“How do I deal with negativity towards my veganism?”

It is often said that the hardest thing about being vegan is not the food, it’s dealing with other people. Despite it’s growing popularity, there is still a noticeable stigma surrounding veganism, and often extraordinary negativity and aggression is levelled at vegans for little more than revealing the fact that they don’t believe in animal exploitation. Even among the socially conscious, mocking and sometimes outright bullying vegans is still seen as socially acceptable, and we remain the butt of many cruel jokes and harmful stereotypes. Making this even worse is the fact that vegans don’t often feel like they can discuss these issues openly, for fear of people claiming they are “making themselves out to be oppressed.” This can and does have a very real impact on the mental health of vegans, particularly those with existing issues like anxiety and depression.  Continue reading ““How do I deal with negativity towards my veganism?””

“How do I get all of my nutrients on a vegan diet?”

This is a natural concern for any new or transitioning vegan, we are all raised to believe that animal products are an essential part of the human diet, and that avoiding them will inevitably lead to deficiencies. This just isn’t the case, both  the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the National Health Service have released public statements to state that vegan diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. There are some vitamins people tend to worry about more than others, so I will discuss each of these in turn.  Continue reading ““How do I get all of my nutrients on a vegan diet?””

“Veganism is not sustainable.”

This is a point which is primarily raised by those who acknowledge the strength of the moral argument for vegansim, but want to insist that despite the cruelty inherent in animal agriculture industries, it would not be sustainable for the world to go vegan. This assertion is demonstrably false, and a little research into any of the positions of reputable environmental organisations and environmental reports is enough to discount it entirely.

The first issue with this argument is that it is critical of a change in our lifestyles on the basis that it would not be sustainable, but ignores the fact that what we are doing now is completely unsustainable. Animal agriculture is responsible for roughly 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions; cows alone produce 150 billion gallons of methane per day, with a global warming potential 86 times that of CO2 on a 20 year time frame. Livestock is also responsible for 65% of all human-related emissions of nitrous oxide, which stays in the atmosphere for approximately 150 years. All of this means that even if we cut all other CO2e emissions to zero immediately, we would still exceed our 565 gigatonnes limit by 2030, solely from raising animals for food. That isn’t even accounting for the vast swathes of rainforest cut down to make room for animal feed and grazing land for cattle. This, and the systematic destruction of wild species by farmers, ranchers and animal agriculture corporations contributes towards animal agriculture being one of the biggest contributors to global species extinction.

When people talk about sustainability, they don’t always mean global emissions, but our ability to feed our population with the land and resources that we have. In  terms of land use, a full 1/3 of the planet’s land surface and 2/3 of available agricultural land is used for farming animals. If we look at cows, for example, it takes 12 pounds of grain to make one pound of beef.  Chicken meat production consumes energy in a 4:1 ratio to protein output; beef cattle 54:1, lamb 50:1, pork 17:1, turkey 13:1 and milk 17:1, according to the ecologist’s analysis of U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics. This means that if we took a 2.5 acre piece of farmland the number of people whose food energy needs can be met by this land would be 23 people if producing cabbage, 22 for potatoes, 19 for rice, 17 for corn, 15 for wheat, 2 for chicken, and just 1 for eggs and beef. The USA is a stark example, though the population is approximately 321.1 million, the amount of grain fed to US livestock alone would be enough to feed 840 million people who follow a plant based diet.

As for the sustainability of water use, water consumption ranges from 34-76 trillion gallons annually. Approximately a fifth of that water consumption is from animal agriculture alone. It has been conclusively demonstrated that the water footprint of any animal product is larger than the water footprint of a wisely chosen crop product with equivalent nutritional value. To demonstrate this, 1L of soya milk has a water footprint of about 300 L, whereas the water footprint of 1L of cow’s milk from the same country is more than three times bigger. The water footprint of a 150g soya burger produced in the Netherlands appears to be about 160L, while the water footprint of an average 150-g beef burger is nearly fifteen times bigger. Almond milk is often criticised for how water intensive it is, but even in California, where 90% of the world’s almond’s come from, only 10% of the state’s water use goes to almonds, whereas meat dairy alone account for a massive 47%.

