More from 269: The Animal Rights Movement

By on October 22, 2012

In part one of this series, I spoke with a representative of the group 269 about their action on World Farm Animals Day, where they were branded with a hot iron with the number of an anonymous calf in an Israeli factory farm.

I was curious about how the group regarded the animal rights movement in Israel and the rest of the world, what tactics and strategies they felt were successful and which are not. What followed was a commentary that was more in-depth than could be digested in a single interview.

I am presenting this provocative and thoughtful response in its entirety, however, many readers will find it unpalatable and even antagonistic towards animal activists. Although it should go without saying, please note that the opinions shared are 269’s and not necessarily this blog’s or my own.

I’m very pessimistic about the chances of the animal rights movement to succeed. If you take into consideration just some of the parameters of the animal rights struggle’s condition and its enemy (almost all of the human race), you have to be pessimistic:

People are inherently selfish. The number of animals who are abused and killed is infinite. The Animal Holocaust occurs worldwide, in every culture, in every country. There are seven billion people in the world right now. Over the next few decades, this number will rise to around nine billion. 80 percent of the population is from undeveloped countries; in a few more decades this will rise to 87 percent. These populations are not open at all to the animal rights idea. Even the other 20 percent aren’t open to the idea, save a minimal percentage of them. 97 out of every 100 new people on the planet are currently born in developing countries. The life expectancy in undeveloped countries will rise in the future and their mortality rates will fall. Many undeveloped countries will be industrialized in the next few decades, which means The Animal Holocaust is going to double or triple itself in numbers.
If we judge reality with our open, objective eyes, we come to the conclusion that the situation is worse than ever. We cannot win, especially not with the path we are taking. I’m not familiar with every detail of the animal rights movement in the rest of the world, besides a few similar parameters every animal rights activist I’ve talked to has told me, and that is that the vegan community in their country is very small, there are too few activists in general from the vegan community, and that most of the activists are speciesists, who prefer humans over animals.

In order to win the animal rights struggle, we need people who will fight, and we need to be stronger than the criminals. As of today, we cannot force animal rights on the human population. There are too little of us, with too little money, and too much of them, with too many advanced technologies. So we need to convince them one way or the other to stop animal exploitation. But, we all know that we cannot convince seven billion people to stop enslaving animals out of their kindness, so in that front – we cannot win.

What we do have is just a bunch of people around the world, not too many, who care for animals, and need to think what can they do. Increasing awareness is no more than a nice way to expand this small circle, but it is sure not a solution to The Animal Holocaust. So we have to think outside the box, in order to beat the vicious enemy.

There are some examples of creative thinking that can lead to a better change in the animals’ condition. Some of them solve it from the root. Some of them can solve it quickly. Some of these ideas are illegal so I won’t write about them here (I’m not talking about ALF of course, it’s not a root solution and surely not a quick one. You can’t liberate 150 billion animals each year worldwide). Some of them are legal and we all should consider them.

For example: acting against human reproduction. It can be even more essential than convincing another meat eater to become vegan. It can also be very effective in underdeveloped countries.
Another way is promoting artificial meat research. I truly agree with David Pearce who said, “In vitro meat [is] perhaps our best hope of getting rid of factory farming everywhere by the middle of the century…I’d much rather everyone listened the moral argument and became vegan today. But we both know how hard it is to argue against moral apathy.”

These are just two examples in the legal pathway. My point is that anyone can find a much better way to achieve animal liberation earlier than by continuing in the failing way of approaching peoples’ kindness. If you appeal only to peoples’ kindness with ethical arguments, you won’t be able to convince many people to become vegan. Every animal rights group around the world includes arguments and campaigns about health, ecology, etc. in addition to the ethical arguments. So actually, by their actions, every animal rights group around the world agrees with me, whether they have the courage to admit it or not. I wouldn’t have a problem with making the world vegan by health reasons if it would succeed, but people don’t care about health, not in numbers that would make 95 percent of the world vegan, and not even 30 percent, but only a few percentage points at all, and only after a certain age (adults care more about health than teenagers).

So by reducing the power of our message from the ethical argument only, to ethical and health and ecology and any other selfish reason, there are two things that happen. One, more people become vegan for reasons other than ethics (selfish reasons). Two, the animal rights movement grows, but the concentration of non-speciesist, committed vegans falls. And that is a procedure that feeds itself, because more speciesist vegans, means more health/ecology campaigns from the animal rights movement, more speciesist people attracted to it, and so on.

The problem with that is what happens here in Israel (and I’m sure all around the world also): many of them stop being vegan after a few years. The ones who stay vegan, are very speciesist and selfish, so they don’t act much and/or won’t care to go far for animal rights even with effective ideas and/or won’t spend time thinking of revolutionary ideas etc. So what we have is an animal rights movement that has reduced its radical message to get the support of more people, but has become so soft and sterile that they are not a meaningful tool in the animal liberation fight. This is what happens when you think short term and not long term; when you are eager to get a few more vegans at any cost.

