Why Am I Still Vegetarian?

I touched on this the other day, but it deserves its own thread. What are my thoughts about vegetarianism? I’ll just start typing and see what comes out…

I’ve been a vegetarian my entire life. I’ve never eaten meat, at least not on purpose. (Dammit, Taco Bell, I said Bean Burrito!)

I was raised that way because my parents are Jain. Jains believe in non-violence ahead of most everything else, so they’re typically strict vegetarian. For me, that meant no meat, no fish, no eggs. Milk and cheese were ok, though.

To be clear, though, I wasn’t told to be a vegetarian for religious reasons. I was taught that killing animals was wrong, period, and that just happened to mesh with the Jain principle of non-violence. So when I became an atheist at 14, I could still see a lot of reasons to remain a vegetarian. Plus, to be fair, it’s not like I had to go through a rough transition. (I’m in awe of people who become vegetarians after having eaten meat their whole lives. That takes serious willpower.)

In retrospect, I see a number of problems with the reasons I was given for being a vegetarian…

For example, in all the time I was Jain, we never talked about why it wasn’t unethical to drink milk (that might involve animals getting injected with hormones). I always figured cows weren’t killed to get milk, so that’s why it was ok. There was no “in-between” harm I ever considered.

I was also raised to think that all eggs could be fertilized so we shouldn’t eat them because we’d be killing an unborn chicken. (Whether that was true or not was never discussed.) What about the treatment of the chickens? We never discussed that. I still avoid eggs now whenever possible. (I may occasionally eat a Rice Krispies Treat prepared with marshmallows but I won’t eat scrambled eggs.) The thought of eating an omelette and the smell of eggs at a restaurant still makes me sick. (If a chicken was treated kindly and just happened to lay an egg, would I eat it? Probably not.)

How do I reconcile that whole “fertilization” thing with being pro-choice? I honestly try not to think about it because I know there’s a logical problem there.

There are also a lot of gaps to my knowledge because I’ve never eaten meat.

I don’t know what a lot of meals taste like. Turkey, fried chicken, steak, bacon (I know…), Big Macs, shrimp. But I guess it’s not too big of a deal because I’ve never had a craving for any of those things. I wonder what would happen if I just sat down and ate a steak… if I would start to gag or whether it would taste good. No clue.

When I was growing up, I was always the only vegetarian in my class. When kids brought in treats on their birthday, I had to decline… or hope that the birthday kid brought in a “special” treat for me.

One of the greatest things about starting to work with atheist groups was that I was surrounded by other vegetarians. At every conference I attended, there was always a vegetarian option.

I think one of the reasons my parents were able to cope with my leaving their faith was that I was still not eating meat.

So why am I vegetarian and not vegan? If you cut milk/cheese from my diet right now, I would go crazy. I know there are alternatives, but going cold turkey (ha!) on that much of my diet seems too overwhelming.

If I’m a vegetarian because I oppose animal cruelty, why do I buy products and not even think about whether they’re made with leather or animal products?

Am I bothered by the fact that we dissected cats back in high school? Nope. I thought that was awesome.

If the animal can’t physically feel pain, would I eat it? Nope.

Do I support PETA? Ugh… no. In principle, I like them, but whenever I hear about them (or meet a supporter), I end up shaking my head and wanting nothing to do with them. I’m not a member and don’t have any desire to be.

If I were on a stranded island and the only way to live was to eat an animal, would I do it? Probably.

Could I date someone who eats meat? It doesn’t bother me as much now as it did before.

Does all that make me a hypocrite in those regards? I would think so…

I’m not saying my vegetarianism is completely logical. It’s a remnant of my religion and one of the few things associated with it that I still feel comfortable keeping around.

At the same time, I’m not at all evangelical about it. If someone is eating meat near me, I don’t even think about it. But if someone tells me they’re Christian, my “atheist” sensors go off and I have an urge to start debating religion…

So there you go. It’s certainly not an excuse, but maybe that sheds a little more light on how I equated hunting to dog-fighting the other day. I’m used to a world where any animal cruelty is treated the same way. There’s no middle ground. It’s always good to be reminded that’s not how the world really works.

I suppose I could be convinced to eat meat with some good arguments… or if you think I ought to go vegan, you can try to convince me of that, too.

  • Robert

    If you’ve been a vegetarian all your life, it would be a bad thing to try and eat meat again. According to my Biology teacher, if you don’t eat meat for a long time your body becomes less able to digest the proteins in meat. Therefore, eating meat may give you indigestion and other problems (such as nausea, diarrhoea and stomach cramps). Since there’s no reason to endure this kind of thing, I say don’t try to become a meat eater unless it really means something to you.

    By the way, in case you’re curious, I eat meat and I absolutely adore a good, medium-well steak.

  • http://viewfromtheloft.typepad.com estraven

    I was a vegetarian at two different periods in my life. I have since gone back to meat-eating, but my spouse and I buy grass-fed beef from a low-environmental-impact farmer. We have also bought local free-range chickens in the past. And we can buy locally humanely raised pork as well. We used to be very anti-hunting, but living out in a rural area overrun with deer as we do, we’ve changed our minds a little. The deer are terribly destructive of gardens and orchards, and we no longer think hunting is all that bad. Deer-car accidents are all too common here–one of my husband’s relatives actually had a deer ENTER the car, very dangerous for all concerned. We have not bagged any deer ourselves, but I’m not as opposed as I once was. I have a little better understanding of the mindset of the people I live amongst, and I also understand that the deer themselves can suffer if they are too populous. Not saying I want to kill any deer, just saying I have a little different perspective now than I did before I became a rural resident.

  • Jeanette

    Hmm…well even if you became vegetarian unskeptically, it’s still a good idea to remain one. The environmental costs of the way our society produces meat are just too high to maintain. Global warming is caused in a larger part than one would think by sheer number of cattle, for example. Anyway, I recently became a “fake vegetarian” (as in I go around saying I’m vegetarian but secretly eat meat for a few meals of the year or if someone cooks it for me by accident or something…it’s more about not deciding to buy meat) for environmental reasons. It’s not enough, since I’m not vegan and I’m still giving money occasionally to the meat industry, but if everyone ate a lot less meat, things would get much better. As far as animal cruelty…I don’t think eating animals is inherently wrong (it’s how nature works), but it’s clear that there is a lot of animal abuse in factory farms, so there’s that too.

  • dan

    i’m a vegan athiest. it’s for environmental/health reasons, but i actually love eating this way. i wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t enjoyable, and for me it is. i’m not militant about it, but i often feel the urge to explain to people that there are other reasons to go vegan than “spiritual” reasons.

    i can’t think of any compelling arguments why you should give up vegetarianism. as far as the tastes of meals goes, you’re not missing anything. really. for example, bacon tastes great to meat-eaters, but it wouldn’t taste great to you (or, at this point, me). vegan bacon (i.e. smoked tempeh strips, which can be bought or homemade, or a more processed “fake meat” product) tastes wonderful, and is even more delicious to someone who no longer craves meat. and fried tofu is way better than fried chicken (same delicious sauce, just lacks the nasty tendons and bones, for one thing).

  • dan

    i’m a vegan atheist. it’s for environmental/health reasons, but i actually love eating this way. i wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t enjoyable, and for me it is. i’m not militant about it, but i often feel the urge to explain to people that there are other reasons to go vegan than “spiritual” reasons.

    i can’t think of any compelling arguments why you should give up vegetarianism. as far as the tastes of meals goes, you’re not missing anything. really. for example, bacon tastes great to meat-eaters, but it wouldn’t taste great to you (or, at this point, me). vegan bacon (i.e. smoked tempeh strips, which can be bought or homemade, or a more processed “fake meat” product) tastes wonderful, and is even more delicious to someone who no longer craves meat. and fried tofu is way better than fried chicken (same delicious sauce, just lacks the nasty tendons and bones, for one thing).

  • Steve

    I had an awesome steak today. Thick. Medium – just right for the most part. Delicious :)

    I know that there can be cruelty in raising animals. The way they keep chickens for egg production in batteries is crazy for example – and outlawed for good reason in some places. But it’s not like that everywhere. So I don’t like it when people generalize about it.

    If someone wants to be a vegetarian for ethical, environmental or medical/health reasons, fine. Whatever. What I don’t get is why some of them have to be so pushy about it. For some, it’s an ideology that demands that others be lectured on the evils of meat. Urk.

  • Anonymous

    If I’m a vegetarian because I oppose animal cruelty, why do I buy products and not even think about whether they’re made with leather or animal products?

    Am I bothered by the fact that we dissected cats back in high school? Nope. I thought that was awesome.

    If the animal can’t physically feel pain, would I eat it? Nope.

    http://cheezburger.com/MeadMuse/lolz/View/3184142336

  • Angus

    I just read an article on Unreasonably Dangerous Onion Rings about this same thing.

    It addresses PETA specifically, but more importantly the fact that (just as with religion) so few people, if any, actually think through the reasons for their beliefs. Why does a sea sponge have the same right to life as a dolphin, for example? And why does an oyster deserve to live more than a carrot?

    Here’s the link.

  • http://atheistreadsbible.blogspot.com/ Jude

    I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 40 years. I have 3 children. I do believe that it’s better for the world, and I have my own inconsistencies that I live with, but the main reason I’m a vegetarian is that I hate meat. Yuck. Gristle, hamburger fat, bacon–yuck. My life is simpler without it. However, I have 3 kids, and just as I would if one them decided to become a Christian, I let them decide. I raised two eat-meaters (my son’s mis-pronunciation stuck–it’s easier to say than meat-eater) and 1 vegetarian. I don’t let them cook meat at home because I hate everything about it, but they eat meat at school, at friend’s houses, and at fast-food restaurants. You can be a vegetarian for a lot of reasons. Some of them proselytize. I don’t. But I still think it’s a good idea, and part of that might be because of the reaction I’ve received when I’ve spoken to high school classes about vegetarianism. In my part of Colorado, you’d think I was talking about virgin sacrifice–that’s how alien the concept is to them. One of the first things I asked my best friend when I met him was, “Are you a vegetarian?” It seemed as though he would be–he’s a musician, he meditates, he runs, he’s completely cool–but he eats meat. Okay. We’ll just do other things together besides eat at restaurants. Although I seldom think about PETA, I hate PETA as much as I hate any other extremist/terrorist group–a lot. Oh, and man, I hate tofu. I’m not a vegan either.

  • Courtney

    How do I reconcile that whole “fertilization” thing with being pro-choice? I honestly try not to think about it because I know there’s a logical problem there.

    Pretty easily, actually. You aren’t trying to impose your personal morality on the world at large. Egg/meat avoidance is your personal choice, but you still support the rights of other people to make their own dietary decisions that in line with their personal morality/health/whatever.

    It’s really not a logical problem that you carry that way of thinking over into your thoughts on overall bodily autonomy.

  • Sue

    Well, I would advise you to remain vegetarian. It’s almost certainly much healthier, and it’s also more ecologically responsible – it takes an awful lot of resources to raise meat. I’ve been vegetarian on and off my whole life; I eat a little meat now, and find that the more I eat the more I crave it, but know that I would be healthier without it.

    But, as always, question everything…

  • Spencer

    I’m a vegan atheist and I am inclined to think that my veganism is just as rational a philosophy as my atheism. I suggest that you look into Gary Francione, a law professor who is an advocate for abolitionist veganism.

  • Samantha

    I became a vegetarian 9 or so months ago and honestly, I’m really really happy about it. I feel better physically (I had some medical problems prior) and I think I’ve really expanded my horizons. I love cooking and its so much more enjoyable now. I cook about 6 days out of the week, and I’ve made my own veggie burgers, pepperoni, meatballs, etc. from scratch (and without soy. I’m not too keen on the taste).

    I also second what Robert says – it might give you some health problems if you just started eating meat.

    I only buy vegan cookbooks in order to encourage myself to cook that way (since giving up dairy would be extremely hard for me. not to mention my partner still eats meat. he is happy to eat my vegetarian and vegan dinners all the time, but I don’t think he would like us cutting out dairy altogether.)

    I’m definitely more outspoken about atheism than vegetarianism. I don’t really know why. I certainly wish people found out more about what happens “behind the scenes” of slaughterhouses and such, but I never say anything about it unless I’m asked. I don’t really say anything about atheism unless I’m asked either, for the most part.

    The only thing I miss – turkey sandwiches. They aren’t even that good but dammit, they’re convenient.

  • Beth

    By the way, in case you’re curious, I eat meat and I absolutely adore a good, medium-well steak.

    Steak? Medium-well?! Now THAT’S animal cruelty. ;)

    I’m an omnivore, whereas my partner is an ovo-lacto vegetarian. He’s one of those amazing people who ate (and loved) meat for much of his life, but became veg. after learning more about the environmental issues.

    I understand how some couples could struggle with dietary differences, but it’s never been an issue for us. He’s not one of those insufferable “vegangelicals,” and has never once tried to talk me out of meat-eating. And I admire and respect his principles too much to ever try to “convince” him to eat meat again. We cook only vegetarian food at home, which was initially challenging for me but is now one of my favorite parts of our home life.

    Whether your vegetarianism is a vestige of your old religion or an ongoing conviction (or both) doesn’t really matter. Nor does it matter if you’re a little morally incoherent on the subject. We all are. ;) It’s a tough thing to navigate. Best anyone can do is educate themselves on how their food is produced and then follow their own lights from there.

  • tim

    The debate should be more about moderation, portion control and where we get our food from then over what type of foods we eat.

    @dan

    I find it fascinating that many vegetarians go out of their way to find vegan substitutes for the very foods they say they loath.

    “Nasty tendons and bones”? The bones in the meat is part of what gives the meat its flavor – which you can never substituted with tofu no matter how you prepare it.

    I’m having a bone in rib eye steak from a grass fed cow tonight. medium rare. And its going to be excellent.

  • http://cheapsignals.blogspot.com/ Gretchen

    I admire your honesty in talking about this, Hemant. I’m trying to work out an ethical standard in regard to food myself, after learning about factory farms and slaughterhouses and how they function, the health ramifications of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), and so on. And I’ve been a meat-eater all of my life, so this is hard. I blogged about it recently, if you’re interested.

    A friend of mine is a vegetarian who raises chickens in her backyard. The eggs from those chickens constitute the only animal protein she eats– I think that’s incredible and would love to get to that point myself, but realistically speaking it will be a while. Getting to the point of only eating animal products that are produced ethically (grass-fed beef, real free range poultry and truly organic milk, etc.) is the first step. I’d like to raise chickens in my backyard, but it’s currently illegal where I live though it’s legal in many urban places across the country. There’s no need for a rooster (and in fact they’re usually not allowed) so no concerns about fertilization. For that matter, it’s very unlikely that most eggs you’d get from a store would be fertilized either, but eggs from hens that have been allowed to dine on grass and bugs are win-win– they taste better, are better for you, and certainly better for the chicken.

    I think it’s important to be consistent about these things as a skeptic, and I’m definitely not there yet. Fish are a freakin’ minefield– they’re healthier for you if they’re caught wild, but a lot of wild species are becoming endangered from over-fishing so eating only farm-raised fish might be more ethical. Hunting? I think non-vegetarians who are concerned about animal welfare should be all for it, since those deer/turkeys/quail/rabbits/etc. live far better lives than any cow raised standing in its own feces for its entire life eating corn that makes it sick. And their meat is better for you.

    One of the points Michael Pollan makes in his books is that the industrialization of food has the probably deliberate effect of isolating us from information about how that food is produced, and isolation makes ethical decision-making a lot harder. It’s really easy to be inconsistent and hypocritical, which is why I think people throw their hands up in the air and say “Screw it, I’m going to McDonald’s and you can’t blame me for it.” That’s really not good. If nobody cares, nothing will change.

  • Alice

    I think you should try meat, just once for fun. I mean, it’s something that nearly everyone has experienced that you don’t know about. It’s like never having been to Disney world.

  • http://www.npccomic.com/ Mary Varn

    Another vegan atheist here. I have rational reasons for being vegan that are closely related to my atheism. And I am certainly guilty of inconsistencies. I’m not comfortable trying to convince anyone to try veganism. But if you’re interested, I think Peter Singer’s poorly-named book Animal Liberation (the name implies images of radical activists breaking into labs, not something Peter Singer remotely condones) is a great place for a logically-minded individual to explore the reasons for any level of vegetarianism.

  • Anonymous

    Whether your vegetarianism is a vestige of your old religion or an ongoing conviction (or both) doesn’t really matter.

    I disagree. I think it’s the only thing that matters here. What he ultimately decides to do is entirely his own business.

    If an ex-Scientologist still passionately hates psychiatry, but can’t coherently explain why, then it should be examined, right?

  • The Captain

    “I don’t know what a lot of meals taste like. Turkey, fried chicken, steak, bacon (I know…), Big Macs, shrimp.”

    That sentence actually made me a little sad. Eating, like many of our basic biological functions, can be one of life’s great enjoyments. To categorically remove, or never experience, a myriad of tastes and textures from ones diet just seems like such a waste of the little time we have on this rock. I know it sounds weird, but I feel my life is richer for eating meat. Though I am one of those people who will (mostly) try whatever is in front of me at least once, to see how it taste, I never know, I may like it.

    I have to admit to never being able to understand vegetarians, even though I’ve dated two of them (though I still don’t understand women either so..). I just don’t see any validity to most of their reasons. I have no more moral obligation to the treatment of a chicken or cow than a T-Rex had to a Blahblahsaurus, and as far as it being better for the world, we have heaps of more pressing issues. But it’s their choice so as long as there are not self righteous about it, fine.

  • Beth

    If an ex-Scientologist still passionately hates psychiatry, but can’t coherently explain why, then it should be examined, right?

    If Hemant’s personal convictions for vegetarianism are on some level rooted in his fomer religion and upbringing, I still think that’s fine, as long as he’s not out to “convert” anyone, so to speak, on that basis. Also, as he pretty clearly demonstrated, he’s not suffering from a lack of self-examination on the subject and can quite coherently explain his rationale… even if it’s not 100% morally consistent. (But again, who is?)

    I’d make the same case for your ex-Scientologist. Self-aware or not, his hatred of psychiatry hurts only himself. We all have our own irrational convictions that are in need of examination. My objections start when those irrational convictions are forced on someone else with no other reason than “I think this way, so you need to as well.” This was touched on in one of the above comments, when the distinction was drawn between not eating eggs and being pro-choice.

  • NotYou007

    There is no way I could ever stop eating meat. I love pigs and cows. They are so damn yummy and I love eggs too.

    Now I want to go to the Texas Roadhouse and get a rack of ribs. Now I gotta wipe the droll from the side of my mouth.

  • http://pedagogic-verses.blogspot.com Luc Duval

    Opposition to eating meat because of the idea that harming animals is inherently bad suggests to me that choosing to buy meat would be bad because it gives incentive to those who do the harm to continue doing so. However, if someone else has already bought meat, that incentive has already been placed and had nothing to do with you – at such a point, not eating that meat makes no difference to the industry.

    Therefore, I propose the idea that you could eat/try meat on the condition that it is offered to you by someone who purchased the meat without you in mind.

    In short, next time you’re at a party with shrimp hors d’oeuvres, try one – guilt free.

  • Joshua

    Hemant,

    If you’re looking for a common sense philosophical argument for ethical vegetarianism/veganism (the strongest kind of argument for vegetarianism, in my opinion) you’d be hard pressed to find a better essay than “On the Immorality of Eating Meat” by the philosopher Mylan Engel. The essay is directed at meat-eating philosophers, but it’s easily accessible by any educated adult. So, if you intend to read only one short work on the subject, make it this one. Here’s a link to a pdf version.

    Also, if you don’t already know about the organization, Vegan Outreach (the most reasonable and trustworthy popular animal advocacy group–again, in my opinion) publishes an excellent collection of introductory brochures explaining the cruelties of animal agribusiness and arguing that we ought not to support them. Here’s a link to their most popular brochure.

    I’ve been following your site for over a year now, and because this is my first comment, I want to thank you for giving so much of your time and effort to bring us the best atheist news source on the web. It’s truly invaluable. Cheers to another year of thoughtful discussion on one of humankind’s most pressing–and divisive–subjects.

  • http://www.marzipanzombies.blogspot.com Stevie

    Ive been going through my own little episode of cognitive dissonance about this lately. I was vegan for three years and didn’t see any reason not to be. After having my first child a little over a year ago and having problems breast feeding (not due to veganism, but I had my own personal ethical crisis about giving her cows milk formula) I started to rethink my veganism.

