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Is Abortion Vegan? | The Pro-Choice Dilemma

Nothing quite kills the mood at a dinner party like discussions of religion, politics, abortion, or veganism. So I thought it would be a bang-up idea if in THIS video, we discuss all four! (I don’t have much of a social life…)

Among the litany of objections to and arguments against veganism, from your standard “plants have feelings” and “but lions eat meat,” lies an area of discourse not so easily answered or discounted: the vegan stance on abortion. [tweet this]

The topics of abortion and veganism do share common ground. Both are decidedly polarizing issues quick to spark heated debate, [tweet this] have passionately outspoken individuals on either side of the issue, often utilize similar tactics within their outreach, education, and demonstrations, and involve a strong focus on the concepts of sentience, individuality, pain perception and consciousness.

Before we dive into this moralistic minefield, let me first state that I will not be settling the abortion debate in this video. Sorry to disappoint. What I will do is present the various arguments posed, along with perceived logical inconsistencies, and scientific insights. I will also be using the common terms of pro-life and pro-choice though I realize that either side has issues with these and have their own terminology. This is merely to simplify the rhetoric in order to address the topic at hand.

I’d like to add that there is no vegan consensus or official doctrine on abortion. Vegans, like the rest of the world’s population, hold very different beliefs outside of their refusal to participate in the exploitation of non-human animals. Views on abortion are often, but not always, heavily influenced by ones religious or spiritual practice and morals, which vary as wildly amongst vegans as non.[1][2][3][4][5][6]

In fact the issue of whether abortion is even relevant to veganism itself is hotly debated. While the abortion issue is, at least from my personal experience, most often thrown out as a diversion tactic intended to invalidate veganism as a whole, there remain a few very real and valid intersections to explore.

The disconnect most often perceived within the veganism and abortion debate is the pro-choice vegan. [tweet this] Let’s start at the surface and the most basic argument against pro-choice veganism: if vegans are against killing, then we have to be against all killing. The fallacy in this position is what’s called a false dilemma, posing a black and white reality when ample grey exists.

Even most peace-loving pacifists would defend themselves against an attacker and find no moral fault in the death of a perpetrator during a true kill-or-be-killed situation.

On the other side of the coin lies the most basic defense for pro-choice veganism: abortion is dealing with a fetus in utero, of which the sentience, consciousness and pain perception continues to be hotly debated, while veganism deals with beings who are undeniably sentient, conscious, and pain-perceiving. However, as we will soon see, this oversimplification fails to account for countless complex nuances, though it is without doubt the most striking divergence, and one to take into account.

When we start delving deeper into the abortion debate, the lines begin to blur even further.

The ability of a fetus to feel pain is a primary argument of the pro-life camp. Seeing as how the prevention of pain and suffering is a pillar of vegan ethics as well, it would appear that pro-choice vegans are left with quite the conundrum. If, in fact, a fetus can feel pain, then the born vs. unborn moral distinction fails. The key word being “if.”

Here’s one of the places the abortion debate lacks the clarity of veganism. Scientists still do not agree on fetal pain perception. A 2005 meta-analysis concluded that, “fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester.”[7]

A 2010 review by Britain’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, stated that, “the fetus cannot experience pain in any sense prior [to 24 weeks].”[8][9]

The earliest estimate comes from Dr. Kanwaljeet S. Anand, something of an outlier in the field and oft-quoted by the pro-life cause.[10][11][12] Anand proposes a window of 18-24 weeks,[13][14] though he’s emphasized that, “fetal pain does not have much relevance for abortion, since most abortions are performed before the fetus is capable of experiencing pain,”[15] with only 1.5% of abortions occurring after 20 weeks in the United States.[16]

One element clouding the issue is the difference between nociception and pain, something I discuss more in-depth in my video “Do Fish Feel Pain.[17] In short, there can be reaction to potentially painful or harmful stimuli without the experience of pain, and nociceptors, which appear as early as 7 weeks, are not in and of themselves capable of relaying pain.[18]

Of course, this uncertainty doesn’t exactly place pro-choice veganism in the clear. Many vegans believe that the ability of non-human animals to feel pain shouldn’t have to be scientifically proven to our satisfaction before we stop abusing them. Why conduct cruel studies when they make it glaringly obvious with crying out, trying to escape, flinching, struggling, and showing indicators of psychological stress? We should operate on the assumption that they can feel pain. So why then, does this courtesy not extend to a human fetus?

