Animal Rights Zone

Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism

Transcript of Gary Smith's Live ARZone Guest Chat

Transcript of Gary Smith’s ARZone Live Guest Chat

24 September 2011

3pm US Pacific Time

6pm US Eastern Time

11pm UK Time

25 September 2011

8am Australian Eastern Standard Time

 

 

Carolyn Bailey:

ARZone would like to welcome Gary Smith as our chat guest today.

 

Gary Smith’s blog The Thinking Vegan (http://thethinkingvegan.com ) focuses on veganism as a social justice movement, as opposed to a dietary plan. The blog’s philosophical bent is abolitionism and liberationism, which does not support any use of animals.

 

The Thinking Vegan includes articles and posts, short notes and ideas, interviews with thinkers and doers in the vegan/animal advocacy community, guest posts, and a thinking vegan’s take on newsworthy events. The blog also features The Thinking Vegan Consortium, where we ask vegans engaged in different kinds of activism a single question and post their responses to show a diversity of perspectives on the same issue, and The Thinking Vegan Pop Quiz which asks readers for feedback on a specific topic.

 

Gary and his wife started their public relations agency Evolotus PR (www.evolotuspr.com) in 2006. Through its work with mainstream journalists, Evolotus has helped move animal advocacy and veganism to the forefront of the American media discussion. Evolotus works with clients in categories such as animal advocacy, documentary films, health/wellness and vegan foods. They have represented films like EarthlinGary Smith:, Skin Trade, Forks Over Knives, Food Matters, Got the facts on Milk and Simply Raw; animal organizations including Beagle Freedom Project, ARME, the Fur Free West Hollywood campaign; and worked with Mercy For Animals on media outreach for the Farm to Fridge Tour and two recent undercover investigations.

 

Gary has also written animal rights content for Elephant Journal (http://www.elephantjournal.com/author/gary-smith/) and Mother Nature Network (http://www.mnn.com/home-blog/guest-columnist/bloGary Smith:/the-circus-elephant-in-the-room#comments-54381).

 

Gary welcomes the opportunity to speak with ARZone members on a variety of topics today, would you please join with me in welcoming him to ARZone?

 

Welcome, Gary!

 

Sharni Buckley:

Hi Gary, thanks for being here!

 

Tim Gier:

Hi Gary! Welcome to ARZone.

 

Jason Ward:

Hi Gary - Welcome to ARZone!!!

 

Brooke Cameron:

Welcome to ARZone, Gary!

 

Angela Dillon:

Hello Gary

 

Fifi Leigh:

hi

 

Peter Keller:

Hey Gary! Welcome!

 

Stacey Rakic:

Hi, Gary.

 

Mangus O’Shales:

hi!

 

Lisa Viger:

hi Gary!

 

Sky:

Hi


Sadia:

Hello and welcome , Mr. Smith.

 

Richard McMahan:

Hi Gary

 

Will:

hey up

 

Jesse Newman:

Hello Gary, thank you for being here.

 

Gary Smith:

Hello everyone. Looking forward to the chat!

 

Jim Mayotte:

Thanks for coming.

 

Roger Yates:

Hi Gary, welcome to ARZone

 

Carolyn Bailey:

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

 

Please refrain from interrupting Gary during the first session, and feel free to send a private message to an admin if you wish to address him at any time. This can be done by clicking on their names and selecting “Private Chat”.

 

I’d now like to ask Gary his first question.

 

Hi, again, Gary! During this past week the city of West Hollywood approved a ban on the sale of fur clothing, when, at a city council meeting, members unanimously approved an ordinance that would ban the sale of clothing made of fur, wool and animal hair. Could you please explain what this ban will entail, when it will go into effect and how it will be monitored, and why leather products were not included in this ban?  Thanks!

 

Gary Smith:

The ban will make it illegal for any retailers in the city of West Hollywood to sell fur apparel. The council has a few details to work out, such as when the ban will take effect.  They tentatively set a date of June 30, 2012, to allow retailers to move the fur they have right now as well as any fur already ordered.

 

In the apparel industry, they usually order two seasons in advance. We know that the penalty will be civil, not criminal. We don’t know how the ban will be monitored yet. We were brought into the campaign a couple of weeks before it started to do the media outreach. They planned for six rallies throughout West Hollywood, on consecutive Saturdays, leading up to the election of new city council members.

 

The idea of the rallies was to educate the residents of West Hollywood about the fur ban and to get support for John D’Amico, the animal-friendly candidate in the race. John had pledged that he would put the fur ban at the very top of the agenda. 

 

Why not leather? I don’t think a ban on leather would have had a realistic chance of moving through the council. I also think that the general public is more likely to understand the egregious cruelty inherent in the fur industry. You can get a lot of non-vegans on your side when you’re talking about luxury items like fur and foie gras. I want to point out that this fur ban is the first of its kind in the US. West Hollywood made history by becoming the first US city to ban fur.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Gary! May I ask a quick follow-up, please?

