Sunday, February 06, 2011
I distinguish three (3) broad categories of vegan practice (real vegan practice, not 'pretenders' to be vegan, who may or may not be vegetarian):
* Dietary vegans (includes rawfooders involved with diet ONLY)
* Lifestyle vegans (who exclude ALL products resulting from exploitation of sentient beings in their lifestyle: clothing, food, accessories, household furnishings, medication as much as possible, etc.). These folks MAY CALL themselves 'ethical vegans' if their motivations are ethical (or altruistic), but there's much quibble room here
* Abolitionist vegans (who work for the abolition of all exploitation of sentient beings, and the abolition of all structures, industrial processes, and business or military operations that exploit animals).
I place vegans doing rescue operations in the 2nd category UNLESS they are working for structural upheaval (not merely punitive legal action for welfare violations). I do NOT believe that animal rescue operations are in themselves abolitionist actions.
These distinctions can be helpful in sorting out here folks 'are coming from' in their conversations about 'veganism' and 'vegan' this and that.
I do NOT believe that things OR food can be vegan; they MIGHT, however, be vegan-friendly. I believe that ONLY persons can be vegan by one or more of these categories.
Recently I was complimented that 'my thoughts are awesome' and that I'm doing 'awesome work'. Really, though, after my gut reaction to the compliment (one I consider to be undeserved), I had to note that, in my own self-understanding, I don't think that my thoughts are 'awesome' as much as they are conditioned by my choices to be around smart, critically-thinking, discerning, concerned, did I say SMART, well-read, accomplished, highly-disciplined, did I say VERY SMART and disciplined. Of course, I work at Harvard and treasure that opportunity, and a number of the friends and acquaintance I would like to bring closer to me are both ethical vegans and lifestyle vegans (dietary vegans who include an ethic of avoiding products of animal suffering in their lifestyles). Raw fooders (a type of dietary vegan) are interesting and, when they get good results, often quite admirable at that level. But I'm interested in the critical thinking that CAN come from disciplined, caring ETHICAL vegans.
Choosing who conditions us CAN be an ethical choice. Responsibility for what we do with our energies probably IS an ethical choice. I'm really not very good at that.
I would like to think about optimization of my energies (and others' energies) vs. ad hoc claims by others (coming from all around each of us, often with little accountability for the outcome of any 'aid' that is given to them).
Helping out nonhuman animals surely goes TO them without any sense of accountability on their part for converting our aid to them into their service to others. Humans don't show a very LARGE amount of that accountability, either, but at least we have social cultures around the world in which, occasionally, the issue is mentioned and sometimes raised to a level in public consciousness. Of course, often notions of 'accountability' are selectively applied - to highly visible persons.
Of course, I'm also interested in the SCIENCE around dietary veganism, and again, I treasure my good fortune in working with the Harvard School of Public Health. I only wish that 'professional vegetarians' and 'professional vegans' could systematically engage those resources for 'the greater good' of all.