Human Rights and Animal Rights (Farmer Suicides in India and the Cotton Industry) - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 12-08-2012, 08:25 AM
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I just ran across this article (below) and it got me thinking.

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Sustainability is also not the first word that comes to mind when contemplating Monsanto's policy of sowing the earth with genetically modified seeds that destroy soil and are designed with nonrenewable traits so as to require constant repurchase as well as acquisition of a variety of other company products like fertilizers and pesticides.  Nor would the term appear to define a situation in which nearly 300,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide since 1995 after being driven into insurmountable debt by neoliberal economics and the conquest of Indian farmland by Monsanto's Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton.  In tragic irony, many kill themselves by imbibing pesticides intended for their crops.  As for Monsanto's shameless claim that one of its primary objectives is "to improve lives", we might similarly conclude that butchers aim to improve the lives of cows and pigs and that two plus two is 86.

 

Writing in 2009, physicist and author Vandana Shiva outlined Monsanto's contributions to a "suicide economy" in India, such as an increase in the price per kilogram of cotton seeds from 7 to 17,000 rupees. Shiva lists additional complications:

 

"Indigenous cotton varieties can be intercropped with food crops. Bt-cotton can only be grown as a monoculture. Indigenous cotton is rain fed. Bt-cotton needs irrigation. Indigenous varieties are pest resistant. Bt-cotton, even though promoted as resistant to the bollworm, has created new pests, and to control these new pests, farmers are using 13 times more pesticides then they were using prior to introduction of Bt-cotton. And finally, Monsanto sells its GMO seeds on fraudulent claims of yields of 1500/kg/year when farmers harvest 300-400 kg/year on an average."

 

There are a couple of reasons why mass farmer suicides have not generated the international attention that should ostensibly accompany such a phenomenon. For one thing, the image of desperate peasants killing themselves by the hundreds of thousands does not mesh particularly well with the portrait of India fabricated by free market pundits, who hallucinate rampant upward economic mobility among the country's citizens thanks to globalisation.

 

According to filmmaker Leah Borromeo, director of the forthcoming about cotton and fashion, the dearth of international concern over the issue is also a result of the fact that "people haven't made the connection between our consumer habits and the lives and deaths of farmers". The objective of the film, which shines a light on the entire cotton supply chain, is to help force legislation that will "make ethics and sustainability the norm in the fashion industry".

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/12/201212575935285501.html

 

We must remember that "animal cruelty free" does not necessarily mean "human cruelty free" and that many of the products we buy instead of animal products have horribly, atrocious histories of their own.  And some of these products, like cotton, are a traditional mainstay of the vegan movement. I think it would be ethically inconsistent of us to highlight animal abuse but ignore human abuse.  Thus why I buy second-hand clothes, so that I can live my life in a way to challenge all systems of oppression, against human animals and nonhuman animals.

 

What does everyone think?  Should the vegan or vegetarian animal rights activist also be concerned about and involved in human rights?  Should we boycott cotton as well as wool, chocolate as well as cheese, bananas as well as milk?  Should be be concerned about 300,000 Indian farmer deaths in the supply chain of our jeans and cotton shirts as well as the millions of animal deaths in the supply chain of meat, dairy, leather and fur?  Do you personally boycott any products for human rights reasons?

 

I know the definition of veganism is strictly limited to an AR position; but shouldn't the spirit behind our veganism lead us to stand against human rights abuses as well and to show the same vigor in standing up against these abuses as we do when standing against slaughterhouses, fur farms and vivisectionist labs?


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#2 Old 12-08-2012, 10:39 AM
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I see a lot in that article to be skeptical...its also interesting how almost any story on this reference Vandana Shiva
 

 

Ive actually written about this one

Bt Cotton, Farmer Suicides, and Fluffy Thinking

One response I receive when discussing genetic engineering is “What about the increasing number of farmers committing suicide in India”. The claim is that Indian farmers are “committing suicide on a mass scale” and that this is primarily the fault of the failure of genetically engineered crops, Bt cotton in particular. So we really have two main claims here to examine. First, are farmer suicides in India on the rise significantly and secondly, if so what is the cause.
 