We are now just in the middle of this evolution of the movement, but as I see it, in the next few decades, the movement in Israel and in some other places (I don’t want to say everywhere as I’m not familiar with what’s going on all around the world will just be a lifestyle movement, very soft, just dealing with themselves and recipes, and here and there tries to convert meat eaters to become vegan, but surely not a revolutionary movement that will be able to make animal liberation happen. Also, if a revolutionary idea for animal liberation comes up, but it contradicts humans’ health for example, this idea won’t be executed by the animal rights movement because it contains too many selfish activists who feel that health of humans is more important for them than animal liberation (examples of this have already happened in Israel and all around the world). So one part of the speciesist activists in our movement are just ordinary people, who became vegan, but from selfish reasons not ethical ones – and they won’t be the key for ending The Animal Holocaust.

A speciesist movement in my opinion will not be able to stop the animal holocaust. If a great idea to liberate animals comes at the expense of humans, those activists won’t execute it. Speciesist people won’t try their best to liberate animals, not by time or money investment, and especially not by hardcore actions that can be effective. That is why it is an important mission for every one of us to try as much as possible to radicalize the animal rights movement, even if the cost is that some activists will be kicked out. Otherwise, we’ll get a kind of a movement that is itself the final verdict to animal liberation. For my opinion it is too late, but I hope I’m wrong.

We cannot liberate animals by appealing to people’s kindness. We cannot liberate animals by appealing to people’s interest in health/ecology. Although we’ll get some more vegans, but surely not significantly more, and the price for that will be ruining the animal rights movement ideology. That is very dangerous, because the only chance for eliminating the animal holocaust is by having a strong ideology-movement that will produce committed activists that will try to end the holocaust in some other ways than propaganda (that will not end the animal holocaust for sure).
The other part of the speciesist activists in our movement are the activists who also take part in human rights actions. This is a problematic and very crucial issue that I don’t want to get into too much because it is another whole interview, but I have to mention it. It’s unacceptable for anyone who consider themselves a non-speciesist vegan person to promote human rights. Can anyone imagine a partisan who fights at noon to liberate Jews from concentration camps held by Nazis, and at night to make conditions for the Nazis better? It’s a contradiction. We, as people who are committed to justice, cannot ignore that contradiction. We need to understand that theoretically, animals deserve rights just as humans deserve rights. Theoretically we are all equal in the moral status, but in reality, human rights come at the expense of animal rights. It’s a fact. As the socio-economic situation of people improves, more animals are abused and murdered. As more countries become free and developed, the more we’ll see industrialized animal agriculture. We mustn’t ignore this paradox. We need to comprehend that humans are the animals’ criminals. Theoretically, all humans deserve rights, but in reality, rapists’ rights come on the expense of women’s rights. We need to choose sides, the animals or the humans – we can’t choose both. Do we want to be on the victims’ side or on the criminals’ side?
This is one reason why we should invest all our time in promoting animal rights, and not be active for people.

The second reason why we should dedicate all of our time to the animal rights struggle is just by taking into consideration some facts. The amount of animals being exploited and murdered each year by humans is about 100,000-1,000,000 times (!) more than the numbers of humans who endure it. The suffering animals go through has no similarity to the human suffering (vivisection, animal agriculture, premarin from horses, gallbladder/bile from bears, hunting, clothing, etc.). The animal rights movement has much less money than the human rights movement and fewer activists than the human rights movement. The media deals with different human issues all day, every day. Humans can fight for themselves, animals can’t.

So after looking at just some of these parameters, combined with the fact that most people are responsible for the animal holocaust, I think it is obvious why every animal rights activist who fights also for human rights is a speciesist, and is making The Animal Holocaust worse.

I think that a simple example will demonstrate it best. Let’s imagine we are walking on a street and we notice 100 people injured. One of them is on the sidewalk, and he is white, and his injury is a cut in his leg because he slipped while he ran. The cut isn’t so deep, no danger of death, but he is bleeding. Also, there are 20 pedestrians near him helping him to cure.

Right next to him, there are 99 black men, lying on the road, injured because of a bus explosion that was caused by the white man above. They are dying, bleeding, screaming from pain, and only one person is trying to help them. What would you do? My answer is simple, if you’d go to help the single white person on the sidewalk, who has so much help, he is only one person, his injury is not severe, and he is the criminal who is responsible for the 99 people’s suffering – you are either a racist or a very, very stupid man. Let’s say, that no one is that stupid, so there is only one conclusion. Let’s replace in this allegory the blacks with animals and the white with the human population – and this is why animal rights activists who are also active for human rights are speciesists.

I know that now, some readers will give many excuses to justify why it is ok to waste time and money to help humans, and as I said before I don’t want to get to every aspect of it, but I still want to answer one popular argument about that, and it’s “but if we help people and better their conditions, they will be more open to the animal rights idea.”

Again, people are inherently selfish. They always feel like victims. They always want more than they have. We are programmed that way. Helping humans won’t make them be more compassionate for animals, so let’s save the time and help directly to animals, that way we cannot lose.

