Sunday, February 26, 2012

Respect?

I am reproducing here (complete) a post written by Chris Poupart over on his blog Adventures of of a dad/vegan/anarchist. He writes very well about something I suspect many vegan folk encounter.

Sometimes I am asked to "respect" another's decision to cause harm because they "respect" my decision to not harm...actually it isn't stated that way....it is usually stated in such a way to imply that...oh well...it is just a difference of opinion. Well, not quite. Someone wanting their decision to harm others to be "respected" is a bit much for me....Mr. Poupart does a good job of explicating and elaborating about the intricacies of the language involved in this. (Mr. Poupart graciously gave his permission for this to be reproduced here).

As a vegan, I am often told that I should "respect [someone's] decision to eat animals". This can get problematic, because that is the antithesis of veganism as an ideal. I will elaborate, but first, lets look at what the word "respect" really means, because I think that often it is misused in this context. If the person truly understood what veganism was, and had a full understanding of the meaning of respect, then they might get why the two can not be used together that way.
From Google's Dictionary:
re·spect
verb /riˈspekt/
respected, past participle; respected, past tense; respecting, present participle; respects, 3rd person singular present
Admire (someone or something) deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements
she was respected by everyone she worked with
a respected academic
Have due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of
I respected his views
Avoid harming or interfering with
it is incumbent upon all boaters to respect the environment
Agree to recognize and abide by (a legal requirement)
he urged all foreign nationals to respect the laws of their country of residence

As you can see, it is likely that when people use "respect" in the context that I first provided that they are using it to mean 2, 3 or 4. But what they are failing to consider is that it also comes with the connotation of admiration, and that is where it gets problematic with regards to something that vegans obviously consider as wrong. After all, if we didn't think that using animals was wrong, we wouldn't have stopped doing it. Even if someone has a legal right to continue doing something traditional, if it is immoral and you believe that it is immoral, you can never respect it.
A better word for these situations, situations where you simply have to put aside your dislike of the other persons actions or beliefs, would be tolerance.
Google describes "tolerate" as such:
tol·er·ate
verb /ˈtäləˌrāt/
tolerated, past participle; tolerated, past tense; tolerates, 3rd person singular present; tolerating, present participle
Allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference
a regime unwilling to tolerate dissent
Accept or endure (someone or something unpleasant or disliked) with forbearance
how was it that she could tolerate such noise?
Be capable of continued subjection to (a drug, toxin, or environmental condition) without adverse reaction
lichens grow in conditions that no other plants tolerate

Tolerance may not have the same warm and fuzzy connotations that respect does, but it is at least honest.
I do not respect someone's decision to enslave, assault and kill others. But unfortunately, in this world I still have to tolerate it more often than not.

Excellently said...right now I may have to tolerate the exploiting, enslaving and murdering of my fellow animals...but sorry...no respect for such repugnant and despicable activities is available from me. In truth, I am astonished anyone would even believe respect for such horror is possible.

I can respect the personhood of another being without respecting their viewpoints and/or their behavior...if someone isn't living as an ethical vegan then I am in a position not of respecting their harmful behaviors but rather of having, at least for now, to tolerate such. I may respect and admire many qualities they have...but no way do I respect their behavior toward the animals they harm or cause to be harmed. Unfortunately and sadly and tragically for those on whom the suffering and misery is inflicted.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Some of the....

captioned images that have caught my eye recently. I hope they bring you some pleasure.




Remember, you can bring good feelings to a multitude of animals by living as an ethical vegan.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Life isn't fair....

at least that's what I've been told countless times. And I've probably passed on the same notion to others. I vividly remember being upset and crying numerous times when I was a child over some situation or another where I was devastated by the "unfairness" of something. Often it was a situation that didn't resolve itself in my favor or to my satisfaction, but not always.

