A Conscious Case Against Veganism.

Via on Apr 11, 2011

EcoSalon originally published this article. I’m a new columnist with this fantastic mag and look forward to contributing more to their vibrant virtual-community of ideas. Big thanks to Editor Sara Ost.

For nearly a decade, I was an evangelical vegan – a born-again, plant-powered fundamentalist, resplendent in my animal-rights halo and heavenly faux-fur robes. I fiercely guarded my inflexible morality, never daring to reexamine the orthodoxy’s most illogical presuppositions. Yes, meat is still murder and factory farms still cause animal cruelty and suffering – none of that has changed. Somewhere along the way, however, veganism stopped being synonymous with ethical treatment of animals and people.

Over the past six months, I’ve come to believe that strict dogma is a drag. Conscientious consumption means eating and living ethically, not religiously. As Slate’s Christopher Cox says, “Eating ethically is not a purity pissing contest, and the more vegans or vegetarians pretend that it is, the more their diets start to resemble mere fashion—and thus risk being dismissed as such.”

Below are eight instances where mainstream-vegan doctrine doesn’t stand up to scrutiny:


SAD: The Standard American Diet: with its 100-calorie, reduced-fat, Omega-3-fortified, fiber-added, high-protein, low-carb, soybean- and corn-based, triple plastic-wrapped snack-packs – is the cause of this country’s obesity, heart-disease, cancer, and diabetes epidemics. This industrial diet requires industrial farming – with all the pesticides, herbicides, genetically modified crops, and exploited farm workers therein. If veganism is about eating ethically, soy-based ice cream, frozen, faux-cheese pizza, and meatless buffalo wings don’t cut it. Sure, it’s cool that cows and chickens aren’t directly harmed in the process, but what about the farm workers’ daily exposure to pesticides and fertilizers, the degradation of the environment, and our population’s chronic sickness? If there were ever a fail-safe argument for eating local, sustainable, fresh, slow-foods, this is it.

Oysters: These bivalves aren’t technically part of the Plant Kingdom, but eating oysters is ethically equivalent to downing a big bowl of kale chips. Not buying it? Remember that the primary tenet of veganism is minimizing suffering – for other animals and the planet. An oyster doesn’t have a central nervous-system; the pain it experiences when farmed from the sea is indistinguishable from that experienced by a potato when removed from the soil. What’s more, oyster farming is one of the world’s few sustainable aquacultures; environmental groups even cultivate oysters to boost marine-water quality. Unfortunately, the seabed dredging required to harvest similar bivalves, like clams and mussels, ruins underwater ecosystems – it’s best to stay away from them. But with oysters, go ahead and shuck ‘em and suck ‘em.

Faux-Flesh Faux-Pas: “Bacon” crisps, fried “chicken,” Teriyaki “beef,” pulled “pork:” I could go on. It would be easy to enumerate reasons to eschew faux flesh, but that seems silly in the face of one, summarizing thesis: Who wants to eat food that requires quotation marks to describe what it is? I mean, would you eat “apples” or “corn” on the cob? Processed food is processed food, even if it is “vegan.”

Wool: Aversion to wool from confined, miserable sheep is sensible and ethical. But not all sheep farmers are bad, and mainstream veganism’s blanket prohibition against wool fails to account for exceptions to the rule. Being vegan is about being mindful, and conscious consumerism isn’t so hard to come by that we should prejudge all wool. Is all cotton harvested sustainably? Are all synthetic fibers better than all wool? A quick Internet search yields scores of results for ethically-sourced wool transformed into hand-woven, lovingly-designed scarves, mittens, winter hats, and more.

Backyard, Egg-Laying Chickens: Flax seeds and fresh bugs, a nice plot of green grass for scratching and pecking, room to roost, and cruelty-free living in a halcyon idyll. Wouldn’t it be tragic to deny a chicken such luxury? That she happens to lay eggs only solidifies the relationship as mutual, reciprocal, and equal. Plus, a fried egg on whole-wheat toast with a side of steamed collard greens is a heaven unto itself – just don’t forget the hot sauce!

Honey: I buy local honey from bees that pollinated the urban gardens where I buy my produce. No bees means no fruits or veggies. Yes, I’m taking the honey against the bees’ will and, sure, it probably stresses them out to have it taken away. But in this case, I choose to prioritize sustainable and fresh instead of imported, cash-crop sugar or agave nectar that’s technically vegan. Because these sweeteners come from abroad, I don’t know if the sugar-plantation farm-workers receive fair hours, fair pay, and safe working conditions (reality check – they probably don’t). Whereas with honey, I actually know the San Francisco beekeeper from whom I sustain my sweet tooth.

