The ethical choice is vegan.

Via Gary Smith
on Sep 29, 2011
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All sentient beings feel pain.

Meat, dairy and eggs come from sentient beings. Meat, dairy and eggs always cause pain. Humans do not have a biological need to eat meat, dairy and eggs. So, if you choose to eat meat, dairy and eggs, you are choosing to cause pain and to participate in exploitation and murder. Participating in pain and murder is always unethical. The ethical choice is vegan.


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About Gary Smith

Gary Smith is co-founder of Evolotus, a PR agency working for a better world. Evolotus specializes in nonprofits, documentary films, animal advocacy campaigns, health/wellness, natural foods and socially beneficial companies. Gary blogs at The Thinking Vegan and writes for elephant journal, Jewish Journal, Mother Nature Network and other publications. Gary and his wife are ethical vegans and live in Sherman Oaks, CA with their cat Chloe and two beagles rescued from an animal testing laboratory, Frederick and Douglass.

Comments

212 Responses to “The ethical choice is vegan.”

  1. What if by becoming vegan you are causing harm to yourself? I hold the belief that some people, including myself need animal protein to live. While ethically I would like to be vegan, I know that true harm would also be to myself.

  2. Thoreau says:

    Should polar bears be vegan?

    What about people who live in areas where no vegetation grows? Should they pay to have fruits and vegetables shipped 1000s of miles. All that fossil fuel being expelled into the air in the process.

  3. George says:

    This post is mean.

  4. Laura Chase says:

    Sorry if that was mean. I got a little out of control. Still, I regret nothing.

  5. Karen Kelley says:

    Head over to YouTube and watch "Earthlings." No matter what someone's decision is on this issue, it's important to be informed.

  6. elephantjournal says:

    What if animals tasted bad, would you argue that eating them is cool? Just wondering, honestly. ~ Waylon

  7. elephantjournal says:

    I'd love to hear Gary's response on this…mine is, personally, all I can say is I'm big and active and healthy and vegetarian. Not vegan, yet, but get my protein from beans, nuts, other stuff. I think there's a stat that Americans consume waayyyyy too much protein on average. ~ Waylon

  8. Suri kate says:

    Oh my god the vegan taliban is here….what if the problem is not that humans eat meat ? Maybe the problem is that we are just too many and we are on the way to be even more and thats why this nasty inhumane meat -and agriculture -industry exists in the first place …because thre is no way to feed 7billion people in a sustainable , humane way … so maybe the ethical thing to do is stop having babies …touchy subject ehh? There is a surplus of adoptable babies , specially in 3rd world countries and they are sentient beings too you know..but people are too selfish , they always want their own … By the way have you ever noticed that there are two kinds of vegans ,the first kind live in first world countries and have acces to a wide variety of delicious vegan products ….the other kind live in poberty stricken countries and have to be vegan by neccesity , not by choice,a lot of them eat air and mud on a regular basis hows that for vegan!….so there you go there are more vegans than you think and the majority of them dont brag about it or lecture you.

  9. Jennifer says:

    I’m not sure there’s a way out of behaving unethically, especially if one has an obligate carnivore as a pet, as Gary does (and as I do). Do you a) choose to deprive the cat of what it has evolved to eat and essentially perform a risky experiment on its longterm health — which seems unethical as a responsible cat caretaker, or b) engage in the exploitation of other animals by putting your cat’s health first? Maybe we should just not have cats?

    Sorry, but if I have to be vegan AND cat-less in order to meet Gary’s standards of ethical, I’m not interested. Although I choose not to eat meat, I don’t find blanket statements and black and white scenarios helpful, and making people defensive is seldom a good way to effect change.

  10. elephantjournal says:

    Good points, and again I'm not yet vegan, am vegetarian, but I do sympathize with the pov that killing unnecessarily is unethical. A cat has to eat meat, I understand. Dogs don't, apparently (I do feed my dog humanely-sourced meat, I choose not to choose for him). But for myself, I was personally struck a few years back by a quote by Einstein or someone (help?) that said that what made humans special was our ability to choose mercy, and if we don't exercise that choice, we're no more evolved than animals.

    I don't know. I find the whole vitriol in some of these comments tiring. I would love to see a genuine, non-accusatory, non-defensive discussion here. Can we do that? ~ Waylon

  11. elephantjournal says:

    Vegan Taliban…awesome rock band name. ~ W.

  12. elephantjournal says:

    Love the passion. We also do a lot of things naturally like sweat, say, and you don't regard showering or using deodorant as wrong. I think we "naturally" have a choice. I thank Gary for raising the question, and you for answering it for yourself, cheers! ~ W.

