5 Questions of Ethics for Vegans to Ponder


5 Questions of Ethics for Vegans to Ponder

“So many questions, but can you tell me answers?”

One of the consequences of going vegan is, without really expecting it, you become something akin to a quiz-show contestant.  Expect questions on why you haven’t died of malnutrition within 30 days of going vegan, where you get your protein from and, like a long-lost relative who emigrated to New Zealand, but with a distinctly more dairy slant, don’t you miss cheese?

There are though some more thought-provoking questions for vegans to consider that may not be the most prominent, but will certainly get you thinking – with five of those scenarios below.

Disclaimer:  For the purposes of this article, three things need to be stressed:

  1. Your author will be vegan to his very last day;
  2. Your author is going to play devil’s advocate so as to not only hopefully stimulate some vegan self-reflection, but some debate and lateral thinking too.
  3. There are vegan “answers” to all of these scenarios and if you care to comment, your author is happy to discuss!


Scenario 1: The Pig Valve Dilemma.

 the pig valve doctors

Back in 2001, my father went down with endocarditis – an especially vicious bacterial infection of the blood that has its very own party trick of focussing upon, and destroying, the valves of the heart.

The condition took him out so badly that it quickly reduced him to a coma and the threat of demise quickly thereafter.  The heart specialist told us, the extremely upset and disorientated family, that there were two very stark choices. 

The first, was a pig valve transplant procedure. 

The second, in the absence of that, was his passing away.

At that time, artificial heart valve replacement was also available, but we were told in very clear terms that that would not work for my father. It was either pig valves, or death.  So, the pig valves were used and my father recovered and went on to live another 11 years. Another crotchety, Dad-like 11 years, but 11 years nevertheless (love you Dad and always will…)

At that time, I wasn’t vegetarian, let alone vegan.  So, the ethics of that pig valve procedure were of no concern to me then.  But now?  As a vegan?

So, let me ask you, what would you do when faced with the loss of a family member and the only shot they have of avoiding that is by the use of a non-human animal in some surgical procedure? 

Would you do it? 

If so, why?  If not, why not?


Scenario 2:  Sorry if This Bugs You

vegan praying mantis bug

As vegans, the vast majority are overwhelmingly committed to the reduction and ideally the elimination of the killing / destruction of all forms of non-human life.

Spiders in the house?  Well, plenty of vegans have arachnophobia but at the same time will either do what they can to shepherd our eight-legged friends out of the house or at least let them be.

Houseflies though are a different proposition?  Maybe?  Irritating at best, spreaders of stomach-churning diseases at worst, houseflies really need to get in touch with a decent publicity agent as the public’s perception of them is lower than the belly of a snake.

Still, taking them out with a rolled-up newspaper does seem to fly (no pun intended) in the face of what veganism is meant to stand for – if violence and killing can be avoided, it should be. 

So, it comes as no surprise that recently, there has been the launch of a humane house-fly remover for the home.  Which is of course fine.  But let’s take this a little further…

You have bed-bugs and you know that you do because you wake up every morning with the back of your calf reminiscent of braille. How do you tackle this?  Buy new sheets but worry that they are so far entrenched in the mattress that they’ll be chewing on your leg with abandon before the week is out?

Ok, so what if the new mattress doesn’t work?  The infestation is in the bedroom and the only way to resolve it is the insect equivalent of genocide – fumigation.  As a vegan, is this permissible, or not?

Or, as many vegan pet owners will know, their cat or dog can become the home to fleas.  Are they legitimate to stay embedded in the coat of their non-human host, or, alternatively, should they be taken out? 

If so, is it “vegan” to do that?


Scenario 3:  To Pet or Not to Pet – That is the Vegan Question

 crazy vegan pet cat

It is to humanity’s shame that large chunks of us think that, in this day and age, with all we know, all we can see with just a click or two of a mouse, that industrial sized exploitation and murder of millions of animals per day still continues (in the time that you just rad that last sentence, three thousand land animals just perished…)

One area of hope is humankind’s relationship with the pets that it keeps.  Hundreds of millions of cats, dogs, rabbits and other creatures that have long been domesticated share lives with us in our homes.  Dogs were domesticated 15,000 years ago, while cats took a little longer at 10,000 years ago (that’s why cats are that little bit wilder and long ago declared war on all of your curtains.)

