Friday, 30 March 2012

Why Should I Be A Vegetarian?

This will no doubt surprise my readers and followers on Twitter, but there is something I'm not sure about.

I'm not a vegetarian, but should I be?

You see, I know all living things are related and I can make a case for all living things being respected and having the right to life. I understand and can follow the logic of Richard Dawkins' illustration of why we should accord our great ape cousins at least some of the rights we grant ourselves. For those who haven't read this, it goes as follows:

Suppose you could hold hands with your parents, and they with theirs, and that you could keep doing that back through time to several million years ago back to the ancestor we shared in common with the other great apes so we have an unbroken sequence of humans, proto-humans and apes, at what point would you say this generation should have full human rights but their parents shouldn't? The only logical answer is to say they all should have because at every generation the difference between them and their parents is indistinguishable. There is no point at which there was a sudden change of species and so never any basis for assigning different legal rights.

Now reverse that process and come forward in time to each of the great apes. If the common ancestor had full human rights, where in the chain up to the other present day apes would you take them away? The same logic applies: there is no point at which you would have any basis for making that decision.

So why don't modern apes have human rights?

That's Dawkins' argument, and I can't see any flaw in it. But I also can't see why it's restricted to the apes. Why does it not apply to all the simians, to all the mammals, to all the chordates, to all animalia, protozoa, plants and fungi? Exactly the same argument applies. We can form the same imaginary line of ancestors going back as far as we wish and then forward again up the line of another species.

So, simply taking that legalistic argument which is the basis of my knowledge of how we are all related and all part of life on earth, I can't see why I shouldn't be a vegetarian. But I also can't see, based only on that argument, why I should eat plants either. In what sense, and at what point in the above argument did they cease to have rights?

And at what point in those sequences did cannibalism change into whatever the opposite of cannibalism is. (Actually there doesn't even seem to be one so I'll coin the term 'annibalism' for the act of eating another species.)

So, clearly that argument is flawed somewhere.

The flaw is that we are trying to apply human morals and cultural ideas of rights to other species who may have no such notions because there has never been a benefit to them to evolve the means and mechanisms for developing them. Even if they did have similar ideas, there is no reason they should be the same as ours; it would be arrogant to presume they should be.

Evolution, and so the existence of these different species, depends to some extent on them eating other species and other species eating them. Without this there would not be different species in the first place. So, a better biological argument for not being a vegetarian is that it's unnatural. We evolved because we eat other species.

That's one argument, but I think a stronger one can be made by looking at the history of the megafauna and flora in Europe, Australia, North America, etc. The evidence is not conclusive but, in all of those areas when modern Man first appears on the scene, there is evidence of a mass extinction of many of the larger mammals and birds, and sometimes of plants like trees. One explanation is that humans hunted these to extinction or felled the trees for fuel or for agricultural land, or even by exterminating an essential species needed to propagate the plants.

There is also a counter-argument that it was climate change which was the more important factor and climate change which also made human expansion possible, though this merely seems to include human expansion in the argument for climate change so humans don't escape entirely scot-free from a share of the blame. We only need to look at the recent history of the North American buffalo and the passenger pigeon to see examples of it.

Look now at the vast herds and flocks of cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens, ducks, goats, etc. which now cover so much of the land? Where would these species be if they had not been both good sources of meat and fairly easy to domesticate, and where would we be without them? The probability is that we would still be hunter-gatherers, just like the people who helped exterminate the other megafauna, and would have exterminated these species as well by now.

Where are the large herbivours of post-glacial Europe? Several of them are living on our farms.

From the point of view of the genes of humans and of sheep, for example, it has suited both sets of genes to form an alliance. There are now vastly more sheep and vastly more humans than there would ever have been without this alliance. Because we eat them, sheep have survived a probable extinction some 25,000 years ago.

The last argument for vegetarianism is that slaughtering an animal for food is cruel and inhumane. Let's look at this a little closer.

Firstly, everything which lives will dies eventually. For a wild animal there are several ways to die. None of them are pleasant.

Every animal which doesn't die from an accident or from disease will either be killed and eaten or die slowly from starvation and dehydration due to old age making it impossible for them to eat or drink.

