Vegans of Color

Because we don’t have the luxury of being single-issue

So Long VoC November 5, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Royce @ 11:59 pm

VoC was really important for my own thinking about animals, race, intersectionality, and a host of other things. Thanks for bearing with me as I worked out my ideas during that tumultuous time that is an undergrad education.

But, I think I’ll be leaving VoC officially. Not that it matters that much, as I haven’t posted regularly in over a year. I also am no longer vegan (as someone predicted forever ago). How much of a surprise is it really? I was hardly the most orthodox of vegans and perpetually tried to find something beyond veganism, as if there is some ethical spectrum.

I have no interest in explaining my reasons for no longer being vegan here, as I’m withdrawing myself from this forum, but if anyone is interested in reading my future thoughts, or just engaging me conversation/debate about animals/food themselves or with politics or culture, I’m now over at The Non-Practicing Vegan.


46 Responses to “So Long VoC”

  1. Cesar Says:

    Let Them Eat Meat wasn’t the only one who predicted it. You were always desperately reaching for a justification for exploiting animals. No surprise here.
    So long, Royce.

    • Royce Says:

      Nah, I don’t need any justification. Sometimes I desire flesh, and I was never really into absolutism or purity. I was always desperately reaching for understanding the multitude of ethical approaches to consumption and animals.

      • Alex Melonas Says:

        @Royce: Right, like many people sometimes desire sex with unconsenting partners, and lust over young children; they would certainly agree that absolutism and purity are overrated approaches.

        My response though: we don’t know where these desires come from Royce they are just there — could be socialization, biological, etc. So why would we condone an ethics that doesn’t demand that we insert something like “reason” in between our desires and our actions? You are not acting autonomously anymore when you try to realize your desire for flesh *b/c* you “desire flesh.”

  2. veganelder Says:

    How sad for the animals that will suffer as a result of your choice to inflict harm on them. Choosing to support violence on the weak and innocent is very sad and terrible.

    • Royce Says:

      And how sad for the multitude of beings who suffer so that I may live the lifestyle I live regardless of my whether or not I eat a bit of flesh now and again.

      • Marji Says:

        That’s called rationalization. When given a choice between causing suffering and causing less suffering, shouldn’t we always choose the latter when we can? That’s what veganism is – choosing less suffering because we can and because we should.

        To know what occurs on farms, to be intimately familiar with the very real harm eating meat, dairy and eggs cause, to know the nonhuman and human suffering it inflicts…and to go back to doing it “now and again”? That IS sad and terrible.

        • Wendy Says:

          Nicely said.
          Nobody who lives in a western country, and perhaps anywhre, can aboid exploiting completely, whether it’s animals, humans and.or the environment. But attempts to justify a return to cruelty are more appalling to me than people who do so out of ignorance. It’s the mark of a strong person who desires to eat animal flesh and avoids so because of the desire to cause least harm. It is a weak person who gives into such desires, and makes me at least wonder what other kinds of expliotation will be justifiable to someone who can turn their back on the most vulnerable population in the world.

          • Jessica Says:

            I respectfully disagree with you. To define the mark of a strong or weak person only in terms of whether or not that person eats animal products is clearly short-sighted. It is a strong person who can reach beyond dogmatic thinking to find a personal ideology for how to eat. Vegans should know this better than most people as they have journeyed outside the dominant cultural narrative about what to eat. It is too bad that vegans so often find themselves the purveyors of a new dogma that demonizes everyone who is not vegan.

      • miles southan Says:

        I remember when my brother predicted that on his blog and I did think it was possible he was right but it still saddens me to see such an intelligent writer returning to animal exploitation products.

        I do like that at least you don’t hide the fact that it’s your desire for animal products that’s led you to stop being vegan and you don’t seem to be turning 180 on us like Rhys did.

        You’re of course right that we have some negative impacts regardless of how we conduct our diets (and our lives) but it does seem like a bit of a cop out to say that in response to veganelder’s comment. The fact that we can’t lessen our inflicted harm to zero isn’t an excuse to cause harm because you like the taste of meat.

        That said, I wish you good luck in your writing and I hope your vegan experiment left a lasting impression on your future decisions.

  3. Cesar Says:

    Absolutism and purity? Why were you vegan in the first place?
    Do think that it is ever acceptable to physically violate another human just for your own pleasure? If the answer is yes then I’m glad I don’t know you personally. If the answer is no then you are an absolutist when it comes to not physically violating humans simply because you “desire” it.

