Vegetarianism

This afternoon I listened to a podcast produced by the Minnesota Atheists which left me depressed.  The podcast guest spent time in college studying philosophy & the ethics of morality.  These studies, along with a lifelong passion for animal rights, let him to embrace first vegetarianism and later, veganism.

I listened to the podcast in audio format, although it is a cable television program and the video is also available.  The discussion about the guest’s life experiences, education, philosophical beliefs, and decisions on diet were interesting.  However, there was a video shared on the cable show which was very disturbing.  I only heard the audio of it, though as I said the full version is available.  I can’t bring myself to watch the video, or even to listen to the audio part again.  It featured horrific details of what could only be describe as animal torture performed to cheaply produce meat and dairy products.

The audio had an extraordinary emotional effect on me.  I find myself disgusted and overwhelmed.  As a consumer, I am shocked and frustrated that I don’t have control over this treatment of animals.

But as a person who tries to also think skeptically, I am troubled by the video in a different way.  Its shock appeal is not a logically sound argument.  Surely, if animals are harvested for food in such a horrific way, and if I do not support avoidable torture of animals, I should not eat animals which were harvested for food.  But is the premise of animal torture valid?

How can I know that animals are always harvested for food in such a horrific way?  From where I sit right now, I can’t know this.  I have not personally witnessed any of it.  I don’t know if the data samples provided to me through media sources are the absolute worst of the worst, provided for sensational shock value, or if they reliably represent the majority.

But even if this premise is true, it doesn’t have to continue to be true.

Providing accessible protein sources is important.  I understand that humans can live pretty well on non-animal protein sources.  But if there is meat or dairy available to eat, people will continue to choose to eat it.  And anyway, what am I going to start feeding my cats if I make a taboo against animal proteins?

Temple Grandin, who holds a doctorate in Animal Science, has done some pioneering work towards improving slaughter-house conditions.  Its a complex issue, but if ethical treatment becomes a priority, it seems we could give nutrition to people and do so with a clean conscience.  I recognize that this viewpoint may be naïve.  However, its more naïve to think enough people would embrace vegetarianism to make a difference.

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47 Responses to Vegetarianism

  1. Mykenna Cepek says:

    It is a complex issue. Torture vs “humane killing” probably varies by animal, facility, and perhaps even by employee. For me the issue is killing at all. I strongly suspect that most mass animal raising and killing methods involve notable amounts of suffering for each animal. Alternate sources of protein for humans exist (I love mock duck), and my conscience feels clearer when I don’t eat meat. I’m not a strict vegetarian, but I minimize my meat intake substantially to reduce animal slaughter. And if many/most people just reduced their meat intake by, say, 1/3, there likely would be a variety of larger effects (meat industry changes, more alternative protein sources and types, societal acceptance, etc).

  2. Anonymous says:

    I eat meat. And I believe – given the information available to me – that the general existence of most of the chicken I eat has been pretty damn miserable. I made a comment to my family that I felt that one had no argument for continuing to eat meat if they were incapable emotionally to kill their own food. That is, if you feel the treatment and slaughter of animals is wrong, then purchasing meat is hypocritical. I was called out by family on this opinion, asked to put my money where my mouth was, and we raised and slaughtered our own chickens.

    Hot damn, but I am purchasing chicken meat from now on. I can guarantee that the chickens we raised were the most cared for, pampered, well fed chickens ever on Earth. Their coop was air conditioned! But raising and slaughtering your own chickens on a small scale is an incredible amount of work. To simply negate cost, each chicken would have had to be sold at $20 each.

    Torture is bad. Cruelty is bad. But to farm something in an efficient manner certain less than desirable choices have to be made. Either we raise the price of chicken to $20/lb and give them plush lives, or we keep it cheap and they live cramped, miserable existences. (Obviously there are other options. I make the two-choice distinction for brevity).

  3. Ezekiel Buchheit says:

    I eat meat. And I believe – given the information available to me – that the general existence of most of the chicken I eat has been pretty damn miserable. I made a comment to my family that I felt that one had no argument for continuing to eat meat if they were incapable emotionally to kill their own food. That is, if you feel the treatment and slaughter of animals is wrong, then purchasing meat is hypocritical. I was called out by family on this opinion, asked to put my money where my mouth was, and we raised and slaughtered our own chickens.

