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Are Anti-Cruelty Campaigns Really Effective?

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Pruning Makes a Tree Grow Stronger

As a practical matter, SICs are focused primarily on clipping either small or ‘dead’ branches off the tree, obviously making the tree healthier. Even when animal welfare groups attempt to cut off a medium-sized branch, such as seal clubbing or fur production, they find that the tree is easily healthy enough to continue thriving despite the loss of a live (i.e. profitable) branch. If a part of the branch is cut or prevented from growing (as was the case with fur production in the 1990s) the tree is still big and strong enough that – down the line – such branches can actually come back with renewed strength (as the case has been with fur production since the early 2000s). Attempting to prune the tree not only fails to harm the tree in the long run, but actually helps it to thrive.

Branches Grow Back

In our global economy, another fatal problem with SICs is that, even if they were to succeed in cutting off small or middle-sized branches, new branches can grow in other areas to replace the branches that were cut. For example, if we eliminate horse slaughter in the United States (cutting a middle-sized branch); industry will simply ship horses to Mexico and slaughter them there (new replacement branch).  As long as demand exists, supply and any profitable practices based on demand will shift to other jurisdictions as required.

Trimming Branches Helps the Roots to Thrive

Because animals are property and economic commodities, we have a wide divergence of social acceptability regarding the treatment of animals.  On one hand, the law permits extreme cruelty for the most trivial of economic benefits, as long as the end use is socially acceptable.  On the other hand, most people would be horrified to see a dog – especially their own dog – endure what animals raised for food or used in experiments endure.

SICs reinforce these irrational dichotomies by singling out specific uses of animals as though they are worse than others. When we campaign to eliminate one branch of the tree, such as the fur or seal-clubbing industries, while ignoring other branches, such as the leather, egg, and dairy industries, we send a message to the public that certain forms of exploitation are worse than others. The tremendously popular “Say No to Fur” campaign is a classic example. This particular campaign sends the confusing and false message that fur is somehow worse than other animal-based fabric such as leather, which is just as brutal in its production, yet much more widely used.

SICs could avoid this problem by calling for veganism and an end to all animal use, but we almost never see a strong vegan message attached to SICs.

The Vegan Solution: Uprooting and Eliminating the Tree

The animal exploitation tree exists solely because of consumers of animal products.  Consumers and users are the lifeblood of every aspect of the tree. When we go vegan, we remove our contribution to the tree’s health. When we inform others about why and how to become vegan, we help others eliminate their contribution to the tree’s health. When we call attention to our society’s speciesism, we dig up parts of the tree’s root system and expose them to the light of day – eliminating one more source of nutrition for the branches.

As more and more of us join in being vegan and encouraging and helping others to be vegan, the tree’s health will steadily diminish, causing the outer branches to naturally die off, until eventually the entire tree – and with it, the extreme cruelty it necessarily inflicts on the innocent – will no longer be able to survive.

Rather than contributing to the efforts of thousands in “hacking at the branches” of the tree (while at the same time nourishing it by consuming and using animal products and services), we ought to “strike at the root” by embracing veganism and encouraging others to do the same.

with Dan Cudahy

Angel Flinn is Director of Outreach for Gentle World — a vegan intentional community and non-profit organization whose core purpose is to help build a more peaceful society, by educating the public about the reasons for being vegan, the benefits of vegan living, and how to go about making such a transition.

Dan Cudahy is author of Unpopular Vegan Essays: Unpopular Essays Concerning Popular Violence Inflicted On The Innocent.

Related Stories:

Making a Killing with Animal Welfare Reform

Legal Slavery in the 21st Century

The Importance of Being Vegan

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195 comments

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9:54AM PDT on Aug 23, 2013

Thank you food for thought....

4:00PM PST on Nov 19, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

2:47AM PST on Dec 28, 2011

animals do have the same basic rights and desires as humans. true, animals do not desire money, education, the right vote. but like us, they desire food, shelter, freedom of movement, companionship and avoidance of pain.

1:53AM PST on Dec 20, 2011

Karen, you gave a good example of a vegan who isn't necessarily a kind and caring animal owner. Not saying Bill Clinton ISN'T, and yes, he has dogs, but he's also not vegan. He admits to eating fish 2 - 3/X a week, actually. However, the reason he became "vegan" (actually he's a pescaterian, I believe?) is for health reasons, and because his daughter was getting married and he promised her he would try and to lose weight. Mike Tyson is another example. He can hardly be said to be a kind person, but maybe he's changed. The "old" Mike certainly wasn't, and I can't believe his attitude towards other beings would do a 180 degree turn-around.

Supposedly, Adolph Hitler was a vegetarian, and he most certainly could not be classified as a humanitarian, HOWEVER, he was also known to be a staunch supporter of wildlife and a dog lover. I just don't think the two equate at all, at least the two do NOT go "hand in hand".

1:36AM PST on Dec 20, 2011

(cont'd)
issues we have to deal with in our everyday lives.

Hmm, I wish this comment box would only allow us to write the amount of words that will be posted!

