Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Why I Obsess over Veganism

A vegan messaged me this morning to say that she thinks that by "obsessing over veganism", abolitionists are apparently doing animals a "disservice". She asserted (the tired old): "Not everybody will go vegan for the animals, so you should at least try to convince them to eat less meat or to do Meatless Mondays. Every little bit helps and telling them it's not enough unless they go vegan just alienates them and leaves them doing nothing at all."

So here's the thing… If I was against wife beating and advocated against wife beating, would someone else who was against wife beating actually say the following to me?

"Not everybody will stop beating their wives, so you should at least try to convince them to hit them a little less hard or to hit them a little less often. Every little bit helps and telling them that it's not enough unless they stop beating their wives altogether just alienates them and leaves them doing nothing at all."
Sounds ludicrous, right? The person who sent me the message thought so and reminded me that we were discussing "animals and not humans". I reminded her that humans are animals and that it's precisely this "us vs. them" mentality–of deeming them inferior because they're of a different species–that's used an excuse for the atrocities we inflict upon them.

We're already overrun with advocates from large welfarist groups telling the public that "every little bit counts" and that it's alright for them to keep using animals as long as they use them a little less often or a "little less cruelly". These large animal welfarist groups are generally well-funded by non-vegans who cherry-pick animal causes because they sometimes view some species (e.g. dolphins, seal pups, dogs, etc.) as more worthy of moral consideration than others (e.g. cows, chickens, pigs, fishes, etc.). These large welfarist groups are already effectively promoting this backwards "less is more" message to non-vegans while catering to their speciesism.

I have no interest in reinforcing someone’s belief that other animals are in any way whatsoever ours to use. They're not ours to use if we use them a little bit less often. They’re not ours to use if we give them slightly bigger cages. They’re not ours to use if PETA or HSUS give someone wet sloppy kisses for finding a way to steal their lives that is 10% less horrific than it would otherwise be. They're not ours to use, period. Giving them any less consideration is speciesist. You know what else? Giving them any less consideration as a vegan doesn't somehow cancel out speciesism. Yes, even vegans have a long way to go in identifying and addressing our own speciesism. The evidence for this is most obvious to me when fellow vegans suggest that we should accept their continued use and wrap our advocacy around this acceptance, rather than educating the public to stop using them and to go vegan.

As long as we condone and applaud half-hearted measures where other animals continue to be used, we merely reinforce the speciesist status quo, when it's speciesism itself that we truly and desperately need to eradicate. We owe animals more than to contribute to what we already know is the problem, no?


Matthew Sikora said...

Beautifully written! Thank you for your words!

M said...

Thank *you* for your own.

Butterflies Katz - this is my actual name said...


Vegan Zeitkritik said...

I completely agree with everything you said. I hear it all the time, and when I make the same argument you made using the example of wife beating, people, even vegans, get offended. Because, they say, you cannot compare violence towards humans with violence towards non-humans.

All in all, I've seen such half-hearted advocacy do more harm than good. I've met countless people who've lulled themselves into thinking (or even worse, been lulled by supposed animal advocates) that their meatless mondays, organic meat consumption, or avoidance of certain "especially brutal" meats is enough.


Ashley said...

That's the problem with PETA (among other things) they urge people to go vegan but then ask mcdonalds to kill chickens more "humanely" and kill lobsters more "humanely" and then post a video condemning humane meat? I can't even. . . Humans and animals both feel pain and want to live that's something we all share, I'm sorry if that offends some people to make holocaust comparisons and wife beating comparisons but it doesn't make the comparisons any less valid. A cow would feel the same pain being beaten as a woman or man would or as a dog or cat would.