The station was having technical problems as you'll hear. The guest before me had sound problems - and so did I. However, I think we rescued something of value even though the interview was cut short.
I was interviewed (15/2/2017) in The Chat Room, hosted by Angela Faull on CRC Radio about the rise of veganism in Ireland.
The station was having technical problems as you'll hear. The guest before me had sound problems - and so did I. However, I think we rescued something of value even though the interview was cut short.
The Vegan Information Project is back on the streets of Dublin each week for the 2017 session.
In 2016, along with Vegan Education on the Go (VEGO), we chalked up over 350 hours of direct-to-the-public vegan education in Westmoreland Street and Temple Bar Square, Dublin, and recorded 57 short video diaries on the way. For 2017, we are putting out monthly videos rather than weekly ones.
This is the first one.
I'm re-posting this two-part interview with Harold Brown because the original podcast links are now broken.
These are well worth a re-listen, or a first listen if you did not catch them first time around. The second part features many questions about the situation in Ireland.
This is the original blurb...
Arguable, we have taken the notion of vegan education seriously for only a couple of decades. The term "moral baseline" tends to create a fair deal of scoffing nowadays. However, I think the meaning behind that phrase is relevant and helpful.
To say that veganism is now at the heart of what many animal advocates do - that it is indeed their moral baseline - is simply highlighting the central place veganism has in terms of campaigning: and this is very recent in terms of the history of the animal movement.
In terms of social movement theory, we now place veganism at the core of our claims-making. In other words, it is hard to imagine many modern day media interviews, for example, in which the interviewee does not very quickly talk about animal use in terms of veganism and/or that the interviewer would fail to ask a question about veganism.
When it comes to the "public" - based on direct experience of street campaigning - and on what others report - they tend to be "vegan curious" and have a whole list of questions they want to ask of vegans.
2016 has seen the full emergence of direct-to-the-public street advertising in the form of a range of billboards, ads on buses, trains, trams, and on taxis - and even the first developments in TV advertsing about veganism (see video below).
The movement backdrop to all this - the relative newness of vegan education, the growth in the availability of vegan options in dietary terms, increased vegan labeling on foodstuffs, and the evident openness that there is to straightfoward vegan street campaigning - is "professional" cautiousness. Even now, some groups seem worried about the dread "V" word, and some like Matt Ball and Tobias Leenaert will tell vegans that the best thing to do is not mention the word vegan very much, if at all, because it is a "scare word."
Maybe the word is scary for Leenaert in particular because he isn't even a dietary vegan, along with the fact that he mocks the philosophy of veganism.
I say, looking forward towards 2017 and beyond: ok, some animal advocates are not up to the task of talking about veganism, fine. However, it is absolutely wrong for such people to actively try to prevent vegans from advocating veganism. It is particularly criminal, in my view, that there are animal "professionals" going from conference to conference trying to convince new vegans that the best way forward is not to bother too much about what they eat, and to join in with limiting and mocking the wider philosophical senses of veganism.
That is unacceptable. I hope and trust that few vegans will be taken in by the anti-vegan sentiments that exist in the animal movement.
In the meantime, here's a recent interview with Sandra Higgins of Go Vegan World. This video alone shows that this is not the time to back off from no-nonsense vegan education, especially not long after it has just begun.
News is in that author Richard Adams died on Christmas Eve, 2016. Here's something you will not find in the official obituaries.
I often note in talks and presentations that, in the 1980s, I had a "thing" about action groups. For example, I co-founded the Fur Action Group with Paddy Broughton of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection and a couple of other people; the Edelson Action Group which focused on the Manchester furrier Michael Edelson - and the campaign for which the "fur pledge" was created, and the Hazleton Action Group, which focused on a laboratory in Harrogate, Yorkshire - part of the largest contract lab business in the world at the time. Hazleton Laboratories in now called Covance.
A prime mover in the Hazleton Action Group was Patsi Waite - she and a few other north Yorkshire activists were the backbone of the group. In 1984 we decided to organise a march and rally in Harrogate in opposition to the laboratory. At the time Richard Adams was known in the animal movement, at least for his work with the traditional animal welfare organisation, the RSPCA. He is most famous, of course, for his novel Watership Down, whereas I was more familiar with his anti-vivisection book, The Plague Dogs.
Both books were made into animated films in the 1980s. See below for the full Plague Dogs movie. Ironically, Watership Down was animated in Warren Street, London!
In the early 1980s, some British laboratories were not the fortresses they are now. Indeed, Hazleton at the time was surrounded by a small white picket fence, and there was even a public footpath running into the back of the complex from a housing estate. A number of "raids" did indeed occur at Hazleton laboratories, including daylight invasions (often by the Sheffied Hunt Sabs who became regular visitors). On one raid, the details of horrendous LD50 tests were discovered and they subsequently found their way into Robert Sharpe's anti-vivisection book, The Cruel Deception.
