With New York legalizing gay marriage, more and more children will be exposed to same-sex couples (much to the chagrin of conservatives). Here is great video of one little boy's reaction to seeing his first gay couple -- watch how he figures things out:


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Nebraska Republican Wants to Ban Second-Trimester Abortion Procedure

A Nebraska GOP lawmaker is planning to introduce a bill that would criminalize a common medical procedure used after a miscarriage and during second-trimester abortions.

A Nebraska GOP lawmaker is planning to introduce a bill that would criminalize a common medical procedure used after a miscarriage and during second-trimester abortions.

Sen. Tommy Garrett (R-Bellevue) is planning to introduce a bill to ban “dismemberment abortions,” which would target the dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure, commonly used in second-trimester abortion care. The procedure is a method of abortion during which a physician will dilate a woman’s cervix and remove the fetus using forceps, clamps, or other instruments.

Garrett is working with an anti-choice group, the Nebraska Right to Life, to craft the legislation, the Lincoln Journal-Star reported. The organization has been approached by four other state lawmakers during the legislative recess to inquire about sponsoring anti-choice bills during the next legislation session.

Julie Schmit-Albin, executive director of Nebraska Right to Life, told the Lincoln Journal-Star that the organization has had “more interest” this year from state lawmakers. Schmit-Albin described abortion restrictions as “chipping away” at the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade.

Legislation to ban the common medical procedure has been introduced by Republican legislators in six states this year, and was signed into law by the governors of Kansas and Oklahoma. The bills have all been copies of legislation drafted by the National Right to Life Committee.

A Michigan lawmaker last week introduced two bills to ban the D and E procedure in the state, and lawmakers in Arkansas are planning on introducing similar legislation during the state’s 2017 legislative session. While the Nebraska state senate is non-partisan body, Republicans hold a 37-11 unofficial majority.

Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues associate for the Guttmacher Institute, told RH Reality Check that reproductive rights advocates are concerned that attempts to ban D and E abortion care could be introduced in multiple state legislatures in the coming years.

“This could be a new trend at the state level,” Nash said. “It does fall right in line with some of the trends we’ve been seeing over time. From states restricting access to post-viability abortion to the trend of 20-week abortion bans.”

Nebraska was the first state to ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Lawmakers justified the restriction by charging that “substantial medical evidence indicates that [fetuses] are capable of feeling pain.” However, all available medical evidence disproves the notion of so-called fetal pain.

Garrett, who sponsored a failed 2014 bill that would have required abortion clinics to post signs that say it is “against the law for anyone to force you to have an abortion,” told the Lincoln Journal-Star that he has struggled with how to make more “progress” in restricting abortion.

When the anti-choice front group known as the Center for Medical Progress published a series of videos spreading misinformation about Planned Parenthood, it gave Garrett an opportunity to introduce new legislation.

“This Planned Parenthood stuff is so vulgar. I mean, it’s beyond words,” Garrett said of the wisely discredited attack videos distributed by CMP in coordination with Republican lawmakers. “It’s like baby body parts are commodities to be traded on the open market.”

Planned Parenthood has been repeatedly cleared by state investigations of any wrongdoing with regards to fetal tissue donation and disposal.

A recent independent analysis of the CMP videos found that footage in the “undercover” videos was found to have been deceptively edited to alter the meaning of dialogue, and significant portions of the footage were found to have been removed from videos the organization claimed were “full footage.”

Questions have been raised about CMP’s deceptive tactics, ideological agenda, and connections to radical and violent anti-choice activists. The front group is also the subject of two lawsuits.

Suzanna de Baca, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said lawmakers are using the videos to justify further eroding reproductive rights. “We urge lawmakers to stop using these wholly fraudulent videos to justify measures that threaten access to affordable, high-quality health care in Nebraska,” de Baca told the Lincoln Journal-Star.

Image: Nebraska Family Alliance / YouTube

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Papa John’s Once Again Faces Wage Theft Allegations

A complaint filed in New York accuses a franchise's owners of failing to pay minimum wage and overtime to approximately 300 workers.

Yet another New York-based Papa John’s franchise faces wage theft allegations, including claims that its owners refused to pay workers at least minimum wage and overtime pay.

