BOOKS: This is Hope & The Ultimate Betrayal

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November/December 2013:

This Is Hope: Green Vegans and the New Human Ecology
by Will Anderson
Earth Books c/o John Hunt Publishing
(15200 NBN Way, Blue Ridge Summit, PA 17214), 2013. 368 pages,
paperback. $22.95;
or download c/o www.thisishopethebook.com

The Ultimate Betrayal: Is There Happy Meat?
by Hope Bohanec with Cogen Bohanec
166 pages, paperback. $19.95, c/o www.the-ultimate-betrayal.com

This Is Hope, by Will Anderson, and The Ultimate Betrayal, by
Hope Bohanec, with her husband Cogen Bohanec, might be described as
long and short versions of the same book. They are structured somewhat
differently, but mostly summarize the same arguments for veganism,
citing many of the same sources.


Both authors are veteran campaigners in animal and environmental
causes, who have held senior positions in prominent organizations.
Neither, however, makes extensive use of direct personal observation
or anecdote.
In Anderson’s case this is clearly unfortunate, since his
most memorable and persuasive passages are those in which he does step
out from behind the lectern to share something he did not learn from
someone else’s book. Especially vivid examples include Anderson’s
discussion of watching how a mother cat carried her kittens across a
busy street, and of putting his head down to the curb to see the scene
as she did; the death of a baby orangutan aboard Anderson’s boat
during a volunteer stint for primatologist Birute Galdikas in Indonesia;
and the time Anderson almost broke his veganism to eat a chocolate
éclair, but was stopped by the scream of a wounded bull moose on a
National Public Radio news broadcast.
Hope Bohanec uses the stories of animals she meets at the Animal
Place sanctuary near California to illustrate key points, but somewhat
as she might use photos in a PowerPoint presentation. Though the
animals are briefly introduced, their presence is not allowed to create
a distraction.
Subtitled “Green Vegans and the New Human Ecology,” This Is
Hope only fleetingly introduces green vegans as other than an abstract
concept. The “new human ecology” is a concluding wish-list not all
that different from the hopes of legions of other vegan and vegetarian
authors going back at least to Mohandas Gandhi’s many 19th century
talks and pamphlets sharing the title The Moral Basis of Vegetarianism.

Subtitled “Is There Happy Meat?”, The Ultimate Betrayal
rejects the whole premise that meat can be “humanely” produced, in
much more gruesome detail about slaughter than Anderson delves into.
Yet refuting the “happy meat” illusion promoted by animal product
labeling schemes is so far from Bohanec’s focus that she discusses
only two of the half dozen labeling schemes that one is most likely to
encounter in a supermarket.
Neither This Is Hope nor The Ultimate Betrayal seems likely to
make any meat-eaters become vegans, if mainly because meat-eaters are
unlikely to pick up either book. Both may, however, help to reinforce
the conviction of newly converted vegans. These seem likely to be the
main audience for both books.

“Neo-predation”

Longtime vegans, though, may have the same response as the
three vegan reviewers who at first offered to review This Is Hope for
ANIMAL PEOPLE, then kicked it back to me for reassignment. Two of the
three found it “too angry,” but if This Is Hope is angry, The
Ultimate Betrayal could be construed as being much more so, in less
than half as many pages.
I didn’t find either book “angry,” but each might be
alleged to be preaching to the choir, and at a certain point the choir
may no longer feel in need of being dunked in recitations of abstract
data in the name of revival. Hardly anyone reads statistics more avidly
than I do, but stats geek that I am, I still found myself mumbling “So
quit counting the beads already and get on with the sermon!”
Moreover, This Is Hope in particular drowns in data recitations
some ideas that should have been allowed to come up for air.
One of these ideas is the concept of “neo-predation,” which
Anderson says “is produced every time we lay down a highway, every
time another one of us is born and physically occupies habitat, every
time we add greenhouse gases to a warming atmosphere, and every time we
consume material goods and services that impair eco-systems. This
neo-predation creates harms similar to those that the hunters,
fishers, and animal agriculturalists produce, but without our firing a
shot, setting a hook, or partaking in any part of animal agriculture.”

