/' http-equiv='refresh'/> Vegan Outreach Lincoln and East Midlands: How to Best Help Animals Speech


How to Best Help Animals Speech

This talk was first given at the Lincoln Veggie Fayre 2011. It was given with a PowerPoint presentation in the background. The recorded speech and slideshow  presentation will be available on here soon.  

The speech was intended to challenge the welfarist message being spread by the large organisations on the day and give those who attended food for thought. We handed out Vegan:UK, Vegan Society and Boston Vegan Association leaflets and pamphlets. Please feel free to use the speech and alter it, provided the underlying abolitionist message stays the same. 

How to Best Help Animals?
As I'm sure many of you already know, a vegan is a person who to the greatest extent possible seeks to avoid materials derived from other animals. We have placed vegan leaflets around the room and urge you to help yourself to those. There are a multitude of reasons that lead one towards veganism, the most compelling of which tends to be animal rights ethics, but personal health and environmental concerns are also well founded bonuses.

Ethical quandaries include the fate of the male calves left obsolete from the perpetual pregnancies of the dairy cows, or the male hatchlings useless to the egg industry who are tossed into a shredding machine at birth. Why do we make beloved family members of dogs and eat the categorically more intelligent pig? It takes killing 150 silk worms to death to make just one silk tie? These are all examples of speciesism.

Speciesism is the irrational belief that other species’ interests deserve less consideration than our own, even when our interests are comparatively trivial. Animal rights when taken to it's logical conclusion can oblige us to oppose speciesism and the subsequent exploitation of other animals. The thinking goes that should a sentient being be seen as mere property then that property will inevitably be subject to any abuses which their human owners choose to bestow upon them.

This is as the owners are legal persons, whereas the animals are deemed legal property. Bargaining for the interests of property against persons is like playing cards with a rigged pack – you aren’t going to get a fair result. Therefore it is the use of animals that is the main problem, rather than the inevitable cruelty endemic to the practice that results.

Most people oppose inflicting unnecessary suffering on an animal but with alternatives widely available to virtually every animal sourced food, nutrient or article of clothing can any of our use and abuse of animals truly be said to be necessary? Is eating animal products purely for the pleasurable taste experience really that different from those who enjoy dog fighting? Both are sources of unnecessary suffering and death inflicted on sentient beings in the name of a human's personal pleasure.

The abolitionist approach takes this understanding to the logical conclusion, that all use and exploitation of sentient animals should be opposed with equal measure. We assert that only abolition rather than regulation should be strived for and veganism is the moral baseline by which to achieve this goal.

Environmentally, the United Nations Livestock's Long Shadow report has left us in no doubt that livestock use is creating a crisis. The remaining clean water supplies are being used up and polluted and cattle farming alone creates more global warming gases per year than all the worlds transport systems combined; yes that's every output from every car, train and plane. It is also responsible for 80% of amazon rainforest destruction and 80% of the soya grown on this cleared land is intended for livestock to eat.

While millions of humans die of hunger it takes 6-8 calories of grain to produce one calorie of meat, if the world adopted a vegan diet nobody would need to starve. The grain needn't inefficiently pass through an animal, we can go directly to source and in doing so reduce the health risks associated with consumption of animal products such as various forms of cancer, hypertension and heart attacks. 

In the light of these truths I can't patronise you by pretending going vegetarian makes any real difference for animals, your health or the environment, as to a lesser, or often an even greater extent it still supports the perpetuation of the animal farming industry and encourages all the same problems as such. 

For example a diet lower in meat, but heavier in dairy and eggs can be much more damaging in all the aforementioned regards than some omnivorous diets where meat and dairy occupy smaller parts of the diet. Many people are addicted to dairy due to it containing a drug to encourage calves suckling. As a result it often seems many people would suckle from the cow directly given the chance. 

People have long been wrongly led by large animal welfare groups to believe that vegetarianism and veganism are two sides of the same coin, they are not.

Vegetarians (especially long-term ones) often become entrenched in the belief that they are doing all they can and have met their moral obligations towards other animals. Again I blame this on large charities telling them they're doing the right thing. It’s entirely possible however to pass through vegetarianism while transitioning to a vegan diet. That's how I personally became vegan but if I had been given the information I would have gone vegan straight away.

