Food miles: meaningful enviro-activism or wacky nonsense? Wacky nonsense.

One of the hipper excuses not to go vegan these days is that veganism is somehow bad for the environment. Common sense tells us that this is wrong, but guess what? So does the science. Turns out, the 100-Mile diet, sometimes shorthanded as locavorism, is an unscientific fad.

What's all the fuss about? Forget, say the locavores, all those articles in the New Scientist that suggest that it takes an outrageous amount of resources (and a deeply confused sense of the justice that we owe nonhuman animals) to enslave nonhuman animals for completely unnecessary human consumption; eating locally grown animal products is better for the environment than veganism.

In an excellent and compelling paper that addresses the actual science behind global food production, Dr. Pierre Deroschers from the University of Toronto (Geography) analyzes the food miles proposal. He finds it lacking.

In his paper, “Yes, We Have No Bananas: A Critique of the ‘Food-Miles’ Perspective”, Desroschers argues that
food miles are, at best, a marketing fad that frequently and severely distorts the environmental impacts of agricultural production. At worst, food miles constitute a dangerous distraction from the very real and serious issues that affect energy consumption, the environmental impact of modern food production, and the affordability of food.
Marketing? In agribusiness? Untruthful marketing? In agribusiness? News at 11!

Of course, those of us who can reason simply figured out a long time ago that a primarily plant-based diet was typically (although not absolutely) better for the environment than one rich in animal products. It’s also just common sense that not enslaving nonhuman animals is morally the right thing to do. I would be vegan even if it were bad for the environment, but it’s good to know that I can be a good environmentalist and a good vegan simultaneously.

What’s the big problem with food miles according to Deroschers?
The most problematic aspect of the food-miles perspective is that it ignores productivity differentials between geographical locations. In other words, activists assume that producing a given food item requires the same amount of inputs independently of where and how it is produced.
In short, it ignores the fact that about 80% of the energy that goes into food goes into the production of the food, not in transport. Moreover, it doesn’t account for the surplus of sunlight energy in certain locales.

Further, Deroschers argues,
82 percent of the estimated 30 billion food miles associated with UK consumed food are generated within the United Kingdom, with car transport from shop to home accounting for 48 percent and heavy goods vehicles (HGV) like tractor-trailers for 31 percent of food miles. Remarkably, air transport amounted to less than 1 percent of food miles.
Want to make a more serious impact in your food miles? Buy internationally grown fruits, roots, nuts and shoots, but take your bike to the market.

That doesn’t mean local food is necessarily bad for the environment, bad for consumers or bad for farmers. It just means that people who eat animal products because they were produced less than 100 miles away are not only morally derelict in terms of what they owe nonhuman animals, they're also very seriously fooling themselves into believing that they are doing something right for the environment. Instead, they're doing something that's definitely bad for nonhuman animals and potentially bad for the environment.

In short, you can be an environmentalist and a vegan. If you’re not vegan yet, you should take the rights of animals not be used as property seriously and go vegan today. If you're a vegan but not an environmentalist, you should consider seriously that animals (human and non) both need a sustainable ecosystem in which to have their lives. Abolishing the property status of nonhuman animals is the right thing to do, and it will eliminate animal agriculture as a key source of environmental harm. If you're not an abolitionist but what to learn more about the approach, read through my other articles of head over to www.abolitionistapproach.com.

Works Cited

Desrochers, Pierre and Hiroko Shimzu. "Yes We Have No Bananas: A Critique of the Food Miles Perspective." Mercatus Policy Series Policy Primer, No. 8. Arlington, VA: Mercatus Center at George Mason University, October 2008.

The paper is also available electronically:
http://mercatus.org/PublicationDetails.aspx?id=24612

If you take speciesism seriously, why are you still imitating the oppressor? Ten things vegans can do to be less speciesist

There's been a lot of talk about Chipotle's new veg*n offering. I write veg*n because it's not clear that it will be properly vegan (that's if it comes into being). Erik Marcus has actually tweeted that: “If you're not excited, you might not have a pulse.” I'm not sure nonhuman animals will share his excitement. Baffling and rather speciesist. Also, great viral marketing on the part of Chipotle. It's disappointing when vegans bend over backwards to promote nonvegan businesses; I wish it were uncommon.

