Veganism Is Not Extreme

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When I first became vegetarian a little over six years ago, it was a huge change for me. For three meals a day, I committed to doing something different than I had done for the previous 27000 meals of my life. To me, giving up meat was extreme, especially early on when I tried to figure out what else I could eat other than soy hot dogs.

After a little while, though, it felt very natural and I realized that vegetarianism wasn’t that big of a deal. And while I thought that someday I might possibly go vegan, the idea of veganism still seemed extreme to me.

When I finally made the transition to veganism, it also turned out to be not that big of a deal. Today, it seems like the most normal thing in the world to me, definitely not “extreme” by any stretch of the imagination. Yet, to anyone else that hasn’t made the transition to veganism, whether omnivore or lacto-ovo vegetarian, it still seems very far “out there.” The phrase “vegan extremists” is not terribly uncommon:

“Fish is a great source of protein and it’s one of the few foods that almost all people will agree is good for you – except some vegan extremists – with the caveat that you have to be careful about where the fish comes from and what kind it is.” (also includes this comment from a reader: “To heck with vegan extremists! Put the fish on my plate!”)

Vegetarian and Vegan extremists, as well as fur-haters (people who throw red paint at people who wear fur) have a heavily intolerant view on animal testing, they firmly believe that any testing is inhumane, they pass pictures of animals in torture-like devices and are very active in trying to make meat-eaters and fur-wearers feel like murderers, just because they don’t abide by the vegetarian/vegan extremist point of view.”

And, of course, the “don’t they have anything better to do” variety of comment:

Please beware that the vegan extremists are not going to go away. Like extremists of every stripe, they want to impose their values on others. Many have nothing but time to kill (so to speak) and plenty of $$$ from a few high profile backers.”

We regard sports and activities as “extreme” if they are death-defying, ones that if performed without experience and the utmost caution would cause the average person to meet a painful end. Indeed, death itself is probably the most extreme thing that any of us will ever face (and the one thing that we will all face at some point). It’s the end of this life, and even if you believe in the afterlife, you can be sure you’re in for a drastic change when the reaper calls your number.

Likewise, we look at torture as extreme because in many cases, it’s a fate worse than death. It makes the victim wish for death as a quick release from the suffering.

If one looks at the animal exploitation industries–that is, the meat, dairy, and egg industries, the vivisection and animal testing industries, and the fur industry–a few obvious things come to light. The vast majority of the animals used in these industries undergo treatment that would be considered torture by the mainstream if inflicted upon humans: confinement, sharing cramped cages, force feeding, starvation, rape, use of foreign substances, lack of medical care. For whatever reason, when these acts are committed against non-human animals, they’re considered “standard industry practices” and not torture.

But even if agreement can’t be reached on the treatment of these animals, one thing is undeniable: 100% of them face the most extreme of extremes: death. And not a natural death that most of us hope for, but an early, painful, unnatural death at the hands of another. This death would be at best considered torturous and at worst, murder. Again, since these acts are not being committed against humans, most of us accept them as the normal part of life.

So the question at this point is, “Why is veganism extreme?” It’s extreme because it causes us to radically change how we live our lives.

But forget that for a moment. Forget any personal change required in becoming vegan (because, after all, would we consider inconvenience if it involved our next door neighbor being tortured?). Consider only the actual actions involved in a.) eating meat, wearing animal products, and supporting animal testing and b.) practicing veganism.

Torture and death are extreme. Meat, fur, and animal testing involve both. Therefore, these actions should be considered extreme.

Veganism bypasses all of this. Veganism opts out of exploitation, torture, and death. Veganism strives for compassion. Veganism is peace. Veganism is not extreme. Eating dozens of animals a year (even more if you’re into chicken rather than beef) is extreme.

Sure, we’re all still freaks for the way we choose to live our lives because it’s so drastically different than what most people do, but it doesn’t make our lifestyle extreme. In fact, it’s our very choice to abstain from animal products and the suffering that’s associated with them that makes us the antithesis of extreme.

73 Responses to “Veganism Is Not Extreme”

  1. karen

    when i was younger, before i became vegetarian (and i am vegetarian, not vegan, though i certainly see the point of veganism), i somewhat arrogantly told a friend of mine that i saw the point in vegetarianism but i wasn’t quite sure what the rationale was supposed to be for veganism. it turned out he’d been vegan, though he wasn’t at the time. he was a very quiet guy, and not prone to long arguments. he just said slowly, “well, i always thought there was already enough cruelty in the world.” i felt like a huge jackass – it seemed like such an obvious, intuitively reasonable philosophy. i think about that often.

  2. Levi Wallach

    Since you quoted me (the first quote), I’ll respond. First of all, let’s look at some definitions of “extreme”: of the greatest possible degree or extent or intensity; far beyond a norm in quantity or amount or degree; to an utmost degree.

    In other words, extreme is not necessarily a negative! It’s simply means special in some way that is beyond that of the norm. I would consider veganism itself to be such because it is practiced by a relatively small group, and also it purports itself to be the utmost in humane eating practices.

    But despite that, I don’t think my comments that you quoted branded all vegans as extremists. Rather, my words were trying to convey a group of vegans who are extremists in their attitude. All groups have extremists in them. There are extremist “carnivores” just as there are extremist vegans. The vegans I had in mind, in particular, are those that have let their perfectly understandable religious/philosophical motivations for their eating habits to cloud their objectivity when it comes to the science of nutrition. Since they can’t reconcile the fact that some animal products may actually be healthy for you, perhaps even healthier than an alternative non-animal product, they start doing logical somersaults in order to prove that the vegan choice is right for every reason. In fact, I think it actually cheapens their true reason for opting for veganism in the first place because they can’t be honest with themselves that it may not be optimal in every way. In other words, wouldn’t it be a lot better for one to say “well, there might be some animal products that would allow me to get better nutrition, but I’m forgoing some things in order to help my animal friends” ? I know part of this is probably difficult because there is so much propaganda from animal rights and vegetarian groups about how eating anything animal is poison or words to that effect, but you let yourself believe what you want to some extent and if you really look at all sides of the argument, you might not be persuaded that all things from animals are bad.

    Certainly, one can make an argument for the cruelty of factory farms and such places, but is that necessarily a reason to become a vegan by itself, especially now that there are organic local farms throughout the country that practice more humane methods? In other words, why not use the hatred for cruelty to promote the alternatives, rather than opt out of the entire system? Of course, that’s a personal decision, but in terms of the population as a whole, you have a zillion times better shot convincing them to look for and buy only “humainly raised” animal products than not to buy any at all.

  3. Ryan

    Hi Levi — thanks for stopping by.

    Since you quoted me (the first quote), I’ll respond. … In other words, extreme is not necessarily a negative! It’s simply means special in some way that is beyond that of the norm. I would consider veganism itself to be such because it is practiced by a relatively small group, and also it purports itself to be the utmost in humane eating practices.

    Point taken.

    But despite that, I don’t think my comments that you quoted branded all vegans as extremists. Rather, my words were trying to convey a group of vegans who are extremists in their attitude. All groups have extremists in them. There are extremist “carnivores” just as there are extremist vegans. The vegans I had in mind, in particular, are those that have let their perfectly understandable religious/philosophical motivations for their eating habits to cloud their objectivity when it comes to the science of nutrition. …

    Your argument is very similar to Erik Marcus’ — that of pushing the ethical argument above all else, because it’s more of a slam dunk than the health arguments. Which I agree with.

    That said, I don’t necessarily concur with the idea that thinking fish is bad for you is an “extreme” notion. Sure, they’re high in health fats, but because of the factory farmed nature of most fish, many are also high in mercury. Two sides to every story and all that.

    However, like Erik Marcus said, it’s possible to have a healthy omnivorous diet just like it’s possible to have an unhealthy vegan diet.

    In other words, why not use the hatred for cruelty to promote the alternatives, rather than opt out of the entire system? Of course, that’s a personal decision, but in terms of the population as a whole, you have a zillion times better shot convincing them to look for and buy only “humainly raised” animal products than not to buy any at all.

    Unfortunately, “humanely raised” meat/”organic” meat/”free range” eggs are generally an illusion. Sure, some small farms may offer such items, but the percentage is quite small. And, besides, they all still end in death. I’m concerned, like many are, that the idea of “conscientious omnivores” are being too easily sated by the idea of “humanely raised” meat rather than following ethical eating to its more logical conclusion.

  4. Levi Wallach

    That said, I don’t necessarily concur with the idea that thinking fish is bad for you is an “extreme” notion. Sure, they’re high in health fats, but because of the factory farmed nature of most fish, many are also high in mercury. Two sides to every story and all that.

    Actually, the farm-raised ones don’t actually have problems with mercury, it’s some of the wild ones, since mercury contaminates some natural bodies of water, but fish that are raised in farms are segregated from these. However, farm-raised fish have their own problems. Their feed is a particular issue. Some have shown increased PCB contamination in farm-raised fish, but even if that is prevented, the unatural grains they are fed (as opposed to their natural diets of plankton and/or other fish) means that they don’t have such healthy fats as their wild counterparts. As for wild fish, you just have to be very descriminating. Alaskan Salmon are said to offer little to know mercury, and the smaller the fish, the less mercury they will contain, so sardines, for example, is a great choice. Of course, even better is to take, as I do, a fish oil suplement that is actually filtered for any contaminants.

    However, like Erik Marcus said, it’s possible to have a healthy omnivorous diet just like it’s possible to have an unhealthy vegan diet.

    Of course. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. My main issue is with those who convince themselves that the non-animal choice is ALWAYS better than the animal-based one – or visa versa.

    Unfortunately, “humanely raised” meat/”organic” meat/”free range” eggs are generally an illusion. Sure, some small farms may offer such items, but the percentage is quite small.

    Yes, it is, but it has been growing steadily over the past 10 years. My point is that we need to promote them so that their practices can become standard, not belittle them because they don’t account for a sizable chunk of the market.

    And, besides, they all still end in death.

    And there’s the rub! That of course is what is going to divide vegetarians from omnivore’s in the end, as you see death as the ultimate evil no matter how humainly raised the animal is up till then. Domesticated animals have lived for thousands of years in a kind of unwritten deal with humans. We keep them safe from their predators, feed them and give them shelter. Then in return they “give” us food. Without us, they wouldn’t exist. Now you may invision that “deal” as being unfair, but do you think the animal does? If it could understand the choice of never existing vs. living for a limited time without the stresses of the wild having to constantly look for food, face starvation, predation, exposure to the elements, etc. Or just the choice of never having existed in the first place. It’s an interesting thought. Of course, they don’t have the choice, but the question is, are we giving something to them that compensates for what they give us? Certainly the factory farm makes this whole thing a bit lopsided, but what about all the thousands of years of animal husbandry up until the last 100 or so years (plus the small farms both hear and in other countries that do practice things in a more traditional way)?

    I’m concerned, like many are, that the idea of “conscientious omnivores” are being too easily sated by the idea of “humanely raised” meat rather than following ethical eating to its more logical conclusion.

    Well, I’m not sure if veganism IS the logical conclusion. My logical conlusion are these farms that balance things out in a natural way. Did you read An Omnivore’s Dilemma and how Polyface Farm near Charlottesville, VA works? We’ve gotten the farm so out of wack and so seperated from how nature works! Eventually, I think maybe we will grow meat in the lab. It’s already been done experimentally. I’m sure there will be issues with how it compares to real meat. It might have health issues that real meat doesn’t. But that may be the eventual technology that makes what we have obsolete – or at least removes most of the factory farms, since lab-meat might be eventually produced at a much cheaper price, and not have all the risks and headaches of running a factory farm…

  5. michelle

    -humanely raised is marketing bull#$&% created to make people feel less guilty for eating dead animals.
    -there are non-animal options for every food imaginable. why eat a fish when you can use flax? why eat dairy for calcium when leafy greens are better? why be a zombie when you can think for yourself? science of nutrition? c’mon, that is the lamest thing i’ve ever read.
    -much like the word terrorist, the word extremist has been stolen and re-defined by the current political weenies who are thankfully losing control. (hello AETA) maybe we can give these words a break and challenge ourselves to think creatively and stop abusing them.

  6. Levi Wallach

    -humanely raised is marketing bull#$&% created to make people feel less guilty for eating dead animals.

    I’m not sure most people feel guilty about eating “dead animals” since we’ve been doing it for thousands of years. True, because we are more seperated from the food we eat now, and only buy them in packages, or even just in “happy meals” we don’t quite associate our food as “dead animals” unless of course we do a lot of cooking. But don’t you think it’s at least a step in the right direction? Sure, industry will try to market their stuff this way with as little change and expense as possible, but if they are at least claiming to be humane and aren’t, they can be called out on false advertising, if nothing else.

    -there are non-animal options for every food imaginable. why eat a fish when you can use flax?

    It’s not so much why eat fish, although you could, but a safer bet would be to take a fish oil suplement, like Carlson’s fish oil. The reason not to use flax seed instead of fish oil is that flax seed does not have true Omega-3 fatty acids, but rather the constituents of it that the body then has to convert into O3. This requires more resources, and we don’t do it nearly as efficiently as if we just took pure O3 in the first place. Studies have shown that this means we don’t actually receive nearly the benefits from flax as true O3. Here’s an excellent article that explains more about this with a reference to a recent study that bears this out: http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/index.php?s=flax&submit=Search

    why eat dairy for calcium when leafy greens are better?

    “better” is somewhat of a matter of opinion. I would agree with you for the most part that non-dairy alternatives are perfectly acceptable. Yogurt, however, has been shown to be very beneficial – particularly the various probiotic cultures. I know you can get some of these (like acidopholus) alone, so perhaps that is a way to get some of the good parts of yogurt without the dair?

    why be a zombie when you can think for yourself? science of nutrition? c’mon, that is the lamest thing i’ve ever read.

    Lame? Why? Just because I don’t agree with you about being a vegetarian I’m not “thinking” or I’m “lame”? Sounds like you can’t see things from any point of view other than your own.

    -much like the word terrorist, the word extremist has been stolen and re-defined by the current political weenies who are thankfully losing control. (hello AETA) maybe we can give these words a break and challenge ourselves to think creatively and stop abusing them.

    It’s true that “extremist” has been overused as a catch phrase, but what other words would you suggest in it’s place? How about “zealots”? Would that be more to your liking?

  7. Rachel

    Don’t knock a lifestyle unless you try it. As a lifelong vegetarian and a vegan for almost a decade, I can attest to a lifetime of growing up as an “extremist” amongst the masses. However, I can say that now as a grown woman, most of my meat eating friends ask me to teach them how to cook vegan-not because they want to convert, but because it’s delicious. And different. And healthy.

    My parents have been vegetarians for 35 years, and as people who once abuse their bodies (ex-hippies) with pig roasts and other substances-including my father who smoked cigarrettes for 30 years, I can tell you they are the poster children for a vegan diet. My parents are in their 60s, and look despite the color of their hair (white) like they are in their mid-late 40s. NO plastic surgery. No wrinkles. They both have rosy complexions, and get amazing results from their physicals every year.Their doctors are amazed.

    I married a wonderful man who used to be known as “burgerman” in college. When I met him, he was overweight, and had a grey tint to his skin. He looked 10 years older then he was. After spending time with me and my parents, he got the vegan bug. It took 3 years. Now, he’s 35 lbs. skinner, he has rosy skin, he looks 4 years younger then he is. People do not recognize him.

    This is my reason for keeping on as a vegan. Watching my parents not grow old. Also, the energy I get and see my husband has now from a totally plant based diet. It’s amazing. And as a woman who has lived a life of people putting me down for eating different-and always minding my busiess about it, I say-don’t knock till you try it.

    You may like it.

  8. Levi Wallach

    Hi Rachel. I’m not sure if you were addressing your comments to me or just in general. If they were in general, forgive me for responding, but I wanted to just in case they were directed at me. I’m not trying to knock vegetarianism or veganism. I think everyone has a right to seek out their own way of eating that they feel works best for them and not be ridiculed for their decision.

    I was a vegetarian for about 6 months in college, then a few months in grad school, after which I started putting fish back in my diet, but I did go for 6 years with fish as my only source of animal food (aside from eggs and dairy). I never tried to be a vegan as I think when I first heard about it, the options whee I were for eating that way were not many. My experiences were not memorable, in any event. I didn’t lose lots of weight, or feel a great difference in health, etc.

    I’m glad you feel you and your family have benefited from that lifestyle. Of course, I can tell you how I, as well as many others I know, benefited a great deal from adding more meat back into their diet and removing grains, starches, and sugars. To a certain degree it’s anecdotal, and it’s also probably different for different people. Despite the amazing degree of similarity in our species, there are definite differences in the genome when it comes to diet. There’s no one-size-fits-all for certain things. Some people respond well to low-fat vegetarianism, others get very sick, and visa versa with low-carb.

    My main issue is not with vegans or vegetarians in general, but with those who claim that veganism/vegetarianism is healthier for EVERYONE. I believe they convince themselves of this because if this weren’t the case, it would somehow contradict what they believe to be the only right thing. Not everything is black and white. This is also true of other diets. There are certainly some within the low-carb movement (of which I’m a part), that believe that vegetarianism is unhealthy for anyone and that anyone who is a vegetarian or vegan is an extremist, overly sensitive, etc. I think that’s an equally reprehensible view.

    It seems that for most groups who are small (this goes for vegetarians but also for low-carbers (despite the peak in popularity of the diets in recent years), there’s a tendency to hunker down and get defensive and even a bit… shall we say… ok “zealous”? ;-) The reason being that the vast majority out there don’t do what we do, and don’t understand it. If they don’t criticize us publicly, then there’s still a sense that we are an endangered minority and somehow have to defend our decision to eat the way we do. It’s unfortunate, but that seems to be how sometimes being in a minority works, even if the minority isn’t being blatantly attacked…

  9. Delany

    Without us, they wouldn’t exist.

    This is the attitude that chaps my hide. “You owe me your life, therefore I can take it whenever I want, and you’d better be grateful for every second of life that I allow you in the meantime.”

    You do know that that’s one of the arguments that pro-slavery people used, don’t you?

  10. Ryan

    Without us, they wouldn’t exist.

    And doesn’t that mean the onus is upon us to make sure they’re well taken care of? Like Gary at Animal Writings said, “We confused ‘dominion’ with ‘domination.'”

  11. Eric

    I’m one of those animal-friendly people that also thinks the environmental arguments for veganism hold water. For instance, even if mercury is lower in farmed fish, it takes twice as many wild-caught fish to feed farmed fish, which is an environmental disaster. The oceans will be over-fished by 2048, if nothing is done about it.

    Then, getting back to mercury, the higher up on the food chain you eat, the more likely you are to be consuming toxins. The mercury in wild caught fish is being consumed by farmed fish, which means they are storing mercury in their bodies as well.

    Ultimately, one can find no fault with a well-balanced, whole foods, plant-based diet, but one has to work rather hard to eat animal foods and avoid environmental concerns, minimize health concerns (we’re talking about less than 5% of your protein coming from animals), and — lest it be forgotten — minimizing animal suffering. In the end, you’re still responsible for the demand that necessitates killing sentient beings when it’s unnecessary to do so. Why be a part of that?

  12. Rachel

    Levi,

    I did intend for my comments to be seen as a general input to the discussion rather then directed at you, however, I figured I would respond further since you have decided that this blog is all about your opinion.

    I’m sorry that you have never experienced being a vegan. I am not the type of person who has ever stood on my soapbox and demanded that other people should eat the way I do or even imposed my eating habits on others-even when they are in my home! I do however, have a problem with people who characterize me as some crazy lunatic for choosing not to eat animals or products from animals. I believe in choice, and not critizing others for their choices. I had so much hazing growing up in a world of meateaters as I silently ate my food, and was habitually harrassed. I think it’s really sad that you meat eaters have so much guilt that you have to constantly put us down.

    I don’t know if veganism is for everyone in terms of health benefits. However, I know more people today that are becoming vegan rather then going low carb. And this could entirely be a fad- however, I haven’t seen as many people leave the vegan diet once they are on it. For example, I know a couple in their 50s who owned a beef jerky plant and ate meat all the time, and they became low carb vegans after a couple of health scares. The wife was overweight, was on medication for 25-30 years for thyroid and blood pressure conditions, and she not only lost about 60 lbs, but also is completely off medication NATURALLY.
    I also had a chronic condition with my intestines due to high stress and going even more hard core vegan cured me-before I was on steriods when I was sick. I haven’t had any relapses for 5 years. My aunt was a low carber for years and now is vegan and is in the best shape of her life, and she’s an athlete. Everyone I know who goes even 80% vegan feels and looks healthier immediately.

    When people find out I’m vegan the immediate response is always “how do you get protein” or some other typical ignorant response. Or they give me the low carb line as they swallow their steak. I tell them “whatever floats your boat.” But people like you always have a response and a judgement for people who are minding their own business and eating the way they enjoy and also may be saving the earth in a way. One vegan at a time.

    So, please stop trying to spout your low carb crap in a vegan blog. No one wants to hear the ignorance. If you are that interested in being included in a conversation on a vegan blog, then try being one for a week. I did a decade ago, and I never went back.

  13. Ryan

    Rachel — Take a deep breath… I don’t agree with Levi on a number of things, either, but he’s being respectful throughout the discussion. He’s got a right to comment here, too, particularly since I quoted him directly in my original post.

  14. Rachel

    Ryan, Levi,

    Sorry I got so heated! Levi has been informative and peaceful in his communication.

    Let’s all spread the love of our good fortune to have the knowledge of food and health despite our differences rather then being judgemental.

    I guess this judgemental attitude is what your blog is initially about and also what Levi’s point is about vegans becoming too militant.

  15. Levi Wallach

    Ok, glad I wasn’t able to look at this till tonight! :) Rachel, thanks for taking a deep breath. It sounds like you have lots of positive experiences with veganism both personally and with friends, and that’s great. It also sounds like you’ve had some negative experiences with low-carbers, and I think maybe you had come to some conclusion that all low-carbers were jerks. I hope that’s not the case. There are vegan jerks, and low-carb jerks, just as there are vegan and low-carb… well, what’s the opposite of a jerk? Hmmm…

    Delaney, I never made the argument you seem to indicate, just that there is that argument that domesticated animals would not exist but for us. Now, you can argue that it is not a life worth living, especially for factory farmed animals, and I might even agree there. But also, my point was that I wonder what the animals themselves could decide if given the choice between an existence in either a factory farm or a more humane one and lack of existence altogether. What if we had the same choice? What would you choose? It’s a tough call, and it has to do a lot with, I think, what your religious/philosophical leanings are. As far as slavery is concerned, I think that’s both a loaded comparison and one that doesn’t make sense to me. While there may have been a similar argument, the argument for slavery was a false one because obviously humans did not require other humans to exist.

    Eric, I think you are right in that our supply of fish is seriously in danger. I personally don’t believe farmed fish are the best solution, and would rather simply eat small wild fish. I think, though, that we need to give the oceans a lot of time to heal, and then manage the fishing much better. We also need to clean them up and get rid of as many of the pollutants that we can. That being said, there are other animal products aside from fish, and even fish (or fish oil at least) can be filtered for pollutants. As far as getting your diet from plants only, let’s remember than pollution can infect plans just as much as it can infect animals. As far as the “necessity” to kill “sentient” beings, well, the reason I do so is to have optimal health. Now obviously most people who are vegan or vegetarian think that veganism or vegetarianism is the most optimal way to eat in terms of health. I happen to disagree. I don’t believe eating just any meat (along with anything else) is healthier than being a vegan, but I do believe that we evolved to a diet that was at least partially, if not mostly animal-based, and many studies have indicated the benefits of eating such a diet. You may disagree with me, and I’m sure you will, but at least that is my rationalle for eating the way I do. I’m sorry that I don’t put the lives of animals before my own – I’m not willing to sacrifice what I deem to be optimal health for those animals. I want to make their lives as pleasant as possible, but otherwise, I’m still looking out for my own health (and that of my family) first. Call me selfish and cruel…

  16. domenick

    where are these high profile backers and how do I get some of that $$$$?

  17. David

    On the point of , health .., I suggest that all parties involved read the book “The China Study” by T Campbell. This book shows very clearly,( by citing some of the very best science and largest studies ever done on human health) that the closer one eats to a vegan diet, the healthier one will be, full stop.

    I became a vegan for purely selfish reasons, I wanted to be very healthy and to feel great, and …I feel awesome ! I don’t think one can motivate from a kind of moralistic guilt. Going out and saying ya’ll must become vegans, to stop killing of animals, look at all of this animal torture etc.. That might be an act of conscience, but then you are just guilt tripping people, and in a sense, that’s a negative thing to do others.

    I ate an omnivore diet out of the culture I grew up in , Ranchers and Suburbia, and what my Mom told me to eat. And , over time, out of the pressing appetites for the flavors etc. But, at some point , for me, I decided to see what would would happen if I transcended those desires. I discovered a much happier human on the other side of that chasm. Again, I’m pretty selfish , I did this for my own happiness.

    I’m a plain clothes, undercover vegan , I don’t make a big deal out of it. If someone asks , I just say look , it’s been shown to be, (by a long shot) , the healthiest way of eating out there. From a sense of well being , if you eat the flesh of an animal, you intake it’s energy as well as it’s (second hand) nutrients. Suffering animals have a lot of bad energy , free roaming animals .. a lot of hunger … I don’t want to have that energy in my system.

    I defy anyone to eat vegan for 30 days and not feel amazing. If you don’t feel fantastic, then go back to your old ways. But, if you do feel great, then why not keep going. In the long run, the more people who can understand that , the better for our society, all animals and all of our children and grandchildren. It seems to be just common sense.

    one love …

  18. Beth

    what an amazing discussion-thank you (each of you) for your contributions. I have been vegetarian for 25 years, and vegan for just about 6 months. When anyone asks me why I am vegan, I just say it is for ethical reasons. Recently, a very smart friend of mine was arguing with me (he likes to argue) about why not eat cheese if I know it comes from a humane farm, and why not eat eggs if I know they’re taken from humanely raised chickens? This question/argument never fails to amaze me–isn’t it obvious that there is NO REASON to eat these products other than my own gustatory pleasure? That is why I am vegan. Humans can easily live very full lives without indulging in cheese, eggs and other forms of dairy. To partake in those products is simply not necessary. That is why I am vegan. Until all animals are considered to have value above and beyond their “use value,” I will remain vegan.