According to data from India’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) during 1996-2007  yearly farmers’ suicides increased from 13,622 to 17,060, an  annual compound growth rate of 2.5%, suicides among the whole population rose from 95,829 to 118,112 in 1997-2006, a 2.4% increase. Between 1991 and 2001 Indian had an annual population growth rate of 1.93%. From the data we can see that while there has been an increase in farmer suicides it is modest and is not significantly greater than the rise in suicide in the general population. Even as India grows increasingly urbanized, farmer suicides remain around 15% but with a decreasing trend that will hopefully continue. The claim that there has been a dramatic increase in farmer suicides is not supported by the data.
 

So far the case against Bt cotton has been based largely on a perceived correlation, but simple correlation does not equal causation so we must dig deeper. That is exactly what the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) did in their 2008 study titled Bt Cotton and Farmer Suicides in India: Reviewing the Evidence. The IFPRI concluded that Bt cotton was not to blame and may have actually lead to a reduction in the expected number of suicides saying, “the reported share of farmer suicides has in fact been decreasing.” I highly recommend you read the full study. In the discussion section they report,
 

…our analysis is sufficiently well documented to discredit the possibility of a naïve direct causal or reciprocal relationship between Bt cotton and farmer suicides. First, adopting Bt cotton is not a sufficient condition for the occurrence of farmer suicides in India. It is estimated that about 1 million farmers have planted Bt cotton, whereas a cumulative total of 90,000 farmers are reported to have committed suicide between 2002 (year of the commercialization of Bt cotton) and 2007. More important, the trend in farmer suicides in India appears to have slowed down since the year when Bt cotton was introduced, which would certainly not have happened if Bt cotton were responsible for increasing farmer suicides. Second, the adoption of Bt cotton is not, nor has it ever been, a necessary condition for farmer suicides in India. Farmer suicides occurred in various states of India long before the introduction of Bt cotton.
 

One of the oft-pointed to hotspots for farmer suicides in India is the state of Maharashtra, a major cotton producer. Suicide rates there are quite high and this has been blamed on Bt cotton production yet suicide rates in neighboring Gujarat, another major cotton producer, are far lower. One proposed relevant difference is that farmers in Maharashtra must sell their cotton to the Maharashtra State Cotton Monopoly Procurement Scheme and are barred from selling it out of state even when they can get better prices and often must pay bribes to receive favorable grading of their cotton and thus get a good price. Farmers in Gujarat on the other hand have access to more open markets and have been able to achieve bountiful yields and profits.
 

An investigation titled Farmers Suicide: Facts and Possible Policy Interventions, published in 2006, found that the suicides are not “confined to one district, One state or one particular crop” and “while indebtedness was rampant, there was little clarity” pointing out that each suicide was a unique occurrence with complex confounding factors such as lack of personal and institutional support, mental illness, family problems, medical issues, and other financial expenses.
 

Now that we have examined the alleged connection between Bt cotton and farmer suicides lets turn our eye to Bt cotton itself. Developed using genes from a common soil bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis, Bt cotton produces Cry proteins which affects certain insects, though not humans or most non-target insects. Its mechanism of action is explained fairly simply here. Even before genetically engineered crops B. thuringiensis was used to make insecticides and is still commonly used as a topical spray in conventional and organic agriculture, but topical spraying can have disadvantages, it can increase input cost and must be applied in large amount. Some other issues with topical application include reduced effectiveness from rapid degradation in the presence of UV radiation and lack of protection for the roots and interior of the plant. Modern Bt cotton is more targeted, can reduce input cost, increase yields, and reduce environmental and human health impact from chemical insecticides. There is good evidence that growing Bt cotton might be saving many lives through reduced incidences of pesticide poisoning. Is pest resistance an issue we need to worry about? Yes, but it an not just an issue related to GMOs but to all agriculture. Use of topically sprayed Bt preparations in non-GM agriculture has led to the Diamondback Moth being the first insect to evolve Bt resistance in the field. Abandoning genetic engineering will not solve agricultural problems with resistant insects. What is needed is better management schemes, one such method is to provide refuges for susceptible insects.
 

