Is this the beginning of the end of meat?

March 17

Patrick Brown founded Impossible Foods with the goal of supplanting the meat industry. He believes America’s 230 million omnivores can be made to trade their hamburgers and steaks for a plant-based equivalent, scienced into being.

That vision may yet be a long way off — even Brown admits as much. But next week the concept will get an important early test: Impossible Foods is opening its first large-scale facility in Oakland.

The Oakland plant, which will begin to produce burgers this summer, is the first concrete sign that Impossible Foods and flagship offering are anything more than utopic moonshots. The plant will prove whether or not the concept can scale, which has implications for public health and the environment.

Can a burger made from pea protein replace meat?

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The beyond burger from Beyond Meat aims to replicate the texture, color and taste of a beef burger. (Jayne Orenstein, Joe Yonan/The Washington Post)

It also has consequences for the emerging clean-meat industry, of which Impossible Foods is an early (and highly visible) player. Unlike Boca or Morningstar before them, which sought to corner the vegetarian market, these companies aim to appeal to hardcore meat-eaters by creating a meaty plant-based product. Beyond Meat, a popular vegetarian brand, has dipped a toe in those mainstream waters with its beet-juice “bleeding” Beyond Burger. And earlier this week, the start-up Memphis Meats announced that it had successfully created a lab-grown chicken strip — at a whopping price per pound of $9,000.

The future of meat?

Plant-based and clean meat companies are attracting big investments. This chart shows the current equity funding, according to Crunchbase, for six of them.

Impossible Foods
Hampton Creek
Beyond Meat
Clara Foods
Memphis Meats

But few of these companies have proved that they can commercialize yet, and even those that have, like the Beyond Burger, still only sell at Whole Foods. With this new facility, a spokesperson for Impossible Foods said, the company’s production capacity will increase 250-fold — allowing it to supply 1,000 restaurants by the end of this year.

“The mission of the company is to making the existing method for producing meat obsolete,” said Brown on the phone from California, several weeks before the factory’s ribbon-cutting. “That means we need to be competitive everywhere. And soon we will be.”

Proclamations like this one have earned Brown and his six-year-old company constant attention almost since its founding. A former biochemistry professor at Stanford, Brown became interested in industrial meat production after learning that it’s a major contributor to climate change: livestock account for nearly 15 percent of all greenhouse gasses, according to the United Nations.

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Brown became convinced that, given enough time and resources, science could essentially solve that problem by engineering plant-based “meats” that look and taste like the original artifact. Since 2011, he has received more than $180 million in investments from the likes of Bill Gates and Google Ventures to pursue the project.

His first offering is the Impossible Burger: a patty composed largely of wheat and potato proteins that — thanks to a iron-containing molecule called heme — looks, handles and (reportedly!) tastes quite a lot like ground beef. The burger has caught the eye of several high-end chefs, including New York’s David Chang and San Francisco’s Traci Des Jardins, who have put the burger on their respective menus for roughly $15 apiece.

But even as the burger earned rave reviews from curious patrons, its central tenet has remained unproven. Namely, Brown still has to show that he can churn out burgers en masse — and that red-blooded meat-eaters will buy them.

That could prove difficult in two respects, say analysts and advocates who know the industry. First, Brown and his team will need to optimize their supply chain and manufacturing process to bring the price of the Impossible Burger on par with conventional beef.

Some of that will happen naturally, said Bruce Friedrich, the executive director of the Good Food Institute: all food startups, regardless of what they make, benefit from economies of scale as they standardize and mechanize the way they make their food. Prices will also come down once Impossible Foods has a reliable distribution network. And the company has another advantage, as well: Compared to conventional livestock slaughter, its methods are inherently more efficient.

But sourcing has still provided challenges — such as the question of heme. The iron-containing molecule is what makes the Impossible Burger taste like meat. Brown initially extracted it from the root nodules of soybeans, but that process, at scale, costs a fortune and releases a lot of greenhouse gasses. Impossible Foods eventually skirted the issue by engineering yeast that produce heme, meaning that the company no longer needs to extract the molecule from soybeans. It can be produced in vats.

