Division in the Vegan Community
Any vegan that has spent time on social media will know, there are aspects of veganism which we don’t all agree on. For the sake of this post, let’s look quickly at The Vegan Society definition.
Veganism is a 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.
Words and language are not a perfect means of communication. There is room for interpretation in all forms of language. And there’s the rub.
For example, what does “as far as is possible and practicable” mean?
Does it mean you can call yourself vegan and still eat some meat if you have a serious medical condition and you’ve been advised to increase your meat intake? Probably not. Does that make you a bad person? Probably not. There are some special cases, though there often still options that can be pursued.
Does it mean you can’t take mediation prescribed to you that you know has been tested on animals? Again, probably not.
These are extreme examples to illustrate the problem but there are much more nuanced questions which get people tied in knots.
How do you feel about these?
Buying plant-based foods from fast food chains that sell meat.
Wearing clothes made of leather, wool, silk, etc that were bought before you transitioned.
Dogs for the blind.
Bivalves (Scallops etc)
The list goes on and on.
We each have different responses to these. Some are arguably rational. Some are arguably not. Our brains have developed to take mental shortcuts in order for us to survive without deeply considering all the nuances of every situation. But life doesn’t really fit into neat categories.
Not an excuse
Again, those who have spent time on social media will know that these issues are often brought up in conversations between vegans and non-vegans as a way to excuse all forms of cruelty and exploitation of animals. In other words, because we can’t be 100% vegan, we shouldn’t strive for the best we can do; which is a silly argument. Other times, these issues can be used in an attempt to widen the scope of what veganism is which is something we have to be very careful about.
But it’s right and good that vegans have open conversations about those kinds of issues because that’s how we progress as a movement and as a community. It’s right that we try to understand where the edges of veganism are.
So what can we do? That’s tricky to answer, but …
What we don’t want to do, is let it divide and weaken us.
United we stand. Divided we fall
Social media, as it stands, is designed to amplify conversations where there is strong disagreement amongst groups. And veganism is a thing which people (rightly) feel very strongly about. We know this and yet so often still fall into the trap of fighting amongst ourselves.
Social media also has a tendency to elevate extreme opinions and some people use that as a means to attract an audience. That can be a good thing as much as a bad thing. It’s good when it encourages more people to consider veganism. It’s a bad thing when it creates artificial divides between us.
A quick segue here. Not all vegans act in a way that should be supported and in no way does being vegan mean you are automatically a ‘Good Person’. Sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination should not be tolerated. Our community comes under fire regularly, so our ability to police ourselves is critical to our success.
However, whilst there are billions of animals being tortured, killed and exploited every year, arguing to the point of causing division in our community, is not helpful to our cause. The animals need us. And we need each other.
It’s clear that we need to keep talking about the more nuanced issues. As we often say, “Every Action Counts”. But we mustn’t let it divide us. We have so much more in common than not. Let’s not forget that.
Instead, let’s stay focussed on the core issues of the industrialised brutality of the industries we are rallying against.
Together, we will make a difference!