Social Justice, Apologetic Vegans And Carnism.

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Over the past few weeks it has been more than a little disheartening for me to see that among vegans, there is an increasing number of apologetic vegans, and support for the regulation/reform of animal agribusiness message seems to be growing at a quicker rate than the message calling for an end to animal use.

As I have written previously, I believe that the social acceptance v social justice view comes into play. Primarily due in no part to campaigns by Animals Australia and the various Animal Liberation groups who have made it socially acceptable, and almost a prerequisite of being vegan in Australia, to campaign for some sort of incremental reform.

In addition to the above, the latest article by Dr Melanie Joy, titled Speaking Truth to Power: Understanding the Dominant, Animal-Eating Narrative for Vegan Empowerment and Social Transformation at OneGreenPlanet.org I believe goes some way towards explaining a reason why this is happening.

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At the beginning of the article, Dr Joy tells us that “History is shaped by stories“, “Dominant narratives are the stories told by the dominant culture”, defining our reality and guiding our lives.

Dr Joy goes further to say that when the dominant culture is oppressive, it’s narratives are too. These fictitious narratives are “constructed to delude people into supporting the dominant way of life even though that way of life runs counter to what they would otherwise support, and to silence the voices of people who seek to tell the truth”

Whilst Dr Joy’s article is about the relationship between vegans and non-vegans, if we move it across to the different “camps” within the animal advocacy movement, we can see that the carnist ideology is still prevalent.

For example, the primary justification for the dominant ideology is that it is normal, natural and necessary, and the secondary justification seeks to make the non dominant position abnormal, unnatural and unnecessary.

With the regulationist position being the dominant one within the animal advocacy movement, we hear the justification for the position being that they are ‘doing something for the animals today and tomorrow”, that they actually do “care” for the animals that are in the system, and that by seeking gradual improvements, the system will eventually cease to exist. Therefore, it could be theorised that based on Dr Joy’s article, that these are all examples of the primary justification for adopting the regulationist position.

The secondary justification for the regulationist position is that the position of abolition within the animal rights context is that it is extreme or purist, that “we” don’t really care for the animals, that “we” aren’t doing anything for those animals in the system today.

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The regulationists have an easily believed and routinely shared myth, that they are ‘doing something’ for the animals today and those who will come tomorrow. This is despite it being known that it takes months of campaigning for there even to be a discussion at governmental or industry level relating to the proposed change, and then months, if not years for the ‘improvement’ to take place. Then there is the very likely possibility of a number of years for phase ins at an ‘industry approved’ rate before the ‘improvement’ is fully in force, if at all.

This means that it could literally be a decade before the last animal is removed from a process that the regulationists claim they were stopping ‘today’.

And yet, for some unknown reason, it seems to make more sense to a majority of people to campaign for the above, rather than promote veganism, and in turn reduce the demand for all animal products, as it is seen as too hard.

Maybe Dr Joy is right in saying that there are vegans who still see things through the carnist ideology?

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Updated: 23 July 2017 – Correct spelling mistakes and formatting

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This article was written by the founder of VeganPolice.com.au, Cameron Blewett.

Cameron is a long term vegan (25+yrs), and is passionate about veganism, and helping people to understand more about animal rights.

You can find Cameron’s other rants on his website, CameronBlewett.xyz

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2 Comments

  1. I think there will always be more support for the regulation of the exploitation of others, Cam. I’m not sure why that’s the case, but there’s support for the fact that some people may find it more important/fulfilling to celebrate what they perceive as “victories”, than to actually make a difference in the lives of other animals, or to work toward a future in which humans don’t exploit others.

    There seems to be a growing number of vegans in Australia whose goal is to silence those who understand that veganism is (it really is!) a social justice movement. They seem to be trying to bully other vegans into silence in similar ways that you mention in your essay.

    I find this bullying and oppression, and often patriarchy and sexism, from those who claim to be advocating against those exact things, to be a huge problem, and it offends me that we are expected to sit down, shut up and not mention what’s going on, because to do so would be “infighting” and what would happen if non-vegans were to see all this “infighting”? Asking questions and critiquing others is not infighting, rational discourse and civil dialogue are essential in any social justice movement!

    If vegans cannot critique each other and ask questions in order to work toward being the best advocates we can be, then this is not a social movement, and is little more than a group of people who are seeking a place to fit in. That’s not what other animals (or the human animal) need from those who claim to speak on their behalf, and it’s certainly not the best we can do!

  2. There is always going to be a struggle between the desire to stop these atrocities forever, and the compassion for what animals are going through at the moment. I think many will want to at least reduce suffering until that day. The long term problem we see then is that by trying to reduce suffering we may be only prolonging it. I did go along to one of the Animals Australia protests late last year when yet another live animal export issue came out, although I was somewhat sceptical. The final straw however came for me when the speakers proudly announced there was a person in the crowd representing the abbattoir workers in Australia, and I wondered what the point of it all was. Watching those people in the crowd I wondered how many would then go home to have their Saturday meat pie or their lamb roast. So I think you are quite correct in saying we still see this through a carnist ideology. We are all struggling to be free of the socila construct we have grown up in and continue to be bombarded with all day every day.


What are your thoughts?