Looking at some of what is written about the meaning of the word fair reveals:
fairness - n(oun).
Synonyms: fair(1), just(1), equitable, impartial, unprejudiced, unbiased, objective, dispassionate
These adjectives mean free from favoritism, self-interest, or preference in judgment. Fair is the most general: a fair referee; a fair deal.
Just stresses conformity with what is legally or ethically right or proper...
Looking back at the child I once was I can see that what I was likely protesting and what I was many times wounded by was the sense that whatever was happening was not equitable or unbiased...it wasn't a fair deal. Not that I thought that way or in those terms then, no...I felt pain and a sense of wrongness or being wronged and my way of expressing that hurtful feeling was with the phrase "no fair". I would suspect that anyone who had playmates has dealt with situations where "no fair" was invoked and either some adjustment was made or everyone went away feeling wronged or angry...or some left that way and others left flushed with the pleasure of winning. Shame on me for those times where I benefited from some unfairness.

Charles Dickens gives voice to this via his character Pip in Great Expectations:
"In the little world in which children have their existence there is nothing so finely perceived and finely felt as injustice." (p. 63 from the Penguin edition)
But, over time and with many repeats of "life's not fair" I submerged (many) of my notions of fair/unfair. Not all of them though, thankfully.

I can still remember seeing scenes on television of the furor and turmoil occurring in Little Rock, Arkansas when a number of African American school children started attending classes at a previously all white school. I began questioning my parents about the whats and whys of what was going on there and for the first time started to apprehend that massive and monstrous obvious 'unfairnesses' went on and on and often never ever changed.

Moreover, when anyone pointed out one of those unfairnesses and tried to change them, not only did denial of those unfairnesses happen...many supported the unfair situation and resisted....sometimes with serious and extreme violence...attempts to change them. We "Americans" murdered M. L. King because of his objections to unfairness. We "Americans" virtually wiped out the original human inhabitants of the Western hemisphere with only minimal or no references to any notions of fairness...simply because it benefited us. Throughout history objecting to unfairness or being in the path of those bent on benefiting themselves with no thought of fairness has been a risky and often dangerous proposition.

That's sort of interesting in a macabre and scary way when you think about it. One would naturally think that being unfair would be dangerous and/or unpopular, instead being the victim of or objecting to unfairness appears to be the risky and/or unpopular thing.

Thomas Paine wrote something interesting concerning this:
"A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom."
It may be partially that our sense of injustice and unfairness is sharper and more sensitive when we're children because we don't have a long history of thinking about much of anything, much less whether something is fair or unfair, wrong or right. It's all new to us, and clear and fresh. It is only over the trail of living that we learn to develop long habits of "not thinking a thing wrong" or unfair even when it is...it is then that we become susceptible to the illusion of the "superficial appearance of being right" or fair.

Well, it is true, in fact that "life" many times isn't fair. Awful things happen to innocent beings...again and again and again. Floods, storms, freezes, heat-waves, accidents, etc....notice however that these "unfairnesses" are the result of the behavior of non-living (or at least non sentient inso far as I can tell) systems or forces. Does the unfairness of these phenomena then give living beings license to behave unfairly? Do these elemental unfairnesses make unfair behavior by living beings unremarkable or acceptable? Do they remove fairness from consideration except as some sort of fantasy or dream? I think not.

Notice that, insofar as I know, earthquakes don't benefit from their destruction, nor do tornadoes or floods. They just are...with no thought of winning or achieving anything. They aren't motivated by greed or lust or ambition or hunger or fear or acquisition. They occur and then recede, they don't look around to see their results and repeat themselves if they aren't satisfied. "They" aren't a they in the sense of an agent.

But sentient beings are agents. We do things because of greed or lust or ambition or fear. We can also refrain from doing things because of these motives. We have a sense of fairness, of justice. We can behave in accordance with a sense of fairness....or not.

The Veil of Ignorance  (associated with the 'original position') is one of the more interesting ideas I've ever encountered regarding fairness or justice. It serves to express in rather precise terms the notion of behaving toward others like you would want to be treated. The Wikipedia entry rather precisely describes this:
It is a method of determining the morality of a certain issue (e.g. slavery) based upon the following thought experiment: parties to the original position know nothing about their particular abilities, tastes, and position within the social order of society. The veil of ignorance blocks off this knowledge, such that one does not know what burdens and benefits of social cooperation might fall to him/her once the veil is lifted. With this knowledge blocked, parties to the original position must decide on principles for the distribution of rights, positions and resources in their society. As Rawls put it, "...no one knows his place in society, his class position or social status; nor does he know his fortune in the distribution of natural assets and abilities, his intelligence and strength, and the like."[5] The idea then, is to render moot those personal considerations that are morally irrelevant to the justice or injustice of principles meant to allocate the benefits of social cooperation.
For example, in the imaginary society, one might or might not be intelligent, rich, or born into a preferred class. Since one may occupy any position in the society once the veil is lifted, the device forces the parties to consider society from the perspective of the worst off members.
While the Veil of Ignorance proposition is stated in terms applicable to human animals and their societies, there is little effort involved in expanding the question to all sentient beings, to the community of life itself.

