Today, I was called an “ignorant bitch” by a person, Stephanie, who is supposedly a fellow vegan. She had made a Facebook post about how she was tired of seeing people’s responses to posts about Marius, a baby giraffe slaughtered in front of a crowd at Copenhagen zoo in Denmark and his dismembered body fed to the zoo’s lions. She was annoyed that other vegans were saying that people should stop posting so much about Marius because his death was no more tragic than the deaths of the billions of animals used and killed needlessly every single year. She was sick of hearing it.
Her argument was that she is a vegan, and while she does speak out on behalf of the billions slaughtered every year, she feels compelled to speak out for this individual giraffe. She feels that single issue campaigns (SICs) are a necessary and desirable part of veganism. After all, she said, it was an SIC that got her to become vegan. She is a big fan of Captain Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd, King of the SIC, who thinks only whales matter, the same man who once claimed that a whale feels more than a chicken. Yeah, that guy. He’s her hero, so I really should have known better than to engage with her. But engage I did.
She repeatedly questioned my reading comprehension skills and told me I missed the point of her post. I disagreed with her and was called an ignorant bitch.
I checked out her Facebook page after all this, and I discovered that she is a hateful person. If you could wade through all the petitions for various SICs, you could read some horrible comments about how humans are scum, a cancer on the earth, and how we should all die. I found some misogyny, too, in the form of words like “cunt” (used to refer to a woman wearing fur, and preceding wishes for the woman to die), “bitch”, and “pussies” (this was used by a “friend” of Stephanie’s). I’ve never seen so much vitriol on one page. It was…..remarkable, and quite unsettling.
She had pictures of Marius plastered all over, with captions like “you’re light shines on” [sic]. What was lacking, however, was any effort to frame these SICs within the larger framework of veganism or showing people how if Marius matters, they all matter. And that was my point, and presumably the point of all the people saying that we should not just focus on one baby giraffe.
I do see how Marius’ misfortune could be a starting point for some worthwhile discussions on animal exploitation in general. Meaning, if you are going to post a picture of Marius, add the caption “If you care about Marius, GO VEGAN” and add a link to The Abolitionist Vegan Society. That might spark some intelligent and worthwhile discussion, and change the thinking from one giraffe to billions of other animals. That is the kind of connection we need to get others to make.
But just plastering Marius all over the page with links to petitions and comments that his NAZI murderers should be executed themselves with a bolt to the head is not particularly helpful to the vegan cause. And when I pointed this out, I was accused of having “tunnel vision”—which was deeply ironic, coming from Stephanie—and called a bitch.
I find it troubling that the welfarists and the SICers who camp really close to them accuse people like me of being “divisive” and “vegan police”. The word “vegan” means something. At least, it did. Now, I’m not so sure. If people like Stephanie can call themselves vegan, while calling other vegans “ignorant bitch” for disagreeing with them, then I’m not sure the word really means anything anymore. If “vegan” means calling for the violent deaths of humans, and being a misogynist, then I don’t want to be a vegan.
We need to reclaim the word from people like Stephanie. We need to make “vegan” mean something worthwhile again. When people hear the word “vegan”, I want them to think about peaceful, just-minded humans who want compassion and justice extended to all sentient beings, human and nonhuman alike. It should not be associated with raging, angry, violent people like Stephanie, or sexist fundraising machines like PETA. It should not be associated with signing petitions. It should not be associated with SICers like Captain Paul Watson and supporting their expensive and meaningless endeavours.
It should be about justice, not just for one baby giraffe, whose death was indeed tragic, but for every single sentient being who is exploited by humans. It should be about promoting nothing less than veganism as a moral baseline, which means that we advocate for all animals and refrain from giving the impression that any one animal matters more or less than any other. It means not promoting petitions and SICs, but promoting veganism—meaningful change—instead. It means not spewing vitriol, but educating others (which does not include saying they should die!). It means not hating other people. We were not all born vegans, and all people have the capacity to change. After all, we did. It’s our job, as vegans, to help others do the same.
Stephanie, I hope that one day you can overcome your rage and your hatred and become the vegan and animal rights activist we all have the ability to be. I wish you peace and freedom from the anger you harbour toward all the people who could become vegan if you’d stop pushing them away with your lousy (and, frankly, frightening) attitude.