Why I Am a Vegan and Why Hope and Fear Are Irrelevant

Note: For various reasons, I was not satisfied with my previous essay on this topic posted on February 17, 2010. I am therefore replacing it with this one. If you read the previous essay, I hope you find this one more useful.

Why I Am a Vegan and an Advocate

I am a vegan because it is the minimum standard of moral belief, behavior, and attitude regarding nonhuman animals. Speciesism is the same underlying wrong as racism, sexism, and heterosexism, only in a different form. The speciesism of our society is extreme, and that is the only reason veganism is not widely considered a minimum standard of decency. I am not a vegan to “boycott” animal suffering, exploitation, cruelty, or killing. A boycott implies a temporary suspension of support until certain conditions are satisfied. Animal welfare proponents “boycott” animal products until they perceive that “cruelty” is reduced to an “acceptable” level. For me, on the other hand, all animal exploitation is unacceptable and there are no ordinary conditions under which I would agree to use animals or animal products in any way (i.e. under extreme duress, I might use or consume human or nonhuman animal products, but it would take extreme duress to force me to do so). In other words, I am a vegan for precisely the same set of reasons that I am not a cannibal.

I am a vegan advocate and educator because it is the morally right thing to do, and my motivation for advocacy and education is moral principle alone, without regard to hope or fear.

Why Hope and Fear Are Irrelevant and Often Harmful

Hope and fear are two sides of the same coin. They are both future-directed and rely on uncertain speculation about what mighthappen. Where there is hope, there is necessarily a complementary degree of fear. If our hope does not materialize, then what we fear will materialize. We can unwittingly (or dishonestly) ignore our fear and focus on our hope, but if we are thinking clearly and honestly, we cannot have one without the other.If we are thinking clearly, our confidence in predictions of the future ought to wane exponentially with an increase in how far in the future we are considering. Social change, like changes in the weather and many other phenomena, is best described by chaos theory. The further out we go, the less certain we can be. With billions of people in the world and the complexity of global politics and social change among even thousands of people (much less billions), we could get radically more violent and destroy ourselves just as easily as we could get radically less violent and civilize ourselves. More probable, however, is that we will not see radical swings in either direction, at least not over a short-term period of a few decades. This is not pessimistic musing, but clear thinking based in the reality of history and experience.Hope and fear are irrelevant because they tell us absolutely nothing reliable about the future and have no bearing on what is right or wrong or our choices regarding right and wrong. Hope and fear can be harmful because they lead so many people into unnecessary worry, frustration, or despair and therefore away from doing the right thing.We ought to keep in mind that we control our own thoughts, speech, attitudes, and behavior. Other people may influence us based on sound reasoning and providing new facts and perspectives, but nobody controls us. We are responsible for our thoughts, speech, attitudes, and behavior.

Implications for the Abolition of Animal Exploitation

The rights-based abolitionist movement is literally only three years old, and while still small, it is growing rapidly. Where it goes from here, I’ll be the last to opine on, since I have the strongest confidence that I have no idea.

What I do know, however, is that my hopes and fears about where it goes are utterly irrelevant. What matters is that I separate my irrelevant hopes, fears, and feelings from my relevant thoughts, speech, and actions. What matters is that I don’t drink the Kool-Aid of welfarist and single-issue “victories” to “keep my hopes up” only to have them slammed one year or ten years later when fur or seal slaughter (or whatever of the thousands of symptoms-of-speciesism that provoke the single-issues-of-the-day) comes back with a roaring, laughing vengeance. Why? Because the disease of speciesism and the cure of veganism was not addressed; only the superficial symptom of fur, gestation crates, seal “hunts”, battery cages, and thousands of other symptoms of the disease.

What matters is that I speak out on how speciesism is racism is sexism is heterosexism – all the same underlying irrational prejudice sporting different Halloween costumes. What matters is that I educate people about the why (1, 2, 3) and how of veganism. What matters is that I think, say, and do the right thing here and now.

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