It is sufficient to know that we do not have to consume other animals to be healthy. Humans certainly ate meat and other animal foods in the past, but that does not mean that we have to do so now. Past behaviour is not an excuse for current violence. There are many examples of unethical behaviours that were socio-culturally acceptable in the past such as male domination of women; violence towards children; ownership of other human slaves; the use of humans in zoos etc. We wouldn’t dream of using any of them to justify continued violation of others in the present. Our past use of other animals is similarly no excuse for our current use of them. Philosophical and moral considerations aside, there are also several indications that the human anatomy is best designed to eat a plant diet.

Milton Mills MD The Comparative Anatomy of Eating

Meat Your Future – Are humans omnivores, carnivores or herbivores?

A plant diet is suitable for dogs. Vegan dog and cat food is available online. Although cats are carnivores, many cats also stay healthy on a plant diet. However, there are certain precautions you must take to ensure that they stay healthy. For more information check the resources listed below:

Plants are alive but they are not the same as animals. They do not possess a central nervous system that allows animals to sense pain. Even if plants had feelings, the best way to live is to be vegan. Vegetarians and omnivores consume significantly more plants, fed indirectly to other animals, than vegans who consume plants directly.

plants aren't the same as animals

Gluten is a protein found in grains. It does not come from a non-human. It has nothing to do with veganism.

Confusion surrounding this issue exemplifies the mistaken notion that veganism is:

  1. a diet that people go on for personal health reasons
  2. a way of living that involves depriving ourselves of the things we like

Some high protein foods such as seitan are made from gluten. Obviously, these foods are to be avoided if you are avoiding gluten. But there are plenty of gluten free, high protein food sources that are vegan. Search the internet for gluten free recipes for vegans. There are lots of excellent free resources.

Some people have coeliac disease and need to avoid gluten; others experience symptoms of gluten intolerance. A gluten free diet is necessary for coeliacs but as this autoimmune disease only affects 1% of the population, it is not something that most vegans need to worry about.  In fact, a recent study in the British Journal of Nutrition suggests that a gluten free diet is not recommended for those who do not have coeliac disease.

Using other animals as companions seems to be very benign. However, when we look a little closer, we find that, yet again, using others has disadvantages for them.

Companion animals have been domesticated by us. This is a form of domination that exemplifies human supremacy and is instigated by human desires rather than concern for the other.

Many companion animals are selectively bred to have traits that are appealing to humans such as unusual physical appearance or traits such as docility. Selective breeding has serious consequences for their health and is often responsible for unnecessary suffering and premature death.

Regardless of how well we care for and love companion animals, they are the result of a process of domination and ownership that deprives them of their wild nature and their liberty. We control what and how they eat; if and when they exercise; and how they live almost every aspect of their lives.

Many companion animals endure unnecessary mutilation. Although there are understandable arguments for neutering to prevent more unwanted lives, the act of neutering is an invasive, painful procedure that carries some risk, and it is not a procedure that they consent to. (Please do not take this philosophical position as justification for not neutering companion animals as the consequences of respecting their right to procreate may cause more problems than it solves).

There are few aspects of their lives that are not controlled by us. Many companion animals are kept in environments that they would not choose to live in such as urban environments where they have little or no access to an outdoor life.

While many people take good care of companion animals, others neglect or even harm them physically, sexually and psychologically. Every year countless young, vulnerable, and often sick animals are abandoned when humans tire of them. Countless numbers are euthanized for no other reason than the fact that no one wants them.

If you would like a companion animal, please rescue someone who needs a home. Please never pay someone to breed companion animals. However, it is important that we consider how we can best meet our own desires for companionship and interaction with others in ways that do not involve any use of other animals at all.

Everyone knows that it is unethical to take the life of another. This rationale frequently underlies the motivation to eliminate animal flesh and be vegetarian. But the connection between our choices and the harm and death of other animals is much more extensive than meat. Once we become aware of the multitude of ways in which we use other animals, we learn that every use of them harms them. Virtually every use of them results in their premature, violent death.

Please study the section of this website on Animal Use to gain a better understanding of why vegetarianism is not a rational way of attempting to live ethically.

When we recognise the sentience, and personhood other other animals who are aware of their own lives, it soon becomes clear that we are not only obligated to stop participating in practices that harm them; we are also obligated to accord them the right to life on their own terms, for their own purpose, and to recognise and respect them as equals. This is why veganism is a new paradigm of relating in a radically new way to life in non-human form, respectfully and equally. There is every chance that when we change how we think about other animals, this new way of relating with them will leave us in awe at what we learn when we stop seeing a glass of milk or a piece of meat, and instead see a capable, unique, feeling individual.

Because other animals are sentient beings like humans are, a good measure of this question is to ask ourselves if it would be acceptable if we  aimed to stop harming other humans gradually. The answer is that when we become aware of situations of violence and exploitation towards other humans, for example, interpersonal abuse, or exploitative work conditions, we don’t regard it as acceptable to ask for a reduction in abuse or exploitation, or to eliminate harm on Mondays but find it acceptable on the other six days of the week; or stop harming others in the morning but find it acceptable to harm them for the rest of the day; or to stop one type of violence for now but allow other types of violence to continue. We aim to stop all harm as soon as practically possible.

Similarly, there is no reason not to go vegan immediately. It might take a few days or a week or two to rid ourselves of the animal products in our kitchens and homes, but there is no need to support any further exploitation. Some people advocate going vegan in stages that are aimed at making it attractive and easy. However, if we, for example, choose to eliminate meat first and cheese last, instead of going vegan now, our behaviour is meaningless to the mother who loses her baby calf for our decision to continue consuming dairy products. If we choose to be vegan most of the time but eat other animals to celebrate a birthday, or because we feel awkward asking for a vegan option at a restaurant, our one non-vegan choice impacts on the individual we consume who lived his or her life in misery on a farm and endured the pain and fear of death in a slaughterhouse for our single meal. If we are vegan 90% of the time, the remaining 10% still impacts in the worst possible way on individuals who do not want to suffer or die. If we choose to eat a plant diet but buy leather our intentions may be well meaning, but they are of no consequence to the cow at the slaughterhouse whose life is taken from her because we support an industry that uses her skin to make shoes. Even if we choose to advocate for or rescue other animals, if we choose something non-vegan such as personal care or cosmetic products that are tested on other animals, our behaviour has consequences for the rabbit whose eyes or skin are tortured in a cosmetic laboratory testing the make up we buy.

When we come to think of our lifestyle choices in terms of individual animals, and when we think of those individuals rather than the vast numbers or in terms of species, it becomes much easier to be motivated to be vegan now. The most important thing is that we stop supporting all our personal use of other animals now. When we realise the consequences of our behaviour for hundreds of individuals every year, we are empowered as individuals to play our role in no longer supporting their misery and death.

Sandra Higgins

Have a question?