Wayne Hsiung
Published on
December 7, 2013

Big News, Little Results

DxE focuses on cultural change because, without a change in prevailing norms, our institutions can't be trusted to do the right thing. Remember the huge scandal over downer cows in the meat supply? Well, the supposed $155 million fine has been reduced to $3 million. And even that amount may not be paid, if the offending companies declare bankruptcy. 

The long run effect on the industry will be nonexistent. The animals will continue to die by the billions. The public will be consoled into thinking "All is well." And even downer cows will continue to find their way into the flesh supply once the temporary public concern over the issue dissipates. (As my former colleague and Harvard Law School Professor Cass Sunstein has written, so long as animals themselves do not have standing, legal protections will be easily evaded or ignored.)

But when we stand against the idea that animals are mere things for human use -- with powerful targets such as Chipotle that have huge cultural significance -- we challenge not just one particular practice, but the entire system. Like the sports boycott against South Africa, that (as New York Times Editor Bill Keller noted recently) was far more instrumental to ending apartheid than economic sanctions or boycotts, our campaign against Chipotle confronts the basic assumptions that our society makes about an oppressed class... our understanding of what it means to be a "good person." And when we successfully uproot those bigoted assumptions -- when we make it clear that, "No, you cannot call yourself a good person if you continue to support these hateful and violent practices and systems" -- we can finally begin to make real and permanent change. 

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