Being Vegan – What Ethics Has To Do With It
By Paul Graham
Imagine there are two people who are identical in every way–except one. One is a vegan and the other is a meat-eater. All things being equal, which individual is more ethical? The vegan or the meat-eater? The answer is blindingly obvious to everyone.” Philip Wollen
I would have to agree with Philip Wollen. In case you have not heard of Philip Wollen, he is an Australian Philanthropist and a former Vice-President with Citibank. He is the founder of the Winsome Constance Kindness Trust, a global initiative whose mission statement, “to promote kindness towards all other living beings and enshrine it as a recognizable trait in the Australian character and culture,” has certainly been a part of the rise of plant-based eating and conscious living in Australia and beyond. The Kindness Trust emphasizes ethics, compassion, and co-operation and opposes cruelty to humans and non-humans. His talk recently at the St. James Ethics and Wheeler Center Debate has been seen by hundreds of thousands of people on YouTube and other outlets and is one of the most eloquent arguments for the conscious and ethical lifestyle of veganism as the way that we should consider living.
By definition, ethics can describe the moral principles of either an individual or culture. It is a system of moral principles and how that should impact individual and collective behaviors. There are those ethics that are related to a particular belief system or profession that should be a benchmark for the behavior of those connected with them. Ethics can be seen as a branch of philosophy, dealing with values relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness and wrongness of certain actions and to the goodness and badness of the motives and ends of such actions. There can be great debate when the ethics of one group or individual conflict with that of another. That is possible when dealing with various belief systems that might not be congruent with one another or the tone of the culture at that particular time. Unfortunately, people will go to great lengths to justify behavior that might seem unethical to so many others.
There is a fundamental level of ethics that I believe transcends those of any individual, belief system, or culture. These are the ethics that influence every human being in relation to our treatment of one another and every living creature and how we dwell upon this planet. It is an ethic to preserve and encourage the life of every human and other sentient being. The scientific community has recognized animals as sentient beings, meaning they have qualities such as recognition and feelings not unlike that of human beings. This ethic of the preservation and respect of life should extend to animals. The fact that we hunt, torture, and murder over 60 billion animals for our own pleasure each year is in direct conflict and violation of an ethic that is so fundamental to our existence that it cannot be ignored. It should not be our decision to which living creatures lives should be preserved and which should be eliminated. If we violate this ethic, that I believe is fundamental to all life, then the resulting actions of doing so cannot be deemed as anything other than unethical.
I know that there will be a great number of people who would disagree with that assertion. By their actions, that is obvious. There are far too many people who must be unconsciously living in this regard. They cannot be thinking through the entire process of the desires and actions of their lifestyle and the impact that it has on all living beings, including their own, and even how it impacts the health of the planet that we share. Whatever belief that one could hold on to to support a lifestyle apart from an ethic supporting life for all living creatures must be seriously evaluated and altered. I believe that conscious eating and living is a part of the evolutionary process that find ourselves in. The decision to become vegan is to align ourselves with the most fundamental of ethics we should adhere to. It is one that will have a greater impact upon all living creatures, our health, and the vitality of our planet than any other decision that we can make in our lives. Do you want to change the world? This is a great place to start.
Paul Graham was born and raised in Northern California and has lived in Las Vegas since 2004. He is a top wedding officiate, a green Realtor and writer. He has a daily vegan food blog www.eatingveganinvegas.tumblr.com which is 365 days and 365 vegan meals in Las Vegas. He can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.facebook.com/EatingVeganinVegas.