    Hot damn, but I am purchasing chicken meat from now on. I can guarantee that the chickens we raised were the most cared for, pampered, well fed chickens ever on Earth. Their coop was air conditioned! But raising and slaughtering your own chickens on a small scale is an incredible amount of work. To simply negate cost, each chicken would have had to be sold at $20 each.

    Torture is bad. Cruelty is bad. But to farm something in an efficient manner certain less than desirable choices have to be made. Either we raise the price of chicken to $20/lb and give them plush lives, or we keep it cheap and they live cramped, miserable existences. (Obviously there are other options. I make the two-choice distinction for brevity).

  4. Asia says:

    What we can do is try and eat less meat. It’s not an either-or issue. If we eat less, we can buy more expensive meat that wasn’t factory farmed.

  5. This would be an interesting skeptoid topic, although I sure don’t know how the heck you could do it in ten minutes. ;)

  6. Dustin Bajer says:

    I’m not trying to link bait but, coincidentally, recently wrote an article on the ethics of eating meat called “The Ethical Carnivore: Why eating meat is ethical (or could be)”. In light of the topic, I would be interested in hearing your feedback.

    http://permacultureschool.ca/permaculture-design/ethical-meat/

  7. Tom Hodgson says:

    My diet CREATES LIFE.
    If I didn’t eat meat, there would be less demand, and fewer animals would be bred to support my diet. Those animals would never be born, never live to see a sunny day, to wander the pastures etc. As an example, the chickens in my yard have a good life, as do my other animals. Certainly it’s a life worth living, and one I wouldn’t be upset to have myself, if the alternative was to have no life at all – and that is the alternative here. The fact that these lives end with the animal on my plate is the price of the life having started in the first place – there would have been no life without my desire to eat these animals.
    As a former-farmer, I can tell you that free range animals live very comfortably (mine certainly did). A vegetarian fails to create the lives of the hundred-or-so animals that I do every year – how selfish!

  8. Sean Jordan says:

    @Tom – “A vegetarian fails to create the lives of the hundred-or-so animals that I do every year – how selfish!”

    I hope this is mean to be a tongue-in-cheek post that just fell flat, because it’s a remarkably baffling argument otherwise.

    There is no virtue in creating life for the sake of destroying it later on, nor is there selfishness in deciding not to swell an animal population for the sake of thinning it later. It’s not even what the debate is about. Assigning any sort of motives along these lines is a non sequitur – it doesn’t follow, because the two things aren’t related.

    If you want to argue that you are morally superior to vegetarians who buy their food at the grocery store because you have a personal stake in the life of the food you consume, that’s at least a logical argument.

    • Tom Hodgson says:

      “There is no virtue in creating life for the sake of destroying it later on”
      Do you advocate aborting when the child-to-be has a serious illness likely to decrease its lifespan?
      The animals I eat have a valuable life, an enjoyed life, long before they are valued as my food. The fact that life has an end-date does not devalue it below zero.
      I make no argument about a personal stake in my food – that’s irrelevant on every level. My suggestion is that the value of the lives which I am responsible for the creation of is greater than the harm of them ending ‘early’, as the alternative is in fact them never having lived at all, were I a vegetarian.
      Live a shortened but happy, safe and protected life, or don’t live at all. I know which one I’d choose, were I a chicken.

      Also, what of all those meat-eating teeth I have? Seems a shame to waste them.

  9. Denis Solaro says:

    College student vegetarian, eh? If he is like any of my friends from back then in 5 years he would have done a 180 degree turn and you’ll find him eating meat. My anti-military friend ended working at NATO, the only one who said he will do his military service conveniently converted as a Jehova Witness and never returned to France. Come on at that age you borrow morals from others and change them overnite.

    • Sean Jordan says:

      @Denis – Thank goodness we outgrow those crazy ideas we get in college, eh?

      I often think of your early 20s as being that time in your life where you try on different ideas and see how well they take. Sometimes they become life-changing experiences, and other times, they lead you down a different path.

