Having been vegan for over a year I decided I wanted to know more about veganism and animal rights, so I gingerly dipped my toe into the pool of knowledge that's on the Internet, and boy the learning experience has been a humbling one! Here is what I've gleaned so far, but please keep in mind that my observations (in no particular order) are subjective, and may change over time. I will probably also expand on some or most of the points below in future posts.
All I think I know for sure in this moment is that:
- Vegans piss people off. Both within and outside of the animal rights movement.
- The word I see most often in connection with vegan is self-righteous. True, this usually comes from people who aren't vegan themselves.
- The thing most people who aren't vegan seem to object to the most is the attitude of moral superiority they perceive most vegans to have. I sympathize. But what do you do when you feel that veganism IS a morally superior stance?
- Veganism has a language all of its own. And abbreviations to boot.
- The words vegetarianism and veganism are sometimes used interchangeably, which is inaccurate and confusing.
- There's a bit of vegetarian bashing going on right now by some vegans, which I don't think is particularly helpful.
- As much as I used to hate proselytizing by Christians, I'm now much more sympathetic as I would love to be able to convert everyone RIGHT THIS SECOND!
- Having said that, I'm not convinced proselytizing is effective.
- Veganism is not A diet, which my mom still doesn't get every time she offers me something that only has "a little bit" of milk or egg or anything else.
- Veganism is ABOUT diet, environment, and most of all, other animals.
- But vegans become and stay vegan for any of the above reasons, and I'm not sure we can decide which one is more valid for any one vegan in particular.
- Vegans hold themselves and others to very high standards, and can be awfully hard on, again, both themselves and others.
- If compassion is to be the underpinning of this movement (and in my opinion it should be), then that compassion needs to be directed not only to other animals, but also to ourselves and to each other. Each other would include vegans, vegetarians, omnivores who try in their own way to help animals, liberationists, abolitionists, and animal welfare activists.
- Derisively calling animal welfare activists new welfarists doesn't strike me as particularly compassionate. Or helpful.
- I am an abolitionist in the sense that I am vegan and support the long-term goal of abolishing all animal use, but I'm uneasy about the abolitionist movement (although I think the proper term is faction) itself. Just as I don't believe that Christianity is the only path to God, I don't believe that abolition is the only path to animal liberation, especially when animals need our help NOW.
- Because it scares me when any one individual or group is convinced that they have the only, and the right, answers.
- And I think it's dangerous to be so married to your own group ideology that you're not willing to listen to and consider any other perspective.
- Any person brave enough to head any large enough animal welfare or animal rights group or organization will be vilified by at least one other group.
- I have read different takes on Michael Vick and the NFL, and even though I think he's a complete and utterly vile scumbag, I can see valid points for both supporting and opposing his reinstatement.
- But no, I don't think gleefully torturing dogs (including companion animals) with your bare hands is quite the same as sitting down to dinner. For those who can't see the difference, I would point to intent, level of involvement, and participation in a socially and legally sanctioned activity, however criminal we may think it is. Besides, if the goal is to convert omnivores to veganism, treating them as morally equivalent to Vick is going to help how?
- I honestly don't believe I would have eventually turned vegan (I was 46) had I not adored my cat and finally made the connection of "if you wouldn't eat a cat, why eat a cow?"
- I think taking advantage of the love that people feel for their companion animals is a perfectly good place to start vegan outreach.
- Dismantling any ism is necessarily complex, and while it's easy to pay lip service to the idea of inclusion, in any movement largely led by white, privileged men, only those who are most affected can say whether there is racism, sexism, or any ism left in the movement. To declare otherwise is naive.
- Animal liberation is not only not going to happen overnight, it won't happen in our lifetime (at least, not mine), and unless we're willing to be a bit more co-operative for the sake of the animals, and come up with a flexible enough framework that takes the best of all approaches OR represents the majority of activists that fall in the middle, then there's real danger of movement collapse.
- And that, would suit those people who think vegans and animal rights activists are all whacko, just absolutely fine.
Finally, what I really know for sure (depite my tone), is that I have no answers, and definitely not even all of the questions.