Using Judaism to Ban Fur

Greeting everyone, this post is by Ron Gold.

One of the reasons I respect Judaism more than most religions is that the faith mandates a relatively humane treatment towards animals. In contrast, every now and then I run into a Christian who seems to take the perspective that God put animals on the Earth for humans to exploit, putting them on a similar level to resources like oil or timber.  But Jews rarely take that view, and indeed, Israel might be the first country to ban fur:

The international anti-fur campaign, backed by animal rights activists such as Brigitte Bardot and Sir Paul McCartney, has picked Israel as the perfect starting point because the fur trade is tiny — worth about $1 million a year — and because, under Jewish tradition, the undue suffering of animals is forbidden.

“The market here is not that big,” said Josh Rotbart, a legal representative for the Israeli organisation Let The Animals Live, which also runs an animal rescue centre in Lod, near Tel Aviv. “We are not talking about Canada or the US or China. It’s a small industry and it’s pretty easy to ban a small industry. It’s hot here. You don’t really need to wear fur.”

The chief opposition comes from ultra-Orthodox Jews who wear shtreimels (pictured below), a hat made out of sable fur. However, I think they would be better off using a synthetic material, particularly since they might accidentally be wearing someone’s pet:

The campaign began when an Israeli news station reported that much of the “fake” fur being imported from China was, in fact, made from the pelts of cats and dogs.

Yikes, that’s some highly disturbing stuff, and another reason to avoid fur all together.

Whether the ban succeeds or not is anyone’s guess, though Rotbart says he is “pretty optimistic” of an eventual victory.  I can’t speak for other atheists, but I’m hoping he is right.

However, one thing I am sure of is that the United States won’t be banning fur anytime soon.  I happened to witness a protest outside a fur store yesterday, and it was attended by exactly three people.

  • muggle

    You are April fooling me, aren’t you?

  • Deiloh

    May the temple never be rebuilt.

  • http://t3knomanser.livejournal.com t3knomanser

    I see no reason to ban fur. I see plenty of reasons to not buy it.

    Although, let’s be fair: when it comes to warmth, millions of years of evolution still beat the best synthetics. I’m not talking about the conspicuous consumption variety of fur. I’m talking good, well treated pelts.

    It’s ethically difficult to eat meat and wear leather shoes on one hand, and condemn fur on the other. Similarly, I see no reason why dog fur should be more objectionable than sable fur. Yes, in the US, we keep dogs as pets, but that’s not true the world over.

    //I wear leather shoes because they’ll last me most of my lifetime, with proper maintenance and re-soling.
    //Again, nature beats man-made materials.

  • Josh BA

    There is special about dog and cats as compared to something like a cow where treating them like a resource is involved. We only don’t eat them normally in the first place because they are useful alive (as hunters and companions) and because they would be insanely expensive to raise in appreciable numbers since they are obligate carnivores.

    As long as they are killed humanely I don’t have a huge problem with either sable fur (which is farmed just like beef) or cat fur (especially when they are feral cats that would have been destroyed anyway) as longas they weren’t stolen (and thus actually someone’s pet).

    Now, can we get to the important part? Those hats are silly looking (like the vast majority of hats IMO).

  • L.Long

    What’s wrong with Cats & Dogs?
    I ate at the Peking Moon this afternoon and the General Chow Cat was excellent Unfortunately I over ate so did not get a chance to taste the Taryaki Dog. But I did pick up some dog hide and am going to make my iPod case with it and trim it with persian fur for the soft feel.

    I would say the article is an April1 thing but I never underestimate human stupidity.

  • Dave B.

    Orthodox Judaism and silly hats are pretty much inseparable. This will never fly.

  • Beijingrrl

    I don’t think it’s any worse to wear dog or cat fur than any other animal, but I personally don’t want to wear it in any case. I also don’t care that people eat dogs and cats in some countries. Given the choice, I’d prefer not to eat dog or cat, but I know my reasons are silly. I definitely think it’s a problem to lie to your customers. I know we have a big fur market in the US, but who’s wearing it? I don’t know anyone who would, but then again, I live in LA.

  • Andrew

    Hassidim don’t give a rat’s ass about animals. I’ve seen kids (with their parents watching) hitting dogs with (thankfully not huge) sticks because they’re beasts of the field.

