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False Heroism In Vegan Athletes – David Haye

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It’s crucially important that we educate the public about vegan health and nutrition.

Indeed, one of the stumbling blocks we face as advocates is when we’re occassionaly confronted with someone who genuinely believes that it’s necessary to consume animal products. Our conventional wisdom – maintaining that it’s wrong to inflict unnecessary suffering and death – should, on its own, lead any rational mind to a realisation that this means veganism. The problem occurs when, for whatever reason, your interlocutor genuinely believes that animal products are required for good health. In those situations, it’s important that we demystify that idea so that the rational, wisdom-based argument for veganism can really take effect and make an impact. If people believe consuming animal products is necessary from a health perspective, they are unlikely to be affected by a rational argument focusing on a universal rejection of unnecessary suffering.

What we should never do, however, is make vegan nutrition the sole focus of our advocacy where humans – and not animals – become the direct beneficiaries of becoming vegan. In doing so we simply make veganism about us, and not a recognition of fundamental rights. We continue to value non-fundamental human interests over fundamental animal interests. Animals become indirect beneficiaries, they remain otherised, with humans remaining the centre of concern. This may make those humans feel better about themselves, but in not recognising veganism as something we owe animals directly – irrespective of the benefits to us – the underlying speciesism that results in normalised animal use in the first place is not challenged.

Vegan atheletes have a habit of perpetuating this notion. Usually coupled with some vague reinstatement of conventional welfarist ideology, they talk about how veganism has benefitted them – the animals remaining a sideline issue. A recent example of this involves vegan boxer, David Haye. In a recent interview with The Sun, Haye talks about how he switched to a “plant-based diet” after being injured. He wanted to find “the best [diet] to heal muscles” and “all roads kept leading back to a plant-based diet.” Aside from portraying veganism as a mere dietary choice, he passes off the cessation of his own exploitation of animals as nothing but an added benefit of his diet. It simply made it “easier to switch.” Not only that, he perpetuates the welfarist notion that animals only care about not suffering by maintaining that “the horrible way animals are treated” helped him stick to his “diet.”

Haye maintains that he feels better than ever and looks and feels younger too. But that doesn’t stop him portraying veganism as something that’s only for the real Spartans amongst us: “I have a full-time chef and a good nutritionist who makes sure I get all the minerals and nutrients required, which isn’t easy in a plant-based diet.” When we celebrate and promote Haye as some kind of vegan icon, we’re normalising his nonsensical and irresponsible positions. We’re indirectly promoting the idea that veganism is difficult and that in order to be a healthy vegan, it requires a personal chef and nutritionalist. So not only does Haye neglect to portray veganism as something we owe to animals, he also makes it sound dangerous for anyone who isn’t a professional athelete with all kinds of sponsorship.

He signs off his Sun interview by making a joke at the expense of veganism and subsequently, the animals. He says that he doesn’t “like to ram it down people’s throats” and embraces a well known stab at vegans: “How do you know if someone is a vegan – because they never stop talking about being vegan!” That’s right, Haye. When you recognise that we have no moral justification for exploiting animals and that the subjugation of sentient beings is not a matter of personal choice, you realise that veganism isn’t about us. It’s about respecting rights that we violate by treating animals as resources and assuming them to be things.

For Haye, veganism is nothing but a vessel for self promotion and adulation. For the sake of the animals relying on us to advocate clearly and unequivocally, we should pay no attention – nor give any credence to – the positions of these athletes who are, at the end of the day interested in nothing but their own careers. Haye’s speciesism is clear, as is the normalisation of that speciesism through our promotion of him as a so-called voice for veganism.

Photo from The Sun

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  • Paul Ruffy

    Whilst I agree with the message of this article. I also feel that someone like Haye,is bound to be at the forefront on the media and will get asked these questions. He is perhaps trying to hard to avoid a the real message and pander to non-vegans, perhaps for personal profit, but perhaps also because he hasn’t yet discovered the best way to communicate the vegan message to those that are at the opposite end of the spectrum, he is fairly new to it and from personal experience it does take some time so adjust to dealing with the world. So whilst its not helpful to the movement, I’d be prepared to give him a little slack in the hope that he’ll adjust his language in future, to a confident vegan takes some time as you need to be prepared for the resistance you get when you tell the 100% truth. The writer should know that, and we cant expect perfectly formed activists from day 1 vegan.

  • Kevin O’Neill

    With so much animal abuse in the world we have better uses of our time than policing the purity of a myth buster like Davis Haye.

  • bcalvillo

    As a vegan with a disability and viewed as “unhealthy”, portraying veganism as a road to healthy living is a fallacy. I am Vegan for the animals.

    • Charlie David Arnott

      So is David Haye .

  • Jasmin123

    There is an interview readily available on youtube and numerous other sites where David Haye specifically says that watching the film Earthlings was what turned him vegan. This seems a really big fact to omit (but guess it didn’t fit in well with with Ben’s one-sided critique. Shame).

  • stophe

    You’re bang out of order. Like Lisa said, you ignore that he said seeing a documentary on the meat industry is what made him decide to become a vegan. Holier-than-thou types like you seem to be (based on the contents of this article) aren’t helping. Just be happy that the guy’s a vegan rather than being a condescending pos will you?

  • john

    Your right that people should have a fundamental aversion to animal suffering, although that is the ideal, and not necessarily what can make the most change right now.
    People are more likely to realise the basic rights of animals when they are not running from their guilt of consuming them.
    If people go vegan for whatever reason, It is good.
    As other comments said. David Haye became vegan after watching earthlings.

  • Jonny Thompson

    Stupid article which misses the point of everything. You clearly don’t know the guy. Probably written after a hearing one small interview. It’s the shame the internet isn’t filled with wisdom and insight rather than so much tittle tattle like this.

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