Backlash and Name Calling

Some activists and organizations co-opting "vegan" use a number of misrepresentations in the form of labels, stereotypes, mockery, and caricatures against those who resist the co-option of veganism. An example is VO, an organization that favors two pejorative misrepresentations of vegans: "symbolic vegan" and "vegan police." Both of these labels are examples of a backlash against veganism by an organization explicitly attempting to co-opt the vegan movement.

VO defines vegans as "symbolic" for opposing human privilege and defines "vegans" who accept human privilege as "practical." The distinction is intentionally created to polarize vegans in order to "divide and rule." Jack Norris of VO was very open about this in a e-newsletter:

A few yeas ago, I started suggesting that our community, to some extent, change the definition of "vegan" to mean someone who avoids perceptible animal products. In other words, if you can't see it, taste it, or smell it, then don't worry about it.

While this idea has definitely not caught on in the traditional vegans circles, potential vegans who read Vegan [sic] Outreach's literature about the difference between a "practical" and "symbolic vegan" often write us saying that they never would have gone vegan [sic] if they hadn't read this.

It's clear that VO created the "practical"/"symbolic" split as a means of undermining "traditional vegans circles" that continue to oppose the human privileges of human supremacy, while recruiting a membership that acquiesces to the same privileges and structure of human supremacy. Calling those who acquiesce "practical vegans" is part of a strategy of co-option and absorption of veganism in to the status quo.

While "symbolic vegan" is meant to divide and rule, "vegan police" is, ironically, meant to force vegans to internally police themselves. The so-called "vegan police" tend to be those vegans who understand that the personal is political and therefore challenge speciesism and human supremacy by calling out human privilege in everyday life. The "vegan police" are in stark contrast to those who internally police themselves, remain silent in the face of speciesism, and accept and defend human privilege and supremacy.

The police are those who keep others from challenging the dominant social order. So the real people policing vegans are the very people calling others the "vegan police." For example, VO uses the label "vegan police" to police those of us who assert that bees are exploited for their honey. VO polices these advocates in order to silence their resistance to speciesism that devalues bees.