Veganism

#81
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!
I do not maintain a mainstream position.

Laird said:
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.
No, it's not just a way for me to hide my bias. Those studies cannot be used to support your position. They aren't good evidence at all, let alone the "strong" evidence you claimed. They are full of so many flaws as to be almost useless.

Laird said:
Of course it is. All choices are informed by beliefs. Eating animals is a choice.
Eating foods natural to one's species is not a "belief system." Choosing to eat an unnatural diet because of personal beliefs is.

Laird said:
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.
Having little meat to eat in times of scarcity has nothing to do with supporting a life-long vegan diet for oneself, pets, and children.

Not everyone reacts the same to a vegan diet! To ignore the people that do poorly and insist that the should eat it any way is just plain unethical. I'll be damned if my mom doesn't do well on a vegan diet and I have someone like you telling her that she should eat vegan to do the least harm to animals. Hell no, she is going to ditch the vegan diet if she doesn't do well on it because it would be unethical to have her continue.

Laird said:
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.
So for sake of argument, I will grant you this position. My response is that this cannot be applied to everyone! Again, due to genetic and epigenetic differences, you cannot take results from a particular outlier group and extrapolate it to everyone. Again, not everyone reacts the same.


Laird said:
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.
Again, not everyone reacts the same. Not to mention, it is up to you to provide convincing evidence for your position since you are recommending throwing out traditional evolutionary ways of eating in favor of your unnatural way of eating. So far you have not accomplished that.


Laird said:
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.
What evidence do you have for this claim?

Laird said:
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.
So us watching TV means that a vegan diet is healthy?


Laird said:
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.
Now animal products are unhealthy? Give me a break. So much of the research saying animal products are unhealthy are very flawed, or perhaps you haven't been skeptical enough on this to actually look into it.


Laird said:
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.
Oh, so blame the person, not the diet?


Laird said:
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
Not everyone reacts the same to diet! It seems like you want to blame a person if they aren't doing well on the diet, ignoring that there could be genetic or epigenetic factors or disease states.

Laird said:
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.
Ok, I purposely posted an article by Chris Masterjohn because of how thoroughly he investigates the research and how well he cites his articles. Go ahead and ignore the research he cites and go with your PETA surveys that you are trying to defend as meaning anything. Give me a break.



Laird said:
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.
This is starting to go nowhere, I think. You refuse to see that people react differently, and say that if someone does poorly that basically it is their fault and they just aren't doing the diet correctly. This is dogma. People react differently, and there are real metabolic differences. To ignore this is unethical. Your dietary recommendations are therefore unethical and racially biased.

Laird said:
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".
I said that he found no healthy vegan groups. Get YOUR story straight.
 
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#82
No, it's not just a way for me to hide my bias. Those studies cannot be used to support your position. They aren't good evidence at all, let alone the "strong" evidence you claimed. They are full of so many flaws as to be almost useless.
It's the same old story: provide evidence; skeptic ups the ante. I accept that I can't win with you, but at least onlookers can judge for themselves.

Eating foods natural to one's species is not a "belief system." Choosing to eat an unnatural diet because of personal beliefs is.
"I choose to kill animals for food based on the belief that killing animals for food is natural, but I'm not acting on a belief". This is cluelessness.

Not everyone reacts the same to a vegan diet! To ignore the people that do poorly and insist that the should eat it any way is just plain unethical.
You have no idea what ethics mean.

Again: there is no "one" vegan diet, just like there is no "one" omnivorous diet. If a particular variation of a vegan diet doesn't work for you, then find out what's wrong and change it to a variation of a vegan diet that does work for you.

I'll be damned if my mom doesn't do well on a vegan diet and I have someone like you telling her that she should eat vegan to do the least harm to animals. Hell no, she is going to ditch the vegan diet if she doesn't do well on it because it would be unethical to have her continue.
So, to you "ethical" can mean "the supposed health of a person's dental arches means more than the lives of numerous sentient beings". Again: cluelessness.

Not to mention, it is up to you to provide convincing evidence for your position since you are recommending throwing out traditional evolutionary ways of eating in favor of your unnatural way of eating. So far you have not accomplished that.
No, the reverse is the case. Ethics demand that given the apparent health of a vegan diet, you need to provide convincing evidence that it is not healthy, and, in fact, that it is so unhealthy that it warrants the destruction of numerous other sentient lives. There's no way you've come anywhere close to doing this, and you can't, because it's simply not true. The best you've got so far is a disgruntled former vegan who didn't put the effort in to make his vegan diet work (which brings into serious question how serious his ethical commitment was in the first place), and the surveys of questionable reliability in the modern age of a dentist from several decades back.