If pain alone were the issue, vegans would support the killing of unconscious animals and pro-lifers wouldn’t protest the abortion of fetuses prior to the development of pain perception. But both issues have additional layers, such as conscious awareness or sentience, and future life interests.

Vegans see the sentience of non-human animals, meaning their ability to feel, perceive and experience life subjectively, as a solid grounds for their protection. Often interchanged with “consciousness,” sentience in non-human animals is widely accepted among scientists, with over 2,500 studies and the release of an international Declaration of Consciousness in 2012.[19][20][21]

Similar to the variances in pain-perception development, the certainty of sentience is lacking within the abortion debate. Still, as vegan activist Gary Yourofsky has stated, “sentience [isn’t] the only factor when deciding how we should treat other beings. (Even though trees, mountains, air and water are insentient life forces, I think they have a right NOT to be exploited and polluted and destroyed.)”[22]

Where the argument against pro-choice veganism really gains some ground is the discussion of life potential. Vegans, including myself, often argue that even if we could somehow, someway actually kill a non-human animal without any pain or awareness, it would still be unethical as we could be choosing to end their life prematurely. We do not see such an action as our choice, as personal choice is no longer personal when it involves the welfare of another.

How, then, can a vegan possibly support the choice to abort the potential life of a human? The argument that the fetus is not aware of a future won’t stand unless vegans also condone the killing of animals who are unaware or unconscious at the time of death. So have we circled back to the born vs. unborn divide? Again this becomes hazy with the uncertainty of pain and sentience.

There exists an element of self-defense congruent with vegan ideals that can be applied to abortion in the cases of rape and incest or when the life of the mother is at stake. But what about abortion out of inconvenience or financial strain? Or sex-selective abortions wherein female fetuses are aborted due to male cultural preference, a practice most often associated with China[23][24][25] and India,[26][27][28][29][30] but prevalent in many other countries where males increasingly outnumber females.[31][32][33] Is choosing to stop the potential life of a fetus for what could be termed one’s own comfort a parallel to meat eaters ending the lives of non-human animals for their own comfort?

Even more direct parallels exist. In my video “Is Lab Grown Meat Vegan,”[34] I discussed the harvesting methods for bovine fetal serum, a growth medium used within a wide range of laboratory experiments, along with fetal pig and fetal sheep serums. Bovine fetal serum is obtained by piercing and draining the beating heart of fetal calves who’ve been cut from their mothers’ wombs in slaughterhouses.

This practice was understandably met with horror and disgust from vegan viewers and even non-vegans. Were any of these vegans pro-choice, would this reaction be an indication of dissonance or hypocrisy? The study I cited went on in length about the potential pain-perception of the bovine fetuses and referenced a general acceptance of 24 weeks for human fetus pain perception, and presented a figure of roughly 12 weeks, or 3 months for cows, who are more fully developed at birth than humans.[35]

Again the variances in situation may create a buffer for the pro-choice vegan given that bovine fetuses must be at least 3 months old to provide enough serum and are often 6 months or older when put through this procedure without any anesthesia, well beyond the point of pain perception. Additionally, it’s readily evident that a human mother procuring an abortion differs dramatically from cutting a living fetus from the body of a mother cow slaughtered against her will in order to drain the heart for profit.

I would like to bring up another wrinkle. While vegans believe in the rights of non-human animals, the majority, from what I have found, which is by no means conclusive, do seem to support the spaying and neutering of companion animals.[36][37][38] While this is most certainly a violation of their rights, it is not, as Gary Yourofsky has written,[39] a cruel practice when performed properly. He, along with many activists, argues that since the domestication of dogs and cats will not be undone anytime soon, spaying and neutering is a better alternative than the current cruel and needless deaths of millions of abandoned, unwanted companion animals due to overbreeding.[40]

Once again the parallel is by no means ideal, as our animal companions have no ability to make this choice for themselves, and spaying and neutering prevents a pregnancy while abortion ends one. I present this simply as an example of vegans being faced with an ethical ambiguity and supporting the restriction of animals’ reproductive rights.

At the more misanthropic end of the spectrum, since humanity continues to murder trillions of innocent beings every year, decimate the planet, and grow in population and demand for meat, could it be argued that stemming this proliferation at its root would actually be perfectly inline with vegan principles?

Any attempt to present a singular vegan view on abortion negates the diversity and variance of vegans themselves. Many vegans reject the aforementioned “animals vs. humans” dichotomy, seeing human and animal rights as inextricable – to be protected and fought for concurrently.

Something I personally find fascinating in this whole debate is the focus on whether vegans can be pro-choice. With all of the uncertainties inherent in fetal pain-perception and sentience and the absolute certainties of non-human animal c pain-perception and sentience it’s interesting that the more concrete question usually remains unasked: non-vegans be pro-life?

As I said in the opener, I’m not going to settle the abortion debate, or even the veganism and abortion debate. Even with my attempts at simplifications, it’s evident how complex this dialogue can easily become.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the debate in the comments below!

This video took approximately 64 hours to produce. If you’d like to help support Bite Size Vegan so I can keep putting in the long hours to bring you this educational resource, please check out the support page where you can give a one-time-donation or receive perks and rewards by joining the Nugget Army on Patreon. I’d like to give a special thanks my $50 and above patrons and my whole Patreon family for making this and all of my videos possible.

If you enjoyed this post, please give the video a thumbs up and share the post around to spark debate. You can use the share buttons at the base of this post or any of the pre-made tweetables throughout this post.

If you’re new, I’d love to have you as a subscriber. I put out fresh vegan content every Monday, Wednesday, and some Fridays.

Now go live vegan, be sure to show this video at your next dinner party, and I’ll see you soon.

see ya next nugget!

 

 

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▶︎➤ FEATURED VIDEOS & RESOURCES:
More “IS THIS VEGAN?” Series
Do Fish Feel Pain? [more on nociception] ➣ Is Lab Meat Vegan? [bovine fetal issue] ➣ The REAL Environmental Cost [human impact] ➣ How Many Animals Do We Kill Every Year? [human impact] ➣ The Sh*t People Say To Vegans [objections parody] ➣ Plants Have Feelings!
Do Animals Grieve?
Are Tampons Vegan? [includes fetal serum usage]

CITATIONS [Full Bibliography of Works Consulted Below Citations]

[1] Rhys Southan, “The Trouble With Being a Pro-Choice Vegan,” Let Them Eat Meat, December 18, 2012.

[2]Animals and Abortion Part 1: How PETA Gets It Wrong,” Abortion Gang, May 25, 2011.

[3]My Pro-Choice Veganism,” Abortion Gang, December 20, 2010.

[4] Marthe Endresen, “The Hypocrisy of Vegans Who Support Abortion,” Live Action News, March 27, 2015.

[5] Jo Stepaniak, “Veganism and Abortion: Grassroots Veganism with Jo Stepaniak,” Vegsource.com, accessed April 7, 2016.

[6] M. (known as) “butterflies” Katz, “Vegan Views on Abortion, War, Gun Control, and Capital Punishment,” VEGANISM, July 28, 2012.

[7] Lee SJ et al., “Fetal Pain: A Systematic Multidisciplinary Review of the Evidence,” JAMA 294, no. 8 (August 24, 2005): 947–54, doi:10.1001/jama.294.8.947.

