Veganism

#63
My family is 100% vegetarian since 1993, that is 22 yrs. I just want to express my opinion that it is much more useful to look at the population studies comparing health of large groups of veg and non-veg people like this study from Oxford performed on 45.000 volunteers

http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2013-01-30-vegetarianism-can-reduce-risk-heart-disease-third

concluding that vegetarianism can reduce risk of heart disease by up to a third. You can easily find other large studies cocluding that veg people suffer less from some types of cancer and in general live a few yrs longer.

My point is that at the nutrients level there are still some facts about diet which are unknown and thus "experimental" results (meaning population studies) have better value then theoretical speculations. Just as an illustrative example (similar as fats mentioned by David): higher absorption of heme iron (found in meats) than non-heme iron (plants) was believed to be an advantage of non-veg diets. Nowadays it is pointed out that actually for non-heme iron body can regulate the level of absorbtion depending on the actual needs, while for the heme iron this is not possible. This may lead to too high iron levels which according to some studies correlate with alzheimer etc... I would however much more appretiate results from a population study comparing incidence of alzheimer for vegs and non-vegs etc...
 
#64
My family is 100% vegetarian since 1993, that is 22 yrs. I just want to express my opinion that it is much more useful to look at the population studies comparing health of large groups of veg and non-veg people like this study from Oxford performed on 45.000 volunteers

http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2013-01-30-vegetarianism-can-reduce-risk-heart-disease-third

concluding that vegetarianism can reduce risk of heart disease by up to a third. You can easily find other large studies cocluding that veg people suffer less from some types of cancer and in general live a few yrs longer.

My point is that at the nutrients level there are still some facts about diet which are unknown and thus "experimental" results (meaning population studies) have better value then theoretical speculations. Just as an illustrative example (similar as fats mentioned by David): higher absorption of heme iron (found in meats) than non-heme iron (plants) was believed to be an advantage of non-veg diets. Nowadays it is pointed out that actually for non-heme iron body can regulate the level of absorbtion depending on the actual needs, while for the heme iron this is not possible. This may lead to too high iron levels which according to some studies correlate with alzheimer etc... I would however much more appretiate results from a population study comparing incidence of alzheimer for vegs and non-vegs etc...
This thread is about veganism, not vegetarianism. I have no objection to a vegetarian diet if one consumes high quality dairy and/or eggs. I think it would be the most ethical choice for many people.
 
#67
I was a vegan for 4 years. I enjoyed it and it felt very healthy. Now I eat cheese and eggs again because I like the way they taste. I don't think I'd go back to being a vegan but I don't hold it against anyone if they are and I don't see why people are bashing vegans in this thread. Damn!
 
#68
I was a vegan for 4 years. I enjoyed it and it felt very healthy. Now I eat cheese and eggs again because I like the way they taste. I don't think I'd go back to being a vegan but I don't hold it against anyone if they are and I don't see why people are bashing vegans in this thread. Damn!
You're right--my tone has been a bit snide with a few of my comments. My apologies to Laird and the rest.

This discussion isn't intended to bash vegans, but to discuss the dietary and ethical issues.

I don't know how much your comment was intended to add to the discussion itself (or perhaps you were wishing to defend Laird), but I could say the complete opposite essentially, since I feel that my lower carb, higher fat, high animal product diet made me feel very healthy, along with actual objective improvement in certain areas of health. Does that make this kind of diet right for everyone? Does your comment make a vegan diet right for everyone? Of course, your comment was not intended to be taken that way, but I am simply trying to say that people can vary enormously in how they react to different diets, and I think that is vital to this conversation because of the health and ethical implications.
 
#69
I was a vegan for 4 years. I enjoyed it and it felt very healthy. Now I eat cheese and eggs again because I like the way they taste. I don't think I'd go back to being a vegan but I don't hold it against anyone if they are and I don't see why people are bashing vegans in this thread. Damn!
I don't think anyone was bashing veganism per se. I think what your seeing (speaking for myself anyway) is a defensiveness sparked by the implication that being a carnivore or omnivore is an inherently "bad thing". I think most are simply trying to argue that it's a judgment call on the individual level, and for certain species, like cats who are obligate carnivores, a vegan diet can be quite dangerous. Moreover, in our zeal to protect animals from abuse, sometimes our ideology is forced on animals who cannot speak for themselves, which can bring grave harm IF extreme caution is not exercised.

I have zero problem with people choosing a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. I understand where their desire is coming from and I share those sympathies. But I'm also a realist and accept the fact that veganism is definitely not for me, and even vegetarianism would be a very difficult endeavor for me personally, due to aforementioned digestive issues that I have. It's a personal choice and I respect others enough to allow them that. But I draw a hard line at others telling others what they should do with their own lives. And I'm sorry, but, far far too many vegans want to make it an ideological argument. When the conversation starts out with calling non-vegan/vegetarians "carnist apologists" and statements like these:

Firstly, that's a morally bankrupt justification for the unnecessary taking of life.
As well as essentially calling pet owners (I prefer pet parent, since I don't "own" any living thing) wardens of Abu Ghraib (ok, I'm exaggerating here), it doesn't exactly invite friendly discourse.

I understand this is an issue we can all easily get very passionate about. It's easy to get caught up in ideology on both sides, and when people start getting defensive, the conversation can turn ugly quickly. I don't think Laird intended for his comments to come off the way they did. And I don't think anyone else here intended to invalidate anyone else's point if view. But emotions can run high and sometimes things are said unintentionally or perhaps can come off much harsher than intended.
 
#70
Well that's a oxymoron when it comes to diet for carnivorous animals.
The problem here is that I provided a lot of strong evidence that this is not the case. I didn't think that you were the type of guy to simply ignore evidence. You don't present yourself in that way.