According to the complaint filed by New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, Papa John’s franchise owners Abdul Jamil Khokhar and BMY Foods Inc., which together owned and operated nine Papa John’s franchises throughout the Bronx, allegedly failed to pay minimum wage and overtime to about 300 current and former employees, created fictitious identities to conceal overtime worked by employees, and filed fraudulent quarterly tax returns with New York state in order to cover up their alleged wage theft.

The New York Attorney General’s Office is seeking jail time and $230,000 in back wages to Khokhar’s workers who are allegedly due back wages.

This is the third complaint filed this year by Schneiderman’s office against a Papa John’s franchise for wage theft violations. The prosecutions from Schneiderman’s office come as the labor department under President Obama makes strides in bolstering labor and employment law in order to meet current needs, including a recent ruling by the National Labor Relations Board that could hold corporate parents like Papa John’s responsible for the unlawful employment actions of franchise owners like Khokhar.

Both New York and federal law require employers to pay workers at least the minimum wage for all hours worked and overtime at one-and-one-half times their regular rate of pay for hours worked in excess of 40 hours in any given workweek.

New York’s minimum wage is $8.75 per hour.

Khokhar and BMY Foods Inc. allegedly did not pay workers the overtime rate as required by law, instead paying all workers the same, regular rate of pay for all hours worked, including overtime hours.

To hide this practice, Khokhar and BMY Foods purportedly paid for overtime hours in cash. The complaint alleges they also created fictitious names for employees to use in their computerized timekeeping system and once employees’ weekly hours reached 35 or 40 per week, those employees were allegedly required to use the fictitious names to hide the overtime practices.

Khokhar and BMY Foods Inc. allegedly filed fraudulent tax returns with the State of New York that omitted the cash payments made under fictitious names.

Khokhar created the dual-name scheme after learning he was under investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor, according to the complaint. That investigation led to a consent judgment with the department, whereby Khokhar would pay an additional $230,000 in liquidated damages to employees and $50,000 in civil monetary penalties.

Khokhar’s Papa John’s franchises will be required to designate and create procedures for an internal compliance officer and will be subject to independent auditing of the franchises’ practices.

“This judgment should be a wake-up call for all employers who think they can break the law, not pay their workers, cover it up and get away with it,” Dr. David Weil, administrator for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, said in a statement announcing the criminal charges and civil consent judgement. “Workers in the fast food and other low-wage industries are vulnerable to wage violations, but by working with Attorney General Schneiderman and other partners in New York and across the country we are protecting them from abuse.”

Image: Susan Montgomery / Shutterstock.com

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Advocates: Domestic Violence Survivors Face Housing Instability Under Arizona Housing Ordinance

A lawsuit filed in federal court targets an ordinance that advocates claim leaves survivors of intimate partner violence forced to chose between calling the police for help or facing eviction.

A domestic violence survivor and single mother of two filed a federal lawsuit last week against the City of Surprise, Arizona, challenging a law that advocates claim pressures landlords to evict tenants who place more than four calls to police in 30 days, or for crimes occurring at the property, even when the tenant is the victim.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arizona, and private firm Aiken Schenk Hawkins & Ricciardi P.C. filed the lawsuit on behalf of Nancy Markham, in which they argue enforcement of the nuisance ordinance violates Ms. Markham’s First Amendment right to seek police assistance. The lawsuit alleges the ordinance disregards the Fair Housing Act’s prohibition on gender discrimination, among other claims.

“Police protection is one of the most basic services the government provides,” Sandra Park, senior staff attorney in the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, said in a statement following the lawsuit. “For domestic violence survivors, it may be their only means to safety. The nuisance law ignores the needs of victims, empowers abusers to act without fear of police intervention, and increases victims’ vulnerability to both homelessness and future violence by pressuring landlords to remove them from housing.”

Nuisance ordinances like the one at issue in Surprise, Arizona, identify a property as a public nuisance when it is the site of a certain number of calls for police or alleged nuisance conduct.

The ordinances are sometimes called disorderly house ordinances or crime-free ordinances and are designed in part to address assault, harassment, stalking, disorderly conduct, and other types of behavior. But advocates note these laws usually apply whether a resident was a victim or a perpetrator of the nuisance activity, which means domestic violence victims can face eviction for trying to protect themselves at home.

Laws like the one at issue in Markham’s lawsuit usually require property owners to “abate the nuisance” or face steep penalties. Many landlords respond to a nuisance citation by evicting the tenant, refusing to renew their lease, or instructing tenants not to call 9-1-1, according to advocates. That is what Markham has alleged happened to her.

