Disclaimer: While I recognize that ethical veganism recognizes that other-than-human animals are not ours to exploit for any purpose, I’m going to be talking solely about “food veganism” here, as that’s what’s being discussed in these videos.
As a vegan on YouTube, I make frequent forays into the jungles of the vegan YouTube community. Starting in 2017, I noticed a certain trend in one of the most popular vegan YouTube channels. Vegan Gains, aka Richard Burgess, has recently partaken in a number of “debates” (he calls them debates, but they’re often more like extended arguments) about veganism. Notably, he’s gotten into it with several “anti-SJW” (hard right) content creators, including Lauren “Roaming Millennial” Chen, Andy Warski, Brooks “No Bullshit” Heatherly, and more recently, Hunter Avallone.
Leaving aside the fact that nothing productive seems to come out of these interactions (Richard’s opponents have thus far not changed their perspectives on veganism; Chen, in particular, agreed to “debate” Richard after calling vegans out for acting like angry jerks, and…he more or less gave her what she wanted), I take umbrage with ethical vegans entertaining debates about veganism with non-vegans, especially those like Chen, Avallone, and Warski who have come out with staunchly anti-vegan stances. To me, it’s no longer an issue that we need to treat as debatable, because:
- The average human being does not need to consume animals and their by-products to survive;
- The industries that produce most of our meat result in billions of other-than-human animals suffering and dying every year, in addition to being exploitative of their workers and damaging to the environment, and;
- A varied vegan diet can be healthy for human beings at every stage of life.
What’s left to debate?
Perhaps Richard engages in these back-and-forths in order to educate these hard-rightists or their large audiences about veganism. Even if that is the case, I hardly see the merit in that, because:
A. As I mentioned before, none of these conversations seem to end with Richard’s opponents having changed their minds about veganism, nor with the aim of informing their audiences about it, and;
B. These are people who know the ins-and-outs of the Internet; they can, and should, educate themselves about the facets of veganism.
It’s one thing when you’re leafleting to passersby on the streets of New York or DC, hosting a veg fest with the goal of educating people about veganism, or making genuinely educational (i.e. not “drama” or “ownage”) online content. But these are tech-savvy people Richard is debating. If they honestly cared to learn more about animal sentience, plant-based nutrition, or even the history of veganism and animal rights, they could very well seek it out, whether from websites or from educational vegan content creators on YouTube. The anti-vegan rhetoric coming from these Internet personalities reeks of a tertiary Google search for reasons to not be vegan or random ex-vegan celebrity horror stories.
Educating people about ethical veganism, the realities of animal agribusiness and other industries that exploit and kill animals, and staying healthy on plant-based diets can be, and should be done without engaging with people actively seeking a fight or “ pwnage.” I do it all the time on my own channel and social media, and that’s the way I find the most effective. So please, let’s stop treating these issues like they’re up for debate and start educating!