But let's pause and think for a moment about what there is to be excited about here. This may normalize plant-based alternatives in a way that helps agribusiness continue to profit, but it also further normalizes speciesism. I thought vegans were against that? I can to go a restaurant chain where the dead are dismembered, deep fried and served on a platter. I can eat my plant-based food that's been cooked a grill with splattered fats from the cooked flesh of the dead. And I can surround myself in the cosy atmosphere of people who believe that nonhuman animals should be our slaves.

We can all smile at one another across the table, our mouths full, knowing that our money is going to further slavery and knowing that someone in someone's marketing department is rubbing his or her hands together with glee. Let's imagine a similar scenario. Would MLK or Malcolm X go to a diner where African Americans were served (as the main course) to eat a plant-based alternative and go on about how exciting this was? Probably not (and by probably, I really mean definitely).

Well, I tried (no, not really). I'm still very underwhelmed about this. I have no doubt that nonvegans (and apparently many vegans for that matter) are deeply confused about what we owe nonhuman animals morally, but the idea that I would line the pockets of industry to enjoy my "plant-based but not properly vegan" crumbs from the master's table doesn't seem all that much to get worked up over. As an advocate, it's my job to reset that table. I'm not blaming anyone. Speciesism is difficult to understand, I've made plenty of mistakes myself, and I have not always been the best advocate that I could.

But if we take nonhuman animals seriously, the least we can do is go vegan, stay vegan, say vegan, and work to end their property status of nonhuman animals. And that's the least we can do. There's actually no penalty for doing more. It's not even a limited time offer. So, a blog on speciesism and some of the things we can do to take nonhuman animals more seriously as persons with rights, to help normalize anti-speciesism, and to stop gleefully kissing the ass of the oppressor at every turn.

A little tough love for vegans, but love nevertheless. I believe in you.

First, let's consider whether or not we have five minutes a day we can devote to animal advocacy, outreach and education. Veganism is wonderful. As Gary L. Francione often writes and says, it's the most important thing any of us can do. It is the unequivocal moral baseline of the animal rights movement, and it is the right thing to do. But it's not the only thing many of us can do. Educate. Teach. Cook. Speak. Write. Read. Blog. Perform a play. Make a video. Write a book. Become the outspoken, passionate, and most of all, educated, sincere and disciplined advocate that nonhuman animals need. If we take justice seriously, we can make five minutes a day that we can spare to advocate for the oppressed, can't we?

Second, let's stop talking about veganism as a matter of compassion, benevolence and other nice-sounding, but ultimately anthropocentric missives. The idea that we are 'being kind', 'acting compassionately', or 'saving lives' just by being vegan is misguided. It's also paternalistic. Veganism is a matter of justice, and it reflects the absolute minimum of justice that I owe other persons (human and non). That doesn't mean we're not compassionate people. It doesn't mean we can't act compassionately toward other animals (human or non). It just means that veganism is what we owe them. It's not an act of charity.

Third, let's all stop eating out at nonvegan restaurants when it's trivial for us to avoid doing so. The moral proposal that we should make agribusinesses and their outlet stores richer so that we can feel more normal as vegans is misguided. I'm not saying we shouldn't promote vegan alternatives. But we can't buy our way to social transformation. That doesn't mean our purchasing power is unimportant. Just the opposite: it's so important that we shouldn't be bending over backwards to line the pockets of industry. I'm not saying vegans should never, ever eat out at nonvegan restaurants under any circumstances. I'm saying that we should be cooking for ourselves, building strong communities, engaging in culinary activism of our own, and sending a strong message that the slavery of nonhuman animals is anything but normal. We should be building abolitionist vegan alternatives. Start a potluck. Make a dish for a neighbour (and let them know that it was made with love – for nonhuman animals). Have a dinner party that celebrates the fact the speciesism is fundamentally wrong and unjust.

