Jacy Reese's TEDx talk criticism

Vegan message board for support on vegan related issues and questions.
Topics include philosophy, activism, effective altruism, plant-based nutrition, and diet advice/discussion whether high carb, low carb (eco atkins/vegan keto) or anything in between.
Meat eater vs. Vegan debate welcome, but please keep it within debate topics.
User avatar
brimstoneSalad
neither stone nor salad
Posts: 8807
Joined: Wed May 28, 2014 9:20 am
Religion: None (Atheist)
Diet: Vegan

Re: Jacy Reese's TEDx talk criticism

Post by brimstoneSalad » Sun May 06, 2018 10:24 pm

Welcome! I'm glad you stopped in.
JacyReese wrote:
Sat May 05, 2018 1:17 pm
There's frequently a trade-off between getting attention and getting positive/deep engagement, and I worry I went a little too far in the latter direction.
I struggle with that balance too, although what seems to work is a very bold claim followed by something very reasonable and diplomatic.
The art of click-bait, really. Or you're kind of playing your own good-cop bad-cop.

I think your dramatic claim can be in the title or the first couple sentences, as long as you temper that after. Humor can help a lot, but it's tricky with such a sensitive subject.
JacyReese wrote:
Sat May 05, 2018 1:17 pm
I'm trying to adjust this a little as I get ready for my book launch, such as by focusing more on my critiques of individual consumer focus within veg/animal activism, and my critiques of "humane" animal farming in the general population.
The former is a good bet if you want to make some very provocative claims but not risk putting off potential vegans. Criticizing fundamentalists is something the mainstream really wants to hear, and you can be pretty mean without risking alienation.

The latter is more tricky. People can be very emotionally attached to their narratives.
JacyReese wrote:
Sat May 05, 2018 1:17 pm
Good point. In the book, my publisher and I have actually decided not to have any focused discussion of the harms of animal ag.
That's good to hear.
JacyReese wrote:
Sat May 05, 2018 1:17 pm
In the talk, the scale seemed to tip towards inclusion, for two reasons: (1) Many vegan/animal influencers (e.g. Best Video You Will Ever See) focus heavily on raising awareness and converting people to veg*nism. My impression is they were much more likely to share it if it included the harms discussion.
Maybe, but I feel like you weren't really dramatic enough to achieve that.
Here the middle ground can be worse for publicity. I could be wrong, but I think we see activists clustering around the extremes for a reason.

I think Melanie Joy did it very well in her talk on carnism, because it was very personal (in the sense of her own story, not to the audience), she warned the audience at points, etc.
That's probably the best go-to reference for depicting the realities here in a palatable way that isn't offensive to meat eaters. It's best for it to be about your own experiences.

Of course, for us long term vegans it's very hard to put ourselves in the shoes of a non-vegan and know what will offend them or not.
JacyReese wrote:
Sat May 05, 2018 1:17 pm
<<The mention of wild animal suffering near the end is a little dangerous...>>

I'm fairly confident that very few people not already familiar with WAS perceived that as talking about controversial intervention in the wild. It was probably read by most (if they read it as anything) as standard environmentalism, perhaps with a focus on the more wildlife-centric environmentalism, like preserving endangered species.
That might be. Kind of a wink and nod to the effective altruists that will go over the heads of the layman. Interesting thought.

My thoughts on wild animal suffering are more that it's only relevant to complex discussions of philosophy and consistency in terms of what the abstract notion of good means. Because farmed animals so outnumber wild animals now (or at least outweigh them in terms of biomass), I don't think it's worth the risk to broach the subject unless it's a point of attack on veganism.

Too many people have an appeal to nature fallacy chiseled into their ethical foundations, and it's a very hard one to undo.
JacyReese wrote:
Sat May 05, 2018 1:17 pm
But if I believe this, why did I include it? (1) To prime viewers a little for the discussion of WAS (just a few pages) that's in the book, or that they might encounter in the world of EAA (effective animal advocacy, or effective altruism for animals).
Would you be willing to outline that discussion (WAS in your book) on the forum? I'm interested to hear what you're covering.