It’s also not the only uncertainty that faces Impossible Foods. The company’s biggest challenge may be getting it to catch on not only with the coastal Whole Foodies who have flocked to Manhattan or Los Angeles to try it thus far, but with average and middle-income Americans. Brown is adamant that his product is not designed to appeal to vegetarians; he’s after the old-school meat-eater, who is motivated largely by price, taste and convenience.

John Coupland, a professor of food science at Penn State and the president of the Institute of Food Technologists, believes this type of consumer might prove difficult to convince, even if plant-based meats are priced on par with their conventional equivalents. Some focus-groups and studies have suggested that consumers aren’t entirely comfortable with the idea of meat that doesn’t technically have any animal in it.

“So much is going to play out in psychology, more even than in chemistry,” Coupland said. “Meat is an incredibly gendered thing to eat. How is that going to play out? Are you picking the light beer by having this stuff? It’s too early to tell if it’s really going to take off.”

We may find out very shortly. While Impossible Foods is not releasing any details on the new plant’s exact capacity, cost or headcount until after the March 22 launch, it’s already clear that the facility represents a significant ramp-up from what the company has produced thus far.

By the end of the year, Brown said, the burger will be in multiple restaurants, including some chains like Bareburger, which debuted the Impossible Burger at its flagship location in February. Those restaurants won’t all be coastal hotspots, Brown added — they’re pursuing deals in the heartland, as well. Brown has also reportedly been in talks with McDonald’s, though the company doesn’t have that capacity yet.

Such a coup could move the whole industry much closer to dinner tables across America. And other plant-based and clean meat companies are watching the experiences of Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat closely, Friedrich said. Their success or failure in scaling could inform the whole market.

“This is brand-new for the plant-based meat industry,” he said. “It’s lifting the whole sector and inspiring other entrepreneurs and food scientists to get involved with it.”

Got Almond Milk? Dairy Farms Protest Milk Label on Nondairy Drinks

If milk comes from a plant, can you still call it milk?

Not according to the dairy industry. Facing growing competition from dairy alternatives like almond, soy and coconut milk, the nation’s dairy farmers are fighting back, with an assist from Congress. Their goal: to stop companies from calling their plant-based products yogurt, milk or cheese. Dairy farmers say the practice misleads consumers into thinking that nondairy milk is nutritionally similar to cow’s milk.

A bipartisan group of 32 members of Congress is asking the Food and Drug Administration to crack down on companies that call plant-based beverages “milk.” They say F.D.A. regulations define milk as a “lacteal secretion” obtained by milking “one or more healthy cows.” Proposed legislation from Representative Peter Welch, Democrat of Vermont, and Senator Tammy Baldwin, Democrat of Wisconsin, a state known for its cheese, suggests a slightly broader definition. Their bill would require the F.D.A. to target milk, yogurt and cheese products that do not contain milk from “hooved mammals.”

“The bottom line for us is that milk is defined by the F.D.A., and we’re saying to the F.D.A.: Enforce your definition,” Mr. Welch said.

But critics say consumers know exactly what they are buying when they choose almond or soy milk instead of dairy milk. “There’s no cow on any of these containers of almond milk or soy milk,” said Michele Simon, executive director of the Plant Based Foods Association, a trade group representing 70 companies. “No one is trying to fool consumers. All they’re trying to do is create a better alternative for people who are looking for that option.”

And what about other nondairy products with dairy names? Will milk of magnesia, cocoa butter, cream of wheat and peanut butter have to change their names as well?

In recent years, dairy milk alternatives made from almonds, soy, cashews and coconuts have exploded in popularity. Many people consider them more nutritious than cow’s milk. Some people buy them because they have a milk allergy or lactose intolerance. Others choose them for environmental reasons or because they want a vegan diet. And some just like the taste.