    I finally just settled it with myself although I will admit that my thoughts on the issue will probably change throughout my life.

    I started eating a little bit of fish. I am also careful to try and only buy fish that is least harmful to the environment. Even then, I only have it a couple of times a week. I was never completely against eating some types of meat, just horribly against the way the animals are treated. I don’t think I could ever eat beef/pork again at this point, but I’ll cross that bridge if/when I ever get there.

    So, I eat fish and maybe something with a tiny bit of dairy or eggs if I am at somebody’s house. I don’t really buy anything with animal products in it unless it’s a tiny bit of whey. My thoughts are, if the main products with dairy (mainly cheese, butter and milk) weren’t in demand anymore, the small amounts of byproducts used in things like non-dairy creamer etc. wouldn’t be used in those products anymore. It would be too costly and non-important.

    There might be some errors in that logic, but right now it makes the most sense to me.

    This is a really uncomfortable issue for me and I almost didn’t read this particular post because of that. In the end though, I decided that I should read somethings that make me uncomfortable because that means they are actually important.

    There are days when I think I am going to go right back to being vegan and days when I feel I made the best decision for me and my child. Who knows. It’s an ongoing emotional battle for me.

  • Lobar

    I think it’s often taken for granted even amongst vegetarians who chose to become vegetarians later in life that vegetarianism is the best way to accomplish their goals. I disagree with that assumption.

    Moderation, not total elimination, has always been the key in diet and nutrition. The last thread had a few testimonials from former vegetarians that personally found their diet was having a debilitating effect on their health. Others may get by with no issue, but I don’t think it can be claimed that they are all more healthy than they would be with moderate meat consumption.

    As for ethical concerns, by declaring that you’ll never eat meat under any circumstances, you effectively remove any motivation for the industry to change its practices to cater to those concerns. The fate of livestock animals became inextricable from human society the day they became domesticated; they will never return to the wild. The best thing that can be done for their livelihood is to support ethical farming practices by making sure all your animal products come from ethical sources.

  • http://onestdv.blogspot.com OneSTDV
  • http://www.phoenixgarage.org/ cr0sh

    First off – if you’re happy with it, and it works for you and you are healthy, go for it and be merry. With that said…

    You say you wouldn’t eat meat from an animal that couldn’t feel pain; fair enough. But would you eat meat (aside from any other issues) if it were “grown” on a substrate? That is, it would be just like a plant, but grown in a controlled (though very artificial) manner; true industrial manufactured protein, with appropriate amounts of fat and fiber to hold it together…?

    Such a thing doesn’t exist yet outside of perhaps laboratories (it seems like something that squicks people out – but if such a thing could be done on a larger scale, the possibilities for burn victims and others are enormous).

    Myself – I enjoy eating meat, and I have no qualms over it. I’m not really happy about kosher/halal meat practices done industrially after watching that video; I’d prefer my meat to be stunned, shot, or otherwise rendered quickly and humanely dead before processing. I certainly understand where and what meat is (as a kid, my parents raised and butchered cattle, pigs, chickens, ducks and rabbits – no stranger to it here).

    Myself – I love nothing more than a good, well-marbled rib-eye cooked medium-rare (ok, I love bacon and fried chicken, too – oh, and grilled salmon!). I’ve tried a few vegetarian dishs, and I like vegi-burgers on occasion (just to screw with the heads of the cooks and everyone else at a restaurant, sometimes add bacon to the order!). For me, ultimately, as long as it tastes good and isn’t bland, it works for me.

    So – ultimately whatever works for you; I’m not on an crusade, and neither are you, nor does it seem like anyone else here cares. It was an interesting explanation for your previous post. I found what you wrote a little “shocking”, because I don’t equate hunting (for the purposes of eating the kill) with animal cruelty (generally, the last thing a hunter wants is to wound the animal – the instant stress and hormones released introduces bad flavors and toughness into the meat) of the kind Vick sanctioned.

  • Atalaya

    This is an immensely compelling read about a vegan who had to return to a normal diet due to health. It’s a lengthy read, but well worth it.

    http://voraciouseats.com/2010/11/19/a-vegan-no-more/

  • http://people.tamu.edu/~kbean1988 Keri

    My boyfriend (atheist like me) is nearly a vegetarian. He eats animals only from the wild or that were raised in good conditions. He’ll eat meat about once a month or so. I am a meat and potatoes type person (and the potatoes only came about halfway through college). He’s also a food snob (only eats high end stuff and all organic too) and I’m likely to end up at McDonald’s.

    This was a big concern at the beginning of our relationship, but we’ve learned to deal with it. He has no intention of making me vegetarian, and I have no intention of forcing him to eat meat. At restaurants we just order different things and it’s no big deal. At home, we’ll either eat the same meal, or we’ll split it in half and he’ll add more veggies to his half and I’ll add meat to my half. I will admit I’ve now tried and eaten more veggies and other foods in general in the past 9 months of dating him than ever before, but I’ve liked nearly all of it!

    In other words, it’s not a big deal to date someone of different food beliefs. Just talking about it and understanding each other’s beliefs will prevent any strife! :)

  • Atalaya

    This is an immensely compelling read about a vegan who had to return to a normal diet due to health. It’s a lengthy read, but well worth it.

    http://voraciouseats.com/2010/11/19/a-vegan-no-more/

    EDIT: It looks like her website is down for me, but if you google for “A Vegan No More” you should be able to read the RSS.

  • http://chandays.blogspot.com Larry Meredith

    I eat meat a lot, but I’m not crazy about it. I think I lack a part of the brain that tells me that animal cruelty for food is wrong. In my mind, we are higher up in the food chain, and just like every other animal on the planet. we eat what is lower down the food chain. I am strongly against animal cruelty for sport or fun, but if it’s done for a source of food, I support it. I honestly don’t even care very much if the animal endures pain when being prepared to be turned into food. It goes back to the food chain argument. It’s just the way the world works. I like eating meat, and therefore beings that are lower on the food chain may endure pain for me to eat them. This is the way it happen throughout the entire animal kingdom, why should it be different just because I’m human? Humans are still animals.

  • SeekerLancer

    It’s not hypocritical to not care that others aren’t vegetarians. You were raised to find eating meat distasteful, it’s perfectly logical that you’d continue to have that personal preference. And that’s what it is for you basically, a preference, not an ideology like it is for some vegetarians.

    They eat a lot of things in other parts of the world like bugs or squid that they find perfectly normal but I’d never be able to stomach in a million years.

    I want to learn to eat less meat, but only for health reasons.

  • Zach

    I am a vegetarian and one thing i am absolutely sick of is omnivores who, when i bring up the fact that i’m a vegetarian, many times (its in the comment thread) say something along the lines of “i love meat too much to be a vegetarian.” Considering I am not a vegetarian(and i think most vegetarians agree) for reasons referring to how meat tastes – why bring it up? It is utterly irrelevant to why I am a vegetarian.

    To the person who said that some vegetarians stop being so because it effects their health: a) since we are discussing anecdotes there are plenty of vegetarians who would say they became veg because of how eating meat was making them feel and b) you can eat a perfectly healthy diet without much trouble just like you can eat an absolutely terrible meat diet.

    As someone who does not accept the idea of intrinsic value,those who bring up that some vegetarians think meat eating is “inherently bad” don’t refer to me. Meat eating isn’t “inherently bad” because nothing is “inherently bad.” But being inherently bad/intrinsic value isn’t what my ethical system is based on.

  • http://cheapsignals.blogspot.com/ Gretchen

    In my mind, we are higher up in the food chain, and just like every other animal on the planet. we eat what is lower down the food chain.

    I eat meat, but I really hate this (attempt at) justification for doing so. It’s an obvious use of the naturalistic fallacy– nothing is moral or immoral for us because of what other animals do or have done.

  • Alan Duncan

    What separates the author from countless others whether vegetarians or carnivores is thinking critically about the question. I choose to eat no meat not because someone advised me one way or other. I eat only plants because of the massive deleterious effects of animal farming on our environment and health. The energy expenditure required to bring a steak to your table is enormous; and completely unnecessary. Further, the rampant overuse of antibiotics required to keep close-quartered animals well enough to survive to the slaughterhouse is widely considered to be a primary source of antimicrobial resistance among human pathogens.

    So, I don’t consider vegetarianism a religious issue. If someone wants to make up superstitious reasons for avoiding meat; let them keep it to themselves. But in public discourse, the evidence is more than sufficient.

  • Drakk

    Speaking as an ex-muslim I have this same dilemma with alcohol. I prefer not to consume it, even as I have no problem enjoying the company of those who do. I’ve even had some myself on occasion. But you would never catch me ordering alcohol for myself, of my own accord – and I don’t have the faintest reason for being as such.

    When asked, I have even snarkily replied “I’m muslim” only to redact the statement and explain my sarcasm…and then be left with no rational explanation as to why I choose not to drink.

    Frustrating at times, honestly. I tell people I don’t enjoy drinking, but I don’t actually have enough experience to gauge enjoyment.

    Oh, by the way, Hemant – what’s your view when it comes to things like cake, which use egg but aren’t “egg dishes” per se?

    (Hemant says: I don’t eat much cake for that reason… though I indulge every now and then)

  • Revyloution

    I would never talk someone out of a life choice they’ve made if the reasons ‘because I want to’. Once you try to defend your life style based on some sort of evidence, then the fight is on. I could point out that farming causes the death of thousands of living things, from pesticides to animals starving because their natural habitat was removed for the farm.

    The same goes for religion. If someone believes in a god because they like it, then good for them. As soon as they claim that it’s rational, or that laws should be made in favor of their gods edicts, then its game on.

    Personally, I think refusing to eat anything is missing out on a great part of being human. I’ll eat anything. I’ve had witchity grubs in Australia, chocolate covered ants, prairie oysters (fried bull testicles), lutefisk, fried grasshopper, and any number of other odd delicacies. Eating is one of our 5 senses. Choosing to not explore one part of the food spectrum is like choosing to not look at mountains. Sure, there are plenty of pretty views, and you could probably go all your life without enjoying a mountain vista, but I feel you would be missing out on a special part of living by never seeing the sun set behind the rockies.

    So, if you choose to never enjoy a mountain scene, I won’t criticize. That just means there is more bacon for me :)

  • ErinM

    After about 8 years as a vegan I’ve had to reintroduce eggs and dairy because of issues with anemia. My doctor would be happy if I’d have a few servings of meat every week, but I just can’t look at a piece of meat on my plate and seriously contemplate eating it. (That said, watching other people eat meat doesn’t really bother me.)

    Not everyone thrives on a vegetarian diet, as I’ve discovered, so I’m not one to dictate to anyone else what to eat. I certainly advocate organic and cruelty-free meat consumption, but otherwise, to each his own.

  • Liz

    Hemant, did your family abstain from roots and leafy vegetables, too? If so, do you still follow that?

    (Hemant says: My mom still does on certain days… though because it’s almost impossible to do without the plants, it’s thought of as a “necessary evil” so we ate them in lieu of animals.)

  • http://www.correntewire.com chicago dyke

    i refused to cut up the frog, in middle school. i said, “nope. nah gonna kill something.” it felt like the right stance to take, even though i got a lower grade for it. it just didn’t make sense to me, there were plenty of pictures and movies and whatnot. no need for all of us as individuals to participate in vivisection.

    my best friend is veggie, not quite vegan but close. we used to cook together in school. i’d go days, weeks, without eating meat. it’s not a big deal and if meat were illegal tomorrow i’d be bummed cause i like sushi, but i’d survive. veggies are rich and varied, for all humans include meat in their traditional diets.

  • http://chandays.blogspot.com Larry Meredith

    @Gretchen
    I never stated that moral values don’t exist. I didn’t mean to imply that nothing is right or wrong just because animals do it. It’s just reality that animals are always under a lot of pain in the world when being prepared as a meal. Whether it’s right or wrong, I don’t think it really matters. It’s always going to happen, and as long as you put good use to all the parts of the animal, then at least it wouldn’t have died in vain.

  • Epistaxis

    Huh. I came to the comments reluctantly, expecting the embarrassing flamewar that always breaks out when vegetarianism comes up (especially among atheists, for some reason), but I’m pleasantly surprised. I wonder if it’s because Hemant didn’t try to make arguments, rather he just explained the atypical way that he got where he is.

  • http://cheapsignals.blogspot.com/ Gretchen

    And I didn’t suggest that you don’t think moral values exist, Larry. What you did was try to justify meat consumption by saying that’s what all other animals do, which is not a justification at all. You have no idea whether it’s “always going to happen” for humans, and whether it always should happen is a moral question, considering that it doesn’t have to happen.

    There are good arguments for eating meat, some of which have been mentioned in this thread, but that ain’t one of them.

  • ewan

    I have no more moral obligation to the treatment of a chicken or cow than a T-Rex had to a Blahblahsaurus

    Yes, you do. The T-Rex isn’t capable of making any kind of moral judgement; it’s simply not smart enough, but you are. When the T-Rex eats an animal it’s not making a moral decision at all, but when you do, you are making a moral decision that it’s OK to inflict suffering on others for the sake of your own gratification.

    By most standards, that would be considered a bad moral decision.

  • http://www.youratheistneighbor.blogspot.com keystothekid

    I’ve been a vegetarian longer than I’ve been an atheist. I actually think vegetarianism was a stepping stone to skepticism for me. Eating meat was the first big issue I ever thought to challenge. The reason I became vegetarian has almost nothing to do with animal cruelty, I’d have to say it’s the last reason on my list of reasons to be honest. The main reasons I have found for abstaining from meat are, my own personal health, the environment, the social issues (the way the slaughterhouse workers/farmers (even veg. farmers fall under this category, sadly) are treated) and the pure fun.

    Sure, you could argue that meat moderation is healthy meat eating, but unless you’re buying healthy beef/pork/poultry/lamb/etc. you could still be eating loads of anti-biotics and the like. It might sound like a cop out, but it’s much easier for me to give myself the label vegetarian, instead of trying to moderate meat consumption to the low level it should be.

    It takes an extreme amount of resources to manufacture meat. It’s insane. I won’t start spouting facts because I’m not trying to convert anyone. Subsidies kill me. The whole idea of subsidizing food production started in the 70′s to ensure that enough food was made to feed Americans. Subsidies were also put in place to fight off rising costs at the grocery store, to help make sure everyone could eat. Well, this is all an intrinsically excellent idea; trying to ensure no one in our country go hungry. However, the flaw comes when the subsidized products are singled out and become food fillers. Now, tons of tax money is going into corn production so that cows can be fed, so that corn plastics can be produced, things of that nature. The corn itself makes almost no money for the farmer, it’s the subsidies that keep the corn farmer alive. And that’s a sad thing. Sorry sorry, I’ll quit ranting.

    I did want to say something to TIM from above on his comment about how veggies try so hard to eat the things they loathe. Sometimes we just miss comfort food, a lot. I don’t constantly eat soy meat substitutes because it just doesn’t seem logical to me. It’s costly, and too much soy can be bad for you too. But damnit, sometimes I just miss the idea of a burger and fries! Hence the veggieburgers.

    As for the idea that it’s natural to eat meat. Sure, it’s totally natural. It’s not natural the way it’s done in America at all. There’s nothing natural about going to the grocery store and buying meat that’s been smashed into patties and frozen. There’s nothing natural about the way these animals were raised. The food chain argument is silly to me.

    Hemant, I also find your idea of hunting kind of weird. At least to me it’s weird. Probably because we’re vegetarian for two very different reasons though. I praise hunters. That is natural. Going out there at 4 a.m., sitting in the cold just hoping you even get the chance to kill an animal. Then, dragging it home and doing all the work yourself, I think that’s something noble. Not to mention game meat is fresher (tastier if I’m remembering correctly from my meat days). Anyone who wants to eat meat and goes through the trouble of killing their own animals and all the steps that come with it, I think that’s much better than just hitting up the grocery store and taking the whole system for granted.

  • Don Rose

    Nice post, Hemant.

    The dogfighting/hunting thread got a bit strange. I think this thread helps.

    Don’t worry about what anyone else eats, and don’t worry about what other people think about your own eating habits. It’s one of those personal choices that we each make.

    Myself, I eat everything but the dishes….lol, but I feel like I need the fuel to keep me going.

  • cutthroatjane

    I wish I could be vegetarian, but like you said, it takes someone with a really strong will power to stop eating meat after eating it their entire lives. I lived in a small “redneck” town in southern mo for all but 2 months of my 21 year old life. Being surrounded by people who eat meat, it was hard, I also didn’t have a variety of vegetarian friendly foods available. I lasted almost 2 months but it was too much, even though I wasn’t a huge meat fan to begin with. I’m glad you have stuck with it this long. Don’t ever give in!! You don’t need those big juicy steaks! :)

  • Revyloution

    Epistaxis, I think it’s because he said ‘this lifestyle is good for me’, as opposed to ‘my lifestyle is good for YOU’.

  • http://chandays.blogspot.com Larry Meredith

    @Gretchen actually you did suggest I don’t think moral values exist.

    I eat meat, but I really hate this (attempt at) justification for doing so. It’s an obvious use of the naturalistic fallacy– nothing is moral or immoral for us because of what other animals do or have done.

    You’re right, I don’t know whether or not it always will happen for humans (although it probably will), but it will always happen in the world among different species, and I’d argue that it must happen. Should we try and stop other animals and even insects for hurting their prey too?

  • liz

    @chicago dyke: vegetarian sushi is deeelicious.

    I’ve been a vegetarian since I was eight. Accidentally ate it a few times, because I grew up in a meat eating house and sometimes I didn’t know something was meat until my mom told me (cute huh? haha) I’ve always thought steak and other cow products smelled good cooking and I tried steak on my husbands (then boyfriend) 21 birthday. I hated it!!! It was actually a good thing, because now I don’t feel like I’m missing anything when I smell that good smell of steak. Pig on the other hand, disgusts me. I don’t get this ‘bacon is sent from heaven’ trend going on…i HATE bacon =P disgusting

  • Karmakin

    What Atayla linked to. Actually yeah you have to do a search for it because she was basically overwhelmed with militant vegans who came after her.

    I’m a vegetarian myself, along with my wife. And the story that Atayla pointed out, I read that what..3 weeks ago? Two weeks ago my wife was called into the doctor’s office on an emergency basis, her B-12 was critically low. A double-strength injection later, symptoms that she was dealing with for a decade cleared up, almost overnight. And not just things that could be seen as being somatic such as fatigue (which has improved 100x), but real physical symptoms such as rashes (?!?) and limb temperature.

    We’re not sure if it’s the diet, and we’re not sure what to do from here. Gotta wait for further medical advice. But that said, it’s clear that what that article says, that stuff CAN happen, it’s real. That said, there’s no doubt that modern food production is seriously messed up, and causes a lot of damage, and that’s why I think that moderation is good in so many ways, and the popular “MEAT and potatoes” diet is terribly flawed.

    I never would before, because I always thought it was unproductive (PETA are trolls, more or less), but now I would always warn people of potential risks of vegetarianism. That’s not to say that it’ll always happen of course.

    But I don’t think that good people have to play the martyr. I don’t think that’s right.

    FWIW I think Hemant is in exactly the opposite situation where his body has adapted in such a way where eating meat would do him bad. So I’d say if what you’re doing works for you (and it’s obvious it does), keep at it. Personally 90% of the time I would much rather the vegetarian diet, the only time where it’s annoying is either in social situations or trying to find a good place to eat out (in a small town)

  • Deepak Shetty

    I was a non vegetarian till I realised that it caused harm to life capable of feeling pain while I have other options
    It took me 4 years to convert gradually (I still miss Tandoori chicken and fried pomfret!) . Are we hypocrites about the other stuff(like wearing leather) – maybe – but that doesn’t mean we are wrong about the vegetarian stuff.

    A thought experiment question I have is if there is an Alien species who is smarter and stronger than us than is it morally ok for them to eat us?

  • http://dumnezero.blogspot.com Dumnezero

    Vegan:

    - male cows (which will always be born) are put to death, despite the having a milk-cow. It’s always the females which are exploited, while the males must be sacrificed, culled.

    - veals are taken from the mother so they don’t consume the milk extracted for humans

    - milking devices cause blisters and puss to form on the cow’s udder (hurtful, of course), while cows living in large numbers also diseased very easily, especially if they live in small enclosures surrounded with feces

    - most cows live in horrid conditions, even if they’re just for milk

    That’s my case.