A big campaign for the vegetarian activist is avoiding rennet in cheese. The very same rennet, which is produced from the stomachs of calves. Calves that are created and killed by the dairy industry, often for veal. Their production a mere byproduct of the cow's continued pregnancies so she will lactate and facilitate the making of products for humans such as cheese. This hugely contradictory cycle alone is instantly obvious and hugely problematic if claiming any quantifiable ethical foundation to the vegetarian position. Both meat eaters and vegetarians pay into the animal industry complex and both have animals suffer and die for their diets.

Similarly if one really wants to prevent the badger cull, reconsider your financial support of the dairy industry before you complain to anyone else, as it is their business interests and lobbying that is crowding out and hastening towards the extermination of these free living wild animals. Very few of the big organisations are brave enough to point out and encourage action on even this most basic position, instead they rely on petitions and single issue campaigns which skirt around the problem.

A single issue campaign is when an organisation focuses resources on any individual issue rather than providing a consistent vegan message. Snapping off an easy to reach twig that will grow back somewhere else instead of hacking at the rotten trunk.

This focus leaves little in the way of an explicitly vegan message. How long has Paul McCartney been blathering on about being veggie for VIVA? You’d think someone so deeply passionate about animals would have connected the ethical dots by now? But what can be expected when he’s working with a group who still use the ethically worthless tag of Vegetarian in their name? As with other such groups while claiming an underlying vegan belief they still find themselves too cowardly to put public focus on using the necessary word as a permanently visible moral baseline.

PETA well known for their single issue campaigns, embarrassing sexist publicity stunts and awarding "welfare awards" to designers of nicer slaughterhouses acknowledged that only half of their members even call themselves vegetarian.

This from a group, making such a business of animal rights that they raised over £20m pounds profit in 2009 alone. Imagine if they opened up their vast coffers and ploughed all the money into supporting a consistent abolitionist vegan message? An actual, quantifiable culture shift could take place.

The inconvenient truth is that we don't need the big organisations and their confusing campaigns, nor do the animals. They have failed them. Their victories have led to more and more animals being used with only a consistently tiny segment of their supporters becoming vegan – as they instead ask people to take up random single issue campaigns rather than considering long term veganism.

To stay on the theme of dairy farming let us flashback to January 2011; in the dark of night an animal behaviour student is sat up at stupid o'clock completing an essay comparing models of production in farming. The Nocton super dairy is heavily in the news, as the decision on it's planning application is expected within a few months. 

The student is me and inspired by the situation, I had chosen to study and compare the "monstrous" super dairies with assumed superior standard, traditional forms of farming. Surely it's an open and shut case right? Sadly my illusions were shattered as I sat there aghast when I realised I was now a newly converted supporter of the Nocton Super Dairy proposal.

Not a supporter in the literal sense certainly, given I'm vegan, but a supporter in the sense that if a dairy was to be built the plan for Nocton certainly didn't seem a worse way of meeting the public's demand for  a steady flow of cheap dairy product than a traditional dairy farm.

At this point I was an ardent critic of the Nocton plans along with virtually everyone else, proudly displaying my "Say no to the mega dairy" sticker like virtually everyone else and I was involved in several local campaigns against it and even protested with picket signs. Talk about shattering an illusion, the victory that was within our grasp of a refusal suddenly felt very hollow and not much like a victory at all.

Not only were the welfare levels comparatively competitive with the existing status quo traditional farms but many scientific studies actually came out in favour of the environmental standards too. There's something to be said for having a large business located in one area, especially with an onsite anaerobic digester etc.

Was the campaign really based on sound logic or was it a preserve of emotive thinking over factual evidence and a matter of simply “not in my back yard” for the locals? The local Nocton residents' group called Campaign against factory farming operations have gone oddly quiet since the super dairy plans went away, strange that. I should have seen through the faux righteousness when they never had any soya milk in when I popped in for a cup of tea.

Surely the campaign against the foston pig farm will use the same tactic with their similarly pointless “not in my banger” slogan already up. Maybe the Nocton group will get involved but I wouldn’t hold yours breath, there’s already a new set of NIMBY’s already forming in Foston.

In all honesty few of us would actually enjoy having a stinking, great, super dairy nearby, but on an overcrowded island of people who demand large amounts of dairy it's going to come from somewhere. If the demand for milk products isn't addressed then nothing will really change. The chairs are shuffled on the Titanic but the same ethically problematic iceberg is still approaching.

