Monday, September 30, 2013

Greatest Hits: More On Being Vegan

From March:

Earlier this [year], a reporter with NPR contacted Vegan Outreach about a recent "vegan police" story in the news. Our first reply was to send her the essays On Living with Compassion (originally published as On Being Vegan), Defining Vegan (led by Jack (right)), and How Vegan. We also included this previously unpublished essay, with the working title of More On Being Vegan:

When we discover how animals are really treated on factory farms (as we document in Why Vegan), it is entirely human to react with revulsion and disgust, wanting to cut all connection to these horrors. This can easily become an endless quest, because, if you look long enough, everything we do in society has some connection to animal exploitation.

Seeking new connections to animal exploitation is relatively easy; it is much more difficult to put aside our visceral repulsion and, instead of striving to avoid personal contamination, work to change society as much as possible. Doing our best to expose and end modern agribusiness' brutality requires that we use our very limited time and resources in a manner entirely different than trying to be ever more "vegan." Rather than removing ourselves as far as possible from a world filled with animal cruelty, we must be fully engaged in the world, so we can to save as many animals as possible from the horrors of factory farms. We must engage with people where they are -- not where we are or where we want them to be -- in order to open their hearts and minds to the animals' plight.

In his interview with's Erik Marcus, author Jonathan Safran Foer (above) explained the two motivations for his book, Eating Animals: To be useful, not thorough; and to get people to focus on the first step, not the last. 

This is it exactly.

Every time we focus on our current personal choices -- rather than the animals' obvious suffering -- we lose the opportunity to open more hearts and minds and remove support for factory farming. Every time we make the issue about our current personal definition of "vegan" -- for example, a real "vegan" shouldn't take medicine because it has been tested on animals and/or contains an "animal product" -- we reinforce the stereotype of vegans as fanatics and veganism as dogma. This actively hurts animals.

We may sincerely believe our current personal level of purity to be the only honorable and coherent position. But the animals suffering today don't need consistent principles or unadulterated products. They don't need us to avoid every minor ingredient or promote a "perfect" philosophy. 

Desperately and immediately, the animals need us to be pragmatic, optimally effective advocates in our imperfect, inconsistent world. To reach the most new people, our example must be thoughtful, selfless, and joyful. This is the way we can actually help animals the most. The rest is just jargon.