Ever heard the one ‘you care more about animals than you do about people, but you should care more about people because you…er.. ARE one‘ ?
Not too often thank goodness, but I’ve heard it.
Now I KNOW the word ‘vegan’ was invented, back in 1944, to mean someone who chose not to use non-human animals as products in any way, be it for food, clothes, sport or entertainment.
At this time, the intent was to show compassion towards the non-human animals who don’t have a voice.
These days, with easy access to so much more information, we now know there are many beings that don’t have a voice, or not one that’s heard. I am often overwhelmed by reading stories about women and girls who are sold into slavery, forced into abusive marriages while still a child, who suffer ‘dowry deaths,’ who are forcibly kept from being educated; who self-immolate because that’s their only way out of a desperate life, who have undergone extensive FGM – I could go on.
Firstly, it’s ridiculous to separate people from animals, because people are animals too.
And omnivores need NO encouragement to separate themselves from animals – disassociating themselves serves to allow them to believe they are superior, and thus legitimises their eating of animals.
It’s harder to justify eating animals when we fully realise we are animals too. When we understand that we are the same, we have truly seen ourselves in the ‘other;’ in this case a non-human animal.
I believe that ‘otherising’ living beings is not single issue. WE ‘otherise’ animals; men ‘otherise’ women; people ‘otherise’ people of different races; straight people ‘otherise’ gay people; young people ‘otherise’ old people and vice-versa.
Woman is the other of man, animal is the other of human, stranger is the other of native, abnormality the other of norm, deviation the other of law-abiding, illness the other of health, insanity the other of reason, lay public the other of the expert, foreigner the other of state subject, enemy the other of friend ~ Zygmunt Bauman (Polish Sociologist, 1925-)
The fact is, we don’t have to just care about one set of living beings; we have the capacity to care about them all.
It’s not a single prejudice that is the most important, but prejudice itself. Though it’s necessary to fight each prejudice singularly in order to make people aware it exists (that’s why I strive to inform about veganism!); as with all negative things it’s also about treating the root of the problem and not just the symptoms. Hate, fear and the ‘otherising’ that results from this are the root of the problem; racism, sexism, speciesism are how the hate and fear manifest and are the symptoms.
The beauty and power of veganism is that it starts with the beings that are most seen as ‘other’ and the effects radiate outwards.
Caring about the beings who are presently seen as the lowliest in society, i.e. animals (although from things I’ve read lately, I’m starting to believe that women are also not seen as fully rounded, sentient beings, and that many people will see animals as sentient beings before they see women as such), has a ripple effect and spreads out to all of society.
I’ll let these guys help me explain 🙂 :
Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace ~ Albert Schweitzer (French/German theologian, organist, philosopher, physician and missionary, 1875-1965)
As long as man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love ~ Pythagoras (Greek polymath, c. 570-c. 495BC)
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly ~ Martin Luther King (Civil Rights Leader, 1929-1968)
The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated ~ (this quote is often attributed to Gandhi but can’t be precisely verified) Mahatma Ghandi (Leader of the Indian independence movement, 1869-1948)
So being vegan in effect, helps all oppressed peoples.
How else does veganism benefit all people on the planet?
Well, it benefits the planet, upon which every person resides!
It helps combat world hunger – I’d say that’s being pretty caring of other people?
If we, as vegans are healthy (which if we stick as much as we can to whole foods, there is no reason why we shouldn’t be), we can better care for all living beings – including people.
What about the quality of life and mental health of slaughter house workers? Slaughter house workers are often from immigrant communities, and they are poorly paid to kill animals for us. As a result of the speed of the machinery they often suffer serious injuries, psychological stress due to the nature of the work, and are more prone to committing acts of violence. By going vegan we are not contributing to the awful quality of life of these people or the people they affect.
So I figure it does a disservice to veganism to think of it as only helping non-human animals. Of course, as vegans we are shining the spotlight ON animal abuse and slaughter, and taking ourselves out of the equation that demands this cruelty happen, but I believe that all the reasons for going vegan are interconnected. It truly does benefit every living organism on the planet if you think about it.
We can care deeply about non-human animals. And we can also care deeply about all living beings. And we can ALSO care deeply about nature, because it gives life to, and feeds the soul of all living beings (you just try living without nature). It’s possible to care about all of these things at the same time.
And the accusation that vegans care more about animals than they do about humans is just silly, nothing more than lashing out because of lack of a better argument.