Veganism, Allyship and Solidarity

I was going to reply in the comments section to Noah's critical response to my Veganism: Theory and Practice post, but the challenges he makes are too important. So I've decided he deserve a full post in response to what he wrote.

I share Noah's concerns, and oppose seeing ourselves as saviors (or even the "voices") of other animals. I think that leads to the protection problem I've been posting about. Human (even vegans) benefit from the exploitation of other animals, which is central to their oppression. We are all part of this system of speciesism and human supremacy, and that's what I believe veganism is meant to challenge.

I think Noah has a good idea of where I'm going with this blog; "veganism as a solidarity movement and looking at veganism as allyship" is just how I see things. And I think a discussion on this is already underway.

Consider protection, the assumption with protection is that the protector is the savior of victims. Protection is a form of human superiority. In order to be the saviors or protectors of nonhuman animals we have to first see them as perpetual victims. As human protectors/saviors we place ourselves as superior to the nonhumans through our victimization of them. Also, as protectors/saviors we would naturally believe we're morally superior to other people – after all, we'd need someone to "protect" nonhumans from. So protection fits easily with white supremacy, capitalism, and other systems of oppression. I believe the concept of protection, or the morally superior savior, is antithetical to veganism.

Rather than seeing nonhumans as victims in need of protection, veganism must work to transform the structures that cause their oppression. Like Noah suggested, this means being in allyship and solidarity with nonhumans. I think allyship is the very root of veganism, and an ally the very model of a vegan. In "Allies: How are they Created and What are Their Experiences?," Laurie A. Roades and Jeffery Scott Mio identify some key elements of allyship:

  1. Recognition of the oppression experienced by groups other than one's own.
  2. Recognition of the privilege that comes with membership in a dominant group.
  3. Active support of and effort to speak out for and stand up for others and work to change the status quo.

Our allyship and solidarity must comprise all forms of oppression. Our exploitation of people interlocks with our exploitation of other animals, and vice versa. As such, it's the people in oppressed groups who have the most potential to develop true solidarity with nonhuman animals. (I'm distinguishing allyship from solidarity, which I see as based more on shared oppression.)

Speciesism is the structure that is used to define what is human, and what is "good" (e.g., "humane," "humanist," and "humanitarian"). The dehumanization of people has a pervasive presence in the structure of our oppression of each other. Just as there are no masters without enslaved people, no oppressors without the oppressed people, there would be no dehumanization without a system of human superiority.

I think one thing that distinguishes veganism is "honouring the efforts of all who are striving to achieve the emancipation of [humans] and of [other] animals." Though I'd avoid saying "corrupted," I do think that veganism has been undermined. That is, veganism has been weakened by a wearing away of its foundation. (I was going to post on this today, but I'll have to save it for a later post.)