Justice

Justice

Vegans are a very passionate bunch. I have not yet met one, either in person or on social media or in published works, who is lackadaisical about his or her truth and commitment to actively advocating on behalf of all enslaved species. I guess the “modern” equivalent for lackadaisical would be “Meh!” or “Whatever!” However,  passion in a high stakes endeavor such as this brings with it a difference of opinion about how best to accomplish our goal of witnessing the dawn of a vegan world.

Justice 03

Invective and Diatribe

Respectful Discourse

Respectful Discourse

Discourse is highly valuable as long as it does not descend into invective and diatribe, which unfortunately is all too often the case. It is my personal view and stance that we should not take respectful and constructive criticism so personally and should be open to new ways of thinking and doing. After all, being close minded will not help the animals for whom we are seeking freedom. Stagnation is not progress. There is too much at stake for these beings for us to be offended by a difference of opinion. Besides if our main goal is to educate should we not then be open to being schooled by our confreres and fellow advocates?

So, when I made a few Friend Requests on Facebook this past week (a New Year’s Resolution of sorts) I was delighted to receive a private message from a new friend who had some suggestions for my website. Colin’s concern was whether or not I was open to being challenged, albeit respectfully.  Following  my answer of yes, Colin proceeded to make some valuable points about my homepage and its language, thoughts and message. I agreed with him about most of said points, prompting me to make a long overdue revision that better reflects the goal of both vegan advocacy in general and my website in particular.

We touched briefly on the concepts of justice, kindness and compassion and their roles in animal rights advocacy. This got me thinking. I am a person who has always and continues to lead from the heart. I figure that if people are kind and compassionate at heart then they will always do the right thing. But it was pointed out to me that kindness and compassion are subjective and therefore not always applied fairly. Justice is the moral baseline and therefore, should be the main driver of animal rights advocacy. This left me more than a little confused, so I decided to pose the question to some of my Facebook Friends. I was treated to some thought provoking and illuminating answers.

  1. 1) Katina Czyczelis

The notion of justice, or of basic rights, operates at a fundamentally deeper level of understanding and consciousness than the charity of giving ‘kindness’. Having said that, the argument for veganism had to start at a place people can relate to, often the only place is kindness/compassion, and the notion of equal justice to animals is way too advanced for many people.

2) Linda Daly Orkin

Way too easy for compassion and mercy to be “granted” and withheld. That’s my way of thinking. Of course I don’t negate compassion when I’m discussing this but I feel the issue is so much deeper and the notions of social justice, rights and morality are the beacons that drive us along this path.

3) Karen Messier

I think the focus on justice is a good one and absolutely should be part of the dialogue, but compassion has to be part of the overall narrative….I think we all must follow our own path in advocating for a vegan lifestyle. And I personally consider compassion a very important element of mine.

4) Jimmy Videle

To me the question of justice or compassion comes from a place of mind or heart. I think both vehicles of spreading the vegan message are valid. If someone is spiritually based- the road is through compassion, if someone is science based the road is through justice.

5) Carol Williams

Compassion is an important part of being vegan, for me, but it also includes being compassionate to people, because compassion is, for me, the most profoundly important virtue. I feel that our world lacks compassion and that is why we do such violence to so many.

As I sit here pondering my takeaway, these are the points which most resonate with me.

Justice can be considered to be the moral baseline of most dilemmas faced by humans and their societies.

Our sense of right and wrong and justice may very well rest in the annals of the mind.

We may be kind and compassionate people who do unkind things in our daily life.

Esther getting a kiss!

Esther getting a kiss!

Edgar's Mission

Edgar’s Mission

We lead from the heart when actively using our capacity for kindness and compassion to help those in need,  both nonhuman and human.

Kindness, compassion and justice are not necessarily mutually exclusive values, even though justice may be defined as unequivocal whereas kindness and compassion are open to interpretation.

 

Annie’s Vegan View

It is our responsibility as vegans and animal right advocates and activists to be open to the views and values of our confreres.

We all still have so much to learn.

Respectful and open dialogue empowers all those who recognize that our first responsibility is to the beings who are suffering incalculably as we speak, that taking suggestion and other views personally diminishes our ability to exercise said responsibility effectively.

May all beings be happy and free.

