Thursday, April 3, 2008

Vegan interactions

I have a couple of coworkers who like to tease me about being vegan. This is something that bothers a lot of vegans, sometimes to the point of not wanting to even befriend omnivores at all. But it doesn't bother me one bit, and not only because I get to zing them back about being animal exploiters.

See, veganism isn't a boycott, it's a protest. My role as a vegan in an omnivorous world is to stand in for those beings that don't have a voice: the animals people use and consume. So every time they make a joke about me not being able to eat whatever animal-based food is served at whatever function we're attending, I know that I am forcing them to realize that they are eating animals, and not just anonymous "meat." No omnivore can have a meal around a vegan, or a conversation regarding food with a vegan, and not have that moment of cognitive dissonance in their minds.

Humor is a defense mechanism, and I'm glad they turn to it. It means my veganism is working.

I am also heartened by a very brief conversation I had with one of those coworkers shortly after we met. She may not even remember it. She asked me if I consider my pets to be my property. Of course I said I didn't. Then she said that she hates it when people treat their animals as property. This encourages me because I know the seed is already planted. I am a vegan not because of the tremendous suffering inflicted on animals, though that would be reason enough, but because I simply do not think animals are our property to use as we see fit. My coworker agrees, she just hasn't taken the step that extends that belief to animals other than pets. The seed is already planted.

And that is what veganism is about. The abolition of animal exploitation cannot happen overnight, if it ever does. My abstaining from participation in that exploitation doesn't really do anything to prevent it directly. But the seeds are being planted every time a meal is had and a joke is told, and with time, the culture will change. What was accepted yesterday is abhorred tomorrow. That's how it goes.


  1. This is such a lovely summary of my own thoughts on the matter. Thanks for this - now I can just link to it when I want someone to understand the protest!

  2. Im honestly confused over your logic. It's not okay to treat animals as property, but natural resources like plants and vegetation as ?

  3. I am making a moral distinction between "beings" and "things." Animals, having sentience and interests of their own independent of human interests, are beings and have a right to not be used as means to an end (in other words, a right to not be considered "property.")

    Other natural resources, including plants, are not sentient and have no interests to consider in that sort of moral sense. There are plenty of reasons not to consider natural resources as property in the sense of "something that can be exploited and used however we want," but those reasons aren't the same moral reasons that hold for animals.