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One of the default figures by which the animal rights/vegan movement wants to measure its success, is the number of vegans. But is this the most important metric? I think there are other indicators telling us much more about how far we have advanced than the number of vegans. The latter remains very small, so much so that it is actually hard to measure without a significant margin of error. Reducers, on the other hand, show up big on the radar when we are polling the population, and they might be much more significant. But how do reducers compare to vegans in terms of impact?
More specifically, I’d like to ask the following concrete question: are two semi-vegans just as good as one vegan? (I’m obviously talking in terms of their short or long term impact on sparing animals). In case you think there is no such thing as a semi vegan, or a 70% or whatever vegan, read this article.
If we understand a 50%-vegan to be a person who chooses vegan alternatives only half of the time compared to a vegan, then it seems that two of these 50%-vegans would have the same impact as a vegan as far as their consumption goes. But there may be some additional, complicating, arguments to make.
One thing to consider would be these people’s “value” in influencing others (see The fetish of being vegan for the argument that communication is potentially much more important than your own consumption). At first sight, the vegan might be much more motivated to go out and win hearts and minds – and she will almost certainly be more vocal about it. She might feel the holy fire burning inside her and become a very committed activist. When we look at our movement, at the people making things happen, it seems that most of them are obviously vegans.
But let’s think this over. The vegan may spend more time on outreach than the two semi-vegans, but will she necessarily be more successful? Maybe people get more inspired by reducers than by vegans, to start reducing themselves (of course, for those among us who don’t believe reducers are a good thing, this is not an argument). The mere fact of being vegan may have a deterring effect on others – as for many people it seems such a difficult thing – which being a reducer may not have.
Another important idea to take into consideration may be what I call the spread-factor. The one vegan’s impact and efforts, both in terms of consumption and activism, will be more concentrated (as she is but one person) than the impact and efforts of the two semi-vegans (and certainly than five 20%-vegans). I’m not a mathematician and I haven’t thought this through in depth, but maybe the higher this spread-factor, the more people – (both consumers as well as suppliers) will get in contact with some kind of vegan demand.
You could also wonder if the same volume of demand coming from multiple persons might not have a bigger effect than when coming from one person. Imagine you are a restaurant owner. Who would be most likely to influence you to change your menu: one vegan or two semi-vegans? You might think that the semi-vegans could eat everything in the restaurant, but they wouldn’t come there for their vegan meals, so you lose two customers. Two customers (or say the five 20%-vegans) might be more worth making an effort for than one vegan, who you might just ignore.
This may seem like a bit of an academic and abstract discussion, but my purpose here, as often, is to make our movement see the value and importance of meat reducers, and to avoid focusing on vegans alone. As I have written in several posts on this blog, I believe many reducers will create a tipping point in society faster than a small percentage of vegans can (see What vegan can learn from glutenfree). It’s the many reducers that drive the demand, forcing suppliers to respond with more and more good vegan options, and thus making it easier for all of us to go full-time vegan. In addition, for those who are afraid these reducers don’t have the by-us-much-desired ethical motivation: their moral development may very well come after their behavior change.
This is, of course, not to say that increasing the number of vegans is not necessary or important. I think vegans are much more prone to commit to serious activism, spend money on vegan causes, make vegan documentaries, open vegan restaurants, etc. But I suggest a two-pronged approach: increase both the number of vegans and the number of reducers.
Do you have other arguments for why we might value one vegan more, less, or the same as two semi-vegans? Let me know.
43 thoughts on “Do 2 semi-vegans make 1 vegan?”
The problem with this approach, as usual, is that there’s no ethics in it. When you advocate reducetarianism and/or vegetarianism, someone or something is still suffering because of your choice, so it automatically becomes an ethical issue. With reducetarianism, the choice of eating animals is still divorced from any standard of ethics, because the victims have been transformed into products and therefore remain conveniently absent, both physically and psychologically, from the minds of the reducetarians who cause their suffering and death. Reducetarianism still sanctions the violation of animal rights now, but for an assumed, putative future benefit. Well, it’s wrong. We should never encourage vegans, vegan-curious people and vegetarians to eat animal foods, even in lesser quantities. Ethics are a good thing. It’s something that we should explain, not disdain. Veganism needs to be defended from within the movement and it’s really a crying shame, Tobias, that people like you turn veganism into a scare word.
you seem not to have read or thought about the post very well.
