I have frequently encountered individuals who characterise me as being overly conscientious, believing that I simply “think too much” or am too invested, too occupied by the suffering of my fellow non-human beings; that my taking a stand against what I perceive as unjust is in essence insignificant, a futile endeavour that will ultimately lead to my painful discovery that the world is a place of multiple evils, not just animal exploitation but human exploitation, bigotry, global inequality etc.,; Better to remain ignorant, to locate oneself in the vacuum of the subjective “I”; to remain within the bounds of one’s own narrative, one free from the devastating often impenetrable ailments of the universe, those which cast the individual out as helpless victims under its tyrannic reign.
Next to this is the perception that only a special kind of individual, a tree-hugging with an abnormal fixation on animals, and a fondness or love of all gods earthly creatures can bear the stamp of vegan; hippies; peacemakers with a fetish for all that is oriental and exotic. This widespread archetype is dangerous and misleading, deterring attention away from the basic rationality and logic implicated in the vegan philosophy. I do not intend to come down hard on the hippy movement, whose political underpinnings were swiftly swallowed up and distilled in the same way as many such revolutionary endeavors throughout history (e.g., the punk movement). For this reason, it is all the more critical that we learn from our predecessors in how we portray ourselves as a political movement.
Veganism is about facing the cold hard facts that the vast majority of society seeks to deny. It is about extending the moral logic we apply to humans to non-humans; about creating a sense of symmetry between our proposed beliefs regarding the injustice of unnecessary suffering and our actions, repairing the chasm which characterizes the contradictory manner in which we live or lives. It is about resisting the ideologies which characterize non-human animals as unworthy of our moral concern, just as being black or a woman or gay or transgender is used as a weapon with which to other, to subjugate, to dominate. Veganism is, in essence, a scientific way of thinking; logical and common sense.
Why should we feel the need to engage in a practice that runs counter to those core values which form the fundamental stepping stones in our moral development? Why should we be compelled to conform to an age-long tradition which demands individuals to simply switch off their moral radar for the sake of mere pleasure and convenience? Why suffer the cognitive dissonance excited by actions that so blatantly contradict our proposed beliefs and convictions? Why choose to conform to dominant ideologies, to follow orders, to submit to the commands of the sergeant, thus denying our basic humanity; suppressing that which defines us as free acting agents rather than a mere puppet on a string.
The justifications for eating animals are manifold, forming a striking mirror image of our justification for every other brand of discrimination; that animals are cognitively inferior, spiritually inferior, or that eating animals is natural, necessary, and normal. The same was perceived of slavery in the 1800s, a natural, necessary practice; non-Caucasian ethnicities were cast out into the shadows of humanity’s realm of moral concern. They were vilified, animalized and dehumanized as a means of legitimizing their subjugation. Individuals were transformed into numbers; stripped of their individuality and thus their humanity. This chimes with our current understanding of animals, rendering it easier for us to cope with the notion that what we are eating was once a living breathing being.
One final point I would like to make is that one does not need to be a so-called “animal lover” to meet the criterion for veganism. How much we love our pets has little to do with the philosophy behind the abolitionist approach; rather it is an appeal towards our basic sense of moral justice; what we perceive as right and wrong; that the criterion on which we base our judgement of animals is inherently irrelevant and arbitrary; that animal exploitation induces unnecessary suffering and torture and thus going vegan is the minimum measure that we can take in order to reject the uncontested consensus that killing another being for the sake of convenience, pleasure or habit is somehow okay. As Gary Francione once asserted, most individuals already agree with this basic premise behind the abolitionist approach.
On these grounds, I argue that it does not require a special sort of individual to comprehend that such practices that involve needless torture and suffering are morally wrong.
It merely takes a human.
Please see the following video which deals with the issue of discussing veganism with non-vegans