Dear Alex Jamieson
You and I have met a couple of times, though not terribly recently. I first want to thank you for the work you’ve done on behalf of other animals, who need strong human voices as much as ever. I next want to respond to your recent essay, titled “I’m not vegan anymore.”
I believe that, as animals, we all—humans and non-humans—have a right to consume what we must in order to preserve our own lives and, by extension, to preserve the environment that gives us all life.
That said, we humans have a moral obligation, because we have the capacity, to assess those standards logically and in complete good faith. Certain statements you have made here lead me to believe that, in this case, that obligation hasn’t been met.
You wrote: “I began to see my cravings for animal foods from a different angle. It wasn’t immoral or wrong. It just was. In fact, I came to believe that trusting your body, living your truth, whether it be vegan, part-time vegan, flexitarian or carnivore is all inherently good.”
You’ve stated here that something’s feeling right makes it morally right. But that isn’t morality; that’s a license to do whatever you say you want to do. As a moral principle, that’s a license for any of us, if it just feels right, to kill, rape, steal (etc.)—incidentally, the violent acts at the crux of meat production. This is a principle you would never accept in application to human-only interactions.
That’s not enlightenment; it’s just species-ism. Moreover, it removes the victim of an act from the moral equation of the act, which is contrary to what moral assessment is all about.
Additionally, I don’t see how “orthorexia” applies any better to your previous desire to eat plant-based foods for health-focused reasons than it does to your new desire to eat animal-based foods for health-focused reasons. Indeed, eating animals is far more harmful to others and to the environment than eating plants; it takes a deeper mental pathology to rationalize the greater moral costs of eating animals.
More than anything, you’ve made it clear that feelings of guilt and shame are driving your eating decisions now. I can relate, having tremendous feelings of guilt and shame myself about the unenlightened and eminently harmful life I used to lead, the one in which I ate pounds and pounds of animals each week.
But I think it’s a terrible mistake to respond to your own mental suffering by helping others rationalize the infliction of much graver sufferings than yours or mine upon other sensitive animals.