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John Tallent's thoughts on oppression
Feminism.

Feminism.

We Are All Michael Vick

Original article is found at http://articles.philly.com/2009-08-14/news/24986151_1_atlanta-falcons-quarterback-vick-illegal-dog-dog-fights

We’re All Michael Vick

By GARY L. FRANCIONE
Posted: August 14, 2009

UPDATE 8/14/09: Michael Vick was released from prison in May, and on July 27, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell conditionally reinstated Vick. The Philadelphia Eagles have given Vick a one-year deal with an option for a second year.

In a conversation yesterday, someone said to me, “how am I ever going to watch an Eagles game and see that guy without thinking about those dogs?” My response: “How can you enjoy an Eagles game while you’re eating a hamburger or a hot dog made from animals who had a life and death every bit as horrible and unnecessary as Vick’s dogs?”

He did not have an answer.

Here is a Daily News op-ed I wrote on the topic that ran on Aug. 22, 2007:

MICHAEL VICK has, according to his lawyer, agreed to plead guilty to federal dogfighting charges against him.

Over past weeks, there’s been an enormous amount of coverage of the dog-fighting operation sponsored by Atlanta Falcons quarterback Vick, who, along with three other men, has been indicted on federal felony charges.

The details of the charges claim that Vick sponsored illegal dog fighting, gambled on dog fights and permitted acts of cruelty against animals on his property. The talk shows have been filled with talking heads from the “humane community” condemning dog fighting and calling for Vick to be punished. Nike and Reebok have suspended products endorsed by Vick.

Please let me be very clear from the outset: I think that dog fighting is a terrible thing.

But I must say that the Vick case rather dramatically demonstrates what I call our “moral schizophrenia” about animals.

That is, if one thing is clear, it is that we do not think clearly about our moral obligations to animals.

In this country alone, we kill more than 10 billion land animals annually for food. The animals we eat suffer as much as the dogs that are used in dog fighting.

There is no “need” for us to eat meat, dairy or eggs. Indeed, these foods are increasingly linked to various human diseases and animal agriculture is an environmental disaster for the planet. We impose pain, suffering and death on these billions of sentient nonhumans because we enjoy eating their flesh and the products that we make from them.

There is something bizarre about condemning Michael Vick for using dogs in a hideous form of entertainment when 99 percent of us also use animals that are every bit as sentient as dogs in another hideous form of entertainment that is no more justifiable than fighting dogs: eating animals and animal products.

There is something bizarre about Reebok and Nike, which use leather in their shoes, suspending products endorsed by Vick. They’re not going to allow a guy who allegedly tortures dogs to endorse products that contain tortured cows.

In one of my books about animal ethics, I introduced a character named Simon the Sadist, who derived pleasure from blowtorching dogs. We would all regard such conduct as monstrous because we all agree that it is wrong to inflict “unnecessary” suffering on animals - and pleasure, amusement and convenience cannot count as satisfying the “necessity” requirement.

But then I asked the further question: How are those of us who eat animal flesh and animal products any different from Simon? He enjoys blowtorching dogs - we enjoy the taste of flesh and animal products. But we and Simon both kill sentient beings (although we may pay others to do the dirty work) because we derive enjoyment from it.

According to reports, authorities removed from Vick’s property a “rape stand” used to hold dogs for mating. “Rape racks” are used to hold cows for impregnation. When a dog is involved, we are troubled - when a cow is involved, we ignore it.

Michael Vick may enjoy watching dogs fight. Someone else may find that repulsive but see nothing wrong with eating an animal who has had a life as full of pain and suffering as the lives of the fighting dogs. It’s strange that we regard the latter as morally different from, and superior to, the former. How removed from the screaming crowd around the dog pit is the laughing group around the summer steak barbecue?

We are all Simon.

We are all Michael Vick. *

Gary L. Francione is Distinguished Professor of Law and Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Scholar of Law and Philosophy at Rutgers University School of Law-Newark. His latest book on animal ethics, “Animals as Persons,” will be published by Columbia University Press this fall.

Why Vegans are Coming for You, and Why You Shouldn’t Resist

(For a translation in Romanian, please visit:  http://www.veganism.ro/de-ce-veganii-vin-dupa-tine-si-nu-ar-trebui-sa-opui-rezistenta/.  Thanks to Patricia Soldan.).

You can run, but you can’t hide.  Vegans are out to get you.

*Cue the vegan zombies*.

