Animal Rights Zone

Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism

Transcript of Dr. Mary Martin's ARZone Live Guest Chat

Transcript of Dr. Mary Martin’s ARZone Live Guest Chat

2 April 2011 at:

3pm US Pacific Time

6pm US Eastern Time

11pm UK Time and

 3 April 2011 at:

8am Australian Eastern Standard Time

 

Carolyn Bailey:

ARZone would like to welcome Dr. Mary Martin as today’s Live Chat Guest.

Mary Martin is a vegan, runner, meditator, atheist, wife and adoptive mom to Baby Sky (human), Violet Rays (greyhound) and Emily (kitty), living in Jupiter, Florida, which is in Northern Palm Beach County. She has a doctorate in Applied Linguistics from New York University, and that doctorate informed her almost-daily blog of four years (2007-2011), Animal Person, in which she deconstructs the language, ethics and economics of our relationship with nonhuman animals, and may be found here: http://www.animalperson.net/

Her most frequent topics of discussion were: greyhound racing, diabetes in dogs (Violet Rays is diabetic), TNR (she started Project Treadstone in her area, which has TNR’d about 50 cats), language, abolition and movement issues. She created Thinking Critically About Animal Rights (2007), an 8-page brochure, and revised it to the 4-page Thinking Critically About The Animals We Use (2011).

By trade, Mary is a writer/editor and has collaborated on, ghostwritten or edited over two-dozen nonfiction books, none of which are about animals. She is currently developing a book called “The Unadoptables,” written by people who intentionally adopted animals most would never take a second look at.

On the human front, Mary was a founding board member of an organization that served former foster youth in Palm Beach County. That was over ten years ago. Since then, she chaired the board, merged with a similar organization and chaired that board, and was the Interim Executive Director of both organizations in 2009. She is currently serving on the board of a media collective for disenfranchised youth (started by a vegan!) wherein the youth create short documentary films about issues that are important to them and their communities.

Mary’s husband of over ten years recently celebrated his third year as a vegan, and Mary first went vegan in 1985. She then went vegetarian, and then omnivore, and then vegan again a decade ago. This, of course, makes her sympathetic to the varying paths that individuals travel on their way to (and even from) veganism. Baby Sky is 9-months old, and cannot be called vegan because her formula contains D3 from lanolin. Other than that, she has never ingested an animal product and will be raised vegan.

Would you please join with me in welcoming Mary to ARZone today …

 

Welcome, Mary!

 

Paola:

Welcome! :-)

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Welcome, Mary!

 

Sky

hello Mary

 

Ben Hornby:

Hi Mary!

 

Mangus O’Shales:

hi Mary!

 

Hans Mier:

hi mary! :-D

 

Jackie Humphries:

Hi, Mary

 

Roger Yates:

Hi

 

Tim Gier:

Welcome Mary!

 

Brooke Cameron:

Welcome, Mary! It's great to have you here! :-)

 

Fifi Leigh:

hi

 

Will:

Hey, up Mary

 

Leah:

Hi, Mary!

 

Mary Martin:

Thanks! It's an honor and a pleasure to be here. I do hope you find the chat valuable in some way and I thank you for your thoughtful questions.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Mary will be responding to her pre-registered questions first, and then we’ll open the chat up for all members to engage her.

 

Please refrain from interrupting Mary during her first session, and feel free to send a private message to an admin if you wish to address Mary at any time.

 

I’d now like to ask Barbara DeGrande to present the first question to Mary, when you’re ready, thanks, Barb.

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Hi Dr. Martin.  With your wide range of interests and activities, as well as obligations and pursuits, how do you maintain balance while raising a baby, writing, blogging, advocating, caring for a family including nonhuman animals, and saving the world?

 

Mary Martin:

Thanks for the question, Barbara, but unfortunately I’d say I’ve recently lost the balance battle. Baby Sky has humbled me dramatically. In fact, this week I tweeted that I’ve become what I used to mock in that I’m about to get some kind of help. I’ve overcommitted myself inside and outside the home, and in order not to underperform/underdeliver, I’m going to have to change things (a friend gave me cocktail napkins that read: “SUV-Stop Unnecessary Volunteering—I need to think hard about that).

 

On the other hand, I’m incredibly fortunate to be in this position, and I realize that my complaints are, in the scope of things, ridiculous.  We all make choices, and the choices I’ve made regarding Baby Sky (cloth diapers and wipes, for instance, or Elimination Communication, which allows her to eliminate in a potty and be out of diapers around her first birthday, but basically means I have to pay careful attention to her cues all day), or adopting a special needs dog, or living in a larger-than-average house to make room for our frequent guests due to where we live—all have consequences. Those consequences are usually in the form of time and don’t allow for multi-tasking if they’re to be done well. 

 

Anyone can do a bunch of things poorly but at least get them done. Balance, for me, involves doing things well. So I had to stop blogging because there was no way I was going to be able to devote the time necessary to do it well. 

 

Finally, I do want to say that I won’t outsource Violet’s care. I’ve been her person for over seven years and that’s important. I get so angry when people become parents and then stop attending to the creatures they promised to care for or even abandon them.

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Thank you!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Mary! Karol has the next question but was unable to be here, so Roger Yates will ask on his behalf. Thanks, Roger.

