“DON’T GIVE UP, PLEASE DON’T GIVE UP”

“No fight left or so it seems
I am a man whose dreams have all deserted
I’ve changed my face, I’ve changed my name
But no one wants you when you lose”
(Read more: Peter Gabriel – Don’t Give Up Lyrics | MetroLyrics)

Below is the email I sent Reverend Fox of National Presbyterian Church (and forwarded to Bruce Friedrich, Director of Advocacy and Policy for Farm Sanctuary). This comprises the “what happened in between my first inquiries to Reverend Fox and his last email to me” section of our program (his last email detailing the August 9th adult Sunday school class–I’ve images of grown-ups sitting in child-size chairs, knees to their chins–with Ms. Gutleben and Mr. Cromartie as speakers).

I’m disappointed that neither gentleman responded to my email. I understand not forwarding Ms. Gutleben’s address to me. I can find that on my own. The debate in my head on whether to forward this email to her continues. Seeing as how both “men of faith”–I’m just saying–chose silence over a simple “Yea” or “Nay” reply, I doubt I’d hear back from her.

I don’t remember how I came across the LaVeck essays. After my meeting with Bruce and our deduction from reading Reverend Fox’s “class scheduled” email that the “V” word, vegan, wouldn’t be mentioned, it seems like kismet that I should find and read Mr. LaVeck’s thoughts on animal rights/vegan organizations giving up in a sense, their efforts shifting to animal welfare (fazing out gestation crates for pigs; larger or no cages for hens; more “humane” treatment of food animals when no oversight exists to protect them, “humanely” raised or not, and there being no humane way to slaughter animals for human pleasure, period).

I try to not personalize the lack of response as it’s a waste of energy that belongs to saving animals in the name of a God for whom I have no faith; however, I’m afraid my lack of faith in some AR/vegan organizations is showing, not to mention those of faith.

Have you heard of Gary Francione, the “founder” of the abolitionist vegan movement? I’m not a fan. I admire his tireless fight as an advocate/lawyer to save animals. It’s just that he’s an ass. He’s an admirable ass. Many vegan friends can attest to being “blocked” by him on Facebook if they disagree about his beliefs. I keep my distance from abolitionist organizations after enduring several ridiculous conversations with members–and not concerning the abolitionist mission but reaching out to those without the information, access, or resources to consider a vegan lifestyle, much less diet. You know–America’s poor population. Each “exchange” is saved in a Word document just in case…of what, I don’t know.

And that’s the frustrating aspect to this calling of mine. The vegan movement, as with any movement (except the Tea Baggers, who should disperse IMMEDIATELY), should maintain a strong, united front. The bickering between ethical and health vegans, abolitionists and what some see as merely animal welfare advocates–shit, I’m not turning into one of those, am I? I maintain that I support short- and long-term victories leading to animal liberation. I don’t go gaga over Walmart agreeing to bigger crates or cages by 2018, but it is a step. I can’t believe in black or white, but black and white. Grey. Like my hair.

Enough. Here’s the letter and the link to Mr. LaVeck’s articles (and four-part video talk) that you should read. That I hope Reverend Fox and Bruce will or have read. And maybe Ms. Gutleben.

Reverend Fox:

I’m sorry I didn’t get to meet you Monday when I dropped off the literature. You were on the phone and I wasn’t presentable having walked in that heat. I’d be obliged if you would forward this email to Ms. Gutleben from HSUS and Michael Cromartie; also, is it possible to forward me Ms. Gutleben’s email address? I’d like to reach out to her before the August class.

Thank you and peace.

43YOV

P.S. Below is part of one of the essays by James LaVeck (in above link), a documentary producer and co-founder of Tribe of Heart (a non-profit company that’s produced films including The Witness and Peaceable Kingdom). What he says here echoes the concerns I have with HSUS’s faith outreach campaign and frankly, incredulousness that most people, especially those of faith, won’t “get” what vegans like myself “got” one day. This “We Vs.Them” mentality is exclusionary, when animal advocates like myself wish to show others that we are all connected. This well-meaning but pessimistic view keeps alive the very disconnectedness between humans and humans and non-human animals we face. Please take a few minutes to read it.
 

We Get What We Give

“It should not surprise us that those who have become accustomed to exerting utter control over the lives of billions of animals might develop a lack of respect for the intelligence of the public. Indeed, such cynicism has steadily spread throughout our society. Even experienced animal advocates fall prey to this disturbing mindset.

For example, in 2009, Norm Phelps, a noted author, and former staff member of the Fund for Animals and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), gave a conference presentation titled “In Praise of ‘The New Welfarism.‘” In it, he discussed his assessment of the many social and psychological barriers that impede “most people” from understanding and responding appropriately to the injustice of animal exploitation. Significantly, Mr. Phelps made these statements:

‘Most people are not like us. Most people are not activists for any cause, human or animal, and never will be. For most of us in the animal activist community, a switch flipped in our heads one day, and we could never see the world in the same way again. Our lives changed forever. But for most of the public, it does not work that way. They need to be brought along slowly, inch by inch.

…The public will have to be led gradually, indirectly, one logically inconsistent step at a time to this recognition of the evil that permeates our lives, our families, and our societies, so that it overtakes them before they can throw up their defenses.’

Does it really make sense to assume that the same truths that awakened our own understanding and quest for justice are somehow beyond the grasp of most other people? Does it really make sense to presume that there is a different, deliberately distorted message that should be given by “us” to “them,” so they can “be brought along slowly, inch by inch” — particularly in a movement predicated on principles of justice and respect? After all, if the core message of our cause is the rightness of including other-than-human animals in our moral community, excluding so many of our fellow humans from full participation could end up being tragically short-sighted.

I would ask, what defines the “us” who are capable of “getting it” and the “them” who just can’t? Age? Ethnicity? Religion? Nationality? Education? Economic status? In my experience, the “us” and “them” construct is the biggest impediment of all to empowering others to fully embrace their own potential for ethical thought and action.

For the last 13 years, I have been part of a documentary filmmaking team that has explored in depth the ethics of the human-animal relationship and the journey of awakening conscience. Our experiences with audiences have consistently shown us that people from all backgrounds and all walks of life are capable of grasping that the exploitation of animals is an issue of justice as much as it is one of compassion.”

Lack of communication is unhealthy.

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