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....
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?
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.
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!
I’ve noticed a new generation of vegans who seem to have, in my view, little grasp of what veganism is, and none of what it meant to the founders of the vegan social movement – the founders of our movement, that which the new generation have recently joined. There are plenty of people who have accepted, apparently without question, Tobias Leenaert’s nonsensical assertion that the vegan movement is “about food,” while the cry of the new activists seems to be that veganism as a movement is far more than that – it’s “for the animals,” and only “for the animals.”
In terms of the history of the vegan social movement, both of these views of veganism are wrong. So, how have these misconceptions about veganism come about?
My thoughts are that (1), the current definition(s) of veganism are weak and lack the depth required to capture what the pioneers of the vegan movement meant by veganism, (2), the movement has been (understandably) involved with making veganism “mainstream” in the last 30 years but with negative consequences, and (3), we often don’t teach, and don’t seem to care about, our own movement’s history.
In relation to the last point in particular, we must be a rare social movement that seems to think that we “can make it up as we go along.” However, we’ve also done that same thing in relation to the meaning of animal rights, so we do have a track record of sloppiness and of business-interests-over-principles.
When people in the movement talk about veganism, they usually cite this 1979 Vegan Society definition (some say that this wording was pretty much in place by 1988), and others, fewer in number, are content to use the awful definitions of veganism one finds in standard dictionaries.
The (first and British) Vegan Society does not have a very good record when it comes to sorting out a good definition of veganism. Its 1979 definition is weak and it does not anywhere near grasp the “full meaning” of veganism.
On a personal note, people like myself who can be called long-time vegans have been at fault here. We let things slide – big time. 1979 was the year I became a vegan. However, I did not join The Vegan Society (TVS) or really see it has having much to do with my movement for animal liberation. I think in those days, I saw TVS as pretty irrelevant to the direct action parts of the movement which I was immediately involved in. Indeed, in the early 1980s, when the numbers of activists going to prison rose, we rather crossed swords with TVS.
Back in those days people had to be a member of the Society in order to get a diet in prison that vegans eat. One literally had to show senior officers your red TVS membership card. We asked TVS if they were prepared to send a membership card out to new prisoners immediately upon their need for one, and we’d sort out actual paid membership later. The last thing animal liberationists needed on their plate (no pun intended) was a fight with prison authorities to get a vegan’s diet.
TVS refused, so we resolved the problem by forging their membership cards. The result was that activists had no need to officially join the organisation. TVS updated their definition in 1979 – the one virtually everyone uses now – and I don’t think there was much of a discussion about it, at least not in my circles.
As I said, from the 1940s, when TVS was formed, getting the definition sorted out didn’t seem to be the most pressing issue – it’s quite likely that just remaining viable as a group of revolutionary mavericks (for that is what they were) was the priority in the early years. A lot of the initial burden of administration and writing fell on the shoulders of Donald Watson, who also was forced to make an early priority of vegan health issues because some of the first members of the Society got sick and virtually everyone told all of them that living, let alone thriving, without consuming animal products was impossible.
It seems that in the very late 1940s and early 1950s, Leslie Cross was among the first to point out the need to clarify just what being vegan meant. A couple of years ago, a video was circulated from some health vegan who claimed that Cross was some sort of “animal rights extremist” who corrupted TVS and forced it in a new radicalised direction. I do not think the evidence suggests that. Indeed, even Donald Watson, the most famous of TVS co-founders, described veganism as “the greatest cause on earth.” He talked about other movements as “lesser movements.”
That may sound rather arrogant but I think he meant that the vegan movement had a wider remit than most others – and the consequences of bringing about a vegan world would have huge benefits to other animals, of course, but also to human beings, and the environment (then called ecological concerns).