 

Gary Smith:

Please do.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks! Congratulations on helping to achieve this ban, Gary! I certainly support the idea of educating the residents about fur products. I understand your hesitancy on including leather, but do you think that by choosing the campaigns that are considered an easier win we are striking at the root of the problem of the systematic exploitation of others?  

 

Gary Smith:

I think that each campaign that eliminates or bans the use of animals, is worthy of our time. I think that the more complicated issues take more time and more energy to achieve and may or may not be doable. Why not work towards eliminating doable issues first?

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Fair point, Gary! Thanks for your reply!

 

Jason Ward:

Next with a question is TIm Gier - go ahead Tim

 

Tim Gier:

Prof. Tom Regan agrees with Gary, but what's he know? :-)

 

When explaining how the US Goverment purchases surplus from the food industry, you wrote that it is “apparent that strictly focusing on the purchasing choices of individuals is not going to bring about a vegan world.” http://thethinkingvegan.com/news/consumer-choice-alone-isn%E2%80%99t-sufficient-to-create-a-vegan-world/ I agree with you. Can you suggest some ways that we can focus on both the government and the industry? 

 

Gary Smith:

I’m glad that you asked me about this topic. Almost all of my mental energy has been focused on trying to come up with effective strategies for this. I think a SHAC-like campaign would potentially be effective, singling out a handful of corporations and creating campaigns in which we work with other corporations that do business with them.

 

We are talking about suppliers, wholesalers, banks, retailers and the like. A lot of tactics would need to be deployed for this to be successful. Potentially, if enough economic damage can be brought to enough businesses, the US government will have a harder time continuously bailing out these corporations.

 

I think Sea Shepherd’s last Antarctic campaign is a good example. They have been causing economic damage to the government of Japan for the past six years. Japan has been killing less whales, which means a loss of revenue, as well as spending more money on additional ships, weapons, manpower, etc. Last year, Japan pulled out during the campaign to cut off even greater economic losses. They didn’t pull out due to public pressure or a marketplace decrease in the demand for whale meat.

 

I don’t pretend that this is a simple task or how doable a campaign like this could be. What I do know is that consumption and capitalism are not going to create the kinds of changes that we wish to see. Getting someone to stop consuming animal products doesn’t necessarily save lives. It stops the breeding of animals, which is wonderful. However, when we are talking about 10 billion land animals in the US (55 billion globally), getting a few people to go vegan is not going to make any significant damage, particularly when we factor in increases in animal consumption in China and India and population growth around the world.

 

I’m not sure exactly how to pressure the government. I’m not sure how we can stop them from subsidizing these industries, purchasing animal products for schools and WIC programs, etc. Those lobbies are so large, well funded and powerful.

 

Tim Gier:

A quick follow-up?

 

Gary Smith:

Sure.

 

Tim Gier:

Considering that such campaigns as you might envision could easily incorporate a public component aimed at increasing awareness about animal issues and the need for veganism, would  they not also be "vegan education"?

 

Gary Smith:

I think that a public education campaign going along with the campaign I suggest would be very helpful. At the end of the day, we need more support for all of our campaigns.

 

Tim Gier:

Thank you sir

 

Roger Yates:

The next question comes from Brooke Cameron. OK Brooke....

 

Brooke Cameron:

Gary, you participate in a lot of different campaigns which are aimed at ending the exploitation of others, from circus protests to fur protests and much more. Do you think that by protesting for the abolition of one form of exploitation, you are confusing the “public” and, as Gary Francione would claim, by asking for the total abolition of one form of exploitation, you are actually increasing exploitation as a general matter?

 

Gary Smith:

On my blog, I usually make a point to mention veganism, but I will support any single issue as long as it supports the abolition or ban of using nonhuman animals.

 

Animal exploitation is so huge and so complicated that to boil it down to simply vegan education is naïve. Speaking of naïve, I don’t think it’s a zero-sum game in which ending one form of exploitation will automatically increase another. If a family stops taking their kids to the circus, they aren’t automatically going to visit the zoo instead. They might go to see a movie or a carnival or a puppet show in the park. I think that these campaigns can have an impact on the public. What they hopefully see is that we do not support the exploitation of nonhuman animals and that there are people who are willing to speak up against exploitation.

 

Where I do see confusion is when activists push cage-free eggs to universities and restaurants, when they support reform measures that ultimately support the continuing exploitation of other animals. I would never participate in a campaign like this. I fear that if activists continue down this road, in 10 to 15 years, the public will mistakenly believe that any meat, dairy or egg products purchased in supermarkets and restaurants are cruelty free. And why wouldn’t they, if large animal “rights” groups and activists are supporting such measures?

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thanks, Gary. Could I please ask a quick follow-up?

 

Gary Smith:

Please do.

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thanks. I agree with most of that, Gary. I certainly agree with your position on so called “happy” exploitation. When you do a protest at a circus (for example), and people ask you questions, do you make it clear you are against all exploitation, or just speak about the animals used in the circus?

