October 15th, 2011 by Gary Smith
Something that has bothered me for quite a while now is vegans and animal rights activists using the oppressor’s language and the oppressor’s arguments against other vegans and activists. This has come to the surface recently in two different cases. The first was in regards to a recent blog post and the other has come from vegans responding to Walter Bond’s sentencing on Thursday.
In a blog about honey, the writer shares that she likes to eat honey from time to time and doesn’t have a problem with it. As a “vegan,” she knew that she was going to cause a stir. As you can imagine, many vegans had a different perspective, since honey is not vegan. Period.
The blog post set off a rather long and angry debate where one group of vegans told the other that no one is really vegan and how dare people say vegans who choose to use and exploit animals are not vegan. I’m sure you’ve seen the following oppressor’s arguments: you use a computer, don’t you? You know that your tires (on your bike or car) consist of animal products, the cement that your house or apartment was built on used animal products, some bugs die when you drive your car.
Now, all of these arguments can be easily addressed with the same answer; veganism is the ethical philosophy of abstaining from the use of animal products in our food, clothing, entertainment, personal care, etc., as best as one can. There is a clear difference in intention between eating honey (or eating and using other animals) and using a computer.
Walter Bond was sentenced a few days ago and gave an inspired final statement to the court. Walter was convicted for an additional 87 months in Utah for ALF arsons. This brings his total sentence to 12 years and three months. Walter Bond set fires at the Tandy Leather Factory in Salt Lake City and Tiburon restaurant in Sandy, Utah, which sells foie gras. I am aware that not all vegans and animal rights activists support militant direct action and even fewer support the tactic of arson. No one says we have to all agree on legal or illegal tactics. What I would hope we could agree on is avoiding using oppressor’s language against fellow vegans and activists. I have seen responses on the internet calling Walter “violent,” a “terrorist,” a “thug who makes us all look bad,” that he “gives vegans a bad name” and more. These are the same tactics that the people who actually are committing violence against nonhuman animals use against us. We can do better.
We can agree or disagree, debate tactics, debate philosophy and the like, but when we co-opt ourselves and our movement by using oppressor’s language and arguments, we’ve already lost the fight.
I do not happen to be one of the happy vegans who believes that we should sit in a circle, hold hands and sing kumbaya. I believe that healthy and hearty debate is good for the movement and ultimately good for the animals whom we are collectively fighting for. What I won’t put up with is hearing facile arguments that the oppressor uses against us, from each other. We are better than the oppressor and we are better than this.