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Miyoko Schinner, chief executive and founder of Miyoko’s Kitchen makes nut-based cheeses and butters in Fairfax, Calif. CreditJason Henry for The New York Times

Cow’s milk was once one of America’s most iconic beverages. But Americans are drinking less of it. Americans drink 37 percent less milk today than they did in 1970, according to the Department of Agriculture. Dairy milk sales tumbled to $12 billion last year, down 20 percent from $15 billion in 2011. Part of the reason is that people switched to other beverages, such as soft drinks, fruit juices, bottled water and soy and almond milk. Mintel, a market research firm, found that negative health perceptions were driving the decline in sales of cow’s milk.

Plant-based milks, with brand names like Almond Breeze and Silk, are sold in the dairy aisle and still represent a fraction of the beverage market, but they are growing in popularity. According to Nielsen, sales of plant-based milks have surged to $1.4 billion from $900 million in 2012.

Much of the growth in plant-based milk has come from the rising popularity of almond milk. Last year, Starbucks, the world’s largest coffee chain, announced that it would begin offering almond milk to lighten its espresso drinks, to meet customer demand. The chain said it was one of the most-requested customer suggestions of all time.

Experts say sales of almond milk are surging for a number of reasons. The dairy industry has come under fire over concerns about animal welfare and the environmental impact of livestock, which contributes to air and water pollution. Almond production has an environmental impact as well: Most of the world’s almonds come from drought-stricken California, where farmers have been accused of diverting dwindling groundwater reserves to their almond orchards, and producing just 16 almonds requires an estimated 15.3 gallons of water. But ultimately the environmental impact of producing cow’s milk in areas where almonds are grown would be far worse, said David Zetland, an assistant professor of economics at Leiden University College in the Netherlands and the author of “Living With Water Scarcity.”

Many consumers also consider almond milk a healthier alternative to cow’s milk. The dairy industry says that’s not true. They point out that milk has nine essential nutrients that are necessary for good health, like calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and potassium. The industry has also created ads claiming that milk has up to eight times as much protein as almond milk and fewer ingredients and additives. Some brands of soy and almond milk do contain large amounts of added sugar. But they also come in unsweetened varieties with zero sugar, and some are fortified with calcium, B12 and other nutrients.

There is also debate over the nutritional merits of cow’s milk. In 2013, for example, two of the country’s top nutrition experts, Walter Willett and David Ludwig, both at Harvard, published an editorial in JAMA Pediatrics arguing that healthy adults who get plenty of vegetables, nuts and protein in their diets may not get any extra benefit from cow’s milk. They also raised concerns about exposure to hormones in milk and high levels of added sugar in the chocolate milk served in many schools.

As the dairy industry continues to press its case, producers of nondairy milks are fighting back. The Plant Based Foods Association sent letters to the F.D.A. stating that plant-based milks were properly labeled with their “common or usual” names. A petition from the Good Food Institute opposing the dairy labeling legislation has garnered more than 41,000 signatures.


Janet Clark, with a calf at her family’s dairy farm, Vision Aire Farms in Wisconsin, was one of the farmers who asked Senator Tammy Baldwin to restrict the use of the word milk outside the dairy industry.CreditBen Brewer for The New York Times

“Don’t they have better things to do than to care about what a product is called?” asked Miyoko Schinner, the chief executive of Miyoko’s Kitchen, which sells popular nut-based cheeses and butters at almost 2,000 stores nationwide. “The only reason they would care is because they’re protecting their special interests.”

Marsha Cohen, an expert on food and drug law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, said that the dairy industry faces an uphill battle. She said the government’s definitions for milk and other foods — known as “standards of identity” — are intended primarily to protect consumers from financial harm, such as being duped into buying cheap or imitation foods masquerading as more expensive ones. She noted that the F.D.A. recently allowed the company Hampton Creek to call its vegan mayonnaise substitute “Just Mayo,” even though the F.D.A.’s legal definition of mayonnaise states that the condiment must contain eggs.

The debate over what can and can’t be called milk already has played out in courts, with judges so far siding with the plant-based milk industry. In 2013, Judge Samuel Conti of Federal District Court in San Francisco, dismissed a proposed class-action lawsuit that claimed that almond, coconut and soy milk were mislabeled because they do not come from cows. Judge Conti said the claim “stretches the bounds of credulity,” and that it was “simply implausible that a reasonable consumer would mistake a product like soy milk or almond milk with dairy milk from a cow.” He said the lawsuit was reminiscent of an earlier case in which a woman claimed she was misled by Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries cereal because she thought it contained real fruit (that case was thrown out).