Anderson divides “neo-predation” into three types:
mega-predation, presence predation, and economic predation. He
defines each type in considerable detail. Each would appear to be, in
his view, a form of “additive” predation, which increases the
stress on the prey, rather than “compensatory” predation, which
replaces the risk from one source of mortality, for instance disease,
with the risk of being eaten.
But Anderson does not follow through on the predation metaphor.
If he did, he might have run into arguments contradicting his central
premise that a turn toward veganism is necessary because humans are
allegedly destroying biodiversity. Additive predation is the most
destructive type, because it can cause extinctions. Yet additive
predation also opens habitat to other species, and as such is an engine
of evolution, not a one-way street to doom.
The larger the habitat needs of the species who are extirpated,
the more habitat niches are opened to immigrant and newly evolved
species, from microbes up to Tyrannosaurus rex and Apatosaurus.
The loss of elephants, rhinos, or great whales is catastrophic
for those species, of course, and tragic for us, but scarcely means a
net loss for biodiversity. Indeed, even the microbes inhabiting those
large animals’ bodies may merely move into other species, adapt,
thrive, and further diversify, much as practically all terrestrial
species are now plagued by descendants of the fleas who have recently
been found to have once infested dinosaurs.
Neither This Is Hope nor The Ultimate Betrayal delves far into
religious teachings or abstract moral philosophy. Both take a
superficially scientific and secular approach. Yet both Anderson and
Bohanec seem as imbued with the notion that we are approaching an
ecological apocalypse, due to human sin, as any messianic “end-timer”
steeped in Revelations. Both recite a litany of “evidence” that
sometimes contracts their own logic.

“Carnist” biology

Anderson, for example, rails that “Wildlife management is
intent on protecting carnism,” meaning the set of values and beliefs
that rationalize eating meat. “This does not support ecosystems,”
Anderson continues. “It is not biocentrism. The harm this causes is
the reason why fish and wildlife management agencies employ hunters and
trappers to ‘fix’ the problems that their support for carnism
creates.”
Actually, as Anderson well knows through his experience with
the Maine Animal Coalition, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and
Greenpeace Alaska, it is hunters and trappers who employ wildlife
managers, through the arrangements that for more than 70 years have
ensured that the wildlife agencies of every state are funded by hunting,
trapping, and fishing license fees. Won through the political clout
of hunters, trappers, and fishers, these funding arrangements ensure
that consumptive users enjoy influence over wildlife policy far
disproportionate to their numbers, as less than 10% of the total U.S.
population. Anderson elsewhere in This Is Hope discusses all of this at
length.
Meanwhile wildlife agencies are the chief employers of “carnist”
biologists.
Having identified and rejected this central tenet of carnist
biologists’ belief system, Anderson proceeds to cite in support of
his own views a 1998 American Museum of Natural History survey that
showed “70% of biologists believe we are in the Great Holocene
Extinction.”
If carnist biologists are ideologically blinded to the basic
workings of ecosystems, as Anderson contends and I mostly agree, why
should their faith in the imminence of a Great Holocene Extinction be
accorded any more credence than their faith that it is possible to shoot
our way to ecological health?
Both faiths are based on faulty mathematical models, which
among other deficiencies relabel adaptive species “invasive.”
Anderson uses the term “invasive” 63 times in This Is Hope, but
mostly in a different way from most wildlife managers. To Anderson,
the “invasive” species of most concern appear to be livestock and
crops planted to feed livestock. This can be confusing, since Anderson
does not clearly distinguish his use of “invasive” from conventional
usage.
In the lingo of wildlife management, “invasive” species are
those that thrive without human help. In Anderson’s use, “invasive”
species are often those who need the most human intervention to
survive.

