On Two Sides of Selfishness

It’s All About Me

It can be argued that those who “go vegan” for their own health and personal betterment – which really translates to adopting a plant-based diet, the definition of which is anybody’s guess these days – are essentially acting from the same place of selfishness that had them eating animals and their secretions to satisfy their own pleasure in the first place.  When that’s the case, there’s little to stop them from reverting back to their original selfish position of consuming products of animal exploitation (one supported and encouraged by mainstream speciesist society) and resuming their complicity in the violent oppression of non-human individuals, and this happens far too often.  Other than an alteration in diet, nothing’s changed for them in any meaningful and fundamental way.  There’s been no move from selfishness to selflessness, no firm and unwavering commitment to eschew participation in all forms of animal use and no realization that all of these constitute injustice.  Everything is still all about them, and the animal victims of human selfishness remain sadly overlooked.

I’m never surprised when this recidivism happens, and it’s no longer a disappointment.  At this point, it’s expected.  What I do find disappointing is that more vegans don’t see it coming like a slow-moving freight train and continue to celebrate each time some public figure decides to temporarily (and not always exclusively) eat plants: “Ohhh, look! Blahblahblah-celebrity ‘went’ vegan!!!  Isn’t that AMAZING???”

No.

What would be amazing is if that person began truly living a life of moral consistency and started living vegan rather than “going” vegan, ‘cos when you “go” someplace (to the store, the movies, work, vacation), more often than not you come back to the very same place you came from, and that’s usually the place where you live.  Conversely, when you live a particular way, you embody your ethics and take them with you wherever you happen to find yourself (just as you would in opposing racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, ableism and any other form of oppression, all of which are analogous to speciesism).  When I found myself, I began living vegan.  It’s not only how I live, it’s where I live.

Wait – It’s Not All About Me??

It’s crucial to remember that veganism isn’t primarily about us and how we can benefit from ceasing to participate in the non-consensual use of animals.  Personal health and environmental improvements are side benefits of living vegan, and vegan advocates and educators ought to be careful not to erroneously frame them as the goals or primary motivations.  Veganism is an ethical position that represents a return to living according to our almost universally shared belief that harming – and killing – others for no good reason is always wrong.  “But their bodies taste good!” is as morally unjustifiable a reason for taking a life as “But their bodies feel good!” is for sexually violating another individual.  Each represents a terrible injustice that serves only to satisfy the pleasure of the perpetrator to the extreme detriment of the victim.

Used To Be = Never Was

Each time I hear that someone “used to be vegan”, I can be sure they never internalized the ethical position and have to wonder where they got the fallacious information that simply eating an exclusively plant-based diet equates to living vegan.  I implore vegan advocates and educators to always be clear, consistent and unequivocal about the meaning, importance and ethics of veganism.

Lives depend on it.

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Keith Berger and Elena Brodskaya – co-founders, SFVEG

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