They cannot convert plant forms of nutrients into necessary forms like most humans can. They don't have the enzyme pathways. Their digestive systems are not made for that type of food.
Any missing nutrients - including taurine - are simply added to the food. If their digestive systems could not handle this type of food, then how is it that there are so many healthy vegan cats and dogs?

Not only that, you're a hypocrite, because you think that keeping pets is akin to slavery since you force them to live with you, yet you are perfectly happy forcing a carnivorous animal to eat a vegan diet because of your belief system!
Here, you present one supposed "harm" - the supposed "forcing" of an animal to eat a vegan diet - totally out of the context of the opposing harm which avoiding it would entail: the forcing of multiple farm animals to die ghastly deaths across that animal's lifetime. It is obvious which is the worse harm, and this is consistent with my ethics rather than hypocritical, especially given that there is strong evidence that vegan diets are not harmful to companion animals.

In any case (and this is simply an aside and not in the spirit of argument), I do not keep any animals myself, so the issue for me is not a personal one.

By the way, I have not said anything as definitive as "keeping pets is akin to slavery", but yes, there are parallels that can be made. Typically, we talk about pet "owners" "owning" pets - and whilst, as Vault313 notes, the language of pets-as-property is slowly changing, it is not difficult to see the parallel with the language of humans-as-property. In this respect, the biggest problem with the pet paradigm that we currently have is one that I haven't even mentioned yet: the mass slaughter of "stray" companion animals in pounds. This is a direct consequence of our artificial requirement that dogs and cats be "owned" and contained within a private residence.

Put down some veggies and oatmeal next to a piece of chicken or fish and see what the cat freely chooses.
Many people who feed their companion animals a vegan diet say that their animals prefer the vegan food to what they were previously fed. Sometimes it takes a period of adjustment. In any case, this is irrelevant: as I wrote above, even if an animal does not prefer a vegan diet, this is by far the lesser harm, especially because vegan pets do tend to be healthy.

This is complete non-sense. It's not a belief system! It's called our natural diet.
OK, so, tell me something: how many people in the West would chow down into a nice steak of dog, or a bit of roast cat leg, or some tender rat? Or a horse? How about some fried locusts? Locusts are plentiful in the USA, and I've heard that it is quite satisfying when you pop their crisp outer shell and their intestines explode into your mouth.

These are foods that are eaten in other cultures, yet in ours, they are taboo. We privilege certain animals as either "not food" or "disgusting to eat". This is not because eating those animals is "unnatural", but because of our belief system.

We could grant all animals and plants the privilege of being taboo as food, but our beliefs condition us not to.

(An acknowledgement: this is the basis of Dr. Joy's work; these insights are not original to me).

We have historical, physiological, and paleoanthropological data that shows we not only ate meat
Sure, and there is also historical, physiological, and palaeoanthropological data that shows that in some cultures and during some periods, the proportion of meat was very small, sometimes only opportunistically-acquired, and that in some religions, such as Jainism, there have for a long time been strict vegans.

In any case, none of this matters. What we did in the past is irrelevant to the present. If we were to restrict ourselves to what we did in the past, we would not drive cars, watch televisions, use computers, use modern pharmaceutical medicines or wear clothes made with synthetic fabrics. Do you think that immersing ourselves in a near-constant bath of electromagnetic radiation is "natural"? It is very probably harmful, but we do it because we perceive it to have benefits that outweigh the harms. Vegan-fruitarianism doesn't even have such harms, it is all benefit!

but eating meat was key in the development of our brains and social aspects.
That is a strongly contested idea - in particular, many experts believe in contrast that it was the introduction of cooked food, and not meat eating, that served that purpose - and for you to assert what you've asserted as a fact is far from reasonable or cautious. In any case, again, even if it were true, it wouldn't matter. However instrumental meat might have been in our development to this point, it is no longer a necessary part of our diets.

Our digestive systems are much closer to that of a predator than an herbivore, since we lack all the additional stomachs, produce strong stomach acid, etc.
These are rash and contestable statements. The case can easily be made that our comparative anatomy is closer to that of a herbivore rather than that of a predator. Note that I do not take a strict position on this, because the argument for vegan-fruitarianism is ethical, and doesn't rely on anything historical or whatever it is that might be declared "natural" for us, but here is an example of a strongly argued case very much the opposite of yours. Below, I've duplicated the table at the end.

We don't need "additional stomachs" because we are not ruminants! i.e. we do not need to digest grass. And we do not produce strong stomach acid compared to carnivores and omnivores, as the table below shows:

Code:
Facial Muscles
Carnivore 	Reduced to allow wide mouth gape
Herbivore 	Well-developed
Omnivore 	Reduced
Human 	Well-developed
 
Jaw Type
Carnivore 	Angle not expanded
Herbivore 	Expanded angle
Omnivore 	Angle not expanded
Human 	Expanded angle
 
Jaw Joint Location
Carnivore 	On same plane as molar teeth
Herbivore 	Above the plane of the molars
Omnivore 	On same plane as molar teeth
Human 	Above the plane of the molars
 
Jaw Motion
Carnivore 	Shearing; minimal side-to-side motion
Herbivore 	No shear; good side-to-side, front-to-back
Omnivore 	Shearing; minimal side-to-side
Human 	No shear; good side-to-side, front-to-back
 
Major Jaw Muscles
Carnivore 	Temporalis
Herbivore 	Masseter and pterygoids
Omnivore 	Temporalis
Human 	Masseter and pterygoids
 
Mouth Opening vs. Head Size
Carnivore 	Large
Herbivore 	Small
Omnivore 	Large
Human 	Small
 
Teeth (Incisors)
Carnivore 	Short and pointed
Herbivore 	Broad, flattened and spade shaped
Omnivore 	Short and pointed
Human 	Broad, flattened and spade shaped
 
Teeth (Canines)
Carnivore 	Long, sharp and curved
Herbivore 	Dull and short or long (for defense), or none
Omnivore 	Long, sharp and curved
Human 	Short and blunted
 
