May 2008

Veganism and Anti-Oppression

Keeping in mind the centrality of exploitation to oppression, I think it is important to place the vegan ideal of non-exploitation firmly in the context of anti-oppression organizing. Viewing veganism as a broadly anti-oppression movement is not to redefine veganism as something new, but instead to "clarify the goal towards which the movement aspires." (Read more...)

The centrality of exploitation to oppression

Oppression exists when one social group, whether knowingly or unconsciously, exploits another social group for its own benefit. Social oppression is distinct from situation of simple brute force in that it is an interlocking system that involves ideological control as well as domination and control of the social institutions and resources of the society, resulting in a condition of privilege for the agent group relative to the disenfranchisement and exploitation of the target group.

(Rita Hardiman and Bailey W. Jackson, "Conceptual Foundations for Social Justice Courses")

It is perhaps (hopefully) a commonplace to define oppression as discrimination plus power, that is, a distinction or differentiation made between people which is backed up and exploited by a difference of power between the two parties. We emphasize the element of exploitation as it is precisely this 'turning to account' which gives an active sense to oppression, as distinct from it being a passive state. ...

In terms of moral philosophy and ethical and professional practice, 'non exploitation' may be viewed as a part of the practitioner's commitment to 'non maleficence' or doing no harm.

(Barbara Smith and Keith Tudor, "Oppression and Pedagogy: Anti-oppressive Practice in the Education of Therapists")

I'm going to come back to these two quotes in future posts, but I just wanted to start by posting them together.

Labeling Product 'Vegan'

Labeling consumer products "vegan" is problematic in terms of the vegan ideal. I'm not opposed to labeling products, but I do think it is preferable if such products where simply labeled "animal-free." This would be more accurate since the commercial and marketing use of the term "vegan" is only denoting that the product was produced or manufactured without using animal-derived ingredients or animal testing.