My Vegan Philosophy

100 people trying to significantly reduce their meat and dairy consumption is preferable to 1 ‘pure’ vegan.

This WAS my vegan philosophy.

Now, further down the line, it’s time to re-evaluate how I view veganism.

I can no longer, in good conscience, advocate being ‘veganish’ or being a part time vegan. By all means, don’t make the transition over night; if it takes you a couple of weeks or a couple of months, then that’s the method you need to take. But please let a full vegan lifestyle be the goal you’re working towards.

So why the change of heart?

One word: abolition.

This is the word that kept cropping up when meeting other vegans online. After about the tenth person I came across who described themselves as an ‘abolitionist vegan’, I decided to investigate further.

Wikipedia has this to say about it:

Abolitionism within the animal rights movement is the idea that focusing on animal welfare reform not only fails to challenge animal suffering, but may prolong it by making the exercise of property rights over animals appear acceptable. The abolitionists’ objective is to secure a moral and legal paradigm shift, whereby animals are no longer regarded as things to be owned and used. This is contrasted with animal protectionism, the position that change can be achieved by incremental improvements in animal welfare.[1]

Gary Francione, professor of law at Rutgers School of Law-Newark, argues from the abolitionist perspective that animal rights groups who pursue welfare concerns, such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, risk making the public feel comfortable about its use of animals. As a result, he calls such groups the “new welfarists.”[2] The American philosopher Tom Regan writes that abolitionists want empty cages, not bigger ones.[3]

In a nutshell, animals are not ours to use. They are not commodities, they are beings in their own right. The moral baseline, not just for anyone who considers themselves to be an animal lover, but for everyone, is to be vegan. It’s the very least we can do.

One of the usual arguments I hear against veganism is ‘live and let live’. People consider it to be an affront to their personal freedom when I try to tell them that it’s wrong to use animals for food, clothing or entertainment.

Now I’m all for personal liberty. I’m not keen to start living in the ‘nanny state’ that people are always going on about. However, I will only defend this idea of ‘personal freedom’ when it doesn’t infringe upon the rights of others. A man may enjoy beating his wife and consider it an infringement upon his personal freedom if I try to stop him from doing this. Surely he has the right to treat his wife how he likes? Well, no. And it’s obvious to everyone why this is not the case. His wife is not a ‘thing’. She is not property but a creature in her own right. She feels pain, she shares the same desires we all share; the desire for happiness, fear of being hurt, the wish to live her life. So it’s quite right that we fight for her right not to be beaten, not to be hurt. Especially for something as trivial as her husband’s pleasure. Her right not to be beaten clearly supersedes her husbands desire to beat her. He has no ‘need’ to beat her. It causes unnecessary suffering – and surely this is always wrong?

‘Live and let live’ clearly does not apply here!

So let’s apply the same logic to our use of animals.

Joe Bloggs likes eating steak. He enjoys it; surely it’s part of his personal freedom to continue to eat steak? Well, no. The steak is not a ‘thing’, it’s a cow. She is not property but a creature in her own right. She feels pain, she shares the same desires we all share; the desire for happiness, fear of being hurt, the wish to live her life. So it’s quite right that we fight for her right not to be eaten, not to be hurt. Especially for something as trivial as Joe Blogg’s taste buds. Her right not to be eaten clearly supersedes Joe Blogg’s desire to eat her. It causes unnecessary suffering – and surely this is always wrong?

Happily, being vegan is not hard, and in this respect my blog has not changed. I still aim to show how easy, how fun and how rewarding a vegan life can be. Sure, it takes a bit of getting used to, especially while you figure out what you can and can’t eat, the best toiletries to use etc, but once you have it all sussed, it’s simple! And whatever your view of vegans, you’ll be hard pushed to find a vegan who won’t bend over backwards to help you in your transition!

5 responses to “My Vegan Philosophy

  1. This is always going to be a fiddly question, and one where everyone’s answer is different. I’m not bothered about being ‘perfect’, but I do have boundaries, and a job that involved routinely handling animal products would cross those. I’m not going to look down on another vegan if they wind up taking a job like that because they’re struggling financially or getting pressured off benefits, but if butchery or leatherworking was part of that person’s lifetime vocation then I might question how vegan they were. I’d try to do this politely and encourage them to think more critically.
    I’m also not sure where you draw the line between one’s own boundaries and what other people do. Am I ‘extreme’ for being careful about what I eat, not caving in when I’m drunk and there’s pizza to hand or when a friend feels I’m being rude by not taking a piece of their birthday cake? Because while that was difficult at first, now it just feels like being consistent. And with regard to other people, I feel it’s best to encourage movement towards that point, even if it won’t happen overnight it may happen in a few months or years if that person is motivated towards veganism in the first place. What I’m not going to do is nod along and say ‘yes, it’s fine to stop at being a vegetarian who eats cheese every day and buys a new pair of leather boots every year, agreed that anything more is extreme and horribly militant’ – and even the most rampant carnists in my circle of friends know this, and our mutual respect is partly based on the whole sticking to the guns thing.
    Where I totally agree with you here is on the sacrifice question. My take on this issue is coloured by studying the Situationists, who saw a revolution based on self-sacrifice as not much of a revolution. If vegans act all martyred then we’re not encouraging anyone to want to participate – if we show that it is healthy and fun and getting easier (yes, some cafes still don’t provide anything beyond black coffee and plain crisps, but vegan food is so much easier to find than it was ten or fifteen years ago), that’s what gets people interested.

  2. Totally agree with you. There is nothing more off-putting than a holier than thou attitude.

  3. Thanks for the comments – I appreciate you taking the time to leave them!

    @LiseyDuck – I’m constantly redefining my own boundaries. When I first decided to try for veganism I was a bit half-hearted. I decided that I would be vegan in the house but vegetarian when eating out or visiting friends and relatives (not wanting to be a pest or put anyone out). Over the last few months as I’ve become more comfortable with the vegan lifestyle and more confident about my decision my boundaries have changed drastically. I now make sure that I order vegan when eating out and bring my own food when visiting non vegans if necessary. I have gone beyond dietary changes and gradually started adding vegan products to my skincare routine. My household products are next on the list.
    I’m a copywriter – I wouldn’t write copy for a slaughterhouse, nor would I take on a butcher as a client. That just wouldn’t seem right and I wouldn’t be able to do my job properly. I would however, write copy for a non vegan restaurant’s website. After all, everyone has to work and in an ideal world we’d probably all run animal sanctuaries, but we do not live in an ideal world.
    I understand why people might see veganism as extreme – to change your diet, your beauty products, your wardrobe, your washing powder – it’s a lot to take in. Which is why I’m advocating a gradual change. Boundaries don’t have to be set in stone!

  4. Yes, gradual change is fine – it’s the only way some people can deal with the transition, and I’d rather everyone went at their own speed and stayed fully vegan after reaching that point than going full tilt then quitting the first time they make a mistake.

  5. Pingback: My Vegan Philosophy | VeganasFuck

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