  19. Brent

    Levi, I found your argument around harvesting animals for food, difficult to read:

    But also, my point was that I wonder what the animals themselves could decide if given the choice between an existence in either a factory farm or a more humane one and lack of existence altogether. What if we had the same choice? What would you choose? It’s a tough call

    A tough call? Lets see yes, I would like to be forcibly bred by another species. Then have my babies taken from me so they can become food. And eventually moved into a slaughterhouse to wait in line and have my throat slit. Oh wait maybe if I wasnt kept in a cage my whole life and was able to move around in a pen a bit it wouldnt be so bad (the organic or free-range option).

    To many of us, exploiting animals for research, their fur, or their flesh is simply wrong. To me it is the same as exploiting another human being, which we still do which I also believe is wrong.

    Its really more of an ethical issue than a dietary one. Most meat eaters (yes I use to be one) like to focus on the diet aspect. The Fish oil! Or the B12, iron, etc… But it really isnt an issue because credible studies have shown that a balanced vegan diet is extremely healthy. As an example many studies show vegans as having a dramatically reduced risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death for both men and women.

    For me, changing my diet was an ethical decision. It is about stopping the exploitation of animals and the destruction of the earths ecosystems. Unfortunately, many people still believe it is ok to exploit animals and even other human beings. Hopefully over time this will change. I think change can only happen with education and real education about these issues is difficult when powerful interests have a vested interest in keeping people misinformed and ignorant.

    -Brent
    Vegan Freak “LeggoMyEggo”

  20. Paul H.

    Greetings. Im an occasional visitor, and I wanted to say hello in this interesting conversation.

    Ive been vegetarian for about 15 years. (Im 35 now.) The second year of that was vegan. Becoming a vegetarian was fairly easy. I didnt try until I had a good idea of what else there was to eat. But being vegan made me feel chronically weak. At the same time, I was actively working for cow protection, and I took shelter of the cow as a mother.

    I was studying yoga rather intensely, and in the worldview that gave yoga to the world, the cow is protected and all her products are highly valued. The view is that there are seven kinds of mothers, one of which is the cow.

    In questioning what is the proper relationship between people and cows, most people apparently say that it is for the people to exploit the cow in every way. The vegans apparently think there should only be people, no cows. Im not sure I cant figure that one out.

    Now I have a small farm mostly as a hobby. (I have a full-time job too.) We have one cow, who we plan to breed soon, four sheep, and two angora goats. None of them will ever be killed, and theyre well-treated. Although they graze on pasture, they are more like family pets than livestock. But I shear the sheep and goats (necessary for their health), and my wife makes clothes and things from the wool. Next year when the cow has a calf, well take whatever milk is left when the calf finishes drinking. The animals are a part of our family, and are treated as such. Personally, Im convinced that, for us (including the animals), this is better than the vegan option. At least it’s worth mention.

  21. Tom Young

    You guys certainly can talk! Why keep beating around the real issue? The bottom line for not eating the flesh of animals has little to do with “feelings” or “mistreatment” or “cruelty”. The entire race of humans exists todays because, as a race, we killed and ate everything we could. The real reason is that we have copulated our selves to the point of collapse. We have eaten ourselves into a corner. Going Vegan won’t cut it. The only way for the critters on this planet to survive is for humanity to do the Lemming Sea Wall Rush.

  22. Vegan Sommelier

    The “Lemming Sea Wall Rush”?

    You first.

  23. mookrit

    While we may use animals for our purposes like cultivation for food we should attempt to make their remaining days as pleasant as possible. As animals feel pleasure and pain, we should not deliberately set out to inflict harm. In that sense one can distinguish a positive act (such as sexual abuse) from an omission (such as neglecting to provide adequate housing space).

    Ultimately however, the democratic process only guarantees the process, and not the content. If we were to start from scratch and examine existing protections afforded to animals, and then decide some were beyond a bare minimum standard, I doubt animal activists would permit their removal. The tendency would be to add increasing protections to the point where the burden would become unjustifiable. So in a practical sense translating strong moral convictions to legislation is not always feasible.

  24. Mayuresh

    I really do not understand why Vegans and Vegetarians put the arguement that killing animals for food is bad because they suffer pain. Even plants suffer pain, as has been shown by the scientists (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jagdish_Chandra_Bose#Plant_research).

    Yet, we continue mechanised agriculture and KILL the plant and all its children (grain like wheat etc. which are its next generation). Why can’t we understand that they too are living beings and they too feel pain?

    Yes, we need to do all these things because we need to survive. The carnivorous beasts KILL herbivores and the omnivores in nature (bears, primates, pigs, foxes, fish etc. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omnivorous) too kill and eat animals theough they too are perfectly capable of living on vegetarian food. So, according to the rules of nature and God, eating animals is NOT wrong

    I am agreeable to the arguement that to be a vegetarian or vegan is a personal choice, and is healthier, given our present day sedentary lifestyle. Yet, fish are the best source of the highest quality protein available to humans.

    OK, enough of vegans vs. non-vegetarians….. Let me talk about animal research.
    I have two choices. Let 1 million people die of cancer every year or let 1 million rodents and a few thousand primates die once to develop the vaccine and the medicine once and for all and stop 1 million human deaths every year.

    Yes, I do believe that humans are superior to all other life forms and hence, one human life is more valuable than 100 animals. (Ever wondered why homicide or even a homicidal attempt is a punishable offence, while butchering of animals, harvesting of crops, etc. is not? )

  25. Ryan

    Mayuresh’s post is full of familiar (weak) arguments.

    With regards to plant pain: come on, now. Really? Experiments supposedly concluding that plants feel pain have been debunked and generally disregarded and absurd for decades now. Plants don’t have a central nervous system. Besides, if you were really concerned about causing less suffering towards plants, you wouldn’t be eating animals since a lot more vegetation is used to feed animals than humans.

    Absurdity of Plant Pain

    So, according to the rules of nature and God, eating animals is NOT wrong

    That’s a conclusion based on two things I’m not willing to accept: that there is a God (there may be, there may not be) and that He said, “Go, ahead, humans! You don’t need to eat animals to live, but hey, if you want to inflict pain, suffering, and death upon them because you need a hamburger, sure, go for it!”). I don’t buy it.

    I have two choices. Let 1 million people die of cancer every year or let 1 million rodents and a few thousand primates die once to develop the vaccine and the medicine once and for all and stop 1 million human deaths every year.

    No, there are more than two choices. Again, you’re creating these fictional situations where it’s either/or and that’s it.

    You know, I’m tired of feeding the trolls. When you’re really and truly interested in a discussion and not just rehashing the same old arguments, come on back.

    (Ever wondered why homicide or even a homicidal attempt is a punishable offence, while butchering of animals … is not? )

    Yes, I have.

  26. prem vimal

    …..there is only one reason for not slaughtering and eating animals……and that it is: it’s ugly…..yes very ugly……conditioned from the “illusory past” of the even uglier practice of cannibalism…..remember? ….yes we ate one another!

  27. prem vimal

    ….consciousness, awareness grows regardless and because of unconsciousness…..just as the grass…the trees….flowers all advance on this earthly lifestream..(unless of course we poison and fever the Earth till she shakes or coughs us all off)
    …..so….if this is true….I trust existence will provide for us, as it is already doing, the path from ignorance to awareness…..and suffering….animals, humans, the Earth itself…..will diminish…
    …..the spring comes…..and the grass grows by itself……yet we can be beautifully creative in the ways we sustain ourselves…..without unconsciously causing more pain and suffering….

  28. Shawn

    Just wanted to stop by and say that I really liked this article (something being missed in the argument by the fish man and everyone else). Keep up the good work.

  29. Hate to say it...

    Animals eat other animals. Not all of them, but a good portion.
    We’re animals.
    Dont get me wrong, you’re free to do what you like. But please dont claim that refusing to eat anything that comes from an animal or other living being isnt “extreme”.
    Also, if you’d like to get -really- technical, Plants are living things too.

    Oh, and to this
    “(Ever wondered why homicide or even a homicidal attempt is a punishable offence, while butchering of animals … is not? )”
    Because animals are tasty.

  30. ryan

    Animals eat other animals. Not all of them, but a good portion.

    Not the animals we eat.

    We’re animals.

    We’re animals — ones *with a choice*. Ones that implement factory farm systems.

