I often hear people say that the difference between “animal abusers” like Michael Vick and Andre Robinson, and non-vegans, is that Vick and Robinson inflicted suffering on animals because they enjoyed the process of inflicting harm on animals whereas non-vegans just enjoy the taste of animal products but don’t want to harm animals. This difference, it is claimed, makes it wrong for me to say that non-vegans are morally indistinguishable from people like Vick and Robinson.
That is unsound thinking.
First of all, there are lots of non-vegans who do enjoy the process of killing animals. They are called hunters. Those people are in all ways–morally and psychologically–identical to Vick, Robinson, and anyone else who enjoys the actual process of harming animals.
But what about the non-hunting non-vegans who just buy animal products at their grocery store?
In order to understand their status, consider the following situations:
Situation #1: John kills Sam himself and enjoys the process of killing Sam.
Situation #2: Mike needs Morty to be dead in order to get an economic benefit (Mike will inherit money) but Mike is sad about that because he likes Morty and he abhors violence. Nevertheless, he needs Morty to die so he pays Dan to kill Morty. Mike enjoys the results of Morty being dead but did not enjoy the process of harming Morty.
There may be a psychological distinction between John and Dan on one hand, and Mike on the other; there is no moral difference. This moral equivalence is reflected in legal norms: John and Mike are both treated as murderers.
Once you realize that animal foods involve suffering and death (and no one over the age of 4 can claim not to realize that), and that we do not need to eat animals to be healthy, continuing to pay others to impose suffering and death on animals makes you morally indistinguishable from Vick, Robinson, and others you regard as “animal abusers.”
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
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University
©2014 Gary L. Francione