  • Julie

    “It’s ethically difficult to eat meat and wear leather shoes on one hand, and condemn fur on the other.”

    Not really. Meat and leather are two highly useful materials that are difficult to replace in an economical and practical way. Fur, however, is a luxury item for the most part. If we could find a way to feed the world as well as make work boots/welding gloves/belts/shoes/etc. at the same quantity, quality and cost, I might be able to see a parallel. Unfortunately, appeasing a fashion aesthetic does not compare.

  • Kamaka

    We would not be the *homo sapiens* we are today if it were not for the animal furs that allowed us to live in adverse climates.

  • Miko

    That’s not a good reason to respect Judaism. It doesn’t advocate respecting animals because it’s the humane thing to do. Rather, it just has a whole bunch of completely arbitrary rules, some of which turn out to not suck, probably by coincidence. You can say the same thing about other religions: given the financial problems right now, the Islamic banking practices look pretty good, but that isn’t why Islamic banking works the way it does.

    Ron Gold:

    In contrast, every now and then I run into a Christian who seems to take the perspective that God put animals on the Earth for humans to exploit, putting them on a similar level to resources like oil or timber

    The careless exploitation of oil and timber often destroys animal habitats and can even exceed the level of cruelty of killing the animals for their fur, so the analogy is an apt one. But, as I said above, the fact that the Christian is correct in this instance (about the “on the same level” part, not the “God wants us to exploit things” part) is just a coincidence.

    Julie:

    Meat and leather are two highly useful materials that are difficult to replace in an economical and practical way.

    Meat is not economical. A vegetarian diet is economical. In fact, given the health issues, meat isn’t practical either. People eat meat for the same reason that they wear fur: because they want to and because they don’t care how their actions affect animals.

    (I second what t3k said by the way: banning just transfers the market to the informal sector of the economy and will probably make things even worse since animals would have to be raised in worse conditions and killed in more gruesome ways in order to avoid detection by the state. Boycott, on the other hand, is one of the most effective forms of direct action.)

  • http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Joshua Zelinsky

    The shtreimel thing is a bit more complicated. They are only worn by chassidim generally and only certain subsets of chassidim. Not all ultra-Orthodox Jews are chassidic.

  • JD

    I don’t understand how people can confuse fake fur and real fur. I don’t think fake fur manufacturing has gotten that good.

    I’m not quite sure what this has to do with atheism though, there wasn’t much tie-in on that point, other than some atheists have a certain position on animal products. The Timesonline story wasn’t April Fools (two days early), but maybe reposting the article to this site makes it April Fools?

  • jemand

    “I’d prefer not to eat dog or cat, but I know my reasons are silly.”

    My reasons are currently not silly– in that pretty much the only slaughtering method that is used for dogs, at least, is slowly beating them to death. It supposedly adds some mystical quality to the meat. I would not have more of a problem with the practice than any other meat product if it was not a stolen pet and if the slaughtering and butchering process was humane, but I know of no place where dog is eaten where it is not also killed brutally and with gratuitous pain and suffering.

    So, I suppose my opposition is not categorical, but it is in effect in any current real world situation one is going to encounter.

  • alex

    t3knomanser, Julie:

    The way I see it, if this is really about animals, one should be equally against fur, meat, and leather (and, say, PETA is). Which is why I’m pretty indifferent to these campaigns. I may not care about fur too much, but there is hardly a better material for motorcycling than leather, and wool is awesome during winter :)

  • http://onestdv.blogspot.com OneSTDV

    Why do so many Jewish atheists seem more the former and less the latter?

    I love how we have an atheist stumping for religion, arguing that religion has merit. It’s like bizzaro-world, except I see it so often.

  • gwen

    “The chief opposition comes from ultra-Orthodox Jews who wear shtreimels (pictured below), a hat made out of sable fur. However, I think they would be better off using a synthetic material, particularly since they might accidentally be wearing someone’s pet:”

    It is highly unlikely that anyone’s PET would be skinned to be turned into a fur hat. AND there is no reason for a country with such a temperate climate to have a demand for fur. If Israel were located at the same latitude as Siberia, fur would more a necessity than a luxury item.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    If you like the thermal (insulation) properties of fur, just get yourself a nice wool sweater. Getting wool from a sheep doesn’t kill the animal and it works quite nicely.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    I noticed from that picture that 6 or 7 of them are not wearing fur hats. Heretics?

