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The Annual “Veganuary” Fail

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It’s getting to the time of year again when Veganuary start their fundraising campaign for January. If you’re unaware of who Veganuary are, the quick explanation is that they’re a charity that fundraises off the back of trying to get people to go vegan – for a month.

You may be thinking “great, an organisation that takes veganism seriously for once.” I hate to burst your bubble but, if that’s what you’re thinking – you would be wrong. On a fundamental level, the mere concept of Veganuary itself is a rejection of fundamental nonhuman rights. Think about it for a second. They’re not informing people about why as a matter of fundamental morality we need to be vegan, they’re asking people to make what is nothing more than a personal choice decision. It’s a gimmick and an insult to the vulnerable victims of non-veganism. It’s the animal equivalent of “Movember” where some men decide to grow a moustache to help people with certain forms of cancer or mental health issues. The difference is that the latter doesn’t involve fundamental rights violations and so therefore will not be harmed by gimmicks; the former does involve fundamental rights violations – via our treating sentient beings as resources – and so relegating the issue to one of personal choice in the form of a 1-month trial is a denial of the very real exploitation that occurs on account of non-veganism.

If you’re not with me so far, consider how you might feel if we relegated other forms of fundamental rights violations to 1-month a year gimmicks. What about “Feminibruary,” where for the month of February we ask rapists to make the personal choice to stop raping women for that month? Outrageous! Preposterous!… you may think – but it’s okay. If we steal Veganuary’s logic, we’ll have “reduced the suffering” of women by “inspiring and supporting people across the globe” to not rape in February. Wonderful! We’ve provided absolutely no information about why people shouldn’t rape in the first place, but we’ve made a lot of money off the back of fundraising, and made the rapists feel better in that month for “reducing the suffering” of women.

To the extent that Veganuary would find my “Feminibruary” idea offensive but think that Veganuary as a concept is just dandy – they engage in outright speciesism. By portraying veganism as some month-long trial, a personal choice, a way to “reduce suffering” (hello welfarists, I’m looking at you), they effectively deny the existence of fundamental nonhuman interests in life and serve to perpetuate the very same speciesism that feeds non-veganism in the first place.

We are offended by a concept such as “Feminibruary” because it is relegating the fundamental rights of women – to bodily integrity, to not be made to suffer, to not have their interest in life denied, to not be used as a resource – to nothing more than a month-long personal choice for those who readily engage in the exploitation of women. It is saying that the personal choices of those who engage in that exploitation matter more than the rights of the victims. It’s saying that the exploitation of women is not a fundamental matter of morality.

Veganuary is no different in concept to my “Feminibruary” idea. Animals too, are sentient beings, with fundamental interests in not suffering and continuing to live. Their exploitation is every bit a matter of fundamental morality as the exploitation of any other sentient being with those similar interests. It makes no difference whether they’re human or nonhuman – all sentient beings are equal when it comes to being used as resources. The existence of Veganuary as a concept alone, is a denial of this, and so before we even consider the content of their fundraising, they’re perpetuating speciesism.

Things get even more messy when we delve into the actual content. They claim to want to “reduce the suffering of animals while making veganism more appealing to the mainstream.” By focusing on “reducing suffering” alone they are embracing welfarist ideology. Most likely that of “the father,” Peter Singer, who maintains that because the animals we exploit lack more sophisticated human-like cognition, they don’t have an interest in continuing to live – they only have an interest in not suffering. The perpetuation of this false ideology is just another string to the bow of speciesism that Veganuary have aimed at the non-vegan public. They intend to let their arrows of confusion fly around the London underground this year where they aim to have 50,000 people partake in not raping… whoops, sorry, thought I was talking about Feminibruary again for a moment. Ahem – where they aim to have 50,000 people being “vegan” – for a month. No education as to why people should be vegan for life, just like we should always respect the fundamental rights of other humans and, you know, not rape them… ever. Just asking people to be vegan for a month for no apparent reason other than to “reduce suffering,” and they believe this will somehow make veganism “more mainstream.” Because, of course, as you know, animals don’t care that we’re killing them by the trillions every year for no good reason.

Animals just want to suffer a little bit less in January. That’s all they want – how silly of me to think they need more from us than that. My bad, Veganuary. But hey, it’s cool if you don’t want to go vegan in January anyway – It’s your personal choice to decide whether you want to engage in rights violations that month, right? I mean, you’ve been given no real reason to take it seriously. Those rights violations would need to be made more “mainstream” in order for you to take them seriously, right? Whether or not you choose to observe a woman’s right not to be used as a resource in February is no different to whether or not you decide to give up drinking in October – damn it, I did it again didn’t I? Let me start over. Whether or not you choose rape women in February is no more a matter of your moral concern than whether you decide to go alcohol- free in October to “reduce the suffering” of your liver, right? – wait, I know. I know. I’ve done it again. I’ve confused one gimmick concerning the fundamental rights of a sentient being for another.