The early vegan movement pioneers were also very practical – they had to be. The movement began during “World War Two,” and food and other forms of rationing (clothes, fuel, etc.) did not end until the mid-1950s with some arguing that the effects of war rationing were felt until the 1970s and 80s. The early vegans were, not surprisingly, part of the grow-your-own veg movement and some of the early movement pioneers, such as Eva Batt, were concerned about soil quality.
The ethos and vision of the vegan movement was summed up in 1995 by Kath Clements in Why Vegan: the Ethics of Eating and the Need for Change
This is an echo of what Eva Batt wrote in 1964 in a booklet called Why Veganism?
There are only hints in the 1979 definition of veganism by TVS that give any indication of veganism’s impressive scope and objective expressed by Clements and Batt.
Neither is there much in the 88/79 definition that captures the radicalism of the vegan social movement in the late 40s and early 50s.
For example, in 1951, TVS were clarifying what it means by the term “exploitation,” saying that the Society seeks “to end the use of animals by [humans] for food, commodities, work, hunting, vivisection, and all other uses involving exploitation of animal life by [humanity].”
This sort of rhetoric (not regulation of animal treatment but the abolition of animal use) was to resurface in the rights-based writing of Tom Regan who wrote The Case for Animal Rights in 1983. However, this radicalism rarely featured in The Vegan Society’s claims-making of the 1980s.
In 1951, Leslie Cross also talked about “the second broad aspect of the vegan aim” which included, reminding us of Watson’s “greatest cause” claim, the expected “effect upon human evolution.”
Remembering that these vegan movement pioneers had experienced a huge war that had ended only six years previously, it is not surprising that they believed that human violence – including that against other animals – would “return like a boomerang upon humanity's own head.” Thus, Cross argued that, “Until the present relationship between [humans and other animals] is replaced by one of companionship on a relatively equal footing, the pursuit of happiness by [humanity] is foredoomed to a painful and tragic frustration.”
In 1954, Cross again outlined that veganism means liberation for both humans and other animals. He said that a vegan future would have no butchers’ shops, no vivisection labs, no hunting, and people would be drinking vegan milk. Still part of 21st century vegan claims-making, Cross said that, “The countryside will not be heavy with the anguish of cows crying for their calves.”
As ever, though, benefits to humanity were also outlined: “But some of the changes are not so obvious. The benefits to [humanity] of living in a kindlier and more enlightened world can be envisaged only in broadest outline.”
Moreover, in direct agreement with Watson that veganism is the greatest cause on earth, Cross writes in a 1954 edition of The Vegan, that
The “distinctive feature” being spoken of is, of course, that the principles of justice in veganism vaults over the species barrier and declares other animals as rights holders along with human animals. And Cross did write in terms of rights
These are the values of vegans – the recognition that the fate of humanity and other animals are bound together on a fragile planet under attack from within. The vegan movement pioneers knew all too well about being attacked by an outside enemy – but their revolutionary thought looked at injustice at home and abroad. Have we lost the radicalism of our movement’s past?
As noted in this blog entry, via the work of pattrice jones, when we say “the mainstream” we are not saying “the majority of humans.” The word sounds like we are saying that, but we’re not. The majority of humanity is made up of marginalised persons of various types.
Leenaert openly characterises his approach as being about “mainstreamness,” and I think we can all see the attraction of veganism “being mainstream.” However, I’m not sure that this notion has been analysed much, certainly not critically. Veganism becoming “mainsteam,” may simply mean that the idea of veganism is better known, more widespread, and more accepted than it has been in the past.
I think that is true. In my time as a vegan, I’ve seen people finally being about to pronounce the word “vegan” and not think it’s something to do with Star Trek. The huge increase in vegan and vegan-friendly eateries, and vegan’s food and clothing being more easily obtainable in stores, makes veganism more “mainstream.” Some people prefer the term “normalisation,” but I think the meaning is generally the same.
I think the difficulty – the mistake – even the betrayal – of vegan values is when vegan organisations try to align with conventional values thought to reflect what’s called, of course, “mainstream values.”