      For example, my religious faith couldn’t have been greater than it was in my early 20s, where I was constantly looking for ways to do crazy things to demonstrate my faith in God. But it was because of those experiences that I began to examine ideas outside my faith that eventually led me to question everything I believed… and that in turn led me to devote more time to learning about science and skepticism as a philosophical system.

      So, don’t be too hard on your friends. A lot of people try different diets in their early 20s as they’re exposed to new ideas and then find a happy medium somewhere. Tastes and preferences change, and passions tend to cool as you get older.

  10. Sean Jordan says:

    Holly — I’ve been a vegetarian for three years now. I’m as surprised as anyone about this; I used to laugh at vegetarians for their lifestyle. But when I decided to educate myself about how animals were raised and slaughtered for the bulk of the meat I was eating (hot dogs, fast food hamburgers, pepperoni pizzas and the like), I decided that I needed to re-examine my personal ethics and determine whether eating meat was still the right choice for me.

    My logic worked this way – I don’t enjoy creating pain or suffering in other creatures, and I can minimize the pain and suffering I directly (or indirectly) cause in the world by cutting meat out of my diet. Fruits, nuts and some vegetables and legumes have evolved to be eaten; other vegetables that are eaten as a whole (carrots, radishes, beats, potatoes, and so forth) or fungi don’t have a nervous system that allows them to feel pain, and science has yet to find that they do feel anything like the pain that animals feel.

    By having a balanced vegetarian diet, I can live as normally as anyone else … and, in fact, I will probably eat healthier just by virtue of the fact that I’m eating vegetables, nuts, legumes and fruits more regularly in my diet to ensure I get the proper nutrients I’m missing out on from not eating meat.

    By consuming meat, even being careful of where it comes from, I have to be a part of causing another creature to suffer. Since I’m not involved in the killing, I don’t feel the weight of it. I don’t respect the animal that died to feed me, and I don’t have a concept of what it took for that animal to turn into the burger on my plate.

    So, the rule I’ve made is that if I’m not willing to kill the animal myself, I won’t partake of its flesh. If I want a steak or a chicken leg for dinner, I’ve got to be willing to get my hands bloody. Otherwise, I’m asking someone else to create suffering on my behalf in exchange for money — something that goes against my personal values.

    I’m not an evangelist about vegetarianism, nor do I suggest it’s the right choice for everyone. I agree that things don’t have to be so bad at slaughterhouses (many kosher slaughterhouses, for example, are considerably more humane by design), and I also respect those who hunt for food or who choose to raise their own livestock and poultry to eat rather than visiting the local supermarket or fast food restaurant. For those like myself, however, who empathize with animals to the point that they tear up when they see a dead pet on the side of the road, vegetarianism is a great option.

    • Innominata says:

      “I’m asking someone else to create suffering on my behalf in exchange for money — something that goes against my personal values.”

      I’m pretty sure you suffer a lot more missing out on bacon, than the pig did during its lifetime. :)

      • theangrytiki says:

        Sure. Going without bacon is so much worse than being confined to a space barely longer than your own body, being unable to turn around and being abused. Every time I think of it, I get a chest pain. Not so when I don’t eat bacon.

  11. Denis Solaro says:

    It’s been a complex issue for all the time we’ve raised animals for eating. I forgot who in the mailing list said it but you don’t bring your own animals to the slaughter house you bring your friend’s. It’s always been going against the human social nature. But you try to do bushcrafting with only the local vegetation and you’ll quickly see the need for fishing and hunting, animals were source of proteins that were here all year long before we started having surplus. So how do you do it? You change your morals. It’s easier to do than to change reality. Today you can afford to do a meat free diet but don’t rely on the universal value of moral and use that to bach others, there is nothing more fickle than moral. And that’s probably why the original argument seemed weak, it relied not on logic but on something that’s non-constant in a person’s mind.

  12. TheAngryTiki says:

    Holly, by your own admission, your viewpoint is very naive, though the post itself made that very clear. The whole “I don’t know all animals are treated this badly, so maybe they aren’t.” is akin to belief if God because one fails to seek out the available information to the contrary.

