To Answer Your Question, Gary...

To Answer Your Question, Gary...

By Jeff Melton


The day after Wayne Hsiung and Gary Francione debated on Bob Linden's Go Vegan Radio show (July 26th, 2015), Gary posed a question to DxE activists:

“A serious question for supporters of Direct Action Everywhere (DxE):

Wayne Hsiung acknowledged last night on Go Vegan Radio with Bob Linden that people don't have to be vegan to participate in DxE 'activism.'

So let me see if I have this right: a non-vegan can participate in a DxE action and go into Chipotle's and chant, 'It's not food, it's violence' to other non-vegans.

Can someone explain this to me? What's the difference between the DxE non-vegan and the non-vegan Chipotle customer, other than the former is wearing a coordinated t-shirt with a DxE logo?”

Yes, Gary, although it is rare for non-vegans to participate in our protests, non-vegans are allowed to participate in our demonstrations, just as they are allowed to participate in most other protests regarding animal liberation issues. As I'm sure you are aware, having participated in animal liberation protests in the past, it is not as though the Vegan Police are standing at a gate checking people's V-cards! 

Should there be such vegan policing at our protests? The general consensus among DxE activists is that this would not be productive. Although not formally incorporated into our organizing principles, informally we follow an open model of organizing. That is, in all that we do, we default to inclusiveness—to supporting, encouraging, and welcoming other activists even if they are not yet fully on board with everything we believe and do. An example of this is that we allow people to join our protests if they are not yet vegan.

Yes, Gary, there is a huge difference between someone who has begun to take to heart such ideas as that harming animals is wrong and that animals are not ours to use sufficiently that they are willing to take a public stand in favor of these ideas and, often, have already expressed serious interest in going vegan, and someone who has not had that sort of epiphany— even if neither one is yet vegan. Research suggests that when people are put in situations that call attention to hypocrisy on their part—to a discrepancy between their professed beliefs and some of their actions—that they are very likely to act to eliminate that inconsistency. In this case, that would mean that, having publicly expressed a commitment to DxE's view that animals are neither our property nor our slaves, they are not likely to continue treating animals as if they were for much longer.

Scott, who joined our protest in Bloomington, Indiana a couple of months ago, is a great example of such a person. Scott was a student in my Introductory Psychology class last spring. In my “Intro. Psych.” classes, I show a video about attitudes toward animals and discuss animal liberation in the context of how attitudes toward animals are arbitrary and culturally shaped. Scott immediately seemed to “get it” and expressed an intention both to go vegan and to come to one of our DxE protests and see what it was like.

A couple of weeks later, at our May Day of Action, we protested at Chipotle and at Chik Fil A. Scott came to our pre-protest meeting, and told us that although he still intended to go vegan, he was not there yet, and said that if we didn't think it was appropriate for him to participate, he would understand. We told him that, although as he knew— and we would keep reminding him— he needed to go vegan in order to live consistently with his newfound value that animals should not be treated as our property, we were fine with him participating, and so he did.

Not only did he participate, but he also spoke at Chik Fil A. I have no doubt that he will stick with his commitments to be vegan and continue being a voice for animal liberation. Other core activists in DxE have reported similar stories of non-vegans joining their protests and becoming vegan soon thereafter. There have even been cases of spectators at our protests joining us, and often also expressing an intention to go vegan, on the spot. There have been other cases where non-vegans who have joined our protests have gone on to become not only vegan, but core organizers.

Now that I've answered your question, I have a couple of questions for you, Gary. First, how can you continue to claim that Wayne Hsiung or DxE are “hostile to veganism” after it has been made so abundantly clear to you by Wayne and others in DxE that this is not the case? In his debate with you, Wayne said, “I just want to emphasize...that DxE, and I, believe in veganism. We believe in veganism fully, our house is a vegan house, and at many of our demonstrations we talk about veganism extensively.” Later, he followed that up by saying that “Every single one of our core organizers is vegan, it is a requirement to be a core member of DxE we make it absolutely clear that we believe in total animal liberation, which includes but is not exhaustive of the idea that animals should not be ours to use,” and that “All of us [in DxE] agree that veganism is a necessary condition to achieving animal liberation.” In a blog post the following day, Wayne also pointed out that he and many other core DxE organizers (myself included) refuse to even eat with others who are consuming animal products.

We often talk to people about going vegan at our protests, as Rama Ganesan does in this video, in which she successfully convinces a vegetarian to go vegan. We also do literature tabling and many other forms of vegan/animal liberation education aside from our protests, such as my weekly Farmer's Market table. Some of us even sing about going vegan. It's true that often, we don't tell people to “go vegan” at protests—just as you didn't in an interview with CNN a few months ago. When we chatted back in May on Bob Linden's show, we agreed that in the brief time you had you got the point across that animals should not be our property and that no use of animals was necessary, which is indisputably a message implicitly advocating veganism. Similarly, at every single one of our protests, we get that same point across, whether or not we use any v-words, with chants and speeches that make clear that animals are not ours to use, such as “Their bodies, not ours; their milk, not ours; their eggs, not ours; their lives, not ours.”

The second question I had for you is: What is the basis of your claim that Wayne and DxE are “new welfarist,” that we support animal welfare reform campaigns and organizations such as PETA, Mercy For Animals, Compassion Over Killing, or Farm Sanctuary who engage in them? What welfare reform campaigns do you think we support, Gary? You have never named any of them. Wayne explicitly rejected the new welfarist point of view when he was on Bob's show with you: “...the reality is that we are not working with Peter Singer, we are not working with Bruce Friedrich, we are challenging them. I agree completely that welfarism makes people complacent, that there is no evidence that it leads to real improvements for animals in the short or long term...But the difference between you and me, Gary, is I challenge people publicly but I also am willing to engage in dialogue because I think these people can change.”

There is a huge difference between being willing to engage in dialogue with Bruce Friedrich, Ingrid Newkirk, and other leaders of the large animal advocacy organizations and agreeing with or adopting their approach, or being uncritical of them and their organizations. Wayne, I, and many other DxE activists have been publicly critical of the approaches and tactics of these organizations. More broadly, in all of our activism, we make clear that we do not support welfarist tactics but, rather, directly advocate an end to all animal exploitation and killing. That is made abundantly clear in numerous blog posts as well as on our Frequently Asked Questions page.

We have made many detailed critiques of the inadequacies of a new welfarist approach, such as those here, here, and here. Common chants at DxE protests include “Someone, not something!”; “Their eggs, not ours! Their milk, not ours! Their bodies, not ours! Their lives, not ours!”; “Humane killing is a lie; animals do not want to die!”; and, of course, “It's not food, it's violence!” (the “it” being the animal products served in the establishments we protest). Indeed, the entire basis of our “It's Not Food, It's Violence” campaign, and the reason why it has targeted Chipotle and Whole Foods more than any other establishments, is our belief that there is no such thing as humane animal agriculture. Our objective is not to focus on alleviating "animal cruelty" or asking for "more humane" methods of exploitation, but to demand an end to animal exploitation and killing altogether. The objective of building an animal rights movement powerful enough to bring down the system of animal slavery mandates that all of us willing to make that unequivocal demand collaborate with each other. It is not served by attacking and misrepresenting those who are doing the same.