OPINION: Embrace world vegan month

November welcomes World Vegan Month, and with it comes a new perspective on a lifestyle that holds individuals accountable for what they eat.

Vegans have to dodge relentless stereotypes — but these people are not the grass-eating hippies many make them out to be. Veganism promotes a healthier and sustainable lifestyle that seeks to eliminate a dependency on animals, and instead supplement meat with plant-based protein. This protein comes in many forms, such as fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts.

While this may seem extreme to some, vegan products have expanded greatly to fit the need of the market. Milk, meat and cheese substitutes are found on grocery store shelves everywhere, and vegetarians and vegan consumers are able to find food sections dedicated to fit their needs.

Five percent of Americans identify as vegetarians and about half of these individuals follow a vegan-based diet, according to most recent data published by The Vegetarian Resource Group.


Piles of vegetables were cooked for the after cook-off festivities on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 in Athens, Ga. (Photo/Erin O. Smith,

Erin O. Smith

Though many vegans adopt their eating habits to enjoy a diet that is free from guilt in regards to animals, it is not the only reason to quit frequenting Chick-Fil-A and the like.

The desire to go vegan can stem from a number of reasons — including wanting to become healthier and more energized, lessening one’s carbon footprint and also eliminating one’s part in the tons of crops and water it takes to raise farm animals, according to PETA.

Vegan or not-vegan, the decision to cut out animals from a diet raises important questions about the apparent disconnect between humans and the food on their dinner plate. Before we pull into the drive through of the nearest fast food joint, we don’t stop to think about how the meat we are about to consume was produced, and whether there was malpractice involved.

Overwhelmingly, 79 percent of American consumers believe producing healthy choices is important for farmers and ranchers to consider when planning their production practices, yet 72 percent of consumers know nothing or very little about farming or ranching, according to research conducted by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance.

With a nation uninformed, fast-food industries and major corporate chains are able to get away with mass producing meat products while cutting corners. Seventy percent of all antibiotics important to human medicine in the United States are sold for use in animal agriculture, according to a report by Friends of the Earth, an environmental and consumer advocacy organization.

These drugs are used unnaturally to stimulate growth in animals, fed routinely and misused to stimulate an industry that overlooks the process of how a chicken sandwich became a chicken sandwich. The money we spend on a lunch break doesn’t just feed us, it feeds an industry of neglect.

The same fast food restaurants frequented by the masses are receiving failing grades on their use of antibiotic policies, according to the same report by Friends of the Earth. Olive Garden, Starbucks, Chilis and Burger King are just a few on a long list of companies that are less than transparent about how they feed their customers — receiving an F on the 2016 scorecard by FOE.


According to Mother Earth Living, this fabulous herb has been spicing up our lives for centuries, but did you know that basil can be used to treat arthritis thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties? Basil is also proven to help slow the process of aging and contains a vast array of antioxidants. For non-vegetable lovers, basil can be added to any soup, salad or pasta dish.


While these facts are alarming, and prove the overwhelming detachment between consumers and their meals, it does not mean that one has to jump on the vegan bandwagon to take a stand. Companies like FOE enact several petitions towards companies that engage in this malpractice in order to spread the word, and encourage many to be apart of the movement.

NPR also lists a number of apps available to consumers that provide information on food and products that are produced through sustainable practices.

While veganism is not for everyone, it sheds a light on how we see our food, and quite frankly — what we don’t see.

Next time someone hands you a flyer in tate that advocates for Meatless Mondays, think twice before throwing it away. Do research on the companies you frequent and become informed about better choices, because until we do, it is those without a voice that bear the burden.

