There are so many perspectives and angles to discuss when it comes to the topic of veganism. Moving away from the norm in any capacity is sure to spark some heated debate – and holy guacamole does this spark debate. From the concepts of personal choice and anthropocentrically assigning purpose, to comparisons to wild animal behavior and whataboutisms – we hope to address some of the main points you’ve perhaps thought, or been presented with. Discussions are healthy, but they can also be extremely challenging. We encourage you to spark and engage in conversations surrounding how we view and treat animals, and truly hear each other out.
“It’s a personal choice. I respect your diet choice, and you should respect mine.”
This one is particularly challenging because the idea of personal choice is viewed very differently between parties. A personal choice should not negatively impact anyone else – if it does, it ceases to be a personal choice.
Not only is the life of an animal taken, but so is the environment we all share. Current information available on the environmental impacts of meat production indicates it plays an enormous role in deforestation, the loss of native fauna, water pollution, and resource consumption. Does the personal choice argument still stand if eating meat is affecting our shared resources and future environmental situation?
Take this extreme example – a person in your neighbourhood mistreats his dog every day. You, however, care for your companion animal, and cannot stop thinking about the suffering of the dog down the road. Is it enough that you and your neighbour “agree to disagree” in this instance? Without speaking up, the suffering will continue. This is where most people will think that mistreating a companion animal is entirely different to food because we need food. We do need food, indeed! But if we know with certainty, that we can survive (and thrive!), without consuming animals, farming and consuming them is simply a choice we are making because we want to.
“Some animals are food because they are bred for that purpose.”
Assigning purpose to someone, based on the relationship or usefulness to us, can lead to a dangerous way of thinking. Any living being should have the right to live, and this should not be dependent on the value we assign to it.
Breeding dogs for meat, or to skin them for fur, is not deemed acceptable here. Pigs, however, outperform dogs (and 3-year-old human children) on cognition tests, yet they are not recognized or protected as dogs are. They are intelligent, sentient beings that have been bred for the sole purpose of being killed for food. Imagine being born into this world with the decision already made that you’d live out 3% of your natural lifespan.
As humans, we have established dominion over most aspects of nature – but with that power, we should take responsibility for it, rather than pick and choose what we value.
In general, people expect kookaburras to fly free as a national treasure, budgerigars to live out their days in cages, and chickens to be killed for food at 10 weeks (rather than live 5-10 years).
Humankind segregated wild and domestic animals thousands of years ago, but we are constantly evolving and changing our ways. At AL, we value all animal lives equally, and don’t believe pre-assigned purpose justifies animal farming or consumption.
“Lions eat meat. It’s all part of the circle of life.”
Do you salivate when you visit a petting zoo, or when you see injured wildlife on the side of the highway? I think not. It is pretty safe to say, that you rarely act like a lion in any other aspect of your life.
There are countless differences between humans and lions, but this seems to always come up. Lions are obligate carnivores – they have claws, teeth, and digestive systems designed to capture prey and consume raw meat. They don’t wear clothes, practice modern medicine, or Google “quick recipes” on a Monday night after work.
In the wild, animals kill other animals. We don’t believe carnivorous or omnivorous animals are evil. They eat for survival, and without intervention, nature maintains a balance between hunting animals and prey animals.
Lions hunt out of necessity and do not practice the intensive farming of antelopes. We have taken farming well beyond the natural circle of life we too often romanticize. We have created bull semen collection facilities, where bulls are made to ejaculate using electric rods. We artificially inseminate female “livestock” to breed and keep them in a constant state of pregnancy. Then, once we have taken all that we possibly can from them and they are considered “spent”, we kill them for food.
Paying particular attention to our current relationship with food, you will notice that we are quite far removed from survival-mode. There are double whopper burgers on billboards, chicken wing buckets in TV commercials, copious leftovers scraped into restaurant bins daily, and out of date milk cartons in fridges all across the country.
We aren’t hunting in the Savannah – we have supermarkets, farmers markets, and ultimately, we have choice. There is an abundance of information on our nutritional needs at our fingertips, and access to legumes, nuts, fruit and vegetables when we pop down to the local shops (printable shopping list can be found here).
“But you can’t avoid killing bugs and ants or the animals that die during crop production.”
A big misconception about veganism is that it equates to perfectionism – the idea that a vegan diet is entirely cruelty-free and has zero impact. Unfortunately, having no impact is pretty close to impossible. Every day our vehicles unintentionally kill insects and animals are killed during land clearing and crop protection.
Arguments that veganism is pointless because we can’t avoid these things can be referred to as “whataboutisms”. It is a deflection, attempting to discredit the entire concept by looking for hypocrisies.
Currently, we feed an estimated 70 billion land animals that are being reared for food globally. There are 7.8 billion people. More crops are fed to these animals than are consumed by people. Moving away from animal products will require fewer crops to feed them – meaning, less land clearing, less crop management and protection, and less indirect animal deaths. (Read more here Animals harmed in plant food production)
Just because we can’t be 100% impact-free, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for the path with the minimal amount of impact. Let’s use our attitude to ‘waste’ as an example. Hypothetically, you are out on a walk, and you’ve just finished a smoothie. You are a pretty serious recycler, so you look around for a park bin. Not only are there no recycling bins in sight, but you also notice a pile of rubbish has been left in a picnic spot. Other people litter, and you can’t recycle right now. Does this mean you give up your recycling efforts all together and throw your rubbish on the ground? Of-frikken-course-not. You’d probably go and pick up the litter and put it all in the bin! Although you can’t do it all, small actions undoubtedly make a big difference. That’s why we do so much of what we do – it matters.
It matters to those little creepy crawlies too. If there is a spider in your home, do your best to move them outside using a cup and a piece of paper. If you found yourself stuck somewhere unfamiliar, in the wrong place at the wrong time, you’d hope to be kindly ushered away and left to go about your day, too.
Keep having fruitful conversations
Whether you have thought of these arguments against veganism or had to address them from curious friends or family, you are not alone. Sometimes it is difficult to avoid feeling attacked or to control the emotions that arise with prickly topics such as these. It is important to remember that some conversations will spark curiosity, educate, and inspire, and others, we may have to take a deep breath and walk away from.
Regardless of how another person is behaving or reacting, please always speak with respect. Some people are genuine and curious, and yes, unfortunately, some are just plain trolling – but in our fight for a kinder world for animals, we should also play a part in making the world kinder to people, too. Whether conversing online, at a social gathering, or at a protest, remember that you can be both assertive and respectful at the same time.
Keep learning, challenging, and having fruitful conversations. If there are any questions you have about veganism, leave a comment below or send us an email.