The Question of Honey, 1945

The following is reproduced from Issue Three of The Vegan News (May 1945), written by Donald Watson.

At the committee meeting the question of the use of honey called for special consideration and the decision to eliminate it from the vegan diet will, in the mind of some readers, call for justification. Those of us who eliminated dairy products before honey met with considerable criticism from people who, perhaps in defence of their own milk drinking, contended that the production of honey entailed exportation "far worse" than that associated with the production of dairy produce, for the simple reason that it concerns inconceivable numbers of creatures.

Whether the exploitation is worse or not does not affect the fact that honey is an animal product (coming from the stomach of the bee), and that exploitation is involved in its production for human use. This was proved by the very concise reply received by a member who wrote to Mr. A.W. Gale, proprietor of Honeybee Honey asking whether the honey sold under this name was in excess of the bees' requirements:

Dear Sir,
In reply to your letter of the 18th inst., we beg to inform you that we exploit our bees all we know how.
Yours faithfully,
A.W. Gale.

The Honey Producers' Association replied to similar letter of enquiry stating that they could not assist the writer in obtaining honey that was surplus to the bees’ requirements. As we all know, the honey is taken from the bees and is substituted in winter by white sugar and candy. It would seem reasonable to suppose that the resultant malnutrition is the prime cause the widespread disease among bees. Whether honey from diseased bees is the wonderful food it is claimed to be seems open to question.

Consideration was given to the suggestion that humanely disposed vegans might keep their own bees and take only the surplus honey, thus reducing the exploitation, but it was argued that to permit the use of honey produced under such improved conditions would leave it difficult to argue against the use of milk produced under better conditions. The annual consumption of English honey is only about one tenth of a pound per head, therefore its elimination cannot be a serious deprivation, and certainly it cannot imperil health. The committee agreed, therefore, that by eliminating honey Veganism would gain by the greater consistency of its constitution.


Interview in The Village Magazine, Feb 2014

I was interviewed by Frank Armstrong for The Village magazine. The interview appeared in issue 27 (Feb/March 2014).


Vegan Information Booths - On Human-Nonhuman Relations Podcast 33

Number 33 in the On Human-Nonhuman Relations Podcast series explores public vegan education initiatives in the shape of VEGAN INFORMATION BOOTHS. I'm joined by my special guests for this themed podcast - Jordan Wyatt of the Invercargill Vegan Society, Barbara DeGrande of Animal Rights and Rescue of Texas, and Stacia Leyes of The Vegan Review.


Improving Our Language

Some of the struggle ahead for the animal advocacy movement is linguistic in nature. Social and institutionalised values are embedded into language, a fact which was never lost to the feminist movement(s), especially, perhaps, those in the 1960s and 1970s.

In the animal advocacy movement, Carol Adams and Joan Dunayer are prime movers in terms of focusing on the importance of language.

We live in a culture that has institutionalized the oppression of animals on at least two levels: in formal structures such as slaughterhouses, meat markets, zoos, laboratories, and circuses, and through our language. That we refer to meat eating rather than to corpse eating is a central example of how our language transmits the dominant culture's approval of this activity.
― Carol J. Adams, The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory.

Deceptive language perpetuates speciesism, the failure to accord nonhuman animals equal consideration and respect. Like sexism and racism, speciesism is a form of self-aggrandising prejudice. Bigotry requires self-deception. Speciesism can’t survive without lies.
- Joan Dunayer, Animal Equality: Language and Liberation.

Language has the power both to reflect our attitudes and to determine them, as we know from the battle for language that is inclusive of women. This book looks at the way our language choices enable us to disregard the interests, sentience and consciousness of non-human animals so that we can exploit them for our own ends.
- Lyn, reviewing Joan Dunayer's Animal Equality: Language and Liberation.

Sociologists have acknowledged the importance and indeed the power of language. This is what Berger and Berger write in their book, Sociology: A Biographical Approach (see my blog entry, Language, Power & Speciesism, HERE)

Language thus confronts the child as an all-encompassing reality. Almost everything else that he experiences as real is structured on the basis of this underlying reality - filtered through it, organised by it, expanded by it or, conversely, banished through it into oblivion for that which cannot be talked about has a very tenuous hold on memory. (1976: 83-4.)

In the animal movement, we have increasingly seen objection to the use of the pronoun "it" to describe individual other animals. The movement has also experimented with various forms of words to describe other animals, as I explained in Language, Power & Speciesism in relation to the work of criminologist Piers Beirne.