Frankly, it’s your consumption and use of nonhuman animals that we’ve got a problem with.  Are vegans wrong about this?  Should we just leave you alone?  Please consider the following as a testament to why we vegans believe that we have a moral obligation to get as many people to go vegan as we can.

Why Vegans are Coming for You

Over 50 billion nonhuman land animals, and estimates between 1 and 2 trillion aquatic animals, are killed each year worldwide for food by humans (source: Francione, Eat Like You Care, page 9).

Read those numbers once again and let them sink in.

That is over 50 billion thinking, feeling, and suffering land animals, as well as 1 to 2 trillion thinking, feeling, and suffering aquatic animals being killed every single year for food.

Why?

Is it because we need to eat them for nutrition and/or health?  Nope, that’s a myth.

Is it because animal agriculture is sustainable?  Nope, that’s also a myth.

Is it because humans are “natural omnivores”, and that gives us a justification for consuming and using them?  Negative and negatory.

Human health, the environment, and “natural” human behaviors all fail to provide an adequate explanation as to why humans consume and use nonhuman animals.

image

(Dairy cow by Keith Weller, U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Why You Shouldn’t Resist

This may not seem like a big deal, or even a compelling enough reason for some people to go vegan.  The interesting thing is that the failure of the typical “reasons” that people give to as why they are not vegan is very important to the conventional way that people think about animals.

Gary L. Francione, Distinguished Professor of Law and Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Scholar of Law and Philosophy at Rutgers University School of Law-Newark, has developed, among many things, an analogy that sums up the contradiction between the way that most people say that they believe, with respect to nonhuman animals, and the actual way in which they behave towards them.  This analogy began when many people were outraged at professional football player Michael Vick’s indictment on, among other things, dog fighting.  Francione wrote:

[…]There is something bizarre about condemning Michael Vick for using dogs in a hideous form of entertainment when 99 percent of us also use animals that are every bit as sentient as dogs in another hideous form of entertainment that is no more justifiable than fighting dogs: eating animals and animal products.[…]

Michael Vick may enjoy watching dogs fight. Someone else may find that repulsive but see nothing wrong with eating an animal who has had a life as full of pain and suffering as the lives of the fighting dogs. It’s strange that we regard the latter as morally different from, and superior to, the former. How removed from the screaming crowd around the dog pit is the laughing group around the summer steak barbecue?

So, to paraphrase: If you believe that nonhuman animals shouldn’t be harmed unnecessarily, then you have a moral obligation to not harm them simply because you are hungry, or that you really want to wear their skins, etc.

When we have no compelling reason to continue harming them, we are only doing it because we want to; and since when would wanting to do something be a good enough justification to inflict suffering and death on others?

Arbitrarily believing that humans can use and consume animals, just because we are humans and they are not, is called “speciesism” — in other words, it is a discriminatory belief and action.  Many animal advocates and vegans have written about the topic, including myself.  The problem with speciesism is that it is not morally different from other discriminatory behaviors, like ableism, racism, classism, heterosexism, and sexism. Gary Francione describes it perfectly:

[We should reject]… speciesism because, like racism, sexism, heterosexism, and classism, it uses a morally irrelevant criterion (species) to discount and devalue the interests of sentient beings. [source]

So, if a person decides that they are against discrimination, how could they arbitrarily decide that they aren’t against speciesism?  It really doesn’t make any sense.  We are either against all discrimination, or we are not against discrimination.

Hypocrisy

The last thing that I’d like to talk about is the small portion of people that say that they do not believe it is wrong to cause animals harm unnecessarily.  I don’t really believe that most of these people actually believe this, but maybe some of them really don’t care about the suffering of animals.  If a person does, indeed, believe this, what makes them believe that it’s wrong to cause harm to humans unnecessarily, but not animals?  Since there is no reason to treat humans and nonhuman animals differently when it comes to who can be used as a resource for another, based on nothing more than their differing “intelligences” or species, why would these people believe that animals can be harmed but humans can’t be?  It is a great contradiction that has no logical solution, other than giving up the idea and going vegan.

Conclusion

We have no rational reason to not be vegans.  Nonveganism harms nonhuman animals unnecessarily, period.  If you really care about other animals, it’s time to go vegan.  Just go to http://VeganKit.com to get started.  There are tons of myths about veganism out there, and they can all be debunked very easily.  Another fantastic resource is Gary L. Francione’s own website, as well as his Facebook page.