Of course, cows, sheep, pigs, chickens and horses have also been domesticated, but have ended up with a very different fate.

But is keeping any animal at home truly vegan?  Animals by their very nature are wholly separate entities from humans and pets have been taken out of their true environments.  Even more so when we ponder on the real reason why any animals were ever domesticated – to hunt vermin, to pull ploughs, to help us hunt.  All very one-sided.

Even the terminology we use with pets, how we “own” a cat or dog, smacks of an unequal possession thing.  We would never talk of “owning” a child or step-child, so why do the vast majority of pet owners refer to owning their pet?

So, does pet “ownership” do nothing more then reinforce humankind’s perception of being lords over all who always set the conditions when it comes to animals?

Should we then be fundamentally rethinking our relationship when it comes to Tiddles and Rover?


Scenario 4:  Should This Drive Vegans Crazy?

should this drive us vegans crazy

It’s not all one-way traffic when it comes to humankind.  On the one hand, while large numbers of them engage in or support wide-spread animal exploitation, they also do neat stuff like fly to the moon, invent i-Phones, build cathedrals and play cricket (give me a break, I’m British…)

Another, arguably, great human invention has been the invention of the internal combustion engine which led to the car.

Pollution and car-related deaths aside, ahem, what an awesome concept we have.  Two hundred years ago, to travel from say Washington to New York would have taken days.  Now, courtesy of the car, it’s just a matter of hours.  The car has been one of the greatest liberating inventions that humankind has come up with in its history.

Just think about it, all you have to do is put gas / petrol in it, derived from animal fossils from millions of years ago, and off you go! 

That’s right, your car is fuelled by the remains of dead dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals.  And while we are at it, natural gas, the stuff that likely keeps your home warm and lets you cook your vegan meals, is also in part derived from the fossilised remains of prehistoric animals.

With that in mind, isn’t it the case that vegans remove the use of animal products from as many parts of their lives as possible – yes?  If that’s the case, then how does that work for petroleum gasoline or natural gas?  If either of those two energy sources were derived from say more contemporary sources, like the by-product of mass animal exploitation, would that be any different?

Is your car running on non-vegan ethics?


Scenario 5:  Are We Vegan Kidding the Kids?

are we vegan kidding the kids?

As a parent to a child, we really should have their best interests at heart at all times.  What they do, where they go and, of course, what they eat.  And it’s on the subject of what they eat that should be our vegan concern.

As a vegan, you choose to go cruelty-free and want the world to know that you do – right?

When a new-born is raised as a vegan, they know no different.  However, let’s change that dynamic somewhat.  How about those parents or guardians that choose to go vegan years after the kids turn up on the scene and then implement veganism for all?  Put another way, the kids have, rightly or wrongly, a likeness for meat, dairy and egg, but with you as new vegans, that then gets taken away from them.

Does that work?  Can vegan parents make that choice for their omnivorous kids?

The vast majority of adults understandably regulate the lives of their kids – the things they do, the things they view online or watch on TV – you get the picture.  The rationale being that adults show kids the best way to live.  So why would veganism be any different?

But then let’s take this a step further.  The kids’ friends are coming around to stay for the night.  And they absolutely aren’t vegan and you know that their parents aren’t either.  Are we breaching our earnestly held vegan principles to accommodate their non-vegan requirements?

Let’s take this one further.  Your vegan kid is staying the night with one of their friends’ family.  Do you expect your vegan kid to be fed vegan by their host?  If not, should your kid be headed there, even though they really want to go, but you know non-vegan fare is going to be dangled before them?

Or summing everything up, should we be making the kids go vegan?














2 Responses

Loretta Harnarine
Loretta Harnarine

I truly enjoyed reading these words. You make some very valuable points. As a vegetarian (trying to be vegan), I love all of God’s magnificent creatures and will not kill anything even mosquitoes. I have always had pets, especially dogs and the food give them has always been a problem for me. Should they be vegetarians also? I do have a hard time dealing with people and the ethics of animals. We still have a long way to go, but we must, to protect all the innocents that share this planet with us. Thank you so much.

Carol Rainbird
Carol Rainbird

In answer to all these scenarios I think we can just be the best vegan we can.

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