You eat breakfast, and breakfast becomes you - the food turns into tissue. Your breakfast fed on something too, before you ate it and it became you. Life feeds on life. Vegetarians may want to reduce the harm they cause sentient beings by not eating animals - a noble desire. Vegans take it further. But plants too, are sentient. Some would suggest not eating plants either, or only eating the food that drops from a living plant. We could follow this non - harming scheme to a logical conclusion, in which we stop eating anything or doing any harm. We would then die ourselves. Starvation is a form of suffering too, so by not wanting to cause any harm we still cause harm. Even turning on a light is adversely affecting the planet and the things living on it. As is updating your status on Facebook.
Every living thing is eventual compost for something new, and that eventual compost is inherent in the thing that is new. This is true of things that live and grow, and it seems true of more subtle things, like a way of living, thinking or acting. New ideas move through phases of germination, immaturity, maturity and eventually they become fodder for yet another idea.
The desire to reduce harm by not eating farmed animals is wonderful. We could look at alternative farmed foods, or turn to foraging instead of farmed foods. But we too, are farmed animals. We are raised in a controlled environment, only able to live and move in certain areas. We have also been corralled into certain ways of thinking, that once accepted by most seem to be truth. Ideas like “Marriage is natural”, “There is an afterlife”, “There are universal moral truths”. So to a certain degree, many can only conceptualize within the confines of accepted truths. If those truths are incorrect, or if there are no universal truths, it seems the first order of business would be to find out why we think the way we think rather than acting on thinking that may be incorrect.
It is difficult to think objectively when vested interest is present. If I identify myself as a yoga teacher, I will probably advocate yoga. I make my living teaching yoga, so this seems natural. But there are times when my vested interests influence my objectivity. It may be true that another form of exercise or mindful work would be better for a potential student, but not having much familiarity with other disciplines, I advocate yoga instead. I am not being entirely objective, in that case.
If I identify as a vegetarian, I will tend to defend vegetarianism. When I look through articles on diet, I may unconsciously gravitate to those articles that support my beliefs about diet. I may even argue against another point of view before understanding that point of view, or its benefits, or the vested interest that point of view may be coming from.
Perhaps a more objective and more helpful approach would be to admit:
- We have vested interests
- What those interests are
- How those interests might affect our objectivity
- That we really don’t know it all and we may very well change our minds, ‘cause it has happened before.