And please don’t resort to accusations. the idea is that this blog is an open minded place. thanks.
Speaking of accusations: you accuse me of not thinking your post through. You’re an eco-pragmatic, anti-abolitionist “vegan”, advocating reducetarianism, vegetarianism and cheaganism as stepping stones to the vegan lifestyle, mainly through your work at EVA, the Ethical Vegetarian Alternative — talk about a contradiction in terms — and basically arguing that, if someone is willing to go 90% vegan, there’s a good chance that he/she will go the extra 10%. Does that about sum it all up?
Back to my close-minded reply. I understand that the excusetarian — ahem, reducetarian –message reaches the lowest common denominator very quickly and very effectively. I understand that, for that reason, the go-vegan-now message is less interesting in terms of outreach. I also understand that your approach could create a breeding ground for ethical veganism; but does it? Do reducetarians actually tip society’s scales in favor of veganism much more effectively than a low percentage of “hardcore vegans”?
With reducetarianism, there’s supposed to be some kind of payoff. In the past hour alone, eight million domesticated land animals were slaughtered, 200 million marine animals were trapped and killed, and 115,000 tons of grain was fed to livestock that we are still raising while 350 children died of starvation. That’s some payoff. These numbers shouldn’t exist.
Never mind ethics; let’s talk about sustainability, specifically optimal sustainability, something you — conveniently? — never discuss on your blog. I argue that being a reducetarian is not sustainable. Do the research and ask yourself how sustainable it really is to produce and eat less animal products — on a global scale — compared to plant-based foods only. In terms of optimal sustainability, it isn’t, so, in terms of solutions, it’s hardly the time to take baby steps and go meatless on Mondays. Every single person who is eating pigs, chickens, fish or dairy right now, even in lesser quantities, is taking away the resources that can be spread more evenly and more efficiently and used to sustain the life of perhaps twenty other people and thousands of other species elsewhere in the world while helping to mitigate climate change rather than cause it. The world will continue to die until there is nothing left and soon we will be forced to deal with the consequences of our reducetarian and vegetarian laziness.
i’m not sure where i give the impression that i’m happy with a reducetarian world? Assuming that i’m right and that the approach i suggest could, in complimentary fashion, greatly contribute to speeding up the process, then where is the sustainability problem exactly? I think the sustainability issue is exactly an issue that would urge us to be more pragmatic and less dogmatic.
(and if you want to use sustainability as an argument for 100% global veganism, that doesn’t hold water).
Dogmatic, eh? Oh, the accusation! 😉
When you advocate reducetarianism and vegetarianism, you negate both the suffering and the environmental destruction that is caused by those choices. Sure, veganism is a matter of food, economics and human psychology, but it’s also, fundamentally, a matter of sustainability, of ethics, of justice and, ultimately, revolution. By “streamlining” veganism, by making it more palatable, so to speak, i.e. more sellable, you disinvolve people from the vegan experience, keeping them wrapped up in their convenient blanket of unawareness.
Consider this: we are on very real timelines that extend into present and future societies, human and nonhuman life, on a global scale. If there is an imminent threat to our survival as a species, well, shouldn’t we call for the immediate elimination of what is at the root of that threat? Going vegan is the obvious and, frankly, only solution. If we want to ensure a livable future for the humans and nonhumans who inhabit this planet, then that’s what it’s going to take. Reducetarianism and vegetarianism are still very much products of the profit-before-planet mindset.
I believe that you are, in Dr. Richard Oppenlander’s words, comfortably unaware. It’s as if you don’t understand that people can understand veganism. Sure, veganism is a revolutionary idea, but there’s nothing wrong with a revolutionary idea, an idea, I might add, whose time has clearly come. If you’re not happy with a reducetarian world, then why don’t you advocate veganism outright? Why do you refuse to be the change you want to see in the world? Why don’t you speak up for vegans and veganism? People won’t run away screaming, as you often imply, when you talk to them about veganism. A rational argument for veganism will attract similarly rational people, and there are plenty of rational people around. Let the reducetarians talk about reducetarianism, let the vegetarians talk about vegetarianism; if you’re a vegan, talk about veganism, man.
let’s agree to disagree. you talk about what you want, i’ll talk about what i want, okay?
