Why Vegetarianism?

Reader wall0645 posted in the Friendly Atheist Forums about his potential conversion to vegetarianism.

Part of me wants to be vegetarian. I am really big on the philosophy of “efficiency”, and fruits/vegetables require much less energy to grow than meat for the same amount of food. Also there is the problem of unnecessary suffering of animals. Add to this that fruits and vegetables are very good for you. Vegetarianism is very very appealing to me.

However, another part of me wants to eat meat. My friends and family eat meat, and I don’t want to be the odd one who doesn’t. Meat is cheap and convenient. And, of course, meat tastes great. People have been eating meat for generations, and they seem healthy enough.

He asks a few questions:

1. What do you think of vegetarianism? Weird? Noble? Stupid?
2. To the vegetarians, why are you a vegetarian? (Convince me to join you )
3. To the meat eaters, why aren’t you a vegetarian? (Convince me to keep eating meat)
4. Should any diet be “strict”? Should I avoid eating only vegetables and just look to increase the percentage of vegetables, but keep eating meat?

For me, not eating meat seems like an ethical thing to do (animals are living too, right?)… but it’s been a while since I felt a holier-than-thou attitude about it. It doesn’t really faze me when someone around me eats meat and I don’t go into lectures about it. Maybe I should.

In some ways, I’m a hypocrite about it. I don’t oppose medical/scientific research done on animals. I don’t eat eggs because they have a potential to be fertilized yet I would call myself pro-choice on the abortion issue. (Is that fertilization thing true? That’s what I was taught as a child and it’s one of the things I never bothered to verify for myself.) And I still laugh when I read this article…

I’ve said it before, but I was raised as a vegetarian for religious reasons. When I left my faith, I kept the vegetarianism. I’ve still never gone fishing. Hunting seems barbaric. I never had to “transition” into it and I’m amazed when I hear about people who have made that switch. Still, I think it’s a good way to go.

It’s certainly cheaper than eating meat. It’s healthier. There are plenty of options for food, depending on where you live. And you smell better as a result. (Ok, I made that last one up, but that rumor should totally spread.)

Where do you stand on the issue?

  • Andy D

    I’m going through basically the same thing as wall0645, and you make some good points (except the egg thing, I don’t buy that).

    A big obstacle for me is I don’t know how to switch. I’m not going to eat salads and maccaroni every day. I wonder if you could post what you do for a weeks worth of lunch/dinner (I’ll still eat my eggs for breakfast :) )

  • Peregrine

    I think people put too much emphasis on trying to be strict vegetarian. My wife struggles with it on and off. She wants to go completely vegan, but every time she tries, she makes it one, maybe two weeks before giving up and raiding my stash of peperoni pizza pockets.

    Plus, when we go to my parents, they almost always have meat as part of the meal.

    Some people can do it, and some people can’t. We’re all individuals, and it typically comes down to our individual metabolism, preferences, tastes… Don’t worry about it. If you want to try it, try it, but don’t worry about backsliding; Just do what comes natural.

    You can cut down on red meats, without cutting them out entirely. You can cut out red meat without giving up all meat, like white meat. You can be vegetarian through the week without being guilt-ridden over a steak dinner or a burger on the weekend.

    Take it easy, do what comes naturally, and try not to judge yourself if you don’t make it. Its a dramatic dietary change, not an XBox achievement.

  • Danielle

    I’m a vegetarian mainly for ethical reasons – I have a huge problem with how animals are treated in factory farms. I will, however, eat hunted meat because I don’t have a problem with the food chain. Same with eggs – I don’t care that they might be fertalized, I’m just disgusted at how factories treat the chickens. Bring me to a nice backyard farm, I’ll eat the eggs without flinching.

    I’m also a vegetarian for environmental reasons. I don’t know how (if at all) true it is but someone once told me that cutting meat out of 2 days of your week is like using a hybrid car. It probably isn’t entirely accurate, but I do know vegetable farms produce way less carbon emissions than animal farms.
    I also don’t lecture people about it. I live with 3 other people who regularly eat meat. I actually get offended when I haer vegetarians/vegans lecture others about it because I feel like it makes me look bad (the first time I tell people I’m vegetarian I very often get the feeling their bracing themselves for some sort of verbal attack from me)

  • http://www.thoughtcounts.net thoughtcounts Z

    The “it’s alive” ethical standard seems a little odd to me. Aren’t plants also alive? The ability to consume nutrients, grow, reproduce, etc. — that can’t be enough to make something off-limits for eating, because then we couldn’t eat anything. A better standard might be, “it’s sentient” or “it’s sentient enough” (maybe “it can feel pain” or “it has a personality”). That would probably make some animals/animal products okay to eat.

  • http://cupcakesandmace.com Ms Constantine

    I’m a pescetarian, and it’s only because I started to feel grossed out at the thought of chewing on flesh. It’s great that there are environmental and ethical benefits too though.
    I have no idea why I don’t find eating sea foods gross.

    And the egg thing is false (at least in NZ). An egg is like a birds period as far as I know, it can only be fertilised if the hen has been having sex and that’s highly unlikely unless it’s from a free range farm with roosters around.

  • Tyro

    I have been a vegetarian for 16 years and am married to a woman that eats meat. When we eat at home it’s generally vegetarian food but she occasionally mixes shrimp or chicken into her food and generally eats meat when we eat at a restaurant or with friends. It would probably be easier if we saw eye-to-eye but it seems to work for us.

    I stopped giving speeches or making a big deal of it years ago which ironically has had the effect of making me wonder if I should give it up. Passionate fights do keep one radicalized! In the end I keep deciding to stick because it really isn’t that difficult and it’s one easy way that I can do a good deed and make the world a slightly better place.

    I find that I’m able to appreciate my food more as I don’t have to wall off part of my thoughts when I eat. “How did this animal live? How did it die? Was it in pain? What happened to the land or ocean to bring this food to me? Is any of this sustainable?” I think I know the answers to those questions and I don’t have to feel like I’m contributing to the problem.

    Of course merely changing your diet doesn’t make you a part of the solution but at least, in this one small, simple way I’m not making the problem worse.

    As for speeches, the most common thing that people tell me is “But I love chicken/beef/fish.”

    “No,” I tell them, “you love yourself. You use your passions and convenience to justify killing.” And ultimately that’s why I keep going.

  • Alan E.

    Hunting is barbaric, but I don’t like to use that term in a negative way. There are, in my eyes, the “good” ways to hunt and the “bad” ways. The “good” ways are the hunts that require skill, patience, and gratitude. Those that hunt with basic tools or weapons and actually hunt for need fall into this category. As back-country or redneck as some of my extended family might be, I still give them credit and respect for their hunting tactics. Plus, they use most of the animals, mostly deer, they kill and distribute meat to the rest of the family. We certainly don’t “need” it, but the gross overkill never occurs as if it were industrialized or commercialized.

    The “bad” ways to hunt are using overpowered machinery and weapons, or using cheap tactics that require no skill. An episode of King of the Hill comes to mind where they went deer “hunting.” They sat in canopies with bait waiting for some docile, tame deer to show up. When hunting is for sport rather than sustenance, that’s where I draw the line between the two.

    Now a rebuttal to this argument would be the Darwinian model. Humans have clearly evolved and developed better hunting “skills” and tools. Why shouldn’t we make use of these tools? Well, we have also developed and evolved emotions, intelligence, other food sources, etc. But when there is a day that these alternative food sources are readily available to everyone in the world, hunting will never end, and probably not even then. Many families in rural areas of America still need to hunt because they don’t make enough money to shop at the grocery store.

    Personally, I enjoy hunting on a rare occasion only use a bow when I do go. Most of my family thanks god for the feast, but only when it gets to the table. Out in the woods, god has nothing to do with it.

    That’s my 1 cent worth about hunting and don’t have the time to tackle the veggie vs meat eater subject.

  • PJG

    Hi wall0645,

    I was a vegetarian for a little over four years, and turned back to meat about five months ago. Here are my answers for you:

    1. Vegetarianism is pretty awesome. I was big on the efficiency argument as well, plus I wasn’t sure that I would be capable of eating meat if I had a better conscious realization of what had happened to the animal each time I did.

    3. My health declined. I became sick more often with minor illnesses (colds, stomach viruses), and generally felt weak. More recently it got to the point where I saw spots if I stood up too quickly. This was even taking iron supplements, and following the best dietary advice I could find. That’s when I went back to carcass (and yes, it is delicious). Still, I try to limit my meat intake as much as possible.

    4. If you’re in for the efficiency argument, then I’d just reduce the amount of meat you eat. If you’re making an ethical decision, however, it’s much harder to justify cheating.

    The switch isn’t as hard as you think it is. Do a week or month “trial” of it– no commitments, don’t tell anybody, just try not eating meat. If you and your body can handle it, then it’s a a great thing to do.

  • Eric

    I ate vegetarian for lent a year ago (yeah, I’m atheist… it’s just convenient as a motivational tool), and I didn’t mind it as much as I thought I would. There were some difficult parts, like when there was a sponsored burger grill-out at work, but for the most part it was pretty easy. I did go back to eating meat after that, but not nearly as much.

    And recently I’ve been edging slowly towards the MaxDiet, which is Veganism Plus – no animal products, and no processed sugars or processed flours either. I haven’t gotten fully into it, but usually breakfast and lunch are beans/nuts/grains/fruits/veggies, and dinner is the only time I don’t follow it. Hopefully soon I’ll get dinner in too..

    But like you, it’s just my personal take – I’m not pushing it on anyone else.

  • Shannon

    You mean can chicken eggs be fertilized after they are laid? As far as I’m aware, no. The egg is fertilized while still inside the hen.

  • SgtSkepper

    HA! An egg can only be fertilised when it’s inside the chicken (before developing its hard shell). As someone pointed out, the eggs you can eat are essentially chicken periods.

    I’m in a similar position to wall0645. I think it’s unnecessary to kill animals to eat. It would probably be alright if you could guarantee they didn’t suffer, but I can’t and they probably do. My main problems are that I prefer meat and in my experience it takes more effort to make tasty meals with veg and I tend to find them less satisfying. It’s probably something I should get past though.

    I don’t see any contradiction in being vegetarian and supporting animal-based medical research. There are plenty of alternatives to eating meat (healthier alternatives even) whereas thus far there is no real alternative to using animals for medical research. If there was an equally effective alternative, I would become an advocate against animal testing immediately.

  • Amber

    Personally I don’t think vegetarianism is for me, but I can completely understand why many people do it. In our house it’s not uncommon to eat meat only once or twice a week at dinner time. We’ve cut back, mainly because of food costs more than anything else. My mother is a hunter and taxidermist, and she often gets fresh meat in – free range, organic and very sustainable where she lives. So we eat that when we can (it’s SO much better anyways!).

    Now that I’m in the later stages of pregnancy I’m finding I’m eating more red meat than anybody else in the house. This is probably a temporary thing – I’ve got low iron anemia and try as I might to remember those little iron pills 3 times a day, I often forget :( But that’s strictly for nutritional purposes… or so I tell myself anyway.

  • http://t3knomanser.livejournal.com t3knomanser

    I eat meat because I enjoy meat. Yes, it’s inefficient. And yes, it sucks for those animals- but not as much as living in the wild does. Humans genetically engineered food animals thousands of years ago, and unless we want to condemn these species to extinction, we may as well put them to the purpose our ancestors intended.

    In terms of health, the rule, as always, is: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

    Also: I blame 9/11 not merely on radical Islam, but the fact that pork is haram. Not having any bacon messes people up, man.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    While there are some good reasons to consider vegetarianism, there are also some very questionable reasons which have been put forward. I have to conclude that for many adherents, vegan/vegetarianism is a cult.

  • http://jonathan-keith.com Jon

    I will, however, eat hunted meat because I don’t have a problem with the food chain

    Good point Danielle. I agree.

  • REX

    As with everything, I would never condemn someone’s personal choices like that (as long as they do not try to legislate them on me!!!), however, my opinion is that I did not claw my way to the top of the food chain over millions of years just to eat plants!

  • http://www.jimloomis.deviantart.com Jimmy

    I’ve tried going vegetarian myself, and pardon my usage of words, but it was no picnic. I speak for those of us who love veggies and don’t have a problem with herbivores, but simply can’t live without meat.

    I’m fairly lucky as a meat eater. My family hunts and gives us lots of meat, enough to freeze and feed us for a whole year or so. We eat deer meat in everything from hamburger helper, to burgers, to spaghetti. Deer is wild, and therefore not subject to the hormones that beef tends to acquire. The fat content is very low as well.

    To those who are vegans/vegetarians: I’ve heard the speech before, and to be honest, that speech isn’t far from the moral crazy talk from the conservative right. Either way, you are both trying to impose morals onto a group of people who don’t agree. Those moral standpoints (from a political standpoint) only do more harm than good, because they would be imposed, even though what the violating party is doing wouldn’t harm society (though I agree that animals are mistreated, and something must be done).

  • Anon

    It puzzles me that eating meat is so often perceived as an all-or-nothing thing. In the last few years I’ve significantly cut back on the amount of meat I eat, for environmental and personal health reasons. I don’t feel that either of those motivations is enough to swear off meat entirely– after all the same motivations are why I try to bike to work, but I’m not going to bike in a thunderstorm. So I eat meat once every week or two (almost always in a social situation where there isn’t a tasty vegetarian option), which retains my ability to digest it. I still like to think this is “better” for my health and the environment than eating meat every day.

  • http://jonathan-keith.com Jon

    It’s certainly cheaper than eating meat. It’s healthier.

    Not so accurate on the healthier part there Hemant. And its not always cheaper either.

    I, for one, would appreciate if we could see a more healthy dose of reality and accuracy on this blog.

    Other than that, nice opinion piece.

  • http://horrorfictionnews.com/blog Paul

    I eat meat because meat tastes good.

    I eat vegetables because, when prepared properly, they taste good.

    I get my meat from sustainable farms (locally when I can or from Co-ops like Organic Valley) same with my produce.

    Vegetarianism is not de facto more healthy diet. You can be as unhealthy while eating just vegetarian as someone can be from eating a mixed diet. So the “healthy” argument goes out the window.

    As for the energy and conservation aspect, if you purchase your meat from farms that practice sustainable farming than you contribute to helping out the small family owned farms as well as getting healthier meat.

    You can choose where to buy your meat. If you are worried about ethical concerns look into the farms you buy from. I get my lamb from a farm down the road, my beef from a farm in Montana that raises their steers ethically and allows them to roam and are grass fed. I get my dairy from the sheep farm down the road or Co-Ops like Organic Valley.

    So eating meat isn’t all that evil. And I figure I have canine teeth to rip and tear flesh as well as molars to grind plants. Why not eat both.

  • RG

    I’ve been considering this also.. and have done it on and off for a few years. one of my doctors years ago said if everyone was a vegetarian he’d be out of business.. heh… i mean how many obese life-long vegetarians have you met? i do know that when i was vegetarian i seemed to be more aware of an overall healthy lifestyle, not just with my diet. Then i allowed myself to eat fish, then chicken, then I got a strong desire to eat a huge steak… then well here i am.

  • Rachel

    My good freind owns a farm near Barrie Ontario. He raises free range heritage chickens, last time i visited him I think I asked him every chicken question on earth.
    The eggs you get in the grocery store are not fertilized as they come from large scale operations and there are no roosters around.
    However if you go to a farmers market and get eggs from small farms with roosters around or like my friend, have roosters around, then the eggs are fertilized.
    They’re pretty much the same and you eat them the same. The chickens lay eggs if there are roosters around or not.
    When they lay eggs they generally just lay the egg and take off. You then collect the eggs twice a day.
    This is whether the eggs are fertilized or not.
    However sometime the chickens get “broody”, which means they don’t just lay the egg, take off on their merry way. They lay the egg and sit on it and try to raise it.
    When this happens, my friend has to wear gloves when he collects the eggs, because there’s a chicken sitting on it that will pick you.
    Every year they collect a batch of eggs and put it in an incubator in the spare bedroom (don’t ask) and hatch a round of chicks.
    Other interesting facts:
    You can eat a rooster.
    He pays a guy down the road to butcher, pluck and cut up chickens every year and he even puts them in freezer packets, this costs about 2-3 dollars CDN a chicken.
    They shoot racoons as they are biggest threat and kill several chickens a year, they catch racoons in traps using eggs as bait because racoons steal and eat chicken eggs.
    The chickens when left to run around spend most of the day eating bugs.

    tah dah.

