Do Preachy Vegans Exploit Animals?

My short answer is yes.

There’s been a lot of back and forth on the vegan (or is it Vegan) position in many venues. In a recent article on elephant journal called “Vegans are Better Than Everybody” the author, as well as several commenters based positions on a number of erroneous assumptions and claims.

The author defends to some extent the preachyness of some vegans with:

“They want everyone to feel what they feel.  They want all to be free!”

This is exactly the point. It is my choice to feel that or not. Evangelicals want everyone to feel what they feel too.

There is no guarantee that I would indeed feel exactly the same thing in exactly the same way. We each have our own individual ways of dealing with emotions and life situations.

A comment followed:

“There’s only a problem with vegans being judgmental if they’re right. If a vegan makes you feel insecure, that’s about your own insecurities, not an evil vegan conspiracy. ”

One can be secure and annoyed at the same time. If one half of a conversation consists of berating the other person it’s fairly unpleasant to be that other person. I simply avoid most vegans just as I avoid many PETA supporters. Doesn’t mean I hate or demean animals. Usually the animals have less to do with the situation than the self-glorification of the preacher. Am just not into feeding that kind of exploitation, Yes I do mean animals being exploited existentially by animal rights activists in an individual or collective ego trip. That’s when it gets annoying.

Here is an example of that annoying tone which I was referring to:

I agree that we tend to get a bad rap about being ‘self-righteous’, though I think the root of that lies within the the critics, who know why we live like we do, and really just don’t have enough compassion to decide upon that lifestyle.

Judgmental and condescending. Did I mention annoying?

The author herself states:

A lot of times, vegans or vegetarians are interpreted as being “Self Righteous” or “holier than thou”.  This is very untrue in most cases.  If a person is a vegan for ethical reasons, then being vegan is actually a very SELF LESS action! It isn’t about you at all.  Deciding to change your life to a vegan lifestyle is a big decision.  Once one makes the choice to  save the lives of animals, everything is turned upside down!  

Being vegan means that you are looking for the truth.  Trying to make the connections that relate to life, compassion, all beings, etc. Sometimes, uncovering the truth of the matter can be difficult and unsettling.  It can also be very freeing once you realize you have the power to change the world!

So it does often come down to sensations of personal power and living with the contradictions of “It isn’t about you at all.” and “you have the power to change the world!” Is that a contradiction or hypocrisy?

In the last post I mentioned the prosthelytizer who wishes to convert others in order to bolster the validation of their own belief system. That is exactly what is occurring in the above two comments.

The author then carries on to describe The Martyrdom of the Vegans:

Giving up eating meat can be difficult for some and giving up cheese can be even more difficult for others!  I mean, seriously, who wants to pass on a hot, cheesy slice of pizza?  It’s hard.

A vegan lifestyle can be tough sometimes too…You have to read labels on EVERYTHING in order to make a conscious decision on what to buy and to ensure that there has been no cruelty involved in what you use or eat!

Well that must be a real torment.

This sort of lifestyle identity politics can be seen in all kinds of groups such as environmental, cultural, social and other instances. It’s not about the causes, it’s about the appearance of doing GOOD. And therefore being a GOOD person.

And GOOD people are usually right and much more pure than the rest of us ignorant, unwashed or is that unbaptized, un-sacrosanct, un-holy members of the masses. These notions of purity have huge input from a dominant cultures religious values.

Food is a holy thing in many cultures. It is prayed over, mixed according to religious dictates (halal, kosher), denied for various reasons (fasting), used as offerings (Hinduism) and symbols (communion) of the divine and so forth. The consecration of food is a millennia old practice all over the world.

Food is also a dirty thing. Mainly because it is so intimately tied to shit.  Food becomes shit. We all know that but don’t like to think about it.

Every culture has some kind of taboo regarding food. Some don’t take pork, shellfish or beef. Other’s don’t take certain foods during certain seasons. The reasons for these taboos are diverse. In many cases they are ideological justifications for actual health hazards bourne by certain food types. Example-improperly cooked pork can harbor trichinosis. In other cases it has to do with the vibrations, powers, attributes of the food. Example-snake blood is thought to increase male generative powers. The latter cases relate to beliefs about food rather than the verifiable effects of food itself.

