Veganism/Vegetarianism: Edge Cases

Everyone everyone in awhile acts like they think I’m unprincipled on account of my quirky decisions on what is consistent with being a vegetarian and what isn’t. The general principle of vegetarianism is don’t eat animals. The general principle of veganism is don’t use animals, at least not in a manner that harms or kills the animal.

I believe there are many clear cases. Eating beef is clearly inconsistent with veganism or vegetarianism. Wearing leather shoes is clearly inconsistent with veganism. Also I believe the existence of edge cases doesn’t invalidate the clear cases. The fact that morality is not as crisp and well defined as algebra doesn’t mean moral systems are empty.

Vegan Movies. “No animals were harmed during the filming of this movie” Even if that is the case, there are a lot of movies I’ve seen with falling horses, which worries me about how they got the film shots– if they used a stuffed horse, that horse probably didn’t die of old age. If they are using living horses, the fall risks breaking the horses leg leaving them good as dead.

Vegan Music. Violins are strung with cat gut and that isn’t a fanciful name. It is about impossible to know what the artist was using from available information.

Vegan Information. Many crimes have been committed against animals to learn interesting and sometimes useful facts. For example, I read some of the basic research on the physiology of salt was performed on de-cerebrated ducks. A strict vegan principle would say we should try to ignore tainted information. That seems a bit pointless, since using existing information doesn’t cause further harm. I believe that such information tainted by inhumane animal experiments probably should be grandfathered in, but no more should be produced.

Vegan Driving, Vegan Transportation. Airplanes tend to kill a certain number of birds in landing and taking off. A certain percent of the time driving will result in the death of an animal.

Vegan Economics. Veganism takes on direct consumption of animal products, but not indirect consumption of animal products. For example, most people would consider a product to be vegan if it contained no leather, even if the tools to make it were leather. Similarly, in the entire economy, almost all industries take inputs from almost all other industries– so indirectly, almost the entire economy is tainted by the trade in animal products, more so now than ever now that animal farm products are being refined to use as industrial chemicals.

Vegan Housing and Buildings. Wildlife animal welfare is a matter of habitat. Habitat means forest. Single family houses and living out where wildlife is means less habitat and the death of animals.

Solutions. There isn’t an easy solution to these questions. Intentionality matters. The actual impact of your consumption decision matters. Consuming products that used animal inputs may weigh on your conscience, but foregoing them may not have a significant impact on the market. Other forms of activism, like say letter writing campaigns, might be more effective, hence the more moral act.

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