It’s impossible to be vegan because it’s impossible to totally refrain from harming other life.
You’re right, it is impossible to totally refrain from harm. Veganism is about reducing harm in ways practical to the situation, particularly reducing direct or indirect intentional violence. Like many concepts such as ‘anarchy’, veganism can be open to interpretation and manifest in varying forms.
There is no such thing as body purity. Things that have harmed animals are part of nature and modernism and a part of your body.
Vegans’ bodies are less of a graveyard, but ethical vegans (as opposed to religious vegans like Jains) don’t strive to sanitize their bodies, for example realizing their bodies are natural hosts to many organisms.
Veganism was once the height of my moralism, but I have no interest in my diet anymore because I realized I was using veganism to make me feel supreme over other humans.
Ethical vegans today suffer a stereotypical perception in their role on the front line of a social movement – ‘snobby do-gooders’. While some vegans may start believing the accusation, for most vegans the compassionate motives remain primary.
Vegans discriminate against lower complexity animals, like arthropods.
How so? Even vegans who believe some animals may feel less pain or are less sentient still remain respectful of all animals. Further, vegans tend to take more action to protect Earth and cause less suffering than nonvegan counterparts. Imagine the reduction in harm a vegan primitivist would have.
I realize that the main reason I was vegan was as a show of strong will over myself, maintaining self-sacrificing discipline, that was more about my egoism than my altruism. Now I believe that I am a part of the world and fate.
Vegans can be a part of the natural world without exploiting animals. Fate can be molded. Veganism is a pursuit of living in harmony with the natural world.
Plants have feelings too.
Since ‘food’ animals eat plants, you harm fewer plants by eating them directly.
There is no clear definition of ‘vegan’, whenever there is a good argument against it, the definition changes.
One could say the same about ‘anarchy’ or ‘primitivism’. In all things anarchy, meanings are created and interpreted in the living moment. That’s just how it goes, but that doesn’t make it wrong.
Veganism is not harm reduction. Harm reduction is not viable with veganism because it relies on agriculture which displaces and kills Earth’s natural life forms.
That’s why vegan primitivism is ideal. But whether living within or without ‘civilization’ veganism does less harm than the omnivore counterpart.
Veganism contradicts its own premises by supporting agriculture & industrialism which cause suffering to sentient life.
Two separate issues. Veganism does not necessarily equate to agriculture any more than omnivorism.
The real harm is agriculture, and without agriculture you must eat animals. A primitive vegan hominid nomadic gatherer is not plausible, and even if there were a case of it, it would be the minority.
In today’s modern world it’s hard to imagine any nomadic people thriving within an ecosystem for much longer, but analysis back into deep hominid history increasingly illustrate a theory of a hominid plant based diet. In today’s world much ecosystem revival & human population reduction would be required before humans could thrive primitively like our deep ancestors. So in now’s reality, the modern choice of a vegan, local, organic diet is the most harmonious diet for Earth.
Veganism harms wildlife habitat.
Not as much as the standard civilized diet.
Eating animals is the natural way for humans to be part of the world.
Human biology speaks strongly to our herbivore nature. What is also natural in a primitivist world is humans dying at the average age of 30 or 40 by something like diarrhea. Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it is worthy of advocacy.
A vegan world would be humans having no interaction with the world, remaining isolated, separate from it as to not harm it.
If humans revived ecosystems, reduced their population, and rediscovered their native habitat ranges, vegan hominids could thrive living within their ecosystem.
Natural life do not choose a diet for ethical reasons. To make dietary choices is to deny your animal self.
Sometimes animals change their dietary choices to adapt to environmental changes, and their new choices are less healthy for their bodies and their environments. The natural human diet may very well be plant based. Some believe nonhumanimals not only choose, but have ethics, though for many animals their instincts tend to override their ethical choices… just as with humans.
Choosing to not harm is anti-nature, self-deprecating.
Clearly humans are causing way more harm than is natural, the question is where to draw the line. What if a plant based diet is the deeply natural human diet? Even if not, what if time is here for humans to evolve their diet for their own survival and to strive to live in harmony?
