Are vegans right?

Journalist David Macfarlane writes this beautiful reflection on veganism, after a promise he made to his daughter to try a plant-based diet for six months. Macfarlane does an excellent job of explaining the impact of veganism on the environment, our health and, perhaps most importantly, on the lives and well-being of animals. Macfarlane comes to an understanding of why his vegan daughter prefers not to discuss her lifestyle at the dinner table, a sentiment with which I can sympathize:

Vegans know how unpleasant a topic of dinner conversation the generally accepted practices of animal agriculture can be. That’s usually why they’re vegans in the first place. Things can be graphic and disturbing even before they start talking about intentionally broken legs, and injections of antibiotics and hormones, and animals forced to live a life that consists largely of squatting in their own feces. People can get quite churlish about this kind of thing — especially while they are eating capon or calf’s liver.

Macfarlane makes reference to a friend of his: I’m no philosopher. But Adam is. He teaches philosophy at Brooklyn College in New York City. In a letter to his students that was published in The Walrus in October 2014, Adam put his own position clearly and simply: “I believe that I have a moral obligation to reduce as much suffering in the world as I can before I die.” This is not the philosophy to which Ayn Rand subscribed. And that’s one of the reasons it’s good enough for me. Macfarlane clearly feels the same about Ayn Rand as I do; perhaps I should use the “veganism as anti-Ayn Randism” as the explanation for my vegan lifestyle.

Macfarlane has an excellent riposte to the meat-eating impact on the environment: “Because we all liked cheeseburgers so much” is going to sound pretty stupid when humankind is hauled into the principal’s office and asked to explain how the planet got destroyed.”

I wish Mr. Macfarlane all the best in his vegan journey; we need more people with his eloquence and commitment.

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