    • Royce Says:

      I wasn’t going to comment, but what does that mean? “Absolutism and purity? Why were you vegan in the first place?” That those are necessary for veganism? Then yeah, maybe I shouldn’t have been a vegan in the first place.

      Honestly, I’m glad I don’t know you personally. But I don’t just eat flesh just to pleasure myself (it has the wonderful byproduct of nourishing my body). Likewise, I think physical violence has its place, and one might as well relish it if/when one must commit it.

      • Cesar Says:

        Royce, you were the one who said you were “never into absolutism or purity” as if that were necessary to veganism. I didn’t say that. Get it straight. I asked why you were vegan in the first place because it seems, by what you say, that you think vegan is about personal purity when it’s not.
        I can accept that veganism is absolutist in the sense that vegans absolutely reject animal exploitation just like many humans absolutely reject human exploitation. And again, “Do think that it is ever acceptable to physically violate another human just for your own pleasure? If the answer is no then you are an absolutist when it comes to not physically violating humans simply because you ‘desire’ it.”
        Also if the answer is no then I guess this beautifully written essay is pretty meaningless –

        • Cesar Says:

          Ok you now say you don’t just eat flesh just to pleasure yourself (mental images go away!) but in the first reply to my comment you just say you eat flesh because you desire it. No justification needed, right? Well if you’re not desperately reaching for justifications then what the hell is up with this string of fallacious arguments?
          Anyways you don’t have to reply. Who am I, right? Maybe I’ll engage you on this on your blog some day. Unless by that time your post-veganism has “ran its course” and you’ve moved onto something else.

        • Royce Says:

          My question wasn’t about you using the terms Absolutism and purity, but why you asked why I was “even vegan” in the first place. IT seemed like you were agreeing with me that veganism was about personal purity and absolutism. I wasn’t so sure that’s what you meant, which is why I wanted clarification.

          Or perhaps I no longer believe that vegan practice is the only way to be an anti-speciesist.

          • Alex Melonas Says:

            @Royce: being vegan is the most obvious way to be an anti-speciesist, just like not consciously participating in some instance of racism is the most obvious way of being an anti-racist.

  4. anon Says:

    So you have the luxury of being “every-other-issue-but-veganism”? I didn’t think intersectionality was about creating detours and roadblocks because one liked to take the scenic route now and again. I thought intersectionality was about removing obstacles, taking on more causes and not less, adding instead of subtracting, expanding ethical praxis rather than selectively contracting it to fit a theory or a desire to eat flesh, rationalized ex post facto.

    Why move one step forward and one step back? There are bloggers here that have gone beyond vegan to, say, raw veganism. That’s ‘beyond vegan’. But going beyond vegan by eating nonhuman animals is like going beyond liberal by voting Republican.

  5. good luck to you, royce. i’ve enjoyed reading your input. i’m not EVEN going to judge you. i know my journey to veganism had it’s detours and bumps trying to figure out the politics, balancing books and real life. this is the same for others on their journeys. it’s your life, your decision and i hope you are at peace with it.
    since we like predictions- i predict royce is going to end up raw vegan, eating mangos and meditating on hills. 🙂

  6. […] Posted on November 8, 2010 by Royce I considered responding to every single objection to my public leaving of veganism on VoC individually in the comments section. But! that sounds invasive to a place I no longer belong, and […]

  7. darren Says:

    Hi, first time poster here. Interesting responses to Royce’s post. I’d question the idea (voiced by Marji) that veganism is about minimising suffering. Maybe it should be. But the Vegan Society here in the UK seems to focus only on the treatment of animals.

    Every time we purchase some non-essential item, rather than give that money to someone suffering, we’re failing to minimise suffering aren’t we?

    Not a reason to eat meat, but a reason to avoid complacency that as vegans we are somehow not implicated in ongoing oppressions and suffering…

    • Marji Says:

      You may not feel veganism is about minimizing suffering but many vegans do, myself included.

      I am not championing elitism or puritanism.

      But, like I said, when given the choice between causing suffering and not, and that choice is easy to make, why wouldn’t you (ed)? Modifying our diet is the easiest way to minimize suffering – for the animals, humans, and planet.

      And at its heart, removing ourselves from the cycle of oppression and cruelty inherent to farming other living beings, is what veganism is about, at least to me.

      • Darren Says:

        You’ve misunderstood/misrepresented my point there – I wasn’t talking about what I feel, I was pointing to evidence that the Vegan Society (UK) is concerned overwhelmingly/exclusively with suffering that relates to non-human animals and not suffering per se.

