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Vegan elitism


Sknydpr
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I hope that this doesn't offend anyone, but I need to get this off my chest. I'm also aware that I may be venting my spleen in the wrong place, this being veganbodybuilding.com

 

I recently started getting back into animal rights activism, by joining a local group. Not entirely because I have very few friends in Houston, or that there's a number of attractive ladies in the group, but those two facts don't hurt.

 

Last night I was at a planning meeting of the group, and it was mentioned that they wanted to create a board of directors. All good and fine, but not my thing. I'm a soldier, not a leader, and not a particularly brave soldier, for that matter.

 

Now I need to back up a little here. Up until 2 or 3 months ago, my sole source of vegetarian fellowship in Houston was a monthly dinner meeting coordinated through meetup.com. There was both a vegetarian group and a vegan group, locally. I never understood why there were two separate groups, especially when several people belonged to both, but there were. I started with the vegetarian group, then found out that the vegan group had far more participation and so I went over to that, since the group was open to "vegan and vegan-friendly" people.

 

Very shortly after that, due to a major policy change at meetup.com, it was clear that there simply wasn't enough people to support two separate groups, and since the vegan group had a more active membership, the question was asked of them whether or not to combine the two groups. Three or four people resoundingly said, essentially, 'the vegetarians are welcome to join, but we don't want to change the name. We're the Vegan group, not the Vegetarian group, or even the Vegan/Vegetarian group'. I got a smidge pissed-off about that attitude, and because of that and the policy change, quit meetup.com altogether.

 

One of the naysayers, the most vocal one, was at the meeting last night, although that's not really relevant to what I'm aggravated about now.

 

Back to last night.

 

As I mentioned, there was talk of creating a board of directors, but I wasn't interested. However, near the very end of the meeting, the co-director who'd mostly lead the meeting, says "Oh yeah! Everyone on the board HAS to be vegan."

 

I kid you not, I almost fell out of the chair. Someone who may have a little dairy in their diet is incapable of helping direct the group?! I honestly cannot come up with an explanation for that policy other than a belief that only vegans are true animal rights people.

 

I know the reasons for not eating dairy, I know them so well that when I explained them to someone else recently, I knew that I had to go back to a vegan diet again, and I have. But if this attitude is prevalent among vegans, then I think I'll continue to refer to myself as a vegetarian. If the AR group I'd belonged to in Portland had had that mentality, I don't think I'd have belonged to it for very long, and I was a vegan then. In fact, as a vegan, I was in the minority there. In my mind, not eating animals is the important thing, everything else is secondary. I really can't say that I give a shit if someone's vegan, just as long as they're real (not pesce-) vegetarians.

 

Anyway...

 

I suspect I will have to talk to the co-director to actually find out what the thinking behind the policy is, and share my thoughts on the subject. But I truly cannot rationalize this attitude as being anything other than elitist.

 

I'm just ranting more than anything, but if anyone has a thought they'd care to share, please feel free.

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Call me an elitist if you wish, but if you are eating dairy it is unlikely that you have made a commitment to animal rights. Rights are very well defined. If an animal is being imprisoned, regularly raped, having their children murdered and their milk stolen, it is clear their rights are being violated. Not to mention their own brief life before being murdered themselves.

 

Veganism is such a basic beginning understanding animal rights, it makes sense that the board of directors of an animal rights group would be limited to vegans.

 

As far as the meetup group wanting to be identified as vegans and not vegetarians, I have to agree here too. The two groups are very different. I think Jonathan put it best in a recent post (sorry I don't remember right now which post) that the main suffering relieved by vegetarianism is the suffering in the mind of the vegetarian. It makes people feel like they are doing their part for a kinder world. In reality the vegetarian diet continues to exploit animals and should be a brief stopping off point on the way to a truly compassionate vegan diet.

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i have to say that i do agree to a degree with the attitude of the vegan group.

it is because, as i talked about in the fitness and training section, i do not see vegetarianism as morally justifiable in the long term.

i mean, if people are really serious about animal rights (rather than feeling better about themselves for not actually eating an animal) then they should go vegan.

it is really easy to be vegan here in the UK and from what i have heard, even easier in the US, as there is more variety of products.

as an animal rights activist you cannot justify eating animal products. it undermines your whole position.

it is like being against the arms trade yet owning a gun. they are mutually exclusive philosophical standpoints.

 

i realise that you view not eating animals as paramount in importance, and that you are vegan, but dairy (and indeed other animal products) result in just as much suffering. there may not be the same numbers involved in dairy as in meat, but if you measure suffering, there must be at least an equal amount, as the cows, hens etc live so much longer (broiler chicken 45days, caged hen 18months-2years).

 

i am sorry if you makes you more oppositional to vegan groups, but in my view, if you are serious about animal rights, you are vegan.

