“Can you be vegan and pro-choice?”

Just  to be clear, the question I am answering here is whether or not being pro-choice is consistent with vegan ethics, not whether or not pro-choice is the more moral position in general. I recognise that this will be a controversial topic for many people, but that debate is beyond the scope of this blog, my interest is solely in answering a question that is posed to me quite often, since it can be a difficult subject for vegans to navigate. The chief accusation is that it is morally inconsistent to be vegan and to support the termination of a foetus, that is the argument I will try to address here and offer a vegan perspective on the matter. What I offer here is only my own arguments, there will no doubt be plenty of vegans on either side of the debate who will disagree.

Firstly, it is important to properly define what it is you would be trying to argue here as a pro-choice vegan. The way this is usually phrased is something like “you oppose killing animals but you don’t care about people killing babies?” A pro-choice vegan will of course not be defending the idea that infanticide is justified, they will simply be arguing to justify the termination of a foetus, as distinct from an already born human baby.

At the very beginning of any discussion it is very common that opponents will attempt to frame the pro-abortion argument as the “baby killing argument”, so it’s important to make this distinction early. Similarly, few will be attempting to argue that abortion can ever be morally good, in the way that a good moral deed is, they will usually be arguing that abortion can be justified given the other options would represent worse choices.

The central argument for pro-choice vegans is that the bodily autonomy of the mother is more important than the potential life growing inside her. As vegans we recognise that all sentient beings have inalienable rights, the right to life and self-determination insofar as it can be given are two of the most important of those. The abortion debate tends to focus on viability, that being the point at which a human foetus can potentially survive outside the womb, but for us a more rational point of focus would be the point of sentience, since that is the basis on which we argue for the rights of animals.

Opponents of the vegan pro-choice argument often argue that since a foetus is alive it is inconsistent to support killing them, however, this is a failure to understand what the argument for veganism actually is more generally. Plants are alive, they can also survive independently of anyone else’s body, but we still value animal lives over plant lives, and that is chiefly because of sentience. Therefore, when a foetus becomes sentient will be a key part of the discussion.

24 weeks represents the upper limit for legal abortion in most places, though many states and countries have limits much lower. 18 to 25 weeks is considered the earliest stage at which the lower boundary of sentience could be placed, that said,  before 30 weeks gestational age, EEG activity is extremely limited, and it is doubtful that sensation procession can occur, so 30 weeks is considered a more plausible stage of fetal development at which the lower boundary for sentience could be placed.

Even at the lower boundary of 18 weeks, in the US only 2.2% of abortions take place after this stage, and only 1.3% take place after 21 weeks. In no country is it legal to abort after the revised 30 week stage which many researchers place as the earliest time a foetus could be considered sentient.  As Steinbock points out though, “the exact onset of sentience in the second trimester is not just unknown, it may even be unknowable. It depends on the development of neural connections, which is a process, not an event. Drawing any exact line within a process is likely to be arbitrary.”

Even given the fact that we cannot know precisely when a foetus becomes sentient, under all reasonable estimates of when that process takes place what we are talking about in the vast majority of cases when we debate abortion is the rights of a non-sentient being being held up against the rights of a sentient being, who is the mother in this scenario. In cases where an abortion is allowed after the 24 week stage, it is a case where the life of the mother is potentially in danger, or the quality of life of the foetus is in question. When this is the case, it is very easy to argue that when a mother’s life is at risk their right to live is more important than that of the foetus, and many pro-life vegans will agree on that point.

It is not difficult then to imagine where the argument goes from here. As vegans we believe that all sentient beings have the right to life and self-determination, but since in the case of abortion it is a sentient being making the decision to abort a non-sentient being, our chief concern would be the rights of the mother. A mother has already been born, her rights are already established, and so it is her right to determine what happens to her own body which must be respected over the potential life she is gestating inside her. I

t is debated whether or not a foetus should have rights, but it is simply beyond question that the mother should have the right to self-determine her own life, and that should surely include the right to decide whether or not to carry her pregnancy to full term. Ultimately, it is her body the foetus is dependent on, and what she does with that body remains her decision.

Beyond sentience, there are also issues of consciousness to consider, though the topic of precisely when and how a foetus is conscious is too complex and multi-faceted to discuss in appropriate detail here. That said, when weighing moral decisions we often way one set of interests against another, animals clearly have preferences and would rather live than die, similarly, we can weigh up the interests of the pregnant woman against the gestating foetus.

