Hail To The Nihilist

Category: Veganism

A reply to Jessica Fleming (Aussie Dairy) et al

I think I went over the maximum character limit, so I am not sure this comment will be published on the Weekly Times Now article it is in relations to, “Spark in Online Animal Activist Threats“. However, I’d like those involved in the article to read my comment nonetheless. To summarise the article, Jessica Fleming a dairy farmer/blogger has received an increasing number of threatening and abusive emails from “animal activists”. She makes a few comments about the collective that I think are generalist and unfair.

Dear Shannon Twomey, Jessica Fleming, and Curt of Mackay –

Want to know what’s also very frustrating? Being told that we “really do not understand agricultural industries” and have “no practical experience of any description”. Who are these people you are describing? Your ideal of an animal activist or a truth? It fits your rhetoric to think of them all as left-leaning arts graduates that live in share-houses in Fitzroy or Coburg or Newtown or Bondi. However, this is far from a truth. Those that choose to spend time fighting for better treatment of and/or rights for animals come from all walks of life and I’ll have you know plenty of them are ex-industry.

It’s tempting for me to add that you “really do not understand animal activists” and have “no practical experience of any description” in rallying against legislated injustice. However, I don’t really think that of you. I don’t know you. Animal ag’s response to the live export ban (I don’t know which side of the fence you guys sit on as it has diverse support) is testament to a willingness to rally in such a way. And I do applaud you all for using the internet as a means to have your voice heard and to contribute to the dialogue. I agree that contributions should be without abuse. But I also think they should be without fallacy, without logical errors, and based on evidence. And shouldn’t resort to statements like “You surely can’t know as well as us, we’re on the coalface”.

Monoculture is bad. It makes bad vegetarians.

Lierre Keith writes in her deeply captivating, “The Vegetarian Myth”, that monoculture is the greatest sin of our time not livestock production. From this she deduces that vegetarians are then exceedingly sinful for they consume a lot of things that have been produced through a monoculture system. In particular they love grain, corn and foods derived from soy. More vegetarians  made, more pressure on crops. She wraps it up neatly: vegetarians are not as moral as they make out to be and if they were serious about animal welfare and the environment they would eat sustainably farmed meat.

This is an opinion shared by many in the #AgChatOz fraternity. In fact just yesterday, Fiona Lake brought this argument to a vegan she was in discussion with. Tweets Lake, “Vast numbers of (native) animals are affected by all other types of agriculture-eg crop growing; by necessity, monocultures”. Lake doesn’t argue that monoculture is worse than meat production but she states it as a concern. Lake has shared many views in the past along these lines, that you’re better off eating a bit from every agricultural domain, rather than stuffing your face with heavily-marketed faux-meats and cheeses.

This is my question to the animal agriculturalists out there that agree with this position. If vegetarians are committing a moral crime eating too much grain, corn and soy, surely that implicates the farmers that grow it and the industry groups that spruik it? Where is the criticism of your fellow farmer if, indeed, is is a genuine concern and not just a strawman?

Vegans don’t magically want to end all death

A recent post here, Why I am Vegan, and one at Goodrock Park, has elicited quite a bit of debate. Life in general has been brought into the dialogue. Particularly the life of plants–which vegans must inevitable kill and eat. I found this pithy Q&A over at Skeptical Vegan. It relates to the strawman found in former-vegan, Lierre Keith’s, book, “The Vegetarian Myth”:

The Claim: “I built my whole identity on the idea that my life did not require death…Did the lives of nematodes and fungi matter? Why not? Because they were too small for me to see?” (P. 18)

In Reality: This straw man argument permeates throughout the book. These views are not held by most vegans nor any animal advocacy groups. The goal of veganism is to eliminate direct, unnecessary suffering at the hands of humans—not to magically end all death. Why shouldn’t the cow with its undeniable ability to feel pain, experience emotions and form relationships take precedence over plants and organisms with limited or non-existent nervous systems such as the nematodes Keith frets about in this book?