  13. Suri kate says:

    Lol

  14. Suri kate says:

    Forgot to say …..this all or nothing mentality is not helpful when you want to have a balanced , rational debate..you are either a vegan or a murderer….what???? Sounds like something W Bush would say ha ha

  15. elephantjournal says:

    Yes, Gary would agree that my dog's humanely raised meat dog food is not humane, it's still murder…I think that term doesn't mean it's all hunky dorey, just that it's better. Not good enough, from a vegan pov, for sure.

    I would say that, personally, the point isn't to be perfect. It's to make the "mindful" of two choices…obviously even if I turn off my lights, my life still creates demand for coal, natural gas…as you say even my bike is made out of mined metals…it's impossible to be perfect. That's not a worthy goal, anyways. Why not just try to enjoy life in a way that doesn't harm others? That seems to me to be the logic of being vegan…I don't need animals, and they have feelings and are sentient so…why eat meat?

    Your point reminds me of… "There is no such thing as vegan." http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/08/there-is-n

    Bonus from a different pov:

    Self-Righteous Vegans Just Make Me Want To Eat More Meat. http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/08/righteous-

  16. elephantjournal says:

    A thoughtful article by one of our ex-interns: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/08/raising-yo

  17. Suri kate says:

    I totally agree and you couldnt have said it better:
    " Why not just try to enjoy life in a way that doesn't harm others? That seems to me to be the logic of being vegan…I don't need animals, and they have feelings and are sentient so…why eat meat? "
    This is the kind of argument that works , it is positive , it is constructive and impartial . This is the kind of argument that promotes healthy discussion …theres no need to be confrontational you can promote veganism without sounding like a crazy person and i can assure you people will be more open and receptive to what you have to say. 8)

  18. Suri kate says:

    (Sorry ment to post it as a reply)
    I totally agree and you couldnt have said it better:
    "Why not just try to enjoy life in a way that doesn't harm others? That seems to me to be the logic of being vegan…I don't need animals, and they have feelings and are sentient so…why eat meat? "
    This is the kind of argument that works , it is positive , it is constructive and impartial . This is the kind of argument that promotes healthy discussion …theres no need to be confrontational you can promote veganism without sounding like a crazy person and i can assure you people will be more open and receptive to what you
    have to say. 8)

  19. lassemarius says:

    if people live where there are no vegetation, how would they feed their animals?
    thniking it is ok to kill animals but not humans is specieism and are just as bad as raceism and other types of discrimination.

  20. Lori says:

    You certainly don't need to be vegan to be an asshole. We didn't need proof, but thanks for offering it anyway.

  21. Danielle says:

    Hannah, I can't imagine why you feel you need animal protein, protein is protein, why would you need it from an animal? Just curious.

  22. elephantjournal says:

    Sorry, was I being an ass***e? I didn't write this…nto sure what I did to inspire you to call people names. Since your account is now blocked (we have a one strike you're out comment policy on name-calling—argue with the argument, don't insult people anonymously) we'll never know, I'm genuinely sorry to say. ~ W.

  23. elephantjournal says:

    I agree with that 100%. I've had some really knock-out, mean-spirited, getting-ganged-up-on, depressing arguments with some intelligent, activist vegans on that very point. ~ W.

  24. Danielle says:

    I disagree with much of what you said, mainly because you're blasting Mr. Smith for making blanket statements (which are true) following and backing them with your own (which are opinion based, which are not fact) There are amazing books that do an excellent job looking at why people like you feel it's "natural" to eat meat. "Why we Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows" is one. "Eating Animals" is another. Neither "shove" anything down your throat. Both are excellent resources for information, and understanding why you feel the way you do.

  25. Gary Smith says:

    All of the responses by non-vegans are just distractions from the real issue, which is the point of the post. Using and eating nonhuman animals is unethical. You do not have a biological need to consume animals. If you choose to consume animals, you are causing pain and participating in exploitation and murder, whether the exploitation is kinder (i.e. happy meat, dairy and eggs) or less kind (factory farmed animal products).

    Rather than twisting yourself into a pretzel trying to justify your participation in the exploitation and murder of nonhuman animals, why not take a few moments and ask yourself if this participation lines up with your values. Unless you value murder and oppression, the answer is vegan.

  26. elephantjournal says:

    Not sure I can agree on that…at least in the Buddhist perspective, all animals are not created equal. From a scientific point of view, too, some are more evolved in terms of intelligence, feeling. That's not to say their life isn't of equal value, but saying "everyone's the same, chicken and fish and human and plant and horse and insect and dust mite" doesn't seem accurate.

