Friday, December 30, 2011

The slavery analogy

My friend sent me a Mark Bitman article in the NYT about semi-veganism. He asked what I thought even though he already knew. There’s no such thing as semi-veganism or a part-time vegan.

You going to use the slavery analogy again? he asked.

People don’t like the slavery analogy. It offends them. The Atlantic Monthly bans commenters for using it. Maybe it’s because people don’t want what they consider a second or third-tier sin likened to the greatest sin in America’s history. But that’s not why my friend doesn’t like the analogy. He doesn’t like it because it divides people into two groups – those who support the enslavement and slaughter of non-human animals and those who renounce it. My friend wants there to be a group somewhere in the middle, where you can sympathize with the plight of animals and do what you can to reduce their suffering but still eat them from time to time.

The slavery analogy works so well because it’s so stark. If a slaveholder claims to oppose slavery, he must free his slaves. If he adds a few links of chain to the shackles so the slave has more room to roam, he does not oppose slavery. If he vows to whip his slaves less frequently, he does not oppose slavery. People who talk about part-time veganism, bigger cages, free range, grass fed, Michael Pollan, humane slaughter, etc etc etc want to oppose slavery without freeing their slaves. And that’s simply not possible.