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Thread: Boycott... veganism? -- Why I gave up veganism, and why you should too

  1. #1

    Boycott... veganism? -- Why I gave up veganism, and why you should too

    So a couple people have asked me why I'm no longer vegan. I started writing a short response, but then realized that the reasons were far more complicated than a 100-word-email could explain. I also realized there was a lot of synergy between my reasons for giving up veganism, and a book about the animal rights movement that I'm working on. So instead of the 100 word email, I wrote a short article that integrated some ideas.

    I'm looking for feedback and critical questions on this. WHat doesn't make sense? What needs to be explained? I focused on substance rather than style, in writing this article, and like most first drafts, it surely has many mistakes. I know the last few parts, for example, need to be tightened up significantly.

    The article is also more negative than I'd like-- I hope no one is discouraged, for example, when they read my description of the animal rights movement. There's reason for hope and faith; it's just that those reasons don't lie in the mainstream animal "rights" movement.

    I also hope that no one takes this article as a personal attack. There is some strongly critical language, and I may remove some of the more emotionally-loaded terms in future edits. As I said, this is a first draft.

    I'm pasting an excerpt below. The full article can be read in the pdf below.

    Note: PLEASE read the article before you comment! First glances are often deceptive.
    ---
    "Go vegan."

    We've all heard, read, or said these two words more times than we can count.

    The logic behind them is simple. In suffering, vertebrate animals are our equals. Yet billions of animals are tortured and killed every year for food, clothing, and in research. The obvious way to stop the slaughter is by "going vegan" -- avoiding meat, finding leather substitutes, and buying products not tested on animals. When we convince everyone to "go vegan", according to this reasoning, animal exploitation will end.

    But this seemingly simple logic is flawed. In fact, I will argue here that the concept of veganism is HARMFUL to animals and to the animal rights movement. And if you are serious about working for animal liberation, the first thing you should boycott is neither meat nor dairy nor eggs. The first thing you should boycott... is veganism.

    Let's break this claim down into a number of smaller bites -- saving the best for last.

    [I'm pasting the sub-headings in the article below, as a preview. The full content is in the pdf.]

    Bite 1: Veganism neither saves lives, nor reduces suffering.
    ...
    Bite 2: Veganism frames the animal rights debate in favor of our opponents.
    ...
    Bite 3: Veganism confuses a potentially powerful message.
    ...
    Bite 4: Veganism undermines community-building.
    ...
    Bite 5: Veganism ignores and even excuses our social and political contributions to animal exploitation.
    ...
    Bite 6: Veganism's role in the animal rights movement has no factual parallels, and no theoretical grounding.
    ...
    Epilogue: (Non-vegan) Dessert and Coffee

    ...

    ARTICLE LINK

    *MOD NOTE: this thread merged with a newer one and article link is updated below*
    Last edited by Natalie's Dad; 08-29-2007 at 12:42 PM.

  2. #2
    approves this message. stegan's Avatar
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    I'm not following the logic of the article maybe, but what do you propose happens in veganism's wake?

    And your inclusion of the slavery comparison is confusing- would you have advocated that people who were against slavery should have owned slaves, and that would have given their arguments more relevance to the general public?

    There seems to be something odd to me about asking people to abandon closely held beliefs because a movement has become too scattered and unfocused. There have been similar arguments made about the environmental movement, I seem to remember readying not too long ago, and those were forgotten as the public began to embrace climate change.

    I think, like a lot of people here, I've never felt as though being vegan defined me. I consider it to be a part of my larger world view, and there are other ways in which I try to make a difference above and beyond veganism.

    Maybe I'm reading it wrong, but it strikes me that your writing seems to indicate that all vegans are surly whimps who never venture outside their own circles and are insulated from the rest of the world, and that this will be our downfall. I don't think this is the case at all. That there are politicians, athletes and other public figures who are vegan indicates to me that there is a broader appeal to this idea beyond a bunch of 15 year olds at a punk rock show.

    It seems to me that you're viewing veganism through a rather narrow scope, that's all. You're certainly entitled to your opinion.
    acid funk for your ass.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by stegan
    I'm not following the logic of the article maybe, but what do you propose happens in veganism's wake?
    Animal rights activism and community.

    Quote Originally Posted by stegan
    And your inclusion of the slavery comparison is confusing- would you have advocated that people who were against slavery should have owned slaves, and that would have given their arguments more relevance to the general public?
    The article is not meant to condemn the dietary practices associated with veganism. The question is whether the concept and category itself has any value for the movement. My claim is that it does not.


