Friday, August 1, 2014

Rights versus 'welfare'.

It all comes down to avoiding doing harm and leaving other beings alone (where possible) as opposed to harming or not leaving other beings alone without being real 'mean' about it, doesn't it? (beings here references living entities who are sentient)

The longer I view the world and her beings through vegan eyes, the crazier and stranger a "welfare" position seems to me. By the same token...a rights position (vegan) probably looks just as strange and crazy to an occupant of the welfare position. I don't know if it works quite that way or not...maybe it does. ("crazy" here used as a substitute for the phrase "disconnected from reality")

It is generally true that vegans...humans who take the position that whenever possible no one should harm anyone else ("anyone else" = any living sentient being)...are considered to be "crazy" or "extremists" or "wackos" by the dominant human cultural narratives. Anyone who is vegan and is reading this knows this...and...anyone who is not vegan and reading this also knows this to be an accurate description of how most human animals view those who are vegan.

But...when comparing the two stances like this:

Welfare: "Well, I'm going to use or kill you (or whatever horrible exploitative thing is being done to an Earthling) for my own purposes but I will try to do it in the least awful/painful way possible."

Vegan (honoring an Earthling's right to their own life): "I won't imprison, exploit, use or harm you. You live your life, I'll live my life."

The first one looks bizarre and insane to me...and the second one looks pretty decent. Harm or no harm...simple, right? Oops...not true.

The distance between those two positions is, in many ways, very immense...especially if you consider what must be waded through (engulfed in) to get from the first one to the second one. Guilt, shame, horror at what one has done...all these awareness invoke unsettling, painful and disturbing feelings. Yet...these are the necessary emotional working-throughs that must be accomplished to journey toward genuine comprehension and persistent implementation of ethical veganism.

Without that working-through, I fear that any "vegan" stance is simply a role, a behavior with no heart and/or substance that can be jettisoned at any time with minimal or no emotional consequences. An example might be someone who sometimes "cheats" on their vegan "diet" because "cheese tastes so good".

If someone has done their feeling/comprehending 'homework' however...then vegan is a way of being and not one of simply acting. Being vegan is a transformational process that changes not only the individual's behavior but their way of seeing and apprehending and experiencing Mother Earth and all of her children...and how those children behave.

Apprehending and appreciating and affirming that all beings are equal in their 'right' to their own lives and to live those lives how they want (taking into consideration that all beings must co-exist together) is a breath-taking and incredibly profound comprehension shift vs the worldview engendered by the conventional cultural narrative about human and non-human beings. That shift, for me anyway, has changed how I see and experience so many things beyond that modest sounding phrase "concern for animals".
I am fairly sure it is a truth that if you haven't embarked on it...the working-through journey...then you will have, at best, only a faint and inevitably distorted and inaccurate notion of what I'm writing about...and...if you have begun that shift...you know exactly and precisely what I'm referencing. It's not, in the end, a word thing.

Going vegan is a journey involving behavior change and in how you see and experience both your inner and your outer world...and all living beings. It can't be described accurately, it has to be lived...and in the living of it not only does one begin to think and comprehend differently...one also begins to experience Mother Earth and her Earthlings (all of them) very differently. And it is a journey that doesn't end...there is no "I'm there" moment because there are (potentially) always new understandings and perceptions and behavior changes arising.

10 comments:

D.E.M. said...

Thoughtful past. Again :) It gets complicated, though, in this crazy world. I can't imagine living without my dog or fighting for pigs from outside the welfarist position (i.e. Just let them move around in the sunshine, then you can eat them you motherfuckers, because I have to meet you in the middle in order to get ANY concession).

At least we're always thinking, unlike the mindless propaganda-swallowing and spewers everywhere around us. xo d.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting DEM. I did a poor job of clarifying that I was writing about end point philosophical/ethical stances...not tactics. As far as I can see anything that decreases suffering is movement in the right direction. I honor and applaud all efforts that are heading that way. My bad for not expressing myself more accurately.

As every, you have a marvelous economy and precision of words. Thank you. :-)

D.E.M. said...

I Ike the back/forth, the difficult ideas, etc. It's so much better than the complete stupid and literal LITERAL fascism of the big-ag front I follow. No dissent , no thoughtfulness, tons of lies. At least we wrangle with ideas, complexities, positions.

veganelder said...

"As ever..." not as every...jeez. sorry. :-)

Destructiveness, exploitation and profit are agendas that don't lend themselves to dialoging in pursuit of accuracy and honesty...or truth for that matter. Thanks again.

Lee Hall said...

Thank you for taking on valuable debates. I'd start with the vocabulary in this one. I believe we need to take back the word welfare. There's nothing wrong with the word, or the concept, and as vegans we are not opponents of the welfare, or well-being, of others. What we oppose, I'd submit to you, is entities making handling adjustments and framing them as concern for welfare.

Have Gone Vegan said...

Absolutely, going vegan is a transformative journey, and involves a complete shift in comprehension and behaviour. But I like to think that the distance between welfare and rights is shrinking, and that welfare really is a legitimate part of rights.

As you say, it may be a difference between stances and tactics, but I for one, am a little tired of the sneering I hear whenever certain (no, not you! or your lovely readers) abolitionists use the term new welfarist. Being an abolitionist who isn't opposed to welfare reforms per se, that stance seems to automatically put me in that derided category, which I suppose I can live with.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I feel "welfare" and "rights" are more like overlapping paths rather than diametrical opposites. :)

Bea Elliott said...

I certainly am no tactical genius when it comes to what method succeeds or hinders... I've weighed the pros/cons of "welfare" for years and still am on the fence about real "solutions" towards an end liberation goal for nonhumans. But whatever I or other "abolitionists" might think... "Welfare" is an inevitable part of the process... Would that we had magic wands to cut to the chase and do what's right --- Proto-fashion.

Maybe as you say the vegan journey is never reached but always evolving - Perhaps this is the way rights/welfare must go too. (?)

Adore the bunny photo! And the profound quote by TR. How diverse and beautiful the world becomes when we are able to see it also through the eyes of Others! <3

veganelder said...

Apologies to Lee and HGV. I haven't responded to your comments because I'm flummoxed as to how to do so. It seems that my post was ambiguous or unclear and I'm having a difficult time getting out of the thicket of unclarity. Hang on...I'll get there...it just might take me some time.

Thank you for your patience.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Bea. Ends and means...potatoes and beans...both go together but which is more important can be sometimes confusing. :-)

When you find that magic wand (one that works)...please lend it to me. In the meantime, the struggle continues.

I really like the TR quote too. Shifting perspectives can be really liberating (and sometimes disorienting). My wife sometimes was/is bothered that one of the cats who live with us would shrink back when she would try to kiss him. I often wondered how it would feel to have a head about as big as my whole body was coming toward my face. I would probably flinch a bit too. :-)

Have Gone Vegan said...

Hey veganelder, nah, I don't think your post was unclear, some of us just went off on a tangent. So no worries. :)

One of my favourite articles on this topic is by the brilliant pattrice jones: http://blog.bravebirds.org/wp-content/uploads/idaa.pdf

And she expands it further later in this article after repeating most of the first part: http://blog.bravebirds.org/wp-content/uploads/perplexed.pdf