The Celeb subculture of the AR world.

Not sure where to start here. It’s been a few weeks since I was smashed with a realization that, maybe, I should’ve seen before. Maybe it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise…but it did.

Mid-February I went to one of the first Los Angeles Pig Vigils. That’s a gathering of compassionate people who wait outside the gates of a slaughterhouse for the delivery trucks of animals and try to give the starving, dehydrated pigs a bit of food and/or water. It’s not gonna save the pigs, but what it does is bear witness to their lives, and give them a tiny moment of compassion and relief before being killed. It is a noble and worthy experience, and can be the only chance some people get to actually interact with the living being that would become human food.

But, like most Animal Rights protests or events, it is ripe for exploitation.

I actually had a great experience there. I found it organized very well by the organizers, the police, who maintained order, set the rules, and forced the trucks to stop for 5 minutes each, were kind, patient, and understanding of our feelings. The other activists were all friendly, kind, and like-minded. I knew I wasn’t saving any of these poor pigs, but it felt somewhat satisfying to, at least, be physically doing something, and be close to the animals I worry so much about, even if only for a moment. It was, as expected, incredibly moving and sad to witness such scared and confused animals, absolutely exhausted and starved for water. It’s an odd thing to simultaneously want to do it again and again…and never again. It would be completely understandable to hear someone say that it was too emotional for them and too upsetting. In fact, I’d EXPECT the average person to say that and never come back. However, I found it incredibly motivating, even in it’s sadness. I will not soon forget that night.

So, hey, great experience. What’s the frickin’ problem, right?

Well, I started to notice something a few days before the vigil, on the Facebook group page. There was, of course, information about when and where the vigil would be. There was suggestions of what to bring, how to behave, and what to expect. But there was also a pretty apparent element of who’s who, kind of, celebrity wow-factor going on. There was mention of a few ‘name’ activists (and, look, I’m not a hater. I’ve met some celebrity activists, and to be honest? They’ve all been super down to earth, and focused on the animals). But the day of the vigil, there was a post about a “special celebrity guest” coming that night, who they couldn’t reveal.

I have to admit, that irked me a bit. I wasn’t quite sure why, at first, and didn’t really dwell on it…but I certainly bumped on that post. I thought to myself, “Yeah. There’s gonna be a thousand ‘special guests’, they’re called pigs and they’re the reason we’ll be there. Let’s not lose focus.” So, when I got there, EVERYONE was super cool and nice and concerned and talking about the one reason we were there: The animals. That was good. I met a bunch of people, including the ‘name’ people, who were all very cool. Once the trucks showed up, everyone rushed the trucks. I felt sad for the pigs for the simple fact that they don’t know we’re there to help them. They can sense our emotions: our sadness, our urgency, our anxiety. It was chaos. I don’t critique the organization for that chaos, that’s just the way it goes. No one did anything wrong or especially ‘chaotic’, so I’m not suggesting it should’ve went down another way. It shouldn’t have. It was how it needed to be, but the pigs didn’t know our intentions. I hoped everyone else was conscious of that.

But, I noticed one uncomfortable thing throughout the night: Cameras. Lights and cameras. Video cameras, still cameras, simple iPhones, to iPhones on sticks, to DSLR’s, to DSLR’s on rigs, etc., etc. Now, it’s to be expected that we needed to document the night and share with the world that event and the truth about scared, doomed, pigs, which is why it’s so difficult to describe the problems I had that night (and following vigil). I get it. The AR movement NEEDS documentation, it also needs numbers. We need people to WANT to join us. No change will happen if the masses aren’t behind it. But, it’s super easy to slip into anthropocentrizing the movement, and a bunch of people selfie-ing themselves while they wander around the truck kinda puts the focus on them instead of the pigs. (Note: I get it, if it’s them TALKING about the pigs, isn’t that putting the focus on the pigs? Yeah, if they’re in their room or their car and their making a video about pig suffering, but if you’re LITERALLY next to a truck full of the pigs you’re suggesting we help, maybe put down the camera and give a pig some water).

What I noticed after that first night was so many pictures, posted on the Vigil’s facebook page, of just the activists with the handful of celebrities. I’m not going to name them here, because I know that they didn’t mean to make things about them, but that’s kinda what the lasting image of that night was. There were too many (in my opinion) photos of JUST activists with celebrity activists. The reason that is important is because what are we doing? We are shedding light on the last horrific hours and, especially, moments of these poor animals’ lives, in hopes to get people to see these animals as individuals, and also to bear witness, acknowledge their lives and worth, and hopefully offer an ounce of relief and kindness before they’re killed. But, when the images are of humans, arms around each others shoulders, NOT performing any relevant action for the animals, what is that saying? It’s saying: “Look at me. Look at me caring so hard. Look how hard I care with this other famous person who is caring so hard, too.” It’s anthropocentrism on a small scale…but it’s anthropocentrism all the same.

Like I mentioned above, it IS a thin line between promoting, mainstreaming, and attempting to attract more people to the movement. The ‘cool’ factor will always do that, and what better way to have ‘cool’ factor than to include people who are ‘cool’ representing the movement? I get it. BUT – it’s also kinda repulsive to see people posing and eye-blasting the camera on a night that ALL focus should be on the animals.

That first night was the intro to this realization for me, but one image from the following vigil were what sent me over the edge. After the following vigil (which I did not attend, not out of protest, I simply didn’t go to that one), I checked the Facebook page and I noticed more of the same: A few pictures/videos of the pigs in the trucks, and a few pictures of activists posing deliberately with each other – No animals or action involved.

But, the most egregious one – the one that sent me almost into a rage – was a photo of a known activist, who is a bit of a ‘name’ within the movement/scene, staring into the camera, almost absent-mindedly sticking a water bottle into a hole in the side of the pig truck. Not looking at what he was doing. Not, seemingly, noticing if a pig could even reach the damn water. Was there even a pig at that hole he was shoving water into? Not sure. I couldn’t tell from the profile image-style picture. Now, I admit, this could’ve been a snapshot from the one second this dude looked away from the truck. Maybe he was focused the other 99% of the time. But it sure didn’t look that way. The picture looked like someone who was more concerned with how they looked, and/or getting a good shot of them near the truck, than actually helping the pigs in their last moments alive. And what made it worse, was the only comment on the FB post was someone saying: “He’s so handsome”. I had a visceral reaction to it. It made me so angry. I guess it was the combination of this picture, the previous pictures I’d seen, and the selfie-style behavior that was happening at the vigil I attended previously. When the first of the trucks had pulled up that first vigil, many, many people rushed to the trucks, but more than I think was necessary were wandering around with their arms stretched out and phones facing them, ‘reporting’ into their phone cameras. One guy, specifically, was seeking out the celebrities in attendance and filming them and saying, “Oh! Here’s _______ here tonight!”. In those moments, it felt like some kinda award show after-party. It felt like there were tourists at an Animal Rights action. It felt sick.

