• Why I am not a vegetarian

     

    Vegetarianism and associated trends are the food choice of many people. Personally, I’m not impressed.

     

    These are the reasons why a person gives up meat in his diet, what they imply and why these reasons do not convince me:

    Religious reasons

    It is the easiest one: I do not believe in (any) god, and I despise the imposing nature of religions. The idea of fasting on behalf of a fictitious being is absurd (this goes for any religious diet, be it halal, kosher or Indian abstention from meat; it isn’t any different with vegetarianism)!

    ‘Speciesism’

    Another reason the vegs invoke is that the human being is an ordinary animal and to suggest otherwise is discriminatory towards other animals (something which have been called ‘speciesism’).

    From here thereon, they pretend animals have rights, hence eating animals would be such a morally reprehensible act as cannibalism.

    First of all, we must remember that there’s no such thing as ‘speciesism’ — or rather, it is just an adjective with an academic seriousness and validity only comparable to other useful marketing-wise words such as “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” or “Grrrrreat“.

    Secondly, let’s not forget that rights stem from the moral agency of human beings as a species. No other species has moral agency, therefore, their individuals are not subjects of law.

    Last but not least, vegs fall into a category mistake: if humans are animals and eating other animals is wrong, then, all the animals that eat other animals are wrong (which is absurd) or humans are somehow a special kind of animal (which runs contrary to the dogma that humans are ordinary animals).

    Either way, we are prioritizing the actions of human beings over the actions of other animals.

    It saves animal lives

    Vegs often assume that if they are not eating ‘corpses’, then they’re saving animal lives. Sorry to be the one to burst your bubble, but a veg diet produces animal dead bodies as well.

    Cultivating a field means fighting pests. To get a vegetable to your table they had to use insecticides and pesticides that kill bugs, so along the way you have left a row of dead animals. However, pest control is not the main problem. Every land used for agriculture was once wild land, so when you’ve plowed a piece of forest to plant it, the entire ecosystem has been removed. Removing the ecosystem involves removing space for wildlife to develop. The problem is most obvious in tropical areas, where the agricultural land is obtained by burning patches of forest and burning every animal that lives there, so if you eat a fruit or vegetable from any of these countries, many more animals than just a cow died. In addition, the proximity to the jungle is yet another problem: the impact that wildlife can have on crops. It is quite common for a tiger to attack a farmer, or a herd of elephants to raze the plot, which means that farmers have to defended themselves. In recent years the mortality of protected species has been due more to agriculture than poaching.

    So, each time you take something to your mouth, be it animal or vegetable, animals have died; although, I guess out of sight, out of mind.

    Global warming

    Veg advocates have also spread the myth that meat production is to be blamed for even up to 50% of the greenhouse gases emissions. Turns out the main cause of climate change remains fossil fuels:

    Primarily, CO2 emissions come from fossil fuel combustion with a lesser contribution from land use changes. Fossil fuel combustion is calculated from international energy statistics. CO2 emissions from land-use changes are more difficult to estimate and come with greater uncertainty. Land use emissions are estimated using deforestation and other land-use data, fire observations from space and carbon cycle modeling.

    Hmm… don’t vegs get their food from agriculture? And isn’t agriculture, by definition, a change in land use?

    Animal food

    Another statistic thrown at us is that animals consume a high percentage of the grain that is produced, which could be used instead to feed malnourished children.

    This is an astonishing oversimplification. They conveniently forget that animals in the Third World turn all agricultural wastes into available nutrition to humans that we couldn’t digest otherwise (because we’re not herbivores), such as cellulose. There’s no evidence whatsoever that by means of eliminating animal consumption, that grain would reach the places where there is hunger —and for free, no less!—.

    Health

    Another veg myth is that a vegetarian diet is healthier. It is not. It has certain health benefits, but it also poses serious disadvantages.

    Legumes are deficient in cysteine ​​and methionine, whilst cereals are deficient in lysine, so making an exclusive diet based on one of these two foods may result in deficiencies of essential amino acids, which are eventually fatal. Soy is one of the few vegetables that have an optimal ratio of amino acids, that’s why it is so popular in feed and nutritional supplements. This risk exists, but is easily avoidable by including cereals and legumes on the menu, eating soy, or with an ovo-lacto diet. The case with vitamin D is similar, as it is very rare in plants but abundant in milk and eggs.

    Another problem is also related to micronutrients, particularly iron and zinc. Many vegetables are rich in these two elements, but the problem is that most of the times the iron is sequestered by fiber or other components such as phytate, oxalate or citrate, so although the concentration (total amount) is high, the bioavailability (amount we can assimilate) is very low. It’s easier for a vegetarian to get anemia than it is for an omnivorous.

    Some of these compounds that sequester iron or zinc have an added risk. They tend to crystallize. Normally this wouldn’t matter too much, because the kidney will eliminate them, but if you saturate the kidney, or if it doesn’t work as it should, they begin to crystallize in the kidney, causing the dreaded stones. Vegetarian diets have a higher risk of kidney stones.

    A diet that completely excludes animal foods may also have a deficit in essential fatty acids. Interestingly a severe deficit in one type of fatty acid (n-3 polyunsaturated), along with vitamin B12 deficiency, which can also occur in vegetarians, can lead to platelets not working as they should, leading to a higher risk of thrombosis, and increased risk of a cardiovascular accident.

    I’m not saying you can’t have a good vegetarian nutrition. It is possible, and it’s more possible if you are white, wealthy and a westerner than if you’re a poor black, brown or Asian person living under forsaken conditions where quality animal protein is the only feasible hope of fighting chronic malnutrition of billions of people.

    Naturalistic fallacy

    Some vegs consider humans and our immediate ancestors to be ‘natural’ vegetarians (?).

    In fact, the evidence suggests that the evolutionary ancestors of humans were carnivorous, and that we evolved by way of cooking food, which allowed us to overcome the metabolic limitation (meanwhile the Paranthropus went extinct due to their vegetarian diet).

    Moralistic fallacy

    Strictly speaking, it is the reversal of the naturalistic fallacy. In this case, it is a ‘logical’ conclusion of vegetarianism (that no vegetarian seems to take into account).

