"This Is Hope" is a crossover book for self-identified environmentalists, species rights advocates, vegans and vegetarians, those dedicated to true sustainability, fish and wildlife "management" professionals, students of deep ecology, and those who want to know the biocentric solutions for our dietary, consumer, and reproductive choices.
Will’s Blog

Vegans! Will You Rally Against Climate Change in September?

BallardPeppersYesterday, I promised an opportunity for VEGANS to be visible at international rallies and protests against Climate Change in cities around the world. Here are introductory links that explain it:

http://peoplesclimate.org/global/?r=credo

http://peoplesclimate.org/march/

 

Proposed are two options for the VEGAN COMMUNITY:

The initiator of the national event for Climate Change includes 350.org, an organization that refuses to acknowledge the role veganism plays in climate change. They intend to rally the largest gathering ever about climate change in NY City on September 21 (a Sunday) as the UN debates climate policy. The organizers already have recruited a large coalition of organizations for that rally and march. However, they encourage other organizations to organize their own independent but coordinated events in cities and towns everywhere. Importantly, they encourage organizations to organize under their own identities. See http://peoplesclimate.org/register/#host-iframe

 

This is a phenomenal opportunity for VEGANS to spread the message that veganism (not vegetarianism) is essential to get immediate results on greenhouse gas reductions, especially methane. At ten days, and then at five days prior to the rallies, I will post a talking points card for you to use about how animal agriculture contributes to the disaster of climate change. The card will be posted at www.greenvegans.org and www.thisishopethebook.com.

Read more ›

The Unlimited Vegan – Part III

Connecting to Power
BallardSunflr
In parts I and II, we see how the founders of modern-day veganism anticipated the connections between the vegan principle and other pressing issues. It is our job to understand that those same issues, if left unsolved, are obstacles to achieving a veganized humanity. As we help challenge and solve them, veganism gains power and becomes accepted as common sense. We are vegans without limits who gain the power of the whole.

 
Many vegans are aware that animal agriculture is responsible for up to 51% of the greenhouse gasses that fuel climate change and its symptoms of rising sea levels, drought, and ocean acidification. Climate change and our relentless exploitation of Earth is destroying ecosystems as we’ve known them at an accelerating rate. A United Nations’ “Millennium Assessment” reflected that “Nearly two thirds of the services provided by nature to humankind are found to be in decline worldwide. In effect, the benefits reaped from our engineering of the planet have been achieved by running down natural capital assets [natural capitol is the resource base of ecosystem services we rely upon like clean water, building materials, and pollinators].” Animal agriculture, responsible for impacting and dominating all ecosystems, is unnecessary for at least a billion of the wealthiest people who have alternatives. Impoverished people are benefiting from veganic agriculture as well.

 
We already cite how “going vegan” eliminates much of the violence waged against wild and domesticated individuals from other species, greatly reduces our environmental impacts, and improves personal health as it reduces national health care costs. But think about the good people at the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE). They know that economic systems must change to enable social and economic justice for more people. They urge us to toss out the belief that unlimited economic growth is possible within finite ecosystems. A steady state economy is required to stop the destruction of ecosystems. As they reduce that destruction, CASSE advocates also stop much of the miserable deaths of wildlife who live in those ecosystems. In their advocacy for reformed economic systems, CASSE addresses suffering and unjust killing which are pillars of purpose for ethical vegans. Read more ›

The Unlimited Vegan – Part II

Making Sense of the Whole

In part one, we saw how Donald Watson, Leslie Cross and other founders of the word “vegan” and the Vegan Society implied and then stated what it means to apply the vegan principle to the rest of our lives and the vegan movement. Their evolving vision gives us an opportunity to reemphasize and expand on what veganism can do for all life and ecosystems. Here I describe why it is equally important to realization that many other issues must be solved if veganism is going to be the global norm.

 

A New Human Ecology
Remember what Leslie Cross of the Vegan Society said in 1951: “In a vegan world the creatures would be reintegrated within the balance and sanity of nature as she is in herself.” She gave this as an example of applying the “vegan principle” to areas other than dietary choices. So I ask, do issues like overpopulation and food not getting to people fit within the vegan principle, or do the vegan principle and veganism exist within a larger context? I believe it is clearly the latter. This was apparent in Donald Watson’s 2002 interview that I described in Part II. All the issues he mentioned fit within a larger context already in use, a place in which veganism and other subjects exist side-by-side and make sense as a whole. They live within the comprehensive context of our human ecology.