Deep Ecology

Bohanec, a former campaign director for In Defense of Animals,
in The Ultimate Betrayal reflects mostly the values and philosophy of
the animal rights movement––which has, to be sure, long been
influenced by Deep Ecology.
Anderson, though long involved in animal rights issues,
appears to have been most influenced by Deep Ecology, and acknowledges
the contributions of leading Deep Ecologists to his thinking.
Central to the notion of Deep Ecology is the idea that humans
are the ultimate invasive species, whose presence invariably corrupts
ecological processes. Though presenting itself as science-based, Deep
Ecology has in common with creationism that it supposes technologically
capable humans somehow came to exist independent of normal evolution,
and did not co-evolve with the whole suite of species sharing our world
in an intertwined and inseparable manner.
We are, in short, guilty of Original Sin just by existing.
Planet Earth, Deep Ecologists tend to believe, would be healthier
without us.
This sounds more like a set of medieval theological constructs
than a post-Darwnian viewpoint because it is. The intellectual history
of Deep Ecology traces back to Teutonic Naturism, which originated
several generations before Charles Darwin wrote On The Origin of
Species.
Teutonic Naturism was initially the horrified response of the
educated members of the northern European landed gentry to the rise of
the Industrial Revolution. The coming of industrialization jeopardized
the political and economic pre-eminence of the hereditary nobility,
threatened their hunting preserves, and surrounded any stream that
could be dammed to build a mill with squalid shantytowns of day
laborers, recruited from near and far.
The landed gentry responded by enclosing the former “commons,”
as the fields and forests formerly open to anyone’s use were called.
This was often rationalized as necessary to prevent overgrazing and
deforestation, which were indeed occurring. Enclosure, however,
drove much of the peasantry off the land and into the factory workforce,
accelerating the pace of development.
The conservation movement rose as a forthrightly conservative
effort to protect the holdings of the landed gentry, especially hunting
preserves, even as many of the gentry lost their wealth, sold their
land, and moved into the rapidly expanding cities. The alliance of
consumptive wildlife use with preservationism eventually morphed into
the environmental movement of today. Not surprisingly, the “green”
shibboleths about land use and biodiversity largely predate and have
bypassed most of what we should have learned during the past 150 years
about the nature of evolution, the inevitability of change, and the
adaptability of life to circumstance.

Garrett Hardin

More-or-less marking the transition of the traditional
conservation cause into the much differently packaged but fundamentally
similar environmental cause of today was the 1968 publication of Tragedy
of the Commons, by Garrett Hardin. Harking back to the very beginnings
of conservationism, Hardin rewrapped for the Baby Boom generation the
ancient anxiety of the landed gentry about the proliferation and
encroachment of the proletariat, and made it ours.
Anderson twice quotes what may be Hardin’s most famous
statement: “The only way we can preserve and nurture other and more
precious freedoms is by relinquishing the freedom to breed, and that
very soon.”
Only if Hardin meant that statement in evolutionary time does it
really hold up. The world human population in 1968 was only 3.6
billion, half of the present number. Yet far fewer people are
suffering food insecurity and critical resource shortages now than then.

One may argue, as enviros often do, that gains on behalf of
humans have been won only at the expense of animals and habitat, and
indeed, wildlife and habitat have taken woeful hits throughout Africa,
Asia, and much of Latin America. The oceans have been depleted to an
even greater extent. Farmed animals have been appallingly exploited on
all continents, in numbers not only unimagined in 1968 but ecologically
impossible, as we then understood agricultural potential.
On the other hand, Europe and North America now have not only
more than twice as many humans as in 1968, but also more large wildlife
and more forested land than at any time since the Industrial Revolution.
With remarkable rapidity, we are finding ways to share our habitat
with other species, and there is reason to believe that what we have
learned will become part of the ecological philosophy of Africa, Asia,
and Latin America too, as more people in those parts of the world gain
an education and escape from economic desperation.
While finding Anderson’s arguments, and Bohanec’s too,
often much less persuasive than they might imagine, I doubt that our
ecologically significant values and practices in daily life differ in
more than trivial detail. Among Anderson’s summaries of tenets we all
hold are, on page 279 of This Is Hope: “We need wildlife management
agencies that will create honest relationships between us and all other
species. Honest relationships start with individuals.” And, on page
321: “We could use a world where there is less violence. Veganism
accomplishes that; carnism defeats it.”
But on page 361 Anderson appears to unwittingly summarize why
neither This Is Hope nor The Ultimate Betrayal seem likely to reach and
influence anyone other than those who already feel as Anderson and
Bohanec do: “If you are not already vegan for environmental and moral
reasons, you and I go through each day seeing different things. If you
are intent on having several children, we do not see the same future.”
This strikes me as a statement much like 2012 Republican
presidential candidate Mitt Romney writing off 47% of the U.S.
electorate before his campaign really started.
Convincing arguments begin with shared visions and values.

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