Authenticity vs. Purism

Infighting in the “animal rights” movement

(Original article publication date:  August 17th, 2012 (Cruelty-Free))

As most of us have, unfortunately, been forced to admit, the animal protection community is rife with infighting.  For some time, I’ve been unable to understand why people who are theoretically working for similar—if not identical—goals would be so openly hostile and defamatory toward others.

Some potential explanations are beginning to surface, though.  For instance, one part of the problem seems to be a struggle between authenticity and purism.


When a person behaves with authenticity, he or she stays in touch with the values that brought him or her to the animal protection cause in the first place. The compassion, empathy, and reasoning that originally connected the person to other animals remains intact and pervades his or her daily actions and interactions with others.

In this place of centeredness, a person’s ego is subordinated to both the outer goal of changing society’s treatment of animals and the inner walk of simply being a living embodiment of these values.  The ego’s desires for beating others, being right, taking credit, gaining adoration, controlling others, and acquiring power are seen as counterproductive with respect to the outer goal and disruptive with respect to the inner walk.


When a person in the animal protection movement fixates on purity itself, the entire focus shifts away from the goal and the walk.  The new focus becomes a game of competing for who can be “more pure” than others in the movement (“I’ve been vegan longer than you,” etc.).

Control and credit are the “rewards” for winning the game, and these rewards may accrue to the benefit of a given individual.  But the movement itself loses, because the goal of societal change gets forgotten in the never-ending power struggle, and the inner walk of being the change is abandoned in favor of self-serving calculations and maneuvers.

Awesome rabbit pic by Vanessa Sheldon
Awesome rabbit pic by Vanessa Sheldon