Phases in veganism and vegan advocacy

We all go through phases in our advocacy. Only a few people become activists overnight and never change their ideas or practises again for the rest of their lives. Fortunately, all of us are in motion, growing, acquiring new insights, and adapting our communication, ideologies and practises.

Here’s a brief attempt to describe the phases I myself more or less went through in the course of almost twenty years of animal advocacy and veganism. Maybe you will find it recognizeable, maybe not.

stages

1 – Interest and conversion

After what in my case was a long period of keeping it in the back of my mind, at some point, I got seriously interested in not eating animals and became really open to “going veg”. For me it was for animal reasons (in other people’s cases, it might have been about health, the environment, a vegan significant other…). I progressively left out animal products from my diet, and after two years, from 1998 on, when I was 24, I started calling myself a vegan.

2 – Activation

I read about what was going on and decided that I wanted to do something more than just “be a vegan”. I started to really believe in the cause and wanted to convince others to join me, or at least help them discover what I had discovered. By that point, I fully believed in the cause of animal liberation.

3 – Radicalization

After a while, I got slightly frustrated and sometimes angry with people’s lack of response in the face of so much injustice. I got to know different people in the vegan movement, and read articles and books by some people who presented a very black and white view. I decided that “there is no excuse for animal abuse” and that people should go vegan as soon as they knew the facts. I got critical of some animal rights organizations who took a pragmatic position, thought that many were selling out and were being “welfarist” and too soft, and I questioned their motives.

4 – Realization

After more reading, thinking and meeting people, I realized the approach I was taking was not the most effective one, and became more realistic and pragmatic, without changing or betraying any of my principles. I realized people needed more than just moral arguments, and that encouragement works better than guilt-tripping. I noticed, and kept noticing, how many people around me changed their eating habits without me preaching to them. I also realized that most animal rights organizations are indeed well-intentioned and doing important work.

5 – The post-vegan stage

This is my current phase. I call it the “post-vegan” stage (see this previous post), but I’m not wedded to the term and don’t want to make a big thing about it. I use the term to indicate a couple of shifts in my thinking about veganism. I talk about post-veganism, because to some extent how I feel in this phase is not entirely in line with orthodox veganism.

This phase for me is about realizing that I have to prioritize the impact I have on my environment over personal purity in my diet and other consumption habits. It’s also about the idea that I don’t really want to stick to principles for principles’ sake, and that I don’t want to follow an ideology out of groupthink or tribalism.

There is also a re-appreciation here of the importance of minimizing suffering and maximizing wellbeing, as opposed to just focusing on abolition and killing-or-not-killing.

In any case, I remain very much vegan, and I believe the concept of veganism is useful, especially when applied to products and meals (more so than when applied to people). The question “is it vegan?” remains an easy heuristic to determine what we should and should not eat, even though it is not perfect.

Maybe other stages will follow. We’ll see what the future holds. In any case, just like you, I’ll always have the interests of the animals at heart.


Related: I used to be a Francione fan

42 thoughts on “Phases in veganism and vegan advocacy

  1. Points well-made! Your description of “post-vegan stage” is not clear. Can you provide specific examples? Also, stating post-vegan is sure to cause confusion, as you clearly state you remain 100% vegan. Perhaps another more relevant name to this stage? Post-vegan-dogma or maybe not post-anything but something that implies a fresh perspective? “Post-vegan” will surely antagonize the very people you are trying to reach.

    Regarding, “prioritize the impact I have on my environment over personal purity in my diet and consumption habits.” What does this look like to you in terms of daily behaviors? Does this mean we keep the things we already have that contain animal products rather than throw them away and pollute the environment? And “purity” has nothing to do with living vegan! As you know, it’s a matter of justice.

    Regarding, “minimizing suffering and maximizing wellbeing” as you know welfare measures do not improve well-being and still involve a lot of suffering. One example is “cage-free chickens” which is one a most divisive, misleading statement, as chickens in this environment are still crammed together in warehouses, live in their excrement 24/7, more die on the farm as ‘cage-free’ than die in cages, and they meet the same brutal fate.

    I am well aware of the major organizations that promote welfare measures (Vegan Outreach, Mercy for Animals, PETA) and they also VERY CLEARLY promote veganism. There are those who engage in toxic, twisted dialogue about how these organizations promote “happy exploitation.”

