So, a friend on Facebook–who is a vegan–posted this meme:
Thanks, Vegan-ish Outreach. Ugh.
Sorry if this doesn’t work right–this is the first time I’ve taken the time to actually post an image. Anyway, this quote from Jack Norris pisses me off because I thought he was actually vegan. What he’s basically saying here is, if it’s too hard for you to give up cheese, you can still be vegan and continue eating cheese.
That is bullshit.
Basically, he’s part of a disturbingly large group of people who don’t advocate veganism because it’s just too hard. People who go vegan just sacrifice too much. People won’t go vegan if they can’t eat cheese.
Ugh. No. Just…no. A person cannot be vegan and eat cheese. I’m not a “purist”. I’m not some sort of aggressive person arguing semantics, etc. But words MEAN things, and the word vegan refers to a person WHO DOES NOT CONSUME ANIMAL PRODUCTS. I think that is pretty simple. It does not include someone who eats cheese!
But lately I’ve noticed that people want to call themselves vegan without actually doing what it is that makes people vegan. Then when they get called out for it, they say things like they don’t like labels, vegan isn’t an exclusive club, etc. People like Jack Norris are NOT helping!
And the person who posted this on Facebook had this to say:
“I know there are a few hardcore vegans on my friends list who will find this offensive but I really do believe that even small efforts amount to big changes.”
And of course I responded 🙂 I said:
“It’s not so much hardcore as why not just go vegan? It’s not hard, and there is nothing magical in cheese or meat you can’t get from plants. If we truly care about animals, vegan is the only option. Baby steps, welfarism, and meatless mondays don’t help animals–they help people feel better about continuing to exploit animals. This isn’t me being hardcore. It’s me being honest.”
I think I was pretty “nice” in that comment. I even added a smiley face. And of course, my comment prompted thoughtful, meaningful and respectful discussion.
HA! Just kidding–of course it didn’t. What it sparked was people getting defensive and angry and twisting my words and then calling me all kinds of things, like aggressive and unapproachable.
Kind of like the comments I get here when I post about Gary Y or Ricky Gervais. Fucking people–they don’t want to engage in thoughtful discussion; they want to put you down to feel better about their own shitty choices.
Here’s a sampling from the thread:
Person 1: “Keep in mind, it’s your truth not everybody’s. I posted above, that plant proteins were not an option for me for most of my life. I could go into anaphylaxis and my choices were incredibly limited and due to this attitude I have felt insurmountable guilt and cognitive dissonance when I would eat animal protein. My allergies are luckily going through a state of change and I’m incorporating things into my diet as I can. But nothing is black and white and sometimes a wholistic attitude and encouraging people to take steps IS more helpful overall than a hardcore exclusive hardline attitude.”
Person 2: ” dont agree i think any step that someone takes is still a step in right direction. A day of no meat is still a step fwd..its a start. People try as they can.”
Me: Person 2, people are going to do what they are going to do, but as a vegan who understands that animals matter morally and are not things but persons, I do not advocate ‘baby steps’ and ‘every little bit helps’. First, because it does not actually help animals but only makes people feel better about continuing to eat, wear and otherwise use animals, and second, because we can do better. Going vegan is not difficult, so why continue to exploit and harm animals when there is no need to?
Person 2: But do uou not think if someone starts eating less meat or not using leather etc etc that even that makes a small differance.
If 100people gave up meat for a day thats a fair bit not consumed. Ues it isnt world changing bit i feel its a start. Better than nothing i think.
Me: Person 2, see, but it’s not a little bit or nothing. If a person cares enough to not eat meat for one day, why not care enough to not eat cheese, dairy or eggs? Dairy causes more harm than eating meat! If a person cares enough to not eat animals for a day, why stop there? Why go back to harming them the next day? It’s because they feel like they’ve done something to help animals by not eating them for a day, but if that person goes right back to eating them the next day, what has been done to help animals?