If this logic was true, all the rich people would be vegans, as they have very good socio-economic status, and we would see many countries that are not occupied and not in a war becoming vegan. But the fact is that we cannot find any vegan country in the world. Not even 50 percent, not even 10 percent. Moreover, we don’t even find such a big difference between different countries; it’s always about zero to two percent vegans, even though we’ve had propaganda campaigns for many decades worldwide. The point is, that even if we make the conditions the best possible, maybe we’ll get some more vegans, but surely not in significant numbers that justify fighting for it vicariously by helping people, and spending so much time and money on it. In my opinion, there is a five percent limit that no country will ever cross (especially not for ethical reasons), and for sure hasn’t been crossed yet.

We shouldn’t forget the big implication fighting for human rights causes. When we fight for human rights, and make countries more developed, and giving people better socio-economic conditions, we might get a few more percentage points open to the animal rights idea, but we sure also get industrialization, and more economic options for people that increase the amount of suffering of animals, and the numbers that are being produced and being murdered increase. So in total, more animals will suffer, because it is more relevant how many people are meat-eaters, not how many people are vegans (like if we want to calculate women’s conditions, we need to know how many people are raping, and not how many people aren’t).

The problem as I see it is that we have a speciesist movement that will become even worse as time goes by, and will have less and less real influence on ending the animal holocaust. I hope that this branding action we’ve done, will make activists in the animal rights movement think, and to try and look at the whole picture, and take into consideration all the parameters, and become more committed to the animal rights struggle. After many years in the animal rights movement, I’m not optimistic, but it’s not me who said that the difference between pessimistic and optimistic is that a pessimist is an experienced optimist.

So to sum it up, I want to say that we have to realize that we cannot end the animal holocaust by ethical propaganda (about 95-99 percent of the human population doesn’t care about animals), we cannot end the animal holocaust by health/ecology propaganda (most of the human race doesn’t care about it either, and it will ruin the animal rights movement), we cannot end the animal rights holocaust by forcing animal rights on the human population (as we are weaker than the enemy), and we cannot end the animal holocaust by ALF (as we cannot liberate 150 billion animals each year worldwide).

Also, we have to be aware to the reason that the animal holocaust is happening, and it’s not education (we are being educated since day one to help others, not to abuse animals, to be kind etc.), not our message, not lack of awareness, and nothing else but the simple horrible truth – we are facing about 7 billion selfish, careless people. Most of the human race doesn’t care and will never care for animals, no matter how many videos we will show them, and no matter how many times we will repeat that meat is murder. If we don’t comprehend that, we’ll not be able to end the animal holocaust. Ever.

Paul McCartney’s sentence is preposterous. The slaughterhouses ALREADY HAVE GLASS WALLS! People know that meat is a dead animal’s part. People, in the majority, know how animals get killed (throat slit), and the internet is full of videos and pictures shot at factory farms for anyone to see. So the slaughterhouses already have glass walls, and not everyone is a vegetarian – not even close.

So what can people do?
1. Become activists. Being vegan in this sick world, with this infinite holocaust, is just not enough. It is much more crucial to be an animal rights activist.

2. Be active as much as you can. We must dedicate most of our lives to the animal rights fight (and only to it), as there are too little of us, and too many enemies.

3. Understand that people don’t care about animals and that increasing awareness is not a tool for ending the animal holocaust, it is only to enlarge the small circle of committed animal rights activists. Therefore, we should only do ethics-based campaigns, without dealing with any selfish issues like health/ecology. We mustn’t reduce the power of our message just to earn another moderate, selfish vegan, as the importance of propaganda is to increase our small, non-speciesist circle. We have to radicalize our movement, even if brings less activists to it in the near future, they will be more qualitative and effective.

4. If you continue in the increasing awareness path, try and do campaigns like 269, with hardcore, radical actions, and deal only with the ethics of animal rights.

5. To realize that the sentence “Think globally, act locally” is very problematic, and indicates very closed thinking. We should “Think globally, act globally.” Make actions that have the potential to spread worldwide, with the investment of little money, time and activists have the potential to go worldwide. We lack resources, so we have to be very calculated. Every action must have the potential to be viewed by people in every country in the world. We have to be as efficient as possible to maximize our time and money, as they are limited.

6. Try to organize meetings only with non-speciesist, committed animal rights activists, and think about the big picture. Take into consideration all the parameters that we mention here, and try to think of creative (legal or illegal) solutions that can lead to end the animal holocaust, or maybe parts of it – forever.

7. Join the non-conventional paths I’ve talked about, like promoting artificial meat research, acting against human reproduction etc. I’m not sure we’ll be able to end the animal holocaust, it might be a lost cause, but for sure if we do have a chance, it’s only in the non-conventional ways.

“I am Cecil”


Every day we can make a choice to save animals who want to live just as much as Cecil did.

