“The Deer Aren’t Wearing Kevlar® Vests!” A Word on Gun Control in the United States

Gun control advocates are quick to insist that they’re not interfering with hunting and hunters. On 60 Minutes this week, again, Joe Biden repeated the punchline: We can do without military-grade rifles; the deer aren’t wearing Kevlar® vests! Ha ha ha. We can explode deer bodies with regular old guns, so come on, man! Let’s just ban the assault weapons!

When we understand ourselves in, and as, animal life…we know the gun debate is indeed about hunting. Targeting people in a grocery store, or stalking deer in the suburban woods… it’s a continuum. We the People have a penchant for treating other lives as our targets. 

Some beings are more targeted than others. Whether one is placed in the crosshairs because of foreignness, race, class, species, or other perceived vulnerability, all are the subjects of ruthless de-personhood. 

The Warning Calls of Prairie Dogs

Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson wrote, in the Foreword to On Their Own Terms – Animal Liberation:

…I considered the warning calls of prairie dogs. They include one to announce that a human is approaching, yet another when a human approaches with a gun.

Finding out about others without desiring to use or have them, intimidate or subordinate them may be the hardest thing of all for humans to do.

I write this from Pennsylvania, where the greedy lobbyists for Sunday hunting (they always make claims about the revenue hunting brings to the Commonwealth) recently got what they wanted.

When we reverse this bloody thinking, when we work to designate parks and their surroundings as gun- and trap-free zones, we stand for the birthright of conscious, living living beings, human or non-, to prevail over the gunmakers.

I dream of the day that guns (along with whips, jail cells, bird cages, spurs, bombs, and fishing poles) may only be found in museums. As a vegan, I work for the day.

Love and liberation,


Persuasion (How Did I Change and Why Won’t They?)

How do you persuade other people to be vegan?, vegans ask.

Why won’t the people closest to me go vegan?

What is it about some people? You can tell them the truth, but they 




How do you let people know that there’s something they’ve yet to know?

Only when I became vegan did I really “get” what I believe. 

  • Feminism.
  • Anti-racism.
  • Respect for migrants. 
  • Class-consciousness. 
  • Any and every commitment to renounce domination dynamics. 

Only when I became vegan did I understand the rejection of mastership at the deepest level. It meant relinquishing an all-purpose privilege I wielded every day of my life.  

Strange How People Seek Protection in Their Right to Domineer.

They don’t want to give up what makes them great. Human exceptionalism is a lot like patriotism. 

Sometimes, people say they can’t part with a tradition that’s always been woven into the cultural fabric. They don’t want to feel like the loose thread.

All of this is unspoken. And it’s generally off-limits to discussion. Thus the notion that vegans won’t shut up about veganism. (Popular joke: How can you tell someone is vegan? Don’t worry; they’ll tell you.) 

But people talk about domination of animals and biocommunities all the time. Without noticing. As they engage in their everyday activities.

Vegans cannot help but seem vocal when we refuse to take part.

Is Veganism a Rejection of Culture?

Culture has many beautiful, transcendent aspects—social, artistic, political, philosophical, material. Culture develops and binds us through the centuries. We admire it. We’re proud of it. 

Culture has a troublesome inner lining, and that’s our sense of our own supremacy.

Step outside the privilege, and we can sense that we haven’t earned culture. We’ve perverted it.

I think we can appreciate culture, yet shake ourselves apart from it. True understanding will do that. It’s transformative. It’s the paradigm shift within. You can’t have it and not act on it, and you’ll be acting contrary to culture.  

Know this, really know this, and you’re not comfortable presenting veganism at a superficial level. You’ll give up your potential for popularity or career advancement rather than become the “soft seller” who calls for “steps in the right direction” and talks of adjustments to the system as great victories.

Some say people don’t want to contemplate change at the deepest level. By silencing radical (root-level) calls for change, they miss their own internal opportunity for a paradigm shift.

Here’s what I’d like to ask of every vegan I know. Understand veganism as deeply as you can. Impart it to someone else at that same, transformative level. Go for the low-hanging fruit in situations where there’s no other path, yet never lose the yearning to touch one soul and spark transformative change.

Simplicity Takes a Lot of Work.

The more I think, speak, and write (but mostly think), the more I believe I can be most useful by being clear. No jargon, no coined terms except vegan

I want to live as a messenger for the few things I understand and commit to. So I think that’s key. Making a radical and urgent message clear and simple.