    I agree that helping people to reduce their use is often more effective than insisting they immediately stop everything. The idea that people will just do what we say is completely naive anyway. Regardless of how loudly or forcefully we protest, people will still make their own choices. For this reason, I refrain from telling someone they’re not vegan if they still (fill in the blank) yet express an interest in becoming vegan. Telling someone who they are or who they are not is never an effective or wise strategy, nor does it follow the principle of ‘ahimsa.’

    BEST strategy is to just state the truth, live the truth, set the example, and encourage. Provide resources to help people move forward and learn, so they can evolve. The decision to live vegan MUST come from within – we need to be compassionate catalysts.

  2. Forgot to add this to the Go post-vegan! post a while back, but like Nancy mentioned above, the term post-vegan isn’t really clear to me. Or maybe more accurately, doesn’t work for me. It reminds me too much of the term post-feminist when used in the sense of feminism no longer being relevant. Which is absurd of course, as issues such as sexual assault, domestic violence, gender stereotypes, lack of equal pay, and so forth illustrate that the need for feminism hasn’t ended.

    So the term post-vegan elicits the same reaction for me. It implies that we’re beyond the need for veganism, which is obviously not the case. I like post-vegan dogma a bit better, but yes, maybe a new term is in order.

  3. “Post-vegan”?

    “…realising I have to prioritise the impact I have on my environment over personal purity in my diet”. Don’t know what this means exactly but it sounds to me a bit like the cracks that open up when a vegan starts to actually see that things are a lot more complicated than most vegans, vegan/AR activists and vegan organisations allow. An example – vegans enthusiastic that a supermarket introduces its own brand vegan margarine. And the margarine contains palm oil – and like there’s no issues with that? Or like sitting in a vegetarian/vegan cafe in early Spring in the UK and noting that the only items clearly sourced in the UK were the dairy items – and like there’s no issues with importing most of the food?

    The cracks can be multifarious – how about evidence that a system that includes some meat being the optimal model for feeding the world, especially the poorest?

    And then there is this crack – nothing has ever changed as the result of a moral campaign. Change rides history and works politically. Why did I used to read arguments about the decrease in meat consumption in the US and what this meant for a vegan future? Well, at the same time the US was exporting as much meat as ever or, indeed, more, and now meat consumption has gone up in the US. And India is a big beef exporter – yeah India, the great “vegetarian” culture that gets trotted out so often.

    Post-vegan is treacherous ground.

    1. For years I’ve found the arguments about declining US meat consumption to be spurious……virtually nobody bothered to note that the declined happened just when the US economy started to go into a massive recession. Consumption stabilized in 2010….just as the economy was starting to noticeably recover. How could something so obvious be ignored? Perhaps because the vegan movement has become a self-serving echo-chamber?

  4. Given the number of debates I’ve seen that center on “is it vegan” I don’t think its such a simple heuristic. Its only simple if you maintain a superficial list of “vegan products” that people can check.

    But even if we assume that “is it vegan” is an easily decided proposition….that doesn’t mean its morally useful. Why is “is it vegan” a morally useful heuristic to determine what we *should* eat as an individual in our given society? And what does it even mean to be a moral heuristic?

    “Post-vegan” here really sounds like “vegan reformist” to me. Many people that give up on veganism don’t remain “very much vegan”.

    1. i think the number of debates is so high and intense exactly because “is it vegan?” is not used as a heuristic but as black and white dogma.
      If i didn’t think it was morally useful, i of course wouldn’t call it a suitable heuristic. I think it’s useful in the sense that in most cases, when a product implied the use of an animal, it is morally problematic.

      1. The following is actually a genuine question because I don’t quite understand the claim being made.

        How exactly is “is it vegan” a morally useful heuristic? If we ask “is it vegan” of a food item, how does that help with certain issues? How does it help with the environmental impact of the item, which may have lead to animal death and suffering? How does it help with whether the item was produced with worker exploitation or near-slavery? And even if we are only concerned with animals, it is possible that a particular vegan item might add up to more animal death and suffering than some non-vegan item. Doesn’t “is it vegan” only work reliably if personal consumption of animal products in itself alone, regardless of other factors and consequences, is deemed immoral?

