The Vegan Of Aus

An appeal to nonvegans who understand privilege

Most people just don’t understand why vegans are vegan. They see themselves as normal and moderate while vegans are a bunch of hipsters drunk on privilege and devoted to some radical lifestyle choice or political position.

Guess what?

Most white racists don’t see themselves as racists. They might see other non-racist white people showing unprejudiced consideration to all people regardless of their race or colour but they see this as an act of benevolence rather than basic decency.

Most sexists don’t see themselves as sexists. They think feminists are making some big deal out of a supposed patriarchy that is just not there or that they read way too much into trivialities.

Most heterosexists don’t see themselves as heterosexists. They are convinced that being straight is the only proper norm and that being anything apart from that is some type of (often perverse) personal choice that does not deserve greater societal recognition as a perfectly valid position.

Most classists don’t see themselves as classists. They are often convinced that those “lower” than them are deficient in work ethics and that anyone can become a multimillionaire by trying hard enough. Or that fluency in Upper Received Pronunciation and wearing chinos is a fair mark of a person with substance

The common blinding factor in all these examples is unchecked privilege.

Privilege can be at once pervasive yet elusive. Often the same person can detect and miss various privileges. If we don’t see our own privilege it doesn’t mean it’s not there; it simply means that we don’t see it. Nonetheless others that are not so privileged feel it when we enact on it, and that often makes us oppressors whether we know it or not.

Veganism is simply a justice-seeking response to the understanding of our privilege in being born human in a society dominated by humans. It’s understanding that we are a dominating, oppressive and abusive class. It’s actually not that hard to see or understand if you really want to. But you have to want to – because that same privilege gives you the option to ignore it..

So you see, you were sorta right: vegans are a bunch of privileged people. Exactly like you too. But we acknowledge its injustice and, on behalf of its victims, are working on bringing it down.

“Veganism: Why not?” A different anarchist perspective

Peter Gelderloos’ “Veganism: Why Not – An anarchist perspective” can be found here:

http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/peter-gelderloos-veganism-why-not

Here I’ll provide a short long repudiation by responding to one or two pertinent quotes from each of his sub-sections. Also, let’s remember this is his own, and not a general, anarchist perspective.

To those readers unfamiliar with the principles of anarchy: I keep this blog about veganism, not anarchy, so I wont much get into anarchy here except to say it is my deep belief that veganism and anarchy share the same spirit, namely freedom; freedom from the oppression of others. Living vegan is essentially an anarchistic expression towards nonhumans. On this blog you will find very little direct mention of anarchy for various reasons but the most important is that veganism is necessary for any movement towards peace. To maintain the freedom of anarchy requires peaceful individuals; it is impossible to force peace on others – it must be spontaneous from each individual – else this is not peace nor is it anarchy. Therefore fostering peace must be the first order of progress, and until we are able to be peaceable towards those who are most vulnerable to us we can never expect peace from those to whom we are vulnerable. There is a rule in anarchy – the golden rule – and veganism is absolutely necessary to that end. In promoting veganism I am automatically promoting the most fundamental aspects of anarchy – peace and freedom – but I’ll leave our own liberation from the tyranny of others (and our own selves) till after we have stopped being tyrants over billions of other sentient beings every year. That is to say, let’s address the beams in my own eyes before we focus on the motes in others’.

To anarchists: My “colour” is probably already apparent, but even if it does not match yours the arguments about the right of nonhumans to be free of your oppressive hands remain. In fact they are self-standing, with or without anarchy. You probably question why so many other anarchists or their traditions are not vegan? Then down with tradition. Just because those who first developed thoughts and wrote about anarchistic ideas centuries ago did not make claims against human supremacy does not make the matter unimportant. Thinking about anarchy, like thinking about anything, should be progressive and appeal to the best, often latest, sources. To refuse such progress would be like appealing today to Hippocrates for the best medical advice. That’s no longer critical thought; that’s religion. Further, nonvegan anarchists are generally as non-understanding of veganism as the general populace is about anarchy. More than just a diet or saving animals, veganism is a revolution of mind where the vegan no longer views individuals of other species as his resources but as fellow persons deserving of proper moral consideration. The fact that nonvegans can’t see this does not legitimise their nonvegan ways any more than a racist’s ways are legitimised by the fact that they see others of different races as inferior. The common blinding factor in both of these discriminations is unchecked privilege.

Finally, anarchy, like veganism, has a broad base with many opinions. (More on this soon.) I distance myself from those schools of thought that promote violence and many many anarchist schools of thought do exactly this. This is not dissimilar to some violent versions of veganism which I similarly do not consider legitimate, wish no part in and do not generally talk about here.

 

Introduction (untitled)

“It would be a mistake to critique veganism as an ideology, or as a body of thought and tradition of practice, because there do not even exist any vague guiding principles that all or nearly all vegans share.”

Which is much like anarchism. Let’s see:

Vegans – for ethics, health, environment, being hipster, or just winning over the vegan girl at uni.

