The following observations are excerpted from two typed, postal-service letters I received from pioneer animal-rights vegan author and activist, Jon Wynne-Tyson, in 2006, regarding animal rights and the state and future of the Animal Rights Movement. Bracketed information has been added for clarifications. Ellipses indicate omitted content. Parentheses are part of Jon Wynne-Tyson’s original letters. Brackets and ellipses are my edits. – Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns.
3 Dec. 2006
It is a long time since we have been in touch, other than for my being on the receiving end of your dedicated magazine [Poultry Press]. . . .
But your review of the new Singer/Mason book [The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter by Peter Singer & Jim Mason] prompts this break of silence. I have not seen the book, nor read any review over here [England], but your comments suggest a worse situation than I had imagined.
While I have known Peter for many years, and he has visited us down here and stayed in our Chelsea pied-a-terre, I was always worried that in his academic milieu the pressures from the scientific lobby might desensitize the empathic base for his concern. . . .
Maybe the biggest hint that I received was when Peter acknowledged receipt of my last book, FINDING THE WORDS, with a friendly, but seemingly disinterested response. Having had a good reception for, and sales of, two non-fiction ‘inspirational’ books (FOOD FOR A FUTURE and THE EXTENDED CIRCLE) – both now out of print in the UK and US), I wanted to leave (I’m 83 in July) a published summing up of ‘where I was at’ after a lifetime’s concern at viewing the tragedy of what we humans have made of this world, and the equally lamentable holocaust we have created for other sentient life, and the lesson we have got to learn that only by humane education can the link between our behaviour toward each other, and our treatment of other creatures, be understood and corrected through inculcation of better values. . . .
22 Dec. 2006
While I welcomed Peter’s ANIMAL LIBERATION, many years running Centaur Press has taught me that academics can seldom be trusted to handle value issues at other than a cerebral level, and many have left their readers in the lurch when they have worked their thinking through one concept, then embraced another which may follow a quite different path. Your letter [of 13 Dec. 2006] gives me the impression that that is how you and some others have realised this drift into dichotomy. . . .
Unless we are concerned about all suffering, human and animal, we shall never get further than quibbling about which species suffer most and whether men are just being macho idiots (which most of them are). We’ve got to get beyond all such bickering, and humanely educate the generations to refrain so far as possible from causing pain and fear to all sentient life. That goal achieved, the quibbles will drop away. Whether animals can plan, and for how long, also becomes irrelevant to the central purpose. (And whether the ability to plan is such a big deal is to be questioned, when you see what we humans have planned!).
I totally agree with you that there is great danger in the concern becoming a case of free-range or battery, sent abroad or home to be slaughtered, etc. Although when I was a CIWF [Compassion In World Farming] trustee, the principals were (I believe) 100% vegans themselves, I rather doubt whether that climate of consistency rules today; but I do not know. But how often does one see smug consumers leave the supermarket with a happy face and an organic chicken.
It is an immensely complicated and increasingly unmanageable world-picture. I see no answer until there is global agreement among educators and their political masters to think peace and not war (on any sentient species). And, also, agreement to reverse the multiplication of our species by all the means that are perfectly in our power to achieve. Nothing less will do. . . .
I have got over half way with Tristram Stuart’s The Bloodless Revolution. It is a brilliant book, and I hope it has reached the States. Do read it. There is so much that our movement clearly doesn’t read and doesn’t care about, and too many get bogged down in in-fighting over detail and symptoms instead of going for the only target that can ever change things for the better.
If I sound like I’m upstaging the prophet Isaiah, indulge my octogenarianism!
Realise all you wish for in ’07, work for an ever wider peace, and come and see us if you are ever over here.
[Signed “Every non-seasonal good wish” – Jon]
Paddocks – Day’s Lane
West Sussex BN18 0TA
Learn more about this outstanding contributor to the Modern Animal Rights Movement:
Wynne-Tyson published the play Marvelous Party (1989) and later adapted it into a BBC radio play in 1994. He also wrote Food for a Future: The Ecological Priority of a Humane Diet (1975) arguing that humans are naturally vegetarian. The book was later republished as Food for a Future: The Complete Case for Vegetarianism (1979).
Jon Wynne-Tyson’s autobiography is Finding the Words: A Publishing Life (2004).