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VEGETARIANISM

Vegetarianism is the practice of eating nothing which is obtained by the direct killing of an animal – the three ‘f’s, flesh, fowl or fish, or derivatives from them such as gelatine, bone carbon and calcium, or even products obtained by killing insects such as cochineal colouring. Some vegetarians include in their diet dairy products (lacto-vegetarians) or eggs (ovo-vegetarians) or both dairy foods and eggs (lacto-ovo-vegetarians). Others avoid all foods of an animal origin (dietary vegans). There are many vegans who go further than consideration of foods and eliminate, or attempt to eliminate, the use of any products of an animal origin, such as wool, leather, and silk, tallow in soap, gelatine in photographic film, and so on.

There is no hard and fast line at any point in the spectrum of vegetarianism. Most vegetarians will agree that the goal is the elimination of all animal exploitation from their lives, but the truth is that few if any are able to fully achieve that given the nature of modern society, with its complex products and its interwoven services. We should all be striving towards it however whilst in humility recognising that personal circumstances and living conditions vary and may affect an individual’s ability to perfectly apply the principle.

I believe that any move in the right direction by any person should be welcomed and not discouraged. Some who think they have "arrived" tend to be judgmental of those who have not got so far along the road. They sometimes forget that they were once beginners, and most who were not brought up as vegans by their parents went through other phases and degrees of vegetarianism before they reached their present position. Critical attitudes are likely in my view to have a negative effect and be counter-productive. We should not lose sight of the goal, nor should we neglect opportunities to encourage our fellow vegetarians to keep moving as quickly as their own circumstances permit towards that goal, but there are undoubtedly negative and positive ways of doing that. In my view nothing is more damaging to the vegetarian cause than extremist and fanatical attitudes, especially when they are directed at fellow vegetarians. Let us rather unite in the pursuit of our shared objective.

Neville Heath Fowler

June 2001

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