Thursday, March 17, 2011

Question Thursday: Right, Wrong, and Real Results

In the first entry under “Ethics and Religion” in the FAQ’s to Vegan Outreach’s “Starter Guide” it says this:
Why is it wrong to eat meat? It’s not a question of being ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ If one wants fewer animals to suffer and die, then one can stop supporting such practices by not eating animal products.” 
Why wouldn’t Vegan Outreach state what one can only hope they think is obvious??  It IS wrong to eat other animals.

I sympathize with this demand. On the other hand (and, again, this is something that took me many years to realize), what I think or claim or “know” is irrelevant.

The only people in a position to save animals in the future are people currently eating meat. So the question isn’t if we vegans think something is “right” or “wrong.”

The only question is: What can we do / say that will lead as many meat eaters as possible to start making positive changes for the animals?

(Indeed, it is rather … forlorn … for vegans to sit around and debate words and philosophy amongst themselves. There is so much actual, constructive work that absolutely needs to be done! We don't have time to type away on the internet to demand satisfaction from other vegans. We need to get real results in the real world for the animals.)

As experience shows (and Nick Cooney lays out the actual research behind this in his book Change of Heart), telling people that what they are doing is “wrong” isn’t the best way to open their hearts and minds.

Erik Marcus has pointed out that agribusiness has hidden behind elaborate illusions; their entire industry is based on lying to consumers. People are basing their decisions after having been deceived their entire lives.

So instead of telling meat eaters that what they are doing is “wrong,” it is both honest and more constructive to point out that they have been lied to their entire lives.

People don’t like being lied to!

A similar line of reasoning applies to philosophy. Obviously, the vast majority of people believe humans are “superior” to / distinct from (other) animals.

But they don’t immediately need to accept the idea that other animals have rights, or fully internalize a utilitarian worldview, to start taking steps that help animals.

Joe Espinosa has clearly articulated this when dealing with people, telling them they can believe whatever they want about animals and still find factory farms repulsive and not something they want to support.

Not to harp on all my mistakes, but my prior attitude of “Just tell everyone the whole truth! They need to know!” was very harmful to the animals. It was psychologically at odds with creating change.

But moreso, it was just downright stupid, as this attitude ignored how my own views and choices had evolved over time!