Patsi and I drove Adams down to the laboratory ahead of his appearance on regional TV about the march and rally (I recall that, although we had prepared a briefing document for his TV slot, he simply made things up when he was being interviewed).
The route down to the main entrance to the lab complex was down a side road. Patsi was driving, I was in the passenger seat, and Adams was sat in the back. We sat looking at the various buildings for a time. A very bored and generally untroubled security guard strolled up to Patsi's car and very politiely asked us our business.
Patsi was in mid-sentence when the rear window was wound down and Adams yelled, "tits and arses" at the guard. The guard recoiled and simply said, "what?" We decided to take our leave, turned around by the main gates, and left the guard scratching his head.
As I said, you probably will not find find that account in the Times or Guardian.
It's been a busy and fruitful year for the vegan grassroots in Dublin. Two groups (Vegan Information Project and Vegan Education on the Go), organising on Thursdays and Saturdays in Temple Bar Square and Westmoreland Street respectively, have completed just over 350 HOURS of direct-to-the-public vegan education in 2016.
Tim Barford, manager of VegfestUK messaged the activists in late December and said: "That's a hugely impressive year's work from the [Irish] team - incredible shift from some very dedicated peeps."
It is heartening that Earthlings Experience Dublin has emerged in recent weeks too.
On December 22nd, the VIP group organised a "Vegan Street Party" as a way of saying thank you to each other, having turned out week after week for this important vegan education work. Of course, the work of educating the public was not forgotten either, as you can see from the Video Diary of the day.
This Video Diary is the 57th of the year marking events in both locations. In addition, we were invited in August to take part in the Dublin Arts & Culture Festival, which meant that for those four Saturdays, 10 hours of vegan education occured.
Over the year, again in both locations, we lost count of the number of new vegans who announced themselves to us. Indeed, VEGO have a bell to ring when new vegans appear and, on some occasions, that bell went off 15 times.
Nowadays, we meet entire families who are vegans.
We recognise, as do many others, that grassroots campaigning is the backbone of the animal advocacy movement. It remains the case, even though there has been an unfortunate shift in recent years to corporatise the movement, which has lead to duplication and the waste of a great deal of money which should be spent on animal campaigns, not on duplicated wages and buildings.
The VIP have a current appeal to cover its operational funds - vehicle (a van called Neville, who is needed because the VIP events are so large) costs: insurance, tax, testing, etc - and public liability insurance. The address of the appeal is: https://www.youcaring.com/veganinformationproject-686025 - or click HERE.
We have some great plans for 2017, not least major improvements to our unique "tea station" where members of the public sit with VIP volunteers talking about all things vegan. This is why we would like help to pay for the basic operational costs of the group. 2,000 euros each year will more than cover these costs and that means we will be much freer to develop our campaigns and improve the vegan education outreach that we do.
Some people in the animal movement (usually its paid staff) claim that the word "vegan" is a scare word. This is not accurate. There are many groups engaged in no-nonsense, straightforward, vegan education. As you can see from the following pictures, the VIP regularly have crowds of people talking to us, and sampling the vegan-friendly samples we have. People are "vegan curious" now and this is certainly not the time to shy away from advocating philosophical veganism.
Please don't be fooled by this nonsense claim that veganism is a scare word. And please seek out and support your local grassroots groups. Why send money to already rich groups instead of the grassroots? In the grassroots, your donations mean something: they mean an awful lot - for the corporate national groups, it amounts to a drop in the ocean.
A Ghost Story.
I had no educational qualifications as a young adult. I was very much a straight “C” school pupil. I blame my mother. My mother, Harriet, known as Hetty, was a single-parent, having divorced by father, Colin Yates, when I was six. He was a very violent man: a part-time police inspector, and a surface coal miner. It was only after the police raided a house I shared with my mother and sister years later, “looking for explosives” during my “ALF years,” that my Mum had a flashback and remembered that daddy-o had a special pair of brown leather gloves which he used to beat people up with on the grounds that they left no marks. Needless to say, I did not attend his funeral when I learned that he had died.
As a single-parent, a social status with much stigma in the 1960s in the “grim North” of England, my mother first got a job in a cinema, which quickly turned to a cine-bingo job, and then she became a very successful bingo manager. So successful, in fact, that she was regularly brought into a bingo club as the new manager to build it up before being moved on to another location for the same purpose. This meant that we moved around the country regularly, and my education suffered as a result. By the time I had learned the names of my classmates, it was often up and out of there. I eventually got my “O” and “A” levels in the 1980s while in prison for 4-years for “animal rights activities.”