    Your closing point that it would be naive to think enough people would embrace vegetarianism to make a difference is also short sighted. Awareness of animal rights issues has made an impact and while few embrace a totally vegetarian lifestyle, people are increasingly happy to have one meatless day a week. Seven carnivores doing Meatless Mondays make one vegetarian! I’ll take it!

    Sorry, but this piece read like an excuse to do nothing despite being moved by what you learned, and I don’t like that it tried to use skepticism as a justification. Part of skepticism involves admitting you’re not always doing what’s right even if you know better, not framing things to suit what you do. I don’t eat meat but do I eat cheese. It’s unnecessary and cruel, but I just have to own that.

  13. Innominata says:

    I have no problem with eating meat.
    If the animals were raised to be eaten, and weren’t tortured to satiate some sicko’s perversion, then that’s exactly what they are. Food.
    I’m against killing only for pleasure. If you want to go hunt your own FOOD, then by all means do so, but killing just for fun is exactly that. Killing for fun.
    I also don’t think humans are special. A dog that goes around ripping the throats out of sheep for fun is a monster. One that kills and eats a lamb because its hungry is the logical conclusion of the food chain. Same goes with humans.
    I have a problem with the ‘if you can’t kill your own meat, then its hypocritical to eat meat’ argument.
    I can’t synthesize medicine, does that mean its hypocritical to pop a paracetamol?
    Would I be able to kill a cow more humanely than a slaughterhouse? No.
    Could I do it as cost effectively? No.
    Could I bring myself to kill a cow to feed my family, given very strange circumstances? Of course. I would do anything for them.
    Would I enjoy it? No. I don’t personally like hunting or fishing.
    Would I enjoy the meat : Yes.

  14. Lazy Elf says:

    just watch the documentary food.inc..
    the price of today’s meat is not natural.
    the crops supposedly feed people are given to stock animals. and so the water.

  15. I’m a vegan because I find there is no moral justification for taking the life of a sentient creature for my own personal wants. Religion, and its belief that animals were created for our use, still influences the way we think of animals. If you’re an atheist and still eat meat, I would invite you to take a serious look at the moral justification you have for eating meat.

    • alittleart says:

      My partner goes hunting for animals that are classed as invasive pest species here (New Zealand), rabbits, deer, goats, geese etc. These animals are as free range as it gets, and they live their happy free range lives up to the minute of their very sudden demise. Where recreational hunters don’t keep numbers down, Government conservation workers tend to do things like mass culls or even poison drops.

      I’ve had some fun discussions with vegetarians about the morality of such meat . . . especially with the fashionable sort of vegetarian who classes fish as a vegetable, and wouldn’t dream of wearing plastic shoes.

    • Stephen Propatier says:

      I would say that there are lot of subtle nuances in your statement. What is Sentient? What is your definition? Is killing plant life somehow more acceptable than animal because we are animals. I am not making fun of your comment. To me as a skeptic where we draw the line is interesting. If life is valuable why is plant life less valuable? Why is a chicken sentient and not a sugar cane stalk? Is an egg different than a peanut?. Is bovine milk different than maple syrup? It sounds like a ridiculous question but is it? If we were being observed by some extraterrestrial intelligence.( I am not proposing we are!) what yardstick would they use for sentience. Does having a cell wall and chloroplasts exclude you from sentient classification.

    • Craig S says:

      As an Atheist who was until recently an ethical vegan,and who now eats meat that I kill myself, I will respond.

      I am an animal, who has clear evolutionary characteristics of an omnivore.Other animals eat other animals with impunity, when they are hungry, so why should humans be any different?

      Assuming there is a moral necessity for humans to behave differently than our evolutionary heritage is another form of human exceptionalism.

      Morality,if it exists in any objective way, is about how we treat other humans, not the food chain. Biology seems pretty amoral.

