What’s Wrong With The Bleeding Heart Case for Veganism

That’s not a question, by the way. Let me tell you what is wrong with the argument presented by this Medium article.

Let’s start by accepting as fact that every living species is food for one or more other species. That is the foundation of nature. It involves killing. The activity the author of that article is unwilling to be a part of.

I understand his desire to preserve the lives of cattle, pigs and chickens. But how far is he prepared to go? If he is offended by all killing, determined to protect and preserve living creatures, what about rats? Cockroaches? Locusts? Lice? Mosquitoes? Viruses?

Are you beginning to see the inconsistencies and hypocrisy in his argument? He may be able to guarantee that all the vegetable products he consumes have been grown organically. That means the farmer used no artificial fertilisers or insecticides. But I’m prepared to bet the farmer found a way to kill some of the pests that threatened to deplete or destroy his crop.

And that natural fertiliser he used? I bet it came from animals. And, like it or not, those animals will either die a painful ‘natural’ death or be killed.

Cabbages and beetroots growing in a raised bed in the author’s garden. Author’s photograph

I am fortunate enough to have a small garden. I grow vegetables for my own consumption. I feed them with farmyard manure. Those vegetables are a food source for butterfly larvae, slugs and snails. Carrot root fly is another creature that is determined to take a share of my produce.

I don’t use chemical pesticides. But I do squash caterpillars. I take appropriate preventative measures to limit or eliminate damage by the other beasts that crave the things I grow. To put it bluntly, I deprive them of the means to life. I kill them.

And, in so doing, I am removing a food source from other creatures. Who will, therefore, die.

If I offer a vegan a cabbage I’ve grown, will he or she refuse on the grounds that I have killed several hundred butterfly larvae whilst hosting it in my raised bed? Can he or she guarantee the grower of the cabbage he or she buys at his or her local farmers’ market, never mind a branch of a superstore chain, isn’t equally guilty of killing insects?

Pyracantha berries, a favourite with blackbirds in the author’s garden. Author’s photograph.

Some of the things I grow are purely ornamental and I am happy to let all manner of creatures consume them. The blackbirds that eat berries from ornamental plants like cotoneaster and pyracantha in my garden also eat slugs and snails which helps me. The slugs and snails are just as dead as they would be if I killed them myself.

I also compensate for having reduced the population of insects essential to the diet of local wild birds, by providing them with commercially produced wild bird food. I don’t concern myself about the birds who no longer exist because this particular batch of nuts and seeds has been removed from the places in which they were grown.

I will not get into the debate about whether or not plants feel pain. But it is obvious that growing plants successfully involves killing, directly or indirectly, creatures higher up the natural food chain.

Maintaining our health as human beings requires us to kill those creatures that carry diseases. We are fortunate in being able to identify those creatures and to single them out for killing. We can choose not to do so and see tens of thousands, perhaps millions, of our fellow humans die. Or we can decide that, in the choice between human survival and the continued existence of a member of some other species, human survival comes out on top.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not condemning veganism. That is a personal choice everyone is free to make. I am also aware of, and respect, the strong environmental and health arguments for reducing our consumption of meat.

But don’t imagine that your veganism absolves you from responsibility for the welfare or death of other creatures.

I’m sure you also support organisations that campaign for the welfare of animals and the people who work with them, as well as the proper treatment of people who work in all parts of the food production industry. You probably also lobby for the introduction of tighter regulations throughout the food production chain. And, of course, you boycott, not just meat and dairy, but food from all sources where the ability of producers to demonstrate compliance with the tightest regulations is questionable.

But you can’t escape the fact that the mere act of being alive as a human demands the death of countless other creatures on a daily basis.

And don’t try to guilt trip me for doing what our ancestors have done throughout the centuries — consuming animal products.

There is one final consideration that vegans are unable or unwilling to face. What happens to all those cattle, pigs, chickens, turkeys, sheep, goats and deer that are no longer required when we have all become vegans? There is only so much space in the zoos. Releasing them into the wild would kill them as surely as, and far more painfully than, the huntsman’s gun or the butcher’s knife.

Frank is a retired Engineer from England now living in Ireland. He is trying to learn and share the lessons of history.

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