One move we made was to Ryde on the Isle of Wight. This was late 1971 to early 1972. Quite a culture shock, it was, for a Yorkshire lad in his teens. The kids at my high school were into music, not football and, as another example of the differences, rather than going out at break times to kick a ball about, they would stay in the classroom playing chess. The Leeds United Revie team were the popular team of the day, even outside of north Yorkshire. Therefore, I was very popular with the few who were into football when I first arrived in Ryde. They had only seen the famous Leeds team (Sprake, Reaney, Cooper, Bremner, Charlton, Hunter, Lorimer, Clarke, Jones, Giles, Gray, and Madeley) on TV and, in the 1970s, only one or two matches were featured on Match of the Day, resulting in infrequent showings of any given team. Indeed, fans would know if a particular match was being televised if they saw TV cameras set up as they arrived at the ground on the day. Because I was a regular at Elland Road, Leeds’ home ground, I was able to teach fellow pupils the songs which were sang on the terraces. The more risqué songs were the most popular, such as, “He’s here, he’s there, he’s every-fucking-where, Eddie Gray, Eddie Gray.” The second verse then became: “He’s here, he’s there, we’re not allowed to swear, Eddie Gray, Eddie Gray.”
However, most in my school had little interest in all of that. The nearest professional football team – Southampton – was a ferry journey away. Southampton weren’t too great in those days: Leeds beat them 7-0 in an infamous match of that era at Elland Road. In relation to “popular music” tastes of the early 70s, there was this thing about whether you were either a Slade fan, or a T.Rex fan. Seemingly, it had to be one or the other. Slade, it was affirmed, were the group all the boys liked and, apparently, all boys who liked T.Rex were “poofters.” I liked T.Rex. I still have a couple of colourful pictures of Marc and Mickey that female classmates gave me in 1972.
My mother’s club at Ryde was called The Commodore. It was a huge place (see photo below). The bingo club was located in the old “stalls” – the downstairs, ground floor, part of cinemas and theatres. That would have been 800 seats in the old cinema days. The upstairs circle area was left abandoned. The circle was so large that it was eventually made into two 300-seat cinema screens. There was also a separate ballroom and a “clubroom” which still has posters advertising 1960s gigs by The Who and The Kinks on the walls. The ballroom was also to be made into a cinema using an unusual periscope form of projection which made focussing the films a real bother. Before all that development, though, this was my playground. In the ballroom was a white grand piano and I would plonk away on that thinking I was Elton John or Liberace (well, after all, I was supposed to be gay). It was totally out of tune, of course, but that mattered not since I couldn’t play. When the cinema work started, “my” wonderful grand was simply smashed up. I came back from school one day distraught to find it in hundreds of pieces.
The bingo club had afternoon and evening sessions, the latter being very formal. The evening “caller” wore a tuxedo in those days. It was more relaxed in the afternoons, and Mum liked to employ female callers. As the circle of the old cinema wasn’t being used, it wasn’t lit. However, there was enough reflected light coming from the stalls to just about see up there. There were no seats left, just large “steps” which made up the tiers. There was a walkway at the very back – in “the Gods” some would say – so the ushers could easily seat people.
Picture the scene. The caller is on the stage looking out at the bingo players who were sat in the body of the old stalls, at least half of which, the rear part, being covered by the circle. The players are all looking towards the stage at the front where the screen used to be. The only persons in the whole place who could dimly perceive the darkened circle were the caller and my mother in her office which was built along the back of the stage, another indication of the immense size of The Commodore. One day I played an afternoon trick. I managed to get hold of two candles and I put on a hooded coat but wore it backwards. With two lit candles and apparently faceless, a figure very slowly walked from left to right at the very back of the circle. The effect was immediate. “f-f-four and two, forty t-t-two,” stuttered the caller. “w-w-w-one and six, s-s-sixteen,” she went on.
After “the ghost” had left the circle, the calling resumed as normal, if in somewhat an uncertain, less assured, tone – but I wasn’t finished yet! There were stairs leading up into the body of the circle which came out about a third of the way up onto another walkway. I sneaked up one of those entrances and quickly behind a partition board. I removed shoe and sock from one foot, rolled up by trousers and, laying down on my back, slung the leg over the partition. From the stage, a pale dismembered leg could be seen moving about. “f-f-five and six, f-f-f-fifty-six.” Victory was mine!
A little later, I was in my mother’s office when the still-shaking caller recounted her ordeal. “Oh, Mrs. Yates, it was horrible,” the caller said. “Horrible.” My mother, who glanced my way - I know not why - reassured her employee that she would never – EVER - see this frightening apparition again.
And so, sadly, after just one solitary outing, it seemed that the Ghost of The Commodore would finally be at peace and never more would it roam the deserted balcony of the old cinema. Ah, well.