  • Debbie

    I was vegetarian for 4 years. I added meat back to my diet a few years ago because I started having problems with my stomach that limited what I was able to eat too much.

    I was vegetarian for ethical reasons…I think it’s disgusting how animals are treated in factory farms. As a secondary reason, there is the fact that meat is so much less efficient, like you said.

    Your diet can be as strict as you want it to be, in my opinion…I still ate dairy, just because cheese is so delicious. Also eggs and milk are an excellent source of protein. I tried to buy mostly free range eggs.

    Now, I buy my meat (and diary) at a shop owned by local farmers. I like it because it’s local, and because I know that they treat their animals somewhat well. If you are lucky enough to have something like this, it’s not a bad way to go.

  • Chris

    Are plants not living? Do they not wilt when neglected? Do they not suffer and die when tortured and starved?

    The ethical argument to vegetarianism is ridiculous. As Roger Scruton succinctly put it, the argument amounts to “pre-scientific anthropomorphism”. We’ve be duped by talking cartoon animals into believing the real ones actually have “feelings”. Do ethical vegetarians actually believe animals contemplate death (or anything at all)? Come on Hemant, if you are really about calling people on their bizarre and unfounded beliefs, this one seems obvious.

    I don’t buy the “it’s healthier” argument either. It is not like the alternatives are eat no meat or eat a 24oz steak every night. Our bodies need protein and fat and all the other nutrients even seal blubber provides. I can’t point you to scientific evidence that this is true for all humans but my body seems to thrive on variety and moderation.

    I could possibly be swayed by the efficiency argument but I would have to see the numbers. But, like all things, a line has to be drawn somewhere. Clearly, some vegetables would be more efficient to produce than others. And if we follow this to its logical conclusion, the argument suggest something along the lines of us eventually being reduced to supplying our bodies intravenously with pharmaceutically produced nutrients.

  • Luther

    My wife and I became vegetarians in 1998. Our children had been vegetarians for several years, over time we ate less and less meat so the entire family could enjoy the same meal.

    Over time we realized the health benefits; the dangers of mad cow, e coli, and shellfish problems; the environmental impact of hog farming and other farming; the torture conditions of corporate farming.

    I don’t preach but I know I have a much smaller environmental footprint and am likely to live much longer than peers who continue to eat meat. And I believe that my example in the long run will influence others.

  • Luther

    One more thing we often are slammed as Atheist, Socialist, Latte Drinking, Vegetarians.

    I don’t know about lattes but all the rest are linked by being quite rational. I take this association as a complement.

  • Shane

    Vegetarianism isn’t really more “efficient” than eating meat as well. In theory it makes sense, but in practice it just doesn’t work that way. There are lots of grades of grain that are not good enough for human consumption, but which you can use to raise livestock. Also, there are types of land that is too infertile, too rough, or too wet to effectively farm and you can use these areas to raise livestock.

    The most efficient farm is that small family farm that raises a variety of produce and animals. There is little waste, but it takes considerable human effort and knowledge of the land. Modern farming practices depend on energy from oil and economies of scale, and so seems more efficient (while oil is still abundant) but will come back to hurt us (mainly with the loss of human skills, land overuse, and reduction of genetic diversity).

    Chickens do not qualify for personhood and so do not warrant the same level of moral consideration. We raise chickens. We feed them well and give them space to walk around freely and eat bugs and plants. However, I see no problem will humanely butchering them for food. It is only a chicken with the brain the size of a walnut. It is not much more than a collection of reflexes and a few vision processing functions looking for small, wriggling things. Chickens do not read Shakespeare.

    Ultimately, it is no more healthy to not eat meat. A healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables will only be made healthier with the addition of meat and fish (even the occasional serving of red meat). If you are concerned about ethics you should get meat from local, family-owned farms where animals are raised and treated humanely. As an additional bonus they also taste a lot better than the typical supermarket frankenchicken.

    “No,” I tell them, “you love yourself. You use your passions and convenience to justify killing.”

    The mere act of living kills uncountable numbers of living creatures. What do you think happens to the animals that are displaced by your houses, shopping malls, and grain fields? Life is a zero sum game, and it makes no difference how indirect your responsibility for killing an animal is. There is no luxury you enjoy that is free from the blood of some type of animal. Is it better to humanely hunt rabbits, or plant a garden so the population of rabbits that depended on that area die slow, lingering deaths of starvation?

  • Richard P

    vegetarian:
    Old Indian word for poor hunter.

  • Dave

    I have not eaten meat (other than a few necessary occasions) in 17 years. I took my last bite of beef when I was 13. Chicken followed soon after. I don’t think I ever ate much fish back then, but I’ve since incorporated it into my diet.

    I don’t feel any obligation, morally, to avoid meat. I just don’t like the stuff. I do, however, enjoy the fact that, as a consumer, I’m not supporting the waste of resources and animal cruelty that results from mass cultivation of livestock on feed lots.

    To answer wall0654′s questions:

    1. What do you think of vegetarianism? Weird? Noble? Stupid?

    It’s certainly not weird or stupid. The nobility of a choosing a specific diet is debatable. Vegetarianism is a choice, like any other diet. If you have a legitimate reason to eliminate meat from your diet, do it. If not, don’t. It’s as simple as that.

    2. To the vegetarians, why are you a vegetarian? (Convince me to join you )

    Save money, live longer, get more vitamins and minerals, have more variety. I think it’s odd that you’re asking people to convince you one way or the other.

    3. To the meat eaters, why aren’t you a vegetarian? (Convince me to keep eating meat)

    I can’t participate in this one.

    4. Should any diet be “strict”? Should I avoid eating only vegetables and just look to increase the percentage of vegetables, but keep eating meat?

    You’ll only stick to a diet you enjoy. If you enjoy meat, as you seem to, keep eating it.

    My suggestion to you: Reduce the quantity and increase the quality of the meat you eat. Add fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (especially ancient ones like quinoa) to make up the caloric difference.

  • Jeff Purser

    I am an omnivore. My dentention was not formed by ethics. My incisors and eye teeth are for ripping and tearing flesh. I have no problem with that.

    Most vegans I know are hypocritical backsliders with holier than thou attitudes about the supposed “higher ground” of the path they’ve chosen. Life is too short and there is little or no solid evidence that a vegetarian diet, in and of itself, is healthier for the vast majority of human beings (or dogs or cats, either).

    Tom Paxton wrote a great song about the issue. Here it is:

    Don’t Slay That Potato
    By Tom Paxton

    How can you do it? It’s heartless, it’s cruel.
    It’s murder, cold-blooded, it’s gross.
    To slay a poor vegetable just for your stew
    Or to serve with some cheese sauce on toast.
    Have you no decency? Have you no shame?
    Have you no conscience, you cad,
    To rip that poor vegetable out of the earth
    Away from it’s poor mom and dad?

    CHORUS:
    Oh, no, don’t slay that potato!
    Let us be merciful, please.
    Don’t boil it or fry it, don’t even freeze-dry it.
    Don’t slice it or flake it.
    For God’s sake, don’t bake it!
    Don’t shed the poor blood
    Of this poor helpless spud.
    That’s the worst kind of thing you could do.
    Oh, no, don’t slay that potato
    What never done nothing to you!

    Why not try picking on something your size
    Instead of some carrot or bean?
    The peas are all trembling there in their pod
    Just because you’re so vicious and mean.
    How would you like to be grabbed by your hair
    And ruthlessly yanked from your bed
    And have done to you God knows what horrible things,
    To be eaten with full-fiber bread?

    (CHORUS)

    It’s no bed of roses, this vegetable life.
    You’re basically stuck in the mud.
    You don’t get around much. You don’t see the sights
    When you’re a carrot or celery or spud.
    You’re helpless when somebody’s flea-bitten dog
    Takes a notion to pause for relief.
    Then somebody picks you and cleans you and eats you
    And causes you nothing but grief.

    (CHORUS)

    There ought to be some way of saving our skins.
    They ought to be passing a law.
    Just show anybody a cute little lamb
    And they’ll all stand around and go “Aw!”
    Well, potatoes are ugly. Potatoes are plain.
    We’re wrinkled and lumpy to boot.
    But give me a break, kid. Do you mean to say
    That you’ll eat us because we’re not cute?

    (CHORUS)

    There is also a song by the Arrogant Worms, “Carrot Juice is Murder” which may well have been inspired by Paxton’s song.

    http://artists.letssingit.com/arrogant-worms-lyrics-carrot-juice-is-murder-sdnfw88

  • Bob H

    I have no problems with eating meat.

    For most of the million or so years our species has existed on Earth, we have been hunter-gatherers. Our ancestors hunted game and ate lots of meat. They also gathered whatever fruits, vegetables, nuts, and berries were in season. Being nomadic, they followed the sources of food and did not grow crops. Over time our ancestors became superbly adapted to this diet and lifestyle.

    The agricultural lifestyle came along about ten thousand years ago and spread around the world. In terms of genetics and our body’s ability to adapt to dietary change, this is a very short time. The archeological record shows that there was a sharp decline in stature and health that went along with the change to the agricultrual diet and lifestyle. Early hunter-gatherers were 4 to 6 inches taller than early farmers. The hunters had stronger bones, fewer cavities, and, barring accident, they lived longer. Hunter-gatherers were rarely obese and had low rates of autoimmune diseases like arthritis and diabetes.

    The ecological consequences of large scale agriculture are severe. Forests are burned or cut down to make room for crops. Topsoil is washed or blown away. Today fertilizers and insecticides are dumped on the land by the ton to improve “yield.” Runoff from the fields turns our rivers and bays toxic. The wild animals that once lived on the land are disappearing with nowhere left to go. About the only animals that aren’t threatened with extinction are the ones we raise for food.

    The “fertile crescent” was turned into desert by agriculture. An expanding bubble of ecological disaster has followed the birth of agriculture and “civilization” around the globe.

    For a vegetarian to claim the moral high ground is absurd. Like it or not, nature is all about the prey/predator relationship. It’s not evil or good, that’s just the way things are.

  • Luke

    The Reasonable Doubts podcast did an episode on vegetarianism and the environment as seen from non religious points of view.
    http://doubtreligion.blogspot.com/2009/06/episode-43-stewards-of-this-earth.html

  • http://www.jimloomis.deviantart.com Jimmy

    I like what people are posting on both sides, but must disagree with any notion of pity for an animal that is lower (naturally) on the food chain, and that raising animals to provide food is somehow inhumane.

    If you’ve ever driven a car, you’ve probably killed an animal or two with it. Those animals die a very slow and painful death, especially when compared to those that are killed for the purpose of food. I would rather see a deer shot for food than killed by a car and left to suffer and rot on the side of the road. Where I’m from, deer and other animals overpopulate and are more often killed by cars. Is this humane?? No.

    I wholeheartedly agree with Shane, that vegan/vegetarian or not, you still KILL animals.

  • Nick

    I recently decided to try an eat less meat because of the argument against causing unnecessary pain.

    Humans can function without meat. With some planning and a good understanding of nutrition, a person can get all of the goodness that comes with meat from vegetables and fruits.

    For a while, I accept the food chain argument, but humans have not been a part of the natural food chain for a long time. Farming and domestication of animals has put us into a different sort of system. Hunting is unnecessary. We can also make the choice not to eat meat. Our teeth are designed to handle both the tearing of flesh and the grinding of tough plants. So, instead of the assumption that we should because we can, I try to determine if other factors (like ethical reasons) should determine what I eat.

  • J. Allen

    Does a plant feel pain? Who am I to judge.

    We all feed on living things, it’s part of life.

    Shane has a great point. We exterminated the prairie dogs so we could plant more corn and soy beans.

    Raising cattle for slaughter seems more ethical than hunting a wild deer if you want to discuss our human footprint on nature, but the truth is we live at the expense of other creatures. When you have a child you could be dooming thousands of animals to die to feed that child, or at least produce goods for that child. And I still laugh at the easy ability to declare mammalia so much ‘better’ than plantae or fungi.

    I think ethical vegetarians are noble, but they are building sand castles and the tide is coming in. Each human takes his toll on the the other creatures around him to live, and that is the 500 pound gorilla in the room. There are no easy solutions, but discussing the matter is a good step.

  • Randy

    Bob H makes a great point. We are forcing land to perform in a manner it wasn’t designed for. A great deal of land used in plant agriculture was grassland/grazing land for thousands of years. Animal agriculture has done far less harm to the Midwest’s ecosystem than your local corn/soy bean farm. Small scale farms would be the best solution but considering the world’s population is it really feasible?

  • Kaylya

    We are omnivores.

    We sure as hell aren’t meant to be complete herbivores (i.e. vegan). We need vitamin B12 in particular from animal products (or through cultivating the right kind of bacteria in a lab for vegan supplements). We can be vegetarian, so long as there’s stuff like eggs and dairy involved.

    The environmental sustainability arguments and most of the animal treatment arguments can be achieved through eating less meat and preferably the more free range kind when you do. And if you view the mere act of killing an animal as a source of suffering, well, out in the wild there’s a hell of a lot of it.

    Suffice to say – there’s a bigger difference in sustainability between someone who eats 1lb of beef per week (the American average is actually a little over that..) and someone who eats 1lb per month than between the 1lb per month person and a total vegetarian.

    From the perspective of environmental sustainability, there’s pretty much always ways you could be “more” sustainable. I think it’s a good reason to cut back on meat, just like it’s a good reason to turn out lights you aren’t using, but it’s not really a good reason on it’s own to completely eliminate meat or not use electric lights at all.

  • Shawn

    I’m a meat eater because I’m a fat guy with little will power. Also, I’m okay with killing animals. I do have a problem with them having such a crappy quality of life, though. As such, my wife and I have lessened the amount of meat we eat to offset the increased cost of switching to more ethically raised animals.

    But don’t kid yourself, plants are people too:

    Carrot Juice is Murder (by the Arrogant Worms)

    Listen up brothers and sisters,
    come hear my desperate tale.
    I speak of our friends of nature,
    trapped in the dirt like a jail.

    Vegetables live in oppression,
    served on our tables each night.
    This killing of veggies is madness,
    I say we take up the fight.

    Salads are only for murderers,
    coleslaw’s a fascist regime.
    Don’t think that they don’t have feelings,
    just cause a radish can’t scream.

    Chorus:
    I’ve heard the screams of the vegetables (scream, scream, scream)
    Watching their skins being peeled (having their insides revealed)
    Grated and steamed with no mercy (burning off calories)
    How do you think that feels (bet it hurts really bad)
    Carrot juice constitutes murder (and that’s a real crime)
    Greenhouses prisons for slaves (let my vegetables go)
    It’s time to stop all this gardening (it’s dirty as hell)
    Let’s call a spade a spade (is a spade is a spade is a spade)

    I saw a man eating celery,
    so I beat him black and blue.
    If he ever touches a sprout again,
    I’ll bite him clean in two.

    I’m a political prisoner,
    trapped in a windowless cage.
    Cause I stopped the slaughter of turnips
    by killing five men in a rage

    I told the judge when he sentenced me,
    This is my finest hour,
    I’d kill those farmers again
    just to save one more cauliflower

    Chorus

    How low as people do we dare to stoop,
    Making young broccolis bleed in the soup?
    Untie your beans, uncage your tomatoes
    Let potted plants free, don’t mash that potato!

    I’ve heard the screams of the vegetables (scream, scream, scream)
    Watching their skins being peeled (fates in the stirfry are sealed)
    Grated and steamed with no mercy (you fat gormet slob)
    How do you think that feels? (leave them out in the field)
    Carrot juice constitutes murder (V8′s genocide)
    Greenhouses prisons for slaves (yes, your composts are graves)
    It’s time to stop all this gardening (take up macrame)
    Let’s call a spade a spade (is a spade, is a spade, is a spade, is a spade…..

  • Eric

    I am an omnivore. My dentention was not formed by ethics. My incisors and eye teeth are for ripping and tearing flesh. I have no problem with that.

    Like it or not, nature is all about the prey/predator relationship.

    Evolution is a stupid god to worship.

    And as for the whole “agriculture ruined life” thing, I value human life above animal or plant life. The agricultural revolution is one of the greatest achievements for preserving human life and health, and is therefore far more moral than the alternative.

  • skinman

    There’s probably no cow god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your hamburger.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    For me, not eating meat seems like an ethical thing to do (animals are living too, right?)

