Oct 9, 2011

Pre-prandial rant on "vegan"

I've been doing a bit of reading about the terms "vegetarian" and "vegan". This sudden need to research was spurred by a post about whether honey is vegan at a blog I just found called Happy Herbivore.

It seems to me that although I am eating no animal products, which many people would call a "vegan" diet, using the term "vegan" carries a moral freight that I am not willing to take on. Please understand that I find the position that Lindsay Nixon takes in her post reasonable, and that I have no problem with people choosing not to eat certain things through personal conviction, but I ran into a couple of sites that were a bit strident about the eating of animals and animal products being immoral, and I do have a problem with that.

There's no doubt that, with the abundance of herbivorous foods we have these days we can choose not to eat animal products. There may be evidence that it would be better for our health, especially in the US, to choose not to eat animal products. But it is a choice that must be made personally, and intelligently.

The logic of my actions are clear to me. I want to live longer. I want to be healthier. I am willing to bet a six month animal product fast to see if it can be done. Very straightforward. I know what the parameters are, I know what the restrictions are, and I understand that certain things will be outside of my control but they don't matter since my goal is not to be "good" but to be healthy.

But when you make eating animal products a moral question, then the parameters that work for me get to be a little fuzzy.

I was reading a rant about the enslavement of bees (not on Happy Herbivore I'm glad to say), and my mind, with its usual disregard for productive work, said "Waitaminnit," and kicked me down the rabbit hole.

Just how much of a slavemaster am I? What constitutes cruelty and abuse? Where are the lines drawn? Animals die from human causes constantly and if we make it a question of morality then we have to accept all of those causes as being our fault. All of the road kill, all the birds and insects sucked into airplane engines, all the creatures mauled by ships' propellers, all the animals that die because of the roads or pipelines or powerlines or houses that confuse the environments and migration paths.

When you start making the argument moral, then your problem is how to justify the boundaries that you will have to draw. As Piet Hein said:
Our choicest plans
have fallen through,
our airiest castles
tumbled over,
because of lines
we neatly drew
and later neatly
stumbled over.

This isn't a new problem for me. I look at the religion in which the followers wear masks so as not to inhale innocent insects and wonder how they can justify walking, washing, eating, and drinking ... because some animals are going to perish because of those activities. What is the cut-off point? Where is the boundary of acceptable collateral damage.

Jeez ... now I'm ranting. Time to stop.

I guess I'll stick to being an "herbivore" or "strict vegetarian". It'll cause me less agita.

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