Anarchists – yellow, red, green, white, purple, or any to justify going to Rage Against The Machine concerts with the rebellious kids at school.

What’s the point here? I’m confident that Gelderloos would dismiss ancaps as undeserving of the label “anarchist;” I would similarly find those that are non-ethical vegans undeserving of the label “vegan.” That there exist under our own labels those with different opinions or imposters is true for any label.

For the record every vegan anarchist that I know is abolitionist and rights based, exactly because of the shared essence between veganism and anarchism that I mentioned above. From here on whenever I refer to vegans or veganism I will automatically assume that they are abolitionist and rights based. I cannot make any claim for the others since I am not one of them.

 

The new thing

“As stated in the introduction, veganism in its totality is not an ideology or a tradition of struggle; it only exists as these things for a minority of those who identify as vegans. In its totality, veganism is only the identity of those who choose it.”

Then he has no idea what veganism is. That is to say, for whatever reason he does not see the struggle, probably much like the greater world out there does not see his, but that does not mean it’s not there.

“Every vegan who has ever spouted a statistic about the amount of water used to produce a pound of beef or the amount of methane emitted by the world’s sheep is actively supporting capitalism by participating in a great smoke screen which hides the true nature of how the present economic system actually functions.”

Wow! Is it not primarily the animal exploiting food industries that are bolstered by tax dollars? That have the largest lobby groups? That force their ways into schools? That supply the fast food giants? That push for ag-gag laws? But more than anything that churn over more plant material just as fodder for those sentient beings created to be killed than – what, a hundred* times more? – than all vegans do collectively around the world? The present economic system was built on nonveganism and nonveganism remains one of its great bulwarks.

 

Animal rights

“… but I imagine their malice stems from an ignorance of the meaning of rights, of the policing of living relations in a legal framework, of the democratic project.”

What a poverty of understanding to see rights as exclusively legal or regulatory instruments. Or if that’s his false accusation against vegans then what a poverty of understanding he shows in not being able to comprehend rights extended to all sentient beings. The only democracy here is that nonvegans are part of the mob: the mob that rules and that doesn’t care about nonhumans.

 

Thou shalt not kill

“Domination is only successful when the subject is kept alive so its activity can be disciplined and exploited: there’s got to be something to dominate.”

How very utilitarian. And what insult to those who have died at the hands of their oppressors. Not to mention that nonhumans bred for food are disciplined and exploited for their entire existence before they are dispatched to their murderous end.

“There’s nothing un-anarchist about killing a king, because kings are not a type of people whom anarchists wish to dominate at the end of the day.”

Of course killing a king is not automatically un-anarchist! Not because we don’t wish to dominate them at the end of the day (What?) but because it may be an act of self-defense against an imposing ruler. It is completely un-anarchist to kill any vulnerable person who is minding their own business and not affecting you just because you want to take something they possess, be it their body or otherwise.

“I find it hard to understand someone who does not comprehend that pain is natural, necessary, and good. When we inflict pain on others, our faculties of sympathy provoke a conflict within us, and such conflict is also good, because it makes us think and question what we’re doing, whether it’s necessary, and whether there’s also an element of the beautiful in it.”

How many times must you kill or otherwise harm someone in order to feel conflict and know it’s wrong? Three times per day plus snacks? Indeed it is vegans who question what they are doing and then they stop doing it. I’d love to see how beautiful he thinks pain is if he was the subject.

 

From boycott to insurrection

“In the first place, true veganism is impossible for anyone who lives within capitalist society.”

Of course it is impossible, just like anarchy is. But the arguments for both are not diminished by the difficult context they find themselves in, nor do their supporters abandon their principles when they fail to achieve their goals in such a context. Both aim to reform or overthrow their current contexts – that’s the point.

“Only rich people would be able to afford this food, but regardless of the final price, all profit made from the buying and selling of this food represents a return on investment, a cash flow that a diverse web of banks, insurance companies, and investors turn right around and put into other industries”

The idea that vegan food is expensive is absurd. Boutique foods – vegan or otherwise – can be expensive but they are expensive because they are  boutique, not because they’re vegan. There is no food cheaper than vegan staples; the poorest people on earth survive on them predominantly. With regards to fueling other industries: What, exactly like the animal industries do right now? How do his steaks and ice-creams not do that any differently? Has he seen what McDonalds and co sell? And considering the cadavers and secretions nonvegans eat were fed more than twice their weight in plants  in the first place this is hardly a problem with vegan food. His issue should be with capitalism itself – not veganism, which, like breathing, is possible under any form of political structure.

 

The Healthiest Diet

Vegans should make no claim that veganism is the healthiest diet; we always claim that veganism is a healthy diet capable of providing all the nutrients we need to thrive. We can listen to Gelderloos or we can take the consensus of credible nutrition science on their advice here so I won’t bother commenting except to take him up on his first point:

“Humans evolved on an omnivorous diet.”

So what?

 

Religious tendencies

“Veganism creates a righteous in-group on the basis of an illusion of purity. Many of us have had the frustrating experience of arguing with vegans who go in circles, claiming that they do not support the meat industry even after they are forced to acknowledge that all industries are interconnected.”

