The Best Vegan Approach
At the Seed Experience last Sunday a friend (running a vegan nutrition booth) wondered if there was a name for vegans who approached and promoted veganism through health, environmental, and ethical angles. Well, I don’t think there is. But there should be. Like, maybe, “vegan.”
Under the broad umbrella of vegan education there are arguments worth having and arguments worth turning into flotsam. Or is it jetsam? Either way, the “best approach” argument should be jettisoned. We need to be a movement motivated by inclusion. We need to be equally amenable to philosophers as nutritionists, ecologists and vegan food cart owners. Come one; come all. Just come—or become—vegan.
Vegans are hardly above petty identity politics. It’s natural, I suppose, to favor the approach that you as an individual happen to advocate. But let’s avoid comparisons. It’s not about you or me. Our collective mission goes beyond the species.Yet we take the wind out of our own sails with this sort of needless favoritism. After all, these three approaches (and there are of course others) are stronger when bundled together than when separated.
By themselves, these justifications for veganism have weak spots. The ethical approach suffers from the fact that people are rarely motivated by ethics when there’s no obvious self-interest in it; the health argument suffers from the fact that it’s perfectly possible to be an optimally healthy omnivore; and the ecological argument suffers from the fact that the sustainable food movement has made a strong and far more appealing case for rotational grazing as integral to agriculture (which isn’t to say they’re right).
Together, these rationales provide a cohesive and impressively convincing case for choosing to become vegan. Not only do they enhance the chances of more people living their lives to minimize animal exploitation, but they also enhance the chances that people of all creeds, educational levels, income brackets, ethnicities, and races will feel more comfortable entering the fold. Pure ethical veganism, I can assure you, intimidates many potential converts. Health benefits–not so much.
A final benefit of expanding the circle of vegan justifications is that it places veganism at the center of issues that we normally do not spend much time debating: obesity, sexism, homophobia, global warming, agricultural habits—to name just a few. When we confine ourselves to a single approach, we confine the scope of our message. And while that make some of us feel empowered, it harms the animals we want to liberate from the deepest structures of oppression.