One of the most important things the vegan/AR movement must acknowledge is that without working on root issues that make veganism actually accessible beyond the majority, we will not be able to achieve nonhuman liberation.
It’s time the movement divest from focused targeting on individuals and address systemic issues that mean veganism is not accessible for all and all the time, which is why the clause “as practicable and possible” is a part of the term’s definition.
For example (but not limited to…):
-Work on eliminating animal testing and not shame people dependent on their medication to survive.
-Work on ensuring plant-based products, synthetic materials, and all other products, as well as technology, that do not exploit nonhumans (and humans!) replace those that depend on nonhuman byproducts and bodies.
-Address healthy food accessibility for those that simply do not have access by supporting plant-based food pantries, etc.
-Instead of shaming mother and babies that have no other alternative to formula, work on accessibility to vegan formula and to rights that allow a parent the time and resources to breastfeed if they choose to.
In addition, justifying oppressive actions by simply stating, “as long as new vegans are being produced, we are doing okay.” It’s the “ends justify means” defense, which of course, is one of the defenses of animal oppression. At the heart of animal advocacy is the challenge that the means do not justify the ends—animal flesh, dairy, and eggs only exist because the means for obtaining them are cruel, violent, and violate animals’ lives.
Don’t advocate for anything less than veganism. Veganism should be the end result when working towards nonhuman animal liberation. Empty cages, not bigger ones, is our goal. Help people on their journey towards veganism and working against speciesism – do this by supporting and guiding them towards veganism and not watering down the end goal of nonhuman liberation.
Do recognize that we live in a very nonvegan world, which is the reason the definition of veganism includes the clause “As practicable and possible.” In addition, your hurdles will not be the same as another person’s. Therefore, Don’t make facile claims like “veganism is easy” or “everyone can be vegan.”
Do be aware of issues of accessibility and classism, so that people who need things like medication or have other bottom line health and welfare concerns are shamed for not being vegan.
Do recognize that body shaming and health shaming are NOT acceptable. ALL vegans, regardless of their personal health, size, and appearance, are good examples of veganism and have a right to raise the voices of nonhuman animals. Plant-based diets are not a cure-all diet. Veganism is a commitment to work against human supremacy on behalf of nonhuman animals. It is not a forum centered on weight loss or health. Humans come in all shapes and sizes and so do vegans. What is healthy for some is not healthy for another. Someone’s weight, appearance, and health is none of your business.
This video addresses the notion of veganism as easy.
And this one explains why access is a barrier to veganism.
Don’t make people of color targets for campaigns. For instance, focusing on the Yulin Dog Festival or Indigenous eating practices while ignoring similar abhorrent practices in your own community. Focusing on your own and letting marginalized groups work on their own is not being OK with nonhuman oppression. It’s simply recognizing when to stay in one’s lane and not make things worse all around due to the intricate connections between different types of oppression – human and nonhuman.
Do focus on vegan activism and nonhuman animal activism focused on your own community and backyard rather than going to other communities and seeking that they change based on your terms and how you experience veganism and the world. For example, there are activists in Yulin; respect their work and support their efforts instead of inserting yourself into their community. This is the same for all other communities. Indigenous populations are not involved in a capitalist environment that uses animals on such a huge scale. To desire that indigenous people to go vegan but ignore that they might not have clean water or jobs is racist and ignores root issues revolving around systemic human oppression.
Accessibility due to systemic inequality is a root issue that veganism must be aware of and address. Instead of focusing on individuals (already doing their best to survive with the conditions they have been dealt with or specific to their cultures) work on root issues.
Do believe victims. If a woman or other person reports feeling uncomfortable around a specific person or that they have been inappropriately touched by a person, it’s important that they be listened to and not dismissed under the guise of ‘we need as many vegans as we can get’, or ‘he/she/they haven’t done it to me’. Animal advocacy is not a safe space if it is used as a dating site or tolerant of any harassment, including sexual harassment.
How do you support vegans in their own communities?
The site veganismofcolor.com highlights some vegans of color working on issues affecting their own communities.
Do use resources to uplift and highlight individuals who have not been given a platform. For conferences—make the effort to specifically raise the voices of communities that have been marginalized and routinely silenced in the movement. Also, ensure that marginalized people are paid for their labor and work, as marginalized groups tend to make less.
Do challenge racism and intolerance by individuals or groups in the movement. This means pointing out racist jokes, social media posts, comments, and real-life conversations when you are able to do so. Tone policing how someone reacts to their oppression or seeing something that oppresses them is never OK. Phrases like “be nicer” or accusing a marginalized person of being aggressive because they are upset at what they have experienced (microaggressions, silencing, racism, etc.) is not OK. There IS racism within the movement, and just because you have not seen it or experienced it as someone that would not be routinely exposed to it, does not mean that it is not there.