Special Challenges for Modern Abolitionists: Part 1

Laguna 4

Preface:  This article is the first in a series of articles discussing obstacles to abolition—the ending of all slavery—that movements for proto-abolition—the ending of human slavery—did not have to face.

The virtuous cycle

One significant difference between ending human slavery and ending slavery of other animals pertains to what may be called a “virtuous cycle”:  when a human slave is freed, he or she becomes part of the anti-slavery movement.  The former slave can take up arms—literally or figuratively—against the enslavement of other humans.  Thus, a proto-abolition movement accelerates with each and every successful freeing of an individual.

That virtuous feedback cycle does not, unfortunately, happen when slaves of other species are freed.  For instance, when a cat is rescued from a vivisection lab, that cat is not going to pick up a pen or a sword to help free other cats from torture.

This distinction is but one of the many reasons why the movement to end slavery—meaning, all slavery—faces numerous challenges not faced by movements that were directed at ending human slavery only.  We’ll win anyway, but it’s important to understand that simply repeating what proto-abolition movements did will not likely suffice for full abolition.

A look ahead…

In this “Special Challenges” series, we’ll explore additional ways in which proto-abolition or proto-emancipation movements differ from abolition and emancipation movements.  If you have comments, suggestions, or contributions, please feel free to send them along.

Laguna 4
Laguna 4

(Original article pub date:  11/23/13 (FB); 12/3/13 (EthicalVeganism))

School violence


(Original article publication date:  June 26th, 2012 (Cruelty-Free))

Normalization of and indoctrination into the culture of violence

Every day at lunchtime, another generation of school children—from small country schools to big city ones—is gradually indoctrinated into a culture of violence.

Not only are school kids served the dead body parts of brutalized cows, pigs, chickens, and others, but these children are taught to be thankful for the products of unmitigated violence.  Truly, no Nazi propagandist could rival the animal-killing industry’s skill.

So long as schools are not vegan, schools will be a primary mechanism through which violence is cultivated and perpetuated in our modern society.



Comment, 2016:  Humane education is the antidote to and the philosophical opposite of the violence-inclusive educational approach that our schools currently embrace.  Eventually, we won’t need to call it “humane education”, though; inethicacy will be regarded as a basic problem of education, just as illiteracy and innumeracy are regarded now.


The “no-kill” myth

No-Kill Myth

When good intentions become decoupled from veganism: the “no-kill” myth

(Original article publication date:  June 23, 2012 (Cruelty-Free))

For each cat or dog that you rescue but do not take vegan, you condemn dozens of animals per year to death, namely, the cows, pigs, turkeys, and others who are raped, tortured, and killed to become that cat’s or that dog’s meal. Each of these condemned beings is just as smart, just as loving, and just as worthy of protection as the one for whom you brutalized and killed them.

That’s why the so-called “No Kill” movement—when not coupled with veganism—produces an exponential acceleration of the killing.  One life saved produces, say, 24 killed.  It’s a meat industry bonanza.

And one of the most extreme perversions of people’s good intentions that modern culture has to offer, since its effect is the exact opposite of “No Kill.”

I advocate calling it the “Rape-and-Kill” movement or the “Over-Kill” movement so that people can at least go in with open eyes. Very few things are scarier than wholesale, unmitigated savagery in the name of good.

No-Kill Myth
No-Kill Myth

Distinguishing abolition, proto-abolition, emancipation, and manumission

Four words explained

Animal rights activists and ethical vegans are increasingly using the word abolition, but this growing popularity appears to be accompanied by some confusion about what the word actually means.  This article aims to serve as a quick, informal guide to the meaning of this word, abolition, vis-a-vis three related words:  emancipation, manumission, and proto-abolition.

Emancipation is the freeing of one or more actual living beings from slavery.  Emancipation does not happen to a legal system; rather, emancipation happens to an individual, living creature.

Example:  Before emancipation, Bill is a slave; after emancipation, Bill is no longer a slave.

Manumission is a subset of emancipation.  Specifically, manumission is the freeing of one or more actual living beings from slavery by the slaveholder.

Example:  Jane is the “owner” of Bill, a slave; one day, Jane decides to release Bill such that Bill is no longer a slave.  That event—the freeing of Bill by Jane—is an instance of manumission.

Abolition is the dismantling of the legal institution of slavery itself.  Abolition does not happen to an individual, living creature.  Abolition happens to a legal system.  Specifically, the given sovereign abolishes the institution of slavery.

Example:  Before abolition, Country X has a legal structure that allows slavery; after abolition, Country X’s legal structure does not allow slavery.

