An attempt to define veganism as I understand it

OP
OP
Graeme M

Graeme M

Forum Senior
Joined
Nov 23, 2019
Reaction score
77
Age
63
Location
Canberra, Australia
Lifestyle
  1. Vegan
I don't need a law to keep me from committing adultery and/or murder.
Maybe not, I cannot know. However, without a law, many people do commit adultery. With a law, many people do not commit murder. People are not naturally inclined to refrain from killing others as history tells us.

I also don't see veganism as a club trying to keep some in and others out. I never saw it as complicated. Carnivores eat meat, herbivores eat plants, omnivores eat meat & plants, pescatarians eat fish, vegetarians eat dairy, vegans avoid consuming animals, etc.
If you want veganism to be a simple in-group thing where vegans don't eat meat, then my explanation doesn't apply. On the other hand, if you see it as an overall moral belief about how to regard other species in all of our interactions with them, then it might.
 
D

Deleted member 14798

Guest
Maybe not, I cannot know. However, without a law, many people do commit adultery. With a law, many people do not commit murder. People are not naturally inclined to refrain from killing others as history tells us.


If you want veganism to be a simple in-group thing where vegans don't eat meat, then my explanation doesn't apply. On the other hand, if you see it as an overall moral belief about how to regard other species in all of our interactions with them, then it might.
Many people break laws regardless.

Some vegans are so because, even if only in part, of beliefs. The labels are what they are so it's easier to get food and share with others who fall under whatever labels.

This discussion reminds me of philosophical discussions. How do we know we're really here? How do we know we're not really a bug having a dream? It's about encouraging critical thinking. It though can drive someone batty if taken too seriously. Some med students begin imagining they have serious diseases after reading symptoms and studies. I am what I am, true to myself but as imperfect as the rest.
 
OP
OP
Graeme M

Graeme M

Forum Senior
Joined
Nov 23, 2019
Reaction score
77
Age
63
Location
Canberra, Australia
Lifestyle
  1. Vegan
I do find your phrase "social sub-group" somewhat demeaning. but maybe I'm reading into it.
I mean it in the sense that if veganism were just a diet, all we have is a social in-group. One can be a member just by not eating meat. There is not necessarily any moral backing for that choice. There might be some kind of sentimentalism at work, but even that isn't necessary. On the other hand, if you think veganism is talking about rights and justice, then you have a moral matter. And moral matters apply to all of us; what's always in question is the extent to which we think a moral matter should be applied in practice.

My metaphor is that just as veganism is on a spectrum of ethics, red is on the visible light spectrum. just as its a little hard to say where red ends and orange begins, red does end before orange begins. Same with veganism which ends before Carnism starts. Just like red, where you can add extra white and black to get your pinks and magentas, we have the different schools of veganism too.
I'm not sure I quite follow your metaphor. Colours don't really exist, they are equipment dependent responses to electromagnetic radiation that give us information about the world. And they depend upon there being the full spectrum because the information they give is primarily about differences. Red is not green, for example. If someone could only see red colours (ie everything were shades of red), the whole point of colour would be lost.

In similar vein, veganism as a moral attitude about the world depends on the full range of moral beliefs/attitudes about relations between individuals and groups. Before cities, states and agriculture, there was no veganism. The idea wasn't needed to make sense of the world, but some kind of moral take was nonetheless present. People enslaved, killed, fought with, dispossessed and otherwise treated each other in unpleasant ways. Yet they also had rules about how to treat others depending on circumstance and context so that life wasn't always about killing and fighting etc. The same with other animals.

But as population grew and people began to live in larger and more stable groups, rules were needed about how to treat diverse elements within groups. As intra-group relations began to reflect more than simple trade relations so too did the need for rules to manage relations with other groups.

Philip Kitcher describes ethics as the efforts of humans to resolve failures of altruism. That may be right. In small groups, all we need are ways to manage internal relations to maximise altruism. That gets harder with larger and more diverse groups. Moral rules about how to treat others become more complicated and address more circumstances and contexts. Eventually we have reached the point where contexts can extend to include other species, partly informed by ideas about what's right and partly by science.

The point though - as I see it - is that the ethical project Kitcher describes and into which vegan moral beliefs fall consists of a continuum of ethical ideas. Veganism isn't a thing apart, it is an intrinsic part of everyday moral belief formation and ethical practice. The tenets of veganism align exactly with how we have come to shape the best ways to act justly and fairly to each other - in a real sense veganism is the idea we take these beliefs and practices beyond our own species. And it doesn't even require that we do so for all species. It depends, again, on circumstance and context. Just as our intra-human relations would rapidly change if society fell into disrepair.

