The following originally appeared as a comment from Karen Davis in response to NPR’s 1A radio show segment, Planting A Seed: The Vegan Diet in 2019.
One thing I want to say regarding the characterization of many vegans as “pushy” and the like, particularly regarding the animals at the core of an animal-based diet, is this: throughout history, the small groups of people who have fought for social justice for disfavored, badly treated human beings have ALWAYS been characterized by the mainstream as pushy, self-righteous, and similar complaints.
Many people today take their “freedoms” and “rights” for granted without knowing the extent to which the freedoms and rights they take for granted were fought for by “radicals” who were considered “pushy” and “self-righteous” by mainstream society. When you are fighting for a group of individuals of any species who are conventionally considered worthless or inferior or fit only for subjugation and denigration, there will be conventional opposition. What chickens and cows and pigs and fish and turkeys and other animals are being put through so that humans can consume them is unspeakable and it is necessary to take a strong position on their behalf, just as social justice leaders have done on behalf of women, African Americans, Native Americans and other conventionally scorned and abused groups.
And when people say that even if everyone went vegan, there would still be violence against animals and plants, ergo, it doesn’t help or solve anything to be vegan: this assertion could apply equally to suppressing ever doing anything to help any human being or groups of human beings, because no matter what we do, we will likely never fully eradicate all the intra-species violence of humans toward one another.
I do wish it would be made clear to people who believe in, e.g., humanely raised cows for cheese and other mammary products that removing calves from their mothers can never be remotely humane, as this is what “dairy” means: keeping cows unnaturally pregnant to constantly give birth to calves who are taken away from their mothers, denied her comfort and the milk she would otherwise provide for her own babies, just so humans can suckle her milk instead.
We need to stop acting timid about speaking up for (other) animals in fear we will be called “pushy” for being their advocate. And, in case it has gone unnoticed, there is plenty of “pushiness” and worse among animal consumers. No one should ever be ashamed of speaking out against preventable suffering or for standing up for any fellow creature of whatever species. This is what ethical vegans are about. This is what people who push the envelope against moral stagnation have always been about. Everyone who enjoys their “rights” has such people to thank for the freedoms and rights they take for granted.