Vegans tend to have one thing in common, and that is the definition of veganism:
“A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”
When discussing veganism it helps to base our discussion around an idea, and this definition suits us well. However, there are also people that have chosen to adopt their own idea of veganism without recourse to the definition, which could be something that either ‘mainstream’ media or ‘movement leaders’ have told them it should be. This has an unfortunate consequence because problematic issues can be marginalised instead of considered, where the issue of finding shared meaning and commonality is easily dismissed, because although our experiences differ we have missed a shared reference point.
Some ‘movement leaders’ are convinced they can cause you to doubt almost everything, essentially an approach full of maybes, possibilities and potentialities with little room for either clarity or learning. In this way they have hoped to do our thinking for us, and where we have allowed that to happen we have been rewarded with a mainstream ‘animal rights’ movement that routinely fails to advocate animal rights in a meaningful way. It is a situation that can be recognised where non-human animals are defined as meat, and objects to consume. Such as within reducetarianism, a movement that has garnered a great deal of support from highly placed ‘animal rights’ advocates.
The root of the problem appears to be a lack of discussion around rights and veganism, where some of those discussions have taken place, it has not been uncommon to have them undermined with claims of shaming, divisiveness, policing and purity. This is no way to enter into a meaningful discussion. If we believe animals are deserving of respect then we ought to begin by behaving and speaking in a way that demonstrates that we do. That said, after coming from a deeply speciesist society it will take time to understand how deeply entrenched these ideas truly are. Even when we are ‘vegan’ there is still a great deal to learn about veganism. Whereas some people have chosen to undermine the meaning of veganism to make things appear ‘easier’ and more acceptable, we neglect that we can also progress to better understand issues of discrimination and oppression, and how they interact with each other to cause harm.
It seems apparent that a commitment to the philosophy of veganism is the central tenet of veganism, and that could be seen as the ‘test’ of veganism. It could be said that many movement leaders do not have a particular commitment to this idea, where instead they have a commitment (though not all do) to the vegan lifestyle. A lifestyle which is equally at home in the ideology of flexitarianism, reducetarianism or vegetarianism. Those are ideas to which they appear to have a more reasonable claim, where they avoid the contentious stretch and distortion of the meaning inherent to veganism and animal rights, a situation that has often had the consequence of rendering those terms almost meaningless.
Picture: Beyond Distortion | by Monika Krupicka