    The fact that we’re animals doesn’t somehow mean we automatically *have* to eat meat (indeed, we don’t have to eat meat) and we certainly have the choice (obligation?) to not participate in something as grossly inhumane as the modern factory farm system.

    Also, if you’d like to get -really- technical, Plants are living things too.

    We’ve covered this somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand times: plants have no centralized nervous system, no sentience, and no ability to feel pain. Done.

    Because animals are tasty.

    I suspect people “taste like chicken,” too.

    Come back with something beyond the standard limp arguments. Thanks.

  31. Hate to say it...

    Ahah, you’re clever.
    You want something beyond the standard limp arguments eh? Well, I was holding back in decency, but here it is.
    You people -disgust- me.
    Let me clarify, Not because your beliefs, or your bludgeoning manner of relating them to everyone. I Live in a free country, and feel you’re entitled to that just like me.
    No, its the -structure- from which you gather your beleifs. For some reason, you people value animals more highly than humans. There’s a Crisis in Darfur, Multiple 3rd world countries where slavery (very commonly sexual in nature) not only exists, but is -rampant-, and despotic dictators who hate our guts (and No, not because most of us enjoy a delicious hamburger from time to time). But whats first on your agenda? Cows, Chickens, and Pigs.
    Not that I dont empathize with them. I dont pretend that slaughterhouses are nice places or the entire meat industry is -not- f’d up, but I’m a bit too busy caring about the state of humanity before I devote any of my time and effort to the state of the animal kingdom.
    When we all live in perfect peace and harmony, then you can come back to me with your tired crap.
    Until then, get a clue, and care about something real.

    Oh, and by the way, a pig will eat -anything- you give it, be it meat or not.

  32. ryan

    You people -disgust- me.
    Let me clarify, Not because your beliefs, or your bludgeoning manner of relating them to everyone. I Live in a free country, and feel you’re entitled to that just like me.

    Is it really “bludgeoning” that I talk about this stuff on my own web site? Am I visiting pro-meat web sites posting anti-meat arguments? Nope. Never once. I’ve never slapped the meat out of someone’s hand. Is it really “bludgeoning” to get people to think about what they eat and really question it?

    For some reason, you people value animals more highly than humans.

    Bull. Shit. “We people” just happen to realize that you can care plenty about human suffering and animal suffering because often the two are connected.

    What “you people” (and by that, I mean you, specifically) don’t seem to realize is that being vegan doesn’t somehow magically take time away from dealing with human issues. In fact, the vegans I’ve met are a heck of a lot more active in human rights issues than the average American.

    Until then, get a clue, and care about something real.

    Don’t worry about me. I care about plenty of “real” issues. It’s a shame that more people don’t.

    Thanks for playing.

  33. cannibal vegetarian

    “I’m a bit too busy caring about the state of humanity before I devote any of my time and effort to the state of the animal kingdom.”

    But there’s always time to bitch! Yay humanity!

    “There’s a Crisis in Darfur, Multiple 3rd world countries where slavery (very commonly sexual in nature) not only exists, but is -rampant-, and despotic dictators who hate our guts (and No, not because most of us enjoy a delicious hamburger from time to time). But whats first on your agenda? Cows, Chickens, and Pigs.”

    I assume your next complaint will be posted on, say, the Make-A-Wish site, since although sending terminally ill kids to Disneyland is nice, it’s MUCH less important than stopping genocide in Darfur. How could anyone in their right mind send a penny to Make-A-Wish when they could send it to Doctors Without Borders and SAVE lives? And the Special Olympics: screw them too. When the disabled start getting raped and slaughtered en masse I will consider sending them a few bucks, meanwhile it’s all going for Darfur. Meals on Wheels is SOL as well, I’m quitting my route and filling that timeslot with letter writing campaigns on behalf of DARFUR. Thanks Hate to say it…! But I’m staying vegetarian. It’s cheaper. And guess where I’ll send the money I save!

  34. val

    This is sad indeed. Everything is connected. I wish this person understood that you can’t care for humans if you don’t care about everything else. This person has a lot of anger which warps his (her?) argument so severely that I can only sigh -and move on. Decades of social marginalism is at work here and ignorance shows its face in all its fear and anger. Behold -the frightened man.

  35. AKD

    Thank you all for the amazing discussion!

    I’m an omnivore. my girlfriend is vegan. this, as you can imagine, is major point of contention, as we both love food and even work in the sustainable food movement. I consider myself a “reducer” — I am perfectly happy eating vegetarian or vegan food most of the time, but if someone serves me meat or I have a craving, I eat meat.

    To me, food is more than fuel for the body. It is the way I remember family members who have passed, how I connect to my culture and ancestors (I’m Jewish) and how I begin to understand and appreciate other cultures. Cooking is how I show love, how I socialize, how I meditate, how I practice discipline and how I seek mastery.

    My struggle is this: because of the deep social implications I just described, I consider it a grave social error to refuse food that is offered to me as a gesture of appreciation or as a way of sharing a culture with me. My girlfriend is often unintentionally rude about her eating habits, and this offends and embarrasses me. What am I to do? I want to respect her decision but I struggle with this unintended consequence of it — as well as her dismissal of the importance of the social implications of her decision.

    I am sure someone will tell me that people being offended by her refusal of food offerings is completely inconsequential considering the suffering of the animals, but i disagree. both are important, and neither should be dismissed. what is a omnivore-vegan-lover to do?

  36. cannibal vegetarian

    Are you saying that she refuses in a rude way, or that refusing at all is rude?

    If it’s the second one, I differ with you.
    If a cow or chicken were being tortured in the dining room, would you really think that was no more important than the hosts getting offended by her food refusal, no matter why it was offered or why she refused? Most people would say ‘no’, I believe, and rightly so. Just because the torture usually takes place outside the dining room does not change things.

    And no one should be offended by someone else refusing to eat something that goes against their moral code. Suppose I wanted to serve someone roasted dog or cat that I got from a “free pet” ad on craigslist, from an owner who told me it was OK to cook the animals once they were mine. There are people who get their dinner in this fashion, often for cultural reasons. Should I get offended if someone refuses to eat it? Or, as an atheist, do I have the right to be offended if someone refuses my food for religious reasons? I should hope not.

    Of course this is all beside the point if you were just complaining that she refuses in a rude way, in which case, you’re right.

    Still, I do sympathize with the importance of religious ties for people who were brought up that way, and good that you’re a ‘reducer’ (wish I could get my omnivore friends to do that.)

  37. AKD

    It’s both: she both refuses in a rude way, and I feel that in many situations, refusing an entire meal that someone has prepared for you is, well, rude.

    sure, no one *should* be offended by someone’s eating habits, but they are. like I said before, food is more than fuel for the body. Eating with someone is way of showing camaraderie, respect, affection, acceptance. and not just of the food offerer’s eating habits; of their entire self. by not eating my mother’s food, she is rejecting my mother. it would be nice if it wasn’t that way, but it often is.

    You’ve seen it happen — basically every time a non-vegan seems irritated about your eating habits, I would bet that at least part (if not all) of that irritation is due to a feeling of judgment and rejection that NONE of us like to feel. I don’t know what the answer is to this — how to be vegan and not hurt people while you’re not hurting animals. Is there an approach any of you have taken that has had a positive effect?

  38. cannibal vegetarian

    Well, she shouldn’t refuse in a rude way–hurts people’s feelings, not to mention hurting her own cause. Declining nicely would probably do a lot toward that positive effect you asked about at the end of your post.

    As for the other issue: A person’s morals are still more important than the hosts’ feelings. I know we feel ‘judged’ when someone refuses our food; it’s a natural gut reaction, but that’s all it is–a gut reaction, which all of us get as hosts, and which all of us might provoke as guests, because EVERYBODY has some thing or other that they will refuse to eat. Sure, I’d like to feel camaraderie, respect and affection from all my guests, but not so much that I would expect my vegan guests to eat eggs, or political activist guests to eat something they’re boycotting, or religious guests to eat food that goes against their church, or dieters to eat cheesecake.
    If I did, the camaraderie and respect would be pretty much destroyed even if they ate it. What about my respect for their beliefs? And, how can you feel camaraderie with someone you’ve just unwittingly filled with guilt and unhappiness once they’ve bitten into something they didn’t want to eat?

    I’m assuming of course that your girlfriend is a constant vegan and that she doesn’t backslide with ice cream and cheetos on a regular basis. If she does, I can understand why you’d be bothered.

