Saturday, December 27, 2014

New Book: 'The Meaning of Life: An Examination of Purpose'

Have I finally lost my mind?

In my latest book I attempt to answer one of the deepest and perhaps most senseless of questions: what is the meaning of life?

What I argue in my book is that this question actually does have objective and universal answers, and that we can provide these simply by employing reason and by paying attention to our experience of the world. And the answers are both uplifting and serious at the same time. Not only can we live meaningful lives pursuing a deeper and truly valuable purpose without lying to ourselves; we urgently should.

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Sunday, November 2, 2014

New Book: 'Moral Truths: The Foundation of Ethics'

There are moral truths. There are truths about what matters in this world, and therefore also truths about how we should act in it. And we need to realize these truths, as such a realization itself will ignite a fundamental change for the better, both in our thinking, conduct and culture altogether. A fundamental change toward higher moral ground. Or so I argue in my latest book, Moral Truths: The Foundation of Ethics.

As the subtitle suggests, this book is my attempt at putting the foundations of ethics on the table, and, as the main title suggests, I maintain that these foundations are a matter of fact. My thesis is that we can derive 'ought' from 'is', from facts alone, and that we should become completely animated by these facts and thereby become what we so urgently need to become: an ethical species first and foremost.

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

"Animal Agriculture" – A Distributed Evil

How many of us would be willing to kill a non-human being whom we had raised ourselves if we had absolutely no need to eat this being?

A minority of us, I’m sure.

How many of us would be willing to pay other people to raise and kill a non-human being if we had no need to eat this being?

The answer, unfortunately, is the number of people who buy and eat flesh; that is, the vast majority of us.

In my experience, most people will admit that such an inconsistency is indefensible, and rightly so. After all, the ethical status of doing something does not depend on who carries out the action, but on what the action is — whether we kill somebody ourselves or pay someone else to do it, it is still wrong; for the victim, the result is the same: death by human hands. Yet the reality is, most unfortunately, that this inconsistency thrives untroubled and untouched by such simple observations. The reality is that we pay others, on a daily basis, to do what we could never do ourselves — to do an act that most of us would be horrified to carry out ourselves, and, in the case of many of us, even unable to ever forgive ourselves for having done. The inconsistency is striking, and more than that, it is nothing less than the source of the greatest atrocity committed by humanity today.

It is worth noting that the decisive difference between our unwillingness to kill another being and our willingness to buy the flesh from that same being does not seem to only lie in the fact that it is another person who is leading the knife, as it is probably still only a minority of us who would accept that someone else kills a non-human being if we have to watch it happen. For instance, if we stood in front of a non-human being, and someone then came to us and asked: “Will you pay me to kill this being and give you all her flesh?” I think very few of us would say "yes". In fact, I think most people would be horrified and openly condemn it if they saw it happen right before them in real life. For instance, if someone in my local park killed a wild bird there, I am sure the other people in the park would object to this action and not be very moved by the assurance that the bird will be eaten. Yet the person who sits and eats a sandwich that contains the flesh from a chicken while he condemns this bird killer and shakes his head over incomprehensible human evil can claim no moral high ground whatsoever, as he has himself paid another person to do the very thing he is condemning: the killing of a bird whom we do not need to kill or eat, and that bird might well have suffered a death far more brutal than the death he has just witnessed and condemned (many chickens are for instance boiled alive at slaughterhouses because their throats are not cut fully).

So it seems that it is not merely because others do it that we are willing to support an act so brutal and evil that we would not want to do it ourselves, but because others do it so smoothly and without letting us know anything about it. We consume “animal products” because the entire “production process” happens so conveniently out of sight.
This should give us pause. The fact that the vast majority of us are supporting something that only a small minority of us would ever be able to do simply because it happens out of sight reveals that we are completely disconnected from what it is we consume and what the process behind it is — and knowingly so, because we know that we don’t know much about it. We are knowingly looking away, and by doing this we are not only betraying the non-human victims, but also ourselves and our own values.