 

jonathan[/i]

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I have a few friends who have called me elitist because of statements I make regarding veganism. If anyone asks me if I am better than a meat eater I say I know my diet is, and I know it's better than a vegetarian diet. I told a firend of mine once that i believe vegetarianism is only a springboard into veganism. If you went vegetarianism for any reason other than health you will go into veganism, if you are committed, and even health is a great reason it just seems that if you go for moral or environmental then veganism is just the next logical step. I do remain open to others though and keep in check what I say, and I dont shut out people in my life who are not vegan since I can atleast show them that not every vegan is a sickly wimp. I would like to counter the elitist vegan stereotype, but im really ambivalent towards that since we need some bold people. In all fairness though it can turn people from veganism, so that is encouragement to keep my snobbery in check. Besides, being nice like Rob and the rest of you is better than being elitist and getting worked up over things you really cant control (like people's diet). The best you can do is set an example and hope others follow.

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This came from the vegan outreach post, in the animal rights topic:

 

1. Veganism is only a tool to reduce suffering and save animals. Period.

Veganism is not a list of ingrediens, or a religion. It is not an exclusive club or a label to prove our superiority. Being vegan is part -- and only a part -- of what we can do to reduce suffering and save animals.

 

2. More important than any individual choice we may make or position we hold is the influence we have on the choices of others. The animals don’t need us to be right, they need us to be effective, to create real and lasting change. To this end, our literature and arguments are not the most important tools we have. Rather, what is most powerful is our example.

 

To have the greatest impact for the animals, we must be the kind of person others would like to know and emulate. For all those suffering, unseen, on factory farms, we must be polite, humble, and joyous -- in short, we need to be the opposite of the angry vegan stereotype.

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Besides, being nice like Rob and the rest of you ....

 

I agree College B - Rob is such a hardcore vegan yet is so welcoming and nurturing of everybody that is maybe less hardcore than himself. That attitude really wins people over I think, which is exactly what we want for the animals' sake, right? When I first found Rob, I was ovo-lacto veg. It was his nurturing compassion and positivism that really sealed my vegan fate. He never made me feel like shit for being a "mere vegetarian" and encouraged me to go all the way in such a positive way. And look at me now! Have come such a long way from the egg and dairy days!!! Thanks Rob!!

 

Although, having said that, I also agree, as does College B, that we need hardliners too. I draw inspiration from both the softer vegans and the hardliners too. But that thing College B quoted is so true - the animals dont need us to be "right". They need us to be effective.

 

Editted to add that I think Will also approvingly quoted from the same newsletter in another post!

 

Peace

Edited by compassionategirl
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Thanks Nat,

 

I really appreciate that. I'm glad that I was able to be a positive role model for you, and I know that you are a role model for so many of us on here too.

 

I really like the things that Vegan Outreach talks about. I try to post their newsletters on here whenever I get them. They are in the Animal Rights Section I believe.

 

Keep on keepin on, everyone! We're all making a great positive difference in the world and in the lives of those who can't speak for themselves. (animals).

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Everyone here is right on the fact of Veganism.

 

Sknydpr, you know about the dairy industry from what you said yet you dont understand why they want the board of directors strictly vegan? No offense, but I see it kind of backwards for a group that is fighting for animal rights to have a vegetarian that does eat dairy. Its counter-productive. Animal rights should be taken seriously, and if there was a vegetarian on the board imagine all the scrutiny that would follow. They would say you are a hypocrite, etc. Veganism is the only way to fully stand up for animal rights. Vegan's don't only look at the aspect of killing, but at the entire spectrum from torturing to killing. They put their tastes and vices after their moral standings. Not saying vegetarian contributions arent doing anything, they are doing alot. However Veganism is the ultimate stance for animal rights.

 

The vegetarian group should be happy that the vegan group was nice enough to have the two combine, and this shouldnt stop the vegetarians from not contributing to the greater cause.

 

Like many say, vegetarianism should be a step towards veganism. Its about animal rights. You mentioned how the eating of animals is the important thing, and everything is secondary. If anything, the "secondary" is probably worse than the killing. Torturing is worse than dying. Its a simple fact that those that are raised for dairy are tortured daily. I would rather die then be tortured.

 

Anywho, hope that made sense.

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When I saw a screening of Peacable Kingdom, several of the farmers featured in the film were there for a discussion afterwards. One of them said something along the lines of "there is more suffering in a glass of milk than a steak" . He sortof joked it would be better to get people to give up dairy and eggs first and then get them to give up meat. He also talked about how addictive dairy is, that it contains something, like other addictive substances such as morophine contain, and that you can talk to someone who has been vegan for 30 years and when they talk about dairy they will salivate. Just something to think about...