It is difficult to argue that at the stage that a foetus is usually aborted they have enough awareness to be considered to have an awareness of their interests, at least not on the basis of the available science, and it certainly cannot be argued that they have an awareness of their own preferences at the level approaching their mother. However, a foetus undeniably does have a future interest in being alive, even if they are not aware of it now, so the debate becomes a bit murkier when we try to use consciousness and preferences as a justification.

I raise the issue of consciousness not so much as a support of a pro-choice argument, but as an example of the fact that the debate is murkier than many people would like to admit. I don’t want to make it sound as if the pro-choice vegan argument is completely clear-cut and unobjectionable because it isn’t, these are difficult moral questions with nuanced and multi-faceted possible answers. Nevertheless, this is not some hypothetical, it is a decision that many vegans will have to personally make, whether it is how they feel about the actions of a pregnant friend or partner, or even how they feel about their own pregnancy and the action they will take.

A decision therefore must be made on which side of the debate to fall down on, and what I present here are the justifications for falling on the pro-choice side. We weigh up the interest, sentience and rights of both parties, and conclude that the mother’s right to self-determination outweighs the right of a potential foetus to be born, given that they are dependent on someone else’s body to do so.

This will be an uncomfortable position for many people, and it may not sit quite right with you when sentience and lives are measured as if they were weights on a scale. However, you can be uncomfortable with abortion and even recognise it is a morally bad thing while still supporting a woman’s right to choose, it is just that abortion represents the best option between two difficult decisions.

You can maintain that abortion is a bad thing, but also recognise that forcing a mother to go full-term with a pregnancy she does not want and potentially putting her health, lifestyle, job and happiness at risk to do so would be morally worse. Few vegans will be claiming that a foetus should not even be included in our moral considering, just that the life and wishes of the mother are more important.

None of this is to say that you cannot be vegan and pro-life, or that veganism places an obligation on vegans to be pro-choice, just that being pro-choice is perfectly in keeping with vegan ethics. It is not a morally inconsistent position to hold that the rights of a mother are more important than the rights of a foetus, and as vegans we are used to doing this sort of moral calculus.

We weigh up a human’s right to survive against an animal’s right to live when considering issues like tribal sustenance hunting, we weigh up an animal’s right to not be exploited against a human’s desire to eat animals products, and we consistently come down in support of the greater rights of one being against the lesser rights or desires of another. The abortion debate is just another example of these considerations, where a decision must be made which rights to favour when the rights of two lifeforms are pitted against one another, and though that is never an easy consideration, it is one we already have an established moral framework for.

To offer a final word on this, I want to caution against using vegan ideology and ethics as a way to enforce conformity with either side of this debate. It is not required of vegans to be pro-life otherwise they are not “real” vegans, and equally it is perfectly possible for a vegan to remain vegan while being pro-life. Vegansim does not require compliance with a set of normative rules or commandments on all moral issues, it only requires that we recognise and respect the inherent rights of all sentient beings.

Abortion is a deeply personal topic, we should not make others feel “less vegan” for their views on it, whether they be informed by religion, culture or their own moral compass. No one can decide on behalf of anyone else whether or not they feel it is justified for that person to have an abortion or not, and if someone chooses to carry a pregnancy to term or abort because of their ethical standpoint, then that remains their decision and theirs alone.

Abortion is a deeply personal topic, we should not make others feel “less vegan” for their views on it, whether they be informed by religion, culture or their own moral compass. No one can decide on behalf of anyone else whether or not they feel it is justified for that person to have an abortion or not, and if someone chooses to carry a pregnancy to term or abort because of their ethical standpoint, then that remains their decision and theirs alone.

“Can you love animals and still eat them?”

This is a topic that causes some controversy, and still surfaces very often in debates surround animal rights and veganism. Most people consider themselves animal lovers, so having that challenged by vegans makes people understandably defensive, since for many people it is a large part of their identity. When vegans call this into question they are not suggesting that people who choose to eat animals don’t love any animals, only that you cannot claim to love an animal if you also eat that same animal.

It’s important to acknowledge from the outset that loving animals isn’t synonymous with veganism. You can be vegan and have no personal affection towards animals whatsoever, or even be scared or disgusted by them. People tend to assume that all vegans are animal lovers, and while many of us are, there are still plenty of vegans who have no strong feelings about animals either way, because veganism is about justice, not love. You don’t have to love an animal to care about their well-being, however, you do have to care about an animal’s well-being in order to claim to love them. What is being claimed then, is that you don’t have to love all animals to be vegan, but you do have to be vegan to love all animals.

