This is what one person* had to say on Veganism:
Edit: first set of content edits have been added in this colour.
What is a vegan?
A vegan is a human who attempts to minimize the animal exploitation caused by their living. Whether or not humans count as animal in this case is debatable, also what do we mean by exploitation?
I'm using the word exploitation in context and define it as a use of another that can feel pain..show's signs of being sentient without their consent. Or also the use of another where by they have no other means for survival and are given a wage (be it in food or money so on so forth) where they can not properly (healthily) sustain themselves or their family. Clearly this is a subjective thing however I'm sure you'll agree the workers conditions are awful when they are seen in places such as sweat shop.
What do we mean by a person?
For instance, most humans would argue that a person is a human but not an animal, that all non brain dead, alive humans are people. But that animals aren't. The claim is based generally I believe on intelligence, however there are other intelligent animals, dolphins, pigs, what level of intelligence would they need to reach and express to us for us to consider any of these animals, or perhaps their entire species as intelligent?
I use the words "people" and "person" a lot but it seems as a casual way to describe humans, most if not all the time I would argue it would be more appropriate to use the words "human(s)" instead.
Hypothetically, if two sets of aliens came down, one in a very complex space ship, who learn our languages easily, and understood us, and others who came down in a space ship that didn't seem as complex, and that couldn't communicate us, but seemed to act socially with each other, would we call one set "people" and the others "animals"?
Is the term "person" just used as a way to describe the human mind?
So I struggle, along with many other "people", to define person hood.
On Wikipedia you will see other examples.
We tend to break down the mind as something that is supernatural, or unexplainable, in humans (at least to some degree). However in animals, we label them as primitive, as mindless drones. In some cases this may or may not be true, however I ask by what grounds do we say that these animals are not people?
(Note that the Buddha is said to have said not to just follow what he said, but to see, not just believe, that faith wasn't needed or wanted in Buddhism, and that we should try to analysis what he said, and take any truth we could for that, but if we could not find any, then to disregard the teaching, and as a result, use what we find correct in his teachings in our lives and disregard what we do not understand or find incorrect.)
I've been reading up on this for an exam, and whether it's a religion, way of life, set of metaphorical teachings so on so forth, is all debatable. And what I say is my own interpretation.
The mind can be broken down basically into 5 aggregates:
the fact we have senses
the sensory experiences
whether those experiences are positive or negative
how we act based on those.
(Note in Buddhist tradition there are 6 senses, the 6th being that of the mind, and each sense has a "sensory consciousness" also that some Buddhists don't believe that there is a term for an individual, as that implies permanence within the 5 aggregates, and if we are always changing, how can there be an 'I'?).
It is said also through out Buddhist teaching that nothing is permanent. Everything changes, this is true on a molecular level, where molecules are always vibrating, and on a wider capacity. It is said that everything with these 5 aggregates is constantly changing. Two examples being that you gain new information all the time, like as you're reading now you are changing, and from the start of this sentence up to these words you will have changed, even if only slightly. Another example is that you can never jump into the same river twice, by the time you get out to jump in again, no matter how fast you are, the water will be placed differently, the dirt or stone will be moved/eroded, some water will have left the river and some water will have been added to the river, so on so forth.
Whilst the river may have the same name, it will have changed.
In the same way we are constantly changing as our the situations around us, and everywhere, as nothing is separated from this teaching.
Even a photo remember, will be changing (even if slowly) and will fade over time, and the molecules will continue to move).
There are also 4 noble truths (I'll dip into the first 3) said to be in Buddhist tradition.
The first is the noble truth of dukkha. The second is the arising of dukkha. I'll only spend a brief time in Buddhist thought so I'll lump them in together.
Dukkha is a Sanskrit word (or Pali? One of the two, perhaps both) that translates roughly as, suffering/unsatisfactoriness/something that we want to change.
The teaching states that everything in our current lives is dukkha in some way, whether it is now, or leads to some later on.
For instance you may punch someone and hurt them and yourself, or be punched. You being punched randomly would be an example of unconditioned arising.
A conditioned arising of dukkha would be one coming from change from a constant in your life, such as a relationship. I'm sure all of you reading this will have been hurt by someone you've had a relationship with. Be it a partner, friend or parent. A change will have occurred in the relationship for the dukkha to occur. And you will have been suffering as a result, or desiring it to change to something less unsatisfactory.
So be it a relationship or a punch (or something similar) we are causing or have been caused dukkha.
That is the prognosis (from what I can tell), that suffering is, and where it comes from.
However there is more to be said on conditioned arising, dukkha is always caused, not by the change, but the desire for change. This is what to me marks Buddhism out from other ways of thinking. It doesn't say that you should change what you desire, but that all desire is the cause of dukkha. You won't always get what you desire, and if you do desire something you want something to change.
So if you can stop wanting that change, you stop being in a state of dukkha.
With the symptoms and causes Buddhism may appear as very pessimistic, but studies show Buddhists to be amongst the happiest humans on the planet. This is probably because of the last two noble truths. The cession of dukkha and the 8 fold path. I'll only be going into (for now) the cession of dukkha.
