On Extreme Incrementalism

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Over the weekend, Stephanie over at Animal Rights and AntiOppression shared a video (embedded at the end of this post), which comes courtesy of the Tribe of Heart folks. In the video, James LaVeck discusses an event held by the Ohioans for Humane Farming, a “coalition of animal welfare, family farming, food safety, and environmental advocates advocating for more humane standards to prevent cruel factory farming practices in Ohio.” The fundraising event was promoted heavily as having “delicious food” and namechecked famous chefs involved. “Hey,” you might think, “I bet they were serving up some great vegan food!”

You’d be wrong.

In actuality, the event featured “grass-fed cheeseburgers with cheddar,” goat crostini, chicken confit, goat with pesto, and meatballs made of lambs. This, apparently, is the HSUS’s idea of “delicious food.”

LaVeck then points us to the Ohio group’s about page, which lists other members of the coalition, including several local humane societies, sanctuaries, and animal welfare groups alongside the Great American Lamb Company, cattle ranchers, and other farmers and organizations whose livelihoods depend on killing animals.

Listen. Enough is enough. Let’s cut the crap and get to the point: we don’t need national organizations that supposedly exist to help animals a.) forming coalitions with people who directly benefit from killing animals and b.) serving and promoting meat at their fund-raising events. I’m tired of hearing about incremental reform. I’m tired of hearing about reaching out to the family farmer. I’m tired of hearing about different approaches aiming for the same result. I’m not interested (and I don’t think the animals are, either) in approaches that actively promote the consumption of meat and other animal products.

The HSUS has some explaining to do. And if I were any of the animal organizations listed as part of the coalition, I’d be embarrassed and working to get my group’s name removed from that page pronto. All the good work that they do could get quickly tarnished by a coalition like this.

Keep in mind I’m not criticizing every person in these organizations. I know and have met dozens of people in HSUS, COK, Farm Sanctuiary, etc. and most are good people with good intentions. But when HSUS pulls something like this, they–as an organization–have to be held accountable. We need to call them out. We need to criticize tactics (without making it personal) and get an honest discussion happening. You don’t get people to stop eating meat by encouraging them to eat meat. (But you may get people eating meat again, churning out another one of those annoying vocal ex-vegans.)

Stephanie sums it up nicely (emphasis added):

Please, let’s hold each other accountable, even when that’s difficult to do (and yes, even when we know there are good, well-intentioned individuals inside groups). Please, let’s firmly stand together to say that this is not okay. Please, let’s change course. Please, let’s stop making excuses for what is inexcusable. Please, animal rights advocates, let’s fight for what we actually believe and stop supporting groups and campaigns that are less than honest, that do not reflect what we know to be right and just, and that give credibility and the “humane” label to the exploitation and killing of animals. Let’s show more loyalty to the nonhuman animals than to the groups that keep selling them out.

Animal testing and “experts”

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From “Q&A Experts and Studies: Not Always Trustworthy,” an interview in Time with David Freedman, author of Wrong, a book which focuses on how wrong “experts” and “studies” usually are:

What about studies that involve animal testing and take what they study on animals and apply it to humans? Is that really an effective way to determine what we should eat or what cancer treatments will work?

There are some things we just can’t study on humans because it would be incredibly unethical. Of course, it’s a much debated question of whether it’s ethical to study on animals too, but putting that question aside, clearly it can really help science move forward to do animal research. However, the fact of the matter is, the majority of animal research does not translate well to human beings, and in spite of the fact that scientists love to point out that we share anywhere from 90% to 99% of our genes with different types of mammals, we know we’re really different than mice and we’re even really different than apes. Again and again and again we see that drugs and behavior and almost anything you want to look at in animals turns out to not apply well to human beings. So, yes, it advances basic science to ask these questions, but does it result in good advice for us? In general, the answer is no.