        I’m hoping that VOC is a place where we might agree that merely being Vegan does not excuse us of being implicated in suffering and of recognising we have many choices to make if minimising suffering is our goal.

        • Marji Says:

          Of course we agree. 🙂 Making decisions that cause the least amount of harm within one’s power should be an imperative of any vegan and of veganism in general.

          Perhaps, from the perspective of the Vegan Society, the scope of suffering inflicted upon nonhumans in the food industry is so large, so egregious that it is the major focus of veganism for them. After all, 50 billion land animals are killed – changing how we eat can make an enormous impact.

  8. LiseyDuck Says:

    This is sad. But I’ve had some non-vegan phases (vegetarian rather than eating meat, admittedly) at points in my life where there didn’t seem to be much choice, so I can’t really judge. On the other hand, I hope your non-veganism also works out to be a phase 🙂

  9. anon2 Says:

    Im not sure what Royce is trying to do by writing at ‘The Non-Practicing Vegan’ blog. Is he trying to seduce more people away from veganism or rationalizing away his excuses to going back to consuming animals? His choice of using the word Vegan in his blog as if he can ‘own’ the word is wrong IMHO.

    • slithers Says:

      I think all vegans are a bit saddened when we lose a vegan ally to non-veganism, but I can understand that we all have limited resources to deal with nearly unlimited unjustices and so we need to focus on what is most important to us. I believe that is what Royce is getting at (that the injustice of direct animal use/harm is not so significant for him, perhaps insignificant next to the injustice of indirect animal harm). So, while I don’t like it, I can understand it to some extent.

      However, the truly bizarre and hurtful thing is the name of his new blog which wrongly implies that Royce, as a non-vegan somehow represents veganism. An ex-Christian may be knowledgeable about Christianity, but that knowledge does not equate with being Christian or somehow representing Christianity. Likewise with ex-vegans (such as Royce or Lierre Kieth) do not represent vegans, much as they might claim to.

      Royce, I’ve enjoyed your postings over the years and I think you’re very thoughtful, intelligent and compassionate. I hope you’ll consider giving up the word “vegan” as you’ve clearly chosen a different path. Thanks and best of luck in your future journeys.

  10. TJ Says:

    Hello, my first time commenting on this forum, although I visit frequently.

    Myself, I am three-year vegan, and quite happy and steadfast in my veganism at this point in my life. Although I will occasionally indulge in pre-packaged/convenience foods, the bulk of my daily consumption is of simple plant foods, such as legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, fungi, and grains. I try to source local or organic, when possible. My daily meals are very satisfying, and I am not hindered at all by my lifestyle, even on my annual salary of $20,000. Then again, I live in vegan-friendly San Francisco.

    While I don’t agree with his rationalizations for abandoning veganism, I respect Royce’s change in position, and his earnest engagement on the subjects of animal rights and the environment. I agree that absolutism is seldom constructive, and that the world is not as simple as VEGAN=GOOD, OMNIVORE=BAD.

    For instance, I would never dream of asserting veganism to subsistence communities who hunt or domesticate animals. (This is far different from those who hunt for sport or the elitist ethos of those in industrialized countries who advocate for “humanely-raised” meat.) Nor would I be above eating animal foods myself if ever I find myself in a situation where I have little control over what I put in my body.

    Veganism isn’t perfect in that in doesn’t eliminate suffering (animal or human) or environmental destruction, nor should it be viewed as an end in itself, but within our modern, industrialized society, my own conclusion is that thoughtful, non-consumerist veganism (or near veganism) is a step towards minimizing personal impact/harm to animals, people, and planet.

  11. Sue Says:

    Good for you Royce.

  12. anon2 Says:

    From Royces own words on his new blog:

    “Veganism was never one of my issues. I never gave two shits about vegans. I was vegan because I once believed it was the only way to fight speciesism. I stopped believing that long before I stopped following an explicitly vegan diet.”
    and later
    “Vegans aren’t oppressed. Animals are. I’m against cages, against slavery, against abuse. I’m for freedom, for partnerships, and for care.”

    Hes against abuse but eats them..I see. /s

    VOC moderators ..when are you going to remove him from the top of the blog? He obviously didnt care about anyone here.

