The Big Debate: "Single Issue Campaigns: Taking the Animal Rights Movement Forwards or Backwards?"
Opening statement: "We're all so familiar with the refrain, "Sign our petition against dog meat, send us a donation so we can oppose kangaroo leather..." A vegan argument on behalf of single issue campaigns, how we have come to commonly understand them at least, can only be defended via subterfuge, duplicity and a secret agenda of "I know we did that but we're really saying one thing and meaning another".
Our alternative is a consistent and rational message of veganism as the moral baseline. Over the decades we have had the opportunity to observe and think critically about the standard way that the animal organisations utilise their authority as supposed experts on these matters. The never ending to and fro dance led between campaigners and industry over fur popularity is a prominent failure.
I recently saw a campaign to stop grouse being kept in cages, yes that would be the same grouse who are bred in order to be shot. The big "animal rights" organisation involved makes no grander request of the public than that they ask the birds be bred for shooting in a supposedly nicer way.
So often they target the exotic other. Think of the campaigns surrounding niche markets for flesh and fur from dogs or cats in foreign lands. This coming from countries where we exploit and cause suffering to billions of farmed animals who are no less sentient.
Think of VIVA's campaign against kangaroo leather, singling out an animal that is exotic to us here, but how many people do you know who even wear kangaroo skin in the UK? The very same UK where virtually every citizen is using the skins of cows on either their feet or as seating, bags, purses or jackets.
Why the disproportionate amount of time given to a focus on fur when leather is so much more profuse? The only implication can be that cow exploitation is more acceptable or that cows matter less than furry victims.
The single issue campaign is all too often used as a way of criticising some niche use that "other groups" partake in, absolving the donor base of their sins and letting them know that by not shooting grouse, wearing fur, or kangaroo skins they have done their bit and merit the animal rights, expert seal of approval. Again, the public assumes that the big orgs are the authority on what our obligations are to individuals from other species. Why wouldn't they?
Of course none of these unusual categories of exploitation apply to the average UK citizen so what it comes down to in the end is feel good but ultimately hollow victory announcements and donations, plenty of donations. VIVA have just announced that Tesco will no longer carry kangaroo meat this time... the kangaroos surely salute you but the standard farm animals who will replace them in meals won't. These campaigns do nothing to reduce total demand for animal products.
The big animal organisations are reliant on public funding and need plenty of donations in order to perpetuate their bureacratic operations. As such their message must not be controversial and instead welcomes all comers into feel good back slapping. Non-vegan money is sought and therefore a largely non-vegan, confusing message is what is used to appeal to them.
I personally experienced this in Lincolnshire when VIVA came to town to attach themselves to the campaign against the local Nocton mega Dairy proposal. It was eventually rejected on environmental grounds, as we know farming cows is very pollutive, but that didn't stop them claiming it as an animal welfare victory. Regardless of undeserved credit, what was the victory exactly? The demand for cows and their milk had not been reduced, new vegans hadn't been created and the ever growing demand for dairy products will simply be met from another location.
Another example I can draw on, again featuring VIVA I'm afraid was at a local vegan festival in Lincoln. Tim of course has now brought in a greater emphasis on veganism but generally vegan festivals offer up a confusing mishmash of single issue campaigns vying for public's attention. This one was no different and while all products had to be suitable for vegans, the campaigning was without any consistent vegan education.
Don't get me wrong I'm sure that veganism is buried away in their literature somewhere but signs such as "Go VIVA veggie!" were the prominent ones. Not only shoehorning in the charity's branding needlessly but with "veggie" generally referring to consumption of eggs and dairy, actually promoting the use, exploitation, suffering and killing of farmed animals.
We injected some unequivocal vegan education into one single stall and overheard VIVA's director and founder call us "trouble causers" and suggest that we should "go and be radical somewhere else".
Radical was presumably intended as a slur given the context, but it's etymology is an empowering one, "from the root". Independent, grassroots actions are the very thing that scares the animal advocacy industry. They seek to disempower people from pursuing their own grassroots efforts and instead create a state of dependence with all roads leading through their machine. Essentially getting paid to offer diluted, confusing single issue campaigns to the public. Sign this petition, cheerlead us as we claim meaningless victories, go vegan if you're radical but most of all please send us your donations.
You are free to reject the status quo of learned helplessness. Remember that the power is yours to encourage a real actual cultural shift in favour of genuinely emancipating other animals. Giving time and effort to the tacit promotion of killing cows for your shoes, instead of kangaroos, simply won't get us there.
Closing statement: Exploitation of all other animals is certainly on the rise and I don't attribute all of that increased demand to the failures of the animal welfare movement. That the human population rises by 230,000 people daily, many of whom will likely never hear about veganism and may aspire to consume animal products as a measure of status would likely be more significant still.
That said, the argument that if other sentient animals matter morally they therefore should not be used as our property has never been given it's due focus. Therefore it is currently harder to supply supportive evidence, bar our personal anecdotes. What we can say is the arguments make sense, aren't confusing and are clear in their claims making. If other animals matter at all then the least we should do is go vegan. With that consistent stance the cards will fall as they may with the public, but we won't have sold out or short changed the other species who we advocate for."