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On February 27th, Alex Jamieson made a huge public admission:
Please read the aforementioned blog post now.
Ok. Now my reaction…
Alex is right about one thing: This is a shock.
Alex is wrong about another thing: I don’t feel hopeful and I’m not breathing a sigh of relief.
Yes, I do appreciate her honesty about the whole thing, but I can’t help but find her blog post deeply disturbing on a number of levels.
I will try to enumerate them here. I’m going to list my reactions in no particular order, in an attempt to allow my thoughts to flow out more easily.
Alex was “vegan” for thirteen years. That’s no short amount of time. It disturbs me to imagine how someone who has lived the vegan lifestyle for that long could ever return to a diet that includes animals.
Alex states that some of her health coach clients were “sicker and heavier after going vegan than they were before.”
What does this even mean?
This is disturbing because there is not one “vegan diet.” There are innumerable ways to construct a balanced diet without animal products. Such a general statement about the implied failure of “the vegan diet” does nothing to pinpoint exactly what foods her clients were or were not eating.
It’s perfectly normal to have cravings. I’m sure there are plenty of vegans who have cravings for every imaginable variety of animal product. A craving that comes up at the beginning of one’s veganism isn’t necessarily any different than a craving that comes up later on.
Remember– Most of us do not go vegan or initiate a vegan diet because we stopped liking the taste of animal products!
I personally know of one vegan who has admitted repeatedly that his desire for meat never went away after he went vegan over 10 years ago. To this day, he continues to enjoy the sight and smell of meat. But, he does not give in to his cravings, because he chooses to align his actions with his ethical position. He is vegan for animal rights.
We don’t have to turn craving into consumption!
I honestly feel sorry for Alex. I feel sorry for the inner turmoil she obviously endured for so long. I believe that she did have every intention of staying with her vegan diet.
But– Why didn’t Alex seek support from other committed vegans right at the beginning of her struggle? Why did she go it alone?
I don’t agree with her solution!
It’s distressing that craving (i.e taste, palate pleasure) appears to be Alex’s only or primary motivation for going back to eating animals after thirteen years. This is made clear throughout Alex’s blog post:
“The impulse to order salmon instead of salad with tofu at my favorite restaurant was overwhelming.”
“I told no one of my own cravings for meat or fish or eggs.”
“I had to experience how it felt to eat animal foods again, if only to prove to myself that it wasn’t really all that good.”
“I would secretly visit restaurants or stores and buy “contraband” animal foods, scurry home, and savor the food in solitude.”
I just can’t fully agree with the statement,
“Trusting your body, living your truth, whether it be vegan, part-time vegan, flexitarian and carnivore is all inherently good.”
This is not about good vs bad. Let’s throw out those words altogether and talk about the real issue.
From the animal’s point of view, there is a very distinct difference between vegan and flexitarian. From the animal’s point of view it’s literally a matter of life or death. Staying vegan means something. Being consistent means something!
The above statement is troubling. People can just eat whatever they want and feel good about whatever that happens to be?
So– if my “body” craves bacon and I “live my truth” by eating bacon, then it’s all “good”?
Ask the pig how good it is.
It’s very sad to know that many people will use Alex’s story as an excuse to never go vegan. Certain people will reject veganism without ever having any personal experience with it at all.
Similarly, certain “vegans” and vegetarians will undoubtedly use Alex’s story as an excuse to go back to eating animal products themselves.
Do you think I’m making this up?
In the beginning and at the end, Alex was vegan for health reasons. She said it herself:
“13 years ago, when I decided to eat a vegan diet and live a vegan lifestyle, I did it for my health.”
Although Alex did align herself with other, valid reasons for “living the vegan lifestyle” (i.e. animal welfare, global hunger, and global warming), she didn’t appear to be vegan for reasons of animal rights.
For the sake of simplicity, I’m defining “animal rights” as the idea that all animals have a basic right not to be used, exploited, and killed. Animals are not commodities. Each being is owner of his/her own body.
Although I’m upset by this news from Alex, I probably shouldn’t be too surprised by it. Alex used to eat a vegan diet. Now she doesn’t. Alex used to have health reasons. Now she doesn’t.
CONCLUSION: ANIMAL RIGHTS!
If people who “go vegan” or “eat a vegan diet” do not also believe in “animal rights,” then those people will– just like Alex– be at risk of one day returning to using, exploiting and killing animals.
I believe this 100%:
People who are really, truly and fully vegan for the one, core reason of “animals rights” will NEVER go back to being non-vegan.
Never, ever. It simply can’t happen.
I didn’t write this blog post to pick on Alex.