    I fail to make the connection between “animals are living” and “we should not eat animals,” considering that (despite Ken Ham’s protests to the contrary) plants are alive as well.

    In terms of health, the rule, as always, is: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

    This works well for me, too.

  • Kayla

    I have a pretty simple view about it : I am an omnivore. I was born an omnivore, I will die an omnivore. There’s no way I can change that without some science-fiction-y questionable experiments, which would likely result in me having two butts or something.

    While I love animals to a squeezable death, I’m alright with some suffering for my nourishment. If it wasn’t for mine, it would be for a coyote’s or a wolf’s or lion’s or what-have-you. At least I don’t eat them alive?

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    Ideally, I think I probably should be vegetarian. I do think it’s more ethically consistent than meat-eating. But I’ve tried it, for months at a time, and ultimately found it unsustainable. (Short explanation: I got hungry. My body just seems to want meat, at least sometimes.)

    Also, the same arguments I have for vegetarianism would apply equally well to veganism. (My main problem with meat isn’t that it’s bad to kill the animals: it’s that it’s bad to treat them cruelly… and animals raised for eggs and milk are treated just as cruelly as animals raised for meat.) And while it’s possible to be a vegetarian without too much disruption of one’s life (at least in California), veganism takes a massive level of commitment, a restructuring of one’s life and social connections, that I’m just not willing to make.

    So I compromise. I eat meat, but I don’t eat much… and as much as possible, I try to have all my animal products — meat, eggs, cheese, whatever — come from grass-fed or pasture-raised animals with a decent life.

    FYI: Vegetarianism isn’t actually more healthy than omnivorism. It’s certainly more healthy than the standard American diet with several large servings of meat a day; but there’s no evidence that a moderate amount of meat in a diet is bad for you.

  • dersk

    I really don’t get people who don’t know what to eat in a vegetarian diet. There are plenty of options, especially if you get away from the concept of a meal being a meat, a starch and a few veggies. We end up eating a lot of Asian stuff.

    Let’s see, discounting the two days we ate out this week: broccoli & cheese quiche with green beans, stir fried tofu / shrooms / veggies / noodles with ginger garlic sauce, paneer makhani, dal and rice, a big couscous salad, veggie Jamaican patties with rice and beans (that was the mother in law), etc., etc.

    If you’re curious, I use vegweb.com quite a bit – lots and lots of recipes, both vegan and vegetarian.

    @Richard P – please never use that joke again. Every single vegetarian has heard it at least four thousand times.

  • Nathan

    I tried vegetarianism several years ago. I gained a lot of weight (due to the vast increase in carbohydrates in my diet, more pasta, rice, bread, etc.), and I was much weaker (most likely due to lack of protein). As an avid powerlifter, I find it difficult to maintain a diet that allows me to get stronger, without getting fat in the process, without meat/animal products.

    I can surely understand the argument, “we have the capacity to lessen the suffering of other beings, so we should because we mostly agree that suffering is bad.” The problem I have with this argument is how do you define suffering? Physical suffering? If that is the case, most of the animals that are killed for food are killed relatively painlessly. I grew up in the country and have been to butcher shops, my family raised cows and pigs and chickens, and the methods of killing them are from my experience quick and painless. Nor do I think that the animals understand what “poor treatment” is. I do not think they should be abused, but does a chicken know that being in a cage is “bad,” while being in a pasture is “good?” I don’t think so, at least they don’t seem to exhibit any knowledge of the sort. They have a central nervous system so I assume they can feel pain, but I don’t think there is any evidence that shows they anticipate pain or death, so they feel no anticipatory distress.

    Whatever you want to do is cool.

    @ Nick – Humans can also function without plants (inuit societies in Alaska for example eat very few plants).

  • Randy

    And now be honest dersk, what supplements are you taking?

  • http://www.rekounas.org/blog rekounas

    I have no issue with eating meat. I don’t think I could ever become a vegetarian though. I mean chicken and beef are far to tasty to give up. If you get a schnitzel that is just right, there may not be anything better. Yeah, it sucks that animals have to die so that we can eat, but imagine if the world was vegetarian? Would we as a human race be able to support the entire world with rice, tomatoes, and potatoes? And then there are all those crappy soya based foods… simply gross! So,in the end, I eat meat cause it is tasty. I eat my fair share of veggies too and I often mix up the two, but I don’t think I could do one without the other.

  • Adele

    I hate these discussions on atheism blogs – people seem to shed all their rationality and fall into childish name calling and fallacious arguments. I’m vegan, and I can say from experience that most of the vegans and vegetarians that people are attacking are made of straw.

    The vegan diet was an easy choice for me because it significantly reduces your environmental footprint and carbon emissions, and because it fits into my sense of morality. Veganism is easy. It requires no restructuring of your life or social connections. Seriously. You just have to eat a variety of diverse and interesting foods.

    Ultimately, though, there’s no point being vegetarian unless you actually want to be. In which case it is better for everyone to eat less, but better quality meat. I would never try to badger someone into veganism, and I have the opposite experience to some people – I brace myself from the barrage of insults and ignorance from omnivores when I tell them I don’t eat meat. Live and let live, please!

  • http://theobligatescientist.blogspot.com ObSciGuy

    Omnivore here. My two cents: It’s all a matter of what personally feels like the right thing to do – kudos to wall0645 for actually thinking about it before rushing into things one way or the other!!

    For example

    For me, not eating meat seems like an ethical thing to do (animals are living too, right?)

    Could just as easily read as

    For me, not eating PLANTS seems like an ethical thing to do (PLANTS are living too, right?)

    Though pretty soon you run out of options ;)

    If you dislike death – sorry, it happens.

    If you dislike the inhumane treatment of livestock, not eating them DOES BASICALLY NOTHING TO PREVENT THE INHUMANE TREATMENT OF ANIMALS, unless everyone else does the same thing – this isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

    I eat meat knowing that it came from animals (I grew up hunting and fishing – probably a big factor here), and respecting that fact as much as I can.

    I view the passive (and what I consider a mostly self-serving) approach of just not purchasing meat as highly ineffective if not counter productive (in that it gives people a sense of having done something they haven’t really done).

    Instead, I try to actually DO SOMETHING to support the humane treatment of livestock when possible.

    A quick google search should turn up plenty of ways to do this… among them:

    http://www.americanhumane.org/protecting-animals/programs/farm-animals/

    http://www.certifiedhumane.org/

    but also consider ways in which you can work within your own community – that is, if humane treatment of animals is at issue for you.

  • TheLoneIguana

    So it looks like the trick is to attempt it gradually, rather than go… Cold Tofurky?

    Sorry.

  • http://westvirginiasalvation.worpress.com West Virginia Salvation

    Hemant,

    I have struggled with this same argument for many years. I am a western medicine provider. I have seen healthy and ill patients for many years, who are both Omivores and vegetarians. I think the key is moderation. You must achieve a healthful balance between caloric input and energy output. Over eating veggies and nuts is not any less harmful than a staple of saturated animal flesh.

    Lastly, find foods that are appealing and stick with them. If you think cows are mistreated, then avoid them. If you feel mega-agribusiness is raping the land, buy local produce that is grown eco-friendly. I feel that having a polarized approach to your quandry only complicates your life. Remember humans are designed as omnivores with a strong emphasis on appropriate calorie intake and vigorous frequent exercise. A very hard balance in out modern society!

    Peace,

    Anaot

  • Eric

    Can we just give up the “Plants are alive too” trope and make the charitable interpretation of what was said? Obviously we give animals more moral standing because they’re of a higher cognitive ability (able to feel pain, etc). Humans are morally worth more than a cat, a cat is morally worth more than a worm, and beyond that everything’s roughly the same. We can argue over where you place a cow or a chicken in the continuum, but it has nothing to do with being alive. Move along now to the worthwhile arguments.

  • Eric

    Remember humans are designed as omnivores with a strong emphasis on appropriate calorie intake and vigorous frequent exercise.

    Humans were not designed. They were cobbled together by millions of years of accidents. We are not optimal. If we were, our tastebuds would change depending on our environment, rather than leading us to the superstimulus of chocolate when we should be eating something healthier.

    The fact that we are capable of eating meat and did in the past (in an environment where our diet was extremely limited by availability) does not mean we should continue that in an environment where availability is basically a non-issue. Evolution made us what we are, it does not tell us what we should do.

  • http://imaginggeek.blogspot.com/ Bryan

    For me, not eating meat seems like an ethical thing to do (animals are living too, right?)

    Nearly everything we eat is derived from living organisms – plants are living (and respond to damage/”pain”), as are the yeast, bacteria and other microorganisms present in many of our foods.

    It’s certainly cheaper than eating meat. It’s healthier.

    While I’d agree with you that its cheaper, healthier is not as clear cut a case. Many of the studies which find benefits between veg and omni’s have the problem that they don’t take into account differences in the populations they are comparing. The few health studies that compared equivalent groups (i.e. same levels of exercise, similar fat/salt/sugar intake, similar caloric intake, etc) generally do not see differences between veg and omni’s.

    In contrast, there are some known health issues with veg, particularly among those who use soy and pulses as their primary protein source. The phytoestrogens in these plants can cause birth defects (in males), low sperm counts, and immunosuppression. The immunosuppression is so bad that in my lab (I do immunological research for a living) we ban vegies as control donors, as some have defects in their inflammatory immune response equivalent to those we see in mid-phase HIV disease.

    I think the “answer” is clear – we evolved as omniviours. Going too far in either direction – too much meat or too little – simply is not as healthy as an “evolutionary” balanced diet.

  • http://learninfreedom.org/ tokenadult

    Every human being alive today had human ancestors who ate hunted meat. Hunting and eating meat are part of the common heritage of Homo sapiens. Yeah, we don’t have to live just like Paleolithic humans in all other respects, but I’m okay with eating any foodstuff enjoyed by people somewhere that fits my own tastes.

  • Brian E

    I’m eating a delicious pastrami sandwich as I read this, so I’m getting a kick out of these replies.

  • Rhi

    Do you guys know how many wild animals had to die so your vegetables could be planted and harvested?

    Not eating meat doesn’t prevent animals from suffering and dying. Unless you grow every single thing you eat on your own property, you’re probably killing animals in order to survive yourself.

    Vegetarianism for reasons of preference (“I just don’t like the taste of meat”) doesn’t bother me. But doing it for ethical reasons seems masturbatory and useless to me.

    I completely agree with the poster who said getting involved in the humane & ethical treatment of livestock is the way to go. That would make 1 billion times more difference than turning up your nose at a burger.

  • Epistaxis

    For me, not eating meat seems like an ethical thing to do (animals are living too, right?)

    Plants and bacteria are alive, too, but what really matters is that they don’t experience pain.

    I don’t oppose medical/scientific research done on animals.

    Research labs are much, much, much more humane than factory farms and slaughterhouses, due to very tight regulation. It probably helps that they’re full of overeducated liberals rather than minimum-wage temporary employees. Either way, medical research saves a lot of human lives that couldn’t be saved by doing the same research on vegetables.

    I don’t eat eggs because they have a potential to be fertilized yet I would call myself pro-choice on the abortion issue.

    Or you could avoid eggs because they necessarily come out of a chicken, grown in captivity. In most parts of this country, their cages are so small that they can’t even extend their wings.

  • dave

    I’m eating vegan pad thai and spicy stir fried vegetables over rice from our cafeteria as i read this so i’m getting a kick outta these replies. :)

  • Meredith

    My answer isn’t pretty or political, but it’s my truth.

    I eat meat because I grew up eating it, and like it. I’m an athlete. My body craves protein, and I don’t want to have to work so hard to get it. I’m trying to conceive my first child, and I don’t want to flood my body with a bunch of weird soy-related estrogen, thanks. I will take the easier route. I will eat a chicken breast, instead. I’m an omnivore and I don’t need to feel ashamed about that.

    I find myself wanting less meat lately, especially less red meat.

    I do have a problem with industrial farming, both animal processing and plants. It’s just not a problem I’m willing to double my food bill over. If that makes me a hypocrite, so be it, but organic just costs too much. I do always buy organic milk, because it tastes better.

  • http://www.atheist-r-evolution.com Paper

    I’m sure you understand evolution, and without eating meat (and bone marrow) our brains would not have evolved to what they are now. Eating meat is natural and has been a part of our diet for millions of years, we too are only animals ourselves. You wouldn’t try to make baboons or chimps go vegetarian.

    Plants have a rudimentary nervous system, it’s been proven that they react when part of them is cut off or injured, so ethics is out of the question when you do right down to biology.

    Also there are 630 species of carnivorous plants and plus 300 protocarnivorous plant species. It is simply nature. We are not herbivores, we are omnivores.

    My family eats strictly organic meat, veggies and fruit. We have a rounded meal and are extremely healthy to show for it. We also do not eat beef-period. We substitute bison for our cow and we know the animal is treated humanely when the time comes. Our chickens are free-range. I don’t believe animals should be tortured or killed or treated inhumanely either.

    But then again people are more concerned with treating animals humanely then they are their neighbors.

  • http://3harpiesltd.org/ocb Judith Bandsma

    I have no problem with what other people eat. If you are a vegetarian and I invite you for dinner, I’m going to fix something you can eat and enjoy. I know your aren’t going to reciprocate though.

    And vegetarians are usually not quite as strident about their diets as vegans. Maybe I’ve just never met one who isn’t but every vegan I’ve ever come across has been pinch-faced and as moralizing as Jerry Falwell.

    Where I find the hypocrisy unbearable, though, is to call veggie patties “burgers”, soy extract “milk” or other edibles by names that would make you think you are eating meat but being oh so virtuous by making sure no animal actually produced it.

  • http://theobligatescientist.blogspot.com ObSciGuy

    Eric said:

    Obviously we give animals more moral standing because they’re of a higher cognitive ability (able to feel pain, etc). Humans are morally worth more than a cat, a cat is morally worth more than a worm, and beyond that everything’s roughly the same.

    This still just personal morality (hence the whole thing is up to the individual). Is it their ability to feel pain and/or their cognitive abilities that impart this moral worth you’re talking about? Would mentally defective livestock or livestock that (genetically or otherwise) didn’t feel pain be of less moral worth? It’s a slippery slope, that’s all I’m saying.

    As for

    Evolution made us what we are, it does not tell us what we should do.

    it DOES however mean that we are constrained to certain necessities. We need air, water, certain nutrients, certain ambient temperatures, etc. Veggi, carnivore or anything in between – we need to eat healthy diets which must include protein and other “nutrients” found in meat. If we can get them elsewhere, great. Still, this isn’t really a good argument against eating meat – just an argument that it isn’t necessary under the right circumstances.

    It’s true that

    The fact that we are capable of eating meat … does not mean we should continue that in an environment where availability is basically a non-issue.

    But this in no way implies that just being in “an environment where availability is basically a non-issue” somehow means we shouldn’t eat meat.

  • Reginald Selkirk
  • zoo

    I personally couldn’t hunt unless I somehow desperately needed to, but in many places it is vital that someone does some hunting. Here in Florida, with the fragmentation of the panther habitat and historically killing them out of fear, there aren’t nearly enough panthers (New Scientist reports the population may have been as low as 6 at one point and was about 100 in 2005) in the right places to keep the deer population in check. Either they follow a population explosion-starvation cycle or someone hunts them for management (and I suppose it’s probably both sometimes).

  • Jim

    I am not a vegetarian, but I feel bad for eating meat. I try to eat vegetables whenever the option is available, and to cut down on the amount of meat I eat. It’s hard, being raised to eat meat, to quit completely, but I hope someday I can.

    I also buy free-range (not just cage-free) eggs, because I think that every chicken deserves to have room to run around and enjoy life as much as they can.

    I still eat dairy, too, but I know that the cows are treated horribly.

  • Epistaxis

    Wow, comments here are usually so much more rational. Here are a few points I’ve seen that seem silly:

    Like it or not, nature is all about the prey/predator relationship. It’s not evil or good, that’s just the way things are.

    First of all, omnivore means omnivore, not carnivore. Unlike many species, humans have a choice of what they eat. Second, haven’t atheists heard of the Naturalistic Fallacy? If you think the “food chain” is the way things ought to be, make sure you never take antibiotics, because it’s the bacteria’s natural right to consume you.

