Viewing entries tagged
co-opting

Intrinsically Moved: The Main** Reason Consumerist Advocacy is the Wrong Approach

Intrinsically Moved: The Main** Reason Consumerist Advocacy is the Wrong Approach (by Kelly)

I write this in response to this article from 2010 by George Monbiot, called, "It goes against our nature; but the left has to start asserting its own values" and the WWF "Common Cause" report that Monbiot refers to.

Excerpts to summarize the Monbiot article:

"Extrinsic values concern status and self-advancement... Intrinsic values concern relationships with friends, family and community, and self-acceptance... Those who strongly value financial success, for example, have less empathy, stronger manipulative tendencies, a stronger attraction to hierarchy and inequality, stronger prejudices towards strangers and less concern about human rights and the environment. Those with a strong sense of self-acceptance have more empathy and greater concern for human rights, social justice and the environment. These values suppress each other: the stronger someone's extrinsic aspirations, the weaker his or her intrinsic goals."

"Instead of confronting the shift in values, we have sought to adapt to it."

"Many greens and social justice campaigners have also tried to reach people by appealing to self-interest: explaining how, for example, relieving poverty in the developing world will build a market for British products, or suggesting that, by buying a hybrid car, you can impress your friends and enhance your social status. This tactic also strengthens extrinsic values, making future campaigns even less likely to succeed. Green consumerism has been a catastrophic mistake."

"The progressive attempt to appeal to self-interest has been a catastrophe. Empathy, not expediency, must drive our campaigns."

"Common Cause proposes a simple remedy: that we stop seeking to bury our values and instead explain and champion them. Progressive campaigners, it suggests, should help to foster an understanding of the psychology that informs political change and show how it has been manipulated. They should also come together to challenge forces – particularly the advertising industry – that make us insecure and selfish."

"People with strong intrinsic values must cease to be embarrassed by them. We should argue for the policies we want not on the grounds of expediency but on the grounds that they are empathetic and kind; and against others on the grounds that they are selfish and cruel. In asserting our values we become the change we want to see."

What can we learn from this?

Our framing has to be about caring for the oppressed, not about the benefits for the oppressor of ceasing (er, minimizing*) that oppression. So stop talking about how healthy and convenient and tasty it is for a human to abstain from buying products of nonhuman oppression.

We should focus our efforts on creating a culture that values non-discriminatory empathy, not on trying sell nonspeciesist products of the consumerist (self-interested) machine. So confront people about speciesism and violence and oppression and atrocity, disrupt spaces of oppression, and challenge discrimination and domination when and wherever you see it.

So stop talking about veganism. Stop talking about vegan products. Stop talking about individual humans. Talk about speciesism. Talk about the animals. Talk about culture.

And shout about atrocity.

*Don't forget that NO ONE who exists in a speciesist society can completely abstain from participating in speciesist institutions. Notably, we pay taxes that subsidize the violence, we give money to an animal killer (and humanewasher) when we buy tofu from Whole Foods, and we perpetuate the invisibile hegemony of Speceisism in every single instance that we see a product or act of speceisist oppression and say nothing.

**Additionally, the vegan consuemrist model of activism is problematic for several other reason, as I have written about here (how consumerism perpetuates objectification of the animals), here (how a consumerist focus on the consuming human oppressor distracts from the oppressed nonhuman), and here (how focusing on plant foods distracts us from the atrocities happening beside them).

The sign is down, so you can forget about the violence underneath it.

The sign is down, so you can forget about the violence underneath it. (By Kelly)

About a month ago, the Whole Foods stores in Lafayette, California, put up a sign over the dismembered body parts of victims of institutionalized speciesist violence that read: "A hearty helping of Animal Compassion with every order." PETA set up a petition to have the sign taken down and contacted the company. Though the bodies remain, the misleading sign above them was taken down, and the following is what the animal-killers said to the petitioners.

Dear Customers,

Thank you for contacting Whole Foods Market regarding signage in our meat departments. We were contacted by PETA about this and acted immediately on the same day as we agree with PETA. The signage was limited to four stores in the Northern California region who opted to use that language several years ago, and we agree the language was not appropriate. It has already been updated and we appreciate PETA for calling it to our attention.

We sell the largest variety of vegan and meat alternatives across the country, and we proudly promote those products. And like all other supermarkets, we also sell meat. However, we believe there are significant differences in the way animals are raised for food in the United States and that Whole Foods Market will continue to sell and promote animal foods that we believe have been raised with less pain and suffering than factory farm meats.  PETA worked with us for several years to develop the standards that we are currently using to source our products.

