Thursday, 25 May 2017

The Politics of Veganism

With the general election just around the corner I felt it important to reflect upon the different parties manifestos with particular regard to veganism and animal rights. It's certainly not the only thing I care about but it is a huge part of my life and belief system. 

For the first time in a long time I actually want to vote because I feel there is a pretty clear and huge divide between the two major parties, particularly when it comes to animal rights. You will have no doubt heard in the press the Tories plans to lift the ban on fox hunting and, more recently, their drop of the UK ivory trade ban from their manifesto. These are two hugely worrying points which on their own have caused outrage. I have also seen a video of Theresa May dismissing a question about vegan school meals because, as she said, "I eat meat". It would seem that I have very little in common with Theresa May and her lack of compassion for animals.   

I invited my friend and fellow passionate vegan Hannah Elgie to present a guest blog post on her own thoughts in the run up to this election...   

 The Politics of Veganism

There is one thing that has been pretty well documented in the run up to this election and that is the Tories will get rid of the ban on fox hunting if they win. I am not a Tory. I have been a Labour voter for as long as I have been able to vote. I consider myself a socialist, feminist, environmentalist but above all a compassionate human being. Being a socialist is about living compassionately, doing no harm to any other living creature, whether that is an animal or fellow human animal. Understanding and being sympathetic towards the other beings on this planet is an essential part of life. Not breeding animals to slaughter and eat them, allowing rainforests to grow, helping our fellow humans when they need it. It’s about having a value system; socialism and veganism go hand in hand. The reason for the terrible treatment of animals by humans cannot go without discussion, the link between the harm done to animals by the hand of humans and the harm we do each other must be made. The consumption of animal products has gone on for such a long time and is considered so normal that we have disassociated the violence towards animals and the violence towards people. As Steven Best writes in his paper Rethinking Revolution: Animal Liberation, Human Liberation, and the future of the Left.

“The project to emancipate animals is integrally related to the struggle to emancipate humans and the battle for a viable natural world. To the extent that animal liberationists grasp the big picture that links animal and human rights struggles as one, and seeks to uncover the roots of oppression and tyranny of the Earth, they can be viewed as a profound new liberation movement that has a crucial place in the planetary struggles against injustice, oppression, exploitation, war, violence, capitalist neo-liberalism, and the destruction of the natural world and biodiversity.”

Essentially, people capable of violence towards animals are capable of violence towards people. Human animals that partake in the meat industry (whether they be farmers, CEOs of dairy companies, meat eaters or vegetarians) are guilty of this violence. They may not have killed the animal but they are creating the demand. Capitalist ideologies promote animal exploitation for human gain largely for the purpose of wealth. Not the wealth of the many, but the wealth of the few and it has been well documented that it is unnecessary. Films like Earthlings and Cowspiracy are evidence of this. Really, it's not okay for humans to treat humans in the ways they do. We have all seen the evidence of the tragic conditions in sweatshops, the awful way people are treated in the diamond trade. Humans largely carry on in their lives turning a blind eye, keeping it out of sight and out of mind all for the greed of material gain. I pose the question, how can we expect to treat animals with more respect when we are so careless with our attitude towards other humans? The two are synonymous.

One of the defining examples of capitalism in action is the slave trade, blatant exploitation of other human beings. In the western world we abolished slavery and have liberated people out of slavery, but now animals are the slaves. Can we humans be truly liberated if we continue to keep animals in slavery and exploit them for the human purposes? We are all animals, after all.

For me, the environment is one of the most important reasons for being vegan. Our survival on this fragile planet depends on us living compassionately with all the animals that call it home. We have all been made aware of how catastrophic the meat industry is for the environment. So much more than the damage that comes from mining for coal or driving cars etc., contrary to what we have been told for decades (please watch Cowspiracy for more information on this). We need to look at our individual lifestyles and judge ourselves on what we do that contributes to wrecking our planet. Our local councils have made recycling our household waste a central issue and its great to bring that to light and make it so easy for it to happen by having the doorstep collection. However, if you care about the environment enough to recycle, then why add to the problem by being involved in the meat industry? A plant-based lifestyle is the only way we can restore the balance in our environment, recycling our waste is just a drop in the ocean in comparison.

Lets look at socialism in action. Jeremy Corbyn. He appointed Kerry McCarthy, a vegan, to position of shadow secretary for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. This demonstrates that Corbyn understands the connection between our fragile plant (that doesn’t belong to us) and a plant-based lifestyle. Having someone like McCarthy in government would bring about real change. The sort of change socialists, vegans and environmentalists have only dreamed of. It would be at the heart of policies not driven out of the public eye because big business will suffer.

At this point I would like to dispel a myth. That myth is that Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable. This is simply not true; no one is unelectable. This is just something the right-wing-press have thought up because they feel truly threatened by the power Corbyn has to create actual change, to bring about a very real alternative to what we have seen in politics for decades. In fact, and this is of paramount importance, Jeremy Corbyn is already elected. He was elected party leader with the biggest majority ever seen. Twice. We don’t ever vote for the person who will be our prime minister, we vote for local MPs and we have seen party leaders change while they are governing our country without having to consult the public. It happened when Blair stepped down, Brown took over. And it happened when Cameron quit, May stepped in. So it is our duty as citizens of this country to vote for what we believe in, the party with the most appealing manifesto, not a personality.

