Some people say that veganism is a boycott. They say the reason to be vegan is to lower the demand for animal products and thus encourage the producers of animal products either to:
- stop producing animal products cruelly or
- stop producing animal products.
Let’s look at these two types of vegans:
1. If you think that producing and consuming animal products is morally acceptable, then for you veganism is a boycott. Perhaps you’ve decided that veganism is a socially and environmentally responsible choice, but you don’t feel that animals have rights beyond “humane” treatment. To you, veganism is a choice, not a moral obligation.
You might abstain from consuming animal products for health or environmental reasons. Or maybe you care about animals: you’re vegan in order to send a message that animals deserve better treatment. You’ve taken a good, hard look at the problem of factory farming and after all your research, you’ve concluded that it’s better to abstain from all animal products rather than to increase the demand for “humane” animal products. You understand that most so-called “humane” animal products still aren’t humane enough to bear that title.
You’re smart. You know that there simply isn’t enough land to produce “humane” products for everyone. You understand that the only long-term scenario capable of guaranteeing humane animal products requires that either a) most humans are 100% vegan or b) 100% of humans are mostly vegan.
If/when factory farming stops, then you’ll stop being vegan. Or you might continue to be vegan, but you’ll stop encouraging other people to go vegan. For you, veganism is a boycott.
This is an acceptable choice. You’re smart and you know what you’re doing. Thank you for all you do.
2. If you think that producing and consuming animal products is not morally acceptable, then for you veganism is not a boycott. Perhaps you’ve decided that veganism is a socially and environmentally responsible choice, but because animals deserve basic freedoms, veganism is more than merely a choice, it’s a moral obligation.
You abstain from consuming animal products because animals are not products.
In exactly the same way that you wouldn’t eat your dog or suck your cat’s teets, you don’t eat pigs or suck cow’s teets. To you, the supply and demand rationale doesn’t matter because you’d be vegan even in a non-capitalist system. You’re vegan because animals are not food. You’re vegan because animals are not clothing. You’re vegan because animals are not products. It’s that simple.
Your veganism might send a message, but you’d be vegan even if no one heard your message. That’s because you’re not vegan merely in order to send a message; you’re vegan because it’s the right thing to be. If you want to send a message, you open your mouth. You realize that your everyday habits of avoiding animal products aren’t enough to make a real difference. You know how animal industries work. You know how sneaky they are. You know that for every college-age consumer they lose because the consumer goes vegan, they gain many more elementary-school-age consumers who have no choice but to eat the National Lunch Program’s offerings.
You’re smart. You know that in order to make a real difference, you have to do more. You know you have to get active.
If/when factory farming stops, you’ll still be vegan. You’ll still encourage other people to go vegan. For you, veganism is just the beginning.
This, also, is a perfectly acceptable choice. You’re smart and you know what you’re doing. Thank you for all you do.
So… which one are you? Are you vegan 1 or vegan 2?
Remember, there’s room for all of us. When it comes to how we view factory farming and when it comes to what we eat, we vegans, regardless of intent, are more alike than not.
This article was originally published in September 2009. It has been republished with minor edits in order to reach a new audience.