Sun, 3/20 3:41PM • 27:04
vegan, veganism, arguments, fallacy, animals, people, benny, book, animal agriculture, animal exploitation, sorts, argue, privation, ethical, malone, observation, areas, means, slaughter, favourably
Emilia Leese, Benny Malone
Emilia Leese 00:10
Hello, I’m Emi Leese and welcome to the final episode of Think like a vegan, a companion podcast to our book, also entitled think like a vegan. I hope these short talks have been thought provoking, inspiring and that they’ll expand the conversation around veganism. The seven states of grief play a part in the progression of anti vegan arguments, I believe, brights today’s guest Benny Malone in the last few pages of his book, How to argue with vegans, I think there is a massive amount of grief when we confront animal exploitation and face up to its reality. The first stage is shock and denial. This is a state of disbelief and numbed feelings. Here is where thought terminating cliches and denialism of all sorts emerge. There’s pain and guilt, anger and bargaining anger directed at vegans. Shooting the messenger to bargaining is manifested as trying to maintain the idea of humane slaughter and bargaining with environmental offsets and attempts to say it’s better for the environment to use animals, depression, sadness and despair, feeling hopeless. Then the upward turn acceptance and hope doing something about it being an example of how we can model the future we want restoring a fair relationship with other animals. This passage to me shows great compassion and understanding to things we need an any type of advocacy. Today, we’re going to do things a little differently, instead of one speaker will have to the focus of today’s episode is how we discuss veganism with others. In the first part of the episode we’ll hear from Benny Malone. He’s the author of How to argue with vegans and analysis of anti vegan arguments. And in the second portion, I’ll be talking about some of the things we should consider when choosing to engage with others on the topic of veganism. Welcome, Benny.
Benny Malone 02:26
Emilia Leese 02:27
Before we hear from Benny, here’s a bit of background about him. Benny is a vegan animal rights author from the UK. He’s an autodidact in science, nature and philosophy. And if there’s a book about veganism out there, he has read it cover to cover, possibly even more than once. His first book is how to argue with vegans and analysis of anti vegan arguments. And he’s also the co host of a weekly clubhouse room called Vegan Wednesdays. His book, How to argue with vegans is essentially a masterclass in all the fallacies one could ever Fathom arising with respect to questioning the validity of veganism, and whether these are made in good or bad faith. His book is a valuable tool and resource and I highly recommend it on this podcast, as you know by now, we’d like to focus on those things that aren’t as often in the spotlight. So instead of focusing on the most common arguments or fallacies one might hear, Benny will share with us five of his favourite arguments, those which aren’t so obvious, which he had to research and work on to both identify the fallacy and deconstruct the argument being made. And I’ll read one more passage from how to argue with vegans before I hand things over to Benny, which will get us in the mindset. Veganism is a movement to end animal exploitation and the property status of animals and recognise their moral status. It should follow from recognising animals as sentient individuals that they have moral status and should therefore be free from exploitation from humans. The burden of proof should be on those who want to confine and kill animals when there’s no good justification for doing so. The extremely weak arguments against veganism do not provide a case for subjecting animals to the exploitation and slaughter that they’re the victims of. Veganism is hated because it brings into sharp contrast, the pretence of respect for animals and claims of welfare with the alternative have a real paradigm shift in our relationship with animals. In challenging human supremacism, veganism evokes strong reactions. With that, Benny, the floor is yours.