    I’m a vegan in the sens that I don’t like to cause suffering, so I avoid eating anything with a central nervous system.

    P.S. also, milk is very bad for you, especially if you’re not of european (white) descent (they have the most tolerance for milk protein and sugar). For more: http://notmilk.com or health.groups.yahoo.com/group/notmilk/

    P.p.s. I won’t reply to other replies, this is just my answer to your post. :)

  • Sean Santos

    This is one of those ethical issues that I sort of want to just dodge via technology. If we had a big supply of vat-grown meat that never came with a central nervous system at all…

    Well, that’s actually sort of gross. But is it more gross than actual butchery? Probably just because we’re not used to it. And in that scenario there’d be no more ethical issue with eating meat, than with eating plants.

    I have reasons (some relatively sound, some probably just rationalizations) why animal welfare isn’t high up on my priority list, but I’m still uncomfortable with harm done to the more intelligent/social animals. Partly for that reason, I’ve bargained myself down to fish and chicken (mostly).

  • http://cheapsignals.blogspot.com/ Gretchen

    Larry,

    No, you misread me. What I was saying is that you can’t claim that anything is moral or immoral by appealing to what animals do or don’t do. “Animals do X” says absolutely nothing about whether X is right or wrong for us, and claiming that it does is an instance of the naturalistic fallacy.

    Yes, non-human animals will most likely always eat other animals. But that has nothing to do with what we should or will do. That’s the point.

  • liz

    Oh and about the dating someone with different eating habits. It CAN work.

    When I met my husband, he would stick meat in my face and constantly ask me to try it and what not. But I was completely used to it. I had grown up with 2 meat-eating parents, 4 meat-eating siblings and a whole strew of (about 20) meat-eating cousins (along with their parents and our grandparents). I was consistently teased about my decision and constantly had meat shoved in my face at family dinners (not by the adults mind you). So I learned to just ignore it and tell people I didn’t care what they ate, it wasn’t going to change my mind.

    So my boyfriend thought it was cute to shove meat in my face and try and bet/dare me to eat meat, but you know what? Now we’re married and I think at this moment there is no meat in our house. He still eats meat at work and when we go out and occasionally at home, but now he respects my lifestyle and enjoys cooking vegetarian food for the both of us =]

  • Steve

    @Karmakin
    Fish contains lots of Vitamin B12. If you don’t want to go that route, a vegetarian source are eggs and dairy products like milk and cheese.

  • HP

    When I was in college I knew a girl who became vegetarian for emotional/sentimental reasons. But she ate a lot of Jello, because she thought it was made from fruit, and no one had the heart to tell her. I mention this because the marshmallows in your rice krispies treats? Not eggs. Gelatin.

    As an atheist/rationalist/skeptic, I can’t see any good reason why you shouldn’t be able to eat or not eat whatever you want, for any reason, or for no reason at all. I think it’s good to be informed about what you eat (again, marshmallows = gelatin), but then I think it’s good to be informed about all kinds of things.

    Besides health and environment issues, it’s also important to consider the social aspect of shared meals. Sharing food with other hominids is something that goes back into deep time, and I value that sense of community you get when sharing food. I wouldn’t turn down a sausage in a social situation any more than I would turn down pickled beets or lima beans, even though the latter taste like dish soap and potting soil to me.

  • The Captain

    @ Ewan The ” suffering on others”? I don’t cause the suffering of any person when I eat. Now by “person” I mean HUMAN. I have moral obligations to other humans because other humans ask me to (fundementally that is). When chickens march down the street asking for rights I’ll grant them. Until then I have no moral obligation to chickens who arn’t even self aware. Does that mean I go around kicking dogs? No, I don’t just go around causing suffering, and dogs are not chicken. But suffering is part of life no matter what you want so if an animal suffers for a tasty meal, so be it, it’s not an “other” to me.

  • Claire

    One of the beneficiaries of the Foundation Beyond Belief last quarter was the Animal Welfare Institute… for those of you in this thread that are looking for places to get meat, eggs, etc. that are produced humanely, the AWI has something called “Animal Welfare Approved” that can point you to stores and markets. http://www.animalwelfareapproved.org/product-search/

    Hemant, if you do want to try meat, don’t start with beef. Also, I want to say as a meat-eater, bacon is gross. And, I don’t necessarily think vegetarianism is a healthier life-style. As in all things, moderation is key.

  • Karmakin

    Steve:I suspect the long-term route is going to be fish, to be honest. We don’t drink milk at all, but consume a decent amount of cheese. (Again, having to do with acceptable local alternatives).

    Like I said, it might be something else. But it’s something we’re investigating, and it’s good for all non-meat eaters to keep an eye on.

  • http://table9philosophy.wordpress.com/ Kelli Wilson

    I was an omnivore for the first 26 years of my life, until an unfortunate incident with a mouse in a mousetrap. I never really cared for the taste of meat before (my hamburgers and steaks were always super-well-done) so it wasn’t that difficult for me to give up meat for good. I still eat eggs and dairy products, although I try REALLY hard to use local sources of those products as often as possible. And, I do try to use cruelty-free products as long as they do the job well. In terms of the cognitive dissonance that comes along with attempting to be ethical, I try not to over-analyze my decisions (my favorite fair-trade sweater had to be shipped from Nepal to the UK to the US – talk about a carbon footprint!), but I do what I can.

    My husband and daughter are not vegetarian, and no one in my immediate, or even extended, family is either. I am perfectly okay with that. This is a decision I made for myself, by myself, and I know that what’s best for me is not necessarily best for everyone. Being middle-class and living in America with so much food readily available, it’s not difficult for me to give up meat and still be healthy. That might not be the case in other parts of the world. I would not consider a persistence hunter in Africa unethical because he eats the kudu antelope.

    Religion may have played a part in your becoming a vegetarian but, now that you are not tied to those beliefs, you get to decide what is right for you on your own terms. If you find you have a reason to be remain vegetarian (ethical, environmental, health, etc), then I say stick with it.

  • Korny

    I’m a vego, have been for 12 years. Every now and again, I crave steak. A nice, juicy, medium steak. And the next time that I get near meat, I stick my nose as close to it as I can bear and try to figure out what about it I actually want. Because the reality of meat, as opposed to the fantasy of meat, really grosses me out. The texture is bleugh and the colour is foul, and knowing that it’s the same as my leg creeps me out, and it’s always covered in fat … And I never eat it. I never WANT to eat, I just look at it real close.
    I used to be mostly vego but eating poultry and fish – mostly due to parental pressure. I found that when I did eat animal protein, I would get a stomach ache, sleep poorly and wake up starving hungry. I imagine that anyone eating meat for more-or-less the first time would have an even worse time of it.

  • Deepak Shetty

    @HP

    I can’t see any good reason why you shouldn’t be able to eat or not eat whatever you want, for any reason, or for no reason at all.

    Seriously? I guess its ok for Hemant to start eating babies – Im choosing this confrontational statement deliberately because you haven’t thought through what you are saying and you did preface it with you are a rationalist/skeptic?

  • Revyloution

    Deepak Shetty, any time you want to ask questions about morals, you run into a tangle. Many atheists are moral relativists, so trying to say that something is or isn’t right is a subjective rather than objective judgment.

    In your example of the alien species, they would have a completely different (even alien) morality than we do. To our mind, it would be immoral to eat us, but it could be perfectly moral to them.

  • http://chandays.blogspot.com Larry Meredith

    @Gretchen

    Well I think we both misread each other, because I wasn’t claiming anything as moral or immoral based on what animals do. I was just saying that it DOES happen, and always will to some extent. I personally lack sympathy for animals that are killed for food. As I said, maybe I’m just lacking that part of the brain. I just don’t care as long as all the parts of the animal are used for a good cause.

  • http://chandays.blogspot.com Larry Meredith

    @Gretchen

    Well I think we both misread each other, because I wasn’t claiming anything as moral or immoral based on what animals do. I was just saying that it DOES happen, and always will to some extent, whether or not it’s moral or immoral. I personally lack sympathy for animals that are killed for food. As I said, maybe I’m just lacking that part of the brain. I just don’t care as long as all the parts of the animal are used for a good cause.

    (oops, I didn’t mean to post twice, I just suddenly wanted to add something right after clicking post)

  • HP

    I wrote: “As an atheist/rationalist/skeptic,” — let me add that, as a humanist, I fully support the right of individuals to choose what they put into their bodies. Again, for any reason, or for no reason at all.

  • Richard Wade

    Hemant, I really admire your open and unabashed honesty in this post, looking at your human inconsistencies without embarrassment or excuse, just sharing yourself. I’ve noticed at other times that you can go looking inside for a truth about yourself without a stick in your hand. Often people are so ready and willing to beat the crap out of themselves if they find something imperfect or even inconsistent, that they just never even peek inside. Your self-compassion is rare and healthy.

  • Deepak Shetty

    Revyloution

    To our mind, it would be immoral to eat us, but it could be perfectly moral to them.

    But that is precisely the point. If some act feels immoral to you, why would you act in that way(or you’d atleast admit the act is immoral) ? You have to conclude that the act of aliens eating us is in fact moral (or orthogonal to morality) for you to think that being non vegetarian is moral(or not related to it).

    Many atheists are moral relativists, so trying to say that something is or isn’t right is a subjective rather than objective judgment.

    But that doesnt stop us from making subjective arguments. That morality may be subjective doesn’t stop us from arriving at a moral code that we agree on.

    Or do you buy the fundamentalist Muslims Sharia is right for us not for you arguments?

  • Deepak Shetty

    @HP
    Come on – either have the courage to admit where your views lead you or change them.

    Should cannibalism be legal – based on your expressed views (including the act of killing the human for food)?
    Yes or No please – None of this humans can put whatever they want in their bodies for any reason.

  • http://cheapsignals.blogspot.com/ Gretchen

    Larry,

    And I was explaining that what non-human animals do and always will do is entirely beside the point and has no bearing on what we do. Your position is “I don’t care,” and I don’t have anything to say to that since it isn’t an argument.

    Deepak Shetty,

    I’ve heard the alien example used many times before, and my view on it isn’t a relative one– sentience is the standard for my views on meat-eating, but that doesn’t preclude eating cows or chickens because for me the bar is basically set at the level of self-awareness. So call it arbitrary and it might be, but I’m fine with eating a pig (or a dog, if that’s what’s on the menu) but would hold back from eating a chimpanzee. I care about the amount of suffering inflicted on animals which are beneath that level, but am not opposed to the very idea of eating them for food.

    So that would mean that it doesn’t matter how much more advanced an alien culture is than we are– we’re clearly self-aware, and therefore it would be wrong for them to eat us.

  • Ricky

    I’ve been a veggie for a couple of years. After much deliberation with myself and friends, I decided to give it up for 3 big reasons: my own health, the insane environmental impact meat production has, and to avoid cruelty to animals.

    I quit shortly after quitting smoking (cold turkey after a pack-a-day for many years). Having dealt with that addiction, especially in such a close approximate time to changing my diet, I had the (perhaps unique?) opportunity to compare the experiences. There is absolutely no comparison. Eating meat is not an addiction.

    In reality, there is exactly one thing stopping people from changing their diet, whether to become a vegetarian, or to eat less crap-type food: desire.

    I understand the lack of desire. I love the taste of meat (and I still eat total shit). It took a long time for me grappling with the idea of giving up before I finally decided that it was something I wanted to try. I, too, thought that it was going to be difficult so I said I’d try it for one week. To my surprise, it was exactly the opposite: it was easy. Really easy, in fact.

    Unlike a real addiction, it was completely uneventful. Sure, I get funny looks occasionally (I live in a mid-sized city with a small-town mindset) and I catch the scent of BBQ’ed something-or-another and think “oh, that would be delicious,” but I have yet to experience any actual pain. Cravings, cold sweats, feeling that my blood was boiling within my veins, and mood swings are some of the delights I had when I was purging myself of nicotine. If what I experienced then was a 10 on a meter-of-discomfort, giving up meat has yet to register a 0.001.

    Having said all that, I think it’s more impressive that you, living in a society that puts such an apparent emphasis on eating meat, could live your entire life without giving into the sheer curiosity of it or the social/peer pressure (the very things that got me smoking). I have many friends that tease me for it in good fun. THAT is the real test of willpower and I commend you for it.

  • Ash

    As another life long vegetarian, another good reason to stay vegetarian is that thats the diet you’re used to. I’ve considered trying meat before, but it just seems strange to me, because I’ve never had it before.
    There is obviously a ethical side to being vegetarian, especially with factory farming and the fishing industries, that would be a good reason to become or stay vegetarian.

  • http://dumnezero.blogspot.com Dumnezero

    I also want to warn anyone who wants to go vegan that it’s not easy. Just like with atheism, you can do it in a wrong way.

    For good health, the key thing is to keep up diversity and keep a journal, so you can identify what you are allergic to or what makes you feel bad. Also, don’t forget mushrooms and soy – they have great protein and are usually much cheaper than meat. Diversity prevents deficiencies in B12 or proteins (proteins aren’t actually that important; you need about 1 gram per kg of body weight) and excess of them can cause blood acidity and calcium loss, which is very bad. If you’re really interested in health, just being vegan is not enough, you have to learn about all the food you eat, where it comes and what it does in the body. (This usually means avoiding highly processed and highly cooked foods and excesses.)

    I’ve seen some link above about a woman who turned away from veganism because of anemia. That’s just 1 case; not a study. It’s the case of an uneducated vegan. I’ve never ever met a vegan who was anemic, only concerned “omnivores”.

    Don’t forget, if you live in the West, there’s little infrastructure for supporting veganism, so it’s much harder to do it right, but the more vegans there are, the easier it gets.

    As for me, I was an omnivore till adulthood, after that I had 5 years of vegetarianism (which were very good). I’ve been a vegan for 2 years and I feel even better (no anemia, no weight loss, no drop in energy or anything). The most important change I and my family noticed was that my temperament was more regular; dramatically less anger and fury. You’ll hear most vegan-converts talk about such changes… I think it’s because of the elimination of milk from the diet – milk can cause severe allergy and weird hormone imbalances (also —- acne; I always get huge zits if there’s butter in the food I eat at parties and other events).

    Nevertheless, I made the change for moral reasons, not health. My principles have always been central to anything my behavior and mentality (which includes humanism). I won’t go in to any more details, because it would lead to cheap stereotyping like “eco-vegan-anarchist-atheist-biker-nutbags”… :)

  • HP

    @Deepak:

    I guess its ok for Hemant to start eating babies

    I think there are plenty of reasons not to start eating babies. For one thing, if Hemant were to start eating babies, he would quickly find himself in prison or a mental institution, and I don’t think that that’s something Hemant wants. Eating babies is a choice that has some pretty serious consequences.

    As long as I’m prefacing my statements with qualifiers, as an Epicurean w/r/t morality, I’d argue that are all kinds of perfectly rational and practical reasons to go along with the prevailing norms and taboos, without getting into abstract notions of absolute morality. Hemant is vegetarian living in Chicago, USA. This would be a different discussion if he lived in Delhi, or Riyadh, or Guangdong, or Buenos Aires (just to pick four places with radically different food cultures).

  • Evan

    Recently I have been moving more towards vegetarianism purely for the purported health benefits. I think it was mainly sparked from the realization that I wasn’t getting enough vegetables in my diet to start with, so maybe I’m just overcompensating. I’m not completely vegetarian, though, as I still keep some canned tuna and the occasional turkey or chicken slices for sandwiches. And then whenever my parents visit I end up faltering since they have no qualms about digging into red meats, but otherwise I’ve been easily avoiding beef and pork.

    I’m still not entirely convinced about the health benefits of pure vegetarianism. My background in anthropology tells me that one of the key factors in human evolution was in our meat-eating, in particular our cooking of meat. Humans are designed to eat meat, as well as other foods, so it’s hard to grasp the idea that cutting meat out of one’s diet should be a good thing. Still, I am trying to limit it.

    My current job allows me contact with several different faiths as my employers provide product for a great many different religious institutions. Whenever my boss has a meeting with Hindus, Jains, or Sikhs he always manages to make some kind of comment (normally behind their backs) about how all Indians are messed up because none of them eat meat. His ignorance astounds me. I know there are religious reasons for vegetarianism, but I also know the entire country is not opposed to meat. He can’t grasp it, though.

  • http://humanizzm.wordpress.com Humanizzm

    I am in the process of cutting down on my dairy intake. I never was an evangelical vegetarian, and I generally don’t preach to others about their meat-consumption. When they ask me why I abstain from meat, however, I’m happy to explain. Usually people tend to press my quite a lot on each and every one of those points, though usually out of genuine interest.

    Right now I am in the process of cutting down on my dairy intake, simply because I figure that wherever switching to a substitute doesn’t cause me any inconvenience, I’m ethically obliged to at least consider the change.
    In the process, I’ve made some really interesting discoveries:

    1) There is an amazing variety of milk-replacements, some much tastier than cow milk: Besides the common soy milk, there are products like oat milk or almond milk. Delicious!
    2) There is an amazing variety of vegan clothing, for the same price as usual stuff. I’ve become a fan of Macbeth Footwear, for example. There are more vegan brands out there than you think, and finding them only takes a few klicks.

    As much as I generally despise that organisation, PETA has an enormous amount of resources on vegan clothing brands, tasty replacements for dairy- or meat products and other stuff. It’s worth checking out, you’ll find that going vegan has become almost ridiculously easy in our part of the world.

    Another thing:
    I’ve always found the “but it’s tasty!” argument amusing at best. I am happy to conceede that meat may be of absolutely divine taste, but what does that have to do with anything? Perhaps human infants are just as delicious, or taste even better.
    I shall never know, for obvious reasons.

    I have eaten some meat when I was a kid, but never especially liked it. I always found large slabs of meat quite disgusting. I’ve eaten stuff that doesn’t look like meat, though: Sausages, meatballs, minced beef, stuff like that. I’ve stopped that 6 years ago, and I don’t miss it at all.

  • Deepak Shetty

    @HP
    You are making the case it is illegal to kill humans(currently) hence illegal to eat babies.

    However your view should lead you to – it should not be illegal to kill babies for food.

    I think there are plenty of reasons not to start eating babies.

    Whatever happened to

    I can’t see any good reason why you shouldn’t be able to eat or not eat whatever you want, for any reason, or for no reason at all.

  • Abigail

    I always think it’s funny when people start talking about how vegetarianism is fine, as long as you aren’t “pushy” about it. When you think that something is terrible for the environment, inflicts suffering, is making the population unhealthy, and is wasteful in terms of the food used to raise meat… it’s understandable to be a little “pushy”. Kind of like how so many atheists are called “pushy” when they talk about religion being a myth, harming children, stunting science, and scamming people. Kind of like how certain billboards were called “pushy” because they talked about atheism. I’d rather not be an accommodationist on either issue.

  • ewan

    I have moral obligations to other humans because other humans ask me to (fundementally that is). When chickens march down the street asking for rights I’ll grant them. Until then I have no moral obligation to chickens

    You do though. Again, it’s about capability. You’re capable of assessing the level of suffering you cause to animals, they are not capable of marching down the street, so it’s your responsibility to deal with it.

    You might just as well go around poking mentally disabled people with sticks because they can’t ask you to stop. Your moral choices are for you to make; and so far yours seems to be to inflict suffering on anything defenceless enough to not fight back.

  • HP

    @Deepak:

    (I wish we had threaded replies, or comment numbering.)

    There are two different issues that you are conflating, and this is leading you into a land of irreconcilable absolutes.

    1) Humans have the right to personal autonomy.

    2) Food choices are constrained by the fact that eating food is a profoundly social activity.

    Suppose Hemant wants to eat a bacon-egg Croissanwich. His choice, right? But what if wants to eat a bacon-egg Croissanwich in Tel Aviv? He’s probably out of luck. He can still want it, but he can’t have it.

    Suppose Hemant were adopted into a tribal culture that practices ritual funerary cannibalism. A respected elder passes away peacefully, and Hemant is expected to honor the dearly departed. He has the right to choose not to do so, but that choice may incur social consequences that make it not worth it.

    Eating and sharing food are deeply social acts, and food choices affect how one fits into the local food culture. I suspect that some of Hemant’s discomfiture has to do with the fact that, living in Chicago, his vegetarianism isolates him socially from his peers to a certain degree. This is a place where people put bacon in potato salad.

    Now, cannibalism is an extreme case, but there are still places in the world where certain kinds of ritual cannibalism are not only tolerated, but mandated.