 

Human ecology is the study of the relationships we create with our external environment. That external environment includes other people, our social institutions, individuals from other species, ecosystems—the entire Earth. We create those relationships with our behaviors, our personal and collective decisions and the institutions that organize our social existence—cultures, communities, governments, religions, and all manner of social organizing. As vegans we are in fact insisting on a new, updated human ecology because we are calling for a reformation of human behavior, attitudes, and beliefs that support veganism. As a result of this vegan behavior, a vegan human ecology, we have healthier, relatively nonviolent, and just relationships with our external environment. Vegan behaviors create relationships that are far different than those found in hunter, fisher, animal agriculture, and other violent exploitations.

 

First, human ecology serves our movement when we see it not as a “study of” but as a tool. We are constructing an intentional new human ecology of veganized relationships. We are active builders, not passive reporters who study what we know is not working—our current human ecology of failed behaviors and relationships. Second, because it is all-inclusive, our new human ecology contains a multitude of other social movements and their issues under one roof. Human ecology is our common platform. It demonstrates how social movements and their concerns are interdependent.

 

Please take a moment to study this new human ecology graphic. You may have to click on it to enlarge.

6x6_TheNewHumanEcol#124D4D8

It is here, within the broad and inclusive space of our new human ecology that we advocate for deep reforms in our relationships with all the individuals from other species, the people we cohabit with on Earth, and our shared ecosystems.

 
Veganism alone is a revolution in human behavior and will define our species. While it is essential to our physical and moral survival, we will not grow it in time unless we make better use of its importance to all the other social causes shown in the illustration. In turn, veganism needs them to succeed if we are not to be defeated by their failures in spite of our work.  We must initiate the discussion about reforming our human ecology when we talk to advocates from other movements about the necessity and reasonableness upon which veganism gently floats. There is, after all, only one problem and it is our human ecology. Within it is veganism, the healer. Read more ›

The Unlimited Vegan – Part I

The vegan community is missing an opportunity to tap into a vast source of power. If we want a vegan planet we start by stepping back to see the big picture. Up to now, we have heard how environmental sustainability, for example, is dependent upon a global switch to a vegan diet. Less obvious is how veganism is dependent on solving many other major issues of our time. In fact, the relationships between veganism and other issues are complex. As I’ll explain in three parts of “The Unlimited Vegan”, each issue is deeply dependent on the success of the others.

 

Issue interdependency was hinted at in November, 1944, when Donald Watson and others initiated the word “vegan” and founded the Vegan Society: “We can see quite plainly that our present civilisation is built on the exploitation of animals, just as past civilisations were built on the exploitation of slaves….”

 

In 1951, Leslie Cross, then vice-president of the Vegan Society wrote that the “…Vegan Society adopted revised and extended rules which among other things clarify the goal towards which the [vegan] movement aspires…. The Society pledges itself ‘in pursuance of its object’ to seek to end the use of animals by man for food, commodities, work, hunting, vivisection and all other uses involving exploitation of animal life by man…. – veganism is itself a principle, from which certain practices logically flow…. If, for example, the vegan principle is applied to diet, it can at once be seen why it must be vegetarian in the strictest sense and why it cannot contain any foods derived from animals. In a vegan world the creatures would be reintegrated within the balance and sanity of nature as she is in herself.”

s_v10ag496skx0377_b

In Cross and Watson we see the unfolding of what the “vegan principle” means when applied to subjects other than diet. Further along, in 2002, Donald Watson stated, “And, when I think that the world population, which was about 2 billion people in 1944, is now … this astronomical explosion of over 6 billion, along with… a corresponding explosion of animals to feed most of them. And those animals are there, fed on food that should be growing for the Third World, where people are having big families, because they have to, they’ve no social security, they have to have many children because many of them in every family are likely to die….”

