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Just because one does not directly consume the products made by animals does that imply that you are avoiding the use of animal products entirely? Of course not, and for two reasons. First, animal products are embedded in all kinds of things that we use. For example, there is tallow in the construction of ordinary pencils. Now of course there are pencils that do not use conventional materials and it is certainly possible to refrain from using pencils that have tallow in them. But then think about what this sort of restriction implies. You’d have to check through the entire production chain of every product you might possibly consume to make sure that animal products are not a part of it.I’d politely suggest that this is really, really costly and hence not possible.

But there is a subtler reason why it is not at all possible for you to be a vegan – it is that most of the people that supply the goods and services that you desire are consuming animal products of all sorts – not just for their good but also for all of the things they need to survive. Further, when you switch from consuming animal products to vegetable products, you are increasing the demand for those products and all of the resources required to make them. It is certainly within the realm of possibility that such a substitution would end up increasing the demand, on net, for animal products as compared to if you continued using animal products. Why am I sure that this is a nonzero probability? Because there are economies of scale embedded in some existing animal production processes that are probably not there in the substitute processes. Do I think this effect is larger than the savings of animals from going vegan? No. But I also don’t think it is wise to dismiss the possibility out of hand.

2 Responses to “Is It Possible to Be a Vegan?”

  1. Speedmaster says:

    I didn't think of this point, but I like it … if animals are able to eat each other, why is it wrong for me to eat them?

  2. Rod says:

    In the wild, animals live short lives and often starve to death, or worse.   What a truly natural state for any animal might be, it is not Disney or Pixar.
     
    One of my college roommates became a philosophy professor, and to earn tenure, he became a vegan and an "ethical vegetarian,"  ascribing all kinds of rights to animals that are not even covered by the Amendments to the United States Constitution.  Everyone in the philosophy department was a communist, too, so he became one of those, too. 
     
    Now, there was a time when he drew the line at "ovo-lacto" vegetarianism, along with the view that any animal that does not care for its own young did not deserve the same rights as, say, dolphins.  (Apparently he was not able to apply the experience learned in inner cities or among the rich who send their kids to boarding school at the age of six.)  I'm assuming a life of research into the menu at the Faculty Club led him to a more extreme view.
     
    As, I've posted here before, I was once a full-time dairy farmer, and I was devoted to my cows.  One of the hard lessons I had to learn was to send cows who could no longer breed or stand up to the butcher, or otherwise I would not be able to have any cows at all.  I was especially good at keeping newborn calves alive, and one year I had zero calf losses, a feat that I don't know has ever been matched by any other well-run dairy farm.  I also kept the wheels on my cows for a longer than average time, allowing me to have surplus registered Holsteins for sale in good numbers. 
     
    I am not sure how many wildebeests make it to the age of twelve, but I had a whole barn full of cattle that were well-cared for enough to last to twelve or older.  One of my cows had her last calf at the age of 18 years 9 months, comparable to a hundred year old woman having a baby (by a blind man).
     
    I know there are inhumane practices going on at other farms and at slaughterhouses.  Yes, I know about the Chicago stockyards.  I am not ashamed to eat meat, ride on leather seats, kill as many fish as I want to eat, and the whole rest of the things that vegans look down their noses at.  I look them straight in the eye and dare them to take a trip to Central America, where the Jaguars live and don't burn gasoline.

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