The basis for this argument is quite simple; you cannot claim to love someone if you are choosing to actively cause them harm. By choosing to eat meat and other animal products, you are quite literally paying for those animals to be bred, exploited and killed. Interestingly, this argument becomes much less contentious when we change the animal in question to any other animal which isn’t traditionally farmed. If a dog owner paid someone to kill their dog when that dog was perfectly healthy and posed no risk to human safety, you would seriously call into question how much that person really loves their dog, regardless of what they said. People may argue that this is different since a dog is a pet, however, our designation of them as such does not make them inherently any different to pigs or any other farmed animal, nor should it change their moral status in any way.

Objections will come to mind at this point, that vegans can’t possibly claim to know how someone feels about animals. You do love animals, you know you do, you’re fascinated by them, they make you happy, you have a deep personal connection with them and you always have, but you do still eat animals and those two things are not incompatible. It is important here to realise that when we talk about people not “loving” animals, we aren’t doubting that people are interested in them, and maybe even feel a deep connection with animals.

However, love is not just a feeling, it is a doing, it requires certain behaviours. If a human claims to love another human but then directly contributes towards harming them, regardless of how strong their feelings were for that person, we would call into question their claim to love the person they hurt because their behaviour would not be consistent with love. If we allow people to say they love humans or animals regardless of how they choose to behave towards them, then the term itself becomes utterly meaningless.

It may be that you genuinely do love some animals, and would always act in their best interests, but if you are paying for an animal to be shot in the head or have their throat slit then do not love that animal, under any reasonable definition of the word. You therefore love some animals, but you specifically do not and cannot love the animals you are eating, because you are contributing towards their exploitation and death. If you are eating animals because you have no choice then that is a completely different scenario, since you cannot be judged for actions you do not freely choose, but if you are by choice causing harm to some animals then it logically follows that you do not love all of them.

If when you say love you simply mean you are interested in them, have a personal connection to them and have positive feelings towards them, then I can accept that you can “love” animals and still choose to eat them, but only under that very limited definition of love, the kind of love we mean when we say we love an object, like a phone or a car.

Real, meaningful love, the kind we have for other sentient beings, has to involve loving behaviour. We judge people by their actions, not by their feelings or their words, and we all know intuitively that someone who chooses to harm us when they could do otherwise does not really love us, regardless of how sure they are that they truly do. We do not truly love someone if our behaviours is in direct contradiction to that professed love, and the same has to be true for our treatment of animals.

“Do I have to love animals as a vegan?”

It’s natural that animal loving has become synonymous with veganism, and it’s not something that animal rights organisations or activists have really tried to discourage. We often try to appeal to the love people have for animals to convince them to go vegan, and slogans like “love animals? Go vegan” are used very often. Most people like animals in some capacity, so it is an effective way to try to appeal to people. It does ring a little hollow for people who don’t have any real love for animals though, and can make them feel like veganism isn’t really something that’s for them, but this just isn’t the case.

What is being argued is that you have to be vegan to love animals, but not that you have to love animals to be vegan. Leaving animals off your plate and advocating for their rights is a loving thing to do, just as paying for someone to slaughter them is inconsistent with loving them, but that does not mean that if you do not love animals you should be okay with them being exploited and slaughtered. Vegans do tend to be animal lovers, but you can still be an active part of the community without having any particular affection towards animals, after all, vegans don’t just stop eating those animals which they like.

The very idea that veganism is something that only an animal lover should consider is a very strange one if you think it through. The implication here is that only someone who is really personally invested in animals would care if they are being hurt and killed unnecessarily, but we would never dream of making this argument about humans. Even if you are less likely to personally sacrifice for a stranger than you are for someone you know, it is hard to make any kind of moral argument that a person does not deserve to be treated well just because you don’t personally know or love them. A being’s fundamental rights should not be dependent on how you personally feel about them. In fact, in an ideal world these two things would have no correlation whatsoever.

Veganism is defined as “a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.” The essential belief behind this is that animals are not objects, they are sentient beings with needs and preferences which should be respected, and lives which are just as valuable as our own. This means that it is wrong to exploit the for our own personal gain, or to treat our desires as more important than their needs. None of this in any way requires us to love animals, and in fact I’d argue that it doesn’t even imply it. Veganism is a moral philosophy which can be arrived at intellectually, with no sentiment, emotion or connection to animals required.