 

Watson goes on to include his concerns about extinctions, reforestation, food additives, and “man’s expectation of surviving for much longer on this planet.” Those are, of course, among the pivotal issues we face today—the big picture. With a little exploration we will see that to be consistently applied the “vegan principle” requires us not to only end exploitation and commodification of others across species but also to see the connections between a reckless human population explosion, for instance, and how it increases suffering due to the number of animals killed, wild and domestic, to feed the now 7.2 billion people on Earth. Also inseparable to human population growth is the increase in crops fed to those animals that should instead be grown for human consumption, a direct cause of social and economic justice and increased destruction of ecosystems.

 

At the end of Watson’s interview, George Rodger asks, “Donald, do you have any message for the many thousands of people who are now vegan?” Watson replied, “Yes. I would like them to take the broad view of what veganism stands for. Something beyond finding a new alternative to, shall we say scrambled eggs on toast, or a new recipe for a Christmas cake. I would like them to realise that they’re on to something really big, something that hadn’t been tried until sixty years ago, and something which is meeting every reasonable criticism that anyone can level against it.”

 

Yes vegans are “on to something really big” but what is the most effective way to define it? It’s our human ecology and the power to effect change is at its core.

Next, Part II, Making Sense of the Whole

Yet Another Nonvegan Excuse: Evolution Requires Meat

6x6_TheNewHumanEcol#124D4D8Nonvegans often claim that their ancestral dietary habits justify continued exploitation of others. Advocates for animal agriculture and other sectors like hunting, fishing, and trapping make this assumption without factual support and reveal a fundamental lack of understanding about human ecology* and evolution. Here is a response that can be useful for vegan abolitionist advocates.

When you encounter people who use “evolution” to the present day as a smokescreen to destroy the planet and wreak a terrible toll against individuals from other species, remind them of what evolution is: evolution is the response required to adapt to a changing environment. Evolution is adaptation. Many societies failed to adapt, to evolve, and in the process destroyed the ecosystems that made their lives possible. Adapting to ecosystems also means there are limits to how much we should change them. Today, we have undeniable evidence that as a species we are failing to adapt planet-wide—not just in an area inhabited by a few cultures. We must understand that evolution now means doing what it takes to adapt in ways that support what’s left of ecosystems and each another. Certainly, animal agriculture is not adaptive. It is too wasteful, morally empty, and unsustainable. It is going to end as a matter of survival and human evolution.

The global scope of animal agriculture is hard to comprehend. According to the World Preservation Foundation, we use 67 billion farm animals to produce meat, much of it coming from species we use to produce milk and eggs after they are no longer deemed productive. Getting an exact count is difficult but many organizations assume the number hovers at 50-plus billion. This does not include those individuals killed on fur “farms” and the countless individuals we call hunted and trapped wildlife. Add to their toll the many billions of fish and “sea food” individuals from other species that nonvegans consume. Think about the magnitude and impacts of 7.2 billion humans practicing a human ecology that does not work, is not adaptive, and therefore not evolutionarily successful. Our population decisions are as important as veganism when it concerns evolution. Human population levels are adaptive or not adaptive, survivable or not survivable. When the World Bank estimates that livestock production uses over “two-thirds of the world’s surface under agriculture, and one-third of the total global land area,” they are describing the fact that these terrestrial ecosystems are controlled by tens of billions of our domesticated livestock. Nonvegans and our collective overpopulation are the cause.

Many non-government organizations (NGOs) refuse to associate human sustainability, maintaining biodiversity, and creating a world without hunger with a call to end animal agriculture and consumption of other species. They fail equally in not addressing overpopulation, social and economic injustice, and the need to reform economic systems to protect people and ecosystems alike. These and other issues cannot be addressed as separate campaigns because they are all woven into our human ecology. The issues are interdependent like species in ecosystems.

 

This is going to be difficult to change because our habits, economic systems, and resource management institutions favor the continuation of hunter, fisher, and animal agriculture models of predation. With our endless appetites, we have become increasingly voracious and ferocious predators, far more so than our ancestors were. And we do it on a massive, unsustainable scale that is not evolutionarily adaptive.

 

The elephant in the room is the absence of a worthwhile discussion about the suffering of domestic and wild individuals from other species condemned to be human food. The recognition of this great evil waged living systems and individuals should unite us instead of divide us. Vegans are acting from verifiable facts and not the nonvegans’ emotional need for there being no change. Countless lives, including the people loved by everyone reading this, depend on our defeating thoughtless quips about what our ancestors ate in a world that no longer exists. Veganism and additional changes in human behavior will create a new, reformed human ecology. This is what we must do as a species. Vegans are evolving.

