Reason to Go Vegan #4: The Inner Voice

I don’t want to speak for others, but I feel safe in saying that people who consistently promote the virtues of dietary veganism find themselves constantly under siege by the society they want to reform. On the one hand, the essence of our message could not be simpler: animals are worth our moral compassion; we should thus not inflict purposeful or unnecessary suffering up them; raising animals to kill and eat them–or to enslave them for their milk or eggs– causes purposeful and unnecessary suffering; therefore we should not eat meat or meat based products.

On the other hand, this message, no matter how hard we work to reduce it to its powerful essence, is drowned out in a chorus of objections and rationalizations: it’s natural to eat meat; it’s my right to eat what I want to eat; if we didn’t raise and kill the animals they would never have enjoyed a life; humans have always done it; the animal I ate was treated with dignity; the human body is “designed” to eat meat; eating meat is a cultural expression; your veganinism is a “lifestyle” choice; etc. You’ve heard these positions. They haunt your dreams. You know them well.

These counter-arguments, none of which even remotely come close to undermining the essential moral issue at stake, are fired at vegan advocates as if they are self-evident truths, evidence that our promotion of veganism is due to little else than an anthropormorphic affection for cute, fuzzy animals. To my fellow travelers, I urge you: don’t let the chorus wear you down. Perhaps it’s too early to start quoting Steve Jobs, but something he said in his 2005 Stanford address has stuck with me, and will always be advice I will heed: “Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” 



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.

3 Responses to Reason to Go Vegan #4: The Inner Voice

  1. CQ says:

    You’re right, James. None of these self-justifications comes close to undermining the morality of refusing to participate in the killing industries.

    That’s a great definition of dogma (the word hardly suits dogs, does it?).

    And it’s never the wrong time to cite a perfect quote. I’m sure Steve would be honored that you remembered it and shared it with others. It’s one way his creativity lives on.

    Every once in a blue moon I briefly question my stance on expressing compassion to all creatures. I guess I get temporarily hypnotized and hoodwinked by wave upon crashing wave of crass arguments for killing which pound me from all directions.

    But I only need recall the tragic faces of farmed animals shown in videos of their slaughter — and the happy faces of farmed animals who have been rescued in the nick of time — to I regain my confidence and composure and certitude.

    Being compassionate in a crowd of carnists is lonely sometimes. But there are
    few more rewarding feelings than defending the lives of our fellow-beings on moral grounds. It’s what a child does without even thinking. Which reminds me of another apt quote: “Hypocrisy in anything whatever may deceive the cleverest and most penetrating man, but the least wide-awake of children recognizes it, and is revolted by it, however ingeniously it may be disguised.” ~ Count Leo Tolstoy

    It helps me to remember that those who have yet to embrace animals as their sentient equals are simply wearing Halloween disguises — which are none too ingenious! My conscious was similarly veiled for years and years.

    So, friends, it’s time to strip off the masks, and show yourselves to be the consistently kind, morally sane, spiritually logical, relevant and righteous individuals you were made to be.

  2. CQ says:

    For a look at a remarkably similar blog post today, see:

  3. Provoked says:

    The chorus of objections always reminds me of omnivore bingo… They’ve got dozens of excuses not to take vegan choices seriously.

    I also think that those who try to ignore their inner voice create untold damage to their emotional and physical state – Perhaps in time we’ll see that living a morally consistent life also extends the health of our bodies as well… I wonder what their excuse will be then to live otherwise?

    Thank you for speaking up for justice – and kindness.

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