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A Vegan But Not an Activist? Sure. An Animal Lover But Not a Vegan? Nope.

April 15, 2010

Image courtesy of Kelly; click for full image, with links leading to individual photo pages and recipes

Now and then over the last couple years, some folks’ reaction to my being a vegan and an animal rights activist has been to conflate the two (or rather, to conflate “vegan” and their own personal definition of “activist”) and tell me that although they “love animals,” they can’t go vegan because they don’t have time to be, or wouldn’t be comfortable being, an animal rights activist. “I’m not like you,” such a person tells me. “Everyone has different priorities,” he or she may say. “I’m more behind-the-scenes; I’m not comfortable being out there.” And how the connection is drawn from “not an activist” to “can’t be a vegan” always perplexes me.

Let’s say you indeed are not an activist or potential activist. Or you’re not comfortable doing what you currently think of as activism (you absolutely can be a quiet, behind-the-scenes activist). Or you are an activist within another worthy social justice movement, and you don’t have the time and resources to devote yourself to another. Or your life is chaotic with responsibilities, and you just can’t add something else to the mix and still take care of yourself. That’s okay. But none of this stops you from doing what you can in your own personal life; none of this changes what daily choices you are capable of making in order to make how you live consistent with what you already believe.

If you don’t devote your time to public activism against racism or homophobia and heterosexism, for example, does that mean you’re obligated to be a racist and homophobe yourself, to be violent against people of races or sexualities different from your own? Consider these hypothetical statements:

  • I know that racism is wrong, but I’m not comfortable being a vocal activist against racism, and racism isn’t my priority, so I’m going to continue to hurl racist slurs at my neighbor.
  • I  know that sexism is wrong, but I’m not comfortable being a vocal activist against sexism, and sexism isn’t my priority, so I’m going to continue sexually harassing the woman who sits next to me at work.
  • I know that homophobia/heterosexism is wrong, but I’m not comfortable being a vocal activist for LGBT rights, and LGBT rights aren’t my priority, so I’m going out gay-bashing tonight.

Nonsense, right? So how is this different?

  • I know that exploiting and killing for pleasure is wrong, but I’m not comfortable being a vocal activist for animal rights, and animal rights aren’t my priority, so I’m going to continue paying people to exploit and kill animals on my behalf.

An issue doesn’t have to be the highest priority in your life or in your activism for you to do what you can in your daily life to minimize harm and live your values, without detracting from whatever else it is you do in life (and in non-animal activism). If you truly oppose something, you seek to not participate in it. If you believe in an ideal such as nonviolence, you don’t actively, daily make choices that stand in direct contrast to that belief. It’s not a choice of (a) devote yourself completely to activism against the injustice or (b) be a participant in the injustice. If you love animals, you don’t kill animals. If you respect animals, you don’t torment animals, emotionally, mentally, or physically. If you believe in nonviolence, you don’t engage in violence. And choosing to eat animals and animal products is to participate in torment, to participate in violence.

The mother cow at the dairy operation who bellows for her stolen babies, year after year; the newborn who cries out for his mother as he’s dragged on wobbly legs, terrified, toward the slaughterhouse; the pig who screams through his mutilation; the chickens, the goats, the sheep, the turkeys — all the animals on whom we  impose suffering and terror and whom we kill so casually when they want so desperately to live — they don’t suffer and die for the farmer, for the slaughterhouse owner, for the food companies, for the grocery stores. They suffer and die for you if you’re still eating the bodies and fluids and eggs of animals. They suffer through life and die horrific, brutal deaths because although you have said to the world, “I believe in nonviolence. I believe in compassion. I love animals,” and although you have said of the dog or cat next to you, “I love her like she’s my baby,” you have at the same time said to the farmer, to the slaughterhouse, to the food companies,  “If you will take these other animals just like this dog, and you will tear them away from their families, and you will rape them, and you will mutilate them, and you will shoot them in the head and slit their throats and peel off their skin and pull out their feathers and hack off their heads and their limbs, I will gladly pay you to do it.”

This is a statement you make with every meal, with every chew of animal flesh, with every bite of cheese and eggs. Going vegan isn’t effortless. There are truths — and foods — to learn about. If you have a desire or need for community, there are Web sites, organizations, and groups (local and virtual) to explore. But the information and community both are easy to find, and the upfront time and effort required are minimal in the big picture, especially when compared with the rewards. Besides, since when is temporary inconvenience or effort an excuse to participate in any brutal, exploitative, violent, and unnecessary system for nothing more than selfish pleasure? We don’t have to brutalize and kill to be healthy and happy. We have a choice.

For whatever it’s worth, a lot of people who don’t think of themselves as activists or who don’t think they’d feel comfortable in that role do become activists, of one sort or another, after going vegan, just as a byproduct of the process — the more you learn, the more you want to share that information with those you care about, for their sake as well as for the sake of the fellow animals whom we victimize. But even if that’s not you, even if you never write a letter to the editor or directly rescue an animal or hold up a sign or organize a boycott or even talk in much detail about your choices to your friends and family, you can do the bare minimum — you can remove yourself from the cycle. You can not only speak but live a belief in nonviolence, animal rights activist or not.

97 Comments leave one →
  1. April 15, 2010 9:56 pm

    well said!

  2. April 15, 2010 10:02 pm

    I am not a writer and you put into this essay what I feel. I hope you are going to post this on Facebook so that we can share this more people. Thanks.

  3. April 15, 2010 11:15 pm

    I. Love. This.

    Seriously. Sometimes I can’t believe how well you put thoughts into words. Fantastic.

  4. April 16, 2010 12:28 am

    Well said, as always. Activism, to me, simply means actively living your beliefs. I believe in non-violence, so I choose to control my temper. I believe in understanding, so I choose to listen to all other points of views in conversation. I believe in compassion, so I choose to treat all beings with kindness.

    As you said, when you go vegan, once you meet other vegans, discover the wonderful community that is out there, once you learn about what goes on behind the scenes, you naturally want to share & talk about it. There are some extremely vocal (and sometimes frightening!) vegans out there that set the stereotype for all vegans, but the majority of us live our lives as best we can, the way we see appropriate, and try our best to lead by example.

  5. April 16, 2010 12:53 am

    AMAZING! I have so many friends who are ‘animal lovers’ yet see nothing wrong with eating cheese or chicken. It breaks my heart. The hypocrisy is even more glaring when our local animal rescue society holds bake sales or barbecues to raise money for the cute puppies and kitties. Yep, raising money for a few species by selling the tortured and murdered remains of others.

  6. Joy Ramos permalink
    April 16, 2010 3:12 am

    Awesome writing Stephanie. I agree totally with you. Keep informing and educating through your words…Thank you

  7. April 16, 2010 4:07 am

    I very rarely miss reading any of your essays, Stephanie, and though I’m always impressed with your ability to articulate what I (and apparently a lot of others) think and feel but so often have difficulty expressing in words, I’ve never left you a comment saying so. (Talk about being a “behind-the-scenes” type! lol) But I find this essay especially eloquent, and it so profoundly resonated with me, I would be remiss not to add my voice to the others who have said, “Bravo!” Such brilliant writing that so obviously comes straight from your expansive, compassionate heart. Thank you.

  8. April 16, 2010 8:49 am

    Wow. Excellent post! Very well said!

  9. April 16, 2010 8:55 am

    This entry is effin awesome. Thanks!

  10. April 16, 2010 9:11 am

    It’s amazing how many people use the “it’s so hard!” excuse for their reason not to go vegan. It is NOT hard. It’s easy, enjoyable, fun … all those great descriptive words. You meet some amazing people, eat incredibly amazing food, and lend your voice to fight (however inactively) against the oppression and consumption of animals.

    My sister-in-law claims she could never give up cheese. (Personally, I don’t miss it one bit!) This is a person who claims to love animals, yet never properly cares for any animal she brings into her home. They’re possessions, something she can hold up and say, “Look at my cute *insert animal here*!” Meanwhile, the dog never gets potty trained, so it finds a new home on Craigslist; the guinea pigs she bought for her son for his birthday never get their cage cleaned or get much personal attention, and so live in their own waste. And don’t even get me started on the bunnies that my in-laws breed for shows…

    Anyway, that’s my mini rant. Thank you so much so such a great article! I’ll probably read it multiple times. :-)

  11. April 16, 2010 10:34 am

    awesome. I loved this.

  12. April 16, 2010 11:41 am

    Very well said, Stephanie.

  13. April 16, 2010 12:22 pm

    Beautiful!
    Seriously, well written…as always.
    No matter what anyone says…
    We can all be a sanctuary for non human animals by going and living vegan.

    http://vegansanctuary.blogspot.com/2009/09/be-sanctuary_10.html

    Thanks for your post and your blog.