  39. Carly

    Animal testing was brought up briefly and I just wanted to share something I heard (on CBC radio) about some new research being done on transplanting sheep uteruses (uteri?). Of course this involves numerous sheep and they have their uteruses swapped with another sheep and then are impregnated to check if the transplant was a “success” then they are killed along with the fetus and autopsied. If these experiments go well they hope to move on to primates. Does anyone stop to ask why this is a valid research topic? I assume the eventual goal is to transplant human uteri. Now forgive me for being insensitive but seeking medical remedies such as transplants for infertility in those few people who are unable to have children hardly seems an admirable goal in a grossly overpopulated world with innumerable orphans. I’m not going to get into the animal testing for medical research “cure for cancer” argument at the moment but surely if animal testing is to be performed EVERYONE should be able to agree that there better be a good reason for it. Killing lots of animals to try to make more humans instead of hooking up people who want children with children who want parents hardly seems like a justifiable goal by anyone’s standards.

  40. prem vimal

    ………again….eating animals is an ugly way of sustaining oneself…..and it is unnecessary….

    …..therefore since how we perceive is how we create….indulgence in the ugly….creates more ugly…

  41. Lindsay

    I just came across this discussion and very much appreciate the exchange. I decided to go vegetarian just over a month ago, for health and ethical reasons. I am trying to eat as vegan as possible (I read on one website not to give up anything you love until you find an acceptable substitute – cheese was a huge part of my diet and family culture growing up, and continues to be so on the family front so I am in the process of trying out the vegan “cheeses” available in my area). The hardest part so far has definately been the resistance, and outright hostility, I’ve received from family and friends. I expected it, but I was still suprised at the intensity.

    Happily, I really enjoy cooking and experimenting in the kitchen, so meals at home have not really been an issue, I’ve just had the chance to work with some unfamiliar ingredients (and an excuse to buy some new cookbooks!. However, eating out has been a wholly different experience.

    Thank you to AKD and cannibal vegetarian inparticular for your exchange. I fully understand the challenge of dealing with family and cultural traditions.

    I did not see anyone mention it, but with the exception of allergies, a vegan diet is, as far as I can see, acceptable to the majority of dietary restrictions. I don’t even have to worry about my Jewish friends since a vegan diet contains neither meat nor dairy, so it really becomes a non-issue.

  42. Becky

    Ryan – thanks for that well-put article!

    I think it’s very easy to become wrapped up in deep philosophical arguments about the morality of eating meat or other animal products. Yet when you actually face the reality of modern farming practices and see the EXTREME cruelty involved, the choice becomes much more clear.

    Would it be possible to consume only animals who were lovingly raised and allowed to live a full and rich life, and who were finally slaughtered as quickly and painlessly as possible? Maybe if you moved into the mountains and ate only wild game that you hunted yourself. But buying free-range, organic meat, dairy and eggs from Whole Foods market isn’t going to cut it (and will most likely break anyone’s budget!). It really saddens me that many meat-eaters and ovo-lacto vegetarians alike so easily dismiss the issue of animal cruelty because they buy only “humane” sources of the animal products that they eat. How humane are these products really? Where is the calf that SHOULD have been drinking the milk that is in that organic milk carton? How many days did that calf get to spend with his mother before being pried away? Can you even imagine if someone had taken YOUR newborn baby away after a couple of days?! And what about eggs? Even free-range, organic egg producers get their laying hens from hatcheries – the very businesses that “dispose” of unwanted male hens by suffocating them in bags, dumpsters, or grinding them alive. No thanks.

    So, whether eating meat is “natural” or not, or “morally correct” or not, I do know one thing for sure. The current-day practices of meat, dairy, and egg production are atrocious, and I won’t even begin to support them.

  43. Janez

    I ate almost no meat and then stopped eating fish as well six months ago primarily for ethical reasons. I like to beleive that a few fish remaind alive because of my decision, but am I afraid their death was probably just postponed (at best).
    Because I still consume eggs and dairy I agree with Becky that I am (in part) responsible for that poor calf pried away from its mother and some dead male chikens, but with the same reasoning there is some “animal suffering tax” even on my carrots, since the farmer growing them may or may not use leather boots and belt or he might be omnivorous.
    So a perfect vegan may never harm an animal in direct way, but sooner or later the money spent on those carrots support someone who is hurting animals.
    This is why I keep asking myself how ethical truly was my decison (although I somehow feel it was). What’s your take on the subject?

  44. Tim

    Thanks for a thought-provoking article and a fantastic discussion.

    I gave up meat 17 years ago as a teenager, but it’s only recently that I’ve given much thought to the cruelties inherent in the dairy system and the possibility that I might go vegan. I’ve recently become a father for the first time, and reading now about the enforced separation of mother and calf, and the needless killing of young cows, suddenly has far more emotional resonance than before. And as others have said, the fact that the cow may be free to roam organic pastures takes nothing away from those fundamental cruelties.

    For me, waking up to the ethical mindset which encompasses vegetarianism and veganism involves three steps: (1) recognising that the production of food from animals entails suffering, (2) recognising that we are directly implicated in this suffering through the choices we make as consumers, (3) accepting therefore that our food choices are moral choices. Unfortunately most people don’t even get to stage 1, which is not because they are ‘bad people’, but because the facts are hidden from public view by a system which treats animals as economic units and not sentient beings.

    You really don’t need any complicated arguments. If you believe that suffering is bad and should be avoided, veganism is the logical conclusion. That is common sense, not extremism.

    In answer to Janez – as you rightly point out with the carrots example, it’s impossible to live your life without harming animals, however minute or indirect that harm might be. I think the important thing is to acknowledge the harm you cause, and do what you can to reduce it to a minimum. It will never be zero (unless you adopt the life of a Jain monk and walk around barefoot to avoid crushing insects underfoot…).

  45. Vegan Sommelier

    Tim – very well said.

    (And congratulations… on both your “vegan awakening” and on becoming a father!)

  46. JD

    In response to AKD (post 37) inquiring how to refuse animal-based foods offered without being rude — I think it’s important to bring a vegan dish to share when going to parties or family gatherings. That way you know there will be something you can eat and you’re giving others an opportunity to see how great vegan food tastes. I also bring along copies of the recipe in case anyone asks for it (which they usually do). Even if the host isn’t catering to your vegan diet, usually there’s something that’s accidentally vegan like side dishes or salads that I can eat. It’s important to be polite and respectful if you’re turning down food being offered and I see no reason for anyone to get offended. You can’t expect people to suspend their morals and ethics to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. If someone kept kosher, wouldn’t it be outrageous for me to expect that they HAD to stop being kosher when eating at my home? (although since I’m vegan, I’m guessing most of what I eat is kosher anyway?).

  47. Tubs

    Thanks to the site’s host, Ryan for provoking some interesting and important discussions.
    —————————————————
    Vegetarian + Cut the Crap = Go Vegan

  48. Aaron Rincon

    Hello, my name is Aaron Rincon, and my e-mail is [email protected]. I am a new convert to the vegan movement. Its going better than I could have ever expected- I started out at 238 lbs. 6′. Now, I’m down to 194 and my my posture has allowed another inch and a half of height. Most important- I can sleep better at night knowing I’m not contributing to the Holocaust of the defenseless.

  49. Kenzan Okamoto

    Aren’t most if not all life-saving medical treatments derived from animal research? Wouldn’t millions of people who would otherwise have been dead today alive because of animal research?

    Isn’t meat, historically, throughout our evolution, part of our natural diet?
    Isn’t it true that there was no time in human evolution where we were 100% plant eaters?

    Isn’t Veganism a choice, rather than a superior moral stance?

    From the posts on this blog, it appears that’s not what appears to be the general consensus.

    It just seems rather hypocritical.

  50. saraphir

    Hello, I stumbled across thid discussion the other night after seeing a link to this website in a vegan cookbook. It has been thoroughly enjoyable and thoughtprovoking. I just have one point to make regarding the ‘some animals eat animals and we’re animals so it must be ok for us to eat animals’ discussion: if this argument was at all valid you could use it to excuse genocide, slavery, sexual abuse and numerous other human activitities that are considered – by the majority of people – to be completely immoral/unethical, cruel, emotionless etc – but some people do it so it must be ok? While we might have some characteristics in common with animals we also have many characteristics that set us apart and I believe we should use these characteristics to make conscious choices about how we want to live our lives and how we want to affect the world around us. It may or may not be universally wrong to eat meat or animalproducts, I don’t think anyone can really judge that, but we can individually determine what is right for us and take responsibility for that decision.

    And just one comment to Kenzan Okamoto.. it may be true that there has never been a time in history where humans didn’t eat meat, I don’t know…. but there probably hasn’t been a time in history either where humans didn’t exploit or kill each other and that doesn’t make that acceptable practice – not in my eyes at least. The history of the earth and humanity has been evolving from the start and we shouldn’t automatically reject something just because not all people have practiced it in the past… not much evolution would happen if we stop ourselves from questioning ourselves and life and resist change….

  51. Emma

    I think this discussion is amazing and I’m so pleased it’s still active. I’ve been vegan two years this Thanksgiving. Many of the points that have been brought up are very interesting, especially all of the hate. I got some of that the very first day I went vegan during an anti-fur protest-why I wasn’t protesting something more worthwhile. I think that if I didn’t care about veganism and animal rights I probably would have a lot easier time ignoring the rest of the suffering in the world as well.