This illusion of purity is external, not internal. That vegans would prefer to commune with other vegans is natural; why on earth would we want to happily partake with nonvegans in their ceremonies of oppression against nonhumans?  That’s not about purity, that’s simply being attracted to those with similar passions.  Vegans make no claim about righteousness or purity – we only make claims about the immorality of animal use, which nonvegans usually agree with until they are exposed as complicit. For all I know Gelderloos is more righteous, if there is such a thing, than me, but that does not mean that his enslaving and killing nonhumans is anything less than grossly immoral. If nonvegans can’t handle that it’s their problem; why do they insist on making it ours by making up fables about our supposed purity?

Further, vegans do not boycott animal use in order to remove support from the meat industry; we boycott animal use because we find animal use objectionable, whether they come from an “industry” or from our own backyard. It seems to me that it is in fact Gelderloos who is dogmatic and circular about his favourite subject matter – namely “industries.” While vegan anarchists may be no less concerned about industries than Gelderloos we do not automatically conflate (or reduce) all the things we find objectionable in the world with industry, nor do we see “industry” as the great malefactor. Industry is simply industry, and could exist in various forms in all political contexts including any form of anarchy – even primitivism. “Let me show you my selection of sharp rocks.” See?

 

Go Omnivore

“[T]hus what a person eats should not model an ideal but highlight a conflict.”

For whatever value that statement holds, (and I truly don’t now what it is,) veganism certainly does anyway. When anyone consumes animal products they are willingly paying for the subjugation and domination of others. Vegans highlight this conflict by refraining from animal consumption and advocating against it. Nonvegans don’t give a shit (in this regard anyway) and eat what they will.

Every one of Gelderloos’ suggestions, from stealing to farming, can be realised within a plant-based* context. That is to say, all his ideals can be met and then on top of that we could further chose to not oppress other animals. (* I refrain from using vegan here since I do not wish to associate veganism with stealing – not because of its “unlawfulness” but because it may be seen as a violation of others’ rights to possession.)

“And then there’s another take entirely, in which neither our diet nor anything else about our lives is purported to be consistent with our ideals.”

And suddenly the black hole of Gelderloos’ argument becomes apparent with his own abandonment of the nonsenses he’s taken time to write about. If there is no consistency between life and ideals then why does he care to write about it in the first place?

“Go omnivore” he says. Really? Veganism is not about what we eat, it’s about how we think. Therefore his response to “Go vegan” should not be “Go omnivore” but rather “Go and assert your privilege over others – including eating and wearing them.”

 

Stay vegan

“Against consumer society, against civilization, until no one has to live in a cage! “

All the while paying capitalists to force 60 billion individuals per year into cages? Righty-oh!

It amazes me how nonvegans so often see veganism as a threat, and as an idea that they must prove wrong. Really, why do nonvegans care so much? Is there anything about veganism that undermines anarchy? For what reason does Gelderloos make a case against veganism? What is his gain? If he sees veganism as such a dangerous idea that it needs to be written off publicly then maybe he should make the case for that. I wont hold my breath.

 

(* Re. 100 times more. This is a back-of-the-envelope approximation. I assume vegans form 1% of the global human population and that the animals nonvegans consume require twice their own calorific value in animal feed. Calorific conversion for animal products from feed generally ranges from 2 to 15 times so I’ve picked the lowest end and assumed that half of nonvegan calories are met by animal products. None of this allows for any waste. 100 times is probably a gross underestimation).

Deconstructing nonveganism – Part I

The other day while discussing with a friend why vegan advocacy was such a challenge I was reminded of a YouTube series where the presenter describes his de-conversion from Christianity to atheism. Of particular note is the idea of a mega-belief which he summarises excellently in the first two and a half minutes of this video:

(I recommend the entire series as well worth watching for an understanding into the mind of a Christian or any religious believer but it’s not my intent here to advocate against Christianity or religion generally. There are also plenty of counters on YouTube – that I find mostly ineffectual – but you may wish to watch them for contrary views.)

This idea describes the reluctance towards accepting veganism perfectly. Replacing “God” with “human superiority” or “an implicit right to exploit nonhumans” or “nonveganism” in this video does not diminish the value of the idea at all – specifically because this oppression is based on exactly the same type of underpinnings that the notion of god usually is. That is to say it is, like the belief in a god, usually a labyrinthine concept held together by many smaller beliefs and experiences. I’ll call these the pillars of nonveganism. The presentation of “graceful degradation” is extremely fitting since this truly is describing a network of ideas working together but to continue in a parlance befitting “pillars” and trying to knock them over I’d like to here call it “gradual deconstruction.”

It’s clear that any structure built on many pillars should survive a catastrophic blow to any one pillar at a time. And given that it’s desired that the structure is maintained the possessor will repair any damaged pillar with a ferocity proportional to that desire. Those who hold the structure in much esteem will commence repairs immediately and hold them as the main order until such repairs are completed; those who are a bit lazier or less concerned will take their time and in doing so willingly expose themselves to the increased risk of the structure collapsing; those who are considering whether it is worth maintaining such a structure at all might happily watch the pillar fall and remain open to the question of whether it really is worth rebuilding it at all.

