The Vegan Dilemma

The vegan Dilemma

If you are a vegan, and if you are sincere and passionate about your belief as I am sure most vegans are, then how do you follow that lifestyle faithfully in a world where it is impossible to distance yourself from everything which is either cruel or exploitative of animals? Even rubbing shoulders with cruelty can be painful in itself. Do you adopt the lifestyle insofar as you can and keep it to yourself; do you wear the tee-shirt and announce it to the world; do you raise a banner in protest; do you set out to educate and enlighten meat-eaters; or do you take matters into your own hands and actively try and stop it? Where do you draw the line? Indeed, we might ask, is there a line to be drawn at all?

Moral theorists themselves try to identify clear lines or boundaries which act as guides for moral behaviour. Stay on this side and you are morally safe: step over it and you must be doing something wrong. Our skin could act as one such boundary. For example, whatever you think or feel inside is your business and couldn’t possibly harm anybody. However you wouldn’t be much of a vegan if you held the principle of veganism within as a theory only and never put it into practice. However, once you do decide to lead the vegan lifestyle, then you automatically affect the lives of humans as well as animals. After all, farmers and supermarkets survive on the backs of animals and animal products. If we all became vegans, they would suffer to some degree. I can’t speak for vegans, but I’m fairly sure that most would not feel they were pushing the boundary too far by leading a vegan lifestyle. After all, we are all entitled to vote with our feet, and that can of itself be a very persuasive tool for change.

What about adopting a more evangelical stance: we wear the tee-shirt; go on protest marches; place pictures of animal cruelty right under the noses of meat-eaters and consumers of animal products? We make them feel the guilt, feel the pain. Is there a line to be drawn there? Well, things are a bit tricky now. Do you post the pictures through every meat-eaters door? Do you put pictures of animal cruelty on the products they buy? Or, do you just put the truth out there where it is likely to be seen? If you can shock or shame one person into becoming a vegan or vegetarian, then surely that justifies the unpleasant emotions the pictures might evoke. Or, do we have to weigh moral behaviour and take into account all the unpleasant side-effects of an action? Raising awareness is one thing: pushing, prodding, poking is quite another.

Then there is the more active approach. If veganism is a principle which stands up to every moral test, and if we can therefore conclude that there can be no justification for the way animals are mistreated, then surely we have the right to push even harder. Surely we have the right to stand up for animals? And, we might even argue that we have a duty to protect and liberate them from their suffering. Principles after all stand above the law and thus we should feel morally justified in pursuing them by whatever means we can. Or should we? Well, thing are even trickier now. If we are talking about taking action against all those involved in animal cruelty and exploitation, then there must be a line to be drawn? We cannot simply coerce or bully people into becoming vegans. We cannot daub the houses of meat-eaters with the accusation ‘Murderer’ in red. In fact, this type of action can be counterproductive in the sense that it could get people’s backs up and may even strengthen their resolve against change. Before we go too far or too radical with our actions, we have to be certain that the end justifies the means. And up to date, no truly moral philosophy has emerged where two wrongs make a right.

Perhaps at this point, we should stand back and ask ourselves exactly what principles are. Are they guiding lights which exist to help illuminate the moral pathway? Or are they defining moral laws which demand certain types of action from us?

Principles do not appear to be absolute. For example, if we were starving, as lots of the people are in the world, would we eat meat if we had to? And likewise, I have never heard the suggestion that we should extend the vegan principle to the third world. There is no suggestion that people should starve to death rather than eat meat. Perhaps veganism is a principle that applies only to the first world?

Principles do not seem to be things that are universal either. For example, on this planet, nature’s principle takes no account of animal cruelty or exploitation. Even if we all became vegans tomorrow, animals would still suffer the most horrendous cruelty. That would continue to happen on this planet and throughout the universe regardless. You could argue of course that principles only apply to humans, however, if there is a designing force behind the universe, then the designing force is certainly not setting a very good example.

