I made a fuss back then and, thankfully, and for whatever reason, that line has been dropped from subsequent presentations of the same theme (which is due, for some reason, to be repeated in September in Luxembourg).
The same talk surfaced again in 2015 on video, along with another presentation about being a good “vegan ambassador” (which, again, is due to be regurgitated in Luxembourg this September).
I maintain that these presentations from a government-funded vegetarian organisation amount to little more than a “tactical” plea to vegans that they stop being vegan individuals in dietary terms (or at least be “flexible” [sloppy] about what they consume); to go easy on speaking about veganism – certainly not on TV, if one could afford an advertisement on that medium, or when talking to politicians, who apparently think that vegans are “crazies;” to further shy away from mentioning “animal rights,” and to not talk much about anti-speciesism.
Don’t make a fuss in restaurants, we are told, and don’t act like “crazy vegans” in the street. When the presenter of these talks mimics “being a vegan,” he raises his voice aggressively (talking to a waiter, for example), or frantically waves his arms around acting out the “crazy street vegan.” I don’t know whether he’s ever eaten with vegans in public, or seen many of them interact with the public on the streets, but these crude caricatures seem way off the mark to me. Don’t carefully read labels to see if a product contains bits of other animals, we are further informed – that, apparently, looks bad to the public and may alienate them from the vegan message.
Our speaker proposes that veganism should be seen to be “flexible” enough so that it means eating “non-vegan stuff” a couple of times is fine for vegans. Finally, whatever else one does, don’t bother to check if the wine one intends to drink is “vegan” or not.
Discussion about this strange “non-vegan veganism” has coincided with talk about whether vegans are active or inactive. There’s been a recent radio debate featuring Wayne Hsiung of Direct Action Everywhere and Gary Francione of The Abolitionist Approach to Animal Rights on this theme.
Hsiung seems to think that virtually all vegans are passive individuals who would not intervene if they saw someone beating a dog with a stick. They wouldn’t join in with the beating, of course, but that’s just about it - because they are not “activists.”
Going back to the vegetarian organisation, their spokesperson says that their entire approach and business plan is geared to the mainstream, to moderation, and it’s clear from the video presentations that their funding relies on a rather wishy-washy stance, hence little talk of veganism, animal rights, or anti-speciesism. Indeed, their main campaigning is built around a once-a-week “veggie day” – which they hope will become a twice weekly event at some unspecified time in the future.
So why is this organisation, whose “call to action” (at least for now) is for people to become what they call “meat reducers,” trying to get vegans on board with their “veggie day” campaign? We all know that there are far more vegetarians than vegans – many more in fact (calling into question that whole “gateway argument, but that’s another matter). Why isn’t the vegetarian group targeting vegetarians for their “meat reducer” promotion?
The only thing I can figure out is that they know, in contradiction to Wayne Hsiung’s point, that it is the vegans who are far more like to be campaigning activists rather than the vegetarians.
My position is fairly straightforward on this, because I think Ethical Vegetarian Alternative have it right, and Direct Action Everywhere has gotten it all wrong – vegans, in great numbers, are activists, especially the grassroots ones.
However, my position is to encourage the smaller number of vegans to campaign for veganism (and see it as much more than a diet). Just as I’m fine with animal welfarists doing animal welfare, I’m kinda OK with vegetarians doing “meat reduction” campaigns. I believe, though, that there is some evidence that many people who adopt the meat-less day campaign may routinely increase their dairy and egg consumption, so the “gain” from a vegan perspective is hard to see. However, I can see how vegetarians will be supportive of these less-than-vegan campaigns.
I say to the vegetarian organisation, go get some of the more numerous vegetarians to help your moderate flesh-free day campaign and please leave the vegans to campaign for veganism. Thank you.