 

The Reason I am Vegan

This piece has been a long time coming. My position as a vegan is often misunderstood. When I argue for abolition the retorts I receive are welfarist in nature. My peers can’t quite grasp the fact that I want to see the end of all animal use rather than give them bigger cages. Subsequently, I get called an extremist.

My position as an abolitionist is roughly guided by the animal rights philosophy of legal scholar, Gary Franicone. At first I went vegetarian after reading Peter Singer’s brilliant though subdued “Animal Liberation”. I could have stopped there and remained a user of dairy cows and lay hens but it didn’t seem right. I read further. I stumbled upon Francione through his great “Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach” website and community. The more I read the more I was convinced that veganism was the baseline. As much as vegetarianism had more mainstream appeal it didn’t see to go far enough.

Since the beginning, some 4-odd years ago, my position has been refined. However, it still has its feet in the works of Singer and Francione. I suggest if you want for this piece to be elaborated on, check out “Animal Liberation” (especially the chapter, “All Animals Are Equal”) and “Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach“. Here I shall give only of an overview of my position. For posts hereafter will all contain elements of my philosophy in a more practical context. Already I have written about outreach and the environmental and health aspects of animal usage, all touched by my position as an abolitionist. There is a common thread: veganism is the baseline if you genuinely believe that animals deserve moral consideration.

One thing I would like to get straight first. I write from the position of a non-subservient person in an affluent country. I don’t believe for a moment that my plights are the same as somebody in Mali or who has found themselves lost in the jungle with only a waterhole full of arapaima for sustenance. I live in a society of choice. As does the audience for whom this post is intended.

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The animal welfarism movement–“new welfarism” it is often called by abolitionists–wants a world in which the least amount of harm is imposed on non-human animals. This world is starting to come into effect. Wander through your supermarket and you will see “humane” this, “free range” that, “sow-stall free” pork and “sustainable” seafood. The welfarism movement–often called the “animal rights” movement–has its central focus on the regulation of animal exploitation. Animal exploitation is okay, provided it is regulated to cause the least amount of suffering.

Consider two worlds. In one world children are molested and beaten. In the other they are only molested. Which of the two worlds is better? The world in which the least amount of suffering is imposed is always better. This is a moral intuition most of us will possess. It is true, too, of welfarism. A world in which the suffering of animals is reduced is the aim. However, this thesis asks nothing of the use of animals. Animals are allowed to be used, provided they suffer less.

According to Wikipedia, “The abolitionists’ objective is to secure a moral and legal paradigm shift, whereby animals are no longer regarded as things to be owned and used“. The basis for this is the fact that animals like cows, pigs and sheep are all sentient. They have the capacity for subjective experience. The axiom which Francione’s version of abolitionism seeks to postulate is that “all sentient beings should have at least one right—the right not to be treated as property”.

Why should this be true? Why should animals have this right? Sentience.

It is without question that some animals–including the ones that end up on our plate–are sentient. This sentience ought to stand for something. In the welfarists view, sentience equates to the way in which we ought to treat an animal. Because an animal is sentient means that it should experience the least amount of suffering that is practicable. It’s okay to kill the animal provided it lives a good, stress-free life. This view is flawed. The way in which animals are treated, regardless of our best intentions, would be considered torture if a human were involved. Animals are bred for the table. Sure, they may get to stand in a lush field all day and gnaw on grass. But well before the end of their natural life they are crammed into the back of a truck, marched down a concrete corridor to waiting captive bolt pistol. They will the be chained up and pulled to pieces. Before being wrapped in plastic and sold to you on the premise of being “humanely raised”. So why a cow but not a human?

The answer is speciesism. Wikipedia defines speciesism as the “assignment of different values, rights, or special consideration to individuals solely on the basis of their species membership“. Should a man treat a woman differently to the way that he wishes to be treated on the basis that she is a woman? The same for skin colour, age or sexuality. Few open-minded people would tolerate such behaviour. Yet speciesism is culturally and institutionally condoned. It is okay to treat an animal in a way in which for a human it would be considered torture because they are an animal–they belong to a different species. Like most conscientious people don’t accept racism, abolitionists don’t accept speciesism.