In the real world animals live & die off of one another. Suffering is a natural phenomenon.
But that’s no justification for causing more suffering than needed.
Veganism is not humans’ natural diet.
Says whom? The most settled science on this question seems to point increasingly toward a natural plant based diet.
Veganism is an arbitrary thing that encourages people to live an illusion that they are helping the world when the harm they do still outweighs whatever benefit, if any.
All modern humans today, including vegans, can do good by ending destructive civilization, not breeding and working on reviving ecosystems. Vegans seem to have less arbitrary illusions than nonvegans.
Statistically vegans really do not save animals.
That reeks of untruth. Where did you get that from? Even so, if there’s an easily controllable choice of whether or not to needlessly exploit or harm an animal, why not make the least oppressive choice?
Veganism is pious & puritan.
This is an accusation thrown at anyone striving for betterment in opposition to the accuser and often the wrongheaded majority.
Humans do much more harm by overpopulating, so if you really want to reduce suffering, the main issue you should be spending energy on is reducing human population.
Everyone should work on reducing human population, vegans and nonvegans.
If you really want to help reduce harm, your energies would be more fruitful elsewhere.
Like where? Vegans would be more likely invest energies to help reduce harm than many.
You can still love an animal and be a part of the world by eating the animal.
Odd definition of ‘love’. Does that principle apply to all your relationships?
It’s impossible to live in the modern world without causing harm. That’s reality.
Yes, but that’s not an excuse to cause more harm needlessly.
If you really are opposed to harm, why would you not intervene when animals eat other animals?
No vegan wants all life to be vegan. Just humans. We accept nature.
Vegans are actually speciesist because they put their morality above other animals.
Being that humans have morality (and we don’t know whether other animals do or don’t), we have a responsibility to use it wisely and compassionately, with the best interest of Earth.
Vegans get stuck in dogmatism and excuse or remain blind to the harm they do.
No more so than others. In general, it seems vegans keep their eyes, minds, and hearts open fairly widely.
Circle of life.
Humans committing needless intentional violence against life with food choices (whether meat or big ag gmo monocrop) is not part of the harmony circle, especially in Earth’s Anthropocentric milieu.
Rewilding is incongruous with veganism.
First ecosystems need to be revived, human population lowered, then humans will have the environment to rediscover their natural habitat and rewild their beings.
Interview by Ria
What a beautiful woodland opening, so full of life. Thanks for inviting me here Geronimo, I mean…?
Spring Azure. Is there a story behind the name?
It’s appropriate for Anthropocene humans shifting nature awareness approach from human-centric (e.g., knowing every part of Cattails serves a human function – food, shelter, medicine, fire, baskets, cordage, season & conditions indication, etc.), to Earth-centric (knowing Nettle hosts a wide number of insect species, and may facilitate preference for native butterflies, playing a role in reviving lost habitat communities via transplanting Nettle rhizomes).
In my reincarnated human body I strive to understand deep hominid origins. Spring Azure Butterfly lives in a habitat most resembling earliest human ancestors’. Wooded edges provided both protection (with primeval hominids’ agility in climbing and sleeping in trees) and opportunities of 2 ecosystems (forest and meadow). Pleasingly, Spring Azure feasts on dogwoods, cranberries and blueberries, colorful fall bushes… But I digress.
You stated the purpose of this interview is discussion on violence – nature, justification, role, ethical cultural boundary contrasts, perspective critique, etc. In my new roles as Forest Steward, Redwood Sitter and Earth Liberation Front Mate, I see even more clearly Homo sapiens’ violence on all life, ecosystems and Earth. These nonhuman entities have rights violated by our evolution into a violently destructive species, aggressively colonized outside our ecological niche.
To address the questions at hand, violence is dispensed and judged by modern humans with profound bias. Violence is sometimes a moral duty, a burden to be carefully considered, with Anthropocentric justice giving primary consideration to Earth, such as the violence of removing invasives to rewild. All people have a duty to play a role in liberating Earth, and in so doing liberate themselves. Obliviousness to one’s duty or Earth-harming violence does not excuse one of responsibility for it. In the Anthropocene particular lack of actions and culturally accepted actions are not deemed violent but in actuality are most violent to Earth.