Anne

 

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16 thoughts on “Justice, Kindness and Compassion: the Road to Veganism

  • January 6, 2016 at 4:59 pm
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    Another very good article Anne. However I think that there is the core of the idea of ‘morals’ that gives us the answer. I had meant ‘morals’ when I used the term ‘justice’ in my quoted comments as I think the discussion (and the article posted) had been using the terms interchangeably. However I think I will stick to the term ‘morality’, as apart from ‘justice’ and ‘compassion’ in the sense that it must be the point from which compassion and justice arises. It is clear justice and compassion are intertwined, and both are validly part of the debate for being vegan; the notion of ‘justice for all beings’, or the notion of ‘compassion’ as the basis for debate will resonate with different people in differing degrees. Ultimately it comes down to the level of ones morals (or maybe philosophy is another way to say it) – the morals of a society or culture- people are conditioned to think and behave in a certain way, this is so deeply ingrained they do not realise it, and it is then through their OWN sense of compassion, or their sense of justice, (or both) that they change their conditioning and go vegan. So it comes back to the moral baseline really if we want to educate and ensure the idea of veganism can remain; and that moral baseline is that it is truly immoral to enslave, farm, and use animals. That is the core out of which justice and compassion can arise successfully. It is important that there is an impenetrable foundation from which justice and compassion can operate- the moral baseline. It is immoral to use, enslave, farm, kill etc other living sentient beings. that has to be the standard we work from. Morality.

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    • January 7, 2016 at 7:02 pm
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      Hi Katina,
      Thank you so much for your considered reply. Just to clarify though, the moral baseline of non vegans does not include the understanding that it is immoral to use, enslave, farm, kill etc other living sentient beings. I like to say that the moral baseline is that animals have a right to agency over their own lives, to live freely without cruel manipulation by humans. You are saying that in order for non vegans to change their moral baseline to reflect that of vegans through tapping in to their sense of justice and compassion. How then do we, as vegans educate and inform. I presume that we use justice and compassion to present our moral baseline to non vegans?
      Respectfully,
      Anne

      Reply
  • January 6, 2016 at 7:06 pm
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    Good article that tackles a difficult topic. This very morning I read through a thread on a vegan friend’s page which was, to put it bluntly, full of violent language against another vegan who had some unfortunate and unkind attitudes towards certain other sectors of the human race.

    That human beings, as a whole, lack sufficient compassion is obvious to me. I doubt we can have justice for anyone if we are not kindly disposed towards others.

    Let’s consider the case of animal farmers, who provide products which people clearly want. The notion that their way of making a living is unjust to the animals is a foreign idea to most people who still view other animals through the lens of how useful they are to people. To vegans it is a no-brainer – farming animals is unjust to the sentient creatures who are enslaved , and sending them through an abattoir displays a total lack of compassion for their pain and suffering, as well as disrespect for their lives. But to most people, animal farmers are the ones to be pitied, as they struggle to get a fair price for their products and contend with disasters and diseases that may bankrupt them.

    I do not like to see the word ‘scum’ used by vegans in any derogatory context – this, to me, is violent language which does no good to any cause. I also very much dislike seeing my fellow vegans -we who talk of peace and compassion and non-violence – wishing tortures and death upon people who are seen to be abusers of animals – hunters, farmers, researchers – even people who have kicked dogs. I see in this violence of thought and language nothing at all that will do this world any good whatsoever.

    It is certainly very hard to not be angry at and to heartily dislike animal abusers, but I believe that practising compassion and non violence is an exercise of the will. We have to resolve each day to live by our core values – live out peace and gentleness of thought, word and deed. It’s hard but necessary.

    We have a very long way to go.

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    • January 7, 2016 at 7:17 pm
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      Hi Carol,
      Let me begin by saying that I agree with you about compassion. I believe that it is our responsibility as animal rights advocates to be circumspect and respectful in our discourse with others. We cannnot expect people to tap into their own sense of compassion if we are negative, dismissive, rude and often cruel. Clarity, not condemnation paves the way to a vegan world. I will leave threads and discussions that are of this nature. Nothing to be gained there.

      Your point about animal farmers is well taken. The myths which have been spun by the big wigs of animal agriculture have been very effective in taking the attention away from the horrors being perpetuated on the farmed animals and all other forms of animal exploitation for that matter.

      The business of wishing misfortune, harm and even death on others whether they be vegan or not is so contrary to the lessons I learned from my mother, despite having a father who was vindictive, vengeful and cruel. Nothing ever good comes from this kind of despicable behaviour.

      In order for compassion and justice to grow we must all be compassionate in our endeavors whether or not we respect people’s actions and views. This does not make us wishy-washy or accepting of the behaviour. But, it does, I think, make us forward thinking.

