September 14, 2007

A Word from the Self-Righteous Morally Superior Dogmatic Fundamentalist

Posted in vegan, veganism at 2:27 pm by nevavegan

I’ve been following a thread on the Animal Person blog (Mary Martin) about whether vegans condsider themselves morally superior to non-vegans. Then there is the secondary question of: if we do consider ourselves morally superior, are we judging people on subjective matters (analogous to judging members or other relgions) or are we basing this in some kind of solid area, like ethics or science.

What a sticky mess to step into! But I’ll give you my take.

I wouldn’t be vegan if I didn’t think it was better for the animals, better for the environment, and better for human survival, kindness and culture. I don’t find it very hard to be vegan, but why would I put any effort in if I didn’t think it was the best choice available to me?

Do I think that makes me morally superior? That’s harder. I work with and am related to and friends with a whole bunch of non-vegans. I know they are kind and caring people. I know they help others. I know they think and read and debate and engage with the culture of ideas around them. And nearly all of them hold practically the same ethics I do. They are almost all deeply troubled by our relationship with animals and the unprecedented exploitation of animals, and all the new Frankenstein-like ways we make animals suffer in our culture.

Nearly all of them are in fact more upset than I am by this stuff, because I read about it and keep up with it, and most of my friends who eat meat will turn off the tv if something comes on about cruelty to animals. If I try to show them an article on factory farming they’ll say they can’t face it or they’ll be crying all day. But the downside of hiding from the information, since they won’t watch it or read it, and have never seen it firsthand, is that I think it takes the urgency out of the equation for them. Not seeing it allows them to believe we should treat animals better, but without feeling compelled to make an immediate change in their own lives.

Most of them are also deeply concerned about the environment too.

They care, they have ethics. The difference is that I keep trying to act on my ethics and my friends, for whatever reason aren’t there yet. Maybe they are still turning stuff over in their heads, maybe they’ll announce they’re going vegan next year, maybe they never will. But I do think we have the same values.

When it comes down to someone who just really has no capacity for empathy and tortures and kills animals and just doesn’t care? Yes, I would think I’m morally superior to them, at least right now. I know it’s unpopular to say such things and I’m not supposed to judge others, but if I’m really honest about it, that is how I feel. I hope that those people will change of course, but I’m not holding my breath.

Am I basing this on solid ground, or is it all about religious differences? I personally think it’s solid. I think our study of animals has demonstrated that non-human animals are more like us than we ever imagined. They have emotions, they are more intelligent than we ever gave them credit for, and they suffer and feel pain in the same ways that we do. The evidence is overwhelming that veganism helps the environment, which in turn saves the lives of disadvantaged humans all across the globe who are at the mercy of the climate. Again, I think most people care about animals and care about the environment and want to help other people. It’s not that I live in some ivory tower thinking I’m better than everyone else. I did everything wrong that you can think of, then I woke up one day and decided to start making changes for the greater good. Anyone can do it.


1 Comment »

  1. joel said,

    Some people like to focus on the person in their discussion of good or evil. This is a mistake.

    Am I better than other people? To answer this, we would need to point out a particular person and comprehensively compare both our lives, a task to difficult to ever be humanly accomplished.

    When people ask “are we (vegans) morally superior to other people (nonvegans)” they are confusing the issue. The answer to the question they ask is, some of us are superior to some of them, and some of them are superior to some of us, and there is no way to answer the question in any particular circumstance.

    The question they should ask (if they want a meaningful answer) is, is not eating animal products morally better or superior to eating animal products? This places the focus on the particular action, not the person taking the action.

    This is easy. Yes. Vegan eating is a morally superior choice.

    This doesn’t mean I am better than any particular other person, only that when I decided to be vegan, I became a little better than I was before. Everyone becomes a little better when they make better choices and do better things.

    But comparing classes of people simply doesn’t follow from comparing particular choices.

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