Animal Rights and Vegan Advocacy

Situational Objections Section

Reasoned responses, organized as talking points, to common objections, concerns, and questions regarding animal rights and veganism.

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“I’m only one person—I can’t make a difference.”“i’m only one person—i can’t make a difference.”“i’m only one person—i can’t make a difference.”[toc label="talking points"]with the commodification of animals being so pervasive, it's easy to see why you might believe that you can't make a difference. here we show that you are already making a difference, for better or worse, and that you can make a difference for the better.consider this: if you have adopted this objection to veganism and animal rights, it would seem that you have implicitly and subtly acknowledged that there is a difference to be made.

you are already making a difference.

buying products made from animals makes a difference but not a positive one. it contributes to suffering because it involves paying others to breed, abuse, and slaughter animals. it also helps ensure the suffering will continue by reinforcing the belief that it's ok to do so.everyone makes a difference. the question is not, “can you make a difference?”; the question is, “what kind of difference will you make?”

the laws of supply and demand virtually ensure you will save lives and spare suffering by going vegan.

it’s true that the animals already in the production pipeline are doomed. it’s also true that being vegan prevents the suffering of many innocent lives in the future who would otherwise be born or hatched into a system of brutality and then slaughtered after being allowed to live only a fraction of their natural life span.this is because of the laws of supply and demand. when we buy products made from animals, we are driving demand for more of those products—we are shifting the demand curve to the right. we are, in effect, telling the market to breed and slaughter more animals.but as we stop buying products made from animals for food and other uses, fewer animals will be bred, abused, and slaughtered. that change in preference will shift the demand curve to the left. in turn, demand will increase for other products not involving the exploitation of animals, telling the market, in effect, to produce more of those products instead.some might say that in a large market, the action of one individual could not possibly impact demand because it is such a small percentage of total demand. this may be true, but the fact that millions are not buying products made from animals((“vegan statistics: why the global rise in plant-based eating isn’t a fad.” food revolution network (blog), january 18, 2018 )) does reduce demand—and, consequently, supply. any one of the millions not buying such products logically and necessarily accounts for a portion of that reduction in many lives will you save by going vegan? using data from the usda and the census bureau, counting animals calculates you save, on average, over 325 animals per year by leaving animals off your plate—25 land animals and over 300 sea animals.((harish. “how many animals does a vegetarian save?” accessed december 29, 2018. )) this is congruent with an analysis by the national resources defense council (nrdc) that determined each person in the united states eats 26 land animals per year.((“how much meat we eat.” nrdc. accessed december 29, 2018. )) other estimates are higher. of course, exactly how many animals you personally save will depend on your patterns of consumption before you became vegan.imagine that every year, you rescued 25 dogs, cats, or wild animals. you would be lavished with praise as a champion for the animals, and you would justifiably feel better about yourself for it. yet the animals we exploit and slaughter for food and other uses are no less deserving of their lives than wild animals or those we keep as pets. they are the same in all the ways that matter morally.

it's also a matter of principle.

even if you were the only person refusing to participate in a particular form of suffering for humans or nonhumans and that lack of participation resulted in no discernible benefits for the victims, you should still not participate as a matter of principle.

the difference you make will be multiplied by your influence on others.

you will likely have more influence on others than you realize. when you go vegan, it begins a ripple effect. over time, some of your friends, family, and acquaintances, having observed you, will go vegan or at least begin the process of reducing their demand for animal products. that will influence others to do the same, which will, in turn, influence more to do the same.

the difference you make goes beyond reducing the suffering of animals.

the science is clear that going vegan will reduce your risk of chronic disease, diminish your footprint on the planet, and promote a more efficient food system better capable of feeding the world's starving, hungry, and impoverished.((this is fully addressed in our article "an introduction to veganism" found here:

if everyone believed that one person cannot make a difference, there could be no progress.

imagine if martin luther king jr. or mahatma gandhi believed that they, along with their fellow activists, could not make a difference. margaret mead is credited with saying, "never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."((“never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has – quote investigator.” accessed december 29, 2018. ))
“I can’t afford to be vegan—it’s too expensive.”“i can’t afford to be vegan—it’s too expensive.”“i can’t afford to be vegan—it’s too expensive.”[toc label="talking points"]some have claimed that going vegan is expensive and, for some, unaffordable. the implication is that eating a vegan diet is a luxury that only the affluent can afford.