    All individuals have the right to choose what to eat and what not to eat. But those choices all have consequences when they go against the prevailing cultural norms. So, you have to weigh your choices against the social cost.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    I became a vegetarian when I was around 10 years old. I slowly realized that I just didn’t care for the taste of meat anymore and gradually gave it all up. I’d love to say it was for ethical reasons, but I’m not sure that really factored into my decision. However, I suppose it must have been in the back of my mind. After all, I was the same child who loved watching Charlotte’s Web and who cried when an older cousin told me that baby sausages came from baby pigs. I’ve always been anti-hunting and pro-animal rights, so I may have been inclined towards vegetarianism anyway.

  • HP

    @Deepak: I was having fun and learning a lot until you said this:

    However your view should lead you to

    You are completely out of line. You have no right to tell me what the “necessary” consequences of my views should be. Back off before this gets ugly.

  • Deepak Shetty

    I dont have any absolutes. My point is that the view you brashly proclaim is almost certainly not the view you have.

    1) Humans have the right to personal autonomy.

    Why? What gives a species the right to personal autonomy?.
    This is the important part – we award humans some rights and the basis on which we award those rights has relevance on whether we should award those to non humans. Is it the ability to feel pain? to reason? intellect? The possession of a soul?
    Or is the argument circular – we are humans so we award humans – everything else be damned.

    2) Food choices are constrained by the fact that eating food is a profoundly social activity.

    Argument by tradition. I don’t buy it for religion. I’m not going to buy it for food.
    Its also mostly irrelevant. We are arguing whether it is moral to do something (not that some countries might have laws that forbid eating pork)

    So, you have to weigh your choices against the social cost.

    So if cannibalism was the prevailing social custom , then it would be moral (in your opinion of course, no absolutes)? Similar arguments for slavery and any form of discrimination.

  • Ziege

    To speak to what I saw as the question in the post…

    There really isn’t any reason an atheist should have sex. I mean, yeah, many were raised to believe that having sex, maybe sex outside of marriage or maybe all sex, is bad or dirty in some way but there is no reason one should start having sex just because they stop believing the “why” they grew up with. It may be sad because they are giving up a part of the human experience but it isn’t a sadness I have any right or responsibility to resolve.

    However, if someone (Atheist or not) starts telling me I shouldn’t have sex, that my life would be better without, when they have no experience? Laughter is my polite response. They can claim any purported health benefits they want, can claim to be happy and healthy without, can claim it’s the best thing ever, but they’ll never get around the fact that they are speaking from ignorance. Their opinion is worth nothing.

    Which is where you sit… you are cut off from part of the human experience, which is sad, but doesn’t affect me in itself. Is it an important part? Well, you brought it up so you probably feel a bit of the loss, but if it’s your biggest regret when you die then you’ll have lived a better life than most people. Better than me. It won’t affect me until or unless you start talking about food…and at that point I need only remind myself that the pastor is a virgin to remove any potential for harm.

    I’m not commenting about adult adopters of vegetarianism by the way. They’ve had sex and decided they want something different. That’s fine. I’m happy to debate the pros and cons of their choice with them because we share some experiences. But someone who was raised vegetarian and hasn’t tried meat once they are out on their own?

    Where I’m coming from is probably quite different from you though. I think eating meat, and even hunting and fishing, are like talking and art and sex and cooking and so many other things…part of what it is to be human. You aren’t a fully developed human until you’ve done those things…you may not be a fully developed human until you’ve done, and stopped doing, those things. So I consider your position unfortunate and hope you are able to expand your horizons, even if only to pull back again satisfied with your choices.

  • HP

    We are arguing whether it is moral to do something

    A-ha! And there’s the nub of our disagreement.

    We are not arguing about whether it is moral to do something. You are insisting that this is an argument about morality. And I am saying that it an argument about how to maximize personal well-being in the real world by balancing the right to make choices against the social consequences of those choices.

  • http://www.pippinbarr.com Pippin

    Might as well chip in. I ate meat with few or no reservations for about 25 years, and then did the “cold turkey” switch to ovo-lacto vegetarianism, which has been for the last 4 years. I didn’t find it difficult personally, but I couldn’t explain why. It was an “ethical decision” about causing harm to animals and nothing to do with the environment. Oddly it happened as a direct consequence of reading “The Female Eunuch”… there was something inspiring about the courage of Germaine Greer’s convictions that made me want to live up to mine (the creeping feeling that eating animals was wrong).

    There’s been lots of good discussion here, and although I find it hard not to be upset by other people eating meat, I usually do try to tune it out. That said, as was mentioned above, I’m also unclear on why I *should* behave that way – if I think something’s so wrong, why wouldn’t I push my view forward? Well, that’s society for you. It’s bad enough being the only vegetarian at pretty much every meal of my life without going on the “offensive”.

    One thing I did want to at least introduce to the conversation concerns this idea of suffering. Lots of people have mentioned that they eat meat but do so “ethically” and focus on humane treatment of the animals killed for their food.

    It’s less than clear to me that causing an animal to die can be considered ethical or humane and I really do wonder what those people are thinking in that sense. Sure “suffering” is really bad too (and I feel deeply depressed my lack of attention to those aspects of eating milk, eggs, wearing almost any clothing, and on and on), but isn’t death a rather extreme form of suffering? Or if not suffering at least as major an ethical issue?

    Thinking about ethical issues in day-to-day life is valuable in itself, but managing to act on your concerns about the ethics of your lifestyle is very challenging. There’s plenty more to worry about that I frequently feel I should be attending to. Such as the ethics of chocolate and coffee production, the wonderful world of third-world labour in producing clothing and other goods, and on and on we go.

    It’s hard to live well, but we ought to try.

  • http://leftchristianity.wordpress.com Brenda

    I recently became vegetarian and it was a result of my going from Christianity to atheism. My basic thought was that if my morality was based on not causing harm to conscious beings – then that should extend to animals. I don’t know what has been a bigger shock to people – my switch to atheisim or vegetarianism!

  • http://www.answerswithoutquestions.com/ Mihoda

    As a skeptic and occasional meat eater (2x a week) I would argue that there are plenty of non-religious reasons to become a vegetarian. My own motivation stems from environmental concerns and health concerns.

    Environmental
    Personal Health (reducing red meat intake for example)
    Suffering and poor treatment of livestock
    etc.

  • Arielle

    Hemant – great post. I became a lacto-ovo vegetarian over 10 years ago, after having grown up eating meat. My partner is vegan and is the family chef, so I eat vegan about 80% of the time.

    Like you, I have some trouble with the inconsistency between one of the main (but certainly not the only) benefits of vegetarianism – which is, obviously, to exercise a choice in diet so that no animals have to die for my meals.

    It’s true that factory-farmed egg-laying chickens and dairy cows experience suffering. And suffering seems to be a continuum, with discomfort on one end, and extreme pain or death on the other. (If one believes that animals have “souls” that were dispatched upon death, I suppose a more firm dividing line could be drawn.) So by not being vegan, I am accepting that some of the “source” materials in my meal may have caused sentient beings some level of suffering.

    Even the best Jain, sweeping the ground as he or she walks, will occasionally inhale or step on some insects. Animal byproducts are pretty much in everything. (Those marshmallows in your rice krispy treats contain gelatin, made directly from dead animals.) It’s probably impossible to live ones life without causing -some- harm. So, my goal is to minimize harm. If a medication I need comes in gel-caps (gelatin) and tablets (no gelatin), I buy the tablets. But if it only comes in gel-caps, and I need it, I buy it.

    Not sure if you’ve read Peter Singer’s essays on this topic. He’s not exclusively vegan either, and he’s the most freakin’ ethical guy on the planet.

    Why contribute to suffering if you don’t desire meat? It’s not good for your health, it’s not good for the environment, and it seems absolutely grotesque to consider beginning to eat dead animals after decades of not doing so — there is no upside, only a contribution to suffering.

    Take care, let us know what happens if you decide to experiment.

  • http://whatpalebluedot.blogspot.com/ WhatPaleBlueDot

    Nevermind the philosophical arguments, you may not have the appropriate enzymes after so many years of vegetarianism to digest meat products properly, and it is likely to make you quite ill. And, since you already say that the smell of eggs cooking makes you sick (I don’t blame you, I go through phases myself), I would simply remain in your current diet since you have no issues with it and changing it would likely have a significant transition period in which you would feel pretty miserable. Also, you may have some sex-selected traits as yet unknown which may actually make you function better on a veg diet than on a non-veg diet. It’s not like your people started avoiding meat recently.

    I suffer from insulin resistance, and require a lower carbohydrate diet than would be possible on a plant-based diet. It’s possible that I could manage on an ovo-lacto diet, but I don’t like eggs enough and cheese alone, well… no one would advise that much fat.

    And, I don’t personally buy the philosophical arguments of harm unless it is somehow unethical for other opportunistic omnivores to eat opportunistically. I certainly think we could improve our harvesting behaviors, but that is a distinct argument from whether one should or should not consume meat.

  • HP

    So, as long as I’ve been putting Hemant into all kinds of hypothetical situations (which, by the way, Hemant, has been fun, if not exactly fair), let’s try what I think is a realistic situation that may have something to do with this post.

    Let’s suppose that Hemant is a child of South Asian immigrants living in Chicago, Illinois. Let’s further suppose that Hemant is a former Jain, raised in a Jain home, who is now an atheist. Vegetarianism is all he’s known, and it’s how he prefers to eat, and it’s healthy and better for the planet, so why not?

    Now, this hypothetical Hemant is invited by a group of atheist/humanist/skeptical friends to a backyard cookout of the type that is traditional in the American midwest. Hemant knows that this traditionally involves eating meat and drinking alcohol, but he’s not interested in that — he’s interested in socializing with friends with whom he shares common interests.

    Hemant arrives, and goes to fill up his plate on side dishes. But — there is crumbled bacon in the potato salad. There are chunks of salt pork in the baked beans. There are slices of pepperoni in the macaroni salad. And there is nothing to drink but beer and kool-aid for the kids.

    Hemant tries to have a good time, but with a plate of iceberg lettuce and tomato slices and plain white-bread hamburger buns. Now, our imaginary Hemant is still enjoying everyone’s company, but he is hungry, and his dietary choices have set him apart from his peers. It’s a bit uncomfortable, and while he would still prefer not to eat meat, he wonders if he shouldn’t be more accommodating, especially since he no longer has the excuse of religiously-based dietary laws.

    Human beings are profoundly social animals, and sharing food is one of the most primal social acts there is.

    How do you choose? I believe that that’s what this post is about.

  • Moose

    WOW-serious discussion here on all fronts!

    My two cents:

    I’ve always been a carnivore. I always will be one as well.

    I know exactly how animals are processed into meat, so the argument from ignorance doesn’t work on me.

    I’ve actually assisted in butchery-so I’m not squeamish, either.

    We, as a species, a long time ago started eating a diet beyond what the hunter-gatherers could accumulate: we started hunting large animals, especially herbivores.

    Considering the requirements of doing so (cooperative hunting, placing self in harm’s way, the requirement of placing substantial sustenance on the table so the tribe doesn’t perish) I’m in agreement with those who now say our evolution wasn’t only shaped by hunting-but that both it and cooking can also be seen as requirements in the human world.

    We are what we eat.

    It’s easier (nutritionally) to make a human out of meat than grain. Additionally, a lot of what’s available in the plant world (cellulose and hemicellulose) is simply indigestible to us. We need an intermediary organism to do this.

    In the past that would be the large roving herds of some-or-another quadruped, varying by season and location…

    Nowadays, it’s called a cow.

  • http://dumnezero.blogspot.com Dumnezero

    @comment above

    Cellulose might not be digestible, but it’s very good for the colon, which does extract nutrients from it. It’s been shown that it helps prevent colo-rectal cancer and, of course, constipation. If you know anyone with colon cancer, just ask them what their average diet was as far back as they can remember…

    “It’s easier (nutritionally) to make a human out of meat than grain.”

    It’s also way more expensive. The coming oil and climate problems will eventually force people to turn to veganism, because it’s many times cheaper to eat the grains directly, rather than have the protein concentrated by using an animal. It’s also easier to store; not many people have the capacity to store a corpse, while grains and beans can be kept very well (some of the first uses of pottery and math in human history).

  • Hamilton Jacobi

    How do I reconcile that whole “fertilization” thing with being pro-choice? I honestly try not to think about it because I know there’s a logical problem there.

    You can’t reconcile it, because there is a logical problem there. An egg, fertilized or not, isn’t a chicken.

    That doesn’t mean that your stance on not eating eggs is unjustifiable — just that your current justification doesn’t hold water.

    There are plenty of reasons not to eat eggs, including the horrific suffering of chickens during factory farming, the execution of most male chicks as an unwanted byproduct (they cannot produce eggs), the severe environmental cost of large-scale animal husbandry, health concerns, and personal taste (if it applies, which it does in your case).

    Of course, with slight modifications, these are equally good reasons for avoiding milk and cheese, too. So that could be why you try not to think about it.

    In the interests of full disclosure, I was an enthusiastic omnivore for my first 25 years, then a vegan for the last 19, for a combination of health, environmental, and morality reasons. I’ve also been an atheist for as long as I can remember, due to natural inclination and an early exposure to science and skeptical thinking.

  • Moose

    “Cellulose might not be digestible, but it’s very good for the colon, which does extract nutrients from it. It’s been shown that it helps prevent colo-rectal cancer and, of course, constipation. If you know anyone with colon cancer, just ask them what their average diet was as far back as they can remember…”

    The issue I was making has nothing to do with potential diseases of the colon-but EVERYTHING to do with starvation and death.

    Yes, indirectly, we have the ability to absorb some nutrients from nothing but grass.

    But-in comparison-look at a cow.

    They have FOUR stomachs-that’s three more than we do.

    Almost all of their energy budget is geared towards breaking down these nutrients. They eat TONS of grass to make even a kilo of “cow”.

    You simply can’t live on a diet of nothing but grass. In fact-you, as both an individual (and as part of a collective) are usually given a limited choice in what you have available.

    You can either starve eating grass…

    …or hunt, kill and eat the juicy Buffalo that just wandered by…

    Your choice.

  • fritzy

    I have no desire to “convert” anyone to an omnivore diet–but a few things to think of:

    1. We evolved eating animal protien. Certainly not the industrial-farm, antibiotic-laden, corn-fed variety but certainly, we ate meat (at least insects) in our evolutionary past.

    2. The developement of the large human frontal lobe can likely be attributed to our consumption of meat.

    3. No civilization that we know of has ever lasted for any extended period of time on a vegan diet. None. (Some people will site India–while there are parts of India that have been vegan for periods of time, no civilization has developed, grown and lasted for significant periods in which all of it’s members subsisted on a diet free of animal protien.)

    4. Unless you grow all of your own produce and subsist on a diet free of grains, a vegetarian diet is no better for the environment (and is arguably worse) than a diet consisting of foodstuffs obtained from local farms (fresh produce and grass-fed pasturized animals.) Large corporate farms in the US are encouraged, through subsidies, to produce more grain than is needed for human consumption. Erosion of top soil is a much greater problem than anyone is admitting, and our current agricultural model is unsustainable. And if you think that eating a vegan diet means no animals were harmed or killed in the making of your meal, you have obviously never had a garden of your own. If you aren’t willing to kill a few aphids, you will never enjoy those heirloom tomatoes.

    4. We did not evolve consuming grains and legumes. Daily, mass consumption of grains and legumes did not start until about 10-12,000 years ago. Our bodies cannot handle the high carbs and subsequent insuline spikes associated with their consumption. Nor can humans process the gleuten, phytates and lectin contained there-in–these “anti-nutrients” wreak havok on many people’s digestive systems and metabolisms. Arguably, most type 2 diabetes and other “diseases of civilization” can be traced to their consumption.

    5. Oh my various gods–meat is sooooo good! You can’t beat a grass fed rib-eye wrapped in uncured, nitrate free bacon. It will make you slap your own mother it’s so good.

    “Food” for thought.

  • fritzy

    And incidentally, I happen to think that PETA is about the worst thing to happen to animals and animal rights in this century. Their dog shelters have a 97% kill rate and they support the inane and insane notion that pitbulls are a “vicious breed.” And no one outside of PETA takes PETA seriously.

    Damaging. Seriously damaging to animal rights.

  • HP

    I should probably stop replying to Deepak, but I had a good buddy named Deepak who moved away and we lost touch, and I miss him. So I’m being sentimental.

    Why? What gives a species the right to personal autonomy?.

    You’re right. Species do not have personal autonomy. However, I am a Humanist, and the personal autonomy of individual human beings is a principle of Humanism. Not all atheists are Humanists, and I’m cool with that. Are you cool with Humanism?

  • Moose

    ““It’s easier (nutritionally) to make a human out of meat than grain.”

    It’s also way more expensive. The coming oil and climate problems will eventually force people to turn to veganism, because it’s many times cheaper to eat the grains directly, rather than have the protein concentrated by using an animal. It’s also easier to store; not many people have the capacity to store a corpse, while grains and beans can be kept very well (some of the first uses of pottery and math in human history).”

    On this point I agree. We’re selfish bastards (as a species) and I was quite put off when W started the whole “alternative fuels” gig a few years back. See, we have these HUGE cornfields that can be converted into Ethanol and pumped into your gas tank…

    Yes, you can. They can also be turned into tortillas-which are eaten by a large portion of the Mexican population as their only source of protein…

    Can you say “food riots” people?

    Besides-the overall cycle efficiency of “corn to ethanol” is a wash. It’s probably more efficient to burn the petrochemicals directly.

  • Moose

    “5. Oh my various gods–meat is sooooo good! You can’t beat a grass fed rib-eye wrapped in uncured, nitrate free bacon. It will make you slap your own mother it’s so good.

    “Food” for thought.”

    Damn, I’m hungry now…

  • http://www.StuffAmericansHate.com Joe

    Longtime reader, first time poster. Just wanted to let you know that your rationale for not eating meat is pretty much completely off the wall. I’m glad you seem to acknowldge that.

    Thanks for not trying to impose it on me, or claiming tax exempt status.

  • Moose

    3. No civilization that we know of has ever lasted for any extended period of time on a vegan diet. None. (Some people will site India–while there are parts of India that have been vegan for periods of time, no civilization has developed, grown and lasted for significant periods in which all of it’s members subsisted on a diet free of animal protien.)

    Has there ever been such a civilisation? Seriously?

    Last I checked, throughout human history the SINGLE biggest issue is getting enough food to feed the masses…

    In antiquity, in addition to animal husbandry (controlled breeding and selection of stock to improve quality) and selective breeding of different crops…(better yield, more digestable)…

    Virtually EVERYTHING we eat nowadays isn’t “natural”, at some point we tinkered with it…

    I would like to know has anyone actually ever tried to do this? A society based on Vegan ideals?

    Thoughts?

  • Chel

    Hi, I’m a vegiatarian, and I have been for over 2 years now. But the reason I’m posting is because marshmallows do have gelatin in them, however, marshmallow fluff doesn’t. Just in case you wanted to know an easy replacement when you make rice krispie treats.

  • The Captain

    @ Ewan
    Ah yes, people who like chicken fajitas also push children down steps huh? This is why these discussions usually turn sour. Vegans will eventually paint meat eaters as monsters who hate everything and will do anything. But you’re dealing in absolutes where none exist. Other animals are not as important as people are. And even within the other animal groups, some have more value to me than others. For instance, if someone told me today that I could cure AIDS by dragging 50 monkeys behind a station wagon down I85 I’d ask for the keys in a second. But if given the choices between dragging 50 monkeys, or 500 chickens I’d defiantly take the chickens. You seem to equate the “suffering” of any animal to be the same as the “suffering” of a human. Well I do not buy that. I guess for you then if a cow and a human where both being electrocuted, it wouldn’t matter to you which one was saved since you seem to draw no distinction between their “suffering”?

  • http://sa.mu/el samuel

    Eggs that you buy from the store are unfertilized.

