On Morality: What Does “Veganism Is The Non-Negotiable Moral Baseline” Mean?

All moral codes held by individuals have a minimum standard that the individual must adhere to in order to claim that the specified code is morally coherent or consistent. This is what is known as a “baseline” in regards to a moral code.

Almost all humans claim that intentionally harming another sentient being unnecessarily is immoral. In other words, the basis of all moral codes is that if we don’t need to cause others to suffer, then it would be wrong to do so. This is what is known as “The Golden Rule” which is presented as “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”

Anyone who does not follow this code is either following an inconsistent moral code (this is easily proven by logic) or no moral code at all (the second would be a case of “Might Makes Right” which is what led to things like “The Old West” before law and governance was installed, all dictatorships, and such things as post-apocalyptic scenarios).

Just to refresh our memories, let’s re-visit the meaning of Veganism:

Veganism as coined by Donald Watson in England in 1944 ~ “A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude – as far as is possible and practical – all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”

Veganism is essentially an attempt to eliminate speciesism.

Speciesism is defined as “The assignment of different values, rights, or special consideration to individuals solely on the basis of their species membership. Speciesism is a prejudice similar to racism or sexism, in that the treatment of individuals is predicated on group membership and morally irrelevant physical differences.”

The primary mandate of Veganism can be expressed this way – “Do the most you can to not harm any animal at all, while not unnecessarily allowing yourself to be harmed.”

Add to this the fact that according to all logic and objective fact, human animals are not morally superior to nonhuman animals, and we can see that we now have a 100% rational and coherent moral stance.

As we can see, Veganism is nothing but an attempt to (rightfully) include nonhuman animals in the circle of “others” for whom we have moral concern as presented by the adherence to The Golden Rule. Now let’s see how this relates to the idea of “A Moral Baseline.”

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that there is a scale of how much intentional harmful or helpful actions you are doing to other sentient beings. On one end, at negative 100, we have the maximum amount of suffering you could possibly inflict on everyone else, regardless of (and including) what you are doing that is helpful, and at the other end, at positive 100, there is the most help you could give to everyone, regardless of (and including) any harm you are committing. Zero is when you are doing nothing harmful at all, and also nothing helpful. Zero is moral neutrality.

So, we draw a representation of this concept thusly:

Baseline 01

The idea that “Veganism is the non-negotiable moral baseline” means that if we are Vegan, we would be positioned at Zero. We are not intentionally doing anything morally positive by simply being Vegan… we are merely not intentionally doing anything negative, aka harmful. Veganism is a morally neutral position. Being Vegan is not a positive action on behalf of animals. It’s simply acting in a decent manner and refraining from immorally committing harm to them, just like not molesting or beating or starving or killing children is the LEAST you can do regarding your moral responsibilities to children.

There are many things we can do to help sentient nonhuman beings that ARE morally positive; things such as adopting nonhuman refugees of domestication, TNR, running sanctuaries, volunteering at shelters, and the biggest one – educating non-Vegans about why Veganism is the non-negotiable moral baseline. But those are all things that must be done in addition to living Vegan; if you’re not already Vegan, then whatever other measures you’re taking to help sentient beings are being undermined and negated by the intentional harm you’re doing.

This is why any form of “activism” that does not explicitly explain why Veganism is the non-negotiable moral baseline (such as single-issue campaigns and other Welfarist objectives) is counter-productive to Animal Rights (meaning that it will cause people to harm more animals than it can help). If we are advocating for anything less than a 100% coherent moral stance (as all single-issue campaigns do) we are both confusing the issue and implying to observers that they can discharge their absolute moral responsibility to do the least harm possible (which you may remember is the definition of Veganism) by doing something less than causing the least harm they can (i.e. Veganism).

“But if most people claim that it’s wrong to unnecessarily harm others, why aren’t they already Vegan?”

The answer to this is simple. Although most people claim that it’s wrong, they also have never been told that all nonhuman animals should be included in the category of “others,” meaning other sentient beings like themselves. Most humans, once they are properly educated about this issue, will either go Vegan immediately, or give serious consideration to going Vegan.