  14. Pants permalink
    April 16, 2010 1:02 pm

    I guess the difference between animal abuse and your racism/sexism/homophobia examples is that people aren’t directly confronted with the consequences of their moral choices. Like child labor that produces cheap shoes — people have no problem buying them as long as they don’t actually see how they’re produced.

    I’m reminded of the Radiolab episode where they present the thought experiment of seeing a little girl drowning — no one would let a child die in front of them — versus doing something to save the life of the same little girl if she were, say, starving to death in some other country.

    Humans are capable of astounding moral blindness.

  15. Amy Clare permalink
    April 16, 2010 1:27 pm

    Thank you for this post – very articulate and spot on!

    Many people who are vegan cannot engage in activism because of disability (myself included)… so this is a great reminder of how going vegan is in itself a substantial thing to do to help end violence toward animals.

  16. April 16, 2010 4:04 pm

    What a bunch of ethnocentric, anthropocentric modern cultural condescension. I support people being vegetarian or vegan. But the self-righteous attitude and logical incoherency of some of what is written above…just plain sucks.

    First about me: I am a vocal animal rights activist. And I eat meat. Not a lot of meat, and I have strict rules for myself: I don’t eat if I don’t know how the animal was raised, treated and slaughtered. My one exception is with items that will be discarded (e.g., my roommates leftover pizza).

    Second, about strategy: Let’s talk “incremental progress.” Personally, I would LOVE (and strive) to see the end of ALL industrial meat production and industrial “animal husbandry/domestication.” Because I think it is inherently unjust. But we don’t get there overnight, and we don’t do it by lecturing people about how we are so much more just than they are. Let’s celebrate when a self-professed “carnivore” starts only eating meat twice, then once, a day. That is a huge improvement! And it is an ongoing process that we need to nurture and support, not pound, into people. I encourage people who eat eggs to by cage-free, free-range, not to stop eating eggs.

    I agree with much of what was written:

    “If you truly oppose something, you seek to not participate in it.” Agreed.

    “If you believe in an ideal such as nonviolence, you don’t actively, daily make choices that stand in direct contrast to that belief.” Agreed.

    “It’s not a choice of (a) devote yourself completely to activism against the injustice or (b) be a participant in the injustice.” Disagreed, somewhat. Can’t stay neutral on a moving train. If we aren’t “active” to some extent, our “passivity” supports the unjust status quo!

    “If you love animals, you don’t kill animals.” If you love plants, you don’t kill plants. If you love fungi, you don’t kill fungi. Have fun with your “level 5″ vegan diet!

    “If you respect animals, you don’t torment animals, emotionally, mentally, or physically.” Agreed completely. Vegans and vegetarians don’t have a monopoly on this, though.

    “If you believe in nonviolence, you don’t engage in violence.” The motives for killing an animal for food needn’t be “violent.”

    “And choosing to eat animals and animal products is to participate in torment, to participate in violence.” Not necessarily. Again, vegans and vegetarians don’t have a monopoly on this issue. In fact, vegans and vegetarians often rely heavily on a soy-based diet, which has significant negative environmental impacts.

    The basic idea is that we can — and must — learn to respect what we eat, whatever we eat. We need to give thanks for everything that gives its life to feed us. The industrial system does not allow us to do that — for anything that ends up becoming food. Hunting and fishing does.

    Another implication is that vegans participate in the “torment…emotionally, mentally, or physically” of everything that they DO eat…and just conveniently ignore it because it’s not specifically related to animals. So any vegan that supports this line of reasoning is basically accusing themselves of vast injustices against the fungi, microfauna and flora of this world. Ironically, all of these things that vegans do “oppress” are more important to the sustaining of life on this planet than are the animals. Photosynthesis is more important than chemosynthesis. In the same way a lot of men don’t want to admit that women — on a biological level — are more valuable to our species than men.

    “We don’t have to brutalize and kill to be healthy and happy.”

    We don’t have to “brutalize” — but we DO have to kill. Animal, vegetable, fungi, microfauna. Something. Are the birds of prey oppressors? What about the wolves and coyotes? Lions? Tigers? Bears? The line of reasoning above is a judgment against them, and stems from a mixture of cultural hubris and ecological naivety. Read about wolves and Yellowstone:
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070726150904.htm

    So let’s work together to transform this industrial culture of injustice. And give thanks for the spinach that gives its life to nourish us :)

    We all serve a larger purpose. Some day, there could be another species that eats humans. And I would hope that they do it with more respect and care than we currently do.

    • January 9, 2012 11:08 am

      My goodness, what a lot of rhetoric where one sentence would suffice, “My desires are paramount to theirs.”

      Vegans don’t kill where it is possible to not kill. Non-vegans continue the cycle of violence by their mere existence. That’s the bottom line. Actions speak louder than words, always will. We are animal advocates. Welfarism exists only to comfort guilt-ridden non-vegans; abolition is the only way that we will overcome the injustices perpetrated against animals, and all of the justification in the world (comparisons with other species’ activities, comparing killing a mushroom to killing a lamb etc) is meaningless fluff. If a person shows no respect to other species, they deserve none from vegans whose purpose is to stamp out the atrocities and free the animals from human subjugation.

    • Jelliet permalink
      January 28, 2012 8:13 pm

      “First about me: I am a vocal animal rights activist. And I eat meat. Not a lot of meat, and I have strict rules for myself: I don’t eat if I don’t know how the animal was raised, treated and slaughtered”

      Then you are someone who is moderately concerned with animal welfare. Animal rights involves acknowledging their right to live. And an activist is someone who actively fights for their rights to live, not someone who says “stab them in the throat more nicely, please”.

      Animal rights also involves understanding that they have motivators and rights outside of our desire to kill them for pleasure. The rest of your post seemed to contradict that basic tenet.

  17. Alexandra Jones permalink
    April 16, 2010 6:17 pm

    Hi Ethan,

    you wrote:

    “The basic idea is that we can — and must — learn to respect what we eat, whatever we eat. We need to give thanks for everything that gives its life to feed us. The industrial system does not allow us to do that — for anything that ends up becoming food.”

    Do you believe that plants are sentient in the same way that animals are? Or do you not believe that animals are sentient? I’m asking out of curiosity, as I am really having a hard time wrapping my head around your position.

    I believe the sentience of beings such as human and non-human animals places them in a different moral category than non-sentient living things such as plants, and that non-human animals have a moral personhood that plants do not. You seem to lump all living beings into the same undifferentiated category, morally speaking.

    Does this mean that humans, too, could be considered food, at least so long as you had sufficient information on how that human had been raised, treated and slaughtered? I’m assuming that you wouldn’t, so I’m wondering where you draw the line.

    • April 17, 2010 12:13 pm

      Hi Alexandra,

      I think most animals consider their own species food when the situation becomes dire.

      Of course I don’t think “plants are sentient the same way animals are.” Then they would be animals, not plants.

      Whether or not a living thing is “sentient” I think is an arbitrary distinction we make about whether we have to behave respectfully with it.

      I do think humans can — and should be considered food. Most species consider their own food when the situation becomes dire enough: black widows in a jar will eat one another. A member of an arctic indigenous tribe will sacrifice themselves so the tribe may eat in a hard winter.

      Thanks for that question — I think it gets to the core of a lot of the angst around whether humans should eat meat. The only “special” thing about us is that there is no large, singular species that preys on us right now on a regular basis. Though plenty of smaller animals and microfauna have no problem picking our bones clean, or eating us on a cellular level (bacteria).

      Baking bread and drinking wine causes the death of countless yeast that were raised in a domesticated situation specifically for us to eat them. Is it OK for us to do this so thoughtlessly just because they don’t fit our narrow and convenient definition of “sentience?” I don’t think so.

      That’s when we get around to the point of discussing a spiritual framework that integrates our thanks and respect to others for giving their lives to feed us.

      • April 21, 2010 7:51 am

        ozob,

        Sentience isn’t arbitrary because the capacity to suffer (i.e. sentience) is a necessary and sufficient condition for having interests in the sense of I am capable of caring what happens to me. In other words, what I do to a sentient being matters to that sentient being.

        What follows from this is the moral question: Do those interests, then, mean I am obligated to take them into consideration when I act? The answer is yes unless you can cite a morally relevant reason not to. Using a deer or a cow or a bird for food, unless the situation is truly “burning house”, cannot rationally be said to have taken those animals’ interests (namely, in living and not suffering) into consideration.

        Now, given that the overwhelming evidence suggests that plants, bacteria, and so on, are not sentient, these things do not have interests. It follows that the moral calculation is different than before. A plant does not care because it cannot care what I do to it, strictly speaking. So, because we can live healthily as vegans (according to the ADA), we should replace all animal foods with plant foods because only then are we truly considering the interests of animals.

        So, your rant above avoids the crux, and introduces some new rather strange premise about “spirituality” into the discussion that cannot be rationally discussed.

