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Rebuttal: Veganism makes sense, as the lesser of two evils

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In an article shared by the National Review, writer Josh Gelernter argues “The Science Is In: Veganism Makes No Sense.” The overarching theme of his war on the non-violent lifestyle is that vegans contribute to violence without knowing it, and might as well give up. He essentially attempts to reason that killing all animals without guilt is a more sensible thing to do. Oh boy.

Mr. Gelernter starts by appropriately labelling veganism as “abstaining from eating or using animal products, byproducts, and anything whose production entails exploiting, killing, or being cruel to animals.” Then, pulls the “gotcha” moment, by going into a long winded explanation of pesticides, modern farming techniques, and some bizarre whale-eating crusade. But I digress, in demonizing vegans as uneducated, inconsistent, and cancer-happy (because we’re against vivisection) people, he completely forgets that it’s still the lesser of two evils. We understand that insects, rodents, and other beings die in the process of farming, but recognize that veganism is the most ethical route, killing as few as possible.

For starters, in talking about the exploitation and death of bugs to farm plants, Mr. Gelernter ignores the world’s most popular crop; soy. With approximately 70% going to feed livestock, it’s clear that many more insects are being demolished to feed animals, that will themselves be exploited and killed. When he says “you have to kill a lot of pests to grow just one apple, whereas you can get many, many steaks by killing just one cow,” he’s way off. Not to mention, he completely discounts another factor in death and destruction; the deforestation caused by animal agriculture and growing feed. Worldwide, soy cultivation takes place on 49 million hectares of land, something that has been shown to affect wildlife, biodiversity, people, the global climate, water reserves and soil quality. No doubt, the meat and dairy industries start in produce production, and expand into something much worse. Seeing as how it takes an estimated 100 calories of grain to produce only three calories of beef, yeah, I’d say vegans are making the better, ethical choice. That’s not to say there’s no impact, just significantly less.

Of course, with all this information, we still care about every life, big or small. But to abandon saving any lives, because our capitalist society doesn’t permit us to save them all, would be foolish. Imagine that this same argument was applied to sexism, racism, or homophobia instead. Should someone continue to be a sexist, racist, or homophobic because not everyone in the world isn’t yet? Should someone abandon their fight to stop racism because they may indirectly support it by working for a racist employer, or with racist employees? It’s the selfish use of animals in many more than just food facets that unnecessarily promotes the violence vegans are so passionately against.

Furthermore, it needs to be remembered that deciding not to participate in animal exploitation is a moral choice. I’ve never met a vegan that’s disgusted by someone needing to use insulin. The core of the lifestyle is to prevent unnecessary death. I don’t need to eat an animal for protein, don’t need to pay to watch an animal preform, and I definitely don’t need to wear an animal for clothing. To pretend that all animals and insects alive could live untouched forever, with the number of non-vegan humans about, is fantasy. But letting that sway you to contribute to more raising, torturing, and killing of animals isn’t the alternative; vegan education is.

If we chose to follow the arguments of this authors, it would make no sense whatsoever to care about any animals at all. We should all instead be able to kill them as we please, because after all, we eat fruits where insects die. Forgive me, Mr. Gelernter, for deciding that the bugs and animals that die to create produce are not reason enough to add countless more to the pile. If your real concerns lie in pesticide use, death, and whether vegans are right or wrong, give our side a try.

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  • Troy Gallipeau

    What a waste of bandwidth that article was, and the sad thing is people will read it and believe it to be true. This was supposed to be the golden age with information available freely on the internet, and yet I continue to read opinion hit pieces and misinformation quoted as science and fact.

    • Troy Gallipeau

      To clarify not this article, the source one. I think I’m just flustered as I can’t believe anyone would be that ignorant.

  • ModVegan

    Gelernter’s article was intellectually dishonest in the extreme. It was terrible journalism, and the only citation in the entire piece is a quote from PETA. Much to my later chagrin, I was sucked into the comment section, where a bunch of crazed carnists attempted to justify their meat-eating with appeals to insulin use and people with allergies to everything but meat (puzzling that it’s always people who DO NOT suffer from these conditions that use them in debates).

    Interestingly, these arguments are becoming even more pathetic in the face of new research that will allow scientists to produce insulin and meat in a lab. I’m not personally likely to consume lab created meat, but for people with genuine health concerns, this would solve their problems.

    Gelernter is an excusitarian, but a pretty lazy one at that.

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