Preventing Cruelty on the Farm

So this thread is predictably out of control — which let’s be honest, I knew was going to happen, because it happens anytime we talk about food and/or post pictures of cute animals — but some interesting and important arguments about how we eat have been raised in the comments. I’ve written about this before, again to much push-back, but I’ll reiterate that I am definitely not of the “you must go vegan in order to be a good progressive who values animal rights and the environment.” Many people are of that school and that is great! I am personally of the school that says human beings are omnivores and eating meat is not morally wrong; however, human beings also have developed enough cognitive functions to enable us to engage the moral issues that come along with eating animals, and because we have that ability we also have the burden of treating animals with respect, even if we do breed and kill them for food. That means not torturing them; it means consuming meat with the knowledge that the food on your plate came from a living being and deserves a degree of reverence; it means doing what you can, in your particular situation, to lessen the suffering of animals. For some people, that means going vegan. For the more economically privileged, it might mean refusing to buy factory-farmed meat. A lot of vegans will tell you that it is entirely possible to go vegan on almost any income, at least in countries like the United States. I would say that (a) that’s just flatly untrue given all the problems folks have accessing decent, healthy food in general; but (b) yeah, a lot of people — even most people — could definitely get by consuming less meat and fewer animal products. Totally, that is true. I definitely could, even though I’m not a huge meat-eater and mostly eat carbs, vegetables and fish.

But I’m not sure veganism should be the ultimate goal (although consuming less factory-farmed animal products is a pretty laudable one, as is focusing on a more vegetable-based diet). The New York Times has a pertinent article on this today, featuring opinions from a variety of writers, from livestock rancher Nicolette Hahn Niman to some jerkoff from the Cato foundation (his unpredictable position: “let market forces decide!”). Niman’s arguments are the ones that make the most sense to me:

1. State laws should protect farm animal welfare. Polls show that about 90 percent of Americans believe farm animals deserve humane living conditions. Narrow metal cages for pregnant pigs, crates for veal calves and cramped cages for egg laying hens should be outlawed. California, Colorado, Michigan and several other states have already adopted such laws.

2. Congress should prohibit overusing antibiotics in animal farming. About 80 percent of antibiotics used in the United States each year is in the daily feed of farm animals, mostly to enable keeping animals in densely crowded conditions, which reduces costs. Recent research found half of meat tested from U.S. grocery stores contaminated with staph infections, half of which were antibiotic resistant. Banning subtherapeutic antibiotics in agriculture, as the European Union has already done, would ease overcrowding and make our food safer.

3. Government should better enforce environmental laws. Environmental laws like the Clean Water Act cover animal agriculture. However, federal and state environmental agencies have largely failed to apply them. Forcing animal agriculture to bear its true environmental costs would tip the economic balance in favor of farms with smaller herds and less crowding.

4. Farm subsidies should foster grass. Grass is a happier, healthier habitat for farm animals. It also is the core of ecological farming, even offering the promise of major carbon sequestration. Yet current federal farm policies encourage plowing grasslands while discouraging grass-based methods, like crop rotations, that safeguard soil, water and air. Farm subsidies should contain incentives for grass and require farmers to follow good conservation methods.

5. The United States should launch a domestic Peace Corps for farming. America needs to repopulate rural America and stimulate beneficial jobs for young people. Our nation struggles with unemployment, and yet traditional farming is disappearing partly because it is more labor intensive. Training the next generation in sustainable agriculture and assisting them to start new farms could be a brave president’s boldest and most lasting initiative.

That’s a lot more effective than “go vegan.”

And yeah, that bill to outlaw photographing and videotaping at slaughterhouses? Not good for anyone but the worst animal abusers.

196 comments for “Preventing Cruelty on the Farm

  1. May 11, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    I agree, humane treatment is necessary. It’s so incredibly difficult to find humanely raised (and pollutant-free) meat, I usually hate to buy meat at all. So I’m sort of an indirect vegetarian. I hardly ever buy or eat meat anymore. Which is probably a good thing with my family’s history of heart failure.

  2. May 11, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    I eat meat, I have no issues with eating meat and in fact, I’m anemic so it’s probably best that I keep on eating meat.

    But I’m also a feminist and I care about the environment and I own a fat and sassy cat that I adore.

    So this? This I can relate to. Major thanks, Jill.

  3. gretel
    May 11, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    But the elephant in the room for all her points is the fact that most ranches exist as businesses, so they want to make a profit. So an easy way to make a profit is to overcrowd the farm animals, so you have more meat to sell at the end of the day. If businesses were required to abide by Niman’s points, their expenses would undoubtedly increase, so their profit would decrease. So what to do? Should the government provide specific subsidies for farmers so they can afford more humane cages/crates/etc.? I don’t have the answers, but how much are people able/willing to pay for meat? And businesses like McDonald’s, etc.? You could buy a Niman steak, which comes from cattle that seem to be treated pretty damn well, but it’s going to cost significantly more than a steak from (help me out here, I don’t eat meat) _______.

    • May 11, 2011 at 1:15 pm

      Gretel, I think that’s where her “subsidize grass” argument comes in. The price of meat is artificially low in part because we so heavily subsidize corn and soy, which are fed to livestock. Subsidizing grass will help to make more humane and environmentally-sound farm policies affordable.

  4. gretel
    May 11, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Jill:
    Gretel, I think that’s where her “subsidize grass” argument comes in. The price of meat is artificially low in part because we so heavily subsidize corn and soy, which are fed to livestock. Subsidizing grass will help to make more humane and environmentally-sound farm policies affordable.

    I definitely support that. I just don’t know how to convince Big Agra and their buddies at the USDA that they should support it, too. Which is my issue with the “go vegan” argument: It really doesn’t matter when most people in the US have absolutely zero control over the production of the food that they eat.

    • May 11, 2011 at 1:25 pm

      I definitely support that. I just don’t know how to convince Big Agra and their buddies at the USDA that they should support it, too. Which is my issue with the “go vegan” argument: It really doesn’t matter when most people in the US have absolutely zero control over the production of the food that they eat.

      Totally. And I think that’s why there have to be more government checks on the food industry. There are a lot of highly-profitable industries in the United States (and around the world) that have relatively rigorous ethical guidelines, and where you can be sanctioned (criminally or otherwise) for non-compliance. Clearly big agra is not going to self-regulate; it would be nice if the government stepped in here.

  5. preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids
    May 11, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    “Should the government provide specific subsidies for farmers so they can afford more humane cages/crates/etc.?”

    There is the point that “making a profit” is not the same as “doing anything it takes to make every penny of profit humanly possible in a situation” (the current model in a lot of cases), so there is room to make food-animals’ lives better without necessarily running a deficit as a business.

    And we are already subsidizing and nationalizing a lot of this shit, either through direct federal pay-outs or state shouldering of clean-up costs from waste run-off. Done gradually and sensibly, it probably would not be that herculean a task to spend the subsidization and preferential funding in a way that discourages inhumane treatment and rewards humane handling.

    It’s like vegetables would be a lot cheaper and corn wouldn’t be in fucking everything if we switched from subsidizing corn to subsidizing vegetables. “Perfect” would cost a lot, but “much better” might not, necessarily.

  6. Tom Foolery
    May 11, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Cutting all subsidies to ranchers (and the corn and soy industries, concurrently), without replacing them with other subsidies, would move beef into the luxury food space. As a luxury food, the business model changes entirely, and factory farms are no longer profitable, while free-range farms still are.

    Luckily, the way the market is set up today has convinced people (rightly or wrongly) that humanely-raised animals taste better and are worth more money. By raising the costs of low-cost producers while keeping the costs of high-cost producers the same, we can solve a lot of these problems without creating more corporate entitlements.

  7. norbizness
    May 11, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    Lisa: When will all those fools learn that you can be perfectly healthy
    simply eating vegetables, fruits, grains and cheese.
    Apu: Oh, cheese!
    Lisa: You don’t eat cheese, Apu?
    Apu: No I don’t eat any food that comes from an animal.
    Lisa: Ohh, then you must think I’m a monster!
    Apu: Yes indeed I do think that.

  8. May 11, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    It’d be great if people could go back to a system of sustenance farming… growing what you and your own family will eat, raising and slaughtering only what your own family would eat.

    *dreams*

    • May 11, 2011 at 1:56 pm

      It’d be great if people could go back to a system of sustenance farming… growing what you and your own family will eat, raising and slaughtering only what your own family would eat.

      *dreams*

      Oh god please no.

  9. Brandy
    May 11, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    Tom Foolery:
    Cutting all subsidies to ranchers (and the corn and soy industries, concurrently), without replacing them with other subsidies, would move beef into the luxury food space. As a luxury food, the business model changes entirely, and factory farms are no longer profitable, while free-range farms still are.

    They did this in New Zealand! But I have no idea if it would have the same (positive) result in the US.

  10. Tom Foolery
    May 11, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    It’d be great if people could go back to a system of sustenance farming… growing what you and your own family will eat, raising and slaughtering only what your own family would eat.

    *dreams*

    While we’re at it, let’s bring back polio, widespread illiteracy, and feudalism. Dreams!

  11. preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids
    May 11, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    “growing what you and your own family will eat, raising and slaughtering only what your own family would eat.”

    Aside from it being back-breaking and leaving you super-vulnerable to the vagaries of nature, that’s not usually how it worked even back in the day. Comparatively limited means of storing produce and meat meant a lot of sharing around the community (or communal feast days) whenever someone had a bumper crop of something difficult to keep or slaughtered a large animal.

  12. gretel
    May 11, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    Jill: Oh god please no.

    Ha, seriously.

    I know it’s all the rage to romanticize farming, but from what little I know about farming it seems like extremely difficult, physical work that often begins early in the morning. No, thank you! My family would surely starve.

  13. Linnaeus
    May 11, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    Aside from it being back-breaking and leaving you super-vulnerable to the vagaries of nature, that’s not usually how it worked even back in the day. Comparatively limited means of storing produce and meat meant a lot of sharing around the community (or communal feast days) whenever someone had a bumper crop of something difficult to keep or slaughtered a large animal.

    There would also be the problem of maintaining the infrastructure of a complex society, both in terms of physical plant and administrative labor, because so much of that labor would be unavailable under a food production regime based on subsistence agriculture.

  14. Arkady
    May 11, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    The UK banned veal crates some years ago, but in some ways the effects have not been totally positive… I have never seen veal on sale in the UK (perhaps due to its cruel image), and male calves are either exported to Europe or shot. The latter I was told by a Polish vetinary student, who had worked on a UK farm and was shocked by it. In Poland veal calves are slaughtered at 6 weeks, so ‘crating’ to keep the meat milky was unnecessary. My parents have had ‘pink’ veal in southern europe, where the calves have been allowed to move around and consume foodstuffs other than milk, so it is not a meat that requires the horrific crates.

    Friends on visits to the US have been shocked by the high price of vegetables (e.g. I pay 50p for 1kg of carrots here, converts to 82 US cents), EU agricultural subsidies may have their problems but at least everything gets subsidised, not just corn and wheat. The european subsidies were originally set up post WWII with the intention of helping small farmers (and making sure a war-torn continent didn’t starve!), and while there’s a lot of big business involved in agriculture it’s nowhere near the scale of the US. In the UK we also have the advantage of a lot of land that is not usable for arable but is fine for grazing, so we’ve never had beef-cattle feedlots for example (pigs and chickens are very intensively farmed however). A company wanted to build a mega-dairy where the cows would have been kept penned in buildings, but the application was turned down: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lincolnshire-12854925

    So… changes to the agricultural subsidies in the US might solve some of the problems, but with so much US farming in the hands of huge businesses it will be hard to change (at least from my understanding of the stranglehold of business interests on US politics).

    I’m personally not a vegetarian, I eat a low meat diet for both budget and practical reasons (dried beans keep for months!), and have no problems with using legislation to improve the humane treatment of animals. I’m also a biology grad student, and while I don’t personally do animal work I know those who do, and they take animal welfare very seriously (e.g. if i ever had to have a pet rabbit put down again, I would find someone with a research licence and experience. We lost Rosie to myxomatosis, and the newly-qualified vet botched the euthanasia).

  15. scrumby
    May 11, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    My grandfather maintained a large garden for many years and what my grandmother didn’t serve fresh she either canned or froze for later; combined with a fully stocked fish pond and seasonal deer hunting trip they had a basement that would do any end-times believer proud. When they moved out of that house leaving the food sources behind they took all that food with them and it was three years before it finally ran out. I thought it was a great example of self-sufficiency and told my grandmother as much. She just laughed, “one bad year would have wiped up out completely.”

  16. Nic
    May 11, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    This post is much better than the shit-show from a few days ago, but I honestly don’t get how “that’s a lot more effective than ‘go vegan'” is the conclusion you could draw from this article. None of Niman’s points are actually incompatible with “going vegan,” or with having veganism as an ultimate, long-term goal. And the only groups meaningfully working on the issues she raises are animal rights organizations (take Washingtonians for Humane Farms, for example, the current effort in Washington state to ban battery cages for egg-laying hens. Some of the members of this coalition are small farmers, but most the force behind it comes from HSUS, Farm Sanctuary and Mercy for Animals, all vegan organizations).

    For example, the fact that it is somewhat difficult for lower income people to subsist on a vegan diet has less to do with a vegan diet and more to do with the artificial price of meat that Niman mentions here. Most animal rights activists support measures to change farming subsidies — the only people who will say that “going vegan” is the only answer are people on the Internet.

    • May 11, 2011 at 3:27 pm

      Sure, Nic, that’s fair. But actually, I wouldn’t want the ultimate goal to be “go vegan.” I know this is the point that is going to get everyone mad, but I don’t think it’s wrong to kill animals for food, and I also think that food — a wide range of food, including animal products — is important, culturally and pleasurably.

  17. Nic
    May 11, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    Also, “Clearly big agra is not going to self-regulate; it would be nice if the government stepped in here.” Yes, it would be nice. If you’ve worked on this issue, however, you know that there is nearly zero support from the government on this issue, as both sides of the aisle are in the pocket of agricultural interests. Furthermore, the government has increasingly declared animal and environmental activists terrorists in recent years. There’s a good Mother Jones story today that features Will Potter, one of the only journalists doing serious work on this.

    I guess I just find it frustrating that the average progressive response to this issue, which everyone tends to admit is serious, is so tepid.

    • May 11, 2011 at 3:31 pm

      I guess I just find it frustrating that the average progressive response to this issue, which everyone tends to admit is serious, is so tepid.

      Ok. So what do you suggest as the response?

  18. Tom Foolery
    May 11, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    “Clearly big agra is not going to self-regulate; it would be nice if the government stepped in here.” Yes, it would be nice. If you’ve worked on this issue, however, you know that there is nearly zero support from the government on this issue, as both sides of the aisle are in the pocket of agricultural interests.

    The government has already stepped in here, and their regulatory solutions involve piles and piles of money paid to the very big agra that you are distrustful of. I always find it hilarious when progressives point to industries where the government is neck-deep in making the situation worse and say “what we need here is more regulation.”

