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)!
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.
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?
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!—.
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.
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).
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.
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.
(Image: The Meta Picture)