Whatever our initial reasons for stepping onto the vegetarian or vegan pathway, we grow over time into a broader and deeper understanding of the reasons to improve and expand our efforts. Veganism is a product of my past vegetarianism, for instance. Because food choices are at the center of our relationships with family, friends, individuals from other species, ecosystems—and as we eventually learn—social and economic justice for the poor, our vegetarian and vegan choices are visibly connected to other issues.
The CITES conference that opened three days ago in Bangkok, Thailand is one example. 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. Here, too, is an arena for vegans to prevent suffering and needless death. This was the case when a three-person delegation returned to the International Whaling Commission meeting last year in Panama. At every meeting we stated our names and our organization, Green Vegans. Whenever we spoke, when others saw the placards at our tables, and on everything we wrote, we were there audibly and visibly repeated as “Green Vegans, Green Vegans, Green Vegans.” A first, I think.
Thanks to undercover investigations, numerous books, and the work of many people, consumers are at minimum vaguely aware of animal welfare issues and growing towards at least the idea of species rights without specifics. Science is expanding our awareness of the physical and psychological needs of individuals from other species as well as the environmental impacts caused by our food choices. Still, human behavior is not changing quickly enough to avoid more tragedies. As a result, a relatively small vanguard of professional environmentalists is trying to stem the loss of biodiversity, loss of habitat, and in some cases stop wanton cruelty (whaling and sealing, for example). As at CITES, their opponents are global economic systems that do not know the value of a life or ecosystem—something we are already familiar with in animal agriculture. They serve the minority of humanity that can afford to buy an unequal and unsustainable portion of resources while the impoverished struggle without.
What is our lesson in this? We cannot afford simply to “be vegan” and then rest. The same reasons for our becoming vegans and vegetarians also compel us to become knowledgeable environmentalists, advocates for reduced human populations, and social and economic justice. While we may not be able to cover personally all areas equally, we must act on the reason that these issues also cause grievous harm to individuals of other species and people, harm our health, and make sustainability impossible.
Increasing human populations increase the harms done to both domesticated and wild individuals from other species and their ecosystems. The decline of ecosystems and free-falling to extinction cause excruciating physical and psychological pain, misery, and bewildering homelessness during the process. These are calls for vegans to act.
As vegans, we must expand into other causes where we find the same issues that reside within the vegan belief system. Environmentalism is an easy spot to jump over the false barrier of these social movements. Instead of a slow introduction into front-line environmentalism, and to those of you who already are there, I’m asking you to jump into the deeper end of the pool now. Get your feet wet.
Here are two links related to the CITES meeting now underway. From a guest blog by Dr. Margi Prideaux at the Shiftingvalues website is a summary of the difficulties wildlife advocates face. You will also see between the lines indications that without our vegan new human ecology message in this and similar forums, they will not succeed in saving biodiversity and abundance. They will not be able to stop the harm we care so deeply about as vegans. http://www.shiftingvalues.com/cites-conference-risks-driving-a-split-in-international-efforts-on-the-conservation-of-elephants-manatees-and-polar-bears. You can then follow the conference here, http://www.cites.org/
This isn’t more work for us. These are opportunities to help effectively BECAUSE we are vegans. In doing this we improve and complete the characteristics of veganism.