    If I were to accept that animals have the right not to be killed, this should also apply to wild animals. If you have a type of consequentialist view where omissions are not so different from commissions, we must maximize the welfare of all the animals in the wild (and keep evil carnivores from eating). Since I think the ‘lifestyle’ of wild animals is a good starting point for animal life, a domesticated one around this level is acceptable.

    Sentience

    Normally, vegetarians appeal to feelings (yet another fully fledged fallacy) to justify their diet (and some of them, even to try to impose it on others). However, not only do they resort to this faulty reasoning process, but they also anthropomorphize animals in the process.

    As a matter of fact, the sentience argument can be stretched a lot: where are the rights activists for slugs, crab lice or aphids and other non-cute animal and pest species? Do they not feel?

    And we can take the argument even further: plants also ‘feel’. Along with insects and molluscs, they also have their own mechanism for detecting danger and responding to it — whether you call it “feeling” or “suffering” or the word you prefer, it’s a semantic distinction but it doesn’t change the facts.

    Following the sentience line of thought leads to the logical conclusion that we should end up eating stones, which no vegetarian will accept.

    For all these reasons, I reject vegetarianism and its derivatives as a food choice for me, but if someone else wants to take it, I think that’s his right and it is as valid as my decision to eat meat.

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    Category: PhilosophySkepticism and Science

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    Article by: Ðavid A. Osorio S

    Skeptic | Blogger | Activist | Journalist

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    • An Ardent Skeptic

      You have neglected to mention in the “It saves animal lives” section that if vegetarians eat dairy products then animals die. The cold, hard reality of animal husbandry for dairy products is that husbands aren’t all that useful (particularly now with artificial insemination). To keep cows producing milk, they have to be impregnated and give birth. If the calf is a male, it usually dies because males can’t be milked and dairy farmers can’t afford to feed cows they can’t milk. Thus veal and calfskin as animal by-products of dairy farming. ‘Husbands aren’t all that useful’ is also true of egg production.

      It would be nice if more vegetarians who take a stand on moral grounds because “killing animals is bad” had a clue about farming. I grew up in dairy country and don’t enjoy having people who eat butter, cheese, and ice cream telling me what a horrible person I am for eating veal. It’s pretty obvious that these folks have never been anywhere near a dairy farm.

      • Dany Plouffe

        That is why many people decide to become vegan: they eliminating all animal products from their lifestyle. And they are encouraging both vegetarians and meat-eaters to do so.

        Yes, some people who are vegetarians for ethical reasons are kinda contradicting their position by eating dairy products. But that doesn’t mean that everybody who considers the ethical position about animals are like this.

        • Well, I just proved that even a vegan diet causes animals to die in order for people to get food, so the so called ethical reasons ain’t so. But, just like I said: I guess out of sight, out of mind.

          • nathanvda

            This is a very weird stance: as a vegan my intention is to cause the least harm. That during vegetable farming some animals die, is still better than having to grew vegetables to feed livestock first, and still harm _more_ animals during vegetable farming (because livestock needs 5x-10x more vegetables than if we would feed humans directly), and the actual animals providing the meat.

        • An Ardent Skeptic

          I’m aware that not all vegetarians are like that. Jean Kazez takes quite a reasonable stance about these issues. While she is a vegetarian who has written extensively about animal rights, she fully admits that eating meat is a health necessity for some, including me. I have a hereditary kidney problem which puts me at high risk for anemia and kidney stones. High iron intake which won’t result in kidney stones is essential in my diet. Despite Jean having built part of her career as a philosopher addressing the animal rights issue, she would never tell me I shouldn’t eat meat when I am under a doctor’s order to do so.

          I have no problem with anyone choosing a diet which they feel is ethically appropriate for them. I do have a problem with the ill-informed insisting that they are standing on the moral high ground when, in fact, they aren’t.

          • This, this exactly!

            As per usual with this subject, I couldn’t get that simple message across 🙁

            Thank you, @anardentskeptic:disqus

          • When meat is a health/life necessity, we are in a different discussion. It is very different from making choices according to personal preference. I’m not really going to argue about that here.

            But one sentence is getting my attention:
            “I have no problem with anyone choosing a diet which they feel is ethically appropriate for them.”

            If it is an ethical issue, then it is not a matter of “personal choice”. It is about giving a moral consideration or not to the animals. For an ethical vegan, it doesn’t matter if the animals are eaten by then or by someone else: the problem is the way the animal is considered.

            To make my point more clear: we used not to give considerations/rights to children. So it was a personal choice for parents to treat their children as they wished. They could choose to beat them or to use other strategies. Saying that: “I have no problem with any parents choosing an educational approach they feel is ethically appropriate for them” wouldn’t make sense if you were fighting for children’s right.

            Ethical issues are about going further than personal choices.

            • Your example is misleading, because children are human, hence they should be granted rights. Animals have no moral agency, so they can’t have rights.

              If, despite this, you think animals ought to have rights, then you could feel it is ethically appropriate, but that’s just for you.

              Something can be an ethical issue and a personal choice. That’s when ethics is stripped from any objectivity whatsoever. Pro-life stances, for example, are ‘ethical’ issues and personal choices, however misguided they may be.

            • An Ardent Skeptic

              The state of California has granted horses special rights. After people got all misty-eyed watching “The Horse Whisperer”, a proposition was passed in the state of California making it a felony to sell horse for human consumption.

            • I thought eating horse was something of a taboo in the US

            • I didn’t try to argue for or against animal rights for now. I am simply trying to set the debate. I’ll use your abortion exemple instead.

              To say that abortion should be a free choice is to say that we should not give moral consideration to fetus. Or at least, it is to consider that fetus’ existence is not as importante as the mother’s personal preference, whatever it might be.

              So, before deciding if it should be a free choice or not, we have to determine what will be the moral status of the fetus. That is the first thing we have to look at. If we set that fetus shouldn’t have more moral consideration than the mother’s personal preferences, then we legalize abortion, which means that we make it a free choice. Otherwise, we make it illegal and we don’t give women’s the right to abortion. We can also have something in the “middle”: give some women the possibility to abort in specific conditions.

              What pro-life people are asking for is not to have the freedom not to get abortion. It is not about a personal preference. They disagree about the status of the fetus. Should we change it? Should we give more rights to fetus?

