Wednesday, August 31, 2011

With veganism and animal-rights causes, a middle ground is always best.


BY KATHY RUDY
Associate professor of ethics and women's studies at Duke University


Ellen DeGeneres recently launched a national campaign endorsing veganism, and I give her a lot of credit. Along with people like Jonathan Safran Foer and many other media stars, she is putting the question of eating meat on the table as a significant public conversation. Anyone who can achieve that deserves our gratitude.

Yet I worry that a vegan campaign is somewhat misguided if it is pitched as the singular way of helping animals into a better world. We all know that systems of oppression are deeply interlocking and built on foundations that we can’t see until we start uncovering the many ways we all inhabit the world together. My reservations about veganism are personal, politically motivated, animal-centered, and ecological.

1: Personal. While, in my opinion, it’s really not that hard to shift to vegetarianism, I think it is really hard to be a vegan. I tried once for about a year, didn’t know what I was doing, ate a lot of processed vegan foods, and developed insulin dependent diabetes. It was not animal products that brought on my diabetes—it was the soy ice cream, the potato chips, and the many frozen vegan meals that were made with corn, soy, and sugar. I have since learned that there are better ways to be vegan, but it takes a lot of nutritional education and a lot of money to do it right. You need to learn how and where to shop, and how to cook whole foods (and not everything that comes from the store Whole Foods is a whole food). When I switched to a diet that included even a small amount of animal protein, my need for insulin decreased immediately.

Vegan doctors tell us no one needs animal protein, but I just don’t think that is true, at least for me. It cannot be disputed that bodies are different; some of us need a lot of sex, or exercise, or quiet time, or whatever, while others need much less of any of these. When you are inside your body, these things feel as if they are non-negotiable. That’s how I think about dairy and eggs, and sometimes even meat. There is no question that none of us needs meat three times a day, but a day without at least some cheese or eggs or meat for me spikes my blood sugar and leaves me with a headache. Most plant-based proteins—like tofu and legumes—eventually turn into glucose, while animal products are digested differently and do not. It may be possible that some people need no animal protein, but it is also possible that some of us need some. The trick is negotiating between the PCRM and PETA doctors that tell you that you need none, and the USDA food pyramid folks who say you need too much. The middle way is always the best.

In this vein, I worry about how veganism has attached itself to the weight-loss industry, even for someone as enlightened as Ellen. The fat-phobic world we live in has lead to public conversations about an “obesity epidemic.” Even Michelle Obama is on that bandwagon and the general public seems to be in full agreement that being overweight is always bad. But the middle way is better here too: on the one hand it is true that many people are out of shape. Many of us don’t exercise enough and rely on fast and processed food too much. But it is equally true that bodies come in different sizes and there are many people who are “overweight” that are healthy. Our media-saturated world is so focused on the idea that everyone must be thin that (by many estimates) the morbidity factors associated with anorexia and bulimia are twice as high as those associated with “obesity.” The problem is not "fat" per se; it’s sedentary lives coupled with bad food options. It’s the fact that gym memberships cost a lot, public parks are being shut down, and today in America, unhealthful food is cheaper than healthful food (this has to do with subsidies, which I can’t take up here because of space. But I cover this side of the story more fully in Loving Animals.) We need to strive for health, but health does not equal thin. And thin does not equal vegan. For human health and well-being, we need a broader program than veganism; we need one that is accepting of different body needs and different body sizes, and advocates healthy eating (and appropriate exercise) at every weight.

2: Political. I worry that people who become vegans think that they are doing enough to make the world a better place for animals. First off, there are so many things available to us to today that contain unnamed animal products. GOOD Magazine argues that “there is no such thing as vegan”; products from crayons to guitar strings to rubber include parts of animals who have sacrificed their lives for us. What we need is not to eliminate these goods from our lives, but to figure out a way to make sure those animals had great lives prior to our taking them. One of my best friends, a vegan for many years, was recently diagnosed with cancer. She is maintaining her veganism, but as she puts it, it’s “only a token.” “Every drug I ingest or inject,” she tells me, “has been tested on animals in much more dire circumstances than even the worst of the worst farm animals.” Some of her drugs, undoubtedly, are even made from animal parts. We cannot escape the enmeshment our human lives have with animal bodies. Becoming vegan may be, for some, a step in the right direction for ending this abuse. But it is only a small step; there are many fronts on which the battle for animal advocacy must be fought.

And what of companion animals, i.e., pets? Ellen’s vegan website features her with two dogs. What does she feed them? Virtually everyone agrees that dogs need some animal
Ellen DeGeneres as she appears on her new
website, Going Vegan With Ellen. Is a vegan-only
agenda alienating to the general population?
protein (even most so-called “vegetarian” pet food includes fish—as if fish were not animals), and everyone agrees that domestic cats need mostly animal protein. A world that is fully and truly vegan will be a world that includes no domesticated pets. Indeed, this is the agenda of many animal rights advocates; is that a world even Ellen would want to live in?

Finally, I worry that Ellen’s vegan-only agenda will be alienating to lots of people. We humans have been eating meat from the dawn of our species; indeed lots of evolutionary anthropologists now believe that hunting and cooking meat gave humans the evolutionary advantage to grow our big brains. I believe that the overwhelming majority of people in America aren’t going to start eating vegan any time soon, and in rejecting veganism, they could be rejecting animal advocacy in any form. Again, I think a middle way is better. Humans have been eating hunted animals for millennium, and free-range pastured meat for at least 10,000 years. It’s only in the last fifty years that animals have suffered the horrors of industrial farming, the hot sheds, the bad food, the short lives, the unnecessary drugs, the miserable conditions that we should all be ashamed of that produce our cheap meat. We can turn back the clock fifty years, quite easily, and purchase only pastured meat, eggs, and dairy from local sustainable farms. Many people in many communities across the country are doing so. It’s sometimes a little confusing and usually more expensive, but this is a middle way that people who need some animal protein can follow.

3: Animal advocacy. Buying meat, eggs, and dairy from local farms where animals have long, happy, and natural lives on pasture is animal centered, I believe, even if we kill them for their meat eventually. This may seem counter-intuitive, but I believe eliminating domestic farm animals from our world does not really serve their best interests. Think about it: our own lives are not solely centered on our bodies: we humans write books, make art, build buildings, have children so part of us lives on and changes the world, even if in a future we are not present for. Thinking of the fullness of life only in terms of our immediate bodies is shortsighted. Humans and farm animals have spent 10,000 years building a symbiotic relationship that, I believe, is good for them, and good for us. They get to spend days walking in sunshine, eating good food, mating, loving their young, enjoying the beautiful earth. We give them the chance to have this life, we pay for the land and the grass and the water, and eventually we get to eat their eggs, milk, cheese, and meat. It’s not a bad deal for either side. The idea that our life’s meaning is only contained in our fleshly bodies is dangerous and untrue. If I were a pig or cow or chicken, I would rather be raised on a small farm and keep my kinfolk alive in this world than be banished from the earth altogether (as the vegan agenda advocates.) Making animal advocacy dependent on veganism is asking for species extinction, and is the opposite of what animals really need.