Teeth (Molars)
Carnivore 	Sharp, jagged and blade shaped
Herbivore 	Flattened with cusps vs complex surface
Omnivore 	Sharp blades and/or flattened
Human 	Flattened with nodular cusps
 
Chewing
Carnivore 	None; swallows food whole
Herbivore 	Extensive chewing necessary
Omnivore 	Swallows food whole and/or simple crushing
Human 	Extensive chewing necessary
 
Saliva
Carnivore 	No digestive enzymes
Herbivore 	Carbohydrate digesting enzymes
Omnivore 	No digestive enzymes
Human 	Carbohydrate digesting enzymes
 
Stomach Type
Carnivore 	Simple
Herbivore 	Simple or multiple chambers
Omnivore 	Simple
Human 	Simple
 
Stomach Acidity
Carnivore 	Less than or equal to pH 1 with food in stomach
Herbivore 	pH 4 to 5 with food in stomach
Omnivore 	Less than or equal to pH 1 with food in stomach
Human 	pH 4 to 5 with food in stomach
 
Stomach Capacity
Carnivore 	60% to 70% of total volume of digestive tract
Herbivore 	Less than 30% of total volume of digestive tract
Omnivore 	60% to 70% of total volume of digestive tract
Human 	21% to 27% of total volume of digestive tract
 
Length of Small Intestine
Carnivore 	3 to 6 times body length
Herbivore 	10 to more than 12 times body length
Omnivore 	4 to 6 times body length
Human 	10 to 11 times body length
 
Colon
Carnivore 	Simple, short and smooth
Herbivore 	Long, complex; may be sacculated
Omnivore 	Simple, short and smooth
Human 	Long, sacculated
 
Liver
Carnivore 	Can detoxify vitamin A
Herbivore 	Cannot detoxify vitamin A
Omnivore 	Can detoxify vitamin A
Human 	Cannot detoxify vitamin A
 
Kidney
Carnivore 	Extremely concentrated urine
Herbivore 	Moderately concentrated urine
Omnivore 	Extremely concentrated urine
Human 	Moderately concentrated urine
 
Nails
Carnivore 	Sharp claws
Herbivore 	Flattened nails or blunt hooves
Omnivore 	Sharp claws
Human 	Flattened nails
1. Vegan diets don't supply all necessary nutrients and also lack many conditionally essential nutrients. I thought we agreed not to get into posting a bunch of research? There is plenty out there showing deficiencies/insufficiencies for vegans, including insufficiencies of conditionally essential nutrients often lacking in vegan diets, which you seem to dismiss as even being a health concern, as if the only nutrients that matter are vitamins.
What I dismiss is that there are widespread negative health effects for all of these supposed deficiencies which you hypothesise. You want to say vegans are necessarily deficient in some nutrient X - OK, fine, so then why are there so many healthy vegans out there not showing any symptoms of deficiency?

2. You wish to promote a foreign diet as being perfectly fine for everyone, which already should raise a red flag because not everyone does well on the same sort of diet:
As I wrote in an earlier post, a vegan diet is more a spectrum of possibilities than a single diet.

There is in any case evidence that our anatomy is well-adapted to an herbivorous diet. It is not "foreign" to us. Whether or not humans have in the past included meat in our diet is irrelevant to our capacity to not do so in the present due to our physiological capacity to survive on an herbivorous diet.

a) It is unethical to put developing children on a vegan diet, to force an unnatural diet based on a faulty belief system, that could affect their development. Particularly, the fat soluble vitamins are vital for genetic expression, which is involved in things like proper bone structure so they don't have crowded teeth or develop cavities!
None of these vegan parents and kids agree with you, and nor do any of the major membership-based national associations of experts in nutrition in the USA, Australia, UK and Canada, despite being biased by the commercial interests of the meat, dairy, egg and fast food industries.

b) It is racially biased because not all ethnic backgrounds can do as well on a vegan diet which you ignore. Many Native American tribes do not handle plant-based diets well at all, since their ancestral diets have made them genetically more reliant on animal products.
If a cat - a so-called "obligatory carnivore" - can handle a vegan diet without "reliance on animal products", then any human race - at best adapted to an omnivorous diet - certainly can too.

c) You completely ignore the reality of research that you wish to claim supports your position by looking at averages and say that everything is okay. People are individuals, not averages! To ignore the people that do poorly on a vegan diet because the average may do okay and then say that they should also follow a vegan diet because "on average it is okay" is unethical.
No, what is unethical is the unnecessary taking of life, regardless of whether it benefits our health. In an earlier post, you mentioned depression, and you say that you think animal products cured that. I am very sympathetic to such problems, and I mean no lack of regard for your personal suffering in what I'm about to say, I genuinely wish you ongoing relief. I have experienced very, very low points myself - and I have for about fifteen years now suffered from psycho-spiritual problems which have at times become so bad that other people have felt the need to have me detained (involuntarily, always - but that's a topic for another thread) in psychiatric wards. I literally can't count (remember) the number of times that this has happened to me over those fifteen years, but if I thought that killing or otherwise harming animals or plants was a potential solution to those problems, I would anyway be aghast at the thought of implementing it. Our problems are our own to deal with, not for us to inflict on other beings.

d) There are many diseased states that make a vegan diet contraindicated, since either enzyme pathways converting plant forms of nutrients into the necessary forms may be compromised (possibly severely), or their digestive systems may not be capable of handling a plant-based diet for a variety of reasons. To say that these people should also be on a vegan diet is unethical.
To say that other beings should bite the bullet of our own problems is unethical. There is always a way. I linked to the meal replacement Soylent in an earlier post. That's one possible solution to otherwise apparently-intractable cases. If that doesn't work for some reason, then it just takes the effort to find the right solution.

