Quick! What is your favourite oxymoron? Awfully good? Peacekeeping missile? Tight slacks? Jumbo fried shrimp? Military intelligence?
How about ‘violent vegans’?
I suppose there is a wide variety of opinion on veganism in many societies ranging from admiration for their campaign to get us to eat less meat in order to save the planet to ‘don’t tell me what I can and cannot eat’ and everything in between (and I do NOT advocate what some jerk in the Netherlands did by eating raw meat at a vegan fair just to piss people off – he also wore a T-shirt with the logo ‘Go vegan and die’). I am guessing though that most of us do not associate veganism with violence, even if both words start with ‘v’. Sure some activists will throw blood (fake of course) on those wearing fur or harass those about to down a cheeseburger, but actual violence? Nah!
Perhaps this is changing.
There was an interesting report out of France in June, covered both by the New York Times and the online site France24. In essence what has happened in the land of foie gras is that local butchers are asking “for protection against violence and intimidation from vegan campaigners who ‘want to impose their lifestyle on the immense majority of people'”. Some French vegans are guilty of ‘physical, verbal and moral’ violent threats against those who sell meat and in March a vegan cheesemaker was prosecuted over a Facebook message about a supermarket butcher who was killed in a terror attack (he wrote: “You are shocked that a murderer is killed by a terrorist. Not me. I’ve got zero compassion for him, there’s justice in it.”).
And France is not alone to feel the wrath of violent vegans. In July members of the French group 269 Libération Animale and a Belgian group called Bite Back invaded an abattoir in the Belgian town of Tielt with the goal of ‘liberating an animal’ (they succeeded in freeing a pig). And in Toronto’s Parkdale district there is concern over the ‘takeover’ by several vegan businesses, ranging from restaurants to ice cream to bakeries to beer, and one of the owners a restaurant describes himself as a ‘vegan extremist’.
Look, I am not vegan although I am trying to eat more healthy foods and cut down on meat, but I don’t think badly of those who do hew to this philosophy. I can see the merits in this lifestyle, especially the environmental ones. And yet as a species that has evolved in part to eat meat a complete transition to a meatless world will be a challenge. In any event, what I don’t support is the use of violence to underscore these beliefs.
Yes, animal activists will argue that on rare occasions violence is necessary to prevent more violence (i.e. if I blow up a slaughterhouse I will save the lives of countless animals). This is a weak position. If you subscribe to it you are also ok with the murder of doctors who provide abortions (to save unborn babies) and Islamist extremists who say they are killing to make a better society (under their rules of course).
I know that there is a whole literature on just war and the legitimate use of force, neither of which I am expert on. Yet it seems to me that if as a society we condemn violence that is not state sanctioned (and even there we are not all on the same page) then we have to condemn vegan violence as we do other forms of violent extremism. The other lesson to be drawn here is that any cause can descend to extremist violence under the right (wrong?) circumstances. While most vegans are peaceful, albeit with a moral superiority tinge, a few are ok with destroying and killing. That, dear leaders, is simply not right and we must call it for what it is: terrorism.