Leslie Cross defined veganism in 1951 on behalf of The Vegan Society. Paraphrasing and narration: Lee Hall.
It’s the night of the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. Joe Biden just got vaccinated, and Britain is on the verge of increased lockdown measures because of a new Covid-19 variant discovered in London.
Vaccines will curb Covid-19, but they clearly can’t end it, as they do not address its root causes. And we face still more pervasive emergencies:
- New virus vectors, on account of the continued mass confinement of animals and a destabilized climate.
- Summer wildfires, strong storms, flooding, sea level rise, loss of our own habitat and the habitat of other beings.
- Social unrest due to climate-driven migration.
- Imbalances in biological communities, including extinctions.
Vegans stepped up to avert these emergencies well before Covid-19. To be vegan is to reject the belief that other life on the surface of this planet is suitable for Homo sapiens to move or manipulate. Without systematic animal confinement, Covid wouldn’t exist.
To quote Kirsti and Vinnie of SelfLoveVegan, once we begin to love all sentient beings, we begin to love ourselves. Nothing less will spare us, and every other biological community on Earth, from an endless string of gradually or abruptly worsening emergencies.
Nothing less than love will do, and love means a transformation of our human identity. Instead of feeling entitled to control other life, we find ourselves compelled to respect it. In a profound sense, vegan advocacy might just be the most essential work in the human world.
Special solstice post inspired by patrons and supporters. Photo: Harold and Vinnie beside the SelfLoveVegan food truck at the 2018 American Vegan Society annual general meeting and garden party, by Lee.
Have some time to unwind? Listen to a conversation with Green Vegan Grandma Janine Bandcroft. The key topics in our conversation include:
- The brighter side of quarantine.
- Dietary divestment for the climate.
- The truth about wet markets and vaccine labs.
- How I felt hearing “vegan” for the very first time.
- Gendered bathrooms…
And so much more.
Janine calls our conversation `Animal Liberation — On Their Own Terms. Essential philosophy for a time of global zoonotic pandemic.` Works for me.
June is Pride Month — dedicated to, and celebrated by, LGBTIQ+ and allies worldwide.
I believe animal advocacy, at its best, works to challenge and transcend domination wherever it is found, and I think that belief explains why so many vegans from the movement’s earliest days have conscientiously objected to war.
It’s why so many of us sense that heterosexist oppression stems from the same place as human supremacy.
This month 51 years ago, at Stonewall Inn, an interracial group including nonbinary and transgender people rose up against vindictive policing. They rose up against bigotry, hate, and hurt. Their pain and their courage combined to open up new pathways to self-actualization for the rest of us. Pathways to respect. To love. To many more acts of protest, and to unforgettable times of joy and celebration.
And yet the torture and death of George Floyd reminds us, again, that — as far as we have come — the struggle for human freedom is still grotesquely immature. It tells us respect still takes a back seat. And it is a setback for every living being on the face of this Earth.
Pride month 2020 is a time of sorrow because of yet another murder in a pattern of authority-wielding murders, another profound loss to the collective conscious soul. Why? Why can’t we just be decent?
The Art of Animal Liberation must be committed to human dignity and respect for nonhuman life as a dual striving. The loss of George Floyd makes the reason all the more intense, and the need to speak up for the #BlackLivesMatter movement all the more urgent.
My CounterPunch bio identifies me as working for animal liberation. It feels right to have that bio follow a piece about the selective way “looting” is discussed in connection with #BlackLivesMatter protests. It feels right to spread the word that we’re all on this planet together, and no one is free as long as bullets, cages, and chokeholds rule our culture. Authoritarianism has got to go. Humanity must change now. There is no more “I won’t see the change in my lifetime, but…” because now we’re bracing for the storms of a distorted climate. It was always time for respect to ascend, and the very existence of a future, for us, should not be taken for granted.
Banner Photo: Mike Von
My friend Lois Baum recently gave an invited sermon at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Rochester, NY. In the sermon, Lois quoted a statement attributed to an animal liberation summit, circa 2010:
Veganism is a moral and ethical way of living; the practice of non-cooperation and non-participation in anything that exploits nonhuman animals, humans, or the environment. It is a moral baseline for our conduct and how we are revealed to the world.
A spot-on description, I think, of the connected ethic of a vegan life.
Making Others Do Disgraceful Work
And it leads me to think again about the humans who do the disgraceful work of killing living animals and turning their bodies into commodities for human consumption.
