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On Speciesism and Token Gestures

July 4, 2014
Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Source My Face Is On Fire

The bottom line is that for any animal advocacy to bring about meaningful long-term change for the billions killed each and every year for human pleasure, it needs to address speciesism. Convincing someone to give up beef for climate change, fishes to save the oceans, or meat on one day a week for personal health? It merely persuades people to make token gestures for themselves — often just temporarily — rather than to initiate meaningful permanent change for other animals. People are left feeling better about choosing the other animal products they’ll invariably choose to replace the ones they may omit or use less often. They become convinced that those other options are better or more ethical choices. They’re left feeling good that they’ve done “enough” – and hey, if animal advocates are patting them on the back for it, then surely they’re doing enough, right?

Some animal advocates argue that “something is better than nothing”, assuming that getting non-vegans to shuffle animal products around is actually “something” in the first place. How is it “something” if instead of having a burger for lunch on Meatless Monday, someone instead has an omelet? How is it “something” if someone decides to stop consuming beef, but instead chooses to eat chickens or fishes? And why this false dichotomy, as if the only two options available in animal advocacy result in varying degrees of the continued deliberate exploitation of others? Is it not incredibly arrogant for us to think that although a message got through to us and we went vegan that the same could not possibly occur with others?

Those advocates insist that getting non-vegans to “lower” their animal consumption is some sort of “step in the right direction”, when the truth is that unless that direction is towards veganism, there are no actual “steps” being taken. When we try to persuade non-vegans to make small token gestures for themselves – for their health, their environment – rather than attempt to persuade them to make meaningful changes for the sake of those billions of others whose lives we steal each and every year, we are bargaining away the lives of innocents. Without addressing the underlying problem of speciesism and turning people’s focus to those others, we have no hope of seriously shifting the status quo.

Worse is that when animal advocates convey to the public that veganism is “too hard” and applaud token gestures, they actually leave the general public less willing to hear and weigh animal rights advocacy and an actual vegan message. After all, why would they listen when they’ve been told that they’ve already done enough? This is the horrible damage caused by groups like Vegan Outreach and all of the other large welfarist groups who pump their fists in the air over false victories. This is the horrible damage which we’re left to undo.

as man sits contented in his arrogance,
in his misguided pretzelogic devoid of sense.
the creatures with whom he shares this planet
suffer and die…
the earthmother weeps and asks
herself why….

Karen Lyons Kalmenson

12 Comments leave one →
  1. narhvalur permalink
    July 4, 2014 10:00 am

    The animals I feel most sorry for in the entire World are pigs in gestation crates, veal in crates and bile bears.

    I hop God will punish this evilness with the harshest possible judge!

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 4, 2014 10:18 am

      I hope so, too, although I really wish it would not be necessary. How anyone can commit these acts of violence, barbarism, and inequity is beyond me. I don’t know which is more: that it enrages me or breaks my heart. Thanks, Ann.

      Liked by 1 person

    • karin nelson permalink
      July 5, 2014 11:00 am

      ALL animals that we use, use , exploit etc feel pain and suffer. I feel horrible for ALL animals and if you are not already vegan, please go vegan to help ALL animals. The ongoing ignorance and refusal to look at the pain and suffering by people eating animals breaks my heart daily.


      • July 5, 2014 11:15 am

        I agree, Karin, thank you so much for your comments.


      • narhvalur permalink
        July 5, 2014 12:08 pm

        Hey, Karin, I’m a vegan but you can’t deny that a pig in a gestation crates suffers more than a cow on the pastures. There’s actually a scale on suffering.


  2. neil26hs permalink
    July 4, 2014 10:29 am

    Reblogged this on Armchair Activist and commented:
    Excellent Post..worth sharing.


  3. karenlyonskalmenson permalink
    July 4, 2014 10:54 am

    as man sits contented in his arrogance,
    in his misguided pretzelogic devoid of sense.
    the creatures with whom he shares this planet
    suffer and die…
    the earthmother weeps and asks
    herself why….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. July 18, 2014 6:58 pm

    Great article and may I add that I think the Animal Welfare organizations are making matters worse for the animals instead of better. Campaigning to get better living conditions for farmed animals only makes people feel better or not guilty about eating animals. People think that by buying free range meat its okay to eat the animals and so the wrong message is getting out there. We should be campaigning to stop killing the animals. I would also like to add that I didn’t become vegan overnight it was small steps that got me there, I eliminated a bit a time and I didn’t do it for my health or the health of the planet I did for the animals.


    • July 18, 2014 8:22 pm

      Thank you so much for your insightful comments, I agree that the animal welfare orgs are definitely hindering animal rights. They are giving people a reason to keep exploiting animals, which is the very opposite of what should be happening.


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