Simply put, do unto others as you'd have them do unto you, whenever you can, even when "others" includes other species.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Lou

silva

Forum Legend
Supporter
Joined
Jun 3, 2012
Reaction score
15,042
Location
USA
Maybe not, I cannot know. However, without a law, many people do commit adultery. With a law, many people do not commit murder. People are not naturally inclined to refrain from killing others as history tells us.


If you want veganism to be a simple in-group thing where vegans don't eat meat, then my explanation doesn't apply. On the other hand, if you see it as an overall moral belief about how to regard other species in all of our interactions with them, then it might.
I appreciate your outlook, but I do disagree
While extending the same moral views we have towards humans to all species is certainly the goal of vegans, it's so far from any culture to have those views as commonly accepted, I feel the definition of veganism as it stands should remain until it's pervasive enough to not need its own definition.

As to @Lou spectrum metaphor, loose the colors and just think of it in terms of a Venn diagram maybe?
There is the most stringant avoidance of animal use to needing to make exceptions based on personal circumstances--like medicines,or job requirements. It goes from ranges of vegans, vegetarians, omnivores

I honestly don't have any ideas about those where eating meat or starving would fit in. I expect they would hunt or fish and not be dependent on production of meat. Honestly, many people I know who hunt have more respect for animal life than those who blindly buy from stores. But not vegan

As/if we can turn away from farming/using animals to the point where the definition of vegan is the norm, I would then see your view as acceptable, but that is a very long way off

I really don't know that laws are that much a deterrent to killing or adultary. With or without many still do and many still get away with killing and adultary
 
  • Like
Reactions: Lou
OP
OP
Graeme M

Graeme M

Forum Senior
Joined
Nov 23, 2019
Reaction score
77
Age
63
Location
Canberra, Australia
Lifestyle
  1. Vegan
I don't have any particular objection to everyday definitions of veganism. I was more offering a philosophical explanation for veganism and why it isn't just a diet. Strategies for activism will be built on many different kinds of platforms - health, environment, animal rights, animal welfare, sentimentality etc. But at the end of the day, if you want to explain where veganism comes from intellectually and how it fits into the moral landscape, I believe my interpretation is the correct one.

That is why I think this is fundamentally wrong:

I honestly don't have any ideas about those where eating meat or starving would fit in. I expect they would hunt or fish and not be dependent on production of meat. Honestly, many people I know who hunt have more respect for animal life than those who blindly buy from stores. But not vegan

Someone who is a deeply committed Christian accepts that humans are special and that we should not kill each other. But if a deeply Christian soldier kills an enemy in wartime, we do not say they are no longer Christian. For the same reason, vegans who kill an animal for food when necesassary are still vegan. Even the UK Vegan Society recognises that. And as we've discussed before, killing truly vast numbers of animals to grow crops doesn't stop one being a vegan. Veganism just is the continuum of moral beliefs and ethical practice, as I've said. One can be more or less ethical, depending on personal choices and circumstances, but unless one belongs to some vegan group that requires rule based membership (so that you can actually be a "vegan"), one remains a moral being. Veganism operates to help guide the choices you make.

I really don't know that laws are that much a deterrent to killing or adultary. With or without many still do and many still get away with killing and adultary
I think our laws act well to prevent such bad behaviours as stealing and murder. The fact they don't prevent them shows that we are not, generally, a very moral population. On balance, we behave relatively well because of community pressure and the law; if we change community expectations and the law, we observe different and possibly less moral behaviours. As is obvious, there are a few genuinely defensible moral stances. We are, after all, just animals. Little organic systems driven by biological imperatives.
 
Last edited:
OP
OP
Graeme M

Graeme M

Forum Senior
Joined
Nov 23, 2019
Reaction score
77
Age
63
Location
Canberra, Australia
Lifestyle
  1. Vegan
This is interesting. I found this while looking for something else, I've never seen it before though I have heard of the writer. In this brief article, Jordi offers an explanation for the foundations of ethical veganism. Interestingly, he talks about altruism which I mentioned above. I think there are parallels between what Jordi writes and what I have attempted to outline in this thread.

 
  • Like
  • Informative
Reactions: PTree15 and Lou