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Why don’t vegans accept your choice not to be?

March 3, 2017

Non-vegans will often wonder why vegans can’t accept their free choice to eat differently. They reason, “I accept their choice to be different. It’s unfair for them not to return the courtesy.” But the two concepts are not comparable.

Imagine that you went to a high security prison and spoke to an inmate, incarcerated for killing multiple people. You ask him how he feels about non-murderers, and he says:

Urgh, I hate non-murderers. I think they should all convert to murdering. It’s the right thing to do.”

You’d be astonished, because that would be insane. In real life, your inmate friend would be highly unlikely to do this, because assuming he is unrepentant about the whole affair, he is an amoral agent in this scenario.

That is to say, he can neither see morality or immorality in the decisions to kill, or not kill. He has simply done what he felt like doing, and feels that this internal process is basically no one else’s business.

This is how non-vegans feel about veganism or non-veganism. They don’t think it’s morally wrong to eat meat, or not eat meat. They don’t have a problem with vegans or veganism, except in the reactive sense, when we vegans are being So Unfair. They are amoral agents in this scenario.

On the reverse side, vegans are the moral agents. We have decided that the animal agriculture industry is wrong. Whether we are correct in this assertion is irrelevant to the status of being moral agents; all that is relevant is whether someone is being moralistic.

If they are invoking a moral feeling, then by definition they believe that everyone in the world, with few exceptions in the most extreme circumstances, should behave in the same way they do.

That is why a non-vegan accepts a vegan, and a vegan does not accept a non-vegan.

It is all too easy to be tolerant of the choices of others when they mean nothing to you, and have no effect on your life; the meat eaters continue to eat meat and there is still a KFC on every corner. That won’t change for a while, so non-vegans are freed from any necessity of caring what the eccentric, plant-eating minority are doing or saying.

Vegans, on the other hand, are affected, because we are seeing a continuation of an immoral behaviour with stark effects, namely, the continued death and suffering of animals. It would make no sense at all to say: “Well, it’s your choice, man. I don’t care what you do with your life.”

Imagine if someone said: “Well, I personally don’t like to abuse children, but if you wanna do that man, it’s your choice. I don’t care what you do with your life.” It would be ridiculous. Morality implies a rule to be generalised to others, because it is not enough to be the only moral agent. If no one follows your lead, the bad keeps occurring.

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From → Animal Rights

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