Hope you like it....
Trinity College Dublin's Vegan Society organised a "Vegan Day" (12th March, 2019) and I was asked to deliver my Vegan Pioneers Rock! talk as an introduction to the history of veganism as a social movement.
Hope you like it....
It was my pleasure to take part in a recent day of action and evening of talks, organised by Oppressed and Unheard, and featuring VEGO (Vegan Education on the Go) and VIP (Vegan Information Project).
This is the talk and the Q&A. Hope you enjoy them both.
Most vegans would likely agree with the proposition that veganism is not a diet. Yet, time and time again, we see the mass media in particular, and some elements in the vegan movement, treating veganism in this way, with a side dish now and then about "ethics" or "animal ethics" - which is often described as vegans' concerns about "animal welfare."
The programme, 5 Live Investigates (10-2-19), was one such example (audio below). I lost count of the number of times "animal welfare" was mentioned in the opening minutes of this national radio show. As ever, the phrase "animal rights" was not mentioned once, let alone explored or explained, not even by the representative of The Vegan Society.
Adrian Goldberg presents 5 Live Investigates and, on the 10th of February 2019, he "investigated" "vegan food." I have long thought that we in the vegan community do not help people understand that veganism is a deep justice-for-all philosophy by conniving with this construction of veganism as principally a dietary matter.
In that regard, then, perhaps we should think critically about using phrases such as "vegan food" and "vegan diet," and, instead, emphasise that vegans' eating a plant diet is driven by the philosophy they adhere to. Technically, a diet cannot be vegan - just as a human infant cannot be. To be vegan requires, first, understanding the philosophy of veganism and, second, committing to it.
To not use "vegan food" and "vegan diet" would help clear up the ongoing problem of failing to differentiate between those who are plant-based and those who are vegans.
For example, we can understand that a plant-based person may wholly or largely eat a vegan's diet without adhering to the philosophy of veganism and therefore support animal experimentation or the wearing of animals' skins, for example.
Thinking in terms of "a vegan's diet" rather than the "vegan diet" would help clear things up it seems. What think you?
The mass media tend to cover the issue of veganism a lot in early January due to the Veganuary intiative. 2019 was no exception. In this interview on the 3rd of the month, Roger Yates of the Vegan Information Project spoke with Ciara Plunkett of KFM radio in Kildare, Ireland.
Topics include: is veganism a diet or a philosophy, vegan celebrities, what about the harm caused by consuming items such as almond milk, and how best to help people explore veganism.
Vegan Information Project website.
The Now Show featured the Beardy Man's supergroup saying goodbye to Planet Earth. It's not as though we'll save it, right?
William Sitwell, the editor of Waitrose Food Magazine, stepped down on the eve of World Vegan Day, 2018 (November 1st), for responding to a suggestion of a "plant-based meal series," with alternative ideas, such as a series on killing vegans one by one, or about force feeding vegans animal flesh.
In Ireland, Newstalk Radio's Lunchtime Live programme with presenter Ciara Kelly discussed the whole idea of hating vegans with Paul Murphy, the founder of Govinda's restaurant in Dublin.
The 12-minute interview raised some interesting questions - and a few old chestnuts like "canine teeth!," and whether humans are herbivores or omnivores.
One of the co-founders of the vegan social movement in 1944, Donald Watson, argued that people need to the "ripened up" to new ideas. After all, we develop new ideas by talking about them: by propounding idea, and by making claims about the world. Vegan activists often talk about the case for the rights of other animals, and right-based vegans talk about animal rights violations (this topic did indeed come up towards the end of the interview).
However, this "ripening up," this talking about vegan issues, is described as "preaching." Vegans are self-righteous, elitist, and go around saying that flesh eaters are murderers and farmers are rapists. Some of these latter claims are popular in the vegan movement - but what are the social effects?
If nothing else, this interview may persuade vegan activists to be careful about what claims they are prepared to make.
My SMTN is happening right now. When I read and taught social movement theory, I learnt about the problems caused when a social movement takes off, and lots of people join. There's a probability that these new recruits do not share the same vision as the people who began the movement - or they adhere to a version of what the movement stands for.
This, I believe, is what has happened to the vegan social movement over several years. In recent times, I've been concerned to make known the views and radical vision of the people who started the British vegan movement in the 1940s and 1950s. The radicalism that they represent is being lost to various forms of reducetarianism, including the "the vegan for the animals (only)" people.
In recent months and years I have found myself trying to explain to these "animals only" folks that they are out of step with the movement's founders. Some responses have been blunt: "F*** the founders," I was told. So, it's the SMTN in action - activists who reject (and, most often, have absolutely no idea about) the vision of the movement's founders are now telling us what veganism is all about. Frankly, it is not a veganism I recognise.
