‘If you always do what interests you, at least one person is pleased.’ –Katharine Hepburn


According to animal rights theory, respecting the interests of animals in this way would mean abolishing the use of them as resources. So we’d all have to become vegans who neither eat animals nor use any other animal products. Vegan advocates face a daunting challenge, though, since most of us have a strong prejudice in favour of humans. This makes it relatively difficult for us to empathise with non-humans, so we are reluctant to give up the spoils of animal domination — meat, eggs, cheese, wool, fur and leather — and exchange them for tofu, pleather (plastic leather) and animal liberation. […]

Suppose that we are doing our usual thing of exploiting animals because they aren’t smart or powerful enough to fight back. An alien species that is smarter and more powerful than us lands on Earth and decides to follow our example by exploiting and killing us. Why shouldn’t aliens use their technological and cerebral edge to turn us into food, clothes, entertainment and research subjects, just as we do to animals now? […]

This argument resonates because most of us have picked up a version of ‘do as you would be done by’ somewhere along the way, no matter how secular our upbringings. Could it be, then, that if we want to be consistent with our own values, the animal activists are right that we need to go vegan? […]

Sure, if we were replaced as the dominant animals on the planet, we’d probably prefer the new ruling species to be vegan. But if aliens with superior technology and minds came here and were determined to treat us the way that vegan humans treat animals on this planet, we’d still be in serious trouble. Veganism would hardly figure as a safeguard of our wellbeing.

Universal veganism wouldn’t stop the road-building, logging, urban and suburban development, pollution, resource consumption, and other forms of land transformation that kills animals by the billions. So what does veganism do exactly? Theoretically, it ends the raising, capture and exploitation of living animals, and it stops a particular kind of killing that many vegans claim is the worst and least excusable: the intentional killing of animals in order to use their bodies as material goods.

Veganism, as a whole, requires us to stop using animals for entertainment, food, pharmaceutical testing, and clothing. If it were to become universal, factory farming and animal testing would end, which would be excellent news for all the animals that we capture or raise for these purposes. But it would accomplish next to nothing for free-roaming wild animals except to stop hunting, which is the least of their problems. […]

Neutrality is impossible in a world with limited resources. Everything we take is a loss for other animals, and since we want to live, enjoy our lives and reproduce (just as they do), we will never stop bypassing animals’ desires for our own, so long as we are here.

{ Rhys Southan/Aeon | Continue reading }