        1. i never said it’s a heuristic covering everything and anything. it can be a heuristic that covers what most vegans are vegan for in the first place: animals. But i think that if you only had one heuristic (one label) that you could use in order to avoid the most suffering (in the field of food products), this would still be the best shot.
          It doesn’t cover everything of course, but if we want to have food that is entirely ok for everyone and anything, i’m not sure how to go about it. what would your idea be? (if we don’t want to investigate everything on a case by case basis, and as long as we don’t have like one all encompassing label)

          1. “…covers what most vegans are vegans for in the first place: animals”

            Fair enough to limit it to animals. Therefore it is an heuristic that assists with one ethical issue. But how well (not perfectly) does it do that? Vegan margarine that contains palm oil – is it vegan, yes, is it ethical with regards to animals … er…?

            I have no idea to offer for a better heuristic for moral consumption/consumerism. I tend to agree with these positions –
            *there is no moral consumption under capitalism
            *there are no answers at the individual level
            *avoiding “the most suffering” at level of individual consumption is really about the moral discomfort/comfort of the individual.

            So, I think, the “is it vegan” heuristic only works satisfactorily if personal consumption – “how do I feel about consuming this” and nothing else – is the issue.

            It seems to me that when you write about being realistic and pragmatic and not wanting to stick to principles for principles sake, that offers an opportunity to at least reappraise the whole bag of vegan tenets. Now you may well end up confirming them, but it may be possible that you let at least some go. I think a prime candidate to let go are the illusions about vegan consumption at the individual level – it serves nothing but the individual. It would allow a clear, fresh move away from futile moralism to effectiveness at the social and political level.

            1. Here’s something to chew on – the linked article unfortunately titled “red meat”

              If you ignore the contentious stuff in it, I think it has some points worth considering, for example –
              *a subculture is not a political movement
              *moralism is not politics.

              Veganism is a subculture. And vegan consumption is moralism.

              As things stand, the real game is welfare reform – as demonstrated by the links provided by Jane at the top. The promotion of veganism (either directly or as the end-point of promoting reducetarianism) is not a viable strategy to achieve any major change. Major change is either political or ground out by the wheels of history (and more likely both).

              https://spreadtheinfestation.wordpress.com/2013/06/11/red-meat/

              1. Leone,

                Yes……and at some point you have to start thinking about what is really motivating veganism. Make a list of all the “vegan leaders” and one will quickly find that almost all are career vegans, that is, people that have created a career and identity around veganism and therefore will find it difficult, both practically and psychologically, to give up veganism. And I don’t say this as a critique of their character, its exactly how you’d expect people to behave, but instead as a statement of the social/power structure of the movement.

                And what is one of the biggest sources of money in the movement? Companies making vegan products…….these companies can readily manipulate vegan groups, etc with donations and other means. Veggie conventions are more or less corporate marketing events now.

                The influence of corporate money, the careerism and the social structure of veganism as a whole rarely gets discussed. But it should be……because they are always factors.

                1. You think people don’t give up veganism due to monetary and social incentives? That is the most bizarre thing I have ever read. Actually, many vegans experience a great deal of bullying on a daily basis and constant social exclusion. Many people simply will not be your friend if you do not eat all the same foods they do, regardless of reason.

                  Corporate money and careerism have very little influence on veganism overall.

                  However, they have an incredibly massive influence on animal agriculture.

                  It is outrageous to talk about veganism as in anyway elitist. Legumes, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, seeds, etc. are generally very cheap.

                  The most important thing to remember is that vegan specialty products are actually cheaper to produce. It only appears otherwise because the government gives improper subsidies to the animal industries.

                  Vegan activists like Gary Francione are too dogmatic and absolute in their thinking. But, there can be no reasonable dispute that the environment, animals, and everyone’s health would be far better if animal product consumption fell drastically.

                  The first solution is too end any subsidies for the animal industries. The second is to put more effort into developing artificial animal products.

                  1. Mike,

                    I think people that have developed a career and social identity in the vegan community have strong incentives to promote veganism….to what degree this is going to corrupt their thinking will vary from person to person. My comment wasn’t about your run-of-the-mill vegan which is what you’re discussing. But in terms of social exclusion, that applies to subcultures as a whole….its partly what defines them.

                    I didn’t say anything about elitism…the point of my comment is more or less that the vegan community isn’t unique…..money will corrupt the people in it just like any other group.