 

Roger Yates:

I was recently offered a proposal to work on a film project with someone who wanted to present a spiritual perspective on animal rights (among other things), which I very politely declined on the basis of being an atheist and not a good fit for that type of project. I was then confronted by that person saying that "the movement is full of atheist men", and that she didn't understand how you could have a moral compass and care about animals as an atheist. I simply replied that I wasn't interested in debating, but I was mostly at a loss about how to articulate myself. I know you've address some of this before, but could you comment on the points she raised ("the movement is full of atheist men" and that atheism and animal rights are anathema)?

 

Mary Martin:

Interesting, Karol, and thanks for the question. I had no idea the movement was full of atheist men! I personally know a handful, but I would never have said that there was any kind of majority. 

 

That there can be no morality without a god is a common misconception. Atheists and animal rights advocates get their morality from the same place: empathy.  And that empathy leads to the desire for justice for the oppressed. And the oppressed can be human or nonhuman animal, as oppression is oppression (as Stephanie Ernst, Marji Beach, Deb Durant and Kelly Garbato write about at Animal Rights and AntiOppression http://challengeoppression.com/ —and I hope to get back to writing there myself).

 

Believers often ask, “What if you’re wrong and there really is a god?” My response is that the existence of a god is irrelevant to my life so it wouldn’t change anything.  I don’t make my choices based on fear of punishment or disapproval of anyone. Likewise, I don’t make decisions based on reward or the hope of a more favorable rebirth next time around. I do what I believe is right because it’s the right thing to do.  Sometimes it involves being ostracized or worse, as our culture’s morality appears to be evolving at a glacial pace, but that doesn’t change the reality that some actions, such as killing someone when you don’t need to or having someone else do it for you, simply aren’t right. No one needs a god or a religious text to tell them that.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks again, Mary! Tim Gier would like to ask the next question, thanks, Tim

 

TIm Gier:

I write a blog and participate here at ARZone, but I worry that I am almost always “preaching to the choir.” Do you have any advice for how I might be able to reach more non-vegans online?

 

Mary Martin:

Thanks for thinking I might have some advice on that one, Tim! I started blogging in May of 2006 (not 2007 as I wrote in my bio—sorry), and because I was new, I had all types of readers.  Over time though, when my focus became clearer or even changed (2007, when I could no longer advocate for the purchase of any animal products, despite the reality that there’s no way the same number of animals would be created and killed without factory farming), my audience changed with me.

 

I was a Francione-style abolitionist for 10 minutes and some of those people read my blog. Then I wasn’t, and they left.  People, for the most part, want to go places on the Internet where they have a community of like minds. They want confirmation and they want to feel safe.  And that’s understandable considering we’re 1% of the population (and obviously the subgroups within are even tinier). It’s nice to be able to feel understood—somewhere! 

 

With that said, part of the reason I found it easy to dramatically reduce blogging was that I was preaching to the choir.  In addition, there are now so many other bloggers talking about the same issues, and even taking them to well-trafficked sites such as the Huffington Post, that I found myself irrelevant. 

 

This isn’t going to go over well with some people, but I say go out to the single-issue places and make connections for people there. They already care about one population or one slice of the pie, so you have a common space.  Be the voice that gently and kindly talks about sentience and justice and the desire we all have to live our lives free of exploitation and cruelty and an untimely death at the hands of another.  Educate vegetarians on what’s involved in the production of their beloved eggs and cheese.

 

I’m convinced that yes, there are people who are perfectly aware of what goes on and choose not to think about it,  but there are also people who don’t know. Up until probably four years ago, and even though I was vegan, I didn’t know everything that had to be done to get cow or goat milk and chicken eggs. I didn’t use them, but I also didn’t know.  Some people will indeed alter their behavior once they become educated.

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks Mary, I think you are right, and we need to learn how to talk to those people who are already doing something for other animals, even if what they're doing isn't what we would do.

 

Roger Yates:

Next up is Brooke Cameron...Brooke...

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thanks Professor!  You suggested in your Animal Voices Radio Interview in 2009 that people shouldn't worry about how they define themselves in regards to their advocacy for other animals, but rather should do what they believe. You mentioned that you had stopped defining yourself, or dramatically decreased the use of the term "abolitionist" as the use of this term seemed to bring with it the necessity to sit at your computer all day responding to ways others deemed you not to be abolitionist. 

 

Would you like to elaborate on your thoughts on this today, and if you still prefer not to use this term, which appears to have been, unfortunately, redefined over the years? 

 

Mary Martin:

Brooke, Brooke, Brooke, where do I begin?  My experience is that, outside of the Internet on blogs (and note, not on mainstream blogs until very recently with a blog by Bruce Freidrich on HuffPo, I think), most people don’t even know the term “abolition” as it related to animal rights. 

 

In fact, I go to local vegan and raw restaurants here in South Florida, talk to vegans and make it a point to bring it up. I have yet to meet someone who has heard the term or who knows who Gary Francione is. No one talks about property. I don’t talk about property. And I don’t even say I’m an abolitionist that often now on the Internet.

 

I don’t want to argue with other vegans.  I’m happy they’re vegans and I want to move on and talk to omnivores and vegetarians, unless the topic is the movement, as that’s an issue vegans would want to talk about among themselves.

 

The problem I have there is gossip.  There are so many interpersonal problems—and I don’t think we’re unique in this as a movement—and sometimes the line between gossip and genuinely helpful information is murky.

 

But back to the question: When I talk to people, my point is that what matters is not killing anyone unless you have to, not using the body or skills or secretions of another unless you have to.  My question is why would you choose violence when you don’t need to. And when you put it that way, and add some education (some people simply don’t know that they don’t need animal protein), most people have to admit that they do what they do out of habit and because they enjoy it.  Of course, you can’t present an issue like that without a resolution, so you must be prepared to describe all of the ways life is even richer and more satisfying than ever. 

 

What people see is the downside—you’re taking something away from them that they’re attached to. Therefore, you must immediately promote the even more significant upside, and I’d include health and the environment, but I wouldn’t overstate either.  I don’t spend much time on the Internet these days, but I do spend time with people, and my rule is to craft the substance and language of my message according to my audience.  To do that, I first must learn a bit about my audience and take my cues from them. And then, I must be patient. Even though my husband went vegan overnight, he’d been living with a vegan for six years. I never pushed him. I bought animal products for him and cooked them every day. I never mocked or judged him or called him a “corpse muncher.”

 

I educated him. I showed him alternatives to his current lifestyle products.   I listened to his concerns and addressed them in language that was comfortable to him. I bought him and cooked him vegan goodies to take to work and told him only after everyone loved them that they were vegan.  It takes time and constant support. Shopping with people, sending them links to vegan versions of things they need and of course going to amazing vegan restaurants. 

 

All of this might sound trivial in the face of the tens of billions of animals killed each year or the thousands being killed right now, but until we convince people to go vegan, one by one, those animals are going to keep dying.  The way I do it has been working, meaning people are going vegan. I don’t care if they understand what abolition means, and neither do the animals.

 

Brooke Cameron:

Great response, thanks, Mary!

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks Mary, next up is Sky, please go ahead Sky...

 

Sky:

Hello Mary - and a special shout out for Baby SKY!!.... On August 25, 2010, you asked your readers to think about whether we can ever meet the needs of fishes while keeping them confined in our homes. Would you please tell us your thoughts on this and on the idea of “pets” more generally?

 

Mary Martin:

Thanks! Right back at you! Actually, Sky, I was going to return to blogging just to address this. I worry about “pets,” including fishes, whom I don’t think we can possibly care for adequately in a tank, unless there are fishes I don’t know about who circle the same couple of square feet for their entire lives. 

 

On Facebook there’s a constant barrage of animals on death row, and there’s this urgency to get them out, and of course that’s understandable.  I couple that with Nathan Winograd and the idea that there are plenty of homes for the animals and that shelters are the problem.  And here’s what I get at the end of that equation: Millions of animals who are alive but their needs aren’t being met. Winograd talks about shelters demonizing the public when they’re the ones doing the killing.  And that’s true. However, I have a neighborhood full of dogs, most of whom are purebreds, who, according to me, are not getting their needs met.  Either they’re obese, not walked, not allowed to socialize, locked in a kennel for 10 hours a day, neglected once kids enter the picture, etc…. And of course many of them aren’t sterilized, although few of those are running around off leash. 

 

What’s the goal, for every animal to be in a home with some food and an opportunity to go out to relieve herself a couple of times a day?  What about stimulation, companionship and exercise? I guess the bored, overweight dog is better off than the one in a cage all day, every day, and then killed for the crime of homelessness, but by that logic,  greyhounds who spend 22 hours a day in a kennel, sometimes muzzled, are alive too until they die or are killed on the track or once they no longer are profitable, right? I won’t even get into cats.  I simply don’t believe that all of the people who claim to want a pet even know what it means to meet that individual’s needs.

 

As much as I adore Violet (and Charles, RIP) and Emily, I long for the day when I don’t have to adopt animals.  I don’t think it’s going to happen in my lifetime, but it creates significant conflicts for me as a vegan, and frankly I don’t know what “my” animals would choose to do with their lives if they could tell me.  In the meantime, I strive to listen to them and discover what it appears they need and provide them with it.

 

Sky:

Thanks! Can I do a short follow-up please?

 

Mary Martin:

Sure!

 

Sky:

Do you think we seem like nutters to say we are "against pets" - in terms of talking to people?

 

Mary Martin:

I think if we explain ourselves properly we shouldn't. But I also know that people want to see us as "nutters." Meanwhile, if they listen to the argument, it makes sense. I wouldn't say "against pets," but that they have a right to their lives without being owned by us and controlled by us.   It'll be a long, long time before we get to that point, but I do have to say that when I imagine a collar around my neck or being in a house when I'd rather not be in a house all of the time (now I'm not romanticizing the lives of animals outside of our homes), it makes me uncomfortable.

 

Sky:

thanks - love to Sky!

 

Mary Martin:

Thanks!

 

Tim Gier:

Thank you again Mary, our own Carolyn Bailey has the next question, Carolyn?

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Tim!  Reading your blog entry of Nov 25, 2010, titled “On Individuals and Thanksgiving”, I was struck by the simple truth of the profound disconnect at work in so many of our lives. In another post, you mention how the argument against our use of other animals is flawless. Would you talk about how we, as advocates, can speak to those people who would cause a traffic jam to save a lucky turtle while they head home to feast on the dead bodies of hapless turkeys?

