Vegetarianism: A Personal Choice or a Principle of Justice?

Vegetarianism: A Personal Choice or a Principle of Justice?

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Everyone does what they want ... or maybe not

Vegetarianism is often presented as a personal option that we can choose or not. Is this opinion fair? Let's see it.

In principle, within the variety of foods that there is, everyone can eat what they want. And in general you can do whatever you want. However, that freedom has, for all persons responsible for their actions, a limit. That limit is the dignity of others. I can act as I please as long as I do not cause any unfair harm. I can throw as many stones into the air as I want and whenever I want, if that's fun for me. But if I purposely throw a stone at your head, I am already acting out of bounds that sets the respect you deserve.

In the same way, you can eat whatever foods you want, as long as this choice is not the cause of suffering and the systematic death of others. Buying non-vegetarian products causes these evils to animals, therefore, becoming vegetarian is our obligation, and not just a personal option. This is so, because our freedom is limited by the respect that the lives of other animals deserve.

Moral discrimination for belonging to a species

I think we can agree that our freedom is limited by the harm we can do to others. But the problem begins when it is said that within "those others" whom to respect are also cows, pigs, chickens, tuna, etc. It doesn't really seem important that they lose their life and freedom. "They are just animals, why should we care?" I think this is what the majority think. In fact, the main problem for animals is none other than that way of thinking. Humans believe that only those of us who belong to our species deserve respect, while other animals are there for us to use. Most think that killing a human is wrong, but that killing someone who is not human is not really worrisome.

This mentality has been called "speciesism." Speciesism is a discrimination analogous to sexism or racism, which consists in the opinion that we can give unfair treatment to individuals for belonging to one species or another. (What is speciesism?)

From a young age they teach us to consider animals as inferior, as things at our disposal, as slaves that we can use. We are fed on their corpses and we are used to seeing them in the zoo caged, in the circus enslaved, performing ridiculous and humiliating tricks. Thus, animals have always been food and entertainment for us and never individuals to be respected.

At the same time we are bombarded with messages about how important respect for humans is, we learn to use a word like "humanity", which when pronounced seems to be accompanied by heavenly music. We are taught that discrimination is wrong and that being a man or a woman, having one skin color or another, being more or less "intelligent", are not important things, that in the face of differences, humans deserve the same respect.

This message is incomplete. It is true that sex, skin color, or the degree or type of intelligence is not relevant when we speak of respect for life, freedom or the suffering of others, but it is also true that the species to which it is belong either. The only important thing to respect these basic interests is the ability to feel (enjoy life, suffer, etc.). And this capacity is shared by all animals, human and non-human.


For all this, if no one thinks of saying "I beat women and blacks, but I respect you, respect me too" why do we accept that someone says "I am responsible for the suffering and death of the animals, but I respect that you are vegetarian, you respect me too. "?

Respect is deserved by individuals, not by opinions or actions, as these can be fair or unfair. We can respect someone and tell them at the same time and clearly that their ideas are wrong or their attitudes are morally reprehensible.

This is not to say that we make non-vegetarians feel bad and blame them for their diet. (No one is guilty of the education they have received and surely an accusing treatment will only produce rejection of what we tell them and will reaffirm their customs, preventing them from understanding what is wrong in discriminating against animals. We must consider that speciesism and the consumption of Animal products is something that is instilled in us without asking before and that people deserve to be explained why what they do is wrong.). But what I do want to affirm is that we defend vegetarianism as a principle of justice and not as a simple fashion, because the lives of animals are at stake and it is our responsibility to make things change by educating ourselves and others.

The fallacy of the expression "we are omnivores"

Omnivore, ra.: From Latin. omnivorus; of omnis, everything and vorare, eat.

Omnivorism in humans is not a biological determination for the consumption of "meat", but a possibility of choosing our diet.

The expression "omnivorism" appears in many conversations about vegetarianism. It is usually pronounced with sharp conviction "we are omnivores, we eat everything".