Because if we think we know a meaningful and urgent thing, and want to spread the message, shouldn’t we strive to explain simply, with clarity? Rather than speaking in jargon or telling others they don’t understand the issue, we’ve got to explain, and explain simply. Simplicity, for humans, is an achievement. It takes a lot of work to identify a principle’s key elements.

Science Is Real…

Yet, contemplating most important things, our grasp of science falls short. Consider climate breakdown. Consider the chaotic and delicate interplays of biocommunities. If there is no striving for a deep, ethically powered understanding of a subject, then scientific breakthroughs serve as setbacks.

We live in a society that believes profit can drive innovation and engineering can fix our problems. And that many of us can enrich ourselves in this life by gravitating to whatever profiteering generates and holding on.

Other beings lose habitat and find their lives in turbulence as we plunder Earth and manipulate its living beings. All in the name of finding solutions to the new problems we create as we solve the old ones.

Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson says our original sin is pseudospeciation—which, to Jeffrey, means the belief that we are superior. That belief in our own primacy led us to domesticate others.

Arguably that sin is past the possibility of redemption. But if we never question it, then no matter how great our culture was, or how ingenious our engineering was, we’ll pass back into the universe numbly, no better for all we witnessed in all the days of our unexamined Earthly lives.


Banner photo by le vy

Sea-Greenwashing… One of Those “Realistic” Sustainability Ploys

Even fancy journal articles and stuff from climate think tanks tell us U.S. Americans love our cars, trucks, animal products, and lawns too much to change. They say policy makers must confine their planning to “realistic” responses.

But we’re grownups. We can accept that affluence based on destruction is meritless and unsatisfying. We can acknowledge that our consumption patterns affect what’s produced and what policy makers do and say. And we can change. We can live our lives based on the principles of caring, respect, and simplicity. We can stop investing in hype-addled surrogates, and become nature conservancies ourselves.

The above is an excerpt from my full article, published today in CounterPunch.

Power to the Peacemakers: This Is Vegan Action

One of the key ideas I derive from veganism is its stance of conscientious objection to all war: human-on-human, and human-on-nonhuman. I think it’s important to develop this principle because it speaks to how vegans show up in the world.  

Militant vegan advocacy strikes me as an oxymoron. I’m not a vegan because we are fighting. I am vegan because we are cultivating. This is not passivity. I think of cultivating as an active, creative, sustainable and strong approach to advocacy.

The thoughts below are asymmetrical and partially stream-of-consciousness. Your comments, including pushback, are welcome, and will inform my thoughts. Thank you for reading, for thinking, and for commenting as and when you’re so moved.  


The Gender Factor Has to Be Checked 

Let me say there is nothing essential about maleness, in my opinion. My approach is feminist, but I do not subscribe to the notion that gender is a firm binary. Gender is fluid; it’s contextual; it’s a performance by which we, to the extent our society allows freedom of expression, define ourselves. I am not assuming anyone has a set personality or advocacy style related to a set gender.  

That said…

If we wanted to perpetuate a movement in which male activists controlled most situations (and I’m talking about my culture’s traditionally conceptualized “manliness”), then we should do a militant movement. We should do everything we can to promote vigilante justice, take on the system, and overcome it by force. 

Non-male human beings and nonhuman beings tend to lose out when force is the way goals are met. We should stop glorifying forceful heroics and start crediting the cultivation, the nourishing, the collaborative work, and the mutual aid. 


The Capitalists Control the Weapons

Here’s an example of an online claim that our movement must be militant:

The capitalist sytem is the enemy. We’ll never get justice for animals without toppling the corporate-run society. Millions of companies exploit animals. They’ll never accept an abolitionist movement. Justice must be done by force. I’m trying to start a revolution here and free farm animals. People need to stop being so [ableist word].

We’re going to topple the government and industries? So, we burst into the boardroom of X-Ploiter & Co. and tell them we stand for animal liberation and we’re calling the shots. 

Even if the board members wanted to cut off their corporation’s connection with animal use, they can’t. What will the activists do? Shoot them all? 

Allow ourselves to be provoked into choosing militancy, and we feed State violence. Police and the military provoke dissidents to violence, because that’s where they have an advantage over dissidents. Then, the police state grows stronger and broader and incapacitates more activism.


The Importance of Knowing Our Goals

Even in some alternate world where militants could overpower the police, what’s the next society supposed to look like? We can destroy the economy and have our veganism in a torn-down culture, where we haven’t laid the new groundwork for fair modes of provision and exchange. What could possibly go wrong?

And to “free” commerically bred animals isn’t the vegan goal. Commerically bred animals can’t achieve freedom from human keepers. Freedom for animals raised in confinement would be abandonment. And it’s the kind of thing that wreaks havoc on biocommunities. 

In short, freedom for domesticated animals is a contradiction in terms. In a vegan scenario, human-dependent animals would stop being bred into dependency.

The vegan ideal promotes and defends untamed, naturally evolving animal communities. 

This point is not pedantry. Using force for a goal that doesn’t make sense makes the use of force more wasteful still.


The Importance of Not Getting Sidelined

As Donald Watson’s cohort did, vegans can work on creative vegan projects and keep putting our diverse talents to work as a positive force.

If we’re sidelined by the State, our cultivation is sidelined as well. When asked in an interview about direct action, Watson spoke to this point:

To use an analogy, I sometimes see, when on my walks, people climbing up vertical cliffs with their ropes and I sometimes think, there is an alternative way of getting to the top and getting the view, by just going a few hundred yards sideways, and walking up a valley. 

…if people want challenges, there is no shortage of sensible, humane, safe, challenges to get engaged in. I would never take up rock-climbing, and dangle on the end of a rope, that might be weak in one spot. The strength of a chain is its weakest link, and so is the strength of a rope, and if that rope breaks, as inevitably, I think it will, sooner or later, I would probably get killed. And then I wouldn’t be able to proceed with whatever peaceful work I’m on earth to do. 

There’s something to be said for being able to proceed with whatever peaceful work we’re on earth to do.


When Militancy Ascends, Principle Is Drowned Out 

When members of any group engage in their worst conduct when they act for their cause, there are others left frustrated, unheard, and concerned that what’s drawing the most negative attention is being mistaken for the ethic.

I’m not talking about people who sabotage blood sports. I’m not talking about people who hold signs up to disrupt a circus or rodeo. Most of these activists are engaged in acts of public education or actually interrupting an act of violence. 

I’m talking about people who want to convince me that society can be scared or forced into ending their own habits of terror and force. 

Transgressions meant to scare or harm others are wrongs, even if the end goal is righteous. Why be intimidating? Why promote the ability to exert force as the way to righteousness? 

We have finite energy and time, and we can use it to create messages that shift mindsets. Because yes, we can get allies to go vegan. There are plenty of opportunities to create. Marches. Art. Talks. Writings and educational activism. Start by getting everyone who is forward-thinking on board. 

This is not a battle to fight. This is a human identity to cultivate. Because veganism works. Over the course of four decades, I’ve witnessed it daily. Veganism inspires people. Veganism transforms lives. Veganism is direct action.


Time Is Short and the Vegan Message Needs Cultivation

It’s not a controversial ask: Be vegan and act with respect because it’s better than oppressive relationships, poor nourishment, and ecological degradation. It’ll be good for everyone. 

Vegans will undermine human supremacy person by person, in a way intimidation by its very makeup can never do. One day we’ll wake up and products made in connection with our dominion over animals and nature will be the rarity, not the norm. Then government will lose excuses to subsidize them.

Extinctions, mass exploitation and killing, and the immediate dangers to individual beings are URGENT. I understand, and I feel this sense of URGENCY every day, every hour I’m alive. I’m not arguing for a slow pace. I’m saying progress will happen faster if we offer a message others can understand. 

I’m saying other people’s decision to relinquish their master role will not come from shame or intimidation. It will involve a change of heart, a shift in our collective psychology. 

In that vital sense, there is no enemy. We’re all in this ethical question together: Is Homo sapiens entitled to dominate and use the rest of the planet’s inhabitants?

Vegans will prevail if humanity survives. Domination of nature will fall away if humanity cultivates an identity that can thrive in harmony with Earth’s web of life.

If you have made it down to this point, thank you so much for spending your valuable time reading these thoughts. I might add another part later to explore the legal elements of the tactics question. But at the moment I need to concentrate on slides to present at the Vegan Climate Summit!

Love and liberation,


Those Cute Lambs

Vegan leaflets often include cute, vulnerable animals like lambs. How could you eat an innocent lamb, the leaflet asks? 

I agree with the sentiment; it strikes me as cruel indifference to imagine a young sheep and think, So what? I’ll have the rack of lamb.

And yet every time we see a cute lamb, vulnerability is further embedded in our collective psyche…

Read the full article here.

Banner photo source.

