The animal rights and environmental movements…at their core, question what it means to be a human being.” –Will Potter
In July of 2001 I adopted a vegan diet. Prior to this I had not given much thought to the suffering and exploitation of the billions of nonhuman animals who are raised and killed for food. Oddly enough, years of seeing flesh on a plate rarely, if ever, gave rise to thoughts of slaughter. But when the details on the process where filled in, the argument for veganism was straightforward. Only profound intellectual dishonesty could have prevented a change in diet.
Perhaps it was due to the fact that I was at the point in my life where I was just beginning to take responsibility for my own food choices or perhaps it was because I was motivated by a strong moral conviction but even at the outset veganism did not seem burdensome or even to require much discipline.
Over ten years later the scope of what animal liberation requires—what it would mean to genuinely respect animals—seems so vast that I cannot see its outer edges. I clearly have to learn more than how to read ingredients on the back of packaged products and where to buy shoes.
In 2001 and for many years thereafter, I assumed that eating beans instead of beef, selecting soy milk instead of cow’s milk, and maintaining a thoroughly vegan diet was sufficient. This is mainstream veganism. Its promoters declare victory when a new fast food menu item becomes available. So I made the prescribed consumer choices and avoided animal ingredients from A to Z but the rest of my life remained largely unaffected.
I now believe that wholesale societal changes are urgently needed. A culture that respects animals recognizes them as our relations and, at times, allows them to be our teachers. A culture that genuinely respected animals would likely not erect glass skyscrapers, lay down an interstate highway system, build enormous dams, clearcut forests, or level mountains to extract a seam of coal. That we are so often surprised to learn how these activities harm animals—including ourselves—is a testament to how little consideration we give to the wellbeing of our animal relations.
The harm to animals need not be as direct, vivid, and blunt as what is found in slaughterhouses and laboratories. The industrial infrastructure that makes the conventional Western lifestyle possible cannot persist if animal liberation is to be realized. The two things are simply incompatible. Exploring this tension will be the future subject matter of this blog.
Finally, as this is my first post, I feel compelled to say that I am not authoring this blog as an expert of any kind. As mentioned above, I have much to learn; often I feel I am struggling to learn things as an adult that I would have mastered as a child if raised in a more compassionate and attentive culture. Instead, I am motivated by the opportunity to document and clarify my thoughts and to get feedback from others who may find themselves similarly situated at the intersection of animal liberation and anti-civilization philosophy.