Veganism, Rigour and Rationality – an Attempt at a Solution


In our first part, which ended with a rhetorical question, the often unquestioned rigorosity of certain life practices, regardless of upon what good intentions they are based, were problematicised, at least in a sketchy manner. With a few more examples, we now want to clarify this problem and finally put it at its core in principle. At the end of the article, on the other hand, we will propose a realistic alternative in the sense of a holistically flexible and action-oriented basic “directional orientation”. So back to our train of thought.

If the values underlying the vegan way of life are essentially based on a feeling of solidarity with nature, how can we justify the fact that someone would prefer half a laboratory product as a substitute product with all sorts of additives to a much more natural foodstuff prepared with love by the farm next door, for example, in order to serve the clarity of the conflict because of this romantic commonplace? Just compare the article “No Meat Doesn’t Make You Happy” from the time of Kathrin Zinkant.

On the other hand, I am talking about visibly good conditions of an attitude and not necessarily the consumption of meat, which is associated with the necessary death of an animal. Furthermore, how can a plant product with a problematic life cycle assessment, such as avocados or coconuts, non-seasonal and or plastic-packed vegetables and fruit, how can they prefer these things to animal products produced regionally, species-appropriately and sustainably – and so on? I construct these extreme cases because of the clarity of our train of thought: for in them the eminent distortion of reality, which underlies such strict rigour, becomes evident. In its rigidity, it is no longer able to correspond to actual life and becomes a caricature. Yes, it becomes independent in a strange way like a machine. There is obviously a rationalistic reduction that is remote from life.

Or we take the table set for strangers, to which one is cordially invited: are we basically denying the problematic food, even though it is already on the table anyway and possibly would even be thrown away? Although, as otherwise, it should not be prevented in the case of regular contact, that the host should be able to plan the consumption of the actually problematic products for one’s own use and, therefore, buy even more of them than he would if he were to do without them? And although you even like their taste and – let’s say – no immediate dislike is felt when eating them?

It could be argued that, by giving up, the appetite for certain things will also be lost, i.e. that – at times – a certain rigour and discipline is necessary in order to achieve one’s rationally understood goal. That is also correct. But the emphasis is on “at times”. Otherwise, we would also have to expect that the same rigour was demonstrated in all relevant areas of the underlying values in order to justify such rigour with consistency.

The question remains of how can one not turn into a hermit, and how long can one endure such a limitation of one’s own life, or not again, in turn, completely turning away from it, because in the long run either too much violence would be caused or, in order to impose one’s own high demands in consequence, one would have to focus one’s whole life almost solely on it, in order to enforce one’s insight everywhere with the same strictness. In concrete terms, this would mean not only living vegan, but not supporting anything, nothing at all, which is contrary to the values underlying the vegan way of life. Otherwise, one could never justify its rigour in individual cases.

For the fact is: principledness per se is always universal, and it can only be rationally justified in individual cases, where it is general – and even then it is still dangerously alien to life. Instead, however, rigorous principledness is per se irrational, where it concerns only one detached individual aspect of life. Let also the insight upon which it is based be rational. If it is set absolutely, it leads to a limited perception of reality, i.e. ultimately to a distortion of reality, which is precisely irrational in a psychological sense. Even pragmatism in a sense such as, “If I cannot change the whole world, I at least pay attention to this one thing” does not justify a rigorous principle.

As desirable as this pragmatism in individual cases is, it does not spare any further effort for individual holistic growth and the constant will to approach one’s own ideal. But where, in principle, it does not become fundamental, it is often a secret sign of excessive demands in view of the multitude of social as well as individual problems, and then it may serve the purpose of simplifying, reassuring one’s own conscience and, at worst, not pursuing any further general (and fundamental) effort.

The enormous effect of the quasi-religious rigorous expression of veganism, for example, on identity and meaning should not be underestimated. How easy it will be in this complex world to say,“I’m a vegan.” However, even the development of one’s own personality can stand in the way of such a determination, where it initially even promoted the decision. But here, as everywhere else, it is important to protect one’s freedom from oneself as well and to continually, with freedom and reason, accept life sensibly and flexibly.

Without rigorous principledness, such a constant growth of one’s own efforts, insight and implementation is therefore desirable. However, it should perhaps rather take place in the sense of a fundamental decision according to which life becomes increasingly holistic, generally and sustainably flexible and gradually orientated. This would be a more lifelike, holistic and rational approach without (rationalist) one-sidedness and without individual overload.

After all, it is primarily a matter of learning to live from the very centre of one’s own existence, while at the same time aligning oneself to one’s own ideal that one sees and does not at the same time commit to something outward by force – be this outer appearance is also self-set. It also means, among other things, recognising and taking into account, for example, that for sustainable change, i.e. improvement, the structural foundations of society as a whole must be created, as well as the fact that concrete individual behaviour in individual cases does not change the world – and is nevertheless important.

Translation into English: Anna Dichen