  19. Nic
    May 11, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Yes, I know you don’t think raising animals for food is wrong, Jill. My point was just that your commentary on here seems to suggest that thinking otherwise is somehow incompatible with the suggestions in the quote. Very few AR activists are saying “go vegan” without advocating for increased government regulations, a change in farm subsidies and support for sustainable farming. Your post makes it sound as if that is the case.

    Jill: Ok. So what do you suggest as the response?

    First, to actually join the coalitions that are working on these issues (such as Washingtonians for Humane Farms) in the grassroots work that is necessary (in this case, signature-gathering if you’re in Washington state or can travel there). The previous campaign for better animal welfare standards was in Ohio last summer; the vast majority of campaigners were vegans, not humane meat advocates like Niman. At the moment, that movement is still largely a lifestyle choice for affluent urbanites. It has no bite as a social movement.

    I also think anyone who truly believes that humane meat is morally acceptable, and who is privileged enough to subsist on it, needs to actually follow through on that. Boycott factory-farmed products — all the time. And actually check the databases of organizations like Farm Sanctuary to see if the “humane” meat you are buying actually is humane, or is just a label thrown on products to increase their prestige (this is usually the case). Personally, as there are no special slaughterhouses in the United States — the food animals of all but the tiniest farms still go to the same slaughterhouses as those of factory farms — this isn’t something I support. But I can respect those who do support it if they actually take this seriously and follow-through.

  20. Florence
    May 11, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    From a feminist perspective, I wonder whether there is a way to exploit the meat-eating = masculine stereotype in some way, like to rebrand it to less meat-eating = healthier, leaner, hotter dudes, or some such. Like the PETA ads, but less extreme. I do eat meat sparingly, but I live in an area where it’s easy to buy half a cow or pig for next to nothing, and to shake the farmer’s hand you bought it from. But what I see a lot of in my corner of the world is compulsory meat-eating, the assumption that it’s not a meal unless it includes meat. Everything else is a snack. “Rabbit food,” har har.

    Another thought: Food is a cultural cornerstone and it’s really backwards to think that people would be better off if they sloughed off a major part of their family culture and “just” change pretty much everything about the way they eat, nurture, and celebrate. Not to mention it’s unreasonable to ask all of humanity to strike almost everything we categorize as “food” off our list of available ingredients.

    There have to be immediate, tangible benefits for changing what you eat, and probably the best is, “Cleaner, happier animals equal tastier food.” And they do. Ever had a real free-range, organic, chicken chilling in the yard eating bugs and laying wherever it wants to egg? They’re fucking AMAZING. Blows factory farm eggs to pieces just on initial taste.

    There also have to be cultural/social benefits: is it cheap? Easy to obtain? Easy to cook? Does it take an entirely new knowledge base to figure out how to eat it? No, no, no, yes, and nobody but the most dedicated people are going to be interested no matter how much it helps the planet or its inhabitants (See, vegan baking. Delicious! And very difficult.)

  21. DP
    May 11, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    andrea:
    It’d be great if people could go back to a system of sustenance farming… growing what you and your own family will eat, raising and slaughtering only what your own family would eat.

    *dreams*

    Worldwide mass starvation! It’s fun for the whole family!

  22. Nic
    May 11, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer is a good read that addresses the significance of the cultural issues surrounding diet, but is still serious about the moral imperative to make a change. While I agree that it can be very difficult to go against thousands of years of accepted culture, especially cultural practices you enjoy and benefit from, I don’t see how that can be an argument against the moral arguments made for changing the way we eat and raise animals. This website itself is a product of a social movement that advocates against thousands of years of received cultural tradition (i.e., Patriarchy). I’m sympathetic to the “but it’s culturally important to me” argument, but I don’t think it holds a lot of weight.

  23. May 11, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    You know, I really should just not get into this thread because I’m already irate, but:

    I don’t understand why we think gradual (or not gradual) policy changes will ever change how we treat animals, or really enact any widespread social change at all. Most of the practices listed are low-hanging fruit too; some of these are not cost effective for corporations anyway so changing them in the name of animal welfare is really shallow. Corporate profits are the priority in animal agriculture (as in many other areas of life) so sure, chipping away at that is effective but that doesn’t give you a free card to exploit animals in the mean time, particularly when it’s easy not to.

    It’s a huge luxury to regularly consume animal products, when you consider the labor, water, and pollution that goes into every meal. You can live, and live well, on a vegan diet that doesn’t rely on mock meats and shit like that. That’s enough for me not to kill or use animals for their products when I don’t need them, and especially when those relationships are almost always exploitive. Going vegan and trying to convince others to do the same is the only way we’ll make substantial, opt-out sorts of changes in the ways we destroy and exploit the earth and all species on this planet. It’s also better for your health too, with a well planned diet. If I had to take any step, I’d say remove corporate subsidies for meat and corn production. But that is not incompatible or inconsistent with a vegan message either.

    And maybe this is too snarky, but I’m sure the animals you eat really *appreciate* your “reverence”. If you give a chicken a choice between a smaller cage and a bigger cage, they’d probably still choose freedom.

  24. Brandy
    May 11, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    CuteRedHood:
    I don’t understand why we think gradual (or not gradual) policy changes will ever change how we treat animals, or really enact any widespread social change at all.

    Why do you think they won’t? http://www.evana.org/index.php?id=63506

  25. May 11, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    Perhaps the tepid response is tied to the strong emphasis on veganism. I’m already convinced of the harms of factory farms, to the environment and to the workers employed there. But I have zero interest in being vegetarian, let alone vegan. If your goal is to eventually ban raising animals for food (and/or banning hunting and fishing)….I’m not going to provide you with support. The small amount of work you’re doing in favor of my interests (cheaper organic meat,cheese and eggs) doesn’t negate your larger efforts against my interests (eventually banning meat, cheese and eggs). Screw that.

    Also….I find it hard to believe that the masculinity – high meat diet is a universal thing (at least, this isn’t a cultural trope I’ve observed among folks of mediterranean or asian descent, and most of the hardcore athletic guys I know are all about the carbo-loading….you’ll pry pasta and rice from their cold, dead hands). Just….food for thought. As Florence noted, people developed their foodways as a response to their environment—diets with a strong emphasis on meat and animal fat developed in environments with shorter growing seasons. I suspect the tie-in with meat and masculinity has every bit as much to do with racism as it does with sexism (one expression of which is the “feminization” of racial or ethnic groups).

    • May 11, 2011 at 4:37 pm

      Perhaps the tepid response is tied to the strong emphasis on veganism. I’m already convinced of the harms of factory farms, to the environment and to the workers employed there. But I have zero interest in being vegetarian, let alone vegan. If your goal is to eventually ban raising animals for food (and/or banning hunting and fishing)….I’m not going to provide you with support. The small amount of work you’re doing in favor of my interests (cheaper organic meat,cheese and eggs) doesn’t negate your larger efforts against my interests (eventually banning meat, cheese and eggs). Screw that.

      100% how I feel.

  26. Florence
    May 11, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    It’s a huge luxury to regularly consume animal products, when you consider the labor, water, and pollution that goes into every meal.

    Huge amounts of labor, water, and pollution go into pretty much any meal, vegan or not, so.

  27. Nic
    May 11, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    La Lubu:
    Perhaps the tepid response is tied to the strong emphasis on veganism. I’m already convinced of the harms of factory farms, to the environment and to the workers employed there. But I have zero interest in being vegetarian, let alone vegan. If your goal is to eventually ban raising animals for food (and/or banning hunting and fishing)….I’m not going to provide you with support. The small amount of work you’re doing in favor of my interests (cheaper organic meat,cheese and eggs) doesn’t negate your larger efforts against my interests (eventually banning meat, cheese and eggs). Screw that.

    Well, coalitions like Washingtonians for Humane Farms include both vegan organizations and slow food organizations that you would support. Money given to those coalitions when they are campaigning does not actually go to vegan outreach, but to campaigns both sides can agree on. So unless we vegan activists just have cooties you don’t want to touch, I don’t see why activists with the same short-term goals can’t work together on food issues. But YMMV.

    I’m going to take my leave of this thread at this point. I’d be happy to see actual organizing around slow food goals at some point (and I’d be willing to ally with those people in the short-term, though apparently you would not be willing to ally with me), but I don’t think it will ever happen. Slow food’s proponents are either mostly apathetic (no factory farmed meat evar even if I am an affluent New Yorker who can afford otherwise?! No way! ButIDoHateFactoryFarmingAndIt’sBad), or obsessed with such small lifestyle issues (backyard chickens) that they will never amount to any significant cultural or political impact.

  28. Gretel
    May 11, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    CuteRedHood: Going vegan and trying to convince others to do the same is the only way we’ll make substantial, opt-out sorts of changes in the ways we destroy and exploit the earth and all species on this planet.

    But how many people on the planet would you have to convince to go vegan in order to not destroy and exploit the earth? 10%? 40%? 100%? You can proselytize all you want, but most people are going to tell you to shut up and go away. Just like if someone told me I had to eat meat for whatever reason I would tell them to shut up and go away.

    So why not also address all the screwed up things about big agra’s symbiotic with key government agencies? What’s wrong with that?

  29. sabrina
    May 11, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    As someone who cannot subsist on a vegetarian let alone vegan diet healthfully (I was a vegetarian for 4 years and was forced to stop because I had severe anemia as a result) I am beyond tired of being told that I’m hurting the environment by eating meat. Going vegan is not an option for every person and I think that people would do well to remember that

  30. Tom Foolery
    May 11, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    I don’t understand why we think gradual (or not gradual) policy changes will ever change how we treat animals, or really enact any widespread social change at all.

    Factory farming is bad, but it’s fantasy to pretend that humans haven’t become gradually more aware of their treatment of animals. In the 17th Century, cat burning was a thing people did for fun.

  31. May 11, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    So unless we vegan activists just have cooties you don’t want to touch, I don’t see why activists with the same short-term goals can’t work together on food issues.

    We don’t have the same short-term goals. The short-term goals we share (less pollution, safer and healthier conditions for farm workers) are only by default. “Better tasting, more affordable, locally produced (thus, creating more local jobs and job options, while reducing the need for petroleum products) meat, dairy and eggs is one of my long-term as well as short-term goals—a goal you think is immoral. It makes more sense for me to put my energies with people who share my goals, not with people I will have to (also) spend energy fighting.

  32. Lis
    May 11, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Have I been hallucinating the ongoing enactment of laws meant to protect or enhance the wellbeing of animals? Am I actually still allowed to beat a horse to death? Are farmers not in fact regulated in how much food, water, sunlight, and space they have to provide to their animals?

    Seriously, all these things happened when people were still having steak dinners. Saying everyone has to go vegan before we can enhance animal rights is like saying all women need to become lesbians before feminism can move forward.

    Not every country is the US, incidentally. I grew up in an area of rich agricultural production where farmers receive virtually no government subsidies. My extended family runs a feedlot of 2,000 cattle, but none of them eat corn and if you average it out, they each get an acre of grass pasture each. Listening to people flail about how more eco-friendly agriculture will never happen because it’s impossible IN THE USA is really frustrating. It’s like reading debates where people say universal healthcare is impossible, because Congress will never enact it. Sorry, did my country’s Parliament need America’s permission before it made healthcare a right of citizenship?

  33. May 11, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    sabrina:
    As someone who cannot subsist on a vegetarian let alone vegan diet healthfully (I was a vegetarian for 4 years and was forced to stop because I had severe anemia as a result) I am beyond tired of being told that I’m hurting the environment by eating meat. Going vegan is not an option for every person and I think that people would do well to remember that

    I agree with this. After sometrial and error — combined with SUPERFUN trips to the emergency room — my health care providers and I discovered that me consuming heme iron (found only in animal products) keeps me only “moderately anemic” instead of anemia that is severe or life-threatening. People, I am not really a fan of liver, but the ER is exhausting and expensive.

    I’m not saying that (US, at least) farming doesn’t need a massive overhaul; it does. But when folks want to tell me, “You can live, and live well, on a vegan diet,” I get kind of peeved on account of, if I’d followed that advice, I’d be dead now.

  34. Kristen J.
    May 11, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    As I think I’ve mentioned before, our beef comes from a family friend who owns a cattle ranch and hay farm. We know the animals are humanely treated because we know the humans caring for them. BUT small family ranches are difficult to maintain, between urbanization and subsidies for big agro that often don’t apply to small family (or coop!) orgs. Besides demand side stuff we can do (like eating local and humane), we can try to support legislation that helps small farms.

  35. Abby
    May 11, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    Lis, most anti-cruelty laws are full of holes and rarely enforced. Standard industry practice is exempt. You can horribly abuse animals as long as other farmers are doing the same thing. It’s true that you can’t ‘waste’ or ‘spoil’ your animal property by say, not feeding your cattle, but this is hardly a recognition of animals’ interests. You can’t beat a horse to death because that would upset the public and because cruelty to animals often leads to cruelty towards other humans. None of these laws qualifies as animal rights legislation. Cruelty that has some use is generally permitted. I recommend you read ‘Animals, Property and the Law’ for a deeper examination of these issues.

  36. May 11, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    I guess “smash capitalism” is too glib a response, eh?

    A lot of the negative elements and consequences of modern agriculture are, arguably, results of our severely alienated resource distribution systems and overreliance on – wait for it, you’ll probably think “yeah, right” – fossil hydorcarbons, whether as easily-overused fuel for transportation or cheap fertilizer. When you can just haul megatons of factory-slaughtered beef, megalitres of factory-pumped milk, and more megatons of factory-caged chicken and pigs from relatively few locations to much wider areas, fueled by loads of petroleum-based fuels that are cheaper to burn than the cost of owning lots of grazable property spread all over a country/continent, distributed arrays of small, locally-supported growers are much harder to maintain in the face of those resource-absorbing megafarms and agricorps (not to mention the completely bodged-up economics of crops, thanks to US, Canadian, and European efforts to force other countries to end agricultural supports while maintaining their own. Korean farmers have literally immolated themselves in protest of this, and part of it is, again, related to transport vs. capital costs).

    Of course, this will only last as long as fossil hydrocarbons are cheap and plentiful. I’ve had a somewhat hard time locating good info on remaining supplies of known and predicted oil deposits but what little I could find pointed toward exhaustion within a century, two max. Since we also use those deposits for materials (ie. plastic), you can imagine what kind of trouble our food supplies will be in when it’s no longer cheap and alternatives use a comparably greater amount of energy to produce. To that last, however, I will point out an estimate made by a researcher from the University of Utah some years ago that each gallon of fuel we use now required 98 tons of plants to produce, plus some tens to hundreds of millions of years of decay and geological processes.

    So, the short version of the above is… we’re going to be in trouble relatively soon, and we can change now or be forced to change later.

    I’ll stop now.

  37. Abby
    May 11, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    The best argument I’ve heard for veganism is as follows: as long as we have the institution of animal property, animals’ interests will never be respected. Property cannot have rights. Allowing humans to own and kill animals sets the stage for abuse. The way to oppose this system is to become vegan. Of course, for some people this is not possible, but for most people, it is. If you cannot survive without meat or other animal products, then consume the minimum amount necessary for your health.

