I think it’s a safe bet to say that most vegans are a generally caring bunch; it’s because we actually care that we live vegan. That’s why it’s common for vegans to be involved or otherwise interested in all sorts of justice issues, not just animal rights. Two such issues are the protection of the natural environment and fostering a more equitable system of food distribution.
Sometimes it seems that the different expressions of showing care are at odds with one another but I’ll contend here that such frictions are usually totally unnecessary when properly examined. As an example take the issue of dumpster diving. Many people believe that consuming edible “waste” products is an action that shows responsibility towards the natural environment. I agree – it does! Many also believe it challenges the way we think about food, our wastefulness, and our inefficient systems of distribution. Again I fully agree. To abandon perfectly good products just for the sake of obtaining new ones can be an extreme show of negligence, even a slap-in-the-face to the less privileged, and in my book anyone who takes positive action to remedy that situation deserves acclamation.
What about when those waste products are of animal origin? The person with concern might say that the damage to the animal has already been done and so, as a consequential matter, the use of those products makes no difference to the animal but continues to make a positive difference to the environmental and food distribution issues. And again, they are correct. But so what? There are all sorts of actions that someone can make to induce a positive difference to the environmental and food distribution issues that don’t involve using animals at all, so why would someone not chose those first?
Every day thousands of “pets” are killed for various reasons and while some of their corpses are returned to their owners many are destined for the rubbish heap. These corpses are edible. What then is the difference from the point of view of protecting the environment whether the dumpster diver consumes the corpse of a dog or the corpse of a pig? Absolutely nothing! Both corpses could provide the consumer the calories and nutrients they desire. The only difference is one of the consumer’s preference: taste, familiarity, cultural conditioning, whatever. That is to say, these preferences are based on the same pillars that speciesism or any other prejudicial discrimination is based on, because such preferences are pure speciesism. It is only when a dumpster diver is prepared to consume the products of any animal species, from any dumpster, that they can legitimately claim that their actions remain aligned with non-speciesism.
But again, why would a vegan dumpster diver want to eat from dumpsters the remnants of any animal species when so much non-animal material is also readily available in dumpsters? Is it because your closest dumpster belongs to the butcher? Well guess what – the butcher might be my closest shop too but that does not make it right for me to use that as an excuse to buy from her rather than travel down the road to by something of non-animal origin. Is it because of the fact that since the animal has already suffered that you want to use their remnants so that their suffering was not in vain? Well then wake up and use your own consequentialist measures to understand that the victimised animal cannot care either way what you consume right now. Is it because you see animal products as superior delivery mechanisms for nutrients? In that case you’d better examine your whole take on what does and doesn’t justify animal use and your understanding of veganism and animal rights.
Dumpster diving for disposed animal products may not be inherently wrong in itself, but when taken in the context of the remainder of the dumpster diver’s actions it generally becomes so. In one of my previous posts about roadkill I expressed an opinion that consuming it is not necessarily problematic in itself. I only half agree with that notion now: I still believe that, like dumpster diving for animal products, it causes no direct harm. But living vegan and promoting animal rights is so much more than abstaining from direct harm. It is the engaging with a state of mind that insists on no sentient species being viewed as automatically more beneficial / palatable / domesticable / exploitable than others.
When supposedly vegan dumpster divers are prepared to eat the corpses of “non-food animals,” including the corpses of human animals, then eating such things in their concern for the natural environment and food distribution might be legitimately rationalised within a vegan context. (And even then there are other reservations that I won’t get into now.) I have not yet heard of such dumpster divers. Until then this is simple and overt animal consumption – and not actually vegan at all.