MLK embodied the immense power that spirituality brings to a social justice movement….
Preface: While I recognize that there are many atheists in the Animal Rights Movement who adhere to veganism, and that people of many different religions and philosophies advocate and fight for nonhuman animals, my personal spirituality is the backbone of my veganism and my activism. I want to make it clear that I’m not questioning the commitment of vegans or activists who aren’t spiritual and I also want to clarify that I am not a theologian. I merely want to use this essay as a vehicle to comment on the nature of my spirituality and to express the immensity of the strength it provides me.
Arguments against veganism and the notion of Animal Rights and Liberation are many and varied. Yet I have yet to hear or read one that trumps my unwavering belief that nonhuman animals are as sacred as human animals. I am a recovering alcoholic who has been sober since 1992. Of the myriad Herculean tasks I performed to retrieve my soul from the depths of inner purgatory, the most profound and meaningful was developing my own concept of a personal Higher Power. Devotion to that Higher Power, (a Higher Power which over the years has evolved into a life force representing animals and the Earth), has imbued me with incorruptible devotion and determination, both of which are anchored in a place so deep within my soul that life’s daily barrage of challenges, adversity, temptations, trials and tribulations cannot debase or obliterate them.
Nonhuman animals are as sacred as human animals. That is the first premise of my veganism. Such a simple premise, yet such a powerful one. To truly embrace that belief and function in our grossly anthropocentric sociocultural and economic construct (a system which reeks of arrogance and narcissism) is a tremendous challenge. Even some very open-minded anarchist thinkers, like Peter Gelderloos, have attempted to reduce veganism to a mere boycott of the capitalist, consumerist system that commodifies nonhuman animals and thrusts them into systemic hells (the likes of which even Dante couldn’t have conceived). In Gelderloos’ estimation, once anti-capitalists prevail, anarchism becomes the prevailing paradigm, and permaculture farms and/or hunter-gatherer modes of existence blend “man” and “animal” into a “balanced ecology,” all will be well, as we human animals can revert to our “natural state” and begin eating our nonhuman animal brethren without a shred of guilt.
In reply, let me reiterate that my profound spiritual belief is that nonhuman animals are as sacred as human animals. I’m not boycotting a company or a brand of coffee here. I have made a conscious decision—a life-long commitment— to recognize nonhuman animals as sacred beings who are subjects of a life and who deserve the basic rights to live free of enslavement, torture, exploitation, and murder. There is no “humane” or ethical way of slaughtering, vivisecting, hunting, or stealing the skin from another sentient being who has been drawn into the moral circle of humanity. Or perhaps Gelderloos and his ilk would like to make an argument for such an activity as “ethical” cannibalism.
And further buttressing my contention that my devotion to veganism is far more meaningful and enduring than a mere boycott is the fact that over a year ago I formed a grass roots Animal Rights activist group (Bite Club of KC) through which my allies and I have waged two sustained and relentless campaigns against the systemic slaughter, enslavement and torture of sentient beings. The first campaign was on behalf of the white-tailed deer “culled” in a suburban area called Shawnee Mission Park (which we renamed Death Park). And we are waging the second campaign for the primates vivisected at the University of Kansas Medical Center. My allies and I have engaged in all manner of tenacious, legal tactics against the murderers and exploiters, so aggressively in fact that I was arrested and now find myself on probation for “crimes” of compassion, under ongoing investigation by the FBI, and struggling to make ends meet while finding the time, resources, and energy to continue with my activism.
Gelderloos and others further contend that eating nonhuman animals will become necessary once the planet-murdering corporate agricultural system has been abolished. And we know that how? Simply restoring the ecological balance that our civilization has so heavily disrupted does not condemn humanity to a life of carnism. If I live to see the day that the monocropping, topsoil decimating, environmentally toxifying corporate farming machine is dismantled, I can assure you that my spiritual beliefs coupled with my tenacity and intellect will enable me to develop the means to eat sufficiently without exploiting or murdering nonhuman animals, corporate consumerist system or no. And I’ll make it my mission in life to share my innovations with the world, as I’m sure many other intelligent and dedicated vegans who find similar ways to avoid eating nonhuman animals will also do. If my 43 years on this planet have taught me nothing else, they’ve at least deeply instilled the lesson that human innovation, imagination, and ingenuity, as destructive as they can sometimes be, are so powerful that we are not rigidly boxed into a particular course of action or mode of being.