 

Gary Smith:

I always explain that I support the freedom of all animals. I find that there is a level of receptivity if someone approaches me at a protest or demo. It's also an opportunity to tell people that they can visit sanctuaries.

 

Brooke Cameron:

That's great, thank you!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks again, Gary!

Roger Yates is up next to ask a question on behalf of Barbara DeGrande who isn't with us today, thanks, Roger.

 

Roger Yates:

Hi Gary. You seem to be busy with so many projects, writing for various publications, managing your PR firm, and trying to raise awareness. How do you stay balanced, and how do you decide where to invest your energies?

 

Gary Smith:

I’ll let you know when I figure it out! The reality is that I am preoccupied by ending animal exploitation. It’s quite literally the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about before I go to bed. I get so much energy and excitement by working on these issues and thinking about how we can be more effective as activists, that I don’t really notice the time go by.

 

Also the work we do at Evolotus is activism for us. Working to get the mainstream press to take our issues seriously, give them respect and cover them is something that we take a lot of pride in. Getting the Wall Street Journal to write up Mercy For Animals’ undercover investigations, for example, has the potential of being read by four million of their subscribers. I could spend the rest of my life passing out leaflets and probably never reach that many people. I am always looking for clients that I feel will allow us to get animal rights issues into the mainstream. Our work keeps us extremely busy, but most of the time it’s incredibly fulfilling. Most of the time.

 

As to how do I decide where to invest my energy, I spend a lot of time reading animal rights books, thinking about strategies, looking at the activist landscape and asking myself what is effective and what can be improved upon. As I answer some of these questions, I move my energy in those directions. I get frustrated by the accusation that if we have a disagreement about strategies, tactics or philosophy, that we are “infighting.” I think it’s often a matter of what work is most suited to us as individuals, what can we do that will be most effective based on our skills or interests. My friends who are filmmakers, like Shaun Monson, Shannon Keith, Gene Blalock, Casey Suchan and Denis Hennelly or Shira Lane, can make films. That’s not something I have the talent for. They don’t have the ability to run an activist PR agency, so it works out.


Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Gary! Jesse Newman would like to ask the next question. Thanks, Jesse.

 

Jesse Newman:

You're in the PR business. What do you think about PETA's "I'd rather go naked than wear fur" campaigns and their plans to operate a PETA.XXX porn site?

 

Gary Smith:

I think PETA’s fur ads were clever in the 80s, 90s, whenever they started. Unfortunately we’ve seen an increase in fur sales in recent years, so it hasn’t been effective in some time – which is another reason to try a different tactic like a ban.

 

Evolotus is focused on generating media that takes animal rights and vegan issues seriously. We have turned down many potential clients who are looking for stunty campaigns for that reason. We are promoting ideas that are out of the mainstream, so we are going to be scrutinized more. As activists we are not considered credible even though in almost every case, we have the science, facts and ethical/moral arguments on our side.

 

I prefer to focus on the issues and not try to get media attention for media attention’s sake. By now the media has a basic understanding of our issues. We do not need to scream and wave our hands at them anymore. I think dealing with media as professionals, sending out professional press releases and worthwhile pitches, and placing stories in reputable media outlets, shows them they need to take us and our issues just as seriously as they take other issues and products. When we do media training for activists, these are some of the points we try to convey.

 

As an activist myself, my focus is on the ethical argument of veganism and animal rights. I want the attention to be on veganism as a social justice movement. For me it would be hard to draw attention to a serious ethical issue via porn. I don’t understand why this is considered an effective way to talk about a social justice issue. Other social justice movements put the focus on the moral and ethical arguments. I think when we veer away from those arguments, it looks like we don’t believe in our arguments and issues. It makes our arguments seem flimsy since we are trying to manipulate or get attention for attention’s sake.

 

Roger Yates:

Thanks. Next up is the mighty Jason Ward. Go Jason....

 

Jason Ward:

Thanks Roger, Hi Gary

 

Gary Smith:

Hi Jason.

 

Jason Ward:

As you know, ARZone has hosted chats, interviews and now podcasts with a wide variety of guests who are connected to or have strong opinions about “the animal movement.” Obviously, we can’t agree with every guest on all of their opinions. Some of these guests have spent time in jail for their actions. On your blog, you seem to have taken a similar approach, featuring a lot of different voices. Would you please talk about why you think it is important that a diversity of viewpoints get aired?

 

Gary Smith:

I’m concerned by the lack of philosophical diversity and voices in the community. It seems to me that the main voice in the movement is the welfare/reform voice. It may just be that they are the loudest or have the most resources behind them.

 

I strive to have as many voices as possible be represented on the blog, especially those that aren’t well represented elsewhere. Whether those voices come from people who don’t have a forum to air their voice, like in the The Thinking Vegan Consortium or The Thinking Vegan Pop Quiz, or in interviews with authors and thinkers, I think it is vital to hear other perspectives. The most successful movements had a diversity of thought.

