Tag Archives: Reform

You Won’t Believe This Shocking Whole Foods “Healthcare” Policy

Photo by Jay Janner

Photo by Jay Janner

Cooperation with speciesist industry is a primary tactic for professionalized organizations in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement, despite its dangerous consequences for normalizing a post-speciesist ideology. This strategy concerns me as it normalizes capitalism, despite capitalism’s inherent need to exploit social inequality.

“Father” of Nonhuman Animal rights and elite philosopher Peter Singer supports this pro-capitalist route, insisting that those with the privilege to do so should financially support the world’s poor, generally by funneling wealth through carefully selected, elite-operated charities. From this perspective, it is not necessarily the unequal system that is the problem, but rather the failure for more privileged parties to take care of those underneath them.

Altruism and corporate success are fundamentally incongruent. Consider Whole Foods CEO John Mackey’s 2009 editorial piece published in the Wall Street Journal warning of the perils of Obamacare (President Obama’s attempt to provide healthcare to the millions of Americans who were vulnerable and unprotected, myself included at the time). Mackey insists that each person is responsible for their own health, and placing this burden on corporations is inappropriate:

“Rather than increase government spending and control, we need to address the root causes of poor health. This begins with the realization that every American adult is responsible for his or her own health.”

Not surprisingly Mackey’s prescription for personal responsibility and better health entails consuming more whole foods (conveniently on offer in his stores).

While activists believe that elites are the gatekeepers to to a more altruistic society, the pressures of capitalism will ensure that their cooperation with industry will entail serious compromise. Like many grocery chains, Whole Foods amassed its wealth through the exploitation of Nonhuman Animals, prison laborers, and immigrants producing product and the lower classes pushing the product on shop floors. What Mackey fails to acknowledge is that social services such as Obamacare are funded in part by corporations because it is considered a means of redistributing the wealth extracted through these inequalities.

Whole Foods Vegan
 
Mackey, like many wealthy elites, resent this government intervention, promoting instead a neo-paternalist charity system which would keep this redistribution process within in his control. In doing so, corporations are able to feed or starve particular programs or issues  according to the economic and political interests of the corporation.Revising tax laws, he insists, will, “make it easier for individuals to make a voluntary, tax-deductible donation to help the millions of people who have no insurance…” The celebration of individualistic solutions to social problems created by capitalism redirects blame to the most vulnerable in our society and absconds corporations of their responsibility to redistribute the wealth accrued through the exploitation of the vulnerable.

Mackey advocates “capitalism with a conscience,” supposing that a system built on inequality need not be devoid of altruism or compassion for others. But this conscience is conditional on the protection of a system of haves, have nots, and “personal responsibility” for successfully navigating a fundamentally unequal  society.

This is not a game that social justice movements ought to be playing. Capitalist corporations require exploitation and prioritize profit. This incompatibility with egalitarianism should be a warning to activists that corporations will hold very little genuine support for social justice. Indeed, when activists offer their movement’s seal of approval to these “conscientious capitalists” as the Nonhuman Animal rights movement frequently does, corporations such as Whole Foods will happily apply these commendations to their products. Undoubtedly, this will also justify dramatically increasing the profitability of their value-added products.

 


Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.Readers can learn more about the dangers of corporate welfare and pro-capitalist approaches to anti-speciesism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.

whyveganism.com

Comments Off on You Won’t Believe This Shocking Whole Foods “Healthcare” Policy

Filed under Essays

The EU Ban on Cosmetic Testing and the Problem with Single-Issue Campaigns

EU Bans Testing

The European Union has banned the import and sale of cosmetics containing ingredients tested on animals. Good news? Well, sort of.

I am curious as to why the cosmetics–often made from the bodies, products, and labor of Nonhuman Animals–are not themselves questioned as morally objectionable. The Nonhuman Animal rights movement is delighted by this “victory,” but the campaigning that led to this ban is rather disconnected. To me, campaigning to ban the import of tested ingredients on animal-based products would be no less counterproductive than promoting cheese-less “hamburgers” or “leather” coats without “fur” trim (I use quotation marks to highlight euphemistic language).

Most cosmetics are made with slaughterhouse renderings, meaning that they are inherently cruel and unjust. Focusing on animal testing is subsequently speciesist and confusing. Of course, bunnies are easy to rally behind because they are generally considered to be cute, but most humans still view cows, pigs, fish, and other Nonhuman Animals killed for cosmetics as commodities. In a human-privileging society, these animals are merely breathing slabs of “meat” and skin waiting to be processed. Single-issue campaigns reinforce this objectification and invisibility.

Lightning storm

Single-issue campaigns unnecessarily confuse the political imagination by skirting the root of the problem. If the root problem–speciesism–remains unaddressed, more horrible uses are free to sprout up to fill the void that EU legislation has created. I understand the allure of a low-hanging branch, but I suspect that this tactic is trading in symbols with no intention of serious economic disruption.

