I never cease to be amazed by those people who say that we should not promote veganism as a moral imperative because they took a long time to go vegan.
What is the relevance of how long it took someone to see that going vegan was the right thing to do? Answer: it has no relevance whatsoever.
Frankly, I am not all that surprised that it took a lot of people a long time to go vegan given that none of the large animal charities present veganism as the moral baseline and they all promote welfare reform and happy exploitation to a greater or lesser degree. I routinely encounter people who have been vegetarians for 20 years and only went vegan after they encountered the abolitionist approach. Although these people were almost always volunteers with one or more animal charities, no one ever asked them to go vegan, much less made clear to them that veganism was a moral imperative–an unequivocal moral baseline. Indeed, most animal charities continue to promote vegetarianism as an alternative to veganism. That is not consistent with presenting and promoting veganism as a moral imperative.
But the point is that the the validity of moral principles does not depend on how long it took any particular person to recognize their validity. None of us would doubt this where humans are concerned. For example, if it took someone ten years to recognize that racism was wrong and to stop using racist epithets, does that mean that we should not be crystal clear that racism is wrong? Of course not. Would anyone suggest that we have “Racist Joke-Free Friday” to provide a “baby step” approach for those on the “journey” away from racism? Of course not.
Similarly, the fact that it might have taken some people many years to see that the moral status of animals required that they go vegan does not mean that we should promote “Meat-Free Mondays,” cage-free eggs, crate-free pork, and all of that other nonsense to accommodate those who are still on the “journey” away from speciesism.
We should always be clear that we cannot justify animal use and that veganism is a moral imperative; a moral baseline. If someone wants to do less than go vegan, that should be that person’s choice and never because we have put a stamp of approval on any form of animal exploitation.
And being clear about moral obligations does not mean judging people. I have many acquaintances who are not vegan. I do not judge them, but I am always clear with them that we cannot justify animal use morally and veganism is a basic moral obligation for us all.
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
©2014 Gary L. Francione