Morrissey: Fundamental Rights or a Chevrolet Volt?
So last year you may remember that Morrissey was interviewed by Larry King, where he effectively denigrated veganism to being nothing more than a “purist” personal choice. Despite it being over 30 years since the release of The Smith’s “Meat is Murder” record, Morrissey has only in the last year decided to stop exploiting animals himself through embracing veganism – and boy did he make a meal out of it. You might recall such breathtaking comments as, “everybody begins as a vegetarian because to dive straight forward into being completely purist is very hard for most people.” That’s right, just like how it’s “very hard” to respect the fundamental rights of humans – damn those purists saying that we shouldn’t be racist or sexist. Don’t they realise how hard it is not to rape or racially abuse someone? Morrissey clearly has no concept of fundamental rights with respect to animals, and so does nothing but perpetuate the speciesism that enables us to exploit them in the first place with his pejorative denigration of veganism as “purist.” Yes, Morrissey, I am a purist with respect to fundamental animal rights, just like i’m a “purist” with respect to the fundamental rights women have to bodily integrity. Why? Because to not be a “purist” with such matters is fucked up. It accepts the faux-legitimacy of that unjust exploitation.
If this isn’t jogging your memory of the Larry King show yet, Morrissey also said that financially it’s hard for people to be vegan, and that it’s difficult to find food. Apparently Morrissey is unaware of the fact that if you want to be a healthy vegan, it’s incredibly cheap and easy. All you need – vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, legumes, and seeds – can be found at your local supermarket or grocery store. If, however, like Morrissey, you’re more interested in purchasing exotic vegan footwear for hundreds of dollars a pair, things might get pricey. Or perhaps more recently, if you’re like Morrissey and fancy a brand new 2017 Chevrolet Volt, write a letter to the CEO of General Motors asking for vegan leather to be made available on order. This is his latest foray into “animal advocacy” on behalf of PETA. Was his main concern the unjust use of animals as our resources? Our denial of their most fundamental rights as sentient beings via treating them as our property?
Of course not. He wrote about entirely humanocentric concerns – the greenhouse gas emissions caused by animal agriculture; the toxic chemicals that animal skins are treated with that “poison vital waterways.” This was all in aid of a PETA’ “investigation” on a Brazilian leather ranch that just so happens to supply GM, Toyota, and Volkswagen with hides for their car interiors. Morrissey supposedly refers to this PETA “investigation” in his letter, where the outcome of the “investigation” is that the cattle there are “treated inhumanely.”
I have news for you, Morrissey. All animal use is “inhumane.” So long as animals are our property, humans will be able to inflict “necessary” suffering on them wherever there is a benefit to be made, a routine practice to be honoured, or a profit to be sought. The only limit to how “inhumane” we can be is the imagination of animal property owners in deciding what needs to be done to their animal property in order to facilitate their use or render that property fit for human purposes. The law protects the interests of property owners, not the property.
All you are doing, Morrissey, is perpetuating animal exploitation by making people think that there is a moral difference between the leather produced on the farms PETA investigated, and the leather farms that were not investigated. You are making people think that there is a moral difference between leather and other animal products. By telling people that our primary concern should be that cows are treated “inhumanely” (which is a meaningless phrase given that there is no use that isn’t “inhumane” from the animals point of view), you are reaffirming in peoples minds the false idea that it’s only our treatment of animals that matters, and not their use.
For Morrissey, veganism isn’t a basic principle of justice – it’s pleather seats on a new Chevy, unnecessary processed food, and expensive shoes. In reality, veganism represents a basic principle of justice in recognition of the moral value of animals. We need to stop portraying it as something that is only for the hardcore “animal people” who spend years on a “journey” getting there. It’s people like Morrissey who make people say things like “veganism isn’t for me.” Veganism is for everyone who takes animal interests seriously – we just have to bring them to that rational conclusion.
Photo from The Jakarta Post