Benny Malone 04:43
Before getting to my five favourite fallacies, I want to briefly define the term a fallacy is the use of invalid or otherwise faulty reasoning or wrong moves in the construction of an argument. which may appear stronger than it really is. If the fallacy is not spotted, a fallacy can give the impression of a valid arguments. This can be because the statement follows the syllogistic structure of an argument. But a faulty premise, or non sequitur has been snuck in somewhere. So you’ve got to recognise them to address them. For a fallacy to exist, someone has to be making an argument, or not merely making an observation, or even an insult. This is why it is an ad hominem fallacy to say a person has bad taste in fashion. Therefore, their arguments is wrong. But merely stating this as an insult, without making any inference is not a fallacy. Ultimately, it’s about searching for the true value of claims being made, and how we reach those conclusions. If you watch any political debates, or look for a comment section on social media, on any subject, they will be there. And this is a good logical and philosophical exercise to spot them. A fallacy is usually a thing that does not necessarily mean your arguments is valid. And so the truth will have to be shown some other way. So with that in mind, I’m going to share with you five of my favourite fallacies I’ve come across when observing and analysing arguments around veganism. Number one, the fallacy of relative privation when people say not as bad as or not as good as and what about isms? Relative privation means a privation meaning the loss or absence of a quality or attributes that is normally presence. Due to comparison with something better or worse. It can be a valid observation, to say other things are better or worse in comparison. The fallacy here arises when we use comparison to argue the original thing loses its importance, we can think of relative privation as comparative loss when comparison is the killjoy, or suffering. For example, theft of your bicycle is not important, because there are wars and famines happening. While this may be true in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t mean your bike getting stolen isn’t a negative for you, or a wrong action in itself. In vegan arguments, people often say there are worse problems we should be thinking about. Not only is this the base of all because we’re facing climate change, zoonotic diseases, the sheer scale of animal exploitation and slaughter and antibiotic resistance, etc. It is a fallacy in any case, because it doesn’t mean that the negative things about commodifying animals, vegans points out don’t have importance in their own rights. What about isms are as the name suggests, when people bring up audit issues and say, What’s about such and such though, this can be used as a way to distract from the initial issue you’ve raised. It can be reactionary, and the good test of this is to see if they ever raised the issue proactively in any other way, or wherever they save that for when they want to respond to vegan advocacy. If they are actively opposing some other area, then they are welcome to advocate for that. We care about more than one issue simultaneously. And it’s often unclear how eating animal products helps with the issues they raised in any events. Questions to ask, can be sure the concern about something be dismissed? Because there are bigger problems to worry about. If we were to follow this logic, could we talk about anything except the absolute worst thing in the universe? Is there a reason vegans can’t support the thing you are campaigning for also? Number two, fallacy of the grey or continuum fallacy. Things like where to draw the line are my favourite. There’s no ethical consumption under capitalism. This group of fallacies has a few different names, but they all have to do with imagining a spectrum or a continuum and the possibility of various positions along that spectrum. fallacy arises through not admitting there are degrees or thresholds where we can meaningfully discriminate between different points, or sections of a spectrum, or continuum.
fallacy tries to say the world isn’t black and whites. What replaces this, with everything being grey. Usually grey areas occupied areas at the borders of our knowledge, but this fallacy attempts to enlarge these areas to cover everything. Socrates paradox is similar, but makes the argument we can’t know definitively when a collection of grains of sand can no longer be called a heap. If we’re only removing individual grains, how can we moving one grain make it no longer a heap? In terms of vegan issues, you can spot this when people insist, we don’t know exactly where to draw the line, and so can’t make any decisions or judgments. I think Tom Regan, who was an American vegan philosopher, gave the best answer to where to draw the line question. When he said, it is often not easy to know exactly where to draw the line. We cannot say exactly where to draw the line when it comes to those animals who have a psychology. But we can’t say with absolute certainty that wherever one draws a line on scientific grounds, that the animals that we regularly and systematically exploits, in the name of animal agriculture industries, are far above any such line. And you can apply this to questions about which products are ethical, we may encounter many issues in plants agriculture, but we can use a problem solving approach, which in philosophy is called you Ristic. of knowing for certain the animal agriculture is a force multiplier. In terms of wonder and resource use, and directly involves commodifying and slaughtering animals. A common arguments against veganism is people seeing there’s no ethical consumption under capitalism. This is a fallacy of the grey, because someone making this argument is attempting to make all consumer choices equally bad and doesn’t recognise degrees. However, we can actually measure various variables along the spectrum, meaning all choices are not equal. For example, by any conceivable metric, it’s better to buy oat milk, rather than cow’s milk. Number three, Nirvana fallacy. When people say it’s all or nothing, or you can’t be 100%, vegan or perfect fallacy of the grey becomes a Nirvana fallacy. When used to argue we shouldn’t take action. As the name suggests, this fallacy points to a state of perfection and compares on favourably a realistic available solution. Someone making this fallacious argument would say because we can’t achieve the perfect condition, then we may as well not bother. We could just as well call this a utopia fallacy. Vegans encounter this fallacy when people say they won’t go vegan because some issues to do with animals suffering will continue to exist in the world, even after they might go vegan, or there will still be problems with plants agriculture. You’ll recognise it right away when you hear someone saying because you can’t be perfect, you shouldn’t even try. What’s interesting to me here is people opposing veganism will say vegans are the ones claiming perfection and that it is or nothing. I’ve experienced the sorts of ultimatums from non vegans, however, who threatened to do nothing. I’ve never seen a vegan to say someone should do nothing. So we face criticism from both sides here. One saying we are perfect so there is no point in them trying and the other saying we claim this perfection, and so people are discouraged from even trying.