  13. Joselle Says:

    Hey. Royce. This statement from your interview at “Let Them Eat Meat,” really stuck out to me:

    “The concept of the “Eternal Treblinka” is interesting, because most of us, vegans included, would be the folks who let it happen, with a bit of grumbling, but still let it happen but said our hands were clean because we didn’t do it. Or to use a comparison closer to myself. If animals occupy the same position as chattel slaves did in this country, then vegans aren’t the liberators. Most of them are just the Northern abolitionists who talked hard in parlors, but wouldn’t dare break the law to do something to change the material conditions of actual slaves. I’m not saying just vegans are guilty, but all of us. But they’ve got their purity to comfort them at night.”

    I couldn’t agree more. I think being vegan is primarily a way for me to soothe myself against the horror I feel about how animals are tortured. But I don’t actually do anything to save them. And actually, since I am preparing for nursing school, I have dissected a fetal pig and a sheep’s heart and brain. My rationalization was that I had to do this to get to nursing school and I can “inspire” more vegans as a vegan nurse than not being a nurse. And, since I let my lab partners do the initial cutting, I didn’t do “as much harm,” whatever that means. But I have felt tremendous shame about my choice to participate in this dissection because one of my major reasons for doing this is, I am becoming a nurse so I can provide financially for my family. I dissected for me. For money. For the people in my life. And the one opportunity I had to directly stand against animal exploitation by not dissecting, I didn’t. Then again, I could have excused myself and decided to not go to nursing school and the dissecting would still go on.

    I am still a practicing vegan and intend to stay one. But at a recent event with a vegan author, I asked, what is the point of veganism? What are our goals? Is it for every last person to be vegan as we define it (and have we defined it? Enough?). I don’t think it’s feasible for every last corner of the earth to be vegan. What about the manure that fertilizes the organic broccoli I eat? That broccoli is not fucking vegan! The author brought up veganic farming but is that feasible on a large scale? When I’m a nurse-midwife, the stitches I use will be made from animal parts and the medicines I prescribe will have all been tested on animals and often contain animals. All of that has made me think in the past, “Nothing is truly vegan.”

    I don’t have the answers. Only questions. Your path is not the one I’ve chosen but I think it’s crucial to seek these answers. It’s not enough to buy seitan and $200 Olsen Haus shoes and say you’ve absolved yourself. And, as committed as I am to continue to practice veganism the way I do–in a self-soothing, consumer-centered way–those questions you bring up do nag at me. Being vegan is self-soothing for me and fucking agitating as all hell, too.

  14. well for me, it’s not just about the animals. it’s my health too. selfishly i believe i’m a big @$$ factor. i believe what i do in my small corner makes waves. when i was younger, the only place you could get soy milk and such was at healthfood stores. now it’s everywhere. i can ask for a soy alternative in coffee shops. i think some of you may not remember those times (rapping cane). if i remember straight, i didn’t start seeing soymilk on the shelves until the mid/late 90s. i’ve been going down this path a loooong time (mom fed me tofu as a a baby, pescatarian, lacto vegetarian, vegan). if there weren’t consumer demand it wouldn’t be conviently on the shelves. if there wasn’t a growing awareness, you wouldn’t get soy milk and tofu as a WIC option in freagin’ Texas. industrial farming wouldn’t be part of normal conversation. so even when there’s bumps, like me learning the craft i’m learning with post consumed scraps, i still think i make a difference. so i’m going to stroke myself in my consumerism because obviously voting with dollars makes change.

  15. Hmm Says:

    There’s nothing “wrong” with eating animals. I’m tired of moralizing over it, myself. I’m done with that. Of course, I also think that Royce chooses to moralize about other things in the same way vegans moralize about veganism, which is no better. If he’s not “guilty” for eating animals, then vegans are hardly “guilty” for not doing the entirely hypothetical things he claims would absolve us… I haven’t seen burning down a few buildings to be of significant help to animals. What am I supposed to do, on a personal level? I have no idea. No idea! And my ignorance makes me guilty? That’s not even coherent. The world is complicated, and veganism is a way for us to take a step back and begin the process of deconstruction. I suppose it is more of a question than an answer, but it’s a question I will keep asking.

    • Royce Says:

      I don’t know what things I choose to moralize about in the same way as vegans moralize about veganism (but then I’ve become a bit of an egotist). I think if animals are equal in moral consideration then we are all guilty, and there’s no hope for absolution (because it doesn’t exist). I never said ignorance makes one guilty, living within certain orders of existence makes one guilty.

