Is There No Room for Rod Coronado in the Animal Rights Movement? The Problem with Veganism as the Moral Baseline

It is almost difficult to believe that the accomplishments of Rod Coronado can all be attributed to a single person with abilities not too different than our own; in this way he has demonstrated what is possible.  It does not take superhero powers to sink a whaling ship, light a match, or set an animal free from a cage.  It does, of course, take a fair amount of bravery to put one’s beliefs into action but that is well within our abilities.

Rod Coronado has dealt serious body blows to the whaling industry, the fur industry, and the animal experimentation industry.  Animals who seemed destined to spend their lives in locked cages only to meet violent deaths were set free by a stranger who arrived in the night, risked—and ultimately—sacrificed his freedom to give them a chance to be free.  The mind reels at what an animal be must be thinking and feeling as a cage door is opened by a stranger, her torment is over, and she escapes into the night.

 Having been released from prison and now off of probation, Rod Coronado is once again defending animals.  With the profile he has created for himself and the scrutiny he will forever be operating under, his tactics, at this point, are exclusively within the confines of the law.  Coronado is currently engaged in a speaking tour aimed at building momentum amongst the grassroots to stop wolf hunting in states where it is currently legal.

But is He Vegan?

But there is a lingering question about Rod Coronado that many animal rights activists can’t help but worry about: Is Rod Coronado currently vegan?  In 2006, he told the LA Weekly that he was not vegan at that time; he was also not vegan during his time as a fugitive. On the current speaking tour, Coronado was asked  by Jon Hochschartner if he was currently vegan and Coronado said he was not. (I was not present at that talk at Skidmore College but did see Coronado speak in Eugene, Oregon where the question was not raised.) The question has also been raised and vigorously debated in various online venues. Comrade Black conducted an interview with Coronado for Profane Existence regarding the current speaking tour and was criticized for not explicitly asking if Coronado is vegan.

The question then becomes what to  make of this fact: Rod Coronado is not vegan.  One who strictly adheres to the notion of “veganism as a moral baseline” would necessarily have to condemn Coronado. [1] [2] Such condemnations run the risk of dismissing what Coronado has done, and continues to do, for animals.  It may prioritize his consumer choices over and above the fact that his actions for animals have indisputably saved lives and served as inspiration for others to perform similar actions; and it is not an abstract set of animals that Coronado has “saved” but particular individuals. 

The “veganism as a moral baseline” idea is most commonly used to demarcate “us” and “them”; it goes beyond the claim that veganism is praiseworthy or even morally obligatory and posits the veganism is the litmus test for credibility and participation within the movement.  Deviating from a vegan diet (or perhaps more accurately a vegan lifestyle) cannot be compensated for with other actions.  If Coronado is not vegan, then he can and must be dismissed; his actions on behalf of animals are essentially irrelavent in this discussion.  Theoretically he could have delivered a knock-out blow to the fur industry and we could be living a in a world free of fur farms and his non-vegan diet would nonetheless mean that he was not one of “us” (animal advocates  in good standing) but essentially still one of “them” (animal exploiters).

This not only seems bizarre to me but also depressingly self-defeating.  Is there genuinely no room in the animal rights movement for Rod Coronado?

Excommunicating Ex-Vegans?

To be clear, I would fault Coronado for consuming animal products but could not deny that he is fighting more passionately for the world I want to see than I am.  The animal rights movement need not excommunicate someone for deviating from veganism; at some point we came to feel as though we must but we really do not have turn people away like this.  At the same time, letting go of the “veganism as the moral baseline” idea does not mean we should stop promoting veganism.  Veganism can be zealously promoted while simultaneously accepting the support and the participation of nonvegans and ex-vegans in an animal rights movement.  We may see wider acceptable of veganism if people are allowed to participate and share what is in their heart before they have radically altered their diet.

“Veganism as the moral baseline” may simply create an unnecessarily high barrier to entry into the animal rights movement.  As Dylan Powell recently wrote “An issue…that should have a broad focus gets presented through a very specific and normative lens and typically one that is very demanding”.  The demandingness likel y satisfies our ego but may do so at the expense of the overall movement.  Furthermore, it is an idiosyncratic demandingness: foregoing dairy creamer is perhaps demanding in some sense but liberating animals from cages and risking imprisonment is demanding in a whole different way.  Perhaps both are morally obligatory but the former is expected according to the “veganism is the moral baseline” catechism while literal liberation is not even consistently lauded (as it happens, many of “veganism as the moral baseline” adherents would would likely condemn such an act as violence).

A Movement Without Allies

The full threat that Rod Coronado has represented is his commitment to earth liberation, animal liberation, and indigenous resistance.   The ability of someone like Rod Coronado to unite these movements is a real danger to industries that exploit the earth and its animal constituents.  As he explained in the Profane Existence interview, “animals and nature…are ground up by the same machines” and so opportunities for solidarity between these movements are everywhere.

Yet “veganism as the moral baseline” dogma effectively eliminates the possibility of the animal rights movement building meaningful alliances with other social justice movements even ones as closely related to its aims as earth liberation and indigenous resistance. 

