The fact of the matter is, capitalism treats animals horribly. While many civilizations have normalized abusive behavior towards animals, capitalism tops them all in the intensity, frequency, and invisibility of apathetic exploitation mixed with repeated moments of sadistic cruelty. And while many civilizations have also destroyed their local environments, capitalism, as a global system with an unprecedented level of technological power, is the first to carry ecocide to a global scale. Sheerly in underspoken quantitative terms, the biodiversity and biomass of Planet Earth today is the lowest it has ever been in human history. There is obviously a connection between capitalism's abuse of animals, its destruction of the environment, and its oppression and abuse of humans.
Because a large portion of the abuse of animals is caused by the meat industry, many concerned people automatically respond with a prohibition on the consumption of meat. A lack of history, of knowledge of the diversity of human societies, of understanding of capitalism--even of what consumption is--and lingering Christian morality, have fiercely conflated a concern for animals with veganism. But a vegan diet is not the only logical response to ecocide and animal abuse, while veganism as a political position is often blinding and counterproductive.
The crux of the matter is, veganism is a consumer activity. It is ultimately an attempt to change capitalism and human civilization through the exercise of one's privileges as a consumer. This is an impossible approach. To understand why, let's first define the problem.
Meat production as it exists in industrial capitalist society is inherently cruel. It cannot be made otherwise. Any time an animal must be transformed into a product and processed according to market logic, the most heartless and unfeeling kinds of exploitation will be utilized as a matter of course, as a business necessity, while simultaneously the workers in this industry will lash out in frequent moments of sadism--this is the inevitable psychological response of humans who must act as machines.
On an individual level, many vegans have engaged in vital work raising environmental consciousness, and they have experienced their diet as a means of reaching ethical consistency and self-discipline. But their diet has not been an asset in the struggle. For many of us it is important to live in a way we consider ethically consistent, and to attempt to prefigure the world we are struggling to create. However, an absolutist veganism is not necessary to either of these tasks, and instead impedes an accurate understanding of ecology and capitalism, while discouraging a united, pluralistic movement against capitalism.