Ignorance was bliss; time to go vegan

‘Lobsters have a long childhood, an awkward adolescence and feel pain.’
‘Lobsters have a long childhood, an awkward adolescence and feel pain.’ Photograph: Getty Images/Image Source

Iwas in the local fish shop buying my dinner when another customer in front held up two live lobsters that he had just bought. He needed some advice about what to do with them. “I’m going to boil one today,” said he, “but how long can I keep the other before I boil it? Will it last two days?”

There were the poor lobsters, held aloft, waving their arms about in a frenzy. Did they know what awaited them? Horrible. I suddenly remembered those Buddhist monks who saved hundreds of lobsters in July – bought them, carefully untied their claws and set them free again. They probably knew that lobsters “have a long childhood and awkward adolescence” and feel pain. So that cheered me up a bit – not all humans are greedy, heartless bastards. But it means no more lobsters for me, and perhaps I should cut out fish, too, and be a proper vegetarian. Or even a vegan, because once you start on this road, there’s no way back.

And it’s difficult, because I was brought up eating meat. Lovely tasty stews, roast dinners, bacon for breakfast, and shellfish. My mother cooked it all, in defiance of Jewish dietary laws and her own ferociously kosher mother. But those were more innocent and ignorant times, when we didn’t know about how dairy cows suffer, or eat such gigantic chunks of everything; when there was no Twitter, Facebook and endless campaigns against eating, boiling and torturing dogs, pigs and more or less anything that moved, and we just thought animals wandered freely around fields or spacious pens and didn’t miss their children, or mind being slaughtered, or feel anything much. And we didn’t yet know that the planet was almost totally buggered.

“This is a middle-class activity,” says Fielding harshly. “And remember, you live in Islington. People will mock.” Who cares? I’m not claiming to be saintly. I have lapses; I eat Olivia’s heavenly roast chicken, pretending to myself that I’m just being polite. Daughter’s making more effort than me, often turning to tofu. Perhaps the next generation will do better than us, and save the world. If they still have time.

Animals Aren’t Commodities

“If Animals Matter Morally, Then We Cannot Treat Them As Commodities”

A conversation with animal rights advocate Gary Francione

Gary L. Francione is a controversial figure in the modern animal rights movement, known for his “abolitionist approach” towards animal rights. A professor of law and philosophy at Rutgers University, Francione believes that we cannot morally justify using animals as mere resources and that we should abolish all animal use. He argues that any being that feels pain has a right to not be used as property and that veganism should be the moral underpinning of the animal rights movement. As he puts it, “To not be a vegan is to participate directly in animal exploitation.”

photo of Gary Francione Photo by Vegano Siempre

Francione was the first person to teach animal rights in an American law school when he began teaching a course on animal rights and law at Rutgers in 1989. He has focused nearly four decades of academic scholarship in forwarding a theory of animal rights that posits that sentience alone (and not just cognitive intelligence as defined by humans) qualifies a being for the fundamental right of not being considered the property of another. He links the struggle for animal rights with other social movements and argues that the animal rights movement is the logical progression of the peace movement.

Francione has written multiple books and countless articles on animal ethics and animal law, and is particularly well known for his critical view of the animal welfare movement, which he says serves primarily to make people feel better about animal exploitation. His latest book, Eat Like You Care: An Examination of the Morality of Eating Animals (2013), co-authored with his partner and fellow Rutgers professor Anna Charlton, answers all the “but” questions that any non-vegan could possibly ask about transitioning to a vegan lifestyle.

I recently spoke with Francione via Skype and email about his latest book, his philosophy on animal rights, and his thoughts on both the animal welfare and animal personhood movements.

What event in your life caused you to become an animal rights activist?

In the late 1970s, I visited a slaughterhouse. It changed my life overnight. It became clear to me that our use of nonhumans as human resources presented a most serious moral question that was, for the most part, being ignored.

What is your philosophy concerning animal rights?

My position is that if animals matter morally at all — and I believe that most people believe that they do matter morally — then they must have at least one right: The right not to be used exclusively as human resources. The right not to be chattel property.

Interests can be protected in one of two ways. We can protect an interest only to the extent that to do so maximizes desirable consequences. Or we can protect that interest irrespective of consequences. The latter way of protecting an interest is what we describe as involving a right. To say that I have a right of free speech is simply to say that my speech will be protected even if other disagree with and think that my speech generates undesirable consequences.