Fourth, let's stop imitating and start innovating. There's a whole world of cultural knowledge, history and traditions waiting to be written and explored by vegans. Yet, most of us prefer to watch reruns of Everyone Loves Raymond, eating fake meat and potatoes. I'm not saying that's a terrible thing to do (I like potatoes). I'm pointing out that we're really only at the beginning of writing the history and traditions of our own unique cultural community. Let's re-imagine today the cooking, the fashion, the art, the sport and all of the other important cultural changes that will result from a social transformation that is unmatched in human history and will reshape our lives in even the smallest details.

Fifth, let's all stop fawning over pseudo-veg*n celebrities. I'm not going to write this one out at length. You can read Mylene Ouellet's recent blogs on the matter. Suffice it to say, celebrities rarely get veganism right. What that means is that when they misrepresent veganism, they misrepresent it on a massive scale. That doesn't really help nonhuman animals very much and when we get too starry eyed about it, we take our eyes off the prize.

Sixth, let's all stop normalizing violence and adventurism. Violence is the paradigm and tool of the oppressor. Violence reflects a poverty of philosophy, a lack of imagination, a poverty of will, and an ignorance of social justice history. When vegans (or even more misguided, vegetarians) propose violence as the basis of social change for nonhuman animals, they are proposing to stop a flood by peeing in the river. Let's also stop the adventurism. Maybe it's not directly violent, maybe it's not directly illegal, but let's stop this nonsense about TERRIFYING THE OPPRESSOR! When animal advocates engage in a hypermasculine posturing that would make professional wrestlers wince, they signal to the public that the movement is populated by childish caricatures (no offense to children), not diligent, thoughtful and sincere adults who want to see nonhuman animals get free.

Seventh, let's also stop the antics (and while we're at it, the sexism, classism, racism, heterosexism, sizeism, xenophobia and other expressions of irrational prejudice). Antic-based activism signals to the public that one of the worst enormities in human history is something to laugh at. It's definitively speciesist. Activism that attempts to capitalize on other social prejudices is also deeply morally problematic, insofar as it promotes irrational prejudices against human beings. Not only does it not help nonhuman animals, it turns animal advocacy into a politically reactionary movement.

Eighth, let's stop acting as if more speciesism, more violence and more death were a victory. I smile when people tell me they are taking the rights of animals seriously and going vegan. I may do a jig when the property status of nonhuman animals is finally abolished. But the idea that it is a major victory for a nonhuman animal to have anything other than to have his, her or zir (not all animals are male or female) life back free from use, to have the care s/h/ze needs if needed or a pond back, a forest back, a plain back, sunshine, a dark cave, cool water, warm water, fresh water, salt water -- whatever it is his, hers or zirs as a person to have – is a slap in the face to those who live in slavery.

Ninth, as a corollary, let's try to remember, it's not about whether or not we feel good; it's about whether or not they get free, or in the case of domesticated nonhumans who will not be able to fend for themselves, the care that they need. We can do a little more just by saying no to welfare advocacy, which achieves nothing meaningful for nonhuman animals, and even if it were ever to be successful, would still send the wrong message: that animals are ours to use, so long as we use them “humanely”, which is almost certainly very harmful to their interests.

Tenth, let's adopt a nonhuman animal, volunteer at a shelter or otherwise educate others about nonhumans as persons with rights. My veganism is not just about not using nonhuman animals. It's about understanding them as beings with whom I share my house, my neighbourhood, the city, and the ecosystem. Nonhuman animals are not just things that I don't eat, wear, experiment on, etc., anymore; they're persons to whom I owe moral consideration. If you can't adopt, volunteer, or donate to help nonhuman animals directly, read books about them so that you are an informed and articulate advocate who can at least educate others about animals as persons.

That's a short list. Creative, nonviolent, and mass vegan movement and the abolition of the property status of nonhuman animals are only the first and most important milestones in the fight against speciesism. The most important thing any of us can do is to go vegan, to adopt abolition, and educate others about the morally imperative that abolition and veganism impose upon us. But there's always more to do if you can. If you're not vegan yet, go vegan today. If you're not an abolitionist, feel free to read my other articles or head over to www.abolitionistapproach.com


Compassion or justice? Empathy and animal rights

Often in the animal advocacy movement, the problem of animal use is phrased as an absence of empathy or a lack of compassion. "If only people had more empathy! Veganism is a compassionate choice." What are we to make of these claims?