    • May 11, 2011 at 8:34 pm

      The best argument I’ve heard for veganism is as follows: as long as we have the institution of animal property, animals’ interests will never be respected. Property cannot have rights. Allowing humans to own and kill animals sets the stage for abuse. The way to oppose this system is to become vegan. Of course, for some people this is not possible, but for most people, it is. If you cannot survive without meat or other animal products, then consume the minimum amount necessary for your health.

      If that’s the best argument, you’ve got a long road.

  38. May 11, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    Abby: The best argument I’ve heard for veganism is as follows: as long as we have the institution of animal property, animals’ interests will never be respected. Property cannot have rights. Allowing humans to own and kill animals sets the stage for abuse.

    Not sure what you mean by “rights” here. If you mean “protection from abuse,” you’re wrong — there are laws against animal abuse now, and they’re enforced. If you mean “self-determination,” or something similar, then I don’t think that the concept of property in animals is the sticking point here.

    People kill and abuse animals they don’t own all the time. Making pet ownership illegal in NYC wouldn’t stop the city from setting out rat poison in the parks, and if your concept of animal rights precludes setting out rat poison in the parks, then this conversation is going to have to start at a very basic place to have any chance of going anywhere.

  39. Athenia
    May 11, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    andrea:
    It’d be great if people could go back to a system of sustenance farming… growing what you and your own family will eat, raising and slaughtering only what your own family would eat.

    *dreams*

    Biologically, that would probably be best for humans (instead sitting at desks all day), but at the same time, I really love watching movies and reading books so…..

  40. Abby
    May 11, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    Angus, I don’t think animals are protected from abuse. They are protected from some forms of abuse that serve no purpose or offend the public’s sensibilities, but if you need to do something cruel in order to get the most benefit out of your property, the law will probably not intervene. We have great respect for property owners and are reluctant to intervene in those cases. Basically any right an animal has can be violated if it’s necessary for some accepted use. You’re right that abolishing animals’ property status would not end animal abuse, but it would certainly help fight the problem.

  41. Abby
    May 11, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    I think most of us know that anti-cruelty laws are inadequate. For example, I know of a woman who kept her dog for hours in a crate soaked with its own urine and never took it outside. She was annoyed by the animal’s cries, so she made it wear a bark collar. It was shocked when it barked or whimpered. To me, this treatment is clearly abusive, but it is legal. The situation for farm animals or lab animals is much worse.

  42. Abby
    May 11, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    Jill, reading over my post, I realize I didn’t do a very good job of articulating the argument for veganism. If you’re interested, I think you should read ‘An Introduction to Animal Rights’ for a much better discussion of the issues. I would actually be happy to send you a copy. I’d feel sad if my poor writing/debating skills hurt the animal rights cause.

    • May 11, 2011 at 9:43 pm

      Abby, I will check that out. And seriously, I am not meaning to attack or trash you, and I appreciate how you’ve engaged in this thread. I think we have some fundamental disagreements that aren’t going to be resolved, and since I realize I’m taking a position you believe to be morally abhorrent, I’m sure this thread is more frustrating for you than it is for me. But I do respect that you’re putting in the effort, and doing it in a generous way (even if we both think the other is wrong).

  43. sabrina
    May 11, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    and abby, you are part of the problem which makes those of us who must eat meat in order to survive feel guilty for surviving. STOP IT right now.
    To jill, I’m getting incredibly sick and tired of the constant stream of ableist bullshit from the vegans who think that they are high and mighty and know what is better for the rest of us every time this issue comes up. Why do you continue to allow it?

  44. May 11, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    I think all of the suggestions you’ve quoted from the article are great. But I also think it would be awesome if more people went vegan!

    I admit, it’s not always easy to be vegan, and it’s not a valid option for everyone. But for many of us who are vegan, it has actually improved our lives. I don’t feel like I’m suffering for a cause. I’ve been surprised at the positive effects on both my physical and spiritual health that have occurred as a result of my veganism.

    • May 11, 2011 at 9:58 pm

      But for many of us who are vegan, it has actually improved our lives. I don’t feel like I’m suffering for a cause. I’ve been surprised at the positive effects on both my physical and spiritual health that have occurred as a result of my veganism.

      And I actually feel the same way about quitting vegetarianism and returning to meat-eating.

  45. SephONE
    May 11, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    But if you go full vegan you’ll get super powers, Scott Pilgrim said so. (Not trying to be snarky! Just making a joke to lighten the mood a bit since I got all upset in that last thread <..>)

  46. Abby
    May 11, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    Sabrina, I don’t judge people who have to eat meat. I am against unnecessary killing and suffering. If you have to eat meat to survive, then the killing is necessary. It’s like taking a medication with animal ingredients–I would do it too. Most of us are not in your situation, though.

  47. Abby
    May 11, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    Perhaps instead of encouraging people to go vegan, I should have said, go as vegan as possible. I actually think someone who has to eat meat and eats the minimum amount for her health is a vegan, since she is embracing the idea of no unnecessary suffering and death.

  48. May 11, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    Abby:
    Perhaps instead of encouraging people to go vegan, I should have said, go as vegan as possible. I actually think someone who has to eat meat and eats the minimum amount for her health is a vegan, since she is embracing the idea of no unnecessary suffering and death.

    So you think what other people choose to eat is okay as long as it’s up to your individual food police standards?

  49. Seriously?
    May 12, 2011 at 12:23 am

    OK, what, grass-fed cattle farming for carbon sequestration? Are you high? Methane from cows is one of the largest drivers of global warming. I’m sorry, dairy and beef are completely incompatible with any kind of commitment to sustainability, even more so than other animal products.

    Also your (the OP’s) “I know you think that what I’m doing is evil, and that’s great, it’s great that we can disagree about these things” is such a great patronizing classic. Do yourself a favor and never ever say that again.

    This is what humane farming looks like.

    I’m agnostic about the question of whether there’s any possibility of humane animal agriculture outside of a capitalist context (kept as pets with benefits, as it were), but under capitalism, it’s never gonna happen. Non-human-animals can never organize or go on strike, and it’s fundamental to capitalism that the bourgeois *has to* exploit as many as as much as they can. It’s not this optional thing where a business chooses to be exploitative, the business owner can’t just choose to pay hir workers more when other business owners don’t. Go read your Marx. And, as my links above attest, “free range” and “humanely-raised” are total greenwashing.

    I have no ability to speak directly to anyone’s health experiences with vegetarianism or veganism. However, for the large majority of humans in the past 2, 3000 years, animal products have been scarce, only a small part of one’s diet, it’s only in the past 50 years that anyone outside the Arctic Circle has had even half as much meat and other animal products in their diet as is the norm in the 21st century US, so the unnatural diet is the American one, not the vegan one. Furthermore, meat, dairy, and other animal products are cited as the inevitable answer to many health concerns where supplements or a more carefully planned vegan diet would be as or more effective. (E.g. dairy and calcium both inhibit iron absorbtion, so eat your legumes and leafy greens with orange juice, not sour cream; acute b12 deficiency is much more quickly and effectively dealt with by shots rather than meat consumption, etc) The problem isn’t so much the vegan diet as a lack of infrastructure and institutional support for it–which posts like these perpetuate. If you really do have a health need that you can’t meet under the current structural conditions without animal product consumption–and I know someone for whom that was the case–you can eat that one product and only that one, only as much as you need to stay healthy (this is what my friend does). LASTLY, check out this post by a registered nurse who is much better equipped to answer health-related questions and critique the ex-vegan health “proof”: Do Ex-Vegan’s Stories Make The Case Against Vegan Diets.

    • May 12, 2011 at 8:24 am

      Also your (the OP’s) “I know you think that what I’m doing is evil, and that’s great, it’s great that we can disagree about these things” is such a great patronizing classic. Do yourself a favor and never ever say that again.

      If “wow, you’re a total asshole” less patronizing?

      I didn’t say “great we can disagree about these things.” We do disagree about these things. I think it’s great that some vegans and vegetarians aren’t total dickheads about it. You apparently are one of the folks who is, in fact, a total dickhead about it. You know that a lot of folks perceive vegans as holier-than-thou, judgmental pleasureless asswipes, right? You’re doing a pretty good job of living up to that stereotype.

  50. May 12, 2011 at 1:19 am

    To expand and explain — At least for me, managing my health is a lot more complicated, even just diet-wise, than simply “eat[ing] the minimum amount [of meat].” It’s really frustrating — and, I think, inappropriate — to have someone who is not me and who doesn’t have a lot of knowledge regarding my health to decide whether my eating habits qualify as “good enough” not to be judged.

  51. tree
    May 12, 2011 at 5:19 am

    Tori:
    To expand and explain — At least for me, managing my health is a lot more complicated, even just diet-wise, than simply “eat[ing] the minimum amount [of meat].” It’s really frustrating — and, I think, inappropriate — to have someone who is not me and who doesn’t have a lot of knowledge regarding my health to decide whether my eating habits qualify as “good enough” not to be judged.

    thank you. i am allergic to or intolerant of non-animal sources of protein. i can’t eat any fruit, or most vegetables. i get very, very tired of people telling me what my diet should be.

    more to the topic, don’t you have organic meat in the US? now that i am working full time, i always buy certified organic or biodynamic animal products wherever possible. not only are the animals treated humanely, but their meat and eggs taste much better. (and milk, etc, as well, i’m told. don’t know. can’t have dairy.)

  52. Abby
    May 12, 2011 at 7:12 am

    Oy, I shouldn’t have said ‘judge.’ I try not to judge anyone. I ate animal products for most of my life, and I think we’ve been taught not to view animals’ deaths as a problem. I would not have changed my behavior if no one had talked to me about veganism. I’m hoping to help other people make the change, or at least learn more about the term ‘animal rights,’ since there’s a lot of misinformation going around.

    Tree, ‘organic’ does not mean ‘humane.’ Also, veganism is not just about food. It’s about what we wear, what we do for entertainment, etc. as well. I’m sorry if my clumsy use of language offended you, but I hope you’ll look beyond the ( very flawed) medium and see the message.

  53. May 12, 2011 at 8:38 am

    Jill: Oh god please no.

    My husband and I were just talking about this. I just started a small vegetable patch, and we established that the work for the vegetable patch was firmly in my chore territory because he has terrible allergies. While planting and harvesting is fun for me (if not weeding), it is likely to put him in bed for the rest of the day. If we all had to grow our own food, he would have been a very unhappy person, pre-marriage.

  54. May 12, 2011 at 9:19 am

    Seriously?: OK, what, grass-fed cattle farming for carbon sequestration? Are you high? Methane from cows is one of the largest drivers of global warming. I’m sorry, dairy and beef are completely incompatible with any kind of commitment to sustainability, even more so than other animal products.

    Do you eat rice? Most vegans I know do. Rice is a HUGE source of methane. It’s a pretty big problem, and on the same scale as cattle. But I’ve never heard anyone say that eating rice is incompatible to any commitment to sustainability.

    Get off your pedestal.

  55. May 12, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Seriously?: it’s fundamental to capitalism that the bourgeois *has to* exploit as many as as much as they can. It’s not this optional thing where a business chooses to be exploitative, the business owner can’t just choose to pay hir workers more when other business owners don’t.

    And that’s where social reform movements come in. Child labor laws didn’t happen because child laborers went on strike, for instance.

    It’s in business-owners’ self interest to exploit as many as much as they can within the constraints under which they and their competitors operate. If every business is subject to the same regulations on animal cruelty, and those regulations are both robust and robustly enforced, then the self-interest of the parties shifts. (And those regulations don’t necessarily need to be coercive, either. If any business can call itself humane, then the humane businesses are at a competitive disadvantage. But if only the truly humane operations can be certified as such, they may gain a competitive advantage by differentiating themselves from the competition in that way.)

    Yes, there are huge barriers to this kind of reform. Yes, of course. But it’s not hard to find precedents for it, either.

  56. May 12, 2011 at 9:39 am

    I’m having trouble not getting on my Vegetarian High Horse here, because I believe so strongly that *for me* the only ethical life is one that involves NOT eating animals or using products tested on animals. However, the for me part of that is important. I believe that it is immoral–in fact, I believe it is flat out wrong–to use, for example, make up that’s tested on animals, and I have never understood why people seem to have such problems with that: non-tested products are often just as cheap as tested products. But I do understand why people eat meat, although again, I find the idea of eating factory farmed meat unjustifiable. I just cannot do it. And I would be very, very happy to outlaw hunting for sport (for food is obviously a completely different thing) and factory farming.
    However. Vegetarians and vegans have to be very, very careful not to be assholes about this. It’s easy for me to say “well eating meat is immoral” because my level of privilege and the fact that I can live quite healthfully without meat means that it has never been a big deal for me (I haven’t eaten meat since I was eight).

    When I was in high school at a very crunchy Quaker school, there were loads of vegans, and the smart ones would say, you do what you can. I think this is important to remember for ALL aspects of progressiveness. They are things–outright sexism, racism, homophobia–that cross the line, but the rest of the time you do what you can. If you believe the ethical and environmental arguments for eating less meat, you try to eat less meat. You give as much of your disposable income as you can to “good” companies, you point out rape culture when you can. Etc, etc. You do as much as you can at any given time to advance what you believe, to “act as if” and in our day to day lives, that’s all we can do.

  57. May 12, 2011 at 9:46 am

    I would actually add, as others have said, that animal cruelty laws are effectively a joke. They are enforced VERY rarely and are incredibly loose anyway. I have a dog. If those laws applied to her (I mean they do in theory but not in practice, since I’d break the nose of anyone who tried to hurt her) I would be horrified. The “we have animal cruelty laws” argument is just not a valid one, since those laws are totally ineffective.

  58. May 12, 2011 at 10:00 am

    I guess what I don’t understand about the whole “I’m not sure veganism should be the ultimate goal” part is, are you just talking about your own personal goals, or everyone’s?

    I mean, I hardly know any other vegans in person. The vast majority of my friends and family are not vegan, and I’d certainly never think they were bad people or anything like that. They do things that are good for the world that I don’t do. Being vegan is something I do that happens to be good for the world that they don’t do.

    Maybe I’m misreading, but I just get a sense from this post and some of the comments that some people are discouraging veganism in general, which I don’t understand.

    I mean, I lived for several years in an area where it was impossible to recycle glass. I just had to throw it in the trash, which sucked, but I didn’t have an option. But I was very happy that my relatives in Massachusetts recycled their glass.

    • May 12, 2011 at 10:34 am

      I guess what I don’t understand about the whole “I’m not sure veganism should be the ultimate goal” part is, are you just talking about your own personal goals, or everyone’s?

      I mean, I hardly know any other vegans in person. The vast majority of my friends and family are not vegan, and I’d certainly never think they were bad people or anything like that. They do things that are good for the world that I don’t do. Being vegan is something I do that happens to be good for the world that they don’t do.

      Maybe I’m misreading, but I just get a sense from this post and some of the comments that some people are discouraging veganism in general, which I don’t understand.

      I do not think veganism should be the ultimate goal of movements for environmentalism or better food or to end animal cruelty. If people want to make veganism an individual goal, or promote it as a good way of being, that’s fine. But I am not going to be on board with any movement that prescribes veganism as a necessary solution.

  59. May 12, 2011 at 11:04 am

    What I don’t understand is how vegans are automatically “assholes” or “preaching” when we merely speak the truth? When we tell you that “humane” meat or eggs is a myth, that is a fact. When we talk about the environmental impacts of animal agriculture, those are facts. But somehow your refusal to hear those facts turns US into the assholes. Everything “Seriously” stated is true, but instead of recognizing those facts, people take this tired, old defensive detour of picking apart our food choices, as if that will somehow make the facts less true.

    If you’re going to participate in the cruelty and unsustainability of animal agriculture, then do it but own it. Admit the facts. And if admitting those facts bothers you? Well that’s your conscience kicking in. It’s called cognitive dissonance. Uncomfortable, right? That’s exactly why I’m vegan. I refuse to promote any type of animal rights agenda that does not include veganism as a necessity. I won’t fight to save puppies and kittens but allow pigs to be slaughtered and calves to be torn from their mothers at birth.

    If telling the truth makes me an asshole, then so be it. But isn’t that the same as the message women get from the patriarchy, that those of us who are loud and assertive are bitches?

    • May 12, 2011 at 11:31 am

      What I don’t understand is how vegans are automatically “assholes” or “preaching” when we merely speak the truth?

      Well, you can speak what you believe to be the truth and still be a preachy asshole about it. Offering facts isn’t acting like an asshole; telling someone to “Do yourself a favor and never ever say that again,” which is what I was taking issue with, is the remark of a grade-A asshole.

      If you’re going to participate in the cruelty and unsustainability of animal agriculture, then do it but own it. Admit the facts. And if admitting those facts bothers you? Well that’s your conscience kicking in. It’s called cognitive dissonance. Uncomfortable, right? That’s exactly why I’m vegan. I refuse to promote any type of animal rights agenda that does not include veganism as a necessity. I won’t fight to save puppies and kittens but allow pigs to be slaughtered and calves to be torn from their mothers at birth.

      See, and it’s that kind of sanctimony that I can’t stand. You know that farm-grown fruits, grains and vegetables entail the killing of animals, right? That with increased demand for grains and vegetables, large-scale farms end up using heavy machinery that kills small animals like mice and rabbits? That also human animal laborers are exploited and forced to work in horrific conditions to put produce on your table? That unless you’re growing all of your food yourself, you are no doubt participating in incredibly exploitative and cruel food systems, to human and non-human animals? That you claim to not consume “animal products,” but are still happy to avail yourself of medical treatments that involve animal by-products or that were tested on animals?

      THAT’S my problem with the lecturing. If you want to be vegan, more power to you! I was pescatarian for a long time, mostly out of concern for the treatment of animals in factory farms. Now, I don’t eat factory-farmed meat, but I do eat meat if know where it came from (which is a privilege of having a well-paid job and living in a place where such meat is easily accessible). I think it’s great to promote ethical eating — and if you think eating animals is unethical, then sure, promote veganism. But you seem to be laboring under the assumption that your eating habits don’t harm animals, which gives you the right to tell other people that their conscience is kicking in and they’re experiencing cognitive dissonance in their food choices are unethical and evil. My point is that it’s a sliding scale, and that we have different priorities, and that doesn’t make non-vegan choices “evil” any more than you’re evil by virtue of the fact that your eating choices kill mice and bunnies.

  60. Abby
    May 12, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Vanessa, you’re right that some people can’t go vegan, but I think most people can. I think it’s fair to tell those people that going vegan is necessary if you care about animals. I think death is a harm to animals, but even if you don’t, I have serious doubts that we can raise and kill animals on a large scale without a lot of abuse. If you believe that you can kill an animal for your pleasure, how much are you really going to care about that animal’s suffering? Also, some suffering is an inherent part of farming. For example, look at the dairy industry. On the best farms, babies are taken from their mothers and killed before they’ve had much of a chance to live.

  61. Abby
    May 12, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Here’s more information on the dairy industry: http://unpopularveganessays.blogspot.com/search/label/what%20is%20wrong%20with%20vegetarianism
    I say this not as an attack– I was a vegetarian for six years. The facts are surprising.

    • May 12, 2011 at 11:41 am

      You will pry cheese out of my cold dead hands.

      • May 12, 2011 at 11:43 am

        (after I inevitably die of a heart attack from eating all this cheese).

  62. Florence
    May 12, 2011 at 11:43 am

    Like I said upthread, food is a cultural cornerstone and it’s socially backwards to think that people will respond to the message that they are better off shedding a major part of a) their family’s culture and b) “just” change *everything* about the way they eat, nurture, and celebrate.

    Not to mention it’s unreasonable to ask all of humanity to strike almost everything we categorize as “food” off our list of available ingredients.

    Rethink the message. UR DOIN IT WRONG isn’t a game plan for social change.

  63. Abby
    May 12, 2011 at 11:43 am

    Jill, vegans generally cause fewer deaths than omnivores. A lot of grain is fed to animals. We’re destroying rainforests in order to grow soybeans for pigs. I also think there’s a difference between deliberately killing an animal and accidentally killing an animal, but I agree that both are problematic.

    • May 12, 2011 at 11:49 am

      Jill, vegans generally cause fewer deaths than omnivores. A lot of grain is fed to animals. We’re destroying rainforests in order to grow soybeans for pigs. I also think there’s a difference between deliberately killing an animal and accidentally killing an animal, but I agree that both are problematic.

      Totally, vegans are complicit in fewer deaths than omnivores (who “causes” the deaths is not as simple). But that’s the point I’m making — none of us is totally innocent or righteous when we eat food that’s produced in our fucked-up system. So I’m not bothered by vegans being like, “wait a minute, here are some facts.” I am bothered by vegans being like, “The way you eat is evil, and the only way to avoid being a HORRIBLE ANIMAL-KILLER is to eat how I eat.” Because that is some bullshit right there.

  64. Abby
    May 12, 2011 at 11:59 am

    I don’t think I’m asking people to strike almost everything they know as food from their ingredient lists. A healthy human diet should already include lots of fruits and vegetables. I also think that when a tradition is abusive, we should try to change that tradition. Most people do care about animals and believe that death is a harm. I think if people knew all the facts, a lot of them would choose their morals over their comforting turkey dinners.

  65. Brandy
    May 12, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    Just wanted to recommend a couple good resources for those who are interested:

    Say what, Michael Pollan? – Adam Merberg’s comments on the ideas Michael Pollan has put forth, mostly in The Omnivore’s Dilemma. (Pollan generally promotes eating less meat, but finds veg*nism as environmentally unsound, which Merberg disagrees with)

    Let Them Eat Meat – Rhys Southan (ex-vegan) mocks veganism and is a bit of an asshole at times, but has a lot of interesting things to say about the inconsistencies in vegan logic (particularly the “all or nothing” kind).

  66. Florence
    May 12, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Abby: A healthy human diet should already include lots of fruits and vegetables.

    A healthy human diet also includes whole grains (some of which are baked), proteins (animal and otherwise), and fats (animal and otherwise). You are, in fact, asking people to strike the majority of food categories from their known, available foodways. Most people will find this unreasonable. Especially considering that most people do not wrap their identities around their dietary habits.

  67. May 12, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    “Human being are omnivores” is not necessarily true, and it’s irrelevant to an ethical argument. Plenty of people live long, healthy lives without eating animal products. Yes, we’re physically capable of digesting cooked animals. We’re also physically capable of digesting corn syrup, live ants, and seeds with trace amounts of arsenic. That has absolutely no bearing on whether we SHOULD do so.

  68. May 12, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Vegetable, wheat, corn and other various non-animal farming also eats up land that at one point would have been the habitat for numerous types of animal life. Any type of farming, animal or otherwise leaves huge ecological footprints that mean death for many types of animals.

    Let’s face it, the human diet hasn’t been sustainable since the early humans learned how to fashion tools and put spade to earth and scavenging for roots and berries.

    In other news, I’m very tempted to go over this thread with a bottle of tequila and do a shot everytime someone says ‘vegan’.

    If anyone needs me, I’ll be in the emergency room, having my stomach pumped.

  69. stuff&nonsense
    May 12, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    Delurking to say that I find it quite interesting that the preachy vegan types on this thread have yet to point out the treatment of (mostly immigrant, mostly POC) workers on farms as one the issues important to them. They humanize cows and calves by calling them “mothers” and “babies,” but they’ve entirely disappeared the actual humans involved in agriculture from the discussion. So thank you for bringing that up, Jill, you evil immortal meat-eater you!

    Any large scale agricultural operation has negative environmental impacts. And Abby, the animals killed/displaced from habitat by vegetable farming aren’t killed “accidentally.” The farmers know that certain types of equipment and chemicals used in large scale farming kill animals. They know that they are displacing animals from their habitats. It’s not an “oops, I killed some bunnies accidentally,” it’s “this farming operation kills and displaces animals routinely as part of production.” For the pleasure of someone eating a carrot! So, you know, until you start buying your veg only when they are in season and only from tiny local organic farms and then only after checking that no animals are harmed in the course of their operations, you don’t get to claim moral high ground w/r/t killing of animals. It’s an absurd argument, this discussion of who “causes” what.

    It’s this all-or-nothing, verging on absurd, purity bullshit that really turns people off the message, along with the “if only you knew all the facts then…” dose of condescension. Most people do know the facts by now, enough to make choices about their diets. And the weird thing is? I only ever see this Strawvegan Come to Life shit on the internets. I have known a ton of vegans over the years and none were tedious, preachy, or high on illusion of moral purity.

    • May 12, 2011 at 1:18 pm

      And the weird thing is? I only ever see this Strawvegan Come to Life shit on the internets. I have known a ton of vegans over the years and none were tedious, preachy, or high on illusion of moral purity.

      Right? Same here. When I was a non-meat-eater, I used to get totally pissed off at the stereotype that vegetarians were holier-than-thou or sanctimonious, because I really was not. I didn’t care if my friends or family ate meat (and most of them did). I didn’t throw a fit if my veggie burger was cooked on the same grill that cooked a hot dog. I was happy to eat the non-meat portions of whatever was served to me, and I would go to basically any restaurant (including steakhouses!) and find something I could eat, without whining. I eventually met a few vegetarians and vegans who were assholes in real life, and were obnoxious and overly-demanding, but they have been rare. Except on the internet, where they are EVERYWHERE.

      Also, as an aside, folks like Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan who have promoted vegetable-centric diets that aren’t strictly vegetarian, and eating habits like “vegan before 5,” have been a lot more effective in promoting large-scale changes in the way we eat and how animals are treated than the holier-than-thou “YOU MUST GO VEGAN!” folks. It’s worth recognizing that.

  70. May 12, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    “Human beings are omnivores” *is* a necessarily true statement for all those human groups that do not have a year-round plant-growing season. There are no indigenous vegan societies, and no indigenous vegetarian societies where there is a frost line.

    That 21st century urbanities can consider veganism relies *necessarily* on other systems *just as environmentally harmful* and *just as unsustainable* as factory farming. Factory farming, like other industrial forms of production, is a recent addition to human history. Very recent. To speak of it as if it is representative of farming is disingenuous.

    Speaking of sustainability, it doesn’t get any more critical than food—what we grow and where, what we eat and why. People, like all other mammals, go for the easiest solution. Where food was plentiful and/or competition was scarce (in the form of other humans or other large predators), hunting and gathering sufficed. Farming (or quasi-farming, like the land and animal-managing techniques used by many indigenous peoples) developed in response to the environment people found themselves in. Farming provided a better edge for food security in harsher environments.

    So what, you might say. “We” have refrigeration, electricity, trucks, etc. Time to get rid of those time-tested *sustainable* practices of old!

    For how long? Ever hear of peak oil? I wouldn’t guarantee that my great-grandchildren will have access to any of the things that currently make my life easier than that of my ancestors. But they will have access to the same techology that my ancestors used for thousands of years.

    The popularity of veganism speaks to the divorce between humans and the rest of our shared environment. It’s a modern conceit. It is not a modern idea. The difference is, the ascetics of the past viewed it as a personal path—not for everyone, and not to be taken lightly. For good reason, they realized their path was not for the population at large (also of note—these ascetic groups did not include young children, nor did most of them include women period, let alone menstruating, pregnant or breastfeeding women).

    Look. If you want to be vegan, fine. Hell, last night’s dinner would have been vegan had I left parmesan off the fried polenta (topped with puttanesca w/ mushrooms, with a side of green salad with berries and balsamic vinegrette). Where I take issue is this “truth” that all killing of animals for food is morally wrong. It isn’t. You are no more going to convince me it is than you are going to convince me of, oh, becoming a Jehovah’s witness. I don’t accept your premise, so we’re already at stalemate.

  71. May 12, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    andrea:
    Vegetable, wheat, corn and other various non-animal farming also eats up land that at one point would have been the habitat for numerous types of animal life.Any type of farming, animal or otherwise leaves huge ecological footprints that mean death for many types of animals.

    Let’s face it, the human diet hasn’t been sustainable since the early humans learned how to fashion tools and put spade to earth and scavenging for roots and berries.

    In other news, I’m very tempted to go over this thread with a bottle of tequila and do a shot everytime someone says ‘vegan’.

    If anyone needs me, I’ll be in the emergency room, having my stomach pumped.

    *stopped* scavenging for roots and berries.

    My apologies, I have a cold.

  72. Florence
    May 12, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    La Lubu: fried polenta (topped with puttanesca w/ mushrooms, with a side of green salad with berries and balsamic vinegrette)

    NOM NOM NOM.

    /threadjack

  73. stuff&nonsense
    May 12, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Jill: I eventually met a few vegetarians and vegans who were assholes in real life, and were obnoxious and overly-demanding, but they have been rare. Except on the internet, where they are EVERYWHERE.

    Yes! I don’t get it. I have still to meet a vegan/ vegetarian asshole IRL. Maybe the ones on the Internet are all one person? Like a vegan asshole unicorn?

    And a great point re: Bittman and Pollan. It’s a great, effective way of promoting plant- and grain-based diets that is also realistically doable for many people. And I think they are doing a better job at raising awareness of issues surrounding factory/feedlot farming as well, much more effective than the scaremongering of PETA. I think at this point, people who have the privilege of access to information and not living in food deserts are aware of the facts and are making diet choices with those facts in mind. So to come to a SJ blog and claim that people here lack awareness of “facts” is silly.

  74. Sheelzebub
    May 12, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Actually,

    andrea:
    It’d be great if people could go back to a system of sustenance farming… growing what you and your own family will eat, raising and slaughtering only what your own family would eat.

    *dreams*

    We’d be mighty vulnerable to famine again. Famines were quite common and death from starvation or complications from malnourishment were quite common when that was done. One fucked-up growing season thanks to a volcano or two in another hemisphere spewing ash (see: the year without a summer and the little ice age) or a few rounds of blight and that’s it, you’re toast.

