There are two and only two choices:
Choice 1: You stop eating, wearing, and otherwise using all nonhuman animals;
Choice 2: You continue to participate directly in exploiting nonhuman animals.
There is no third choice. You are either vegan or you are participating directly in animal exploitation.
“But wait!” the welfarists cry, “Even if you are a vegan, animals will be killed in the harvesting of crops. You can’t be perfect so it’s okay to not be vegan as long as you try to reduce suffering.”
Here’s Farm Sanctuary’s Bruce Friedrich, a longtime supporter of welfare reform, claiming that vegans still exploit animals and that we can’t be perfect:
(Click to enlarge.)
That is complete nonsense. We can see this easily in the human context.
Even if we drive safely, people will be killed in automobile accidents. Does that mean that there is not a qualitative difference between deliberately murdering people and driving safely even if some number of humans will be killed in accidents? Of course not. The welfarist position applied in the human context would commit us to saying that because we can’t avoid unintended car accidents, it’s okay to commit murder as long as we try to reduce suffering in the process. No one would accept such a position.
If we were all vegans and embraced the moral personhood of nonhumans, we would undoubtedly devise better ways of avoiding even incidental and unintended deaths of animals in the crop production process. But there is a very significant difference between X being murdered and X dying in a traffic accident. We all recognize that but the welfarists seem to have trouble applying that in the animal context.
And that is deeply speciesist.
The welfarists always talk about our going vegan as a matter of being on a “journey.”
The moment you buy into the welfarist idea that it’s morally acceptable to not be vegan as long as you are on a “journey,” you’ve bought into speciesism.
We would never say talk about “journeys” and “baby steps” where fundamental human rights were involved. We would never say, for example, that if someone is a racist, we ought to encourage that person to take “baby steps” and just be a more “gentle” racist because that person is on a “journey.” With respect to fundamental human rights, we are clear. When it comes to the victimization of nonhuman animals, it’s all a matter of “journeys,” “baby steps,” and moral relativism.
And that is deeply speciesist.
Of course the world is not going to go vegan overnight. But those of us who believe in animal rights have an obligation to make crystal clear that veganism is a moral imperative–that we have an obligation to go vegan and nothing less will satisfy our moral obligation to animals. Those who hear and who care may choose to do less (i.e. they may choose to eat “cage-free” eggs, or “crate-free” pork, or reduce their intake of meat, etc.). But that should be their choice and never what we promote as an advocacy matter.
The world will never go vegan as long as “animal people” don’t promote it as a moral baseline. And if each of us who is now vegan persuaded only one other person to go vegan in the next year, and that repeated itself for a dozen years or so, the world would be vegan.
That isn’t going to happen, but if we all made that our goal, we would at least achieve progress. The “happy exploitation” movement that now exists is only pushing things backward.
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.
If animals matter morally, veganism is not an option — it is a necessity. Anything that claims to be an animal rights movement must make clear that veganism is a moral imperative.
Learn more about veganism at www.HowDoIGoVegan.com.
Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University
Adjunct Professor of Law, Rutgers University
©2015 Gary L. Francione & Anna Charlton