So us watching TV means that a vegan diet is healthy?
At various points in this exchange, I've been struck a little bit dumb by the ridiculousness of some of your questions. One of those points was when you asked in all seriousness whether harvesting seeds to eat from farmed plants was antithetical to their reproductive interests, but there have been several others. This is yet another. You are intelligent enough to know how an analogy works, please don't insult my own intelligence by acting as though you are incapable of understanding this one, or by deliberately misrepresenting it in bad faith.

Now animal products are unhealthy? Give me a break. So much of the research saying animal products are unhealthy are very flawed, or perhaps you haven't been skeptical enough on this to actually look into it.
When the shoe's on the other foot, it doesn't feel so good, does it?

Oh, so blame the person, not the diet?
Shoe's still on the other foot, mate. If a friend of yours was having health problems on an omnivorous diet, you wouldn't recommend that they go vegan, would you? You'd say, "Work out the appropriate variation of an omnivorous diet for your physiology". What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Ok, I purposely posted an article by Chris Masterjohn because of how thoroughly he investigates the research and how well he cites his articles. Go ahead and ignore the research he cites and go with your bullshit PETA surveys that you are trying to defend as meaning anything. Give me a break.
Dude, reread what I wrote: "I'm not saying there's nothing useful in that article, but it's not going to be my first choice for advice". Versus you: "[The studies] are full of so many flaws as to be almost useless". Your prejudice is singular.

This is starting to go nowhere, I think.
I agree. I have seen for a while now that you have a violent bias against veganism which is impossible to overcome. I continue this exchange for the benefit of onlookers, not out of any expectation that you will have an ethical epiphany.

I said that he found no healthy vegan groups. Get YOUR story straight.
I looked up your original quote. You are correct. I misremembered. I was wrong.
 
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#83
It's the same old story: provide evidence; skeptic ups the ante. I accept that I can't win with you, but at least onlookers can judge for themselves.
Provide evidence? Two subjective surveys from pet owners isn't evidence.

Laird said:
"I choose to kill animals for food based on the belief that killing animals for food is natural, but I'm not acting on a belief". This is cluelessness.
Yes, I am sure that is what went through the mind of my ancestors 30,000 years ago. Or perhaps it is just what I said...they ate what came natural to them. Does a cat have to have a belief system to know that it likes to eat other animals?


Laird said:
You have no idea what ethics mean.

Again: there is no "one" vegan diet, just like there is no "one" omnivorous diet. If a particular variation of a vegan diet doesn't work for you, then find out what's wrong and change it to a different variation of a vegan diet.
Blame the person, not the diet. Of course it could not possibly be that a person may do better with animal products! That's impossible. That's dogma. That's unethical.

Laird said:
So, to you "ethical" can mean "the supposed health of a person's dental arches means more than the lives of numerous sentient beings". Again: cluelessness.
Cluelessness? You have no idea what is involved with the statement about dental arches, so don't call me clueless. You have an over-simplified conception of diet and health to the point of being wrong. You cannot grasp that people are different and that different stages of life, disease states, or genetic/epigenetic factors play a role in how each individual reacts to dietary factors and instead blame the person for doing the diet wrong. You cannot grasp the subtlety of dietary insufficiencies and its implications. Your idea of health is just an absence of obvious pathogenic disease states, so to criticize a more specific and non-negative definition of health is juvenile.

Laird said:
No, the reverse is the case. Ethics demand that given the apparent health of a vegan diet, you need to provide convincing evidence that it is not healthy, and, in fact, that it is so unhealthy that it warrants the destruction of numerous other sentient lives. There's no way you've come anywhere close to doing this, and you can't, because it's simply not true. The best you've got so far is a disgruntled former vegan who didn't put the effort in to make his vegan diet work (which brings into serious question how serious his ethical commitment was in the first place), and the surveys of questionable reliability in the modern age of a dentist from several decades back.
Pass the buck when you can't support your claim, I guess. You haven't demonstrated that it will provide a high degree of health for multiple generations. You claim surveys from vegan cat owners as a reason why all people should do fine on a vegan diet! To claim that we should change from a natural diet to an unnatural diet (except for periods of famine) and saying that it will be very healthy is the claim that requires evidence. I don't have to prove that this is not the case!

I see nothing wrong with killing an animal for food. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Mistreatment of the animals is unethical, but the care animals can be given on good farms is not unethical, since they are taken care of better than they would be in the brutal wild.

And further, you demean Chris Masterjohn, who puts in a lot of effort into the research and citing his articles. Your dogmatic position is clear when you wish to dismiss this in favor of PETA pet owner surveys to support why all ethnic background should do on a vegan diet.