  • Bob

    Deiloh has it right. If the temple is ever rebuilt, the muslim outrage may be secondary to the animal rights outrage.

  • Thegoodman

    I feel like a monster when I discuss animal rights/issues with most people. That is because I simply don’t care. I feel like Americans often place animal lives over the lives of people.

    Animal shelters, animal adoption, PetsMart, doggie day care, and all the other shit that goes along with animals seems like a tremendous waste of resources to me. If the money we wasted on animal care were placed into investments America would be 1 billion times better off economically.

    How about this hypothetical, albeit ridiculous; Which would you choose.
    A. If you press this button, one of your loved ones live and EVERY DOG ON EARTH DIES.
    B. If you press this button, one of your loved ones dies.

    You must press a button. I wouldn’t blink and eye and I’d press button A. I wouldn’t even feel bad about it, I’d be relieved a human life was spared and especially relieved that one of my loved ones is still alive.

    I am continually disgusted when the news is reporting on some random dog abuse case (in Indianapolis right now a woman burned 2 of her live dogs and is being painted as Hitler 2.0) while literally thousands of child abuse cases go unreported.

    I just don’t get it, what do animals have to offer us? Companionship? I disagree. Companions challenge you. They share your feelings. They show you emotions and you show them your emotions. You make a connection with a companion. I honestly believe that if you said “I Have all of those with my dogs/cats!” you are insane. It is akin to a religious belief. It is exactly what you WANT it to be. But that doesn’t mean it actually exists.

    If you want a companion/child/friend, a dog or cat is a poor substitute for a human being. Its the safe choice because they cannot disagree with you. Its the safe choice because they will be dependent on you weather they want to be or not. Anyone who thinks a dog or a cat is truly their companion is either insane or delusional.

  • http://www.takedeadaimontherichkids.blogspot.com Alice

    You know a lot of religions suggest other really positive things, but that doesn’t make them more worthy of respect. They’re all crap. I’m confused as to why this was even posted – we could have a post about how the Christian churches do a lot to help homeless people. That doesn’t make or negate all the horrible things the Christian religion is responsible for just as deciding not to use fur doesn’t negate the atrocities that the Jewish religion is responsible for.

    And Thegoodman, I respectfully disagree with you. Of course, we are both basing our opinions on personal experience, but in mine: animals do offer companionship and affection. They have emotions and you can make a connection with them.

  • jemand

    @Thegoodman,

    thanks to people like you (and worse), there are hundreds of thousands more unreported animal abuse cases than child abuse cases.

    And *why* do you have support for things that stop child abuse? Might it be because children are sentient and conscious? Well, animals are sentient, and partially conscious. They deserve treatment by us that minimizes gratuitous pain.

    You can’t have a rational argument that supports human rights which leaves zero rights to animals, that position is purely arbitrary and ethically unsound. There needs to be a *reason* that human rights are respected, and that reason is due to their intrinsic sentience. Animals, also, are sentient. The experiences are different so the levels of protection are different but you *can’t* logically bifurcate into “all” and “nothing” categories with a super sharp dividing line without being an idiot.

    The thing that drives child abuse cases is *exactly the same* as what drives animal abuse cases– an extreme lack of empathy and ignoring or overlooking how one’s actions impact another. Also, research has shown that animal abuse is a first step and a marker for future human abuse. We are all tied up together, and those who would apply gratuitous pain on an animal are not people I want roaming free in my human society– they have proven their ethical systems cannot identify other feeling creatures and they possess no empathy. These are *dangerous* people to have roaming about a human society, precisely *because* there are vulnerable humans that could also be targets of their intentional cruelty.

    Lastly, I’m pretty sure there are no cases of child abuse where someone burned a child alive where the media intentionally ignores the story. In fact, the “microwaved baby” was an even bigger story than these dogs, since it was all over the country. Would you really trust someone who burned a dog alive with a baby? What capacities does a *baby* have for companionship that are greater than that of a dog, at the time of being a baby, and for years afterward? Do you really have an ethical system that has no *reason* for not burning a kid alive, other than you say so? And if you say, future companionship, what if the child has severe down’s or autism? It’s ok then, right?

