Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lingering Doubts of a Vegetarian

Veganism is not my cup of tea.  I simply can't do it.  But does that mean I'm promoting animal cruelty?  This has been discussed at length elsewhere, so I'm not going to go into it.  I think that being a vegetarian is definately doing a lot of good for the environment, since it reduces animal suffering by reducing demand of factory farmed animals.

But what about incidental animal products?  By incidental I mean things that are made from animals that they're not directly farmed for.  Arguably there are no incidental products, everything that animals give us are part of why we raise them.  I'm thinking of things like leather and such.  On my person I could probably count at least 10 animal products that would rule me out of being vegan (shoes, belt, wallet, backpack, dental floss, tylenol, coat, watch (its a waterproof one), lip balm).  Not to mention things like packaging that these things come in, preservatives that my food has, and the drugs that I take, even the stitches or sutures that would be put on me if I needed them.

Being a vegetarian allows me to utilize animal products, but that doesn't guarantee that the animal products I utilize are from humanely treated animals....  In fact there really is in no way to tell since many incidental animal products are not regulated by the FDA since they're not going to be eaten.

Perfection is the enemy of progress though.  I'm not morally perfect, but I'm moving towards doing a lot of good.  Maybe some day I will eliminate leather from my person, or wax products, but until then, I can sleep at night knowing that I'm still doing a lot of good.


  1. Hey, good on you for being veg - and extra kudos to you for thinking about the impact of your lifestyle on animals and the environment. So many people don't think beyond food because animal products have been integrated so sealessly and invisibly into our society.

    If you are doing this for animals, I'm guessing you are a strict vegetarian as opposed to a lacto-ovo vegetarian? It sounds like you have already looked into this, so are already aware of the factory farming involved in egg production and dairy (never mind the veal calves that are the heartbreaking byproduct of dairy).

    If you are now trying to eliminate or minimise animal products beyond the diet then you are at about the same point as me and I call myself vegan - I agree perfection is the enemy of progress, and really, no vegan is perfect but they do what they can and that is definitely better than doing nothing!

  2. I've recently been contemplating veganism/vegetarianism to the point where I think my head is going to explode... I looked up a lot of Peter Singer's philosophy on the subject, which has influenced me a lot. So far, I agree with him, and I've come to the conclusion that I would be the most ethically satisfied with myself if I became a vegan, but my quest for ethical satisfaction tends to be slowed by societal norms and laziness. I really think I should start moving away from meat, but most people don't care if I do eat it, so its really easy to not care about the environment and poor little animals...

    Now that you got me thinking about it again, I suppose I should begin reigniting my desire to be an ethical person. I'll have to start moving away from meat again.

  3. Niki- No, I'm a Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian. I try to get my chicken eggs fertilized, so they have more room than the traditional factory farmed egg. I don't drink much milk, but I do eat cheese. But I think its a hyperbole to say that when one drinks milk, that one is supporting the veal industry. After all, cows have to give birth to other dairy cows and beef cattle too. But I'm rather proud to say that I've never once eaten veal.

    Kyle- Indeed there is a lot out there. I'd suggest incremental steps. Simply eating less meat will make a world of difference. As you eat less meat, you'll find your meat alternative meals that you'll be happy with, which will make transitioning to a vegetarian diet all the more easier.

  4. I tried being a vegan before, but it was proving too hard for me when considering the actual benefits. Whether I buy meat products or not, they will still be produced. There is the chance that by having a large group of people giving up a product, the price of the product will in turn lower to attract more customers again, so more people will buy it again. I don't eat meat anyway, and I don't use this as some kind of excuse for eating hordes of meat; that is just a theory. I wonder how it would be possible to even distinguish incidental animal products?

    But don't think I'm not wracked with guilt having to go through all the packaging and ridiculous preservatives I have to go through during the day.