The Holidays are Coming, and with Them, Ethical Conundrums.

In reading some vegan communities recently, one of my least favorite discussions has come up in regards to the holidays.  It’s the idea of lying to others when asked if the food you’ve prepared is vegan.  No, I’m not talking about your mom lying to you and saying that the mashed potatoes she made with butter and cow’s milk were really made with margarine and soy milk; I’m talking the other way around.  The vegan lying and saying that the mashed potatoes she made with margarine and soy milk were in fact made with animal ingredients.

Personally, I feel it’s absolutely wrong to lie about such things from either direction.  In truth, why I feel it’s wrong has nothing to do with animal rights, but rather basic respect for other human beings.
I’ve seen time and time again some vegans who think the argument is absolutely ridiculous, and that omnivores have no right to be upset that they’ve been lied to that there’s not real butter in their food (or whatever).  Some even go as far as to say it’s too bad for the omni who has an allergic reaction to the soy in the vegan potatoes even when they’ve explicitly asked for the ingredients, unless they specifically said it’s because of an allergy.  Seriously, it was in the VeganPeople community over on Livejournal; I left that community and no longer have access to the post, but it was some time last year.
Allergies aside, I hope that all of us vegans know that while our choices are ethical to animals, they’re not always the best choice morally or ethically for the environment (and in one case, Palm Oil, there’s controversy as to if it’s even ethical to animals- namely the orangutans that are killed each year to make room for oil palm plantations).  The vegan foods that are most likely to be an ethically questionable food for the environment are the very ones that are designed to “mock” animal products (they’re also the most unhealthy ones, too, many containing trans-fats).  So please don’t tell me that no one is allowed to morally question your soy milk and margarine mashed potatoes.  While you may be right (and you may not), you shouldn’t be allowed to make that decision for other people.  Not to mention the whole violating their human rights thing by lying to them to deceive them into eating something they didn’t want, which is really my point.
Over the past few years, I’ve very occasionally found out after consuming something that it had some errant ingredient that made it not vegan.  The occasional hidden fish product or whey that I missed in the ingredient list or the errant di-glyceride of which I didn’t know that I needed to check the source.  While I’ve always been upset about this, I look at it as a   learning experience, move on and don’t make the same mistake again.  Yes, I’ve violated my own values, but not on purpose,  It wasn’t intentional.  Intent is important when it comes to morals and ethics and values.  So if I am not outraged at myself when I’ve made a mistake, why might I get outraged that someone lied to me to get me to eat an animal product?  Because of the intent.  There’s a whole other line that’s being crossed; not only are they disrespecting my moral values and making me violate my own values, but they’ve disrespected me as a person who deserves not to be lied to simply because I exist.  I fully believe that cuts both ways.  If I lie to someone about what’s in my food in order to get them to eat it when I know they wouldn’t otherwise, I’ve completely disrespected them and violated their rights.  That’s not cool, no matter where they stand on animal rights.
I believe that people deserve the truth.  If you ask me what’s in my stuffing, I’ll tell you, even if I know you won’t eat it because it’s vegan.  That’s your loss and an extra serving of stuffing for me.  Just as we believe that animals have rights, people do, too.  Hey, we even think the not-so-cute animals have rights, don’t we?  It’s the same for the not-so-cute or nice people.  So enjoy your holiday season if you’re celebrating one, but please keep the deceit out of the kitchen.  Or dining room.  Or where ever you prepare and eat your food!
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One Response to The Holidays are Coming, and with Them, Ethical Conundrums.

  1. redapes says:

    Thank you so much for mentioning palm oil on your website.

    One of the biggest victims of the palm oil industry is the orangutan. The forests of Borneo and Sumatra are the only place where these gentle, intelligent creatures live, and the cultivation of palm oil has directly led to the brutal deaths of thousands of individuals as the industry has expanded. When the forest is cleared, adult orangutans are typically shot on sight. These peaceful, sentient beings are beaten, burned, mutilated, tortured and eaten. Babies are torn off their dying mothers so they can be sold on the black market as illegal pets to wealthy families who see them as status symbols of their own power and prestige.

    Some of the luckier orangutans are confiscated and brought to sanctuaries such as the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, which is now home to approximately 700 orphaned and displaced orangutans in Central Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo). Many of these orangutans are only weeks old when they arrive, and all of them psychologically traumatized and desperate for their mothers who unfortunately are no longer alive. Nyaru Menteng is managed by a remarkable woman named Lone Droscher Nielsen and is featured on Animal Planet’s series ‘Orangutan Island’.

    To learn more about the crisis facing wild orangutans because of palm oil and see how you can help protect them, please visit the Orangutan Outreach website.

    Thanks for your time! Happy Holidays!

    Richard Zimmerman
    Director, Orangutan Outreach
    Reach out and save the orangutans!
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