For Vegans

For Vegans November 13, 2011

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  • Pat Pope

    But do vegans swear off use of all animal products? I thought it just applied to eating.

  • Greg C

    I’m not vegan for a number of reasons, but….
    1) Wouldn’t this also create problems for at least some Hindus?
    2) The conclusion is a criticism only for “holier-than-thou” vegans who claim to actually live with no contact with animal products.
    3) The “conclusion” is not a criticism of a veganism that claims that it should be possible to live as a vegan, or a veganism that sets out to create a world where it is possible to be vegan. (To criticize that kind of veganism would be much more interesting, because then we would at least be talking about the kind of world they think would be preferable to the one we have.)
    4) I can imagine an analogous poster detailing all the reasons why, given the way our society operates, it is impossible to follow Jesus, and so, there is no such thing as a Christian….

  • By Vegans not eating meat and using all the other products that use cow parts, that just reduces the price of beef for all of us who enjoy eating it 🙂

  • Jeff Moulton

    Pat – yes, a true vegan swears off all animal products, not just for eating. No leather for clothing, no honey in the cosmetics, no cheese made from milk, no glues made from horses.

  • Michael Krause

    I’m bothered by this post, Scot, for one (or two) of two reasons.

    I am bothered by how graphically and effectively it illustrates exactly how difficult it is to extract oneself from the hegemony of the agri-industrial complex that badly mistreats so many animals, believing that a Kingdom ethic demands that we rethink our treatment of this part of God’s good creation that is also groaning (mooing?) as it eagerly awaits the redemption that accompanies the revelation of the children of God.

    I’d be more deeply bothered yet to discover that this post was actually a criticism of the idealism of veganism (lots of “isms” there). Though I am not a vegan, I deeply admire those who for health and/or faith/ethics reasons aspire to be and for many of those reasons am currently aspiring to vegetarianism. I’m often saddened by the reluctance of those within the community of faith to care for this part of God’s good creation, even as we learn to care about the environment, and would hate to learn that this post, too, was part of that lack of concern.

  • rjs


    According to wikipedia at least veganism is a lifestyle that eliminates all exploitative use of animals (even cats can be introduced to a vegan diet…).

    And if you don’t trust wikipedia here is a vegan site.

  • Aaron

    He He he – Being a bit snarky tonight 🙂

  • Pat Pope

    Thanks Jeff and RJS. The few vegans that I know only do it from a dietary standpoint.

  • Joe Canner

    This an interesting and enlightening list and I get the point that is being made, but I think it is a bit misleading. I would be willing to bet that the vast majority of the these items are incidental to the butchering of cows for beef. In other words, few cows are butchered solely to obtain these items. Thus, someone who is a vegan for humane reasons can rest assured that they are not responsible for killing a cow just because, for example, they use an emery board.

    Now, if someone is a vegan because they have a mystical objection to contact with dead cow in any form, well….

  • I’m actually impressed that we are so efficient in the use of leftover animal parts. Nothing is wasted!

  • Scot McKnight

    For those who seem to be asking… I posted this because I think it’s funny (and not a little clever and revealing as well).

  • Conor

    Well if I have to live without emery boards and tennis racket strings, I’m not going to be a Vegan after all…

  • Good posts (9) joe and (5) Michael. It’s worth reading the environmental effects of cows, their personalities, intelligence, and the graphic way such animals are often treated by the bigger companies that are not family farms. Peter Singer’s book The Ethics of What to Eat is really impressive.


    Is sanctimony a product made from cattle? Do vegans get theirs from a plant source?

  • JohnM

    Michael Krause #5 – Would exactly how the animal was raised or slaughtered make any difference to a vegan? I mean, it might matter to you, but to a vegan presumably there is no right way to do it.

    For my part I refuse to go along with making meat the new alcohol. Now if we want to talk about the downside of industrial scale stock farming that might be a discussion worth having, but it makes sense to me to have it with fellow carnivores.

