Being Vegan – This is A Social Justice Issue
By Paul Graham
Las Vegas Informer
“150 years ago, they would’ve thought you were absurd if you advocated for the end of slavery. 100 years ago, they would have laughed at you for suggesting that women should have the right to vote. 50 years ago, they would’ve objected to they idea of African-Americans receiving equal rights under the law. 25 years ago, they called you a pervert if you advocated for gay rights. They laugh at us now for suggesting that animal slavery be ended. Someday they won’t be laughing.” Gary Smith.
I have contemplated this idea, articulated by Gary Smith so well, over the past few years and I am convinced that the issue of animal rights is a great social justice issue that has has been present before us for quite some time. Just as the colonists here in the United States struggled, fought and achieved independence in the latter part of the 1700’s, we faced another crisis in this country a little over a half century later over the issue of slavery. This was something that was so in-grained in at least a part of this country, and many thought that slavery would always be a part of our way of life. It took bold leadership speaking out against slavery for years until things finally came to a head and forced our country into a civil war. Just as our own forefathers had fought for freedom a little less than a century before, the country went to war over human slavery and freedom for all. We know how that turned out. It began the road towards rights for African-Americans that would not be fully addressed until almost 100 years later. Many lives were lost but we ended up doing the right thing.
In the early 1900’s we saw a struggle for women to obtain the right to vote. Yes, we had fought for freedom and established a Bill of Rights, but up until that point, had not recognized women for the rightful place that they should have in our society. Women, in my opinion, are the backbone of our society and it was wrong to keep them in the shadows and deny them the basic right to vote, especially when they had contributed so much. So many thought that this would never be a reality for women. Men have been wrong about so many things over the years and actually are responsible for the majority of the problems we have seen throughout history. This was another issue so many of them were wrong about as well. It was a struggle, but women obtained the right to vote and have been using it since. Once again, the right thing was done. The rest of the century was a continuous struggle for women as they fought for equal rights in other areas as well, and as we saw society evolve and change women became more and more a voice and presence. They still do not, in too many instances, receive equal pay for equal work and that still needs to be addressed. I also do not think it is a good idea to try and legislate to tell a woman what she can or cannot do with her own body. We need to work on that as well.
After a 100 year struggle we saw Civil Rights for African-Americans and all be addressed in the 1960’s. There were rallies and protests, some rioting, and much public and private debate. So many people began to work for what so many thought was so obvious and should have been done a long time before. We saw a great change take place in our society that some thought would never happen. Racism still exists and is something we will continue to try and eradicate. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others led the way in this movement and were kind, passionate and articulate voices that we still look to for inspiration today. Had Dr. King lived, he no doubt would have continued to hold up this banner but would have also, I believe, led a fight for the rights of animals as well. His widow, Coretta Scott King, and his son, Dexter, are advocates for animals today. We have seen great progress in the area of Gay Rights over the past four decades and there is still so much that we need to see happen on their behalf because it is the right thing to do, even if it doesn’t fit into a segment of people’s perception of how things should be. With any of these social justice issues it has usually been, in reality, a minority of the people who have been in opposition to them. Eventually, they lose out and humanity inches towards where it should be.
There is a rising tide of people, not only in this country, but around the world that are raising their voices together for the plight of animals. Over 60 billion animals are killed every year for human consumption in one way or another. The internet continues to be a bastion every day for educating, enlightening and encouraging people to the issues regarding animals. As people are finding out the truth of the brutal treatment and enslavement of animals in our country and around the world, lives and perceptions are changing. There has never been a time in our history where more people have chosen to live lifestyles apart from eating and consuming animal products and the numbers are growing at a great pace. Huge industries are being shaken to the core. People are taking up this cause as a major focus of their lives and energies. Some are still laughing and some are digging in their heels all the more, but it does not change the fact that things are beginning to change before us. We can no longer accept the fact that living, sentient beings are exposed to a holocaust every year so far beyond what some humans still are having a difficulty fathoming. Being vegan is, at the heart of it all, a social issue. What is being done to animals impacts our humanity, denying food, water and resources and ultimately life for so many people. It also contributes in great measure to our health crisis, is wreaking havoc on our environment, and contributing to a spiritual void in our country. This is far beyond what we eat, but that is still a part of it. We have to open our eyes to the reality of what it really is. Slavery is an issue we once again have to deal with. This is one of the great social justice issues before us, and if we can get this right, it is the answer for so much of what is wrong in our world today. It is time to begin to set the animals free.
Paul Graham was born and raised in Northern California and has lived in Las Vegas since 2004. He is a top wedding officiate, a green Realtor and writer. He has a daily vegan food blog www.eatingveganinvegas.tumblr.com which is 365 days and 365 vegan meals in Las Vegas. He can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.facebook.com/EatingVeganinVegas.
Paul’s upcoming book, “Eating Vegan in Vegas” will be published by Sullivan Street Press and for more information please go to www.sullivanstpress.com.