The mantra that “eating meat perpetuates violence” is the oldest meme among members of the vegan movement — well, other than “meat is murder.”
But violence and threats of murder seems to be integral to at least a certain segment of the activists who profess to be peaceful, enlightened vegetarians.
Case in point: An organization called Wild Abundance, a school near Asheville, N.C., that is focused on teaching people homesteading skills to live off the land; forging classes to identify and prepare edible wild plants; and permaculture, a farming/gardening technique to optimize both productivity and sustainability.
For folks who want to learn about those skills, it’s all good, one would assume. Eating natural foods, living in harmony with Nature, embracing low-tech sustainability strategies — all the initiatives that anti-industry activists believe in, making Wild Abundance a darling of the vegan-vegetarian crowd, right?
Sorry: dead wrong—with the emphasis on “dead.”
That’s because one of the instructors at the Wild Abundance school is Meredith Leigh, author of “The Ethical Meat Handbook: Complete Butchery, Charcuterie & Cooking for the Conscious Omnivore.”
Since it contains the words “meat,” “butchery” and “omnivore,” the title of Leigh’s book is the literary equivalent of waving a red cape in front of an angry bull. And boy, did the vegan community charge. Horns first.
The tipping point came a couple months ago, when Wild Abundance scheduled a workshop titled, “Cycles of Life: Humane Slaughter and Butchering.” The demonstration was part of a weekend of classes focused on meat preservation and geared toward small-scale family farms, and the event included the slaughter of a sheep and a demonstration of how to butcher the animal.
According to a story in the Ashville Citizen-Times, a vegan group called Let Live Coalition created a Facebook page, started organizing a silent vigil and launched a petition drive that supposedly amassed more than 10,000 signatures from around the world.
The Let Live Coalition describes itself as “a group of animal protection organizations deeply disturbed by do-it-yourself animal slaughter classes.” On its website, the group posted the following statement:
“The movement towards do-it-yourself, backyard, ‘humane/ethical’ slaughter not only reinforces the narrative that it’s okay to use our power to take innocent life, it goes further to make it seem like their meat is better for animals than no meat,” the group wrote, “and that their methods make killing a ‘sacred’ way to ‘honor’ animals.”
The group added that, “Framing backyard slaughter as ethical and kind reinforces the misconception that slaughtering animals for food is necessary and acceptable, even when alternatives abound. For our treatment of animals to be genuinely ethical, they should be free of human cruelty and allowed to live their full lives.”
Okay, point made. Fair-minded people can agree to disagree on the morality of domesticated animals meeting their demise at the hands of Homo sapiens, while billions of wild animals are killed and eaten in Nature every single day. At best, it’s one of those debates without a solution, but one worth having, if only to sharpen and justify our collective sense of right and wrong.
“Die, Meat-Eating Scum”
But veggie activists don’t stop at dialogue. According to several news sources, Natalie Bogwalker (her legal, if not her family surname), the director of Wild Abundance, began receiving as many as 50 phone calls a day, and both she and author Leigh reported receiving multiple death threats.
Many of the most vicious calls and Facebook posts were from vegans overseas. One caller, Bogwalker said, threatened to plant a mole in the class, adding that her safety and that of her infant daughter “could not be guaranteed” if the slaughter took place.
Bogwalker told reporters that other callers said, “They couldn’t believe that I brought life into the world, because I was such a horrible person.”
As the story reported, Leigh withdrew from the class, forcing the school to find another instructor, who had to remain anonymous, to lead the slaughtering and butchering. Leigh also wrote a blog post titled “Vegan Bullying and the New World” (read the post here), in which she described “death threats, suggestions that I should be beaten, that I have only hell awaiting me, and that I deserve the worst treatment of any vile treatments imaginable.”
Leigh wrote that as the “humane meat” movement has grown in the Asheville area and elsewhere, this harassment is growing in frequency and intensity. She stated that she has been the target of protesters “in the street and at conferences for years,” and referenced “the international targeting of an individual via a harassment campaign.”
This isn’t the first, nor will it be the last time a group such as the Let Live Coalition claims to be all about peace and love and harmony, while its most ardent supporters lash out with threats to enact exactly the same treatment to their fellow humans that they deem wholly unacceptable for animals.
Many organizations attempt to embrace a similar posture. While they preach the urgency of taking action to stop the (alleged) horrors of animal husbandry, when their followers echo the messaging the groups loudly espouse, they quickly disavow any connection between their rhetoric and their followers’ response.
Whether we’re talking about political operatives who aggressively trash their opponents, then try to pretend they have no responsibility for any disruptive behavior at their political events; or religious extremists who hide behind the Bible while they urge violence on people they denounce; or eco-activists who justify destroying housing developments to “save the environment;” in all cases, their credibility is nonexistent.
As is the legitimacy of whatever they try to preach.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of Dan Murphy, a veteran journalist and columnist.