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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Carnism or Speciesism

On a LinkedIn discussion recently, I posted news about Melanie Joy's interview with ABC about her new book, Why do we love dogs and eat pigs and wear cows? in which she develops the concept of carnism.

One longstanding and highly-esteemed listmember asked whether this is carnism or speciesism?  The logician in both of us might ponder, is that question a disjunction or a conjuction?  In other words, asking "Is the problem EITHER speciesism or carnism?" is a question about a conjunction; the answer would be "yes" (the problem is either the first OR the second OR both).

Asking the question, should the problem be TERMED "carnism" or "speciesism" is different, and it's that question I address here.

If you're interviewing Melanie Joy on ABC, she's going to tell you it's 'carnism' (which is a belief that eating meat is 'natural' 'normal' and 'necessary' - as she outlines in her book).

If you're an older vegan of the Peter Singer variety, you'll probably term it speciesism because you think of how some folks artificially consider other types of life unworthy of moral consideration (or sufficient moral consideration, some say 'equal moral consideration').

I think the standard of 'equal moral consideration' is problematic in two ways:
it makes our moral consideration of animals the arbiter of whether or not we ought to be eating them, when ample social science work over the past TWO decades (and longer) PLUS our own 'naive' (often unsystematic and nonrigorous) observations (as laypersons) have shown that the majority of vegetarians AND vegans go vegetarian or vegan for health reasons (not what we ideologues would wish, for animal rights or philosophical reasons.

A stat I used to quote throughout the late 80s and 90s was that social science has consistently shown that the primary reasons claimed by vegetarianism for being vegetarian is health, with ONLY about one of six (1/6) citing overtly philosophical reasons (contrasted with emotional "I couldn't eat them" or medical or health "I felt better" or "the medical evidence is on the side of my being vegetarian" reasons).  The category 'philosophical reasons' included overtly religious reasons (which may have been ideologically nonspecific (e.g. "I was taught as an Adventist that vegetarianism is God's way for us to be" or "Jainism teaches respect for all life, so we are vegetarian from birth" or "my religion teaches vegetarianism").

Friday, June 18, 2010

George Eisman, Founder of VEGEDINE, and profession changer

A Most Noble Dad
Raising vegan kids to be compassionate contributors to society may be the mark of a most noble dad. George Eisman is just such a dad. As a Registered Dietitian, he knows the many health benefits of a plant-based diet and has raised his kids accordingly. George’s 24-year-old son Thomas and 15 year-old daughter Sarah have been raised vegan since birth. He says, “We seek out new foods, new recipes, and new restaurants to experience and inspire us to inspire others to eat in a way that is healthful, humane, and environmentally friendly.”
George is the co-founder of the Vegetarian Nutrition Practice Group and is the author of two books, The Most Noble Diet and A Basic Course in Vegetarian and Vegan Nutrition. He'll be speaking on nutrition at the upcoming Animal Rights 2010 National Conference.
Check out George's bio and other AR2010 presenters at!

Freeing nonhumans from legal property status

We've been asking ourselves: Can nonhumans be liberated from their enslavementas 'property' to that of legally-recognized personhood without a higher threshold of vegans worldwide (or within one legal jurisdiction)?
I want to jump to WHY we need to support deontological thinking with consequentialist thinking?
Unless there's evidence to SUPPORT the shadow belief that other humans CAN readily (and thus will) see the logic inherent in abolitionism, going vegan, and legal rights for nonhumans, the consequentialist side or aspect of our understanding(s) must (or should) serve as a backup to any advocacy for animals because, if 'the others' think that they are paying TOO dearly for any of these ideas, their 'disconnects' with thinking them through will occur at various (and often unidentified points) along 'the way' in their process of being 'educated'. We (self-styled) 'advocates' are not the best arbiters of whether or not 'the public' is being 'educated'; 'the public' calls the shots in their own learning because they are 'existentially free' - in a 'posture of freedom' with regard to what occurs to them, including presentations. They can merely 'turn off' their cellphones or landline phones as they wish; they can merely turn off advocacy, too, if it's going to cost them too much, and that's what we call 'anxiety'.

The anxiety about any change needs to be lower than the anxiety of staying the same, with keeping the status quo in a matter or an area.

To ourselves, the consequentialist side may not be decisive in OUR remaining vegan, but the general 'others' (all 6.828 billion OTHER humans on this planet) are not we; they are individually 'the they' - 'das Man' (the other) in Heidegger's terms, 'the public', and they are not behaviorally or phenomenologically who we are, even when they function structurally as we do.

The similarities are ways we talk with others; the differences are points of discussion IF we honor the inherent freedom and potential authenticity of others.

Those who claim that you 'don't understand' just need to try a little harder to understand the communications interfaces and challenges we confront. They are many; simple sound bites among ourselves do not teach or educate our own numbers; how could we POSSIBLY EVER educate others?

Points to be made are just that: points to be made, and they are good. But effective communication is yet another chore, a distinct chore. Various groups do something LIKE communications, based on their internal assumptions. Success is nearly impossible to measure, as nearly all marketing companies will confess about their own advertising and marketing campaigns. Budgets (money allocated for the costs of accomplishing their ends) are the primary concern; measuring effectiveness is another, and suitable leadership - thought leadership - is way up there with primary concerns.

