At the end of last week, the Vegan Society in the UK announced the formation of a new group and partnership, taking them ever further away from the vision of their founder, Donald Watson, who back in 1944 had views that were progressive – he recognized that veganism was a matter of fundamental respect for other sentient beings. This new group – the “All-Party Parliamentary Group on Vegetarianism and Veganism” or APPG – is a collaborative effort between the Vegan Society, the Vegetarian Society, and Vegetarian for Life. As further confirmation that the Vegan Society have abandoned veganism as a moral imperative, they claim to be “grateful” for the support of these non-vegan entities and look forward to “working together” with them on their “shared aims.” Whatever these “aims” are that they all have in common, they have absolutely nothing to do with recognizing fundamental animal interests and promoting veganism as a moral baseline in recognition of those interests. What we’re seeing is the Vegan Society further embracing its position as an arm of corporate welfarism.
The new APPG is comprised of politicians from all political parties. The article claims that it will be a “great platform for discussing and learning with the aim of encouraging legislation change.” That’s right – legislation change. The Vegan Society have for a number of years now, been supporters of welfare reform (for example, the Animal Welfare Party and Green Party manifestos respectively), but it seems they have finally taken an official step into lobbying for legislation of their own. What “shared aims” could a “Vegan” Society possibly have with two vegetarian groups (who reject the inherent value of animals through promotion of their exploitation), if not a shared embrace of welfare reform, which necessarily rejects the inherent value of animals and promotes their continued exploitation through increased public acceptance of that exploitation and the subsequent “happy” animal products that arise from such legislation? This is all just further evidence that the Vegan Society no longer takes animal interests seriously and instead, opts for pursuing business interests – this time in the form of welfare legislation with its vegetarian partners.
It’s easy enough to predict what will come from this new partnership; all you have to do is take a look at the four officers appointed for this new APPG and it becomes glaringly obvious. The first expected officer to stand is Labour MP, Christina Rees. Rees holds some particularly confusing positions on animals. She supports a number of animal welfare measures and maintains that “people who are cruel to animals are cowards, bullies and thugs and include those who have made money from dog farming or puppy farms. Some own a dangerous dog to enhance their hard image. The majority of people treat animals well, but we are here today to talk about those who do not. It is not a new problem—it is a long-term societal issue.” Rees does not maintain, however, that people who are not vegans are also “cowards, bullies and thugs,” and simultaneously highlights that she doesn’t think that use is the problem, just treatment. In other words, “animal welfare” only matters so long as the treatment objected to is not part of an institutional or accepted practice. If it is, those who engage in “cruel treatment” are not “cowards, bullies and thugs.” She believes that “animal cruelty must stop and that sentences must represent the seriousness of these crimes.” What a confusing message for the “Vegan” Society to be supporting. All animal use represents “cruelty,” but sending every non-vegan to prison is not an effective way of creating real change. This, of course, is not what Rees means, but what it does mean is that the Vegan Society are supporting a message that deems “animal cruelty” punishable by law unless the act of “cruelty” is protected by law – for example, the use of animals for food and experimentation. All this does is perpetuate the idea that there is a way of exploiting animals that isn’t “cruel,” when in reality, animal use as a whole and their treatment as property isn’t just “cruel” – it’s a denial of their most fundamental rights.
The second expected officer to stand is another Labour MP – Kerry McCarthy. McCarthy – already a patron of the Vegan Society, a member of the Labour Animal Welfare Society, and vice-president of the “League Against Cruel Sports” – is a huge supporter of various campaigns that promote speciesism. She is concerned with the “immense suffering caused by commercial fur farming,” and “applauds” the EU “ban” on cat and dog fur imports. She thinks the “ban” should go further and include an EU ban on “all fur.” Forget cows and sheep, their deaths are just fine, we just need to continue promoting the idea that there’s a moral difference between a form of exploitation that a fraction of the human population engage in (fur), and a form of exploitation that almost everyone engages in (leather, wool, silk, and all other animal products). Otherwise, how would McCarthy gather support against fur? There wouldn’t be support for a campaign against fur if we didn’t assure non-vegans that there was some sort of moral difference between fur and other animal products. This promotes and further normalizes the animal exploitation that everyone else engages in, as being somehow morally defensible. The same goes for the other campaigns McCarthy supports, including those for seals, whales, battery farms, “zero grazing,” foie gras, and fox hunting. Through McCarthy’s appointment as patron, and now officer of the new APPG, her promotion of speciesism is also the Vegan Society’s promotion of speciesism.
The third expected officer is Conservative MP, Henry Smith. Smith is Co-Chairman of the All-Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare, and patron of the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation. He works to normalize animal exploitation through the “mandatory introduction of CCTV in slaughterhouses” – you know, because what the animals really want before they are tortured and killed, is to be filmed getting tortured and killed. That makes sure everything is okay – i’m sure it’s an effective way of monitoring carcass damage and improving worker safety. Slaughter-efficiency levels must have gone through the roof when that was introduced, as well as the placation of public consciences. Anyone that thinks such an initiative is for the animals is either a non-vegan themselves looking for an excuse to continue exploiting, or simply has no idea that welfare measures are for the benefit of the owners of animal property, and not the actual property. The animals are tortured and killed, with or without the cameras rolling. That’s all we need to know.
The fourth expected officer is Green Party Peer, Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb. The Baroness doesn’t seem to have had much involvement with animal-issues, other than back in 2014 when she wrote a brief piece speaking out against “wildlife crime,” where her main concern was not the animals, but the trafficking of drugs and people, and subsequent terrorism. Highest on her agenda seems to be “climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse emissions,” so we can safely assume that her role as officer on the APPG will be to conflate issues of animal ethics with some form of “reducitarianism,” as if the latter has anything to do with recognizing fundamental rights. It doesn’t – it promotes animal exploitation through the denial of animal interests and the assumption that using animals as our resources is still morally acceptable. It also assumes that there is a moral distinction to be made between flesh and other animal products.
The first meeting of the new APPG will be held on the 6th of December in the Houses of Parliament. After further conflating vegetarianism and veganism, as if the former represents some kind of morally valid position, the Vegan Society express that they are looking forward to “fostering a good relationship with parliamentarians and working together to influence positive change.” On the main website for the APPG , it is stated that they “very much welcome attendees with an interest in vegetarianism, veganism, or special diets; public health; the environment; and animal welfare.” In other words, the Vegan Society are embracing the traditional welfarist stance that veganism – like vegetarianism – is merely one of the many ways to “reduce suffering,” and nothing to do with a recognition of fundamental rights.
One thing we can be sure of is that whatever “change” they work towards with “parliamentarians” in the APPG, it will not represent a recognition of fundamental animal interests – it will deny those interests, as each of the four officers have done in their “work” thus far. As a practical matter – while the demand for animal products still exists and we do not have a substantial global movement of vegans – effecting real change in the legal system is currently impossible anyway. The legal system serves to perpetuate the status quo, and not the other way round.
This APPG on “Vegetarianism and Veganism” is yet another slap in the animals’ face from a body of corporate welfarism that seeks only to perpetuate animal exploitation. The passing of legislation in the current moral climate will only serve to benefit the industrial owners of animal property. As far as societal attitudes towards animals are concerned, it will merely continue to feed the growing delusion that our obligations to animals are being fulfilled while they are on our plates and our backs.
Say no to the antics of the “Vegan” Society. Instead, embrace abolitionism and recognize that change will not come while people still think that using animals as our resources is morally acceptable. Go vegan today and educate others to do the same.