    I like growing my plot in the community garden, but let’s face it, solely relying on my agricultural prowess would condemn me to starve.

  75. Sheelzebub
    May 12, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    La Lubu: fried polenta (topped with puttanesca w/ mushrooms, with a side of green salad with berries and balsamic vinegrette)

    I AM SO COMING TO YOUR HOUSE FOR DINNER LA LUBU.

    • May 12, 2011 at 2:03 pm

      I have been wanting to come to La Lubu’s house for dinner for, like, ever.

  76. Kristen J.
    May 12, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Florence: NOM NOM NOM.

    /threadjack

    Ditto. When’s dinner?

  77. stuff&nonsense
    May 12, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    La Lubu:
    That 21st century urbanities can consider veganism relies *necessarily* on other systems *just as environmentally harmful* and *just as unsustainable* as factory farming. Factory farming, like other industrial forms of production, is a recent addition to human history. Very recent. To speak of it as if it is representative of farming is disingenuous.

    That’s such a great point. To me, it’s not just feedlot soy-based farming that’s unsustainable. It’s only one, very egregious example of large-scale farming practices, almost all aspects of which are not sustainable. The only reason we can even consider the possibility of people going vegan en masse is the fact that farming can be done on such a large scale. Large-scale farming is not sustainable and is harmful to the environment by definition, starting with what has to be done to free up gigantic areas of land and make them receptive to cultivation and ending with what it takes to get the produce to consumers, and adding all the other steps in between. All of this is very new in terms of human history of producing food and success of this enterprise depends entirely on other technologies and aspects of modern life that are also very new and not very environmentally friendly.

  78. CuteRedHood
    May 12, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    I checked back into this after a few days, I really only have a few more thoughts:

    1. Agreed with everyone who argues the way we currently eat is not sustainable. Having consistent access to animal products is a luxury reserved for folks in the richest countries, and is done so only through growing monocrops, deforestation, pollution, antibiotic abuse, displacement of indigenous populations for large-scale farms and dams, exploitation of migrant workers for the dangerous work in animal agriculture, etc. We have reached a point where we all pretty much suffer or contribute to suffering when we consume ANYTHING, no one way of living is 100% unproblematic, even completely vegan lifestyles. We just do the best we can finding ourselves in a complex, industrial agricultural system that basically runs of exploitation and abuse of everyone (humans and nonhumans) involved.

    2. The industrial and agricultural choices our predecessors made are out of our control. They built a system we find ourselves in that is ultra-effed in many, many ways and harms humans and non humans in different but significant ways. All we can really do now is talk solutions. Personally, I cannot remove agricultural subsidies or regulate agro-business, even though I think that would be super effective in a variety of points. I cannot personally ensure better working standards for those employed in food production, particularly in the animal agriculture side of things. I can advocate, call congresspeeps, etc. But all I can really PERSONALLY do is change my consumption habits to reflect my ideal ethical living situation as closely as possible, and try to convince others to do the same (without being an asshole, although hey, sometimes it happens). This means going vegan.

    3. Veganism not only makes sense within these arguments, but others as well. Our closest primate relatives are vegans, and humans can live and live well on a well planned vegan diet. Obvs that has not worked for everyone here, and adjustments should be made according to what works for you. Support, options, education, and a reflection on environmental factors that influence the way you subjectively experience the effects of your diet would go a long way, which is not always up to the control of the individual. It’s difficult to go vegan in a vacuum of support, and this is something I would like to change (and am working on in my community). It is my hope that in addition to the changes we make, everyone also seriously considers and transitions to veganism (for the ethical reasons below). I can’t expect most people to go vegan until there is more support in place for that transition.

    4. At the end of the day, the argument that convinces me most to be vegan is that there is no morally relevant quality that distinguishes humans from non-humans, and I don’t have to exploit or kill sentient creatures to live well, so why should I? It feels very simple to me. Previous policy moves to widen cages or stop docking pig tails or whatnot have done little to improve animal welfare, and are often exploited by corporations to sound eco-welfare-chic while doing as little as possible (are we surprised by this though?). Better, at the end of the day, to remove myself from that cycle as much as possible and live a vegan lifestyle while advocating for policy changes that address the roots of animal agriculture rather than tinkering with small things related to animal welfare that have no real impact except making some omnivores feel a little better about consumption.

    It’s been quite easy for me, once I got to that point morally. I live in Oklahoma so it’s NOT some vegan oasis where I have tons of options and grocery stores or restaurants or vegan clothing shops. I know of only two other vegans in my town that live consistently this way. But that doesn’t change the fact that I felt it was logically the most important way to live out my ethical obligation to a non-exploitive life. I know not everyone feels that way, and I mean I didn’t either for 21 years of my life. I was an omnivore too, and horribly fed up with vegans and vegetarians constantly. I was, however, open to what seems to me, very logical arguments for going vegan and so I did. I hope that clarifies my opinion I made earlier in haste (and now, in so much ridiculous detail).

    • May 12, 2011 at 4:19 pm

      Veganism not only makes sense within these arguments, but others as well. Our closest primate relatives are vegans, and humans can live and live well on a well planned vegan diet.

      Only because they haven’t figured out how to make cheese.

  79. May 12, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    CuteRedHood: Our closest primate relatives are vegans

    You calling Jane Goodall a liar?

  80. Abby
    May 12, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Stuff&nonsense, the treatment of human workers is also important to me. The meat-packing industry is one of the most dangerous around. The work is physically very dangerous and psychologically scarring. A lot of the workers end up with substance abuse problems. Some of them abuse the animals and their own families in an understandable reaction to the horror and stress.

    I think a lot of people haven’t been exposed to animal rights theory, and I do think a lot of people don’t know much about what goes on at farms–even the people using this website.

  81. CuteRedHood
    May 12, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    Lol I was waiting for that. Our closest primate relatives will opportunistically eat insects, or as recently uncovered with Chimpanzees, will engage in cannibalism. BUT I feel like vegan diets there seem a bit more palatable to your average civilized human.

  82. May 12, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    CuteRedHood: Our closest primate relatives will opportunistically eat insects, or as recently uncovered with Chimpanzees, will engage in cannibalism.

    Jane Goodall first observed chimpanzees eating (non-chimp) mammal flesh fifty years ago.

    Gorillas, orangutans, and bonobos are essentially vegetarian, but chimps are omnivores, and hunters.

  83. niani
    May 12, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    CuteRedHood:
    Lol I was waiting for that. Our closest primate relatives will opportunistically eat insects, or as recently uncovered with Chimpanzees, will engage in cannibalism. BUT I feel like vegan diets there seem a bit more palatable to your average civilized human.

    Or maybe cows and pigs are really palatable, so the people who want to could just continue to eat those animals.
    I don’t really see your point, if you know our closest primate relatives aren’t vegan, why bring it up as an argument for veganism?

  84. Abby
    May 12, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    Jill, stuff&nonsense, let’s refrain from name-calling, please.

    • May 12, 2011 at 4:23 pm

      Jill, stuff&nonsense, let’s refrain from name-calling, please.

      So it’s ok to call someone “evil” and a puppy-killer, but not “holier-than-thou” or “sanctimonious”? Huh.

  85. CuteRedHood
    May 12, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Upon more research, I’ll say fair enough. Not the only argument I make for veganism, and certainly not the most convincing regardless.

    It does seem though, in just glancing through some sources on the web, that fruit still makes up the majority of a chimp’s diet.

    At the end of the day, we are not obligate carnivores, nor obligate omnivores. If I feel morally convinced that humans and nonhumans are not distinguishable by any ethically relevant characteristic related to my actions in terms of use and harm, then a vegan diet and lifestyle is what I should do.

  86. Abby
    May 12, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    Florence, you said that vegans categorize themselves by their dietary choices–but that is not what veganism is about. Veganism (as I understand it) is a stand against the institution of animal property, a declaration that each animal has a right to not be subject to cruelty and to not be killed. I really urge you to read Gary Francione’s ‘Introduction to Animal Rights’ and ‘Animals, Property and the Law’ if you want to understand the philosophy.

  87. CuteRedHood
    May 12, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    Yeah, niani, pigs and cows are palatable to eat. It’s not like I have some special taste buds that make cheese disgusting (although after being vegan for a year and a half, that shit does smell terrible now). It’s just that “it tastes good” is not nearly a good enough reason to keep killing, exploiting, and harming sentient creatures, especially when I don’t need to for my livelihood, and especially when I struggle to find a morally relevant division between myself and nonhumans.

  88. May 12, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    CuteRedHood: I struggle to find a morally relevant division between myself and nonhumans.

    There are plenty of morally relevant distinctions to be drawn, depending on which non-humans, and which actions, you’re attempting to distinguish. The position that it’s A-OK to do anything at any time to any animal that isn’t human isn’t one that’s been put forward in this thread. What a lot of us are suggesting is that it’s possible — and in fact necessary — to draw all sorts of distinctions when you’re trying to decide how much harm you’ll condone to which animals for which reasons.

  89. May 12, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    stuff&amp;nonsense: So, you know, until you start buying your veg only when they are in season and only from tiny local organic farms and then only after checking that no animals are harmed in the course of their operations, you don’t get to claim moral high ground w/r/t killing of animals.

    I should also note that animals are harmed during small organic farming processes as well. My garden is a no-slugs-allowed zone and I will propel any one that I find into the grass. I’m also not going to wring my hands over setting up a slug trap. This is not, like, oops, animals killed. This is like die animal die don’t you dare eat my veggies killing. And, I’ll be honest, I’m pretty OK with it. I’m not going to go around stomping slugs, but animals live where we grow our food sources, be they animal or vegetable sources. They also compete for our food, so if we don’t want to starve, we need to find some way of preventing them from eating it before we get to it. Them’s the breaks.

  90. CuteRedHood
    May 12, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    I would not recommend reading Francione. He’s got a lot of problematic baggage in his writing that a lot of feminists here would have a big problem with (as do I). I have many concerns with his arguments but probably no one cares. If anyone DOES want more info, I would go here:

    http://loveallbeings.org/additional-resources/

  91. PrettyAmiable
    May 12, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    Jill: So it’s ok to call someone “evil” and a puppy-killer, but not “holier-than-thou” or “sanctimonious”? Huh.

    That sounds like something a puppy killer would say…

  92. Kristen J.
    May 12, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    PrettyAmiable: That sounds like something a puppy killer would say…

    You know what this thread needs. Hats. More specifically dogs wearing hats. I give you…youtube.

    [Not my video…or my dogs. Although, my dog has briefly worn hats in exchange for copious amounts of cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano and do not try that fake crap on her.]

  93. Florence
    May 12, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    Abby:
    Florence, you said that vegans categorize themselves by their dietary choices–but that is not what veganism is about. Veganism (as I understand it) is a stand against the institution of animal property, a declaration that each animal has a right to not be subject to cruelty and to not be killed. I really urge you to read Gary Francione’s ‘Introduction to Animal Rights’ and ‘Animals, Property and the Law’ if you want to understand the philosophy.

    Fine. Veganism is a personal and political identity, one that I am unwilling to adopt because of its obsession with restriction and political purity. Also, I like meat. I buy meat from local “boutique” farmers when I can, a privilege I can enjoy because I live in an ag-heavy flyover state and because my partner can cook unusual cuts of meat. It is delicious. I also like cheese, and eggs (poached or over easy) are basically the perfect food (on a salad? I die.). I also like vegetables and fruits quite a lot, really, food in general, and because of my strong familial and cultural connection to food the chances of me changing my foodways are next to nil. Politically, I am a fan of the local and slow food movements, but think a vegan lifestyle is unworkable for me and my family and have no interest in pursuing it. Also, I avoid political movements that make iffy statements in order to defend rigid, dogmatic systems.

    Now that I’ve leveled with you, with our shared goals being “less animal cruelty”, what are the methods we can take to make said goal happen? If the answer is, “Go vegan,” I will punch myself in the neck.

  94. Abby
    May 12, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    Jill, I believe that calling someone an asshole is different from showing that a person’s views on animals would justify killing a dog.

  95. PrettyAmiable
    May 12, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    No, Abby. You suggested that since meat-eating folk are complicit in animal slaughter because we find resulting meat tasty, we are justified in killing dogs because we otherwise derive pleasure from killing dogs. There’s a massive jump that you need to make where tastebud pleasure = pleasure from killing for the sake of killing. Also, there’s a pretty fucked up assumption that you made that we just like killing things.

    I think you might have justified cannibals though…

  96. Abby
    May 12, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    I don’t see a moral difference between unnecessary killing because you enjoy the act of killing and unnecessary killing because you enjoy the results. There is a psychological difference, but to me, neither is justified.

  97. SephONE
    May 12, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    If someone’s being an asshole I don’t see an issue with calling them out on it. ‘Seriously?’ was being a bully and you should probably call them out on stuff too before you start accusing people of being killers from your pedastal :\ (Do you /really/ think this will help somehow?)

  98. sabrina
    May 12, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    I’m so glad seriously? was in my doctor’s visits when I was trying for a fucking year to hold onto my vegetarian diet for the sake of the planet and therefore knows that it was all my fault that the b12 and iron shots, plus the supplimentation pills, the vitamin c shots, the 8oz glasses of orange juice every 4 hours and on and on failed to the point of nearly killing me.

  99. preying mantis, president-general of the glorious mantid revolutionary army
    May 12, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    “Only because they haven’t figured out how to make cheese.”

    One of the easiest ways to get a sense of how vegan other primates are is to look at their adorable little pot-bellies or adorable little lack thereof. The bigger bellies tend to house the longer guts needed to efficiently extract nutrients from an all-plant diet, while the smaller bellies and shorter guts tend to indicate a greater percentage of more easily-digested material like insects and eggs.

    “That sounds like something a puppy killer would say…”

    Totally.

  100. PrettyAmiable
    May 12, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    Well, Abby, that’s because you’re assuming there is some benefit in killing dogs that is experienced by meat-eaters that is equivalent to killing food-animals. There isn’t. It’s a flawed analogy. The fact that there IS a benefit automatically means there’s a moral difference. If you’re choosing to ignore it, that’s a different story.

  101. Abby
    May 12, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    SephONE, I assumed that when Jill referred to vegan assholes being everywhere on the internet (comment no. 87, agreeing with a comment that mentioned me by name and later called me and others holier-than-thou) she was talking about me as well as Seriously?

  102. Abby
    May 12, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    Pretty Amiable, presumably both you and Jill would agree that if I killed and ate a dog, when other food was available, that my behavior would be justified? Would it be justified if I made a coat from the dog’s skin and hair?

  103. Abby
    May 12, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    What if I kill my dog because I don’t feel like caring for her anymore? I suppose I derive some benefit from the killing in that case. Under your rubric, would that behavior also be acceptable?

  104. SephONE
    May 12, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    Abby:
    SephONE, I assumed that when Jill referred to vegan assholes being everywhere on the internet (comment no. 87, agreeing with a comment that mentioned me by name and later called me and others holier-than-thou)she was talking about me as well as Seriously?