Many animals which die from an accident will die because of infection, in other words because of bacterial action and poisoning often involving the formation of a large and painful abscess. Most badly injured animals will actually be killed and eaten of course, as will most old and infirm individuals and those that aren't will usually starve quite slowly.

Evolution has never produced a nice way of dying simply because a dying animal can't pass on whatever is making the process less unpleasant. There is nothing which natural selection can select for because dying pleasantly doesn't help an animal survive. In fact, dying unpleasantly is more likely to do that because it is an incentive to avoid it.

None of these methods of dying is better than being killed in a slaughter house, and not even by being killed by having its throat cut. Being killed by humans for food is probably one of the least unpleasant ways of dying. This is quite simply an indisputable fact of life, unpleasant though that thought might be.

So, help me out here. Is there a strong argument for vegetarianism which I haven't covered here, and is there a counter-argument I haven't rebutted it with?





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31 comments :

  1. Hi Rosa, Narwhal here.

    I'm vegetarian, somewhat vegan (but I like the odd bit of butter and cheese...).

    I'll try and be brief... I'm not sure it's the manner of death that's most upsetting. Treatment prior to death is probably more important for most veges. A cursory glance around a factory farm of any description will probably bring you close to tears (or maybe it's just me). A quick look in a squashed cattle truck might have the same result...

    Now of course you can eat "happy" animals which were reared better, or caught from the wild and eliminate some of this. You may not be able to elimnate the savage wasteage from eating meat and particularly from the fishing industry - I don't want any part of that.

    But other arguments you've missed are the inefficiencies in meat eating. Plants convert energy beautifully. To then feed animals those plants (soya, maize etc) is incredibly wasteful, not to mention the increased land, water, and inputs, that's needed to not just keep the animals on, but to grow the plants to feed them.

    In a world of 7 billion people fighting for scarce land resources you can imagine the doom of the rainforests etc coming much quicker in a globally meat centric (and increasing) diet.

    There's also considerable personal health implications of eating meat. Animal proteins are linked heavily to all sorts of cancers, MS, etc. Though the research is inconclusive in the public sphere try reading The China Study for a good intro. If we were going to eat meat the best meat to eat from a protein point of view would probably be other humans, but if you don't fancy catching vCJD it's probably not a good idea...

    There are more but those are my main reasons for being vege. Personal values play a big role, and personally I want as little to do with industries reliant on land conversion and animal death and wasteage as possible.

    Beautiful post, as always.

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    1. Thanks. The argument about efficiency is a good one. I'll need to think through the implications of having even more mono-cultured areas of the planet and what that will do to biodiversity rather than having sheep grazing on downlands and cows in water meadows and grass-land prairies...

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    2. Hi, again. Yep, you've hit on my personal hypocrisy. The landscapes I enjoy most (the coastal cliffs and moorlands of the SW) have evolved with and are managed by grazing animals. Their ecology would be completely different if, say, the cattle, soay sheep, or ponies were removed - which would happen if everyone gave up meat. However, I accept that not everyone is going to go vege, but what I do hope is that people eat less meat.

      With society eating less, happier (for want of a better word) meat then animals can remain in the uplands, in salt marshes, on coastal cliffs and out of the factories...

      I just can't marry growing millions of hectares of grains, pulses, etc (on ex rainforest etc) to feed to animals living in a concrete shed on the other side of the world...

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  2. The strongest argument I know for vegetarianism is one which you missed completely; you talk about the world with love, about the animals and the plants of the world with love. If our meat-eating was part of the natural processes of the world then, yes, there would be no argument. But while the meat eating of our species is natural, the way we currently pursue it is very destructive.

    Vast factory farms consume a large portion of the world's energy, while producing swamps of toxic waste that leech into the water and pollute the air; people who live near factory farms frequently sicken from the pollution they emit. Herds of cattle across the vast plains over graze the land while their antibiotic-laden waste falls to the ground and fails to decompose.

    Fishing methods continue to destroy the ecosystems of the oceans, trawling nets breaking fragile reefs, and not only are food-species, but by catch accounts for the majority of organisms caught and killed. Something like 80% of the animals caught in the search for shrimp are not shrimp.