On Their Own Terms: Eighteen Nutshell Narratives

This is a narration of the 2016 book On Their Own Terms: Animal Liberation for the 21st Century, abridged and adapted for audio, and read by author Lee Hall in 2022.

Although quotations are left as they were written, this work is created with a commitment to gender-free language as far as possible.

Here’s One Audio File With the Combined Nutshell Narratives

And below is an index of links for each of the 18 nutshell narratives making up On Their Own Terms: Animal Liberation for the 21st Century in audio form. 

Feedback (positive, building-on, or critique) welcome. I’ll be listening to the combined, 1-hour-and-52-minute audio file now that it’s posted as one piece. If you find anything that could be clearer, let me know. The beauty of indy-publishing this is that glitches can be fixed!


  • ABOUT THIS BOOK: “About This Book” lays out the book’s context and why it needs to exist. This is the first of a series of nutshell narratives putting each chapter into audible form.
  • FOREWORD by Dr. Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson: “Finding out about others without desiring to use or have them, intimidate or subordinate them may be the hardest thing of all for humans to do.”





  • Appendix 1: A Liberation Workshop. If you believe the work of radical change starts with a written plan, here is a possible template.
  • Appendix 2: Making Vegan Guides and Leaflets. Thoughts on creating an intro to veganism for the vegan-curious.
  • Appendix 3: Veganism Defined. Updated language for the classic 1951 pledge of allegiance to our planetmates.

Find Me at the Vegan Climate Summit

FRIDAY, 22 JULY 2022, 8-11 PM (EDT: the New York/Toronto time zone).

Let’s converse about the diet-climate connection and go deeper still. Why do we assign ourselves the right to displace habitat with systems that are not only massive emitters, but also massively aggressive to the natural web of life?

Human domination of the planet is the big issue we need to address. It’s also the most entrenched problem humanity has ever had to face.

But we cannot go on living as we are. We need to rethink our identity as a species on a living planet.

Please come to the Second Annual Vegan Climate Summit if you can. It would be great to see you there.

To register, tap “Going” on this event page.

Event co-ordinator Kyle Luzynski of Project Animal Freedom is a patron of the Art of Animal Liberation. Project Animal Freedom has a very gutsy goal: cultivating a fully vegan Midwestern U.S. by 2056 through a strategic, chapter-based system. 

Veganism Is Direct Action for the Climate

Without getting too number-focused, how can we explain, in vivid and memorable language, the real and measurable impacts a vegan makes for climate and animals (humans and others)?

Just as important: How do we share this information before it’s too late?

Lee Hall holds an environmental law degree with a focus on climate change from Vermont Law School. A 39-year vegan, Lee wrote the “Nonhuman Rights and Human Sustainability” entry in the Encyclopedia of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

EVENT DETAILS: 17 June 2022, 6:00 pm at the American Vegan Center, 17 North Second Street, Old City, Philadelphia. Open and free; KINDLY REGISTER HERE.

For Happy the Elephant, Personhood Is Yet Another Cage

My latest article for CounterPunch is provocatively titled, yes. Because while it’s right to improve life for a confined elephant, focusing on a being in permanent captivity makes a problematic case for personhood. 

On social media, the elephant personhood case is tagged #FreeHappy. This confuses the humans-in-charge regime with freedom. Moving Happy might be the best we could do under the circumstances, but it wouldn’t create freedom; Happy would remain a refugee. This needs to be said. We need to be serious about freedom if we’re claiming to struggle for it. We must defend other animals’ interests in thriving independently of human supervision before it’s too late.

Love and liberation,


Photo source.

Zombie Chickens and Silent Lambs: Managing Suffering Is NOT Animal Liberation

Will activists ever let go of the popular “reduce the suffering” model of animal activism, and their corresponding campaigns to score “humane farming” victories?

Some states and nations are banning crates for veal calves and for laying hens. Does this make veal or eggs better?

No! There is no good animal agribusiness.

When “crate-free veal” calves are wrenched from the dairy cows who gave birth to them and kept in groups of calves, the bewildered young animals frequently mount or suck each other, or fight. Site managers use restraints on the “bully calves.” As for the egg factories, where hens have more space, there’s pecking and manure-borne disease. And for calcium-depleted laying hens, normal movements can break bones.

Commercial animals just can’t win. And then we slaughter them.

We Have the Power to Opt Out of the System.

