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March 13, 2013: Questions and answers about Effaism

Originally posted on this blog.

Is Effaism the same as veganism?
One of the main beliefs of Effaism is that we should try our best to minimize the suffering we cause to other animals. Consequently, a vegan lifestyle is an ideal goal for Effaists, as it does just that, allowing us to progress as human beings. That said, you don't have to be vegan to be an Effaist. One simply has to believe what we believe (our statement of beliefs: and to be on the right path of improving our relationship with the rest of the animal world. Moreover, while vegans don't always actively help to improve the lives of other animals, while Effaists pretty much always do, since active helping is an important part of our philosophy.

Why is your philosophy so radical?
We don't believe that our philosophy is radical. We believe that the ideas that we write about, products of a deep-rooted compassion and empathy for other animals, simply speak the truth about the current, often flawed way of interacting with other animals, and suggest concrete ways to improve this interaction. Our beliefs come from a realization that all sentient life is to be respected, and we encourage people to take steps to do this. This would only seem "extreme" to people who still believe that we are somehow justified in killing and abusing other animals for our benefit; people who mistakenly believe that our intellectual superiority over animals gives us the right to kill them and make them suffer; people who believe that eating meat is "necessary", even though millions of healthy vegetarians and vegans are proving daily that a more empathetic way of life is indeed possible. We have always been of the opinion that it is people who justify the suffering and death of animals that are the extreme ones, not people who try to minimize this suffering.

Is Effaism a religion of a philosophy?
I'd say it's more of a philosophy, and a way of life, though I suppose one could see some elements that can be seen as “religious” in it as well.

Do Effaists believe in God?
I personally do believe in God, but there are some Effaists that are agnostic or atheist. Likewise, some Effaists believe in reincarnation, while others don't. As it is outlined in our text called "A Life of Meaning", one is free to believe what one wants, with the stipulation that when it comes to the topic of our interaction with other animals, our beliefs trump all others. Moreover, we believe that any belief system that does not address our interaction with the rest of the animal world, and that does not explicitly encourage compassion and good treatment of other animals (including vegetarianism), is an incomplete one. For us, for example, one cannot be truly enlightened if one still eats meat.

What causes people to abuse animals?
From our point of view, there are three main reasons why we mistreat other animals: ignorance, laziness, and, in a few people, a tendency for cruelty. When you think about it, these are the same reasons why we mistreat each other. Ignorance is probably the biggest reason for the flawed relationship with the rest of the animal world. Many of us are taught that it's OK to eat meat, that it's OK to abandon an animal (since it's "only an animal"), that it's OK to wear fur, that it's OK to use animals for our entertainment, our research, our transportation. We believe that these ideas are all born of ignorance, and when they are reinforced throughout our whole lives by the society in which we live in, they become very hard to change. We are also taught to focus only on our own needs, and to ignore the needs of others. This type of ignorance leads to a self-centered way of life, and, subsequently, to a sort of false complacency which blinds us to the suffering of other living beings. Laziness is also an important factor in the equation, as it prevents us from acting to improve ourselves and the world around us, even when we know what has to be done and how to do it. Cruelty can come out of ignorance, though not always. Some people, for psychological or other reasons, are just plain cruel to animals, sometimes to the point of deriving pleasure from causing them to suffer. Thankfully, this is not something that affects most people, though it is important, as a society, to take concrete steps to punish and discourage this type of behavior.

Why don't you focus more on humans, on human suffering?
We value life, both human life and the life of other animals. While we recognize that there are many injustices relating to how we treat each other as human beings, we believe that the injustices that we inflict on other animals are often even worse. What’s more, while many of the injustices between people are well known (albeit often ignored), many of us still don't see a problem with our current relationship with the rest of the animal world. The problems with this relationship are, however, far-reaching and need to be addressed. There are two main reasons why we promote the good treatment of animals. First, this minimizes the suffering and death of other living beings. Second, it creates positive energy, which, in turn, will lead to positive consequences for us and the world that we live in. This is something that people sometime forget about Effaism, that one of the main reasons that we try so hard to improve our interaction with the animal world, is that we believe in cause and effect and that, subsequently, by causing all this death and suffering, we are also hurting ourselves.

Am I going to hell for eating this steak?
While it's hard to gauge the exact consequences of our actions, and while we leave concepts such as God, heaven, and hell, to individual interpretation, we do believe, generally speaking, that eating meat does have negative consequences both for the person eating it, and for the world in which he/she lives.

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