I recently discovered a new “movement” called the 95% Vegan and a book by the same name. At first I had little interest in exploring this idea, but then I started thinking it through more and realized how problematic it became. So I decided to write the authors of this movement to share my thoughts with them as follows:
“I find your notion of “95% vegan” to be problematic. As a practical matter, one could perhaps argue that any reduction in animal products helps animals on some level. Many of us who took incremental steps to becoming vegan can appreciate this. The problem is not in this process, but in the logic and the intent. The vegan ethic is based on the notion that the interests of animals are real, can no longer be denied, and in fact compel us to take them seriously. At the very least, animals should not be harmed, exploited and killed when we have other options that are so plentiful to the vast majority of us. Vegans believe that animals have at least the one unalienable, negative right not be exploited and enslaved for the same reasons that humans should not be exploited and enslaved.
Yet, according to the logic of 95% vegan, it is acceptable to make an exception 5% of the time. Following this logic, one could claim to be against human slavery 95% of the time, but then pro-slavery 5% of the time, making exceptions for some people, perhaps those of less intelligence or possessing some mental deficiency. Of course, we categorically reject human slavery, meaning we fully reject the proposition of making any exceptions for human beings. In fact we believe it is immoral to pick and choose, arbitrarily, which humans should be free and which are less worthy of freedom.
So this of course begs the question: why, on principle, make a 5% exception for other non human animals? What other possible explanation could there be for this exception other than speciesism — the irrational notion that humans are “superior” and are therefore worthy of freedom 100% of the time, while other animals, being somehow “inferior” to humans, are worthy of freedom only 95% of the time. While I would applaud anyone who was 95% vegan in their dietary choices on their way to embracing a fully vegan diet, on principle the idea of being 95% vegan as an end goal makes about as much sense to me as giving up 95 slaves and continuing to enslave 5. There is no gradation between freedom and slavery.