In 1944, Donald Watson and a small group of like-minded people founded The Vegan Society. In a 2002 interview with the chair of the Society, Watson, then aged 92, said: “One of my earliest recollections in life was being taken for holidays to the little farm where my father had been born.” With the joy of being “surrounded by interesting animals” at this family farm, Watson’s “first impression of those holidays was one of heaven.”

One morning, a pig was killed. “And I still have vivid recollections of the whole process from start to finish,” Donald told the interviewer, “including all the screams of course, which were only feet away from where this pig’s companion still lived…And it followed that this idyllic scene was nothing more than Death Row. A Death Row where every creature’s days were numbered by the point at which it was no longer of service to human beings.”

That morning, Donald Watson saw the inevitable horror in keeping other animals for our own ends—even if their situation, up until their last moments, is largely pain-free.

The Vegan Society therefore defined “veganism” as:

…not so much welfare as liberation, for the creatures and for the mind and heart of man; not so much an effort to make the present relationship bearable, as an uncompromising recognition that because it is in the main one of master and slave, it has to be abolished before something better and finer can be built.

Why Do Advocates Sideline the Vegan Call? Humans Love Our Luxuries.

For decades, Peter Singer, a professor at Princeton University and the author of Animal Liberation, has convinced activists to pursue husbandry adjustments for commercial hens and other commercially owned animals. The model keeps activists both busy and frustrated with the politically impossible work of making the treatment, transportation and slaughter of “livestock” bearable, while agribusiness expands and becomes more intensive as demand expands.

In 2006, Singer told an interviewer at The Vegan Society that “we need to cut down drastically on the animal products we consume.” Singer continued:

But does that mean a vegan world? That’s one solution, but not necessarily the only one. If it is the infliction of suffering that we are concerned about, rather than killing, then I can imagine a world in which people mostly eat plant foods, but occasionally treat themselves to the luxury of free-range eggs, or possibly even meat from animals who live good lives under conditions natural for their species, and then are humanely killed on the farm.

By calling the situation of purpose-bred animals “natural” and associating “luxury” with animal products, Singer further undermined veganism and weakened advocates.

Engineering Chickens Out of Their Feelings? Peter Singer Has Approved.

Paul Waters and Steven Pete were born with a life-threatening inability to feel pain. They described their experiences publicly. As children, they would chew their tongues, hit their heads, crash through glass, burn and cut themselves, and unwittingly injure other children. Children with this condition need constant protection to survive; some die from their injuries or resultant infections. The experiences of painless people (and the generosity of Waters and Pete in sharing their stories) helped us understand our need for pain sensitivity.

But Peter Singer is focuses on suppressing it, even if that means no feelings are left at all. In a 2006 interview for Salon.com, when Oliver Broudy asked for an opinion on bio-engineering chickens without brains, Singer answered:

It would be an ethical improvement on the present system, because it would eliminate the suffering that these birds are feeling. That’s the huge plus to me.

To believe zombie chickens are “an ethical improvement” is to promote a deep disrespect for the living beings who evolved here on Earth.

Meanwhile, as for commercial hens who have passed their laying prime, Singer told Salon

Those hens have been producing eggs for you for a year or 18 months. You have a responsibility to make sure they are killed humanely.

Killed humanely?

Not that Singer’s use of that term should surprise us. Singer’s concern has always been about managing suffering and not the profound unfairness of systematic oppression.

Vegans Need to Reclaim Animal Liberation.

We need to use our precious time defending animals’ interests in living untamed, on their terms. A leading reason for the planet’s lack of untamed space is the sheer vastness of our animal farming operations. And yet Singer also accepts animal breeding, including for farming. Singer, with Jim Mason in The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter (Rodale, 2006) wrote:

Raising lambs in the Welsh hills, for example, is a traditional form of husbandry that has existed for many centuries and makes use of land that could not otherwise provide food for humans. If the lives of the sheep are, on the whole, good ones, and they would not exist at all if the lambs were not killed and eaten, it can be argued that doing so has benefits, on the whole, for both human and animals.

Former animal farmer Harold Brown has said:

When someone portrays animal farming on any scale as a harmonious balance of natural forces, they are either delusional or lying.

I agree, Harold. Animals aren’t benefited when we purpose-breed them. In doing so, we take away from their communities all that made them free. Moreover, the whole issue for the Welsh Hills isn’t whether they can feed humans. There were other biological communities there before our sheep farms cleared them off.

Isn’t it finally time we stopped tinkering with dominion and reclaimed the term animal liberation for the vegan platform?

Photo credit: Pete Birkinshaw VIA FLICKR.com CC BY 2.0