Saturday, March 7, 2009
Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarianism Makes No Sense
Vegetarians who don’t eat animal flesh, but do include eggs and dairy in their diets, are known as lacto-ovo-vegetarians. They represent the largest of the several categories of vegetarians, which also includes lacto-vegetarians who consume dairy but not eggs, ovo-vegetarians who consume eggs but not dairy, and vegans who consume no animal products and also avoid other uses of animals, such as for clothing, shoes, furnishings, etc.
I have sometimes seen vegans described as eating only foods from the Plantae (Plant) kingdom. However this is technically not true in accordance with the most widely accepted biological taxonomic system. Plants certainly represent the vast majority of what a typical vegan eats in terms of both volume and caloric value. But vegans also may eat mushrooms, yeasts, and various molds found in such foods as soy tempeh and miso; all of which are members of the Fungi kingdom. Microscopic organisms found in cultured soy and in most other foods that haven’t been recently cooked at high temperatures, are members of the Eubacteria kingdom. From the perspective of the abolitionist vegan, one who recognizes animals as sentient beings and denies the moral legitimacy of animals as property, lacto-ovo-vegetarianism is no different morally than a diet that includes meat. Animals used for their milk and eggs are considered property in exactly the same context as animals used for their flesh. In both cases, the vast majority of these animals experience a lifetime of slavery followed by untimely death at the slaughterhouse. While the average lacto-ovo-vegetarian most likely eats a smaller overall quantity of animal products than the average meat eater, resulting in less net animal use and harm, the remaining animal use in the form of dairy and/or egg consumption is still wrong, and is still morally unjustifiable. From the perspective of the vegetarian who accepts the use of animals short of killing them, eating dairy and/or eggs is flawed logic. In the modern system of production the dairy cows and egg laying birds are ultimately killed when their continued existence ceases to be profitable for the producer. Eating dairy and eggs directly supports that killing. From the perspective of someone who adheres to the welfarist position—that it is acceptable to own and use animals as long as their treatment conforms to some set of minimum guidelines, lacto-ovo-vegetarianism may have made some sense in a long-gone era prior to the factory farm practices that have arisen in response to the huge global demand for dairy and eggs. It certainly doesn’t make sense now. Some of the worst cruelty takes place in the production of dairy and eggs. While labels such as “free-range,” “cage-free,” or “organic” may in some cases represent slightly less cruelty; plenty of cruelty remains. So-called “humane farming” practices have more to do with marketing and making consumers feel more comfortable about continuing to eat animal products, than protecting the interests of animals. From the perspective of an informed person who is concerned about the environment, a lacto-ovo-vegetarian’s contribution to water consumption/pollution and greenhouse gas emissions—while substantially less than the typical meat eater—remains significantly larger than it would be if they became a vegan. Finally, from the perspective of an informed person motivated by health concerns, not eating meat due to it’s high levels of cholesterol and saturated fat, concentrated pesticide residues, and lack of dietary fiber and phytochemicals, makes a lot of sense; but so would also avoiding dairy and eggs for the very same reasons. Nutritionally there is little difference between meat, dairy, and eggs. They are all forms of animal tissue. Conclusion: Differentiating between meat, dairy, and eggs appears in all of the above cases to be arbitrary. From multiple perspectives lacto-ovo-vegetarianism makes no sense, while veganism makes plenty of sense.