Weekly Newsletter from Christian Vegetarian Association CVA - May 10, 2021
From Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

  1. Problems with Cancel Culture: Seaspiracy Review
  2. All-Creatures.Org Ministry

1. Problems with Cancel Culture: Seaspiracy Review

Careless use of terms such as “racist”, “misogynist”, and “homophobe” can have deleterious consequences. When improperly applied, it can unjustly harm people via social media’s capacity to cancel people. Also, improper use can trivialize these terms. A good illustration, I think, is a recent unfavorable review of the documentary Seaspiracy.

Seaspiracy effectively and compellingly exposes the largely overlooked devastation wrought by modern, industrialized, commercial fishing. While animal advocates focus considerable attention on farmed land animals, the number of fishes killed for food is far greater. Further, the ongoing destruction of oceanic ecosystems are damaging ecosystems throughout the world. Regarding human welfare, the documentary explores the impact of commercial fishing on the livelihood of people engaged in subsistence fishing as well as the widespread enslavement of humans on fishing boats.

Karen Dawn, whose DawnWatch writings are generally thoughtful, wrote a recent review entitled Seaspiracy: A Vital Message Sinks in a Sea of Misogyny. The bulk of the review details the relatively greater amount of time white men are speaking relative to women, and it compares the relative screen time of male heroes/experts and villains to female heroes/experts and villains.

I take issue with many of Ms. Dawn’s categorizations, e.g., a white male, whale killer who offers some interesting thoughts on the hypocrisy of meat-eating anti-whaling activists is put in the hero/expert column rather than villain column. Further, one can make a good case for the choice of experts being reasonable and not reflecting conscious or unconscious animus or prejudice toward women. While Ms. Dawn is correct that the total speaking time of male activists is several times greater, content and context are also important. The narrator lauds one woman, who has four separate speaking scenes, as one of his heroes. Though Ms. Dawn does address content to a degree, I disagree with some of her analyses.

One analysis that should be mentioned is the serious charge that the filmmakers misrepresented Prof. Christina Hicks. She commented on the large government subsidies to the fishing industry vs. spending for world hunger. Prof. Hicks, who did not claim to be misrepresented, later tweeted, "Unnerving to discover your cameo in a film slamming an industry you love & have committed your career to." The film does not depict her opposing fishing, and it accurately presents her as a public policy expert.

Finally, non-speaking roles in the film matter. For example, in follow-up comments regarding the film, Ms. Dawn rejected filmmaker Kip Anderson’s claim that Lucy’s importance was acknowledged. Lucy, the wife of the narrator Ali, was featured in two scenes in which the filmmakers were in danger during undercover operations. Lucy is acknowledged as second among the three people who made the film - she is recognized as the co-producer, co-writer, and co-editor. Because she had only 11 seconds of speaking time, Ms. Dawn regards her as inadequately recognized.

Those readers who make it nearly to the end of Ms. Dawn’s lengthy critique of the film will find that she believes that the producers “had no conscious intention to do harm”. Perhaps she also didn’t consciously intend to do harm, but in a world where cancel culture can end careers, I would recommend a high threshold for applying labels that indicate severe malfeasance and routinely lead to widespread condemnation. They can have major repercussions for the careers of dedicated animal advocates as well as for the reception of their work. 

2. All-Creatures.org Ministry

Newsletter: We Just published this week’s edition of our all-creatures Newsletter, which we hope you like and share with others to help stop the exploitation and killing of animals.

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