Animal liberation is maybe the biggest and most challenging social justice issue that humans have ever taken on. The stakes are high, the steaks are on every table, and the task seems incredibly daunting. Yet I am sure that we will win.
I am writing this after attending an animal rights conference in Los Angeles. One of the functions of such a conference, apart from informing each other, sharing best practices, and spending a few days with like-minded people, is that we get motivated, that our batteries get reloaded, and that we go home re-energized. To this aim, there’s obviously quite a lot of motivational speeches, clapping, and cheering at a conference like this (which can actually be a bit of an assault on one’s ears at times, particularly for a European among a sea of Americans).
After the cheering and the good news show, one usually gets a bit of a cold shower when leaving the conference and entering the real world again. Animal products and cruelty – or at least indifference towards animals – once more seem omnipresent.
Still, I share the sentiment expressed by a number of keynote speakers at the conference: that we are approaching a tipping point, and that for the first time, still far away but coming ever closer, we can catch a glimpse of the end of the road.
Let me list a few of the reasons why I’m sure we will win. Some of these reasons are old, some are newer.
We are dedicated.
The dedication of animal rights or vegan activists is impressive. This is not a team that is going to throw in the towel any time soon. The compassion for animals and the horror at their suffering are what drive this movement. I’m sure that in the eyes of others we may look like a bunch of crazy fanatics at times, but it takes but one look at a picture or video of a creature suffering intensely at the hands of humans, to realize that our objective is far from fanatic.
We’re getting more results-oriented.
In recent years (thanks to people like Nick Cooney, Faunalytics, the influx of the effective altruism movement, Animal Charity Evaluators, and others), we have started to pay much more attention to actual results – and to measuring these results – rather than “just doing something.” We’re looking at input-versus-output and return on investment. And when some of us prioritize the high numbers (like those of factory farmed animals) over the few (like circus animals), it’s because we know that those high numbers are simply bigger collections of suffering individuals.
The days that this was a movement of rag-tag groups of protesters shouting angry slogans in stores or at passers-by, are long behind us (or are they?). We are sitting together with companies and governments. We are hiring great professional talent. We are producing professional looking print and video material. We are setting measurable goals. Professional is the new radical.
Technology can be our ally.
Technology can be put to both good and to bad use. It has been used to make raising animals for food more effective – and more horrible for the animals – but today we are seeing some incredibly promising new technologies emerging. Apart from using technology to create better meat alternatives than just tofu (think Beyond Meat, Gardein, and Impossible Foods), there is of course the promise of lab-grown meat (or clean meat) to create meat that is is indistinguishable from the “real thing.” Imagine what a game-changer this will be.
People can make money saving animals.
Love it or hate it, but there is a whole new argument for veganism: making money. Some entrepreneurs have noticed that the current situation with animal products is untenable, and are seeing a lot of merit and profit in developing alternatives. Just the last few years, venture capitalists have literally put hundreds of millions of dollars into meat (and other) substitutes. This is something we have never seen before.
Thanks to these and many other factors and reasons, we will win. And when we win – in god knows how many decades – this win will be a win for everyone. It will be a win for the animals and for our planet. It will be a win for us, the people fighting this fight, and it will be a win even for those who fear they might lose something.
Till then, we have to work. I want to echo one of the speakers:
“Our time has arrived. Be kind. Be compassionate. Be positive. And let’s do this together.“
Featured image: Activists participate in The March To Close All Slaughterhouses in Toronto. Image credit Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals.