One of the saddest, most frustrating parts of the animal rights movement is the defeatism that seems to creep up everywhere I look, whether it’s in interactions and fights on Facebook, campaigns or other forms of advocacy.
The crux of this defeatism is activists who believe that non-vegans and vegetarians aren’t as special as us, i.e., there’s no way they will go vegan like we did, so we might as well just ask them to not eat meat on Mondays or ask them to eat less animals or to eat cows instead of chickens or ask universities to buy cage-free eggs, rather than ask them to stop purchasing eggs altogether.
I get it, most people don’t give a shit about animals and will never go vegan, no matter how slick, celebrity-draped or baby-stepped the advocacy is. But some do, and those that may go vegan do need to be told the truth, the whole truth: that billions of animals are being needlessly exploited, caused to suffer immeasurable pain, and are murdered for our lust for animal foods, clothing, entertainment and household and beauty products.
This is the truth. And the truth needs to be told whether people want to hear it or not, whether people are going to go vegan or not. Watering down the message is defeatist and at best presents a confusing message about what we actually want.
Veganism is an ethical philosophy and social justice movement with a deep moral base behind it, just as other philosophies and social justice movements before it. All of those social justice movements advocated from a place of ethics and morals. Their focus remained steady on the message that denying rights to the LGBTQ community, women, African Americans, people with disabilities, immigrants and other oppressed groups was wrong and harmed society as a whole, just as denying rights and freedom to nonhuman animals corrupts us morally. They told the truth, whether power or society wanted to hear that truth or not. They did not come from a place of defeatism, they came from a place of power.
When I talk about coming from a place of truth or power, I am advocating for a clear message that eating and using other animals is wrong, unnecessary biologically, and a pock on the conscience of humanity. What we are asking for is for other animals to be a part of the moral community, to be free to no longer be molested by humans.
Not asking for what we want before we even begin this fight is defeatist. Creating campaigns asking for quarter and half measures is defeatist. Coming from a place of power means asking for what we want and being willing to stay strong because we know that what and who we are fighting for is on the right side of history, along with all of the social justice movements before us.
I have no problem with the theory that getting to this place may come incrementally, as long as the message is clearly about veganism, not on advocating half-truths, advocating for campaigns that are not only defeatist, but frankly bad for other animals. I would like to see advocacy that tells the whole truth and pushes the culture forward towards a day where nonhumans no longer have to be terrified of humanity.