Seats Taken – A Critical Look At The Liberation Pledge

<I encourage you to click on the links provided at the end and relate them back to their numbered sections in this blog>

The liberation pledge so simply put above asks our family and friends to consider the animals used for food.

While seemingly a radical approach to mobilising ourselves and others in the framework of veganism, (1) it remains astray of abstaining from any of the other myriad forms of animal use nor does it frame veganism as a justice issue for all species, as it reinforces the focus back to a plant based diet.

Sounds single issue right? You might be right.. (2)

The liberation pledge has been hailed as gospel (3) asking vegan activists to be “non hypocritical” and more “consistent” with their values in terms of taking animal rights “seriously”. If we are applying the word “seriously” than that is a tripe full of illogical ideas on what animal liberation is.

The liberation pledge is only leaving us again with the conversions of diet as veganism. If refusing to engage with non vegans in dealings of food as the ‘rational solution’ forward, in perhaps the strongest way of communication when dealing with family, friends, coworker..

when do we say to ourselves, actually, these politics of purity and washing ourselves from our connections to others; is not achievable based on the logic of hypocrisy and consistency alone.

Let’s unpack why.

ECONOMY THO

The liberation pledge plays with the politics of classism, asking people to vote with their dollar. ‘Voting with your dollar’ is highly problematic. As financial insecurities are real. Ask yourself this? People with out money, do they get a vote? We as a community put a lot of emphasis on this idea that we can control the economy with what we choose to buy, forgetting that everything we are buying has been chosen for us. (4.) Particularly if you do live with financial insecurities, the options available to you have already been decided. When we think we can simply vote with our dollar we are ignoring the disproportionate distribution of dollars around the world. (5)

Every business operates by increasing its financial goals and budgets year after year, Capitalism always demands more. Capitalism never says “actually maybe this is enough. we can slow down. maybe give people back time with their families” No, it says “double my capital or you’ll be replaced” this is at an enormous cost to workers, and the environment. Even if it’s vegan, it’s never cruelty free or created equal. We should always take an anti capitalist approach in the framework of animal liberation, and these conversations are far more urgent than “you can’t sit with us”.

Capitalism IS a racist speciesist patriarchy. Fighting fire with Fire?

LOW KEY EMBARRASSING WE TRIED IT

(CW mental health/eating disorders)

The liberation pledge encourages isolation without vetting what the implications or detriment of what that will mean for people living with mental health, such as eating disorders. Survivors of eating disorders some times still need encouragement, and the normalisation and positive reinforcement around eating in of itself. We can’t rely on a vegan community to support us through these struggles when the vegan community can’t even consider this in the initiative of pushing vegans towards a liberation pledge. Let’s not forget that the a quick google search of the words “vegan and eating disorders” results as marrying veganism as the common “cause” of eating disorders. Oppose to what it really is, that being an ethical stance on addressing speciesism. On top of that, The vegan community is legitimasing body modification in its fat shaming methods by asking others to adopt a plant based diet for health and aesthetics. The politics of food and policing food consumption environments under the guise of animal liberation can have a deeply negative impact on many. The ramifications of such are troubling for animals going forward, as we burn out our activist through the daily trauma of not only being a vegan in a largely flesh eating world, but being a vegan who is asked to actively sabotage their support network, which we can’t ever assume to understand the complexities of such.

MAYBE ITS FOR THE ANIMALS, MAYBE ITS PRIVILEGE

Philosophically ‘having a seat at the table’ is kind of a big deal. Should we begin our conversations with our intended audience by saying “seats taken”.

And who are we left sitting with? Because food insecurities exists and prevent many from accessing a vegan diet.

So look around your table and ask what each person sat with you represents in society. If it’s looking white, comfortable, educated and splitting the bill is no big deal, you have a representation issue in your cause. You have exclusiveness. You have reinforced each other’s privilege. That’s not veganism.

