I was recently discussing fireworks, balloons, sky lanterns etc and the devastating harm that they inflict on all living creatures in many ways; some as an extreme form of noise/light pollution, and all resulting in widespread toxic littering that pollutes the habitats of every wild creature who depends on the environment for food and shelter. I was asked whether I considered that these should be banned altogether or restricted in some way; say to municipal or organised displays only. My position is absolutely clear and unequivocal. They must be completely banned without exception.
It occurred to me that in suggesting ‘restriction’ we have another example of the flawed notion of ‘harm reduction’; a concept promoted as ‘pragmatic’ or ‘realistic’ by individuals, organisations and ‘charities’ that use terms like ‘animal rights’ without any concept of the meaning. Closer inspection depressingly often reveals an agenda that has nothing to do with those desperate, doomed individuals whose interests they claim to represent, and a lot to do with ego, nonvegan donations, and collusion with industries with vested interests.
With regard to promoting’ less harm’ as opposed to ‘current levels of harm’ in any true animal rights conversation, the problem with the concept is hiding in plain sight. Whether we promote less harm, more harm or the same level of harm, we are still promoting HARM. To promote this is to give a seal of approval – which no victim has ever sanctioned – to harming those whose only hope of relief from the brutality of our species, lies with those who tell the truth of their plight. And at the risk of stating the obvious, promoting harm to the victims of our species is completely contrary to everything that veganism stands for.
‘Ahh’, the argument goes, ‘We can’t expect the world to change immediately.’ And yes, that’s absolutely correct. We can’t. However.
All our lived experience of the world tells us that we seldom immediately get all that we want in any area of life. We all live with compromise – in fact we expect it. We all learn early on to ask for what we’d want in an ideal world, knowing full well that we’ll have to put up with less than we’ve asked for.
When I truthfully promote veganism as the only way that we can truly respect those whose planet we share – am I expecting everyone to get the message immediately? It’s a rhetorical question, right? No, I’m not. I can’t estimate how many will listen – not enough, I do know that. But I also know that I have a debt of obligation to every one of our annual trillions of innocent victims not to betray a single one of them by proposing that my species should continue to harm them without cause or conscience.
And a long lifetime of experience has taught me that if I were to promote half measures, harm reduction, nonvegan diets, changes to restrictions, new laws and regulations governing how we cause needless harm as a species, the result would be the same. Only a few might listen. I would NOT get everything I’d asked for. In fact I might even get less than usual because it would be all too easy to spot that my values were far from consistent.
But there would be ONE absolutely critical difference for me and much more importantly for the victims of nonveganism: To promote half measures is always a betrayal of someone and I refuse to do that. No one has ever given me the right to bargain away or compromise their life.
So to come back to where I began with this essay should I be promoting restrictions? Are we talking about some practice that is absolutely essential by any definition of the word? No, we’re not. Will restrictions end the harm that’s being needlessly inflicted on our victims and on the environment? No, they won’t.
So, I’ll repeat that fireworks, sky lanterns, balloons etc must be completely banned without exception. It won’t happen immediately but at least it’s honest. And when we take that position, we could look any one of the victims of our species in the eye and know, hand on heart, that we haven’t tried to bargain away the respect and the freedom from persecution that they deserve.
Stop being nonvegan.