Does being vegan mean not eating animals and other forms of consumerism, or something more? It could mean a much greater obligation.
Peter Singer has promoted consumption-based veganism, quite effectively. We can summarize that approach as: “We should help animals by not eating them.” But that claim fails if the intent is to, all-things-considered, help animals because the “we” in it – the unspoken norm of an unlimited right to have children which permits population growth, a norm and relations Singer tacitly accepts – does more harm to animals than changing diets does good.
That’s the constitutive fallacy at play. When we create people we are also creating the fundamental power relations between them, and in a way that precedes written constitutions or other binding sets of rules. If we want justice, bottom-up in the style of true democracy, just creation must come first. And that mistake – not requiring things like the Children’s Convention standard in family planning policies to improve those relations, which would physically constitute just communities – does more than just harm animals. It fundamentally permits anthropocentric changes that cause irrefutable harm to all, against an absolute standard like infant health.
Singer fails because he did not push for what true animal liberation, the title of his famous book, requires: Restoration of the nonhuman world through family planning entitlements. Had he done so he might have helped mitigate the climate crisis, the greatest threat to nonhumans.
Think of it this way: The same growth and intergenerational inequity that degraded the ability of democracies to represent their people and respond to the climate crisis also undid much of the progress in emissions reduction that was attempted. We failed because we were not constituted, on many levels, to respond.
Backwards family policies fundamentally drive things like extinction, growing levels of birth-based inequity, rising numbers of unhoused persons, the exacerbation of the conditions that drive pandemics, a multiplying of climate impacts on multiple levels, and the degrading systems of participatory democracy. And yet these policies are easily reversible and with policies that actually liberate humans and animals alike by using wealth from the top to incentivize delays in parenting pegged to objective standards of parental readiness, redistribution of wealth between rich and poor kids, and a universal ethic of sustainable families, all of which create functional democracies.
Don’t confuse chaos with freedom. Truly free people will fundamentally limit and decentralize the power (including subtle power like climate emissions, the impact of bad parenting on communities, massive disparities of wealth, etc.) others have over them, and by all means effective. And that starts with who is born into our societies, and the degree to which we actually empower them. Free people – on both ends of that creation – will condition their obligation to follow the law on their actually being empowered, assessed via a simple inversion test, in functional democracies. And we can empower people by overriding property rights – which are contingent on our constituting democracies where we are actually empowered – to fund better family planning.
The solution to the constitutive fallacy is holding ourselves at optimal population ranges, which if we use Fair Start modeling will ideally reflect just power relations, at the same time.