I wanted to go through some of the arguments I regularly hear from otherwise intelligent people. It just doesn't make sense to me how someone could take these arguments seriously.
1. "Animals aren't rational."
And children and the mentally disabled are? In a slightly more humorous note, has anyone read the news recently? How many times have you read that some dude superglued his penis to something? And does this mean we can eat Christians?
2. "You've got to kill something either way. Either it's the plants or it's the animals, and I choose to eat the animals."
But... animals eat, too, so even here, veganism wins out. Generally speaking, it takes ten pounds of something on the lower step in the circle of life to get one pound of something on the higher. In other words, every pound of meat you eat generally takes ten pounds of plant to grow, so you're really killing not just the animal, but ten times as much plant, too.
(To be pedantic, I've heard that the ten-to-one ratio is only a guideline, and that - so I've heard - cows, for instance, actually have closer to an eleven-to-one ratio. Of course, factory-farmed cows also eat a lot of ground-up cows, so that lowers the ratio...)
More to the point, animals have nervous systems and can suffer, whereas plants don't. In fact, most of the things we eat off of plants are designed by the plants to be eaten. It's what a fruit is!
3. "We need to kill animals for nutrition."
Not according to the American Dietetic Association.
4. "Hunting/fishing/eating chezburger is fun."
So is stealing! And beating the crap out of people you don't like, and a host of other bad things. We don't do them because they're wrong, not because they aren't fun.
And my personal favorite,
5. "You don't have any right to force your moral philosophy on me."
To which, of course, I have to disagree. Ethics just is about what we are required to do, and to prevent others from doing. This isn't a lifestyle decision, this isn't something that affects no one but you and is therefore no one else's business, this is a crime you're committing against someone, and the rest of us have a right and more importantly a responsibility to try to stop it. That's just what ethics is. Ideally, we'd be able to reason with each other and come to some sort of agreement, but I'm not going to let someone else rape that child because I don't want to appear dogmatic or like I'm "forcing my moral philosophy" on the rapist. That's just silly.
Some of the more reasonable ones I've heard, though, include:
6. "Farming kills animals through pesticides and habitat destruction, so since I'm killing animals anyway, I might as well get chezburger out of it."
That almost appears rational until you remember that animals need to eat, too, and growing meat to eat actually causes more environmental destruction than even the worst plants to eat. Plus, um, you're still killing the animals.
7. "We all have to draw a line between sentient and non-sentient. Is a bacteria okay to kill? What about a fly? What about a cow? I just draw the line nearer to humans than you do."
This I have to say is the strongest argument against veganism I've ever heard. It's actually pretty good. However, I have two objections to it.
First is what I like to call the Vegan's Wager (I think I made it up myself, I haven't heard anyone else say it that I know of): in areas where an organism's moral status is reasonably unclear, we ought to extend moral consideration as far as possible, because, well, what if you're wrong? One way you lose chezburger, and the other way you're a murderer. Which is worse? I'll keep my moral high ground any day.
The other objection is that real morality is never about right versus wrong, it's about better versus worse. Is it better to swap the spider, or to catch it in a net and let it out? Is it better to kill something and eat it, or not? (Perhaps more appropriately, is it better to kill and eat a lot of things, or just a few things?) Once you've found the option that's better, the only issue left ought to be one of putting it into practice. Yes, change is difficult, but know what? So is life. Get over it. If you don't like hard things, then, well, there's nothing easier than dying and nothing harder than living, as the saying goes.