        Finally, Stephanie’s line of reasoning does not “pass judgment” on a bird of prey who kills another animal because, again, the overwhelming evidence suggests that that bird of prey is NOT a moral agent. Therefore, like children, and mentally handicapped people, and so on, it isn’t rational to challenge their behavior on moral grounds. A three year old doesn’t act morally, or immorally, because she hasn’t developed the cognitive capacities, the language of morality, etc. to understand a moral constraint. And the same is true of say, a lion, or a wolf, or a spider who eats another animal or insect.

  18. April 16, 2010 10:01 pm

    BRAVO! Well done!

  19. April 16, 2010 10:07 pm

    Ethan – “First about me: I am a vocal animal rights activist. And I eat meat.” You totally lost me. What on earth do you think animal “rights” are?

    Stephanie – Thank you for an articulate and thought provoking piece – You out did yourself on this one… Well done for sure!

    • April 17, 2010 12:16 pm

      Hi Bea,

      The basic right is to be free from arbitrary treatment and disrespect. That’s all the rights that I believe anyone or anything has.

      Humans seem to think we have an arbitrary right to life, which is ridiculous. And then we arbitrarily impose that ridiculous standard upon a few select other species that happen to resemble us more than others on this planet.

      • April 18, 2010 7:37 am

        Ethan/ozbo – Please define “arbitrary” and exactly what is “disrespect” to Others?

        By golly… We’ll get to the root of it inch by inch.

      • April 21, 2010 7:58 am

        Ethan,

        Your account of rights is clearly imbued with privilege. Alter and contextualize your example slightly and you have a perfect “justification” for slavery and colonialism. “Enlightenment” thinkers clearly argued that they ARE “respecting” the colonized, and they wouldn’t call it arbitrary because it, theoretically and rhetorically, served a grand end. And that end is liberal progress (i.e. we are de-“savagizing” the savages and bringing them into modernity). That is inherently “respectful” and not “arbitrary” right?

        Remove the privilege from your account of “rights” and you’ll see that it is always and necessarily the dominant who establishes the standard for what is “respect” and “arbitrary” treatment.

  20. Amy Clare permalink
    April 17, 2010 4:24 am

    Ethan:

    Please explain:

    *The circumstances under which the killing of an animal can be considered non-violent. Can the killing of a human being against their will ever be said to be non-violent?

    *Why you think that killing and eating plants/fungi is an ‘injustice’, when they lack a nervous system and/or brain, causing them to be oblivious to pain and rendering them incapable of valuing their lives – unlike animals;

    *How you can justify blaming vegans for killing and ‘oppressing’ plants, when a meat eater’s diet actually involves the death of more plant matter than a vegan diet (when you take into account plants fed to animals);

    *How you can justify blaming vegans for the environmental devastation caused by soy farms, when the majority of the world’s soy is used as animal feed;

    *How you can say that animals ‘give their lives’ to feed you, implying willingness on the part of the animal, when all evidence shows that they’d rather live than die to be your dinner (and that the animal doesn’t give a fig whether you hunt it or kill it in an abbatoir, it still wants to live!);

    *How you can justify likening human meat-eaters to wild animals such as lions, tigers, wolves etc, when a) these animals lack the ability to morally judge what they are doing, whereas humans have this ability, b) even if they could judge it, they’d still be forced to kill and eat other animals because if they didn’t they would die, whereas the vast majority of human beings can survive and thrive on a vegan diet.

    *How you can scoff at Stephanie’s post and call it ‘ethnocentric’ and ‘modern cultural condescension’ when a) a vegan diet, adopted in the developed world at the very least , would actually free up much more land to be used to grow plant crops to feed humans, which could then be used to alleviate a large part of the hunger in developing worlds, and b) a vegan diet, all things taken into consideration, has a much lower carbon footprint than an omni diet, thus being kinder overall to beings *all over the world*.

    I look forward to your excuses – sorry, I mean ‘reasons’.

    • April 17, 2010 12:51 pm

      Amy — I deal with this desperate line of whining to overcome cognitive dissonance and regain a sense of moral superiority — sorry, i mean, “discussion,” below and on my blog.

      For the future, can we keep the snarky comments to a minimum?

      Re: last bullet point, a and b — have you studied western colonial oppression? My guess is no, or you’d be more inclined to see that the mode of interaction you are proposing is simply a modernized version of that atrocious, paternal history.

      It seems like you want life in the absence of pain, whereas life is intrinsically painful, and will only be moreso until we accept that fact.

      Someday something might kill us regularly for food. Which means we will end up “giving ourselves” as well. It is a spiritual way of handling that pain. It’s not “unnatural” nor is it inherently oppressive. Whether it is oppressive depends on how it happens, not on whether it happens.

      • Amy Clare permalink
        April 17, 2010 1:38 pm

        Sorry, I thought snarky comments were fine by you, seeing as you started your first comment with the following:

        “What a bunch of ethnocentric, anthropocentric modern cultural condescension. I support people being vegetarian or vegan. But the self-righteous attitude and logical incoherency of some of what is written above…just plain sucks.”

        Pretty confrontational I thought, not to mention rude. But anyway.

        “Re: last bullet point, a and b — have you studied western colonial oppression? My guess is no, or you’d be more inclined to see that the mode of interaction you are proposing is simply a modernized version of that atrocious, paternal history.”

        Can you please clarify? Are you disputing that land used currently to keep the developed Western world in meat/dairy could be used to produce plant food that people in the developed world could eat, or are you disputing that a vegan diet has a lower carbon footprint than an omni diet? Or are you disputing that climate change disproportionately affects the developing world? All you seem to be doing is obfuscating.

        “It seems like you want life in the absence of pain, whereas life is intrinsically painful, and will only be moreso until we accept that fact.”

        Oh, okay then. By that logic, I can go out and punch people in the face at random whenever I like, or hell, even torture and kill them, because ‘life is intrinsically painful’. Please don’t insult my intelligence. Justifying causing unnecessary suffering to a sentient being by simply shrugging your shoulders and saying ‘hey man, life is intrinsically painful’ is an utterly morally bankrupt argument that frankly makes me feel quite ill.

        “Someday something might kill us regularly for food. Which means we will end up “giving ourselves” as well. It is a spiritual way of handling that pain. It’s not “unnatural” nor is it inherently oppressive.”

        I can’t imagine myself ever willingly dying to provide another species with a meal. Are you seriously suggesting that if highly intelligent aliens descended on our planet, then enslaved, imprisoned and ate humans – when they could happily eat something else – you’d be fine with that? You wouldn’t struggle to prolong your own life? You wouldn’t want to be free of pain? I certainly would, and I’d feel pretty damned oppressed to boot.

        “Amy – The idea that we don’t have to simply because something isn’t “enough like us” demonstrates the stunning attitude of anthropocentricity and lack of hubris that is commonplace in our culture.”

        You haven’t responded to my point that plants/fungi are not capable of feeling pain and valuing their lives (neither is yeast, for that matter), which are the relevant characteristics when deciding whether it is morally acceptable to cause unnecessary pain to, or end the life of, a being. Do you dispute this?

        “That is something I don’t like about the morally superior stance that vegans often take: It’s like you’re pretending that you’ve found some moral panacea and no longer have to question yourselves or the inherent privilege that humans have, as well as its implications.”

        This, quite bluntly, is your problem. It seems your response to veganism is an emotional one (‘those vegans, they think they’re so great’) rather than a rational one. I don’t know one vegan who thinks they need to stop trying to live more compassionately – and for most vegans, their reasons for their diet are very simple. Do I approve of causing unnecessary suffering and death to beings who can suffer and value their lives? No. Therefore I’ll stop contributing my money to organisations that do this. Simple.

        Moreover, I don’t know of any group more aware of human privilege than vegans.

        “As long as we are all part of this modern, industrial culture, we will be a part of continuing oppression against fellow humans and other aspects of the natural world. Veganism doesn’t magically make anyone more than partially exempt from that. But taking such an absolutist stances inevitably results in defensiveness and cognitive dissonance, and is often a cover to hide other ways in which we oppress.”

        Again, where are these vegans you are talking about, who think they are exempt from caring about either other forms of oppression, or the natural world? You can see just from reading this blog alone that the authors care about other forms of oppression alongside speciesism. Who is claiming magical exemption? Who is using veganism to hide their oppression of others?

        You’re attacking a straw vegan.

      • April 17, 2010 1:40 pm

        @Amy: I love you.

    • April 18, 2010 7:32 am

      @Amy – Thank you!

      • Jelliet permalink
        January 28, 2012 8:17 pm

        “You’re attacking a straw vegan.”

        Best. Thing. Ever.

