Food for thought:
“If we draw the okay-to-kill line between “animal” and “plant,” we still must live with the fact that every sack of flour and every soybean-based block of tofu came from a field where countless winged and furry lives were extinguished in the plowing, cultivating, and harvest. An estimated 67 million birds die each year from pesticide exposure on U.S. farms. Butterflies, too, are universally killed on contact in larval form by the genetically modified pollen contained in most U.S. corn.
Foxes, rabbits, and bobolinks are starved out of their homes or dismembered by the sickle mower. Insects are “controlled” even by organic pesticides; earthworms are cut in half by the plow. Contrary to lore, they won’t grow into two; both halves die. To believe we can live without taking life is delusional. Humans may only cultivate nonviolence in our diets by degree. I’ve heard a Buddhist monk suggest the *number* of food-caused deaths is minimized in steak dinners, which share one death over many meals, whereas the equation is reversed for a bowl of clams.
I take my gospel from Wendell Berry, who writes “I dislike the thought that some animal has been made miserable in order to feed me. If I am going to eat meat, I want it to be from an animal that has lived a pleasant, uncrowded life outdoors, on bountiful pasture, with good water nearby and trees for shade. And I am getting almost as fussy about food plants.”
from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Classic carnist logic - we can’t do perfectly, so why try at all? The point of veganism is to try to be as harmless as *possible*. Of course it’s absurd to think that you can live at all without taking a single life, regardless of the diet you’re on. However, it is irrefutable that an omnivorous diet is worse many, many times over. I mean, what do you think that all the cattle are feeding on? Oh right, it’s only 90% of all the grain being harvested because it requires up to16 lbs of plant matter to produce just one pound of beef. (Fun side-note: it’s not mainly blocks of tofu that all those soybeans go into, it’s actually into the stomachs of cattle.) So yeah, maybe there are some animals being killed accidentally as a result of harvests, but the vast majority of those are still being killed in the name of meat production.
On another note, many vegans choose to get their food from sources that minimize harm caused by food production. For example, palm oil causes a lot of the type of collateral damage you’re referring to - in this case many primates die as a result of palm oil harvesting. Because of this, most vegans either completely abstain from products containing palm oil, or choose to get it from sources that harvest palm oil in a safe manner.
Is it delusional to think you can go your whole life without killing any animals? Maybe. But I would say it goes far beyond the point of being deluded if you think that you’re minimizing harm with anything other than a vegan diet.
Also there’s this:
Why can’t we all just live in peace, and agree that both sides CAN be right and both sides CAN be wrong? This world has so many options and possibilities, it would be a crime to waste them. Can’t we just agree to disagree? Why must we argue about something that is a necessity for life such as food?
Vegan/vegetarians: meat is digestible to us. And about rights: would another animal question itself before a kill? Is it worse to be wasteful in killing?
Omnivores: try not to support the large, “evil” companies. Don’t be wasteful. Do your own hunting.
And I know that this won’t change anyone’s mind. I’m not that dumb.
It’s laughable that you would say that we should all live in peace when the topic here is about the countless beings that are being killed for food. Veganism isn’t about vegans being right or wrong. It’s about the true victims on this earth - the trillions of animals killed each and every year. Just because meat may be digestible to us, it doesn’t mean we have to eat it. Any other animal apart from humans would not question killing another because they operate on instinct. They are actually a part of the food chain. They actually have symbiotic relationships within the ecosystem. Over the course of history, we have done everything within our power to make ourselves separate from nature. And we are now the most wasteful, destructive and morally bankrupt species alive - yet we think ourselves to be better or smarter than the animals. Why, just because of our cognitive abilities? Our power for critical reasoning has been grossly misused. We should be asking ourselves about the moral responsibility we owe to the planet and its inhabitants because of the fact that we can think the way we do.
Nonhuman animals matter because they are just as aware as we are. They are a part of the moral community. So we should not eat them. We should not kill them. They are more than just food. They are lives that matter. I will never agree with or respect an opinion that deviates from that.
First of all, that was a well written response. Second, plants are just as much alive as an animal. So the same applies to bacteria. Is it wrong to kill either as well? And I do agree that killing is wrong. But I see it as a necessary evil. I also think that every animal, post-death, should be utilized as much as possible. If a life is taken there had better be a damn good reason and no waste, or as little as possible. And some people, me for example, get really sick after switching to a vegan diet. I became sickly and bedridden. So veganism isn’t always for everyone. And finally, the peace comment I made was more so to highlight the fact that no one is changing anyone’s mind.