HOLDING HANDS IS BETTER

The liberation pledge inadvertently is drawing lines in the sand between other social justice groups. (6)

It suggests that veganism is the arrival. It says, I’m happy to sit with a vegan who could very well be biggoted and ignorant to their privileges. (7) But I draw the line at sitting down with a non vegan who is woke on every other issue and works in the realms of justice, because they have not yet accessed or assessed information on veganism.

Looking at that scenario I can tell you who I would much rather sit with. I could learn a lot from the non vegan in this case, and apply that knowledge to my own advocacy. A bigoted vegan on the other hand, who has apparently reached the finished line and has earned a seat at the table by simply being vegan, I can not help them in the educations of understanding systems of oppression as a whole. Quite frankly I’m not even up for the emotional labour of that task.

How much more effective would it be to share a meal with some one who has an array of experiences, to the point that maybe just one meal with the company of each other— is all the both of us needed in our journeys of growing and knowing. If you’re thinking, I can just have a relationship with them after the meal, it’s not a big deal.. you would have to assume that this person has a highly patience threshold for your fuckery of vacillating social politics, that are inconsistent anyway, because people can still be exploiting animals while moving around your vegan bubble after the meal, wearing leather shoes.

NOT ALL RELATIONSHIPS ARE CREATED EQUAL- A LOOK AT THE OTHER SIDE

You could be an extremely oppressive narcissistic vegan already with a lot of power and control over others in life, or in workplace, and then you’re gifted the liberation pledge, only to reinforce your power and control “for the good of the animals”. A silencing tool used far too regularly in animal advocacy spaces when addressing people specific issues. By the way, we can always address people specific issues. It takes nothing away from the animals to ask each other to improve our human connections, understandings of things and relationships.

Using methods of emotional manipulation to control people and their understanding of the world, exploits their experiences and a journey to knowing that should alway be theirs alone. We are individuals with different backgrounds. Are we really going to give this moral high ground to just anyone? Using this method of physical withdrawal unless they do as you suggest can easily be replicated in many other situations. Manipulating people to be vegan by leveraging off the pre existing connections we have and by breaking our bonds over ultimatums is potentially bringing your targeted persons to veganism for YOU and not the animals. Do we really need vegans to go vegan because they’re on damage control with their loved ones, should that be the cost of being vegan?! Where are the animals left in this triangle of Stockholm vegan utopia. (8)

ABLEISM

The liberation pledge is ableist. You could be a vegan living with disabilities, and the choice of who you have around you to assist with some of your basic needs such as washing, going to the bathroom, cleaning, cooking and dining, is not always means that are completely within ones control. A person with a disability that requires this assistant wether it be from a carer, a nurse, a family member, a friend; is not always going to be in a position to demand from their helpers that they be vegan or only eat vegan with them, especially considering that support and assistance in these community’s of people living with disabilities can be costly, and not easily accessible. These issues continue to remain invisible in our community as well as outside. If you don’t believe that, then ask yourself why the consideration of living with the dimensions of impairment such as loss of limbs in asking others to take the liberation pledge; never crossed your mind. So are we asking a person living with a disability to only eat with their ableist already vegan community? If not, are we just excluding people… again.

Why don’t we start just saying, actually I’m not going show up to any vegan events that do not have parking or ramps, elevators or that continue to have activity limitations. Instead of planning your table seating arrangements, start boycotting your own community events until they start challenging what expansions as a fully inclusive equality minding resistance should look like. Thats an outcome of removing ones self from a table you can measure better when looking at impact, oppose to walking away saying “I think my non-action planted seeds today when I didn’t join the others in the tea room to eat my sandwich” (9)

FOOT BINDING

In the origins further down the home page on liberationpledge.com, I found reference to foot binding in China as an example of how taking a pledge has been effective before. It writes “The historical campaign against foot binding in China struggled for 1000 years. Education, lobbying, and countless other methods made no traction in stopping what was (like eating animals today) considered a “traditional” practice…”

Followed by “we can do the same for animals by refusing to participate in violent practices but also refusing to accept violent practices in our community”. It’s cute, but we can’t forget that using “trans-species” analogies as an approach usually presented by privileged persons (that vegan couple) who have insensitively and superficially drawn on the experiences of minority groups just for the sake of having a solid argument, or inspo for white peoples is never ok while they take what they need from said groups without ever working towards and equal distribution of agency, safety and representation within the praxis of animal liberation. The vegan movement is overwhelming white centering and continues to vilify these exact groups for “barbaric” acts of violence towards animals, in ways that suggest the western world is more advanced and developed when critiquing animal exploitation.

