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Silencing the Lambs - response, response to response, etc.

-----Original Message-----
Subject: Video "Silencing the Lambs" - 10 minutes

Please take 10 minutes and watch this video.

Most of the 10 minutes is of James LaVeck talking about this fundraiser in Ohio last week ... a dinner of humanely raised dead animals. Please note which groups backed this ~ you will recognize and probably have been supporting ~ Farm Sanctuary, HSUS, ASPCA, United Poultry Concerns, and more. Please watch, and think about it ... discussion welcome.


Below is a response from The Farm Sanctuary regarding the LaVeck video. Do understand, they cannot monitor every, single, action taken by so large a coalition, and clearly, they do not support this particular action taken: the fundraiser menu. I think anyone familiar with Farm Sanctuary, and all they stand for and have accomplished in the arena of animal abuse, will take the LaVeck video in stride and continue to move forward. Certainly, Farm Sanctuary is an organization that has my deepest respect, and my support. As does United Poultry Concerns, another coalition member mentioned.

Please, do not be misled. Ohio is a terrible place for farm animals. The Farm Sanctuary is there to help them. Supporting the goals of this coalition will help them. Those who have worked with Farm Sanctuary are unlikely to ever doubt their compassion and dedication to helping animals in distress, and to helping timprove the situation awaiting animals not yet born. Those who have not worked with them? Please, do not be misled.

Official Response of The Farm Sanctuary to the LaVeck Ohioans for Humane Farms Video:

Farm Sanctuary has recently been criticized for its involvement in a broad coalition in Ohio � called Ohioans for Humane Farms � which was formed to initiate a landmark campaign to end some of the most egregious abuses on factory farms in the state. Farm Sanctuary signed onto this campaign because we believed in the specific objectives established to end extreme confinement, the slaughter of downed cattle and calves and the inhumane euthanasia of animals on farms. These three specific objectives are near-term reforms intended to improve the lives of animals on farms and drive a spike in the cog of factory farming.

Many individuals, organizations and businesses signed onto this broad coalition with the same goals in mind. They do not necessarily hold the same values as Farm Sanctuary, but on these specific issues, we found common ground. When building and joining coalitions, this is typically the case. Coalitions are created to concentrate efforts and resources around one central objective to build the groundswell of support needed to achieve a successful outcome.

Farm Sanctuary would never promote or serve any animal products at an event that we organized. Our events have always been and always will be vegan. The event referenced by James LaVeck in his video was not attended, organized or sponsored by Farm Sanctuary. It�s unfair and misguided to characterize Farm Sanctuary as he has. LaVeck never once contacted us for clarification or to express any concerns about this event, nor is he willing to meet to discuss his ongoing criticisms of Farm Sanctuary despite several requests on our part. Instead, he�s taken a course aimed at creating divisiveness within our broader movement to end animal exploitation.

Farm Sanctuary has always had the short- and long-term in mind when advocating on behalf of farm animals. We directly rescue farm animals from abuse and provide them with urgent care and lifelong homes. We educate people about the benefits of a plant-based diet and encourage a compassionate vegan lifestyle. We also advocate for institutional reform through legislation, ballot initiatives and the like to address farm animals currently suffering within animal agriculture. We employ many strategies to end the suffering of farm animals.

We stand by our efforts to advocate for incremental reform at the institutional level. We wish the world would turn vegan tomorrow, but we also know that social movements throughout history have taken time and required both personal and institutional reform. We would be doing an injustice to farm animals being abused and exploited every day to ignore their suffering.
We see our movement to end animal exploitation on a continuum and various organizations and individuals work at all points along this continuum. We engage in vegan outreach and education just as we engage in welfare reforms that improve the quality of lives of animals suffering on farms. We don�t see our work, and the work of other organizations in this movement, as either welfare or abolitionist and we believe this characterization of the movement is unhelpful and inaccurate. Farm Sanctuary always has and always will strive to meet people where they are at, and we organize various campaigns and activities that appeal to people at every point along this continuum that encourage kind and compassionate choices and force institutional change.
Farm Sanctuary�s involvement in Ohioans for Humane Farms was consistent with our values as an organization. We chose to participate in those activities within this campaign that correlated with our values. Had we held a fundraising event in association with this campaign, it would have been vegan.

