By KD Angle-Traegner, Founder & Editor
If you are an ethical vegan you’re having a rough week, aren’t you? Everyone is losing their shit over Beyoncé starting a vegan food delivery service, and you’re stuck in various blog comment sections defending your excessive eye-rolling at the absurdly blatant marketing ploy to make a rich woman richer. Who, by the way, will be laughing all the way to the luxury fashion house to pick out her next pair of custom-made anaconda/cow/ostrich/crocodile/stingray skin trainers, which she’ll pay for with the millions of those vegan dollars we’re all voting with. Ha-ha vegans, you just got played by a wealthy woman who could have made saving animals lives the next hip thing instead of eliminating them from the conversation all together.
For those who may not have any idea what I’m talking about, read the excellent: Beyoncé’s New Vegan Venture Forgets the Animals
Nothing can be more polarizing for people than expressing an opinion, especially on the internet. This is even more true for an ethical vegan. This week has been filled with article after article praising Beyoncé and the mainstreaming of veganism, while at the same time cutting down ethical vegans. Comment sections are filled to the brim with comments like this one:
And here come the comments from the haters who forget that veganism is a cause, not a club, and any and every way that it spreads and reaches more people is a super good thing. The power of the celebrity and influence of someone like Beyonce is HUGE and this is awesome!!! Haters forget what veganism is about and that is less animals being eaten. It’s not about the individual messenger, it’s about the message that will reach so so so many people that have not yet been reached. Beyonce selling vegan meals means less animals being eaten. This is wonderful!!!
Excuse me for saying so but, fuck that noise. Veganism is not about making sure that less animals are eaten, it’s about making sure no animals are used for food (or any of the other millions of ways we abuse animals). And, actually, it is about the individual messenger- each life matters to the one who is living it.
Is it wonderful that less animals will be eaten? Yes. Absolutely, of course. But is it just as tragic that other animals will be eaten/worn/used as entertainment, and therefore, still die? Yes, and that’s the point. There are casualties to part-time veganism and those casualties are the lives of animals.
I’m not a hater because I’m not jumping up and down that there’s another rich non-vegan making money off of an ethical philosophy based upon the lives and deaths of others; after all, animals will not be any closer to autonomy than they are right now. How will they be, how can they be, if no one is even mentioning the animals and the ones who are are being called haters?
Beyoncé is misappropriating the word vegan for profits which she will then use to purchase mostly non-vegan goods and services for herself, her family, and her humongous entourage. Tell me again why I’m supposed to be excited?
Listen, just because you can’t do everything doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do something- I believe that. I don’t think that Beyoncé has to become vegan or stop wearing leather and fur to sell vegan food, although that would be nice. It’s a fact that celebrity sells and that many people will buy her meal plans just because she tells them to. This will translate into less animals making their way to the dinner tables, and that’s a very good thing.
But as vegan advocates we should also critically think and talk about the way the word vegan is being marketed to the public. Are we really saying that cutting back on animal consumption is our goal as a movement? If we tell people today that eating less animals is fine, when do we tell them that the real goal is to eat none? When do we tell them that veganism isn’t about our health or the health of our planet- even though both benefit greatly from it? When do we tell people about autonomy for all animals?
You can actually support part of something (the food delivery service) while questioning the motives for using a word that defines an ethical movement about life and death, and doing so does not make you a hater.
Here, take this article, Map of Literally Every Goat in America Is Most Important Map Ever for example. The map shows the goat population of the United States. According to the article, “the point of this map is we fucking love goats.” Which, would be awesome because as you all know, we fucking love goats around here. Alas, that wasn’t the case. The Most Important Map Ever turned out to be a real shitty map that’s bad for goats.
America’s goat population is heavily concentrated in the Southwest, Texas in particular. Nearly 80 percent of America’s goats are raised for meat. Sixteen percent are raised for milk, with the remaining 6 percent is comprised of Angora goats raised for mohair.
You’ll find commercial goat farms operating in 2,996 of the country’s 3,143 counties. Of the top ten goat-producing counties, 8 are in Texas and two are in Arizona. In Sutton County, Texas, goats outnumber people 14-to-1. In Edwards County, also in Texas, the ratio is 22-to-1. All in all, goats outnumber people in 21 U.S. counties, all but one of which are in Texas.
How horrible and depressing. I’m not sure that the author even realizes that every goat on this map is going to die. Regardless, the article itself isn’t even my point- even if it perfectly illustrates yet another level of disconnect. My point is further down, in the comments section, and it really got me thinking.
Who the fuck are these monsters that eat goats??
There are people in the world that do not know that goats are used for meat. I am also willing to bet that there are people who are unaware that mohair comes from a goat; I didn’t until I started researching fur. Generally speaking, people don’t have a clue about the lives of animals- not how they exist as a commodity, or how they would exist if they weren’t one. And here’s the scary part- no one is allowed to tell them about it, least of all a vegan. Or worse, an ethical vegan.
People don’t want ethical vegans to tell anyone that veganism is more than just a diet. They want fanfare for every mention of the word vegan, regardless of how it’s being used (or misused). They believe that people should find out about veganism on their own, after being inspired while eating a vegan cupcake. I’m not saying that those people are wrong, but I am saying that sometimes we don’t give people enough credit and sometimes we give them way too much.
How is Beyoncé selling vegan food going to inspire anyone to find out more about animals if she doesn’t mention animals? As evidenced from the goat article, people are unaware how animals are used. How can anyone advocate for change if they aren’t aware that change is even needed? The public is unaware, read the comment section of any animal-centric article on a mainstream publication and see for yourself just how much.
If you regularly read anything that I write about veganism then you know that I am an ethical vegan. It is a big part of who I am and how I view the world. I strongly disagree with those that cut down ethical vegans in comments, articles, or under stereotypical labels like ‘the vegan police’ or similar. Ethical vegans are not the problem and creating an “us” versus “them” divide in a small movement is foolish- vegans should stand united.
Let us remember, in order to advocate on behalf of a position, one must first be able to define it.