I think it is funny that I am sitting down to write a post about language and I find myself at a loss for words. I think about this website and veganism and my advocacy all the time. I can be sitting in a chair watching TV, doing the laundry, cooking a meal or basically any of the various things I do in any given day and a thought will pop into my mind. All of a sudden, I am composing a post. Actual sentences start writing themselves and soon there are a couple of paragraphs and ideas for potential pictures to illustrate whichever point I am planning to make. The words, the pictures, the thoughts all start bumping into one another, not unlike the jumble of articles I have in my purse. It actually feels like things are zinging around in my head. While I have little hope that the stuff in my purse will ever stay neatly arranged, somehow, the subject of my next post miraculously comes together in my head. When I finally do sit down to the computer, my fingers fly over the keys on the keyboard and several hours later I have a post ready for publishing.
Not so today. I have a lot of things I always want to say about the importance of language in regard to all the critical issues surrounding the every changing landscape of the nonhuman animal liberation movement. But when I talk about language I want to be certain that I don’t misinterpret a very important word or phrase that I think could help to define clearly the so called “vegan” movement. Treading carefully is key, but I have decided to take a leap of faith and just dive in. Let’s see how we get on.
And I guess we will start at the what I see as the beginning of this modern day language debate.
1) Vegetarianism is followed by someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with, or without, the use of dairy products and eggs. A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish* or by-products of slaughter.
I was surprised by the exclusion of fish and seafood. I have heard vegetarians say that they eat fish.
From this definition come various categories of vegetarian:
Lacto-ovo-vegetarians eat both dairy products and eggs; this is the most common type of vegetarian diet.
Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy products but avoid eggs.
Vegans do not eat dairy products, eggs, or any other products which are derived from animals.
Huh? I had never heard that vegans could be lumped in with the vegetarians. Why do I say this? Because in my view, vegetarianism is about diet whereas veganism is about ehtics. It is interesting to note that:
Through its Vegetarian Society Approved trade mark, the Vegetarian Society only endorses products containing free-range eggs…. because of welfare objections to the intensive farming of hens.
HMMMM!……definite talk of ethics and the welfarist approach in veganism!!……interesting!
2) Veganism, is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.
“Any other purpose” includes, but is not limited to, entertainment, things upon which to sit and stand, hunting, medical experimentation and nonhuman animal testing. It is important to remember that this definition comes with a caveat: ” that …wherever possible and practicable”. We live in a non vegan world and it is impossible to always avoid being the end user of nonhuman animal exploitation. For example, we drive cars with tires that contain stearic acid, a nonhuman animal byproduct. Veganism is about ethics and intention.
3) Carnism is the invisible belief system, or ideology, that conditions people to eat certain animals. Carnism is essentially the opposite of veganism.
So, let’s look for a moment at this definition. The term was coined by Melanie Joy who defines carnism as a violent ideology that the supports the fishing, enslavement, abuse and murder of nonhuman animals for our eating pleasure as well as the profit line of big business. Dr Joy states that non vegans are not just carnivores or omnivores, both of which are biological terms, or meat eaters, for that matter. Non vegans are carnists. But aren’t they so much more? By wearing leather and fur and visiting zoos and aquariums and cetacean shows such as those at SeaWorld, are they not doing so much more than just eating certain nonhumans? Veganism decries all forms of exploitation, not just the eating and drinking of the flesh and secretions of other species. While I believe this is an important and clarifying definition, I am not sure that it is all encompassing and may not be the exact opposite of veganism. This is a layman’s (that would be me) perspective and I admit freely that another reading of Melanie Joy’s excellent book entitled, Why We Love dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows is required for me to better understand the philosophy behind the term. Stay tuned!
Annie’s Vegan View
Clarification of these terms helps us to advocate more effectively when people try to disabuse us of the truth.
Be willing and eager to learn from other advocates like Melanie Joy and spread, spread, spread the word, for the sake of those beings suffering today, as we speak. .
May all beings be happy and free.