  21. Hans permalink
    April 17, 2010 7:54 am

    Ethan raises a good point, although he lost me when he went down the “killing fungi“-path (Amy already took him to school for the rest of his arguments). Equating the murder of an animal with eating veggies is just … well … not very thought out.
    It is condescending and myopic though to lump into the same box people who eat industrial meat and those who eat organic eggs and other non-meat stuff.
    There a legions of choices people can make that are by far better than not caring at all! Your choice of lifestyle is laudable but your attitude remains quite solipsistic.
    Anybody who cares for animals should applaud those who move into the right direction, even if that means eating less meat, buying organic dairy instead of industrial products or whatever incremental step towards making compassionate food choices it might be.
    Your argument comes across as being more about moral purity (and your position at the apex of it) than about any subject matter (be it animal rights or anything else).

    That being said, I do believe that a vegan lifestyle is morally superior. But just not for everybody. Also because moral superiority is just not everybody’s goal.

    • April 21, 2010 8:06 am

      Hans,

      Re-read the original argument. If you read Stephanie’s argument even cursory you should be able to understand the reasoning: veganism isn’t about “moral superiority”; IT IS about logical and moral consistency. The principles most of us share about the moral badness of causing harm and death logically conclude that veganism is the moral baseline. Similarly, it isn’t “morally superior” NOT to rape all the time; that would be logically and morally consistent. Whereas the sometimes rapist who simultaneously believes in “human rights” isn’t being consistent.

      The moral subjectivity built into your counter argument here would suggest that the anti-racist and racist are on equally stable moral grounds because both are equally subjective. Likewise with the anti-sexist and sexist. But you don’t mean that do you? Therefore, you need to defend why the moral argument for veganism is subjective while the moral argument for anti-racism, and so on, is objective.

  22. April 17, 2010 9:09 am

    Amy great point: *How you can justify blaming vegans for the environmental devastation caused by soy farms, when the majority of the world’s soy is used as animal feed;

    And that also makes me ask anyone who points out the “soy thing” to me that there are plenty of people (vegan & non-vegan) who don’t/can’t eat soy because of allergies. So how does that argument relate to vegans with a soy allergy? Do you start going through all the different types of “milk” you know before you hit on one that causes the requisite amount of environmental damage for your argument? I don’t eat oranges (I just don’t like them!) so can/should I be blamed for bad economic times in Florida? It sounds ridiculous because this type of argument is.

    Ethan – “First about me: I am a vocal animal rights activist. And I eat meat.”
    Bea – You totally lost me. What on earth do you think animal “rights” are?
    ME – try this one on: “I am a vocal womens’ rights activist. And I eat women.” Perhaps, Ethan, you believe in Animal Welfare instead?

    • April 17, 2010 12:41 pm

      Hi Valley Vegan,

      “ME – try this one on: “I am a vocal womens’ rights activist. And I eat women.” Perhaps, Ethan, you believe in Animal Welfare instead?”

      Maybe, what we call it is arbitrary, so long as it accurately signifies my position. Your comparison is logically specious. I deal with that in a reply on my blog post. Animal rights as implied by your discussion is about eating. Women’s rights is not about men eating women, but how men relate to women.

      The logically consistent comparison would be to have all men to stop relating to women since it so often just ends up in oppression.

      The thing about oppression is it is tightly coupled to privilege. That’s an aspect of my argument about the oppression of plants — it’s not whether we are killing them, it is the thoughtless, disprectful and casual manner in which we do it. Those of us that oppress often do so simply because we are unaware, and becoming aware is almost invariably a painful process. Human privilege means that we don’t have to think twice about plucking our lettuce or mushrooms out of the ground. We still should, though.

      Amy – The idea that we don’t have to simply because something isn’t “enough like us” demonstrates the stunning attitude of anthropocentricity and lack of hubris that is commonplace in our culture.

      That is something I don’t like about the morally superior stance that vegans often take: It’s like you’re pretending that you’ve found some moral panacea and no longer have to question yourselves or the inherent privilege that humans have, as well as its implications. As long as we are all part of this modern, industrial culture, we will be a part of continuing oppression against fellow humans and other aspects of the natural world. Veganism doesn’t magically make anyone more than partially exempt from that. But taking such an absolutist stances inevitably results in defensiveness and cognitive dissonance, and is often a cover to hide other ways in which we oppress.

      It’s the same problem with the prevalence of racism amongst political liberals: For the most part, it’s there, but we deny it at every turn. We’ve already taken the “morally superior” stance and so have convinced ourselves that we couldn’t *possibly* be racist, or said something racist, or just had a racist thought.

      • April 17, 2010 1:48 pm

        ozob – “That is something I don’t like about the morally superior stance that vegans often take: It’s like you’re pretending that you’ve found some moral panacea and no longer have to question yourselves or the inherent privilege that humans have, as well as its implications.”

        I don’t feel morally superior to anyone – nor have I ever said that. I make decisions for ME and me alone. There are, I’m sure, many vegans who will say “I am right” but I am not one of them. This is a process of learning, and that process has led me to the decision not to eat animals. Where will it lead me next? I don’t know. I don’t pretend to know.

        But my personal decision is based on the consideration of brainstems in the things I eat. Maybe I’m a horrible person who does not lump “all” living things into the same category as animals, there are vegetables & minerals to consider and believe me, I don’t feel any pity for the cuts made to diamonds to make them prettier for jewelry. Plants don’t have brains, whether or not they “feel” pain in the same way that we do is difficult to prove since scientists seem to be basing this on the excretion of chemicals rather than nerve messages.

        Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that although I am thankful to the plants that give me their fruits, roots, leaves, stems & seeds, I feel no guilt toward them. Morally superior? No. Just practical. A girl’s gotta eat – and plants are it.

        As for animal welfare vs. animal rights… most veg*ns find that one or the other more precisely aligns with their personal beliefs. They are VERY different viewpoints.

  23. April 17, 2010 1:21 pm

    if anyone wants to continue the discussion w/me, please do so @ my blog!

    i just wanted to provoke some discussion and see if we could get to some of the root causes of oppression and injustice, which i believe lies not only in what we do, but how we do it, and is tightly wound into modern, western culture. changing diet does not necessarily change that fact.

    • April 17, 2010 1:33 pm

      I don’t have the time this weekend to respond to Ethan/ozob’s remarkably disjointed, self-justifying, condescending arguments, but those who wish to are welcome to keep engaging here, regardless of Ethan’s attempt to redirect traffic to his blog.

    • April 21, 2010 8:22 am

      ozob,

      “[C]hanging diet does not necessarily change that fact.” Correct. Not being a racist to my next door neighbor doesn’t necessarily change the fact that racism and oppression still exist. I eagerly await your next irrelevant point.

    • April 30, 2012 3:06 am

      Wow, ethan/ozob,

      First, you tell everyone that you are an animal rights activist who eats meat? That is really meaningless. It is like saying “I’m a human rights activist. I eat humans because they are tasty. However, I do make sure the humans I eat had an excellent childhood!”

      Then, you are directing traffic to your blog!

  24. April 17, 2010 1:42 pm

    Thanks for all the thoughtful comments and discussion (and kind compliments), folks. I’m apparently terrible at predicting which posts will resonate and which won’t — I certainly didn’t expect so many reactions to this one!

  25. Trish permalink
    April 17, 2010 7:50 pm

    Great post, Stephanie!

  26. April 17, 2010 10:30 pm

    A vegan can be a person who loves animals. A vegan can also be a person who does NOT love animals. He or she is simply a vegan for personal ethical reasons. It has nothing to do with love. It has to do more for selfless reasons.

    However, a person who says they love animals but have not even considered about going vegan, usually only loves certain kinds of animals because they’re cute or familiar, and certain other kinds of animals because they’re tasty or useful. This too has nothing to do with love either. It has to do more for selfish reasons.

  27. Lore permalink
    April 17, 2010 11:28 pm

    Exceptional post Stephanie!

  28. misanthropope permalink
    April 18, 2010 1:42 am

    and if animals were people, your analogies would have merit.

    basically your entire argument rests on representing the word “love” as though it had only one meaning.

    are you really suggesting there is something hypocritical about loving dogs more than cows? how about loving your kid more than the neighbor’s kid?

    the world just isn’t that black and white, and if you don’t see nuance you aren’t fit to lecture.

  29. Amy Clare permalink
    April 18, 2010 2:51 am

    Misanthrope: I think the point of the post was that some people say ‘I love animals’, and then proceed to eat some of them; and that this is contradictory. It’s not just a matter of preferring to spend your time with one species over another – it’s that judging by some people’s behaviour, one species are apparently deserving of being tortured and killed, and another protected and loved – and at the same time, these people are saying ‘I love animals’. The hypocrisy is loud and clear, to me at least.

    You don’t have to ‘love’ a being in order to consider it to be morally wrong to cause it to suffer and/or die (I don’t love all humans, but I want all humans to have certain rights), but if you are going to *claim* that you love animals, wanting them to have certain rights is surely part of that?

    Stephanie: Thanks!! :oD

  30. Christina permalink
    April 18, 2010 10:10 am

    I agree completely with Ethan above. Industrial farming is the evil here, not meat/animal byproducts as a whole. Humans and other animals have been eating each other since the dawn of time, it’s completely natural. And if veganism were the diet we were meant to follow, vegans wouldn’t need nutritional supplements to stay healthy. And yes, some are fine, but I have known a couple vegans who had to backtrack to vegetarianism because of negative effects to their system. So it’s not fair to say “you must be vegan or you are as bad as the guy who eats veal 3 times a day.” Again, Ethan is right, that’s what turns off moderates–and even some liberals–to the concept all the time. What we DO need to do is stop these cruel farming practices. That starts with teaching people to respect the sacrifice that the animal on their plate has made so that they may live another day.

    • April 18, 2010 10:30 am

      The evil according to whom? Do you think the animals mutilated and brutally slaughtered in what you feel better calling humane operations would agree that what happens to them is happy? Humane?

      Humans have been killing and raping each other since the dawn of time too. The “it’s natural; we’ve always done it” argument is hardly a strong one.

      And, um, how many non-vegans have to take supplements or loads of medications to (try to) stay healthy and counteract the damage done to their bodies by animal products? Show me a world where the overwhelming majority of people on omnivorous diets are in picture-perfect health, rather than slowly killing themselves by eating animals, and then I’ll take this argument seriously.

      And you’re assuming, Christina, that “cruel farming practices” are limited to “industrialized” farming. And you’re wrong. Go talk to some rescuers and farm sanctuary workers. Ask them to tell you what they’ve seen on “humane” family farms. Most of the worst things we do to animals, physically and emotionally, happen on all farms — including, obviously, the brutal unnecessary killing.

      Finally, please-oh-please leave the absurd “sacrifice” language out of this discussion. Animals don’t sacrifice themselves. We kill them.

    • April 21, 2010 8:13 am

      “Humans and other animals have been eating each other since the dawn of time, it’s completely natural.”

      “Was there ever any domination that did not appear natural to those who possessed it?” -John Stuart Mill

      And too… Since your justification lies in what is “natural” – I’m looking at the animal kingdom and almost every male is brightly plumed and colorfully adorned. Much more so than his female counterpart. I propose that if we want to be “natural” – Women ought to follow nature’s step and reserve her clothing to drab greys and browns – Leaving the flamboyant array to the men! She also ought not to color her face or nails either — But certainly the men would be obligated to do so… Following what is “natural”.

      You see, we can pick and choose what is “natural” or not – according to what suits our desires. If we can do it with picking female humans as the “lookers”… Then by golly we can do it with leaving animals off our plates. ;)

  31. April 18, 2010 3:03 pm

    Love this post, Stephanie, and I love everyone’s brilliant takedowns. I don’t have anything to add, b/c y’all have done such a damn good job of reinforcing our position! I’ll just go eat some spicy tempeh enchiladas in celebration. :)

  32. April 18, 2010 3:31 pm

    hi,
    i stumbled upon this article via a vegan friend’s fb page. i am interested in the idea of veganism in relation to anti-oppression. where i went to college, there was a definite cultural rift between the (mostly white) vegans and the leftist queers and people of color. many of us found ourselves caught in between. i read your article in hopes of finding a healing future to that rift.

    unfortunately, what you said really reinforces the rift in my mind. the analysis of anti-racism/homophobia/misogyny work as being analogous to anti-animal cruelty really strikes me as an over-simplification of the issues at hand. i had a really difficult time reading the rest of your article after that. we get into rocky territory when we flatten what oppression means amongst different groups–human or otherwise. rather than outlining a convincing argument toward veganism, this analogy was very alienating to me as a queer person of color.

    i wish it were not so. as much as i politically support veganism, continued discourse like this makes it seem like a by-product of whiteness (or even straightness, sometimes) and i have difficulty aligning myself with a movement that seems to be primarily white. because looking at animal cruelty as somehow being almost the same as racism–say–misses and over-simplifies other cruelties related to food aside from animal cruelty: labor injustice, first-world exploitation of third-world land, the fact that the type of food that many american people of color have economic access to is overwhelmingly fortified with animal products, etc. until that can be reconciled, i do not see a hope for large-scale change in the near future. we need to parse our oppressions carefully, lest we gloss over how each type of oppression has its own specific idiosyncrasies, causes, and solutions.

    • April 18, 2010 3:48 pm

      Hi, kt. This particular post wasn’t intended to be a detailed analysis of overlaps or similarities in various oppressions. I was indeed trying to keep things simple to make this particular post’s points; I’m sorry that the analogies I used to show the logical problems struck you as mere oversimplification.

      Does your remark that you only “politically” support veganism mean that you are not in practice a vegan? If so, you seem to be saying that you’re not vegan simply because you don’t like certain other vegans or their approach, and I find that troublesome.

      Neither I nor others at this blog ignore the other injustices related to food production; those issues have been the subjects of other writings by the various bloggers, here and elsewhere. That they weren’t the focus of this narrow post or that they aren’t the focus of every post doesn’t mean they’re not considered and discussed. And for whatever it’s worth, as white as I may be, the assumption that I’m coming at this from a straight person’s POV is a mistaken one.

  33. April 19, 2010 2:46 am

    Like I stated earlier Stephanie…this is a great well written post. However, I feel your readers may have been duped by Ethan/Ozobo…He is obviously being sarcastic and its perfectly clear he does not really mean any of the nonsense he’s attempting to claim. He’s pretending to be a vegan/animal rights person and attempting to be funny.
    Nothing he wrote makes sense…..except the semi satirical quality to his writing style.

  34. April 19, 2010 3:43 am

    I wholeheartedly believe in violence. But only against humans.

  35. April 19, 2010 11:58 am

    This article makes the general “NON VEGAN” or NON VEGETARIAN seem like they are exactly on the same page as child molesters, or necrophilia fans…where it could and in most cases are simply conditioning from a young child who knows no different, nor cares to know any different. Someone who lives on the street for whatever reason, whether it be drugs, mental illness, etc etc..will eat whatever is placed in front of them to survive. If they are offered a ham sandwhich, they will undoubtedly take it will welcoming hands. Someone like myself was raised on a “Home Farm”. We raised our own chickens, beef, milk, cheese, vegetables..and grew up with a very healthy lifestyle. Today, I still search out free range chicken eggs, or organic milk, or family farm raised meat…does that make me a savage??? Vegetarianism or becoming vegan I have seen it turn people almost into religious fanatics who society then questions, and looks down upon…Theres, a fine line between supporting factory farming with every effort you have….or doing the best you can with what it available to you in your “Used to” everyday diet….which serves me just fine. As for the rest of you..fight your wars, scream your pledges to how everyone should live. You can fight for the atmosphere, the oceans health, oil reserves, war that is all around us,….I say pick your battles and fight them with all your heart..but don’t put down (Ie: The soldier in Afganistan) because he is enjoying the one luxury given to him on one day in a calendar month..which may be a steak. Stick to your own battles, and leave others out there to fight there’s. You never know, it may just save YOUR life…not just a one in a million chickens. Keep it clean, fair, and harmony will come from group efforts in all areas. NOT just one or your a useless bastard ruining the world.
    Love CAN, run in a circle…but cannot just stop in one simple place and expect it to solve all.
    Good day, and keep your head down. Ben.

    • April 21, 2010 8:15 am

      Ben,

      Was that like a “stream of consciousness” exercise where, through writing, you try to uncover perhaps some unconscious hatred, “daddy issues”, and the like, or a genuine argument?

  36. davedandelion permalink
    April 19, 2010 7:48 pm

    I’m not a particular fan of non-humans but I still can advocate on their behalf. I’ve also come to the conclusion that veganism is not a necessary component to be an advocate although many vegans would have you think that. Hypocritical? Maybe but humans are not robots and consistency is overrated. I’m with you ozob!

    • April 21, 2010 8:12 am

      davedandelion,

      I agree, consistency is overrated. When, for example, I meet someone who enjoys “gay bashing” on Sunday’s, but never any other day because it would be wrong to do it Monday-Saturday, or people who think that causing suffering to white people (not black people, and so on) is bad, I simply respond: Well, moral consistency is overrated, and you are not a robot Mr. Racist and “gay basher”, so I understand.

      • davedandelion permalink
        April 22, 2010 12:20 am

        Alex,

        Oh this is great, thank you.

        Any vegan apologists out there even wanna hazard an attempt to counter Alex’s example there? C’mon, just be like crazy man and try. If it helps, imagine the weirdest and craziest counter argument and try it. Think of it as an exercise. Let me see if any of you can discover the fallacious nature of veganism.

