In the face of significant criticism for embracing “flexible veganism” in the form of its “You don’t have to be vegan to be buy products with the Vegan Society Trademark” rebrand, The Vegan Society put out a statement on August 5, 2014 that read, in part, that its “aims and objectives remain unaltered from those of our founders 70 years ago.” Here is a portion of the statement:
(Click to enlarge.)
Is this accurate? Let’s see.
Here is Donald Watson, who founded The Vegan Society in 1944:
We can see quite plainly that our present civilisation is built on the exploitation of animals, just as past civilisations were built on the exploitation of slaves, and we believe the spiritual destiny of man is such that in time he will view with abhorrence the idea that men once fed on the products of animals’ bodies. (Watson, 1944)
Here is Watson, in a 2002 interview:
Take the broad view of what veganism stands for – something beyond finding a new alternative to scrambled eggs on toast or a new recipe for Christmas cake. Realise that you’re on to something really big, something that hadn’t been tried until sixty years ago, and something which is meeting every reasonable criticism that anyone can level against it. And this doesn’t involve weeks or months of studying diet charts or reading books by socalled experts – it means grasping a few simple facts and applying them.
Here is Jasmijn deBoo, present CEO of The Vegan Society:
The full slogans of the Love Vegan campaign so far are as follows:
“You don’t have to be vegan to love vegan lipstick.”
“You don’t have to be vegan to love vegan trainers.”
“You don’t have to be vegan to love vegan ice-cream.”
We know that we need to be inclusive and non-judgemental if we are going to encourage and support large numbers of people to go vegan and stay vegan.
deBoo justifies the shift from veganism as a moral imperative to a focus on getting people to buy products that have The Vegan Society Trademark:
As we receive no government funding, the vast majority of our income is generated by our Vegan Trademark registration scheme. Having more vegan products registered with the Vegan Trademark achieves three things: it gives people more confidence when shopping for vegan products, it shows companies and retailers that the vegan market share is growing, and it funds The Vegan Society’s charitable work.
From Watson’s vision of veganism as a moral imperative to deBoo’s vision that “You don’t have to be vegan to buy products that have The Vegan Society Trademark” and not being “judgemental” about the exploitation of animals.
Watson in 2002:
We don’t know the spiritual advancements that long term veganism -I mean not over years or even decades, but over generations, would have on human life. It would be certainly a different civilisation, and the first one in the whole of our history that would truly deserve the title of being a civilisation. Full stop.
Vegan Society Ambassador Fiona Oakes in 2014:
Veganism is not “for everyone” and “not probably for very many people.” (Oakes, BBC Radio)
“[U]naltered”? I know what I think. But it’s for you to decide.
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