This is an opinion piece written by Ian O’Doherty that appears in The Independent. The headline reads, “Joyless vegan fundamentalists just love to wag their fingers.”
As the Joyless Vegan, I was very curious to read about why other equally joyless vegans are wagging their fingers. I didn’t know any vegans did that, joyless or otherwise, so I thought I’d check it out.
Mr. O’Doherty starts off by indicating he doesn’t like children, so I was almost inclined to like him, but then he says, “according to some schools of thought, you have no right to call yourself an animal lover if you also like to eat meat.”
That seems okay. I mean, I am in that school of thought, so I kept reading.
“It’s part of the fatuous, binary equivalence which has become de rigueur in today’s society, which dictates that if you like one thing, you can’t like another – and is another example of the way crackpots try to dictate the behaviour of others.”
Whoa. Slow the truck down, O’Doherty. That’s a lot of crap to cram into one sentence!
First, veganism is a moral stance that rejects the exploitation of animals and is a consistent set of values that vegans live their lives by.
Sorry, let me clarify: vegans who apply the Abolitionist Approach to veganism have a consistent set of values by which they live their lives. I cannot in good conscience include welfarist vegans, because they are wildly inconsistent in their principles.
So, vegans live their lives according to a set of principles, which they adhere to consistently. How is that “fatuous, binary equivalence”?
O’Doherty seems to be upset at being told that one cannot love animals and also eat animal products.
I’m not sure why he’s upset about this, because it’s true. A person cannot claim to love animals and then turn around and cause them the most grievous harm by needlessly consuming them. Animals raised for food suffer horribly, even on the nicest, prettiest little family-run farms, because they are all exploited and they all end up slaughtered.
Now, I don’t know about you, but when I love someone, I don’t do things that will cause them needless suffering just because I like the way they taste.
We don’t need to eat animals; we just really like to. So we cause them immense, unnecessary suffering because we enjoy eating them.
That…is not love. That is not even like. That is just awful, and demonstrates the confused thinking that we vegans see constantly in non-vegans.
No, O’Doherty, you cannot love animals and eat them. I am not trying to dictate your behaviour to you in saying that; it’s simply a fact. You cannot claim to love someone while causing them to needlessly suffer.
How does telling him this make vegans “crackpots”? I think he meant to say, “morally consistent”. No one is dictating his behaviour; they are simply pointing out his moral inconsistency.
O’Doherty says it’s not hypocrisy to say you love animals and love meat. He says it’s “simply recognition of the fact that we are top of the food chain, we are carnivores and meat is a fundamental part of the diet of the vast majority of people.”
There is no “food chain” and humans are certainly not “at the top” of it. There are, however, food webs in which all living things on this planet are interconnected, but there is no “bottom” and there is no “top”.
Humans are not, in fact, carnivores. Our dentition, our digestive tracts, the fact that we must cook meat in order to consume it where true carnivores do not are all powerful indicators that humans are not actually meant to eat meat. The fact that we can does not mean that we should, particularly considering the health problems the medical and scientific communities are increasingly understanding are heavily linked to our (needless) consumption of animal products. Even the American Dietetic Association acknowledges that a plant-based diet is healthy when done properly.
The fact that the vast majority of people do something doesn’t make it right. Lots of folks used to own slaves—does that make slavery okay in O’Doherty’s mind? I would not describe the feeling slave owners had for their slaves as love.
Then O’Doherty talks about Veganuary and says that even if someone stops eating meat for the month of January, “that choice isn’t enough to make our vegan friends happy.”
Well, no, O’Doherty. Would you be impressed with someone who said he decided not to beat his wife for the month of January? I mean, if you are just gonna start up again come Feb 1, then…why would that make anyone happy? So, no, as a vegan, I can say I am not “happy” with anyone who decides to try being vegan for a little while but then quits. Why on earth would O’Doherty expect that to make vegans happy?
Then he gets on to Anthony Bourdain. Christ, this guy.
Bourdain was known for hating vegans and spouting weird, violent fantasies about what he’d do to them, apparently. And apparently, the spirit of this mindset was awakened in O’Doherty when a newspaper ran an interview with a “leading Irish vegan” who said “it’s not enough to simply stop eating meat or using any animal products” and that adopting a plant-based diet for health reasons is not veganism. The activist said that “veganism is a moral issue.”
She is correct. Veganism is, indeed, a moral issue.
What the hell does O’Doherty think it is? Obviously he didn’t do his research before writing his opinion, because if he did, he would know this.
He calls this stance “absolutism”, with “no room for compromise, nuance or subtlety of thought.”
FFS. This guy is killing me.
Would he say the same about anyone who is against sexism? So, being against sexism is an “absolutist” stance that doesn’t allow room for compromise. Why would we compromise? Is it okay if a guy beats his wife a little, as long as he doesn’t break her bones? Is that the kind of “compromise” O’Doherty is looking for?
How do we “compromise” on things like racism, sexism or speciesism? What are the “nuances” of slaughtering over 56 billion animals every year so we can eat them when we have no need whatsoever to do so? Please, O’Doherty, explain to me the “nuances” and “subtlety” of that! Take your best shot!
He then goes on to call veganism “dietary choices”.
No, O’Doherty. What shirt you want to wear today is a choice. What kind of car you drive or home you live in is a choice. Taking the life of another sentient being for no reason at all other than you like how they taste is not a “choice”, because there’s a victim, someone who is harmed in your making of that “choice”.
It’s not a man’s personal choice to rape a woman or a child. Okay, O’Doherty? Because the “choice” the man makes results in someone being victimized.
Why do I even have to explain this?
Then O’Doherty blathers on about identity politics, and by this time I am getting a bit bored of his mindless prattle. Veganism is not about “posturing” and “one-upmanship”. It’s about understanding that animals are sentient beings who think and feel, and that we cause them pain and suffering for no justifiable reason, and that is wrong.
Then he likens vegan food to wood chips because clearly he’s never bothered to try vegan food, and prattles on again about how people have the right to make choices.
Yes, O’Doherty, they do. So long as those choices do not victimize others, which eating animals most certainly does.
Then he gets into some of these “animal rights” activists who storm into shops and yell at people, and here I have to agree with him. Those tactics are absurd and serve no purpose at all other than to give ammunition to people like O’Doherty to ridicule and mock vegans and veganism.
So thanks for that, I guess, those of you who practice street theatre. You aren’t really helping anything.
Then O’Doherty mercifully begins to wind down his long monologue of nonsense. He says the “question of how we treat our livestock isn’t so much an issue of animal rights as it is human responsibility”.
What O’Doherty fails to understand is that the problem is not how we treat animals; it’s that we use them at all. Had he bothered to research veganism rather than just spouting off about things he knows nothing about, he may have learned that.
Then he says, “after all, a chicken has no right against being eaten by a fox.”
There are not enough facepalms in the world for that statement.
Clearly O’Doherty does not have the foggiest idea what a right is. Yes, foxes eat chickens. How, exactly, does that justify the unnecessary consumption of billions of sentient beings by humans every single year? How, O’Doherty? I need you to explain that connection.
I am surprised he didn’t trot out desert islands or houses on fire to try to bolster his argument.
To finish, O’Doherty predictably says that he will continue eating meat and we’ll have to pry it from his “cold, sauce-covered hands.”
No one is prying anything from your hands, O’Doherty. But if you really loved animals, as you say you do, you would voluntarily lay down that rack of ribs because you’d understand you had no right to kill a living being for no reason other than your own palate pleasure.
What for you is a momentary pleasure is for the one you’ve victimized a life of unbearable suffering and a brutal, needless death.