      • April 22, 2010 6:58 am

        Dave, I’m perplexed by your recent antagnostic and defensive comments — you’ve posted on this blog in the past from the perspective of someone who is a longtime vegan and who supports animal rights. Are your comments here serious?!

      • April 22, 2010 2:11 pm

        davedandelion,

        That was the most bizarre comment I’ve read in some time. I took YOUR logic on a very simple point and extended it to its extreme. You then ask for “vegan apologists” to counter my argument exposing YOUR reasoning as clearly flawed because it logically leads to silly conclusions?…. And then you end with “Let me see if any of you can discover the fallacious nature of veganism”. Was that like a simple add-on because you just learned the word “fallacious”?

      • davedandelion permalink
        April 22, 2010 8:38 pm

        Alex,

        Oh I know right? So weird. Thanks for your recap of my post but really you didn’t have to do that. Was saying “you just learned the word “fallacious”?” a jab at my intellect? Why would you say that? If you thought I was really stupid should you be so hostile to somebody for that? When I come upon somebody who is egregiously intellectually subpar on the internet I make it a rule of thumb not to engage them (much less taunt them) because that wouldn’t be constructive or nice. Maybe you can be nicer to people who just learned a new word and try to incorporate it in their everyday speech. Instead of trying to embarrass them.

      • davedandelion permalink
        April 22, 2010 9:02 pm

        Well anyway…

        Alex’s example illustrates the dichotomous and absolutist nature of veganism well. From this thinking Alex is either:

        1) an extreme misanthrope who hates most people (the ones who haven’t attained Alex’s personal level of veganocity)

        or

        2) is not being consistent themselves because who could be on such friendly terms with people who are analogous to gay bashers and racists?

        This is what the vegan attitude requires. It polarizes and obscures the goal behind the actions. Veganism has no philosophy, no idea. It is shallow and vapid. It’s fodder for “you are what you buy” and placates people into trivial self righteousness.

        Now I know that I’m saying this on a site that gives much weight to veganism for a cure-all to the ills of speciesism. For that I’ll be accused of being divisive, antagonistic, stupid etc etc so I’ll just cut it short so not to overstay my welcome. Go ahead and be vegan, I don’t think it’s detrimental OR helpful but that’s your perogative. Welfare, abolitionist, vegan whatever man. Fight amongst yourselves and I be over here doing my own thing…when I find it. De-converting from veganism is harder then going vegan in the first place! :)

      • April 22, 2010 9:29 pm

        Antagonistic? Yes. Stupid? No. What I see here is just sad and borderline-obnoxious, Dave. Going rapidly from a supposedly committed, active, longtime vegan to a defensive, antagonistic, anti-vegan doesn’t evidence stability or “thoughtfulness” as you claim.

        Keep attacking and mischaracterizing all you want, but the point of the analogies is just to show people the inconsistency that it’s so easy for them to overlook, given how ingrained speciesism is in our society. You won’t find demonization in this space. But honesty and attempts to draw connections and help people see disconnects are important.

        But in your self-justifying, flame-like comments in response here, you’ve done little more than attack and insinuate, with no evidence or alternatives to offer, and with no explanation of how eating animals is supposed to be somehow a positive thing for animals and animal rights. Your positions and comments come across as unstable in addition to illogical and vague.

        I don’t know you. Though I have suspicions, I don’t know why you went vegan in the first place or why you’ve become so virulently anti-vegan now. (This, for example, doesn’t help you: “I’m discovering other vegans have been coming to the same conclusion independently so I’m feeling like my stance is justifiable and stronger than ever.” This, combined with your bizarre, unsupported statement that somehow veganism–not killing and eating animals–is somehow not in line with those animals’ interests, makes you sound like someone far more concerned with fitting in with a certain group than someone who’s basing his decisions on ethics or logic.)

        What I do know is that until you have something of substance to add, with actual arguments, rather than comments that you seem to be making for no other purpose than to snipe at and inflame those who are still committed to living consistently and nonviolently, you can take those comments elsewhere.

      • April 22, 2010 10:42 pm

        The difference between racism and speciesism is that most people today understand the former and think its unethical. So there’s little excuse to be a racist. On the other hand there are plenty of excuses to be a speciesist (e.g simply being unaware of the issues). For this reason, I think its some what unfair to compare a (present day) racist with a speciesist.

        However a better analogy of speciesism is racism as practiced in the ancient world.

      • April 23, 2010 7:23 am

        Everybody should notice that through all the ranting here, my simple extension of davedandelion silly logic hasn’t been responded to. The point stands: if consistency, etc. is “overrated and we are not robots” then it necessarily follows that the racist, even if most people know that racism is unethical (which, of course, is empirically false), has a simple excuse: I am not a robot and consistency is overrated.

        It isn’t a “comparison”, jkraju. Follow the thread and you’ll see that I am merely extending someone’s logic to its conclusion. (Although as a matter of logic, racism and speciesism are perfectly analogous.)

  37. April 22, 2010 12:14 pm

    Hey Stephanie, I’m surprised you remember me but yeah I was a longtime vegan and activist. Because of that, due to all the careful thought and consideration I’ve invested I’ve come to the conclusion that veganism is quite flawed in regards to animal interests. I’m discovering other vegans have been coming to the same conclusion independently so I’m feeling like my stance is justifiable and stronger than ever. Hopefully out of this a new direction might be developed to make greater gains for animals.

    • April 22, 2010 2:13 pm

      davedandelion,

      What does “quite flawed in regards to animal interests” mean?

    • April 24, 2010 3:44 pm

      I know! It’s seriously flawed to not kill animals when we don’t have to. FLAWED! Clearly it is in their best interest to have their throats slit.

  38. Amy Clare permalink
    April 23, 2010 2:26 am

    Regarding Dave’s odd comments: there’s only really one reason why vegans become ex-vegans. They simply fancy eating some meat and/or dairy – perhaps with peer pressure to do so from omnis – and this desire ends up more important than their principles. It’s safe to give in to it, because the world around us is a meat-eater’s world which will fall over itself to tell them that they’re doing nothing wrong.

    Their thoughts may go something like this: “What if those omnis are right? If they’re right, then I can have what I want!” Therefore the omni arguments *become* right, in the ex-vegan’s mind, as this is the only way the desire can be fulfilled. And there is certainly no shortage of meat-apologists around to reinforce those arguments, to reassure the anxious ex-vegan that eating meat is fine, it’s ‘natural’.

    If any dissonance, any concern for animals remains, new attitudes need to be formed to eliminate this, because it is uncomfortable and may lead to the ex-vegan being guilted back into veganism and not getting what they want. Hence, ‘anti-vegan’ views. Hence defensiveness. Hence strange claims that eating animals is somehow good for them.

    I know all this because I’ve lapsed once or twice myself, many years ago. Each time I had excuses at the ready – although I never claimed that eating animals was good for their interests, I did fall for the ‘humane meat’ myth – and plenty of people around me who happily fed me meat and discussed how fine and natural it all was with me. It was very easy for me not to face up to what I was doing.

    But I eventually had to realise the fact that my behaviour was simply selfish, that I was a person who cared about animals and as such there was only really one diet that I could choose which fit in with that stance. So back to veganism I went, and this time, I have had the mental strength to stick to it – as I know that whatever fleeting desire I might have for cheese, etc, there is an animal on the other end of that production line who would suffer greatly to meet that fleeting desire. And they are more important.

    • April 23, 2010 9:06 am

      Amy, these are great points. I have lapsed twice in my 20 years of vegetarianism (both times happened within the first 10 years of it) = the reasons for the first lapse had to with a lot of pressure from omnis around me, the second happened while I was pregnant with my son. But I understand that there is a certain amount of “See? We told you this was better!” from the omnis as soon as they saw I was wavering.

      I didn’t have such a strong circle of veg*n friends to support me through those early days, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have lapsed at all – even when pregnant! But I came back as a vegan & like you said, even those times when I find myself looking longingly at someone eating brie, I not only remind myself how sick I would get but that there are 2 faces attached to that cheese and I refuse to knowingly cause harm.

  39. April 23, 2010 7:48 am

    “If they’re right, then I can have what I want!” I think this is called “confirmation bias”:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias

    I had an experience with “confirmation bias” about 8 years ago when I was 3 years into vegetarianism… At the time I knew nothing about animal rights and never heard of veganism. But I read a bumper sticker that said “I didn’t climb to the top of the food chain to eat vegetables”. And for whatever reason, I thought this slogan to be a “truth”. That night I had a few bites of a chicken sandwich – anxious to “join” my fellow “homo sapiens”. Funny though, at the third bite I knew “something” just wasn’t “right” about it all – I just didn’t quite know what. The whole experience was unpleasant enough to leave my diet the way it was – And I think it made me ripe for veganism and animal rights, which was soon to come my way.

    I’m not saying that this is or isn’t the case for Dave, merely validating what Amy proposes. It is true that most times, we believe what we want to believe.

