Now available in Russian at http://poslezavtra.be/dictionary/2012/09/25/veganizm-post-veganizm-i-anarhiya.html
Trigger Warning: References Rape
I recently encountered a term that I'd never heard before. In the context I heard it, it was intended as pejorative, but if someone wants to refer to me that way, I'll wear it like a badge of honor and I don't even mind self-identifying in this way. The term I'm talking about is "post-vegan." So where do these two, veganism and post-veganism, diverge? Where do they cross over? What does this mean for us as anarchists?
First of all, I want to start by clarifying that I'm not trying to write a radical version of "The Vegetarian Myth" or anything like that. I'm not going to tell you that my two years of veganism destroyed my life. In fact, I really have no regrets about my veganism itself (though I do regret the hurtful ways I sometimes treated non-vegans) and in fact I believe that veganism was a great step for me towards understanding what I eat, how I should eat, and why. I proudly carry with me many of the ethics I held as a vegan although I have followed those "conclusions" that I came to on to deeper and farther reaching questions and a more radical (root seeking!!) analysis.
Further, I do not wish to present myself as being a superior anarchist who eats a perfect diet. I strive to eat paleo, local, and wild but am having intense personal struggles with that transition. I am no authority on ethical eating and I struggle to even eat a suitable human diet (that is to say a paleo diet) for even a few days straight without reverting to eating domesticated beings and other semi-edibles that humans are not evolved to eat.
I also want to be very clear that my intent is not to demonize vegans. For purposes of this essay I am definitely giving vegans the benefit of the doubt. I'll assume that they aren't vegan because they enjoy the clear cuts and other ecological devastation that veganism requires from petroleum intensive agriculture to the animals killed by the industrial machines used to rape the land through planting and the enslavement, abduction, and murder of plant people. I will assume they don't relish the power, control, and dominance they exert over the bodies of those plant people. I'll just assume they are interested in animal rights and putting and end to dominance and cruelty. My experience has been that post-vegans aren't given the benefit of the doubt on this issue and are generally assumed to be apathetic or rationalizing some desire to dominate non-human animals. Our worst possible motives are generally assumed. Seeing how reductionist, dichotomous, and lazy that approach is, I feel like my response should not be in kind. As such, I will address mostly "veganism" rather than "vegans." I understand that veganism isn't a being with intent or purpose or even unified reasoning, but for the purposes of this essay, it makes more sense to challenge the ideology than the complex and nuanced individuals that identify with it.
I admittedly have a hard time having a calm, logical, rational, abstract discussion about ecocide, whether it is greenwashed as alternative energy, veganism and other consumer politics, or anything else. The Earth is my Mother and to have someone explain to me why their preferred method of dominating and raping my mother is not only acceptable, but morally superior to my attempts to end those practices is absolutely infuriating. As such I feel like writing an essay is a more effective and meaningful way for me to engage this topic, at least in some ways.
The Myth of "Compassionate Consumerism"
"Vegan" is essentially a capitalist/socialist and thus consumerist identity based on consumption patterns and moralism (at least as it is mostly practiced in the west.) There are eastern cultures that are vegan for explicitly religious reasons, but since I don't know many vegans who are non-western or people of color, this essay is largely geared towards the practice of veganism with which I am most familiar, that of white westerners. A critique of religion covers most of the other ideological practices of veganism. There may be some vegans somewhere who wildcraft only wild foods, but even if so they are the exception to the rule.
Veganism is often presented as a "compassionate" form of consumerism. This posits that some forms of industrialism and consumerism (or "capitalism" for those uncomfortable with critiques that go beyond those churned out by way of leftist ideology) are good while some are evil. This says that to hunt a deer or elk with respect and gratitude, perform a ceremony in honor of the life that was taken that another may continue, and to use all parts of the animal possible is considered to be evil, murderous, and hateful. However, eating a tofu sandwich made of domesticated, enslaved GMO Monsanto plants grown with petroleum fertilizer on a clear cut, destroying the homes of many animals, planted by industrial machinery that kills animals in the process of raping the soil to plant the slave plants and rounding up and killing the plants which are then shipped on vehicles powered by fossil fuels to a restaurant in a gentrified part of town which is owned by a capitalist where workers are wage slaves is considered compassionate. I don't think I have to point out the extent to which this is unadulterated bullshit.
Animal Rights or Animal Liberation
Veganism often posits an animal rights position. The problem with "rights" is that they are the result of a political structure and a hierarchy granting or allowing certain privileges. Rights are given, not taken. Prisoners have rights. Workers have rights. Renters have rights, but these people are far from liberated. That is why we differentiate between rights and birthrights. Animal Rights, in this context, can only mean privileges handed down the hierarchy from humans to non-human animals. Rights and liberation are mutually exclusive. If someone is granted or allowed rights, they are not liberated. Rights can easily be discontinued or taken away by those higher up on the hierarchy than those being granted or allowed those rights.