Between March and September 2014, Markham’s ex-boyfriend choked her, punched her, and threatened her with weapons, as alleged in the complaint. Instead of helping protect Markham’s safety, the complaint says, a Surprise police officer instead enforced the nuisance ordinance by notifying her landlord about the police calls and encouraging Markham’s eviction.

In September 2014, the property manager of Markham’s apartment notified her that she would be evicted for having violated the law, even though the police never mentioned the law to Markham during any of her calls.

“Rather than protect public safety, these laws put domestic violence survivors in danger,” Nancy Markham said in a statement following the lawsuit. “When you are dealing with constant abuse as I was, you may need police protection on multiple occasions. The Surprise ordinance punished me for seeking much-needed emergency assistance.”

When the law passed in June 2010, the William E. Morris Institute for Justice and others warned the Surprise City Council that the policy would increase the vulnerability of domestic violence survivors. City council members passed the law anyway.

Proponents of nuisance ordinances argue they are necessary to deter crime, but advocates say that in practice, the ordinances undermine public safety and punish vulnerable people. Advocates note that survivors of domestic violence often feel they must endure violence and threats without police intervention because calling law enforcement could lead to homelessness.

Nuisance ordinances have also been found to disproportionately affect and be disparately enforced against communities of color and people with mental disabilities. Advocates charge that because these ordinances typically do not require that residents be told about a warning or citation, affected people often have no opportunity to show that they were actually victims of the “nuisance conduct” and may not know that a nuisance ordinance is at the root of their housing instability.

Arizona is not alone in enacting these kinds of domestic nuisance ordinances.

The ACLU last year successfully challenged a similar ordinance in Pennsylvania, and a report issued in 2013 by the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law in Chicago noted at least 100 municipalities in Illinois had similar laws on the books. Advocates say these policies can reduce the availability of desperately needed affordable rental housing.

“Laws like the Surprise nuisance ordinance unfairly impact victims of domestic violence and force them to choose between stable housing and protecting themselves and their families from their abusers,” cooperating attorney Heather A. Macre of Aiken Schenk Hawkins & Ricciardi P.C. said in a statement. “This is a choice no one should have to make.”

Image: Shutterstock

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Family Planning Initiative Rejected by Colorado GOP Has New Life

Colorado health officials have secured about half the funds that state Republicans voted down this year to run a program that slashed teen pregnancy rates by 40 percent.

After Republicans in the Colorado senate blocked funding of a successful teen-pregnancy prevention program, state health department officials began looking for $5 million in private funding to run the family planning initiative this year.

Health officials announced last week that they’ve raised $2 million from about a dozen foundations, allowing the program to continue training health-care providers, educating women about birth control, and subsidizing the purchase of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC), including intrauterine devices (IUDs), for up to 6,000 women across Colorado.

“We are grateful for the generosity of so many visionary organizations,” Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director and chief medical officer of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), said in a news release. “With their help, we will continue to empower Colorado women to achieve their goals by choosing if and when they want to start a family.”

Some opponents of the program pointed to the private funding as proof that tax money need not be spent on the Colorado Family Planning Initiative. The six-year pilot program, with support from the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, decreased Colorado’s teen pregnancy rate by 40 percent and teen abortions by 35 percent.

Colorado Peak Politics, a conservative blog, argued that the “private sector’s willingness to step up and keep this program going just proves that government isn’t always the answers. In fact, it rarely is. Not that we expect Democrats to get the message.”

Asked to respond to the argument that the private sector should fund the program, NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado’s Karen Middleton wrote that while she was “delighted” by the “short-term” philanthropic support, she remains “profoundly disappointed that the Senate GOP could not manage to pass common-sense legislation and fund the program for the longer term.”

“We figured out how to reduce unintended teen pregnancies and decrease the abortion rate among teens,” Middleton continued. “Colorado has been a leader in addressing an important area of public policy that improves the lives of women, children and their families. We should be courageous enough to fund a proven cost-effective solution.”

Since funding ran out for the LARC program in June, after it was killed during the legislative session, many Title X family-planning clinics were “struggling” to provide women with contraception, and “many clinics have had to put women on waiting lists or charge them more for IUDs and implants,” according to a CDPHE news release.

Republicans were able to stop LARC funding thanks to their 18-17 majority in the Colorado senate.

In opposing funds for the LARC program, opponents not only raised fiscal concerns but also objected to the use of IUDs, which they falsely claim cause abortions. One state senator last year said IUDs “stop a small child from implanting.”

Wolk called the LARC program a “population health priority” and promised to pursue “a sustainable funding stream” through the state legislature. State observers aren’t optimistic that the Republican-controlled senate will change course and approve funding next year. If it does, however, funding would sail through the state house, controlled by Democrats, and be signed by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, also a Democrat.

The foundations that contributed to Colorado’s LARC program are: the Ben and Lucy Ana Walton Fund of the Walton Family Foundation, the Buell Foundation, the Caring for Colorado Foundation, the Chambers Family Fund, the Colorado Health Foundation, the Colorado Trust, the Community First Foundation, the Community Foundation Serving Boulder County, the Global Health Foundation, Kaiser Permanente Colorado, and the Women’s Foundation of Colorado.

CDPHE expects to receive more donations for the LARC program in the coming months.

Image: Shutterstock

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Workers Get Big Boost in Latest Labor Board Decision

A ruling last week could open the doors for businesses like McDonald's to be held liable for the unlawful employment actions of its individual franchises.

Organized labor got a big boost last week from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in a decision that expands the definition of “joint employer” and opens the door for workers in franchised industries to unionize.

The NLRB decision could change the way workers negotiate salaries and benefits across industries.

The case involves a California company, Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI), that owned and operated the Newby Island Recyclery, where workers sorted recyclables and mixed waste to be sold to other businesses. BFI employed 60 workers at Newby Island who were represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. BFI then entered into a different labor agreement with Leadpoint, under which Leadpoint provided additional workers to the Newby Island facility.

The Leadpoint workers were not unionized. The Teamsters petitioned to represent the Leadpoint workers, but the NLRB’s regional director determined that BFI was not a joint employer of the Leadpoint workers and thus had no obligation to negotiate with the union.

Ruling 3 to 2 along partisan lines, the NLRB disagreed with the regional director’s assessment and ruled Browning-Ferris Industries a joint employer.

“It is not the goal of joint-employer law to guarantee the freedom of employers to insulate themselves from their legal responsibility to workers, while maintaining control of the workplace,” the majority from the NLRB wrote. “Such an approach has no basis in the act or in federal labor policy.”

The decision overturns decades of labor and employment precedent created by the business-friendly Reagan-era NLRB.

The ruling will likely apply beyond companies that rely on contractors and staffing agencies to include companies with large numbers of franchisees like McDonald’s and Papa John’s.

Corporations like Papa John’s and McDonald’s employ about two-thirds of the low-wage workers in this country, but have so far mostly avoided liability for the illegal actions of their franchise owners under the theory that, despite sharing a common corporate brand, each franchise is independently owned and operated. Defining a company and its contractors or franchisees as joint employers removes that shield businesses like McDonald’s have relied on to keep organizational costs low at the expense of workers’ wages and benefits.

Labor unions cheered the NLRB decision, saying it will help vulnerable workers challenge exploitative employers and modernize labor laws to reflect the changing economic circumstances of today’s workplace. “Simply put, labor laws in America have failed to keep pace as the workplace has continued to evolve,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement.

Conservative business interests like the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) decried the decision, warning it will have a “devastating impact” on the business community because treating temporary workers as actual employees adds costs to business owners, despite the stability workers gain. According to CEI, this unfairly burdens “innovators.”

“[T]he NLRB’s new standard could force Silicon Valley startups to hire the receptionists and cleaners they currently get from staffing or property management companies,” said Iain Murray, CEI’s vice president of strategy.

Murray added that the decision will crush innovation and the emerging “sharing” economy. “It will adversely impact the innovative sharing economy, where technology has drastically lowered transaction costs, enabling people to come together to share services in novel new business relationships,” he said. “The NLRB has set back the clock 40 years, to an era of corporate giants when few people had the option of being their own bosses while pursuing innovative employment arrangements.”

The NLRB estimates that 2.87 million of the nation’s workers were employed through temporary agencies.

Image: Shutterstock

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Bleeding Wounds and Breastfeeding Hell: The Costs of No Paid Maternity Leave in America

The financial bind of no paid leave can become a physical nightmare for working women who have just given birth.

“Every morning I get up, I drink coffee, and I get mad that women don’t have better access to health care and paid family leave,” Danielle Spradlin told RH Reality Check.

Spradlin, on this particular Wednesday morning, was mad about a recent investigative report from In These Times magazine revealing that about one in four working women return to work two weeks or less after giving birth.

She recalled her experience with coming back to work for a local political candidate just ten days after childbirth.

“I was in the car with my candidate with my brand new baby, a first-time mom, and I was driving to a fundraising meeting to shake somebody down for some cash,” Spradlin said. “I mean, I’m still bleeding. So I’m like, well, what pants do I fit into that are black, just in case I bleed through them. And these are not reasonable ways to behave. I mean, postpartum hemorrhage is a true and real cause of death of women.”

Spradlin is now a lactation consultant, a health-care professional who helps women having trouble breastfeeding. Too often, she said, “trouble breastfeeding” is really just a symptom of a deeper problem—a system that denies too many women the chance to heal and bond with their babies because they can’t afford to take more unpaid time off of work.

Sometimes when women tell Spradlin that they’re having a problem with breastfeeding, she said, the real problem is that they’re working too hard to be able to sit down long enough in a 24-hour period to feed their baby.

“Some of these moms are waitstaff, and they don’t have time to pump their milk, they’re going to be up on their feet, they’re going back to work in two weeks, they’re still bleeding, they’re still having pain from sutures, whether those are perineal sutures or abdominal sutures or both, some of them have pelvic floor problems, they’re urinating on themselves—but they’re going to go stand on their feet for 14 hours to make money?” Spradlin said. “That’s abhorrent. That’s how women die.”

The United States is the only developed nation without some kind of national paid maternity leave, and proposals for national paid family leave aren’t going far in a Republican-dominated Congress. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) only guarantees workers the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave without losing their job.

That unpaid leave guarantee doesn’t apply to about 40 percent of working people, however. And for many Americans who are trying to start a family, it’s simply not a financial option to spend one month, let alone three, without earning income.

That financial bind can become a physical nightmare for women, as interviews conducted by RH Reality Check revealed.

Erica Hunter wasn’t able to think about taking more than two weeks to heal from her episiotomy, or to deal with the trauma of almost losing her newborn son during an incredibly difficult delivery.

“They pretty much just split me open, and then had to pull my son out with forceps because everything had gotten so complicated,” Hunter told RHRC. “It was really pretty horrible, but I didn’t have a choice. I had to get back to work or we were going to be homeless.”

She said she was lucky to have a desk job, because it made it easier to convince her doctor to give her medical permission to come back to work.

“It was either beg my doctor for a note to go back to work in two weeks or we were going to lose everything because there was no income,” Hunter said.

The $12 an hour, plus commissions, that Hunter made doing telephone sales for a fitness equipment manufacturer was all that kept her household afloat. She and her partner, who had been out of work for months, had no savings. Her employer didn’t offer paid maternity leave, and she had no access to paid time off or disability since she had worked at the company for less than a year.

She couldn’t move in with her parents because there was no room, and she couldn’t stay with her partner’s parents because they were fundamentalists who disapproved of her having a child out of wedlock.

Hunter said her doctor was “reluctant” to sign off on letting her go back to work after just two weeks, but ultimately understood the financial pressures. Her job was happy to have her back, she said, since she was a top sales associate.

“They were, I guess, as accommodating as you could be, with me having to be in the office 40 miles away from my newborn every day,” Hunter said of her employers.

She said they let her pump breast milk, but she had to do it in a bathroom stall—not the most sanitary environment—and nursing eventually became “impossible” when she was out of the house for 12 hours a day, including the commute.

“It was exhausting,” she said.

Elle Kay (not her real name) said she didn’t get medical approval from her doctor to come back to work after three weeks, but she did it anyway.

“I could barely walk due to a third-degree tear from my clitoris to my cervix,” Kay told RHRC. “I called my boss, and she said as long as I didn’t bleed all over the chair I could come back without a note.”

She had expected to take eight weeks of maternity leave. She was technically a part-time employee but often worked more than 40 hours a week, which her bosses said would qualify her for some partially paid time off.

But the day before Kay left for maternity leave, she was informed that she would only get four hours of paid leave. Kay had saved up a few hundred dollars to supplement what she thought would be a partially paid maternity leave—but a car accident 32 weeks into her pregnancy wiped out those savings, and she had nothing to fall back on when she learned she wouldn’t get paid time off.

While she was “begging” to come back at three weeks so she could make ends meet, she said the experience took a physical toll.

Kay had trouble establishing her milk supply because she could only pump for 20 minutes a day in a filthy employee locker room full of dead bugs and with no chair, which she had to vacate if someone knocked. She had “horrible” postpartum depression from missing her baby and working 14-hour days with no sleep. 

“I struggled so much,” she said.

Alana Adams went back to work just seven days after giving birth—seven days that she had spent in the hospital recovering from a c-section and dangerously high blood pressure from postpartum pre-eclampsia.

Adams was in school and working a seasonal job as an emergency medical technician at an amusement park when she had her child. That job didn’t come with any benefits, she said, except “a slightly higher pay rate than the the local barely livable wage.”

“There was no gap between the hospital and work,” Adams told RHRC. “If I had attempted to take any time at all off of work, I would have been replaced immediately.”

She noted that since a c-section cuts through the abdominal muscles, it’s extremely painful to change positions between sitting, standing, and lying down.

“On a day that there wasn’t a lot to do, I could sit most of the day, but if I had to get up in a hurry, I was up the creek,” Adams said. “Most days I just stayed on my feet for 10 or so hours because it was safer than having to try to get up quick.”

Spradlin, the lactation consultant, said that lack of paid leave represents a national failure to care for postpartum women, and thus to care for families.

“When we talk about the cost of health care and the cost of maternity leave and the cost of unemployment insurance, people don’t take the long view of it,” Spradlin said. “Now we have this spiraling out of control of a family unit that isn’t enjoying optimal health because mom had no postpartum recovery period.”

Image: Shutterstock

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Vegan Elitism: Ronnie Lee on “Ordinary People”

A very typical message we get from many “animal advocates” is that we can’t say that veganism is a moral baseline. That is, we can’t say that veganism is a moral obligation and a moral imperative. We can only promote reducing suffering. People just won’t understand it or be able to process the vegan position. People must be manipulated and not educated. And we understand their inability “get it.” After all, they’re not as smart or as good as we are.

Would you like an excellent example of this completely reactionary, elitist, and patronizing attitude?

Ronnie Lee, who founded the Animal Liberation Front, and who calls himself a “socialist animal liberationist,” responded in a blog post to a suggestion that animal advocates promote vegetarianism rather than veganism because the latter is just too “radical.”

Lee had this to say:

I feel there’s a strong case for the toe-in-the-water approach you suggest, Mark. Nick Cooney mentions this in his excellent Science of Animal Advocacy talk (www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUEGBDpmX0A). I attended a similar presentation by Nick in Birmingham a few months ago and was very impressed by what he had to say because, like myself, he believes we need to take into account the limitations of ordinary people and understand how they really operate in order to change their behaviour, rather than bestowing intellectual and moral abilities on them that they don’t, in reality, possess.

Here’s a screenshot from the actual blog post in case you find the quote as unbelievable as I did:

ScreenHunter_1040 Aug. 31 07.09

(Click to enlarge.)

So “ordinary people” don’t possess sufficient “intellectual and moral abilities”?

That is, as the Brits say, bollocks. And coming from someone who calls himself a “socialist.” Lee’s comment is about as reactionary as reactionary gets.

I don’t expect more from Nick Cooney, who works for Mercy for Animals–a group that openly promotes “happy” exploitation and that joined Peter Singer in inaugurating the “happy” exploitation movement in 2005:

(Click to enlarge.)

Mercy for Animals regularly partners with industry to peddle the fantasy that we can exploit “compassionately.” Here’s a recent advertisement promoting Walmart sent out by MFA Executive Director, Nathan Runkle:

(Click to enlarge.)

The business model of these groups involves rejecting veganism as a moral imperative in favor of promoting the idea that veganism is just one way of reducing suffering–along with crate-free pork, cage-free eggs, vegetarianism, Meatless Monday, etc. They all are all equally valid. And they trot out Cooney, who cites studies and doctrines that he either does not understand or that he blatantly misrepresents so that he can assure everyone that not promoting veganism as a moral baseline will eventually get people to see that veganism is the moral baseline. But it will take time and manipulation and promoting “happy”exploitation in the meantime.

That’s a great business model if you want to keep your donor pool as large as possible. And I do understand that these corporate charities need to bring in a great deal of money so that can employ lots of people who have jobs as paid “activists.” These groups, in effect, sell licenses so that people can continue consuming animals with a stamp of approval from these animal welfare groups. All any vegan has to do is to buy crate-free pork from Walmart and make a donation and they can be “compassionate” consumers. They can be “animal advocates.”

