Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Wages of Sin

As many of you know, the Vox video received some ... less-than-favorable reactions from those who are already vegan (despite what I actually said).

But there have been a lot of interesting reactions from the target audience – people who currently eat animals.

For example, the reporter who put the video together gave up eating chickens, and later told me it was surprisingly easy.

One of the two videographers who ran the shoot pulled me aside to ask details about how to eat vegan.

Yesterday, some of my relatives came across the video. I then got this email:

“Very good! Makes sense to us. I'm giving up chicken.”

Thanks to everyone who has been sharing the video (which has over 820,000 views on YouTube, and about 500,000 on Facebook) and promoting One Step's message!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Big Numbers Hurt

As discussed on this blog before, Vox has another good explainer of why:

A psychologist explains the hard limits of human compassion
Why do we ignore mass atrocities? It has to do with something called “psychic numbing.”

Saturday, July 15, 2017

July 16

But the single most remarkable and defining moment of the past 500 years came at 05:29:45 on 16 July 1945. At that precise second, American scientists detonated the first atomic bomb at Alamogordo, New Mexico. From that point onward, humankind had the capability not only to change the course of history, but to end it.
-Yuval Harari, Sapiens

Happy Birthday, Ellen!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Veganism vs Animals

My friend Tobias (whose new book is out) recently explored whether Israel really is the vegan miracle many claim.

Tobias cites claims that Israel is "the most vegan country," a "vegan paradise," and even considered "proof" of the efficacy of certain vegan advocacy tactics.

According to other sources, Tobias shows that Israel's per capita meat consumption is one of the highest in the world. Worse, Tobias notes they are the largest consumers of chickens in the world.

This means that in Israel, the average person eats more factory-farmed animals than anyone else. Although it may be a great country for vegans, it is the exact opposite for animals.

We tend to judge news based on how it makes us (vegans) feel or how it helps us (e.g., more vegan options). But for me, vegans aren't the measure we should use. Rather, the only metric that matters is how many animals are suffering and dying.

In other words, we shouldn't judge something as "good" solely because it's vegan, good news for vegans, or proof of vegan "victories." Instead, we must look at how a new tactic or news actually impacts animals. Given that per-capita consumption of animals is at an all-time high (in the US and Israel), we need to focus on actually helping animals, rather than making vegans feel good.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Do You Love Books?

Thanks to generous friends, Anne and I received and read the following books:

We would rather pass these along thank keep them stacked up somewhere. If you would like one, please contact me. Preference given to One Step donors, of course. 😇

PS: If you shop at Amazon, using this link:

Will support One Step's work, allowing us to reach even more people! Thanks so much!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Free Speech

I tend to be on the "free speech" side of most debates (having been censored myself), but I am not sure everyone (especially well-off white men) considers all aspects of every situation.

The Supreme Court has listed various restrictions on free speech (below), such as yelling "Fire" in a crowded theater. I'm not sure I see much distinction between that and lying to incite hatred and violence against people.

For example: there are public figures who claim trans people molest young children in public bathrooms. This claim is simply not true - trans individuals are the victims of sexual crimes at a higher-than-normal rate, not the perpetrators. Knowing this, I can understand an argument that people spouting this hateful and inciting lie shouldn't be given a platform. I can certainly understand protesting strongly against allowing such an individual to speak at my school or in my community.

The Supreme Court has held that "advocacy of the use of force" is unprotected when it is "directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action" and is "likely to incite or produce such action".[1][2] In Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969), the Supreme Court unanimously reversed the conviction of a Ku Klux Klangroup for "advocating ... violence ... as a means of accomplishing political reform" because their statements at a rally did not express an immediate, or imminent intent to do violence.[3] This rule amended a previous decision of the Court, in Schenck v. United States (1919), which simply decided that a "clear and present danger" could justify a congressional rule limiting speech. The primary distinction is that the latter test does not criminalize "mere advocacy".[4]
In Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (1942), the Supreme Court held that speech is unprotected if it constitutes "fighting words".[30] Fighting words, as defined by the Court, is speech that "tend[s] to incite an immediate breach of the peace" by provoking a fight, so long as it is a "personally abusive [word] which, when addressed to the ordinary citizen, is, as a matter of common knowledge, inherently likely to provoke a violent reaction".[31] Additionally, such speech must be "directed to the person of the hearer" and is "thus likely to be seen as a 'direct personal insult'".[32][33]

Threats of violence that are directed at a person or group of persons that has the intent of placing the target at risk of bodily harm or death are generally unprotected.[38] However, there are several exceptions. For example, the Supreme Court has held that "threats may not be punished if a reasonable person would understand them as obvious hyperbole", he writes.[39][40] Additionally, threats of "social ostracism" and of "politically motivated boycotts" are constitutionally protected.[41] However, sometimes even political speech can be a threat, and thus becomes unprotected.[42]

Sunday, July 2, 2017

My Dearest Dream

A longtime friend recently provided this feedback regarding One Step’s approach to advocacy:

I don't have much faith that many vegans, at least among those who are active in advocacy, will be willing to deviate from vegan orthodoxy. They seem to equate strategy and ideology. Our opponents certainly don't do that, which gives them a decisive advantage in the conflict.