The animal liberation movement has proven itself quite skilled in finding enemies but given the industrial scale of the atrocities compared with the meagerness of our resources, we would be wise to start looking for friends.

Conclusion: Rod as Reductio

In the end, it is my claim that any movement dedicated to animal rights and/or animal liberation, that does not have room for someone like Rod Coronado is seriously flawed to the point of being almost incoherent and self-defeatingly insular. The example of Rod Coronado serves as a reductio ad absurdum argument against the “veganism as the moral basline” position.  If Rod Coronado is not for animal liberation, then no one is.

——————-

NOTE: Future dates on Rod Coronado’s speaking tour include:

  • Thursday March 20th Oakland CA. 7PM at The Holdout: 2313 San Pablo Avenue, near 23rd ST.
  • Friday March 21st San Francisco CA. 7pm at The Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics: 518 Valencia Street, near 16th Street BART.
  • Saturday March 22nd Animal Liberation Forum in Long Beach CA at 12pm.
  • Sunday March 23rd Animal Advocacy Museum in Pasadena CA. at 6pm.
  • Monday March 24th Fresno State University at 6pm, building TBA. 
  • Thursday March 27th Humboldt State University.
Rod Coronado at Strong Hearts Cafe in Syracuse, NY (www.strongheartscafe.com)

Rod Coronado at Strong Hearts Cafe in Syracuse, NY (www.strongheartscafe.com)

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72 thoughts on “Is There No Room for Rod Coronado in the Animal Rights Movement? The Problem with Veganism as the Moral Baseline

    • Mary –

      I am not quite sure of Rod’s reasons for not being vegan and I don’t really know what his diet consists of (perhaps it’s very nearly vegan).

      But since publishing this piece I heard from someone who attended the Skidmore College talk (the talk where he was explicitly asked about being vegan). This person said that in addition to saying he wasn’t vegan, Rod also said that he would or does engage in dumpster diving and scavenging road-killed animals. On the face of it, these two departures from veganism strike me as being fairly defensible and of no real consequence to animals…if anything they may benefit animals by steering consumption away from the industrialized food system.

      • Thank you for the additional information. A problem I see with it is that such a person cannot present themself (at least not honestly) as a model of veganism for others. Scavenging road-killed animals, in addition to health concerns, may be depriving other animals of that food source. Also, purchasing vegan food products helps to support their viability in the marketplace. I really would like to know why Rod chooses to not be vegan, if indeed he still isn’t.

  1. This is my question, too: Why isn’t Rod vegan? Knowing what animals raised for food are put through, how they suffer needlessly for nutrients that are already available in plants and plant-based food products, it isn’t mere ritual purity that causes people like me to feel deeply disappointed and let down to know that a person who cares and fights for wolves and other wild animal species contributes knowingly and intentionally in the suffering and needless killing of animals who are themselves every bit as conscious, sentient and deserving of our respect and compassion as wolves and lions. So, there is a serious issue here that cannot be brushed off which demands an inquiry and an explanation.

    Thank you. Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns http://www.upc-online.org

  2. I am also a person who works for animal rights (not by direct liberation but by public advocacy) without being strictly vegan. I agree that exploitation of animals for milk and eggs is indeed very wrong. However, after years of being a hard core, I found that degree of strictness to be unsustainable both for my own sanity and for non-rudeness to others (in certain circumstances). I am likely to be criticized for not being strict about the vegan part (I am strictly vegetarian, but only a “soft core” vegan), but I was losing my mind. I think we can work towards the end of animal exploitation (including for eggs and dairy) without harshly judging each other for our lack of perfection. Do you agree?

    • I don’t want the above post to be misconstrued. I do think veganism is very important and something that the animal rights movement should be strongly promoting. That said, to pass the same judgment on all diets that are “not vegan” seems overly simplistic and self-defeating. I agree with that those without an ideologically perfect diet (whatever that means!) can work toward ending animal exploitation and that the animal rights movement should enthusiastically welcome their support. The culture as a whole exploits animals and we are necessarily complicit in some way or another; but it would be a mistake to use that fact as a reason to opt out of a social justice movement.

      • Unfortunately, the topic of “vegan diets” has a way of obliterating the animals who are the victims of an animal-based diet. Either we, as self-proclaimed animal rights advocates, stand up for animals with pride and confidence, or we complain about how “hard” it is for us and others to be “pure,” etc. It is no more about ideological purity than the anti-slavery Abolitionist Movement or the Civil Rights Movement or the Gay Rights Movement are about “purity.” Social justice movements are about what is right and just for the victims. When you identify with the victims of injustice, you stop whining about your own problems and start focusing on how to improve your public education skills for those who depend upon you, and who need you, to be their advocate.

        Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns, a nonprofit organization that promotes the respectful and compassionate treatment of domestic fowl and an animal-free diet. http://www.upc-online.org/activism

        PS: I do not respect any so-called animal advocate who makes our work even harder than it already is on behalf of the largest number of abused and suffering animals on the planet. When an animal advocate (so-called) says publicly that he or she is not vegan, they are telling people it is all right to hurt a group of animals just for the taste of it. That is a rotten thing to do. ROTTEN.