Laird said:
At various points in this exchange, I've been struck a little bit dumb by the ridiculousness of some of your questions. One of those points was when you asked in all seriousness whether harvesting seeds to eat from farmed plants was antithetical to their reproductive interests, but there have been several others. This is yet another. You are intelligent enough to know how an analogy works, please don't insult my own intelligence by acting as though you are incapable of understanding this one, or by deliberately misrepresenting it in bad faith.
The question made no sense because your original statement about watching TV and technology made no sense in the context of whether or not a vegan diet is healthy!


Laird said:
When the shoe's on the other foot, it doesn't feel so good, does it?
No, because it is distinctly different. You are claiming that animal products are unhealthy. I have never said that plant products are unhealthy.


Laird said:
Shoe's still on the other foot, mate. If a friend of yours was having health problems on an omnivorous diet, you wouldn't recommend that they go vegan, would you? You'd say, "Work out the appropriate variation of an omnivorous diet for your physiology". What's good for the goose is good for the gander.
It depends, because I have done a therapeutic vegan diet for a time period, but otherwise you are correct in that I would not recommend a permanent vegan diet because of potential health issues and nutritional concerns; that type of recommendation would be unethical. I prefer "supplement foods" rich in nutrients like liver over popping a pill for every nutrient that may be lacking in a vegan diet and hoping it works the same.

Laird said:
Dude, reread what I wrote: "I'm not saying there's nothing useful in that article, but it's not going to be my first choice for advice". Versus you: "[The studies] are full of so many flaws as to be almost useless". Your prejudice is singular.
The difference is that I read your sources, and carefully enough to pick out the flaws in them which do not make them support your claim. What specific parts of the research cited by Masterjohn did you not find to be correct and why?
 
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#84
Neil, I'm done with this exchange, at least as far as you and I are concerned. There is no point in continuing in the face of your prejudice and unwillingness to come to grips with the ethical argument for vegan-fruitarianism. In all this time, despite that I have prompted you on several occasions, you have not once commented on let alone responded to that argument nor the principles behind it. If this is the final straw that might prompt you to: please don't bother. You clearly have no idea what ethics even mean in the first place.

Whilst you accuse me of dogmatism, you simultaneously maintain that all vegans are necessarily unhealthy. The mind boggles.

I am sure that Chris Masterjohn does do a lot of research; it's a pity he didn't use it to stay vegan.

I find it very troubling that the prejudice you have displayed in this thread might encourage others to continue exploiting animals themselves, but I wish you no harm yourself.

See you in other threads.
 
#85
And one more question, unrelated to the above: what are your sources of protein?
Returning to this from a different perspective: perhaps you should ask that question of Mr. Universe.

I would like to think that what he says in that interview is true:

"Anyone who is uncertain about being a vegan should learn the reasons why they choose to be one. Once fully understood, they should stand up for what they believe in, and not get swayed by idiots and ignorance. They shouldn’t have to explain themselves or justify their actions to anyone. When something is either black or white, it doesn’t need explaining".

Sadly, it too often does need explaining.
 
#86
Sadly, too, this man is unhealthy. Or, wait: he's not, but he hasn't been on the diet for long enough, and he soon will be. And if he's not, then he's just one of the few that it happens to work for. Just happened to be the right race. But his children will be unhealthy. Or their descendants. Somewhere down the track. It's all about the dental arch.
 
#87
I would say that I'm sorry for the sarcasm, being the lowest form of wit and all, but I'm really not. This is not a game, there are billions of lives being tortured right now. Carnist apologism has no place anywhere in this world, especially not in this forum, and I'm quite happy to take it down a peg or two even at the risk of being seen as uncouth.
 
#88
I'm not a vegan, but I think we're here to face choices, all kinds of choices. I think it's great that people can be vegan, but I think it's 'wrong' to impose that choice on others. I'm not a churchgoer but it's interesting to see what Jesus did or didn't do about eating and drinking, a basic human requirement (maybe not though but for now let's assume that it is). I've a friend who is equally passionate about vegetarians eating vegetables. After all, don't they deserve to live too ?

I leave it to the most spiritual writings that I know, that of Kahlil Gibran, to give his opinion. (But is this really an opinion from a living human? I have doubts)

Eating and Drinking
Then an old man, a keeper of an inn, said, “Speak to us of Eating and Drinking.”

And he said:

Would that you could live on the fragrance of the earth, and like an air plant be sustained by the light.

But since you must kill to eat, and rob the young of its mother's milk to quench your thirst, let it then be an act of worship,

And let your board stand an altar on which the pure and the innocent of forest and plain are sacrificed for that which is purer and still more innocent in many.

When you kill a beast say to him in your heart,

“By the same power that slays you, I to am slain; and I too shall be consumed.
For the law that delivered you into my hand shall deliver me into a mightier hand.

Your blood and my blood is naught but the sap that feeds the tree of heaven.”

And when you crush an apple with your teeth, say to it in your heart,

“Your seeds shall live in my body,

And the buds of your tomorrow shall blossom in my heart,

And your fragrance shall be my breath,

And together we shall rejoice through all the seasons.”

And in the autumn, when you gather the grapes of your vineyard for the winepress, say in you heart,

“I to am a vineyard, and my fruit shall be gathered for the winepress,

And like new wine I shall be kept in eternal vessels.”

And in winter, when you draw the wine, let there be in your heart a song for each cup;

And let there be in the song a remembrance for the autumn days, and for the vineyard, and for the winepress.

- --oOo-- -
 
#89
Neil, I'm done with this exchange, at least as far as you and I are concerned. There is no point in continuing in the face of your prejudice and unwillingness to come to grips with the ethical argument for vegan-fruitarianism. In all this time, despite that I have prompted you on several occasions, you have not once commented on let alone responded to that argument nor the principles behind it. If this is the final straw that might prompt you to: please don't bother. You clearly have no idea what ethics even mean in the first place.
Okay. Thanks for taking the time with all of your responses. See you back in the regular topics!

But I do wish to at least comment to make it clear that I do not entirely reject the ethical concerns you raise. Just because I reject a portion of it does not mean that I do not think there is a lot of correct information. Just because I reject the ethical judgment of killing an animal for food does not mean that I accept that the mainstream factory farming is okay. You are very passionate about animal rights, and I do think that we really need to work to improve living conditions for animals, as well as many of our farming and even processing methods, all for health, ethical, and environmental concerns, and it is passionate people that will work to achieve those goals.

Laird said:
Whilst you accuse me of dogmatism, you simultaneously maintain that all vegans are necessarily unhealthy. The mind boggles.
At this point it's not terribly important, but I want to clarify that this is not my position. I accept that there are adults that appear to do just fine on a vegan diet, and as an adult, of course they are free to choose this way of eating if they decide to do so, but my position is that not everyone necessarily does well. My position is like that with most diets, not just vegan. For example, I do quite well on low carb/high fat diets, but many do progressively worse as they continue such a diet and quickly do better with more carbohydrate. There are a lot of ways to "tweak" a LC/HF diet, but some people really just shouldn't eat that way. There are people that gravitate away from a lot of meat, and that is fine, too. I think a reasonably healthy body has a sort of intuition about what it should eat, and I respect that. I respect that people are individuals, including biochemically.

Laird said:
I find it very troubling that the prejudice you have displayed in this thread might encourage others to continue exploiting animals themselves, but I wish you no harm yourself.

See you in other threads.
I would hope that those who choose to eat animal products would learn from you a lot about what goes on with animal treatment that goes into what's on their plate, and with that information, choose to seek out sources of animal products that raise their animals in a better way.
 
#91
I think it's great that people can be vegan, but I think it's 'wrong' to impose that choice on others.
But it's OK to impose your choice that another sentient being die upon that sentient being?

This is the same hypocritical "personal choice" argument that Vault313 made.

But since you must kill to eat
A flat-out lie, unless you believe that fruit, nuts, seeds, grains, beans and legumes are "killed" when they are eaten. In some sense, they might be, but it is a very different sense to that in which pigs, cows, sheep, trees and other plants are.

and rob the young of its mother's milk to quench your thirst
Another lie. We are not calves, and we do not need to steal their milk. There are better alternatives.

let it then be an act of worship
This is profane.
 
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#92
Hi Laird,

Yes, my name here is a play on the words "Grow Organic". I've basically dedicated my life to learning and teaching about growing food (real food that is as opposed to processed food) for the last 25 years - I studied world cultures past and present and their relationship to food/plants in college and grad school (Anthropology with focus in Ethnobotany)...I then decided to learn how to grow or hunt or barter for most of my family's food and I've taught about growing organic edibles (veg, fruit, herbs, nuts) and self-reliant, sustainable organic food systems (yes like permaculture but not limited to) as my profession for 15 years. My wife is a lifelong vegetarian and we sure do love our homegrown veggies and fruits. In addition, my kids and I also love the elk meat that I hunt for every year and the acorn mush we make from gathering acorns. Just some background.