Proto-abolition is the dismantling of the legal institution of human slavery but not of all slavery.  Like full abolition, proto-abolition happens to a legal system, not an individual.

Example:  Before proto-abolition, Country X has a legal structure that allows human slavery; after proto-abolition, Country X’s legal structure does not allow human slavery but still does allow slavery of other species.




Vega: Vegan Meals and Supplements from Sequel


A Little Culinary Confession

First, let’s make one thing clear:  I can’t cook.  I appreciate good food and truly admire folks who can bring together a fine meal (and sure do like to be invited to their houses—hint, hint!), but I am not such a person.  And that’s putting it mildly. . . .

This reality caused me a bit of concern when I first adopted a vegan diet.  My only motivation for going vegan was that veganism is the ethical choice.  But, like most people in our culture, my eating habits until that time had relied largely upon dead animals (i.e., meat) and animal-exploitation products (e.g., milk, butter and eggs).  Without any real cooking or food preparation skills and without being able to rely upon the same old menu, I remember pouring that last gallon of milk down the drain and thinking, “Wow, I sure I hope I’ll figure out a way to eat enough to survive.”

Surprise, Surprise

As it turns out, eating well—and eating better than I ever had before—has not been an issue.  A vegan diet—much to my surprise—turns out to be easier, safer and healthier than an animal-based diet.  And one company that is doing its part to make a vegan diet also a convenient diet is Sequel Naturals, which is based in Vancouver, BC, with U.S. offices in Blaine, WA.


Sequel produces a line of vegan convenience foods called Vega.  Formulated by Ironman triathlete Brendan Brazier, Vega offers a wide variety of ready-made vegan meals that come in forms such as an energy bar or a powder that can be mixed with water.  Here’s a quick guide.


Vega Whole Food Energy Bar

Sequel’s Vega Energy Bars condense a whole lot of nutrition into a small package.  The size of a standard candy bar, the Vega Energy Bar includes ten grams (10g) complete raw protein, six grams (6g) dietary fiber, and four-and-a-half grams (4.5.) of Omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids.  Available in chocolate, berry, and natural flavors, I have thoroughly enjoyed incorporating Vega Energy Bars into my diet as an easy way to get in a good meal while on the go.

My favorite is, of course, the chocolate Vega Energy Bar.  And, since it’s often hard to find any vegan chocolate items, I’ve particularly appreciated discovering Sequel’s chocolate offering as both a yummy and good-for-you way to get my chocolate fix.

Left:  My favorite super-model, Kitty Witty Bang-Bang, showed up at the shoot while I was photographing the Vega Energy Bar.  :-)

Vega Complete Whole Food Health Optimizer

Sequel’s Vega powder is practically a feat of  food engineering.  Coming in a thirty gram (30g) serving that can be mixed with eight ounces of water to form a complete meal, the Vega Complete Whole Food Health Optimizer blows away my previous expectations of what a convenience meal could be.  To wit, this supercharged supplement provides:

  • Calcium equivalent to five (5) cups of milk
  • Fiber equivalent to seven (7) slices of bread
  • Omega 3 equivalent to six (6) ounces of dead salmon flesh
  • Potassium equivalent to six (6) bananas
  • Iron equivalent to twenty-nine (29) ounces of dead cow flesh
  • and a whole lot more

Moreover, two packages of the Vega Complete Whole Food Health Optimizer provide 100% of RDI of vitamins and minerals.   Such is  the power of a convenience food that has been extremely well designed.

Other Offerings

The Vega line from Sequel also includes the Vega Whole Food Vibrance Bar (Green Synergy, Chocolate Decadence, and Wholesome Original flavors), Vega Antioxidant EFA Oil Blend, and Vega Whole Food Smoothie Infusion.  All these products include the same kind of plant-based nutrition that makes the other Vega products special.

My recommendation:  a strong buy.  For more information, visit the Vega website from Sequel at http://www.myvega.com.

(Original article publication date:  August 18, 2009 (Cruelty-Free))

REVIEW: “Do Unto Others . . . A Conference on Animals and Religion” by Interreligious Voices for Animal Compassion

A New Kind of Conference

I’m departing from the usual topic for this column to provide a review of  a conference I attended on Friday, April 24, 2009.

Hosted at the Fish Interfaith Center of Chapman University, the event was entitled “Do Unto Others . . . A Conference on Animals and Religion”. This conference—the first of its kind in Southern California—was put together by a group of scholars who have taken on the name of “Interreligious Voices for Animal Compassion” (or just “IVAC”), including Zandra Wagoner, Beth A. Johnson, and Ronald L. Farmer.


