Why do non-vegans insist that vegans are “judgmental” and “self-righteous”? Nothing could be farther from the truth. As a vegan, I have taken a good, long look at the world around me and decided that I do not like what I see. I realize that the only way to make meaningful change is to start with myself and my own actions. I don’t judge others—I simply inquire as to why people don’t live according to their values and principles. If you can’t answer that–or don’t like the answers you come up with–that isn’t my fault. Instead of getting angry at me, do something about it.
Most people are good people who don’t want to cause animals unnecessary pain and suffering. What they don’t understand is that it is not necessary to eat, wear, test on or be entertained by animals. They don’t understand this because these behaviours are so pervasive in human culture and society. It seems normal to use animals for whatever purposes we see fit, as our society does not see animals as anything other than “things” that are here for us to use.
But they aren’t. They are sentient individuals. Their lives have meaning to them, and they have an interest in continuing to live. They are aware of what happens to them. For these reasons, they should be free of exploitation at the hands of humans. And it is very easy to stop exploiting animals. I have stopped eating their flesh and secretions. I have stopped wearing them—no fur, leather, down, wool or silk. I do not attend zoos, aquariums, circuses, rodeos or any other places or events where animals are exploited for entertainment purposes. I don’t buy animals from pet stores—rather, I adopt unwanted animals. Doing these things has been extremely easy for me. I have suffered no hardship and have not deprived myself of anything. Indeed, my life now feels more natural and enjoyable, as my actions now align with my principles.
If I try to open up a discussion with someone about veganism, it is not because I am “judging” them in a negative way. It is because I know how easy it is to live according to the principles of justice and compassion. I am assuming that other people value justice and compassion, as I do, and wish to incorporate those things into their lives as much as possible. If I am judging others, I am judging them to be decent people who embrace the principles of justice and compassion; I am judging them as intelligent people who will see the logic, once it is pointed out to them, regarding the discrepancy inherent in valuing justice while exploiting animals; and I am judging people to be intelligent and capable of understanding logical thought. I don’t see that as something negative.
Some people have told me that veganism is a “choice” or a “lifestyle”. It’s neither. It’s an acknowledgment that animals matter morally. Many people get very upset when I mention morality. I’ve had people tell me that morality comes from religion and is imposed upon people. One guy even argued that there is no such thing as “right” and “wrong”, only “works” and “doesn’t work”. I argued that there very definitely is such a thing as morality. There are some actions that are inherently wrong, not just because “I say so”. It’s not just my “opinion” that rape is wrong-—it IS wrong, inherently. It involves one individual being in a position of power over another and violating another individual. This is exploitation, and most people would agree that this is morally unacceptable, yet we exploit billions of animals every year on this planet. Why is it unacceptable to exploit other humans but acceptable to exploit non-human animals? What is the difference?
I’ve heard the arguments: animals don’t feel pain the way we do; animals don’t have an interest in continuing to live; animals only care HOW we use them not THAT we use them; we should focus on human issues and not worry about non-human animals; etc. None of these arguments hold any weight.
In regard to how non-human animals experience pain, we have no way of knowing. I have no way of knowing how YOU experience pain. Does that give me a right to exploit you? We-—humans and non-humans—-ALL feel pain and have an interest in avoiding it. That is all that matters. And where we are uncertain about whether a being feels pain, we should err on the side of caution and assume they do.
Animals DO have an interest in continuing to live. They do everything they can to ensure they continue to live. I am not sure how anyone can think they don’t. We can’t ask them, so we must err on the side of caution and assume that they do want to continue living.
Animals DO care that we use them. They don’t want to be used. They want to live, free of human exploitation. I’m not sure how anyone can argue otherwise—if we cannot ask them and receive an answer we can understand, then again we must err on the side of caution and assume they do. For me, this is not an assumption, but a given. I’m not sure how it can be otherwise.
I’ve often heard the argument that we should focus on issues relating to humans, not animals. I still don’t understand why it is that some people think we can’t do both. While you are advocating on behalf of abused women, or whatever other human-related issue you advocate for, be vegan. It doesn’t interfere with any other advocacy efforts. You still need food, even if you are advocating for children’s rights. Eat vegan food. You still have to wear clothes while advocating for the environment—don’t wear leather, fur, silk, wool or anything else animal-derived. How does one form of advocacy interfere with the other?
Additionally, many vegans are very concerned with justice, for non-humans and humans both. What sense would it make to advocate for justice for non-humans but not for humans? I believe that exploiting animals is wrong, and I also believe that exploiting women, children, mentally disabled and elderly people is wrong. Why would these be mutually exclusive?
I don’t look down my nose at non-vegans. I simply want to help them to understand what took me many long years to understand—we don’t need to exploit animals, and to do so is morally wrong. I’m not preaching my “opinions” and “beliefs” to others and trying to “cram my beliefs and opinions down their throats”. Veganism isn’t about ME. I don’t benefit in any way if the world suddenly goes vegan. The animals do, and that is what I care about. Take a good, long look at who is profiting off your meat and dairy eating and your attendance at the zoo, circus or rodeo. I stand to gain nothing if you shift to veganism. Big money interests gain everything if you don’t.
Think about it.