Indeed, the slow food/locavore movement has made a central aspect of their program the recovery of endangered farm animal species. We used to share our earth with over three hundred different kinds of farm animals; the industrial farm system has reduced that number to under twenty species. If I were a Redcap chicken, say, I would rather have a farmer raise me and let me proliferate, even if she is going to kill me to eat in the end. That way, my kind get to stay on this planet; in many ways, that could mean more to me than my own life. I believe species of animals want to stay here just as much as humans we do, and small farms give them that chance. (The reason that most of these species are not used in industrial settings is because they need more room than factory farming allows.)

4: Finally, and most importantly, veganism is not ecologically sustainable. Farming means tending the soil so that it contains the proper nutrients for plants, and this can only be done well with animal manure. For 10,000 years we have rotated plants with animals on land; the animals eat the parts of the plant we can’t and excrete manure that contains hundreds of elements that feed and anchor the soil. There has never been a healthy ecosystem on this planet that did not include animals, and growing plants without animals means a farmer needs to import chemical fertilizers (which are almost always petroleum based and few of which contain more than six elements.) Ecological thinking demands that we return to the integrated system of farming both plants and animals together, and deny the monocultural system that has emerged in the last fifty years. (Broccoli, my farmers tell me, requires forty-two elements to flourish; plant food like “Miracle Gro” contains between four and six; while a synthetically fed broccoli plant may be able to grow with imported fertilizer, it will deplete the soil for the remainder of nutrients it needs. Eventually, that topsoil will wash away.)

Some so-called vegan farmers might quarrel with me on this front. I know a vegan farmer who claims he farms without any animals or chemicals. I give him a lot of credit (and he admits his crops are smaller due to his ideological choices). But when you press him for what he does import, it is telling: he must buy worms (aren’t they animals?) for his soil every year, and he must buy worm food: feather meal, blood meal, and bone meal (don’t these come from animals?). His is the best-case scenario if one wants a vegan world, yet he admits to topsoil loss. His farm mirrors, in part, what is happening in America’s industrial farms today: most plant-only monocultural farms are losing topsoil at rates faster than the great Dustbowl Days of the 1930’s. We are ruining our farmlands with industrial farming and it must stop now. Paying attention to the needs of the soil is critical for sustainable farming and the best way to attend to those needs is with animals and their manure.

But, my vegan critics will say, that doesn’t mean we have to kill them. And I agree. A ten-acre farm can be totally sustainable with several dozen chickens, a half dozen goats, three pigs, one cow, etc. You don’t need to kill any of them to achieve sustainability. But, in such a case, you can’t let them reproduce either. Now I ask you, do you think those several dozen female chickens—who are excreting excellent manure and walking on it to work it in the soil—mind that you take their eggs and eat them? I doubt it. And what about the animals who long for sexual contact and young ones? Do they mind that you take their milk when their young are finished? I doubt that too. The question of killing gets more complex, but if you could have a good life on pasture for many years and enjoyed the gifts of the world, only to be killed as you reached middle age, would you choose that? Or would you choose no life at all to begin with?

These are complex questions, and I don’t mean to be glib, but everything tells me that veganism is not quite the right way to pitch either animal advocacy or sustainability. We have the tools through farmers markets, the small farm movement, and locavorism to promote something that encompasses a broader and more politically savvy agenda. Again, I totally applaud Ellen DeGeneres, Jonathan Safran Foer and others who are putting this issue on the national agenda. We all agree that the industrial system of raising animals in factory farms is horrific, evil, and needs to be shut down. Period. But that does not mean we need to banish these animals from the face of the earth. That’s not in our interest, or theirs.

What we need is something a little more nuanced, I believe. We need to support people who are currently vegan and healthy on that diet and not try to convince them differently. But for the rest of us who feel we need a small amount of animal protein, and those who are interested in environmental sustainability, we need to advocate a (very) reduced diet of local, sustainable eggs, dairy, and meat, along with organically raised plant foods. The cost of eating this way will be higher than either the current industrial diet OR even perhaps industrial veganism, but the human health, broad political, animal advocacy, and sustainability payoffs will be, as they say, priceless.

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Kathy Rudy is associate professor of ethics and women's studies at Duke University. She is author of Loving Animals: Toward a New Animal Advocacy.

44 comments:

  1. You are a professor of ethics and you're making these kinds of excuses for unethical behavior? How would you like to be turned into someone's meal just because you were determined to have had a good enough life already? That's just sick.

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  2. I can't comment on the rest of this article, but as a dietitian, I can tell you that the section on nutrition is ludicrous. What would be the reason for thinking that someone needs to get their protein--which is just a collection of amino acids--from animal foods as opposed to plant foods? They are the same amino acids!

    When people say that they "feel" that they need a little animal protein, they really are just talking about cravings and a desire to eat meat. It has nothing to do with biological needs. As long as you get adequate amounts of nitrogen and essential amino acids,there is absolutely no scientific reason why anyone would need protein from meat.

    And, yes, it takes a little bit of nutrition knowledge to do veganism right, but it isn't at all difficult and it certainly isn't expensive.

    It's unfortunate that you didn't understand how to eat a healthy vegan diet, and I appreciate that you're willing to admit that. But please don't use it as a justification for dismissing veganism. Rather than looking for reasons to eat meat, why not just learn how to eat healthfully as a vegan?

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  3. It's ironic and disturbing that an associate professor of ethics and women's studies would pen such a deeply prejudiced text in support of the unethical exploitation of others.

    Many of your arguments are eerily similar to those made by pro-slavery activists during the Pre-Civil War era who claimed that slaves were happy and well-cared for. That they spent their "days walking in sunshine, eating good food, mating..."(to borrow your words). Eliminating slavery would not "serve the best interests" of the slaves, no! They were protected on the plantations. They had a home and a purpose. It was a "symbiotic relationship." Slave owners gave slaves the "chance to have this life" and isn't that better than no life at all? The slave owners paid for the land and the shelter and the food and all they asked for in return was labor. Not a "bad deal" for either side, right? What more could they possibly want?

    The answer, of course, is freedom. Liberty. The right to live their lives on their own terms -- not to be used as a tool for someone else's pleasure or profit.

    I'm sorry that your junk food vegan diet did not agree with you, but perhaps a more reasonable and ethical reaction would have been to simply eat a more healthful vegan diet. But then, you would not have been able to convince yourself that you "needed" to eat animals in order to be healthy. And claiming "necessity" is the only way we can wrangle our consciences into believing that exploiting and killing others is somehow ethically defensible.

    The only trouble is, we don't actually need to consume animal products to be healthy. That's not just the opinion of "vegan doctors," as you claim, but rather it is the official position of the American Dietetic Association (among other national and international government agencies). Here's a link to the ADA's position paper on Vegetarian (including Vegan) diets: http://www.eatright.org/about/content.aspx?id=8357

    As for mandatory animal testing for drugs(which should be eliminated) and slaughterhouse byproducts that make their way into so many common items in our society - you're right, it's unfortunately pretty much impossible to avoid them all. But while it may be impossible to avoid all byproducts all the time, it is entirely possible to avoid those products for which animals are specifically bred, enslaved and killed. It is entirely possible, in other words, to avoid eating all meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy.