Milk-Producing Pet Goats: Goats are even cooler than chickens, because they’re mammals, and thus a lot more fun to have around because they’re furry, good communicators, and nibble your fingers. Any critter that is loved and cared for as a pet – in vegan parlance, a companion animal – is non-exploitative. Humans’ relationships with other animals provide a sense of well-being and increased happiness, which is why we love our cats and dogs so much. Goats are cool and enjoy being milked – it’s physically pleasurable and relieves their udders; fresh, unpasteurized, pet-goat milk is delicious, mindful, and non-harming. I know the anti-dairy camp says humans are the only animals to drink the milk of other species, which is true. But that argument, for me, no longer holds up. We’re also the only species to eat high-fructose corn syrup and partially-hydrogenated oil, and we’re no better for it. I’d much rather get my fats, calcium, and protein from clover field-grazed goat’s milk. Yum, yum!


Vintage Leather: Vegans balk at thrift-store purchases, such as a faded pair of bonafide Mexican boots or a gorgeous Italian book-bag from the Fellini-era – because the leather came from a cow slaughtered decades ago. I used to think this way too – right along as I purchased some cheap, pleather jacket or some-such slave-labor shoes from Forever 21. Reclaiming worn leather endows a discarded garment with new life that respectfully and mindfully acknowledges the animal’s sacrifice. Consider it a vote-with-your-dollar political purchase. You support re-use, rather than contributing to a modern-day economy of mass-consumerism – whether it’s built on the backs of farm-animals or underage wage-slaves in developing countries.

Want to know why it’s sexy to eat your kale and collard greens? Interested in the ecological-agricultural revolution? Love farmers’ markets and the local-foods revival? Visit Eating with Abs to have it all–from cooking shows and contributing columnists to damn-good, plant-based grub, you’re going to dig it.

About Abigail Wick

Interested in glamor and good food? San Francisco-based writer and editor Abigail Wick is the creator of Eating with Abs, a cool resource that encourages innovative, intuitive, plant-based meals. It’s about DIY sophistication and culinary art on a budget. You're invited!

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64 Responses to “A Conscious Case Against Veganism.”

  1. Zee says:

    Thanks for posting an intelligent and thoughtful article about veganism and vegetarianism. All the soap boxy ones get mighty tiring–yours was a delight to read.

  2. Jen says:

    I am an intense "evangelical" vegan, and as such I have to say this is the BEST article in defense of using animal products that I have read (except for the part about leather) . Most articles against veganism go something like "vegans are self righteous- a- holes, and we should eat meat because it tases good and we NEED protein!". I really appreciate that you took a more thoughtful approach! I am a vegan because I care about the welfare of animals. Yes, it is sad that many farm workers are abused and inhale pesticides on a daily basis, but they are not in a cage being forced to be there as the animals in factory farms are. I thin most vegans would agree that it is fine to eat eggs, milk and honey if the animals were raised in their own backyard, but the reality is that most of us do not have the time to take care of a mini farm! The reality is that most people buy milk and eggs that were from factory farms.

    • AlpineLily says:

      "but they are not in a cage being forced to be there as the animals in factory farms are"
      I love how you are defending the rights of animals for safe and ethical treatment but don't give the same considerations about people inhaling pesticides because, in your sheltered opinion, it's "their choice"
      Yes, they are not in a physical cage, but when your only choice for feeding your family is a job that is unsafe and unregulated and you have no choice but to take it or watch your family starve then I would not say it is "by choice".
      Perhaps you could visit these farms and experience the conditions for yourself before dismissing the well-being and ethical treatment of a fellow person so easily!

      • Jen says:

        Ok. I know that most farm workers are either imigrants or poor people who have had little opportunity in life. It is really sad that our country does not have more programs to help people like this. We should help people who come to this country learn to speak English and gain job skills so they can get a good job. All I am saying is that animals are NOT less than people. They feel just as we do.

      • Tim says:

        At the same time, how do you think the crops are grown that feed the animals?