“…most the friends ive seen talking about cecil are meat eaters and it feels crazy that one animal being killed is outrageous because its “majestic”, “pretty” and “exotic” and yet another animals being killed in the thousands daily is totally fine” Emma Smithies

You’ll never look at animals the same way again. Especially humans… Movie presentation of Speciesism: The Movie

0092572d2cbe2c03a26b53f318ec2232You’ll never look at animals the same way again. Especially humans.

Speciesism: The Movie

Promoted by Jana Schmidt & Amoris Walker

Tuesday, August 11 7:00PM – 8:39PM

at Central Cinema
1411 21st Ave, Seattle, WA, US, 98122 (map)
$10.00 General

Speciesism: The Movie is a new species of documentary. It takes viewers on a sometimes funny, sometimes frightening adventure across North America, exposing the biggest secrets about modern factory farms, and asking the biggest questions about the belief that our species is more important than the rest. You’ll never look at animals the same way again. Especially humans.

Go Tell it to Lady Gaga

Dear Grist,

Please remove me from your mailing list. Somehow I got sucked into subscribing to your newsletter, under the wrongful assumption that you folks actually cared about the Earth and its non-human inhabitants. Maybe some of you did at one time, but you’re being shouted-down and bullied by the unabashed flesh-eaters in the crowd.

I used to enjoy your articles on overpopulation and climate change, but lately you’ve been wasting my time (and yours) with campaigns urging the consumption of animals (as though meat-eating were a lost art in America; an important tradition in need  of a champion).

You may have started your backslide slowly with your eat-all-things-dead agenda, but lately you’ve been pushing meat like it’s going out of style. The last straw was when you started spelling-out the word “Meat” with the body-parts of your dead victims like something that serial killers Ed Gein or Jeffry Dahmer might have done.

But, whoever came up with this idea obviously modeled it after Lady-Gaga’s infamous and equally bad tasting “meat-dress.”

Lady Gaga meat dress part deux

Some Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Was New to Activism



by Veda Stram
July 2015

Some things I wish someone had told me when I was new to activism. And some things I have learned the hard way and some things other activists have told me have helped their activism. And some questions I have found it useful to reconsider from time to time. Imagine a bowl of cherries. This is not about the cherries/animal activism in the bowl, but rather it’s about the bowl where all the cherries/animal activism live.

Please consider the below …and reconsider from time to time……


It is a truly, amazing wonderful commitment to be an animal rights activist. It is truly something to be proud of. It can give you a life worth living.

Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of committed individuals can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” As committed animal rights activists we keep hoping that it’s not just a “small group,” but ya know what….it always has been and always will be a “small group.” THANK YOU for being a  part of that small group.

Animal rights IS the most important social justice movement because humanity’s relationship with other-than-human animals is at the heart of and impacts the quality of our food, air, land, water, medicine, holidays, surgeries, religion, affection, pharmaceuticals, entertainment, family relationships, fashion, festivals, companion animals, despair, ethics, morality, personal commitments, the importance of the impacts of our personal choices…and more.

People want to make a difference and are horrified when they realize that means they’ll have to BE different. Be prepared to be different, to become stronger, smarter and more effective…ongoingly. Animal rights and animal liberation demand that you be different than most people you will meet. How can you handle almost always being the “different” one in the crowd? Are you strong enough to be that? If not, figure out what it takes to build those strengths. The animals need committed activists, not fair-weather friends.

Be aware of the fact that the depth and breadth of animal abuse is beyond your personal comprehension. After over 26 years of activism, three or four times a week I learn of  three or four NEW horrors toward animals. You need to deal with the reality that you have NOT seen the worst. Brace yourself.

However much of your time and energy you devote directly to working for animal rights, this IS a life-time commitment. Long-term work may or may not result in long-term payoffs. You’re most likely in it for the long haul not as in a few weeks, but as in years and years and decades and decades. Be aware of and appreciate ANY good news for animals.


Burnout, compassion fatigue, often result when activists have not managed themselves and managed their heartache, their despair, their personal circumstances. Make it a vital part of your activism to find out for yourself what YOU need to do to relax…to disconnect…to refresh yourself…to decompress.

Then DO IT. Schedule it. Do NOT sell out on yourself. You cannot make differences for animals or with people if you are depressed, sick, distracted, disconnected. Be intent on studying what activists have provided about ways to avoid burnout: read books, attend seminars, participate in online sessions, read blogs, search websites. LEARN from all social justice activists.

Reclaiming and reinvigorating your sense of humor is lifesaving. Satire is wonderfully powerful!

Manage your life! Deal with your finances so you can make the greatest difference for animals; don’t be another victim in your life because you aren’t taking care of yourself. It’s great to have the resources to donate to activism you respect and to be able to participate in conferences, seminars, workshops, etc. Providing sanctuary for yourself enables you to provide sanctuary for others….for human animals and other-than-human animals. The more solid your personal circumstances are, the more you will be able to deal from a position of strength.