(NOTE: I should say that the VAST majority of people there were NOT engaging in what seemed like celeb worship behavior. But, again, any is too much, and a dozen is much too much.)

At this point, I may sound like a whiny, overly strict, hypervegan. But I don’t care what I sound like. I don’t care what I look like. I care only about the well-being of the suffering animals. When there is already not NEARLY enough focus on cruelty to animals and the inherent suffering in simply the standard operations of the Ag Industry, we, in the movement, need to keep the attention on the suffering animals, NOT our interaction with suffering animals. It’s adjacent ideas, but very different ideas. And the best way I can distinguish my thoughts on the matter is:

– If there’s a fundraiser, or event, or party, or beerfest, or documentary screening, or vegan food event? Go nuts with pictures of ourselves and any and all ‘names’ in attendance. There are no animals there, these are examples of human events, designed by and for humans, to spread awareness or just congregate with likeminded people. There is no reason not to illustrate the event through the human lens.

– If there’s a vigil where there are live pigs, if there is an event where suffering animals are present? It is NOT the time to put the focus on you. If you happen to be a secondary subject in an illustration, or if the imagery is you performing an action to relieve or help the animal, so be it.

My point is not to erase ourselves from the efforts to help animals, obviously. My point is to always maintain focus on the animals and their suffering. ESPECIALLY when were at an event where the intent is to bear witness to their suffering.

11.8.2016

Awakening
[uh-wey-kuh-ning]

noun
1. the act of awaking from sleep.
2. a revival of interest or attention.
3. a recognition, realization, or coming into awareness of something:
“a rude awakening to the disagreeable facts.”

A real trauma happened on 11.8.16. There was real, immediate, confused hurt felt by over half of this country. I have hesitated writing on this since the election, but I feel that A.) enough time has passed that there can be some reason and rationality accompanied with the deep emotions brought about by 11.8.16., or at the very least, some pause in discussions that may not be agreeable to everyone. And, B.) I am seeing more and more examples of the types of reactions that gave me cause to want to draw a parallel in the first place. There has only been two weeks since the election, but I’m hoping the possible urge to accuse me of exploitation will be less than it might’ve been in the immediate following days. But if not? Fuck it. I can take it, and we can talk about it.

So here goes…

The trauma that resulted from the election was, of course, felt on the liberal/democratic/progressive side of the political line and whether the shock that we felt from our fellow countrymen & women selecting someone we saw as so obviously dangerous, divisive, and flat out bigoted. What’s followed has been interesting. Several things stand out to me:
– Conservatives/Republican/Trump supporters have largely ignored, disagreed with, or flat out denied our fears mounting with every Trump appointee. We see a real anti-semite, white supremacist in Bannon. A proven, on-record, racist in Sessions, and a documented, admitted climate-change skeptic (a nice term, I’d say more of a denier) in Ebell. That’s just the beginning. We’ve also seen the media covering more white-supremacist gatherings and happenings than before, heightening our fears of a racist/fascist organization galvanizing behind, what they see, as a president who will be, at the least easy on them, and at the worst encouraging of them.
– The immediate shock and anger only lasted a few days before the left, largely, started to realize that we’ve been naive and willfully ignorant to the needs and pains of a lot of the country, especially rural America in every region. I that realization was a good one. However…

Lately I’ve seen a lot of the left’s reaction switching back to anger. Which I understand. I realize the true, actual danger we’re in with the slow rising of white-supremacy and the ‘wait and see’ policy of many of us (myself included – depending on the day and issue). I’ve read Elie Weisel’s ‘Night’ Trilogy. I know how calm and systematic the Nazi’s took control of his town and many like it. I know the appeasing, crowd-calming lies that fascism tells it’s victims in order to get them to comply. The anger at Trump, and at Bannon and what he stands for, and at Pence and what he stands for, and at Ebell and what he stands for, is warranted and fair and real and, like all true emotions, it needs to felt in order to be dealt with. It cannot be suppressed. (Note: That doesn’t mean it has to be acted on by way of rage). The anger at the Trump supporter is also fair and warranted, but it is different…and it is not so simple.

Because some of them are not some distant stranger who’s face we can’t see, and who we can dehumanize into a number or impersonal factor we disagree with. Many of them are our friends, our neighbors and coworkers whom we’ve always gotten along with. Many are our family who we love dearly and will forever be linked to, through experience, memories, and blood. We need to find a way to get past our anger at these people and live together again. We need to come to terms with the Awakening we had on November 9th when the realization struck us that so, so many of our fellow citizens were either outright bigots, bedroom-bigots, or simply just able to bear a bigoted president and his cabinet members. That realization felt like we didn’t know where we were, or who was around us. I know people of color who suddenly felt like they couldn’t trust those around them, they felt more alone than ever and it’s now accompanied with the confusion and questions that come with feeling like a stranger in a strange land. Only this is the only land they’ve known. They, basically, woke up and now the world doesn’t look or feel or sound the same and the people they know and love are, on varying degrees, participating in a system of oppression, bigotry, and cruelty.

Finally, I’m getting to my point.

I know, very, very well what that feels like. I know exactly how it feels to wake up in the Matrix and suddenly, in an instant, see everyone differently and feel separate and angry at something that so many people you like and love have done.

Let me be clear: I do not, and never will, know what it’s like to be Black in America. I do not, and never will, know what it’s like to be Female in America. I do not, and never will, know what it’s like to be Mexican, an immigrant, a Muslim, of Middle-Eastern descent, Asian, or any other marginalized, historically oppressed person. I can’t know and I don’t know the struggle and life they lead in America.