    You’re kind of going on and off the bully track too, actually. ‘You’re either a pure pure vegan or a /murderer/!’. Yeah, productive, totally. Good luck with that.

  105. May 12, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    Abby:
    Pretty Amiable, presumably both you and Jill would agree that if I killed and ate a dog, when other food was available, that my behavior would be justified? Would it be justified if I made a coat from the dog’s skin and hair?

    Was the dog killed in a humane fashion? Are you making the coat from the hair and skin of the dog you’ve already killed for it’s meat?

  106. PrettyAmiable
    May 12, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    Abby, if you no longer want to care for your dog and benefit by not caring for your dog, this benefit still =/= whatever meat eaters get from eating meat. There is absolutely nothing you can say to make those things analogous. In your scenario, you can give the dog away to a home and still achieve the exact same benefit.

  107. May 12, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    I’m not buying the “meat tastes good” argument. They are arguments for eating meat, but honestly I don’t think that’s a viable argument. Lots of things taste good. Lots of things are fun. Doesn’t make them okay.
    That said…I have never met an asshole vegan in real life. As I said earlier…you do what you can. I believe with every fiber of my being that eating animals is wrong. I do not believe that in order to be a good person, you also have to believe that.

  108. Florence
    May 12, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    Is it morally corrupt to eat vegans, whether for nutrients or pleasure? I imagine it would be like grass-fed beef.

  109. Abby
    May 12, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    SephONE, I don’t think vegans are pure. We all cause suffering. I just think people should strive to cause less suffering, and that we need to stop consuming animals and treating them as things. I really don’t intend to bully anyone. If I’m coming across as too aggressive, then maybe I should take a break from the conversation. Alienating others is not my goal.

  110. JP
    May 12, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    Florence:
    Is it morally corrupt to eat vegans, whether for nutrients or pleasure? I imagine it would be like grass-fed beef.

    They go best with fava beans and a nice chianti.

    More seriously, the onus is still on the vegans to show both:

    (1) That non-human suffering is morally relevant in the same way the suffering of human persons is. They should, e.g., come up with persuasive responses to all the many criticisms that Singerian utilitarianism has been subjected to over the years, instead of harping on and on about the moral equivalence of all suffering, as if it were self-evident. The case that suffering is made bad by the specific role it plays in the mental life of human persons – a role that is absent in animals with poorer mental lives than us (specifically, animals without linguistic capacity) – remains strong. The absence of a viable argument against this case has been the main dialectical weakness of the vegans in this thread (vague cries about anthropocentrism don’t cut it – one needs to show why the relevant sort of anthropocentrism is morally problematic).

    (2) That death does morally significant harm to non-human animals (independently of any possible suffering involved in the process of dying). In particular, the Epicurean arguments against the harmfulness of death can be made even more persuasive in the non-human animal case than in the human case (for a clear and critical discussion of these arguments as applied to humans, see James Warren’s excellent book Facing Death).

    In the absence of such arguments – not stipulations – the answer to Abby’s supposed gotcha questions above is a simple “yes.” As presented, without aggravating circumstances, the actions in question are not morally problematic (aggravating circumstances that could include bad motives; the ultra-utilitarian presumption, bandied about some of the vegans here, that motives cannot matter to the moral assessment of an action is simply bizarre in the absence of argument). And in the absence of such arguments, it is hard to combat the impression that veganism really is more akin to a puritanical secular religion than a well-considered moral worldview.

    Finally, I am continually amazed that most internet vegans opt for broadly utilitarian arguments for their position – to the extent that they provide arguments at all, instead of mere assertions! By far the best argument for animal rights, in fact, is a neo-Kantian one, defended very aptly by one of the world’s foremost moral philosophers, Christine Korsgaard (though I personally favour stopping where Kant himself did when considering the matter). Her argument is available here:

    http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~korsgaar/CMK.FellowCreatures.pdf

  111. GinnyC
    May 12, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    Would I be a horrible, horrible person if I bought my cat a live mouse for a present? Seriously, she would like it way more than a cat toy.

    Snark aside-what I don’t get at all about the vegan fundamentalists is how they want to focus on animals as moral beings while denying that human beings are animals who eat other animals. It’s all about how human beings are superior to any other meat-eating creature because people can decide not to eat meat.

  112. Victoria
    May 12, 2011 at 11:44 pm

    First off, I will admit I am biased. I think veganism is the worst kind of first world white upper middle class pile of bullshit. There. Said it.

    I have worked on my family’s farm since I was a tot (does that make me a murderer from birth?), it’s a dairy farm. An ethically run, old fashioned, New Zealand (one of the first of it’s kind in the US!) style dairy operation. We used herding dogs to move the cows, had chickens for fresh eggs and also help keep down the bugs (from cow dung!), several pastures, two horses and many many cats. A farm is not some concentration camp, it was a family. Every living creature worked together to create the farm. No, we never slaughtered calves (that’s the next generation to sell or replace older cows, you ninny!) or beat the dogs- you relied on them as much as they relied on you to keep everything running. What every single vegan I have ever met never understood, irl or on the internet, is that humans are not separate from the world of animals. Good, sustainable, ethical, reliable farming requires harmony with the animals it employs.

    Humans need animals as much as animals need humans. With that same experience also brought the understanding that death is natural, one creature kills another so it may survive and then that animal eventually dies and it’s body feeds the earth which in turn feeds the grazing animals. That’s how I view meat, if that cow has had a good life in a pasture and was slaughtered correctly it is right to indulge (never too much!). It is not till the advent of industrial agriculture in the last 70 odd years (which vegetables and grain play a large part) that everything about the way we eat has been corrupted and perverted.

    We cannot separate ourselves from animals, we inhabit the same earth and must rely on each other for our survival. And also, who pollinated all your delicious fruits anyway? Can’t eat honey because it “uses” bees? Put down the cauliflower and broccoli or you will have “used” the labor of bees without their expressed permission!

  113. jennygadget
    May 13, 2011 at 12:51 am

    “At the end of the day, the argument that convinces me most to be vegan is that there is no morally relevant quality that distinguishes humans from non-humans, and I don’t have to exploit or kill sentient creatures to live well, so why should I?”

    And yet, this is the part where it completely breaks down for me because, as Shoshie points out, this is complete BS. We do have to kill and harm quite a lot of creatures – sentient and otherwise – in order live, much less “live well” – whatever you take that to mean.

    Also, the part that I really don’t understand about arguments like “there is no morally relevant quality that distinguishes humans from non-humans” is that it’s not workable. It’s like debating the voting age and having people come in and say there shouldn’t be one at all. I mean, I agree that voting age is arbitrary in many ways, and I might be convinced that we should change it to something else, but I don’t see how we can get around having one in the first place.

    Like infant to adult, the sentience found in bacteria to human is a continuum rather than a series of discrete stages. A lot of the pro-vegans on this thread are using the lack of discrete divisions in nature to argue that culturally and legally we humans shouldn’t come up with our own. Or, rather, they are trying to argue for whatever dividing lines they feel should be drawn, while pretending that everyone else (but certainly not them) are making completely arbitrary distinctions based on selfishness.

    When it comes to voting age, I can maybe be convinced that 18 is not the way to go. Likewise, I could possibly be persuaded that the lines I draw around human and animal, sentient and not, should be changed. They’ve certainly changed in the past.

    But pretending like you are smashing all those culturally and legally constructed divisions rather than simply shifting them is so not the way to do it. Because then you just make crap arguments that have me rolling my eyes about how illogical and unworkable they are.

    Also, Victoria, WORD.

  114. konkonsn
    May 13, 2011 at 12:59 am

    Victoria:

    I kind of feel the same way. All the proponents of veganism and vegetarianism that I’ve met (which is anecdotal and generalizing…sorry!) are people who visit farms or slaughter houses but don’t stay for an extended period or grew up there. I grew up on a farm, though it was very non-traditional (we kept and raised a variety of animals though we only butchered the turkeys for food). I love animals and plan to work in a wildlife center one I get out of school. But I eat meat, and I don’t really really feel bad about the killing part (the factory farm part, totally).

    It seems, to me, that animals get so idealized because people don’t have to interact with them. As children, my siblings and I named all the chickens on the farm, chased them around…I had one I would make sit on my arm as a trick. Some were eaten by foxes, sometimes even my favorite one. But a hen lays eggs, new chicks come out, and you go and chase those chickens around. Whenever I tell my environmental friends about how easily I could have a “pet” chicken and then replace that one with a new chicken if the first disappeared, they look at me askance, like, “How can you have an animal and name it and know it and be ok when it’s gone the next day?” Because…it was a chicken. I took good care of it while it was alive, but chickens die, and you move on.

  115. konkonsn
    May 13, 2011 at 1:03 am

    Erm…that should be *the factory farm part – I do feel bad about that. For a host of reasons.

  116. samanthab
    May 13, 2011 at 7:31 am

    Well, I think what’s being missed here is that vegetarianism has already made a big impact on this country and how meat consumption is viewed. When I first became a vegetarian, it was not at all guaranteed that you’d find a vegetarian entree on the menu if were dining outside of an urban area. 20 years later it’s now de rigeur to have a vegetarian option on virtually every menu everywhere. If the goal is to reduce meat consumption (and that’s my goal,) we’ve already achieved it. By adopting the more extreme stance, we’ve injected a more compromised stance into the mainstream. Which is a very legitimate achievement, to my mind.

    Furthermore, I tend to think vegetarians have pushed forth the dialogue towards precisely what is being advocated in this post, a more humane and healthier treatment of animals. I don’t know how you can deny the significance of the vegetarian movement in putting that out there.

    And I do get weary of strawmen as to the logic of my vegetarianism. I do it for environmental reasons, and you can’t deny that those are significant. It just doesn’t hold up. It’s much easier to argue the point that animals are meant to be eaten. There’s no verifiable answer there. Environmental arguments can’t be dismissed so handily.

    I would add, too, that I’m not denying anyone’s right to make their own choices. I just wish they weren’t so quick to dismiss mine as silly. It gets old!!!

  117. May 13, 2011 at 8:39 am

    samanthab: Environmental arguments can’t be dismissed so handily.

    Oh, for sure! I didn’t mean to intend the there aren’t environmental benefits to being vegetarian or vegan. Just…it’s not absolute. You’re not abstaining from harming animals if you eat vegan, because growing vegetables harms animals. You’re still contributing to greenhouse gasses if you eat vegetables, particularly if you eat a lot of rice. Now, this is WAY better than eating a lot of meat and rice. But I think that animals harm other animals to get their food and that’s OK. And I think the answer to energy problems and conservation and global warming is partially looking at our own choices, but in large part there’s going to have to be massive change on the global level, and I question how much individual action actually accomplishes. And, when you’re shaming people to act on an individual level that, to be honest, most people aren’t going to do…well…what’s the benefit there? The best argument I’ve heard for individual action is awareness-building to incite more people to push for political change, but it’s not awareness-building if people think you’re a preachy asshole.

    IDK, I despair a bit when I think of the energy and conservation questions. But then, I do research for green energy, so that may be why I’m so jaded. =P

  118. May 13, 2011 at 8:40 am

    samanthab: I would add, too, that I’m not denying anyone’s right to make their own choices. I just wish they weren’t so quick to dismiss mine as silly. It gets old!!!

    Oh, and truth! I’m a fat lady who keeps kosher and there is NO END to people questioning my personal food choices.

  119. preying mantis
    May 13, 2011 at 8:43 am

    “Would I be a horrible, horrible person if I bought my cat a live mouse for a present? Seriously, she would like it way more than a cat toy.”

    As someone who has bought live feeder mice for animals in the past, I wouldn’t get one for my cats based on the fact that they often don’t kill quickly or cleanly. For a carnivore that does, I’ve never seen a persuasive argument as to why “Killing an animal raised for the purpose of feeding other animals directly” is morally more objectionable than “Buying feed composed of animals killed for food after having been raised for the purpose of feeding other animals.”

  120. chava
    May 13, 2011 at 8:50 am

    Yeah…..the major environmental impact that I have been up close & personal with is in the Southwest. Cattle ranching ruins riparian zones, rips up the desert, and in general fucks up some pretty awesome land.

    Farming, though? Has drained the water table of the entire region (well, along with golf courses and retirement communities). You’re not meant to grow broccoli and spinach in the desert.

    So as far as the environmental considerations, it’s not nearly as simple as “go vegan.” Not nearly.

  121. JP
    May 13, 2011 at 9:09 am

    samanthab: And I do get weary of strawmen as to the logic of my vegetarianism. I do it for environmental reasons, and you can’t deny that those are significant.

    The strawpersons are being erected by none other than your putative extremist allies, and not by the critics.

    There is, of course, an environmental argument to be made for reducing meat consumption – the argument is not straightforward, involving, as it does, a number of normative and a number of complex empirical assumptions (the normative ones, helpfully, need not include any about animal rights, thereby appearing sounder at the outset than the sort promoted by the vegans here). A standard way of pushing back on it is to put pressure on the idea that the reduction of meat consumption uniquely fulfills the environmental goals, but that is not of much interest presently.

    More pertinently, an environmental argument for lower meat consumption may succeed where a parallel argument for prohibition (or even just zero consumption) does not. E.g. as the consumption rate drops, the rate of environmental improvement may asymptotically level out at non-zero production rate. And if, say, there are no more environmental gains to be had once meat consumption has fallen by X%, the environmentalist must be indifferent to whether the population will now consist of X% of vegetarians, or of omnivores who eat X% less meat they used to (where X is set by some complex empirical facts).

    Even worse, there will always exists modes of meat consumption that fail to exert even a marginal influence on the demand for meat production, and hence have no environmental impact different from a vegetarian activity. In such cases (which may be arbitrarily rare – though I suspect are quite common; the old saw of a vegetarian arriving to a friend’s for dinner, only to find the less-than-sharp friend has already prepared an omnivorous meal is a cartoonish example of this) a purely environmentalist vegetarian will have no reasons to refrain from meat.

    All in all, the case generated by environmental concerns, while itself stronger, yields a weaker conclusion than the animal rights arguments, and a much weaker conclusion than what is needed to get the local puppy-killer condemnation-brigade going.

    [By the way, the per capita meat consumption rate in the US continues to grow, although at a slower rate for the last ten years, which may well have to do more with the overall economic conditions than with vegetarian or vegan activism.]

  122. May 13, 2011 at 9:43 am

    Thanks, samanthab, you worded that quite well and I agree with you.

    I understand why people would be annoyed by preachy types, but I also think statements like the one above calling veganism a “pile of bullshit” are unnecessarily disrespectful.

    When discussing the issue with my partner, who is not and will never be vegan (though he eats a lot less meat these days, since he’d much rather eat my vegan cooking than prepare his own food, LOL), he asked me if veganism was a spiritual belief for me. After some thought, I realized that it is. I was not raised in any particular spiritual tradition so it was hard to compare, but my veganism is deeply tied to how I experience the world and what kind of person I strive to be.

    My partner was raised in a religion, and rejects many aspects of it (like believing in God!) but others are still very important to him. He said he thinks spiritual beliefs really can’t be argued about like other topics can, and therefore he would accept my veganism and not try to pick it apart. I’m not saying everyone has to agree with that, but it certainly helped our relationship!