How often do you NOT say or do something that you KNOW will make a difference for animals because you’re more concerned with being scared or concerned about looking like a fool or more concerned about being “precise” or “chic” or “cool” or “efficient”? When you DO sell out (which you will), forgive yourself and move on! You WILL mistake mistakes. All social justice activists have made terrible errors, and you will follow in their footsteps. Learn from their mistakes and YOURS mistakes and become a better activist.

There are people who can work undercover and document horrific abuses. If you’re not able or willing to do that, FIND what you can do, and do it. And do it well. Use the talents, skills, abilities, training, physical attributes you have and expand and strengthen them. Never diminish what YOU can provide by comparing it to what you think you should be doing or what somebody else is doing.

Let yourself be moved and touched by how much animals mean to you. Never diminish this deep-seated, profound appreciation. Let yourself be touched and moved by the differences you make with humans for animals and thank those people for letting you contribute to them.

Manage your relationships. Do you want to have personal relationships that strengthen OR diminish your commitments to animals? Tough decisions you may need to make in the next week or five or twenty years.

Absolutely take care of yourself in terms of what videos/images you see or horror stories you read. There may be times when you CAN see these and get fired up and get into action, and there may be times when you just cannot see these without becoming angry or debilitated and cannot get into action. Learn to do what works for you, what does not debilitate you and learn what keeps you in action. Do not martyr yourself…it helps no one.

Get on lots of lists so you get to know more about what millions of activists have done and are doing around the world so you can be educated and inspired and be of more use to animals.

Find a few activist friends/family to speak with confidentially (person-to-person or at least on the phone, not just online messaging) to keep empowering your commitments to animals, to keep yourself clear and moving forward, someone you can vent to and who can vent to you to release tension and maybe sometimes someone to laugh with which can be lifesaving, someone who can hear your pain and someone with whom you can share new ideas.

Ask for feedback about how you’re doing from activists you trust. Consider any advice you’re given and be willing to accept criticism. Be willing to CHANGE to make more differences for animals. And, you may not be the first one to notice that you’re about to burn out or if you’re in over your head.


Never forget that MOST PEOPLE have no understanding of the depth and breadth of animal abuse. They have NO IDEA what we’re upset about. And if they do know, and do not want to change their thinking or their behavior, muster some compassion for them by remembering how you once were.

Always remember that you will be dealing with human beings and we are judgmental, and opinionated, and open-minded, and closed-minded and absolutely marvelous and complete assholes and everything in
between. And always remember that activists are human beings who are judgmental, and opinionated, and open-minded, and closed-minded and absolutely marvelous and complete assholes and everything in between.

Understand that YOUR “ah-ha” moment may resonate with some people AND your “ah-ha” moment may be absolutely meaningless to other people. The most important conversation you can have about making a difference for animals is always that person right in front of you at every moment.

Questions to consider and reconsider from time to time: Do you eat with people who eat animals? Do you allow people to bring animal food into your home? Maybe it’s time to stop attending family gatherings where animals are served.? Maybe you go to those events and bring vegan food? Maybe you get stronger about tolerating negative comments about veganism? THINK for yourself. And always be willing to change whatever choices/decisions you make about what you do in these kinds of situations. What criteria do you think are “the true” measures of being vegan? It’s important that you define that for yourself, and ongoingly relook and maybe change your criteria. Is someone really vegan who feeds dead animals to their companion animals? Invent your own definitions and criteria and stick to them and again, be willing to change them.

As you become more committed to animal rights/veganism, you may run into problems with friends, family and colleagues. A wise man once told me “Your friends are the people you agree with.” If your friends are not in agreement any longer about “food,” and if they’re unkind or unaccepting of your commitments, maybe it’s time for new friends. And, you’ll find that making a vegan statement in places where vegans are rare often has positive outcomes.

You may like some activists while disagreeing with their tactics, methodologies, ideologies; and you dislike some activists while agreeing with their tactics, methodologies, ideologies.

And just because you respect an individual’s or group’s tactics, strategies, methodologies, writings doesn’t mean you need to follow that individual or group blindly in everything they say, write or do…think for yourself.

Be prudent, be cautious, be authentic in your personal relationships; be careful about sexual liaisons that might cause you problems in the future.

Be responsible about what you say about other people’s activism; and be careful who you speak to about other people’s activism. If you don’t know what “loose lips sink ships” means, look it up.

Think carefully about demeaning or bashing other people’s activism; sometimes you may be justified and sometimes not. Just THINK about whether or not it’s a good use of your time in the moment. Understand that all actions and tactics are open to scrutiny and criticism regardless of who initiates or supports them. What looks like a great idea on the surface may be detrimental to animal liberation, while other things that appear to be harmful may indeed be just what is needed given current circumstances. As you gain more knowledge, your ability to analyze a campaign or an action will develop…Grant yourself time to LEARN and CHANGE.


If we “knew” that there were right things to do to cause animal liberation, we would all be doing those things wouldn’t we? There are as many options, choices and behaviors as there are people working to help animals. Consider all of them, try what you will and stay true to your convictions and respect other people’s evolution.

Be open to new thoughts, new tactics, new methodologies. Press yourself to think outside any box you ever believed in – you’ll need to THINK like you’ve never thought before; you’ll find new ways of viewing life and living daily.