 

Mary Martin:

The most important thing I’ve learned is that people who use animals are very defensive once you bring their hypocrisy to their attention. They just don’t think about it that way and have a litany of reasons for doing what they do. The argument is flawless, but most people don’t make decisions based on logic. Instead, emotions rule the day.  And people are emotionally attached to their food and habits and the stories they tell themselves about why they do what they do (tradition, culture, food chain nonsense, etc…).  Although humans and some nonhumans have sentience in common, I also don’t find it useful to compare nonhuman animals to people. Most Americans aren’t prepared for/capable of that leap, in my experience. 

 

Now, what they are capable of is a comparison to dogs and cats, who already hold a special place in their hearts and minds.  So I can compare the use of cows and pigs and turkeys to dogs, and most people will have to eventually agree that there’s no difference except the line in the sand of their own mind that they have drawn.  In addition to the speciesism/exceptionalism that makes certain animals more worthy of life and help than others, there’s the exceptionalism, if you will, of the individual.  The one turtle. The lone cow who somehow escapes from wherever, and people of all kinds come together to save her—and then have a steak for dinner.

 

Exposing these concepts for what they are takes diplomacy.  In the moment, when time is of the essence, you can say, “I appreciate your helping the turtle and having compassion for his struggle to survive, but why not extend the same sense of care to turkeys and cows and pigs, who are just as deserving of a life free of suffering at human hands?” And I’ve said things like that. I have no idea what happens thereafter, but the power of tossing that seed out there in a tactful way can’t be underestimated.  If we all take the opportunity to do something and do it kindly, perhaps all of those tiny moments will add up to an epiphany and some kind of change in behavior.

 

Carolyn Bailey:  

Thanks for your insightful and thorough responses, Mary! Barbara DeGrande would like to ask the next question, when you're ready, Barb, thanks. 

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Thank you, Carolyn. You mention on Animal Person that Peter Singer was important in your transition to becoming an Animal Person. Who influences you today?

 

Mary Martin:

That’s a great question, Barbara.  These days, I don’t have much time to read anything other than books about how to keep a human child alive and thriving, but I can say that I think we are all teachers and have something to learn from each other.Someone who has opened an interesting door for me and whose book I look forward to reading is Will Potter of greenisthenewred.com http://www.greenisthenewred.com/blog/ .  A couple of years ago he wrote a post about a post I wrote about a sort of counter demonstration by Friends of Animals at a PETA demonstration. Now, I can’t say that it’s unhealthy to bring attention to the actions of large groups that you think are counterproductive or harm the movement.  However, there’s an issue that puts us all—even HSUS and vegans—on the same team, and that’s what our legislators are doing with our freedoms and how we are being labeled (and then prosecuted). 

 

At about the same time I was reading Steve Best, whose message of pluralism hit home. When we say that only one argument or one type of activism is acceptable, we are putting ourselves at a grave disadvantage and also disrespecting the work of other activists.   

 

Also, a few years ago Nathan Winograd opened my eyes about the shelter situation in the US. I do think we have an overpopulation problem, and I do think that pet owners have some responsibility, and I do think that not everyone would be a good pet owner/guardian, however, I now understand the importance of No Kill and the obstacles to it. Then there’s Jonathan Balcombe and Mark Bekoff, whose work is very helpful for activists because they provide science behind some of the behaviors/qualities we say that various animals possess.


Barbara DeGrande:

Wonderful, thank you!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, again, Mary! Tim Gier would like to ask another question now, all yours, Tim.

 

Tim Gier:

I’ve been reading some essays about the role which language plays in the shaping of human culture - for example, it’s hard to imagine there being a social institution of marriage without some kind of language to describe such a thing in the 1st place  As it relates to animal rights....  Do you think there’s anything to the idea that since historically society has never used words such as “rational” or “moral” to describe nonhumans, we’ve thereby committed ourselves to understanding these individuals as less than really are?

 

Mary Martin:  

I think we are always at the mercy of what we know and can prove, and then there’s the problem of spreading that knowledge. Think about how many people still don’t get that many nonhumans are sentient. Ignorance is a reality of history.

 

Another reality of history is the convenience of seeing someone as other or less than because that makes it easier for you to oppress them.  It’s always difficult to change your conception/language about something that you are accustomed to. But this is why people like Jonathan Balcombe and Mark Bekoff are so helpful.  They are very careful with their language, so you know that the terms they are using are deliberate and they have evidence to back them up.  I believe they both talk about how anthropomorphizing usually isn’t what’s occurring. Instead, what’s occurring is the identifying of behaviors, and those behaviors happen to be present in both some nonhuman and human animals.  The more we talk/write about who nonhuman animals really are and why we can say that (and in many cases no one needs a scientist for that), the more that information will seep into the dominant culture and settle in. We just have to keep at it.

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks Mary!

 

Roger Yates:

Next up is Leah - Leah, go ahead please....

 

Leah:

Thanks, Roger! Hi, Mary!You've written on your blog that you're interested in deep ecology. Have your views about the link between veganism and ecology changed at all over the years?

Doesn't deep ecology have a lot of the same problems as anthropocentric environmentalism in the value it places on ecosystems and nonsentient animals and plants?

 

Do you think we should we try to make clear the fact that human impact on the environment is important only because it affects the wellbeing of all sentient animals, and not because the balance of nature is valuable in and of itself?