Veganism can help us view our love of animals in a different light, and can make us feel closer to animals than ever before. Kafka once wrote about fish he could look at them in peace now that he didn’t eat them anymore, and I think that a lot of us can relate very strongly to that. We should still be careful though, because when we equate veganism with a love of animals it becomes easier to dismiss for people who just don’t care about animals at all. Veganism is not some generous sacrifice we perform on behalf of animals because we love them, it is the minimum moral requirement for how we should treat fellow sentient beings, regardless of how we personally feel about them.

“Is dissection ethical? What if I have to do it?”

This question is usually asked in the context of dissection for educational rather than medical or research purposes, so that’s the context in which I’ll try to answer this one. Dissection unfortunately remains extremely common on biology, zoology and veterinary science courses, among others.

Starting with ethics, it is first important to acknowledge that there is really nothing that is learned through dissection which can’t be learned elsewhere. Many education institutions are already moving away from dissections, less for ethical issues and more due to the fact that it isn’t thought by many to be a particularly useful teaching method. Interactive software, video observations and textbooks can teach many of the same things without requiring the death of an animal.

These methods are more modern, far more humane and if the same learning outcomes can be achieved by using these alternative methods then there is no real reason to make use of dissection for the vast majority of cases in which it is used. Those which are essential for the subject matter being taught should be sourced solely from voluntarily surrendered animals who have been humanely euthanised due to mortal, incurable illness or injury.

It is a common myth that dissection animals are essentially “byproducts” of other industries, but this is not the case. Many mice and rats, are domestically bred, raised and sold solely for the purposes of dissection, while other animals such as  frogs, salamanders, birds, snakes, turtles, fish, and most other invertebrate animals used in dissection are predominantly taken from the wild. These numbers are not small either, in the US alone, around 10 million vertebrates and 10 million invertebrates are used per year.

When organs are dissected, these are usually sourced from slaughterhouses; meaning that their use and sale helps keep the rearing and slaughtering of animals a profitable concern. During transport, conditions are poor. Dealers who supply these animals often stockpile animals on top of one another and ship them in crowded containers with no temperature regulation, food, or water. Undercover video footage has exposed that some are still alive as they are pumped full of formaldehyde or other preservatives.

In terms of whether or not you have to do it, that really depends on a number of factors. Some states in the US have enacted laws protecting a student’s right to choose a humane alternative, including  Florida, California, Connecticut Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island, Illinois, Virginia, Oregon, New Jersey and Vermont. Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Mexico and Louisiana. Some countries like Argentina, Israel and Slovakia have banned the practice from schools entirely, whereas Italy, Queensland Australia and India all uphold the right for conscientious objectors to refuse to take part in dissection. If you live in any one of these places, cite the law on this and simply refuse, they will not be able to punish you in any way so long as you are willing to take part in a humane alternative, most of which will be book or software based.

If you do not belong to any of these countries or states, there are still options available to you. Your first step should just be to discuss it with your teacher or professor, explain the fact that you are morally opposed to dissection for education purposes, and that you would like to instead opt for a humane alternative. The key is to make it clear that you are not being lazy, offer to do a written or research based assignment instead, or to write a report or an essay on a dissection video if necessary.

You need to be careful to be very polite here, tell them you understand why it is done, but your beliefs will not allow you to take part in something like this. Don’t get bogged down arguing about the ethics, be firm and simply state that regardless of what their arguments are, where they say the animals come from, you do not believe dissection is ethical.

If they still refuse, your next steps will depend largely on the situation. If you are a minor, you should ask your teacher if they would be willing to meet with your parents to discuss it further. This is worth trying even if you know your parents won’t attend a meeting, as most of the time this offer by itself will be enough to make your teacher think twice, as they don’t want to deal with angry parents and lose their free time on an extended meeting.

If your teacher still refuses, try to obtain a note from home or actually arrange that meeting if your parents are supportive; very few schools would go against the wishes of your parents or guardian over such a sensitive issue. If this still doesn’t work, you can still refuse and simply take whatever the punishment is, if that is an option for you.

If you are not a minor and are in a university context, then you could try appealing to the head of the department, in writing. This will often be enough to show how serious this is for you, and a compromise can be discussed with them. If this doesn’t work, you could offer to observe and take notes as a last resort. Failing that, you need to look at whether or not the exercise counts towards your grade; if it doesn’t you may simply refuse to take part and take the punishment, or just call in sick on that day, even though you and your professor will both know why you did it.