The Nonhuman Animal rights movement is, like most social movements, strapped for resources. Every minute, every dollar, and every person expended on these piece-meal campaigns is a minute, dollar, and person squandered. I say this because it would be infinitely more efficient to promote comprehensive vegan education. Veganism covers all Nonhuman Animal use, not simply those that are convenient to organizers or more advantageous to non-profits with fundraising aspirations.

If Nonhuman Animal testing is reduced, that is obviously a good thing. However, vivisection comprises only a very small percentage of speciesist exploitation. The vast majority of this exploitation is tied into Nonhuman Animals being killed for food (laboratories kill in the millions, while slaughterhouses kill in the billions), so why expend so much of the movement’s resources on fringe exploitation?

Most importantly, it is this speciesist food system that supports other exploitative products and uses. By promoting veganism, the movement lessens demand for slaughterhouse products, and a political mass of vegans can put pressure on governments to eliminate subsidies to “meat” and “dairy.” Cosmetic companies will have to look elsewhere to find their raw material when animal flesh is no longer cheap and plentiful.

I care deeply about the plight of Nonhuman Animals, and I truly hope that this ban will put pressure on companies and other governments by demonstrating that consumers are not especially interested in supporting systems of violence. I also hope the ban will motivate consumers to extend their moral concern to the invisibilized billions of Nonhuman Animals killed for food and cosmetic ingredients. But hoping isn’t a valid justification for any tactic. I am not convinced that it is wise to compartmentalize speciesism when the movement could be building a strong vegan culture that rejects all use, not just some uses. Saving adorable rabbits should not mean throwing less popular species under the bus. The Nonhuman Animal rights movement has an obligation to lend support to all animals.

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

 

Readers can learn more about the problems with single-issue campaigning in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


A version of this essay was originally published on The Academic Activist Vegan on March 11, 2013.

whyveganism.com

Comments Off on The EU Ban on Cosmetic Testing and the Problem with Single-Issue Campaigns

Filed under Essays

PETA & Papa John’s Team Up Against Animals

 

Cow Horns

In 2013, PETA announced that it has been purchasing stock in American pizza chain Papa John’s with the hope of leveraging this ownership to influence policy changes. This should concern animal allies, as grants and donations gifted to PETA are redirected into the hands of exploitative industries that systematically hurt other animals. The tactic is a questionable one, and PETA itself admits that it isn’t particularly effective in combating the company’s commitment to speciesism “Unfortunately,” it explains, “this [tactic] doesn’t guarantee that corporate bigwigs won’t dig in their heels and refuse to make simple changes.”

One of PETA’s proposed “simple changes” is the ban on dehorning which affects cows used for Papa John’s pizza products under the presumption that dehorning is unnecessary to the industry.  On the surface, this seems logical enough: if it isn’t necessary and it causes harm, it should be avoided. However, this line of thinking inherently supports the notion that the vast majority of harms inflicted in this system (or, rather, the system itself) must therefore be necessary as it is not deemed worthy of PETA’s resources or attention. Certainly PETA sometimes promotes veganism, but it is not promoting veganism to Papa John’s board members.

What is more, according to this logic, PETA advises industry reform that is expected to cut costs, streamline production, and presumably increase profits. That is, PETA is targeting practices that can be dropped to the benefit of the company, while leaving untouched the system itself. The interests of the cows involved–right to bodily autonomy and life–are largely unexamined. Indeed, these benefits are soundly ignored when PETA is not just agitating for profitable reforms but also funding the system through stock purchasing. It is unclear how these “win-win” scenarios that maximize efficiency in a speciesist system are consistent with Nonhuman animal rights.

Papa Johns PETA

As part of this campaign, PETA is also encouraging suppliers to “breed” hornless cattle. In doing so, PETA works to the  benefit of the industry (Papa John’s would save in labor and other costs by not having to dehorn), but it also eerily demonstrates support for the genetic manipulation and ownership of vulnerable bodies. The result is a very strange situation in which PETA, the largest Nonhuman Animal rights organization in the world, is poised to advise exploiters on how better to exploit.  It is buying stock in a company that views Nonhuman Animals as “ingredients,” and assisting the company further by introducing smarter exploitation strategies.

Papa John’s profits off the suffering of others, and it certainly is not going to stop selling these products as long as there is customer demand, government subsidy support for “meat” and dairy products, and funding from corporate entities such as PETA. Reform-focused, pro-capitalist campaigns like this one only make the work easier.

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

 

Readers can learn more about the Nonhuman Animal rights industrial complex and its consequences for anti-speciesism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published on The Academic Activist Vegan on February 28, 2013.

whyveganism.com

Comments Off on PETA & Papa John’s Team Up Against Animals

Filed under Essays

What’s Wrong with “Carnism”?

Sponge Bob Vegan

Many of my readers have asked over recent years why I do not support the rhetoric of “carnism.” The short answer is that it is speciesist.

In an interview with ARZone, Dr. Melanie Joy discusses her theory on carnism, which she defines as an invisible ideology of “meat”-eating (I place “meat” in quotations as it is a euphemism) that is (according to her website) “‘essentially’ the opposite of veganism” (I place “essentially” in quotations as I will show this not to be true).