So we agree animals are sentient, right? We agree that if humans were treated the same way as even “humanely raised” animals, it would be considered torture, right? We agree that speciesism defines this attitude pretty well, right? Then what are we left with? We are left in the same position as we were when confronted with sexism or racism in the past, and homophobia more recently. Would have incremental change been an acceptable tactic during the civil rights movement? Or a more daring example: would it be acceptable to regulate murder so that murders kill only less rather than not at all? We seem to consider these matters differently. I get told regularly that “You can’t compare the two” or “It’s not the same”. The worst thing I can do, it seems, is use slavery as an example. This is the thing, though, I am not trying to compare the two. I am merely showing the similarities in how things ought to change and provide a critique of welfarism.

From all this, for me at least, it follows that veganism is the moral baseline. No ands, ifs or buts. I will not entertain any other position in order to be polite. Welfarism doesn’t work. Abolitionism, as it was for slavery, is the only way. Unless, you can convince me otherwise. 😛

Francione saying it as it is

If you are not vegan, then you are participating directly in animal exploitation.

It really is that simple.

If animals matter morally, then there is one and only one rational response: go vegan.

I’m a horrible person

Welcome to Hail To The Nihilist. This is apparently an “anonymously” written site belonging to a “destructive” vegan. It’s anonymous because my full name, date of birth, passport number and address aren’t published on the “about” page. It’s destructive because I oppose the property status of animals. Two things:

1. Any mildly savvy person can trace this blog back to my full name and telephone number. Want any more information than that? Tough.

2. My mission in life isn’t to destroy an industry employing thousands of people. My mission is to stop animals being treated as property. If thousands of people lose their livelihood because of that, I’m only too happy to help these people, however I can, transition into new industries. Sometimes industries collapse.

The other day a champion of the #agchatoz conversation on Twitter suggested I stop by on Tuesday night to learn a thing or two about animal agriculture. I didn’t expect too much and I am glad. I arrived amidst a hackfest of the #meatfreeweek campaign. Not only were the “agchativists” hijacking the hashtag with such comments as “On menu this week 2 keep in theme #MeatFreeWeek sausages,bacon,pork&lamb chops,rissoles& grass feed steak. Think I got hang of week now!” but there was lots of carry on about the so-called hidden agenda of the campaign’s founders and the socioeconomics of those in support of it. Not being the sort of guy that sits on the fence, I jumped to defence. I learnt a number of things about the #agchatoz crew:

1. Ad hominem attacks are the order of the day.

2. They can give but they cannot take.

3. When it doubt, exhausted and/or frustrated: rant.

Sadly, I resorted to blocking two of the members. Apparently because I am a coward. The way I see it was because I was sick of being harassed. I have a tough skin. I can take what I give. However, there comes a time when enough is enough. I’m not going to answer questions like “why do you want to destroy our lives?” I don’t want to destroy anybody’s life. However, when your livelihood is based around an industry that is on increasingly shaky ethical ground, one has to be responsible for their fate. Coals on the way out. What about all the coal workers? They’ll probably transition to a new industry. That’s what happens. I don’t like coal. It’s bad for the environment. It’s not that I hate coal workers and want to see their lives destroyed at all. I want what is best for the environment and if that means the coal industry collapses, well that may just have to be. People are made redundant every day. It’s a pity but rarely is it a surprise.

I don’t want to ruin people’s lives. I want them to make better lives for themselves. Lives that don’t revolve around the systematic exploitation of animals (humans or other).

A response to Ann Britton

This is a response to a point that beef farmer, Ann Britton made on Twitter regarding who should draft any guidelines and rules for the animal agriculture industry.

