It is widely accepted that human civilization is at least 6000 years old. And in these past 6000 years, our lifestyles have been drastically transformed by scientific and technological advances, as well as, and as importantly as, political and social changes. We’ve fought various forms of prejudices and social oppression like human trafficking, casteism, faith-based discrimination, human slavery and apartheid, homophobia, and misogyny, many of which we are still not completely rid of.
Nevertheless, our sense of equality has changed immensely for the better, and in a majority of modern societies, most forms of violence and oppression are now looked upon with abhorrence. However, there is one form of injustice so prevalent today, that most of the time, it isn’t even looked upon as injustice, it comes across as something so “natural” and programmed into out way of life, that hardly anyone gives it a passing thought.
Speciesism refers to the prejudice that nonhuman animals are inferior to humans and that they can be used solely because they do not belong to our species. Needless to say, each and every form of injustice that has ever existed in the world was because of one group’s belief that they were superior to or more important than another, and deserved more rights and often that they deserved to use for their own benefit and decide the fate of the inferior. Anti-speciesism might sound over-the-top or irrational to a layman today, but that was the exact reaction produced when someone first spoke of freeing slaves, or of religious freedom and secularism, or of giving women equal rights. ANY form of discrimination that existed was never forced onto people’s minds, it came just as “naturally “ as today does speciesism.
Humans aren’t LIKE animals, we ARE animals. Our so-called superior brains weren’t dropped into our heads from the heavens, they evolved because they rendered us better survival and social capabilities, just as any other feature in any animal. The problem is that most would like to believe that evolved traits like self-awareness and consciousness, and altruism (note the irony) give us the right to exploit and kill nonhuman animals, presumed to be inferior, for our own whims. Animals experience emotions and sensations that we do, such as anxiety, pleasure, intense pain, fear of death/danger, boredom, love, attachment, offspring, and these feelings matter to them just as much as ours do to us. They, too, are parents and love and protect their offspring just as humans do; they too have families, desires, and purposes of their own. Not being able to understand their language and being different in certain aspects does not render superiority or a right to exploit.
Sentience is defined as the ability to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively. Speciesism overlooks our sameness – sentience – and as with racism and sexism, those without power suffer so that someone else can gain. Other sentient beings are confined and killed for ‘food’, their bodies are used in experiments, their skins for clothing, their appearance or behavior or entertainment. Our desire to use them for our benefit is considered more important than their right to their own bodies, and unable to defend themselves, they suffer and die in their billions.
Veganism is an anti-oppression movement that boycotts the use of any product/service that comes directly or indirectly from exploiting or killing an animal. This means that a vegan abstains from consuming meat, dairy, eggs, honey and any other animal product/by-product, from visiting and hence supporting zoos, animal circuses, etc, from using products tested on animals, from wearing fur, leather, wool, silk, pearls, and so on. In short, a vegan supports animal rights (meaning that animals are not ours to use for food, clothing, entertainment, experimentation, or any other purpose) and lives adhering to this belief.
Veganism isn’t only for animal lovers, nor is it only about compassion and kindness, it’s for anyone against injustice and for rationality, equality, fairness, and not to be left out, sustainability.
One may think veganism is “extreme”, hard to stick to, has too many sacrifices, is unhealthy or unnatural. More often than not, the masses are blindfolded, misguided and fooled by organizations in power into believing falsities so that they behave in accordance with a system that gives maximum benefit to these organizations, and help them grow richer and richer. This exists in all spheres of life, be it governance, medicine, education, and very importantly, food. We’ve been programmed to believe that survival without meat, dairy, etc is impossible, simply so that we continue to fund the gruesome meat and dairy industries, and fill the pockets of those running them. Constant advertisements drill thoughts into our heads and lure us into buying products that are a result of animal slavery and torture, without a single thought about the conditions these come from. To quote Dr. Melanie joy,
“Most people who eat meat have no idea that they’re behaving in accordance with the tenets of a system that has defined many of their values, preferences, and behaviors. What they call ‘free choice’ is, in fact, the result of a narrowly obstructed set of options that have been chosen for them. They don’t realize, for instance, that they have been taught to value human life so far above certain forms of nonhuman life that it seems appropriate for their taste preferences to supersede other species’ preference for survival”. ~Dr. Melanie Joy
In fact, not only can humans survive on a plant-based, cruelty-free diet and lifestyle, rather, they can thrive. A vegan diet, contrary to popular belief, is nutritionally complete and can be made extremely healthy. In fact, there are not a few but many vegan bodybuilders, weightlifters, and athletes.
In today’s world, there are vegan alternatives to each and every item we could think of, be it a meat or dairy product, a clothing item, a leather sofa, anything! Vegans enjoy delicious food, fashion and a lifestyle as good as any nonvegan, with the added benefit of being guilt-free of contributing to oppression and cruelty.
Aside from an ethical and moral obligation, veganism is an immediate and uncompromisable need of our planet, as it is a thousand times more sustainable and more environment-friendly than nonveganism. In fact, the leading cause of water depletion, deforestation, habitat loss and species extinction, greenhouse gasses and global warming is animal agriculture. A huge proportion of each of these problems can be solved by switching to veganism. In fact, human life as we know it cannot sustain itself for too long if such changes aren’t made immediately.
It’s high time we transition to complete equality and social concordance, and orient our lifestyles in order to incorporate the rights of all sentient organisms, thus making a better world for ourselves and for all other beings. Veganism is the first step to harmony with nature and the environment and to a non-oppressive, non-exploitative, nonviolent, moral and just civilization.
“Other animals, which, on account of their interests having been neglected by the insensibility of the ancient jurists, stand degraded into the class of things. … The day has been, I grieve it to say in many places it is not yet past, in which the greater part of the species, under the denomination of slaves, have been treated … upon the same footing as … animals are still. The day may come, when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withheld from them but by the hand of tyranny. The French have already discovered that the blackness of skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It may come one day to be recognized, that the number of legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum, are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate. What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason, or perhaps, the faculty for discourse?…the question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer? Why should the law refuse its protection to any sensitive being?… The time will come when humanity will extend its mantle over everything which breathes… ”
-Jeremy Bentham (1748 – 1832)
Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation
“Being vegan is easy. Are there social pressures that encourage you to continue to eat, wear, and use animal products? Of course there are. But in a patriarchal, racist, homophobic, and ableist society, there are social pressures to participate and engage in sexism, racism, homophobia, and ableism. At some point, you have to decide who you are and what matters morally to you. And once you decide that you regard victimizing vulnerable nonhumans is not morally acceptable, it is easy to go and stay vegan”
– Gary L. Francione
“Ethical veganism results in a profound revolution within the individual; a complete rejection of the paradigm of oppression and violence that she has been taught from childhood to accept as the natural order. It changes her life and the lives of those with whom she shares this vision of nonviolence. Ethical veganism is anything but passive; on the contrary, it is the active refusal to cooperate with injustice”
– Gary L. Francione
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