... This message contains personal opinions concerning political strategies. It is not intended for general distribution. Please do not forward without advance
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, Dec 5 7:41 PM
----- Original Message ----- From: pattrice le-muire jones: pattrice@...: Wednesday, December 04, 2002 5:30 PMSubject: insights from voyages
This message contains personal opinions concerning political strategies.
It is not intended for general distribution. Please do not forward without advance permission.
Report from Abroad
Global Hunger Alliance
Eastern Shore Chicken Sanctuary
As you may know, I am always working on the problem of how to effectively reach diverse groups with the vegan/animalist message. I generally proceed by trial and error, testing out different rhetorical strategies and noting which seem to be the most and least effective in various circumstances. I learned a lot during my recent working trips to Pakistan and Italy. The trips were taken on behalf of Global Hunger Alliance but these are my personal observations and conclusions, which I now offer to other animalists on the off chance that they might be useful.
Lessons from South Asia
As you probably know, South Asia is a key region for us. Meat consumption and production both are rising and this is one of the regions in which the multinational corporations can be expected to expand or relocate in order to evade the kinds of animal welfare regulations we are busily pushing for in USA and Europe.
At the invitation of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute of Pakistan, I attended and spoke at their 5th Annual Conference on Sustainable Development in South Asia. The conference was attended by scholars, activists, and even some government officials. Participants came from Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. The only presenters from outside South Asia were myself and a scholar from Switzerland.
I spoke about the impact of factory farming on animals, people, and the environment, using the impact of the poultry industry in the region where I live as the example. I then talked about the globalization of factory farming and the likely impact of its expansion in South Asia.
My talk was extremely well received. During the question and answer period one man said that my talk alone was worth the price of his trip to the conference. Afterwards, many people approached me with business cards and requests for a printed copy of the talk. Later in the day, people who had attended a different session that morning came up and asked me for copies of my talk, saying that they had heard about it from others.
Here are some of the facts/arguments that appeared to be particularly compelling to this particular group of people:
(1) The argument that factory farming is a �western� style technology that is not only environmentally dangerous but also culturally inappropriate for South Asia.
(2) The argument that the kinds of cruelty to animals involved in factory farming are rooted in the European/corporate/capitalist view of other beings as objects to be exploited.
(3) The fact that being forced, through economic circumstance, to participate in activities that are morally repugnant to one can cause psychological trauma and the argument that South Asian farmers and workers would be traumatized if they felt forced, by poverty, to participate in the extreme cruelty to animals involved in factory farming.
(4) The fact that meat processing is a particularly hazardous occupation.
(5) The fact that the westernization of diets (i.e., the shift from a traditional predominantly plant-based diet to the USA-style meat-based diet that is occuring as incomes rise in many "developing" countries) is hazardous to health and the argument that, because of the importance of food to culture, diet change is a particularly problematic form of cultural imperialism.
(6) The fact that meat production is a key cause of the global water crisis and the fact that local water sources can be made undrinkable by nearby factory farms or processing plants.
My guess is that these kinds of arguments are going to be effective not only in South Asia but in any region where activists are concerned to preserve their physical and cultural environments against the ravages of trade globalization. And, of course, the water arguments are going to be helpful in any water-stressed regions.
If you want a copy of the talk, let me know and I will send it to you once I have finished typing up what I said.
Lessons from Europe
As you know, Europe is also a key region because it is still the high demand for meat in USA and Europe that drives the global meat production system. In Europe, as in USA, our tasks are different than in Asia. Europe has made significant strides in the improvement of farmed animal welfare. But, as long as Europeans and Americans continue to consume animal products at existing rates, mass production will remain the only way to meet the demand. And, of course, the corporations will find a way to meet the demand, even if it means they have to relocate outside of USA and Europe.
Of course, vegan and vegetarian activists have been working for many years to reduce demand for animal products among European and American consumers. Thus, our aim is to augment and extend those existing activities. Once particularly promising group of potential �converts� are the young people involved in the so-called �anti-globalization� movement. These are people who have a predisposition against corporate agribusiness and who have already shown (by their boycotts of various products) a willingness to change their consumption patterns.
I recently spoke at the European Social Forum, which was a multi-day gathering of activist organizations from all over Europe. You may have heard about the peace march in Florence (half a million people!) that capped off the event. The Global Hunger Alliance workshop (which was effectively organized by our Italian comrades of the �Another Diet Is Possible� campaign) was not so well attended as the peace march (!) but did draw a large and attentive crowd.
Our workshop included several speakers but I can only assess the reactions to my talk, since I was too busy listening to the simultaneous translations of the other talks to effectively gauge audience response. Judging from the audience response, my talk was very well received. I mentioned some vegan literature during my talk and the table on which the lit was sitting was mobbed as soon as I finished talking.
Judging from crowd response and comments afterwards, here are a couple of the ideas that most appealed to this group of people:
(1) The idea that, while there are so very many seemingly intractable problems in the world, there is one thing you can do that certainly will literally reduce the waste of food resources, certainly will reduce environmental destruction, and certainly will reduce the amount of violence in the world... and that one thing is to go vegan.
(2) The fact that the meat/dairy/egg industries are deeply implicated in two problems that these activists are already concerned about: farm subsidies and genetically modified organisms:
(a) The meat/dairy/egg industries are the indirect beneficiaries of subsidized corn and soy production. These and other indirect subsidies allow the companies to sell their products for less than the actual cost of production and still make a profit. This gives American corporations an unfair advantage over the farmers of other countries and also allows them to do things like dump dirt-cheap chicken parts in countries where people are desperate for cheap food -- destroying both traditional diets and local farm economies.
(b) Most of the GM corn produced in this country is fed to animals rather than people. The meat/dairy/egg industries are the primary market for the GMOs that antiglobal and enviro activists deplore. Thus, a person who doesn�t want to support the production of GMOs must shun animal products.
(3) The fact that (ahem, thanks to GHA) the plan of action adopted by the participants in the NGO Forum for Food Sovereignty listed industrial animal agriculture as a cause of world hunger and called for meat consumption to be reduced or eliminated.
I should also note that in Pakistan, Italy and elsewhere, I have found pacifists and other dissidents very receptive to the idea of boycotting selected US products -- McDonalds and KFC, Coke, American cigarettes, and Esso/Exxon/Mobil -- as a way of showing dissatisfaction with US warmongering. Of course, McD & KFC sell meat, Coke sponsors animal cruelty, the tobacco companies test on animals, and Esso/Exxon/Mobil hurts wildlife, so this is the kind of thing leftists and animalists could get together to implement.
One more note: you will be happy to know that at both of these venues people were very open to hearing about and caring about the animals themselves. In Pakistan, several people asked me if American factory farms are as horrific as they have heard and, during my talk, lots of people were nodding along when I said that the ethical issues concerning treatment of animals are as worthy of attention as the other problems associated with factory farming. In Italy, the young antiglobals were as gripped by my descriptions of cow and hen suffering as they were by my descriptions of the suffering of hungry people. For the most part, my habit of including animal issues among concerns that I know are shared by my audience in a very matter of fact way -- as if to say, �of course people like us are also concerned about this issue� -- seems to be having the desired effect of making people attend seriously to animalist concerns.
"Live in peace with the animals. Animals bring love to our hearts, and warmth to our souls."
"He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals." Immanuel Kant
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