Veganism is not an experiment, it’s an imperative. It’s not about what you want, it’s about what the world needs, and it needs veganism. One word, one world. Donald Watson, the forefather of veganism, once said that new ideas need ripening. Veganism is that new idea. How do we ripen it? By talking about it, by talking about…veganism. Not reducetarianism, not vegetarianism — veganism. You’re welcome to disagree with me, but you can’t disagree with veganism. Your brand of vegetarianism has outlived its usefulness.
An interesting chap who routinely blogs about strategic veganism recently wrote: “Complementary to kindness is rational thinking. It’s when the heart and the mind meet, when we use our intellect and our rationality in combination with a caring, compassionate attitude, that we achieve the best results.”
Time to practice what you preach, man.
Oh boy. I’m sorry, but i don’t think much discussion is possible where people have fixed ideas. Good luck with your activism.
Guys, I think you can agree.
Tobias, I know you are fed up with answering on all abolitionists comments. But I am sure you agree that the best option would be to let people know what veganism is all about in the best communicative way possible, so they really agree that it is the best way to go, if you can pull that of. Maybe you can stress this a bit more in your publications. And the guy has a point. More and more people open up for the idea of veganism. We can (should?) push a bit more when we feel an open mind…
And Funky Munky when you write such a substantiated essay I’m pretty sure that you know a lot of people are not open for veganism (yet) and/or are not likely to make the switch immediately. And that in that case if you can convince them to switch a little bit, that has at least some better chances on making them ever make the switch or making it easier for society to make the switch. And I’m pretty sure Tobias applauds those peoples efforts to eat less meat, but never their meals that still contain meat.
Regarding the mathematical question, some stuff is missing in my opinion. Where has the second person gone to that was next to the vegan?
We should start out with 2 meat-eaters and we have the opportunity to convince them. And now we get a choice in the output. Or 2 50% vegans or 1 100% vegan and 1 meat eater. I’m sorry Tobias, but that doesn’t seem real to me. If we can convince both of them to go 50% and we can also convince one of them to become vegan, I’m quite sure the other one will be at least also going for the 50%. No way somebody will say “if he goes 50% then I will do it too, but if he goes 100%, I’ll keep on eating meat”.
Or another scenario: some vegan is planning to get some kids. Will he choose to get one kid and make him vegan or 2 kids and let them be 50% vegan. If you have that option (forced by your parents, your partner, society???), you should go for the 1 vegan kid in my opinion.
Or a last scenario: you have 2 meat-eaters. You tell them to go 50% vegan or you shoot one of them and make the other so frightened that he becomes 100% vegan. If you consider this, go see a doctor! 😀
To be complete: my answer on the first scenario would be: go for 1 50% vegan and 1 100% vegan.
Do you even activism, bro? Can you honestly claim that you consistently reach the lowest possible common denominator? I highly doubt it. Not when you promote a version of veganism that is morally lazy, inconsistent and, ultimately, indefensible. But what do I know, right? I’m just a guy with “fixed ideas”. The bottom line is that time spent promoting vegetarianism is time not spent promoting veganism. Do you really want to be successful in this?
For the record, you’re not my enemy and vice versa. The paradigm that animals exist only for us to use and abuse is the enemy. When you know better, Tobias, you can do better; but I guess real shit scares off fake people… Good luck with your quacktivism.
Tobias, I admire your patience and tolerance. If it were me, I’d just do what Our Gary likes to do: delete and ban! I can’t believe how much space this person is allowed to take up here for merely regurgitating the usual, predictable, totally beside-the-point commentary of the “abolitionist”.
The day shall be praised when an abolitionist shows up here who is thoughtful, can step down from the pulpit for a second and engage in constructive conversation. Of course that would include the ability and willingness to question their own beliefs, and try on a different point of view for size without insinuating stupidity, character defects or ulterior motives on everybody else’s part… Tough…
“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.” (bertrand russell)
“Morally lazy” – when that sort of thing is said we should hear alarm bells: it plays into neo-liberalism and the politics of morality.
