The Vegan Society Sellout Scandal

I’m not sure how many people are familiar with The Vegan Society, but it’s been all over my Facebook feed lately.

Unfortunately, The “Vegan” Society has decided to take a soft-sell approach to veganism and is using a “you don’t have to be vegan to enjoy (insert vegan product here)”.

Why is this a bad thing?

Well, The Vegan Society was originally founded by a man named Donald Watson, back in 1944. In fact, Watson coined the term “vegan”. His ethical concern for animals was that of an abolitionist vegan: “We can see quite plainly that our present civilisation is built on the exploitation of animals, just as past civilisations were built on the exploitation of slaves, and we believe the spiritual destiny of man is such that in time he will view with abhorrence the idea that men once fed on the products of animals’ bodies” (Donald Watson in Vegan News, no. 1, November 1944).

It is quite plain that his vision was an end to all animal use. The current “Vegan” Society, however, has decided that it’s enough to reduce animal suffering and “mainstream” veganism by convoluting and diluting the vegan message. From the CEO Jasmijn de Boo:

“Reducing animal suffering is a driving force behind many people’s motivations for becoming vegan, and is key to our work at The Vegan Society” (http://www.vegansociety.com/node/71/statement-ceo).

So, The “Vegan” Society is not interested in abolishing animal exploitation but simply in reducing animal suffering. That sounds like welfarism to me, not veganism.

On their web page, under the “Why Vegan?” heading, they list animals as the number five reason to go vegan.


What could be a more important reason to go vegan than animal rights? Well, according to The “Vegan” Society:

1) It’s healthier. Obviously your personal health is more important than the 56 BILLION LAND ANIMALS WHO DIE EVERY SINGLE YEAR FOR NO JUSTIFIABLE REASON!!!!
2) It’s a greener way to live. Because, again, this is far more important than using sentient beings as slaves and killing them simply because we can.
3) I don’t get this one. It reads “Why is meat and dairy so bad for the environment?” and is its own heading. Isn’t that the same as number 2, the environment? Whatever. Nothing these idiots do makes sense. Moving on….
4) It’s fairer to developing countries. Besides my grammatical issue with this one, it’s still not more important than justice for animals, and putting it before animals indicates that humans come first, animals second, which should not be the case. It reinforces the existing speciesist hierarchy.
5) It’s kinder to animals. Finally! We get to what should have been listed FIRST. However, the paragraph begins with “Preventing the exploitation of animals is not the only reason for becoming vegan”. W. T. Ever-loving. F. The other stuff is a BONUS. Animals are most certainly THE reason for becoming vegan. And it’s not about “kindness”—it’s about what we OWE other sentient beings! It’s a moral obligation to not exploit them. Fail.

So, as you can see, The “Vegan” Society does not have its priorities straight. In fact, everything they say and do reinforces the idea that veganism is not really something we should do. After all, “you don’t have to be vegan” to enjoy vegan ice cream. So why bother? Just buy vegan ice cream and enjoy it while you head out to the rodeo in your leather boots. Later, get a hamburger, because you don’t HAVE to be vegan!

Fuck The “Vegan” Society.

They also reference “pre-existing academic research”*** that underscored their rebranding to a flexible version of veganism that The “Vegan” Society describes as “vegan consumerism”.

Here, I’m going to lift words from Gary Francione, who wrote about this on his Abolitionist Approach website at http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/moment-silence-donald-watson-founder-vegan-society/#.U7QPXED_naE. The pre-existing research is a single study that said that newspapers in Britain portray vegans and veganism in derogatory ways—as ascetics, faddists, sentimentalists, or, in some cases, hostile extremists—in order to perpetuate speciesism and to disconnect discussions of veganism from the moral and ethical issues presented by animal exploitation. The authors conclude that media effort to discredit veganism may reflect the “view that human violence towards nonhuman animals is deeply problematic to most humans. If it were not, there would be little purpose to the vegaphobic discourse as it was manifested in our research findings” (page 150).