This is said to occur by taking away the desire, and by taking away the desires, you will not intentionally be causing either conditioned or unconditioned dukkha. This is the first 3 noble truths in probably the simplest way expressed. If you have an interest, feel anything should be added, or anything should be changed, drop me a line (although I don't always look at my myspace).
Books I recommend for understand this way of thinking more clearly are as follows:
Teach Yourself buddhism - Clive Erricker
What The Budha Taught - Walpola Sri Rahula
An Introduction to Buddhism -Peter Harvey
My personal favourite is the middle one, the simplest is the first one, and one I'm not so keen on, but my tutor highly recommends, is the Peter Harvey one.
Not all vegans go along with this way of thinking, and I don't fully agree with Buddhist thinking, but I think it offers an interesting view point, and what it says about the mind is hard to refute.
I believe that pain exists. I dare say I know pain exists because I've felt it and at the very least the concept must exist.
When I feel pain I react with certain behavior, my nervous system reacts a certain way and my expression can only really go so far. However I see things that make me feel pain, and I see the receiver of these things react to the pain, I'm shown that there nervous system reacts a certain way etc.
Whilst some pain can be pleasurable, in general it is not. In fact it's rare that it is. I think humans feel pain, however I can not show that to be true, for instance does a brain dead human feel pain? Do you feel pain? Does everyone else just react the same way I do when I feel pain? I doubt it, I think most humans do feel pain. However I also think by their behavior, and what science shows us to be a nervous system, that other animals feel pain. Possibly all animals. On the other hand there isn't much evidence to support the claim that plants feel pain. And I don't believe they do feel pain.
As I don't have the consent to cause pain, I tend to not have the intentions to put other beings in pain, and try to avoid those actions (although that's often not possible without my death, it is possible in other situations).
I've already spoken about person hood, and now pain. These two things throw animals and humans (which are animals remember) into a blur when we look at the divide.
Should we treat other animals as things, as objects, as property. Well to a certain extent it can be argued the slave trade is very much alive with sweat shops, and in another capacity, that animals are treated as property.
Edit: add on
I believe that every sentient life form has property over itself, although not necessarily it’s body (I’m still working that out) human and non human alike.
The issue of property is clearly important, as we treat animals as our property. We used to treat African slaves in the same way. There was a time where a slave ship sunk. The contents of the ship were insured but the insurance company objected to paying for the worth of the slaves. They said that the slaves were not the property of the slave company. The company objected, stating that this was not a matter of a loss of life, but a loss of property, that the slaves were the property of the company and that’s why they were going to be sold. When push came to shove the insurance company won.
Isn’t it the same with animals, that they’re not just our property, or at least shouldn’t be? At least no more than the slaves back in the day should have been?
I ask what distinction should be made between our own species and other species in order for us to have such authority over them?
I see no clear evidence to suggest that plants feel pain, no behaviour, no central nervous system. Furthermore if we hypothetically did say that plants can feel pain, by eating plants instead of animals less plants would die, due to the conversion of energy from plants into animals into us being inefficient in comparison to us eating the plants straight off.
Whilst I recognise that a plant may react to stimuli, and if cut may react with a release of hormones, I see nothing that suggests to me that that causes the plant suffering.
Or even just this:
is part of the food chain or nature again seems to be beyond the basis of logical thinking to me.
I'm not saying that nature is something we should follow either, I don't see a reason to do or say that, although surely anyone typing on a computer or watching TV or driving a car agrees with me (unless they just don't follow through with their convictions, but not many people are nature above nurture).
So we've taken out survival of the fittest and instead made it all die, the whole basis of survival based upon if you escape your predator has been thrown out the window.
I'm not saying we should go out and kill things with swords, I'm not saying we should go along with nature, I'm just saying we should admit we're not natural beings, we don't live 'naturally' in our everyday lives (as a society, I'm not talking about those in far away tribes, because that's a different debate, but us who use computers drive cars etc.)
So it is for these reasons I am a vegan. I do still exploit animals, I try to minimise this. I am not perfect. I will sometimes mis-read a product set of ingredients. Some products will have labels stuck on with animal products. Some of these things I just can not avoid. However just because I can't cut it out completely doesn't seem to be a reason to not cut it out as much as I can.
Surely if I can decrease the amount of suffering then that is better than just blindly adding to it more?
I dare use the analogy of two humans both of which are tied to train tracks, I am between the two, and a train will roll through in 15 minutes. They are a mile apart. By the time I get to one to untie them and save their life, the other would be killed unless someone else is about. However I can not see anyone else in either direction. Should I try to save one of their lives and hope somehow the other survives, or just sit by because I can't save both?
If my aim is to decrease suffering and up hold the right to continued living, surely I should try to give that to as many as I can?
Monday, 16 November 2009
August 6, 2009 - Thursday
Posted by can you wait for ever if time is all it takes? at 18:20