              With them, we have to take the debate on the fetus status level. They are disagreeing that currently people have the choice. They are not disagreeing that fetus are not adults. They disagree about the criteria used to draw the line on who can get rights and who cannot. So the main debate is about those criteria.

              ———

              This is also the case about animal rights. If we give them a more important moral consideration, it affects the choice of people to eat meat. If we decide it is simply a personal choice, then we have already decided that on an ethical basis, animals shouldn’t have much consideration.

              The debate is what status they should have. It is also about where we draw the line.

              Your point about drawing the line to moral agents is part of the debate. But this line is debatable. It should be at the heart of the debate, not a stated true claim by default. It can be valid, but it is what the debate is about. That is where the debate should be, at least for the ethics of eating meat related to animal conditions.

            • The fetus moral consideration looks to me like a cop out (most) prolifers take to hide their misogyny, but I get your point.

              The thing is: animals should get consideration, of course, but they shouldn’t get it when it comes to human basic need such as eating and calories

            • An Ardent Skeptic

              I don’t see why eating meat as a health necessity is a different discussion than “for an ethical vegan, it doesn’t matter if the animals are eaten by them or by someone else: the problem is the way the animal is considered”.

              If ethical vegans feel that we must give the same moral consideration to animals that we do to children, then it shouldn’t matter why someone eats meat. Why should we give human life preference over animal life? Do ethical vegans feel that humans with health issues which require meat consumption should be allowed to eat any type of meat, including children? Saying that: “I have no problem with any person with health issues choosing any type of meat they feel is ethically appropriate for them including children” makes perfect sense if you’re fighting for animal rights because animals deserve to be treated with the same moral consideration as children. But, of course, even ethical vegans don’t think that animals deserve the same consideration/rights as children. Therefore, the issue of eating meat is not a moral absolute even for ethical vegans. And, thus, my statement that “I have no problem with people choosing a diet which they feel is ethically appropriate for them.”

            • For sure it wouldn’t make sense to give to animals the same rights as to children. But the possibilities are not only “give same rights as to children” and “give no right”.

              By the way, unless you believe in God, there is no moral absolute. So stating that meat issue is not a moral absolute isn’t really relevant for me. But the point isn’t about finding moral absolutes, but trying to do our best to make “good” decisions.

            • Good point. Or to perhaps make ‘less wrong’ decisions.

            • Just to make my point clear: it doesn’t mean that vegan are necessarily right. It is just that by claiming that it is a personal choice, you are claiming that they are “wrong” by default.

            • Neither do I

            • Well said.

      • You’re right! Thanks for pointing it out. I’ll consider editing my post to add this.

        If you got more, please let me know.

    • Dany Plouffe

      Simple questions:

      – Have you ever read any serious book about speciesism? Like “Animal Liberation” by Peter Signer? He is the one who first promoted the concept of speciesism.

      – Have you read any research about the impact of meat production in the world?

      – How did you pick the studies to defend your position on health issues?

      • – Irrelevant. First of all, it wasn’t Singer. I encourage you to read this: http://www.skepticink.com/avant-garde/2014/05/25/speciesism/ Have you heard of Richard D. Ryder? How, exactly, would any of my arguments change whether I have or I haven’t read Singer’s pamphlet? Ad hominem fallacy!

        – Again: irrelevant. I never claimed -neither I pretended to- that meat production doesn’t have impacts on the world. Everything we do does; pretending veg diets don’t is what I find intelectually dishonest. Tu quoque fallacy!

        – Again: how is that of any relevance? Are they fake studies, do they have methodological flaws, were they not peer reviewed or were any of them rejected by an academic journal of extensive background? Did I miss any study that overturns these?

        I invite you to keep the argument within my claims and their truthfulness.

        Cheers!

        • Ad hominem and tu quoque fallacies exists only if there is an argument, not when asking some questions to understand the context of the person making the claim. It makes a difference in a discussion to know where the other is starting.

          • Point taken.

            But you really don’t need to know the context of a person making a claim to address such claim, right?

            • “Everything we do does; pretending veg diets don’t is what I find intelectually dishonest.”

              Vegan permaculture could actually feed every human in the world dozens of meals per day every day each year for the rest of time while re-wilding 80% of currently plundered habitats.

              In comparison, THE BEST animal exploitative paradigm (least suffering for animals while exploiting the least number of animals per person who will consume whatever animals they want to whenever they want for the rest of their lives) still results in 800 gallons of water and 16 pounds of crops used per pound of flesh produced.

              Vegan food production requires only 25 gallons of water per pound of crops per person. Veganic permaculture results in a MINIMIZATION of nonhuman field deaths per pound of crops produced. Non-Veganism results in a maximization of nonhuman field deaths per pound of crops produced.

              If you had moral concern for nonhuman or human animals, clearly the only rational response is Veganism.

              To learn more about Abolitionist Veganism and the issues I’ve outlined in this post, check out The Master List Of Vegan Info:
              https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/master-list-of-vegan-info

    • Vandy Beth Glenn

      David, I wish you had quoted vegetarian philosophical writing that supports each of the arguments you claim they make. I’ve never met any vegetarian who has made such categorical, broad-brush arguments. Everything I’ve seen has been much more nuanced and pragmatic.

      • Hi @vandybethglenn:disqus. I think you’re right. My post could be better if I quoted veg writings. It didn’t occur to me, but I’ll keep your advice in mind – thank you!

        On the other side, I think you’re lucky. I have met vegetarians who make such categorical, broad-brush arguments, people willing to compare any meat eater with Nazis (that’s where the speciesism canard gets even more relevant).

        I wish my experience with veg fans had been as nuanced and pragmatic as yours, but all I have encountered is a fashionable way to promote one of the central tenets of Hare Krishnas in the West like is some kind of hippie/New Era way to be in peace with the Nature. And veg believers can get real taliban real quick when you don’t buy their BS.

        • An Ardent Skeptic

          Speaking of a hippie/New Age way to be in peace with Nature…

          I once met someone who’s ethical food stance was that anything with eyes shouldn’t be eaten because anything with eyes has a soul. My (always the wise ass) husband’s response to this was “So we shouldn’t eat potatoes because they have eyes?”