But also, foot binding was not profitable, foot binding was not commodified, and the ending of this practice did not threaten to crash the economic institutions that determine the nature of animal lives as systematically exploited objects traded in a market economy.

We really need to stop blaming every day, middle class, lower class people for the deaths of animals while the actual structures of oppression remain unaddressed with the belief that rational animal interest will catch on this way and flip the worlds moral values thus the systems.

We always need to take ethical action in the current economic system of course. But ethical participants in the economy must face down an array of institutional barriers.

Examining human role and choice in the system always needs to demonstrate an understanding that individual consumers and farmers are often left with few truly animal-friendly choices for a reason and it has nothing to do with culture and “tradition”. Pinning animal consumption back to cultures and tradition is really another veiled attempt at blaming vulnerable populations, rather than looking at the meat eating capitals founded on colonialism.

Our conversations at the table should be evaluating a number of policy changes that could improve the lives of animals in the context of a market economy. And that’s a conversation we need to have at every table vegan or not.

WHEN IS IT OK TO EDGE ON HUMANS

If you can say, I am full, I am actualised and I am resilient to the traumatic experiences of isolation and myriad of relationships and situations my stance will exclude me from. If you can say *real talk* this hurts me and my mental health to engage with people who refuse to understand my position, this is what I need to do. Not what Im expected to do for “consistency”, not for “hypocrisy”, not because I don’t already trust in myself that I take animal advocacy “seriously”… not for an outlet that will allow me to sleep better at night with my privilege, but because this is helping me be resilient, this is empowering me. Then that’s totally fucking rad!

I respect people with the strength in their beliefs to abide by Pledges (7), but I also think a positive, vegan presence at a non-vegan event can have a subtle yet meaningful impact.

And what we shouldn’t do, is wrap this pledge up in an animal liberation bow without ever challenging its effectiveness.

The effectiveness (10) of what actions we take and what we ask of activists as a community needs to be accessible to all if we want it to be actually

-effective-

If I can give you a handful of ‘give ins’ around why this approach is not a one size fits all, that in itself should be a problematic flag worth critically unpacking.

And actually, you don’t have to move through this world compounding your indifferences on top of each other until you’re looking at a brick wall, and everyone else is on the other side, for the animals. When looking at the pyramid of white supremacy when we seek to understand oppression, and our history of violence towards animals.. you’ll be shook to learn that at the base of this pyramid, the very foundations of oppression, is indifference. Should we really be building walls? Or strengthen connections with solid helpful bridges.

Reference

(1) https://www.google.com.au/amp/s/honeythatsok.com/2014/03/22/why-voting-with-your-dollar-doesnt-work/amp/

(2) https://honeythatsok.com/tag/10-steps-to-sustainability/

(3) https://humanrightsareanimalrights.com/2018/02/22/10-signs-your-animal-rights-group-is-a-cult-guest-post-by-wokevegana/

(4) http://blog.veganeducationgroup.com/language-matters-vol-2-animals-arent-voiceless-were-just-not-listening/

(5) http://blog.veganeducationgroup.com/cruelty/

(6) https://www.google.com.au/amp/s/humanrightsareanimalrights.com/2018/01/09/veganism-in-an-oppressive-world/amp/

(7) http://www.animalliberationfront.com/ALFront/Interviews/What%20is%20Straight%20Edge.htm

(8) http://blog.veganeducationgroup.com/clear-consistent-vegan-education-works-heres-proof-exclamationpoints/

(9) http://veganfeministnetwork.com/is-veganism-ableist-a-disabled-vegan-perspective/

(10) http://blog.veganeducationgroup.com/on-magical-thinking-and-why-food-is-not-the-solution-to-speciesism/