Posts Tagged ‘Dan Cudahy’

Tom Regan, ARZone, and the Challenge of Diverse Perspectives

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

As someone relatively new to the Animal Rights movement, I am always trying to absorb as much information as I can. I am fortunate to have access to a wide number of books due to my reviews, but find that some books I wish to read are not as likely to be sent my way. The local libraries are not well stocked with such literature, leaving my options for affordable sourcing rather limited. Online resources are plentiful, and with forums, podcasts, and chats, there is a lot of information free of any charge. Of course, the trick is to find valid information, because there is also a lot of misinformation out there, too.

I remember receiving something in my email last year about an interview with Dan Cudahy on a site called Animal Rights Zone, or ARZone.  This type of site was rather new to me, but I wanted to hear what Dan had to say. I knew he was part of the abolitionist movement, and frequently linked to his articles in my own blog. Following in short order were other interesting folks, including Vincent Guihan and Jo Charlebois, Gary Francione, Roger Yates,  and others with sometimes divergent perspectives.  I was able to ask questions of such noted people as Ric O’Barry of The Cove and Sea Shepherd Captain Paul Watson. They also profile the occasional grassroots activist, such as my good friend and technical advisor, Jordan Wyatt of Invercargill Vegan Society (and podcast Coexisting With Nonhuman Animals), an end-of-the-world one-man abolitionist incursion.  A few of the guests have been quite controversial, including those with very different viewpoints than my own, such people as Bruce Friedrich of PeTA, Matt Ball of Vegan Outreach, transhumanist David Pearce, or former vivisectionist Colin Blakemore.  Even the administrators have a wide range of views, with the shared commonality of being abolitionist vegans. Transcripts following chats are available for anyone who cares to further the dialogue and often the guests will return to answer questions, too.

The past few weeks on ARZone have been of particular note, with Tom Regan’s interview being published, and a workshop related to that interview taking place on Saturday, May 22, 2011. For any of you who know nothing of him, he is a one-time butcher who became a leading proponent of Animal Rights and has written extensively on the subject. He reports that if he could become an animal rights activist, anyone can. Of course, Tom Regan is far from your garden variety ARA, he has been one of the prominent voices in the movement for decades. His humility and quest for justice have stood the test of time. For further information, check out his interview or read the workshop transcripts on ARZone. If time permits,  read some of his many books on the subject.

 

 

The Myth of Magical Meat

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Whenever someone leaves the fold of vegans and joins the mainstream of omnivores, it causes a lot of reaction on both sides of the vegan/omni divide.  How does one quit believing that animals feel and want to live? How does taste or even an orgiastic eating experience dim the knowledge, once one has attained it, of what the animals must endure to end up on your plate?

Letting go of one’s principles is no small thing to undertake.  I could imagine having one’s doctor tell you that veganism is ruining your health. I was often told running was not good for me when I was younger, so I searched out a doctor who actually ran — most of the physicians who were naysaying my running were a good deal overweight and not exactly the picture of health themselves. Physicians in general are not noted for their nutritional education [see articles below]. Constant hunger that was part of the difficulty for some while eating a plant-based diet.  With such abundant plant food, it is hard to envision. Perhaps all hunger is not for food, but for something else missing in one’s life.

Ingesting Death and Deception

Some seem to find returning to eating flesh a miraculous experience. Pretty amazing since, according to Registered Dietitian Ginny Messina of the Vegan RD blog, “…you have to actually digest and absorb the nutrients in food before you’ll feel any of its effects. And if you are consuming nutrients to reverse a deficiency, it will take weeks to feel the benefits.”  Yet for Tasha, over at Voracious “I had only eaten a small piece of cow flesh, and yet I felt totally full, but light and refreshed all at once.” She states:

The world receded to a blank nothingness and I just ate, and ate, and ate. I cried in grief and anger, while moaning with pleasure and joy.

Brings to mind the scene in When Harry Met Sally, “I’ll have what she’s having” – only, no, I do not want what she is having. An ethical stance means eating with the least harm to others.

Even more miraculously, Tasha’s hair completely changed in a few weeks, despite the fact that it takes months for hair to grow from the roots.

