Animal Rights Zone

Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism

From The Thinking Vegan Blog, written by Kezia Jauron 

Many vegans lament that there are dog/cat rescuers and other animal activists in their communities who are not vegan. I’m with you, believe me. I get it. It is shocking when humane societies serve animals on plates at fundraisers. It is a head-scratcher that someone who works to save whales would order sushi in a restaurant, failing to recognize he is destroying the ocean habitats and food chains that support those whales.

I understand your frustration that nonvegan companon animal rescuers don’t recognize that a pig is every bit as lovable as a dog, and a turkey can be just as cuddly as a cat. They work hard for one or a few species but not every species – just like there are people who feel called to get active on behalf of sea turtles, elephants, wolves, or other specific animals.

Although it would be wonderful if more dog/cat rescuers were vegan, I’d also like it if more vegans gave a crap, and actively helped animals in need. Not eating, wearing or exploiting animals is the absolute bare minimum a person can do. It is the default setting. It is the “moral baseline,” as some say.

Over the years I’ve worked with people and organizations who rescue dogs, cats, birds and other domestic pet species, those who are doing the dirty work of animal liberation. There should be much more respect, and less derision, for “dog and cat people” from the vegan community.

The animal rescuers I know do things that most vegans wouldn’t deign to do – such as run into traffic with a leash in one hand and a can of dog food in the other; wake up every two hours to bottle-feed kittens, crawl through mud to save a lost cat who scratches the hell out of them as a thank-you, cut the chain embedded in the neck of an auto yard pit bull who has never known a kindness from a human, pay their unemployed neighbor’s vet bill, not to mention clean up piles upon piles of shit.

Animal rescuers are willing to trap, trespass, surveil, steal, and otherwise do whatever it takes to do the right thing for an animal, right now, regardless of what the law says. As activists, most of us don’t hold a candle to these people. Too many vegans do very little to proactively help animals.

But what about the estimated 100 animals a year we save by being vegan? Let’s not strain ourselves patting each other on the back.

Going vegan doesn’t “save” 100 animals a year. 100 animals don’t go to sanctuaries or aquaria each year because you are vegan. In theory, you are preventing the future births of 100 animals a year. But with the realities of animal agribusiness, I’m loath to consider that anything more than theory. The minor losses the vegan population causes to animal processors are more than made up for by government subsidies and bailouts, plus exports to developing countries.

Ordering a pizza without cheese or buying cruelty-free makeup doesn’t make you a hero. Going to a potluck or a protest a few times a year is a nice opportunity to have your picture posted on Facebook so other people can congratulate you for changing the world. We should do those things. They feed us – literally and emotionally.

But there are no photo galleries for people who spend their entire weekend doing home checks to make sure that companion animals are being adopted by loving families instead of creeps. There are no awards for people who foster yet another animal because the “owners” are having a baby and don’t want him or her anymore, or people who go out night after night to trap homeless cats so they can be treated for mange, vaccinated, and fixed. They don’t get a prize for every box of starving abandoned kittens they find on the side of the road or every injured, bleeding dog they rush to a 24-hour vet. It is thankless, unglamorous work. It saves animals.

So be kind to dog and cat rescuers. Befriend one who isn’t vegan. Walk some dogs, scoop some poop, volunteer at an adoption event, help feed a feral cat colony. Buy them lunch and ask why, since they do so much for animals, they aren’t vegan yet. Give them a popular cookbook. Take them grocery shopping. Find out how you can be supportive and encouraging.

Then find out how you can do more for animals than signing a few online petitions and clicking ‘like’ to give a nonprofit a dollar.

