Home»Op-Ed»Your Personal Choice Isn’t Personal At All

Your Personal Choice Isn’t Personal At All

By Published On: 7 September 2011Last Updated: 17 January 2017

There is nothing “personal” about being responsible for the death of another being, whether human or non-human, and it’s obnoxious to be completely oblivious of the lives you are taking.

rescued turkeys at an animal sanctuary

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Your Personal Choice Isn’t Personal At All

By Taryn Dams, Guest Contributor

We all know them: the angry omnivores. Those that eat animals and furiously declare, “I respect your food choices, so respect mine!” Yes, you see where this is going – the “meatatarian” fad, where it’s cool to love devouring cooked corpses. The play on morals, making a parody of the actual ethics that we vegans try to uphold every day of our lives; it’s all just a funny joke.

Attitudes like those leave me wondering what the benefit is in their defensive actions; and it comes down to a few things. In the case of industry, it’s ethics versus profit. Companies that rely on animal exploitation to make money will stand true to their “cause,” questioning vegans for their commitment to ethics, thinking we’re just trying to take them down financially. What they don’t seem to understand, is that unlike them, we don’t get anything out of our defence. They get a paycheque – and we truly just care about the animals. In the case of individuals, though, it’s another matter. What’s the motivation? They’re not getting paid and their livelihood does not rely on exploiting animals. What does that leave? Simple preferences? Selfish tastes: they just like pleasing their palate with meat, dairy, and eggs too much to give them up.

Farm Sanctuary

This sweet girl fell asleep as I was petting her!

So omnivores continue to sit back, perpetuate the cycle of abuse and exploitation, and retort that eating animal products is a “personal choice.” If you’re vegan, I’m sure you know how ludicrous such a statement is. If you’re an omnivore, well – sit quietly for a few moments and really think about it. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

We must consider “personal choices” to be things that affect only ourselves. If you want to go grocery shopping in a pink spandex suit covered in sequins, well, that is a personal choice. Who am I to judge? It’s not hurting anyone. If you want to eat a baker’s dozen of greasy (vegan) doughnuts for breakfast, you go right ahead. Those are personal choices. You’re either hurting no one, or you’re just hurting yourself – but that is your decision to make. However, when you pick up your fork and devour a dish full of animal products, you’re making a choice not only for yourself, but for the animals that suffered and were killed for that meal. They were not given the choice to be enslaved, abused, or slaughtered – you made that choice for them. There is nothing “personal” about being responsible for the death of another being, whether human or non-human, and it’s obnoxious to be completely oblivious of the lives you are taking.

So why do we, as vegans, tell you, as omnivores, what to do? We love animals. Period. Yes, that’s it – there’s no hidden agenda, we’re not trying to be mean or take away your freedom, we don’t want to spoil your fun, and we don’t want you to starve to death. We just love animals and we don’t want to see them suffer at anyone’s hands, in any way. Animal products are not a necessity – not only does removing them from your diet and replacing them with other healthful foods spare the lives of animals, but there are excellent benefits for your health* and for the environment, too.

You can be happy, healthy, and thrive on a vegan lifestyle – your body, yes, but especially your soul. How can you turn away from a lifetime free of exploitation and violence in favour of… what? A flavour that can easily be replicated, cruelty-free?

The next time you pick up your fork, please consider the individuals that lost their freedom, their desires, their emotions, and their lives to be the nameless mass on your plate. Their deaths are not your choice to make.

* Your health is another example of a truly personal choice. I’m not telling omnivores to go vegan because it’s healthy It’s a great “side-effect” of veganism, yes, but your personal health is one of those things that truly is a personal choice.

Photo: We animals


  1. Kadee December 14, 2011 at 9:32 am - Reply

    Thank you for speaking your truth, for yourself, for other vegans out there, and most importantly for the precious animals suffering for people’s “convenience” and habits.

    My biggest issue with people who use the excuse “I just like to eat meat,” and when they claim “it’s personal, and they can do what they want,” is simply that my choice harms no one. Their choice is not personal, not only does it affect themselves and their body (which IS personal) but it affects innocent lives subjecting them to horrific atrocities no being should ever have to suffer, it also affects the environment which means their choice affects everyone in a a very negative way.

    I get to say something about that. The most ironic statement used by meat eaters is “live and let live,” excuse me, your choice is not letting animals live, so why should I stand by and let you do this?