This is the horror of a large, distributed system. By distributing the various acts of evil — the act of raising non-human beings only for them to be killed, the act of killing them, the act of distributing and selling them, and the act of buying and eating them — we have managed to construct a system that is as evil as only the most sadistic person could be on his own. After all, many people who raise non-human beings for them to be killed report that they cannot bear seeing them get killed, and that they feel terrible when they send them to slaughter. Yet by distributing the next evil act in this great circle of evil to another person who has not seen any of these beings grow up — not seen their personalities and charming quirks, but only seen another anonymous being enter the slaughterhouse — we manage to get the job done. Collectively, together, we can do it. And it is not the case that this person whose job it is to kill the beings is especially culpable in any way; it is simply a job that exists in response to a demand. Our demand. It all comes back to us, the consumers, who merrily buy and eat the non-human beings.

As a general matter, the evil that a large, distributed system can manage to perform by virtue of splitting up a large-scale atrocity into many small tasks, each undertaken by people who are mostly good and kind individuals, is something that we should all be extremely cognizant of, as we clearly are not well-equipped to recognize such evils. However, the fact that we have such a blind spot does not provide an excuse for our blindness in any way. All it takes to cure our blindness is simply that we open our eyes and stop looking away from the fact of our exploitation of other animals and the role that we as consumers play in it. Because we are all part of this clockwork — as active a part as any. In fact, we who consume the non-human beings have taken on the most fundamental task of all. We perform the climactic end step of this entire circle of evil, the step that powerfully reinforces the ideological foundation of the entire practice of exploiting non-human beings in an act of indulgent promulgation: Yes, non-human beings are mere things. They are just things we can consume for frivolous reasons.

Collectively we are doing what none of us could do alone. We have managed to create a collective practice that is far more evil than anything we could ever dream of doing individually. How have we managed to do this? How do we stop it? I would argue that our final act of consuming “animal products” — what most people consider a relatively innocent act — is not only a crucial piece in the puzzle of our exploitation of non-human beings, and it is not only a powerful contributing factor to our moral confusion with regard to them; it is the very foundation of it all. It is the cardinal sin we commit against them. Only when we stop this will we stop our exploitation of non-human beings and all the horrors it inevitably carries with it.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Veganism: The Very Least We Can Do

Being vegan for ethical reasons is often talked about as if it is an ascetic sacrifice undertaken only by people who possess a high moral standard. However, as I wish to point out in this short essay, such a view is as wrong as can be, since veganism, in moral terms, actually is nothing more than the very least we can and should do.

First of all, being vegan is in no way ascetic; it can be, of course, if one fashions that, but the notion that vegans cannot eat a great variety of delicious foods is simply plain wrong — just think about how many kinds of fruits, grains and vegetables you can name, and they will likely only be a fraction of those that are available. Furthermore, fully vegan restaurants are increasingly normal, at least in major cities, and so are all-vegan supermarkets. So, to paraphrase Ray Kurzweil, while there are limits to what vegans eat and consume, these limits are in fact not very limiting, and increasingly less so.
The notion that being vegan is difficult is also wrong, at least for anybody who has realized the moral necessity of veganism, and the lack of necessity of eating other sentient beings and the products of their exploitation. When one has realized that, it would surely be much harder to partake in the eating of animals and of the products of their suffering than to abstain from it. So in this light, being vegan is indeed the easiest option of all.

But are ethical vegans not highly ethical, though? Not at all, and the notion that they are only stems from a failure to realize what veganism in fact amounts to. A vegan is simply someone who does not actively support atrocities such as the egg industry’s killing of male chicks; the dairy industry’s torture of cows; or any other act of exploitation or killing of non-human beings for frivolous purposes. So veganism per se is not even an active fight against evil, but merely a rejection to actively support it and be part of it. To make a flashy analogy, being vegan is akin to walking down the street and then simply managing to not hit anybody in the face, and such an accomplishment can hardly be considered highly moral.