Anyway, back to veganism. I have been talking to Feeding Hungry Minds who deliver the school meals at the school my daughter will start at in September. They have been so helpful and happy to create a personal menu for my daughter so she can be vegan at school. Then the Tory manifesto came out and it said they intend to scrap free school meals. If free school meals are taken away, parents/carers will need to provide packed lunches, which are harder to keep nutritionally adequate and without proper nutrition children cannot learn properly, thus dumbing down a whole group of children. And who, typically, is that group? The poor. I am totally livid about the free school meals being scrapped, not just because this directly affects our family life (not just financially, but also the pressures it adds and the additional time it takes to make a packed lunch) but it will affect the poorest and most vulnerable the most. For so many children this will be their only meal in the day. What kind of compassionate person would think this is ok? Certainly not a mother.

Simon Amstell, writer and director of Carnage says in his interview with Russell Brand, the treatment of cows is a feminist issue. Mothers are having their children taken away from them. It’s a totally awful experience for them, they cry for their babies. How can this be accepted in our society? What kind of compassionate person would be ok? Taking babies away from mothers? So humans can drink their milk? Milk for their babies, not yours.

Steven Best talks a great deal about Speciesism in his article. Speciesism, according to Best, is the belief that nonhuman species exist to serve the needs of the human species. He makes the connection between speciesism and racism or sexism saying it creates a “false dualistic division between one group and another in order to arrange the differences hierarchically and justify the domination of the “superior” and “inferior”.” He says that if leftists and socialists can overcome speciesism and understand how important animal liberation is by becoming vegan, we can then truly overcome the problems we have with the natural world.

I end on a quote from Ghandi:

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

Vote Labour, become vegan.

Hannah x

I would like to thank Hannah for all the hard work and effort she put into creating this post for my blog and I am sure she would love to hear back from some of you so please comment below or tweet her your thoughts.

If you are a vegan planning on voting for the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats or the Green Party then please do get in touch and email me if you would like to contribute your own guest post on this subject.


  1. Excellent article. Whatever the short term realities of the election, vegan is now a word which is no longer unfamiliar, and vegan products are to be found in every supermarket. As a 70 year-old I can hardly believe how fast the vegan philosophy has penetrated society (for whatever reason), and NOTHING CAN STOP IT'S PROGRESS. Market pull, and market push cannot be denied. The business side of it all is a dynamic, and one cannot just demand instant change of heart (a different dynamic) but it will inevitably come, in spite of the Theresa Mays etc of this world. They are ephemeral and will (along with their basically selfish and backward attitudes) be occluded and left behind by that increasing number of people young and not so young who have seen the light. Rome was not built in a day, but we ARE definitely making a huge impact, especially on the young and informed. So at least it seems to me who has been vegan for a mere 20 years and well remember a time when such ideas were derided or just ignored.

  2. An Interesting and valid post! I can't believe they are lifting the ban on fox hunting. And as for Ivory - the mind boggles.
    The Tories need booting out - now!

  3. You can't really use Corbyn appointing a vegan shadow DEFRA minister as evidence of anything - because he did it by accident! Kerry McCarthy recounted to VegFestUK Bristol 2016 how she got the phone call (from Corbyn's whip/assistant) asking her to be shadow minister, and warned the woman passing the message on "Jeremy does know I'm vegan, doesn't he?" (or words to that effect).

    And the phone was passed to Corbyn, and they had a chat about it, and he wasn't bothered. Corbyn only thought Kerry was vegetarian - and Labour has had vegetarian farming ministers before, so that's not so unusual. You could plausibly count it as a bonus that Corbyn wasn't put off by her veganism - but it'd have been quite a snub for him to change his mind at that stage.

    In June last year, Kerry McCarthy resigned from the front bench having found (in common with many colleagues) Corbyn impossible to work with, so you can't assume that she'd be the Defra minister in a Labour government. But Corbyn did appoint Christina Rees, another vegan MP*, to a different shadow cabinet role later.

    (*No-one's an MP at the moment because parliament is dissolved.)

    There are obviously animal advocates in all parties; the LibDems gave the UK its first anti-vivisection science minister, and Kerry told me there was an almost-vegan Tory MP in the last parliament. And it's the SNP MPs who (along with anti-hunt Tories) stymied attempts to repeal the hunting ban in 2015.

    The UK votes by constituency, so my general advice is to find out who the candidates are where you live.

  4. Readers might be interested in my election night guide, which I've updated with the results. The UK now has at least four vegan MPs. Hannah will probably be pleased to know that they all happen to be Labour.

    You can read it at:

  5. Expressively composed and well thoroughly considered.
    Joseph Hayon


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