I have recently had the pleasure of visiting New Zealand. A country with stunning nature and kind people. As a vegan, a person who chooses not to use animal products (meat, diary, eggs, wool, etc), I often end up in discussions on using and not using animals. I have found that New Zealanders seem to have a favorite response to why they use or do not use animal products. Can you guess it? Yep, it is: “It’s a personal choice.”
But is it really? What do people mean when they say that something is a personal choice?
More Than An Aesthetic Choice
The spirit with which the answer, “It’s a personal choice”, is given often implies a sort of leisurely made personal preference, an esthetic preference. “I prefer red apples on the table, as they are more aesthetically pleasing to me” or “I prefer Granny Smith apples to Red Delicious, because they have a refreshing acidity that is pleasing to me”.
Although the issue of eating or not eating animal products may have an aesthetic dimension, it has a much more far reaching moral one. Choosing to engage in and sponsor enslavement, torture, and mass slaughter of billions of sentient individuals each year (not to mention the effects of this industry on our planet and human health), makes it primarily a moral issue.
Thus the answer to the moral question of why we choose to eat and use animals cannot be given in the esthetic dimension of personal preference. Our pleasure of dining on others cannot justify all the suffering, harm, and death inflicted upon them.
Defying Our Own Morals
What is even more interesting, is the fact that by choosing to eat or use animals, most of us are going against our own moral position.
The moral default position in society is that it is wrong to inflict unnecessary suffering and death on others. And yet, by eating animal products, we do just that.
Our main reasons for eating animal products are pleasure, convenience, and habit. In our society there is no necessity. We do not need animal products to survive. In fact, a number of knowledgable physicians and nutritionists would claim that health-wise, we would be much better off without animal products in our diet.
Whenever we go against our own morals, we create situations where we have to suppress certain information and parts of ourselves. We are setting ourselves up for internal struggle. Exactly what are we suppressing? Often we will not allow ourselves to find out, until we no longer need to suppress it. This is what happens to many vegans. At some stage they start to feel whole, liberated, and free because they no longer “have to” participate in the animal industry.
A Way Out
Although the expression “It’s a personal choice” may be quite useful in shutting down a discussion and disarming a potentially hostile situation, at times it can be quite rewarding to actually have the conversation.
Discussions like these can be useful, because they help us to improve our ability to distinguish between the esthetic and the moral. By improving our ability to distinguish between the esthetic and the moral dimensions, we will have an easier time living the life we want, where we are making the choices we truly want to make, choices where our heart and mind are integrated.
This article was submitted by Basia Piechocinksa. If you found this article thought provoking, then read “Why Anything But Vegan?” for further inspiration.
The choice to eat animal products is absolutely the choice to turn a blind eye to horrible suffering for the sake of convenience. Ignorance is bliss.
Just like owning an iPod or a laptop or 99% of clothing is a choice to turn a blind eye to modern slavery as millions of humans suffer in sweatshops for prices we’re willing to pay. We should be fighting ALL injustices and inhumanities. Look at the products you use, as well as what’s on your plate.
I think a lot of vego’s often take the easy way out and try to skip making it an issue. Maybe it’s because we’re generally socially outnumbered and get bored with having that same old conversation or don’t want to offend people. These days I try to get in meat-eaters faces more and point out their cruel, blinkered thinking. It’s a lot more fun, so many meat-eaters squirm, get apologetic and say “I only have a few meat meals each week” etc. They know the truth of it.