    We have to be the voice for the animals because they cannot speak and fight for themselves against people who choose to stay unaware, and to disregard the consequences of their actions. A person’s choice to eat meat affects us all and they are ignorant and truly blind if they think otherwise. It’s hard to stay hopeful in a world build on this system of cruelty that so many otherwise good people want to keep supporting and contributing to. It saddens my heart. I pray everyday that people will wake-up and face the truth about their actions as those of us who have chosen to become vegan already have and CHANGE.

    Thank you for your thoughtful, compassionate post. People are being so nitpicky about things, but LOVE does encompass everything. Someone may not want to admit they love an animal if they don’t have a personal relationship with it, but isn’t LOVE behind the actions we all take daily? I don’t have to have a relationship with every animal on earth to still have a LOVE for it and respect for it’s right to live. I LOVE animals, and I am a loving being that believes they deserve compassion not to be used as food or anything else. Love is the driving force- it is not exclusive to having an intimate personal relationship with a particular animal.
    Thanks again.

  2. Mina December 12, 2011 at 7:14 pm - Reply

    I agree with the person who pointed out that loving non-human animals has nothing to do with promoting their rights as sentient beings. I appreciate your intentions and I absolutely agree about the fact that it’s nothing to do with personal choice, but please think twice about speaking on behalf on vegans like this, because making us look like sentimental neurotics isn’t going to help people realize that we have morally right following a very rational thought process. If you love animals too that’s great and understandable, I love them too, but let’s fight for ethics and for the just protection of all animals’ rights rather than ‘against cruelty’ etc. These distinctions are very important if we want to be taken seriously, and everything we say has an impact on people’s attitudes towards the treatment of animals.

  3. candice September 13, 2011 at 3:59 am - Reply

    couple of things…

    we can’t fight eachother, vegans. PETA comes from the right place even if we don’t always agree with the the means. they don’t kill/hurt, though they may offend.

    and to the abortion person: i KNOW sentient beings forced to procreate are tortured. that has nothing to do with fetuses.

  4. Moira Lynn September 10, 2011 at 10:39 am - Reply

    Please try to go VEGAN, you will feel better, age slower, and help the animals we are supposed to be protecting!

  5. Moira Lynn September 10, 2011 at 10:37 am - Reply

    What happened to: “Live and let live,” what right do we have to oppress anyone of any species?

    Animals are our friends, not our food. It is absurd to think we raise them for our pleasure and to think we are good and reasonable.

    It is no wonder we are suffering from heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression and so forth.

    Stop eating animals PLEASE!

  6. Alej September 9, 2011 at 4:52 am - Reply

    Obviously I wholeheartedly agree with this article. The only thing I don’t like is

    “So why do we, as vegans, tell you, as omnivores, what to do? We love animals.”

    i am vegan and I don’t love animals. To be fair, I don’t really care about animals (except the ones I built a relationship with). I am happy for them to live their lives while I live mine.
    It’s not because I don’t feel ‘love’ for animals that I don’t respect their right to live and their right to not be a commodity.
    I am against violence and exploitation, on any being, whether I love them or not :)

  7. Atom September 7, 2011 at 11:48 pm - Reply

    I can’t comprehend how you seem to know that PETA’s priority is money. What they do to prevent animal abuse, exploitation, torture, etc., all goes beyond that of simply “going out there and saving” them. Promoting veganism is but a small part of what they do to stand up for animals’ rights. Think of all the domestic animal abuse, the filthy public aquariums, the circuses who make animals perform dumb tricks, the zoos who don’t provide medical attention for the animals and neglect to even clean their small cages, the fetishists who kill for pleasure… PETA works to get ALL THESE to stop.

    And be realistic a little. An entire world that goes vegan is one that isn’t likely to exist within even the next few centuries. Humans are, by biological design, omnivores. But we are the only species that have enough intellect to recognize the value of life. Therefore, it becomes our responsibility to be able to respect other sentient beings who we have hurt and killed to satisfy our luxuries. Veganism is a difficult thing to promote, simply because people don’t care. PETA tries to get people to care through education. It’s more effective than just cruising the planet saving every animal that gets hurt.

