On the possibility of three+ choices

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.

So…

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.

xo

Royce

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4 Responses to On the possibility of three+ choices

  1. TP says:

    “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?”

    You can’t, but you can certainly say that there is more net life lost in getting the cow from stable to table–not that that necessarily has implications beyond a rather abstract number. But I think it’s what compels many to vegan-ish-ism–among them, me.

  2. adam says:

    There are many lenses one can look through to prescribe a certain ethical orientation. Francione, as a rights theorist, sees only absolutes: you are a person/subject or property/object. Although he claims to escape anthropocentrism (i.e. “new speciesism”), he really only extends human person privilege rather than challenges the liberal ethic as such. So I agree with you that there are more than two choices and that veganism (as technically defined) is not *the* only morally right thing to do.

    However, I prefer not tho think of rightness and wrongness, but rather more or less responsible to others. It’s true that under the present capitalist system a morally sound relationship with animals who are rendered into food is seemingly impossible (especially since rising consumption is occurring in countries with the smallest presence of veganism). However, that is to think of things from a particular lens as well: consequentialism.

    Lately, I’ve been attempting to theorize veganism as something with an affirmative definition, an affirmation of our own feelings and the voices of others. In this sense, veganism is more of a modality for anti-oppression as being true to oneself and others rather than a self-certain, cruelty-free last man. In other words, maybe veganism is not a choice, but a potential multitude of choices contingent upon how we decide to define it. So while I dislike Francione’s and Singer’s “veganism”, I haven’t abandoned veganism altogether; it’s a child I have a hard time parting ways with.

    • Royce says:

      I’ve always been more of a negative consequentialist myself. Too much of a materialist for deontology and all.

      I do like that conception of veganism as a modality for anti-oppression, especially with the caveat that it isn’t the only mode.

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