 

*Human ecology is the study of the relationships we and our social institutions have with our external environment. Our external environment consists of other people and societies, human institutions, ecosystems, and all life on Earth. We create these relationships through our behaviors as individuals, societies, and the human institutions that harness and represent our decisions. I believe human ecology is the best way to demonstrate how profoundly our veganism heals our relationships with all else. It also reveals that veganism cannot on its own stop the exploitation and destruction of others and ecosystems. In fact, achieving a veganized world requires many other changes in our behaviors, our human ecology. Study the Seven Results illustration at www.thisishopethebook.com to get a sense of how the issues are interdependent. I explain this in depth in “This Is Hope: Green Vegans and the New Human Ecology” but also in my blog posts.

The Vegan Movement and Verbal Nonviolence

group of young ecologistsOccasionally I’m reminded of how many vegans are working globally to transform humanity. Too often I forget this and shrink into a single person sitting at a keyboard on my desk. In my post today, I’m keeping them in mind, aware there are many people with their advocacy experiences in places I have and have not been, in countries and cultures where they are advocating veganism. They are using every resource they have in every way they know. Near the bottom of this post are several you can check out.

I assume they face obstacles to their advocacy as we do and that we share some to many of them. It’s reasonable to think they also become discouraged at times by the unbearably slow change in human behavior. So, it helps when I am reminded of great people everywhere, nearly always underfunded. They dedicate their time and scarce resources to ensuring there is a real possibility we can create the tipping point that humanity will ride to the transformation we seek.

What of their experiences and responses to a debate I see so often online in the U.S.: the actual and felt judgmental attitudes perceived by non-vegans (carnists/omnivores and vegetarians) coming from vegan advocates? This is a deeply set challenge to both our and the non-vegans’ personal growth and character. Communicating and advocating veganism is not inherently judgmental but we must respond to the fact that judgment is what some people feel. Judgment feels like violence, an attack. It is the vegans’ responsibility to truth-tell without compromise, share personal experience, love the persons we are with, and minimize as best we can the perceived violence. This may be difficult to do since we now know the unspeakable harms we created before our own transformations.

We remember how nonviolence (ahimsa) was acknowledged and represented by Dr. Martin Luther King, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, and the millions of people in their movements. Their instruction to the people mandated they challenge the unjust behavior and not hate or do violence to the persons acting unjustly, to always love those doing the harm. Again, this is easy to say but difficult. We must support one another by keeping this consciousness of verbal nonviolence alive in our advocacy without compromising the vegan principle:

“The object of the [Vegan] Society shall be to end the exploitation of animals by man”; and ‘The word veganism shall mean the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals.”

“The Society pledges itself ‘in pursuance of its object” to ‘seek to end the use of animals by man for food, commodities, work, hunting, vivisection and all other uses involving exploitation of animal life by man….”

“Where every other movement deals with a segment – and therefore deals directly with practices rather than with principles – veganism is itself a principle, from which certain practices logically flow.” Leslie Cross, (Vice-President,Vegan Society, 1951)

Implementing the vegan principle is accompanied by another set of conversations and debates, this time about incremental change: “leaning into” change; the studies about how societal changes unfold; and how we must consider the personality of the person with whom we are sharing our message about veganism. These are all instructive and important. However, we are not able to force the change including the rate of change in the behaviors of other people. I cannot think at the moment how one would force change of any kind in others and remain nonviolent. Induce and pressure through economic and social means? Yes, changing the economic systems of the world is essential if life is to be truly valued and not just commodified. Social pressures? Yes, but carefully as that can easily straddle the line of violence by judgment. What we can do is communicate effectively in a way that does not require we omit a single syllable from veganism nor compromise the vegan principle.

As an advocate, my guide is clear. I have no right to speak on behalf of any individual from another species who can suffer while telling a non-vegan that it is OK for them to “lean into” change or that they can do so gradually. To do so would mean I approve of the violence and suffering that continues from the remaining unchanged human behaviors. I simply cannot and will not do that. I believe it is important we tell our audiences this; I have. It helps people understand why we can’t condone this violence and at the same time lets them feel empathy for us as we do for them because of our own experiences. This mutual understanding is important throughout our advocacy. The adage of “seek first to understand before being understood” works both ways. We want them to ask us thoughtful questions but shouldn’t we also be asking them how they feel and encourage them to converse?