Since language can bolster or challenge conventional power relations and, since one recognised task of social movements may involve challenging prevailing linguistic convention, Beirne notes the attempts made to overcome a central juxtaposition –“humans” and “animals”- within the animal advocacy movement and academia. He suggests, for example, that the term “non-human animal” is in vogue within the advocacy movement although, in my experience, it is still most common for advocates, be it on email listings, forums, or in general correspondence to the mass media, to refer to nonhuman animals simply as “animals,” thereby often missing the opportunity to challenge the status quo. Beirne further suggests that the construction, “animals other than humans,” is rather cumbersome - and then there is fellow criminologist Geertrui Cazaux’s lengthy acronym developed in her PhD, “animals other than human animals.” Noting that these constructions do not fully escape the clutches of speciesism in the first place, Beirne says that his own practice is to outline these language issues and then enter “hereinafter, ‘animals,’” after the term “non-human animals,” so that he can move on. This sounds like a sensible strategy for a long article, especially when addressing a largely academic audience, whereas the point would probably be lost if used, for example, on an online forum.

Is it time for the vegan community to sharpen up on its language use? We almost casually say such things as, "is that bread vegan?" and "that vegetarian restaurant has vegan options."

This may be a convenient shorthand but it seems sloppy and inaccurate. We shouldn't say, "I had a vegan breakfast this morning." Rather, we should say, "I had a vegan's breakfast this morning." No breakfast is vegan since living vegan means adhering to the philosophy of veganism.

So, perhaps, instead of saying, "that vegetarian restaurant has vegan options," we should be saying, "that vegetarian restaurant has food choices that vegans will choose."

Improving our language on veganism to recognise that it is more than diet means we should no longer run into the "celeb vegan" problem. We need not say that ex-US President Bill Clinton is a vegan: we merely have to say that Clinton sometimes eats 100% plant-based meals like vegans do all the time.

The term "health vegan" is wrong because all it means is that someone is eating 100% plant-based for their own reasons. Veganism is everything but a self-centred movement (not that caring for one's health is wrong). The earliest pioneers of the vegan movement were told that they would suffer, health-wise, and may even die, if they went for a 100% plant-based diet.

I used to say that the 1940s pioneers (Donald Watson and co.) decided to risk it for a vegan biscuit, which I always thought was rather neat. Now I'll have to say that they decided to risk it for the sort of biscuit vegans eat!!


Social Movements with Case Studies about Animal Advocacy - a "mini-course"

As many readers of this blog will know, I am involved as a volunteer with the Dublin-based Vegan Information Project. Since November 2013 (World Vegan Month - see video below), the VIP have been running a weekly "mini-course" on various vegan/animal-related issues.

It has been my pleasure to be involved in the mini-course, contributing to the various informal lectures, talks, workshops, and film shows that have featured. Below are some of my contributions, on social movement theory and the case study of animal advocacy.


(Video) Growing Up as Animal Harming Animal Lovers

In December 2013, I gave a presentation for the Veggie Soc at the National University of Ireland Maynooth (NUIM) entitled, Growing Up as Animal Harming Animal Lovers: Sociology and Animal Use. Based on the early work of Zygmunt Bauman, this lecture involves a basic sociological account of socialisation processes in the context of the ideology of speciesism and the ideology of animal welfarism.

The aim of the talk is to help new and older vegans alike understand that it is cultural speciesism above all else that explains why humans beings use other animals in the ways that they do. As you will see in Part Two, one member of the audience, not a vegan but a meat eater and dairy consumer, says that she will reconsider the idea of veganism - this talk should help her, and others in her position, understand opposition to moves towards living vegan.

The Power Point presentation used in the talk is available to view below.

Many thanks to the NUIM Veggie Soc, especially Lauren Ellen Redmond.


Stop the World - I Want to Get Off

The mass media like quirky little features to lighten the heavy load of their listeners, viewers, or readers. A radio station invited people to write in with stories about "animals being treated like they were human."

Someone texted in with a story apparently about an "animal who was treated like she was a human being." The person said that a relative was called to a house or apartment due to blocked drains. He found that the bathroom door have been cut in half to make it stable-like, and in the bathroom stood a horse. Hay had been thrown into the bath for the horse to eat. The texter's relative ruefully suggested that this could be the cause of the drain blockage.


A throw-away piece on a radio station - but how, except in a deeply speciesist culture, could this anecdote count as an example of a nonhuman animals being "treated as if she were human?" Are we to suppose, for example, that this family may have a second bathroom in which their daughter or son was imprisoned and where they simply threw food into the bath?