If you have done all you practically can to fight it and you do not have the option to push any further and refuse, then it may be something you are forced to take part in. This is not your fault, and it is okay to compromise on this in order to obtain a qualification. If you are doing an animal based degree, which dissections will usually be required on, going through this could give you a qualification which can help you do some real good in the world, and these fields could certainly benefit from more animal rights advocates pushing for change, including on the practice of dissection. It will not usually come to that, but if it does then keep in mind we can only avoid exploitation as far as is practicable, and no one can reasonably expect you to forfeit your qualification due the ethical issues involved in dissection.

“Is it okay to raise my child to be vegan?”

Despite the rising popularity of veganism, the topic of vegan children remains a very controversial one. People usually object to the idea of raising a child vegan for one of two reasons, either they think it is unsafe, or they think that parents shouldn’t force their views on their children. Whether you think it is okay for you to raise your own child vegan is completely up to you, but when we are discussing people criticising someone else’s parenting or accusing them of neglect on the sole basis that their child is vegan, it is a different matter entirely.

Firstly, it is demonstrably false that in normal circumstances raising child vegan is unsafe. A vegan diet provides every nutrient and vitamin the human body requires, it is perfectly safe to raise your child vegan, and to be vegan while nursing. I’ve met quite a few people raising healthy vegan children, as well as adults who were raised vegan, there is no evidence whatsoever that it is harmful. You can read personal accounts of raising vegan children here, and read short individual biographies of healthy vegan children here. The NHS have said that vegan babies and children can be perfectly healthy, and the American Dietic Association says that well-planned vegetarian and vegan diets are appropriate for all stages of life, including infancy.

The loudest voices are always those of the animal agriculture industry, and they spend a significant amount of money convincing the world that we need to buy their products. From our earliest years we are taught the food pyramid (an initiative heavily funded by animal agriculture industries) and we carry this ignorance with us into adulthood. This has led to a lot of myths surrounding raising children vegan, some of which are dispelled here.  Besides, a child is much more likely to be made ill from eating processed meats than plants; and this is undeniable. How many children are raised on processed meats and then when they’re older don’t even have the choice to be healthy because their diet has permanently damaged them? Those numbers must be in the millions, but this argument is never used against people who raise their kids to eat known carcinogens.

As for the claim that vegans shouldn’t force their beliefs on their children, what really bothers me about this argument is that it assumes that only raising your child vegan is a choice, as if raising the to eat animals isn’t also making a choice on their behalf. All parents try to impart their values onto their children, that’s part of what parenting is.

If you force your child to be vegan later in life when they are old enough to choose for themselves then that is a separate issue, but when you are making decisions on behalf of someone who cannot do so for themselves then you choose what you think is in their best interests, for vegan parents that will naturally be a vegan diet. Besides, is unlikely a child raised vegan will experience any distress or guilt later in life because they ate plants, whereas all vegans can relate to the regret they now feel that they ever ate animals at all, even though they didn’t know better at the time.

It is necessary here to mention the isolated cases which are always bought up, of children supposedly dying because they were raised vegan. In every such published case, the child has suffered because their parents neglected them and failed to provide an adequate diet, not because they were vegan. A child who dies because vegan parents fail to feed them anything but soy milk are victims of abuse and neglect, but that cannot be used to determine the healthfulness of a vegan diet any more than a child dying from being fed nothing but chicken nuggets can be used to judge how healthy an omnivorous diet is, and people almost never want to talk about the damage meat can to do children.

You are well within your rights to choose your child’s diet and lifestyle, so long as it well-planned, healthy, and subject to regular check ups. Not only is veganism perfectly healthy for children, it is by far the most responsible option for your child, for animals and the environment. Children are far more likely to grow up kind to animals and socially conscious if they are introduced to these ideas early on, and they watch their parents put these principles into practice by living an ethical, vegan lifestyle. Veganism represents a healthy, positive and ethically conscious way to live, and those of us who grew up eating meat can envy those children who will be given such a positive start to life.

“Is taxidermy/vulture culture ethical?”

When it comes to the use of animal bodies, as vegans it is quite uncomplicated for us to object to the use of animal bodies who have been specifically bred, exploited and then killed for that purpose. But what about when the body in question died of natural causes, and is simply there for the taking? It is then ethical for us to make use of that body in whatever way we choose? These questions don’t have such easy answers.

