In Defence Of 'Militant' Veganism
Recently in both in-person and online discussions, when the subject of animal rights is brought up, proponents of our current system of the mass slaughter of animals tend to conjure this image of a militant vegan who prioritizes the safety of animals over the livelihoods of the farmers that rear them. This vegan seems to relentlessly attack the poor meat-eater to no end and even damages property to intimidate meat businesses. They give their children meatless meals which, without citation, supposedly malnourish them, preferring to treat some animals over at a farm well than their own flesh and bone. These vegans seem to shove their belief system down your throat and expect you to comply with them or suffer the consequences.
Of course, this portrayal of a vegan, as most stereotypes are, is incredibly dishonest and unfair to most vegans. Not only do the vast majority of vegans not engage in meaningless violence, as it would go against the core tenet of veganism, but vegans also have very plausible and fair reasoning for spreading their diet and freeing animals from factory farms and so on. Usually, this viewpoint is held with heavy hatred to change and a high level of cognitive dissonance which allows for the statements “I fancy some steak and chips today” and “Those vegans are terribly violent for attacking that farm” to come out of the mouth of a meat-eater minutes apart from each other. Still, with this being said I understand that I too am making a certain stereotype of an anti-vegan, who may not believe that vegans do any real harm but also does not like getting pro-vegan opinions put in their face. So instead of attacking this strawman, it is better to address the individual claims that some might make against vegans and veganism.
The complaint that vegans are too malicious and aggressive comes from a place of misunderstanding. Not only do most vegans not have enough time to mass protest random factory farms, but those who do have the resources have a very good point to back them up. Veganism is the idea of removing animal suffering wherever possible and to be violent to another person who isn’t doing anything obviously wrong goes directly against that idea. To go on, this idea against animal suffering does not encompass property damage and usually, this can be seen by militant vegans as a viable way of disallowing animal suffering at farms but not actively endangering lives or causing suffering. I understand this may be confusing still to someone who uses this argument, so I think it’s best to explicitly state the factors in making this decision. If there’s a factory farm that kills hundreds of animals every week, it seems fair to try to ruin their business by stopping the flow of their slaughter or destroying the tools they use to murder animals, at the expense of the farmer. The big problem here is that too often are we classing the farmers as entirely innocent bystanders who have nothing to do with the actions they obviously perpetrate. For example, this is rife within the media. In 2019, The Guardian published an article discussing these protests with the headline “'They want us to shut down': farmers hit back after 'invasive' vegan protests”. To bring this into context, the Guardian of course is a fairly left-wing newspaper (usually the side of the vegans), so for them to publish this article, not as an opinion article, to be entirely clear, proves that there is a stigma employed among the press against vegans. The headline is directly from the perspective of the farmers and the main article itself does not really consider the true implications of killing so many animals as factory farms do. This isn’t even going into detail about how tabloid and right-wing newspapers discuss veganism.
The fact of the matter is that this representation of the vegans vs. the farmers as equal is absurd and strange, not only are vegans against harming animals (and therefore humans) unlike the farmers but they are also acting against biases of our society which has found comfort in eating meat.
To go on to another misunderstanding, many meat-eaters that I have spoken with in the past have announced their frustration to me about how many vegans try to shove their lifestyle and opinions down their throat as it were. What they are effectively indicating is that many if not all vegans are ‘virtue signallers’, one who acts a certain way in order to be deemed a good person. A good example of this could be the number of companies this year who changed their profile pictures on social media to somehow incorporate the gay flag, to only disregard the flag a couple of days later, and ignore the actions made by the government to squash the rights of LBGT+ people. The flag was used for show within their branding and to make consumers think they were a morally fair company, while their actions tell another story. In the same way, many say they are vegetarian or vegan but in private eat meat and just say they care about the well-being of animals for public laudation. Although this is true on rare occasion, I can firmly say that most vegans care about either the environment or animal welfare or their own physical bodies and what eating meat does. This is not only a strawman depiction of vegans but also an excuse to not stop eating meat. Within the idea that “vegans only stop eating meat to look good” hides another projection, that not only are vegans liars but also that it is unnatural and impossible for humans to stop eating meat as they do. If the meat-eater were to stop eating meat, they couldn’t control themselves to not indulge in meat products simply because they like bacon so much. It is very much like saying “I can completely ignore the suffering of animals, as long as I can pretend everyone who cares is faking their compassion and that it isn’t my fault that I partake in their slaughter”. This attitude completely shifts the blame off of the meat eater’s shoulders even while they are objectively complicit in the act of protecting, financing, and upholding a system of mass commercial slaughter.
Too often do we see unfitting representations of the meat-eater vs vegan debate. With each party being shown as equals while the reality of the situation is far different. Many make the comparison between slavery and how animals are treated in factory farms, but I think that contrast is often missing the intricacy and nuance that those situations surrounding slavery, had. A better comparison would be if there was a movement of day-care workers who captured abandoned children with conditions that limited their ability to choose, and if they put those children in cages and abused them for profit. Would it be fair for us to argue about the issue as if the workers and the anti-child abuse protestors were on equal moral footing? Hopefully, the answer to this seems obvious. However, a serious double standard appears once you try to promote the equal morality of animal killers against those against suffering.