We know that personal change often happens gradually even though we are capable of overnight transformations with the right circumstances. So, when others are changing gradually in regards to veganism, it is their responsibility and theirs alone—just as it was ours. We continue our advocacy and our support or direct them to resources that will feed their awakening. Encouragement is not condemnation. Compassion is central to our advocacy and we apply it to those not yet convinced of the vegan principle in which we are steadfast.

Here are a few organizations that normally lie outside of my awareness. The International Vegetarian Union lists some of them as members of that organization: AUSTRIA – Vegane Gesellschaft Österreich; CHINA – Hong Kong Vegan Society; ETHIOPIA – Ethiopian Vegan Association; FINLAND – Vegaaniliitto ry (Finnish Vegan Society); FRANCE – Société végane; INDIA – Indian Vegan Society; INDONESIA – Vegan Society of Indonesia; ITALY – BioVeganFest; KOREA – Korea Vegan Society & Diet and Climate Institute; NETHERLANDS – Nederlandse Vereniging voor Veganisme; NORWAY – Norwegian Vegan Society; SOUTH AFRICA – South African Vegan Society; SPAIN – Asociación Vegana Española; SWEDEN – Veganföreningen i Sverige; TOGO (West Africa) – Vegan Students Association of Togo; URUGUAY – Unión Vegetariana y Vegana del Uruguay.

This posting has been about personal, one-on-one interactions with other people. What I’ve not addressed here and will save for future posts is how I want to respond to the corporate entities including some nonprofit organizations and other businesses, large and small, that do the raising and killing, that use advertizing to create an artificial demand for their animal industry offal and the lies of happy cows and “Meatopias”, that impoverish people and ecosystems—that do violence. I don’t want to be wrong about this because being nice at the wrong time in this arena becomes the biggest obstacle to ending the violent exploitation and our own success. I can say it will be nothing like what I’ve suggested above and it must include the abolition of animal agriculture.

News: Olympic Games and Orca captures


As the February 14 demonstrations protesting the Taiji dolphin slaughters and captures draws near, do NOT forget the Russian captures of beluga, pilot, and orca whales. Stories about orca whales and Taiji dolphins taking part in the Sochi Olympic games have faded in the media. The exception is this excellent investigation http://timzimmermann.com/2014/02/10/who-is-white-sphere-the-barely-disguised-conglomerate-behind-russias-wild-orca-captures/ by a journalist who took the time to uncover the truth.

We ask you not to view the Olympic Games on TV (NBC in the US) in protest of these travesties and many others. Russian President Putin and his government are responsible for violence against these whales and dolphins, homeless dogs in Sochi, and LGBT people.

As for the Olympic Committee, we reject the notion that the highest standards of personal behavior and competition are required of athletes by the Olympic Committee while the same committee AND SPONSORS do not require hosting countries to uphold justice for individuals from other species and people. The Olympic Committee must reform the host country selection criteria or face dwindling public and commercial support for the games.

Reclaiming “Humane” – Part 3

A DRAFT proposed definition of humane.

mother orangutan with her babyIn parts 1 and 2 I discussed why we need to update and reclaim the word humane. I’m offering a DRAFT updated definition below. It is unfinished, uses too many words, and needs revision. But it does begin to remove the self-serving, anthropocentric misuse of the word humane that causes, ironically, so much suffering.  I will continue to work on this and consult people with skills that exceed mine. After presenting the meaning of humane in a modified format at a July, 2014 conference, I will re-post the results of that collaborative work here.  For the moment:

humane – an adjective that describes human behavior and the relationships we establish with people and individuals from other species that reflect empathy, compassion, kindness, mercy, protection, and love for their direct benefit absent exploitation, harmful treatment, and lethal outcomes, and is to be practiced independently of any benefit the person being humane may or may not receive.  It is not humane to endorse any practice or act that harms or kills a person or other sentient being or to cause or let remain any aspect of suffering in order to further exploitation or make the harm more commercially successful. Importantly, “animal welfare” is not humane. It is the expression of the “Golden Rule”.

