Advocates Of Narcissism
One of the main problems we face as abolitionist advocates has nothing to do with educating the non-vegan public. Rather, the main hurdle is (and has always been) the promotion of veganism as a personal choice or journey by “animal advocates” within the mainstream “animal movement.” This has led to a widespread belief that veganism represents nothing more than an individuals expression of personal preference and that it doesn’t need to be taken seriously.
As demonstrated in a recent care2 article, the emphasis is always on what it is that humans supposedly “give up” by going vegan or the “scrutiny” they will fall under in society. The focus remains on self rather than the beings who have their rights violated through non-veganism. The message? That we somehow still hold the power to equivocate over our actions and treat the situation as if it didn’t involve the fundamental rights of other sentient beings.
Care2 describes cheese as the “most difficult animal-based item to give up on a journey into veganism.” This sort of rhetoric (from supposed “animal advocates”) is responsible for a large portion of the barriers we hit when educating members of the public. By not talking about veganism as something that we owe animals as a minimum standard of decency if we believe them to have moral value, the mainstream “animal movement” grants a sense of faux-legitimacy to the notion that veganism has nothing to do with recognising fundamental rights. It perpetuates this idea that veganism is merely an exercise in self-worship and congratulation, where you’re free to either take it seriously or not depending entirely on your own sensibilities and preferences. Ever had a non-vegan say to you that they “respect your choices” but that veganism “isn’t for them”? Well, you can thank the mainstream “animal movement” for that in telling that person they somehow have the right to choose whether or not they violate another’s rights.
The concept of “journeys” is discussed at length in various abolitionist approach articles, but the bottom line is that they do nothing but promote speciesism and allow non-vegans to dismiss veganism as a personal choice that they don’t wish to partake in. We would never tackle issues involving human rights violations by saying that we can embark on a “journey” into reduced exploitation or no exploitation. We would see that as denying the rights and inherent value of those being exploited right here and now. We would see it as promoting that exploitation as defensible in some way given that we would not be adhering to any moral absolutes. The same holds for animals.
We have to stop talking about animal products as things that we will “miss.” We never had the moral right to exploit animals for these products in the first place. One cannot “give up” or “miss” that which was never theirs to begin with. In moral terms this would be the same as a slave owner who, after supposedly recognising fundamental human rights and releasing his slaves, “misses” his slaves after a day or two because he no longer can satisfy his hunger to whip people. Once you realise something is wrong on a fundamental level, the conversation in your head should change. You should no longer be thinking of yourself as the centre of the decisions you make; you are now outside that sphere of thought and are looking in, where the only options available to you are to engage in rights violations, or recognise another’s rights. Within that framework, there is no space to allow yourself to “miss” or take a “journey” towards anything. You either do it, or you don’t. If you are still thinking in those terms then you haven’t really grasped that the issue at hand is one concerning fundamental morality – there are still elements of speciesist thought clinging to your psyche.
Those in the mainstream “animal movement” promoting “journeys,” or legitimising the idea that we have the right to “miss” something that was never ours to begin with, are just advocates of narcissism; where rights are subject to personal preference and moral value is determined by how much you “miss” a form of exploitation. In this the animals are just spectators of their own demise, as the audience pelts them with rotten tomatoes disguised as virtue while simultaneously grading their performance.