If you can forgive the Sheogorath quotation there, it seems to me that an ideal subject for a fresh foray into the blogging world might be veganism. No, I’m not about to preach peace and love (although why exactly such things are worthy of mockery for some I have no idea) but I am going to indulge in a moment or two of introspection. And then write it down here. Which isn’t all that introspective perhaps but hey, it’s my blog.
One thing that strikes me when I’m demanded to explain my refusal to eat the flesh of another creature is how distressing it is to live in a world where such a question even needs to be asked. For things to have developed to such an extreme, where you are actually called upon to explain a preference for compassion over oppression, life over death, is really quite traumatic.
Yet assuming the individual demanding an explanation is genuinely interested, a favored method of mine is to start with some fundamentals. For instance, only the most clownish of carnist clowns believe that animals are incapable of feeling pain, or that the difference between a “cute puppy” and a big stinking factory-farmed pig is that the former can feel pain whilst the latter somehow has no central nervous system. This is an obvious absurdity, yet some appear to hold to it, at least unconsciously and in the sense they may prioritize the suffering of the puppy whilst displaying psychotic indifference to the stinky piggy.
To be rational is to realize that a sentient being is capable of suffering. This may seem like a tautology, perhaps, but it needs to be stressed that to suffer is to experience, envisage and indeed desire, an end to pain. Any animal is capable of such a degree of agency, and no matter what form they take (cute or otherwise) they will still have the capacity to display and indeed prefer a state of happiness over misery. Arguments revolving around such capacities, for myself and others, are the foundation for a theory of rights (and ethics) that’s palpable rather than mere sentimental abstraction.
Yet to have rights is to have responsibilities, although it must be said to be cognizant of such responsibilities and indeed have the capacity to manifest them is another matter. All the same, for many the suffering of the cute puppy would invoke a moral duty upon others to act towards ending said suffering. The form the animal takes is irrelevant; just as only an imbecile or a psychopath would absolve him/herself of moral responsibility towards the suffering of a human they found physically unappealing, the aesthetics of the animal are meaningless. All that matters is that it is suffering, and the physical form the aggrieved subject takes is entirely meaningless when it comes to formulating the appropriate moral response. We can understand this with humans, so why not animals?