Published July 23, 2010
Hi, this is PLANTY*SWINES
Vegan Animal Liberation, the pitfalls of using the terms simply as labels.
Revised on 8th Sept 2009
The polarities of group dynamics within society in general and also in veganism, as a minority fragment of sociey, are like two brackets that easily can close you in and not leave out. Group dynamics play a dominant role over the individual opinions, and tend to suppress the deeper substances of meaningful societal content. If this assumption is right, we should ask ourselves where veganism, in as much as it naturally is a group movement, will be heading to, given the common problem caused by the difficulties of practiced pluralism (the lack of practiced pluralism) within any human group.
The two (or more) sides of the brackets of all group dynamics share a common denominator of an exclusionary human self-concern . The societal layers of ethnocentric groupings, which in a postglobal world still create the major causes for conflicts within our societies because the underlying reasons for conflicts between people stay unsolved, and "human hate" or "will for evilness" is still further being nurtured -, tend to crush individualism as a field not covered by a mainly societal reach. Ethnocentrism has the same effect upon the role of the individual in society as all concerns have which are predominantly concentrated on the human self-concern (like the gender issue, religious identification, political right- and left-wing extremism). Individualism though (I use this word to describe that what affects the concern of the smallest unit of society from an inward-orientated-perspective), is the most undeniable necessity of pluralism. A society that won't leave it's door of human identity open for individualism, practically rules out the possibilities of a pluralist Realpolitik and can at most remain in a state of holding ideals that realistically stay unpracticable.
Doing away with individualism, for the sake of caring for the main concerns of society, expresses itself in the vegan field through the striking seperation of topics into negative and unpopular and unimportant ones and positive and relevant topics. New angles of perspectives from a vegan standpoint can hardly find their legitimate political space and acknowledgement in societal spaces (the vegan counter culture, ie. this factual societal minority) that are predomonantly ruled by inner majority-opinions. Individual thinking or self-thought differentialization is easily blurred out since the whole of veganism is a minority concern that is overall generally rejected by the mainstream of our societies. This pressure makes the inner dynamics of this minority group on its various levels relatively problematic (questions of self-legitimization arise, a search for a foundation upon which a new freedom to correlate with the world in new ways is built or can be built).
Where to head to?
I first thought that the Internet can be a tool that allows for a greater plurality to become active and visible, but that's not necessarily the case. A plurality can't find it's expression, not even where there are many different individual minds, when a majority view is being accepted as the non plus ultra and as the assumed way-of-thinking that everybody should follow if she wants to create an advancement for the idea of the pioneering movement.
Many movements were driven by the notion that diverging opinions harm the goal that the united group aims to reach. In the case of the substance-of-content that we are dealing with in the vegan and the Animal Rights movement though, it's fundamentally and theoretically seen the idea of liberation itself and not the social dynamics, that makes up the core of the lifestyle (the practiced ethics towards nonhuman animals) and the political orientation of an environmental inclusiveness; the claim that people need to stick together in order to reach what is mainly a political goal, is unusable and only a hinderance in the case of a liberation movement that basically seeks to untangle the earliest fallacies of the dominant part of human civilization (i.e. homocentrism).
In other words, this authenticiy of the idea of liberation we are originally dealing with here, stems from the political scope of both veganism and Animal Rights, which is an all-encompassing liberation and tied to fundamental human rights in regards to the question of human ethics, the human outlook on and relation to the world. These two ideas, veganism and Animal Rights, are really too big to be tamed or utilized by power politics of a group or a movement.
Why I call Animal Rights a political orientation: every substance that is affected by our thoughts and actions belongs into the political realm, because we have to deal with interests (our own at the first glance and at the second glance the interest of „the other") and we have to deal with ethical implications - the existential grey zones between „us" and the „nature" we live in, the concept we have and create of „nature". Our selves and our localization are affected and the world is affected.
I believe we ought to be careful with where we are heading to: Veganism and Animal Rights can't be taken out of „the whole scope", but also veganism and Animal Rights should not become accessories for our own societal concerns, no matter which fraction or group we are belonging to. I personally am an individual who disengages from identifying myself with the monolytic homocentrist paradigma human groups mostly offer.
Now what is vegan?
