Printed: 2020-07-12

Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

IEET Link:

Vegans, notables, celebs and the abolition of suffering

Joern Pallensen

Trans Humanisten

April 03, 2012

I am about to write a few lines about veganism / vegetarianism.  There are two concrete reasons: A week ago I read an IEET interview with English utilitarian philosopher and transhumanist, David Pearce, called Feeling groovy, forever.. - I knew a bit about him already, but it was time to google a bit.. – how else would I have a chance of understanding expressions like “utilitronium shocknawe” scenarios.. ?!

So did I find out ? –  I’m not quite sure..,   but I did discover - among others..  

that he – David Pearce – is a vegan, and since I’ve been a vegetarian myself for 38 years and was strictly vegan for about 10 years, it always pleases me when I hear about or meet other veg’ns. This was no exception, and I was inspired to take another look at one of the numerous lists of notable vegans / vegetarians.

Apart from Pamela Anderson, I have been delighted to see Leonardo Da Vinci, Charles Darwin (!!!), Issac Newton, Abraham Lincoln to name but a few on the list, – less pleased to see someone named A. Hitler listed.., but above all, I found it extremely amusing to see the name of none other than ex-World heavy-weight boxing Champion MIKE TYSON  !

That is when I thought to myself: wouldn’t it be fun to write a few lines and have Da Vinci and Tyson side by side..

Now, as with so many other ideas, this one was about to get stuck in my head, but then, – and this is my second concrete reason for writing this – an old friend sent me a video , “The Dairy Cow”, – (below).

Great, I thought to myself, that will be an easy post to write, – a few lines about Da Vinci, Tyson and maybe one or two others, throw the video in, provide a link or two, and you’re done..

“Problem” is though.. my mind has a habit of wandering off in all directions, and the simplest task becomes a headache. I reviewed the root-causes of suffering from various perspectives, –  religious, biological, existential.., (self-attachment, ignorance, karma, sin, angst..), – I reconsidered ways to abolish suffering, for my own sake and for the sake of all sentient beings, – I thought about the pleasure-pain axis in a biological perspective: should intelligent humans refrain from tampering with a system clearly tuned to our own survival..

In other words: Say it really is just a question of bio-chemistry: You had identified the molecular signatures of aversive experience  and were able to edit the relevant code out of the genome.. – should – and would  - you go for it ?

A voice in my head says: Give yourself a break, otherwise you’ll never finish writing this, and it is not required to know all the answers, – there is a lot you can do, and there is a lot you know you shouldn’t do..

Now watch these two videos, – the first showing our mistreatment – (to put it mildly !) – of the Dairy Cow, – the second explaining motives behind veganism.


If you are curious about Mike Tyson, you can easily check out his story for yourself. When it comes to Leonardo Da Vinci, it is not as easy. I have done a little research, and found this a very good article. It turns out that all we have is circumstantial evidence, to the effect that in claiming he was a vegetarian, one is “possibly to probably (although not definitively) correct“. The author dismisses any talk of Leonardo being a vegan, due to veganism being a lifestyle and not just a question of what you eat, and points to “what he wore and what he used to create art”, e.g.  ”he drew on vellum, which is the specially-tanned skin of calves, kids, and lambs“.

Anyway,  what about it.. – does it matter what notables and celebs do and don’t ? – Not really, – at the end of the day we all have to come to terms with our own conscience, – right ?

Leonardo Da Vinci is rumored by many to be the author of the following words, and.. although he almost certainly is not, is doesn’t really matter, does it? who the author actually is… the words are still so very true: 

“Truly man is the king of beasts, for his brutality exceeds theirs. We live by the death of others. We are burial places! I have from an early age abjured the use of meat, and the time will come when men such as I will look on the murder of animals as they look now on the murder of men.”

Joern Pallensen studied psychology at University of Copenhagen and has had a lifelong interest in philosophy of mind, in particular ontology of self. He blogs at He was introduced to IEET when he was interviewed for the 2011 article, "Happiness, Freedom, Equality, Rudeness - welcome to Denmark!"


Contact: Executive Director, Dr. James J. Hughes,
IEET, 35 Harbor Point Blvd, #404, Boston, MA 02125-3242 USA
phone: 860-428-1837