When radical social movement go for “mainstreamness” in this sense, then they may face a very real danger of losing their core, foundational, values. This process, which is predicted in some social movement theorising, is the process I see happening in the vegan movement.
I hope that the first section has sufficiently demonstrated that the origins of the vegan social movement can be described as pro-intersectional in nature, even with the important caveats that the term had not then been coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, and the story of the origins of the vegan movement discussed here (revolving as it does around the British Vegan Society) is a very white story.
This initial pro-intersectional impulse was carried through into the 1970s and 1980s as I recall them. I often say that we would be busy sabotaging a hunt on a Saturday, maybe a “Club Row” demo, or something similar – and perhaps less legal – on a Sunday, and then we’d find ourselves engaged in Reclaim the Night and Rock Against Racism events in the week.
That was my sense of the recognition of what David Nibert calls the “entanglements of oppression and liberation” in what we “just did” in the 1980s. A lot of us were influenced by punk music too (not so much me, in all honesty, stuck in Bolan mainstreamness!), so this pro-intersectional orientation was fired up in the mid-1970s.
In campaigning terms, we were at the crest of a wave and we were fighting everything: apartheid, patriarchy, speciesism, racism, hierarchy, injustice, and so on. In terms of values, Steve Best is right (in his 2013 Total Liberation talk) that, whatever our politics as individuals, we are expressing left wing values.
Then there was a change, the start of the slide, and we didn’t take much notice, and barely any action against it. The national animal movement became dominated by a group of animal welfare corporations – and huge blame for the mess we are in can be laid at the doors of one organisation: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA). In my eyes, this transnational abomination has done terrible damage to the animal movement.
Why – and this is a question raised by the Francione countermovement – did we, from the 1990s onwards, just stand there and passively let PeTA get away with its blatant sexist bullshit? After that was seen to be largely accepted by a complacent movement and a cap-in-hand grassroots, then came the ableism, fat shaming, racism, and ground scraping to shallow celebrity culture. PeTA had moved from a radical innovation to a corporate monster dripping in aggressively marketed mainstream patriarchal capitalist values.
One of their greatest crimes was their role – that continues to this day – in the marginalisation of rights-based animal rights thinking in favour of animal welfarism that is nevertheless called “animal rights.” The corporate movement – and the submissive, docile, grassroots – destroyed Animal Rights as an idea, and as the proper articulation of the position of the “animal rights movement.” The way that this movement treated Tom Regan is nothing less than disgusting and shameful. It will take a lot of work to remove that stain from the animal advocacy movement.
The effect, then, of mainstreamness on a once radical movement, is the moderation of the organisations within it, and the marginalisation of any revolutionary values that, although were the initial drivers of the cause, are now seen as “not sellable,” “too extreme,” “too radical,” “purist” and, in a nutshell, “too consistent” for mainstream consumption.
In the meantime, again as Best argues, the movement becomes a laughing stock among progressive movements that should, at the very least, be locked in an alliance for justice with the vegan animal rights movement. By pandering to mainstream values, and doing everything to bend over backwards to meet the conventions of a mass media, we have alienated those who hold the values we hold – or which we once held.
Things are now so bad and so dangerous that, as Christopher Sebastian said in a recent Livegan podcast, there are prominent (and seemingly popular) white supremacists and Nazis currently in the “vegan” movement, not to mention the recent #TimesUpAR revelations about male entitlement, harassment, and violence in a movement made up mainly of females (see this ARZone podcast with Carol J. Adams for an account of that scandalous situation that should have never arisen).
HISTORY OF THE MOVEMENT
By their very nature, social movement move. They evolve and, indeed, move with the times – to not do so would be devastating for them. However, social movements are also grounded in a set of claims and principles, some of which should not bend and should not be diluted or else its original vision may be crushed and lost.