  40. Dopaminuet permalink
    May 3, 2010 1:20 pm

    It’s always so funny to me the things that people self-assign as their identity, and the way they go about propagating it. Every little thing here in America has an organization and a slew of things to wear on your sleeve and impose on others. I understand people need to be educated, but there is way too much speculation and opinion being force fed to others.

    I see why it’s difficult for many to be active concerning the torturous treatment of animals.

    1 – There is still no CONCRETE scientific evidence that people can indeed live healthy without some form of animal protein (I can already see the protest coming. But there is an equal amount of evidence on either side)

    2 – It is difficult for most to imagine animals, while sentient, as having qualities equivalent to the higher faculties of human beings (and therefore the same “natural rights”. That being said, the idea of animal rights is difficult to imagine, and quite limited for most people. (Not promoting killing for fun, which is absurdly barbaric, or the unholy conditions of a high efficiency livestock system are probably easily agreed upon. But organic, natural farms on the other hand…)

    3 – Furthermore, billions of human beings endure torturous conditions all over the world.

    4 – Things like overpopulation and energy loss (Oil specifically, at this point) are much more prominent issues to most people (not to mention the future they hold in store much more imminent and destructive)

    Sure, animals probably have the RIGHT not be farmed/hunted in insanely barbaric ways. But my body has the inclination to acquire essential amino acids and vitamin b12 of which a suitable substitute cannot yet provide. That being said, maybe there should be more a focus on alternative sources. Humane farms. Just a quick lesson on the growth hormones, nitrates, saturated fats in the average meat product is enough for someone to make the switch, at the least, to organic and friendlier choices. And that IS a start.

    I understand the that there is a huge temptation to apply any new and shocking knowledge gained in an absolute and universal way to everything and everyone around you. But when someone’s emotionally based suppositions and opinions so obviously bleed through, well…I can see why there is difficulty in “converting” others.

    Just do what you do…The world is on the way out! Nothing short of necessity can stop this snowball!

    • May 3, 2010 1:45 pm

      I’ll take on #3…. The thing is that most vegans that I know have such a deep concern for so many issues, it’s almost insulting to strip away other “human” issues from our equation. I can only speak for myself, but I think there will be a lot of agreement here, animal rights are an extension of what I already view as “wrongs” in this world. My concern for the well-being of living creatures didn’t BEGIN with animals, it began with an awakening toward human suffering, becoming concerned & involved with those issues, and then over many years realizing that much of what humans endure is tied into what we impose upon the other living beings on this planet.

      To assume that vegans are purposefully ignorant of human issues in this world is grossly wrong. You’ll find that out as more people comment on this point.

      • Dopaminuet permalink
        May 3, 2010 2:05 pm

        @The Vegas Vegan

        I don’t disagree. That’s why I don’t understand why there is such a focus on the title of “Vegan”. If people go so far to make sure it’s understood that this is an extension of their identity, then it becomes clear why people see them as close-minded and hyper-focused. When someone goes so far as to make sure you know they are a VEGAN, then one may not see them as a Vegan, Oil-conserving/avoiding, Electricity conserving, Water conserving, Educating, all-accepting, Hate-less, Life fortifying Lover of the World. Your image of yourself is often misleading and imposes on others’ perceptions of what you may really be. And again, this is related to my own personal experience. Here in the South, there are not many Vegans, but being on a college campus I get exposed to quite a few (but it isn’t any California by a long shot). I have quickly learned to avoid light-hearted, misinformed, fair weather “vegans”. These are the same sorts of people that go out of their way to make sure everyone sees them using an iPod and MacBook Pro (and they swear by the superiority!). Granted, many of these people are young. The few older vegans I have met here seem to be genuine and well-rounded. There’s this whole weird image thing, and it kind of works against the people true to the ideals. This is related to my opening statements.

        My issue has always been with the scope of Vegans. I try to see this thing in the grand scheme of everything else. The issues are vast, and I wonder what can really be done, though I do what I can (and admittedly, participate in many destructive habits I can’t quite seem to shake yet). How can one focus on any one issue, especially when it is, arguably, not the most prominent?

        Is there any real solution? I just worry about myself, and hope others see something in my actions that doesn’t need articulation to have a positive impact.

      • May 3, 2010 6:28 pm

        I see what you’re saying and I think I can elaborate a little more about my point of view on all this.

        I get very bogged down in the notion that one little person can’t do much of anything to exact change in this world. It weighs heavily on me when I’m standing at the checkout with my tempeh & tofutti and the guy behind me puts a rump roast just inches away from it on the conveyor. In that situation, I start to think about how my one little shopping trip made no difference to that pig.

        So I can do one of two things: 1) throw up my hands and take an “if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em” attitude or 2) do what is right *for me* . I always choose #2. Even if that guy glances curiously at the tempeh, I’ve sparked something. He may never ever be veg*n, but maybe for the first time in his life he’s seeing a person who looks relatively normal (normal is in the eye of the beholder…) and just might be one of the wacky vegans that he’s been hearing about.

        I care about many issues. When finances were better for me, I gave to several charities (most of which were human & environment related) and actually stopped giving to the HSUS once I found out the difference between “animal welfare” and “animal rights” That’s not to say i belong to PETA (please no one make the assumption that most vegans belong to PETA!), I just do what I do.

        And if someone wants to know why I’m eating a certain way or why I’m shopping for a certain kind of shoe or clothes or whatever, I tell them. And never with the intent of converting — always keeping with my belief in ahimsa & loving kindness — my purpose is to awaken the curiosity in others, not make them feel terrible for what they’ve been doing. Most vegans were not raised vegan from birth, we all have traveled a journey (very different journeys!) to get to this point. Who am I to forget that very important aspect of this?

    • April 30, 2012 3:29 am

      @dopaminuet: These are my answers to your remarks:

      1. There is. Meat contains too much protein. Vegetables just contain a little less, which can be obtained from soy.
      2. Why? Why are humans superior? Because we are more intelligent? Many animals are more intelligent than people with mental disabilities, so does that mean that we should eat people with mental disabilities? Certainly not. It is an insult to disabled people, isn’t it? Of course it is.
      3. Well, by going vegetarian, you would be reducing famine too! You would also be saving the environment, thus preventing many disasters, floods etc.
      4. Refer to my answer for 3.

  41. Joe permalink
    May 6, 2010 10:02 pm

    To many big words, just stop.

    Ok, after reading some of these comments, i realized vegetarians should not be claiming moral superiority to non vegetarians. It’s just a different way of life some people chose to live. And if you want to try and stop those people from eating meat, by all means, go and do so. I do not eat meat, because I do not enjoy eating meat, and I do not wish to eat something that at one point was truly living.

  42. Chris Alfvegan permalink
    May 13, 2010 9:30 am

    Extremely well written indeed!
    Well done, you have put into plain language what all of us ‘real’ Animal lovers feel.

  43. VeganSweetlove permalink
    June 17, 2010 4:55 am

    Wow, I see everyone got their thesauruses out for this conversation!!

    But what exactly is your definition of an “activist”, cause I’ll tell ya, I can’t stand the vegans who spend all their time and effort into lost causes, like releasing minks. There’s no way to win that battle, but from a business point of view. I could go on all day about it, but I won’t.

    I hope by being an “activist” isn’t breaking the law, because I’ve had morons tell me that I’m not really vegan if I don’t go out there and risk my freedom. Was Martin Luther King Jr any less of an activist than Malcom X just because of his approach. No. Activist is a relative term, and probably not a word to throw around. Now mind you, I don’t sit around all day waiting for animal suffering to end, so I work for the county shelter (which is 97% no kill, as of this year, hopefully it will be 100% by next year), foster animals, share my amazing recipes, and education with my friends and family, and I’ve been known to flip out on a person or two if I see the mistreating their animals. (I am not a pacifist towards my fellow human btw.)

    I do agree with you, however, that you don’t truly love animals, unless you are vegan or vegetarian (aka fence walker). This point really seems to piss a lot of people off, and frankly, I like to get a rise out of them. I got the excuse that “it takes a special kind of person to be vegan, and I’m just not like that. But I don’t love animals any less than you”. These are all excuses, excuses so they don’t have to face the truth. On another note, I also like to tell people who are pro-life, that they’re not truly pro-life if they eat meat. OH ZING!

