Why I’m Vegan

As most of you know, I became a vegan about four months ago (and before that, a vegetarian about a year and a half ago).  This development has caused no small amount of friction between myself and some friends and loved ones, mostly due to the fact that I’ve become not only a vegan, but a vegan of the outspoken/ activist variety.  This upsets people.  I understand that.  I figured it was time I detail the philosophy for you a little bit.

Here is really where the rubber meets the road, where the rest of the philosophy comes from, and why you feel I am attacking you:

It is my firm and passionate belief that all animals on Earth are deserving of equal moral consideration.  This runs contrary to how even the most compassionate non-vegans in our culture think.  We are raised to believe that, in some way–a way that usually rests just a shade outside our ability to explain–humans exist above animals, in moral or ethical importance.  You may have said at some point in your life, “I’m sad that animals got hurt, but at least no human lives were lost“, or “Of course animal rights matter, but there are human issues that are more pressing.”  I understand why you think that way; I did too most of my life.  Our society (and in fact, most societies) raise you to think that way.  We call this way of thinking speciesism.  Frankly, I don’t love the term.  It begs to be mocked and is, perhaps, a little too precious.  But that’s the term we use and it IS accurate. (also I’ve thought about it quite a bit and can’t actually come up with a better term).  Why is it that you think humans are more important than animals?  REALLY.  WHY IS IT THAT YOU THINK THAT?

There are, of course, many reasons that get put forth to justify putting humans above animals, which I won’t take time to detail here.  Suffice it to say we find those reasons to be poppycock.  Animals feel pain and suffering, and above all, are simply not ours to own, control, kill, or consume.  They are their own.

Having established a moral compass wherein all animals are weighted the same, eating animals, or imprisoning or torturing them, is the exact equivalent to eating or torturing humans.  It bears the exact same moral weight.  Which is why it is not a “diet” and why I will not acknowledge your right to do it as “your choice”.

Picturing a world where all animals are due the same consideration, imagine now a farm.  The manner in which cows, pigs, chickens, et al–who have done nothing wrong whatsoever–are imprisoned, given a horrible, painful, short life and are then butchered: this is like we are doing it to humans.  Factory farms do this on a massive level; hundreds of thousands of PEOPLE are, at any moment, wrongfully imprisoned and murdered.

Yes, we call them people.  It serves to rip further the veil we are all under, this false assumption that because animals are different from us that they are less-than, that we control and own them, that their lives are ours to take, and their suffering meaningless.  These are our ethical equals, these are people, and what we are doing is nothing less than a holocaust.

So yes, you may think it’s silly when we call them people, or when we talk about SLAVEHOLDERS, but the moral equivalency is very real.  The problem is one of urgency for the poor, doomed, imperiled people currently imprisoned all over the world.  And you want me to be silent?  You think I should “accept your choice”?  I would no sooner silently assent to you eating a human limb.  I would no sooner be quiet about American police murdering black people.  I would no sooner be silent about LGBTQ Americans not having equal rights.  I like to think, given a chance to go back in time, I could not have been silent about the Holocaust of the second world war.  I cannot and will not be silent about this holocaust.  Animal rights are human rights.

You feel personally attacked when I post a vegan meme to Facebook; I get it.  You feel judged.  I assure you I am not thinking about you specifically when I spread the message: how you feel about what you read and see is between you and the animals.  But when you engage me on the topic, I can not and will not be soft.  How could I?  Look at what is at stake!

Many in the vegan community also think we should pull back.  They say being in peoples’ faces turns them even more off of vegans and lessens our chances of growing the movement.  Except: every successful social change movement in history disagrees with you.  Stop being cowards (and suggesting I be a coward too!)–if these WERE humans being farmed, would you suggest the best way to stop it is posting “vegan gym selfies” (Look, I get plenty of protein, eat vegan!) and pinning recipes on Pinterest?  I refuse to treat animal liberation like some delicate flower because people might feel a certain way about it.  I IMPLORE THEM TO FEEL A CERTAIN WAY.

The best way to make large, lasting change is to cause friction with the status quo.  It is our goal to hold up to people the true vision of the world: the idea that what we are doing to animals is a needless atrocity.  Some “soft activism” is good, too (gym selfies, Pinterest recipes), but it’s not enough.

The world needed Martin Luther King, but it also needed Malcom X.

5 Responses to “Why I’m Vegan”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Excellent. It’s exactly how I feel on a brave day or in a grave moment… hoping that I can take the next step. This is heroic!

  2. Kyle Sundgren Says:

    You know, before reading this I had been meaning to commend you on your subtle use of activism so far, for this is how I’ve determined something as monumentally challenging as urging people to stop eating all the things we’ve been eating our whole lives. My thought was you can’t possibly hope to turn a cruise liner on a complete 180 instantly, but if you nudge it ever so slightly you absolutely can make that turn. Then I read this and learned that I was way off on my analysis of your game plan! I couldn’t be more wrong!

    To keep with your analogy the world thought it needed Malcolm, but even he softened in his last days and regretted some tactics. Important as he is to the history of civil rights, I would think most people would call Dr. King far more effective in his attempts at change.

    • sethdellinger Says:

      You’re absolutely right, but my King/ X analogy is deeply flawed to begin with, because even Dr. King’s tactics were MUCH more aggressive and visible than most people would prefer when it comes to veganism. Obviously you are much more secure in yourself than many people, because plenty of folks get “offended” by the freaking MEMES I post, and some vegans think online activism like that is too far–I promise you that would have been small potatoes to Dr. King. I also take part in protests/ real-world activism, but all of it falls short of things Dr. King would have done. We are only the “Malcolm X” of the situation in comparison to the wet noodles that are “lifestyle” vegans.

      You are right, in a sense, about the cruise liner, but that is why most of us don’t attempt to change the minds of INDIVIDUALS. We aren’t saying to a specific person, “You need to stop eating meat”…that probably WOULD turn people against us. But we try to change the whole culture. It is an actual historical/ sociological fact that this is how it works best. You have to be very vocal and open about it. You have to sit at lunch counters, get loud at Stonewall, march to Selma, etc. It isn’t about how you make one individual person feel–we have to make our whole culture see what they are doing, and there is simply no way that is going to happen with quiet subtlety.

      • sethdellinger Says:

        Although, you are right in a way to say I have been subtle–I am much, MUCH more soft than most of my comrades when it comes to social media–I post very few actual statuses, and about one meme a day. I’m still kind of scared to go all-in, because people freak out. As it is, in my controlled, soft version, I have lost three friends and damaged a few other relationships. Which is still very minor compared to the losses most of my fellow activist vegans have incurred. The idea that we are the lords of animals is more deeply ingrained in most people than homophobia, racism, etc.

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