 

History may make it appear that Gandhi brought down the English Empire on his own or that Martin Luther King, Jr. secured civil rights for African Americans, but it was a diversity of  leadership and thinkers. We don’t have to agree with other activists’ tactics or philosophies, but we owe it to the movement and ourselves to listen to what they have to say – particularly when we don’t hear their perspective over the louder voices.

 

Jason Ward:

Thanks Gary - I agree very much with that. Next up with a question is Carolyn Bailey - Giv'er Carolyn.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Jay! Hi Again, Gary. Your 21 August essay “Bill Clinton is eating a plant based diet - he’s not vegan” [http://thethinkingvegan.com/articles/bill-clinton-is-eating-a-plant...], explained that despite the excitement from many vegans, Bill Clinton is not vegan, he’s eating a plant based diet. Obviously there is a lot more to living vegan than one’s diet. Could you please explain the importance of making this distinction and why you feel it’s important to be clear on the definition of the word “vegan”?

 

Gary Smith:

I understand why we do it. Our impulse is to normalize our ethical choices by saying “see, Clinton is vegan too! Natalie Portman is vegan too!” I think we can applaud these celebrities, but we risk confusing people or misleading people about the ethical basis of veganism.

 

Veganism is so much larger than what we put in our mouths and consume. It is an ethical and moral philosophy and a social justice issue. A diet is a diet and they become trendy for some period of time, but ultimately a new trend or diet will come along.

 

As an animal rights activist, I want to make sure that people remain vegan. I also think it’s important that as we are educating the public via many avenues, that we are clear as to what the word and philosophy of veganism is.  We do not want to contribute to the confusion that veganism is a diet, is a great way to get healthy and lose weight.

 

I understand that the large majority of animals exploited and murdered are for the food industry so I’m happy to hear about successful campaigns like Meatless Mondays, and I’m happy when there is publicity for the health benefits associated with a vegan diet and so on. But I don’t want to water down my message, which is ethics and social justice.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

I completely agree with you on this, Gary. I was amazed to see how many people were offended that you noted that Bill Clinton isn’t actually vegan, and suggested that ANY recognition of the word “vegan” was a good thing. Thanks! Greg McFarlane is up next with a question, when you're ready, thanks, Greg.

 

Greg McFarlane:

Hi Gary, what do you think of the relationship between veganism and other human-centred social justice issues? For example: human hunger and malnutrition; the environment and human rights; lack of fresh water; the rights of indigenous people; conflict; violence and working conditions.

 

Gary Smith:

We know that veganism directly impacts the environment as far as land and water resources and pollution, impacts food insecurity, we know that the large majority of soy, corn and wheat is grown and fed to the animals that we eat.

 

As far as human rights, we know that workers in the slaughterhouses and factory farms are taken advantage of, endure the most dangerous workplaces in America, and a large portion are undocumented and can be manipulated. We also know that healthcare costs are out of control and unaffordable for the poor, largely due to chronic diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes which are caused by eating animal products (amongst other poor food choices).

 

Veganism is the abstention of animal products and uses, as best one can.

 

As far as standing up against other oppressions against humans, such as anti-war, poverty, anti-death penalty, women’s rights, gay rights and the like, they are not necessarily connected to veganism, as the philosophy is defined. However, I hope that vegans will see that oppression and exploitation against one is truly against us all. Many of my friends who are active in animal rights are also speaking out for gay marriage, civil liberties, water issues, etc.I’d like for more people who are focused on human and earth liberation struggles to see how connected and critical animal liberation is to their fight.

 

Greg McFarlane:

Thanks Gary.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Gary! Jason Ward will ask Tim's next question now, as Tim had to step out for a bit. Thanks, Jay.

 

Jason Ward:

Are you familiar with Steve Best’s criticism that veganism in the industrialized world (and especially in the US) is a privileged, white, upper-middle classed form of consumerism that is blind to the realities of life for the billions of non-European people of India, Africa and China, and if so, what do you think about it?

 

Gary Smith:

I am familiar with Steve Best’s work and generally agree with a lot of his criticisms. We should be doing more outreach to people of color, people who are economically handicapped by the economic system of capitalism, we should pay much more attention to the foods and products that we purchase, and overall become a much more inclusive movement.

 

What I resonate most closely to with Steve Best is that the planet is on fire, climate change is going to be adversely affecting all of us much sooner than we ever anticipated, the sixth mass extinction is here, overpopulation is a serious issue that no one wants to address, consumption of animal products is increasing around the world, capitalism is crushing us. We have some serious issues to address and yet we don’t seem to be cognizant or willing to address them. We are fighting against a genocide of human and nonhuman animals and yet few people seem to feel a sense of urgency about it. Sometimes it feels like we’re just waiting for the world to call a meeting, and we’ll all start getting to solving these life-threatening issues.

 

Roger Yates:

Thanks Gary. The next question comes from Sharni Buckley. Sharni....

