Over the weekend, I was lucky enough to meet up with a friend of over 10 years. While my memories referred me to the times we’d sneak into the drive-in theater and eat at Tony’s pizzeria, I was glad when I began to see how much we both had matured, yet still stayed true to who we were in the past. Somehow, despite a 1000-mile distance and hardly any communication, we managed to be able to enjoy each other’s company once again. Anyone with the experience knows this is one of life’s true delights.
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Enough with the sappy stuff, though.
Throughout our conversation, we ran into the subject of her and her boyfriend’s eating habits. Both being die-hard vegans, they expounded on me the details of their lifestyle. After a two hour get together at a local vegan restaurant filled with talk of politics, morals, and solutions, I had heard more about veganism and the philosophy behind it than ever before.
That said, we arrive at the point of this overly introduced article: veganism.
Defined like a textbook, “veganism” is the doctrine that people should live without exploiting animals or animal products. From that core principle, vegans adopt a number of aligned practices such as refraining from eating food made from animals, and avoiding goods that use animals products – whether it be clothing or for any other purpose.
In regards to diets, vegans have no problem being able to meet their daily-recommended intake. Veggie wraps, pumpkin seed crusted lentil patties, and salads filled with their favorite vegetables contain tons of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Some point to the argument that without meat, vegans are more prone to become protein-deficient: don’t buy it! Most grains contain the recommended serving, and foods made from soy products or containing nuts are filled with the nutrients we need.
Then again – to be honest – I wasn’t first convinced that ‘vegan’ had much argumentative weight to it. (Probably) Like most people, I assumed that vegans are vegans because they care so much about animals – a kind of “think of the animals!” emotional appeal – and that’s about it. Well, that’s far from the truth.
On top of the argument that we shouldn’t exploit animals, vegans have a sophisticated philosophical ground work to their lifestyle. Essentially, vegans are rooted in normative ethics. That is to say, for example, that they share the same ‘root question’ as utilitarianism, virtue ethics, and egoism; “what ought one do, morally speaking?” To an egoist, whatever best for the self is defined as the ‘right thing to do’. To a vegan, the ‘right’ thing for humans to ‘do’ is to not exploit animals or, through extension, the earth.
To put it differently, a vegan would argue that the human being doesn’t have an inherent right to instrumentally use animals or other resources as they see fit. Furthermore, the ability to manipulate and control environments does not justify the action of doing so; just because we can, doesn’t mean we ought to.
As one would notice, the philosophy here isn’t too far from organics or environmentalism. In fact, nearly all aspects of each are identical. All three see a tendency of humans to overextend their authority into an unnatural realm, and they subsequently try to correct it by defining better standards of what is healthy, moral, or sustainable.
Putting this into perspective has led me to respect vegans at a much higher level. The media – unsurprisingly – usually paints them in a hippie-esque sort of way with dirty clothes and an unsettling over-infatuation with animals. In reality, they are normal people – just like you and me – only with the sole difference of diet and moral perspective.
Despite the power of our conversation and the moral appeal to veganism, I remain to be the person I was; a meat eating (free-range and grass fed, mind you), animal using consumer. At the same time, however, my views have changed at the base, and I now try to avoid the unnecessary use of animal products (granola cereal for breakfast, not ham and egg sandwiches)!
It’s amazing what a few hours with a good friend will do, especially when that good friend is more like family. While I may be biased, vegans are nothing but good in my book, and while I may not agree with all of their views, I respect their underlying philosophy and moral conviction. Respect for the planet and its inhabitants is a belief everyone should subscribe to.
That said, go make that call to your best friend from high school or college. It may have been awhile since your last chat, but I can guarantee they’d love to hear from you. Who knows, maybe after a cup of coffee or tea, you may change both of each other's lives.