There are also claims that Bt cotton is poisoning livestock in India. The most oft-cited sources I see are reports of sheep and cattle that allegedly died after consuming Bt cotton. It should be noted that the reports are anecdotal and toxicologists haven’t pointed the finger at the Bt cotton itself, instead nitrate, gossypol, or pesticide poisoning were ruled the most likely culprits. Such deaths are also not isolated to GM fields and livestock poisonings have occurred before the introduction of GM crops.
 

Cotton is important to India both as a source of fiber for their massive textile industry and as a source of edible oil. Even before Bt cotton was legally introduced, engineered seeds were reportedly spreading from farmer to farmer on the black market. Farmer were willing to risk prosecution and are still are willing to pay the much higher price for Bt cotton seed year after year because of the benefits they see. A study from The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India found that 93% of Bt cotton farmers were satisfied with the end result. Individual cases of crop failure may have many causes other than failure of Bt cotton itself, inclement weather, planting of fraudulent seeds, or planting of lower quality second generation mixed Bt seed that is not approved.
 

Possibly the strangest claim about Bt cotton is that it is the cause of Morgellons disease, a condition characterized by a crawling sensation on the skin and open sores often with fibers protruding. There is no known cause of Morgellon’s but the best evidence* points to it being psychosomatic in nature and that the fibers are from the environment, clothes, furniture, ect. Therapy for stress and in some cases psychiatric medication appears to be the most promising treatment. Adverse reactions to Bt seem quite rare as there appears to have only been 2 reports regarding Bt to the EPA, one person was found to have a previous diagnosed illness and the other was found to have allergies to other constituents of the Bt spray. There just is no good evidence to connect Bt cotton and Morgellons or any widespread allergic reaction, in the end Bt cotton is safer than the inputs used for non-Bt cotton.

Ultimately the focus on genetically engineered crops as the primary cause of suicide in India is overly simplistic and unsupported by the data.

Further Reading:
Frankenfood Fears My previous post on the subject
Farmer Suicides in India by Anastasia Bodnar
P. Sainath and Farmers’ Suicides in India by Siddhartha Shome
Persistent Narratives: Why is the “Failure of Bt Cotton in India” Story Still with Us? by Ron Herring
Bt cotton now helps to avoid several million cases of pesticide poisoning in India every year by GMO Pundit


but yes, to the OP question, its good to take human rights into account along with many other concerns, however there is only so much you can do and many folks tend to choose a main focus...for vegans its obviously animals. For others it worker treatment. On great example of this was the promotion of a union made thanksgiving
http://www.aflcio.org/var/ezflow_site/storage/images/media/aflcio/images/fb_thanksgiving-5/806651-1-eng-US/fb_thanksgiving-5_large.png (warning picture contains a cooked turkey)
Im sure most of us consider many of those recommendation problematic at best


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#3 Old 12-08-2012, 10:57 AM
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Along with the study linked to earlier showing reduced accidental pesticide poisoning there is also this

Economic impacts and impact dynamics of Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton in India.

Source

Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development, Georg-August-University of Goettingen, D-37073 Goettingen, Germany. [email protected]

Abstract

Despite widespread adoption of genetically modified crops in many countries, heated controversies about their advantages and disadvantages continue. Especially for developing countries, there are concerns that genetically modified crops fail to benefit smallholder farmers and contribute to social and economic hardship. Many economic studies contradict this view, but most of them look at short-term impacts only, so that uncertainty about longer-term effects prevails. We address this shortcoming by analyzing economic impacts and impact dynamics of Bt cotton in India. Building on unique panel data collected between 2002 and 2008, and controlling for nonrandom selection bias in technology adoption, we show that Bt has caused a 24% increase in cotton yield per acre through reduced pest damage and a 50% gain in cotton profit among smallholders. These benefits are stable; there are even indications that they have increased over time. We further show that Bt cotton adoption has raised consumption expenditures, a common measure of household living standard, by 18% during the 2006-2008 period. We conclude that Bt cotton has created large and sustainable benefits, which contribute to positive economic and social development in India.

 


boycotting cotton may actually be bad for farmers


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#4 Old 12-08-2012, 11:14 AM
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Originally Posted by SkepticalVegan View Post

I see a lot in that article to be skeptical...its also interesting how almost any story on this reference Vandana Shiva

Vandana Shiva seems the go-to-gal when it comes to social activism in India.  I've also seen her in the movie F.L.O.W. about water rights.

