Put down your smörgåsbords

Letter from Birmingham Jail

Many animal advocates today who profess to believe that the use of animals is wrong, nevertheless offer people an array of options to choose from that involve animal use.

Their thinking is that if people don’t want to become vegan, they can choose from other alternatives, turning the issue into one more like picking shoe colours.

Instead of aiming to resolve this contradiction by leaving aside these ‘options,’ they defiantly continue to offer their smörgåsbord of reducing animal use, vegetarianism, flexitarianism, single issue campaigns, regulation of animal use and so on.

Veganism, as a term and fledgling idea, came into being in 1944. Its 70th anniversary was in 2014, although many groups and individuals that claimed to promote it, hadn’t come to appreciate that measures besides veganism don’t further its understanding. Rather, they undermine it by suggesting there are other options which, if not as ‘good,’ are nevertheless valid.

But do people who advocate these measures believe they have a better understanding of how to confront vital issues than Martin Luther King? That their methods of ‘advancing’ the cause are superior to his?

In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King says:

Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends.

Are those who advocate smörgåsbords confident and sure enough of their methods to argue with Martin Luther King?

Veganism didn’t have it easy in its first 70 years. It was born during the second world war, in a time of rationing, and loped through years when it may have been regarded by the mainstream as something of a crackpot idea.

It’s struggled for years coming to grips with what exactly it is, was kept in the background, and also suffered through disputes from around the 1990s—continuing to this day—about whether it’s consistent with attempts to improve animal  use.

Even so, the argument that animal use—any form, improved or otherwise—isn’t in line with veganism, didn’t get a foothold until the internet became established, around the mid 2000s.

While the internet existed in the 1980s, it wasn’t until 1990 that Tim Berners Lee developed HTML and the first browser.

Even then, the world wide web only took off when the Mosaic browser debuted in 1993, allowing people to see both text and images on the same page.

With the rise of the internet, Gary Francione’s website in late 2006, YouTube and social media, veganism rose in prominence, so that by 2017 there was a surge in its popularity, even if some of it was superficial.

So is there a need to continue these disputes over ‘tactics’ any longer?

Maybe no need, but ideas take time to take root. People object to things they’ve held onto for years.

By 2024, when veganism has its 80th anniversary, will those who accept the idea of veganism actually put down their smörgåsbords?