The conference was a wonderful experience, and I sincerely hope that this one will be the beginning of an annual (at a minimum) tradition.

Some Highlights

The facility itself, particularly Wallace All Faiths Chapel, was certainly conducive to the kind of thoughtful discussion and contemplation that the day provided. Beginning at 9:00am, this hall was filled with wonderful harp music that began the day and was interspersed between speakers for the first hour.


Introductory speakers provided some background regarding how the conference came about as well as quotes and a series of personal statements pertaining to animals in the context of spirituality. These speakers were followed by a first keynote speaker, Jay McDaniel, Director for the Steel Center for the Study of Religion and Philosophy at Hendrix College in Arkansas and author of numerous books, including the classic Of God and Pelicans: A Theology of Reverence for Life.

Jay’s talk not only set forth a number of powerful intellectual insights regarding animals and how they are viewed in the world’s major religions but also allowed glimpses into his personal experiences related to animals and how these experiences have shaped his own world view of the value of life. Jay has a knack for being able to address high philosophy and self-effacing humor simultaneously, which made his presentation a delight that went by too quickly.


Beth Johnson and Jay McDaniel prepare for a vegan dinner.

In between the morning events, participants mingled with representatives from a number of different animal-related organizations, including Animal Acres founder and Farm Sanctuary pioneer Lorri Houston

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Shelley Harrison and Lorrie Houston take a break between sessions.

The Christian Vegetarian Assocation had a display providing a wide variety of literature, as did Peta, and the conference organizers also provided display copies of about forty key books in the field.


After breaking for a vegan lunch, conference-goers chose two out of six different one-hour workshops to attend consecutively during the afternoon. I personally attended a session called “Inside the Trenches: An Evangelical Looks at Animal Compassion,” which was led by Presbyterian Minister Reverend Mark Bruner, and “Schweitzer and the Animals”, which was led by Dr. Marvin Meyer, Chair of the Religious Studies Department and Director of the Albert Schweitzer Institute at Chapman. Both sessions were excellent, and I wished I had been able to attend all six.


Thereafter, the conference reconvened as a single group for a panel discussion featuring McDaniel, Johnson and Wagoner. This portion was one of my favorite parts of the day, since the flexibility of the format allowed for a great deal of spontaneous discussion and Q&A between the conference-goers and featured speakers.


That evening, we all gathered for a vegan feast in a different location on the Chapman campus. The dinner was fabulous, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to meet the people at my table. We shared light-hearted stories regarding being vegan in a world that eats dead animals as well as discussed strategies on how to get the word out about the pervasive cruelty in our culture. I found it encouraging and uplifting to be around like-minded folks.

Batting clean-up hitter for the day was the vivacious Karen Dawn, author of Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way We Treat Animals, which has received numerous accolades, including that of being among the “Best Books of the Year” according to the Washington Post. Like Jay, Karen is somehow able to discuss grave–and sometimes heartbreaking–matters and yet remain fun, witty and charming while doing it.


 Karen Dawn discusses her fowl friends at the evening banquet.

Overall, the event was a smashing success. I hope there are many more to follow.

For more information:


(Original pub date: 5/15/2009 (Cruelty-Free))

Compartmentalization—The Walls of Evil

The Most Gruesome Photo Album of the Last Century

In 2007, the New York Times, NPR, and other media reported the discovery of a photo album containing what I consider to be the most gruesome photographs from all of the Second World War. But these photos do not depict a single dead or wounded body. They are far more ghastly even than that.

The album belonged to SS officer Karl Hocker, who was assigned to Auschwitz from May 1944 until liberation of the camp by the Allies. The photos show SS guards and their friends frolicking, flirting, decorating Christmas trees—engaging in all manner of activities that a seemingly “normal” human being would do. And all this took place in the shadow of—or in some cases within the actual walls of—a death camp in which these very same frolickers were daily murdering other human beings by the thousands.

Take a moment to recreate the context of these photographs. A man gets up in the morning, has breakfast, kisses his wife, gives the kids a hug, pets the dog on the head, and goes to work—gassing and cooking people to death, that is.

The Banality of Evil

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) grasped the general notion as “the banality of evil” in her breakthrough 1963 work Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. She argued persuasively and influentially that the greatest evils in history, such as the Holocaust, have been perpetrated not by sociopathic demons but by seemingly normal people who engaged unthinkingly in atrocities that were assigned to them by authority figures. The 1961 Milgram experiment at Yale and the 1971 Stanford prison experiment both appeared to reproduce a similar effect.

