Vegan FAQ #4 – Aren’t Vegans Hypocrites?
Some people like to call out vegans for not being perfect, so that they can feel comfortable about continuing to use animal products and justified in not having to change their actions. This point is first of all a logical fallacy called tu quoque. Check out this video for an excellent explanation of this fallacy. Second, this claim shows a complete misunderstanding of what veganism is. In addition to explaining their fallacy, you may need to give them a mini education on veganism.
Animal products are the result of intentional torture and killing on a mass scale. Over 40 billion land animals (don’t know the numbers on the fish) are killed each year in the US alone. I don’t think that there is anything hypocritical about avoiding products of intentional torture, imprisonment, and slaughter and trying to persuade others to eliminate this from their lives in order to dismantle an utterly barbaric system, while not being able to eliminate all unintentional products of animal suffering, such as deaths of animals in farm fields or habitat destruction by the construction and operation of factories that pollute. I don’t know any vegans who feel they are perfect. In fact, most think that being vegan is the very least they can do for animals.
Being vegan is avoiding animal exploitation wherever it is unnecessary (key word being unnecessary). Unless you are truly starving and in a remote location with no alternatives, then it is always unnecessary to eat animal products. It is always unnecessary to use them for clothing. One person I encountered claimed that using any modern technology or anything plastic harms animals even more than eating animal products does. I’m not sure how using a computer harms animals, but it is something of a necessity in today’s world (I use it for my job in order to make money to feed myself, and food is kind of a necessity), and unfortunately there are no certified vegan computers…yet. Maybe there will be one day. Same can be said of a car if one is needed to drive to work. It is a necessary evil right now, but technology is moving toward developing cars and other forms of transportation that harm the environment less. Should human rights advocates stop using computers and iPhones for advocacy work because human slave labor may have been used to produce them, or should they stop advocating for human rights on the Internet entirely because otherwise they would be, in this fallacious view, hypocrites? Vegans avoid products where animal exploitation is direct and obvious and may then make it their life’s quest to continue eliminating products and practices of exploitation that are not as obvious. After becoming vegan, almost every vegan becomes very aware of his or her environmental impact, and many start making steps toward avoiding plastic or whatever other environmental disaster as much as possible, while also reducing their general consumption of unnecessary things (superfluous clothing, household items, random junk, etc.). Unfortunately in this very nonvegan world, it is impossible to avoid animal use in some way unless one goes and lives in the wild. But if more of the world does become vegan, one day it may be possible to use things that are nearly 100% free of any harms to animals, as the practices of most corporations or whatever entities provide us with resources to live will most likely be more conscientious than they are now, which is close to zero. Becoming vegan usually makes one more conscientious than ever. Veganism is a start to ridding the world of animal exploitation and not the end all, be all. It was never about intervening and ending the harm of every animal on the planet right now, so if one thinks that, then I can see why he/she would think vegans are hypocrites, but hopefully if you explain to him/her what veganism actually is, he/she will stop calling vegans hypocrites unless he/she sees a vegan engaging in obviously unnecessary animal use like eating dairy cheese (making that person not vegan anyway).
If you believe that animals have the right to not be used as commodities, then you must be vegan. Vegans never make the claim that being vegan will make you perfect and that you will avoid every single harm to animal, human or not. Being vegan is a start to eradicating violence in the world, and vegan activists are trying to get others to the starting line as well, and most are not in any way saying that this is the end of the world’s problems or problems for wild animals just because a small percentage of the population is vegan right now.
No one can know the implications of a world of people becoming more conscientious and at the same time vastly reducing resource use by worldwide adoption of veganism. Get rid of the wasteful, damaging abuses to the environment by the animal agriculture industries, and you’re going to have a world where it is much easier to always be kinder and gentler to all animals everywhere and reduce unintentional harm to them as well. To get there, we first all have to say no to all intentional, avoidable animal use.