Why Vegan Education Is Not As Hard As They’re Trying To Make It:

“If they won’t go Vegan immediately, then what good does it do to even bother educating them?”

There is no imposition involved at all in educating people about Veganism as the non-negotiable moral baseline. Almost every single human on the planet agrees with the phrase “It’s wrong to make animals suffer unnecessarily.” They already agree with the moral baseline “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Educating someone properly is actually easy, once you know the secret. It has nothing to do with forcing them to agree to a notion of morality that is at odds with their own, it’s merely getting them to recognize that they already believe in the basic concepts behind Veganism, they just haven’t been informed about the fact that: a) we don’t have any real NECESSITY to exploit nonhumans, b) nonhumans have a right not to be exploited, and c) why.

We can’t force people to go Vegan; the only thing we can do is educate them and allow them to choose what they think are the morally correct actions to commit from then on. Because of this, logically it doesn’t make sense to actually do anything other than educate them about Veganism in the most clear, compassionate and non-speciesist way possible. This is, rationally speaking, the only thing that can eliminate speciesism, which is the one thing we have to do to end the atrocities that humans have been committing on nonhumans for all of these millennia.

Regardless of whether they’ll go Vegan immediately or not, what WE do is morally important to US as well as to others. If we are not doing something we think is important, according to our own moral code, then we have a moral obligation to ourselves and other sentient beings to do that thing. Likewise, if we are doing something that is inconsistent with our own moral code, such as attempting to use speciesism to eliminate speciesism, then we have a moral obligation to stop doing that thing.

Often we don’t even realize we’re doing something that is inconsistent while we’re doing it… it may be brought to our attention by someone else, just like when we first learn about Veganism as the non-negotiable moral baseline. But, when we find that we are doing something wrong, we have a decision to make; either we continue to commit that wrong-action (often while vocally defending it), or we can admit that we were wrong, cease engaging in that behavior, and take whatever steps we need to take to get right with ourselves and those who may have been harmed by our actions.

That last part, incidentally, is how our moral commitment is measured. In other words, how committed we are to being “morally just” individuals.

The reason it’s called “non-negotiable” is because it’s irrational to think that we can try to hedge our moral bets. Claiming that we could do something to help animals while still inflicting unnecessary suffering on them by intentionally exploiting them and thereby form a coherent moral code is just not logical. If we care about humans, and we think it’s wrong to say, hurt children unnecessarily, then it would be wrong to beat some children while simultaneously giving money to a charity designed to help starving children. If we care about children morally, then the absolute minimum moral stance we must take is to not harm children intentionally in any instance that we could harm them, completely aside from any positive actions we might take to help children. This idea applies in an identical manner to the way we interact with nonhumans. The idea that this issue changes when we change the species membership of the victims is a biased, irrational double standard based on morally irrelevant criteria, which is known as speciesism. This is why all the non-Vegans (as well as those people who self-identify as Vegan) who claim they are doing good for animals by engaging in protests, signing petitions, and various other single-issue campaigns, which are invariably speciesist and always counter-productive, are obviously severely morally confused.

Which is why, unless our form of activism explicitly includes the idea that Veganism is the non-negotiable moral baseline, then that activism is based on an incoherent chain of logic. Unless we explicitly advocate Veganism as the moral baseline, we are still, knowing or unknowingly, implying that inflicting *some* amount of unnecessary suffering and death to nonhumans is morally justifiable, when it’s not. And doing that results in reinforcing the observer’s speciesism, which is why it’s actually counter-productive and harms more nonhumans instead of helping them, as Vegan Education does.

People who claim that persuading people to go Vegan is difficult just don’t understand all of this. That’s understandable when you’re new to a concept: both Veganism as the non-negotiable moral baseline; and that Vegan education can be easy; that it doesn’t have to be the same “drag-me-to-the-dentist-with-a-tractor” problem that people who haven’t discovered the secrets to doing it have always thought it would be.