    • Innominata says:

      Moral justification?
      Where does right and wrong come into consumption of meat?
      I’m serious, it just seems like a long stretch to say eating meat is wrong. Or right for that matter.
      Its like saying god is male or female. It just doesn’t follow.
      We eat meat because we evolved to do so. We can choose not to, but we are missing out.
      Just because we have the technology to survive without meat doesn’t mean we should, does it?
      We have the technology to conceive babies unnaturally, does this mean we should stop having sex?

      • theangrytiki says:

        You ask this on the assumption that meat is a requirement for survival which not everyone agrees with and there the disagreement lies and leads to a moral debate.

        • Innominata says:

          Its not a requirement for survival, neither is living in a non tropical area, but I don’t see everyone giving up heating and clothing. The choice to eat meat has nothing to do with survival.
          I still haven’t heard a reasonable argument as to why we shouldn’t eat meat. Apart from the fact that animals are cuter than cabbages, which is a fairly weak argument in my eyes.

          • theangrytiki says:

            We know animals experience pain, have emotions, and are aware of their mortality. When they are treated poorly as most animals for slaughter are, they suffer. A cabbage doesn’t experience any of that. I think it’s pretty straightforward. I don’t think anyone is making the case based on cuteness. I don’t find chickens cute, but that’s beside the point!

        • Innominata says:

          Comment thread got a bit long, so I’ll post up here.
          I think what I am trying to convey is : The question isn’t about suffering, only sadists want animals to suffer. The question is ‘does morality have anything to do with the consumption of meat’
          I’d argue no. But by extension, if you are causing suffering, is that moral, and I’d argue yes.

          I’ve had my own livestock processed, and I can attest that the sheep stood in the paddock while they were dropped one by one, eating blissfully. They all died instantly, and there was no panic or suffering whatsoever from any of them.
          I have no moral problem with this whatsoever.

          Meat from a slaughterhouse where they don’t give a damn about the animals well being, just doesn’t taste the same.
          If we could get all animal processing to be distress free, it would be a great thing.

          Should we eat meat that is tortured? No. Should we stop eating meat because some meat is tortured? No.

          The fact that 10x as many people can be fed from the same land area as vegans doesn’t concern me in the slightest. If you can’t provide for your children, stop having them.
          Let the catholic church et al. feed the billion or so children conceived due to the ‘immorality’ of birth control. Its not my job, and I shouldn’t be made to feel guity for it.

          • Wordwizard says:

            “The fact that 10x as many people can be fed from the same land area as vegans doesn’t concern me in the slightest. If you can’t provide for your children, stop having them.
            Let the catholic church et al. feed the billion or so children conceived due to the ‘immorality’ of birth control. Its not my job, and I shouldn’t be made to feel guity for it.”

            Appalling. Try 100x, not 10. If you can’t provide for other people’s children, or make them stop having them, you can certainly be caught up in the famine that will result, like it or not! We’re ALL in the same fragile boat, so it IS your job to help keep it afloat, quite aside from any feelings of guilt.

          • Tom Hodgson says:

            A little bit (just a little bit, mind you) of Malthusianism goes a long way.
            Famine by over-population is spacially limited, and generally doesn’t affect other countries, let alone other continents. While it’s almost self-limiting, it is also cyclical. Been to Ethiopia recently? I have.

          • Wordwizard says:

            Tom: Previous famines have been self-limiting, but as our warming climate becomes more chaotic, so farmers no longer know what and when to plant where to succeed in getting a crop, it is liable to become worldwide, even as world population continues to increase to unprecedented levels. Also, the USA is to a certain extent breadbasket to the world, and this year’s lack of corn will affect many far off.
            I don’t understand why Innominata thinks I am asking her to SUPPORT other people’s children when I suggest simply that she not eat the food they need that she does not. Eating 100 times what you need is piggish. Contributing to the rape of the earth you yourself live on, to get you more meat, is shortsighted.

          • Innominata says:

            Great job of missing the point. I’ll try to type slower.
            Why should I provide for other peoples children?
            How will I get caught up in the famine? There are a billion starving now, and I just ate two hamburgers.
            They are NOT my problem, I can choose to help them, which I DO, but I am not required to in order to ensure my survival.

            Just as a thought experiment, How many animals have I saved by not having 10 children who eat meat?.

