I was recently sucked into a debate on Current.com about veganism/vegetarianism in the comments to the article “Vegans, What about the Plants?!”. In it, the author gives several reasons why the specious argument that vegans shouldn’t eat plants either, because they’re causing death just as much as eating meat, is simply an attempt to derail vegetarians and not a genuinely valid argument.
I ran into someone comparing Vegetarians with Hitler, someone saying that vegetarians were all moral bigots, and the response I’m going to post below. To preface the discussion and my responses, I’m putting this up because I think “UtopianSky”‘s views are more common that most vegetarians would like to believe. I’ve encountered countless people who think that I’m stuck-up, superior-feeling, and worthless because of my dietary choices. I hope that if you’re one of those people, you can read my responses with an open mind and perhaps be a little more understanding of your fellow human beings, no matter how drastically our diet differs from yours.
Unfortunately, about halfway down in the comments in that article, I ran in to this interesting piece of opinion:
“I’m a gay man. I have spent a large portion of my life dealing with people who want to impose their views of morality on me.
In my opinion, Animal Activists and Vegetarians are no different from the anti-abortion advocates, or the anti-gay protesters.
Your code is NOT an absolute Morality handed down on tablets from the heavens, with the mandate for you to force all infidels to conform to your edicts.
Now, I’m going to enjoy a lovely chicken sandwich.”
I felt the need to respond for several reasons: one, I was offended at being compared to bigots; two, I felt that it was an off-topic attack on some good people trying to do the right thing. My reply was admittedly hastily written and not as well thought-out as it perhaps should have been, but in the interest of fairness I’m going to give it to you unedited:
“I’d argue that the meat eaters are the dominant, closed-minded, and cruel group forcing their practices on the rest of us. The industry is so dominated by a few large corporations, that it’s nearly impossible to obtain meat that is humanely raised. What vegetarians and vegans do is spread information – information that most people aren’t aware of. As such, its an admirable practice.
Demeaning people is a different matter, but i don’t really see that here. It’s a shame that you’ve taken it as such. There are all sorts of causes, and lots of activists trying to raise awareness for what they see as the right thing – there are Pride marches, civil rights sit-ins, people passing out pamphlets about Darfur, protesters fighting against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan…these are all worthy causes, and without ‘radicals’ on the front line the general populace wouldn’t be as conscious of the issues as we are now. Animal rights activists (or in my case animal welfare activist would be a better term) are fighting for beings who can’t speak for themselves – they’re given no choice in their lives whatsoever. and if it means that I have to proclaim an ugly truth at the top of my lungs in the center of town to get someone to listen, then that’s what I’ll do.
The fallacy of your argument is that the anti-gay protesters are hateful people looking to curtail the rights of another group of humans. Animal rights activists aren’t trying to make it illegal to eat meat – they aren’t infringing on anyone’s rights and freedoms, unlike the assholes at the Westboro Baptist Church (who, while they do have a constitutional right to say what they say, are going to hell if there’s any justice in this world). We aren’t trying to stop you from eating meat by some law that infringes on your rights – we’re trying to show you that perhaps there is a better choice. The more moderate among us are simply trying to convince the public to care enough to make more careful choices – locally raised cattle that have felt grass under their hooves, or chickens allowed to MOVE (hens in battery cages cannot even spread their wings) as a source for your eggs. We aren’t trying to control you – we’re trying to show you that there is a great wrong being done, and that you can help to fix it in the most simple of ways – your diet.”
“I’d argue that the meat eaters are the dominant, closed-minded, and cruel group forcing their practices on the rest of us.”
This is so stupid and repugnant, that I can’t even believe it.
That statement, in and of itself, ridicules every genuine civil rights struggle there has ever been.
NO ONE is forcing any vegetarians to eat meat.
To further equate this to the same-sex marriage issue:
If BIll and Steve down the street want to have a Bar-B-Q, no one is forcing YOU to attend. Their marriage, I mean diet, in no way infringes on YOURS.
You, on the other hand, want to forse the rest of us to live by YOUR standards, and look down on us for not being the same as you.
The Westboro Baptist Church is a strong parallel to the radical Animal RIghts groups who protest outside restaurants, farms, and other places that do things they don’t like.
Just like the “Family Values” groups, you are just “trying to show a better choice”, because we have fallen into the wrong lifestyle, an immoral lifestyle, and you wish to help us out of it. Meaning the rest of us are ill-informed, and made poor choices, while you, the lofty and superior vegetarian, are here to educate us all to be as good as you.”
I had to reply one last time, and apparently it was enough of a response to make him stop, because I’ve had no response. Here’s what I said:
“Do you claim that factory farms aren’t cruel?
I think that trying to show someone to act in a more peaceful, cruetly-free way is a noble cause. And no one is trying to ban you from eating meat.
Here’s the thing: the Westboro Baptist Church advocates cruelty, death, and burning in hell. Vegetarians try to advocate consciousness and kindness. Some are more successful than others, and like any cause, there are often extremists. I think extremism is wrong in any situation – religious, political, dietary, physical, etc. etc.
Would you argue that Civil Rights marchers were forcing their morality down the nation’s throats? Because you’d be right – but I doubt anyone on here would say it was the wrong thing to do. White southerners claimed that it was infringing on their rights to select who to serve food to at lunch counters or who to allow on their buses…and again, legally speaking that is correct. But, you can’t argue that their discrimination was morally right. And so, we had agitators (SNCC) and extremists (Black Panthers) and activists (MLK JR and the SCLC) and moderate legally-operating agents of change (NAACP, ACLU) working together to bring about change. Today, while racism still exists, at least it isn’t codified in our nation’s laws. Personally, as a vegetarian activist, I’m looking for stronger Humane Slaughter laws (which include chickens, who now aren’t included and are usually killed in an electrical bath or in boiling water). I’m looking for more vegetarian options in school lunches (not all vegetarian, just some options). I’m looking to try and inform people of the scientifically proven problems with eating meat (medically and environmentally speaking), and I’m looking to ask why, if someone wouldn’t eat their dog – would scream and cry and sue the shit out of someone if they did to their dog what’s done to food animals – they are happy to eat other animals. I’m not trying to change you – I’m trying to give you information that just might make you want to change yourself.
Please note in advance, that I’m not actually making this argument, but you could also say that the Pride marches are “forcing” the LGBTQ agenda on everyone else. I personally have participated in a few, but I’ve heard people claim that it’s a blatant way to shove your lifestyle, morality, and choices into other people’s faces. We all believe in something, and we all have a right to say it as long as it doesn’t actually infringe on the rights of others. Hence, you can’t stop anyone from thinking that homosexuality is wrong. You CAN (and SHOULD) stop them from creating laws based on that belief. Dig?
And to really put it bluntly, no one wrote this post as a letter and taped it to your door. A vegan put it up, vegans and vegetarians found it and commented. YOU, by coming to it and commenting, sought this argument out. To claim that your joining a conversation like this entails vegans forcing their views on you is patently false. Do what you do, enjoy your life, and I do hope it is one filled with joy and love and peace…just don’t claim that anyone is forcing anything on you. You’re on a web site, and when you stop reading this you’ll get back to your everyday life without changing a thing. Until there’s some sort of law mandating that no one can buy meat, there’s not much ‘forcing’ going on.
Sorry for the novel…”