Jack’s Vegan Future: A Conversation

Jack McMillan imagines a vegan future “far beyond what we can currently imagine.” Here is Jack’s description, and some back-and-forth we had. It’s lightly edited for readability.
Jack wrote:
     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.

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     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 asked whether Chapter 7 in On Their Own Terms: Animal Liberation poses a challenge to Jack’s Edenic ideal. In Chapter 7, Connecting Dominion’s Dots, I posited that the Eden story is widely understood as the ideal, whereas I think it’s better understood as a social commentary on human dominion.
     Jack responded:
     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…”
     Any deep challenge to dominion, I said to Jack, would mean remembering our primate identities. And we then have to understand that we are not superior to the big cats. We’d instead live with the risk their existence presents. This is not everyone’s thought when Eden is invoked! I suppose some would call us traitors to humanity for even suggesting it!
     And Jack replied:
     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.
     Well, said I, the struggle was real for primates. It was not all sweetness and peace, of course.
     Aurochs, the ancestors of cattle, would run over a village, too.
     So it wasn’t just the carnivores that kept us running. Most people think of their locked doors and fenced yards and genetically subdued animals and processed foods and pharmaceuticals as the bases of modern safety. But we don’t die well if you ask me.
     Is it weird to say I should prefer to die by tooth and claw than on a rented gurney with tubes in my arms and a legal mess on someone’s desk? We are not allowed by civilized society to ask the question. But we might as well ask. We haven’t figured out how to die in harmony with nature or live within the constraints of a planet’s realities.
Jack answered:
     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.
    Once prey animals get to a certain age, I said to Jack, if the natural balance exists, they will quite likely get eaten.
     I’m not assuming this is pleasant. Yet I do think the final release came more quickly in the the course of nature’s trophic conversion than it does for most of us primates today, when medical ethics oblige our caregivers to keep us contained in the mortal coil for as long as they can possibly stretch the situation out, beyond what we could reasonably be called natural.
     I know this is fraught territory, and I’m not making a moral statement. I’m simply noting that we overshoot the line at which quality of life is exhausted in many, many lives thanks to the wonders of modern medicine!
     And Jack responded:
     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.

Guest Post: Veganism in Futurtopia

Dear friends, if you’re familiar with On Their Own Terms: Animal Liberationyou 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.

Ria

 


Banner image:  Annie Spratt, New Forest National Park

Eating Flesh: How Do We Frame The Question?

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.

Read on…


Banner photo credit: Niklas Rhöse, via Unsplash.

On Embracing the Term “Animal Liberation”

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

Year of the Boar

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. 

Yes, lonely.

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.

Vegan 101: Free PowerPoint Download

World Vegan Day, the First of November, is just one week away. Need a simple resource for World Vegan Month outreach in Novemberor any time? Vegan 101 is a free slideshow you can use. It includes 100% evergreen material suitable for general audiences. An extra slide provides notes for presenters. Everyone is welcome to share comments and suggestions in the comment field under the slide deck.

Enjoy this resource. And let me know if you have any issues opening the PowerPoint file. The file extension is .pptx; that can be changed to an earlier version if improves accessibility.

Best wishes for World Vegan Month!

Lee.