They are often so ignorant of the history of their own movement that I'm sure they think that veganism starts and ends with human-hater, Gary Yourofsky. But Yourofsky showed little sign that he knew anything of the revolutionary views of the people who founded our movement. Even if he did, he would reject those views because of his hatred of humanity. In contrast, the pioneers of the vegan movement believed that humanity is in crisis - but that veganism is the solution to the problem. They didn't regard human animals as parasites as Yourofsky does: they saw the philosophy of veganism as the vehicle to bring about the positive moral evolution of humanity, thereby saving humans, as well as liberating other animals from human oppression.
Most recently, because I refuse to hold the "animals only" version of veganism, I was told that I'm not a vegan at all - but am some sort of "plant-based" person. As an ethical vegan since 1979, I find being lectured on my position by people who are effectively hijacking the vegan movement both dangerous and appalling.
I think it is time to fight for the heart and soul of the vegan social movement. Please watch the video below which provides an outline of the vision of the vegan pioneers - the people who began OUR movement.
Are we going to let a bunch of newbies take the vegan movement away from us?
* Please click H E R E to view on a mobile device.
** Please note: this box may move when you are using it. Refresh the page to re-centre if it does.
Here's a recent vlog (video blog) I recorded about the relationship that existed in the 1980s and 1990s between Tom Regan, the author of The Case for Animal Rights (1983) and Gary Francione who runs a counter-movement to the animal movement called The Abolitionist Approach.
The Case (as the 1983 text is known) is not well known in the animal movement. Few animal advocates will have heard of it and fewer still will have read it.
The fact that Regan's book - which is the foundational statement of rights-based animal rights is virtually unknown in the movement that calls itself the "Animal Rights Movement" is beyond odd - but Regan has been marginalised and treated appallingly by the animal movement.
So --- what would the modern day animal advocacy movement look like if Tom Regan had received the respect he deserved? I explore this question through the lens of the relationship Regan had with Gary Francione, the events that they were associated with, and the fact that stopped working together at an important time in the history of the movement.
I seem to have recently been thrown out of a FB group called "Real Veganism," presumably by someone on the admin team, who accused me of being an internet troll. My crime was to disagree that veganism is only about - is restricted to - concerns for other animals.
I was told to take my human concerns to Amnesty International and accused of having a large ego for daring to talk about the meaning of veganism, ironically in a group called "Real Veganism."
To my mind, this sort of thing is yet more evidence that there is a young generation of vegans - most likely angry plant-eaters in the mould of Gary Yourofsky - who are relatively new to veganism, and who know little or nothing about the history of the social movement that they have joined and want to impose on the movement their own idea about what it is about and what its values are.
This group of young vegans often appear to be immune to education about the history of the vegan movement. For example, when I've shared the views of the people who actually co-founded the vegan social movement in the 1940s and 1950s, I've received this response: "f**k the founders."
I find this response breathtakingly arrogant. Do others join Marxist groups and quickly declare, "f**k Marx" and then go on to state what they think Marxism means?*
I regard these "nonhumans only" people as reducetarians of a different stripe to those who want to limit veganism to be "only about food," such as "the vegan strategist," Tobias Leenaert. Indeed, the person I most recently talked to about this proudly displayed a banner on their wall saying that, "veganism is not a diet." Well, they got something right! However, just as the "only about food" reducetarians try to strictly limit the meaning of veganism, so do these "only about [other] animals" reducetarians.
I have argued - see HERE - that the views of the vegan social movement co-founders and early members should not be seen as laws that cannot be reformed and, indeed, social movements do "move" - and they must move with the times to avoid stagnation. However, moving with the times does not imply that the views of the founders should be jettisoned and/or ignored.
However, that is not what is happening - the reducetarian vegans are not rejecting the views and values of the co-founders of their movement, they don't even know what those views and values are.
Sadly, a total lack of knowledge of the history of the social movement that they have joined does not prevent them simply making up the meaning of veganism.
The arrogance of that is astounding.
There are agonisingly slow coups d'etat going on in the vegan movement and those of us who care that the meaning of veganism as a widespread pro-justice vision of human and animal liberation, environmentalism, and even caring for the soil, need to defend veganism.
* Note that I said Marxist group, rather than Marxian, or neo-Marxist. However, the latter, while being critical of Marx and demanding all sorts of reforms of Marx's theories, are unlikely to state that Marx should go to "f**k." Instead, many neo-Marxists still hold on to central Marxist idea, will give credit where credit is due and, most importantly in the context of this blog entry, actually not only know who Karl Marx was but have had the manner to read him!
Dr. Roger Yates is a rights advocate and sociologist