      • @Karen
        When I saw Bruce Friedrich speak for the second time (he is in the ‘animal rights hall of fame’, for what it’s worth), one of his several points was that vegans can actually hurt their cause by focusing too much on ‘personal purity’ over actually helping animals. He gave as an example judging each other about eating a BK Veggie because there is a dairy-based dough conditioner somewhere on the list of ingredients of the bun. When we do such things we come across as a unappealing and judgmental lot. In a way, he was agreeing with you that our focus should be on helping the victims rather than on ourselves, but in another way he is disagreeing that only those who are “perfect” (by vegan standards) can be advocates for animals.

        Perhaps this is why “vegan” has become such a byword. I know some vegans who won’t even call themselves “vegan” because of its negative (i.e. judgmental, harsh, and self-congratulatory) connotations.

        You seem to be saying (rather emphatically) that people like Rob Coronado, Peter Singer and others (including myself) have no right to speak up for animals if we are not perfect in their dietary strictness (or at least that we shouldn’t admit it). If that is the case then you seem precisely to disagree with the above article. Am I right?

  3. Finally!

    A large chunk of my blog is dedicated to this very subject. After over a decade of vegan activism I discovered similar conflicts.

    I found that there were some very passionate people working in animal rights who were not themselves vegan. I could not dismiss the work that they do and had to come to accept that we are all hypocrites in some way. I think admitting that is a step in the right direction actually.

    When non-vegans (or “omnivores”) get defensive about veganism what do they do? They look for a chink in the vegan armor. They ask if your shoes are leather or shoes or wallet. Vegans are worse to other vegans. They police others over sugar and beer and soy etc. What does this tell you? Veganism isn’t about the animals. A history of advocacy efforts focusing on environmental or health issues hasn’t helped either. Veganism isn’t a movement, it’s a “lifestyle”. It turns people who subscribe to it into tools.

    I’m not against vegan advocacy when it’s done well, but so often it isn’t. Frankly I think it’s a shitty way to fight for animal liberation (is that’s the intention) but to each their own. But when vegans get fanatical and start interfering with other campaigns it starts to become a problem.

    Thanks for the post, I’m glad others are noticing this too and speaking out.

  4. A better question would be: “If we force animals to suffer gratuitous violence, suffering and death to satisfy our tastebuds, then on what basis can we claim that they count morally? When we arbitrarily decide they do?” This arbitrary position makes no more sense than applying the same to human beings, claiming that in some cases exploitation and killing is defensible even without just cause and when it isn’t necessary.

  5. My final comment! When animal advocates distinguish between being vegetarian and being vegan, and suggest that being vegan is “too pure,” or whatever, they are also saying that female animals matter less than male animals because VEGAN signifies and symbolizes Hens and Cows especially, since we’re talking about female animals’ milk and eggs which they produce for the nourishment of their own young, though we snatch away everything belonging to these animals for our selfish selves and act like crybabies if we can’t HAVE IT ALL. Thus sexism as well as speciesism is involved in saying that it isn’t important, or it is too hard, to be vegan. I’ve been an animal activist officially since 1983 and have lived to see food stores everywhere, including here in this rural part of Virginia, shelve lots of specifically vegan products, along with the traditional bounty of beans, pasta, rice, potatoes, nuts, greens, and so on. So I don’t get why people in our society (and our movement!) are fretting that being vegan is “too hard.” As for eating out, you can always eat vegan at Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Korean, Indian, Ethiopian, and Italian restaurants. I never have a problem eating vegan when I travel. And I don’t settle for just lettuce. .

    Karen Davis, United Poultry Concerns
    http://www.upc-online.org/diet

    • “shelve lots of specifically vegan products, along with the traditional bounty of beans, pasta, rice, potatoes, nuts, greens, and so on.”

      Are you really uninformed enough to believe that the produce, legumes, and grains you eat are not also associated with torture and death?

      The only perfect vegan is a dead vegan.

      Freeganism may not be a long-term solution to animal exploitation but because it is associated with no increase in exploitation and cruelty it is, IMO, a more *VEGAN* choice that munching on organic kale grown with the processed corpses of endangered fish.

      There are an awful lot vegans who reject the regidity you display in your awful comments. I would also argue that your irrational obsession with personal purity is not only “not vegan” but harms the vegan animal rights cause.

      • Aside from dumpster diving, there is the matter of ordering nonvegan food in a restaurant – while being interviewed by the media.

  6. “Veganism is the litmus test for credibility and participation within the movement.”

    Not really. You can be anyone and be part of *the movement.* But which movement?

    OTOH, veganism is absolutely the litmus test of a personal engagement with the the notion that animals matter morally. Whether that’s important for whatever movement you’ve involved with is another issue. It certainly is important for any movement I’d want to be part of.

    • Two things. First, there is nothing in my post to suggest that veganism is not important. In fact, I said that I would fault Coronado for deviating from a vegan diet (although perhaps not so much if his deviations consist entirely of dumpster diving and scavenging). I continue to believe that veganism is very important and should be zealously promoted. I do not believe that a less-than-vegan diet is, in itself, grounds rejecting the significant contributions that someone may have made.

