Died in a Philosophizing Accident

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Or maybe not. Reports to that effect may have been exaggerated. There’s no real reason I picked the above title for this particular post, except that it may be fairly unique.

I’m writing this post, because I’ve been subjected to both sides of an ugly situation, that occurs rather too frequently for my taste, which I would like to term vegan bashing.

First, I came across this little gem. I read the register, semi-regularly, because it rather successfully (in my opinion) mixes IT-related news with humour. Granted, a large dose of their humour consists of playfully insulting people, so I shouldn’t be surprised that the comments above target veganism and vegans. What surprised me yet again (this isn’t the first such page I could link to) is the vehemence of the verbal attacks on vegans1.

So there I was wondering why on earth people would be so aggressive towards vegans and vegetarians. It’s not like our choice of diet hurts anyone, especially not random people we’ve never ever talked to. There seems to be something about veganism that attracts hate.

I didn’t have to ponder long, though. Only a few days later, an animal rights and veganism forum that I’m co-moderating on XING invited a new member who turned out to be from an aggressive vegan organization, Maqi.

The guy, who shall remain anonymous, turned out to be as unpleasant as they come.

I very much respect passion and strictness when it comes to defending the rights of animals. What really puts me off, though, is when that passion overruns into fanaticism. There’s just no way you can convince anyone of becoming vegan if you verbally abuse everyone who isn’t2.

Turns out that the guy was using pretty much the same language as the people attacking vegans on the register comments page. What irony. Whether it’s non-vegans bashing vegans, or vegans bashing everyone else, vegan bashing is the thing that gives our way of life a bad name, and I sincerely wish people wouldn’t do it.

I suppose the reason it happens so frequently is that going vegan is a fairly extreme choice to make, and extreme stances tend to attract extreme people3. Once you have extremism on one side, that breeds an extreme reaction.

Well, there’s not much point to this post other than to remind everyone who’s interested that despite appearances, it is possible to discuss the merits (and pitfalls) of a vegan lifestyle without turning aggressive or defensive. Try to keep that in mind if you do.

Incidentally, I ate a rubber duck for lunch4.

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  1. I can’t say that the stupidity of most of the posts surprises me. A huge number of reactions to veganism seem to be “cool-to-be-cruel”-themed jokes, absolutely none of which are original. Trust me, I heard them all, and they’ve lost their funny long ago. Pretty much all other reactions are citing some commonly held belief about veganism and nutrition, which could relatively easily be debunked if people actually bothered to research the matter. []
  2. Incidentally, if you’re the guy I’m talking about and reading this, your choice of words very clearly shows that what you’re calling “stating facts” are verbal attacks. It may be a fact that being vegetarian causes the death of animals, but calling vegetarians murderers, while factually similar, is so emotionally charged that it can only be called aggressive. []
  3. Or the other way around. []
  4. I didn’t, but at least no animals would have been harmed. []

  • http://www.tully.ca/blog/ William Tully

    My sweeping generalizations tell me that vegans are equivalent to evangelical christians, and meat eaters are equivalent to atheists..

    We’re not saying you can’t believe in your god, just like we’re not disputing whether or not animals have rights. If I choose to eat meat, stop preaching, stop telling me I’m going to hell, stop trying to convert me, and for the love of god, stop with the superiority trip because you chose to be vegan. Yay for you. Fact is, that like religion, veganism, vegatarianism, and omnivorism (?) is still up for debate and there is no clear winner.

    On the animal rights bit – sorry, I have no way of knowing whether or not the cow this package of burger came from was beaten to death with a shoe, or simply shot in the head rendering it instantly dead. I’m not about to make a radical lifestyle change based on the theory that all animals are treated cruelly and the only way to save them is to not eat them… Hell look at the animals we have deemed ‘not edible’ who are treated cruelly that the humane society has to deal with.

    Animal rights isn’t the debate point here – it’s meat production practices and whether or not the practices fall into animal cruelty laws or not. I believe the meat industry has improved dramatically over the years thanks to fanatical anti-meat people, yet not all animals are treated cruelly and eating meat isn’t the root of all evil.

    Meat will always be a harvested product and it’s up to the companies involved to differentiate themselves as non-cruel in the marketplace much like the organic folks do. Give me a way to tell cruel from non-cruel and I’ll pick the right one.

    William Tully’s last blog post..What Thinking In The Shower Leads To

    • http://www.unwesen.de/ unwesen

      That’s actually a fairly good comparison you’re making there, lots of vegans behave that way. On the health front of things, there is no real winner as to which diet is best.

      On the animal rights front of things, though, it’s not so much (in my opinion) whether an animal has been slowly and cruelly killed, or killed quickly and humanely, but the simple fact that it’s been killed.

      Yes, I do think that killing an animal slowly is worse than killing it quickly. My problem is that there is no real need to kill it at all. And that’s when it becomes wrong to me – if it were in any way necessary for my survival, I’d be stupid not to eat it (yeah, at this point the discussion about health becomes important).

      Given that killing animals is about as wrong to me as killing people, I find it easy to sympathize with anyone proclaiming vegetarians to be murderers, and harder to sympathize with those who do eat meat (when it comes to that topic, at least).

      So I end up finding myself in the position of the evangelical christian… odd for an atheist like myself.

      • http://www.tully.ca/blog/ William Tully

        I’m pretty sure that everyone can agree that animal cruelty is wrong. Now whether or not you deem killing animals for consumption as wrong, and whether or not you view this consumption as necessary is where the debate takes place..

        Food chain is food chain. How is it that it applies to everything else but humans? Take away our technology and we would still be out hunting beasties. Anything that we can kill and consume without tools is fair game.

        I believe that meat is a necessary component to our diet. We are not designed as vegetarians just like we’re not designed as carnivores either. We have evolved eating meat – we weren’t suddenly plunked down out of the sky and told “Dunno, you figure it out.” and the elections saw the introduction of meat into our diets….

        I think vegans are going to have to accept the fact that there will always be a meat industry – but feel free to ensure that the harvesting practices are as efficient and painless as possible and that the living conditions are realistic or better.

        William Tully’s last blog post..What Thinking In The Shower Leads To

        • http://www.unwesen.de/ unwesen

          I’m not going to answer that one, sorry. It’d have to be a bit more wordy than the comments here really allow for. But I’ve been planning to write up a few pages on veganism for a while, so once that’s done, I’ll link it here, and/or send you a mail.

  • http://www.unwesen.de/ unwesen

    I’ve been collecting a few links and articles on veganism (mostly about nutrition) over the last year, all but forgetting that I wanted to link to them here. Anyhow, you can find them on my veganism resources pages.