In other words, want to share how to eat a healthy vegan diet? Fantastic. Let's just make sure we keep the animals' story -- terrifying though it is -- as our central focus. It is their lives, and not our diets, that are on the chopping block.
The FDA and EPA jointly released a statement today encouraging pregnant women to eat more fish, a dramatic shift from their prior recommendation. The reason? The plentiful omega-3 fatty acids in fish promote brain development in the fetus, in addition to promoting healthy hearts in the women themselves.
Why does this matter for animal activists?
Numerically, fish are the animals most often killed by human beings. One trillion fish are killed annually by human beings. And these are not happy deaths. Animals who have the same pain system that you and I have, the same ability to form and be shaped by social relationships, the same yearning to live and flourish, are yanked from the water where they will, at best, slowly suffocate. At worst, decompression may cause their swim bladder and other internal organs to explode. There are no laws to protect them at all. If you care about sentient animals, then, you have to care about fish.
If we hitch our message to scientific conclusions, we open ourselves up to failure if those scientific findings are reversed. As someone who has devoted most of his academic career to some form of science, I can say that most scientific conclusions -- especially those that involve systems as complex as the human body -- are tentative and reversible. We have a tendency to promote every small study that supports our intuitions, but if the scientific consensus swings against us, as it has with the health risks/benefits of fish, this opens us up to attack.
Health vegans quickly relapse to eating animals. This is not just an assertion. There's data to back it up. Remember, an astonishing 60% of all vegetarians at any point in time will give up within a week!
We have a simple, elegant, and irrefutable message -- that every animal deserves to be free from violence -- and we should use it. If you throw the kitchen sink at someone, nothing will stick. Simplicity matters. Great persuasive advocates -- or, heck, corporate marketers -- understand that focused messaging is key to effectiveness. Think Apple (Think Different), Nike (Just Do It), or, gulp, even Chipotle (Food with Integrity).
But even more importantly, selling animal liberation as merely beneficial to humans can trivialize the issue, if not done carefully. Stopping violence is not a health perk for human beings. It's the animals' right. In other words, want to share how to eat a healthy vegan diet? Fantastic. Let's just make sure we keep the animals' story -- terrifying though it is -- as our central focus. It is their lives, and not our diets, that are on the chopping block.