          (Of course, I’m all for not eating needles whether or not they have souls. And, I never eat shoes because even though they don’t have eyes they definitely have soles. 😉

    • Vandy Beth Glenn

      “they pretend animals have rights, hence eating animals would be such a morally reprehensible act as cannibalism.”

      Philosophers such as Peter Singer argue that animals have the right not to suffer needlessly. Or, if you don’t want to say that’s a “right,” consider it an argument that for humans to be compassionate and treat animals kindly (and I don’t know why anyone would argue we shouldn’t aim for that), we must not allow animals to suffer needlessly.

      It is possible to eat animals without causing them unnecessary suffering, but there’s good evidence that mass production of beef, poultry, etc. does involve such unnecessary suffering.

      So it’s consistent and reasonable for a vegetarian to abstain from meat on those grounds without resorting to the reductio ad absurdum of claiming eating animals is morally the same as cannibalism, and only the most extremist vegetarians would say that.

      But in your post you haven’t even cited those extremists; you just made an unsupported claim.

      • I happen to consider reducing animal suffering all we can and treating them as kindly and compassionate as we can a human responsibility.

        Yes, mas production of beef, poultry, etc involves unnecessary suffering. So does getting a fruit or a vegetable on your table, so going veg is not the answer.

        That’s why I support the stances of people like Temple Grandin, who is not against eating animals but against making them suffer unnecessarily.

        • Vandy Beth Glenn

          Eating fruit and vegetables causes less suffering, and for those who make the distinction, it causes less suffering to vertebrates, which are the animals most able, neurologically, to suffer. It _is_ an answer for many people, and it is neither hypocritical nor illogical. It is at worst an acknowledged compromise.

          • “Eating fruit and vegetables causes less suffering, and for those who make the distinction, it causes less suffering to vertebrates”

            How are we going to measure this? I mean: how much vertebrate wildlife animal died in order for anyone to get an apple on their table? We should take into account that any agricultural land destroyed the previous ecosystem with all of it’s vertebrates in it.

            I didn’t mean to accuse anyone of being a hypocrite; they might have not thought it through, or they didn’t consider this fact for some reason.

            Veg is marketed the same way religions are, and I know some people advocate for it lying and saying that people won’t be responsible ever again of animal deaths or suffering. This actually happens.

            I’m glad many vegs are aware that their dietary choice causes suffering to vertebrates as well.

            • Guest
            • David – I can’t seem to delete these few.

            • Done

            • (?)

            • One conclusion of the Cornell study was that meat generally increases land requirements of a diet, but diets including a small amount of meat could result in less land required per capita than some high-fat vegetarian diets (that include milk and eggs) because of cattle converting forage on land unsuitable for crops into human-edible calories. It is probably true that raising ruminant animals on pasture unsuitable for crops would increase the total amount of human-edible calories in the food supply, but it is critical to point out that chicken, pork, and at least 85 percent of beef is fattened in a feedlot on corn grown on land that could be divided between growing food for direct human consumption and wildlife habitats[17]. The gain of human edible calories achieved by grazing cattle is not much of a benefit considering that there is enough suitable cropland to grow enough calories to feed everyone without the additional calories gained from raising cattle on pasture, and that cattle grazing has an environmental cost. Cattle are a non-native species to the United States, and cattle grazing is destructive to the environment in numerous ways, including soil loss to erosion, reduced survival of seedling trees, and loss of species diversity[18].

              The results of this estimation show that a diet that includes animal products will result in more animal deaths than a plant-based diet with the same number of calories. The production of chicken meat results in vastly more animal deaths than any other category of food. Based on this estimation, someone wanting to modify their eating habits in order to reduce animal suffering and death should start by removing chicken from their diet, then eggs. Although beef may cause more animal deaths than pork, pork probably causes more suffering, because most of the beef-related deaths are wild animals, and in comparison, a greater number of the pork-related deaths are factory farmed animals. The most animal suffering and death can be prevented by following a vegan diet.

              http://www.animalvisuals.org/projects/data/1mc

            • Here is the graphic

            • Guest

              Hmm. OK, here.

            • Guest

              Why can’t I add a picture?

            • Hmm, “probably true”, “results of this estimation” and it is not a peer reviewed study, neither are the 17 and 18 footnotes…

            • 17 is a calculation from USDA NASS stats. I wasn’t aware you had to peer review a calculator!

              18 is peer reviewed:

              “The Western North American Naturalist (formerly Great Basin Naturalist) has published peer-reviewed experimental and descriptive research pertaining to the biological natural history of western North America for more than 70 years.”

            • Will check that

            • Also, I would check the citations in that footnote 18 piece – 2.5 pages of peer reviewed citations!

      • kraut2

        Animals have no “rights”. We have a duty imposed on us by laws when we decide to keep animals.
        The same btw for children. Children have diminished rights because they also rely on their protection on their parents and the social service system. We have a duty for their protection and prevention of unnecessary suffering which is imposed on us also by laws.

        • “Animals have no “rights”. ”

          There is two possibilities to interpret this sentence:
          -> Animals don’t have intrinsic rights… if this is your meaning, you are correct. But nobody has rights then, unless you believe in a God that gives rights.

          -> Animals don’t have (much) rights under the current law system. This is kinda correct too. But it is not the point of this debate. It is more about if we should give more rights to animals. This is what many vegetarians/vegans are asking for.

          • Please, read again the moral agency part of this post.

          • You beat me to it. No one ‘has’ rights, since you would have to argue for Platonic realism, establish what a right ontologically is, and then show it exists.

            Rights are human constructions. Animals have rights if we set out a moral framework, rationally, which ascribes rights to them.

            I don’t actually think anyone here has shown this either way.

    • Vandy Beth Glenn

      “if humans are animals and eating other animals is wrong, then, all the animals that eat other animals are wrong (which is absurd) or humans are somehow a special kind of animal (which runs contrary to the dogma that humans are ordinary animals).”

      Well, that’s just silly, and you’ve contradicted yourself already, because previous to this statement you noted that animals are not moral agents. So “animals that eat other animals are wrong” is an obvious absurdity, as everyone would agree, because animals aren’t moral agents.

      But humans ARE moral agents; that’s what makes us a “special kind of animal,” so again, there’s no inconsistency there for a vegetarian who believes the eating of animals is a moral wrong but thinks it’s okay for animals to eat other animals.

