Writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education Harold Fromm, visiting scholar in English at the University of Arizona, berates vegans and demonstrates shocking ignorance about what veganism means in theory and practice. Apparently, he’s author of The Nature of Being Human: From Environmentalism to Consciousness (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009) and co-editor, with Cheryll Glotfelty, of The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology (University Press of Georgia, 1996). These titles won’t be on my reading list, that’s for sure.

Unlike vegans, who are enlisted in an open-ended but futile metaphysic of virtue and self-blamelessness that pretends to escape from the conditions of life itself, vegetarians have more limited goals and have marked out a manageable territory with fewer cosmic pretensions. They are concerned about their health. Or they don’t want animals to be raised expressly to be tortured and killed—especially in factory farms and slaughterhouses—for their dinner plates. Or they don’t want to ingest the dead bodies of fairly complex creatures, which is apt to make them feel queasy. No doubt they would prefer all animals (whatever that might include) to be treated humanely, but they are not prepared to stop wearing leather shoes or eating Jell-O. At least vegetarianism—though it can’t resolve the moral dilemma of the savagery of our lives—is more or less possible in both theory and practice. Veganism, while perhaps harmless enough, especially if you don’t care about being part of society or alienating potential friends who may find you more trouble than you’re worth, fails on both counts. Furthermore, there are critics who explain that farming vegetables involves the killing of huge numbers of animals with plows, pesticides, and herbicides. And anyone who has grown a large home vegetable garden knows what raccoons, possums, rabbits, mice, birds, and deer can do to the veggies. Without a war on animals, there would be no vegetables for the vegans.

Many thanks to Jeannette for bringing this nonsense to our attention.

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