Recently an animal activist – a Facebook connection I respect – realized she had vegan friends in the U.S. who plan to vote for Donald Trump. You may also know some. Do you quietly unfriend those people? Loudly unfriend those people? Stay friends but pointedly argue with them every chance you get?
To most blog readers, all twelve of you, a vegan voting for Trump sounds like, in the words of my friend, “a special kind of crazy.”
But here’s where we really have to talk about the vegan world we all want, a world in which no animals are exploited. In the campaign for a vegan world, do we want a big vegan army, or a small but tactical vegan troop? How are we best able to make this vegan world happen?
The big vegan army is necessarily going to be a big tent that includes conservatives, racists, sexists, homophobes, people with more than 12 items in the express checkout line, and other undesirables.
The more popular and understood our message becomes, the more people join our movement, the more diverse it becomes. Certainly there’s “good diverse” and “bad diverse.” It’s not likely we can have one kind without the other.
If we’re going to have this eventual vegan world, we have to accept – no, not just accept, we have to embrace – the idea that ultimately, all kinds of people will be vegan. Even racist, sexist, Trump-voting psychos.
It’s tempting to dismiss a vegan who oppresses women, people of color, LGBTQ, or the poor – as not truly vegan. When my misanthropic, antinatalist side comes out, I hear these same lectures: “humans are animals too,” and a “real” ethical vegan should feel only compassion for humans, even if they’re hunters, slaughter hobbyists, puppy millers, vivisectors. False. Being vegan has nothing to do with respecting human animals.
Being vegan also does not automatically make someone progressive and open-minded about social and political issues. I know a pit bull-rescuing, SeaWorld-protesting, Monsanto-loathing vegan who is also a Glenn Beck-loving Christian Republican military wife. And dammit, I love her. Of course I wish she wasn’t such a political moron, but I’d be happy to have her on my vegan island.
This brings us to people like Matthew Scully, speechwriter for George W. Bush and Sarah Palin, whose book Dominion (a title coded to a Biblical worldview) is considered one of the most persuasive in the animal rights genre. And Anthony Bellotti, founder of White Coat Waste, a “taxpayer advocacy organization” dedicated to divesting from animal research. As a young, internet-savvy political consultant, Anthony helped rack up big wins for conservative campaigns and Republican candidates. Trust me, this is a guy we need on our team if we’re going to create this vegan world.
Maybe we don’t want such a big tent and big army. There’s wisdom in previous interviews by an organizer of the 269 movement who believes in a smaller, more effective, less moderate community. “We have to radicalize our movement; even if brings less activists to it in the near future, they will be more qualitative and effective.”
After all, when you’re in the trenches of animal liberation, who do you want next to you, having your back? An animal rights activist who will fight and die for the cause? A hipster lifestyle vegan obsessed with aquafaba and taco cleanses? A plant-based dieter whose primary concern is human health? Unfortunately we don’t always get to choose who’s jumping in the trench with us.
They say there are no atheists in foxholes, but are there speciesists?