Person 1: I’m guessing you haven’t thought of a rebuttal to my argument or see it as an excuse but the point is, is that if you’re concerned with getting more people on your team and embracing veganism this isn’t now to do it. All or nothing is IDEAL but not realistic. You’re ignoring history, culture, economics, legacies that families have lived off of for centuries and while you’re lucky to be above those things and find veganism “easy” most people aren’t so if you really care, you should try seeing things from a wider perspective and create more allies instead of more enemies.
Me: Person 1, I guess the reason I didn’t offer you a “rebuttal” was that I am not judging you as an individual. What about everyone around you who have no food allergies? Why aren’t they vegan? I don’t make a habit of attacking individuals when it’s institutionalized animal exploitation vegans are seeking to dismantle, which involves all non-vegans, not just you. I stand by what I said. It’s easy to be vegan when the desire to do so is there. I don’t need to see things from any other perspective than that of the billions of animals needlessly killed each year. i am not ignoring culture, etc. Cultures change constantly. All I tend to get from non-vegans are excuses, because most people don’t like being challenged over their belief in their right to use animals however they wish, particularly eating them. Being vegan IS easy, if a person wants it.
Person 3: We don’t eat certain animal products, maybe one day we’ll be vegan but even half way makes a difference. People like Kylie telling others they aren’t good enough for trying puts off a large chunk of people from even bothering. People KNOW about what we are doing to animals, arguing that small steps don’t work is just bollocks. You could argue that one vegan in 10 million meat eaters doesn’t work by that logic
Me: Please indicate where I said anyone was not “good enough”. Thank you.
Person 1: Kylie, that’s exactly what you’re saying! As soon as people realize that veganism is 99% of the time a privilege (access to resources, economically, culturally, etc) they’ll realize how much more important it is to work with people instead of standing atop your ethical tower looking down on people. For example, I met a vegan in Serbia and she was literally starving because a) she couldn’t afford plant proteins and b) they weren’t available. Sometime the worst thing for veganism is other vegans. I totally support and agree with it but so far the only thing that’s pushed me away (albeit temporarily) is the attitude of other vegans.
Me: Person 1, that is NOT what I ever said, and I will thank all of you for not putting words in my mouth. Veganism is NOT for privileged people, thanks, it is for everyone. Plant based foods are cheaper than meat and dairy. And if you are put off the entire notion of veganism because you don’t like me or what I am saying, then I don’t even know what to say to you. I have met a few feminists I didn’t like, but I still understood how necessary feminism is. I am sorry you don’t like what I am saying, but I am not the one who made this personal. My attitude has been nothing but consistent and honest.
Person 1: LOL spoken like a true person of privilege! I’m not putting words into your mouth, but you’re not furthering your case. I theoretically agree with you. But in practice what you’re doing is being exclusive and saying anyone whose effort is a journey is useless therefore not good enough. Anyways, I’ll unfollow these comments because again a closed minded, privileged attitude hasn’t helped an extremely important and wonderful cause. I’m not going to convince you to be more inclusive so I’m going to back off.
Me: Person 1, what privilege? And what about the privilege of being human non-vegans exercise over animals?! Are you kidding me?? And seriously, please stop putting words in my mouth. I never ONCE said anyone is “useless”.
Person 1: Okay I’ll just quote you next time instead of contracting all of the efforts you’re saying aren’t helpful into one word. Saying something like meatless Mondays isn’t helpful is saying it’s not useful therefore useless. Does that break it down for you? You’re arguing semantics now and think the idea of privilege is something to “kid” about (it’s real) so we’re going to have to agree to disagree.
Me: Person 1, you didn’t get the point of my comment, which is that not eating meat for one day does nothing because dairy and eggs harm animals too and what is accomplished if someone eats meat the rest of the week anyway?
Person 1: I completely get the point of your comment, actually.
Person 3: I think you must’ve missed your own point Kylie
Me: I never said privilege is something to joke about. I believe I also pointed out human privilege over non-human animals.