Like a belief in god, human supremacy – and indeed all other oppressive prejudices such as those based on race, sex, class, etc. – are founded on pillars that cannot pass any objective tests that actually support them. They are mostly rooted in tradition that we find hard to shake. I’ll go through some of these pillars in another post but suffice it to say these pillars are not strong in and of themselves but rather in the fact that they are bolstered only by many other similarly weak pillars, both personal and societal. Just like it’s almost impossible to snap a large bunch of twigs together even though each twig itself is quite delicate, so is nonveganism largely unshakeable with all these various pillars upholding it at the same time. And as the presenter in the video suggests, we must pay mega-beliefs the respect they deserve; nonveganism should not be reduced to anything less than what it is or supposed to be easily knocked over with a single argument.

So the question now is this: How do we demolish this structure of nonveganism? (Or snap that bunch of twigs? Or bring down this mega-belief?) Clearly there are (at least) two alternatives:

1. Approach the structure with such brute force that we topple it at once, or,

2. Undermine each pillar in a way that we prevent it being rebuilt in time and weaken the structure gradually until it topples itself.

In my opinion the former approach does not generally work. It would take an absolute mind-blower to effect that, and I’ve never seen it or even heard of it done. As mentioned in the video the “final blow”* may very often be mistaken as this overwhelming force but it rarely actually is. When you think about it the moral imperative for living vegan is the mother-of-all-KO-arguments yet it remains largely ineffective for most people.

The second approach then makes a lot more sense. This leads to a number of conclusions:

1. It should not be our intent to “convert” someone to veganism; it should be our intent to systematically de-convert them from nonveganism, destroying their belief in it by exposing each pillar for what it’s worth. We do that through education, showing them the weakness of each pillar. Some may be stronger than others and may require more effort to deconstruct, and to assume that we can do them all in one fell swoop is most probably misguided.

2. In relation to the point above we should be showing the strength of the vegan arguments, not in order to sell veganism as a “job lot” but in order to show them how absurd their own nonvegan arguments are. Let’s understand that people are not generally interested in others’ points of view; they are extremely interested in their own points of view. If we therefore focus on their point of view rather than our own, and use the strength of our own in as much as it shows the weakness of theirs, we probably have a better chance of leaving a lasting impression. They will automatically gain interest in veganism as a necessary filler for when they abandon the faith of nonveganism. We are not selling them an alternative point of view – we are showing them that their own is absurd and that veganism is not just an alternative but the only remaining logical position.

3. Even though we may have extremely powerful arguments they will mean nothing in the presence of the distractions provided by the other pillars. We must influence our discourse partner beyond a critical point at which they see the weaknesses in most or all of their supporting notions for nonveganism. Our bullet-proof moral argument, as powerful as it is, can only demolish a single underpinning of their world view; as soon as we leave them they will start rebuilding it. (Think the bad Terminator in T2 and how he recovers from fatal blows!) And society at large, steeped in the oppression of nonhumans, will gladly help them. Therefore even though we advocate for veganism purely on ethical grounds it is most likely also a requirement that we approach those other factors – health, lifestyle, political ramifications, etc. – that they still maintain as their own pillars of nonveganism. This does not distract us from the ethical core of our argument but these are necessary buttresses to help support our main point.

4. Deconstructing a massive structure usually takes time and often many interactions. We should not be disheartened when we don’t change someone’s mind but we should be disappointed in our performance if we have done nothing to weaken some of their delusion. That is to say we are successful if we have imparted any knowledge or provoked critical thought, not if we have won any argument.

5. A massive structure requires a systematic approach to deconstruct properly. Going in all guns blazing and jumping from one argument to another is akin to doing little bits of easily recoverable damage to the pillars. That’s essentially graffiti! We need well planted charges which are harder to recover from. We don’t need to be fazed by the size of the job if we tackle it one pillar at a time.

6. We want the inhabitant of the structure to come through unscathed. We are not interested in hurting them (in fact, in line with our ethos we are absolutely about not hurting them) but only in destroying the structure they occupy. This may mean we need to pick the right times and the right modes of deconstruction.

7. While we may (and should) take our time to do the job properly we must not be hesitant in continuing the job. While ever we are not advocating for veganism any damage sustained by our discourse partner’s mega-belief will have time to repair itself; our work is undermined if we allow this to happen. We must educate slowly but surely.

 

(* I did originally include “the final straw” here but a questioning conscience made me wonder whether this idiom was about “short straws” or a variant of “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” a vile saying that demonstrates just how deep seated our oppression against nonhumans is. Some quick research tells me it is the latter.)

