I get a quite a bit of criticism from some people for my blogposts and videos. I’m being told that I’m telling people not to be vegan and that hence I’m an anti-vegan. I’m being told I’m not vegan myself because I’m not picky about wine, because I would eat a steak for 100.000 dollars (which I can use for animals), or because I would make small exceptions if I thought it was better for people’s idea of vegans and veganism, and therefore for the animals.
It seems that abolitionists in particular have a hard time with what I write. I should actually put the word abolitionist in quotation marks, because all of us in the animal liberation/vegan movement are abolitionists, at least in terms of objectives. In terms of strategy, we differ: my tactics and communication are often not abolitionist, but rather pragmatic and incremental.
I realize there is a chasm between abolitionists and pragmatists, if I can put it that way (I use the word pragmatist rather than “welfarist”, which is the usual opposite of abolitionist, but which is a complete misnomer). And I have been thinking about that chasm, and what could be at the basis of it. Because the animosity and downright hostility that these two groups feel for each other, at times defies explanation.
One would think that we could agree to disagree on strategy, and that at least we wouldn’t second guess each other’s intentions. Yet that’s exactly what happens. What’s at the core of the hostility seems to be a lack of trust. Abolitionists don’t seem to trust that pragmatists really, really want an end to animal (ab)use, that they really really want a vegan world. Conversely, I think some pragmatists may have similar doubts about abolitionists, believing some might be more interested in a vegan club than a vegan world.
Somehow, we need to find that trust; the trust in each other’s good intentions and in each other’s love and respect for animals. If we then differ about what strategy is efficient, or even think that the other’s strategy will not lead us to where we want to be, things won’t get so out of hand.
Like I said, I’m a pragmatist. I don’t tell people that veganism is the moral baseline or that they should go vegan, but suggest that they take whatever steps in that direction that they are comfortable with. I suggest we are patient. I suggest people don’t spend too much time worrying about what’s in bread or wine or fruit juice, and over doing the impossible. I suggest that every step is good. I never say meat is murder, I don’t accuse people of being immoral, selfish or hypocritical if they are not vegan, as we won’t really endear people to our cause this way. I also suggest that we need to work together with other organisations, sectors, companies, governments and that we need to be practical and pragmatic in this. I believe that a big mass of meat reducers is a faster way to arrive at a vegan society than slowly increasing the number of vegans (though I think both should be done). I also believe that people can evolve from health concerns to animal concerns, so I talk about what I think interests them.
Basically, I want to make it easier to eat vegan, and I believe that convenience is the basis ofwhich we can build our critical mass. All of that doesn’t mean I don’t believe the world should be vegan. I believe in that as much as the people who unequivocally say that vegan is the moral baseline believe it. I also believe it’s realistic to get there. I do believe that not just the suffering of animals is wrong, but also taking their lives.
I think saying that we need all approaches is way too easy, and I believe some are better than others. I follow the one I think is best, and I hope you do the same (the one you think is best, that is). But I believe that an in-your-face, veganism-is-the-moral-baseline-approach can coexist with a pragmatic, incremental approach.
What I also believe is that it will be a lot harder to be successful if we don’t trust each other.