Monday, December 14, 2009

This Is The Abolitionist Vegan Movement

I listened to Erik Marcus's podcast where he interviews Foer on his book "Eating Animals." With all the things Marcus's discusses on his podcast, he greatly misrepresents the abolitionist veganism movement on so. Many. Levels. That we could probably sue him for distortion. I would like to clarify what the abolitionist veganism movement is:

(From Vegan Wikia:)


1. The animal rights position maintains that all sentient beings, humans or nonhuman, have one right: the basic right not to be treated as the property of others.

2. Our recognition of the one basic right means that we must abolish, and not merely regulate, institutionalized animal exploitation–because it assumes that animals are the property of humans.

3. Just as we reject racism, sexism, ageism, and homophobia, we reject speciesism. The species of a sentient being is no more reason to deny the protection of this basic right than race, sex, age, or sexual orientation is a reason to deny membership in the human moral community to other humans.

4. We recognize that we will not abolish overnight the property status of nonhumans, but we will support only those campaigns and positions that explicitly promote the abolitionist agenda. We will not support positions that call for supposedly “improved” regulation of animal exploitation. We reject any campaign that promotes sexism, racism, homophobia or other forms of discrimination against humans.

5. We recognize that the most important step that any of us can take toward abolition is to adopt the vegan lifestyle and to educate others about veganism. Veganism is the principle of abolition applied to one’s personal life and the consumption of any meat, fowl, fish, or dairy product, or the wearing or use of animal products, is inconsistent with the abolitionist perspective.

6. We recognize the principle of nonviolence as the guiding principle of the animal rights movement.

Abolitionist vegans think that animal exploitation is immoral. We work to educate people about why it's immoral. We don't think people who participate blindly in the system are immoral; we are all trapped in a society where you can't avoid animal exploitation even if you try, as Gary Steiner points out in his essay for the New York Times. HOWEVER, abolitionist vegans are not going say that veganism is the "last step," as Foer and Marcus suggest veganism is. The "first step" is not to continue to exploit animals by buying "free-range eggs" or "grass-fed cows" or "organic milk." What would it say about us, the abolitionist vegans, who find animal exploitation morally wrong, if we did tell you to do that? Besides, being vegan is the easiest thing to do in the world. It is, in fact, not rocket science.

Veganism is the first step if you care about animals. As Gary Francione says, "Veganism is not just reducing suffering; it is commitment to justice and refusal to participate in animal slavery." We're not going to ask you to continue to participate in an immoral system — that is disingenuous. We're asking you to take our arguments, think over them critically, do some research; we trust you to do that.

I would finish with my personal story: I had absolutely no interest in vegetarianism (let alone veganism) or how animals were treated before I was vegan. Absolutely none. Then, one day, I listened to Colleen Patrick-Goudreau talk about chickens, and what cruelty is done to chickens. At the end of the podcast, she didn't say "stop eating chickens but continue to eat everything else." She didn't say "buy free-range chickens." She asked me to think about what I heard. So I did. And I became vegan right then and there. Sure, I had slip ups (I learned that whey is actually cow milk protein, for example). But I stayed committed. And I'm still vegan and I will never go back.

I close with Fracione's words again: ""Go vegan. It’s easy; it’s better for you; it’s better for the planet; and, most importantly, it’s the morally right thing to do." No BS. No veganism is the "last step." Do it. Us abolitionist vegans believe in you.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Answer Me This Welfarism

Long time, no post! My thoughts for today, following the conversation with Erik Marcus via Twitter, about Foer's book, "Eating Animals." Marcus is interviewing Foer for his podcast and he asked Twitter readers what he should ask him. When he took a jab at Ab_Vegan, I jumped in and we had a very strange debate of Marcus defending welfarism and putting Foer's words in his mouth that he was really promoting vegetarism in his book. But Foer's words disprove that. He says things like "Also it's very hard [to be vegan]. Vegetarianism is very easy."

Or, "But I went to farms where animals were treated better than I treat my dog, and it would just be impossible to try to honestly argue that they don't have good lives. So of course, they're killed in the end, but our lives are destined for death also."

I kept pushing back on Marcus, saying Foer should be vegan AND Marcus should be debating him on the conclusion of his book — that animals should be treated better and still eaten — not saying "This is the best book ever!" (You can read the entire conversation on Twitter — I replied to most of Marcus's posts.)

In the end, Marcus said to me, "Why this attachment to [Foer's] choices? Get out there & be the best advocate u can be."

My response was, "Because you are the host of and he is not vegan and is not promoting veganism in his book/interviews."

I would like to say I have nothing against Foer and his book "Eating Animals." I just disagree with his ultimate conclusion — that we should treat the animals raised for food better. I also think us, as vegans, shouldn't be promoting yet another "treat-animals-better-before-we-eat-them" book or, a "happy meat!" book. (Ironically, I told my friend about this debate, and said "Vegans shouldn't promote a book that tells you to continue to eat animals" and she agreed! She isn't even vegan!)