 

Mary Martin:

That’s a great question, Leah, and the way I think of it is that “the balance of nature” has sort of gone the same way my life has. I don’t think we can say that we have balance.     And I certainly don’t believe in environmentalism in the service of more efficient or effective exploitation of “resources” by humanity, which seems to be the message much of the time. I do think that the human impact on the environment is important because it affects the sentient human and nonhuman life on the planet. I’m not even sure what it would take to achieve balance (in addition to the 350 parts per million of C02 it would take to avoid runaway climate change), but that would surely be a far more complex conversation than going vegan and living simply.

 

Leah:

Thank you!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Mary! Roger Yates would like to ask a question now, go ahead, Roger, please

 

Roger Yates:

Thanks Carolyn...  You describe the methodology in your blog as “deconstructions of the language of our relationship with sentient nonhumans.” You say that what you do is similar to what Joan Dunayer does in terms of language analysis. In a 2001 review of Dunayer’s Animal Equality: Language and Liberation, I said that I did not think her linguistic challenge to speciesist language would “catch on” in the animal advocacy movement. I was interested, therefore, to see that, while you describe terms like “flesh” and “animal enslavement” as being accurate, you have found that, in practice, such challenging language is not so useful. Could you outline your deconstructionist approach ~in general terms~ and then focus on the problem you identify with using Dunayer’s language style?

 

Mary Martin:

Great minds think alike, Roger!   I’m interested in reading that review. There are at least three things going on in everything written about animals and our relationship to them: what the author intended, what the average person would receive as the message,   and what the author was really saying if you’re paying attention and you know the topic better than the average person.

 

What I would do, back when I did something semi-relevant, was, sometimes line by line, go through an article or editorial or news item, and unpack what the message was if you’re paying attention and you know something about animal rights and veganism.  This demonstrated the rampant misinformation about animal rights and veganism, as well as highlighted what the mainstream world actually believes.

 

I’d also read books, particularly by people who claimed to be in the service of animals and sustainability/the environment and, again using their words, demonstrate the absurdity of their claims.  I’m thinking particularly of the “compassionate carnivore” types (here’s the actual review of that book: http://www.animalperson.net/animal_person/2008/09/on-the-compas-1.html ). 

And I’d deconstruct mainstream attempts at addressing animal issues, such as back in 2008 when Oprah did a show on puppy mills (http://www.animalperson.net/animal_person/2008/04/on-oprah-the-go.html ). 

There are multiple language problems here, from how you define love (do you kill someone you love), calling the killing of healthy animals “euthanasia,” to one very strange definition of compassionate. 

 

As far as Dunayer’s language style, I have the same problem with “new welfarist.” Accurate, yes. Economical, sure. But when do you use it? When you want to insult someone. How does that play in a conversation? Not well.  The other person shuts down. And the same thing happens with “flesh,” “aquaprison,” and the like. People have only so much tolerance for descriptive language that they’re not accustomed to.  It’s offensive to them and they become defensive and then the conversation’s over.

 

What’s the goal when you’re advocating for veganism, to disturb the other person with your language or to use language they’re comfortable with to make your point?   The unfortunate reality of vegan education is that we’re salespeople. We are selling a lifestyle, a way of thinking and behaving, a way of looking at the world.  Shock does have a time and a place, and I’m talking about both images and language, but in the average conversation about the animals we use, I find it a hindrance.

 

Roger Yates:

A follow-up please

 

Mary Martin:

Sure.

 

Roger Yates:

I agree there is a fine line here. However, animal advocates have told me for years that we should not use terms like animal rights and certainly not rights violations because people are not used to them talk about welfare and cruelty instead, they say however, to move things on, we do need to challenge dominant ways of thinking and speaking. It seems where we draw that line which is the problem, I think you'd agree.

 

Mary Martin:

I do agree, of course, but when it comes to language that people find offensive, it's alienating. We definitely need to get the message of animal rights across and clearly it still hasn't caught on the way it should, as I used to blog about.  There'd be a reference to animal rights and HSUS in the same sentence. 

 

When it comes to treatment,  it seems that that's what people understand and connect with. You say "rights violation" and it doesn't mean anything important to them. There's nothing visceral going on, and if your language can only connect with their mind, and their mind doesn't really understand the depth of the idea of a rights violation, you're out of luck. But you'll rarely be out of luck when talking about treatment. I think that it's a matter of what works more of the time with more of the people. It's . . . utilitarian?

 

Roger Yates:

Thanks Mary.....

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Great response, thanks, Mary! Dave Pearce has another question for you now, when you're ready, Dave …

 

Dave Pearce:

Hi Mary, do you think moral argument alone can convert most people to a vegan lifestyle?  Or do we also need to develop cruelty-free in vitro meat? - Done

 

Mary Martin:

I don’t think any one argument is going to do it, and least of all the moral argument. I think people are just too selfish and need to hear a reason veganism is good for them.That’s why the health and weight arguments are so popular (regardless of whether they create sustained veganism).  

 

The moral argument is asking someone to do something and not just get nothing out of it, but something gets taken away from them.  That’s how they see it. I haven’t thought much about in vitro meat, and I do know that at some point animals need to be involved. We already have seitan and gardein and so many tasty options that I’d like to say it wouldn’t be necessary. 