There are of course environmental issues with the growing of crops to feed humans, nevertheless, it is undeniable that the meat-based food system requires more energy, land, and water resources than a vegan diet does. Pointing towards unsustainable crop farming as a way of dissuading people from moving away from the current system and towards plant based diets makes very little sense, since our current system is far worse than the alternative being offered. It is for these reasons and many others that even the UN has urged a global shift towards a meat and dairy-free diet. Far from being unsustainable, it is thought that a global shift away from animal products is essential to curb the worst effects of climate change.

If the world moved away from animal agriculture, not only would we be able to feed more people with less energy, less crops, less water and less animal suffering; but we could also save approximately 8.1 million humans lives in the process. We could free up energy reserves, increase our food security, re-wild land deforested for animal grazing and create new national parks and protected land. With the money saved from treating the health issues associated with our excessive consumption of animals we could fund urban farming programs, eliminate food deserts and comfortably feed everyone in the process. Taking tax subsidies away from animal products and instead subsidising plant based foods would mean that everyone would have access to cheap, accessible and healthy food, and farmers would be able to make a living from growing crops alone while paying their employees a decent wage.

Those who claim that a vegan world is unsustainable resort to this argument simply because they can offer no defence of the status quo beyond trying to convince people that things cannot be any other way. But our dependence on animal products is not some law of nature, and our fast-food, factory farm driven food system hasn’t always existed, and doesn’t always have to. A well-fed world doesn’t have to come at the cost of our environment and the lives of trillions of animals, most of us have the option to choose a way of living which is healthier, more sustainable, less resource intensive and far kinder.

“Vegans exploit crop workers.”

This argument will be a familiar one to any vegan, it is less an acknowledgement of the inherent issues with crop farming and more an attack specifically levelled at vegans. It is used more often than not as a “gotcha” card, a way to point out that vegans cause harm too, and that being vegan isn’t morally any better from eating animals. There are of course several issues with this argument and the way it is commonly used.  Continue reading ““Vegans exploit crop workers.””

“Other animals eat meat too.”

This is a very common argument used against vegans, the basic idea behind it is that since animals also eat each other, us eating them cannot be seen to be immoral, because we are just doing what all other creatures do. This is often followed with rhetorical questions about whether vegans would force a lion to go vegan too, or why we aren’t protesting lions and wolves. Some people even have the bizarre idea that the ultimate goal of veganism is to stop animals eating meat too, since we view all animal death as inherently bad.

This argument stems from a basic understanding of what vegans actually believe. The assumption is that vegans are against any animal being killed for any reason, and that we view any animal dying as an intrinsic evil. Though this assumption is understandable, it is completely inaccurate. Vegans oppose animal exploitation and the unnecessary slaughter of animals for human benefit. The issue for us is that exploiting and killing animals is placing our desires, taste preferences and convenience over their right to be alive, and placing the interests of humans as inherently more important than those of any other animal, even when their needs are clearly greater than ours.

Necessity is the key concept here. The vast majority of humans can be perfectly healthy while avoiding killing animals, doing so is therefore a choice, and like any choice, it is open to moral criticism. For wild animals however, eating other animals is a matter of survival, they do not have the option or the capacity to make a moral choice to avoid harming other creatures. There can be no moral judgement about an act if the being performing it could not have chosen otherwise, and this counts for humans too. It should be self-evident that a lion hunting gazelle because they and their cubs will starve if they do not, and a human buying pre-packed meat from a supermarket containing hundreds of other options is in no way comparable. An obligate carnivore hunts for survival and because they cannot exist in any other way, and therefore places their survival above that of other animals, not their taste preferences.