But, I have to ask, since this is what the welfarism movement is promoting: where are we going to get all this land to raise happy, grass-fed, able-to-perform-natural-instincts animals? There can't be a field somewhere in the USA that has a bunch of happily roaming chickens, dropping eggs here and there. That's an unsustainable food production model. IF that happens (which I largely doubt), food prices might go up, but the outside world will just meet the demand for cheap animal products. We'll end up getting our beef from Brazil, where 80-percent of the rain forest is being cut down for cattle grazing. (Think of all the wild animals that slaughters.)

We'll get our eggs from some other random country, and the cycle will continue. We'll just be further detached from it because we really wouldn't see it then. Animals will still be exploited. They'll still suffer. This needs to be addressed in the welfarism movement if they want to continue to defend their position.

The best thing to do to get people to stop using animals is to promote veganism. For an excellent definition of veganism, we can turn to Gary L Francione, who said, "Veganism is not just reducing suffering; it is commitment to justice and refusal to participate in animal slavery."

Let's not tell people that by treating animals better yet still consuming them is the way to go. I daresay it will cause more suffering in the long run. So let's promote a book that says "go vegan!" rather than "treat animals better," huh?

Friday, September 18, 2009

I Am An Abolitionist Vegan

I have been vegan for roughly four months now and it's been amazing. Great food, great communities — especially the Vegan Freaks — and great fun, with intellectual discussions that I wish I had at university. The only downside is the amount of ridicule I've received, some that's bordered on harassment, mostly from my friends and even from someone I love dearly. I wasn't expecting that, but I know now that it's quite common and something we have to endure as a vegan.

But when it came down to the question of animal welfarism, I was lost and confused. The argument that, if people are going to eat animals we should at least treat them better, made some sense to me. Reduce suffering, since it's going to happen anyway. But at the same time, I didn't like that. We were still killing animals in the end, and no living creature wants to die. It goes against our very beings, down to the genetic level. It didn't make sense.

Then the Vegan Freaks interview Gary L. Francione, of Abolitionist Approach. He talked about abolition, with ending the exploitation of animals. The mission statement of the website made so much sense to me:

"The mission of this website is to provide a clear statement of an approach to animal rights that (1) requires the abolition of animal exploitation and rejects the regulation of animal exploitation; (2) is based only on animal sentience and no other cognitive characteristic, (3) regards veganism as the moral baseline of the animal rights position; and (4) rejects all violence and promotes activism in the form of creative, non-violent vegan education."

I stared reading and listening to more Professor Francione's work, along with Roger Yates and others. I found myself agreeing with that the idea that the answer was to stop animal exploitation and teach people that veganism is a morally right. Francione argued these tactics didn't do anything but strengthen the industry and confused "compassionate" omnivores. His logic was well thought out, far more than PETA's when they said, "We want to reduce suffering now with our campaigns," which yes, reduced suffering, but didn't solve the main problem.

But part of me still felt like I had to agree with the welfarist point of view: reduce suffering in the meantime. Was I bad person if I didn't support it? I was torn.

It didn't become clear to me until I saw the poster for the Responsible Fishkeeping Initiative (RFI). This has nothing to do with animal rights, but fishkeeping, like in aquariums. It wasn't the same as animals murdered for food, but as "pets." According to the RFI:

"Red-tailed catfish, pacus and iridescent sharks may be sold as juveniles to hobbyists who don’t realize how large these fish may eventually become; all can grow to over 3 feet in length. People who find themselves with huge specimens they can no longer care for may not always be able to find a home for them and as a last resort hobbyists may release these fish into local waters. This is not only illegal, but it is wrong, dangerous, and very bad for the aquarium hobby and industry.

The Responsible Fishkeeping Initiative (RFI) ... is an effort on the part of concerned people and companies to put a stop to the release of anything from an aquarium into the wild. Retail fish stores participating in the RFI agree to two things: 1) not to sell these species, and 2) to accept large specimens of any species from people who can no longer care for them. The stores will attempt to place the fish in new homes, and if they cannot do so the fish will be humanely euthanized."

I read it and thought, "Well, this wouldn't be an issue if we didn't sell the animals in the first place. Why does a fish have to be "humanely euthanized" (most likely frozen to death, if its a pet store), aka die, because an irresponsible store, probably the same one who's taking in the fish, sold a fish in the first place?"

And then it hit me. Suddenly, it all made sense. "Why should we campaign to reduce suffering/exploitation instead of just stopping the exploitation itself?" I thought. The arguments from various groups: Peta, Francione, Yates, etc, welfarism vs. abolition, were laid before me and I knew where I was going. That day, I became an abolitionist.

It's always good to do less harm, but it doesn't solve the root of the problem, which is exploitation. Instead we should be teaching people about veganism and that using animals is wrong. That is the message I want to convey when talking to people about veganism.

I am an abolitionist vegan.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Californian Vegan Intro

My name is Jay Kateel, and I'm 24-year-old writer and vegan living in Sunny Southern California. This a blog dedicated to veganism and animal rights. I live my life by this philosophy:

1) Be Vegan (It’s easy!)

2) Animals Are Persons

3) Be a voice for those who don’t have a voice.

In this blog, I want to explore my veganism and animal rights. Thank you for reading.