Anyone who claims that ethical veganism, as it is represented in the abolitionist approach to animal rights, is a single-issue campaign understands neither abolitionist ethical veganism nor single-issue campaigns (SICs).
Ethical veganism is the notion that we should not eat, wear, or use animals for human purposes. Ethical veganism reflects the view that we cannot distinguish among various types of animal exploitation for moral purposes and that we should abolish animal exploitation altogether.
Ethical veganism is the application of of the principle of abolition in one’s individual life and requires that one eschew all forms of animal use or consumption.
Ethical veganism recognizes that all sentient beings have an interest not only in not suffering but in continuing to live. Therefore, killing animals for human use, even if we have treated animals “humanely,” is fundamentally unjust.
Single-issue campaigns focus on particular uses of animals, or on particular species. Examples: a campaign against fur; a campaign against the use of wild animals in circuses; a campaign against white veal to encourage the consumption of red veal or against battery eggs in favor of “cage-free” eggs; a boycott of a state because it allows the killing of a particular “favored” sort of animal, such as wolves. All mainstream animal organizations promote SICs. No mainstream group has adopted ethical veganism as its exclusive, or even a, central focus.
An ethical vegan would not support any animal exploitation. Therefore, to say that ethical veganism is a SIC is to fail to understand the nature of ethical veganism or the fact that SICs rest on distinguishing among various forms of animal exploitation and promoting the notion that some forms are worse than others and, by implication, that other forms of exploitation are morally desirable or morally acceptable.
One can, of course, use the expression “veganism” to apply only to diet in the sense that one who does not eat any animal products may be considered to have a vegan diet. This use of “vegan” is more restricted than the notion as I have developed it in my abolitionist theory. Promoting a vegan diet is more like an SIC than is promoting ethical veganism and the abolition of all animal use. But the practical reality is that if people rejected eating any animal products, we would see a rejection in all sorts of other animal use. The most significant form of animal exploitation–the form that “legitimizes” all the others–involves using animals as food. If you dislodge that use, you dislodge all others.
But let us be clear: abolitionist ethical veganism rejects all animal use. As such, to call it an SIC is to fail to understand what ethical veganism is or to misrepresent it.
Gary L. Francione
© 2010 Gary L. Francione