Tuesday, July 13, 2010

There is No Such Thing as a "Hardcore Vegan"

I often hear people refer to "hardcore vegans." This is sometimes asked of me when I reveal to an omnivore or vegetarian that I'm vegan when they ask, "A hardcore vegan? Like no eggs, no dairy no honey?" Sometimes I hear other vegans refer to themselves as being a "hardcore" vegan. They don't necessarily mean this in a derogatory way. In fact, they often offer it up as a badge of honor- something they're proud of.

Let me be very clear about this:

There is No Such Thing as a "Hardcore Vegan".

As I see it, there are vegans and then there is everyone else. Yes, I lump the vegetarians and omnivores together in a grouping called "everyone else" because the difference between their diets is merely nuanced by their specific form of speciesism.

Point of clarification: Speciesism is the practice of assigning of different values or rights to beings on the basis of their species membership. The term was created by British psychologist Richard D. Ryder in 1973 to denote a prejudice against non-humans based on physical differences that are given moral value. So an ominvore might eat the flesh and products of cows, pigs, chickens and fish whereas a vegetarian might limit her consumption to fish and the products of the chickens and cows, though not their flesh. These decisions are as arbitrary and capricious as the choice to not eat cats or dogs.

Looking up the definition of "Hardcore" there are many definitions. Two that are of interest to me in this discussion are;

1) Intensely loyal
2) A militant or fiercely loyal faction

So what makes us "hardcore" then, it would seem, is our loyalty to Veganism. Our unwavering and fierce loyalty to our commitment to eating a plant-based diet and to removing animals and animal use from our consumption. We're committed. We don't cave in to pressure. We don't make exceptions. Well, I ask you; Isn't that the way we should all be living our lives? Shouldn't we be fully committed- 100% in thought and deed- to that which we profess to believe? By that same token, are there "hardcore Olympians" and just regular ones? Do some commit more to trying to win at their sport than others? Of course not.

The "militant" definition of the hardcore label clearly is intended to be unflattering. I would guess that it likely originated from those who wish to demonize and alienate committed vegans. Perhaps it originated as a propagandist label from the Meat Industry or alternatively it could have been offered up as a slur against abolitionists from the (currently) more socially popular so-called "new-welfarist" approach. But I caution us all; In reclaiming the term "Hardcore Vegan" we not only perpetuate the harmful notion of Abolitionists as harsh and abrasive (i.e. "hard to the core") we promote an even more dangerous social trend; The expectation that people don't really ever fully commit.

Isn't it sad that loyalty and "stick-to-it-ness" is so rare that it deserves its own level of distinction? We marvel when a couple says they're happily and faithfully married for 35 years. We respect a person who commits to working at the same job all of their adult life. Our society is very much based on what's expedient, what's easy, what's disposable. We have lowered our expectations and, sadly, the results are visible everywhere.

So next-time you're asked, if you're a "Hardcore Vegan" I suggest you respond like I do; "There's nothing hardcore about it. I'm a vegan. It's easy. You should be, too."