My thesis supervisor always said ‘define your terms’. That way, you explain your understanding of a concept up front. And if the reader has a different understanding, they still know what your meaning is.
The word “vegan” was invented in 1944, by Elsie Shrigley and Donald Watson, who founded the UK Vegan Society. The British Vegan Society defines veganism this way:
The word “veganism” denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practical — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.
Anyone who is involved with Animal Liberation today can see how since 1944, the word has been twisted and pulled in all directions. However, the UK Vegan Society founders invented the word, if this is their definition, this is what VEGAN means. If someone chooses to live differently to this, perhaps they should invent their own word.
This definition has 3 parts:
- the first part describes what it excludes, all forms of exploitation and cruelty to animals for any reason.
ALL animals: it does not say mammals, it does not say except fish, nor except invertebrates … it says all animals. And, there are also no exceptions for Bees. Bees are animals, honey is not a matter for debate. Honey does not come from plants, any more than milk comes from grass or grains or the rendered bodies of their fallen comrades. It is not possible to use an animal for any purpose without exploiting it. Just as it is exploitation of people to use them without the consent or paying a wage (we call that slavery), since animals cannot give consent, even if we think they are happy, all animal use is exploitation.
for ANY reason, eating them because someone thinks animal corpses taste good is not a reason for cruelty and exploitation, wearing animals as clothes or jewellery is not reason for cruelty and exploitation, torturing them in labs for profit is sadistic and gives in accurate results and is not a reason, using them for sport by forcing them to race or fight is not a reason, entertainment in circuses and rodeos shows our lack of creativity and is not a reason, crush films are not a reason, hunting for “sport” is not a reason, canned hunts are not a reason either and not very sporting, turning their bodies into floor cleaner and mascara is not a reason, slicing a rhino or elephants face off and letting it die for horn or ivory as a sex powder is not a reason, slicing fins off sharks for soup and throwing the shark back to drown is not a reason, anger management is not a reason, sex is not a reason despite what the author of ANIMAL LIBERATION has to say*. There is absolutely no defensible reason for using any animal for any reason.
- the second part goes on to describe how vegan is more than just excluding or avoiding products from your own life, it involves by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. Does this mean that if a vegan isn’t actively out there promoting veganism, encouraging veganism, and seeking alternatives for animal products to replacing current products on the market they aren’t vegan? It would suggest so.
If someone merely avoids bringing suffering into their own life by avoiding animal products they personally purchase, but do nothing to prevent the exploitation and cruelty of animals which they know is going on beyond their own little life, it would seem to more easily fit the criteria of ‘welfarist’, which isn’t vegan.
- the third part, reiterates the dietary part, in case people are still confused about the whole not using any animal for any reason, In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.
It does not mean a little bit of cheese now and again is okay, it does not mean it is alright to eat fish because they swim rather than walk, it does not mean it fine to use honey because some people cannot see bees as animals, it does not mean home-collected free range eggs (which I once saw a fruitarian describe as “chicken fruit” and acceptable on a fruitarian diet).
Vegan is not hyphenated, unlike vegetarian. A person cannot be lacto-vegan (lacto=milk), ovo-vegan (ovo=eggs), pesco-vegan (pesco=fish), mel-vegan (mel=honey)
If a person decides to eat cheese, fish, honey, and free range eggs, it is their choice to do so. However, they should stop calling themselves ‘vegan’ because it fails to meet even the most basic definition of vegan diet which excludes “all products derived wholly or partly from animals”.
No exceptions, no clauses, no loopholes. If it is an animal product, it is not vegan.
What vegan ISN’T is feminism, anti-agist, anti-semitic, pro-semitic, christian, atheist, anti-homophobic, pro gay rights, anti-racist, pro-multi culturalism or pro peace. It is none of these things. And when people try to claim that a person is required to be feminist or anti-racist in order to be a vegan, is missing the point completely. What they are trying to sell you is not veganism. But some bland melange of rights and justice dressed up in “animal rights” clothing.
Veganism is end the exploitation and cruelty of animals, and animals only. All these other liberations will flow from widening our circle of compassion (A Einstein). It does veganism a disservice to transform it into one-size-fits-all model of liberation.
Other liberation movements or civil rights activists are not required to free the world, why is this a necessary for animal liberation and vegans?
Do we really need leaders and gurus and experts to tell us how to live as vegans? Do we need to debate and philosophise about veganism? Do we need to be told what do in the fight to end exploitation and cruelty?
How much money is diverted from saving animals to propping up and lining the pockets of groups and leaders who use “veganism” and “animal rights” to push their own agenda.
Vegan has a meaning, let’s use it. And not try to transform it into something that never was and shouldn’t be.
What is not including in this definition is the means to how the end to exploitation and cruelty will be achieved. It does not specify ‘non-violence’, nor does it advocate ‘pro-violence’. It simply encourages us to do it, not how.
The ‘How’ we achieve that is up to each and every one of us who choose to take up the fight on behalf of animals. There is no right way or wrong way.
* Peter Singer, author of Animal Liberation (1975) who wrote Heavy Petting, (Nerve, 2001) (original article), which he defends sex with animals as “mutually satisfying” (Singer) and it’s not so bad as using them for food is worse.
I would like to point out, that one of the definitions of rape of humans includes sex without consent, since an animal can NEVER give consent, it is always rape, and always exploitation and cruel.