    • Amber says:

      I would argue that the farm workers at least "feel" that they have no other choice to be there. It is a horrible slave labor type situation for them. It was a while ago, so I am not sure I can find the article, but about the farm workers in south Florida – their babies are born horribly deformed and often die as infants. The pesticides are so toxic, that one baby recently was born with no anus, a cleft palate, and one ear. He died within hours. I know someone who worked with these migrant workers and this person said that the 2 babies in the article are not a random incident. It happens ALL THE TIME. This culture values convenience so highly, that we don't even value ourselves or our children. The point that someone has made about this culture having the luxury of the option to eat vegan is a good one. Most locales would not support a vegan or even vegetarian culture, so meat really is what feeds the bulk of people. Can it be done humanely, and will people begin to care? That is the question I have about it.
      I do not eat meat. It is not a moral stand for me. As far as I can see, I have yet to find a human with the teeth or intestines to support it, but, I don't really feel that the issue of meat vs vegan is where we need to go for answers to our health. It goes much deeper than this.
      Oh, and I am so pleased to see your response. The whole "militant vegan" thing really turns me off!

    • @SoulRoleEco says:

      'Yes, it is sad that many farm workers are abused and inhale pesticides on a daily basis, but they are not in a cage being forced to be there as the animals in factory farms are. "
      wow.and much of the produce grown out of the country is produced with pesticides etc that are not even LEGAL in the US.it is very true that in many ways US farm workers are caged(and in some areas they are practically indentured servants!there were a few farms busted in Hawaii where I live that actually did have slave labor!).I support people eating a whole foods organic diet,as free from packaging,processing etc as possible.I feel guilty every time I eat tempeh which I love,and know that the all life would be better served if I could stomach eating fresh fish,or even the wild pigs that destroy native forests,but I am kind of lame and eat tempeh,flown in from the mainland,wrapped in two layers of plastic.

  3. MEW says:

    Meh. Some of these arguments seem to boil down to "If you can't be perfect, why bother trying?"

    • @piarconmigo says:

      I don't think the author is trying to find justifications for not being vegan, just pointing out every diet has it's flaws and people sometimes like to preach when they are not much better.

  4. AlpineLily says:

    LOVE this! Thank you so much for wonderfully summing up points I have been making for years against tunnel-visioned vegans and vegetarians! I especially liked the honey section. Having seen agave farms in Mexico I can assure you that you are totally correct about working conditions! Vegans tend to forgo human quality of life in the idealogical quest to turn away from all animal products and fail to remember that there are still actual PEOPLE still involved in manufacturing their food!

  5. Waylon Lewis says:

    Chickens n'eggs aren't so simple. Most wool is indeed cruelly harvested. A few good links: http://bit.ly/h2vIzI + http://bit.ly/6GeH9h + see #11: http://bit.ly/gjH3Gh

    Still, any discussion here owes a debt of gratitude to your thought-provoking list.

    Yours,

    Waylon

    • beth respess says:

      along with many other crafty folks, i make wool items using thrift sweaters. some folks i know cut the sweaters down to desired pieces, others i know actually un-weave the sweaters to end up with a new ball of old wool. either way, reused wool is awesome!

  6. Jules says:

    I was kinda hoping for a blurb about the “Humans are Herbivores” fallacy, but great article :) Along with my veggies & fruits, I consume a fair amount of meat, and I appreciate Elephant Journal showing different perspectives on this topic; I can barely crack open a health magazine or an article on nutrition without some dietician trying to make me feel bad about eating steak. Thanks for representing compassionate omnivores!

  7. ARCreated says:

    OH thank ganesha — Now I don't have to write it ;) I had a similiar article in the makes but I just couldn't seem to boil it down…I would rather see a conscientious omnivore than a pretense evironment killing self righteous vegan :) I just got back to eating honey and local feta and had the egg discussion with a new neighbor — farm fresh eggs soon to find their way back into my body :) Thank you so much!!!

  8. Blake Wilson Blake says:

    "I know the anti-dairy camp says humans are the only animals to drink the milk of other species, which is true." I'll only accept this argument from someone who doesn't wear clothes, walk up-right, use a computer or drive a car.

    You are my new hero, by the way. Thank you for posting this.