                    The reason vegan specialty products are so expensive has little to do with subsidies, in fact, these products benefit from subsidies as most agricultural subsidies are for plant crops. The reason is mostly low demand, for example, tofu is considerably cheaper at Asian grocery stores than western ones. But I didn’t say anything about elitism…..but vegetables, fruits, seeds etc are definitely not cheap.

                    In the US there are very little direct subsidies for animal agriculture so ending the subsidies that benefit the meat industry is, strategically speaking, a dead end….it would increase the cost of a variety of food products and industrial products. And producing more artificial animal products isn’t going to be helpful if people have no interest in eating artificial animal products.

                    1. Mr Toad,

                      “I think people that have developed a career and social identity in the vegan community have strong incentives to promote veganism.”

                      Would the following relate to that observation –
                      http://www.veganadvocacy.org/who-we-are
                      http://www.veganadvocacy. org/consulting

                      I think it is reasonable to suggest that people with so much personal investment in veganism would find it difficult to interrogate veganism itself. They may criticise the modes of certain vegans/vegan groups but a re-assessment of veganism itself would just be threatening. Therefore, their position will likely be reformist and not truly POST vegan (as in moving beyond veganism).

                  2. And in terms of increasing the cost of animal products, a tax (politically unlikely to happen) or increased welfare standards are the only two ways you can really create targeted price increases for them. Improving welfare standards has shown some success……so I’d argue that is clearly what you’d want to spend your energy on if your goal is to increase the aggregate cost of animal products vs crops.

                  3. Mike –

                    1) Veganism isn’t elitist because it is cheap. Sorry Mike, but I have read that too often and my patience is all used up. Anyone who thinks the only issue is price sounds (and that’s *sounds*) like they really know nothing about poverty. Yeah, the actual price of food items is important that then there is the following-
                    *has the person got the equipment that is necessary to store, process and cook, or do they need to buy stuff?
                    *will more time cooking be involved, and if so how easy is it for the person to find that time?
                    *does the person need to acquire new knowledge and new skills? How easy would that be?
                    * how easy is it for the person to actually access all the food necessary for a varied and healthy vegan diet? Would they have to travel? Can they afford the extra travel costs? Could they manage carrying shopping on public transport, e.g. because they are disabled?
                    *does the person have some medical problem that impacts on food and would that make a vegan diet even more difficult?
                    * and here’s one that EVERY vegan advocate should have up front and if they don’t they are simply being negligent, disingenuous or dishonest. The vegan diet REQUIRES supplementation (and fortified foods are just supplementation). At the very least (and crucially) B12. But if you read someone like vegan RD Jack Norris probably other nutrients aswell. So can the person access, manage and afford the supplements?

                    There are, of course, many other issues and complexities. But people who trot out “oh but it’s cheap”, really, really need to shut up and learn.

                    And Mike if you are, or you know, a poor person who is vegan, that’s fine, but one person is not representative of everyone and a few people in any particular population do not alter the general issues for that population.

                    2) Mike, there are actually very reasonable arguments questioning whether veganism is better for the environment and for human health. And even if it is always better for animals.

                    You know, veganism is basically an ethical thing, but,wow!, it turns out to be the answer to climate change, to feeding the world, and human health. Sounds too good to be true? That’s because it probably is. Unless, of ccourse, you come to every problem already knowing the answer – the undeniable truth of veganism.

                2. Mr Toad – you ask what is really motivating veganism. Looking at it from a different angle, I’m really starting to think one word sums up a big part of it – salvation.

                  Veganism is salvation through food. It started out like that – in 1944 Donald Watson was talking about veganism in terms of putting human evolution back on the right track, of humans progressing towards their destiny of justice and compassion, and, of course, it being healthier. Indeed Watson opined that a diet that was ethically/philosophically right, would turn out to be healthier whatever science said – yeah and then B12 deficiency hit.

                  When you read so many vegan advocates on line, what do you end up with? That veganism will not only save farmed animals, it is morally superior, it will combat climate change, it will feed the world, and it is healthier. Vegans are “saved” – they redeemed morally, they are redeemed physically, they know the way, truth and the light to lead the world out of some of its biggest problems. And the first building block of salvation, brother, is what you eat …

                  A Christian has their Credo, a vegan has “is it vegan”.

                  1. Leone,

                    Yes….and I know what you’re saying but I think the issue here is that veganism is a different phenomena for different people. For many it is religious in the way you describe….but not all vegans present veganism in that way and I was more so thinking of them in my comments. Why do some otherwise reasonable people seem to cling to veganism even when their own commentary seems fairly hostile towards it?

