Of course, me being me, I canot help but join in this debate.
Jonathan, after many hours of quiet self-reflection and brutal self-honesty, I see that what you say - about how vegetarians are vegetarian primarily to reduce the suffering of their own consciences first and foremost - is true.
I have been interrogating my soul for hours and trying to find the truth about why it took me so long to go from being meat free, to also being egg, cheese and milk free. My vegetarianism came with an immediate awareness of the immorality of wearing animals too. The moment I stopped eating animal flesh I also stopped wearing it (i have always felt that if an animal is unethical in your mouth, then it is just as unethical on your back or on your feet). But, I continued eating cheese, milk and eggs. After being brutally honest with myself and interrogating my soul, I know why. It is because I told myself the following thoughts and convinced myself of the following:
"Well, I may not be vegan, but at least I am vegetarian, which is more than I can say for the vast majority of the rest of the human population. SO I am clearly doing more than most people to at least make some effort at reducing animal suffering and thus I should be given a pat on the back! At least I have made this huge sacrifice of giving up flesh."
So your right, Jonathan. My vegetarianism was a way for me to feel less guilty about my contribution to animal exploitation, especially because I loved animals so much - i needed to do SOMETHING to make myself feel less hypcritical, and more morally "enlightened". And vegetarianism did that for me. At least for a few years. Fortunately, my love for animals proved, in the end, to be stronger than my self-delusion and my selfishness. Although I am NO WHERE NEAR a perfect vegan, I now accept that eggs, milk and cheese are no less benign than actual dead animal flesh. having said that, I still in moments of weakness allow the devil to get the better of me and I give in to a scoop of ice cream or a whey protein shakeor whatever, but thankfully, this is the exception rather than the norm, and after each "slip", I am hard on myself. I no longer try to console myself with delusional thoughts like the ones I noted above.
So I agree with Jonathan in that vegetarianism can be dangerous to the extant that it makes people's consciences feel lighter, but this is falsely lighter - they havent in actual fact undertaken a lifestyle that makes a meaningful or significant impact in reducing animal suffering. The only suffering that vegetarianism really reduces is the suffering of that person's concsience.
Having said that though, it is interesting to note that many people who are now vegan were FIRST vegetarian (I dont have actual stats, but I am just speaking from my experiecnes with vegans). In fact, I think most people on this board were veg first before they went vegan. My point is that I think it is unlikely that a die heard carnivore is going to take what would to her seem like a radical, alomost impossible step and go from carnivore to vegan in one step. That is just too huge of a change, and as a person who has many meat eating friends who wont even consider VEGETARIANISM, I really do think that this is unlikely to be the course of one's evolution in consciousness. SO, I think you might get people to go vegan first by getting them to go veg. AT least vegetarians already have some demonstrated awareness of the ethical issues involved (however limited that awareness currently is), and, more importantly, a willingness to listen and to be receptive to ethical arguments and animal rights concerns.
Again, after honest and brutal self-relfection, I asked myself: Would natalie have gone vegan right off the bat if she was first presented to animal rights through a vegan path instead of a welfarist or vegetarian path? yes, I would have gone from meat eater to straight vegan. BUT that is only because I have compassion and love for all animals. Not everybody though is like us. I know people who love animals (have pets of all kinds), and would even help a chichen or a pig in need. yet, after presenting them with all the literature, etc. they STILL refuse to go even at least vegetarian, which, in my opinion, is the LEAST that the whole world can do right here, right now. There is simply NO EXCUSE not to be at the very least, vegetarian! yet the fact of the matter is that most people are too selfish and self-indulgent to be even that!!
So I am ambivalent towards vegetarianism for the above reasons. On the one hand, I totally see what Jonathan means about it doing nothing more than easing people's guilty consciences. yet, on the other hand, many (though certainly not all) of us on these boards were vegetarian first, before we were vegan, and some people might have ran the other way if they were asked to go from meat eating straight to veganism. So hard core veganism right off the bat might alienate potential vegans in this way too, thereby also having the same undesired effect of vegetarianism described by Jonathan.
All I know is that while I am by no means perfect, I try to always be honest with myself about the implications of my choices, and, even though I am probably too undisciplined, morally weak and lazy to be a perfect or even "hard core" vegan, I hope that continued honesty and self-reflection will at least keep me on the right path, heading in the right direction. And I believe that hard core veganism is the path that every human being should set for themselves and strive for, as it is the only moral thing to do.
Because, in the end, there is at least one truth out there that is indeed "Truth" with a capital "T", and that is that animals have the right to live their lives, free from human molestation, interference, or exploitation, and that they are NOT means to human ends. period. THis is not a political consideration, or an opinion that is subject to debate, in my opinion and indeed I am sure in all of our opinons. IT is plain, cold hard truth - as plain as the sun and the sky and the moon. i try to stay focused on that and measure my actions against that maxim which my heart and my mind believes in 100%. Sometimes I may fall short, (and I make myself morally sick when I do)
but thankfully, most of the time, I dont. And I continue to draw inspiration and strength from people like you, Kollision, Robert, Ash, and all the others who are hard core, unrelenting and uncompromising vegans - people who set the standard and remind us daily that there is NO EXCUSE for anything less.
And as much as I would like to think of myself as an enviro rights person too, I do drive a car. But the good news on that front is that I saw a news piece the other day about this piece that you connec to your cars exhaust system or something and it causes your car to emit less emissions and polutants than a lighter!!!!!!!!!!!!! The item is expensive - it costs like $1500 or sonmething, but I dont care. The second that I save enouygh money I am buying it. It is one thing to be selfish and want to drive a car, but it is another to refuse a newly invented environment protecting device because it is too expensive. Frankly, I think it should be mandatory for all cars.
And there is my two cents for the night.
EDITTED TO ADD:
Before I get any more hate mail from all you ova-lacto vegetarians, let me mke something perfectly clear. I am speaking about my OWN
reasons for having taken so long to give up eggs and dairy. It is because what Jonathan says about vegetarians was true IN MY CASE
. And it took a great deal of self-honesty for me to come to that conclusion. Of course, as a vegetarian, I did not want to admit this to myself and was annoyed by vegans who told me that I wasnt being "ethical enough." But now I see that they were right. It is just as hard to justify supporting the egg or dairy industries as it is to justify supporting the meat industry is the realization and the revelation that converted me
from ova - lacto to strict vegetarian (or what some of you would call vegan).