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I've said this in another post, but I think it's worth repeating as it pretty much sums up my entire approach to vegan advocacy. Once again, it's another great insight from Vegan Outreach.

 

Veganism is not about personal purity; it's about reducing suffering.

 

In this light, I find any step toward animal welfare or rights to be very inspiring and believe that we should always focus on the positive side of what a person is doing to further that cause, no matter how small his or her action might be in measure. We shouldn't dwell on what veganism or vegetarianism isn't ("Here's a list of a gillion ingredients YOU MUST NOT EAT!!!") but what veganism or vegetarianism is and can be (enlightening, healthy, fun). Please don't cast stones at me, but I take a very liberal approach to vegan advocacy - that is, if a person comes up to me when I'm sitting at an animal rights demo table and says, "I agree with everything you're saying, but I really don't think I could give up chicken," rather than rattle off a thousand reasons why that's not good enough, I'll say, "Then give up everything else and still eat chicken." I believe this to not only be strategic (it throws them for a loop) and practical (animal cruelty, to a degree, has been mitigated), but to also be compassionate for another person's concerns; it is inclusive rather than exclusive. And, who knows, that might be the first step in the door to a truly cruelty-free, vegan lifestyle. In the aggregate, I believe this approach will have a much farther-reaching effect for the animals.

 

Having said all that, I am a little put off by the Meetup group's policy.

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Hrmm lets put this in another light.

 

Lets say there is a person that owns slaves for a living, he believes in Human Rights, but he still owns slaves. He has slaves from different races. Then he says, "Ok, I'll let all the Asian slaves go, but I'll keep the rest". Should he be on the board of one that advocates Human Rights?

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I dont think we should put down non-vegans especially the ones that have chosen to give up meat. Honestly had I been criticized by militant vegans when i still ate cheese then I may not be here now. I think focusing on the positive side that hey these people accepted that meat is suffering is great. If they did that then they will come around to the fact that cheese and eggs cause suffering as well. People can stop after eschewing meat and thats when I think vegans need to give them a hand and point out they are only half way done if they really want to end suffering or atleast not contribute to it nearly as much. My biggest problem is with the meat eaters that support PETA since they somehow think that as long as animals are killed a little better then the suffering wont be as great and they dont have to give up anything. I know PETA likes the money but I think that is too compromised and those meat eating PETA supporters should be cast aside. They give the idea to others well hey if the animal rights people still eat meat then its gotta be okay. Most people think of PETA as an extreme animal rights group, i think the meat eating PETA supporters diminishe PETA's effectivness and blunts their message and ours too. Som emay argue well maybe these PETA supporters are going to give up meat. I believe there is no excuse to continue to eat meat, and by supporting PETA in the first place and still feasting on dead animals I feel they stated they wont give up meat. They just want the animals killed a little better to ease their conscience, not out of a genuine care for life.

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Hrmm lets put this in another light.

 

Lets say there is a person that owns slaves for a living, he believes in Human Rights, but he still owns slaves. He has slaves from different races. Then he says, "Ok, I'll let all the Asian slaves go, but I'll keep the rest". Should he be on the board of one that advocates Human Rights?

 

I understand the point you are trying to make - as I often try to cast things in a different light, too, taking them to their logical extreme - but I think the circumstance you presented is different for a few reasons. For one, most people cannot see that drinking milk and eating eggs is akin to eating meat. Therefore, the racial preferance for one slave over another doesn't seem to work by comparison. For another, we shouldn't assume we are living in a perfect world where every aspect of a person's life is controlled and they can make the commitment to always avoiding animal byproducts. We also have to acknowledge that we are combatting a huge societal intolerance for veganism and therefore must look at our advocacy in a much more nuanced light than if we were dealing with human rights, which are much more universally accepted. I also cannot see how a slave owner can be assumed to value human rights by sparing one race while continuing to subjugate (and profit from) another. On the other hand, I can see how a vegetarian might value animal rights while not practicing it to its fullest potential but still advocating for it in other ways. Although I understand where the vegan Meetup group is coming from (as I obviously believe veganism is a more committed step toward animal rights), I fundamentally disagree with the exlusive message it sends to prospective vegans and even vegetarians for that matter.

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I have seen these discussions before conerning vegetarianism, veganism, and raw foodism. Now some my think vegans are "elitist", but you haven't lived until you have experienced the sanctimony of a raw foodist.

 

I think, and it is an opinion, the majority of us can live a vegetarian, vegan raw foodist lifestyle now because of our modern conveniences. Long haul trucking, refrigeration, shipping, etc. In winter we eat grapes, peaches and other fruits from New Zealand and Chile, etc.