It is clear that I put a lot of emphasis on the values and vision of the founding pioneers of our movement – but I’ve also said that their words are not law, and cannot be thought of in such terms. However, any attempt to alter the principles and values of the vegan movement should – as a bare requirement and also an act of basic manners – acknowledge the principles and values that are under examination.
I don’t see a lot of that in the vegan movement. Indeed, some relative “newbies” have told me, “f*ck the founders,” when I point out what they stood for. That is both ridiculous and juvenile, as if people join a Marxist movement and the first thing they say is, “f*ck Marx!” Actually, some neo-Marxists got close to that after years of reflection, but they were always capable of describing what they thought should be changed and what it was that they were changing.
The new generation of vegans don’t do that – they simply declare what veganism is – it’s “about food,” it’s “only about the [other] animals,” with no acknowledgement that such declarations are totally out of step with the very founders of the vegan social movement in the 1940s – how can anyway be so conceited as to not care about the values of a movement they have just joined?
I argued, here, that the history of the vegan movement reveals that it has an interconnected focus and scope. There appears to be a number of people in the present vegan movement who seem petrified of pro-intersectionality. These people seem not to understand what intersectionality is, or exaggerate what it would do to the animal movement if widely adopted within it. However, by looking at the vegan movement in terms of its focus and scope, that should allay their fears that pro-intersectionality takes away from a concentration on “animal issues.” That is not what pro-intersectionality within the vegan movement would do.
Some may think it rather overblown to say that the vegan movement is in crisis – aren’t we seeing a massive growth in veganism just now? I think the answer to that is yes and no. We are seeing a growth in something that often gets called veganism – but a vegan movement “only about food,” or “only about [other] animals” is not the vegan movement.
There is also the problem that Tom Regan was keen to point out – that it seems to be the case that, yes a lot of people join the animal movement, but a lot leave as well. Some estimate that as many as 80% leave. We should be bothered by that.
I just wonder whether, if people join the vegan movement with a full understanding of its revolutionary reach and ramifications, they may stay – but who are most likely to stay in such a radical movement. People who are radicals – right!
Finally, to remind people what we are all about, again from Tom Regan, this time in a rights-based animal rights context from 1983, remember: “The animal rights movement is a part of, and not opposed to, the human rights movement.”
Content warning: extremely speciesist language by the "vegan" "strategist" who regards other animals as ingredients.
The anti-vegan strategist, Tobias Leenaert, recorded a recent podcast with a fan of his, Michael Dello-lacovo. These are some of my thoughts about it and related issues.
Dello-lacovo has recently attended the "reducetarian summit" and written a review of The Reducetarian Solution, a book edited my Brian Kateman, who likes to mock vegans and veganism, much like Leenaert does. Indeed, Kateman makes the extraordinary claim that he's a carnivore. Kateman needs to consult Dr. Milton Mills. Leenaert spoke at the reducetarian summit as a representative of his latest gravy train, "Pro-Veg."
Tobias Leenaert is extremely poor and gets quite panicky when questioned about his position - see HERE, and gets utterly floored if someone makes an animal rights point - see HERE. This happened again in the recent podcast, even though the questioning could not have been more supportive and gentle.
Michael Dello-lacovo had said in a previous podcast about reducetarianism that he had some misgivings that the reducetarian approach may encourage people to just switch from one animal product to another and, depending on the circumstances ("red meat" to eating chickens, or hens' eggs, for example), that may increase animal suffering.
Dello-lacovo brought this up with Leenaert. This is just part of Leenaert's blundering answer (and this is where the content warning above applies).
This response raises some big questions. For example, what is Leenaert's time frame here? Well, we do know the answer to that - it's very LONG. He's on record talking about slowness; that he's in favour "of taking this thing very gradually." This should not be a shock. Leenaert is a careerist in it for the long haul. He makes his living from the continued use of other animals, and it doesn't look like he's going to put himself out of a job anytime soon.