Plants are not just as alive as any animal. They lack a central nervous system and do not show any signs of sentience. Plants do not show signs of distress like fear, sadness, etc. Bacteria also is not self-aware. So to “kill” these things is totally acceptable because you are not infringing on anyone’s desire to continued existence. Both human and non-human animals will struggle and fight when faced with death because they both hold this desire for continued existence. Death is a part of the natural life cycle, yes. But to say that is only to accept that it is an eventuality for all life - not to excuse killing. Yes, you will die eventually, but to use that fact as a rationale for someone coming into your house at night and killing you would be both legally and morally indefensible. On the count of your belief that every animal should be utilized post-death as much as possible leaves a glaring logic gap - what about humans? We are just as much of an animal as any other on this planet. Does your view extend to humans as well? In common practice, this is of course not the case in society as a whole. You need consent of a dead person if they are to even be used as an organ donor. We have given ourselves the right of bodily autonomy - even in death, while cleverly leaving out animals who cannot voice their objection to not being included in this status. And if you think that we all need a “damn good reason” to take any life, then you must realize that most people do not have a good reason. Miniscule portions of the human populace live in food deserts or frozen tundras that require animal protein to survive. And even if there are a small number of people that require it in their diet for health reasons (which I have yet to find concrete examples of anywhere), to use those tiny percentages as an excuse for the other vast majority of global society that can eat a plant-based diet is absurd. Please bear in mind that plant-based diets for many aren’t even a choice. Literally hundreds of millions of people across the globe live on plant-based diets because that’s all they can afford. The final point - no one is changing their mind, so we might as well be peaceable. Tell me how that stance works for any movement? For any group fighting for recognition and rights, do you really think it works for them to just stay silent and agree with their oppressors and everything will be okay? You seem to be forgetting that veganism is not just some fad diet and that all vegans are just trying to push their agendas out of some self-gratifying superiority complex. Veganism is an ideological movement centered around true peace and non-violence. Not the faux peace that is found by making abusers feel comfortable by not having to face the damage they create. Vegans champion the peace that can be found by bringing conscious thought to every aspect of our lives and how our choices (dietary and otherwise) can bring needless harm to others (human and non-human animal alike).
I would like to state that I don’t condone torture under any circumstance, nor do I view death as a necessarily bad thing. And yes, plants are alive. Otherwise, how do they grow? Why do they reproduce? Why do they develop defense systems if not to continue existence? On organ donations, I know that, in America at least, I hate the system. I think it should be mandatory as much as possible, and if not put our bodies in the ground to feed the worms and plants and eventually animals. And about the movements, I am going to use an example similar in the fact that “carnists” May feel as though that their dietary supplements are being taken away, gun control. In some states in the U.S. the military and executive branch of government wish to take guns away from registered civilian carriers and owners. Can it be done? Yes, but there will be a backlash and probably more dangerous, illegal guns on the market, which will not achieve much of anything. If you would like to take meat away from a “carnist” you may be making them sick from the switch. Ultimately, whoever wants to eat meat will eat meat. If it hurt you personally then it would be a much different story. But it doesn’t. So, for some at least, they may see you as a blubbering idiot and disregard what you say. Some may say that if it isn’t our species, it doesn’t matter. We ate Neanderthals to survive. Our teeth have been evolved to chew both plants and animals. And this is slightly out of order but, a cowardly act is a cowardly act, regardless of whether you kill someone in their sleep or massacre helpless animals. And I’m just curious, what stage of life are you in? I’m a college freshman, math and psych major.
Plants are not self-aware. It is not the same. If I ate your dog and then ate a tomato sitting on your kitchen counter, you wouldn’t regard those as being the same thing. And plants react to stimuli in the environment - they don’t respond. They are not sentient. No one is saying plants are not alive and cannot grow and reproduce, but there is a difference between the reactive mechanisms in a plant and the responses that sentient, self-aware animals give. There is absolutely no scientific evidence that plants have a mind or any sort of mental activity, no scientific evidence to speak of that plants have preferences or desires or wants.
Now, in terms of gun control vs. veganism. It’s kind of a ridiculous comparison to be honest. We’re talking about the legislation of deadly weapons, vs. a grassroots movement of people calling for moral observations on the killing and eating of sentient beings. No one is forcing anyone to give up meat. There is no legislative body that is going to force anyone to go vegan. And to be honest, even if there were - it’s still not the same. Why? Because this isn’t about simply owning something or eating something. It’s about eating someone. We pass legislation that protects people from being killed and eaten. Why? Is it because we’re morally superior? Because we have a higher cognitive ability? Why is is illegal to kill a human, but when we even consider giving the same moral consideration to animals, it immediately becomes an absurd notion that is somehow infringing on human rights?