But I DO know what it feels like to have your worldview shatter. To be made aware, in an instant, of a system of oppression that is happening around you, and just how many people you like, love, trust, and appreciate are participating in that system. I DO know what it feels like to have to navigate life with these people, who you continue to love, like, trust, and appreciate, now knowing that they’re ok with something you fundamentally CANNOT be ok with. I know the anger and confusion, and I know the despair, and guilt that comes with any time you feel like you’ve chosen to ‘keep the peace’ instead of speak out. I know the measuring that takes place when thinking of how you want to react to someone who doesn’t take it as seriously as you. I know what if feels like to have people joke or argue with you. I know the frustration of questioning “Why can’t they see it my way? I mean, it makes total sense!” and feeling like “If I can just present the facts, they’ll have to agree…..right?” And I know how it feels when you realize that’s wrong. How many hard lines can you take before you feel like you’ve pushed everyone you know away?

One thing I can say is that navigate you will. You will see that your anger is at the system and those guilty participants are victims of a kind. Not innocent. No. But, not all malicious either. Many, many are operating as they’ve been taught. And many, many do not know the details of this oppressive system they’re in. They’re not aware of their role, and even if made aware, they can’t see another way and don’t feel guilty because when EVERYONE you know is guilty….are you really guilty? (The answer is “Yes” if we’re talking injustice and ethics, BTW.) But there is a difference between the person and the action. Religions say something like: “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” It’s not easy, at first…but it comes. And a peace, of a kind, comes with it. Anger is such a great motivator, but it can be such an albatross, too. We need it, but we need to control and direct it.

Almost five years ago, I woke up to a world I didn’t recognize, and didn’t want to live in. I’ve spent the last five years of my life trying to find the best, most effective ways, to awaken people to oppression the scale of nothing we’ve ever seen before, I will continue to try to do that, forever (no matter what), and I feel uniquely armed to face the divisiveness we are facing politically now.

More points, early in the game…we’re still down by, like, 60.

Recently there have been several historic Animal Welfare proposals/policies.

(http://www.aspca.org/…/usda-proposes-historic-welfare-stand… and http://www.ing.com/…/ING-publishes-policy-for-animal-welfar…)

As an Animal Rights Advocate, I find it difficult to celebrate either, or the idea of animal welfare at all. The powerful animal food industry, as well as the fashion and vivisection industries, will do ANYTHING to continue their greed and maintain their power. Animal Welfare, on the surface, is a meaningful step, but we must remember that most steps that are considered Animal ‘Welfare’ improvements do little more than appease a public who have contradictory feelings. People start to learn about what we do to animals, they learn how animals are treated, and they KNOW that it’s unconscionable. They KNOW it’s not ok, but their other, opposite feeling is that they want to keep eating what they’ve been eating. They don’t want to change. People want to talk about what they think is wrong, but they don’t want to have to actually CHANGE their behaviors. Talking about it is enough…..(It’s not).

Animal welfare gives us all an excuse to keep supporting industries that torture animals. Welfare makes small changes we celebrate and call ‘steps in the right direction’ (which they are, albeit small, small steps) and we replace the horror we felt at knowing the torture and cruelty inflicted on animals with a false ease at thinking, “Well, now they’re ok.”…

They’re NOT ok. For me to support Animal Welfare is for me to support animal use. Forced animal breeding, destruction of their family units, forced overmilking in the dairy industry, chick culling (the mass murder of male chicks – who are inconsequential to the egg industry), starvation, beatings, electric prods, dehorning by fire, beak-clipping/searing, anal electrocution, drowning (in boiling water – for purposes of de-hairing animals preparing for slaughter)…ALL of which are standard procedure in even the most ‘HUMANE’ and ‘ORGANIC’ farms.

Ethical murder doesn’t exist. We lie to ourselves and say it does so we can continue our habits. Cognitive dissonance is a tough thing to even be aware of, let alone be willing to change. But Animal Welfare does not stop cruelty to animals, it changes it.

So, I will not celebrate these, or other, welfare moves. I will say, “Ok…you’re becoming aware. Now, please don’t lose sight of the goal: Abolition.”

Only Abolition of Animal use will suffice. Everything else is Potemkin City Limits….

Abortion vs. Animal rights

“Look, it doesn’t matter the intelligence level. It doesn’t matter if it’s more or less useful to us. It doesn’t matter what ‘God’ said in the Bible. It doesn’t matter that we’ve done it forever, or what. What matters is can it feel pain? Can it suffer? And do we NEED to do it to survive?”

These questions and statements are being asked of, and made to, me in regards to abortion. Human abortion of unborn human babies, of course.

These are also the questions I ask myself and others when encouraging a vegan lifestyle. To me, it’s answer enough that animals CAN feel pain, they CAN suffer, and we DON’T need to kill them to survive…so why should we?

When I’m posed with the same questions and thoughts about abortion, from a merely logical standpoint, for arguments sake, there’s not a lot, if any, difference between the two. Killing animals for food, clothing, testing is unnecessary and cruel. Killing unborn babies is unnecessary and cruel. Animals deserve a chance to live their lives the way they want to, without disturbance from mankind. Do unborn human babies deserve the same chance, regardless of what the mother thinks and feels? I find myself struggling to differentiate the two even though I’ve always been pro-choice.

In a discussion with my wife, who is also vegan and every bit as strict and active as I am with it, she maintained poise while I found myself getting frustrated by not being able to clearly differentiate the two styles of killing. She maintains her pro-choice stance while questioning the best way to respond to the questions and conclusions that it’s the same as killing animals who don’t want to die. In my heart, it’s different. Abortion needs to be a viable option for women, because every pregnancy is not even close to the same. Some pregnancies arise from promiscuity, carelessness on the part of the woman, OR the man, OR both. Some pregnancies would be healthy, seemingly easy, and in a situation that has no noticeable signs of resulting in the destruction of either the mother’s, or the baby’s, life. But there are pregnancies that arise out of less than desirable circumstances. There are pregnancies in which both the woman, AND man, were responsibly safe, took precaution, and still wound up with the woman pregnant. There are pregnancies that arise out of rape, and worse – incestual rape. There are pregnancies occurring in a mother who has no means to care for a child, or the mental/emotional capacity to do so. Many of these babies would be born into poverty.