    If you dislike the inhumane treatment of livestock, not eating them DOES BASICALLY NOTHING TO PREVENT THE INHUMANE TREATMENT OF ANIMALS, unless everyone else does the same thing

    If you dislike the president, voting for someone else DOES BASICALLY NOTHING TO GET SOMEONE ELSE ELECTED, unless everyone else does the same thing. Think globally, act locally, as they say.

    Not eating meat doesn’t prevent animals from suffering and dying. Unless you grow every single thing you eat on your own property, you’re probably killing animals in order to survive yourself.

    Not killing you doesn’t prevent other people from suffering or dying. Unless you personally save the life of every human on the planet, you’re probably neglecting someone else’s needs for your own selfish gain. So why bother doing anything for anyone unless you can do everything for everyone?

    Here’s one that makes a lot of sense to me:

    I eat meat because I enjoy meat.

    That’s perfectly reasonable. Life is a constant struggle between your own desires and your ability to help beings. Nobody is “for” inflicting pain on animals or wasting natural resources; some of us just have different priorities about the social problems we need to solve.

  • Woody Tanaka

    Anyone who says that eggs are a “chicken’s period” really, REALLY needs to take a bit of remedial biology and learn what menses actually is. Chicken eggs are just that – unfertilized eggs.

  • The Other Tom

    wall0645 writes:

    I am really big on the philosophy of “efficiency”, and fruits/vegetables require much less energy to grow than meat for the same amount of food. Also there is the problem of unnecessary suffering of animals.

    …but also…

    However, another part of me wants to eat meat.

    In other words, you’re thinking about becoming a vegetarian for strictly ideological reasons. Isn’t that precisely the sort of thing that we as atheists are opposed to?

    But let’s look at the arguments on their merits.

    This “efficiency” thing is basically BS. It essentially concludes that you can quantify your food intake entirely by calories, as if you’re a car. Newsflash: You are not a car. A car runs on fuel: you input a certain energy value in fuel, and it produces a corresponding energy value in work. A human does not run on fuel, a human runs on nourishment. You need some amount of calories of energy, yes, but you also need protein and fats and vitamins and minerals. The most EFFICIENT way to get everything you need is to include some meat in your diet, because meat concentrates some of the things that your body needs, that are good for you.

    You don’t have to choose to eat a lot of meat. I do, but I believe that the “right diet” varies from person to person. But, eating some meat on a regular basis – including a bit of fat (a little natural fat is good for you in moderation) – is generally healthy.

    Conversely, vegetarian food is not guaranteed to be healthful. A lot of vegetarians, discovering how difficult it is to eat a really balanced diet that is strictly vegetarian, fall into the trap of “oh, I’ll just have a high-carb, high-fat, low-nutritional-value meal just this once…” and “just this once” happens with practically every meal. Strictly vegetarian food that is balanced and tastes good can be a lot of work, and basically excludes all the convenience foods of our contemporary society. (SOME of which can be healthy, especially if used in moderation.) I have had friends who were vegetarian and who quit because they realized they were gaining weight and weren’t getting good nutrition.

    Then you bring up suffering. Most farm animals, to put it kindly, are dumb as bricks. I grew up in farm country, I know what I’m talking about. They’re pretty oblivious to their conditions as long as they’re fed, and trust me, they’re fed, so they’re fairly happy as such things go. They’re also slaughtered humanely, both because laws require it and because if the farmer slaughters one animal humanely, it won’t cause a fuss and make a lot of noise and scare the other animals and make them harder to slaughter.

    An exception is pigs. They’re very smart, and I feel guilty about eating them. I guess that’s my hypocrisy. You can choose to give up pork, and with it chinese food, if you want to.

    If you want to increase the percentage of vegetables in your diet, particularly green vegetables, please consider yourself to have my encouragement. I don’t think anybody disagrees that plenty of green vegetables is good for you. But you also have my encouragement to try them with a little butter, cheese, or hollandaise sauce.

    wall0645 also writes:

    My friends and family eat meat, and I don’t want to be the odd one who doesn’t.

    That’s a realistic thing to think about. Consider that many restaurants don’t have good vegetarian options… many don’t have ANY vegetarian options. When I have had vegetarian friends, I have frequently chosen not to invite them to join me for meals because I was going someplace I knew they wouldn’t be able to eat. Just as frequently, I invited them but they declined for the same reason. And even when they attended, often they didn’t have any real choices, leading to social awkwardness.

    I dumped a boyfriend because he was vegetarian and we were essentially unable to agree on anywhere to eat together on dates.

    Hemant writes:

    For me, not eating meat seems like an ethical thing to do (animals are living too, right?)…

    You think plants aren’t? A tree is as alive as a cat, it just doesn’t have a brain. (Neither does a lobster, by the way.)

    It doesn’t really faze me when someone around me eats meat and I don’t go into lectures about it. Maybe I should.

    Not if you want to have any friends.

    I don’t eat eggs because they have a potential to be fertilized yet I would call myself pro-choice on the abortion issue. (Is that fertilization thing true? That’s what I was taught as a child and it’s one of the things I never bothered to verify for myself.)

    I believe that in the US, supermarket eggs are generally not fertile, but I could be mistaken. I know that supermarket eggs are generally not fertile in most of the rest of the world, because they’re usually irradiated. Whether it was true or not in the time and place you learned it depends on where your family’s eggs came from.

    I’ve said it before, but I was raised as a vegetarian for religious reasons. When I left my faith, I kept the vegetarianism. … I never had to “transition” into it and I’m amazed when I hear about people who have made that switch.

    If you’ve always been vegetarian, you are eating a balanced diet, you don’t find it inconvenient or awkward, and you are healthy, good for you, that’s just fine, by all means go ahead and stick with it. But for any other cases, it seems pointless to cut all meat out of the diet.

    Hunting seems barbaric.

    Of course it’s barbaric: all food production is barbaric. It forces us to confront the fact that we are animals who consume other organisms for sustenance. But at least if you get your meat from farm animals, they’re almost certainly killed in a fast, humane manner, because that makes life easier for the farmer if nothing else.

    It’s certainly cheaper than eating meat.

    Nooo, I don’t think so. It’s certainly cheaper than eating expensive cuts of meat on a daily basis, but if you get your meat at a butcher (where prices are lower because there are fewer middle men) and/or choose cheaper cuts, eating meat can be very cost effective.

  • John

    Not eating meat doesn’t prevent animals from suffering and dying.

    It quite obviously prevents some of them from dying. It’s not like it’s all or nothing.

  • Raghu Mani

    I see so many points here that I disagree with that I thought I’d make a few points on some of them.

    1. “We evolved to be omnivores so vegetarianism is, in a sense, unnatural”

    True we are omnivores, but we evolved in hunter-gatherer societies. With the primitive hunting techniques that we have had for most of our existence on earth, the hunt was, quite often unsuccessful so people had to rely on what was gathered. This situation essentially means that we evolved eating a lot of vegetable that was supplemented every so often with meat. Hunter-gatherer societies today eat far less meat than the average meat-eater in a developed country. So, vegetarianism is certainly “unnatural” but then so is the typical meat-eater’s diet.

    2. “We have been farming so long that our previous evolution does not apply”

    Well the amount of time we have been farming is minuscule compared to the time we, as a species have existed on earth. So our current reliance on cultivation would not have affected us very much genetically. I am not saying that a hunter-gatherer-type diet is in any sense “optimal” for us (I am not qualified to make that statement) but if, indeed it is optimal, our short reliance on cultivation would not have changed its optimality in any way.

    3. “Plants are living too, so regardless, we are killing living things”

    Two responses. First, we have the quality of empathy and we tend to empathize with those that are most like us. Animals resemble us far more than plants do so, in a sense, it is more “natural” to empathize with animals rather than plants. Second, here’s one fact about Jainism – the religion that Hemant was born into. Jainism fully recognizes that plants are alive and in its strictest forms, forbids the eating of any kind of plant food that results in the killing of the plant. So, in essence, plucking an apple off the tree is OK but uprooting the plant to get at a potato is not.

    Raghu

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    While not a vegetarian, I do avoid eating meat most days. I’ll perhaps eat a meal with meat only a couple times a week. Personally, I rationalize things by looking in my mouth. I have 4 sharp teeth (for meat) and the rest are for fruits and vegetables (and grains). So I eat mainly non-meats and meat just every now and then. I’m “one” with my evolutionary past. Perhaps vegetarians are “better” than their evolutionary past ;).

  • Miko

    I became a lacto-ovo vegetarian about a year ago when I reached the conclusion that animals have many of the same natural rights that deontological libertarians argue that humans have. By my own logic, I should also be a vegan, but I haven’t quite managed that yet.

    @wall0645: I fall in the Aristotelian tradition of eudaimonism and as such would argue that I can’t tell you what goals you should have but only encourage you to better understand and strive for the goals that you do have (with the exception of those that I disagree with, which you would hopefully realize that you didn’t actually want when you better understood them). There is a moral argument for vegetarianism, but it’s worthless unless you already agree with my morals to begin with. Luckily, you’ve already acknowledged that “part of you” wants to be a vegetarian. But this doesn’t really make sense: unless you have multiple personalities, you either want it or you don’t (in simplified Aristotelian terms, it’s either an element of your eudaimonia or it isn’t). If you really want something, it’s irrational not to try to achieve it. Try to better understand your desire and goal; if abstract philosophy isn’t your cup of tea, why not try going semi-veg (under any of the many definitions of that term) and ask yourself if you’re more or less happy? If more, why not try going further?

    @Paul:
    So eating meat isn’t all that evil. And I figure I have canine teeth to rip and tear flesh as well as molars to grind plants. Why not eat both.

    “It’s okay to do X because I am physically capable of doing X” is a pretty lousy argument.

    @Epistaxis:
    If you dislike the president, voting for someone else DOES BASICALLY NOTHING TO GET SOMEONE ELSE ELECTED, unless everyone else does the same thing.

    This isn’t a valid response to the argument you were critiquing. If someone dislikes the president, why would you assume they’d be any happier if someone else were elected president? In the context of the original argument, you’re basically saying “if you object to the inhumane treatment of animals in the production of beef, try eating chicken instead.”

  • littlejohn

    @john: Not eating meat certainly doesn’t prevent some animals from dying. All animals die.
    In fact, most familiar livestock wouldn’t even exist if people didn’t like to eat them. Do you think we domesticated cattle for the hell of it?
    Also, while it’s popular to assert that a vegetarian diet is “healthier,” I am not aware of any actual studies to support that. Strict vegans are invariably anemic, since vitamin B12 can only be obtained from animal products.
    The fact that the overwhelming majority of humans crave meat is telling, I think. As is the considerable archeaoligical evidence that we are descended from hunters.
    As for not wanting to kill things, do you think vegetables aren’t alive?
    I will concede the ecological argument against industrial feedlots, what with the methane and manure runoff, not to mention antibiotic overuse. But it would be impractical for everyone to hunt what he eats.
    All told, eating more veggies and less meat seems like a good idea, at least for the good of the planet. But given our fondness for burgers and chops, I have little hope we’ll make that change.

  • dave

    Thanks Epistaxis for (finally) calling out some of the egregious fallacious arguments I’m surprised to see being touted somewhere where I’d hope to expect better.

    1. What do you think of vegetarianism? Weird? Noble? Stupid?
    Vegetarianism as commonly defined refers to lacto-ovo-vegetarianism which means a diet that is plant-based except for eggs and dairy. I consider this diet fallacious from all points regarding health, environment and ethics.

    You may have meant “veganism” and if that is the case then I do think it may well indeed be weird in our current culture. You’ll have to deal with it until acceptance become prevalent.

    It’s noble when you live your belief.

    It’s stupid if it’s done by a diet of french fries and soda.

    2. To the vegetarians, why are you a vegetarian? (Convince me to join you )
    I’m vegan because I can’t morally justify taking an animal’s life (human or non) especially when practical alternatives are available to me. Veganism is the moral baseline for which I’m compelled to live if I’m to stay consistent.

    3. To the meat eaters, why aren’t you a vegetarian? (Convince me to keep eating meat)
    Because sacred cows are one animal they refuse to slaughter.

    4. Should any diet be “strict”? Should I avoid eating only vegetables and just look to increase the percentage of vegetables, but keep eating meat?
    Yes. Strictly stay away from poisonous plants and inorganic matter. :D

  • ATL-Apostate

    If Jeebus didn’t want us to eat animals, how come he made them out of meat?

    Sorry guys. Couldn’t resist. I actually heard someone say that one time.

    peace.

  • Miko

    @The Other Tom: In other words, you’re thinking about becoming a vegetarian for strictly ideological reasons. Isn’t that precisely the sort of thing that we as atheists are opposed to?

    No. You mean “rationalists” more than “atheists,” but all the same, no.

    From wiktionary:

    ideology (plural ideologies)

    1. Doctrine, philosophy, body of beliefs or principles belonging to an individual or group.

    If we were opposed to doing something based on our having an individual belief that it was a good thing to do, then we’d all be pretty messed up.

  • Danielle

    Being a vegetarian definitely isn’t healthier – it’s just as easy to eat too many soy products or cheese and gain weight as it is to eat too much meat and gain weight. Plus there’s the issue with vitimin deficiency – it’s difficult to keep a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle up for an extended period of time without looking into these things. Their easily managable, but it’s not an automatic “oh I’m not eating meat, I’m healthy!”

    and @Judith Bandsma
    In response to saying “every vegan I’ve ever come across has been pinch-faced and as moralizing as Jerry Falwell.”
    I do know the type you mean, but I think those are the types who intentionally make it known they are vegan. It’s the people who don’t profess their veganism to every passerby that are given the bad wrap by the publicly condescending ones.
    I’m 99% vegan but I tend to tell people I’m a vegetarian just because I don’t want to be talked down to about it (which is almost always the case because people usually automatically assume I’m a PETA person). I do eat the occasional dairy product when going out to a restaurant though if there’s nothing I can order that doesn’t have something vegan in it. One meal isn’t going to make much of a difference and I don’t want to be a high maintenance person who won’t go to a restaurant with my friends just because I can’t eat vegan there.
    Plus, it gives me an excuse to eat cheese on rare occasions, which is just so delicious. haha.

  • http://www.atheistnexus.org/profile/StephanGoodwin Stephan Goodwin

    I have no problem with vegetarianism and there are many good reasons. But, Hemant, you used two arguments I really don’t like:

    1) Animals are living things too. Well, um, so are plants. When you eat an ear of corn you kill hundreds of potential corn plants. So, I’d guess you draw the line at kingdom, and only eat things outside kingdom Animalia. Beware, though, fungi are more closely related to animals than they are plants!

    2) Eggs. Eggs, once laid, can not be fertilized by any natural means. They are not alive in any meaningful way. Do you also not drink milk or eat cheese?

    With that being said, enjoy your vegetarianism, it is healthy and good for the environment. Myself, though, I will continue eating chickens because someone has to kill the bastards =P

  • Tizzle

    I became a vegetarian over 10 years ago. I did it because meat hurts my stomach. It would probably be okay if I ate free-range organic chicken, but that is too expensive for me right now. I did go back to fish a few years ago, when I moved from the midwest to the west coast. It works for me.

    Listen to your body, not the naysayers.

    Just to make a contrasting point to the hypothesis that vegetarians are self-righteous and preachy. I have NEVER told someone what to eat, and have never heard a vegan tell anyone what to eat (I’ve only known a couple, but they were hardcore..they had vegan tattooed on them). However, simply by ordering a veggie meal in a restaurant, I have been subjected to frequent condemnations of my lifestyle/health choices by meat eaters who choose to tell me all about protein, even though I’m the one that’s read up on it.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    It doesn’t really faze me when someone around me eats meat and I don’t go into lectures about it. Maybe I should.

    Do you like it when you’re preached at? Is that sanctimony I smell here? By all means, eat whatever the hell you want. Just keep your beliefs off’n my plate.

  • http://www.alexandremontagna.com Alexandre Montagna

    Vegetarianism is a reasonable way of eating. I myself see that the most people think about the nature, the most convinced they are that atheism and vegetarianism is the conclusion of that hole thinking. If someone claims to be a person of reason, I’m sure that this person will agree sooner or later that vegetarianism is our best way of nutrition.

    Pardon my english.
    A friendly-atheist-vegetarian hug from your friend from Brazil,
    Alexandre Montagna

  • Rhi

    @Tizzle, me too, and I’m not even vegetarian. I just don’t feel the need to have meat with every meal. But if I order a mushroom burger (because I like mushrooms, not because I hate meat) I get lectured. There’s definitely prejudice both ways.