  • Anubis

    I was raised by a family of meat eaters, my family raises cattle, mother and father, aunts, uncles, grandparents, they all own a ranch with cows on it. We owned pigs at sometime as well and still own chickens for eggs. In college though I took a class on contemporary moral problems and we did a segment on animals rights and since then, for over a year now, I have been a vegan. I understand that even with this diet, its not perfect, my dislike of death and killing is such that I don’t even like that I have to kill plants to survive, it irks me. Every time I see that line about how it tastes too good to give up I get a little pissed off. I guess in the end I qualify as one of those vegan evangelicals inside, though I don’t really do anything about it outside. Its doable to become a vegetarian/vegan from a life of eating meat, just thought I should say, but you will get weird looks in the part of the world I am in. Just saying

  • HP

    @Moose: I don’t know about veganism, but are there are signs of emergent civilization based on pre-agricultural, browsing societies in paleolithic cultures. Notably in Japan, Australia, and parts of South and West Asia, there are very early signs of permanent settlements and architecture in areas that were particularly rich in natural resources prior to the introduction of agriculture and animal husbandry.

    But these were almost certainly omnivorous societies, although with the preponderance of calories coming from vegetable resourses.

  • ewan

    people who like chicken fajitas also push children down steps huh?

    You did say quite explicitly, that you weren’t concerned about the welfare of anything that couldn’t march for its own rights. I don’t think pointing out that you a) should be, and b) probably are, is unreasonable.

    if someone told me today that I could cure AIDS by dragging 50 monkeys behind a station wagon down I85 I’d ask for the keys in a second

    Likewise, but there’s a big and lasting payoff there, so you can very easily make a case that the suffering averted by curing AIDS is greater than the suffering caused to the monkeys. You cannot make a reasonable case that the suffering caused to you by having to eat vegetables is greater than the suffering caused to all the animals you eat in years of being being raised, and the numerous slaughterings your diet requires.

  • Moose

    @Moose: I don’t know about veganism, but are there are signs of emergent civilization based on pre-agricultural, browsing societies in paleolithic cultures. Notably in Japan, Australia, and parts of South and West Asia, there are very early signs of permanent settlements and architecture in areas that were particularly rich in natural resources prior to the introduction of agriculture and animal husbandry.

    But these were almost certainly omnivorous societies, although with the preponderance of calories coming from vegetable resourses.

    As I live in Australia, I can certify that Aboriginal culture is very much like that-they use positively anything as a source of nutrition-even insects.

    Worth noting though-even in an impoverished area (such as the Outback) the issues isn’t so much as how many calories you can acquire-but potable water is a different story.

    Places form around such waterholes. It is the literal “staff of life” in these parts…

  • http://www.foodalyst.com Ruby Leigh

    For the the most part I am a happy omnivore, but I find the diet dilemma a very interesting one. My primary issue with meat consumption is inhumane treatment of animals associated with Factory Farming which is the largest source of American meat. I make an effort to avoid purchasing meat that has been raised this way, but by no means do a perfect job and still eat at restaurants so in that way I am most likely consuming some factory raised meat. I also never eat certain meats that are go beyond the pale in my opinion such as veal and foie gras.

    I am always apt to try vegetarian or vegan dishes (and cook them too), and of course I enjoy many of them. I don’t think I would ever eat this way exclusively, but I support those who do. If people get preachy about it – I listen, but in short don’t feel the argument towards vegetarianism is wholly concise. Despite the fact there are many great reasons for it.

  • Demonhype

    Well, almost everything has been said here, hasn’t it? :) I’ll try a slightly different angle on this.

    I’m somewhere in the middle in practice. If vegetarianism/veganism works for you without any health problems, that’s good. I personally have to eat a small amount of meat or I get pretty weak. I lift weight for exercise and the last time I went for more than a week or so without at least a small patty of beef I was weak as a kitten. To stay optimal, I usually have a small patty of ground beef after a workout, which is maybe three times a week, but I rarely eat meat outside of that. But I’m not a huge meat eater, a lot of meat kind of grosses me out with the gristle, and I don’t often eat meat in restaurants because the servings are always way too big for me to handle. I think there are some benefits to eating a small amount, whereas the huge wheel-barrow-fulls of meat so many Americans think is a crucial part of each meal is bad for the environment, their own health, and the animals (because the more animals they kill to feed that demand, the more the concern will be to churn out the product rather than produce it humanely).

    I also have a lot of respect for vegetarians and their efforts, even more so since I began my stand against no-suspicion workplace drug testing. It’s really difficult to take an ethical stand against something that has been so fundamentally ingrained in people’s lives that they fail to even question the practice anymore–and tend to attack those who do in all manner of vitriolic personal abuse–especially one that the corporate culture has made so infernally difficult to even personally uphold without starving. My college roommate was a vegetarian and tried hard to be a vegan, but I could see it was a struggle for her to maintain against the food industry. Last I heard she had decided to settle for vegetarianism and, for the time being, give up on vegan-ism. At least vegetarians aren’t assumed to be criminals when they take their stand, as I am, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

    Here’s the thing about moderation though–you are contending, as vegetarians, against a culture/society that has been eating meat for thousands of years, and it is a practice so ingrained in the psyche of most people that many can’t even conceive of idea that it could be a choice. It’s going to be almost impossible to make the vast majority of them just drop it, even for ethics. Hell, it’s the same with religion too–no matter what hideous unethical thing religion has been responsible for, you still tend to get the various hyper-defensive mental contortions trying to justify what they’ve become used to–well, that and verbal abuse. But just as sometimes the biggest victory you can realistically expect is to get someone to rationally consider or humanize their religious beliefs in a practical sense, the best you might be able to get for now is to convince people to eat less meat. Even if you believe we need it for nutrition, there is no excuse for the sheer quantity we manage to go through in our society on a regular basis.

    Perhaps the first order of business should be to tone down the meat-gluttony, which can be easily justified as a personal health concern. It’s really hard to convince someone who is used to eating two hamburgers and three hot dogs at every summer cookout to go for the tofu, but you might be able to encourage him to knock it back to one hamburger and two–or even one–hot dog. For example, that’s why I specify that I oppose no-suspicion testing even though I think it should all be done away with–because people are so ingrained to believe in testing, they are loathe to give up all of it even when they agree it doesn’t work (kind of like religion, again), so I offer them a compromise: At least limit it to a with-cause-only policy. I find more people are receptive to my position when I explain it like that.

    And I’m only contending with a practice that has been commonly used since Reagan, whereas you are contending with something much older and even more dyed-in-the-wool.

    And even if you can’t get any further than people moderating and limiting their meat consumption, that drastic decrease in demand alone will have to have an impact on the situation. Even better if you can convince people to buy only from ethical sources more successfully, if they weren’t buying meat/eggs/etc. in such bulk that their first concern is the price. When you’ve got someone like my mom setting a table for ten, all of whom see the meat as the main thing and any veggies as a small afterthought, and my mom has this old Slovak hospitality that says she has to provide enough for everyone to glut themselves stupid without limits or else she’s a bad hostess, it’s hard to convince her to go for the free-range eggs and meat over the unethical sources that are a few dollars cheaper. It’s selfish, but there it is–a lot of people are, and will proudly say “who cares if the animal suffers, as long as I can save two dollars, I don’t care!” My mom thinks I’m nuts because I won’t shop at a lot of stores or buy certain goods for ethical reasons, because as a result what I do buy is a little more expensive and she simply cannot see any argument that exists outside her pocketbook as a valid one. A lot of Americans have that immediate-gratification I-got-mine-screw-you way of thinking, unfortunately.

    There’s also the false dichotomy. People are raised with meat, both in terms of what they eat and how they think about it, and it’s hard to give it up altogether even if they want to. I think a lot of people do have some guilt over the ethical dilemma, but think that the only thing they can really do is give up all meat–which they can’t, or feel they can’t, do. So they rationalize why meat-eating is great and get nasty about the very concept of vegetarianism. If you could convince these people that they don’t really have to give it all up to make a difference, that simply scaling back the quantity will still make a positive impact, you might be able to break that tough surface.

    I say that because it’s something that has worked on me. I don’t eat much meat, but what I do eat I love and I used to eat way too much of it. And while I wasn’t angry about vegetarians, and while I did feel a bit guilty about the pain of food-production animals, I didn’t think I could possibly give up eating meat. And so I thought there was nothing I could do. When I found out that by just scaling back my amounts I could help have a positive impact regarding the environment and the ethical practices, I had a lot more motivation to do so.

    Same thing happened with losing weight. I had been told I had to do aerobics for two hours a day and eat nothing but lettuce to lose weight and that was the only way to make a difference. I wasn’t prepared to live like that, so I continued on as usual. When I discovered that a small lifestyle change would make a change in my health–just cut back on potato chips and mayo and do a little exercise twice a week for a half-hour, for example–I had more interest in pursuing weight loss.

    Interestingly, the meat I do like to eat tastes a lot better and brings me more pleasure since I stopped glutting myself on it all the time. Just like coke and pepsi taste a lot better since I stopped drinking it every day and dropped back to no more than three or four cans a month tops. Which might be another point to hit–that if one cuts back, then when one does eat a steak, it will taste much better than it did when you were eating it constantly.

    Sorry for yet another wall ‘o’ text. I really wanted to explain an angle that might help vegetarians who want to make a difference though, from the point of view of a meat-eating vegetarian sympathizer. :)

  • HP

    @moose: Insects are a classic example of taboo foods. As a North American, I’ve eaten dried Mexican grasshoppers with chilis (they were fine, if not delicious). I ate them mostly because my peers were totally freaking out. To go back to my argument with Deepak, what’s the difference between taboos about cannibalism and taboos about insects?

    We may think of ourselves as rational, but we are still products of our culture.

  • Revyloution

    Deepak

    Or do you buy the fundamentalist Muslims Sharia is right for us not for you arguments?

    Thats the real problem with morality. Everyone thinks that theirs is the ‘right’ morality. My personal view is that morality is the sum of the individual morals in a society. Morality is constantly shifting. To my mind, any morality that works to keep society cohesive is a good morality. When there is social upheaval, then the group morality needs to shift.

    That said, I can foresee a future where meat is considered immoral because of the animal suffering, and environmental impact. We are a long way from that right now, but it could easily happen.

  • The Captain

    @ Ewan
    You still don’t get that I draw a line between “humans’ and the other animals. so there is no difference between humans that can march, and humans that cannot for me. They ALL get the same rights (humans that is).

    “You cannot make a reasonable case that the suffering caused to you by having to eat vegetables is greater than the suffering caused to all the animals you eat in years of being being raised, and the numerous slaughtering your diet requires.”

    Actually for me, yes It is. There becomes a point where the “value” of the animal is much less than my desire to eat meat. Cows, chickens, and most fish are way bellow my caring for them in relation to their taste. A dog for instance I would never eat, (a cat is a different story) For you it may be different, but that’s your choice to make.

  • Kimpatsu

    It’s certainly not an excuse, but maybe that sheds a little more light on how I equated hunting to dog-fighting the other day. I’m used to a world where any animal cruelty is treated the same way.

    Hemant, most hunting is encouraged in order to keep populations down to manageable levels. That some people enjoy the chase and/or the kill is irrelevant to that practical purpose.
    BTW, where do you stand on the culling of badgers to prevent bovine TB, for example?

  • Ratsnake

    Sorry, dude, but animals die to bring veggies to the table. Mice and other small animals are ground up by harvesting equipment. Rabbits, raccoons and other critters are shot, trapped and poisoned to protect crops, not to mention the deer that are shot out of season. This is called “collateral damage” by animal rights wackos. There is simply no avoiding animal death, so just try a piece of meat.

  • Robert W.

    Hemant,

    Making the comment that you have a hard time reconciling your thinking on eggs with your stance on pro-choice is very honest and I comment you for it. I would hope that instead of deciding that you can live with that inconsistency that you re-think your views on pro-choice.

    For all of you arguing that you have made the moral or ethical decision not to eat meat because you find it inhumane to eat anything that suffers or because you don’t want to contribute to the harm to those that are in no position to protect themselves, then you have an idea of how those of us who are pro-life think. Replace chicken with unborn child and maybe you can understand why we march and are vocal to protect the unborn children.

  • Kaylya

    As to whether you should eat meat: Everyone brings their own cultural biases to food. Most North Americans, for instance, would be rather repulsed if you offered them horse meat or insects. At some point, we have feelings that aren’t entirely logical, and that’s ok, as long as you can recognize them as such and don’t try and enforce your biases on others.
    If you are repulsed by the idea, and don’t want to, I don’t think there’s any reason to start. I don’t think there’s anything whatsoever wrong with being a vegetarian because you grew up that way and have never really wanted to try meat – or even because of an internal yuck factor that’s not truly logical.

    As to whether you should go vegan – I say no.

    There are cultural groups that have a longstanding tradition of vegetarianism – Jains being one. There are also groups that have diets based extremely heavily around animal products – the Inuit, for example. But I am not aware of any group that has historically been vegan. That probably has a lot to do with the fact that to be healthy as a vegan long term, you need to take supplements. I think as a society we should reduce our consumption of animal products, and work to improve conditions for farm animals, but I don’t think that veganism is a solution.

  • http://cheapsignals.blogspot.com/ Gretchen

    I can’t speak for anyone else here, Robert W., but I’m all too aware of how pro-lifers think. And I flatly reject the proposition that a fetus which is being aborted suffers in the way of the majority of animals raised to end up on a dinner plate.

  • Robert W.

    Gretchen,

    Then you need to do some research. Fetus’ as young as eight weeks of development are known to feel pain. This has been proven by fetal ultrasound, EKG and EEG. To feel the sensation of pain you need the thalamus and it is present and functioning in an eight week old fetus.

    If you want to see it for yourself, watch the movie the Silent Scream. It is a movie of a 12 week old being aborted by suction and you can see the baby moving away from the tube and screaming when it gets dismembered. Pro abortionists have tried to discredit this film, but it has been authenticated by the doctor who did it.

  • Revyloution

    @ Robert W.

    The guy who made the move watched it and declared that it was authentic?

    Wow, talk about circular reasoning. That’s even worse than trying to prove the bible is true.

    Ok, so I accept your premise that a fetus has enough neural connections to feel pain. If I then accept your premise that it’s a good enough reason to ban abortions, then it’s a good enough reason to ban fishing with lives worms. Worms can feel pain, thus we should ban the use of them in fishing! Fly’s can feel pain, we should ban flyswatters! Mice can feel pain, we should ban mousetraps!!

  • Whit

    The personhood of the fetus is irrelevant as far as I am concerned. Another human being cannot take my body and use it without my consent, even after death, hence why there is a great need for donated organs even with people dieing every day. A person who needs a kidney can’t take yours without consent, even if they will die without it, a person can’t make use of my uterus and put my body in danger without my consent, even if they die without it. What you personally would do in these situations is up to you, but legally our bodies should be just that, our own.

    Chicken eggs aren’t exactly in this equation…

  • ATL-Apostate

    Didn’t read through all 120 comments, apologies if I am repeating something already said. Undoubtedly I am, but I’m just vain enough to do it anyway.

    Hemant – you’re overthinking this. We’re humans. We evolved as omnivores. We have teeth both for incising meat and grinding vegetation. There’s nothing morally inferior about people eating meat. There’s nothing morally superior about being a vegetarian.

    Bottom line: eat whatever the hell you want*. You don’t owe me or anyone else on here an explanation. Nonetheless, reading your moral dilemma regarding how “vegetarian” you should be was entertaining.

    *Except brussel sprouts. Nobody should eat brussel sprouts.

  • ATL-Apostate

    Robert W -

    Just had to chime in on one point. I’m a fetal / pediatric cardiologist. I perform fetal cardiac ultrasounds every week. I’m not sure I know what you mean when you say there is EKG evidence to suggest fetuses feel pain. I’m not disputing your conclusion, per se, just your evidence. Quite frankly, I don’t know if fetuses feel pain.

    An EKG tells you NOTHING about anyone’s ability to feel pain. An EKG simply records electrical activity from the heart. Also, performing a fetal EKG is extremely difficult. In fact, it’s not even called an EKG (it’s called a magnetocardiogram), but that’s another discussion. To my knowledge, the youngest fetus in which an magnetocardiogram has been recorded is around 14 weeks gestational age. You can pick up heart tones by ultrasound much earlier, but that’s not the same thing as a magnetocardiogram. Also, there are maybe two places in the US that can actually perform this test. EKG’s tell you about heart rate and rhythm. Any number of external factors can effect heart rate or rhythm. It would be astronomically difficult (nay, impossible) to say, “aha, there was a change in the EKG, therefore the fetus felt pain.”

    Before you go citing evidence, or what you think is evidence, please try to make sure you actually know what you are talking about.

  • Samantha

    I read through a good amount of the comments on the thread and many of them were very interesting. I love to hear different opinions and experiences.

    Before I became a vegetarian, I really struggled with the “but we are supposed to eat meat!” argument. I was a biology major – and I knew all about the enzymes for eating meat, evolution, etc. The more I researched the environmental impact, the practices and the cruelty involved, the more turned off I became. I remember getting one of my favorite treats – a buffalo chicken cheesesteak – and afterward, I felt sick to my stomach. I just couldn’t do it anymore.

    Even though eating meat was an important part of evolution, it seems like nowadays, we have many other ways to get the nutrients we need (at least those who are able to afford it). As a whole, we are more knowledgeable about what we should be eating. I make sure to always get enough of everything I need in one way or another. I’ve felt a lot better since I switched and I don’t think I could ever go back.

    I’m sure this type of diet isn’t for everyone. You do have to be somewhat careful about what you eat (how you get your protein, B12, etc), especially if you eat vegan. However, with a little research, it might not be too tricky.

    I always used to think vegetarians were silly. I didn’t want to think about my eating habits. Meat tasted good and that argument was good enough for me – until I had to delve deeper into the issue for one of my college courses. I understand why most people eat meat – many say that they don’t want to learn more about it because if they did, they wouldn’t eat meat anymore. More than anything, I just wish the meat industry itself would change. I wish the information about what goes into our food (not just meat and dairy) was more widely available – at least to give people the option to change, or prompt the food industry to clean up its act. I still couldn’t eat meat, but at least those who choose to do so could be eating a safer product. Or perhaps the animals could have a chance to live a remotely normal (happy?) life before becoming food. *shrug*

  • Samantha

    @OneSTDV

    I don’t think anyone said you had to eat lots and lots of carbs if you’re a vegetarian. >.<

    http://www.vegetarian-nutrition.info/updates/vegetarian_diets_health_benefits.php

    you can find arguments either way – but most of them boil down to this: it takes research and effort in order to have a truly healthy balanced diet.

  • Deepak Shetty

    HP
    So the suffering of other forms of life is not a question of morality? You know this is false because even most non vegetarians prefer that the animals be treated as humanely as possible and we do not tolerate random torture of animals were it not for some cause(food, research etc).

    You also have a pretty narrow definition of humanism since you refuse to consider why we accord a special status to humans (other than an unreasonable we are humans ourselves)?

  • Ashton

    ATL-Apostate, do you have a source for that? I’ve heard people say that we have the teeth of a vegetarian species and that we have teeth of an omnivore, but I can’t seem to find much reliable looking information online. Anyway, even if your premise is true, it could still be morally inferior to eat meat when we have the choice not to if it causes suffering. Considering our overpopulated planet, it is actually very responsible to eat food that doesn’t cause as much environmental destruction as meat.

    Hemant, I also have been vegetarian my whole life. I have voluntarily eaten meat a few times, mainly just to try it. Once I ate some chicken because I was really hungry and there wasn’t any other food. I felt pretty nauseous after. I think it would have been okay if I’d had some bread or other food, but it was just the meat. It would be difficult, although possible for me to become a meat-eater. I have no desire to do so, though. As for veganism, a lot of animals raised for milk and eggs do suffer a lot, so if it’s about suffering to you, then I would say either become vegan or be really careful about where your milk, cheese, etc. come from. I have been vegan off an on and I feel healthier when I am vegan. I definitely recommend giving up cheese. I do miss the taste, but I ate way too much. I would vote for vegan, but I also know from experience that it’s easier said than done. I think that it’s probably harder for a vegetarian to become vegan than for a meat-eater to become vegetarian, but I only have personal experience with the former. Trying to be vegan did give me a taste of what people go through when giving up meat.

    Robert W. – you’re way wrong on fetuses feeling pain. They don’t have the neural capacity to do so until well after the 20th week.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fetal_pain#Fetal_pain_and_abortion
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fetus#Fetal_pain

    Anyway, the pain argument is pretty incidental to the entire debate, as doctors can give an anesthetic for the fetus.

  • Samantha

    @Demonhype

    I really admire your post and point of view!