We may question whether or not this is even a vegan issue, after all, vegans object to animal exploitation and in the context of using animal remains, no exploitation has actually taken place. There are a couple of reasons why this is a narrow view. Firstly, there is the issue of sourcing. It would be naïve to assume that all practitioners of vulture culture and taxidermy that we see online are sourcing their remains out in the wild. Accounts engaged in these practices are getting serious followings and there is a significant vested interest in producing remarkable pieces out of animal bodies. Part of the issue with that is that, as any taxidermist will tell you, actually finding a body out in the wild which is well enough preserved to work with, can be very difficult. 

It is highly likely that many resort to buying bodies from collectors, who will obviously profess to have come by these animal party naturally. However, I would argue that it is highly optimistic to assume that none of these collectors, who stand to make significant profits in some cases, are not resorting to killing animals specifically for the purpose of selling their remains to taxidermists. The ethical issue then becomes the same as it is with hunting – that we are killing an animal for pleasure, perhaps not the pleasure of the kill, but certainly the pleasure of using their body. This then becomes an issue of exploitation, and therefore very much within the scope of vegan ethics.

Even in cases where an artist or taxidermists creates a piece from an animal they themselves found in the wild, there is no guarantee that those they showcase these pieces to will do the same thing when they try to imitate it. In this way, it can be argued that taxidermy and vulture culture, even when done ethically, can create demand among those who will not follow the same ethical practices, and will resort to animal exploitation in order to create their pieces. This is not a non-issue, but the same could be argued of just about any ethical product – you could always end up creating the desire for a consumer to purchase a similar product which is not made ethically. However, it is at least worth bearing in mind, since creating demand for animal products, even without buying them yourself, would still very much be an issue that falls within vegan ethics.

However, there will be cases when an individual is sourcing animal parts directly from remains they themselves find, and are careful in advocating responsible sourcing every time they showcase these pieces online. In this case, there would be no animal exploitation involved, and this may become more an issue of general ethics than vegan ethics. This does not mean that there is no potential for harm though, even when the person in question does everything right.

Part of the reason for this is that there is no such thing as no impact when it comes to removing materials from wild places. Road kill is one thing, but a bone, a shell from a beach, a dead animal – all of these resources would be returned to local ecosystems in some way, either through biodegrading, being eaten or being recycled by animals themselves. To use shells as an example, the practice of tourists taking shells from beaches has been found to have a significant environmental impact. It is not difficult to imagine how removing a corpse from any environment other than a busy road would have an impact on the local ecosystem as well, either by denying a food source to another animal or by those nutrients not making their way back into the soil.

These may sound like trivial concerns compared to humans exploiting oil, timber or coal, and they are, but keep in mind that what we are talking about is a hobby, not a need. These resources are taken from their natural environment for the purposes of art or entertainment, most of the time, not to be used to fulfil any specific need. Of course, there are hunter gatherers who absolutely will use remains to fulfil a community need, that would be a different case entirely, but for hobbyists, the question that must be asked is: Even if the harm caused is relatively little, how much harm can we justify for the purpose of entertainment or art?

As we can see, there are so many factors to consider here that it is not possible to give any sort of blanket answer. If a person is careful, has taken a body from a busy road where it served no function and has turned that into art, while being open about their sourcing, it’s hard to argue that any significant harm has been done to anyone, anywhere along the production line. It is notably less harm than would be caused by, for example, purchasing the materials used to make an ornament out of unsustainably harvested wood. However, it would be disingenuous to pretend that there are not ethical issues to consider, not just for vegans, but for any practitioner of the craft.

As humans it seems to be part of our nature to want to be surrounded by nature, and where we cannot be in nature, we take pieces of nature with us to surround us in our artificial spaces. While taking a body or a shell is certainly not among the most harmful acts humans can do, nor should it be the top of the list of priorities for vegan advocacy, it is hard to argue that it would not be better for humans to leave natural objects in nature.

Too often we want to own nature rather than observe it, to possess it permanently and observe it in a manner of our own choosing, rather than the fleeting, organic encounters we find in nature. While not in itself unethical, it may be that taxidermy and the wider vulture culture is the result of that same drive. While that does not make it unethical in and of itself, it can result in practitioners being willing to overlook some of the potential harm caused, as people so often do when it comes to the use of animal bodies.