This is a list of 1) things that I think should happen in order for veganism to grow 2) the “rules” and defining characteristics that I see as being the most important, fundamental aspects of veganism 3) my opinions/beliefs about veganism that I think set me apart from most vegans.
Some of them are fairly minor and relatively non-controversial and some are pretty damn contentious. It is NOT ordered by importance. I just numbered them so that it’s easier for people to address them with comments.
It is a work in progress and it will change as I continue to think about these things. Hopefully it will expand and change as a result of dialogue that takes place on this blog.
NB: these are not all directives so much as they are an explanation of my position. For example, #2 doesn’t mean that you have to eat freegan food. It just means that it is my position that eating vegan food is acceptable under my understanding of vegan ethics.
- *buy only vegan food. This is paramount. Since economic boycott is arguably about the only real effect that veganism has, this needs to be the core of veganism and all other things should be up for debate.
- *eat any food (vegan or not) that can be obtained by freegan means (dumpster diving, sharing/bartering with people on websites, eating/finishing a meal destined for the garbage etc.)
- One needn’t believe that animals have rights equal to or even similar to the rights of humans to be vegan.
- *acknowledge that not all forms of speciesism are bad. In fact, sometimes a choice made for speciesist reasons is clearly the right choice.
- *avoidance of animal foods is supererogatory, not morally obligatory.
- *approach all debates and info with an open mind. The case for veganism is not absolute and veganism is not without its drawbacks and limitations. We need to be up front about this.
- *take nutrition, and critiques of veganism based on nutrition, seriously. Respect the fact that not everyone will take to a vegan diet (or any type of diet) as well as the next guy. Nutrition can be a very complicated thing.
- *avoid analogies to slavery, rape and genocide. Regardless of how many similarities there are, it’s very offensive to people that believe that humans have more moral worth than animals (i.e. 99% of the human population). We can fight this “bias” or learn to work with it.
- *Be vocal about the fact that no one should have to sacrifice their health to be vegan. We should encourage people to maintain optimal health first through vegan (or freegan) nutrition and then to use (sparingly, if possible) non-vegan/freegan food if they (or their doctor, nutritionist etc.) think that it will help them.
- *Promote the idea that veganism (and freegan veganism) is the ideal, but that near-veganism (or being veganish) is a laudable goal and may even be the end goal for a particular person.
- *take seriously the critiques of locavores, animal welfare activists, fair trade activists, anti-corporatists etc. Just because veganism is the best way to address certain problems doesn’t mean that it’s the best way to address all food-related problems. We can make veganism better by listening to people that don’t necessarily share our goals.
- *veganism is not, and needn’t be, globally applicable to be the right choice for the majority of people. Worldwide abolition of animal use is not realistic and for many people in developing countries, animal use is the difference between subsistence and extreme hunger and poverty, sometimes the difference between life and death.
- *be realistic and honest about the dietary/culinary/taste/nutritional/lifestyle advantages and disadvantages of being vegan.
- recognize that vegetarians, near-vega*ans and “conscientious omnivores” are allies, not enemies to be either converted or denounced as weak-willed. This doesn’t mean that we have to pretend there is nothing wrong with raising animals for milk and eggs. We shouldn’t. But we should acknowledge all cases where people are doing better than average, even if they have no plans to ever become veg*an.
- Admit that veganism is an arbitrary line in the sand, one of many. We should learn to argue that this is not a fatal flaw.
- The opposition of animal rights against animal welfare is a false dichotomy. There is much grey area between the two positions that can, and should, be explored.