A little less than a month ago Gary Francione posted to his site, Abolitionist Approach, a very short post entitled No Third Choice.
Francione’s first paragraph:
There is veganism and there is animal exploitation. There is no third choice. If you are not vegan, you are participating directly in animal exploitation.
This is a false dichotomy.
There is animal exploitation. Period. We are all complicit in the exploitation of animals. It is impossible in late capitalism to avoid being complicit in this exploitation: from our bikes and cars to the medicines we consume, we are benefitting from animal exploitation.
So the real choice is retreat from society, becoming a self-sufficient individual (or collective) or animal exploitation.
To be a vegan is not to suddenly be free of animal exploitation, but to try to reduce how much one benefits. Hopefully, while acknowledging that one still benefits from the ongoing killing of multitudes. To say that there is veganism or animal exploitation is to deny the reality of the oppressive system we live in.
Do I cause more suffering now that I eat meat. That is the question I keep asking myself. The answer is: who knows? How can I quantify the number of “pests” that died for the amount of vegetable matter I would have consumed to replace the one larger animal that I helped eat this week? Who matters more? Me? The cow? The mice? The rats? The aphids, the spiders, the grasshoppers, the voles, the roaches, the wheat, that huge pumpkin?
Second (and final paragraph):
If you are not vegan, think about whether your comfort, pleasure, amusement, or convenience is worth anyone’s life. If you conclude that it is not, go vegan. It’s easy, better for your health and the environment, and, most important, it’s the morally right thing to do.
I’m glad Francione acknowledges that not everyone could reach the same conclusion after contemplating those questions, though I think it is more a question of degree.
He does ignore that for a great many people it simply is not easier to go vegan. That may be, I think, one of the worst moves for marketing veganism. Veganism can be economically, psychologically, and culturally difficult. As is any attempt to consume ethically within the current system. This should be acknowledged. Change is never easy, if it was it would have happened already.
A mature ethical person should be willing to take the extra effort to enact their ethics in whichever ways possible.
I don’t know if I agree that veganism is the morally right thing to do. But I will wholeheartedly say it is a morally right thing to do.
I think there are not three choices. I think there are many choices when it comes to implementing ethics. Perhaps even some we haven’t come up with yet.