We often presume, without much thought, that we deserve the circumstances of our lives. But let’s consider this presumption.
We didn’t choose to be born. We didn’t choose our parents, race, sex, mental capacity, era in history, or our species. All of these are matters of pure luck, and yet largely define our lifelong experience on Earth. Luck is, by far, the largest factor in determining whether we will live human lives in 21st century comfort or luxury; or we’ll live lives of unbearable torture and abject misery as a pig, chicken, or other sentient being born into animal agriculture; or somewhere in between, perhaps as a human in poverty.
When we intentionally contemplate the wild arbitrariness and caprice of fortune, it becomes easier to empathize with those less fortunate than ourselves. We realize on a deeper level that, by definition, nobody deserves his or her fortune, regardless of its quality. Cultivating empathy and contemplating our own relative fortune helps break down the strong barrier we unconsciously construct between self and other, and we start to see ourselves as if we were the other, regardless of their race, sex, species, or any other circumstance of birth.
The more we empathize and see ourselves as if we were another sentient being, the more open we are to examining what we can do to help, or at least not contribute to the harm of, other beings – human or nonhuman – less fortunate than ourselves. We realize that we all have desires. We all want to avoid unnecessary hardship. As sentient beings, we share this condition of wanting contentment. Even those more fortunate than we are worthy of our empathy, for they are more likely to be stuck on the hedonic treadmill: chasing after the next pleasure or preference, only to find boredom or dissatisfaction after a short while, then on to the next chase, and so on.
We also see that taking the well being of others seriously, while either getting off, or slowing down, our own hedonic treadmill is an incomparably saner and more fulfilling way to live.
For me, veganism is an indispensable cornerstone, and a minimum standard, of taking the well being of others seriously. I could do more, and sometimes do, but being vegan is the very least I can do in taking my ethical commitments seriously. This is why I’ll always be vegan.
Special thanks to Butterflies Katz for publishing this as one of 100+ entries in her short essay contest and eBook: Why I Will Always be Vegan.