Reason to Vegan #3: Henry Spira


I think most ethical vegans would agree that undue frustration comes from the fact that the simplicity of our message belies the popular resistance to it.This unfortunate paradox came to mind as I was reading Peter Singer’s Ethics into Action, an inspiring analysis of Henry Spira, the great animal rights activist.

Two aspects of this book drove me to articulate yet another reason to go vegan. The first is the purity of Spira’s passion. He’d never thought much about how we treat animals until he reached his 50’s, acquired a cat, and read Peter Singer’s 1973 “Animal Liberation” essay in the New York Review of Books. The cat totally seduced him, as did the power of Singer’s arguments. He dedicated his life to helping non-human animals, the most vulnerable creatures among us.

The second aspect was a quote included in the book from Animal Liberation:

A liberation movement demands an expansion of our moral horizons, so that practices that were previously regarded as natural and inevitable are now seen as intolerable.

And hence, a third reason to go vegan:

Violence and suffering are bad. Humans should choose to avoid violence and suffering whenever possible. Killing an animal for food and clothing–no matter how that animal was raised– causes violence and suffering. Humans not only do not need animals for food and clothing, we are often better off–at least with food–without them. Thus when we eat and wear animals we are (no matter what kind of hopeful story comes with our food and clothing) causing undue suffering and violence. That is bad. 

To fail to embrace such a simple and obvious message, indeed, strikes me, as it did Henry Spira, as “intolerable.”




About James McWilliams
I'm a historian and writer based in Austin, Texas. This blog is dedicated to exploring the ethics of eating animals and animal-based products.

One Response to Reason to Vegan #3: Henry Spira

  1. Carolle says:

    Wonderful points Mr. McWilliams. Thank you for being a clear voice for the cause. I appreciate your efforts and I am enjoying this blog!

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