Why Vegan Priorities are Humanist Priorities
by Jason Torpy
In this short article, you—the enlightened and rational humanist—will suddenly realize the error of your carnivorous ways. You carnivores, or “carnies,” are torturing animals for fun. Harsh? True? Both yes.
Just as we strive to reduce our "carbon footprint" to help the environment, we should strive to reduce the "cruelty footprint" to help non-human animals. Did we evolve to eat meat? Certainly. Since those days on the plains of Africa, we've evolved society, nutrition science, empathy, and sophisticated ethical concepts that allow us to recognize the way to be healthy without exploiting animals.
I'm not saying that there aren't good reasons to eat animals. For one, it's convenient. It's no crime to stuff a chicken in a cage or carve it into pieces. Animal parts are for sale at almost every restaurant and store. Animals taste good, too. It may be a rotting carcass, but it can be so tasty with just a bit of proper cooking and seasoning. Convenience and taste are good reasons to dine on a tasty flank steak or Vienna sausage.
The alternative is to consider the reasons not to eat animals. Eliminating meat and choosing a nutritious vegan diet will reduce cholesterol (which is only found in animal products), calorie intake, and many food-borne illnesses. Fast food is almost immediately eliminated, which is fantastically good for health. Vegan living is good for the environment as well. The meat industry wastes water and resources and creates nearly 20% of greenhouse gasses.
And of course, it's good for the animals. Would you kill and cook the family dog when you had other food? Would you go to a slaughterhouse and see the torture and slaughter involved in your chicken nuggets or cheese cubes? If not, at least watch the video "Earthlings". Your health, animal welfare, and the environment are good reasons to oppose animal production for food.
This is a question of priorities. Humanist values, as I understand them, put a premium on health, animals, and the environment. Humanists should be able to suffer some inconvenience to reduce their carbon footprint and their cruelty footprint. Doing the right thing can sometimes be difficult, but it shouldn't be in this case. When wondering how you will give up that turkey sandwich you love, remember that taste is not your top priority. But also remember that five or six different meats pale in comparison to a plethora of fruits, nuts, beans, vegetables, and spices that can make absolutely delicious and nutritious meals. Aside from an infrequent B12 requirement, no animal products are necessary for human diet.
If you cannot commit to a vegan lifestyle overnight, be an aspiring vegan; less is more when it comes to animal exploitation. Recognize what's right and what's wrong and look for opportunities at every meal to cut out meat and meat products. Start by making your home (dead) animal-free. If you're having trouble, Albert Schweitzer advises, “Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.”
Eating meat is bad for you, the environment, and especially the animals. It's certainly worse than not eating meat. Don't subordinate important values for things like taste and convenience. Humanism should be about being the best humans we can be, not asserting our human dominance by breeding, exploiting, torturing, and slaughtering animals. Go veg.
For resources on becoming vegan, visit:
- Vegan Deliciousness for vegan recipes
- Veg Power Plate for vegan nutrition
- Meatless Monday, includes lifestyle and impact studies
- Veg Lifestyle, provides lifestyle, nutrition and meal tips
- Peter Singer’s views on animal ethics
Jason Torpy is president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers and serves on the Board of Directors of the American Humanist Association.