Ultimately, this fallacy from both sides represents a misunderstanding of veganism. Veganism is a categorical value, meaning it’s a set of attitudes and a position that someone adopts. So it doesn’t really make sense to give it a numerical value, or degrees of being vegan. People can of course, adopt a progressively more plant based and ethical lifestyle, covering more areas of animal use. And we should encourage those changes, saying veganism is all or nothing or perfectionist doesn’t represents it as a philosophy to minimise animal use based on principles of non exploitation, and seems to be Justin seems to promote something else instead, by trying to contrast favourably with veganism. Number four. fallacies of relevance. These are descriptive, not prescriptive observations. Misunderstanding veganism means there’s lots of arguments that are complete non starters, because they’re riddled with fallacies of irrelevance. If veganism is about what we as human moral agents can do, regarding the area of focus, which is how animals are used as resources, then we can see right away how many arguments are completely irrelevant. So for this section, I want you to keep in mind two definitions. First, a normative arguments establishing Relating to or deriving from Standard or norm, especially of behaviour, and second, prescriptive, tending to say what someone should do, or how something should be done. Veganism is both normative and prescriptive, because we have a moral framework and a framework for how we should act. Many comments in response to veganism, are appeals to nature, which is itself a fallacy, because the state of being natural doesn’t necessarily mean something is good or bad. That must be demonstrated in other ways. But these arguments about canine see for binocular vision are both appeals to nature, and irrelevant to whether veganism is valid. None of these things mean we’re obligated to use and slaughter animals. For example, when you hear lions eat other animals, though, the argument is cherry picking one species out of 1000s. And then cherry picking one behaviour of that species, then if veganism is wrong, because of what lions eat, then we’re meant to base our morality only on that, while ignoring all the other species, and all the other behaviours that we don’t want to emulate, even although I’m behaviour to. So a lot of these arguments are descriptive, not prescriptive. That is they’re merely observations. Unless there’s a normative argument in there, too. When someone sends an observation into arguments, we have to question how the observation is relevant. And whether that observation means anything for how we should behave, given we can in actual fact be vegan. I mean, here I am, and here’s me and all the other guests have been on the show. Number five logic of the order. You’ll find this when folks say we’re giving animals a life. This is essentially a utilitarian arguments and it goes like this. Eating animals actually benefits them, because without the demand for their flesh, they wouldn’t be bred into existence. I think this is pretty disingenuous arguments debunked over 100 years ago by Henry salts, who was an English, Egyptologist, and ethical vegetarian. He said, the main flaw in our arguments is feigning concern about non existent beings, somehow having a concern in being bald, in any case, from animal rights points of view. Just because you breathe a being into the world doesn’t mean you have a claim over their autonomy, and body and life once they exist. This excuse could be used by breeders involved in all sorts of unethical practices. I reject the utilitarian idea animals or male use opticals of an abstract aggregates score of utility. That is some sorts of balance between pleasure and suffering in their life. To me, this is greedy reductionism, raising the uniqueness and replaceability of each individual.
We know animal agriculture isn’t really interested in some bogus claim of giving animals a life. Animal agriculture is interested in giving animals a death at the earliest possible age, because that’s the time it will profit most. This is the opposite of respecting the life you’ve brought into the world. And no being should be bred just to be a commodity, and be slaughtered. So here are my final considerations for when you’re engaging with people about veganism. It’s what I do, and I hope it’s helpful to you think about what is the argument or claim they’re making? And isn’t arguments actually being offered? Think about how the argument is actually relevant to vegan issues. Why it comes up versus veganism, and whether the argument is valid? does it prove what it sets up to prove, think about why the argument fails? Spotting the fallacies is incredibly empowering. It’s a useful tool to talk about veganism more confidently and to not be overwhelmed by the myriad counter arguments.
Emilia Leese 18:55
Thank you, Benny for this briefing on how to identify, understand and dismantle these types of arguments and fallacies. And as you said, once you know what they are, it becomes so much easier essentially to own our veganism and become better advocates. Before you go, tell us a bit where can people follow your work online? And do you have any projects you’d like to promote?