vegan diets are usually less expensive.

if you continue eating the same amount of fruit and greens but replace your meat with staples such as potatoes, beans, rice, oats, and corn, then it's hard to see how you would spend more.mayo clinic considers lower costs to be one of the benefits of meatless meals. in stating that meatless meals are budget friendly and can be used to save money, they add that some plant-based proteins "tend to be less expensive and offer more health benefits than meat."((“it’s time to try meatless meals.” mayo clinic, july 26, 2017. ))registered dietitian ginny messina confirms, "replacing the meat, dairy, and eggs in diets with lower cost foods like grains, beans and tofu isn’t just frugal, it’s much more healthful."((messina, ginny. “the high cost of ethical eating.” the vegan rd, january 20, 2010. ))research bears this out. a study published in the journal of hunger and environmental nutrition concludes that even an economic version of a government-recommended meal plan costs $745 more per year than a plant-based meal plan and provides "fewer servings of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains."((flynn, mary m., and andrew r. schiff. “economical healthy diets (2012): including lean animal protein costs more than using extra virgin olive oil.” journal of hunger & environmental nutrition 10, no. 4 (october 2, 2015): 467–82. doi:10.1080/19320248.2015.1045675 ))

many foods cost the same.

you may be surprised to find that many common foods in the grocery store are already vegan and, consequently, your costs for these items won't go up.these include everything in the produce department, all bulk items (except jerky), most cereals, most breads, all grains and beans, most canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, most condiments, such as mustard, ketchup, pickles, relish, and sauces, and virtually all spices.

vegan specialty foods are optional.

some vegan items, such as burger patties and mayonnaise, are no more expensive. vegan milks cost no more than organic, hormone-free cow's milk. vegan cheeses and meats can be more expensive but are becoming less expensive as demand increases.prepared foods will almost always cost more, vegan or not, and many of these foods you can make yourself for considerably less.all of these processed foods are optional—you can choose to just leave them off the menu.

your medical bills may decrease.

a study published by the national academy of sciences calculates a health-care savings of over $1,067 billion annually with a vegan diet.((springmann, marco, h. charles j. godfray, mike rayner, and peter scarborough. “analysis and valuation of the health and climate change co-benefits of dietary change.” proceedings of the national academy of sciences 113, no. 15 (april 12, 2016): 4146–51. doi:10.1073/pnas.1523119113 )) that's over $3,000 for each person in the united states. the savings are a result of less medical care needed because medical problems are less likely on a vegan diet.

consider the cost to animals.

we are often willing to pay more for convenience. we are often willing to pay more for items that have a smaller carbon footprint. we are often willing to pay more for designer items.eating vegan is not more expensive. but even if it were, shouldn't we be willing to pay more for items that don't support, directly or indirectly, the breeding, enslavement, mutilation, and slaughter of sentient beings who have lives that are as important to them as our lives are to us?

here are some tips for saving on groceries.

here are a few tips for saving on your grocery bill:
  • buy in bulk and at farmer's markets.
  • shop seasonally.
  • buy vegetables frozen, since they often cost less and are just as healthy.
  • compare prices. a pound of green peas costs around $1.30 at walmart, trader joe's, and whole foods market. the same pound of peas can be as high as $3.00 at other grocery stores.
  • limit specialty foods, such as vegan meats and cheeses. they are unnecessary. while they may be more healthy than animal-based meats and cheeses, they are not as healthy as whole foods.
“There are no true vegans. Animal products are in car tires and everywhere.”“there are no true vegans. animal products are in car tires and everywhere.”“there are no true vegans. animal products are in car tires and everywhere.”[toc label="talking points"] some have objected to veganism on the grounds that there are no true or pure vegans by virtue of the widespread inclusion of animal-derived products in many everyday items. this complaint, at best, reveals a lack of understanding about the definition and essence of veganism. at worst, it is an attempt to apply standards to veganism that would not be applied to any other cause or movement.

