Category Archives: Intersectionality

On Honesty and Consistency In Vegan Advocacy

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If you don’t ask, the answer is always “No”

When we as vegan advocates dilute what veganism is by wrongly conflating it with vegetarianism, we are a) being dishonest, b) misleading the public in a way that costs the lives of non-human individuals and c) missing a key opportunity to educate people about the ethical and moral reasons to live vegan and end their participation in the fundamental injustice of animal use.

Here is a widely accepted definition (arguably, it’s the definition) of veganism:

  • “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

But isn’t vegetarianism a good thing?

I’ve observed many people and groups extolling the virtues of vegetarianism, calling it an “ethical” and “compassionate” choice that “reduces cruelty”, however when one applies a modicum of critical thinking and takes a closer look, one quickly arrives at a far different conclusion.  An excerpt from What Is Wrong With Vegetarianism? from UVE Archives (I encourage everyone to read the entire essay linked above):

“The Moral Problems with Vegetarianism

Many people are vegetarians for ethical reasons.  They object to either the treatment of animals in animal agriculture or the intentional killing of animals, or both.  Paradoxically, despite their objections to the treatment or intentional killing of animals, they continue to consume dairy products and eggs, which… certainly contribute more to the suffering and arguably as much to the intentional killing of animals than the consumption of meat products.  In fact, to the extent that a vegetarian replaces calories from flesh with calories from dairy and egg products, the vegetarian has increased his or her contribution to animal suffering.”

It is important to note here that “cruelty”, “abuse” and “suffering” are merely symptoms of the problem  – animal use – and even if the non-consensual uses of vulnerable individuals in question were devoid of discomfort and injury, they remain unjust.  When we focus on specific cruelties and treatment, this leads to more ineffective and counterproductive campaigns for animal welfare rather than the abolition of animal use and a call to justice.

An excerpt from Vegetarianism – a step in the wrong direction for me from There’s An Elephant In The Room (again, I encourage everyone to read the entire essay linked above):

“Potential confusion is not in any way helped when so many groups and organisations conflate the words ‘vegetarian’ and ‘vegan’, implying that they are similar. The standard definition has become so accepted here in the UK that the supermarkets all stock huge ranges of products defined as ‘vegetarian’, all supported by skilful marketing strategies that promote them as everything from ‘healthy’ to ‘humane’ with few exceptions, each of which contains animal milk in some form – frequently as cheese – and eggs which are often described as ‘free range’.

Many of us – and I was one – mistakenly assume that ‘vegetarian’ is synonymous with ‘cruelty free’ when nothing could possibly be further from the truth. Yes, I had stopped eating the obvious slabs of bloodied flesh. But what I did not realise was that my dietary consumption was continuing to supply the market with dead flesh, even though I did not consume it directly. And as for my non-food choices…”

I was once under the erroneous impression that vegans were simply vegetarians whose diet also excluded dairy, eggs and honey.  This seemed to me to be an extreme position to take, but then, so did vegetarianism as I was indoctrinated to fall in line with the common societal belief that humans need to eat (and otherwise use) animals to survive.  I believed vegetarianism and veganism to be aberrant dietary choices and had no real understanding of either as having any sort of ethical underpinnings.  I do recall being aware of certain animal “rights” groups promoting vegetarian diets but I wrote those groups off as “extremists” and paid no attention to their antics and promotions (which, ironically, I would later take part in myself for a regrettable decade).

On the evening that veganism was explained to me in a calm and rational manner, I understood that it went far beyond mere dietary choices and found that what is truly “extreme” is the injustice of enslaving, exploiting and executing innocent, vulnerable sentient beings to satisfy human pleasure, comfort and convenience.  In that moment, I experienced a fundamental internal shift and made the decision to bring my morals and actions into congruence by living vegan.

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If we, as vegan individuals and groups, are afraid to commit to a 100% effort toward clear, consistent, unequivocal vegan education because “vegetarian sounds better” and is “more marketable” (as I was told by a representative of a speciesist animal welfare group), how do we expect non-vegans to commit to a 100% vegan life when we’re afraid to say what we really mean and ask for what we really want?