Meat is  dirty thing, not only because of the means to obtain it, even hunting is messy, but also because of the potential for disease that is bourne by meat. (example- e-coli) And increasingly, with factory meat production, the conditions in which animals are kept could at the very least be deemed dirty.

The factory farming of meat,  and animal rights prosthelytizing, whether by vegans or PETA, all within the same culture, have similar roots.

These roots relate to the concept of dominion over the natural world, including animals.

Dominion comes from the same root word as dominance. Dominance over nature is explicitly outlined in the Christian bible. I am referring to Genesis chapter 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

The meat industry is openly exercising it’s sense of cultural “entitlement” in the activity of meat production.

Prosthelytizing vegans as well as other animal rights advocates, including organizations like PETA are  similarly exercising this sense of “entitlement” although it is on a rather covert level. Those who presume to “speak for” animals also presume to have a sense of ownership and dominion over those animals.

On that point I don’t disagree. Animals cannot raise funds for television commercials or design web pages to outline their plight. And concern for the natural world is necessarily a concern for the survival of the human species as well. And vice versa. Interdependence and all that.

The point of disagreement comes when this notion of dominion, entitlement and ownership spills over to other’s spaces of consciousness in an aggressive and judgmental way.

It is one thing to inform people about situations of which they may not have knowledge. Health benefits, cruel methods of animal production, the ecological inadvisability of factory farming and so forth are all well documented. To advise people of this is educational.

On the other hand to berate people as lacking in compassion, avoiding the truth, lacking in accountability, ignorant of the issues, being in denial, selfish, not serious, unBuddhist, hypocrites, full of shit, cowardly for not engaging the particular issue in a particular way, propagating evil karma, unethical while simultaneously puffing up one’s ego by attempting to demonstrate one’s food choices are somehow the opposite of all this emotional moralizing does a disservice.

Animals and the planet are in peril because of human activity. That is scientific fact.

Using animal and planetary issues to attempt to gain moral dominion over other human beings to satisfy some egoic projection of self is more exploitative and immoral than those who shoot the nails into the cow’s heads.  At least the workers on the slaughter line are aware of what they are doing and why they are doing what they are doing. It comes down to the paycheck and supporting their families.

Conflating environmental issues with moral issues is a categorical error.  It is not a mindful approach but a mindless spewing of self-congratulations at the expense of others including the animals that it purports to care so much about.

10 comments on “Do Preachy Vegans Exploit Animals?

  1. Ah, that was fun. I just left a little zinger of a comment over at the Elephant post.

  2. Using animal and planetary issues to attempt to gain moral dominion over other human beings to satisfy some egoic projection of self is more exploitative and immoral than those who shoot the nails into the cow’s heads. At least the workers on the slaughter line are aware of what they are doing and why they are doing what they are doing. It comes down to the paycheck and supporting their families.

    Wow, really? Where do you draw the line on that? If I sell children into sexual slavery, but am fully conscious of what I’m doing, and I’m doing it to support my family, I’m better than someone who denounces me to make themselves feel better?

    I have to say, I have a real hard time seeing the attempt to gain “moral dominion” over others as anyway near this. If nothing else, “moral dominion” is a construct that necessitates my consent: I must agree that you have moral authority/wisdom/insight and agree to listen to you. If I remove my consent, and dismiss you as just another buzzing gnat with an agenda who’s not worth my time, then all your attempts at “moral dominion” go poof.

    In contrast, using physical force necessitates making consent irrelevant. The fact that I will do what I want whether or not you agree, consent, give permission, or whatever, moves it into a different category. On one hand, we have “being an overbearing jerk,” and on the other, “being a rapist/murderer.” This is not to say that PETA’s many questionable media tactics are effective, or that preaching down to others is nice, compassionate, or kind. But if you want to talk about category errors, I think confusing speech with assault is a good place to start.