Person 4: 💯% Agree with this post and everybody but Kylie’s opinion. Every step makes an impact, especially if everyone is willing to make those small differences.
Me: Actually, things like “Meatless Monday” serve to make people feel better about continuing to exploit animals needlessly and do nothing to help animals. In fact, such welfarist campaigns, which focus on treatment rather than use, actually increase animal exploitation. And while one may go “meatless”, what about the cheese, milk and eggs being consumed? Dairy causes even more harm than meat, so Meatless Monday is quite harmful in terms of misdirecting people.
Person 5: Kylie show me any proof where a step by step approach to behaviour change doesn’t work more often than overnight decisions. I don’t buy that encouragement and gradual change doesn’t work best.
You can’t just say that these welfarist (as you put them) campaigns increase animal exploitation.
Me: They do. Please refer to the Abolitionist Approach website to see why–Gary Francione has written extensively on that matter. i am also not saying encouragement does not work. But baby steps don’t–how many times have you heard people who have been vegetarian for years and once they become vegan they say I wish I had become vegan sooner? Well maybe they would have if people had encouraged veganism rather than veg, veggie, and other baby stepping. i am all for education and encouragement, but i will not congratulate someone for continuing to exploit animals. I will continue to encourage them to do nothing less than go vegan. It’s not an end point, the final destination of some personal journey–it’s a moral imperative and the starting point.
Person 5: Vegan can still be the goal. But people tend to make decisions for themselves, so being approachable and understanding is a better use of vegan discussion. Usually nobody even wants to talk about it, so why not allow people to feel good about their small changes, and encourage the next step. I really feel like that is more likely to lead to less animal products consumed overall. And that’s the goal here. So not ridiculing over the dairy, and openly discussing alternatives might be better for the animals. So would you congratulate them for a vegetarian meal if it means they’re more likely to give up even more animal products in the future? You should. Otherwise it’s about your moral baseline and not the animals. And it feels like you care about the animals first.
Me: how have i not been approachable? If people feel good about meatless mondays and cutting back, why would they continue to move forward? How have I “ridiculed” anyone? Pointing out that dairy is harmful is not “ridiculing” anyone! I would acknowledge the person’s caring about animals and suggest that they take that caring to veganism, because they might not understand how being vegetarian does not help animals.
Person 5: You pretty unapproachable if someone goes, “hello friend and/or coworker I just bought a veggie pizza” and you say “I will not congratulate you on this because you’re still a murderer”
Lol like are you serious? This isn’t approachable. And it’s not effective to facilitate behaviour change. I don’t know where we go from here.
Me: again, putting words in my mouth. I love how you make the leap from “I wouldn’t congratulate them” to I’d call them a murderer! For the record, in ten years of being vegan I have never done that. Talk about all or nothing, black and white. I either congratulate them or call them a murderer. Jesus. Unbelievable.
The thread goes on, but just re-hashing that much made me feel pretty sick.
Sorry for the length, but I wanted to give a sampling of the kinds of people I deal with on a daily basis while advocating for animals. I get people who don’t listen to a single word I say but jump all over me with lousy arguments full of holes. They insist that baby steps is the way to go because culture and history and Inuits and a woman in Serbia and world won’t go vegan overnight–welfarist apologist BINGO!
I approach the topic in a reasonable and factual manner, but because I don’t clap others on the back for going vegetarian or doing meatless mondays, I am “unapproachable”, “ridiculing” and whatever other things they were calling me, telling me my approach makes enemies not allies. So I am faced with the false dichotomy of either applauding others for half-assing it or telling them they are “murderers” (which I have never done). Apparently, appreciating people’s moral concern for animals while letting them know they can do better makes me a horrible person.
Wow. I can’t even communicate my frustration with others right now. Posting all that made me re-live it, and I still reel at how truly fucking awful other people are. And at least one of those people, maybe more, was vegan. How fucking disappointing.