Where Do Vegans Draw The Line?

Veganism throws up all kinds of moral and philosophical questions. What is sentience? Do plants have emotions? Do plants feel pain? Why is honey so contentious? What about almonds and avocados? Are fish sentient? Then there’s lab-grown meat! It goes on and on so where do vegans draw the line? Are there different personal thresholds?

Where Do Vegans Draw The Line?

 Vegans draw the line at the use or consumption of animal-based products and foods which exploit animals, as much as is practical and possible. There are always grey areas but pursuing those threads may lead to madness 🙂 Let me explain … 


Watch: The Unnatural Vegan on where she draws the line …

(slow starter, but well worth sticking with!)


At its most basic, to be vegan is to make an ethical choice not to harm other living creatures. In practice this is problematic because it’s impossible to go about normal daily life without harming other living things.

Simply taking a walk in the woods means you would likely kill many insects underfoot. Driving your car on roads made of asphalt means you’re benefiting from something which has killed many living things in its creation (the road as well as the car!).

Almost everything humans do has an impact on the natural world. It’s simply unavoidable.


Minimising Unnecessary Cruelty & Suffering. Sensibly!

Where do vegans draw the line? (factory hens in a long cage line)

Most vegans choose this compassionate path because we cannot entertain the idea that we’re responsible for the pain and suffering of domesticated farm animals.

I was vegetarian for 20+ years before taking the final step into veganism. It took me a long time to make the connection between dairy farming and the inherent cruelty which has to exist in that industry.

I chose vegetarianism because I didn’t want my buying choices to contribute to the suffering and death of farmed animals. It was about minimising cruelty. So as soon as I became aware of the shortfalls of dairy production, I had no choice but to go vegan.

I’m very glad I did but I do wonder why it took me quite so long!

In the same way that I wasn’t aware of the cruelty of dairy, in the early days of my veganism I wasn’t aware of the arguments around sentience and plant pain and migratory beekeeping, to name but a few!

But by choosing veganism and getting involved in some online forums, these questions became apparent. I mean, what if plants could feel pain? What then?

I realised veganism does need a more nuanced definition and I think The Vegan Society comes pretty close to hitting the nail on the head …


What Is The Definition Of Veganism?

Young cows in a lush grassy meadow with the sun setting in the background.

To quote directly from The Vegan Society website:

“Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude (as far as is possible and practicable) all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose”

Bit of a mouthful, I know … and it’s not without ambiguity. The “any other purpose” bit could be interpreted differently by different people.

For example, what about vegan regenerative farming? Grazing animals are good for the land in a regenerative system. They benefit the arable crops. As long as they are not abused or killed before their time and they live a long, happy life … is that exploitation?

I would argue it isn’t.

Other vegans would certainly not agree with me so we can see there are many layers to the question. It’s all a matter of personal perception.

Having said that, there are many things all vegans are obliged to agree on.

Removing day-old calves from their mothers so humans can consume the milk. Slaughtering beef cows in the prime of their lives while their fellow cows look on. Macerating live male chicks by the tens of thousands because they are of no use to the industry.

I could go on!


Talking Sentience: Are Oysters Vegan?

A dish of oysters, ready to eat.

Right upfront I’m going to state that no, oysters are not vegan. Oysters are animals and vegans don’t eat animals. It’s that simple.

However, there are fiery philosophical debates to be had online around bivalve sentience and veganism.

As with plants, oysters do not have a nervous system so they cannot feel pain. They are not aware of their surroundings in the way sentient creatures are.

If you accept this fact then how can it be cruel to consume oysters? How can it be exploitation if the subject is unable to perceive or react to what is happening to it?

The official Vegan Society definition does fall down a little bit here because it talks about cruelty. When we talk about cruelty to animals in the context of veganism, physical or emotional pain needs to be present.

The animal must have some degree of sentience to experience the pain and suffering which cruelty brings. Bivalves like oysters are not sentient … as far as we know.

So it’s understandable that some vegans struggle with the notion of the consumption of bivalves being consistent with a vegan lifestyle. Is the oyster harmed?

It’s easy to construct hypothetical scenarios based around sentience proving that eating oysters is compatible with veganism. @TheNutrivore had a pretty good bash at it on Twitter.

But in the real world, vegans should definitely draw the line at oysters 🙂


Honey, Avocados, Almonds & Cultured Meat

Bee perched on top of a delicate purple flower.

The debate around honey keeps buzzing on in vegan circles. Why are some vegans ok with eating honey and others are not? Rather than repeat myself on that one, you can find my article entitled “Why Do Vegans Not Eat Honey? What’s Wrong With It?” on here.

