Rationalizing cruelty

So here I am, a vegan on Twitter. Naturally, I follow other vegans. I generally avoid engaging with assholes, but I do see my fellow vegans fending off stupidity. There are some points I’d like to memorialize. The first is from George Monbiot:

Another point is that veganism is alleged to somehow to be racist, to be something well-off whites are fobbing off on people of color. For example,

So how then is it that Blacks are better represented among vegans than Amerikkkans overall?

A 2016 Pew Research Center survey found 3 percent of American adults overall identified as vegan and only 1 percent of Hispanic Americans. That number jumps to a startling 8 percent among African American adults.[1]

Addressing the fallacy directly, how does one injustice, no matter how horrific, justify another, even more horrific in scale, that is, the slaughter and exploitation of nonhuman animals by Chinese or anyone else?

In general, a rationale for persisting in an omnivore diet is cultural. Really, this applies whether you’re white, indigenous, Chinese, Black or anything else. If you’re Amerikkkan, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners traditionally surround dead birds and pigs. If you’re Black,

Afya Ibomu, a holistic nutritionist, sees distinct reasons for the rise of African American vegans.

“We have higher rates of obesity, cancer, diabetes and asthma. It’s partly our DNA; we’re not well-suited to a standard American diet,” she said. “Many of us came from West Africa where they mostly had goat’s milk. And here it’s cow’s milk. The majority of health guidance is based on European bodies.”

She says that some of the health disparities have been the byproduct of oppression, poverty, food deserts and lack of education but that African American culture can also contribute to the problem: “We use food as a cultural thing, showing someone you love them by giving them high-sugar, high-fat food.”[2]

If you’re indigenous, hunting or fishing may be a rite of passage that connects you to your ancestors and environment:[3]

When killing a buffalo, an elk, or a deer, the Indian apologizes to the animal for having to do so, and thanks the animal for its sacrifice. The Indian understands that our lives are intertwined, neither superior to the other. Our coexistence is a balance that must be maintained. Prayer is involved in every aspect of the kill. And to show our thanks for the life-giving sacrifice, the Indian uses all parts of the animal. Nothing is wasted.[4]

But something I saw somewhere[5] pointed out that culture is not something locked away in a museum case, but rather that each generation reinterprets it according to its own circumstances. Culture lives, thrives, and develops just as its people do. It’s harder to argue nowadays, with modern food distribution networks, that any animal’s “sacrifice” is necessary, even in Arctic regions where agriculture is difficult. And we should emphasize that this “life-giving sacrifice” is far from voluntary: A non-human animal’s life is not a “gift,” but rather something that is stolen in a murderous act.

Finally, there is the matter of class:

Although market research firm NPD Group found almost 90 percent of the people eating non-meat burgers are not vegetarian or vegan, a 2018 Gallup poll found that Americans who earn less than $30,000 are almost twice as likely to be vegan or vegetarian as those who earn more than $75,000.[6]

The sheer volume of these specious arguments points not at vegans but rather at omnivores, with the latter being desperate to rationalize their cruelty.

  1. [1]Laura Reiley, “The fastest-growing vegan demographic is African Americans. Wu-Tang Clan and other hip-hop acts paved the way,” Washington Post, January 24, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/01/24/fastest-growing-vegan-demographic-is-african-americans-wu-tang-clan-other-hip-hop-acts-paved-way/
  2. [2]Laura Reiley, “The fastest-growing vegan demographic is African Americans. Wu-Tang Clan and other hip-hop acts paved the way,” Washington Post, January 24, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/01/24/fastest-growing-vegan-demographic-is-african-americans-wu-tang-clan-other-hip-hop-acts-paved-way/
  3. [3]Darryl Babe Wilson, The Morning the Sun Went Down (Berkeley, CA: Heyday, 1998).
  4. [4]Lawrence Sampson, “Touch the Earth,” in Terrorists of Freedom Fighters?, Steven Best and Anthony J. Nocella, II, eds. (New York: Lantern, 2004).
  5. [5]I thought this was in Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony (New York: Penguin, 2006), but I have repeatedly failed to locate the specific text.
  6. [6]Laura Reiley, “The fastest-growing vegan demographic is African Americans. Wu-Tang Clan and other hip-hop acts paved the way,” Washington Post, January 24, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/01/24/fastest-growing-vegan-demographic-is-african-americans-wu-tang-clan-other-hip-hop-acts-paved-way/

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