                    Also since veganism is a small counterculture I don’t think the mechanism for adopting the lifestyle is analogous to adopting the mainstream religion of your society. What exactly motivates some people to join a countercultures? I think countercultures are, perhaps, just a byproduct of large societies where family structures have broken down. Some trends with vegans become obvious….many don’t have strong bonds to family, many don’t have children or want children, etc. So its these sorts of things that I’m thinking about in terms of motivation.

                    1. Do you have no concept of what a conscience is? Do you not know what integrity is?

                      People join countercultures because they have a strong conscience. Just because the majority of society does something does not mean it is right.

                      Would you insult atheists in very religious societies this way? Christians in mostly Muslim societies? Pro-woman rights advocates in less equal societies? Pro-lifers in some societies? Pro-choicers in others? Anti-death penalty people in countries with the punishment?

                      Agree or not, it is insulting to act as if anyone who disagrees with the majority view must have simply reached that state through poor family bonds rather than sincerely disagreeing.

                      Tobias’ commentary is critical of certain vegans. But, from what I can see, his ultimate goal is mostly similar and he has a strong conscience. I would presume that is why he sticks with it.

                      Tobias, I find it very sad you are not getting involved here. How can you approve such insulting comments and not respond to them?

                    2. Mr Toad – I do take your point about different motivation.

                      I think people can critique veganism and yet cling to it precisely because the core of veganism is personal morality, the vegan salves their own conscience at least. Another factor is that this connects with the individualist/consumerist slant of our (Western) culture. The message is that the individual is the basic political unit, and that consumption is the expression of the individual including the assumption that our consumption choices (supposedly) can effect major change. The notion that the vegan choice “saves” animals is a classic of this view. The alternative is to accept that there is no moral consumption (you can never wash your hands clean – even vegan choices may have negatively impacted on animals) and that consumption is not a strategy for major change.

                      As for vegan as a counterculture, I think you make good points. It is a counterculture that could only exist within the amazing productiveness of capitalism – a system that makes a number of people affluent enough and brings an array of food all year round virtually to your door – add in urban anomie and a culture of individualism, and you have the cradle of veganism.

                      Mike – first of all, I think Tobias should be commended for his tolerance. Secondly, this discussion follows from Tobias’ post where he uses the term “post-vegan” but has not firmly defined what he means by that. You see, I believe, as things stand, that I am post-vegan. Mr Toad may think he could claim that descriptor.

                      Mr Toad presents a sociological point about vegans – your response is that he is insulting and that he demonstrates a lack of understanding of conscience and integrity. I think your opprobrium is phooey. Getting a picture of who vegans are, and what appears to underpin and facilitate their adoption of a counterculture, is immensely useful. It can illuminate what veganism is as a social phenomenon, and it can also help in the assessment of what chances veganism has of achieving its ethical goals.

                      Most vegans, sooner or later, stop being vegan. And vegans would do well not to get carried away if veganism has a period of (relative) popularity – vegetarianism once had its day in the sun and then stagnated. Why not allow spikey post-vegans (that is people who are really *post* vegan, not just critical of “certain” vegans) to offer a few thoughts – or is veganism beyond being questioned?

                    3. Mike,

                      You’re conflating a variety of different social phenomena in your commenting. Holding a position on some topic (e.g., the existing of god) doesn’t mean you’ve joined a subculture…..subcultures are instead a set of behaviors, norms, values, etc defined against a mainstream culture. Veganism is a subculture not a philosophic position on animal ethics.

                      Never did I suggest that someone that disagrees with the majority does so because of poor family bonds my comment was regarding people that join subcultures. And my comment was intended to be descriptive and not critical. When I was a teenager I joined a subculture and when I think back on it its precisely because I had poor family relationships and the subculture provided social grounding.

                      In any case, for me the point of thinking about the nature of veganism is so one can evaluate whether its politically and socially worthwhile. Plus….I’ve always been interested in subcultures.

                    4. Leone,

                      Yes….politically one of the cores of veganism seems to be ” individual is the basic political unit” and that is something I’ve just really moved away from over the years. Not only that…this is one of the primarily reasons I’ve come to see veganism as not only ineffective but counterproductive.