  8. Seymour Eliot September 7, 2011 at 10:14 pm - Reply

    @James T. veganism is about sentient beings’ rights. 95% of abortions are done before the fetus has any chance of being sentient. At this stage, the fetus loses nothing, it does not have an interest in life and can not have one. It is a lump of cells. The remaining 5% are done when the mother had reasons to wait, whether she was not aware she was pregnant because she was using protection, or she was violated and unable to deal with this for obvious reasons, or they thought the baby was going to be healthy but echographs/tests revealed severely life-altering joy-hindering malformations or diseases, or when the mother is at risk of death or injury if she pursues the pregnancy, WHATEVER THE REASON, it is not up to YOU to decide for that 5% what is the best choice they can make. Letting a sentient fetus, who debatably might not even have a desire to live at this point, live is not necessarily the morally right thing to do in every case, but in every case, you have no say in what the family chooses. They do not take the decision lightly, and being pro-life is incredibly direspectful to people undergoing such a stressful moment in their life. Abortion is not an easy choice, but it is a choice —- and it has nothing to do with veganism—- . Veganism is the practice of non violence. If you think abortion is violence and won’t change your mind, then don’t have an abortion, promote safe-sex and responsible reproduction, and be a vegan. Being verbally abusive to other people because of a choice -that is none of your business for several reasons- is violent, and vegans avoid that. Don’t discredit veganism because it doesn’t adress non-sentient beings’ rights, it’s not what it’s about- plants are not sentient so we eat them; fetus sentience is very vague a subject, so we won’t inflict forced pregnancy on women who have everything to lose.

  9. Seymour Eliot September 7, 2011 at 9:59 pm - Reply

    @ Atom the first priority of PETA will always be MONEY. They make millions in profit and NONE of it is used to promote veganism or even “actually go out there and save animals” since they kill perfectly healthy animals in their “shelters”. Welfare reforms never significantly ameliorate the conditions for the animals, they further reaffirm that non human animals are commodities that we are free to use as long as their treatment is “humane” and they are only put in place when economically beneficiable, which means no amelioration for the animals, less vegans than there could be because welfare reforms make people feel comfortable about killing sentient beings, and MORE MONEY for the animal exploiting industries.

    They have stated themselves that “non human animals don’t have an interest in living, they only have an interest in not suffering”. Welfare reforms will never lead to more veganism and to abolition of all animal use. Never. If PETA promoted veganism and only veganism, not “happy exploitation”, there could be significant change in the world overnight. But once the world is vegan, they go bankrupt, and they visibly don’t want that. Sentients’ rights are the least of their concerns. PETA is counterproductive to the vegan movement, always has been, always will be. They promote animal exploitation for f*ck’s sake! They have nothing to do with veganism.

  10. Andres G September 7, 2011 at 5:44 pm - Reply

    @ James T. – Nobody is asking you join any cause, veganism is not a cause, veganism is simply living your life without hurting anyone and living up to your morals and ethics, making sure your actions match your ethic believes, it is not a cause at all. If you believe yourself to be a good person then make sure you act like a good person and make ethical choices whenever possible instead of act on selfish instinct. Animal rights activism is a cause and a good one. You can be a vegan and not be an animal rights activist even though most vegans are aware that animals have rights, they may not choose to join that cause. If somebody asks you to be vegan they are simply asking you to act in a compassionate and less selfish way, they’re not asking you to join a cause. The anti-abortion movement is another cause like the animal rights movement, and you can either choose to support one of them or both, but if you choose one then it doesn’t mean that you have to be against the other cause. eg. you don’t have to kill animals and take their right to live away from them, just because you have chosen the anti-abortion cause. The same way, you don’t have to be pro-abortion and take the right to live away from the fetus, just because you have chosen the animal rights movement as the cause you want to support. An example would be, If you feel that the children dying in Africa need your complete attention and focus and have priority over the animals that are being murdered then that’s ok, but that doesn’t mean that you have to keep being part of murdering animals, make sure they suffer and their lives are taken from them just because you have chosen to help the kids in Africa. The same way that just because someone may choose to be an animal rights activist and gives the 80 billion animals that die every year at the hands of men priority over the 10 million people that could die in Africa, doesn’t mean that he should actively take part and make sure that those children in Africa die. So what I am saying is that if you can be part of any good cause and still be vegan, you don’t have to hurt animals in the process. You can be a good person and live your life without hurting animals unnecessarily and still join cause, being vegan is acting on compassion. What you said is like me saying ”I will stop running people over with my car only if you start caring about disable people’s abuse as much as you care for anti-abortion”, It would be completely ridiculous!

  11. Penelope Low September 7, 2011 at 2:36 pm - Reply

    Thanks Atom. I was very confused by the “I am not eating vegetables until I see PETA bombing abortion clinics to prove they care” post until you responded.

