On the Idea of “Humans First, Everyone Else Later”

Because we wear pants, obviously.

Overheard: “How about taking a stand against the murder of unborn children through abortion?  When I see you joining that cause perhaps I will listen to the rest of your moral outrage and the weeping for sheep…”

The above is an actual quote I saw recently from a pastor in response to a conversation about veganism.  [Please note that this essay does not attempt to make a correlation between abortion and animal rights.  The example used by the pastor might well have involved any human rights issue or plight – natural disaster, genocide, famine, etc. – involving humans]

It’s important to remember that veganism is not about humans – it’s about abstaining from any and all uses of non-human individuals for human pleasure, comfort and convenience.

Yes, people say things like this.  It’s a version of one of the archetypical arguments against veganism that usually goes like this: “Humans come first. Once we get human problems sorted out, then I’ll worry about non-humans “.

Let’s apply a bit of critical thinking to these ideas by putting them in the Reality Machine.

Aside from being a blatantly speciesist position (simply substitute the words “non-human” and “human” with different human races or genders and the unjust bias is immediately clear), this justification for continuing to engage in the exploitation of vulnerable individuals hasn’t a leg to stand on, and here’s why:

Living vegan (eschewing the use of all products and forms of animal exploitation wherever possible and practicable) takes zero energy, resources, time or effort away from advocating for any other cause, whether human rights-related or otherwise.  One can live vegan and still engage in any activity one chooses, probably with even more energy than when living non-vegan!

To further examine the fallaciousness of the argument, the idea that there will come a day when humanity’s myriad problems are finally put to rest is, in a word, preposterous.  Therefore, to claim that one will gladly engage in working for animal rights once all human rights have been permanently secured is nothing more than a lie based on an impossible premise designed to derail the animal rights conversation and justify one’s continued use of products of animal exploitation.  It is a disingenuous position designed to obfuscate the underlying selfishness motivating the argument, and it by no means presupposes that one is spending one’s days and nights engaged in any form of advocacy or activism whatsoever.  It’s a bluff that is easily called and checkmate is soon to follow.

“Giraffes probably think ‘Giraffes first’, so what’s the problem??”

In and of itself, veganism is passive – it doesn’t require one to do anything but rather to not do certain things (i.e., not eat, wear or otherwise use and/or objectify non-human animals for one’s personal benefit).  From there, if one chooses to spend one’s time, energy and resources engaging in animal rights advocacy through clear, consistent vegan education, that is one’s choice (and one we highly recommend) but again not a requirement.

Armed with the knowledge that one can live vegan and continue to participate passionately in whatever activities or advocacy one feels compelled to participate in, why – other than for purely selfish reasons of pleasure, comfort and convenience – would anyone not choose to do so?

[I encourage all readers to click the blue links embedded in this essay and explore the information on those sites.  Also, please read our Disclaimer regarding external sites, organizations, individuals, etc.]

Keith Berger and Elena Brodskaya – co-founders, SFVEG

***A note from Keith and Elena – before you go, please consider making a safe, secure tax-deductible donation via our YouCaring page (<—simply click this link to be directed to our fundraising page) to support South Florida Vegan Education Group’s advocacy efforts.  Contributions of any amount are received with equal gratitude and go directly to fund our vegan public education work.  And whether or not you can contribute, please share our fundraising campaign with friends and associates!  Thank you!

Dismantle speciesism.  Live vegan.  Educate others.
 
Start now, here’s how:
 

BeFairBeVegan.com

The legal stuff:

South Florida Vegan Education Group is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.  All donations are tax-deductible.

FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE & CONSUMER SERVICES REGISTRATION # CH47564.  A COPY OF THE OFFICIAL REGISTRATION AND FINANCIAL INFORMATION MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE DIVISION OF CONSUMER SERVICES BY CALLING TOLL-FREE (800-435-7352) WITHIN THE STATE.  REGISTRATION DOES NOT IMPLY ENDORSEMENT, APPROVAL, OR RECOMMENDATION BY THE STATE.

