|Supreme Master Ching Hai and her vegan Loving Hut enterprise comprise one of the largest cults in the world|
In my book, I explore some of Donald Watson's and Henry Salt's early writings about the relationship between anti-speciesist work and scientific rigor. From the very founding of this movement, they warned against woo woo. The Ernest Bell Library has released an early issue of The Vegan yesterday which features another important push for respecting science in our outreach that I would have loved to have included in my manuscript. Adherence to scientific rigor and the avoidance of nonscientific, religious claimsmaking was a founding principle of the vegan movement.
Titled, "Veganism and Science--And A Warning," author W. S. James writes in 1948:
[...] a warning is necessary if the vegan movement is to avoid the embarrassments and setbacks which the vegetarian movement has suffered. There are those in the vegetarian movement, and no doubt there will be those in the vegan movement, who oppose scientific thought and try to pick a quarrel with science, attempt to discredit it, and thereby ridicule their own movement in the process.Publications by the Vegetarian Society, it seems, included horoscopes and bizarre, unfounded dietary theories. James fears the disrespect for science gives the public the impression that we are a cult:
Veganism needs to avoid this sort of bunk and bathos, otherwise it will scare away the intellectually minded reformer for ever.Scientific rigor, it is argued, is necessary to protect veganism "as a vital, progressive force." Religion, too, was not part of the early Vegan Society values:
Keep veganism a practice based on ethics, aesthetics, humaneness, health, economics and science. We shall agree on this: and we shall disagree on anything else.The vegan movement founders warned us from the start that a disregard for science would imperil our effectiveness. "Veganism has everything to gain by a wholehearted scientific attitude, and everything to lose by an unscientific approach," James concludes. Have we heeded the warning? I'm afraid we have not. The vegan movement today appears to be more overrun with religiosity, new age quackery, and non-profit fundraising rhetoric than ever before.