Sunday, 5 January 2014

A Greenprint for Animal Liberation

A Greenprint for Animal Liberation

What follows is my personal opinion formed after over 40 years in the animal
liberation movement.

It is intended for those who wish to see animal liberation, i.e. an end to all persecution, exploitation and killing of other animals by human beings or for us to reach a situation that is as near to that as possible.

It is also focused on what we should be doing in England. In other countries the situation may be different, particularly with regard to the political aspect.

What has concerned me for a long time is that we have no overall strategy or masterplan for the achievement of animal liberation and that the lack of this causes disunity among us and inefficiency in the use of our resources.

In order to formulate such a masterplan or blueprint, or greenprint, as I prefer to call it, I think we first of all need to try to understand why it is that the human species persecutes, exploits and kills other animals in the first place.

Although there are many things that exacerbate the mistreatment of other animals by humans, there is one fundamental cause of it, which is speciesism or human supremacism, i.e. the arrogant, selfish and irrational belief that human beings are somehow more important than other sentient animals.

As a socialist I want to see an end to capitalism, but although the greed, wastefulness and desire for profit inherent in the capitalist system certainly increases the mistreatment and exploitation of other creatures, animal abuse would still exist in a socialist society if speciescism continued to hold sway.

All abuse of other animals flows fundamentally from speciesism, so if we are to achieve animal liberation we need to challenge the speciesist mindset in human beings and strive to create a situation where humans behave towards other animals in a non-speciesist way.

We tend to divide animal abuse into various areas - vivisection, the fur trade, zoos, hunting, farming etc. - but all these areas of animal abuse are really symptoms of an underlying disease, which is speciesism, and unless we treat and cure that underlying disease, we will be forever having to deal with its symptoms.

If we are to persuade human beings to live in a non-speciesist way, the most
important thing we need to do is to educate them to end their consumption of animal products, because eating flesh, eggs and dairy is the most fundamental speciesist thing that most people do and also because, when we consider all the areas of animal abuse normally campaigned against by our movement, 99.5% of the persecution of other animals by humans occurs in the food industry (several billion animals slaughtered annually for consumption by humans in England, with the next highest area being the approx. 4 million victims of the UK vivisection industry).

Thus, the most important form of activism for other animals is vegan outreach
and our main focus as a movement needs to be on educating members of the public to become vegan.

This doesn't mean we shouldn't also campaign against other forms of animalabuse, but that we should always seek to promote veganism at the same time.

So, on our stalls we should always have vegan information to give to the public and on any demos or protests we do, the leaflets we give out need to contain information that will lead people towards veganism, in addition to information about whatever form of animal abuse we are protesting against.

If we are to educate ordinary people to become vegan, we need to consider what are the best ways of doing this.

To educate the public, we need to be where the public are - and that means we have to do street stalls, stalls at community events, free food events to which the public are invited etc. etc.

We also have to be in what the public read and listen to, which means articles and letters in local newspapers and interviews on local radio/TV.

So what is going to be the vehicle for these local outreach events and this local media presence? It has to be local vegan outreach groups.

Therefore, what we need to do is to try to set up a large network of such groups throughout the country, so that every town and city is covered, and to train and give confidence to the people within those groups to engage positively with the public and the local media.

Of course, educating people to go vegan is not an easy task and we need to try to understand how people operate in order to do this effectively.

People, in general, tend to be passive creatures of habit who don't like change and want to be the same as everybody else and not stand out from the crowd. Animal liberationists are not at all like that, but we need to take people for what they are and not presume that everybody is fundamentally the same as us.

Thus we need to make veganism seem as "normal" and easy as we possibly can
and not get frustrated when there appears to be a slow uptake of the vegan message. That is bound to be the case at first, but as the number of vegans gradually increases, a level will be reached when veganism is no longer considered to be that unusual and that will then cause the amount of vegans to rapidly increase.

It isn't just a case though, of persuading ordinary members of the public to go vegan, but of persuading existing vegans to become involved in outreach.

The Vegan Society has estimated there 
are at least 150,000 vegans in the UK. Opinion polls have put this figure as high as 600,000, but, for the sake of argument, I'll stick to the lower estimate.

I've done many vegan outreach events just on my own or with the help of only one other person, but if, once again for the sake of argument, we say it would take 10 vegans to do one event, this would mean that if each of the estimated 150,000 vegans in this country just took part in one outreach event per month, that would equal 15,000 events per month, 3,000 events per week and about 500 every day.  

And just think how many more vegans 
could be created, if that were to happen!

The vast majority of vegans are vegan because they are opposed to the suffering and slaughter of animals and so they would, presumably, want that suffering and slaughter to end entirely (or, at least, as near as we can possibly get to that situation), but that won't happen unless we persuade lots of other people to go vegan and that, in turn, won't happen unless we get out there and interact with the public in order to do it.