                      But the focus on individual behavior is also consist with creating a subculture where as simply maintaining a position on animal ethics (e.g., “its wrong to exploit animals”) wouldn’t.

      2. I’m not sure why people thinking of it as a heuristic would change anything, you’d still have the issue of determining what is and isn’t vegan. The problem is “is it vegan” isn’t always an easy question to answer….it only appears easy when people are more or less using the vegan society list. So on the contrary, its only straightforward if you take it dogmatically.

        I don’t see how because “most cases” may involve some ethical issue that veganism is a useful moral heuristic. Ultimately this seems like an empirical question, you’d first have to define some sort of goal and then see if veganism, as a heuristic, was well matched to that goal. If the goal is veganism then its just circular.

        1. Comments like this are not really relevant to daily life. And, I am not even committed to identifying as vegan. Nearly all the animal products I am offered in daily life as an American are completely unacceptable from any animal welfare or environmental perspective. And, usually, the foods that contain them are very unhealthy in many other ways as well.
          So, the social awkwardness is unavoidable. Adopting a policy of only consuming high-welfare products is almost as socially alienating. Colleagues become shockingly offended when I turn down food they offer me. Never mind that I never ask them to bring any food for me. They get very offended when I will not reminisce with them about food (usually meat, but sometimes other foods I won’t eat).
          The food offers are constant. It is not a question of making a rare exception. So, I simply cannot give in.
          Basically, I choose to eat a diet consisting mostly of fresh whole starches, with moderate amounts of fruits and vegetables and minimal oil. If I became convinced some animal products are necessary, I would start with an occasional piece of fish, not the products I am constantly offered.
          I have made this decision for a variety of reasons. Poor family bonds are not one of them. I did it because I have concluded it is right.

          1. Mike, you have commented directly to Mr Toad’s post about “is it vegan” as an useful moral heuristic.

            It seems that one of your motivations for eating a vegan diet is that you consider a plant-only diet as healthy. In that regard, “is it vegan” funtions. You also seem to eat a vegan diet for ethical reasons – concerns with animal welfare and the environment. Does “is it vegan” function for these concerns? Well, not necessarily. A vegan product or food can be environmentally questionable and can impact animals negatively.

            You have stated that Mr Toad’s queries about “is it vegan” as a useful moral heuristic are “not really relevant to daily life”. I would say that “is it vegan” is so full of holes it doesn’t offer much in the world we actually live in. It only functions satisfactorily on the level of the individual’s personal discomfort with eating/consuming animal items.

          2. Mike,

            I don’t think there is any good health or environmental argument for veganism nor do I consider veganism to be a health or environmental position in the first place…..its at best an ethical position.

            But ignore that, let’s assume that animal products are both problematic health wise and for the environment. Why would it follow that one, as an individual, is some how morally obligated to avoid them? Is one also morally obligated to avoid any environmentally destructive act? You know…like using fossil fuel based transit, heating/cooling your home, etc? Do you reject going into a home that is well heated?

            But as I said earlier, I’m by no means suggesting all vegans are motivated by the same thing. Instead there seem to be some clear social patterns when you look at the vegan community. But I take self-reports of motivation with a grain of salt, people are notoriously bad at accurately explaining the basis of their behavior.

            1. I don’t know – for some reason food is seen as the easy option. Living in a cold home and walking everywhere is just asking too much.

              But this view of food as the easy option depends on a number of assumptions – 1) that the vegan diet is basically healthy for everyone; 2) that in Western societies at least, everyone is equal in their access to food, and in their ability to create and manage a healthy vegan diet, and in their ability to set aside social and cultural constraints; 3) that plant foods are clean – that is, clean of exploitation, environmental destructiveness, negative impact on animals, and various skullduggery.

            2. Maybe vegan is not a perfect heuristic. As I said, there is some room to argue about the merits of a small percentage of animal products.
              But, there is no room to argue that the current level and type of consumption is not wrong, whether one looks at it from an ethical, health, or environmental perspective.
              About the other stuff you mentioned, drawing the line is not always easy. But, governments often favor healthful and environmentally friendly activities over others through taxation or other means. The government should disfavor most animal product consumption.
              Are you suggesting it would be reasonable for me to hold that the government should disfavor animal product consumption but still consume those products myself? That sounds very hypocritical to me.

              1. Mike –

                Type and level of consumption of animal products is wrong. OK. But how is veganism or a plant-only diet morally required of the individual while individuals get a free pass on other “wrong” things? What is the special case for the vegan diet?

