Vegan Is…

Animal Liberation = Earth Liberation = Human Liberation

The word “vegan” (/ˈviːɡən/) was invented in 1944, by Elsie Shrigley and Donald Watson, who founded the UK Vegan Society. The British Vegan Society defines veganism this way:

The word veganism denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practical — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.

Anyone who is involved with Animal Liberation or Animal Rights Activism today can see how since 1944, the word has been twisted and pulled in all directions, and in some instances, ignored all together, an exception here, an exception there.

However, the UK Vegan Society founders invented the word, if this is their definition, then this is what VEGAN means. If someone chooses to live differently to this, perhaps they should invent their own word, and start their own movement.

This definition has 3 parts:
: the first part describes what it excludes, all forms of exploitation, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.

ALL animals: it does not say mammals, it does not say except fish, nor except invertebrates … it says all animals. And, there are also no exceptions for Bees. Bees are animals, honey is not a matter for debate. Honey does not come from plants, any more than milk comes from grass or grains or the rendered bodies of their fallen comrades. It is not possible to use an animal for any purpose without exploiting it. Just as it is exploitation of people to use them without the consent or paying a wage (we call that slavery), since animals cannot give consent, even if we think they are happy, all animal use is exploitation.

for ANY purpose or reason: eating animals because someone thinks animal corpses taste good is not a reason for cruelty and exploitation; wearing animals as clothes or jewellery is not reason for cruelty and exploitation; torturing them in labs for profit is sadistic and gives inaccurate results and is not a reason; using animals for sport by forcing them to race or fight is not a reason; entertainment in TV shows, circuses and rodeos shows our lack of creativity and is not a reason; crush films are not a reason; hunting for sport is not a reason, and it is not a sport, unless both sides are armed; canned hunts are not a reason either regardless of how much money someone spends, and not very sporting; skinning animals alive and turning their bodies into floor cleaner and mascara is not a reason; slicing a rhino or elephants face off and letting it die for horn or ivory as a sex powder is not a reason, nor does it work; slicing fins off sharks for soup and throwing the shark back to drown is not a reason; anger management is not a reason, don’t take your frustrations out on an animal; sex is not a reason despite what the author of ANIMAL LIBERATION has to say.

There is absolutely no defensible reason for using any animal for any reason.

: the second part goes on to describe how vegan is more than just excluding or avoiding products from your own life, it involves by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. Does this mean that if a vegan isn’t actively out there promoting veganism, encouraging veganism, and seeking alternatives for animal products to replacing current products on the market they aren’t vegan? It would suggest so.

This also suggests that working to protect and save the environment is an integral part of the (original) definition of vegan.

If someone merely avoids bringing suffering into their own life by avoiding animal products they personally purchase, but do nothing to prevent the exploitation and cruelty of animals which they know is going on beyond their own little life, it would seem to more easily fit the criteria of ‘welfarist’, which isn’t vegan.

Vegan is active about ending exploitation, it is not merely passively avoiding it.

: the third part, reiterates the dietary part, in case people are still confused about the whole ‘not using any animal for any reason’ part, In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.
It does not mean a little bit of cheese now and again is okay, it does not mean it is alright to eat fish because they swim rather than walk, it does not mean it is fine to use honey because some people refuse to accept bees as animals, it does not mean home-collected free range eggs (which I once saw a fruitarian describe as “chicken fruit” and acceptable on a fruitarian diet).

Vegan is not hyphenated, unlike vegetarian. A person cannot be lacto-vegan (lacto=milk), ovo-vegan (ovo=eggs), pesco-vegan (pesco=fish), mel-vegan (mel=honey).

If a person decides to eat cheese, fish, honey, and free range eggs, it is their choice to do so. However, they should stop calling themselves ‘vegan’ because it fails to meet even the most basic definition of vegan diet which excludes all products derived wholly or partly from animals.

Being vegan is also more than just changing a diet, if someone eats a vegan diet, but continues to ab/use animal products in the rest of their life, they are not a vegan, they are a strict vegetarian.

