How many people could it be? That’s the question a pandemic naturally raises. Last weekend my wife and I ventured to a Vegan Festival in Easton. Since we vegans are a rare bunch anyway, and since we tend to be socially conscious, there wasn’t likely to be any dangerous behavior. That, and how many people would actually show up for what is often considered a somewhat wobbly crowd who don’t like to “rise, kill, and eat.” It felt like a safe place to be with socially distanced kindred spirits. Everyone was wearing masks and there was no Trump bravado going on. For a moment it reminded me of the kind of accepting country the United States used to be.
Veganism, you see, isn’t just about not eating and not exploiting animals. It’s about honoring the wonder of life in all creatures. I realize some of the issues—believe me, I try to think things through thoroughly. It’s all about consciousness. We’re still a considerable distance from being able to define it, and some people, like philosopher Thomas Nagel, believe it might go all the way down and through the plant kingdom as well. Consciousness is one of the great mysteries of science. We hardly know what it is, and how are we to know where it stops? If we assume other people are conscious (with a few notable exceptions) based on their words and actions, might we not suppose at least some of the “higher” animals are as well? Or are you just being a fool when you talk to your dog?
You see how this naturally suggests consciousness may lessen by matters of degree, but then we learn that even some insects know how to count and can understand a concept of zero (beyond most Republicans). We like to put insects down at the bottom because we’re bigger and therefore more important. Veganism suggests that we stop and think about these things. We don’t necessarily take everything for granted. It is clear that the largest polluter and environmental problem is industrial animal farming. Rainforests are cleared for grazing land. Profits from big agra are staggering. Wandering through the stalls, keeping our distance from others who perhaps think too much, we partook of the counterculture in our own quiet way. The street festival was small this year, but I do have hopes that it might grow, along with some serious thinking about the consequences of our actions.