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Do Vegans Really Care More About Animals Than People?
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Do Vegans Really Care More About Animals Than People?

One of the most common accusations against vegans from pre-vegans is that they care for other animals more than they care for humans. They seem to believe that we have not space for everyone in our hearts. It always strikes me as stunning that pre-vegans can even make these kinds of comments.

If you ask non-vegans what they do in particular toward the advancement of their fellow humans, a lot of them don't actually claim to do anything special or out of the ordinary. And yet, some maintain an accusation of vegans working only for non-human animals, with little consideration for their fellow man. In my twenties, I worked with Amnesty International, then later moved on to environmental work, and then arrived at veganism. I had to become vegan to realize that everything is in fact connected and indivisible. When we go vegan, we often automatically and by extension, care for many intersected issues.

In fact, our hearts are big enough, if we open them, to embrace the interconnectivity of all causes. We can't look at one problem without recognizing that it is linked to others. For instance, going vegan directly saves human lives. Many don't realize that their consumption of other animals for unnecessary reasons, literally takes food away from poor people, many of lot of them children, and that their "food choices" are in part behind the most disgusting of human rights assaults: starvation.

After all, most of the grain, corn, and soy currently grown in the world, although often genetically modified, goes to the feed animals we domesticate and consume. Meanwhile, poor countries can't afford to buy their own grain and sell it to the west, and they starve. By going vegan, we can choose not to further participate in these egregious human rights violations.

Cornell researchers have calculated that we could feed 800 million people with just the grain that goes into the feed of non-human animals. So, while we have one billion people who suffer from diseases of affluence (obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc), there are about one billion people currently suffering from diseases of poverty (starvation, actual protein deficiency, etc.).

Another link to what's on our plates, is women's rights. We can't ignore the fact that what we do to female animals is interconnected with how women are treated in the world. When we have people who forcefully (read rape) impregnate female animals and then steal their babies, their eggs, their milk, we have to realize that the same is done to human females. Women are raped every twenty seconds somewhere in the world. Girls go through genital mutilations (for some religious and cultural excuses). Women are still forced to have multiple children because they aren't allowed to take take contraceptives and their husbands or partners make it impossible for them to be able to. The list goes on. What we do to other animals, we eventually do to ourselves as a species. Everything is connected. When we commodify and exploit other non-human animals, it follows that we often extend that same mindset of ownership and exploitation, for our fellow humans.

By going Vegan, we reject this. I believe people's hearts are big enough to include many causes. If I decide to become a classic music fan today, I can still care for good old classic rock. My heart widens. It's restrictive and unproductive to think that we can care for only one cause or set of beings at a time.

Veganism is in fact a fantastic way to extend our circle of compassion, because it makes clear the interconnectivity of all causes, whether we are talking about animal rights, women's' rights, or human rights. Veganism is all inclusive and should be un-concerned with separating issues. On the contrary, it makes us conscious that there is no way to care for one issue or being, without caring for another.

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” He recognized and connected the dots. His widow and son went on themselves to become vegan. Other great leaders, like Cesar Chavez or Mahatma Gandhi, also recognized the interconnectivity of causes and did the same.

Embracing veganism is merely an acknowledgment that we are all one on this planet-- non-humans, humans, nature. What affects one group or cause, affects us all. When people connect these dots, we can breathe easier and plan for a better, more inclusive world.

 

Sources: Science Daily: U.S. Could Feed 800 Million People With Grain That Livestock Eat, Cornell Ecologist Advises Animal Scientists

*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.

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  1. RobbVegan
    Veganism and by extension Animal Rights, is the greatest social justice issue of our time. Though there may be misanthropic vegans out there, many of the ethical vegans I know personally came to veganism by way of human rights and specifically feminism. Yes, we are are all one on this planet -- and we must all connect the dots! Thank you, Veronique, for this post.
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    1. Veronique Perrot
      Veronique Perrot
      Thank you so much Robb :)
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  2. Leslie Linder
    Great blog. I agree that many vegans work for the rights of all once the interconnectivity is opened up to them. I love the book "The Sexual Politics of Meat" for pointing so many of these issues out. And I work at a domestic violence program so that book is particularly relevant for me. Thanks again for keeping the good info out there!
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    1. Veronique Perrot
      Veronique Perrot
      Thank you for your comment. The Sexual Politics of Meat is a book I also love as it was the first one to clearly make the connection between what is done to women and females of other species!
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  3. Ladan S
    Great article Veronique, this is a very common criticism vegans get as if fighting for animal rights means not caring for humans.
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  4. tdkinard
    As a nurse I do care more for animals than people. People put themselves in the situations they're in. Its their responsibility to get themselves out. Animals don't bring any of the torture and suffering to themselves.
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    1. Veronique Perrot
      Veronique Perrot
      Ty for your comments. However, children who starve have not chosen their situation.
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  5. Marcia Mueller
    First, I get tired of vegans being accused of misanthropy. Some people feel that when we care about other animals that we must reassure them that we really, really do think people are more important. However, after years of reading about the horrendous abuses human beings have inflicted about our fellow creatures--the way horses were worked until they dropped, sent to war, and now sent to slaughter, the way "food" animals have always been abused, the way people have gotten pleasure from bullfighting, bear baiting, rodeos, and circuses, the way hunters and trappers tortured wolves, beavers, bears, etc., etc., etc., it is hard not to be a little misanthropic. I have to stop and remind myself that there are some good and compassionate people out there who mean well and help. But there are many who are capable of terrible brutality. Just watch the undercover investigations of slaughterhouses and factory farms, see the wolves in traps with grinning trappers standing by, the dogs rescued from fighting. If someone wants to think that some ethical vegans may be misanthropic, let them do so after they view all the evidence.
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    1. Veronique Perrot
      Veronique Perrot
      Having photographed feedlots and seen Earthlings, I understand your position. However, no one is born evil. Society molds us to be racists, violent, mysoginists, and so on. A baby doesn't choose to starve anymore than a pig chooses to be slaughtered.
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