“But what about those people who don’t see The Golden Rule as their moral baseline?”

Of course there are those who think that it’s perfectly fine to inflict unnecessary suffering and death. These people range from thinking that killing nonhumans so we can eat them is great, even if it causes massive suffering and we have no necessity, to the worst mass-murderers and participants in atrocities against humans in history. What of it? Those people make up the tiny minority of humans. If we think that those are the type of people we should be focusing on persuading to go Vegan, then there is something seriously wrong with our logic.

If you’re not already Vegan, and you think animals matter morally, then please go Vegan. It’s easy and great for you, incredible for the animals, and wonderful for the planet. If you’re already Vegan, please educate non-Vegans about why they should go Vegan. Please rescue, volunteer, adopt, foster, spay, and neuter the nonhuman refugees of domestication whenever you can. Please feed your nonhuman family Vegan where you can. These things are the most important, morally responsible things to do and are desperately needed by everyone.

To learn more about Abolitionist Veganism and the issues I’ve outlined in this post, check out The Master List Of Vegan Info:
https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/master-list-of-vegan-info

Disclaimer: My only goal with this list is to produce as comprehensive a resource for Vegan information as possible. I am 100% Abolitionist Vegan and 100% against exploitation of nonhuman or human animals, any type of violence against human or nonhuman persons or property, welfare regulation, any form of speciesism, ethnic bigotry, genderism, ableism, heterosexism, etc., any of the large governmental or non-governmental nonhuman animal organizations, “happy meat,” vegetarianism, veg*nism, Meat-Free Mondays, or other forms of reductionism and anything else that makes it seem like any form of violence or exploitation of animals is ok. If any of those positions are endorsed on any site in this list, or any language is used to imply that, it’s not that I included that link because I agree, but simply because I don’t control every bit of information on all of these sites.

On Morality: The Argument For Abolitionist Veganism

Veganism 01

Here is the basic argument for Abolitionist Veganism. I’ve incorporated a couple different major Animal Rights theories into one:

1. Nonhuman animals feel pain, pleasure, fear and other sensations. If they feel these sensations, then they have an interest in not being used merely as a resource for human pleasure, amusement, or convenience.

2. There is no necessity for human animals to intentionally exploit nonhuman animals and cause them to suffer or die except our own enjoyment of the taste of their flesh/secretions and the convenience that animal exploitation affords us. Humans have no dietary need for flesh, dairy, eggs or honey:

https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/do-doctors-think

We have no need to use animals for clothing; we have no need to use them for entertainment; not only is it morally unjustifiable to use animals in bio-medical research, but more humans suffer and/or die when we do so than if we didn’t use animals at all:

http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/vivisection-part-one-the-necessity-of-vivisection

http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/vivisection-part-two-the-moral-justification-of-vivisection

3. When something is unnecessary except for our trivial pleasure or convenience and that thing causes some being (for example, a nonhuman or human animal) to experience pain, fear or other kinds of suffering, then the harm being done to that being’s interest in their continued survival, freedoms, or not suffering is more important than our interest in our own mere pleasure, amusement or convenience.

4. We claim to believe in “fairness/ethical/moral consistency” as a “moral good”, which means we believe in treating similar cases similarly when it comes to ethics/morality. In other words, if we believe it’s wrong to beat a human child for no good reason because they will suffer from a beating, then we should also believe that it’s wrong to beat a dog, cow, or chicken for no good reason because the nonhuman will also suffer.

So, if we value moral consistency at all, which means we treat similar cases similarly, the minimum and only criteria needed to include nonhuman animals in our moral sphere (meaning we believe we should not harm them at all for no good reason) is that they feel pain, fear, and other sensations, since that is the minimum criteria we use to include humans in our moral sphere.