    Quote Originally Posted by stegan
    There seems to be something odd to me about asking people to abandon closely held beliefs because a movement has become too scattered and unfocused. There have been similar arguments made about the environmental movement, I seem to remember readying not too long ago, and those were forgotten as the public began to embrace climate change.
    Well, I think that is precisely the problem. Veganism is not a closely held belief. It's certainly not a consistently-held belief. It's become a mere dietary category. Read the article before you decide that there's something odd about it. For example, do you think cotton-free consumerism was key to the anti-slavery movement? Why should veganism matter to the animal rights movement?
    Last edited by Natalie's Dad; 08-29-2007 at 12:34 PM.

  4. #4
    an open book Miso Vegan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Natalie's Dad
    Read the article
    I'm pretty certain he read the article, going by his comments.

    Maybe you think that if he read the article, he would see things your way, and if he disagrees, it must be because he didn't read the article.


    eta: You said you wrote a short article. 12 pages?! I'll read it later.

  5. #5
    approves this message. stegan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Natalie's Dad
    Read the article before you decide that there's something odd about it.
    You may also want to do something about that condescension thing you've got going on. I read the article, and gave you my thoughts. I have no earthly urge to get into an argument with you.

    Good luck with your little crusade.
    acid funk for your ass.

  6. #6
    I'm fairly certain that the article wasn't read, actually. I don't mean that to be an accusation. It's just that this statement:

    And your inclusion of the slavery comparison is confusing- would you have advocated that people who were against slavery should have owned slaves, and that would have given their arguments more relevance to the general public?

    strongly suggests to me that the article wasn't read. I'm sorry if it was read, and I interpreted things wrongly...

  7. #7
    an open book Miso Vegan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Natalie's Dad
    I'm fairly certain that the article wasn't read, actually. I don't mean that to be an accusation. It's just that this statement:

    And your inclusion of the slavery comparison is confusing- would you have advocated that people who were against slavery should have owned slaves, and that would have given their arguments more relevance to the general public?

    strongly suggests to me that the article wasn't read. I'm sorry if it was read, and I interpreted things wrongly...
    Maybe the better way to interpret it is that you need to re-work that section so that your intention is more clear.

  8. #8
    Out walkin' Dugan's Avatar
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    I did read the article, and I agree with MV that it sounds like Stegan did too.

    I'm confused. Is article is supposed to be about veganism or about animal rights? Since there are so many reasons, as you cite, for choosing to be vegan, I don't see the two as inexorably linked.

    Regarding veganism and animal rights - I disagree that veganism doesn't make a difference. A single vegan may not make a measurable, immediate difference. One driver choosing to drive a Prius rather than a Suburban may not make a measurable, immediate difference in gas consumption across the world. Does that mean I should keep my heat at 80, drive a gas-hog, landfill rather than compost, heat with coal rather than wood, use pounds of disposable menstrual products every month, and so on?

    Some of my life choices are about making the small differences I'm capable of where and when I can to reduce my impact on this planet and its ecosystem. I realize that in the global scheme of things that my individual difference is insignificant (although measurable to me) whether it is animals or global warming or landfills or air pollution or health of a population, or any number of things.

    If I make these small differences and my friends make these differences and we influence others to make the changes that they can - the influence grows.

  9. #9
    You guys are right. I'm sorry for that comment, and for coming across as condescending. The title is provocative and a bit misleading, and I'm sure many sections are unclear. This IS a first draft, though, so don't hold it against me.

    What I meant by the above post was simply that the theme of the article, if there is one, is that boycotting products is NOT ENOUGH -- NOT that participating in an exploitative industry is defensible.

    Stegan, again, I'm sorry. If you'd prefer, I can remove the comment I made above, and subsequent ones? I honestly did not mean that to come across as hostile or condescending, though I understand why it would be so interpreted.

    On the rest, especially Dugan's comments, respond later. For now, thanks for reading and feedback.
    Last edited by Natalie's Dad; 08-29-2007 at 03:48 PM.

  10. #10
    Android typo queen vegankitty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dugan
    I did read the article, and I agree with MV that it sounds like Stegan did too.



    Regarding veganism and animal rights - I disagree that veganism doesn't make a difference. A single vegan may not make a measurable, immediate difference. One driver choosing to drive a Prius rather than a Suburban may not make a measurable, immediate difference in gas consumption across the world. Does that mean I should keep my heat at 80, drive a gas-hog, landfill rather than compost, heat with coal rather than wood, use pounds of disposable menstrual products every month, and so on?

