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Vegan grey areas

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by chickenmammalove, Dec 31, 2018.

  1. chickenmammalove

    chickenmammalove Member

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    I've been vegan for several months and most areas of veganism seem cut and dry to me. Eating meat, fishing, wearing fur, using make up that was tested on animals, and many other aspects are a no brainer for me. There are, however, a few grey areas which I crave the opinion of other vegans on. To be clear, I haven't actually participated in these things because until I can come to a sure conclusion, I'd feel hypocritical about doing so.

    Local honey (and beeswax): to be clear, I mean small scale bee keepers who only take excess honey (sometimes, bees do make more honey than they need) from their bees. Their bees are free to fly away, the bee hives are a reasonable size, the bees have a variety of flowers to sip from, and they only eat nectar or their own honey. If all of those things were verified (which is possible with local bee keepers), would that honey and wax be vegan? Why or why not?

    Small scale wool: in this case, I mean hair from an animal that is otherwise unnecessary to them. As a child, I was intimately familiar with small scale sheep, goat, and alpaca farmers (who sometimes had angorra rabbits, as well), who's animals spent their lives being well looked after. They had the freedom to graze all day long with shelter if they needed it in wintertime. They had a hair cut once a year (rabbits were different...their hair is more like peoples' - it just comes out on the brush when you're grooming them) in springtime and that hair was sold as a fleece (I learned how to wash, pick, card, and spin such fleeces). Sheerers were very gentle and animals weren't hurt any more than a dog might be nicked at the groomer's. Just as some dogs need to be groomed to be comfortable, some sheep need the same.

    Horse riding: I'm aware that bits, crops, and spurs are painful for any animal who experiences them. However, if the horse being ridden has none of these things, the saddle is either light (English style) or done away with, the horse is fully grown (so there isn't extra strain on their developing skeleton), is given the freedom of a large pasture (as opposed to the near constant confinement of a stable), has had positive training (my mother's a dog trainer who uses such methods, so that the animal - in her case dog - is given permission to communicate when they don't like something and is never forced to train against their will), and is communicating* that they're eager to be ridden, would that be considered a mutual, consensual relationship between horse and human, or would you still view that as exploitation?

    *I have heard the vegan argument that horses can't speak and therefore cannot tell us whether they enjoy being ridden. I hear the same argument from carnists who say cows cannot speak and therefore cannot tell us whether they mind having their calves taken from them. My experience is that, just because other animals don't speak our language, doesn't mean they cannot communicate with us - as long as we are listening and attuned to their methods of communicating. Infant humans cannot speak either, but their parents usually know whether or not they like something, and what they want and need.

    Second hand leather, wool, fur, silk, pearls, ivory, and bone: if one is purchasing something second hand, they aren't giving their money to those industries. The silk industry doesn't see a dime if someone buys a second hand silk tie. I'm not talking about antique shops (which often sell black market ivory, for starters), but charity shops, e-bay, and local rummage sales. I've heard the argument that by wearing fur (as one example), one sends the message that it is acceptable to do so...but then, what about faux fur (which most vegans are in favour of)? If one doesn't say what's it's made from, it's difficult to tell the difference between faux and genuine fur (or leather, pearls, wool, silk, etc.).

    Anyway, these are all ethical questions which I've not had an easy time answering. I go back and forth and have researched as well (hence all of the stipulations), and still not come to any conclusions. I've read and watched vegan arguments both for and opposed to each of these scenarios. I would love your well worded opinions. Please be kind and respectful.
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2018
  2. mavrick45
    Fiendish

    mavrick45 Active Member

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    on buying second hand: you're removing that item from the market. now if a non-vegan wants the item they will have to buy it new, which contributes to unethical practices
     
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  3. Sax
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    Sax Active Member

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    I produce more money than I need. Please don't take my money. I produce more hair than I need...don't cut my hair. Don't apply any of these arguments to me - just respect my freedom and autonomy and don't look for moral loopholes to use me for your pleasure or benefit.
     
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  4. Sax
    Bookworm

    Sax Active Member

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    Also, if one of my bikes gets stolen and you see it for sale, don't buy it.
     
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  5. chickenmammalove

    chickenmammalove Member

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    Interesting point. I hadn't heard that one before. Given the mentality of second hand purchasing vs. brand new, I'm not sure that argument holds weight, but it makes me think.
     
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  6. Nibbles

    Nibbles New Member

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    As far as definitions go - consuming/using honey, wool etc. would definitely not be vegan (however these items are harvested).

    So the question here seems to be whether using the mentioned products is in-keeping with compassion based ethics. Although I see the ambiguity from this point of view - I would stay away from anything I wouldn't like done to me. Ex : I imagine a sweater made of all the extra hair I have shed over the years - or the extra hair from when I get hair cuts. I imagine not having a say - in someone else buying this sweater and using it ... it just creeps me out. Similarly creepy if someone wore an ornament made from my bones after I died... and so on.

    There is one more aspect to this I think ... Even if I am considering purchasing something silk secondhand - it would just remind me of all the dead moths and larvae that resulted from the making of this clothing item.. it would be disgusting to me (even though I might not have directly caused this). The same goes for other items as well.

