Ryan Andrews: Sucker or Shill?

The million dollar question for the vegan world this month is this: is Ryan Andrews just a sucker, or is he a shill for the beef industry?

Joshua Stark, a conscientious omnivore and grass-fed beef proponent, has a lengthy and superb blog entry which makes a strong argument that Andrews is not simply a garden-variety nitwit. And for that matter, it also questions whether “Ryan Andrews” is a real person.

Stark is a talented writer with a solid grasp of factory farm practices, and his piece offers numerous useful insights as it debunks some of the most common beef industry propaganda.

Here’s one element of Stark’s piece I most definitely agree with: if you spend a lot of time reading agribusiness PR, you find they make the same arguments over and over. These aren’t arguments your typical vegan has heard, but if you regularly read industry journals and press releases you’ll get to know them by heart.

As Stark notes, it’s uncanny that Andrews’ article repackages almost the entirety of the beef industry’s talking points, with the bizarre spin that it’s supposedly straight talk coming from an open-minded vegan.

My personal world view is probably as pessimistic as the most fringe conspiracy theorist, and I think we’re all fucked like you wouldn’t believe. But instead of believing in elaborate conspiracies regarding 9/11, chemtrails, black helicopters, FEMA camps, oil spills, JFK, whatever—I tend to think that nearly all of society’s ills can be traced back to our monumental stupidity and pathological selfishness. We’re just as screwed as if some elite skull-and-bones Rothchild crew was pulling the strings, but the stupidity of billions is an incomparably more powerful force than the conniving schemes of an elite cabal. Oh, and while I’m on the subject, I believe Celine Dion is the antichrist.

So with that in mind, my biases are strongly in favor of calling Andrews a well-intentioned sucker, or, as Brandon on the Vegan.com fan page better termed it, a “useful idiot.” That said, it’s impossible to finish Stark’s piece without desperately wanting the sucker-or-shill question answered.

Which brings me to my Woodward and Bernstein moment: I’m going to just email Andrews and ask him. (Via Messina.) Link.

Update: I emailed Andrews and have received a response. He states that Ryan Andrews is his legal name and that he has not received compensation for writing this article. I’m strongly inclined to believe him, and I intend to give this story more coverage on Vegan.com in the coming weeks.

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