      Second, you seem to have inadvertently confirmed my point about veganism serving as a “litmus test for credibility” because you have drawn a line between yourself and Coronado and said he is necessarily part of something different, perhaps part of a different movement, but not part of what you are doing. He has failed the litmus test. I believe it is a mistake to fracture what is ultimately a very tiny movement for animals into numerous, even tinier, factions. I am vegan but still think that Rod Coronado and I are on the same side.

      • As I said: Veganism is a litmus test for a *personal* engagement with the notion that nonhumans matter morally. Regardless if Coronado is the greatest advocate for nonhumans – and he might be? – the fact remains that when anyone lives non-vegan they intentionally torture and kill animals. What that does to his credibility is for each person to decide for themselves; I know what I feel about the matter but that need not inform anyone else’s opinion.

        No amount of animal advocacy can replace personal responsibilities and veganism remains the necessary requirement to properly consider nonhuman interests. That’s my standard. I’m sure Coronado has his own as does everyone else. Each to their own. These differing standards indicate that the fractures are real.

        Smothering these fractures to force some kind of unity is not only illogical but dishonest to those both within and outside the various movements. There is nothing inherently wrong with fractures. Without acknowledging them we will never be able to address them.

      • Are you saying that Rod pulls dead animals (“meat) out of dumpsters to eat? Does he eat animals discarded in dumpsters and wounded & killed by vehicular traffic for environmental reasons?

        In case anyone is interested, the term vegan doesn’t apply only to diet per se but is supposed to signify a larger commitment to ethical behavior toward nonhuman animals, other humans, and the planet. Absolutely, one cannot be perfectly vegan given the extent to which slaughterhouse remains are incorporated into so many commercial products, but a piece of meat, an egg, a glass of milk, a slice of cheese, clearly means that an animal is “involved” in the product.

        I may be wrong but one thing I sense in some of these anti-vegan comments is a lot of MALE ANGER.

        Karen Davis, President of United Poultry Concerns

  7. If any of you commenters take the time to talk to Rod personally about it, he freely admits eating roadkill & dumpster scores like eggs, salmon & the like out of a desire to not let the life (death?) of the animal go to waste. No purchases, no factory farmed animals, no butter, no cheese, no milk (unless, I’m assuming, it’s liberated from a dumpster)

    So, ummm… Karen, (and others) perhaps you might consider shutting your stupid leftist mainstream non-difference making pie hole (especially since the cushy NGO salaried position you enjoy DEPENDS on factory farming for it’s existence) when it comes to talking trash about topics & activists you clearly don’t know squat about. Considering (if the overflowing room in the East Bay to hear him speak not 2 hours after your dumb comment is any indication) the man you’re dismissing has not only done more to liberate animals then you could possible fathom, much less orchestrate, but also has inspired more people to “your” cause then you could in ten lifetimes of comfy NGO “working within the system” gigs, I’d say the “better activist” here is fairly self evident.

    From my vantage point it’s shi#-heels like you trashing amazing people doing really dangerous work, out of ignorance? jealousy? desire to proselytize? that represent a lot more problems to the “movement” then Rod Coronado.

    Until you put your arse on the line and scuttle some whaling ships, f%$# off.

    • “eating roadkill & dumpster scores like eggs, salmon & the like out of a desire to not let the life (death?) of the animal go to waste.”

      Just as all non-Vegans do when they buy flesh, dairy and eggs from stores. Those animals don’t go to waste either.

      On the other hand, he could actually do some good for animals, as opposed to all the harm he’s done by “liberating” them, and live Vegan while promoting Veganism as the only moral choice (which it is).

      Anything less is just pissing in the wind. The animals deserve better.

      • >Just as all non-Vegans do when they buy flesh, dairy and eggs from stores. Those animals don’t go to waste either.

        But it also provides money for the enslaving and killing of more animals. That’s the practical difference between ordinary non-veganism and non-vegan freeganism.

      • “The animals deserve better.”

        Which animals?

        The cute furry ones that live in farms or the ones dying by the billions due to 1st world omni/veg/vegan lifestyles? Somehow I doubt you mean the fully self-aware orangutans who die excruciatingly painful deaths from starvation because of the insatiable need for “Vegan earth balance” or “Vegan cheeZ”.

        As a hardcore utilitarian vegan I can also play the “vegan police” “not-vegan” game. Gary Francione lives in an awfully big house and drives a nice car. It’s a pity that thins type of lifestyle is stained with the blood of dying *wild* animals.

  8. As has been noted, for a high-profile activist to publicly state that he or she is not vegan is especially problematic. What’s the point of doing that? Is there any way of get Rod to explain his reasoning on this?

    • From what I have gathered from some of the other comments is that Rod has explained his deviations from veganism. It seems his deviations consist largely (perhaps entirely) of dumpster diving and scavenging. You may not be satisfied with this explanation but it is nonetheless an explanation. I am concerned by the suggestion that high-profile activists should not say such things aloud for it seems to suggest that there is a party-line that one must adhere to and that certain topics are verboten.

