Tag: vegans

Vegans Would Fare Much Better as Libertarians

By Bryce Jackson | Vermont

I love animals and I hate subsidies (as well as other taxpayer-funded entitlements). So in this, my debut for the glorious 71 Republic, I am tackling both, as well as the group (or at least the most vocal part of that group) that played on my emotions for a year while I lived among them as one of their own. That group, of course, is vegans!

The un-empathetic in this group would tell you that there is nothing from an animal that you cannot get from plants, which is sort of true… we will get to that in a second. This is, of course, is in the nutritional sense, and doesn’t account for the need for leather goods, though I am man enough to concede that there are better materials than leather at this point in time. They will show you videos of abuses at the largest of America’s mega-farms that I can only describe as horrendous and blood-curdling. They are difficult to watch. And while some are genuinely edited so as to be taken out of context, the evidence is clear that there is a clear lack of accountability and care for the well-being of these creatures.

For the record: most humans only need to consume about 50 grams of protein a day. It doesn’t have to be consumed all in one meal either. Americans (and much of Western culture) consume way more meat than is needed. I am not saying you shouldn’t eat whatever you want. These are just basic facts about human diet and metabolism. Vitamin B12, on the other hand, is best found in animal sources but can still be obtained via other methods. (Generally, this is as a supplement.)

So after detailing all of that, why would I then refer to some vegans as lacking empathy? Well, it’s simple really: they are playing on the emotions of people who very often have little choice but to eat animal products. It harkens back to a day shortly after the suicide of celebrity chef, Anthony Bourdain. I was reading his Wikipedia article (no, I didn’t use Wikipedia for research… stay with me) when I came upon a little factoid that I had not previously known.

Mr. Bourdain was an immense critic of vegetarians and vegans. This was common knowledge for his fans apparently, though I don’t watch a lot of television anymore and had missed this. He was quoted as saying that “vegetarianism is an American luxury”. As someone who is currently in the “starving artist” phase of his writing career, I can tell you with utmost certainty – that is a fact!

But why is that? Why is it so difficult for the poor and marginalized to eat healthily? Bad lifelong habits aside, I know many working class people who have tried (and failed) but couldn’t keep up with the added costs of a plant-based diet. The very cost of production in meat versus crops favors crops by a substantial margin, especially when it comes to grains that (once dried) have a remarkably long shelf life.

The answer is simple: subsidies!

Specifically, the agriculture subsidies that make good food more expensive (because the farmers actually have to produce a sell-able crop) as opposed to garbage food from large agribusiness (who often gets a bigger subsidy if they produce diddly squat). Of course, the justification for this is the protection of the workers at these large farms. More employees means more jobs lost if the business goes under. And while I am certainly sympathetic towards anyone who struggles to maintain market viability, we should probably look at the numbers of those affected before we even begin to consider protectionism (because that’s what this is) as the solution.

Leading up to the industrial revolution, most households (outside of major cities) had some tie to local agriculture. But according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2008 only 2% of the United States population was directly employed by agriculture. That percentage is less than the percentage of voters who voted for Gary Johnson in 2016! Does that seem like something we should subsidize if we aren’t even guaranteed a product in return? I certainly don’t think so! And if I was a vegan, I would oppose this more, given that much of our agriculture subsidies go towards crops that feed the very slaughter animals that they themselves will never eat.

So why aren’t more vegans libertarian? Is it the preconditioning of our protest-oriented society; taught that you need to “fight for your rights” like a heroic revolutionary? Perhaps (I suppose), but I think it is something else… and it is just as bad as the authoritarian laws vegans ask for to protect the animals that live in these often unprofitable establishments.

Ag-Gag Laws!

As soon as vegans began infiltrating these larger facilities to capture their cruelty and indifference, conservative lawmakers jumped into the fray, initiating something that should scare every liberty lover on this planet – laws that punish whistle-blowers with jail time (among other slightly less harsh penalties) for giving proof of the misdeeds by these agriculturists. Now I would never argue that a business owner doesn’t have a right to bring a lawsuit against someone who lied on an application specifically to hurt his/her business. But to say this industry (and only this industry, apparently) should be protected against bad press with the threat of taking someone’s freedom is so monumentally wrong that I am left stymied as to why more libertarians and constitutional conservatives haven’t spoken out against it.

But it is what has convinced me that big government involvement in how we produce food in this country is why we now have a large minority of our populace (both vegan/vegetarian and those of a more commonplace diet) demanding equal amounts of government intervention in trying to prevent animal cruelty. And while I can admit that is a laudable cause, it is ultimately pointless. Most states have some sort of regulation in place where the state-sponsored authority in question has to notify the farm ahead of time of the impending inspection, making anything other than whistle-blowing an act of total futility.

