Thursday, June 2, 2011

Q Thursday: Choosing for Ourselves or for Others

In your VO Enewsletter of August 17 2001, you speak about a birthday party with a 4 yr old child eating a piece of birthday cake. You say: “Our opinion is – what does a piece of cake at a 4-year-old’s birthday matter? Are the consequences of her eating it (as opposed to it being thrown out) worse than the impression it makes on 20 other children (and parents) if the Vegan Police grill everyone about the nature of everything with which Ellen comes into contact? In short, we aren’t out to raise an ideologue.”

Do you think that by showing your position isn’t consistent, and being a “flexible vegan,” you could be confusing others? If the 4 yr old was allergic to dairy, would you be as flexible? If not, why not.

A four-year-old Ellen
leafleting in Pittsburgh.
Good questions! They get to some important distinctions.

I’ve heard the allergy question before, but for me, it is not an appropriate analogy. I don’t choose to eat vegan because I physically must. I don’t avoid meat, etc., to benefit myself. I make my choices to help the animals, to lessen the amount of suffering in the world – so my choices are based on those criteria.

And consistency is another false choice. I’ve never met anyone who, honestly, continued to eat animals because they were confused by a vegan’s supposedly lack of “consistency.”

What I have seen (and sadly been the cause of) are vegans whose self-righteousness and obsessiveness gave others an excuse to ignore the animals’ plight.

I only hope that I’m able to undo the damage I did in the past when I made veganism about me, rather than about the animals.

I assume most people reading this believe what they do with their choices is important. Our choices aren’t important because they conform to a certain philosophy or because they meet a certain human definition.

Rather, the importance comes from our choices’ consequences: the actual impact we can have on reducing the animals’ suffering.

If I could leave you with only one thought to consider, it would be this:

The importance of our individual personal choices is nothing – absolutely nothing – compared to the impact we can have if we live for more than ourselves, dedicated to optimal advocacy.

Each of us truly can be extraordinary, if we are dedicated to having the greatest constructive influence possible on others. I see the truth of this every day!