      • It is NOT about a “party line,” Ian. It is about excluding a whole group of animals from the circle of ethical concern and telling the public it is okay to exclude them in the most fundamental way by EATING THEM! Because when you have animals hurt and killed for you, you are excluding them in the most direct way, and when you take a public stance that it is okay to do this, you send a hurtful and destructive message to the public.

        It is NOT about “purity” and “party line.” It is about animal activists demanding that government agencies, corporations and academic institutions stop their cruelties to animals, yet these same advocates refusing to change their own eating habits to help animals. Why should we expect institutions and companies that do not care about the animals they abuse to change when we, who claim to care about animals, won’t even give up dining on them? And to underscore again: it is female animals who are at the root of being vegan as opposed to vegetarian, although I wish there were one word for eating animal-free: vegetarian.

        Another person here has commented that eating animals from dumpsters and the side of the road, and making a public display of this behavior, verbally or literally, undermines the argument that human beings can be healthy and well without eating animal products as long as we’re eating a nutritionally complete and balanced diet. And please don’t say it’s hard to do. It isn’t. And if it were, so what? Toughen up. Get Creative. Get Positive.

        While it is depressing to picture a so-called animal rights vegan advocate sneaking animal products in private, in a certain sense it is worse to make this animal-abusing behavior a part of one’s public position about animals. It is no longer “personal” anymore; it is now a public statement which hurts no only the animals but all of us who are fighting for animals cursed with the misfortune of being considered food, and treated accordingly.

        I remember how shocked I was in 2008 reading the LA Weekly article about Rod (whom I know personally and have shared speaking engagements with in previous years) telling the reporter he was no longer vegan. That bombshell was dropped into the article without further ado and I and others were asking, “Why would he do, and say, such a thing?” And “why didn’t the reporter ask him about the cause of his change?”

        I am waiting for an answer, and will say again: Those of us fighting for chickens and turkeys and cows and pigs and water animals have to do damage control when our so-called animal allies defect or try to justify consuming animals. The message is that these animals are consumables and commodities. Being so designated is not a mere abstraction but translates literally and practically into the horrible treatment they receive and, if people consult history throughout the world, not just under “capitalism” in the last two centuries, they would see that the problem didn’t start with 20th-century “factory farming.” Rather, factory farming of chickens, fish, pigs and other has been done for thousands of years in Asia and elsewhere, and modern industrialized animal farming grew naturally out of the attitudes and behaviors of “old-fashioned” family farming – the kind many locavores and food fetishists are now touting as idyllic. For whom? .

        The “trick” in dealing with the public is being firm AND friendly, engaging, not lecturing, but you don’t surrender the field, and you don’t “bond” with other people by reassuring them that you share common ground in consuming cheese, when you know what a miserable business the dairy business is – and always has been.. And you understand the difference between Pessimism and Negativity.

        Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns, author of Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs: An Inside Look at the Modern Poultry Industry and the director of a sanctuary for chickens, turkeys and ducks since 1985.
        http://www.upc-online.org

        .

      • At this point, I will simply restate that I am not dismissing the importance of veganism. I myself have been vegan for twelve years. I am also not saying that actions that benefit animals can cancel out the harm done by consuming their bodies; one does not get a pass for harming some animals simply by aiding others. You may have noticed that in the original post, I did say that I would fault Coronado for consuming animal products. That said, if people with moral failings could not be part of a movement for animal rights then an already small movement would disappear completely. Furthermore, I would consider it almost delusional to suggest that my twelve years of veganism could be compared to what Rod Coronado has done for animals even acknowledging that he has been an on-again/off-again vegan.

      • Has anything changed in those 8 years? We’re still awaiting an explanation for why it happened then.

  9. The pursuit for vegan purity is a marathon of absurdity. Being vegan is a subjective experience with many variables and arguing over that misses the forest for the trees. One could find a number of ways any vegan is not consistently vegan. Rod doesn’t owe any vegan an explanation for his personal habits because he happens to work for animal liberation. How presumptuous!

    • Yes, just as someone who only molests children once a year does not owe anyone an explanation of their actions either. After all, if they fight for the rights of survivors of child abuse, then it must be ok.

      • Is eviscerating a living cow the same as eviscerating a dead cow?

        It seems to me you may want to revisit the definition of veganism and reread the part about avoiding exploitation and cruelty as much as is practical. Freeganism is not for everyone but it, IMO, does a better job of avoiding exploitation and cruelty than the typical “vegan” diet.

  10. Some of the comments that have been posted in response to inquiries that have been made are not only uncivilized (which I suppose is in keeping with the name of this blog) but are also remarkably ignorant. I’m not interested in such a discussion. I’ll just say that, while I appreciate the speculations that have been made about why Rod has said he is not vegan, I’m interested in having HIM explain his actual reasons for stating it. Having publicly made such a comment, and surely realizing the questioning that would result -which is, in fact, the basis of Ian’s article- I would think he would not only be willing but wanting to explain himself.

  11. Things vegans are right about:
    1. The exploitation of animals on factory farms is wrong, very wrong, even the most wrong.
    2. It is wrong to support that exploitation; rather, we ought to be exemplars of how to stop it.
    3. Usually terms like ‘free range’ and ‘cage free’ mean very little on product labels.

