Keep Stepping

According to Martin Luther King, Jr. (in The Letter from Birmingham Jail) there are four steps of nonviolent activism:

“In any nonviolent campaign, there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustice exists; negotiations; self-purification; and direct action.”

I think some vegans are just a little too caught up on step three and not concerned enough with step four.

Or, as Erik Marcus wrote:

“just twenty minutes devoted to [vegan] leafletting outweighs the effects of a lifetime of eating at questionably vegan restaurants.”

9 Responses to Keep Stepping

  1. I think step 3 is equally important.

    We often spread our beliefs and lifestyle through our dedication and consistent action in our own lifestyle NOT necessarily just through direct action. It is with consistency in value and action that others look to as example. IE when my family and friends see me in restaurants consistently eating healthy vegan food and they see me as very healthy, they will try the dishes I eat as well. If I were to claim being vegan, and eat occasional rice with chicken bits in it, my friends , family etc would immediately see the hypocracy. The vegan message must come from a strict vegan, else the vegan word and lifestyle becomes watered down and unlivable.

    In the case of the restaurant investigations, we must insure that the food we buy IS vegan, else next time the makers, processors, distributors could allow ( accidental or intentional ) other products, fillers, flavors to enter the food because those involved might think those vegans do not know or care whats in their food so it won’t hurt or bother them. Which is plain wrong and potentially dangerous if someone is allergic to a food source.

    Also if we are not careful whats in our foods, vegan logo/certification means nothing. We should police our own food makers.

  2. Hi Ed,
    I agree that it’s important to know what’s in our food. And I agree that companies that lie or make frequent accidents should be held accountable.

    However, there is a BIG difference between visible chicken bits and animal ingredients that can only be detected by laboratory analysis.

  3. I absolutely agree with this blog post. In the long run, eating tiny bits of byproducts is a drop in the bucket compared to the real animals that are killed for food. Like you and Marcus both said, spending our time on productive activism is what’s really going to save animals, not our curiousity or ego-driven purification!

  4. Absolutely! Veganism isn’t about purity, it’s about collectively taking action to end animal exploitation.

    ~ Recent blog post: Falafel in Boston (Another reason never to leave Worcester) ~

  5. I’m not arguing about Activism. Activism is extremely important.

    Also I dont think this is about ego purification either. My overall commitment to animals is what is going to save them…and that also means supporting vegan restaurants that really know their products and clientelle. Although I would not have personally done the study, I welcome it. AND I am also the type of person who does things like question the oyster sauce and curries in restaurants because I know that some of them have fish paste in it. [ Many restaurants DO NOT make their own sauces ]

    My last rant ( and I agree I rant ) is that often ACTIVISM is also about recommending good vegan or raw restaurants to family, friends, coworkers etc because it introduces them to the fact that vegan food is delicious as well as ethical. Finding restaurants that totally resonate with our cause make them that more recommendable.

  6. The idea that we can be pure is absurd at best. How many animals die in the planting, harvesting, and transport of “vegan” foods, etc.? IMHO, we should consider the consequences of our actions, not whether they conform to some arbitrary “ideal.”

  7. Making it seem that vegans can only eat/shop at certain places only serves to turn people off from veganism. In fact, they often use it to justify eating MEAT. So I never purport things like that. I make the best of wherever I go. I don’t mind eating a plain salad or baked potato. However I also think things like saying you can’t have pasta and Italian bread in restaurants because it might not be vegan seriously turns people off. No one wants to have to ask if every little thing is vegan.

    I do want to be pure and I would sacrifice anything to avoid hurting animals, but you have to understand that the media and peer pressure trump that instinct for most people. The single best thing you can do for the movement is make it seem easy to be a part of, not make it seem morally superior. It IS morally superior and deep down everybody knows that, but it’s not stopping them from ignoring you.

  8. It doesn’t matter so much how we act as vegans when we go out – whether we “make the best” or if we’re uber “picky”. I really don’t think that matters much at all. Live the way you want – be 100% vegan 100% of the time or be 99.9% vegan. Be hardcore or softcore… who cares?

    I’m personally very annoyed by comments like Matt Ball’s:
    “For every person we convince that veganism is overly demanding by obsessing with an ever-increasing list of ingredients, we do worse than nothing: we turn someone away who could have made a real difference for animals if they hadn’t met us!”

    Purist vegans don’t do harm. They don’t do “worse than nothing.” That’s absurd! It’s ridiculous to claim they hurt animals.

    Meat-eaters use any excuse they can. So if they’ve been getting away with “It’s too hard to be vegan. Vegans are too hardcore!” they’ll keep getting away with that excuse for as long as vegans keep bashing each other for being too hardcore or not hardcore enough. LAME.

    What matters most isn’t HOW vegan WE are. What matters is WHAT WE DO FOR ANIMALS. Period.

    So, do lab tests to ensure vegan-ness. Or don’t. Whatever.
    Just don’t let that be an excuse not do something MORE practical to save animals’ lives.

    Leaflet, letter-write, liberate, and love.

  9. I think that Matt Ball’s suggestion that we avoid meat, milk and eggs and ask many others to do the same with well citationed booklets about what animals go through in those industries, rather than spend time worrying about incidental animal products, is sound advice. An hour or 2 of leafleting to young people will likely do more to spare animals suffering than every vegan food choice that we make for the rest of our lives.


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