I do not believe vegans should invest in undercover investigations of these employees’ actions. Some people disagree. Here is my logic.
Time and time again, the “successful” undercover investigation means:
- Workers get caught, punished, and driven out (and many if not all of them are leading the most exhausted, marginal, and fragmented of lives already).
- The company increases surveillance of the workers who remain.
- If regulators do suspend the company’s business, the business usually tidies up and reopens.
- The case against the company involves employees’ failure to follow regulations. It is never about real caring, real fairness, and it’s definitely never about justice. (Injustice is heaped on, as workers’ precarious lives slide into worse ruin.)
- Arguments resume on whether “ag gag” laws should tighten up to prevent undercover investigations, as the company swears up and down that it is now adequately self-monitored.
One of the points made by early vegans is that we shouldn’t expect other human beings to do disgraceful work for us, work which we’d avoid doing ourselves.
That, I think, invokes an empathy and fairness principle. It does not assume that we should blame these employees for doing what they do…badly.
Animal agribusiness is all unfair, and so many humans are implicated. Only a few people are vulnerable enough to be cast out of society for the way they do it.
I believe a vegan world, an authentically vegan world, does have a vision that would become a reality, but that vision is currently locked up within our species-wide archetypal memory of “Eden”.Every culture has a deep yet deeply hidden mythology of our origins in a Garden of Eden. Deep down we know that we once resided in such a realm. A realm of peace and harmony. One where all the ugliness of this current realm simply did not exist. In my opinion, a truly vegan world would recreate that paradisical reality.
When one really thinks about it, how could it not? If we lived with a compassion and a passion for not oppressing or harming any fellow being, just imagine how different our world would be. Everything would change.We “believe” it is not possible to have our dreams of peace and harmony become a real reality. Thus we give up, as a collective society, before we even try. If everyone would embark on the vegan path, soon we would begin to rediscover, as individuals and as a society, the vision and the possibility of a (return to) an Eden on Earth. Much like we remember via mnemosyne deep within our consciousnesses.Our mythologies began as realities, which we left behind, and, in our shame over creating a world of such abandonment of love and beauty, we have excused ourselves with the myth that they are mere “myths”.The themes of “I can’t” or “we can’t” or “it’s not possible” keep us on this downward spiral. And..”that’s just ‘childish’ fantasy”, or “that’s just not reality”. Or any number of other “reasons” why we can never have the world we envision. But a world that takes the chance to step into that possibility, a world that decides to take that first step by going on the vegan path, would quickly see that all things are possible, that all our yearnings for peace on Earth, for all, is not just a pipe dream but easily and naturally attainable.We can only begin to imagine how it would eventually transform everything in our societies, and in our species.We have the inkling, the desire, the wish, and even the (faint archetypal) memory of such a world. Why not go with that?We may not be able to imagine how such a Eden-istic world is possible, but just because we can’t imagine it now doesn’t mean that once on that path the imaginings and the possibilities would be revealed to us. If we could only convince the world to take that leap of faith. And, really, it’s our only chance, our only hope to flip this current terribleness upside-down.
I’m talking about the archetypal memory in us all, as biological and Earth-based beings, that remembers a true Eden, one with no dominion mentality. Your insightful chapter discusses the perversion of our memory, to serve a post-Eden rationalization of our will to dominate.And you are perfectly right, how, when seen for what it is (which you reveal), it is a social commentary on our flight from Eden rather than a genuine attempt to return to the eternal truth of it. In no way was I talking of the mythologies that contain only half truths leading to whole lies regarding our relationship with the Earth and Earth’s beings.The Eden story I was talking about is that which resides in us all, that what we all know deep down as to what it was and can be…instead of, as you say, the stories that “defy messages from the natural world that all is interwoven, overlapping, interdependent…”
Lee, that is spot on.But remembering our primate identities would in fact liberate us from fear. We have exaggerated the risks of the metaphorical big lion. Way back when, we wanted to escape those minimal fears of nature. We decided to subdue nature to eliminate all risk. But in so doing, by creating an artificial world insulated from nature, we have created risks 1,000 times more risky and dire. Instead of the occasional risk or tragedy befalling one or a few, as is natural, we have created endless tragedies and risks at every turn, befalling all.We were far safer then.Then, factor in the risks and tragedies to the more-than human world that flow in the wake of our decision to be at war with nature and life instead of remaining at equality and peace with it, well…all I can say is, how dare we do that, not only to ourselves but to the rest of the natural world.There are no words in our limited, linear languages to adequately convey the tragedy of it all. And since we do not seem to know how to do that, we will have to leave it up to Gaia to express it for us, as it is doing, with a proper vengeance.