    Things vegans are wrong about:
    1. All deviations from veganism violate the above (and, it would seem, to the same degree).
    2. All deviations from vegainism disqualify someone from the movement (or even being a minimally ethical person).
    3. Veganism is cruelty free (it may generally involve less cruelty, but there is animal cruelty in all of our diets and lifestyles, I could go into details …).
    4. Veganism is easy (perhaps for some, but in my experience it is the extreme opposite of easy, I could go into details …).
    5. Treating others as though vegans are cruelty free and non-vegans don’t care about animals somehow doesn’t make vegans seem rude, elitist, and insular (which hurts the movement).

    So I’ve wondered for years if it is possible to find a win-win here. It seems that this blog (as well as Pythagorean Crank’s) seem to be trying to find such a solution.

    I would almost feel better with a new word (like “plant-based diet”) that conveys our intentions but allows imperfect (but trying) diets to count and that acknowledges that there is a spectrum, and if someone’s diet is not yet perfect (none are) it doesn’t mean that person is an ethical failure. We should be supportive of efforts that actually help animals (including encouraging all not to support cruel industries), without being rude dogmatists.

    Shaun Monson (creator of “Earthlings”) told me such things on the phone one time. He called it compassion towards our fellow human beings as well. So in sum, can we strive to stamp out factory farming without being A-holes?

    • How about Animal-Free diet? If we would picture the animals themselves, and help others to see them too, and get to know “food” animals a little better, and, in effect, ask THEM what kind of advocacy they want and need from us, then maybe we would move beyond the endlessly boring and impotent chatter about “purity” and other tedious ideological rhetoric and get out there and advocate for animals with refreshed motivation and public relation skills..

      No responsible well-informed animal advocate is claiming that vegan means a 100% cruelty-free life, but we should remember that even so-called free-range and other euphemisms involve mass-production of baby animals, separation of parent animals from their young, culling of “unproductive” animals, bodily mutilations, and finally the slaughter (usually preceded by terrorizing catching and truck transport to the slaughter facility), and the very least we can do, as Thoreau said about African American slavery, is to wash our hands of this obvious cruelty and injustice and try to get others to join us. It has nothing to do with screaming at people and being nasty to them as some of these posts seem to imply.

      Tolstoy said, in his essay “The First Step” that the first step toward a nonviolent life is to get the slaughterhouse out of our kitchens and our systems. When I read “The First Step” in the 1970s, that was the end of meat-eating, and when I read Animal Liberation in the early 1980s, that was the end of eggs, milk and cheese for me. And after having a good cry outside an Italian restaurant about not being able to have cheese anymore, because of what I had learned, I went into the restaurant and ordered a delicious rigatoni dinner, and never looked back.

      When animal advocates make an exception of food and “food” animals in their advocacy, as opposed to, say, fur or cosmetic testing, etc., it hurts. It hurts in every way.

      And for those who mistakenly assume that people like me are living off of animal suffering and collecting big salaries and have no “boots on the ground” experience of jail time, being fingerprinted, sneaking into animal-abuse facilities to document conditions, rescue animals, etc., I suggest you do some homework and also learn to make your arguments and claims with a civil tongue.

      Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns and author of Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs: An Inside Look at the Modern Poultry Industry; More Than a Meal: The Turkey in History, Myth, Ritual, and Reality; The Holocaust and the Henmaid’s Tale: A Case for Comparing Atrocities; A Home for Henny; and Instead of Chicken, Instead of Turkey: A Poultryless “Poultry” Potpourri.”

      Give a Cluck – Go Vegan! – and get others to join you!
      http://www.upc-online.org/karenbio.htm
      http:://www.upc-online.org

      • Karen,

        I agree with you. Completely. I also deeply admire what you are doing. I also want to do more in my own life, both in terms of my public activism and in terms of my personal dietary purity (yesterday I invented my most passable tofu-cream cheese alternative yet (though according to my wife that is not saying much)). It also should be obvious to everyone that Mr. Deep Ecocomedy up there was ridiculous and rude (perhaps trying to live up to his or her post name, but none of us found it too funny). I am sure he/she is just a trolly straggler, and does not represent any of the rest of us.

        What I don’t like is the idea that my lack of dietary purity (which is odd in many ways because people where I live see me as pretty extreme) somehow negates my activism for animals. There is really no excuse for the egg and dairy industries, and I would not seek to imply (publicly or otherwise) that such treatment of animals is ok. It is abhorrent.

        I also agree with your point about asking animals what they would want. I have thought about this many many times. I have no doubt that what they would say if they could would be “MAKE IT STOP!!!”

        I think that we should all do our best to make it stop, for their sakes. Thank you for providing some inspiration for me to up my efforts on both fronts.

        -Chris

      • Agreed, animal agriculture is the problem…and I would extend that to say domestication.

      • It’s laudable that vegans should concern themselves strictly with animal agriculture but the animal rights movement is about the oppression of all animals. It’s the prejudices underlying this that must change, not the menus of restaurants. Veganism is a cargo cult.

        There are millions of nonvegans working in a variety of social justice movements who are not themselves vegan. Where are the blog posts and consternation on these?

