On Boundless Inclusiveness

“Veganism demands us to question absolutely everything in us that has been modeled by our cultural programming, and to bring our thoughts and deeds into alignment with a radically more inclusive ethic that calls for respect and kindness for all beings, including our apparent opponents. We see that veganism, as boundless inclusiveness, is the essence of all social justice movements, and that it is the antidote to what ails our world. ”

Will Tuttle, Circles of Compassion


I was invited to give a talk at Mills College later this month, as a member of Food Not Bombs, regarding veganism and food waste. An impassioned debate ensued over whether or not Food Not Bombs is truly a “vegan” organization. Some were hesitant to go that route because Food Not Bombs is all about inclusivity and working together. Not only is no one ever turned away from any meal due to their dietary habits or philosophical beliefs, but also not every FNB volunteer is themselves vegan. We do, however, remain committed to serving vegan meals. When we receive nonvegan donations, these are typically forwarded to a nonvegan volunteer kitchen outside of the FNB network.

I assured everyone that I intended to deal with this delicately, because for me, veganism is first and foremost about boundless inclusiveness, which I think FNB embodies to the letter. While remaining committed to respecting all life forms by not cooking and serving the bodies and secretions of others, FNB at the same time acknowledges that not everyone in the world is privileged enough to be able to adhere to a vegan lifestyle, and does not pass judgment on these individuals. Thus, in my mind, FNB feeds two birds with one scone by showing both nonhuman animals and the economically and/or otherwise disadvantaged humans in our society the respect and compassion they deserve. Food Not Bombs also does not discriminate based on gender, age, race, sexual orientation, religion, or any other human category.

Boundless inclusiveness challenges us to withhold our judgments and extend compassion to all sentient beings— including those with whom we disagree, or of whose behavior we disapprove. This does not mean, of course, that we should stop campaigning for justice for nonhumans, as to do so would yield a moral philosophy that does not include them and thus would also be a violation of Boundless Inclusiveness. What it means to me, rather, is to use every available opportunity to invite others— rather than coerce them— into becoming vegan.

Similarly, I am very excited to be involved with Millahcayotl and helping to plan its first annual People’s Harvest Forum, as this forum will address the imperialism of our food system and offer solutions that are free of animal agriculture. In finding speakers for the event, we have encountered some resistance, as some of the folks we are inviting are not vegan and do not include veganism in their work— yet.

To me, far from being a deterrent, this only further illustrates why this conference is so necessary— to invite those with the power to change their ways to do so, and show them not only why they should by discussing the plight of nonhuman animals but also how they can do so by introducing them to individuals who are already engaging in vegan food sovereignty solutions (such as veganic farming).

Consider, for instance, a move made recently in Maricopa County, Arizona to make all prisons in the county vegetarian. While many animal advocates rejoiced at the perceived reduced harm that would come to nonhumans as a result of this measure (a priority amongst reducetarians as well, which I write about here), many others— myself included— feel that this is not quite the victory it is painted as, for several reasons.

First of all, the motivation behind this was undoubtedly not ethical but rather economic, fueled by a desire to feed an ever-growing prison population as cheaply as possible. Secondly, this does nothing to challenge the notion of nonhuman animals as our property. It did not change anyone’s perception of nonhumans as fellow inhabitants of planet Earth, who are here for their own purposes, just as we are. This encourages neither prisoners nor prison staff to go vegan, but instead imposes upon those who have no choice in the matter a particular diet that, again, was not chosen for its ethical superiority (which I argue is ultimately nonexistent anyway, since vegetarianism still relies on nonhuman exploitation for dairy and eggs) but for its affordability. This does not bring us any closer to the vegan world we want to see realized.

What would refusing to let someone volunteer with FNB because they are not vegan do to encourage them to go vegan, when they could easily just turn to a more inclusive organization and volunteer with that one instead?

Finally, measures like these maintain a focus on veganism as a dietary choice (more on that in my essay about why I didn’t take DxE’s Liberation Pledge). What does not having dinner with your mom do to impact whether or not she will buy another leather handbag? How does not eating lunch with your coworkers influence whether or not they buy tickets to the circus?

(Much to my surprise, Will Tuttle himself did in fact take the pledge, so needless to say he and I may have slightly different interpretations of “boundless inclusiveness.”)

I do admire the passion nonhuman animal advocates have for remaining staunchly committed to their beliefs, and I am similarly unwavering in my commitment to veganism. But if we really want to change minds, to see a vegan world realized, then segregating ourselves, imposing our will on those without options, and other such measures strike me as exclusionary and limited in scope. We might consider instead leading by example, while adhering to the tenet of Boundless Inclusiveness.




All content © Saryta Rodriguez, 2015