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

14 thoughts on “FAQ

  1. It is pretty clear to me what the specific source is for a lot of the criticisms you have listed. When I see in the quote you include the term “animal people” I know who is the person being quoted. You must be aware that many other people have been attacked by that person and their followers and that such attacks have been happening for a number of years now.

      1. Oops! Actually Francione would be unlikely to go into the character assassination items of book sales and career advancement – that sounds more the style of one of his closest lieutenants. Nevertheless, the pejorative term “animal people” is often used by Francione. My point about the years of attacks on numerous people still stands.

  2. Tobias said, “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.”

    I don’t see why we can’t have both types of activists. I see pluses and minuses with both approaches. A person who merely reduced his/her meat consumption is doing some good by reducing the demand for meat. There may be more of such people than pure vegans, so their impact may be bigger. But on the other hand, someone who gave up all animal products has shown that she/he is really committed to the philosophy of animal rights, and may have bigger influence on other people as well as on laws and policies.

      1. But why do they think it is wrong? Do they think that you say that it is OK to just decrease meat consumption and be in agreement with the animal rights ideology? Maybe that is their problem. If so, this can be easily fixed to make them happy. You should clearly say that decreasing meat consumption is not in accordance with the animal rights ideology, but anything that anyone can do to reduce the number of animals killed is beneficial. They need to know that you are making a compromise.

        1. Frabolitionism does not seek compromise or accommodation. The list of groups and activists condemned and attacked by Francione and co is considerable – Steve Best, David Szytbel, James McWilliams, DxE, ALF, etc. Frabolitionism is an our way or no way ideology. You can’t appease them except by joining them.

          1. Exactly. There is no one or no group GLF approves of, other than himself. I think it’s a case of a grandiose and deluded mind unfortunately able to drag many unthinking people in his wake

  3. Too many people don’t understand or haven’t seen the nature of Frabolitionism and they think that the way to deal with their attacks is to be nice and reach out to them – there is only one way to deal with Francione and his most committed followers: either ignore them or expose what they are really trying to do.

  4. This is VERY refreshing. Than you Tobias. I must get your book. I have been “ vegan”for about 5 years . During that time and earlier I participated in many animal rights demonstrations written letters, and became actively involed in political activities which better match my animal rights views. I was thrilled to discover many vegan facebook groups. I have nopersonal friends who are vegan and in fact have lost several long time friends due to my position on Animal rights. Vegan facebook groups at first provided me with a sense of belonging and comradeship. I have had several extended arguments about the definition of vegan . I raised the idea of coining a new word that would be more inclusive than the purist version of “ vegan” that often comes across. I started to feel intimidated and ashamed of owning an old leather couch and old leather shoes and woollen blankets and feeding my rescue dog meat. I pointed out that mentioned earlier tyres, concete , paint and most pharmaceuticals etc are not vegan. That cats and horses so adored by many vegans ( horses like cows destroy habitats ) etc. I am 75 years old, dependent on a mobility scooter and can only now walk a few yards due to polyarthritis. Having bored to death anyone who has sustained concentration thus far i want to make a couple of points in defence of the idea of “ veganish”. It seems to me that the “ purist” most “militant” vegans are in their teens to 30’s. Unlike we older vegans they havent spent 50 years or more on a diet of meat and 3 veg. No herbs, spices, olives, garlic were ever part of our mealsand rately even a simple green salad. The change from this to a vegan diet is huge. Furthermore a disabled ( now widowed) person such as myself has dificulty using knives for chopping and remaining standing ( to prepare most vegan food) more than a few minutes. I resort to something on toast or a baked potato for most meals . I have always disliked vegan cheese and have recently been indulging in dairy cheese as a topping. I feel guilty doing so and also a hypocrite whilst continuing to advocate for vegan or even animal rights causes. I would like to see the use of the word “veganish” or a change in the common understanding of the word “vegan” So that becomes more inclusive. . And as some have pointed ,NO ONE can live without causing impact on or exploiting animals whether it be mosqitoes, mice or cockroaches. I think there must be many of us who wish to be a part of the animal rights movement but for a variety of reasons feel excluded find it difficult or impossible for genuine and excusable reasons to meet the criterion often spoken about on vegan sites and posts.

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