      • I was talking from the POV of a veg/animals rights advocate. That’s why there’s an “if” at the beginning of the sentence.

        My point was: vegs/animal rights advocates say humans are not a special kind of animal, but their failing to demand other animals from eating meat proves they do think -as we all do, even if they don’t want to admit it- that we humans are a special kind of animal.

    • Vandy Beth Glenn

      “Cultivating a field means fighting pests. To get a vegetable to your table they had to use insecticides and pesticides that kill bugs, so along the way you have left a row of dead animals.”

      There isn’t a vegetarian on Earth who doesn’t realize it’s impossible to live without causing animal deaths. Not one says otherwise, or that they can even theoretically live so mindfully as to keep from killing other animals.

      The goal of the ethical vegetarian is to _minimize_ the deaths of other creatures that they cause. Furthermore, when their ethical stance is to minimize, not deaths, but _suffering_, many understand that some animals have such simple brain and nervous systems that they can’t feel pain in any meaningful way, and don’t think any suffering occurs when they kill species in certain phyla, such as insects, shellfish, etc. In short, they don’t have a problem with pest control.

      I’m not saying you should agree with any of that, or even that I do myself, but my point is that this ethical stance, for those who hold it, isn’t as simple-minded or cartoonish as your (made-up) quote makes it seem.

      You’ve made another straw man argument. Straw man arguments are always easy to ridicule, aren’t they?

      • So, who gets to decide which pain is meaningful?

        “There isn’t a vegetarian on Earth who doesn’t realize it’s impossible to live without causing animal deaths”

        From what I’ve had to dealt with, I’d say you’re the one making up claims. Do you have evidence to support this?

        “You’ve made another straw man argument.”

        I am not making a straw man. I took the arguments I gathered from discussing vegs and took them to their logical conclusions. I’m glad you never encountered the same vegs I have – consider yourself lucky 😉

        “some animals have such simple brain and nervous systems that they can’t feel pain in any meaningful way”

        What about tigers and elefephants?

        • Vandy Beth Glenn

          Each of us decides, for ourselves, which pain is meaningful. Not only vegetarians. What’s your point?

          • My point being: some fanatic could argue that killing bugs and insects is pain in a meaningful way (for him).

            If each of us decides (and I agree with you on this one), then it means there’s no objective way to tell which pain is meaningful, hence vegetarianism doesn’t have any moral high ground (something most of the vegs I’ve met doesn’t quite get).

            No one is morally better for eating veg or eating meat. As long as people who goes veg gets this, I have no problem.

    • PubliusCorneliusScipio

      “People are Idiots”- Gregory House.

      Dear AG, you are indeed a person.

      • Aww, how cute! A veg has no answers so he resorts to personal attacks! I was wondering how long it would take for eco-fascists to show their faces around here.

        You must be very proud of your baseless moral high ground. I know I hurt your religious feelings and I won’t apologize for that; this is why you should think hard before embracing so enthusiastically any ideology.

        BTW, House eats meat 😉

      • No offence again, @Daosorios:disqus, but this made me laugh out loud. Nothing to do with you – just funny. I am stealing this Pub!

        Gotta use it.

        • Non taken.

          Bear in mind it got it’s author banned from commenting in my pages. I won’t have people who can’t argue their ideas insult me for having embraced weak and stupid ideologies.

    • David, no offence, but I reckon your post is undergirded by cognitive dissonance.

      I am a meat eater. However, I like to think I am honest enough with myself to realise that in being one, I am morally less perfect than if I was a vege or vegan. I am weak in being a meat eater.

      This reminds me of a post which Richard Carrier did where he went to town on reasons supporting meat-eating – I think it was this one: http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/87

      Anyway, I get the impression that it was the same for him. To go to such lengths to attack a position which seems intuitively more morally right, and in so doing defending one’s own lack of that position, always raises eyebrows with me.

      Personally, I think meat-eating is easily less morally good than being a vege. It is why I am a flexitarian, having about 2 days a week not eating meat.

      Interestingly, Horizon, the BBC’s awesome science series, just ran two shows on eating meat, looking at it from a CO2 emissions position, and then from sustainability. Ceteris paribus, on the second point, you have to at least cut down by a half. That’s just fact. Or kill half the world’s humans.

      I wrote a little on the philosophy of vegetarianism, my piece itself potentially littered with confirmation bias:

      http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/essays-and-papers/vegetarians-and-vegans-a-philosophical-look-into-whether-they-can-rightfully-adopt-a-moral-high-ground/

      I also debated this exact same point on the Skepticule podcast 67 and 71:

      http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2014/09/08/more-pearced-off/

      One of the most simple points is this:

      Would you prefer a world with billions of animal deaths for some gastric pleasure, or the same world (nutritionally) without billions of deaths.

      Also, I suggest killing all the animals you eat yourself just to try out whether you think it is fine.

      I used to keep chickens and killed some to eat myself (I had too many cocks, so to speak) and I felt I had to do this to give myself the right to eat meat. The morality of death is negated to consumers when they don’t have to do the killing.

      This plays into the trolley experiment. People are prepared to make consequentially ethical decisions when it is in pulling a lever. But when one has to actually push a man off the bridge to do it, far less people are willing. It is wise not to forget the psychological effects to moral decisions.

      • Hi Johnathan. No offense taken.

        That’s the point: I reject the supposedly moral high ground of vegs and I won’t be bullied into accepting it (and, down here, vegs do try to do so). I eat meat and doing so doesn’t make me morally less perfect. That’s the point.

        You know I don’t read blogs from the FtB, so I guess I’ll have to pay that morally abhorrent guy a visit.

        “Would you prefer a world with billions of animal deaths for some gastric pleasure, or the same world (nutritionally) without billions of deaths.”

        I’d say that’s a trick question. I’d rather the first, of course. Not because I am a moral monster, but because human needs (and pleasure is one need, by the way) are above animal considerations in my priorities. Like I’ve stated before: I am a humanist and I don’t think we should be tricked into feeling guilty for feeling great as long as we don’t hurt other humans.

        We can breed animals and reduce their pain and suffering and I’d rather that be the case, but I won’t be labeled as morally inferior just for having different priorities (more human-wise ones, if you like) than this fashionable New Age religion.

