This interview was published in The Independent on September 9, 2012.
Mahmudul Hoque Moni, the journalist who conducted the interview, also asked me about veganism. As the newspaper decided not to print that part of the interview, I am posting the question here, along with my reply:
Mahmudul: You are a vegan, a strict vegetarian who does not eat or use animal products, and you have written about animal ethics in several major Bangladeshi newspapers. When did you stop eating meat, eggs and dairy, and why?
Rainer: I have been a vegetarian for more than half of my life, from the age of eleven. I don’t remember exactly why I stopped eating meat back then, but I suspect that the fact that my father used to work as a butcher had something to do with it. I had many animal friends and once I realized that other animals, not so different from my animal friends, have to suffer and die for there to be meat, I didn’t want to eat meat anymore.
The years went by and I started to read philosophy and think about things more deeply. Two authors in particular opened my eyes and made me see the inherent injustice of the food animal industry – Peter Singer and Tom Regan. I realized that, by consuming eggs and dairy products, I’m supporting an industry that, in its current form, would not be possible without the suffering and death of sentient animals. So, about six years ago, I finally turned vegan.
For me, the most important reason to be vegan is a moral one. I believe that it is morally wrong to kill other animals for their meat, use them for our entertainment, or make them suffer in our research laboratories. The animals we eat or use otherwise – much like us – have lives that matter to them. We should respect that, don’t you think? For most of us it is wholly unnecessary to use animals. We can have good lives without killing and torturing other animals, so why do it? You wouldn’t want to be kept in filthy conditions and endure serious health problems that come with these conditions just to be killed at a young age, so you shouldn’t impose that kind of life on another intelligent and sentient being either. In a sense, it’s really as simple as that.
There are also many other good reasons to be vegan. A well-balanced vegan diet is healthy and is often said to decrease the chances of suffering from diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers. It’s also better for the environment. Going vegan is likely the single most effective step you can take toward protecting the planet. A vegan diet requires only a fraction of the land and water needed to produce a typical non-vegan diet, and a vegan diet produces only a fraction of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with a typical non-vegan diet. The list of environmental benefits is long, and anybody interested can find plenty of information online. Finally, every Bengali who loves vegetable curries, dhals and phuchka knows that vegan food is delicious!