  44. September 1, 2010 1:29 am

    Vegans eat the unborn young of trees, shrubs, herbs and other plants. They must not be pro-life. (what the hell do you think seeds and nuts are?) Vegans eat the tender young (shoots) of plants.

    by the logic of the original post, vegans must have a deep-seeded (no pun intended) hatred of every non-animal living thing. because by eating them, they can’t possibly love them. you all must be incapable of loving trees, young shoots and sprouts, flowers, fungi, bacteria, etc. it’s inconsistent and ridiculous. we MUST love all of it, and yes, we MUST eat some of it.

    oh, and dung beetles must surely hate shit. otherwise, why would they eat it? unless they hated it?

    violence is a fact of life. killing something to eat it is not inherently unjust nor oppressive. exploitation, control, ecocide and genocide are oppressive. life kills other forms of life to live. humans are no exception, unless you’ve bought into the cultural myth of the mind/body dualism that allows us to selectively decontextualize ourselves and our activities. life, however, does not systematically oppress [pardon the redundancy, but i wanted to be clear] and DESTROY other life. only our necrotic culture does that. we did it with the great auk, with the passenger pigeon, with the buffalo, we are doing it with the salmon. the fucked up thing? we don’t even eat that much salmon! not eating salmon hasn’t done anything to save the salmon. depending on salmon for our livelihood? you bet that would give us one hell of a good reason to ensure it’s continued health and survival! then we move beyond the shallow “hey, change your diet, asshole!” conversation to, “how can we remove the dams? stop the industrial agriculture? the clear cutting? the pollution? the overfishing? the acidification of the oceans?”

    eating (ok, doing) ANYTHING is unjust and atrocious within the context of our modern industrial production system, but veganism doesn’t do anything about that. it’s weak lifestyle activism. it’s like saying “save the environment and fight global warming by riding your bike.” if everyone did that, it would have a negligible impact on env. destruction, because we’ve done nothing to end the exploitation, enslavement and profiteering off the land. if by “eat vegan” you mean “reduce your footprint and increase your dependence on your local land-base” then yeah. but that’s not what “vegan” means. not eating meat doesn’t stop animal cruelty, nor does it make any of us less dependent on the system and mindset of cruelty that defines our culture.

    it’s a tangential relationship only. take a look at the multi-layered environmental catastrophes of fossil fuel dependence and tell me that industrial fossil fuel faux leather is an inherently more “ethical” choice than animal skin. how many people here feel sick thinking about slaughtering another animal for food? why don’t you feel that way when you cut off a head of lettuce? when you pop pumpkin seeds into your mouth? under this vegan logic, animals are the only thing worth saving because “level 5 vegan” (don’t eat anything that casts a shadow) isn’t possible and suicide seems to be off the table. the logic is flawed.

    the natives here ate salmon, and also said that they loved the salmon. they used leather products. for thousands of years, with no appreciable deprecation in the land-base. before modern white culture came along and systematically destroyed everything wild. “not eating meat” has no direct correlation with love of animals or animal justice nor does it have any direct correlation with sustainability. a vegan can (and often does) have a massively larger footprint than meat eaters, by virtue of class, gender and racial privilege.

    here are my recommendations:
    let’s end animal ownership and slavery (what we call “domestication” up to and including “pets”). let’s be strategic and incremental, while keeping the long-term goal always in mind. we’ll say, “yes, i’m so glad you switched from mystery meat to country natural beef!” and mean it, because while it’s domestication of a domesticated (and, like us, invasive) animal, it’s more just and compassionate than before.

    let’s end vivisection, animal testing. let’s end animal abuse (which is inextricably linked with the abuse of other humans).

    just, let’s not pretend that veganism is somehow inextricably tied to any of that. cuz it’s not. so go ahead and be a vegan, that’s great. no skin off my back (haha…ahem). just don’t inflate the importance of being one with posts like this. all it does is distract us from the core issues, needlessly shame people from a position of moral superiority, and allow a small segment of folks to pretend they are actually accomplishing something meaningful by “not” doing something.

    • earthling permalink
      September 6, 2010 4:48 am

      “how many people here feel sick thinking about slaughtering another animal for food? why don’t you feel that way when you cut off a head of lettuce? when you pop pumpkin seeds into your mouth?”

      Simple, ozob. Because lettuce and pumpkin seeds don’t have brains or nervous systems, and therefore can’t feel pain or value their own lives.

      “violence is a fact of life. killing something to eat it is not inherently unjust nor oppressive. ”

      Cool! Does that mean I can eat you? Or maybe some of your family or friends?

      “by the logic of the original post, vegans must have a deep-seeded (no pun intended) hatred of every non-animal living thing. because by eating them, they can’t possibly love them.”

      Sigh.

      To say that you love animals is to say that you care for animals and their interests. Their interests are, partly, to be alive and free from pain. Therefore if you hurt and kill them, you’re not considering their interests. Ergo, you don’t love them.

      Plants don’t have interests. This is because they have no brain or nervous system (as mentioned above). They cannot feel pain or a desire to live. Therefore to say ‘I love plants’ is not the same as saying ‘I love animals’ because there is no caring relationship implied, no obligation by that statment that you will *consider the interests* of another being. Because there are no interests to consider.

      Oh and incidentally, far more plants die for an omni diet than a vegan one. So in terms of who is doing the most ‘plant-hating’, it ain’t us.

      Please, when will the ‘plants are the moral equivalent of animals’ strawman finally die?

    • April 30, 2012 3:32 am

      Because plants do not feel pain! I know you are ready to protest, but no, all the experiments work with metals too! So do metals feel pain! NOPE. And in some countries, there is autumn. So are all those plants screaming their heads off during autumn? No, becuase if yes, nature would not have made it so.

  45. Roxanne Nichols permalink
    April 6, 2012 8:45 pm

    It’s nice to know that many of you would rather be a detriment to your own cause by excluding imperfect people from helping, than accepting more help and making more general progress. Some of you have the exact same holier than thou attitude that pro-life nutjobs have. It’s not really about your cause, it’s about feeling superior to everyone else. And you do realize that being told that ‘you’re shitty and nothing you do matters because you’re not perfect like me’ and variations of such doesn’t make someone more eager to support you, right? You’re doing nothing to help this cause, and a lot to damage it.

    • April 6, 2012 9:30 pm

      No Roxanne – I really must disagree with you. It’s not about being “holier” – it’s about being accurate. Words mean specific things… If a person tells me they want to be kind to animals but still chose to consume them – That’s a contradiction (a lie). Are you saying I should go along with a fake reality just to suit their fragile ego?

      I’ve heard many say to me “just a little chicken won’t hurt”… “I only eat pigs raised *humanely*”… “I don’t see the harm in eating a bit of cheese now and then”… “I’m doing animals a favor by consuming meat – They’d never exist if it weren’t for that”… “Egg-hens don’t really care that they are in cages”… “Leather’s just a by product”… “We need animals in zoos so we can learn about them”… “I like my cosmetics even if they’re animal tested”… And on and on and on!

      Now of course I’m not going to blast them for their false notions. But I am going to calmly state the truth. It is the continued belief in all the above that keeps animals enslaved. It is nice people who stay too quite because they don’t want to offend anyone that allows the misdeeds and MURDERS to continue.

      If someone says they are an animal lover and don’t walk the walk – It’s all lip service. I owe it to the victims and to myself to call it a spade every chance I get.

      A final question… How else are we supposed to educate people if not by disagreeing with their position? How else are we supposed to help the animals if not by challenging the very ideology that harms them?

  46. Eloise permalink
    May 7, 2012 8:06 pm

    100 TIMES YES!! THIS!!!

  47. June 6, 2012 8:39 am

    either youve removed my earlier comment or its got lost?? to the publisher… you’ve missed a few typos near the ending

  48. November 23, 2012 11:52 pm

    Reblogged this on Psi Epsilon and commented:
    This is a convincing post I found at “Animal Rights and Anti Oppression” . However, consuming dairy/egg from certain farms in fact does not harm animals, which is a point this post ignored.

    • December 5, 2012 9:07 am

      Hello – I’m sure you’d like to think that there are places where dairy and eggs can be gotten from happy animals… What a great way to not have ideas challenged or changed. Sadly, it’s not the case and here’s why:

      All cow’s milk is made for the baby calves. That’s the way nature does it – Human milk for human babies… Dog milk for puppies and so on. In order for humans to consume that cow’s milk the calves must be taken away and fed an artificial “replacement”. If the calf is a boy – He’s totally “useless” on a dairy – What do you think happens to him? Also, once the cow is no longer “productive” and she can’t have more calves (which is the way milk is made) – Doesn’t she go off to slaughter too? Cows are large animals who require lots of resources to keep healthy – Do you really think there are farms that provide “forever” homes for them? I think you’d be looking at a sanctuary if you said yes.

      Eggs? Even if the hens are allowed space to roam and can experience everything that is fulfilling for their species – What happens to the roosters? And does this “happy farm” keep the hens once they stop laying eggs? Do they provide her with veterinarian care when she’s ill? Again… I think you’d be looking at a sanctuary – Not a “farm”.

      In the end if the farm is in the business of providing goods to consumers they must do so at the cheapest costs… That always means the animals get short changed. It’s very easy to opt for truly compassionate plant based options instead. :)

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