Be willing to be wrong; you may be committed to a particular person or group or ideology or line of thinking or methodology for a month or two or 20 years and one day realize they are not as effective as you once believed. You can always take on new ideas and strategies. Trust yourself.

What do you use or refuse to use from an animal-advocacy organization or individual activist because they have quoted, endorsed, done, written, legislated something you disagree with? Do you throw the baby out with the bathwater?

Other questions to deal with: What criteria do you think are “the true” measures of being vegan? It’s important that you define that for yourself, and ongoingly relook and maybe change your criteria. Is someone really vegan who feeds dead animals to their companion animals? Is someone really vegan if they are pro-choice? Is someone really vegan if they are anti-choice? Should vegans have children who may grow up to be non-vegans? Which politicians should vegans support? (etc., etc…)

Learn, study, delve into, question EVERYone and EVERYthing about all animal-related issues so you can be a solid, valid resource to help people make a difference for animals. You have to know more than the “other side.” If you are NOT certain about something regarding animal abuse issues, say “I don’t know” rather than make something up.

Be willing to be bigger than you ever believed you could be… think seriously about the people you admire and how you can be like them. If an activist you truly admire tells you that this course, or this technique, or this seminar or this entertainment made them better activists, believe them. Education will make you more effective and more knowledgeable. Don’t EVER think you will ever “know it all” because there are far too many animal abuse issues to be an expert in many of them. Gain a broad and thorough knowledge of ALL issues, not just those you’re most drawn to in the moment.

You cannot measure making a difference. There are no measures that can accurately reflect the impact you have on people in the moment. There is no way to know if what you said, did, wrote or handed out altered someone’s view or behavior toward animals. Your communication with them may be the next to the next to the next thing that turns their life around. Never forget which humans and which facts and realities you ignored and what justifications you used… until you didn’t.

DO NOT believe that because someone is “a vegan” or “an animal rights activist” that they’re automatically going to be in agreement with you on all social justice issues. How many people in your life have you agreed with about “everything”? Pick your battles.

Some activists think dealing with politics, politicians and legislators is one of the most important things to do to make a difference for animals. And some activists think dealing with politics, politicians and legislators is a huge waste of time. And other activists have varying opinions pro or con those two points of view. This is another example of the importance of learning about and respecting other activist points of view, methodologies and then choosing for yourself what actions to take.

There are several issues in the animal rights movement that cause divisiveness, contention, personal conflicts, and occasionally (like sports fans displaying unwavering loyalty to their home team) …open hostility. It is extremely smart and vital for YOU to be open and learn all YOU can about those issues from all sources. And be open to changing your points of view over time as you learn new things. Thinking these arguments through rigorously and then committing to and sharing openly what you’ve resolved about these issues will give you clarity and power dealing with humans and will really sustain your activism.


Make a note of ALL the numbers under the bar code on your favorite vegan product. You don’t need to know the brand or product name, just that number makes it easy for ordering. Give that number to the ordering manager. Offering to buy a case of a product might increase your chances of getting it. Go into the store regularly and ask if they ordered it yet. Then go in and ask again. Be persistent! It’s about the animals. Once vegan products are in stores, people buy them!

Understanding Labels & Loopholes

humanely-raised-vealWhat is the difference between Certified Humane and American Humane Certified? What’s the difference between free-range and cage-free?

Unfortunately, consumers who care about animals are being misled by deceptive marketing schemes.

Producers have learned that if a label contains buzzwords such as “happy,” “free,” “humane,” or “animal welfare,” concerned customers will often buy their products (with higher prices) without actually understanding their practices.

The result is a confusing proliferation of packaging labels pertaining to farmed animal welfare. But what do these labels really mean?

To start, it’s important to know that there is no legal definition of “humane.”1

Under USDA-approved welfare labels, farms and producers decide independently what practices they will call “humane.” The USDA merely verifies that the company follows its own arbitrary standards.

Some private humane certification labels require third-party auditors to verify compliance with their standards, but even among these programs the term “humane” is not consistently defined or enforced.

Piglet restrained for scalpel castration

For example, Animal Welfare Approved does not allow debeaking, but considers castration and ear notching without pain relief “humane.”

On the other hand, American Humane Certified permits debeaking, but does not allow ear notching and requires anesthesia for castration of some animals.

Furthermore, not only do terms like “humane” and “free-range” mean different things to different producers; they also mean different things depending on the kind of animal.

For instance, while free-range beef cows must have spent some time on pasture, free-range chickens commonly spend their entire lives crammed inside windowless sheds with thousands of other birds.


Pigs can be confined in manure-laden barns like this one and still be sold as free-range pork. Image:

The term “free-range” is not regulated by the USDA, except for use on chickens and turkeys raised for meat (which only requires “access” to outdoors).

Its use for cows and pigs is neither regulated nor enforced.

Often, free-range labels refer to animals packed into warehouse-style sheds with no access to the outdoors.