1:32AM PST on Dec 20, 2011

I didn't imply that you don't know what the dictionary definition of a vegan is, but it's quite natural for non-vegans to not know or understand the reasons or motivations that lead some to become vegans. It cannot be compared to the decision or desire to become a parent.
I'm not saying here that all vegans become vegans for the same reason, or that they all hold the same belief system. Bill Clinton, who's apparently a vegan, became one for health reasons. But the "whatever idealistic reason" you mention is precisely the reason why most vegans would treat animals (not only their own but all animals) properly.

And no, I was certainly not making a judgement that people who have pets hold them in slavery because they place boundaries! Unless one lives alone as a hermit, we all have to set and abide by rules and boundaries.

In fundamental things such as the right to life and freedom from forced confinement and inflicted suffering, I believe animals are our equals; but just as all individual humans are not equal in their physical and intellectual abilities, animals are not equal to humans in several aspects. This doesn't mean that humans are better than animals. Each species adapts to its best capacity to its environment, and as far as that (emphasis) goes it seems that animals are better than us. The fact that animals are not our equals in certain things makes it irrelevant and ridiculous to discuss whether they can or have the right to vote or make decisions on issue

9:35PM PST on Dec 19, 2011

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree, with all due respect then. Being vegan (and I do know what it includes) does NOT nesessitate proper care. Just because one doesn't eat animal products, wear them or "use" them for whatever idealistic reason they have convinced themselves of having, does not mean they treat their own animals properly.........anymore than becoming a parent means one will treat their offspring as they should be treated. Because one is NOT vegan does not mean that they do not treat their "pets" or livestock properly and even better than vegans do.

I have no problem with animals being sold, under certan circumstances, that is. Even a dog or cat obtained from a shelter is essentially being "sold" when a fee is involved. My "pets", I suppose, in your opinion, ARE slaves in that they are NOT allowed to come and go "at will", nor do they dictate to me what they will eat or where they are allowed to sleep (or not). They do not get to vote, they do NOT get to drive my car, nor do they have a "say" in what happens when it comes to choosing what the furniture arrangement is, what color I paint the house, etc. If they were human family, they probably would have a "say" while living in my house.

4:35PM PST on Dec 19, 2011

Cont'd from last post:

I have rabbits too, adopted from a rescue organisation. But having taken them in, giving them as good a life as I can, and even knowing that without me they might be dead doesn’t give me the right to view them as my properties. I don’t consider they owe me anything, not even love and gratitude. Choosing to take in animals only makes them our responsibilities, not our properties. Unfortunately, such belief is not the norm or animals wouldn't be sold, as human slaves once were.

Of course, many “pet owners” treat "their" animals properly. But to me, someone who considers animals as properties is more likely to use, misuse, and/or abuse them than someone who respects animals as individuals (objects are properties; individuals, of whatever species, are not objects). And that kind of belief--and the respect for all life forms that flows from it--is the essence of veganism.

8:22PM PST on Dec 18, 2011

Diane, I agree with you that anti-cruelty campaigns can be effective. Some are even successful, such as the recent banning of bullfights in Catalonia. More importantly, I believe they are necessary.

To answer your question as to whether being a vegan inevitably means treating animals properly, I'd say yes, though I suppose there are exceptions to everything! Being vegan is more than what you eat or don't eat. It's a way of thinking, being, and relating to the universe. If you choose veganism, you do so out of conviction that animals are individuals, sentient beings deserving of respect, life, and freedom just like humans. Rather than seeing humans as occupying the top of a hierarchy, vegans see humans and animals as parts of the circle of life.

As for your view that animals are properties because you feed and provide for them, and that as long as you treat them well it's fine to see them as belonging to you. A lot of people share this belief, and for many it is even almost unconscious and, so, remains unquestioned and unchallenged. I think differently. Before humans began domesticating animals for their various needs, animals lived very well without us. They never needed or depended upon us – we did. Even now, we feel the need for the companionship of animals. And if it’s true that many of them cannot fend for themselves any longer, it doesn’t mean that they were never able to. Domestication changed that; we changed that. I have rabbits too, adopted from

6:43PM PST on Dec 18, 2011

Third trial to post a reply. Hope it doesn't suddenly appear x3!

Diane, I agree with you that anti-cruelty campaigns can be effective. Some are even successful, such as the recent banning of bullfights in Catalonia. More importantly, I believe they are necessary.

To answer your question as to whether being a vegan guarantees treating animals properly, I'd say yes, though I suppose there are exceptions to everything! Being vegan is more than what you eat or don't eat. It's a way of thinking, being, and relating to the universe. If you choose veganism, you do so out of conviction that animals are individuals, sentient beings deserving of respect, life, and freedom just like humans. Rather than seeing humans at the top of a hierarchy, vegans see humans and animals as parts of the circle of life.

As for your views that animals are properties because you feed and provide for them, and that as long as you treat them well it's fine to see them as belonging to you. I think differently. Before humans began domesticating animals for their various needs, animals lived very well without us. They never needed or depended upon us – we did. Even now, we feel the need for the companionship of animals. And if it’s true that many of them cannot fend for themselves any longer, it doesn’t mean that they were never able to. Domestication changed that; we changed that. I have rabbits too, adopted from a rescue organisation. But having taken them in and giving them as good

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches ancient Greek, Latin and Classics at Saint Peter's University in New Jersey.... more
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