    • Sexual slavery, selling of other human beings etc. is illegal and socially unacceptable in most human society. Eating meat is not. Completely different scales.

      Exaggeration using unrelated topics and generalizing reasons in one circumstance to another cloud the actual issues.

      Attempts to gain moral superiority is in the mind of the person making the attempt so permission is irrelevant.

      I don’t know what the introduction of the idea of physical force has to do with anything. I have said absolutely nothing about such coercion.

  3. Oh, you read it too?

    I salute your courage. I’m too much of a coward these days to tangle with vegans, born-again Christians, or Republicans. I still have some hopes about Trotskyites. Funnily enough, I wrote my piece on food taboos the day before that article you’re citing came out. Something in the air, perhaps. Or is it that Eat, Drink, Fuck thing everyone’s talking about?

    • I wanted to be a whole lot more blunt than I was. I’m starting to get tired of curbing my enthusiasm. My issue in this case isn’t with that book. I’ve pretty much given up on elephant journal, it’s editor, most of it’s writers and readers completely. They’re pushing all this faux mindfulness crap, feel-good green-washed consumerism and Internet marketing scams on the same page elephant.club100k.com for example. It’s chaos. The few thoughtful writers are drowned out by Secret-pushing, rationalizing airheads. This article is one of hundreds like that.They have no agenda except popularity and Waylon’s ego wank (right now his name appears 19 times on the front page).

      The irritation factor has just become way too high. Am starting to feel that about blogs in general including this one. Once I clear out the draft posts I’ll make a decision what to do with it. There’s a whole lot more to be said but maybe later.

      • I would be bummed if you stopped blogging, although I can relate to that feeling of frustration – I’ve gotten it, eventually, in every net.community I’ve participated. And I’ve gotten really tired of getting into pointless scraps. I think a part of the problem is the medium – the Web teaches us to scan, not read, which makes it very frustrating to try to express any thought that can’t be communicated by scanning, because most of the people reading it will misunderstand it. It’s worse when I notice that I’m doing it too.

        I do think blogging is a valid form of expression. It’s just a constant battle against ever more insidious ways it tries to turn itself into an ego trip of one kind or the other. The funny thing is, I’m starting to find precisely that aspect of it interesting – i.e., trying to notice the various ways the need for social approval, domination, aggression or other primate instincts pop up. There’s a definite practice aspect about it, in trying to figure out motivations and recognize the emotional affects, reactions, and impulses involved.

  4. Someone wrote this about the difficulties of shopping for a vegan diet “A vegan lifestyle can be tough sometimes too…You have to read labels on EVERYTHING in order to make a conscious decision on what to buy…”

    Know what? That kind of difficult lifestyle is lived, day in and day out, by persons who have diabetes mellitus. One of my relatives had Type 1 diabetes for 45 years and others in my family had Type 2.

    Here is what my relative who had Type 1 for 45 years had to do.

    Read the labels to check carbohydrate content and saturated fat content.

    Had to be very sure to test soda to make sure it was indeed sugar free because with the best intention in the world, a wait person may make a mistake and bring soda with sugar in it and that can totally mess up blood sugar levels–dead serious if one lives with Type 1.

    A person with Type 1 diabetes has to exactly match carb intake to insulin injections and if there is an error, one either gets high blood sugar or (much more dangerous) low blood sugar and this can lead to confusion, anger, and in some cases, accidents if one is operating a car.

    Diabetics today, if they are lucky and have money, and good health coverage, must test blood sugar levels at least 4 times a day with finger pricks and use a machine called a glucometer to read blood sugar levels. The cost of the test strips for a glucometer runs high if you are conscientious.

    If you are pregnant you have to test even more often per day.

    If your blood sugar levels run chronically high, you risk complications such as painless heart attacks, blindness, neurological troubles that can affect every part of ones body, early kidney failure, etc.

    My uncle and many many diabetics have to shop and read labels and quiz restaurant owners and wait persons and friends about food ingredients.

