Saturday, May 21, 2011

Veganism versus Vegetarianism

The Curious Vegan is flattered and grateful for the comments received from Mark Rowlands, one of the authors I discussed here where I recommended his book, Animals Like Us. (His comment can be found there).  Rowlands draws an important distinction between vital interests, like staying alive, and non-vital interests.  This distinction, I have come to see, marks an important line between vegetarians and vegans.  The former do not want to satisfy a mere preference for meat eating at the expense of the animal's vital interest.  Vegans on the other hand, object to the exploitation of the animal.  We can think of this as a non-vital interest or we can elevate the animal's well being to the level of a vital interest.  I prefer the former.

 I am now two weeks into my project and, ironically, I think I understand vegetarianism better than veganism.  No doubt this is because most of the books I have been reading focus on vegetarianism.  Veganism can be seen as a further step in Rowlands' argument.  The vegetarian sacrifices his/her own non-vital interests for an animal's vital interests, while the vegan sacrifices non-vital interests for an animal's non-vital interests such as quality of life.  Put this way, I see why it is much easier to be a consistent vegetarian than a consistent vegan.  The vegan faces all sorts of dilemmas or boundaries in deciding how seriously to count an animal's non-vital interests.  I will continue this thought in my next post on the question of eating honey and of driving  a car with leather seats. (The Curious Vegan earned his driver's license recently, and my parents' cars both have leather seats.  I have not been wearing leather during my vegan project period, but I confess to driving one of those cars.)

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