For some reason that eludes me, some animal advocates believe that because it took them a while to go vegan, the position of the animal rights movement should be that individual “journeys” are just fine.
But that is absurd.
Imagine someone saying, “It took me a while to stop being a racist so I think that the civil rights movement should promote the idea that it’s fine for everyone to learn to embrace equality at their own pace. If someone thinks that it’s okay to discriminate against people of color, we cannot make judgments. To say that equality is an unequivocal moral baseline is to take a ‘my way or the highway’ approach. We need baby steps. Let’s start with Racist-Joke Free Monday.”
If someone said that, we would think that such a person was seriously confused and did not understand the nature of morality.
Those who say this in the animal context are similarly seriously confused about what morality means. And if they agree that “baby steps” are not acceptable when it comes to racist discrimination but are acceptable in the animal context, they’re just being speciesist.
We should always seek to teach others in a nonviolent manner. But we have an obligation to the animals to be crystal clear that the moral status of nonhumans means that any exploitation–however “humane”–is morally unjustifiable.
We would never say that racism (or sexism or homophobia or any other sort of human discrimination) is acceptable if it is “humane” or if we eliminate “the worst abuses.” We would never say that we should “meet racists (or sexists or heterosexists) where they are” and respect that they are on a “journey.”
Let’s stop being speciesist and saying such things where nonhuman animals are concerned.
Let’s embrace animal rights.
If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.
Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University
©2015 Gary L. Francione