The point that we cannot compare obligate carnivores and omnivores with modern humans is an important one, because it is something that we as a species vehemently believe in every other context. We justify our exploitation and consumption of animals on the grounds that we are higher than they are, and we deem any comparison between us and them as anthropomorphism. Moreover, we routinely deny that they experience pain or emotions the same way that we do, or that they are capable of thought in the way that we are. How then, can we justify eating animals on the basis that they eat other animals too? It seems to me that we compare ourselves to other animals only when it is convenient for us to do so, and the rest of the time we enforce a strict moral and intellectual distance between us, and baulk at the mere suggestion that humans and animals should be treated equally on the grounds that they are not like us. Either we are better than animals and we use that to justify the cruelty we inflict upon them, or we are the same as them and thus cannot be expected to behave better, but we cannot be both.

This is all part of the completely contradictory way we view animals. We are so utterly opposed to the notion of similarities between humans and animals that any comparison is deemed sentimental and unscientific, and despite decades of research on the topic, a good portion of us still will not accept that animals experience emotions in the same way that we do. We think of farmed animals especially as mindless, unfeeling automatons whose preferences do not need to be taken seriously, yet at the same time we use arguments like this one which rely on the assumption that these same animals are capable of moral agency, of weighing up decisions against one another and choosing which is the most ethical option. We think of ourselves as so much better than animals, yet we use their behaviour as our moral baseline and to justify our own actions. We make these comparisons very selectively too, taking our behavioural cues from obligate carnivores like lions, while ignoring the fact that many of our closest animal relatives are primarily herbivorous. We are also highly selective of which  behaviours to emulate and which ones to ignore; animals routinely commit incest, killing for territory and infanticide, yet no one ever uses this behaviour in animals to justify it for humans.

Few humans seriously entertain the notion that we should imitate the behaviour of lions in any other context besides eating meat, and even fewer genuinely made a moral decision to start eating animals on the basis that carnivores in the wild do it too. We eat animals because they taste good, because we were raised that way and because it is convenient, not because we saw a pack of hyenas bring down a wildebeest and decided that this looked like the most ethical way for us to live. What is natural has no moral relevance whatsoever, and the fact that a specific behaviour is exhibited by other animals is certainly no indication that it is something that we should be doing ourselves.

Comparing obligate carnivores hunting with nothing more than their wits and their claws with modern humans living in an industrialised, consumer-driven society is so far-fetched that it almost sounds like satire.  Justifying the consumption of animals on the basis that other animals eat meat too is nothing more than a convenient excuse, and the notion that behaviour is justified so long as it is performed by other animals is an argument which would not be taken seriously in any other context.

“How do I deal with cravings for animal products?”

Cravings can come from any radical change in diet, and is a natural part of any shift away from a previously enjoyed food. Not all people who go vegan will experience cravings but you shouldn’t feel bad if you do, what matters is whether or not you act on them. Cravings generally pass on their own, but in the meantime there are a few things you can do to help alleviate them.

First of all, recognise what it is you’re actually experiencing. It isn’t a moral failing, it isn’t an indication of any defiency, it is a purely psychological urge for a food you used to enjoy and which you body is not used to being deprived of. When we crave specific foods, it’s seldom the case that our body is actually craving the food itself, it’s much more likely that what’s happening is that we require something which we usually obtain from that food. If you body needs something fatty, high calorie or high in protein then it will signal to you that it this is what it needs, so you will crave the foods which usually satisfy those requirements, animal products certainly tick all three of those boxes. The key is associating the fulfilment of those needs with foods which aren’t animal products, but this “re-wiring” does take a little bit of time.

So for example, if you are craving red meat, instead eat something else which is high in protein and is high calorie, something like hummus, nuts or acacado would fit the bill. These foods are of course nothing like red meat, but they will fill you up and will meet the same requirements as red meat does. This may not feel very satisfying at first, but over time your brain will learn to associate a craving for fats, protein or calories with these plant based replacements, rather than with red meat. Most people reach a point eventually where they not only stop craving animal products, but just don’t really see it as food anymore. People often cite 30 days as the time it takes to break a habit, and I’d say in my experience that’s about right, by this time most people will at least see a significant reduction in the intensity of their cravings.