It is important to distinguish between empathy as a kind of emotional motivation that may or may not lead us to moral action, and moral action itself. It is the difference between the gasoline and the car, the driver, the driving, and the destination. Empathy can equally lead us into immorality if it is not properly considered. Moreover, it is important to distinguish between compassion, something we do as an act of benevolence, and justice, something we do because it is morally required of us to do it.

Many animal welfare advocates pose the moral problem as a need to understand the emotional world of another animal; often shorthanded as being "empathetic". None of us can do this properly, even if we might imagine that we can. That doesn't mean we cannot read body language or mood signals from other animals in some instances; it is simply to state the obvious that there would always be a certain amount of error involved.

Moreover, in my experience, many people relate to nonhuman animals (even their companion animals) in the same way that overbearing parents try to live vicariously through their children, mistaking their emotional echoes for the emotional lives of their companions. It is not clear that many people even get this far. Some instead treat all nonhumans (and just as often, other humans) with a complete moral apathy. This is not to say that more empathy would not be helpful in these situations. It might be. However, empathy flows often from our understanding of justice. That is, we are often empathetic to those to whom we already feel a sense of duty, even if we are not entirely certain about the nature of that duty.

Just understanding the emotional lives of nonhuman animals does not provide us with a proper basis to understand what we owe them in moral terms, as some animal welfare advocates have suggested it does. In a sense, this poses nonhuman animals as "things with feelings". But in fact, many nonhuman animals who would have a right not to be used as property may have little or no emotional lives at all.

This is, I think, different from comprehending animals as persons (some of whom have emotions, but all of whom would have some interests with respect the world) and trying to deepen our understanding of what we owe them in moral terms in light of that personhood. This is often (but not exclusively) an empirical process that informs and is informed by our rational decision making. If we wish to act most justly and most virtuously with respect to animals (human and non), some knowledge of their interests and a deepened understanding of them as persons to whom we owe moral consideration is required.

Let's say I told you a man died today in a traffic accident. You'd have some rational sense of what this meant. You might feel bad for him, feel bad for his family, etc. You might ask whether or not he suffered much.

But this would be remarkably different from an experience in which the man dies in your arms with his or her children standing nearby, the cars smashed and still smoking, broken glass all over the tar of the road, the sirens of ambulances and fire trucks, listening to his last breaths, watching his eyes flutter as he loses consciousness, his torso shaking, blue shirt, brown hair with streaks of grey, ashen skin, hazel eyes, all convulsing in your arms, seeing the looks of confusion and sadness on the faces of his children, one a girl who is just about to hit puberty with brown hair, freckles and a blue dress who will need braces and the other a boy in black jeans and a tan coat, and understanding as a whole (without fully thinking about it) the whole of the reality of the moment of his death and what it means in moral terms to all of those who will be affected by it.

In the first case, you're understanding rationally what's happened, but in the latter case, you comprehend cognitively in remarkably full and grave detail much more about the reality of that death in terms of what it meant to you and what it meant to the people involved: in short, what it meant in terms of moral reality.

If the man in my example had no children, he would still have an interest in continuing his life. If he were terrified or calm due to shock and hoping to see his dearly departed mother, he would still have an interest in continuing his life. If he could feel nothing emotionally at all, he would still have an interest in continuing his life. If he were a pig, he would still have an interest in continuing his life. If he were a bat, he would still have an interest in continuing his life. If he were a cuttlefish, he would still have an interest in continuing his life.

Although the precise nature of their interest in continuing their lives and their cognitive ability to comprehend and experience the world may vary, it does not follow from this that they have no interest in continuing their lives or that we are justified in harming them. His death would still be a loss, and insofar as we may be said to intentionally cause his death (or his harm, or to otherwise use him in a way to which he cannot consent), we would be doing something very gravely morally wrong. Moreover, we could not describe it legitimately as 'a compassionate choice' not to harm him but our duty in light of the justice that we owe him. It it not 'compassionate' to pay what we owe others; it is just.

