Challenging Questions

What would I be if I claimed to have all of the answers?  ARROGANT and foolish.  This page contains consideration of some of the fringe or marginal questions and issues that arrise when considering veganism.  What would I be if I did not even try to answer these questions?  I'm not sure exactly, except in the case of some of these questions at least the answer would be: not a philosopher.  It is important to note from the beginning that the presence of these questions do nothing to invalidate the vegan option and paradigm.  There does not exist a knock down argument for veganism, as it is a principle that accepts sentience and tries to avoid causing suffering to those 'in possession' of it.  This fundamental principle is more important than any word. Furthermore, the existence of these questions does not mean that all of a sudden 'anything goes'.

What about the beings that you harm (as a vegan)?

Mosquitos are a good example - I honestly don't squash mosquitos, but I did that long before I was vegan or even cared in the slightest about living based on coherent consideration of the interests of animals.  The fact is that mosquitos are just going for a little meal; you gain near immunity from the toxic enzymes in the saliva of that species if you are exposed to them enough; their bite is only slightly annoying when it goes in, and they suck up most of the saliva which causes the itch if you kill them.  Killing them then is actually a touch ironic for the person who does it, not to mention the end of the mosquitos evinescent contribution to existence. Phew, I dodged having to really answer that question for a second. 

So what about house flies or spiders, mice, or rats (in the house)?  OR a wasp that went into your house?  It is important to understand that the way we treat these creatures in this case is categorically different from animals that humans have captured, birthed, and raised in captivity or even ones that people kill for fun or for food.  This is categorically different precisely for the fact it is not something that is being forced upon anybody.  Then again, our buildings, cities, agriculture, and infrastructure encroach on the habitat of many a species.  That is a different issue, which basically would necessitate my and our species' extinction to become a practical matter.  So, it may be interesting if I join you for a minute in that armchair; however, short of a city planning and re-creational revolution this possibility is quite irrelevant. A minute is about the extent of my time that such a query deserves.

Getting back to the wasps and whatnot in the house.  Hey, I do not know if they are sentient, but I am not about to kill them or rip off their legs when I do not have to. 

Now the real challenge of this question is what I have been putting off.  What about my farming (or the farming done for my food)? It is not completely benign.

Anyway, I have written a lot today, so I will address this later.  Yeah, and I am putting it off :P

Is 'Going Vegan' the only answer to addressing animal suffering?

Some people may say that it is, but this is inaccurate.  If a freegan is eating meat, milk, yogurt, etc. from their "dumpster dives" I have not found coherent thought to condemn them for that.  It may not be the most nutritious food for being pig or cow, or milk, or some such thing, but it is better than no food and it would be going to the dump, where for all of our human ingenuity the absence of oxygen and therefore aerobic bacteria, will prevent it from breaking down.  The same logic however, would apply to any food product found in the dumpster.  Say if there was a can of dog meat or human breast muscle then by the same logic that would be fair game. That does make it seem a bit more fishy, but that may be an issue of taboo (and etiquette) rather than ethics.  I don't really care enough to guess.  Besides, those things will not be found in the dumpster behind a grocery store.

There is one interesting point to consider.  Presumably a freegan is a 'freegan' in order to subvert the mechanisms of capitalism or at least to avoid contributing to them. Two problems with this position are that it requires capitalism and indiscriminate consumption.  Fortunately, for the freegan, they did not bring this about, and the unfortunately for all of us, this does not seem to be changing.  That brings us to the second point, that freegans do not actually subvert the mechanisms of capitalism, but only subsist without moving them along.  A more effective way of subversion, given that consumption and symbolic exchange, even in minimalist ways of living, are inevitable for 7 or more billion people, is to work to change markets by spending on different types of products.  Given the way that markets function, a freegan is basically irrelevant to marketing considerations, and politically in this sense has become a non-body.  I don't think that we should too quickly absolve a freegan of any carrying of the blame for the destruction that economics without ethics has left in its wake, for being there in the first place and continuing to exist.  We are all to blame for not changing things.  Given that freegans are absolved in other ways, this argument may not carry as much inductive gravity as when one views it on its own.  Still, let us work to escape dogma.

Being a freegan may be the better answer.  Granted, I have not thought a lot about it, and one could still be vegan and freegan or part freegan or whatever. 


  1. Hi! I wonder if you could help me with a challenging question I have (as a vegan). I've been trying to figure out if, arable-land-wise, it's possible to feed our current world population 100% vegan. The average (1st world) vegan diet requires 0.25 hectares of (arable) land (Pimentel, Cornell University). This means we would need 1750 mha of arable land to feed everyone a vegan diet. But there's only 1387 mha of arable land on this planet (or there was in 2008, according to the FAO). As far as I've been able to find a vegan diet uses less agricultural land, yes, but more arable land (which is only 33% of all agricultural land).

    Now, there's a lot of things we could do to fix this, I think. Wasting less food, reducing 1st world calorie intake (world average is 2800 kcal, might be brought down to 2400 kcal which is a 15% decrease), permaculture on non-arable land... But still. It's not as rosy a picture as many Vegan Societies are painting, right? Or am I missing something?

    Please help!

  2. Another challenging question:

    I might well go along with the vegan syllogism. In fact, I do. I don't see how any self-respecting non-psychopath with about three minutes on their hands could fail to. Enslaving, raping, torturing, mutilating and killing animals unnecessarily is a not-very-nice thing to do.

    Say I saw someone raping a child in the street. I would not be thinking about their right to their own moral opinions, nor would I be worrying about etiquette. I would be shouting "Get the hell off that child!!". Say I knew a neighbour was really poor, but they made some money by breeding and fighting cockerels, I wouldn't have any reverence for the ancient tradition, nor for their livelihood. I would be calling the RSPB or the police... maybe both.

    Challenging question:
    Is it (logically) a moral responsibility to denounce and forcibly prevent the use of animals where you see it? Is there any way of *logically* arguing that pissing someone off and/or encroaching upon their freedom of thought and belief is worse than allowing an innocent, defenceless animal to be maimed and slaughtered?

    Good luck!