I've found a focus on disease (rather than predation) is less risky. People have a bizarre sympathy for the "circle if life" but fewer people will even pretend to appreciate the "beauty" of diseases like rabies or Tasmanian devil facial tumors. Things like fleas, mites, and parasitic worms are probably somewhere in the middle.
JacyReese wrote:
Sat May 05, 2018 1:17 pm
(2) To ensure we keep wild animals included in animal rights discussions, to better enable us to tackle WAS down the road and make small investments in it now (e.g. research, movement-building). This is also why I'm very glad WAS has been discussed at the International Animal Rights Conference, and hopefully will be discussed soon at the Animal Rights National Conference.
If it doesn't cost anything, that's great. We have to be sure we don't alienate people in the process, though, otherwise we're looking at a similar problem that faces multi-issue activism.

Faunalytics has a good article on the issue you've probably already seen:

https://faunalytics.org/intersectional- ... ess-money/
JacyReese wrote:
Sat May 05, 2018 1:17 pm
(2) I actually don't personally endorse it, at least as an intrinsic argument. I oppose the commodification of sentient beings (humans or nonhumans) because of the suffering it leads to, not because I inherently oppose commodification.
I think the vast majority of active forum members would agree on that point.
JacyReese wrote:
Sat May 05, 2018 1:17 pm
"Superbugs" are super compelling to a general audience though, and I think the antibiotics argument is the best public health argument.
Definitely so for veganism (instead of reducetarianism), since eating more limited meat doesn't have dramatic negative health effects, but even superbugs in moderation are a serious problem.

I wonder about eliminating antibiotic use; would it make welfare standards worse, or would it just make dense farming operations unsustainable?
And if it make standards worse, would enough of the public be outraged against it to finally ban those operations?

JacyReese wrote:
Sat May 05, 2018 1:17 pm
I also am concerned about a lot of mainstream environmentalism because of the implications for the welfare of individual wild animals.
What do you mean?
JacyReese wrote:
Sat May 05, 2018 1:17 pm
Thanks again for the kind words and thoughtful criticism, everyone! I'll try to check this website again to see if there are any further responses. This website reminds me a bit of Felicifia, an old utilitarianism website where a lot of people in the effective altruism movement got there start, before we branded our approach as EA.
Thank you! Have you seen the Wiki? It's still in its infancy, but it's coming along slowly.