Surely the difficult bit is actually becoming vegan, with all the initial trials and tribulations that involves, especially on a social level. So, having become vegan, it would only take a comparatively tiny step more to do a bit of outreach. So many vegans seem unable to take it, however, and this is a problem we have to try to solve, if we really want animal liberation to be achieved.

I've spoken above about the importance of vegan education in persuading people to change their attitudes and, hence, their behaviour towards other animals.

It would be naive in the extreme, however, to suppose that we can succeed in
educating everybody and we need to accept that some people will remain unaffected by our educational efforts and will wish to continue their support for or involvement in animal abuse.

People change their behaviour for one of two reasons, either because they want to or because they fear the consequences of not doing so. Thus there are two ways of changing human behaviour, education and coercion, and with those who refuse to be educated, we are left with coercion.

I've talked about local vegan outreach groups being the vehicle for education, but what is to be the vehicle for the coercion we need in order to change the behaviour of those we are unable to educate?

Basically, there are two types of coercion that could be applied to enforce correct behaviour - coercion by the individual (or group of individuals) or coecion by the state.

Non-state coercion would need to take the form of illegal direct action and the problem with this is that it is highly unlikely that enough people could be persuaded to do this in order for it to be effective.

This leaves coercion by the state, in other words the passing and enforcement of laws to protect animals from abuse and in order to get such laws passed, we need an elected government that would be prepared to pass them.

Governments are formed by political parties, which means that all of us who want animal liberation need to support the political party which gives the best hope for strong animal protection legislation.

I think we can say immediately that isn't going to be the Tories or the Lib-Dems, so is it going to be Labour?

Sadly, there is nothing in the fundamental philosophy of the Labour Party or its record in relation to animal protection to indicate that this would be the case.

We must never forget how Labour reneged on their promise of a Royal Commission to investigate vivisection, how the number of cruel experiments increased under their administration and how they brought in new laws to persecute anti-vivisection activists.

Apart from a half-hearted "ban" on hunting with dogs and the abolition of fur farming (but not the fur trade) most forms of animal persecution continued to increase and prosper when Labour were last in power.

In my view, the best hope of a government for animal protection lies with the Green Party.

The Greens have policies that would end the badger cull, ban all animal experiments, abolish the fur trade, end the use of all animals in circuses, strengthen the law against hunting, abolish shooting and snaring, end live exports and factory farming and encourage veganism through the promotion of a diet free from animal products.

The strong environmental protection policies of the Green Party are also of great benefit to non-human animals in terms of preserving their habitats and reducing the risk of them being harmed by pollution, climate change etc.

A large number of Green Party politicians and activists are already involved at local, national or   European level in fighting factory farming, live exports, animal experiments, the badger cull, bullfighting and many other forms of animal abuse.

We need to get the Green Party into power if we are ever to truly protect animals in this country and if we don’t try our utmost to do so, we will be partly to blame for the continuing persecution of other creatures under Tory and Labour regimes.

A Green Party government is not an impossible dream. The Greens are not only the best party for animal protection, but also the best for social justice and the environment – and if everyone who cares about all or any of these issues were to support the Green Party, they could easily sweep to power at an election.

Let’s not forget that only about 20% of the population would need to vote Green in order for that to happen.

As I mentioned above, it is a fundamental trait of humans in general to be passive and to not want to stand out from the crowd. However, in order for us to get a Green Party government, most people don't need to be outspoken activists. They just need to put a cross on a piece of paper in the right place!

Anarchists within the animal protection movement will object to my support for the Green Party, but it is my contention that those who support anarchism are harming the cause of animal liberation by advocating that members of the public should not vote at elections.

Most human beings are fundamentally leader-followers, so the problem is that if there is no good guy (or gal!) for people to follow, most of them will inevitably follow the bad guy. Therefore anarchists are playing straight into the hands of the bad guys by advocating that animal protectionists do not vote, because all that achieves is to make sure that animal abuse supporters will continue to get elected.

Likewise support for the Animal Welfare Party can also be harmful to the cause of animal liberation in that it takes the votes of animal protectionists away from the Green Party. Unlike the GP, the AWP has no chance of ever being able to form a government, because it can only ever appeal to that small minority of the population that is highly focused on animal protection above everything else. On the other hand, with its excellent policies on social justice and the environment, as well as on animal protection, the Green Party has the potential for mass appeal.

There is also an argument that if we just persuade enough people to go vegan, politics will change accordingly and we'll get animal protection legislation without supporting the Green Party.