Not weird at all to rather die by tooth and claw than by modern infirmities. Yet I’m not so sure the dangers then were all that severe. That Red in Tooth and Claw story of nature being just another exaggeration to justify the path we have chosen. As we know, predation only takes a very small percentage of a prey species. And as for all the other dangers, like disease, etc., clearly we have way more of that now than then. And when factoring in quality of life then vs now… well…. game.. set.. match.
So, yeah, we don’t die well or live well or in harmony with nature.
Yes and yes. What is better, a life of disconnect, then protracted beyond sensation, or one fully lived then a quick release, by natural expiration or fast flash of nature’s attack? The latter is a life more fully lived. And a life not at war with the rest of life.
Dear friends, if you’re familiar with On Their Own Terms: Animal Liberation, you might recall this challenge (at pages 43-44):
The greatest challenge we face is imagining humanity without the master role. Is it our fear of free animals’ power (over our children, our dogs, our cows, the back yard at night, the woods our government claims for the people, our own bodies) that keeps us from imagining another identity for ourselves?
What would we be without our self-appointed mastership over the rest of living communities on Earth? How would you, as a vegan, imagine a future identity for ourselves?
Here is Ria Del Montana’s conversation starter. Thank you, Ria, for sharing this piece with VeganPlace.
Veganism in Futurtopia
Being that animal liberation and a shift to veganism are central to animals being free, what will the free world of the future look like? To release others from human reign, domesticated pigs and dogs, cows and cats will be cared for until they go feral. But with humans’ infrastructures of civilization strung across the planet, where will their freedom take place? And with wildlife and nature as a whole in peril, where is their freedom? A return of land for rewilding requires a substantial decrease in the human population. Increasingly young people are voluntarily having fewer or no children based on many factors, including Earth ethics. As humans reconnect with wild living, Earthcare will grow stronger.
Capitalism and industrialism, built on models of infinite growth from exploited natural ‘resources’, prompting people to view animals as ‘products’, wildlife habitat as mining fields, and pets as a profit market, are the antithesis of a free world. Beginning with herding, civilization’s founding premise is the domestication of animals. Thing is, domesticating animals served as a devise setting the stage for domesticating wild plants into food monocrops, which brought on human overpopulation. Agriculture and its human overpopulation set wildlife habitats into death spirals. Humans inadvertently became Earth’s parasite.
The more humans disconnect from wild life in wilderness, the more they long for a return to it. But there’s no going back, only forward. What social character will the human take in the future vegan world? They will rekindle their lifeway of togetherness. Comparative anthropologist Layla AbdelRahim lays out human origins as humans living embedded in wildlife as bands of foraging frugivores, symbiotically benefitting their habitat community in their ecosystem role as seed spreaders. Human origins point a path to how humans can still live free with others – with an ethos of mutualism replacing the failing ethos of domestication.
For modern humans to expand their circle of compassion to all is challenging in the context of the world they’ve degraded. During the transition ethical choices are confounding, such as those pitting wild animals against animals humans bred into existence. Top predators keep populations in balance and need to be reintroduced, which may shift humans too toward their original position as prey. But how many humans suffer and die, directly and indirectly, from civilization? Humans can act to protect themselves, but to release their predatory Earth-destructive ways, the human ape needs to come to grips with itself as an occasional prey species, as much so as any ape.
As quickly as civilization’s systems are expanding, their tangible and intangible foundations are weakening and bound for collapse. Even after the advent of civilization, some humans everywhere opted to live life freely as possible, instinctively sensing how to live on their own terms, based on an intuitive sense of fairness with others. Some humans have always tended to, defended and restored the wild. Rewilding of the human and the planet began long ago. The question is, will vegans realize it is their calling too?
As to the basic question, reflective of The Great Forgetting of lifeways and dietways before agriculture, what will a wild vegan eat? From the mindset of mutualism and freedom for all, as the land rewilds humans will have The Great Remembering of the bounty of foraging opportunities. They will be not only more nutritious, but delicious.
Banner image: Annie Spratt, New Forest National Park
A debate is running about what humans will eat when we stop eating meat.