    My passion for the suffering of the voiceless lets me deal with my own feelings and reactions to pain in the world. I have become open to learning about things that I love that suffer. Little by little my mind is opened to the harshness in the world that isn’t obvious in my own life. So I guess what I’m saying is veganism is one way to learn compassion. I don’t think it’s easy. It’s easy to love animals, harder to love people sometimes.

    Also how do people feel about soybeans? I eat so much soy and I hear people say that “they’re cutting down the rainforests to plant soybeans”.

    Thanks again for all of your collective passion.

  52. Greenwood

    Hi all.
    Thought provoking discussion happening here!
    Just adding my two pence.

    To Emma: Good on you for dealing with those issues! That compassion you have is golden. Don’t worry too much about the soybean thing; remember that 80% of the soybeans produced are used in feedlots, so you’re already doing SO much more than most people! You don’t have to be perfect. It’s really good that you’re looking into this!

    To Kenzan Okamoto:

    Aren’t most if not all life-saving medical treatments derived from animal research? Wouldn’t millions of people who would otherwise have been dead today alive because of animal research?

    Maybe, but the converse is also true on just about a larger scale, as a large amount of animal research is either useless or dangerous to human health (partly because of the huge differences between humans and other animals). There are many alternative, cruelty free, and more reliable medical practices available.

    Isn’t meat, historically, throughout our evolution, part of our natural diet?

    This does not justify the continued practice of it.

    Isn’t it true that there was no time in human evolution where we were 100% plant eaters?

    If we never tried anything we’ve never done before, what a stagnant world that would be! Besides, many societies have been, and still are, largely or all vegeterian.

    Isn’t Veganism a choice, rather than a superior moral stance?

    Veganism is simply one way (of many) to help reduce animal cruelty and environmental destruction. Inasfar as it achieves these goals, opposing the eating of meat is as much a “superior moral stance” as is opposing sexism, racism, murder, rape, you get the picture…

  53. Ortanith

    I am an omnivore. I enjoy meats/fruits/vegetables/grains. What I do not understand is those of the vegan/vegie community that eat fish and somehow that fish is not an animal/feels pain/is meat. Third plants are alive last I checked and from my experience anything living feels pain.

    -Veganism is simply one way (of many) to help reduce animal cruelty and environmental destruction. A reply to this sentence as follows. I guess the increased need of farmland to produce ediable food for humans and the waste that would cause would not harm the enviroment.

  54. Ortanith

    opposing the eating of meat is as much a “superior moral stance” as is opposing sexism, racism, murder, rape, you get the picture…

    All I have to say is that is utter bullshit. Yeah I am a spiciest but its in my survivals best interest to favor my species. Opposing a dietary habit provides you no moral suppority.

  55. sternwood

    As a vegetarian, I’ve heard the “plants feel pain” argument many times before. I am also a student of botany, and this argument is specious. As has been pointed out in many other places, plants are not vertebrates, nor do they possess a brain or nervous system, which would preclude “feeling” anything, much less pain. Plants are empathic to some degree, in that they respond to various environmental stimuli, i.e. water source, light, and so on, that help ensure their survival. For example, a plant will turn toward a light source to help it with photosynthesis and the production of food. In some cases, plants may also respond to touch (ferns do this) or even sound vibration. Since plants do not form complex responses in the same way that vertebrates do, they merely react to unusual events to survive changing environmental conditions.

    In any case, most vegetables and some fruits are produced on annual plants, which will die at the end of a life cycle anyway. In fact, most vegetables and fruits are seed pods that are meant to be eaten by animals so the seeds will be dispersed and the plant propagated. In modern agriculture, this is replaced by replanting with seed stores instead of using the fruit for this purpose. The exception to this are root or leafy vegetables, who propagate via their flowers, or tree fruits where one doesn’t have to kill the tree to eat the fruit.

    Even if you accept the “plants feel pain” argument, the fact is that if you stopped livestock production entirely you would save many edible plants that are used for feed for these animals. The majority of corn production in the US, for example, is used to feed livestock. As has been pointed out in “Diet for a Small Planet” the food and water used to create one pound of beef could feed many families.

    I don’t regard being a vegetarian as being morally superior to meat eaters. In fact, it is a humbling experience to realize that you are not superior to other animals and I often kick myself for being a meat eater in the past. Some of the pro-meat-eating comments reflect the age-old belief that animals are merely “dumb” and are meant to serve only human beings’ survival. Some justify it by saying that they just like to eat meat, like the taste of it, and this is the reason the animal has to die. For something as trivial as your taste buds.

  56. saraphir

    I don’t quite see how opposing rape, murder and racism can be a ‘superior’ moral stance… but maybe that’s just me. I don’t see being vegan as a superior moral stance either, it’s a stance, a choice of how to live your life. I am sure some vegans do feel superior to non-vegan, just like some Christians feel superior to Muslims (or vice versa), some people who have been to Yale/Harvard/Oxford/Cambridge see themselves as superior to people who haven’t been there, some people with high-flying positions feel superior to everybody else etc. This doesn’t mean that being vegan is the problem, but that some vegans are as separatist and ‘holy’ as anyone else who has ever taken a stance on anything in life.

    A plantbased diet is actually the most ‘earth-efficient’ diet there is – apart from a hunter/gatherer diet. As sternwood pointed out meat and dairy production requires much more food and land than a vegan diet does. George Monbiot, a British climate change etc. debater, points out in an article from 2002 that the West cannot continue consuming the amount of animal products that we do now and feed everybody in the world. I think the problem will continue to become more urgent as the world population grows.
    Many people in the developing countries are vegan, not by choice, but because this is how they can afford to eat.. many more don’t have enough to eat full stop. Many are also in a situation that they have to rely on some animal products and meat simply to survive. In the west we are spoilt for choice when it comes to eating – & many many people eat in excess or foods that don’t actually feed their bodies.
    So seen from that perspective being vegan is actually also specicism… it is in the highest interest of the whole of humanity, not just the few of us who are lucky enough to live in a part of the world where most people can afford to choose what they eat… So since we have the privilige to choose, this is what many people have done, just like many (more) people have chosen to carry on eating the way they always have done.

  57. Greenwood

    Very well put – btw, perhaps I should have clarified by saying Opposing eating meat is as much or as little a superior moral stance as (those other things)…

  58. lazarak

    Has anyone bothered to find out if becoming vegan really contributes to saving the environment and feeding the poor? I am just a month into cutting down my meat intake (I aim to be a vegan) but I need to know. The two biggest reasons for vegetarianism is that it help save the environment (by reducing farming pollution) and it helps poverty because eating less meat means…(less meat farms? more grain with no animals to eat them,and)..more grain for the poor in third world countries.. Where’s the link? How did being vegan constructively help the poor? Are there any statistics that I can get which shows that going vegan has helped the poor in Africa?

    I just feel that the chain of logic is too long. Are meat farms declining? Are the excess grain being given to the poor or just dumped back into the sea to pollute it? Is anyone doing anything to make sure that all these ethical concerns that vegans are known for, really take effect or are they just words with no meaning?

    I hope I didn’t sound too harsh, but I’m confused and i need help. ^_^

  59. glt

    Argh, someone brought up the “they might prefer to exist and get eaten than to never be born” argument. If being born is so vastly preferable, we should never neuter our pets, because all the kittens euthanized at the pound are totally lucky to have been born. Also we are morally obligated to produce as many children as we possibly can, because otherwise we are denying them being born! Crap, I better go get pregnant right now!

  60. the vegan rican

    Hello Everyone. I read this entire post. I am a firmly believe that veganism ,like religion and politics, should not be discussed. I just keep it to myself. Most of people, not all are trying to defend and fight there beliefs. Why? Stop! Enough!

  61. the vegan rican

    sorry for the grammar…lol…Gog!

  62. Gary

    vegan rican: I’ve been able to convince quite a few people to reduce their animal product intake by discussing veganism with them. I know many others have had that same experience.

    Yes, you get some resistance when you do that – it’s natural for people to defend their lifestyles and to avoid cognitive dissonance – but I’ve found that the more I discuss the subject, the better I become at responding to those defenses while keeping the other person engaged and the conversation friendly and productive.

    Of course one has to be respectful of others: we don’t know exactly what it’s like to be them, and everyone has their fears and unique experiences and hot button issues. Nonetheless, it is possible to persuade people to make changes to their lifestyles in a civil and cordial manner.

    Sometimes it helps to be patient. For many people, giving up meat, dairy, and eggs at first sounds impossible and off the wall. It often takes a while to acknowledge that what we eat is largely arbitrary and the result of habit and taking the path of least resistance, and that one can have a perfectly satisifying, diverse, and healthy diet without eating flesh, milk, and eggs.