It’s all about migratory beekeeping and that vegan argument extends to plants which need pollination by insects like avocados and almonds, along with many others.

It just so happens I’ve penned a quick write up on that subject too. If you’re interested in another 5 minute read, why not take a look: “Why Are Avocados Not Vegan?” … (they are, by the way).

Maybe one of the most interesting discussions is around lab-grown meat. This really does push the boundaries and tests where vegans draw the line. Personally, I wouldn’t eat cultured meat but in another article of mine I manage to convince myself it’s probably vegan!

You can find that one here: “Are You Still Vegan If You Eat Lab-Grown Meat?


In Conclusion: Vegans Are Plant Based … Simples!

Delicious looking plate of plant based goodies.

To be very clear about this, vegans should draw the line at eating any animal based product or foods which exploit animals (like honey).

Vegans are 100% plant based and no amount of hypothesising will change this. It’s interesting having philosophical debates around sentience and whether plants feel pain or even if dogs can hear plants scream! (ehem) … but don’t let that distract you from core vegan beliefs.

We vegans do our best to minimise the pain and suffering of the sentient creatures we share this beautiful Earth with.

By eliminating our demand for animal products we absolve ourselves of the responsibility for the deaths of 80 billion farmed land animals every year.

Yes, that’s 80 BILLION animals … not including the (trillions of) fish!

I hope this article has cleared up any confusion you may have had around the issues of vegan ethics. It’s really not that complicated. Please comment and share below if you feel so inclined … I’d love to hear what you think 🙂

Thanks for reading and have a compassionate day!




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4 thoughts on “Where Do Vegans Draw The Line?

    • Rohan McAvee Post authorReply

      Ha! I was trying to find an ‘Aliens’ documentary thinking “hmmmm I’ve not seen that one” 🙂

      Earthlings is amazing!

  1. Wanda Reply

    Sooooo much for your FABULOUS Articles!!!!
    I’m a woman in my 60’s …and
    I haven’t eaten “ Red Meat” since I was a teenager when my pet was slaughtered for “Beef” & I never recovered from the Shock & Trauma! I was shamed & told that I was “being Silly”. ???
    After that, I continued to gradually give up Pork & Chicken ( it took years)… but this year I went Totally VEGAN when I took the time to watch Documentaries. And REALLY EDUCATE MYSELF!
    Unfortunately, I started out with watching the VERY INFORMING “ALIENS” ?????.
    I shared it with all of my closest friends, etc… & was shocked at how many of them STILL have No Desire to change! Only One friend really became open to the Concept…& is Now Successfully Persuading her Spouse & other family members to Try a “Plant Based Diet” ( by NOT calling it “Vegan”… and not as I call it …INHUMANE & Animal Cruelty!)
    I guess I’m just too Compassionate…Oh well… at least for my Birthday All of my Presents were Cows & Chicken Themed. I LOVE IT!!!
    I Really appreciate your articles so that it helps me to help Educate people more about Animal Farming & Animal Cruelty. ThankYou for your Support!!!
    You’re a Wonderful Writer!!!
    Please Keep up the Great Work!!! ?

    • Rohan McAvee Post authorReply

      Hi Wanda,

      My heartfelt thanks to you for taking the time to write such a lovely comment. I really do appreciate it and it’s comments like yours which motivate me to get up at the crack of dawn to put pen to paper (in a digital sense!) before I take a deep breath and get down to the 9-5 (which I’m finding less fulfilling by the day!).

      All I really want to do is write 🙂

      I love hearing people’s stories and yours really touched me. The reaction you had as a teenager to the slaughter of your beloved pet is a normal, human reaction borne out of compassion. It angers me how the meat and dairy industries condition our youth from such a young age to believe it’s ok to kill animals who simply want to live, just like you and I.

      You certainly were not “being silly”.

      It does sadden me how many people who know the gruesome truth still refuse to change. There must be compassion in there somewhere but I guess the mental conditioning runs deep. I can forgive those who are ignorant but those who don’t care really need to give the head a wobble!

      Very interesting how your friend has avoided the word ‘vegan’ in a successful attempt to change her family’s direction. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how we maybe need a different word to identify with because there is so much baggage attached to the word ‘vegan’.

      There are so many negative headlines about veganism and many people really hate us with a venom but they often can’t tell you why! The just regurgitate what they read on social media and in those sensationalist articles.

      I’m so glad you enjoy the blog and thank you for your kind words and for joining our mailing list.

      I will be writing until the day I die for people like you 🙂

      Rohan …

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