[8] Working Party Report, “Fetal Awareness Review of Research and Recommendations for Practice” (Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, March 2010).

[9] Pam Belluck, “Complex Science at Issue in Politics of Fetal Pain,” The New York Times, September 16, 2013.

[10]Expert Report of Kanwaljeet S. Anand, M.B.B.S., D.Phil.,” accessed April 8, 2016.

[11] Belluck, “Complex Science at Issue in Politics of Fetal Pain.”

[12] Ashley Morrow Fragoso, “Fetal Pain: Can Unborn Children Feel Pain in the Womb?” (Family Research Council, 2010).

[13] K. J. Anand and M. Maze, “Fetuses, Fentanyl, and the Stress Response: Signals from the Beginnings of Pain?,” Anesthesiology 95, no. 4 (October 2001): 823–25.

[14] K. J. Anand and P. R. Hickey, “Pain and Its Effects in the Human Neonate and Fetus,” The New England Journal of Medicine 317, no. 21 (November 19, 1987): 1321–29, doi:10.1056/NEJM198711193172105.

[15] Belluck, “Complex Science at Issue in Politics of Fetal Pain.”

[16]Induced Abortion in the United States” (Guttmacher Institute, March 2016).

[17] Emily Moran Barwick, “Do Fish Feel Pain?,” BiteSizeVegan.com, April 1, 2015.

[18] Aida Salihagic Kadic, “Fetal Neurology: The Role of Fetal Stress,” Donald School Journal of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology 9, no. 1 (2015).

[19] Phillip Low, “The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness” (Francis Crick Memorial Conference on Consciousness in Human and non – Human Animals: Churchill College, University of Cambridge, July 7, 2012).

[20] Marc Bekoff, “Scientists Conclude Nonhuman Animals Are Conscious Beings,” Psychology Today, August 10, 2012.

[21] Marc Bekoff, “A Universal Declaration on Animal Sentience: No Pretending,” Psychology Today, June 20, 2013.

[22] Gary Yourofsky, “Abortion Stance,” Email correspondence with author, April 4, 2015.

[23] Zeng Yi et al., “Causes and Implications of the Recent Increase in the Reported Sex Ratio at Birth in China,” Population and Development Review 19, no. 2 (1993): 283–302, doi:10.2307/2938438.

[24] Chu Junhong, “Prenatal Sex Determination and Sex-Selective Abortion in Rural Central China,” Population and Development Review 27, no. 2 (2001): 259–81.

[25] Wei Xing Zhu et al., “China’s Excess Males, Sex Selective Abortion, and One Child Policy: Analysis of Data from 2005 National Intercensus Survey,” BMJ: British Medical Journal 338, no. 7700 (2009): 920–23.

[26]Trends in Sex Ratio at Birth and Estimates of Girls Missing at Birth in India” (United Nations Population Fund – India, July 2010).

[27]India at Glance – Population Census 2011,” Census2011.co.in, accessed April 10, 2016.

[28]IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PCPNDT ACT – Perspectives and Challenges” (Public Health Foundation of India, Supported by United Nations FPA, April 2010).

[29] Registrar General & Census Commisioner C. Chandramouli, “Child Sex Ration In India” (India, 2011).

[30]Census of India 2011: Child Sex Ratio Drops to Lowest since Independence,” accessed April 10, 2016.

[31]Workshop on Skewed Sex Ratios at Birth: Addressing the Issue and the Way Forward” (United Nations Population Fund, October 5, 2001).

[32]Trends in Sex Ratio at Birth and Estimates of Girls Missing at Birth in India.”

[33] Daniel Goodkind, “Should Prenatal Sex Selection Be Restricted? Ethical Questions and Their Implications for Research and Policy,Population Studies 53, no. 1 (1999): 49–61.

[34] Emily Moran Barwick, “Is Lab Grown Meat Vegan?,” BiteSizeVegan.com, March 28, 2016.