    I mention silk because - as a kid, I was taken to visit my grandfather's silk producing plant (in India).. and I remember seeing all the roomful of wriggling moths, the cocoons that are destroyed with the larvae in them.. I still have nightmares about it..
     
  7. Lou
    Psychedelic

    Lou Well-Known Member

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    First off I want to welcome you to the forum.
    I also want to mention that you can use the search function to see what has already been written here on those subjects. I remember not too long ago we had a great discussion about horseback riding. And I think we have discussed honey a few times.

    Next, I want to commend you on your well written, thought out, researched, question.

    I really have not thought about or researched any of your questions. Only because they are not really all that relevant to me personally. But I do have opinions on other "gray areas". Some people call them controversial issues. And some vegans do not like to discuss them.

    I know that some vegans don't like to discuss them because up until this year I was one of them. I considered these gray areas at best unproductive. And at worst distracting. Plus I worried about what the general public would think if they caught us vegans quibbling.

    I have changed my mind though. I now think that some discussion of these things are good for us (or at least me). If there are holes or cracks in our reasoning lets shine a light on them and take a good look at them.

    In general, I don't think there are totally right or even best answers to these type of gray areas. There is no vegan police, or lawyers, or scholars. We can discuss semantics and philosophy, but there is no rule book. And I think that is a good thing. When it comes down to it, it's up to each of us individually to decide what is right or good.

    A slogan that constantly keeps coming to my mind when I discuss this kind of stuff is, "Perfect is the enemy of good".
    Or in other words, "Don't sweat the small stuff."

    But that being said, go ahead and ponder these things. And if you form a conclusion, let me know. I'm sure it will be well thought out.
     
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  8. chickenmammalove

    chickenmammalove Member

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    Thank you to everyone who's replied so far. I ask these questions of other vegans because I hope to gain the perspective of those who aren't already biased towards animal exploitation (it's hard to take a horse riding advocate seriously if they think we're justified in raising chickens for eggs, for instance).

    I also don't ask these questions (or even invite these sort of discussions) of non-vegans because being nit-picky about veganism is a huge turn off for those considering the vegan lifestyle. Sometimes, people will say to me, "Vegans are crazy. I heard PETA doesn't even support pets. I could never be that extreme." Or, once someone asked me why I don't eat honey and I explained some of the common practices with commercial bees. To which he said, "Yeah, that makes sense, but what about so-and-so - they love their bees and don't do any of that." To an outsider (who may see it as extreme just avoiding leather), I think it harms the movement when they see vegans getting upset about possibly exploiting an animal when there is likely no harm being done to that animal.

    I'm a passionate vegan (sometimes overly so) and I'm 100% in favour of eliminating animal exploitation and cruelty towards animals. I do all in my power to avoid supporting these things and when I learn about something new to be aware of (like alcohol or art supplies) I make sure to choose vegan options. I'm also learning that vegans don't always agree on what qualifies as animal exploitation. Some vegans have rescued cats; others don't approve. Some vegans will rent a car with leather seats; others would hold off. Some vegans eat honey, spin wool, buy second hand leather, and ride horses. Others wouldn't dream of it. I think it can be helpful to offer insight and perspective to these grey areas because we're all fighting for the same cause, and at the end of the day, I think all vegans want to do as little harm as possible.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2019
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  9. ThaiVegan

    ThaiVegan Member

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    the most important thing to do is to seperate the core issues from the fringe issues, and accept and respect that at marginal issues at the very edge of the vegan lifestyle we vegans should tolerate eachother. Too often it seems vegans are clashing and name calling when it comes to honey or white sugar. "you are not a real vegan bc you eat honey." silly. oh, i myself dont eat honey.
     
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  10. Nibbles

    Nibbles New Member

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    I think it is a matter of definitions - I don't see how anyone who eats honey can be called vegan. But that wouldn't automatically make this person evil - or not compassionate- it would just make the person not vegan. It doesn't make sense at all to me to change definitions of words on a whim ...
     
  11. TofuRobot
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    TofuRobot Active Member

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    This is true - any time we purchase something with our dollars, we are contributing to the demand for that item, even though it's to a lesser degree. Plus, why would you want to wear?
     
  12. TofuRobot
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    TofuRobot Active Member

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    For me, I ask myself "Are these things necessary?" For me, the answer is 'No' to all of the above. They are not even the best options, given the myriad of other options available.

    That being said, if I owned sheep, and I had to shear them (I still do not know if this is an absolutely necessary thing), I might save the wool and spin it into yarn for my personal use.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2019
  13. Vegan Dogs
    Thinking

    Vegan Dogs Active Member

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    Besides not going into details proven that...bees DIe in the collection of honey small or large scale production no matter....horses suffer back pains common due to the totally unnatural carrying of weight on a human on their backs...disused riding horses do not end up in retirement homes but slaughter houses..therapy dogs are leashed permanently as slaves to a human....etc etc

    ANIMALS ARE NOT OURS TO USE 1st principle of Veganism is the simple matter

    Anything that shows in contradiction to that principle that we USE animals is not vegan .

