Vegan Ethic, A

Vegan Ethic, A

Embracing a Life of Compassion Toward All

Veganism is a journey, and A Vegan Ethic explores veganism as an infinite model of social justice.


“If veganism is about doing your best to not harm any sentient life, we must logically extend that circle of compassion to human animals as well,” writes Mark Hawthorne in this practical, engaging guide to veganism and animal rights. Along with proven advice for going and staying vegan, an overview of animal exploitation, and answers to common questions about ethical eating (such as “Isn’t ‘humane meat’ a good option?” and “Don’t plants feel pain?”), A Vegan Ethic draws on the work and experiences of intersectional activists to examine how all forms of oppression - including racism, sexism, ableism, and speciesism - are connected by privilege, control, and economic power. By recognizing how social justice issues overlap, we can develop collaborative strategies for finding solutions.

Mark talks about living as a vegan and his book at

Reviewed in VegNews Magazine on Jul 1 2016


As a vegetarian transitioning to a vegan lifestyle I found A Vegan Ethic extremely thought provoking, informative & comprehensive. The book goes so much further than dealing with diet & animal cruelty. The author, Mark Hawthorn also covers human rights and equality issues... something I hadn't really considered as part of my vegan transition. It has inspired me not only to stop eating the few animal products I occasionally consume (eggs, cheese, butter & honey) but to also be mindful about how & where my plant based foods come from. I would certainly recommend A Vegan Ethic to anyone who is interested in raising their awareness of cruelty & exploitation to all living creatures (non-human & human). ~ Ali Thornett, Top 200 Amazon Reviewer

A very definitive body of work on animal activism and being vegan. I have been vegan for many years and always respected the work of Mark Hawthorne. In this book he extends our beliefs of being vegan to compassion for humans as well . I appreciate his content on animal torture and the meat industry. He examines why people out of ignorance and culture choose to remain meat eaters and gives them solid life affirming reasons for being vegan. As a strict vegan and animal advocate I found this book very informative and to be useful for anyone that wants to explore being vegan, acting with compassion and understanding the depravity and torture of the meat industry. This should be required reading for any animal activist. Thank you with gratitude for the ARC of this fine book. I will be purchasing several for gifts and one to remain as part of my activism library. The knowledge here is critical . Thank you for the ARC which did not influence my review. ~ Lori Read, NetGalley

This was so very informative and yet so short. It gives you just enough information as to have a clear vision of how the meat and dairy industry works and the main reasons why people become vegan. Really liked it! ~ Anna Maria, NetGalley