If the interest in not being chattel property is not protected by a right, then that interest will be ignored when it is beneficial to do so. We recognize this where humans are concerned. We protect the interest that humans have in not being slaves with a right. We recognize that if humans are going to be members of the moral community, they must have the right not to be chattel slaves. If they are chattel slaves, they exist outside the moral community. They are things and not persons.

The same analysis holds true where nonhumans are concerned. If they are going to matter morally, they must have the right not to be property. If they are property, they are just things that have only extrinsic or external value, and do not have inherent or intrinsic value.

If we recognize this one right, then we are morally committed to abolishing the institutionalized exploitation of nonhuman animals. It’s not a matter of improving the treatment of animals. It’s a matter of abolishing the use of animals.

One of the key tenets of your philosophy is veganism. Could you explain why you think it’s important?

Veganism means that we do not eat, wear, or otherwise use animals.

I maintain that there is veganism and there is animal exploitation: There is no third choice. To not be a vegan is to participate directly in animal exploitation. That is, if we eat animals or animal products, wear wool, leather, fur, etc., or use products made from animals, we are treating animals as things with no morally significant interests.

As an abolitionist, I promote veganism as a moral baseline or a moral imperative and as the only rational response to the recognition that animals have moral value. If animals matter morally, then we cannot treat them as commodities and eat, wear, or use them. Just as someone who promotes the abolition of slavery should not own slaves, an abolitionist with respect to animal slavery should not consume animal products. As far as I am concerned, veganism is a fundamental matter of justice.

Advocating veganism as a fundamental principle of justice is not something that requires large, wealthy animal charities and “leaders.” It is something that we all can do and must do as a grassroots movement. Each of us must be a leader.

Let me say that there is no difference between meat and other animal products. Animals used for dairy and eggs are also treated horribly and they all end up in the same slaughterhouse as their “meat” counterparts. If you do not eat meat but you eat dairy and eggs, you are still directly responsible for animal suffering and death.

Your view on animal rights, particularly your views on animal welfare, has been criticized by some sections of the animal-protection movement, who say that animal welfare does provide some interim protection to animals until their rights can be established. How do you respond to such criticism?

Animal welfare is problematic for moral and practical reasons.

From a moral perspective, if animal use cannot be morally justified, then it is morally wrong to promote supposedly “humane” exploitation. Think about it in a human context. If slavery is wrong, then promoting “humane” slavery is not the answer. The only morally acceptable solution is to promote the abolition of slavery.

From a practical perspective, because animals are chattel property, and because it costs money to protect their interests, we protect animal interests generally only when we get an economic benefit. For example, we have laws that require animals to be stunned at the moment of slaughter because animals who are not stunned can injure workers and they incur carcass damage. Worker injuries and carcass damage cost money. For the most part, welfare reforms make animal exploitation more efficient. They are measures that, for the most part, industry will take anyway because it is beneficial for industry to do so.

As far as I am concerned, the primary purpose of animal welfare measures is to make humans feel better about continuing to exploit animals.

Do you think human society is at a point where it’s receptive to the idea of animal personhood, which would bestow animals with the basic rights to life and liberty?

Absolutely. I believe that most people already accept the idea that nonhumans are not things and are beings with moral value. Most people accept that it is wrong to inflict unnecessary suffering on nonhuman animals. Most people become outraged when they hear about “animal cruelty” cases precisely because they object to the infliction of unnecessary suffering.

The challenge is to get them to see that if they are not vegan, then they are morally no different from the “abusers” they criticize. It is not necessary to eat animal products in order to have optimal health. Indeed, mainstream health care professionals are increasingly recognizing that animal products are detrimental to human health. The best justification we have for inflicting suffering and death on billions of land animals and trillions of sea animals is that they taste good. That is no better a justification than maintaining that the enjoyment of watching a bullfight justifies bullfighting.

I am very optimistic about the future. I think the abolitionist vegan movement — a grassroots movement of people all over the world — is really gathering a great deal of momentum.

