often be exaggerated and/or incomplete. Because so many people have health questions regarding a vegetarian diet, all activists should honestly educate themselves with current and complete nutritional information. When people ask about health, we can confidently state that a vegan diet can be healthy and explain which nutrients might be of concern. (See this page for the information Vegan Outreach considers the most up-to-date, scientifically-thorough, and trustworthy).

In addition to being honest about why we choose veganism, we must pay close attention to the example we set. It is unlikely that people will even listen to our message—let alone think about changing—if they perceive vegans as joyless misanthropes obsessed with minutia. There often appears to be a contest among vegans for discovering new connections to animal exploitation (of course, links can be found everywhere if one looks hard enough). This attitude makes us appear fanatical and gives many people an excuse to ignore our message.

The vast majority of people in our society have no problem gnawing on an actual chicken leg. Yet we make an issue of honey, despite the fact that insects and other animals are killed in the process of planting, raising, harvesting, and transporting our vegan food. It is no wonder that many people dismiss us as unreasonable and irrational when they are told (or when it is implied by our actions) that they must not eat veggie burgers cooked on the same grill with “meat,” drink wine, take photographs, use medications, etc.

It is imperative for us to realize that if our veganism is a statement for animal liberation, veganism cannot be an exclusive, ego-boosting club. Rather, we must become the mainstream. Fostering the impression that “it’s so hard to be vegan—animal products are in everything,” and emphasizing animal products where the connection to animal suffering is tenuous, works against this by allowing most to ignore us and causing others to give up the whole process out of frustration.

The attractive idea behind being a vegan is reducing one’s contribution to animal exploitation. Buying meat, eggs, and/or dairy creates animal suffering—animals will be raised and slaughtered specifically for these products. But if the by-products are not sold, they will be thrown out or given away. As more people stop eating animals, the by-products will naturally fade, so there is no real reason to force other people to worry about them in order to call themselves vegan.

No matter how many chants we shout, no matter how many sound bites we gain or “enemies” we defeat, animal liberation will not occur until we join with everyone in a vegan world. If there is to be a fundamental change in the manner in which other animals are viewed—if there is to be animal liberation—there can be no “us and them.”

There is hope for animal liberation if and only if we learn how to help people get past their wall of denial and manifest their latent compassion. To succeed, our interactions with others must be rooted in empathy and understanding—working with and from a person’s motivations, fears, desires, and shortcomings. Instead of approaching with a “fighting” mindset, which necessarily makes people defensive and closed to new ideas, we should provide people with information that they can digest on their own time and act upon at a sustainable pace. Only then will real progress be made.

 

Every Donation Prevents Suffering

Vegan Outreach is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the suffering of farmed animals by promoting informed, ethical eating.

All donations are tax-deductible.

Vegan Outreach

POB 30865, Tucson, AZ 85751-0865