This is the second part of my repsonse to criticism (for the ones who didn’t click through yesterday). This text also temporarily appears as a fixed page in the menu.
After this, I’ll stop waisting time on the critics. For now, here goes…
Some people love my views, talks and writings, while other people… not so much. Some people in the movement criticize me, not always fairly. Here are some criticisms and their honest answers. If you’re a rational person who has read my work or watched me speak, you might be amazed at these – but I can assure you each of them is real and gets thrown at me repeatedly.
Tobias is not a vegan
First off, I find it pretty horrible that part of our movement seems to feel a person is entirely discredited, their opinion worth null and void, if we can just show they are not vegan or as vegan as they “should” be.
That being said, I became a vegan in 1998. See next question for the things that don’t make me vegan in some people’s eyes. I believe the fact that some in our movement would reject me as a vegan, is very illustrative in itself of some problems in this movement.
Tobias encourages the exploitation of animals
This wilful and quite nasty misrepresentation is problably based on the fact that I think our results are more important than our rules, and that effects are more important than personal purity. This means, for myself:
– that I would eat a steak for a 100.000$, using that money to help animals (particularly if that steak is going to be thrown away anyway)
– that I would make small pragmatic exceptions if I think it would positively influence people’s perception of vegans and veganism. I feel I should sacrifice a minimum of personal purity if it can help animals.
– that I consider myself vegan even while giving wine the benefit of the doubt (if it doesn’t say it’s not vegan on the bottle, I’ll drink it)
Tobias tries to redefine veganism
I think there is value in having a clear and generally accepted definition of something, but I definitely think that the way some people try to define veganism (conveniently forgetting the room for some “flexibility” that the original definition offers) is extremely ineffective (unless you want a vegan club rather than a vegan world).
Tobias is paid by the government to say the things he says.
Of course I shouldn’t take this seriously at all, but well…
I’m quite proud of having co-founded and led, for a long time, the world’s first partially government funded organisation to promote vegan food (EVA, in Belgium). Right now, I have left EVA to work on my own, but EVA still gets about 30% of its funds from the government. It shows that EVA was able to demonstrate that we had a socially relevant mission. Never has our funding had any influence on our philosophy or approaches (although there are of course criteria for funding, like we have to be in adult education, have to be active nationwide and not just locally, etc).
Tobias uses ableist language
This refers to me having called some vegans crazy. When I used it, it is mostly in the sense of omnivores perceiving us as crazy.
It is typical of today’s social movements to try to accuse people we don’t agree with by finding things that we believe discredit them. Among a part of the audience, a person will be discredited if one can demonstrate that this person is “immoral” in the sense that they might have done or said something that is ableist, sexist, racist etc. For this reason, some critics will always be on the lookout for indications of said behaviour. I’ll just let this one pass. If people take offense at me having called vegans crazy then so be it. At no point was it my intention to make fun of people with a mental disability.
Tobias is a careerist
In the fifteen years since I co-founded the organisation I used to work for, I have worked for it more than fulltime for about ten years, while I have had a full time salary for exactly three months (some years I was paid 40 %; many years I worked entirely as a volunteer). Right now, I’m travelling all over Europe and writing without getting any money from that (although my travel costs are mostly reimbursed).
An example of a criticism:
““This seems like more in the long line of “look at me” self promotion from this reducetarian. It’s disappointing that so many otherwise intelligent “animal people” don’t see the emphasis this reducetarian has on self promotion in the lead up to his book being published. It’s always disappointing to see “animal people” using the movement to further their career and agendas with so little regard to the damage being done.”
Tobias doesn’t want a vegan world
Oh yes I do. I just believe there is room for different strategies, and that some strategies may be more effective than the ones that are used by some. I believe that getting as many people as possible to reduce is a faster way to tip the system than getting a small percent of the population to go vegan. To learn more about my views, watch this video.
Tobias criticizes other activists himself
I do, but 1. I try to be constructive in my criticism and 2. I mostly criticize people for criticizing others (like. e.g. Gary Francione does all the time), which doesn’t, in my view, put me on the same level. I try to speak out against the bullies – something that is really not done enough in our movement, because we are afraid of appearing divisive. But we should stand up to bullies.
In general though, I try to be really slow and thoughtful when I criticize people, and I’m in favour of slow opinion.