    If I had to choose between saving the life of a little child or a bed bug, I'd get very un-vegan real fast. ~ W.

  27. Jessica says:

    I also agree that humans who live where there is little vegetation need to supplement with some other type of protein. We have to use the resources we are given, and being that we are part of the food chain, sometimes that means eating other animals. Would humanity have evolved without eating animal protein? I'd like to see more research into that question? Seriously, would humans have risen to the top of the food chain by eating just vegetables that offer little protein? Why is the concept of a human animal surviving off the meat of another animal considered mean or unethical, but the concept of a lion surviving off the meat of another animal is not? What about carnivores? The argument then gets reduced to HOW we obtain the meat. THAT is what is unethical, and in factory farms it IS painful and cruel. Eat less meat, and don't get it from a factory farm!

  28. organicgoddess says:

    What people need is amino acids, not protein. Your body puts together the amino acids to make proteins. If you eat animal proteins, your body just has to break them down into amino acids, and then put them together again.
    I've been vegan for 17+ years, feel great, no health issues, and am healthier than the rest of my family.

  29. organicgoddess says:

    I suspect that was aimed at Laura, not at you, Wayne. (I'm not calling Laura an a-hole — just speculating from what was said in each post.)

  30. Chip Njaa says:

    I'm not arguing this one point because I feel, in some way, defense… I'm just curious: how does eating an unfertilized chicken egg, that the chicken would have laid anyway, cause pain to a sentient being? Not all chickens are raised and kept on factory farms. I have seen plenty of happy and healthy chickens that lay eggs which eventually would go rotten if not collected. My family raised a few chickens when I was a young one and they seemed quite content. Most chickens are considered domesticated and rely on humans for food and protection. Is Mr. Smith recommending that all chickens should immediately be set free? Just wonder because I've never understood the opposition to eating honey or chicken eggs… I don't see how it hurts anything. And, I'm certainly not against learning something new… so if you have the time respond, I would appreciate it. Thank you : )

  31. BrianD82 says:

    The human digestive system and even our teeth are designed to consume both meat and veggies. Why is it unethical to do what evolution or nature or God designed us TO do?

  32. AhimsaYogi says:

    What happens to the dairy cows when they are done producing milk for you? Do they get to live out the rest of their lives peacefully? Or are they slaughtered like the others? And what happens to the babies after they are born? are they allowed to nurse? are they put in veal crates? are they forced to produce milk for you until they are shipped off to slaughter? and your money that goes to this dairy supports all aspects correct? so you are supporting veal & the slaughter of the cows. I like that they get to graze freely, but if they meet the same end how is it worth it?

  33. organicgoddess says:

    Kate – how the cows are treated isn't the issue. It's what happens to all the baby boy dairy calves. In order to produce milk, cows have to be kept in a cycle of pregnancy (about once calf a year). On average 1/2 of them are male. NO ONE can keep all those bulls and feed them and let them live out their lives. They have to go (dairy cows are almost all artificially inseminated, and even if naturally mated, you only need one bull in a herd to do that). Most of these babies are turned into veal. And the dairy cows themselves become hamburger far earlier that they would die naturally.
    Same argument goes for eggs, except the baby boys that hatch on egg farms are killed immediately.

  34. organicgoddess says:

    so in short, if you support dairy, you support the veal industry.

  35. Chip Njaa says:

    I think many would argue that our digestive system and teeth aren't designed to consume meat. Look at the instances of prostate cancer when you compare vegan vs. people with meat eating diets. Also, prove to me that you could tear through the skin of a cow with your teeth to get at the meat (I suppose you could do that with a fish or a chicken though O.O).

  36. Chip Njaa says:

    Prostate cancer… >.< sorry, I meant to say colon cancer. I think I need a refresher course on human anatomy.

  37. Tatum says:

    I have so many thoughts on this, that weiging in on this topic and this particular paragraph is making my head spin. However, what I would like to say to Elephant Journal is thank you for keeping this a safe, open forum for everyone by having a one strike policy on name calling. Just one more reason that I love you guys!

