The Senate is debating GMOs, and everyone is talking about health food; it’s a good time, then, to correct a few silly ideas. A vegan — say various vegan authorities — is someone who abstains from eating or using animal products, byproducts, and anything whose production entails exploiting, killing, or being cruel to animals.
Unfortunately, nothing vegans eat meets those criteria.
Despite what you may have heard, organic foods are not pesticide-free. They just eschew synthetic pesticides for “organic” pesticides, whose ingredients occur naturally. Copper and sulfur, for instance. No matter the ingredients, though, all pesticides are used for the same thing: to commit pesticide. Which is to say, to kill small, hungry animals. Animals like aphids, caterpillars, moths, worms, flies, locusts — even birds, and some mice and rats who’ve escaped pharmaceutical labs.
As a rule, if you can’t control pests, you can’t produce produce on a profitable scale. So next time you go to buy fruit and vegetables — or bread or beer or tofu or sugar –remember that many, many lives were lost bringing them to market.
You might say that pests are too rudimentary or stupid to warrant a vegan’s concern. Not so, says PETA.
You might say that pests are too rudimentary or stupid to warrant a vegan’s concern. Not so, says PETA: “If having superior intelligence does not entitle one human to abuse another human for his or her purposes, why should it entitle humans to abuse nonhumans?” In its blurb about the evils of animal experimentation, PETA explains that our “concern” for people who are sick, suffering or dying must be extended to all living creatures “regardless of what species they may be.”
But PETA doesn’t mean it — clearly, animal-rightists place some species ahead of others. After all, you have to kill a lot of pests to grow just one apple, whereas you can get many, many steaks by killing just one cow. Unless you admit that certain animals are worth more than others, vegans would have the moral duty to minimize total animal deaths by eating nothing but Blue Whale. I suspect the reason they don’t is that they feel whale lives, and cow lives, are worth more than bug lives. But if you accept that a cow’s life is more important than a caterpillar’s, why can’t you accept that a diabetic’s life is more important than the life of the cow whose insulin keeps the diabetic alive? Or that a cancer patient is worth more than the rat chemotherapy is tested on?
No one knows. But we do know that the only solution to the pesticide conundrum is developing pest-resistant strains of genetically modified organisms.
Write your senator.
— Josh Gelernter writes weekly for NRO and is a regular contributor to The Weekly Standard. He is a founder of the tech startup Dittach.