Non-veganism in a nutshell

Let’s say you were walking down the street and noticed a large man rough-handling a smaller woman – what would you do? I expect that if you were a half-decent person you’d want to do something, at least in as much as you don’t expose yourself to risk but possibly so even then. At the very least you’d see this behaviour for what it is and call it out, or you might actually physically intervene, not because you have some special concern for the woman but because you have general concern for your fellow person, and particularly so if you see them as vulnerable.

Still with me? Let’s continue.

Let’s say you were walking down the street and noticed an adult rough-handling and otherwise being insensitive to a child – what would you do? I expect that if you were a half-decent person you’d want to do something, at least in as much as you don’t expose yourself to risk but probably so even then. At the very least you’d see this behaviour for what it is and call it out, or you might actually physically intervene, not because you have some special concern for the child but because you have general concern for your fellow person, and particularly so if you see them as vulnerable. You’d probably later share the story with others and they’d share in your disgust in what happened.

Let’s say you were walking down the street and noticed a person rough-handling or otherwise tormenting an animal, say a dog or a cat or a cockatoo – what would you do? I expect that if you were a half-decent person you’d want to do something, at least in as much as you don’t expose yourself to risk but probably so even then. At the very least you’d see this behaviour for what it is and call it out, or you might actually physically intervene, not because you have some special concern for the animal but because you have general concern for your fellow animals, and particularly so if you see them as vulnerable. You would teach your children that such behaviour is vile and warn them to never, ever, do such things.

But what would you do if those same, or worse, atrocities were committed against nonhuman animals but not in the street, rather on a farm or in a lab or on the hunting ground? Or not a dog or a cat or a bird but rather a pig or a chicken or a dairy calf? It’s almost a certainty that if you are not vegan you would do nothing. In fact, you would probably totally overlook it and if it brought you any benefit whatsoever you’d actually pay for it. Vegans on the other hand would react just as they did in the three other examples above; they remain consistent in their logic and morals.

Do you see what you, nonvegan, have done? You have sold out on your most basic intellect, your morals, your compassion towards others, because of a perversity that informs you that it’s okay to screw others over if enough people do it, or if there’s a large enough benefit to you, or if the victims are so helpless that their resistance and cries are not raging and loud enough to be heard over your callousness. You have essentially denied all those qualities you would normally consider make humans special and different from other animals. That’s non-veganism. You have basically sold your soul.

Reclaim your soul by starting to live vegan now.

Taking the next step

Thomas Kuhn‘s “The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions” gives great insight into how the field of science has changed over time in what can be identified as discrete paradigm shifts. Basically it claims that scientific progress is not a strictly linear and accumulative process but that there are periods of normalcy punctuated by crisis points that lead to revolutions that address those crises.

A good way to think about such an approach is how a we might climb a massive staircase – massive in all dimensions rather than just massive in the number of steps. We find ourselves walking along the ground when we are confronted with the first riser. Our movements are now challenged by the sheer vertical rise, by gravity working against us, by the need to employ a new tactic in scaling this rise and and by kissing goodbye the familiarity and ease with which we were able to traverse the horizontal ground. Scaling this first riser is a challenge! But we persevere, we endanger our physical well being as we dangle above the ground suspended by our own strength and whatever aids we use, and when we finally reach the top we breath a sigh of relief. We have arrived! But where to? Only to the first tread.

That first tread is not unlike the ground that we started on in that it is horizontal and easy to traverse. The conditions might be new but it’s flat. We look down upon the ground from that elevated tread and pat ourselves on the back when we see where we came from. But after a while we realise that the second riser is waiting, and the comfort of that first tread evaporates! We must seemingly repeat this process all over again. And again. And again. Where this staircase ends is not known and we spend the rest of our lives discovering new steps.

While Kuhn described the development of scientific progress it really is not very different with much of our other progress. Take social justice for example. We discover something that perturbs our conscience: maybe it’s the use of nonhumans, maybe it’s the way indigenous Australians are forgotten, maybe it’s the way society marginalises some other group. We take action; our minds change. We become vegan, or we start considering the interests of indigenous Australians, or whatever else is required to appease our desire to make things right. These changes often require us to completely redefine the way we see things and live our lives; this is the paradigm shift, a time of tumult and work on ourselves. Often this is hard work, but we do it and we’re better off for it at the end, and breathe a sigh of relief when it’s done. We arrive at a new way of thinking and enjoy relief from the bondage of the old. We can ride this relief for a while as we adjust to our new paradigm, but to stay there and not consider further progress is like being caught halfway up the staircase. We might have dealt with a particular demon but in other ways we face the danger of being closed-minded again unless we continue to survey the entire staircase rather than just the tread we are landed on.

Just as a single tread on a staircase has limited value outside the context of a staircase so does our own position on social justice have limited value outside the context of seeing where we’ve come from and to where we should be heading. Social justice is not something that we achieve or subscribe to and then sit on our laurels. Social justice is about an ever changing awareness about an ever changing world. In the context of being vegan this means not being complacent, or even smug, in the knowledge that we no longer intentionally harm other animals. It means continually challenging our own views and holding them to scrutiny, weighing up the advice and accepting the challenges of others regardless of how much we think we may have already done, and being perpetually vigilant about the fact that just as we were non-vegan at one stage there is a great probably that we are oblivious to some other oppression right now. It means not becoming closed-minded in our new paradigm as we were previously in our old paradigm.

