fredag 9 maj 2014

Refuting 'Boycott veganism'-article

I wrote an article called 'Boycott veganism'.
Much of its reasoning applies to the "Animal welfare"-movement (PETA, "Mercy for Animals, et. al) and not to the Abolitionist movement, including grassroots organizations, such as

The author relies on a faulty definition of veganism.
And yes modern agriculture exploits animals (both non-ecological and ecological) and harms the environment, so vegans should work towards growing their food using vegan permaculture:

Reply by Jan Vilse. I don't agree with everything:

1) "AR only begins with your diet"
-this is the same position as to say that veganism is the moral baseline. So I agree

2) "vegan choices don't have that much effect on supply"
-the author is probably right for individual choices, but sounds way too cynical for the aggregate effect.
-and it doesn't matter anyway: there's no way in hell to stop animals from being bred and exploited, apart from people not buying their products. that's just a fact. so even if small shifts in consumption will be swallowed up in production, there is a threshold after which they will make a significant impact. And whether that threshold is at a 100 more vegans or 1000 more vegans or 1000 000 more vegans, the moral obligation of veganism and vegan advocacy remains the same
-most important point: the point of veganism should be less about consumer influence and more about **the social effect** (the author acknowledges this point and examines it later on)

3) "animals aren't really saved"
-agreed. nothing new about this. we are avoiding violence, not saving animals.

4) the author talks about how even a person whose life is full of suffering has dignity and that we deny this dignity by saying it's better that person doesn't come into existence
-disagree. I do not think we have ***any obligations whatsoever*** to bring purely potential beings into existence. even without subscribing to anti-natalism, it is clear that if there are significant problems involved -- like if we bring a being into existence for the sole purpose of exploiting him/her -- we ethically should not do so

5) "animals are killed for vegan products as well"
-agreed, but heard a million times. there will be no method the author will be able to present that will avoid our participation in violence. such participation is inherent to our society.

Solution. Vegan permaculture:

6) "veganism is presented tacitly as about human choice, not non-human interests"
-this is not a bad point. however: the largest obstacle for animal issues is probably how far people distance their own choices from the reality of animal agriculture. so we **do** need to emphasize "human choice" because people have forgotten their moral responsibilities. However, I agree that "stop killing animals" might be a better message sometimes than "go vegan" -- but I think the former implies more lacto-ovo-vegetarianism, so it should be "don't exploit animals" or whatever

7) "veganism becomes its own thing, isolated from its original ethical reasons"
-true that. I have often maintained that questions like "are circuses vegan?" are misleading and should be framed in terms of animal rights, violence and exploitation
-however, I don't think telling people "go vegan" condemns them to isolate veganism from its larger philosophical context. It merely gives them a practical prescription for taking the first step that will allow them to explore that context.

8) "veganism has been dispersed into different versions, some of which are mere dietary veganism"
-this is true, and a serious problem. American culture seems particularly bad in this usage ("Bill Clinton is vegan")
-but on the other hand, there is also the risk that if we tell people to just "oppose animal killing" or whatever, they will each have their personal interpretations about the degree of such opposition. By contrast, 'veganism' -- even when merely dietary -- still specifies what kind of products you are not to use.
-in short, the link between AR and what concrete choices you have to make is not obvious to people. rather than reject the label 'vegan', I think we should remember to connect the ethics with the practice: to talk about "ethical veganism" or "abolitionist veganism" or whatever

9) "veganism doesn't build community because it is a really large ceiling for a bunch of people with different motivations"
-true, but: see above -- we need to connect veganism with ethics better.

10) "people talk about compassion rather than justice"
-agreed that this is a problem

11) "vegans should show their ethical conviction in social interaction as well"
-I think this is the best point of the whole article, and a difficult question.
-refusing to attend family gatherings, refusing to go to a restaurant with colleagues, or constantly speaking up or protesting in those situations, seems like a double-edged sword. Vegans are such a small minority that those actions are likely to just ostracize us even more and confirm people's stereotype of vegans as confrontational weirdos.
-at the same time, as the author suggests, maybe vegans aren't taken seriously because their own actions do not do justice to the seriousness of the animal issue.
-to me it seems some kind of compromise is needed. perhaps we need to reach a larger base of animal people before we are able to wield the tool of strong social opposition effectively.
-while at the same time presenting the lifestyle of veganism itself as easy, and vegans as easy to approach, friendly etc., we could still use other means to make it clear that we take the issue seriously: how we talk about animals, how we talk about animal use, how we refer to our own foods ("mock duck"), etc. But I dunno -- (vegan) food for thought regardless.

12) "presenting an alternative is a bad tactic, similar to colonization as an alternative to slavery"
-ultimately, veganism does not offer a clear alternative, as it is defined **negatively**. To be vegan means to **not use animal products**. You could eat cardboard rather than plants, and you would still be vegan. In our society, however, given that we don't have synthetic foods like in Star Trek, we do need to eat something. And that something is going to be plants. While plant agriculture harms animals, I do not think this alternative is at all comparable to colonizing black people. People do need to eat something, whereas people do not have a need to colonize.
-in short: I'm pretty sure no social justice movement has succeeded by telling people not to eat anything, or to participate in society at all. So the "alternative" of veganism is actually a *necessity*.

13) "consumer influence is only a tertiary consideration in social justice movements"
-I don't think this is a good point, and I doubt the historical analogues work so well here. regardless: there is a difference between eating dairy on the one hand, and buying slave-produced cotton on the other: the former is directly connected to the animal, objectifying the animal. This adds a further ethical and cultural dimension to the consumer aspect: eating and wearing animals is objectifying them in a very immediate sense. So of course we need to make that aspect of consumer choice integral to the animal rights message


All in all, I don't think "boycotting veganism" is the answer, but a) connecting veganism strongly with ethics b) expanding the AR ethic into how we speak, how we act, how we interact with other people etc.

To me, getting rid of the notion of veganism would just leave people with these vague notions of "opposing violence" which, I think, would quickly be reduced to vague welfarist notions where it is enough to say that you disagree with how animals are treated without actually doing anything about it in your own life.

In short, I think veganism provides the necessary link between thought and action.

Inga kommentarer:

Skicka en kommentar