    It might help to look at it this way: due to our global economy, I might not be able to avoid all products that are linked (however tangentially) to unfair labor conditions. But that doesn't mean I should throw up my hands and say, "Well, then, if I can't avoid everything entirely, I guess I might as well start my own child labor camp in my basement and keep buying from known sweatshops when I go out." That would be pretty absurd, wouldn't it?

    I think it's also important to consider someone's *intention.* We might ask ourselves: Is it my intention to cause the least amount of harm and suffering whenever possible, recognizing that there is no "perfection"? Or is it my intention to try and selfishly justify the harm and suffering I can easily avoid?

    As far as sustainability and environmental concerns go, veganism is not only preferable, it's imperative. That's why the United Nations is urging a world-wide shift to a meat- and-dairy-free diet. http://tinyurl.com/35bpald

    Finally, I find the title of your book, Loving Animals, to be particularly egregious. Honest self evaluation is needed here. Do we really love animals? Or do we just love the way they serve us? As attorney Lesli Bisgould astutely noted: “On the one hand we say we love animals, but what it really comes down to is that we love to use animals for our own purposes.”

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  4. I wouldn't presume to know what a "good life" looks like to a chicken or a cow. Perhaps an enclosed pasture is not actually one of the "gifts of the world," when paired with the prospect of being taken somewhere with a bloody floor and being electrocuted before having one's throat slit. Perhaps the cow or the chicken doesn't see the price tag at first, so her/his life is not troubled by it beforehand, but I'm pretty sure s/he is troubled by it when the time comes.

    Perhaps, also, a cow would rather not share the fruits of her body's labors, but would like to answer her body's hormonal drive to nurse her young. Partaking of the "leftovers," in this case, is rather like saying, "you're not finishing that, are you?" as you shove an infant out of the way. Taking newborns away from their mothers in order to steal their milk (I really can't come up w/a better word than "steal," try as I might) is a universal practice on small farms as well as factory farms.

    It is true that agriculture requires animal input (or shall we say, "output input"?). There is no reason it needs to be from enslaved animals, though. Free-ranging animals might do quite nicely, as might human animals, if our "output" were treated properly. It would take a lot of ingenuity and engineering to put such a system in place, but do we want to be economical or ethical?

    Let's remember that a vegan world is not a world without animals. It's just a world where we try not to exploit whatever animals are here, and we don't breed new ones in order to exploit them, either. There should be plenty of feral animals, and soon, plenty of wild animals.

    Btw, I don't understand something you said about how having at least a little animal protein in your daily diet keeps your blood sugar from spiking. If you eat something that makes your blood sugar spike, adding animal protein won't help. I wonder if limiting your diet brought up feelings of deprivation in you, creating a psychosomatic urge to eat more simple carbs?

    I think that as long as people perpetuate the notion that veganism = extremism, this kind of reaction is likely to occur. Veganism is rich with life. Let's start speaking of it that way.

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  5. As a vegan whose writing has focused on the deconstruction of the language we use when speaking or writing about animals and our relationship to them, I’ll stick with that component for my comment. Regarding veganism being the “singular way of helping animals into a better world,” I’d respond in a way your best friend appears to be responding when she says “token.” Veganism is the least we can do. Refraining from killing someone when you don’t need to for your food, clothing, household and personal products isn’t that difficult. With that said, every vegan will say that if you live in the developed world in 2011, you cannot be 100% vegan. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do the easy, obvious things that involve the same stores you already shop at and the same Internet you use every day.

    Next, to say that “virtually everyone agrees that dogs need some animal protein” is not true. My vets have no problem with my greyhound eating vegan food (Natural Balance canned and kibble, though there are plenty other options). She is nearly 12 years old and by all accounts she has outlived her life expectancy. She is an insulin-dependent diabetic, by the way. Veganism for dogs isn’t as controversial as it was a decade ago.

    With regard to wanting to live in a world without domesticated pets, clearly that’s not happening anytime soon. But when we wish for that, it is because we don’t believe that any animals exist for our benefit. We wish to stop our exploitation of others--human and nonhuman. They’re not our pets or our slaves or our producers of milk or our clothing. This is about justice.

    Finally, it’s difficult to respond to your argument that creating animals to betray and kill them is in any way good for them or in any way ethical. To read that from an Associate Professor of Ethics is worrisome. A “middle way” of unjustifiable, intentional killing? Worrisome indeed.

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  6. Kathy, Your post helps me understand why, when Duke's Women's Studies Program devoted a year to the issue of Animals, it made such a studied pronouncement that distanced itself from earlier feminist writers on animals--earlier feminist writers who had advocated a vegan diet--and why they (we) were characterized as "essentialist" ecofeminists.

    It appears my response is too long to be treated as a "comment" here, so I have moved it to my blog: http://caroljadams.blogspot.com/2011/09/another-feminist-rationalizing-eating.html

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  7. Karina Jelincich GrassoSeptember 15, 2011 at 12:46 PM

    I’d like to address your reservations about veganism and animal rights causes. Your nutritional claims pertaining to a vegan diet are entirely anecdotal, based on your personal experiences, and not supported by science. Nutritional science supports the claim that humans thrive on a plant-based diet, with mounting scientific evidence supporting the health benefits of a plant-based diet. The well known China Study, completed by Dr. Campbell, investigated the role of diet in the development of disease states in the body. Dr. Campbell found the health implications of consuming animal-based foods and plant-based foods were significantly different. The study showed people who consumed animal-based foods suffered more from chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes, than those who ate plant-based foods. In the simplest conclusion, as stated by Dr. Campbell, “people who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease…people who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease.” Dr. Campbell is not alone in his findings. According to Dr. Gabriel Cousens, meat eaters have 4 times more breast cancer, 3.6 times more prostate cancer, 4 times more diabetes, and more chronic disease in general. Dairy increases the risk of leukemia by 3 times and lung cancer by 10. Dr. Cousens has reversed diabetes in many of his patients with a raw, vegan diet. According to Dr. Cousens, animal protein creates 4 times more diabetes because it creates insulin-resistance or pre-diabetes. As others have mentioned in their comments, it’s unfortunate you limited your brief experience with a vegan diet to eating highly processed foods, effectively resulting in unfounded conclusions. A healthy vegan diet consists of whole foods: vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, providing abundant and delicious culinary possibilities.

    With regard to your political argument, I don’t know any vegan or animal advocate who thinks they are doing enough to make the world a better place for animals. That’s precisely why we are so committed to our cause, because the horrors inflicted on animals are so egregious and widespread. Tragically, there is always more work to be done on their behalf. You state, “products from crayons to guitar strings to rubber include parts of animals who have sacrificed their lives for us. What we need is not to eliminate these goods from our lives, but to figure out a way to make sure those animals had great lives prior to our taking them.” As defined by Will Tuttle (www.worldpeacediet.com), “Veganism denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practical, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose; and by extension promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals, and the environment.” Vegans strive to exclude animal products to the greatest extent possible. Your logic that we should not try to eliminate these products from our lives because they are so pervasive is faulty at best.