  123. May 13, 2011 at 9:49 am

    Oh, and re-reading my comment, I want to make it clear that I am not trying to discourage discussion or even argument about this topic if that’s what people want to do. I just wish people would try to be respectful, on both sides, and for non-veg*ns to keep in mind that for many of us veg*ns this is a very important part of our lives and it sucks to be ridiculed for it.

  124. Puggins
    May 13, 2011 at 9:57 am

    auditorydamage:
    Of course, this will only last as long as fossil hydrocarbons are cheap and plentiful. I’ve had a somewhat hard time locating good info on remaining supplies of known and predicted oil deposits but what little I could find pointed toward exhaustion within a century, two max.

    So, the short version of the above is… we’re going to be in trouble relatively soon, and we can change now or be forced to change later.

    With respect, AD (and I mean that), you’re wrong. Just because hydrocarbon-based transport is the easiest and cheapest method available doesn’t mean that an alternative won’t be used to transport food. I guarantee you that if/when fuel starts becoming too expensive due to scarcity, the electrical train network in this country (fueled by nuclear power) will be re-vitalized. And once the necessary capital is invested, the train system will get the animal products to market quite cheaply.

    Never underestimate the adaptability of humanity when its lifestyle is threatened.

  125. JP
    May 13, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Bridget: I just wish people would try to be respectful, on both sides, and for non-veg*ns to keep in mind that for many of us veg*ns this is a very important part of our lives and it sucks to be ridiculed for it.

    You might find that non-proselytizing religions tend come up for much less scorn and ridicule.

  126. May 13, 2011 at 10:40 am

    (for all those who want to come over for dinner…thanks! I love to cook. my advice to guests is always “wear baggy pants, or a long top so you can feel comfy after undoing the top button on your pants.” when I have people over, I like to really do it right….four courses, seconds encouraged, and copious amounts of wine or sangria flowing. If ya wanna bring something….bring one’a those sexy guys in shorts you’re talkin’ about on the other thread!)

    What I think gets bypassed in these conversations is…..food is *intimate*. Telling someone else how to eat is akin to telling them what type of sex they should be having, and with whom.

    I do like the acknowledgement of a spiritual connection to one’s diet. What I don’t understand is a lack of recognition that others (like myself) also feel that connection, but have come to a different conclusion, and/or have different core beliefs. (I’m using the term “spiritual” very loosely here….I’m not thinking of any formal religious belief system or dogma; just that consciousness of connection, interrelatedness, or interbeing….no Godhead required.)

    And last but not least, I agree with samanthab that the growth of vegetarianism has made it easier for even non-vegetarians to consider vegetarian meals…but. Keep in mind that although anglo vegetarians may find or have found a revelation in vegetarian cuisine, most of the world was eating like this long before (and we continue to do so). Produce sections of grocery stores aren’t well-stocked because of vegetarians, but because of the vegetable-heavy cuisines of cooks from areas where…..more fruits and vegetables grow.

  127. FashionablyEvil
    May 13, 2011 at 10:58 am

    I struggle to find a morally relevant division between myself and nonhumans.

    I forgot to mention this earlier: “Philosophers have often looked for the defining feature of humans — language, rationality, culture and so on. I’d stick with this: Man is the only animal that likes Tabasco sauce.”

  128. May 13, 2011 at 11:33 am

    Abby: Some of them abuse the animals and their own families in an understandable reaction to the horror and stress.

    Whoa. No. Abusing your family is not an understandable reaction to anything, no matter how horrible or stressful.

  129. GinnyC
    May 13, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    preying mantis:
    “Would I be a horrible, horrible person if I bought my cat a live mouse for a present? Seriously, she would like it way more than a cat toy.”

    As someone who has bought live feeder mice for animals in the past, I wouldn’t get one for my cats based on the fact that they often don’t kill quickly or cleanly.For a carnivore that does, I’ve never seen a persuasive argument as to why “Killing an animal raised for the purpose of feeding other animals directly” is morally more objectionable than “Buying feed composed of animals killed for food after having been raised for the purpose of feeding other animals.”

    Fair enough. My cat is somewhat better than the average pet cat at killing mice because she wasn’t taken from her mother too young. However, considering the amount of mayhem a mouse can cause, maybe crayfish are a better present?

  130. Abby
    May 13, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    JP, I don’t think you need to be able to speak a language in order to suffer. I also don’t think that you need to have an understanding of the future in order for death to be a harm to you. I’m hampered in replying more fully to your philosophical arguments because of a desire to avoid all analogies with humans.

    You’re right that a simple appeal to ‘Minimize suffering’ would not necessarily lead to veganism and that an appeal to rights or inherent value, a la Tom Regan or Gary Francione, would be a better bet.

  131. Abby
    May 13, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    JP, I just re-read your post, and I’m wondering if I misinterpreted your views. Are you saying that animal suffering has no moral value, or simply saying that human and animal suffering are nit the same? Why is language important in suffering? If I were brain-damaged and had lost my ability for language, would my suffering be less important?

  132. Abby
    May 13, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    Victoria, what did you do with the male calves on your farm? My understanding is that they are usually slaughtered.

    Konkonsn, if you want to learn about ranchers and farmers who have gone vegan, you should check out the Humane Myth website (if my memory serves me correctly.) :-)

  133. Abby
    May 13, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Victoria, not all vegans are upper-middle-class or white. Have you checked out the Vegans of Color blog? http://vegansofcolor.wordpress.com/ It’s excellent.

  134. Kara
    May 13, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Bridget: I just wish people would try to be respectful, on both sides, and for non-veg*ns to keep in mind that for many of us veg*ns this is a very important part of our lives and it sucks to be ridiculed for it.

    It goes both ways.

    I am not a vegan. I eat meat. I like meat, I think that it tastes good, and I am going to continue to eat meat. I also eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, grains, and other plants. I think that they also taste good. If I find it to be tasty, then I eat it.

    I don’t care what you (vegans, vegetarians, etc.) eat. Eat whatever you want. It doesn’t effect me.

    But I do get so so tired of people (vegans, vegetarians) who assume that because I eat meat (and other animal products) that I am ignorant about where my food comes from, and too stupid to learn about it for myself, and need to be educated so that I “come to the light”.

    I know where my food comes from. Plants and animals. Really. Trust me. And…. I still eat meat.

    Can we all respect each other? Can vegans and vegetarians respect meat-eaters as well as the other way around?

    I don’t bug you about what you eat and why you eat that way…. and I expect that you will leave me alone about what I eat.

  135. stuff&nonsense
    May 13, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    Bridget:
    Oh, and re-reading my comment, I want to make it clear that I am not trying to discourage discussion or even argument about this topic if that’s what people want to do.I just wish people would try to be respectful, on both sides, and for non-veg*ns to keep in mind that for many of us veg*ns this is a very important part of our lives and it sucks to be ridiculed for it.

    Oh please. No one here is ridiculing vegans for being vegans. Has it crossed your mind that it’s the condescending “if you only knew the facts then you’d see this is the only moral choice” crap that people are objecting to and snarking about? Please accept and respect the fact that people who choose to eat meat are not all ignorant about where it comes from and don’t need to be “educated” by you and then everything will be cool.

  136. JP
    May 13, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    Abby: JP, I just re-read your post, and I’m wondering if I misinterpreted your views.

    I was not defending any particular positive view. Rather, I was merely pointing out the weakness of the vegan case as it has been presented here.

    I certainly am not saying that linguistic capacity is a prerequisite for suffering. Some animals without it almost certainly have phenomenal experiences of pain and other discomforts (most animals, of course, almost certainly have no phenomenal experiences whatever). However, the vegans must produce an account of why all suffering is morally bad (and equally bad, if that is being claimed in addition) – an account on which non-human suffering is morally bad enough that causing it when one can avoid doing so is morally prohibited (rather than just supererogatory). We live, by and large, in a moral community that does not consider all suffering morally bad (else we’d all be vegans already), and that is why merely stipulating that it is fails to be persuasive.

    Plausibly, the moral badness of the suffering of human persons is explained by the complex role suffering plays in the totality of our mental lives (for simplicity, I will only talk about mental lives individualistically, but in a fuller account the communal aspects of mentality will likely be relevant also). For instance, we can fear suffering; we can hope for our suffering to end; we can desire to suffer less in the future; we can regret having suffered; we can hate those who inflict suffering on us; we can pity those who suffer; we can wish suffering on those we think deserve punishment; we can approve of those who voluntarily suffer for a good cause; etc. I am not offering any specific theory of what makes suffering morally bad here, of course – just enumerating some of the sorts of facts that any such theory will plausibly have to invoke in one way or another if it is to be successful. This is the place to note that all (or at least the vast majority) of these complicated attitudes that we take toward suffering require that we be able to think linguistically, which other animals cannot do. Suffering simply cannot play the complex role in their mental lives that it does in ours, because their mental lives are much simpler. This is not to say non-human suffering isn’t in fact morally bad. But vegans face a special challenge to show why it is, when they have no recourse to the most promising approaches to showing why human suffering is morally bad. And they haven’t even attempted to do so in this thread (the “desire to avoid all analogies with humans” is also deeply puzzling).

    [The moral status of the suffering of those persons whose mental life has become temporarily or permanently impoverished for some reason (where the term “impoverished” is to be understood without normative connotations, but just as describing the loss of previously extant mental capacities), such as due to extensive brain injury, will depend on the details of whatever theory we take best explains what makes human suffering morally bad in the first place. Suffice it to say, not all such theories, even if they happen to ground the badness of suffering in the role it plays in the mental life of an idealised typical subject, will necessarily judge the suffering of those in whose mental life suffering can no longer play such a complex role as less morally relevant. In short, for the purposes of this discussion, the issue is a red herring.]

    [As another aside, vegans will also need an expansive and subtle account of just what suffering is, if they are to make sense of animals without any phenomenal experiences being able to suffer, while plants, fungi, clocks, and refrigerators are immune from suffering – to the point that we can eat them, break them, etc.]

    On the issue of harm done by death to non-human animals (independently of suffering), again some of the most persuasive responses to the Epicurean no-harm view depend on the richness of human mental life (the caveat about an individualistic reading of this still applies). If vegans want to maintain that death harms non-human animals, they have to come up with alternative ways to block Epicurus. Merely asserting that death harms is not sufficient (or that it harms sufficiently to be prohibited!).

    The move towards neo-Kantian arguments for animal rights, like Regan’s, or Korsgaard’s (whose version I personally find more convincing), is welcome. It’s just too bad that these arguments bear little resemblance to the bulk of what the vegans here have been saying. Which brings us back to the view of veganism as a puritanical secular religion, and of this entire discussion as proselytism masquerading as mutual moral illumination.

  137. PrettyAmiable
    May 13, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    groggette: Whoa. No. Abusing your family is not an understandable reaction to anything, no matter how horrible or stressful.

    QFT. Like, 3000 times.

  138. Elisabeth
    May 13, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    Jill: Totally, vegans are complicit in fewer deaths than omnivores (who “causes” the deaths is not as simple)

    Um…I don’t know about you, but I am totally strangling a squirrel with my bare hands right now (well, with one hand, I have to type with the other). I’m not going to eat it, it’s just as an omnivore I get pleasure out of torturing small animals.

  139. May 13, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    Victoria said:
    “What every single vegan I have ever met never understood, irl or on the internet, is that humans are not separate from the world of animals. Good, sustainable, ethical, reliable farming requires harmony with the animals it employs. ”

    I find this fascinating. I am not doubting your lived experience, it just has not been mine. In fact, most (though not all, and certainly not online) of the vegans/vegetarians I know understand that very well. For me it is a central tenant of being veggie.

    I think that as with most arguments there is a lot of bashing on here. Yes, there is definitely some broad brush vegans-are-all-condescending sanctimonious white upper class assholes; there is also some meat-eaters-are-all-cruel-bastards talk. Those stances are both, obviously, bullshit, something we’d do well to remember. There is no morally absolute position in this one.

  140. smmo
    May 13, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    1. The sanctimonious, stupid, all white, overly privileged and etc. vegans and vegetarians that everyone so loves to bash must be given a huge amount of credit for the growing awareness of the evil that is factory farming. Of course Pollan et. al. want to take all the credit, but vegetarians have been screaming about this stuff for a damn long time.

    2. Fish are animals. If you eat fish you are not a vegetarian of any kind.

    Seriously?: I’m sorry, dairy and beef are completely incompatible with any kind of commitment to sustainability, even more so than other animal products.

    Pretty much sums it up.

  141. PrettyAmiable
    May 13, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    smmo: The sanctimonious, stupid, all white, overly privileged and etc. vegans and vegetarians that everyone so loves to bash must be given a huge amount of credit for the growing awareness of the evil that is factory farming.

    I don’t even – Are you – Holy shit, my head hurts.

  142. smmo
    May 13, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    @PrettyAmiable

    Sorry for the headache, but yes. I know the designer pork chop crowd would like to think they invented water but political activism around factory farming isn’t anything new.

    • May 13, 2011 at 6:32 pm

      The sanctimonious, stupid, all white, overly privileged and etc. vegans and vegetarians that everyone so loves to bash must be given a huge amount of credit for the growing awareness of the evil that is factory farming. Of course Pollan et. al. want to take all the credit, but vegetarians have been screaming about this stuff for a damn long time.

      Well yeah, vegetarians have been screaming about it to limited effect. And then people come along who are willing to take a more reasoned middle ground, and it actually works. So while Pollan et al don’t deserve ALL the credit, they do deserve a good bit for making the message actually accessible and palatable to most people. Seriously, I’m sympathetic to anti-animal-cruelty movements, and the sanctimony of a lot of Internet Vegans makes me even more insistent that I will never ever ever become one of those pleasureless holier-than-thou tofu-eaters (see how well your position is going over?).

  143. JP
    May 13, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    @smmo

    There seems to have been some superfluous verbiage in your comment. The following cut is truer to the substance of the point, such as it is, that you’ve made:

    smmo: The sanctimonious, stupid, all white, overly privileged and etc. vegans and vegetarians pretty much sums it up.

  144. Florence
    May 13, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    smmo: The sanctimonious, stupid, all white, overly privileged and etc. vegans and vegetarians that everyone so loves to bash must be given a huge amount of credit for the growing awareness of the evil that is factory farming.

    You misspelled your name — it’s “smug”.

  145. smmo
    May 13, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    JillAnd then people come along who are willing to take a more reasoned middle ground, and it actually works.

    Kind of like “fun feminists”? Got it. I’ll try to be less strident. That’s such a turn off!

    • May 13, 2011 at 11:59 pm

      Kind of like “fun feminists”? Got it. I’ll try to be less strident. That’s such a turn off!

      I’m fine with you being strident. If you’re going to be a dick-face to me, though, in my own space? I am going to be a dick-face back. Just so we’re on the same page.

      • May 14, 2011 at 12:12 am

        Oh, ffs, it’s a Daily Mail article, and Jill was suckered again.

