Single Issue Campaigns: What Should Vegans Do?

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Single Issue Campaigns: What Should Vegans Do?

Veganism is the movement to end exploitation and dominance over animals.  That’s a tall order.  This could mean anything from protesting a seal hunt or cooking a vegan meal- to educating people on the pain and suffering of the Eider Duck.  (Who, although protected, is still routinely plucked alive for it’s feathers.)  Advocating veganism has many facets.

To differ in sentiment or opinion, especially from the majority.

There has been disdain among a lot of vegans surrounding single issue campaigns.  Some feel that our focus should be solely on vegan education, that there are no moral differences between the use or treatment of animals, and that supporting those issues suggests that some forms of exploitation are morally less problematic than others.

I was one of those vegans.  It is true that working on campaigns to stop one issue of exploitation does not end every kind of exploitation.  But the fact is, all issues of exploitation and dominance are connected.  Defending one animal is as important as defending ten million.  They are all individuals who matter.

I see value in supporting some limited issues and campaigns.  Let’s use the recent ban on fur in West Hollywood as an example to illustrate my point.  I support the ban on fur, even though it doesn’t eradicate the use of all animal skins such as leather, wool, or silk.  It is important to realize that fur and leather goods are separate industries.  The use of leather shouldn’t be dismissed, but is more of a by-product in the sense that the animal is raised primarily for it’s flesh.  As more people become vegan, less and less cows will be bred- the demand for leather will decrease.  Fur, on the other hand, is from animals that are normally free-roaming and undomesticated.  If we end the use of fur (wherever possible) those animals could live free (right now).  Anytime our actions liberate animals from our dominion it is a good thing. Right?

Advocating (and educating) with a crystal clear and consistent vegan message will address the cow’s situation.  In the case of fur, these animals could benefit from our direct action right now.

Of course, convincing people to go vegan does bring about respect for fur-bearing animals (as vegans don’t hunt or trap); and yet it’s possible that individuals and whole communities of fur-bearing animals will be wiped out by the time the convincing is complete.  We need not turn away from animals under assault when there’s a chance we can spare them from harm and let them be.  This should be obvious: Advocates can defend animals such as foxes without fearing that they’ve shirked a duty to speak for all animals at once. – Lee Hall, On Their Own Terms

The practice of unfair treatment.

The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified on February 3, 1870.  It prohibits each government in the United States from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen’s “race, color, or previous condition of servitude” (think: slavery).  In other words, black men were permitted to vote.  Women on the other hand, fought hard for years, but did not earn the right to vote until August 26, 1920- fifty years later.  And although African-American men had the right since 1870, it wasn’t until the 1965 Voting Rights Act that both black men and women were fully protected under Federal law.

(Of course, in many parts of the world women still don’t have the right to vote.)

The black disenfranchisement and women’s suffrage were single issues in the larger campaign of equality for all.  Should those advocates have not worked on these single issues?  Should those advocates instead have stood idly by waiting for rights and equality to be given voluntarily?

The quality or state of being confused.

This is not to say that there are not problems with single issue campaigns, there are.  The fact is, all exploitation and dominance over non-humans is wrong. There is no difference between raising animals for food versus using their skins for clothing.  It is all exploitation.  So, is there a way to combine unapologetic veganism and single issue campaigns?  I think so, as long as there is a crystal clear message that all animal use should be abolished.

The condition of being false; lack of truth.

I want to clarify that supporting these single issues are not the same as saying, “Anything that reduces suffering is a good thing and a step in the right direction.”  These single issues also have no connection with incremental steps, as it relates to animal husbandry reform (which I do not support).  Rather, we can and should respond to these issues whenever possible- whether singular or not, while also advocating a clear and consistent vegan message.

To bring to a successful end; carry through; accomplish.

At the end of the day, it’s the animals that I think about.  It pains me to think that there are animals in more heinous situations than I could even imagine.  Its their situations that drive my veganism and I want to make the most positive impact I can.  The mere mention of supporting a single issue campaign can elicit passionate responses from vegans.  It’s a tough topic.  I know that there are a lot of strong and compelling arguments against single issues, I’ve read quite a few of them.  No one person (myself included) has the perfect answer on how to represent veganism, or even the best way to advocate its position.  If they did, we’d all be vegan.  Let’s not immediately dismiss each singular campaign as something unworthy of our time because it does not bring about veganism overnight.  Nothing to date has done that- should we all just stop trying?


A common criticism is that the time is not yet ripe for our reform.  Can a time ever be ripe for any reform unless it’s ripened by human determination? ~ Donald Watson, The Vegan News 1944

October 1st, 2011|Op-Ed|

About the Author:

Founder & Creator of Your Daily Vegan. Twitter: @YourDailyVegan


  1. A Mirage of Depth – Cellular April 6, 2016 at 8:57 pm - Reply

    […] to any animal facing death – not just a species at risk of being lost. The same year, KD Traegner (your daily vegan) quotes from Lee Hall’s 2010 book, On Their Own Terms, providing even broader thinking to not only employ single issues to save animals […]

  2. Amy Wagar July 24, 2012 at 10:07 am - Reply

    I participated in a circus protest recently that focused on the demand side of the equation and encouraged circus goers to educate themselves on the issues. In doing so, we met local vegans that weren’t connected to our vegan community (and now are) and we met long-time vegetarians we wouldn’t have otherwise met who are now asking about veganism. I was in the same situation as them, three and a half years ago and never even considered veganism because I didn’t know any vegans and thought I was doing the right thing by not eating meat. As soon as I met this person, my curiosity was piqued, I asked questions and I learned about dairy and eggs. I went vegan immediately. Single issue campaigns, if framed correctly (eliminating animal use), can be great ways of meeting people who are very receptive to the vegan message.

  3. We each must make our own choices, establish our own comfort levels, and decide at what depth we’re going to jump, (or wade), int the vegan pool.

    I would not get involved in any single issue campaign that did not make the principles of veganism a major part of it’s agenda.

    I could not fathom protesting the sale of fur or the abuse of animals in a circus next to people who, after doing what they thought was giving the world a shove in the right direction, stopped by McDonalds on the way home for a Big Mac.

    We all have limited time. My suggestion is to put mine to use where I believe it will affect the most animals over the longest period of time. If someone becomes vegan they will, in a natural progression of thought, will come to the conclusion that use of all animals for any reason is wrong. Convincing someone not to go to the circus, well, sort of doesn’t.

    Marty’s Flying Vegan Review

  4. vegantasmania October 1, 2011 at 8:14 pm - Reply

    I’m basically of the opinion to do everything you can. There are always going to be campaigns more or less important to people… that doesn’t mean that we can’t support them. Otherwise no one wins.
    Of course I believe that supporting veganism and all animal welfare is the #1 thing you can do. But that doesn’t mean not supporting the campaigns against the seal hunt etc. etc.

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