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  8. Karina Jelincich GrassoSeptember 15, 2011 at 12:47 PM

    (Continued from previous comment due to space limitations.)
    My greatest concern however stems from the underlying anthropocentrism and speciesism reflected in your ideology and in your arguments. As an associate professor of ethics and women’s studies, I would expect you to understand the links of oppression found in speciesism, sexism, and racism. It seems to me a paradigm shift in the way you think about non-human animals is needed. Rather than being viewed as resources for humans, the intrinsic and independent value of each animal needs to be understood and embraced. Their lives are as valuable to them as ours are to us. Animals who are killed for consumption, however “humanely”, are robbed of a life that to them is worth living, as our lives are to us. However, the relatively trivial “needs” of humans continue to be met at the ultimate expense of nonhumans. They are robbed of a life they are entitled to by right of their own intrinsic worth. I share your hope that farm animals are afforded pleasurable lives, however the notion that we have a right to bring an end to their pleasurable experiences for our benefit, is where our understandings part. The ultimate harm that can be inflicted on human and non-human animals is death. In the taking of their lives, we continue to oppress them. But in many regards, this portion of our arguments are rather pointless, as the majority of farm animals are not afforded pleasurable experiences, the vast majority continue to suffer under unimaginable, institutionalized cruelty. Above all else, your arguments are morally indefensible.

    And as for your primary assertion that “with veganism and animal rights causes, a middle ground is always best”, I can only say that as the ideologies of anthropocentrism and speciesism continue to be deeply imbedded in our society today, residing in the “middle ground”, they must be and will be challenged from the margins of society and thought, as most critical social movements have been.

    "It is the height of irony that eating a diet based on animal foods, which are complicated, wasteful, cruel, and expensive to produce, is seen as simple in our culture, and that eating a vegan diet based on plant foods, which are simple, efficient, inexpensive, and free of cruelty to produce, is seen as complicated and difficult. Nevertheless, the truth is slowly coming to light, and the pressures within the old paradigm are building as more of us refuse to see animals as objects to be eaten or used for our purposes." The World Peace Diet by Will Tuttle

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  9. Karina Jelincich GrassoSeptember 15, 2011 at 1:03 PM

    (Please post the remainder of my comments continued below. Thank you.)

    My greatest concern however stems from the underlying anthropocentrism and speciesism reflected in your ideology and in your arguments. As an associate professor of ethics and women’s studies, I would expect you to understand the links of oppression found in speciesism, sexism, and racism. It seems to me a paradigm shift in the way you think about non-human animals is needed. Rather than being viewed as resources for humans, the intrinsic and independent value of each animal needs to be understood and embraced. Their lives are as valuable to them as ours are to us. Animals who are killed for consumption, however “humanely”, are robbed of a life that to them is worth living, as our lives are to us. However, the relatively trivial “needs” of humans continue to be met at the ultimate expense of nonhumans. They are robbed of a life they are entitled to by right of their own intrinsic worth. I share your hope that farm animals are afforded pleasurable lives, however the notion that we have a right to bring an end to their pleasurable experiences for our benefit, is where our understandings part. The ultimate harm that can be inflicted on human and non-human animals is death. In the taking of their lives, we continue to oppress them. But in many regards, this portion of our arguments are rather pointless, as the majority of farm animals are not afforded pleasurable experiences, the vast majority continue to suffer under unimaginable, institutionalized cruelty. Above all else, your arguments are morally indefensible.

    And as for your primary assertion that “with veganism and animal rights causes, a middle ground is always best”, I can only say that as the ideologies of anthropocentrism and speciesism continue to be deeply imbedded in our society today, residing in the “middle ground”, they must be and will be challenged from the margins of society and thought, as most critical social movements have been.

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  10. To Kathy Rudy,

    Thank you for your post and thoughtfulness in engaging animal advocacy. To often any kindness to animals goes unnoticed, instead of being celebrated for the inherent nature of such implications and actions :-)

    I would, however, like to address some of your points brought up in the blog. First off, many people think going Vegan is easy, and I for one am one of them. What has been hard for me is allowing my concept of worth and importance of all life to include plants into this circle of compassion. In registering the essential REACH for life by all beings living, both sentient and not, and through a study of Jainism and Fruitarianism, nonmarginalizing life and truly considering plants has become the natural extension of the kindness of the vegan diet. If the plant is harmed, then is that the same as harming an animal? Some, even in the face of science, would say yes. But to throw out veganism--which has as its sole purpose a lifestyle of consideration, compassion, and kindness--just because it may be impossible in the modern world is similar to giving up on the idea of equality...it is a hope, and one that should be embraced by all those that seek an egalitarian and compassionate world :-)

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  11. Second off, to quote, "What we need is not to eliminate these goods from our lives, but to figure out a way to make sure those animals had great lives prior to our taking them" (Kathy Rudy). Although your stipulation might lead one to believe in, advocate for, and term oneself as an 'animal welfarist,' this notion is both great and troubled. One the one hand, addressing the very unmet needs of our animals--be they used for entertainment, research, food, companion, or wildlife--is admirable and an issue that is at the forefront of all animal advocacy, whether vegan or not. On the other hand, however, as Karina Grasso mentions directly above, there are a great many ethical issues with complicity advocating ONLY for the increase in welfare issues, and the implied consent for the continuation and allowance of animals used for and by humans. This concept has a great many threads similar to the abolition movement for slavery, and one that I hope in your compassionate wisdom you will consider.

    For over 140 years the animal protection movement has been officially organized in the United States of America, and some of the most profound founders were displaced drastically because of their gender. Women like Caroline Earl White, Elizabeth Morris, Annie Waln, Rosa Abbot, and so on--were all marginalized by society and the then present reality of gross gender inequalities. These ladies, even though they were often prohibited from a leading role, were the backbone of animal advocacy. But even then, there was a great question between the values of welfare reform and wholesale abolition and rights. This issue, sadly, has divided our movement for nearly a century and a half, and even as the right to vote was guaranteed for women with the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, the split between the moral philosophy of our cause has remained.

    To me personally, I do not believe we can justify any use of any other being--be that an animal or a human. Exploitation is exploitation. To begin to remedy this situation, honest dialogue is a must, and something that we--no matter what side we advocate--should all partake in with the most compassionate and kind disposition. To truly be an animal advocate we should work to dismantle the walls between the camps, and to really listen to others voices. No one has the answer, and presupposing that we are right simply because we believe we have the moral hand is to fall prey to a philosophy of deficit ideology.