One of my talks/workshops at Vegfest Scotland 2016 was entitled “Mainstream Vegan Blues: A Whiter (and Shallower) Shade of Pale.” My aim was to explore the following ideas
I built on a short clip from a talk given by pattrice jones in 2012 entitled “Commonalities of Oppression.” This talk is about intersectionality and jones’ frustration that the animal movement were not getting it back then.
This is the clip I showed
From this clip, I picked out three elements – Intersectionality, Numbers, and Alienation. The argument is straightforward: we need to embrace intersectionality to make alliances with other social justice movements because, in Steve Best’s words, the animal movement is too small and too marginalised to make fundamental changes. We need numbers to win this fight but the good news is that we don’t need everyone – just enough people to drive social change.*
The “best” people – meaning those most receptive to an argument based on justice and rights – are not to be found in the mainstream in significant numbers – but the good news on that is that the mainstream is not the majority. When we say the word “mainstream,” it seems to imply “the most.” However, as pattrice jones suggests, the majority are all those peoples found outside of the mainstream. More good news: these peoples are already politicised and fighting for change on a wide variety of issues.
The “mainstream,” conversely, are probably the hardest people for us to reach with our radical vegan animal rights message. Indeed, it is from among the mainstream that the UKIP and Trump supporters arise. There are deeply conservative elements in the mainstream.
This begs a huge question for the animal advocacy movement – why the heck do we target the hardest people to reach? To make matter worse, however, is the fact that, by targeting the mainstream, and by getting behind reducetarian vegetarians like Tobias Leenaert, who says his position is “all about mainstreamness,” we alienate those people in other social justice movements, or who are oppressed by the prevailing system.
Why would we do this?
My next slides contained a content warning – for they featured the sexism, racism, and ableism in the animal movement, especially but not exclusively by the likes of PeTA.
Here are some of those slides.
Two Days Later.
That talk took place on the 4th of December. Imagine my shock and disappointment that, on the 6th of December, PeTA repeated a publicity stunt in Dublin city centre featuring an almost nude, slim, white, female-presenting person laid on a large plate on the pavement. In other words, a classic devoid of imagination PeTA stunt involving the sexual commodification of females.
Not surprising, the mass media and social media coverage has been generally bad to appalling. If PeTA think that this sexist rubbish is an educational tool, they are more deluded than ever. It is counterproductive, counter-revolutionary, and anti-intersectional.
The sooner national group dinosaurs like PeTA are closed the better - certainly all the better for the grassroots. Grassroots groups such as the Vegan Information Project, Vegan Education on the Go, Earthlings Experience Dublin, and the National Animal Rights Association, who are out on the street regularly, will probably have to field the backlash from this juvenile sexist stunt.
As ever, this is yet another nail in the coffin of making meaning connections and alliances with other social justice movements - those who already share many of our values and yet we alienate them at every turn.
* there seems to be different estimate of the numbers needed to forge real change but all the estimates are well below 50%.
I remain as baffled as ever by the giving culture in the vegan animal advocacy movement.*
Imagine finding two people on the street begging for money - one is relatively rich and one is relatively poor. Which one do you give to? I think (I hope) that most will give to the poorer person.
The exact opposite occurs in the animal advocacy movement. The already rich groups get millions in donations, grants, and subscriptions. Meanwhile, the grassroots of the movement, who arguable do the most valuable campaigning of all (direct, community engagement), struggle week-on-week to fund their campaigns (if, that is, they aspire to doing rather more than standing behind a fold-down pasting table with national group literature).
I wish we could work out a way for people to donate to some structure dedicated to the growth and expansion of the grassroots sector of the movement.
Below is the 53rd Vegan Information Day video diary of 2016 (filmed 24th November, during World Vegan Month). Well over 300 hours of direct-to-the public vegan education this year. No PeTA-style racism, sexism, or ableism, no Animal Aid-style single issue campaigning - just full-on no-nonsense vegan education.
No wages - no careerists - no waste - no duplication.
* See HERE and HERE for previous thoughts on this subject.
There's a lot of animal advocates chuntering on about "effectiveness" and "strategy" lately. These people tend to have in common a dislike for consistent veganism, and tend to support reducetarian campaigns like Meat-Free Mondays.
Worst of all, some of them want vegans to divert their attention from involvement in straightforward vegan education in order to support these less-than vegan campaigns.
What they don't explain is how their campaigns sanction rights violation now in order to gain some assumed benefit in the future. This is not consistent with animal rights thinking.
In this (very) short audio clip from THIS debate recorded in January 2015, Paul Sauder, the president of Sauder Eggs, chair of the American Egg Board, and board member of the United Egg Producers, states that eggs sales have risen in the US due to Meat-Free Mondays.
Dr. Roger Yates is a rights advocate and sociologist