In recent times I’ve witnessed much of this closed-mindedness on various vegan forums. How unfortunate! It’s surely not just an issue facing vegans, but it seems particularly sad that it is so prevalent amongst a group of people who have otherwise shown an ability for questioning the most fundamental aspects of common thought and lifestyle. A particular incident is a backlash against a Facebook post I made that questioned the preponderance of the use of the word “bitch” as a pejorative label. (And it’s not about the vulgarity – that’s up to you to accept or not as you please – it’s about the fact that it is steeped in speciesism and sexism.)  I was told that it’s not my place to decide for others what is or isn’t aggressive or oppressive speech. I agree! It’s surely not my place to make these judgements for another person, it’s their place to do so. And their responsibility too. But they should actually do that rather than just deny an issue outright because they think not eating animals somehow makes them all together beyond reproach. It’s no different to war commanders being self-satisfied in the “peace” they impose on their subjects of defeat, or vegetarians happily killing nonhumans for anything other than eating their flesh . Same shit, different level.

A hallmark of social justice is that we are open to questioning everything and admitting freely where we might not be doing it right. That’s how we became vegan in the first place. Social justice is not about us getting to a place where we can shun cognitive dissonance and be confident in ourselves; it is seeking to right wrongs, even the ones we might not know about yet. Sometimes this is an easy traverse in our current mode of thinking, sometimes it requires a wholesale reshuffling of our deepest held beliefs and involve considerable effort. We should always be ready to take the next step.

What’s all this vegan rubbish?

I think it’s a safe bet to say that most vegans are a generally caring bunch; it’s because we actually care that we live vegan. That’s why it’s common for vegans to be involved or otherwise interested in all sorts of justice issues, not just animal rights. Two such issues are the protection of the natural environment and fostering a more equitable system of food distribution.

Sometimes it seems that the different expressions of showing care are at odds with one another but I’ll contend here that such frictions are usually totally unnecessary when properly examined. As an example take the issue of dumpster diving. Many people believe that consuming edible “waste” products is an action that shows responsibility towards the natural environment. I agree – it does! Many also believe it challenges the way we think about food, our wastefulness, and our inefficient systems of distribution. Again I fully agree. To abandon perfectly good products just for the sake of obtaining new ones can be an extreme show of negligence, even a slap-in-the-face to the less privileged, and in my book anyone who takes positive action to remedy that situation deserves acclamation.

What about when those waste products are of animal origin? The person with concern might say that the damage to the animal has already been done and so, as a consequential matter, the use of those products makes no difference to the animal but continues to make a positive difference to the environmental and food distribution issues. And again, they are correct. But so what? There are all sorts of actions that someone can make to induce a positive difference to the environmental and food distribution issues that don’t involve using animals at all, so why would someone not chose those first?

Every day thousands of “pets” are killed for various reasons and while some of their corpses are returned to their owners many are destined for the rubbish heap. These corpses are edible. What then is the difference from the point of view of protecting the environment whether the dumpster diver consumes the corpse of a dog or the corpse of a pig? Absolutely nothing! Both corpses could provide the consumer the calories and nutrients they desire. The only difference is one of the consumer’s preference: taste, familiarity, cultural conditioning, whatever. That is to say, these preferences are based on the same pillars that speciesism or any other prejudicial discrimination is based on, because such preferences are pure speciesism. It is only when a dumpster diver is prepared to consume the products of any animal species, from any dumpster, that they can legitimately claim that their actions remain aligned with non-speciesism.

But again, why would a vegan dumpster diver want to eat from dumpsters the remnants of any animal species when so much non-animal material is also readily available in dumpsters? Is it because your closest dumpster belongs to the butcher? Well guess what – the butcher might be my closest shop too but that does not make it right for me to use that as an excuse to buy from her rather than travel down the road to by something of non-animal origin. Is it because of the fact that since the animal has already suffered that you want to use their remnants so that their suffering was not in vain? Well then wake up and use your own consequentialist measures to understand that the victimised animal cannot care either way what you consume right now. Is it because you see animal products as superior delivery mechanisms for nutrients? In that case you’d better examine your whole take on what does and doesn’t justify animal use and your understanding of veganism and animal rights.

Dumpster diving for disposed animal products may not be inherently wrong in itself, but when taken in the context of the remainder of the dumpster diver’s actions it generally becomes so. In one of my previous posts about roadkill I expressed an opinion that consuming it is not necessarily problematic in itself. I only half agree with that notion now: I still believe that, like dumpster diving for animal products, it causes no direct harm. But living vegan and promoting animal rights is so much more than abstaining from direct harm. It is the engaging with a state of mind that insists on no sentient species being viewed as automatically more beneficial / palatable / domesticable / exploitable than others.