 

However, I also know that unlike chicken “meat,” so far nothing tastes like a rare or medium rare steak except a rare or medium rare steak.  And some people are indeed that attached to their steak (or bacon) that in vitro options might become necessary. I’m not a vegan who thinks faux meats are a problem for vegans. If they help you not kill someone, have at ‘em. –

 

Dave Pearce:

I know some animal activists think in vitro meat is a distraction. I guess sometimes i just feel defeated and pessimistic arguing with the morally apathetic.

 

Mary Martin:

I don't find it useful to argue with people who are morally apathetic  I pick my battles and there are some instances when I just take a pass and move on to someone who is genuinely interested. I don't want to debate for the sake of it--I want to help people change their minds, hearts and actions. Do I think in vitro meat is a distraction? I think it is, but I also think if it's necessary for some reason I haven't thought through, then I  would say I'm for it. But I certainly wouldn't spend a lot of time advocating for it.  Or maybe any time.

 

Dave Pearce:

Thanks Mary

 

Roger Yates:

Thanks David and thanks Mary - next up is Ben Hornby. Ben.... 

 

Ben Hornby:

Thanks! You’ve written about how it doesn’t make sense to protest a business that uses live lobsters in an arcade game and not protest the fact that we kill and eat lobsters.  What are your feelings on the kinds of protests which focus on a particular species of animal?   For example, do you think it would be wrong or counterproductive to protest the gruesome ways in which lobsters are routinely killed for food?  Thanks, Done

 

Mary Martin:

It’s difficult for me to not get behind less painful ways of killing, meanwhile it’s just as difficult to get behind them because I’d rather not kill them at all. I’d rather educate people about lobsters and then offer them alternatives. I’d rather help them see lobsters differently and help them develop respect for their lives. 

 

But if I’m a lobster, and I’m faced with a more excruciating way to die versus a less one, guess which one I’m choosing. It’s a tough issue. I have no problem with many single-issue campaigns however, particularly if their purpose is to end the use of an animal.

 

Greyhound racing, of course, comes to mind.  Animals in circuses. Marine mammals in amusement parks. Any animals in amusement parks (but it’ll probably start with big cats, elephants and marine mammals).  Rodeos. Bullfights. Yes, veganism is our goal, but everyone’s got a soft spot for some subcause within the realm of our use of animals, and I can’t fault them for focusing on it.  We need vegans in those communities because we have a more holistic, complete view of the animal question.

 

Roger Yates:

Next up is a question from our transcriber Kate Go Vegan, so it will be asked by Prof. Gier...

 

Tim Gier:

Given that animals are sentient whereas plants are insentient, if we could be confident that the effect would be fewer animals being killed, would you advocate the killing of carnivorous plants?

 

Mary Martin:

If I see a duck who’s been hit by a car, or even who is paralyzed by some kind of botulism, you can be damn sure I’m going to try to get help for that duck and rehab her and return her.  I believe in contraception (if it’s effective and done correctly) as a method of controlling populations if killing them is the other option.

 

Yours is an appealing idea, Kate Go Vegan, I must admit.  Decreasing suffering with no downside. I guess I’d wonder where we’d draw the line.  But the suffering I think about when I think about animal rights, is the suffering at the hands of people. I think about justice.  The carnivorous plant doesn’t fit in my conception of justice or injustice. The idea of reducing suffering, in general, and no matter where it originates, again, is a great one!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Mary! Tim Gier is up next with another question. Thanks, Tim!

 

Tim Gier:

I posted a link to an article about an upcoming show Martha Stewart is devoting to veganism, featuring Gene Baur, and a couple of people have commented to me that they hope Ms. Stewart doesn’t promote cage-free eggs or “any such nonsense.” Are vegans expecting too much from mainstream personalities when it comes to how they approach veganism as part of whatever else they do?

 

Mary Martin:

I do think we expect too much. I saw that show and thought it was much better than Oprah’s recent one despite its flaws, such as Martha making vegan granola with honey (obviously no one told her), and the focus on factory farming rather than animal farming in general.  There wasn’t promotion of cage-free eggs or happy meat like on Oprah’s show, but in my mind it was implied every time someone said “factory farm.” 

 

There was a time when I thought only an abolitionist message that didn’t mention reform was acceptable and that time didn’t last longI don’t think I ever saw one mainstream presentation of the abolitionist message that didn’t eventually become a discussion about reform.My thinking has been, “at least so and so said the words—they said that animals aren’t ours to use and that they have a right not to be exploited/commodified.”   Maybe ideas I don’t agree with came next, but people have heard the message. That’s what I’ve been reduced to. 

 

There’s been an explosion of interest in veganism. Animal Planet will have several vegan-based shows next season and perhaps several more if I have anything to say about it.  I think with that we need to support the various artistic expressions of veganism and animal rights. Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home, for instance. Everyone needs a copy.  Everyone needs to show it to their friends and family. Bands who are vegan and have an animal rights message need to be promoted. There’s a handful of films and organizations that make short films and even feature-length films that need support.

