“Vegans and the Quest for Purity”

For those who do animal studies and read this blog, you’ll find this a careful summary of the ad hominem against vegans, by Harold Frumm in The Chronicle:

The grandstanding of vegans for carefully selected life forms, to serve their own sensitivities—through their meat- and dairy-free diets, their avoidance of leather and other animal products—doesn’t produce much besides a sense of their own virtue. As they make their footprint smaller and smaller, will they soon be walking on their toes like ballet dancers? And if so, what is the step after that?

Zizek makes a similar claim someplace—namely that vegans seek a purity that is unattainable. But most vegans I know have already signed on for a Derridean-type “violence at the origin,” meaning that the aporia of living is seeking the least violence (at the risk of the greatest). But this essay by Frumm is helpful in pulling together in one place several of the worst arguments against veganism: you’re always doing some violence, your care for animals is itself a form of anthropocentrism, and , of course, the ad hominem that this is just empty moralism for its own appearance.

But what “morality” could escape the last attack, as Kant recognized well, when he said we would never know that we are following the categorical imperative for itself, given a possible hypothetical imperative to see ourselves as moral beings?

When I first went to write this post, I thought of titling it “Non-homicidal maniacs and their Quest for Purity.” You know the type: they go out each day and don’t kill other human beings, and then rest self-satisfied that they are morally superior to murderers and other sociopaths. But then I figured someone would think that I’m equating eating animal fats to human murder, which would distract from the point.

Also—-where is this great vegan “grandstanding”? I like to picture crowds of emaciated, long-haired ascetic vegans lecturing the masses over faux-tribal drum beats from campaign-style flag pasted grand stands in city squares across the country. Alas, they just generally stand in line at a Starbucks and ask for the soy milk…