Ball declares that, “Everyone has met a vegan who has been rude to them or who has been outrageous or just angry or yelling at them.”
Ball illustrates that by showing DxE actions in supermarket and café settings. In the supermarket, an activist makes a statement about the dairy industry. A true statement about the dairy industry. I will say that I do think there’s a big difference between DxE-type actions in supermarkets rather than in cafes or restaurants. The latter locations are bound to upset people – in my experience, that tends not to happen in supermarkets.
So, which accusation Ball pitches at vegans applies here? I'm using the supermarket example, because it's the only one with sound. Was this a “rude” action? Was it outrageous? Well, it might be thought that in the sense that one aspect of DxE I like is the spirit of Herbert Marcuse’s Great Refusal that they often embody. But, in what other sense is an action inside a supermarket (as distinct from, say, a café or restaurant) something that’s “outrageous” and how? Are these DxE activists “angry” – how knows? Are they yelling? Well, the woman is making her statement in a loud voice. But are they “yelling at them,” meaning the public. No, I don’t think this action, the equivalent of street theatre, can be characterised as that.
Of course, Ball is playing up to the “crazy vegan” stereotype much loved by Tobias Leenaert and Sebastian Joy. I invite Mr. Matt Ball to come to Dublin, Thursday to Saturday, to see how Vegan Education on the Go (VEGO), and the VIP (Vegan Information Project) interact with people. He’ll see calm, rational, discussion. If anything, the shouting comes from members of the public who pass by and don’t engage. One recent shouted comment, “I like meat!” and another: “God gave us teeth.” The people who come up to us are vegan curious. They talk to us. Guess what: we talk back.
I’ll also bet my bottom dollar that Ball didn’t see much, if any, of Leenaert's ideological “crazy vegan” stereotype when he observed vegans handing out Vegan Outreach literature. Better not mention Vegan Outreach too much though. Ball implies that he regrets ever using that obscene, horrible, word “vegan” in the group’s title. Not good, money-wise, for one. We all knew Vegan Outreach had hit the buffers when co-founder Jack Norris got married to a PeTA activist at a KFC restaurant, celebrating with KFC’s vegetarian sandwiches.
Bizarrely, Ball then seems to care that the rude and outrageous “celebrity chef” Anthony Bourbain regards vegans as terrorists. Are we supposed to care anything about what this person thinks of vegans?
Are we somehow to shape our message to cater for a person like this? [This is from that great font of knowledge, Wikipedia, so may not be totally accurate]…
- Bourdain has a public persona that has been characterized by Gothamist as "culinary bad boy". Because of his liberal use of profanity and sexual references in his television show No Reservations, the network has placed viewer discretion advisories on each segment of each episode.
- Known for consuming exotic local speciality dishes, Bourdain has "eaten sheep testicles in Morocco, ant eggs in Puebla, Mexico, a raw seal eyeball as part of a traditional Inuit seal hunt, and an entire cobra—beating heart, blood, bile, and meat—in Vietnam," reported the Daily Freeman in 2010. According to Bourdain, the most disgusting thing he has ever eaten is a Chicken McNugget, though he has also declared that the unwashed warthog rectum he ate in Namibia and the fermented shark he ate in Iceland are among "the worst meals of [his] life."
If I saw vegans being rude and angry towards this sexist, violent, horrible man, I think I’d pretty much understand to be honest.
Ball then goes on to make some reasonable sociological points. People, by and large, don’t want to be purposely harmful towards other animals. They are simply following social convention, obeying their culture, consuming what’s cheap and convenient. He then says that he wants a new approach than just talking to the public about veganism.
Wait. What’s being said here? That a vegan position cannot understand these sociological facts and take them into account? Most vegans I know are fully aware that they are dealing with people who are thoroughly socialised into a deeply speciesist culture. However, to imply that this somehow rules out effective vegan advocacy is nonsense.
The speciesist disconnect in this reducetarian approach is underlined next. Ball says that his strategy is to get people to stop eating chickens and apparently move to cows (described as "beef") and pigs as a step in the right direction. Now, how does he put this: “No matter what they eat instead…” Yes, I think he means, no matter WHO they eat instead. Naughty.
Next, Ball cites some data from Faunalytics’ “Study of Current and Former Vegetarians and Vegans.” First, we should always be wary of research that conflates the vegetarian diet and the philosophy of veganism. These are two very different things. See Casey Taft on research used in the animal advocacy movement.
