Increasing numbers of people are embracing veganism not only as the practice of respect and protection that we owe the innocent and the vulnerable, but also as the solution to the many problems we face as individuals and as a society – from our growing health crisis, to the environmental emergency we are already experiencing, to the issue of escalating violence – all of which have us living in some degree of fear for the future.
When we familiarize ourselves with the many compelling reasons for becoming vegan, we realize that a part of ourselves already holds the answer: our conscience.
We may not know all the details of animal exploitation, but we do know that sentient individuals must suffer and die in order to become the products we choose to consume.
We may not know all the sobering facts of animal agriculture’s impact on the environment, world hunger and human health, but we do know that human actions are destroying the planet, that many of its inhabitants are starving, and that there is a direct link between diet and health.
We may not know all the practical details of living vegan, but we do know (and already live by) the fundamental truth that causing harm for pleasure is not a “personal choice” but an abuse of power, and that refusing to impose misery and death — for a taste, a trinket, a thrill — is not a sacrifice, but the most basic act of human decency.
Most of us agree intellectually that inflicting harm for pleasure or convenience is unjustified, whether the victims are human or otherwise.
Yet — because every one of us has been conditioned by a highly speciesist society, a worldwide culture that is extremely prejudiced against all animals who are not human — most people are willing to turn a blind eye to the harm they contribute to when they themselves receive some kind of advantage from it, whether in the form of food, possessions, vanity, or amusement.
In today’s “civilized” society, billions upon billions of sentient beings are used to serve human purposes, just like inanimate objects or human slaves, and their owners are legally entitled to subject them to many forms of barbaric cruelty in the name of profit, convenience, or pleasure.
To an industry that views sentient beings as economic units – money-making machines – violence is an unavoidable means to the end of extracting from their bodies products that turn a profit. It is consumers around the world who create the demand for this, even though the majority of them would never dream of participating in such violence themselves.
More and more people are speaking out about the abhorrent abuses that occur as part of the daily operations of different branches of the animal industry: intensive confinement, forced insemination, separation of mother and child, the slaughter of infants, castration, dehorning, tail docking, debeaking, mulesing, de-toeing, live scalding, and many more.
But, even if the worst of these abuses were abolished, it would still be immoral and inexcusable to enslave, exploit, and kill sentient beings, to use them as resources, as though they were mere inanimate objects rather than individuals with feelings.
The fact is that these horrific practices exist only because consumers demand eggs, milk, “meat,” leather, honey, wool, down, fur, and other items derived from animal exploitation. We can end this misery by simply replacing the products of oppression and cruelty with vegan alternatives.
So much suffering in the world is out of our control. But the misery and death of the animals exploited and killed for our pleasure and convenience is something each individual has complete control over.
Becoming vegan is the logical response to the realization that no one – regardless of his or her species — should be used solely as a means to the pleasure, comfort, or convenience of another.
Being vegan is the chance to become who we would be if no one had ever taught us that it’s okay to turn our backs on the rights and needs of our fellow animals, or that it’s okay to ignore their pain if it leads to our pleasure.
Living as a vegan is simply living according to the principles that most of us already claim as our own.