Monday, April 9, 2007

The Charade of Veganism Part 2: AR-Vegan rationalizations for their own complicity in animal death

In part 1 of this post, I introduced the notion that diets that are allegedly "cruelty-free" or "vegan", usually are not because of the amount of animals that are killed in crop agriculture in order to produce "vegan" food. BTW, I must give credit where credit is due. This theory originates with Dr. Steve Davis, a professor of animal science at Oregon State University. Professor Davis formed this theory in rebuttal to the ideas of famous AR philosopher Tom Regan, who claims that veganism is the dietary choice that causes the least amount of harm to animals. A summary of Professor Davis's theory can be found here. Most ARAs, when confronted with this argument, tend to rationalize their choice to be vegan and generally do not offer an intellectually sound response to it. Common responses include things such as:

- "It's accidental and can't be helped."


-"But at least the animals aren't bred and raised to be killed."

Even Professor Regan, who is probably the most articulate pro-AR academic, could not seem to muster much more than a variant of the latter excuse when he responded to this argument in this 2002 article in Time magazine.
Why do I say that these rationalizations simply don't wash? Let's take a look at them more closely, starting with the "it's accidental" excuse. If animals are truly rights-holding beings, or as one pro-AR blogger put it "full members of the moral community", then how can such an argument possibly be ethical? If field mice, small birds, etc. are rights holders, then how can their deaths in crop agriculture simply be callously written off as mere "collateral damage"? Let's put it in human terms. Would the same ARAs who are making the "it's accidental" excuse for animal deaths in the production of vegan foods also say that it would be acceptable for say, a certain number of human children to also be acceptable, unavoidable "collateral damage" in crop agriculture? Not likely.
The second rationalization, the "at least they're not bred to be killed" argument is equally vacuous, for essentially the same reason. If animals are rights holders, then killing them for any reason, whether it be accidentally in crop agriculture, or intentionally in animal agriculture, is in fact, unethical. Just because there is no intent to kill in crop agriculture, it doesn't render those deaths not violations of rights. We see this concept in our own laws. If you kill someone accidentally through negligence or carelessness, even though it is not intentional like murder is, it is still a crime because another rights-holding person's right to life has been violated. The legal term for this is manslaughter, and it is still a serious crime with serious consequences. If animals killed in crop agriculture are indeed rights-holding persons, who have equal rights with animals that are raised to be killed for food, then doesn't it follow logically that if "meat is murder" that "tofu is manslaughter"?
So why don't ARAs want to address the issue of their own complicity in animal deaths in the production of their allegedly "cruelty-free" vegan foods? Probably several reasons I can speculate on. First, of course, is the fact that no one, especially those that like to flaunt themselves as being on some kind of moral high ground, likes to be exposed as a hypocrite. Hypocrisy is the mother of all credibility problems, and ARAs know that if they're "cruelty-free" lifestyles are exposed as being not all they're cracked up to be, their message loses a lot of its power. Secondly, is perhaps their own "speciesism", the sin that they claim to hate so much. I can't help but wonder if deep down, most ARAs place less value on the lives of field mice than they do on say, cows or pigs, though probably none would admit to it. And besides, if you'll allow me to indulge in some cynicism, field mice and gophers just don't make the kind of photogenic subjects for AR propaganda that farm animals do.

I apologize to any readers that I have not been able to update the blog as often as I'd like. I've been very busy at work lately and have been working 10-12 hour shifts. After that kind of day, the last thing you want to do is write. Hopefully things will become more sane soon.


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