In Support of a Vegan Omnivore Alliance, A Guest Post
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We must also keep in mind that some of the people we love most dearly are omnivores. At least they are for now. Everyone has the ability to change.
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In Support of a Vegan Omnivore Alliance, A Guest Post
By Dawn Carlock, Guest Contributor
In a controversial article published last week, Tom Philpott of Grist.org proposes that vegans and omnivores work together against factory farming in the awkwardly titled, “Vegan Omnivore Alliance Against Animal Farms.” There are no specifically stated goals to said alliance, but what I took away is that he is trying to promote the idea that we are a much larger force if we battle factory farming together.
I didn’t find the article itself to exactly express warm welcome toward vegans, but it is an interesting concept if we can look beyond that. If done successfully, a Vegan Omnivore Alliance or VOA (for short) could offer a unique resource to everyone who eats.
It is well known that there are already many excellent organizations (PETA, Vegan Outreach, Farm Sanctuary, HSUS, the list is a long one) out there who work tirelessly for animal welfare and rights. They do outstanding work and I support them 100 percent. But, why not have a specific resource for the curious omnivore and interested vegan to come together, respectfully discuss their concerns and share information and resources about realistic alternatives to supporting factory farming?
The traditional animal rights/welfare and vegan groups tend to attract folks who have already embraced veganism. The facebook page comment threads of these orgs are not exactly welcoming towards the merely curious. I don’t speak of the organizations themselves, but rather the “commenters” on their pages. It can be intimidating for example, for an omnivore who might be potentially open to something like part-time veganism, to post questions or concerns on one of the threads and then be shot down (no pun intended). It can be completely off-putting.
Unfortunately anger and frustration in online communication seem like an epidemic in the debate about food and farming. It doesn’t help either side to be heard. Many times I see posts and comment threads online that ooze with contempt, hostility, even hatred. This level of conflict plays out in every possible debate (vegans with vegans, omnivores with vegans, omnivores with omnivores, etc.).
As a new vegan (since Dec. 2009), I can honestly say I had very little information (beyond a sneaking suspicion) regarding the depth and breadth of the problems of animal agriculture. Despite the fact that I ate any and all animal products, I was still a kind and compassionate person who cared very much for other people, the environment, and animals. I was ignorant of the information I have now, which I certainly expended significant energy and time to obtain. I made getting information on farm animal raising, production and slaughter a priority in my life for many months. Not everyone has the resources, drive or time to do this.
No one told me or pressured me to go vegan or I might have rejected the idea, as many fiercely independent people tend to do. It can be too much, too assaultive to the ego to acknowledge our own contribution to torture and cruelty through an act as simple (and as complex) as eating. It was only after seeking my own answers through in-depth reading and research that I came to know what would work for me. I also found a supportive online community to help me with the rest of my transition.
If we acknowledge the dearth of information people have regarding animal agriculture, how much work it takes to really learn what is going on and how to completely overhaul our diets and our lives to support our beliefs (and mourn the loss of our old habits, foods, and comforts and make new ones), we will have somewhere to start. Our awareness of food issues is growing as a culture: Oprah and Ellen’s recent shows, Martha Stewart getting on board, many developments in various food movements, certain omnivore writers as household names, Kathy Freston’s popularity, the list is quickly growing and that is wonderful. Even so, many people are still in the dark. We must also keep in mind that some of the people we love most dearly are omnivores. At least they are for now. Everyone has the ability to change.
I would like to make the process of getting information and support a little easier through a Vegan Omnivore Alliance. I would like a VOA where curious omnivores could feel safe posting questions or concerns about animal welfare or cruelty or how to go about eating some plant-based foods, where part time vegans could get support to become full time vegans, where we could discuss the challenges of veganism openly without being criticized or told we are “not vegan” or “bad vegans” for our questions or our answers. I would like for willing vegans of all schools of ideology (abolitionist, welfarist, etc.) and to whatever degree they follow veganism or eat a vegan diet to be able to engage with and support each other for the larger purpose of reducing suffering and death of farmed animals. I would like for all willing participants to have respectful (and maybe even enjoyable) discussion without taking things personally and getting offended at every comment. I propose a skilled moderator be an active presence in an online forum of a Vegan Omnivore Alliance to assist with these goals.
Throwing in some humor wouldn’t hurt, either. I am usually far more casual and fun than this when I talk about veganism with my friends, which also would have made for quite a different article. Normally, I make jokes and use swear words and complain about eating kale (don’t get me wrong, I love kale, but I joke about it). And it helps. And people listen.
