Monday, October 04, 2010

Choices

To celebrate World Vegetarian Day, The Irish Independent decided to let Lisa Jewell, a so-called "veggie", list off and tackle a series of questions asked of her fellow "veggies" ad nauseum by omnivores. "Veggies" refers to her lumping in of vegans and vegetarians together as variations of people who don't eat certain animal products and she lists off the usual things people lob off at those vegans and vegetarians without thinking (or worse--thinking they're being clever), for example: "Wasn't Hitler a vegetarian?" and "Wouldn't you just love a big steak?" or "Do you eat chicken or fish?" She responds to them in the usual manner in which many would, but what caught my attention was where she brought up the question "Does it upset you to see people eating meat?" and responded to it by shrugging it off with an "x is a personal choice" mentality, including a self-described vegan's voicing his own support of that attitude:

We can't speak for all vegetarians here but why would seeing someone eating meat be offensive to veggies? It's not like we have to eat it ourselves.

"I wouldn't find that an annoying thing to hear because it's actually nice of the person to be sensitive about it," says Conor. "I wouldn't mind someone eating meat in front of me because it's all up to the individual. They make a choice to eat meat and I make a choice to be a vegan."

You'll find that most vegetarians have a 'live and let live' attitude to people who eat meat -- we just also happen to have a 'live and let live' attitude to animals!

It's somewhat ironic that she calls it a "'live and let live' attitude", considering that what she should really be saying is "'live and let die' attitude", wouldn't you agree?

Logically, I can see where it would make sense for someone who consumes dairy and eggs to shrug off another's consumption of animal flesh, since there is as much suffering involved in the dairy and egg industries as in the meat industry and since all three involve animal use. However, that vegans are presented as shrugging off any animal use outside of their own personal use, I think misses the point of veganism altogether. It baffles me, still, that a vegan would view the ethics of eating animals and their secretions strictly in terms of his own personal use. I find it unfortunate that this whole "live and let live" thing gets perpetuated as the baseline for most of us. It's just one more thing in the media that leaves some vegans thinking that they should shut up and keep their ethics to their fringe-dwelling selves and accept that it's normal for other humans to use and consume animals. But tell me, how's that attitude going to change anything for non-human animals?

11 comments:

Panda said...

I totally agree with you, nothing less will do! After all, other animals can't speak up for themselves, we have to do that for them... I don't get why all Vegans don't feel the same?!

Gábor said...

Yep, vegetarians are notorious of this "personal choice" attitude, partly because they are still speciesists. I personally always found it quite frustrating and completely irrational, even when I was a vegetarian. As you pointed out in one of your last posts, if we change our behavior due to moral concerns, it naturally follows that we will find the same behavior in other people morally problematic as well...

Regarding the vegan who made the same kind of statement, and regarding the other main reason why vegetarians tend to think like that, I also have a possible explanation. At the end of the post you asked:

"But tell me, how's that attitude going to change anything for non-human animals?"

Well, they might simply not thinking about changing society; because, due to their lack of education (which is the main reason of being non-vegan, isn't it?), they see no real possibility of changing it. So they resort to being apologetic, and they suppress their true feelings towards the general public in order to avoid "futile" confrontations.

This phenomenon can be observed quite well in developing countries. I live in Hungary, and you would be surprised how many vegetarians (and even a few vegans) live here who have no idea about the solid animal rights argument, about the academic involvements, about the fact that the American Dietetic Association officially accepted the vegan diet, and the list just goes on... Of course they also don't know about the abolitionist movement that is building right now.

(The sad thing is that they are often surprisingly attached to the view that our society cannot change, even if you present them a well-reasoned argument.)

veganelder said...

Precisely, pretending that eating animals is just a "personal" choice is like pretending that being a rapist is a "personal" choice. It cannot be forgotten that there is a victim involved and in this instance it is a victim with no human voice....hence the need to speak on her/his behalf.

dbass said...

I agree, and I have been feeling more and more distress when seeing people consume animal products. But what are we to do? Most of my friends and family aren't vegan (yet!!) and I love them, just not their moral choices. Ifi never eat with them, surely I would be losing an opportunity to set a positive vegan example, and start some discussions?

Panda said...

I agree with dbass... of course we'll find ourselves eating &/or drinking with non-vegan family & friends, it happenens regularly with me. When they come to eat at my home, they already know I don't allow non-vegan food/drink... If I'm eating with them, I'll always bring up (not aggressively) why I'm Vegan & how it's not about our wants/greed, it's about other(of course innocent) animals.

In the past I've had quite a few guilty replies for eating animal flesh or other non vegan products, such as looking at me & saying "I'm sorry" or something similar. My answer generally has been "Don't apologise to me, you aren't eating my family member/friend!"

It's VERY important that all Vegans ONLY buy/give Vegan (eco) Birthday, Christmas, etc presents, whether perfumes, make-up, pro Vegan books, etc... Even my wrapping paper is covered in pictures of various other animals!

Just to let you know that I have been rather successful, with more & more family & friends asking for Vegan info, recipes, etc :)

Vanilla Rose said...

I saw that on a social networking site that someone had posted that she still hadn't given up bacon entirely and a friend of hers had said that most, if not all, pigs would be grateful.

He was at pains to point out to me that he was trying to be positive about the steps she HAD taken towards giving up meat.

jean sebastien said...

Even tough you may regard others people behavior as morally offensive when they eat meat, what do you suggest we do? Every time telling them it's wrong to do so? Even tough it may put you in conflict situation with your family and your friends?

I agree that we should speak for those who can't, but I feel uncomfortable to make the ethical treatment comment every time someone eats animals product, especially if you already made your point and that those people you eat with already know your moral standing point.

I would like to have your comments please.

Bea Elliott said...

When I was a vegetarian it didn't bother me at all when/if others around me ate meat. I thought it kinda gross - But no big.

I was also under the illusions of the happy-meat myth and didn't comprehend the full extent of animal suffering AND use.

Once the cloak of deceit was lifted from "Old McDonald's Farm" - all bets are off. When I see meat - I cannot separate the exploitation - or the pain it takes to make "meat" possible.

I try to avoid situations where others are eating others... Everyone who matters, knows what I think... So when I can't avoid those meat eating events, I bite my tongue - till it hurts.

Panda said...

What you have to realise is that I being Vegan, believe that ALL animals deserve to be treated equally... If a friend was consuming a human baby, I would be disgusted & I would make it clear how wrong it was, I act the same when it's a non human animal (or part of him/her) that's being consumed!!

Mylène Ouellet said...

jean sebastien, nobody is suggesting that you shake your fist at people over dinner. The individuals in the article state that vegans don't care if others use animal products and I was pointing out that this mindset is problematic, as is perpetuating that "most" vegans share that mindset. We don't. We may not say anything to those around us who continue to eat animals, but this doesn't mean that we don't care.

As for whether or not you should talk to others about their animal use, I often state that the dinner table is invariably the worst time to do that. Also, there's no need to be aggressive or confrontational when talking to others about the ethics of animal consumption. There are so many opportunities throughout each day for it to be brought up conversationally. Vegans need to stop treating talking about veganism--or why animal use is immoral--as taboo.

Bea Elliott said...

"Vegans need to stop treating talking about veganism--or why animal use is immoral--as taboo."

Two days ago I was on the interstate - paying a toll. The back of my car has a few... okay, "several" AR bumper stickers. When I merged forward in traffic an enraged man pulled next to me and yelled horrible things out his window. I caught a few comments "Mind your own business" ---- "What's the matter with you talking about these things?" ---- "F*cking animal lover!" ---- I also caught something about "my mother" - "how I was raised"... or he called me a "mother", I never did get it all.

But it makes it apparent that some people cannot even tolerate going near the subject. This is only evidence that it desperately needs to be discussed. Getting around people like this is a huge challenge. They should not get off "easy" by our silence. ;)