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Veganism: The Moral Menu?

A recent video has gained popularity on YouTube and broadly on social media, entitled "Farmers Fail to Justify Killing Animals."

The ideological assault begins by dramatically panning around trailers transporting cattle before focusing on the adventurous-appearing, hipster-looking gentleman headlining the project of interviewing the unsuspecting farmers on the subject of the morality of their business.

From the very beginning, the interviewer leaps into the realm of fallacy by framing the argument around a prepared intellectual onslaught between a groomed intellectual wielding his sharpened staff and unwary workers operating out of context over the course of their regular duties.

Of course, the interviewer will naturally have the upper hand as he enters into this conversation with fine-tuned verbiage against dull and largely-untested laymen whose professions rest upon their ability to perform tasks, not on their capacity to navigate the nebulous stratosphere of mighty moral opinion.

Notwithstanding this obvious handicap, the interviewer is dead-set on exposing the feeble intellectuals who comprise the ranks where the rubber meets the road.

So the primed interviewer distills the discussion to one of morality, conveniently omitting the possibility that none of human activity is morally justified, to instead focus on the cruel and diabolical transgressions of the farmers who purely satisfy the wants of their worldwide consumer base.

Now, this is hardly to exonerate the farmers of responsibility for their actions, but rather to clarify that human beings are bound to certain (albeit dynamic) norms and enumerated laws between persons, not vis-รก-vis other organisms.

Nevertheless, this couldn't possibly prevent the voracious interviewer from pouncing on the opportunity to exploit his prey to showcase his intellectual prowess and gain social media fame.

He accomplished this with a number of bumper sticker talking points, an indefatigable rate of speech, and by compressing the conversation into binary confines between yes or no, good or evil, and moral or immoral.

The world isn't remotely so simple, and these kinds of conversations prove to only promote dogmatic reasoning, divisiveness and polarization in a space already fraught with it.

Despite the sincere intentions of this individual and the many others like him across the globe, trillions of insects are killed each year by vehicular and foot traffic.

If indeed mankind is to absolutely commit to sparing the animal kingdom, are we then to cease both of these activities as well, in addition to the innumerable others which incidentally, or by extension, endanger the lives of still others among the animal kingdom?

Life is quite akin to sausage-making in that the product, when neatly dressed by ideology or some other homogenous finish, cloaks a rather disgusting interior.

Life is a gruesome phenomenon, and death is merely one of its many features, regardless of our distaste for it.

Meanwhile, those who have unilaterally promoted themselves to higher rank because of their opposition to meat consumption have done little more than to plainly exercise their own preference over which organisms to kill.

In relative terms, it may strike one as an easy task to commit to a vegan diet, just as it may strike another to avoid the activities the other proudly enjoys.

We can never truly estimate the relative ease with which another may commit to a given task or sacrifice, and a broad-brush condemnation will always miss the mark.

Before proceeding with any promotion of the vegan philosophy, the persuader must first task himself with the following questions:

What about your daily toils is more worthy of those lives lost than the meat-eater's decision to grill some steak?

What features render animate organisms more important than their inanimate counterparts?

Does a tree-hugger or a conservationist have shakier moral ground than the vegan proselyte?

I will here state plainly for everyone, and for posterity, to remember: I do not believe that any specific quality objectively renders the animate being any more special than the inanimate being.

Let's place this into personal context, where this can be more aptly and practically evaluated: Let's say you were offered a lifetime savings of one trillion bugs' lives, yet you would be required to refrain from your most treasured outdoor activity for the rest of your life. Would you make that sacrifice?

If so, why haven't you already done so?

As it turns out, each of us has a personal limit to which he or she operates within a perceived reality of assumed needs, thereafter journeying into the abstractions of high-brow intellectual thought.

Whereas mankind once performed the task of hunting and gathering, sweeping economies of scale have enabled the individual to commit to further endeavors, to create industries and enterprises that could not have possibly spawned from a world in which individuals toil desperately for their everyday survival by collecting just enough supplies to endure the day.

So in the modern space, we are insulated from that stark reality, left to devour the great works of articulate, civil philosophers who scarcely ever worried about the source of their next meal.

And today, it is nearly easier than ever to tailor your diet to your every want, regardless of climate or your location on the map.

For this very reason, well-sheltered philosophers shout from the rooftops with perceived wrongdoings where their Hollywood-inspired imaginations detect contrast between the world in real time and the film rolling in their minds.

The high-minded, magnificently-deluded philosophers tend to forget, however, that their imaginations are rooted in abstractions and scripted narrations, not in the widely-eclectic and unscripted real world.

Somewhere along the way, they lose their grip on this reality and cling to their own value judgments to broadly bombard their audience with them.

Why wouldn't they?

After all, it's intellectually profitable and nonetheless moderately entertaining.

