I’m reminded in confronting a good friend with very well reasoned but very, very slightly opposing views to my own that veganism or at least vegetarianism is perceived as a morally superior position.
I’d say that it is morally better, but not in an absolute way and also not for the reasons that many people give.
Ethical Reasons for Veganism
Harming animals is bad is the simplest way to boil the ethical dilemma many people have down. Some people draw lines with sentience or other distinctions. It gets difficult to use those lines of reasoning though, since you can often use those same arguments for eating some humans. We can’t use the argument about fear and pain as motivation for being a vegetarian, as those are really just arguments for humanely killing an animal before we eat it.
So, again, let’s just draw the line at harming animals is bad.
I think that becomes a less black and white moral issue when you look at a couple of things.
- Plants have a survival instinct in the same way as animals and are a living thing with a single, overreaching purpose to try to survive and reproduce
- Some animals eat other animals. We are animals. Why do we feel the need to raise ourselves as so superior to completely deny ourselves something that is evolved and instinctual? Why is human exceptionalism morally superior to any other position?
I think it is potentially less morally “wrong” to eat a plant when compared to an animal. I would also say that the difference isn’t so large as to not be valid as a defense for eating meat. Would you feel bad having to chop down your favorite tree from childhood due to it being diseased? Why do we assign more value to an animal we would never see alive compared to a stalk of corn we would never see alive?
I’d also say that we have a problem if a hungry alien race comes and sees that they can eat us and we are eating other animals. Let’s hope aliens don’t come to eat us.
Environmental Reasons for Veganism
If you are concerned with the environment, meat uses more resources and produces more environmental impact compared to plant based foods. It’s as simple as that. I have reduced my consumption of meat and try to eat meat with a lower impact to the environment.