        Jill, whatever your tender feelings for Viscount Rothermere, I do not choose to give his news empire any revenue: please notify that a link is to a DM article.

        Then we know it’s a made-up piece of tosh intended to get people like you to link to the site, and I for one will not bother.

        I wasn’t “suckered.” I know what the Daily Mail is. I thought the article was funny, so I linked to it.

        And no, despite my “tender feelings” (what, seriously?) I am not going to give warnings about linking to the Daily Mail. Despite your tender sensibilities, which apparently cannot bear being accosted by a right-wing website. THE HORROR!

        (Also, what Alison said. Mouse over the fucking link, jesus).

  146. May 13, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    FashionablyEvil: I forgot to mention this earlier: “Philosophers have often looked for the defining feature of humans — language, rationality, culture and so on. I’d stick with this: Man is the only animal that likes Tabasco sauce.”

    Disagree. My dog thinks Tabasco is awesome. The cats, not so much, but they will eat something touched in Tabasco if it means they get to swipe it from the dog. :P

  147. smmo
    May 13, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    JP: There seems to have been some superfluous verbiage in your comment.

    Well you are the expert.

  148. PrettyAmiable
    May 13, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    smmo: @PrettyAmiable

    Sorry for the headache, but yes. I know the designer pork chop crowd would like to think they invented water but political activism around factory farming isn’t anything new.

    Yeah, it seems to me that you didn’t get it. The demanding attention and praise for privileged white people thing? That makes you a douche. A giant bag of douche.

    But yes, we made water. You’re welcome. (WTF?)

  149. Abby
    May 13, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    JP, I think most people already agree that causing unnecessary suffering to an animal is wrong– look at the opposition to and discomfort with factory farming. I also think most people already believe on some level that death is a harm to animals–most of us are uncomfortable with the idea of killing a dog. I am asking those people to be consistent and go vegan. I don’t think I need to define suffering or get into a deep philosophical discussion for those people.

    You have said yourself that there are credible ethical theories that support veganism. With that knowledge, do you think it’s fair to claim that veganism is a religion and has no logical underpinnings?

    Lastly, I see nothing wrong with an ethical theory that appeals to our intuitions–basic intuitions, like the idea that animal suffering
    matters–an idea that has been popular in the U.S. for over one hundred years, even if the law hasn’t caught up.

  150. smmo
    May 13, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    Jill: and it actually works.

    In all seriousness, is it working? Are we seeing less animal cruelty, less factory farming? I’m not sure that the slow food/Pollanites are having much of an impact. Or the purist veggies. Or anyone else.

    @PrettyAmiable: Sarcasm. Hello? But thanks for all the insults. It’s been fun.

  151. Kristen J.
    May 13, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    Abby: I also think most people already believe on some level that death is a harm to animals–most of us are uncomfortable with the idea of killing a dog.

    You keep bringing up companion animals, but l don’t think that proves what you think it does. Many animals have symbiotic relationships with others animals that might otherwise be a food source. Our reluctance to kill and eat dogs is a cultural relic of their role in our society. Not a reflection of some touchstone of empathy to which we all relate in

  152. PrettyAmiable
    May 13, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    I understood it was sarcasm. It doesn’t mean it makes sense. Meat-eating folk aren’t being sanctimonious. Not, anyway, like privileged folk demanding attention and praise.

    It has been fun! Good luck in turning even more people away from veganism and vegetarianism. You’re doing a great job.

  153. smmo
    May 13, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    PrettyAmiable:
    I understood it was sarcasm. It doesn’t mean it makes sense. Meat-eating folk aren’t being sanctimonious. Not, anyway, like privileged folk demanding attention and praise.

    It has been fun! Good luck in turning even more people away from veganism and vegetarianism. You’re doing a great job

    Your user name is kind of misleading.

  154. JP
    May 13, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    Abby: I think most people already agree that causing unnecessary suffering to an animal is wrong– look at the opposition to and discomfort with factory farming. I also think most people already believe on some level that death is a harm to animals–most of us are uncomfortable with the idea of killing a dog. I am asking those people to be consistent and go vegan. I don’t think I need to define suffering or get into a deep philosophical discussion for those people.

    […]

    I see nothing wrong with an ethical theory that appeals to our intuitions–basic intuitions, like the idea that animal suffering
    matters.

    Your first statement is true only on a most peculiar interpretation of “most people” – specifically, when you interpret it to mean “most social liberals in Western countries.” Most people, where we mean presently living human persons, to the first approximation, are not much concerned with the idea of animal rights at all (whether they ought to be or not). Apart from this, perhaps telling, sidestep, most people at any time can presumably be morally mistaken (as they once were about, say, slavery), so the appeal to majority doesn’t carry much weight in the absence of additional argument (perhaps you might say something along the lines of “there are good reasons to believe that humanity is on a path of continual moral progression, so that more recently popular moral opinions are more reliable than older ones, and these good reasons are…”).

    Additionally, you have so far not seemed to be attracted to moral expressivism. When you say that eating animals is wrong, you have not, it seems to me, just been saying it’s icky, and encouraging others to find it icky too. So you cannot now justifiably rely on visceral discomfort to be the primary guide to discovering true moral principles. And even if you recant your previous realism, the brand of expressivism you suggest will quickly lead you to a place where you are issuing similar edicts of condemnation against homosexuality, miscegenation, incest among freely consenting adults, etc., which likewise (still) provoke widespread visceral discomfort.

    Neither can you, as an empirical fact about human thinkers, rely on someone’s visceral discomfort with the thought of an action being a good guide to what moral beliefs they hold about that action “on some level,” not to mention what their considered moral opinion of that action would be. One might as easily end up, after a bout of moral reasoning, being morally motivated to overcome one’s discomfort, as one might end up being inclined to morally endorse it.

    Let us for the next step assume that you have some independent grounds for preferring consistent moral outlooks (especially hard if you’re now tilting towards expressivism). Granting that, you still have a lot of work to demonstrate that there is any moral inconsistency introduced by simultaneously feeling discomfort at the thought of killing a dog and eating animal flesh. Perhaps in the case of the dog, one is misguided by amphiboly, in the Kantian sense. Or perhaps one’s discomfort stems only from a particular emotional attachment to dogs (or even a specific dog), in the absence of an underlying moral principle. Especially if you are not merely encouraging people to embrace their feelings of ickiness, you’ve just not said enough to persuade an open-minded, but sceptical, interlocutor. Even those who hold animal suffering matters morally, need not necessarily conclude that eating all (or even any) meat is morally wrong, in the absence of additional premisses.

    Finally, if you (wisely) move away from the visceral senses of discomfort that you’ve invoked, towards an appeal to independent basic moral intuitions – an appeal that is perhaps ultimately unavoidable – as you do in your final paragraph, you are left with the task of showing to those who do not immediately agree with you that they in fact have the same basic moral intuitions (and that your desired conclusion follows from them!). And this has to be done by argument. But perhaps the goal has never been so much to persuade the open-minded as to chide the infidels.

    Abby: You have said yourself that there are credible ethical theories that support veganism. With that knowledge, do you think it’s fair to claim that veganism is a religion and has no logical underpinnings?

    I do think there are credible ethical theories that support veganism. Some philosophers (though not many these days) also think that there are credible metaphysical theories that support the existence of God, and even the divinity of Jesus. But the mere existence of such theories matters not a bit to the fact that most practicing Christians hold their beliefs about Jesus religiously, in the dogmatic sense. It is because of what the vegans here have (and haven’t) been saying that I find their veganism is most likely a puritanical religion without reasoned underpinnings.

  155. May 13, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    Well, I don’t think I’ve done any proselytizing or “educating” so I don’t understand where that’s coming from. Just because some vegans act that way doesn’t mean all of us do.

    I did call for respect for both sides, which is what I try to practice.

  156. May 13, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    What Bridget said. Seriously, being an asshole is being an asshole, no matter what side of the debate you are on. And–have I mentioned this yet?–there are NO MORAL ABSOLUTES on this one, kids.

    and now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go play with the dog and watch more Glee. (I know, Glee is certainly…something something something that equals “watching Glee makes you an Official Bad Feminist.”)

  157. JP
    May 13, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    I’ve got another longish response to Abby in moderation now.

    A couple of quick things, though:

    @Bridget: if some of us are right that our vegan discussants are promoting an essentially religious view, as I’ve said recently in the other animal rights thread, what is called for is mutual toleration, rather than respect.

    @vanessa: the vegans here are claiming that eating all animal flesh is morally wrong; it doesn’t get much more absolute than that. It’s either morally wrong or it isn’t.

    But I’m starting to feel this thread had passed the point of diminishing returns long before I joined it.

  158. May 13, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    “@vanessa: the vegans here are claiming that eating all animal flesh is morally wrong; it doesn’t get much more absolute than that. It’s either morally wrong or it isn’t.”

    I’m not saying that. OTOH I am vegetarian not a vegan. and I believe that FOR ME it is true that eating animals is morally wrong; I nonetheless maintain that for all (okay many) of the reasons stated on this thread, it is not as black and white as one makes it out to be. In my ideal world, nobody would eat factory farmed meat, ever. But we don’t live in my ideal world, and the real world is pretty fucking complicated.

  159. JP
    May 13, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    vanessa: and I believe that FOR ME it is true that eating animals is morally wrong

    I’m not getting exactly what you’re saying here. Is it that

    (A) it is true that it would be morally wrong for you (and maybe people whose circumstances are relevantly similar) to eat animals, while it is not morally wrong for some other people (whose circumstances are relevantly different) to eat animals (i.e. that whether someone can morally eat animals is relative to the circumstances of their life),

    or that

    (B) it is true for you that it would be morally wrong for anybody to eat animals, while it may be true for others that it is not morally wrong for anybody to eat animals (i.e. that moral truths about eating animals are themselves relative).

    There are many good reasons to reject something like (B) and moral relativism in general (and very few good reasons to endorse it), while (A) can be much more plausible if one spells out the relevant circumstances well enough, but has been vigorously denied by a number of vegans in the thread. Most omnivores here have affirmed the moral badness of eating animals that suffered greatly and needlessly in circumstances where one can reasonably avoid doing so.

  160. Elisabeth
    May 14, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    What we need is a picture of Princess what’s-her-face’s hat, but made out of meat.

  161. May 14, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    Elisabeth, in the meantime, we have this

  162. May 14, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Elisabeth, in the meantime, we have this

  163. wobbly
    May 14, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    I raise beef cattle on grass and we sure as hell don’t kill bull calves when they’re born. We castrate them and then we slaughter them at the same age as the heifers. Same goes for boars.
    Victoria is spot on in her description of what a small, diverse farm can be. I can’t emphasize enough how important diversity is in agriculture.
    And it sounds dismissive, but I don’t see any way a consumer society where people are disconnected from the sources of the things they need and use can address these problems effectively. Even if everyone were to agree tomorrow that factory farms are unjustifiable, people are still stuck relying on labels and buzzwords. Food can be legally organic without being anywhere near sustainable and there are people who farm wonderfully but don’t get certified as organic.

  164. Elisabeth
    May 14, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    thewhatfor@183
    hee! I don’t know what’s up with the people who made that site, except awesomeness!

  165. Allison
    May 14, 2011 at 11:44 pm

    Victoria:

    I have worked on my family’s farm since I was a tot (does that make me a murderer from birth?), it’s a dairy farm

    I worked on a commercial fishing boat. Heartless killer.

  166. May 15, 2011 at 8:11 am

    JP–I think I mean both, actually. Or rather what I mean is exactly this: I could not live with myself if I ate meat/used tested products. For me personally it is the exact same feeling as the fact that I could not live with myself if I was running around making racist comments all day. However, I also recognize that of course that is not true for everyone, and while I feel strongly that eating less–or preferably none–factory farmed meat is a laudable goal across the board, I not doing so does not inherently make one a bad person.
    Hope that makes more sense!

  167. JP
    May 15, 2011 at 11:16 am

    vanessa: Hope that makes more sense!

    I’m still not quite following you. Most of those who can live with themselves “running around making racist comments all day” are presumably able to do so because they don’t think what they’re doing is morally wrong. But, in fact, it is. They are morally mistaken – and their particular moral mistake casts doubts on their moral character overall. It is the sort of mistake that makes one morally reprehensible. So I’m not understanding your choice of analogy.

    Of course, there might be other, minor, sorts of moral mistakes we can all make that don’t immediately affect our moral character. Perhaps you think the omnivores are making this sort of pardonable moral mistake. Or is it that eating meat, even if not a minor moral mistake, is excused by the external circumstances of some people’s lives (the omnivores are acting immorally under duress, as it were)?

    But a major point of contention here has been precisely whether eating meat is any sort of moral mistake at all. The omnivores have argued that it is generally not (while possibly making exceptions for certain cases, such as extreme and avoidable suffering of animals about to be eaten, or eating members of endangered species, etc.).The vegans have simply stomped their feet.

  168. Schmorgluck
    May 15, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    I know few vegetarians (no vegans) and none of them bother me. In fact, I recently started playing an RPG campaign with one vegetarian in the table of players and my first reaction was to think out of my habits in terms of what snacks to cook, my usual tuna quickbread being ruled out (and thanks, La Lubu, I’ll keep fried polenta in mind as a basis, this sounds awesome).

    I think that, like with talks about Christian fundies, we’re facing a case of misdirected solidarity: the inexplicable urge of some otherwise reasonable persons to side with bigots in their common belief system, even though they don’t agree with their bigotry. It puzzles me to no end.

    What I think gets bypassed in these conversations is…..food is *intimate*. Telling someone else how to eat is akin to telling them what type of sex they should be having, and with whom.

    Spot on.

    While I was reading this thread, I heard on the radio of a demonstration I hadn’t heard of before: Veggie Pride. Seriously “Veggie Pride”? This choice of label indicates that the people behind it have absolutely no sensitivity whatsoever, or are complete idiots.

  169. May 16, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    JP: I think you are not understanding me. I said that *I* would not be able to live with myself if I ate meat. I care a lot less about what you do with your body. As I’ve said in an ideal world no one would eat factory farmed meat: but we do not live in an ideal world, and in this area there are no absolutes.
    An imperfect analogy, certainly, were I to be comparing omnivores to racists, which I am not. I am merely saying that FOR ME, for my own personal moral compass, I could not live with myself being either. But I fully expect others to have differing moral compasses and feel that this is certainly one area in which we can disagree without anyone being objectively “right”.

  170. JP
    May 17, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    vanessa: I […] feel that this is certainly one area in which we can disagree without anyone being objectively “right”.

    But that’s precisely one of the claims that has been under dispute here! So just saying that one feels like it is the case doesn’t get us beyond where we’ve started.

  171. May 22, 2011 at 11:49 am

    JP: But that’s precisely one of the claims that has been under dispute here! So just saying that one feels like it is the case doesn’t get us beyond where we’ve started.

    And yet I said in anyway! It’s almost like I was posting what I think without regards to advancing the discussion, which I’m sure we can all agree makes me A Bad Feminist.

  172. June 1, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    After a gasp from their fingers just happy halle berry pics to his thick meat. sarah palin fakes I want to his eyes were closed and.

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