A rescuer spotted "Reese" running across Exposition Boulvard in South L.A. near USC. She was one foot away from being killed by a van. When she got to campus, people helped catch her, but would do no more. To adopt Reese email


Los Angeles area rescues with vegan cred:


Stray Cat Alliance

Strangest Angels

Molly’s Mutts and Meows

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I agree, but when I think of rescuers I think of very small volunteer-based groups rather than large well-funded organizations. The large organizations have paid staff and raise massive amounts of money. In some cases they have police powers too. The public looks to them as authorities, and it's disappointing when they don't live up to our expectations. A tougher approach seems appropriate for groups like that, whereas volunteers rescue animals on their own time and usually spend a lot of their own money to fill in the gaps (because the big organizations aren't doing their job effectively). I want to stay on the best possible terms with these people because I'm going to need to ask them for help if I ever find an animal on the street. They're already helping me by helping animals I've personally gotten to know, in shelters I've visited but am not in a position to visit regularly anymore. If volunteers didn't visit those shelters and check on the animals, if they didn't advertise animals for adoption and guide visitors to the shelter to see them, things would deteriorate and many of those animals would die or live in substandard conditions for years. Also, it's always possible that my animals could outlive me--I hope that doesn't happen, but if it did I'd much rather see them in the hands of a volunteer-based rescue than a large organization or government agency.  

I stand by my statement, and support Kezia's, that one person becoming vegan does not save any lives.

I can't speak for Kezia, obviously, but when I went vegan, the local supermarket did not order one less dead chicken each week to accommodate my choice, nor did they order less cheese, less milk or less of any other animal products. 

Before I became vegan eating other animals from the ocean was something I did regularly. More than most, I'm ashamed to say. When I went vegan, the shop I bought those fishes and other animals from didn't even notice my absence, let alone adjust the number from their daily catch. 

When I went vegan, the local zoo did not release 5 captive slaves to signify my personal choice. No other animals in zoos, aquariums or elsewhere noticed that I had gone vegan. They too did not benefit from my personal choice. 

When I went vegan, I didn't really change my wardrobe, as I'd never worn fur, leather or the skin of other animals, so, again, none of those other animals benefitted from my decision to go vegan either. 

When I went vegan, I stopped eating at restaurants like Sizzler and such, but they are still in business, and I don't imagine they noticed my rare visits had stopped occurring. 

When I went vegan, I stopped exploited and commodifying other animals, and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. But, when I went vegan, and to this day, not one other individual other animal has benefited from my personal choice to go vegan. 

By being vegan, and helping to encourage others to become ethical vegans, I hope that my advocacy, by increasing the amount of vegans in the world, will make a difference to the number of other animals exploited, oppressed and consumed, and I expect it will. But, my individual choice to live vegan, as far as I can tell, hasn't benefited any of them thus far. 

"Go vegan, rescue animals" is definitely the way to go--but please see my message to Mo explaining why I prefer a non-confrontational approach when dealing with rescuers. It's like dealing with my dog--if I praise her for licking a tiny bit of peanut butter off my hand, she might take the next step and eat the chunk of peanut butter I'm holding in the other hand with her medicine hidden inside. If I get mad at her for refusing her medicine, she'll start to associate medicine time with me getting mad.


It's very hard to find reliable statistics showing how many animals enter shelters, how many are adopted, etc., but surely no one thinks things are worse today than they were in the 70s and early 80s when mass gassing after a three-day holding period was considered an inevitable fact of life instead of a crime that needed to be brought to an end? This article shows that at least some progress has been made in some locations, although much more needs to be done.


And of course I didn't mean to imply it was a worldwide trend--that would be an enormous research project. But I've personally seen the change in attitudes in North America (and to some extent here too)--it's an issue that the media take seriously now instead of treating it as a joke. Ten or 15 years ago many people running animal shelters saw no need for low-cost spay-neuter programs, but those same organizations have been forced to change their tune. Pit bulls seized in dogfighting raids were automatically killed, but the Vick case proved those dogs can be rehabilitated. Over the past four years I've seen an unprecedented number of ordinary, mainstream people wanting to get involved and save homeless animals. Maybe you're seeing similar results with vegan activism but I've personally found it more rewarding to focus on homeless animals.

If people think that by being vegan they are "saving" lots of other animals, then they might feel as though they are doing their part and then they might do nothing else. 