        • I would be interested to see if you felt the same after killing every one of the animals you have ever eaten.

          • I understand why you think that, but I think it’d miss any point, because:

            a. I don’t think I have the moral high ground, so if I were to become a veg, I wouldn’t pretend I am superior in any way nor would I try to convince anyone else to follow my path – I despise it when religions do that.

            b. Fallacy – it’s appealing to emotion. Even if changed my mind due to this experiment, it would be because of how I felt, not because I was given rational arguments.

            • Do you think killing an animal is morally neutral? If not, then you would have nothing against unwarranted slaughter of any animal, just because.

              If it is to feed, then we can do the same with other nutrients.

              If it is for pleasure that only meat can give then fair enough. But this means that billions of animals are being slaughtered for mere pleasure which is probably hardly warranted over and above the alternative nutrients.

              At least you would have to try to be a vege to discern whether this is the case.

            • “Do you think killing an animal is morally neutral?”

              No, I don’t.

              “then we can do the same with other nutrients”

              If you live in a First World wealthy country, sure!

              “If it is for pleasure that only meat can give then fair enough”

              Agreed. Fair enough. Human needs are above animal consideration.

              And, just a reminder, a veg diet also kills animals – a hell lot of them.

            • So any human desire can warrant animal death? Animal death appears to be morally negligible.
              I was wondering if you could show HOW rationality introduces a step change so this doesn’t apply to humans.

            • “So any human desire can warrant animal death?”

              I am willing to admit there might be some exceptions and limitations, but they don’t apply when it comes to food.

              “HOW rationality introduces a step change so this doesn’t apply to humans”

              Here: http://carl-cohen.org/docs/Case%20for%20Use%20of%20Animals%20in%20BioMedResearch.pdf & here: http://www.skepticink.com/avant-garde/2014/05/25/speciesism/

              I’m sorry, but there’s nothing good, nor desirable in asceticism, and tricking people into guilt runs contrary to any kind of Humanism.

            • OK, so now you are hinting at a good philosophical point. This shows the limitation of consequentialism, since there is nothing to stop you going further and further. This is exemplified by the surgeon/hospital/organ donation thought experiment. This is why I hold my hands up and say, I am trying to be good but could always be better (until I become an ascetic Jain or something).
              As ever, one needs to establish a moral value system before going down these moral windy paths.
              I am simply not convinced that billions of animal deaths is warranted by the pleasure of eating meat over the alternative. That’s why I admit moral imperfection rather than arguing that I am on a moral equal to vegans. They can have their moral high ground. They deserve it for their efforts! I’ve known a few!

            • Erwin

              Re ‘animals being killed for food’:
              ref Genesis 9:1-17

    • katamar Damassi

      You touched on it under Animal Food, but there is more. In the third world animals graze on scrubland unsuitable for cultivation. And everywhere, animal husbandry is an essential part of sustainable agriculture. Where do they think organic fertilizer comes from?

    • ncovington89

      Ive often wondered why vegans go to the point of avoiding all meat. The idea that a cow or pig has feelings like a two year old child has feelings, let’s say, is intuitive and otherwise defensible. But it puzzles me that anyone would want to say the same thing about a lobster, a chicken, or a shrimp, for crying out loud. These animals, if they are really conscious and not just “biological robots” probably have the most primitive kind of consciousness you can Think of, a type of self-awareness that at best amounts to a heavily scaled back and truncated version of what a two year old has.

      • It happens to be an arbitrary line; and they’re not making a rational choice, but an emotional one instead.

    • Anon

      That’s quite a Gish gallop you’ve produced there. There are many complicating factors and reasons why it’s not a viable option for some people, but the moral case for vegetarianism is quite simple. We should be kind to animals, and there’s no question that modern agriculture is extraordinarily cruel – from the farm to the slaughterhouse. Any argument that compares pigs to rocks need not be taken seriously because you haven’t remotely addressed the seriousness of animal abuse.

      http://www.change.org/p/speak-out-against-walmart-s-cruelty-to-pigs

      • “there’s no question that modern agriculture is extraordinarily cruel”

        So let’s change and make ‘kinder’ the meat production system, instead of just making up excuses and trying to trick people into quitting meat.

    • Guest

      I don’t disagree with you being a meat eater but WTF stupidest arguments ever.
      You can’t argue veggies cause more global warming and use more pesticides because:
      1. Veggies don’t necessarily eat more fruit and veg than meat eaters. We eat grains too
      2. Growing fruit veg and grains does involve changing the land but it uses less if we just ate the food grown ourselves rather than feeding that food to animals ad eating the animals as energy is lost at each trophic level. We can sustainably feed about 3 billion meat eaters, but the earth can sustainably feed 5 billion if everyone was a vegetarian. (There are currently 7 billion people and counting so we won’t be able to sustainably feed everyone forever).
      3. Besides chemicals are used on grains as they are the most important crop. Not all chemicals damage the environment as well, it’s just fear mongreing. But this point doesn’t even matter because vegetarians don’t eat more veg and meat eaters indirectly use more grain anyway.

      To conclude, I don’t mind you eating meat. I respect your choice and I believe you should have that choice. But vegetarianism is better for the environment so please don’t dare try argue it’s somehow bad for the environment.

      • I don’t remember blaming veggies of “causing more global warming”.

        I do remember, though, saying vegetarianism and veganism are not clean, zero-damage to environment choices, the way veg evangelicals like to sell them.

        To your numbered arguments:

        1. Got figures?

        2. I’m doing my part: pro-choice, working for what would be the Planned Parenthood in my country and not having any kids.

        3. Where did I mention chemicals?

        As long as you don’t mind about me eating meat and don’t go holier-than-thou on me, we’re fine.

        Have a nice day,

        -D

    • ahivemind

      Oh my this is chock full of poor reasoning and logical fallacies. Just another bloodthirsty redneck spouting nonsensical excuses for violent behavior.

    • The single most overlooked, and at the same time most foundational error in logic whenever anyone tries to justify human animals exploiting nonhuman animals is the irrational idea that humans in general are morally superior to nonhumans. This idea can be easily disproved, and yet most people do not even question it. It is assumed to be indisputable when it’s not based on, as some would have us believe, objective fact.