            It is a much better Idea to stem the overpopulation, than to tell me its somehow wrong to eat animals because there are people who don’t have enough food. They will never have enough food. They haven’t for the last 50 years, why should that change by westerners eating tofu? We are not going to give them enough food to eat…we could do that already. It doesn’t solve the problem of irresponsibility with regards to bringing children you cannot support into the world.

          • Innominata says:

            Tom : Exactly.

  16. Buy from a smaller producer. Treatment of livestock on the small family farms tends to be much more humane and you will be supporting a hard working neighbor instead of a faceless multinational corporation.

    • Tom Hodgson says:

      Yes, do. Spend more on a less efficient mechanism for the same result. Bravo to you.

      • Innominata says:

        I know right. The reason we have all we do in this age, is because of specialization. The more efficiently we can produce whatever, the greater benefit. Imagine how many ‘small farms’ we would need to feed the world. There wouldn’t be anyone left to write nonsense on blog posts D:

  17. Eric Hall says:

    There is plenty of evidence that early hominids eating meat is one of the reasons we became human (for example: http://www.livescience.com/23671-eating-meat-made-us-human.html). . Although vegetarians can get the nutrition they need without meat, it is not a simple task. Eating meat is a way to aggregate many nutrients into a neat package (that I also enjoy).

    Many large corporations are doing things to try to help animals be treated more fairly. For example, McDonalds treats their cows well because it is good for their corporate interests – and studies have shown cows that are stressed before death have meat that suffers in quality. (http://www.mcdonalds.com/us/en/our_story/values_in_action/animal_welfare.html) Not very long ago, a large egg supplier was basically driven out of business when it was found their chickens were being abused – and many large corporations dropped them.

    I do think we should treat animals fairly and ethically. But where is the line? Should we prevent all predators from eating meat too (yes, this is a bit naturalistic fallacy and provocative, but hopefully you catch my drift)? I look at it this way – I would put my life on the line to save another human if in that situation, but I am not going to do the same for a cow or chicken. Not that I wouldn’t do anything, but my effort would be less. I do my best to buy local meat I know comes from ethical farms, and my conscience is ok with that.

    • Innominata says:

      Well put. I also do my best to buy from ethical farms, but if it comes down to buying toilet paper or certified happy cow hamburger, I’m going to go store brand.

  18. Andrea says:

    Temple Grandin does great work. She has made a lot of improvement in decreasing the number of livestock who suffer hideously when they are killed. Now the same steps need to be taken with regard to their whole lives…just little things so they aren’t literally suffering all the time. That’s about all that I think can be done, since people are never going to stop eating meat, and they aren’t about to voluntarily pay more for meat either.

    When I get really bummed out about it I just reflect on how much pain and distress most animals experience when they die in nature, and then it becomes clear that in countries where people have put any kind of humane regulation on animal slaughter, it’s usually an improvement over nature’s method in many ways. Hardly a happy idea, but it helps me not feel so sad about it.

  19. Wordwizard says:

    The number of vegetarians continue to increase, sufficient that even MacDonald’s now offers veggie-burgers! (On a purely anecdotal level, I’ve noticed the difference over the years in what people bring to pot-lucks.) I think many have already made good comments above about the lack of morality in meat-eating, so I won’t even bother to add to them, except to say, “Remember the Golden Rule!”

