Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
The assumption that animals are without rights, and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance, is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. ~ Arthur Schopenhauer, The Basis of Morality.
Veganism is in truth an affirmation that where love is, exploitation vanishes. It possesses historical continuity with the movement that set free the human slaves. […] veganism is itself a principle, from which certain practices logically flow. ~ Leslie Cross (Vice Pres, Vegan Society, 1951)
I don’t know anything about Leslie Cross or the context of the latter quote so it’s worth pointing out that Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks and many abolitionists were vegetarians. Angela Davis is vegan, Alice Walker agrees with the ethics (in a foreword to a book) but isn’t vegan.
The first vegan cookbook written about was No Animal Food by Rupert H. Wheldon in 1910. In 1912 a plant-based diet was suggested as the proper vegetarian diet by the editor of the Journal of the Vegetarian Society in Manchester after a debate between readers – s/he deemed the reasons for milk and egg consumption unsatisfactory. The focus changed to Henry Salt’s emphasis on animal rights later. The ethics predates it by centuries or decades, but as I’m pointing out documentation is vital in writing history. I only recently realised that “vegan” was coined by Dorothy (Morgan-)Watson in the 1940s. Her husband Donald Watson founded the first Vegan Society with Elsie Shrigley in London, in 1944. Veganism seeks to exclude anything that entails the exploitation and use of animals as far as possible, thus implies no use of meat, milk, fish, eggs, honey, leather, silk, wool, zoos, circuses, horse-riding, etc.
I follow a strict vegan diet in spite of multiple food allergies but one who cannot comply to the same for health reasons, or income, or who dumpster-dives (freegans), is vegan. There are freegans who are strict vegans and one for instance who looks for freshly dumped egg and dairy products for his friends or relatives who were going to buy these products anyway. Do bear in mind that the latter products are priced low with the aid of government subsidies and although they are perishables, energy-wasting methods are used to make their distribution easy (and their waste just as). With our diversity and differing circumstances in mind…
I define ‘veganism’ as the willingness to do the least harm possible on any group/page I’ve created because in a few words, it encompasses all the above as well as this quote from (Sarah Woodcock’s) Vegans Unite Against ALL Oppression: “We can’t effectively battle speciesism with other forms of oppression. Tolerating any form of oppression means tolerating every form of oppression.” I’m not linking to vegan abolitionist pages anymore. Gary Francione is very far from being representative of all vegans and his brand is problematic from the use of the word ‘abolitionist’. That a Francionite runs the above page doesn’t eclipse the privilege and isms he doesn’t accept criticism about.
Speciesism is the arbitrary discrimination against, abuse and murder of other species; while it is comparable to any other arbitrary discrimination, abuse and murder, it is important to prioritise respect for oppressed groups consistently and also not to engage in oppression olympics.
Compassion is not a requirement for morality. Since I have none, I favour logic, logic does not change with emotional states. If one wishes to be part of an ethical movement, one has accepted being part of rational discussion. Those who oppress humans and persist to do so, denying or enjoying the harm they cause, or refusing to see it as harm, while calling themselves ‘vegan’ – harm the movement. I experience discrimination as a direct result of that in my communities, I call myself vegan and I may not get to explain that I do not mean white supremacist or privileged. I shouldn’t have to. There are other fine two-syllable words like ‘plant-based’ to denote herbivore; the term ‘anti-speciesist’ can be used in all languages.
It would be dishonest, to say the least, for an animal-rightist to pretend that it harms the movement for others to discuss ignored forms of oppression, or to explain how harmful inter-human oppression is. I’m oppressed and if I’m less so, it frees up my time and spoons to do something for them, it’s good for animals too. That’s like very simple maths. Erasing my reality and experience means wanting a white supremacist or privileged vegan movement.
If we advocate to give animals the same respect as we give humans, then encouraging the indifference to, absence of or dilution of equal rights, or of respect, among human does a dis-service to animal advocacy.
There are many individual vegans and activists who are outspoken against many forms of oppression, and this movement has some more great quotes from prominent historical figures you may recognise that promoted connectionism. Veganism, as it ought to be, is not limited to the above. Some of those whose voices should matter may not be in a position to be seen or heard. It took me a long time to start blogging and it’s not only time-consuming, I now have to organise internet access for it.
How we wish we had answers to questions that generations after generations ask :