[35] Carlo EA Jochems et al., “The Use of Fetal Bovine Serum: Ethical or Scientific Problem?,” ATLA-NOTTINGHAM- 30, no. 2 (2002): 219–28.

[36]Do You Guys Spay or Neuter Your Pets? • /r/vegan,” Reddit, accessed April 7, 2016.

[37]View Topic – Is Spaying & Neutering Inconsistent With Animal Rights?,” accessed April 7, 2016.

[38]Spay and Neuter,” PETA, accessed April 7, 2016.

[39] Gary Yourofsky, “‘Dogs and Cats’ Section of Other Animal Rights Issues,” ADAPTT.org, accessed April 7, 2016.

[40]Companion Animal Overpopulation,” PETA, accessed April 7, 2016.



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21 Comments

  1. Chandler Klebs on April 14, 2016 at 10:38 am

    “I would like to bring up another wrinkle. While vegans believe in the rights of non-human animals, the majority, from what I have found, which is by no means conclusive, do seem to support the spaying and neutering of companion animals.[36][37][38] While this is most certainly a violation of their rights, it is not, as Gary Yourofsky has written,[39] a cruel practice when performed properly. He, along with many activists, argues that since the domestication of dogs and cats will not be undone anytime soon, spaying and neutering is a better alternative than the current cruel and needless deaths of millions of abandoned, unwanted companion animals due to overbreeding.[40]

    Once again the parallel is by no means ideal, as our animal companions have no ability to make this choice for themselves, and spaying and neutering prevents a pregnancy while abortion ends one. I present this simply as an example of vegans being faced with an ethical ambiguity and supporting the restriction of animals’ reproductive rights.”

    I’m not yet sure how I feel about the sterilization of animals. I feel uncomfortable about it in general but more importantly, I want to be consistent.

    If I support the idea of sterilizing dogs or cats, then I also support the sterilization of humans too.

    If I am against it for humans, then I would have to be against it for the non-humans too.

    I can’t ever have different standards based on species. Most humans do and I find that to be pure speciesism.

    • Rebecca on November 25, 2017 at 3:06 pm

      Why is speciesism turned into a pejorative? I know it might come as a shock to you but people and dogs are not the same. Biologically they are very different, not just physically but what they eat, how they breed etc. Grapes are great nutrition for people and yet can kill dogs. Is not feeding them grapes speciesist? Or what about cats, they are designed to eat meat. On a vegan diet they will literally die a slow a painful death. So would be be speciesist to feed them meat, or if you do that do you then have to feed a bunny meat all also? Humans have sex for pleasure, dogs don’t. If a dog has sex it’s for the express purpose of reproduction. That is a HUGE biological difference. You can’t unilaterally treat all species the same and if you tried you’d be an idiot because not all species want the same thing. Look at cats, you can’t say that cats want to reproduce, when they do it’s pure biology and nothing deeper than that. If it was deeper they wouldn’t run off their own offspring when they are a few months old. All animals are different and that’s just ok, that’s amazing. What this sounds like is anthropomorphizing being taken to it’s limit. Basically, if you don’t support spaying and neutering then don’t get a pet, then you don’t have to deal with the issue.

  2. Freya on April 15, 2016 at 2:35 pm

    Emily, you amaze me. Brilliant, articulate, witty. Thank you for your informative, inspiring, and entertaining videos. On this topic, I’m usually on the pro-choice side, with the exception of abortion being a means of contraception. I think I’m still there since authorities are claiming that the fetus doesn’t suffer. A point in favour of abortion could be compared to the support for animal sterilization – not bringing lives into the world where the quality of life could be a misery given immature, irresponsible, impoverished, single mothers.

