The Ethics Centre veggie bashing article in The Guardian – a short reply

Earlier this week The Guardian published an article by Leslie Cannold of The Ethics Centre. The article was titled, Are vegetarianism and veganism about animal welfare or moral superiority? (the highlighted text links to the article in The Guardian).

To calmly respond to some highly contentious comments the author makes.


Let’s start with this-

“The truth is that an ethically carnivorous life is possible so long as we ensure the animals we consume have lived and died without unnecessary suffering.”

Just the way that remark is presented beginning with “The truth is”. This immediately belies any attempt at impartiality on her part. A further insight into Ms Cannold’s bias is given when she remarks later in the article:-

“…it wouldn’t be the first time the eco-left stymied mass behaviour change with unpalatable prescriptions delivered in self-righteous tones.”

The movie documentary ‘Merchants of Doubt’ springs to mind. For example the highlighted Merchants of Doubt text links to a 90+ second clip from that movie. The clip demonstrates the importance of the tactic of having a person speaking (or writing) seem independent from the people paying them to lobby. The apparent perception of neutrality gives credibility in the eye of the audience.

The Ethics Centre purport to be an independent, non profit Australian NGO. The question then must be asked of how they make their money. The Executive Director of The Ethics Centre is Dr Simon Longstaff. A look on the web quickly reveals a standard quote that seems to be rolled about him:-

“…I don’t know one CEO or chairman in corporate Australia who has not worked with Simon Longstaff…”. Is that how The Ethics Centre make their money? They get payrolled via company donations to allow the companies to greenwash their PR in a manner that presents their unattractive elements with respectability? His relationship with big business certainly appears very cushy.

The same link states Dr Longstaff, “…worked in the Northern Territory in the Safety Department of BHP subsidiary, GEMCO”. To put it very mildly, BHP don’t exactly enjoy a stellar reputation as a pillar of morality and social conscience. If we look at recent coverage of BHP in Brazil their safety policies need a lot of attention.

Peter Singer

Peter Singer

The Guardian article in question makes it seem likely Leslie Cannold and The Ethics Centre in some way receive animal industry funding. Consider her selective and carefully phrased reference to Peter Singer to support her case in her article. She fails to point out this; Peter Singer observes in one of his books a good working definition of ‘humane’ is that which you’d be content to have done to yourself. Looked at from that perspective, ‘humane killing’ suddenly becomes a confusing phrase which can only be explained by the need of some people to look the other way while chewing down on a hamburger. ‘Cruelty-free’ is a marketing slogan invented to assuage the guilt of people like this writer in The Guardian. The lengths some people go to to avoid dealing with the affects of their own actions (and therefore potential need to change) is fascinating to observe.

The article states Leslie Cannold was scheduled to speak at a debate The Ethics Centre was hosting. The proposition of the debate was, “Animal Rights Should Trump Human Interests.” Even the proposition at this debate seems to be worded to imply that animal rights are detrimental to human interests.

Surely with the detrimental impact of animal industry on global warming, water scarcity, human food scarcity, habitat destruction etc, consideration for animal rights should be considered hand in hand as beneficial to human interests. Anyone who hasn’t watched Cowspiracy, check it out as an eye opening insight of the genuinely devastating environmental impact of animal agriculture. There’s also the massively detrimental health effect on humans of eating animal derived food products. For that topic try Forks Over Knives for more than worthwhile movie time. Consider economically the cost of repairing all the environmental & medical damage done caused by the animal industry. What an appalling waste of trillions of dollars. Leslie Cannold fails to address the  ethics of the economic, human health and environmental impact of the animal industry that she seems keen to endorse.

Ms Cannold sits on “numerous ethics boards and advisory committees in health services” which could mean anything. Again she could be on these boards and committees to present an ethical appearance to watchers for some sort of industry lobby group. At the debate mentioned the speaker after her works for the meat industry. The speaker before her is a professor who tests on animals. Could have been an interesting debate.

Yet another weak statement by Ms Cannold is this. “…the assertion of an animal right to life is non-sensical. It would require us… to stop animals from hunting one another.” What baloney. The numerous reasons listed above for the benefits of veganism have no need for humans to interfere with the relationship between different wildlife.

Ms Cannold makes a statement that the portion of the population who is willing to go vegetarian or vegan is 1.5% and doesn’t change over time. Not every vegetarian is vegan so her phrasing is (deliberately?) ambiguous. There’s no indication of the source nor scope of that statistic. Does she mean Australia where she lives or somewhere else? She also gives no recognition of the increasing number of omnivores increasing the percentage of their food coming from plant sources.

Population explosion in areas with lower access to education sources will likely keep the overall percentage of veg*ans at a low level worldwide (the obvious exception to the low percentage is India. In India for cultural reasons 30 – 40% of the population get reported as vegetarian). Children adopt and maintain the dietary habits of the role models around them. That is in the absence of information that motivates changed behaviour.  In parts of the world with higher access to education sources, the absolute and relative number of veg*ans is on the increase. In this paragraph are two key words – education, information. As Sir Francis Bacon so astutely said, knowledge is power. Hence why the animal industry and their stooges are keen to control people’s diets with the information people access.

Thanks to Peter Stuckings for significantly contributing to the points in this article.


2 thoughts on “The Ethics Centre veggie bashing article in The Guardian – a short reply

  1. This remark may distract a little bit from the intended discussion of the article, but the first quoted line from the news article really got me to think of the following. While I definitely do not support cruel animal killing, I found that most of us only concern about ending of animal life. What about the unnecessary creation of life just to fulfil human’s needs for food, tool or even companion? Is that not cruel enough or even crueller?



  2. Pingback: Mob attack on vegans at the Kiwi Cafe in Georgia – no surprise and a portent of things to come |

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