  • Deepak Shetty

    Revyloution

    That said, I can foresee a future where meat is considered immoral because of the animal suffering, and environmental impact. We are a long way from that right now, but it could easily happen

    I suppose you could have made the same argument for other problems in our past (e.g. slavery). The future changes when enough of us want it to change. Saying I can foresee but I don’t feel like doing anything now is no help.
    Heres another thought experiment. How would an animal have to evolve before you gave it the same right to life as humans?

    A person has posted above that all it would take were the animals to march down demanding not to be eaten (He evidently hasn’t killed an animal otherwise he would have heard it)

  • Jeff P

    I had fish lucknavi at my favorite Indian restaurant the other night. Occasionally eating fish with delicious Indian sauces may be an option for you if you want to tentatively venture into the barbaric world of eating animal flesh. At least sea creatures are not warm and furry. :)

  • ATL-Apostate

    Ashton – I don’t have a citation for you. This is admittedly not my area of expertise. Maybe we should ask PZ! :) I think there is a lot of circumstantial evidence to support the omnivorous origins of hominids. The most compelling argument for me is a quick look in the mirror. I have “canine” teeth, in addition to my molars. These allow me to slice up my steak before I grind it down on the back teeth.

    If it’s true that I am an evolved omnivore, then by definition it is not morally wrong for me to be an omnivore. Just like it’s not morally wrong for me to be bipedal (I kill millions of small bugs daily with my feet), or breath air (I trap billions of microbes in the cilia of my trachea).

    If it’s not true that I’m an evolved omnivore, then I guess I’m just a bastard who likes meat.

  • Robert W.

    Atl,

    “Real time ultrasonography, fetoscopy, study of the fetal EKG (electrocardiogram) and fetal EEG (electroencephalogram) have demonstrated the remarkable responsiveness of the human fetus to pain, touch, and sound. That the fetus responds to changes in light intensity within the womb, to heat, to cold, and to taste (by altering the chemical nature of the fluid swallowed by the fetus) has been exquisitely documented in the pioneering work of the late Sir William Lily — the father of fetology.”

    That is where I got that. If it is wrong I will stand corrected

    Here is some additional info, for what the fetus feels later in the pregnancy:

    “The fetus within this time frame of gestation, 20 weeks and beyond, is fully capable of experiencing pain. Without doubt a partial birth abortion is a dreadfully painful experience for any infant. R. White, Dir. Neurosurgery & Brain Research, Case Western Univ.

    Also, “Far from being less able to feel pain, such premature newborns may be more sensitive to pain”…that babies under 30 weeks have a “newly established pain system that is raw and unmodified at this tender age.” P. Ranalli, Neuro. Dept., Univ. of Toronto

    I don’t think there is any doubt we can agree that at some point, when pro-choice advocates would still allow abortions, the fetus feels pain and is of course ultimately killed. My comment was that it seems that alot of folks here want that avoided for chickens and animals but feel perfectly okay for it to happen to the unborn. I am pleased that Hemant can at lease admit that this is at best illogical.

    Also, the film wasn’t authenticated by looking at it, but by the doctor that filmed it during the abortion.

  • Moose

    Robert W. Says:

    Gretchen,

    Then you need to do some research. Fetus’ as young as eight weeks of development are known to feel pain. This has been proven by fetal ultrasound, EKG and EEG

    I’m calling “BULLSHIT” on your bullshit.

    Difficult to feel sensation without a nervous system, huh?

    Besides, what does this have to do with the argument at hand (the ethics of vegetarianism)?

    I can’t think of even a SINGLE example of where the ethics of fetal pain become relevant in the food chain.

    Besides-although I won’t go to the argument that animals are better off for being our food-the average large ruminant is well cared-for and fed prior to slaughter.

    We go out of our way to keep it’s stress levels low-excess adrenalin makes the meat taste off.

    The last thing it knows involves something being pressed against its head-

    And then it’s simply “lights out”.

    My only pet peeve involves battery hens-and my response there is to only buy eggs and chickens from reputable growers who support free-range efforts.

    These animals arguably DO have better lives-at least they aren’t constantly stalked by predators.

    I can’t say that they live longer lives than their wild counterparts, as they don’t have any (chickens are so far removed from their ancestors that they almost can’t live without human assistance).

    So, where exactly do we draw the line?

  • Ben Finney

    I’ll second the Michael Pollan advice:

    Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

    Learn about the complete story of how the food gets to you, and make choices based on what food-production practices you want to support.

  • gsw

    If I were on a stranded island and the only way to live was to eat an animal, would I do it? Probably.

    I have to go with Robert on this one – you would be extremely ill for some time – better to start on fish! While I was staying in a country where soja and protein alternatives were difficult to obtain, I began eating those small squares of unidentifiable fish.
    If you ever ‘accidentally’ ate meat (i.e. in a vegetable soup) you would know it within hours!

  • http://dumnezero.blogspot.com Dumnezero

    @Moose

    The issue I was making has nothing to do with potential diseases of the colon-but EVERYTHING to do with starvation and death.

    Yes, indirectly, we have the ability to absorb some nutrients from nothing but grass.

    But-in comparison-look at a cow.

    They have FOUR stomachs-that’s three more than we do.

    Almost all of their energy budget is geared towards breaking down these nutrients. They eat TONS of grass to make even a kilo of “cow”.

    You simply can’t live on a diet of nothing but grass. In fact-you, as both an individual (and as part of a collective) are usually given a limited choice in what you have available.

    You can either starve eating grass…

    …or hunt, kill and eat the juicy Buffalo that just wandered by…

    Your choice.

    Who said the vegan diet is based on grass? I might have to EAT this straw-man fallacy…

    fritzy Says:
    January 2nd, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    1. We evolved eating animal protien. Certainly not the industrial-farm, antibiotic-laden, corn-fed variety but certainly, we ate meat (at least insects) in our evolutionary past.

    A very small portion of the diet was meat, yes. Hunting has always been unreliable for food and more of a social thing. Plants, fruits, roots, nuts, berries and mushrooms however have cycles which can be learned easily. However, the food picking has left few artifacts in the ground.

    2. The developement of the large human frontal lobe can likely be attributed to our consumption of meat.

    Got proof? I always find interesting when people confuse cultural evolution with anatomical evolution. Or do our genes teach us how to make fires ? Because without fire, chewing meat is like chewing gum.

    3. No civilization that we know of has ever lasted for any extended period of time on a vegan diet. None. (Some people will site India–while there are parts of India that have been vegan for periods of time, no civilization has developed, grown and lasted for significant periods in which all of it’s members subsisted on a diet free of animal protien.)

    Don’t really care that much about civilization. When I read history, all I see is wars and insane quests of hegemony over other humans. And you’re also ignoring the fact of social classes. The slaves and workers have always been kept on the cheapest foods – which are almost entirely non-animal. An animal meal was a special occasion, a holiday maybe.

    4. Unless you grow all of your own produce and subsist on a diet free of grains, a vegetarian diet is no better for the environment (and is arguably worse) than a diet consisting of foodstuffs obtained from local farms (fresh produce and grass-fed pasturized animals.) Large corporate farms in the US are encouraged, through subsidies, to produce more grain than is needed for human consumption. Erosion of top soil is a much greater problem than anyone is admitting, and our current agricultural model is unsustainable.

    That’s not an argument against veganism, but against industrial agriculture (I agree, too). Google “permaculture”

    4. We did not evolve consuming grains and legumes. Daily, mass consumption of grains and legumes did not start until about 10-12,000 years ago. Our bodies cannot handle the high carbs and subsequent insuline spikes associated with their consumption. Nor can humans process the gleuten, phytates and lectin contained there-in–these “anti-nutrients” wreak havok on many people’s digestive systems and metabolisms. Arguably, most type 2 diabetes and other “diseases of civilization” can be traced to their consumption.

    First of all the “disease” of civilization argument is bullshit, and you know it. It’s been shown that those diseases are very much part of the Western diet, which is highly carnivore. Such diseases were rare in poorer countries with vegan or vegetarian diets, but those disease have been growing with spread of the meat and dairy industries. This has been proven by studying global population over the last century. There are links to processed foods as part of the problem (such as white flour and sugar), but, again, that’s not veganism.

    5. Oh my various gods–meat is sooooo good! You can’t beat a grass fed rib-eye wrapped in uncured, nitrate free bacon. It will make you slap your own mother it’s so good.

    It really doesn’t tempt me, at all. I look at meat-foods as pieces of cadavers, corpses. I’d rather have an apple.

    “Food” for thought = glucose, (starch) loads of it. The Brain uses over 25% of the sugar in the body. Sugar deficiency leads to dumb angry people who start wars over land…

  • http://www.twitter.com/jalyth Tizzle

    There’s a question most atheists have asked and answered for themselves (per the blogs I read): What evidence would be sufficient for me to believe in a god? Adapted: What would get me to eat meat?

    I became a veg when I was 20ish. I started eating fish again when I moved from the midwest to the west coast, but usually only if it’s fresh and on Sierra club’s list of responsible eating.

    I quit originally because meat hurt my stomach. I believe this was a direct consequence of switching from farm-bought to store-bought chicken. I do occasionally “sin” by eating meat in any form I feel. Usually a turkey sandwich when my options are limited. Lately I’ve been craving burgers while menstruating, so I bought some iron pills.

    Anyway, if I someday go back to eating meat regularly, I would introduce it slowly and only buy local and free-range, organic, all that stuff. I would pay attention and make sure it didn’t adversely affect me. This solution to the question of what/why/when/how I would ever start eating meat satisfies, to me, the health, environmental, and animal cruelty aspects of the issue.

  • http://dumnezero.blogspot.com Dumnezero

    @Kaylya

    Ancient culture (5000+), vegan diet, still alive today: here

  • Graham

    As someone who is going through a religious de-conversion currently, interestingly one of the first issues I’m dealing with is vegetarianism. I’ve been vegetarian for about 8 years for “moral”, but not religious reasons. However, as I learn to live with a new world view which is still developing, I find myself about to jump back on the meat train. I feel like I’m living in a colder, harsher world than I was not so long ago due to this religious de-conversion. So while I’m not very comfortable with some of the methods used to farm and slaughter animals used for food, I’m struggling to see the difference between this and animals in the wild ripping their live victims apart. Its all part of this glorious natural world isn’t it?

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    I’ve been a vegetarian for most of my adult life. I think I was 22 or 23 when I stopped buying meat. I gave it up initially for a month to save money during a particularly frugal period and never went back. I find it healthier, cheaper (possibly because cooking your own meals is cheaper anyway), less environmentally harmful, and I feel that it is the moral position for me not to see another living thing die wherever possible. My children eat what I cook for them although they are of an age to choose whether or not to live as vegetarians or not. One has and one hasn’t. I’m fine with that. For me diet is a matter of personal choice. I can control where my food comes from and choose to restrict it. Nobody else has to make this choice if they don’t want to.

    Our evolutionary ancestors were hunter gatherers. They survived on fruits, vegetables, leaves, grubs, eggs when they could find them, meat when they could catch it, roots and just about anything they could find. The Western diet is skewed much more towards meat than our ancestors would have enjoyed. Still we’ve moved on since then and developed agriculture and domesticated animals for food so I’m not sure if the “we evolved to eat…” argument is at all valid. It is what we do now that matters after all.

    Thanks Hemant for your honest explanation. It wasn’t necessary and you don’t need to justify how you live your life but it was interesting.

  • ATL-Apostate

    Robert W-

    “Real time ultrasonography, fetoscopy, study of the fetal EKG (electrocardiogram) and fetal EEG (electroencephalogram) have demonstrated the remarkable responsiveness of the human fetus to pain, touch, and sound. That the fetus responds to changes in light intensity within the womb, to heat, to cold, and to taste (by altering the chemical nature of the fluid swallowed by the fetus) has been exquisitely documented in the pioneering work of the late Sir William Lily — the father of fetology.”

    That is where I got that. If it is wrong I will stand corrected

    Both the quote you have mined, and your understanding of it are incorrect so far as EKG goes. Fetal EKG can tell you a lot of things, but whether a fetus is in pain or not is not one of those things. It’s like using a thermometer to tell how much something weighs. Wrong tool. Wrong measurement.

    The author of the quote [citation needed] lists a whole lot of impressive sounding tests, then lists several things he/she thinks we can learn from those tests. There’s simply no way you can infer that pain causes fetal EKG changes without begging the question. First, you are assuming that the stimulus you are providing is painful, an experiment which is unethical (and would never get by an Institutional Review Board today) in the developed world today. Second, you would have to somehow account for the normal variation in heart rhythm and rate in a human fetus at any given moment. Too many confounding variables.

    Again, I’m not disputing your point that fetuses can feel pain. I’m just saying that EKG is not a reliable indicator of pain in ANYTHING. The quote on which you are relying for your information is simply wrong about this part. I don’t know enough about EEG to say whether that part is correct or not, but I have my suspicions.

  • http://st-eutychus.com Nathan

    Hemant,

    Meat is evidence for the existence of God. Especially bacon. You can’t be a free thinking atheist if you haven’t tried it.

  • ATL-Apostate

    Meat is evidence for the existence of God. Especially bacon. You can’t be a free thinking atheist if you haven’t tried it.

    If there were a benevolent God, he would have most certainly given us bacon. The fact that the Old Testament god prohibits eating bacon makes me hate him (if he exists) all the more.

  • Tom

    So while I’m not very comfortable with some of the methods used to farm and slaughter animals used for food, I’m struggling to see the difference between this and animals in the wild ripping their live victims apart. Its all part of this glorious natural world isn’t it?

    I would say there are two major differences. The first is the animal in the wild is not making a moral choice – it is making a choice of survival. We on the other hand make a choice to eat meat despite other viable alternatives being available. The other difference is that the animal in the wild at least had a life of “freedom” and one that was absent of the cruelties suffered by animals in a factory farm.

  • Jesse

    You guys should check out this article about a Vegan who turned meat eater. Her site is down for maintenance but the cache of it is still up – http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:DfhRhISd_mEJ:voraciouseats.com/2010/11/19/a-vegan-no-more/+vegan+no+more&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

  • ATL-Apostate

    The other difference is that the animal in the wild at least had a life of “freedom” and one that was absent of the cruelties suffered by animals in a factory farm.

    Yes, wild animals are free from the cruelties of factory farms, but they are subject to all the other cruelties of nature: predation, starvation, exposure, natural disaster, etc…

    Which is worse? I don’t know.

    Let’s face it. Non-sentient beings (so far as we know anyway) have a rough life here on planet earth. If we didn’t eat them, I’m not sure their lives would necessarily be less “cruel.”

  • chanda

    the logical arguments that led me to become an atheist, i feel, are the same that let me to become vegan. i questioned my religion and came away atheist. i questioned my eating habits and came away vegan. neither could stand up to serious scrutiny.

    i didn’t read most of the other comments because omni blog comments hurt my brain as much as christian ones, but i agree that the work of gary francione is a good place to start. bob torres is great as well.

    and hemant, you live in chicago. the chicago soy dairy makes amazing vegan products, including temptation ice cream, teese cheese, and dandies marshmallows. no more excuses for eating non-vegan rice krispie treats.

  • Robert W.

    ATL,

    Thank you for your input.

    Moose,

    Please see the quote for my post. I mentioned it because of the comment made by Hemant and others.

  • Sara

    I’m not sure the “logical inconsistencies” that you have are important because you are not going out and “preaching the good word” of vegetarianism. You’re doing what works for you. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “I don’t know if this makes sense, but it’s what I feel comfortable doing.”

    Similarly, I do believe (as another reader mentioned) that humans evolved eating meat. There are 2 million year old cave painting depicting hunting, and we know that chimpanzees who predate our species by quite a bit also hunt. (The kind and quantity of meat that we ate in the paleolithic era does not really compare to our modern diet, but this does at least indicate that some animal protein has been a part of our diet for a long time.) I just can’t kill a (non-shrimp) animal and feel okay about it, so I don’t.

    All I want other people to change is the horrendous ways that animals are raised and killed, which is inexcusable and unnecessary.

    I have never agreed with PETA’s tactics and militancy. Even if I agreed with all of their philosophies, I would not agree with the way they choose to communicate them, which is too close to proselytizing.

  • http://www.treadingground.com Nick Wright

    Glad to see the majority of people here supporting you remaining vegetarian. I’ve been an atheist since I was 8, but only vegetarian for a couple of years. My reasons, like others here, were mostly environmental and health-related, and I see no reason to abandon them.

  • http://theehtheist.blogspot.com The “Eh”theist

    3 thoughts:

    1) It’s interesting to see attribution at work in this thread. Identifying inconsistencies while minimizing them is such a different approach than the one taken in previous posts about accommodationists or skeptics who are still religious-their inconsistencies were writ large for everyone to see.

    This thread might make a good reference point in future when the temptation occurs to pounce on the inconsistencies of others (we all have them so we should all have some tolerance for them).

    2. @Richard Wade-praising Hemant for his inconsistencies while boycotting Zazzle for theirs seems a bit inconsistent.

    3. All comments about naturalistic fallacy aside, meat-eating is a natural behaviour that our ancestors engaged in. That doesn’t speak to the morality of the act, but it does speak to it as a successful survival strategy.

    If there are benefits to changing that behaviour we no longer have to wait for natural selection to demonstrate them, but we can be proactive and “evolve” in that direction. That said, those who don’t choose to come along on the ride (or who choose to only come part way) shouldnt be made to feel that they have to defend themselves. It’s up to the innovator to make the case for the innovation.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 Donna Hamel (muggle)

    Angus, that was a good article. I posted it to my wall. Thanks for the link.

    Hemant, I saw the title and I thought oh, no, he isn’t but you didn’t. You weren’t preachy at all and it’s a thoughtful post. There’s no more reason for you to make an effort to eat meat than there would be for me to make an effort to abstain.

    When asked, I have even snarkily replied “I’m muslim” only to redact the statement and explain my sarcasm…and then be left with no rational explanation as to why I choose not to drink.

    Seriously? I’m a teetotaller for purely rational reasons. Of course, some obviously don’t apply to you. For instance, one reason is I know my own addictive nature. I don’t tend to be halfway about things and I simply wouldn’t want to be about alcohol as I am chocolate. But beyond that, I’ve never understood the appeal of being drunk or high or even buzzed. It always seemed somewhat crazy to me to purposely get out of one’s mind and lose self-control. There’s that too. I’ve seen way too many other women taken advantage of when drunk who would have given a good solid no were they sober.

    As far as meat-eating or not, I really don’t give a damn what other people eat. I tend to get touchy (and I let that get the better of me and in way of my rational thinking on the other thread and for that I apologize to everyone) when vegans or vegetarians go on about eating meat being unethical when I don’t find it so. I’d be upset if my daughter went vegetarian or vegan and if she pushed it on my grandson because I’d be concerned about both their nutritional needs being met, especially my grandson’s as he’s a growing child. I think I’ll always be skeptical about plant substitutes being adequate proteins. However, he is allergic to beef and can’t eat that. Also, can’t eat peanuts.

    Speaking of which:

    When I was growing up, I was always the only vegetarian in my class. When kids brought in treats on their birthday, I had to decline… or hope that the birthday kid brought in a “special” treat for me.

    Don’t feel all alone in that. It was an issue for my daughter and my grandson, neither vegetarian. I rarely let my daughter have sugar growing up because she was born with high glucose and high risk for diabetes. My grandson has food allergies, including the dread peanut. We have to be damned careful what he eats or he winds up in the ER. Frankly, I wish the schools would just ban this practice of bringing in cupcakes or cookies or whatever for birthdays.

    They didn’t do it in my day and I’m still wondering why the little darlings must have it since the ’80′s. Throw the kid a birthday party at home but they can get through a school day with no more than the teacher and class wishing them happy birthday. Why is class being interupted for treats every time a student gets a year older? I know. I know. I’m a party pooper. But I really do think it’s absurd.

    Epistaxis, I think it’s because he said ‘this lifestyle is good for me’, as opposed to ‘my lifestyle is good for YOU’.

    Exactly. I opened up this thread with trepidation fearing Hemant had gone to preaching about being vegetarian when I had just praised him for not being so but I took a leap of faith and found a very reasoned and reasonable post. That made me happy and the usual tired arguements about ethics are rolling off my back more than they usually do because of it.

    I still find eating plants no more ethical than eating animals. And eating itself is about survival, not ethics. And, yes, I admit I find eating enjoyable. And I do not apologize for finding meat tasty and desirable or for getting it from the supermarket instead of dragging my ass (even before it became crippled) out at 4am to stalk something wild or paying five times as much at a “humane” farm.

    will proudly say “who cares if the animal suffers, as long as I can save two dollars, I don’t care!”