Similarly, there are no part-time vegans. There are no shades of gray. Either you are vegan or you are not. Once someone starts redefining Vegan to meet their personal lifestyle choices (But I love my leather jacket) they are not Vegan.

Nor are there exemptions for ‘cocktail parties’. Being Vegan is not a lifestyle choice, it is not like a uniform, you put on for work, and take off when you socialize. If someone is only vegan when it is convenient, it is more evidence for detractors who say that veganism is privilege of the white, wealthy, Westerners.

Vegan has been redefined and reinterpreted so much, that sometimes when someone explains what their Veganism means to them it bears no resemblance to what Vegan means. Maybe I should form my own movement – VGN: vegan without all the crap.

No exceptions, no clauses, no loopholes, no hyphens. If it is an animal product, it is not vegan.

What vegan ISN’T… is isn’t feminism, anti-agist, anti-semitic, pro-semitic, christian, atheist, anti-homophobic, pro gay rights, anti-racist, anti-transphobic, anti-ableist, pro-multi culturalism or pro peace, it is not Left or Right. It is none of these things. And when people try to claim that a person is required to be feminist or anti-racist in order to be a vegan, it is missing the point completely. What they are trying to sell you is not veganism. But some bland blancmange of rights and justice dressed up in “animal rights” clothing.

Veganism is end the exploitation and cruelty of animals, and animals only. All these other liberations will flow from widening our circle of compassion (A Einstein). It does veganism a disservice to transform it into one-size-fits-all movement of liberation.

Although, the original 1944 definition of vegan says that alternatives to using animals says that must benefit humans and the environment, these are part of veganism. But veganism does not replace these other movements. Veganism does not usurp or invalidate other environmental, ecological, human rights movements. Other rights movements do not need to be vegan in order to continue to fight their fight.

Other liberation movements or civil rights activists are not required to free the world, why is this a necessary for animal liberation and vegans?

I have seen vegans say you need to read certain books in order to call yourself a vegan. Sorry, wrong! illiterates can be vegan too, as long as they exclude — as far as is possible and practical — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals.

That is it. That is all there is to it. All we need to know is there. Each of us can read that, or have it read to us, and decide for ourselves the most effective way we can apply this to our own life, in our own circumstances.

Do we really need leaders and gurus and experts to tell us how to live as vegans? Do we need to debate and philosophise about veganism? Do we need to be told what do in the fight to end exploitation and cruelty? Do we need priests interpreting The Word on our behalf.

How much money is diverted from saving animals to propping up and lining the pockets of groups and leaders who use veganism and animal rights to push their own agenda.

We don’t need the authority or approval or leadership of anyone to be a vegan. As long as we stick to the definition, set out in 1944 and hardly been improved on since.

Vegan has a meaning, let’s use it. And not try to transform it into something that it never was and shouldn’t ever be.

What is not including in Shrigley-Watson definition is the means to how the end to exploitation and cruelty will be achieved. It does not specify ‘non-violence’, nor does it advocate ‘pro-violence’. It simply encourages us to do it, not how.

The ‘How’ we achieve that is up to each and every one of us who choose to take up the fight on behalf of animals. There is no right way or wrong way. As long as it doesn’t harm animals, humans or the environment, how can a tactic or method be not-vegan.

Some people may advocate for one method over another, and say those who use only the other method, (whether education, direct action, baking, or anything in-between), the definition of Vegan does not tell us How, it just tells us Do. Anyone who tries to convince followers their only path to veganism is through them and their books, should perhaps take another look at Shrigley and Watson’s definition of the word.

For social media vegans, some add the Ⓥ to their profiles or names. While this is simply a V in a circle, it has been adopted by some to represent vegan. This is made either by copy and paste or Ⓥ.

So, let us not complicate things, how does someone go vegan…

The only way is to be vegan, is to BE vegan.

from VALA, with permission, and modified


2 Responses to “Vegan Is…”


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