Not using other animals as property (even if we don't cause them death in doing so) is obviously the most important thing we can do. Welfarist critics often describe the proposal to abolish the use of animals as an 'an abstract legal concept', and I always find this kind of baffling; in fact, it is critically important to understand nonhuman animals as persons with rights, who call us to limit our wills with respect to them, to not use them as property as the moral baseline of our lived daily practices.

Whatever the psychology, morality calls me to limit my personal will and desires in favor of doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong. Empathy and morality are not opposites, but neither are they mutually inclusive, nor can they be substituted. It is not because I am empathetic either to cockroaches or to Nazis that I don't intentionally harm either of them (although many of you can guess with whom I would rather share my bagel); it's because they both have a right not to be used as property because they are sentient.

We often think about nonhuman animals (and other humans) in ways that are remarkably vague, abstract and shallow. Rarely are their lives and deaths more than newspaper headlines or statistics. Even many vegans think of them as things with feelings that we try to accommodate as an act of our charity and goodness. We seldom comprehend them as persons to whom we owe an unequivocal duty, who have a unique place in the world, who want their lives, and that when any of them loses his or her life, that it's as morally meaningful as the death of a human being.

If we take the moral rights of nonhumans seriously (and we all should), we should internalize and act on a full understanding of the moral realities of what nonhuman animals face in slavery as an abridgment of their rights and denial of the justice we owe them. When we have cultivated properly this understanding of reality, only then can we be said to experience properly the visceral revulsion that attends to an encounter with speciesism that is immediate, sincere, and lucid.

This is different from a shallow, vague and rational understanding on reflection that it was a shame that raccoon was killed by a car, or an overly emotional cuddlitarian response that draws us into mistaking our own emotional desires to have a being continue his or her life with what s/he has lost in losing it and the tragedy that this proposes to us. Both of which are also different from the standard "so what?" that most people would experience.

It is not compassion that we need, but a strong sense of justice, an attention to our duties to others, and a habit of acting as virtuously as we can with respect to their rights. It is a sense of humility and not benevolence, a sense of justice, not charity. This begins with veganism. If you are not vegan already, you should go vegan today. If you are not an abolitionist, but wish to learn more about the approach, you should read my previous article or head over to www.abolitionistapproach.com

Veganism's not a hobby; it's a moral imperative

A couple of colleagues have written to me recently with questions about social events.  Is it wrong or impolite for a vegan to decline a social event where nonvegan food will be served or to make arrangements to arrive after the food has been served?  I wish these were uncommon questions, but a great many of the questions I field have to do with people simply navigating the social dynamics of being vegan.  In this blog, I'm going to answer the question first and then discuss why this question is so common.

Before I start, I want to draw your attention to recent pieces on veganism, one by Gary Francione, one by Elizabeth Collins and one by Mylène Ouellet.  All three provide some additional ideas on veganism and social relationships (some of which are perhaps slightly contrary to my own, but abolitionists often disagree on fine points).Like scientists, we are a community that agrees to common points and methods and processes of inquiry (sound reasoning, empirical evidence, reality, etc.) for understanding what we owe other animals (human and non), even if our results do not always match exactly.

There is nothing wrong with that. What is important is that we are self-correcting and self-critical as a community, not a religious cult based around any individual always being right all the time (unlike many other strands of the animal advocacy movement for which adherence to a cult of personality is a basic requirement). For an abolitionist, agreement on every tiny detail of everything is not required; however, (among other things) clear thinking, a willingness to accept reality, taking the Six Principles of the animal rights position seriously and a broader  commitment to doing what's right for nonhuman animals are.

