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The Orion

Vegetarians are less ethical than omnivores

Photo credit: David Molina
Photo credit: David Molina

Eating meat is a choice humans can make. My only real opinion, about anything, is that no one should make a choice for someone else, being a believer in the preservation of human dignity concerning voluntary decisions.

However, in the contemporary meat-eating debate, there are certain uncontested ethics which I think ought to be reexamined.

Consuming dead flesh isn’t naturally objectionable. It’s factory farming that has mutated the natural, wild act of carnivorism to sadism; a necessary industrialization so long as meat-eating is necessary, as an agrarian market couldn’t feasibly produce meat for 7 billion consumers.

Of course, meat-eating isn’t necessary, and there is no longer a natural predator element. Perhaps the argument against meat-eating is best summed up by Peter Singer: If one can avoid consuming meat and dairy, one ought to.

So, in light of the horrors of the meat industry, a good portion of humans turn to vegetarianism. About 2 percent of Americans are vegetarian, and 10 percent have at one time been vegetarian. But vegetarianism is firstly not an ethical decision, it’s a dietary one.

To an extent, it’s concerned about the environment, but for all intents and purposes the vegetarian is only concerned about the nutritional matter entering his digestive system. He cannot afford to consider himself ethical in the face of factory farming, as he isn’t nearly separated from the cruelty to animals.

Veganism is an inherently ethical stance, and vegans can lay just claim to ethics, followed in rank by omnivores, vegetarians, pescatarians and much further down, once-vegetarians or once-vegans.

Meanwhile, vegetarianism, though thought of as ethical, is simply a trendy movement that ignores the bureaucratic functions underlying all production and selectively ignores animal violations.

The meat industry is innately tied to the dairy industry. Vegetarians reject the slaughter of calves, piglets or lambs; then they accept the vaginal and anal assault, torture, isolation and brutal death of millions of cows so they may drink milk. Similar concerns for chickens, sheep, pigs and fish – one cannot be vegetarian and ethical, nor even more ethical.

Common omnivores are ignorant to the industry or only numbly aware. To paraphrase philosopher Sam Harris, they don’t pay a psychological cost because food magically appears on their table.

They are like infants without an education, blissfully reaping the benefits of a sadistic system.

An infant would not be blamed for failing to work out ethical responsibilities. The ordinary meat-eater then too is without accountability. But vegetarians, guised as ethical, are aware and submerged in the moral debate, only protected by selectivity and convenience in choosing their diet; they have made the most immoral stance.

Without any examination, trying what seems like an ethical diet may be tempting. Still, there’s a reason I’ve never done it.

The commitment has to be permanent. Once subscribed to eating vegetarian or vegan, if one ever quits – because of lack of funds, momentary appetite, etc. – the quitter has chosen personal convenience as their ultimate ethical stance.

Abandoning an ethical pursuit for what temporarily serves them better is plain egoism. This is far worse than the omnivore infant that knows not what he does. Hence, the once-vegetarian or once-vegan is the largest exhibitor of amorality.

Health concerns about consuming meat or only eating vegetables are irrelevant to the discussion.

Whether Earth’s entire human population adopting vegetarianism or veganism is sustainable, or whether meat-eating itself is sustainable, is also irrelevant.

The ultimate conclusion is that, not only are vegetarianisms not ethical, they are actually less ethical than omnivores.

William Rein can be reached at [email protected] or @toeshd on Twitter.

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  • A

    Augustus Summers // Feb 28, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    This article is dumb, and William you are spewing nonsense.

    The premise assumes that (a) All vegetarians are so for animal cruelty / ethical reasons – there are several more (b) that All vegetarians continue to consume just as much milk as their omnivore counterparts – not true because many try to reduce if not eliminate eggs, milk and cheese considerably (without going full vegan) (c) why are health concerns irrelevant when actual scientific clinical studies have shown otherwise ?

    Stop. Please just stop.

    • W

      William Rein // Feb 29, 2016 at 3:14 pm

      You’re demonstrably incorrect about (a), because as I said vegetarianism is specifically a dietary position. You either misunderstood the argument on this front or didn’t read it.
      (b) Utterly irrelevant, has nothing to do with the semantics of the argument. Also, the weasel word “considerably” only adds to the argument of convenience.
      (c) Health concerns are irrelevant to the argument, friend. Scientific clinical studies have a lot to say about health and scarcity, but nothing to say about ethics.

      You are welcome to try again, Augustus.

      • J

        J. Zanzen // Mar 21, 2016 at 12:09 pm

        Saying the words ‘demonstrably incorrect’ doesn’t make what Mr. Summers said any less correct. Nor does saying ‘weasel word.’ You are factually wrong about vegetarian attitudes.

        You can pretend that your ignorance makes you more ethical than someone who is trying to make things better and not succeeding in all cases, but it is an absurd claim,

      • J

        J. Zanzen // Mar 21, 2016 at 12:09 pm

        But you’re welcome to try again, Mr. Rein.

  • H

    Heather // Feb 26, 2016 at 8:11 am

    This is why I’ve been vegan for more than 23 years. Best decision ever. There’s no legitimate reason not to go vegan.

  • S

    Sceptic // Feb 26, 2016 at 3:40 am

    Poorly argued and desperately written. Moving along…

    • W

      William Rein // Feb 29, 2016 at 2:56 pm


      • J

        J. Zanzen // Mar 21, 2016 at 11:57 am

        Human life is more valuable than nonhuman animal life as we know it. Killing Mabel the cow is worse than milking Mabel the cow. Vegetarians retain a need for animal protein. Therefore, vegetarians have a right based on necessity to procure animal protein that supersedes the animal’s right to autonomy.

        It’s really not that complicated. If you think that the cow is an equal of a human, you may be on shakier ground. But I don’t think most vegetarians believe that.