    There is nothing wrong with lions eating animals because they don't destroy the environment to do it. Maybe if you only ever ate animals or animal products which you were 100% sure were raised in a non-destructive way (and many 'organic' or 'cage-free' animals aren't raised in much better conditions than regular meat animals), something you could only really do if you knew the farmers or raised or hunted the animals yourself, then yes, you have a very good point. But if you care about the world, the ecosystems, the water, the soil, the air, then eating meat is one of the worst things you can do.

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    1. Yes, of course there is the environmentally destructive side of industrial 'hunting' of wild animals for food, which is what sea fishing is, to be considered.

      And Friday night is fish & chip night in our house...

      So where do we draw the line (no pun intended). Is line fishing okay?

      Incidentally, I was a keen angler until about 40 years ago when I decided I couldn't justify harming another species for fun.

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    2. I'm a different person that the Anonymous who posted above.

      Here's an argument I sometimes use with omnivores who press me on the issue: what is the point of eating other animals? You don't need meat in your diet, as is evidenced by so many healthy vegetarians (often healthier than their omnivorous counterparts). Maybe at one point in history we relied on eating animal, but our diets evolve over time, as they should. So why do you still do it? The only honest answer is that you enjoy eating meat. Hundreds of animals suffer and die each year simply because you like the way they taste. Is that enough of a justification for their death (not to mention the conditions in which they are forced to live their brief, often miserable lives). You say that you can't justify harming another species for fun, but you don't see a problem harming them for flavor? Is that enough of a reason to bring so much unnecessary suffering into the world?

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    3. >The only honest answer is that you enjoy eating meat.

      Yes. But you could say the same for the common chimpanzee, which also supplements it's mostly vegetarian diet with meat, as do very many omnivores.

      >Hundreds of animals suffer and die each year simply because you like the way they taste.

      Would you think it better if they died of malnutrition from old age, or of disease or being eaten by a predator and so killed in a far less humane way that the way in which we kill them? The only alternative is that they never lived at all.

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    4. Yet another anonymous here:

      >Would you think it better if they died of malnutrition from old age, or of disease or being eaten by a predator and so killed in a far less humane way that the way in which we kill them? The only alternative is that they never lived at all.

      YES! Factory-farmed animals live in agonizing and deplorable conditions from birth to death. They are often in constant misery their entire lives. And "less humane than the way we kill them"? The factories are so incompetently run that you get animals who aren't properly slaughtered, being dunked alive and screaming into the boiling tanks.

      In order to compensate for the inevitable psychotic behavior that results from keeping the animals in overpopulated and filthy enclosures their entire lives, farmers perform operations like cutting out the teeth, tails, and genitalia of pigs, or chopping off the beaks of chickens (a sensory structure) with no anesthesia (costs money, right?) to reduce the consequences of their cage aggression and self-injuring stress responses.

      Nature can be cruel, but not like this. Natural life has its highs and lows; the fate of a factory-farmed animal is simply utterly dismal. These animals would have been much better off never being born.

      I don't have a strong objection to slaughtering an animal that has lived a decent life. Unfortunately, the vast majority of meat on grocery shelves came from lives that were anything but decent. Economy of scale can be brutal.

      Regarding your point about the ambiguity between plant and animal life: My objection is to suffering. If it doesn't have a nervous system, it's fair game.

      Also, the environmental impact of factory farming is terrible. The energy efficiency is incredibly bad, particularly that of beef.

      I'd encourage you to watch the documentary "Earthlings." (It's available online for free, first Google result.) It makes some sensational claims, but it shows a lot of hard evidence of what factory farm conditions are really like. There's a reason meat producers have been lobbying to make it illegal to show what actually goes on in these places.

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    5. >Would you think it better if they died of malnutrition from old age, or of disease or being eaten by a predator and so killed in a far less humane way that the way in which we kill them? The only alternative is that they never lived at all.

      This same argument applies to slavery. Humans starve or die in pain or live with terrible diseases. Wouldn't it be better to keep them relatively well fed and safe but in slave conditions?

      The argument is flawed in that it assumes that a) all animals die terribly and live in pain when free and b) all animals live dream-like lives in farms.
      These animals don't live happy lives in captivity. Quite the contrary. Visiting those meat farms is an eye-opening experience (a good book Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer). It is no coincidence that access to meat farms is restricted.