If principles aren’t universal or absolute, then it is difficult to argue that they should dictate or drive action rather than simply shed light. Pursuing a principle too far can cause bad consequences and therefore we shouldn’t lock onto them blindly and simply head for the moral high ground. Perhaps there is another way of looking at things? Instead of trying to get more and more people to adopt a vegan lifestyle, to shame them into compliance, perhaps we should be simply asking the question how can we improve or prolong the lives of animals. Perhaps we should be asking how can we bring about radical change, but in a way that is considerate and less disruptive for humans?

Is it possible then, to bring about radical change which is virtually painless across the board, yet which can still be classed as a moral action? In theory at least, I believe it is. But before we look at that, there are a couple of things to be said about morality. Firstly, I would argue that the whole idea of the existence of moral dilemmas is a misleading one. If we are forced to choose between two or more bad actions, then surely we can’t be doing morality. We must be doing something else. I’m certain that someone will now come up with a true example of a moral dilemma, but in practice they are rare in life if indeed they exist at all. And I would also argue that the idea of moral dilemmas is a dangerous one in the sense that they can give justification to bad actions. Yes, bad actions are sometimes necessary, but they do not exist in the moral arena.

If we reject the idea of the existence of moral dilemmas, then I believe we can argue that moral action, by any definition, should never produce causalities or bad consequences. In the moral arena, moral action should be about doing the right thing rather than doing something which is bad; which produces bad consequences; and which is done for the wrong reasons.

Here then is a suggestion. It is a theoretical proposal admittedly, but it is one which might be able to move the discussion forward. Some people will think it a good idea: vegan purists almost certainly will not.

Leaving aside issues of animal welfare etc, it seems that egg production throws up two main areas of concern. Firstly, all newborn male chicks are either crushed or gassed as they are simply surplus to requirements. Secondly, the lifespan of hens is determined not by their right to life, but by their ability to produce eggs. When production falls, they too become surplus to requirements. Both these practices make perfect economic sense: but they make no moral sense. We have somehow found a way to switch off our moral conscience or so it seems. The question is, given the previous suggestion that a moral act should not cause casualties, how can we bring about radical change without creating victims?

This is the suggestion then: day old chicks should not be killed but allowed to live on to give them a reasonable lifespan. And laying hens should not be slaughtered after production has peaked but rather their lives should be extended considerably. And then, at the end of life the birds should be killed and offered as meat to help the starving and hungry in the third world.
The obvious question that springs to mind is how is this to be funded? There may be some who would be prepared to pay a premium for such eggs, but that would limit things considerably and the likelihood is that change would be minimal. There are already people who rescue hens from factory production and there are also people who run ethical farms producing eggs. The problem is these outlets are thin on the ground and so hard to find that for the average vegan it makes more sense just to stop eating eggs.

A better idea would be to offer a heavy subsidy for ethical egg production and this would encourage more farmers to abandon traditional methods and enter the ethical scheme. But would people be willing to sanction such a subsidy?

Well, there is a growing concern regarding the way we target our national charitable giving. Many of the schemes we support are ill conceived to the point of being ridiculous. Much of the money is wasted and too many people profit from it with little or no input from themselves. If it was seen that the subsidy to farmers for ethical hen production also had a clear benefit for those in the third world then I believe there would be support for it.

It goes without saying that the above idea would need much refinement but nevertheless it meets the condition set here that moral action should not produce victims. In fact, it actually produces considerable benefits. Of course, it does not get over the fact that we would still be exploiting animals to some degree. However, the one argument against the vegan stance is that if you bring significant numbers of animals into existence and thereafter give them a good quality of life, then that surely must have some weight against the exploitation argument?

Author: Brian Robinson

Life – The Universe – And Anxiety. Writer of articles about anxiety disorders and other topical issues.

4 thoughts on “The Vegan Dilemma”

  1. I read with great interest your own sketch on the vegan dilemma.

    Top shelf article. After reading I was left me with more questions, a usual ‘given’ with most subjects when you go deeper down the rabbit hole and I find there is still a lot of ‘meat left on the bone’ (forgive me!) for this subject.