This might be the most insightful comment I’ve read all year.

It is useful to keep this in mind when you read through your Facebook feed and fundraising materials from different groups. If you are like me, you’ll see a significant trend in the comments:

  • Is this pushing exactly what I want? (“I don’t want clean meat [therefore, no one should be pursuing it]. Everyone should eat exactly as I do!”)
  • Does this promote my ideology and make me and my tribe look good? (“How dare he not adhere exactly to our dogma! We will censor him!”)
  • Does this make me feel good? (“WE are winning! We ARE winning! We are WINNING!”)

Of course, there are many advocates who care about more than protecting a poisoned brand – they actually focus on what will reduce suffering in the real world.

It is my dearest dream that more people will put aside labels and dogma, and join this animal-first advocacy. When we care about and focus on labels, ideology, and protecting personal purity, we make it easy for everyone else – the people we actually need to reach – to ignore us.

Despite all the rhetoric and claims, the simple bottom line remains the same: this year in the US, per-capita consumption of animals is at an all-time high. Despite decades of pushing purity and dogma, this year, the average person in the US will cause more suffering than ever before.

If we truly care about animals first and foremost, this is the only fact that will drive us.

So please don’t ask me if I’m pro-this or anti-that. I am simply pro-animal and anti-suffering. I believe everything we say and do should tie directly to a realistic and workable plan to change the fact that animals are worse off than ever before.

Friday, June 30, 2017

A Super-Simple Mental Exercise

Our good friend Kristie sent this report, which reaches conclusions along the same lines as the above graph: 1 kilogram of lamb produces 39 kg of greenhouse gasses. 1 kg of beef produces 27kg GHG, cheese produces 14, pork 12, farmed salmon 12, chicken 7, and eggs 5. One kilogram of tofu produces 1 kg greenhouse gasses.

Now imagine going to a college campus or your local grocery store. Imagine giving the people there this information. What do you think they'll hear? More importantly, what do you think they'll change, if anything?

Herb Simon won the Nobel Prize for his simple but important insight into human behavior: We don't make optimal choices. We make satisfactory and sufficient choices.

We are actively delusional if we think any significant proportion of people are going to move from burgers and steak to tofu. This delusion helps feed the ongoing move from red meat to chicken. It is why, in 2017, more than 40 years after the publication of Animal Liberation, the average person in the US will eat more animals and cause more suffering than ever before in history.

Luckily, a growing number of people are recognizing our failure to alter the trajectory of animal consumption. It is why more work and money are going to welfare reform, as well as the supply side. But I believe we also need to work on the demand side, with a specific focus on actively and realistically opposing the increase in animal consumption.


Thursday, June 29, 2017

CBC Interview

While it didn't cause as much vitriol and hatred as the Vox video, the interview I did with the Canadian Broadcast Company reached a lot of people! I especially love his last question.


Direct link to audio.

Text of article, in case it disappears elsewhere:

When Matt Ball stopped eating meat in the 1980s, he became what he describes as an "angry vegan."

But years later the Tucson, Arizona activist, who had co-founded the group Vegan Outreach, realized that perhaps his message wasn't getting through.

He says it dawned on him that it had been over 40 years since the seminal book Animal Liberation came out in 1979, and since then decades of animal rights organizations urging people to stop eating meat, but the percentage of the U.S. population that are vegetarian has basically stayed the same, around two per cent.

"In 2017 the average person in the United States will eat more animals and cause more suffering than ever before in history … and that's with all our efforts. We have failed on the one metric that we should guide ourselves by, and that just shows us … that we really need to re-evaluate, we just really need to take a new approach." 

So Ball co-founded the group One Step for Animals with a new, simple message: Stop eating chickens.

He says the eating habits of the average person in the United States account for about 25 factory-farmed animals — including 23 chickens, a fraction of a pig and a fraction of a cow.

"In the United States, about nine billion animals are killed for food each year, and the vast majority of these are chickens. So if someone stops eating chickens they will remove the vast majority of their support for factory farming." 
- Matt Ball

So, even if people replaced chicken with other types of meat such as pork and beef, then they would only be responsible for "one or two animals every year," Ball says. 

Ball, who is still vegan, isn't suggesting that people eat more pork and beef (The One Step for Animals website advertises plant-based meat alternatives, and not "beef burgers", Ball says). 

If people really want to reduce animal suffering, cutting out chicken is the best step, he says, because they have been "genetically manipulated" to grow quickly and are in chronic pain for most of their lives. 

It's a message he wants to get out because many people have been cutting down their red meat and instead eating more poultry, for health and environmental reasons.

"It takes over 200 chickens to provide the same number of meals as one steer, and more than 40 chickens to provide the same number of meals as one pig. So if you stopped eating pork or you stopped eating beef and you replaced it with chickens, then you're causing a lot more animals to suffer."

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Subsidies, Antibiotics, and Market Concentration

Lewis Bollard has a great new piece looking at the effects of these structural supports. A very thorough look, with what you might find to be counter-intuitive conclusions.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Truth We Should Dare To Speak

Bad News for Red Meat Remains Bad News for Chickens
Anne Green & Matt Ball

Basically every animal we kill in the US is killed as part of our “food” system. This year, about nine billion animals will be born into and suffer on factory farms, their misery ended only by slaughter.

If we could convince every single person in the US to entirely give up beef, pork, lamb, and dairy – and replace every scrap of that with a plant-based food – the number of animals who will be brutalized on factory farms would remain...

... about nine billion.

The numbers are simple: if we care at all about suffering, the impact of our advocacy has to be measured by its impact on how many birds are being raised to be eaten.

Of course, actually looking at the facts shown by decades of consumption patterns clearly indicates that people have replaced red meat with chicken, causing vastly more suffering. Studies have shown this clearly as well.

What Ginny Messina wrote years ago is even more painfully true today: Bad News for Red Meat Is Bad News for Chickens.

For decades, there have been several problems with our advocacy, not the least of which is our lack of understanding (or memory of) basic human nature. Perhaps the most important insight is what won Herb Simon his Nobel Prize in Economics: People don’t make optimal or “perfect” decisions. Rather, almost everyone makes choices based on what is a bit “better” or “good enough.”

Yet just about every single argument we offer the general public – health, environmental, and even ethical – leads people to move from red meat to eating more chickens. Almost everything we say reinforces the trend that has led to the explosion in the amount of cruelty and suffering in this country.

Of course, various smart advocates have created endless rationalizations for pursuing their personal preference for advocacy. The most common is the need to be “consistent.” But consistency is utterly irrelevant in the real world. People have a nearly infinite capacity for cognitive dissonance. They love their dog or cat and eat pigs and cows without a second thought.

Other advocates create fantasies whereby getting people to question the ethics of eating red meat will lead them to adopt the full philosophy of animal liberation. But this could not possibly be more at odds with how people function in the real world. Having an entire class of meat widely vilified as immoral – veal – had no impact on overall meat consumption. More importantly, it did nothing to stop the continuing increase in the consumption of chickens.

Of course, we applaud the attempts to think outside the box, given our failures to increase the percentage of vegetarians or slow the rise in chicken consumption.

But we are horrified and appalled when people advance pet theories that we know with absolute certainty will vastly increase the amount of suffering on factory farms.

It might seem like harmless to create stories where a quirky new message will create a magical moral awakening across the country. But this is not an intellectual exercise. This is real life – and death – for birds being brutalized by the modern chicken industry.

The end of cruelty to farm animals won’t come from some mystical manipulation of the public’s thinking. It will come from an interplay of supply and demand driving and being driven by technological change. There is no cunning shortcut, no quick fix. The public won’t ever all become ethical eaters – we have to drive both demand for and supply of ethical, familiar foods that they will gladly eat.

Given all of the above and more, it seems inevitable to conclude that those of us who truly care about suffering and are working on the demand side must follow two straightforward guiding principles:

  • Avoid advocacy that has any possibility of leading individuals to replace red meat with chickens.
  • Promote a simple, incremental message that is accessible, sustainable, and maximally impactful on the amount of suffering in the world.

These may not thrill the ideologues or the clever contrarians. But these are the principles that follow from the historical real-world facts.

If you agree, please be a part of One Step for Animals work. Thanks!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

From New Scientist

Two good letters in response to an article questioning whether atheism is a religion.

From Alan Singlehurst, Shildon, County Durham, UK

As someone who likes to consider the big picture before diving into analysis, I was dismayed by Graham Lawton's article on atheism. What makes him think atheism is real? There's no word for people who disbelieve, even vociferously, in dragons, unicorns or fairies (would that be an a-fée-ist?). So why one for religion? Believers invented the whole concept of atheism to make non-belief seem perverse and unnatural.

Religion is entirely cultural; some people are conditioned by their family and community to believe strange things while others are not. An atheist is just someone who was spared this unwanted conditioning while their brain was maturing. Do they really need to be explained?

From Anthony Castaldo, San Antonio, Texas, US

I am a born-again atheist. I was born with no belief in God, strayed from that path as a child, then as a young adult returned to the true path. In truth, the first and third stages are quite different.

I was born with no mental models of how the universe works. As a child, I was taught a religious mental model of how reality works; and then as an adult came to understand that the religious model was so severely flawed it couldn't predict anything. In other words, anything can happen if God wills it, including the violation of every assurance by the supposed agents of God and the violation of every law of physics.

A universe with God in it is thus a universe with no rules at all: everything that happens is the whim of an intentionally unpredictable intellect with an intentionally incomprehensible plan that may result in horrors.

My atheism is not a religion, it is the rejection of all models of the universe that contain some intellect capable of literally anything. It is my claim that an incoherent model cannot be how everything works.