  • http://mollishka.blogspot.com mollishka

    - Meat is delicious.
    - The animals you typically eat were raised to be eaten. Like it or not, we’ve genetically altered cows over the millennia so that they’re good at nothing else now than getting big and tasty.
    - Plants are living too! zomg.
    - Did I mention that meat is tasty?

  • Brg

    For the benefit of all the [vegetarian + religion] people out there:

    What the Bible says about Vegetarians (from the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible)

    Acts 10:9-13
    Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending upon him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.

    Romans 14:2
    For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.

    1 Timothy 4:1-3
    Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils … commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.

    Not that I need any religious prompting to eat a delicious steak.

    Brg

  • Amyable Atheist

    I’ve considered vegetarianism off & on for many years for the same ethical, health and environmental impact reasons mentioned above. However, I recently found out that I’m allergic to soy & that even though I have only extremely mild symptoms from a few specific soy products, my allergic response was causing mild weight gain & increasingly frequent & torturous migraines (resembling toxin, i.e. drug, withdrawal) when I’d accumulated enough of it and didn’t mainline soy sauce to maintain the level.

    I don’t mean to be crass about the drug analogy; it’s actually how things work.

    Back to the point though; eliminating soy protein from a normal American diet has been no easy task (go read the ingredient label on your bread, canned tuna, to name just a few-seriously), so while attempting soy-less vegetarianism wouldn’t be impossible, it would really complicate things and I prefer one project at a time!

    The point that I think is relevant to any eating lifestyle is that adjusting to this allergy has made me MUCH more aware of my diet – basically a food consciousness-raising, if you will, and I eat more healthfully in general as a result. I think that conscious eating is what’s most important for a healthful diet and lifestyle, which is why health cannot be directly attributed to any one/many dietary restrictions.

    Learning to listen to your body to really understand hunger, thirst, satiety and yes, stealth allergies, and being in control of your eating is the true key to health, whatever the food happens to consist of.

  • Aj

    Hemant Mehta,

    (animals are living too, right?)

    So are plants too, right?

    It’s healthier.

    No its not.

  • CaptSasquatch

    I have been a vegetarian for a few years. However, I have no input on the morality debate. There is a lot of information/misinformation out there, and it can be overwhelming.

    I believe you should do want you want, regarding this subject. My wife and I bought “Being Vegetarian for Dummies”, and it was very helpful. It gave us insights on many of the common myths of being vegetarian, i.e. where do you get your protein, b12.., but was also very encouraging and promoted taking your time and making informed decisions.

    As far as protein goes, beans are one of the best sources of protein and fiber, and they are extremely diverse and great meat substitutes.

    Anyway, to each their own. I suggest reading a lot of the information out there, don’t rush into anything and don’t feel bad about the decision/conclusion that you make.

  • Caitlin

    My position (as a vegetarian) is that eating is a choice that everyone makes. You eat what you feel is healthiest for you and for the world–if that means soy or steak, right on, so long as you are being aware of what you’re choosing. In that vein, if you’re trying to transition into being vegetarian, just start altering your choices. Look on the web or in books for recipes and ideas, talk to friends, keep your eyes out for meatless alternatives. And if the day comes when you really want some ribs? Go for it! Your life should never be so strict that you can’t change it.

  • RPJ

    Most of the rational arguments for eating meat have already been stated (“livestock is raised to be eaten and would die in the wild” etc). For me, it mostly boils down to that I like meat and want to eat it. It’s not a rational reason, but emotional and personal preferences are rarely rational and at best, are justified rationally post hoc.

    “Add to this that fruits and vegetables are very good for you.”

    Nutrition isn’t a sliding linear scale…if you eat the thing at the “top” exclusively you’ll still die of malnutrition. F+v are a necessary part of diet, but you can’t subsist entirely on salads and peaches.

  • http://thenaturalbuddhist.blogspot.com JohnFrost

    80+ comments and counting, wow! I don’t think anything stirs atheists up more than debates on vegetarianism–not even the age old “what do we call ourselves?” argument.

    There’s no way I’m going to read all the comments and get mired in this debate, but I did read Peregrine’s comment and feel it needs repeating ^___^

    Take it easy, do what comes naturally, and try not to judge yourself if you don’t make it. Its a dramatic dietary change, not an XBox achievement.

  • Jessa

    Bob H,

    I’m not really sure where you’re going with this. It seems as if part of your message is saying that growing crops for food is bad for our environment, and although part of that is true, what you don’t realize is that most of those crops are grown to feed livestock.

    The article “Environmental vegetarianism” from wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_vegetarianism) has lots of interseting facts including these:

    “According to a 2006 United Nations initiative, the livestock industry is one of the largest contributors to environmental degradation worldwide, and modern practices of raising animals for food contributes on a “massive scale” to deforestation[2], air and water pollution, land degradation, loss of topsoil, climate change[3], the overuse of resources including oil and water, and loss of biodiversity.”

    “Cornell scientists have advised that the U.S. could feed 800 million people with grain that livestock eat”

    “To produce 1 pound of feedlot beef requires about 2,400 gallons of water and 7 pounds of grain”

    Of course, you’ll also notice at the bottom of that article that it is not just the production of meat that is destroying our land but our agriculture business as a whole that needs to make a greener change.

    I have been a vegetarian for quite a few years now and the argument I seem to get the most is “man was made to eat meat, we are hunters and just like all other hunters it’s natural for us to eat meat”. What these people don’t realize, is that yes, it may be natural to hunt and eat meat (I agree we are part of a food chain) but there is nothing natural about factory farms and the way they raise animals for food. All you need to do is read about the conditions that these feed animals live in (or better yet watch a video) and just see how they are treated, and see how they are slaughtered. There is nothing good about the way they live, and even the most carnivorous person would feel a little guilt from that.

    My boyfriend eats meat, and I don’t mind too much, he knows what the animals go through and he does feel guilty when I bring it up, but he says “I like meat to much to give it up”. And you know what, at least he is being honest. Don’t tell me that you eat meat because you’re a “man” and that’s what “men” do. Tell me you eat meat because you like it, or because you don’t want to be ostracized by your friends, or you’re just too lazy to find other substitutes.

    I by no means feel I am better than anyone else simply because I am a vegetarian, I just wish people could come up with more valid arguments for meat eating (or at the very least honest ones).

    Sorry, I went off on a rant. The main thing I would say if you are considering vegetarianism is GREAT! Even if you don’t go 100% veg, just the fact that you are thinking about it is better than nothing. I would start by cutting down on the meat you eat when you are out, and by limiting the meat you buy for home to free range local farm meat. After that you might just realize that you don’t really need meat at all (taste buds do adjust). Also, don’t forget about the “fake meats” out there. They are completely vegetarian and some of them have a fairly realistic meat taste/texture.

    My meals this week have consisted of:

    Breakfast:
    Mostly cereal (high protein, high fiber)

    Cherry bread french toast (we occasionally have fake meat sausage and eggs with this for protein)

    Lunch is usually pretty easy, PB&J is my favorite and the PB provides a lot of protein. Subs are another favorite of mine. And today I had tofu salad (like egg salad but less smelly, again high protein).

    Dinners are my favorite:
    Mexican casserole with corn, shredded fake chicken, cheese, and pasta.

    Pizza

    Pasta

    Hot dogs or brats (all vegetarian and easy to find around here)

    Chicken sandwiches

    Cheeseburgers

    Fried rice

    The list goes on and on and does not include salad because I hate salads. The main thing though is that you get enough protein and fiber so that you’re not starving all day.

    Good luck!
    -Jessa

    A good factory farm video (there are 5 clips I believe):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yuSSf8oSDtw

    That UN article everyone is quoting:
    http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000448/index.html

  • http://www.jewelisms.com Jewel

    I was ovo-lacto vegetarian for about 6 or 7 years, in my 20′s, and then I started eating poultry again, but stayed away from red meat for another 10. I can’t say it was healthier. Potentially, maybe, but not as a given. I know my eating habits this last 5 years being an omnivore are far healthier than at any time while I was vegetarian. I get more variety in my proteins and I enjoy food more.

    I wasn’t vegetarian for any kind of ethical reason – I decided to go without meat for a week to see if I could do it and then just kept going.

    I still cook some of the vegetarian dishes I enjoyed back then along with non vegetarian dishes and I find that I really like the variety I get.

  • Indigo

    The problem I have with so many vegetarians/vegans is the same problem I have with a lot of nutritional woo. There is a tendency for them to take something mainstream dietitians have said, like “most people in the West eat too much meat”, and turn that into something totally ridiculous, like “meat is poison to human beings”. (I had a disturbing argument recently with someone who insisted that she had managed to cut sodium out of her diet completely. If she had, she would be dead.)
    I try not to eat meat every day, to prepare it myself in healthy ways, and obtain it from sustainable and ethical sources whenever possible.

  • TheDeadEye

    Sorry Hemant, but vegetarianism is woo. :(

  • Sandra

    I’m vegetarian, no meats or eggs. I will have cheese, but prefer soy milk…that’s just my personal taste.

    I think that the choice to eat meat, or not should be up to the individual… I used to cook meat for my son until he made the choice to quit eating animals too.

    Should you choose to quit eating meat, your family and friends may not be supportive… thinking it’s just a fad or something. As long as you aren’t trying to force your views upon them then you won’t give them a reason to react badly. Let them know that if they want you to be respectful of their choices then they need to act in kind.

    I have to agree with you Hemant about vegetarians smelling better… unless the vegetarian eats tons of onions and garlic…those ‘scents’ have a tendency to escape the skin. ;)

  • patientia

    1. What do you think of vegetarianism? Weird? Noble? Stupid?

    Normal.

    2. To the vegetarians, why are you a vegetarian? (Convince me to join you )

    I tried to become a vegetarian in 1999. for health reasons, I didn’t give a damn about animals back then, and I had no willpower to go veg. I managed to go veg 3 years later mainly for ethical reasons (and also health, environment, world famine, and disgust I felt when chewing on somebody’s muscles, tendons, cartilage…).

    4. Should any diet be “strict”? Should I avoid eating only vegetables and just look to increase the percentage of vegetables, but keep eating meat?

    Depending on the amount of meat you consume, you might want to reduce it first, then eliminate mammals, then eliminate birds, then fish. (And if you wish to become a vegan, you would probably eliminate eggs first, then dairy products and last honey.) It’s like quitting smoking, some people quit immediately and some decrease the number of cigarettes they smoke in a day (and some never stop smoking because they “like it”).

    Vegetarians don’t eat only vegetables, they also eat fruit, cereals (and pseudocereals), legumes, nuts and seeds, seaweeds, and most vegetarians eat eggs and dairy products, too.

    There are many great resources around the net, both about nutrition and animal rights, just don’t forget to think critically.

  • CybrgnX

    Lets piss some one off….
    Vegetarianism if hypocritical BS!!!
    ‘Vegan because aninimals are alive too’ is silly, veggies are alive too!!!! and I’ve seen many that were ripped from their homes and butchered for the pleasure to be in some human butcher’s stomach!!!
    The only difference is you can’t hear their screams. I draw the line at human, primarily cuz they taste bad; vegans draw the line at animals, cuz they can’t hear the veggies scream.

    any Vegan practicing over a few years is a lier! Where do they get their B-12??? it is only available from animal sources. Ya I know modified bovine sweat, the menstral discharge of dinosaur decentants, are sources that do not ‘kill’ anything but it is still animal.

    The only true ‘moral’ eater are certain types of mushrooms as they only eat dead matter.

  • Sanity

    1. What do you think of vegetarianism? Weird? Noble? Stupid?

    I think it’s normal.

    2. To the vegetarians, why are you a vegetarian? (Convince me to join you )

    Mostly because of the abovementioned efficiency reasons. The same reason why I don’t buy organic/biological/green food, it’s just not efficient. Why should you be? Frankly, I don’t really care about what you eat, but my diet is more energy and farmland efficient. It’s cheaper to ;)

    4. Should any diet be “strict”? Should I avoid eating only vegetables and just look to increase the percentage of vegetables, but keep eating meat?

    You could do what I do. I call myself a convenience vegetarian. That basically means I never buy meat myself, but I never make much of a problem out of it if someone else serves it to me.

  • http://www.dandelionpicker.wordpress.com Jenni

    I can’t convince you to “join” me, but I am a vegetarian and I’d be happy to tell you my reasons.

    1. I was on the PETA website one too many times. I just can’t watch / think about animals being treated like that just to feed me.

    2. No one will ever convince me that animals were put here to feed us. I just don’t buy it. They’re living beings. They should be treated with a little compassion.

    3. I don’t eat eggs, poultry, or milk (I know some vegetarians that do). Someone once explained how eating eggs was basically eating a hen’s menstrual cycle. That did it for me…no more eggs. And it just doesn’t make sense to me why humans would drink a cow’s milk. That milk was produced specifically for the reason of feeding it’s young. Why would I need it?

    4. I think you have to make your diet as “strict” as you prefer. No one else can make that decision for you.

    5. The best advice I ever got about being a vegetarian (and you will get plenty of shit for being one) was…”just because you can’t do everything, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do something”. So when I see things I would like to change about my diet (or clothing/leather usage) I try to remember that, do the best I can, and try to do better.

    6. Don’t fight with the meat eaters. Its your personal choice not to eat meat and they won’t understand.

    7. Try it, you might like it. Start off by slowly eliminating bacon, then pork, then maybe milk. Its much easier than doing it all at once and not as much of a shock.

    8. The PETA website has a lot of good information, links, etc. And they have a free DVD called “Meet Your Meat” that you should check out. (Now, I admit the PETA people are a little crazy sometimes, but their heart is in the right place, so I do love what they’re trying to do).

    Good luck. I hope you find the answers you’re looking for.

  • julia

    i have been a pescatarian for about 4 years now. i started out originally as a vegetarian, but then i decided that i didn’t mind eating dead fish, and they’re a healthy way to get protein. unfortunately, the way i got into vegetarianism was because i thought it was “cool” (i was 13 at the time) but now i choose to be pescatarian because of the health benefits. and, i agree with “I am really big on the philosophy of “efficiency”, and fruits/vegetables require much less energy to grow than meat for the same amount of food.” and really, i just think that eating a cow carcass is kinda icky. i consider myself not to be a “holier-than-thou” vegetarian because, well, i’m not angered by others who eat meat. i will admit it is tasty. i just think that it’s everyone’s choice on what they wanna put in their mouths, and the whole “anti-vegetarian” and “anti-meat-eating” stuff is silly. just respect other people’s choices!
    PS: PETA is definitely a “holier-than-thou” organization, and i don’t have much respect for them…

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    I cannot fathom why people support PETA, a group that compares factory farms to the Holocaust.

    (Betcha didn’t know they euthanize pets…)

  • Christopher Borra

    I think its noble of you to change. Especially if one of your reasons is due to animal suffering. I wish we can gas-out the animals I eat. However, if there was a way to make meat without an animal, (kind of like a Star Trek device) and there was no suffering of any kind and they made it much healthier to eat. Would you eat meat again?

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    Woody Tanaka said:

    Anyone who says that eggs are a “chicken’s period” really, REALLY needs to take a bit of remedial biology and learn what menses actually is. Chicken eggs are just that – unfertilized eggs.

    … OK, two things.

    1. If they’re unfertilized eggs, they are PART of the chicken’s menses (or whatever it has). That’s… part of the whole package deal.

    2. … Do chickens even expel unfertilized eggs?

  • EC Schmidt

    I stopped eating meat (except fish)about nine months ago, for the standard moral/ethical reasons. I had thought for a while prior to that that I couldn’t really justify eating meat (basically Dawkins’s current position: he can’t justify it, but he does it anyway), but for some reason, Peter Singer’s interview on Point of Inquiry pushed me over the edge.

    I don’t know what to say about the morality of eating meat. On the one hand, if I didn’t think it was a moral issue, I wouldn’t bother with vegetarianism/pescetarianism (I’m a picky eater already). But I also recognize that my personal experiences and constitution determine, to a large extent, my moral imperatives. I believe that, at some point in the distant future, it will seem strange to humans that we used to eat meat, but I don’t think we should legislate or shame (at least actively) to hurry this process along. And I could be totally wrong about that.

