Thursday, December 10, 2009

Walking the line.

Just to be clear, I do not intend to make this an abolitionism vs. welfarism debate. I think that dichotomy often needlessly divides the animal-activist community, which is made up of so many wonderful and dedicated people who all have intense passions and many different areas of focus. (Google will take you straight to all the infighting.) As far as I’m concerned, every step forward is in the right direction. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to help pay for each of them.

Last week, I received a Facebook invitation to a fundraiser for Maryland Votes for Animals, a newish political action committee. I was psyched, because it was being held at a just-opened vegan cafĂ©, Emily’s, and Dan Piraro would be there. Action for animals, yummy food, and guaranteed vegan hilarity—what more could I ask for?

As it turns out, a stronger message. While excitedly telling Red about this party, I realized that I hadn’t really checked out Maryland Votes for Animals. I was pretty sure they weren’t going to promote killing kittens, but I’m not made of money, so I thought it best to see what the goals of this PAC were. (I already had apocalyptic visions of my contribution helping wine and dine high-powered members of our state government.)

I learned something about myself as well as about MVFA: I’m only comfortable financially supporting animal-advocacy groups that take an abolitionist stance. If anyone’s just joining the party, this means that the ultimate goal is animal liberation: They’re not ours to eat, enslave, experiment on, use for entertainment, or anything else. MVFA takes a welfarist position, meaning that they advocate for the humane treatment of animals, but still see nothing wrong with using them for human purposes and desires. (Think “happy meat.”) Under their Farm Animal Issues section, they state the following: “We produce food on an industrial scale, [sic] that means farm animals too. Does that fact that an animal is being raise [sic] for slaughter mean that it can be raised by torture?”

Umm…I don’t want animals to be either tortured or slaughtered? I can has vegan?

I was also discouraged by the number of “link coming soon” messages next to issue topics. If you’re gonna launch an animal-welfare site encouraging people to join and donate, don’t you think you should post your positions on the issues first? Then, I searched “vegan” just to make sure I wasn’t discriminating against a less-than-professional website with grammatical errors. You guessed it: zero hits.

So, that’s how MVFA lost me. Again, I applaud the work of any group that organizes for the benefit of animals. I realize that not all these groups will be my cup o’ java, and that not all of them will promote veganism as a way to lessen animal suffering. But damn, I was hoping that MVFA would.

I wish you luck, MVFA, and I’m sorry I can’t stand with you.

Copyright Dan Piraro. Lousy crop job by me and Photoshop.


  1. Interesting. Is it your position that the only people justified in opposing animal cruelty are vegans?

    Your post suggests that outlawing the torture of animals on an industrial scale (or, really, the abuse of animals at all) is inconsistent with your goals. It seems to me that the objectives of groups like MVFA are entirely consistent with what you want to accomplish. The fact that you may be 'reaching higher' does not preclude your (or anyone's) responsibility to end animal cruelty.

    Any step in the the right direction brings us closer to our goals.

    What other organization is trying to change the animal cruelty laws in our state?

  2. Thanks for your comment, Anonymous. Possibly I should have gone into more detail. My main difference of opinion with MVFA is that the farm animals for whose welfare they advocate will still be slaughtered. That is unconscionable to me; I object to the view that we may use animals as we wish as long as we treat them in a so-called humane fashion.

    You'll also note that MVFA's web presence gave me pause. An incomplete website does not dispel the notion that those who work for animal rights or welfare are flaky and/or inconsistent. I would have more seriously considered donating to MVFA had they offered a stronger first impression.

    I do think that veganism is the logical outgrowth of a commitment to animal rights. Those committed to animal welfare may disagree. It's a big planet, and I'm glad we agree that effort of all kinds is needed.

    My focus is largely on individual action, so I don't know much about local groups that may be agitating for legal change. I'd be glad to learn about them, though.

  3. Sometimes incomplete (or missing) issue statements is a stealth way to not let your opponents know more than they should. Sometimes a cunning political group would purposely leave out the word "vegan." Always, a humane voting bloc must have a broad appeal or it will not be large enough to get our legislator's attention. Always, animal people should look past our differences and stand together for the sake of all the suffering animals. Your blog made me so sad for our movement...

  4. I totally understand where you're coming from, VB. To the above anonymous poster, VB is allowed to throw her support behind organizations she agrees with philosophically and strategically. And unlike what you wrote ("Your blog makes me so sad for the movement") VB did not flame anyone, just stated her points of difference and that it's a big enough world for everyone. I think the issues she raised are valid and thoughtful.

  5. Although anon raised some good points I also side with you and Marla. One has to push hard at the status quo and constantly try to do better. You clearly appreciate the work all animal lovers do and wished this organization well, but to join or support a group one has to feel that they excel at producing the desired outcome. Anon shouldn't feel sad for our movement; he/she should feel proud that you, as a member of the movement, have the strength to speak out about things that matter. "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.