5. Any characteristic that humans claim to have that we claim makes us morally superior to nonhuman animals cannot be factually proven to be a humans-only trait. Unless we can prove that we are morally superior to nonhuman animals, any argument that we claim justifies intentionally harming and exploiting nonhumans can also be used to justify humans intentionally exploiting other humans:

https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2015/02/07/are-humans-superior

This means that if we personally are in favor of violating nonhumans’ right to be safe from being enslaved, raped, tortured or killed by humans then we have no claim that we ourselves should be safe from having those same things done to us by other humans. Any argument we try to use to justify harm to nonhumans can also be used successfully by other humans to justify harming us in those same ways.

6. If we accept premises 1 through 4, our ethical/moral obligation is to either a) cease any actions that intentionally cause unnecessary suffering and death to other beings such as nonhuman and human animals, in which case we can claim that our interests in avoiding the same harms should not be dismissed without due consideration, and we can point to the fact that this is because we are morally consistent, or b) admit that we are not morally consistent and that any human who wishes to dismiss our interests in avoiding the same harms without due consideration is also morally justified in doing so.

Conclusion: If we don’t stop intentionally exploiting nonhumans to the best of our ability, all the systemic violations we consider atrocities and major problems in the world will never end. We also will not be able to consider ourselves truly morally consistent people. To stop intentionally exploiting nonhumans completely means Abolitionist Veganism.

Abolitionist Veganism also means we do our best to eliminate speciesism (which is the intentional, harmful discrimination by humans against individuals and groups of other species based solely on the morally irrelevant criteria of species membership) within each of us. Speciesism is the tree from which springs all intentional, harmful discrimination against any individual (nonhuman or human) on the basis of any morally irrelevant criteria. Speciesism is rooted in the myth that human animals are morally superior to nonhuman animals.

Ergo, if everyone becomes an Abolitionist Vegan and exclusively advocates a 100% clear moral baseline of Abolitionist Veganism, all of the atrocities we abhor such as world hunger, poverty, ecological destruction by humans, systemic human rights violations, and discrimination against any individual beings based on any morally irrelevant criteria, will either be severely decreased or eliminated. Every living being on the planet, from nonhuman animals to human animals, will be much happier and healthier.

The crucial point here is that if you have moral concern at all for nonhuman animals or human animals and so you want these problems to be decreased or eliminated, it makes no sense for you to participate in actions that will increase or foster those problems. It is your moral responsibility to stop engaging in actions that increase those harms, which means going Vegan (and, if you want to help everyone further, educating others about Veganism).

Final thoughts: If you’re not already Vegan, and you think animals matter morally, then please go Vegan. It’s incredible for the animals, great for you, and wonderful for the planet. If you’re already Vegan, please educate non-Vegans about why they should go Vegan. Please rescue/volunteer/adopt/foster/spay/neuter the nonhuman refugees of domestication whenever you can. Please feed your nonhuman family Vegan where and when you can. These things are the most important, morally responsible things to do and are desperately needed by everyone.

Disclaimer: My only goal with this list is to produce as comprehensive a resource for Vegan information as possible. I am 100% Abolitionist Vegan and 100% against exploitation of nonhuman or human animals, any type of violence against human or nonhuman persons or property, welfare regulation, any form of speciesism, ethnic bigotry, genderism, ableism, heterosexism, etc., any of the large governmental or non-governmental nonhuman animal organizations, “happy meat,” vegetarianism, veg*nism, Meat-Free Mondays, or other forms of reductionism and anything else that makes it seem like any form of violence or exploitation of animals is ok. If any of those positions are endorsed on any site in this list, or any language is used to imply that, it’s not that I included that link because I agree, but simply because I don’t control every bit of information on all of these sites.

The sadness of being vegan

Said it perfectly. No thoughts to add here. Every post on this blog is great so far :^)

If you’re not already Vegan, and you think animals matter morally, then please go Vegan. It’s easy and great for you, incredible for the animals, and wonderful for the planet. If you’re already Vegan, please educate non-Vegans about why they should go Vegan. Please rescue, volunteer, adopt, foster, spay, and neuter the nonhuman refugees of domestication whenever you can. Please feed your nonhuman family Vegan where you can. These things are the most important, morally responsible things to do and are desperately needed by everyone.