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I understand that compassionate Omnivores want reform for factory farm animals, perhaps just as much as Vegans do. Vegans could hope that Omnivores, in the process of a united fight, would delve deeper and come to the same sane place…..that eating animals is ruining our planet, our health and destroying the lives of sentient beings that want to live without confinement, pain and murder. As much as I’d like to form a united front, I am stoic that compromise would not lead to ending the suffering of animals or to halt the destruction of our planet. As Vegans, we won’t settle for concessions like larger cages or less painful procedures. Nevertheless, just the fact that Omnivores want to communicate is in itself a really great victory. Let’s get together with compassionate Omnivores and communicate.
Just as a side note, DON’T SUPPORT PETA. As of 2008 they killed 85% of the animals they “saved.” At least 80% of they were heathy. Just google search “PETA kills animals” and you will see.
Thanks very much for the feedback. Allow me to respond. We agree on many points.
First I’d like to say that it might be a problem that I wrote this piece in response to Tom’s proposed alliance, mostly because of the thoughts folks have about his ideas. I’d like to stay focused on my ideas, because that is what I know best :-).
Regarding decreasing demand, I absolutely agree that family farms CANNOT POSSIBLY meet the current demand for meat and animal products (ten billion land animals a year). Here is an example of a recent blog post where I discuss that: http://veganfazool.blogspot.com/2011/04/on-time.html
I would like to reiterate that in the alliance I personally envision, vegans would NOT be compromising their values or keeping quiet, but rather, engaging in conversations and providing information. I would ask that folks in an online VOA comment without sardonic contempt or aggression, which is an epidemic on FB comment threads and prevents curious folks from getting information that they need. It won’t be an ideal platform for everyone, but I think many could benefit from it.
I’d also like to clarify what I believe an alliance with omnivores implies. The alliance I speak of comes from my belief that curious omnivores are one of the most important (human) resources we have. I don’t see them as the enemy. Most are folks who happen to eat animal products and are not as educated on the issues of animal agriculture as you and I, and haven’t spent significant time researching the information or engaged in the movement. Many of them may be open to our ideas if we present them in an effective way. I believe engaging folks successfully, starting with (but not necessarily ending with) our overlapping “common ground,” is one of the best potential strategies we have to improve animal rights and welfare. We must work this edge habitat to promote effective social change. Engaging omnivores successfully and respectfully is critical and could add many potential allies to the cause. My belief is that many omnivores exposed to the information we have, in a way that is a little different from what is out there, WILL go vegan.
I function in a world of omnivores and therefore am very interested in working with them. Definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, but something I personally love doing. I have had a lot of success working with with my omnivorous friends and family. And, of significant note, I haven’t once felt I compromised my own values or morals by doing so.
Thank you for your feedback, it is truly appreciated.
Have a great day, Dawn
A vegan/omnivore alliance on the issue of factory farming is flawed, and quite biased to be certain, because of the assumption and expectation of the vegan’s “silencing” of their own values. You see, a vegan’s goal is to end animal suffering. Whereas, the omni’s goal is to seek a “humane” means to satisfy a selfish desire, (and, it could be fairly argued that “placating” the vegan is a secondary goal).
I ask this: if all the meat and dairy produced in the world was done so “humanely” according to “environmentally friendly” standards- do you really think it would meet the demand? Americans and other industrialized populations eat an ungodly amount of animal, and developing countries such as China are increasing their demand at a rapid pace. Worldwide demand for meat and dairy cannot be met by expensive, organic, free-range, “happy” animals.
The only solution is to decrease demand by changing attitudes. Pretending the animals fare better if not on factory farms is flat out denial of an unwillingness to face the facts and take personal accountability for destructive actions. That said, one should not stifle the opinions of others. That doesn’t mean to keep your own mouth shut. Philpott wants an alliance with vegans, but only if they keep their ethics and values to themselves. There are far too many vegans online who subscribe to the same thinking. To often lately, people hide behind the “stop bullying” cry, when brought to task or confronted about their double standards (or lack of standards). Avoiding critcism never made anyone a better human. Buck up and be accountable. I, for one, am sick of the whining. “Whiny vegans.” As if we’re already not taken seriously.
Omnis are looking for a way to have their meat and feel better about it. Their latest attempt involves recruiting vegans. If my fellow vegans have spare time to fight the omnivore fight, it’s time to re-evaluate how you spend that time.