Veganism meant to repect the beings we identify as „animals", and not to just pity them. The act of pitying is not the same as the act of respecting. Many vegans use the supposed pitifulness of nonhuman animals or the „pitifulness" of the situations and lifes and deaths of nonhuman animals de facto as an excuse not to deal with the subject (i.e. the subject matter ethical veganim deals with), because what is pitiful is of a minor concern and evokes only emotions in those who feel sorry for them. Respect is an attitude you have towards a being or the-affected-agent-of-a-cause you consider worthy of dignity.
Being for Animal Rights means to engage in politically contextualizing the animal realm with the territories of definition given to the nonhuman animal realm. The human majority keeps fencing off this realm from the position of their each and single subjective and their common „objective" standpoints and frameworks constantly anew.
Veganism and Animal Rights should, in their active mode, not lose their essentialist reach for being a real liberation movement by shrinking these terms to labels we decorate ourselves with. Now, to deny the meaning of plurality means to be anti a holistic liberation in my point of view.
 "Solidarität: Alle Solidaritätsbegriffe tragen noch deutliche Spuren der ersten und ursprünglichsten Solidarität aller Menschen (also des Menschen) gegen die Natur. Solche Solidarität von Einem gegen alles Andere ist aber unter Menschen nie erlaubt. Es gibt keine unbedingte Solidarität. Das "wir sitzen alle in einem Boot" ist ein Beispiel der falschen, verabsolutierenden Solidarität.
Der Gruppenbegriff mitsamt seiner Bezogenheit auf die Teil-Ganzes-Kategorie stammt aus der Solidarität des Menschen gegen die Natur." (S. 127), ARENDT, HANNAH, Denktagebuch 1959 - 1973, Erster Band, Hrsg: Ursula Ludz und Ingeborg Nordmann, Piper Verlag, München, 2002.
Now that what is going on on twitter is so interesting
THIS IS JUST A SHORT ROUGH NOTE: I am on twitter ( @ http://twitter.com/veganswines ) now, and am on the search for new vegan/AR input. And what i see is: The info, people, and sites linked on there open extremely multicolored new perspectives.
There are two things that I personally hope will crystalize from the whole vegan/AR twitter interaction thing going on on there overall: the diversity that we all see coming in with and from the individual-input should become visible as the actual VEGANISM and ANIMAL RIGHTS PHILOSOPHY itself. The vegan and Animal Rights movement is all a thing in progress, and done by every individual.
And another thing which should hopefully find it's way into the common AWARENESS is: that nonhuman animals should not be regarded under biological, religious or philosophical terms, BUT instead by completely NEW terms that seek to orient themselves at the knowledge we gain from our new interrelation with the nonhuman animals, the natural environment and with humans (critical reflections on the own culture/s).
(I'm so very curious!)
Vegan multiculturalism positively changes something long overdue
I never really thought I would discover a new form of dynamics amongst the vegan community. But I currently see that there are many other vegans who voice a critique about the vegan movement as how it predominantly became visible so far.
That critique is based on a lack of inclusive mutliculturalness or on a lack of an appreciation of ethnical and/or cultural plurality amongst vegan and AR people. A new understanding of veganism seems to emerge, that allows for more inner critique overall. This has been long overdue.
Although the main focus of this inner critique does not lay directly in the question of dominant (biologistic) attitudes held about nonhuman animals in the AR/vegan movement, it is interesting to find out that an apporach which generally allows for more inner questioning, also leaves more space for a deeper discussion about nonhuman animals and the human-animal relationship in a lesser stereotyped form as what has been considered to be the "right way" of addressing the issues so far, it seems.
A project of interest:
The disadvantage of this project is though, that it only focuses on the US - which seems to be meeting the impression of the other parts of the world, that the US is at least in as much America-centric as the Europeans like to be Eurocentric.
My criticism about the discussions on the VOC blog as far as I read them to get an glimpse is:
Any self-definition that puts the Human Rights question categorically above the Animal Rights question - insofar that the case for Animal Rights is being claimed by analogy to forms of human oppression and the construction of rights terms of a human-centered setting - might run risk of stepping into homocentric patterns.
The question also has to be asked if "speciesism" as a Problemkomplex, gets solved enough in its juxtaposition to human rights issues that stay in the context of human rights definitions, rather than brining it (speciesism) into its contextualities with: homocentrism on the negative side and environmental ethics in a broadened (also non-homocentric) view.