There is no ONE situation for an abortion. There are many, many elements. And on top of that, I (and many pro-choicers) are not pro-abortion. We are not campaigning that pregnant women everywhere abort. We believe that they should have the option and abortion should not be illegal.

Now, I can hear the responses to that already: “Well, then I should have the “option” to eat meat. Or hunt. Or wear leather.” And my response, predictably, is, “No, it’s different”. The reason it’s different is because with each scenario we can look at the “What happens if?”s.

What happens if you don’t have the option to eat meat? Or wear leather? Or hunt? Well, there are readily available, affordable, abundant, varied, and healthy options for you to eat and wear. Your life will not be any worse, aside from not having the small luxury of a habit you enjoy. Chances are extremely high that you will not only feel better, but be healthier, and the environment will be healthier. There is literally no real negative impact on your life.

Now, what happens if you don’t have the option to get an abortion? In many circumstances, a baby will be born, a mother will love it. It might be lucky and have a mother AND a father in it’s life, and it could grow up fine. But in many other circumstances a baby will be born, there won’t be two parents, the mother will be saddled with raising the child, she might not have the money to do so. She might have to quit school, which puts a slim chance on her ever having a good amount of money or means to care for the child. The child might grow up suffering. In some other circumstances, a mother is irresponsible and does drugs or alcohol which could cause birth defects and the child might grow up mentally or physically impaired…and suffer. I know these are what ifs, but I wouldn’t mention them if they weren’t a reasonably high likelihood of happening. There are many, many more scenarios on both the good and bad side of outcomes.

I guess what the difference is, to me, is that there are more questions and possible scenarios when it comes to pregnancies and abortions and the possible outcomes. We can’t control people and we can’t control fate and life and which children will or will not be lucky or unlucky.

But, wait….so should the unlucky children be of less concern? Shouldn’t they get the chance to live, even if they’re not ‘like’ the others, or their situations aren’t ideal? Where’s my compassion for them? Damn.

I admit, this is a tough one. Each answer brings about a new question, and they’re valid. That’s what makes this tough. The usual answers as to why people think they should be allowed to kill animals are easily dispelled. These questions about the abortion issue are not. It all comes back to “Can they suffer?” “Can they feel pain?” “Do we NEED to do it to survive?” Those are the core reasons I argue that we should not use, eat, or wear, animals.

Right now, I still feel pro-choice. I still feel that I need to have compassion for the pregnant woman. I need to be concerned with her situation. Just like I think that we shouldn’t control a woman’s right to HAVE a child, we shouldn’t control her right to NOT have one either. “But what about the child?!”

I know. Damn. I gotta think about this one for awhile….

…while I do that, here are the thoughts of Peter Singer, who I often go to for ethical clarity: http://www.utilitarian.net/singer/by/1995—-03.htm

Hey! Nice study!

New research says vegetarian diets could be worse for the planet

So a new study says vegetarian diets might actually be worse for the planet than a traditional meat gorging one…? Well, don’t tell that to the World Health Organization, The UN, The Department of Health and Human Services, or the USDA. They fucked up then, because they’re all saying that plant-based diets are BY FAR better for the planet than meat-based ones.

Look, I don’t have a ton of time to shit on this study, so here’s a short version of my thoughts. But, suffice it to say, this article is, predictably, incredibly narrow-minded and short-sighted. So, I suggest you guys think it through next time, Munchies Staff. (Or did you, but you got a hefty payout for publishing a misleading load of crap like that?)

Anyway, I digress…

The argument is that vegetable growth causes more “emissions per calorie”.

The arguments for a plant-based diet being less resource intensive is a lot broader than simply comparing one item’s caloric content to another. We’re talking about a MASSIVE difference in water usage. We’re talking about an even MORE MASSIVE difference in land usage.

“Ten pounds of Pork feed a lot more people than ten pounds of lettuce”, which is silly, short-sighted, and incredibly poorly thought out. The first obvious omission is how much food it took to feed the pigs before murdering them and chopping their bodies up. Now, thankfully, the pigs aren’t carnivorous and they aren’t eating resource-intensive meat products. They’re eating plant-based foods. But they’re eating A LOT of them. According to the Journal of Animal Science, it takes 74 sq. ft. of land for 1 lb. of burger. Now, imagining that a 1/4lb burger is considered decent size, that’s 296 sq. ft. per pound of burger, equalling 2960 sq ft of land per 10 lbs of beef. It takes a lot more water to maintain the crops fed to the animals you eat than it would if you just ate the food we give to the animals. (I know beef isn’t pig, and raising/killing pigs slightly less resource-intensive than cows, but not by that much and the point is still the same) http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2012/06/27/155527365/visualizing-a-nation-of-meat-eaters)

The second omission is the fact that no one is going to simply eat lettuce only. A plant-based diet is balanced with much more than lettuce. If someone ate 1 lb of pork ONLY for lunch they’re water footprint would be 620 gallons. If that same person ate 1 lb. of lettuce in a bowl with 1 lb. of potatoes, 1 lb. of corn, 1 lb. of broccoli, and a half lb. of lentils they’re water footprint would be: 544 gallons. But, imagine how many more people would be full (and have balance in their diet) if the ate all that lettuce, potatoes, corn, broccoli, and lentils?

This isn’t even talking about the rampant disease associated directly with eating animals vs. eating plants. It isn’t discussing the MASSIVE difference in cost-effectiveness OR sustainability.

Articles and studies like this are funded, somehow someway, by interested parties. They always are, without fail. Either that, or they are misquoted or or intentionally selectively quoted. They are irresponsible, and prey on people’s inability and disinterest in thinking things through or questioning the information placed in front of them. Scores of people will read this and it becomes ‘Bible truth’ to them. It does frustrate me when I see these things and it makes me a little angry to know the lengths the meat/dairy industries will go to to mislead you and have you pay for your own death AND the death of millions of innocent animals.

Completionism: A response to the differences between Abolitionism and Welfarism

I am having a real problem with the vegan abolitionist community. Which is odd, because I consider myself an vegan abolitionist. I consider myself a vegan abolitionist because I believe in the end goal of abolishing the use of any and all animals by humans. I believe that only abolishing completely the traditions and habits we’ve formed that cause so much suffering and pain to the animal kingdom is an acceptable response. For those who may not know, the other camp, opposite the abolitionist thinkers, is considered ‘welfarists’. In short, welfarists feel that smaller adjustments to the WAY we use animals is acceptable and as long as we’re trying to lessen their suffering and/or pain, that is a noble enough goal.