Finally, I want to address the whole Neanderthal/teeth thing. Let’s get something straight: Just because our ancient ancestors did something does not excuse those same actions within the context of current society. It’s extremely convenient to cherry-pick things that cavemen did in favor of your argument as being something “natural” but I’m sure there are plenty of things our ancestors did that would either be illegal now, or you would never consider doing of your own accord. And in terms of our teeth? Just because they’re called canines, does not mean we have true canines like carnivores or omnivores. Honestly, look at the canines on a lion, bear, wolf - or even a pig or a gorilla. I’ve just given examples of carnivores, omnivores and herbivores - all of which have sharper teeth than humans do. Our puny, blunt incisors are better suited to tearing the skin of fruit than flesh. And if you don’t believe me, try eating a raw steak without a fork and a knife and see how far you get.
Edit: And not that it makes much difference in terms of my arguments, but I have a Bachelor’s degree in political science.
Okay, I am going to backtrack in my arguments a bit, when I said no one will change their minds, we have both made points towards our own argument. Have your views changed? Mine have not. I will still continue to eat the same diet. About the ridiculousness between guns vs. veganism, to demonstrate similarities and differences you have to go to the extreme, so I took it to the extreme, assuming that omnivorous humans will take a possessive view over eating meat, as a gun owner would over his/her gun. Animals fight and struggle to survive. They adapt. They want to live. Plants also struggle and fight, but in a different way. They develop defense mechanisms. If they did not wish to fight and survive, why would they do this? I am not seeing your argument very well against this point. The tomato and dog was an example but if it was any dog and any tomato, it wouldn’t be that different to me. You can call me a heartless asshole for not caring for a different species, but anyone can get emotionally attached to anything. Like I am attached to my high school class ring, my family, my dogs, my cat, but if you handed me another’s class ring or a random dog or cat, I would care significantly less it they were destroyed or killed. To the Neanderthal argument, at the time of the massive killing, there was supposedly already a gap in species, meaning the distinction between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens was already made.
Ps: I was curious, are you familiar with the German writer Nietsche? And none of this has any relevance to the arguments. Just curiosity, and poli sci is so cool! What are you doing with it?
The first thing I want to remind you of here is that I have changed my mind. Just not during the course of this debate. I changed my mind a year and a half ago when I made the decision to stop eating meat. You forget that you are debating someone who has lived and experienced both sides of the issue. I lived my entire life as a meat eater, thinking a lot of the same things that you do until I came to a realization about my impact. Once I came to this realization, I thoroughly researched and contemplated the morality of what I was doing and I made a life decision. This was not solely my experience, but has also been the experience of countless vegans who have done the same. So, actually people do change their minds.
Now in regards to the whole plant argument, you and I both know that this argument does not really hold water. It doesn’t truly relate to the overall point about veganism and it being a diet concerned with the morality of animals and the harm that we do to them. But even if you were as concerned about the welfare of plants as you were about animals, then you would have to concede to the point that an omnivorous diet still kills more plants than a vegan one does. Actually, it’s about 16x more. Honestly, what do you think all of that livestock is eating? I’m going to put a couple sources here to show you I’m not making this up (X) (X) (X).
The other point about plants is that you know that we do not regard plants as being the same as animals. I will say this again - there is absolutely no scientific literature that shows plants have mental awareness. Just look at global legislation over the past few decades. We have standardized animal welfare laws (which, by the way, I am highly critical of) that have been enacted to protect the “welfare” of animals in agriculture. Why do we have this for animals and not for plants? It isn’t because we are behind the times on “plant ethics.” It’s because we have a fundamental understanding of the difference between sentient and non-sentient beings. You’re never going to see “humanely slaughtered” broccoli on the shelves, and there’s a good reason for that. Please give this up. The whole “plants have feelings too!” argument is one of the most common ones vegans hear, and it’s been debunked countless times. To compare dropping a live and screaming lobster into a pot of boiling water with dropping a carrot into a pot of boiling water is ludicrous and an incredibly transparent attempt to grasp at straws in order to discredit veganism.
I’m now going to address this gun control argument, and I hope at this point you’ll agree to put it to rest. Namely, because you’re resorting to what’s called hyperbole. You say that you have to sometimes go to extremes to make a point about something, but that’s using flawed logic. Hyperbole is generally considered to be a logical fallacy and doesn’t contribute anything meaningful to a debate. But I will point out, however, that humans already do take a possessive view toward meat eating. This is largely because they do not regard animals as beings, but rather as commodities, which just points back to my overarching thesis in this discussion - that animals should be given moral consideration but are not. We should not be objectifying them because they have moral value, mental awareness, sentience, etc.
The other point you made was regarding attachment to things like rings and pets. It is not defensible to base your moral decisions on: I am (or am not) attached to X, so therefore I can do Y. If you see a stranger walking down the street, most people would agree that you should respect their bodily autonomy and not murder or assault them. People feel this way because we understand that everyone should have their basic human rights be respected, regardless of whether or not you have some sort of attachment to them. So why should it be any different for animals? They are just as self-aware as we are. In fact, just a couple years ago, a group of scientists at the Francis Crick Memorial Conference at Cambridge signed and published The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness. This declaration basically states that animals have the same level of self-awareness that we do.