    I’m still a hypocrite, to be sure. I buy leather shoes and eat dairy, but like I said, I’m a picky eater, and I don’t have the time or inclination to obsess over all my food choices. I’m just doing the best that’s reasonable for me to do, according to my personal moral sense and the lifestyle I want for myself.

    I do find the intent to offend with jokey callousness really obnoxious. Frankly, other than in the debate about eating meat, I only see that childish device used by my fundamentalist ex-brethren, who relish being an offense to “the world”. Honestly, grow up, and at least respect reasoned opinions, even if you disagree with them.

  • Alex

    I was brought up ovo-lacto vegetarian, because my mother disliked handling (raw) meat. I still eat vegetarian (mostly). I live with two other vegetarians, but I stopped giving a label to my diet a long while ago. I eat almost anything put in front of me. Food is food and I will eat it. I see no reason to get all worked up about what somebody eats. There so many good vegetarian dishes out there. If you want some good ideas for vegetarian dishes take a look at the Moosewood cookbooks and cookbooks by Deborah Madison, they have excellent recipes in there.

  • AxeGrrl

    I’ll say one thing….in my experience, vegetarians and atheists sometimes garner very similar reactions from people (ie offence, anger), for merely existing!

    I was a pretty strict vegetarian for about a decade (I eat some meat now) and I was flabbergasted on a couple of occasions when strangers ‘took me to task’ for being a vegetarian……when I didn’t say a WORD to them! (not only was I never ‘preachy’, but I barely even mentioned it to people) At my friend’s wedding, her cousin noticed that I had ordered a vegetarian meal and at that, he began giving me the 3rd degree: ‘so, you don’t eat meat eh? well, what are you shoes made of? what are your coats made of?’

    This was a person I didn’t know from a hole in the ground (and vice versa). Just the mere knowledge of me being a vegetarian was enough for him to (apparently) feel ‘justified’ in attacking me for what he already assumed to be hypocrisy. Amazing.

  • Kelly

    Don’t tell me that you eat meat because you’re a “man” and that’s what “men” do. Tell me you eat meat because you like it, or because you don’t want to be ostracized by your friends, or you’re just too lazy to find other substitutes.

    Well, I’m not a man, but I do eat meat. I like meat.

    More importantly, my body requires that I eat meat in order for my body to run efficiently.

    No moral basis or agenda plays a role in my decision to eat meat. I eat what I need to keep my body happy. Some folks bodies can run quite efficiently with very little or no animal products. Others find that consuming animal products is absolutely necessary in order to stay healthy.

  • Aljo

    The efficiency argument isn’t exactly true. Yes, plants have more energy per weight than animals because they’re closer to the energy source. But, humans can’t survive off just any plants. There is A LOT of land that cannot support plants that are edible to humans. If all humans were vegetarian (especially non-GE/organic plants only) we simply wouldn’t have enough land to feed the human race, and other species would die off in our attempt, too. On the other hand, humans can eat almost any meat. By eating animals that can survive off plants that we can’t, we use land that would otherwise be unusable to us to feed ourselves.

    Also, saying eating meat or eating vegetables is “healthier” is misleading. Most people probably need both meat and vegetables to be as healthy as possible, but there hasn’t ever been a statistical correlation found between any specific diet and lifespan. It’s just too complicated and too long-term to get a comprehensive study done. There are specific benefits that have been proven for both in the short term, though. For example, vegetarians tend to miscarry more often and meat eaters tend to get fatter. The pros and cons probably cancel out overall.

    In the end, a blanket statement of what’s more efficient/healthier/&c for all of our species, or for every ecosystem in our world, will be wrong. A more efficient farming method near a rainforest won’t even produce crops near a desert. A food with higher than average vitamin C will be less efficient to someone whose ancestors adapted to lower levels of it, and more efficient to someone whose ancestors did the opposite.

    On the other hand, I’m annoyed by people who say they can’t eat meat after seeing how the animals are treated. The animals are being raised to be efficiently KILLED AND EATEN. Did you expect it to be pretty? Also, the “it’s not natural” crap. Natural is dying when you’re thirty, after a life of pain and malnutrition. Nature is disease and death in a much more brutal way than eating meat is. Nature is actively trying to kill you all the time.

    Essentially, you’re not arguing about actual moral factors, but aesthetics. Case in point: eggs come out of a chicken’s vagina. That really says nothing about how clean, humane, healthy, efficient, or moral it is, but it’s a big reason why a lot of people won’t eat them. Farming carrots looks better than chickens on a conveyor belt. Hunting foxes on horseback looks better than cows in a smelly barn. But that says nothing about which is actually better for the animals, the environment, or for us.

  • http://notinthepink.blogspot.com Ceri

    I’m kind of similar in the sense that I don’t think I’m ‘better’ than people just because I’m a vegetarian and they eat meat. I always say to my partner that if he wants to eat meat, at least get it from an organic source – not from a ready meal that’s full of crap and artificial junk.

  • Ubi Dubium

    I just want to say how pleased I am with the general tone of the discussion here. When presented with an interesing topic, most of the commenters have talked about their reasons for whether they are vegetarian or meatitarian, or whatever. Almost everybody has worked it out for themselves, instead of just doing what they are told. There’s no one right answer, and very few people are trying to impose their point of view on anybody else.

    Wouldn’t it be lovely if all discussions of religion could be this well-reasoned and civil?

    And, I can’t resist ending with an excerpt from a Pastafarian “prayer”:
    …and lead us not into vegetarianism, but deliver us some pizza…

  • weaves

    3. To the meat eaters, why aren’t you a vegetarian? (Convince me to keep eating meat)

    Well, firstly I am *very* anaemic and I get a whole lot more iron from a pound of meat compared to a pound of spinach (cheaper too). So it’s really a matter of health for me, although I tend to only have meat 2 or 3 times a week (to my doctor’s annoyance).

    Secondly, I enjoy the taste of meat and as long as the animals I am eating were raised and killed humanely (to the thankfully strict aussie rules on this) I see no problem eating cow, lamb, kangaroo, rabbit, cat etc.
    Cat tastes bad though.

    However, I don’t eat fish because fish are killed in horrible, inhumane, environmentally destructive ways…both in australia and elsewhere. They’re not fished sustainable and I don’t like the taste

    When it comes to my view of vegetarians, I really don’t care that they are, or why they are…at least, until they start calling me names/saying I’m a bad person for eating X, preaching…(thankfully only experienced this online. Veggies IRL = cool)

  • Aj

    Jenni,

    Someone once explained how eating eggs was basically eating a hen’s menstrual cycle. That did it for me…

    Lets hope no one explains to you what fruit are.

    And it just doesn’t make sense to me why humans would drink a cow’s milk. That milk was produced specifically for the reason of feeding it’s young. Why would I need it?

    Cows only exist for milk and meat, the species was created by us, and it wouldn’t survive without us. The reason that milk is produced by dairy cows is to feed us, mammals may have evolved milk to feed their young, but we evolved artificial selection and dairy farms to feed ourselves.

    Milk is a source of vitamin B12 for vegetarians. It’s tasty and is a source of calcium and fat, also it’s used to produce many other delicious products like butter, cheese, cream, and yoghurt.

  • dave

    EC Schmidt, your rational response to the issue of animals is refreshing to hear about when most will shove it under a heavy mat of cognitive dissonance. Frankly I wish there were more people like you and less of the zealotry.

  • AxeGrrl

    Aj wrote:

    Milk is a source of vitamin B12 for vegetarians. It’s tasty and is a source of calcium and fat, also it’s used to produce many other delicious products like butter, cheese, cream, and yoghurt.

    What I think is hysterical is the fact that we’ve become conditioned to find drinking the milk of a different species acceptable or even pleasing…..and yet, when faced with the concept of adult humans drinking human milk, many react with shock and disgust! :)

    I can imagine aliens watching us and thinking: “they certainly are an odd lot”

  • http://erkkila.org epe

    > 2. … Do chickens even expel unfertilized eggs?

    Yes. You do not need a rooster around in order for hens to lay (unfertilized) eggs. We’ve been without a rooster for months and the hens’ output has not diminished significantly.

  • Q-Squared

    Well, first of all, I rather like meat. I tried to be vegetarian last year due to some research on it, but it failed after my family forced me to quit. Now, however, I’m remaining an omnivore because I want too. I am not ashamed of my choices in diet (I cook everything I eat myself unless I’m busy as hell).

    1. What do you think of vegetarianism? Weird? Noble? Stupid?

    It’s a lifestyle choice- one I no longer want to have, but I won’t slap a person’s veggie burger out of their hands- as long as they don’t start giving me a lecture about how I’m evil for liking meat. I’d be fine with my family adopting it, my friends adopting it- I’d even cook them all vegan cookies and chocolate cake for their birthday if they were passionate about being vegan. So- it’s a lifestyle choice. I don’t care what you eat, as long as you don’t shove your opinions down my throat.

    2. To the vegetarians, why are you a vegetarian? (Convince me to join you )

    Not a vegetarian, but when I WAS a vegetarian I did it for intrigue and a bit of research.

    3. To the meat eaters, why aren’t you a vegetarian? (Convince me to keep eating meat)

    …I’m not a vegetarian because I like meat? You have to be 110% on being a vegetarian, and if you don’t have the willpower to hold off when you REALLY want meat, then don’t do it.

    4. Should any diet be “strict”? Should I avoid eating only vegetables and just look to increase the percentage of vegetables, but keep eating meat?

    Have it strict, but not so strict to where you feel like you’re in a cage. I’d mainly go exploring for what you like to eat. I found a ton of vegetables that I loved, and I’ve started eating more vegetables than meat because there are so many more wonderful ways to cook such a diverse group as vegetables.

    Eh- hope this helps slightly.

  • Jilleann

    For all the vegetarians out there who have pets… how do you feel about feeding your cats and your dogs meat every day? Cats especially need meat to survive.

    We are never going to get rid of our dependency on animals as a food source.

    Animal cruelty is a horrible thing. But there are so many things that we use all the time that depend on our use of animals that we can’t just stop.

    What we need is for people to be aware of how the animals were treated before they died and buy the products from companies and people that treated them humanly and with respect.

    I come from a part of the world where most of the meat I eat was free range when it was alive. I don’t think twice about the steak on my barbecue, and my cat (who is pampered and treated like the king he is) loves the scraps.

    A cat has got to eat too.

  • ZombieGirl

    I am borderline underweight. It doesn’t matter if I eat fatty Italian food all week, I’ll still be around the same weight. I’m also not willing to compromise my health (by eating fast food) to gain weight.

    I’m afraid if I went vegetarian I would become underweight. I also happen to be a picky eater (who hates most fruit. How freakin lame is that? Hahaha. I wish I liked fruit.)

  • ChameleonDave

    I don’t eat eggs because they have a potential to be fertilized yet I would call myself pro-choice on the abortion issue.

    Strange reason not to eat eggs. The sensible reason is that battery-chicken farming is cruel, and is part of the meat industry.

    I’m a pescetarian

    Stupid made-up word.

    I do not think they should be abused, but does a chicken know that being in a cage is “bad,” while being in a pasture is “good?”

    Asking such silly questions is a clear sign of trying to kid oneself that horrific suffering is OK.

  • ChameleonDave

    If you’ve ever driven a car, you’ve probably killed an animal or two with it. Those animals die a very slow and painful death, especially when compared to those that are killed for the purpose of food. I would rather see a deer shot for food than killed by a car and left to suffer and rot on the side of the road. Where I’m from, deer and other animals overpopulate and are more often killed by cars. Is this humane?? No.

    I wholeheartedly agree with Shane, that vegan/vegetarian or not, you still KILL animals.

    Whilst it’s great to consider every possible repercussion of one’s actions, the fact is that this point is never raised in this manner by anyone who isn’t trying to justify atrocities.

    Every action has unforeseen consequences. No doubt my finding a job will deprive another person of a job, and that person could well despair and kill himself. Should I therefore not refrain from butchering human beings on the basis that ‘murderer or not, you still KILL people’?

    No. You ought to minimise suffering. And it is perfectly sensible to say that you don’t kill X if you do everything practical to avoid the death of X.

  • Ven Erable

    Homo sapiens is an omnivore. We need the essential amino acids in meat as well as vegetables. It is our biological heritage.

  • Aj

    ZombieGirl,

    I am borderline underweight. It doesn’t matter if I eat fatty Italian food all week, I’ll still be around the same weight. I’m also not willing to compromise my health (by eating fast food) to gain weight.

    I’m afraid if I went vegetarian I would become underweight. I also happen to be a picky eater (who hates most fruit. How freakin lame is that? Hahaha. I wish I liked fruit.)

    I’m not a doctor. If you’re going by the Body Mass Index (BMI) then that can be inaccurate. Some people find it very hard to gain weight because their body and lifestyle burn calories at higher rates than normal people. To gain weight these people really have to abuse themselves, do virtually no exercise, eat lots of calorie rich foods (chocolate and milk). Therefore that you can’t gain weight doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily lose weight if you switch to a vegetarian diet.

  • http://jonathan-keith.com Jon

    @Luther

    One more thing we often are slammed as Atheist, Socialist, Latte Drinking, Vegetarians.

    I don’t know about lattes but all the rest are linked by being quite rational. I take this association as a complement.

    I can’t think of four things that are much more irrational. Get a grip!

  • http://jonathan-keith.com Jon

    It quite obviously prevents some of them from dying. It’s not like it’s all or nothing.

    Not really. For every one you don’t eat — I eat three. Therefore, your failure to eat them kills more of them.

    oh snap.

  • AxeGrrl

    Jon wrote:

    For every one you don’t eat — I eat three.

    I dare you to maintain that ratio for each and every vegetarian out there :)

    You could document your quest on film and call it ‘Super Size Me 2′!

  • http://jonathan-keith.com Jon

    I dare you to maintain that ratio for each and every vegetarian out there.

    I will try. It shouldn’t be too hard, because I have help, as Hemant pointed out in his original posting.

    But I will have to call it Super Size Me 3000, since that’s how much weight I will gain.

  • wall0645

    Hey all! Wow, I can’t believe this generated so much debate! I wanna let you all know that I did read all the comments (took me over an hour…). Thanks for all the advice :) Great points from both sides!

    …what? You want to know what I’ll do now after reading all this? (Actually, I bet you probably could care less.) I think I’m going to start by just reducing my meat intake and get the meat I do eat from local, humane sources. If I like that, maybe I’ll try going further.

  • potatopeeler

    The only vegetarian I know is obese. It’s not necessarily healthier.

  • Brg

    If you are grossed out about eggs being “chicken period”, what about knowing what honey really is? Basically, bee vomit.

    Brg

  • http://ptiensuu.blogspot.com Paul

    Hi. I’m vegetarian for ethical reasons, but I don’t go to that now, there’s much of it elsewhere. I give my word about the practical things from my own experience. I noticed some worry about how to practice vegetarianism and perhaps my experiences can help someone.

    None of my relatives is vegetarian, but this normally doesn’t cause much problems: I don’t preach and they take my special diet in count, so that we just eat different food, when we eat together. Although, they preach sometimes, which is ridiculous, but fortunately rare.

    Reasonable discussion about meat eating would be valuable, but it seems almost impossible to have, because the meat eaters freak out. So, for practical reasons I have long since decided to keep this as my own thing and avoid any discussion about diets in dinner table.

    What the relatives must understand, is that a specific died doesn’t mean I’m trying to lose weight or just eating salad and potatoes when in table with them. This really took time from them to understand, that despite of the fact that I’m vegetarian, I need eat some food too. So, the dinners with family were awkward for a while, as I had no food.

    This leads us to the issue very central to the practice of being vegetarian, ie tasty and nutritious food. My health has been significantly better since I changed to vegetarianism. I used to, not only have overweight, but also migraine and some sort of anemia, in my youth, when I still ate meat. Also, during military service, when I ate meat again, my health went badly down. Nowadays I’m in athletic fit and have no anemia (I donate blood regularly) and my migraine has become very rare.

    Of course, this is not only due to vegetarianism, I also have been able to arrange my life otherwise in way that suites me better and have done more sports. Still, a remarkable point is, that I suffered anemia when I was regular and passionate meat eater and though the change to vegetarianism was challenging to me first (I really liked meat), I have been able to find nutritionally better, tastier diet as vegetarian. I don’t have to struggle for keeping this diet; for years now, I haven’t had one single moment when I would have wanted to eat meat. In fact I find the smell of meat repulsive. It is all question of what you’ve grown a habit to.

