I went vegetarian for moral reasons for a few years and lately I’m working on going full vegan.
Veganism isn’t very philosophically interesting for me, so I don’t have too much to say on that front. It’s pretty cut and dry given my value system. I value the well being of conscious creatures. Whether those creatures are as intelligent, aware, or capable as humans is irrelevant to me. The only thing that registers in my value system is said creatures’ capacity for well being and suffering.
I don’t think there’s much intellectually honest debate to be had about whether factory farming increases animal suffering. It clearly does, by a lot. I’m not going to get into all the gory details. You can easily look them up online. Contrary to meat industry marketing and the cute happy cow on your milk jug, the reality is that farm animals’ lives are horrific, even in so called “free range” farms. As more people go vegan, animals that would otherwise suffer in factory farms won’t exist, thus reducing the total suffering in the world.
Another major reason to go vegan is to help the environment. Animal agriculture is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases. It drives deforestation, pollution, species extinction, habitat loss, antibiotic resistance, and the spread of disease. It’s an extremely inefficient use of limited resources. If you call yourself an environmentalist, you should really go vegan.
Being vegan can be better for your health, but you have to pay close attention to what you eat. You have to make sure you’re getting the vitamins and minerals you need. It can be pretty easy to deprive yourself if you go into it not knowing what you’re doing.
Now I want to address the true stereotype of the annoying vegan. I understand where annoying vegans are coming from. The image of people eating meat while knowing where that meat comes from and basically not thinking about it / not caring is maddening, given the amount of the suffering they’re indirectly inflicting.
That said, I don’t think shaming people for being omnivorous is effective at creating vegans. I understand that the welfare of animals is important. I understand that there are people who won’t admit that animal welfare matters and they come up with a million tiring excuses to justify meat eating. I know how frustrating it is trying to reason with people who (conveniently) see nothing wrong with causing animal suffering.
However, going vegan is a major lifestyle change, even if you only commit to being vegan half of the time. While going vegan overnight might be the most ethical choice, it’s not realistic for most people. It takes time to change one’s long-established habits, especially one’s diet. So to the fire and brimstone vegans out there, have patience with people.
Have patience not because what omnivores are doing isn’t that bad, but because having patience and being kind is probably your best chance at converting people.
I want to end by reminding everyone of something that I don’t think gets emphasized enough in vegan circles: you can still help the cause even if you don’t go vegan full-time. If going full vegan seems overwhelming, try doing it over the course of six months or a year. Taking your time is better than trying to do it overnight, failing and getting discouraged, and then giving up for good.
Again, I don’t want to make veganism seem like it’s not morally urgent issue, but we must have reasonable expectations of ourselves and others. So do what you can, don’t get discouraged, and don’t give up.