However, just having a large number 

of people wanting animal protection
doesn't mean that legislation will be passed to enforce their views. For decades a substantial majority of the public were opposed to hunting with dogs without it being abolished, forinstance, and a large majority against the badger cull hasn't prevented that from going ahead. Similar failure to reflect the views of the majority in legislation can also be seen with regard to the fur trade, live exports and animal experimentation.

This means that hand in hand with educating people to go vegan, we have to build up the political force that will form a government for animal protection and reflect the views of vegans in its legislation.

Thus my Greenprint for Animal Liberation is a combination of vegan outreach and support for the Green Party and I would urge every single person who yearns for animal liberation to do the following in order to help achieve it:-
(1) Join your local vegan outreach group (or, if there isn't one, form one) and start educating members of the public to go vegan.
(2) Join your local Green Party and help them with the process of getting people elected both at a local and a national level.

None of this will be easy, but I see no other way. What I am talking about is basically the creation of a new type of animal protection movement that focuses less on shouty demos and hero-worship of direct action and more on vegan education and political involvement.

We have to find a way of moving away from being brave losers, constantly trying to throw ourselves against an overwhelming force, and towards a situation where we ourselves become that overwhelming force that can make the world our own and carry all before us in the struggle for animal liberation.

The above is just my opinion and I welcome constructive criticism. My plan may not be an easy one to put into operation or to see through to the end, but at least I have a plan, so please do not tell me mine is wrong without putting forward one of your own!

(Please note: This article was written before the unexpected rise of Jeremy Corbyn, and a left wing Labour govenment could possibly offer hope for strong animal protection measures, but only if most of its current MPs are replaced by people who share his views.)


  1. Excellent article and well written. As a newcomer to the world of veganism, I have had my eyes opened to the opportunities to reach out to others and encourage them to consider veganism as a way of doing their bit to end the rampant speciesism that has infected mankind for so long. For many, veganism is just "taking it all a bit far". It is easy for people to understand vegetarianism as it has become so common and most people know a few vegetarians. It takes a lot more to get ordinary folk to understand how easy it is to become vegan. Perhaps there is a need for a filter-down approach; encourage vegetarians to become vegan and encourage meat-eaters to become vegetarian. This might not be seen as such a radical step for either group. Of course, when the meat-eaters have had a stint as a veggie, we need to encourage them to take the next step.

    The more vegans there are, the easier veganism becomes as the market grows and becomes more attractive to producers and sellers. The first vegan supermarket opens in the UK soon (Berlin-based Veganz). Imagine how many more vegan friendly shops and products there would be if the market topped the 1m mark.

    In terms of education, there seems to be a perception that there is vegan food. That it is some kind of weird alien food that lightweight hippies eat. I think it's important to help people understand that veganism isn't so much about what you eat as what you don't eat. People eat "vegan food" every day without thinking about it; fruit, nuts, beans, pulses, beer, (some) wine, etc... A message about the health benefits of veganism and the downside of eating meat and dairy is sometimes an easier starting point than showing horrific scenes from factory farms and slaughterhouses which often turn people off. Watch the surprise when you tell people that the worlds strongest man, Patrick Baboumian is a vegan!!

    I'm with you all the way Ronnie. It's time to rid the world of speciesism and this dominion that humans seem to think they have over animals and the environment and slowly we will make a difference. Apologies for the long-winded comment, it's late and my mind is racing!

  2. Hi Ronnie, very good article but just one point I think you've missed out here.

    I have come to the conclusion that certain types of vegan outreach are preaching to the converted. Vegan fairs for example (especially one that charge money to enter) only really attract people who are already interested in veganism. They do create more vegans though and tip people over the edge into turning vegan, and they help promote vegan groups and companies. Vegan social groups also only attract people already interested in veganism.

    However, I now believe that a creation of a vegan culture is the single most effective way to turn people vegan. The best way to do this is to set up vegan businesses or not-for-profit businesses. Think about most small towns, do they have a vegan cafe or wholefood shop? If more vegan cafes and wholefood shops existed people would find it much easier to turn vegan and find vegan food. The more vegan options there are out there and the more vegan households there are then the more people are exposed to vegan culture.

    In the punk scene here in Manchester, some punks used to put on a weekly "vegan dinner raves" in one of the local squats, served vegan food at gigs, distributed vegan/animal rights literature, and I can possibly name 30-50 people who have become vegan because of exposure to this level of vegan culture. When most of your friends are vegan it's hard to find excuses for yourself not to be vegan any more.


  3. Thanks, Mark.

    I think it's important to educate and encourage people to reduce their consumption of animal products while promoting veganism as the best option. If we adopt an all or nothing approach, some people may just carry on as before, if they feel total veganism would be too difficult for them.

