Veganism appears to be growing in popularity, with more people choosing a vegan diet and a huge and ever growing range of vegan products on the market. Great for people, planet and of course the animals, right? So what’s the problem?
The problem is vegan consumerism.
Many vegan events and the accompanying consumerist mindset actually present serious obstacles for genuine and effective animal liberation. “The power of the wallet” at the centre is unquestioningly upheld as the most powerful tool we have in the fight for animal liberation. But if we check the ingredients, it’s an unhealthy and damaging mix of dogmatic naivety, privilege and single issue reformism.
This consumerist focus serves to uphold the very structures that commodify and oppress all beings in so many different ways.
For many vegans, this might sound like unforgivable heresy and tipping the sacred cow, but we need to be prepared to ask difficult questions if we are serious about radical change.
The problem is commodification.
Veganism is sold to people as an individual, lifestyle choice. There is clearly a lot of money to be made through so called “ethical consumerism”. We are often told about how many animals we can save by going vegan. The belief is that we can change capitalism and human civilisation through the exercise of one’s privileges as a consumer. So animal liberation is on offer, reduced to a choice of products to make us feel like we’re “doing our bit”. Capitalism has very quickly and effectively adapted to and profited from the increasingly fashionable search for a “guilt-free lifestyle”. “It’s so much easier to be a vegan these days” – if you’re well off enough to afford overpriced vegan products. What’s hard to accept for many is that self-congratulatory vegan / ethical consumerism and all the companies cashing in play a big role in greening capitalism and making it more easy to swallow.
The problem is capitalism.
The refusal of vegans to eat animal products has not led to fewer imprisoned animals being slaughtered for meat. Many of the companies selling “ethical” products are directly involved in, and profit from, animal exploitation. Capitalist economies are so intertwined and dependent on animal exploitation that it is impossible to avoid. There is no such thing as ethical consumerism under capitalism. The interconnected atrocities of petrochemical, weapons, fashion, pharmaceutical and agribusiness industries alongside the meat and dairy industry make “ethical consumption”, of any kind, an illusion.You cannot live in a capitalist society without contributing to the mass killing of animals, exploitation of workers and devastation of the earth, to name just a few of its daily horrors. Capitalism is a destructive force that needs to be stopped. It disregards all humans, animals and the earth in pursuit of profit. In short, human and non-human animal and earth liberation is not possible within capitalism.
The solution is total liberation.
We need to challenge the supposed superiority held by humans over non-human animals. For us, veganism is just a part of the fight for liberation, not an end in itself. A vegan diet is not the only possible response to non-human animal abuse.
It’s vital to have a critical analysis of capitalism that includes anti-speciesism alongside a rejection of all other oppressive dominant ideologies.
The abolition of non-human animal exploitation must be part of a wider struggle to destroy capitalism and bring about freedom and autonomy for all living things.
This will require more action than our choices of shopping. We cannot buy our way to liberation!
For total liberation!