Veganism often posits that eating non-human animals is a form of speciesism. Most beings tend to live on a diet that is made up of beings or other organic material (feces, blood, etc) that is not of the same species or constitution as them. With this definition, all beings are speciesist, including vegans. To avoid this logical conclusion, veganism must deny the personhood of plants and invalidate their existence as conscious beings who can emote and feel pain or respond to other stimuli. They must be seen as inanimate and unworthy of respect, dignity, or liberation. With this in mind, we should admit that the act of eating another species isn't speciesism but the web of life, the natural anarchy (small a, not Anarchism TM) and disorder of things.
Where speciesism starts is when we begin to differentiate between what other species we dominate, enslave, control, and eat based on anthropocentric criteria. Often times veganism sites the ability of non-human animals to feel pain, captivity, slavery, and abuse in the same way that we do or in ways that are easily recognizable to us as humans. It is certainly easy to see the horrific conditions of the factory farming of animals, to hear their screams, to see the fear in their eyes, to be able to relate to the way that they feel pain, fear, sadness, etc. It is not so easy, however, to see these reactions from plants. Since we can't hear their cries or relate to their pain response, we can pretend that they don't exist and invalidate and negate their suffering. The end conclusion: "you don't remind me of me as much as non-human animals do, therefore you are less worthy or unworthy of respect, dignity, and liberation."
Eating other beings isn't speciesism. Creating a hierarchy based on how similar other beings are to ourselves or denying/disregarding the beinghood of other beings is speciesism.
Veganism also uses moralism to validate its speciesism and to attempt to place humans outside of and above the web of life. (Moralism is a loose ideology which states that the moralizer is right and that everyone else can only be right to the extent that they agree with the moralizer, i.e., "I am right and good and if you disagree with me you are wrong and evil.") Besides distinguishing between animals and plants and placing animals higher up on the hierarchy, veganism often makes distinctions between animals and humans, sometimes even implying that humans are not animals. It is further posited that we can choose to be "more than mere animals" and "rise above" our animal nature and constitution as morally superior creatures who are placed above all other beings, as stated in some religious texts. This creates a paternalistic relationship with other beings. That is to say that unlike these morally inferior beings, we can play god and alter the web of life and make determinations regarding the food cycle (often referred to by linear thinkers as the "food chain") and even to destroy the food cycle by imposing an anthropocentric order.
Veganism often presents itself as being a "green" alternative to the consumption of meat. Like all greenwashing, however, there are much more complex analyses to be found. A vegan diet requires not only the domestication/dominance of and enslavement of plant people, but an extremely petroleum intensive means of fertilization. Veganism often responds to this with a relativist or dichotomous approach, something to the tune of "well, it's better than meat production through factory farming," something akin to the idea raping your mother while wearing a condom or using another object is so much better than/morally superior to raping her with a naked penis. This is, of course, another discussion completely. The perceived merits of one form of ecocide over another are essentially if not completely (though I try to avoid reductionism through absolutism) irrelevant to anyone seeking an end to ecocide. The point is the end of ecocide.
Annuals tend to grow when perennials fail. As such the earth must be repeatedly shocked into believing that perennials have failed. Since annual grains don't grow naturally every year, humans who feel an entitlement to these grains must engage in exploitative practices to satisfy that sense of entitlement.
Veganism also posits, in many cases, the entitlement of all humans (because veganism says that humans are either righteously vegan or murderous psychopaths) to whatever non-animal foods/products they desire regardless of season or bio-region. If a human wants tofu, the argument goes, they should be able to consume tofu regardless of whose home has to be destroyed to eat it, what plants (because fuck them anyway, right?) are being denied the ability to live and grow so that they can have genetically modified soy to eat in vegan/vegetarian restaurants (again, often located in gentrified neighborhoods and employing wage slaves) regardless of when or where that soy has to be domesticated, grown, controlled, and killed and the amount of petroleum based fertilizer required to keep these beings alive in their prison rows and how much fuel/energy is required to maintain this practice.
A vegan diet (again, as it is most commonly practiced by self-identifying vegans) is based on agriculture (again, if there are vegans who eat only wild foods I don't know about them and they are definitely a tiny, tiny percentage.) Agriculture takes more from the soil than it gives back. Agriculture is exploitative and unsustainable, ergo veganism is exploitative and unsustainable.
Conclusion (of this essay, not ideological conclusion)
If someone doesn't want to eat meat, they shouldn't and they shouldn't feel pressure from non-vegans to do so. However, veganism should not attempt to present that decision as morally superior, particularly on such shaky or non-existent ground. Vegans, vegetarians, and post-vegans can find affinity on many issues. Anyone who is critical of the food industry and food production from an anti-dominance, anti-hierarchical intent has, at the very least, some common ground. However, if we are seeking liberation, an end to the institutions of control, then we can't only strive for liberation for white people, men, humans, or non-human animals, but TOTAL liberation for ALL life. No Cages. No Rows. No Compromise.
Until the Earth is Wild Again,