October 22nd, 2012 by Gary Smith
In part one of this series, I spoke with a representative of the group 269 about their action on World Farm Animals Day, where they were branded with a hot iron with the number of an anonymous calf in an Israeli factory farm.
I was curious about how the group regarded the animal rights movement in Israel and the rest of the world, what tactics and strategies they felt were successful and which are not. What followed was a commentary that was more in-depth than could be digested in a single interview.
I am presenting this provocative and thoughtful response in its entirety, however, many readers will find it unpalatable and even antagonistic towards animal activists. Although it should go without saying, please note that the opinions shared are 269’s and not necessarily this blog’s or my own.
I’m very pessimistic about the chances of the animal rights movement to succeed. If you take into consideration just some of the parameters of the animal rights struggle’s condition and its enemy (almost all of the human race), you have to be pessimistic:
People are inherently selfish. The number of animals who are abused and killed is infinite. The Animal Holocaust occurs worldwide, in every culture, in every country. There are seven billion people in the world right now. Over the next few decades, this number will rise to around nine billion. 80 percent of the population is from undeveloped countries; in a few more decades this will rise to 87 percent. These populations are not open at all to the animal rights idea. Even the other 20 percent aren’t open to the idea, save a minimal percentage of them. 97 out of every 100 new people on the planet are currently born in developing countries. The life expectancy in undeveloped countries will rise in the future and their mortality rates will fall. Many undeveloped countries will be industrialized in the next few decades, which means The Animal Holocaust is going to double or triple itself in numbers.
If we judge reality with our open, objective eyes, we come to the conclusion that the situation is worse than ever. We cannot win, especially not with the path we are taking. I’m not familiar with every detail of the animal rights movement in the rest of the world, besides a few similar parameters every animal rights activist I’ve talked to has told me, and that is that the vegan community in their country is very small, there are too few activists in general from the vegan community, and that most of the activists are speciesists, who prefer humans over animals.
In order to win the animal rights struggle, we need people who will fight, and we need to be stronger than the criminals. As of today, we cannot force animal rights on the human population. There are too little of us, with too little money, and too much of them, with too many advanced technologies. So we need to convince them one way or the other to stop animal exploitation. But, we all know that we cannot convince seven billion people to stop enslaving animals out of their kindness, so in that front – we cannot win.
What we do have is just a bunch of people around the world, not too many, who care for animals, and need to think what can they do. Increasing awareness is no more than a nice way to expand this small circle, but it is sure not a solution to The Animal Holocaust. So we have to think outside the box, in order to beat the vicious enemy.
There are some examples of creative thinking that can lead to a better change in the animals’ condition. Some of them solve it from the root. Some of them can solve it quickly. Some of these ideas are illegal so I won’t write about them here (I’m not talking about ALF of course, it’s not a root solution and surely not a quick one. You can’t liberate 150 billion animals each year worldwide). Some of them are legal and we all should consider them.
For example: acting against human reproduction. It can be even more essential than convincing another meat eater to become vegan. It can also be very effective in underdeveloped countries.
Another way is promoting artificial meat research. I truly agree with David Pearce who said, “In vitro meat [is] perhaps our best hope of getting rid of factory farming everywhere by the middle of the century…I’d much rather everyone listened the moral argument and became vegan today. But we both know how hard it is to argue against moral apathy.”
These are just two examples in the legal pathway. My point is that anyone can find a much better way to achieve animal liberation earlier than by continuing in the failing way of approaching peoples’ kindness. If you appeal only to peoples’ kindness with ethical arguments, you won’t be able to convince many people to become vegan. Every animal rights group around the world includes arguments and campaigns about health, ecology, etc. in addition to the ethical arguments. So actually, by their actions, every animal rights group around the world agrees with me, whether they have the courage to admit it or not. I wouldn’t have a problem with making the world vegan by health reasons if it would succeed, but people don’t care about health, not in numbers that would make 95 percent of the world vegan, and not even 30 percent, but only a few percentage points at all, and only after a certain age (adults care more about health than teenagers).
So by reducing the power of our message from the ethical argument only, to ethical and health and ecology and any other selfish reason, there are two things that happen. One, more people become vegan for reasons other than ethics (selfish reasons). Two, the animal rights movement grows, but the concentration of non-speciesist, committed vegans falls. And that is a procedure that feeds itself, because more speciesist vegans, means more health/ecology campaigns from the animal rights movement, more speciesist people attracted to it, and so on.
The problem with that is what happens here in Israel (and I’m sure all around the world also): many of them stop being vegan after a few years. The ones who stay vegan, are very speciesist and selfish, so they don’t act much and/or won’t care to go far for animal rights even with effective ideas and/or won’t spend time thinking of revolutionary ideas etc. So what we have is an animal rights movement that has reduced its radical message to get the support of more people, but has become so soft and sterile that they are not a meaningful tool in the animal liberation fight. This is what happens when you think short term and not long term; when you are eager to get a few more vegans at any cost.