Oh! It's okay to mangle the animals because scavenger birds will eat most of the rotting carcasses. Got it.
I am not sure how you could have gotten that from all that I have written on this issue. I have never said that it is "okay" that animals are mangled by harvesters. I have said that we should aim for a world where this does not occur. But I notice that you ignored the paper by Gaverick Matheny which I shared with you, and the arguments he presents.

Another page that I link to in my pre-written response which you probably skipped is the animalvisuals.org page, Number of Animals Killed to Produce One Million Calories in Eight Food Categories. Here, they take as one of their sources the same study that was used in the original argument (by Davis) that an omnivorous diet is least harmful, and they calculate the following figures. These assume that those original figures which Davis used are correct, which is a big assumption - the study wasn't, as far as I can tell, even designed to calculate animal deaths during harvest. In any case, based on existing plant agricultural practices, let alone after improving those practices, the figures for deaths per one million calories of various food categories (total, by slaughter, and by harvest) are:

Code:
Food       | Total  | Slghtr | Hrvst
-----------+--------+--------+------
Chicken    | 251.1  | 237.6  | 13.5
Eggs       |  92.3  |  83.3  |  9
Beef       |  29    |   1.7  | 27.4
Pork       |  18.1  |   7.1  | 11
Milk       |   4.78 |   0.04 |  4.74
Vegetables |   2.55 |   0    |  2.55
Fruits     |   1.73 |   0    |  1.73
Grains     |   1.65 |   0    |  1.65
Animal products entail far more animal deaths than do vegan products, even without any agricultural reforms, and not to mention the cruelty and suffering that animal products entail pre-death, which in most cases (most animals in the West at least are farmed in factory farms) is probably even worse than death.

You might be wondering: how can beef entail 27.4 deaths by harvest? I can only presume that this figure is due to taking into account those cattle which are fed grain in feed-lots. And you might be tempted to respond: but wait! This doesn't apply to me! I eat free-range beef! But in this respect you are and can only be a privileged minority in the current world: there is no way that there is enough space in the world with its current population for everybody to eat free-range beef (or free-range any animal). It is only possible for everybody to eat meat through farming animals in feed lots and/or industrial factories. So, in promoting the view that humans are dependent on animal products for health, and that we should all eat them, you are condemning animals to the cruelty that you say that you would like to see stamped out.

So eating their seeds, which they intended for reproduction, is in their best interest?
If we are farming these plants in the first place, then obviously there is no problem with their reproduction: it is in both our interests and the plants' that they reproduce. Plants produce and always have produced an excess of seeds.

What I am noticing is that when regarding ethics, the belief system behind veganism is internally inconsistent, while the belief system behind the ethical concerns of an omnivorous diet is not.

The reason for this seems to revolve around the belief that it is ethically wrong to kill, harm, or exploit any living thing in order to eat. [emphasis Laird's]
The bolded is a misstatement of the principle on which at least my own vegan-fruitarianism is based: that avoidable harm should be avoided. There is no inconsistency in veganism given that principle.

In contrast, omnivorous diets ignore this principle. You are yet to respond to it over this entire exchange.
 
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#71
I truly do not understand what is the big mystery behind understanding that yes, indeed, sometimes we are the prey. Just google it. There are literally hundreds of articles outlining the many times humans have been prey to many animals. There have been several instances contemporarily of animals seeking out humans specifically. In our modern age it is more rare, but most of human history has consisted of humans defending themselves against predators. It baffles me that anyone believes otherwise.
Vault313, I have to call you out on this, because the context of your original comment was this:

I accept that while I have aspirations for a better world, where all forms of life can live without fear or pain, I also accept that that is not reality. I am a part of this natural world. I accept that at times we are the predator, and at others, we are the prey.
In context, it is clear that you are trying to suggest some sort of symmetry between the occasions on which humans predate upon other animals and the occasions on which other animals predate upon us - a symmetry that would (you seem, in context, to be arguing) justify our predation. This is, however, obviously false in the modern world, which is what I pointed out to you in my initial response: the second term in the ratio is for all intents and purposes zero (certainly in comparison to the first term), and those cases of animal predation upon humans are largely due to humans knowingly putting themselves at risk, whereas cases of human predation upon animals are almost uniformly those in which the animal(s) is/are at the utter mercy of the human(s), and have not chosen to be. Highly "questionable" arguments of this sort are typical of carnist defences. I know that you won't like me saying that, but it's the truth.

Do you have a belief that animals are inherently better than humans? Do you believe they have more of a right to live on planet Earth than humans do?
Let me put those questions in context. They are like asking a campaigner against racism: do you have a belief that blacks are inherently better than whites? Do you believe they have more of a right to live on planet Earth than whites do?

So, in answer to your questions: no, I don't. I think that we are all Earthlings, and we all have an equal right to live here without being subjected to avoidable harm. Right now, that right is not being respected for the billions upon billions of animals in factory farms, zoos, aquariums, circuses, fighting rings, etc.

And one more question, unrelated to the above: what are your sources of protein?
Vegans get this question a lot. It seems to be a common myth that we have trouble with protein. This is far from the case. In fact, the question non-vegans should be asking themselves is "Am I getting too much protein?" An excess of protein, particularly animal protein, can cause health problems and disease.

Vegan-fruitarian foods on average have more than an adequate ratio of protein per kilojoule necessary to meet daily requirements. I know this because I've just done the calculation based on foods in the SR25 database. Based on my own daily energy requirements, the average ratio of protein per kilojoule compared to what is required, for all foods across the database food groups "Fats and Oils", "Breakfast Cereals", "Fruits and Fruit Juices", "Nut and Seed Products", "Legumes and Legume Products", and "Cereal Grains and Pasta" is 1.293 i.e. a perfectly sufficient ratio would be 1.0; this is better than sufficient.

That does not include the food group "Vegetables and Vegetable Products", since that food group contains some foods (plants) that I consider unethical to eat, but when you include that food group, the average goes up to 1.615. It also includes foods that I would never eat, like the sort of breakfast cereals that may as well be sugared cardboard, which have neglible protein content.