So, thanks for your comments on avoidable harm. This concept of avoidable harm is the "crossroads" of your argument. From there, the argument you put forth could move forward easily into the details of what constitutes avoidable harm, go off on tangents regarding nutrition/food security, or regress to silly labels, shaming and name calling. I strongly disagree that there are universally agreed upon "indisputably avoidable harms". The reason why I disagree is because I don't think value systems (ethics) are similar across cultures. Therefore, moral codes regarding the value of life in regard to eating and drinking (and more) differ across cultures. In certain cultures, it is easy to say things like you stated, "There is no need for animal products in anybody's diet. Period." Because in your culture possibly, teasing out "food" from "culture" is doable - for example, you can still remain a cultural "Aussie" if you don't eat animals or use animal products and you have resources that allow you to make these choices.

But, for example, I recently returned from 3 weeks in Colombia where that sentiment would not even be understood in the communities I visited and participated in where animal meat is just one of the "products" used from killing animals (of which the "people" are just one of the animals, not superior nor inferior). The animals' life is taken but its' spirit is woven into the very fabric of the culture and honored in stories, ritual, worship and literally woven (sinew) into their daily lives (clothes, shoes, arrows, etc...). To say that these folks should choose to just eat sweet potatoes and fruit would be condemning their entire culture to death. For many people in the world, food is intimately tied to culture - it's not something that can be teased out and scrutinized in some universally objective way by some universal moral mandate.

Regarding the bottled purified water in plastic containers, the microorganisms are killed in a variety of ways depending on the purification process. The environmental harm I was hinting at is in regard to plastic waste pollution (think oceans), fossil fuel use to create the plastic which creates pollution, animals (especially fish and birds) killed by plastic remnants, etc...

The reason I posed the question about the water compared to the steak is because I think as this argument you pose unfolds, one must seek to reconcile one's ideology with the fact that life lives off life. There is no other way. If you think the fruits/nuts/seeds you consume aren't filled with life, you are mistaken. Get a microscope and check it out for yourself - you'll be amazed at what you see (and what you eat!). So then, one must confront the question: what value is associated with each type of life? Why avoid taking some life over others? I don't know if there are universal, objective, moral answers to that question.

Grorganic
 
#93
Hi Laird,

Yes, my name here is a play on the words "Grow Organic". I've basically dedicated my life to learning and teaching about growing food (real food that is as opposed to processed food) for the last 25 years - I studied world cultures past and present and their relationship to food/plants in college and grad school (Anthropology with focus in Ethnobotany)...I then decided to learn how to grow or hunt or barter for most of my family's food and I've taught about growing organic edibles (veg, fruit, herbs, nuts) and self-reliant, sustainable organic food systems (yes like permaculture but not limited to) as my profession for 15 years. My wife is a lifelong vegetarian and we sure do love our homegrown veggies and fruits. In addition, my kids and I also love the elk meat that I hunt for every year and the acorn mush we make from gathering acorns. Just some background.

So, thanks for your comments on avoidable harm. This concept of avoidable harm is the "crossroads" of your argument. From there, the argument you put forth could move forward easily into the details of what constitutes avoidable harm, go off on tangents regarding nutrition/food security, or regress to silly labels, shaming and name calling. I strongly disagree that there are universally agreed upon "indisputably avoidable harms". The reason why I disagree is because I don't think value systems (ethics) are similar across cultures. Therefore, moral codes regarding the value of life in regard to eating and drinking (and more) differ across cultures. In certain cultures, it is easy to say things like you stated, "There is no need for animal products in anybody's diet. Period." Because in your culture possibly, teasing out "food" from "culture" is doable - for example, you can still remain a cultural "Aussie" if you don't eat animals or use animal products and you have resources that allow you to make these choices.

But, for example, I recently returned from 3 weeks in Colombia where that sentiment would not even be understood in the communities I visited and participated in where animal meat is just one of the "products" used from killing animals (of which the "people" are just one of the animals, not superior nor inferior). The animals' life is taken but its' spirit is woven into the very fabric of the culture and honored in stories, ritual, worship and literally woven (sinew) into their daily lives (clothes, shoes, arrows, etc...). To say that these folks should choose to just eat sweet potatoes and fruit would be condemning their entire culture to death. For many people in the world, food is intimately tied to culture - it's not something that can be teased out and scrutinized in some universally objective way by some universal moral mandate.

Regarding the bottled purified water in plastic containers, the microorganisms are killed in a variety of ways depending on the purification process. The environmental harm I was hinting at is in regard to plastic waste pollution (think oceans), fossil fuel use to create the plastic which creates pollution, animals (especially fish and birds) killed by plastic remnants, etc...

