Veganism, as it was originally intended to be, is dead.
Maybe it never existed in the first place.

Post-veganism is a reflection about what it means to be a vegan,
now that the word has completely lost its meaning in the dominant culture.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Changing Over to a New Blog

I started blogging to legitimize my own thoughts and opinions. The education system often gives the impression that if you have not written a book, or have not appeared in a scholarly journal, what you have to say isn't very important. Even the typical assignment style entrenches this in its format; we are asked to cite other authors and never ourselves. If we have our own opinions, they must be backed up by the opinions of more established writers. I wanted to find a creative way to say my opinions matter; so I started blogging. I didn't intend for this blog to ever be famous, and it never was. If someone did want to read it though - my thoughts were online and public. In a sense I could be sourced. I was writing. I was doing something. Then I stopped, as you can see by the large gap between blogs.

When I started this blog I was at a point in my life when I was very confused. How could I call myself vegan when I identified with the theory, but never the people I met who actually called themselves vegan? Who were the real vegans? Were we all just a bunch of fakes? Had veganism ever really been real, and if so what's going on now? This blog gave me a space to think about and answer those questions, and now I don't have them anymore.

Language is complex and constantly changes. It is also public and can be changed by anyone, and the changes can be so profound and yet small that we may never find their source. After thinking about this for some time, I don't think the current meaning of the word vegan really reflects who I am. I need a new word, a better word, a more complex word even, that suggests that I am more than just vegan. Even an obscure word would be good, because that means I'll be given the space to explain what it means to me. When I say vegan now there is a clutter of stereotypes, and it's like trying to find your way through an attic no one wants to know about anymore. So for me that new word is vegan feminist, which works out very well as it's already an established word with a history and some theory behind it. I don't get all the theory though, and I'm just understanding what that means, and an exploration of vegan feminism is where I'll be going next in my new blog.

Hopefully you follow me there if you took the time to read this.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Do Vegans Hate People?

On its surface I think the question "do vegans hate people/humans?" is really bizarre, but as time goes on I find it's something that needs to be addressed. If you're reading this I assume you agree. This is a big question that hopes to explain the ethics and values of thousands of people. As a vegan that's talked to, been friends with, been family to and cared about omnivores, vegetarians and vegans I think I'm qualified to answer from my own experiences. That being said I can only answer for vegans who think like I do or have had similar experiences. So take this blog as one small part of the answer to that very big question.

I will be up front and honest about my opinions. Vegans do not hate people; to hate humans is actually an anti-vegan sentiment. If I hated people I would not call myself a vegan.

To explain why it is anti-vegan to hate humans I will give a general definition of what veganism means to me. Veganism is a lifestyle that tries its absolute best to not participate in the use or oppression of any animal. That sentence obviously includes the typical vegans don't eat eggs or drink milk, but it also includes the less typical (for whatever reason) vegans don't eat honey, don't wear wool, don't wear leather, and don't buy products that test on animals. It says tries its absolute best because it's impossible to be perfect, we live in a culture built on the dead bodies of animals. We may slip up now and then, but cultural change and not personal perfection is the ideal, so trying the actual 100% best each person can is how we be vegan.

Note that in my sentence I said any animal. Humans are animals. It is part of veganism to not use or oppress other humans. That is why nearly all vegans I know are anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-ageist and so forth. Vegans consider humans to be just like any other animal. We care for all animals equally - and we care for them all a lot! Have you ever asked a vegan how much they care for a cow? Well if they're like me they'll go all starry eyed and go on about how beautiful and wonderful cows are. Ask me in the exact same way how much I care for humans, and I'll say the exact same thing. Humans are wonderful and beautiful too! I love humans, just as much as I love all animals.

So why then do vegans get the stereotype that they hate humans? Well that's hard to say for sure. I think it has to do with the fact that vegans are so adamant about their love for non-human animals because they want to speak out loudly about an otherwise ignored group. Saying I love humans is pointless. We are human. We should love humans. It goes without saying. We need to say I love non-human animals and I think they have rights because that doesn't go without saying, it's not part of the norm.

I think the problem is that this open love of non-human animals has made people worried and defensive. It's an action done without enough information to actually understand where vegans are coming from, because if the people who said this did understand they'd laugh at how silly it sounded. Saying vegans hate other humans is a defensive action, it's a desperate attack to dehumanize vegans. Once vegans are dehumanized, they are no longer given the consideration we should give all humans and can be put down and ridiculed. So in this light it is something done to vegans because the person saying it doesn't want to hear or understand vegans. They are legitimizing this lack of want.

So don't worry. I'm vegan, and I still love you. Whoever you are.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Why do Omnivores Love PETA Stickers?

As a vegan I think PETA has its time and place. I find no qualms in using PETA materials if I 100% agree with everything that specific material says and if it's appropriate to my cause. I'm not going to stereotype PETA and say it's bad all the time, I think that's a programmed unnecessary human response, but I will call PETA out when it does something that hurts the animal rights movement. I think stating this is important, because to talk about anything from such a controversial organization you need to provide context. That is my context. Now we can begin.