    • D on January 25, 2018 at 1:30 am

      But that impoverished irresponsible single mother should have the right to have her baby, and that baby should have the right to not be killed… have you seen a video of an abortion? They fight for their lives while their being cut to pieces. So I have to prove that a cockroach feels pain because it squirms when I spray Raid on it? No, that being is clearly suffering. Don’t assume this well written article is going to fully educate anyone on fetuses being sentient beings. It’s just not complete and it doesn’t show all the proof that’s out there at all

      • J on November 20, 2018 at 1:40 pm

        Yes! Well said. Is exterminating PEOPLE ever a good thing…even if they are poor? An individuals financial status should not enter into the argument. As far as I am concerned, this debate is a no-brainer. If we want to be truly vegan, then we need to express a much higher level of abhorrent for abortion than we do for polo mints of Birds Custard. Just saying.

  3. Mary on April 15, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    Can’t wait to bring this video up at the 4th of July family get together! Great video, though, thank you. My general thoughts, if you don’t have a uterus, then feel free to adhere to the highly effective, “keep it in your pants” policy.

    Best part: the question you ask. how can you NOT be vegan and be pro life? That’s a humdinger.

  4. ktkickass on April 15, 2016 at 5:07 pm

    Emily, you are amazing and I love you and your work! I still have to say, you are one of my heros, your diligence, enthusiasm, energy (incredible the time you put in!!!), your determination….. HUGS! I do feel, there are times where abortion is appropriate, sounds terrible, but for one, I can attest to this, having been depressed in my young 20’s, having been with an alcoholic, cocaine addicted boyfriend, I opted for an abortion. I was not of sound mind and body, neither was the guy! Everything was wrong! I feel badly for it, but did not think it would be a good place for that child to be. Who knows how things would have worked out, but at that time, yes, it was the choice I made. As Freya says, abortion should not be used as contraception, but there are situations where it might be better to follow this route. It is an individual situation.I wish I would have had my act together back then, but I did not (due to circumstances.) Thank you again for all that you do, du bist die beste, und wunderbar, und ausgezeichnet!!!

  5. Melanie on April 15, 2016 at 6:01 pm

    I find it interesting that you completely left out discussion on the impacted life of the person carrying the fetus. Don’t vegans care not only about life, but about quality of life? You brought up inconvenience and financial strain as not good enough reasons to abort a fetus (at least, they seemed to be presented that way). But if the person carrying the fetus is in poverty and can barely take care of themselves, much less a child (I believe the average cost of raising a child is somewhere around $400,000) wouldn’t that reduce their quality of life? Wouldn’t it reduce the quality of life of the child? Not to mention the bodily autonomy debate, which is that – prior to 20-24 weeks when a fetus has the potential to survive outside of the womb on its own, the fetus is part of the carrier’s body and therefore bodily autonomy applies.

    I’m glad you brought up that an extremely low percentage of abortions occur after 20 weeks. 20 week abortion bans are dangerous because most of that tiny percentage of abortions that occur after 20 weeks are done on wanted children that had to be aborted for a medical reason.

    I also think that aborting non human animal fetuses is wrong simply because we cannot assume that the parent animal didn’t want a child.

    I love your videos, and thank you for doing what you do.

    • Emily Moran Barwick (BiteSizeVegan) on April 20, 2016 at 10:13 am

      Thank you so much for your thoughts Melanie. I did mention the health of mother albeit briefly. The challenge with this video (as with them all!) is attempting to condense INCREDIBLY complex topics into simple and short enough videos for people to actually watch. :)

      I hate how there are always some aspects that aren’t discussed in the depth they deserve. Very much appreciate your feedback!

  6. Jane on April 15, 2016 at 8:09 pm

    Emily, in your case the old adage, “Too soon old and too late smart” does not apply. You explore ideas I did not come to until six decades into life, and I think I’m a pretty smart cookie. You have clearly taken early to heart the maxim that “the unexamined life is not worth living.”

  7. Colee on April 17, 2016 at 12:42 am

    Excellent video and thank you for your well versed, researched and concise talks. I always learn something new from you. I greatly appreciate your insight and knowledge. As a pro-choice vegan, I hope that abortions can be performed early enough so that there are no concerns regarding pain or even nociception. And if the morning after pill was as accessible as condoms, maybe this would alleviate these problems too.