Notice, in the response above, that he talks about "the second phase." This raises all sorts of bizarre issues about Leenaert and his approach(es). He uses a two phase model. Phase one is now - a pre-vegan phase in which it is best to minimise the use of words like "vegan," "animal rights," and "speciesism." He doesn't know how many years, decades, centuries, phase one will last - he just thinks that phase one is the time when animal advocates should ease up big time on the whole "be vegan" routine. People just ain't ready for that sort of radicalism, and to hell with Donald Watson's idea of deliberately using the word to "ripen" people to what it means.
This begs a huge question. If phase one isn't the time to talk about veganism, and phase one is now, and phase one is likely to last a long time yet, why call yourself The Vegan Strategist? Wouldn't that be the absolutely wrong and silly name to adopt in these endless pre-vegan times? Surely The Reducetarian Strategist, or The Vegetarian Strategist would be better (as well as more accurate)?
Of course, Leenaert would say that his end game is veganism. Is it? I'm not so sure. For example, he argues that he wants veganism to be redefined as being "about food" only - and even then it should allow for flexibility and exceptions. He has a whole bunch of reasons - and a whole host of times - when he tells vegans that they should willingly eat other animals. An eat other animals for veganism position!
In the podcast, Leenaert declares
So, even though he's more likely to say that there are some times when it may be appropriate to talk about veganism, he means his "veganism" that is not veganism. A new animal-eating veganism - because vegans eating other animals is "effective" and "strategic."
Well, there's another term for all that too: NOT VEGAN.
The current definition of veganism is too big and too radical for Leenaert. This is deeply ironic to me, given the numbers of present-day vegans who seem determined to betray the originators of their own vegan social movement and slim down the meaning of veganism, much as Leenaert wants to do. Careful of the company you keep I say.
He's a bit sneaky in this podcast. He knows redefining veganism is pretty controversial, so he suggests that the bar should be lowered from 100% veganism to 99%. Anyone who has seen his presentations knows that he wants to lower the bar much lower than that!
You may or may not be surprised to learn that Tobias Leenaert is utterly baffled when animal advocates want to tell the truth - especially about their vegan aspirations. In contrast, he says that his approach is based on "adaptiveness."
Leenaert says adaptiveness means not being "dogmatic."
Leenaert, very much like Melanie Joy on this, is really only at ease mentioning veganism if he knows that the audience is full of vegans, at "animal rights conferences," for example.
Dello-lacovo is a consequentialist like Leenaert, so he's interested in adaptiveness and comes back to the concept. He asks Leenaert for examples. Oh, no! Those bloody difficult questions again, I thought you were a fan! Leenaert's first example doesn't even attempt to answer the question, or make much sense.
Yeah, couldn't do something like the amazing Go Vegan World campaign - grassroots led from an animal sanctuary in Ireland - that gives a clear vegan message always. It's getting to the stage, isn't it, when one wonders when Leenaert thinks the public can ever hear the word vegan without fainting.
This is the second example of adaptiveness.
He says there's no point in talking to a Minister of the Environment about animal rights. Yeah, well there's not much point in talking to any politician about animal rights (by which I mean rights-based animal rights) until the culture shifts away from how deeply speciesist it is now.
Of course, with talk of politicians, we know just how "adaptive" Leenaert can be - bendy over backwards even. Leenaert was once told by a politician waiving money in his face that vegans are "crazies." Did palms up - eyes down Leenaert challenge that? NO, of course he didn't. He "adapted" to it - he used the slur to construct the myth of the "crazy vegan," and spread it around along with his colleague, Sebastian Joy (they are both founders of the latest Pro-Veg gravy train).
In case you are wondering - but I doubt that you are by now - "crazy vegans" are consistent vegan who, according to Leenaert and Joy, scream and shout in people's faces while frantically waiving their arms about in the street.