    My girlfriend was vegetarian during high school and got anemic, and so doctors told her to start eating meat again. However, she was anemic because she hardly ate at all, and she still was somewhat anemic afterwards, when she started to eat meat again, because she didn’t pay much attention to what she ate. In fact, she has become significantly healthier when on vegetarian diet with me: to doctor’s surprise her hemoglobin, for example, has risen to a healthy level after starting the vegetarian diet with me. I think that people who get anemia when they turn to vegetarianism simply don’t pay attention to what they eat. This would not be a big task.

    Internet is full of vegan sites from where one can check out nutrients, from which they can get iron, vitamin B 12, vitamin D, calcium and omega 3 and protein of course. These are main things to watch, because other stuff comes naturally from any full vegetarian diet.

    No need to eat solely salads, because there’s huge variety of lentils, beans and soy products, and I’m not talking about the vegan sausages. Especially lentils and soy protein serve pretty much the same function as meat in meal, giving it the taste and sens of completeness, filling your tummy. They are not only good sources of protein; they also have good amounts of things like iron, magnesium, etc. in them. And, if you get greasier products, like soy milk, or soy beans, they also have good types of fats.

    About fats, I recommend especially hemps seed, because hemp oil is the best suiting fat for human. Don’t need to even eat much of them and you can add them to pretty much everything. Don’t know if they show in drug tests though, but they don’t have THC.

    Iron can be get from spinach, broccoli, beans, lentils, basil, beetroot, some grains and many green leafed plants. Usually vegetarian diet has lots of vitamin C, which helps getting iron.

    Calcium is usually added in soy products, this is the easiest way to get it.

    Vitamin D you get from spending time outside during summer and from drinking soy milk, which tends to be fortified with vitamin D.

    Vitamin B 12 might be bit over valued; it can be more dangerous to get too much some B vitamins than having shortage of them. However, as it is solely produced by bacteria, you get it only added to food or by eating pills. At least the soy milk that I drink has it.

    What I recommend, for making a good meal that doesn’t seem like diet food, is the use of soy products. Once people learn to use soy protein pieces and slices and tofu they usually find that vegetarianism doesn’t worsen their meals at all. In fact, soy is easier to prepare than meat, it only needs to be boiled for some while – so, you only need to add water and let it ripen, usually about 20 minutes. To get it tasty, use methods similar to cooking meat, eg making tasty sauce, using spices etc. Marinating tofu bites works nicely too, but they need quite long time in marinade, like over night.

    Soft tofu replaces cheese and egg based parts of most meals, if you need eggs to cakes or such, you should use soy powder, chemical yeast, oil and water to produce similar effect.

    Add this the variety of tasty vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach, eggplant and artichoke. there’s no shortage of tasty ingredients in vegetarian kitchen.

    We cook at home everyday and a good dinner is central part of our everyday life. Vegetarianism only enhances this as it is important to pay attention to eating well. Our kitchen is dominated by sauces, pies, pastas (our vegetarian lasagnas are highly enjoyed by our carnivore friends too), risottos, lentil soups and soy (usually cooked in a sauce that gives it taste). During summer there’s more corn and tofu used, especially when barbecuing. We’re happy with our kitchen, that gets the respect of our carnivore friends too.

  • http://rubyleigh.blogspot.com Ruby Leigh

    Wow.. many comments, and I have to admit I have not read them all, but here I am willing to add my two cents.

    I am an omnivore, and though I have entertained idea of going vegetarian before, I have a hard time making the switch. I respect some of the vegetarian idealogies such as: efficiency, and enviroment friendliness… I do think that in the case of free range, and “good (skillful)” hunting it is “aok” to participate in the food chain. I think that buying free range and from non-corporate farms can really put the pressure on farmers to switch to sustainable means of meat production quicker than just buying no meat at all.

    That being said, I do love me some hamburger, which I recognize as a not so noble argument. I’m quite sure if I had not been raised with meat as a consistent part of my diet – it might be easier to drop now.

  • Steve

    From Anthony Bourdain’s book Kitchen Confidential…

    “Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn. To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living. Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, and an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food. The body, these waterheads imagine, is a temple that should not be polluted by animal protein. It’s healthier, they insist, though every vegetarian waiter I’ve worked with is brought down by any rumor of a cold. Oh, I’ll accommodate them, I’ll rummage around for something to feed them, for a ‘vegetarian plate’, if called on to do so. Fourteen dollars for a few slices of grilled eggplant and zucchini suits my food cost fine.”

  • http://ptiensuu.blogspot.com Paul

    Bourdain:

    “Oh, I’ll accommodate them, I’ll rummage around for something to feed them, for a ‘vegetarian plate’, if called on to do so. Fourteen dollars for a few slices of grilled eggplant and zucchini suits my food cost fine.”

    The waterheads like Bourdain are main reason why I don’t eat in restaurants. Especially fancy restaurants have terribly bad vegetarian food for amazingly high prices. I don’t pay for food if it’s not serious plate. Why would I, when I can cook better myself for low price?

  • Eric

    Ok, in case more people are still commenting on this thread, I’ll make these two points again, since people seemed to ignore them:

    1) Make the charitable interpretation of Hemant’s words. He said “animals are alive,” but was obviously referring to the fact that we give animals more moral standing than dirt or plants or worms or ants. Instead of interpreting his words in the way that makes arguing against them easiest, interpret them as if you’re in the Least Convenient Possible World.

    2) Again: Evolution is a stupid god to worship. If your argument is “Evolution gave me the ability to eat meat, therefore I should,” then you have also just justified murdering someone. If your argument is that it tastes good, well, Hershey bars also taste good, but that doesn’t mean you should build your diet off them (and you’ve built an equal justification of rape as well). Your taste buds are the result of several eons of accidents that, in the ancestral environment, provided an advantage over other species. That doesn’t absolve you of the responsibility of deciding for yourself what a healthy (and moral) diet should be.

    And let’s add one more.
    3) If your argument is “vegetarianism isn’t healthier because I once knew a fat vegetarian” then… well, hopefully you can see the issue with that. The fact that the healthiest omnivore is healthier than the least healthy vegetarian doesn’t mean that statistically one isn’t healthier than the other. Ditto to those who say you can eat a crappy vegetarian diet and still be unhealthy: Duh!

    And just to note (and respond to ObSciGuy) – I’m not saying these are arguments for vegetarianism, I’m pointing out why they’re not valid arguments against vegetarianism.

  • Aj

    Eric,

    Make the charitable interpretation of Hemant’s words. He said “animals are alive,” but was obviously referring to the fact that we give animals more moral standing than dirt or plants or worms or ants. Instead of interpreting his words in the way that makes arguing against them easiest, interpret them as if you’re in the Least Convenient Possible World.

    There’s charity and then there’s giving up all your possessions and living on the street. At least make an attempt to use words in a meaningful way. For example when refering to “animals” don’t exclude “worms” and “ants”. To say that we give some animals more moral standing is not the same as saying we should not raise, kill, and eat them. Clearly we don’t extend moral standing to that. So in your interpretation it’s not even a reason to not eat meat.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    Adele: Um, when did you see people “attacking” vegans and vegetarians? Straw men attacks, or any other kind? In this discussion, I’ve seen people — myself included — make arguments against veganism or vegetarianism; arguments defending eating meat; and arguments explaining why they think eating meat is an acceptable ethical compromise. But nowhere have I seen anyone attack, or even criticize, the people who choose to not eat meat or animal products.

    Admittedly I haven’t read every word of this thread… but you used my argument as an example of someone “attacking a straw man,” and that’s simply not the case. I wasn’t attacking vegans, or even criticizing them. I was simply explaining why I wasn’t one.

    And I’m sorry, but I know many vegans and have read a fair amount about veganism… and for most people, it does involve a substantial rearrangement of their lives. It limits choices when eating out. It limits choices when eating at other people’s homes. It limits choices when traveling. (I’ve seen entire books on how to sustain vegan eating when traveling.) If you’re willing to live with those limitations, more power to you, I do admire people who can stick with it as I was not able to. But pretending that it doesn’t restrict life for most people who do it is just silly.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    3. To the meat eaters, why aren’t you a vegetarian? (Convince me to keep eating meat)

    Why would I do that? Why would I try to convince you? My argument is that this is a complicated ethical balance, and the same balance point isn’t right for everyone. My own balance point is that I eat meat, but not that frequently (although see below), and I try to eat only humanely- grown meat and other animal products. That’s how I balance my ethical concern for the suffering of animals with my own health and well-being. I support and encourage vegetarians and vegans, and have no reason to persuade anyone not to be one.

    Odd side note: When I started losing weight recently, I assumed I’d be eating a lot less meat. As it turns out, I’ve been eating more. Except for beans, vegetarian protein options (cheese, nuts, tofu) tend to be calorically dense… more so than chicken, fish, and lean meat. I’m hoping that when I’m off of weight loss and am on weight maintenance, I’ll be eating less meat again.

  • ZombieGirl

    I’m not a doctor. If you’re going by the Body Mass Index (BMI) then that can be inaccurate. Some people find it very hard to gain weight because their body and lifestyle burn calories at higher rates than normal people. To gain weight these people really have to abuse themselves, do virtually no exercise, eat lots of calorie rich foods (chocolate and milk). Therefore that you can’t gain weight doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily lose weight if you switch to a vegetarian diet.

    Well, my DOCTOR told me that I am borderline underweight and that I should continue to eat meat.

  • ZombieGirl

    Actually, I have had several doctors tell me that I should keep meat in my diet to maintain my weight. I’d much rather listen to them than listen to people who are deadset on the idea that eating less meat does not in any way contribute to weight loss.

  • Aj

    ZombieGirl,

    Well, my DOCTOR told me that I am borderline underweight and that I should continue to eat meat.

    Perhaps your DOCTOR could take the stick out next time.

    Actually, I have had several doctors tell me that I should keep meat in my diet to maintain my weight. I’d much rather listen to them than listen to people who are deadset on the idea that eating less meat does not in any way contribute to weight loss.

    Keeping the same diet would maintain your weight? Amazing! [/sarcasm]

    If you’re saying that there is something unique to meat that makes a difference to weight then show me the evidence. People can become vegetarians and gain weight. If the only thing you eat is meat, and a lot of it, some people can lose weight.

    Also, it’s not all about your diet but how your body processes energy and how much energy you use.

  • http://ptiensuu.blogspot.com Paul

    “To say that we give some animals more moral standing is not the same as saying we should not raise, kill, and eat them. Clearly we don’t extend moral standing to that. So in your interpretation it’s not even a reason to not eat meat.”

    I don’t really see your argument here, to be honest. It is not at all clear to me, that giving moral standing to somebody doesn’t include that we should not raise, kill and eat him.

  • ChameleonDave

    Um, when did you see people “attacking” vegans and vegetarians? Straw men attacks [...] nowhere have I seen anyone attack, or even criticize, the people who choose to not eat meat or animal products.

    Admittedly I haven’t read every word of this thread… [...]

    Indeed. Indeed.

  • Aj

    Paul,

    I don’t really see your argument here, to be honest. It is not at all clear to me, that giving moral standing to somebody doesn’t include that we should not raise, kill and eat him.

    Giving moral standing to something can include not raising, killing, and eating, but it doesn’t have to, and quite clearly it doesn’t for a lot of people. Somebody suggests a person, but very rarely in modern times do we kill and eat people. There are laws against some forms of farming in some countries, e.g. stalls for calfs to produce veal, this is giving an animal moral standing, considering its wellbeing, but still involves killing and eating. You personally might want to give all animals a different moral standing, where humans don’t eat them, but Hemant wasn’t directing his question to just vegetarians.

  • AnonyMouse

    As much fun as it would be to contribute to the vegetarian vs. non-vegetarian debate, I think I’ll keep my pants on. Instead, I’ll just address the original questions:

    1. What do you think of vegetarianism? Weird? Noble? Stupid?
    A: It depends on the vegetarian. For instance, there are vegetarians who abstain from meat for their health. Does it work for them? Then I’m totally fine with it. Or is it making them sick? Then I’m going to try and persuade them to eat some animal protein.

    Then there are the ethical vegetarians. Are they just doing their thing? Then I’ll leave them alone. Are they trying to persuade me to become a vegetarian for ethical reasons? Then I’ll jump at them, cannons blazing, and explain to them all the different reasons why I disagree with them.

    3. To the meat eaters, why aren’t you a vegetarian? (Convince me to keep eating meat)
    A: I have considered becoming a vegetarian on more than one occasion. After all, the ethical arguments are persuasive – as are the claimed health benefits. But there are a couple of problems with it.

    Firstly, I consider myself a resident of the planet Earth. That means that I am bound by the same rules as every other lifeform: take what I need, do what I can to keep the ecosystem running smoothly, and try not to leave a mess (or blow up the entire planet). Since I am also an intelligent and emotional creature, I also choose to act ethically (or, in a manner that minimizes suffering) in my dealings with all species, whether they be humans, animals, are plants. However, this is not an obligation to me – it is simply an emotional preference.

    A vegetarian may be surprised to learn that, just like them, I am appalled by factory farming, intensive animal raising, drug abuse in food production, etc. However, I am equally as appalled by the horrors committed by plant-growers – the clearing of good land to create farmground, the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and the incredible amounts of damage that are caused to soil through grain production.

    What am I to do, then? Am I to simply give up food? Or do I become a supervegan, and only consume plants that died of natural causes without human interference?

    In a time like this, I cannot allow my emotions to tell me what kind of foods I should eat. I must instead turn to my health, and here’s what I have found:

    I need meat. Not necessarily copious amounts of meat, and I certainly don’t live on it, but I need some as part of my diet. I require it both for protein and fatty tissue, which I have difficulty deriving from plants. True, I could eat beans and legumes for protein, but I find them unsatisfying no matter how good they taste. A single bowl of a meat-and-veggie dish will fill me. Replace the meat with beans, and I can eat three bowls without feeling full.

    So what do I do, then? Do I just go on eating factory-farmed meats (and pesticide-slathered veggies, and strip-farmed grains)? Of course not. But here is where I differ from an ethical vegetarian: Rather than cutting out one type of food because it is “unethical”, I must make a conscious effort to make sure that all the food I eat has been produced in a manner that is not damaging to the earth, miserable for the animal, or harmful to other human beings.

    4. Should any diet be “strict”? Should I avoid eating only vegetables and just look to increase the percentage of vegetables, but keep eating meat?
    A: A diet should be whatever works for you. Some people can get away with all-things-in-moderation; others (like me) have to be stricter. In any case, though, it never hurts to eat your veggies. And if you do keep eating meat, try and make sure your cows/chickens/horses were happy before they died (and have not been ground up into wieners).

  • ChameleonDave

    I’ll say one thing….in my experience, vegetarians and atheists sometimes garner very similar reactions from people (ie offence, anger), for merely existing!

    [...]

    This was a person I didn’t know from a hole in the ground (and vice versa). Just the mere knowledge of me being a vegetarian was enough for him to (apparently) feel ‘justified’ in attacking me for what he already assumed to be hypocrisy. Amazing.

    Indeed, I’ve had this happen many a time. I remember one occasion where I was simply looking carefully at the items at an end-of-semester buffet, and a girl deduced from this that I must be a vegetarian checking for meat. She seemed to see a ‘yes’ in my expression. She proceeded to loudly announce to everyone present that I was one of those vegetarians, and soon there was much talk about how vegetarians are so hard to cater for.

    Just looking!

    Back when I openly told people I was vegetarian, I was also well acquainted with the phenomenon whereby people immediately sought hypocrisy. It was amazing how many times people immediately ripped into me for my disgustingly hypocritical leather boots, before I managed to interrupt their logorrhœa and inform them that they were made of expensive breathable plastic. (These days I save resources by getting second-hand leather shoes from charity shops.)

  • http://gaytheistagenda.lavenderliberal.com/ Buffy

    I decided to become a vegetarian when I understood all animals suffer. I realized it was hypocritical to be appalled at the idea of eating a dog, cat, horse, rabbit or other such animal while still eating pigs, cows, chickens and the like. The latter didn’t suffer any less than the former due to factory farming and being slaughtered for food/clothing/personal care products. (There are also the environmental factors, health benefits and financial savings, but those were only bonuses in my mind. )

    I don’t hide the fact that I’m a vegetarian but I don’t proselytize about it in any way. If someone asks why I’m a vegetarian I’ll tell them but I never give them a “rah rah you should join the team” speech. Part of it is because as a lesbian atheist I’ve had more than my share of annoying people trying to convert me to their religion (and to “deconvert” me from being an evil gaytheist). I loathe the MEAT IS MURDER BE VEGAN LIKE US OR ELSE!!! types as much I do RRRW religionists. They’re not helping the cause in any way, IMO.

