Lately I’ve been struggling with what to call myself when it comes to my position/role as a person that advocates for people taking the issues of animal use more seriously. I often have a hard time succinctly articulating (especially to non-veg*ans) why I am vegan, and a lot of it comes down to trying to choose between different terms, none of which really describe me all that well.
It should be pretty clear by now that I don’t identify as an “anti-speciesist” (although I have one guy trying to convince me that I just misunderstand the concept – and I honestly appreciate what he’s trying to do).
I’m not an “animal rights advocate” because I don’t really “believe” in animal rights, because rights really only exist when they’re respected, and hardly anyone respects animal rights, so I feel that front is sort of a losing battle (also, I’m a speciesist, so that complicates things on that front). I haven’t fully articulated my views on this yet, so please don’t beat me up too hard if you disagree.
I don’t like “animal liberationist” because I don’t ever see a day when all animals will ever be truly liberated, so it seems like we’re raising the bar a little too high with that one (it just gives off that “I’m disconnected from reality” vibe to me).
I’m not even totally comfortable using “vegan advocate” even though I am vegan and I do advocate for veganism (or some type of veganism, especially freegan veganism or even veganishism). I think the term “vegan advocate” pigeon-holes you as someone that wouldn’t be okay with people being something less than fully vegan, and that is not my position. Even though I think there are certain issues that typical vegetarians don’t take seriously enough, I can definitely admit that someone going from “typical omnivore” to vegetarian is a definite step in the right direction, a definite improvement. So that’s another reason why “vegan advocate” is ill-fitting for me. I respect vegetarians as people that are willing to act on their convictions, even though I personally feel motivated to “go farther.”
“Animal advocate” is not bad. It’s very general. I am actually advocating for animals. One problem I see with this, though, is that certain non-vegans perceiving this as being just a less-than-honest “codeword” for “animal rights advocate” is pretty much inevitable. Although one could advocate for animals without “believing” in animal rights, for sure.
In short, I’m really confused as to what to “brand” myself as.
One phrase that I’ve been using more lately is that I want to “encourage people to take issues of animal use more seriously.” I know it’s really vague, and not very forceful, but it’s the best way I can find to honestly describe my position at this point in time.
In case people haven’t picked up on this yet, I’m really not sure of a lot of things and I’m open to all kinds of suggestions for new directions, new ways to “brand” a way to get people to take these issues more seriously. I just don’t know exactly what the best way forward is. I think that’s part of why I’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback from so many LTEM readers.
I think a lot of LTEM readers are in similar positions. They care about these issues, but they’re dissatisfied with the more codified “movements” that claim to have the answers. I can admit that I don’t have all the answers (but I do have strong feelings about certain things). I can only say that I care and I want to keep talking about it and trying to come up with ways to get through to people that just don’t give a shit at all.
The “people that claim not to care at all” segment is the area most ripe for real progress, in my opinion. I think it’s time that we people who DO care start figuring out a way to get through to them instead of fighting amongst ourselves. Maybe we are a too-disparate group. Maybe I’m naive. Maybe we actually operate at cross purposes. But I hope not. I hope the fact that we actually care is enough of a binding force to get us to see that “WE” might actually have something to say to “THEM.”
For me, all I really need to hear from someone to consider them an ally is that they actually care about issues of animal use, and that they’re open to the possibility of making some sort of change in their behavior. I don’t care if their response is different from mine. Not everyone is willing to be vegan. I just care that they take the issues seriously enough to consider that the gravity of the situation might warrant a change in their behavior.