Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

Who will be there for the new vegans?

Apologies for not posting recently. An unhealthy dose of the flu - albeit not swine flu, I hope - made the prospect of sitting in front of a computer somewhat unappealing but did give me time to plug into my iPod and catch up on some podcasts I had missed. And during this enforced convalescence I came upon the virtual firestorm in the debate around the use/non-use of violence by the movement, so here's my 2 cents...for what they are worth.

I am still a relatively new vegan and continue to struggle hard not to allow the anger, guilt, and distress of my new-found knowledge to overwhelm me. And, at times, it is easy for me to see how some of the pro-violence phalanxes within the movement can be attractive to folks who, like me, have just woken up, as they offer a means to purge those turbulent feelings in a very visceral way. Going to war against the producers, setting the individual exploiters within your sights, taking down the researchers, the slaughterers, the profiteers...yes, I can totally understand how direct action against those who stand to gain the most from our socially-accepted abuse and torture of non-human animals is an attractive prospect indeed.

However.....yes, you must have known there would be a 'however' in all of much as trashing a research facility or throwing paint on a fur-wearer may seem like a very reasonable response, I keep coming back to the question that Elizabeth Collins raises in a recent podcast, 'In support of Non Violence': how does it benefit the movement?

And - of course - it does not. In fact, it is inherently antithetical to the guiding principle of ethical veganism which sees ahimsa and compassion for all life as its basis. Violence is part of the problem and as such it cannot be part of the solution.

Elizabeth also raises another significant question: who will be there for the new vegans? If we are all, as a movement, running around sabotaging this and smashing that, who will be there to guide, comfort, educate, mentor and befriend the new vegan who is falling into a vertiginous pit of horror and despair at their new understanding and at their complicity? If we are ever to build a cohesive movement, if we are to create a vegan future, we must focus on that which is effective, which adheres to our principles, which does most service to the animals and which supports and assists our newest members.

And that is creative vegan education.

With every campaign of violence, we alienate legions of moderates who we might otherwise reach with positive and creative argument and the truth of animal exploitation. And, quite honestly, I just do not believe that we can permit ourselves the time or the latitude to allow our actions to turn anyone away from our message: at this point in our evolution, any act of violence is a self-indulgence which, while going some way to assuaging individual anger, in no way helps shape a more compassionate, more peaceful social future.

Your thoughts, vegan friends?