                Why does hypocrisy matter? Why does it matter if you support action at a governmental level, while, in the meantime, consume yourself? Why is the vegan diet a special case? You seem accepting of the government taking the lead on other issues but feel compelled to act in a certain way as an individual when it comes to individual diet. The answer that springs to my mind is that the vegan diet / veganism is, at heart, not about actually about achieving societal change but about personal morality.

  5. “Is vegan” as morally useful? Well, only if you ignore a lot of issues. Tobias’ caveat is that it isn’t perfect – no, it just isn’t adequate. I would have thought that post-vegan would be post-simplistic. “Is it vegan” only works on the level of the individual who wishes personally to avoid consuming animal products because they feel more comfortable that way.

    Post-vegan or really vegan-reformist? Tobias seems to be positing post-vegan as a label for “pragmatic” and “realistic” vegans who want to distance themselves from orthodoxy, group-think and tribalism. But what about people who gave been in and through veganism and are now highly critical of it – not just the “orthodoxy” that Tobias reviles but veganism full-stop. I suspect such people will be tacitly categorised as “ex” rather than “post” and ignored. I invite Tobias to consider the case of Mickey Z, who, apparently, is still personally vegan but has become highly critical of veganism at a fundamental level – for example, that the vegan diet is not nutrionally suitable for everyone and that veganism can’t work as a strategy. Is Mickey Z post-vegan?

    http://worldnewstrust.com/dear-world-i-m-sorry-for-being-such-a-vegan-mickey-z

    1. this is semantics to a large extent. please observe and respect the tentativeness with which i wrote about postveganism, and don’t make it into something more sure, clear, delineated etc than i intended, because then you’re strawmanning my argument.

      1. OK – but ofcourse the “tentativeness” (or obscurity – and I am sure you have noted that earlier commentators have asked for clarification) surely allows space for people to speculate. I have speculated that people “post” who are highly critical of veganism per se may not fit into your developed or final definition of post-vegan. I extrapolate this from your current position distinguishing “orthodoxy” from “reasonable” and “realistic” vegans. The current focus on reasonable, realistic vegans sounds, as Mr Toad has stated, like reformism and not a more fundamental critique that might figure in a “post” position. Therefore I still wonder if critics will end up “ex” rather than “post”.

  6. The system will not let me reply to Leone’s last comment.

    There is room to argue about a small percentage of animal products consumed. But, there is no reasonable defense of the standard American diet and most animal products consumed.

    It seems easier to advocate against animal products entirely. Once you allow even a little wiggle room, most people just will keep rationalize their way into piling their plates high with them at every single meal.

    Do you not realize that in many parts of the world, the poor subsist mostly on starches and only very few animal products? Why? Animal products are expensive in many places. It should be the same in the U.S.

    In some ways, veganism could be considered elitist. But, a plant-based diet is not elitist in any way.

    The only convenience food available should be starch-based with little or no oil or animal products. If that were the case, disabled and poor people would eat that.

    I can only control my own choices and morality. So, that is what I control. It builds great virtue.

    1. Mike – it must be satisfying for you to know so clearly what other people should do, and to be happy to engineer ways of compelling them.

      You clearly regard the majority of your fellow Americans as immoral gluttons. When one reduces people, their culture(s), society and social forces, the politics and economics they live within, to moralism, one so easily ends up on a moral high horse with moral baton in hand.

      The world’s poor mostly subsist on starches and a little animal food. Yes, they do. The poor in India eat a lot of rice and a little dhal and are riddled with anemia. GMO Golden Rice is sold as a way of increasing Vitamin A for the world’s poor. The world’s poor would actually be better off with more animal foods in their diet.

      But you are right again, many can’t afford much animal food (though for many populations certain animal foods are actually an important element, e.g. fish). Having seen a connection between poverty and low consumption of animal foods, you are happy to extend that to your fellow Americans – price animal foods out of the reach of poor people in America.

      This is the execrable face of the vegan obsession with consumption. Consumption is the cause of factory farming? Ever heard of profit, Mike? Do you think economics and political economy might be a tad more complex than just consumption?

      How kind of you to allow some sort of convenience food for the poor. A planty, starchy convenience food as the only choice for the poor and disabled. What if the disabled person has a medical condition that makes all that starchy-plantiness a problem? And would your starchy-plantiness provide enough Vitamin A, calcium, iron, long-chain omega 3?

