Vegan News – How to deal with vegan ‘abolitionists’ – Tammi Jonas

 

By Tammi Jonas
Posted about 11 hours ago

Tammi Jonas on her farm
PHOTO: I believe our society over-consumes meat, but that doesn’t mean the same as “all meat eating is bad”.
As a farmer of free-range pigs I’ve been drawn into arguments with vegan “abolitionists” before. Here’s how to deal with this particularly emotive subset of the animal rights movement, writes Tammi Jonas.

I am a farmer of free-range pigs who is used to being attacked by vegan “abolitionists” for what they see as unethical – raising and killing animals for meat. I am used to their highly emotive language and the assertions that “going vegan is the only way”.

Many livestock farmers like myself snap and react poorly to the abuse we cop from this particular subset of the animal rights movement.

The “abolitionists”, as they describe themselves, are defined on Wikipedia as those who “oppose all animal usage by humans”. They maintain that “all sentient beings, humans or non-humans, share a basic right: the right not to be treated as the property of others”. They have borrowed the term that used to apply to human slavery and applied it to “the legal ownership of non-human animals”.

With the rise and rise of the abolitionists online, I wanted to pass on advice to my colleagues on how to deal with them.

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I am always happy to discuss all aspects of how we raise our animals at Jonai Farms and the processes we use for slaughter at our abattoir. We promote principles of slow meat – eat better, less.

Our society over-consumes meat to the detriment of the planet and animals grown in massive intensive systems. But that doesn’t mean the same as “all meat eating is bad”, hence my disagreements with vegans.

So, here’s the advice:

First of all, in most cases, it’s best not to engage with vegan abolitionists. They are the subset of vegans that not only think it’s immoral to eat meat, but that all meat eating (and use of any animal product) must be abolished.

They draw comparisons with slavery and tell us that history will judge us harshly. I judiciously ignore or respond to initial attacks with “I respect your views and I disagree with them”.

Online (it’s almost always online that they attack), I begin to finish the interaction with “here’s something I prepared earlier” on how vegans and ethical omnivores should unite. And then, I finish with “here’s another thing” on how, if you want transparency in farming, you will have to put up with reality.

On the other hand…

I listened to the quiet roar of a blowtorch as it heated the iron destined for my skin. I chose to be branded with the mark “269” to open people’s eyes to the cruelty we inflict on animals around the world, writes Brittany.
But, in the rare case that it’s advisable to engage, I have a few thoughts, as follows:

First up, don’t get defensive and don’t attack or make silly jokes about how they’re probably unable to think clearly due to lack of meat in their diet. They’ve heard it before and you mostly just look like an arse.

I would also suggest that you not posit the argument that many small mammals are killed in cropping systems and that’s blood on vegans’ hands. They clearly aren’t in favour of those deaths. We’re all implicated in those systems (vegan through to omnivore) and the scale of those deaths doesn’t compare with the number of animals killed purposefully in industrial animal agricultural systems.

Sure, everyone has blood on their hands, but this is hardly a compelling argument for omnivorism.

So, as you consider the following responses, remember: these people think we’re all murderers and that tends to colour their view. Principles of civility are often totally disregarded.

But, here goes:

There is no reason to eat meat – you can live without it.
The short answer is: I agree. And you can also live without bananas, apples and potatoes, but most people don’t.

The slightly longer answer: for many, or even most, people this is true at a personal health level. For some, it is not and eating meat is important to maintaining optimal health.

But, at a systems level, the planet can’t live without animals. Plants don’t grow without phosphorous and nitrogen – both abundant in livestock manure. A healthy agro-ecological system incorporates animals and some of them are then available as food for humans.

For more detailed information on this topic see some of my earlier posts on agro-ecology.

So, incorporating meat into a balanced diet makes good ecological as well as nutritional sense. Plus, properly raised and prepared meat is delicious.

You’re speciesist!
Yes, I am. I believe there is a hierarchy of species and I’m really happy to be at the top of that ladder.

Would you treat your own child in this way?
No, I don’t think it’s OK to eat children.

You wouldn’t kill your dog for a stir fry, there’s no reason you should kill a pig either.
It’s true, I wouldn’t kill our dogs for a stir fry, because I was culturally conditioned not to eat dogs so I have a kind of irrational “ick” response. But I have no issues with other cultures who eat dogs, so long as the dogs are raised respectfully in a manner that allows them to express their natural behaviours.

How can you say you “love” your animals and then kill them and eat them?
I don’t say I love my animals, actually. I feel affection for them, I find them quite amusing, charming, and sometimes annoying and quite a lot of work, and I know that we are growing them for food.

And, here are some questions and abuse I usually don’t respond to but, if I did, here’s what I might say:

Why are you so heartless?
I haven’t eaten enough heart.

You are “sick freaks”/”Neanderthals”/”animal abusers”/”murderers”.
Sigh.

You have no compassion.
Show me yours and I’ll show you mine.

I’m more evolved than you.
One day you’ll be me.

This article is published as part of Open Drum’s callout for animal equality. Open Drum is a collaboration with ABC Open and invites readers to have their say on what’s happening in news and policy debates. Read other stories submitted in response to our question about animal equality.