Updated: Sep 27, 2018
By David Hewitt
Veganism is a political movement. You may not readily see it on the ballot paper at the polling station or have application forms to sign to join up. A political party it isn’t, but a political movement it is.
How is this so?
Well, it’s worth considering the original classical definition of politics. It was the ancient Greeks that gave us the word, Politiká, which translates as “the affairs of the city.”
Note: cities were pretty much the entire world to the Ancient Greeks.
The “affairs of the city”, now as modern contemporary society, entails social interaction and where there is social interaction there is the need for social movements to help enact societal change and improvement for all. The narrative of human history bears witness to that and is littered with examples of proponents of “but we’ve always done it this way”, having tried to resist change, but being ultimately overcome by the inevitability of progress. Thankfully so, as otherwise slavery would still be a legal economic model and voting wise, if you’ve got two x chromosomes, you’d be getting turned away at the polling station.
Put another way, every major progressive societal change that has occurred in the just the last four hundred years or so of Western history has at first been mocked as “crack-pot” and being on the margins of society (veganism up until recently anyone?), then it was derided, fought, and then ultimately accepted.
Mahatma Gandhi, someone who knew about change, noted:
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
The hall-mark of any caring society is how it treats those with no voice and are unable to defend themselves. Children cannot vote, but they are still afforded, rightly so, a ton of safeguards and protection by legislation which in turn has emanated from politics and progressive societal change. Likewise, those with serious mental or neurological conditions may not be able to articulate themselves at all – yet their protections in law are there.
The same standard needs to be implemented for animals and not the wishy-washy, essentially meaningless, animal “welfare” laws that are presently in place. What is instead required are animal rights that fully protect their interests and their environments as much as humanity implements laws to protect its own.
Veganism raises public awareness of the injustice and exploitation of animals, which can allow for political momentum which eventually leads to societal change.
And before the wise-cracks start up about giving deer the right to vote, or cats the right to drive, rights afforded to animals on the basis of what is relative to their interests, not humanity’s. And the primary way that that protection can be afforded is for humanity to stop seeing animals as any number of commodities (food, milk machines or handbags) and affirm and enforce their rights to live and be free.
Mahatma Gandhi time again:
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way it treats its animals.”
That is hard to argue against.
Crucially, in addition to the moral status of a nation, the fate of humanity and animals are intimately entwined.
Consider the three prongs of the trident of veganism: rejection of animal cruelty, promotion of health and protection of the environment.
Governments already offer society political action in those three areas, although extremely weak and diluted interpretations built around a core of anthropocentricism (humanity’s fixation with itself and prioritizing its needs continually above those of other species.)
Of course, anti-animal cruelty laws are, from a vegan perspective, wholly inadequate and massively biased to the status quo of animal exploitative interests and societal traditions (“but we’ve always done it this way” being simultaneously one of the feeblest and at the same time most dangerous statements in human vocabulary.) Veganism helps to raise the profile of the fight against animal cruelty in the public and therefore political / societal domain.
Government promotion of health, sadly, is again viewed through the same human-centric glasses. That said, even those same anthropocentric governments have had to acknowledge at least some of the risks of animal and by-product consumption. Once more, veganism has undoubtedly played its part in raising this as a policy issue.
Environmental protection wise, governments have taken some measures to limit humanity’s impact on the planet and the eco-system that we work in. However, those measures are largely peripheral and overlook the biggest cause of environmental damage of all – animal agriculture. Again, veganism helps to shape public opinion in this respect. Again, veganism presents evidence of being a political movement.
As stated earlier, veganism is a political movement even though it doesn’t have an established political party vehicle to operate within. A vegan is, by default, whether they appreciate it or not, a political activist committed to the elimination of cruelty, better health and a cleaner planet.
In conclusion, veganism should be seen as a political movement that operates fluidly and outside of the traditional political apparatus of political parties. It has no hierarchy and no leaders but it has a voice that is growing ever louder. Veganism provides for an all-encompassing set of ethics and standards that benefit every living thing on the planet as well as the and the planet.
Vote with how you eat, what you wear and how you conduct your vegan self every day with others.
Veganism gets my vote every time.