One of the first things people think of when approached about Veganism is the fact that animals eat other animals. This case is often used in support of the concept that eating animals is a moral act that humans partake in, but does this hold up as morally and logically consistent? Let’s take a look -
The premise of this argument is an Appeal to Nature Fallacy; the idea that because something is considered natural, it is therefore valid, justified, good, or ideal. There are many things in nature that we deem as good; the sun, water, oxygen, family units, mutualism, etc. But there are countless things in nature that we deem as bad; viruses, murder, xenophobia, theft, etc. People have a tendency to point to lions specifically in this case, but should we accept lions’ behavioral patterns as guidelines for human morality? Absolutely not. Lions have already been documented partaking in activities that we deem as undoubtedly unethical, such as rape and the killing of their own offspring (watch videos of it and it’ll make your stomach churn.) That is why this argument is fallacious, we cannot appeal to nature as being a moral baseline unless we accept everything that occurs in nature as being morally just.
Lions and other obligate carnivores also have to eat animals to survive. It is completely necessary. The opposite is true for humans. Not only are humans able to survive & thrive on a plant-based diet (the countless health benefits are just a bonus), but we now live in a time where plant-based options are abundant. We have a choice and they don’t. This means that consuming animals and their byproducts is now an unnecessary act of violence. In the modern world, eating animals is just as unnecessary as beating a cat or dog.
Additionally, humans have moral agency and animals don’t. We can make judgements based on notions of right and wrong, and can be held accountable for those judgements. Animals cannot be held accountable in this manner.
Once it is recognized that we can’t justify needlessly killing animals for food just because other animals do so, people often revert to other Appeal to Nature Fallacies. These include perceived adaptations such as ‘canines’ and ‘enzymes,’ concepts such as a food chain or ‘the circle of life,’ and the belief that humans are naturally omnivorous. These appeals fail as well of course, but we’ll address them in a later post.
While people do point to animals’ eating habits when approached by veganism, they generally don’t consider mirroring animals' other habits. It seems as though most people recognize we live in a modern, contemporary world, not fit for all primitive or “natural” behavior. It may be difficult to connect the dots to what we eat because Carnism is the dominant ideology within most cultures.
After more than one hundred years behind cage bars, the animals on the packaging of Barnum’s Animal Crackers are now free to roam as they please . . .
So you’ve turned vegan, you feel healthier, your conscious is clear, and the world looks terribly different. Now what? For many of us, waking up to the realities of animal agriculture sparks a fire in us to help the animals, as well as the earth.