The changes that I experienced were manifold and occurred so quickly and decisively I almost couldn’t believe it. ……..(after) 4 weeks I noticed three very strange things: my mysterious lower back pain that had been bothering me for nearly a year had vanished, even though I hadn’t changed my shoes or done any physical therapy; the skin on my face was plump and full and the fine lines that I had figured were just a sign of being nearly 30 had faded so much they were barely discernible, even though I had not changed anything about my skin care routine; and finally, I noticed my hair was thicker, shinier, and much fuller than it had been in years, even though I hadn’t changed anything about my hair care routine.

Sound familiar?  Sounds like the miracles promised in Dairy Deception, right? Lustrous hair, amazing strength, improved general health – even better mental health. Sounds like the Media Mavens have run a successful campaign, with the medical community in compliance with the deception. But after years of indoctrination into the myth that meat means strength, it is not all that hard to understand. Despite the recent spate of information decrying the harmful effects of animal products, some of these misguided souls have found it wonderful to embrace the imagined magical qualities inherent in the death of animals and their body parts. Lierre Keith stated in her book The Vegetarian Myth*, that upon eating a cream cheese topped bagel:

Oh, God, something in my brain woke and moaned. I couldn’t stop.

Who is the One with the Myth?

I am sure that is how Ms. Keith felt, but honestly, I have never had that reaction to a bagel or any other food product. Ms. Keith relates in her book that her spine was ruined by a vegan diet,  but fails to explain exactly how this happened. And she had been unable to sustain a vegan diet, admitted to eating a “dairy orgy” dip well into her supposed veganism.

Then Jennifer of Vegan Lunchbox went through personal changes. I applaud all the above for being honest about what they were undergoing — if only they would. It strains credibility when instant cures happen and one claims they can feel meat “pulsing through every cell” after ingesting carrion, as did Ms. Keith.  The only thing actually pulsing was the blood of the animal through his heart while he lived. And that pulsing is precisely what these folks stopped. Jennifer now is a self-proclaimed “nutritarian,” no longer identifying with veganism.

My own experiences are so opposite these folks that it makes it difficult for me to imagine their plight.  I actually got much healthier and gained weight as a vegan. I turned on to food for the first time. There was so much variety and, no longer on a strict diet for genetically high cholesterol, I was free to indulge. My cholesterol went down to a healthy level – not overnight, but after six months, when it was tested. And it has remained so.  Slowly, I was able to breathe better, as allergies disappeared without my even realizing it.  I live in an area with high incidence of diabetes and obesity; many very young people are enchanted by my stories of healing through veganism. They have tried eating animals products; for them, it has been deadly. And so far, all the men in my father’s family have died from heart disease and clogged arteries due to their ingestion of animal products. But the real reason for my veganism was not improved health – it was finding out what the animals were asked to endure for something not only non-essential, but harmful to all concerned. No, thank you.

Honest Appraisal of Health

This year has been a tough one for me personally.  I had health issues for the first time in many years. Luckily, no one suggested it was due to my veganism, most likely because I was taking care of a preschooler who was catching every bug that showed up in his new preschool life.  I spoke to the school administrator, who told me that even very young new teachers often have a  lot of absences the first year, until they build up immunity for the usual host of preschooler-infecting bugs.

Like Tasha at Voracious, my mental outlook was not as sharp, either. I thought briefly about my veganism — could it be why I was catching the bugs from my grandson? Why I was not as cheerful as usual? Why I was not sleeping so well? I always was very proud of my resistance to illness and my general health — what else could it be? I had a momentary sinking thought – what would I do if my health was on the line? I knew of vegans who are healthier by far than any omnivore I know and have remained healthy and high energy for decades.  Soon a quick search into my life caused me to face a few realities:

  • I was not exercising as much as I had all my life
  • I was not paying much attention to eating a balanced diet
  • Above all, I was undergoing some internal stress due to the illness and events surrounding my father’s death earlier in the year.
  • I was not taking care of myself
  • My life was completely out of balance

Constantly researching all the horrors going on in the world today, especially towards innocent beings, can be exhausting, especially if there is no counterweight towards the positive.  Listening to informative but rather distressing podcasts all day long can leave one feeling drained. Handling personal attacks for the work one does is difficult and disturbing. I knew I needed to get moving, start paying attention to self-care (see Vegan Survival Kit), and setting some limits with child care and other assorted duties. You have to learn to set limits on the amount you take in on behalf of others; it does them nor you any good to go over that line. Good reminder for working in the field of animal rights, too.