    Although I do not agree with you personally, I hope that you find kindness and compassion in your embrace with the animal advocacy movement. I will say that my companion animals are vegan, both a cat and a dog, and they are both in the best health of their lives. There are great foods available today--Ami and Evolution--which are as easy to use as a store-bought kibble, and, in my belief, a whole lot kinder :-)

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  12. These are some of the poorest arguments I've ever seen in defense of non-veganism. Geez, this is just intellectually lazy. As a professor of ethics and a life in academia, you could at least try harder to defend your points.

    I would point out all of the laziness and poor arguments in detail, but Erik Marcus did a great job here:

    http://vegan.com/blog/2011/09/15/kathy-rudy-in-translation/

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  13. Since so many before me have responded with such great arguments, I will keep my comment short: Ms. Rudy, you state in the first paragraph of your "Political" section that "animals . . . have sacrificed their lives for us." No. They haven't. It is we who have TAKEN their lives -- the decision is never the animal's, and to say otherwise is disingenuous.

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  14. As a vegan, I find your writing uninformed and disappointing. I am sorry if veganism was hard for you. By your own admission, you didn't eat a healthy diet so I don't see how you can attest to the healthfulness of a whole foods vegan diet. A vegan diet is also not more expensive if one is not purchasing processed convenience foods, thus making it not a whole foods healthy diet.

    The idea that it is alright to slaughter animals as long as they are treated well first is disturbing. Would you also say that about humans - as long as they have had a few pleasurable years, it is acceptable to murder them? According to your logic, if someone kept a person in a nice apartment, fed them well and then slaughtered them, we could say it "was not a bad deal." That is not only illogical but apathetic.

    As an academic, I don't understand publishing a book filled with biased anecdotes under the guise of science when it is clear that no actual research was conducted. There are so many studies that disagree with the points you have made.

    I am glad that you think vegans should be supported in their diets but one of the best ways to do that is by debunking these tired myths and providing clear, factual information and education.

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  15. It's disappointing that your post is so anti-vegan. Veganism and vegetarianism are both powerful gestures. They still create social awkwardness and debate and confusion from meat eaters. These diets are hardly solutions but simple radical statements in the early stages of what will one day lead to a larger shift in global consciousness. I think it's crucial for vegetarians and vegans to always be encouraging and supporting each others efforts. I believe the meat industry is our greatest violation of nature. I believe the goal of Veganism is not so much the creation of a vegan world but perhaps a world in which the classification is unnecessary as we will have re-discovered our relationship to nature/wild.

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  16. Kathy, I've noticed that a lot of the comments imply that you are glossing over the realities of factory farming. I want to recognize that you have stated your total opposition to factory farming, and that you are, in fact, addressing veganism as one response to the problem that we, in common, recognize.

    I'd like to add to my comments above, if I may. I've noticed a number of misconceptions that you present.

    1) You say, "I worry about how veganism has attached itself to the weight-loss industry."
    I would say, instead, that I worry about how the weight-loss industry has attached itself to veganism.

    You are right that "health does not equal thin. And thin does not equal vegan." Any "vegan" who claims that vegan = thin has completely missed the point of veganism and is quite obviously wrong. In fact, vegans are far more likely to decry the narrow-mindedness of valorizing a single image of health.

    2) You claim that "my vegan critics will say, that doesn’t mean we have to kill them"(regarding non-human animals).

    Actually, that's the typical ovo-lacto-vegetarian response. To which vegans respond that actually, you do have to kill them if you regard them as property in any way. Otherwise, you'll be over-run by animals who are of ever-declining utility and ever-increasing cost.

    3) You say, "I worry that people who become vegans think that they are doing enough to make the world a better place for animals" and "But it is only a small step; there are many fronts on which the battle for animal advocacy must be fought."

    Can we agree, then, that veganism is not extreme? It is one step, the most logical first step. It is what would make further steps possible, such as producing crayons, tires, and drugs that do not depend on animal exploitation.

    Most worryingly,
    4) You say that "systems of oppression are deeply interlocking and built on foundations that we can’t see until we start uncovering the many ways we all inhabit the world together."

    I would like to suggest that in this blog entry, you are perpetuating those very systems of oppression. From the deep misogyny inherent in the dairy & egg industries, which regard the female body as a unit of production, to the unthinking speciesism that excuses such misogyny by assigning non-human animals as the Other. It is only through the use of illegitimate power that you can decide that non-humans should be willing to accept a certain level of consideration in return for their remaining powerless. Is there some tacit agreement that we can work to expose sexism, racism, classism, etc., as long as no-one mentions speciesism?

    Well, it's too late for that. Animal rights advocates have recognized it, mentioned it, will keep mentioning it everywhere we see it.

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  17. I'm glad you've become so delusional that you can eat meat without feeling guilty. It's nice to pretend that the animals you eat had a good life and nuzzled their necks right up to the blade that would end their lives.

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  18. Reading all the comments here reaffirm my decision to become vegan two years ago was the correct one. I find it very troubling that KATHY RUDY as someone in the world of academia is so intellectually lazy. This is an example of what Duke University has to offer? May I suggest posting a review of her book on Amazon. The title of her book is very misleading to say the least.

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  19. Prof. Rudy - In nearly every paragraph of your piece, I find obvious logical or factual errors. To start with, your getting ill because you were unable to resist junk food doesn't mean veganism is unhealthy.

    Also, regarding your fear that "people who become vegans think that they are doing enough to make the world a better place for animals": (a) those people ARE helping animals, plenty of them; and (b) as even cursory research would have demonstrated, plenty of vegans also do of lots other things to help animals (and people). Besides, "enough" is a nonsensical concept in activism, anyway: there's so much pain and suffering we can never do enough; we can only do our best and strive to do better. This is true not just of veganism but all social justice work.

    Worrying about whether "Ellen’s vegan-only agenda will be alienating to lots of people" is absurd. First, an activist's job to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." Perhaps Rosa Parks shouldn't have risked alienating people when she moved to the front of the bus. People often forget that Parks was a longtime activist and using a strategy - purposefully choosing the time and place she did civil disobedience. I'm sure Ellen, with lots more resources, including top marketers and social marketers, is doing the same. If anyone is likely to influence millions while alienating the smallest number possible, it's her.

    A lot of this piece - including your meditation on a Redcap chicken's happily sacrificing itself to preserve its species, and your perplexing conviction that "the middle way is always the best" (a viewpoint totally at odds with social justice struggles) - is simply specious. You've embarrassed yourself, Duke and the UM Press. I urge you to apologize and rescind this misconceived paper, and hope that if you do, you don't descend to the level of blaming those who are pointing out very valid and obvious critiques of your work. - Hillary Rettig, vegan and author, The Lifelong Activist: How to Change the World Without Losing Your Way.

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  20. I too am very proud to be in such good company with the comments left before mine. Each post has a clear message backed by impeccable logic. No point was left unchallenged... And successfully so.

    Of little significance except to quell my need for accuracy regarding the treatment of these beings you've "worked out" an arrangement with... In section #3 you write "Buying meat, eggs, and dairy from local farms where animals have long, happy, and natural lives on pasture is animal centered..." Please let us be clear on the longevity of these "production units" - The chicken raised for flesh will mature to slaughter weight in a matter of months. So will the pig, the goat, the sheep and the cow a little bit longer. That "long life" you attach so much importance to is also a myth... No one in the business is going to continue feeding someone past the time they reach a "young" market weight.