If you want less than veganism, then ask for it and that’s what you’ll get.  After all, it doesn’t require any real change to move from one form of non-veganism to another, and make no mistake that “vegetarian” in all its guises and with all its prefixes and hyphenations is anything other than animal exploitation.  Each new permutation is just a new coat of blood-red paint on the same old abattoir.

lacto-ovo-tarianConversely, if you want people to take a firm stand against injustice and oppression toward vulnerable sentient beings by first ending their participation in it, educate them about veganism as our minimum moral obligation toward the non-humans with whom we share this planet.  In this way, we move closer to dismantling speciesism, which 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“.  The fundamental injustice of speciesism begets all other forms of oppression toward vulnerable individuals and groups that we see running rampant on our planet today.  We believe the dismantling and abolition of speciesism are integral in starting the chain of conscious evolution that will lead to the end of racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, ableism and the like.

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Doesn’t that sound like the kind of world in which you’d like to live?  Let’s make it happen, one new vegan at a time!

[I encourage all readers to click the blue links embedded in this essay and explore the information on those sites.]

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

 

 

On Moral Value, Objectification and Integrity

Two Scenarios – What Would You Do?

1) If you saw an obviously distressed barking dog locked in a car on a hot day, what would you do?  Would you look away and walk by as if nothing was happening?  Perhaps.  Or would you try the doors to see if you could open one and help the dog?  Would you look around for the owner of the car, perhaps going inside nearby stores and asking for help?  Or would you think about or even go as far as breaking a window to get the dog to safety?  After all, there’s a life at stake and you have the ability to save that life.

Still photo from 9/13/10 ABC News story of a potbellied pig rescued from a hot car. Not surprisingly, the news story used the word "sizzles", which is often used in conjunction with bacon.
Not surprisingly, this ABC News story from 2010 used the word “sizzles”, often used in conjunction with bacon, in this piece about a potbellied pig rescued from a hot car.

2) If you saw an obviously distressed squealing pig locked in a car on a hot day, what would you do?  Would you think, “Mmm!  Bacon!” and wait for him or her to cook to death, hoping the owner might share some of their carcass with you?  Would you look away and walk by as if nothing was happening?  Perhaps.  Or would you try the doors to see if you could open one and help the pig?  Would you look around for the owner of the car, perhaps going inside nearby stores and asking for help?  Or would you think about or even go as far as breaking a window to get the pig to safety?  After all, there’s a life at stake and you have the ability to save that life.

Moral Value

Pigs are not “bacon” any more than calves are “veal” or chickens are “drumsticks” or any other animal is only the parts humans deem useful – they are sentient beings and that fact does not change simply because some want to believe and behave as if the converse were true.  When societal “norms” allow for the devaluing of non-human animals to the point of no longer being viewed, treated and respected as living, breathing, feeling individuals deserving of autonomous lives free from being used as “things” merely to satisfy the fleeting pleasures of humans, an injustice is being perpetrated.

By analogy, women are not “pieces of ass”  – they are individuals and that fact does not change simply because some want to believe and behave as if the converse were true.  When societal “norms” allow for the devaluing of women to the point of no longer being viewed, treated and respected as living, breathing, feeling individuals deserving of autonomous lives free from being used merely to satisfy the fleeting pleasures of men, an injustice is being perpetrated.

If you agree that it is sexist and therefore wrong to objectify women (or children, or any humans) by using their bodies for one’s own purposes and find such behavior distasteful and unacceptable, then it only makes sense to agree that it is speciesist and therefore wrong to objectify non-humans by using their bodies, secretions and offspring for one’s own purposes and to find such behavior distasteful and unacceptable.  The fact that there is a difference in species does not indicate a difference in moral value between the two groups as they both share (at least) the common trait of sentience.