    $2!!! It’s a hell of a lot more than $2!!!

  • Rich Wilson

    When I was four I was riding in a pickup with my grandfather and aunt. Grandpa came to a sliding stop on the dirt road, pulled the shotgun off the rack from where it always was, leaned out the window, and shot a bird.

    I was stunned, and asked him why.

    He said “Those birds eat quail eggs, and we eat quail”.

    I was outraged. My four year old brain decided that it was ok to shoot a quail if you’re going to eat it, but not ok to shoot another bird that competed for the quail.

    Although I do search for and kill snails and caterpillars that are eating my vegetable garden.

    Oh and

    I’m in awe of people who become vegetarians after having eaten meat their whole lives. That takes serious willpower.

    Not necessarily. I haven’t eaten beef or pork in decades, and never missed them. When I wasn’t eating foul I didn’t miss it. Seafood would be a bit tough to give up, and cheese would take willpower. And that’s while I know full well that the ‘happy California cow’ is a complete myth.

  • ewan

    the “value” of the animal is much less than my desire to eat meat. Cows, chickens, and most fish are way bellow my caring for them in relation to their taste

    I said you couldn’t make a reasonable argument “that the suffering caused to you by having to eat vegetables is greater than the suffering caused to all the animals you eat” and you didn’t. You made an argument that you don’t care about their suffering because they’re not human. That’s the sort of view I’d expect from religious people that think they have a literally god-given right to act as they want, and that animals don’t count because they don’t have souls. I still maintain that you can’t, and you certainly have not, made any sort of comparable argument as to why you shouldn’t care about the suffering you cause, but on a rational basis.

  • Greg

    Heamnt – I wouldn’t want to get you to eat meat – as far as I am concerned, it is your choice.

    Also, I wouldn’t say it is moral to eat meat, just as I wouldn’t say it is immoral to eat meat, so I’m not sure why I’d want to get you to change your mind! If it weren’t for medical implications mentioned above about changing to a meat diet, I would suggest you at least try it (but only if you can’t see any logical/moral reason not to eat it) but then I’m one of those people who tries most things – even if like tofu and soya I reflexively bring it back up again. ;)

    I have no interest in ‘converting’ people to being omnivores. If they try to preach to me, I will argue back; if they were try to take away my rights, I would kick up a fuss; but otherwise, like with my atheism, I don’t give a damn what people believe.

    Leave me and my rights be, and I’ll leave you and yours.

  • Pingback: Vegetarians and Irrationality

  • ATL-Apostate

    -Greg –

    I agree with everything you said…
    except the spelling of Heamnt.
    ;)

    Live and live.
    Or, live and let die, as the case may be.

  • Deepak Shetty

    @Donna Hamel

    when vegans or vegetarians go on about eating meat being unethical when I don’t find it so.

    Why is arguing that something is a matter of ethics considered preaching? If I disagree with you about say religion and its positive or negative effects and attempt to prove my position, is it necessarily preaching? Hemant has a post about being vegetarian. Anyone who comments about it is interested in some discussion about vegetarian/non vegetarian issues. How the heck is stating your position or arguing about it being preachy? Its different if I appeared at your doorstep or sent you unsolicited emails about being vegetarian.

    That made me happy and the usual tired arguements about ethics are rolling off my back

    Isnt this exactly the complaint we have of creationists? La la la I can’t hear you.

    if you think meat eating isnt a matter of ethics/morals give a concise answer to hoverfrog’s
    “I feel that it is the moral position for me not to see another living thing die wherever possible”

  • http://360skeptic.com Andrew

    Interesting discussion. Coincidentally, I made a post at my blog today before reading this: The Ethics of What You Take a Fork and Knife To
    Some random thoughts -
    1) Talk of ethics and morals can reflect more about rationalizing values than rationality. How we have acquired our values, and their true consequences, might be an illuminating question to ponder. (Culture, family, peers, personal experience, personality, acquired unconscious dynamics, even genetic influence?)
    2) I’m skeptical of arguments based on the assumed conscious experience of other animals. Pain and suffering are variable enough and relative tough to gauge in humans. I’m not saying to refrain from trying to gauge it in other animals. Just don’t be over-confident of your best guess.
    3) We human beings are extremely lucky to live our largely pain-free, disease-free lives. Still we experience pain and suffering and eventual death. Should we not have children to spare them pain and suffering and eventual but certain death? Or does the experience of life outweigh the pain and suffering? Could this sometimes be the case with animals for the table?
    I wonder.
    Me, I consider myself an omnivore. I cook meat maybe once a week.
    As for my personal eating nirvana, a salad or any other vegan dish just doesn’t cut it. Give me that mushroom swiss burger from a local restaurant (but not too often). Knocks my socks off every time. As good as sex.
    Speaking of sex . . . As someone else mentioned, what a wasteful activity non-procreative sex is! It’s not rational.
    Almost everything we do makes some sort of footprint on the earth. Sure, it’s probably a good thing to try to limit the footprint as you see fit. But there is no best lifestyle. Just lifestyles that we prefer and/or imagine lead to a vision of the world we prefer.

  • Baconsbud

    I have a few questions about these organic farms I hear about all the time. I have never really looked into these but have read a few articles about them and some of the effects they might have on the environment. What benefit do they really afford people and the environment? Do they avoid using unnatural pesticides, diesel powered equipment, and do they work hard to keep soil erosion down? Do you that buy from these organic farms ever go out to make sure that they are following the rules that apply to them? I have known may people that raise their own food and some do it environmentally friendly and others just worry about looking like they are.

  • Danielle

    With regards to your “fertilized eggs” dilemma – it seems to me as though you have other reasons not to eat eggs (such as not liking the smell or thought of eating them). So you know that even if you can’t think of an ethical reason not to eat eggs, you have the reason that you don’t like them and therefore will not eat them.
    As long as you’re comfortable with your decisions and you’re not trying to make other people uncomfortable with theirs, I see no reason to change.
    I personally am not a vegetarian or vegan and am not planning on starting, but I respect your lifestyle and I don’t think there are any logical problems with it. Bon appetit!

  • http://cheapsignals.blogspot.com/ Gretchen

    Donna said, regarding the difference between buying regular supermarket animal products and humanely produced animal products:

    $2!!! It’s a hell of a lot more than $2!!!

    It depends on what you’re talking about. A gallon of milk that gets an “excellent” rating from the Cornucopia Institute will cost you roughly $2-2.50 more than Safeway brand. Grass-fed beef, where I live, is roughly twice as much per pound as corn-fed. Actual free-range eggs (as opposed to the “organic” kind laid by hens who have a view of a two foot strip of grass) are maybe $1-1.50 more per dozen.

    And all of those are better for not just the animals, but for you, the environment, and the rest of humanity. I consider that to be well worth the extra cost.

  • http://evolutionguide.blogspot.com/ William

    I’m not vegetarian or vegan I think I could be a vegetarian never could be vegan it would be horrible (even though I am still just getting over dairy, and egg allergies) I hate most meats, chicken, pork (incept for bacon but my mom (I’m thirteen) does not allow me to eat that very often).

  • Raghu Mani

    Well, after 160+ messages, I doubt if anyone will read this but I couldn’t resist adding my $0.02.

    For starters: my background – so that people know where I am coming from. Like Hemant, I am of Indian origin. Unlike Hemant, I’ve been a non-believer pretty much all my life (I cannot remember ever seriously believing) and I was a meat-eater for quite some time before giving it up (at around age 30). The reason for my giving up meat were health-related – ethics did not enter into it.

    Here are some random thoughts on the subject.

    1. I see some people claiming that we evolved eating meat and that vegetarianism is unnatural. That is probably true. However, humans have been hunter gatherers for most of our existence and wouldn’t have eaten nearly the same amount of meat that the average American does today. I would submit that eating the quantities of meat that people do today is as unnatural as a vegetarian diet.

    2. Some people talk about vegetarianism causing health problems. That’s more a result of how you go about being a vegetarian rather than vegetarianism itself. It is certainly possible to have a well-balanced vegetarian diet that gives you all the nutrients you need. India has a huge number of vegetarians who manage just fine on a vegetarian diet. The reason why people in the West get health issues when they become vegetarian is because once they remove the meat from their diets, they don’t know what to replace it with.

    3. While I see nothing wrong with eating meat per se, I do have serious ethical concerns with factory farming. The more I read about what factory farmed animals go through, the closer I get to being an ethical vegetarian. At this point my thinking is that even if I do go back to eating meat, I am not going eat factory farmed meat. I have no idea how practical it is to eat only humanely raised animals – perhaps someone will enlighten me – but if it isn’t practical, I’ll happily stay vegetarian.

    4. Finally, there’s the whole environmental question. Factory farming may be a bigger contributor to global warming than all the transportation in the world. With the world’s population exploding, it is worth remembering that to get one calorie of meat we have to put in upwards of ten calories of vegetable matter. And the stuff we feed to livestock is stuff that humans can easily consume. Grass-fed cattle seems to be the exception rather than the rule nowadays. Then there’s the depletion of earth’s fish reserves to consider. One estimate I have read says that at the rate we are depleting the oceans, there may not be any fish left by the end of this century.

    All told, I feel that some of the concerns about meat-eating are pretty legitimate and they apply not just to meat but also to other animal products like eggs and dairy. I am not sure what is the correct way to address these concerns – perhaps there is no correct way. I guess each person will have to wrestle with this issue and come to his or her own conclusion.

    Raghu

  • DA

    Sorry if I’m re-treadig familiar gound, don’t much feel like reading 170 comments.

    Very interesting post, I was always mildly curious what your religious background was. I was a vegetarian for over a decade and a vegan for a couple years. I started eating meat again for several reasons, among them marrying a non-vegetarian, but I still believe vegetarianism is a sane and compassionate way to live. I still try to eat little meat and I eat on the traditional Chinese model, that is, the meat is a small addition to a mostly plant-based diet. I found at the time, incidentally, that my vegetarianism was a lot like my atheism now; that is, no matter how low key and mild I was about it, it was threatening to people. Seriously, someone would find out I didn’t eat meat (say, I was eating MaPo Tofu) start quizzing me on why, and start making insulting and defensive remarks about the whole thing. I’ve witnessed maybe three or four self-righteous, pushy vegetarians but almost invariably I’ve found the aggressive, rude parties in these conversations to be meat eaters. It also wasn’t rare for people whom I’d made no effort to “convert” to say something to me like “well, I’m never going to give up meat”, as if I’d asked them to or something. Similarly today, theists can be remarkably pushy and still get respect, but atheists just EXIST and we ge accused of being dicks about it.

    By contrast, when I was a Muslim, a member of America’s most distrusted religion, and in a red state to boot, people basically left me alone. I would go out between classes or during my break at work and do salat, I wouldn’t drink at parties, for a while I wore a beard and kufi, and people were almost always respectful and polite. The funny thing is that I, like a lot of fundamentalist Muslims, saw myself as some kind of rebel against American values, and wore “sunnah” clothing (in my case usually cuffed trousers, a kufi, and prayer beads) almost like a teenage punk rocker or something, like as a an active antagonism to secular society. And in hindsight, nobody cared. Very rarely someone would ask me what, exactly, my deal was, but it was always just curiousity. Atheism and vegetarianism, on the other hand, those really set people off sometimes.

  • ATL-Apostate

    This thread is approaching Pharyngula status.

    Who knew?

  • Mr Z

    I don’t get what the problem is. A large portion of the Abrahamic faiths are daily attempting to prove that we are animals, barely able to recognize our own faces and having just climbed down from the trees. We evolved as omnivores. We, like many other animals, eat meat. If you don’t want to, don’t do it. In the end, if you consider this planet a spaceship we all live on, no matter what food source is available, we’ll eat it to survive. This is what evolution has bequeathed us. Ask yourself this: if you were starving and the ONLY food you could find was meat, would you eat it? If the answer is yes, then you are not vegetarian. You simply choose not to eat meat if you don’t have to and there is nothing wrong with that. When you attach ethics to it you have to commit yourself to starvation if there is no other food source. If you can do that, then power to you. Otherwise, food is food. If you are not trying to kill all of a species for delicacies, food is food. It should not actually matter to anyone, eat what is available… in moderation. It’s how evolution worked out that we could survive. Food, survival, and ethics have a very small overlap. It should not be a huge deal for anyone.

    And yes, I’ll eat petrie dish meat if it is safe. I’ll eat only vegetables if that is what is available. We should be eating only to survive, not for pleasure or ethics. If you kill more than is necessary for survival… well, greed gets punished in many ways.

    In the time it takes most North Americans to even decide what to eat there are a half dozen children who die of starvation. Quibbling over what food is on the menu is silly if you see it that way. Eat enough to survive, protect nature where you can, feed the hungry. Ethics about meat is misplaced ideology IMO.

  • Demonhype

    @Samantha: Don’t encourage me, or I might unleash another wall ‘o’ text! :) But seriously, thank you!

    @Gretchen: You pretty much made the case about price before I could get there. A lot of times the difference (in our store, anyway) really is about two dollars an item tops, and they are often not something we need to buy in any large quantities anyway. In my mom’s case, two dollars is a fortune in her mind, and discussing finances with her is like being Lisa Simpson talking to Mr. Burns whether a dime is “good money”.

    Don’t poo-poo a nickel, Lisa! A nickel will buy you a steak and kidney pie, a cup of coffee, a slice of cheesecake, AND a newsreel, with enough change left over to ride the trolley from Battery park to the polo grounds!

    Seriously. I’m not really joking here, or not by much anyway.

  • Raghu Mani

    Mr Z Says:

    Ask yourself this: if you were starving and the ONLY food you could find was meat, would you eat it? If the answer is yes, then you are not vegetarian.

    This is the sort of attitude that really bugs me. This isn’t an all or nothing proposition and I hate it when either vegetarians or non-vegetarians treat it as such. All of us have our sense of ethics but none of us is perfect. Most of us on this board are probably honest people. That doesn’t mean that we have never told the odd lie. Are you seriously trying to suggest that telling the occasional lie is the same as being chronically dishonest?

    Raghu

  • http://cheapsignals.blogspot.com/ Gretchen

    Ask yourself this: if you were starving and the ONLY food you could find was meat, would you eat it? If the answer is yes, then you are not vegetarian. You simply choose not to eat meat if you don’t have to and there is nothing wrong with that.

    A lot of people would prefer to kill someone who is trying to kill them rather than die. I suppose that means all of those people are secretly murderers.

  • http://godobscuresperception.blogspot.com God Obscures Perception

    I never understand why people get so riled up and aggressive over their meat-eating. Atheist Vegetarian here… vegetarian for 10 years, longer than I’ve been an atheist.

    When some people find out I’m a vegetarian they get defensive and act like I’m judging them. I’m not a proselytizing type, but if they ask me why I’m a vegetarian, I’ll give them tons of reasons. And then some people just don’t want to hear it. So then why did they ask?? Just to argue? It’s really irritating.

    It’s a lot like atheism. You can choose to believe whatever you want. Just don’t force me or try to convince me that I should be eating meat. My reasons for atheism and vegetarianism are both well thought out, rational, and personal. Don’t criticize me if you haven’t given either matter serious, critical thought.

    My partner only eats chicken and seafood (no mammals) and he has his reasons for doing so. I respect his opinions and choices, and love him for being so thoughtful about the subject, even if his conclusions differ from mine.

  • Drew M.

    @Baconsbud

    Certified Organic farming is, well, nothing but clever marketing. They use pesticides that are not nearly as efficient as synthetics and because of the multiple applications, may actually be worse on the environment.

    Furthermore, I heard a disturbing statistic: If the entire world switched to organic farming methods, we would only be able to feed about 3 billion people – less than half of our current population. This is because organic farms need to participate in old-school crop rotations instead of using anhydrous ammonia. This is unacceptable to me because anhydrous ammonia is perfectly safe to the environment as long as it’s applied properly. How do we know it’s used correctly? Simple economics; it’s expensive and very, very wasteful to use incorrectly. Every single farmer who uses it treats it like liquid gold.

    Finally, the really good stuff that is grown on tiny farms and sold at stands usually cannot even get the organic certification.

    If you want to lower your impact on the environment, buy locally grown produce when you can, regardless of whether or not it’s Certified Organic.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 Donna Hamel (muggle)

    if you think meat eating isnt a matter of ethics/morals give a concise answer to hoverfrog’s
    “I feel that it is the moral position for me not to see another living thing die wherever possible”

    That’s his opinion; mine differs. Plants die too. As I’ve said repeatedly. We have to kill to eat and we have to eat to survive. That simple.

    I don’t really care if hoverfrog or Hemant or anyone else eats meat. But it’s also none of their business if I do. I would be concerned about their health if my daughter and grandson didn’t but beyond those two, I really don’t give a flying fig what anyone eats. Neither hoverfrog or Hemant seem to care what I eat so I have no issue with either of them.

    Gretchen, maybe where you live. Where I do, it’s $12 a gallon; supermarket $2.50. I’m not a millionaire. Even if it were $2, that’s $20 difference for just 10 items. That may not make a difference of having or going without in your world but it does in mine!

    Aside from that farm I mentioned, the only other place locally to get free-range meats and wild caught food is a food coop that you have to pay a hefty membership fee and put in “volunteer” work hours to even buy from. I am on disability. My daughter, the mother of a young child, already goes to school full-time and works part-time. And for the privilege of paying a membership fee and giving the place free labor, you still have to pay a higher price for the food itself.

    Raghu, thanks for your comment! Finally someone sees both sides rationally and even mentions the overpopulation problem! (Which is a large factor in the environmental issues.)

  • Vivek Jain

    I really wish someone would tell you how the vegetarianism concept originally came from jainism and explained the reason behind not eating it. Jains dont give up meat merely because it involves killing animals, if that was true would eating just dead animals be allowed? Giving an example of unfertilized eggs, even if there is an embryo which would never develop in full fetus, would that be eatable? No. there is a very clear division in jainism about eatable and non-eatable (abhakshya) food. And you might know lot of veggies are compared to non veg. Lot of eatable food is compared to non-veg when kept for longer time, derived in inappropriate way etc. What is the real concept there? Its not just that animal that got killed that makes meat non eatable. The content itself is house of so many organisms which end up dying in the process of eating meat. That is the real reason why jains dont eat meat. Like they dont drink alcohol and dont eat a lot of veggies. A person who is compassionate about smaller organisms and takes utmost care on everything that he eats takes the non-violence to its original level and then a visible product of cruelty automatically becomes out of question.

    PS: I read your blog thru one atheist jain friend of mine. I feel sorry for him too for not trying to understand the most logical religion of all times.

  • Deepak Shetty

    Mr Z

    Ask yourself this: if you were starving and the ONLY food you could find was meat, would you eat it?

    Yes of course. But since I think this is an ethical/moral argument it would then be a question of competing harm – in which case I would elect to save myself(or any human) rather than the meat. The question is when you have a choice why would you kill and eat the meat?(You might need a specialized diet say if your job depends on it in which case ok) or there might be other reasons – But stating that I can eat whatever I want , whenever I want , however I want is a refusal to consider that meat eating is an ethical/moral question. Whats more the very act of stating that it is an ethical question seems to be considered preaching.

    Donna Hamel

    We have to kill to eat and we have to eat to survive. That simple.

    And the demonstrably false nature of that statement doesn’t bother you(You dont have to kill animals or eat meat to survive as millions of vegetarians will attest)?
    Plants are a red herring because the argument is always a pain/suffering argument. Again you might have other reasons (for e.g. a balanced vegetarian diet is probably more expensive than a meat diet in America and you might not be able to afford it) – The question is still an ethical one.

  • Anna

    Well, I’ve been a lacto-ovo vegetarian for about seven months and I absolutely love it. I’m interested in potentially becoming vegan after I leave for university, but I honestly don’t know what I would do without cheese (I’ve given myself a terrible craving for cheese and crackers just saying that). I also refuse to give up honey. Full stop. My favorite scone recipe calls for it and no one can make me go through university sconeless!

  • Demonhype

    @God Obscures Perception:

    That knee-jerk defensiveness is so irritating and it permeates everything. I get it from guys like my brother if I complain about the inherent sexism of society that I have to deal with every day, as if I’m talking specifically about him and not about a general trend. I’ve heard white acquaintances do the same thing when a black person complains about the ingrained racism he/she has to deal with every day, as if they are being personally called a racist.