    • @Wild_Clover says:

      Considering cross species foster mommas- dogs raising kittens, cats raising squirrels- the statement that humans are the only species that drink the milk of other species is false. Habitually, yes. In reality? There are exceptions. Humans are the only species that continues to drink milk after they are weaned. Large difference. I've never seen the logic behind not eating eggs or drinking milk, the best one can do on milk is that it isn't really natural to consume milk in adulthood- much of the world doesn't, though cheese is pretty ubiquitous. Even a chicken will eat an egg. If someone is vegan or vegetarian because of a lack of an enzyme or other health problem, hey, I'm cool with it. But to make a political statement out of being a herbivore when your genetic heritage is similar to the dog- scavenger and omnivore- when there are far, far more ethical choices than packaged Tofurky…… oh, an Kudos to the author for figuring out that wool and leather is okay, at least from Good Will…..I can see avoiding fur, but leather is going to be a by-product to sustaining my meat habit, and wool is in today's world coming from sheep that have been raised for their full, heavy coats. You trim your furry dog in the summer to keep them cool, most of the wool sheep are going to appreciate the help, your trick is going to be knowing the source. But once it is used, your "statement" by refusing to reuse and recycle simply means the sacrifice of the unethically treated animal means less, because less good it gotten from it.

  9. Jennifer says:

    I read the article and comments at EcoSalon and agree wholeheartedly that eating ethically and consciously should not be a purity pissing contest. I learned recently that honey is actually a byproduct — beekeepers make most of their money by lending out their hives for pollination services. Since we’ve managed to kill off many of our native pollinators, we now depend on domesticated bees for many of our crops. In that sense, it’s hard to eat without exploiting bees, even if you don’t eat honey. (I’m with you on buying local honey over agave or other sweeteners. Eggs, however, often involve quite a lot of cruelty to unwanted male chicks.)

    I think what it comes down to is that eating ethically is deeply complicated — each of our eating decisions comes with certain costs and consequences. Veganism and locavorism are two different ways of approaching the same thorny problem, and since it’s impossible to objectively weigh the total harm we cause, I’m in favor of having people make their own thoughtful, not-necessarily-labeled eating decisions.

  10. screwbean says:

    Great article! I can appreciate the vegan viewpoint, but have often been made to feel almost guilty because I eat eggs and meat. We have our own backyard chickens specifically so that we do not need to be part of the industrial chicken/egg loop. Our girls are treated like queens, and I even thank them for their eggs every day. If we had the space, we would probably raise our own goats as well. I agree that you can be humane and ethical without being vegan, sometimes more so than if you were. I think it is, as you say so eloquently, more about being mindful in all of your lifestyle choices rather than sticking religiously to veganism for its own sake.

  11. Interesting article. I truly appreciate alternatives, but have some opinions about

    some of what you have said.

    I'm wondering what is the reason that when one thinks "vegan" they think

    political activist, spray painting "anti-" signs on fur coats, and exclusively

    wearing hemp-made clothing… Could these analogies be similar to saying that

    gay men can't serve in the military because they are sexual predators. How

    about that strangers molest children… If women dress provocatively that they

    are asking to be raped. As you see, there are a great number of stereotypes

    that get perpetuated. Gay men enter into monogamist relationship just as much

    as heterosexual men do. Gay men can take a vow to respect their fellow male

    soldiers; lest we forget that there is an epidemic of male soldiers sexually

    assaulting female soldiers. Strangers are less like to molest children. The fact

    is that children are more likely to be molested by family members or someone

    that is know by the child. "She was asking for it!" How many times have men

    said that to attempt to legitimize their inability to respect women no matter how

    they are dressed. The point being is that there is a theme in your article that is

    not representative of the vast majority of vegetarians and vegans, alike.

    • Reine Shimizu says:

      I am very happy about the point you brought up here! The theme of the "Do gooder" vegan whose main priority seems to engage himself in a "moral pissing contest" is getting annoying.

      As a (non militant) vegan it's often the other way round. Posting a vegan recipe on my FB wall is a failsafe way to get a comment like "Would be better with bacon!"

  12. Marchesa says:

    I agree. This sounds more like a personal justification as to why the author is no longer vegan rather than a well-rounded argument against veganism in general. Thoroughly unconvinced. You can eat ethically, healthily, and be vegan.

    • Squirrel says:

      Yes, we can eat ethically, healthily, and be vegan – but we can also eat ethically, healthily and not be vegan. Or vegetarian for that matter (gasp). Even if you feel that the author did not quite make her point, that does not mean the point is not valid (and in her defense, it's obviously a very complex issue, hard to boil down in such a short piece, though I thought she did a good job).

    • kmacku says:

      Okay. Consider this: If you're getting your vegan dietary supplements from, let's say Vancouver, and you live in the Midwest, in order to get those products to you, they must go through a series of processes and refinement. They must be shipped to you, usually by way of either truck or plane, that's going to unleash pollutants into the atmosphere.