Leenaert likes to claim that vegans owe reducetarians a very big dept. He claims that the "vegan market" is driven by reducetarians – that the number of vegan choices available is down to reducetarians, and not vegans themselves. Maybe in the future, it will be vegans who drive the market but – for now – it is the reducers, he claims.
All vegan restaurants and all “vegan producers,” he states, are primarily catering for reducers and flexitarians. There is not a large enough vegan market, or as he tellingly puts it: “they could not live off the vegans alone.”
I'm not sure if I care whether this is true of not, although I certainly know that the pioneering vegan companies like Plamil had vegans in mind when they started producing, for example, plant milks.
This raises another problem for Leenaert. He seems to think that there needs to be a reducetarian movement in order for people to reduce. Ironically, Dello-lacovo says in his previous podcast about reducetarianism, mentioned above, that he generally disagrees with virtually everything Gary Francione says, yet acknowledges that Francione's position accepts and expects people to reduce. Francione expresses this sentiment as the "Vegan 1-2-3" sometimes, and it's part of the modern idea of not saying "go vegetarian first," but be as vegan as possible. In this blog entry, I write.
Dello-lacovo is much more fair minded, nuanced, thoughtful and, frankly, smarter than Leenaert. He makes the following important point about how abolitionist incrementalism may be more effective than reducetarianism.
Dello-lacovo says, for example, that first getting people to commit to one vegan meal means that, whenever that is, they are focused on veganism - they are thinking about veganism and what veganism means, not on the fact that, for now, they are merely "reducing." This is an excellent point because it gets people much more quickly - immediately - to where Leenaert claims he wants them to be (however many centuries it takes), which is thinking about animal ethics and justice.
There's one point in the podcast that I thought I would strongly agree with Leenaert. Didn't turn out that way though. Leenaert suggests that, in addition to a "go vegan for the animals movement," a "reduce for any reason"... ask is needed.
There was a pause before the word "ask," and, for a second I thought Leenaert was going to say "movement." If he had, I would have been more happy and I'd suggest straight away that Leenaert does not join (or remain in) the "go vegan for the animals movement" (because he doesn't fit in) and join the reducetarian movement. He should leave the vegans alone.
I'm drawn back to the oddity that "The Vegan Strategist" - really the anti-vegan strategist - is constantly talking to vegans. Why? Why try to get vegans to stand for positions they don't believe in? Why not get non-vegans to do the non-vegan work? Especially when he says this is a pre-vegan phase in the first place.
Are we once again back to money? The majority of conferences around the world are those run by and attended by vegans. How many vegetarian conferences are there nowadays? One annual reducetarian one? Now, that ain't enough, is it?
LEENAERT: LEAVE THE VEGANS ALONE.
The News Quiz on the beeb beeb ceeb has long been one of my favourite programmes, certainly since The Goons stopped putting out new material on the grounds of death.
The NQ team talked about veganism in April 2017.
In 2013, a leading member of the Belgium vegetarian scene, Tobias Leenaert, began to attack ethical veganism at an animal rights conference in Luxembourg. In 2017, he is still doing it. In Poland in 2016, Leenaert gave a talk called "Making Compassion Easier: A Strategy for Achieving a Vegan Critical Mass."
As usual with his talks, this one is full of holes. As one example, take this short clip from the presentation
Under a slide reading, "The Vast Majority Of Vegetarians And Vegans Eventually Return To Meat," Leenaert says that the rate of those returning to flesh (he calls this falling off the wagon) in these groups amounts to 75% of them.
The usual response to this is to talk about the research that suggests that ethical vegans tend to remain vegan in greater numbers than health vegans, for example.
Since Leenaert has for several years attacked and mocked the philosophy of veganism, preferring to tell his audiences that veganism is simply "about food," he adds this: "And it's really not so, by the way, that it's only the people who are vegan for health reasons that drop off, it's also people who are vegan for animal rights reasons that drop off."
Leenaert concludes that "compassion costs too much."