  12. fauxgras September 7, 2011 at 2:23 pm - Reply

    lovely post, the human physical toll of factory farming is huge as well. let alone the psychological toll of hardening oneself to slaughter and beings as commodity. how can people be expected to be good or kind to each other when they see any other living being as commodity, food, or another annoying thing to be stunned, hoisted on to a hook and carved up.

    abortion is a different issue completely, science still debates what a person is when it comes to fetuses but there is no debate about whether the animals carnivores eat are conscious or feel pain.

  13. Atom September 7, 2011 at 2:00 pm - Reply

    @James T.:
    Excuse me, but there’s nothing hypocritical (you misspelled it) about PETA and vegans. Being vegan has nothing to do with abortion. Are human babies part of a staple diet among humans? I don’t think so. I myself am an advocate of equal human rights AND I’m a vegetarian, turning vegan “cold turkey” as they say. I’m against taking a human life as much as taking an animal’s.

    You ask how many of us care for the lives of human beings as well as those for animals? Well, here I am. Count me. There are millions more like me.

    Also, I don’t think PETA has ever antagonized people who favor abortion. That’s not part of what they do. Notice that they’re called “People for the Ethical Treatment of ANIMALS”? Naturally, they would have nothing to do with abortion at all.

    I don’t think you are one to judge vegans just because you blindly categorize us as people who don’t care about other people. Remember that veganism is a HEALTH choice as much as an ETHICAL choice. Logically, people who respect animal life would be ones to respect human life. Unfortunately, the opposite isn’t true.

    Based on what you wrote, you’re not a vegan, nor even a vegetarian. You say you refuse to be one or the other unless an organization and community begin standing up for your beliefs as well. PETA is for animals, and they are their focus. Animals will ALWAYS be their focus. That doesn’t mean they don’t care about people! In fact, PETA has made several points that prove that veganism is as much a benefit to human life as it is to animal life! That’s a testament to their concern for human life! I encourage you to be part of it just because it’s something that someone who knows how valuable life is would do.

    So if you’re looking for supporters against abortion, work on your tone first. Don’t antagonize people who hold life sacred, just as much as you seem to. It’s not a contest of which is more important — veganism or anti-abortion. Both are great causes that nobody has to choose one or the other for.

  14. Azrayel September 7, 2011 at 10:50 am - Reply

    My future-step-father-in-law likes to repeat the ‘it’s personal choice’ mantra. As a family, we – me, my partner and his folks – will sit down for a vegan meal but his step-father will almost certainly have a portion of meat as well, because he just can’t stomach the idea of a meal that doesn’t include some corpse. He often brings up veganism, usually while we are eating, and will tell us that we need to respect his choices and that diet isn’t an ethical matter, but a personal one.

    I bite my tongue. I know I shouldn’t, but rowing with my partner’s family over dinner just doesn’t seem like a swell idea. I make limp, vague remarks. I might grunt a little, in acknowledgement of what he said but not in acceptance of it. I hate myself for allowing him to keep his misconceptions.

    I hate myself for not being more assertive. I’m surrounded by people who want me to ‘fit in’ and not ’cause a scene’. I’ve even been told that checking whether an oven tray has been used for meat since it was last washed makes me akin to a ‘religious fanatic’. I’m not allowed to speak out, I must not get in the way or be difficult. After all, it’s just ‘personal choice’ and I’m the one who insists on being different.


    Thanks for this wonderful post.

  15. James T. September 7, 2011 at 10:35 am - Reply

    May I ask how many of you vegans also stand up for the rights of the millions of unborn and partially born babies that are murdered in their mothers womb every day because it is the choice of the mother????? The day the hipocitical peta & vegan communities fight for these babies rights is the day I will join your cause…..

  16. Faith @ For the Health of It September 7, 2011 at 10:07 am - Reply

    I couldnt help but stare at the picture of you petting the chicken for several minutes. Sweet and tender moments like that make me wonder how I could ever struggle with the decision to go fully vegan – a transition that’s been a challenge for me, but one that I’m making for the better! Thanks for the inspiration to keep challenging myself to live without eggs and dairy!

  17. Cassie Allen September 7, 2011 at 9:50 am - Reply

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! You said what I have been struggling with for YEARS!! I can’t stop others from eating animal products but I DO NOT have to tell them it is ‘ok’. I needed to read these words today. xoxox

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HELLO! I'm KD Angle-Traegner.

Writer, activist, and founder of Four Urban Paws Sanctuary. I’m on a mission to help people live a vegan life. Read more about KD…