Monday, August 10, 2009

Brian Leiter is Veg Curious

In a recent post, Brian Leiter writes: "Perusing the law blogs, I'm encountering more and more folks who are now professed vegans." I'd be delighted to learn that he's identifying a trend here, although I wonder whether most of his perusing is of THIS law blog, with multiple references to veganism by our 3 principal bloggers (yours truly, Neil Buchanan, and Sherry Colb, all of us, as it happens, vegans). A recent post on TaxProf by Paul Caron notes that he is the father of a new vegan (which I interpret to mean that a child of his has just become vegan, rather than meaning that he has just fathered a child he intends to raise as a vegan, although I could be wrong), but Paul points back to two posts by Neil back here on DoL. There's a good deal of very interesting pro-vegan material on Gary Francione's blog, but that's hardly a new development. Gary has been an outspoken vegan for many years.

Brian is inspired by the apparent growth in the number of blogging law prof vegans to wonder about attitudes towards veganism among his readers. I'll have more to say on that in a moment. But I'm interested in whether there is a real trend here. Googling "vegan law professors" doesn't turn up very much. For example, it produces a Wikipedia entry for "List of Vegans," that includes exactly three law professors: Francione, me, and Larry Lessig. (Francione and I are both listed under "authors," while Lessig is listed under "Other notable people," which is odd, because he's also an author.) Anyway, I know that list to be incomplete, but I don't know how incomplete it is. So, if you are a vegan law prof and you come across this post, please email me off-list. I'll keep track and if there's enough interest, create a listserve or at least see whether I can arrange a vegan meal at a future legal academic conference.

Now back to Brian Leiter. To answer his question about attitudes towards veganism, he conducts a poll of readers. One useful critique notes that Prof. Leiter has departed from his usual methodology for measuring things and that he has somewhat mischaracterized veganism as simply a "dietary regimen." (It's more. E.g., I wear synthetic leather shoes and belts.) Leiter does deserve credit, as noted in the post at the link I've just given, for providing an external link to a generally pro-vegan website. However, Leiter's question struck me as peculiar. With apologies for all the white space that results from simply cutting and pasting from the Leiter blog, here it is:

Which statement best expresses your attitude towards veganism?

View Results

Web Poll from Free Website Polls

Given the unscientific nature of the poll, I'm not especially interested in the results. But now I'm wondering about attitudes towards Brian Leiter. So, I'm going to conduct my own poll. (Scroll down through the white space.)

Which statement best expresses your attitude towards Brian Leiter?

View Results
Free poll from Free Web Polls

I realize that this could lead to polls about whether I am disgusting, but that's the price of blogging.

UPDATE: In a comment, Brian Leiter asks whether I'm offended by his post and poll, and offers to take down his poll. Here's my response (which also appears in the comments):

My poll was and is meant as a parody of Brian's, not as an actual inquiry into attitudes about Brian, as I thought was clear from the absurd proposed responses and the way in which they parallel the proposed responses in his poll. That said, while I am not offended by Brian's initial post, I do think that both his initial post and the possible answers trivialize veganism. For ethical vegans, veganism is no more a "lifestyle choice" (as Brian characterizes it in a friendly private email to me), than pacifisim or opposition to slavery and torture of human beings are lifestyle choices. I doubt that anyone who is not on the political far right would dream of polling readers about their attitudes towards people who oppose torture of humans (as opposed to their attitudes about torture itself) and include as an option, "People who oppose torture are disgusting." In a spirit of charity, I therefore read Brian's "disgusting" option not so much as deliberate offense to us vegans but as evidence that he was doing this whole poll with tongue in cheek. Thus, my response in the same spirit.

As for the option of Brian deleting his poll, I would definitely NOT prefer that. This little imbroglio, if it even rises to that level, could have beneficial consciousness-raising effects.

Posted by Mike Dorf