So they infiltrate, risk prison in many cases, and the business suffers and possibly even goes belly-up. Who wins in that scenario? The state of course! We seasoned libertarians have long since known that more regulations produce more victims. And in this case, even the animals that are being treated like the tightly coiled mass my dogs leave in my yard every morning are included in the victimization!

In order to gain the evidence, the infiltrators have to stand by helplessly and watch as baby pigs deemed “useless”, are swung by their hindquarters and smashed head first on the nearest hard surface. Dead animals that didn’t ask for this life, good-hearted/ill-advised souls trying to save sentient creatures from undue pain, and workers who often have little choice but to work at these places (lack of competition due to the subsidies) – now all suffering terrible fates while the state brings in more tax dollars to bail out the farm owner and keep the infiltrator in a cell.

President Calvin Coolidge opposed agriculture subsidies because he knew that farmers were never going to be rich (at least not without government protection). If I started driving right now I could be at the farm where Silent Cal grew up in less than an hour. I sometimes wonder what he would think. About the recent farm bill that just passed – loaded with pork spending and bailouts. About a country that used to be self-sufficient but now has to buy crops from other countries. And about the misfortunes of vegans, forced to pay in towards food they will never eat, while not having the same favor returned to them.

Maybe the reason more vegans aren’t libertarian is that we haven’t been vocal enough in opposing everything I just described. It’s certainly not a hot-button topic. Appearing to oppose poor farmers is certainly not the way to gain votes. This is not common discussion in any libertarian social media group… but perhaps it should be!

These subsidies not only force people that don’t consume the end product to fund it, they also, more importantly, squash the small family farms that the writers of the original agriculture subsidies of the 1920’s were trying to help. So forget animal cruelty. Forget freedom of speech (the aforementioned “Ag-gag” laws). This is crony capitalism at its worst and given the leftist nature of many vegans, I guess I can see why they are distrustful of those that call for smaller government (who then often support big government for the rust belt vote). Though the latter distinction wouldn’t apply to we libertarians, the former certainly does.

In a day when the party that bears the name of our shared ideology is being infiltrated by pseudo-communists, consistency on small government and free-market capitalist principles matters now more than ever… for everyone from the small family farmer just trying to put his little girl through school, to that very little girl who has decided she wants to help animals rather than eat them.

As libertarians, we owe them both a more consistent message.


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Part II- Humans and Animals: Defining Justice

By Joshua D. Glawson | United States

On social media, there are often pictures of gruesome images with recently killed rhinos, elephants, lions, primates, etc. With these images typically comes a plethora of heated comments and arguments, opinions about the well-being of the animals, threats against the lives of the humans responsible, and haughty judgments from a First World nation to that of those of a Third World nation.

Animal rights activists, especially the radicals, scream about the “morality” of such an act as killing a rhino for its horn, or killing elephants for their tusks. The pictures that anger them the most are of Westerners who paid to kill animals for trophies. These animal advocate extremists will go at no length to find out who the Westerner, or specifically the American, is and then to threaten the big-game hunter’s life. In 2015, in Zimbabwe, Dr. Walter Palmer of the US killed “Cecil” the lion, and once his picture caught on the web the extreme harassment and threats began. He had to close his dentist office for a while as the threats against his life persisted. The activists felt ‘Justice’ was necessary for the death of the lion.

However, from a philosophical understanding of jurisprudence and the origins of Justice, it is not possible for nonpersons to partake in Justice as it is only a compromise between people as an intraspecies agreement as opposed to interspecies. The Eighteenth Century philosopher David Hume believed animals could also be rational, perhaps to a lesser degree than humans, but are still incapable of being a part of the legal and ‘Just’ parts of human society.

In contrast, the leading vegan and vegetarian philosopher of modern day, Dr. Peter Singer, argues that bestiality is permissible so long as it does not harm the animal, but animals outside of humans should be treated the same when it comes to limiting pain. Throughout Singer’s work he explicitly claims humans are not equal to other animals, but we humans should not partake in “speciesism,” and we should all adopt a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle because he believes human suffering to be equal to that of animal suffering.

I do agree that animals feel pain and pleasure, although I would argue that it is not to the same degree as humans. While the varying degrees do not determine equality or inequality under the law, it does argue there is a fundamental and natural difference between humans and other animals. This also does not provide enough reason that humans ‘should’ change and limit or eliminate animal use and consumption.