Aside from contending that eating “meat” will become a necessity once the capitalist, corporatist system we loathe is eradicated, Gelderloos and others insist that our ancestors were “meat eaters” and that our physiology demonstrates that we are meant to be consumers of flesh, concluding that we vegans are defying our very natures by excluding “meat” from our diet. Yet there are growing bodies of evidence to the contrary. Anthropological studies are increasingly demonstrating that our earliest ancestors were primarily foragers who ate “meat” opportunistically, very occasionally, and only in the form of insects and carrion. Our teeth and digestive systems both demonstrate that we are meant to be herbivores. “Meat” has been identified as the principal cause of myriad illnesses and conditions, including heart disease, hyper-tension, various forms of cancer, and diabetes. Perhaps proponents of defiling the sacred by eating nonhuman animal flesh and reproductive products prefer undermining their own health and desecrating other sentients by eating them, but my spiritual beliefs prohibit me from doing either.
Contrary to the arguments of Gelderloos and his ilk, we vegan proponents of Animal Rights do not exist as a reaction to the horrors of capitalist commodification and concomitant torture and murder of nonhuman animals. We exist as moral guardians of the most exploited beings on the planet. Further, nonhuman animal exploitation predates the hierarchal, profit and greed driven system of capitalism. It is deeply rooted in the dominionist doctrine of the world’s major religions and its origins can be traced back at least 10,000 years to the time at which human animals began domesticating nonhuman animals to use them for their pleasure and convenience.
Ironically, and in direct contradiction to the false assertions of anti-vegans like Gelderloos, the corporate consumerist socioeconomic structure to which we vegans allegedly owe our very existence as mere reactionary participants in a boycott puts us in positions where it is extremely difficult, and at times impossible, to avoid consuming or using products that result from animal torture and exploitation. No matter how devout or fastidious we are, in order to function in this sickeningly speciesist society, there are times and degrees to which we vegans are complicit in the murder and exploitation of nonhuman animals in some way simply by virtue of the fact that the dominant paradigm is permeated with the use and abuse of nonhuman animals to create products and entertainment. Once we abolish this morally primitive system, we can replace it with one that is both ecologically sound and respectful of the sacredness of nonhuman animals. At that point, our “boycott” will cease being a “boycott” and become the status quo.
Asserting that veganism is a mere boycott is a deeply insulting and shallow argument that fails to examine the depth to which some of us vegan ARA’s hold our beliefs precious and non-negotiable. Contending that veganism will be unsustainable once the planet-murdering infrastructure of industrial capitalism is dismantled is myopic, unimaginative, and seriously under-estimates both the strength of the human spirit and the depth to which my allies and I are committed to veganism and Animal Rights.
Nonhuman animals are as sacred as human animals. As long as I draw breath I will adhere to this belief and find ways to encourage, persuade, convince, and enable others to do the same. Spiritual determination finds ways to overcome obstacles and adversity.
Jason Miller, the Senior Editor and Founder of TPC, is a tenacious vegan abolitionist and animal rights activist who lives in Kansas. He has a boundless passion for animal liberation and anti-capitalism. Addicted to reading and learning, he is mostly an autodidact, but he studied liberal arts and philosophy at the University of Missouri Kansas City. In early 2005, he founded the widely read radical blog, Thomas Paine’s Corner. Jason is an accomplished, prolific essayist and his writings on social and political issues have appeared on hundreds of alternative media websites over the last few years. He is a press officer for the North American Animal Liberation Press Office, and the founder of Bite Club of KC, a grassroots animal rights activist group which he started in Kansas City in 2009 and through which he and his allies give animal exploiters some serious hell. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.