      It must be satisfying for you, Mike, to know how you are making yourself more virtuous day by day. And thank you for being transparent enough to reveal yourself as an enemy of the poor.

  7. Once again, the system will let me reply to Mr. Toad’s comment.

    Are you still insisting that those who take actions that make them part of “subcultures” must have done so due to poor familial bonds?

    That is extremely insulting, despite your claim that is just descriptive.

    Do you still not understand what a strong conscience is? Lots of vegans had strong familial bonds that greatly deteriorated after becoming vegan (which is generally the fault of the non-vegan family members). But, they did it out of a strong conscience.

    1. Mike, you are determined to view joining a “moral” subculture/counterculture as simply about moral choices. Humans are social animals – there are always social factors involved in what we do. My take on Mr Toad’s point is that weak familial bonds facilitate both an individual openly espousing divergent views and in joining a subculture (which involves actions and behaviours that are also divergent). Strong familial bonds might hinder all this because the individual is embedded within the familial culture and has to wreak disruptive action to be divergent.

        1. I also thought you might have been alluding to this aswell – that a “weak” family situation might be a factor in some young people unconsciously seeking a “strong” situation, which a subculture/counterculture could provide.

    2. Mike,

      No….I’m suggesting that poor family structure is often a factor in incentivizing people to join subcultures. Its neither a necessary or sufficient condition for joining a subculture….subcultures are complex social phenomena. In any case, I’m not trying to give a treatise here on why people become vegan…..instead I’m noting that veganism is a subculture and like all subcultures being a member is going to be primarily a social event.

      Honestly….I’m not really sure what you mean by “strong conscience”. When people join subcultures they are loyal to them and all subcultures have norms, etc that don’t fit in with mainstream society……that is what makes them subcultures. I think what you are perhaps trying to say is that people become vegan due to some strong moral conviction……and I would reject that idea because holding a view on animal ethics (e.g., believing that animals have rights) doesn’t necessity that you adhere to veganism.

      Also your comments are still ignoring what is one of the primary issues here, namely, “the individual as a political unit”. Veganism hinges on the truth of this idea, if you reject it you reject veganism. Vegans seem to have real trouble with the thought that someone can believe that its “wrong to exploit animals” (or some similar moral claim) and not be vegan. That, to them, seems like a contradiction……but that is only because they upholding the view that “the individual is a political unit” as axiomatic.

      Therefore one can agree that the current level of meat consumption, etc is way too high and still reject veganism as valuable.

  8. “…”the individual as a political unit”, veganism hinges on the truth of this idea, if you reject it you reject veganism”.

    Yep – that’s the deal. This realisation was one of the important things that led me away from veganism. In short – what you do as an individual doesn’t add up to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Politics is collective. For various reasons, veganism can never be a political movement. Furthermore, it promotes a kinda false consciousness by deluding people that what they do as an individual *matters*. It also ties into false solutions – e.g. change through consumerism. The consumerism angle is a “natural” fit with individualism in our (Western) culture.

    Individualism also ties into moralism, which the fetish of vegan consumption inevitably descends into. Such is exemplified by Mike’s apparent view that the majority of (US) Americans are immoral gluttons who need the rod to curb their thoughtless self-indulgence. In this view all the complexities of human life and society are existinguished for one perspective – they are just immoral!!!

    The most pernicious aspect of veganism – which is, I think, linked to individualism and moralism, though I can’t articulate that at the moment – is where it is “blind” to other issues. Thus Mike is content to make animal products more expensive for poor people as a way to advance animal welfare and environmentalism. He blithely thinks the slack can be taken up by starchy-planty convenience foods. This kinda demonstrates how veganism can be “regressive” – it has no systematic understanding of anything, and ends up in moralism and crude measures. Veganism is a code of personal morality struggling to be something bigger that it is inherently unfit to be.

    When one rejects the individual as a political unit, it becomes quite possible to imagine ways of getting to a better world for animals without veganism being required in the process.

    I must add as a caveat that there are some anarchist, and even Marxist, groups that hold veganism as valuable. But my impression is that their position is debatable – it is certainly disputed by other anarchists and Marxists. A more obvious ground for debate is that they seem to take as a given that the vegan diet is healthy for everyone and is environmentally superior.

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