 

Sharni Buckley:

Thank you. I watched the video interview of SAEN’s Michael Budkie that’s posted on your blog. http://thethinkingvegan.com/interviews/interview-with-michael-budkie/ In it, Michael tells how he and his wife realized, all on their own back in 1986, that it made no sense to be activists for some other animals by day while eating the bodies of different ones at night. I wonder, do you think that if we could get more people to be involved and be activists in some way that many of them would become vegans as did the Budkies?

 

Gary Smith:

I hope so. If people come out to protest the Japanese embassy because of dolphins in Tajii, it’s an opportunity to friend them and share with them the exploitation of other animals. The reality is that we have people on our side when it comes to specific issues like banning circuses, banning fur, ending vivisection, ending the slaughter of whales, spaying and neutering dogs and cats, for example. Same with any other number of demos, protests or single-issue campaigns. If someone is driven to help and fight for any animal, they are ripe to hear the vegan message.

 

I would absolutely love for every person who gives money to an animal rights issue or shows up at a demo to go vegan, but in the meantime I am grateful for their help.

 

Sharni Buckley:

Thanks for that, Gary.

 

Roger Yates:

Next up is Carolyn Bailey.... Carolyn...

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Roger. Gary, in June this year, you were involved, along with The Beagle Freedom Project, part of ARME (Animal Rescue, Media and Education), in the rescue of 9 beagles and four rabbits who had been used in animal testing labs. You were fortunate enough to share your life with one of these rescued beagles, Malcolm for a short time. Could you share yours and Malcolm’s experiences with us, along with a little about Shannon Keith's Beagle Freedom Project and it's importance?

 

Gary Smith:

In late December of 2010, Shannon gave us a call and said that she was bringing home two rescued beagles from a laboratory and wanted to know if we’d like to meet them that evening, when they got into town. Uhm, you don’t have to ask me twice. That was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Bigsby and Freedom had only been free for about nine hours at that point and had already begun to trust humans again. Being in their presence changed me.

 

It took about six months before the next rescues happened. Getting universities and private testing facilities to give beagles to animal rights activists is about the most difficult task that you can imagine. They do not want the public to know that they are testing on doGary Smith: and having them out in the world creates that possibility. We’ve been able to rescue 14 beagles (and four bunnies) so far. All have been adopted out and are doing very well.

 

I personally went on the June 8 rescue where we rescued nine beagles. When we pulled up to the liason’s contact point, my heart broke on the spot. I was frozen for a few moments in deep grief. All nine of them were drooling, had piss, shit and vomit in their cages and looked frightened. I snapped out of it and helped to move all nine to the van. We took them to a friend’s yard where we opened each carrier one at a time. It took about ten minutes before the first beagle had the courage to step outside for the very first time. Within ten minutes, they were sniffing each other, us, exploring, and acting like dogs, as much as they could. Keep in mind there was no barking, since their vocal cords had been cut by the breeder so that they would not disturb the researchers.

 

We got back to LA around 10 pm to a throng of media, and all nine doGary Smith: were sent off to foster homes. The next morning, I received a call from one of the fosters who said their current dog wasn’t happy with the situation. They dropped him off at our house. He was still scared and disoriented beyond belief. We figured we’d keep him around for a couple of hours and take him with us for a few media interviews set up later in the day. A few hours turned into five weeks! Living with Malcolm changed my life. I still get teary eyed when I think about him. I didn’t expect to fall so deeply in love with him.

 

With this experience my eyes were opened to focusing on individual lives at the same time that we focus on the abstract numbers such as 10 billion land animals. My eyes were also opened a bit to single-issue campaigns because Malcolm would have been overlooked by vegan education outreach only. I can’t say enough about the value of saving individual lives. Each and every one of those animals that will be saved as a result of these types of campaigns is grateful for the work done on their behalf.

 

I was happy with the media attention we were able to get. We chose to tell the happy story about beagles who had been rescued from testing labs and have a chance at a great life, over the story of the horrors of animal torture. The media did a fantastic job of taking our story and filling in the blanks, asking why they are used in labs, why are animals being tested on for household products, and generally asking all of the right questions. In six years of doing activist PR, I have never seen such overwhelmingly positive and supportive comments on articles and TV stories. Readers and TV viewers really understood the issue, and I could see the impact it had. So many people who commented said they were throwing out all their makeup and detergents, and printing out lists of cruelty-free products to take to the store. 

 

Carolyn Bailey:

You make an interesting point, Gary, about single issue campaigns and individual lives saved by those campaigns. It’s disheartening when SICs are regularly and passionately attacked by people who don’t seem to understand that individual lives are somewhat more important than defending one’s theories. I watched the video of Malcolm’s rescue a few days ago and thought it was wonderful and very inspirational. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zLZMxRP_F5w&feature=player_embedded 

 

Jason Ward:

Next question is from Tim Gier and will be asked by Carolyn Bailey it will also be the last of the pre-registered questions before we move on to the open section of the chat where everyone can engage Gary... do it up when you're ready Carolyn!!! 

