One of the questions I often hear as a vegan is this:
“Where do you draw the line?”
I usually say that I draw the line between animals and plants because of two reasons:
- I don’t have to eat animals to survive
- I have to eat plants to survive
It’s simple to me. If you don’t need to kill or harm another sentient being, then you shouldn’t kill or harm another sentient being.
But I also like Compassion Over Killing’s response to this question:
“If the only morally relevant characteristic is the capacity to suffer, then the vast majority of animals abused in the United States today would qualify for moral status. All the animals used for food, fur, animal research, and entertainment possess a central nervous system and are capable of experiencing pain. There are some animals (such as insects) who we are less certain experience pain. It is up to each individual to decide where she or he feels the line should be drawn exactly. Plants and bacteria almost certainly do not experience pain, as they lack any nervous system at all. Nevertheless, even if one wanted to kill the fewest number of plants possible, one would be vegan. We eat substantially fewer plants by consuming them directly, rather than funneling them through farmed animals, who are extremely inefficient in converting plants to protein.”
Eating lower in the food chain saves both animal and plant lives. If one were to consider plants worthy of some level of ethical treatment, one would have to believe killing few plants is better than killing many, therefore one would likely choose veganism over omnivorism.
Ultimately, we all draw our lines somewhere. Many omnivores draw their lines between highly intelligent animals and animals of lower intelligence. For example, many omnivores will not eat chimpanzees or dolphins but will eat chickens and fish. Many will not eat animals considered pets, even if they are the same species as animals considered food.
Some lines are more rational than others. The vegan line (between plants and animals) is more rational and more consistent. Vegans don’t harm or kill other sentient beings, period. Vegans don’t use intelligence, cuteness, or pet-status to determine nonhuman animals’ worth. In a vegan’s eyes, all animals are worthwhile.
COK has a great response to the intelligence issue, too:
“If someone can feel pain, does it matter how smart she or he is? We would never claim that infants or severely mentally retarded adults should be used in painful experiments, have their skin worn as clothing, hunted for sport, used for our entertainment, or eaten merely because they are less rational than we are. When it comes to experiencing pain, other animals are our equals.”
To the vegans reading this, how do you explain your line?