Clarifying abolitionism is one task; Clarifying abolitionism is not coextensive with communicating effectively with the unsympathetic (or partially unsympathetic but woo-able) general public.

Don't turn me off here, since I'm really with you all (us). PETA's claim is that their budgets justify the success of their techniques. You and are a deeply suspicious of 'PETA loyalist' claims that because THEY went vegan under PETA's influences 'then' (sometime in the past), PETA's strange (and objectionable) tactics today justify our 'lumping it' and going with the (PETA-driven) 'flow' - why? ' 'for the animals'. But 'leadership' can be negative or bad, and perhaps the logic here isn't good.

Doing something ostensibly for a purpose isn't identical with doing something for the reality of that purpose; it may describe the inner thinking (the phenomenology) of the willing actors, but without measuring outcomes, these 'campaigns' fail even the consequentialist test.

I've merely been pointing out that, in line with Peter Singer, many, many folks who go veggie (at various levels) have learned to think as consequentialists, as pragmatists, as results-oriented expectants, even if they FAIL to do what consequentialism logically requires: testing the results.

Jean-Paul Sartre said that the meaning of history is the outcomes of our actions, and Scandinavian theologian Nels F. S. Ferre taught that the meaning of living in history is the coming to fruition of THE CHOICES OF OTHERS (for our choices do not override the choices of others). Categories of sociality, love, compassion, other-orientedness, ethics, altruism, etc. are all - look carefully - real, legitimate, defensible, and useful existential categories with which to live our lives.

We don't change others merely by the overriding forces of OUR will, nor merely by 'wooing' them to veganism seductively, as many teen vegan women seem to think will 'work' with their hunky nonvegetarian boyfriends. We enable their growth and development in social contexts, and we do much more, for social existence is very complex.

Group social relationships (structured and unstructured) can be studied 'up the wazoo' (not the scholarly term used by social scientists), but somehow, finding ourselves (as individual and variable as we are) is crucial to our living authentically among those numerous social groupings through which we pass throughout our days, weeks, months, years, decades, etc.
If Jean-Paul Sartre is correct in his analysis, the 'meaning' of all this vegan social living and thinking will be determined by whether or not we accept, unfolding in front of us, the authentic decisionmaking of manifold others who 'get it' about going vegan.

Clear philosophy has a place, and perhaps some public stunts will, also (I'd rather have singable pro-vegan pro-animal music, but that's not on the agenda, apparently, among vegan groups, even if they write songs). However, measurement is what successful corporations do, and though Ralph Nader 'wishes' to the contrary, this IS a world where corporations' success can be seen. Why? Perhaps because they do 'reality testing' frequently, periodically, carefully, intensively, and expectantly. Resources are devoted to measuring what comes of what they do, and perhaps we ought to do some of the same sort of thing - with a set of vegan think tanks that have resources to actually measure.

We used to look to VRG - the Vegetarian Resource Group - to tell us how many vegetarians and vegans there are. To get that socially-desired data, they paid marketing firms to interview the general public (so that required putting sets of questions in various survey instruments that were ALSO used for other purposes. We trusted that data, but we also learned that our percentages are not growing (significantly).

We can speculate why that is our historical lot. I think that the influx of nonvegetarian populations who COULD quite easily be swayed towards more nearly plant-based diets (the same groups that work in slaughterhouses, to our dismay) bends the numbers, and our social traits as vegans freely but not efficiently networking prevent us from making communications and outreach ('evangelism') a low priority (to nonexistent concern).


(a) we've not scoped out the challenges and possibilities.

(b) we shy away from the distasteful challenges we've already discovered

(c) we imagine from within, without the necessary evidence bases for effective actions

(d) we content ourselves with many new books and media which, in effect, communicate TO us about clarifying our vegan values (in other words, the authors tapped their markets).

(e) we fail to learn about advocacy from the vegetarian businesses, who guarded their ideas and marketing acumen as if it were private IP (intellectual property) and ceded their potential roles as 'thought leaders' in the vegetarian movement in favor of running (or managing) their business (when they could have collaborated with one another - thinking together about how to grow the market by increasing the number of vegetarians and vegans who would naturally WANT their products, leaving that responsibility to the nonprofits and advocacy groups, like you and I know 'on the ground').

(f) it's a pity that animals are dying because of our inefficiencies; it's a pity we haven't done better; it's a pity we haven't learned to [bracket] our inner energies (personalities, Buddhist meditation, Alan Beck's Mindfulness Based Therapy, sporadic energies that emerge in our bodies and minds, etc.) and have lead the sheep (democratically?) run the movement where we need vision and (collective or shared) leadership.

Now, to return to the question (which I merely THINK that I've clarified somewhat), will a threshold percentage of vegans make possible, predictable, likely, foreseeable a recognition of their personhood through a change in their legal status?

That's a yes or no, but that COULD be a yes or no in certain jurisdictions, just as we have regional jurisdictions (states, provinces, cities) that decide some elements of social life locally or regionally, without a national or international consensus.

What might that threshold percentage be? Do we have any evidence base for approximating such a threshold percentage?