Many meat-eaters question why vegetarians and vegans care so much about animals when there is so much human suffering in the world. I partially addressed this before, when I wrote about the impact of animal agriculture on humans and the myth of human superiority. But some people go as far as to claim that vegans only care about animals. This is a statement I strongly disagree with, for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it’s not impossible to care about multiple issues. When I went vegan, I didn’t suddenly stop caring about the issues facing humans – quite the opposite. In fact, I found that my compassion for other people increased. Besides, as pointed out in the first post linked above, veganism benefits humans as well as animals.
Secondly, although some people may be more passionate about animal rights than other issues, that doesn’t mean they don’t care about humans. Most of us have certain causes which are closer to our hearts than others; for example, someone might be an advocate for both gay rights and women’s rights, but be more passionate about the former. That doesn’t mean they think women’s rights are less important – they just resonate more with one movement than the other. This may be due to personal experience or other factors.
Thirdly, almost all the vegans I’ve met are very aware of issues other than animal rights. Many are politically active, and give up their time for causes like helping the homeless. Most are also aware of environmental issues; they often have a zero-waste lifestyle, or recycle diligently. Several do their best to support ethical businesses, and have adopted a minimalist lifestyle to reduce their impact on the planet. In short, they’re the most compassionate people I know. To say they only care about animals is clearly untrue.
I once saw a blog post which accused vegans of hypocrisy for buying technology made by exploited workers in developing countries. I find it very sad that people attack those who are trying to make a difference, especially if they themselves are making no attempt to do so. The accusation seemed especially unfair given that I buy most things second-hand to help the environment and avoid contributing to the exploitation of people in developing countries.
There may be some vegans who are so angry and disillusioned with humanity that they seem not to care about human rights; however, they’re in a minority. Most of us recognise that humans are animals, and our fate is intertwined with theirs. I see the same consciousness behind animals’ eyes that I see behind other humans’ – it wouldn’t make sense to care about one more than the other.
The idea that vegans care more about animals than humans, like most arguments against veganism, stems from defensiveness. We don’t like to feel that we’re doing something wrong, so we have a tendency to retaliate against those who make us feel guilty. Also, most of us believe humans are the most important species, so the idea of prioritising the suffering of other animals seems outrageous or even offensive.
Have you ever heard this argument? How did you react?