In the meantime, there are all kinds of products which do a great job of imitating animal products, and you can find a vegan version of pretty much anything you enjoyed before. If you expect these products to taste exactly like their animal derived counterparts then you’ll be disappointed, so don’t go into it expecting that. The purpose of these products is to be pretty close to the real thing, but also to just provide the same function in a meal. If you’re craving bacon sandwiches, you can do that with soy bacon too, it won’t be the same of course but you’d be surprised how quickly you’ll stop craving meat and just start craving the vegan alternative instead. Some of these faux alternatives are surprisingly close to the alternatives, butter, fish, chicken and beef are probably the easiest to imitate, and there are a massive variety of pretty realistic vegan cheeses to choose from, so you’re bound to find something you like. You may choose to avoid faux meats altogether and that’s fine, you just need to replace those items you’ve given up with something else, because if you don’t then veganism will always feel restrictive, which makes it less likely you’ll keep it up.

These methods will help most people manage their cravings, but it may be that despite all this you still crave animal products, and that’s perfectly okay. What matters is that you don’t give in to those cravings and go back on your values. Eventually you will just stop seeing these products as food, that’s what happens to most vegans over time, but every individual is different and the time that takes is going to vary. In the meantime, as unhelpful as it sounds, you do just having to tough it out and stick with it. Keep engaging in animal rights material, watch the videos, read the books, and remind yourself why you’re doing this. Most of the time when people go back to eating animal products they’ve allowed themselves to become disengaged, and they lose that cognitive connection they’ve made between the food, the animal and the suffering required to obtain it. So stay educated, keep yourself inspired and never lose sight of why you’re doing this.

So long as you are always willing to put your values before your pleasure, then you won’t give in to these cravings. This isn’t to say that mistakes don’t happen, but if you mess up then the important thing is to treat it as a learning experience and to get right back to it. Just remember that ultimately it isn’t really about you, how you feel or what you crave, it’s about reducing the harm you cause by withdrawing your support for this incredibly exploitative industry. No one is saying that animal products don’t taste good or that you’re not allowed to crave them because you’ve gone vegan, the key is that you place the lives of animals above your personal desires and preferences. After all, no taste, tradition or habit can ever be worth taking someone’s life for.

“Can my pet be vegan?”

This is a highly controversial topic, though it tends to be a more sensitive topic for people who aren’t vegan than those who are. Relatively few vegans feed their pets a vegan diet, but those who do are often accused of animal abuse and are the subject of a lot of derision. Since many vegans do disagree on this, I can’t claim to speak on behalf of all vegans or even on behalf of mainstream veganism, all I can offer is my own, unqualified perspective on the matter.

Firstly, it is important to understand the context in which discussions on plant based diets for pets take place. Many, I’d in fact argue most, meat based pet foods are made from low quality meats which are often leftovers from slaughterhouses, or parts of animals which humans don’t generally eat. Some of this is not only incredibly low quality and nutritionally poor, but dangerous and unsanitary. Pet food recalls due to the use of dangerous meats or “ingredients of undeclared origin” are still shockingly common, and the use of non-slaughtered animals is a recognised concern in the industry. In this context some will argue that whole foods, plant based diets for omnivorous animals are in fact less risky for their health than meat based commercial foods are.

The most pressing concern for vegans however, is an ethical one, mainly regarding how the food they are feeding their companion animals is contributing towards the meat industry. Though many of the meats used in commercial pet foods are leftovers from slaughterhouses, purchasing this meat nonetheless does help make the rearing and slaughtering of animals a profitable concern. Vegans want to boycott the meat industry, so some will extend that to everything they purchase, including purchases made on behalf of their pets. The environmental concerns behind feeding the vast number of domesticated pets meat based diets is also not inconsiderable, and this will factor into many pet owner’s decisions on what they choose to feed their animals.

In terms of the suitability of these diets, the least controversial animals are those who are already primarily herbivorous and those who are completely carnivorous. In the case of herbivorous animals, or those who can and do survive herbivorously in the wild, feeding your pet a plant based diet will cause no issues for their health. I would caution doing your research before acquiring an animal you think is herbivorous, as there are some misconceptions around the diets of certain animals, especially in the case of reptiles. For carnivorous animals like cats, it is fairly uncontroversial to say that these animals cannot and should not be fed on a vegan diet. Though synthetic alternatives exist, they should only be used in cases of diagnosed health issues and under advisement from a vet. There is no significant research to suggest that cats, or indeed any obligate carnivore, can be healthy on a vegan diet, and no responsible animal care professional will recommend it for a healthy carnivorous pet.