The reason I posed the question about the water compared to the steak is because I think as this argument you pose unfolds, one must seek to reconcile one's ideology with the fact that life lives off life. There is no other way. If you think the fruits/nuts/seeds you consume aren't filled with life, you are mistaken. Get a microscope and check it out for yourself - you'll be amazed at what you see (and what you eat!). So then, one must confront the question: what value is associated with each type of life? Why avoid taking some life over others? I don't know if there are universal, objective, moral answers to that question.

Grorganic
Wow, thank you for this post. You brought up excellent points that I didn't know about, especially the cultural aspect, so I appreciate it.
 
#94
Hi Grorganic,

Thanks for your response. To start with, and for what it's worth, I greatly respect your choice of vocation, and that to which you have dedicated your life. Kudos on doing something so worthwhile with it.

I will try in this response to avoid the verbosity to which I am inclined. It will be more of a terse "defensive" response, if you like, but I am also happy to dialogue in greater depth if you prefer.

Firstly, I do not believe in moral relativism. Morality in the main is objective and culturally independent, despite that it sometimes requires the exercise of judgement. The indisputably avoidable harms in which I believe can, I believe, be justified/derived through consistency with basic tenets which any sane person accepts. Again, I am happy to elaborate if you want to go there.

Secondly, I do not believe that culture is a valid justification for unethical practices. "We have always done it this way" is not and never has been an excuse to misuse or mistreat others. "It's part of our culture" is no more a justification for the exploitation of animals than it is for human slavery.

Finally, you raise some very challenging questions regarding the relative value of different life forms, particularly microorganisms. Thankfully, it is easy to sidestep all of those questions: killing an animal or consuming its milk or eggs anyway entails the death of vastly more microorganisms than consuming vegan-fruitarian foods does, simply because of the vast quantities of microorganisms in the guts of animals, and in/on their milk and eggs (admittedly, the difference is more contestable in the case of eggs), compared to those on the surface of nuts, seeds and fruit.
 
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#95
But since you must kill to eat
A flat-out lie, unless you believe that fruit, nuts, seeds, grains, beans and legumes are "killed" when they are eaten.
I feel the need to correct this in the light of Grorganic's observation that microorganisms exist on the surface of these foods. I did a little research, and it seems likely that not all of these microorganisms survive the passage through the human digestive system, in particular given its pH. So, OK, it appears that after all, we must kill to eat, but nothing big enough to see with the human eye. Whether size matters is a whole other question.
 
#96
I feel the need to correct this in the light of Grorganic's observation that microorganisms exist on the surface of these foods. I did a little research, and it seems likely that not all of these microorganisms survive the passage through the human digestive system, in particular given its pH. So, OK, it appears that after all, we must kill to eat, but nothing big enough to see with the human eye. Whether size matters is a whole other question.
Laird,

This is not intended to continue the vegan discussion, but rather more of a different but related questions regarding micro-organisms.

Don't you think trying to consider micro-organisms such as bacteria is going a bit too far? I get the intention, but that seems like something that is truly unavoidable. I mean, let's say you change your vegan diet from one particular variation to another. Doing this will effectively starve and kill millions of bacteria simply because certain species thrive on certain foods. The very act of showering wipes out entire populations of bacteria. Brushing your teeth destroys the biofilm and again wipes out huge amounts of bacteria. Eating many foods (garlic, onion, etc) and spices have anti-bacterial qualities and can kill bacteria, and even something like coconut can have anti-bacterial and anti-yeast qualities, which means they can kill these organisms. And what about eating fermented foods like kimchi? Stomach acids will kill a lot of these organisms, and the bacterial count is far greater than that found in milk. These are unnecessary activities and foods, so shouldn't these also be given up if bacterial life is also now to be considered? Isn't that going a bit too far?
 
#97
Laird,

This is not intended to continue the vegan discussion, but rather more of a different but related questions regarding micro-organisms.

Don't you think trying to consider micro-organisms such as bacteria is going a bit too far? I get the intention, but that seems like something that is truly unavoidable. I mean, let's say you change your vegan diet from one particular variation to another. Doing this will effectively starve and kill millions of bacteria simply because certain species thrive on certain foods. The very act of showering wipes out entire populations of bacteria. Brushing your teeth destroys the biofilm and again wipes out huge amounts of bacteria. Eating many foods (garlic, onion, etc) and spices have anti-bacterial qualities and can kill bacteria, and even something like coconut can have anti-bacterial and anti-yeast qualities, which means they can kill these organisms. And what about eating fermented foods like kimchi? Stomach acids will kill a lot of these organisms, and the bacterial count is far greater than that found in milk. These are unnecessary activities and foods, so shouldn't these also be given up if bacterial life is also now to be considered? Isn't that going a bit too far?
Hi Neil,

I very much appreciate the spirit of your questions. I am aiming (apparently unsuccesfully, in hindsight) for brevity, so I am not offering a rationale for the possibility I suggest, but one could be offered.