One host asks Dr. Joy why she rejects the more logical and straight-forward concept of speciesism. Her reply was that speciesism is “too abstract” and “confusing,” but most people seem to “get” carnism.

This is where I have a problem.  Why the focus on flesh? To single out flesh as somehow more problematic is nonsensical. Instead, it becomes yet another campaign for reductionism/vegetarianism. Carnism obscures the importance of veganism and unnecessarily confuses anti-speciesist campaigning.

Dr. Joy insists that the term carnism actually entails all animal products. To the casual observer, however, this is not true. Having read her books, for that matter, I can attest that this hidden vegan meaning is never made clear. She even concedes in the ARZone interview that she rarely mentions “leather” or “wool.” Carnism also excludes vivisection, companion animals, and animals used in entertainment.

Following up with this important oversight, the ARZone host asked if she believes that audiences exposed to carnism ideology were “getting it” or if they were finding themselves “confused.” Dr. Joy  clarified that she’s had no problem with confusion at all; most people do indeed “get it.” Of course, we would not expect many authors promoting their work to suggest that it left readers or listeners confused! But aside from the leading question–Dr. Joy isn’t really pushing us to consider anti-speciesism or veganism, so there isn’t much to get confused about. Vegetarianism as a concept has been largely accepted in our culture for some years now. She’s not proposing anything radical or new.

The real intention of carnism lies in its ability to sell.

At the time of the ARZone interview and the publication of her second book, Joy had recently launched the Carnism Awareness and Action Network. As with dozens of other reform-focused organizations, CAAN does not explicitly promote veganism, but instead promotes arbitrarily defined reductionism. It’s all about the meat.

Most importantly, CAAN’s website also loudly displays “DONATE” buttons.

Clear anti-speciesist messages discourage donations, and large non-profits are wary of this. As organizations professionalize, they compromise. This is a pattern that surfaced in my dissertation research spanning the late 20th and early 21st century of the Nonhuman Animal rights movement. When an organization professionalizes, donations become key to its survival. Carnism language helps CAAN to stand out in the crowded social movement space. It also makes it more appealing to elite donors when that nasty, offensive “vegan” language is carefully tempered, obscured, or erased entirely.

Joy’s argument is that the carnism schema simplifies an overly complicated concept (that we shouldn’t hurt others). She insists that speciesism (the correlative to racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, ageism, and ethnocentrism) is just too confusing. But rarely (if ever) does she herself make a clear case for veganism in her writing or campaigning. Also troubling is she never clearly states why exploiting species, such as cats, elephants, and dolphins, that are not used for food is problematic. Nor does she make it clear that exploiting Nonhuman Animals for their skin, milk, or eggs is inherently linked to the flesh consumption that carnism highlights.

Patrick from Spongebob Squarepants inhaling an endless stream of Crabby Patties
Again, the misleading nature of carnism ideology is intentional, as further evidenced in Joy’s essay titled, “Our Voices, Our Movement: How Vegans Can Move Beyond the ‘Welfare-Abolition Debate’.” This essay published with One Green Planet at the time of the ARZone interview and CAAN’s launch, and it seeks to downplay the importance of the growing divide between “abolitionist” veganism and reductionist/reformist non-vegan approaches. Washing over factional divides in the movement is critical for non-profits, as acknowledging them would mean legitimizing pundit concerns about the non-profit structure itself. Acknowledging them would certainly undermine Dr. Joy’s superfluous theory on carnism as well.

Like many non-profit leaders,  Dr. Joy ardently defends counterproductive and ultimately speciesist tactics of reform and vegan-bashing.  Her suggestion for “moving beyond” the debate is simply that anti-reformist vegans cease their claimsmaking and join the status quo (“our voices, our movement”). Carnism works to invisibilize veganism as a rhetorical matter, but also as a political one.

This essay is not intended to character attack Dr. Joy. Her approach to anti-speciesism is a common one–it is part of a larger system of pro-capitalist non-profiteering which stagnates social change, despite the good intentions of its participants. While her approach to social change is deeply flawed, her social psychological work on how humans and societies interact with and understand other animals is very approachable. I have even assigned it to my students in the past.

That said, carnism has got to go. Joy insists that we must understand carnism in order to understand the mental blocks preventing liberation. However, caring about Nonhuman Animal suffering while simultaneously participating in their exploitation doesn’t need yet another label. In social psychology, it’s called “cognitive dissonance,” and it is a result of oppression generally speaking, and speciesism specifically. That’s the language the social justice community understands, but a new label for an old idea makes for jazzy grant proposals. That’s the bottom line.

 

If you enjoyed this essay, these ideas and more are explored in my book, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights (Palgrave 2016).

 


A version of this essay was originally published on December 9, 2012 on The Examiner.
whyveganism.com

Comments Off on What’s Wrong with “Carnism”?

Filed under Essays