Social Justice or Social Acceptance

It wasn’t that long ago that veganism/animal rights was thought of as an important social justice issue[1]. The Vegan Society of NSW went so far as to say, The production and consumption of animal products causes many social justice issues[2].

That was then, and this is now.

Today it seems that the most important thing these days to the modern vegan activist is to be accepted by the wider community.

Social justice movements of the past haven’t had to change their message to make it more palatable and accepted. If they did, it would be seen as doing a disservice to those who they are supposed to be advocating for.

Take for example, the human rights issues of the detention of refugees/asylum seekers.
I am yet to see or hear one of those advocates say that it is acceptable to confine these human animals in bigger prison cells (cages) or even move to dorm style accommodation (free range).
Their message is clear.
These individuals shouldn’t be there in the first place, and any period of incarceration is totally unacceptable.

What makes our message that the confinement of non-human animals in bigger cages or free range is unacceptable any different to that above?

Are these individuals, who’s only crime is that they were born into oppression, not worthy of us doing all that we legally can to ensue their liberation[3] from The System?

Take the recent Ban Live Export campaign here in Australia, which I wrote about in Yay!, Let’s Have Another Protest, they were organised by a prominent self described animal protection organisation[4]. Yet the whole focus of the protest was to have these non-human animals killed here and not overseas, because supposedly the way that we kill non-human animals here is something worth boasting about.

How did we allow our position to become so watered down and confused that most vegans now campaign for ‘accepted’ forms of animal use, as opposed to no animal (ab)use at all?

This is further compounded by the apparent interchangeability of the terms animal welfare and animal rights. Such as this from AgForce General President, Brent Finlay who has criticised “animal rights groups for destructive lobbying against live export” and goes on to mention animal welfare[5].

Today, we see The Greens’ Animal Welfare spokesperson, Sen. Lee Rhiannon, talking up the report by WSPA[6] that promotes the economic benefits of increasing the domestic slaughter capabilities in Northern Australia. Yet there isn’t one mention of the ‘benefits’ to the animals by being killed here, as opposed to overseas in the release by Sen Rhiannon[7].

Organisations are aligning themselves with other organisations who’s goals are contradictory. All in the attempt to become more socially acceptable.
It is getting to the point in Australia where the actions of individuals/groups cannot be questioned, and everything they say is taken as gospel.
Those who do find the courage to speak up are quickly labeled as trouble makers, or being divisive.
This in turn cause those who do agree with what has been said to keep quiet because they don’t want to get involved in whatever discussion ensues. Further reinforcing the misconception that person X is being divisive.

Heading over to that great social indicator, Facebook, how many groups actually do encourage the discussion of ideas, theories, articles, etc? I’d be willing to say that you could probably count them on one hand.
Most of the Facebook groups become a place for sharing recipes, warm and fuzzy images, and social get togethers. With any actual discussion of the issues that are pertinent to veganism/animal rights being heavily moderated or stifled.
Those groups that actually do allow ‘discussions’ are that heavily entrenched with the belief that whatever fashionable guru going around at the time has the one and only true vegan message, thereby expecting all participants to follow it unquestionably.

Remember the quote from Buddha, Believe nothing merely because you have been told it. Do not believe what your teacher tells you merely out of respect for the teacher.

I understand that what we do and our desire for social approval is based to some extent on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs[8], though are you really satisfying that need if you have joined a group just because everyone else is doing it?

If veganism and Animal Rights, truly are important social justice issues then we, the vegan/AR activist, should no longer stand idly by whilst the issue of animal rights is subjugated by those with vested interests.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Derek Silvers’ TED Talks 2010 appearance “How To Start A Movement” When you find a lone nut doing something great, have the guts to be the first one to stand up and join in[9]

1: The Thinking Vegan » Veganism is a social justice movement
Retrieved 09 Oct 2012

2: Veganism and Social Justice
Retrieved 09 Oct 2012

3: Merriam-Webster
Liberation: a movement seeking equal rights and status for a group
Retrieved 09 Oct 2012

4: About Us // Animals Australia

5: AgForce calls for live export support
Retrieved 08 Oct 2012

6:WSPA’s latest report: An economic analysis of live cattle exports
Retrieved 10 Oct 2012

7: Greens back new live export report: economic gains from domestic processing
Retrieved 10 Oct 2012

8: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Retrieved 10 Oct 2012

9: Derek Sivers: How to start a movement

4 thoughts on “Social Justice or Social Acceptance”

  1. I agree. If what one wants is an end to all animal slaughter, torture and exploitation then surely one should say so. To me it seems counterproductive not to clearly state this, as it seems it has been decided that the goal is unachievable, that we are defeated before we even begin. I think that it is the job of animal activists to make our REAL goal heard, as this is the only way that it will ever start to be accepted, rather than diluting it to something that is more “socially acceptable”.

    Let’s get society thinking about and talking about whether it is ok for human to use animals for their own purposes, rather than distracting and confusing them with smaller sub- issues or absurd oxymorons like “humane slaughter”. After all, most people in Australia probably do care about animal suffering, but see it a a necessary evil. So why not tell them the simple truth: Humans don’t need to use animals, we can stop doing it. So let’s stop.

  2. I have felt torn about these issues for a long time. I went to the last BLE rally in Sydney (for harm minimisation reasons) & then it hit me like a tonne of bricks – here I was, an abolitionist (little a), & I was supporting a cause that was asking for animals to be slaughtered. The geography was the only thing in question. They were still asking for them to be slaughtered. I made the decision right then & there that I won’t ask for or support incremental changes. I will only ask for the end of all ab/use of animals. The animals want out of the cages not bigger ones (always a helpful analogy).

    I was with a group of vegans recently talking about how to promote veganism & one of them said we should change the word to plant based diet so we don’t put anyone off. Really? So having a ‘plant based diet’ helps the animals in labs & circuses etc? I love the word vegan, I wear it proudly, I want nothing less than a vegan world & I won’t fight for anything less & I won’t settle.


What are your thoughts?