    Lastly, you never touched on the negative implications that exist on the humans that are charged with the job of the captive bolt and throat slitting processes... Where do you factor in that this is in anyway an acceptable course that a progressive culture should be going?

    So sorry, but with all the valid responses to your stated position... The idea that you are "loving animals" by eating them is without reason; But is full of excuses.

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  21. Here is a rebuttal that is short, fact based, common sense based and funny ALL at the same time:

    Kathy Rudy in Translation

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  22. It's obvious that NONE of the previous commentators - all of whom seem to be vegans (and by statistical definition, dietary extremists) -- have actually READ Rudy's book. I have. The book will, no doubt, upset some of the Derrida-spouting "intellectuals" of the animal rights movement who have trouble writing a coherent sentence, let alone handling moral complexity. The book is a nuanced treatment of animal issues by a long-term animal protectionist. The author raises a host of ethical issues that will make thoughful readers think more deeply about these issues rather than simply blow off vacuous post-modernist steam. While I did not agree with all of Rudy's positions, this book is more readable that Tom Regan's, more sensible than Melanie Joy's, and more pro-animal than Hal Herzog's.

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  23. Dr. Rudy has attempted to open a forum for serious ethical discussion with this book. Unfortunately this particular forum has been usurped by vegans who claim exclusive and absolute possession of the right and the truth. This sort of position necessarily forecloses any dialog before it begins.

    What interests me is that these critics identify solely with herbivores, which we are not by nature, then claim the moral high road on the grounds of an ascetic choice. Then they justify this righteous choice on the grounds of scientific studies which claim humans need not or, in actuality, "should not" be meat eater( a strictly moralistic term). On grounds of these "scientific studies" they then claim moral superiority for all herbivores, the special case being humans who have overcome their natural desire for meat. As an individual with a PhD in the study of religions, I hear nothing more in this than the convoluted psychology of self-righteous extremism. Unfortunately, there is no possibility of entering into a discussion here, since extremists, by definition, already have all the answers.

    I applaud Dr. Rudy's attempt to open an inclusive forum for the discussion of omnivore's ethical relations to animals. The questions she asks go beyond the simplified and neat solution of abstinence. The more difficult question is how one continues to eat meat, as many of the animals we love do and must, while exploring the possibilities for creating a decent life for all.

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  24. Q: How many vegans does it take to change a light bulb?

    A: I'm better than you.

    ha ha! I like being challenged by the vegans. This is a good lively discussion. Tres, exciting!

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  25. It's quite amusing... No, it's actually sad that all the rebuttals come from "Anonymous" - Typical...

    Anyway, in response to "Anonymous #2" - You state that vegans are self righteous. Yet, can you not see that there couldn't possibly be an act more self-indulgent and grandiose than ending the life of an innocent being? And there is not only the killing and taking of life... But it is done without necessity as it IS a fact that meat is not a requirement for a healthy body.

    And on the issue of who is an "extremist"... The brutalization and violent taking of life on such a massive scale that a meat-eating culture demands can be considered nothing less than "extreme".

    "But I am an extremist when it comes to rape — I am against it all the time. I am an extremist when it comes to child abuse — I am against it all the time. I am an extremist when it comes to sexual discrimination, racial discrimination — I am against it all the time. I am an extremist when it comes to abuse to the elderly — I am against it all the time." ~Tom Regan

    I am Bea Elliott of Florida - Proud to take a stand for my beliefs and an ideology whose time is long overdue.

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  26. To the two anonymous posters above the most recent one:

    1. What could possibly make you think that the commentators are "Derrida-spouting" or in any way postmodern? The rebuttals to Dr. Rudy's post have been mostly responses to factual errors in her post and challenges to the moral arguments she makes in her post. I really don't see what's postmodern about this. But in any event, rather than slandering an entire genre of criticism (one that you seem to know nothing about), why not offer a more substantive response to the rebuttals offered?

    2. The charge that the people criticizing Dr. Rudy here are making claims to "absolute truth" and then criticizing such grandiosity is a shoddy way of dodging the issue. Nobody here has made any claims to absolute truth -- neither Dr. Rudy nor any of the people criticizing her. Instead, Dr. Rudy offered some criticisms of veganism and offered her reasons for these criticisms. Other people who disagree with her pointed out what they take to be factual errors on her part and critiques of the ethical views underlying her claims. Neither side, as far as I can see, has claimed to know anything with absolute certainty, and to suggest otherwise is simply uncharitable to all the people in this forum.

    What I find disagreeable about both of your comments is that both of you wrote acerbic ad hominem attacks on the people defending veganism here, but used these rhetorical smokescreens to avoid actually responding to the substantive claims of these critiques.

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  27. To Bea,
    Your comments rest my case: There is no discussion, meat eating is a mass murder project of innocents, it is morally reprehensible, nothing else said has any merit, there is no truth beyond my beliefs.
    Shall we kill all the carnivores then or are they innocent because they are simply animals subject to their own nature? Are humans not animals subject to their own nature or are they a special case, capable of transcending their own nature? If humans are a special case, are they necessarily obligated to accept an herbivore existence in order achieve moral status as humans? JFClark, NY

    To EJ,

    You're absolutely right, there is nothing postmodern or poststructural about the vegan stance. These two related philosophical fields advocate that humans reconnect with their animal nature in order to construct a world view that places them within the biological/molecular flow of life. They advocate for a disruption of transcendent subject positions in favor of a becoming subject. One conjoined with the affects, forces and powers of others around them. Dr. Rudy is using this philosophy to promote a policy of interconnectedness that sets aside all pretensions to moral superiority on the the grounds of human exceptionality. Being responsible for own nature, in this frame, demands a far more complex ethical question than whether or not to eat meat. For example, how do we relate to the animals we eat, how do we relate to other animals who eat meat, what is our position in the natural world if we acknowledge we are omnivores among many others? I acknowledge the individual right to refuse meat. We, in fact, can choose. What I object to is the evangelizing.
    For those who who love animals but find meat the most efficient and satisfactory way to healthful living ethical questions loom large. Dr. Rudy has attempted to open a forum for people with these concerns. The critics above dismiss her entire project as immoral at base. If that doesn't imply some sense of possessed truth I don't know what does.

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  28. I highly recommend reading this FAQ page:
    "Animal Rights and Vegan Ethics - List of Questions"
    http://ar.vegnews.org/

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  29. JFClark,

    I am happy to see some more definite objections taking shape. I appreciate you taking the time to respond with a fuller explanation of your views.