    Some of my life choices are about making the small differences I'm capable of where and when I can to reduce my impact on this planet and its ecosystem. I realize that in the global scheme of things that my individual difference is insignificant (although measurable to me) whether it is animals or global warming or landfills or air pollution or health of a population, or any number of things.

    If I make these small differences and my friends make these differences and we influence others to make the changes that they can - the influence grows.
    Ditto.

  11. #11
    The revolution is coming! luckys420's Avatar
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    But reduced
    breeding does nothing to save lives or alleviate suffering.
    However, it does reduce suffering.

    Chinese government saved lives by forcibly
    sterilizing its citizens -- the babies prevented from being born would have eventually
    died, after all, and often in miserable conditions.
    again, it reduced suffering. nonetheless, this is a whole other discussion

    When asked why they pass on the cheese, for example, they
    simply say "Because I'm vegan."
    there is not enough time in the day to explain the cruelty to animals to everyone who asked why no cheese? Why no meat? You don eat ice cream? why? I still have to live a life and do my work.

    Before i became "vegan" i did not eat animals or animal products for roughly two years. i hate categories, thus i refused to call my self a "vegan" finally i gave up because of my statement above.



    And
    when advocates become completely removed from this moral and political imperative,
    the message sent by their "vegan lifestyle" becomes, not just confused, but content-less.
    Eventually, they may lose sight of why they went vegan in the first place. (For examples
    of this process, see here16, here17, and here18, and consider the example of people such as
    Gwyneth Paltrow19, Julia Stiles20, or Nina Planck.21)
    so? give me proof that they would have stayed animal product free if the term vegan never existed. Maybe we should have funeral for it an bury it?

    thats all i am going to read. Just a few suggestions about your citations. If you are writing an academic article and want to be taken seriously you really need to cite some real sources. You got close with the blackwell-synergy link but you really should cite the article itself. I know this is a first draft so it may just be reference for you.

    just my $0.02 that is way over inflated!
    How can you NOT like WAYLON?
    He IS the entertainer!

  12. #12
    jammer's in the box Climbo's Avatar
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    M'main man stegan summed up my thoughts on everything.

    Two of my classmates in graduate school at MIT
    This pretty much sums up the tone of the article and its author: condescending and arrogant.
    taked baby. meet at later bar, night or day sometime

  13. #13
    off to Yosemite for the summer Rabbit's Avatar
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    when I read the first couple of Bites, I immediately started writing an angry response... and then with Bite 3 or so I got your drift. I'm still somewhat new to the radical end of animal rights, so a lot of the things you said were very convicting--I have definitely been of the "patient and compassionate" persuasion when it comes to dealing with omnis, and I'm still not sure if I'm ready to really come out swinging for animal liberation, but I really appreciate a lot of the things you said, and certainly will reconsider how I present these ideas to people.

    I think the main problem with the article, though, is that the title/concept are likely to confuse many people into thinking that you've started eating animal products.

    I completely understand that you're just saying the LABEL "vegan" is harmful, and trying to get people to take action and take responsibility and not hide behind it... but I think you probably want to emphasize/clarify that more in the beginning.

    And actually, I'm not convinced that the "vegan" label and ideas are actually HURTING the animal rights movement, as much as they just aren't HELPING it, or are kind of separate from it. That is, since the point really is that "we need an ACTUAL ANIMAL RIGHTS MOVEMENT", I think you should sell it that way... attacking the word "vegan" will certainly get the attention of a lot of vegans, but if people don't read the whole article they won't understand your point and it will just make a lot of vegans angry (which seems to have happened already )

    here's to justice!
    Normal people are ones you don't know very well.

  14. #14
    On the Railway to Hell doomdiva's Avatar
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    I'm not touching this. :::keeping opinion to oneself:::

  15. #15
    jammer's in the box Climbo's Avatar
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    Do you think that maybe your personality--not your veganism--is what is alienating people? I've met you in person, and even though I'm vegan, I found your conversational style--even in friendly situations--to be condescending. I certainly didn't want to have any more interaction with you than I had to.

    If I'm at a dinner and am offered some cheese, describing in detail what happens to dairy cows is going to shut down a conversation, not really opening the door to much dialogue on the subject; I would be talking at the people rather than talking with the people. If I say, "No, I'm vegan," I normally get asked, "Why?" Then they feel that they have opened the conversation and have a feeling of curiosity rather than defensiveness. This has led to several positive interactions. If this hasn't happened to you, it's probably because people don't like talking to you.

    You do earn a , though. gj
    taked baby. meet at later bar, night or day sometime

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