      Unless we can explain how human animals are morally superior to nonhuman animals, whenever we try to justify humans exploiting nonhumans in the ways that we do, we can’t rule out humans exploiting human animals in the exact same ways and for the exact same reasons (our mere pleasure, amusement or convenience).

      All other forms of moral supremacy, from ethnic, to religious, to gender-based, etc. stem from this one basic idea; that it’s acceptable to refuse the same moral consideration to another being that we accord ourselves, merely because of morally irrelevant criteria like the color of their skin, which genitalia they have, or their species membership.

      The belief that humans are morally superior to nonhumans is not based on instinct. If it was, then we would not be questioning it, and therefore you would not even be reading this. And yet, it’s the reason why we believe it’s just fine to torture a nonhuman, who is fully capable of desiring to not suffer or die as much as a human, in ways that we wouldn’t torture the worst human criminals.

      The myth of human moral supremacy is almost never even examined. But when it is, it’s obvious that, just like the arguments we use to justify racism, sexism, homophobia, religious intolerance, or any other irrational form of oppression, it’s based on nothing more than arbitrary personal opinion (and biased, self-serving opinion at that).

      The idea that humans are superior to nonhuman animals is based on the misconception that all humans have some characteristic or set of characteristics that all nonhumans lack. All of these criteria are obviously as arbitrary as gender, ethnic membership, or religious belief when it comes to moral superiority, since we can’t prove that either they are possessed by all humans, nor that they are lacked by all nonhumans.

      Although human animals created a concept of morality, many humans commonly break the moral codes imposed by society. This is why we have human slavery, rape, torture, murder, and all the other atrocities that civilized humans abhor. Nonhuman animals, who cannot be proven to understand the concept of a human moral code, almost always follow our moral codes better than we do. They do not enslave us, create concentration camps, weapons of mass destruction, torture chambers, or pollute or otherwise destroy our habitats. Nor do they wage war on humans, or any of the other atrocities that humans are guilty of. They merely wish to be left alone to live and die on their own terms. To claim that they should have to follow our moral codes to benefit from them would be like claiming that we should punish a severely mentally handicapped human for failing to pass the S.A.T.s.

      Human animals created moral codes because most of us believe that enslaving, raping, torturing and murdering other humans is wrong. “Normal” adult human animals are moral agents, while nonhuman animals, infant humans, and severely mentally challenged humans (among others) are moral patients.

      In order to be a moral agent, one must be capable of abstract thought in order to have a minimum understanding of the meaning of morality. That is to say, moral agents can understand the concept of morality and can therefore make moral decisions. They can make decisions that affect the interests of both moral agents and moral patients. Furthermore, moral agents have moral responsibilities to both other moral agents and moral patients.

      Moral patients, on the other hand, cannot understand the human concept of morality and are thus incapable of giving informed consent. Informed consent means that an explicit meeting of the minds takes place (via spoken or written language, and no less) where both parties are capable of abstract thought, understand what the nature of the social contract is and what the general future ramifications of the agreement are. Moral patients cannot make moral decisions that affect either moral agents nor moral patients. They do not have moral responsibilities.

      This is why, for instance, it’s wrong for an adult human to murder a severely mentally disabled human, and also why it’s wrong for an adult human to have sex with a human child. This is also why civilized people believe that humans having sex with nonhuman animals is also wrong. Our moral code is there to keep civilized society from breaking down and becoming dictatorships and survival of the fittest scenarios.

      We don’t hold nonhuman animals morally culpable to this code simply because we understand that, like severely mentally disabled adult humans and human babies, nonhumans are incapable of understanding and abiding by human moral codes (or at least, any truly rational human understands that they are not capable of this) plus the fact that, regarding their interactions with us, they almost always, by default, follow our moral codes better than we do regarding our interactions with other humans (and even moreso, with nonhumans).

      On the other side of the coin, humans enslave, rape, torture and murder nonhumans by the hundreds of billions each year, merely because we enjoy the taste of their dead bodies and secretions and the conveniences that it affords us. And we also are intentionally destroying every wild habitat that we can. We regularly treat nonhumans worse than we would treat the worst human criminals. So who is morally superior to whom again?

      The idea that we should be able to do these things because say, a lion eats a zebra is ridiculous in the extreme. A male lion often will kill a rival male and their offspring before copulating, in public no less, with the mother. If a mother lioness gives birth to a severely ill or deformed baby, she will usually cannibalize them. When applied to human contexts, do we think these are morally justifiable ways to behave?

      This is where the Human Supremacist says “Either we ARE morally superior to animals, in which case exploiting them is fine, or we aren’t morally superior to them, in which case we can kill them merely because we want to consume them, just like any other animal does.”

      However, this completely fails to recognize that claiming one is “morally superior” means that one adheres to a code of fairness and justice more than the other does, not that one can merely understand human concepts of morality. If a human can understand the concept of the injustice of slavery, rape, torture or murder, but does not refuse to engage in such behaviors, where is the moral superiority in that?

      As I mentioned, we very rarely hold completely to our optimal code of conduct. We claim, as a society, to believe in the Golden Rule, but we routinely inflict massive unnecessary suffering and death on innocent beings merely for our pleasure, amusement, or convenience. We enslave, rape, torture and murder upwards of a trillion nonhuman animals EACH YEAR merely so we can unnecessarily eat their flesh and secretions and use their body parts for clothing (among other things), which not only causes massive suffering for them, but massive amounts of chronic disease for us and massive ecological devastation as well.

      We should realize that if we don’t follow this system of justice regarding EVERY innocent animal, human or nonhuman, then the same arguments we use to attempt to justify inflicting unnecessary suffering and death on them (“that animal isn’t as smart as I am”, “they don’t have souls”, “it’s how I make a living”, “meat/fish/dairy/eggs/honey tastes good”, etc.) can also be used by other humans to justify inflicting unnecessary suffering and death on US (“that person isn’t as smart as I am”, “I’m one of the chosen people and that person isn’t”, “I wanted their stuff”, “rape feels good”, etc.).