I've found that omnivores love PETA stickers. My little cousins, aged 8-14, constantly ask me for PETA stickers and have even signed up for PETA on their own to get stickers mailed to them. I've had university students who have no intention of being vegan or vegetarian ask me for PETA stickers, step back 3 feet, and say to their friend "oh my god this is so cute, look at this one, oh gosh I love that one". One man even put one that said “Fish are friends not food” on the back of his iphone, even though he's an avid sushi eater. I've even had omnivorous adults ask if they can take stickers for their omnivorous kids at home. What is going on?

On one hand I'm happy that people are taking the stickers and putting them everywhere. They're basically advertising for veganism. This is a dramatically unique occurrence. These people are saying veganism is legitimate, it has real ideas with some merit, and are not afraid to say they agree with it in some ways. At the very least it's a million times better than the omnivores who approach me and say I must hate humans because I'm vegan. It's an attitude of respect and solidarity. Okay... so it's somewhat good for veganism, but what does it mean?

Are these stickers doing any good if an omnivore can pick them up, say pigs are 'friends not food', and then eat a pig for dinner? My gut reaction is that this is bad, veganism is being appropriated by the masses, and it's losing its meaning. But then again – I don't see these people when they go home. It would be presumptuous of me to think that these stickers inspired no critical reflection at all. Maybe in a month or two months someone will look at that sticker in the confines of their own home and give it real thought. At the very least the sticker is saying there is a problem, and the person who asks for it is agreeing.

So I may not have an answer for why omnivores love PETA stickers, because I think that question is bigger than one blog, but I've decided that it's not a completely bad thing. If I support people who are playing with the ideas of veganism and trying them out, maybe they'll have the courage one day to try them for real.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Teaching Children About Where Their Food Comes From

From my experience children and teenagers know very little about where their food comes from. My cousin entering grade 10 tried to tell me today that cows often die naturally and then we eat them. When I assured him I have watched how cows die and it is human caused he tried to argue with me. He couldn't accept that if an animal dies of illness, old age, or suicide that we cannot eat it because we'll get sick. My cousin isn't stupid, he's extremely intelligent; he's just part of a generation of children and teenagers that are not told where their food comes from. When they aren't told, they make it up from what they know. What they know is nostalgic images of open farming fields, how lions kill zebras, and how humans die of old age.When we don't correct them we encourage these lies they've accidentally made up. When they grow up they are so skilled at creating these alternative stories that the real story seems so far fetched and so impossible that they don't even stop to think about it. It simply isn't possible that cows often go through the process of being skinned and cut up alive. But they do, so where are we now?

I will never have children, but I know I don't have that in common with most people. Many humans look forward to starting a family and having children. Perhaps the last thing they think about is what they will tell their children about the food on the table, other than to eat it. If someone had told me when I was six that to get steak you had to kill a cow I'd never have eaten steak again. It's actually a logical reaction. To make steak someone dies. I don't want someone to die, so I won't eat steak. To eat steak even though I don't want someone to die would actually be silly.

Children and even teenagers are not always given respect, they are treated as lesser beings rather than equals. If we respected them more we'd tell them the truth about where their food comes from. We'd allow them to have all of the information so that they could make informed decisions on their own. Instead by not telling them we are deciding for them. We are removing their autonomy.

If you balk at the idea of telling children where their food comes from because it might be too horrible - why are you even giving it to them? Surely they'd disapprove. Therein lies your answer.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Do We Need to Kill Invasive Species?

We are told one story about invasive species. It often goes like this: invasive species are controlled by predators in one area - but when they move into a new area they out compete native species because they no longer have any natural predators. Is this the only story; or is it just the most dominant one?

The number one fear about invasive species seems to be that the native species will die. In extreme cases they may even go extinct. That definitely seems like a real fear - but is it logical? I'd argue that it's not. Scientists estimate that of all species that have ever lived, 99% of them are extinct. Extinction is actually a part of the natural process. Everyone can't live forever.

Extinction is so integral to natural processes that it actually drives evolution. Many of us act as if humans have reached some apex of perfection and that evolution is over. It's not. By interfering with native species and invasive species we are allowing native species to keep breeding and remain the same. We are not allowing them to evolve or have certain members with unique genetic mutations become better suited to an environment with new competition. In fact, we're letting our emotions get the best of us. We are picking certain species to preserve based on irrelevant traits; traits like attractiveness, exoticness and so forth decide who will die and who will live. Even traits like 'was here first' make us feel more apt to helping native species and actually killing invasive species.

Some people say that invasive species are not natural because of the speed that they can out compete native species with. The problem is that this ecological thought is in complete isolation of history. There have been five major extinction events on our planet. Some scientists believe we are currently in the sixth. This is nothing new, in fact it is normal.