wiki/

JacyReese
Newbie
Posts: 4
Joined: Fri May 04, 2018 7:04 pm
Diet: Vegan

Post by JacyReese » Fri May 11, 2018 5:25 pm

The point I was trying to make is that if you want to maximize the output of animal products you'll often have to do things that go against animal welfare.
That makes sense. I discuss this in the book.
Rather than demanding that people immediately go vegan, we should encourage people to gradually reduce their meat/diary consumption. This message is probably far more digestible to our target audience, and less likely to put the on the defensive.
Good to hear your thoughts on that. I don't have very strong views on this strategic question, since I see good pros/cons on both sides, but if I had to pick, I would favor a reduction or "eat more plant-based" message. In general, I just like to make sure diet change is only one avenue people see. If that's true, then I'm basically happy with any specific diet ask.
What do you think about focusing our advocacy primarily on one species at a time as a strategy to end animal farming?
Not that excited about it. I think it's compelling to a specific, utilitarian-inclined audience. But it comes off as weird and off-putting to most people. See, for example, the extremely negative reactions to this video. That being said, when it comes to welfare reforms, I definitely want those to focus on chickens and fish. I also think animal-free food companies should prioritize those foods, though they also need to think about which foods are best commercially, e.g. minced meat is usually beef, and that's much easier than whole tissue meat like a chicken breast.
Another way to help would be lobbying for corporate changes in business practices toward animal welfare. I’m really glad you emphasized this in your talk, since anyone, regardless of what they eat can participate in this. You covered that so well that I don’t really have much more to add there.
Thanks. Yeah, I think this is a great entry point to the movement for most people. Though these days, I think a surprisingly large number of people are on board with a large shift away from animal farming (e.g. 50% by 2050) if not ending animal farming.
This isn’t relevant to animal farming, but in my own personal experience...
Good to know! I appreciate anecdotes like that, since I can glue them all together to make decent evidence. (Of course we'd rather have scientific experiments for all of these things. But sometimes that's just impossible, and we still need to work with the weak evidence we've got.)
what seems to work is a very bold claim followed by something very reasonable and diplomatic.
Agreed. This is actually what a lot of journalists do, since you can blame the provocative headline on the anonymous editor :P
The former is a good bet if you want to make some very provocative claims but not risk putting off potential vegans. Criticizing fundamentalists is something the mainstream really wants to hear, and you can be pretty mean without risking alienation.
Definitely. For example, many of the top Tweets on veganism are people within veganism bashing 'crazy' vegans.
Maybe, but I feel like you weren't really dramatic enough to achieve that.
Here the middle ground can be worse for publicity. I could be wrong, but I think we see activists clustering around the extremes for a reason.
Good to have that input. You might be right.
Because farmed animals so outnumber wild animals now (or at least outweigh them in terms of biomass)
FYI this page is good for numbers of individuals. Wild animals dwarf domestic animals, even when accounting for the lesser sentience of, say, an insect versus a chicken.
Would you be willing to outline that discussion (WAS in your book) on the forum? I'm interested to hear what you're covering.
It's not very original. You can read my Vox article or Brian Tomasik's essay. Happy to answer any specific questions.
I've found a focus on disease (rather than predation) is less risky.
Definitely. I tried to mention this in my Vox piece, but I really should have avoided all discussion of predation in retrospect.
I wonder about eliminating antibiotic use; would it make welfare standards worse, or would it just make dense farming operations unsustainable?
And if it make standards worse, would enough of the public be outraged against it to finally ban those operations?
When I've discussed this with other effectiveness-focused advocates, we lean on the side of "it just leads to sanitary factory farms that have the same welfare issues." Though there's no hard data.
What do you mean?
Mainstream environmentalism is largely focused on simply preserving "natural" entities. (Let's ignore the issue that "natural" is not at all well-defined.) Preservation could be good for wild animals in some cases, but also very hazardous in others. Take for example the proposed introduction of herpes virus into the Australian carp population. It's an invasive species, but the suffering caused by this seems very large. Additionally, some populations of wild animals might have lives not worth living. Brian talks a lot about that in his essay. This could make preservation a very harmful thing from an animal-centric perspective.
Thank you! Have you seen the Wiki? It's still in its infancy, but it's coming along slowly.
Nope, thanks! And thanks for the thoughtful discussion :)

User avatar
brimstoneSalad
neither stone nor salad
Posts: 8807
Joined: Wed May 28, 2014 9:20 am
Religion: None (Atheist)
Diet: Vegan

Post by brimstoneSalad » Sat May 12, 2018 1:14 am

JacyReese wrote:
Fri May 11, 2018 5:25 pm
What do you think about focusing our advocacy primarily on one species at a time as a strategy to end animal farming?
Not that excited about it. I think it's compelling to a specific, utilitarian-inclined audience. But it comes off as weird and off-putting to most people. See, for example, the extremely negative reactions to this video. That being said, when it comes to welfare reforms, I definitely want those to focus on chickens and fish. I also think animal-free food companies should prioritize those foods, though they also need to think about which foods are best commercially, e.g. minced meat is usually beef, and that's much easier than whole tissue meat like a chicken breast.
That makes sense. I've had the same concerns. Focusing on chickens instead of cows is a particularly big problem because it suggests we don't care about global warming or human health (and whether we like it or not, chicken is the lesser evil on both counts), it creates a sense of misanthropy since these are serious human issues.
JacyReese wrote:
Fri May 11, 2018 5:25 pm
Because farmed animals so outnumber wild animals now (or at least outweigh them in terms of biomass)
FYI this page is good for numbers of individuals. Wild animals dwarf domestic animals, even when accounting for the lesser sentience of, say, an insect versus a chicken.
Thanks for the numbers.