    You certainly have found some ‘wheels within wheels’ a biblical expression from the experience of the ‘visionary’ prophet of Ezekiel who in his vision describes a chariot ridden with Jesus astride it, and with the added accessory (not usually standard) and at the time futuristic innovation, of ‘eyes’ on circumference of the rims and the wheels enclosed compass or a ‘gyroscope’ bit of kit, within each other and able to move and see North South East West all in one manoeuvre. Much like the multi directional ball on a new Dyson hoover!

    The issues you throw up are indeed as ‘multi-directional’ and emotive. It could spark a food frenzy, for I agree with you, we have become over sanitised to the veiled meat production process. We trust the food giants to protect us from the blood and the gore while we drool over that steak sizzling on the smoke, when in fact, vegans would regard such a sacrifice as a cremation of a sentient being.

    North American indigenous tribes hunted for the village and paid homage to the ‘kill’ by dressing up as the creature that perished, and even named themselves after the very animals they hunted, mimicking in dance ritual the representation of how ‘The Great Spirit’ provided that animal so the tribes could survive (as no nut cutlets or soya were available). The 12 tribes of Israel when wandering for 40 years in the wilderness had a sacrificial observation within the makeshift tabernacle tent, where the unfortunate ram or bull, was prepared and sacrificed according to Hebrew custom before it could be consumed, so as to give thanks to Yahweh.

    A lot has changed in 2000 years. One question is, in your view, is veganism more a moral dilemma now, because of how animals are destroyed on an industrial scale, thus making we meat eaters immune to the exploitation? Is it about the genocide? Were the first peoples wrong to hunt? Is this a moral dilemma because we made it one today when it was not for a millennia when man first discovered how to bake a Stegosaurus pie?

    Are more ‘civilised’? I would contend that we are the opposite, and that the early civilisations were far more respectful of animal life than we barbecue kings, because they did not have rich corporations providing the cellophane boned and filleted version of animal culling or mechanised eugenics.

    Is it criminal, or even evil to eat meat? Could there ever be a time that will be a meat eater and vegan division, like Brexit, ending in a zombie fest?

    Is veganism propaganda, just to sell more products for the microwave in the interest of protecting the animal kingdom species?

    Is veganism a budding religion that with it comes a whole new dogma or doctrine to command a cult of devotees?

    My personal thoughts without taking away my utmost respect for personal choice, are that to be a vegan in the breadbasket of the world is a luxury and a privilege, and to be encouraged, if only to stop the spin on the corporations feeding us what they think is good for us while adding death dealing chemicals and additives. We here that Lacto veganism has its own issues with not getting the healthy amount of supplemental nutrition as a strict vegan diet does not offer the best nutrition and protein.

    If we are equal to animals, and we are also ‘animals of instinct’ that being the case should all we predators, including marine life, be discouraged not eat their own/other living species too?

    Is it a personal or universal moral dilemma only peculiar to humans and if so why exactly is that? In time will it be a universal traditional custom or culture, like kosher food to become vegan through a spiritual journey of global consciousness?

    Do vegetables have feelings? Should we use living breathing trees be cut down to make our coffee tables and as reprehensible as razing rainforests for McDonalds to graze cattle ready for burger meat?

    Asking if plant life is living and thus have a right to life is probably the worst dilemma for a vegetarian, is it not?

    So, the real dilemma is to explore and to finally ask, is the practice of eating meat immoral, and who will legislate that and uphold it as a maxim, as a new food tradition, before humans make the planet devoid of all creatures great and small?

    So, has any living organism or creature got a right for life equal or even over the sanctity of human life? India, has a ancient culture of sacred cows, does that mean that chickens or the common housefly have such sanctity?
    In essence if adopting a ‘live and let live’ culture is the basis of vegetarianism, is that what we should be aiming for? Do vegetarians have a spiritual connection or listen to the mainstream media and believe that meat causes cancer so leave it off their plate? Yet, others may even perceive meat eating as responsible for a animal rights issue to the extent that radical protests are needed.

