Three reasons "reducetarianism" is not a solution.
Conscious consumerism doesn't work
Consumer democracy is a myth. Buying “green” products and taking steps to reduce personal consumption and waste may make people feel good about themselves, but these gestures do little or nothing to affect markets. Social science research reveals that boycotts nearly always fail. This is because the number of participants is always too small, and replacement consumers are nearly always available. Reduction efforts may be even worse, since people who think they are reducing their impact often are not actually doing so. These methods are not only ineffective, but also distract conscientious people from serious efforts at systemic change.
Animals are not things
Calls to reduce consumption of various products are a very common (if not necessarily effective) activist tool, so reduction makes sense to many people as a solution to all sorts of problems. Certainly, our society does need to reduce its use of commodities which are environmentally harmful in the aggregate, such as paper, plastic, and gasoline. But animals are not paper, plastic, or gasoline. They are conscious individuals who deserve to be, yet are not, protected by the law. Unlike “reducetarianism,” which is based on the simplistic idea that everyone ought to do less of a bad thing, veganism is based on a moral and political principle: that animals should not be commodities. If we regard animals as individuals rather than bulk material, it becomes clear that killing them less is not a satisfactory answer.
Equivocation aids exploiters
While a meat reduction effort poses no threat to corporations that kill animals for profit, it does offer them real benefits. These corporations are certainly happy to replace a fundamental challenge to their legitimacy with a never-ending negotiation about what amount and type of products should be bought by a handful of conscious consumers. Moreover, the participation of self-appointed “animal advocates” in this process ensures division in the movement. As coopted organizations increasingly support industry-friendly approaches, animal rights activists may be isolated, marginalized, and stereotyped as dogmatists. For many years, the movement to genuinely protect animals has struggled to contend with “humane” narratives, which have been promoted by explicit partnerships between activist groups and agriculture corporations. These partnerships have coincided with a watering-down of the message, and an increasingly creative collection of alternatives to animal rights: we now have locavores, conscientious omnivores, flexitarians, climatarians, vegans before six, people who don’t eat meat on Monday, and people who buy cage-free eggs. We don’t need “reducetarians.” It’s time to reduce the excuses.
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