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Outdated slogans and threats of violence- could vegan activism get any worse?

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A new non-vegan restaurant is opening in London, fronted by the popular chef Neil Rankin. Although non-vegan restaurants open every day throughout the world, this particular one has caused a great deal of anger among the ‘animal people’ community. What makes this restaurant seem unique is that Rankin will be roasting full animals in front of the customers. There are plans for a demonstration outside the restaurant on its opening day and Rankin claims he has received threats of violence. In this article, I want to show how the response to Rankin’s restaurant is ideologically confused and counter-productive. I will also suggest a more powerful method of advocacy that can truly change the world.

  1. Ideological confusion

If we were to protest the opening of a new non-vegan restaurant we would have to find reasonable grounds to do so, given that we don’t protest outside every non-vegan restaurant. What would these grounds be? Ultimately, we would have to find a moral distinction between a ‘normal’ non-vegan restaurant and a ‘unique’ one, like Rankin’s. I assume the animal people who are opposing the restaurant find the moral distinction in the public display of the animal’s corpse, rather than it being chopped up in the kitchen. If this is the case, I fail to see where a moral distinction can be made. The issue with non-veganism is its use of non-human animals, reducing a sentient being’s status to that of mere property. Whatever happens to the non-human animal’s body after death has no moral consequence. In every non-vegan restaurant throughout the world, animals are used for the consumer’s pleasure. If the activists who are protesting against Rankin’s restaurant were ideologically consistent they should protest when every omnivorous, vegetarian and ‘humane’ exploitation restaurant opens. By choosing Rankin’s restaurant, activists are giving the impression that it is what we do with animals and how we use them, rather than that we use them. This is ideological confusion and is a sufficient reason to abandon such a protest.

  1. Counter-productive

The protest regarding the opening of Rankin’s new restaurant has descended into the most inefficient, shameful and counter-productive activism that is possible. Firstly, there has been no guarantee that the protest will be peaceful. On the contrary, Rankin claims that he has received death threats and is now referring to these vegans as ‘extremists’. Given my first point, the heightened anger in this protest confuses me. Yes- this restaurant is morally devoid, as morally bankrupt as every other non-vegan restaurant in this country. To then become violent, due to an arbitrary distinction in the way that the animal is cooked, blows my mind. If the activists think that threatening Rankin, or at least appearing threatening outside of his restaurant, will convince customers to become vegan, then they are (at best) confused. This is completely counter-productive.

Secondly, it appears that the protest will not be one of dialogue and discussion, but of slogans and shouting. I can understand that slogans are useful to reinforce a message. They serve to sum up an ideology into a small catchy sentence in order to remain relevant. But what ideology does the slogan ‘Meat is Murder’ represent? Does it tell you that the use of all animals is morally wrong and that we should abolish it? Does it tell you that veganism is an open and welcoming ideology that encompasses all individual world views? Or does it draw an arbitrary distinction between the flesh of an animal and every other product they are used for? The campaign against Rankin’s restaurant will be ineffective and uncreative. Activists will use outdated slogans that mean little to a non-vegan and at the same time shout abuse at Rankin. Why would any non-vegan be receptive to the vegan message if all they see are people angrily shouting slogans?

Advocacy that can change the world

The campaign against Rankin’s restaurant is useful as an example of everything that we should not be doing while engaging in activism. The most efficient form of activism is polite discussion and debate. A few days before writing this article I contacted Neil Rankin and asked if he would like to engage in a discussion about animal rights. I introduced him to the abolitionist approach and he seemed rather receptive. He truly believes in ‘humane’ treatment of animals and I explained to him why it is morally insignificant. We debated many issues and I feel that I was able to influence his thought process to a certain degree. I am not under the illusion that our discussion changed him greatly, but by politely engaging him in debate I was able to raise issues that would previously have been overshadowed by anger and threats. Many in the animal rights community need to move away from the belief that talking with someone such as Rankin is to become a ‘traitor’. Instead we have to engage non-vegans in polite discussion and ensure that they understand that veganism is a moral imperative. As long as animal activists draw arbitrary moral distinctions, threaten violence and utilise outdated and speciesist slogans, non-vegans will remain unreceptive. If we embrace debate and discussion with an abolitionist message, we can change the world.

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  • The writer’s points are valid and useful. There is one typo that needs addressing, however:

    “As long as animal activists draw arbitrary moral distinctions, ***threat*** violence and utilise outdated and speciesist slogans…” – “threat” should be “threaten”.

  • al smith

    I cannot wait to eat there and take my friends

    • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

      I am going to London next weekend, am trying to get a booking!

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    It is so refreshing to read an “activist” taking a peaceful, legal approach to activism and to hear someone questioning the ideological consistency of the extremist activists. Extremism hurts the vegan and animal rights cause, and even thought that ultimately helps my cause (pro fur, pro meat, pro animal use), I would rather engage with people who were open to discussion, rather than get death threats.

  • Dylan Wentworth

    So we’re just going to take the word of the owner of the “morally devoid”, “morally bankrupt” restaurant that he has received death threats?

    Has any restaurant owner ever been able to produce any evidence of having received a single death threat?

  • Advocacy that can change the world

    The last part is where Josef nails it.

  • Linz Smith

    Some good, balanced writing. I think it’s important to highlight that the restaurant in question won’t be roasting whole animals in front of diners – rather they’ll be using all of the animal that they butcher so there’s no needless waste. It was that misinformation from the press that stirred up the protests in the first place.

  • vegan truth seeker

    although I agree that in this case violence isn’t the most appropriate form of activism – they should go to every non-vegan restaurant and show images of animals being slaughtered and tell people the truth about the animal industry – sometimes is the only way to go!

    so, the what I now call ‘abolition purists’ are 100% convinced they are the only ones who are right, that their way is the only way and that they are morally better than all the other animal rights activists… absurd!

    “The most efficient form of activism is polite discussion and debate.”
    therefore, you believe the owner of that restaurant has the right to indirectly slaughter countless animals and profit from their exploitation and death, yet you believe it’s wrong that activists become a little more violent towards him and his restaurant, which means you value the life of that person more than the lives of the animals killed… humm, that sounds speciesism to me, which is not very different from what non-vegans believe.

    oh, and do you by any chance know which African countries are the ones being more successful in fighting poaching?
    those that have special armed units, whether with military or other trained personnel, who actually shoot poachers on sight!
    there are many poachers who have joined together to create heavily armed groups, many with mercenaries, and who will kill anyone who tries to stop them – go and try to have a polite discussion and debate with them and see what happens!!!

    what an utopian and ridiculous idea that the only way to make people go vegan is to have a peaceful and polite discussion with them.
    humans are emotional beings, not rational beings!

    do you ‘abolition purists’ truly believe you are on a morally higher ground than all other animal rights activists?
    how many whales have you saved? zero! Sea Shepherd? thousands!
    how many elephants and rhinos have you saved? zero! those in the ground doing field work, studying and protecting them, and those armed units? thousands!
    how many primates have you saved? zero! Jane Goodall Institute? thousands!
    and so on…

    get off your pedestal, stop criticizing, trashing and judging other animal rights activists (no matter how imperfect they may be) and start joining forces with everyone who tries to save animals, even if it’s just one animal.

    instead of invalidating the work of other activists, celebrate the fact that they’re doing something (other than writing articles criticizing others that do something) and then, yes I agree, add that the ultimate and most effective way to help animals is to go vegan!

    in an utopian world it would be enough to show people that eating animals is wrong to make them go vegan but unfortunately it is not the case.

    divide to conquer!
    you’re doing the animal industry a favor by creating divisions among us and that’s one more victory for the animal abusers!!

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