  38. matthew says:

    "It strikes me as childish logic. It's like 'I like bees and I like cows….more than the immigrants that pick the vegetables I eat.'" -Chelsea Peretti

  39. AhimsaYogi says:

    it's not as much the eggs themselves as it is the industry. Most eggs come from stressed out hens in horrific conditions (research battery cages), male chicks that hatch are killed right away (ground alive) and females are forced to produce eggs in battery cages until they cannot produce any more & then they are sent to slaughter. and chickens are exempt from the Humane Slaughter Act, so it is a horrific death. the majority of eggs do not come from happy healthy hens who get to roam freely and live a full life. I personally will not eat any eggs from any chicken because they aren't mine to take. At Farm Sanctuary, they collect the eggs and feed them back to the hens because the hens lose a lot of nutrients in laying eggs & this helps to replenish what has been depleted. Eggs need not go rotten if they are given back to the source. Farm Sanctuary has tons of info on their website if you;d like to research more:)

  40. Jessica says:

    I can totally see that there aren't many places to get a truly humanely raised and killed portion of meat, but I don't buy that humans are NOT supposed to eat meat. However, I think factory farms are evil. If everyone had to kill the meat they ate, there would a lot more fishing and a lot more vegetarians.

    I also think the dairy industry is evil, and that humans consuming the milk of another animal – not just in infancy but throughout adulthood – makes absolutely no sense.

    But eggs? How does getting an egg from a chicken (that is raised humanely and with kindness) cause pain? I think your statement is a little too broad in that respect.

  41. Tatum says:

    Rather than accusing and belittling people, maybe you should consider offering education and resources to those making decisions you feel are unethical. For example, Chip Njaa asked an insightful question which you have not yet responded to.

  42. I can't speak for all dairies, but I do know the cows at this particular farm live out their lives peacefully (Verrrrry small mom & pop operation) The babies nurse (for a certain length of time?) & are not crated. I know that the male calves are sold to a local butcher & I hadn't thoroughly thought through that part of it ie me buying the milk is contributing to their slaughter. I was a vegan for a few years & found it to be a poor fit due to some health issues at that point. But…I may revisit that in the future. Thanks for your thoughts!

  43. Gary Smith says:

    Chickens have been bred by the industry to produce three to four times the amount of eggs that is natural. Farm sanctuaries feed the eggs back to the chickens to produce the calcium that they lose by producing so many eggs. So, in essence, if you keep backyard chickens, you are steeling. 250 million male chicks are ground up alive in hatcheries every year. Male chicks have no economic value to the industry. You cannot attain an egg laying chicken without participating in this genocide. You can learn more from this short article – http://www.examiner.com/vegan-in-national/back-ya

  44. Gary Smith says:

    Chickens have been bred by the industry to produce three to four times the amount of eggs that is natural. Farm sanctuaries feed the eggs back to the chickens to produce the calcium that they lose by producing so many eggs. So, in essence, if you keep backyard chickens, you are steeling. 250 million male chicks are ground up alive in hatcheries every year. Male chicks have no economic value to the industry. You cannot attain an egg laying chicken without participating in this genocide. You can learn more from this short article – http://www.examiner.com/vegan-in-national/back-ya

  45. Had not considered that re: "if you support dairy, you support the veal industry." Do you know any info on how this same issue plays out w/ goat's milk? As I mentioned to "Ahimsa Yogi" the farm I buy from is a really small operation. I grew up near by & had the pleasure of playing with and cleaning up after many of the cows as a kiddo. I also get goat's milk (free) from a friend who has goats…they are like her children. None of them ever end up cooked.

    Full disclosure…I also sometimes eat B&J ice cream (but as far as I can remember…they make an effort to use local dairy? Not sure if this is still true….)

    Thanks for the informative feedback!

  46. Further, making accusatory comments ("Unless you value murder and oppression, the answer is vegan") because you don't agree with something, and making an incomplete argument because you are not addressing the way humans are treated on this planet just makes you appear opinionated and shallow. Shame on you, sir. Why not take a few moments and ask YOURSELF if your pontificating is really helping anyone or just wasting space because you are not adding value to your opinion.

  47. AhimsaYogi says:

    wow…very cool & rare to see a dairy allow the cows to live out their lives & die naturally.

  48. Val says:

    Love this post. That really is what it all boils down to: Every time you sit down to eat, you have a choice to cause another living being pain or not. Why would you ever choose to make an animal suffer if you don't have to?

  49. Jessica says:

    Exactly what I was thinking about…just saw her do that routine the other day.

  50. So…did you not want comments from non-vegans? Your article (and many of the comments) were thought provoking, but this response seems a bit harsh and closed-minded to me (maybe due the sometimes impersonal nature of online medium?) I was vegan for awhile, stopped for awhile, and have considered becoming vegan again, but I have to say that even if I do choose that, I don't believe that everyone who mindfully chooses vegetarianism (or ethically raised meat) "values murder and oppression."

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