What is Veganism?
We define veganism as:
“Living in recognition of the fact that other animals are sentient beings, with physical and psychological feelings, who are consciously aware of themselves and their world, and who have interests including an interest in their own lives, and who have, therefore, the fundamental rights not to be used, owned or killed by humans. Vegans, therefore, avoid participating in their exploitation for food, clothing, research, entertainment, labour or any other use, in so far as is possible and practicable.”
What does it mean for Eden to be a Vegan Sanctuary?
Animal Rescue and Animal Rights
Eden exists because, in our view, animal use and killing is unjust. Our objective is to give a home to victims of animal use so that their rights are no longer violated by being bred, used and killed by humans.
Eden provides animal residents with a home not because they are suffering or because of how they are treated but because they are enduring the injustice of being used as objects to serve humans, as though they were unfeeling things, deeming them to be our property.
It is our fundamental conviction that it is morally wrong for humans to force into existence other, non-human, animals for the purpose of subjugating, exploiting and killing them for unnecessary purposes, such as for food, clothing, cosmetic and household products, entertainment and all other purposes. Everything we do at Eden is guided by that conviction.
The work we do at Eden is part of a global movement that seeks to completely eradicate all use, exploitation and killing of non-human animals by humans, to dismantle the property status of animals under the law and to secure the right of all animals to live free from human control, subjugation, use and slaughter.
Having said that, our experience has been that the effects of human use, in particular the effects of selective breeding, continue to exert a deleterious effect on Eden’s residents even after rescue. That is why rescue is not the solution; only veganism including the complete abolition of human use, and a radical revision in how we think and feel about other lives, can eradicate the problems they face at our hands.
Animal Rights vs Animal Welfare
Eden does not exist to promote animal welfare or to reduce the suffering of non-human animals. Eden provides its residents with a home regardless of whether they are deemed to be suffering upon rescue or deemed likely to suffer in the future. For us it is not a question of suffering or of treatment, it is a question of justice and the injustice of using living beings as though they were unfeeling things, deeming them to be our property. Eden exists because we reject the property status of animals, because we recognise the injustice of human use of other animals. It exists to provide sanctuary for those animals whom we are able to rescue from the animal-use industries.
The work we do at Eden is not related in any way to animal welfare, or to the “prevention or relief of suffering of animals”. In some cases, it may be that by providing a home to animals who escape the animal-use industries, we relieve their suffering, but that is not our purpose. Our purpose is to provide them with a home where they will not be considered the property of a human, will not be used, will not be exploited and will not be killed unnecessarily. Any relief from suffering is incidental.
In fact, animal welfare is inimical to Eden’s purpose. Animal welfare and the supposed prevention of unnecessary animal suffering is the status quo, which it is our purpose to challenge.
A few hundred years ago, awareness of animal sentience became a topical issue. Since that time, we know a lot more about their sentience as well as their cognitive faculties, the relationships they form, their complex communications and social structures. The logical consequence of the recognition of their ability to feel should have been sufficient reason for us to realise that morally we should not be breeding, subjugating, exploiting and killing them. Instead of abolishing all human use of them, we introduced “animal welfare laws” which are based on the idea that it is morally acceptable to use a living being as a tool, machine or production unit, and to kill them, so long as we take account of their suffering in doing so.
Animal welfare is premised upon human ownership of other animals and legislates for and prescribes how they are treated by us including regulation of their breeding, objectification, ownership, confinement, mutilation, violation of bodily integrity, destruction of social and emotional bonds, exploitation and unnecessary and violent death by slaughter for human profit. This welfare approach continues today in Ireland, the UK and many other countries despite the common-sense understanding that other animals are feeling or sentient beings. Indeed, in 2012 an international group of scientists signed The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness as a way of making public the scientific evidence that other animals are conscious and aware to the degree that humans are. The Treaty of Lisbon acknowledges that other animals are sentient, that they feel and are aware of themselves and their surroundings. Yet we continue to use and kill them in their billions every year, assisted by the idea that animal welfare legislation that prescribes how they are used and killed helps them when in fact it harms them.
Animal rights are not an extension of animal welfare, they are completely distinct. In contrast to animal welfare, animal rights are premised upon the equal rights of other animals not to be owned or used as objects to meet human ends regardless of how they are treated before they are killed. We believe animals have the right not to be viewed or used as the property of humans and we believe all animals have rights. Animal welfare is inimical to animal rights, as the animal welfare approach is predicated on the notion that animals can and should be the property of humans. We reject that entirely and our work has the purpose of furthering the vegan objective of dismantling the property status of animals.
We are not alone in this; indeed, the vegan conviction has roots that go back thousands of years, and in more recent times scientists, authors, philosophers and lawyers such as Tom Regan, Joan Dunayer, Gary Francione and Anna Charlton have written and spoken extensively on this subject.
Non-vegan animal sanctuaries might be said to have the purpose of reducing the suffering of non-human animals, as they often “rescue” animals who have been made to suffer through breaches of animal welfare laws. They may promote animal welfare laws, focusing on enforcement of those laws as their objective. We, on the other hand, reject animal welfare laws as premised on the immoral idea that animals should be used by humans, and as speciesist (based on the immoral idea that humans are superior to non-humans, and that some animals matter more than others). Animal welfare sanctuaries may purchase some or all of the animals they take in, whereas we do not buy animals as animals should not be treated as property.
 The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, Philip Lowe et al, 2012. http://fcmconference.org/img/CambridgeDeclarationOnConsciousness.pdf Accessed 20th August 2018.