This post is part of an ongoing series called Most Common Justifications for Eating Animals where we seek to provide answers and resources to better address these justifications.
The following is an excerpt from the book, Meat Logic: Why Do We Eat Animals, p. 100-101.
When human slavery was the norm, one could have made a similar argument. Unless we were living outside of society, it would have been difficult to be 100% slave-free. Sure, we could have avoided owning slaves ourselves, but it would have been impossible to avoid all items that contained even a small degree of slave input. Slave labor would also have been used in public and private construction. Would it make sense to tell someone who was trying to abolish human slavery that unless they stayed off the roads they’re a hypocrite? Would it make sense to say that since we can’t 100% avoid items made with even a small amount of slave input, therefore human slavery is morally okay and we should go ahead and own slaves?
Of course not.
What we would say is that slavery is morally wrong and we must fight for society to abolish slavery. And in the meantime we should avoid items made from slavery to the extent possible, particularly the primary owning of slaves ourselves and any products made primarily through slave labor.
Similarly in the vegan context, it is currently impossible to avoid everything in the world that contains even a tiny amount of animal-derived products. But we should still state that animal slavery and exploitation and slaughter is wrong and demand society move toward abolishing it. And in the meantime we should avoid all products made from animals to the extent possible, particularly from the primary animal agriculture industry. Both because it is morally wrong, but also in order to weaken the power of the animal agriculture industry within society.
Morality is not what society makes easy for us. If society is making it impossible to live 100% according to morality, we don’t change morality in order to fit society, but instead demand changes in society so that we can live morally.