Being humanerequires the humane person to oppose any strategy, policy, or act in businesses, organizations, and in one’s personal life if involved with persons being inhumane, contributing to the harm, enabling harms to remain, or causing the death of sentient life from another species, wild or domestic. This includes animal agriculture, fish and wildlife management (hunting, trapping, fishing), captivity, entertainment, experimentation, animal welfare and rights organizations, environmental organizations, and other human institutions that exploit individuals from other species or destroy their ecosystems. We extend our humane treatment to other species, whether captive, domesticated, or wild as we would for ourselves.  If under our protection as domestic species, we support their living a natural, full lifespan that is fulfilling to them. If in the wild, our task is to protect and restore their ecosystems, end our war on wildlife, and practice a sustainable and humane vegan new human ecology.

An unexploited right to life free of human violations is one of the “rights” we share with individuals from other species.  That is what it means to be humane.

 

Reclaiming “Humane” – Part 2

iStock_000008958903XSmallWe need to look no further than the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to see how humane as applied to humans has evolved internationally. They state, “The actual meaning of ‘humane treatment’ is not spelled out, although some texts refer to respect for the ‘dignity’ of a person or the prohibition of ‘ill-treatment’ in this context. The requirement of humane treatment is an overarching concept. It is generally understood that the detailed rules found in international humanitarian law and human rights law give expression to the meaning of ‘humane treatment’. … However, these rules do not necessarily express the full meaning of what is meant by humane treatment, as this notion develops over time under the influence of changes in society. This is shown, for example, by the fact that the requirement of humane treatment has been mentioned in international instruments since the mid-19th century, but the detailed rules which stem from this requirement have developed since then, and may do so still further.”

 

This applies to the species’ rights movement as readily as it does the ICRC. The mission statements, policies, strategies, and actions of organizations must evolve to define humane as human behavior that is dedicated to the direct benefit of individuals from other species, is absent exploitation, harmful treatment and lethal outcomes, and is supported independent of benefit to humans. That means it is clearly not humane to endorse any practice or act that is purposed to make the killing of a sentient being acceptable or commercially successful. Importantly, “animal welfare” is not humane.

 

Animal welfare seeks to reduce suffering in other species but does not oppose their being exploited in the most extreme way possible, slaughter.  We must not let the principle of being humane continue to be corrupted, intentionally and not, by animal welfare advocates. Humane and animal welfare must have separate definitions and meaning to us. Incremental animal welfare reforms enable the exploitative industries to adapt to growing public concerns about the injustices and unbelievably cruel human behaviors that assault other species. Animal welfare is animal welfare and humane is humane. We must oppose any strategy, policy, or act carried out by persons, businesses, or organizations that contribute to the harm and death of sentient life from another species, wild or domestic. This includes animal agriculture, fish and wildlife management (hunting, trapping), and other human institutions that exploit individuals from other species or destroy their ecosystems.

 

Some organizations have been around for a long time. Theirs is a history of animal welfare reforms that at one time seemed a good thing to most people. We now live in a different era. If their profile is not truly humane in the context of what we know today, then there’s need for organizations to change their names. A humane organization is characterized by their mission statements, policies, and strategies. That still leaves me uncomfortable with the way “animal welfare” is being used. It encourages bad human behavior towards other species and ecosystems. “Humanely-raised” labeling schemes are one example. It encourages animal agriculture as if animal welfare could do more than green-wash and humane-wash the industry. It is essential that we change public understanding of what is humane and what is not. We need this to stop the exploitation, speciesism, and slaughter of sentient individuals from other species.

 

brown cowUntil we reclaim the meaning of humane we will remain mired in the dishonesty that animal agriculture on any scale—like hunting, trapping, and fishing—can be made acceptable by calling it humane because animal welfare reforms have been established. And as I describe in This Is Hope, this is true for nondomestic species. Wildlife managers have set up agency cultures that intentionally favor high populations of some huntable species (‘game” as they are disrespectfully called) while suppressing populations of natural predators. This causes human conflict with wildlife and alters ecosystems. The agencies then want to cure this “problem” their policies created. Under this intentional agenda, agencies collect license and tax revenues derived from the “recreation” of hunting, trapping, and fishing. They turn ecosystems into battlegrounds and encourage the use of horrific tools of war against wildlife. We must oppose this if we are to extend the updated definition of humane to other species in ecosystems and reform fish and wildlife management agencies. There is already a trend in management philosophy to manage on an ecosystem level and not just exploit single species. This won’t end their inflicting suffering.

