“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”
“Until they became conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.”
― George Orwell, 1984
Seeing as I am going through a bit of an Orwellian period at the moment, I decided to pull these two quotes out of his book 1984 as I believe they describe things brilliantly.
The animal advocacy movement is predominantly split into two main groups.
There are those who see any improvement, however small, as one more step on the path towards the end goal of a complete cessation in the (ab)use of animals.
Whilst the other camp are those who believe that only one step needs to be taken, with everything else being a distraction and counterproductive to the original message.
Which one is right, and what should we be doing to get ‘the message’ heard?
Well that really depends on whether you are the person who wants the instant ‘self gratification’ that comes with supporting continual incremental change, or are the type who is willing to spread the same consistent message in the face of apparent stagnation.
Those supporting incremental change will tell you that they are doing something NOW, and aren’t prepared to wait around for the vegan utopia to materialise, because the animals in the cages need saving today!
With Queensland’s SPCA beginning in 1876‘ there has been nearly 150 years of regulation and incremental reform, yet we are further away from the final destination than we were originally in 1824 when the first animal protection legislation was passed in the UK.
Whereas what the media call the animal rights movement is less than 50 years old. That is, if we credit Peter Singer and his book Animal Liberation as being the catalyst that started it all.
Returning to the statement that those advocating for incremental change make, that they are actually doing something to improve conditions for the animals now, and those who will be in the system tomorrow. The sad reality of this statement is that they aren’t actually doing anything for those animals in the system today, or tomorrow for that matter.
It may be a number of years before that particular sector of the industry has 100% compliance with the new code or legislation thereby ensuring that future animals see an improvement on the conditions prior to the change. This is because the industry, being as economically powerful as it is, is able to get the government and those groups advocating for reform to capitulate to their demands and agree to a substantial “transition” period.
It could also be further argued that by not actually challenging the use of animals in the first place, these incremental improvements actually further entrench the new behaviour. Which is now deemed to be socially acceptable and therefore approved of, due to the relevant emotive advertising campaign.
If they are able to find it, I would appreciate it if those groups advocating for incremental change and reform are able to show me any evidence where there has been a substantial decline in animal consumption due to their campaign.
The Achilles heel of incremental change campaigns is that they are easily hijacked by other self interest groups that have no intention of ending animal use or even acknowledging that their use is wrong.
This is exactly what happened with the recent Ban Live Export campaigns, they were taken over by The Greens, for their own political agenda, the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union, who are all about keeping jobs here, as an example.
Promoting The Vegan Message
On the otherwise of the great divide are those who believe that animals should not be used and that the only way to actually achieve this is to promote the vegan message.
This is seen as a stagnant position with little chance of success as the use and commodification of animals is heavily entrenched in society, and accepted as normal practice, whereas veganism is seen as the weird and non conformist choice,
Whilst it may be true that the world isn’t going to go vegan overnight, the cages that animals are kept in won’t instantly become bigger overnight either. There is a substantial amount of work that needs to be done.
That having been said, the vegan movement is still in its infancy, though it is slowly gaining momentum. Something worth remembering is that it takes approx 20 years for an Oak tree to reach maturity and start bearing acorns.
If, in 100 years time, our use of animals hasn’t changed and the world isn’t vegan, then those who today, have had the benefit of 150 years of incremental reform can turn around and say, “I told you so”.
The changes that I have seen myself regarding veganism over the nearly 20 years that I have been vegan, are amazing. Who would have thought that in Queensland, the state that has to be the most conservative in Australia, we would see a number of vegan restaurants opening up, and even a vegan grocery store?
Which option is the best?
As I said at the start of this article, that really depends on you. If you are able to consistently promote the vegan message in the face of apparent stagnation and little movement, then do it. Whereas if you are the type of person who needs the instant gratification of attending a mass protest for incremental change, then that’s what you should do.
Bear in mind that the nationwide protests calling for an end to live export were two weeks ago today, and in reality, it is no closer to being closed down today than it was three weeks ago.
If there was a nationwide protest or day of action promoting veganism and the benefits it has for all involved, and that was the only message promoted. Who knows what will happen in the next 5, 10, or even 20 years?
If those who support incremental reform are working towards improvements for tomorrow. Why not work towards a vegan tomorrow, not the short term placation of those who consume animals?
It is the ONLY option.
1: Orwellian | Define Orwellian at Dictionary.com
Retrieved 08 Oct 2012
2: RSPCA Qld
Retrieved 08 Oct 2012
3: How Long Before an Oak Tree Reaches Maturity to Bear Acorns? | eHow.com
Retrieved 08 Oct 2012