Animal Rights

Vegan Movement: It’s Not 1946

| by Gary L Francione

The Vegan Society has informed me that in the The Vegan, issue 2, Autumn 1946, and in other issues of The Vegan from that period, which were edited by Donald Watson, there were advertisements from vegetarian establishments that catered for vegans.

I suggest that advertising establishments in 1946 that served dairy but not meat necessarily reinforced the idea that meat and dairy are morally distinguishable, which Watson claimed to reject in 1944. There is no getting around the fact that this is a blatant inconsistency.

So it appears as though Watson either did not appreciate the inconsistency between his actions in 1946 and his position in 1944, or he did not believe what he said in 1944. I still respect Watson as a visionary and I will, therefore, assume the former. Given the newness of veganism as an idea in 1944, and given that Britain had just been through World war II and had rationing (that continued well into the 1950s), the historical context was such that it might be understandable that Watson simply did not see the inconsistency.

In any event, it’s not 1946. There’s been plenty of time to see that a policy that apparently started in 1946 cannot be reconciled with the position that meat and dairy are morally indistinguishable. The inconsistency is clear and blatant.

I should add that when I posted my original observation on the Vegan Society Facebook page, the Vegan Society PR Officer stated: “The acceptance of advertisements (including inserts) to The Vegan magazine does not imply endorsement.” But as I understand it, the Vegan Society policy is apparently that advertisements for vegetarian establishments that cater to vegans are acceptable and that policy is justified based on a practice that apparently started in the later 1940s. I have asked twice now and still have not received an answer to whether the Vegan Society would accept advertisements in The Vegan that served meat. If they would not, then the policy most certainly implies endorsement of the view that dairy is less morally objectionable than meat.

The Vegan Society is now a large organization with a large staff and resources. It is a Society that is functioning within a modern movement that rejects veganism as a clear moral baseline, promotes “happy” animal products, and widely embraces “flexitarianism” and the notion that meat and dairy are morally distinguishable. The modern movement promotes ovo-lacto-vegetarianism because veganism is too difficult and daunting. I still do not understand why, irrespective of what occurred in 1946 or at any other time, the Vegan Society does not see clearly today that if they really believe that meat and dairy are indistinguishable morally, then they should not advertise places that serve either and they should not advertise places that serve dairy because that just reinforces a moral distinction that the Vegan Society claims to agree does not exist.

It’s one thing to offer as a convenience a list of places that offer vegan options for travelers. But taking paid advertisements for establishments that serve or sell animal products is problematic.

I understand that the Trustees of the Vegan Society will be asked to consider changing its policy. It is my most sincere hope that the Trustees will decide not to advertise establishments that serve or sell any animal products. The Vegan Society of 2011 needs to be crystal clear about this issue even if the Vegan Society of 1946 did not perceive the inconsistency between saying that flesh and dairy or other animal products are morally indistinguishable but advertising establishments that served dairy or other non-flesh products.

And I hope that members of the Vegan Society will make clear to the Trustees that the Vegan Society should be vegan and should not in any way promote the consumption of any animal products or reinforce in any way the idea that flesh can be distinguished from non-flesh products.

If there is any organization that stands for the proposition that veganism is an unequivocal, non-negotiable moral baseline, it is the Vegan Society.

If you are not vegan, go vegan. It’s easy; it’s better for your health and for the planet. But, most important, it’s the morally right thing to do.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2011 Gary L. Francione

Related posts:

  1. Source Materials on Donald Watson