|Written by Mike O'Shaughnessy|
|Sunday, 08 January 2012 11:21|
I gradually became vegetarian through the late eighties, first influenced by a close friend and the process completed by my newly vegetarian son who came up from Melbourne to live with me while he attended ANU. The idea of veganism was not on the horizon. I didn't know anyone who was vegan and just didn't consider it as an option.
I was a fairly passive vegetarian for many years - I simply felt it was wrong to kill for meat. I was aware of some of the issues to do with animal use but generally only the most blatantly cruel. I did have an ingrained dislike for such things as jumps racing, whaling and bull fighting - I recall considering painting horses with terror in their eyes crashing over a hurdle when I was doing some painting in the 70s.
My partner and I joined the Vegetarian Society largely because she wanted the Vegetarian and Natural Health magazine and a subscription was cheaper than the over the counter price. This meant joining either the NSW or ACT Society . When, a few years later, I finally became active with the committee it was mainly to offer my IT expertise.
It was in the early days of our participation in the group that I first mingled with vegans; only a couple and they were pretty much on the fringe. I have to say that they didn't inspire me to take the next step - but at some stage back then we did at least come to see it as the next step. We gradually dropped eggs and dairy out of our diets and finally gave up the fetta cheese in the Greek Salads we liked to have in Summer. I did it more as a tidy up - to get all animal products out of our food - not because I was passionate about the animal rights issues.
My knowledge of animal issues increased as I read more and I joined Animal Liberation and became more active in campaigning in both groups. For about a time in 2007/08 I was President of the Veg Society and acting President of AL - not a good situation as it may have given the impression to the public that there was only one person in Canberra who cared about animals.
I was active with the Free Range Canberra campaign and then the political party of the same name which contested the 2004 ACT elections, standing as a candidate for Ginninderra. We never had any hope that we might be elected but simply planned to use the campaign to push for the closure of Canberra's only factory farm, Pace Farm's egg facility at Parkwood. We lost a lot of our opportunities when John Howard called a federal election for about the same time which took a lot of the oxygen away from ACT issues - especially fringe parties like FRC. Still, although I would never be involved in single issue campaign such as that again, I'm happy that we all put in a lot of work and had a hand, both then and later with the Greens, in pushing the ACT government into its current position of labelling and signage on eggs.
Since that time my views have evolved to the point where I proudly call myself an abolitionist (where, 5 years ago I'd only heard that term in relation to human slavery). I believe that all use of nonhuman animals by humans for their own purposes is immoral - in the same way that the use of humans by other humans for their own ends is also immoral. I regard every nonhuman as someone - not something.
In a way I became vegan before really understanding the full reasons why. But my veganism now has a solid base - I can't conceive of ever reneging on that position. I agree with Gary L. Francione (www.AbolitionistApproach.com) that once you accept the moral personhood of animals your first step must be to stop eating, wearing and using them in any way: Veganism.
I'm still a member of the AL committee but mostly to run their membership database - there's a new group of terrific young vegan people (to me, 'young' is anyone under 50 though many of them are under 30) now on the committee and coming up through the membership. I dropped out of the Veg Society because its rules call for the promotion of a diet that 'may include dairy and eggs' and I saw that my efforts to remove that clause were going to be divisive so decided to leave them with it. Since then, the largely vegan committee has decided to put that change to the membership as well as a change to the name to incorporate the word 'vegan'. I will rejoin when they do - or possibly before so that I can be a part of the change.
Otherwise, my activism now is largely channelled through letters to the papers and online - and breaking those bloody forked sticks that fisher-folk leave stuck in the shore by the lake
Veganism is now not only on the horizon, it has risen and is filling my sky. Living a part of my life via Facebook and other online forums, I could convince myself that there are vegan activists everywhere and abolition is just a few years away but I know that's not the case and we still have a lot of work to do.
Still - the situation is light years beyond where it was 25 years ago when I first became vegetarian.