 

As for your article, I admit that you have done way more research on it than me.  I just read the article, found it interesting and used it as a dropping off point for my questions.

 

So while I'm keeping an open mind on your article while I do the research, I'd like to note that at least three of your sources (the IFPRI, Anastasia Bodnar of Biolgy Fortified, Inc. and The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India) have significant connections to agribuisness, making their conclusions suspect, though of course I have to read the actual studies to make sure.


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#5 Old 12-08-2012, 11:30 AM
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Plus the method of suicide suggests a least some amount of causal link as the farmer's very well could choose any form to commit suicide but most prefer ingesting pesticide.


"It is far better to be happy than to have your bodies act as graveyards for animals. Accordingly, the apostle Matthew partook of seeds, nuts and vegetables, without flesh"- Clement of Alexandria
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#6 Old 12-08-2012, 01:05 PM
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I know the definition of veganism is strictly limited to an AR position; but shouldn't the spirit behind our veganism lead us to stand against human rights abuses as well and to show the same vigor in standing up against these abuses as we do when standing against slaughterhouses, fur farms and vivisectionist labs?

My veganism is a part of my ethics, not the other way around. Or to say it another way, my ethical concerns include all sentient life, however my veganism is about non-human animal issues.

So yes, I am concerned about human rights abuses (and in general human rights). In terms of the foods you suggested, I try to find fair trade bananas, chocolate, tea, etc when I buy them.

However, one aspect of modern life that I don't know what to do about is our electronic waste. I know there are recycling programs, and perhaps if my area had one I would consider it. Although I don't really know how to find out where the waste goes, even from recycling programs.

I remember reading in a National Geographic (many years ago) about our e-waste going to other impoverish areas of the world. Then the local people would search through the mounds of parts, take it home and melt/burn the plastic circuit boards away in their woks to end up with the metals that were used in the circuit boards and chips. Then they'd sell this metal to other people who reprocessed it (I assume).

Then those same impoverished people would use their one wok to cook dinner. sad.gif

Not only breathing the smell of burning plastic, but then also eating out of the same wok used to process the e-waste.

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#7 Old 12-08-2012, 01:08 PM
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Plus the method of suicide suggests a least some amount of causal link as the farmer's very well could choose any form to commit suicide but most prefer ingesting pesticide.

That doesn't seem to be necessarily a strike against pesticides. If someone wants to commit suicide, I would think they'd look at available options and go with the easiest or least painful (this would be in general). I would think drinking pesticides, sounds easier and less painful than other options.

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#8 Old 12-08-2012, 01:19 PM
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My veganism is a part of my ethics, not the other way around. Or to say it another way, my ethical concerns include all sentient life, however my veganism is about non-human animal issues.
So yes, I am concerned about human rights abuses (and in general human rights). In terms of the foods you suggested, I try to find fair trade bananas, chocolate, tea, etc when I buy them.
However, one aspect of modern life that I don't know what to do about is our electronic waste. I know there are recycling programs, and perhaps if my area had one I would consider it. Although I don't really know how to find out where the waste goes, even from recycling programs.
I remember reading in a National Geographic (many years ago) about our e-waste going to other impoverish areas of the world. Then the local people would search through the mounds of parts, take it home and melt/burn the plastic circuit boards away in their woks to end up with the metals that were used in the circuit boards and chips. Then they'd sell this metal to other people who reprocessed it (I assume).
Then those same impoverished people would use their one wok to cook dinner. sad.gif
Not only breathing the smell of burning plastic, but then also eating out of the same wok used to process the e-waste.


I take a similar position.  What you write about e-waste has also troubled me... as well as the human abuse committed by industries extracting the rare metals used in most electronics.  There was a National Geographic article about that not too long back.  Because of this I try to keep my computers running as long as I can.  I still use my Mac from 2007 and the laptop I'm on now dates from 2006.  So many people throw away their old computers and buy the new shiny models... I think this is wasteful and contributes to industries that are abusive and cruel to their workers.

