Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Busting Five Vegan Myths - A Follow-Up

Remember when I said yesterday, that Busting Five Vegan Myths was too short an article? Yeah well, I noticed today that it was reprinted in Hindustan Times after it first appeared in Washington Post on 18th April. Looking up the original article, I saw that quite a few bits had been chopped from the article in the reprinted version. I also realised that Carol J. Adams, the author of the article, is the author of The Sexual Politics of Meat as well, which has been on my to-read list for quite some time. After the article, Adams further engaged with readers in a question-answer session about veganism at the Washington Post on 20th April. Reading through both the expanded version of the article and the Q-&-A, I got the impression that while Adams was promoting veganism in the end, her arguments, relying heavily on the same old health-benefits and the evils-of-factory-farming spiel, were lacking in the clarity of an any-nonconsensual-use-of-sentient-beings-is-exploitation-as-well-as-slavery approach. For example, in response to this question:
Carol, although I'm an omnivore and could only give up meat if someone held a gun to my head, I can understand the ethical reasons for being a vegetarian. However, I could never give up milk, eggs, cheese, ice cream--especially cheese! It doesn't harm a chicken to take her eggs, nor does it kill a cow/goat/sheep/yak to be milked. So why vegan?
She said:
[…] what do you think happens to the chicken after she is done laying her eggs? She becomes chicken soup. What happens to the cows after they have been depleted and can barely walk to the slaughterhouse? They become hamburger. Chickens and cows are used twice by the animal agriculture industry--in sexual servitude, producing what I have called "feminized protein" --eggs and milk--in incredibly horrendous conditions. Cows are both pregnant and lactating at the same time; veal calves are the byproduct of the dairy industry. Male chicks are thrown into the garbage within 24 hours of birth because they can't be used to get more eggs. Chickens are crowded into cages; debeaked, unable to move, much less to stretch their wings.
So, why vegan? I don't want to benefit from such cruelty; we don't need dairy; and I don't want to determine my diet by selfishness. […]

You write that being a vegan is about "one simple ideal: trying to do the least harm possible." While I can understand if not particularly agree with meat and leather doing harm, I fail to see how eggs, milk, honey, wool, etc. do harm to humans or animals. Can you please elaborate?

[…] the harvesting of these foods is not without consequences of the animals they are "harvested from." Bees often die in the collection of honey, the wool industry has been found to be very cruel […]

In response to all the queries along the lines of why not just vegetarian, Adams responded with the fact that all nonhumans, even when being exploited for dairy or eggs, end up being murdered, and she doesn’t believe in killing animals. The only other thing she said regarding nonhumans exploited for dairy, eggs etc.:
[…] Chickens and cows are used twice by the animal agriculture industry--in sexual servitude, producing what I have called "feminized protein" --eggs and milk--in incredibly horrendous conditions. […] For female animals, their exploitation is doubled. […]

Now, I am still interested in hearing what she has to say in her books about the intersectionality of patriarchal values and animal exploitation, but her not directly addressing why it is wrong to exploit nonhumans even if we don’t torture or murder them afterward didn’t exactly build my faith in her grasp of the concept of exploitation and servitude or in her ability to assess them. She, finally, comes across as a writer who, with a mix of welfarism and rights, has some new and interesting things to say and some familiar and exhausting old tropes of questioning the treatment instead of use.

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