    To take the last point first, I really don't see how you can make the case that the people here (myself included) defiending veganism claim to know The Truth, full stop, end of discussion. I do not dismiss the project of asking questions as to whether humans can eat animals as immoral at base, but I do think that killing animals for food (or owning them as property generally) is immoral at base. This is in no way incompatible with being a fallibilist about ethics or any other philosophical views (and I am a fallibilist). Taking a stand does not mean that you write off your opponent's charges in advance of discussion, and I really don't see any evidence that that is what's going on here. What I do see is a debate between people with strongly-held views. Unless you're against having strongly-held views (as opposed to views that one treats as infallible -- and these are very different things), I don't buy that objection. There is a fine line between evangelizing (which I also dislike greatly) and arguing for your point of view, but it seems uncharitable to your opponents to claim that they have crossed that line.

    In any event, what is more important is your objections to the arguments for veganism here. I agree that animal ethics is a complex area, but not really for the reasons you mentioned. We relate to the animals we eat by turning them into things whose lives can be taken to satisfy our desires (and I do insist on the word desires here, since I think the idea that humans need to eat meat has been comprehensively refuted). Suggesting that we are not vegans "by nature" is an objection that is often offered, but not a very convincing one. Humans are not computer users "by nature," yet that hasn't stopped either of us from using computers. And as for how to relate to animals eating other animals, I agree that this is a difficult issue, but I fail to see how the apparently necessary violence of carnivorous animals justifies the voluntary violence of humans.

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  30. Hello Anonymous - I'm wondering what it is you think that uniquely separates us humans from other animals if not our sense of justice or our ability to distinguish right from wrong?

    What are we to do with the carnivores? Why leave them alone of course.

    Yes, humans are animals that can dictate their own ethical course... Unlike the wolf, lion or bear. You choose to call it "transcending". I choose to call it "reasoning".

    No matter how "we relate" to the animals we eat... If it is not necessary to cause them harm - Then why do so?

    All for the sake of "efficiently" and in a "satisfactory" way of dining? I and others contend that vegan meals can be just as convenient, healthful and satisfying if not more so.

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    Replies
    1. Love comments like this. What do vegetarian do with carnivores? leave them alone!
      Does it mean that vegetarians are not supposed to have dogs or cats as pets? In most vegan's blogs many vegans seem to adore their cats and dogs. I suppose they are all vegetarian dogs/cats. Or are vegans proposing that we either release our dogs/cats in the wild, or have them euthanized ASAP, for the sake of not harming any more cows or tuna fish to feed them?

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    2. Actually it's very, very easy to maintain canine health on a plant based diet. My two dogs have been vegetarian for a few years and their vet is quite satisfied with their health and weight.
      Cats are more complicated - They require taurine supplements... But this has been accomplished successfully as well.

      Personally, I advocate NOT breeding cats and dogs. Finding suitable homes for the ones that are already here. And most importantly, spaying and neutering so as to avoid pet "overpopulation" problems in the future.

      Finally, if we were to leave the carnivores alone... Leaving wild cats in the wild instead of capturing them for zoos and circuses - That would be a great start to avoiding unnecessary harm to cows and other animals slaughtered to feed them. Fair enough?

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  31. I think EJ has defined the important dimensions of the problem. Yes, human are capable of making voluntary ethical decisions. The question at stake is how to assess these voluntary decisions. Murder, mutilation, enslavement, physical, sexual and mental torture are certainly activities we would all reject as ethical behaviors at first light. However, if we ask if euthanasia is an ethical voluntary choice the answers become less clear to all. Is suicide an ethical voluntary choice? Is abortion an ethical voluntary choice? Is vasectomy or tubal ligation an ethical voluntary choice? All these decision involve death or the curtailment of birth. What complicates these choices is concern for the quality of life. If the quality of life is given real value in the assessment of these decisions the ethics become less clear. Dr. Rudy begins with the question of the quality of life with respect to the food industry and the use of animals. She is not interested in extending human rights to animals. Rather, she advocating for the quality of life we afford animals in all our interactions with the world. She is suggesting that, if we are see ourselves as part of the food chain (see her discussion of burial) we will discover our interconnected with the world that feeds on itself necessarily. In this frame death becomes part of the flow of life and life's quality becomes the central ethical question. To view humans/ourselves as useful to bugs, worms and scavengers certainly promotes a radical change in our self perception. Here we are no longer masters of the world on grounds of our reason, but part of the material flow. Perhaps it's time for that change.

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  32. I am thankful for the comments of the most recent anonymous poster, though I still don't agree that owning animals and using them commercially as sources of food is ethically acceptable. My reasons for this are not that humans should grant animals human rights, simply extending the moral community in a gesture that strikes me as a bit dubious and simplistic. Instead, I think we need to see the ownership of animals by humans as an extremely inegalitarian relationship, a form of relating to animals that enables their domination and the kind of ruthless treatment of them we see in modern factory farming. I don't think there is any way to avoid holding power over others (and that necessarily cuts both ways--we do not dominate animals unilaterally), but I do think that a good principle to follow is that we should avoid systems that are structured in highly inegalitarian ways, ways that incentivize cruelty and ruthlessness.

    I know that Dr. Rudy also objects to factory farming, but the dream of factory farms giving way to less obnoxious forms of animal agriculture seems unlikely as long as animals are commodities (or sources of commodities, like dairy cows or layer hens), whose bodies or bodily products are to be sold for a profit. There will always be the niche in the market for those who are willing and able to voluntarily pay double or triple for this less obnoxious meat, eggs, etc., but I can't really see these luxury products as the solution to a social injustice. Factory farming is not something aberrant: it is an extremely cheap, fast, profitable way of producing meat. As long as animals are owned as food-yielding commodities to be sold for a profit, factory farmed products will be there to feed those less well off and those who don't really care much about animals. Of course, factory farming could be illegalized through tighter and tigheter restrictions on farms, but this would require people demanding, en masse, that the government greatly increase the cost of food.

    In sum, if we're against systems of ruthless domination and exploitation, we have to be against the institution of animals as property and animal agriculture--not because we necessarily object to any and all forms of animal agriculture, but because the predictable (indeed, presently-observable) result of these institutions is widespread ruthlessness and unthinkable suffering on the part of billions of animals.

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  33. In my life, I have found that vegans generally think they are better than everyone else, and are completely one-sided. Not to mention annoying. Most of the above comments prove my point. None have you have bothered to see the point that if you want to help animals, you need to find a middle ground. You are never going to convince some portions of the population to go meat-free. So why not try to turn people off to factory farming? Instead of alienating most if the population, why not do something to truly protect animals?

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  34. Hi Anonymous... Perhaps you're right... Maybe the abolitionists 200 years ago should have factored in the idea that they might turn people off by demanding such a radical notion as ending slavery? Maybe they should have come at it from a different mindset... Suggesting less working hours, cozier beds, better meals and so forth. Never mind that reformists DID do that for decades... And still the slaves were "property" and would still be so today if it weren't for individuals that persisted with fighting for right... Not settling for easy.

    I have no problem with the incremental changes that will inevitably occur along the way... I don't advocate for them as in all honesty, I cannot put my views aside--- that the needless killing of others must end. Welfare does not do that.

    It may take time and an accumulation of many different circumstances to set this goal of justice to reality - But I don't doubt for a moment that it will happen.

