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“But what if you were stranded on a desert island, would you eat meat then?” Vegans frequently find themselves on desert islands – even those who live in the middle of a city and have never been on a boat in their life. People are so curious about what vegans would do in this hypothetical situation, so we thought it was time for us to answer this question. However, before we can, we need answers to a few questions of our own.
Are there fruits and vegetables on this island? If not, what are the animals living here eating? Is this an island only inhabited by carnivores? Are we on the island from Lost since there are animals wandering around with a fruitless/plantless ecosystem that couldn’t sustain them? Since we’re breaking all rules of logic in this question, we could just build a boat from banana leaves and sail on home.
Assuming a vegan was unable to sustain themselves on plants though, which is what the question essentially boils down to, most people would choose to eat meat in order to survive. Does this negate the purpose of veganism though? Actually – it’s not quite that simple.
The official definition of 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; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”
Something key to take away from this is the term ‘possible and practicable’. In a life or death situation, it is simply not practical to say ‘No’ to sustenance of any kind. In fact, there are many cases of people being stranded having resorted to cannibalism…. but it would be silly to suggest that these people ever had the intention to eat another human being in any other situation.
At the end of the day, most people don’t know what they’d do on a desert island, vegan or not, and most of us will thankfully never find out.
Desert island arguments present a number of fallacies. The question itself is a red herring used to discredit the purpose of veganism; a straw man argument which essentially suggests, “If a vegan would eat meat to survive on a desert island then veganism is clearly impossible/unrealistic.” This reduces veganism to one simple (incredibly unlikely) scenario and attacks it on that ground alone as opposed to examining in an everyday situation.
Perhaps it’s time to flip the scenario on its head. “What would you do if you were on a desert island without any animals to eat?” Or we could just leave it out of our discussions altogether and worry about what to do on a desert island if we ever end up there.