Given that you believe that sentience is the only characteristic required for personhood, what are your thoughts on the Nonhuman Rights Projects efforts to get certain animal species like chimpanzees and elephants declared nonhuman persons?

Sentience is subjective awareness. A sentient being is someone who perceives and experiences the world. A sentient being has interests; that is, preferences, wants, or desires. If a being is sentient, then that is necessary and sufficient for the being to have the right not to be used as a means to human ends. The recognition of this right imposes on humans the moral obligation not to use that being as a resource. It is not necessary for a sentient being to have humanlike cognitive characteristics in order to be accorded the right not to be used as property.

Intelligence and humanlike cognition may be relevant for some purposes, but they are not relevant for the basic right not to be used as property. As far as that one right is concerned, there is no difference between a chimpanzee and a mouse. We should not use either exclusively as a human resource.

Again, think about it in the nonhuman context. There are all sorts of differences between a human who is brilliant and a human who is severely mentally disabled. Those differences may be relevant for certain purposes, but we should not use either human as a forced organ donor or as a non-consenting subject of a biomedical experiment.

So if not through incremental efforts, such as getting one species at a time recognized as persons with rights, how do we get around to establishing the abolition of animal exploitation?

We get to the abolition of animal exploitation through creative, nonviolent vegan advocacy. We need to stop the demand for animal exploitation. And we can do that. Assume that we have 1 million vegans in the US. That’s a very low estimate. If every one of those people educated one other person to become vegan in the next year, there would be 2 million vegans. If the process repeated itself every year, the United States would be vegan in eight years.  Each of us can play a role in bringing about a vegan world!

How do you feel about the killing of Harambe the gorilla? Do you think the killing was inevitable, that the zoo had no choice?

A child got into the enclosure. The gorilla was a piece of property. If Harambe had injured the child, the legal liability of the zoo would have been astronomical. So I am not surprised that the zoo had Harambe killed. I object to zoos. And although I thought it was tragic that Harambe was killed, it’s no more tragic than the killing of millions of “food” animals every day. There is no moral difference between Harambe and the nameless chicken that people consumed for dinner last night.

What are you working on at the moment?

Anna Charlton, my co-author on Eat Like You Care, and I are working on a handbook about abolitionist vegan advocacy.

If you had one message to give to all animal lovers, what would it be?

Loving animals is not consistent with harming them. If you love animals — if you believe that animals matter — then stop participating directly in the exploitation of animals. It’s morally wrong. Go vegan!

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

From Animal Rights Activism Articles Archive

by Veda Stram as posted on
June 2016
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…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.

The Animal Rights Movement Must Distance Itself from the New Age Movement

Have you ever noticed how people who love country music are more likely to be right wing? Or how climate change sceptics are more likely to be anti-abortion? Throughout society there are examples of beliefs that seem to occur together, despite having no obvious conceptual link. The reason for this is because for most of us beliefs and world view are not the result of carefully weighing up the evidence, but are actually held as a way of belonging to a subculture. Holding a belief is often like waving a flag to show which tribe you’re in.The desire to belong

The human need to belong is one of our strongest drives. We form subcultures and use elements such as music, clothes, colors and style to show which subculture we belong to.

