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Is Vegan Education Enough?

I’ve been enjoying great success with my Cooking with Guests strategy for veganizing people in my life. We cook, we shop, we visit websites, we talk, we read, we go to restaurants, and in a couple of days they have revolutionized the way they shop, cook and eat (and everyone’s happy to drop a couple of pounds without even trying).

I have yet to incorporate the larger web of issues in any kind of aggressive way, as virtually all of my guests are white, privileged, "successful" people who have benefited from capitalism and would probably call themselves the "haves," all the while having no idea the extent to which the real "haves" have more power and money than they do. That’s an annoying sentence, I know. Let’s do it this way: Most of my middle class friends are ignorant of the way the US really works, and probably won’t ask too many questions as long as they keep making money. Which of course is exactly the way it’s supposed to be.

I have taken to having at least one documentary, like maybe the awesome primer, The Corporation, lying around the house in case anyone’s interested. For those who claim to be enviros, The Next Industrial Revolution, starring none other than Cradle to Cradle co-author William McDonough, has a permanent spot on the coffee table in the great room. Earthlings is always on hand for those who have no idea where their food comes from, and No End in Sight is for anyone who thinks the war in Iraq is being run by competent, well-meaning individuals. Of course, Unprecedented is for anyone who doesn’t know how pivotal Florida was in the 2000 election, and how embarrassing that election was for our country.

Your food, clothing and entertainment choices reflect what you think about how you (and your country) see the world. They definitely make a statement. But do you think that’s enough? Do you think we should be more actively fighting to dismantle the very system that profits obscenely from the creation of products using the blood of nonhuman animals and immigrants, all while degrading the earth?

My dinner parties, dissemination of lists of vegan vendors, brochure distribution and documentary presentations seem, even to me, so profoundly, well, bourgeois. And though much of that probably won’t change anytime soon because of the choices I’ve made, there is one element of my philanthropy and activist plan that could easily be altered: where I send my charitable dollars.

Your charitable dollars are a vehicle for communication. They tell the world what you believe. What are they saying, if anything, about the system that destroys the earth and enslaves and slaughters sentient beings for profit? And if they aren’t saying anything directly, is their silence–is their absence–communicating something?

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Because nonhuman animals are literally being consumed by humans, veganism must be the moral baseline of our movement. As more and more people opt-out of injustice through their consumer choices, they are more likely to be persuaded to accept the animal rights position of abolition of animal exploitation.

    This is not to say that the animal rights movement should be relegated to a consumer movement. We are a social justice movement that must agitate in the streets with demonstrations and marches for animal rights. One we build a critical mass of vegan animal rights supporters, then we can work on the legal front to dismantle the property status of animals and shut down animal exploitation everywhere.

    Encouraging people to go vegan should be at the forefront of the abolitionist struggle, but we must realize that it will take more to bring down the system of institutionalized speciesism that exploits animals for food, clothing, experimentation, and entertainment.

    February 4, 2008

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