Consumerism truly has affected our ethics and the ways in which we behave. Even many that think themselves progressive, liberal or fire-breathing anarchists. We are taught by advertisers to think in terms of profitability instead of principle. For instance, when it comes to Veganism many people I have met like to debate its validity of effectiveness as a tactic. And no doubt I understand the validity of many of those critiques. As I have written more than once, “For every one of us that go vegan, 100,000 kids get weaned into flesh as food.” That being said, Veganism is still an important first step and moral imperative. From a theoretical standpoint, if everyone did adhere to Veganism all these disgusting and evil animal enterprises wouldn’t even exist. This is what Bertrand Russell calls a “universal truth” in his book, “Why I am not a Christian.” He says, “If you can take a behavior and extend it infinitely [in a social context] and it is still good for all, then that behavior is a universal truth.” From a fundamental standpoint, it is morally wrong to use the dead bodies and by-products of the slavery of any being that has an interest in freedom or desire to live free of pain and suffering. The circumstances under which you use them do not matter.
Using Animals’ dead bodies or secretions is morally outrageous whether off a store shelf or out of a dumpster. Would you eat the dead and broken bodies of child laborers left in the trash? If not, why not? They’re just going to waste otherwise. Besides, you didn’t purchase them thereby perpetuating their exploitation. You would not eat them because it’s wrong to participate in their use under any pretext short of starvation. Just as slavery and racism are wrong to engage in whether or not your participation is perpetuating the problem. Or whether your non-participation is stopping the problem. Speciesism takes many passive forms and first world “freeganism” is one of them. We are Vegan because the problem is not in how we use animals. The problem is that we use Animals. Once you open the door of interspecies objectification, it is a Pandora’s Box from there on out.
So why is it wrong to use others for food, entertainment, clothing, vivisection, etc.? What is the reasoning behind our “let live” ideology? It is this: “Your rights end where another’s begins.” Contrary to consumer driven society, every time you have a craving or desire it does not mean you have a right to fulfill that craving. Just because you have five bucks in your pocket does not mean that you deserve things. Animals have a right to live their lives free from human tyranny. Just like you do. Anything that crosses that line is not a right. It is an ability and should not be tolerated or protected as if it was somehow valid. This is why an Animal’s right to live or be defended by any means necessary supersedes any businesses’ ability to profit from their exploitation, or death. “Your rights end where another’s begins” is also why it is never alright to make the conscious decision to choose Animal products. Of course, the only loophole to that is starvation or if you literally have no other option for survival. But at that point you’re not making a consumer decision, you are choosing to live instead of perish. A completely different plight than dumpster diving at Pizza Hut or eating a slaughtered being at Thanksgiving because you are choosing human tradition over the life of an innocent bystander of human avarice.
Animals’ right to be left alone by humans supersedes human foibles and traditions. Nor should we fall for slick little mentalisms like comparing “-ists” or “-isms.” Many times when I have promoted or defended veganism as a natural and superior lifestyle I get microcosmic arguments thrown in my face like “the indigenous” rebuttal. The short version of this argument goes something like this:
You say – “People need to go Vegan!”
They answer – “What about indigenous people? Why should they have to succumb to this Western idea? Why should they have to change their already decimated culture even more to suit this white man’s ideal?”
This is the oversimplified version, there is much more to the indigenous argument. And I agree with it 100 percent! Unfortunately, most often the person making the argument isn’t as concerned with protecting the rights of tribal people as much as they are trying to equate Veganism with racism. And as I said, it is a microcosmic argument. Last time I checked, white people were not traveling to the rainforest or Arctic and forcing Tofurkey and Almond Breeze on the Natives. Furthermore, I am completely alright with hunter/gatherer societies living how they do, in accord with their surrounds and even yes, eating Animals. But I still think the other 5 billion people on the planet should go Vegan!
Also, I do not subscribe to the idea that it is alright to kill Animals with impunity because you are brown or have cultural reasons for doing so. Sorry but I am an Animal Liberationist activist and there are several thousand species, varieties, and types of Animals globally suffering terrible lives and deaths and even extinction at the hands of speciesist, humans oppressors in America, Mexico, Canada, China, India, Australia, Europe, Africa, and elsewhere.
We are not racists or sexists. We are not imperialists or bigots. We are Animal Liberation activists. We are Abolitionists and as such we extend our compassion, concern, ferocity and energy towards the liberation of all life. If that interferes with anyone’s human supremacy, so be it. The idea that you must choose humans or Animals isn’t always the case, but if we must, then we choose Animals. Why?
Because they are innocent. Deers do not dress up in urban camouflage and come to your neighborhood and shoot you in the face and then mount you and your family’s heads in their living space. Chickens do not build mechanized slaughterhouses and raise genetically modified and domesticated people to murder at a break neck pace, or enslave us for eggs. Animals do not make up ridiculous religions that demand human sacrifices to appease the imaginary men in the sky. They do not “farm” us for our skin, eat our brains, make twisted sex video involving our deaths, involve us in cage fights, put our children in veal crates and force feed them liquid diets. They do not beat us up in rodeos, stab us to death in crowded arenas, mount our skulls on the front of trucks! Elephants do not enslave or beat us until we perform for them like puppets, tigers to not sentence us to a life in a cage so that they can display us in a zoo, snakes do not skin us alive to make us belts, etc. etc. etc!
No. These are human pursuits, through and through, am I wrong? There is a good reason to make designation between humans and Animals and it’s not because humans are superior. It is because our depravity, perversion, and lust for blood as a species is profound and disturbing! It’s true that there are many factions of mainstream Veganism in America and Europe that are ruining the purity of the Vegan ethic with their classist, soccer mom, yuppie bullshit! But I think it would be a profound mistake on the part of a militant Animal Liberationist to just let elitists like Francione, Peter Singer or any of their ilk completely ruin our way of life without a fight, because a lot of us are not them. I have met Vegan Rastas (from Jamaica). I have known and helped with a Vegan soup kitchen run by blacks and for blacks in the inner city of Denver. I have read hundreds of communiques by Vegan Warriors of the ALF and ELF of Mexico. I have met Africans that have killed poachers in Africa. And I myself am Latino. Many Food Not Bombs groups feed the homeless Vegan meals every week. Most of the Vegan and AR community are predominately women. So this idea that Veganism is a white or elitist culture is an image that advertisers perpetuate so that they can hike up the prices by putting big green V’s all over packages.
But if we won’t hold onto Veganism and its ideals then it continue to get stripped of its vitality and truth. Until one day being Vegan will be as silly as being on the Atkins diet. Since I went Vegan, I have seen us go from being viewed as “those crazy Animal Rights people” to “those trendy hipsters and white yuppies.” I’d rather be the Animal Rights looney myself, not a supplicant begging for approval and validation from right wing assholes or thin-skinned lefties. This world is meant for all beings. Get it! Got it! Good!
Animal Liberation, whatever it may take!