2019 is presented as a very good year for veganism. In some aspects it really was, but far from being as good as is often represented by whom who keep pumping the “we’re winning!” rhetoric among the vegan community, and definitely far from being as good as it was supposed to be considering the widening acknowledgment of the connection between animal based food and health issues, climate change, the enormous food and water waste, the enormous pollution, obesity, and of course since nowadays non-vegans are losing even their final excuses for not going vegan – that they won’t have anything to eat, as there is an amazing variety of vegan products with the same look, texture and taste, as non-vegan products. But all of that didn’t make veganism mainstream despite that it long ago should have.
As argued in the post for World Vegan Day, some people in the vegan community think it did become mainstream, but they are confusing knowing what veganism is with it being mainstream. Nowadays everybody knows what veganism is and many even know a vegan personally, but mainstream doesn’t mean that in every large city there would be at least one vegan restaurant, but that in every large city there would be a few non-vegan restaurants since the rest are. Mainstream veganism means that animal products are marginal, not still the absolute majority in every supermarket everywhere in the world.
It is very positive that there are plant based products in supermarkets, and it is encouraging in the sense that they have not been there a few years ago and now there are plenty. However, despite that all these vegan options are available in many places, they are still surrounded by non-vegan ones. So activists can be encouraged and draw optimism from the fact that there are plant based burgers along with flesh burgers in the meat aisles, but in the same breath they must ask why the hell are there still flesh burgers when there are equivalently tasty plant based burgers right next to them? How careless to other sentient beings’ suffering must someone be to still choose the flesh burgers? There is nothing victorious about the fact that humans choose again and again the cruel options over the amazing variety of the vegan ones.
Not only that veganism is still extremely far from becoming mainstream, despite the vegan hype and the occasional launch of new plant based products, global consumption of meat is still on the rise. Activists who live in a vegan bubble and are fed mainly by headlines produced by the “we’re winning!” rhetoric, can easily forget that fact. Even in what is considered as the more progressed parts of the world, meat consumption is still increasing, and it is definitely the course in what is considered to be the developing world where, as always, once people’s income rises, the first and automatic thing they are doing is consuming more flesh.
Economists predict that in the next 20 years there will be an enormous increase in the global demand for animal based food, mainly because of the rising status of the middle class in the world’s two largest population centers: China and India. The largest increase is expected to be in the chickens flesh industry with about 65 percent, the eggs industry is expected to increase by 50 percent, the fishes flesh industry by 30 percent, the pigs flesh industry by 35 percent and the cows flesh industry by 30 percent.
And even if there was a decrease in the global meat consumption, or that there would be in the following years, before declaring that we are winning, activists must remember that it would be a decrease after decades upon decades of massive increase.
Over the past 20 years, the global meat consumption increased by about 65%. Meat production today is nearly five times higher than in the early 1960’s. While population growth is part of the reason, it can’t explain a five-fold increase in meat production. While the number of people on the planet has doubled in the last 50 years, the amount of consumed flesh per capita has tripled. For example, china’s meat consumption increased by about 70% in the last decade, the key factor is not population growth but rising incomes. In 1960’s, the average person in China consumed less than 5kg of flesh a year. This had risen to 20kg by the late 1980s, and has more than tripled to over 60kg in the last few decades. The global meat consumption per capita has tripled in the last 50 years mainly since the global average income has tripled in the last 50 years.
The crucial significance of increase in wealth can be seen even in India, one of the most prominent emerging market countries, as according to a survey conducted 5 years ago, about 70 percent of Indians over the age of 15 are not vegetarian.
Despite the feeling that animal consumption in the richer world is decreasing, it is actually slightly increasing. What is changing is the type of the victims. Humans are consuming less cows and pigs and more chickens and fishes, meaning, not only that flesh consumption is still increasing, the number of victims doesn’t increases in direct proportion but even more than the consumption increase.
All that doesn’t mean that all the efforts put in animal activism are in vain, as obviously without it the increase in animal consumption would have been even higher and so more animals would have been forced to endure life of suffering from birth to death. Every single sentient being who is not born into a life of suffering is very meaningful. What it does mean is that despite the movement’s tremendous efforts and the recent improvement in veganism awareness, the world is still getting worse all the time. It means that we are not really winning. We are still very very far from wining.
And it is not that if there was a decrease in the number of exploited beings we were winning. Thinking about it in terms of wining is totally distorted. That is not only because of the use in such a distorted term in that kind of context, but mainly since it requires a distorted world view to look at reality and think that if there is a decrease in the number of victims per year, we are winning. If there were less wars, racist incidents, and rapes in 2019, we wouldn’t say that the peace, anti-racist and the feminist movements are winning, because when horrible things that should have never happened in the first place, are happening all the time, all the more so on such a large scale, it is not winning, it is slightly minimizing the horrendous loss.