Given the fact that being vegan merely amounts to not actively supporting atrocities such as those mentioned above, it is indeed strange why veganism is often considered extreme, as it reveals that it is actually anything short of veganism — anything short of, say, withholding support from the egg industry and its killing of male chicks, and of chickens in general — that is extreme. And the fact that the most basic ethical values we all hold commit us to veganism makes the same thing clear: veganism is in no way an extreme position, but a most trivial and uncontroversial one, indeed the only defensible one, if we apply our own values consistently. So the fact is that the view that veganism is extreme itself is the extreme one; a morally misguided view that causes immense harm.

We do not need to eat anything that comes from non-human beings, and yet we torture and kill them by the billions — we make them suffer to a completely incomprehensible extent — for the purpose of eating them and things from them. An atrocity is taking place right before our eyes, and it is us, the consumers, who make this atrocity happen. We are all responsible for it, and, in normative terms, we all have a responsibility to help bring an end to it. The first and most obvious step we must take in order to live up to this responsibility is to stop actively supporting this atrocity — to stop being a backing part of it. That really is the very least we can do.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My Dear Fellow Human, Why?

My dear fellow human,
Why do you fry my sisters?
Why do you eat my brothers?
Why do you support the torture
Of helpless, loving mothers?

Oh dear fellow human,
Why do you help this horror;
This great evil that we do?
These beings do have feelings
Please show me you do too

My dear fellow human, it’s all up to you

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Why Not Just Be Vegetarian?

Source: Wikipedia

In this post I would like to briefly answer the specific question: Why not just be vegetarian? Why should we not eat eggs or dairy? The answer is, most basically, that doing so causes immense amounts of suffering. In many ways.

First of all, eating eggs and dairy have negative consequences that are directly related to human life and health: intake of eggs is strongly linked to increased all-cause mortality risk and diabetes, dairy intake is linked to higher breast cancer mortality and prostate cancer, and exploiting billions of hens and millions of cows significantly increases the risk of zoonotic diseases, including mass killing pandemics, which may be one of the dangers most likely to pose a so-called existential risk (for elaboration on the human costs of our exploitation of non-human animals, see the second chapter of ‘Why We Should Go Vegan’).

So there are compelling reasons to stop raising and exploiting non-human animals and to stop consuming dairy and eggs for the sake of human beings. Yet this is far from the full story since the “production” of dairy and eggs obviously also involves non-human animals, and we also have an obligation to them to stop exploiting them. When we look at the reality of the egg and dairy industry, or when we just think about what eating dairy and eggs actually amounts to, it becomes obvious that the idea that it is somehow virtuous and respectful to non-human animals to be vegetarian – to “merely” consume eggs and dairy – hardly could be more wrong.

First of all, it is a common misconception that dairy and egg “production” does not involve killing any non-human animals. All cows exploited by the dairy industry and all chickens exploited by the egg industry end up hanging upside down in a slaughterhouse alongside the cows and chickens who were raised for their flesh, and by buying eggs and dairy one does inevitably support this end too: the needless death of the being who had her eggs or milk stolen from her throughout her life.

This is not the only death in the egg and dairy industry, however. In both the dairy and egg industry, males are seen as trash, and as a result, they are treated exactly as such. Male chicks are killed shortly after they have hatched, a process euphemistically referred to as 'chick culling', which usually either happens by throwing them into a grinding machine while alive (not for the faint-hearted:—faib7to), by breaking their necks or by suffocating them with gas. These practices of killing male chicks are standard in the entire egg industry – including the part of it that provides eggs labeled “free-range”, “organic” and “humane.” Similarly, in the dairy industry, newborn male calves will never give milk, and they are therefore taken away from their mothers shortly after they are born, and they are then killed as young calves in order to be cut into parts and sold as “veal.” Again, this is the standard procedure no matter the labeling. So nothing could be more wrong than to claim that our eating eggs and dairy does not involve death.