    Is there a indelible spiritual value to whether you eat or abstain from meat eating? Food and eating it, has throughout mans existence has a ceremony attached to it. Today we call it ‘table manners’. To detach ourselves from that is impossible. We either never use animal products and disassociate ourselves with the corporate plethora of animal based products like abstaining from leather products, as one might abstain from alcohol for health and wellbeing or temperate beliefs. Reasoning that having a leather keyfob is like wearing after shave is not total abstinence, but at least the alcohol is not drunk if you splash it on your chin?

    Brian, you have thrown up some worms from the can. Perception versus Influence? Enlightenment versus Preference? Instinct versus programming? Its complicated but the common denominator is that we all act on information. Who controls the flow of information? If we make life choices based on that information how can we be sure our decision always is a moral one? Should if the circumstance presents itself to safeguard our moral principles to the extent we physically starve ourselves to make a stand for that moral decision should we never compromise that moral choice? Choice is a luxury. So, if its a matter of choice then, what of those without it?

    1. I’ve read both these comments now and to be honest I find them difficult to answer for two main reasons: a) the things you rule out; and b) the things you rule in.
      The vegan article had one central question which asks where do vegans draw the line when pursuing their principle. This is essentially a moral question. However, you argue that there is no such thing as morality. We are all so conditioned either by religion or culture that we cannot have any moral points of reference. We are more or less lost at sea with not a straw of morality to cling onto.
      You then go on to suggest that there is no such thing as logic either. And I’m assuming this applies equally to our ability to reason or make common sense decisions. According to you, all information is corrupted and we are brainwashed into thinking it is real.
      What this amounts to, is it becomes impossible to argue or discuss anything in this world of mistrust and disbelief.
      The things you rule in amounts to a whole plethora of questions which only work to confuse things and further distract away from the central theme. I think when writing an article aimed at a particular sector we have a responsibility to at least make an effort to shed light on the topic being discussed. In the article, I at least try to explore the issues and attempt to shed light where possible.
      I think I also raise some important issues which I hoped any comments might address. Firstly, why are we even talking about being vegan when our planet is being polluted out of existence?
      And secondly, the idea that principles seem to depend on where you are in the world doesn’t seem to make sense? That’s a subject that needs to be addressed.
      Finally, when searching for the truth of a matter I find that Occam’s Razor acts as a good guide. The theory suggests that the truth lies in the idea that requires the least amount of assumptions. This is a philosophical idea but it is widely used in law and medicine.
      For example, medical students are advised: if a patient presents with a sore throat you should think about the possibility of a virus: you should not think this person has a genetic defect which affects the throat. This view is encapsulated in the expression “think horses not zebras” In your case, you seem to be thinking lizards.

      1. “The vegan article had one central question which asks where do vegans draw the line when pursuing their principle. This is essentially a moral question. However, you argue that there is no such thing as morality. We are all so conditioned either by religion or culture that we cannot have any moral points of reference. We are more or less lost at sea with not a straw of morality to cling onto.”

        I will try and tackle your email one segment at a time. (your part comment above)

