If you’ve ever said “I respect your choice to be vegan, so you should respect my choice to eat meat,” please watch this video. Is eating meat, dairy and eggs a choice? And should it be equally respected as the choice to be vegan?
There is very little that will ever get someone as upset and defensive as when you tell them what to eat. Many conversations about veganism find their way to the statement that you can’t tell people what to eat because it’s their personal choice. This often comes in the adage: “I respect your choice to be vegan, you should respect my right not to be.” But when our right to make our own dietary choice begins to infringe upon the rights of others, whose rights take priority?
You see, what we choose to eat has a huge impact on the world in a number of ways, including environmentally, socially, and ethically. The animal products industry is the most environmentally devastating force on the planet. Our choice to eat meat, diary and eggs impacts more than just our stomachs; it tears down forests, uses insane quantities of water, creates massive pollution, and diverts over 80 percent of the world’s crops to livestock—crops that could otherwise easily feed the world’s hungry.
So while respecting your choice to eat animal products may seem important from a personal freedom standpoint, what about respecting the environment and the future generations who have to live in the wake of our destruction? What about respecting the people who can’t put food in their stomachs because your right to eat animal products took precedence?
This may seem like an indirect effect of dietary choice but the links of the chain are clear when you look for them. The way we live today removes us so severely from the origin of our food and the impact that it has. We walk into a grocery store and grab something, or swing through the drive through without a second thought as to where the food came from, whom it came from, and at what cost.
We speak of personal choice and respect, while animals are tortured and killed at the hands of our appetites. So I will say this: if your choice is to eat animal products, then you should be aware of what those choices really entail. I’d urge you to watch the footage in the video above. If you find you cannot watch, then I’d ask you the question: if it’s not good enough for your eyes, why is it good enough for your stomach? If you can’t stand to see it or talk about it, how can you stand to eat it?
Which rights are more valid: our right to eat diary or a mother cow’s right to not have her child torn from her side and sent to slaughter? When you choose to eat diary, you support the veal industry. You sentence a mother cow to a lifetime of forced pregnancies, endless milkings and infections, all culminating in her body giving out twenty years before her natural lifespan and her being sent to slaughter for cheap meats.
When you choose to eat eggs, your right to your breakfast comes at the cost of countless lives: Male layer chicks are ground up alive as they are of no use to the egg industry. Layer hens are kept in cramped sheds on top of one another even in so-called cage free and free range facilities. Their sensitive beaks are cut off without anesthetics.
When you choose to eat meat, you are literally putting your right to choose above another’s right to live. You may say, “but these are just animals.” I ask you to look into their eyes and tell me. Is that not fear? Do they not suffer? They know what is coming when they walk up the chute to slaughter. They hear the noises. They smell the blood.
It is important that we begin to live as though we are interconnected with each other, the animals, and the planet. Because we are. My choices for what goes inside my body affect more than just me.
I’m not saying personal rights aren’t important. In fact, that’s the opposite of what I’m saying. But my right to choose ends where another’s nose begins. Just as my rights do not extend to me being legally allowed to beat someone up, so to should my right to choose what I eat not extend to choices which devastate the environment, take food from the hungry, and torture and murder other beings.
That is the opposite of personal rights and freedom. That is injustice. And that is not something I will respect.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this matter. Leave a comment below!
— Emily Moran Barwick