I feel there really is not much need to address the Neanderthal argument again, as I have already stated that there is no reason to justify current behaviors based on what the cavemen did. It’s a moot point and not exactly a benchmark for ethical decision-making.
Finally, I’m not currently doing anything related to my degree besides lots of research and debating. But yes, I have heard of Friedrich Nietzsche. And I think it’s funny that you bring him up in this context. So funny in fact that I’ll leave you with a quote of his:”The deeper minds of all ages have had pity for animals.”
Don’t forget that I have attempted vegan before as well. I got sick. I can’t go vegan. Nor do I have the money. I don’t see animals as humans. I see some as dogs, cats, tigers, lions, horses, zebras, companions. Other times I see food. They are not objects, but neither are they human. Saying this does not mean they shouldn’t be treated with compassion, but it also does not say that we can’t eat them. Large farm processors are terrible and are destroying a lot more of the world than everyone thinks, especially our water supply. Do you know how much water goes into one package of store bought meat? A freaking lot. I’m not defending them. And yes, you did change your mind, was it through research and finding or through debate? Or both? My guess is more research and finding than debating. And I will agree to put both Neanderthal and gun control arguments to rest. But I don’t realize if you noticed but you made a slight pun about the plant argument, saying it doesn’t hold much water. I will also stop arguing the plant argument.
I just started reading On The Genealogy of Morals by him. I think it is awesome. What kind of research are you doing?
Let me first point you to a statement from the American Dietetic Association. This is what they say in the first sentence: “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.”
The bit that I underlined there is important – properly planned. A lot of people do not realize that when you go vegan, you need to eat more. You also need to pay attention to the sorts of things you are eating regularly. Some people just cut out meat, eggs and dairy without replacing those foods with healthy substitutes. Trust me - I’ve known my fair share of French fries/PB&J vegans. So again, proper planning is crucial to any diet, but it is especially important when you are transitioning from one to another.
Another point I should add is that many vegans go through an adjustment period after going vegan where they will get ill. Why? This is usually a detox/purging period. Your body is getting rid of all of the toxins that have built up from the years of eating animal products. I did not personally go through this, but I chalk it up to the fact that I went vegetarian for health reasons shortly before going vegan for ethical ones.
As far as money is concerned, eating vegan can actually be pretty cheap. This comes back to proper planning. I know how tough it is to live on a college budget, but you’d be surprised that many foods that you probably already eat are vegan. This includes most pasta, rice, beans, lentils, potatoes, many cereals, canned soups, canned vegetables, oatmeal, and many types of bread, just to name a few. And the thing that all of the aforementioned foods have in common is that they are pretty cheap. The things that tend to be pretty pricey are seafood, steak, cheese, bacon, milk, and other animal products. These things are actually seen as luxuries for impoverished nations that actually are de facto vegan because it’s honestly cheaper. Believe it or not, most food aid that is used internationally is plant-based. It just isn’t affordable, logistically reasonable, or sustainable to use animal products. Interesting side-note: this is also why NASA and other space exploration ventures are now turning to plant-based foods.
Now, on your point about animals vs. people. As I have already given sufficient evidence as to animals having the same level of mental awareness as us, the only possible difference you could be drawing between humans and animals is our cognitive abilities – how we are supposedly smarter than them. So I will ask you this: if it is ok to kill and eat those that are less intelligent than us, why aren’t we eating babies and people with mental disabilities? These are really the only differences that people can ever find between animals and humans, they either say that animals are not as self-aware, or that animals are not as intelligent. As you can see, neither is a justification for killing them. I would highly recommend you read the book by Rutgers University professor Gary Francione called Eat Like You Care: An Examination of the Morality of Eating Animals.
You are correct about the environmental devastation caused by eating animal products. This is why I included the link above (I’ll post it here again) about the UN calling for people to adopt plant-based diets – simply because of the sheer amount of environmental damage and unsustainability of animal agribusiness.
If you are at all interested in taking another stab at veganism I suggest you move forward this time armed with some more useful knowledge at your disposal. I can point you toward some links that helped me a great deal:
These are some movies you should watch:
The Price of Milk - (Free Range) (free)
Vegucated (Netflix) (This movie is the reason I went vegan)
Forks Over Knives (free stream)
Oh and the research I am doing is basically just vegan-related stuff for this blog and for a magazine that I might start writing for soon.
To be honest, this debate has gone on for longer than I had planned. But anyways, we don’t eat people simply because we are the same species. Eating the same species is viewed as immoral. Eating other species is ok.
And I don’t have the time to be sick and risk not getting better. I also love pepperoni pizza way too much.
And that’s awesome! What magazine?