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, January 12, 2011

An Introduction, or a Way to Begin Thinking About Post-Veganism

There is no magical sentence or simple definition that can explain what Post-Veganism is. It is a collection of lived experiences that have stayed with me as ideas. I first began thinking about it not long after I became vegan. There were small events at first, like the 'vegan' I met who still bought cow skin or the 'vegan' I'd been excited to meet but found out she ate cake made with cow milk and chicken eggs at birthday parties. There were many disappointments that led to a collective experience of doubt.

I began to wonder what did it mean, for me a self proclaimed vegan, when these people also told the world they were vegan? Was I more vegan than they? Was I a 'better' vegan? Did it even matter, because really we all had the same end goal - didn't we? It was like tumbling down the rabbit hole (because no matter how over used, tired, worked and worn that simile is I think it's necessary to start in some alien land where we all have some kind of common ground), nothing was what it had first appeared to be.

Things grew worse when I realized that it wasn't just regular vegans who were letting me down, before long even my old idols didn't measure up. I've never been a 100% PETA (People for the Protection of Animals) supporter, I don't think anyone can be. The organization is so large, and does so many things, it's difficult to say I agree with it all. I did, however, think they were doing some good things and often had good intentions. PETA was the organization that had made me go vegetarian once upon a time, and I think that has a lot to do with my reverence for it. It was like a mother to me, telling me how to go out in the world and how to not hurt animals. Like all children, I grew up and learned my 'parent' had many flaws. The vice president of PETA told his interviewer (at McDonalds!) he didn't care what he ate. PETA said sugar refined through cow bones is still vegan, and I should stop being so uptight about personal purity - but I know it takes the bones of over 7,000 cows to make one sugar filter! How is that vegan? PETA made negotiations with KFC about more 'humane' ways to kill chickens, and I was frustrated because I couldn't imagine any amount of negotiation that could make killing a chicken ever acceptable. Then of course I learned that Peter Singer, so hated for his liberal animal rights stance that he needs security outside of his classroom when he teaches, will be happy to eat vegetarian food if vegan food isn't available. Even as a new vegan I had already learned vegan food is always available, as long as you ask for it. How can he inspire anyone while simultaneously sending out the message that it's acceptable to drink the cow milk made for a veal calf who would lick his own urine because he was anemic, because he needed the cow milk that Peter Singer as a grown adult human did not? So all my old idols slowly died. I wasn't ready to abandon them, because being vegan can be lonely sometimes - but they were all starting to look like hypocrites and I no longer respected them.

Things got gloomier still. As a vegetarian I had long ago learned the painful lesson that non-human animal rights organization like human societies are speciest. They don't care about all animals - they care about pets. Things were changing though. The WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals) contacted me to help them lobby to rid my university of chicken eggs from battery farmed chickens. It seemed, at first, that a group who used the word animal in their name actually meant it. I later learned an even more painful lesson - the WSPA only wanted to end some suffering chickens experienced and not others. They said chickens should not have cages and should have perches, but they didn't care that the chickens were owned by people who would decide how and when they would die. They didn't care that there is no painless way to kill an animal, or that owning an animal for profit is never ever in the animal's best interest. So groups that had never cared about animals before were suddenly pretending to. As a vegan I knew the difference - but they were sending the message to omnivores that it is okay to pay money so that a non-human animal will eventually be killed for profit, as long as we make their life in slavery (because that's what owning another being is, slavery) as nice as we can without losing too much money.

I remember one conversation very well. A stranger asked me what kind of chicken eggs I eat that don't hurt chickens. He was extremely upset when I told him how chickens were treated and was now looking to me for guidance about how he could not be involved in this suffering. I told him I don't eat eggs from animals, but since he couldn't understand not eating chicken eggs I did what the WSPA told me to do - I told him about 'free range' farms. It was then that I realized that no matter what I said, I was giving him the okay to eat chicken eggs. I don't think I've ever felt so sick and disgusted with myself. So let me never make that mistake again, there are no nice eggs. No egg has ever come to your table without an origin of cruelty. No chicken has ever sat there and smiled and thought, "I want to be here", no matter how much commercials might like to convince you otherwise.

Many of my experiences have led me to eventually accept a scary thought, that something is terribly wrong with veganism. Not just something though, the more questions I asked and the more I learned I found out that there were many things wrong with veganism. These problems are part of a lived experience that has made me question veganism, and as a result begin to think about Post-Veganism.

This blog, hopefully, will raise many questions and explore my process of answering them. I may not answer them all - but beginning to learn from my experiences and realizing that there are questions we can't ignore is a step I think I need to make. I assume I'm not the only vegan that has thought about these things. Writing them down is my contribution to a greater vegan culture, because vegans writing about vegans is (I believe) a powerful and important thing to do.

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