    Even "caring" for "pets" is not really vegan. That it is better than death is the only "excuse" we have for owning pets currently but bringing them into existance is certainly not vegan.
     
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  14. chickenmammalove

    chickenmammalove Member

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    [/QUOTE]That being said, if I owned sheep, and I had to shear them (I still do not know if this is an absolutely necessary thing), I might save the wool and spin it into yarn for my personal use.[/QUOTE]

    My mother has done that with her dogs' hair after grooming them. She groomed them for their personal comfort, but spun their hair because she likes to spin and it just goes in the bin if she doesn't use it. I can guarantee that dogs don't care what anyone does with their hair after it's cut. I know that if I have a hair cut, I don't care one bit what the hairdresser does with my hair. I'm sure it just ends up in the bin, but if someone wanted to use it in some way, I really wouldn't mind. They definitely wouldn't need my permission.

    From my point of view, the benefits of wool are numerous. It's very warm, it can be used to make just about any garment (from pants to shoes - even homes), it's flame retardant, it can soak up a lot of moisture without the wearer feeling wet, it's quick drying - it's truly remarkable. What's more, there really is no other plant or plastic material that compares to wool. The realities of the commercial wool industry are brutal and cruel and since I learned of them, I can no longer support wool. However, there are a few farms who, like I described above, treat their animals well. The main valid argument against wool, I think, is that in order to have wool to sell one has to breed animals. Breeding animals can be seen as interfering with the natural order of existence. Many animals who have such thick fur (and therefore require sheering in order to be comfortable) were bred to be that way.

    So, I don't think that supporting small scale wool directly contributes to animal cruelty or even exploitation, but one could easily argue that it indirectly contributes to exploitation.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2019
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  15. chickenmammalove

    chickenmammalove Member

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    . I would love more info on this. I looked into honey awhile back and the arguments I found against honey were:

    -keepers often take the bees' honey and give them inferiour food, like corn syrup, instead
    -keepers will sometimes clip the queen's wings so she can't fly away and start a new hive
    -keepers will overwork their bees by providing a larger than natural hive (because bees will fill as much space as one gives them)
    -bees are often transported on long journeys which is very stressful on them and many bees don't make it (although, this is more common with bees used as pollinators, rather than honey makers)

    From what I could find though, there are bee keepers who don't keep such practices and are adamantly against them. I don't eat honey because I don't like it enough to go out of my way to find ethically produced bee vomit, but it's hard for me to argue against it across the board in the same way that I can with milk and eggs.
     
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  16. Vegan Dogs
    Thinking

    Vegan Dogs Active Member

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    ok as a small scale ex bee keeper myself...none of those points deal with the main 2 points

    1. bees DIE because the guard bees sting to defend the hive. no matter how "gentle" they have been bred that is what the natural reaction of bees programmed to defend hives do. so many die in reaity

    it is not possible to not crush some bees and kill them every time a human goes in the hive to mess around just looking moving frames.

    so bees are killed.

    2. unless bee keepers never take the honey....they are stealing the food of the bees.

    but the 3rd point is the real issue that deals with points 1 and 2

    3. bees are NOT OURS to use to house in strutures we control to feed as all that is not natural and not freedom.

    the wing clipping changing of queens etc are just parts of the ownership process.

    the reason wild bees do not survive anymore is because humans created breeds that are not natural wild ones who drove the others out. not enough honey producers is why humans designed unnatural strains of bees.
     
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  17. chickenmammalove

    chickenmammalove Member

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    Thanks for the info. I learned something new.
     
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  18. Forest Nymph
    Musical

    Forest Nymph Well-Known Member

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    There are things we may as kind people consider ethical under certain circumstances. Like lying when in danger, stealing when hungry, prostitution when faced with homelessness or your children doing without, even killing if it's in self defense.

    Under peaceful circumstances we consider those things on a scale of undesirable to completely reprehensible.

    Vegan gray areas are like that. If the nice sheep really likes his hair cut in spring and your family lives a rural life with cold winters, that is one thing. I have the same attitude towards vegetarianism in developing countries and off grid communities.

    I think the bee thing though is more academically debatable and might be considered vegan if it's literally scientifically necessary to keep viable for bees to thrive.

    As for riding horses that's one of those things to me like you know if you want to ride a horse by all means please sell your car, get off your computer, and live on a mountain where you can only get to market once a week by horse. Otherwise I really don't want to hear nonsense about horses wanting to be ridden.

    Some things are understandable under circumstance, but other things like marital rape and child abuse though part of human history have no place anywhere ever in modern times. There are situations of animal exploitation like that, but vegans usually at least avoid all of those.
     
  19. Nekodaiden

    Nekodaiden Active Member

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    These questions typically only surface when one goes vegan or vegetarian, and they are indeed ethics questions. One of the nice things about being Vegan is that you don't have to have answers for them. Ever. You can, of course, but it's not required.

    https://veganforum.org/threads/youre-not-a-real-vegan-youre-not-vegan-enough.2785/
     
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