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2016: A Year of Victories for the Animals

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Dear child,

As I hand over the mantle of my activism to you, I wish you every success in continuing my generation’s task of creating a vegan world.

We couldn’t manage it, and I guess it’s because the time was not ripe. For over 200 years, our forebears campaigned for an end to vivisection, laying the foundations for our activism. They asked for restrictions, changes, regulations, reforms, legislation, but still vivisection did not end. But with the tireless work of campaigns against the one form of use that the majority of people do not deem to be transparently frivolous, our first victory was born: lay people who did not perform vivisection in their living rooms continued not to perform vivisection in their living rooms.

We took up their campaigns, broke into laboratories, liberated animals, and all to show that the regulationist victories for which our forebears fought so hard—and for which they are our campaign role models—are both inadequate and often unenforced. Still, we continue their campaigns for regulations: they may be inadequate and unenforced, but every little helps.

Our dedicated progenitors, heroes to the cause, regularly finished their meals of boiled beef and stewed rabbit before protesting horses being beaten, working too hard for too long, and being deliberately starved. Now, two centuries later, we continue their protests against overworked, starved, and beaten horses, because hard work should never go unfinished.

We learned so much from them about how to make change, because make change they did. They worked to pass anticruelty statutes, and, although those anticruelty statutes do not work and cannot work, we continue to campaign for them.

Our Abolitionist critics say that we should be focussing on ending all animal use through promoting veganism, since that is the only morally coherent position, and since as long as people continue to eat animals, nothing else will change. But all we need is more time. Another 200 years and we might have raised sufficient awareness about the fact that animals are being harmed, switched enough people on to “humane” animal products, and persuaded enough people to stop eating meat on Mondays to start working on No Factory-Farmed Small Fish Fridays.

The work of our forebears is our model for activism. If we chip away at the various forms of animal exploitation, bit-by-bit and piece-by-piece, animal exploitation will end. If it has only taken us 200 years to make these admittedly miniscule changes for animals (so miniscule they’re barely perceptible), then imagine what we could achieve by 220166! In just over 218 thousand years, we could have laid the foundation on which a vegan world could be built!

My child, 2016 has been a year of victories. And so that our work does not go unnoticed, I want to list some of the highlights of this year for you. Remember, when you continue our work, all that we have achieved for the animals.

* Wearing masks, we stood on street corners and sat on tube trains, showing people films on our laptops of animals being tortured. We may have distressed children and traumatised those who themselves had been victims of violence, but the end always justifies the means.

* We disrupted political rallies and shouted at people in restaurants. We didn’t use the word “vegan” lest it put people off. We chanted slogans but gave our audience no practical advice on action to take. However, we started many water-cooler conversations…mostly about us as a brand.

* We ensured that several women stripped off for the cause, because nothing says “end the commodification of animals” like the commodification of women.

* We abolished so many different forms of animal use:

  • World Class Capital Group, a real estate company, stopped using glue traps as a result of our tireless campaigning. If they switch to snap traps or electrical traps it will be so much better for the rodents who will be killed.
  • We persuaded Shindigz, a party-supply store, to stop selling a piece of merchandise with a picture of a circus elephant on it; no more will exploited circus elephants have to see their own sad faces on party products from that particular store.
  • One mobile zoo had its license to exhibit warm-blooded animals revoked. Of course, there are many other mobile zoos exhibiting warm-blooded animals, and of course this particular zoo can still exhibit other animals (and who knows what will happen to those warm-blooded animals that they already own?), but every little helps. Us. To proclaim victory. Whether it is one or not.
  • We persuaded a number of suppliers to switch to cage-free eggs, making sure that now the hens from whom people get eggs don’t have to view the world through bars. Crowded into one big barn with thousands of others of their species, it’s what we’d want if we were laying hens.
  • SeaWorld has agreed to switch to cage-free eggs and gestation crate-free pork so that the animals exploited for food (who are served to people who come to watch the animals exploited for entertainment) be treated to a little more space during their miserable lives and before their horrific deaths.
  • We have appealed for Florida black bears to be listed as an endangered species so that people can’t hunt them until there are more of them. Only when the breeding programmes are ramped up can folks can start killing them again.
  • We’ve restricted the importing of lion trophies to the U.S: their body parts put people off eating their dead cow parts.
  • Two states of the USA banned the use of weapons in training of elephants in travelling shows. So exploited elephants will be exploited without weapons. In the USA. In two states.
  • SeaWorld has agreed to phase out its captive orca programme. Of course, the park will still use parrots, sea turtles, pelicans, walruses, otters, penguins, seals, sea lions, sharks, manatees, flamingos, dolphins, and beluga whales, as well as the animals served for food on site, and, of course, the orcas who are currently performing there will continue to perform until they die. But ….well….journey, baby steps, world won’t go vegan overnight, animals suffering now <cough>

* The highlight of our campaigning year, though, has been a hard-fought and not-yet-won battle of gargantuan proportions. In 2016, animal advocates stood together to face down the British Government and tell them that we were not going to accept their use of tallow in bank notes. There was no way that we were going concede to people purchasing the products of slaughter with the use of slaughterhouse by-products in that particular form. Credit/debit cards made of plastic and therefore also containing slaughterhouse by-products are just fine. But not in our fivers. Vegetarian cafés joined us in the protest, refusing to accept £5 notes in payment for the milk of exploited cows or the eggs of exploited hens. It was a vitally important, landmark campaign, and we’re delighted to have been a part of it. For us it really defines the purpose of what we have spent centuries doing: drawing arbitrary distinctions between different forms of use, banding together with nonvegans who campaign against some animal use while engaging in others, and spending a great deal of energy and resources on morally incoherent campaigns.

Dear child, this was our year. You can see that the changes or the noise that we made is infinitely more valuable than advocating veganism to people who care about animals. For a start, vegan advocacy is so hard: you can’t just type your name and email address on an online form, or give a fiver (no, wait; our fivers have tallow in…a tenner) to an animal org to get them to campaign on your behalf; you actually have to talk to people. But, also, vegan advocacy that’s free of theatrics doesn’t get your group into the newspapers, so what’s the point?

Sure, bringing someone to veganism would address all forms of animal use at once, and that person would be a potential vegan advocate as well. But can you imagine how our end-of-year reviews would look? This would not make for a good story:

“This year, I resolved to advocate veganism to at least one person every day. I estimate that a third of the people to whom I advocated expressed an interest in veganism, and that a fifth of them went vegan and stayed vegan.”

How boring is that? What kind of change does that bring about?

Ignore the keyboard warriors, my child, who tell you that standing on a street corner and shouting “fur hag” is not effective advocacy. Ask them what they’re doing to bring about change. If they tell you that they’re advocating regularly, creatively, and nonviolently for veganism, just yawn. You know what real change looks like: it looks like a regulation that is unenforceable, the prioritising of one species over others, moral confusion, and histrionic campaigning.

Keep up the good work.

Victor E. Fordan-Mals

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