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Here's What Happens When You Stop Being a Vegan

Stashed in: Ethics, Vegans!, Vice

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Seriously fascinating article. 

Writer Rhys Southan thinks about bivalves slightly differently. They are nonsentient creatures, which makes them excellent candidates—from an ethical standpoint—for eating. However, as he wrote recently for Vice, “although few do, oysters can reach 20 years of age.”

Instead of considering seafood consumption from anecological perspective, Southan writes that he’d like a guide that allows people to pick the seafood that’s harvested with the least amount of natural life left: “The Seafood Buyer’s Guide for Those Who Accept the Deprivation Account of the Harm of Death.”

The “Best Choices” would be those born on the cusp of death by natural causes, including many shrimp, smelt, and many species of squid, as well as the seven-figure pygmy goby, which enjoys a maximum of 59 days on this planet.

The immortal jellyfish, which ages in reverse after reaching sexual maturity, would be listed on the opposite end of the spectrum. “Eating a Turritopsis dohrnii jellyfish means depriving a creature of a potential eternity of life,” he writes. “Please refrain from eating immortal sea creatures.”

Southan was a vegan for nine years, but after he began to suffer from various health problems—extreme tiredness, dramatic nosebleeds—he decided to add animal products back into his diet. He started a blog, Let Them Eat Meat, and from that perch he’s become one of the most thoughtful, engaging critics of veganism.

“I started getting so depressed that I was kind of, like, indifferent to my own life,” Southan recalls of that unhealthy period in his life. “And that kind of made me indifferent to animal lives, so that made me think that maybe I could stop being vegan. I also had thought, ‘I’m feeling really miserable; if this has anything to do with veganism, it may be worth it to try animal products just to see if I could feel better.’ ”

He did feel better, and almost immediately, but vegan friends—including someone whom he convinced to give up animal products—didn’t take so kindly to the changes in his diet. Despite the kind of delicate ethical reasoning that’s behind Southan’s years-left-on-Earth approach to eating seafood, the ideology of veganism tends toward the binary: You’re in or you're out. The sentience or life expectancy or care of a given animal that might end up being your rigorously, ethically considered dinner doesn't really factor into the equation.