Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Line Between What We Believe And How We Behave

I thought this was a very interesting article and one that I find personally intriguing, so I'm reposting it here. I'd love to know your thoughts too.

The Line Between What We Believe And How We Behave by By Eccentric Vegan on December 18th, 2008 via Vegan Soapbox

“People are complicated, irrational creatures when it comes to how they view animals. [...] I’ve come to the conclusion that all people are basically good, and that goodness rebels against cruelty to animals. Therefore, people convince themselves that anything they do is not cruel to animals. I don’t think they even really completely buy their rationales, but they cling to them anyway. Believing something false to clear your conscious is easier than changing your lifestyle to do so.” —Mindy Quittem (source)

Boy, you can say that again.

I’m intrigued by human behavior. In fact, I think I should have studied sociology or marketing in college rather than philosophy. Logic and critical thinking are great. I’m so glad I developed some critical thinking skills. But how good are they when most of the people around me are more motivated by “50% off” or “everyone else does it, you should too” than by logic? How helpful is it to be able to analyze complex ideas like “obscurantism” when the entire notion is obscure to most people?

Mindy Quittem’s comment above illustrates the divide between what we know and what we do. We all know animal cruelty is wrong. We all know killing animals needlessly is wrong. We all know veganism is right. But there’s a gap between what we know and what we do. There is a line between what we believe and how we behave.

Gallup polls have shown:

“A quarter of Americans say animals deserve the same rights as humans, while almost all of the rest agree that animals should be given some protection from harm and exploitation.”
The majority of Americans believe one thing, yet behave in a manner contradictory to what they believe.

There are plenty of valid reasons for this: lack of choices, lack of education, social pressure to conform. Most of us vegans have experienced at least a little delay in our own transition. Personally, I believed veganism was right for over a decade before I made the switch. I was just so comfortable eating milk and eggs. It was so easy not to think about where they came from or who got hurt in the process.

It wasn’t cognitive dissonance. I didn’t lie to myself. I just chose not to think about it. In fact, when asked why I wasn’t vegan I responded:

We all draw our lines somewhere. For me, that line is currently between flesh and other products. For most meat-eaters, their line is between pets and farm animals. Or, their line is between horses and cows, or humans and animals.

I draw my line as a practical matter. For me it’s extremely easy to abstain from animal flesh.[...] But it’s harder to give up eggs and milk.

I won’t argue that I shouldn’t give up milk and eggs. I certainly agree. I just haven’t done it yet. I suppose I’m a little like a smoker who talks about quitting but never does. They *know* what’s right, they just don’t act on it yet.

It’s hypocritical for a doctor, who cares about health, to tell someone else not to smoke and then to light up themselves. It doesn’t mean the doctor is wrong to tell someone to quit smoking. It just means they are addicted.

I believe much of what we do is defined by habit and not by actual conscious choice. [...] most people don’t have a rational reason behind the majority of their daily habits. They often just act without thought.

So how do we change this?I think we change it by making veganism more socially acceptable. We do vegan education and vegan outreach.

Here are some options for you to get active:

- Vegan mentoring
- Join or start a vegan meetup
- Do vegan leafletting at college campuses
- Start a vegan blog
- Virtual leafletting
- Make a vegan video

As Dhrumil said via Twitter:

"I don't know what to do" is often a sign that you do know what to do, but that you might be afraid of the consequences of taking action. "

Let's all take action... even if it's a small one. Everything counts and so do your actions.

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