  8. Matt Denman on June 1, 2017 at 11:49 am

    I have been a vegan for almost 1 year. I did it for health reasons at first, but am feeling more for the issue related to caring for animals. I am against abortion, but cannot understand how someone can be so vegan they wont eat unfertilized eggs from wild chickens but they can get an abortion after having a good night clubbing with friends. Most vegans I have met are very extreme about the things they wont eat out of not wanting to exploit animals or cause them pain. For example, not eating oysters. I don’t understand a person that wont eat oysters but can personally get an abortion.

    However we live a world that has sanctioned abortion and I have no influence over people that get abortions just like I have no influece over people that eat meat. One thing interesting about it though is that I can easily see who is pro abortion and who is pro eating meat and make personal judgements about them and if I want them in my life. Its out in the open and not hidden, hard to know who is pro life and vegan and who isn’t.

  9. Amber on September 25, 2017 at 4:53 pm

    I am so disgusted by men and women who calls themselves, “Vegan” and are not for ALL LIFE and Earth. Examine your heart.

  10. Mo on October 22, 2017 at 9:35 pm

    Thank you very much for this article. As a vegan currently facing this very serious choice, it gave me a lot to think about. I really appreciate the way you really explored aspects that I have not yet even thought about. Much love ❤️

    • Emily Moran Barwick on November 11, 2017 at 6:05 pm

      You are SO very welcome! Thank you for sharing this—that must not be easy to do. You will be in my thoughts. I’m so sorry to hear that your’e in this position, but cannot express how grateful I am to have been of any help. Much love to you.

  11. Francesca B on December 14, 2017 at 9:11 am

    Interesting article, but you didn’t mention the fact that vegans don’t eat eggs because they are unborn chickens.

  12. sewkraytz on January 17, 2018 at 11:48 am

    Just FWIW, the following is not true: “The ability of a fetus to feel pain is a primary argument of the pro-life camp.” I’ve been involved with pro-life activism for decades. There are always individuals somewhere who will say one thing or another but pro-life organizations only use the pain argument for late-term abortion (20 weeks and after). Obviously, that isn’t a primary pro-life argument because someone who would permit abortion upon request in most instances (and most are done by 12 weeks) would be considered to be pro-choice even if they thought late-term abortions should be prohibited.

    On the other hand, you would expect that we will bring up the pain issue when we are having a discussion with a vegan, but that is because a primary argument for veganism is (or at the very least is widely believed to be) based on sentience. I a way to seek some point of agreement that can be used as a starting point. In my experience vegans and animal rights activists of all stripes tend to do the same thing: try to start by identifying a point of agreement where the person they’re speaking with would concede that doing something to an animal is clearly wrong and then proceed from there.

    Pro-life arguments really don’t deal with sentience at all.

    The secular arguments (which are all that concern me- just as most people in the west who oppose killing nonhuman animals won’t waste their time making a Jainist argument) deal with something more like sapience than sentience.

    It’s just that we’re arguing that a quality need not manifest in order to demand moral consideration. A presumptive quality (a quality that will predictably manifest in the course of normal development) is sufficient. Many people criticize this point, but it’s actually accepted by most as common sense, Otherwise newborn humans would have no greater moral status than mature pigs, and the vast majority of people will reject that idea outright.

  13. Kay on March 2, 2018 at 6:02 pm

    Ugh this is so stupid! You’re saying not to do tests on animals to see if they can feel pain because they’re flinching and crying out so it’s obvious they feel pain… babies in the womb flinch and try to get away too when they’re being poked at!

    • Emily Moran Barwick on March 3, 2018 at 5:29 pm

      Hi Kay. In this video and article, I don’t take a stance on abortion one way or another. And I do discuss pain perception being one of the areas of concern within the abortion debate. This post is not pro or anti—it presents the arguments and discussions on both sides (though I’d argue that there are far more than two “sides” to this complex issue).

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