Not the only vegan who can post to a blog

Gary L. Francione complains that California’s proposition 2, a modest effort to improve factory farm animals’ conditions modestly, will 1) “not even come into effect, if at all, until 2015” and contains numerous loopholes; 2) “will only make the public feel better about animal exploitation and will result in increased exploitation;” and 3) “Humane Society of the United States, Farm Sanctuary, and other groups . . . should perhaps spend a chunk of its $223 million in assets and $124 million in revenues on vegan education.” This comes to my attention through some shrieking on Facebook to the effect that that Francione must be some kind of a prophet and that what he posts must be received wisdom.

This has, unsurprisingly, drawn a fierce counterattack who believe proposition 2 is better than nothing and argue to the effect that those who oppose it on the above grounds must be jihadis.

Extreme? Check out the depths of hell to which this particular flame war has descended. “Miranda Pandaqueen” writes:

I was attacked…

Amy said:
“If you are really that simplistic in your thinking, you have a lot ow work to do.”
“you’re obnoxious” that was said TWICE!
“Freaking worry about things in England and skadootch!”
“You’re a cloded-minded idiot”
“BTW this IS going to pass, so suck it !”

And yet I’M the one being told to be quiet!!!

I wrote in response to all of this:

But there seem to be two logical leaps from reducing the suffering of animals in proposition 2 to less guilt among meat eaters to more meat eating.

The first logical leap assumes that meat eaters currently suffer guilt and that by reducing this guilt, we enable them to continue to consume meat. But this is, on the whole, absurd. Most meat eaters refuse to feel guilty about their food choices. As one of my carnivorous friends put it, rather callously, these animals exist for human consumption. How she is able to reconcile that view with the compassion she extends to the cats that live with her and come to visit her is beyond me.

The second logical leap assumes that less guilt among meat eaters will lead to more meat eating. This again assumes that meat eaters feel guilt. It also assumes that a significant reduction in meat eating exists to be diminished through this reduced guilt. I see no evidence of this. Vegans continue on the fringes of the mainstream; our numbers may grow in aggregate, but I would be surprised if we are increasing substantially as a fraction of the entire population. This means that more animals will suffer and be consumed, with or without the passage of proposition 2.

The question then is whether proposition 2 will in any way mitigate the suffering of animals. While its aims are far more modest than I would prefer, the advocacy for this proposition accomplishes a public relations goal of raising awareness of the fact that there is even a problem.

Proposition 2 is a baby step. I am appalled by what it does not do. But given the level of public awareness on this issue, larger steps risk becoming leaps; they increase our vulnerability to charges of extremism, insensitivity to the cost of food in a population which has suffered the most extreme widening of the gap between rich and poor in the western world, and to defeat.

Proposition 2 is better than nothing. Not much better, I agree. But it is the least that can be done.

So there you have it. You can choose my received wisdom or Francione’s.

Author: benfell

David Benfell holds a Ph.D. in Human Science from Saybrook University. He earned a M.A. in Speech Communication from CSU East Bay in 2009 and has studied at California Institute of Integral Studies. He is an anarchist, a vegetarian ecofeminist, a naturist, and a Taoist.

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