Who is a vegan? Who dictates what veganism is? For me, veganism is all about being just and valuing life. Yes, animal life is important. But the whole of life (including humans) is more important than only one of its parts. Life must be in balance, and human behavior is threatening it.
Currently, veganism is in my opinion too focused on avoiding, at all costs, direct action unto animals (by direct I mean hurting animals because of one’s demand for a certain product). Hence, vegans comfort themselves when buying vegan products. I just want to ask why I as a vegan should strive to be comfortable with only consuming vegan products. Vegans, leaving behind all the debate around the ethics on the consumption of animal products, at their core fight against the cruelty of the industry against the animals. Vegans fight for everyone’s right to life.
The question is if consuming only vegan products will lead to progress in what I am fighting for: returning justice to all animals, including humans. Now, let’s return to my decision to buy leather shoes. Buying leather immediately connects me with the death of a cow, I admit it. But there are more variables behind. I have two choices, leather or normal shoes. To simplify things, leather will probably last me for five years and -assuming that I buy one pair of shoes per year- I will consume five times less. This has huge implications, for humans, for the environment, and for animals. If I buy vegan Nike shoes, am I more vegan than if buy leather shoes? Probably not. Many fashion multinationals have been linked with sweatshops (Google this if you don’t know what Im referring to) that have unacceptable working conditions, and poor environmental regulations. Guess what? Contaminant waste from the production of clothes and shoes mostly end up in oceans and rivers, significantly damaging marine ecosystems. In fact, not just clothes but, almost all of what we buy contaminates our seas and causing mass extinction in unimaginable ways.
My choice now is to either: take part in the murder of one cow for my shoes, or support the fashion industry which is responsible for causing major environmental damage, killing thousands of animals and enslaving humans. Yes, humans should not be left out of the equation. I choose the leather shoes, because they represent a greater good. I strongly disagree with the values that Tom Regan, a known animals’ rights activist, promotes. “If it were a retarded baby and a bright dog, I’d save the dog”, he has said. When I want to dedicate my entire life to save humans from the stupidity and destruction of this system, how could I not disagree? How could I not disagree if many vegans would prefer throwing away animal products instead of thinking about feeding the poor?
For me, veganism needs a very strong reform. It needs a serious transition from mostly being a diet that prevents direct animal deaths, to an ideology that seeks for life to thrive. It needs a transition from it only being a consumption choice, to a life style that seeks to live in harmony with earth and avoid irresponsible consumption (overconsumption and consumption of products that are not fair for all life even if these are “vegan”). If I buy five pairs of vegan shoes per year, can I still be called a vegan, knowing that all the environmental damage I am promoting will kill more animals than I can imagine? Veganism needs to get out of the cage of our traditional definitions. Traditional veganism mostly advocates for personal immediate comfort (I buy vegan stuff, so I can feel good with myself now), though vegans should really be aiming to respect all life and as many living organisms as they can even if it means sacrificing their own comfort. It should be a life style that puts justice and life at the top.
Written by: Jose Morales
Edited by: Sofia Arthurs-Schoppe