January 27, 2013


The vegans have landed : A dominant species is a dominant species. If you really care about animal rights, vegan ethics don't go far enough (Rhys Southan 22 January 2013, aeon)

If our intergalactic superiors landed here, but had no interest in eating us or our fellow animals, the first thing they could do is rob our stores, homes, farms, and warehouses of all our fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, and vegan convenience products. Without violating any vegan principles there would be no limit to the amount of food vegan aliens could steal from us -- vegan ethics allows for humans using all the plant matter they want in the world, no matter how many animals starve as a consequence. Aliens could cause the worst famine humanity has ever seen, but it would be entirely compatible with vegan ethics. That's because it would all fall under the rubric of 'good intent'. They wouldn't be killing us deliberately to eat us, but rather because they wanted our food and had the power to take it -- our starvation would be a foreseeable, yet accidental, side effect. We might try to fight the vegan invaders over this mass plunder, but then they could kill us outright for threatening their lives. That's because humans killing animals in self-defence is also no crime in veganism, even if we've wandered onto the animals' own territory.

Since veganism doesn't stop us from wrecking animal habitats to make space for ourselves, vegan aliens could knock down all our buildings to construct new ones that better fit their pan-galactic design aesthetic. They could evict us from our homes, businesses and veganic farms without compensation, and then, to keep us from returning, they could set up fences, noise barriers and other humane deterrents. To them, we would be hungry pests who threaten their vegan food supply, so they might even be justified in trapping us or killing us with poisons if we got too close. Humans would now largely be without food and shelter, but the vegan aliens wouldn't need to lose sleep over it, since none of this contradicts any vegan tenets.

Depending on how much land was required for the vegan alien cities to accommodate all their alien vegan restaurants, alien anarchist bookstores and alien warehouse lofts, the vegan aliens might or might not set aside some land for humans to live on. Because our habitat would be fragmented to suit aliens' desires regardless, it would be difficult or impossible for us to redevelop agriculture of our own, or gather enough food to survive. Any habitat they left for us would never truly be ours anyway, because if the aliens ever wanted to increase their population or just spread out, veganism doesn't stop them from taking more land.

Some vegan aliens might enjoy keeping a few human pets, naming us, cuddling us, and feeding us veggie treats. Even now, pet ownership is a controversial issue in animal rights, but most activists say that it's okay for vegans to keep some animals as dependents since they have been domesticated and, as a result, would suffer in the wild. Vegan aliens could justify keeping humans as pets for similar reasons if they saw that some of us couldn't make it on our own. That might be a pretty fair deal if the aliens were friendly and loving owners, but the downside is that they could spay and neuter us, as even People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals says vegans should spay and neuter their pets. Of course, the aliens would say this was for our own good, as we tend to overpopulate when left in charge of our own reproduction.

There's a chance that not all aliens would thrive on a plant-based diet. Some of the aliens might suffer from an unfortunate confluence of intolerances, allergies, digestive troubles, and medical conditions, or they could be living in harsh climates without enough plant material to sustain them. There could be any number of alien-centric conditions that made veganism too difficult for some of them. Vegan ethics makes exceptions in cases like this when a vegan diet just cannot work for some individuals, which means some of the aliens would be allowed to eat meat for their health. For example, aliens with Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome who can't produce enough of their own cholesterol might benefit from an external animal source. And aliens with epilepsy might need to be on a high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diet to control their seizures, but it would be nearly impossible for them to get the right balance of macronutrients without eating animals, especially if they also happened to be allergic to soy, gluten, and nuts.

So which animals would they kill for this purpose? Since the vegan aliens would claim to be anti-speciesist, it would be unjust discrimination for them to value the lives of humans over those of other animals such as deer, squirrels, pigeons, rabbit, or fish. So if the aliens couldn't tolerate soy, wheat, fructose, oxalates, or nuts, or if they lived somewhere without much in the way of vegan foods, they could eat us with a clear conscience.

A vegan alien invasion could then all but destroy humanity while rationalising most of our suffering and death as 'accidental' or 'unfortunate but necessary', just as vegans now rationalise the harms that a plant-based human civilisation would cause nonhuman animals. What the argument from alien invasion ultimately shows, then, is that humans cannot consistently apply the Golden Rule to the rest of the animal kingdom without going a lot further than vegans are asking us to go.

Posted by at January 27, 2013 9:17 AM

blog comments powered by Disqus
« RE-MAX: | Main | »