      Which is the greater sin here: grabbing extra eggs offered by a chicken in the backyard of the farmer you know down the street, or the vegan dark chocolate bar you bought that was made from products continents away, assembled and packaged somewhere on the far side of the nation, shipped to a distribution center, and bought in your local Whole Foods?

      …Or did you think those vegan dark chocolate bars grew on the trees they keep hidden in the back of the store?

  13. Excellent article – I have to admit, i was a bit sceptical when I first started reading (I thought perhaps I was going to try and be convinced to not be vegan) – I have not read anything put in this way. I think it's very smart – being vegan is not a purity contest. Thank you so much!!

  14. Rebecca says:

    Thank you for this. I am not a vegetarian, but more and more I think about becoming one because of the environmental impact. But because I care about the problems you mention here, I am having loads of trouble finding ways to be fully healthy. I appreciate a reminder that eating fresh eggs and even some fish is healthy and sustainable. Many, many thanks!

  15. Jennifer says:

    Just another vegan who didn't have the strength or willpower to be vegan anymore and has found ways to justify it in her mind.

  16. Vidya says:

    A true vegetarian or vegan are vegetarian and vegan by choice. Nobody can be forced to be one. And if one really felt the pain of being slaughtered or tortured that these animals put up with, before landing on a plate, you would not relish such food. I am excluding people who use this as some fancy ideology. Why is it that non-vegetarians need to justify their choice of food? If not for the guilt they have somewhere deep inside, these justifications would be quite unnecessary!

    • Louise Brooks says:

      Really Vidya? So how about anti-abortionists? They will adamantly argued that you are killing a human being and that that is morally wrong. Does that mean anyone who disagrees with their stance is wrong? The world is not so black and white. It would be easier if it were, but alas, we must grapple with moral quandaries every day of our lives.

    • @Wild_Clover says:

      Funny, I never have to justify my diet choices until some militant vegan comes up to tell me I'm poisoning my body with the tasty steak I'm consuming. My diet is consistent with my genetic heritage, and shouldn't be something I need to justify to anyone buy maybe my doctor. Guilt? Not a bit guilty. Well, maybe over the pie I had for dessert. But the diet evangelicals are everywhere, be it the Vegans, the "you should only eat organics" (all my food is organic, it digests better than the inorganic stuff-I avoid Twinkies and other things that won't rot on a compost heap) bunch, the "Paleo-dieters", the "no wheat or grains" bunch….bombarded by folks convinced they have found the one true diet and feel the need to tell me how "wrong" I'm eating. You attempt to lay a guilt trip on non- vegetarians in your comment "If they truly felt the pain Yadda, yadda, yadda…..". So why do you feel the need to attempt to "guilt" a carnivore/omnivore into change? I don't think you "feel the pain of being slaughtered or tortured"- you obviously haven't been slaughtered. I doubt you've experienced torture either, but I wouldn't know and won't presume to tell you you haven't.
      We had a pet goat, who for some unknown goat reason went out of character and left my yard and got hit by a truck- he was my buddy, and breathed his last in my arms. I personally thought it a better end for him if we didn't let his untimely death be in vain and ate him. My partner however wouldn't hear of it. So his useful life ended in a hole in the front yard, rather than being honored and remembered as he helped nourish his human herd. To me, it seems more ethical to not waste an animal humans raised and bred out of their desires as a food animal than to bury it- an accidental death of my happy animal meant not needing to buy meat raised to purposely die, probably in less than ideal conditions. So which choice ought to make you feel guilty? Shall I feel guilty about the lovely soup I just ate made from the marrow bones from a cow slaughtered because she'd become crippled with arthritis? Should the cow have been left to live crippled, or put down and left to rot in the ground? Yet the typical Vegan evangelical would see my soup, and convince me it would be better to be beans and carrots. Yet you try with your phasing to instill guilt, while accusing others of covering it up. Deal with your own your own way, and stop projecting it on others.

  17. maru says:

    I get it. Processed food is processed food, even if vegan. That does not make it a case against veganism. I am a vegan and I dont eat any of the processed food you mention. I live on fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes etc.

  18. Angela says:

    Fabulous article. I am an ‘almost’ vegan. I explained to someone yesterday that when concern for animals crosses the line and becomes cruelty to people it doesn’t make sense anymore. Kindness to all. And to all a good night :) Thank you for a thoughtful article.

