Title of Presentation

Session K: “As far as is possible or practical”: (re)turning to veganism as situated solidarity

Sub-theme

Practice

Keywords

veganism, animal liberation, politics, materialism, multiculturalism, food

Start Date

13-10-2018 10:30 AM

End Date

13-10-2018 11:45 AM

Abstract

A common criticism of veganism by the left is that it is a privilege and a form of ineffectual lifestyle activism: not only do many humans lack the means to adopt a vegan lifestyle, total abstention from animal products is impossible due to human civilization’s ubiquitous reliance upon the labor and material value of nonhuman animal bodies. Furthermore, all but the most naïve liberal conceptualizations of the individual recognize that human lifestyles are enmeshed in social/material arrangements that define and constrain human agency.

But even Donald Watson’s original 1944 definition of veganism recognized that limiting our consumption of animal products was a necessarily contingent endeavor, specifying that being vegan was to disengage “as far as is possible or practical.” This talk returns to Watson’s original definition, imbuing it with anthropological principles and pro-intersectional approaches to animal liberation, with an aim to (re)define veganism as an aspiration for animal liberation that includes but is not limited to individual lifestyle choices. “Aspirational veganism” is defined widely enough to be useful in many academic and activist contexts, allowing broad condemnations of human supremacy to manifest in heterogenous practices, rhetoric, and tactics. In this sense, veganism is not a false absolutist claim of one’s total abstention, subject to judgment by outsiders, but a declaration of solidarity with nonhuman animals within the individual's own constraints. This talk is based on 12 years of animal liberation activism, including 16 months of ethnographic fieldwork with Danish animal activists.

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Oct 13th, 10:30 AM Oct 13th, 11:45 AM

Session K: “As far as is possible or practical”: (re)turning to veganism as situated solidarity

A common criticism of veganism by the left is that it is a privilege and a form of ineffectual lifestyle activism: not only do many humans lack the means to adopt a vegan lifestyle, total abstention from animal products is impossible due to human civilization’s ubiquitous reliance upon the labor and material value of nonhuman animal bodies. Furthermore, all but the most naïve liberal conceptualizations of the individual recognize that human lifestyles are enmeshed in social/material arrangements that define and constrain human agency.

But even Donald Watson’s original 1944 definition of veganism recognized that limiting our consumption of animal products was a necessarily contingent endeavor, specifying that being vegan was to disengage “as far as is possible or practical.” This talk returns to Watson’s original definition, imbuing it with anthropological principles and pro-intersectional approaches to animal liberation, with an aim to (re)define veganism as an aspiration for animal liberation that includes but is not limited to individual lifestyle choices. “Aspirational veganism” is defined widely enough to be useful in many academic and activist contexts, allowing broad condemnations of human supremacy to manifest in heterogenous practices, rhetoric, and tactics. In this sense, veganism is not a false absolutist claim of one’s total abstention, subject to judgment by outsiders, but a declaration of solidarity with nonhuman animals within the individual's own constraints. This talk is based on 12 years of animal liberation activism, including 16 months of ethnographic fieldwork with Danish animal activists.