vegans seek to minimize harm to animals, not be perfect.

vegans seek to eliminate harm to animals, according to the most widely accepted definition of veganism, "as far as is possible and practicable." there are some items containing incidental amounts of animal products for which there are no viable substitutes or for which substitutes are very difficult to obtain. automobile tires are one such example.this situation is beyond our control in the short term. it would be nonsensible to say that because we can't be perfect vegans, we shouldn't do anything. with the wide variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds available to most—as well as an increasingly large selection of processed vegan foods—it is not at all logistically difficult for most to adopt a vegan diet. adopting a vegan diet would eliminate, by far, most of the unnecessary suffering and slaughter that we pay others to inflict on animals.

once we stop eating animals, other uses will be eliminated or greatly reduced.

the incidental use of animals in everyday products will take care of itself as veganism gains acceptance and people adopt a vegan diet. many of the products used, for which there are already alternatives, are byproducts of the slaughter process. as animal slaughter becomes less commonplace, nonanimal substitutes will be used and new substitutes will be developed.

no one objects to other worthy causes just because perfection is unobtainable.

it would be difficult to think of any movement or cause in which perfection is obtainable. no one would say that because we will never completely stop discrimination, we shouldn't try to do what we can. no one would say that because we will never stop child abuse completely that we shouldn't even try. no one would say, for any worthwhile cause, that if we can't do everything, we shouldn't do anything. it seems disingenuous to apply such a standard of purity or perfection to veganism while ignoring it for other causes.
“If I’m stuck on a small island, I may have to eat meat to survive.” To Do“if i’m stuck on a small island, i may have to eat meat to survive.” to do“if i’m stuck on a small island, i may have to eat meat to survive.” to do
“The Eskimo/Inuit don’t have good plant options. And BTW, they’re healthy ” To Do“the eskimo/inuit don’t have good plant options. and btw, they’re healthy ” to do“the eskimo/inuit don’t have good plant options. and btw, they’re healthy ” to do
“Eating animal products is our tradition–it’s been a part of our culture and a way of living for hundreds of years.”“eating animal products is our tradition–it's been a part of our culture and a way of living for hundreds of years.”“eating animal products is our tradition–it’s been a part of our culture and a way of living for hundreds of years.”[toc label="talking points"]of all the objections to veganism and animal rights, perhaps this is the easiest to counter. the response need not be accompanied by research and citations—the application of reason combined with only the most general knowledge of history will suffice.this objection is usually an impulsive reaction raised without forethought. once the objection is answered, it is rare that the person objecting wishes to continue with the topic, as they quickly see their position as indefensible.

we are not justified in doing something just because we have been doing it.

human history is abundant with examples of injustices that have been defended with an appeal to culture and tradition, including the subjugation of women, slavery, discrimination against gays, and female genital mutilation.while culture and tradition may serve the useful purpose of providing stability and grounding to a group, they should not be used to blindly perpetuate injustices. we should not confuse culture and tradition with ethics. the fact that a practice is culturally acceptable does not mean it’s morally acceptable.

the length of time we have been engaging in a practice does not exonerate the practice.

an appeal to culture and tradition is often accompanied by an assertion that we have been engaging in a practice for hundreds or thousands of years. but if a practice is ethically problematic, then the longer the practice has been engaged in, the more harm it has caused. we can't undo the past, but we can minimize our personal contribution to the problem now and in the future by going vegan.

the fact that a practice is a way of living is not pertinent.

that a practice has become a way of living makes it more difficult to dislodge, but if the practice is unethical, it does not diminish the need to dislodge it.

we have other cultural values that are consistent with the values of veganism.

the idea behind veganism is that we should not unnecessarily harm animals—a belief that almost everyone holds. that belief is a feature of our culture. the same is true with the values that belief embodies—fairness, justice, compassion, and nonviolence. the fact that we don’t always live up to those values does not mean we shouldn’t try to live up to them. our values are strengthened every time someone goes vegan.[toc label="talking points"]
“Vegans are extreme, self-righteous, judgemental, and angry.” To Do“vegans are extreme, self-righteous, judgemental, and angry.” to do“vegans are extreme, self-righteous, judgemental, and angry.” to do