So, the media deliberately portrays vegans/veganism in a negative way, to prevent people from making deeper connections between what people like Michael Vick do and what the rest of us do all the time. That is not really surprising.

But the study concludes that “Therefore, the effort to continually reassert the connection between veganism and nonhuman animal liberation remains worthwhile, and the temptation to promote veganism under the non-confrontational guise of convenient healthy lifestyle choice may be unwise. This is not to argue that education about the practicalities of living a nonviolent life is not important, but it is prey to co-option”.

It is mind-boggling that the very same study that The “Vegan” Society is relying on to justify all this “rebranding” and abandoning veganism nonsense actually arrived at the opposite conclusion. And when this was pointed out to them, The “Vegan” Society said they disagreed with the study’s conclusion! So, they disagree with the very thing they are touting….? I just….don’t understand what they are doing.

Apparently, neither does one of the authors of the study, who has contacted The “Vegan” Society to let them know that their misrepresentation of the study and its conclusions are not acceptable! But still, they keep right on referencing the study.

The “Vegan” Society seems much more concerned about their “branding” (http://goo.gl/RWPXym) than with anything to do with actual veganism. So, if you are one of their supporters and you care about working to end the exploitation of all animals, you might want to rethink where you direct your donation dollars. Check out The Abolitionist Vegan Society (TAVS) instead, at http://www.abolitionistvegansociety.org/ or check out the TAVS page on Facebook. You don’t even have to donate—you just engage in creative, nonviolent vegan advocacy!

***M. Cole and K. Morgan, Vegaphobia: derogatory discourses of veganism and the reproduction of speciesism in UK national newspapers, British Journal of Sociology 2011 Volume 62 Issue 1.


5 comments on “The Vegan Society Sellout Scandal

  1. Point 1 highlighted above, is because of the number of slebs who are dietary-only vegans. You know who they are, ‘vegan’ when it is fashionable to be. Points 2 & 3 are because The Vegan Society is now sponsored by Ecotricity, a company which benefits from ‘green’ subsidies for wind-turbines. Hence the ‘green’ argument moves up the scale.

    By the way, I can understand the individual manufacturers of certain products, eg those of dairy-free ‘ice-cream’ trying to reach a broader market; but I agree with you on the principle that The Vegan Society should not be using arguments such as ‘You don’t have to be vegan to enjoy …’.

    • People who are “dietary-only” vegans are not vegans–they are people on a plant-based diet. They don’t care about animals. Veganism is about justice for animals, not losing weight. I get annoyed when groups like The “Vegan” Society use a word incorrectly. Words have meanings, and it’s not cool when non-vegans hijack the word “vegan”.

      Thanks for the info on Ecotricity being a sponsor–I didn’t know that and that clearly explains why environment and “green” is now above justice for animals in The “Vegan” Society’s estimation. Sell outs.

      I also understand why manufacturers would want to reach a broader market–makes sense from that perspective. But what makes no sense at all is a self-described “vegan” organization telling people they don’t have to be vegan to enjoy that product. That may be true, but one would assume that the entire point of The “Vegan” Society is to encourage people to become vegan. Obviously, that is no longer their aim–their goal now is to solicit as much in donations as they can. Reminds me of PETA. Ugh.

  2. So many different takes on what veganism is and how to create change!! Its enough to put off the most passionate animal rights advocate. Could it be confusion which is slowing down a wider change to non- speciesism. I realise that tag( Non Speciesist) also has its vulnerable spots…treading on ants , killing ticks and the rest but I like the non hierarchical approach to human and non – human animal rights. However to achieve change we all need to find common ground between baby steps and revolution and work together.

  3. Plus, the Vegetarian Society – an off-shoot of the Vegan Society – expelled one of its members who questioned why the Vegetarian Society endorsed Quorn which was tested on animals and owned by Monsanto.

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