Whatever our initial reasons for stepping onto the vegetarian or vegan pathway, we must quickly grow into a broader and deeper understanding of how important Veganism is to the future of all life on Earth. For some, like me, Veganism is a product of my past, less informed vegetarianism. I saw that my food choices were not just about relationships with family, friends, and social sharing. It also was about my relationships with individuals from other species, ecosystems, and the impoverished half of humanity. I saw animal agriculture outbid the poor for grains sold on the global market and the terrible toll on humanity that it caused. Once we look more deeply and learn about the connections between our food choices and the rest of the world, our vegan choice is reinforced over and over as practical and moral issues. We understand the pain, suffering, destruction, and injustice we would cause people and other species if we were to return to carnism.
The CITES conference that opened earlier this year in Bangkok, Thailand is an example of the Vegan imperative. CITES stands for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. The fates of many species and individuals from those species are deliberated in this forum, not often effectively. CITES, like many international institutions, is no match for unsustainable, cruel human behavior. But the conference hasn’t been pressed by vegans advocating the ecological benefits of a vegan human ecology that can slow the loss of biodiversity. CITES does not care to recognize that Veganism offers the greenest, most sustainable, and least harmful dietary choice many people can make to protect wildlife. We stop the direct killing, the destruction of their ecosystems, end the commerce, ruin economic incentives to kill, and dramatically slow global warming that is broadly harmful to ecosystem stability. There are many other changes that would need to be made simultaneously to stop the human-caused loss of biodiversity—reducing global human populations around the world being one of them. Still, it is undeniable that Veganism is essential for CITES to succeed.
In fact, Veganism is essential for solving a multitude of environmental problems caused by humankind. Unfortunately, the majority of biological institutions/agencies/sciences and the nonprofit environmental organizations that mirror the fish and wildlife management cultures and values, ignores veganism. They do this without a basis in science. That is unacceptable and indefensible. Vegans should be storming their academic gates and their agency offices.
That isn’t likely to happen until single-issue vegans “grow over time into a broader and deeper understanding of how important Veganism is to the future of all life on Earth.” Deep ecology, and I am extending that concept to a deep human ecology, is premised on every species having innate value that exists independently of and without having a use or economic benefit to humanity. That innate value extends to ecosystems. In my advocacy, I am bridging deep ecology’s innate value of all species and ecosystems to what has been the “animal rights” movement. This means that we talk about species and ecosystem rights based on their innate values. For species and the individuals from other species, we do not require the “sentience test” before we value them. This opens the umbrella of compassion to protect life itself, not a narrow field of candidates. Species rights is a more effective approach than the limited concept of “animal rights”.
On a practical level, cheerleaders for the sentient can easily remember that the sentient need the non-sentient (like herbivores need plants) and ecosystems to survive and not suffer by: starvation; loss of sheltering habitat; toxic prey; the destruction of species’ culture and social life; contaminated water; the extinction of grasslands; the loss of insects and amphibians; and excessive, unrelenting stressors caused by us. All of those harms would be covered by species rights.
Here and there we can see a glimmer of hope that conservation biologists, naturalists, and mainstream environmentalists will start acknowledging suffering and species rights. These issues are at the core of how our human ecology creates relationships with ecosystems, flora, and fauna. A vegan human ecology should shape their management objectives. All have value and have a right not to be harmed, and where harm is unavoidable, minimized. This leads to a wonderful conversation about human overpopulation, environmentally destructive economic systems, and the current barbaric culture we find in fish and wildlife “management” agencies. That’s part of the argument I build in my book. It’s all interrelated.
The mirror image of this is that if vegans and our organizations hope to change the world, we are required to become informed and active environmentalists who carry a far different message to government agencies and the public. That requires vegan organizations to change and expand their objectives, to show up at public hearings and describe and demand a vegan human ecology before the rest of nature as we prefer it is lost forever. Vegans must become the banner carriers in many movements. As we do this, more people will recognize that Veganism makes winning their particular cause possible. The important thing is that vegans are the only hope of getting these changes realized. Hard to believe, but true. Veganism has untapped power beyond our current appreciation. The sooner we realize and act on that power, the better it will for everyone and every species on Earth.
Next: Deep Vegans – Part 2