    I still have an enormous respect for man's potential to be rational and compassionate. Choosing to avoid intentional harm fits that ideal. If it turns people off to expect ethical conduct from our species... Then so be it.

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    1. Bea, slavery was dismissed in the US not thanks to the efforts of humanitarians whites. It was finished when the industrial north defeated the feudal cotton-growing south. It got nothing to do with humanitarianism, and a lot to to do with imposing the French Revolution upon the medieval southern society of the time. There was no middle ground, but for reasons different from what you seem to think.
      Same with veganism and other postmodern fads that pretend to humanize the capitalist society: if you want to finish animal exploitation, or that of women, you also need to finish the exploitation of man by man, and of poor countries by rich countries, etc. This is called a socialist revolution: you need to change the ownership of the economy, and that will solve the other contradictions at once.
      Tweaking with the system, e.g., going vegan, is as effective as being on your knees asking God for social change. Some religious people have been doing that for 1000's of years, with little effect. Going vegan may you feel good, but considering that Big Business (even McDonalds and KFC) are making tons of $ out your vegan revolution, this makes your whole vegan attitude a tad sus, don't you reckon?
      You can bet you will find many vegans even between the Big Bank managers. Does it make the economy fair?

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    2. Anonymous by no means am I saying that being vegan is the cure-end-all. Just that it's a start... At the very least it is what everyone ought to be doing if they have any inkling of what's expected of them if they wish to work for a just world.

      Bring on the (r)Evolution! I'm that much more prepared facing it as a vegan!

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  35. I am in the midst of reading Dr. Rudy's book. Her ideas of a middle path towards eating animals seem quite ethical. However seeing the responses that equate using animals in any way with the human slavery in this country make me question my conclusions.
    Several things come to mind about vegan-ism. It seems to me that vegan-ism has only become possible in the last century or so. Modern transportation, farming technology and refrigeration have made this diet possible. Has any civilization ever risen that was vegan? So it seems to me that vegan-ism is a modern choice that a person can now make. Our ability to choose to be vegan seems to be based on the fact that we evolved as a most successful omnivore.I think it is a strong point that vegan-ism is going to alienate many many people.
    I think many of the comments above make a strong point that letting an animal live through half of its life and then killing it is unethical. Kathy Rudy in her book posits the question of whether a being would choose half a good life over no life at all is also a strong point. The end goal of vegan-ism seems to lead to most animals never being born in the first place.


    For health reasons I have recently become vegan. And in doing the research I became quite convinced it is superior to animal based diets. Although I do take a daily dose of fish oil for its health benefits. I did find it troubling that Dr. Rudy's brush with being vegan had little to do with healthy vegan eating. Does she need or want meat? Being a former meat eater i can strongly say:meat is good. It is awesome in a way that a vegan diet can never be. I read above many vegans saying how great the diet can be. While the matter is subjective and vegan food can be delicious and filling that diet is however, to the taste of someone raised on meat, grossly inferior to meat. Will I stay vegan so my heart does not explode, yes. Does avoiding anything associated with factory farming make good ethical sense, yes (and Dr Rudy is quite clear in her book that factory farming is an absolute crime in her mind). Does not eating wild or sensibly raised small farm meat make good ethical sense? The above arguments from vegans seem convincing, but I cannot shake it from my mind that most people are going to continue to desire and consume meat. Would a vegan look back at native Americans, before the advance of Europeans into their country, and say that those Native Americans were unethical and guilty of murder for hunting animals? At what point in the timeline of history do we draw the line of meat eating being acceptable? If it was at some point in the past ethical for our species to eat other species, then certainly it is only an instant ago that it became unethical for our species to eat meat. That is to say, we evolved for millions of years on an omnivore diet and only in an eye-blink of time has it become possible to not eat meat and thrive. It does bring to mind that slavery existed throughout human history but it was not until the modern development of the horrors of the plantation-type slavery that almost all slavery was stopped. Perhaps the same thing is happening with factory farming, eventually the horror of that will be widely recognized and most animal exploitation curtailed.

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  36. It's like when you're in the mob. You can torture people for business, but still love your kids! Good for you, Kathy, good for you! Way to give people a way out of feeling guilty!

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  37. I'm a student and vegan. I'm "poor", meaning I do not have plenty of money to spend, but it seems I have my priorities right: Healthy living to treat my body with respect being the number one thing. And somehow I manage to stay vegan, buy 80% organic food and am incredibly healthy because of that. Eating vegan crap will make you as sick as eating meaty crap, so no wonder it did not work out for you. That was not because of veganism but because of bad food choices.

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  38. It has become increasingly important to form seemingly legitimate reasons to harm and kill others for our own pleasure. Stating that one is just that selfish of a person does not have the same ring to it that it did 20 years ago.

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  39. Prof Rudy, I have posted the text below as a reply to Carol Adams's criticism to your blog. I thought I should post my reply here too. Reading some of the comments to your article, it is interesting how thin some vegan's skin seems to be. After all, you only admitted that is unlikely everybody will go the vegan way.
    Anyways, this is what I told CJA:


    Interesting that you mention that meat eaters tend to be upper class in western societies. Considering that only about 3% of the population in the US supports veganism, (your numbers, not mine), does this mean that 97% of the US population is upper class? Not from where I stand.
    WRT veggies being lower class in other societies, it certainly does not apply to India, where vegans seem to abound, or so we all are lead to believe. On a closer look, Hindu Castes are intimately linked to land ownership in India. Dalits and other lower classes are indeed expected to eat meat, whereas the uppers (Brahmins or Brahmans), are the certified vegans. The Brahmans own most of the land in India, and seem to have no problem in exploiting the rest of the castes for their own benefit, the exploitation of their own women included. Is that yet another example of brutalization by vegetarianism, the same brutalization vegans ascribe to meat eaters? Regarding women in India, note that arranged marriages, the ultimate control over women, is enforced especially amongst Brahmans, who care a lot about losing the property of the land, but very little about women's rights. Ever heard of honor killings in India?. The Brahmans, i.e., the local upper class-vegans, are the ones that perpetuate this interesting practice. Brahman women are expected to arrive virgin to the wedding nite, and widows are not allowed to re-marry. So much for veganism going hand in hand with feminism.

    Carol, your dedication to being a vegan-feminist seems a tad tainted by your inclination to being a pop star in your own lunch time.
    Your problem is that you are too smart for your own good. You could not be religious being so intelligent, but since you carry the religious gene, Richard Dawkins' style, you ended up adopting another irrational posture to satisfy your inner need to pray every nite while keeping an apparent rational posture which of course cannot be taken seriously. (Your efforts to stay within the pro-choice ranks despite Animal Rights being so fundamentally pro-life are the best example you could have ever produced of how hollow (desperate) your intellectual discourse is.) I suggest that you read Michael Martin's 1973 work: "A critique of moral vegetarianism" to see how illogical many of your vegetarian claims are. Some of your followers could try and do the same thing (I mean, try and read Martin's work). Just Google it, after you Google "Honor Killings Brahmans".
    Your truly,

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  40. Killing animals is wrong. A animal is equal to a human. Murder is murder

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