I’m writing this blog post to make this final point absolutely clear:
The focus of veganism must stay on the ANIMALS. The animals are the ones who are used, exploited and killed unnecessarily. Veganism is about helping THEM.
I was listening to the Coexisting With Nonhuman Animals podcast #74 and heard the following quote by David Martosko, speaking at the 2010 Animal Ag Alliance Stakeholder’s Summit. The lecture was entitled, “Exposing Activists’ True Agenda – Will it Build Consumer Support?”
To put it in context– this excerpt is from 08:30-10:01 minutes within a 14:31 minute audio clip posted on the website Truffle Media Networks: Ag Media You Can Use. I highly recommend that you listen to the full audio clip.
In the quote, “they” are the animal rights advocates working at HSUS (The Humane Society of the United States.) After David Martosko points out how much money goes into pension plans every year at HSUS, he points out what he thinks that really means to the animal producers in his audience…
“It should tell you that they’re in this for the long haul. These are people who plan to be doing what they’re doing long enough to retire with benefits. They’re not going away next year or the year after that, regardless of how much you want to accommodate them. They’re in this. This is their career. They don’t go do this for 3 years and then say, “Well, I’ll go somewhere else and I’ll sell socks for a living.” This is it for them.
And so you find yourself in an endless war. I agree fully with Wesley Smith on this. You’re in a war whether you want to be in one or not. And you’ll never fully pacify these guys. I don’t care– if there are pork producers in here– I don’t care if you want to give every pig in America an iPad, and daily rubdowns, and Wolfgang Puck catered lunches, and wide-screen TVs, and waterbeds to sleep on…it will not be enough.
Because the animal rights movement fundamentally believes that animals have legal rights…they deserve moral and legal rights. And, if I have any rights– correct me if I’m wrong– isn’t the top of the list the right to not be eaten? Um, so they believe that every animal on every farm that you guys have ever visited has those same rights. And that’s the number one right they’re fighting for.
‘Cause of all the animals we use– domestically and worldwide– the vast majority of them are food animals. Lab animals, circus animals, captive marine mammals: that scratches the surface. 98+ percent of all the animals that are used in the world for human benefit are animals we eat. So you guys are the top target of these guys. And you’ll never fully make them happy.”
The purpose of this blog post is simply to emphasize the central point that David Martosko expressed so perfectly:
“…the animal rights movement fundamentally believes that animals have legal rights…they deserve moral and legal rights.”
“…if I have any rights– correct me if I’m wrong– isn’t the top of the list the right to not be eaten?”
“…that’s the number one right they’re fighting for.”
“…you guys are the top target of these guys. And you’ll never fully make them happy.”
Yes, yes, and YES:
- The animal rights movement believes that animals deserve moral and legal rights.
- At the top of the list IS the right to not be eaten.
- “Stakeholders” in animal agriculture will never make animal rights advocates happy because their business is killing animals.
Q: How can animal exploiters make me happy?
An Essay on Consistency…
Sooner or later, people who abstain from consuming animal products will listen to friends, acquaintances, or family members declare, “I only buy humane meat,” or “I only buy free-range eggs,” or “I only buy organic milk.” These are the actual words spoken.
“I only buy humane meat, etc” could be one person’s response to some horrific undercover video footage or another’s solution to factory farming. The health-conscious say this in the context of minimizing exposure to rBGH, E-Coli O157:H7 or BSE. Environmentalists might include the word “sustainable.” Followers of Michael Pollan make this statement in support of the family farmer.
When I hear “I only buy humane meat, etc,” I also hear the following unspoken messages: “Hey look, I’m doing something,” “I care about the animals, too,” and “I recognize there is a problem.” I would like to respond to both the spoken words and the unspoken messages.
“I only buy humane meat.” Really? So when you go out to restaurants, what do you order? What kind of pizza do you get? On the road, do you occasionally opt for the convenience of a fast-food restaurant drive-through? In the grocery store, what choices do you make when buying canned soups or frozen entrees? Do you always check labels?
“I only buy free-range eggs.” “I only buy organic milk.” Ok. When you go out for breakfast, what do you have? Do you ever get a pastry at the coffee shop? Do you ask your barista about the milk in your espresso? How about an ice cream cone on a summer day? What about the cheese in your sandwich, taco, or salad? Grocery shelves are lined with baked, packaged, and processed foods containing egg and milk ingredients. Is what you buy free-range and organic? Are you that selective?
These are the types of questions that come to my mind when I hear someone say, “I only buy humane meat, etc.” My first reaction is, “I’m not sure about that.” Chances are, you don’t only buy humane meat, etc. If you truly did, you would be reading labels, asking questions about ingredients, and eating like vegans do nearly all of the time because the vast majority of animal-derived foods do not proclaim to be “humane,” “free-range,” “organic,” ‘”sustainable,” or “grass-fed.”