In other words, randomly selecting vegan or even vegan-fruitarian foods to eat, assuming you eat enough to meet your daily energy requirements, will almost certainly get you more than the protein that you need. But yes, some vegan-fruitarian foods (about 55%) are under, and some (about 45%) are above, and you wouldn't want to rely on random selection: unless you're sure your "random selection" is random enough, it can be helpful to include foods that are above to compensate for those that are under. Personally, some of those foods richer in protein per kilojoule which I currently consume include tofu, lentils, red kidney beans, pasta and bread.

Here's some more information on this issue in case you're interested in digging further: Protein in the Vegan Diet by The Vegetarian Resource Group.

P.S. There are more nutrients to be aware of than protein, so I wouldn't advocate "random selection" anyway - not even for omnivores.
 
#72
Laird,

I apologize in advance if you've already answered this and I missed it. I did read your blog/website but I'm still feeling confused on this part.
Thanks for the courtesy of reading my website before asking, I appreciate it.

In your irrefutable ethical argument for veganism, who determines what is "avoidable harm"? Is it an individual assessment? Is there a worldwide, agreed upon, prioritized list of avoidable harm? I read the "guide to compassionate living" but there were no prioritized lists of harms to avoid.
This is a good question. At the end of the essay that starts this section of my (very incomplete) site, I wrote (emphasis added):

"In trying to keep this essay as brief, simple and universally-agreeable as possible, I will not attempt to answer some of the more complicated questions about harm, such as to what extent it should be defined in absolute terms, and to what extent in relative or contextual terms. In the spirit of the Golden Rule, especially its positive framing - that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us - I encourage all of us to extend the definition of harm as far as possible".

In other words, I acknowledge that to some extent, that which constitutes "harm" is a matter of judgement. Whose judgement? That depends on context. In a court of law, it will be the judge. In a legislative process, it will be the parliament's. When individuals are making life decisions, it will be their personal judgement, perhaps modified by their peers and those whom they respect. I simply suggest two things:

  • That there are some harms which indisputably meet the definition, no matter who you are and what your judgement is, and those are the ones that I listed.
  • That we give others the benefit of the doubt: if it seems potentially harmful to another, then let us think very seriously before acting as though it is not.

Your question goes beyond this, though, into that which constitutes an avoidable harm. Again, this comes down to a matter of judgement in whichever context applies, and I would suggest that the same two points as above can be adapted: that there are some harms which are indisputably avoidable, no matter who you are and what your judgement is, and that in cases where we are not sure, we should strive to give others the benefit of the doubt.

Some people, for example, are not convinced by the evidence for plant sentience, but the benefits from ignoring the evidence are not worth the risk that we are wrong, given the harm that we would then have been responsible for.

For example, I drink water from my well which does not go through a purification (harmful killing) process. I think purified bottled water in plastic containers is a major "avoidable harm". Not only does purified bottled water require the mass killing of billions upon billions of organisms, but also an argument could be put forth that there is environmental harm as well.

Is purified bottled water on some sort of "avoidable harm" list somewhere? How would one know if avoiding purified bottled water for a year is more/less harmful than eating a beef steak once a week for a year?
I haven't considered any of these questions before, but I do agree with that which you imply: that microorganisms display signs of both sentience and sapience, and that they deserve ethical consideration.

A few thoughts/questions:

  • Does purifying water definitively kill these organisms or does it simply separate them out? Sincere question, I honestly don't know.
  • What are the environmental harms that you perceive? Again, a sincere question; I am not well informed on this subject.
  • It seems reasonable to me (within limits) to classify harms committed in the survival interests - including self-defence - of a being as "unavoidable". Would you agree? In that case, the question of whether purifying water is an (un)avoidable harm - assuming that purification definitively kills microorganisms - might depend on how contaminated with potentially lethal (to humans) organisms the water is. If many, many people are dying from unpurified water, then purification might be justifiable as the unavoidable harm of self-defence. But do those microorganisms really need to be killed, or can they simply be siphoned off into their own happy environment?
  • The question of whether avoiding purified bottled water for a year is more or less harmful than eating a beef steak once a week for a year is interesting, but if its answer turns out to be that drinking purified bottled water is more harmful than eating beef steak, this wouldn't justify eating beef steak. The avoidance of one harm does not justify the committing of another, and nor does another's hypocrisy.

Just curious, is your name a contraction of "grow organic"?
 
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#73
Vault313, I have responded to this post of yours out of turn, because my response builds on part of what I wanted to write to Grorganic.

The reality is that this reality we all share, plants and animals alike, requires that to continue to live we must intake energy. As of yet, there is no way whatsoever to avoid harming or destroying some living thing in order to do so.
This might be true, but probably the number of sentient beings that must be unavoidably killed to feed a human in the best case scenario is near enough to zero. How? By manually harvesting small-scale permaculture farms without the use of harmful pesticides, only pesticides which deter insects. This is the sort of world that I think that we should aim for.

And where do you draw the line? Bacteria are living organisms, as are parasites. Even viruses show some characteristics of life, though it's still controversial. Should we not defend ourselves against these microbial predators? Should we accept an infestation of tapeworm as a matter of course and allow ourselves to be destroyed so as to avoid destroying a living thing? Even if we argued that antibiotics and anti-parasitics are akin to self-defense, that is survival.
This is why I responded to Grorganic first: to put on the table that yes, I agree that (reasonable) self-defence qualifies as an "unavoidable" harm.

So is eating. We eat to survive. So where can the line be drawn?
This is what I refer to as "the arbitrary line argument", and yep, you guessed it, I have a pre-written response to it. I've been meaning to update it because it could do with some work, but you might get the gist of it.