Compartmentalization:  The Walls of Evil

Even if it is true that otherwise normal people—from Auschwitz to Stanford—can be relatively easily influenced to commit gargantuan acts of evil, the question to me that remains is simply this:  how is such a phenomenon possible at the psychological level? How did bank teller, husband and father Karl Hocker make the daily transition from these other roles to that of aiding and abetting mass murder?

I think the answer lies in the psychological notion of  “compartmentalization”. Compartmentalization denotes the process whereby human minds engage in a form of what logicians call “confirmation bias”. The gist of it is this: we tend to ignore, forget or “wall off” evidence that conflicts with our current views of ourselves.

For someone like Karl Hocker, compartmentalization allowed him to (i) accept evidence that reinforced the view of himself himself as a loving, competent bank teller, community member, Christmas tree decorator and family man and (ii) simultaneously ignore overwhelming evidence that he and his SS friends were completely psychopathic, serial-killing monsters. This is confirmation bias at its best (or worst).

In short, rather than integrate information and accept disconfirming evidence, the person who engages in compartmentalization can live essentially two distinct, disintegrated lives. Such a person is never forced to deal with the crisis of conscience that an integrated person would certainly face.

Compartmentalization is the wall that allows evil to run free within the mind of an otherwise seemingly healthy individual.

Pro-Survival Trait

If compartmentalization is indeed the grand enabler of evil, the question remains how compartmentalization ever evolved in the first place, since mass murder of one’s neighbors would seem to be a trait that would get an individual quickly weeded out of the gene pool.

Upon close inspection, however, the positive effects of compartmentalization are not hard to identify. We are all fallible human beings, and each of us endures a large number of losses, setbacks, and injuries in our lives. If we were unable to set these things aside—ignore them, at least for a while—and move on, we would all eventually curl up in a fetal position and just waste away. Our first failure at something would be the last time we ever tried to succeed at anything. Our first romance-gone-bad would be the last relationship we ever undertook. Our first loss on the baseball field would be the last game we ever played.

Walling off information that would hurt or destroy one’s sense of positive self-worth can thus be seen generally as a pro-survival trait. Only problem is that this trait, like many other pro-survival traits, may also have dire negative side effects.

Unthinking commission of mass murder probably qualifies as a negative side effect. . . .

The Most Gruesome Photo Album of the Next Century—Starring You

There’s just one more little thing to cover in this article. It’s a photo album that will be discovered and printed in the New York Times in the year 2109. And it’s the most gruesome photo album anyone has seen since that of Karl Hocker.

Interesting thing about this album: just like Hocker’s, there’s no blood. No gore. No death nor even injury depicted. The photos just depict a happy family person who wakes up, kisses the spouse, hugs the kids, pets the dog, and heads off to work. This normal person in the photo album passes a slaughterhouse on the way to work, inside of which thousands of innocent, sensitive and intelligent pigs are being killed everyday. The star of the photo album never once thinks twice at lunch as he or she eats a piece of bacon.

That person is a master of compartmentalization.

That person is you.

Resources: “In the Shadow of Horror, SS Guardians Frolic”

“Confirmation bias” at Wikipedia:

“Self-Structure and Self-Esteem Stability: The Hidden Vulnerability of Compartmentalization ”

(Original pub date:  April 19th, 2009 (Cruelty-Free))

Artificial Meat, Real Change

Technology and Social Change

Technological breakthroughs can pave the way to major social changes—some good, some bad, some mixed. The internal combustion engine and other automobile advances, for instance, enabled numerous positive services, such as ambulances and fire engines. But the automobile also gave rise to city designs and lifestyle choices that are inefficient to the point of being almost bizarre, as in the now-common case of a freeway commuter who drives an hour or more—each way—to and from work.

In more recent years, the World Wide Web has again demonstrated that technological advances can precipitate fundamental changes in the ways that people work, play, shop, and socialize: the telecommuter is gradually replacing the freeway commuter, and MySpace and Facebook have emerged as primary ways to “hang out”.

The Impervious Dinner Plate

While computers and mobile electronics continue to revolutionize many other aspects of life, people’s eating habits have been very slow to change. Folks who ate bacon and eggs for breakfast, hamburger and fries for lunch, and pizza and beer for dinner 30 years ago are still eating those same items today. Aside from some packaging updates, the menus of restaurants that were in business 30 years ago, such as McDonald’s or Pizza Hut, remain little changed today.

