This is a cow called Fiete. He was rescued from slaughter and lives on a sanctuary in Germany. Hearing him, I am ashamed that he says better in 30 seconds what I have been trying to say for over a decade as a vegan activist. How beautifully, and how irrefutably, he answers the question: Why vegan?
But I have another question once you have listened to Fiete. It’s a simple question: if you met Fiete in his field, and you had no need to hurt him — would you rather harm him, or cause him no harm?
Here’s why I ask. Humans have no biological need to consume animal products; this is a fact unequivocally confirmed by an overwhelming body of scientific literature. Therefore, when we have access to nutritious plant-based foods, and understand that eating animals is not a requirement for good health, then the choice to eat animal products anyway is a choice to harm and kill animals for pleasure — simply because we like the taste.
But harming animals for pleasure goes against core values caring people hold in common — which is why, for example, we oppose practices like dog fighting on principle. The notion of deriving pleasure from needless violence toward animals is repulsive to us; so how can we justify harming animals simply for the taste of their flesh, milk, or eggs? How can it be wrong to harm for pleasure in one instance, and not the other? The same reasons that compel us to oppose dog fighting compel us to abstain from eating animals we have no need to eat: namely, that it is wrong to harm animals for pleasure, and it is wrong to kill animals for pleasure.
The only way for our values to mean anything — the only way for our values to actually be our values — is if they are reflected in the choices we freely make. And every day, we have the opportunity to live our values through our food choices. If we value kindness over violence, if we value justice over power, if we value compassion over causing unnecessary harm, then veganism is the only consistent expression of our values.
For most of us, the question of eating animals really comes down to this basic question: all things being equal, would you rather harm an animal, or cause him no harm? If you believe it is wrong to harm others for pleasure, then living your values means living vegan.
Please learn more about the harm caused to animals used for meat, dairy and eggs; learn more about so-called humane animal farming; and visit our Guide to Vegan Nutrition as well as our Guide to Going Dairy Free.
Note: Some viewers have asked why there are still tags in Fiete’s ears if he is at a sanctuary. I visited Hof Butenland’s website and and learned that after the BSE scare in the early 1990s, EU regulations for cattle identification and inventory became much more stringent. Ear tags in both ears are mandatory for all cattle in Europe, and may not be removed even from cows who have been rescued to sanctuaries.