The human need to belong is one of our strongest drives, but modern society is too big and anonymous for most people to feel they are an important part of it. So we form subcultures within our society to give ourselves a sense of belonging. We support sports teams and get into fights with fans of other teams, we choose to follow a certain genre of music and sneer at other genres, or wear preppy clothes, goth clothes, hipster clothes, anything to define ourselves as part of a tribe. And, as well as applying this desire to the clothes we wear and the music we listen to, we subconsciously apply it to our ethical and political beliefs.When you think about it, there is absolutely no conceptual link between the arguments for high or low taxes, and the arguments for or against legalising abortion. Yet in the English-speaking world there is a rough correlation between people wanting lower taxes and being anti-abortion, and vice versa. The best explanation for this is that these beliefs are identified as flags for certain subcultures that people want to belong to.This view is supported by evidence that shows people respond differently to the same argument when attributed to different sources. One study presented the argument for vaccinating children and recorded people’s responses. Right-wing individuals were significantly more likely to agree with the argument when it was attributed to a well-known right-wing figure than when it was attributed to a well-known left-wing figure. Other studies have shown similar behaviour from left-wingers etc.Studies of the effects of wearing a chastity ring show just how powerful the need to belong really is. When a student is part of the chastity ring movement in a school where everybody else wears the ring too, he or she is no more likely to abstain from sex than an average teenager. And when there is almost no one else who wears a chastity ring in the same school, there is still no effect. However, when just the right amount of other students are also part of the local chastity ring movement, wearing the ring does marginally boost commitment to abstinence. This suggests that when everyone in the whole school is wearing the rings, no one feels like they belong. Equally, when almost no one else wears the ring, there is no tribe to belong to. But when there are enough others to feel like you belong to something special, you’re motivated to make the effort to stay part of the club. Such is the power of wanting to belong, it can even override the natural human desire for sex.It’s clear from all this that the desire to belong is a pretty powerful drive, so if you want to convince a large group of people of something, you had better not be working against their natural tribal urges by appearing to be from another side. The animal rights movement should have no “side”

The animal rights movement should NOT be associated with hippies or any other subcultural sector if we are to transcend day to day disputes

I believe that one of the animal rights movement’s biggest problems is that we are associated with hippies, and that we’re seen as being on the same team as the New Age movement (whale song, homoeopathic medicine, and so on). I think this hinders us, because people who might otherwise be open to our arguments will close themselves off because they think we’re on the “other team” – a bunch of hippies who are anti-patriotic and probably anarchists too.I think the animal rights movement has to transcend subcultures and everyday political factions, because otherwise we’re only ever going to appeal to the counter-culture. But we really want to be changing the views of everyone, including mainstream culture. There are potential vegans across the political spectrum, if only we weren’t perceived as being part of the hippie counter-culture team. One of many examples is the type of conservative person who loves the countryside, hates to see it ruined by massive factory farms, doesn’t like to see traditional local species of bird disappear, and loves dogs and horses. Someone with views like that only needs to join a few dots between their beliefs to become committed to animal rights and environmentalism, but they’ll be less likely to do that if they feel they’re changing teams.

The Animal rights movement is me, you and everyone else - and should not appear as a subcultural preference. Animal rights demonstrations should be neutral enough to appeal to all. Copyright: Jose Gil/ Shutterstock

The Animal rights movement is me, you and everyone else – and should not appear as a subcultural preference. Animal rights demonstrations should be neutral enough to appeal to all. Copyright: Jose Gil/ Shutterstock

Another downside to being associated with the New Age philosophy is that this movement often conflicts with science. And unfortunately, a lot of people believe that Veganism and Vegetarianism conflict with science too. This is manifestly not the case, as there is an established scientific consensus that a well-balanced vegan diet can be very healthy, and indeed, a number of elite athletes, such as bodybuilders, Olympians and Iron Man competitors choose such a diet. Equally, vegetarians have longer life expectancies than meat eaters. Science, and the facts, are on the side of vegans and vegetarians, but we often get lumped in with wacky New Age diets.There are ways to change the perception of the animal rights movement. For God’s sake don’t play bongos at a protest! I’ve been to a few demonstrations and advocacy events, and I always make sure to dress as smart and as clean cut as possible, to try to subvert the stereotype, and to make it clear I’m not a raving hippie who can be safely ignored. I think everyone should make this effort as much as possible when advocating animal rights. And animal rights groups should try to promote spokespersons who demonstrate the ordinariness of being vegetarian or vegan. Perhaps a few less campaigns featuring skinny white bohemian artists, and a few more featuring people from other backgrounds, such as doctors, athletes and people of different races. We must also welcome people of all political persuasions – wanting low levels of immigration, for example, should be no barrier to being part of the animal rights movement.There will always be divisions in society, left-wing and right-wing, culture and counter-culture, liberal and conservative. If we want animal rights to be accepted by everyone, we have to transcend cultural tribalism.