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Vegan Straight Edge: A lifetime commitment to total liberation

Vegan Straight Edge for the earth, for the animals, and for oneself.
Vegan Straight Edge for the earth, for the animals, and for oneself.Photo courtesy of Kurt Austin Schroeder, used with permission

Our personal and collective philosophies might spark and originate from a single source or event, however, as we discover more available information and gain more insight, our ideologies should throughout time continue to expand and flourish. Hence, our accumulating beliefs should not merely remain a way of thinking, but ultimately transform into an actual way of life.

It is one thing to simply believe in a set of standards and another thing to incorporate our beliefs into positive behavior and interactions with the world around us. In addition to traditional academia, there are many other non-academic channels of teaching and learning, like music.

Kurt Austin Schroeder has lived in the Indianapolis area most of his life. For the last two years, his web design development business, K Austin Design, occupies a lot of time. Additional current projects include renovating his recently purchased 125 year-old house.

Previously involved more heavily in the punk/hardcore music scene, both playing in bands and as the owner of a DIY record label, Kurt has, throughout the decades, remained faithfully committed to the Vegan Straight Edge lifestyle.

Vegan Straight Edge is an ideology based on two ethics: straight edge, a drug-free and anti-addiction movement closely tied to the DIY punk/hardcore scene; and veganism, the abstention from the use and exploitation of non-human animals. The core of vegan straight edge is living a drug and cruelty-free lifestyle as a life-long commitment for the earth, for the animals, and for oneself.

Through his interest in skateboarding, Kurt was tangentially introduced to the hardcore scene. “It just happened that most of the skateboarders in my area at the time were also into punk/hardcore music,” Kurt says. “Prior to that I wasn’t really moved by music and was more of a passive listener.”

“I started off fairly slowly. First as an avid listener and someone always searching for new bands to check out,” Kurt remembers. “Once my involvement in the hardcore scene began to grow, I only desired to become more and more involved.”

Kurt started booking shows and publishing a zine called, Catalyst. “It cascaded from there and really opened me up to a national and global hardcore scene.” Kurt’s zine was the beginning, but it transitioned into releasing records under the aegis of the label he founded, Catalyst Records.

“In the hardcore scene, the bands that spoke to me the most were the more aggressive straight edge bands, especially the message of abstinence they presented.” Having decided fairly early on that he didn’t want to smoke or drink alcohol, Kurt says, “It was really great to stumble upon a whole subculture that valued these same ideals. Straight edge became an easy way to label myself and to be a part of a subculture that mirrored my own beliefs.

Through his involvement in hardcore and the messages of hardcore bands, Kurt began to examine his own relationship with non-human animals. “The more I learned about it, the more it became apparent that the only decision my conscience would tolerate was to adopt a vegan lifestyle and philosophy.”

Around the United States and internationally, Kurt toured with his own bands, first Birthright and later Risen, then started working with other bands from all over the world that supported the kind of messages he wanted to present through Catalyst Records. Intimately tied to animal liberation, the two main messages of both Kurt’s hardcore bands and Catalyst Records were living a drug-free life and veganism.

People might perceive vegan straight edge ideology as a restrictive way of living, however, both straight edge and veganism are the result of making rational decisions and are liberating on a personal level. “Both have the illusion of giving something up as a part of the ideology, but in most cases, and for veganism in particular, what is being lost is merely an unjust privilege.”

While early Hardline bands definitely influenced the growth of the vegan straight edge movement, Kurt says, the lines between vegan straight edge and the relationship with Hardline, known today as Vegan Hardline, are fairly blurry and often complicated. The controversial core of contemporary and secular vegan hardline is the Hardline Manifesto.

There is still a lot of diversity within both the straight edge and vegan straight edge community. “Most of the bands I chose to work with,” Kurt comments, “also shared common interests in other areas such as anarchism, gender equality, and rejecting irrational ideologies like nationalism and homophobia.”

“An important part of all of this is the interconnectivity of struggles for liberation,” Kurt believes. “It is pointless to actively fight for the end of animal suffering while promoting the nationalist, racist, sexist, and capitalist agenda of mainstream Western culture.”

“Every issue related to the struggle to free non-human animals from the suffering imposed on them by humans is very important,” Kurt states unequivocally. “There are a myriad of issues that are all interconnected and are all at base caused by the faulty human logic that tells us that non-human animals, their suffering, and their freedom doesn’t matter.”

Given that total liberation is paramount, Kurt is “passionate about sustainability and the environmental collapse that humans are perpetuating across the globe. There can be no animal liberation if biodiversity continues to erode and habitats are continually destroyed.”