  19. Laura says:

    Thanks – many of these points are ones I have been making for a long time. When I was vegan it was also a bit of an uphill struggle to get some people to understand that simply substiting soy ice cream, fake meat, etc., was not a good alternative, for them or for me. (When it was appropriate to get into a discussion about it at all, of course… but sometimes I thought it was my ethical duty to point certain things out) I have now become not-quite-vegetarian for many of the reasons you outline. Times I backslide include times it would seriously inconvenience or offend others, or perhaps even harm them (such as, if I could not be fully present to do my job because I was ravenous because I’d turned down the only available food).

    Every aspect of our life, including using the computers or other devices we’re all using right now, damages and exploits something or someone else. Leading a completely ethical and environmentally sound lifestyle (whatever that would even look like) would get in the way of me being able to, for example, do my job, which is something I know does occasionally make the lives of people in my city better.

    All we can do is make the best decision we can for our unique circumstances. I enjoyed many of the points you made to point that out.

    However, please be careful not to generalize – “Vegans balk at thrift-store purchases… because the leather came from a cow slaughtered decades ago.” – really? No. Not all of them. Many have been using vintage items for a long time for all the reasons you list. I think this reasoned approach is more common than you might think. But I’m glad you made those points here, where hopefully more people will digest them.

  20. Phillip R. Lewis says:

    Either you are for pain,suffering and murder or you're against it. Simple.

  21. Lisamarie Grosso says:

    interesting article. no revolutionary ideas here and nothing that hasn't occurred to me, but interesting nonetheless for a few reasons, which i'll get to. first, i should say that as someone who follows plant based diet, i put a lot of thought into my food choices. i don't instantly applaud and adopt what the "experts" say (vegan or otherwise) simply because they say so. or because i WANT to believe what they say. or worse, because what they're saying somehow supports or justifies a desire of mine. i do my own thinking. a lot of it. some of the points made here i agree with, like eating bi-valves and locally sourced foods (including honey), maybe even backyard chicken eggs (but seriously, c'mon- how many urbanites have the space or the means). here, Wick makes some dubious statements – "wouldn't it be be tragic to deny a chicken such a luxury?" hey, maybe it's just me, but what this really sounds like is a thinly veiled statement that, ironically, reveals more about Wick's desires than the chicken's. no judgement here. simply an observation. and, i can't help but wonder about the goats. i'll state the obvious- in order for lactation to occur, mammals must give birth. so, what happens to the kids? ok, maybe the females are useful as far as keeping the milk supply going, but what about the males? if this is, as the author sugests, just a family pet that happens to contribute milk to the household, what do you do with the surplus kids? Wick makes all of this sound so innocent and natural, until you play the tape to the end. and once we do, the risk of winding up right back at the place that initially drove many us to adopting a plant based diet becomes clear. there are also other things in this article that really rubbed me the wrong way, for instance the stereotypical portrait she paints of vegans. i find the caricature she paints somewhat smug and condescending. on the other hand, she does make excellent points regarding synthetic clothing that's made in third world factories by overworked and underpaid slaves, but i just don't know how much i trust the ethically sourced wool label. probably about as much as i trust "certified humane" eggs from my local supermarket chain. which is of course, not a whole lot. and buying only vintage leather is something i do. i agree that it's just going to wind up in the landfill and i see nothing wrong with reusing leather to avoid that. in any case, this is an extremely complex topic. a lot to think about.

  22. adam says:

    Thanks for putting up a thought-provoking list of opinions, but I take issue with some of your claims.

    First, I am a vegan for *health reasons* so my views are approached with this lens. Because health is my personal primary guiding concern, I disagree that ethical decision making is a fundamental tenet of veganism. Not for me. Don't get me wrong, I think ethically informed choices are, well, more ethical, but that's not the reason I am vegan.

    2nd – processed stuff is bad for your health and hurting animals (including humans who grow plants) is bad for your ethic. Sure. What does that have to do with veganism? One can be a relatively healthy carnivore or herbivore and have made informed ethical decisions in pursuit of their health.

    BUT… is eating processed vegan food better than processed animal-based food? Uh, yeah. Usually. Usually lower fats, no cholesterol, nitrites, the list goes on. Nobody is dumb enough to think that eating a tub of dairy-free 'ice cream' or package of meatless 'buffalo winz' is equivalent to eating vegetables! Junk food is junk food, but vegan junk food is often times less junky.

