We talk a lot about adopting a clear, unequivocal approach to our advocacy, talking to people about the moral issue raised by our society’s use of animals: that animals are not things, they are self-aware, feeling beings, and therefore should not be used and killed unnecessarily. That is clear and straightforward and when we talk to people about that they understand and many agree and undertake to align their own behaviour with that principle.
Of necessity, we talk in general terms when describing our advocacy. In general it is simple to go vegan: you decide that because you agree that animals are not things you will no longer support or participate in their exploitation and killing; and, in general, it is easy to live vegan: it involves change, in terms of mindset, habit and expectations but it is positive change. The majority of people living in Scotland are not in a situation in which it is impossible/impracticable to be vegan and it is important to be clear about that in our advocacy. The prevailing and deeply ingrained speciesism, welfarism and perception that being vegan is an incredibly difficult feat that only the most disciplined and self-controlled could possibly undertake, must be challenged.
The fact that we do, of necessity, talk in these general terms does not mean that we refuse or fail to recognise that some people are in particularly challenging situations in which it will be much more difficult, or even impossible, to live vegan. In our discussions with people on our stalls we don’t assume that everyone has access to the same things; we take into account the particular circumstances of the individual, talking to them about any particular challenges they think they might face and discussing, for example, where they currently go for food shopping.
On the other hand, we would never assume that because of someone’s particular circumstances they won’t be interested in discussing the moral issue. Nobody should be automatically excluded from this movement and no group should be assumed to be uninterested or disengaged. That would be extremely unfair.
Our general approach is to let people approach our stalls and if they are open to having the moral discussion, we will have that discussion. If it becomes clear that their particular circumstances are such that they would find it very difficult to live vegan, for example if they are homeless, of course we would not say that morally they ought to be vegan when clearly they may not be in control of that. We recognise the position they are in and take the lead from them in terms of any support or information they would like.
However, we should also remember that within the tens of thousands of people living without a home in Scotland there may well be people who have the moral conviction that it is wrong to use and kill non-human animals unnecessarily. In addition to the day to day issues they will face, in terms of simply staying alive in some cases, they will also be faced with having to consume animal products in order to stay alive, even though that is against their convictions.
As awareness of veganism grows, in particular the understanding that veganism is living by a moral conviction and not choosing to follow a restrictive diet, we should see provision for vegans improving in our public entities as well as among the general public. In terms of support for the homeless and those struggling because of state cuts, at this point in time it is a case of vegans supporting the volunteers who focus on these issues (some GVS volunteers also volunteer with these charities). For example, when I make my contribution to my work food bank collection for this Xmas I will be making up a box with toiletries, household products and food items and labelling it “Everything in this box is suitable for vegans: food contains no animal ingredients, toiletries and household products contain no animal ingredients and have not been tested on animals. I know you will be very stretched and I don’t mean to add to your burden, but you may well have people seeking assistance who would like to avoid animal products if possible, and I hope this helps if that should arise. Thank you for all you do.”
Our stalls are as accessible as it is possible to make vegan advocacy. We put up our information stalls in public areas, in the high street, and anyone is free to approach us for information. Of course, there may be people who aren’t able to get into the city centre and we hope that as we grow and more people volunteer with us, using our clear approach, we will see GVS stalls pop up in other areas of our cities and in our suburbs, as well as in our smaller towns (which we’ve been reaching to some extent through our pop ups). With the volunteers we currently have, we believe we are making our information as accessible as we possibly can.
We are keen to do more and based on our growth over the past (almost) two years we hope that over coming years we will be able to do so. For example, working directly with communities who are often ignored or forgotten and who tend to have less in terms of access to information and support, is something we would love to do. It is just a question of time, people and resources. We have to be realistic about what we can achieve with the resources we have and we need to be careful to ensure that no one suffers burn out so that we can make this sustainable.
It is because the animal movement has been so watered down for such a long time, focusing on certain animals, welfare reforms (the legislative regulation of animal exploitation and violence) and baby step journeys, that the animals desperately need us to take an unequivocal approach in promoting veganism. We recognise that this creates a risk that we may be perceived by some as not being mindful of hard cases and particular circumstances. We hope this blog helps explain how we actually approach these issues.
Thanks for reading and thanks so much for your support.