Not rewilding (native habitat revival through seed dispersal, live staking, invasive removal, etc.) while lockstep marching the mantra of working/shopping/breeding domesticated beings (humans, pets, ‘food’ animals). Entangled within Antrhopocentric cultures are Earth-devastating, all-pervading myths – for example the myth of ‘owning’, and relatedly, ‘private property’ and ‘private enterprise’.
Your talk is so… straightforward. I expected your talk more in wilderness allegory.
To avoid appearing as stereotypical ‘noble savage’, I refrain from incorporating that talking style into my new being. Perhaps out of deep desire to reconnect with nature, domesticated humans are fascinated by native storytelling. Many elevate me to hero. I now wish to be an Anthropocene Earth hero, a rewilder. Many today would be disgusted to learn regretful hushed native history of stealing from and murdering innocents, or enslaving. But how many see malice in natives spearing whales, cutting throats of ‘cattle’, de-wilding and binding horses, burning large swaths of old growth forests for planting and better hunting – succinctly, overpowering animals and plants to satisfy human wishes, nonetheless within the milieu of other species’ habitat? Is it true that justice, wisdom and power are the pillars of good life? Is it contrary or an expanded notion that liberation is not knowledge, or fairness, or freedom to follow one’s heart, or pathway to equal power, but liberation is simply life for all, absent all forms of human bondage?
On my death bed I was Christian, yet still regretted surrendering into bondage, wished I’d fought to the very end. My look back into our hominid history reveals intricate missteps blighting human evolution. Have you heard of the “6 Evolutionary Tragedies” that sparked the Anthropocene?
Not at all.
Some of this may sound familiar, but with an Anthropocentric perspective.
First, from folio-frugivore ways of our earliest ancestors, to consumers of animal flesh. From prey to predator. From acceptance of natural fate to overriding fate at any cost. Hence EGOTISM & GLUTTONY.
Second, from egalitarianism to hierarchal authoritarian bureaucracy. From selflessness and collaboration to profit motive exploitation, primarily beginning with the advent of mass agriculture. Imagine the agricultural destruction power scheme to feed human fervor for animal flesh. Hence ENVY & GREED.
Third, from contented with gradual changes and savoring simple ways, to creating and relishing crafty objects, regardless of consequence. Hence INVENTIVENESS & TECHNOLOGY.
Fourth, from heartily living presently to divided time, ‘dead time’, and belief in mysticism. Hence SLOTH & FAITH.
Fifth, from accepting balance and unbalance, to internalizing and externalizing ways of control through normative and wrathful violence. Hence RESENTMENT & VENGEANCE.
Sixth, from embracing the free world, to seeking refuge from it, finding comfort in unthinking, ‘civilizing’, subjugating customs. Hence APATHY & TRADITION.
Again I digress. My considerations as Geronimo focused on the higher path for my people with Earth, but now I intuit the higher path for all Earth with greater clarity. As our species acquired modern knowledge and ways, our free animal knowledge and ways slipped away. Either way, with knowledge comes responsibility. Would mindful Anthropocenians agree that violence is justified insofar as it erases modern humans’ domineering footsteps? Would ‘no’ mean accepting continuance along this fatal path of humans eating, ‘developing’, overbreeding, etc. Earth to death?
Most may agree with rationality that when no nonviolent means are available to reach a vital end, strategic violence with high impact and minimal harm is worthwhile, even obligatory. But what I see most clearly is – here I’ll give you a bit of wilderness metaphor – our collective tribe is walking Earth on a path straight over a cliff. The trail is lined in virtually impenetrable thicket. If there is a choice at all, all focus must be on the path we forge, which will certainly include violence of some form, whether justified or not, that must manifest to repeal the ultimate violent demise, Earth’s 6th great extinction, by emancipating Earth from humans’ grip and beginning restorative healing.
On that, we’re at our word limit. Thank you for your candor.
Ria’s book comes out this October.
This piece was originally published on Chickpeas & Change.
I want to complicate the movement’s primary framing of its goal as achieving “animal rights.”
