About the author

Matt is the author, co-author, secondary-author, ghost-author, and non-author of articles, speeches, book chapters, and even entire books! The most recent is his blockbuster The Accidental Activist, which Amazon claims is by his wife Anne Green. So it goes. Currently, he is President of One Step for Animals; previously, he was shitcanned from so many nonprofits that we can’t list them all here. Before Matt’s unfortunate encounter with activism, he was an aerospace engineer who wanted to work for NASA (to impress Carl Sagan). His hobbies include photography, almost dying, and {REDACTED}. He lives in Tucson with Anne, along with no dogs, no cats, no guinea pigs, and only the occasional snake or scorpion.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Against Reducitarianism

From this interview:

VS: What do you think of reducetarian outreach?


The reducetarian approach is rooted in one vitally important psychological insight: people are more likely to attempt and maintain a change that seems achievable, rather than something that seems far beyond where they are now. This has been shown over and over again – not only that the more realistic a change is, the more likely people are to attempt it, but also that the more stepwise a change, the more likely people are to maintain that change.

But as currently embodied, the reducetarian movement misses another important psychological truth (as discussed by Dr. Gordon Hodson): goals must be not only reasonable and achievable, but clear. “Eat less meat” is not a clear goal. Reach out to just about anyone considered to be a likely target for dietary change and ask them to “eat less meat,” and they will almost universally reply, “Oh, I don’t eat much meat.”


They often add, “Just chicken.” Of course, "chicken" is "meat," but that is just not how people see it. When I give talks, I ask, "Who here has been told, 'Oh, I don't eat much meat. Just chicken.'" Everyone raises their hand. This is reality, and rather than insisting on the "truth" ("but chicken is meat!") we should adjust our advocacy accordingly.

In addition to all the arguments against red meat, we know that nearly everyone cares more about mammals than birds. And of all the factory-farmed animals brutalized and killed for food, the vast majority are birds. As Professor of Veterinary Science John Webster has noted, modern poultry production is, “in both magnitude and severity, the single most severe, systematic example of man’s inhumanity to another sentient animals.” Combine this with the fact that it takes more than 40 chickens to replace the meals produced by one pig, and more than 200 birds to replace one cow, everyone who “eats less [red] meat” and replaces even a little of it with birds is causing a lot more suffering.

Like doctors, our first duty as advocates should be to “do no harm.” The initial test we should run on any potential campaign or message is, “Is there any chance that my efforts will actually lead to more animals suffering in the real world?” Unfortunately, I think the “eat less meat” campaign might fail that test.

Luckily, there is a better way.

1 comment:

Nettie Rose said...

I agree! I see this over and over. Here is an example. Oprah interviewed Wayne Pacelle. They talked about eating less meat, compassion for animals, and Meatless Mondays. Oprah was on board with the program. Nothing was said about chickens, there was some stuff with cows. Not too long after this, this past New Year's Day, Parade Magazine had an article entitled "Oprah's Happy Meal" with a photo of a whole roast chicken and accompanying recipe. Oprah reguarly promotes eating birds. Bet she thinks by not eating red meat she is on the right path with the eat less meat idea, weight loss goals, and health.