      There is no way to morally justify the intentional, unnecessary exploitation of nonhumans by humans without also morally justifying the intentional, unnecessary exploitation of humans by other humans. This means that if we personally are against nonhumans having the right to be completely safe from being enslaved, raped, tortured, slaughtered or in any way used as replaceable resources, then we have no claim that we ourselves should be safe from having those same things done to us by other humans. Any argument we try to use to justify harming nonhumans can also be used successfully by humans to justify harming us in those same ways.

      This also means that until we as a species evolve past our irrational belief in intentionally exploiting nonhumans merely for our trivial interests, we will continue to endure racism, genderism, homophobia, ableism, tyranny, mass murder, and all the other human rights atrocities we commonly abhor.

      Furthermore, claiming that, because we can’t be perfect and not cause harm to any living being whatsoever, is a valid reason to intentionally cause easily avoidable harms is like saying that just because we know that some people will die in traffic accidents is a good reason never to post any warning signs. The fact that we can’t prevent all homicides does not justify mass-murder, just as the fact that we can’t survive without unintentionally killing a lesser number of animals or plants does not justify intentionally breeding nonhuman animals and feeding them a much larger number of plants, merely to slaughter and eat them, when we can thrive perfectly well on a plants-only diet. The reasonable thing would be to work to decrease the number of all living beings we harm in all cases, not to try to justify harming them in some cases while claiming to decrease harm in others.

      To learn more about Abolitionist Veganism and the issues I’ve outlined in this post, check out The Master List Of Vegan Info:
      http://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/master-list-of-vegan-info

      • Mark Caponigro

        Very fine essay. Leaving aside the confusing comparative element of the term “moral superiority,” we hopefully can all agree that human beings at least are naturally “moral agents,” and therefore might go on to agree (with Andrew Linzey) that the honest cultivation of this natural moral agency of ours should in fact lead us to recognize our responsibility for the well-being of the “moral patients” in our care, including nonhuman animals. And that would be quite the reverse of the way the recognition of our “moral agency” is abused, viz. to mean that we have a natural right to exploit, enslave and kill nonhuman animals.

        • Thanks!

          That term is intentionally confusing, since Human Supremacists are already confused, and there is no definition of reality in which one species is morally superior than any other. It’s a logic-trap. You can’t erase animal rights without erasing human rights.

          I 100% agree with your above comments as well.

          • Ohh, what a funny term. Hahahaha, “Human Supremacist”. Did your dog write that?

        • There’s no such thing as animal slavery. Humans are the only ones that can be subjected to slavery.

          • Simon James

            If Homo erectus was still around or we managed to recreate them, would they be able to be subject to slavery?

      • “Unless we can explain how human animals are morally superior to nonhuman animals”

        Here: http://www.skepticink.com/avant-garde/2014/05/25/speciesism/ & here: http://www.skepticink.com/avant-garde/2013/06/05/anthropocentrism/

        You should read the post before making any comments about it. BTW, I’m having the most delicious steak I’ve eaten in 2015!

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    • sombodysdad

      When you can hunt it, kill it, clean it, all by yourself I will accept your reasoning. But to have others do the dirty work for you so you can sit on your high horse and pontificate, is beyond the pale.

    • Alex Xander

      But i dont give a shit about animals or humans or plants or shit. I advocate for the planet to explode, the very idea is awesome. I dont give a shit if i wont experience it or whatever. I don’t give a flying fuck about atheism as much as I dont give a shit about theism. FUCK your god and your no god. Fuck the author as much as vegetarians! Either view kiss my asssssss! Fuck those who agree and those that don’t agree. Fuck the middle man too.

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    • Simon James

      Some great cherry picking of evidence there. Just to focus on the ethical argument first of all. You say speciesism is not a thing, but it is justified to only give rights to those with moral agency. The problem is you don’t give rights to only those with moral agency, you, self admittedly, give it all those who are human, In doing so you have created a false equivalence between species and moral agency. The two are not equivalent, one can be a human but have no moral agency. Perhaps you would say one would have to be a human to have agency. That is true, but one would also have to be a mammal, or a vertebrate, or an animal. So the equivalence you have created is actually a way of disguising an arbitrary discrimination based on group membership.

      I think you would reject such arbitrary discrimination in any other context. For example If one were to discriminate on grounds of gender, that would be arbitrary, the experience of males and females is the same with regard to our capacity to suffer and feel pain. Its an arbitrary discrimination just based on group membership, and one would reject it as such and in doing so establishing a principle that arbitrary discrimination based on group membership is wrong.

      Now as I said you made a link between being human and having moral agency as a justification for discriminating against animals on the basis that we as a species have moral agency. But we as a species do not have moral agency. Being human merely increase the chances of having agency. It is individuals that have moral agency not species. And if one is going to say moral agency should be the basis on which to consider if an individual has rights, then what would be your argument against those that say only individuals that actually have moral agency should have rights, ie excluding infants or those with sever mental disabilities whom could never have moral agency? Why not? How can you consistently reject their argument?

      So you have arbitrary extended rights to a whole group, by why stop at species? We are all mammals, and if I were to pick out a mammal at random there is a non zero chance I will pick a human moral agent, so why not pick all mammals as the group to extend all rights to? or all animals?

      No, the answer is that we should give rights based on individuals capacity to suffer and enjoy life, the same reason we use to reject those that would discriminate based on gender or race ect. As such we should give rights to all sentient animals too.

      Now you say that plants feel. But this is just not true. Its not just some semantic difference and there is good evidence to explain why this is so. Sentience is the ability to be conscious. A fundamental aspect of consciousness is binding of different sensory modalities. Episodic like memory requires exactly this ability to combine the what where and when to form memories that bind together sensory modalities. Animals have this ability. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23034524

      Furthermore, animals also have cognitive biases, they form judgement biases so that that their affective state has an impact on their perception. This is the same process by which humans get cognitive biases following trauma leading to depression. So not only are animals conscious, the animals sensations have qualia. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0098429

      There is no evidence what so ever plants have such abilities, they have no CNS to be able to integrate sensory modalities to even have binding. They have never even been shown to have associative learning, rather they have simple habituation/sensitisation response that are about as able to produce consciousness as a chemical reaction in a pot being affected by environmental conditions. To suggest otherwise is pseudoscience.

      So animals are sentient, they suffer just as much as an infant can, and if one is to avoid arbitrary discrimination based on group membership we should extend rights to them.

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