First, I’d like to lay out my understanding of veganism – built upon the work of other radical activists before me – as a radical politics steeped in anti-speciesism (if we define speciesism as the belief of the inherent superiority of human beings over all other beings on earth). As Ida Hammer notes, veganism is a social change movement “based on the […] ideal of non-exploitation,” and certain practices like eating an animal-free diet logically flow from this principle that we should not exploit others (November 2008). This view of veganism as a struggle for societal change rightly frames vegans as those “who seek out the root of a problem so that [they] may strike at it for a solution” (Dominick)—the definition of a radical. As radicals, vegans “base [their] choices on a radical understanding of what animal oppression really is, and [their] lifestyle is highly informed and politicized” (Dominick), rather than steeped in the mere refusal to consume the bodies of other animals.
To form a radical movement, activists must move beyond measures to reform existing structures of oppression, and instead demand a revolutionary dismantling and rebuilding of society. In the wise words of Audre Lorde, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”
However, the mainstream “vegan” movement focuses heavily on reforming oppressive structures, such as lobbying for legislation to ban gestation crates and other forms of cruelty found in animal agriculture, and shifting the animal-based market to a plant-based (but still capitalist) one. Generally, the movement takes the stance that human conceptions of other animals can shift to embrace anti-speciesism under the exploitative structures of capitalism, white supremacy, and heteropatriarchy that have constructed our notions of being. Um, no.
Another exploitative structure that the mainstream “vegan” movement upholds is the nation-state, defined academically as “a form of political organization in which a group of people who share the same history, traditions, or language live in a particular area under one government” (Merriam-Webster). The modern world was founded upon the nation-state, and structures all dominant forms of political life today. Perceiving itself in a state of perpetual crisis under the “threat” of those who do not fit the standardized definition of a citizen (think of refugees, immigrants, “terrorists,” etc.), the nation-state “undertake[s] the management of the biological life of the nation directly as its own task” (Agamben). In other words, the nation-state controls the lives of all those within its jurisdiction (and often those beyond).
One integral aspect of the nation-state is the notion of rights. Though posited as a set of values by which the nation-state’s legislative body must abide in order to ensure the well-being of its citizens, rights truly function as another method of control by deeming certain bodies as worthy of political life, and others as lesser beings unable to function as fully political beings. As historian Faisal Devji notes, rights “can only be guaranteed by states and are thus never truly in the possession of those who bear them” (3099); indeed, it is only in forms of political organization in which power is concentrated in elite hands that rights come to hold any meaning (Fotopoulous & Sargis).
Thus, by advocating for the bestowal of rights upon other animals, “vegan” activists work to uphold the inherently violent and oppressive nation-state—a structure that must be challenged in order for the collective liberation of all beings to truly take form.
The “vegan” movement’s operation within a rights-based framework also works to more explicitly uphold speciesism, since it assumes that other animals desire to be indoctrinated into our anthropocentric institution of the nation-state. This framework therefore implies the superiority of human-created ideas and structures over those of other beings.
So if not rights, then for what should we as radical vegans strive? I definitely don’t purport to have all the answers here, but I would like to share with you some of Gandhi’s lesser-known ideas – as paraphrased by Devji and further interpreted by me – about how to reconceptualize what it might mean to act as a political being. Though abstract, these ideas have certainly opened up for me new possibilities of what form radical veganism might take.
Gandhi proposed and enacted a politics based on moral duties rather than rights, in which each individual would commit to their moral duties rather than fighting for their rights, such that we no longer have any dependence on the state. Our duties would question how one’s self ought relate to others, and in a way that does not prioritize one’s own needs. In this politics, we would think of ourselves as moral agents rather than victims whose rights are threatened. Even though the focus in this politics would be on the individual, this focus would not be a neoliberal one since it’s devoted to building relationships and community with others.
Whether or not we as radical vegans ultimately consider Gandhi’s framework to be helpful, I do think we need to determine the goals of radical veganism, and act from those principles.
Agamben, Giorgio. Means without End: Notes on Politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000. Print.
Devji, Faisal. The Impossible Indian: Gandhi and the Temptation of Violence. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012. Kindle file.