This is a slightly edited version of my submission in 2015 for a collection of essays being compiled and edited for publication by my friend and long-time vegan Butterflies Katz. The topic I chose is I’m An Abolitionist Vegan.
I’m an abolitionist vegan , but that wasn’t always the case.
For the first 36 years of my life, I did as those around me did – I engaged in the daily consumption of products of animal exploitation. I thought nothing of eating dead and dismembered animals, swallowing their secretions, wearing their skins and enjoying various forms of entertainment their use provided. I mean, it wasn’t as if my demand for animal products was a direct contributing factor in supporting a worldwide system of animal enslavement, injustice, suffering, neglect and, ultimately, the mercilessly brutal taking of their lives… right?
Once exposed to the truth of the system I’ve just described, I was horrified and desperately wanted to “do something” to end these horrors, so I engaged in what I thought was effective animal “rights” activism through animal welfare organizations and their single-issue campaigns. I was unknowingly caught in a wave of welfarism that often had little or nothing to do with promoting veganism. Organizations spoke about compassion and I couldn’t articulate then that the problem isn’t a lack of compassion but rather the presence of injustice. They promoted “incremental changes” and said “every little bit helps”, so I bought into the defeatist attitude that “the world will never go vegan, so let’s make the cages more comfortable”. I know now that when we advocate for anything less than living vegan, we engender, foster and promote speciesism.
After a decade of welfarism, I learned of the abolitionist approach to animal rights and my entire perspective changed. The unassailable logic and clarity of Professor Gary L. Francione’s ideas rang true and helped me understand that clear, consistent vegan education is the most effective way to bring justice to animals by working to give them the right not to be used or abused by humans as disposable, replaceable resources and commodities.
[It is important to note that, while it’s true that my first exposure to abolitionism was through Francione’s work from the 1990s to present, the idea of nonviolent abolitionism, as directly opposed to welfarism, was being developed in relation to veganism and animal rights as far back as 1967 with the publication of Out of the Jungle by H. Jay Dinshah, founder of the American Vegan Society.]
(please see our disclaimer about the mention of groups, individuals and organizations)
When we have the opportunity to educate people about veganism as the moral baseline for our treatment of individuals of other species, then as vegans I feel it is incumbent upon us to do so, unflinchingly and unequivocally, and here’s why: Convince one person to become vegan and you immediately eliminate support for dozens of animal exploitation issues. Convince ten and you multiply the effect accordingly. Conversely, convince one person that, for example, circuses are cruel (but not discuss veganism) and s/he may leave the circus… only to arrive two hours earlier at the neighbor’s barbecue and feast on slaughtered animals, never making the connection between the elephant under the big top and the burger on their plate. Which approach sounds more effective? Which approach leads to an internal ethical shift? Which approach leads us in the direction in which we want to go?
I choose the abolitionist approach. I am an abolitionist vegan.
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