by Dr. Steven Best – Philosopher, Writer, Activist (Department of Philosophy, University of Texas)
This is the most powerful dialectical critique of veganism yet articulated. Dr. Best shows that, although veganism is essential to the future of all life on the planet, this potential is not being realized. He identifies the systemic flaws and fallacies that weaken our movement and then proposes a radical social and political model of veganism based upon alliance politics. The video ends with a rousing call to civil disobedience, mass resistance, and revolutionary struggle….
Award-winning writer, noted speaker, public intellectual, and seasoned activist, Steven Best engages the issues of the day such as animal rights, ecological crisis, biotechnology, liberation politics, terrorism, mass media, globalization, and capitalist domination. Best has published 10 books, over 100 articles and reviews, spoken in over a dozen countries, interviewed with media throughout the world, appeared in numerous documentaries, and was voted by VegNews as one of the nations “25 Most Fascinating Vegetarians.” He has come under fire for his uncompromising advocacy of “total liberation” (humans, animals, and the earth) and has been banned from the UK for the power of his thoughts. From the US to Norway, from Sweden to France, from Germany to South Africa, Best shows what philosophy means in a world in crisis.
The Left cannot run a revolution without animal rights activists and without vegans. It is not a revolution to liberate one species on the backs of all other species. Because Leftism is just Stalinism towards animals. Leftism is the most radical social paradigm, and has the insights we need to change capitalism, but Leftism is in the palaeolithic era in its understanding of animals.
And the Leftists and the social progressive movements could not be more backward in their understanding of animal issues, of health and diet, of an ethics of respect, and in the important role that veganism plays for ecology and sustainability…..notice that we are the only movement with a non-violent ethic, because Leftists believe in killing as long as you do it ‘humanely’ – that is the highest consciousness that they can raise, that they can rise to….but we believe in the value of each and every individual and sentient life and we are completely unique in that.
But the bad news is..we do not know how to realize our potential. We remain small, weak and marginalised. We have all kinds of enemies in this world. They include corporations, the corporate media, the meat and dairy industries, they include carnivorous ideology, and they include the police state, and the security forces that enforce the animal holocaust as valid, legitimate and they fully protect it.
In some ways we are our own worst enemy..I’m going to make a generalisation. I am aware that not everyone in this room fits the kind of vegan I think is weak and problematic.. I will create an ideal type model, so the generalisation I am going to use is a fair one, and it’s an accurate one: we are lifestyle oriented and apolitical; we are a consumerist and easily co-opted into capitalism, we are elitist. We are middle class, upper class and white. That is because we do not pay attention, we do not care enough about the problems of class and race…but we care about our own purity, or the purity of other vegans, more than we care about social problems and social structures.
We are isolated, we are isolationists, we live in a bubble world where we, like most of the population, cannot bear to look at the facts of reality. We have a magical mathematics called ‘fuzzy math’, and the vegan outreach people practice this the most. For every pamphlet they hand out..they think they get one vegan!!..do we ever look in the garbage.. or ask if they take the pamphlets home and read them?
I have another shocking fact for you…the two words vegans cannot say: China and India… these countries are buying into capitalism.. the world cannot afford another United States..we are losing and we are losing badly. We are losing to population growth, we are losing to China and India, we are losing to neoliberalism and the eradication of any barrier to so-called free-trade. We are losing to authoritarian governments and the loss of civil liberties, we are losing to species extinction, and we are losing to climate change.
We pretend like we can leaflet the holocaust out of existence, that we can educate fascists into humanity, and that we have an infinite amount of time to change the world. But the scientists – and I listen to science, I don’t listen to vegans – I listen to science, the world consensus, the best facts we have I study them every day. The scientists say we have finite conditions… we have a very small window of opportunity. After the tipping point it is too late..
Veganism is a diet minimally, it is also an ethics, and did you know it is a politics? Donald Watson, the founder of veganism in 1944, defined veganism as an anti-oppression politics!…it is against oppression of non-human animals and human animals, it is against all oppressions. He defined it in the broadest possible political terms. What I call Total Liberation. And yet we have reduced veganism from a politics of total liberation to a lifestyle… We are too passive! A boycott is not action! If I’m opposed to paedophilia and I don’t consume child pornography, am I stopping paedophilia? ..if we are less than one percent of the population and we boycott a product – are our responsibilities exhausted in that?
Stop doing vegan outreach on college campuses. Go to families that are poor, go to the inner cities, go to people of colour. Get outside of your comfort zone – get out of the kitchen and into the streets! Stop baking cupcakes and make recipes for revolution! Am I being too radical when I say that veganism should be a social resistance movement? That we should be out on the streets! That we ought to start doing what’s happening right now – of all places, in the United States, where people have circled Wall St! We need to do what they do in England: put your body in front of a truck, put your arms around the building of a slaughterhouse, break down the doors and break down the windows. Stop allowing the holocaust to continue..let us become a resistance movement. Start breaking the law, start joining in civil disobedience. Fuck the law! When the law is wrong the right thing to do is break it! Now you think I sound radical? I’m only quoting Gandhi and Martin Luther King. If we were to follow Gandhi and King in actions not words, we would be in the streets and not in the kitchen.
The environmental movement has been co-opted, defeated, made part of the capitalist establishment. We can’t let that happen to us, but we see it happening. We see it with vegan capitalism, with ‘humane’ meat – PETA gives awards to Temple Grandin for making slaughterhouse chutes that minimise the fear of animals, we are now working with corporations to make the holocaust safe, so that we can play violins as the Jews march to their death.
I come from the Left, I remain in the Left, I’ve tried to talk to the Left – it is very difficult. Social movements in general do not respect us. We need to get out of our vegan bubble, look at what the banking industry is doing, look at the IMF, look at the World Bank, look at what’s happening in the southern hemisphere, pay attention to what corporations and governments are doing, pay attention to science and ecological facts. Let’s enlarge our vision, understand what’s happening in the social world, the environmental world, and not just in the supermarket, and be strong enough to face the facts…you can’t change a problem you don’t understand. You can’t cut out a cancer if you don’t know how deep it lies. Our challenge is to fight without illusions, but never become disillusioned.
I say we take the vegan movement as it currently is, shallow veganism, and we turn into something we can call deep veganism. Which means we look at the whole picture, which means we are not isolated from other movements, which means that we educate but we also agitate, and which means we become a force to reckon with.. never something to buy off with markets, never something to make afraid with police, but a true social power. Let’s transform this society into something sane, humane, and sustainable.
Speech kindly transcribed by Alison Banville.