For instance, some states have banned gestation crates. That’s great. That’s not enough. Pigs are still being bred, tortured, confined, and killed for food, but state legislature making it illegal to confine them to tiny crates is great. Now, say an animal rights organization like Mercy For Animals, HSUS, or PETA, writes an article about this legislation. That article is positive in nature. It mentions, in a congratulatory manner, that the states have chosen to consider animals’ needs more than they did previously. Now, take this information from the two viewpoints, abolitionist and welfarist:

Abolitionist might post the article on social media, and bash the organizations for “promoting” the continued use of animals for food, and promotion of the “humane myth“, by shedding the ban in a positive light. They might point out that even if gestation crates are banned, pigs lives are still horrifying and tortuously short. They might suggest that a ban of gestation crates is merely a public placation: The effort of the food industry to quell the public’s uprising against the animal abuse that is becoming more and more commonly knowledge. It shouldn’t be celebrated because it makes people believe the Humane Myth and think that using animals is still ok, as long as it’s done in a certain (less tortuous) way. (secondarily, I’m finding that abolitionists seem to confuse ‘congratulating’ and ‘promoting’, but…no room to delve into that in this post!)

Welfarist might post the article on social media, and say it’s a win for animals and we should all celebrate the states on doing the right thing. They might congratulate the AR organizations for any role they played and ask people to donate or volunteer with the AR organizations.

Clearly, one paints a bright, sunny outlook on the info, and the other paints a bleak, angry, critical outlook.

Well, I agree with the abolitionist POV in theory and practice. I think that banning gestation crates isn’t enough and the states and organizations should hear about it.

The difference with me and what I’m starting to realize is the traditional Abolitionist, is that while I agree that ultimately the absolute refusal to use any and all animals HAS to be the end goal and the idea being promoted through our veganism, I do not let my passion stunt my thoughts enough to get obsessed with the immediate. Immediate change or bust! Immediate abolitionism or bust! Immediate veganism or nothing! “Oh, you stopped eating eggs? Big deal! Stop eating ALL animals, dammit!” This is the thin line when you are an animal rights activist and advocate. Yeah, on the surface, I agree with that statement above. Stop eating ALL animals, dammit! But, the obsession with the immediate that abolitionists seem to feel gets in the way of their understanding that NOTHING happens in an instant. Nothing is immediate. Everything has precursors and previous learning leading up to a moment of change. Even if a lot of the precursors and learning is subconscious, still…nothing is immediate.

When slavery was abolished in America in the 1860’s, there were years, decades, leading up to that final, complete decision to fully end slavery. It didn’t get brought up in conversation and then after an hour of talking about it, all of a sudden – BOOM! – slavery abolished! No, there were people fighting against it for a long, long time.

So, even as an abolitionist, I understand that someone going vegan could start very quietly, with reading an article online, posted by someone they know (an abolitionist or welfarist). They might not have a life-altering moment in the time it takes them to read the article and comments, but they might have had a seed planted. Maybe now they’re going to actually read the articles they see about animals from now on instead of skipping pats them hastily. Maybe they’re going to accept that they don’t know everything they thought they did. Maybe they’re eventually going to find out enough about the cruelty to decide they don’t like it. Maybe they won’t know how to deal with those feelings and they may struggle for a bit to reconcile they’re new emotions with their deeply ingrained habits. Maybe they read some more, and seek out some groups online, maybe they’ll try a few different meals, or Google search for cruelty free boots or makeup or belts or wallets. Maybe they’ll start to realize they CAN do it. They CAN make a change in their life and they’re still nervous about how it’ll effect their circle of friends and their family and their significant other who might not be anywhere near where they are emotionally about animals. Maybe they’re not a massively confident person, but maybe they get the courage to decide they’re going to stop buying any eggs or milk from a supermarket and they find a local farm who’s animals at least get to live outside and they don’t order eggs or dairy from any restaurants where they can’t verify the source of the items. Maybe after all these steps, they post online that they found this local farm and they suggest to those they know on social media to use the same local farm. Maybe, in this post, they don’t divulge ALL these steps of awareness and change that led up to their decision about eggs and milk, they only mention that they’ve decided to stick to the local farm for these items.

I guess, there’s the abolitionist way to respond to their post, and tell them that what they’re doing isn’t good enough. Remind them of all the other horrors being done to animals, and suggest that if they’re not willing to go vegan right now then they’re wasting their time with their local eggs and milk.

Then, there’s the welfarist way to respond to their post, and tell them that they rule, and they’re doing a great thing by not supporting factory farming, and maybe even share the post and add congratulations to it for all of THEIR online friends to see.

For the most part, I agree whole-heartedly with the abolitionist response, in theory. Ultimately they’re right. I disagree with the method of response, though.

So, I’ve started thinking about a 3rd camp of thinking called “Completionism”. To me, Completionism is the idea that completely removing animals from your diet, wardrobe, hygiene products (by way of ingredients and/or tested upon), and any other area of your life is the goal, and consistently moving toward that goal is the significant point. Completionism takes into account that all circumstances are not the same. All people are not the same, have not had the same experiences, upbringing, support system, confidence level, intelligence level, financial level, or control. Completionism focuses on continuing a deliberate, consistent, effort to become vegan (emphasis on deliberate and consistent). Meaning the time frame is not the primary element. The completion of the goal is. Some people (like me, for instance) might go completely vegan overnight, while others might cut out items from their diet month-by-month, or start with their clothes and move to their diet after some time. According to Completionism, as long as their are not stagnating and feeling that they’ve achieved their goal at some unfinished point along the way, as long as they have not become content with vegetarianism, or content with changing their diet but not their wardrobe or hygiene, than there seems to be no reason to attack them or not celebrate them. I think there needs to be constant encouragement and reminding of what the end goal is, but not discouragement or criticism unless they reach that goal immediately.

Completionism is not accepting less than veganism. Completionism is not a way to accept half-way as a finish. Completionism is not saying it’s ok use some animals but not others, or it’s ok to not eat animals but still wear them. Completionism is not saying it’s ok to bend or cheat if it’s more convenient for you. Completionism promotes veganism, but does not demand it immediately, but Completionism demands it all the same.