      Respectfully,
      Anne

      Reply
  • January 9, 2016 at 12:28 pm
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    This is such a great post and I hesitate to write too much in case I misunderstood any of it. I lost my best friend, my beloved cat-boy Spikey on Chrismtas night and I’m still not in a normal frame of mind yet and I know that I really might have misunderstood a large part of the message regarding justice and compassion.

    For me personally, I became vegan gradually, starting with cruelty-free products and finally ending eating eggs (long story…), but for me it was compassion that changed my own behavior -stopping participating in cruelty worse than I realized, but SHOULD have realized and had no excuse for. I also have a sense of justice that is absolutely correct (not only about veganism, but that is my most important concern). Certain things are absolutely wrong and that is why justice exists in the first place. If human beings didn’t exist, there would be no need for justice. Our wrong behavior is what created the concept of and need for justice. This sounds like I wrote it angry now that I re-read it and I didn’t. I just feel strongly about both. I’ve thought for years and years now that the best way to bring non-vegans into the “family” is to give all other animals the chance to present themselves in as many ways possible. I’m not sure any of us humans can by ourselves convince another human being to change if they’re not ready. But the images I saw and the things I learned about the cruelty we subject our fellow beings to absolutely made me change…it was their faces and their suffering that moved me – and that was made available to me by the amazing human beings who gave them that platform to show themselves and their suffering. And I should mention that my sense of justice is aimed squarely at myself as well. I don’t beat myself up over and over every day, but I will always feel sad and ashamed that it took me, an “animal lover” so many years to actually understand what it means to love other animals.

    This was a bit of a ramble and I’m sorry for that. I hope it didn’t come across in any way not intended. … And I hope your 2016 is off to a good start!

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  • January 10, 2016 at 10:36 pm
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    Hi Krissa,
    So sorry to hear about Spikey. It is never easy to say goodbye.
    You make an interesting point about the need for justice coming from the very existence of humans on this earth.
    This issue is very confusing for me too. That is why I asked others for their opinion and then wrote this post.
    My takeaway which I mentioned at the bottom of the post are just thoughts which i am pondering. They are not necessarily what I believe or how I conduct myself.
    I am not at all sure that just telling people to stop because exploiting animals is wrong is going to work. Using kindness and compassion to relay this message are the tools we use, I think to do so.
    Without compassion, who are we really? It has always been a big part of my advocacy, because I have seen the harm that can come from a lack of compassion and I don’t want to be the person who lives this way.
    Thanks for sharing part of your story once again. I think there is great power and great possibility for change when we are willing to share who we are with others in order to effect change for those who suffer needlessly.
    Take care,
    Anne

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    • January 10, 2016 at 10:42 pm
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      Hi Krissa,
      I am looking again at my takeaway thoughts at the bottom of the post and I am realizing that they do not negate the role of kindness and compassion in animal rights advocacy. I will continue to do as I do, leading with my heart, because I do believe that love, kindness and compassion are strong values and tools to use in obtaining justice for all enslaved and hunted species on this earth.
      Happy 2016 to you as well. I have a feeling that this vegans will galvanize their efforts and make great inroads in mainstream consciousness. We are a untied voice standing with and for the animals.
      Respectfully,
      Anne

      Reply
  • January 12, 2016 at 10:24 am
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    There is no real justice — lasting or otherwise — without having Compassion as ITS moral baseline; just as there can be no real Compassion that is not similarly founded on a platform of Humiity & Kindness … If you do not have one, you do not have the other, and if you do not have the other, all three will ultimately fail … Peace to ALL!

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    • January 13, 2016 at 7:45 am
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      Hi Scaughdt,

      Thank you so much for providing your valuable insight. I must say that, in my life, I had not given all that much thought to how justice, compassion kindness and humility weave together. I was too busy trying to mitigate the effects of one person’s anger on the lives of people I love, all while growing up and then raising kids and going about the business of being busy and keeping my head above water.
      So I am very glad that this has come up and that I am taking the time to really reflect.

      I love that you have mentioned humility because I think about this a lot. Being connected with humility has allowed me to recognize that being vegan and an activist is not about me. This mindset permits me to be open to the views of others regarding the work that we do. I also do not take negative
      comments as personally as I used to and I feel this makes me more effective and open to learning.

      Respectfully,
      Anne

      Reply
  • January 13, 2016 at 4:45 pm
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    Hi Anne, interesting post! I have a boatload of thoughts, so will try to organize some of them a bit. 😉

    As I first mentioned in my reply to your comment on my post, I see compassion and justice as the twin pillars of our movement. Having one without the other doesn’t make much sense to me — justice without compassion would feel hollow, and compassion without justice would feel meaningless — but why even try to separate the two? And how do we even know for sure what comes first?

    Remember the image of the Syrian boy on the beach? I would say that it was compassion rather than justice that then sparked the worldwide reaction, because the injustice of the situation had been ongoing for a long time already without a similar response. So I could just as easily say that it’s compassion that leads, and justice that then follows. On the other hand, does it really matter? Because I would hate to think that we’re going to have a justice vs. compassion divide when we already have the abolition vs. welfare rift, especially since we need all four of those components.

    I also question the labeling of compassion as coming from the heart and justice being more of a mind thing. It reminds me too much of the often forced dichotomies of emotional/rational, male/female, etc. And why view compassion as just being a fuzzy feeling-related value when it could also be thought of as a practical and strategic tool?

    Esther’s dads, for example, have probably brought more folk to the vegan movement by compassion alone. Sure, justice is part of their equation too, but compassion is the cornerstone of their media presence, and what they appeal to primarily in their audience. And boy has it worked! 🙂

    So I really don’t agree with Colin’s post or perspective. He’s spouting an opinion and theory (to which I could argue the exact opposite in a similar post), but unfortunately, we just don’t know for sure what IS effective and what DOES work. Because if anyone had the definitive answer as to what would make the animals rights movement successful and increase the number of vegans, then all of us would have a lot less blogging to do, snort. And I’d leave a comment on his post but given that his first comment outlines how and why he’ll delete comments, I can’t be bothered.

    So there you go, my thoughts. Oh, and as is my habit I tend to throw out a lot of questions that are not aimed at one person but the movement in general, especially when I know that you and I are often on the same page anyway. 🙂

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    • January 15, 2016 at 7:44 am
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      Hi Friend,
      I have to agree with you that deciding which ( compassion or justice) comes first is a matter of debate. They are both very important. I do like Scaughdt’s explanation quite a bit. Justice, compassion, kindness and humility are not mutually exclusive.
      Yes the picture of the little Syrian boy was indeed heart wrenching and it is true that our sense of justice was and continues to be hiding as regards the plight of Syrians whose country has been decimated. I do remember thinking how unjust the little boy’s death was and as a grandmother and mother, I was also horrified. As for my sense of compassion, well, that always seems to be in overdrive, sometimes to my own personal detriment.
      Esther’s Dads are a good example of compassion, but I hope that people are not following them just to tap in to that feel good feeling of “Aw, how cute”. This is not a indictment of the work they are doing. I support it one hundred and ten percent, because, first and foremost they are living their truth and showing the world that compassion does work.
      I would not welcome a justice, compassion divide as I already abhor all the debates on abolitionist versus welfarist. I identify as a vegan and animal rights advocate and activists – point finale. All the bickering discourages me and the antagonistic behaviors are, in my view, detrimental to the animals for whom we advocate.
      I think I mentioned somewhere (in a previous post, comment or social medial thread) that we can leave it to historians to debate what worked and how. It is our job to get historians to the place where they can look at why and how the world became vegan and the exploitation of other species ended.
      Take care,
      Anne

      Reply
  • January 14, 2016 at 7:12 am
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    Wow! Lots of really amazing comments, maybe I can add to the mix 🙂

    As a former organic farmer that raised animals for their milk and eggs, I think it is very important to understand two things about animal farming. One: It is a lot easier to raise animals than to grow vegetables, that is why especially in North America there was a drive to raise more animals in the late 1930s that has lasted today. Two: Some animal farmers believe that their exploitation is a mininum. I am not taking about raising animals for meat and sending them to the slaughterhouse, I am talking about raising animals throughout the non-human animals lifetimes and sharing their products on a real small scale, like 1 billion farmers do especially in developing countries, just too survive. Can these people be vegan instead? Yes, I believe they can, but it requires a lot of support, technology and apprenticeship that may not exist in their own countries. Also if your individual purpose is to cahnge people to become Vegan, I think it is important to remember that what they did yesterday is of little if zero importance. We were almost all non-vegan once.
    In North America (Canada and the US) there is only 1% of the population left farming. Of that there is only 1% that farm organically. The trouble with North America is that most people have almost no concept of how, where and when there food comes from. We are losing our agricultural ancestry and knowledge. Does anyone even forage and eat spring dandelion greens anymore? Eat wild mushrooms rich in B12? That Tomatoes, Eggplant and Peppers are perennial plants? That honey bees can survive on their own without human-built crates?
    Looking into the eyes of nature brings us to the ‘one’ understanding. Love. There is no justice in the natural world. There is no morality, judge and jury. These are human terms, trying to explain the human perspective, which most times does not take nature into account. There is for sure compassion and kindness. We have all seen the pictures of baby non-human animals and their mothers.
    I do understand that human beings need to understand things in a completely human ‘way’ because too most, nature is chaos. Yet from my over 12 years working in the dirt, in the elements almost every day, there is nothing more intricate, delicate and perfect than the harmony of the differing and complex ecosystems.
    So, if people need to understand why it is important to shift their way to one of veganism it is sometimes necessary to show it to them from the human perspective of morality and justice.
    Yet the universal consciousness is nature, compassion and love, this is how the rest of the earthlings, I believe view the world.
    Good luck to you all on your paths 🙂