Should we avoid using yeast for breads since they are living things too?
Probably, yes. For a while there, I was avoiding bread partly for that reason. I stopped drinking beer for that reason too. And then when I reintroduced wheat into my diet, I started eating bread again, forgetting about the issue of yeast. Now that you've reminded me, I'll go back to avoiding bread. Edit: there is in any case the option of unleavened/lavash bread, which hopefully my supermarket supplies.

The fact is, it's all a matter of perspective. There is no hard and fast rule stating one life is worth more than any other. If one chooses to place the importance of their own life as lesser than that of any other living thing, that is their choice.
This perspective is very distorted, but now I understand your questions about animals having "more" right to live here than humans. The choice is not, as your statement implies, between our own lives and those of other beings: we have the choice to survive without harm to either (unavoidable indirect animal deaths due to current agricultural practices excepted).

But they do not have a right to force their choice on someone else.
I'll respond to this in a later post.

My children's lives are surely more important to me than they are to anyone else. As others children's lives are more important to them than mine. Inherently, there is no value base for this. It's all in what we choose to apply value to.

Of course all living things deserve respect and avoidance of the unnecessary loss of life is certainly desirable. But again, one cannot avoid the facts of our reality. Some will win, and some will lose.

I accept that I live in a reality where I have a physical body with physical needs in order to continue living in this reality. I may not necessarily like all that is required to survive, but I accept it. To accept only the spiritual aspects of ourselves while remaining diametrically opposed to our physical natures is to be a being out of balance.
To all of this I can only repeat what I wrote above: it is not necessarily the case when it comes to satisfying human dietary needs that "some will win, and some will lose". A win-win situation is possible.
 
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#74
Very cool, I am familiar with Stefano Mancuso's excellent work, but I wasn't aware of this book.

I've published a small sampling of some of the other resources I've collected with respect to plant sentience/sapience over the years on my site. A few overviews/videos/papers that I'd really recommend are:


There is information emerging that bacterial colonies express very interesting qualities that make them seem much more intelligent than we thought, too.
Indeed. It is now known that bacteria can communicate with one another, and that "even" slime moulds can perform a "complex trade-off involving cost, transport efficiency, and fault tolerance". I've been documenting those resources on my site for over a year now.
 
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#75
You're right--my tone has been a bit snide with a few of my comments. My apologies to Laird and the rest.
Thanks, Neil.

It's a personal choice and I respect others enough to allow them that. But I draw a hard line at others telling others what they should do with their own lives.
This is a common argument, so common that, again, I've pre-written a response to it.

The gist of it, so that you don't need to click that link, is this: if you think that personal choices should be respected, then how can you justify not respecting the personal choices to continue living of the animals and plants that you eat?

And I'm sorry, but, far far too many vegans want to make it an ideological argument.
That's because it is an ideological argument - no less than "you should respect my personal choice to not respect the personal choices of other beings" is an ideological argument, albeit a self-defeating one.

When the conversation starts out with calling non-vegan/vegetarians "carnist apologists" and statements like these
I don't feel the need to apologise for speaking in defence of the vulnerable. I don't think anybody should. Some of my comments might (have) be(en) confrontational, but if this is an error, it is only a tactical one.

As well as essentially calling pet owners (I prefer pet parent, since I don't "own" any living thing) wardens of Abu Ghraib (ok, I'm exaggerating here), it doesn't exactly invite friendly discourse.
Again, you have misunderstood me. My criticism is directed at the system and those who use the system to conduct abuse, not at the individuals who do their best within the system. I trust and believe that you love and treat as well as you can your companion animals, even though the system in which you do that is very flawed. When a "pet" system results in the deliberate, premeditated deaths of 2.7 million animals annually in the USA alone, then it is obvious that something is very, very wrong with that system.

I understand this is an issue we can all easily get very passionate about. It's easy to get caught up in ideology on both sides, and when people start getting defensive, the conversation can turn ugly quickly. I don't think Laird intended for his comments to come off the way they did. And I don't think anyone else here intended to invalidate anyone else's point if view. But emotions can run high and sometimes things are said unintentionally or perhaps can come off much harsher than intended.
Yes, I am passionate about animal and plant rights: they are grossly, systematically and institutionally violated in the most horrific of ways. I do not apologise for invalidating the defences of such violations: that is exactly what is necessary for positive change to occur. I do not believe that I have said anything ugly. If anybody feels defensive, then maybe they should look at the true ugliness being unleashed upon billions of animals in this world. If you have no idea to what I'm referring, then any one of these documentaries will give you a pretty good idea:

  • Lucent
  • Earthlings (it is not free, but a $3 online rental is not bad. If you are cheap, though, then you can find it for free on YouTube)
  • Speciesism: the movie (again, not free, but a $3.99 rental is again not bad. And again, if you are cheap, then you can find it for free on YouTube)

If you find scenes of torture and intense suffering difficult, then you might want to start with the last of those three.
 
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#76
I was a vegan for 4 years. I enjoyed it and it felt very healthy. Now I eat cheese and eggs again because I like the way they taste. I don't think I'd go back to being a vegan but I don't hold it against anyone if they are and I don't see why people are bashing vegans in this thread. Damn!
Hey, thanks for the support. I wish you would go back to veganism though. The dairy and egg industries are probably as bad as if not worse than the meat industry. "Slavery" has been brought up in relation to pets: it is very literally the case for the animals involved in these industries. Flavour is one of the worst reasons to support these industries.
 
#77
I am going to break up my responses since I am on an iPad right now.

The problem here is that I provided a lot of strong evidence that this is not the case. I didn't think that you were the type of guy to simply ignore evidence. You don't present yourself in that way.
The cat study looked at blood levels of only two nutrients, taurine and vitamin B12, and relied upon the reports of the "caregiver’s perception of the cat’s health status." This is bad enough, but it is especially bad considering how they recruited participants through a vegan website also promoting animal welfare, as well as "Attendees of a national animal welfare conference were also recruited for participation in the study." On top of that, 35% of the cats in the vegan group had access to the outdoors, so it is not known if they were in fact vegan or if they would hunt and eat animals.