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Jay! Tim's question is: You wrote about where we should spend our vegan dollars. http://thethinkingvegan.com/articles/how-are-you-spending-your-vegan-dollars/  I live in a town with no vegan restaurants at all. There are many non-vegetarian places that have one or two good vegan options and a few that are completely vegetarian. There’s one place that says they are transitioning to be completely vegan. Shouldn’t I be supporting these non-vegan places with my dollars?

 

Gary Smith:

This topic always causes controversy. The first point I would like to address is that we should always support vegan businesses whenever possible. If you have the choice between going to a vegan restaurant or going to a non-vegan restaurant, the vegan restaurant should always win. Secondly, going to restaurants is a luxury. Having a business feed you and clean up after you is not a necessity. I hear a lot of people express a sense of entitlement about this, but truly, it’s a luxury to dine out.

 

I have also had vegans tell me that they like to bring their friends to non-vegan restaurants with “vegan options,” so their friends can see them order and enjoy a vegan entrée. I always ask if their friends ordered the vegan entrée, and have yet to have someone say yes, they did. Wouldn’t it be better outreach to take your friend to a vegan restaurant where they could taste the food? Again, if you have the choice.

 

I also hear the point of view that if vegans purchase vegan options at non-vegan restaurants, then they will add more vegan items to the menu. That may or may not be the case, but if we are talking about a large chain like Chipotle or Subway, every dollar that goes into those businesses is ultimately helping them exploit and kill more animals. It would make more sense to pack vegan restaurants until there are lines around the block, because then, their non-vegan competition will want a piece of the action. 

 

I don’t enjoy going to non-vegan restaurants, and I’ve gotten more particular about it in my old age. Why would a vegan want to be around dead and exploited animals? Why do you want to take the chance of having a body part of a sentient being in your salad or pasta? Why do you want to trust a chef, who couldn’t care less about your ethical choices, to be careful not to cross-contaminate your dish with the secretions of an animal?

 

That being said, if you work in an office and have to eat out with superiors or clients, it can get tricky. Not all of our clients or prospective clients are vegan, but we are always careful to take them to vegan restaurants. This has not been an issue in six years. I’ve successfully avoided eating out at non-vegan restaurants with my family for a long time too, and my in-laws are open-minded about going to vegan restaurants. I also want to mention my friend Natala Constantine of Vegan Hope. For various reasons including allergies, she and her husband have trouble eating out even at vegan restaurants, but she often goes and buys a gift certificate just to support those businesses and asks the managers to pass it along to a non-vegan.

 

Now, to finally address your question. ☺ Should we be supporting non-vegan restaurants? I think the problem of animal exploitation is largely created by capitalism. I don’t think the solution is more capitalism. You can’t solve a problem with the same mindset that created it, and capitalism is never the answer to “how do we create a more fair and just world.”

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Gary! That concludes the pre-registered questions for today. I'd like now to open the chat up to others who may wish to address Gary, and ask that you send a private chat message to myself, Roger or Jason if you wish to do so. First up in the open session of questions will be Will. When you're ready, Will, thanks.

 

Will:

hiya but you didnt answer jesse’s question. so what do you think of the weirdos and loonies from peta having a porno site???

 

Gary Smith:

My answer was that I don't see how using porn as a tool to promote a social justice issue can be effective.

 

Untillallarefree:

My thoughts too Gary ..

 

Will:

ta! 

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Gary! Next up is a question from Christina Cho, which will be asked in her absence by the amazing Jason Ward. Thanks, Jay!

 

Jason Ward:

Christina's question: I know for you personally, you have certain organizations that you don’t  support for their tactics. I'd like to know what other/perhaps better tactics could we use to further the movement in a more progressive and positive manner

 

Gary Smith:

Certainly the fur ban is a good example. The pro-fur people said "the cash register speaks," and to an extent they are right, which is why a ban works - to silence the cash register. Circus bans are a good example too. Boycotts can also be effective if they are well organized. I think these types of abolition campaigns are more progressive than reforms.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Gary. I'd like to ask a question now. Gary, some people suggest that ending a system of violence, using violent means, is ineffective. You've studied non-violence in the past, could you please explain your thoughts on this and if you believe that adhering strictly to a non-violent approach in our advocacy will achieve an end to speciesism and the exploitation of others.

 

Gary Smith:

There is a lot to say on the subject. The first question is what is violence and what is non-violence. I studied non-violence at UC Irvine under Guy DeMallac, one of the leading academics in the field, and gave a couple of lectures for him and did research for his books.

 

I hear people in the movement make up their own definitions of violence and non-violence, which is odd, but I’m fairly clear that you can only commit physical violence to another sentient being. Property damage is certainly illegal, but not violence. Heated rhetoric is not violence. Rescues and liberations are not violence. I think people want to use the term non-violent as a synonym for legal or aboveground or pacifist, and violent as a synonym for underground, illegal, militant, radical. These are not productive uses of the terms.