The answers depend a lot on whether and to what extent microorganisms are sentient and subjects of experiences that are worth having. In an extreme, it is possible that each individual bacteria is blissfully engaged in meaningful relationships with those around it, living, loving, learning, teaching and cooperatively creating, leading an existence no less satisfyingly than our own.

One thing that I think indisputably follows from the possibility that microorganisms have any level of sentience at all, whether or not we think it plausible, is that we should avoid gratuitous harm to them. If we are walking down a forest path, and we spot on a rotting log an interesting colony of spores, we should not take to it with a stick and scrape it into oblivion for the mere sake of it.

And on the other extreme, given the (in my view) moral right to defend our lives, even if this possibility were true, we would be morally justified in destroying any microorganisms in our bodies which were threatening our lives.

In between, it's less clear. How much weight should we grant this possibility, controlling for our personal interest in it being false? Empirical uncertainty is one major reason why despite that morality is objective, our moral choices sometimes anyway require the exercise of judgement. You raise many such cases.

Some of them, such as the brushing of teeth, seem justifiable on the basis of self-defence even though the threat is not (typically) lethal especially given a personal judgement that microorganisms probably don't possess that level of sentience.

Showering probably goes along similar lines, although it's more questionable that it has much relationship with our health as opposed to our social acceptability and/or self-esteem. Dispensing with soap so far as possible might be the most prudent choice.

I find it hard to comment on anti-bacterial and anti-yeast foods such as onions, garlic, spices and coconut because I don't know to what extent they destroy bacteria which are themselves harmful to us, and thus could be considered in the realm of self-defence, and to what extent they destroy "innocent" or even beneficial bacteria. I had not considered this question to date.

As for changes of diet starving and killing intestinal bacteria, again, I hadn't yet considered that issue. It seems though like a good reason not to change one's diet unless it is unavoidable.

Personally, I am still working on putting my ethical views on some of this stuff into practice. I take the possibility of ethically considerable levels of sentience in microorganisms seriously enough that I think that fermented foods should be avoided (which is why I wrote in an earlier post to Vault313 that I would resume avoiding leavened bread - and yes, one of my local supermarkets *does* stock unleavened bread), but on the other hand, even today I have consumed both wine and miso soup.

I accept that, given the uncertainty on the empirical question, there is room for personal judgement. Is this going a bit too far? Make your own personal judgement. :)
 
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#98
The answers depend a lot on whether and to what extent microorganisms are sentient and subjects of experiences that are worth having. In an extreme, it is possible that each individual bacteria is blissfully engaged in meaningful relationships with those around it, living, loving, learning, teaching and cooperatively creating, leading an existence no less satisfyingly than our own.
This, at least to me, seems to be at the heart of the matter. From our discussions on other threads on consciousness, perhaps you already have a decent idea of what I think about this. I think all of life is conscious and has a subjective experience, but I borrow from IIT to make judgments about what that experience might be like. In that case, it would seem that the experience of bacteria would be very basic by our standards of experience.

Seemingly intelligent behavior can occur non-consciously in humans, so we have to be careful, I think, in how we interpret intelligent behavior of say bacterial colonies and then potentially attributing our qualities of experience to them. If I were to guess, I would say that while the bacteria have an internal experience, it is so basic by our standards as to almost be unrecognizable as "conscious," and wouldn't have any kind of the complex conscious experiences that we have. Most, if not all of it's seemingly intelligent behavior is likely all done unconsciously.

But if were the case that every living thing has an internal experience, where do we draw the line? For example, if certain insects like say, a mealworm, only have a basic internal experience, but no ability for feelings and that sort of thing, why not raise mealworms as a source of valuable nutrition? What would make a mealworm's life more valuable than bacteria? Because it is a bit more complex? What level of complexity is considered valuable? Or what qualities of complexity are valuable? As I mentioned about intelligent unconscious behavior, I think we should be careful in using behavior as a guide to how conscious an organism is, and if a seemingly intelligent behavior is unconscious, in that it is not a conscious, intentional effort, then why does that have value? How would we justify an assigned value of a certain type of unconscious behavior?