  • http://ottodestruct.com Otto

    I don’t get why fur is such a problem for some folks. I mean, what else are we supposed to do with it after you eat the animal? Throw it away? That’s just wasteful, man.

  • Julie

    Otto: Many fur animals aren’t animals that are used in the meat industry. They’re things like foxes, minks, etc. where the carcass goes to waste.

    Alex: Not so much. The meat production industry is under regulation by the USDA, FDA, etc. to ensure at least some measure of humane treatment, housing and slaughter for food animals. It’s a matter of opinion whether they are always successful or not, but measures are in place to try and provide a quality of life for the animals. The fur trade, on the other hand, is largely routed in foreign countries where such laws and regulations do not exist and the animals are treated with unimaginable levels of cruelty. There is no hypocrisy in saying that you wear leather and eat meat, but don’t support fur.

    I, for example, eat meat but am against foie gras and veal production, because they involve cruelty-intensive practices.

    Thegoodman: I can’t decide if you’re just trolling for the sake of trying to stir the pot, but I can say that I am monumentally grateful that you will never own a pet.

  • Killer Bee

    Judaism seems less like a religion and more like a culture. Hardly any Jews seem to believe it’s true, but they follow it for the sake of remaining a distinct people.

    I don’t care what they prescribe or proscribe for animals. I don’t like the idea of animals suffering, but at the same time, I don’t like a lot of things that happen anyway.

    What’s their position on Gazans? Do they slaughter them humanely? No, just slowly, allowing just enough food through the blockade to keep the world off their backs. What about when they encroach on their farms and demolish their houses, is that kosher?
    Gimme a fucking break. Israel is at the same point in its development that the US was when it was kicking Indians off the land we wanted. And I’m OK with that, since Muslims have a tendency to set up crappy dictatorships and slaughter each other wholesale, anyway. But for all you ethical humanitarian types out there, I can’t believe you’re countenancing this bullshit.

  • False Prophet

    Meat is not economical. A vegetarian diet is economical. In fact, given the health issues, meat isn’t practical either. People eat meat for the same reason that they wear fur: because they want to and because they don’t care how their actions affect animals.

    By that measure, a beef and dairy diet is more ethical than a vegetarian diet. Millions of rabbits, voles, snakes and other animals are killed each year when wheat and soy are harvested. Grazing animals that do not eat grain do not wreak devastation like the harvesting process does.

    Unless you manually harvest your grains and vegetables yourself, your vegetarian diet still kills millions of animals.

  • jemand

    @False prophet, most modern beef farms do use grain to feed the cows. A great deal of it actually, mostly corn.

  • http://onestdv.blogspot.com OneSTDV

    You guys are missing the larger point here: That on an atheist website, there’s someone lauding a RELIGIOUS tradition.

    Where’s the next post on Christian charity, Hindus being pro-family, or Muslims dispensing justice to criminals.

  • Thegoodman

    I think I misrepresented myself. Like I said, I often come across as a psychopath when discussing animals and that isn’t the case at all.

    I am actually very very kind to animals and would never hurt one personally. I have been squirrel hunting and bird hunting just 1 time in my life each and I truly felt bad about taking the life of the animals I killed. I go out of my way not to harm animals and the day I accidentally hit a dog with my car was one of the sadder days of my life. I have a deep respect for all living things and do not wish them any harm nor do I support any harm done to them.

    That being said, I value human life a great deal more than animal life. The fact that there are thousands of homeless and starving people out there is a much larger concern of mine than the number of stray dogs running around rummaging in dumpsters.

    @Jemand
    Do you seriously consider a baby and a dog equivalent? And you fear that I own a pet? I fear that you are ever responsible for a child. Dogs are animals. Children are humans. Your comparison is disturbing. Also, while you are right in that babies offer no companionship (just like a dog), they do offer us hope that our genes will be passed on successful and that they will grow to be productive members of society that will make their parents proud. People love babies because they remind of us our own babies that we loved so very much (or plan on loving when they come along).

    @Julie
    I am not trolling. I just think that pets have been raised to a ridiculous level of respect in our society and I find it very annoying. I grew up with a harlequin great dane named Charity whom I loved very much when I was a child. Charity had her shots when she was young and never went to the vet again. She ate cheap dog food and whatever she found in the woods. She was never in a pin or on a chain and roamed free for her long 14 years. I felt like she was as happy and loved as any dog and she didn’t even take diabetes shots or own any sweaters. She was my dog. Not my companion and not my friend, just my dog. I loved her as a pet and nothing more.