More controversial is the case of omnivorous animals, such as dogs. It is important to acknowledge that whatever views you have on dogs being fed a plant based diet, some dogs do subsist on diets like this and they are by all appearances and blood work, healthy animals. Vegans who claim to look after vegan dogs who have been healthy for many years are not just lying, nor are the vets who monitor these animals. The claim that it is impossible for an omnivorous animal to survive on a plant based diet is therefore a falsehood. Vets can and do recommend plant based diets for certain health conditions, and there are fully tested and nutritionally balanced plant based dog foods available online and in many stores, a short list of the best selling brands can be found here. If your vet has approved or even suggested a plant based diet for your dog and you are making sure that they are having frequent checkups and blood work  then there should be no cause for concern.

However, whether they can eat plant based and whether they should are different questions entirely. While anecdotal evidence and testimonials from vets shows us that at least some dogs can be healthy on plant based diets, there does not yet exist a significant body of research to suggest that there is no risk involved in this, or that it will be appropriate for all breeds of dogs at all life stages. That it has worked for some dogs is no guarantee that it will work for yours, or that there will be no risk of causing them real harm or discomfort. In the absence of any significant, peer reviewed research on this there absolutely is still a risk involved in any significant alteration of your pet’s diet, which is why I cannot recommend that it be done unless under the advisement of a veterinary professional.

Regardless of my own views on the matter, I know that this is something many will still choose to do, so I just want to take the time to emphasise that significant changes in diet must be discussed with your vet before you begin the process, not just to make sure there has been no harm caused after the shift has already taken place. If your vet advises against doing it, then please listen to them, they are likely far more qualified in animal nutrition than you are, they know the condition and needs of your specific animal and you should trust their advice. If you are set on doing this and have gotten the support of your vet, then take care to follow these guidelines set out by Pets WebMD:

  1. Never feed vegetarian or vegan diets to puppies and kittens or to dogs and cats you plan to breed. (Though as a vegan you shouldn’t be breeding any kind of animal regardless).

  2. Only consider or feed commercial diets that have gone through feeding trials and meets the requirements for AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) compliance.

  3. Consult with a veterinary nutritionist who can analyze your commercial or homemade vegetarian pet diet and make recommendations for additional health safeguards.

  4. Schedule more frequent wellness exams, including blood work, with your family veterinarian — at least twice a year, even for young pets eating vegetarian diets.

As pet owners, our primary concern must be the welfare of the animals in our care. We have a moral responsibility to look after their best interests, which includes providing them with a balanced, nutritionally adequate diet, irrespective of our feelings on the matter. If you are already feeding your dog a plant based diet, they are clearly healthy and are being monitored closely by your vet then you are properly looking after their welfare. Choosing a diet which is in their best interests is ultimately your responsibility and your decision to make. If however, you are in some way uncomfortable with feeding your companion animals meat and have no intentions of doing so regardless of what your vet might advise, then my suggestion would be to adopt or rescue a herbivorous animal instead, so that there is no chance of your moral objection to animal products compromising the health of an animal in your care.

“How do I deal with all the cruelty?”

Out of all the frequently asked questions in this series, this is probably the one I get most often. Being vegan in an overwhelmingly anti-vegan world can be a profoundly isolating experience, and having to live in a society which is built on animal suffering can have a real impact on mental health. As any vegan will tell you, the most difficult part of the lifestyle isn’t the food, it’s coping with constant exposure to animal cruelty and dealing with other people.

The sense of sadness and anger that comes from knowing the things we know will be familiar to every vegan, where you used to see sausages and bacon you now see dismembered bodies, and what used to be innocuous adverts make you angry and disgusted, as cartoon caricatures of animals are used to advertise the sale of their own dead bodies. This knowledge can be hard to cope with, especially when people dismiss these facts as propaganda, call you a “preachy vegan” for even talking about it, or just make bacon jokes at your expense when you try to share the things you have learned. Knowing about the horrific atrocities being committed can be a burden, and can create a sense of powerlessness, especially when others just don’t seem to care about it.