 

What happens to animals is violence. We are fighting the most violent industry that the planet has ever known. We are talking about 55 billion land animals who are force bred, confined, mutilated, tortured and ultimately murdered each year for food, and trillions of fishes maimed and suffocated to death. We are talking about hundreds of millions of animals skinned alive, anally and vaginally electrocuted for fur, hundreds of millions of animals tortured in laboratories in the name of research and countless millions more violently treated and killed for clothing and entertainment.

 

Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence was based on the idea of the Law of Love. The idea is that you appeal to the person’s heart or moral compass. But there is no moral compass to appeal to when we are talking about industries of genocide.

 

How does one appeal to industries that profit and thrive from violence and exploitation while being protected by governments who wield militaries who employ violence? Violent industries and governments always prefer to work with groups promoting non-violence because they have a powerful advantage. It’s an unfair fight. That is why pacifist movements have received the most attention from governments and media and history books. They want the public to believe that these campaigns are more effective and to support such campaigns over others.

 

There are prevailing mythologies about the war in Vietnam ending due to non-violent protests, and the civil rights victory is credited to pacifism while ignoring the contributions of Malcolm X, the Black Panthers and other radical groups. History has painted non-violence as peaceful marches and flowery speeches while glossing over the radical tactics employed by these figures. Both King and Gandhi spent time in jail for breaking laws that they saw as unjust.

 

Civil disobedience was used regularly, Gandhi’s salt march was treasonous. Breaking the law was right at the top of the list of tactics. When someone says non-violence isn’t going to be effective, people generally take that to mean they are advocating violence.

 

I think it’s more accurate to say that militant, underground, civilly disobedient tactics are necessary in this struggle, as they have been in other social justice struggles.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Gary! Next up is Julie Castle, thanks, Julie.

 

Julie Castle:

Thank you...and Hello...I was wondering what your thoughts were regarding the plight of wild non domesticated, animals as pets, such as parrots, birds, and other animals common to many people who believe they are animal lovers.

 

Gary Smith:

I do not support keeping wild, non domesticated animals as pets. I do know people who take in rescued parrots who need rehabilitation and homes and give them the best life possible, under the circumstances.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks Gary. Mark Jordan would like to ask a question next, thanks, Mark.

 

Mark Jordan:

Thanks Carolyn. Hi Gary.

 

We have had some good conversations via the internet, but that doesn’t mean I won’t challenge you in public!  and maybe some day you can return the favor:

Earlier in the chat you mentioned foie gras – and it seemed you thought that fighting against this product might be a good campaign because it is perhaps more “winnable” – is this an accurate summary of your thoughts, and do you see a danger in making distinctions between one animal product and another? Meaning that the public might be being told (or get the perception) that some animal products are bad and others are not (or are “less” bad). Thanks.

 

Gary Smith:

It's a fair question. I think that the idea is that there are certain campaigns that have more broad appeal and/or are winnable. I think foie gras is attractive to non-vegans because it is a luxury item and is so eggregious. We never know if a campaign like this will make someone go vegan or not. It's a good introductory issue.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Gary. Sky would like to ask the next question. Thanks, Sky.

 

Sky:

Hi. In relation to your answer to question 2. What do you mean by ‘getting a few people to go vegan’? That’s a bit insulting, isn’t it? Is that your own poverty of ambition (borrowing from Roger :-)) or do you think the movement will not ever get many vegans?

 

Gary Smith:

I mean that the scale of the problem is so great when you look at overpopulation, development, increase of consumption in India and China, as an example.  I get a few people a week telling me that they've gone vegan because of something I have put on my blog, but I don't fool myself believing that it's making a significant dent in the problem.

 

Sky:

Yes but you do recognize that we want more than just a few vegans don't you?

 

Gary Smith:

Of course. Depending on which statistics you look at, we make up .5 to 1% of the population of America. If we jumped to 5%, that would be a significant shift. We would still be looking at 8 to 9 billion land animals. That is not going to create animal liberation as we would like to see it.

 

Sky:

OK thanks!! :-)

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks again, Gary. Ashley Mills would like to address you next. Thanks, Ashley.

 

Ashley Mills:

Thanks, Carolyn.  Hi Gary, thanks for chatting with us today. I hear many people talk about family farms who have sheep. They feel the sheep are well cared for and the wool is solely a by-product of a gentle sheep haircut. How do you feel about consumers purchasing wool from these farms? 

 

Gary Smith:

I do not support the use of nonhuman animals. Treatment is not the issue. They are breeding sheep for their wool. It's not as if they exist and they shear them. I've written about this for Elephant Journal.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks again, Gary! For the last question for today, Peter Keller would like to address you. Thanks, Peter.

