I’m in an ethical dilemma I bet many of you are in too: Should I speak up or stay quiet when others order meat at restaurants? The obvious answer most vegans give – and what I have always done – is to stay quiet, set a good example, and wait until someone asks about my diet. If they ask, then I gently try to open their eyes to what is going on with our food system.
However, if you think about it, this topic is not just a difference in opinion -- it's not like I'm saying "I love God's little animals and you should too!" -- we are talking about true atrocities and horrors that are happening in our factory farms and slaughterhouses, that most people would never put up with if it was happening to humans, dogs or cats, but are overlooking because they are pigs, chickens and cows. So, in many ways, simply sitting back, “setting an example” and not speaking out proactively can be construed as allowing the horrors to go on. As MLK said, "All it takes for evil to prevail is for good men to stay quiet."
Having said that, how does a sane, loving person bring this up proactively without upsetting people, losing friends, or losing your job? For example, I have had clients at work dinners thoughtfully ask, “Will it bother you if I order a steak?” and because I so desperately want to be “normal,” polite and keep my job, I say “Thank you for asking – please order what you’d like.” But in fact, it’s really not okay that animals were tortured and slaughtered – often alive – for their steak.
I tell myself that it’s okay, because I’m doing my part by setting a good example for them to follow, lecturing, writing a blog and writing books to help people adopt a vegan diet. These things certainly help offset the damage that is being done, but does that make it okay not to speak up?
Is it ethical to sit back and just watch harmless animals get devoured carelessly with a glass of wine, and not say anything? Is it okay, when millions of sentient beings are suffering and dying daily, for me to politely sip my iced tea and allow them to order their steak without even commenting on it?
What do you do? This is a real dilemma faced by all vegans – speak out and be seen as a radical and potentially lose friends, jobs, etc, or stay quiet and watch helpless animals suffer and die? I would love to hear your comments!