I think we intuitively feel (and I think it is correct) that a good reason not to want to kill animals for food that we do is that they have feelings and are therefore capable of suffering. I forgot to respond to the portion in the original thread about steer having the concept of death, and you were right. I should have known this because I know of funeral ceremonies elephants have for each other. I think the key is that these animals can suffer.

Couldn't that be an important distinction? It seems that killing living organisms is necessary to live, since bacteria are so ubiquitous, and if bacteria do not have the capacity to suffer, then couldn't it be reasonable to just eat say a not so restricted vegan diet where kimchi can be consumed (which benefits the health of the person)?

I know you and others are critical of Integrated Information Theory (IIT), but I am fascinated by potential applications of things like mapping qualia spaces. If IIT were true, what if we could quantify in some way by mapping the qualia space of an organism, whether or not it suffers? What if we found out by mapping qualia spaces of bacteria and say mealworms and found out that really neither have emotions, or do either of them really suffer, but they have internal experiences that are very basic and most of their seemingly intelligent actions occur unconsciously? Would that possibly lead you to reconsider how moral it is to eat a living organism like a mealworm?

In my opinion, this could potentially be an excellent option for nutrition sources, since insects can be highly nutritious, are much more environmentally friendly to raise, reduce energy consumption, would cost less (grass-fed ground beef is $8-10/lb here in California!), and if they have no feelings, then it seems like a perfect option for an ethical source of excellent nutrition. At the very least, it perhaps it could be an option that would reduce the factory farming of animals that have feelings.
 
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#99
Thanks for the Kudos Laird - I definitely enjoy what I do for a living. And I do want to say that I also appreciate your deep thought on food issues as many could care less what they put into their bodies.

"I do not believe in moral relativism." So, here's the thing. It really doesn't matter if you believe in it or not, because it is and always has been the reality on this planet for human groups since they formed. This belief in an objective, universal morality that is culturally independent is exactly what I disagree with so we may just have to agree to disagree unless you are willing to consider the anthropological evidence for moral relativism. There is plenty from the past and present. Be careful with absolute moral convictions - they can cause more HARM than good (based on the historical evidence of groups forcing their absolute morality onto others). For example, I think there is even leeway in your argument that allows for meat eating since, in principle, the argument is purely about avoiding avoidable harm. You would have no problem with me eating road kill. A deer is unavoidably killed when it darts out in the street and a car hits it and kills it. I come up behind the car, see the deer is dead, and harvest and eat the meat. This would be 100% OK with you (according to your argument) as I would not be inflicting any harm on the deer. So, you're actually not against eating animals as a "universal moral mandate" applied across the board.

"I do not believe that culture is a valid justification for unethical practices." I don't see how this statement addresses my point at all. My point was that there is no black and white cultural situation anywhere on this earth where you can tease out one part of the culture (especially food) and and not find it connected to the whole web of the entire culture. This is a basic anthropological principle. So, you witness the sacrificing of an animal to a god in a culture and proclaim, "that is unethical!", without any understanding of how that sacrifice is woven into the entire worldview of its people and how it would completely alter that culture to remove it. Therefore, one culture has determined what is ethical or not ethical and forced it upon another culture like putting a square peg into a round hole and wondering why it busted up the hole. So, really what you are arguing for is the dissolving of morally diverse human cultures into a morally homogeneous one where everyone agrees on certain indisputable moral convictions and allow the "culture" to flow from that. Some people would call this "cultural imperialism" or "cultural colonization". I personally prefer cultural autonomy and appreciate cultural diversity with a myriad of moral perspectives based on the evolution of the culture itself in tandem with the natural environment in which it grew. This doesn't mean I wouldn't have abolished slavery - it means slavery wasn't an evolved cultural artifact of a distinct culture and could be removed easily (well not easily but you know what I mean).

I will readily admit that I am unable to look at many "arguments" without an anthropological lens. It was my study of cultures around the world past and present and the moral uniqueness (lack of systematic similarities and always a host of differences) of these cultures that led me to my beliefs. So, I am biased in this way when it comes to thinking about morality. But I do feel confident that is quite common throughout human history for certain cultures to climb up to a uniquely determined moral high ground and proclaim all others as "unethical" or "immoral" without an understanding of what led to the beliefs of the "inferior" culture and how crucial they are to the culture itself in the first place. In many situations, enforcing a moral standard upon a culture was a strategy used to subjugate that culture (think missionaries). I am starting to think your argument could be applied within a subset of cultures - those that are considered "modern" or "affluent" with abundant resources where the culture is still in an early stage of development. "American culture" for example is very young and as it evolves, the culture may self-correct the way we eat based on individual moral imperatives and our relationship with natural resources.

Grorganic
 
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