    There is no way to determine how people, animals or land has been treated in the making of processed food and in many cases, non-local whole food. So, if you need to be sure that the food you eat agrees with your ethic, you are right, local is the way to go. But that's not a justification for eating animal products.

  23. Reine Shimizu says:

    It's a little sad that "for nearly a decade, you were resplendent in your animal-rights halo and heavenly faux-fur robes" but just because YOU "fiercely guarded your inflexible morality, never daring to reexamine the orthodoxy’s most illogical presuppositions" doesn't mean other vegans/vegetarians do.

    The bit of the oysters was interesting :)

  24. nicoledavidsohn says:

    I just want to comment on this. You posted organic ice cream, but wrote, "If veganism is about eating ethically, soy-based ice cream, frozen, faux-cheese pizza, and meatless buffalo wings don’t cut it. Sure, it’s cool that cows and chickens aren’t directly harmed in the process, but what about the farm workers’ daily exposure to pesticides and fertilizers, the degradation of the environment, and our population’s chronic sickness?"

    I'm sure you know that organic, fair-trade products do not harm the environment or people.
    Faux-Cheese pizza- What if that's organic and fair trade too?
    And meatless buffalo wings from organic tofu? That's all fine and dandy for the environment and people.
    I understand your other points, but just wanted to nitpick that selection there..

  25. Alissa says:

    "If veganism is about eating ethically, soy-based ice cream, frozen, faux-cheese pizza, and meatless buffalo wings don’t cut it." – it's not just about eating ethically, nor is it an answer to all the world's ills. It's a political stance against the commodification of non-human animals. Not all vegans eat that way, just some. Most that I know include veganism as part of an overarching fight for social justice.

    Re: goats and backyard chickens… unless these are rescued creatures in a sanctuary type setting, don't be fooled by the cozy facade. Backyard hens come often from really cruel egg factories where the male chicks are killed. what happens to the male goats in a small dairy operation? What happens to the goats and hens when they stop producing? In the end , I think it comes down to the question: do our bodies need milk and eggs to thrive? nope.

    Some people call themselves vegan while eating oysters, eating eggs from rescued chickens, or wearing wool from rescued sheep… that doesn't negate the whole vegan stance. It's one of those grey areas and those are all personal decisions. Veganism isn't a religion or cult or political party with strict mandates; there's no vegan police. It's a philosophy of compassion and just because there's not clear cut lines doesn't mean we shouldn't draw any lines at all.

  26. marystestkitchen says:

    Many of her reasons for un-vegan behaviour ignore many facts. IE backyard chickens: breeders still kill the male chicks, there is evidence that bivalves do indeed feel pain, pet goats: again, where do the males go?

  27. Olivia says:

    Why am I getting messages from the author in my inbox when i have NOT subscribed?? Terrible…

  28. Shiva says:

    So many holes and excuses… im sure if you were ethical vegan you would know most backyard chickens still come from hatcheries that kill male chicks. When they stop laying eggs they are usually sent for chicken stock. Of course not all people send their chickens off to slaughter. If you give people an inch they will take a mile. im sure you research all your animal products but most people do not. People still think free range eggs with happy cartoon chickens are good enough. I also think its unfair that you have painted all vegans with the same brush. You have just added to the idea that vegans are extremists with unrealistic goals. All we want is for all beings to be happy and free. I pray your article does not stop people who were starting to choose more vegan options.

  29. Lisa says:

    Sounds like the writer is trying to justify her failings. This article will certainly appeal to the apathetic, indifferent and lazy, who just want another excuse to maintain their status quo.

  30. Krista says:

    Oh my god THANK YOU. Great article.

  31. Kris says:

    Awesome article… I think we humans tend to think there is no cruelty in the animal world. Watch National Geographic for a few minutes and you will see cruelty is something that is all based on perspective. My mom raised me as an avid vegetarian, and one of the "gamechangers" in her life was when her farmer boyfriend (now husband) had a debate with her about chickens. She refused to eat them. He said "let me show you how chickens see the world". So, he took a dead chicken head and threw it in the coop. Within a few seconds the chickens were all over there pecking away and eating at one of their fellow chickens heads. As I said, cruelty is all about perspective. We must practice ahimsa to the best of our ability, but the circle of life can't be avoided….even when you are eating plants.