To learn more about Abolitionist Veganism and the issues I’ve outlined in this post, check out The Master List Of Vegan Info:
https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/master-list-of-vegan-info

Disclaimer: My only goal with this list is to produce as comprehensive a resource for Vegan information as possible. I am 100% Abolitionist Vegan and 100% against exploitation of nonhuman or human animals, any type of violence against human or nonhuman persons or property, welfare regulation, any form of speciesism, ethnic bigotry, genderism, ableism, heterosexism, etc., any of the large governmental or non-governmental nonhuman animal organizations, “happy meat,” vegetarianism, veg*nism, Meat-Free Mondays, or other forms of reductionism and anything else that makes it seem like any form of violence or exploitation of animals is ok. If any of those positions are endorsed on any site in this list, or any language is used to imply that, it’s not that I included that link because I agree, but simply because I don’t control every bit of information on all of these sites.

There's an Elephant in the Room blog

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You vegans

I’ve seen vegans called  many derogatory words. Nothing, it seems, provokes unbridled defensiveness and rudeness in quite the same way as coming out and stating that it is wrong to cause suffering and death to the helpless and vulnerable.

Excuses and insults

It doesn’t seem that radical to me, but as soon as it’s mentioned that humans have no nutritional or other need to use other beings in any way for any purpose, out will come a barrage of well used excuses: plants have feelings, canine teeth, what cavemen did, brain size and intelligence, we need meat to survive, my ‘personal choice’, ‘forcing your opinions on me’, the bible, eskimos, desert islands, etc.

Once these are out of the way, then come the personal insults: ‘it’s impossible to be 100% vegan’, ‘you probably step on insects every day’, ‘I bet your cleaning materials / car / PC harmed animals’, ‘what…

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One problem, one solution

The list of people who “get it” is growing…

If you’re not already Vegan, and you think animals matter morally, then please go Vegan. It’s easy and great for you, incredible for the animals, and wonderful for the planet. If you’re already Vegan, please educate non-Vegans about why they should go Vegan. Please rescue, volunteer, adopt, foster, spay, and neuter the nonhuman refugees of domestication whenever you can. Please feed your nonhuman family Vegan where you can. These things are the most important, morally responsible things to do and are desperately needed by everyone.

To learn more about Abolitionist Veganism and the issues I’ve outlined in this post, check out The Master List Of Vegan Info:
https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/master-list-of-vegan-info

Disclaimer: My only goal with this list is to produce as comprehensive a resource for Vegan information as possible. I am 100% Abolitionist Vegan and 100% against exploitation of nonhuman or human animals, any type of violence against human or nonhuman persons or property, welfare regulation, any form of speciesism, ethnic bigotry, genderism, ableism, heterosexism, etc., any of the large governmental or non-governmental nonhuman animal organizations, “happy meat,” vegetarianism, veg*nism, Meat-Free Mondays, or other forms of reductionism and anything else that makes it seem like any form of violence or exploitation of animals is ok. If any of those positions are endorsed on any site in this list, or any language is used to imply that, it’s not that I included that link because I agree, but simply because I don’t control every bit of information on all of these sites.

There's an Elephant in the Room blog

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One problem or many?

It is not surprising that there is so much confusion in the ‘animal rights’ movement. It is all too easy to be misled into thinking that there are lots of different problems, and a range of different courses of action that an individual can take.  It is also all too easy to consider that these different actions are optional and vary in how ‘extreme’ they are.

Well surely there are lots of different problems…? After all, there’s anti fur campaigns, anti down and feather campaigns, anti hunting protests, a wide range of ‘welfare’ campaigns against factory farming practices, campaigns in favour of organic, free range animal farming, campaigns promoting CCTV in slaughterhouses, saving dolphins, anti bullfighting, anti eating dogs and cats, anti circus, anti zoo, anti poaching campaigns in support of elephants, rhinos, snow leopards… You name it – there’s a campaign and / or a protest. So…

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