This is far from the rolling pasture that the term “free-range” conjures in most people’s minds.

All that is required for free-range labeling of poultry is that the birds have “access” to the outdoors for an unspecified amount of time.

Thousands of birds may be confined inside a warehouse facility with a single exit the size of a cat door, and the door may be opened for a few minutes. This still qualifies as free-range.2

The layers of excrement and urine in which these birds are forced to stand, day after day, cause severe flesh and eye burns, and fill the air with so much ammonia that many birds suffer from respiratory disorders.

Conditions on many free-range operations are so bad that most birds are not even aware of outdoor access, or they are too crowded, ill, or weak to move that far.

Debeaking is standard procedure on free-range poultry farms. Free-range claims on eggs are completely unregulated.


Under misleading welfare labels, confinement operations like this one sell their eggs as “cage-free.” Photo: Sally Ryan, New York Times

Cage-free labels refer to hens used for eggs and mean only that the chickens are not in cages.

Cage-free egg-laying hens are typically crowded into windowless sheds or warehouse facilities, with thousands of birds on the floor and on stacked wire platforms, with little or no access to the outdoors and no room to perform natural behaviors.

The ammonia laden air is so noxious that hens commonly suffer respiratory disorders, severe flesh and eye burns, and even blindness.

Debeaking is routine and permitted. There is no third-party auditing.


Cage-free labels should only appear on egg packages, as egg-laying hens are the only farmed animals kept in cages. (Veal calves and breeding sows are confined in crates.)

When cage-free labels appear on chicken or turkey meats (as shown in this photo of Harvest Land chicken meat), consumers are being deliberately misled.

Even on factory farms, chickens and turkeys raised for meat are not kept in cages, but are severely confined indoors inside massive sheds.


Typical feedlot.

Cows raised for beef eat grass for at least the first six months of life, then most are shipped to crowded, barren feedlots and fattened (“finished”) on grain to reach slaughter weight more quickly.

Some producers market feedlot-finished beef as higher priced grass-fed beef even though their cows are intensively confined for the last year or more of life.

USDA certified grass-fed animals must have access to pasture from early Spring to late Fall, but may otherwise be confined to pens or sheds.

All of the standard mutilations including castration, dehorning, and branding are permitted without pain relief under generic and USDA grass-fed labels. Hormones and antibiotics are also allowed.

Humanely Raised

The term “humanely raised” is not regulated or verified, meaning animals can be raised in confinement and mutilated without painkiller.3

Unfortunately, virtually any producer can slap a “humanely raised” label on their animal product, which renders the term nearly meaningless. Even on higher welfare farms, the term is often used deceptively.

Niman Ranch is a useful example, considered by many to be a model of humane pig farming. Their website shows images of happily roaming pigs, and their pork labels read, “Humanely raised on sustainable farms.” The labels also say, “Raised outdoors or in deeply bedded pens.”

That “or” is a loophole that means that Niman Ranch could get away with confining up to 100% of their pigs indoors. According to one writer, they currently confine around 75% of their pigs in warehouse-style barns with straw floors.

The welfare of pigs not given access to the outdoors is markedly lower than that of grazing pigs, yet Niman Ranch enjoys the celebrated reputation of a “pastured pork” operation.

Humane Dairy & Happy Cows

Real cheese from Happy Cows label
Happy Cow Creamery label
Laughing Cow label

Despite all the feel-good labels to the contrary, happy dairy cows are a myth. The basis of all dairy production is sexual violation and the destruction of motherhood.

These are not overstatements. It is a matter of fact that in order to produce milk, female cows must be impregnated (usually via invasive artificial insemination), carry their babies for nine months (like humans), and give birth.

Also inherent to dairy production is the separation of calves from their mothers in order for humans to take their milk.

This breaking of the mother-calf bond happens on small farms, humane label farms, and factory farms alike. According to the USDA, 97% of dairy calves are permanently removed from their mothers within just the first 12 hours of birth.4

Many humane label farms remove the calves in the first hour, claiming that the longer mother and calf are permitted to bond, the more stressful the separation.

Most calves spend their first 2 to 3 months of life in constant confinement in cramped, individual hutches, and never know the nurturing or warmth of their mother’s care.

Regardless of farm type, male calves of dairy cows are sold to be killed for veal or cheap beef.

When they are no longer optimally productive, dairy cows are slaughtered for cheap beef, usually around five years of age.

See also:

  • Learn more about “humane” dairy at our Happy Cows? page.
  • Our Practices page for detailed explanations of standard procedures.

Specific Packaging Labels

Certified Organic

USDA Organic label

For animal products, the organic label mainly distinguishes animals raised without hormones and antibiotics, which are prohibited under organic standards. Animal feed must also be organic.

Animals must have “access” to the outdoors, with cows, sheep and goats given some access to pasture, but the amount, duration, and quality of outdoor access is undefined.

Organic standards do not provide protection against routine mutilations, severe confinement, rough handling, long transport, or brutal slaughter of animals. Tail-docking, dehorning, debeaking, and castration without painkiller are all permitted.

