There's No Time Like the Present (for Veganism)

One argument we often get justifying the marginalization of veganism in favor of promoting alternative methods for exploiting nonhuman animals is that the world isn't going to go vegan anytime soon, at least not in our lifetime, and something needs to be done for other animals "here and now." We hear that other animals are suffering now and that alternative means of breeding, enslaving, or killing promise to reduce this suffering. We're told that the vegan ideal of nonexploitation is the ultimate goal, but for today we need to focus on supporting alternative means of exploitation.

However, as the saying goes, "Justice delayed is justice denied." As I posted previously, this was understood in November 1944 when in the first issue of Vegan News Donald Watson wrote:

A common criticism is that the time in not yet ripe for our reform. Can time ever be ripe for any reform unless it is ripened by human determination? ... There is an obvious danger in leaving the fulfilment of our ideals to posterity, for posterity may not have our ideals. Evolution can be retrogressive as well as progressive, indeed there seems always to be a strong gravitation the wrong way unless existing standards are guarded and new visions honoured. For this reason we have formed our Group, the first of its kind, we believe, in this or any other country.

As Watson points out, veganism is all about the working to end nonhuman animal exploitation here and now. This is why the vegan movement was created. Those who talk about leaving veganism to the future in favor of making adjustments to exploitation in the present are talking about vegan pie in the sky. "Pie in the sky" is a phrase created by the Wobbly song writer Joe Hill to describe those who would discourage opposing oppression here and now with the promise of liberation in the hereafter.

Those promoting "reform" by way of alternative means of exploiting other animals hypothesize that it is unknowable what will lead to our goal of nonexploitation, and therefore everything is permissible if it is claimed to lead to "liberation" in the hereafter (including the continued, although more paternalistic, exploitation of other animals). Advocacy of fine-tuning exploitation involves a provisional rejection of the vegan ideal, while at the same time claiming not to oppose that ideal; it is an absurdity that supports oppression here and now in the name of liberation in the hereafter.

We're told the minor adjustments in the exploitation of nonhuman animals is beneficial here and now. That is, the gassing of chickens and turkeys is acceptable here and now, or the mass killing of cats and dogs is an obligation here and now. We're told that this oppression is required presently in order to be able to have liberation in the future.

Meanwhile, we're told the time isn't right for veganism. It's even said that advocacy of veganism would be harmful to other animals at this time. And the values of the philosophy it offers are thought of as useless given the existing social order.

Like Joe Hill's preacher who promises pie in the sky when we die, the absurdity of delaying nonexploitation in favor of alternative methods of exploitation now has a metaphysical connotation. Under this influence, veganism is seen as intangible and outside of this world. A "vegan world" is seen in terms of an afterlife, hence the common complaint we hear that "a vegan world won't happen in our lifetime." Those invoking alternative exploitation for the here and now are justifying a lifetime committed to negating vegan advocacy in favor of exploitation "reforms" – paternalistic breeding, enslaving, and killing – for salvation in the afterlife – that is, liberation after our present lifetime. For materialists the hereafter is a future time at the end of history, but it does not lose the metaphysical connotation of eternal salvation.

In the absurd tradition of the pseudo-liberationists of the early 20th century, some self-styled "animal liberationists" are happy to accept, at least "in our present speciesist world," oppression, exploitation, and killing of those whose liberation they proclaim to seek in the hereafter. Author George Orwell, who was a journalist who covered liberationists in the early 20th century, observed the type of absurdity we presently find among these types of so-called "animal liberationists." The conclusion that vegan advocacy will harm other animals evokes the slogan "Slavery is Freedom." The belief that alternative means of exploitation are positive for attending to the popular prejudice evokes the slogan "Ignorance is Strength." And those "liberationists" who believe that intimidation is a form of advocacy evoke the slogan "War is Peace."

While advocates of alternative means of exploitation would have us believe in vegan pie in the sky, serious vegan advocates ask: "If not now, when? If not us, who?" As Mohandas Gandhi said, we must to be the change we want to see in the world, not the darkness we wish to leave behind. Exploitation, even "reformed," is the darkness want to leave behind. Whether or not its advocates are conscious of it, supporting alternative methods of exploitation obstructs, marginalizes, and negates veganism (the change we want) here and now.