Interview on LMFM Radio, 13, November, 2013

This interview with Gerry Kelly of LMFM Radio in Drogheda, includes news that a vegetarian of 27 years is going vegan due to the interview.

Opening Statements - Mini-Course on Social Movement for World Vegan Month, 2013

The Vegan Information Project presented an Informal lecture/workshop on "Understanding Social Movements with Case Studies about Vegan Animal Advocacy" at The Outhouse, Dublin, 11th November, 2013.

This is part of VIP's World Vegan Month programme of events.

Scroll down to view the Power Point slide show seen in these videos.

Talk and Q&A at the East Midlands Vegan Festival, 2013

I gave a talk about the future of the vegan movement in the 21st Century at the East Midlands Vegan Festival.

And gave an account of the progress of the Vegan Information Project.

Talk at Caffi Vegan, Vegans at the Feast 2013

October 26th and 27th 2013 saw the second "Vegans at The Feast" event in Conwy, North Wales.

The Conwy Feast is an annual attraction and the vegan activists in the area have run a vegan cafe there for the last two years.

This time, about 850 free vegan meals were given away during the weekend. People also came to get vegan snacks, visit the tables and stalls, and hear the live music being played all day. The films, Making the Connection (especially made with Welsh sub-titles) and The Cove where also shown.

The Vegan Information Project took their "Vegan Information Day" gazebo stall to the event, and I gave three talks about the very basics of veganism.

This is my second talk...


The Species Barrier is All Balls

It was my pleasure to return to The Species Barrier radio show recently to talk about the work of the Vegan Information Project.

This is their "blurb" for the show, which also features the first vegan professional footballer, Neil Robinson, a great guy I had the pleasure of meeting, with his brother John at the East Midland Vegan Festival, and Jonathan Stack.

Episode 24 of The Species Barrier... balls are the unifying theme. Neil Robinson, the former Everton defender who is generally accepted to be the first professional vegan footballer tells us his story and why he's developed his own range of food bars, Jonathan Stack director of documentary film The Vasectomist tells us why men around the world are "putting their balls on the line for Planet Earth" and participating in World Vasectomy Day on October 18th. Last but not least, five-a-side maestro Roger Yates is back with us to discuss The Vegan Information Project, badger culls and lab grown meat.

Also... Marcus attended the Save Hobblers Hole meeting in Lincoln and spoke to campaigner Emma, first Lab grown burger taste tested, Green MP Caroline Lucas arrested over Fracking, Housing development for green belt nearly doubles within a year and the badger cull has begun...


Palm Oil, Human Rights, and Politics are Vegan Issues.

I’ve seen numerous discussions in recent months about the question – “is palm oil vegan?” This raises the issue of what makes anything “vegan.” “Is it vegan?” is a common enough question within the animal rights community.

What, however, is being asked when the question asked is, “is it vegan?” Does it mean that “it” contains no parts derived from other animals? – or does it mean that “it” is a product or something that vegans who recognise veganism as an ethic and not a diet can be happy and content with?

When we ask, “it is vegan?,” are we merely concerned with a list of ingredients, or do we have a much wider remit that is interested in how and in what circumstances were “it” – or the ingredients of “it” – obtained and produced? It seems to me that vegans are interested in that much wider question – we want to know if the item “contains” suffering: we should want to know if rights violations were involved in the making of the item.

Since its inception in 1944, veganism has been seen by many vegans [1] themselves as a proper and constituent part of radical social movements working towards peace, fairness, social justice, non-violence, anti-discrimination, and so forth.

This means that palm oil is not vegan. Like the famous Irish drink, Guinness, palm oil contains no animal ingredients, that is true, but its current method of production results in suffering and rights violations. Such a product cannot be vegan by definition. A product may be made entirely from plants but that does not make it vegan. Something that arises through the suffering of others, through others having their rights violated, cannot correspond with efforts towards peace, non-violence, and justice. It does not correspond with the thrust of the philosophy of veganism.

The suffering of others includes the suffering of other humans.

Donald Watson is the best-known co-founder of the British Vegan Society and he saw the vegan movement and the peace movement as intertwined. Perhaps as a forerunner to the more developed idea of alliance politics, he suggested that many people will become vegan as part of their “peace aims.” His brother and sister also went vegan and became conscientious objectors in WWII as Watson himself did. When Watson spoke about important social movements, he also seemed to talk about veganism and the cause to end human slavery as interlinked and having similar aims. He believed that the vegan ethic “covered” other social mobilisations, including movements that saved human lives, declaring a “soft spot” for lifeboat and mountain rescue personnel, especially because they are all volunteers.

