Hey vegans! What are we doing about our own Piers Morgans?

It's easy for vegans (and everyone else, really) to laugh at Piers Morgan - an angry pimple on the face of the British media, exploding all over his own reflection in the window of a Greggs bakery, as they have the cheek to introduce a product that he doesn't personally want!

Naturally, vegans, non-vegans, and Greggs themselves have responded to the absurdity and hypocrisy of such outrage.

Engorged Morgan

Of course, we all know that an additional product for vegans doesn't mean fewer products for non-vegans. In fact, it usually means the opposite - as vegan food is suitable for non-vegans too. And we know that helping animals doesn't mean hurting humans. Again it often means the opposite - given the harm that animal agriculture does to the environment, global food security, human health, etc.

However, the likes of this engorged Morgan are used to a world that caters to themselves only - and which, in doing so, reinforces the overconfidence that they have in their own opinions... on just about everything.

Anything that helps those who are different erodes the unearned advantage to which they have become accustomed, and helps validate an alternative perspective that they do not share - increasing the possibility that maybe they could be wrong about something!

Cognitive dissonance

This creates a psychological discomfort known as cognitive dissonance, the result of which is often to violently reject new information that may contradict deeply held beliefs. This is understood to have originated as a defence mechanism - discouraging early humans from expressing ideas that may result in being ostracised from their communities. However, it can inhibit our ability to change our minds in the light of new evidence. And it's often cited as a reason that non-vegans reject veganism.

As vegans, we've changed our behaviour to overcome the cognitive dissonance that exists between "I care about animals" and "I unnecessarily consume the products of animal exploitation". So we're not going to fall for it anywhere else... right? We wouldn't exhibit the same flawed reasoning that Piers Morgan does, would we?

Unfortunately, vegans also demonstrate cognitive dissonance. In any discussion amongst vegans about controversial subjects such as palm oil or suitable diets for companions animals, cognitive dissonance is on display. Which ever side of the argument vegans take, there's evidence of a deep-seated need to reject any argument that challenges their existing beliefs - regardless of the validity of that argument.

Flawed logic

But there's a much more serious example of this flawed logic.

Despite their veganism, many vegans are closer to Piers Morgan than we might care to consider - having also become used to a world that caters to those who are like them, and becoming similarly enraged by the idea of accommodating those who are not.

While such vegans may state that they reject both individual prejudice and systemic discrimination (including racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, sexism/misogyny, heterosexism/homophobia, cissexism/transphobia, ableism, and classism) too many exhibit behaviour that belies such claims:

  • contributing to systemic oppression - with imagery and rhetoric that disparages, objectifies, exploits, ignores or otherwise harms members of oppressed groups,
  • denying the impact of either their behaviour or the underlying power structures (or even the existence of the latter),
  • rejecting the accounts and appeals of those who directly experience such oppression,
  • and labelling those who challenge intolerance and toxic behaviour as intolerant and toxic!

Aside from the failure to recognise another example of cognitive dissonance (and not to mention the obvious harm caused to members of oppressed and marginalised groups) such behaviour fails veganism on a number of counts...

  1. Making vegan spaces harmful to members of oppressed and marginalised groups portrays the message that veganism is not for them, alienating both them and their allies before we even have the opportunity to demonstrate the merits of our cause. Ignoring human oppression is therefore counter-productive to vegan advocacy.
  2. In 'Empty Cages: Facing the Challenge of Animal Rights', Professor Tom Regan addresses the inadequacies of historical arguments for human rights, and makes the case that humans have rights because they are 'subjects-of-a-life', i.e. what happens to them, matters to them. This applies equally to nonhuman animals. Ignoring human oppression necessitates a rejection of this argument, and thereby undermines the case for veganism.
  3. While vegans often claim that veganism is about compassion or justice, a lack of compassion or a rejection of justice for oppressed humans refutes such claims. Some non-vegans have been known to reject veganism saying that 'you vegans only care about animals, not humans'. Ignoring human oppression helps validate this excuse.

What about you?

Hopefully, you don't think that you're one of those vegans. But what are you doing to counter the harm caused by those that are? The responsibility for challenging their toxic ideas falls to those of us who don't already experience oppression on a daily basis.

The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.

— Albert Einstein

So do you challenge their misconceptions and prejudice? The "dog whistles", "gaslighting", and "sealioning" they use to deny the impact and existence of systemic oppression? And the harm that they cause - both to nonhumans and oppressed humans?

Or do you allow them to go unchallenged, reinforcing the confidence that they have in their warped perspective? Maybe even helping to create environments where they can freely infect others with their poisonous views?

Always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor never the tormented.

— Elie Wiesel (Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor).

One of the articles that I've referenced below is entitled 'In 2018, white people have to do more than just have conversations about racism'. Well, in 2019, white vegans need to make a much greater effort to address the willful ignorance and even blatant bigotry that's been allowed to fester in certain vegan spaces. Because it's not this one entitled, ignorant and intolerant non-vegan that we need to worry about; it's all those already within our community.

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