However, by being vegan one person has negligible impact on the supply chain that produces other animals for human use (for whatever use). Carolyn has made that case better than I can, and I can’t imagine anyone finding fault with what she’s said.

When a person understands what Carolyn understands, they might be less likely to think of themselves as some kind of hero “saving animals”, and more likely to think of themselves as only one person who refuses to participate in a colossal system that goes on wreaking havoc all around them. 

Seeing the size of the problem created by such a system, and realizing their own nearly impotent singular effect on it, a vegan may then understand the need to create a social justice movement based on an ethics informed by anti-speciesism.

Therefore, telling the truth about the almost non-existent effects that one vegan acting alone has in the world is not an argument that damages the cause combatting speciesism. On the contrary, it is only by getting people to understand the size and the scope of the problem that we can ever have any hope of finding effective anti-speciesist solutions.

Each year:

(1) 60 billion individuals being killed for food, and who knows how many hard to count individuals killed at sea? (300 billion?); for a total of what, 400 billion?

(2) How many million individuals are enslaved and killed as victims of "entertainment" (fighting, "sport" hunting, "sport" fishing, rodeos, circuses, zoos, aquaprisons, movies, television, etc.)? 20 million?

(3) How many millions, if not billions, of individuals die in laboratories because non-vegans don't carefully avoid products, medicines, etc. tested on animals? 1 billion is probably an underestimate.

(4) How many millions of individuals die for clothing? 300 million is probably too low.

(5) How many millions of individuals die because their habitat is destroyed for grazing, animal-derived food production, clothing, etc.? Millions if not billions

(6) How many billions of other individuals are murdered to feed many of these animals above? 1 billion?

This list of victims, which is probably an underestimate, estimates what, 500 billion? A number so high and disgusting and sad, it is not really fathomable. If the world were vegan the number would drop to 0. Considering 7 billion people in the world, that equals 70 animal per person per year. Yes, subsidies and waste make it so the the affect is not instantaneous or even noticeable. But if we only count as morally relevant or logically quantifiable those "good"s which are instantaneous, noticeable, and tangible - we won't do much good. [Do you reduce, reuse, recycle even though you don't see the forests being cut down, the mines being drilled, the oil being drilled, the earth being ravaged? I hope (and bet) you do!] It is undeniable that to go from 500 billion to 0 means a number can logically be assigned to each person adopting a vegan lifestyle - even if it is not 70/365ths the next day (which it is not), or even 70 in the first year - it is a reasonable estimate on the road from 500 billion to 0.

Carolyn, what about when 100 people in your town have gone vegan? then might the killers kill less? what about 500? what about 1000? Certainly supply and demand does play out, despite the lag time or lessening effects of subsidies and waste. Certainly in the U.S. and most "Western" economies, shareholders can sue (and win against) the corporation if it does not adjust supply based on demand. To think that subsidies and the magnitude of it all cancel out basic tenets of economics and law is, I think, unsound reasoning. 

To be sure, there is a certain number of animals, that can logically be attributed to each person going vegan. Just because you can't see or hear the individuals you are saving due to the sheer magnitude of the horror, does not mean they are not being saved. They are. Go Vegan. Rescue Animals.

[A whole other essay, which I won't write here, is to question if this "rescuers are great for animals even though they are not vegan" discussion is yet another example of people, and here, again, vegans no less, celebrating non-vegans as some sort of champions for the animals despite the fact that they can't stop themselves from eating them, drinking from them, having them tested on for them, gawking at them for entertainment, or wearing them? Is this how low anti-speciesists are now looking for champions to celebrate?]


In responding to Carolyn, you said "But if we only count as morally relevant or logically quantifiable those "good"s which are instantaneous, noticeable, and tangible - we won't do much good."

However, Carolyn said this: "When I went vegan, I stopped exploited and commodifying other animals, and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made." Obviously, she's counting being vegan as morally relevant, even though she can't quantify any actual lives being saved as the result of her personal decision to be vegan.