A Concise and Compelling Introduction to Veganism and Intersectionality Despite what 30+ years of PETA campaigns would have you believe, ethical veganism is not inherently incompatible with human rights. In fact, many of us vegans believe (passionately!) that the opposite is true, thanks to the concept of intersectionality. First introduced by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, intersectionality is the idea that different forms of oppression don’t exist in a vacuum, but rather interact with one another. For example, Crenshaw coined the term to explain the myriad ways that racism and sexism interact, thus acknowledging that the oppression experienced by black women (“misogynoir”) is unique from and arguably more complicated than that experienced by black men or white women. The concept has since expanded to include all marginalized groups: women; people of color; immigrants; LGBTQ folks; those living with a physical or mental disability; sex workers; religious minorities; children and the elderly; the impoverished; and nonhuman animals. While the animal rights movement has been a little too slow (imho) to incorporate the idea of intersectionality into its activism (see, e.g., PETA’s many problematic campaigns, not to mention their vociferous defenders), more and more vegans are expanding their circle of compassion to include human animals. In his third book, A VEGAN ETHIC: EMBRACING A LIFE OF COMPASSION TOWARD ALL, Mark Hawthorne makes a concise yet compelling case for intersectionality and inclusivity. His argument is actually quite simple: “If veganism is about doing your best to not harm any sentient life, we must logically extend that circle of compassion to human animals as well.” What more is there to say? Quite a lot, actually! The connection between animal rights, human rights, and the environment is a complex and exciting topic that could easily fill a twenty-four volume, encyclopedic set (and then some!). So it’s no small feat that the author managed to boil it down to a mere 171 pages. Less, even: The Q&A section commences at the 66% mark, leaving precious little space to the chapters on animal rights, veganism, human rights, the environment, and putting it all together. (See the TOC below.) Yet he puts it to excellent use, exploring the many ways that the oppression of animals intersects with that of humans and the degradation of the environment. “Vegan” doesn’t always mean “cruelty-free,” for example; while it’s true that some of the worst abuses occur in slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants – where workers are forced to dismember animals, many of them fully conscious, at breakneck speed; often for little pay and without bathroom breaks, even; and considering that this violence is often carried home, resulting in increased rates of domestic violence and alcoholism among workers – those who pick our fruits and vegetables are also mistreated, abused, overworked, underpaid, coated with toxic chemicals, and sexually harassed and raped. In South America, the lands of Indigenous Americans (and the homes to countless nonhuman animals, some of who belong to endangered species) are stolen and cleared to grow soybeans (most of which is fed to cows); in Borneo, it’s palm oil. Likewise, chocolate is often produced through slave labor, particularly that of children. Food is an obvious avenue of exploration, but Hawthorne casts his net much wider: the prison-industrial complex and school-to-prison pipeline; the objectification of women (and the sexualization of meat and nonhuman animals); Black Lives Matter; cultural appropriation and the insensitive “borrowing” of imagery and slogans from other social justice movements; ecofeminism and the roots of patriarchy; the colonialist origin of zoos; and the link between interpersonal violence and animal abuse are just a few of the topics he touches upon. Hawthorne ends the main portion of the book with a look at coalition building and ideas for how vegans can reach across the aisle to find common ground with other progressive movements. A VEGAN ETHIC is by no means exhaustive, not is it meant to be. Rather, it’s more of a broad-scope introduction to the idea that veganism is intersectional, too. While I would have liked to have seen a longer and more extensive conversation, I also see how the diminutive size of the book might better appeal to more cautious or timid readers. It’s a small investment, time-wise, but boy does it pack a punch! Hawthorne addresses his appeal to two groups: vegans (who maybe haven’t given much thought to human rights), and everyone else (though a general predisposition to social justice is assumed). When an author targets such disparate groups, there’s a real danger of spreading yourself too thin and not properly serving either group. (This was my primary complaint with Melanie Joy’s WHY WE LOVE DOGS, EAT PIGS, AND WEAR COWS: AN INTRODUCTION TO CARNISM and MAKING A KILLING: THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF ANIMAL RIGHTS by Bob Torres. As a vegan, I’m already familiar with the horrors of animal agriculture. Let’s skip over that so you can tell me more about the psychology of carnism / anti-capitalism and anarchism, please!) Yet I think he did a really good job of balancing the two, as well as combining and distilling them into a cohesive argument. THAT SAID, of course there were certain things he omitted that would have went in my own (dream world) version of the book. Using Holocaust imagery to promote veganism is offensive to many people, but it’s also inaccurate to call what’s happening to cows, pigs, and chickens in animal agriculture “genocide”. Genocide is “the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group”; and it certainly isn’t animal ag.’s goal to exterminate “food animals,” since that would impact their bottom line. (The treatment of wolves in the Western United States, on the other hand…) And while it’s true that many domestic violence shelters don’t accept companion animals – with tragic results – some are starting to come around. I’d like to add “donate or volunteer to foster for a DV shelter” to the appendix! I volunteer for one of two such programs in the Kansas City area, and I cannot tell you how rewarding (and fun!) it is (babysitting dogs? sign me up!). Fostering animals who already have humans is also a great alternative for those who, like me, are apt to want to adopt ALL THE DOGS. (And thus quickly adopt yourself out of being able to foster.) I won’t lie and claim that I’ve never fallen head over heels for any of my foster furkids; but it is a wee bit easier to let them go, when there’s really no other choice. Similar programs also exist for the companion animals of deployed servicemembers and those requiring temporary hospitalization. ~ Kelly Garbato, Easy Vegan (via NetGalley)