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    6. I said nothing about animals living in pain so you might want to review your reasons for thinking my argument is flawed.

      Can you think of any pleasant ways for an animal to di naturally which I haven't covered in my argument, please?

      >These animals don't live happy lives in captivity.

      [Citation needed] Also, a definition of 'happiness' as it applies to domestic animals might be helpful.

      >Visiting those meat farms

      Is that the only way in which domestic animals can be kept? My chickens don't live on a meat farm and anyone is welcome to see them.

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  3. From a purely self-centered, utilitarian point of view I don't eat meat or dairy because the meat and dairy that is commonly available is nasty stuff. Here in the USA meat and dairy are produced in vast industrial "farms" where the animals are fed a toxic brew of GMO corn, GMO soy, waste byproducts, hormones, antibiotics and a cocktail of other drugs and chemicals. All of these noxious ingredients are passed on to the poor fool who buys the nicely packaged cuts of meat and bottles of milk at the supermarket.

    If we lived in a world that was constructed so as to maximize the health and well-being of the average citizen our communities would incorporate small farms that raised animals in a healthful and sustainable fashion. But we don't; instead we live in a world where every action is driven by somebody's desire to increase their wealth or maximize their profits. Hence we are increasingly offered only industrialized foodstuffs.

    I eat some fish. Only fish caught in the ocean and mostly just small, cold-water fish like sardines, herring and salmon. Our bodies need the nutrients that are found in natural animal products. And small cheap fish are about the only place to safely find them these days.

    I've known plenty of omnivores who just eat whatever pleases them. They are mostly fat and sickly. I've also know plenty of vegans. And they tend to be skinny and sickly. Actively managing your health in this day and age is very difficult and neither of these approaches will provide much value.

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  4. I have been vegetarian for more than 30 years and my reasoning is rather like that of the last poster. There are plentiful food choices where I live, so, as I don't wish to be a contributing cause of the suffering and cruelty inflicted on food animals, I eat other things. I would rather they never lived at all.

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  5. I'm an atheist vegan, and both for similar reasons. Because I love and respect the dignity of Nature and life! I had been semi-vegetarian for 20 years before I decided to give up eggs, dairy, and fish too. On the one hand I realized I was risking my life, because my father and his father both died of myocardial infarction in their mid-50's. So I want very much to avoid adding any animal fats to my bloodstream. But it wasn't until I was involved in rescuing a cow which had escaped an auction house that I finally got close to farm animals and had a chance to get to know their personalities. After that I couldn't bear to take part in the crass exploitation of these wonderful beings, especially just for my own gratification. I also had started to do more yoga and meditation, and I found that eating lower on the food chain improved my energy and my mental clarity tremendously. But to be sure, it takes some extra effort to live this way. I'm fortunate to live in a place with a lot of vegetarian-friendly restaurants, but I still do most of my own cooking. I have added more things like tofu, amaranth, and quinoa to my diet to ensure getting complete proteins. And of course I must supplement B-12. But most of us should do that anyway, veggie or not. It's definitely been a boon to the variety of foods I eat. When I was "only vegetarian" I would eat a lot of pizza and pasta, it was all very conventional. Now I still have those things, but not nearly as often because my body has changed, and the things that satisfy me most now are not the "rich" foods I used to like but "fulfilling" and "nutritive" foods that leave me feeling more light and energetic.

    There are of course ethical and environmental considerations in choosing a veg*n lifestyle, and those are very important to me. Erring on the side of compassion is something I can live with. And when I hear about the pollution that comes from pig farms, the volume of methane produced by animal ag, and the horrid conditions of industrial farms, it is worrying. So I do try to advocate in the veg*n direction.

    In making such a change it helps to have social support, but in the absence of that there are some good podcasts that can provide similar companionship. The one I co-host is called "vegan radio" and I'd recommend having a listen from our earliest episodes forward. (Recent episodes aren't quite as fun in my opinion because our hosting roster has been whittled down.) If nothing else, it's an entertaining way to learn about stuff like The China Study and to hear the various news stories over the years, a huge number of them about food recalls!