Grasping for excuses: The Dairy Industry’s weak lies

The Dairy industry has long been carrying out practices that are put in place with the sole purpose of maximizing profits and efficiency of production. That would be ok, if these practices didn’t, by proxy, also maximize cruelty to, and suffering of, the cows who live out their sad existence in the Dairy Industry’s hands.

When once thinks of a dairy cow, it seems the prevailing vision would be one of a cow, spending it’s days wandering a lush green field, grazing and sleeping all day, after an early morning milking session.

Sadly, that does not happen. A simple Google search will reveal what is “industry standard” in the Dairy Industry. Massive scale factory farms which control the movement, feeding, and interaction of all the cows. I won’t even get into the horrific physical cruelties done to  the cows (branding, dehorning, mastitis, etc.) I’ll just note that they’re confined indoors, fed grains and feed instead of grass from the ground, and kept constantly pregnant through forced impregnation, Cows have their calves taken from them either immediately, or within a day of giving birth. Many who have heard them describe the cries of the mother cow as her baby is stolen from her as the saddest, most heart-breaking sounds they’ve ever heard. This makes logical sense. Cows are mammals, so are humans. We humans know how the mother-baby bond works. We know how strong it is. Ask any woman who’s ever given birth. There is an instant strong bond of love and care. Imagine kidnapping a human baby within a day, right from the mother’s arms?

So, not only has the dairy industry made these horrors everyday standard practice, now, in the wake of ever-plummeting sales of milk, they’re trying to tell us that it’s all for the animals own good. A child can tell that that’s placating bullshit if there ever was any.

A Troubling Day

You know, after becoming vegan almost 4 years ago, I’ve felt energized with positivity. I’ve felt that I’ve been let in on the secret to life: Live compassionately towards all beings, and you will be rewarded with health, happiness, a feeling of accomplishment, goodwill, hope, and kindness. At no point did I gain naivety along with my outlook. If anything, I’ve become more aware of the evils we do to each other and fellow earthlings. When you become vegan, you lose the ability to ignore the painful parts of life. Even though I’ve become aware of inherent, constant violence happening all the time to animals, and I’ve felt the pain of that awareness, I’ve felt hopeful. I’ve felt compelled and energized to see the kindness, caring, and general interest in doing good from people.

But today is the first time in the last 4 years that I can remember feeling so defeated. I am absolutely drowning in pity and frustration towards our nation. We are a nation of spoiled adult infants who don’t want our toys taken away. So much so, that we scream and cry at the mere idea of limiting play time. We ignore the sorrow of others and think only of how any changes will effect “me”. What am I gonna lose? Why should I give up MY toys? Instead of putting ourselves, honestly and with thought, in someone else’s shoes, we let our fears rule our decisions. We are a nation of scared, spoiled, adult infants and I’m so sad to see it.

Stop disrupting events and calling it heroic.

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Ok. I’m definitely on the side of the general population on this one. Stunts like these do nothing except give the protesters a high and veganism a bad name. Look, I’m all for protests. I think protesting is a great way to raise awareness and show that there’s a set of the population that cares enough to speak out. But if you wanna protest, protest outside, protest within sight and sound of the entrance so the people going in can hear and see you. Make some graphic signs, I don’t give a shit…hell, it’s the truth, I think the public should see the truth.

But don’t go disrupt an event, yelling and screaming, and getting kicked out, videotape it, and release it as some heroic deed done on behalf of the animals. You just got high. You got high off the adrenaline and the rush of confrontation. I know exactly what that is. I know exactly how that feels. It IS a rush, and it can be addicting, at least in the sense that you seek out those confrontations. They can be cathartic. I remember Fight Club. Those men needed release. That’s what this is. This is not helping save animals. It’s making vegans look like dicks. It’s rallying the meat-eaters and animal users against us. I don’t want to be lumped in with you when you do this. I don’t think this is heroic. I think it’s heroic to contain your emotions, channel them, use your voice in a way that actually might get people to eat less meat/dairy and buy leather and wool alternatives and take the time to look for cruelty-free products. I’ll take a calculated conversation in a peaceful manner over this theatrical nonsense any day.

There was a time when I was so angry I wanted to take it out on meat-eaters. I’m still angry, but I’m smart enough to know that shit like this DOES NOT WORK. Seriously, let’s poll anyone at that event and ask them if they’re more or less likely to consider veganism after this stunt? I’d wager a bet that zero percent are more likely to listen to a vegan message than they were before it. I sincerely think stunts like these do nothing other than give the perpetrators a rush and excite their friend on social media.

It’s egotistical. It is. It’s about your rush of adrenaline. It’s about getting you high off the rush and you trick yourself into thinking it advances the cause. It does not. And if you think I’m wrong, then lets start polling the guests at the events that get disrupted. Let’s ask them, not necessarily immediately afterwards, let’s give them a day or two to mull it over, relax, let their guard down…then lets ask them, “Hey. After hearing the vegans message and seeing their signs, how likely are you to agree with what they say?” I honestly want to hear the answers, because what I think is that zero percent will say they have started to, or are willing to start to, think about veganism now. I sincerely, sincerely doubt it. Or we could ask any vegan at all, in the entire world, what made them vegan. I would be shocked if anyone answered: “Oh, I was at an event and these vegans came in and disrupted it with signs of animal abuse and yelling and getting physically kicked out. It really made me rethink my choices and I eventually went vegan.” No. Fucking. Way.

I love the passion and the balls it takes to do these stunts, but I can’t stand the effect veganism is left with afterwards. We seem like dicks. We seem unappealing. And I know the response I’ll get to this: “Oh, so you think we should just glad hand the meat-eaters and fur-wearers?! You think we should just cater to them?!” No, I fucking don’t think that. But I think we’re playing on their home turf, and this stadium is absolutely packed with their fans. We’re Rocky and we’re fighting Fuckin’ Drago IN RUSSIA. COLD WAR ERA RUSSIA. We can’t win them over by being dicks. They already either hate us, or best case scenario we make them uncomfortable. They’re not going to be swayed to do less harm to animals if we disrupt their shit with nothing more than screaming and fighting. We need to disrupt their THOUGHTS. And the only way we can do that is if their open to the message. And the only way they’ll be open to the message is if WE’RE NOT DICKS!!

