Veganer than thou

May I present to you: the superlocavore vegan (from locavore: eating locally; we will abbreaviate this to SV). This is a type of vegan who takes into account the fact that conventional plant agriculture entails a lot of dead animals too. In the harvesting of plants by machines, many small rodents, birds etc (not to talk about insects) are killed. That’s why the EV stick to the principle that they only eat what comes out of their own organic, manually labored garden. Nothing else.

The superlocavore vegan consider superlocavore veganism as the moral baseline. They consider it doable for everyone (those who don’t have a garden can find another vegan with a garden and live off their land) and thus a moral duty to eat as they eat. People who are merely vegan (and are thus consuming plant products that implied the avoidable suffering of said small rodents and birds) are, in their eyes, hypocrites.

The SV don’t really exist as such, though there are plenty of vegans doing their best to be as self sufficient as possible. In case it’s not clear, I want to make raise the following points or questions in bringing them up:

– Is veganism a black and white thing, or is it, to a certain extent, an arbitrary concept?  What about the so called “moral baseline”? What does it mean when some people go further than us?
– How, as a “normal” vegan, would you react to being called a hypocrite by an SV?
– What does all this say about us judging people not going as far as us (non vegans)

I’m sure that many people will try to point out the differences between veganism and superlocavore veganism, between cows and those rodents, between intentionally eating animals and eating plants the harvest of which unintentionally killed animals… but I’m not sure if there’s a true difference. At least, if there is, the difference is small enough to suspend your disbelief and go along for a moment in the above thought experiment.

19 thoughts on “Veganer than thou

  1. From consequentialist (maximize a measure of aggregate well-being) and libertarian (do not harm) viewpoints, being a vegan but not an EV is arbitrary. Therefore, consequentialist/libertarian vegans can acknowledge that something like EV is the goal and work towards that goal. If an EV says to a consequentialist or libertarian vegan that the vegan is a hypocrite, the EV is factually right (but perhaps tactically wrong). A libertarian vegan should become an EV and being an EV is the moral baseline in libertarianism. A consequentialist vegan and a consequentialist EV should move further beyond EV: they should also activelly help animals instead of merely not harming them. In consequentialism, the moral baseline is a derived notion and strongly depends on the situation, so there is no simple formula for the moral baseline.
    From a deontological viewpoint, one can easily construct rights in such a way that veganism (but not EV) is a moral baseline and is very black or white. For example the right not to be used against one’s will as a means for someone else’s ends. Both EV’s and vegans respect this right on an equal level. Therefore, there is no arbitrariness of stopping at the moral baseline and some deontological vegans are not hypocrites.

      1. Deontological vegans can say things like “knowingly harming beings is wrong” (e.g. factory farming animals) without claiming things like “accidentally harming being is wrong” (e.g. harvesting wheat).

        Additionally, there are other groups that are consistant between denying EV but accepting veganism. For example, rule utilitarians could claim that not demanding suffering is a moral “baseline” for non-utilitarians. Those who are utilitarian would be required to actively reduce suffering. And, since there is no direct demand for suffering, utilitarians could work toward achieving that goal, without facing restistance.

        Plus, some believe, as I do, that wild animals suffer more than they experience happiness. Therefore, farming more land is the solution, not EV. In this way, a utilitarian can say that the moral baseline is to reduce activities that obviously create suffering, while questionable behaviors should be discussed.

        1. lysander, but if we eat e.g. traditionally harvested grain, and we KNOW that animals were killed in the process, then at least we are knowingly involved in harming them, no? About “accidentally”, i don’t know either. It’s maybe semantics, but it seems it’s more than accidental here, though not intentional.

          Do you mean farming more land is a solution in the sense that there would be less wild animals?

  2. Man, EV’s are veganer than I. However, I think there’s one huge difference between the gap between meat eaters and vegans, and vegans and EV’s.