Leenaert's statement is technically correct - but deceptively so. Of course a number of people who regard themselves as ethical vegans will return to consuming animal produce. However, research suggests that only a small percentage of ethical vegans fall off Leenaert's wagon compared to those who "go vegan" for non-ethical reasons.
Let's clear up one potential source of confusion right now. It is often claimed that it does not matter why a person begins to live vegan. A health vegan is going to run into the ethical arguments sooner or later, therefore the hope is that an ethical commitment to veganism may arise in anyone interested in veganism for any reason.
This would be unimportant to Leenaert since he mocks ethical vegans. However, it turns out to be vitally important because research does suggest that ethical vegans remain vegan in far greater numbers than other groups with other motivations. While I agree that the initial motivation may not be a major concern, it is worrying if people do not move towards - and quite quickly - an ethical stance on human relations with other sentient beings - or in other words, develop "animal rights" sentiments.
In 2012, Haverstock and Forgays  looked at those they describe as "current and former animal product limiters." These authors found that their research backs up previous studies from the 1990s and early 2000s, that for "current [animal product] limiters," ethical reasons are often stated as a motivating factor and to the extent that veganism, and even vegetarianism, becomes seen as a strong element in a person's self identity. Once these elements are in place, it seems that returning to eating other animals would require them to redefine their identities. Interestingly, the importance of shifts in self identity was found to be important to health vegans as well as ethical vegans.
I think Tom Regan  was getting at a similar idea when he talked about being "a Muddler." Muddlers are people who keep adding to their knowledge, they keep moving forward, "to keep growing against the grain of our cultural paradigm concerning animals."
Regan says that suddenly, surprisingly, a Muddler will look in the mirror and see an animal rights advocate looking back.
In 2015, Ginny Messina wrote a blog entry entitled, "Preventing Ex-Vegans: The Power of Ethics."  She writes,
As I’ve been delving into this issue of preventing recidivism, I’ve looked at quite a bit of data including:
Her conclusion upon assessing this material is impressively clear: "Vegan advocacy: put ethics first."
One of the studies she looked at, from 1997, again underlines the importance of moral values becoming internalised so that they become a part of the persons concerned. As a sociologist, I find this to be very important. A core concept in sociology is the process of socialisation, and part of that is the notion of internalisation - the "taking in" of ideas and values as a constituent part of the self. I briefly talked about that in this video.
One thing Messina found was that health vegans may stop being dietary vegans for the ironic reason that their diets may not as good as the diets of ethical vegans! How so? Ethical vegans may "enjoy a relaxed approach to food choices," making it easier for them to meet their nutritional needs. In addition, "health-motivated vegans may be less likely to take appropriate supplements."
It's not looking good for ethics-hating Leenaert, is it?
Messina points to another issue for health vegans. It is very likely that the addition of a little animal produce in their diets will not negatively effect their health. She says that a plant-based diet with a small amount of animal produce may be on par, health-wise, with a 100% plant-based diet.
So, we're back to ethics, and Messina writes
Yes, indeed, once one of Regan's Muddlers see that animal rights advocate in the mirror, then Messina states: "If you agree that animals are not here for us to use under any circumstances, veganism is really your only option."
Ginny Messina says that she has no choice but to promote vegan diets for ethical reasons, concluding, "it appears that ethics is a more powerful long-term motivator for vegan and vegetarian diets."
Let's hope that "The Vegan Strategist" will cease distorting issues about veganism for his own ends.
 Haverstock, Katie, and D.K. Forgays (2012) "To eat or not to eat. A comparison of current and former animal product limiters." Appetite, Vol 58: 1030-1036.
 Regan, Tom. (2004) Empty Cages: Meeting the Challenge of Animal Rights. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.
 Messina, Ginny (2015) "Preventing Ex-Vegans: The Power of Ethics." The Vegan RD, 30 June.