If one opposes at least one form of violent oppression because it is morally wrong, then to live in integrity requires opposing all forms of violent oppression because they are all morally wrong no matter who the victim is, regardless of (in no particular order) race, gender identity, species, sexual preference, age, physical ability or any other arbitrary criterion.

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Another Scenario – What Would You Do?

hot car baby

If you saw an obviously distressed screaming human baby locked in a car on a hot day, what would you do?   For most (if not all) people, there is only one answer – you do anything you’re able to do to help.  If your answer was not as clear and immediate in those scenarios in which the species of the trapped individual was other than human, perhaps it’s time to deeply explore how you have been indoctrinated into a society built on speciesism, blinded, misguided and conditioned by a lifetime of daily exposure to a multi-billion dollar propaganda machine that would have humans believe all other species are subordinate to our own and exist merely to satisfy our pleasure, comfort and convenience… and then explore how living vegan dismantles speciesism, realigns your morals and behaviors and restores your personal integrity.

One Final Scenario – What WILL You Do?

Knowing that living non-vegan means you are directly complicit in the violent oppression, enslavement, exploitation and execution of the most vulnerable members of our global society – non-human animals – and that living vegan is the simplest and most immediate action you can take to end that oppression (and your part in it)… what will you do? 

Here is what I hope you will do –

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

Dismantling Speciesism

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Speciesism, analogous with racism and sexism, 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.

As I sat in a recent lecture about weight stigma and body shaming, listening to the speakers discuss the intersectionality of various forms of oppression, I waited for them to mention the elephant in the room, speciesism… and they never did.  That’s when I realized:

Speciesism isn’t just an elephant in the room.  It’s much more than that.  It’s a cow, a pig, a chicken, a fish, a turkey, a lamb… and it’s much more than that.  The fact is, there are billions of land animals and countless sea animals in the room and NO ONE is talking about them.  NO ONE is acknowledging them and their basic right to live free from exploitation, objectification and commodification.  NO ONE is thinking of these individuals as anything more than disposable, replaceable “things” – objects to be used, like the chairs in which we sit – to satisfy some fleeting desire or convenience.  Instead, they’re eating their exploited remains and wearing skins, furs and feathers ripped from their dead bodies (and, in many cases, their still-living bodies).

I will admit that there is an error in my comments above.  I say that no one is talking about, acknowledging or thinking about these individuals, but this is untrue.

Vegans are talking about, acknowledging and thinking about these individuals and their right to an autonomous life and, more importantly, we’re doing something about the speciesism pervasive in our society that demands the continued exploitation, enslavement and execution of non-human animals for morally unjustifiable reasons.  Some vegans are simply abstaining from participating in those injustices, as that is the least they can do as a moral obligation.  Others, especially abolitionist vegans, are actively educating the public through various creative means about their engagement in and support of speciesism and letting them know 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.

Speciesism, rooted in the myth of human supremacy, begets all other forms of oppression toward the vulnerable that we see running rampant on our planet today.  We believe the abolition and dismantling of speciesism are integral in starting the chain of conscious evolution that will lead to the end of racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, ableism and the like.  The application of speciesism provides a blueprint for all other forms of exploitation, as what we would do to the most vulnerable members of our global society – non-human individuals – we would then find ways to do to those less vulnerable but still able to be dominated and oppressed (it is no accident that the techniques employed in the mass extermination of millions of humans in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s were born in slaughterhouses).  Conversely, the dismantling of speciesism, through living vegan and educating others to live vegan, gives us a blueprint for treating all individuals as we ourselves wish to be treated – with fairness, justice and the right to live autonomous lives, free from the enslavement of more powerful “others”.

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If you oppose at least one form of violent oppression because you recognize it is morally wrong, then to live in integrity requires opposing all forms of violent oppression because they are all morally wrong.  Speciesism, simply by virtue of having the largest number of victims and the highest death toll worldwide, is the most egregious form of violent oppression our world has ever known.  It’s time to dismantle speciesism, and the way to do that, again, is through living vegan and educating others to live vegan.