I'm skeptical that it's easy to account for difference in sentience. Brain mass usually scales roughly with body mass, and even with slight gains with overall size (without gaining in ratio) it *seems* like sentience increases exponentially until a point, so I'm on the fence about how much insects matter and other very small animals.

Anyway, as long as we keep the focus on disease I don't think there's any harm in it. Only the crazies actually think disease is some beautiful part of nature that we need to preserve, and if they argue their case I think it could only help us.
JacyReese wrote:
Fri May 11, 2018 5:25 pm
It's not very original. You can read my Vox article or Brian Tomasik's essay. Happy to answer any specific questions.
Thanks, I read your Vox article. I definitely see how the mentions of predation could have put some people off, but the focus on disease was great. Smallpox was a good ongoing analogy. I'm glad you mentioned birth control; people are also worried about overpopulation and starvation... although we might get some push back from people who will say we should just reintroduce predators.

I'd like to ask you: I'm working on promoting the site and Wiki more so we can develop more content. Are there any places you can recommend I publish guest articles?
Or any other advice?
JacyReese wrote:
Fri May 11, 2018 5:25 pm
When I've discussed this with other effectiveness-focused advocates, we lean on the side of "it just leads to sanitary factory farms that have the same welfare issues." Though there's no hard data.
Thanks. Are there any discussions online I can read? I'd love to hear the arguments and perspectives. I need to do an article on this one soon.
JacyReese wrote:
Fri May 11, 2018 5:25 pm
Nope, thanks! And thanks for the thoughtful discussion :)
Hopefully I'll have youtube content rolling out soonish (in a couple months too), that's a lot harder though.
And thank you, this was very interesting.

JacyReese
Newbie
Posts: 4
Joined: Fri May 04, 2018 7:04 pm
Diet: Vegan

Post by JacyReese » Sun May 13, 2018 8:47 am

I'd like to ask you: I'm working on promoting the site and Wiki more so we can develop more content. Are there any places you can recommend I publish guest articles?
Or any other advice?
Hm, not sure. Maybe effectiveness-oriented animal charities like Animal Charity Evaluators? Just make sure you're catering to their audience and focusing on, "I'm working on a discussion/information site that could be very useful for members of your audience who want a community of like-minded animal advocates." My concern there is that you're in competition with the Effective Animal Advocacy (EAA) discussion groups (mostly on Facebook) and the websites like ACE, vegan.com, etc.

So in general, I think it's important to find a niche. Like if you did a website catered specifically towards vegan philosophy, with minimal content on non-philosophy topics. Including lots of discussion of, say, philosophical papers on relevant topics, getting a job as a philosopher working on these topics, etc.

Sorry that's not very useful.
Are there any discussions online I can read? I'd love to hear the arguments and perspectives. I need to do an article on this one soon.
No, this sounds like it would make for a good blog post! Especially if you tried to do some brief interviews with welfare reform experts, e.g. the leaders at The Humane League. Though they might want to stay anonymous. There's often a tricky thing here where the most accurate thing, which activists need to know, isn't very close to the best talking points for welfare reform advocates. Like basically all of us want welfare reforms to be expensive, but the leaders of the campaigns often make the case that they actually won't lead to significant price increases.

User avatar
brimstoneSalad
neither stone nor salad
Posts: 8807
Joined: Wed May 28, 2014 9:20 am
Religion: None (Atheist)
Diet: Vegan

Post by brimstoneSalad » Sun May 13, 2018 10:47 pm

JacyReese wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 8:47 am
Hm, not sure. Maybe effectiveness-oriented animal charities like Animal Charity Evaluators? Just make sure you're catering to their audience and focusing on, "I'm working on a discussion/information site that could be very useful for members of your audience who want a community of like-minded animal advocates."
I was thinking mostly non-vegan media.

I hadn't thought much about the charity organizations since I didn't think they released a lot of copy so I didn't think I could offer a good value proposition to them (I know news and blog sites tend to be pretty content hungry).

Are you saying I should propose link exchanges?
I think the pragmatic animal advocates would all benefit from a wider link network, which promotes Google results. We get most of our hits here organically from Google, since Google loves forum topics for search results (very content heavy). We still fall below some of the more dogmatic forums out there though. Even ones that don't allow anybody who eats meat on the forum or any discussion on ethics of animal products.

JacyReese wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 8:47 am
My concern there is that you're in competition with the Effective Animal Advocacy (EAA) discussion groups (mostly on Facebook)
Yes, I think that's a practical concern.
While I would have no problem linking to the facebook groups, by virtue of being on facebook they're probably a lot larger than us so the risk of losing some members to discussion here might not be worth it to them.

So much of this kind of content and discussion happens on Facebook, which is unfortunate since as far as I know none of these group discussions are indexed by Google.
It works well for sensitive topics, but for advice threads they juts kind of get old and vanish.

Do you think the wiki would be seen as content competition too?
JacyReese wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 8:47 am
and the websites like ACE, vegan.com, etc.
I'm pretty sure Erik of Vegan.com hates me already. :lol:

There's also the issue that content here tends to be more of the criticism variety.
Our most popular and substantial article on the wiki is debunking a bad vegan argument on youtube called "Name The Trait"
wiki/index.php/NameTheTrait

JacyReese wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 8:47 am
There's often a tricky thing here where the most accurate thing, which activists need to know, isn't very close to the best talking points for welfare reform advocates. Like basically all of us want welfare reforms to be expensive, but the leaders of the campaigns often make the case that they actually won't lead to significant price increases.
That is a very tricky thing. I think that's pretty dangerous, though, since lies have a tendency of getting exposed.

I suppose that's where taking on things of interest to the human population like antibiotic use is productive: the price increase would be profound, but most people would agree that you can't put a price on human life... so if they argue cost, they lose.

User avatar
Dsalles
Newbie
Posts: 50
Joined: Thu Dec 21, 2017 9:50 am
Religion: None (Atheist)
Diet: Vegetarian

Post by Dsalles » Thu May 17, 2018 9:01 pm

I found your talk, Mr. Reese, very convincing and very inspiring.
I do think wild animals need to be cared about, one big issue that can help them is cutting down on roadkill by making ways for them to pass roads and highways, such as tunnels, and also increasing public awareness. Most people do not even realize the numbers or the impact on wildlife.

JacyReese wrote:
Sat May 05, 2018 1:17 pm

It's been a big focus of vegan/animal advocacy to date, and it seems to mostly just appeal to a certain demographic (say, left-wing animal lovers). (2) I actually don't personally endorse it, at least as an intrinsic argument. I oppose the commodification of sentient beings (humans or nonhumans) because of the suffering it leads to, not because I inherently oppose commodification.
Serious question for someone who studies social movements, has there been a progressive social movement in the last hundred years which effectively reduced suffering and increased inclusiveness, that was not primarily supported by Leftists? What was once considered Leftist positions (sufferage, labor laws, social security, expanding healthcare, environmental protection, LGBT) eventually became mainstream. Left is the direction to which human progress leans, so why worry that an argument appeals to that side now? Commodification may not always cause exploitation, but corruption may not always cause a politican to go against his or her constituents. But it sets up a conflict of interest. The value of an animal will tend to make its subjective experience a non-issue.

Commodification is especially a problem when the commodity is the value of the carcass. In that case, every minute an animal lives after it reached maximum growth is a loss. Every minute of life of the animal after that is costing the farmer money. When an animal is valued for something other, such as its performance as in a riding horse, or a service animal, then the conflict of interest is not as great, or its value in companionship, such as a pet dog, then the owner will willingly spend money to keep it alive and happy as long as possible. So yes the kind of commodification matters. But this is an important issue, dont let a fear of intersectionality or Leftism scare you, it absolutely makes a lot of sense in understanding systems of exploitation.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 6 guests