On “Selective Veganism” – A Brief Response To The Metro
Appealing to our narcissistic culture might win you a few brownie points amongst your peers, but it says very little about morality or what is required of us in order to respect other sentient beings.
If one of your arguments against ethical veganism is that “selective veganism is way more sociable if your friend [sic] aren’t vegan” then you’ve already discredited yourself from being taken seriously. This sort of anti-morality, ‘i’m the centre of the universe’ position, whereby your adherence to moral rules is contingent on what mood you wake up in or whether you drank alcohol the evening before is the sort of self-worship that has destroyed a lot of peoples capacity to think morally – at all. It not only results in the promotion of further animal exploitation, it contributes to our destruction as a species; we’re bringing generations of people into existence who’s scope of morality ventures no further than the walls of their houses.
It’s almost as if we are living in moral micro-climates, where those who promote ideas such as “selective veganism” lack the capacity to comprehend injustice because their particular micro-climate is subject to a perpetual storm of narcissism pelting at the windows and rattling their doors.
Indeed, as with Lisa Bowman’s article in The Metro and others elsewhere, these people think they are bringing something new and fresh to the table when in reality, they’re simply perpetuating the same speciesism that we’ve had in society for millennia now. If you can manage to get through the first few lines of Bowman’s piece, you’ll see what I mean (it’s a doozy), but she summarises “selective veganism” with the following statements: It’s more sociable; you don’t sap all the joy out of eating; it’s less awkward; you don’t have to turn down free food; it’s a swift way to shut down the vegan haters; you’re less likely to develop disordered eating; you get to distance yourself from extreme vegans; it’s more sustainable in the long term; and every little helps.
Now, without granting Bowman the undeserved privilege of having someone meticulously dissect her every thoughtless word, it suffices to say that all her article does is promote non-veganism. Not only does it promote non-veganism, it explicitly states that this is acceptable as a normative matter. It tells people that you can do right by animals as a non-vegan whilst simultaneously being responsible for their suffering and death. As I said before, there’s some breathtakingly hideous bile in every sentence, but she signs off with the following: “But [sic] if you’re a vegan who likes the occasional bit of brie to keep yourself sane… is that really so bad?”
The idea that we’re not obligated to be vegan is nothing new, it has been part of the prevailing paradigm since Jeremy Bentham falsely maintained in the 19th century that animal suffering needed to be taken into account but that we did no harm to animals by using them and killing them. This sabotage of veganism, however, is something that seems to have grown in popularity more so over the last decade, and it’s entirely self-serving. Morality is not relevant to these people. It’s all about making yourself feel better and coming up with fanciful platitudes to assuage your guilt and self-justify the exploitation you know you’re supporting and promoting. People like Bowman take these sorts of positions a step further by attempting to promote them as a moral alternative. The result is the same as it always has been – rights violations brushed under the carpet for the sake of self-image and faux-morality. The self-given right to take the moral high ground when it’s convenient but where the reality is something indistinguishable from the position of any other non-vegan.
It’s also interesting that these people have no problem indulging in “the occasional bit of brie” to keep themselves “sane” but would not consider it appropriate to indulge in “the occasional bit” of bacon. The false distinction made between flesh and other animal products underscores a profound failure of thought. There’s as much suffering and death in non-flesh animal products as there is in flesh. They all end up dead and they’re all used as replaceable resources. The kind of distinction made by Bowman is once again, self-serving, and promotes animal exploitation. As Gary Francione has said before, the distinction between flesh and other animal products is as nonsensical as promoting the meat from spotted cows rather than the meat from cows without spots.
Quite unsurprisingly, the “Vegan Strategist,” a staunch supporter of corporate welfarism and anything that discusses veganism as a non-obligation was overjoyed with Bowman’s article:
Let me see if I can help you identify the logic pretzel here; talking about non-veganism and promoting non-veganism will get people on the “vegan wagon.” Bingo.
It seems ludicrous to even have to point this out but, promoting non-veganism will not result in veganism. That’s like saying that telling people to breathe will result in people not breathing, or telling people to drink water will result in people dying of thirst. Aside from the immorality of promoting non-veganism, these are all logical fallacies that fail own their own terms when applied in reality.
The only “wagon” that Bowman’s piece will get people on is the wagon leading to further normalised animal use and the idea that you can discharge your moral obligations to animals whilst still being responsible for their suffering and death.
If animals have moral value, if they are not things, then veganism is no more a matter of personal preference or “choice” than the decision to not exploit humans in similar ways. The obligation to be vegan and promote veganism is clear, and people understand it when you educate them in creative and non-violent ways.