      • Alex Melonas Says:

        @Royce: If straw manning veganism is a useful rationalizing tool, then please use it, but note: by your logic, you can’t possibly be a non-sexist, *absolutely* — that is kind of the point of a prejudice, especially an institutionalized one. So given the fact, then, that you are necessarily guilty of sexism, does it follow that you can consciously exploit women with impunity, i.e., use them to satisfy your “desires,” as you use animals to satisfy your desire for flesh? Or is this selective reasoning? I mean surely individual acts of anti-sexism are utterly useless in the systemic sense if your goal is to ultimately end sexism; there is too much intersectionality, etc. So why be a “purist,” an “absolutist” on this…

  16. Kris Says:

    I find those so opposed to Royce’s decision a bit silly. I’m sorry that you are upset that you lost one of your blog contributors, but not everyone can exist on a purely plant-based diet. And if you think they can, you are deluding yourself.

    And if you are under the impression that when you eat your tofu, beans, and vegetables that animals aren’t exploited in some way, you are also wrong.

  17. Elaine Says:

    Relapse is an inevitable part of the process.

    Major life changes – like quitting smoking, exercising regularly, becoming more forgiving or grateful, recycling or reducing your consumption, or going vegetarian or vegan – generally involve some relapse. It’s just a part of the process as we grow and evolve.

    There’s a good chance that Royce will go vegan again at a later date.

  18. veejayblox Says:

    too bad you weren’t able to live by some simple vegan values. your justifications for inflicting harm, pain and misery upon helpless and abused animals is deplorable. you need to rethink your core values, and try to regain some self-respect and motivation by living a compassionate and cruelty free lifestyle. like someone else said it is sad and an abomination that animals have to suffer a torturous and cruel fate, because of your poor decision making abilities and unthinkable conformist greed. there is everything wrong about eating animals.

    you not being vegan and making a conscious decision to eat the flesh of brutally mistreated and sadistically murdered animals, and bragging about it on a public forum is a load of bollocks.

    i also follow the do the least amount of harm principle. it’s the only sane and rational choice.


    • Royce Says:

      I’m pleased that someone finally called me an abomination (besides me of course).

      However, for future reference, throwing PETA clichés and middle school insults (conformist? really?) is hardly the way to convince anyone to return to the vegan fold.

      I’d hardly say that I was bragging about eating flesh anywhere, and especially not on this post you commented on.

      • veejayblox Says:

        the sheer amount of gutless, empty doublethink you engage in is nothing short of incredible. as for my “conformist” remark, i meant drone apologist, aka uncompassionate slacker. and your “foolproof” rejection of veganism and mainstream vegan values is de facto moralizing, you seem quite fond of dancing around the issues. there is no such thing as a non-practicing vegan, this suggestion alone is absurd and ignoble. think about the animals please royce.


        • Royce Says:

          I’d like for you to explain just what doublethink I engage in, gutless or otherwise. I don’t understand why you placed “foolproof” in quotes, because you’re the only one that has ever called my rejection of veganism as such. Well I’d hope my moralizing is de facto, because if it was de jure it would be empty and strange.

          Which issues am I dancing around?

          I guess there is such a thing as a non-practicing vegan, tongue-in-cheek or not.

          And I think about animals quite often.

          I’m sorry you believe everyone has to think like you.

  19. veejayblox Says:

    yer got to be kidding me Royce. for reals. “foolproof” versus “cornfed”, de facto is just an adjective these days.
    and while we are here, why do you feel the need to reject, and you actually do, veganism, can we say double wtf? you cannot possibly be thinking about the animals, since we wouldn’t even be here discussing this ridiculous and obscene horseyplop. earache my eye.


    • Royce Says:

      Are you for reals? Because my doubts are growing, and your sentences (sentence fragments really) are making less and less sense, and don’t complain when I think your words mean what they mean.

      And there are a number of folks who reject veganism as an effective tactic for the liberation of animals.

      Click to access Boycott%20veganism.pdf

      • Alex Melonas Says:

        @Royce: Veganism is a *necessary*, not *sufficient*, condition for animal liberation. We simply cannot reason that ending institutionalized human slavery was not a necessary (but certainly not a sufficient) condition for black liberation. The idea that we can be non-speciesist or non-racist while condoning the institutionalized property-status of an animal or a black person is obviously absurd.

  20. […] so long ago, fifth of November 2010, Vegans Of Color, carried this blog post So Long VoC the reason “…I also am no longer […]

  21. jessica Says:

    Thank you Royce for being vocal about this. I’ve been veg*an for 5 years and am taking baby steps back to being an omnivore. Knowing I’m not alone makes the transition a little less stressful.

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