The Moral Standing of Non-Vegans

Megan McArdle over at The Atlantic just wrote a terrific blog entry about her veganism, which spells out her thoughts on judging meat eaters. You should read the whole thing, but here’s the first half:

Right after I got out of grad school, I had a fight with a friend about veal. Said friend loved veal, and more importantly, wanted to cook veal for me; I refused to eat it, which made him mad. It was not, he pointed out, consistent to care about veal calves but happily eat industrially farmed chicken.

“You’re right,” I said. “I’m going back to being a vegetarian.”

Surprisingly, this did not fill him with the thrill of victory. He just got madder. “I don’t want you to stop eating chicken,” he said, exasperatedly, “I want you to start eating veal!”

Little did I suspect that I would be having some version of this conversation every time I dared blog about being a vegan.

Is it possible to be a vegan without judging other people? It had better be, because I just don’t have time to pass judgment on the overwhelming majority of people in the world who eat animal products. Obviously, having decided that it’s morally wrong to eat animal products, I can’t exactly say that I think it’s perfectly okay for other people to do so. On the other hand, I recognize that the universe is a complicated place, and my moral judgements are imperfect.

Or maybe a better way to say it is that there are moral judgements, and then there are moral judgements. I wish more people would stop eating meat, but I also think it is possible to be a perfectly good, moral human being and still eat meat, in a way that I don’t think it is possible to be a good moral human being and still rape twelve-year olds. I have judged the behavior and found it wanting, but I do not judge, in any way, the people who indulge in it. I think there’s something wrong with eating meat, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with meat-eaters.

The brief part of Megan’s entry about raising vegan children seems inaccurate, in the sense that it’s definitely possible to give vegan kids every nutritional advantage of kids eating the best possible omnivorous diets. I’m going to put her in touch with Jack Norris, RD and ask her to take another look at vegan nutrition for kids. Link.

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