  • http://ecofuture.net/design/ Ecological Architecture

    I’ve been surfing on net for the blogs and forums on vegetarianism. I was very disappointed to see that many people consider animals to be actually created for our consumption… When John Locke theoretized natural rights entitled to men, he meant white, European, male persons with property. Avarage life expectancy of a slave was five years, and women were -as now the animals are- treated as mere commodities. The idea that women, the elderly, the disabled and the people of color also have right to life was a revolution and a major shift in conceptualization of the universe.

    Animals also have rights to life, quality life in their natural settings. However, the imagination of the man and his environment is so rigid and asserts itself so many areas of life that we can not understand that animals are not made of meat, but we turn them into Adana Kebabs. We ignore the fact that serious harm is inflicted on innocent creatures for motives such as appatite, taste or convenience. Although the facts reveal that vegetarians tend to live much longer than meat eaters, we hide behind the ambush of pseudo science. We stop driving cars in order to reduce GHG emissions, but eat beef at lunch the processing of which cause more emission. Every child cries when “their” lamb is sacrificed, but we teach them to enjoy its roast. Contradictions can be numbered… all in all we are shaped by intrinsicly “masculin” motives to capture, harm, dominate, kill and possess.

    I regularly write my thoughts on vegetarianism in my blog greencare.

  • Jude

    I became a vegetarian because I hate meat. I liked burnt roast beef and burnt bacon. I also liked trout, and I killed plenty of them during the first 18 years of my life. And, ironically, I liked liver. But it wasn’t giving *anything* up for me to become a vegetarian. I hate everything about meat–the smell of it, the taste of it, and everything else about it. I come from a long line of hunters, and hunting season was the most appalling event of my life–that, and chopping heads off chickens and pounding trout heads against rocks. To me, anyone who *thinks* about food, much as those who *think* about religion, will think that vegetarianism is a logical choice. However, I hate proselytization, so I don’t have any desire to persuade you to become a vegetarian. But don’t cook meat in my house or expect me to eat it in yours. Those are the rules for my kids, two of whom eat meat while one is a vegetarian.

  • Jake

    Shrot answer: I am on the same page as AnonyMouse.

    I am appalled by factory farming, intensive animal raising, drug abuse in food production, etc. However, I am equally as appalled by the horrors committed by plant-growers – the clearing of good land to create farmground, the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and the incredible amounts of damage that are caused to soil through grain production.

    In particular I find many arguments for veganism bordering on a kind of fundamentalism. I think the key step of falacious reasoning is:
    Suffering is bad. Therefore avoid killing things.
    Which should be:
    Suffering is bad. Therefore avoid causing needless suffering.

  • Hannah

    I realize I am a little late on this one, but I have to say my piece. I have seen some of the most ridiculous anti-vegetarian arguments on this page, coming from supposedly rational people. Every argument against the principles of vegetarianism can be easily refuted:

    1. “Vegetarians are hypocrites! They are elitist! They have a holier-than-thou attitude!” Logical fallacy. This is not an argument against vegetarianism itself in the same way that it’s not an argument against atheism to argue that Stalin was an atheist. Vegetarians have also been branded as bleeding hearts – many of you liberals should recognize that this is an unfair way to dismiss one’s arguments. Our position is not radical, nor is it fundamentalist. It is based on reason and ethics.

    2. “Animals are basically just like plants.” You can’t seriously believe this. The idea that animals are incapable of experiencing pain or suffering and that only humans count because we are special comes from the notion that we were created by a god and that we are fundamentally different from all the other animals – that in fact, we are not animals at all. To put animals and plants in one category and humans in another is absurd on its face if you don’t believe in this creation fable. This doesn’t mean that animals are just as important than humans. What it does mean is that animals can feel suffering, and we, as ethical creatures, should take that into consideration in our dealings with them. Plants can’t feel suffering. I didn’t think this was such a difficult concept, but it’s something that many of the people posting on this page can’t seem to wrap their heads around. It’s also inadequate to argue that we can make animals suffer because of their lack of intelligence or because (as one commenter ludicrously pointed out) they can’t contemplate their own deaths. Babies and mentally handicapped people are not as intelligent as non-disabled adults. Shall we torture them? No? If you really don’t think God made us special, then your answer for animals should be the same. They are not robots; they feel pain and suffering just as we do.

    3. “Animals are happy on their farms.” The image we have been fed of a field full of contently grazing cows is unrepresentative of the vast majority of the meat Americans eat today. Many vegetarians do not believe that killing animals is wrong; rather, they are opposed to the way animals are treated on factory farms. It really is appalling, and any morally cognizant person ought to feel disgusted at the way we callously torture these living creatures.

    4. “All our ancestors ate meat! I have incisors for a reason! I was meant to eat meat! It’s part of evolution! We are at the top of the food chain!” This makes no sense. Our ancestors have done all kinds of things that we find morally repulsive, including war, raids, murder, and the oppression of women. As atheists and believers in the fact of evolution, we should recognize that, just because something evolved, that does not mean we should just blindly accept it. We should be constantly trying to live up to our better nature as a species and to fight evolved, “natural” human tendencies like out-group aversion, prejudice, etc. We have the freedom to make decisions about what we think is right rather than to say, “Well, I evolved to do this, so therefore I will.” Obviously millions of people get on just fine without meat, meaning that each of us is capable of making this decision. Justifying your decision to participate in something immoral by saying that your ancestors did it too is ludicrous. It’s also absurd to argue that we are “supposed” to eat meat. If you don’t believe in a god, then who exactly “meant” us to? We have already established that our evolutionary history isn’t a good reason to do ANYTHING.

    5. “You kill animals anyway, through your environmental impact!” Huh? When did the fact that we do some things wrong ever become an argument for not trying to do other things right? No one ever says, “You should not get a hybrid car – it’s hypocritical because your house runs on electricity.” Vegetarianism is one choice among many that we may make to try to make the world a better place.

    I could say so much more. But the most important thing I can say is to ask meat-eaters just to listen to vegetarians’ arguments rather than closing their minds against them and feeling threatened or offended. We generally respect your decision to eat meat (at least all the vegetarians I know do), and you should not feel offended or accuse us of being all high and mighty because we chose to take a stand on what we believe in. We deserve the respect that you would give to anyone of a differing opinion. If you are annoyed that a vegetarian lectured you or you thought that person was elitist, then be annoyed at that particular person rather than making judgments about all of us. We earnestly believe what we are doing and do not deserve derision just because we try to do our part to lessen suffering in the world.

  • Jake

    One thing I find problematic about this back and forth, is that it is often unclear (and to be fair, not terribly easy to consistently be clear) about the distinctions between:
    I don’t eat X because I think it is wrong (for anyone).
    I don’t eat X because I find it to be a poor choice (in general, possibly for a variety of reasons).
    I don’t eat X because I find it to be a poor choice for me in particular (in ways that very well may not influence others’ choices)
    I don’t eat X because I don’t for reasons that I don’t necessarily hold deeply (habit, culture, bad experience, …).

    Also there is little consistency from person to person even among folks that hang onto the same label (ethical vegetarian, vegan, conscientious carnivore, …)
    so the reader is left to infer what the author believes and why.

  • Jake

    Hannah says:

    Many vegetarians do not believe that killing animals is wrong; rather, they are opposed to the way animals are treated on factory farms.

    I (and I think many of the commenters) do not follow the reasoning from “factory farms are bad” to being a vegetarian (i.e, “we should not eat any animals no matter how they are produced”).

    I have a friend at work who has raises some chickens in his rather large yard. At the moment, they are producing about a dozen eggs a day. I am happy with the conditions in which they are kept and fed. I have no problem eating these eggs. Nor would I mind eating the meat from the hens. That does not mean that I endorse factory farming, but it does mean I am not a vegetarian.

    Maybe the problem is with the label. I know when I was more strict with my diet I would often describe myself as a vegetarian when the real story was much more complicated, just for simplicity even though it wasn’t really accurate.

  • http://ptiensuu@blogspot.com Paul

    Aj, I know I’m bit late to this discussion, but I havjust found there being something quite profoundly wrong in your argument, so I had to consider it somewhile.

    Giving moral standing to something can include not raising, killing, and eating, but it doesn’t have to, and quite clearly it doesn’t for a lot of people. Somebody suggests a person, but very rarely in modern times do we kill and eat people. There are laws against some forms of farming in some countries, e.g. stalls for calfs to produce veal, this is giving an animal moral standing, considering its wellbeing, but still involves killing and eating. You personally might want to give all animals a different moral standing, where humans don’t eat them, but Hemant wasn’t directing his question to just vegetarians.

    1)Many animals are at least as much persons as 3-year-old or younger human children and yet it would be outrageous if he said that giving moral standing to children would not include that he should not raise and kill them for his food.

    2)This argument from marginal cases can be used pretty much against any argument stating that non-human animals aren’t intelligent or whatever enough to be moral persons.

    3)So that we can see, that these attributes have no significant moral value. An individual doesn’t need to be a fully capable moral agent who rationally considers his every move to have rights – it is enough that he has some interests.

    4)Very clearly at least a large part of non-human animals and all animals that we eat are individuals with their own interests and there’s nothing morally relevant that would distinguish them from all humans.

    Now, giving a moral standing to an individual should be recognizing the individual as an individual and not as a resource. Recognizing as an individual implies recognizing that individual has interests and a right to pursue them. Even more, as it is commonly agreed these days that there are no grounds for giving bigger moral importance to one individual than to another: everybody must have equal moral standing.

    having moral standing should imply that one’s own interests have, a priori, moral value equal to anybody else’s, and that first and foremost it’s the considered individual’s own interests that are valued and not someone else’s interest’s towards him. This means that having moral standing should mean being treated, in Kant’s words, as an end in itself and not as means to someone else’s ends (quote from memory). Now, raising an individual for food, keeping him in clean and feeding him well, and then killing him very nicely and eating him with good respect to how tasty he is, is nothing else than treating this other party as means to your own ends, namely to feed oneself with what one likes, but does not need, to eat.

    I don’t wish to flood Mehta’s blog, so more about this here.

  • Aj

    Paul,

    Many is a weasel word. How many animals that most of us eat are equivalent to a 3-year old human? Those that are not persons clearly don’t have the same rights as persons, that doesn’t mean killing them has no moral implications. Personhood is incredibly significant to moral value. If choosing to save a non-person over a person you are an incredibly immoral person. Would you save a new born human over a 9-year old human from a burning building? If there’s nothing morally relevant between us and the rest of mammals, then if a lion was about to kill a human would you shoot it?

    There’s a very big difference with raising an animal to eat with indifference to its suffering and raising it with care and respect. The raising, killing, and eating are a means to an end, but treating that animal kindly is certainly not a means to an end. It’s not about resources or function at all, but about acknowledging that other species suffer, and this is something we should concern ourselves with. This is clearly giving something moral standing, even if it doesn’t give it the moral standing that we give other persons.

  • http://ptiensuu@blogspot.com Paul

    Aj. In fact I think that most of people disagree with you that being a rationally developed person is morally significant in this way.

    It is morally relevant when considering moral agents, as we wouldn’t see a mentally retard person as morally responsable as a person who would be reasonably aware of what he is doing. In similar manner we see little point in punishing a lion for eating somebody (add to this the fact that the lion tends to be merely acting for its own survival, which usually is thought to be everybody’s right).

    However, I doubt that many, or any amongst us would be declining anyone’s right to life merely because he would be, say a newborn or mentally retarded. This is not about saving a newborn over a 9-year-old. This is about you proposing that only the life of the latter matters, or matters way more than that of the former, while I think that in the moral culture of modern west at least there’s a large, fundamental agreement on that they both have same moral value and same right to life.

    That said, saving the newborn might be more reasonable, because he can’t help himself. In fact, I’m about to become a father, and if I would be in fire with my baby and the firemen would save me instead my baby, I would never forgive them. Fortunately at least in Finland the firemen have priority in saving the youngest first, because that is seen as morally right thing to do.

  • Aj

    Paul,

    In fact I think that most of people disagree with you that being a rationally developed person is morally significant in this way.

    Argumentum ad populum, I don’t care. Although when tested perhaps people act in a different way.

    This is about you proposing that only the life of the latter matters, or matters way more than that of the former, while I think that in the moral culture of modern west at least there’s a large, fundamental agreement on that they both have same moral value and same right to life.

    You’re confusing is and ought. And I’m not sure whether you’re right about this, people are hypocritical on this issue. For instance, many states allow abortions but not suicide. More people are for the right to an abortion if the mother’s life is in danger or if she was raped than in general. Not to mention that this right to life of non-persons is often related to the a irrational belief in souls.

    That said, saving the newborn might be more reasonable, because he can’t help himself. In fact, I’m about to become a father, and if I would be in fire with my baby and the firemen would save me instead my baby, I would never forgive them. Fortunately at least in Finland the firemen have priority in saving the youngest first, because that is seen as morally right thing to do.

    The newborn has no plans for the future. The newborn doesn’t have the ability to suffer the same as the 9-year old. That the 9-year old needs saving suggests that they can’t help themselves in the situation. I am really at a loss to how not being able to “help oneself” is relevant beyond the ability to save oneself. If you don’t care about suffering, don’t care about if an animal even knows it has a future and has plans for that future, then there’s nothing more to discuss. Your values are far from my values, I find saving a newborn over a 9-year old to be incredibly immoral.

  • Logan

    Speaking as a lacto-ovo vegetarian and aspiring vegan, I do not see why the Holocaust is a priori incomparable to any amount of animal suffering, however widespread and grievous. I think it demonstrates an ignorance of the conditions of factory farms and a bigotry toward other creatures no more justifiable than racism or sexism. Holocaust victims never got the front of their faces cut off with a hot knife (as is common with chickens). 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust but 10 billion chickens, cows, and pigs are killed annually for food in the United States alone, so even if you think that a chicken’s suffering is only 1/10,000th as objectionable as a human’s suffering, factory farms are still worse than the Holocaust. At least the Holocaust victims knew freedom: factory farm animals live their entire lives in hellish conditions. Unless you think a nonhuman animal’s pain counts for nothing at all (in which case you either must think that souls exist and only humans have them, or have not grasped the implications of evolutionary biology and comparative anatomy), the comparison, although controversial, cannot be dismissed so crassly.

    Okay, so Hemant made a bad choice of words to say that we shouldn’t eat animals because they are “living too”. But don’t get on a high-horse and say “well plants are living too and we need to eat something to live so I guess vegetarian logic fails and all bets are off”. The point is that a great many animals are capable of feeling pain, and plants aren’t. Even if they were, please connect the dots between the “ethics” argument and the “efficiency” argument: vegetarianism would STILL be the more moral position because omnivores kill more plants to feed the animals they kill for food! For Christsake, this is like the omnivore’s Pascal’s Wager: it’s so bad even defenders of meat-eating should be able to tell it stinks somethin’ fierce.

    “I have canine teeth and molars, so why limit myself to just plants?”
    Yeah, brilliant. And penises can be used for masturbation, consensual sex, and rape, so why limit myself to 2 out of 3?

    It’s commonly said (albeit among atheists) that the average atheist is more knowledgeable of religion than the average believer, and I’m starting to think the same is true with regard to vegans being generally more informed of nutrition than omnivores. If you think vegans are clueless about B-12 and have no way to get it then you REALLY need to be brought up to speed. Seriously, that’s Veganism 101. Just Google “vegan B-12″ and discover a heretofore underused ability to learn about something before bashing it.

    True, vegan diets are not a priori healthy but I’ve seen too many comments to the effect of
    1. French fries and Coke are vegan.
    2. French fries and Coke are unhealthy.
    3. Therefore, veganism is unhealthy.

    It should be a moot point, and thus not worth bringing up except in flustered defense of flesh-eating, that not every imaginable vegan or vegetarian diet is healthy. However it is worth noting that there is no evidence that meat provides anything not available from plants or bacteria (i.e.: B-12 comes from bacteria, not animals). Calories, protein, vitamins, minerals, it’s all accounted for.


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