 

Finally, in case no one asks about this, I think we have to accept the fact that the message that using animals is wrong isn’t nearly as compelling as: “Look at what we do, as a matter of course, to these individuals.”   There’s a way to balance the grisly with the mundane, like Karol Orzechowski of Decipher Films does (check out The Rhythm at http://vimeo.com/15140727 ),  or the light and the dark, like Jenny Stein and James LaVeck of Tribe of Heart are able to do. Or open rescue shorts that include heartwarming footage of the animals once they are liberated. The juxtaposition creates hope where there could be only despair. We need hope.

 

Tim Gier:

Thank you Mary, I agree with you about the need for an emotional connection, I appreciate your answer.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

At this time I’d like to sincerely thank Mary for responding with insight and a great deal of information to some great questions from our members.  I’d like now to open the chat up to all members, and ask that you PM myself, Tim or Roger with your intent to address Mary.

 

Mary Martin:

Thank YOU!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

I’d like to ask Nicola to ask the first open sessions question of Mary. When you’re ready, please go ahead, Nicola.

 

Nicola:

Hi Mary. I just wondered, I went to a lecture from the League Against Cruel Sports last year and at the end, there was a question and discussion section. They were saying that hunters got very offended when fox hunting was termed animal abuse – which I feel it clearly is – and that out of everything anyone said to them, this seemed to really ‘get to them’ more than anything. After doing some postgrad essays around animal rights etc, I was very struck by this as there is also the argument that differences in language between species is a basis for oppression of other animals. It seems that  language is an important aspect in many ways to the movement towards abolition of animal cruelty. Do you feel that this is the main way of moving things forward. In my venture into the academic side of the argument it seems this is an important underlying issue, as an expert in this I'd love to hear your belief. Thanks.

 

Mary Martin:

Thanks for the question, Nicola, and as someone with a doctorate in Applied Linguistics I'm partial and tend to see everything as a function of language.   I do think that it's important to name things accurately,  however I also understand that there's for lack of a better term, an "ick factor," that arises with some language (sort of like what I  referred to above), where descriptive language becomes a problem for some people.

 

I'm not saying sanitizing anything is the answer, as I believe accuracy is necessary. For instance, hunting and killing foxes (or even just hunting them)  is abuse. What it would take is an explanation of abuse, and perhaps some comparison to, say, doing that do a dog. Foxes quite obviously have the capacity for fear and terror, and to put any individual in that position is abuse.  When it comes to the academic side, it's vital to choose your words carefully and if possible have plenty of back up for why you are choosing those words. Does that help at all?

 

Nicola:

Yes thanks Mary that's fantastic. I think it is also important not to sanitize in terms of getting people to understand the reality of what they are doing. But academically I realise that it is important to back up your ideas and reason differently in order to help people to accept the ideas more easily. Thank you.

 

Mary Martin:

You're welcome!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks for that, Mary. Brandon Becker would like to ask the next question. Thanks, Brandon.

 

Brandon Becker:

Alright, thanks.  Have you watched one of Gary Yourofksy’s lectures on his Vegan Lecture Tour of college campuses? See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=es6U00LMmC4 

 

He’s an amazing speaker and frequently uses strong language like slavery, torture, and murder to describe what humans do to other animals. From what I’ve read, he’s effective at persuading students to go vegan.  So it seems to me that if the delivery is right, strong language can help break down the speciesist barrier and create empathy in the receiver for the suffering and death  of other animals.  What do you think?

 

Mary Martin:

I've seen his lecture and I know that his audiences tend to be young and very receptive   I'm sure to his language. I think whether or not that strategy is successful depends on who your audience is.  So I can imagine that he is able to change some hearts and minds that way.

 

Brandon Becker:

Thanks for your answer, Mary.

 

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Mary! Mangus O'Shales is up next, when you're ready, Mangus.

 

Mangus  O’Shales:

Hi Mary, what do you think about people like the ALF and the kinds of stuff they do?

 

Mary Martin:

If the question is with regards to property damage, I don't consider that violence,  however when it results in the harm of sentient beings, then it becomes violence in my mind. 

 

When it comes to liberating animals and showing the world what they had to endure, I suppose depending on what was involved  I might be fine with it. I think we need a variety of tactics  in order to help the animals, and I'm also not one to say that you should only  support what you'd do yourself.

 

I also think  that the argument against liberating animals because they will be replaced or because there are so many more  still imprisoned and suffering is utilitarian and speciesist. I wonder what people who are against the liberation of animals would  do/say if these were people we are talking about.

 

With all of that said, I don't have direct experience/knowledge of the ALF  and have read some things that have made me very uncomfortable. So my answer I suppose is a case-by-case decision.

 

Mangus O’Shales:

That's a good answer, thank you

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Mary! Will would like to ask a question next. Please go ahead when you're ready, Will.

 

Mary Martin:

My pleasure!

 

Will:

Hiya. Did u see that video of the bullfighter killed and animal people were saying that’s great and they enjoyed seeing him die?---  Of course it was good that the bull won for a change but to say that people loved seeing someone die seemed to be made for people to say animal rights people hate humans. Do you think stuff like that hurts the movement?

 

Mary Martin:

I do think it's terrible when people say they are glad that a person was killed, Will.   When I see the photos of abused animals on my Facebook page and read the comments from people saying the abuser should die a long and painful death, I'm embarrassed. And particularly because we have a reputation of being misanthropes, it's important  to not revel in the pain of another person. Just as we wouldn't revel in the pain of a nonhuman animal. We shouldn't be about  revenge and avenging the cruelty.  That makes us look like abusers. Maybe not abusers of animals, but abusers. 