So bottom line, this is not strong evidence that a vegan diet is healthy for cats. It only looked at two blood nutrients and relied on subjective caregiver reports of perception of the animal's general health, which is questionable enough as it is, but very unreliable considering the potential bias involved. I cannot consider this any real evidence at all let alone convincing.

The dog "study" is even worse and is not evidence at all. It was stated that "a survey was initiated to gather and analyze data on the diet and health status of a large number of vegetarian dogs. Participants were solicited through PETA's newsletter." (emphasis mine) There was no control group. I am not going to trust self-reporting from the the owners, who belong to an extremist group and subject to enormous bias. All the testimonials are not "strong evidence."

You also wish to claim that imposing veganism on all people is not racially biased because cats are just fine on a vegan diet, supposedly supported by the aforementioned purported evidence:

"If a cat - a so-called "obligatory carnivore" - can handle a vegan diet without "reliance on animal products", then any human race - at best adapted to an omnivorous diet - certainly can too."

So your claim that imposing a vegan diet on all people is not racially biased is based on something which you have not demonstrated. I maintain that it is racially biased and unethical.


Laird said:
Here, you present one supposed "harm" - the supposed "forcing" of an animal to eat a vegan diet - totally out of the context of the opposing harm which avoiding it would entail: the forcing of multiple farm animals to die ghastly deaths across that animal's lifetime. It is obvious which is the worse harm, and this is consistent with my ethics rather than hypocritical, especially given that there is strong evidence that vegan diets are not harmful to companion animals.
You have not provided strong evidence. It can hardly be considered evidence at all to support your claim, let alone strong evidence.


Laird said:
Many people who feed their companion animals a vegan diet say that their animals prefer the vegan food to what they were previously fed. Sometimes it takes a period of adjustment. In any case, this is irrelevant: as I wrote above, even if an animal does not prefer a vegan diet, this is by far the lesser harm, especially because vegan pets do tend to be healthy.
A "period of adjustment"? You mean a period of forcing them? Even if they preferred a particular vegan animal food product, that does not make it better. I said give them oats, veggies, etc and see what they prefer. Commercial food products can be flavored to make it taste good, just like many people prefer junk food to real food. But again, give a cat a piece of fish or chicken and a bowl of rice, oats, veggies, etc and see what they choose. Or, if you prefer, force them to eat an unnatural diet based on weak evidence.
 
#78
OK, so, tell me something: how many people in the West would chow down into a nice steak of dog, or a bit of roast cat leg, or some tender rat? Or a horse? How about some fried locusts? Locusts are plentiful in the USA, and I've heard that it is quite satisfying when you pop their crisp outer shell and their intestines explode into your mouth.

These are foods that are eaten in other cultures, yet in ours, they are taboo. We privilege certain animals as either "not food" or "disgusting to eat". This is not because eating those animals is "unnatural", but because of our belief system.

We could grant all animals and plants the privilege of being taboo as food, but our beliefs condition us not to.

(An acknowledgement: this is the basis of Dr. Joy's work; these insights are not original to me).
What particular animal foods are chosen to be eaten can depend on beliefs, but eating animal foods itself is not a belief system.

Laird said:
Sure, and there is also historical, physiological, and palaeoanthropological data that shows that in some cultures and during some periods, the proportion of meat was very small, sometimes only opportunistically-acquired, and that in some religions, such as Jainism, there have for a long time been strict vegans.
So you want to say that because there were periods of scarcity or famine that this supports a vegan diet? That doesn't even make sense. And if Jains have been strict vegans, so what? That is not convincing evidence that someone not from that ethnic background will also do well, even assuming that they are in fact healthy compared to merely surviving. I don't have any comprehensive reports on Jains to determine this. You are jumping to conclusions on a subject that is highly complex, as well as over-simplifying and ignoring individual differences, which is unethical.

Laird said:
In any case, none of this matters. What we did in the past is irrelevant to the present. If we were to restrict ourselves to what we did in the past, we would not drive cars, watch televisions, use computers, use modern pharmaceutical medicines or wear clothes made with synthetic fabrics. Do you think that immersing ourselves in a near-constant bath of electromagnetic radiation is "natural"? It is very probably harmful, but we do it because we perceive it to have benefits that outweigh the harms. Vegan-fruitarianism doesn't even have such harms, it is all benefit!
It is extremely relevant. You wish to reject evolutionary considerations of diet just to fit your ideology. Your examples of technological and behavioral changes are non-sequiturs with respect to dietary considerations. Do I really have to start posting studies that show veganism isn't all sunshine and lollipops? You present it as if this single dietary recommendation is a God-send that has absolutely no downsides, which is clearly false. This sounds more like propaganda than a discussion based on evidence.
 
#79
What I dismiss is that there are widespread negative health effects for all of these supposed deficiencies which you hypothesise. You want to say vegans are necessarily deficient in some nutrient X - OK, fine, so then why are there so many healthy vegans out there not showing any symptoms of deficiency?
You refuse to acknowledge individual metabolic differences. Even if I were to grant you that there are healthy vegans, that does not mean that everyone will do the same. To say that these people should be vegan is unethical.

If you want information on deficiencies and insufficiencies (which you also refuse to acknowledge), I suggest this excellent article:

http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/abcs-of-nutrition/vegetarianism-and-nutrient-deficiencies/

Price’s research led him to the following conclusion about vegetarianism: “As yet, I have not found a single group of primitive racial stock which was building and maintaining excellent bodies by living entirely on plant foods. I have found in many parts of the world most devout representatives of modern ethical systems advocating restriction of foods to the vegetable products. In every instance where the groups involved had been long under this teaching, I found evidence of degeneration in the form of abnormal dental arches to an extent very much higher than in the primitive groups who were not under this influence.”
 
