Okay, guys. The vegan pet food post got something like 2.5k notes after the puppy bowl promoted a dog that was fed a homemade and seriously unbalanced vegan diet. I love it, good on y’all for spreading education. However, there was also a huge upswing in the notes of people calling vegans animal abusers for wanting to feed their pets a vegan diet. I cannot stress enough that you need to stop that. I literally just published an essay on how the overuse of the term abuse only pushes people away from being educated because it makes them react viscerally first and think later. So when you share a good, solid, educational link and follow it up with commentary condemning folk before they’ve even had a chance to read it and maybe learn things they were unaware of… you’re shooting yourself and your activism right in the foot.
Most people who feed their pets vegan diets are not doing it because they want to make their animals die of malnutrition. They’re not doing it because they hate their pets or have no regard for their welfare. That is exactly the opposite of why they’re choosing that diet for their pet. The majority of vegans choose that lifestyle for ethical or environmental reasons: to them, it is a moral choice. We all project our morality onto the animals we care for to some degree - it’s why it is so distressing to learn your dog is aggressive or reactive or anything society codifies as “bad.” We are good people, and we love our pets, so how can they be bad if we are able to love them? Everyone does this to some degree, and often folk for whom vegan ideals are strongly moral ones feel like it’s important that the actions of the animals they love also line up with what they view as being good. In the case of vegan pet food, they’re just simply mistaken about the true effects of such a diet and not animal abusers.
The fastest way to alienate someone who thinks they are doing something good is to accuse them of being bad. Their actions align with their moral compass, so obviously they can’t be doing something immoral, so you are automatically wrong and your ability to influence their actions is immediately destroyed. When people are genuinely ignorant of the effects of their actions, kind words and genuinely well-intentioned education go so much farther than abuse allegations. That is the case here, so please stop accusing folk of abuse. They love their pets as much as you do and are often horrified to learn what they’ve been accidentally perpetuating. It’s not easy to learn you’ve done something hurtful to loved ones, so be kind and support them - you’ll help a lot more animals that way.
(In a beautiful example of demonstrative irony, this post is an example of me trying to educate you on why you are doing a well-intentioned thing that is bad and that you need to stop. But in approaching it, I’m not condemning you for doing something you thought would help - I’m (attempting) to communicate that I understand your intentions but that you’re missing some information that undermines your success at your goal, and then trying to provide you some more information to help you achieve it. If I just said “jeez guys, calling vegans animal abusers is a massive fuck-up” you’d be pretty disinclined to listen to what I had to say…)
Happy Earth Day everyone. Remember this year we march for science, so wherever you are, however you can, please get involved. Science serves us all, it protects our air and water, preserves our planet, saves lives, creates new industries, puts food on our tables, educates the next generation, and safeguards our future. We all have a voice and we can only bring about change if we band together to use it.
Recognizing uniqueness is not a substitute for thinking about disability
Teachers who are really good at teaching typically developing kids sometimes have trouble understanding the significance of disability. I’ve heard a lot of things like “all kids are unique” and “I always individualize my approach for every kid” and “I don’t see the need to label any kids as disabled, it’s just a matter of finding what works for them”.
This sounds positive, but it can be a disaster for kids with disabilities.
We talk a lot about uniqueness, but a lot of effective teaching depends on understanding ways in which kids are similar to each other. Developmentally appropriate practice means understanding how kids the same age are similar to each other — then being flexible in ways that recognize kids’ unique humanity. We develop a sense of what the range of difference is for kids of a particular age.
Kids with disabilities are more different than that, and we need to take those differences seriously. Disability matters, and practices based on typical developmental milestones don’t account for it.
Developmental milestones tell us:
Two year olds don’t have the motor skills to support handwriting.
Early education helps two year olds develop the motor skills that will eventually support handwriting.
Ten year olds do have the motor skills to support handwriting.
If they’ve had appropriate education, ten year olds should be able to write.
Developmental milestones don’t tell us:
How to teach ten year olds who don’t have the fine motor skills to support handwriting.
What early literacy and pre-writing instruction looks like for young children who are unlikely to develop the motor skills needed to support handwriting
It’s also important to understand the difference between unusual and unique. Disability means having unusual differences. But not every difference is unique. Some differences are shared by other people with disabilities. Those shared differences are important.
We need to understand the disability-related similarities. Part of that is having the right words to describe them. Calling disabilities by their right names isn’t about labeling, it’s about breaking isolation and making important things speakable.
Braille exists because blind people need it to exist
The differences between sighted people and blind people are a reason that braille needs to exist.
(And a reason that Braille is better than raised print).
The similarities between many blind people are a reason that braille *can* exist as a standard way of accessing literacy.
If each blind person was completely unique, there would be no way to create a reading and writing system that would work for large numbers of blind people.
Some other examples:
Cars with hand controls and/or wheelchair lifts.
Text-to-speech communication devices.
VoiceOver and other screen reading software.
Medications that manage symptoms.
The ADA, Section 504, IDEA and other disability rights laws.
People with disabilities are unique, and not interchangeable with each other. Similarly, kids the same age are unique, and not interchangeable with each other. Both the similarities and differences are important.
Tl;dr Sometimes progressive educators are uncomfortable with the concept of disability, and want to instead just see every kid’s uniqueness. That doesn’t work, because disability means having unusual differences — and because the differences aren’t unique; they’re shared with many other disabled people. Recognizing uniqueness isn’t enough — we also need to understand and accommodate disability.