That said, I’m all for standing our ground and getting into some arguments here or there…but let them take us there. We defend ourselves strongly and confidently, leave them no choice but to AT LEAST take us seriously, then the next conversation (or argument) we might be able to convert them a little (or a lot).

I’m not advocating apologizing, or allowing meat-eaters to make excuses, or placating. I’m for no-nonsense conversations. I’m against letting a carnivore off the hook easy. I’ll tell you what I think and I’ll tell you what it is your supporting when you buy meat, dairy, eggs, leather, etc. But I’ll do it in a time and place where and when you’re able to receive it. I’ll do it non-confrontationally, and I’ll do it so you’re turned on to the idea, not vehemently turned off.

The way I advocate does not make me look especially brave, it doesn’t spike my adrenaline, and it will never make headlines. But I don’ care, because it does save animals. I have proof of that in the people who’ve changed their ways.

My Transformation

I am intrigued and amazed by Transformation Stories, stories of people’s triumphant change. They’re usually accompanied with “before and after” pictures, in which the person looks like…well…a different person.  Though so many TS’s (as I’ll refer to them from here on out) are similar, each is individual and special. I find so much inspiration in TS’s, and, fairly recently, I realized I have one of my own.

I was raised, like most everyone in America, on a traditional western diet. Though, I like to add an element to that that I find is significant. I was raised on not only a traditional western diet, but a traditional western lower-class diet. That means, not only was there the common staples of meat, cheese, eggs, and more meat, but also processed foods and affordable food choices. Although my mother did have an interest in health, she was overwhelmed by working full time, raising 4 kids, and trying to maintain her sanity as well as a presentable house. My father was a working man who loved his kids (I’m not sure how he felt about his wife/my mother…) and tried his best, as long as you didn’t expect him to clean house, grocery shop, or (mostly) cook. He was/is a very smart man, who simply did not practice what he preached about health. He seemed to say the right things, but we were not held to any healthy eating standards. Again, looking back now, it seems the main priority of our family’s diet was affordability.

We were not wealthy. So, fast food, pizza delivery, frozen fish sticks, pasta with meat-sauce, etc., etc., were our usual meals. Sugary cereals (although my mom did try to opt for the slightly healthier/less sugary options) were breakfast, and school lunches were a joke at our school’s cafeteria.

My brother, sisters, and I were raised to be generally caring people. My parents did a good job of instilling empathy and sympathy in each of us. We always had a family dog (when one passed, we’d get another) but for the most part, the dog was just there. I was very self-consumed as a kid. I got the lucky roll of the dice in school and was in the “in-crowd”, so I was plenty busy with sports and social things, so I had no time, or interest, to give attention to our dogs. I grew up having made zero connection emotionally to any of them. In fact, I saw them as a burden, a nuisance, and in my way.

I have always been empathetic to humans. I felt sorry for, and tried to befriend, the less “cool” kids I grew up with. But, I had a very conservative mindset. I went to church, believed the lessons they taught there. I believed in hard work. I believed that if everyone took care of themselves, did their job, followed the law, tried hard, stayed in line, then there would be no problems in society. I think I got that from years of playing sports. Especially football. In football, everyone has a job to do. If everyone on the field takes care of their one job on every play, every play should be a success. When someone gets lazy, or can’t do their job correctly, someone else has to pick up the slack or the play doesn’t work. It’s easy to build resentment for the lesser skilled, slower (mentally and physically) players (who very well may be being asked to do something they’re not really capable of doing, i.e. – block a much bigger, faster, stronger player). It’s easy to think more highly of yourself if you’re a skilled player who’s talents lend themselves to the game, and who is repeatedly praised by coaches, teammates, and fans. It’s easy to start to segregate classes of teammates: The good, the bad, and the useless. Before long, this, I think, became my outlook on life.

I don’t think I ever consciously thought I was better than anyone, but I thought the cream rose to the top, so to speak, and everyone should notice that and fall in line. Therefore, I think subconsciously, I believed things, and at times, people, were there for me to use however I needed and that was just the way life was set up. This included animals. I never, ever gave a thought to animals having their own lives. It was so normal, and….just….so…so normal, I guess, that I didn’t even ever think about another way to be. Horses were to be ridden. Cows and pigs and chicken were for food. Dogs and cats were pets. It was so, so, so ingrained as just the way it is, that I never even thought to question it. Ever.

I’d never met a vegan. I’d known vegetarians, but never thought, at all, about WHY they were vegetarian. I just blindly assumed it was because they didn’t like the taste or texture of animal meat. I probably thought about it for a total of 1.5 seconds throughout my entire teens and 20’s. There was no question, so why think about an answer, right?

As a young adult in my 20’s I worked my way up the television industry. I was popular, drank too often and too much, exercised a lot, had a lot of girlfriends, and was, in all typical accounts, a success. I was considered a good guy, someone who cared about his friends and coworkers. I was even nicknamed “G-Rated” by a coworker because I blushed and got awkward when they’d joke about sex or more salacious topics.

In my romantic relationships, I was usually in charge. Not forcefully, of course, and not even openly, but I think in most relationships, one person is, kinda, driving the ship. And I was certainly in my relationships. I met my match when I finally started dating a girl who would become my wife, and who I’d known since we were 12.

She had usually been in control of her relationships, too. So, when we got together, there was a bit of an unspoken power struggle. But one battle she won was whether we’d get a dog. As soon as we bought our house, we had a dog the next week. A beautiful, rambunctious, 4 week old American Bulldog puppy (we, very quickly, found out that we should never have had her until 8 weeks at the earliest, but we didn’t know that then). This puppy was very needy, obviously, and taking care of her changed me. Not wholly, at first, and not all in an instant. But, as I had a little life to care for and saw her dependence, affection, and need for me, I started to change the way I felt about dogs. My dogs growing up were nuisances who offered nothing in return (I thought) This puppy was a bit of a struggle, but offered so much in return, and was able to learn how to be less troublesome. She offered unconditional love, loyalty, affection, and fun. She had such a personality! I soon began to notice things she liked, disliked, was scared of, and hoped for. She LOVED playing rough. She like tug of war, wrestling, and soon learned how to be mouthy without hurting me or my wife. She HATED drinking water if it had any slobber or dirt in it (from her previous drinking sessions…), and would insist on a fresh bowl of water, and she had moments of calm, when she curled up next to me on the couch and seemed like she couldn’t get close enough. She took such pride in helping me chase the stray cats out of our backyard or the moths out of our living room.