Let's return to the question. First, let's clarify the question, which I think is two questions.  Is it ethically wrong to decline such an invite? Second, is it wrong in terms of etiquette to propose arriving after the food has been served? With the first, I think it's entirely a vegan's prerogative. It is unreasonable for anyone to expect anyone else to participate in any activity they consider to be patently unethical. If attending an event where animal foods will be served makes you ethically uncomfortable, you're usually within most normal understandings of social behaviour to decline, especially if it's a matter of entertainment (e.g., it's not like you're declining a bone marrow transplant or something).

With respect to the second, assuming that you haven't asked your hosts to go to a lot of unreasonable extra effort on your behalf (e.g., you'll only attend if your mashed potatoes are made with truffle oil), and you're not proposing something that would seriously mar the event (e.g., if you are a nudist and you wanted to attend au naturel), I still think it's entirely your prerogative to decline and that you have not done anything rude just by asking to arrive at a later time.

In terms of proposing an arrival after the start of the event, this can sometimes be tricky in terms of the etiquette.  There are, of course, times when hosts have appropriate reasons to ask all guests to arrive by a particular time. If the event on a boat and it has to leave by a particular time, that's probably understandable.  If it's an informal BBQ, however, where guests may drop in whenever they get off work, or whenever they can make it, the host is probably being unreasonable.  On the third hand, it's the host's event to be unreasonable about.

It's not uncommon to receive less than polite replies to these kinds of inquiries.  When we receive short-tempered replies about own concerns in these matters, it's usually that the host feels judged by the question. If that's the case, in my view, that's the host's issue. Having said that, we always have an opportunity to be virtuous and I think the virtuous thing to do in this case is to try understand why the host was offended, let the host know that you are still interested in attending (assuming you are), that you look forward to seeing him or her and the other guests, etc., and that you hope you can discuss whatever the problem is, that you didn't mean to cause any offense and that if the question caused any, it was was inadvertent. This is different from apologizing, but since you haven't done anything wrong, I don't think an apology is required here.

Because I believe that good deeds rarely go unpunished, vegans should probably expect any range of response: it may be a civil reply, or it may be earful about how elitist and judgemental we are just because we take nonhuman animals seriously. I can only say that in my experience, most people are very courteous about my veganism (although I live in Canada, a country renowned for its politeness). The short answer to this question is that it is not wrong and it is not rude, in and of itself, for a vegan to try to avoid social situations in which animal products will be served. 

But should vegans attend these kinds of events?  There is a probably a reasonable argument to be made that a vegan may decide to attend the event if there is sufficient justification for him or her to do so.  However, there is also a reasonable argument to be made that a vegan may decide not to attend the event on the basis that it tends to normalize speciesism. 

I am not making a proclamation or giving definitive moral guidance on this last part either way on this question.  I am only pointing out that the question of whether it is appropriate for a vegan to attend this kind of event is a matter of debate in the larger community; however, because something is a matter of debate, it does not follow that there is not a right answer.

What is most important, however, is to cultivate a habit of asking moral questions, trying to answer sincerely and rationally, and then to act accordingly.  So long as you act with humility, sincerity and good faith with respect to the rights of others, first and foremost, and in consideration of what is virtuous, second, you rarely act unethically or impolitely.

Having said that, we should always put ethics ahead of etiquette.  Anyone who fails to understand that ethics are more important than etiquette understands neither.

If you wish to act well, first, you should consider what your duties are, and fulfill those.  There is no clear duty in this case to attend such an event.  If one does attend, vegans still have a very clear duty not to eat any animal foods, no matter how much Aunt Martha pushes her bacon, steak and duck casserole on you. 

Second, however, once your duties are fulfilled (or in those situations where you can fulfill your duties in a number of ways, or if you do not have any specific duties), you may also consider what's the virtuous thing to do in a given situation.  How can I act best beyond my literal obligations to act well? This is also an important part of abolitionist veganism.  As an abolitionist vegan, it is not enough to fulfill a checklist of the absolute least we can do; we must also consider seriously the moral imperative that the rights of nonhuman animals impose upon us and act as well as we can in light of that imperative. 

