Surprisingly, my recent post about Professor Leiter’s poll on “attitudes toward veganism” seems to have sparked substantial interest among AnimalBlawg readers. Given the attention that the post has received, I want to keep readers updated on a couple of developments regarding this topic.
First, it seems that Professor Leiter was somewhat annoyed by AnimalBlawg readers and other animal advocates who decided to participate in the poll. Here’s what he had to say after some of us linked to his poll:
UPDATE: Unfortunately, some pro-vegan websites have now linked to this, thus skewing the results, at least for now. I would encourage other law-related blogs to link, so that we can get a less skewed sample of opinion. Thanks.
Regardless of whether animal advocates voted in sufficient amounts to significantly skew the poll results, it seems pretty obvious to me that most people (50%) who follow Leiter’s blog believe that “[v]eganism is neither morally commendable nor morally wrong, but is a reasonable personal choice for some individuals to make”. This is probably an accurate reflection of what most law professors (and students) think about veganism. (On a side note, I’m curious to know what option Professor Leiter voted for).
Second, it looks like Professor Bainbridge also voted for the “veganism is a reasonable personal choice option”. Bainbridge explains his choice in the following manner:
Brian Leiter’s taking a poll of his readers on veganism. For lack of a better option, I chose “Veganism is neither morally commendable nor morally wrong, but is a reasonable personal choice for some individuals to make” as my answer. I’d qualify that statement, however, by noting that the attitude of moral superiority on the part of many vegans gets old real fast. Plus, the efforts by some vegans to turn the issue into a political one, using the state to regulate food choices (see, e.g., foie gras bans), needs to be resisted at every opportunity.
Professor Bainbridge raises two important points. Do animal advocates generally and vegans (and vegetarians) in particular display an “attitude of superiority” when they talk about their lifestyle and food regimen? I’m sure that some do, but it’s far from clear whether most or even “many” do so.
The other interesting point raised by Bainbridge is his suggestion that the animal advocate’s attempt to ban foie gras should be resisted. While Professor Bainbridge’s contention that the state should not regulate food choices is understandable as an abstract proposition given his conservative political views, it’s not clear why he takes issue with proposals to ban foie gras but has no problem with banning dog fighting in order to prevent animal cruelty. A couple of years ago, Professor Bainbridge defended his views by pointing out that:
(1) Because “the enduring truths of what Burke aptly called “original justice” are revealed slowly, with experience, over time”, conservatives are guided by tradition, experience and history,
(2) There is a long history of opposition to dog fighting, as “England prohibited it and other blood sports as early as 1835” and “[t]here is a longstanding consensus in the Anglo-American tradition that blood sports are cruel and ought to be banned”.
(3) There is no tradition or long history of opposition to foie gras in this country.
(4) Therefore, the wisdom of tradition and history “justifies an infringement on human property rights” in the case of dog fighting, but doesn’t justify governmental intervention in the case of foie gras.
This strikes me as a particularly weak argument. After all, as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously asserted in The Path of the Law, “[i]t is revolting to have no better reason for a rule of law than that so it was laid down in the time of Henry IV”.