    Anyway, I love your blog and look forward to participating more in the future now that I've fully embraced my atheism. Hopefully I can help reduce the inanity factor in the comment section a little!

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  6. Vegetarianism and veganism is a survival strategy. Carbon footprint of vegetarians and vegans are considerably less and helps reduce green house gas emissions and save the planet. Also, with the ever increasing human population, meat production will be unsustainable in the long run. Anyone wants to go for synthetic meat? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-16972761

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  7. I agree with most of the pro-vegetarian arguments above, and would add some of my own.

    from the standpoint of evolution we have developed unique ability to reason and create a reality defined by language. While evolution up to recent times has been determined by biology and perhaps natural selection, we are now at a place where we have enough self-awareness and technological ability to determine our own evolutionary path. So the choice is, do we go on being violent warlike beings that destroy the environment to fulfill our desires for instant gratification, or do we cultivate compassion within our selves and our societies so that we can live in harmony with nature and each other. The choices we make now, over generations, will determine what our species will evolve to become (or how we will become extinct).

    so far our cultures and institutions (including religions for the most part) have been very myopic, self-aggrandizing, callous, ego-centered and violent. controlling other beings entire life cycles, sexual reproduction, food choices, and method of dying is so much different than what happens in nature. I would personally rather be gored by a lion at the end of my life than to be enslaved my entire life in a controlled environment and then be shipped off and killed at a slaughterhouse. but the deeper issue is, what does this exploitation that we all participate in do to our psyches, as individuals and collectively? as in your opening questions, what is the line between killing a monkey and a human? i suggest you turn it around, and ask yourself why so many humans don't value their own lives or the lives of other humans. Deep down we know that we aren't that different from other species in our ability to experience life, to feel pain and pleasure, etc; so, if we have decided that non-human lives are expendable and exploitable, we must on some level acknowledge that ours are too.

    how wonderful that you are pondering these questions! you are a cell in the body of our culture, contemplating the next evolutionary leap. what has happened in the past does not have to be what happens in the future. we are all part of the natural selection of tomorrows human being. as a vegan of 16 years i can tell you that it has made me a healthier and happier person than i feel i would have been had i not made the choice. i have evolved my own compassion and it ripples out to those around me. in this time the food industry has made gradual change to accomodate vegans, and veganism has infiltrated popular culture. it has so far been tiny in the scheme of things, and needs to be practiced along with local food movements, organic agriculture, population reduction, and many other issues in order for lasting change to come.

    instead of seeing farmed animals as species that may have been extinct if not for us (the culturally ego-centric view), we need to see all beings as individuals who have their own desires for happiness. eating lower on the food chain benefits them, us, the plants, the minerals, and the entire web of life.

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  8. Hi,

    If you can't justify harming another species for fun then how doe you square this with harming another species for the flavour?

    There are some excellent arguments examined from both sides in a chapter of The Philosophy Gym by Stephen Law.

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  9. Just to add, ethical considerations aside (as if they could be), eating meat, especially farmed meat, is a sure way of reducing the food available to others - producing, say, beef requires hundreds of times the weight of grain AND of water required to produce some equally nutritious vegetarian foods; and that's before we even think about carbon....

    You might, if you'll forgive the promo, be interested to read some of these pieces I've written on veg 'vs' meat: http://dreamingrealist.co.uk/?s=vegetarian . I try to give some links to 'the science' in these commentaries.

    Thanks as ever for a thoughtful piece.

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  10. I'm vegetarian because I have the luxury of choice. I'm lucky enough to live in place where food of all sorts is plentiful and cheap. I can make a very small, very painless decision the result of which is to perhaps reduce the suffering of some things that have some experience of life. I've no love, nor respect for religion but the "whatever you do to the least of my brothers" line resonates with me when it comes to the fantastically amazing phenomena of life in general.

    Though you could argue that if there's no demand for meat, no animals will be bred to supply that missing demand, and so perhaps I've just prevented existence, rather than saved life. However, I know exactly what happens if I do eat meat and it seems like non-existence might be preferable to that.

    I was lucky enough to go through all this when I was quite young, and so don't suffer at all with being a vegetarian as an adult - if I had to make the same decision now I think I'd find it massively more difficult... but hope I could still do it.