Is it possible for that old chestnut about grain fed to animals and starving people to be finally discarded – grain is fed to animals because it is artificially cheap (subsidised) and it makes producing meat profitable for big animal ag (cows are actually grass-eaters); the grain WILL not necessarily go to the starving if you take the animals out of the picture, unless there is profit in that; the main problem at the moment is not lack of food, but the way food is distributed, and if you want to deal with that, you are going into one hell of a battle with global markets, governments and corporations.
Sustainability – less meat probably, but not necessarily no meat: it depends on the animal farmed, how they are farmed, and where. Not all areas in the world are suitable for crops, so what are you going to do there? Massive imports? Even if that could be done sustainably, what would be the impact on those societies socially and economically? How would they have food sovereignty?
The rational argument approach – humans just ain’t rational creatures. A whole load of things influence humans before, during and after they attempt to be rational.
“Veganism is a revolutionary idea” No, some people try to frame it that way but there is only one thing veganism has ever consistently been – consumption practices, primarily diet. And when has there ever been successful movement for change based on personal consumption?
I don’t know the answer to the question of what brings about a vegan world faster, but if that’s the goal, and IF advocating reducetarianism happened to bring that about 10 times faster (and assuming we knew that), is there any good reason why we would still not do so? We would be condemning billions of animals to death for the sake of ideology.
“When you advocate reducetarianism and/or vegetarianism, someone or something is still suffering because of your choice, so it automatically becomes an ethical issue”
The idea that eating vegan food or living a vegan lifestyle eliminates suffering is demonstrably false. Moreover, the claim that reducetarians and vegetarians are divorced from ethics is an absolute statement. If your goal is to convince utilitarian vegans of the error of their ways, logic and reason would get more traction.
why not measure success by the number of animals killed?
yes, this is kind of the real bottom line (apart from suffering), but it doesn’t tell us everything either. some issues with this:
– some animals suffer more than others
– the amount of animals killed may increase as more people switch from red meat to chicken, but at the same time veg consumption could grow. so a short time focus on the number of animals killed is not necessarily ideal in this sense
– a lower number of animals killed in itself doesn’t tell us anything about the motivation behind lower consumption, which is of course also interesting in terms of estimating the atittude change that’s going on.
The other issue with it is that it is not per capita. If the world’s human population grows by a billion and the number of animals killed stays the same, that may be a victory disguised as a failure.
Separately, I wonder if there is any argument for semi-vegan products, such as burgers that are half plant and half animal. Would that have any advantage over trying to get omnivores to eat veggie burgers half the times they eat burgers? If successful, would it make sense to then offer 75% plant burgers, and then 90%? This could also be done for manufactured products, like the “chicken nuggets,” “chicken patties,” and fish “patties” (which all have some plant ingredients already) offered by fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s. Could that ease a transition for someone who dislikes the idea of foods like veggie burgers? I have no idea, but I wonder if anyone has any thoughts about this. Thanks.
good, point, that first one! so obvious i didn’t even think of it 🙂
re. products that are half meat half plant based, see e.g. here: http://www.meatless.nl/en/wat-is-meatless/. This is a plantbased product that can be added to e.g. minced meat and is then sold in the supermarket as healthier/more sustainable meat. apparently with moderate success. I think it can be helpful in ways, though i think giving people the idea that they can have meals without meat/animal products would be more conducing to further world veganization 🙂
As usual, balanced and pragmatic thinking. I don’t agree with another commentator that your suggested approach is devoid of ethics. You did state: “… for those who are afraid these reducers don’t have the by-us-much-desired ethical motivation: their moral development may very well come after their behavior change.”
If the two semi-vegans are able to stay vegan long term that would be a win.
you mean stay semi-vegan?
My IMHO added to the post: In general it’s ok, only 1 suggestion is to work on quality of vegan knowledge and practice, so that people were suppprted with kind of gamificated process (educated+gamificated people so to say who can learn new things and try them in their life effectively and measure this. I wrote about open video cources on veganism like Coursera or even more tight to gamification concept – so that imany involving tips could be applied as well, not only “desire to learn online”).
As a result we can see
1) learning process which is popular and interesting
2) open movement where POSITIVE MOTIVATION is used to get more out of the veganism, measuring one’s personal results and enjoy them eventually!