    Like I said, pet lovers are everywhere and I tend to put them in the same boat as religious people. They love the thing they have fabricated and they are blind to the truth that animals do not actually care about us. Dogs certainly seem to care, but that is only because they are evolutionarily social animals and when other dogs are not around, they make friends with people who seem to be helping them out. Cats could not be less interested in us.

  • Killer Bee

    OneSTDV,

    Agreed. An atheist forum is an odd place to laud the dubious traditions of any religion.

    That goes double for animal rights in this case when you consider how much of the Old Testament is devoted to animal sacrifice or outright slaughtering animals (nevermind the people) as part of the process of totally destroying a nation.

    Besides which, I thought Buddhism was the most kind to animals.

  • http://www.takedeadaimontherichkids.blogspot.com Alice

    @Thegoodman – Humans are animals too. It’s a strange argument to suggest that one animal is more worthy than all the others of being healthy and happy.

    As far as dogs being social animals – so are humans. We build social circles and groups just like dogs do. If there’s are interspecies social groups (which has been happening for thousands of years), to the advantage of BOTH species and if everybody is happy and comfortable – as your Great Dane sounds like it was, what on earth is wrong with that? And further to that, what is wrong with providing medical care to those members of your social group? There’s no suggestion that if people didn’t look after their pets that all of a sudden we’d be rid of human homelessness or human illnesses.

  • jemand

    @thegoodman,

    My comparison was that someone who causes gratuitous pain and suffering to one, is dangerous to be around the other. It shows an extreme lack of empathy and cruelty and marks one as a dangerous person. Are you seriously saying that you wouldn’t mind that woman who burned her dogs to be taking care of children? *AS* a baby, the child will interact with others and communicate in ways adults do not– just like animals interact with adult humans and communicate in ways adults do not use. If someone can completely disregard one, to the point of burning them alive, I’m pretty certain they are dangerous around the other too.

    My comparison is not disturbing. I simply stated, that humans *and* animals have levels of sentience that needs to be respected in any logical ethical system. And that saying that one has value and deserves respect simply for arbitrary reasons is not conducive to consistent and good ethical conduct.

    So if a child has no hope of being a productive member of society, it’s a ok for you to treat it with zero love and respect? Animals won’t ever be productive adult members of society, but they *are* sentient, as people are sentient (though it’s hard to measure sentience, they are different), and it is the *sentience* that drives our value and respect of them– and which causes us not to abuse or be cruel to them.

    Forcing others to abide by your personal priorities of which thing to fight *first* is a common derailing tactic that is likely to stop *any* good from happening. Let people develop their own priorities, you work on your thing, let others work on theirs, and stop getting annoyed that some people want to stop something happening closest to them, while others want to stop the worst abuse, while others see many groups working on one project and decide to work on another, etc.

    It’s NOT a zero sum game, where we have to solve *ALL* of the ‘people’ problems before we go to stuff like environmentalism and animal rights. If we are not addressing the *root* cause, lack of empathy, we are *not* going to solve the people problems all on their own either. People have to work on them all.

    So stop derailing the conversation by insisting everybody who doesn’t share your *exact* priorities for making the world a better place, in *exactly* the same order as you would approach it, all the same, into someone who you would call unethical.

  • alex

    Thegoodman:

    I’m glad somebody voiced this argument. I was afraid of being eaten alive :)

    I don’t support gratuitous violence and torture, but at the same time I don’t think we need to go out of our way to never harm a living thing. Life is ugly, get used to it.

    Julie:

    That seems more like a compromise to me. Why not regulate fur the same way meat is regulated, instead of trying to ban it and guilt-trip people into not using it? Partial answer to that question, of course, is that there is a real danger coming from improperly handled meat, whereas improperly handled fur is unlikely to harm you in any way (save for your wallet and ego), therefore control is not as important.

    On a side note, it’s always the consumer’s fault, isn’t it? We are responsible for inhumane slaughter, we pay sales taxes, we go to jail for buying drugs, etc.

