Vegan Education Made Easy: An Abolitionist Pamphlet

Gary L. Francione just posted a self-produced vegan education pamphlet at his blog, The Abolitionist Approach. It’s a double-sided document, so it will be easy to reproduce and distribute. A lot of people have been clamoring for a resource like this, and now you finally have it, from the very person behind the abolitionist approach. If that’s not good enough for you, I don’t know what is! Get out there and spread the message far and wide.

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  1. Well, so far I’ve had trouble getting past Francione’s continued misuse of “schizophrenia”, right at the top of the brochure, which has nothing to do with “saying one thing and doing another”. In interview after interview, Fraincione claims his self-coined term “moral schizophrenia” means “on the one hand we love animals, but on the other hand we eat/use them” or something to that affect.Schizophrenia is a mental illness characterized by feelings of paranoia, auditory hallucinations, disorganized speech and thinking all causing social isolation and occupational dysfuncttion. It has nothing to do with a split personality, which is what he is describing.Someone so highly educated should understand the difference, and shouldn’t continue to add to the general misunderstanding of a serious disease by spreading a popular false meaning. It’s really irresponsible to keep doing it and he needs to stop.

  2. I’ve seen this complaint elsewhere, too, and I can’t say that I completely disagree. On a colloquial level, we “get” what Gary means when he uses that term, but we also get what people are saying when they call a movie “retarded,” and I certainly don’t like that expression. I’m presenting on perceptions of animals at AR2008, and I intend to talk about our ‘moral schizophrenia’ on that panel, but I will avoid using that particular term. While it may be sorta catchy, and a helpful shorthand for some, that doesn’t make it any less offensive to schizophrenics than calling bad movies (or whatever) retarded. I don’t want to be responsible for perpetuating stigmas or misunderstandings at the same time I am trying to illuminate other matters.Do you have suggestions for how else to discuss this concept? I have been working with the idea of compartmentalization, but I haven’t thoroughly explored its application yet.

  3. Actually, there is more justification for the word “schizophrenia” than Kim is giving Gary credit for. The word is of Greek origins where “schizo” refers to the equivalent of “split” and “phrenia” refers to the word “mind” – split mind. The disease is characterized by not only auditory hallucinations, but impairments of perception of reality. It is the “split mind” and “impairments of perception of reality” that also fully characterize the nature of our society’s relationship to nonhuman beings. Because of this close meaning identity, and despite the fact that some may (intentionally) “be offended”, I believe it is an appropriate phrase.

  4. Thanks for the etymological b.g., Dan. That was edifying. I still have concerns about the use of “moral schizophrenia,” though. As Gary describes it, it is cultural. My sense is that clinical schizophrenia isn’t exactly a choice, and is in fact a genuine affliction, rather than a collection of perceptions/biases.

  5. Kim, that does seem like an accurate term. Obviously not as catchy, but it is descriptive. Thanks for the constructive suggestion.

  6. Kim posted this for moderation, but I accidentally clicked on reject instead of accept!:<>Dan – While the etymology may literally translate into “split”, the intended meaning of the term in regards to the illness isn’t consistent with the way Francione is using it. Besides, if the human relationship with non-humnas were purely a mental defect, there’d be little point in pursuing advocacy and education. And using a mental illness for comparison is an alienating approach regardless of correct usage.Eric – I’m glad you’re considering how you will describe the phenomenon in your upcoming panel. (I’ll be there and look forward to meeting you, BTW). I see our relationship with non-human animals as being “morally inconsistent”. Does that fit the bill? <>

  7. It seems pretty clear that Gary does not intend the term in its clinical sense and that the term can have use outside of its clinical use. It’s different than a word such as “retarded” since the word retarded has been used heavily in the pejorative sense to belittle the mentally disabled and as an inappropriate slang word.I doubt we’re going to see eye to eye on this point, so this will likely be all I have to say on it here. I’ll probably write a blog essay on it soon though, because I think it is catchy and captures very well the utter lack of touch with reality that most people have regarding nonhuman beings.

  8. Dan,This isn’t really a major sticking point for me. I still plan to use the literature. I think it is a useful discussion, though. I also think that you may not be aware (or forget) that people do use the term “schizo” perjoratively to describe other people sometimes. It’s a loaded word, and I think that’s the issue. Yes, that also makes it catchy, and yes it’s memorable, and even the analogy helps people “get” what Gary really means fairly quickly, assuming they are not put off by being called morally schizophrenic in the first place. It’s easy for me to accept it as a vegan, because I know exactly what he’s referring to. I lived for years treating some animals as family, and some as food, and it didn’t occur to me for three decades to question it.That said, I think morally inconsistent or moral inconsistency–while not as catchy and perhaps lacking the power to really force a person to think about what the “moral schizophrenia” implies–is still descriptive.Nonetheless, I will look forward to your unpopular vegan essay, as always.