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  11. I'm not a vegatarian (hey, I'm a son of a butcher for crying out loud). But there are arguments for vegatarism, beyond just plain ethical reasoning: Health. As much as meat provide us in proteins and a great source of energy, it quickly results in health problems if you overdo it (again, my fathers family being butchers and most of them, including my father, died of heartfailure). Studies show that a no meat diet does have great health benefits. But I do not see any ethical reasoning. Plants are living creatures as well, and they struggle for survival maybe more then any other creature. A plant reacts to damage in ways mimicking the reaction of animals. And they are still family, connected almost at the base of the evolutionary tree. So what makes plants more special then animals then?
    And we can't live on osmosis.

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  12. Eating vegetables and fruit does not necessarily harm or kill the organism that produced them. Eating seeds, of course, means that they won't directly grow -- although they produce useful shit -- but most seeds fail to germinate whether we eat them or not. In any case, human, and even animal, feed is a human invention.

    Your description of the destruction of animals fails to consider their imprisonment and confinement, which takes many brutal years. Typically, or in ideal nature, an animal lives and reproduces comfortably until old age. But the slaughter industry keeps it in a state of torture, without even reproduction (which humans now do artificially) for its entire being.

    Before humans invented their unique "unnatural" edible plants, the instanteous destruction of hunted feral beasts was necessary, desirable, humane, and even green. But since the agricultural age, which led to the gratuitous imprisonment of animals for harvest, there has been no survival need to keep cattle and other penned fauna for human nutrition. It is a costly, wasteful, meaningless luxury; for most of the planet it is just an ostentatious, non-nutritional ornamentation to the basic vegetable food that sustains us.

    There is a kindness ("green", "natural"} industry that tries to keep the animal comfortable until its final execution. But . . . the planet cannot sustain that kind of husbandry for its human population. Only a wealthy, and very tiny, minority can afford green slaughter. And its so-called "kindness" necessitates a belief -- let's stress that word, *belief* -- that the animals we eat are too stupid to understand why we keep them.

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  13. Dear Rosa

    Your question is important and so are the above comments. Spiritually killing and eating animals creates in people deep internal dissidence without us even realising. Hindu and Buddhist adherents will tell us the cost is much greater than a sense of guilt or conflict. We who eat meat accrue negative karma because we have blood on our hands!

    Tonight while I was preparing tea the thought came to me, I should not eat beef because cows lovingly give me milk and cheese and lots of wonderful manure for my garden. I should not eat a hen because she patiently lays beautiful eggs. I should not eat a lamb because the ram is my sun sign and its mother gives me wool to spin and knit and so I am kept cosy and warm! The magnificent deer is my natal totem. Poor fish I can not eat because the seas are too polluted; besides they are pursued with such mercilessness. Pigs who have the intelligence of a three year old child I must not eat either because my Jewish and Moslem brothers and sisters abstain and as a Christian it is expedient I follow their obedient example.

    Likewise trees are sacred for the shade they offer me; the homes they provide for song birds whom I love with all my heart; for their exquisite beauty; their never ending variety of form and colour; their whisperings and their very great age. They are our elders, the keepers of time and the care takers of climate and air. In using paper and wood I must be very careful and respectful, reducing, reusing and recycling and planting, planting, planting as many seedlings as I possibly can.

    Rosa, it really is quite simple. There is no need to ponder about evolution, just to think about the blessings we receive here and now and how we might like in harmony with other living creatures and Mother Earth. The Buddhists have a wonderful word for living gently on the planet. It is 'mindfulness'. I leave you with a phrase which grows with vegetarian living - it is 'heart fullness'.

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  14. Luckily here in the UK, like you Rosa, most animals are kept in really good conditions and slaughtered extremely quickly and out of site of the rest of the heard.

    I think the idea that human rights in the animal kingdom, are an on off condition, like the example Dawkins gives, is a form of essentialism. I think human rights involve a number of separate rights that, as you go back towards the proto-apes, are not assigned perhaps based on the level of cognitive ability.

    There is also the very basic idea that if it's an animal you can mate with (e.g. your own species, then you shouldn't eat it).