Thank you again for taking the time to share your concerns about this matter.

Sincerely,

Customer Communications Team, Whole Foods Market Global Headquarters

550 Bowie Street, Austin, TX 78703

My mind is swimming with the number, complexity and magnitude of problems in this letter, but I'll try to strip and simplify those thoughts for the purpose of this brief blog post:

1) "... regarding signage in our meat departments." The dismembered dead bodies of beings who did not want to die are not "meat" -- what's still in that same part of the store is actually innocent animals, victims of violence, artifacts of discrimination, and bodies of the oppressed.

2) "... we agree the language was not appropriate." Great. What about the violence that the sign referred to, that made it's language inappropriate?

3) "We sell the largest variety of vegan and meat alternatives..." Insert expletives. The animals don't care about people eating plants, they care about their lives and families and freedom. Hell, the cow next in line on the kill floor doesn't even care if you eat someone else, she just doesn't want you to enslave and kill her and her loved ones. The tempeh sitting on a shelf near the flesh of a baby pig did absolutely nothing for that infant, so stop trying to distract compassionate people from the nonhuman rights violations that you continue to commit on an unfathomably immense scale. Until there isn't one single body of an exploited being up for sale in your store, the tofu sitting beside it would be better positioned up wherever Whole Foods pushes it's vile exploitative excrement out of.

4) "... will continue to sell and promote animal foods that..." First and foremost, since animals aren't food, there's no such thing. Stop reducing my cousins to objects. But secondly: DO ANIMAL "RIGHTS" ACTIVISTS NOT SEE A PROBLEM WITH THE STATEMENT THAT THEY WILL CONTINUE TO NOT ONLY SELL, BUT PROMOTE PRODUCTS OF VIOLENCE? Is this not the real problem? Humanewashing sign or no, the violence has to go.

5) "... with less pain and suffering..." What about life? Compared to animals exploited on factory farms, do they have more or less of that when they are killed?

6) "PETA worked with us..." No comment necessary. But perhaps a quote: "No compromise with slavery; no union with slaveholders" (WLG).

Forget consumerism. And stop compromising. Speak up against injustice.

Our Enemies are Clever

Our Enemies are Clever

We CANNOT let animal killers divert our attention away from their violence.

Humanewashers like Chipotle are trying to manipulate the public into believing that killing someone who doesn't want to die is not only perfectly acceptable, but that if you're nice enough to that innocent individual first* then that greedy violence is a good, positive thing.

That insistence that speciesist violence is not only acceptable but a positive thing is moving our culture deeper into speciesism and complacency with violence, and further away from liberationism.

Which is why perpetuating the humane myth (and focusing on welfare, while ignoring the violence of the murder that life ends in, however nicely the animal was treated beforehand) is a threat to the liberation movement.

I'll also insist here that distracting liberationists from violence with plant-based options is a threat to the liberation movement. Being vegan-friendly =/= being animal-friendly, let's not confuse the two, nor let the former distract us from a failure of the latter.

I mean look, Chipotle even has us "animal RIGHTS activists" talking about plant-based food options for human consumers, instead of talking about the animals' rights, which are being violated beyond my human-privileged ability to even begin to comprehend in the slaughterhouses beside those tofu burritos and cute cartoons, RIGHT NOW.

That is why we have to target humanewashers. Utilizing the humane myth and offering plant-based options are a concerted effort by clever advertisers aiming to appease and distract the public so that no one challenges the company's speciesist violence. If Chipotle were genuinely moving our culture towards liberation, they would be challenging speciesism, and they would be saying that violence against innocent defenceless animals is wrong. But they're doing just the opposite, they're staying silent on speciesism (letting it perpetuate itself in its invisibility) and they're insisting that violence against innocent defenceless animals is a GOOD thing. What Chipotle is doing is not "a step in the right direction," it's a pull AWAY from liberationism, intended to keep people from realizing that the violence they engage in is wrong.

No compromise with slavery. No union with slaveholders. Especially the ones who are manipulating the public into believing that slavery and violence are positive things.

•Kelly

*To make matters even worse, this ideology of raising the exploited animals in pastures instead of factories is not one that Chipotle lives up to, but is merely a marketing ploy taking advantage of the lack of regulation in such advertising. Chipotle sources from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.