Death is not the only sad and horrible aspect of the egg and dairy industry, however, because so is life itself for the non-human victims. Hens are not magic egg-laying machines, and they are therefore commonly, whether “free-range” or not, “force molted” – that is, completely starved in up to two weeks which provokes them into a new laying cycle – and they are then killed after about 18 months when they are considered “worn out”. A short and brutish life indeed.

Similarly, cows are not magic milk-providers; they, like humans and most other mammals, must have been pregnant in order to lactate. For this reason, cows are made pregnant throughout their entire lives, usually through insemination, which involves “[…] a person inserting his arm far into the cow’s rectum in order to position the uterus, and then forcing an instrument into her vagina.” This is the life of the dairy cow: a perpetual cycle of painful insemination, pregnancy, and then giving birth to her calf who is taken away from her shortly after. So not only do the egg and dairy industries involve an extreme amount of death, they also involve lives full of unimaginable, yet completely unnecessary, pain and suffering.

It is not merely buying eggs and dairy that we should abstain from, however; we should stop consuming it altogether. Just like we should abstain from eating flesh because it reinforces a morally defunct view of non-human animals, so too should we abstain from eating eggs and dairy. It reinforces the view that chickens and cows – and non-human animals in general – are beings, or rather resources, whom we can take from and exploit for our mere pleasure and convenience. It makes us blind and indifferent to their suffering, so indifferent that we cannot be moved to act even when we see the greatest of atrocities committed against them, such as mass killings of newly hatched chicks. It all comes back to our flawed view of non-human animals: a cold and apathetic view that inevitably leads us to inflict immense amounts of suffering upon them. It is about time we stop reinforcing that view. It is about time we transcend it completely.

This post is a modified version of the fourth chapter of ‘Why We Should Go Vegan.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Real Problem of Consciousness

Why do physical processes give rise to conscious experience in the first place? This is referred to as the hard problem of consciousness, a name given by philosopher David Chalmers, and it seems widely regarded as one of the greatest unsolved problems in modern science. I think this is a mistake, however, and in this short post I would like to show why, and to present what should be considered the real problem of consciousness.

The hard problem of consciousness should not be considered an important problem to solve for the reason that it is not a hard problem, but an insolvable problem. All we can do in our study of the physical basis of consciousness is to correlate physical states with mental states, and no matter how complete a description of the relationship between physical and mental states we could provide, we will always be able to ask the question: “Why should that physical state, mechanism or process be conscious or give rise to consciousness at all?” No theory of conscious experience, including theories that suggest that a soul, quantum mechanics or consciousness at the fundamental level of the universe explains consciousness, could ever solve this hard problem, since they are all equally unable to answer why there should be any conscious experience in the first place – again, the question: why should that given mechanism, be it a soul, computation or neuronal firings, be conscious in the first place?, can always be posed no matter what mechanism we have correlated to mental states, and no matter how precisely.

At best, what we can do is to formulate fundamental laws that state how physical states relate to mental states – psychophysical laws, or maybe “psychocomputational” laws – and such laws will still not provide an answer to why there is a relationship in the first place. In fact, nothing will, since the “why-in-the-first-place” simply begs an infinite regress. We will always have primitive, unexplained fundamental facts at the bottom of any explanation we make, as it is impossible to know an infinite regress of facts, and therefore it is simply logically impossible to ultimately answer why anything, including any relationship, exists in the first place – we can only explain how certain phenomena arise based on primitive, unexplained facts we have observed. So the hard problem of consciousness is asking for nothing less than the logically impossible. No answer could possibly ever satisfy the question, as we can keep on asking it no matter what answer we provide. Such an in principle unanswerable problem is a pseudo-problem.

