Perhaps I harp on it too much, but the arguments generated against veganism from a social justice perspective are quite aggravating. As I mentioned on our most recent podcast episode, the same people that denounce veganism as useless by virtue of not being perfect most likely recycle, pick up litter, and do countless other activities with the intention of minimizing harm. They know these things do not eliminate harm, but they reduce the amount of it in the world, and that’s a good thing. So why can’t they see it when it comes to veganism?
The excuses are among the most lazy I have seen. A common refrain is that “there is no ethical consumption under capitalism.” The implication is that we cannot make judgements about the ethics of people’s consumption choices because ethical violations are inherent in capitalist systems.
Let’s just take it as a fact that there really is no such thing as ethical consumption under capitalism. I’m not prepared to engage in a debate about whether this statement is factual anyway. A true believer of this cannot have qualms about someone eating animals, buying fur, wearing leather, and so on. We live under capitalism; ethics is out the window.
But what consumption choices does this adage not justify? None, actually. Let’s say bacon made from human flesh is on sale at the grocery store. Is it unethical? Of course, because we live under capitalism. But is it any more unethical than buying tofu instead? No, according to this argument.
If you’re saying to yourself, well, okay, maybe it’s all unethical under capitalism, but some things still have to be more unethical than others, right? Dear reader, that would be too reasonable for these people.
Recall that this argument is deployed against veganism. If it’s all unethical under capitalism, yet some things still have to be more unethical then others, then this would simply be a non-sequitur. In other words, to proclaim that there is no ethical consumption under capitalism as a rebuttal against a lifestyle that is meant to minimize unethical consumption is to necessarily view all consumption as being on a level playing field. In fact, one could say there is no ethical consumption under capitalism, but veganism is one movement to make consumption less unethical.
This line of argument just reads like a poor excuse. I have witnessed zero other domains in which it’s trotted out as a defense of consumption choices. No one ever uses it to defend buying a Hummer over a Prius, using plastic bags over reusable ones, or taking a plane instead of driving. It’s an argument of convenience, and I have little patience for it, in large part because those who use it do not actually believe it.
A couple of tweets to play us out:
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