In last week’s blog entry, I mentioned that The Vegan Society had interviewed Peter Singer, Tom Regan, and me in its magazine, The Vegan. In his interview, Singer states:
[T]o avoid inflicting suffering on animals—not to mention the environmental costs of intensive animal production—we need to cut down drastically on the animal products we consume. But does that mean a vegan world? That’s one solution, but not necessarily the only one. If it is the infliction of suffering that we are concerned about, rather than killing, then I can also imagine a world in which people mostly eat plant foods, but occasionally treat themselves to the luxury of free range eggs, or possibly even meat from animals who live good lives under conditions natural for their species, and are then humanely killed on the farm. (The Vegan, Autumn 2006.)
In Singer’s May 2006 interview in Mother Jones, he states:
[T]here’s a little bit of room for indulgence in all of our lives. I know some people who are vegan in their homes but if they’re going out to a fancy restaurant, they allow themselves the luxury of not being vegan that evening. I don’t see anything really wrong with that.
I don’t eat meat. I’ve been a vegetarian since 1971. I’ve gradually become increasingly vegan. I am largely vegan but I’m a flexible vegan. I don’t go to the supermarket and buy non-vegan stuff for myself. But when I’m traveling or going to other people’s places I will be quite happy to eat vegetarian rather than vegan.
It is quite remarkable that the so-called “father of the animal rights movement”:
- Is a “flexible vegan”—that is, he is not a vegan when he finds it inconvenient to be one. That means that he’s not a vegan and, indeed, he has characterized being a consistent vegan as “fanatical.”;
- Thinks that a vegan world is not “necessarily” the solution to the problem of animal exploitation.; and
- Characterizes it as a “luxury” to consume meat and animal products.
But these comments make clear a position that is central to Singer’s theory and that is absolutely at odds with an animal rights/abolitionist perspective. According to Singer, it is the suffering of nonhumans, and not our killing of them, that raises the primary, and perhaps the only, moral problem.
That is, Singer does not think that it is a serious problem that we use and kill animals; the only problem is how we use and kill them. If animals have “good lives under conditions natural for their species, and are then humanely killed on the farm,” then we do not act immorally in using and eating animals.
Why would Singer take such a position? Why does he think that killing a nonhuman does not raise a fundamental moral problem?