When supposedly vegan dumpster divers are prepared to eat the corpses of “non-food animals,” including the corpses of human animals, then eating such things in their concern for the natural environment and food distribution might be legitimately rationalised within a vegan context. (And even then there are other reservations that I won’t get into now.) I have not yet heard of such dumpster divers. Until then this is simple and overt animal consumption – and not actually vegan at all.

Who is an animal rights activist?

A thought:

Our own veganism is our first and highest form of animal rights activism.

Hurt me once, hurt me twice.

When humans bring non-humans into this world we generally take them away from their families soon after they’re born. Unless the mother is required for her baby to survive, or unless the mother provides a cheaper and easier option for rearing her child to a commercially viable age than our own intervention, we prance on the opportunity to take our new property and place it where we think it belongs. Our quest for meat and milk and down feathers is a much higher charge than protecting the most sacred of bonds.

Being the vulnerable victims that they are it is not unexpected that those young domesticates that we intentionally orphan look elsewhere for support. Like any child they look for relief. The hand that feeds them becomes their comfort. The person who tends to their physical welfare becomes their saviour. These victimised children probably have no idea why their supposed comforters inflict hurt on them – like when they cut off their balls or rip out their horns – but in the absence of anyone else there is no other option for these children. After having their legitimate hope – their mother and family – torn from them they search earnestly, like any child, for hope elsewhere, and the farmer they see regularly becomes that hope.

How doubly tragic is it then that those same farmers will, for the second time, destroy the hope of these children when they turn them over to be killed. These children who are born into destitution are offered a glimpse of providence but only to be sold out by the very same people who masqueraded as their carers. Every non-vegan is paying the farmer to be this psychopath; in paying they become fully complicit in the act and are no less psychopaths themselves.

The ultimate betrayal, not once but twice. First at birth and again at death. Rather than hang our heads in shame we then revel in their corpses. Their entire, poor, short lives are fully framed in our contempt.

 

Musings on vegan food and the toppling of civilisation.

Prologue: This is my second post in a row about vegan food and essentially a continuation of my last post– very uncharacteristic of what I like to write about but telling of the bulk of what I’m currently reading about in social media. Lots of this post is speculation and dreaming. I do hope this post calms me down and I can revert to reality and the ethics of veganism next time.

There seems to me an increasing craze about various diets. Some people are convinced that a particular type of plant-based diet is the optimum diet for human health. Others are convinced that a diet that containing fatty animal parts is closer to what we need. Paleo, 80-10-10, raw till four, macrobiotic – you are sure to find whatever floats your boat.

A common appeal from most proponents of any of these diets is that their diet is closely aligned to what would have been eaten by humans prior to the first agricultural revolution. I’m not exactly sure why that is so important? Is there anything to suggest that prior to the agricultural revolution we were ubiquitously healthy? Since people are pointing to the prevalence of various diseases today (like cancers, heart disease, etc.) why do they need to go back 10000 years when these same diseases were much less prevalent only 50 or 100 years ago? Does anyone believe that 10000 years ago all people across the world ate the same foods everywhere? Do people not realise that the plants and animals we buy today are dissimilar from those available 10000 years ago anyway?

My take is that this appeal to our current physiology and supposed history is, at best, a non-issue. What we should be eating right now should be informed by the science of today and what food products we have available right now – and our morals of course. I don’t think that any science or food availability points us to any one superior type of diet and almost anything sensible is enough for us to thrive. (In fact, considering how non-sensibly much of us eat and yet we survive for so long is testament to just how resilient we human beings are when it comes to what we eat).

So I wonder, what is the real appeal of this getting back to pre-agricultural eating? Is it some form of cloaked nostalgia? A desire to connect with our ancestors? Or just a way to justify our current eating whims?

Forget the past. I prefer to think about this situation flipped over: that our decisions today will affect what we will be like in the next 10000 years. I’ll call it the post-vegan period because I hope that’s where we’ll be in 10000 years.

In the post-vegan period people will be fully comfortable eating vegan food because that’s what people ate for the last 10000 years. People will know that they can eat vegan and remain healthy and lack nothing. People will have a cultural predilection for vegan foods; eating animals and the products that come from their orifices will be seen as something that was done prior to one of the most significant social revolutions in the world – the domination of veganism. But even more than that, human physiology will actually start changing.

That’s right! Because humans no longer consume animal products our bodies will eventually change towards a more herbivorous being. This will be through an evolutionary process. It’s not as though individual bodies will change drastically throughout their lives, just that those who are born with a predilection for animal products will find them harder to obtain and will therefore suffer for it. Those bodies that thrive easiest on plant materials will do well, will assumedly find commensurately thriving sexual partners and will promote the next generations of plant-fit humans.  Of course, all this will take thousands of years for even the smallest changes, but it will be an inevitable state in a post-vegan world. It doesn’t at all make the case for veganism any stronger (or weaker) but it is interesting to see just how far reaching veganism is.