That’s a terrible model if you want to shift the paradigm away from animals as property and toward animals as persons and educate people about why veganism is the only rational response to recognizing that animals matter morally.

But I expected more from Ronnie Lee. I don’t agree with Lee about a number of things but I am really disappointed to see him buy into the completely reactionary and elitist idea peddled by the bloated corporate charities–that the “ordinary people” are just not smart enough or moral enough to be at “our” level. Lee claims to be a supporter of social justice. How about justice for “ordinary people”? How about not buying into the corporate welfarist view that people are all stupid and immoral? How about educating people in an honest and straightforward manner that respects both their intelligence and their moral sensibilities?

In 2010, I did a blog post/podcast in which I outlined the Abolitionist Approach to Education:

Principle #1: People are good at heart.
Our default position when we talk with people ought to be that they are good at heart, and interested in, and educable about, moral issues. There is a tendency among at least some advocates to have a very misanthropic view of other humans and to see them as being inherently immoral or uninterested in issues of morality. I disagree with that view.

Principle #2: People are not stupid.
There is a tendency among animal advocates to believe that the general public is not able to understand the arguments in favor of veganism and that we must “go easy” and instead of talking about veganism, we should talk about vegetarianism, “Meat Free Monday,” “happy” meat and animal products, etc. I disagree with this very elitist way of thinking about other people. There is no mystery here; there is nothing complicated. People can understand if we teach effectively.

Principle #3: Do not get defensive; respond, don’t react.
Yes, some people will try to provoke us or will ask questions or make comments that we find insulting or that we take not to be serious. If someone is really not interested in what we are saying, they will, as a general matter, walk away. Treat every comment and question—even the ones you find abrasive, rude, or sarcastic—as an invitation being offered to you by someone who is more provoked (in a positive way) by you and engaged than you might think.

Principle #4: Do not get frustrated. Education is hard work.
You will get the same question many times; you will be asked questions that indicate you must start at the beginning with someone. But if you want to be an effective educator, you have to answer every question as if it is the first time you heard it. If you want others to be enthusiastic about your message, you have to be enthusiastic about it first.

Principle #5: Learn the basics. You have to be a student first before you become a teacher.
Many animal advocates become excited about abolitionist veganism and the next thing that happens is that they set up a website or start a blog that is motivated by the right feelings but not informed by clear ideas. Before you teach others, learn about the basics.It’s not hard to learn the basics; anyone can do so so.

In any event, one of the things I have learned is that “ordinary people” get it. They get it just fine. The arguments for veganism as a moral imperative are perfectly intelligible to anyone who cares enough to listen. Indeed, most people understand the idea that it’s wrong to inflict suffering on animals for reasons of pleasure or amusement, or convenience even if they don’t otherwise accept the egalitarianism of a true animal rights approach. That is precisely why people respond the way they do to people like Michael Vick and Mary Bale.

If we are going to change the world, we need to encourage critical thinking and not support the business model of the large, bloated welfare corporations, which portrays “ordinary people” as too stupid or too morally depraved to understand a simple message:

If you agree that animals matter morally, if you agree that animals aren’t just things that don’t matter morally, then, at the very least, you cannot justify imposing suffering and death on animals for reasons of pleasure, including palate pleasure, or mere convenience.


If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.

If animals matter morally, veganism is not an option — it is a necessity. Anything that claims to be an animal rights movement must make clear that veganism is a moral imperative.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Learn more about veganism at www.HowDoIGoVegan.com.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

©2015 Gary L. Francione

The post Vegan Elitism: Ronnie Lee on “Ordinary People” appeared first on Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach.

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After 30+ Years, Morrissey Goes Vegan But Calls Veganism “Purist”

Morrissey has finally recognized–after three decades of collecting royalties from Meat is Murder–that all animal products are murder.

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Morrissey made this announcement on the Larry King Show. And he made very sure to reinforce the idea that being vegan is anything but a moral imperative. Indeed, his denigration of veganism sounded like the sort of thing you hear about veganism from the large new welfarist charities.

What he said was very damaging and counterproductive.

When King asked him about going vegan, Morrissey responded:

Well, it’s just a gradual thing. Everybody begins as vegetarian. Because to dive straight forward into being completely purist is very hard for most people. Financially they can’t do it. And also you have to find food.

