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Things That Need to Stop: “I’m a veg*n, but I’m not preachy about it.”

7 January 2012

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.  “I’m a vegan/vegetarian (for political/ethical reasons), but

  • I don’t care whether or not anyone else is.”
  • I’m not, like, militant or anything.”
  • I can take a joke about killing/eating animals.”
  • getting angry about speciesism just Hurts the Cause.”
  • it’s not necessarily a political issue.”
  • I’m not preachy about it.”

And so on.

I have heard variations on all of these statements from people who write and fight uncompromisingly to end patriarchy, racism, imperialism, ableism, and other injustices in the world.  People who (otherwise) understand that everything is political and all issues are interconnected.  People who refuse to be silenced by threats of stalking, injury, rape, and death.  People who are regularly ‘preachy’ in the most inspiring and badass ways.

Why is veg*nism different?  Why is it Right and Good to refuse to compromise on other matters of justice, but refusing to compromise on speciesism and mass slaughter is self-righteous and extremist?  I’m not posing these questions because I’m interested in anyone’s personal opinions, by the way.  In this little corner of the internet, the legitimacy and urgency of veganism is not open for debate.

Ultimately, I’m not going to ask y’all to start being ‘preachy’ about veg*nism, though that would be awesome and ideologically consistent and whatnot.  All I’m asking is that you cut out the appeasing bullshit double-standard that is “I’m a veg*n, but…” whenever someone else treats it like the political and ethical issue it actually is.


16 Comments leave one →
  1. Bill permalink
    7 January 2012 17:47

    Out of curiosity how do you approach your meat eating friends on veganism? Personally I eat meat, its also part of my cultural/family ways and I don’t even have one friend who is a vegan (the closest are 2 vegetarians). How would you sell veganism to someone like me? I can live without many kinds of meats but I am not accepting or open to not eating chicken, pork and cheeses.

    • 7 January 2012 19:20

      In my personal life, it depends upon the individual and which arguments I think will make the most impact. (I’ll be doing a post on specific arguments in the future. It’s too extensive of a subject to delve into here.) Anyone who meets me learns my opinions fairly quickly, but I don’t waste a lot of time trying to argue in good faith with people who have zero interest in grappling with anything I’m saying. Family tends to fall under this category. Most of my current friends are vegan or at least agree that they should be vegan, but various material issues are preventing them from completely cutting out animal products. I realize that it isn’t always simple or straightforward, and that the problem is ultimately a systemic one. In any case, I try to lead by example and am usually happy to help friends do research on eating afforable and nutritious veg food.

      If you tell me straight off that you’re “not accepting or open to not eating” certain animals, then I wonder what the point would be in trying to argue with you. You’ve already decided how the dialogue will end.

  2. 8 January 2012 08:56

    Nice post. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 14. I’m not as much into animal rights anymore, the original flame just kind of died out as I got more and more into radical politics (not that the two cant co-exist.)

    Vegetarianism to me today is just a healthy diet, and I’m not very knowledgeable with the animal rights debate.

    My original thoughts are that it reeks of class privilege to be preachy about animal rights and vegetarianism to other people, as not everybody has the privilege of choosing their diet and just eat what they get.

    If you can, could you explain to me how radical politics intertwine with animal liberation? How can the two work together, in your opinion?

    I can envisage socialist/communist society as not brutalizing animals as is done under capitalism, but I cannot really see anything else.

    • 8 January 2012 13:20

      The politics of animal liberation are about emancipation and egalitarianism, just like all other radical politics.

    • 8 January 2012 14:32

      Of course many veg*ns fight from a point of privilege-obliviousness and have no understanding whatsoever of what life is like for anyone else. This is unfortunately true within all left-leaning movements, at least in the (Global North) places I’ve lived. Our job is certainly not to ‘preach’ to people who can’t access vegan food. I would recommend you read Vegans of Color (the whole site, but “Hood Diet” from that post particularly applies to this conversation) or research food deserts. I’ll be getting more into specific arguments and issues surrounding veganism in the big post I’ve been working on, but briefly, the most dangerous and harmful aspects of the meat industry disproportionately affect marginalized people. You can look at this from the perspective of slaughterhouse workers, communities directly affected by the byproducts of factories, etc.

      I believe that we all need to do our part by opposing/refusing to participate in oppression to the best of our individual abilities, but as I mentioned in my reply to Bill, the problem is a systemic one and won’t be solved through individualistic actions. Liberation is radical.

      • 9 January 2012 06:43

        “(…) the most dangerous and harmful aspects of the meat industry disproportionately affect marginalized people.”

        I watched some documentary which talked about how meat and dairy related illnesses and diabetes will affect a much larger portion of oppressed people in the future. From there on medical giants can make a huge fortune, emptying everybody’s pockets.

        These viewpoints are really in the shadow of PETA misogynists, who are currently the face of vegetarianism/veganism. Vegetarian porn for the masses, what the fuck…

        • 9 January 2012 14:32

          Right, it’s no accident that the horror show that is PETA gets so much attention while the effects on marginalized people are ignored. We have to pick up the slack and talk about these issues even when our platforms are as small as this one here.

  3. 9 January 2012 08:13

    At the risk of getting shouted down, I’ll link an article in which I pose a Marxist critique of veganism/lifestyle politics in the greater context of the environmental movement today. Perhaps you’ll find it at least interesting food for thought, even if you disagree:

    “Man and Nature”

    I hope you’ll forgive the old-fashioned humanist rhetoric about “man” as a stand-in for humanity.

    • 9 January 2012 14:56

      Honestly, I have great difficulty caring about anything that substitutes ‘man’ for ‘human’ (especially if it’s been written recently) and consider myself under no obligation to read any such text. I enjoy life a lot more when I’m not being reminded that I’m a second-class human at best.

      Your link to yourself here isn’t exactly on topic, but I don’t know why you think you’d get “shouted down,” given the quite relaxed nature of the rest of the comment thread. Any discussion of the contents of your post should be happening at that post, though, not here.

  4. 10 January 2012 08:57

    Great and validating article. Im a vegan yoga teacher (of course, Ahimsa is a primary teaching) and recently one of the many local yoga teachers in my area, (the kind dying for a yoga journal cover, recently had a status update that said she used to be vegan, but she stopped because she didn’t want a “label”. She doesn’t like labels. What??? She included an article backing her opinion. Sad.

    • 10 January 2012 09:24

      I think if your heart’s not in it, you’ll never be proud of it. That’s the point we’re always trying to get across when we talk to people about veganism. You’re taking a stand, siding with what’s Right and Good in the universe, so you should be proud! You should wear it like a badge of honor, and never feel like you have to “defend” it.

      Thanks for the read.

    • 10 January 2012 12:40

      Thanks, I’m really glad it’s validating! And yeah, that “I don’t do labels” thing drives me up a wall sometimes.

  5. Pat Tyrrell permalink
    10 January 2012 13:36

    Just a quick question…why is there an asterisk substitute for the ‘a’ in vegan in the title?

    • 10 January 2012 14:29

      It’s a truncated(?) term to include vegans and vegetarians. I use it when I need to refer to both groups, hoping it doesn’t sound as clunky as saying “vegans and/or vegetarians” every time. I’m not sure who came up with it originally.

  6. meerkat permalink
    24 June 2012 11:20

    Thanks for this entry :)

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