So who really benefits from such a hollow victory for animals? I would suggest it is the big money stashing organisations and the egos within local groups who thrive on having their names appear in the media. 

The opportunity is there for them to get patted on the back for maintaining the status quo with very little in the way of actual progress. Actual serious progress of course would be met with much greater resistance from industry forces. How other animals actually benefit from these victories in cumulative terms or even factor into the equation at all is often unclear to say the least.

Compassion In World Farming were on the scene at Nocton, an organisation representing farmers and the animals they farm. What was that about a rigged deck again? Let us consider World Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and their Not In My Cuppa campaign which back then was highly visible.

It suggests that we should boycott any prospective super dairy sourced milk, i.e. that any other source of milk is preferable to instead use in our tea and ergo this is the compassionate action we should take on behalf of dairy cows. The supermarkets gladly followed this lead, a glib gesture to say the least as I will explain.

Non-super dairy milk, of course meaning all milk, currently, given there are no super dairies in the UK. Advocated promoting this campaign are not taking a very vegan position as they are promoting the consumption of dairy. Similarly these same people could be found arguing that cows belong in fields, a field being a fenced off area owned by a farmer, the cows within, likewise. Again, continuing the speciesist prejudice that other animals should be seen as human property. Again, I argue not very vegan.
Many was the time I sat back mystified as vegan spokespeople who profess to believe in basic animal rights would be constantly putting themselves forward in the media only to make platitudes to traditional dairy farmers, even going as far as wishing them success in saying any who aren't involved with super dairies should be supported.

It is the very fundamental truths of veganism that get lost within the cash grab of the big organisation's advocacy. Confronting people with uncomfortable truths and a consistent perspective doesn't tend to engender such warm feelings nor does it maximise donations on which the hired staff rely for their wages, thereby it is much more profitable to pick their campaigns and victories accordingly. The person who cares for animals is trapped in a state of learned helplessness and is told sending off a monthly cheque to VIVA, PETA or any other "animal welfare" charity is the end of their obligations towards animals.
What more could individuals ever hope to accomplish anyway? The big groups never cease to keep telling them of these numerous supposedly "significant" victories. Single issue victories that tend to achieve very little in real terms and more often than not serve only to make people feel better about animal use. Thus they are granted permission to consume animal products in ever greater quantities. The net effect is more animal use and more implicit cruelty.

In the case of Nocton, the victory was claimed by one and all; from local groups like CAFFO to the usual national names. "We couldn't have done it without you!" (meaning your donations!) they cried at every opportunity. 

Meanwhile in reality, behind the smokescreens it was the environmental agency’s doubts that made them pulled the plug on the plan. The Nocton super dairy didn't meet the necessary criteria and that was that. The petitions and outrage may have had an incidental effect if at all. Animal rights criteria wasn't even relevant to the case, as factory farming is entirely legal and thus disregarded from the decision process. 

No, the supposed animal rights organisations have failed and failed badly in achieving any true victories. More animals are being used than ever whilst the people who opt out of this usage (the vegans) remain a small mysterious minority.

In the materials distributed today or in the following talks you might be told to campaign against kangaroo skin in football boots or against cats and dogs being used for fur. Emotive causes that will encourage donations whilst flying in the face of true, consistent vegan advocacy that could actually start a cultural shift of real long term import. Significant change toward veganism – the only thing that will actually help animals – is highly impeded by these single issue campaigns.

True vegan advocacy recognises if you choose to campaign against individual forms of use and abuse you thereby give cause to think other forms of use are lesser issues and somehow more justifiable. Foie gras is unjustifiable but sausages are better, kangaroo skin is unjustifiable but cow skin is better, cat and dog fur is unjustifiable but mink and chinchilla fur is better. Or to get back on topic super dairy milk is unjustifiable but standard milk production is better.

If you campaign against these supposedly worse uses, you perpetuate the popularly held idea that only animal use perceived as extreme is a problem. If you are doing this as a group like Viva!, who are publically seen as authorities for animal interests, then you’re pretty much telling people to boycott these extreme, rare animal uses whilst ignoring the more common, sadly normal animal uses in their own lives, and neglecting the moral issue of using animals at all.

Furthermore, all the time given to muddying the ethical waters with these single issue campaigns is time lost that could have been given to a consistent message of vegan advocacy. Every minute wasted, suggesting a single issue deserves special focus, is a minute further away from challenging the paradigm of animal use being the problem. 

