Vegans and Libertarians aren’t always the most obvious of bedfellows – in fact they probably get on worse together than cat and dog. Should this really be the case?
The stereotypical vegan is usually a card carrying socialist, with hemp trousers, pockets filled with sunflower seeds and an abundance of ‘good vibes’; whilst the Libertarian/ Classical Liberal is some derivation of a bacon gobbling, gun totin’, Ron Swanson from Parks & Rec.
While these stereotypes are exaggerated and tongue in cheek, the fact still remains that vegans and veggies face constant ribbing from meat loving Libertarians; and the modern day Libertarian is often labelled as an unfeeling, short sighted hypocrite, by the veggie.
But these two groups may have more in common than you might think. The ‘Non Aggression Principle’ or the N.A.P is a primary tenant of Libertarianism – the idea, as you know, is that no harm or prejudice will be administered to others, that curtails their liberties or freedoms – as long as their actions do not harm others or society at large.
Whilst the N.A.P is meant to represent person to person or nation to nation interaction, it is almost impossible to not extend this principle to other living creatures. Most of us have had pet dogs, cats and perhaps even horses – we can see and feel the love and affection they give to us, and others of their kind. They cry, play, love, act guilty if they pinch a cookie from your plate or pee on the carpet – they even protect us from would be attackers. There is no doubt of their sentience. So why do we feel it’s okay to kill and eat other mammals when there is no need? By farming animals for mass consumption we are retracting liberty and freedom from these deeply feeling creatures.
The meat industry has such tight margins that the treatment of animals in the factory farming world is arguably worse than any other time in history. Historically, a small scale farmer or a family with a small holding would keep an animal or two for food. The Livestock would have plenty of pasture, be free of hormone injections, bleach baths and have a relatively happy life. Even in death, an animal would have been slaughtered in a quiet dignified way within familiar, non-frighting environments. But now, even if we buy our meat from quaint, bucolic family farms – the animal will die in the same cold and mechanised way as a factory farmed animal once they are shipped off to an abattoir.
Thanks to E.U law, all slaughterhouses must have an on site Vet to oversee the health of the animals. In the U.K for example, Vets are expensive and take 7 years to train – yet in other parts of the E.U it takes less time to train a Vet, and their salary is significantly cheaper. So live transportation for slaughter happens frequently – animals will often travel long distances with not enough food or water to sustain them through the journey. Animals can travel as far as Turkey by lorry – many also die on the way.
Cattle Slaughter Box
Carrying on with the economic theme around tight margins for animal product production – subsidies are an incredibly important area to address. Libertarians naturally will be wary of subsidies in any industry – either for anti-big government issues or for free market reasons. Such huge wads of public money are poured into keeping meat and dairy going, while so very little is put into vegetable, grain and legume production. Big government, in reality, is a natural enemy of the Vegan – just like the Libertarian. Vegan pressure for less or no government input into farming animal products makes taxes vegan friendly – and Libertarians can oppose government interference in markets by adopting a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.
At this stage I can feel some of you still aren’t convinced. Perhaps you are screaming at the screen “but animals kill other animals all the time! Why can’t I?”. I would argue that this simply isn’t a rational argument. Yes, animals do kill other animals, but that is necessary for them to survive and they also have no choice/ agency to do otherwise. As humans we can survive and thrive on a plant based diet; and as Libertarians, if we can do something to stop violence or suffering, we should – otherwise we are simply throwing our moral code into the wind for selfish “but meat tastes good” reasons. Yes, bacon tastes great, but bacon causes suffering and blockades to liberty. So, by this logic, it would be wrong for a Libertarian to enjoy meat.
As a Vegan, an oft’ heard argument is, “What happens if you are stranded on an island and you had to eat meat to survive?” – My dear meat eaters, yes, I would eat the wild boar, the monkey, the fish – because ultimately I would have no choice when it comes to my survival. But the reality is that most of us don’t tend to find ourselves playing ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ on a regular basis, in fact 99.9% of us never will.
This is why, even as a vegan, I believe hunting isn’t as abhorrent as it’s made out to be. I may lose my vegan card for this one but please, hear me out my fellow granola crunchers. Growing up in the U.K, somewhat in the country, I can see the damage done to other animals and property by foxes. Yes, foxes are incredibly beautiful animals, but countless times I have seen foxes destroy pet or chicken pens – and kill other animals without even eating them. Our neighbours rescued former factory farm Hens, nursed them back to health and kept them safe. But all too often foxes would rip down or burrow through the fences, killing then discarding chickens and pet rabbits – tearing their heads and limbs off their tiny bodies. This is not for survival, this behaviour is just to kill.
Now to address some of the dodgy logic around veganism:
- Being Vegan isn’t healthier than a standard diet.
Vegans often haughtily claim that they are going to live longer lives and be skinnier because of their healthy diets. But they would be wrong. Although being vegan tends to expose you to a diet richer in healthier plant based foods, there are some vegans who can be very unhealthy. I will hold my hands up and say I am probably the least healthy vegan of all time. Oreos are vegan now and I have a passionate and deep obsession with double fried sweet potato chips, topped with vegan cheese and chilli oil. I wont apologise, and I wear my gluttony with pride. But, naturally, this diet isn’t healthy. A balanced vegan diet is healthy, just as a non vegan or pescitarian diet, that is balanced, can be nutritious.
- Humans are meant to eat meat
The notion that we can’t survive without meat and have developed in large part thanks to meat is also wrong. Many cultures and people belonging to certain religions have been practising vegetarianism and veganism for thousands of years, Including Buddhists and many Hindus in India. Clearly, lots of veggies and minimal to no meat consumption isn’t threatening the survival of the Indian people, as they have one of the highest populations on the planet.
- Where am I going to get my protein?
Beans, Tofu, Lentils & Nuts. Stop telling Vegans that we aren’t getting enough protein. In reality, if following a healthy vegan diet, we are probably eating more protein rich foods than a meat eater at every meal. There are even some world class athletes on vegan diets. Carl Lewis, 9 times Olympic medallist and track athlete, was a vegan. His best year on the track was also the year he became vegan. Similarly, Team USA Olympic Weightlifter, Kendrick .J. Farris is also a vegan. and by the looks of him, he isn’t slacking on the protein.
- If everybody went vegan how could we feed them?
The argument is often made that if everybody was vegan or vegetarian we would struggle to feed the planet. I’m not sure how people come to this conclusion but I can confirm that it is poppycock. Livestock, particularly cows, need far more food to grow to slaughter size, thousands upon thousands of acres are dedicated to growing grain and plant matter for farm animals to consume. So there would be more than enough land to cultivate food for human consumption, in fact there would be an abundance. We can also apply this logic to water. On average, a milking dairy cow drinks about 30 to 50 gallons of water each day. During periods of heat stress water intake may double. Without the intensive, forced breeding of millions of cows annually, there would be far less demand for water – with some sources remaining untouched and unpolluted by cattle and animal faeces.
I hope this post has helped to change some minds. Both vegans and libertarians can be feisty beings at times – but that is only because we both have passions to fight for. Our goals often overlap and I believe both groups have their hearts in the right place. So next time you want to fight with a vegan or tear down a libertarian, think twice, and unite instead. Strength is in numbers, and together we can make our dream of a better world a reality.
Charlotte Winterton is a tory activist, libertarian and proud vegan, you can follow her writing at charlottevictoriawinterton.com