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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.