 

The words humane and “inhumane” are deeply embedded in our culture. It will take effort to ensure, as the ICRC noted, “…that both the definition of humane and the appropriate courses of organizations must continue to evolve.” That is the task before us. Humane societies and animal welfare organizations need to advance the rights of species to be treated humanely in truth, not fiction. They and we must support their living a natural lifespan that is fulfilling to them if under our protection. If in the wild, our task is to protect and restore their ecosystems, end the war on wildlife, and practice a sustainable and humane vegan new human ecology.

 

Summary

Who owns the definition of humane lies at the core of what many of us are challenging: a corruption of the animal rights movement by many of the larger organizations (see www.humanemyth.org). We are undercut with outdated perceptions still in common use that a death is humane if the killing is done in a manner that prevents or diminishes suffering with instantaneous or near-instantaneous unconsciousness to render the individual insensate to pain. There is little accounting for the psychological state of suffering in confinement, little accounting for the suffering of others who lose the presence of the one killed, little accounting of the extensive cruelties that remain throughout their lives, and no weighing of the harm caused when domesticated and wild life are taken unnecessarily before their natural life ends.

 

iStock_000002162356XSmallAs witnesses we know this harm well. The individual who was surprised by an unexpected death does not have to realize it was an injustice—because we do. We are responsible for that lethal act, so our knowing that injustice, that taking of a young unfinished life, is not humane. It wouldn’t be called humane if you killed me with a sudden death when I was ten, or now. It is an artificial distinction if you make it true for humans and not for individuals from other species (a case of speciesism). An unexploited right to life free of human violations is one of the “rights” we share with individuals from other species.

 

Let’s practice the updated understanding and definition of humane. I believe this moves us to legitimate questioning of the validity of organizations that call themselves or their actions humane when they are not.  They are leading the public to believe one can slaughter all we want and still be humane.  That no longer works. The definition of humane has changed and is no longer the property of inhumane organizations or people.

 

Next post: a proposed definition of humane.

 

Please share your views here. This is a moderated blog, a discussion. From it I will modify as a work in progress by many to reclaim the meaning of humane.

Reclaiming “Humane” – Part 1

milking machinesBehind the word “humane” there is a long, evolving history of how it has been defined and understood. Many of us are now concerned about how this word is being applied to our relationships with other species—and humans. We are living with the legacy of humane as it was understood during a past when we had a limited understanding of individuals from other species—who they are and what their needs demand of us. If a person or organization describes an act or activity as humane, the definition matters. Beings, domesticated and wild, who are capable of feeling physical pain, distress, or psychological harm depend on our best efforts to define and use this term to protect their interests, including the right to life. To do that, we need to reclaim and update what it means to be humane.

iStock_000010870225XSmallDuring a recent phone call I was reminded that the backsliding of several humane and welfare organizations has  required a watering down, or more accurately, ignoring what it means to be humane as we should understand it today. Our actions as individuals, organizations, and industries are measured by this term, so we’d best get it right. Toward that end, I offer the following.

Humane is an early spelling of human. Today, a cursory look at online dictionaries reveals differing definitions:

  • Merriam-Webster.com: “marked by compassion, sympathy, or consideration for humans or animals”. The Merriam-Webster.com examples are fairly vague in application; “It’s not humane to treat animals that way”; and, “Conditions in the prison are more humane now.”
  • Oxforddictionaries.com: “having or showing compassion or benevolence / regulations ensuring the humane treatment of animals, and inflicting the minimum of pain, humane methods of killing”. One example sentence is, “but I am willing to put my concerns to one side if a humane stunning could be inflicted on the animal prior to its slaughter.”
  • dictionary.cambridge.org: “showing kindness, care, and sympathy toward others, esp[ecially] those who are suffering.” The example used is, “She felt it was more humane to kill the injured animal quickly than to let it suffer.”
  • wictionary.org:  “Having or showing concern for the pain or suffering of another;  compassionate.” Wictionary gives one contemporary example, “It is no longer considered humane to perform vivisection on research animals.”, and one that is contextual and comparative, “As methods of execution go, beheading is more humane than drawing and quartering.” Of course it is plain that this is not the same as equating beheading with being humane.
  • collinsdictionary.com: “characterized by kindness, mercy, sympathy, etc. inflicting as little pain as possible, a humane killing; [formatting removed in all]