      • The vegans I know, who are many, address all manner of social justice issues. However, the topic of this discussion happens to be about being vegan, or failing to do so and making a point of it to the media. You seem to be the myopic one with your anti-vegan rants and out-of-context comments.

      • Mary,

        The topic of discussion actually happens to be about whether somebody’s veganocity should take precedence over their animal rights work as put forth in the conclusion:
        “The example of Rod Coronado serves as a reductio ad absurdum argument against the “veganism as the moral basline” position. If Rod Coronado is not for animal liberation, then no one is.”

        It illuminates the failings of veganism when adherents reject others who strive towards assumingly shared goals for failing to meet a personal subjective “moral baseline”.

      • That is merely the author’s concluding opinion, not the topic of the discussion to which you directed your remark.

        It’s not simply a matter of “failing to meet a personal subjective ‘moral baseline'” but also a matter of publicizing and demonstrating that one is no longer vegan. We deserve an explanation, for the animals’ sake if not our own.

      • Spare us the histrionics. It’s not a matter of being “punished.” It’s a matter of explaining himself, which, as I mentioned before, I would expect Rod would be not only willing but wanting to do. And yes, the animals’s sake since they are the ones being consumed.

      • Just to note, it’s not solely about animal agriculture but rather it’s also about wild animals and ecosystems.

    • Chris, that reminds me. I used to run the VeganRepresent forums long ago and at some point after years of talking about it I realized what a farce the vegan movement was. It seemed to be more about the people than the other animals. I changed the name to Plant-Based People in part to challenge that identity. Sure enough, a majority of the members left and it became a ghost town.

      Veganism is not animal rights but some (maybe many!) animal rights proponents do avoid using animal products (as far as possible and practical). We are the non-vegan vegans, join us! ;)

  12. Giving with one hand, taking with the other. Many pillars of the community commit unforgivable acts whilst helping others. It depends on if you think it’s ok, redeeming, balancing etc and perhaps if you think it’s more ok/less bad depending on who/what is being compromised e.g. people, animals, environment…

  13. I wonder if Rod Coronado thus is actually responsible for saving more animal lives in his adult life or consuming them from his diet. Some have said that he claims he only eats roadkill or dumpster dived food, but if so that is still problematic. One of the whole points of being vegan, is that you serve as an example to other humans that you don’t need to consume animals to live at all. Then there is this article which was posted before in a previous comment that shows he clearly will purchase animal products in the form of milk and cheese:
    http://www.laweekly.com/2006-08-10/news/the-caged-lion/

    I remember reading once that he said he ate meat again as it was part of Native American tradition or history. But Native Americans are also largely lactose intolerant, unlike most settler-colonists descended from Western Europeans and yet he was observed with milk products by that La Weekly reporter.

  14. The idea/insinuation that Rod Coronado is not a friend to animals because he’s not vegan is seriously the dumbest non-reality based sentiment I’ve heard in some time; to hear it has company here undoubtably further drives any rational fence-sitting people away (if they are intelligent) from the “vegan movement” in droves. You can deny your omnivorous nature all you wish & seek others to do likewise, but super-imposing your clicktivism-based (in)”actions to save animals” guilt to impugn ROD CORANADO??? C’mon. Next, you’ll claim John Carlos wasn’t really about social justice because his black glove was made in a sweat shop. You’re losing sight of the forest through the trees yo. Up that protein intake & embrace rationality ifn u wanna “make a difference” Nobody, save maybe Rod’s peer Paul Watson, and I mean nobody, has done more publicly to end cruelty, in all forms, to our animal brethren. Swallow that for a moment, stew on it even, before you pen another ludicrous screed…

    And finally, a hearty thank you to Chris & @pythacrank for doing their best to turn some lights on here. I wish you the best of luck. Rough sledding amongst the upper crust of the” I live in my own world, the puritanical vegan non-reality based community.” As for the rest of you? Also a hearty thank you, for at least giving us dumpster divers/road kill scavengers (freegans) a hearty chuckle… It’s ok though, we all totally support you continuing to keep facebooking your way to a “pro-animal life,” as opposed to “animal hater” Rod Coronado. And when you finally get a whiff of the absurdity, do seek medical help for your logic…

  15. “You can deny your omnivorous nature all you wish…” It sounds like you eat animals/animal products. It’s not a matter of denying our omnivorous nature. It’s a matter of realizing we can transcend it and thrive without exploiting animals for food. It’s a matter of acknowledging that using animals for food is to needlessly harm them, and that needlessly harming them is wrong and unjustifiable. It’s a matter of having the self-discipline to rise above our base nature and self-centered appetites.

    What is the basis for your assertion that Rod Coronado has done more publicly than anyone else, with the possible exception of Paul Watson, “to end cruelty, in all forms, to our animal brethren”?

    • There is an assumption in every one of these comments, and in the whole vegan movement, that a vegan diet is possible long term. We don’t actually know this. There have been no long term studies and the issue is still to be resolved. ‘Failure to thrive’ is quite common in long term vegans – 25 plus years – but not all. We are all different. Those that ‘fail to thrive’ are often accused of not following the diet properly. It is not so simple though.