Then you ask "Carolyn, what about when 100 people in your town have gone vegan? then might the killers kill less?" I wonder, in your haste to defend your own position, did you even read what you were replying to?

Carolyn said this: "By being vegan, and helping to encourage others to become ethical vegans, I hope that my advocacy, by increasing the amount of vegans in the world, will make a difference to the number of other animals exploited, oppressed and consumed, and I expect it will."

I know it is uncomfortable for vegans to face the truth, but that doesn't change what the truth is.

In a global market that consumes hundreds of billions of other animals every year, it is a practical impossibility that the actions of any one vegan has any effect on that market. As a theoretical matter, every vegan has an effect. But that is the point. Without an understanding of why the theory isn't practical we're not likely to affect change. But by informing practice with a theory we do understand, we can make a difference. That is what Carolyn is talking about. You should read what she's written. 

Well said, Tim. You and Mark have both made very good points in this discussion.


I think we should all be polite to each other when having these discussions. I was polite with my friend Carolyn, and even though I know she is more than capable of responding to the discussion herself, I will address the mistaken assumptions you have made here about the nuances of our discussion.  

First, when I asked the question, "But if we only count . . . ", I purposefully used "we" as an indication of society as a whole (or those fighting speciesism, if you like). It was a thought on society (or our movement) as a whole, not a personal question to Carolyn, or I would have used "you" instead of "we". I know and understand that Carolyn considers it morally relevant to be vegan. I didn't need this thread, or you, to inform me of that, either. :-) 

Second, in this same sentence I used the word "or". This means I reach the same conclusion, "we won't do much good", if a person does not count "as morally relevant" *or* they do not count as "logically quantifiable" - " "good"s which are not instantaneous, noticeable, and tangible". Therefore, even if I had not used the "we" as explained above, and was talking about Carolyn personally, I could have been speaking to her about her issue with it being logically quantifiable.

Third, when I was speaking to Carolyn's more specifically (I used her name to indicate this), it was indeed after a sound reading of her comment, not in haste to defend my position. I was taking her points about no noticeable animals saved from various horrors in her local area, and expanding on her thoughts about making a difference, even though she has not noticed it. So rather than being based on a lack of reading or haste, my comment was based on her comments.

I am not uncomfortable with facing the truth, just the reasoning that vegans aren't saving lives.

This notion that if I don't agree with your reasoning or conclusions: I haven't read enough, read clearly, or haven't realized the ultimate truth and impenetrable process behind  your reasoning - where have I heard that before? . . .  Maybe we shouldn't bring that into ARZ, it exists enough other places.

I understand the numbers you've quoted, Mark, and I used to argue exactly what you're arguing. But, my individual choice, as far as I can know, isn't contributing to any changes in the supply of other animals and their products, anywhere. 

I also understand your argument, and I think that, theoretically, your argument is perfect. But, I also think that practically, I still don't see how the changes I have made, as an individual, contribute to anything significant in the lives of other animals. 

You asked how many people it would take in my town to make a significant difference. I don't know, but if by "my town" we're talking about Brisbane, I think it would be way more than 1000 people becoming vegan that would make any significant difference to the number of other animals being exploited in any way at all. 

I think that when we do make a significant difference, the numbers you have quoted will be accurate. I am not arguing your numbers at all. I just don't think that, until we have significantly more vegans, we can use those numbers because we're just not saving those other individuals at the moment. 

I think the most significant thing we can do is work toward creating more ethical vegans and making those numbers a reality.

I would love to be able to say I am wrong on this and that I am saving other animals every day, I just don't see that I am. 

To anyone who wants to carefully consider the shortcomings of veganism as a personal matter of ethics, as a (non)consumptive practice about what humans don't use, I can't recommend this interview highly enough:

It's long, and challenging (because it does cover some philosophical ground) and I'm sure that it will require more than one reading (I know I'll have to read it more than once), but it's more than worth the time and effort.

Along with Carolyn, Kezia, Susan and others of course. As often happens on ARZone, I agree in part with many different posters.

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