Just as many people today tout the invention of hunting and an increased amount of meat consumption as a pivotal point in humankind’s development, so one day people will tout the general acceptance of the basic moral premise of doing no harm as a pivotal point in humankind’s development. The first supposedly bought us out of the cave and into civilisation, the latter will take us from civilisation and into the next phase of human existence – something that we can’t even fathom yet.

We are barely 10000 years into civilisation as we know it – that’s only 40 generations of people and a blink of an eye in the larger scope of things. The chance for post-veganism in a similar time is real, and this current way of life where we relegate our sentient cohabitors to mere objects will be seen as a sad parenthesis on the time-line of human development.

Epilogue: Back to reality. Post-veganism requires veganism. Keep educating and advocating!

A new cheese comes to Australia and we go crazy!

In the last week Facebook has been abuzz with talk about Bio-Life and Daiya cheeses, both newly available in Australia. Vegans love talking about food. I’ve indicated previously that I find it disheartening when food is the central tenet of veganism – because veganism is infinitely more than what we eat. But there is no doubt that our food choices are generally the single biggest behavioural change that we make when we decide to engage with our moral duties towards non-humans.

I will make an incendiary suggestion to my fellow vegans: we have a type of inferiority complex about food.  But it’s cool.

I think about various sub-cultures* and, apart from specific foodie groups, I can’t see anywhere near as much noise about food as I do in vegan circles. Sure, sometimes people in various health groups (including herbivores-for-health) like to tout their foods for the supposedly healthy choices that they are, but this talk about their food is usually about its health, not about how good it tastes. No, vegans actually talk about how good our food tastes, even if it’s a simple frozen pizza or burger patty; I can’t think of any other group of people who would celebrate frozen pizzas and burger patties the way we do. In my opinion this overcompensation smacks of inferiority.

I think we celebrate these foods not because they are (anywhere near) the best tasting options available but simply because they are available. As vegans we realise that our morals restrain us from consuming particular food items and any new addition that increases our range of availabilities makes us happy. In our excitement we convolute their availability with their quality (compared to non-vegan versions) and we become food obsessed. These new foods validate our claim that eating vegan is easy and we trumpet them proudly. The non-vegan world is often justified in looking at us and thinking we vegans are all making much ado about nothing, because from their point of view they already have many options that the greater world thinks are better than ours.

Personally, I’m happy about that inferiority complex and I think we have every right to feel that way. Vegan food is revolutionary and a new era in the way we eat; it’s only natural that we are both trepidacious and excited about this uncharted territory. For ten thousand years the world at large has been slicing flesh from animals and finding ways to make it taste better; we vegans have barely begun making meaty treats from plant sources and look how far we’ve come in just the last few years.  The world at large has had ten thousand years to get cheese to where they want it; we vegans have barely begun on our journey of making cheese and I’m sure that in ten thousand years we’ll have our own cheeses that are just as good as any non-vegan versions out there right now. Just as the first people who “discovered” animal based cheese would have had massive excitement about their new find so do we vegans now get uber-excited about our new plant based cheeses. I’m sure that the animal based cheeses of ten thousand years ago were nothing like the animal based cheeses of today; neither will vegan cheeses be anything like they are now in ten thousand years. The era of vegan food has just begun and we are all still in our infancy.

As much as I lament our lack of processed options in the supermarket I still see a growing number of vegan options every year. We are progressing. Slowly. But considering the world has had ten thousand years to get where it is today I think we vegans are going our own way at a decent pace, particularly when we represent such a small fraction of humankind.

Vegan fare is beautiful! It is demonstrative how our mindset can affect our progress; if we want something hard enough, like cheese without animal exploitation, we will make it happen. I recall one night I returned home with a friend after a “heavy” night out and we wanted pizza. Out came the aprons. We decided to make moxarella for the pizzas. We needed to apply the moxarella to the pizzas but short of a piping set we wondered what to do. I emptied out a bag of frozen fruit, cut a small hole in the bottom corner of the bag and used that as a piper. I have vivid memories of my friend, in his less than fully sober state, piping gelatinous goo (the moxarella) out of the fruit bag onto the pizza and I thought just how weird this would come across to non-vegans. And how beautiful it actually was. In order to not harm others we didn’t just grab a block of yellow stuff from the fridge and grate it on, no we went through quite an elaborate process that took a fair whack of time, presented challenges and bore no resemblance to normalcy. That is what veganism is about – dodging intentional harm by any means possible, and loving the privilege of being able to do so.

It’s a lot of fun being part of this new food era. Like anxious children we wait to see what happens next and it’s a state of ongoing excitement. (Who knows, we may all end up ditching processed stuff altogether and revert back to simple, whole plant foods? – Not today though!!) We are part of a revolution that is not just ideological but also deeply affects our most basic living skills like eating. We reject the bondage of supposed normalcy, liberate our minds and reevaluate these basic living skills, making changes as required. It’s extremely refreshing and much more satisfying than simply appealing to the culinary standards of our ancestors that are rooted in the grossest immorality.

* I don’t want to paint veganism as a sub-culture because it shouldn’t (or need not) be but there is no doubt that on a practical level we are often seen this way, even amongst ourselves.

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