  32. tea says:

    thank u very much for writing so beautifully and gently about this issue,for years i have been saying that am 'almostvegan'
    because i live in midmissouri surrounded by small family farms,my eggs,honey,goat cheese and all the produce come from not more than fifty miles away and i have been to all the farms to see myself daytoday operations.i feel good about supporting local farmers and thats what makes me conscious consumer

  33. Gabriela says:

    Vegan, non-vegan, what's most interesting about this article is that it encourages the reader to think mindfully. We come from different cultures and we see life with different eyes: some think "ahimsa", some think "the natural circle of biology". Either way, I think that we can all agree that what we need to do is be mindful and take care of this planet and make sure that we keep the balance so that life can continue sustainably and for all species.

  34. SgtGroovy says:

    Thanks for this article, Abigail Wick!

  35. SgtGroovy says:

    Hey Waylon:

    How do I get in touch with my inner Elephant?

  36. Val says:

    This doesn't seem to be an argument against "veganism." It's an argument against eating non-organic, non-local, non-fair trade, processed food. As if vegans are the only people eating those things?

    I certainly don't judge anyone for eating local honey or wearing a leather jacket from the thrift store, but it seems patently unfair to judge someone for choosing NOT to do those things…

  37. Val says:

    You could just as easily write an article entitled "The Case Against Omnivorism" and list things like "McDonald's" or "Kraft Mac and Cheese." That doesn't prove there's anything wrong with being an omnivore, it just proves that, no matter the diet, some people are going to make poor food choices.

  38. claywise says:

    Most people are unaware that sheep and beef cattle are raised almost exclusively on pasture. There really are no "factory farms" for these species. (Dairy cattle also, for the most part, but you have the immense and unacceptable cruelty of veal calves to deal with there.) So the idea that sheep are raised in "confined, miserable" conditions simply doesn't reflect reality. With beef cattle – I worked as a cowboy for more than 6 years – you are talking about a pretty good life with a couple/few bad days: branding, shipping, slaughter. Even feedlots – which I've opposed for years as wasteful; they were created to help time beef markets – aren't as horrible as one might think.

  39. Erica Leibrandt Erica says:

    Thanks for your bold and honest opinions. I agrees wholeheartedly with your stand and appreciate that someone can be nuanced about being "cruelty free". Huzzah!

  40. Fawny says:

    You forgot to mention couscous- what was once the main food source for the general populace is now completely fiscally impossible. People are starving because a native food item is now harvested and shipped instead of feeding them.

    • @Wild_Clover says:

      Couscous isn't harvested- it is made from seminola wheat, or in the past millet, or even in some parts of the world corn meal. It was a way to use the duram- the hard part to grind by hand- sprinkling it with water and rolling it in the flour also ground from the same grain. Now, the wheat may be being harvested and processed in factories into couscous for export, but couscous itself isn't harvested. Your grocery store product is pricy because it it pre-steamed to cook more rapidly. Couscous itself is labor intensive….and my thought of trying to make it myself fails in the face I'd need to either hand grind whole grains to get sufficient duram bits or find sources.

  41. Christina says:

    Thank you for this thoughtful article- I'm so glad veganism has been getting enough attention lately to provoke such discussions. I've been vegan 13 years, and I know of the "evangelical" sort that you're talking about, but have never met one. There are so many different kinds of vegans, and most are actually very sweet, forgiving, compassionate people.

    I agree with you on the honey and have never avoided it. Though insects are obviously animals, bees are much more a part of plant agriculture than animal, and by their populous nature, killing insects is an unavoidable part of life for most people. I also agree about thrift store items and have never heard vegans say they were against such purchases.

    It's common for vegans to choose organic, local, and fair trade wherever possible and I don't think your first point is an argument against veganism, specifically.

    The oyster issue if far from settled. We don't know enough about nervous systems to know for sure that they can't feel pain, and the fact that they physically move away from painful stimuli, unlike plants, would suggest otherwise.

    I think wool could be humanely produced, but humans have such a strong tendancy to mistreat animals used for commerce that this gets tricky. Definitions of what is humane vary widley too, and a lot of people are misled when they think they're buying humane products.

    There's nothing inherently wrong with eating eggs from pet chickens, though many backyard egg operations go horrifically wrong. The thing to consider is, where are those egg-layers coming from? Every lovingly cared-for backyard hen has a brother who was chucked into a meat grinder or thrown live into a dumpster to suffocate. I think one would be hard-pressed participate in animal agriculture without supporting the industry as a whole. Same goes for the dairy goats.

    Thanks again for sparking this discussion.

  42. Karen says:

    Karolyn…I couldn't have said it any better.

  43. Steve says:

    Right on, Laurie!

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