by Dr. Steven Best
We often hear about the any “victories” the vegan movement is piling up with new products on the shelves, new restaurants, growing coverage with celebrities and talk show hosts, and growing consciousness in general.
As this article shows, a growing awareness that meat production is environmentally devastating means that vegans have grounds for hope and optimism.
But the big picture and full context brings sobering realities to light; the fact is that this is all too little, and too late and, while we win some battles, we are losing – badly – the overall war to save the planet from ecological collapse. Consider just two of many grim facts and narratives:
1) “Animal-food production in the United States alone has increased no less than four times since the 1950s, despite the more recent spread of popular knowledge concerning the harmful effects of meat consumption. At present there are an estimated 20 billion livestock on earth. In the United States more than 100,000 cows and calves are slaughtered every day, along with 14,000 chickens. The Tyson plant at Noel, Missouri kills some 300,000 chickens daily while the IBP slaughterhouse at Garden City, Kansas and the ConAgra complex at Greeley, Colorado both disassemble more than 6400 steers a day. All told 23 million animals are killed worldwide to satisfy human and food demands daily. In a McDonaldized society Americans now eat on average 30 pounds of beef yearly, with seemingly little concern for well-known health risks. Conditions of factory farming, said to be improved owing to reforms, are in fact worse by most standards — more crowded, more painful, more disease-ridden, more drug-saturated even than at the time of Upton Sinclair’s classic The Jungle (written in 1906).
2) In a February 17, 2009 interview, Mia MacDonald of Brighter Green, a non-profit environmental think tank based in New York, discussed her case study of China’s runaway demand for animal-derived food products:
“Since 1980, meat consumption in China has risen four-fold. It’s now about 119 pounds per person a year, just over half the average American’s per capita annual meat consumption of 220 pounds.
In 2007, China raised and slaughtered 700 million pigs. That’s about 10 times the number in the U.S., although pork is China’s most popular meat and China’s population is more than four times as large as the U.S.’s, dairy consumption is rising even faster; the dairy industry in China has grown 20 percent a year over the past decade, and consumption of milk products in China has risen three times since 2000.”
As Mark Bittman writes, “Americans are downing close to 200 pounds of meat, poultry and fish per capita per year (dairy and eggs are separate, and hardly insignificant), an increase of 50 pounds per person from 50 years ago.” There is a shocking spike in global flesh consumption as well: “The world’s total meat supply was 71 million tons in 1961. In 2007, it was estimated to be 284 million tons. Per capita consumption has more than doubled over that period. (In the developing world, it rose twice as fast, doubling in the last 20 years.) World meat consumption is expected to double again by 2050.”
Opportunities are slipping through our hands like sand. Veganism is crucial, but the vegan movement could not be weaker and more marginalized in response to this planetary crisis. In the essays Jason Miller and I wrote in critical response to the visions put forth by Lee Hall and Gary Francione (“Averting the China Syndrome”), we argued that the projected “vegan revolution” – to happen somehow, sometime – is a pipedream, not only because there is not enough time for this incremental change to creep glacially over the planet, but because, to reiterate, agribusiness and the carnivore paradigm are dwarfing tiny gains in veganism, and we cannot outrun a tornado or outswim a tsunami.
The answers and positive models of revolutionary change will be hard to come by. One thing for sure is that we can never take even the first step so long as vegans live in their insular elite fantasyland.
This entire movement needs to be picked and shaken to its core. The most monumental events in human history are largely going ignored by the public in general and vegans in specific, and yet this community claims special enlightenment and a unique mission to bring truth and ethics to the world, but they’re lost in their cyber-matrix and the illusion of internet politics, and they have kept veganism restricted from everyone other than privileged whites..
As one step toward revitalizing and rethinking veganism as a social, political and environmental movement, we have proposed recasting veganism as “deep veganism.”  On the surface a simple thing, deep veganism rethinks practices such as gardening in radically new terms. As we wrote earlier: “see the importance of gardening in broad terms, involving not only avoiding chemical poisoning of corporate agriculture and the high costs or inaccessibility of organic foods, but also as cultivating individuals and communities not only soil, breaking with capitalist market relations and a key link of the oppressive chains, becoming autonomous and self-reliant, and bonding with the earth and processes of growth in one of the best possible ways to nurture ecological consciousness.
So there are nutritional, individual, community, educational, political, and economic dimensions to this that are crucial for planting seeds for a new world. It is key to autonomy, health, veganism, community, and breaking with corporations and market structures”
There is no time left to waste. Veganism needs to emerge as a comprehensive and relevant social movement, accessible to everyone, that holds the key to our survival. There is no blueprint. Grassroots community outreach and independent radical approaches are required. Our survival depends on taking control locally instead of reinforcing the systems that threaten our planet.
Kathy Freston, “10 Signs Vegetarianism is Catching On,” November 30, 2009, AlterNet.com
 Carl Boggs, “Corporate Power, Ecological Crisis, and Animal Rights,”2007, Fast Capitalism 2.2(http://www.uta.edu/huma/agger/fastcapitalism/2_2/boggs.html)..
 Anna Lappe, “An interview with Mia MacDonald on China’s growing appetite for U.S.-style meat production,” February 17, 2009, grist(http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2009/2/16/21496/7516).
 Mark Bittman, “Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler,” January 27, 2008, The New York Times, (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/27/weekinreview/27bittman.html).
 Steven Best and Jason Miller, “Averting the China Syndrome: Response to Our Critics and the Devotees of Fundamentalist Pacifism,” February 24, 2009, Thomas Paine’s Corner(http://thomaspainescorner.wordpress.com/2009/02/24/averting-the-china-syndrome-response-to-our-critics-and-the-devotees-of-fundamentalist-pacifism/).
“ Steven Best, “Introducing “Deep Vegan Outreach”: The Time For Change Is Now,” December 19, 2009, Negotiation Is Over(http://negotiationisover.com/2009/12/19/introducing-deep-vegan-outreach-the-time-for-change-is-now/)..
 Steven Best, “Planting the Seeds of Deep Veganism and Social Revolution,” December 19, 2009, Negotiation Is Over (http://negotiationisover.com/2009/12/19/introducing-deep-vegan-outreach-the-time-for-change-is-now/).
Dr. Steven Best is NIO’s Senior Editor of Total Liberation. Associate professor of philosophy at UTEP, award-winning writer, noted speaker, public intellectual, and seasoned activist, Dr. Best engages the issues of the day such as animal rights, ecological crisis, biotechnology, liberation politics, terrorism, mass media, globalization, and capitalist domination. Best has published 10 books, over 100 articles and reviews, spoken in over a dozen countries, interviewed with media throughout the world, appeared in numerous documentaries, and was voted by VegNews as one of the nations “25 Most Fascinating Vegetarians.” He has come under frequent fire for his uncompromising advocacy of “total liberation” (humans, animals, and the earth) and has been banned from the UK for the power of his thoughts. From the US to Norway, from Sweden to France, from Germany to Russia to South Africa, Best shows what philosophy means in a world in crisis.
If the nonhumans could fight back, their tormentors would have expired long ago. We have an obligation to expose the abusers. It is the LEAST we can do! I welcome your emails & contributions.