I seldom post about ‘compassion’, ‘kindness’ or even ‘love’ in relation to nonhuman rights because whilst they are admirable qualities, compassion, kindness and love do not necessarily drive our values.
It’s not out of love, kindness or compassion that we refrain from harming other humans. For example we would quite rightly be outraged to see campaigns in favour of ‘compassionate’ domestic violence, making ‘kinder choices’ about child abuse, or being ‘more loving’ about raping and murdering. No one would congratulate me for my ‘compassion’ for refusing to steal from, harm or kill another human. No one would praise me for making a ‘kinder choice’.
No, some behaviour is deeply wrong in the eyes of the vast majority of humans and we do not hesitate to call for it to end completely; we see it as black and white. To reject what we see as wrong behaviour is basic decency. To refuse to participate is a matter of fundamental justice and reflects our deepest values.
So it is with our use of individuals of other species. Simply because they are gentle, vulnerable and have no defence against us does not give us license to ignore their rights as sentient inhabitants of this planet. In fact it does the opposite, it places responsibilities on us to safeguard their interests, to protect them. After all, deep down every one of us likes to think of ourselves as a protector of the innocent.
The truth that our nonvegan former selves did not want to hear, was that far from being guardians of the helpless, almost every choice we made of our clothing, toiletries, foodstuffs and many other commodities required brutality, violence, unspeakable harm, suffering and misery. Either through thoughtless acceptance of the mistaken myths of our childhood, or with unfounded delusions of superiority and entitlement, we ignored the catastrophic cost of our self-indulgence to individuals exactly like ourselves in every relevant way except species.
We must stop pretending that ceasing to cause completely unnecessary harm is a kindness for which we should be congratulated. Brutalising and bullying our way through life is a crime that we must stop. We do this by acknowledging the right of all sentient beings to own their bodies and their lives. And that means we become vegan. There is no other way.