Obviously, I’m being facetious. What can I say? I’m sorry. I have a habit for doing that.

What I really want to say is – Veganuary. Cut the crap.

Take the fundamental rights of animals seriously and use the zillions you’ve raised through fundraising over the years to actually do some real vegan education and educate – yourselves for starters – and then the non-vegan public. Educate about why we need to go vegan and stay vegan in recognition of the fundamental right all sentient beings possess not to be used as a resource. Educate about the nonhuman interest in continuing to live that we deny even exists through our “personal choice” to exploit them.

And we must recognise this, not just for January (what kind of insult is that anyway?) – but for life. That is the very least we owe animals. Just as recognition of fundamental rights is the very least we owe other humans.

But wait – I’m getting carried away again aren’t I. You’re not going to do that, because you can’t fundraise as effectively from the truth as opposed to something as ambiguous as “reducing suffering.” You won’t make as much cash. It’s not “mainstream” enough – how very sad.

I can hear the protests already – “we’re effective, that’s all that matters!”

Effective at what? Perpetuating the age-old idea that animals don’t care about continuing to live? Perpetuating the idea that concern for the rights of animals is not a matter of fundamental morality but a matter of personal choice? A gimmick that one can partake in over a trial period with no real idea as to why? Yeah. Congratulations – I’m setting off party poppers right now in celebration.

Lets raise a glass and toast Veganuary for never failing to hit the final nail in the river-coffin that sends every animal down the waterfall and into the hands of corporate welfarism. Lets toast the perpetuation of denied personhood in favour of human supremacy and personal choice.

Way to go. This has to stop.

Photo from Hit The Floor

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  • Vegangal

    While I don’t necessarily agree with the approach they have taken, why so much of an issue with the concept? People who we are trying to encourage to be vegan and stop consuming animal products need to start somewhere and perhaps it isn’t too bad an idea to encourage them to try it for a month. Maybe if more people gave it a go, even just for a month (initially) they would realise how cheap and easy it is to be vegan, and how good it feels. Additionally, having a designated month to not eat animals means they have to make a conscious decision to go back to eating them which I doubt many people would be able to make after such a time, if they also become aware of the issues associated with the agricultural industry. We have mental health awareness week and harmony weeks among others, does that mean we should discriminate against those who have mental health issues or who are from a different cultural background once the week is up? No. It means we leave that week with a better understanding and appreciation of others. Perhaps instead of judging and tearing down people who are trying to make an effort to create awareness of veganism you could help and assist them to educate that masses, as I’m assuming you ultimately want them to do? I think that any effort to promote this lifestyle we have chosen is a step in the right direction and all different approaches are needed if we are to make a difference.

    • How is Veganuary different than asking people to stop being a rapist for one month because it might make them realize how good they feel not raping people and then never do it again? Veganism is not about making a choice for one’s own health, like quitting smoking for a month, but it’s about letting animals live their lives without being exploited by humans. It’s about the rights of the animals, not our preferences. All efforts should be focused on helping people realize that animal exploitation is morally wrong, not on getting people to agree to deprive themselves for their own personal gain for a month.

      • Tobias Leenaert

        99% of the population is against rape, which is illegal. 99% of the population is in favor of eating animal products, and celebrates it. how can one think that the same strategies would apply?
        if you think that eating animal products is like rape, i assume you’re in the supermarket, every day, to prevent people from buying meat and beating them up if they do?

        • Maybe you will understand this analogy better: In the 1759, the majority of the population of the United States, particularly in the southern states, was in favor of slavery and many plantations in the south even depended on it financially. The strategies used by the abolitionists did not include advocating less slavery or better treatment of slaves, rather they fought for the abolition of slavery because it was morally wrong. Just because 99% of the population is in favor of eating animal products and celebrates it does not make it any less morally wrong. Therefore, focus all energies on creating a paradigm shift in the culture – help people to realize that animal exploitation is morally wrong. Merely telling them that the only reason not to eat animals temporarily is because it seems like a healthy fad diet to try will not ever result in a primarily vegan population.

          • Tobias Leenaert

            jeanne, we agree that a paradigm shift is what we’re after. but the comparison with the fight against slavery only goes so far. slavery was abolished not just because of moral outrage, but because of a war, because of economic reasons, because of upcoming technology that made machines sometimes cheaper and faster than slaves. all this played a part. moreover, arguably our use of animals is greater, more deeply entrenched, and more all-encompassing than slavery ever was.
            To paraphrase what you are saying: merely telling them that animal exploitation is morally wrong will not ever result in a primarily vegan population

          • I guess that is where we disagree. I believe the majority of people do truly believe that animals are sentient and that it is wrong to needlessly cause them suffering and death. Since people do believe animals have more moral value than inanimate objects, quality vegan education will expose the serious disconnect between their hearts and their actions. Once they completely understand that to not be vegan means that they are personally causing the needless suffering and death of sentient beings who have moral value, they will naturally go vegan.

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