In other words, in any particular situation, how would you want sentient beings to behave toward one another if you chose how they were to behave....but you had to choose these ways of behaving without knowing your own particular species membership.

For instance, would you see the killing and eating of sentient beings (when it is not necessary for survival) as fair or just or moral  if...you might be one of those killed and eaten?

Would you see the imprisoning and enslaving and exploiting of sentient beings as fair or just or moral...if you might be one of the sentient beings exploited?

Would you see the stealing of babies from their mothers and the selling of that mothers milk for profit if you might be one of the mothers or babies involved?

I think (hope) you get the point.

Ethical veganism isn't about "loving" animals. It is about fairness and justice for all animals...including the nonhuman and the human animals. It is an issue of morality...of what is right, of what is fair, of what is just. It is an issue of living as fairly and justly as we can.

We have for too long, in the words of Thomas Paine, been " not thinking a thing wrong"...that  "thing" being the exploiting, abusing, enslaving and killing sentient beings. And...as a result of that "not thinking a thing wrong" we have lazily fallen into superficially thinking it to be right or acceptable. Well it isn't.

We each can behave fairly or unfairly, justly or unjustly....we each can contribute to fairness in the world or to unfairness. We each can increase justice on our planet or we can behave unjustly. We can give what we ask for ourselves or we can ask for that which we are not willing to offer to others.

In large part, these sorts of doings or not-doings define who we are. We all have to decide and our decision is reflected in our behaviors....ethical veganism isn't a diet...it is a way of living that contributes to fairness and justice....to life and living....to peace and pleasure...to joy and happiness. Living any other way increases unnecessary misery, suffering, pain and death. Living any other way is truly...."no fair".

My thanks to Bea Elliott who wrote about justice on her blog Provoked around the same time I was turning over some thoughts about that topic. Her writing is an inspiration and she is a shining example of a human animal who increases the fairness and justice in this battered old world.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Words fail me....

Clever wordplay with imagery.
This poster for a vegan event knocked me out. I've seen a number of parody uses of 'tricky Dick' and his strange postures but this one left me speechless...and laughing.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sue Coe...

is an artist whose book "Dead Meat" was one of the first 'veganized' books I purchased. Her images are haunting and powerful. Wikipedia writes:
Sue Coe (born 28 November 1951 in Tamworth, Staffordshire) is an English artist and illustrator working primarily in drawing and printmaking, often in the form of illustrated books and comics. She grew up close to a slaughterhouse and developed a passion to stop cruelty to animals. Coe studied at the Royal College of Art in London, lived in New York City from 1972 to 2001. She currently lives in upstate New York. Her work is highly political, often directed against capitalism and cruelty to animals.notes that:
I ran across this video over on Our Hen House (created and produced by them) and was delighted to be able to hear and see Ms. Coe talk about her art and her creative process. The analogy she made between witnessing the horror we are visiting upon our fellow animals and looking at the sun was just exquisite. Just like looking at the sun, these things we are doing are so glittering and penetrating in their awfulness we can only bear to look briefly...and then we have to turn away.

The horror cannot be borne....yet it is...by our victims...day in and day out....every second of every hour and no one does a better job of witnessing these atrocities than does Ms. Coe.


Sue Coe: Art of the Animal on Vimeo.

She also talks about the reality distortion and avoidance that we are all exposed to and damaged by and how moving into an ethical vegan lifestyle empowers us to "spit out" the "fodder" of oppression. Good stuff! I would love to have the opportunity to sit down and have a long and winding conversation with this talented and insightful human animal. Thank you Sue Coe.