But before it's all said and done, the conversation will have veered far off objective course toward the path of least resistance, typically a compelling yet uncheckable tour of morality, ethics or emotions, which all too often proves sufficient to defeat, or merely deter, the unskilled or disinterested opposition.

Or, in at least one case on social media, a commenter posits: "When i go out running bugs may die. That is unavoidable. This was more than likely happening before history and will continue to happen. People NEED to move, run, exercise, and be free as do all animals. Bugs and insects may get in the way. Its unnavoidable [sic]. Ask yourself, what can i do to cause the LEAST harm while im [sic] alive on the planet?"

Well, to that I respond: can we stay inside for the weekend instead of traveling around the city or adventuring into the wilderness? Can we skip a recreational run around town? Can we skip a meal or two or three per week?

Of course, we can do all of these things, and some of us elect to do so while others do not.

And no, people do not "need" to do anything. It's also interesting that this individual characterizes the activities of bugs and animals as "get[ting] in the way," essentially relegating them to inferior rank.

Perhaps the entire human race is in the way.

I suggest halfheartedly that the whole species consider its futility and perhaps extinguish itself before it interferes with the existence of some other object which has been hoisted upon the mantle for worship.

In this domain, I simply do not condone the half-baked precepts of this feigned moral high-ground.

And as the vegan promoters get mad and frustrated, we can all the while recall the gambler who lost his investment in the market or at the casino.

Whereas the gambler bets on an outcome, the ideologue bets on values. The ideologue realizes bankruptcy when his values structure is compromised. In the case of the vegan proselyte, he believes in more palatable deaths while supporting preferred sacrifices and even recreational casualties, so long as the foodie orders from the vegan menu while he enjoys his compliant craft brew.

Unfortunately, while conviction can be profoundly compelling, frustration, or any of its other derivatives, fails to make anyone right.

Taken to its ultimate conclusion, animal life is more valuable than plant life because the proselyte says so, and the casualties of life incurred during his recreational travels are more justified than yours, because he can expediently classify his as incidental while yours are decidedly contemptible.

What's more, the costs of living vary widely across the globe, meaning that, while a vegan diet may prove for one person just as viable as the flip of a switch, without the added cost of malnutrition, the same may not be the case for another given person or community.

And while this moral argument proceeds through the veins of popular culture, without much mindshare paid to the inanimate organism, the high-minded sophist neglects the costs thrust upon the human population in the form of lower living standards, not just in the developed metropolises of the world, but in remote rural communities which lack the economies of scale so thoughtlessly enjoyed by the Whole Foods shopper who parrots the vegan creed, denounces all who disagree, and impulsively justifies his own hypocrisy.

In total, the logic sequence of the vegan proselyte admittedly lacks reason, as it is entirely hinged to the emotional appeal that animated, emotional beings are more valuable than their inanimate counterparts.

If that were true, then the earth itself might be termed inferior to the animals which reside on it.

The arguments which comprise this position appear to be multi-faceted facades of rational backing, yet a more thorough investigation reveals the hollow core of axiomatic technical-sounding words.

One cannot possibly estimate the efficiency of a system without identifying its intended designs, and those of earth cannot be known.

For this reason, those who purport to possess the blueprints are mere purveyors of ideological snake oil, door-to-door salesmen who drop by to tug on the layman's heartstrings without a single admission of the limits of their understandings or the axioms on which they are built.

This framework boils down to the notion that humans are evil for consuming their fellow sentient organisms, though they are fully righteous in consuming those which are reportedly insentient.

Yet how does the salesman know of this distinction?

Well, the bulk of scientific research shows that plants lack the nervous system to sense pain.

In that sense, any organism then which is immune to pain must qualify for consumption.

This is a flimsy argument, however, as I am certain the originator would happily make an exception for those human beings with congenital insensitivity to pain.

So, of course, there are exceptions and numerous conditions to this rule being developed by the motivated vegan community, yet the lion's share of their advocates trace their support back to uncompromising moral absolutes.

Ultimately, life on earth naturally amounts to the exhaustion of scarce resources; however, there is no absolute moral code which rules over the entire globe to determine what is right and what is wrong.

We can only discern for ourselves. And as mankind has largely escaped the toils of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle to the hazy heights of abstract philosophical thought, increasing numbers seemingly forget that the human beings of this earth have, at best, established a set of social norms and enumerated laws which govern their encounters with fellow people, not other organisms or animals of this planet.

And while some individuals' choices may anger, outrage or frustrate another, the observer often operates from a position of severely limited information, a void which might otherwise, if filled, enable that observer to better appreciate the outcomes which originally aggravated him.

In the end, what we call choice may be better characterized with some further context, the total of which typically yields some semblance of a rational outcome, albeit from still limited knowledge and scarce resources.

So where you find intellectuals armed with magazines of morality, be wary of the hollow casings which enshrine the rounds they're discharging.

They can be deadly convincing while completely missing the mark.


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