Can't We All Just Get Along?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Good grief. What I thought was a pretty innocuous post yesterday about a summer barbecue somehow turned into a flame war. Pretty inevitable for any vegan blog. I wrestled with whether or not to allow anonymous comments on this blog in the first place. My thought process was, "well, I don't want to exclude people just because they don't have a specific account."

What I've come to decide that anyone with anything *worthwhile* to say will sign up. As my husband pointed out, if you let the comments get overrun with unintelligent babble, it discourages actual discourse from reasonable people.

And that's the key word: reasonable. I believe that there is room for debate on issues of veganism. As tiring as it sometimes feels to constantly have to defend my views, I also think that engaging in debate on the subject helps sharpen your beliefs and keeps you from being lazy or stuck in an "I'm right; they're wrong" mentality. It's good to re-examine every now and then.

Veganism, in my opinion, should not be dogma, but rather an on-going choice, wherein ethical considerations from all angles are weighed. I face these decisions all the time. Consider what I call the Hot Dog Bun Dilemma.

It seems that every market near my home offers two choices when it comes to hot dog buns:
  • Organic, whole wheat, locally produced hot dog buns that happen to contain honey.
  • White flour-based, high fructose corn syrup filled buns made in giant midwestern factories that happen to not contain any animal products.

If I weigh the ethical, health, and environmental concerns against each other here, the arguably* non-vegan choice makes more sense to me. And there are plenty of vegans who would give me crap about it, saying that I'm not actually vegan if I eat honey. And that's fine because I don't choose this lifestyle because I want the label. And that is something I'd be happy to engage in a reasonable debate over because I think it is healthy.

Are zoos inherently oppressive to animals? I don't think, and enjoy frequenting them, but I'm willing to be convinced otherwise. Is wool ok if it comes from a small family farm where the sheep live full, happy lives? Especially if the alternative fabric is made in sweat shop using synthetic materials. Things aren't always black or white, right or wrong.

Within the vegan community there is debate all the time. Abolitionists vs. Welfarists. Sexism and racism in PETA campaigns. All of these topics are still perfectly fair game on this blog. Flaming, name-calling, stereotyping, unfounded assumptions,  and blatant mistruths are not.

*Here's an article from Slate on the honey debate. I could have sworn Erik Marcus wrote about this a few years ago, encouraging vegans not to put much emphasis on honey avoidance, but now I can't find any evidence of it. Am I mis-remembering it? Feel free to reasonably debate me in the comments.


Tim Moore said...

It's impossible to even know if the white bread buns really are vegan. They contain ingredients that are so heavily processed, who can tell where they originated?

Then of course, there are some people (some vegan themselves, some not) who think that vegans shouldn't be eating fake meat hot dogs in the first place.

Yeah, you can never please everyone. I did find this post on about the Slate article you linked to. His point is that the honey issue isn't really as controversial among most vegans as the article makes it sound. The people who think it's a big deal one way or the other are a tiny minority group within a tiny minority group.

Sharon Troy said...

Yeah, it was weird how the Slate article made it out to sound like honey was the most pressing issue of our times. I don't know any vegans who think that.

Anyway, yes, it's difficult to impossible to guarantee that anything you didn't grow and cook yourself is 100% vegan. If I had to label my stance on this I'd describe it as "harm reduction." I do the best I can to make choices that cause as little suffering as possible. I guess this puts me in the Welfarist camp, though I can certainly see both sides of that issue.