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Owners of ‘The Goat’ Vegan Cafe Aren’t Doing Us Any Favours

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It’s one thing to dislike the internet, it’s quite another to deny its existence and label it the source of all evil. Especially when it does nothing but marginalise veganism and give people another reason to dismiss an important social justice issue.

Matt Ward and Dawn Silver, owners of The Goat Cafe in Huddersfield, UK, made an announcement recently on their Facebook page. They said they feel the internet “exploits humans” and that it doesn’t line up with their “vegan ethos.” I don’t know what this ethos of theirs is, but it stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the differences between incidental harm and intentional harm.

Lets break it down.

Can the internet facilitate the exploitation of humans? Yes. Were humans the victims of exploitation before the internet? Yes. Is the internet itself, inherently evil? No. Are the actions of those who use the internet to exploit humans morally wrong? Yes. But it makes absolutely no sense to blame the internet – or maintain that the internet isn’t vegan – when the moral wrong in each case is committed by humans. The internet merely serves as an outlet for the wrongdoing. If the internet didn’t exist, these people would simply engage in unjust behaviour towards humans in other ways.

Consider a hypothetical involving the board game, Cluedo. If Mr. Green murders Miss Scarlet in the billiard room with the candlestick, does that mean that candlesticks exploit humans? If Mrs. Peacock murders Colonel Mustard in the ball room with the spanner, does that mean spanners are necessarily a source of human oppression? In both cases, the answer is clearly no. The person wielding the object is responsible for the exploitation, not the object itself. The same goes for the internet.

With this in mind, the actions of Ward and Silver are either one of two things; a cheap publicity stunt or an exercise in mind numbing stupidity. In a now deleted post, the couple claimed that “being vegan, we believe humans are being exploited within the use of modern technology and would like to set a precedent in saying that we are ditching our internet.” But humans are being exploited every single day with or without the internet. And whether Ward and Silver like it or not, the humans whose exploitation is facilitated by the internet, will continue to be exploited whether or not they decide to go offline. Their actions are entirely self serving.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, the couple responded violently to customers who complained about the news, calling one a “fucking control freak” and comparing another to Hitler. Clearly blessed with gracious manners, they asked another: “When exactly are you going to die?”

This story has blown up on a number of major news outlets, once again dragging veganism through the dirt. Not only have the public been told that to be vegan you have to reject the internet, they’ve also been told that vegans are violent, hateful people. This is not what respecting the fundamental rights of sentient beings is about.

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