We often hear people say that being vegan, or not being vegan, is a "personal choice." But, is it really? First, we have to break down the two ways in which this response is mainly used. Typically, the assertion that veganism is a mere "personal choice" is used by those of us who are simply unaware of the issues surrounding the use of animals by humans, but this same argument is often used by those who are more than vaguely aware of the moral dilemmas involved with using animals and are unwilling to make a personal change to align our core beliefs and actions.
For the purpose of this discussion, we are going to focus on the latter group of people using this argument -- those who are somewhat aware, but are unwilling to change. So, back to the question of whether or not being vegan is a personal choice. Well, certainly, most action we take in life is a personal choice. We choose to go to school, we choose what color shirt we are going to wear, we might even choose to rob a bank, or commit a murder. Clearly, there are a wide range of personal choices one can make in life.
However, we usually attribute a "personal choice" to minor decisions in life, such as what color car we are going to buy, or where we choose to live. We don't often hear anyone say, for example, that it's their "personal choice" to beat their dog with a baseball bat, or rape someone. Not only do the vast majority of people view these heinous act as morally unacceptable, but in most places of the world, they're also illegal. But, why are they illegal? They are illegal because over time, people have overwhelmingly decided that most actions that cause physical harm to others, both human and non-human, are morally reprehensible and should come with repercussions.
So, let's take away the legal aspect and for a minute, pretend that we all have the personal choice to do whatever we want without retaliation. Surely, most sane humans would still refrain from committing violence or killing of fellow humans and animals. It seems to be a core element of human nature, to avoid directly causing pain and suffering upon others. We tend to look away, or even become physically distressed at the idea of pain or suffering being needlessly inflicted upon fellow humans or animals. So then, why do we choose to ignore the unnecessary pain, suffering, and death we choose to inflict upon animals each and every time we eat a chickens' wing, drink a glass of milk, or go to a circus or zoo?
As the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has clearly stated, their position is that a vegan diet is not only nutritionally appropriate, but may aid in the treatment and prevention of many chronic diseases. If using animals is nutritionally unnecessary, and clearly using them for purposes of fashion or entertainment is equally unnecessary, why when it comes to their plight, to their pain, suffering, and death, do we label our betrayal of their lives as a mere personal choice? Most people could not kill their own animals for food, or beat elephants into submission to perform in circuses, let alone watch it happen. Yet, we turn away and pay others to do it for us, which is no different than doing it ourselves.
Beyond the pain and death we inflict upon innocent animals, many of which are more intelligent than those we consider "pets," the evidence is astoundingly clear that using animals, especially for purposes of food, is an incredible waste of planetary resources and is also the source of most of the the disease and death that affects our own human existence. So, it's not even that we are choosing unnecessary death for animals when we choose to use them, but we are creating an undue burden for the rest of society by destroying our planet and creating mounting health care crises.
With all of that being known, the question can now be asked again, how on Earth can we pawn such a grave atrocity off as a mere "personal choice?" We all have a moral obligation to be kind and refrain from causing harm to others, in addition to preserving our planet for future generations. Sure, the easier thing to do is to stick our heads in the sand and just continue doing what we've always done, which obviously isn't faring well for us to date, and continue ignoring the utter moral crimes we are committing against animals, our planet, and our health. That's the easy route. But, in a day where it has never been easier to refrain from animal products and there are completely satisfying options to eliminate the use of animals, period, why are we still doing it?