We are now just in the middle of this evolution of the movement, but as I see it, in the next few decades, the movement in Israel and in some other places (I don’t want to say everywhere as I’m not familiar with what’s going on all around the world will just be a lifestyle movement, very soft, just dealing with themselves and recipes, and here and there tries to convert meat eaters to become vegan, but surely not a revolutionary movement that will be able to make animal liberation happen. Also, if a revolutionary idea for animal liberation comes up, but it contradicts humans’ health for example, this idea won’t be executed by the animal rights movement because it contains too many selfish activists who feel that health of humans is more important for them than animal liberation (examples of this have already happened in Israel and all around the world). So one part of the speciesist activists in our movement are just ordinary people, who became vegan, but from selfish reasons not ethical ones – and they won’t be the key for ending The Animal Holocaust.
A speciesist movement in my opinion will not be able to stop the animal holocaust. If a great idea to liberate animals comes at the expense of humans, those activists won’t execute it. Speciesist people won’t try their best to liberate animals, not by time or money investment, and especially not by hardcore actions that can be effective. That is why it is an important mission for every one of us to try as much as possible to radicalize the animal rights movement, even if the cost is that some activists will be kicked out. Otherwise, we’ll get a kind of a movement that is itself the final verdict to animal liberation. For my opinion it is too late, but I hope I’m wrong.
We cannot liberate animals by appealing to people’s kindness. We cannot liberate animals by appealing to people’s interest in health/ecology. Although we’ll get some more vegans, but surely not significantly more, and the price for that will be ruining the animal rights movement ideology. That is very dangerous, because the only chance for eliminating the animal holocaust is by having a strong ideology-movement that will produce committed activists that will try to end the holocaust in some other ways than propaganda (that will not end the animal holocaust for sure).
The other part of the speciesist activists in our movement are the activists who also take part in human rights actions. This is a problematic and very crucial issue that I don’t want to get into too much because it is another whole interview, but I have to mention it. It’s unacceptable for anyone who consider themselves a non-speciesist vegan person to promote human rights. Can anyone imagine a partisan who fights at noon to liberate Jews from concentration camps held by Nazis, and at night to make conditions for the Nazis better? It’s a contradiction. We, as people who are committed to justice, cannot ignore that contradiction. We need to understand that theoretically, animals deserve rights just as humans deserve rights. Theoretically we are all equal in the moral status, but in reality, human rights come at the expense of animal rights. It’s a fact. As the socio-economic situation of people improves, more animals are abused and murdered. As more countries become free and developed, the more we’ll see industrialized animal agriculture. We mustn’t ignore this paradox. We need to comprehend that humans are the animals’ criminals. Theoretically, all humans deserve rights, but in reality, rapists’ rights come on the expense of women’s rights. We need to choose sides, the animals or the humans – we can’t choose both. Do we want to be on the victims’ side or on the criminals’ side?
This is one reason why we should invest all our time in promoting animal rights, and not be active for people.
The second reason why we should dedicate all of our time to the animal rights struggle is just by taking into consideration some facts. The amount of animals being exploited and murdered each year by humans is about 100,000-1,000,000 times (!) more than the numbers of humans who endure it. The suffering animals go through has no similarity to the human suffering (vivisection, animal agriculture, premarin from horses, gallbladder/bile from bears, hunting, clothing, etc.). The animal rights movement has much less money than the human rights movement and fewer activists than the human rights movement. The media deals with different human issues all day, every day. Humans can fight for themselves, animals can’t.
So after looking at just some of these parameters, combined with the fact that most people are responsible for the animal holocaust, I think it is obvious why every animal rights activist who fights also for human rights is a speciesist, and is making The Animal Holocaust worse.
I think that a simple example will demonstrate it best. Let’s imagine we are walking on a street and we notice 100 people injured. One of them is on the sidewalk, and he is white, and his injury is a cut in his leg because he slipped while he ran. The cut isn’t so deep, no danger of death, but he is bleeding. Also, there are 20 pedestrians near him helping him to cure.
Right next to him, there are 99 black men, lying on the road, injured because of a bus explosion that was caused by the white man above. They are dying, bleeding, screaming from pain, and only one person is trying to help them. What would you do? My answer is simple, if you’d go to help the single white person on the sidewalk, who has so much help, he is only one person, his injury is not severe, and he is the criminal who is responsible for the 99 people’s suffering – you are either a racist or a very, very stupid man. Let’s say, that no one is that stupid, so there is only one conclusion. Let’s replace in this allegory the blacks with animals and the white with the human population – and this is why animal rights activists who are also active for human rights are speciesists.
I know that now, some readers will give many excuses to justify why it is ok to waste time and money to help humans, and as I said before I don’t want to get to every aspect of it, but I still want to answer one popular argument about that, and it’s “but if we help people and better their conditions, they will be more open to the animal rights idea.”