You Can Still Be Vegan if You Want

Dan Cudahy, in his recent article, On Ex-Vegans, asks why some of the ex-vegans did not take the vegan path, whether due to their health or other issues, which is to do the least harm.  If you are having health issues due to your diet, that diet is not your veganism — your attitude towards other living beings is where the veganism lives. Why not research the minimum you need to be healthy, confer with vegan dietitians such as Ms. Messina, and then do the least harm, in keeping with your principles?  But instead, some of these folks toss out their veganism with seeming relief and virtually roll in their new blood-soaked, mainstream diets. Tired of being on the margins of society, these animal consumers find the pressures of the mob mighty refreshing.

Whatever one decides, it is their decision, but it does impact other living beings.  I am always sorrowed to hear of vegans threatening other people for leaving a life of non-violence; I guess they cannot see the irony there. I am not terribly interested in ex-vegans, because it would seem they were not really vegan in the first place. A recent article by Kye Martin over at Chicago Now drove this point home, Why I hate telling people I’m Vegan. In that article, Kye relates:

Raise the beef, cut it up… sell it.  Fine by me.  I have no problem with what you’re doing, I simply choose not to partake.

Really? You have no problem with slaughtering animals? Raise the BEEF? Don’t you mean the steer, the cow, the animals, the living being? Oh, no — here I go being preachy and everything that makes people so uncomfortable. But it is not really about me and my comfort or you and yours. It is about the animals. And I DO have a problem with people who kill them for no reason but their own tradition and pleasure. It is madness.

Focus on the Ex-Omnivores!

Good news for Kye. She no longer has to announce she is vegan! She is not. If you limit yourself to a plant-based diet, that is not veganism. If you really don’t care about people harming animals, that is not veganism. So no, I am not too interested in those who once called themselves vegans or hate to announce they are vegans. I would prefer to pay attention to a much larger, more dynamic, world-changing and ever growing category: ex-omnivores!

Keith, Lierre, The Vegetarian Myth, Flashpoint Press – available on Amazon

VoraciousEats

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition – lack of medical nutrition in medical schools

New York TimesTeaching Doctors About Nutrition

Ginny Messina’s article, Do Ex-Vegans’ Stories Make the Case Against Vegan Diets?

Dan Cudahy’s article, On Ex-Vegans

Read more: http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/spoke-n-word-biking/2010/12/why-i-hate-telling-people-im-vegan.html#ixzz18lG0g0ad

Why I Am NOT a Veg*n

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Recently, on a vegan forum, I commented on the use of the term “vegetarian”  or “veg*n” rather than “vegan” while promoting animal rights.  It seemed to unleash a storm of criticism and ad hominem attacks: “Someone is VERY NEW….,”  ”so fundamentalist in nature,”  ”is there ANY evidence base whatsoever…? ”  My comment was in response to the posting of a Huffington Post article by Bruce Friederich, Vice President of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), as well as a suggestion to develop the inclusive “veg*n” culture on the same forum.  Mr. Friederich has stated before that he no longer advocates in vegan tee shirts, because people respond better to the vegetarian message. That may be, but it is not a message that will help animals. In fact, it may even create more suffering for the animals. How can an animal advocate promote the dairy industry?  I think of the abuse of babies, little newborn calves; and mothers who are forced into servitude of being milk machines, with distended udders, infected and dragging the ground.  Then there are all those newborn chicks ground alive in massive machines because they cannot lay eggs.  THAT is something for animal advocates to support?

The message Mr. Friederich was giving was that it is indefensible to eat meat. Unfortunately, his last  line reads,

Put another way: If we believe that people should try to protect the environment, OR we believe that we should try not to cause people to starve OR we oppose cruelty to animals, the only ethical diet is a vegetarian one.

Wrong. This following many salient points in Friederich’s article is so disappointing.  Why is there such a great fear of the word “veganism?”  It is a simple word, much more simple and clear than “vegetarianism.”  There is so much ambiguity in the term vegetarian that it leaves people thinking giving up meat for dairy products will somehow be less cruel. Even if one is focusing solely on the dietary aspects of veganism, then why not support incremental veganism? At least doing so would leave a clear impression in the minds of the audience that veganism is the goal, not vegetarianism.

