I have seen a few references to Dr. Judith Clapper recently. Associated with unfortunate comments about wanting to shoot vegans. The brain behind the dismal Februdairy campaign, the failed counterpart to the amazingly successful Veganuary drive.
I must admit, I was biased from the start. A “doctor” who is a “Sustainability Consultant”. Hmmmm…. already I can imagine myself standing right behind that bull inhaling the methane infused fumes of the shi…
However, I put my preconceptions to the side and decided to delve a little deeper into the Dr. Capper phenomenon. After all, she says over and over again, the dairy/meat industry must counter every vegan “myth” with FIVE counter arguments. I have an open mind. She is a doctor. She would not stake her reputation on such claims without being able to back them up. Right?
Oh dear. I’m going to cut right to the chase here. Apart from repeatedly attacking vegan activists there doesn’t seem to be any substance to her claims. Let’s take a look at her unfortunate website. Here it is! Enjoy!
Let hop straight to this little gem: “How to Argue with Vegans – A Cut-Out-and-Keep Chart (new and improved!)” First of all the title does not match the actual chart that she uses. That is called “How to convert Somebody To Veganism – A Cut-Out-and-Keep Chart”. For academic purposes, I’ll reproduce her “clever” chart here. Basically, it conforms to her standard approach of jumping straight to the extreme side of veganism and conveniently ignores all of the rational arguments used by run-of-mill non-activist vegans. It is shocking that a person using the label of “doctor” stoops to such childish antics.
But it doesn’t stop there. “Note that I do not intend to mock and I’m sure that there are many vegans who are both eloquent and well-informed, but, if you are vegan, perhaps consider whether you always rely on these rather asinine claims, without broadening your argument?” How very nice of her! And she is right. Just look her up on Youtube and you will find a few of her sad interviews and talks. And these useless videos get the number of views they deserve. Because (as I am sure Dr. Capper understands herself) she is neither eloquent nor well-informed. Her videos are lucky to get up to the 500 views mark. Contrast that with the hundreds of eloquent and well-informed vegans whose videos hit the 500 views mark within seconds of publication and go on to attract hundreds of thousands of views! Click here to see Dr. Capper’s dismal Youtube performance – not good for someone trying to fight the battle for dairy on the social media front!
But let’s go back to that statement again and focus on this: “perhaps consider whether you always rely on these rather asinine claims, without broadening your argument”. This is precisely the part she ignores. Most vegans are not militant activists accusing everyone of else of being rapists and murderers etc. The vast majority simply accept there is no need to eat animals these days. Protein can be found elsewhere and so there is no need to eat animals. End of story. Plus a few benefits of course (yes, the World Health Organisation classifies processed meats as Class A carcinogens with the body of research suggesting unprocessed meat lagging not far behind). But back on topic again: Dr. Capper doesn’t like the standard reasoning from the standard run-of-the-mill vegan. For her there only exists the activist vegan. Look at her chart. Look at her unfortunate website.
But let’s venture further. Here is a mixed up attempt at an argument from Dr. Capper where she completely misses the point:
“For example, is suggesting that we shouldn’t drink milk past-weaning because other animals do not, either upheld by science (no, it’s not) or a sensible criticism? After all, humans also wear expensive anoraks, use iPads and write books on the intricacies of rugby – should we forgo these activities because they are exclusive to homo sapiens?”
Ok, good for Dr. Capper. She has found research to show that feral cats have been found to steal milk from elephant seals (and links to an actual article (top marks Dr. Capper!)). But the argument unfortunately does not win the argument. Because digging up one example doesn’t mean science is on your side at all. The main arguments against drinking cow milk by humans beyond weaning is the links increasingly being found to multiple sclerosis, breast cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease – etc. Feral cats stealing milk from elephant seals unfortunately does not make those arguments disappear. Sorry Dr. Capper.
The next part gets really wobbly:
“It’s absolutely true that some people cannot digest lactose. Furthermore, a proportion of the population have adverse reactions to gluten, some people have life-threatening allergies to strawberries, others break out in a rash after eating scallops. Does that mean that we should all remove these foods from our diets in somewhat misguided sympathy? No.”
Nobody, vegan or otherwise, is suggesting we should all remove milk products from our diets because some people experience lactose intolerance. This is quite absurd. A non-argument.
So let’s bring on the next banana skin:
“It should be obvious that using overly emotive language or suggesting that farmers are guilty of obscene acts with farm animals detracts from your message. Nobody takes Boris Johnson seriously when he makes outrageous claims or shows utter disregard for cultural and social norms – why should anybody embrace a lifestyle choice where the messaging suggests that eating cheese is equivalent to drinking breastmilk or implies that artificial insemination of cattle is morally, physically and emotionally equivalent to serious sexual assault in humans?”
Again, how does she manage to miss the point so badly? Sure, people ignore Boris and don’t take him seriously. Just like the vast majority of vegans are not influenced by, nor listening to, the militant activist vegans. They simply don’t want to have anything to do with hurting animals, see no need to take advantage of animals (whether done humanely or otherwise), and increasingly… simply down to the obvious health advantages gained by eating a vegan diet.
Let’s continue. Now we get some clues as to how Dr. Capper runs her dismally failing anti-vegan campaign:
“I don’t converse with vegans in order to try and change their opinions, but to show all the others who are listening in the background that it’s possible to have congenial, polite and scientific debate on these topics without resorting to insults, foul language or suggestions that the opponent should “get their fist out of a cow’s rectum”.”
Fine. But let’s face it she doesn’t stand a chance in any rational debate. I don’t see her offerering to do any debates with leading vegans for say, publishing to Youtube. They would wipe the floor with her – in a polite, rational way, without the use of any foul language. Which would possibly affect her funding from the meat and dairy industries? 🙂
So let’s go back to that last snippet. It suits her to simply repeat over and over the same theme – vegans are activits, militants, horrible people… and there she is with her cool, rational arguments… that never actually… appear.
So in summary – what is Dr. Capper doing wrong? In our view:
- Preaching to the converted. All of her lectures are to farmers and dairy industry stakeholders (and probably those who pay her fees?). She has failed to take her “science” to what she perceives as the “enemy”.
- Concentrating solely on the negative side to veganism: militant vegans, aggressive vegans. She fails to address the vast majority of non-militant, non-activist vegans. She misses those vegans who, for example, simply say “I don’t drink cow’s milk because I have a more healthy plant-based alternative – thank you.”