Invasive species are more complex than I elude to. While I cannot cover all of the scientific jargon that would be proof that we need to change our attitudes towards invasive species, I can suggest that we need to imagine new ways to look at them. By killing some animals to preserve others we are interfering in a system that has gone on for millennium without our help. It's okay to not have all the answers, especially when the 'we can fix anything attitude' becomes an answer for a problem we don't completely understand.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Vegan Dating

I am an outsider when it comes to the world of vegan dating. My four year anniversary with my boyfriend will be this August. We were both omnivores when we met each other. Over time this obviously changed. Although I went vegan first, I never asked my boyfriend to; eventually he realized on his own "it was stupid not to be vegan." Most couples and single people aren't as lucky as I was.

The first vegan I ever met started a vegan/vegetarian club at my university so that she could meet more vegans. She was married to an omnivore and was a bit unhappy about it. She loved her husband, but you could just see it in her face that something was wrong when she talked about eating dinner at her house. Then there was a friend I met through my vegan club that was dating an omnivore. Then of course all of the countless threads you'll see on any vegan forum about "would you date an omnivore?"

So, would you date an omnivore? There are plenty of vegans (myself included) who find the idea absolutely ridiculous. Just look at carlylyn's deviantart account and her print "I Only Kiss Vegans." Consider the artist's statement: "A present for the vegan men out there and a little inspiration for the vegan women. Hold out for a vegan man, girls, and don't settle for anything less. Kissing meat eaters is way gross. " Way gross indeed. I can't look at omnivores or vegetarians without thinking of death. Even petting omnivorous cats makes my skin crawl.

Is there a happy middle ground? What about dating someone who eats vegan when they are with you? Or is this just a new way to pretend someone has values they really don't? I'd say so. The same goes for people who "go vegan" for their significant other. It's basically saying: "Going vegan for the animals who suffer doesn't make sense to me, so I'll go vegan for a nonhuman animal instead." While the end result is that they're vegan - are they really vegan? Or are they only eating a vegan diet? According to Gary Francione one of the most important parts of animal rights is telling other people about veganism. If your significant other can't even go vegan for animals, how can they even talk to anyone else about doing it without being a hypocrite?

Veganism only works if enough people are vegan that a culture that doesn't want to treat animals like property exists. Every time we encourage or accept someone that isn't vegan we're going backwards. The person you date, love and maybe even marry will be your other half. If they don't agree with you, you just don't have the same values. Saying I won't date people who think using animals like property is okay is being strong. It's being vegan. Doing anything else is compromising the movement we dedicate our lives to.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Why I'm Not a Vegan Abolitionist

After my last blog post highly praised the simplicity of the vegan abolitionist position I think it's appropriate to delve a little more into my opinions, questions, and quandaries about vegan abolitionism. I don't call myself a vegan abolitionist because I'm not one, but I'm definitely leaning in that direction. I still need to do more research because right now I rely on the wiki article by Gary Francione about abolitionism for most of my insight into the movement. I strongly agree with all of the six principles listed, except number four. That's where I start to waver a little.

Number four states: "We recognize that we will not abolish overnight the property status of nonhumans, but we will support only those campaigns and positions that explicitly promote the abolitionist agenda. We will not support positions that call for supposedly “improved” regulation of animal exploitation..."

That's a loaded principle so let's start to unpack it. I agree that the property status of nonhuman animals won't be abolished overnight, it will take time. I do not support positions that regulate animal exploitation. Factory farm cages or family farm cages, I don't prefer either because the animal is still treated as property. In fact spending time promoting better treatment for animals considered property merely entrenches their status as property. As you can see I completely agree with the abolitionist position up until this point.

It's in the vagueness of sentence two where I get a little lost. My personal opinion is that I will support anything that is actually vegan, even if the position of the group isn't always pro vegan. If the group, organization or event allows me to be express my opinions about veganism in an uncensored way then I will happily support it. I will also support groups, such as the sanctuary I volunteer for, that encourages what I consider the basic fundamentals of veganism without actually mentioning food. For example the sanctuary creates an atmosphere where humans of all ages can learn to respect and care about other animals. They are allowed to pet, groom and simply be near expressive animals who have their own names, histories and personalities. Each animal is treated as a respected individuals. These animals happen to be naturally vegan so I feel no qualms about volunteering my time and effort to make sure that they are fed.

So here in lies the problem - am I reading too deeply into number four or reading it correctly? By supporting campaigns that don't say 'vegan abolitionism' on them am I making myself not a vegan abolitionist? Even if these campaigns follow every other rule? I'm still not positive, but I'd have say I think that means these campaigns are not vegan abolitionist which means I'm not. I'm okay with that though, I'm not in it for the ability to say I belong to a certain elite group. I will pick and choose what I believe in - but as it stands of course if given the option I'd support vegan abolitionism over anything else.