    Reply
    • January 15, 2016 at 8:16 am
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      Hi Jimmy,

      Wow to you as well for your comments. I always learn something new when you weigh in.
      When you speak of perspective , I guess we North Americans could do to see agriculture from the view of developing countries. I understand that it would take a lot of support, technology and apprenticeship to help them learn how to grow plants instead of exploit animals in order to survive. No judgement there. If a continent like North America became vegan could we not help out by first supplying the excess grain and soy formerly fed to farmed animals to starving people and then help them learn how to grow crops. I am sure that this is a very simplistic view and I welcome your thoughts on this.

      I believe that we can definitely learn from what we did before as non vegans, but I agree that it is of little importance in the grand scheme of things. I see in social media that many vegans express regret and a lack of forgiveness for their former habits. I think this can be a paralyzing construct leading to people being less effective in creating new, positive change in the world.

      As you know, my father was a farmer. He co-owned a huge carrot and onion operation in the Eastern Townships. It was a business, rather than a way of life, and I certainly did not feel more connected with the land and nature because of it, even though I worked on the farm in the summertime.

      It is shocking to me to learn that only one percent of the population is farming in North America and that only one percent is organic farming. And yes, we are not connected to agriculture in any way. Almost everything we buy and eat comes prepackaged. I, for instance will not buy broccoli or turnips and so on that have been wrapped in plastic by the supermarket in order to minimize manhandling. I do not put my loose fruit in bags and deal with the cashiers who are annoyed by having to place the apples one by one on the scale. But this is still afar cry from foraging and connecting with the dirt as you put it.

      ” There is no justice in the natural world. There is no morality, judge and jury. These are human terms,…There is for sure compassion and kindness. ”
      I like this. It gives me much food for thought. I do know that when I go out and walk in nature, albeit a semi urban one, I get this peaceful sensation that emanates from my stomach and kinda radiates outward, so I presume this is the oneness about which you speak.

      Take care,
      Anne

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      • January 16, 2016 at 2:06 pm
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        Hi Anne,

        This is my third attempt to write a reply. Mid-way through the previous ones, I erased what I had written, only to start again. I hope it doesn’t come across as trite.

        I have nothing to add to the discussion except to say that Have Gone Vegan wrote, for the most part, what I would have written about justice and compassion. The person used good examples to support the comments. She / he, though, said it much better than I would have. 🙂

        Just one tiny clarification: ” There is no justice in the natural world. There is no morality, judge and jury. These are human terms,…There is for sure compassion and kindness. ”
        I think I understand what Jimmy means by this comment. I’m sure you both feel that animals have rich, emotional lives otherwise you wouldn’t be vegan.

        There is a good book written by Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce called Wild Justice. It makes a case that animals do have a sense of justice, fairness and morality. We just have to expand our view of these terms.

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        • January 17, 2016 at 3:27 pm
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          Thanks Cindy. 🙂

          Thank you also for mentioning Wild Justice. I’ll check it out as I too think we may have underestimated other animals capacity for morality or justice. Or at least, their own versions of it.

          p.s. Have Gone Vegan is female (ha ha, almost wrote Have Gone Female, snort)

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  • January 17, 2016 at 4:47 pm
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    Hi Cindy,

    Thanks for weighing in. I have learned so much from this post and the comments from my readers as well as the original thread and discussion on Facebook. There are valid points in all of the various perspectives. Despite the fact that we may not all feel exactly the same in our perspective, it must be noted that all of the comments are respectfully and kindly written. These speaks volumes about the writers and the subject matter at hand. Despite where we place justice, kindness, compassion, ethics. morality, we all agree that they have a place in vegan activism.

    I appreciate that Scaughdt added humility, because I think this is key in animal rights advocacy and activism and even in veganism itself. What we are doing is not about us or for us, even though it does benefit us in many ways.

    Take care,
    Anne

    Reply

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