I also agree that there SHOULD be a “unconvienient truth” and serious words, but not at frontline. So that negative type of motivation (go vegan or you’re bad bad person\ go vegan or planet dies) – has to be there.
The whole picture is similar for me to “Serious Teacher who can adapt complicated and very useful and sometimes hard topic to different groupos of students, engaging them seamlessly into the learning process and supporting them not to play with this eventually buth rather GROW”.
One thing else: “go vegan or you’re bad bad person” – means no shaming espeacially in public. I was writing this fast w\o reading before posting 🙂 So this should go like “go vegan or animals will suffer still and we will still be in sick sad world(c)”
I had enough experience with negative motivation and saw many burnout cases, so I’m against the fanaticism and blaming others, but negative (“bitter”) motivation should stimulate people to be seriuos in decisions, after – YOU’RE RIGHT! – extensive behaviour changes applied successfully.
When in the history of human-kind has a society agreed on some particular ideology……especially in a democratic state?
I think the idea here is fundamentally flawed. While some semi-vegans may be on their road to veganism, many will have fundamental objections to veganism and will never be vegan. By what process are these people going to magically be convinced of veganism? How are you going to spread vegan ideology to 100% of society?
Is comprise even in the vegan lexicon?
I think when you learned to speak your first words must have been “fundamentally flawed”
Semi-vegans can be more likely to go vegan than full blown carnists because they’ve tried vegan options and feel less dependent on meat, might feel better thanks to that diet and decide to go further, and may be more receptive to the vegan message since it might be their own beliefs about morality, health, ect. that made them semi vegans (Though being bashed by some vegan might make them less likely to go full veg). Though there are semi-vegans who don’t agree with veganism and will never go vegan, but at least they increase demand for vegan food wich make vegan foods more available wich makes it easier to go vegan. But yeah, maybe the idea will never spread to 100% of the population, just like there is still racists, sexists, etc., but if we have the vast majority with us it would be a victory
OK, so when “victory” is achieved, I assume laws will be passed to make animal food illegal and to make the possession, etc, of animal food an offence. Also, to be consistent, all industries using animals would have to cease this use, and it would become illegal for any investment to be made in, or any stock and shares to held in, any business, national or overseas, that involved animals. With regard to that last item, I can only say good luck with getting Wall Street on side for that…
Now some nitpicking – would you make traditional Eid al adha illegal?
Your last comment pretty much demonstrates my point, namely, vegans will never comprise with others…..non-vegans will be considered akin to “racists, sexists, etc” if they don’t follow vegan doctrine….I mean there isn’t even an ideology to follow. Veganism is just a prescription for what you can and cannot purchase/utilize.
The problem isn’t just that they fail to grapple with the problem of achieving the “victory” of veganism within democracy, they also don’t address the limits of representative democracy.
It is a simplistic fallacy to think that majority of population easily translates into legislative action.
When they read people describing the US as an oligarchy, why don’t they pause and consider what that may mean for their dreams of vegan victory within compromised Western representative democracies?
I wasn’t making any political point here…..rather pointing out that people never manage to agree on complex philosophic issues and this is such an issue. A vegan world is as likely as an atheist world (or Islamic, etc). But often people of divergent views come together and make compromises for their shared interests.
Interesting article. Personally I’m very much torn between abolitionism (which seems the ‘neatest a’ theoretically) and the views that you describe (which might be more effective, although I’m not yet convinced they are.) I have some objections to the article, I hope you can read them and respond. Firstly, if someone’s 50% vegan, a restaurant without vegan options would only lose said costumer 50% per cent of the time right? Theoretically, the 50% vegan could still eat there 50% of the time. Secondly, do you really think semi-vegans are more likely to inspire others? Because I used to be the kind of person that hardly ever ate meat, but wasn’t technically vegetarian or vegan and that ‘lifestyle’ never really inspired anyone. Since going vegan, I’ve noticed people are more interested, ask questions and have reduced their own consumption sometimes as a consequence of the information I’ve provided. (Simply put.) I think by doing something ‘extreme’ you are more likely to inspire people to take a step as well, even though it’s still not likely that they’re going to go ‘all the way’ 3. Don’t you think that if you say ‘just try to eat less meat’ or ‘try to reduce your consumption of animal products’, people will be like, well I don’t eat that much animal products anyway… Without actually examining what they eat? I mean, don’t you think that the reducetarian approach can easily be interpreted by people as ‘well I’m already doing enough’ and therefore lead people not to make any change at all?
