From Rhys To Royce: Vegan Skeptics

A new feature of The Non-Practicing Vegan are public letters between myself and others. The first is a letter from Rhys of LetThemEatMeat. Keep an eye on his blog and here for my response.

What do you think of the vegans calling themselves “vegan skeptics”? I’ve seen a few bloggers like this, Vegan SkepticSkeptical VeganPythagorean CrankPaleoVeganology and Vegan Logic. I like reading these blogs because they question vegan dogma and sometimes offend other vegans. Dave D at Pythagorean Crank doesn’t even call himself vegan, even though he doesn’t eat animal products. He linked to an article called “Boycott Veganism” that is against veganism but pro animal liberation, which seemed to fit Dave D’s philosophy. Jack Norris made some comments on Pythagorean Crank and his main reaction was confusion. He didn’t know what Dave D was saying or what he was after. I have to admit that I’m not totally sure myself.

Vegan Skeptic explained his own philosophy here:

“A good skeptic recognizes our tendency to seek out evidence that is in line with our desires. As vegans, we most likely want to hear that a vegan diet is healthy. If we are to be good skeptics hearing information that reinforces this hope, particularly from other vegans, should throw up red flags for us. … A good skeptic recognizes fallacies in thinking. We may have a tendency to distrust claims from people or groups that we find untrustworthy, but just because something comes from an untrustworthy source doesn’t necessarily mean it is wrong. … A good skeptic recognizes fallacies in thinking. … Keep in mind, if we do not do this, those who currently disagree with us most certainly will, because finding a hole in our thinking will seem much more reasonable to them than having to significantly alter their worldview.”

What I get from this is that Vegan Skeptic isn’t skeptical of veganism, but
of specific vegan pseudoscience and fallacies. He wants to prune away the
weakest arguments for veganism, since those give meat eaters an excuse to
keep eating meat, but he already knows veganism is right and has no plans to
question that. He wants a smarter veganism, not no veganism. I think that’s
the case with the other vegan skeptics too, except maybe for Dave D, who
seems ready to knock down veganism and see what sprouts up instead. Also
“Animal Writes” at Vegan Logic looks to be on the verge of giving up
veganism after reading The Vegetarian Myth.

Do you know what Dave D means when he says animal liberation doesn’t need to
have anything to do with veganism?

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7 Responses to From Rhys To Royce: Vegan Skeptics

  1. “Do you know what Dave D means when he says animal liberation doesn’t need to
    have anything to do with veganism?”
    not sure about him specifically but I know Anti-Civ folks who hold this position to mean that full animal liberation will only come with the fall of civilization requiring return to hunter-gatherer life and abandonment of veganism. I disagree somewhat but these days don’t feel it proper to debate Anti-Civ theory much over the internet, on my computer, in my apartment…

    • Royce says:

      I used to really like anti-civ thought back in high school–in fact I think it may have influenced me way more than I ever gave it credit. But a lot of it seems silly, especially that desire to “go back” to this mythical time of free-loving, egalitarian hunter-gathererness. But you have to have respect for a radical egalitarian movement that is still willing to at least desire the complete restructuring society.

      • My feeling are similar, interesting theory that should be examined but often it is fraught with archeological and anthropological pseudoscience or misinterpretations. But I highly suggest folks read folks like Zerzan and Jensen. At least some folks do denounce the idealization of the past and instead want a form of “future primitivism” based on moving forward, but Ive got my disagreements there to.

  2. DaveD says:

    What I mean is that veganism is a vapid act often devoid of any ideology. Vegans have dug themselves into a hole by their ploys to get people vegan and now it has lost any semblance of AR relation. It is also thoroughly permeated with woo and pseudoscience enough so now that I’ve completely abandoned it. What we need are innovative approaches to animal rights and not the same old rehashing of this dusty relic.

    • Royce says:

      I had a whole draft where I was going to tease out your thought using Wang Yangming’s unity of knowledge and action, wherein veganism is really a name given to apparent similar actions that are different because they are based on different knowledges (health, AR, environmental, etc etc). So of course a health vegan isn’t the same as an AR vegan because the health vegan is engaging in knowledge/action about health, and the AR vegan engaging in knowledge/action about animal rights.

      • DaveD says:

        *shrug* I’m not familiar with Wang Yangming but it sounds like the rubber’s hitting the road.
        Are there similar distinctions for other knowledge/actions? If veganism has these categories then is it useful at all? Are there feminist vegans and artist vegans and scuba diving vegans etc? At what level of participation in action does our knowledge become validated? If I believe in human rights but dare buy any material object of comfort while others suffer do I not really believe in human rights? Does a person who eats animals but otherwise volunteers every extra moment to campaign for animals rights less knowledgeable than a non-active AR vegan?

      • Royce says:

        Well Wang, being a Neoconfucian was only really interested in moral knowledge and action (though I think his idea of unification works for everything), but he would say that our actions don’t validate our knowledge–it is our knowledge. Applying his thought beyond the spheres he intended I’d say that buying comfort items while others suffer shows that one has knowledge in acquiring comfort, but no knowledge of the suffering others suffer–which is impossible without likewise suffering. The animal eating AR activist is knowledgable about the taste of flesh and AR activism, whereas the non-practicing AR vegan is knowledgable of not eating meat, and how to read AR thought and rhetoric.

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