It should be clear, then, that the crucial question is how physical and conscious states are related, not why. This is the real problem of consciousness, the in principle answerable problem, and also the relevant problem to study and solve, since all that is valuable ultimately relates to the specific character of conscious experience. In short, it is the problem we can and should try to solve.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Simple Case For Going Vegan

This essay aims to show that we are morally obliged to go vegan by our own core values. The essay is divided into two parts, where the first part presents a simple argument for veganism based on an ethical principle that we all hold valid, while the second part argues that the only reason we are not vegan is that we are speciesists, and that this is no more justifiable than supporting other forms of discrimination such as racism or sexism.

The Simple Argument
It seems widely believed that people who are vegan have chosen to be so based on some rare and unusually noble ethical values that few of us can claim to hold. The fact of the matter, however, is the complete opposite, as we are all obliged to go vegan according to the perhaps simplest ethical principle that we all accept. So unlike what most seem to believe, deep philosophical contemplations and arguments in favor of new value systems are not required in order to reveal that we have an obligation to go vegan; all it takes is to point out two simple facts and then connect them.

The first fact is that we can be perfectly healthy on a vegan diet. We do not need to consume “animal products” such as flesh, eggs or dairy in order to be healthy, which has been expressed clearly by numerous professional dietitians, doctors, and scientists working in the field of nutrition. Here is for instance the position of what is now called the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (previously known as the American Dietetic Association), which is the largest organization of nutrition experts in the United States:

It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.

The second fact we need to point out is that we all agree with the following basic ethical principle: It is wrong to impose unnecessary suffering and/or death upon another sentient being. This is perhaps the most basic and solidly established ethical principle that we all agree upon, and connecting this with the first fact mentioned above reveals that we are indeed obliged to go vegan: if we maintain that imposing suffering or death upon another sentient being for unnecessary reasons is wrong, then we must also admit that we cannot defend killing a sentient being in order to eat or wear her or him when we have no real need to do so. Neither can we defend buying and consuming eggs or dairy, as the “production” of these also involves both suffering and death – to an unthinkable extent even. In the egg industry, for instance, male chicks are killed right after they have hatched, as they will not serve any commercial purpose, and a similar tragedy is taking place in the dairy industry, where calves are taken from their mothers right after birth. And if the calf is unfortunate enough to be a male, he will be killed not long after, while if the calf is unfortunate enough to be a female, she is cursed to have the same life as her mother – a life where she will go through an unending cycle of painful insemination and pregnancy that results in the birth of a calf who will be taken away from her immediately every time. And, needless to say, the chickens and cows who are exploited for their eggs and milk also end up getting killed themselves, hanging upside down in a slaughterhouse. These are the horrors behind eggs and dairy, whether “organic” or not, and only our loyal adherence to old habit seems able to explain why we dare not face these tragedies and respond with viral outrage as we should.

The best reasons we can provide for subjugating and killing non-human beings in order to eat, wear, or otherwise exploit them is that we like the taste, look, smell or texture of them or things they can provide; that we are in the habit of eating, wearing or using them; and that it is convenient to do so. Yet we must admit that none of these reasons – reasons that basically come down to pleasure, habit, or laziness – can be considered even remotely necessary reasons for imposing suffering or death upon another sentient being. Therefore, if we accept the validity of the above-mentioned ethical principle, as the vast majority of us surely do, we must admit that we cannot justify killing, or giving an industry our money for killing, a sentient being in order to eat, wear, or otherwise use things that came from this being. We must admit that this core value we all share obliges us to go vegan.

This may seem counter-intuitive – after all, even some of the most compassionate people eat non-human beings, so it seems hard to believe that it is wrong, and that it is so even according to one of the most basic and widely shared ethical principles of all. Yet this is indeed the case, and an analogous example put forth by animal rights theorist Gary Francione that is ethically equivalent, but not so closely tied to an old habit that most of us are slaves to, may help us realize this: Most of us condemn the actions of people who kill non-human animals for sadistic pleasure – kill them because they like seeing them die. The reason we condemn such actions is that this bizarre pleasure clearly is not a necessary reason for killing a sentient being. However, ethically, such actions are in fact equivalent to the killing of non-human animals that we all support, directly or indirectly, when we buy their flesh, eggs, or milk. In both cases, a being is killed for the mere sake of pleasure, which renders them both equally unjustifiable according to the basic ethical principle stated above.