Why? Our most sustainable protein on Earth is the bean. Beans, lentils, and peas grow in harsh climates with little water, in financially poor regions. They self-fertilize, capturing nitrogen from the air and fixing it in the soil, so they don’t need the synthetic fertilizers that are running off the land and killing the ocean.
Yet some vegans, of all people, are promoting “clean meat” that is actual flesh, made in the lab from real animal cells. No doubt most readers will have heard some self-identified vegans touting this new future of food.
Do they have a point? This is a matter of question framing. And I think we need to lay out what the questions are.
Banner photo credit: Niklas Rhöse, via Unsplash.
I have found compelling reasons to embrace the term animal liberation. Liberation of other animals from human dominion is the clearest expression of animal-rights advocacy. A genuine liberation philosophy—as distinct from a goal of reducing the suffering within industries—champions respect for animals in the places they’ve evolved to inhabit, and requires that we stop fouling, commandeering, and destabilizing our environment.
It’s tempting to immediately add: And this will ensure our own survival, too! True, yet a genuine liberation principle makes clear that we are one community among many, not the very point of Earth’s existence.
We seem to be scurrying about, suddenly aware that the atmosphere is coming undone, hoping to clean up our act just enough to manage to keep our sense of entitlement over Earth. The point of a genuine liberation theory is a deeper cultivation, a way-finding principle for living among many groups of beings, within the whole of Earth’s living community, with decency and respect.
We rush through our days in a society fixated on business, while a civilization-changing crisis unfolds in slow motion. Humans have been pushing Earth’s limits for a long time, and now there are massive infrastructures and administrations pushing at the most hectic possible pace.
“What can one person do now?” we think, as we post the latest re-cap from Science Daily and then go out the door to drive to work. Like the waxy wings of a high-flying Icarus, our cleverly manufactured means of support are coming apart.
Government representatives hold conventions to debate what must be done to slow the atmospheric effects of our industries. The stakes are immense. Earth’s poles, with their great shelves of ice, are important to Earth’s gravity. If warming water seeps under the Antarctic ice and weakens that gravitational pull, the surface of our planet could be inundated with water. And should global temperatures continue rising at the current rate, tiny undersea plant life could fail to achieve photosynthesis. What most of us haven’t considered before is our reliance on that undersea plant life to supply most of the oxygen in our atmosphere.
In short: Earth as a whole ecosystem, with all its splendid biological communities, is straining under the pressure exerted by more than 7 billion humans.
It’s impossible to really think about animal liberation without challenging human population growth. The Earth is finite. And it does not belong to the Homo sapiens at the expense of everyone else.
Photo by Jiri Sifalda via Unsplash
On 5 February we enter the Year of the Pig in the Chinese Lunar calendar.
Now, Wikipedia tells us, the Japanese zodiac and the Tibetan zodiac do not have a pig; they have a boar.
I’m going with the Year of the Boar.
Because if we want to get to animal liberation, the ideal to keep in mind is a community of free-living beings. Not beings who were selectively bred to be controlled by the apes known (to ourselves) as Homo sapiens.
Decide for yourself. Would you want advocates to represent you this way?
Sure, the cut-paper caricature seems happy, but there’s no joy in being born dependent on, and ultimately killed by, a controlling owner.
Very few purpose-bred pigs make it to refuges. Those so-called lucky ones wouldn’t need luck if we humans would just stop breeding away their independence.
So much for the happy pig motif. Let’s get real.
Now look at the banner photo. Free-living boars live and move together, in groups. If the image of young sibling boars evokes a happy feeling in the viewer, it happens in a more respectful context: freedom.
Representing pigs as adorably happy in a pet-like state isn’t the best we can do. But it’s what a lot of vegan advocacy does.
Here it is, at the most extreme, with this cute little lonely pig.
Undomesticated boars live in groups. Babies stick together. So, this image should trouble us and make us question whether what seems “cute” to most human eyes is a profoundly sad state for the animal who’s displayed.
And now, are we really going to share a video clip of a helpless baby pig in a bidet for “National Dog Day”?
OK, yeah, I’m gonna get preachy here.
In the Year of the
Pig Boar, how about we focus on these beings’ ancestral, free communities?
Most people don’t know what young boars look like, or where they live. We, as vegans, should know. Because veganism is not about making selective breeding seem adorable. Veganism is about challenging it and refusing to obscure the reality of where animal communities come from and who they really are.
Best wishes to everyone in the Year of the Boar. Let these images of boars interacting set the tone for a new year in vegan outreach.