Posts Tagged ‘The Seed: A Vegan Experience’
This is a freshly written version of the talking points of my introduction for my Seed Experience lecture today in the Big Apple. (That sentence may have been the syntactically worse sentence I’ve ever written.) The event was fun. But the stage was in the center of a large room packed with vendors and I felt my words being drowned out by the din of background conversations. I know, I know: get over it. Anyway, lots of great conversations afterwards. Lots of vegans doing heroic good work. Lots of hope for a better future.
I was recently asked by a reporter to help her with a story about the hordes of environmentalists turning vegan for environmental reasons. Say what? Whenever I’m approached this way I always make a go of turning the reporter’s cock-eyed story idea into my own story idea. Thus I was adamant: it was the other way around. Vegans are leaving veganism for environmentalism. And the reason? The sustainable food movement is on the prowl, assuring many vegans that they can fulfill their environmental and humanitarian interests while eating “humanely raised” animal products. Spend a bit more, they’re saying, and salve your guilt in the balm of agricultural pornography. Well, how convenient.
This trend, for anyone promoting veganism, is a truly terrifying development not to be taken lightly. We are witnesses to a prime historical moment. Forty years of investigative work into the horrors of factory farming has driven home the point that these sadistic operations are evil to the core. We must boycott them. We must condemn them. For the first time, we’re systematically questioning the entire premise of how we eat. Right-thinking consumers despise industrially produced animals, and we’re ready to Act Now. Good for us. This is our time. This is our moment. And it’s about to be wasted.
The threat comes from that wing of the sustainable food movement that tells us it’s “all good” so long as we eat humanely raised animal products. This directive can mean any number of things: eat local, do-it-yourself, know your farmer—all such options offer a path to righteousness. Such a message, moreover, is not just delivered, it’s served on a silver platter of brilliant rhetoric by beautiful people trying to do what’s right, just, and respectable.
Look closely, though, and you’ll see that its substance is worse than pointless: it’s counter-productive. We cannot say we care about animals and care about genuine reform and then make a little video telling people where to buy chicken. Vegans need a better alternative than this. We need a movement that chooses principles over pragmatics. There is no way to pragmatically change the industrial food system and eliminate the suffering it harbors. This must be done radically, with principle, and tolerant of only the most careful compromises. We have to strike at the roots. That ultimately means removing animals from agriculture.
Ethical veganism is the alternative to the alternative. It’s a genuine and principled option. It’s a truly radical answer to the plague of industrial agriculture. It insists that we don’t eat animals; it lays out an ethical justification for that insistence; and, in so doing, it turns industry into a house of cards. If you want to end industrial food as we know it, go vegan. In many ways, my message and my work is that simple. Because as long as it’s a-okay to eat animals, we’ll have factory farming. And it will dominate.
The “humanely raised” folks, in promoting humane animal products, try to beat devil at his own game with his own rules. You can’t do this. You can’t take on an industry that depends on the production of animal products by promoting the consumption of animal products. That’s a recipe for disaster.
Alas, it happens to be winning. Vegans are currently losing this tug of war against the sustainable foodies, and it’s not because we’re protein deficient. No. It’s that our message is just harder to sell. We’re fewer in number. It doesn’t appeal to self-interest. It isn’t designed to assuage our guilt by spending more on animals needlessly killed for our precious palates. It requires real rather than symbolic change. Our task is more momentous.
We have battles ahead of us. Confronted with the logic of veganism, people say all kinds of crazy things. They say, look at my teeth. They say, we’ve always done it. They say meat tastes good. They say, and this is best: death is but one day. These, of course, are not arguments. Veganism crushes these claims because veganism is not only activism, it’s activism with intellectual heft and ethical consistency. We should stop holding back. Pull harder.
Within the vegan movement there are those who tear down and those who build up. Both are incredibly valuable. Today, for the next 40 minutes, we’ll be pulling down an edifice of lies that justify a world of suffering for animals who deserve better than to be exploited and eaten in a sick effort to make ourselves feel righteous.