    And they have to live an existence of mindful and wise alertness that means a constant, intelligent guerillia war against the myriad temptations and kleshas stirred up by American food advertisements and food porno that focuses on fat and sweets.

    All that and a wise diabetic must take care to exercise regularly each day, and combat the sedentary trend of American culture.

    And on top of that, unlike vegans, diabetics in America have to deal with a health care system that pays more to treat complications than to pay for prevention.

    Zillions of diabetics live this mindful, label reading routine each and every minute of the day–and they do not bitch about it. They just do it.

    The only complaints are those made to state and congressional representatives to pressure them to make necessary changes in health care policy and funding.

    Diabetics do not consider themselves more moral and more pure than anyone else.

    When they make attempts at education it is for self care, or to try and get word to younger, healthy persons who may be at risk so they can get tested and live in ways that prevent or delay becoming diabetic.

    And, here is a wee bit of information.

    We have bacteria in our guts.

    Without fermentation, some foods cannot be fully assimilated for vitamins and minerals. Fermentation actually neutralizes phytate/phytic acid in grains and seed husks and makes minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc more assimilable by the human body.

    Finally, some of us, with the best will in the world cannot benefit from omega-3 fats from plant sources, we must get them directly from
    marine sources, because some of us inherit low levels of conversion enzymes such as delta 6 desaturase, needed to convert plant omega 3s from flax to biologically active forms of omega-3s.

    No amount of vegan ideology can change that.

    Final note to those who want to eat vegan and be strict about it:

    Be aware that Biodynamic and organic are not synonymous.

    Biodynamic argriculture is based on a method of farming derived from Anthroposophy and Rudolf Steiner and it utilizes extracts obtained from animal parts.

    Read your menus, even at purportedly vegan restaurants carefully and note to see if ‘Biodynamic’ is mentioned anywhere. Then get out your hand held device and run a search on google using ‘biodynamic’
    ‘cow horn’ bd*500 bd*500 and see what you get. Then interrogate the restaurant manager. For below are some interesting search results.

    For there are a few vegan restaurants that reportedly have ‘biodynamic’ wines on the menu.

    (the asterisk is a wildcard search term and stands for any character whether an empty space or a dash)

    Here are some results from a search
    —————————————-
    Atlantis, Ireland, the Brain and Horn ManureFor the beginner in biodynamics the BD Field Spray can achieve similiar results.
    … Specifically, horn manure (Biodynamic Prep 500) is made by packing a cow …
    Thus we create a thought organ in horn manure to capture the secrets of …
    http://www.rotheraine.com/bd500.html – 22k – Cached – Similar pages

    Biodynamic Farming & Compost PreparationJun 23, 2010 … The original biodynamic (BD) preparations are numbered 500-508. The BD 500
    preparation (horn-manure) is made from cow manure (fermented in a …
    http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/biodynamic.html – 93k – Cached – Similar pages

    Biodynamic AgricultureBD500 Horn Humus (Earth) is the result of cow manure fermented in a cow horn …
    cow’s mesentery- the membrane which surrounds the animal’s internal organs. …
    http://www.progressearth.com/index.php/perspectives/biodynamic_agriculture – 18k – Cached – Similar pages

    Biodynamic Association of IndiaAnd of course, there’s the cow, integral to the farm and revered as such. …
    Steiner called the soil an organ of the agricultural body. … In this
    fascinating procedure, the dung of a lactating cow is stuffed into the hollow of
    cow horns, … Biodynamic activities such as the preparation of BD 500 and CPP
    manure …
    http://www.biodynamics.in/CuppaKarma.htm – 24k – Cached – Similar pages

    SUCCESS STORY OF ORGANIC FARMING AT FARMERS FIELDSVermi, Biodynamic Compost (BD) or Microbe Mediated Compost (MM compost) in
    descending moon period. • Spraying of cow horn manure (BD 500) before …
    http://km.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/fsn/docs/SuccessStory_CommunityForestry.pdf – – Cached – Similar pages

    —————————————-

    http://www.google.com/search?q=biodynamic+bd-500+cow+horn+organs&hl=en&source=hp&ie=ISO-8859-1&btnG=Search

  5. Nella, thanks for bringing this up.

    I have been on the receiving end of what I call ‘moral bullying’ and it may be equivalent to what you term ‘moral domination.’