    I feel there's a strong case for the toe-in-the-water approach you suggest, Mark. Nick Cooney mentions this in his excellent Science of Animal Advocacy talk ( I attended a similar presentation by Nick in Birmingham a few months ago and was very impressed by what he had to say because, like myself, he believes we need to take into account the limitations of ordinary people and understand how they really operate in order to change their behaviour, rather than bestowing intellectual and moral abilities on them that they don't, in reality, possess.

    Having said that, we also need to recognise that vegetarians may still be contributing just as much to animal suffering and slaughter if all they are doing is just substituting eggs and dairy for the meat and fish they were previously eating, so we need to be encouraging existing and prospective vegetarians to eat vegetable products in place of meat and fish.

    One of the problems in terms of getting vegetarians to go vegan is that many vegetarians are unaware of the suffering and slaughter involved in the production of eggs and dairy products. It's obvious that meat and fish products involve slaughter, but not nearly so obvious in the case of eggs and dairy.

    Therefore, as is the case with many of them, if vegetarians aren't involved in the animal protection movement and don't read vegetarian publications, they may be totally unaware of the reasons for going vegan. This was certainly the case with myself when I was a vegetarian, before I wandered into a health food shop that was advertising "vegetarian products" and picked up a copy of the Vegetarian Society's magazine that had an article about veganism in it.

    I think targetting such non-movement vegetarians with the vegan message would be very productive, but how to do so is a difficult question. If only we could put vegan leaflets inside every packet of Quorn in supermarkets!

    With regard to "showing horrific scenes from factory farms and slaughterhouses", I'm not a big fan of that either and would never display such images on information stalls as I think there's a very strong chance of them just frightening people away. I wish some of the national animal protection societies would understand this, as I've often received posters from them that I've felt unable to use because of them being too gory.

  4. And thanks, Jake.

    I used to feel like you about vegan fairs and what you say may still be the case with some of them, but at many of such events, where surveys have been taken, it generally turns out that only half of those attending are vegan, with the other half being made up of 50% vegetarian and 50% meat-eaters.

    I think the key lies in how such events are publicised and advertised. If this is done using only social media, very few of the "unconverted" will be reached, but if there's plenty of publicity in local newspapers and radio and lots of leaflets advertising the event are distributed to the public, many more non-vegans are likely to attend.

    This doesn't just apply to vegan fairs, but to smaller events organised by local vegan outreach groups, where it'll be just the same already-vegan faces turning up every time unless sufficient effort is made to inform the public.

    One of the best, cheapest and easiest way of getting the vegan message to the public is through street stalls. In some areas the council can make it difficult to do these, but info stalls can often also be done in libraries and at community events. Take a look at Worcestershire Vegans & Veggies' Facebook page ( for good examples of the variety of different events where info stalls can be held.

    I think you're right about the vegan cafes, wholefood shops and serving of vegan food, Jake, and I feel the best vehicle for the setting up and running of these is, once again, the local vegan outreach group.

  5. Finally, with regard to comments I've received about this blog article from elsewhere, there's been some concern about my "focuses less on shouty demos and hero-worship of direct action" statement, with some people being led to believe I no longer think such activities have any value.

    That is not at all the case. I think direct action in its many forms (ALF, hunt sabs, Sea Shepherd etc.) has saved many thousands of animals from suffering and slaughter and is of great value for doing so.

    Demonstrations, (even shouty ones, sometimes) can often also have a positive value.

    However, I believe such activities can only ever play a relatively small part in the achievement of animal liberation and we have to get a lot more people doing vegan outreach and political campaigning, if animal liberation is ever to be obtained.

    Let's take the example of the badger cull, forinstance. I was in total support of those good people who took direct action to try to prevent badgers being shot and I even joined them on a couple of occasions, as well as collecting money and vegan food to sustain them.

    However, unless a sufficient number of people do the educational and political work to get a government into power that will end the cull and give better protection to wildlife, activists are going to have to sab the cull and other forms of wildlife persecution (and only be able to save a minority of the persecuted animals) until the mountains tumble and the seas freeze over.

    As expected, I've received some criticism for my support for the Green Party. I've never claimed the Greens were perfect and they aren't, but it really is important to wake up and smell the coffee (or herbal tea, or whatever) and take a close look at the behaviour of ordinary people when we are considering what options we have for the achievement of positive change.

    There isn't going to be a revolution. Even less so an anarchist society. Most ordinary people are far too passive, apathetic and leader-following for those things to ever happen.

    The best we can hope for is a socialist society where those in authority make sure that there is fairness, that everybody's basic needs are provided for and that the vulnerable (including non-human animals) are protected and cared for.

    Some may think I'm advocating a nanny state and I'm happy for them to think it. Better a caring and protective nanny than the vicious demons we have at present.

    We vegans need to be in authority, otherwise some far worse buggers than us will be, and I believe the best vehicle we can use to get there is the Green Party.