Response to the response By Isaac Evenson
In the last issue I wrote detailing some benefits of a Vegan lifestyle, mostly from environmental and health standpoints and ethical benefits as well. Mr. Lucht, of Conscious Community, wrote a response criticizing some points. The feel of his article, coupled with his selected criticisms made it seem that he believes the idea of Veganism is out of touch with reality, impractical and not worthy of serious consideration. He called into question the health benefits I brought to light and ignored the amazing environmental benefits. I felt the need to highlight some of his criticisms, addressing them, and fully explaining the Vegan standpoint on issues about which he made incorrect assumptions, in hopes that perhaps it will be taken more seriously as a positive, peaceful philosophy of living.
Mr. Lucht asked what I thought the answer is, what should be done with livestock if everyone goes Vegan, wondering if I hoped we’d let them all roam free, liable to get hit by vehicles. I am not a fool and do not think that simply tearing down all the fences would be the answer. There are Vegan scientists, politicians, doctors a-plenty and many other well informed, intelligent, educated people, all vegans. I assure you, none of them would assume that merely setting all the pigs, sheep, cows, etc. free would be the right thing to do for the animals or people. They would tell you that it would be an extensive process of reducing the population through limited breeding, detailed and organized planning for their return to designated areas. The process of domestication was long and complicated, and none of us suggest that it would be reversed overnight, but long term goals would be worth the struggle.
Mr. Lucht points out that I recommended many soy products as an alternative to meat because of the high protein count in them and their versatility, but that soy has increasingly become more and more genetically modified and that the long term effects of genetically modified food might be very harmful. I am in 100% agreement, and so are many, many Vegans. While a healthy soy-free diet is one option another is to purchase soy-based products that are entirely organic. The companies making these products gear them towards Vegans who are health conscious, so they would not want to alienate their primary target by using non-organic soy.
Still not convinced of the positive health possibilities? Vegans, on average, have lower rates of cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and dementia and enjoy a longer life expectancy. It is becoming a common practice for doctors to prescribe a Vegan diet for those who have had health concerns. Think all Vegans are un-athletic and frail? Brendan Brazier, developer of the Vega nutritional product line has won over 6 long distance (30k-50k) marathon runs and holds the record at the National 50k Ultra-marathon Championship. Jim Morris is a world renowned body builder still training at 75, Billy Simmonds was the winner of the Mr. Natural (drug-free) Universe in 2009, and Patrik Baboumian won the title of Germany’s Strongest Man and holds the world record for the log lift. He is one of few in the world to lift 200kg over his head. They are all longtime Vegans.
As the environmental factors weren’t called into question, I will conclude with a look at the ethical philosophy of Veganism, which seemed to be a large part of Mr. Lucht’s critique and which I feel is Veganism’s greatest strength. Vegans (including myself) are well aware that some farmers treat their animals well throughout their lives. We are also well aware that some farmers do not treat them well, and that there are certain practices (factory farming and the raising of veal) that cannot be done in a friendly or “humane” manner. I will not speak for all Vegans on this point, but my opinion is that the moral problem is not if the animal is treated well during its life ,but to have the animal for the purpose of one day killing it, to consume or sell it, turns life into a commodity. It is turning a living creature into a product, devaluing them. The philosopher Peter Singer introduced the idea of “speciesism” – the prejudice or discrimination based on species, in the same way that racism is the prejudice or discrimination based on race and sexism is prejudice and discrimination based on sex. The idea is that just like sexism and racism, speciesism is an arbitrary line that we have drawn and need to eliminate. It has been proven innumerable times that people of different races share the same intelligence and emotions. So why, (if one race is not more intelligent or emotionally aware than another) would any race feel superior to another race? Because they are merely different. The same applies for gender. Why would a man or a woman feel superior to the opposite gender if they are no more intelligent or emotionally aware? Because they are different. So when considering animals, why is it okay to keep animals caged, use them for experimentation, entertainment and kill them for food or clothing? Pigs and dolphins are both more intelligent and emotionally aware than human infants as well as many mentally-challenged adults. Why would we condone this treatment toward dolphins, when doing the same to human babies and the mentally challenged would be appalling? Because they are different, an arbitrary line society has drawn in the same fashion as sexism and racism. It’s become institutionalized and socially accepted (just like racism and sexism in their day) and so it seems odd to most to think about it this way, but I agree with Peter Singer’s logic on this issue.
In closing, I believe that since there are many positive health and environmental benefits to Veganism, it is a fantastic choice for all to consider adopting. If you are in the mind-frame that it is okay to use animals as products, really evaluate why it is you feel that way and try to see if, after reflecting, there is anything more to the justification than “they are different” or “that’s just the way things are”, because tradition is not justification and should always be called into question, especially when lives (human and animal alike) are at stake.