Often in philosophy, law, and even in daily life, people use the word “should” as meaning ‘ought’ or ‘obligation,’ yet conflate the two unbeknownst to them. It is typical for us to read past such a word as ‘should,’ and think nothing of the use or mention. If the word was meant as ‘ought,’ then it is a moral personal choice to make; if the word is meant to be interchangeable with ‘obligation,’ then Singer is either suggesting a deity will punish those that do not oblige his vegetarian or vegan code of ethics, or a legal system will punish. An ‘obligation’ would indicate there is a backlash from one’s actions.

Perhaps, being a secular utilitarian, he equates humans to other animals and believes it is not in humans’ best interest to use animals for human consumption, and the ‘obligation’ arises from the possible negative consequences as “punishment” for consuming animals. A natural consequence would not be ‘Justice,’ as it must be intentional at bare minimum.

Certainly then, the only form of ‘Justice’ possible is an objective one; and as controversial as it may be, it is equality under the law for humans and humans alone. If ‘Justice’ sprung forth as a natural ideology of protection for the division of individuals, it is still only a human idea. To take this human idea and force it upon animals as a means of thinking it benefits the animal, we can easily come up with plenty more that we can force upon animals such as obeying all laws, animals respecting other animals, social norms, customs, paying taxes, not using the restroom in public, wearing clothes, respecting property rights, and so forth. No matter the case, ‘Justice’ is established for humans in general, and animals are unable to reciprocate the necessary parts ‘Justice’ requires to maintain.

This is where some will respond that the same can be said for infants, elderly, and mentally disabled. However, infants have the potential capacity to become full-fledged persons while their being and assets may be held in trust by their guardians; the elderly were full-fledged persons and while they are of mental capacity they determine who shall handle their assets and life, etc.; and the mentally disabled are continually held in trust by their guardians acting in responsibility of their well-being.

Furthermore, ‘Justice’ is based on property rights. As the philosopher John Locke suggested, we have property intrinsically within ourselves as our Life and well-being, property in our Liberty and actions, and property extrinsically from ourselves as in goods or things in the world. Animals do not possess these things, and we cannot force that upon them. Even if they did have these things, there was never a means to negotiate a contract with animals from our species to other animal species.

Simply put, those that scream for ‘Justice’ for other species outside of humans are either misunderstanding the very concept of ‘Justice,’ or they are intentionally misapplying it and are advocating for the subjective and varying concept of “social justice.” Perfectly stated by lauded economist F.A. Hayek, Justice is an attribute of individual action. I can be Just or unjust towards my fellow man; But the conception of a ‘social justice’- to expect from an impersonal process, which nobody can control- to bring about a ‘Just’ result is not only a meaningless conception, it’s completely impossible.”

Hayek’s work on the topic of ‘Justice’ suggests that if one puts a word in front of the word ‘Justice’ then it is no longer ‘Justice.’ Justice does not require anything else with it, it is either equality under the law for everyone, or subjective infringements will begin to deteriorate the entire process.

Nevertheless, organizations like PETA, have continually asked for so-called “Justice” for animals killed in hunting. For example, with the case of Cecil being killed by Walter Palmer, PETA’s President Ingrid Newkirk released a public statement on July 28, 2015, in regards to Palmer, “…he needs to be extradited, charged, and, preferably, hanged…” Yet, no one has done anything in regards to the legal and moral issues of threatening the life of the man.

Set aside the concept that these animal rights activists believe humans to be equal to other animals, and that they desire some imaginary system of ‘Justice’ that also incorporates equal animal rights, the point is that we do have a ‘Justice’ system and it was originally created by people, for people. So, to threaten a fellow person’s life automatically negates ‘Justice,’ and removes the unbiased impersonal third-party, i.e. the governing body to judge the case as to negate prejudice. Extrajudicial actions, such as summary executions, are what was seen in the Jim Crow South of instant punishment without fair and equal trials via lynching.

What these activist groups do not seem to realize is that their concept of ‘Justice’ as seen through the monster of “social justice,” is nothing new. For some reason, there is a common misconception that Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) are only left-leaning individuals, when in fact they can be right-leaning as well.

Politics aside, “social justice” does more to harm the fabric of society and ‘Justice,’ itself, from the left and the right. Written in 1940, in his work Interventionism, An Economic Analysis, Ludwig von Mises wrote, “The ‘progressives’ who today masquerade as ‘liberals’ may rant against ‘fascism’; yet it is their policy that paves the way for Hitlerism.” Indeed, it was on these social and subjective agendas that Hitler, who became mostly vegetarian by the end of his life, rose to power, verifying that “social justice” can equally be found on the political right or left. And as cliché as it may be to bring up Hitler anymore, his being a vegetarian at least indicates just because someone is a vegan or vegetarian, it does not make them a better person.


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