Many of the activists who use the “we’re winning!” rhetoric probably know that we aren’t actually winning. Claiming constant victory is probably mostly a tactic use (following the logic that nothing succeeds like success). They know that humans are irrational beings who don’t examine matters earnestly and unbiasedly, and that they definitely don’t make decisions relying on moral arguments. Humans are mostly influenced by trends and adjust themselves to their social environments, to whichever is the zeitgeist. If humans see that one issue is gaining support then they think ‘there’s probably truth to it’, and vice versa. That’s why certain animal liberation activists find it crucial to create the illusion of momentum.
We agree that recognition of this frightening human psychological architecture indeed must lead to rethinking activism. But it shouldn’t lead to glorifying anecdotal small scale achievements in hope it will create others, but to the realization that the fate of trillions of nonhumans mustn’t be entrusted in humans’ unreliable hands. Those who internalize in their activist strategy the basic understanding that humans are selfish beings who are motivated and conducted by irrational drives (in this case, the motivation to belong to a group and fall in line with its norms), and not by rational moral considerations, are supposed to be extremely worried by the fact that these kind of beings are making the decisions regarding trillions of victims.
Even if we accept the internal logic of the “we’re winning!” rhetoric, it beholds a great danger – the creation of a false illusion of success prevents a genuine and sober view of our horrible world. And only a real and truly honest view can produce a real and true solution.
Currently the animal rights movement is making the world a little bit less worse than it would have been without it, but it is not preventing it from getting worse all the time, it is not making the world a better place by reducing the number of suffering creatures, but making it less worse by preventing some of them from being born. Again, the decrease in the increase of the number of suffering individuals is obviously a good thing since it means that less of them are born into exploitation. But as a movement, what shows despair and smallness more than to be happy that the horrible world we are living in could have been even worse?
. Every single sentient being who is not born into a life of suffering is very meaningful. What it does mean is that despite the movement’s tremendous efforts and the recent improvement in veganism awareness, the world is still getting worse all the time. It means that we are not really winning. We are still very very far from wining.
Not Winning and Never Will
Not only that we are not winning, we never will.
Have you ever thought why is it so hard to convince someone to go vegan?
The animal rights arguments are so simple and right. They are based on solid facts and evidences. Nobody can confront them rationally. So why is it so hard to convince someone to go vegan? The reason is that reason is not enough. Good arguments are not relevant. Rationality has proven itself as an insufficient element in changing people’s habits. Rationality can’t beat motivation.
You know the facts and arguments, there are so many good reasons, including egocentric ones, to go vegan, but humans insist on systematically torturing nonhuman animals, overlooking the enormous waste and food production inefficiency in a world with about a billion hungry people, harm their own health, and leave their children a highly polluted planet.
The fact that the arguments are so strong and so well-based but still fail again and again, is the exact thing that should wake you all. Activists shouldn’t get encouraged by their strong arguments but the other way around. When arguments that are so strong and so obvious don’t work, there is something wrong with the addressees. It can’t be that the problem is always with the way we deliver our message. Years of campaigns, hundreds of organizations with dozens of methods, it’s time to ask, how did all of it accomplish so little?
Many activists are confusing realistic with theoretical possibility, inferring from other social change movements. But it is even hard to imagine a war free, non-racist, non-male chauvinist and slavery free world. Factually our world is not only none of the above, but extremely far from it.
Not that we agree with the comparison many activists often like to make between human slavery and animal exploitation, but at least in the sense of the mindset of the exploiters, there are some crucial similarities (mainly the need to extremely devalue the “other”). However, currently humanity is even getting further and further from ending human slavery.
There is a big difference between arguing that all humans can be vegan and arguing that all humans would be vegans. Most humans haven’t even made much more socially acceptable ethical decisions than going vegan. It is impossible to educate most humans not to use one another, not to objectify each other, not to turn to violence in conflicts and crisis so easily, not to discriminate each other on the basis of race, gender, ethnical orientation, class, weight, height, looks and etc. so what are the chances of convincing all humans to become vegans?
And even if there was a chance of convincing all humans to become vegans, despite being incomparably less harmful than animal based diet, it is still harmful.
When you are trying to convince humans to convert their diet to a vegan one, you are trying to convince them to stop taking part in the most horrible practices and to take part in much much less horrible ones. It’s not that their consumption habits will become moral and 100% cruelty free. Plant based diet is cruel. The fact that there are diets that are much crueler doesn’t make veganism moral. A vegan world would still be violent, cruel, anthropocentric and speciesist.
Don’t get this wrong, we don’t want you to turn to the annihilation option out of despair of humans, or since despite all the efforts and hopes and relative progress of animal activism we are still so extremely far from winning, but after acknowledging that the only option that the suffering would end is if its causers would. And that there is no one else to ever try to do it but activists who refuse to celebrate every relatively anecdotal “victory” while hundreds of billions of sentient beings are still suffering all their lives.
We are not expecting to convince every activist in the movement. We know most feel the need to see some people changing their minds and a few more restaurants offer a few more vegan options in their violent menus. But we do expect to convince some activists to stop giving everything they’ve got so this world would be a little bit less horrible than it could have been, and focus on making it not horrible at all.