Whatever you feel about veganuary’s motives & methods, I think it’s important to try and foreground within this space of consumerism a critical and ethics-political perspective on veganism, especially to fight for a liberatory veganism for people, animals & the earth, in personal, collective and worldly imaginations of a transformed and transformative future. In this first blog, I’ll introduce me, my veganism and my research, a little bit more of which can be found here at Vegan Interview: https://www.veganinterview.com/post/phd-vegan-research-you-should-know-about.
I went vegan in November 2013, after watching @earthlingsmovie during my final year of my undergraduate degree. I spent that evening crying, I was sick, and I went vegan (from vegetarian) overnight. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this if you are planning ahead to become vegan, but once I saw what I saw and knew what I knew, I couldn’t continue to consume animal products. A war with my body and my guilt ensued, one that took a couple of years for me to come to terms with what I had been complicit in by eating animal products and stop physically & emotionally punishing myself.
Quickly, veganism and animal activism consumed my personal & professional life, and particularly through my academic work, I found a place where my work and dedication might be valued and effect change for animals. This is how I started my PhD at in the School of Geography at the University of Birmingham in 2015, which has been through many iterations, but is concerned with pasts, presents and futures of veganism in the UK. I have undertaken through archival research, interviews and multispecies ethnography. At the end of last year (!) I sent over a full draft of my thesis (!!), and through January, I have been using various formats to share this work.
(Why) does vegan research matter?
Veganism is a movement and community populated by people who have and continue to educate themselves on the consequences and impacts of eating animals. This process of education historically was done through societies, libraries, and direct action organisation to expose how animals are being treated, which then was shared through writing, speeches and social networks. In more recent years, the ways we educate and learn, as well as organise and become active have transformed. even five years ago, I learned about veganism at festivals like Veg Fest and buying dvds like this one:
Now, we have Netflix and mainstream TV channels talking about veganism, but is it really well researched and rooted in veganism, or is it a marketing and money making ploy? Veganism is, or should be, rooted in anti-hierarchical, feminist praxis and it’s foremothers were usually engaged in other social justice movements, but we are losing their stories, and centring white men’s saviour narratives. Work byFraiman (2012) talks about how this reinforces white male knowledge as “legitimisers”, and centres a history that is reproducing wider societal narratives that decentres the work of women and people of colour.
Vegan research matters to combat these false narratives that seek to water down the revolutionary and liberatory aims of veganism in and beyond the academy (Sutton and Taylor, 2018). This kind of vegan research is often situated between places: in our own disciplines (mine being “human” geography) and in the interdisciplinary field of “[Critical] Animal Studies”. Traversing between these places makes for challenging but productive spaces for working with animals and for anti-speciesism.
Vegan research matters because it forms our theories and practice inside the academy but also in our activism. Researchers & thinkers, both affiliated and independent, have an important role in a wide umbrella of activism. The more we know and can teach about animals and veganism, the better informed our practices can be, the stronger our outreach, and more care can imbue the complexities and difficulties in making veganism accessible and resisting it’s cooption.