Human Rights can't fully form the basis upon which to set Animal Rights, where "Human Rights" takes the human as the definor-of-value (as the only end in himself or a contractualist constellation). A dedicatedness of Human Right for Animal Rights can on the other hand work, but insofar as the human relocates herself to take a position within instead of outside of the "natural", which is an only subjectively definable domain (i.e. with this concept of the "natural" being non-homocentrical.)
To advance veganism, the concept of veganism should clealy go more together with the political dimension of Animal Rights. Otherwise it runs risk not to get beyond being the ethical lifestyle which it is, but misses out its chance to really liberate ... .
Different oppressions intersect, but the idea of Animal Rights should not fall short in a current situation in which nonhuman animals have no rights per se.
There are so many issues to address. I also work in the field of Human Rights, but I am aware that the steps that need to be taken in specific human related issues need to be addressed on a different scale. It is obvious that Human Rights are of course a correlated prerequisite for the Rights question overall; not at least because when oppressors rule, they tend to oppress eberybody, every life, every entity that they deem oppressable! Human Rights and Animal Rights should, I believe, be equalled out with each other by measuring both on the sides of the scale of a universal justice, as far as the question of the "prerequisite" of Human Rights is concered. (This point though would be to long to further it out in this space now and here.)
But I think that what is at steak with homocentrism and how homocentrist conceptualizations affect nonhuman animal life, clearly needs it's own chapter. The exact way in which nonhuman animals are oppressed has it's own qualities. These need an intense examination.
This critique is not only targeted at the US blog VOC, but it's meant to criticize basically all vegans that I came across so far.
I believe that what is important, is to work on the terminology (an Animal Rights language) that is able to create the political definition of the nonhuman animal domain as a sphere of a future legal protection - independent of a direct human interest met thereby.
This can, most likely, can only be achieved if humans
a.) question their self-definitions in context to the position they inhabit in an inter-species and environmental context,
b.) through a recognition of a self-autonomy of nonhuman animals, in the extremely wide context of "the earth" and "nature" (as the superordinate complexes).
GENERALLY BUT BROADLY RELATED WITH THIS: I might add more comments on my thoughts about the Human Rights - Animal Rights intersection later. And my subject will be the comparison of the holocaust to the mass murder of nonhuman animals. I have already written my text on this isse in German: Die zerstörende Gewalt. Der Überlaufeffekt oder die Einmaligkeit in der Vorkommnis von Gewalt? (PDF). Gewalt von Menschen gegen Menschen und menschliche Gewalt gegen Tiere - besteht hier ein stärkerer Differenzierungsbedarf?
What? You are not a "vegan", but a "vegan"???
It might seem irrelevant but I as a 'vegan' myself, thus running this site, have had more bad than good experiences with other vegans. The main reason for that being that I just can't get comfortable with this 'animal-equals-biological-unit' type of attitude.
Vegans, just as the usual AR folk, think in very settled forms about how to explain the basics of the substance matter they are dealing with: They assume that biology is sufficient to explain animal life, in the case of nonhuman animals.
Well, I clearly cannot agree with the 'animal-equals-biological-unit' equation, since I am able to simply put forward in a few expressions that what my personal conviction is, rather than selling myself out to "what others say".
A. Animals can't be comprehensively defined by any category such as the natural sciences or philosophy or religion provide them
B. My ethical concerns mark an ethical connectedness or bond with the earth. This interrelation needs neither affirmation nor self-explanation toward critique of any form. The bond is existent, no matter what ... .
I am decidedly 'independent' in my views about the world! I believe ethicalness requires free thinking.
Judgements, Dec 03, 2006
The relation to animals, it's not much different than the relation to anything else I might consider to be close and relevant, or distant and seemingly irrelevant to me. The question is only, if my personal perspective on what is important or not, does also reflect the real state of how things are, independent of my "assessments".
The Real Thing, Dec 03, 2006
If there is no basis on which you can claim moral rights, can you simply be persistent without any basis?
If you are confronted with a majority that does not have any regard for the way in which you define morality, does that mean you should make their views in any way yours?
I guess not, but why do a lot of AR advocates believe that there is no basis to rightly claim those kind of rights which would be appropriate seen from their perspectives. For example, they usually try to highlight that animals are very special - to them - but then what ... all that speciality that is seen in an animal gets drowned in a cluster of bio-logos termini.
Ok, the valid alternative you may think is ... ? You tell me! I can only say or write: name that what makes up an important part of the reality about animals.