She wrote: “unless u have worked in our In u wld have no idea what regulations we have imposed on us with no consultation”. This was in response to my view that guidelines and rules should be written by many relevant stakeholders, not just those with a financial interest–as that can result in all sorts of counter-productive outcomes. My response was somewhat smart aleck: “Well, that isn’t entirely true. For if you or somebody else that did know were to tell me then I would know”. This response was to Ann’s logical error more than anything. I interpret her above argument to read: “Those in the industry know more about certain things than those not in the industry”. In which case, it would logically follow, that if that knowledge were imparted on somebody outside the industry then they too would know.

Ann’s response seemed embittered. “honest 2goodness Y is that my responsibility?” Obviously she didn’t see my motive. Though, she raises a further issue. She claims ownership of knowledge yet isn’t willing to share it. She claims it isn’t her responsibility to inform those outside of the industry about the special knowledge those on the inside have. As another commenter pointed out, there is a disconnection between regional and urban. I carried on: “I’m following your lead. You implied that that can only be known by some. I don’t agree with that”. And then the conversation fell apart. I was twisting her words and telling her she implied things that she didn’t. I did no such thing.

My logic above holds, I am afraid Ann. And the claim that you made is rather typical. But, I think in this instance, there was a mere breakdown in communication. All I was saying was that if you defend the argument that “Those in the industry know more about certain things than those not in the industry” then by imparting knowledge on those outside of the industry, which you must if they are to know–whether that be through discussion or scientific publications,–they will know too. Really, this is a storm in a teacup and a big misunderstanding. I’m sure you agree that we ought to bring regional and urban together?

Having said all that, and I am sure Ann doesn’t defend this position, many in the industry do believe that because they are part of something they know best and surely those that haven’t hands on experience wouldn’t have anything relavent to bring to the table. Take an ethicist. This is somebody who most likely sits in an office in an urban area somewhere. They are unlikely to be on the ground–other than the odd field trip–being exposed to the brutal workings of an industry. But that’s not to say that they have no knowledge of that industry, or their knowledge is not relevant, or not as relevant as somebody that does work on the ground. They have knowledge in a different area–though relevant. They are likely to think differently than the farmer and that’s not a bad thing. We can operate in abstract. In fact, it’s more impartial to do so. By being emotionally and financially invested in a situation, these factors are going to weigh in tremendously and have the potential to taint any critical, self-evaluation. And that’s why I think it is fundamentally important for any animal welfare guidelines or rules to be written by people from a practical and abstract perspective.

The irony of this debate: it started with me responding to a post, retweeted by Ann, on bad practices within the animal agriculture industry.

Edit: Struck out the word “brutal” as it suffered in context.

In Response to Alexandra Jamieson

I remember Alexandra Jamieson from “Super Size Me”. She was Morgan Spurlock’s then-girlfriend as he embarked on an all-McDonalds diet that did all sorts of nasty things to his body. She was a vegan.

Recently Jamieson announced that she is no longer vegan. She gave into the needs of her body and has resumed an omnivorous diet. She asked not to be judged, ridiculed or shamed. She pleaded with her audience to listen to their bodies too on a quest to a more shame-free life.

Jamieson said very little in her announcement about the plight of animals. She did implore that we only consume ethically-produced meat and animal products so she has some ethical leaning. But that’s about all she said of the animals that give their lives so people like her can satisfy so-called needs and to shrug the supposed shame of a vegan life.

I didn’t really expect much of Jamieson on the ethics of eating animals. She was vegan for health reasons and the ethical aspect was just an aside. If she were more involved with the ethics, perhaps she wouldn’t have stopped being vegan? Perhaps she would have realised there is more to this than just human urges and tenuous health claims.

