Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Is Veganism More Important than Helping Animals?

Years ago, I wrote that I would gladly eat a burger* (or a triple-cheese Uno's pizza) if it would prompt someone to go vegan for the rest of their life.

To me, this is a no-brainer. Veganism isn't a religion I have to follow. I draw no sense of self-worth from being vegan.

Rather, eating vegan is merely one tool for helping animals. If not being vegan were to help animals more -- either for one bite or for the rest of my life -- then I definitely would do that.

In other words, I don't judge opportunities or questions based on whether they are "vegan." Rather, I make decisions based on what will best help animals -- which option will lead to the least amount of suffering. (How could I possibly justify making a choice that led to more suffering?)

This is, I believe, the only consistent, moral way to live my life.

I was reminded of this when I saw this recent blog post by my friend Tobias:

Would you eat meat for a lot of money?**

He answers it perfectly:

I wouldn’t hesitate. I’m not vegan for the sake of being vegan. My main reason to be vegan is to help animals and do my thing to make the world a better place in general, for all beings. If someone offers me a good amount of money to eat a steak (which is not the same as offering me money to kill an animal, which I wouldn’t do), I would take it. More than that: I would feel guilty if I didn’t. I would not want to put my own ideological or physical purity above the practical implications of accepting that sum.

Well said!

*Not that I'd like a non-vegan burger --
there are amazing vegan burgers out there!

**Be sure to read the full explanation: the money would then be used to advocated for animals, convincing many new people to stop eating animals.


Anonymous said...

Yes, I am now telling others I am making animal friendly choices, not vegan choices. Vincent Berraud was my influence: I think you would like him.

Anonymous said...

I think that from a utilitarian point of view it's a no-brainer - creating the greatest wellbeing for the greatest number is the goal. But, I think that Tobias received such a negative response because most vegans associate meat with suffering, and it's this association that triggers the disgust mechanism, which in turn breaks down the psychological distancing devices that cause recidivism! So, it's not necessarily a bad thing. I think that sometimes we try so desperately to separate reason from "mere flesh" that we forget that we are in fact at the mercy of our biology/neurology, and that even the most rational among us are vegan for emotional reasons ("compassion is ethics") as much as we hate to admit it. Ideally we'd all be more rational (like you and Tobias), but most people are predictably irrational, as the emotional brain is so much more powerful than the rational brain... If a consequence of emotionality over rationality is more veganism (which is perhaps the reason why the majority of vegans are female), then maybe we should embrace THAT instead of trying to be perfectly rational!