He suggested that veganism is a humanitarian movement that provides members the opportunity to express the things they “stand for” in life; a radical social movement that may alter humanity for the better, and help to increase the very survival of the planet. He argued, therefore, that we need to take a broad view about what veganism is and about what it means. Vegans must think beyond diet, he said, and realise we are part of “something really big;” that vegans are engaged in a pioneer movement that will aid human evolution and the “moral development” of humankind. Believing that veganism will help to bring about a different sort of human being, he plainly thought that human animals matter. Watson suggested that vegan ethics will bring forth a new “civilisation,” and perhaps forge for the first time in human history a world and a humanity that truly deserves that name.

He said that vegans go beyond “live and let live” and believe in the notion of, “live and help live.” This means, he argued, that veganism includes caring about the exploitation of all sentient life.

While Donald Watson’s BBC News obituary correctly describes a vegan as someone who “eats a plant-based diet free from all animal products including milk, eggs and honey,” and points out that, “Most [sic] vegans wear no leather, wool or silk,” it is clear that Watson saw veganism in much broader terms than this dietary definition, and regarded the vegan philosophy as a means of assisting all animals, nonhuman and human, as well as the biosphere on which they live and depend.

Recent ideas in the animal advocacy movement, that human rights and animal rights are distinct issues; that veganism is some apolitical commodity that can be sold on the high street like cheap fashion items, seem to me not only wrong, they seem dangerous – and they certainly go against the type of thinking of those who formed the vegan movement.

Animal liberation, human rights, one struggle, one fight, is more than a slogan on a t-shirt or placard.

[1] I think it needs to be noted that some times are more politicised than others and I think in such times, the interlinks between modes of oppression on the one hand, and the intersectionality of struggle(s) on the other, is more evident. The early vegan pioneers seemed to be involved in a number of causes. I remember the 1980s as being far more politicised than the present time (something many academics note - and a few complain about). During those times, the prospects of alliance politics are greater and exist among struggles with values that would seem logically to support one another. Steve Best has suggested that the animal advocacy movement is founded on Left values (broadly defined) - he clearly is dismayed by recent suggestions that human rights and animal rights are two separate entities.


Steve Best's "Total Liberation."

Steve Best’s position on Total Liberation, as outlined at the International Animal Rights Conference (see the video below) seems very interesting. There was a lot about “alliance politics” and little about “by all mean necessary” – at least this time. I don’t know whether this is moderation on his part but the focus on the former rather than on the latter was most welcome.

Best argues that the animal advocacy movement is a Left mobilisation – whether it knows it or not – suggesting that our heritage comes from Left ideals such as liberty, freedom, democracy, non-violence, justice, and anti-capitalism. These are not the values of the Right, such as strong defence, family, hierarchy, capitalism, and yet the demographics of the “animal movement” is fairly right wing, middle class, and white. So, when Best talks of alliance politics, he means linkages with [other] Left groups; when he talks about social movements, he talks about those on the Left or thereabouts. He’s not talking about forging alliances with the National Rifle Association or the National Animal Interest Alliance.

His vision seems to be a necessary split in the animal advocacy movement. On the one hand, those in the movement who are anti-human, sexist, racist, fascist, those wedded to single-issues, and corporate welfarists, certainly of the PeTA variety. On the other hand, those who see interconnections with other struggles and liberation movements.


Mould Breaking with the Vegan Information Project (VIP)

I recently wrote the first blog entry for a new group I'm involved in called the Vegan Information Project (VIP).

In the entry, I've tried to explain the reasoning behind a new outreach idea in Ireland, and in Dublin specifically.

Click THIS LINK if you'd like to read it.


Podcast 32 - Dr. Will Tuttle on Deep Veganism

Will Tuttle and Steve Prussack are busy organising the second Vegan Palooza conference. They recorded a joint session to "kick off" the conference. Below are extracts from Will's talk which interested me as a sociologist and a vegan. Reproduced here with permission.

At the end of the podcast, you can hear Macka B's "Wha Me Eat."


Growling with Kim Stallwood

My special guest for podcast 31 is long-time animal advocate, Kim Stallwood, who has been vegan since 1976 - his journey to veganism began with a summer job in a chicken slaughterhouse.

