As a person who is always growing and changing, I acknowledge that my views may not remain the same in the future. For reference, here is an archive of my previous vegan philosophy, which includes viewpoints I now disagree with and ideas that contradict my current views. It is crucial for us to embrace growth and change continually.
You can access the archive here.
The reason I initially adopted a vegan lifestyle was my recognition of the exploitation of animals and my realization that it was morally wrong. I believed that by abstaining from animal products, I could contribute to changing an oppressive system. Going vegan is indeed a positive step, but it is not sufficient on its own. It is just one among countless actions that individuals can take to make an impact.
Veganism can give the illusion of empowerment, but it essentially represents a revision of the existing system to pursue ethical consumption.
Vegans are often characterized as idealistic individuals who strive to address animal exploitation and rectify it. However, they can also be considered short-sighted, as they focus solely on abstaining from animal products without acknowledging the exploitation inherent in most consumer goods. Moreover, veganism is often associated with privilege, as it requires a level of separation between oneself and the animals being exploited. This privilege arises from not having experienced dehumanization or being currently treated as an animal.
The primary goals of vegans revolve around rectifying a moral wrong by attempting another method of consumption ("third way") and making non-vegans feel guilty. However, if your veganism is solely motivated by moral reasons and the desire to end animal suffering and exploitation, it must also encompass a moral concern for humans. Failing to incorporate humans into the scope of veganism reflects a limited perspective. The contradiction lies in caring for animals while disregarding the fact that humans are also animals. Furthermore, humans possess the ability to be educated and advocate for other animals.
The liberation of animals is intertwined with the liberation of humans. We cannot truly free animals from suffering and exploitation while we ourselves are being exploited. Until humanity achieves liberation, animal liberation remains unattainable.
However, this does not mean that we should abandon veganism. On the contrary, it signifies that veganism alone cannot liberate all animals, both human and non-human, from exploitation and suffering.
I became a vegetarian at the age of 18 and later transitioned to veganism after nine years. It took me that long to realize that being vegetarian was insufficient. In embracing veganism, I also expanded my earlier ideologies of socialism into true Marxism. However, being both a Marxist and a vegan presented a contradiction. I found myself advocating more passionately for animal rights than workers' rights. While I do care about people, particularly the working class, animals seemed more vulnerable to me. This error stemmed from conflating my privilege as a straight white man from a middle-class American background with the baseline of what it meant to be human. What I mean by this is that oppressed peoples are often so dehumanized that they do not see the line between them and the animals. To them, the exploitated masses and the animals are the same. They are all part of the exploitated class. In this grave error I created a separation between humans and non-human animals. I mistakenly thought "animals don't have a voice", while forgetting that the proletariat doesn't have a voice either.
My new intersectional veganism places a significant emphasis on a Marxist perspective, as it seeks the liberation of all exploited masses. Many global issues can be traced back to the oppressive and exploitative power of capitalism over both human and non-human animals.
"The most significant fact about the real consciousness of the Euro-Amerikan masses is how anti-communal and private it is. Settlers recognize no common bond with the rest of humanity. That is why everything they build is perverted: why settler trade-unions are anti-proletarian, and settler 'Women's Liberation' is happy to exploit the women of other nations. It means nothing to Euro-Amerikans that the winter fruit they eat was really paid for by the lives of Mexican or Chilean or Filipino children. For them, the flavor is so sweet. Euro-Amerikans don't even really care too much about each other. Lower taxes are more important than food for their own elderly. This is a diseased culture, with a mass political consciousness that is centered around parasitism."
This passage serves as a reminder that even if your food is free of animal products, it may still be tainted by the sweat and blood of exploited laborers. The saying "there is no ethical consumption under capitalism" holds true, including within veganism. One might argue, "But I'm a vegan who grows all my own food," to which I would respond, "You must possess substantial wealth or land, or both, thereby contributing to the problem."
Take note of the increasing number of coffee shops offering alternative milks, Dairy Queen introducing non-dairy options, and the proliferation of fake meats. If vegans were genuinely making a difference, these corporations would actively resist such changes. However, they embrace vegan options merely to appease people, deflecting attention from the wrongdoings of capitalist society. Ironically, many vegans perceive this as a victory in the battle. The ease of "resistance" should make us question whether it is true resistance at all.
Try organizing a workers' union and witness the challenges you face.
In my previous vegan page, I claimed that going vegan is the most effective and easiest form of protest. However, something about that statement always felt off. If it is effective and easy, then it probably does not qualify as protest but rather something else entirely.
Thus, the contradiction arises: How can we, as vegans, encompass humans within our veganism? This is where Marxism comes into play. Marxism provides a framework to analyze the material conditions of people, particularly the working class, who hold the key to humanity's true liberation. The working class generates profit through their labor, which the capitalists exploit. This parallels the exploitation present in animal farming. Utilizing someone's body against their will for personal gain is wrong, just as using a worker's labor for individual benefit is unjust.
Marxists aim to empower the working class by helping them recognize their strength.
"Workers of the world, unite!"
When the working class realizes its power, it can overthrow capitalism, as it constitutes the backbone that sustains it. This prospect frightens capitalists and those in privilege, as they stand to lose the most. While I, as a person of privilege, would lose everything—my status as a straight white man from a middle-class American background—I find it a beautiful cause worth sacrificing for. I would relinquish everything to witness the emancipation of the world's workers from their chains.
If you are not yet ready to embrace this perspective, consider what you would be willing to sacrifice to liberate animals fully. If you would give up everything for the freedom of animals, surely you would also be willing to give up everything to liberate humanity?
However, a question emerges: How does freeing humanity contribute to the liberation of non-human animals? Initially, it may not directly impact them. But once humans have achieved liberation from exploitation, they will be more inclined to assist their non-human comrades. Under the exploitative grip of capitalism, it is challenging to prioritize such concerns when individuals struggle to make ends meet.
Humans, divided by class, continue to exploit one another. Therefore, we must liberate each other first.
When humanity is well-nourished, well-educated, and united, there will be no limits to our potential. The exploitation of animals will become a thing of the past.
Not all vegans are vegan due to the privilege they enjoy. There are other reasons people choose to be vegan. One notable movement in America is Black Veganism, which embraces an intersectional approach that considers race, class, criminal justice, and animal welfare.
While it's true that we may struggle to treat each other with respect, that doesn't mean we should cease advocating for animal rights and human rights. We should use Marxism as a tool to continue the struggle towards freeing all animals (non-human and human) and to liberate everyone from the oppressive grasp of capitalism.
You can recycle until you're drinking your own filtered urine. You can be vegan as much as you want, but if what you're doing isn't provoking people, then you probably aren't doing the activism you think you are. Capitalism maintains exploitation, and going vegan will not dismantle these systems. We need to work together.
And one more point that past me would not have agreed with: You don't have to be vegan. As long as you understand how the systems of oppression control you and others and how they exploit the masses. Read and learn. Understand what's in your food, learn where your food comes from, who it comes from, who suffered for it. The same with everything you buy. Once you learn who suffered to get you all of your material goods, the broader oppressive forces of capitalism will come into focus.
I do think we should attempt to be vegan, but just like how we should attempt to only purchase goods that were not created with exploited labor—which is 99% impossible under capitalism—expand your scope of moral obligation to all animals and peoples. Treat all animals and peoples with respect and kindness.