Veganism—by both its supporters and detractors—is assumed to be a movement of the left. Likewise, VAP, might be assumed to be similarly so conceived. Veganism and animal advocacy may be seen as upper-middle class and/or urban phenomena, which threaten rural identities and practices (such as farming with animals and hunting); or associated with supposedly “leftist” causes, such as “belief” in climate change and the nanny state telling people what to eat or drink. Yet, animal protection was not always associated with the left: it had conservative, religious origins in the U.K.; restrictions on diet were part of ascetical practices and anti-materialism; and animal protection has uncomfortable connections with the far right, whether Hitler’s Germany or the contemporary Shiv Sena in India. Others within animal advocacy make explicitly moralistic arguments that echo pro-life or soteriological ideas.

Beyond a critique of conservative and liberal identities within animal advocacy, it’s essential to interrogate self-described conservative resistance to veganism. It’s also necessary to push welfare-based moralism around the merciful treatment of animals toward a more systemic, structural analysis. Such an analysis would query notions of veganism as an inherently progressive identity. It would also compel both political left- and right-wing ideologies to refine their arguments, and demand a wider vision of conservatism than either personal moral purity or regionalist white-identity politics.

This paper presents a set of possible conservative arguments for a vegan America within a revived agrarian economy based on self-governance, conservation, and an expanded moral community. To that extent, Burkean traditionalism offers a pathway precisely to rejecting intensive animal agriculture and a meat-dependent culture in favor of a culture of caution, restraint, and a return to the land.