  • BoomerChick

    @Thegoodman

    I am glad you amended your first post (I thought your name was a misnomer).
    Perhaps a better way to make your point in the first post would be this hypothetical:
    You are driving to fast to stop and you have to swerve to miss hitting a person or a dog. Even I, as an animal lover would choose to hit the dog.
    Your characterization of dogs is partially right in that owners anthropomorphize them. Having said that I do believe that there is credible evidence that dogs are sentient beings with emotions and social bonds similar to humans. To wit my husband’s service dog saved my husband’s life more than once.
    I personally would not wear fur. I am especially against fur from cats and dogs. Again having said that there is no synthetic material comparable to fur and leather and fur has had a prominent part in human evolution.
    As for the fur hats that started the many rants here, I think ANY resource devoted to religion is wasted.

  • Thegoodman

    Alex, thanks for the support. The PETA bandwagon has large treads that crush opposition quickly and brutally.

    You make a great point about meat vs. fur. Fur is a luxury item that obviously is not consumed, a sanitary environment when processing it is far less important.

    I am a true libertarian at heart (the ideology, not the political party) and I don’t want to tell anyone what they can and cannot do.

    It seems ironic that the people who are up in arms about banning fur are often the same people on the soap box for gay rights and the like. I don’t feel like it is right to pick and choose which freedoms we have and don’t have based on your own opinions. Fur should be an individuals choice, just as marijuana, abortion, and religion should be a personal choice.

  • http://www.takedeadaimontherichkids.blogspot.com Alice

    It’s not ironic that we want all creatures to be treated with respect and dignity.

  • http://theipu.com Ron Gold

    For those who thought it was weird for me take a pro-religious perspective on an atheist blog, well, that was partly the point of the post. It isn’t that often that I appreciate an element of a religion, and that’s why I thought it was an interesting subject. It has sparked plenty of controversy in the comments, so I think I was right.

    To expand on my viewpoint, I don’t like fur because, as some of you explained, the animals are often treated brutally and the meat will go to waste more often than not. I accept that I’m somewhat of a hypocrite because I eat meat myself, though I think vegetarianism is a noble practice. I just like the delicious taste of beef and chicken too much to give it up. I’m with Julie, who like me doesn’t eat veal or foie gross. I also haven’t had pork in a few years after I started reading that pigs are as smart as cats or dogs. When I tell people this they usually think I’m crazy.

    One last thought: it was my hypotheses that atheists are more likely to be vegetarians that the average person. I’m not so sure now.

  • alex

    Alice:

    This is starting to sound a lot like Conservative pro-life anti-choice rhetoric.

  • BoomerChick

    @Ron Gold
    Re: your hypothesis
    To confuse you even further my husband and I are both atheists and flexitarians.
    Flexitarians defined as vegetarians who occasionally eat meat. More often than not we eat vegan meals because of the health benefits and to a lesser extent because of humane reasons.

  • http://www.takedeadaimontherichkids.blogspot.com Alice

    I realised that sounded a little trite after I wrote it and I regretted it and I apologise. If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s sensationalism, and there I was, sensationalising.

    I just felt that it was an unfair way of looking at thing and I didn’t think before I wrote. All I wanted to point out was the common theme of not wanting animals killed and not wanting people persecuted. If that takes legislation, then so be it.

  • Dave B.

    @Ron Gold

    Personally, I’m not so bothered by the fact that you find some of the religious views of Jews agreeable. The part that made it objectionable to me (and probably others) is where you then cheer on the mixing of religion and politics when the religion happens to overlap with your politics. Secular governance should be far more important than preventing a small minority from wearing fur hats in the desert.

  • veggiedude

    Any logical person would not eat animals or use their by-products. The reasons are ecological, environmental, and for health reasons, as well as for moral reasons. If you are not familiar with the arguments, then just google them for you own education.

    Live long and prosper.

    the veggiedude

  • Dave B.

    @veggiedude,

    Most rational people would discount ecological/environmental issues when choosing whether or not to eat meat or use animal products. Any one person’s decision has a negligible effect on those issues. Moral reasons are subjective, and may or may not be an issue for different people.