        I don’t deny moral codes and their existence. My observation only is that moral codes are invented by hierarchies. Example: The greatest Christian moral dilemma was the invention of the creation account in the bible book of Genesis. The couple Adam and Eve supposedly were the first humans and ‘innocent as doves’ and were taught the basic moral code of what is good and evil as they had not experienced ,or at least were blissfully unaware of what the difference was. They were tested by ‘God’ with a very simple exam. They were instructed ‘not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and bad’. So far so good. Then because Davin Attenborough was not around to assure them that reptiles cannot speak to humans unless in fairy tales ‘Disney’ (Like ‘Kaa’ from the 60’s Jungle Book animation) and were exposed to the ‘1st lie’ and both were persuaded by a talking snake that the tree was harmless and that their God was telling ‘porkies’. Hence we call a ‘snake in the grass’ a liar. There is the 1st flaw. They were given a choice of no choice. Its inconceivable that a god could create man and woman with ‘free choice’ and then ask for a test that wields a punishment for making the wrong decision. If God wanted obedience to a moral code why, give people a choice to opt out and suffer the consequences? That not a choice it a preconceived threat for disobedience of a moral code. Then the dark ages and the Reformation, The Crusades, Holy wars etc. So is morality about ‘knowledge or consequences’? There you spotted it! The moral code was embedded and they disobeyed at the cost of any hope for humanity to be free of sin. They then became ashamed (when they never were before, the enforced ‘morality’) of their nakedness, had to be enslaved by toil and misery and poor Eve experience birth pangs as a real downer for her and coming generations. Ok so now what has this ‘moral code’ taught us from scripture? Oh and Brian don’t pooh pooh a books opening words that controls the lives of 70% of the population! They ate a bloody apple and condemned the world to a blighted existence for eternity. Now getting back to the point. Yes, its all about morality! Yet, its not a moral code if it can be changed at will. However, if one expands the consciousness there is natural forces at work to do with finding a true balance in life. It has nothing to do with an inherited moral code from any book or science. Morality is a ‘limit’ to our consciousness. A set of ‘ethics’ has no place in the human conscience except to confuse our otherwise boundless and creative perceptions with depressing paradigms, falsehood, hypocritical and pointless legislations shackiling our minds and hearts. Morality is fickle. You seem to have a romantic notion that morality is necessary to be a meaningful and happy individual. Actually, I think it is more attributable to restricting our natural intellectual abilities. Morality is more about resistance to personal growth. Now that is not to say that we don’t need ‘conscious living’ and some guide of how to protect ourselves against the ‘moral crusaders’ who wish to mould our thinking and with a their holier than thou pretense of a better way to live. The pagans, believe that if you cause harm to another, then you bring many hexes upon yourself and that you must ‘reverse the curse’ by doing 3 acts of human kindness to the victim to compensate for your ‘evil’. The North American Native Indian believe in the Great Spirit. That being Mother Earth and all upon it. Or, love. If you have love you do not need morality as a strict maxim. Love will guide your thoughts and actions. The very thought we need other opinions of what is expected of us is called ‘control’. I condone self improvement and being the best you can be by freeing the mind and not listening a damned word this government or any other and the mass media tries to covertly get us to do.

        We know that the ‘original sin’ is making us choose from a crap agenda in the 1st place. If only we could stop the immorality of those who wish to moralise us? Just love and unconditionally and with all your heart and throw the propaganda of the hierarchies and oligarchies away. Jus watch George Carlin on YouTube and see that we have no choice under these methods to control our thinking.
        Funny how the whole Adam & Eve paradigm stretches across all religions?

  2. Hi Brian

    Thanks for this. Yes, it’s all good.

    I want to assure you I am not being dismissive about any line of argument I am just chuffed to pick your brains. I know you have aspirations that collide with my notions but I am not out prove anything is logical in fact quite the opposite. My views are anarchical because I do believe we are all programmed by those who want us to think a certain way. We are bombarded by ‘forced’ so-called Logic. Logic is just a consensus of opinion and it while adopted generally as ‘truth’ its not yours or mine. We have inherited logic and not discovered it ourselves. We have been programmed to accept an ‘ideal’.

    As Hitler said ‘the bigger the lie the more will accept it’ more credible because of letters after the name of the a ‘body’ or a research institute’ or some non-attributable ‘new truth’ that seemed to come from nowhere. Logic comes in many forms and is variable, and changeable like the wind. I supposed somebody would rather believe elitist gleaned data from some ‘scientific community’ that is sold to us by mainstream media, heaving a pair of eyes and ears only to know its all phoney and probably has the fingerprints of the Illuminati all over it.

    Logic is provided by ‘experts’ who you and I will never meet. I will argue that logic is nothing to do with intuition, but more to do with controlling the masses. You may think I am deluded but I feel I am one of millions who are just waking up to this theft of our minds.