One of the issues is that vegans don’t feel able to really talk about this in public spaces, for fear of being mocked, which has the effect of isolating people and discouraging them from airing these feelings openly. Vegans are very far from being an oppressed group, but there is a very real stigma surrounding veganism, and several unhelpful stereotypes which are the topics of frequent criticism and public ridicule. Every vegan is expected to be able to “take a joke” when the content of that joke is making light of animal suffering, and we are all expected to want to, and be able to, defend ourselves against almost constant questions, criticisms of veganism and imaginary scenarios. Vegans are one of the few groups who it is considered socially acceptable to bully and insult, even among social justice advocates, since vegans are unfortunately still widely disliked. All of this can lead to some real difficulties, especially if you are shy or socially anxious.

There is nothing I can really say that will solve any of these problems for you, I can only advise based on what I think are good ways of coping. Firstly, though you may feel isolated with few or no vegan friends, know that there is an active and welcoming community of vegans on every social media platform, finding them and getting involved with them can be a great way of transcending those feelings of isolation. Being among like-minded people can be a really healing experience, and it helps remind you that you’re not extreme, you’re not alone in thinking this way and that so many other people are dealing with the same issues and struggles that you are. This can also help you become a better advocate for animals, we can make contacts and we can earn from each other’s arguments, as well as finding healthier ways of coping with the struggles which being vegan can bring.

My chief recommendation would be to channel that anger and sadness into something positive, whether it’s through an outlet like writing or art, or through actively engaging in activism on the streets or online. This can be a really positive and healthy outlet, not to mention the difference it can make for animals by encouraging others to go and stay vegan. Activism can be really challenging, but it is incredibly rewarding and it is a good way to counter those feelings of helplessness and isolation. Even on your worst days, knowing you’re making a difference and helping people to go vegan is a really positive thing. You should be prepared for failure in advocacy too, you will get negative reactions and more often than not people will be unwilling to hear the message, but just the act of being out there and doing something can make you feel much less powerless and much less alone.

Besides that, there are many others positive aspects of veganism which you should immerse yourself in. Reading books, watching documentaries and communicating those messages to others will re-ignite your passion for veganism if you are beginning to find it difficult, and the facts and argument you inevitably learn from doing this can help you deal with the objections and criticisms of non-vegans much easier. I’d really recommend visiting or even volunteering at a farm sanctuary if you have the opportunity to do so, even if it’s something you can only do once, seeing animals in such a positive setting can do wonders for your mental health, and it’ll remind you of the reason we do all of this, and of the fact that not all animals live miserable lives. That connection to nature is something we need as humans, and it can have a profound impact on your mood and your perspective on veganism going forward.

Just as there are many things you should be doing, there are some things you should avoid. While watching documentaries, reading books and keeping up to date on what is happening in the world of animal rights can be really positive, there is just no need to subject yourself to graphic scenes or descriptions if they are going to upset you. Once you’ve seen Earthlings once you don’t need to see it again, and since you’re already vegan it’s perfectly fine for you to avoid engaging in images of animal abuse, since you aren’t contributing to it yourself. This sounds so obvious, but I have met so many vegans who watch these videos on a regular basis and find it deeply upsetting, but they continue to do so out of some sense of wanting to bare witness. If you already know what happens to farmed animals then it’s perfectly reasonable for you to protect yourself by avoiding watching the footage unless you are going to make use of it in your advocacy, in which case you should know what you are sharing.

There are several things about being vegan which are not easy, but veganism is a profoundly positive thing, and even those who struggle with these issues will tell you that their only regret is that they didn’t do it sooner. Being vegan is not something to mourn, but something to celebrate. We are a movement with a long history, we have a vibrant and diverse community all across the world, our own inside jokes, our own culture, music, literature, philosophy and art. By being vegan you are doing something unequivocally positive, and though it may not feel like it, you absolutely are making a difference. We are on the right side of history, and when you are being mocked or dismissed, take comfort in the fact that this is the same treatment which activists of all types have been subject to all throughout history. You are most definitely in good company.