The main difference between the two cases is that the killing of non-human beings for the sake of economic gain and palate pleasure is accepted by our culture, while killing for sadistic pleasure is not, and as a result there seems to be a big difference between the two cases intuitively, yet ethically, the difference is negligible. So we clearly have a moral illusion, and it is about time we see through it and realize that we cannot justify killing other beings for the mere sake of palate pleasure or other frivolous reasons. For until we do, we will keep on acting in ways that in the most relevant regards are practically indistinguishable from the evil actions of a sadistic killer, although on a scale that by far exceeds what even the most vicious sadist could keep up with in his wildest dreams, as we needlessly kill about 2000 land animals every second, and far more marine animals, for no higher purpose than our pleasure and convenience. It is about time we realize that when we buy the flesh, skin, or fur of another sentient being, no matter how “happy” the being that this “product” came from was, we are inevitably supporting something that we all actively condemn: the needless death of a sentient being – death for the mere sake of pleasure.

Speciesism: No Better than Racism or Sexism
One of the defining traits of our moral progress since the beginning of the Enlightenment is that we gradually have moved away from discrimination based on ethically irrelevant criteria. Where it was once more or less the norm that the rich man above a certain age had privileges that nobody else had, while people of a certain ethnicity had no rights at all, we have finally come to realize that such discrimination is deeply unethical. We have finally realized that racism, sexism, ableism, and other forms of discrimination against human beings cannot be justified; not that they do not exist anymore, but they are no longer the norm, and no longer as widespread as they were 200, 100, or just 50 years ago. We have finally realized that women should not be given fewer rights because they are women, that people should not be discriminated against because of the color of their skin, and that people who have a disability should not be treated with less care and respect because they have a disability. When it comes to humans, we have finally realized that it is by virtue of sentience alone — the fact that we are conscious beings who can experience suffering and well-being — that we have moral value. When it comes to humans, we recognize that this and nothing else is the true basis of moral concern. Black, white, male, female, physically or cognitively impaired or not, it is all irrelevant for our status as beings of inherent moral value, beings who should be respected and treated as ends rather than means.

Unfortunately, there is still a form of discrimination that thrives as well as ever: speciesism, discrimination against non-human beings because they are non-human beings. When it comes to these beings, we still see the outer appearance as relevant, we fail to connect with the conscious subject, and we justify our discrimination more or less in the same way as we justified our racism and sexism in the past: because they are black, they don't deserve the same rights, we said, and because they are women, they should not be granted the same rights, we claimed. Today we put non-human beings into the x of this equation of unjustified discrimination: because they are “animals”, we can raise and kill them as we please.

But discrimination against non-human animals is not ethically unjustifiable. Human beings and non-human animals are different. Humans have cognitive capacities that other animals don’t have.”
Humans are surely different from non-human animals, but men are also different from women, and people who have a disability are also different from people who do not. The point being that mere difference does not justify discrimination. The contrast between our view and treatment of humans who do not have certain abilities and our view and treatment of non-human animals who also do not have certain abilities is indeed quite striking. For we obviously do not find it defensible to kill or to grant less moral consideration to a human if s/he does not have certain mental faculties that most other humans have; for instance, if we imagine that we have a human being with the mental capacities of a cow – a mind that cannot understand words, but which can feel emotions and feel degrees of joy and pain, probably every bit as intensely as other humans. We do not accept disadvantageous consideration for, or treatment of, such a person. On the contrary, we rightly realize that we have an obligation to help this person even more than we need to help other humans.

