Monday, August 24, 2009

Theory and Practice

It has been some while since the last post, but I want to assure you that the blog is still very much alive. As some of you may already know, I have been looking for a job for the duration of the entire spring and summer, and recently, something has turned up. Now, with the assurance that I am employed and some financial stability, I think I will return to posting more regularly.

I have been reading the work of Gary Francione--most recently, I began Animals as Persons (2008); I also am a frequent visitor to his site and listen to his
podcasts. His voice is one that I respect for its clarity and consistency on ethical veganism; he does not back down on issues and addresses them tactfully and respectfully; moreover, he is inventive in finding opportunities for vegan education. In his latest podcast, he addresses violence in general, and more specifically, violence directed at institutions that use animals (vivisectionists, producers of flesh from "food animals," venues that use animals for entertainment purposes, etc.). He admonishes that violence against these does not have a cultural context, that it is ineffective because: a) attacking/destroying one animal-exploiting supplier only means that the demand for that animal "product" (fur, leather, flesh, excretion, etc.) will be taken up by somebody else and b) in the eyes of the general public, the violent act further demonizes anyone associated with the movement for animal rights. Those are two points that really caught my attention--this perspective is so different from and opposed to the kinds of escapades people have come to expect from PETA, it's inspiring. Francione talks about and practices what I believe would be the most effective approach in promoting veganism: active vegan education and a consistently vegan lifestyle.

In the last six months or so, I have been immersing myself in the discourse of animal rights theory, and have been finding this foray incredibly helpful--I am able to converse with people more easily on the topic of veganism, am able to be more rational and informed within conversations. In addition to this, I also try to share vegan food with those around me at any available opportunity (there aren't many, but I always come prepared to a pot-luck). I find the union of theory and practice to be most effective. I think that even if I encourage people to consider (if not
reconsider) their food and lifestyle choices, I have succeeded in inciting some change for the better, have allowed another person or two a glimpse outside of the normative participation in exploitative practices.


Aaron said...

I've always wondered why most people who espouse veganism do so... Perhaps you can speak for a portion of them (and if not, you'll at least assuage my curiosity about you) and tell me why it is you've decided to take up that lifestyle? Is it for health reasons or ethical considerations? Is it a moral choice? Is there some line of rhetoric that you could give to an avowed carnivore like myself that could convince me to turn to veganism? I mean, I doubt that you could convince me, but if there was one solid argument that you could give as a reason to take up that lifestyle, I'd certainly be interested in 'hearing' it.

zemmely said...

In many, many ways I am in agreement with Matt's perspective on veganism--he sums it up in an earlier post:

So: why I decided to become vegan (in addition to the above reasons, as enunciated by Matt)...
I have always been interested in vegetarianism, sensitive to the relationships that people have with their food, how those relationships conceal more than they reveal. In ways other than veganism, I have been aware of the construction of normativity, and have always urged myself to analyze, to look beyond, to examine relationships. I am a curious person. I became vegan three months after realizing that such a lifestyle was possible and, in fact, a viable possibility even on a graduate student's stipend. Veganism is my response to a culture that is unaware of actions, unaware of repercussions, unaware that they have the power to make decisions that influence the world in a positive way. Veganism IS living the change; it is the most important decision of my life because it connects me with everything else in a positive way, rather than a destructive one.

I mean, yes, there are the health benefits, but those are one of the last things I considered. There are environmental reasons (just practically thinking, in terms of how much grain is wasted to feed "food animals," which are an unnecesary luxury; this very grain could--in turn--feed numerous starving populations around the world). It is an ethical tenet that is stronger than any religion, to me.

Personally, I don't make it a goal to "convince" people of veganism (per se), especially those who have already made up their minds to not be influenced. I do, however, strive to make everyone more aware, more critical, more understanding of social, moral, economic relationships and our everyday involvement in their structures--in fact, this is what I do every time I teach a composition class. Veganism is a way in which my outlook on life manifests itself.