Veganism – A Problematisation


It is easy to determine: mindful and conscious consumption is increasingly spreading. Sustainability, the eco-balance, the conditions and consequences of the production of consumed goods in the broadest sense are becoming more and more important among growing sections of the population. The countless initiatives, whether educational or practical, as well as the alternatives which, if we are sensitive to the topic, we meet everywhere, are highly welcome.

It is to be hoped that this is more than just a passing whim. However, for it to be (and become) more than just fashionable, but rather a macro-social matter of course instead of (still) being a certain, but increasing marginal phenomenon of society, two issues are of great importance.

Firstly, the systematic society structures as such have to support and promote the “good” sustainable and fair life of people. Where these are not named with the individual ethic appeal, there factually exists a quasi ideological distraction from the structural fundamental problems of our society – even if the underlying motivation is well-intentioned.

Specific examples: where the compound interest principle exists in a society, it is necessary and by law that the wealthy become more wealthy and the poor become even poorer, although the majority of people see this as wrong. The same is true where no strict laws for an ecological and socially sustainable and fair economy are created. There, due to a necessary structure, goods are produced as cheaply as possible due to competitive pressure – and as long as this is done and these social and ecological exploitations are then re-offered cheaply, people, with their daily financial and serious, often existential worries, which are in turn often socially driven, will also buy these instead of the often more expensive socially and ecologically sustainable alternative.

Recently a friend, who is a vegetarian, told me about the difficulties he had living like this while he was travelling through South America. He was actually accused of not wanting to eat meat, because that was a luxury problem of the rich European, because the fruit and vegetables there (which otherwise would probably be exported to Europe or North America) were too expensive for people to maintain a strictly vegetarian diet.

This could generally be remedied if, for example, the negative consequential damage of economic products were (just like with cigarettes) integrated into the price as tax, as is the case in “conventional” agriculture, and, at the same time, the socially-ecologically sustainable possibilities were subsidised, i.e. they would be financially supported by the state. The same applies to train and petrol prices, etc. And where no solution approaches and plausible basic alternatives are offered for these structural basic problem, the pressure on the individual will increase to complete overload and probably with the accompanying resignation.

It is clear: nobody who lives in certain social structures can remain completely pure from these, even if the will is sufficiently strong. I mean, nobody can respect all of the things which throw some kind of shadow (even if that person is engaged with almost religious enthusiasm). At most a less desirable existence as a hermit remains. That is the significant meaning behind sentences such as, “There is no right life in the wrong one”, from the German philosopher, Theodor Adorno.

Secondly, the underlying individual motivation behind our actions in life have to be justified and experienced directly.  It is not enough, on abstract rational paths for example, to believe that the one or the other is good or bad. Even the possibly strictest principle ethicist, who created the so-called “categorical imperative, Immanuel Kant, realised that this abstract has its limits and that in the concrete, situational individual case, the integrated and going beyond pure rationality “Act of Judgement” has to eventually make a decision.

In general, it is, in this sense, worthy of mention: all insights have to be experienced for them to become sustainable, i.e to permanently become and function as leaders of action and life changing. And, in return, all insights have to be based on one of the many fundamental attitudes towards life, an appreciation which is an experienced affirmation of life itself, existence in general and the experienced connection with other people and all of the nature and therein. This means: there cannot be room for one-sided persuasions.

We realise that these individual aspects of the (consuming) life are often picked out and pursued with a stubborn rigour, which is, in this consequence and detail, completely unsubstantiated. Let’s take, for example – and this is one of many – the phenomena of veganism which, if we look at its possible characteristics and motivations, we unfortunately often discover certain one-sidedness of this kind.  Basically we can say that the deepest motivation for that kind of lifestyle is the strong feeling of connection with existence and with nature in general, which only necessarily develops from compassion for animals. Yet, how can rigour be justified, when, for example, the produced animal products are obtained from a quasi “communicative” agreement with the well-being of animals and them being kept in a manner appropriate to their species?

And this problematisation should not be misunderstood as an attack, but rather as a general, respectful distinction and inspiring examination of the underlying motivation.

Translation German-English: Anna Stockenhuber


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Veganism Veganism JCarlos PB CC BY-SA 4.0