One vegan claims that vegans’ “lives are motivated by more than mere hedonism.” I’m sure many vegans do not subscribe to hedonism. I’m guessing some do.
First, what is hedonism?
Here is the description from Wikipedia below. (Admittedly, this definition is a bit simplistic. But for our purposes today, it will do just fine).
Hedonism is a school which argues that pleasure is the only intrinsic good. This is often used as a justification for evaluating actions in terms of how much pleasure and how little pain (i.e. suffering) they produce. In very simple terms, a hedonist strives to maximize this net pleasure (pleasure minus pain).
Looking a little deeper into the Wikipedia entry, lo and behold, I found this:
hedonism is not necessarily related to egoism. The utilitarianism of John Stuart Mill is sometimes classified as a type of hedonism, as it judges the morality of actions by their consequent contributions to the greater good and happiness of all. This is altruistic hedonism. Whereas some hedonistic doctrines propose doing whatever makes an individual happiest (over the long run), Mill promotes actions which make everyone happy. [...] It is true that Epicurus recommends for us to pursue our own pleasure, but he never suggests we should live a selfish life which impedes others from getting to that same objective.
Utilitarianism is the philosophy used by Peter Singer to necessitate a version of animal rights that promotes veganism in his book Animal Liberation. And what Jack Norris suggests in the interview at Let Them Eat Meat sounds a lot like a kind of utilitarianism, which promotes a hedonism for both the individual and the collective:
Animals’ lives matter to themselves and they matter to me. [...] I suffer knowing that right now there are warehouses with tens of thousands of chickens scrambling frantically to escape from wire cages that are digging into their bodies, or pigs who have not been allowed to turn around or walk in months.
The anti-vegan response is “I suffer trying to be vegan. It’s too much of a sacrifice.” Indeed,the anti-vegan who interviewed Norris said as much”
“Suffering reduction is one way to improve the world, but increasing pleasure might be another way. Does the pleasure humans get from animal products, and the sacrifices vegans make to be vegan, figure into the calculation of suffering? If so, could that make a lifestyle that includes humanely raised animal products more appealing than veganism, which requires a larger sacrifice for its reduction in suffering?”
Setting aside the issue of rights versus welfare or utilitarianism, now let’s consider the issue of sacrifice. Is veganism a sacrifice?
1. Any lifestyle change requires some discomfort. Veganism is no different. Since when did starting an exercise routine feel like anything other than sacrifice? But after your strength grows or your fat shrinks the exercise program feels like a sacrifice that’s well worth the effort.
2. For many vegans, particularly those who have been vegan for many years or who have grown up vegan, avoiding animal products does not require any sacrifice at all. It’s so natural and normal for them that it’s just another everyday thing. You can count me as one of those vegans. There may have been an initial learning period where vegans felt like it was a sacrifice to be vegan, but many vegans are long over that transition period. Now it’s just another part of life, like brushing one’s teeth and checking email.
3. Likewise, for vegans who enjoy cooking or baking, veganism has challenged their skills and excited their palates. Many vegans says they eat a wider variety of foods after going vegan because avoiding animal products forced them to try new cuisines. The pleasure they’ve experienced as vegans far outweighs any real or perceived sacrifices.
4. Even if veganism is a sacrifice today, it won’t be one tomorrow. The more vegans there are in existence, the easier it will be to be vegan. The difficulties with veganism simply evaporate when society has a large vegan population.
Can you think of more reasons why veganism is not a sacrifice?