I’m honestly wondering about these things. I don’t know the answer yet. But theoretically,suppose I would get the opportunity to advertise (on a billboard or whatever), I’m inclined to think a message suggesting people should go vegan is in the end more effective than a message saying people should eat less meat/animal products.
Thanks in advance for answering.
hi manon, thanks for your input.
a couple of thoughts on your thoughts:
– you write: “Firstly, if someone’s 50% vegan, a restaurant without vegan options would only lose said costumer 50% per cent of the time right? Theoretically, the 50% vegan could still eat there 50% of the time.”
–> I’m a bit confused I think. Isn’t that confirming my argument?
– “Secondly, do you really think semi-vegans are more likely to inspire others?”
–> this here was not so much about inspiring others as creating demand (pushing the supply so that they cater to them). But in terms of inspiring others consumers, by their example: no, i would indeed say that a semi vegan is maybe less inspiring. i think the most inspiring (but i’m just guessing and i reallly can’t be sure) would be not too rigid vegan, who are clearly and ostentatiously eating vegan, but without alienating people by applying the “rules” too rigidly.
“Vegan” might not be too attractive to some people because it is too far out there. People may not see themselves ever going vegan, and they maybe can’t recognize themselves in vegans. In this sense, reducers (or near vegans or whatever) could be more attractive.
– “Don’t you think that if you say ‘just try to eat less meat’ or ‘try to reduce your consumption of animal products’, people will be like, well I don’t eat that much animal products anyway… ”
–> i think those aren’t ideal messages anyway, because they are rather vague. I like concrete messages like “do meatless monday”, “be a weekday vegetarian”, “be a vegan before 6” etc better. As for the danger that people would say “i’m already doing enough”: as long as enough people really do something, this attitude, if it is common at all, may not be that problematic, in the sense that in that case there will be a much higher demand, hence a much higher supply, hence it will be much more convenient for people to go all the way.
– “suppose I would get the opportunity to advertise (on a billboard or whatever),”
–> that’s a nice thought experiment, and it is exactly in these situations that i myself would choose not to say “go vegan”, at this point in time (later i would).
in case of interest, i explain my views better in the first video on the video page of this site.
Hi, I revisited your site to see if you answered. I kind of expected to get a notification by mail if you answered, but maybe something went wrong along the way. Thanks for replying.
As to the first point (that you are confused about), you seem to suggest in your article that if two people were 50% vegan, a restaurant owner would lose two potential costumers if he/she/they didn’t offer a vegan option and hence take this situation more seriously than when one 100% vegan asks for a vegan option. But I think that’s not true, because these people would still visit 50% of the time. Namely, on the days they think it’s okay to eat meat/other animals products. So theoretically 2 x 50% vegans = 1 x demand for vegan option. Same as 1 x 100% vegan. so I wouldn’t say two vegans have more impact or make for more demand. This was in response to the part in your article that starts with “imagine you’re a restaurant owner” i think this goes for all types of demand, not just restaurants.
And in fact, what I would like to add in relation to this, a 100% vegan is willing to pay a little extra now and then for a vegan meat or cheese replacement or go out of his/her/their way to visit a vegan restaurant or restaurant with vegan options, even if it’s futher away from home. Whereas anyone who’s eating meat and cheese and everything 3.5 days of the week, most likely won’t. And he or she will probably not even ask for the vegan options on the menu, but just eat the animal products on the day they eat out, and compensate by eating vegan/vegetarian when they eat at home.
Unfortunately, I think the idea that 2 reducetarians would cause the same impact socially as one vegan doesn’t hold up very well.
Indeed, reducetarians, from my experience, would not push for vegan options in the same way vegans do. If 2 reducetarians go out to a restaurant and there aren’t vegan options, well, they most probably won’t eat vegan, preferring to eat no meat at home but eat ‘whatever they’re served’ at friends houses, or restaurants.
I believe this because I’ve seen it countless times, and I don’t believe it has a massive impact – these are generally people who talk about food as a completely personal choice, and who just buy less or no meat at home. So in larger terms, I don’t think it makes as big of a difference – reducetarianism appears to be a personal choice, and I worry about how little it might influence those around. In terms of practical impact, it’s good to have things like Meat Free Mondays etc. but long term change in people’s minds? Not too sure.