    When perpetrated really skillfully and for long periods, moral bullying can administer a massive and damaging massive skull fuck to the victim. (pardon my french)

    I have therapy bills to prove it, as in my more vulnerable younger years I crossed paths with a couple of perps who specialized in this crap. I was not alone because I later met others who had been their targets and whose reported experiences matched my own.

    As for Elephant,

    I went to re-read some of my favorite old articles on Elephant and was shocked at the amount of New Wage billboarding.

    If you want some comic relief, here is a a link to one man’s riff
    on The Secret, entitled How the Secret Saved My Life!

    It was originally published as a book review on Amazon and it was taken down but fortunately, had been found, howled over and replicated on other, much more appreciative venues.

    Here it is. (If anyone is easily offended, skip it–this is crude)

    http://www.tifr.us/tifr/2009/10/28/the-secret-saved-my-life-amazon-book-review.html

    and if anyone does not know what Pruno is, here is a recipe.

    http://blacktable.com/gillin030901.htm

  6. Great article! As a vegan it pisses me off to end to have to actively tell peole when the topic of being vegan comes up…yes, I’m vegan…no, I’m not going to shout meat is murder at you. It may be important to note that I’m a vegan in the sense that I don’t eat animals, their offspring or their lactate, but not in the sense that I don’t wear leather.

    I too felt compelled to leave a comment on the elephant website.

  7. Dear wry2010, thanks for that.

    Its only persons with bad manners who tend to get referred to on blogs or get into the public eye.

    People who simply walk the walk are not the ones who attract stereotyping.

    PS Am not kidding about some purportedly vegan restaurants that feel free to have biodynamically produced wines on the menu.

    Interested and concerned persons who eat by vegan guidelines can read this about biodynamics. It is not just a particular sort of organic farming–it does use animal products and is tied to a very idiosyncratic belief system.

    How to prepare BD 500 which is used in Biodynamics, including Biodynamically produced wines.

    “Known as cow horn manure, preparation 500 is basically fermented cow dung. It is the basis for soil fertility, and the renewal of degraded soils. It is usually the first preparation used during the change over to the organic/biodynamic system.

    Preparation 500 is made by filling a cow’s horn with cow dung, and burying it in the soil during the cooler months – November through February.

    The cow horns usually come from a slaughter house where the buyer has to compete with the artisans who use cow horns for various crafts. The price has risen since the horns are known to have a value in agriculture”

    and

    “It is sprayed up to four times a year. The best times are in October and November and then again in February and March. It is important to apply in the late afternoon.

    It is used in small quanitities at the rate of 25 grams in 13 litres of water per acre.

    It is stirred for one hour making a vortex or crater in one direction and then reversing the direction and making a vortex in the other direction.

    The stirred preparation can then be sprinkled with a whisk brush over the land.

    On larger areas a larger volume of liquid can be stirred in a 200 litre drum with a tripod supporting a stirring rod or with a Virbela flow form cascade mixing up to 500 litres and applied with a spray nozzle.

    Preparation 500 is sprayed at the descending phase of the moon.”
    http://www.biodynamics.in/BD500.htm

    %A P. Kristiansen %A A. Smithson %A A. Monk %A J. Henryks %T …Steiner advocated an agriculture informed by anthroposophy, and that the ideas
    he expounded ….. Soil fertility was also maintained by the use of animals. …
    http://orgprints.org/cgi/exportview%3Fformat%3DRefer%26view%3Dsubjects%26values%3Dcountries-au – 39k – Cached – Similar pages

    http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:tX5DH_IvqBgJ:http://www.kheper.net/topics/Anthroposophy/Lemurian.html+anthroposophy+human+evolution+animals+soul*forces&hl=en&ct=clnk

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