Important yet frustrating piece by Tom Philpott calling for a vegan/omnivore alliance against factory farming. At one point, he gets into an exchange I had with him last week on Twitter:
Just last week on Twitter, I found myself in a tense back-and-forth with vegans lamenting my posting of a video showing dairy cows delighting in the first grass of spring. The exchange depressed me. I thought, the type of dairy farming portrayed in the video — corn-free, ecologically robust, cow-friendly — represents a tiny fraction of milk production in industrialized countries. Why go after pasture-based dairy farming when gigantic industrial milk processors rule the market?
Here’s what Philpott needs to learn about his proposed vegan/omnivore alliance. You don’t create one simply by calling for it. You create one by going out of your way to seek out people on the other side to work with, building respectful relationships with them, and helping their work however you can. I’ve actually reached out to Philpott in the past, most recently a couple days ago by email. He never wrote back.
It’s telling that Philpott’s article mentions Pollan, Berry, and Schlosser, but doesn’t mention a single vegan advocate. I don’t think I’m being unfair in guessing that that’s because he doesn’t currently follow the work of a single vegan. Maybe Philpott ought to start building those relationships in his own career before getting on the soapbox to call for an alliance. I can name a dozen magnificent vegan advocates off the top of my head who would be delighted to work with him. He would do well to follow pragmatic vegans like Paul Shapiro, Mark Hawthorne, Mat Thomas, Michele Simon and Ginny Messina.
Here’s the thing about Philpott’s vegan/omnivore alliance: it already exists. I know because I’m part of it. And while this alliance is almost entirely underground, some amazing things are constantly coming out of it. In fact, some of my biggest personal accomplishments for farmed animals have come from work I’ve done behind-the-scenes to help the efforts of leading conscientious omnivores.
Tom: start reaching out to other vegans and you’ll recognize this alliance you’re calling for is already much further along than you realize. We’d love for you to join us. Link.