Perhaps dietary habits are so deeply rooted in a person’s consciousness that they become a part of one’s identity. Certainly many community and religious events and holidays, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, revolve around food. But whatever the reason, dietary choices have remained relatively impervious to the wave of change that has swept over many other personal choices in recent decades.

The Cost of Consistency

Unfortunately, the dominant eating habits of Western culture have proven to be wildly destructive at the environmental level. Meat, in particular, extracts a devastating toll, as it is a profoundly inefficient food item. Specifically, it generally takes approximately 10 to 25 times—that’s 2500% —more resources to produce a pound of meat than to produce a pound of vegetable food. After all, animals must either eat other animals or eat plants, whereas plants simply get their sustenance from the sun and the soil. Animals also require medicine, lodging and other upkeep, whereas plants are relatively very low maintenance. Finally, animals used for meat production expel a great deal of polluting gases, such as methane, whereas plants generally had an unequivocally beneficial effect on the environment.

The net effect of consistency in the dominant Western diet has therefore been highly negative. Indeed, many environmental scientists now consider meat to be the single most environmentally harmful modern lifestyle choice—yes, even worse than driving a gas guzzler.

And that’s not even to mention the well-documented health effects, from heart disease to obesity, of the Western and particularly American diet.

Meat Substitutes: a Good Start

Soy burgers and other vegetable-based meat substitutes (sometimes called “meat analogues”) have taken root in many households. Tofu has proven to be a sort of “miracle meat” in that it can take on so many flavors that even discriminating meat lovers can be fooled by tofu products masquerading as meat. These culinary advances have been applauded by environmentalists, nutritionists and animal rights activists alike.

But, while the personal health and environmental benefits of a vegetarian diet have been thoroughly demonstrated, whether meat substitutes can ever overtake the Whopper and the Quarter Pounder with Cheese remains to be seen.

Enter Artificial Meat

Perhaps meat substitutes do not have to replace real meat in order for many of the detrimental effects of meat production to be avoided. Scientists have now demonstrated the ability to produce actual meat—not a vegetable substitute—using cell cultures rather than cows, pigs, or sheep. Specifically, certain cell samples originally taken from an animal are then nourished and cultivated to proliferate into large quantities of such cells, thereby producing artificial meat (also “in vitro”, “synthetic” or “test tube” meat) that is at the cellular level essentially identical to meat that comes from the muscles of slaughtered animals.

Implications, Pro and Con

Many hurdles are yet to be overcome before artificial meat can fully replace slaughter-based meat. First, the in vitro technique is still too costly to compete with slaughter for meat production in the mass market. However, over time, these costs may come down, especially if a handful of early adopters are willing to pay a premium for cruelty-free meat.

Second, cell cultivation may not sound particularly appealing to a society that is accustomed to the use of farm animals to produce food. Test-tube meat may sound very “sci-fi”, mysterious, and perhaps even dangerous to the average consumer. Of course, such a perception is just that, a perception, and can probably be changed when met head-on with informational measures, such as those suggested by M. Renee Orth in her article on legislation for public surveillance of the slaughter industry.

Third, even in vitro meat is likely to prove highly wasteful of resources compared to vegetable food. While not as wasteful as traditional meat production, the new technique will still have significant, inherent overhead costs, and the conversion of organic material to meat will probably always be less efficient than a food production system that requires no such conversion.

Fourth, to the degree that synthetic meat fully replicates slaughter-produced meat, the massive health benefits of a vegetarian diet are lost.

Fifth, purists in the fields of environmentalism and animal rights activism may view artificial meat as a way of actually prolonging the meat addiction of modern culture and thereby undermining efforts to bring about true sustainability and cruelty-free living. Under this view, switching from slaughter-based meat to artificial meat is the equivalent of switching an alcoholic from wine to beer. However, if artificial meat does in fact significantly reduce the demand for slaughter-based meat, the purist argument will probably fail, at least in the animal rights field. Net environmental impact will be more difficult to resolve.

Opportunity for Long-Overdue Dietary Shifts

Notwithstanding the above reasons for caution, artificial meat has at least the potential to be a disruptive technology, one that could bring about fundamental changes in a sphere that has heretofore remained relatively impervious to change: what’s for dinner. Executed properly, artificial meat production could (i) dramatically curtail the practice of animal slaughter and thereby (ii) bring about a significant reduction of the environmental harms inherent in raising animals for slaughter. These two effects make the technology highly desirable and worthy of pursuit.

(Original pub date:  March 30th, 2009 (Cruelty-Free))