Kim Stallwood and I first met in the early 1980s when he was a central figure of the radicalisation of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV). Kim quickly transformed the BUAV's magazine from its rather weak and washy format, "Animal Welfare" to "The Liberator," regularly reporting on the activities of the Animal Liberation Front and the various Animal Liberation Leagues.

In the podcast, Kim provides a brief summary of the origins of political campaigning in Britain, greatly influenced by Lord Houghton, and expounds his view that political campaigning in the 21st century is increasingly important if the animal movement is to achieve it's goals.

I have never been keen on political campaigning, preferring vegan education initiative in civil society and on the cultural level. As you'll hear, our conversation gets a little heated at times - but respectfully so!

Kim Stallwood is appearing at the 2013 Animal Rights Conference in Luxembourg, and he has outlined his case for political engagement in a 2012 Critical Perspectives on Animal In Society conference (see video below).


Remember Neil Lea 1958-2007

Vegan Ireland began a new group on Facebook in honour of vegan pioneer, Neil Lea.

I wrote the following...

Remember Neil Lea, 1958-2007.
Neil Lea, founder of Vegan Buddies, founder of the vegan database, Is It Vegan, editor of the animal rights magazine, ARCNews, and dedicated animal advocate volunteer, died on the 10th of July, 2007.

We at Vegan Ireland salute this inspirational grass-roots campaigner, and wish to have his life and achievements remembered within the animal advocacy movement. People join the vegan community all the time and, through no fault of their own, are often unaware of the pioneers of the movement to which they support. The 1940s vegans, such as Donald Watson, were the vegan pioneers we all remember, of course, but Neil Lea was a vegan pioneer too in his day.

Neil realised that the “problem” of veganism is not nutrition, and not health, but often social in the sense of deliberately swimming against the tide of convention. He saw that his Vegan Buddies initiative could help and support new vegans by forging relationships with “newbies” and people who have been vegan for years. Neil Lea’s Vegan Buddies initiative has been rekindled for the internet age and “globalised” in recent years by Animal Rights Zone: http://arzone.ning.com/group/vegan-buddies

The following is a forum post, written on July 11th, 2007

The pro-animal movement lost a true champion yesterday and I lost a friend: Neil was an extraordinary man. Each day was a battle to overcome, sometimes very painful, illness to get on with his tireless campaigning for animal rights.

Born spina bifida, Neil recognised that his life expectancy was below average and lived his life accordingly, impatient and determined to make a positive difference. His vision, moral courage, tenacity and strategic insight made him a great campaigner.

Neil remained ambitious to the end and rarely talked about his illness, unless asked, or even his past achievements - but instead focussed intensely on his next project. The loss to our movement is immeasurable. But Neil's strength and determination should inspire us all to continue the fight - no matter how tough it gets.

Neil died at 6.08 yesterday, Tuesday July 10th. His death was very peaceful. As many of you know he had quite a few health problems, and in the end his kidney failed and there was nothing they could do other than make him as comfortable as possible.

In the past few weeks he received many visits from lots of his friends. It really picked him up to see so many of his friends, old and new, there's no doubt it kept him going far longer than the doctors expected. He was discussing ideas and planning campaigns from his hospital bed until very near the end. He was an inspiration.

Very sad news - death of Neil Lea

Here’s part of one of many reactions to the news of Neil Lea’s death.

His ideas about campaigning were amazing, such as starting ARCnews and getting all the local animal rights groups to network and support each other, and coming up with the idea of free events where people can try all sorts of vegan food.
We should put on as many free vegan food fairs as we can in his honour…RIP Neil

Neil Lea.

Please familiarise yourself with the life and work of Neil Lea, vegan pioneer, and be inspired by his dedication to vegan education and animal rights despite all his own problems.

Neil Lea 1958-2007.

He was an extraordinary Man.

Thanks Neil.


About Anti-Speciesist Strategies: A Conversation with Professor Oscar Horta

On Human-Nonhuman Relations Podcast 30. It is my great pleasure to present a conversation with moral philosopher, Professor Oscar Horta. We talk about cognitive biases, the rejection of speciesism, beyond veganism, intervention in nature, and media matters.

These are themes of Professor Horta's address, "About Strategies," at Veggie Pride 2013 (see video below for full talk). We also touch on the issue of vegetarianism and veganism.



From Excuse-itarian to Vegan - Colleen Patrick-Goudreau:

Talk at 2011 World Vegetarian Festival Weekend in San Francisco California sponsored by the San Francisco Vegetarian Society. Full title is: "From Excuse-itarian to Vegan: Addressing the Blocks and Debunking the Myths that Keep People from Making Changes"