    In addition there are plenty of meat eaters around that wouldn't eat a horse or a dog (cuteness/relationship factor) or a rat or city pigeon(icky/dirty factor).

    We have evolved to eat a meat diet, so the argument I eat meat because I like it is a perfectly valid one.

    People choose not to eat meat for various reasons.

    If you do like meat, then buy from a local butcher and buy meat that is free range. Also eat the cuts that are less common (and generally cheaper) as there is nothing worse than waste. The less popular cuts get turned into dog food or, even worse, thrown away.

    Also, eat British rose veal. Rose veal is from dairy calves that are given 6 months on the field with its mother whereas previously they would have been shot at birth and put in with the slurry.

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  15. I was raised a vegetarian by my mother from birth. I have heard every argument there is but the only convincing one I know of is that if you don't like meat, you should be a vegetarian.

    That isn't to say overconsumption isn't an issue. Most folk eat meat at a rate that is unsustainable if we are to maintain biodiversity. This however is not a firm argument for outright abstinence. Simply, most people should probably stick to meat once or twice a week, unless their biological needs are greater than average (professional sports people spring to mind by way of example.)

    As ever, meden agan is probably better than total abstinence. I cannot abide meat, but no one forces me to eat it, and I see no good reason others should go without completely, even if they should try to cut down.

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  16. Very interesting. I became vegan in August 2012. I'm not sure I have noticed any particular health benefits to date, but veganism has significantly affected my emotional well-being. (Positively).

    I first thought seriously about the use of animals as products after reading Kurt Vonneguts 'Slaughterhouse 5'. Despite the title, there were only two references to the use of animals but they hit me hard:

    '...Almost all the hooved animals in Germany had been killed and eaten and excreted by human beings, mostly soldiers. So it goes.'

    and:

    '...the axle of the wheelbarrow had been greased with the fat of dead animals. So it goes.'

    So I gradually came to be a vegan. Yes, I understand that the natural world is a violent, hostile and pitiless environment. Nothing exists for it's own benefit or pleasure. Only for the benefit of its as yet 'unborn' third party.

    It is the industrialized use of animals that is both appalling and unsustainable. The average westerner on the street is not locked in a never-ending struggle for food, where succeeding or failing to make a 'kill' means life or death. The consumption of meat for most westerners involves a casual stroll along the appropriate aisle and selecting neatly packaged 'product'- literally a product. Not a dead animal. A chop. A steak. A sausage.

    I know many meat eaters. I know not a single one who would personally end the life of an animal. My view is 'Can't kill it? Then don't eat it.'

    I have carnivorous friends who have a nervous break down if my two cats catch a bird or rodent. They cannot bear to see the animal suffer 'pointlessly'. Later that evening they will tuck in to a good sized rib cut steak and see no connection whatsoever.

    I have a neighbour who keeps chickens. I see them daily free roaming across the fields near my home. Or foraging and scratching by the roadside. I have no issue at all with them being eventually killed and consumed by my neighbors family.

    So, I'm a vegan. Yet I am not violently opposed to the idea that humans eat animals. For me, the the monstrous scale of the industry required to feed the humans of this world rules out any hope of an industry that could ever be truly 'humane'.

    Nicholas.

    PS: I feed my cats meat. They are predators. They are carnivores. You can tell by the machinery of death they possess. They are built to consume and break down flesh, bones, fur, etc. I'm still struggling with this. But I'm not going to try to turn them into vegans.

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  17. Oh, I almost forgot. Regarding your point concerning death through predation, small rodents have an acute analgesic response to defeat. IE: once all hope of escape is exhausted.

    Quite how pleasant this makes their demise I cannot comment. But this indicates an evolutionary mechanism to ease their death.

    Regards,

    Nicholas. (@dogbutt2)

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    Replies
    1. Do you have any references for that claim?

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    2. Hallo Rosa. The only reference I can find: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3714872

      Although this is a study of social behaviour, (male mice exposed to intruder male mice), rather than defeat by predation.

      Regards,

      Dogbutt.