 

I guess I''m wondering how much a priority animal rights as opposed to human rights is to people.  Does animal rights take more of a priority?  Does human rights?  Are they equally prioritized?  Is it just a matter of more focus on one or the other or more actual concern?


"It is far better to be happy than to have your bodies act as graveyards for animals. Accordingly, the apostle Matthew partook of seeds, nuts and vegetables, without flesh"- Clement of Alexandria
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#9 Old 12-08-2012, 01:32 PM
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I take a similar position.  What you write about e-waste has also troubled me... as well as the human abuse committed by industries extracting the rare metals used in most electronics.  There was a National Geographic article about that not too long back.  Because of this I try to keep my computers running as long as I can.  I still use my Mac from 2007 and the laptop I'm on now dates from 2006.  So many people throw away their old computers and buy the new shiny models... I think this is wasteful and contributes to industries that are abusive and cruel to their workers.

Yes, there is also the issue with mining rare metals (and other valuable minerals) we use in our modern lives. sad.gif

I try to use my computers (and any other modern technology) as long as possible as well, however, our lives also require a lot of other electronics. From grocery stores, to managing accounts, going places, allowing my computer connection to the internet as well as the internet itself (assuming you think of the internet as a thing). Simply being alive in a privileged country will require e-waste, even if you personally do not use a computer.
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I guess I''m wondering how much a priority animal rights as opposed to human rights is to people.  Does animal rights take more of a priority?  Does human rights?  Are they equally prioritized?  Is it just a matter of more focus on one or the other or more actual concern?

For me, they're both concerns and I focus on whichever is appropriate for the time. I'm not much of a sidewalk activist (I did that a bit while in college years ago), but I'll talk about it when the conversation warrants.

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#10 Old 12-08-2012, 03:50 PM
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That doesn't seem to be necessarily a strike against pesticides. If someone wants to commit suicide, I would think they'd look at available options and go with the easiest or least painful (this would be in general). I would think drinking pesticides, sounds easier and less painful than other options.


That's also a possibility, I suppose, though it may also be a statement.


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#11 Old 12-09-2012, 02:07 AM
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I know the definition of veganism is strictly limited to an AR position; but shouldn't the spirit behind our veganism lead us to stand against human rights abuses as well and to show the same vigor in standing up against these abuses as we do when standing against slaughterhouses, fur farms and vivisectionist labs?

 

 

No. Sod off. Stop trying to hijack AR. There are quite enough people prioritising humans over animals.The last thing we need is having any of our scant resources spent on humans who take up the vast majority of all activism.

However if you really want to help mankind why not dump that absurd religious nonsense which causes so much suffering..

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#12 Old 12-09-2012, 03:43 AM
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No. Sod off. Stop trying to hijack AR. There are quite enough people prioritising humans over animals.The last thing we need is having any of our scant resources spent on humans who take up the vast majority of all activism.

However if you really want to help mankind why not dump that absurd religious nonsense which causes so much suffering..


I would not characterize my position as trying to hijack AR as much as being consistent.  Obviously I dedicate most of my resources to AR campaigns.  However I do what little I can in the fight for human rights as well.  If its something as simple as buying second hand clothes or boycotting certain items, what's to stop me.  It is not prioritizing humans over animals.  Its recognizing that suffering is not limited to only nonhuman animals.

 

How has "that absurd religious nonsense" as you call it caused so much suffering?  I am of the opinion that secularization and political liberalization has created just as much suffering, even more.  It wasn't until the secular, liberal state that we got genocide, World Wars, A-bombs, firebombing, proxy wars, sarin gas, etc.  The myth of religious violence is simply a myth.  Trying to keep religion out of politics as political liberalization has done has created just as much or more violence than religion has.


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#13 Old 12-09-2012, 06:59 AM
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Short answer:

Yes I care about human rights issues. That's why I donate to charity, buy organic and fair trade, recycle, vote, etc.

Longer (but still over simplified) answer:

Veganism is not a boycott! Animal flesh is not a product I abstain from buying in order to encourage the "producer" to improve their business practices. Animal flesh is not a food! Period. Eating only things that ARE actually food is not a boycott or political statement.

