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DANGER – Confused Environmentalists Ahead

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If you ever wanted some more empirical evidence to demonstrate how concerns for the environment alone do not lead to ethical veganism – look no further than this video and article.

The video gives us a front seat ticket to see the star, Stephanie, consume a truck load of meat dishes for the first time 22 years. For a start, Stephanie was not even following a vegan diet during that time, she was following a vegetarian diet. I despise the phrases “vegan diet” and “vegan lifestyle” with a passion, but when the sole concern of the individual is the environment – that’s all it is. I also despise saying “vegetarian” when I really want to say the correct term – non-vegan. But for the sake of brevity here, I’m going along with the terminology used in the video.

Stephanie had been a vegetarian for 22 years out of “concern for the environment” and wanting to “save the world.” Besides the fact that a non-vegan believes that they are contributing something meaningful to stem climate change – which is a ludicrous assumption, especially for a vegetarian who will most likely increase their consumption of dairy products and eggs – this disturbing 3 minute video highlights an important point that is crucial to our efficacy as advocates. Concern for the environment should never be the sole form of argument in a conversation with someone about ethical veganism. If it is, that person is never going to recognise that veganism represents a moral position; it becomes as expendable as it is for those who promote welfarism and who maintain that veganism is just “one of the options.” It becomes a matter of personal choice, where the person will then decide “how vegan” they want to be on a given day or week, because “every little helps” the environment – again, see the similarities to welfarist veganism here?

Veganism should never be portrayed as anything other than the ethical stance it is in recognition of fundamental rights. Stephanie wasn’t even a dietary vegan during her 22 years of “saving the world,” but as far as the public is concerned, this is an exact representation of what they will see when an environmentalist vegan (or welfarist vegan for that matter) decides that they are going to start eating animal products again, or never stopped eating animal products in certain quantities but called themselves flexible vegans. It grants a sort of faux-legitimacy to the conventional societal assumption that veganism has nothing to do with moral principles, and everything to do with those crazy tree-hugging hippies who just have a personal preference for wearing hemp sandals instead of leather shoes – no offence to hippies. It feeds the public perception that veganism is something for the “crazies,” or the “stalwarts,” and not something that needs to be embraced by everyone as a basic moral principle.

So when you are out doing your advocacy, whatever you do, don’t fall back on the environment if your goal is to get your interlocutor to actual, ethical veganism, based on the principles of abolitionism. The environment is crucially important, and we can and should talk about it in our advocacy – but not as our sole reason for talking to people about why they should be vegan. Just as we would not approach anti-rape advocacy by discussing the damage a woman might have done to her home or personal belongings when she is exploited, we should not delude ourselves into thinking that we are tackling the immorality of animal exploitation through using the environment as our main form of argument.

If we do, we merely continue to breed more public confusion, and bring into existence more Stephanie’s who, in their narcissism and profound sense of self-entitlement, believe that they are “saving the world” – until they “realise what they are missing.”

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