Veganism as the moral baseline
Those who accept speciesism often do so because they believe humans “superior” on the basis of rationality and empathy, but in a terrible twist of irony, reject all rationality and empathy in refusing to acknowledge sentience as the morally relevant characteristic on which to base inclusion in the moral community. In refusing to apply such rationality and empathy, they behave far worse than the nonhuman animals toward whom they feel so superior: They are like an odd bird who has functioning wings, but refuses to fly when it is appropriate to do so.
Those who reject speciesism apply that rationality and empathy – ever so exalted but forgotten in speciesism – in acknowledging sentience as the morally relevant characteristic on which to base inclusion in the moral community. Lifelong veganism is the natural outcome of such rationality and empathy. Being a vegan is what it means to be fully human; to live up to one’s potential in accordance with the rationality and empathy that are supposedly strong human traits.
Veganism is essentially refraining from contributing to the exploitation and intentional killing or slaughter of nonhuman beings. Preventing accidental and incidental human fatalities in traffic accidents and police action – even foreseen human deaths – is not required by laws prohibiting slavery and murder. In the same way, preventing accidental and incidental deaths in traffic accidents or harvesting crops – even foreseen deaths – is not required by veganism. In other words, abolitionist animal rights, as currently conceived, and the corresponding moral baseline of veganism are precisely the same in “line-drawing” as laws prohibiting chattel slavery and murder. Laws prohibiting slavery and murder say nothing about preventing motor vehicle injuries and fatalities, or how much cost we should incur in saving an injured child’s life, or “friendly fire” (unintended killing) in a justified war of self-defense. We should certainly take appropriate measures to reduce such deaths as much as possible, but again, veganism is merely a first and minimum standard, not the final or the best standard. Choosing to consume animal products is a choice to partake in the exploitation and intentional slaughter of sentient beings. Given our wide variety of food choices today, we can easily refuse to partake in such exploitation and slaughter. In many cases, such as this one, drawing lines can be very appropriate and strongly defended, especially when one acknowledges that the line drawn is only a minimum standard of decency, not a maximum standard of purity. (Excerpt from “Veganism is the Minimum Standard of Decency“)