During this month of the media year when veganism is widely misrepresented as a dietary fad and a menu choice that we can ‘try out for size’, there are several articles and interviews circulating where celebrities are given air time, ‘personalities’ who for some reason imagine that the sudden change in their eating pattern now qualifies them to discuss and inform about veganism.
I can imagine the ‘raising awareness’ keyboards firing up at this point but there’s something here that just has to be said. There is no doubt that celebrity status opens doors to media circulation that those who actually know and understand the subject are seldom afforded. I’ve just watched one such interview where the topic of a ‘try it for a month’ celeb with a farmer was the ‘concern that vegetarians and vegans have about animal husbandry’ and the difficulties local farmers face in competition with ‘factory farming operations’.
My jaw quite literally dropped. It’s hard to know where to even start with such a basis for any discussion about Animal Rights. In fact it’s a basis that specifically precludes all possibility of a discussion about Animal Rights; it’s a discussion in which animal use is assumed and taken for granted, an accepted fact centring a PR pitch in favour of local farming. The ‘discussion’ has nothing whatsoever to do with veganism and could well be mistaken for a publicity stunt by (in this case) the dairy industry.
For starters, only someone who regards veganism as a menu choice would conflate ‘vegetarians and vegans’ as if they were in any way similar. Vegetarianism is indeed a dietary restriction whereas veganism is a moral and philosophical stance against the violence of all the uses that our species makes of others. For the sake of brevity I won’t dwell here on all the reasons why they are not connected in any way other than the letters shared by the two words, but for those who are curious, please check out Vegan and vegetarian – why they are not similar or the slightly shorter In a nutshell: the victims of vegetarianism.
To then go on to say that vegans have ‘concerns about animal husbandry’, is once more a serious and fundamental misunderstanding of the whole vegan ethic. Concern about animal husbandry aka ‘welfare‘ is the term given to a set of standards developed by the animal use industries themselves, in collusion with their supporters and enablers, that detail methods of exploitation and use. ‘Welfare’ in the context of our use of other species, has come to focus on consideration of the degrees of the torture to which they are subjected; the details of the environment in which they are unnecessarily confined, the means by which their bodily integrity and reproductive systems may be unnecessarily violated, the methods by which they may be unnecessarily surgically mutilated, the means and duration of their transport to their place of unnecessary death, the methods by which their unnecessary killing can occur and so on.
It is at best naïve to think that any regulations, including those that misleadingly use the word ‘welfare’ in their description, are in ANY way designed to protect the feelings, wellbeing or individual integrity or autonomy of these ‘resources, commodities and commercial assets’. Indeed, any lessening of the level of torment to which our victims are subjected is purely coincidental because the purpose of ‘welfare’ regulations is to safeguard the commercial value of those who are deemed to be resources, commodities and assets by reassuring the consumer public that they can buy the products of violence and death without their conscience being troubled.
I have written frequently that making judgements about what we think are reduced levels of harm and calling for yet more legislation about such levels, is still promoting harm. And promoting harm to our needless victims is not vegan, however we choose to represent ourselves.
In complete opposition to this, stands the Animal Rights position, never more eloquently stated than in the words of the late Tom Regan.
I regard myself as an advocate of animal rights-as part of the animal rights movement. That movement, as I conceive it, is committed to a number of goals, including:
- the total abolition of the use of animals in science;
- the total dissolution of commercial animal agriculture;
- the total elimination of commercial and sport hunting and trapping.
There are, I know, people who profess to believe in animal rights but do not avow these goals. Factory farming, they say, is wrong-it violates animals’ rights-but traditional animal agriculture is all right. Toxicity tests of cosmetics on animals violates their rights, but important medical research-cancer research, for example-does not. The clubbing of baby seals is abhorrent, but not the harvesting of adult seals. I used to think I understood this reasoning. Not any more. You don’t change unjust institutions by tidying them up.
What’s wrong-fundamentally wrong with the way animals are treated isn’t the details that vary from case to case. It’s the whole system. The forlornness of the veal calf is pathetic, heart wrenching; the pulsing pain of the chimp with electrodes planted deep in her brain is repulsive; the slow, tortuous death of the raccoon caught in the leg-hold trap is agonizing. But what is wrong isn’t the pain, isn’t the suffering, isn’t the deprivation. These compound what’s wrong. Sometimes-often-they make it much, much worse. But they are not the fundamental wrong.
The fundamental wrong is the system that allows us to view animals as our resources, here for us-to be eaten, or surgically ·manipulated, or exploited for sport or money. Once we accept this view of animals-as our resources-the rest is as predictable as it is regrettable.
~ Tom Regan
Read more here
So what harm do the uninformed do?
Lets just have a recap about why we’re in this fight for Animal Rights. In a single year:
- 74 billion land based individuals killed in cold blood in regulated slaughterhouses, and the uncounted individuals who were not even important enough to count
- 2.7 trillion (estimated) aquatic individuals killed in cold blood and the trillions whose deaths were dismissed as ‘by-catch’
- The global flock of 7.4 billion egg laying hens
- The estimated 7.4 billion male chicks who were regarded as worthless
- Hundreds of millions of dairy mothers of various species killed because they could no longer produce enough breast milk
- The 800 million dairy mothers (including 264 million cows) worldwide, trapped in a system where they are used to death
- Uncounted individuals used and tortured in laboratories
- Uncounted individuals used for ‘sport’ and ‘entertainment’
- Uncounted billions used for their skin, their body fibres and for a myriad other purposes.
That’s a hell of a lot of bloodshed, a sickening number of lives. THEY are who we’re fighting for. They are depending on us and they need us to be absolutely clear about what they need. They need consumers to stop demanding their use and their deaths for the products they put in their shopping trolleys. They need us to be vegan.
Yet we live in a world of celebrity adulation where celebrity status allows the uninformed to reach the ears of their admiring public without the challenges that other mere mortals would face. And through those whose absence of knowledge is not seen as any kind of impediment to their discussing ‘veganism’, far from ‘raising awareness’ about the victims of our species, a completely different message is proclaimed to a non-vegan world only too happy for the reassurance.
The message is that some animals matter but there’s no need to be extreme. They don’t all matter equally and it’s perfectly fine to harm and kill them as long as we are ‘concerned about husbandry’. This is such an utter betrayal of our victims that it’s truly heartbreaking that some will hear it and think, ‘Yeah, now I know about veganism’.
Yet when we look back at the words of Tom Regan, at ‘abolition’, at dissolution’, and ‘elimination’; there’s nothing in there about competing with ‘factory farms’.
Let’s keep the focus on veganism as it truly is; honest, simple and clear. Vegans stand against violence, against creating victims. To live vegan is to recognise that every individual, whatever their species, has the right to own their body and their life.
Be vegan. Today!
Check out this recommended collection of (non-celebrity), informative links: