This will not be viewed favourably by some in the animal community but the issue needs to be addressed and addressed often. Some may or may not know about the upcoming event “Veganpalooza: 2013 Vegan World Summit” which will be held on August 15th – 18th. Apologies to any guest speakers at this event who have genuine intentions, but I often get the feeling these events (which are becoming more and more frequent) are more about promoting books, businesses, organisations, careers and individuals, than they are about bringing the public to (ethical) veganism.
I particularly feel this way when I read anthropocentric descriptions which are intended to reinforce the public’s self-interests or when I view the list of Veganpalooza guest speakers, many of which often speak at these type of events. I’m aware that many of these guest speakers conflate vegetarianism and veganism. Some even run down the promotion of ethical veganism claiming it’s “divisive”, “off-putting”, “extreme”, “daunting” “purist” and so on. Almost all of the guests rarely if ever speak about animal ethics (veganism) and in the rare times they do, it is speciesist. At least one of the Veganpalooza guest speakers I believe is not even vegan. I’m sure there are other guest speakers who are also not vegan. Sadly I do not even think the organisers recognise this event is inherently speciesist and actually harmful to the understanding of veganism and to the cause of ending animal slavery.
The event was originally titled “Veganpalooza: 2013 Vegetarian World Summit”. I complained on their Facebook page about the title of their event, that it was confusing and conflating vegetarianism with veganism. It took some months for organisers to change the title. I’m glad to see that “vegetarian” was removed from the title, but I note that many guest speakers often conflate the two terms so it won’t really matter that the event title was changed. To find out what is wrong with vegetarianism, please view this.
An excerpt from Veganpalooza’s description:
“It’s for you if you’re a vegetarian or flexitarian and are open to learning more about how you can increase your health and happiness, and reduce your environmental footprint. And it’s for you if you’re an omnivore and would like to find out how you can find greater inner peace, be a better lover, reduce your chances of cancer, stroke, and other diseases, and increase the joy and compassion in our world.”
Why must we always need to present veganism in anthropocentric terms like “increasing health and happiness” or “reducing our environmental footprint” or being a “better lover” and so forth? The reason for promoting the abolition of legal human slavery was not presented in terms of increasing joy and compassion or the health and happiness of the public. The reason we ended legal human slavery is because it is morally wrong to use humans as property. Just as it is morally wrong to use humans as property, it is equally morally wrong and unjust to use nonhuman animals as property.
To be clear, veganism is an ethical position, not a diet. In short, veganism is a unequivocal rejection of the use of animals for food, clothing, entertainment or other reasons. Isn’t the most obvious and *most important* reason to be vegan as recognition of the rights of other animals? Isn’t being vegan about justice and nonviolence? I would have thought so. I am often amazed at how we as a species manage to turn an issue that should so obviously be about the unimaginable injustice and violence perpetrated on the vulnerable (nonhumans) into speciesist, selfish concerns, making it all about us once again. Is it any wonder our selfishness and disconnection with others (both human and nonhuman) has lead us into the mess we are in today? The soft-sell tactic is widely used by large animal organisations because to confront the public about their own animal use through clear vegan education might negatively effect their donations from the non-vegan public.
As I mentioned, being vegan is first and foremost about justice and nonviolence. The ancillary benefits of being vegan are many e.g health, happiness, addressing climate change etc. The ancillary benefits are too many to list here. (Please view these two excellent essays 1, 2). Veganism is not about us, though we reap great benefits from being vegan as well. If we claim to want animal exploitation to end (if indeed that’s what we want), then it’s important to say this clearly and consistently. Presenting speciesist and selfish reasons to be vegan is not beneficial, in fact it is destructive. If we do not have a clear and ethical foundation for why we are vegan, we will stop being vegan the minute it becomes inconvenient. The most certain path to becoming an ex-vegan is to only be presented with a whole lot of speciesist, human-centric reasons to be vegan.
I feel these “vegan” and “animal rights” conferences/summits adulterate veganism. They turn veganism into a new age “feel good” franchise. They confuse the public and reinforce speciesism, particularly when animal welfare is presented as morally consistent with vegan ideals. These events are for most, events for career-building, book selling, for promotion of celebrity, businesses and organisations. Nonhuman animals deserve so much better than how we currently misrepresent this most important social justice issue. Nothing good can come of this. Nothing short of a clear vegan message is morally acceptable.
To be frank, and I’m sorry, but these types of confused events repulse me. Although they might on the surface seem well-intended, they are more often than not just another promotional event using animals to sell their wares and careers. It’s very sad indeed and so very wrong.
Here’s a thought. How about a *vegan* event that’s all about what it’s really about, and that is nonviolence and ending the greatest injustice in the planet’s history — animal slavery — through educating the public to be *ethical* vegans. As it should be.
If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Being vegan is easier than you think. Here’s a link to some good resources