By contrast, if you’re a vegan, your family and friends have to get used to that and they generally tend to reduce their consumption, they’ll eat vegan cake happily, go to restaurants with vegan options and eat vegan foods more often. They often become at least reducetarian-ish, and many vegans I know, myself included, have helped a good few people to transition to 100% veganism.
I do believe that all of the non-vegans who are aware of the plight of animals (our friends, families etc) do a great deal to help our cause, but this is mostly by normalising veganism. Plus, as a byproduct of being so close to vegans, aware of their arguments and with an understanding of vegan food, they tend to eat less meat.
Reducetarianism as a standalone has the same practical implications of these ‘friends of vegans’, although I worry that it looks like a reaction to ‘extreme’ veganism, and I don’t want it to become the socially acceptable alternative, because it’s not massively conducive to long term change.
I’d recommend trying to find the lecture ‘Non-Practising Practitioners – Understanding the boundaries of vegan practice’ by Dr. Richard Twine or checking out his other work on applying Practice Theory to veganism.
This is all well and good in theory, but do we really know which strategy actually gets us to minimum suffering in the quickest way? It seems like there is no decent quantitative evidence on this. Interested to hear your thoughts.
i don’t think there’s any definitive material pertaining to the real bottom line, no. There is on the other hand lots of (sometimes pretty etablished, sometimes tentative) stuff in particularly psychology (also sociology, economy…) that might be useful.
I present my views as a theory/hypothosis. it is presented most in depth in the first video on the video page on this blog.
To be very practical, what is the main objective of veganism? Is it to increase the number of vegans, to decrease the quantity of meat being eaten or to decrease the number of animals being killed? One major flaw I find in the abolitionist approach is that it implicitly assumes that the answer to this question is “all of the above”, ignoring evident conflicts. We can have an increase in the number of vegans while also having an increase in the quantity of meat being eaten (the example of Israel, that some groups sadly praise, comes to mind), we can have a decrease in the number of animals being killed while having a decrease in the number of vegans, … the possibilities are endless.
For me, even though I advocate veganism, the number of vegans is irrelevant. I’d rather concentrate on an aggregate number of vegans, vegetarians, and people who reduced their meat intake. As this number is hard to estimate, I focus on concrete things. The number of animals killed is a too crude measure, for the reasons that Tobias explained above, so maybe the best number that we can use to analyze the efficacy of vegan activism is the quantity of animal products eaten, per capita, measured in calories or kilos or whatever the relevant metric is.
So, my tentative answer to the question raised in this post is: whatever leads, in the medium run, to a greater decrease in the quantity of meat eaten is the better option.
This matters a lot more, as I see it, than labels. I’ve known some cases of vegetarians that eat so much dairy and eggs that their intake of animal products is probably on par with many meat-eaters, while other vegetarians do not describe themselves as vegan merely because they occasionally eat dairy and eggs. I’ve even known cases of people who are almost always vegans but will go out occasionally, say once a month, to a restaurant and eat a stake (the so-called flexitarians). Even though these people will not describe themselves as vegetarians, let alone vegans, they actually eat less animal protein than many, if not most, vegetarians.
To sum up my rant, I rather use a scale in which we measure the intake of animal products than use a scale that goes from meat-eater to vegan. I do this because what matters to me is the level of animal suffering in the livestock industry and not the number of people who identify themselves as vegans.
interesting thoughts, thanks!
I think this post is great and does a very good job of summing up the way I feel. I personally tend to be put off by the in-your-face arguments normally shouted at me by the ‘perfect’ vegan, whereas a kind, understanding approach is definitely more convincing.
I am currently trying to be vegan but I find it very hard, and I think people assume that you should go vegan otherwise you’re not doing much to help animals at all. The idea of being vegan can be quite overwhelming. It is important to acknowledge that no one is perfect and being vegan doesn’t go without its cravings, then people are more open to striving for more realistic goals and in the long-term might achieve veganism.
Again, great post. I have a blog on https://thecrumbyvegan.wordpress.com/ – it would be great to hear your thoughts.