August 20, 2007

Then I Handed In My Super-Secret Abolitionist Decoder Ring and Went Home

Posted in abolition, animal rights, veganism at 1:56 pm by nevavegan

Mary Martin, a self-admitted abolitionist recently called it “the a-word.” I sympathize. I would consider myself an abolitionist, and yet there are times when maybe I don’t measure up? I’ve seen a number of arguments lately against arguing from environmentalism, or arguing against vivisection on non-ethical grounds (like my recent post on how stupid some animal experiments are). Those methods, according to some, fall short, because they don’t emphasize animal issues from a rights point of view.

What does it all come down to? I think people should be vegan. I think veganism is the only ethical way to live in this world, the world we have, not the ideal world we make up in our heads to excuse our own shortcomings.

I think that to promote veganism we should be honest. We shouldn’t downplay the plight of the animals because the horror of it upsets people. We shouldn’t tell people untruths about veganism or give poor nutrition advice. We shouldn’t pretend we are perfect. But we should face our fellow humans as humans and tell them what we know and what we understand and hope that at least part of that message sinks in.

I don’t think we can promote veganism by praising people for using slightly less awful methods of slaughtering, nor do I think we can promote veganism by giving free advertising to restaurants that don’t really serve vegan food but now use cage-free eggs.

I don’t think we can promote veganism by being degrading to people, whether that means the exploitation of women, or trying to trick people into veganism by capitalizing on their desire to be thin alone. For what it’s worth everyone I’ve known personally who became vegan only to lose weight gave it up because they were looking at it as another diet and then a new fad diet came along and they decided to try that one. Which is not to say that people can’t be motivated by their own desire for health, I’m just not sure the pursuit of thinness alone is enough. But others have told me they knew people who were only vegan for health reasons who stuck with it, so my experience doesn’t define everyone’s, I guess.

But when it comes to promoting veganism I’m going to open up the toolbox and use every tool at my disposal that I don’t find unethical. I think animals have a basic right not to be bred and brought into this world simply to be used and killed for our taste buds or amusement. That’s basic. But I’m going to throw the suffering argument in too. Then I’m going to throw the environmental reasons at my audience. If they want to talk religion, I’ll talk religion. If they’re concerned about health I’m going to reassure them that veganism is healthy. There are lots of reasons to be vegan. There’s really, as far as I’m concerned, one ethical way to view animals. However, it takes a radical re-thinking of our current world view to get there, so I’m all for using everything we have. I’m not against appealing to every reason and every emotion, I just use those things toward veganism, not toward promoting Burger King.



  1. mary martin said,

    I almost don’t want to use the word Abolitionist in the materials I’m creating. I think in the title it’s especially sketchy. There’s so much emotion that tends to go with that word–from both sides–and the last thing I want to do is alienate even more people just because of the language (it’s like they agree with the idea but don’t want to use the word or something). It’s all so charged. Would you use a brochure that had the A-Word in the title? I don’t want to end a conversation before I can start it. Do you think the word does that, or does the average person have no idea, think of slavery, then get defensive and offended that you’d compare slaves to nonhumans, thereby ending the conversation anyway?

  2. Anonymous said,

    good idea neva, imho to use every tool in that tool box that is acceptable to one’s value system. different things affect different people. earthsave, for instance, used the health, environment, ethics trinity.

    those who are active in the field will tell you we need everyone. if you can’t take to the seas, may be you can speak. if you can’t speak, may be you can write. if you can’t write, may be you can give out pamphlets.

    we should be truthful as you say (the bigguys occasionally aren’t), and we need to stop bickering with those who perhaps aren’t using the same tools, but we know that are really on the same side.

    those on the otherside are the real enemies.


  3. Neva Vegan said,

    Mary, I think “abolition” is a term we use within the movement to refer to our own philosophical differences, but it’s less meaningful to others. There’s no need to use the word, we are just operating from that standpoint.

    Thank Prad. I actually don’t think that discussion has to be bickering or can’t sometimes be fruitful. I do feel pretty strongly that promoting veganism doesn’t get the attention and funds that some other campaigns (cough, cough Burger King) get and that’s unfortunate. I’m not saying anyone is the enemy, merely that it saddens me sometimes to see people that clearly do have the same goals I do put so much energy and so many resources into things that in my opinion mix the message. I won’t stop saying how I feel about things or objecting when I have a problem with something, but I mean it as a nudge in the direction of promoting veganism, that’s all.

  4. beforewisdom said,

    I think the only issue that matters in using the environmental argument for veganism is being open and upfront about your motivations.

    People can and will sense when someone is talking to them with a hidden agenda. They will blow off environmental and health reasons to go vegan by telling themselves “oh that is just PETA, they just don’t want people to eat meat”.

    However, I think if you tell a stranger your true ( or dominant )motivations up front…..lay all your cards on the table, respectfully, and then point out that the facts are the facts about the environment apart from your agenda then you will get respect as well as listened to

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