  9. If I may offer my 3 cents worth (inflation)…Misuse of the term “schizophrenia” aside, IMHO likening our selective animal exploitation to an organic mental defect is inaccurate and may lead us astray. Our unequal treatment of animals, and our attitudes and behaviors toward animals are learned – from parents, family members, teachers, schools, communities, and various civic, commercial, and government institutions.A child in some parts of Korea may considder milk to be gross but eating dog meat to be normal. A child raised Hindu may eschew beef. A child raised in an ethical vegan family is likely to take on those values in adulthood unless corrupted by non-vegan influential people or society at large. None is “schizo” in the real or bastardized used of the term; they have incorporated the values and habits drilled into them.For most of us in the West, we are conditioned and encouraged, from young impressionable ages, to eat animal products. Our parents, whom we look up to as role models, implicitly and explicitly teach us that eating cows and petting dogs is normal and good. Our institutions, businesses, and society in general practically shove meat and dairy down our throats; these are the most heavily promoted products in history. The parents play with the dog and stroke the kitty on their laps, and encourage those behaviors in their kids. Meanwhile on TV, during station breaks for the family’s favorite programs, commercials for cat and dog products play in between the commercials for hamburgers and chicken wings. The reward for good grades is a trip to McDonald’s and an ice cream sundae.This is the source of our moral inconsistency. Given this daily programming and reinforcement from toddlerhood on, it should be no mystery that people see cats and dogs as companions, but at the same time develop strong emotional and physical ties to meat and dairy (and eggs) – and get defensive if you suggest that their diet is immoral.I think it is important to realize these dynamics so that we can undo or change them, and fix the problem. As activists, we should, among other things, endeavor to:– Help people unblock their compassion for all sentient life. I believe that deep down, we have a natural and cross-species affinity to other beings and do not wish to hurt them. But, with ample help from parents, family, peers, advertising, and society in general, we learn to harden our hearts and rationalize our exploitative behaviors and attitudes – especially when those behaviors and attitudes are widely accepted and encouraged, and when most of the people we like and admire are doing them.– Help people recognize, dismantle, and overcome layers of defenses and rationalizations used to exploit animals.– Help people come to the sobering admission that they are willfully participating in atrocities, and that they can quit doing that.– Introduce people to tasty vegan food, and help them develop new eating habits.– Help people withstand and overcome peer presssure, the onslaught of pro-exploitation advertising, the profusion of nicely packaged and presented animal products all around, emotional ties to eating animals, and the feeling of disobeying their parents and loved ones as they divest themselves from a meat- and animal secretion-centered diet and transition to a vegan lifestyle.– Convince people that when they go vegan, as long as they implement some simple, common-sense precautions, their diets will be very healthy and deeply satisfying.If we *were* to liken our selective animal exploitation to a pathology, I would treat it much as an addiction. People become psychologically and physically addicted to their foods. As with any addiction, to truly fix the problem for the long-term requires identifying the root causes of the addiction.Another way to look at our activism may be that we are deprogramming people who have been brainwashed, sometimes unintentionally, sometimes intentionally.I look forward to meeting you also – finally!

  10. I use the deprogramming metaphor a lot. I outlined my presentation for Perceptions of Animals tonight, and “deprogramming” is part of the solution, actually, though I don’t exactly lay out a systematic approach to that, per se. Thanks for the comments, everyone. I really enjoy getting feedback at my blog, especially when there are respectful disagreements. I just remembered that Kim was from your newer blog. That’s why the name and tone seemed familiar…

  11. Like I said, I’ll probably write more about it in an essay and include the specific criticism of the term in this comment section, but I want to say two more things: 1) A catch phrase doesn’t need to be 100% consistent with the actual problem to be an effective intuition pump. If people get the general drift – “split mind, delusional, out of touch with reality” – then the catch phrase works, even though the clinical condition refers to an organic condition and the catch phrase refers to an addictive-habitual-environmental-immoral condition.2) I would not call an individual omnivore schizophrenic, morally or otherwise, because used one-on-one, we are much more likely to insult than educate. The same is NOT true when we refer to an entire society as “morally schizophrenic” (which is precisely what Francione does). If someone said to me, “so you’re calling me schizophrenic?”, my reply would be, “no, I’m using the phrase to refer to our society’s lack of awareness of the realities of animal agriculture and its “split mind” when it comes to loving some animals while torturing relevantly similar other animals.”

  12. Sorry this has gotten so off track from the rest of the pamphlet, which deserves further discussion, but…in response to Dan.1)Using the term perpetuates a common misperception about a disease. So why use it?2) It’s not so much offending non-schizophrenic individuals, it’s adding to the pejorative and incorrect stereotype, which ultimately affects the lives of sufferers, their families, caretakers, etc.Bottom line is it makes me feel the same way I feel when I hear a racial comment, etc. It’s catchy for the wrong reasons – because it takes advantage of a derogatory misrepresentation of the word. Can’t we do better than choosing an offensive, alienating – and inaccurate – description of how we view non-humans?

  13. Why use it? Because words do not always need to mean precisely the same thing. Our language is nuanced enough that intelligent people can discern that we are not “poking fun at schizophrenics”, but rather are saying that our mental and moral relationship to nonhumans is very DISEASED. Our society is morally sick and diseased in its treatment of nonhumans. We could also say that we have “moral illness” or a “moral disease” when it comes to our relationship to nonhumans, and we are NOT making fun of people who are ill or diseased. Just because the term is more specific (because it fits well), doesn’t mean it isn’t used in precisely the same nonpejorative way as “disease” or “illness.”If you don’t understand the difference now, there’s probably nothing else worth saying.

  14. Dan – Who said anything about “poking fun?” You may want to ignore the SOCIETY-WIDE misuse of the term that causes real problems for people trying to live with this disease or you can deliberately avoid the actual issues with it that I, Eric and Gary L. have presented, but waving it away with your hand as if it’s a matter of “poking fun” or comparable to some other generic description that could take its place doesn’t remove the problems with THIS term. Sorry, I’m not convinced it’s appropriate, whatever excuses are given for its continuted use.

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