This book reminds me, and hopefully the other readers, to consider all points of view surrounding veganism - animals, humans and the environment instead of being narrow and blind. I appreciate that the author include many fields I never thought exist in the book. I will put a review on Amazon once the item becomes live. I am in the process of blogging a review on the book on my dayre account. ~ Indigo Chang, NetGAlley

Mark Hawthorne is right to point out that “going vegan is a great first step, but it’s only the beginning”, urging readers “to take into account the lives of everyone, regardless of their species, race, colour, gender, sexual identity, or other social construct (and to) make choices that benefit not only ourselves, but those with whom we share this planet”, identifying this as “what it means to live a vegan ethic”. Although the author’s vision of “a vegan ecosystem in which we can grow a thriving new world” may be hopelessly idealistic, we should appreciate his reminding us that animal rights isn’t the only cause worth striving for. ~ Paul Appleby, Editor, OxVeg News

... Mark Hawthorne’s empowering book explores why and how we can achieve social justice goals by working together and treating ourselves and others with compassion and respect... ~ Carol J. Adams, author of The Sexual Politics of Meat

Now, more than ever, we need a smart and compassionate guide to connect animal activists with others working for social justice. A Vegan Ethic is that guide. It powerfully shows why we will be stronger when we work together for a better world for all. I hope every animal activist reads this book! ~ Lori Gruen, author of Entangled Empathy: An Alternative Ethic for Our Relationships with Other Animals

An animal advocate of 25 years, I continue to learn from Mark’s work. His newest book is yet another testament to his skills and passion as a writer and as an effective voice for the oppressed. With his characteristic compassion, common sense, and practical guidance, Mark inspires reflection and conviction in his readers, moving them to change the way they think about and treat human and nonhuman animals. ~ Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, bestselling author of The 30-Day Vegan Challenge and Vegan’s Daily Companion

Mark Hawthorne provides a practical and accessible guide for veganism as an ethical framework. This book is an informative and helpful primer that demonstrates veganism is not about giving things up, but instead about opening ourselves up to the possibilities of a just and kinder world. ~ Sangamithra lyer , author of The Lines We Draw

A consistently compassionate ethic can go far beyond not eating meat, eggs, and dairy. In A Vegan Ethic, Mark Hawthorne discusses how this ethic can connect with a much broader range of issues and shape a truly transformational view of the world. ~ Jasmin Singer, author of Always Too Much and Never Enough and co-host of Our Hen House

With A Vegan Ethic, Mark Hawthorne has created both a concise introduction to veganism and animal rights and an important call for vegans and animal advocates to be inclusive in their compassion. Drawing on the work of intersectional activists, Hawthorne demonstrates how spheres of oppression involving humans and non-humans are connected and how we can all become agents of change. This is an important book that will have a lasting impact on social justice. ~ Kim Stallwood, European director of the Animals & Society Institute and author of Growl: Life Lessons, Hard Truths, and Bold Strategies from an Animal Advocate

Mark Hawthorne illuminates a path away from the oppression of animals, humans, and the environment, and toward a more just and peaceful society. A Vegan Ethic is food for the soul! ~ Joyce Tischler, founder of the Animal Legal Defense Fund

In this well-considered call to action, Mark Hawthorne makes a compelling argument that animal liberation will only come about when we recognize how various forms of oppression are linked and we work in solidarity toward the common goal of social justice. ~ John Robbins, author of Diet for a New America and co-founder and president of the Food Revolution Network

A Vegan Ethic is the most ambitious effort I’ve seen to put animal agriculture into its proper context as it relates to other systems of oppression. By understanding this context, activists will be better equipped to make crucial contributions when it comes to working to dismantle animal agribusiness. ~ Erik Marcus, publisher of

Mark Hawthorne
Mark Hawthorne Mark Hawthorne is the author of A Vegan Ethic: Embracing a Life of Compassion Toward All, Bleating Hearts: The Hidden World of Animal Suffer...
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