“It’s Vegan… No, Wait – It’s Vegetarian… No, Wait – It’s Vegan… No, Wait…”

vegan vegetarian peace
Who with the what now?!?

What’s In a Name?

I watched a man giving away food samples yesterday and was struck by his verbal sleight-of-hand.  See if you can spot the trick.

Observation

The gentleman in front of Maoz Vegetarian restaurant is offering free falafel to passersby.  He approaches me with a tray of food and says, “Falafel!  All VEGAN, all homemade, all gluten free, all good for you!” (I’m uncharacteristically not wearing a vegan t-shirt, but he’s the owner and likely remembers having chatted with me once before while in my usual uniform).  Seconds later, he approaches the next person and says, “Falafel!  All VEGETARIAN, all homemade, all gluten free, all good for you!”  He switches it up constantly, like a street corner shell game hustler.  His patter is smooth and effortless.

Does the falafel formulation magically shift from vegan to vegetarian and back to vegan again from minute to minute?  Obviously not, but his description of it does – the wording in his presentation is deliberate, based on his perception of his ever-changing audience and what he feels will get people to try his product and drive the most business to his store.  It’s the sign of a good businessperson.

“Tell Mike it was only business”

"I always liked him."
“I always liked him.”

Conclusion

This gentleman’s business approach is no different from all large, morally-challenged animal welfare corporations that conflate vegan and vegetarian all day long, playing to their audience in order to separate them from their money and their morals and maximize profits while selling out the animals they purport to be “sparing” from “suffering” through “spreading compassion”.  I’m not faulting the Maoz owner for this, as his intention is to sell food (quite a bit of it is 100% plant-based), not to end animal use.  My intention is merely to point out the glaring similarity between his sales approach and that of the animal welfare corporate business model.

Thanks to deliberately vague and misleading information disseminated by animal welfare corporations and the mass media, there are those who think vegan and vegetarian are one in the same.  I spoke with SFVEG co-founder and President Elena Brodskaya who shared her personal story with me as it relates to these ideas:

“When I first decided to be vegetarian, I also researched what ‘vegan’ meant and kept finding it linked with ‘vegetarian’, especially in literature produced by PeTA and other welfare groups.  It seemed that everywhere I looked, I saw ‘vegan/vegetarian’ and ‘vegetarian/vegan’ until I erroneously concluded that ‘vegan’ must simply be an abbreviated form of the word ‘vegetarian’.  The literature from the various welfare groups was confusing at best and deceiving at worst.  It took longer than I would have liked to finally find some clear information about veganism and, once I realized the ethical implications of remaining vegetarian, I began living vegan immediately.  I’ve since come to understand that corporations like PeTA intentionally misinform the public about the true meaning of veganism and its critical importance as the only path toward dismantling speciesism and abolishing animal use.  Sadly, they do this to further their own self-interests and prosperity while betraying the animals on whose behalf they pretend to be working.”

Clearly, the gentleman from Maoz knows there is a difference between vegan and vegetarian (although I would be interested to ask him what he believes that difference is and may do so when he’s not so busy), however I would guess that his interests lie in making a profit and not in educating anyone about that difference – that’s the purview, the passion and the purpose of those of us who work tirelessly to educate the public about veganism as we move ever closer to abolishing the property status of non-human animals and truly achieving justice for all.

Unfortunately, outside Maoz, the confusion continues…

[I encourage all readers to click the blue links embedded in this essay and explore the information on those sites.  Also, please read our Disclaimer regarding external sites, organizations, individuals, etc.]

Keith Berger and Elena Brodskaya – co-founders, SFVEG

***A note from Keith and Elena – before you go, please consider making a safe, secure tax-deductible donation via our YouCaring page (<—simply click this link to be directed to our fundraising page) to support South Florida Vegan Education Group’s advocacy efforts.  Contributions of any amount are received with equal gratitude and go directly to fund our vegan public education work.  And please share our fundraising campaign with friends and associates!  Thank you!

Dismantle speciesism.  Live vegan.  Educate others.
 
