In recent days, I’ve seen many comments on posts and pages making suggestions about how to be more persuasive about veganism; how to make it more ‘appealing’.
- ‘You should be telling people to watch < film about human health>’;
- ‘You should be talking about how animal agriculture is destroying the environment‘;
- ‘You should be sharing articles about ‘vegan’ athletes or celebrities’;
- ‘You should be posting recipes’.
It is certainly true that eating a plant diet has many proven health benefits and is known to reduce the risk of the killer diseases caused by the poor and inappropriate diet followed by the majority of those who consume other animals, lactation, eggs and other substances derived from their bodies.
But veganism isn’t about humans and their health. It’s rather sad and says much about our view of our fellow humans that so many think that only by appealing to our self interest can we understand the concept of justice and be persuaded to behave with basic decency. I’m sure it’s true for some, just like I’m sure that it’s only the risk of punishment that prevents some from committing crimes, but even if it was true for every single person, human health benefits are not what veganism is about.
It’s also true that meeting the consumer demands of those who are not vegan are resulting in practices that are destroying the environment and are the leading cause of the changing climate that places every single one of us in mortal peril. But terrifying as that is, the desire to halt the Armageddon scenario, while it is consequentially connected to global consumption patterns, is not what veganism is about.
As for athletes and celebrities, apart from the sad fact that not everyone who claims to be vegan, actually is vegan, following celeb culture, fads and diets are not what veganism is about.
Recipes? There are thousands of sites and pages for that. The world doesn’t need another recipe page. While those who suggest posting recipes instead of ethics mean well, showing people how easy it is to eat a plant diet, making it all about human convenience, is not what veganism is about.
Suck it and see
Apart from anything else, I am always aware of the very real risk of reinforcing the mistaken perception of veganism as a diet. This perception needs no additional reinforcement whatsoever at a time when there are so many ‘why not try it out’ programmes running, making it all about us, all about our interests, all about our convenience.
I simply don’t believe it’s possible to try out justice, try out being a decent human being for a week or two, before deciding it’s not for us and going back to the way we were. I believe people are far better than that.
But everyone needs motivation. So, after looking at all the things it’s not, let’s revisit the beating heart of veganism, the starting point.
The vegan believes that if we are to be true emancipators of animals we must renounce absolutely our traditional and conceited attitude that we have the right to use them to serve our needs. We must supply these needs by other means. If the vegan ideal of non-exploitation were generally adopted, it would be the greatest peaceful revolution ever known, abolishing vast industries and establishing new ones in the better interests of men and animals alike.
~ Donald Watson (2 September 1910 – 16 November 2005)
Animals. First. Foremost. Central. Always.
That is the original definition of veganism. And it’s about animals.
That’s our motivation; our motivation is the desire for justice for all sentient life in a better world. ‘[W]e must renounce our .. attitude that we have the right to use them to serve our needs.’ Veganism couldn’t really be any more simple or easy to understand.
The issue that we must address is not how we treat our unnecessary victims. It’s the fact that we have victims when it is unnecessary. Once we, as individual consumers deal with that at the checkouts, everything – including our health, our impact on our shared environment and all its knock-on effects – will flow directly from our changed behaviour.
A better world starts with each of us and it can start today. Be vegan.
Further reading: Just published 18/05/2019 – Do motives matter?