The pressing question is then why we not only do not feel the same way about a being who has both the mind and body of a cow, but feel the complete opposite: that it is okay to exploit and kill this being for no higher purpose than palate pleasure. This is clearly indefensible discrimination, because it reveals that if we could only transplant the nervous system of a cow into a human body so that this cow's mind and experience would be embodied in a human body instead, this – that the being gets another shell – is what is needed in order to save this being from our dysfunctional moral intuitions and the butcher's knife, since we will, as pointed out above, not only not kill such a being for mere palate pleasure, but realize an obligation to help him or her.

The same line of reasoning can be used to reveal how outraged we would be about the dairy industry if only the cows who are exploited by it had human bodies – and how outraged we should be over the dairy industry today, even though the cows “only” have cow bodies. It seems safe to say that we would never accept a practice that forcefully makes women pregnant every year and which takes away their children right after birth – the boys being killed soon thereafter, and the girls being bound to have the same fate as their mothers – in order for us to get milk from these women, no matter how much we enjoy drinking milk or are unable to "give up cheese". Nobody would consider supporting this industry a matter of personal choice. And saying that we do it to women who have a cognitive disability does not change this; the mere pain and nausea of being pregnant and the pain of labour, along with the sheer lack of necessity for milk, makes it obvious that we should not do this. Yet this is exactly what the dairy industry that most of us happily throw our money after does to innocent cows, whom we have every reason to believe experience as bad pain and suffering from pregnancy and labour, not to mention the violent insemination they are subjected to, as a human would. Again, this clearly reveals that we have a double-standard, and its source is pure speciesism. If only the cows in our dairy industry had human bodies – if they only had the outer appearance of a human, while still having the mind of a cow – people would be outraged about this practice of forced pregnancy of human-looking beings, and they would no doubt demand that those responsible for it should get the highest punishment possible. Unfortunately, the reality is that they “only” have cow bodies, and that we are all responsible for the continued thriving of this industrialized torture.

These thought experiments where all we do is give a sentient non-human being a human body perfectly expose our speciesism, and expose how this form of discrimination finds itself down on the exact same low level as other forms of discrimination that we recognize as indefensible like racism and sexism. Like these forms of discrimination, speciesism is just another flavor of the indefensible failure to realize the irrelevance of outer appearances. (In relation to the concept of speciesism, I recommend watching Speciesism: The Movie.)

So there is an enormous discrepancy between our moral perception of human and non-human beings respectively, and, as closer examination reveals, this discrepancy is indefensible: we would never find it justifiable to kill a human being just because s/he has the mind of a cow or a chicken, so why do we find it okay to kill a cow or a chicken because they have the mind of a cow or a chicken?

This inconsistency clearly reveals that we need to expand our circle of compassion and ethical consideration so that a human form and the above-mentioned transplant are not needed in order to be granted adequate moral consideration. Essentially, so that we can stop discriminating against beings based on outer appearances. If we do this, if we reject speciesism and reject our ethic based on outer appearances, then we are obviously also bound to go vegan, since we all find it wrong to enslave, raise, or kill beings with a human form for trivial purposes such as palate pleasure or fashion preferences, and it would be speciesist to not have the same stance in relation to non-human beings. So anything but veganism, anything but the refusal to participate in exploitation of other sentient beings, is clearly speciesist. The bottom line: If we reject speciesism – if we reject discrimination based on outer appearances – we must embrace veganism. It is about time we do.

As has been made clear in this essay, the core values we all hold – our belief that we should not impose unnecessary suffering or death upon other sentient beings, and our belief that we should not treat beings differently based on their external traits – clearly oblige us to go vegan. The question we should all be asking ourselves, then, is: do we have the dignity and sincerity to end an old habit and start living according to our own core values?

For a more detailed and broader case for veganism, see 'Why We Should Go Vegan' and 'Why ”Happy Meat” Is Always Wrong'.

For more information about speciesism, see

For a good introduction to, and more information about, veganism, see:

Parts of this essay have previously been published elsewhere.