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

www.HowToGoVegan.org
www.VeganEducationGroup.com
www.BeFairBeVegan.com

Welfarism, Speciesism and Fear… Oh My!

Imagine you and your family are traveling in a foreign country that considers people from your country to be of an inferior race, and that the country’s policy is to capture, enslave, use and ultimately murder citizens of your country whenever possible or desirable and with no serious legal repercussions other than an economic inconvenience here and there, a couple of low-level patsies losing their jobs after some undercover video is leaked (but soon finding jobs in similar situations), mostly slap-on-the-wrist stuff leading to promises to “be more humane” and assurances that “we had no idea about these isolated incidences, we are appalled!”.

You’re taken hostage and your captors’ stated intentions are that the males in your family are to be put to hard labor, tortured and then executed and the females kept alive to be tortured, raped and forced to produce more offspring for enslavement (eventually everyone’s executed once their “productivity” wanes) and keep the cycle going for generations, as has been their common practice for years.  Now, as one of the hostages (pick a gender), would you want, need or be in any way satisfied with advocates working to get you “improvements” such as a better view while you wait to die, a smaller blowtorch with which to be tortured or a more comfortable bed on which to be repeatedly raped?  Doubtful.  If those are the goals for which they advocate, they might as well help sharpen the killing blade while they’re at it to make your death as painless as possible (another “improvement”, some might say) because, inevitably, death is what’s coming.

If it were me, I would obviously want someone to get me and my family the hell out of there as quickly as possible and to educate these people (and the world) that this behavior is morally unacceptable on every conceivable level and that my race deserves equal consideration as their race – which means the right not to be used and abused by anyone as their property – thus shifting the paradigm to bring an end to this cycle of ritualistic, systematic, psychopathic abuse and needless, unjustifiable killing.
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All forms of exploitation are morally unjustifiable and have their roots in the myth of human supremacy

But the scenario I’ve just described isn’t a simple hostage situation and isn’t really about “us” – it’s about animals.  This is what humans do to individuals of other species by the billions every year across the world.  And what we would NEVER knowingly or willingly allow to happen to humans for any preventable length of time, we keep allowing to happen to animals.  “But we’re really trying“, say those who, with all good intentions, implement, support and engage in single-issue, welfarist campaigns designed to minimize – as oppose to end – the injustices we regularly impose on non-human animals (there’s a saying in certain circles that “trying is lying”).  Our current laws consider animals our “property”, which gives them no real rights ever and essentially gives permission for humans to do as they please to non-humans.  There is no “negotiation” to gain freedom for these individuals, as they are someone’s property and there’s nothing illegal about it, as there is with kidnapping.  In fact, if one rescues an animal from such a situation, the “rescuer” is the one who has broken the law.  Since the law follows social change rather than the reverse being true, when we advocate for anything less than living vegan we engender, foster and support speciesism, a double standard (analogous with racism and sexism) 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.  It would logically follow that those who do not support racism and sexism would have a moral obligation not to support speciesism, and yet, people of seemingly good moral character continue to do just that, offering no better reasons than palate pleasure, convenience, entertainment and habit – in short, selfishness.

For those who are afraid of “driving people away” by unequivocally advocating veganism, I find this fear to be unfounded and without merit.  If anything about vegan advocacy “drives people away”, it isn’t the idea of veganism; it’s likely the method by which some individuals aggressively and abrasively present the simple, gentle, logical idea of living a nonviolent vegan life.  Isn’t it time we stopped operating from fear and just did what we know is right according to our own morals and ethics?  Fear is the driving force behind every atrocity the world has ever known, including the animal holocaust we’re dealing with here.  Einstein (by all accounts, a pretty bright fella) said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”.
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If you’re “afraid” to be direct and honest about veganism, I challenge you to move through the fear and do what you know is right.  After all, your “fear” is nothing compared to the real fears being felt right now by the animals we all want to save.  To operate from fear in this light is to operate from pure selfishness and ego, and that helps no one.  In fact, it only serves to allow more injustice, unnecessary suffering and death to all involved.

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