Monday, November 15, 2010

Animal Rights Reading: The Scalpel and the Butterfly

"Let us work against the principle then; not against personalities. For it [vivisection] is a weed that requires more than seven, or seven times seven of us to extirpate."--Helene Blavatsky to Anna Bonus Kingsford

I am currently reading The Scalpel and the Butterfly: The War Between Animal Research and Animal Protection by Deborah Rudacille. It's interesting how the thread of violence and controversy ran through the animal rights movement even in the nineteenth century. Reading about Anna Kingsford, an early champion of the anti-vivisection and vegetarian movement, putting a death curse on vivisectionists Claude Bernard and Paul Bert sounds eerily familiar. Death threats to researchers are apparently not anything new under the animal rights sun. And neither are personality clashes or hugely public squabbles between big names in the movement. Or sensationalism and in-fighting...even the Victorians were doing it! The clash between Anna Kingsford and Frances Powers Cobbe pre-dated the current "abolitionist" vegan versus "welfarist" vegan schism by over a hundred years. I just don't get the in-fighting in the movement right now at all. Even just seeing a re-tweet of any of Gary Francione's smug abolitionist rants is enough to make me cringe and hit refresh on Twitter. Believe me, if you want to make people NOT want to be vegan or a supporter of animal rights, that is definitely the way to do it.

I think the twelve step ideas of "attraction rather than promotion", "principles before personalities" and "love and tolerance is our code" could go a long way in attracting people to the movement. Although I think I would replace "tolerance" with compassion, since I think that is more to the point. Present the facts in a non-hysterical way if people are interested, don't bait, get preachy or angry and let them decide for themselves. Be the healthiest, happiest vegan activist you can be. Advocate, don't discriminate. Although there is a place and a time for in-your-face protesting, I wonder sometimes if it is actually turning more people off than it is attracting people into the movement. One of the people who was my vegan role model is a dear friend of mine who is an activist and has been a vegan for over 17 years. She is the least preachy vegan I've ever met and an amazing person. She consistently inspired and encouraged me to try being vegan again no matter how many times I fell down...face first into a container of greek yogurt (she teases me about that now!). Her dedication and positive example made me want to be vegan even more.

And before I forget: my family has agreed to have our first ever vegetarian Thanksgiving!!! I am so stoked. Since 1994 I have had my tofurkey all by my lonesome while everyone else ate turkey, but this year we will all be sharing a big vegetarian Italian feast. I think they agreed because I said I would do most of the cooking! Whatever---it feels like a huge exciting victory to me! Even when I had my icky foray back into omnivorous eating, I never ate Thanksgiving turkey again after 1994. That Thanksgiving was my first vegan epiphany, so I am grateful to be able to celebrate this occasion meat-free with my family this year.

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