      Delete
  18. Yes, there are many amazing arguments for vegetarianism and Veganism. One of the largest ones is that our bodies are better suited for it. Even they aren't, it is simply the most moral and humane thing to do in our current society. If we have the capacity to understand such pain and suffering, knowing that it is not required, then it's obvious it must be stop. Anyone who openly sees large factory farming will solemnly agree with this. Here are some references and sources. I truly hope you take this decision with extreme care and sincerity, as I have already.

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=es6U00LMmC4

    http://meatvideo.com/

    - Godless Talk
    @TalkofNones

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  19. Most Christians will tell you that God gave the animals to humanity to do with what they pleased (7th Day Adventists would be a notable exception here). They argue that it is okay to kill and eat "animals" but not humans because humans have souls and animals do not.

    That it is taught this way in the Bible may be your first clue that it deserves a deeper look.

    I'm not sure there is anything immoral about killing and eating an animal. But I know I can't draw a logical distinction between killing and eating a pig, a cat, or a human. There is an emotional distinction of course, just not a logical one. Pigs are more intelligent than cats and humans no more have a soul than a pig does, so that leaves me with a grand equivalence.

    So please apply the notion that you might as well kill an animal humanly for meat because it is better than having it live out its days and die of disease, injury, or starvation to human beings. Why do we not have farms that raise humans for their meat? Why don't we take advantage of the fact that we execute people (here in the United States) to chop them up into burger afterward and help reduce the cost of feeding the prisoners or our school children? If humans deserve to exercise free will, I see no reason why pigs shouldn't.

    The notion that cows should consider themselves lucky that we eat them because otherwise they may be extinct may apply to the species, but there is no reason it should apply to an individual. That argument sounds a lot like telling me I should feel lucky that my mother didn't abort me. It is a logical fallacy. If my mother aborted me, I wouldn't care one way or the other, and if all the cows died out, then how could a present day cow possibly care one way or the other about it?

    I am a vegetarian because I don't eat anything I am not prepared to kill. If left in the jungle without food or water I would still live by the same rules, but what I was prepared to kill may be different. I don't eat humans either because I am not prepared to kill them. But if I did kill an animal, whether pig, dog, or human, its meat would be logically fair game.

    So I think meat eaters simply need to find out how they feel about eating some animals and not others and why. If you can live with your decision, then that's just fine with me. I am not out to outlaw meat-eating any more than I am out to out-law religion. But I do see similar logical problems with both.



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  20. Isn't vegetation also considered as 'living things'?

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  21. I have a problem with the vegetarian arguments.

    Firstly, most vegetarians are nothing of the sort. They eat butter, eggs, cheese, fish, milk and some even eat chicken. They wear leather shoes, sit on leather coated furniture etc. These people are not vegetarians, no matter how much they lie to themselves.

    Then we have the Vegans, the few I know are half starved, pale, pasty, need to take multi-vitamins and are always munching on some seed based fodder, in effect,, spending their waking lives chewing the cud! They are no healtheir than I, a type 1 insulin dependent diabetic.

    Then we get into the evolutionary argument. We have 32 teeth, a design that is purpose built for an omnivorous diet. The fact that we have learned to think differently from other primates, or cats, makes no difference. We are omnivores. Equally, it could be argued that had our distant ancestors never bothered to begin to eat meat, our development, the brain in particular, would in all probability not have happened, as the seeds and grasses our forefathers were eating would not have provided the energy required for the rapid (in evolutionary terms) development of the human brain.

    Another point is the "poor little animal" argument. A pointless one. If they weren't being bred to be eaten/provide eggs etc. they, in all probability, wouldn't be alive, or would never have lived at all.
    I fully support strict animal health legislation to remove as much suffering and pain as possible, and to give the animals we are destined to eat, as comfortable an existence that can be achieved. I also would support a ban on Halal/Kosher or any other products where religion requires the suffering of any animal just to pacify there particular belief system. In fact, I would probably switch my political allegiance to any serious party of Government that would promise the end on Halal/Kosher etc on the day they were elected to office.

    That said. At this time, I will not give up eating meat, fish, poultry or any other food source that takes my fancy. I am a Homo Sapien, I am an omnivorous primate. It's what our species does. And sorry, no pasty faced vegan or hypocritical alleged "vegetarian" will make me change my mind.

    ReplyDelete

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