“But,” you say, “I didn’t mean EVERYTHING I buy is humane/free-range/organic/etc.” Exactly. My point is that consistency is lost. Being true to your own word is meaningless. Whether you say you “only buy humane meat” because of the animal cruelty videos, the factory farms, your health, the environment, the family farmers or some other reason, please take a critical look at whether you are actually doing it. If you say you do something, then do it consistently.
My second reaction when I hear “I only buy humane meat, etc” is, “So, what?” What do labels like “humane,” “free-range,” “organic” (as applied to meat and milk), and “sustainable” really mean? Do you know? Do you want to know? What do you think they mean? What are you hoping they mean? Why do you care?
The first answer to the question “What do the labels mean?” is “Not much.” The second answer is, “It doesn’t matter.” “Humane” doesn’t matter because unnecessary killing can’t be humane. “Free-range” doesn’t matter because it’s still slavery. “Organic milk” doesn’t matter because cow’s milk belongs to baby cows, not humans. “Grass-fed” doesn’t matter because grass is what the cows would be eating if we would just leave them alone in the first place.
None of these labels matter to me. Animals should not be the property of humans. Animals are not things, they are sentient beings. Animals belong to themselves. They deserve the basic right to live their own lives. The problem is not “how” we use animals, the problem is “that” we use animals.
When you say “I only eat humane meat, etc,” is that really what you do? Is that really what you want to do? Or, are you actually just saying, “Hey look, I’m doing something,” or “I care about the animals, too,” or “I recognize there is a problem.”? If you indeed want to do something, then act. If you do care about the animals, then really care. Go vegan. If you do recognize there is a problem, then don’t deny it. Learn more about it, take action, and be consistent.
In closing, being consistent does not make you “radical” or “extreme,” although people who abstain from consuming all animal products are often called these things. Acting consistently on principle simply shows integrity. Being consistent demonstrates conviction and the willingness to stand up for something that is important, no matter what. Consistency in action is necessary for positive change. Be consistent, yes. But please leave the animals alone.
I only buy humane meat. It is 100% plant-derived. It is humane meat.
(Picture taken while mountain biking in Roslyn, WA, Sept 24, 2011)
The problem is animal exploitation. The solution is Veganism.
Step 1: You. Change must start with YOU. First you go vegan. You stop consuming animals, wearing animals, and buying products made of animals or tested on animals. You stop going to venues using animals to entertain. You stop accepting that animals are just commodities to use. You start thinking about animals as individuals with their own interests. Simple.
Step 2: NOW WHAT?? Now that you’ve changed, what do you do next? Do you leave it at that? Or, do you speak up and try to help effect change in others? Remember – the point of going vegan isn’t to join a “club” that follows a strict set of “rules.” The point is to help solve a very serious social justice problem.
Solving problems of gargantuan proportion depends on the collective effort of many. No “group” is more oppressed than non-human animals. For the human culture to stop conceptualizing animals as primarily “things to consume” is going to take a monumental push for change.
- To urge forward or urge insistently; pressure: “Push a child to study harder.”
- To extend or enlarge: “Push society past the frontier.”
- To promote or sell: “The author pushed her latest book.”
So who is pushing for change? Vegans. Non-vegans won’t do it. Vegetarians won’t do it. Vegans are the only ones advocating 100% for the rights of animals not to be used.
Passionate vegans work for the greater good. By promoting Veganism, we “urge” others to act with fairness toward sentient beings. We put “pressure” on the status quo. We ask others to “enlarge” their circle of compassion to include all animals. We “promote” non-violence. These are good things. Yet, passionate, active, vocal vegans are frequently called “pushy.”
- offensively assertive or forceful
- marked by aggressive ambition and energy and initiative
Hmm…pushy sounds bad. So how did we get from “push” to “pushy?” How did we get from the words, “urge forward / extend / promote” to “offensive” and “aggressive?”
I think it has more to do with how non-vegans react to being challenged than anything else. I don’t think it really matters what the frequency– the content– the delivery method– of the vegan message is. The vegan message itself is considered inherently “aggressive” in a culture where animal exploitation is ubiquitous. Where animal slaughter is condoned, those who speak in protest are considered the “offensive” ones. All a vegan has to do is open his or her mouth to be labelled “pushy.” No one minds a quiet vegan!
Push…pushy. It doesn’t really matter. The bottom line is we have a long way to go to shift the paradigm. The animals need our help so we can’t keep quiet. So, spreaders of the vegan message: Keep pushing for change…you pushy, pushy vegans!
(Picture taken September 12, 2011 at the Ringling Circus protest in Everett, WA)