      A good site to visit is Beyondvegetarianism. I am taking no position on this other than asking the following question: if it were to be shown that long term veganism for many people is detrimental to their health, what would people’s position be on veganism then?

      • ‘”Failure to thrive’ is quite common in long term vegans – 25 plus years.”

        Please precisely define “failure to thrive” and cite the scientific documentation in support of this claim.

    • Karen,

      I wrote this article and posted it here. I believe it has been re-posted at at least a few other sites.

      =Ian

  16. I can’t believe you cited Dylan Powell, an ‘animal rights activist’ who supports the “First Nations” culls of tame deer in Ontario provincial parks. He calls people racist if they oppose these hunts.

    • I think that the Dylan Powell article that I cite is incredibly important. I believe his point with respect to the deer cull is that activists are often transparently opportunistic (in a racially tinged if not explicitly racist) about the campaigns they adopts, essentially pandering to mainstream racist attitudes…this could be hunting by First Nations people or dogs slaughtered for food in China.

  17. Pingback: Skeptical Vegan

  18. We have to stop exploiting the earth in any way. I recommend starvation until we have better methods. The Germans of 1933 to 45 knew how to deal with exploiters. And of course the Soviets and Chicoms also did creditable if incomplete jobs. Pol Pot did pretty good for a small country leader.

  19. Veganism is an ethical baseline for the animal rights movement.

    My belief is that if you’re doing radical acts like Rod Coronado and still stuffing your face with dead animals and their secretions you’re nothing more than a hollywood, drama-queen hypocrite.

    Does he really think that just because a chicken was never a wild north American animal it matters less than a mink. It is a morally indefensible position. Just like Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd eating cow flesh and other animals makes him a hypocrite of the same stripe.

    They (Coronado and Watson) have both accomplished impressive things but they are also both wrong in their animal consumption and they shouldn’t get off the hook for their hypocritical actions. No one can stop them from being part of the animal movement, that’s not how it works, but we can certainly criticize them for willfully participating in the torture, confinement and murder on other sentient beings.

    Humans are natural plant eats, here is a great article explaining that position.

    http://michaelbluejay.com/veg/natural.html

    • Thank you, Matt. Your comment is on point. There is a tendency in the environmentalist outlook to despise animals who had the misfortune to be taken from their natural homes against their will and “domesticated.” There is a tendency to Blame the Victim and to identify, romantically, with Wild Animals only. There is a tendency to think it is okay to mistreat a chicken (e.g. eat a chicken) whereas if one were to similarly mistreat a mink or a lion, that would (rightly) be considered deplorable. However, a chicken is every bit as sensitive, cognitively complex, and alive as a lion, and just because one’s preferred animals may be lions or minks doesn’t give one a pass to hurt animals they identify with less empathically. Just because I have a deep instinctual love for chickens, and birds generally, doesn’t make it okay for me to wear a mink coat or try to raise money to help chickens by raffling a leopard skin handbag. So, thank you again, Matt, for your comment. .

      Karen Davis, United Poultry Concerns.
      Give a Cluck-Go Vegan! http://www.upc-online.org

      May 4 is International Respect for Chickens Day. Please do a compassionate ACTION for chickens, and make every day Respect for Chickens day.

    • “but we can certainly criticize them for willfully participating in the torture, confinement and murder on other sentient beings”

      Please explain how eating salmon disarded in a dumpster is participating in the “torture, confinement and murder of other sentient beings”.

  20. Pingback: A World Without Domesticated Animals: Veganism’s Endpoint | Uncivilized Animals

  21. One thing should be considered first and foremost:

    More animals suffer and die prematurely as a result of human dietary traditions, then all other human activities combined. So while anyone’s efforts opposing any animal exploitation may be helpful to specific individuals, most fail to address THE FUNDAMENTAL problem — THE issue that enables any of this to happen is simply one thing: THE CAPACITY IN HUMANS FOR MORAL SCHIZOPHRENIA And I do not exclude myself (a vegan now for well over two decades) from being sometimes “caught” in this challenge.

    Remember the quote:

    “…..A thousand hacking at the branches of evil for every who strikes at the roots….”

    Many animal activists have been heroic to (collectively) millions of beings — but those efforts are striking at the branches and do little to challenge the underlying paradigm that it is morally acceptable for humans to use animals.(which is the root of this evil.)

    The issue is not , but rather Recognizing that each of us has unique challenges we are up against, it is not my purpose to judge others, but I must admit, that the more someone “walks their talk” and show’s thoughtful consistency in their behavior, the more I find myself inspired to grow and evolve further too. There is a wonderful saying:

    The deed shapes the heart.”

    This is another one of the reasons that I think following a vegan lifestyle is so crucial — it changes us — changes the structure of the brain even — in ways that make us more inclined to behave compassionately. (Neuroscience shows that everything we think/do causes structural changes to brain) And isn’t that fundamentally what everyone in the animal rights and all other social justice movements wants.

    • Well said. We should take personal responsibility for our own actions/lifestyle by trying to do the least harm and the most good. At the very least we should try to not cause needless harm to others. The main way that people cause needless harm to others is by using them for food, which is harmful to so many and in so many ways.

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