Want To Help Animals? No Extremism Required

Q&A with a reporter from National Public Radio

Do vegans who insist that such medicines or medical products should be refused by other vegans undermine what you are trying to accomplish, and if so, in what specific ways?

Every time we focus on the undeniable suffering of animals on factory farms – rather than making the issue about our personal choices/ definitions/ labels/ philosophy – the world is a better place. This is something that took me years to discover; initially, my veganism was all about how “dedicated” and “consistent” I was. Everything centered on how committed I was/how amazing my veganism was; not on the animals nor on helping them as much as possible.

Being an effective advocate for the animals – including being a positive, practical example – is much more difficult than memorizing a list of animal ingredients. But if we really oppose cruelty to animals, we need to do everything we can to end factory farms, even if that is more difficult than personally being ever-more “vegan.”

Is a person a better, more committed vegan when s/he refuses medicines or medical products that include animal products?

A few decades ago, I thought a person’s dedication was measured by how much they “gave up” – how hard their life seemed relative to mine. It took me a while to realize the question isn’t how “vegan” anyone is; rather, the only issue is the animals’ suffering. All that matters is the impact we have for the animals in the real world….

Sportland2016pecific to medicine: I’m alive and functioning today because of “non-vegan” medicines. Modern medicine saved my life many times. And it also saved a friend and colleague recently. This is also true for many of the people who are doing the most good today. The point isn’t to suffer to be “vegan.” The point is to lead a meaningful life that reduces as much suffering as possible, making the world a better place than if we hadn’t existed.

-Matt Ball