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The New Vegetarianism
04 Sep 2013

For a very long time, people have been turning to vegetarianism as an ethical alternative to meat-eating. Ask why someone is vegetarian and in many cases you will get an answer based on compassion for animals, an ethical choice, an alternative to the cruelty of the meat industry, and so on. This has been accepted for many years as a self-evident truth.

Yet, as every vegan knows, it is far from it. The uncomfortable truth is that a vegetarian diet is not ethical. No, really, it isn't. It is every bit as unethical to eat cheese as it is to eat meat. Why? Because the dairy industry is just that - an industry. It exploits animals, and just like the meat industry, it turns a blind eye to suffering in the name of profit. You may argue that the meat industry takes animals' lives whereas the dairy industry only takes their produce. You would be totally wrong. Calves are killed routinely to keep the milk industry in business; without the wholesale slaughter of calves there would be no milk for you to drink. Chicks are killed routinely (in the most horrific manner possible, thrown alive into a grinding machine) to keep the egg industry going. And the animals that survive have a miserable and painful life, treated by their owners as nothing more than organic machinery.

For a long time I believed, like many, that at least vegetarianism was a step in the right direction, a stepping stone on the road to full compassion; that it demonstrated a willingness to embrace the issue of animal exploitation; and that people should be encouraged to see it as such. But gradually I have changed my view. If you genuinely have compassion you would not stop halfway and continue to eat products that owe their existence to abuse and exploitation. Vegetarianism provides a convenient safe haven for those who like the idea of an ethical diet but erect all sorts of barriers to actually adopting one.

Vegetarianism is essentially a falsehood. It is an irrelevance and a potentially dangerous one. For any meaningful sense of the word 'ethical', veganism is the new vegetarianism.