The function of such expressions is to show that vegetarianism is supposedly not "natural", that it is "natural" for humans to eat "everything". But, in the most literal sense, everything, what is said everything, we cannot (or rather, we must not) eat. Let me joke: crystals or sabers only eat fakirs and certainly not with the intention of taking advantage of their nutrients.

Seriously, what is meant by saying that humans are omnivores is that supposedly we also need to feed on animal products to have good health. This supposed need would be given by our biology. Somehow it is suggested that we are forced to eat meat to survive. However, this definition of omnivorism as a biological determination to eat meat is simply false, if only because it denies the existence of whoever writes these lines and of so many vegetarians and vegans who enjoy long and healthy lives.

The nutrients we need are found in well thought out vegetarian and vegan diets. On this matter you can see our section on nutrition and especially the opinion of the American Dietetic Association on vegetarian diets, where it is clearly stated that "properly planned vegetarian diets are healthy, are nutritionally correct, and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. "

Therefore, according to nutritionists, we are not biologically determined to eat meat or a specific diet. What our body needs for its health are different nutrients and well-balanced vegetarian diets provide our body with all the nutrients. In addition, proper vegetarian / vegan diets have health benefits. This statement is no longer doubted by any serious specialist.

Omnivorism: a possibility to choose our diet

On the other hand, the sense in which we are omnivores is that we have the possibility of eating a wide variety of foods and choosing between getting the nutrients from different sources. Therefore, it is not that the vegetarian or the vegan ceases to be omnivores, but that they choose to obtain the nutrients from foods that are respectful of other animals: fruits, vegetables, cereals, legumes, seeds, mushrooms, etc.

Dispense with products of animal origin is a possibility that our biology gives us (and is grateful for). However, what on a biological level is nutritional possibility, on an ethical level is our moral responsibility (see Vegetarianism, just a personal option?)

The past as an argument for meat consumption

One of the arguments that are usually given against vegetarianism is that our ancestors at a certain point began to be hunters to survive and that therefore we are entitled to continue preying on animals.

It is nice to remember that our beginnings as animal predators were surely as scavengers and not as hunters, which detracts from a certain romanticism to that vision of our past. Nobody defends that we should live on carrion, as our ancestors did. Therefore, it seems that the important thing to know how to relate to other animals is not to see what was done in the past, but what we think is the right thing to do today.

The survival strategies of our ancestors do not determine our moral decisions regarding animals today. Our ethical sensibilities have changed in many respects compared to the past. Many practices that our ancestors carried out are considered today in the light of reason as true crimes.

Human history has given us an opportunity to constantly review our beliefs about what is right and what is wrong. Our ability to learn has enabled such a review. And the gradual overcoming of racism or sexism are two great examples of this. This gradual growth of respect among humans has made us think that the circle of moral consideration must grow even more to include other animals as well. We believe that the time has come to start seeing non-human animals, not as things for our benefit, but as fellow planet to respect. They are individuals who enjoy their lives and seek to avoid suffering in the same way that we do. Why should we use them as if they were objects?

We must, therefore, go one step further and work to overcome the prejudice, similar to sexism and racism, that sustains animal exploitation: speciesism, according to which the species of individuals is sufficient reason to despise their interests.

We insist on the idea that what they did in the past or what others are doing in the present should not influence our ethical decisions. It is not legitimate to justify a behavior saying "so does the neighbor." We must accept our moral choices with sincerity and justify them with rational arguments, not relying on current customs or traditions.


If we look at the essence of the human being, we will certainly not find gastronomic determinations. The label "omnivores" in the sense of the need to eat meat is therefore wrong. What we can safely say is that many human beings have the ability to review our habits and beliefs to improve ourselves and improve relationships with others. It is to that free nature that we want to appeal with these texts and reflections.

Video: Whats It Mean To Be A Vegan? Radio Interview (July 2022).


  1. Angel

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  2. Ramone

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  3. Garrard

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  4. Tage

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  6. Ashur

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  7. Shamuro

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