There is much being said about the Pope’s Laudato Si’ encyclical (link to the full text here). Its message will come as no surprise to anyone who has been thinking about human, animal and environmental issues. One of the key messages is that these issues intersect (hello, intersectionality! Nice to see you at this level!) and are interrelated justice issues. I highly recommend reading it in its entirety. I don’t believe anyone else commanding this level of power is sending a comparably compelling message.
The Pope says (para. 92): <<Moreover, when our hearts are authentically open to universal communion, this sense of fraternity excludes nothing and no one. It follows that our indifference or cruelty towards fellow creatures of this world sooner or later affects the treatment we mete out to other human beings. We have only one heart, and the same wretchedness which leads us to mistreat an animal will not be long in showing itself in our relationships with other people. Every act of cruelty towards any creature is “contrary to human dignity”. We can hardly consider ourselves to be fully loving if we disregard any aspect of reality: “Peace, justice and the preservation of creation are three absolutely interconnected themes, which cannot be separated and treated individually without once again falling into reductionism”. Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth.>>
Of course they are: that is plain for anyone to see with only a modicum of thought. But, many people – vegan or non – don’t challenge their thinking to see this and to make the connection. And as vegans we need to be better. Why? Because the misanthropic ones amongst us hijack our image and our fundamental message of justice.
People think we only care about non-human animals. And that’s just not true. We believe that exploiting others for our pleasure and convenience are wrong. Logically, that belief includes human and non-human animals. We are all “others” to someone else. We are all animals. We cannot separate ourselves from the world in which we live. Holding otherwise is nonsensical, flawed reasoning.
Here is something that happened to me recently that perfectly illustrates this skewed view of who we are. I was discussing being vegan with a good friend. He is incredibly smart, extremely well read, knowledgeable, politically active and so on. I hugely respect his views and always learn from him. He is one of my favourite humans on the Planet, so what happened next has haunted me for months.
We were talking about my winter coat, that it’s not made of wool, that it’s responsibly made and that the makers are fairly compensated for their work. I was telling him that veganism pervades all parts of my life and fits like a glove with my pre-existing political beliefs on social justice. If I don’t wear wool because I believe that exploiting sheep is wrong, then why would I want to wear something that’s made by someone who is being exploited? It’s the same concept. He stopped in his tracks and asked, “Really? Is this part of a small subculture of veganism?”
Holy smokes. He really believed this and he’s switched on! Not good at all. No! Of course this isn’t part of a small subculture!! These beliefs are integral to veganism. But WE have been doing a poor job of transmitting that message to others and showing the world that connection. The misanthropes amongst us are louder and their voices carry farther. We must surpass them.
We’ve made the connection between animal exploitation and justice. Let’s ensure we extend that enlightened belief to all and live up to our “human dignity.” I’m vegan for the animals. Just remember: you’re one too.