Note the common words used to define humane:  compassion, kindness, mercy, sympathy, consideration, benevolence, and “concern for the pain and suffering of another.”  Now compare those defining words to the examples these dictionaries use to demonstrate the meaning of being humane. You’ll see that the words used to define humane and the examples given in sentences are often at odds with what we know today. Most of the sentence examples do not protect the individual animals from exploitation or slaughter. Being outdated, they also avoid contemporary considerations such as lack of killing necessity, the innate right to life, a requirement that all preventable suffering be addressed—not just a few aspects, and addressing the harms done to others who knew the slaughtered individuals socially.

The harms of using humane as we do now can be demonstrated by making three-year old girls and boys subject to our humane treatment as the dictionaries would have us understand it, instead of individuals from other species—livestock or hunted wolves, for instance.

Oxford Dictionaries would allow that we have “regulations ensuring the humane treatment of [three-year old boys and girls], and inflicting [upon them] the minimum of pain, [and use] humane methods of killing [them]”. For humans, we would be, “willing to put [our] concerns to one side if a humane stunning could be inflicted on the [three-year old boys and girls] prior to [their] slaughter.” Likewise Collins Dictionary would be telling us we were “characterized by kindness, mercy, sympathy, etc. [as we] inflict[ed] as little pain as possible [on the three-year old human children], [as in] a humane killing.” Merriam-Webster would be writing, “It’s not humane to treat [the children] that way” [and as such would be violating the law], and, “Conditions in the prison are more humane now” implies they are still inhumane whether they be prisons for adult humans or individuals from other species. The people at Cambridge Dictionary.org give us a specific case where ending the life of another can be humane. We understand this exception.

Our reference points are the decisions we make about and with the terminally ill. We know when we, our spouses, family members, and our friends consider life at some point in time something they no longer want to experience. Through empathy and basic understandings of physical and psychological pain, we know when ending an unbearable suffering life can be a humane thing to do. When the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) updates guidelines to create a “humane death”, they do so with the intent of creating a low-stress, instantaneous unconsciousness. Regrettably, they do not discriminate between a merciful euthanasia and wholesale slaughter of individuals unnecessarily killed to be eaten. So it is here that I must extend the idea of a humane death towards other sentient beings to be the same I would extend to other humans.

young turkeyThe contradictions between the dictionary definitions of humane as we understand the concept today and the examples demonstrating their application are what we have inherited. In the 16th Century, it referred to the higher qualities desired in human behavior; in 1774 the British Royal Humane Society was established to rescue drowning swimmers. Eventually “humane societies” and “animal welfare” organizations expanded the definitions. We were including more species and more aspects of their care.  Historically, these were seen by our species as advances. It did not stop the persecutions and accepted norms of abuse we have grown to oppose today. We now know that what was seen as humane treatment of the past is the inhumane treatment we understand now.

We have arrived at a very uncomfortable place where the past use of humane is being applied today to perpetuate injustice and suffering. The definition and application of the term humane has to change. It must recognize the unmet needs and innate rights of other species, their rights to life, and not being exploited. It stands to reason that when the definition of humane changes, so too must the organizations operating under the humane banner. Both must continue to evolve.

Next: Reclaiming Humane / Part 2

GreenVegans.org
Subscribe to This Is Hope

Why do vegans allow vegetarianism to define veganism?

April 22nd, 2017

Shake hands, declare independence  We must end our non-critical acceptance of vegetarianism’s[...]

Are Vegans Vegetarians? Conclusion

September 19th, 2015

We lost the struggle for the original definition of “vegetarianism” and “vegetarian” in 1847, 168 ye[...]

Are Vegans Vegetarians? Part 4

August 17th, 2015

Food producers are harming veganism because of the way they label their products “vegetarian” an[...]

Are Vegans Vegetarians? Part 3

July 26th, 2015

Before I describe how international and U.S. organizations inappropriately reference veganism as veg[...]

Are Vegans Vegetarians? Part 2

July 19th, 2015

In Part 1, I noted that the conversation of what vegetarianism is and is not has been ongoing as a c[...]