We thank you for your support through the years, and we hope you will continue to support us moving forward, as we work at every opportunity to end the slaughter and exploitation of farm animals. If you have any further questions, or concerns, don't hesitate to contact: Farm Sanctuary, PO Box 150, Watkins Glen, NY 14891. 607-583-2225 ext. 233.

And there you have it,

Linda Brink
Director, Sunnyskies Bird & Animal Sanctuary
Warwick, NY

The complete statement, along with links to videos, photographs and other media that substantiate what is being said, can be found here:


Since releasing �Silencing the Lambs,� it�s been an education to watch the online response unfold. On the positive side, many more people are talking and thinking about two important questions: 1) Is it right for farm animals to be served at fundraising events for farm animal protection; and, 2) What does it mean when sanctuaries and organizations with public commitments to animal rights and veganism lend their credibility to programs and initiatives that by their very nature communicate to the public that it is possible to use and kill animals in a way that can be fairly described as compassionate or respectful or humane (the Humane Myth)?

On the less positive side, the response of some of the involved organizations has been a disappointment. Rather than taking this opportunity to participate in a much-needed public discussion of these important issues, they have sent some of their employees on a regrettable mission of disinformation. Online discussions prompted by the �Silencing the Lambs� video are being methodically disrupted. For example, employees of Farm Sanctuary have been pasting the full text of a lengthy PR department response to the video into person-to-person dialogues, with the clear purpose of redirecting focus away from the substantive questions raised by the video. Bloggers have been contacted, as have individuals who posted the video on their Facebook pages, and as a result, some have been persuaded to take down the video and the comments it has generated. Meanwhile, many concerned activists have been put in the uncomfortable position of arguing for or against people and organizations they care about, rather than the ideas that are at the heart of this debate.

The nature of this response only validates our biggest underlying concern: That a diverse social justice movement is steadily being converted into a corporate advocacy machine, including aggressive control of public dialogue and active suppression of dissent. What makes for success in the corporate world is increasingly being confused with what makes for success in a justice movement. The most useful response we know to this phenomenon is to apply the practice of critical thinking. For example, consider this paragraph from Farm Sanctuary�s statement:

�Farm Sanctuary would never promote or serve any animal products at an event that we organized. Our events have always been and always will be vegan. The event referenced by James LaVeck in his video was not attended, organized or sponsored by Farm Sanctuary. It�s unfair and misguided to characterize Farm Sanctuary as he has.�

A reader of this paragraph would quite naturally conclude that the video we released stated that Farm Sanctuary �attended, organized or sponsored� the fundraising event discussed. However, as anyone who takes the time to watch it will learn, nothing to this effect is ever communicated. HSUS is the only organization mentioned in connection with the fundraising event, to which they sent the online invitation on their letterhead, as shown in the video. However, by positioning Farm Sanctuary as the recipient of unfair treatment, the author of this statement distracts the public from the portion of the video that did in fact mention Farm Sanctuary by name. That would be the section that questioned the message sent to the public when sanctuaries and other animal advocacy organizations with a public commitment to veganism and/or animal rights join a coalition that includes companies that use and kill animals, and validate this exploitation as �humane� by way of the very name of the coalition -- Ohioans for Humane Farms.

It�s important to ask why the very issues raised in the section of the video that actually mentions Farm Sanctuary by name are not addressed at all in their response. Also, why is it that nowhere in the Farm Sanctuary response can one find a direct refutation of any factual statement from the video, accompanied by a demonstration of why it is false or incorrect? Instead of responding to what was actually said, they imply that something else was said, and then respond to that, leading to a cascade of unproductive dialogue amongst activists about something that never even happened, to the detriment of the real issues that would benefit the movement by being discussed. One Farm Sanctuary employee wrote that the video is �the worst kind of witch hunt and represents horrendous guilt by association.�

The Farm Sanctuary statement continues:

�LaVeck never once contacted us for clarification or to express any concerns about this event, nor is he willing to meet to discuss his ongoing criticisms of Farm Sanctuary despite several requests on our part. Instead, he�s taken a course aimed at creating divisiveness within our broader movement to end animal exploitation.�

James LaVeck and Farm Sanctuary President
Gene Baur discuss the Ohioans for Humane Farms
coalition at the Vegetarian Summerfest.
July 9, 2010

The implication is that I irresponsibly released the video without first communicating with Farm Sanctuary, and worse, my course of action has as its very goal "creating divisiveness". Notice carefully how this is worded: �never once contacted us for clarification or to express any concerns about this event, [emphasis added].� But as pointed out above, only HSUS, not Farm Sanctuary, is mentioned in the video in connection with the fundraising event. Readers of the Farm Sanctuary statement would likely be surprised to learn that, just two weeks before the video was released, I had a detailed public dialogue with the organization's president, Gene Baur, during the Q&A section of a talk I was giving at the Vegetarian Summerfest in Johnstown, PA. During this interchange, I specifically asked Mr. Baur to explain how it made sense for a sanctuary to be in a coalition with the Great American Lamb Company, and what message was sent to the public when that coalition was called Ohioans for Humane Farms. In the talk, I had highlighted the same quote from the Farm Sanctuary web site that was used in the video, in which statements were made to the effect that humane animal farming was a fallacious concept. My dialogue with Mr. Baur was witnessed by dozens of attendees at this presentation, some of whom were activists from Ohio involved in the debate over the initiative and the tactics being used to advance it. Hence, the issues explored in the part of the video that specifically mentioned Farm Sanctuary were actually discussed with the president of that organization prior to it being produced. Yet their statement does not disclose this basic fact, again serving to distract from the important issues at hand.

Lastly, I would like to restate to Mr. Baur what I said to him then: If he, or if Farm Sanctuary as an organization, disagrees with the facts or the logic of those of us who have, since 2006, published writings and presentations on the problems caused by industry-advocacy collaboration, why doesn't he simply publish a point-by-point refutation in written or video form? This would go a long way toward helping those of us working for justice for the animals understand specifically why he believes our concerns about the co-option of animal advocacy are unfounded. These are issues of policy, philosophy and ethics that are of concern to many people, and this is a situation that cries out for public dialogue, not more closed-door meetings between a few people. A lack of democracy and transparency is at the root of the problem.

I would also point out that the developments that preceded the production of the video included a concerned Ohio activist contacting a senior HSUS staff member and raising many of the same questions raised in the video. I also had detailed communication with another Ohio activist who actually attended the fundraising event and personally


documented what was being served there, along with a menu

  click to enlarge

 with all the items listed in black and white. So the statements made in the video were indeed checked for accuracy and verified before its release.

We did not contact the many other sanctuaries and animal advocacy organizations listed as members of the Ohioans for Humane Farms coalition as their individual involvement was never discussed in the video. We did not believe it necessary to verify that they knew the name of the Coalition to which they were listed as belonging, nor that they knew the Coalition included animal-using companies, as this was prominently displayed on the Coalition�s well-trafficked web site. The video never stated that any of these organizations, other than HSUS, were involved in promoting the fundraising event. The founder of one these organizations has recently stated that had she known about the event, her organization would have never signed on to the Coalition in the first place. This only underscores the damage done by this sort of industry-advocacy coalition. In many cases, smaller organizations, following the lead of the larger ones, are placed into situations that may lead to damaging value conflicts. When organizations give endorsements and form coalitions with those who profit from the deaths of those they are pledged to protect, disillusionment seems inevitable for those who in their hearts serve the cause of justice and those who are committed to being honest with the public.

In terms of Farm Sanctuary�s claim that my aim was �creating divisiveness�, to this I ask, which is divisive? 1) Forming legislative and public relations collaborations with companies that use and kill the very individuals that you are pledged to protect and respect, or 2) Pointing out that this is happening and discussing its implications, with the hope that a public dialogue will result in a more helpful course of action.


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