In a recently video Jamieson emerged upset by much of the response she has received. Vegans are the bad guys she implies. She cites that she has provided 10-years of service and that they should respect that and cheerfully pull up a chair at her table of peace, love and understanding. Mind you, this is a table that hasn’t room for cows, sheep or pigs. It’s a melting pot of gluttony and devoid of compassion. It’s a place where all can be discussed so long as it is not at all judgemental or related to the ethics of human behaviour. It’s a open, accepting place where we can all thrash about in the mud like proverbial pigs in shit. It’s a place where sanctity of opinion and fallacies thrive. Where moral enquiry and logical argument should be hung at the door along with your coat. It doesn’t at all sound like a dinner party I would like to attend.

Jamieson is an author. Does anybody sense a book in the works?

A Comment to a Dairy Farmer

In response to whoever wrote this piece at Cloverhill Dairies Diary:

I’m a vegan. I’m outspoken. I don’t engage in violent or vulgar protests. I do think what you do is wrong. I will tell you why I think it is wrong on robust, ethical grounds. I do expect the same back–rather than ad hominen attacks. I do respect that you ultimately have a choice–for what I oppose isn’t illegal rather, unjust. I do think there needs to be intellectual respect. I do hope you agree.

 

Response: Vegans to the Rescue

A while back The New York Times ran an essay competition to find an eloquent answer to the question “Why Is It Ethical to Eat Meat?” It’s a serious question that deserves justification. Though, food-industry journalist, Dan Murphy, doesn’t think so. He believes that “such a proposal begs the question of “Why do we have to write essays to justify eating meat?”. Perhaps he’s right. Why do we need to write essays about such things? If people think it’s a worthwhile activity, investing time in deep thought, research and writing, then good for them. But the question is certainly worthy of being posed. Perhaps that is not what Murphy is implying–perhaps its not about the essaying. Maybe he’s implying that the question is not worthy of scrutiny. I hope not for that does beg the question. We can’t pick and choose what is available to moral scrutiny without scrutinising it first. Certain propositions necessarily open themselves to moral scrutiny based on their components. But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about the guts of Murphy’s piece “Vegans to the Rescue”.

I was alerted to this piece by @Willydhunt on Twitter. He linked it to “sustainable” farmer Fiona Lake–with whom I have disagreed on many occasions. An “excellent article” @Willydhunt called it. “Excellent article” and “why meat eating is ethical” in the same sentence. I had to see this. Sure enough, it is anything but “excellent”. It’s riddled with predicable arguments and uses excerpts from various entries in the essay competition as its proof. Whether Murphy interpreted these essays correctly or not, I don’t know. I am going to take them only based on his interpretation.

First there is Jan Cho’s “Eating Meat to Survive” which argues that we ate meat to evolve a big, complex brain giving us the capacity for compassion. Next is Nicolette Hahn Niman, a vegetarian, rancher and environmental lawyer (what a mix!) who argues for soil. Then Tovar Cerulli who argues unhypocritically that because the wheat truck hit a rabbit on its way to town we ought to be more mindful of how animals can fit into the cycle. Former vegan-turned-butcher Joshua Applestone argued for humane meat. And finally, the winner of the competition, Jay Bost, another former vegan, argues for ecology and the inevitably of death.

None of these arguments are new and none need any further scrutiny. It’s been done. They’re all fallacies:

Jan Cho – That’s an appeal to tradition.

Nicolette Hahn Niman – Fellacia necessitas.

Tovar Cerulli –  Perfect solution.

Joshua Applestone – Argument to moderation.

Jay Bost – Strawman.

Actually, to be correct, each has committed a number of fallacies. But again, this is all on Murphy’s representation of their arguments. I might have to go back and read them in their entirety to see whether he got them all wrong–they may be robust after all. As for it being an “excellent” article–I think that says something about the reader if they think that to be true. I contend that there are better accounts out there than this, and the essays it is based on. It just goes to show the cognitive dissonance and lack of critical reasoning evident amongst this set of vocal omnivores.

Anyways, I tweeted a response to @FionaLake and @Willydhunt. Apparently I am a troll for announcing that I am going to respond to it. A few pieces on online bullying on Today Tonight and people are throwing the word “troll” around with abandon.