    Climate change? Interestingly, it seems trillions of pounds on the hype and the globalist agenda has proved to me one logic. That raising awareness and introducing fear and deception creates a great opportunity for ‘taxing the air we breathe’ and the biggest hoax since 911. All for huge profit. Another chat for that one another day. I believe the information we receive is inverted and for no other purpose to but make us compliant. It’s not about conspiracy theories. It is like real truth, self-evident. The heliocentric model of the earth defies all ‘scientific logic’ but we all bought it. What is logic if not the bias of authoritative Speke? Science and religion can be both logical but the ethos is pre-packaged by the channel the information arrives within. How do you tell what is real logic when clouded by controversy. Is logic ever a road less travelled? In other words is the favourite logic professed by the more it is promoted? While the less diverse or uncommon logic shrouded or muted.

    Morality? Morality is once again ‘inherited’ by the social and repressive trends of history. The dictates that are usually connected to religion and culture or both that are divisive and destructive. You speak of a morality. I need to know if your morality is not influenced by the former or basically another route unsanctioned by the owners of this planet where enlightenment is suppressed and free thinking muzzled. Then what is it? If not involving
    the ‘man in the sky’ and being born into a faith, sect, or denomination not forgetting tribal or indigenous social graces and customs then what? How can you instigate a morality if not endorsed by tyranny like all other moralities? What moral compass applies to atheists? Is that based on humanism and how reliable and strong is that logic compared to that of other belief systems widely held?

    I contend it is the medical, educational, and legal cartels funded by the cabal and Corporatocracy that decrees its ‘morality’ through the new god ‘mass media’. So what is immorality? Decadence or non-compliance of the masterminds of society? Daring to point the finger to the most powerful maniacs on the planet?

    Brian. The danger is when ‘morality’ becomes the norm. The pattern we are asked to wear.

    Personal conscience is an entirely a different matter. You could say that the hard left is ‘superlogical and ‘supermoral’ yet, they are in favour of global censorship which is basic fascism? Is sexual binaural fluidity to inform children they can choose their sexuality on a daily basis their moral choice based on good mental health and for the greater good of mankind? Or inflicted propaganda to cull the population and stop the next generation breeding? It might be logical as a choice, but is it moral?

    ‘Conscious living’ while ambiguous is a far better term than the ‘moral’ Roman Catholic undertone. If we sanction a way to live, any other mode of behaviour may find itself not acceptable and assume their own decrees are the ‘solution’ for everybody.

    I am for the individual and ignore the ‘collective’ which makes me unpopular but I have eyes and ears. I was involved with a cult(ure)and from birth indoctrinated as to the ordained ‘morality’ and it didn’t work for me.

    You are an independent thinker so why should you believe that we should serve any dogma?

    I am suspicious because nothing is what it seems and so far I have found out that history is a lie.

    Oh. I am happy to comment and I am sorry if I seem ignorant or bias but only to any information via media because is all apart of the great perception deception. Like Brexit its all planned to make us suggestible confused and compliant.

    I don’t think I want to curtail any discussion as you suggest, far from it. If we want truth we have expose lies first and that might take more than one email. I do understand that my views will not make me friends and maybe lose a few but then if that is the case maybe we should look at what real cognitive dissonance is. The most intellectual thing is to accept arguments that we may not agree with? With genius come vulnerability. We are all vulnerable sometimes but we have limitless potential as well if we are willing to put our hand in the fire.

    Already the Facebook Cartel and Google are censoring free speech and this kind of email denouncing the fake news is probably the next ‘freedom’to go. So lets make hay while the sun shines!

    I hope you understand that I do not believe one thing any government tells me. Right or wrongly. We must not confuse logic with morality, or morality with practicality. But we are infinite and immortal as drops of the ocean we are energy and cannot be destroyed but we are farmed by the whole hierarchy which is not logical. So how can an illogical tyrant show us a better way to live?
    But hye do because they control the flow of information and we only see and hear what they want us to hear. So it is a mass hypnosis going on. Renegades like Assange and Tellinger & Icke are laughed because the rest of the herd is trained to laugh at anybody not towing the party line.

    What I do know …. the more I know or think I understand, the least I actually comprehend. But it is a quest I will not shy from.



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