What complete and utter nonsense.

First of all, it’s not difficult. This is the same line we hear again and again from the large animal charities. You will recall Fiona Oakes, Ambassador of The “Vegan” Society, saying on BBC that veganism is not “for everyone” and “it’s not probably for very many people.” That’s just anti-vegan propaganda. It’s hard only if you don’t care about our moral obligations to animals. If you do, it’s as easy as any other decision you make to respect the fundamental rights of other. And so-called “animal advocates” should never say otherwise.

Second, he regurgitates the same new welfarist line that veganism is “purist.” That’s the sort of thing that PETA and Farm Sanctuary say when they are defending non-vegan or flexitarian positions.

It’s not a matter of “purity” any more than it is a matter of “purity” to respect the fundamental rights of humans. We would not say that anyone who rejected slavery, rape, and child molestation was a “purist.” The same applies to nonhumans. Veganism is the least we owe animals if we believe they matter morally. There is no morally coherent distinction between meat and any other animal product. They all involve suffering. They all involve death. They all involve injustice.

In “Meat is Murder,” Morrissey sings:

And the calf that you carve with a smile
It is murder.

And for 30 years he hasn’t recognized that to consume milk, cheese, etc. necessarily involves the deaths of calves? And to recognize and act on that involves being a “purist”?

All animal foods involve suffering and death and the only justification for any of it is palate pleasure. As the song states:

It’s death for no reason
And death for no reason is murder.

But to recognize that and act on it is a matter of being a “purist”?

That’s wrong. Respecting the fundamental rights of nonhumans is not a matter of being a “purist.” It is a simple matter of doing what we are morally obligated to do.

Third, a diet of vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, and seeds is invariably cheaper than a diet of animal foods. It does not help for him to reinforce the completely false and counterproductive idea that veganism is only for the affluent.

And even if being vegan were more expensive, which is not the case, why would that stop Morrissey from going vegan for 30+ years? He’s quite well off.

Fourth, what is this nonsense that it’s hard to find vegan food? It’s not difficult to find vegetables, fruits, beans, grains, and seeds. Indeed, it’s hard not to find them.

It took him 30+ years to go vegan. That’s strong proof that the “animal movement” has failed miserably in promoting veganism as a moral baseline. Veganism is sidelined as just another way of reducing suffering–along with going vegetarian, consuming crate-free pork, eggs from “cage-free” hens, milk from “happy” cows, etc. And that’s the problem. If animals matter morally, we cannot eat, wear, or use animals.

Morrissey showed King his Stella McCartney non-leather shoes made in Italy. I suppose that was to reinforce the idea that going vegan is difficult because not many people can afford Stella McCartney shoes. That, of course, is also silly. Good vegan shoes cost less than what a decent (not designer) pair of leather shoes cost. And Stella McCartney, supposedly a vegan, produces clothing made from wool. But she claims that the sheep are not mistreated. That, of course, is also complete nonsense.

It’s bad enough that high-visibility people like Morrissey and Paul McCartney pose as “animal people” when they are not vegan. They send a message to people that “animal people” don’t have to be vegan as long as they “care.” Although that is the message that the large animal charities want to promote (it allows nonvegans to feel comfortable in donating), it’s a very wrong and very damaging message.

And it is also damaging to make the sort of announcement that Morrissey made when he decided to go vegan. He regurigated the idea that going vegan is just an option and not a moral imperative, and that it is difficult and expensive.

But I am not sure that it is reasonable to expect more from a person who thinks that the Chinese are a “subspecies”


If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.

If animals matter morally, veganism is not an option — it is a necessity. Anything that claims to be an animal rights movement must make clear that veganism is a moral imperative.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Learn more about veganism at www.HowDoIGoVegan.com.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

©2015 Gary L. Francione

The post After 30+ Years, Morrissey Goes Vegan But Calls Veganism “Purist” appeared first on Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach.

Related posts:

  1. “But it took me 10 years to go vegan.” So What?
  2. Banned by The Vegan Society for Promoting Veganism!
  3. Vegan Society Ambassador Fiona Oakes: Veganism is not “for everyone” and “it’s not probably for very many people.”
  4. Once Again, The U.K. “Vegan” Society Trashes Veganism
  5. You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: Vegan Society “Ambassador” Claims That Promoting Veganism as a Moral Baseline “Damages” Animals

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