/' http-equiv='refresh'/> Vegan Outreach Lincoln and East Midlands: October 2015


Our Video Presentations at London VegFest 2015

Why Human Population Is An Animal Rights Issue:

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."


The Species Barrier #35 Podcast & Show Notes

Episode #35 of The Species Barrier... South African Professor of Philosophy David Benatar, writer of Better To Have Never Been, The Harm of Coming Into Existence joins us to discuss his work. Mistro, musical artist from Norway has a new album out called The Tragedy of Birth and author Jan Smitovicz from America is the writer of revenge novel Orange Rain.

Also in the news discussion, we attended the Premiere of Unity (Long awaited followup to Earthlings) and give our thoughts, World Overshoot Day passes, water and food predicted to run out, The Pope's encyclical covers environmentalism and animal ethics, Beyonce's "veganism",  techno fixes can't save the oceans, Cecil The Lion and it's been made official that humans are driving The Sixth Great Extinction event in geological history.

Before serving, always make sure the Earth is fully cooked.

Listen to The Species Barrier 35 Antinatal Here

Download/Listen to the MP3 (Save As): Here

Subscribe to The Species Barrier on Itunes: Here

Adopt Don't Breed: Jan has a vasectomy so rest assured his son here is a rescue.
The Species Barrier #35 Show Notes:

Review of Unity The Film: http://www.veganoutreachuk.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/review-of-unity-shaun-monsons-follow-up.html

David Benatar:  http://www.thecritique.com/articles/we-are-creatures-that-should-not-exist-the-theory-of-anti-natalism/

Mistro:  https://www.facebook.com/mistrohiphop

Jan Smitowicz: https://jansmitowicz.wordpress.com/


Review of Unity, Shaun Monson's follow-up to Earthlings

Unity is Shaun Monson's long awaited sequel to the 2008 film Earthlings. An animal rights staple you have likely heard of, Earthlings, narrated by actor Joaquin Phoenix is now largely seen as the go to film for a reality check in how humans exploit and kill other animals.

We were fortunate enough to attend the World Premiere global event, although the local cinema was sparsely attended. It was notable how this film is much more anthropocentric than it's predecessor, giving only 14 minutes of it's lengthy running time to other animals on this occasion. That said it did offer two affecting, non gory scenes of a bull being led to slaughter and a live fish being consumed as "sushi."

A recurring problem here is the false distinction the film makes between humans and other animals. Ironic given the wish to present Unity. "Plant rights"  are commonly used as an anti-vegan cliche and here it is suggested that their moving towards the sun is a sign of their sentience and often the film maker includes trees in the trio of classifications, alongside humans and (other) animals. This is problematic given that plants aren't sentient, although they are of course host to and important to the survival of sentient beings.

The film relies on a celebrity narrator format, each one (Helen Mirren, Jennifer Aniston etc) taking a few lines. The words are subtitled and the celebrity's photograph is displayed each time. This device proves highly distracting, taking away from the onscreen action. Also it was made clear that the celebrities in question didn't necessarily believe in the content they were reading out, this was a distraction also.

Promo Poster Problems: Humans, animals, trees and celebrities.

Celebrity culture and it's many egos (Michael Jackson, Kanye West and Lady Ga Ga are the examples used) is belittled as shallow and vacuous. This is strange given Unity's reliance on celebrity narrators, the subsequent celebrity Q&A panel and the red carpet premiere in the USA was full of the usual paparazzi and posing.

The subject matter flails around wildly, one minute we are pondering how tiny we are in the Cosmos and the next pseudo-scientific spiritual ideas are being proffered. Baseless statements are made such as observing "the joy of life" in other animals' eyes as they battle for survival. There is also stigma against sharks and their aggression, almost attributing some nefarious intent on their part.

The film contains no mention of veganism as a response to speciesism nor any suggestions on how to achieve the grand ambitions that Shaun clearly possesses. Nor is any time given to the many problems posed by human population growth. A wish to unify 7.4 billion humans (A predicted 11.2 billion and rising in 2100), from distinct cultures on an ever more ecologically degraded planet, with fewer and fewer remaining resources seems to be an empty and toothless fantasy.

As a whole the film was an unsatisfying mishmash of ideas, although it may be of interest to those who would describe themselves as "new age" or otherwise "spiritually" inclined.