 

Also, we shouldn't be filled with hate, as hate isn't productive and, at least in my opinion,  it rots us from the inside. When you despise another, all you're doing is hurting yourself.  So yes, it hurts us. And no, we shouldn't revel in the death of another.

 

Will:

People said it was karma like it was for Japan to have the quake. I am embarrassed as well, people said his death was a laff - thanks!!!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Mary! I couldn't agree more with your response. Are there any more questions for Mary?

 

Tim Gier: 

Mary, you mentioned that you don't talk about "property". I realize that you meant because it brings up an issue that most people aren't conversant with but do you believe that we can respect at least some of the rights of nonhumans even while we still own them.

 

Mary Martin:

I suppose we can. I think when I talk about meeting their needs, I'm talking about things like food, shelter, security. Now, I do believe in sterilization, which of course is a rights violation,  The problem for me is that an important right is to control what you are doing, and our pets don't have that much of the time.

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks Mary

 

Carolyn Bailey:

At this point, I would like to thank Mary, very sincerely, for being our guest today. We've all learnt from you, Mary, and we thank you!

 

Mary Martin:

Thank you all for your time and generosity. I am humbled.

 

Sky:

Thanks Mary

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thank you for being so generous with your time too, Mary. ARZone certainly appreciates it!

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thanks, Mary! Excellent chat!

 

Will:

ta mary!

 

Deb:

Thanks Mary!

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Thank you - wonderful chat!

 

Fifi Leigh:

Thanks

 

Tim Gier: 

Thank you again, Mary!

 

Roger Yates: 

Thanks very much, Mary.

 

Sadia Rajput:

Thank You indeed :-)

 

Ben Hornby:

Thanks for everything Mary, you've been awesome

 

Erin: 

Thanks!

 

Jackie Humphries: 

Thanks for sharing Mary, very enlightening.  ; )

 

Leah:

Thank you, Mary!

 

Mangus O’Shales: 

These chats are great, thank you Mary!

 

 

 

ARZone exists to promote rational discussion about our relations with other animals and about issues within the animal advocacy movement. Please continue the debate after chats by starting a forum discussion or making a point under a transcript.

 


Views: 146

Tags: Mary-Martin, Transcript

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Comment by red dog on May 7, 2011 at 13:00

Mary also makes good points about a range of other issues, such as direct action and homeless animals. I like that she considers different ideas fairly and gives credit where it's due, instead of dismissing a writer or thinker because she doesn't agree with the person 110 percent of the time.

 

I also want to say that I don't think it's *anyone's* goal to keep animals alive just to be chained up or left in other neglectful situations. I'd love to unchain all the chained dogs in my city, but I can't because I can't offer those dogs a better situation. I look at Nathan Winograd's no-kill equation as the first step in solving a crisis that's been ignored too long ... once shelters are doing their jobs properly and better programs are in place, shelters will have more credibility and will be able to expand their services.

Comment by red dog on May 7, 2011 at 12:34

Yes, there's a lot out there and there are also a lot of issues right here in this transcript. Mary Martin is one of the most effective bloggers, and part of what has made her so effective is her ability to find the right tone for the right situation--even then, responses to her blog posts show that *some* readers will always miss the point no matter how well she may have expressed it.

 

I definitely agree with Mary that it's important to speak in plain language that mainstream readers can relate to and not overwhelm them with terminology that might sound unnatural or unfamiliar--for example, she has a point about the use of words such as "flesh" and "aquaprison" and how alien they sound in a mainstream publication (or conversation). But it does seem as if she's gone too far in the other direction by discarding even the term "animal rights." If readers don't understand the concept of animal rights, I'd rather see a writer work in a brief explanation than confuse the issue by using "animal welfare" (which government and industries also use).

 

I was once taken to task for insisting on referring to animals as "he or she" in a magazine ... the writer thought it sounded weird and awkward, and that "it" was more natural. I fought for that style decision, but as many of you have pointed out, it's a matter of balance and not every issue is worth fighting for.

 

 

Comment by red dog on May 7, 2011 at 0:03
Mary Martin is one of my favourite bloggers and it was great to see this chat. Sorry for waiting so long to say it, but you've covered so many issues here that I didn't know where to start. :)
Comment by Carolyn Bailey on April 6, 2011 at 9:11

I think there are times when words do matter, and are very important. But I don't think that time is when speaking with the general public and trying to educate others about veganism and animal exploitation. 

I agree with Tim (shock!) that it's not important what language we want to use, it's important to use the language that works.

 

Comment by Tim Gier on April 6, 2011 at 1:59

When Mary said " You say "rights violation" and it doesn't mean anything important to them. There's nothing visceral going on, and if your language can only connect with their mind, and their mind doesn't really understand the depth of the idea of a rights violation, you're out of luck" it really resonated with me. My background in sales reminds me that people act on emotions and then justify those actions with reasons. "Sell the sizzle, not the steak" is the famous admonition. Now, what if the 'sizzle' creates such a negative emotional reaction that the reasons cannot even be heard? Or, to take Mary's point, what it there's no 'sizzle' at all in the first place?

Whatever language we want to use is unimportant. What is important is using language that others will hear, listen to and engage with. 

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