I denied caring about animal cruelty for a long time since a high school friend asked me when I was 15 why I opposed the hunting of sharks for shark-fin soup. His was of course a trick question. If I answered “cruelty”, I would have to concede that the chickens and fish I ate should be off the menu. I chose the coward’s option, unwilling to give up tasty fried-chicken by answering I opposed on the grounds of species extinction.
My high school friend gave an answer that explained my thought process, and we never spoke of the issue again. The question though, was never forgotten.
Recently on Twitter, I got into a very heated argument with Sen Wai which spiralled out of control because I have the tendency to jump down people’s throats on issues I care deeply about — especially because now that I am facing the inherent cruelty animals face from farm to table, animals on platters which would have appealed to me at a 15-year-old cause me intense anguish, though for socialising purposes, I have had to hide my sadness because that would ruin the mood. Certainly I could be a prick about it, but I reserve that exclusively for my online persona, where malleable social structures mean I can be unapologetic about my concern for animals. Often in real life, I suggest cooking for my friends so I can choose the menu and still be sociable.
These are my reasons for being vegan:
- Unnecessary animal cruelty.
- Environmental degradation.
In that order, since I was a vegetarian for the environment first. Though the science is pretty conclusive on the impacts of eating animals, for the benefit of fairness to the opposition, which was how I became a vegan in the first place, I shall read a suggested book Meat: A Benign Experience, and see if it moves me enough to say animal husbandry is not the leading cause of environmental degradation, but one of the leading causes instead.
Just in case people wrongly assume I am simply advocating for veganism in exclusion to everything else, I am paying $5 extra every month to support a solar project in my current city of residence, have joined numerous petitions targeting greenhouse gas emitting industries, and donated to 350.org. So yeah, I am as absolutist on veganism as I am on the need for future clean energy, and reducing reliance on fossil fuel industries.
Taking into account all the evidence, let’s assume privileged meat eaters take the effort to source their animal carcases in a manner that is sustainable. In fact lets go all the way and say we live in a world which is capable of producing billions upon billions of farm animals with no detrimental effect towards the environment. Veganism still begs the question, is it necessary?
Mine will always remain no. In every meal I choose to take the path of least cruelty (in before pesticides kill bugs), voting with my wallet.
This is my argument from moral clarity, made as a moral agent with the choice of choosing to harm or not to harm animals.
The What Ifs
This section is to respond to comments whether via the web or through email. Since this piece focuses upon the ethics, I shall only address ethical questions that are genuinely troubling.
- What about animal testing?
- Is it necessary? Scientific research has ethics committees, ideally independent to determine if animal testing research is necessary if cruelty is an inevitable outcome of the experimental design. I trust my colleagues to make the right choices. The choice between the human life and non-human life is a decision I am too much of a coward to make. Choices I thankfully never have to make because I study plants.