Thoughts about what veganism is and what it is not

Why do we need to be clear about what veganism is and promote it unequivocally?

Some people promote veganism as a diet. Veganism is much more than a diet.

Some people make films presenting veganism as a healthy diet and ignore the issue of animal ethics entirely. This could be likened to someone making a film about death camps and only focusing on the pollution caused by the smoke stacks.

Some people conflate veganism with vegetarianism.

Some people make moral distinctions between flesh and dairy and eggs, e.g “Meat-Free Mondays” “Fish-free Fridays” when in fact dairy, eggs, flesh and other animal products all involve torture and murder and all are equally morally problematic. In fact, dairy involves more harm and death than if one were eating flesh alone.

Some people promote “flexible veganism” which is where it’s morally acceptable to “cheat” (eat animal products or small amounts of animal products) when one is dining with non-vegans.

Many people are afraid to even mention the word vegan. They treat it like it is a dirty word, yet some claim they want the world to go vegan.

Some people promote Peter Singer as “father of the animal rights movement”. They promote his work even though Prof. Singer has demonstrated that he is not only a self proclaimed “flexible vegan”, but his work demonstrates that he regards nonhuman life as having lesser value than human life. Singer also makes clear his approach is not rights-based but that he is a utilitarian. That nonhuman animals (or humans) can be sacrificed for the “greater good” and that human good is worth more than the good of animals. Surprisingly he claims that sentient nonhumans are not forward-looking individuals with desires and interests like humans have and therefore their life does not morally matter the way human life does. That is clearly speciesist. Firstly, other animals do have interests, desires and preferences and they act on them. It is irrelevant whether their desires, behaviours, preferences and so forth are not the same as human desires, preferences and behaviours. Peter Singer has also claimed publicly that he thinks bestiality is acceptable in certain circumstances. So it is bewildering that anyone interested in the rights of  nonhumans would subscribe to and promote his work.

Some promote veganism as a way of “reducing cruelty”, not as the way of abolishing use. Veganism recognizes there is no such thing as non-abusive use. ALL use is abuse.

Some people exclude animal ethics entirely and promote it as a “cleanse”, as a health-kick, as “green” living, or as a way to lose weight.

Some people promote the idea that veganism is “daunting” “difficult” or “extreme”.

Some are careerists and use the plight of animals to sell books, increase their public profile and some even make six figure salaries even though they have stated publicly they have no interest in animal use ending.

Some people promote veganism as if it is all about us.

Some people hold “animal rights” conferences, and you would be hard-pressed to find a mention of veganism and if or when it is, it is distorted, anthropocentric and misrepresented.

Some people — who claim to be against animal “abuse” and claim to “respect” and “love” animals — do not see why they need to be vegan. They do not realize that one is not credible if one is a slave-owner calling for the end of slavery.

Some people promote violence against animal use industry and blame industry or capitalism for creating demand for animal use. Some who promote violence are not even vegan and state that veganism is not important. Some use movements to express their misanthropy. Firstly, violence is the problem not the solution. Second, industry and capitalism may increase demand to a small degree, but the real culprit is the speciesist non-vegan public that creates the demand for animal products and animal use and they should be our target audience.

Some people promote animal welfare “reform” and mistakenly believe this is the way to end animal use. Some are pessimistic and think “reform” is the best that can be achieved and that animal use will never end. They claim they are “doing something” for animals and they claim promoters of veganism (abolitionists) are doing nothing for animals. The truth of the matter is promoting welfare “reform” is wheel-spinning and speciesist. There’s been 200 years of animal welfare and animals are used in more horrific ways and in greater numbers than ever before. Promoting welfare “reform” is not only speciesist and misguided, but at best, does little to nothing to help animals. Animal welfare “reform” helps industry become more profitable; increases demand for animal products; soothes the conscience of the nonvegan public; and further entrenches animals in the property paradigm. “Reform” only goes as far as to serve industry’s profitability. Only the animals lose. What non-abolitionists do not realise is that if they promoted veganism to end animal use, industry would respond by implementing their reform demands anyway.

Some people promote endless speciesist single issue campaigns (whales, dolphins, seals, fox hunting, wolves, fur etc) promoting the idea to the non-vegan public that one form of animal use is worse than another. ALL forms of animal use are equally morally problematic. No one species is more important than another. Single issue campaigns fetishize certain species. And one will never find any mention of veganism in any SIC alerts. Why? Because large animal orgs do not have veganism as their moral baseline. They use SICs as fund-raisers and they do not want to challenge their non-vegan donor base. In fact many large animal organisations are partners with industry.

Some people think that abolitionists and those who promote welfare reform are part of the same movement and that promoting regulation of animal exploitation will lead to the end of exploitation. No. Abolitionist veganism and the “humane” use movement (those who promote welfare reform and the idea that there’s such a thing as “compassionate” animal use and “happy animal products”)  are two separate and opposing movements.

Some people think lobbying government and trying to change laws will help bring about the end of animal use or at least improve the plight of animals. They spend a great deal of time and financial resources trying to appeal to non-vegans who work in these government departments. Government benefits financially from animal use industry so any efforts to change laws or bans will be mostly futile. This is all time and money they could spend promoting veganism to the public. Oft times these people who are advocating for changes in laws are not themselves vegan and if they are vegan, they don’t realise that while the public is speciesist (while they are eating, wearing and using animals), “bans” will be overturned. When a ban comes into being, animal use industry moves off-shore to countries which have even poorer welfare laws. Welfare laws will always fall well short of being any benefit to nonhumans because welfare “reform” laws will only protect animals insofar as industry remains profitable. Animal’s interests are of no concern to industry.

Some people get side-tracked and caught up in personality conflicts, egos, flame wars and so forth. Veganism gets tied into and associated with certain personalities and the public start to associate veganism with drama, flame-wars and conflict. This can repel people from investigating veganism further.

Some people forget that veganism transcends politics and religion and that veganism is best presented in a secular way. Some people present the idea that one cannot be an abolitionist vegan if one holds religious beliefs. The idea that one should present it in a secular fashion should not be taken to mean that one cannot also hold spiritual views or that spiritual views may not be a major motivating factor for some people.

These are just a few of the problems facing abolitionist vegan movement. We need to be clear what veganism is and we need to understand why it is so important to promote it unequivocally, otherwise we confuse the public and reinforce speciesism. The non-vegan public will always default to the welfare paradigm and they will always fetishize certain species and use others as property as long as they are speciesist. The only way animal use will end is to address the public’s speciesism though nonviolent vegan education.

Veganism is a nonviolent grassroots political movement. It has no leader. It is not a charity. Veganism is the recognition of the moral personhood of nonhuman animals and it is a rejection of the property status of animals.

Not vegan? Please start here

For more information Freedom’s New Frontier: A Guide to Animal Rights


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