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Liberation Veganism: Human rights and plant-based lifestyles

LiberationveganismVeganism is traditionally associated with animal rights, particularly in the West. But plant-based lifestyles can better the human condition too. Konju Briggs Jr proposes a vegan movement and practice that is intermingled with human rights and sustainable development in ‘developing’ countries and communities.

10 October 2010

Why not? Why not a veganism, not unlike liberation theology, that creates, marches, speaks and shakes with messages sparking hope for and actualization of human liberation?

Why not conceive of a vegan movement and practice that is intermingled with human rights and sustainable development in “developing” countries and communities?

Would it be possible, beneficial even, to expand the liberation aspect of veganism past animals alone?

I think so.

In full disclosure, as an activist, much of my work has concerned African liberation and unity, third world internationalism, human rights, sustainable agronomy, complementary and natural medical practices, and at an earlier time, anti-war movements.

As most broadly generalized without accepting any concrete labels, my operating socio-political ideology tends toward some manner of radical humanist anarcho-socialism.

And aside from being vegan for eleven years, none of my work to date has directly concerned the animal rights movement; I’ve gone to the United Nations a few times, but not yet an animal rights conference.

This is not said to remove wind from or disparage the animal rights movement, but just to be completely honest.

At the same time, though, given that human rights are so frequently violated everywhere I go or look, whether my own rights as a black man in Gotham or the rights of people who look like me all over the world, as well as the rights of women, cultural/ethnic/religious/sexual minorities, children, the elderly, the landless, people with disabilities, and so on, I lose too much of my breath and tears on the miserable human condition, and find it almost impossible to apply myself to the animal liberation movement as it exists as an isolated campaign with that sole concern.

But enough about where I come from. I say that the development of the Liberation Veganism concept can easily give veganism an element of appeal towards more folks, especially people of color and youth whose thoughts are currently tending towards revolution.

These proto-revolutionaries, on hearing about Liberation Veganism, just may consider incorporating veganism into their revolutionary practice because it makes so much sense as pertains to overall human liberation and racial and social justice.

Liberation Veganism understands and blamelessly trumpets the truths of how unsustainable meat production and animal husbandry are, even at pastoral or “artisanal” scales.

It acknowledges and clarifies to others that the class war I spoke of earlier includes the conflict between humans and animals through the commodification of animals, as well as between humans who find themselves at odds as laborers or capitalist masters of an industry of blood, cruelty and violence.

Liberation Veganism is in accord with those revolutionary thoughts that understand that if we simply want to feed more human beings and actually realize more and sustainable equity in the world, the actual possibility of making of our world “a garden and not a graveyard” suggests that more of us, worldwide, need to start to leave the meat alone.

Liberation Veganism is obviously not THE answer, but I strongly believe it is part of the arsenal of “better practices” in pursuit of revolution and human liberation, as well as animal liberation.

I hope not to come off as blatantly speciesist (though I’m sure I already have and won’t try to make excuses for it after the fact), but I’m in the game largely in pursuit of my own better humanity and for human beings.

When I went vegan at age 15, it was about both health and ecological issues, for the earth at large. And now I am trying to think very deliberately about how veganism can relate to human rights. That is why I think Liberation Veganism may be a concept for proto-revolutionary proto-vegans to consider.

If a plant-based diet will both keep millions of tons of greenhouse gasses out of the atmosphere and feed many magnitudes more human beings, sustainably and consistently, than our current prevailing food regimes, especially since the world is getting hotter and harder on plants, than veganism has to by nature only be beneficial to the entire realm of human rights.

This is simply because more abundance, and the dismantling of industries of inherent violence, will result in at least some reduction in the deadly competition over resources that imperil humanity, such as the feared immenent and current wars over water, food, and so on.

If transition away from automobile culture, towards renewable energies, and towards composting and water recycling are part of the green movement that might buy us all more time on the world as we know it, than veganism – a veganism cognizant of the human and Earth liberation elements of its actualization – also must be part of that same movement. And it has to be about as many of us humans as possible.

Since we pursue those things which materially and otherwise most benefit us, as do all other creatures, then a veganism that appeals to our longevity and the leveling of the balance of power in human societies should theoretically find mass appeal.

Veganism in explicit combination with human rights, or veganism plus human liberation, can be understood as Liberation Veganism.

Liberation Veganism as I’ve struggled to define it here has its obvious ethical elements, ecological arguments, and social justice underpinnings, but as a liberation movement, it can and must include all the social capital of successful trends: propaganda, recipes indigenous to our cultures which veganize palates and minds from the grassroots, and the revolutionary gatherings, rallies and potlucks that find ways to intermix all manner of human rights and liberation issues with the way we eat.

Konju Briggs Jr (also known as Konju Oruwari) is a writer, blogger, activist, massage therapist and a research assistant at the Africana Institute at Essex County College in New Jersey.

He recently completed and is seeking publication for an Afrofuturist existentialist novel entitled An Android Reads the News. At present he's writing a novel which, from a magical realist approach, exposes some of the intercultural absurdities and political nausea of contemporary life in America as experienced by people of color and immigrants.

He has been vegan since he was 15, converting in mid-1999 following some deep thinking on arguments read and heard, combined with a natural revulsion towards the brutality of slaughterhouses and no love for the flavor or odor of flesh. In the ensuing years, his travels in West Africa and studies on development have caused him to think more about how veganism can be related to food sovereignty, pro-human economics and human rights, and not just animal rights. Veganism is thus central to his third world internationalism.

Konju blogs at Green Chimurenga, Vegans of Color and Afrikan Satori.



0 #2 Katie 2010-10-17 21:55
I support the idea that veganism applies to all animals, whether they be human or non-human. Avoiding complicity in the unnecessary use or harm to all living beings, including the earth, is fundamental to me being vegan. Personally, I'm happy for people to be vegan and for veganism to have greater appeal to more people for just about any reason (to me it's a step towards consciousness) but am disappointed that so many people always have to bring it back to the benefits of humans alone. In this context how can we even hope to overcome speciesism, which underlies the use and abuse of non-human animals and is the aim of many in the vegan movement? Perhaps I'm misreading, but the way Briggs talks about it sounds like even veganism could exclude animals' concerns! I wish Briggs had been able to overcome his speciesism just a little to be able to say that the movement to stop the use and abuse of non-human animals is worthy in its own right. I wonder though...perhap s this is also a step towards overcoming speciesism by helping to remove the belief that the use of animals is necessary and therefore justified?
0 #1 Cat 1000 2010-10-12 10:29
Excellent article........ .

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