    Everyone can continue living any lifestyle whatsoever with a shift to a vegan diet. Turning to EV will demand a whole different kind of engagement and work in your diet, that I personally think is awesome, but which I respect that other people are not interested in. I believe it is definitely (for a hundred different reasons) is much better than normal veganism, but it is also a whole lot harder to pull off. But indeed, if I was talking to an EV, and I pulled off these arguments, I would sound exactly like a carnist going “but what if you just want to eat meat” I guess. So the difference makes an important statement about not judging eachother. If a vegan judges a carnist, they deserve to be judged by an EV – but if a vegan is non-judgemental to carnists, they do not deserve to be judged by an EV.

  3. When you consider that 0.5% of Americans are vegan, you realize that a “vegan world” is a far off dream, that likely will never happen. I think it will always be an individual ethical decision that some people will make. Some people are just more sensitive to the suffering of other living beings. It’s really that simple. You can’t preach or even teach someone into becoming a vegan. Everyone knows that the meat they eat was once a living, feeling even loving animal,, but there is still the disconnect, Everyone knows how poorly these animals are treated, yet 99.5% of Americans really don’t care. I became a vegan over 17 years ago, because of the love I had for a cat that I had to give away. Of course that’s weird, since people generally don’t eat cats. But when I saw and felt that a non-human animal loves just as we do, I was done eating animals from that point on. Extremalocavore vegans? The percentage of people who care about the rats an birds in the fields is even smaller than 0.5%, My biggest problem with this whole vegan thing is that the animals people buy in the store to eat are already dead. I think most people look at that. and say it’s a waste of time to be a vegan. Can you argue with that?

    1. fred, apart from trying to change people’s values so that they would change their behaviour, we can also make sure they change their behaviour first (by making sure vegan options are easy, tasty and everywhere). attitude change may then follow.

  4. Where is the evidence that ‘many small rodents’ and ‘birds’ are killed during harvesting? Are rodents and birds deaf (and blind) and unable to hear and see a huge, noisy combine harvester coming towards them? This idea that appreciable numbers of rodents and birds are killed by harvesting methods is a myth, and easily seen through if you think about it rationally.

    1. the point is that vegan food is not necessarily all cruelty free, that’s all. I think it’s pretty obvious that some animals will suffer and be killed for crops too. i have no idea how many.

  5. To further my point, I see that several of the comments are from people who actually believe this MYTH that rodents and birds are killed by modern harvesting machinery… Where is the evidence? Do mice just sit still in fields while a huge, incredibly noisy machine slowly rolls towards them? Why would they do that?

  6. ps in the article I just linked, it says “T & M then set those 33 mice free to munch on grain, scurry, groom their fur, build nests, or whatever. All through the harvesting season, they tracked their rodent gang. Guess how many died in a grain harvester? One. One out of 33 – that’s 3.3%.”
    What evidence was there that the mouse wasn’t already dead when it was scooped up into the grain harvester? Are mice deaf?
    All you would need to do is study the actual harvested contents of a combine harvester – dead mice would show up quite easily and would have to be (obviously) separated from the grain/whatever before this was then sold onto be turned into food. Where is the evidence of this ever happening?

  7. Another good post!
    Humans were born with the physical structure of a being that suggests both the consumption of flora and fauna are possible. The length of the gut and our teeth structure suggests that humans might like to consider more of the flora and less of the fauna. (We’ll ignore my own teeth that demonstrate I should be living solely off rice soup). Humans apparently also used to swing about in trees, and had a different understanding of the meaning of “going clubbing”. Things CAN change. It’s called evolution. Now, as vegans, we are adding an R to the front of that cos, hey! It IS possible to reduce, reduce, reduce until suddenly…. All gone!

    Whilst I am totally clear about what it is that a vegan wants, I am still not clear as to whether one of the More Than One Hundred Percenters would rather that someone who had already taken a positive step towards veganism by at least reducing meat (etc) intake, but was unable to go the full monty ie not eat or use animal (by) products at all (at least at present) and thus give up? Going back to “nothing” because they cannot do “all”? Or have them keep that reduction going until it increases?
    Little by little, is what I always say, no matter how big that first step is (I remember my first time trying to step into the deep end of a swimming pool). Acorns and oak trees. Encouragement not preaching, finger wagging and chastising.
    Keep up the good work, Tobias.

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