Why Veganism Is Not Enough
An Animal Rights Article from All-Creatures.org


Zoe Rosenberg, Happy Hen Chicken Rescue
August 2017

Presentation at the 2017 National Animal Rights Conference on the panel titled "Veganism As Social Deviance."

We must remember: this is a social justice movement. And just like the Suffragettes, just like Civil Rights Activists, and just like other courageous people from past movements, we have to stand strong and take action-even if it means risking our own lives. We have truth on our side, and as long as society sees animals as property and not people, there will be no peace.

Lero was rescued from a slaughterhouse in San Francisco during the first broad daylight open rescue in U.S. history.

Lero chicken

There were hundreds of chickens just like her being stuffed into paper bags, sold like property, like grocery items. I remember waiting outside, my heart beating fast. I was going to be the one to carry the first chicken away from the slaughterhouse, but I stood there knowing that there was a chance we wouldn’t save anyone. I knew that there was a chance we would walk away having failed every last individual languishing within. Luckily, in the end, we saved six.

As Lero was placed in my arms I wanted nothing more than to get her as far away from the slaughterhouse as possible. I was terrified that someone may take her away and kill her. She didn’t and still doesn’t have the right to her own life under law. Under law, she is property. And I was scared to death that those that saw her as such may try to pull her from my arms. I walked away from the slaughterhouse, holding her close, and I made a promise. I promised her that she would be safe, that no one would hurt her anymore. I promised her animal liberation. I promised her that someday there would be thousands of us and we would march inside of every slaughterhouse and we wouldn’t leave anyone behind. And that day we rescued Lero, we had to leave a lot of individuals behind, but just think: if everyone who lives a vegan lifestyle had been there speaking strongly, perhaps we wouldn’t have had to. Perhaps we could have saved everyone.

And that is just one reason why veganism is not enough. The act of simply not committing acts of violence will never successfully end violence. We must actively speak out against injustice wherever we see it. Our silence is compliance, and as long as we act like animal rights is about individuals changing their eating habits, we will not succeed. Animal rights is so much more than that. It is more than the act of eating vegetables, it is more than “veganism”, there are lives at stake. If the 200 activists who took part in the liberation of Lero and her 5 sisters were simply living vegan lifestyles, then all 6 of them would be dead. And everyday, we have 3 choices: we can take part in violence towards animals like Lero, we can refrain from taking part, but continue walking as we see her in line to have her throat slit, or we can take action, we can speak up, and we can save Lero from having her throat slit. And I certainly hope to see everyone choose option number 3.

We often express that there is no excuse not to be vegan once one knows the suffering behind the products they consume; this is true, there is no excuse, but there is also no excuse for not speaking up against this injustice. There is no excuse for remaining silent when we know the magnitude of what animals are facing. When we simply live vegan, and do so as if it’s simply our personal dietary preference, we actively delegitimize the suffering of nonhuman animals. When we act as if it’s okay for others not to be vegan, and we act as if our only concern is what is on our own plates, we make a mockery of their suffering. I’ve often heard people argue against this point by saying “but I don’t want to make vegans look bad”, but it’s not about us. It’s not about how WE look. This is about the animals - this is about changing how society views them. This is about social justice.

Eureka was born onto an egg farm.

Eureka chicken

Her first memory was being roughly snatched and having her beak burned in half. As you would expect, this caused her excruciating pain. She was then shipped off to be packed into a tiny battery cage. And there she languished in misery for 18 months. She spent 18 months begging for mercy, crying out for freedom. And once she had the tiniest drop in egg production, it was deemed that she had no value. She was deemed “trash”. And so they decided that she would be gassed to death, and her body would be disposed of. But we rescued her. We rescued her because we saw her as the individual that she undoubtably is. And now she lives a happy life, she runs around and explores. She waits by the door outside of our house for treats every morning, and always looks forward to her afternoon snack. When she wants something, she comes over and looks up at you in the sweetest way. She dust bathes, lays under the sun, pecks at the grass, and digs in the dirt. She has friends who she loves, and who love her.

And every second 2,000 chickens just like Eureka are murdered. Their throats are slit, their bodies are gassed, they are treated like food, like property, like things. Each and every one of them an individual who wants to live and be free. They didn’t deserve the injustice which they faced, which they are facing. And these 2,000 chickens dying right now don’t even include other farmed animals and sea life. We must recognize the urgency of our movement. We do not have time to wait 1,000 years for everyone to go vegan one-by-one. There are animals dying, they’re dying right now, in this moment, as I speak to you. As I speak there are animals being mutilated without anesthetics, there are animals having their newborn babies stolen from them, and there are babies dying. There are babies dying so we can eat their dead bodies. We don’t have time to waste and we must be willing to do whatever it takes.

Just over a year ago I ran onto the Dodgers baseball field after Direct Action Everywhere conducted an investigation into a pork farm that supplies ground up dead pigs for Dodger Dogs. They found conditions you couldn’t imagine, not even in your worst nightmare. And so I took part in my first action of civil disobedience. And I was arrested and charged. Some people argue that being arrested is unproductive, that if activists have to pay charges, do community service, or serve time in prison, they’re time is being wasted. But that is not the case. If we do strategic actions of nonviolent civil disobedience that result in personal consequences, we highlight the urgency and importance of this movement. We highlight the fact that it is worth taking risks to end the plight of animals. If I have to serve prison time for all of the animals who have never been given an ounce of freedom, then I will. And I hope that everyone in this room will do the same.

Another way to make not eating animals about the animals, and not about us, is to take the Liberation Pledge. Because we cannot silently sit by while our friends and family members take part in an unjust system that oppresses people based on their species. When we sit at a table and quietly watch as people eat the bodies of our friends, we neglect to highlight the reality of the situation. We neglect to recognise animals as equals. The liberation pledge has three components. 1. Refuse to eat animals - live vegan. 2. Refuse to sit where animals are being eaten. 3. Encourage others to take the pledge. Imagine if everyone had a friend or family member who took the liberation pledge. If everyone knew someone who refused to sit at a table where products of violence towards animals were being consumed. We would successfully put the topic of animal rights on the table, and hopefully take dead bodies off of the table.

We must remember: this is a social justice movement. And just like the Suffragettes, just like Civil Rights Activists, and just like other courageous people from past movements, we have to stand strong and take action-even if it means risking our own lives. We have truth on our side, and as long as society sees animals as property and not people, there will be no peace. But as long as we stand strong and we refuse to back down, we will create a world where every animal is safe, happy and free. And we will do it within our lifetimes. So I hope that everyone here today will dedicate themselves to this movement for animals, and stand strongly on the right side of a socially accepted wrong.

Return to Animal Rights Articles
Read more at Egg Production