Ball picks out ONE statistic from the Faunalytics summary only. The one reading: “85% of vegetarians/vegans abandon their diet.”
Yes, well, now we are getting somewhere. The emphasis on diet is important. If people are not eating other animal products - or modifying who they choose to exploit, as in vegetarianism - for dietary reasons, then we might expect this fall off. Ethical vegans are more likely to remain vegans – see HERE.
What Ball chooses not to highlight from the summary are important parts of this issue. For example…
- The only motivation cited by a majority (58%) of former vegetarians/vegans was health.
- A number of motivations were cited by a majority of current vegetarians/vegans, with “animal protection” coming in at 68%.
The summary also notes how isolated former vegetarians and vegans were: “84% of former vegetarians/vegans said they were not actively involved in a vegetarian/vegan group or organisation.” 63% emphasised the important of isolation by saying that their diet made them “stick out from the crowd.” Yeah, more sociology – human mammals are social animals.
Given the complexity that just this summary raises, it is revealing that Ball chooses to point only to the numbers who stop being vegetarian, or vegan. We don’t know the numbers in each group – and there’s no mention of ethics. Tobias Leenaert applied this distortion recently too – see HERE.
A fundamental mistake in Ball’s position is next up. We’re pushing people to eat what we eat, he says. You know, it says at the beginning of this video that Matt Ball is an “animal rights advocate” into “animal welfare.” Unfortunately, he hasn’t taken much animal rights theory in it seems (and more on “animal rights below). If Ball knew anything about animal rights thinking, then he’d know that the plant diet follows the philosophy, just as the vegan diet follows understanding the ideas within vegan philosophy, such as peace, justice, and non-violence.
Like a lot of reducetarians, Ball has gone for this line that we are only really talking about altering eating patterns, at least at first. Well, it’s a little more than that. If we are to shift a culture, we are talking about altering thinking patterns. We need people to think like vegans, not just to eat like them. It’s the people who are eating a vegan’s diet only that are returning to animal products.
Any more terrible mistakes to come? Oh, yes – here’s the biggy.
Ball is arguing that vegans are not making much progress after “decades of advocacy.” First, there hasn’t been decades of vegan advocacy anywhere in the world – see what Ronnie Lee, vegan activist since 1971, says about that HERE.
The examples of “advocacy” Ball cites are Peter Singer and PeTA. Yes, Peter Singer and PeTA! Ball says Singer’s Animal Liberation came out in the 1970s, and PeTA was founded in 1980, apparently showing by this that people have been “at this” for decades.
I suggested above that this was a mistake. Actually, I think that this part of the video is pure ideological distortion, and I’m sure that Ball knows it. One clue that he knows it is that he stops talking about veganism in relation to these “decades of advocacy” and talks about the numbers of vegetarians only. This is wise – even though all this is pulling the rug out from under the feet of his argument.
So, Animal Liberation came out in the 1970s. Sure, the book in which philosopher Peter Singer writes
- The question is, therefore, whether the pleasant lives of the hens (plus the benefits to us of the eggs) are sufficient to outweigh the killing that is part of the system…In keeping with the reasons given there, I do not, on balance, object to free-range egg production (Animal Liberation, second edition, PP: 175-176).
Not veganism then. So, we are left with PeTA (The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). Oh boy, what a wonderful organisation to pin our vegan social justice hopes on. A sexist, racist, ableist, fat shaming, organisation is not making progress. I’m shocked!
On animal rights, just for the record. Peter Singer is philosophically opposed to animal rights, and PeTA sell Peter Singer as animal rights, even though they know he does not stand for animal rights. You really couldn’t make this movement up, could you? Who would believe it? The rights-based pioneer philosopher and abolitionist, Tom Regan, was shamefully marginalised by the movement that calls itself the “animal rights” movement.
The last part of Ball’s video I can tolerate – except to the extent that this non-vegan part will be pushed towards vegans to suggest to them that the best way to advocate for veganism is have a reduced view of veganism, reject the radical philosophy of veganism, and be sloppy about one’s dietary choices.
If Matt Ball wants to abandon vegan advocacy, fine. However, there is NO reason for vegans to take any notice of this reducetarian position - or alter their own vegan advocacy to the public. Vegan advocacy that has JUST BEGUN remember. Historically, we are at the very beginning of a movement that puts veganism centre stage – and these people want us to put the brakes on to further their reducetarian careers.