After reading three books in a row about the horrors of factory farming, food safety, and the politics of the food industry, it has become apparent that some people within the vegan revolution have become fearful of veganism. Moby, in his book, Gristle, admits to “softening” his approach, downplaying his veganism. Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Eating Animals, takes a side step to vegetarianism and romances the humane meat movement, avoiding veganism altogether. And Melanie Joy, in her bookWhy We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows, never promotes veganism, preferring the term “veg*n” or “vegetarian,” in order to appeal to a wider audience. As someone who was raised to be an omnivore, evolved into vegetarianism, and finally learned enough to become an ethical abolitionist vegan, I am left wondering — why all the fear of the “V” word?
Veganism and the Peace Sign
When I was a young woman, the sign of a “V” meant peace — two fingers (the index and middle finger) erect and apart at the nail, just like in American Sign Language “V.” I would hope we would reinstitute the use of the “peace” sign, the “V” that also means the “V” word, veganism. Without peace for all, and that includes the animals, there will be peace for no one. In fact, at this time, there many not be much life left on planet earth unless we mend our ways. Let’s start using the peace sign and stand out as vegans.
Vegetarianism as a Sign of Veganaphobia
I noticed on the site VeganWrites, a site for student activists, that Bruce Friedrich of PETA was getting rid of his Vegan tee shirts because the Vegetarian tees elicited much better response. I bet a BBQ tee would do better still here in Texas, but that would hardly be vegan education. If we believe in veganism, how will it ever become prevalent if even the vegans are afraid to talk about it? What is behind this veganaphobia? The student writing the article then quoted Foer, stating that we should ask people to take the first step, not the last, meaning vegetarianism. But vegetarianism is not the first step – it is a side step, one that still uses animals and their bodies for purely selfish reasons. It is also not a healthy stance not a moral stance, nor even an equivalent environmental stance.
Here is a quote from Bruce Friedrich, VP of PETA
I actually think that using the word “vegan” (other than perhaps with youth) may be counterproductive to helping animals, relative to using the word “vegetarian.” As a species, we are given to seeing things as “all or nothing,” and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had discussions with people who write off making any changes because they believe they can’t go vegan.
Veganism is Clear
I would disagree. Going vegan is much easier for many reasons. First of all, it is very clear – animals are not to be exploited, have intrinsic value and are not for human consumption. Vegetarianism gets confusing for the general public. People bring you dead chickens or think it is acceptable to eat the secretions of animals or use their body parts in other products. Many people use the term vegetarian to indicate someone who eats fish and chicken as well as other animal products. This is not progress for the animals.
Second of all, veganism opens up an entire new world of food. For me, going vegetarian meant giving something up, avoiding certain foods. Going vegan meant adding many, many things to my life. I became more sensitive to the animals around me, to the wealth of plant food, and to the joy of eating for the first time in my life. If I feel positive about being vegan, then when I discuss it with others it will shine through.
Third, it is much healthier for the individual and the planet. We can collectively feed more of us beings by eating plant food. We can save more of the rainforest and other forests. We can lower our cholesterol and, if we eat whole foods, get rid of most of the chronic diseases that plague modern man. We can reduce our carbon footprint and help stop global climate instability. And we can decrease the amount of violence, suffering, domination and subjugation in the world.
If there is this much confusion among vegans about the best approach towards educating the public, no wonder the public is so confused.
Sam Tucker and Gary Francione, Animal Abolitionists
While listening to one of my favorite podcasts, NZ Vegan Podcast, I was amazed at the solid, logical sound of a very young man, 13 years old at the time, who was on fire for animal rights and veganism. Not only was he intelligent and well-spoken, he was doing something about the injustice he was witnessing. Sam Tucker is that young man, now 14, and he is already an enterpreneur (having owned a tee-shirt business), a radio host (Food for Thought), a public speaker (at Animal Rights assemblies and on podcasts), and a successful animal rights advocate. He is also a snowboarder and a musician. Sam, as you can tell, does not let any moss grow under his feet. He is part of a growing number of young people who are making enormous contributions to changing the way people think about animals, about food, and about the earth.
I am very fortunate that during my “research” phase of learning about the animal rights movement, I listened to some excellent, clear and consistent people who clarified things for me. To emphasize the point that promoting veganism via education need not be fear-inducing, there is Gary Francione and his Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach podcast for further clarification.
Fierce at Fourteen – profile of Sam Tucker
Book Review: Dr. Melanie Joy’s Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows