I also pointed out that regardless of how supposedly comfortably these chickens are raised, the bottom line is that they're bred into wretched lives of being treated like food-producing machines. I asked her if this was what she really thought of non-human animals -- that they're things existing solely for our pleasure and convenience. I hoped not. She didn't answer, but I got a "tsk" or two from a few welfarists who suggested I'd had no business passing judgment on her choices, insisting to me that "every little bit counts" and that she was somehow "vegan-minded" and "on the right path". Why did I not praise her, they asked, since she was at least sourcing her eggs from someone purportedly treating their chickens a bit more kindly? Who was I to judge her for the best possible choices she was making for herself?
How is comforting oneself over one's continued use of animals either "vegan-minded" or on the "right path", though?
"If They're Happy and I 'Know' it, Clap Your Hands!"
I shared this, primarily, to re-emphasize that foregoing animal flesh while otherwise consuming animal products is still engaging in animal exploitation. We're kidding ourselves if we think that there is a difference between chomping down on a chicken leg or having a couple of scrambled eggs (or a bowl of dairy ice cream, and so on). And for those who try to lull themselves into thinking otherwise while they claim to support animal rights, or they express concern with not directly contributing to just plain old harming other animals, the truth is that there's no getting around the fact that using animals means perpetuating what is essentially for them a life of enslavement involving various forms of torture. Furthermore, regardless of how horrible that world is for them, respecting their rights and interests involves not thinking of them as things which exist for us to use in the first place. These are just the facts, though, as uncomfortable as it may be for some to weigh them.
I Ain't Clapping
As a vegan and as an abolitionist animal rights advocate, I avoid participating in animal exploitation. I don't condone others' doing so and I sure as hell don't applaud it or encourage it. If you tell me that you take the interests of non-human animals seriously but feel that you're doing "enough" by avoiding meat and sourcing your eggs from birds at the happy chicken farm down the street, I will tell you that consuming animal products other than meat is still animal exploitation, and that veganism should be the moral baseline for all who do claim to really take the interests of non-human animals seriously. I will say to you that you should go vegan, or at least take steps toward doing so. To hurt or shame you? No. To provide you with the facts so that you realize what your choices involve? Absolutely. After all, why should I lie when billions are dying every single year when they needn't?
If I refuse to acknowledge this or that form of animal exploitation as being more commendable than another, I am merely refusing to condone it and refusing to nod politely at any justifications given for it. I think we owe non-human animals -- as well as non-vegan animal advocates -- at least that much. Don't you?
To find out more about why vegetarianism falls short of offering justice to non-human animals and denies them their personhood, please read the following essays:
- My ramble from March 2010: "Why I Will Not Advocate Vegetarianism"
- Bob Torres' "Why Vegetarianism Isn't Enough"
- Dan Cudahy's "What Is Wrong With Vegetarianism"
Also, have a listen to this podcast by Gary L. Francione:
- "Commentary #6: Aspects of the Vegetarian/Vegan Debate"
For some advice on how to proceed when talking to others about what we owe nonhuman animals, read this blog post by Vincent Guihan: "They believe harm is wrong, but how do we get them to act on that?"