 

Peter Keller:

Thanks Carolyn. Great to see you here, Gary! If I'm correct, you've been an AR activist for not that long, and already you're living, breathing, every single moment as an activist, aware of the comprehensive scale of animal exploitation and the need for so much more to be done. I've seen other activists burn out after being deeply active. Are you worried that you might run out of stream?

 

Gary Smith:

I have so many wonderful friends, like yourself, who are involved in so many campaigns, that I am always excited to learn more and to be more active. Finding balance is not something that I do well, though. Whenever I run out of steam, something cool happens, like I get a call that we are going to rescue more beagles or to come over and bottle feed some kittens.

 

Petter Keller:

Thanks Gary--we just want you around for the long haul! :-)

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Gary! This concludes Gary's chat for today and I'd like to thank you very sincerely for being so generous with your time, Gary, and giving us some great responses to our questions!  We do sincerely appreciate you being here today, thanks!

 

Sharni Buckley:

Thanks for a great chat, Gary!

 

Gary Smith:

Thank you Carolyn for asking me to participate!

 

Maynard S. Clark:

Thank you SO much, Gary.  W-I-L-D and T-H-U-N-D-E-R-O-U-S A-P-P-L-A-U-S-E  !!

 

Sky:

Bye - although I disagree about the geese liver

 

Stacey Larson:

Thank you, Gary.

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thanks Gary, this has been great

 

Richard McMahan:

Thank you Gary. It was a wonderful interview.

 

Suzanne Barker:

Thank you, Gary

 

Roger Yates:

Thanks Gary.

 

Maynard S. Clark:

:-)

 

Gary Smith:

Thank you to everyone for the thought provoking questions!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Our pleasure, Gary!

 

Igor:

Thanks! :-)

 

Fifi Leigh:

bye and good luck...

 

Kelly Carson:

Thank you Gary!

 

Sadia:

Thank you so ever much for your time and energy. Good seeing you here Mr. Smith! Your time was greatly appreciated.

 

Angela Dillon:

Thank you Gary.

 

Millie Fain:

Thank you!  You are an inspiration :-)

 

Peter Keller:

Loved it! Thanks for your time!

 

Jason Ward:

Thanks Gary - you ROCKED!!!

 

Lisa Viger:

Thanks Gary!

 

Bea Elliott:

Thank you Gary!

 

Richard McMahan:

And thank you ARZone.

 

Sadia:

indeed! Thanks Team ARZone.

 

Roger Yates:

:-D

 

Peter Keller:

My first time here, finally able to catch this. Great job ARZone!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Peter! :-)

 

Millie Fain:

My first time too- thank you ARZone!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Millie, and everyone else! :-)


Roger Yates:

Thanks Richard, Millie and Peter.

 

 

 

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: 587

Tags: Evolotus, Gary-Smith, The-Thinking-Vegan, Transcript

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Comment by Billy Lovci on October 4, 2011 at 21:40

I appreciate the perspective Gary brings to the subject of nonviolent action. This may be a long shot, but I wonder if Gary would comment on the essays of George Lakey.
http://www.trainingforchange.org/nonviolent_action_sword_that_heals

http://www.trainingforchange.org/diversity_of_tactics

To be more specific, a few recurring themes are that of "agents provocateur" and the idea of, as Lakey puts it:

"Diversity of tactics" [which] implies that some protesters may choose to do actions that will be interpreted by the majority of people as "violent," like property destruction, attacks on police vehicles, fighting back if provoked by the police, and so on, while other protesters are operating with clear nonviolent guidelines.

When Gary mentions that governments and violent industries work with nonviolent groups, he doesn't mention that they also send in individuals specifically to incite and promote violence. These actions give moral high ground in the general public's perception because they can then protect capitalist property rights and public safety by removing scores of peaceful protestors. In the animal liberation movement, as I see it with my limited knowledge and direct experience, the same kind of justification for overwhelming counter-attack by authorities (pre-emptive raids and violation of civil rights) will be granted by a fearful majority of the public, and the message that violence is being commited against other animals greatly diminished as a result.

The "diversity of tactics" problem, as Lakey sees it, is that it is a tactic used most freely by privileged whites and owning class individuals that have much less to lose, and can freely experiment in property destruction and take risks that those of the oppressed majority cannot so easily escape (government repression, arrest record, lawful just treatment, etc.). I have noticed that most of the proponents of "violent" action on ARZone are in this privileged category, one I readily recognize as a white American male concerned with social justice.

I'd love to hear form Ronnie and Roger too.

Comment by Gary Smith on September 27, 2011 at 9:51
That means a lot coming from you. I know how much thought and attention you put on animal liberation and all the work you do to educate the public and activists. Thanks!
Comment by Tim Gier on September 26, 2011 at 10:33
I agree with much of what you've said Gary.

Particularly, your thoughts about the meaningless use of the term "non-violent" as well as the need for activists and advocates to think about and act on the social, political and economic structural impediments to animal liberation.

Thanks for everything you do Gary. I appreciate your openness and your willingness to engage with ideas different from your own.

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