Mr. Friederich has another contradiction or two on his hands. It is difficult to be accepted as someone who values animal life while working for an organization that kills a higher proportion of animals in their “shelter” than most other shelters. It is also an organization that owns stock and profits from animal agriculture, gives awards to slaughter house designers, and uses some questionable tactics which diminishes the level of dialogue regarding the significance of animal rights.  Again, so disappointing. One young animal rights advocate, Beckah Sheeler, recently posted on the site Animal Writes an article titled, PETA: A Hurdle for Vegan Advocacy:

What we are faced with is the split between abolitionists and welfarists, and this will always exist; however, (as cliche the saying as it may be) with the amount of power Peta has, comes a great amount of responsibility, meaning the lives and welfare of animals, the planet, and the indirect meals able to be fed to the hungry due to this lifestyle, are resting in its hands. Bruce Friedrich, VP of Peta, also has stated in a recent post that being an absolutist is the worst way to attract people to this cause. The members of Peta should, of course, not give up their strong convictions of remaining not only meat free, but egg and dairy free, but being that Peta is so big, I believe that it is the organization’s responsibility, with all of its money, resources, and recognition, to advocate in such a way that helps the most amount of animals being that this is its perceived cause.

Ms. Sheeler then goes on to support widening the appeal rather than clarifying the message that PETA spreads.  However, Dan Cudahy, on his blog Unpopular Vegan Essays, reports on the failure of such tactics that are contradictory at the root (from the article PETA: A Corporate Tangle of Contradictions):

PETA’s contradictions in philosophy, rhetoric, and activities – which have led to profound public confusion and fortification of the utilitarian-welfarist status quo that has been in existence since Jeremy Bentham – have been a barrier to progress in advancing animal rights, and will continue to be a barrier as long as they continue as an animal welfare organization.

For a clear look at the problematic nature of the confusion in such welfarist rhetoric, Professor Gary Francione states in a post on his blog, Animal Rights: The Abolionist Approach (Some Comments on Vegetarianism as a Gateway to Veganism):

It is clear: if you explain that there is no distinction between flesh and other animal products and why we should go vegan, and the person with whom you are talking cares about the issue, she will either (1) go vegan immediately; or (2) go vegan in stages; or (3) not go vegan and adopt some version of vegetarianism (or “happy” meat/product consumption). But she will at least understand that veganism is the aspiration toward which to work. She will understand that the line between flesh and other products is entirely arbitrary. If you maintain that going vegetarian is morally meaningful and that there is a distinction between flesh and other animal products, then you increase the chances that her progress toward veganism will be impeded.

In other words, you do not need to advocate vegetarianism. It is completely unnecessary, morally meaningless, and, as a practical matter, it impedes transition to veganism.

While I appreciate the sincere motives of individuals like Mr. Friederich and do not challenge them, it does seem important to continue looking at the tactics of the animal rights movement. This is very different than disparaging individuals.  I fully admit to many shortcomings and work on them; I have my own blind spots. Assuming that all animal advocates sincerely want what is in the best interest of nonhuman animals rather than promotion of their individual animal organizations, then looking critically at tactics and contradictions that may become barriers (Dan Cudahy) or hurdles (Beckah Sheeler) or impediments (Gary Francione) would seem a positive way of helping advocates learn to help animals achieve true rights as living, feeling beings. While listening to a podcast today, I heard someone interrupt a speaker discussing vegetarianism and interject “a lacto-ovo vegetarian — that is pretty much the same thing as a vegan.”  No, no, no.

Another way of stating this was posted by Tim Gier in an article titled, Is Half A Loaf Better Than None?

If you do intentionally participate in the subjugation of nonhuman animals, it does not matter that your participation is infrequent, or irregular, or occasional. Whenever you eat the flesh of a nonhuman animal, a life is ended for your pleasure, and for nothing else. The same is true whenever you wear the skin of another as clothing, or you patronize the zoos and circuses that cage others for life, or you support the medical, scientific or commercial experimentation on others as well.  Cutting back on those things, while better than not, still amounts to participating in them. There is no “half loaf.”

By spreading vegetarian education rather than vegan education, we collaborate in the subjugation (however unintentionally) of nonhuman animals.  The baseline is veganism. The fact that it is not immediately appealing for 100% of all people everywhere is not the point.  Veganism is the goal. It can be incrementally achieved, but it remains the goal. To ask for anything less, anything with wider appeal, anything that appears to be a more popular message, is to sell out the rights of animals. Want to make veganism more popular? Start by talking about it.