 

 

In one of my many less finer moments I read a post by a raw foodist who was wishing that "All cars and trucks and planes and trains would not work so we could 'clean the environement'." That is a lovely sentiment and my reply was less than cordial, reminding him/her that it is the modern technology that her/he was damning that got all of that nice, mostly fresh fruits and vegetables to him/her.

 

So, in my way of thinking, unless you live in the Sacramento valley, or a tropical paradise, a true vegan/vegetarian/life style is a blessing of the modern world. Be happy that it's available. If someone doesn't agree with it, head butting them isn't going to change their minds.

 

So, be vegan, be happy, and be thankful that you live in a day and age when that is an option.

 

I'm going to go have an apricot.

 

Jon

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I understand the point you are trying to make - as I often try to cast things in a different light, too, taking them to their logical extreme - but I think the circumstance you presented is different for a few reasons. For one, most people cannot see that drinking milk and eating eggs is akin to eating meat. Therefore, the racial preferance for one slave over another doesn't seem to work by comparison. For another, we shouldn't assume we are living in a perfect world where every aspect of a person's life is controlled and they can make the commitment to always avoiding animal byproducts. We also have to acknowledge that we are combatting a huge societal intolerance for veganism and therefore must look at our advocacy in a much more nuanced light than if we were dealing with human rights, which are much more universally accepted. I also cannot see how a slave owner can be assumed to value human rights by sparing one race while continuing to subjugate (and profit from) another. On the other hand, I can see how a vegetarian might value animal rights while not practicing it to its fullest potential but still advocating for it in other ways. Although I understand where the vegan Meetup group is coming from (as I obviously believe veganism is a more committed step toward animal rights), I fundamentally disagree with the exlusive message it sends to prospective vegans and even vegetarians for that matter

 

Exactly the point I was trying to make. If you are an advocate for Animal Rights, how can you still eat dairy and such and still subjugate these animals to torture? Like someone said, dairy is perhaps even worse than the killing of the meat. Chickens are stuck in battery cages and stay there without no medical supervison. They clip the beaks off of Chickens. Cows have their kids taken away only to make the calf just like their mom.

 

How can you say Animals have rights if you still advocate these horrendous actions on these animals? No offense to vegetarians at all, they are contributing to the cause but seriously, if Animal Rights is such an important thing as a lot make it to be, why do you still purchase products that punish these animals till death for months on ends?

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i think that ultimately, when talking to a vegetarian, the attitude shouldnt be 'hey nice work, you are doing your bit for animal rights and you obviously care' it should be more measured and along the lines of 'glad you have taken the all important first step, here's a 'why vegan?' leaflet.

 

jonathan

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i think that ultimately, when talking to a vegetarian, the attitude shouldnt be 'hey nice work, you are doing your bit for animal rights and you obviously care' it should be more measured and along the lines of 'glad you have taken the all important first step, here's a 'why vegan?' leaflet.

 

jonathan

 

I like that, because its still positive reinforcement.

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I have to agree with brendan here. Vegan elitism drives me crazy. My husband said he could never give up chicken so I told him to be a polloatarian. So he eats vegan at home and chicken when he dines out if he wishes. That's less cows and pigs suffereing so that's a step in the right direction. I have also turned 5 meat eaters vegan because of this layed back approach. It works

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but in the end it isnt that your husband is doing good with only eating chicken, its merely a lesser shade of bad.

 

i know we keep using the slave example but such a stance is like saying that i dont use slaves in my fields to tend my crops but i still have them in the house cleaning my pans. just because you abhor the use of slaves in the field, does not make it less wrong that you use them in the house.

 

the point is, there is no excuse for eating any type of animal, or using/eating any animal product when you know what goes on in factory farming. i intend not to cause any offense, but your husband has not a moral leg to stand on. his wife is vegan, he can easily obtain tasty vegan food, he should go vegan.

 

jonathan

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I totally see where you're coming from, kollison, chesty and jonathan. There is often a tendency for vegetarians to become comfortable in their lifestyle, which - and there is no denying it - still subsists on the exploitation of animals. But we also can't deny that there is a tendency for vegans to take such a hardline stance in our lifestyle that we are offputting to potential vegetarians and vegans. There has to be a balance in advocacy, taking these two circumstances into consideration.

 

Using the slave example once again, I guess my question to you would be, If a person owns slaves, would you want him or her in your human rights group at all? In this light, if a person doesn't eat meat but still consumes dairy or eggs, would you therefore not want her or him in your animal rights group?

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Fair enough. But it can be difficult to measure that, which is why I think we need to be cautious with how we come off to others. And just because a vegetarian doesn't make the commitment to go vegan today doesn't mean he or she won't eventually come around to that. It seems that pre-emptively kicking them out of the animal rights would be akin to throwing the baby out with the bath water.

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