So, you’re an ardent veggie ethicist, eh?
I’m sorry, but this question makes me a little grumpy. It’s not because I don’t think it’s a valid question, or because it isn’t something that I’ve given thought and consideration to, but rather because I don’t think that the people who ask me this are actually, genuinely concerned about the feelings of vegetables.
Instead, I think they’re asking because they figure it’s going to be some sort of “touché!” moment. As in, “Aha! This morally superior vegan isn’t so holy after all, because she’s willing to cause suffering, too. So I don’t have to pay attention to her concerns about meat or feel bad about what I’m doing.” Unfortunately I find that sometimes when a non-vegan is debating with a vegan, they’re only looking for an excuse to dismiss the vegan’s choices, rather than actually offering a valid justification for their own differing choices.
Ok, sorry, mini rant over. While it’s unfortunate when the question is being posed in a disingenuous way, this actually is a question that vegans have given some serious thought to! So when people ask me this, despite my suspicions about their motivations, I do try to give them the benefit of the doubt and respond as though they’re asking because they’re truly curious about the answer.
This issue harkens back to spots elsewhere on this wiki where I talk about how nobody can truly be 100% vegan, and it’s really more a matter of trying to reduce harm, since we can never eliminate harm completely.
I am absolutely concerned about the impact of my vegetable consumption. Beyond what the veggies themselves may or may not ‘experience,’ current farming practices are wreaking havoc on the planet, and causing collateral damage to countless animals and ecosystems. Eating veggies is by no means some sort of ‘zero-impact’ lifestyle, so we need to be aware of and thoughtful about our impact, and how we might further reduce it. And not all veggies are created equal — a couple things I’ve chosen to cut out are almonds and palm oil, because I believe that the current farming practices for these crops cause an outsized amount of harm to the world. Another food-related step I take is to be really careful not to eat more food than I need, or to allow food to spoil and have to be thrown away. Again, it’s a matter of trying to figure out what I can do to avoid causing unnecessary harm.
So yeah, in this effort to reduce harm, I’m certainly concerned about the implications of my food choices, whether they’re vegetable or animal. If a new study came out that found that celery had the same rich inner life and emotions as a pig, I would stop eating celery. Certainly all of our current scientific understanding points to this being extremely unlikely, but if it’s the case, I want to know about it so I can make better choices. In the meantime, I’ll start by not eating the creatures that we already believe to be intelligent, sentient beings, and by keeping an open mind about what harm I might be causing, and what changes I can make to dial it down.