We call for a better world. This is our manifesto-in-progress. We focus on ecology, sustainability, and veganism. As lawyers with an academic inclination we pay particular attention to the law as it relates to animals and the environment but we find an exclusive focus on these issues to be unduly limiting. We believe that inter-related problems call for integrated solutions. Too often, depth comes without breadth. We become myopic, focused on our own specialisation, neglecting the lessons to be learned from others. In a world of ecological crises, that is untenable.
What is the problem we are trying to solve? We see our system of political economy as deeply problematic, precipitating profound social, political and environmental crises.
These crises are interconnected, all symptoms of a deeper problem: A destructive and dominating dualism between human and non-human worlds manifesting in domination and destruction of the world upon which we depend for our continued survival and flourishing. Our legal structures create an order in which all that is not human is a species of property. Bizarrely, the law treats a corporation or a ship (when a ship is seized at port it is said to be arrested) as a legal person but not a thinking, feeling, living being.
This destructive dualism is mirrored in relations between humans. Globalisation has resulted in greater inequalities both within and between societies.
A line cannot be drawn between the brutality we visit upon other species and the enmity that exists between people. The dualism of man and property is reflected in instrumentalist approaches towards other persons. People are divided, in countless conflicts, petty and grand, into us and them.
We believe in ecology for two reasons. First, philosophically, it recognises the intrinsic ethical value of the Earth and its manifold ecosystems, species, and beings for its and for their own sake. We believe that it is arrogant and myopic to assert that man alone has innate ethical value. So long as that dualism remains, man will dominate nature and man will dominate man. Second, we recognise that humanity depends on the Earth’s ecosystems for food and for every other raw resource. Without the ecosystems that sustain us, our economic machinery is meaningless. Production lines only produce when you have something to put in. Increasingly, the most pressing problems of today, our lifetimes, and our children’s lifetimes are environmental. Human flourishing demands environmental concern. A strong conception and clear implementation of ecology is needed for purely selfish reasons, if nothing else.
Sustainability is an idea closely connected to ecology. If you use the word sustainability in isolation from ecology, you misunderstand sustainability. It is leaving enough and as good for the future. It is ensuring that, in our societies, our economies, and our lives, we do not compromise tomorrow for today. It is asking the question: “Can we keep on doing this, for my lifetime, and my children’s lifetimes, and my grandchildren’s lifetimes?” In a world of ecological constraint, in a world that is brimming with human life, ecological sustainability is fundamental. If our societies’ progress and prosperity is ecological sustainable, it will continue to progress and prosper. If not, it will not – unless we conscientiously and intentionally adopt sustainable alternatives. We must adapt our lives to ecological reality.
We see veganism as practically and symbolically important in rejecting the destructive dualism of man from animal and the excesses of unsustainable prosperity. It is the lifestyle and diet that has the minimum possible impact on animals and ecosystems. For most people in the prosperous developed world (so, let’s be honest: most people writing and reading blogs) it is actually really quite easy. So we see it as one simple, pragmatic, practical way to lower our day-to-day impact on the environment, as well as being the only way to stop being part of the problem of animals-as-property. It also symbolises the decision to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Veganism is applied compassion, for animals, humans, and ecosystems.
The Solution 1.0
This blog began in 2009 as the online branch of a student group at the University of Auckland School of Law, the Society of Legal Vegans and Vegetarians (SoLVe). A vegan law lecturer, Peter Sankoff, suggested that a student group would be the best way to encourage the vegan and vegetarian students he encountered to get to know each other and to provide support for those who shared values, as well as for those who wished to learn more. It launched, as the Veg Law Students (VLS) on Earth Day 2009, with the Law School’s first student-run vegetarian BBQ. From then on, it ran social events and public lectures, slowly building a presence at the University.
SoLVe aimed, bravely, to oppose the law’s role in promoting animal suffering. Its mission statement began:
Where the law acts as a veil hiding cruelty, it is our role to lift this veil.
On World Vegan Day 2009, a core group of six members and alumni launched the Solution, giving SoLVe a website and a blog. Initially, all posted frequently, but enthusiasm dwindled, as members graduated and moved on. The six ex-Solution authors are became spread over at least four cities, across three continents.
Notably, Peter Sankoff, with his new daughter (and one-time SoLVe mascot), Penny, and family, returned to his native Canada.
Just as the original Solution team spread and moved on, so did SoLVe’s original cohort of members. The baton was passed on, and then on again, but it became increasingly hard to find a new core team, willing to commit the time and energy to organise SoLVe events on campus.
Therefore, SoLVe was wound up.
The Solution lives on. It is a leaner creature now, with two writers only. The Solution 2.0 has a slightly shifted focus and a more coherent philosophy, but still aims to pierce the veil of legitimacy that protects the exploitation of animals, humans, and the environment.