I’ve seen a new word floating around cyberspace. The word is “vegangelical.” I believe it is meant to be a derogatory term for us so-called “holier-than-thou”
vegans who “impose our beliefs”
on supposedly innocuous and “moderate and reasonable” consumers of animal products. This essay is dedicated to looking a little closer at some of these derogatory terms and descriptions of vegans who dare to speak on behalf of the innocent. Specifically, we’ll compare…I mean contrast, “extremism” in avoiding animal products versus extremism in using and consuming animal products.Extremism In Violence
Let’s first take a glance at that pervasive Orwellian concept that veganism is “extreme” while the “Standard American Diet” (referred to herein as “SAD”) including meat, dairy, and eggs is “moderate and reasonable.” The only way veganism can be considered “extreme” is by contrasting it with its opposite; namely, the societal norm of slaughtering 10 billion innocent animals annually
. As I wrote about a couple of months ago
, the average American causes the intentional slaughter of about 33.3 fully-sentient nonhuman beings annually
. By contrast, there are absolutely no intentional deaths in a vegan diet, and any inadvertent deaths in crop production in vegan human populations are far less per capita than the number of inadvertent deaths per capita in any non-vegan human population. Intentionally terminating an innocent life – human or nonhuman – for completely unnecessary food preferences is extreme.Extremism In Poor Health
The obesity and heart disease rate in this country is anything but “moderate and reasonable”, and it is a direct result of our obsession with meat, dairy, and eggs. We are literally taking several years, and in some cases, a few decades, off of our life-expectancy because we clog our arteries with the blood-sludge of the animal fat and cholesterol inherent in the SAD. Not to absolve consumers, because we consumers are ultimately responsible for our choices, but the SAD and the big animal agribusiness interests that promote it in a bombardment of daily advertising, are having an extreme field day sending Americans to their graves much earlier than they would normally arrive there; not to mention the health care and pharmaceutical costs of attempting to prevent or reduce further damage from the SAD.
Extremism In Unnecessary Environmental Filth
Unimaginable amounts of raw sewage from pig farms, feed lots, and massive chicken sheds is polluting our air, ground water, and rivers and killing fish by the millions. As noted in the December 14, 2006 issue of Rolling Stone magazine in an article entitled “Boss Hog”, our large pig farms spray huge quantities of liquid shit from gigantic manure pits (which often overflow in storms into surrounding [formerly fresh] water) up into the local air, causing people unfortunate enough to live anywhere near the “farms” to breathe in the toxins and develop severe respiratory illnesses (and possibly lung cancer and related problems). As stated in the Rolling Stone article: “The smell of hog waste is unduly invasive: It’s as if something has physically entered your stomach. The stench causes pilots to gag at 3,000 feet.” Even the methane and nitrous oxide produced by cows and pigs from our feed lots and pig sheds is causing a warming effect on the atmosphere at a rate that is comparable, and sometimes exceeds, the warming effect of what millions of cars and trucks belch into the air in our country.  On top of all of this, and due to the political power these corporations wield by lobbying and buying politicians, Congress is planning to exempt these polluters from even reporting, much less doing anything about, what they emit into the environment. Further, we are now environmentally concerned about the industrialization of China and India – including their newfound fondness of the SAD, which is expected to at least double the environmental problems we have now over the coming decades – while we do nothing to set an example. What kind of world are our children and grandchildren going to live in during the next 50 years, the next 100 years? Will they even survive it and the global power struggles that will come with it?
So what’s extreme? Veganism certainly isn’t “extreme,” unless we consider a peaceful, healthy, and environmentally responsible way of life extreme. If anything is extreme, it is intentionally slaughtering 10 billion animals annually in the U.S. (or 33.3 nonhuman beings per non-vegan person annually), killing ourselves from heart disease and obesity on the SAD, and ruining our environment (so severely that we’re literally making people sick, and not just making them gag), when it is completely unnecessary and so destructive.
Let’s now turn to the “holier-than-thou” criticism; and the related charge that vegans are vegans because “it’s a sweet way of feeling superior to others”. The only way I could see this criticism holding weight in a criticism of someone’s attitude is when the difference in another’s behavior that they are disapproving of is trivial or insignificant when compared to their own behavior, and the moral judgment and disapproving attitude of that trivial difference in behavior is clearly an overreaction. But how can we, with any decent conscience whatsoever, consider the killing of so many innocent beings, the destruction of our health, and the environmental consequences “trivial” or “insignificant”? It is monstrous to dismiss such violence and destruction as trivial or insignificant.
Criticizing vegans who are outspoken about the atrocities of our day and the easy vegan solution to it as “holier-than-thou” or “feeling superior” is unwise at best, given all of the benefits of living in a vegan society. To go a step further and suggest that vegans should shut up and mind our own business – given the consequences of the SAD on us, nonhumans, and the environment – is foolish; and it is foolish because it is either embarrassingly ignorant of the facts, or so numb and apathetic to the plight of others as to be parasitic, but worse than most parasites, because most parasites must be parasitic to survive, whereas we don’t have such a need to be parasitic. We have a choice. We can go vegan.
Talk Is Cheap
Anyone can say they “care about animals” and talk about avoiding “unnecessary” suffering. But vegans walk the talk, and if some of us do happen to feel “superior to others” or “holier-than-thou” in this regard, we’ve earned every right to feel that way. The only thing that really is nothing more than “a sweet way of feeling superior to others” is using this line to cheaply pump one’s ego and feel a false sense of “morally superiority” by expressing the old self-contradictory “absolute” rule in moral relativity: Thou shall not judge (and in expressing that rule, even implicitly, one automatically contradicts oneself by committing a judgment and violating the rule).
Our Badge of Honor
Vegans should wear the term “vegangelical” as a badge of honor. After all, what crime did nonhumans commit to deserve their sentence to a life in “cage-free”, “certified humane” and organic concentration camps and a brutal slaughter to end it all? Their crime was evidently to be born completely innocent in the wrong place at the wrong time, or to be born of the wrong species/parents.
As “vegangelicals”, we are the ones promoting decent, civilized behavior toward nonhuman beings and a healthy human diet, promoting life and longevity. We are the ones helping to protect the environment by our food and clothing choices. We are the ones giving the otherwise speechless innocent the strongest voice they have. This is nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of, but rather something strong and immensely respectable to embrace and bring into the open – a respect for all life.
 This sentence was modified on March 12, 2008 to reflect a more technically accurate statement. The essential point of the sentence as it was originally written remains unchanged.