Today, one of the topics in cyberspace is sites, groups and individuals that call themselves ‘vegan’ when they very plainly are not. ‘So what’s the problem – aren’t they harmless?’ I hear some ask. So I found myself considering two aspects of this; the first is the fact that this hijacking and redefining of a concept such as veganism happens at all, and the second is that these phoney groups always seem to manage to gather followers.
It’s extremely encouraging to see veganism – true veganism – becoming more prevalent and mainstream in the world and that can only be a good thing.
However we live in a culture of media addiction where presentation triumphs so often over substance; a culture of celebrity worship, a culture where ‘trends’ are the star by so which many steer their moral compass through the shifting seas. ‘Vegan’ is becoming a ‘trendy’ word and as a result, there are those who would like to adopt it. In this cynical world of oversized egos there are many who crave publicity, and there will always be charlatans who claim that inclusion within their group or social circle will provide you with the info you need, and will entitle you to call yourself ‘vegan’.
However, sadly, there are too many of these that are to veganism, what snake-oil salesmen are to qualified medical practitioners. There are many who appear to ‘relax the rules’, to dilute the term veganism, to put time and effort into justifying various forms of animal use that they claim are acceptable. At first sight, they may seem less ‘stuffy’ than some other groups, ‘more practical’, perhaps even a bit edgy and irreverent. However, whether through genuine ignorance or cynical manipulation I am reluctant to speculate, any such group, site or individual that does not promote a complete end to humanity’s exploitation of members of other species, uses the term ‘vegan’ under false pretences.
And the harm? The harm is incalculable as they peddle misinformation, sowing confusion and misleading those whose quest for information is genuine. Because unlike those whose relatively harmless delusions lead them to firmly believe that they’re Henry VIII or a visitor from Mars, when it comes to veganism, misinformation costs lives. Billions of them every year. Humanity’s victims are depending on us for a clear and consistent message as they stand quaking in the slaughterhouses awaiting their turn for their precious and only lives to be hacked from them for our convenience.
That seems rather obvious, which can lead only to wondering why people seem to flock to groups that denigrate veganism as ‘extreme’ or ‘difficult’, and mock those who promote and it as ‘purist’, ‘stuffy’ and ‘vegan police’.
I started to try to phrase this paragraph diplomatically, but I reckon I can’t afford to be mealy-mouthed about it. The truth is that there are many people who want to be able to call themselves ‘vegan’ but who don’t want to change anything or cause themselves any inconvenience. They therefore seem to shop around for a ‘vegan’ group that will condone whatever devastating harm that they wish to continue to carry out to the helpless and innocent; where they will find like minds who will stroke their egos and join in the vocal condemnation of those who hold that veganism requires no redefining and absolutely no diluting. They want to talk the talk without walking the walk.
And why should I care – what’s it to me? Well there are billions of helpless, powerless, innocents whose mere existence is a torment; who have nothing to call their own – not their bodies, not their children, not their friends, not their lives. There are queues in the slaughterhouses trembling to the screams of their friends, frozen with terror in the certain knowledge that their own blood is about to join the stench of the rivers of gore assaulting their nostrils; goaded in sickening horror by the implacable and merciless predators with their hard hands and electric prods.
Every waking moment, I am aware of the weight of the responsibility that veganism places on the shoulders of every one of us whose eyes have been opened. It is not my place or my right to barter away and compromise the rights of even a single victim, not a single victim amongst those billions whose fundamental right to own their own selves is the first right veganism seeks to protect. And meanwhile, every single nonvegan choice causes devastating and terminal harm to one who is powerless to defend his or her self against the senseless tyranny of my species. So that’s why I care. That’s why we ALL should care.
With the huge responsibility we share as vegans, comes the additional responsibility of recognising the sad reality of those who seek to hijack and corrupt the ethic for unfathomable reasons of their own.
All I can say is I beg you to remember who we’re in this fight for. They need us all. Stay strong, stay vegan.