Vegan education again is the answer. We shouldn't be aiming to reform the cruelty; we should be aiming to abolish it. The problem isn't so much how big a chicken's cage is, rather that the chicken is in a cage at all. That the chicken as a sentient animal is an owned piece of property akin to a chair, pencil or a table is the problem. 

The steps to abolishing this use will not come through challenging one use at a time – and in the process making people feel more comfortable with everyday animal use, but rather growing the number of ethical vegans by one at a time.
The time given to campaigns revolving around humane, freedom food, organic, free range and any other similar classifications are as satisfactory as not beating your slave on Sundays. They serve only to ignore the abolitionist goal and work hand in hand with animal agriculture to work out systems and mutually gratifying PR campaigns whereby they can maximise their profits by appeasing the public and often improving the efficiency of the exploitation in the process. 

On the subject of the RSPCA's Freedom Food classification, take a look at one of the many exposes done within the farms that earn that high welfare classification and decide for yourselves whether they constitute any real improvement worth striving for. Surprisingly the dancing cows, ambling through lush fields in the TV adverts, are lying to you.

Should we really expect any real significant level of protection from the RSPCA though when their chief executive is on record as saying "The RSPCA believes that whether it’s chicken, ham or turkey, you can enjoy your Christmas lunch and still care about the animals that provided it." Be glad that oh so very speciesist charity isn't in charge of protecting you or me. That kind of protection is one we can all do without.

Today can either inspire more donations into the pot of welfarist groups and their single issue campaigns. You can continue the misapprehension that veganism is too radical, rather I would counter it is the way humans both omnivore and vegetarian use and abuse other animals that is radical.

In all truth I genuinely hope you will reject the unsatisfactory status quo and all it's empty rhetoric and will instead join the growing movement to embrace the abolitionist approach and go vegan for the environment, your health and most importantly the animals. It's not about money it’s about you, me, consistent vegan abolitionist arguments, literature and an audience to hear it and continue the process. 

That audience is everywhere we go, whether it be a one on one conversation, a letters page in a newspaper, an online website forum or a stall offering tasty cupcakes to sweeten the message. The world will not change overnight, but no social change ever has. This shouldn’t stop us from starting moving toward veganism, one vegan at a time, rather than sinking to the depths of atrocious single issue campaigns.

Please take the leaflets, and check out our website, our cards with the details are with the leaflets. The blog will have all the recipes from today’s event on it to help you with cruelty free eating as well as plenty of other information. 

Remember that the power is yours to encourage a real actual cultural shift in favour of emancipating other animals. Giving time and effort to the tacit promotion of killing cows for your shoes instead of kangaroos won't get us there.

You were never helpless. You never needed to employ someone else to work for animals on your behalf.  Come join us in abolitionist outreach, we have a stall in the main room up here. Be the vegan change you want to see. Thank you.


  1. Well done! You have successfully alienated all but the hard-core vegan misfits. The idea is to work together to improve the situation, a concept that has clearly passed you by. Please let those of us know, who have successfully influenced others and have mounted successful campaigns, when you have done the same. Otherwise this is all just empty rhetoric.

  2. Hello "Anonymous", are you in fact yourself a fellow "vegan misfit"? I would be interested in knowing which campaigns you have been involved in?

    The speech was very well recieved, standing room only at the end! We had lots of positive feedback regarding the logic of the argument, none of which you engage with here. Perhaps explain why you find it to be composed of empty rhetoric?

    If you care to do so we look forward to the debate! :)

  3. Really excellent piece - it's great to see vegans standing up for what's right, and not being frightened of challenging the big guns!

  4. Thanks Anonymous2 for your feedback, you must be a fellow vegan misfit. A necessarily confrontational speech yes but definitely not intended to be in any way alienating.

    With that said, how can we all really work together for other animals when some are advocating for them to remain industry regulated property? Veganism must be the clearly stated moral baseline in all our efforts.

  5. This is absolutely fantastic, you have captured the ethical problems of the big animal groups and why the tactics they employ are so damaging to the pursuit of animal rights.

    That is a necessary part of vegan education. It provides sounds reasons about our moral obligations to non-humans, but also helps prevent the audience from being sucked into the counter-productive new welfarist paradigm.

    All without a "donate here" button ;).

  6. More than 3 years later and I've just come across this article but am telling everyone I know about it. It is sooo well expressed. Most of the major social changes in the world have come about by people standing up for what's right.