The title says it all. But the fact is, our cause has become distracted by a growth of racism within the vegan community. Veganism has become—like the women’s rights cause (why, why does it always feel like someone else is just ready to swoop in and steal the thunder of women’s rights?)- the butt of any other number of big topics, Causes, today. And that is frankly stealing veganism’s thunder, and creating divisions.
What am I saying? I’m saying we vegans need to keep our goals clean and simple. We care about animals, we care about the environment. Animals are everywhere, the environment is everywhere. But when we focus on the racism that has grown as we learn about the growth of pig factories in China and the unveiling of the nature of the dog meat industry in Asia, we lose sight of our goals as humans who need to work together, despite race, religion, gender. While some people create a negative and corrosive atmosphere within the world of veganism by labeling these kinds of issues “Chinese issues” or “Korean issues”, they forget one thing: animal cruelty is everywhere. If it is a “Chinese issue” then it is also a “Canadian issue”, an “American issue”, an issue, in short, for everyone, everywhere.
The fact is, it is true that many parts of Asia are hellish for animals. Has anyone read about the shocking number of pig factories being built in China? And we all remember the brief moment, during last year’s Olympics, when the world pretended to care about the dog farms in Korea. So let’s not mince matters. Asia needs a kick up the ass. But so does every other part of the world. Remember the turkeys in Abbotsford B.C. who were being beaten? Or the geese in France? The racism that has grown as a result within our vegan community is troubling to say the least, and worse still, it is distracting.
It is, though, completely understandable why racism within veganism has become a topic. If I were a Chinese activist, who saw some racist comment about the relationship between Chinese people and animals, I would be angry. I would want to say something. Especially when these kinds of racist comments are from other vegans. It’s like a civil war, and it is damaging to the vegan cause. What we need is to learn to step above any of these racist comments or opinions that slow down the progress of veganism and environmentalism. We cannot look at our fellow vegans as representatives of any race. Which I imagine is hard, because it is not fair to be put into a box, to be labelled unkindly. We need, as vegans, to always keep the focus on animals and the environment. We need to think about instances of animal cruelty and environmental damage as problems that can happen anywhere- and they do. We need to look at these individual issues- such as the growth of pig factories in China- not as Chinese problems, but as global problems, each one located by chance in a certain part of the world. Because no country is innocent. It is just as disgusting to find animal cruelty in China as it is in Canada. If we cannot maintain this mindset, then the problem of the ‘burnt hand syndrome arises’. Animal cruelty in relation to, for example, China, becomes a loaded topic; people are wary of bringing it up for fear of being labeled racist. The communal conversation risks dying, and the kinds of people we vegans want to reach out to, don’t want to listen. It is all a very understandable string of events. No blame should be put on the vegan who wants to crush this unfortunate racism that is so prevalent. But it slows down the communal effort, and takes away from this: that we are all humans, and as vegans, we must see ourselves as working hand-in-hand. We need to tackle issues as they arise, and forget about the racist types who want to detract from the goal by turning the issue in question into a racist tirade against a group of people who happen to inhabit a country that happens to be the location of an atrocity. We cannot let veganism become a platform for human issues. It must be unbiased and geared solely towards the good of animals and the environment. Which means we have to face the facts while also taking the high road. This can be a difficult task. Pig factories are growing in China. Dogs are being skinned alive in Korea. But cows are being mercilessly slaughtered in Europe and beagles are being tested on in North America. So if anyone wants to be racist, they will have to settle for hating every race in the world, not one.
Image credit: Emma Windsor-Liscombe, Chickens in Cages, 2017