Being vegan doesn't necessarily include or preclude human rights issues. Veganism is about nonhuman animals. In my view, veganism is a neutral place wherein someone refrains from causing unnecessary nonhuman animal suffering as much as possible and practical. It is NOT about any and all unintended consequences resulting from third party intervening causes of our consumption choices.

Being a consistent person is of no interest to me. Consistency has no value in and of itself. For example, a consistently bad person is MORE bad than an inconsistently good person. I want to be a good person, which involves some complexity and may include some perceived inconsistencies. For example, there is great debate as to how we ought to respond to human rights abuses based on our individual economic, religious, and other beliefs. I think Fair Trade is a good idea whereas others think "free" trade is better.

I think it's great if veganism has got you thinking and talking about human rights issues. But please do not assume your conclusions are the only valid answers to these questions and concerns.
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#14 Old 12-09-2012, 10:21 AM
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I would not characterize my position as trying to hijack AR as much as being consistent.  Obviously I dedicate most of my resources to AR campaigns.  However I do what little I can in the fight for human rights as well.  If its something as simple as buying second hand clothes or boycotting certain items, what's to stop me.  It is not prioritizing humans over animals.  Its recognizing that suffering is not limited to only nonhuman animals.

 

 

you can do what you like but since the vast majority of releif goes to human animals Ill guard that that goes to the non human ones quite firmly thanks.Humans get more than enough.

 I care about human rights insomuch as I take my liberalism seriously. Ill vote liberal on every issue where individual rights are in question but when we are in the midst of the animal holocaust Ill not give a penny to humans when they take everything anyway. However I have no come here ti try and convert people to liberalism. I have come here for AR reasons.

 

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#15 Old 12-09-2012, 10:34 AM
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I think it's great if veganism has got you thinking and talking about human rights issues. But please do not assume your conclusions are the only valid answers to these questions and concerns.

That's why I asked the question.  I gave my opinion, I am asking for others.


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#16 Old 12-09-2012, 10:36 AM
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 For example, there is great debate as to how we ought to respond to human rights abuses based on our individual economic, religious, and other beliefs. I think Fair Trade is a good idea whereas others think "free" trade is better.

I think it's great if veganism has got you thinking and talking about human rights issues. But please do not assume your conclusions are the only valid answers to these questions and concerns.


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#17 Old 12-09-2012, 04:32 PM
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That's why I asked the question.  I gave my opinion, I am asking for others.

 

OK, well the phrasing you used sounded accusatory to me. It didn't sound like you were really asking for ideas about how we can all participate in challenging oppression. It sounded like you were saying that vegans who don't share your perspective on which human rights issues deserve the most attention were "ethically inconsistent."

 

For example, you said: 

 We must remember that "animal cruelty free" does not necessarily mean "human cruelty free" and that many of the products we buy instead of animal products have horribly, atrocious histories of their own. And some of these products, like cotton, are a traditional mainstay of the vegan movement. I think it would be ethically inconsistent of us to highlight animal abuse but ignore human abuse.

Do you have any evidence that suggests the average vegan consumes more cotton than the average nonvegan? I would venture to guess that the average vegan actually consumes less cotton than the average nonvegan. For starters, the average vegan is 10-20 pounds slimmer and thus is likely to wear a smaller size. Moreover, I'm guessing the average vegan is less of a shopaholic than the average nonvegan and simply purchases fewer items of clothing. I bet, too, that the average vegan is more likely to buy organic cotton than the average nonvegan, but I don't know that for sure. Furthermore, many vegans (perhaps not the average but enough of them to factor it in) buy second-hand clothes for financial, environmental, and/or human rights reasons. Then, of course, there's the issue that many vegans prefer other fabrics like hemp to cotton because, well, it's cool. I'm just saying that I'm not sure it's accurate to call cotton "a traditional mainstay of the vegan movement." We certainly aren't funneling AR funds into advertisements for cotton!

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#18 Old 01-05-2013, 01:22 PM
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Stay classy Ms. Shiva, stay classy


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#19 Old 01-06-2013, 08:24 PM
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lol forgot about this thread


"It is far better to be happy than to have your bodies act as graveyards for animals. Accordingly, the apostle Matthew partook of seeds, nuts and vegetables, without flesh"- Clement of Alexandria
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