At a time when it can sometimes feel like we might all suffocate under the political correctness overload we seem to have inflicted upon society, I initially refrained from supporting this idea. However, the more that it sat there in the recess of my mind, the more topical I realised the issue, for the health of our planet depends upon it. I am, of course, talking about the ethical vegan movement and the reasons that we might want to start treating it as a recognised philosophical belief akin to a religion.
I hesitate to call it a religion per se, but as all other religions dictate a way of life, so too does the choice to refrain from the consumption of animal products based on ethics. And thus there are parallels that can’t be denied. I must emphasise that I’m referring specifically to those who adopt a vegan lifestyle for environmental or ethical reasons and not purely dietary. There seems to be a free pass from any ridicule if you tell people you’re lactose-intolerant, but pass on the dairy purely for ethical reasons and you might become the subject of a harangue. Interesting, no?
So, if we start by defining “religion,” we find that the dictionary describes it as “a set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons.” I know that “religion” can have negative connotations and there’s strong stigma attached to that word, so personally I prefer the term “philosophical belief” instead as it sounds less cultish. Feel free to take your pick though. You do you.
If we think about how society has put measures in place over time to try to ensure that no person is discriminated against based upon his or her religion, it only makes sense that with the surge of ethical vegans that have become apparent in recent years, we do the same for veganism. You might think this sounds a little extreme, but just this week in the UK a man has claimed that he was fired from his job for speaking out against animal cruelty. Whether or not that’s the whole story, it raises a good point: how can we ensure any persons in the workplace are respected for their “planet-first” approach to diet and lifestyle? How can we prevent things like this from happening?
It starts to get complicated pretty quickly and you might ask where one should draw the line; especially when there’s a heavy portion of big industry that is intimately linked to animal cruelty and environmental destruction. Surely this might be a one-way track to the unravelling of society as we know it? Perhaps that’s the case. And perhaps that’s exactly what we need.
There’s no one right way to live a sustainable life. Many people ask whether it’s not just as ethical to farm one’s own crops and animals in a self-sustaining way. The problem is that unfortunately this is not how most of us do things now. Society has shifted exponentially towards urbanization and we must adapt to a booming global population and strained resources. So much of the world is starving to death while gluttony pervades the west. Our demand for whatever we want whenever we want it from wherever it can be produced is rife and we have flagrant disregard for the ethical consequences.
Whether it’s the desire to get back to something that resembles that aforementioned self-sustaining lifestyle, or adapting to a low-impact vegan lifestyle as many are now choosing to do and is really the most logical way of having your cake and eating it to (continuing to work your job, live in your high rise apartment and still save the planet), your desire to live ethically should be respected. Those who want to protect the planet’s biodiversity and live a life that does not inflict cruelty upon other beings should be allowed to do so, without fear of persecution.
What are your thoughts on veganism as a philosophy? How would you like to see things change to protect this set of beliefs?
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