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#80
Neil,

I can't help but notice the irony of your first response: on a psi forum besieged by "skeptics", in whose arguments and dismissals you, as a "proponent", no doubt see the bias and prejudice, on this subject you are behaving exactly like one of them!

Sure, the cat study looked at only the blood levels of two nutrients - I assume that that's because those are the ones most sensitive to a vegan diet. There's no reason to dismiss it on that basis. Sure, "caregiver’s perception of the cat’s health status" is not as expert as a vet's or an independent clinician's, but this is no cause to dismiss it out of hand. Your claim was categorical: that feeding pets a vegan diet is "abuse". This study does not support that statement in any way, even accounting for its minor deficiencies.

As for "35% of the cats in the vegan group had access to the outdoors, so it is not known if they were in fact vegan or if they would hunt and eat animals" - that 35% is not significantly different to the remaining 65%. In any case, have you ever kept a cat with access to the outdoors? They might very well hunt, but if they are being fed by you, they are not interested in eating their catches - they are only interested in presenting them to you on your doorstep or pillow.

As for the dog study, you criticise it for its participants being solicited through PETA's newsletter: how else do you think you are going to find vegan dogs? The average carnist like yourself sees it as abuse - who else but vegans are going to try out a vegan diet on their pets, and where better to find such people than through the major national (nominally) animal rights organisation?

Yes, it would have been better for there to have been a control group, and yes, it would have been better to not have relied upon self-reporting, but, again, this is no reason to dismiss the study out of hand. The vast majority of the dogs were healthy. That speaks for itself.

You claim that the participants "belong to an extremist group and subject to enormous bias", but this is simply a convenient way to hide your own bias.

What particular animal foods are chosen to be eaten can depend on beliefs, but eating animal foods itself is not a belief system.
Of course it is. All choices are informed by beliefs. Eating animals is a choice.

So you want to say that because there were periods of scarcity or famine that this supports a vegan diet?
No, I'm saying that the healthfulness of a vegan diet is supported by the fact that people survive healthily on it today. That we have survived with little meat in our diets in the past is just a helpful reminder that vegan-fruitarian diets, or something approximating them, were just as possible in the past too.

And if Jains have been strict vegans, so what?
The "so what" is that your original claim was that animal products are the basis of human health. If many Jains have been living without them for millennia (according to Wikipedia, Jainism was founded in perhaps the 9th-7th century BC), then this puts your claim to rest.

That is not convincing evidence that someone not from that ethnic background will also do well
Maybe not, but vegans today come from all sorts of different ethnicities. I've heard of no evidence that veganism is impossible for any specific ethnicity.

I don't have any comprehensive reports on Jains to determine this. You are jumping to conclusions on a subject that is highly complex, as well as over-simplifying and ignoring individual differences, which is unethical.
Individual differences can be readily managed by the variety possible in a vegan diet. Eliminating animal products does not remove all variety from a diet: far from it.

It is extremely relevant. You wish to reject evolutionary considerations of diet just to fit your ideology. Your examples of technological and behavioral changes are non-sequiturs with respect to dietary considerations.
Not at all. They show that the human form is capable of handling changes that some people wouldn't consider "natural". This is totally applicable to dietary considerations.

Do I really have to start posting studies that show veganism isn't all sunshine and lollipops? You present it as if this single dietary recommendation is a God-send that has absolutely no downsides, which is clearly false. This sounds more like propaganda than a discussion based on evidence.
To adapt and paraphrase Gary Yourofsky from his well-known speech: for every study that you can post showing that "veganism isn't all sunshine and lollipops", I can post two showing that consumption of animal products is worse.

Here is that inspirational speech which has converted thousands if not tens or hundreds of thousands to veganism:


Even if I were to grant you that there are healthy vegans
Are you trolling me? There are millions of healthy vegans.

that does not mean that everyone will do the same.
Vegan diets are adaptable; anybody can do well on them. If you do badly, then consult a vegan dietitian; fix your diet. There are all sorts of options. I've mentioned some of them already.

If you want information on deficiencies and insufficiencies (which you also refuse to acknowledge)
I've said that if anybody - vegan or omnivore - finds that they have a deficiency, and if it is causing them (a risk of) health problems, then they should find ways to correct it.

All I've rejected is your claim (whether explicit or implicit) that all vegans are necessarily deficient in some set of nutrients in a way that cannot be corrected - or at least that these supposed deficiencies are leading to actual and widespread health problems in vegans. That's simply not true. Many people adopt veganism because it is so healthy.

Seriously, expecting a vegan to trust an article on vegan nutrition from the Weston A. Price Foundation is like expecting an environmentalist to trust an article on climate science by a climate change denial lobby group. These are guys who pimp animal products; they have a vested interest in talking up the supposed problems with veganism. I'm not saying there's nothing useful in that article, but it's not going to be my first choice for advice.

Re ex-vegans such as Chris, I like Swayze's take:


Here is how a committed vegan handles health problems: Facing Failing Health As A Vegan. She doesn't just cave in at the first sign of trouble and abandon her ethics: ethics are the whole point of veganism. I admire this woman, her courage and commitment so much, not to mention how beautiful I find her both inside and out.

Price’s research led him to the following conclusion about vegetarianism: “As yet, I have not found a single group of primitive racial stock which was building and maintaining excellent bodies by living entirely on plant foods. I have found in many parts of the world most devout representatives of modern ethical systems advocating restriction of foods to the vegetable products. In every instance where the groups involved had been long under this teaching, I found evidence of degeneration in the form of abnormal dental arches to an extent very much higher than in the primitive groups who were not under this influence.”
You need to get your story straight, dude. First it was "Weston Price did not find a single example of a vegan tribe". Now it's "The long-term vegan groups which Weston Price found had abnormal dental arches".
 
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