    So by discussing veganism – and animal rights and all those related issues – with others, I’ve been able to reduce the amount of exploitation and human-caused animal suffering in world.

    If you never inform others about veganism, the violence in slaughterhouses, and the moral transgressions inherent in killing animals for pleasure, they may remain ignorant and avoid thinking about those topics their whole lives, and never change. That’s a missed opportunity. Often, one conversation, or one book that you lend someone, can make a profound difference.

    Granted, not everyone feels comfortable doing one-on-one outreach, or even writing letters to the editor. But there is probably some form of activism for everyone; perhaps for you it’s handing out veg restaurant guides or vegan starter kits, or urging your city council to ban rodeos, or requesting that your school cafeteria provide more vegan options – or starting a petition to do that – or simply sharing delicious vegan food and recipes with friends and co-workers.

    For more ideas and a compelling explanation of why your activism makes a difference, check out “Striking At The Roots” by Mark Hawthorne.

  63. erin

    actually, veganism is the morally superior position.

    i think most people would agree that animals, if given the choice, would rather not be enslaved and eaten. the only morally acceptable reason for subjecting them to this would be if it were somehow necessary for own survival, much the same way killing of another human can be excused if it is in self defense or defense of an innocent person, but millions of healthy vegans (i can provide lots of accounts if needed) are proof positive that one can thrive without any animal foods. here’s the moral argument laid out:

    1. If eating animals is necessary, meat eating is not immoral.
    2. Eating animals is not necessary.
    3. Therefore, meat eating is immoral.

    this argument is both valid and sound.

    imho, making the morally superior choice is required of all responsible, educated, sensitive human beings :).

    ~erin

  64. Janez

    I am sorry, Erin, your argument is flawed. Check out http://www.fallacyfiles.org/denyante.html.

  65. vegamazon

    I would be more inclined to listen to an anti-vegan argument if the sources quoted weren’t all from Wikipedia.

    Just a thought.

    I’ve been a vegetarian (and I must shamefully admit that for a while, I was one of those idiots that called myself a vegetarian even though I still ate fish) for thirteen years and only fairly recently made the transition to veganism. For my part, I find preachy vegans (despite the fact that I agree with them on moral grounds) just as annoying and pretentious as people who are fanatical about their religion. Whenever I feel like being all “vegangetical” (thank you veganfreak.org for that wonderful term), I first think about how I would feel about someone trying to force their religious views on me. Not good. Not good at all.

    If someone wants to discuss animal rights or veganism with me, that’s great and I’m always up for a good discussion, but I prefer to just go about my freaky vegan life… no soapbox required.

  66. Reita

    As far as I would say, don’t get offended unless you are doing anything really extreme. Don’t preach, judge, or force people to do as you’d like, and you’ll be fine.

    Unless you are an extremist, and are making your dogs go vegetarian.
    :/

  67. the omnivore guy

    So ive never read on veganism too much but i came here expecting to be swayed to the point of maybe going vegi. at least. But some of the arguments here made me think twice.
    First off i understand that i may die of heart disease, an early death etc etc. due to eating red meat, which sadly enough is my absolute favorite. After reading at least three pages of comments on my mobile i felt compelled to comment on a blog the FIRST time in my LIFE… Vegans first off i respect your decision and the ethical reasons for doing so. Purely carnivores i respect your decision too although i cant not see any ethical sense in doing so and omnivores wellllll….. i am one so ha ha ha. BUT, the saddest thing no one has brought up is that THE FACT IS AND STANDS AS HOMO HOMO SAPIENS evolved a higher level of sentience PRIMARIALY DUE to the fact that we killed to eat. There has been thousands and thousands of pages of research done proving this fact, let alone the ONLY(caps for emphasis not anger) HOMO genus even left wandering this planet can eat and digest meat.
    The fact is w/out complex organizational skills that society can not exist, the sadder fact is that a purely herbivourous diet does not require any of those organizational skills and or too many complicated communication skills to acheive a level of living able to sustain the creature as shown by the fact that far more than half of the earths most sentient and intelligent creatures are purely carnivores and the rest are omnivores to a varying degree.
    I digest(no pun intended) simple logic concludes that the reason we humans TODAY can even comtimplate the well being of these animals and creatures we kill is DIRECTLY do to fact that in our past we killed and ate those same animals consistently enough, to require the complex communication/orginizational skills giving us the evolutionary capabiltity to rise to sentience. If you believe in a god of some sort i am sorry if thats offensive but this debate seems very scientific in nature and ethical not religous so im sorry if you disagree due to religous leanings.
    Another argument that hasnt been made yet which i find odd coming from a heart felt vegan perspective is that of loyalty. Yes loyalty… You ask how? Think for a moment, would you not give your life to further your familys even if it was cut a good chunk short as long as you knew that every piece you had given had been for there benefit. (I understand this is not the case in a factory farm, but only in a small family farm which ARE more common than many of you seem to realise)
    The point im trying to make is Ive suffered through my life, PRETTY BADLY actually ‘n yet i would STILL cut my life 30+ years short just to know my Lady was taken care of for the rest of hers. Just out of loyalty. See the thing is animals feel loyalty too NO MATTER what anyone will say, n if i had the chance of being reincarnated into a cow at a family farm and knew that my throughout my WHOLE life that i lived that i would be waited on hand and foot, have my medical care taken care of and lived as happy as a cow ever could instead of dealing with the wild to die a few years short to take care of the people i knew in my heart cared about me, i would take that choice any day of the week rather than coming back as a human and knowing what it is to suffer the guilt of shame, sexual and physical abuse, mental and verbal and unemployment w/bills to pay. Make me a cow at a family farm my next life; for death IS NOT a punishment in the slightest its only a part of life and far more inevitable.

  68. the omnivore guy

    need a comma after “…in the wild , to die…”. I would love to here a contemplation on my answer n maybe all u all are happy to live or the chances youve been given, but as for me it seems the cow at Joes Farm had a far better life than i did growing up n still to this day. please comment i would love some feedback.

  69. the omnivore guy

    About the comment on overpopulation too, theres only one sad F(*%$# up solution to overpopulation and its the one thing all vegans are trying to stop although i agree humans by far are growing the fastest and the worst. When will people understand death is not a punishment, in a western society you all see death as the end and its not. Thirdly i personally know people who would rather ended up dead than gone through what they’ve gone through, does that make them any worse of a person or weak or in reality are the suicides and cancer patients only slowing down the inevitable overpopulation problem? Thats a horrible take on life but w/o death there is no life it seems everyone here forgets that. People used to bury there own children CONSISTENTLY for most of human history… is that a tregedy YES do I actually care anymore, sadly no. Because w/o the plague w/o cancer w/o aids we would all be royally screwed. THINK about it deep n hard and understand that w/o death LIFE would be the one thats ceases.

  70. ryan

    Death is a necessary part of life. Sure.

    But the death of animals for our consumption isn’t necessary in the vast majority of cases today. Remember, we breed animals simply in order to kill them. Trying to justify their deaths as “just a part of life” trivializes the issue.

  71. the omnivore guy

    read the comment on the top. what i was descussing is there IS a humane way to farm and its seems that no vegans are willing to admit that animals in a family farm have it better than half the humans do. these farms are more common than people think. Im from cali and i could name 4 locally. not a huge portion of the industry but they are spreading and they NEED to. its the only sustainable way. either way all you in your lives are in love with and or love someone who eats animals. can we at least admit that no country in the world has an entirely vegan menu. not ONE, the point im making is if we can revere the animals and treat them with the utmost kindness up until there death which SHOULD be done as absolutely quickly and humanely as possible then that is a far better step forward than what has been done all of industrial history… no?

  72. the omnivore guy

    and as metallica said “to live is to die” you were born automatically w/the outcome of death being the final guarentee anyway. so if we can leave these animals in luxury for the time they are here and treat them w/the understanding everything dies and it is a matter if that death and life truely served a purpose we’d all be far better off.

  73. ryan

    what i was descussing is there IS a humane way to farm and its seems that no vegans are willing to admit that animals in a family farm have it better than half the humans do.

    No way.

    Killing cannot be made “humane” when it has nothing to do with the animal’s benefit. It matters little that they live a life of supposed luxury (unlikely and far *Iess* common than you believe – family farms are not the heavens they’re marketing make them out to be) if they’re killed at just a few years old, still have their babies taken away from them, etc.

    And, by the way, there’s no way that family farms raising meat are “sustainable” for a world like ours with a rapidly increasing population.

    I have no interest in promoting “humane” killing because it’s still killing, it’s still unnecessary, and it does little to move people away from consuming animal products. Indeed, to me it seems to have the opposite effect, instead making vegetarians all of a sudden feel OK about eating meat again.

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