campaigns / activism
Comments 6

Let’s talk animal rights

I have seen a lot of discussions lately about the use of the labels vegan, veganish and the way they are used. And other terms like semi-vegan, or flexi-vegan or even flexanist.

These discussions often focus on a certain person calling themself vegan, and whether this is rightfully so, or on vegan internet celebrities calling themselves veganish, because they mainly eat plantbased, but occasionally eat pancakes with dairy or egg, or ice-cream, or fishes, or because they wear leather jackets or fur coats or go to the zoo for an afternoon of entertainment.

Stop spending so much energy on discussing whether some yuppie hipster internet celebrity is vegan or not. Let’s talk animal rights.

To be clear: I do believe in safeguarding the meaning of the word vegan, and subscribe to the definition of veganism:
Veganism is ‘A philosophy and 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”

That immediately makes clear that veganism is not about purity, as the phrasing ‘as far as is possible and practicable’ leaves room for unavoidable situations and products, like animal products in car cables, using any kind of motorised transport or medication.

In wanting to safeguard this definition of veganism (and being vegan) it also does not mean that I am condemning people making an effort to reduce the use of animal products or people who are on their way to becoming vegan.

But I do feel that veganism stands for respecting animals’ rights, and trying to live as anti-speciesist as much as possible. And diluting the meaning of veganism (by including the purposeful and knowing use of animal products or introducing terms like ‘veganish’) comes down to diluting its core message of justice.
But justice is indivisible.

But that is not even the point I want to make here.

My point is precisely that there is WAY too much energy going into discussions about WHO is or who is not vegan and about the use of new terms like veganish and flexivegan.
And the core of the matter, what veganism is actually all about, is often totally lost in such discussions: the animals!

Let’s focus on what it’s really all about: the animals. Justice for animals. Bring animal rights back into the discussion!
Stop spending so much energy on discussing whether some yuppie hipster internet celebrity (here today, gone tomorrow) is vegan or not. When the issue causing the discussion is the use of dairy, eggs, leather or wool, or going to dolphinaria or zoos, educate people on how those products and practices are violating animals’ rights and what speciesism is about. Discuss which actions and campaigns are best to dismantle speciesism, in all the ways it pervades our society: in what we eat and wear, in entertainment, food production and pursuit of scientific knowledge. How we can bring farmers to stop breeding animals and switch to veganic agriculture.
Brainstorm about how we can put animal rights on the social and political agenda. Discuss how we can build alliances with other social justice movements, respecting animal rights ànd human rights.

Let’s talk animal rights. Let’s talk justice.

Violet with her Thanksgiving pumpkin. Farm Sanctuary, NY, USA. Photo credit: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals


  1. Agreed. With any issue of social justice – and veganism certainly is a matter of social justice – we must stop putting ourselves and our needs or perceived needs before those of a victim’s (or subject of oppression or exploitation) – and we must stop with the convenient/arbitrary/self-serving distinctions that we make between us and the victim/subject. We cannot be effective advocates without this central tenet, no matter what we advocate. Bottom line, it’s not about us!

  2. Hella says

    Spot on, Trudi(and Emi)! Think most of us animal rights folks share exactly the same views.
    Sadly,the word ‘veganism’ has been hijacked by various insignificant ‘wannabees'(celebrity,amongst others) who really have no idea,(or don’t care!) what the whole concept entails.Frankly, don’t understand why anyone wants to take these people seriously or even listen to the crap they spout…!

  3. Heide says

    Well said, Trudi! Too often we get wrapped up in the definition, or even a pointless competition. Thank you for this wonderfully written reminder of what it’s all about.

  4. Great article of what veganism is and what it’s not. I’m vegan for the animals, because I would not eat a pig any more than I’d eat a dog … unthinkable! The benefit is also for us humans: optimum health, food grown for people so no one needs to starve and best for our environment because factory farming is devastating our planet.

    With compassion,

    PS We enjoyed a day at VegFest recently (our 3rd one this year).

    I met Jo-Anne McArthur when she spoke at our Animal Rights Event a few years ago.

  5. Hiya, I enjoyed your post and also like that you talk about reaching out to other social justice groups. I work with XR who you may have heard of. I am also developing a spreadsheet of websites for vegan and climate activists, along with a guiding document which I hope will help bring vegans and climate activists together more. In this time of increasing ecological catastrophe globally, we need to think more strategically in our partnerships. I will be charging a small amount for the spreadsheet, but with every updated version I make, the old one will then be free, and still full of useful information. This is the most ethical way I have found of making a living for myself (and it hasn’t worked just yet). Anyway, if you want to be involved, start reading my Friday posts. If you have any advice for product development (what useful resources for activists do you think should be listed?) then tell me. All feedback goes into the product, and anyone who buys it once (intro price of £5) will get free updates for life. Here’s my latest post, combining product development with general blather about my lifestyle (I apologise in advance if it’s boring, but I do hope to improve).

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