How Do You Deal With “Abolitionist Vegans”?

Tami Jonas, an "ethical farmer" who is giving other farmers advice on how to deal with 'abolitionist vegans'. Source: Facebook
Tami Jonas, an ‘ethical’ pig farmer who gives advice on how to deal with ‘abolitionist vegans’. Source: Facebook

The ABC’s The Drum runs a regular opinion opportunity called Open Drum, where they ask for contributions from readers/viewers on a chosen topic. The most recent one was “ANIMAL EQUALITY: Why are some more equal than others?”

As could be expected, there were contributions from people on both sides of the topic, though one in particular stood out to me, hence the reason for this.

The piece in question is one written by Tammi Jonas, titled how to deal with vegan ‘abolitionists’, which appears to be a follow on from an earlier piece that she wrote for her own site, Tammi Jonas: Food Ethics, titled How to respond to vegan abolitionists.

While I usually don’t pay too much attention to these sorts of articles written by those within the industry, this one is interesting because according to the about page, Ms Jonas is a former vegetarian who became an ethical omnivore, and is now a pig farmer.

There Are No Subsets

According to Ms Jonas there are vegans, then there are vegan abolitionists, which are a “subset of vegans that not only think it’s immoral to eat meat, but that all meat eating (and use of any animal product) must be abolished”.

If a person who identifies themselves as a vegan, doesn’t think that there is something inherently wrong with the consumption or use of animals and their by/products, there is a good chance they wouldn’t be vegan in the first place.

I would also hazard a guess and say that the same applies to most vegetarians these days too.

As I wrote in the article titled Land of Confusion, anyone who wants to see a particular practice abolished, can call themselves an abolitionist. Where this description gets confusing is when abolitionist is used to describe to those who subscribe to Gary Francione’s theory of animal rights, though Ms Jonas isn’t referring to them.

Responses Lack Substance And Understanding

In all honesty, I truly do pity any well meaning livestock farmer who follows the advice given by Ms Jonas IF involved in a discussion with abolitionist vegans.

For example simply responding to the statement,There is no reason to eat meat – you can live without it, with I agree. And you can also live without bananas, apples and potatoes, but most people don’t not only shows a lack of understanding of the issue, it also shows that they don’t know how to respond.

Regardless of whether someone is a vegan, vegetarian, or not-yet-vegan, I doubt that any of them would say that eating a pig is the same as eating a banana, apple or potato. One is a sentient being who has to be killed and has the ability to let you know this, whereas the others are fruit and vegetable that grow on trees or in the ground.

The rest of her suggested responses show a similar lack of substance, though I will only include one below.

You’re speciesist!
Yes, I am. I believe there is a hierarchy of species and I’m really happy to be at the top of that ladder.
While that isn’t exactly what speciesism is about, it does prove that those who don’t know something shouldn’t offer an opinion. That being said, the only ‘ladder’ that homo sapiens are at the top of would be the technological one.

We DEFINITELY aren’t at the top of any ecological food chain.

Don’t Deal With Vegans, Engage With Them

Instead of trying to deal with vegans, whether abolitionist or not, and lumping them all in one basket, a better suggestion would be to engage them with an open mind.

If you think it is ethical to raise animals to be killed, explain why.

If you believe that you aren’t speciesist even though you raise cattle/sheep/pigs/chickens to eat, yet your stomach turns at the thought of eating your dog or cat, explain why.

If you think it is acceptable to raise animals to be killed for food, because they are a valid source of protein, despite it being shown to be an inefficient means, please explain why.

And please, don’t listen to or take advice from people who don’t understand the subject they are giving you advice on.