Bob Orabona at age 56 has now been a vegan for twenty-eight years. He works for Friends of Animals, an international animal rights advocacy organization, celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year, publisher of the vegan cookbook “Dining with Friends”, headquartered in Darien, Connecticut.
Q. First, what is veganism?
A. Not using animals -– any part of them -- as food, clothing or medicine, in experimentation or entertainment, not using them in any way for human benefit.
Q. What do you eat then?
A. Mostly good home-cooked food, with the occasional restaurant meal – all made only from plants. It's often a challenge to eat vegan in a non-vegetarian restaurant. Sometimes the wait staff does not understand that milk and cheese, or even chicken and fish are not vegetables.
Q. Are vegans morally superior to meat-eaters?
A. Arguably, vegans are, in this one but far-reaching aspect of their lives, morally superior to meat-eaters. But, moral calculus can be bypassed, and judgment deferred, by seeing veganism as a simple existential choice, that is, each one of us can either choose to live in a world where animals suffer and die needlessly to meet our needs and whims, or choose to create and live in a world where they do not.
Q. So, what's your beef?
A. None, of course, but my concern is that meat-eaters have virtual monopolistic control over all of society's structures -- such as the media, politics and lawmaking, education, science, and religion. Just how do meat-eaters give fair consideration to the principles of veganism and still feel comfortable about their consumption of dead animals? They can’t. The only right choice then is that they forgo comfort, not fairness, to address the issues of veganism and animal rights.
The threat of an avian flu epidemic has the potential to kill millions of humans. Yet this danger largely exists only because of the production of birds for human consumption. Animal agriculture has now been identified as a significant contributor to global warming. Where is the outcry in the media from politicians, scientists and others to halt the production of animals for food?
Q. But, the media does cover stories about veganism and animal rights --
A. Most of those stories portray vegans and animal rights activists as crazies, weirdoes or thugs, running naked down the street, shouting foolish rhetoric. This type of coverage makes it easier for meat-eaters to dismiss or not even address the valid arguments in support of veganism.
Q. What are the valid arguments?
A. For me, the main one is an end to the needless suffering and death of sentient beings. Some others are the benefits to the environment and personal health – resulting in the added benefits of lower taxes, gas prices, and health care costs. For example, growing plants to feed animals, and then eating those animals, produces far more waste than just growing plants and eating them. Imagine a carmaker that builds cars by crushing and shredding new cars, and then uses the scrap to build new cars.
Q. What then about the use of violence that some have tried to use to promote and advance animal rights and veganism?
A. Violence is antithetical to a movement that seeks to live in peace with all creatures.