“Is it okay to kill pests?”

This is one of those areas where the lines can become a little bit blurred for some vegans. Whether it’s through fear, convenience, or just not knowing what else to do people can often contradict their values and act in ways which aren’t consistent with vegan ethics. There are several different opinions on this within the vegan community, all I can really offer here is my own and try to justify as best I can, but I am by no means speaking on behalf of all vegans.

Firstly, I think it’s necessary to distinguish between pests who are deemed so because they pose a genuine risk to human health, and those we call pests simply because we don’t like having them around. Having a rat or mite infestation in your house is a pest problem, because they can post a genuine risk to humans, will make life uncomfortable, could destroy your property and will make living conditions unhygienic. A spider who has wandered into your house to get out of the cold or to hunt is not a pest, and unless they are venomous they pose no genuine safety risk to you or your family.

Even if an animal genuinely is a pest, that is not a good reason to inflict unnecessary cruelty on them. Where a humane alternative exists, which it usually does, there can be no moral justification for choosing to kill an animal when it isn’t necessary to do so. That an animal occupies the same space as you is not a reasonable reason to kill them unless there is literally no other reasonable option available to you.  You might be disgusted by an animal in your home, or genuinely frightened of them, but how you feel about a specific animal doesn’t have any impact on whether they deserve to be treated humanely, including allowing them to live where it is possible to do so.

The most humane option for dealing any pest is preventive measures to ensure they don’t enter your home in the first place, including storing food in proper containers, cleaning any food waste regularly, sealing cracks in walls and blocking space under doors, or any other potential points of entry. When a pest problem emerges in a home, it is usually because these steps have not been taken adequately. For specific animals you might have a problem with, there are usually natural deterrents which are very effective, ranging from fruit juices, specific herbs or flowers, and chemical deterrents depending on the animal in question. There will almost always be a way to deter an animal from entering your house in the first place if you know there is a risk of them doing so.

Once a pest has already established itself in your house, deterrent may no longer be an option for you. If capture and release is possible, which it usually is, this should be the first thing you attempt. Humane traps for rats and mice are widely available, cheap and effective, such as this one. When using catch and release traps, these should only be active when you are in the house and can check the traps at least every two hours. Animals become extremely agitated when trapped like this, and can go into shock or harm themselves trying to escape if not released in good time. A local park is the best place to release, do so gently by opening the trap and setting them in the grass, giving them plenty of time to leave of their own accord rather than forcing them to. For insects and arachnids, humane bug catchers like this one are very effective and don’t require you to get close to the animal in question if you’d rather not do that.

If you are dealing with a true infestation and there is no chance of dealing with the issue in a non-lethal manner, then that may be your last resort. If an animal poses a genuine risk to your health or that of your family, then self-defence can be a reasonable cause for killing, when all other options have been exhausted. This is never a good thing and it’s deeply unfortunate, but it can be necessary in some scenarios, particularly when dealing with insect infestations or animals which pose a real risk of infection, like mosquitoes and cockroaches. Keep in mind that veganism is about avoiding unnecessary harm to animals, but we have to acknowledge that not all harm is unnecessary in all circumstances. It would be unreasonable to expect anyone to tolerate an infestation in their home out of a strict adherence to veganism,  since all moral frameworks have to be practical or they will become useless and unobtainable.

When it comes to dealing with pests, we need to make sure we don’t leave our veganism at the door and act out of instinct, fear or discomfort, no matter how tempting that might be. That we don’t always like the animals who share our homes with us is no excuse for treating them unkindly, and our personal feelings towards them should have no impact on whether or not they deserve to be alive. We should apply the same logic to rats, mice, insects and arachnids as we do to all animals, that we should avoid harming them wherever possible, and treat them as individuals whose rights and lives must be respected. No matter how small, how scary or how different they are to us, all animals have the right to life a life free from unnecessary suffering, and we should grant them that right whenever it is in our power to do so.