So people want to follow me online, they can go on Facebook search me. There’ll be a few Benny Malone’s where mine will be the one with all the vegan contents. Same on Instagram, Twitter, just search for Benny Malone. You’ll see me as the author of How to argue with vegans. That book is my first book, as Emi said, that’s available on Amazon. If people also want to get in touch with me on social media, and they don’t want to support Amazon, I can understand that. So they can always get in touch with me. And I’ll send them a PDF in exchange for a small contribution or whatever contribution to an animal sanctuary of their choice. So just follow me online. I’m always posting about veganism and animal rights.
Emilia Leese 20:08
That’s brilliant. Thank you so much, Benny.
Benny Malone 20:11
Thanks so much Emi.
Emilia Leese 20:12
Thanks again. We’ll take a quick break here, and I’ll return with my thoughts about what else to think about when engaging with others on the topic of veganism. This is a snippet from Cantina Rag by Jackson F Smith. We’re back for the second part of this episode focusing on discussing veganism with others. For the next few minutes, I want to talk to you about my top three tips when engaging with others about veganism. In the top spot, take a step back. Has the person actually asked about veganism genuinely and in good faith? Are they really interested in finding out new information? Or would I just be responding to a remark they didn’t ask to be corrected about? However misguided or incorrect that remark might be? If it’s online? Oh, generally, I don’t argue on the internet. I don’t find it useful. If someone has a strong opinion, they’re willing to state publicly, they’re not likely to change their mind. Sure, there are silent readers and you might edify them with your knowledge. But I believe your time is better spent figuring out how you can identify and reach them, whether it’s friends, colleagues, or even random strangers you might have interactions with, or just finding what might be your activism skills, like we talked about in episode one. And if you conclude your best work is done online, then by all means, go for it and use these top tips to help you in that sphere. If I decide to engage, then I take a step back. So what does that look like you ask? Say someone is asking about honey. Instead of going right in and answering the question, reply something like, I’d be happy to talk about honey, if you don’t mind if I take a step back to talk about the basics about what veganism actually means. So you’ll have the context with which to understand my reply about honey. It’s likely they’re happy to hear your explanation first. And they’ll tell you, once they’ve said yes, then you have their buy in into the conversation. If you don’t have their buy in or their participation, then it’s a one sided interaction with limited satisfaction for both in second place, the power of No, you can say no. You’re not obligated to engage with or respond to anyone. Saying no in a social situation, including online is something particularly women often don’t do. We’ve been socialised to not offend or to be peacemakers and to smooth things over. All that is artificial. You’re not obligated to be an advocate if you don’t feel the situation is right or you’re simply not up to it. And you don’t need to feel guilty about it either. You can simply say no or not respond. And finally, my third top tip, remember who’s at the centre of all this? It’s not you. It’s not the person you’re talking to. It’s not about winning an argument getting followers selling books, being an influencer or being a hero. It’s not about us. It’s about the countless animals we use every year. Focus on doing the best you can buy them. Will you persuade everyone you speak to that veganism is a moral imperative? Nope. Even if you do all the things and have all the arguments should that stop you have absolutely not keep going and keep trying for them. For us. For a livable world. Veganism is for everyone. In this final episode, we’ve brought our conversation full circle to where we started this season. veganism and activism For every one, to change people’s minds, we must show them a new way of thinking. And to do that effectively, we must feel confident in and comfortable with our own thinking. We need a clear understanding of our beliefs, the courage and confidence to share them with others, and the compassion to recognise others aren’t that different to us. My strongest hope is this podcast, along with our book, my guests work including their books will help you to go vegan in the first place, and be useful in showing how vegan ethics applied to every area of our daily lives. That’s it from me, Emi Leese Thank you for listening. I’ll post a transcript and due course along with links and references to the materials we’ve discussed today, on our website, think like a vegan.com. And the audio will also be available on Think like a vegan YouTube channel. Remember, you can get in touch by email at Think like a vegan firstname.lastname@example.org or find think like a vegan on most social media, or find me at Emmys good eating.com and on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, subscribe to this podcast, share it with others and leave us a review. And for our book, Think like a vegan it’s on bookshop.org or anywhere you buy books and on your favourite audio book platform to or ask your local library to carry it. Production credit goes to Jim Moore of bloody vegans productions. Music provided by Jenny Moore’s mystic business. The opening tune is flashbacks and we close with tear things up.