Start now, here’s how:
 

BeFairBeVegan.com

South Florida Vegan Education Group is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.  All donations are tax-deductible.

FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE & CONSUMER SERVICES REGISTRATION # CH47564.  A COPY OF THE OFFICIAL REGISTRATION AND FINANCIAL INFORMATION MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE DIVISION OF CONSUMER SERVICES BY CALLING TOLL-FREE (800-435-7352) WITHIN THE STATE.  REGISTRATION DOES NOT IMPLY ENDORSEMENT, APPROVAL, OR RECOMMENDATION BY THE STATE.

“Speciesism is wrong, but…”

speciesism cow barbed wire dog SFVEG poster

“Yeah, but…”

Consider the following statements:

“I agree that racism is wrong, but…”

“I agree that sexism is wrong, but…”

“I agree that heterosexism is wrong, but…”

What could possibly follow “but” in any of the above statements that would morally justify making an exception to the ideas as presented?  The answer is simple: nothing.

Imagine hearing someone say, “I agree that racism is wrong, but the Ku Klux Klan is having a bake sale fundraiser this weekend and they make delicious cupcakes, so I’ll be buying some!”  The moral inconsistency in such a situation would be glaring, and yet people routinely say they disagree with specific injustices while participating in and supporting, sometimes without realizing it, those same injustices.

Now consider this statement:

“I agree that speciesism is wrong, but…”

Speciesism can be defined as a double standard created by humans placing higher moral value on some individual animals over other individual animals, based solely on the morally irrelevant criterion of species membership.  To disagree with speciesism is to agree with veganism, which is defined as “a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment.  In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.” – Vegan Society 1979

speciesism-008-author-unknown-002

I’ve had countless conversations with people who said they agreed it’s wrong to hurt and kill animals unnecessarily… and then the “but”s came – “But I love eating my meat/chicken/fish/steak/bacon”, “But I could never give up my dairy/eggs/cheese/honey”, “But I need my protein”, “But my leather shoes are so comfortable”, “But I don’t eat much red meat” and on and on.  It should be noted that referring to “my meat”, “my dairy”, “my leather”, etc. (which seems to happen more often than not) overlooks and negates the fact that these “products” were once the bodies, skins and secretions of autonomous individuals and are therefore stolen property.  It exposes the underlying selfishness that drives speciesist behavior.  When framed in this way, might those same people counter with, “I agree that stealing is wrong, but…”?

Interestingly, the problem in examples like this doesn’t lie after the “but”.

In all of the example statements above, the reality is that everything before the “but” is an untruth.  Here is what’s really being said:

“I agree that [fill-in-the-blank form of oppression] is wrong, but since I’m personally benefitting from it in some way, I’ll just look the other way and pretend nothing’s happening and that I’m not participating in something I say I find morally reprehensible even though my actions tell an entirely different story.”

When one truly agrees that a form of oppression is fundamentally wrong, one does not equivocate or make exceptions in order to satisfy one’s desires for personal pleasure, comfort and convenience.  Being morally consistent means not engaging in, supporting and/or promoting racism, sexism, heterosexism, speciesism or other forms of oppression because one finds it inconvenient not to.  One simply stands in one’s truth and follows where one’s moral compass points, making course corrections along the way wherever necessary.

ethical-position-002-bfbv

Since most people believe it’s wrong to hurt and kill vulnerable sentient beings for no justifiable reason, living vegan gives every individual the opportunity to be true to themselves, to live honestly and to live in congruence with their moral values and in harmony with their fellow travelers on this planet we all share.

One final statement to consider:

I agree that the simplest and most immediate action one can take to stop the violent oppression and exploitation of the most vulnerable members of our global society – non-human individuals – is to start living vegan.  There are no valid reasons not to; there are only morally unjustifiable excuses to hide behind.

There is no “but” here.  There is only truth.

[I encourage all readers to click the blue links embedded in this essay and explore the information on those sites.  Also, please read our Disclaimer regarding external sites, organizations, individuals, etc.]

Dismantle speciesism.  Live vegan.  Educate others.
 
Start now, here’s how: