Vegetarianism & Communism

Having been both vegetarian & a communist for more then 5 years now I decided to finally write something about the connection between these issues. Does vegetarianism have anything to do with Communism and vice-versa?

BRIEF STORY ABOUT MY POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT

Before becoming a Communist I was a proponent of Schopenhauer’s philosophical pessimism. Where ever I turned I saw immense suffering, poverty, war, exploitation. About half of humanity (3.6 billion people) lives on less then 2 dollars per day while large portions of Africa live much worse. 80% lives on less then 10 dollars per day.

The Capitalist economic system fails to provide even the most basic necessities for countless millions and Western corporate interest actually actively hinders the development of most third world countries. 10 million die each year due to hunger and hunger related causes. Only 8% of this is due to natural disasters or war. 92% is simply due to economics, the poor can’t afford food. Meanwhile about half of the world’s food is wasted and left to rot as there is nobody (no paying customer) to purchase it. The needs of humans are in absolute antagonistic contradiction compared to the capitalist economic system.

Animals were often even worse off then humans, being exploited in horrible conditions in factory farms. Billions of animals are born each year only to suffer and die for the sake of consumerism, unnecessarily.

I stopped eating meat soon after understanding how unnecessary and immoral it was. I also saw the bankruptcy and inhuman character of capitalism but it took me some time to abandon pessimism. It had led me to a situation where I saw no solution for any of these problems.

As I gradually learned about the practicality of Socialism, the real benefits it provided and the futility of all other alternatives I finally stopped complaining, and started doing something to improve things. None of these problems were innate in life or humanity, they were the result of concrete material conditions which could all be changed.

RECOGNITION THAT SUFFERING IS BAD

We all have a capacity to suffer. It is universally recognized by everyone that it is bad, to be avoided, undesirable by definition. A masochist, who enjoys e.g. physical pain, does not suffer from it, but actually derives pleasure from it. Suffering is something that we all define as a bad thing.

But we only define it as bad if it is targeted towards us, right? Yes, but what makes any individual special? We all have the same capacity to suffer. From our subjective experiences and the realization that there is an external world outside of us, we inevitable reach the conclusion that suffering is just as bad for everyone. This subjective truth that suffering is bad, is accepted by every subject and is thus universally, objectively true. The only way to avoid this conclusion is nihilism or solipsism, neither of which were ever convincing to me. Even a solipsist or nihilist still behaves like suffering is bad, even if their ideology denies it.

If we recognize that suffering is bad, it is only natural to want to reduce it. Capitalism causes tremendous unnecessary suffering for the sake of profit.

DEFENDERS OF ANIMAL EXPLOITATION

We communists seek to improve the lives of people. We want to make life better for them. But what about animals? Animals suffer exactly like humans.

The common arguments in favor of continuing unnecessary animal exploitation that I’ve heard are:

1. “We need animal products to survive”

This is a relatively common but entirely unfounded claim. There are countless people who have not consumed animal products for decades and still live normal lives.

2. “Animals are less intelligent so its ok to abuse them”

This argument is to me particularly reprehensible. The quasi-nazi character of this line of reasoning should be blatantly obvious.

Do we torture or abuse the mentally handicapped? Do we torture or abuse those of lesser intellect? Then why do we abuse animals? IQ does not effect ones capacity to suffer or feel joy.

On top of that animals are in reality highly intelligent (in many cases more intelligent then human children).

3. “I’m against factory farming but not all animal exploitation”

I oppose exploitation. Not just when its extreme but also when its a milder form. More humane treatment of animals is better, but why should we exploit or abuse them at all? Besides factory farming is more profitable. It makes sense for capitalists to continue doing it.

4. “Animals taste better”

This is not an argument at all, yet many still use it. It is the mentality of the morally bankrupt decadent egoist. Naturally as a Communist I cannot condone such behavior.

5. “Animal exploitation is natural”

This is an appeal to nature fallacy. Rape and murder are natural, yet every civilization has outlawed them. Animal exploitation is a phenomenon that developed out of concrete material conditions and is fundamentally unnecessary at this state of human development.

Secondly, there’s good reason to believe eating animals is not all that native to humans. Our bodies cannot fully digest meat and our teeth are not suited for raw flesh. Meat provides a source of protein but is also related to many negative health conditions.

6. “I need meat to be fit or build muscle”

This is an argument that particularly athletes, body builders and those who consider themselves to be on those categories use. However it is also untrue. There are many successful vegan athletes and body builders.

DEFENDERS OF HUMAN EXPLOITATION

What astounds me is that many vegetarians and vegans who recognize the unethical character of animal exploitation still hold right-wing political & economic views. If you are against animal exploitation, you should also be against human exploitation!

I will now deal with some common arguments made in favor of continuing human exploitation but I won’t go into great detail about specific anti-communist claims in this post.

1. “Animals are innocent but humans are not”

What about third world children? What are they guilty of? Humans don’t deserve exploitation any more then animals do.

2. “Animals are cute and humans are not”

Nobody would seriously argue this but many implicitly voice sentiments like this. We shouldn’t only defend the rights of those animals (or people) who we find aesthetically pleasing, they all can suffer or enjoy life just the same.

3. “Capitalism is voluntary, not exploitation like factory farming”

Humans are limited by their material conditions. Realistically in many third world countries unemployment means total destitution or even death. This is hardly a voluntary choice but rather one dictated by circumstances. These circumstances are created and maintained by the capitalist system itself.

In the West the situation is not as extreme but people who don’t own the means to employ themselves still must seek employment from a capitalist if they wish to live reasonably well. Even in the west losing one’s job can mean homelessness or going hungry, losing access to healthcare, being unable to pay for education etc.

4. “Socialist economies don’t work”

This is blatantly false. The Soviet Union, a socialist country, was the world’s second biggest economy and kept growing for the entirety of its existence. Most socialist countries were far wealthier then most capitalist countries. Most people in socialism had better access to healthcare, necessities of life, education and culture then in most capitalist countries. 10 million starve annually in capitalism and 3.6 billion live on less then $2/day.

5. “Socialism collapsed”

The reason why the Western capitalist countries were able to defeat the Socialist countries is complex, but the fact that Socialism was destroyed doesn’t prove that it is not a superior system when it comes to serving people’s needs.

Some basic Soviet GDP statistics:

CAN ANIMAL EXPLOITATION BE SOLVED IN CAPITALISM?

1. The Profit Motive

Capitalism is a system based on profit. Exploiting people and animals is highly profitable. It seems unlikely that a profit-driven system would stop doing something profitable.

2. Can we not pass legislation against animal exploitation?

Theoretically we could but in a capitalist system those who control the wealth control politics and legislation also. The liberal quest to “get money out of politics” in capitalism, a system driven by money, is utterly hopeless. For this to work we would need a democratic system genuinely controlled by the people i.e. Socialism.

3. Can we not boycott the meat industry to make it unprofitable?

Theoretically we could but such boycotts are rarely effective enough. Besides people are limited by their resources. In this current system animal products are cheap, easily available and backed by advertisement. Attempts at “ethical consumerism” within capitalism practically never work.

SOCIALISM AND ANIMAL LIBERATION

1. Why did historical socialist countries not abolish animal exploitation?

The reasons are numerous. For one, they were far too concerned with the horrible conditions of humans. In countries that used to have serious famine only years before and where all resources were needed to industrialize, develop the military and win the Cold War this was not a realistic option. Add to that the fact that the Animal Rights Movement was not as developed as it is today.

2. Should we stop eating animals now or only in socialism?

The more vegetarianism and veganism spreads now the easier the transformation will be in the future. The economic base of capitalism facilitates exploitation but spreading the ideas now can’t do any harm. Reducing meat consumption right now has health benefits, reduces global warming and exploitation (even if only a tiny bit) and shows a good Communist Example of ethical behavior.

3. Isn’t Vegetarianism/Veganism Classist?

Bourgeois-vegetarianism can be classist. However as a Communist I recognize that some people can’t afford to change their eating habits. Its not the fault of the poor but the capitalist system. We shouldn’t blame them but fight to change the system.

4. National Self-Determination

Indigenous people who practice traditional hunting or cattle raising shouldn’t be our main focus. They contribute very little to the problem of animal exploitation. We should be lenient towards them.

Particularly cruel practices could be banned immediately in socialism and this wouldn’t necessarily be much of a violation of national self-determination. Socialist China banned traditional forced marriages and foot-binding as feudal and barbaric practices. If some traditional practices are exceptionally cruel towards animals we can do the same.

Its worth pointing out that in many indigenous cultures and many religions animal consumption in general, or the consumption of specific animals like cows or pigs is considered unethical.

SOURCES:

10 million starve annually due to economic conditions
http://www.bhookh.com/hunger_facts.php

Global poverty
https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-global-poverty

56 billion animals are killed annually
http://www.animalequality.net/food

The world’s 3.6 billion poorest people are getting poorer
http://www.wired.co.uk/article/global-poverty-oxfam-world-economic-forum

Pigs Are Highly Social And Really Smart. So, Um, About Eating Them…
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/15/are-pigs-intelligent_n_7585582.html

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3 thoughts on “Vegetarianism & Communism

  1. What kind of audience are you aimed at with your ridiculous “rape is natural” argument? Christian fundamentalists, who believe sex is inherently bad? Can you imagine, from a practical standpoint, what everyday life would be like if this were true? When I see an attractive girl I don’t have to “resist” but rather I don’t even think of something like that. I do not believe you have the right to spread such ideas while you claim to be a communist. What will a person think if this blog is their first introduction to communism. Don’t you have a sense of responsibility?
    That should be enough for anyone but here are some scientific arguments just in case.
    There is no evidence that sex offences occured more frequently in primitive societies than today, plus customs of living civilisations who were still using stone tools when discovered by europeans have been recorded and they were nothing like what you imply, they had sexual freedom instead. It’s not true about “feral children” either, the only difference was that it was difficult for them to speak and socialize and had shorter lifespans. Lastly, you contradict yourself by saying “forbidden in all cultures” but then proceed to talk about cultures with forced marriage, surely you have heared that marrital rape was allowed too. Did marrital rape happen in ALL households back then, just because it was allowed? No, not all husbands were capable or willing to rape, then how is it as inherent to humans as you claim.
    As for the main matter in your post, of course you have the right to be communist and vegetarian and to spread your ideas but, except for my afformentioned disagreement, you shamelessly use pseudoscientific arguments, not beffitting of communism. This includes “we cannot fully digest meat”, as far as I know we don’t “fully” digest anything (this is why we defecate). And we don’t digest fiber, wereas herbivorus animals do.I’m not one of these people prejudised against vegans, it is people like you I detest because you use manipulative methods including pseudoscientific trivia, you spread missinformation without the slightest sense of responsiblity.
    I hope you had fun drawing attention to yourself.

    • I’m saddened by the fact that I’ve offended you so. Is rape natural? It happens in nature frequently. Yet, only a minority of people are rapists. Disease and anti-social behavior occur only occasionally, despite being entirely natural. I don’t know why you think something being natural means everyone must do it. Having a short temper is natural, so is not having a short temper.

      In primitive societies rape was relatively rare like today, (I think) because it takes a certain kind of person, certain kind of situation, what not, and because ancient societies were still societies and rape was not looked upon favorably. Forming societies and civilizations itself is natural for humans. Humans live in groups. In dialectical terms, humans don’t merely evolve, but also influence their own evolution by altering their surroundings. What ever the case, every now and then rape happened. I’m not a psychologist, I don’t know what kind of a person it takes to commit rape, it seems to be impossible to predict. I think it would be a stretch to call it “unnatural”. It happens in pretty much all species in nature. Are you also going to say other relatively rare or criminal behavior is unnatural? Just because its natural, doesn’t mean its good. Bad things also occur in nature.

      I’m not a biologist so I don’t care to debate biology with you. However the scientific fact (albeit not often mentioned) is that humans evolved from herbivores who barely ever consumed meat. We have known fire, and hence cooked meat, for thousands of years which means we could evolve somewhat to meat consumption, but not fully.

      I assume you’ve chosen to focus on my examples relating to the Appeal to Nature Fallacy since you support that argument.

  2. Maybe my disageement wasn’t clear. I honestly thought this as media exaggeration and wasn’t giving it much thought, nonetheless, if sex offence does occur in other species, why use it as an example for human species at all? Who ever suggested we should immitate other species? It seems you are countering an argument nobody made. No, I do not necessarilly support arguments based on nature, at least not without a proper definition, “not artificial”, “according to the nature of”, “inevitable” are all valid meanings for “natural”. I hope it’s clear that I’m not accusing you of support for sexual offences, I only think you haven’t properly defined your terms and most people will read the article, not your mind. We can acccept desease (mental, in this case) as “natural”. But then we cannot characterize anything as “unnatural”, as it is a valid every-day, non-scientific way to say “bad”, “ill”, etc. In short, you use the same words with different meaning, this is not a valid comparison or disagreement.
    Also I am afraid my moral disagreement wasn’t clear. I thought it was strange that you chose the phrase “rape and murder”, how are the two related?. Violence -unlike sexual violence- has many causes, from malice or greed to poverty, defence, justified rage. The phrase you used seems to reflect obsolete ideas that oversimplify the causes of and solutions to human suffering, that law solves anything and disobedience brings chaos. I believe communists should inspire the idea that people can be masters of their fate. Honestly, I think you knowingly used a conservative, “moralist” phrase because you wanted to appeal to your readers the easy way with ideas they are familiar with rather than chalenge them with enlightning ideas of communism.
    It is unfortunate that you think you are not responsible for the scientiific accuracy of your article, communism may be considered a philosophy but it is scientific. Maybe it’s not clear that I’m not arguing against vegetarianism, I’m upset over the subjects you butchered *while* trying to talk about vegetarianism. The way you describe evolution doesn’t make sense, fire couldn’t have affected evolution which happens by random new mutations creatures are born with and pass on to their offspring, the mutations are *random* and creation of specific mutations wasn’t possible until recently (bioengeneering). You *are* responsible for the accuracy, you can’t act prejudiced one day but frown upon religious propaganda the other. I understand that some subjects are diffcult, but internet offers a relatively easy acces to information, even scientific if you search well.
    There’s lack of actual dietary advice. I searched about essential aminoacids (the body doesn’t make them and they must be eaten), meat and animal products have all nine but vegans need a combination of beans (soy and others) to consume all, some of these products need to be imported, making it expensive. I don’t think think veganism is “wrong” because it was more difficult in the past, but I’m curious as to why you don’t offer advice on your own for people who are interested and why I have made more research to respond than you did to post. (I know you say your are vegetarian, not vegan but it’s strange how you say you oppose all animal exploitaion, not just killing)
    I have an issue with you mentioning human-to-human violence and cruel practices at all in relation to meat consumption, I understand your reasoning that animals should be seen as living creatures, but the causes are so vastly different you don’t achieve anything by comparing them. The problem is you chose to counter blatantly bad arguments instead of offering alternative ideas for people who think there are good reasons to consume meat. Why, do you think you “win” this way? Even so, it is pointless because the people who would make bad arguments wouldn’t change their mind, so it’s not productive for you. I’m sure you could inspire at least a few people by offering alternate views to good arguments, surely you don’t need to missunderstand science to do so, research could help you, even.
    I admit I see your choices in this article as intentional, the pseudoscience, the selective opposing arguments, the possible shock factor (I don’t think you made a point mentioning human attrocities tbh), the “textbook” fallacy with its predetermined counter-argument, I don’t know you but it seems motivation for this article is pride rather than compassion for animals and loyalty to communist ideals, I’m surprised by marxist “comunity” shortcomings generally. Even if it wasn’t you intention, you are not doing justice to the ideology and its potential. People need marxism, if you are not willing to inspire them, if all you guys want is a hobby why not become otakus like everyone else.

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