Earlier this week, Mark Bittman wrote an opinion piece called “Why I’m Not a Vegan” in the New York Times. Mixed in with the human-health and environmental arguments for eating less animal products, was the actual explanation promised by the title. It basically comes down to three points: 1) He doesn’t grasp that veganism extends beyond diet, 2) he thinks humans have a right to exploit other species, and 3) he likes to eat other animals.
I can kind of excuse the first reason because Bittman is a food writer. Perhaps everything is about food for him. That he’s not a vegan because he buys leather shoes wouldn’t even cross his mind. He wrote a whole book about being vegan for a few hours a day, and he sure as heck just means in terms of diet.
As to the other two points, I’ll let him speak for himself:
I can see three scenarios that might lead to universal, full-time veganism: An indisputable series of research results proving that consuming animal products is unquestionably “bad” for us; the emerging dominance of a morality that asserts that we have no right to “exploit” our fellow animals for our own benefit; or an environmental catastrophe that makes agriculture as we know it untenable. All seem unlikely.
I’ve been thinking about it for three days and I still have no idea what the quote marks around “exploit” mean. But I’m pretty sure that at the very least they mean Bittman doesn’t think “we” exploit “our fellow animals”. No, we just …
…produce most animal products in deplorable conditions, and some of our health and environmental problems can be traced both to dominant production methods and our overconsumption. But we like to eat them, and they’re a pleasurable and even healthy part of many traditional diets and even sound agricultural practices.
“We like to eat them.” “They’re…pleasurable.” Great reasons to commission vast networks of institutionalized rape, murder, and slavery, Mark. Really top-drawer ethical thinking there.
But then we hit the nut of it, in the last of his eight footnotes:
A vegan diet is no guarantee of a good diet, unless the only goal is to avoid killing animals. Sugar-sweetened beverages, French fries and doughnuts can all be vegan.
That’s a bingo! That is indeed the goal of veganism. (Well, and not exploiting the animals while they’re alive, either.) Sugar-sweetened beverages, French fries and doughnuts can all be vegan. And that’s a good thing.