I learned a lot from raising her (and truthfully, from two helpful people I met at the local dog park, who taught me a TON about dogs, in general). I became quite the dog advocate. Soon, my wife and I felt we should get another dog so our American Bulldog wouldn’t be lonely while we were at work. My wife knew I liked English Bulldogs, and she found an English Bulldog Rescue group, and soon we found a dog who fit our situation and adopted him. He had a lot of health problems, but didn’t show it. He was happy and lazy, just a like a good English Bulldog should be, IMO. As it turned out, he and our American Bulldog didn’t really get along so much, but I, personally, hit it off with him. We connected as much, or even more, than I had with our American Bulldog (don’t tell her that, though!). He was so needy and loving, but so, so strong and brave. I actually found myself envious of his personality and wanting to be more like him myself, in regards to being so sweet and caring, but so tough and strong and brave as well.

So, now I was a dog advocate, and living (what I thought) was a pretty good, fair, honest, life. I was trying to be a good husband, a good dog-dad, a good brother, son, and friend, and in all accounts I thought I was succeeding.

One day, being bored of my musical choices I revisited a band I had listened to sparingly years before. A band called Propagandhi. I don’t remember what led me to revisit them specifically, but I remember being surprised at how their music had changed. When I’d listened to them before they were a nasally punk band, right up my alley for that time period. But now, they had become much more metal, just like my musical tastes had. I was impressed and started listening to them constantly. I do that, when I find a new band I like…I listen to them exclusively, and nonstop, for a few weeks at least.

They had one song which I liked specifically: Potemkin City Limits.  Now, I was never much of a lyric purist. I reacted to pacing, rhythm, and the ‘feel’ of a song, more than the lyrical content. I barely even registered lyrics, usually. I’d learn them, in order to sing along, but if you quizzed me on the lyrics after a song ended, I’d probably fail the damn quiz. Anyway, Potemkin City Limits lyrics are as follows:

“Francis didn’t give a fuck about the rollbacks, overproduction, reduced demand. Never gave much thought to disputed contracts. In his short life he’d only ever known panic, fear, pain, darkness, pandemonium (in the hell that was his home). Fourth quarter earning expectations expedited their demise. The panic grew as the humans stalked among them. When the screaming began, Francis shut his eyes and felt the hand of inhumanity brush over him. But his would-be killer’s back turned for a moment and a blinding ray of light spread across the floor. In a crimson pool he saw his own reflection as he bolted for the door. Not just some fractured fairy-tale although I wish that that were true. This is a fable far too real…..”

I loved this song, and would sing it aloud all the time. In my mind I pictured this Francis: Some poor guy stuck in a shitty situation. I imagined it was a song about working a difficult, thankless, stressful, office job. I imagined it was about an office place shooting, much like the postal shootings of the 1990’s. How stupid, I was.

So, one day, as I swept off my front porch and watched my English Bulldog wander the front yard and eat grass, I noticed that he looked so much like a little cow, grazing in a field. In a turn, I noticed that he also resembled a fat, little pig, snorting as he did while he chomped grass. Potemkin City Limits came on my iPod. It’s a song I’ve heard, literally, 100 times before. But this time, as I sing along to the lyrics: “…in his short life he’d only ever known…Panic, fear, pain, darkness, pandemonium…”, and watch my little hybrid dog/cow/pig, who I loved so much that I’d never let anyone so much as look at him sideways, “…the panic grew as the humans stalked among them…” it suddenly hit me. Francis isn’t a man in an office. He’s a pig in a slaughterhouse. Of course Francis didn’t give a fuck about the rollbacks, overproduction, reduced demand. He’s a pig. He cared about living though. He cared about making a brave escape when “…his would-be killer’s back turned for a moment…” He had his own wants, fears, desires. He had his own life that he wanted to keep. Just like my English Bulldog did. Francis was just like my English Bulldog. My dog would’ve been brave enough to make a run for it. My dog deserved his life and to be cared for and loved. At the very least, my dog AND Francis deserved to be free from harm, dammit. I listened to the rest of the song so intently that time. Every line had such new meaning to me. I understood what Propagandhi was saying for the first time in my life. We humans have set up this world which benefits us. We care about things like rollbacks, overproduction, reduced demand, and we’ve reduced animals to commodities in our wheel of production. We’ve reduced (some) animals to nothing more than things, inanimate objects for our use. We don’t even question it…and when there’s no question, there’s no need for an answer.

Well, Propagandhi, and my English Bulldog, had forced me to ask the question…and I had no good answer for it. I remember feeling like a lightning bolt had struck me. As the song ended, I came inside my house, saw my wife, and said, “I don’t think I can eat animals anymore”. And I haven’t, for almost 4 years now.

At the time, I didn’t know a single vegan, or really what it meant to be vegan. I simply knew I couldn’t stomach eating animals who didn’t want to die. I couldn’t justify it anymore. So, I voraciously read books, webpages, anything I could get my hands on about veganism, animal rights, and the food industry. Everything I found supported my new choice, and I knew it was the right thing to do. I’ve noticed since that I’ve transformed.

So, my transformation wasn’t physical. If you look at a picture of me from my younger years and a picture now, there’s not a ton of difference. My transformation was psychological. I learned what real compassion, empathy, and concern is. I learned that this planet and it’s animal inhabitants aren’t ours to use how we want, with no regard for them and their feelings. I’ve learned that animals have strong bonds with their children that we break in order to use them for food. I learned that zoo’s are prisons, and we spend millions of tax dollars torturing animals in labs, simply to protect corporations legally. I learned there are many, many alternatives to eating animals. There are many, many alternatives to buying products tested on animals. I’ve learned that never going to a circus or zoo or petting zoo or horse-riding facility hasn’t made my life less enjoyable in any way. I learned that all animals want to live. All animals love. And I learned that I lose nothing by simply letting them live and love.

I have Propagandhi, my English Bulldog Jumbo, my American Bulldog Breslin, and my wife to thank for these lessons.