That is, the question is not (or is not just): what is the absolute bare minimum I can do in this situation to meet veganism as a baseline? The question is: how can I act best in solidarity with those who live and die in slavery for the pleasure of others?  What is it that I owe them?  This question may, at times, be difficult to answer. It may call us to do what we perceive to be seriously difficult, and indeed, what may be objectively difficult.  It may vary by specific circumstance.  It may often lead us into making mistakes.  It may often make abolitionist veganism seem difficult to people who are not used to moral life.  Finally, it may also  yield more than one right answer. But we must cultivate a habit of asking the question and acting on its results.

This draws me to the second part of my blog.  Why don't nonvegans take veganism more seriously?  Why do we have to field this kind of question? First, speciesism is endemic and enveloping.  It is very difficult for people to understand the moral necessity of veganism.  But second, and more troubling, most vegans are busy telling them that veganism is not a moral imperative, but a personal choice.  This is very deeply misguided. Not only does it make more work for vegans who take veganism seriously, it confuses the public about what we owe nonhuman animals.

There is no meaningful way to promote veganism, educate about veganism, etc., except to do so. "Gateway" and "indirect" approaches propose and promote a lot of confusion. I agree with Francione, Collins and Oullet that veganism is very easy most of the time, but there may also be times when it is legitimately difficult. But veganism is not a hobby. It's not something we should or others should expect us to leave in the garage when we go to Acapulco or the neighbours; it's a moral imperative. It goes where we go, and veganism should inform our decisions when it is appropriate for it to do so. Moreover, what most people perceive as being difficult often is not, and more important, the idea that we should promote what is easy rather than what is correct is misguided.

Further, the proposal of some vegans that we shouldn't take difficult moral decisions for nonhuman animals as rights-holders when we are willing to do the same for human rights-holders is very troubling (and often speciesist).  Veganism is not a hobby.  There may be times when it is difficult and unenjoyable, but most of the time it is easy, fulfilling, but most of all, it is the right thing to do; it is the baseline of what we owe nonhuman animals.

But it all starts with you going vegan, staying vegan and saying vegan.  If you are not vegan yet, you should go vegan today.  If you are already vegan, but not an abolitionist, you can learn more about the approach at Gary Francione's Web site www.abolitionistapproach.com or by reading my other articles.

HSUS and other agribusinesses battle over Issue 2 in Ohio: Hitler and Mussolini battle over Europe

I know the title probably sounds incendiary, but relax, it's only a metaphor. The similarity is not that HSUS, other agribusinesses or the state of Ohio are dictatorial regimes bent on world domination and eugenics (although I'm not an insider to any and can't make any claims one way or another); it's that they are content to participate in a haggle over how best to kill nonhuman animals so that people can feel better about that killing without concerning themselves in the slightest over the rights of those they are violating in the process.

But what about cuttlefish? The question no one ever asks me but someone really should

No one ever asks me: what about cuttlefish? I hesitate to link to Wikipedia, but most of the accessible Internet material on cuttlefish are about cuttlefish as food. Maybe if I lived in Italy I would hear this question more often.

For those who don't know, cuttlefish are an invertebrate sea animal, a type of cephalopod (cuttlefish are actually 120 or so separate species). Like some other cephalopods, they have a remarkably complex but partly distributed nervous system and 'brain'. I put brain in quotes because their brains are somewhat different from mammalian brains. Their ganglia are spread out around their bodies, making their brains a bit more spread out, rather than more centralized as it tends to be in mammals.

Why I disagree with PeTA: There's really only one reason

Two interesting critiques of PeTA have been published back to back, one by Veganacious (yesterday, 1 October), and another by Katie Drummond (today, 2 October). Both are bloggers. Both are former members of PeTA. In the interests of full disclosure, I have never been a member of PeTA. I like a good critique, though, and I don't want to be left out.

Podcast #5: The Animal Welfare Objective: Anything But Veganism



In this podcast, I discuss welfarism as an objective that is inimical to abolition as an objective, and why abolitionists take the rights of nonhuman animals and veganism as a moral baseline seriously because nonhuman animals are sentient, because they have interests, because, in light of those interests, they have moral rights, and in light of their moral rights, they should have the legal right not to be used as property.

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