  • if god didn’t want us to eat animals, he wouldn’t have made them out of meat.

  • This was the first insensitive post I’ve read hear.

  • correction: hear=here

  • Stephen

    According to the implied logic here, since child labor goes into making some products that we buy (e.g. the minerals in cell phones), therefore we shouldn’t worry about any child labor. I realize it is somewhat of a jest, but as an argument, it’s not made in good faith.

  • My wife eats vegan partly out of necessity (she’s allergic to dairy) and partly for health- she is much healthier. She is a “dietary vegan”, which is a legitimate term according to the Wikipedia article on veganism.

    I actually feel substantially better myself, now for a few years on this. Eating mostly what my wife eats.

  • Jonathan

    I am neither vegan nor vegetarian. I agree that the industrial food system is cruel to animals and damaging to creation in general, and I try to eat ethically-raised meat if possible.

    The creation was entrusted to humanity’s oversight, not so that we can exploit it, but so that we can cause it to become more fruitful and more itself. People like Joel Salatin show us how that can be done, even when raising animals for food.

  • Paul W

    I’m not vegan and yet somehow was I disturbed by the post and almost found it offensive for reasons that somewhat allude me.

    Perhaps, it came off as cavalier in a bad way; making light of a serious and sensitive matter. We are touching upon the stewardship of creation and the ethical treatment of God’s creatures. Perhaps the cartoon comes off as a piece of propoganda for an agri-industry which many of us view as in need of a ethical reform and entwined to the culture in less than healthy ways.

  • Stephen W

    What strikes me is just how useful a cow is.

  • Ha ha. That’s brilliant!

  • jesse

    In the same way we could say that “there is no such thing as a Christian” because nobody consistently behaves like Jesus Christ.

  • phil_style

    @Dr Cargill (16)
    Presumably humans were made out of it for the same reason.

    All jokes aside:
    I think Michael Krause (Kruse?) is right in comment 5. It shows how far reaching the integration of animal slaughter is in our production system – but it has ALWAYS been this way – right from the earliest artifacts we have left behind by hominids.

    One one had, the complete use of an animal besides simply the edible meat products is an environmentally sound practice. However, one wonders how much of that re-use would in-fact be substituted by non-animal products/materials should we be able to reduce human consumption of animals. I dare not do the calculations though… that would take a lifetime.

  • JBL

    I see someone beat me to mentioning Joel Salatin. Awesome guy. Awesome farm. Awesome books. His is the sensible answer to (moral) vegans. It takes into account the evils of institutional scale food production, stewardship, and the biological and biblical sensibleness of eating meat/using meat products.

  • A friend who is a vegan shared this vegan response:

  • @ Jeff Cook,

    Thanks for the book recommendation. I swore off eating corn-fed meat about 9 months ago. My main reason is that the amount of corn we use towards meat and ethanol drastically increases the price of corn world wide. And, of course, it is the poor who no longer have access to this staple as a result.

    My choice not to eat corn-fed meat, I realize, has no calculable affect but I do this in the hope of, as Wendell Berry puts it, “..preserve the qualities in one’s own heart and spirit that would be destroyed by acquiescence.”

  • Jared

    Jesse, #25, nailed it. Well played.

  • Joe Canner

    JoeyS #29: I have been thinking about moving away from meat for similar reasons. I saw recently that it takes about ten pounds of feed to produce one pound of beef (different ratios for different meats, although usually much higher than 1:1). Thus, it is not just a matter of the price of corn; thinking about the energy required to produce that feed also makes it a “carbon-footprint” thing (which should be of concern regardless of whether you believe in global warming).

    (Nice quote by Berry, BTW. I had a similar realization recently about the importance of focusing outwards: regardless of whether there was any visible impact on others, it changes my heart–and my habits–for the better.)

  • Robin

    I think the trade-off between (1) ethical agricultural practices and (2) environmental sustainaibility implied by the chart is intriguing.

    If you stopped the industrial agricultural processes that make such ruthless efficiency possible (like “ethical carnivores” such as Joel Salatin would prefer) we would need to make lots of products from alternative sources. Many of those sources would have additional monetary costs, but they would also have additional societal/environmental costs. Just looking at the list it would appear to me that we are substituting bovine by products for petroleum byproducts in many cases.

    If we had more ethical animal husbandry practices, I presume we would have to intensift our usage of petroleum products.

    We would effectively be substituting processes that utilize renewable/sustainable resources in a non-ethical manner for processes that use non-renewable/non-sustainable resources in a more-ethical manner.

    The tradeoffs we have to choose between in a global industrial economy are staggering.

  • J @ North Park Sem

    This post is not insensitive… sounds like some people are just too sensitive. We are not biblically mandated to be vegetarian or vegan. I’m no fan of harsh treatment of animals, either, but a “holier than thou” vegan has thrown the baby out with the bathwater. The criticism of this post makes me wonder if some folks think they had the very core of their identity assaulted.

    Native American Indians were known for how they utilized every single part of a buffalo they caught. They survived off of it, and this post actually illustrates that utility. There is nothing new about using animals for food, tools, creams, oils, etc.

    I know this will bother some folks, but we tend to think we’re much better off now than we used to be. We won’t criticize Native Americans who did that because that would be perceived as racist. But tacitly there is an expectation that we as a white, upper-class dominated Western society should… hold ourselves to higher standards? “Oh, well we’re more evolved now. We’re more enlighted now. We’re better off now.” Really? That type of worldview is notorious for trying to undermine the significance of Christ and the gospel for our lives today.

    Go ahead and be a vegan if you choose, no problem. But don’t get bent out of shape when veganism is found to be an unstable as a universal mandate.

  • (29) JoeyS – It seems to me the most important ethical dilemmas on the coming century will look nothing like what we see Penn State wrestling with. They will be large scale cultural decisions which are hyper practical. If everyone in our country moved away from beef and pork it would have massive benefits, like the ones you described for the poor in our world.

    The stat that always gets me is how much water is required for a pound of beef. Cornell puts it at 12000 gallons. Don’t pair that stat with the rate our aquifers are depleting in the western US.

    BTW All – the graph is logically flawed. Just because SOME wallpaper, glass, charcoal, etc can be made from cow body parts does not mean that ALL wallpaper, glass, charcoal, etc are made from cow body parts. As such the conclusion that no one is a vegan does not hold.

  • Mark E

    Think again. The post apparently is insensitive. The conclusion was not “look how well we utilize the cow” but “aren’t those vegans naive, or worse, hypocrites?” Any humor was at someone else’s expense. We can do better than this.

  • Adriana

    why are you guys quarrelling over this issue of meat-eater over vegan?! It is not right for a Christian to criticize another person who thinks he/she should not eat meat, or vice versa…take note of what the Word of God has to say about this: Romans [14:1]” As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. [2] One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. [3] Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. [4] Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14:1-4 ESV)…nuff said.

  • J @ North Park Sem

    Humor is usually at someone’s or something else’s expense. We can relax.

    The conclusion has nothing to do with a cow, it’s that maybe the worldview and foundation that holds up veganism is not consistent and universal.

  • It’s funny. Laugh a little. Of course, neither this chart nor the one offered up in #28 offers up any proof of their claims. But the chart is funny. Laugh and move on.

  • Tim

    Where did this image come from?

  • Dan Adkins

    As a vegetarian, and somewhat of an ethical vegetarian, I would like to provide a very general response here. First, the picture is insensitive, but most vegan/vegetarians are used to this sort of, ahem, “ribbing” (yes, I did just go there) and it seems most of the people who are upset are upset for someone/thing else. Personally, I think it’s in somewhat poor taste and a little misinformed about where products come from, but I’m not going to get up in arms about it. If I want to be able to post positively about my lifestyle, then someone should be free to post negatively about it as well. Anything less is ungracious and too presumptuous about one side being totally right and another being totally wrong.

    Now, as far as the ethical concern is concerned, my initial foray into vegetarianism was motivated by a concern for the means of production, but it has since evolved to factor in concern for creation and my own philosophical musings on what being “pro-life” means. If we take that idea far enough, why is animal life not a part of our definition of “pro-life?” I realize the numerous problems that come with this definition, but the point I’m trying to make is that being a vegetarian is not a static thing. It is dependent on the influx of new information and life experiences as anything and to characterize all vegetarian/vegans as one monolithic identity is as silly as saying feminism, or Christianity, is this one “thing.”

    Because of this, most vegan/vegetarians have a multitude of reasons to be and maintain the lifestyle and, at least in my case, it is constantly changing. As for the people who say that this chart only shows how efficiently we utilize a cow and that this is only what humans have always done, there is one key difference; pervious societies did this as a means of survival. It was a subsistence society and they could not afford to waste any part of the animal. Modern science has brought a host of synthetic alternatives onto the scene, and while I won’t comment on the morality of either system, it provides a means for those who chose to eliminate all animal products, to do so.

    Just some thoughts.

  • A lot of the concerns about meat can be assuaged by finding a small farm that takes good care of the animals and buying directly from the farmer. My meat comes from happy animals, and you can ‘meet the meat’ if you want to be sure. Animals raised this way are a lot more sustainable, and the quality difference is pretty stark between something like that and even the expensive supermarket fare. It’s not hard to find a local farm like mine – check for local meat lockers and ask about who has meat to sell that values what you do. You’ll probably save some money as well.

    A lot of the other concerns about meat can be assuaged by dentistry. It’s what the pointy teeth are for folks – best to come to grips with it. : )

  • Robert A

    That Jeff Cook just recommended a book by Peter Singer is enough to show his philosophical peccadilloes. I’m definitely not taking much of what he says seriously anymore.

  • @ Robert A

    That seems a reasonable approach to disagreement. I bet he’s read Marcus Borg too, which means he denies the resurrection. Because if you read somebody’s book and agree with some of it that means that you follow that author hand and foot.

    I think anytime we are willing to read something that challenges our own notions we do ourselves a service. It is painful but can be the source of much fruit. I hope you don’t mean to suggest otherwise.

  • I shouldn’t have posted that last comment. It is just frustrating to see a person get dismissed without the content of their claim being addressed. Robert A, I apologize for my snarky post.

  • Jonathan

    Will we eat meat in the new heavens and the new earth? It seems reasonable to answer no: if the lion won’t eat the lamb, presumably we won’t either.

    If that is correct, would vegetarianism be a signpost of God’s new world?

  • normbv

    Ahh these coments were just the right medicine for a good nights slumber. I have been thoroughly entertained. ROFL

  • Scooter

    Several nights back I was watching Blue Planet, the BBC documentary on the ocean, as I was eating dinner. Probably some sort of meat. 🙂 And veggies!

    I watched as some 15 orca “killer” whales chased down a gray whale and her calf. After some 6-15 hours they captured the calf and ate its lower jaw. I found they’re called “killer whales” for a reason. It’s not because they’re cool looking or awesome. 🙂

    A few weeks back I was in New York and had the amazing opportunity to see the Lion King Broadway musical. In one or more of the songs the food chain of the wild is referenced.

    Fast forward. After I watched the orcas kill the gray whale calf it all came back and hit me! The orcas where doing what they were designed to do. And what human is angry at them for killing another animal? I didn’t see any protesters in a nearby pontoon damning that “ill” treatment of the gray whale.

    Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe animals were degraded in the Fall as well. But my gut reaction is, “no.” Animals have no moral capacity.

    Just a thought.