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I had a friend who said she loved animals. If I were to translate that statement, what she really meant was that she really loved cute, cuddly dogs and to a certain extent, cats. She loved the idea that she was a kind and compassionate person, and she would often berate others who did not agree with her that cats and dogs were worth saving.

My friend was a non-vegan. I remember a time when we came across goats tied up in a garage. She could not stop gushing as to how adorable they were and wanting to pet them. I remarked that it was so sad that we imprisoned them like this and that they would soon be killed and become someone’s meal.

My friend, a grown woman, well versed in how animal products are obtained, pretended to be shocked and dismayed. I was disappointed, yet not surprised at her response. Eventually, I guess, I made her uncomfortable enough by not going along with her ridiculous notion that she could love animals knowing full well that eventually she’d be making a meal out of them. Very soon, she stopped spending time with me.

My friend is representative of so many others who suffer from cognitive dissonance. For example, so many farmers say they love their animals and yet one day ship them off to slaughter. I recently read a story about a farmer in Canada who was distressed because someone had slaughtered one of his pigs and left her to rot on a sheet of plastic. But wait, wouldn’t he have eventually sent that pig to slaughter? Of course he would have, but that would have been for economic gain. The pigs were his “property” and as such he was allowed to do so.

And this explains the property paradigm perfectly. Property can never be protected against the right of an owner to profit from their property. If we look back at the period of slavery in America, an attempt was made to protect slaves through certain legal provisions supposedly in their favor. However, because those slaves were property, the rights of the property owners always outweighed those of the slaves and therefore rendered these legal protections meaningless. Property, even if human, can have no rights and only exists to serve their owners.

Life is precious to every sentient being. Even the “best welfare” situation envisages the eventual killing of a sentient being for profit and this can never be a satisfactory solution to the problem of animal exploitation.

The theory of cognitive dissonance is interesting in that it tries to explain how we modify our own behavior and beliefs to bring consistency and remove conflict from acts that raise conflict in us. The desire to be consistent morally results in an illogical rationalization of this nonsensical belief that it’s okay to eat the animals we claim to love. And even if we did not love animals, the principal of justice requires us to be vegan. Noam Chomsky once said, “there are no moral relativists. There are people who profess it. You can discuss it abstractly, but it doesn’t exist in ordinary life.”

What we need to do instead is to honestly recognize that when we exploit animals, we do something that is morally wrong. That exploitation of animals is not a personal choice, nor is it morally defensible. When we do recognize the wrong we do, instead of looking for excuses, we should do the only thing that makes moral sense: go vegan. By doing so we will find true peace, secure in the knowledge that we are not trying to cheat anyone, least of all ourselves.

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