    It’s my understanding that there’s nothing particularly unhealthy about eating a reasonable amount of meat. Googling reveals a lot of pro-vegan sites with large lists of dubious health benefits, so I can’t be sure whether there are indeed health benefits to a vegan diet. Accepting your premise that an omnivorous diet is less healthy, this still has to be weighed against other benefits of eating meat, such as the flavor and the increased convenience of not having to ensure that there is a vegan option before going out to eat. A rational person may well choose a less healthy diet because it has greater benefits in areas other than health.

    A logical/rational person may or may not choose to avoid meat and animal by-products, but it’s hardly clear that every logical person would come to the same conclusion you’ve come to, even with the same evidence.

  • veggiedude

    “Most rational people would discount ecological/environmental issues when choosing whether or not to eat meat or use animal products”

    How so? The United Nations report stated meat eating contributes more to global warming than driving a gas guzzler – so this is easily dispensed by a rational person? I know it has been disputed, but the same conclusion was come to by more than just one physicist many months earlier. Please do tell. I want to hear this.

  • veggiedude

    “It’s my understanding that there’s nothing particularly unhealthy about eating a reasonable amount of meat.”

    The same can be said of smoking mate. Both contribute to altering your DNA, increasing your risk of cancer.

  • http://onestdv.blogspot.com OneSTDV

    @ veggiedude:

    I can’t imagine being severely underweight is healthy either (almost every male vegetarian I know is extremely skinny).

  • veggiedude

    I’ve been vegan for 32 years, and for most of that time, a martial arts fanatic. I’m not under weight. I personally know many vegetarians that could loss a few pounds.

  • Dave B.

    @veggiedude,

    The decision any one person makes to eat meat and use animal products or not has a negligible effect on the environment, even if that effect is greater than driving an SUV. Because the effect is so small, it is dwarfed by other considerations in rational decision making unless you are completely indifferent to whether or not you eat meat. If you don’t eat meat or use animal products for environmental reasons, you’re probably being irrational.

    The important thing for the environment is what everyone else is doing, not what you’re doing. So environmental consequences only make sense to consider if you believe that your example will change the behavior of others, and it would really have to be a lot of others.

  • veggiedude

    If we take your rational globally, then you’d make a lousy world leader. Why should the USA take the lead in anything, be it global warming, human rights, etc, because it doesn’t matter what we do, it only matters what the rest of the world does. Thanks, but I like my way of thinking much better.

  • Dave B.

    I’m not saying that your way of thinking is wrong. I’m saying it’s not rational. Individual rationality can easily lead to bad social outcomes when the incentives are wrong, and this is usually the case for environmental issues. If you care enough about the environment to act irrationally, that’s awesome. Just realize that your claim that your actions are logical is unconvincing to others.

    I explained the type of situation in which it would be rational to make the right decision regarding the environment: if your decisions influence many others. This is exactly the case for a world leader. It certainly does matter what 300 million people do, if you can only affect the USA.

  • Kwayera

    Disclosure: I’m a 22 year old atheist female from Sydney, Australia. I am two weeks off completing an a degree in Marine Science (Honours), I work for an eco-tourism company that does whale watching during the humpback whale migration season, and I like to consider myself an environmentalist and a proponent of animal rights. I have a cat and a dog, I eat meat, and I also wear fur.

    There’s no real cognitive dissonance involved in happily wearing fur and eating meat, and being against excessive animal cruelty, in my opinion. Admittedly fur is a luxury good (though I get all of mine second hand, as I can’t afford new ones), but I have absolutely zero issues with wearing fur and supporting the fur industry. Why?

    Fur farming is actually quite ethical, when you think of it. The fact that furs are required to be of high quality to be of use means that the animals MUST be treated humanely; stress and ill-treatment degrades the quality of the fur. Ergo, the majority of fur-bearing animals (in the US, Canada and the EU – clearly not China, but that’s a different kettle of fish) are treated well and killed humanely. This is backed up by law, and extensively policed by the law and by the fur farms themselves. The left-over meat is usually either turned into fertiliser or used to feed animals in zoos and sanctuaries.

    So unless you get your furs from China – and as skins are tattooed, it’s pretty easy to trace the origin of the skins that make up a coat (and good makers will leave the lining unsewn at the hem so you can do just that) – the wearing of fur can actually be pretty ethical, inasmuch as anything involving the death of an animal can be truly considered ethical. Personally I love my steaks, and much prefer wearing a farmed mink jacket (which is biodegradable) in winter over a polluting, over-processed plastic construction. :)


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