American Grass-Fed Certified

American Grassfed label

While the USDA’s grass-fed label allows for confinement of animals, American Grassfed Certification requires continuous access to pasture and a diet of 100 percent forage. Hormones and antibiotics are also prohibited.

However, routine mutilations such as castration, tail docking, branding and dehorning are all permitted without pain relief.

No standards are in place regarding the treatment of breeding animals, animals during transport, or animals at slaughter.

American Humane Certified

American Humane Certified label

One of the worst certified labels. Access to the outdoors is not required for any animals, and indoor space requirements are the lowest of all the main humane certification programs.

AHC is the only third-party audited welfare program to permit cage confinement of egg hens. The killing of male chicks, debeaking, and tail docking without pain relief are permitted.

Some standards extend to the treatment of breeding animals, animals during transport, and animals at slaughter.

Animal Welfare Approved

Animal Welfare Approved label

The Animal Welfare Approved certification is a program of the Animal Welfare Institute. They claim to have “the most rigorous standards for farm animal welfare currently in use by any United States organization.”

As proof of this claim, their website includes a useful chart comparing the various practices and provisions of each certified humane label. While there is bias in favor of AWA in the chart and guide, we include them here for reference.

The AWI boasts that the AWA is the only USDA-approved third-party certification program, but as with other humane labels, egregious cruelties are still permitted.

On the upside, animals have “access” to the outdoors and are able to engage in “some” natural behaviors. No cages or crates may be used, and growth hormones and antibiotics are prohibited. Debeaking is also not allowed.

However, the killing of male chicks born to egg-laying hens is permitted, as are other painful mutilations performed without painkiller, including ear notching and castration.

Standards include breeding, transport, and slaughter of animals.

Certified Humane

Certified Humane label

There is no requirement for outdoor access for birds used for meat, egg-laying hens, or pigs. However, minimum space allowances and indoor environmental enrichments are stipulated.

Feedlots are permitted for beef cattle. Killing of male chicks born to egg-laying hens is allowed.

Debeaking of hens and turkeys, tail docking of pigs, dehorning of goats without painkiller, and rubber ring castration without painkiller are all permitted.

Standards include the treatment of breeding animals, animals during transport, and animals at slaughter.

Global Animal Partnership

Global Animal Partnership label

GAP is a step-based rating program used by Whole Foods.

Producers receive one of six ratings, from Step 1 to Step 5+. Step 1 permits industrial style (factory farm) confinement of animals and merely prohibits crates and cages. Feedlots are allowed for beef cattle through Step 4. Debeaking and tail docking are permitted through Step 3.

Standards consider the treatment during transport, but not breeding or slaughter.

Process Verified

Process Verified label

Warning: this industry label is intentionally misleading.

The USDA currently allows producers enrolled in its Process Verified Program (PVP) to label their products “humanely raised.”

In reality, producers decide independently what practices they will call “humane,” and the USDA merely verifies that the company follows its own arbitrary standards.

Under such a scheme, industrial producers running large scale confinement operations can simply submit their current practices as “humane,” and display the “Process Verified” and “humanely raised” labels.

Read more about this marketing scheme here and here.

United Egg Producer Certified

United Egg Producers Certified label

Warning: this industry label is intentionally misleading.

UEPC permits battery cage confinement of egg-laying hens and other routine inhumane factory farm practices.

Hens in these barren cages have 67 square inches of cage space per bird (less than a sheet of paper), and cannot perform any of their natural behaviors, including perching, nesting, foraging, or even spreading their wings. Debeaking is permitted and routine.

See also:

Petition for a California Water “Meat, Dairy and Eggs Tax”


California Water “Meat, Dairy and Eggs Tax” (fee)

To be delivered to The California State House, The California State Senate, and Governor Jerry Brown

Petition Statement

Due to the California Water Crisis it is time for a California Water “Meat, Dairy and Eggs Tax” (fee) to be established at time of purchase.

There are currently 304 signatures. NEW goal – We need 400 signatures!

Petition Background

This is a proposal for a ‘Water Consumption Tax’ when purchasing meat, dairy and eggs. A person consuming meat, dairy and eggs is responsible for massive amounts of water usage for the production of the animal products, far more than a person living a plant based lifestyle. In some cities, households are limited to only 50 gallons of water usage per person a day and fined if they exceed that amount. The same should apply to omnivores who eat animal products without consequence for the water crisis. The standard diet of a person in the United States requires 4,200 gallons of water per day (for animals’ drinking water, irrigation of crops, processing, washing, cooking, etc.). A person on a vegan diet requires only 300 gallons a day. It takes approximately 660 gallons of water to produce one quarter pound hamburger patty. At those numbers, it takes 2640 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. Using that estimate it would take 6,600,000 gallons of water to produce one ton of beef; which would be equivalent to filling a 40 gallon bathtub 165,000 times. It is time for people who are consuming animal products to pull their own weight and to start being responsible for their impact to California’s water crisis.