 Hoffman SR, Stallings SF, Bessinger RC, Brooks GT. Differences between health and ethical vegetarians. Strength of conviction, nutrition knowledge, dietary restriction, and duration of adherence. Appetite 2013;65:139-44; Ogden J, Karim L, Choudry A, Brown K. Understanding successful behaviour change: the role of intentions, attitudes to the target and motivations and the example of diet. Health Educ Res 2007;22:397-405; Menzies K, Sheeshka J. The process of exiting vegetarianism: an exploratory study. Can J Diet Pract Res 2012;73:163-8; Dyett PA, Sabate J, Haddad E, Rajaram S, Shavlik D. Vegan lifestyle behaviors: an exploration of congruence with health-related beliefs and assessed health indices. Appetite 2013;67:119-24; Radnitz C, Beezhold B, DiMatteo J. Investigation of lifestyle choices of individuals following a vegan diet for health and ethical reasons. Appetite 2015;90:31-6;Rozin P MM, Stoess C. . Moralization and becoming a vegetarian: The transformation of preferences into values and the recruitment of disgust. Psychological Science 1997;8:67-73, and Barr SI, Chapman GE. Perceptions and practices of self-defined current vegetarian, former vegetarian, and nonvegetarian women. J Am Diet Assoc 2002;102:354-60.
The Vegan Information Project is back on the streets of Dublin each week for the 2017 session.
In 2016, along with Vegan Education on the Go (VEGO), we chalked up over 350 hours of direct-to-the-public vegan education in Westmoreland Street and Temple Bar Square, Dublin, and recorded 57 short video diaries on the way. For 2017, we are putting out monthly videos rather than weekly ones.
This is the first one.
Arguable, we have taken the notion of vegan education seriously for only a couple of decades. The term "moral baseline" tends to create a fair deal of scoffing nowadays. However, I think the meaning behind that phrase is relevant and helpful.
To say that veganism is now at the heart of what many animal advocates do - that it is indeed their moral baseline - is simply highlighting the central place veganism has in terms of campaigning: and this is very recent in terms of the history of the animal movement.
In terms of social movement theory, we now place veganism at the core of our claims-making. In other words, it is hard to imagine many modern day media interviews, for example, in which the interviewee does not very quickly talk about animal use in terms of veganism and/or that the interviewer would fail to ask a question about veganism.
When it comes to the "public" - based on direct experience of street campaigning - and on what others report - they tend to be "vegan curious" and have a whole list of questions they want to ask of vegans.
2016 has seen the full emergence of direct-to-the-public street advertising in the form of a range of billboards, ads on buses, trains, trams, and on taxis - and even the first developments in TV advertsing about veganism (see video below).
The movement backdrop to all this - the relative newness of vegan education, the growth in the availability of vegan options in dietary terms, increased vegan labeling on foodstuffs, and the evident openness that there is to straightfoward vegan street campaigning - is "professional" cautiousness. Even now, some groups seem worried about the dread "V" word, and some like Matt Ball and Tobias Leenaert will tell vegans that the best thing to do is not mention the word vegan very much, if at all, because it is a "scare word."
Maybe the word is scary for Leenaert in particular because he isn't even a dietary vegan, along with the fact that he mocks the philosophy of veganism.
I say, looking forward towards 2017 and beyond: ok, some animal advocates are not up to the task of talking about veganism, fine. However, it is absolutely wrong for such people to actively try to prevent vegans from advocating veganism. It is particularly criminal, in my view, that there are animal "professionals" going from conference to conference trying to convince new vegans that the best way forward is not to bother too much about what they eat, and to join in with limiting and mocking the wider philosophical senses of veganism.
That is unacceptable. I hope and trust that few vegans will be taken in by the anti-vegan sentiments that exist in the animal movement.
In the meantime, here's a recent interview with Sandra Higgins of Go Vegan World. This video alone shows that this is not the time to back off from no-nonsense vegan education, especially not long after it has just begun.
Dr. Roger Yates is a rights advocate and sociologist