You probably already know where I’m going with this just by reading the title, don’t you? If you’re veg*an, you’ve probably been asked a similar question before, probably more than once. If you’re anything like me, there was probably some part of you that 1) realized the question is sort of ridiculous, since the scenario it presents is so unlikely to occur 2) felt strangely unsatisfied with your answer to such an admittedly silly question. But as silly as it is, this is a question that vegans need to take seriously and they need to give serious thought to their answer to it, especially to the fact that most answers are necessarily convoluted and hard for outsiders to understand (not Outsiders like Ponyboy and Sodapop, but outsiders like non-vegans).
The setup is simple and the specifics can be changed around. There is a building on fire. You approach it and see that there is a baby and a puppy inside. A ceiling beam is about to collapse and you know you only have time to save either the baby or the puppy, not both. So, which do you save? If your answer is “the baby” then congratulations, you’re a human, one that doesn’t disgust 99% of humanity, no less.
If your answer is any variation on “well, it depends” then you are full of shit. If your answer is “the baby” but then you have a three paragraph explanation of why your decision has NOTHING to do with species, you too are also full of shit. If your answer is a non-answer lamenting the implausibility of the situation, you need to ask yourself why you’re afraid to answer a hypothetical moral experiment. It’s not real, it doesn’t need to be believable and your reluctance to answer speaks volumes about your supposed position.
To this day the only answer to this question that rings of authenticity is the quick, almost unthinking, response “I’d save the baby.” It’s the answer that virtually all non-vegans give. It’s only vegans that get tripped up on this question because they have to protect the sanctity of anti-speciesism as an inviolable concept.
And it makes vegans look like morally confused, misanthropic idiots.
The comments on this YouTube video illustrate the avoidance approach very well. A commenter sets up a fairly similar scenario: “You’re stranded in the middle of no where. There is a chicken and a human. Do you eat either in order to survive and it means killing one or the other, or do you starve and die?” How does the video’s author respond? Straight up avoidance: “If there’s no plant life, then there’s no chicken.” Wow, brilliant. After that gem fails to silence her rival, she tries to pretend like the question is so irrelevant that it’s beneath her to even try to answer: “Seriously 😉 you will need to find a better argument than that.” Yup, just ignore it. Because answering it honestly exposes a flaw in your argument and answering it dishonestly just makes you look stupid.
If you have a different answer that you think makes sense, I’m all ears.
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