Recommended reading:

Eat Like You Care: An Examination of the Morality of Eating Animals

Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child or the Dog?

Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation

Animals, Property, and the Law

Rain without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement

Making a Killing: The Political Economy of Animal Rights

Vegan Freak: Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World

Animal Oppression and Human Violence: Domesecration, Capitalism, and Global Conflict

Animal Rights/Human Rights: Entanglements of Oppression and Liberation

- John Tallent (2014)

Animal exploitation is not going to be ended by a pronouncement of the Supreme Court or an act of congress, at least not until a majority of us accept the position that the institution of animal property is morally unacceptable.

—Professor Gary L. Francione (http://AbolitionistApproach.com)

"Pretentious" Vegans? I’ll Debunk This After I Find My Monocle

veganarchismaintnojoke:

Aside from the debates about animal rights, many vegans will find themselves countering ad hominem arguments by non-vegans.  A few typical labels that many of us often receive are that we are “pretentious,” “elitist,” “pushy,” and “disrespectful” of others’ beliefs.  While some vegans may be very outspoken about veganism and animal rights, the labels that I just mentioned are simply not true.

The words “pretentious” and “elitist” may conjure up images of wealthy people, sipping expensive wine, and laughing to one another in a very pompous way.  “Yeeeees…this wine would be excellent with a nice tempeh and avocado panini at brunch.”  And I know you can imagine the voice.

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Anyway, many people think that veganism is “pretentious” or “elitist” because they believe it is expensive.  This may be true for some people, but it doesn’t have to be.  If you buy a lot of the processed vegan foods, then it might be a little pricey.  However, veganism does not require those kinds of foods.  An extremely healthful (and tasty!) vegan meal can be bought straight from the produce section of any grocery store.  Really.  Just search right now for “cheap vegan recipes.”  There is nothing “pretentious” or “elitist” about vegetables, fruits, seeds & nuts, grains, and fungi.

Another aspect of the “pretentious” and “elitist” argument from non-vegans goes something like this:  “Some vegans are ‘pretentious’/’elitist’ because they think they are better than people that are not vegan.”  This strikes me as odd because people that are in other social justice movements are rarely accused of thinking that they are “better than others” for seeking the rights of the oppressed.  You don’t usually hear people say, “Those anti-racism activists just think they are better than racists.  Who are they to say?”  Vegans simply want non-vegans to begin to think clearly about nonhuman animals.  And, yes, we think veganism is the morally right thing to do, just as we also think being an anti-racist, anti-sexist, and anti-heterosexist is the morally right thing to do.  Saying that we seek to be “better” than others has a particular goal in mind - and that is to distract from the issue of one’s animal use.

"There is nothing elitist about veganism. What *is* elitist is the idea that our palate pleasure justifies the suffering/death of another." - Professor Gary L. Francione

Non-vegans also often say that vegans are “pushy”.  I don’t deny that I am very outspoken about veganism and animal rights to my friends and family.  While I understand that humanity has a large history of animal use, this does not make it excusable now.  Since speciesism is morally similar to racism, sexism, heterosexism, ageism, classism, etc., vegans have an obligation to seek the end of it.  If a person made racist comments or actions against another person, most people would not consider it “pushy” to speak out against this person.  It is typically only considered “pushy” when vegans do the same.  This is because most people do not see veganism as a social justice movement, having the moral justification to seek changes in other people that are not vegan.

Many non-vegans see consuming and using nonhuman animals as a harmless choice, and that vegans are “choosing” to not consume and use nonhuman animals in the same way that a person chooses to eat healthful or live an adventurous life.  This is not the case because nonhuman animals are sentient beings, and food choices matter morally.

Many of these non-vegans will adamantly be in favor of other issues, like gay rights, reproductive rights, etc., and they would not typically say that they are just advocating a particular “choice”.  They would say that they are fighting for “rights” - and they would believe that they have the moral upperhand.  So, why is it that it becomes a “choice” only when it has to do with nonhuman animals?  Speciesism is the reason.  For information on speciesism and why I believe Leftists, in particular, should be vegan, please see a past essay of mine located here.  This same argument goes for those non-vegans that call some vegans “disrespectful”.  We are not “disrespectful” of others beliefs, as long as those beliefs do not harm other people.  Consuming and using nonhuman animals *does* harm other people (other animals).  We do not “respect” the dismissal of animal rights, just as we do not “respect” the dismissal of gay rights, women’s rights, etc.

- John Tallent (2013)