Again, people are inherently selfish. They always feel like victims. They always want more than they have. We are programmed that way. Helping humans won’t make them be more compassionate for animals, so let’s save the time and help directly to animals, that way we cannot lose.
If this logic was true, all the rich people would be vegans, as they have very good socio-economic status, and we would see many countries that are not occupied and not in a war becoming vegan. But the fact is that we cannot find any vegan country in the world. Not even 50 percent, not even 10 percent. Moreover, we don’t even find such a big difference between different countries; it’s always about zero to two percent vegans, even though we’ve had propaganda campaigns for many decades worldwide. The point is, that even if we make the conditions the best possible, maybe we’ll get some more vegans, but surely not in significant numbers that justify fighting for it vicariously by helping people, and spending so much time and money on it. In my opinion, there is a five percent limit that no country will ever cross (especially not for ethical reasons), and for sure hasn’t been crossed yet.
We shouldn’t forget the big implication fighting for human rights causes. When we fight for human rights, and make countries more developed, and giving people better socio-economic conditions, we might get a few more percentage points open to the animal rights idea, but we sure also get industrialization, and more economic options for people that increase the amount of suffering of animals, and the numbers that are being produced and being murdered increase. So in total, more animals will suffer, because it is more relevant how many people are meat-eaters, not how many people are vegans (like if we want to calculate women’s conditions, we need to know how many people are raping, and not how many people aren’t).
The problem as I see it is that we have a speciesist movement that will become even worse as time goes by, and will have less and less real influence on ending the animal holocaust. I hope that this branding action we’ve done, will make activists in the animal rights movement think, and to try and look at the whole picture, and take into consideration all the parameters, and become more committed to the animal rights struggle. After many years in the animal rights movement, I’m not optimistic, but it’s not me who said that the difference between pessimistic and optimistic is that a pessimist is an experienced optimist.
So to sum it up, I want to say that we have to realize that we cannot end the animal holocaust by ethical propaganda (about 95-99 percent of the human population doesn’t care about animals), we cannot end the animal holocaust by health/ecology propaganda (most of the human race doesn’t care about it either, and it will ruin the animal rights movement), we cannot end the animal rights holocaust by forcing animal rights on the human population (as we are weaker than the enemy), and we cannot end the animal holocaust by ALF (as we cannot liberate 150 billion animals each year worldwide).
Also, we have to be aware to the reason that the animal holocaust is happening, and it’s not education (we are being educated since day one to help others, not to abuse animals, to be kind etc.), not our message, not lack of awareness, and nothing else but the simple horrible truth – we are facing about 7 billion selfish, careless people. Most of the human race doesn’t care and will never care for animals, no matter how many videos we will show them, and no matter how many times we will repeat that meat is murder. If we don’t comprehend that, we’ll not be able to end the animal holocaust. Ever.
Paul McCartney’s sentence is preposterous. The slaughterhouses ALREADY HAVE GLASS WALLS! People know that meat is a dead animal’s part. People, in the majority, know how animals get killed (throat slit), and the internet is full of videos and pictures shot at factory farms for anyone to see. So the slaughterhouses already have glass walls, and not everyone is a vegetarian – not even close.
So what can people do?
1. Become activists. Being vegan in this sick world, with this infinite holocaust, is just not enough. It is much more crucial to be an animal rights activist.
2. Be active as much as you can. We must dedicate most of our lives to the animal rights fight (and only to it), as there are too little of us, and too many enemies.
3. Understand that people don’t care about animals and that increasing awareness is not a tool for ending the animal holocaust, it is only to enlarge the small circle of committed animal rights activists. Therefore, we should only do ethics-based campaigns, without dealing with any selfish issues like health/ecology. We mustn’t reduce the power of our message just to earn another moderate, selfish vegan, as the importance of propaganda is to increase our small, non-speciesist circle. We have to radicalize our movement, even if brings less activists to it in the near future, they will be more qualitative and effective.
4. If you continue in the increasing awareness path, try and do campaigns like 269, with hardcore, radical actions, and deal only with the ethics of animal rights.
5. To realize that the sentence “Think globally, act locally” is very problematic, and indicates very closed thinking. We should “Think globally, act globally.” Make actions that have the potential to spread worldwide, with the investment of little money, time and activists have the potential to go worldwide. We lack resources, so we have to be very calculated. Every action must have the potential to be viewed by people in every country in the world. We have to be as efficient as possible to maximize our time and money, as they are limited.
6. Try to organize meetings only with non-speciesist, committed animal rights activists, and think about the big picture. Take into consideration all the parameters that we mention here, and try to think of creative (legal or illegal) solutions that can lead to end the animal holocaust, or maybe parts of it – forever.
7. Join the non-conventional paths I’ve talked about, like promoting artificial meat research, acting against human reproduction etc. I’m not sure we’ll be able to end the animal holocaust, it might be a lost cause, but for sure if we do have a chance, it’s only in the non-conventional ways.