Once again, I start my day, sit at my desk, and, before I even get to take the first sip of my tulsi tea, I read, in response to my claim that we need to encourage people to understand that veganism is the only rational response to the moral status of animals:
I would love it if everyone went vegan straight away, but the world doesn’t work like that.
I get this sort of message at least five times a day.
Okay. Listen up.
No one is saying that there is any chance that the world will go vegan overnight.
Let’s focus on the words: “NO ONE” (emphasis added).
Let’s be clear: The world will not go vegan overnight.
Okay, are we good so far?
Let’s move on.
In light of the fact that the world won’t go vegan overnight, the only issue is whether:
1. We make crystal clear that veganism is the moral baseline and is a moral imperative. That is, we make a moral judgment that exploiting animals is wrong as a matter of morality–not “lifestyle,” preference, opinion, but as a matter or morality. We make clear that if someone chooses to do less than go vegan, that is their choice and not what is a morally justifiable or morally acceptable or respectful response as far as what we owe morally to animals;
2. We tell them that lesser steps (giving up meat once a week, eating “happy” meat, being “vegan before 6”, etc.) are defensible moral positions.
It is the abolitionist position that #2 is speciesist. In order to understand this (although we would clearly see this in any human context if we thought about it for 5 seconds), read this essay.
It is the abolitionist position that #2 is ineffective as a practical matter. In order to understand that, read this essay.
It’s really simple. You just need to read a little and think a little and not swallow the propaganda of the large animal charities that promote some version of #2 (and they pretty much all promote some version of #2) and need you to donate to their welfare reform campaigns.
Okay. Now let’s take a simple two-choice quiz based on the above (I can’t help it; I am a professor and I test people as a big part of my job).
When someone says, “hey, I’ve given up meat on Monday,” you should say:
A. “See how easy it is? But morality is not something to do one day a week. We need to take fundamental morality seriously every single day. And morality is not about arbitrary lines; it’s about principle. There is no morally coherent distinction between flesh and other animal products. So if you agree–as you clearly do–that animals matter morally, then you’re morally obligated to go vegan. How can I assist you in achieving that goal?”
B. “Wow. The Meatless Monday campaign is totally awesome. Although I am a vegan, it took me ten years to get there so it’s perfectly morally okay for everyone to do it in their own time. It’s about baby steps. We can’t make moral judgments. That would be judgmental! And every little bit matters so what you’re doing is great even if you never go vegan.”
If you chose B, you flunked.
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.
And never, ever buy into the nonsensical notion that we need to promote “happy exploitation” in order to get people to go vegan. In addition to the whole “happy exploitation” effort being profoundly speciesist, the “happy exploitation” effort has one goal: to make the public more comfortable about animal exploitation.
Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University
©2014 Gary L. Francione