I am frequently asked whether it is “vegan” to eat “road kill,” the abandoned eggs of hens who are kept as companions, or animal products that you find in a dumpster.
The short answer: no.
The explanation: Although these activities do not contribute directly to demand for animal products, they are deeply problematic as a symbolic matter. They reinforce the idea that animal products are things to consume; they reinforce the idea that animals are things, are human resources; they reinforce the social practice of consuming animals; they reinforce demand even if they don’t contribute directly to it.
But what if no one sees you do these things? In that case, you are not engaging in any activity that symbolizes anything to anyone because no one observes it or knows about it. You are not reinforcing demand.
But you observe; you know about it. You are participating in the act of consuming animals; a ritual that has no meaning apart from the speciesist celebration that animals are things to exploit.
Being vegan means that you reject the notion that animals are things for us to consume. They are not commodities; they are not resources.
They are not food any more than a human arm that you find in the dumpster.
We would never think of eating a human. Humans are moral persons. We don’t eat persons. But nonhumans are persons as well. They have moral value. Their bodies and the products made from them are not things we eat, even if we find them dead along the road way or in a dumpster, or even if they abandon their eggs.
If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.
Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University
©2012 Gary L. Francione