    And, of course, the atheist thing you mentioned. :)

    I really don’t see why people assume that a vegetarian is “judging” them by default. I’ve never assumed I was being judged just because someone said “I’m a vegetarian”.

  • AxeGrrl

    Raghu Mani wrote:

    Factory farming may be a bigger contributor to global warming than all the transportation in the world.

    Thanks for making that point.

    It’s astonishing to me that most people aren’t aware of HOW big a contributor it is…

    And it reminded me of a great talk by Jeremy Rifkin entitled ‘The Empathic Civilization’. Informative, tempered, and a good kick in the butt on the main issue our species needs to start caring more about.

  • AxeGrrl

    DA wrote:

    I found at the time, incidentally, that my vegetarianism was a lot like my atheism now; that is, no matter how low key and mild I was about it, it was threatening to people. Seriously, someone would find out I didn’t eat meat (say, I was eating MaPo Tofu) start quizzing me on why, and start making insulting and defensive remarks about the whole thing. I’ve witnessed maybe three or four self-righteous, pushy vegetarians but almost invariably I’ve found the aggressive, rude parties in these conversations to be meat eaters. It also wasn’t rare for people whom I’d made no effort to “convert” to say something to me like “well, I’m never going to give up meat”, as if I’d asked them to or something. Similarly today, theists can be remarkably pushy and still get respect, but atheists just EXIST and we ge accused of being dicks about it.

    Oh man, do I identify with that!

    I can recall several occasions in my life similar to what you’ve just described ~ where I didn’t even mention my vegetarianism (let alone ‘preached’ on the issue), and someone found out about it and, completely out of the blue, started giving me the 3rd degree about it!

    It was utterly fascinating to witness someone suddenly start ‘defending’ their meat-eating to me, when I didn’t utter one word on the issue to begin with.

    Any psych majors out there? :)

  • AxeGrrl

    Mr Z wrote:

    Ask yourself this: if you were starving and the ONLY food you could find was meat, would you eat it? If the answer is yes, then you are not vegetarian.

    Uhm, no.

    If you don’t eat meat, you’re a vegetarian. It’s as simple as that.

    What does some ‘speculative situation’ have to do with the issue? “If the situation were different, you’d act differently“. Well no kidding. So what?

    The whole point is that the vast majority of us DO have a choice and it isn’t ‘meat or nothing’.

  • http://dumnezero.blogspot.com Dumnezero

    Ask yourself this: if you were starving and the ONLY food you could find was meat, would you eat it? If the answer is yes, then you are not vegetarian.

    If it’s a living animal, no; if it’s a fresh carcass… maybe. If I’m in a situation of starvation where there are edible animals, but not edible plants, I’ll probably die eventually, with our without the meat, so why bother prolonging the suffering? And I have great respect for the Innuit people (who rely heavily on fish and water mammals), but their lifestyle is extreme; I’d rather die than live like that, and since I’m an atheist, my death wouldn’t really be that impressive to me… Having lived a satisfyingly moral and ethical life, I would die without any regrets.

  • http://360skeptic.com Andrew

    Interesting connection between atheism and vegetarianism.
    With an atheist in the room, it’s only a small step from thinking, “atheists reject god,” to “atheists reject me.” Or more simply “atheists reject what I value, what I care about.” And so believers may feel defensive by a mere identity (vs. outright behavior). It’s human nature.
    With vegetarians at the table, so to speak, it’s only a small step from thinking “vegetarians don’t eat meat, and most believe this is a better diet (for animals and the planet).” To, “Because I am a meat-eater, I have made a worse decision.”
    It’s human nature to connect the dots even when the go unstated.

  • Greg

    The problem with a lot of the ‘moral’ arguments for non-meat-eating is that they quite often show a different definition for morality between the two people who are arguing. At which point, unless you can agree on what morality means, it’s pointless continuing the discussion.

    That much should be obvious by the amount of times people reference the pain the animal is capable of feeling in order to excuse the difference between feeding on plants, and feeding on animals.

    There is no reason why ‘the pain a being is capable of feeling’ should be considered more justified than ‘the level of self awareness a being is capable of attaining’ when it comes to moral questions (at least, unless there are further arguments behind them). All it means is that you have a different definition of morality than the other person has.

    That may sound like I think morals are subjective, but I don’t, I just feel that many people disagree about the basic definition of morality. Their morals can still be objective once that definition is properly defined. (Although not necessarily – e.g. a moral code based on empathy would be subjective by definition.)

    To finish off with something a little amusing:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKTsWjbjQ8E

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 Donna Hamel (muggle)

    Well said, Greg! Exactly.

    And anyone with a sense of humor left, watch that You Tube. It’s great!

  • AxeGrrl

    Greg wrote:

    That may sound like I think morals are subjective, but I don’t, I just feel that many people disagree about the basic definition of morality.

    If you’re saying that with some degree of Monty Python-ish cheeky irony, then *teehee*

    If not, I have one question: how is the fact that ‘many people disagree about the basic definition of morality’ not a demonstration of the fact that morality is subjective?

  • http://www.meetup.com/scottmaddoxfanclub Scott Maddox, CPA

    You should go to Fogo De Chao in DC and eat a bunch of meat. You are avoiding meat for silly reasons, which contradict your whole not doing things for silly reasons stance concerning religion.

  • Nordog

    Salad is murder.

  • Annie

    Okay, there are 191 comments and I don’t have time to read through all of them. Just want to give you some facts on eggs in case no one else has pointed this out. When a hen lays a fertilized egg, it may have the “potential” to become a chicken, but it is not really a viable embryo at that point. IF and WHEN a hen is broody (usually once or twice a year), she will lay ten or twelve eggs over a period of days (hens lay ONE egg a day, for those of you who buy yours in cartons). Once there are “enough” eggs in the hen’s opinion, she will start to sit on them. ONLY THEN does development begin. If the hen does not sit on them, then no development of the egg can happen. The other time development would happen would be if they are artificially incubated by a human.

    I have been raising chickens for a few years and they are very happy free range hens. I don’t feel any guilt about eating the eggs. I would definitely have a problem eating a chicken that I know personally, though. All the stuff about raising your own meat is fine except that for some of us, the animal is an individual by the time it’s old enough to slaughter. I think for me the exception might be (this may seem superficial) if you raise all of one type of chicken or other animal and they are basically indistinguishable – you really don’t form any attachment or relationship to them. I think this tells you something about human psychology.

    I also have dairy goats and I don’t feel bad about milking them and eating the cheese produced from it. I wait until the kids are a few weeks old before I start, and then the kids are put in a separate stall at night and mom milked in the morning. Mom and kids then spend all day together on the pasture. There are no hormones and medications are limited to what is needed for the goats’ health. It is true that there are some extra males produced as a result of the breeding process. Last year I was lucky enough to find homes for them as brush eaters…

    My husband used to be a vegetarian until I pointed out some of the ethical problems with dairy and eggs. Then (to my chagrin), he decided he would only eat eggs and dairy from our own animals, where we know how they have been treated and what they’ve been fed.

  • Greg

    AxeGrrl:

    If not, I have one question: how is the fact that ‘many people disagree about the basic definition of morality’ not a demonstration of the fact that morality is subjective?

    Well for one thing, I am not claiming they are all right. They could all be wrong! ;) It wouldn’t matter whether everyone disagreed upon the shortest way to get from point A to point B: there is an objective best distance.

    Many people disagree about scientific theories – that doesn’t mean that there is no objective science.

    I think many people claim something is moral or not, without thinking much deeper than what is moral = what is ‘good’. They don’t then go on to try to work out what constitutes ‘good’ and why. If everyone did, then perhaps the ideas of what is good might gravitate towards a central, objective, moral standard.

    What I am saying, in the broader picture, however, is that you’re not going to persuade someone that something is moral, unless you both agree on what morality is.

    And the thing is, once you have knuckled down on the most basic principle of what morality is, then it can be objective. For example, if you subscribe to a utilitarian form of morality, one action is always going to be objectively better than another.

    In the same way, I would say that the morals I live by are objective. My definition of what is moral is one that always leads to the same action in the same circumstances having the same moral correctness regardless of any subjective opinions.

  • Keri

    I still avoid eggs now whenever possible. (I may occasionally eat a Rice Krispies Treat prepared with marshmallows but I won’t eat scrambled eggs.)

    Just a head’s up: marshmallows don’t contain eggs; they do, however, contain gelatin, an animal by-product. Vegan marshmallows are made with pectin instead. :)

    I was a vegetarian for a number of years, but have recently decided to include certain meats in my diet. I am a member of a CSA group and purchase meats from pastured, humanely treated, and locally raised animals, and I feel good about that.

    Good on you for being able to look at your vegetarianism from a critical perspective, and to be okay with the parts that are less than entirely logical! It’s a great skill to be able to apply skepticism to yourself as well as the world.

  • ash

    I’ve known 2 long-term vegetarians who decided to abandon their habits for just one meal…

    Meat-sweats and serious indigestion. Not pretty for anyone there at the time.

    Just sayin’ :)

  • ThomasNMA

    I’ve been vegan for almost seventeen years now, and gave up meat at the age of fifteen. Best thing I ever did.

    There are so many sane, rational and reasonable reasons for not eating meat. And there’s just no way to justify or excuse all this completely unnecessary killing and suffering that won’t eventually just end up in laziness, apathy, habit and more laziness.

    No one can blame ignorance anymore and the info is out there. Do a websearch and just think about it.

    Even if you decide to continue eating animals at least you’ve taken a conscious decision. That’s more than most people do.

  • http://awhistleandamilkshake.blogspot.com Tara

    I’ve been vego for 3 years, and I deeply wish I’d started earlier. I think raising kids vego (with the option to eat meat if they want) is a wonderful gift.

    This book (http://www.eatinganimals.com/) is the most extraordinary, wonderful and moving account of what it means to eat animals. Highly, highly recommended.

    This one (http://www.jeffreymasson.com/books/the-face-on-your-plate.html) goes into greater detail about egg and dairy production, as well as a fascinating chapter on the function of denial, with insights that pertain easily to religion.

    All the best!

    PS. And if you DO give up dairy (it’s not that hard – i’m lactose intolerant, so I didn’t have a choice!) then don’t worry about losing calcium: http://www.scribd.com/doc/14425812/Why-Plant-Calcium-is-Best

  • AxeGrrl

    Greg wrote:

    What I am saying, in the broader picture, however, is that you’re not going to persuade someone that something is moral, unless you both agree on what morality is.

    And the thing is, once you have knuckled down on the most basic principle of what morality is, then it can be objective. For example, if you subscribe to a utilitarian form of morality, one action is always going to be objectively better than another.

    In the same way, I would say that the morals I live by are objective. My definition of what is moral is one that always leads to the same action in the same circumstances having the same moral correctness regardless of any subjective opinions.

    But Greg, consistency doesn’t equal objective, and agreement doesn’t equal objective.

    Your morality isn’t objective, because you’ve chosen what you consider to be moral.

    As long as human beings are doing the ‘deciding’ (whether individually or collectively) on what is moral or immoral, those decisions/conclusions are, by definition, subjective.

    Unless you believe in a god, there’s simply no way to successively argue that morality can ever be ‘objective’ (and even if one does believe in ‘God’, it doesn’t automatically mean that morality is objective).

  • DA

    “I think raising kids vego (with the option to eat meat if they want)”

    That’s sort of an either/or thing. If you let kids eat meat, they will. I’m personally glad my parents did; I think dietary choice that aren’t directly linked to health are better left to when a kid is old enough to make those kinds of decisions. If it matters, I feel the same way about religion.

  • Greg

    Axegrrl:

    But Greg, consistency doesn’t equal objective, and agreement doesn’t equal objective.

    Your morality isn’t objective, because you’ve chosen what you consider to be moral.

    As long as human beings are doing the ‘deciding’ (whether individually or collectively) on what is moral or immoral, those decisions/conclusions are, by definition, subjective.

    Unless you believe in a god, there’s simply no way to successively argue that morality can ever be ‘objective’ (and even if one does believe in ‘God’, it doesn’t automatically mean that morality is objective).

    First off, just to get this out of the way as it has nothing much to do with the discussion, I would say if you do believe in a god, then that requires morality to be subjective.

    Here’s the thing:

    You are talking as if in order for it to be objective, there must be an entity, somewhere, called ‘morality’, or that it must be something like the laws of the universe, or, in other words, a property of beings or objects.

    If that is the case, than I have no hesitation in saying I have seen no evidence such a thing exists. However, the same is true about mathematics, or logic, both being human made constructs (with the intention of modelling the world we see around us). If you go that route, then nothing is objective, because language is a human made construct, and we must define words based upon our own fallible senses.

    Human beings have done the ‘deciding’ (as you put it) on the meaning of every single word in the English language.

    And if nothing is ever objective, and everything is always subjective, then the words ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ have completely lost all meaning, and should thus be discarded from language: they are then superfluous in every single case they can ever be used.

    However, if you take the tack (as I do) that just like maths and logic, we have to define the word morality before we have anything to call objective, or subjective, that problem disappears. If morality doesn’t exist until you have defined it to mean something (which only makes sense imho – if you disagree, perhaps we ought to concentrate on this) then, as long as the definition itself is not subject to personal experience, emotions, or beliefs, you have an objective morality.

  • Drakk

    Donna Hamel

    Seriously? I’m a teetotaller for purely rational reasons. Of course, some obviously don’t apply to you. For instance, one reason is I know my own addictive nature. I don’t tend to be halfway about things and I simply wouldn’t want to be about alcohol as I am chocolate. But beyond that, I’ve never understood the appeal of being drunk or high or even buzzed. It always seemed somewhat crazy to me to purposely get out of one’s mind and lose self-control. There’s that too. I’ve seen way too many other women taken advantage of when drunk who would have given a good solid no were they sober.

    Well, in all honesty I wasn’t aware of that term. Actually, I think that’s what I really do feel when I say I don’t enjoy it. I don’t see the appeal either.

    Thanks for that. The first and last don’t really apply to me, but thanks. That really did help.

  • ButchKitties

    There’s no disconnect between abstaining from eating eggs and being pro-choice, because whether a fetus is a person or not has no bearing on whether or not abortion should be legal. The issue is bodily autonomy. We don’t pull people off the street and force them to donate blood during a shortage. We don’t force parents to donate kidneys, liver lobes, or bone marrow to their children. We don’t even take organs from dead people without permission from their survivors. So why should we force a women to donate her uterus to a fetus against her will? Ultimately your abstention is consistent, you don’t want to force chickens to lay eggs for your convenience. You don’t want to force women to be incubators.

  • http://chandays.blogspot.com Larry Meredith

    I’m a strong supporter for animal rights… Animals have the right to be delicious. If locking up a baby calf from moving around will make his meat more tender and juicy, I’m all for it.

    Same kinda thing for animal testing. If strapping car battery to a pig is going to help mankind cure AIDS or something, there’s only 1 thing I have to say. The red is positive, and the black is negative.

  • http://allogenes.wordpress.com Allogenes

    You write,

    I wonder what would happen if I just sat down and ate a steak… if I would start to gag or whether it would taste good. No clue.

    Are you aware of what happened to a certain other celebrated Gujarati when he first tried meat?

    The goat’s meat was tough as leather. I simply could not eat it. I was sick and had to leave off eating… [later] A horrible nightmare haunted me. Every time I dropped off to sleep it would seem as though a live goat were bleating inside me and I would jump up full of remorse…
    - M.K. Gandhi

  • Pingback: Food and Faith « Allogenes

  • AxeGrrl

    Greg wrote:

    If morality doesn’t exist until you have defined it to mean something (which only makes sense imho – if you disagree, perhaps we ought to concentrate on this) then, as long as the definition itself is not subject to personal experience, emotions, or beliefs, you have an objective morality.

    But the bottom line problem is that morality (or defining what morality is) IS subject to ‘personal experience’ ~ there is simply no way to detach morality (its defining and everything else) from human experience.

    It’s as futile as trying to detach empathy from human experience.

    Morality grows organically from human experiences, feelings, relationships ~ it isn’t something outside of those things…..and those things, by definition, are not ‘objective’, no matter how hard we may try to claim otherwise.

  • Greg

    AxeGrrl wrote:

    But the bottom line problem is that morality (or defining what morality is) IS subject to ‘personal experience’ ~ there is simply no way to detach morality (its defining and everything else) from human experience.

    It’s as futile as trying to detach empathy from human experience.

    Morality grows organically from human experiences, feelings, relationships ~ it isn’t something outside of those things…..and those things, by definition, are not ‘objective’, no matter how hard we may try to claim otherwise.

    I’m sorry, but I’m not entirely sure what you’re trying to say here. (Maybe I’m being obtuse)

    In order for you to make any comment about what morality is, you have to have already defined it to mean something, correct?

    You can’t say that:

    there is simply no way to detach morality (its defining and everything else) from human experience.

    unless you have defined morality to mean something which agrees with that statement.

    (As a ridiculous example, if you had defined morality to mean: ‘a rock’, then the bold-ed statement above wouldn’t make any sense. (At least, unless you went the whole hog and say that every single word is subjective, which I addressed in my last comment. Again, if you do that, then ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ become meaningless.))

    In which case, my answer is as simple as saying: I don’t agree with your definition of morality.

    Sure, your definition of morality is subjective, but that is because of the definition you have applied to the word ‘morality’.

    If what is moral is defined as (say): that which causes the greatest amount of happiness, and the smallest amount of unhappiness, then there are objective answers to any moral question you might give. (That is, for any given moral dilemma, you can rank possible solutions in terms of how they best solve the problem, regardless of subjective opinions.)

    The fact that the people involved have subjective wants and needs is irrelevant. It is a subjective opinion that I believe reading is enjoyable, but it is objectively true that I like reading. (That is a fact about me that is true regardless of anyone’s personal feelings, interpretations, or biases)

  • Kayla

    @Mehta:

    Why debate why you don’t eat meat at this point in your life? You’ve survived without eating meat for how many years now? You seem intelligent and happy. Why make such a radical change?

    While I haven’t given up meat altogether (still love my fried fish), but feel that I am moving in the right direction.

    Since you are not preaching vegetarianism to meat-eaters, I don’t see why any meat eater should take offense to your eating choices. That’s their problem, not yours.

  • keddaw

    So… you wouldn’t be averse to eating roadkill? The animal was not raised for meat and its death was not intended so that it could be eaten.

    Morally we should all be vegetarians, but it’s so low on my immoral scale that I am happy to go against it for the taste.

  • cheryl

    Vegetarian men are hot. Alas, seems as if all the vegetarian men are taken.
    I would not marry a meat-eater. The gratuitous cruelty is a turn-off.

    To those who say “animals in the wild have it bad too”:
    Rubbish!
    This is another of the many idiotic beliefs that meat apologists keep repeating in zombie-like fashion.
    Animals in the wild are not created for the specific purpose of being killed for food! Do you even know how many millions of animals a year the meat industry creates and kills???
    I don’t greatly object to hunting if the hunter is skilled. It’s less unethical and less hypocritical to be a hunter than to buy supermarket meat from animals created and killed just to meet your demand.

  • Nick Andrew

    I don’t care whether you eat meat or not but I do care that you should sort out any cognitive dissonance you may have about it.

    When you talked about not eating possibly fertilised chicken eggs I thought “but what about being pro-choice?” and a commenter above has sidestepped that question by referring to personal morality vs imposing one’s morality on others. You get a free pass on that question cause you’re not a lady and so never have to make the decision about having an abortion.

    I personally have no problem with eating chicken eggs, fertilised or not. The egg does not harm the egg layer and there’s nothing intrinsically “sacred” about a chicken embryo. I wouldn’t want to crack open a boiled egg and find a dead fully formed embryo inside, but that’s just a matter of personal taste.

  • ley

    of course you are still vegetarian. when people talk about atheism and moral, they often draw arbitrary lines and they say that we shouldn’t harm sentient beings: we shouldn’t forbid women to wear what they want, we shouldn’t support genital mutilation etc and then again, they do the same and worse things to animals – they make them live in small cages and they take their children away, they cut them in pieces etc, take a look around the world: 
    http://www.homosapienssaveyourearth.blogspot.com/2012/03/animal-abuse-around-world_08.html

    and all of this out of irrational belief that it is actually necessary when it is not – vegans prove it every day!
    religious people also have many irrational beliefs and atheists have explanations and solutions. meat eating, nowdays…it is the biggest religion of all…

    sorry for misspelling


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X