Thoughts on the Movement by Stephen Kaufman, MD
An Animal Rights Article from


Stephen Kaufman, MD, Christian Vegetarian Association
August 2002

Like many animal advocates, I have thoughts about how the movement should proceed.  Of course, we all would like to see greater cooperation and less destructive rivalry, but I have no control over the movement’s contentiousness.  So, for what they’re worth, here are my thoughts on movement priorities.

With limited time, effort, and financial resources, we have no choice but to choose among the animal protection projects to which we dedicate our efforts. If our goal is to help as many animals as much as possible (as I think it should be), I suggest that farmed animals should be our main focus of activism for several reasons.


Far more animals are tortured and murdered for food than for all other reasons combined.

Direct Effect:

People can much more directly impact animal welfare by changing their diets than by most kinds of advocacy.  For example, a person may strongly oppose vivisection and write their congressional representatives, yet have little or no impact on animals in labs.  On the other hand, farmers produce animal flesh and other products in direct proportion to consumer demand.

Potential Allies:

Because animal agriculture contributes to world hunger, environmental degradation, and harms our bodies, we may find allies outside the animal protection movement.  The degree to which animal protection concerns dovetail with concerns of activists from other movements tends to be much greater in animal agriculture than other animal advocacy issues.


Animal foods are not necessary, making animal agriculture a relatively vulnerable target.  Admittedly, many people think they need to eat certain foods, like milk or some meat, for good nutrition, but people generally agree that the quantity most Americans consume is unnecessary for well-being.  In contrast, for example, many people see vivisection as necessary for medical progress (however much we may disagree with assertion).


The food industry is very sensitive to consumer demands, in part because consumers have many choices.  For example, if people believe McDonald’s causes animals to suffer, they can easily choose other eating establishments.  If people believe that veal production is cruel, they can choose other foods.  There is potential for reform of conditions of animals on farms which, if done properly, could benefit animals.  In contrast, the vivisection industry is not very concerned about public opinion.  Circuses, zoos, and rodeos are not as vulnerable to public opinion, because, for those who enjoy these activities, there are no readily available substitutes.

Animal Liberation:

As long as people eat animals, they will often be reluctant to endorse other aspects of animal liberation, for fear of being called hypocrites.


Videos such as Meet Your Meat can be displayed inexpensively in public, giving us powerful tools for advocating for animals on farms.  Several groups have produced powerful expose literature.  (I think the best are Why Vegan? and Vegetarian Living by Vegan Outreach.)

A Difficulty

One problem with the farmed animal issue is that it does not generate public sympathy as readily as other issues.  People more readily open their wallets for members of species they like (e.g., dogs and cats), readily visible victims (e.g., sick or injured animals at their doorsteps as opposed to anonymous animals far away), and in response to moral outrage (thus the disgust at vivisectors, who are so arrogant and self-righteous as they intentionally inflict pain and misery on victims).  One can support the local animal shelter without embracing animal liberation, and this avoids making uncomfortable dietary and other lifestyle changes.

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