    However, some meat-eaters have asked for non-morality-based arguments against meat-eating, so let me point out some reasons. There are 7 billion+ humans on the globe and rising, and the amount of meat-eating done in the USA alone is not sustainable. If people in OTHER parts of the world were able to imitate our life-style as they might wish–well, they can’t. It takes about 16 pounds of grain to produce one pound of factory-farmed beef (Of course, cows are not evolved to eat grain; they naturally eat grass.), and one to two orders of magnitude of food lost whenever one goes up the predator chain, so more meat = less grain, for people to eat– more world-wide hunger, along with more concentration of pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics and other poisons in the meat you eat. (I have read that a century and a half ago, when meat was all small-farm produced, with grass-fed cows, the color of fat was yellow, not white. This might cause some dis-ease for you to think on.) The more meat we in the USA eat, the more rainforest destruction to raise livestock feed. The rainforests are the lungs of our planetary system, so what will we do when they are gone? Also, if you want to live longer, don’t clog up your arteries with cholesterol-laden meat, and mercury-laden seafood! Any doctor will tell you that eliminating meat from your diet will help you improve your health. Even children suffer from meat-eating –food allergies are more likely if it is introduced before the age of four, and the trace amounts of antibiotics in meat cause resistance to their medical use to fight childhood illnesses such as ear infections, which in turn can cause deafness (to say nothing of the pain involved!). Children are also perhaps more likely to appreciate the morality aspects of not killing animals, not having honed hypocrisy to the same level as adults, so if you want the best for your children’s health, don’t addict them to the “pleasures” of meat-eating (small children tend to FIGHT being made to eat meat, unless it is mixed with sugar or cornstarch), and they won’t have difficulty giving it up later!

    Full disclosure: Although I would have LIKED to have given up meat sooner, for reasons of morality, but found it too difficult, in FACT I gave it up for non-morality-based reasons.

    • Eric Hall says:

      Yes, the way we currently raise meat is not a very sustainable method, especially when we look at the amount of meat that we eat. I know I could probably stand to eat a little less red meat. But here’s an interesting thought – Bugs are a great source of protein and much more sustainable (http://news.discovery.com/animals/edible-insects-getting-to-the-good-stuff-111122.html) – so would eating bugs OK? Again – the problem is defining where to draw the line on what life is acceptable to eat and which life is not.

      One other small point – the idea that rainforests are “the lungs” of the earth is not really correct. Phytoplankton is actually the largest source of oxygen on earth (approximately 50% of the oxygen is produced by it). Rainforests don’t do a great job of producing oxygen in comparison, but they certainly do perform other functions.

  20. John says:

    Please do not confuse “vegan” with “vegetarian”. A person can be one without the other. Simply-put, the vegan tries to impose their no-meat philosophy on all, while the vegetarian basically doesn’t care what YOU eat; they themselves simply choose not to eat meat.

    Vegans tend to be fanatics about their philosophy and try to convert everyone to their way of thinking by using emotionally-charged “examples” that are meant to sway you.
    Kinda the “green” version for animals.

    • Simone says:

      John, is this really what you think the difference is? That’s akin to saying “Mormons are required to wear short sleeve shirts, while Christians are not. That’s the the difference between the two.”

      Vegetarians abstain from flesh, but eat other animal products like eggs and dairy. Vegans abstain from all animal products. That is all. I am vegetarian and my husband vegan and neither of us preach to anyone. The titles merely inform the difference in our diets. I know plenty of other vegans who don’t preach to anyone, so while indeed a vegan may be more committed and subsequently more fanatical, that doesn’t equal getting in other people’s business about it. Indeed, a vegan is more likely to be annoying, but it’s not a requirement and has no place in the definition.

  21. farmer says:

    I am a dairy farmer, and have also worked as a meat cutter for 4 years. Yellow fat in the cattle is the result of more alfalfa – dairy cows still have yellow fat when you butcher them. It really bothers me when people think that small “boutique” farms automatically raise better meat. Larger farms have staff on hand to care care of animals 24 hours a day. Our barns were designed to keep the cows as comfortable as possible. We have fans and sprinklers for when it is hot, and the sides of the barn roll up to provide more airflow.

    The size of the farm isn’t as important as the people managing the farm. The better job you can do taking care of your animals, the more milk and meat they will produce. Large farms that don’t take care of their animals don’t usually last long.

    I think that there is a “good old days” fallacy when it comes to agriculture. Is the way my grandfather did things is the best way? In some things, maybe, in others maybe not.

    Also, corn is a grass.

  22. folli says:

    All vegetables came from a harvest, or a place where before was a forest plenty of species that leave this adorable place to go to nowhere, to give that place to a soy plantation ex…. they died. The same things happens when i look to a t-shirt made with cotton.. my car made by iron, steel, consuming fuel, etc. etc… all of my existence consumes resources that endanger several species.. no way to go. no remorse by meat consumption.. c’est la vie!

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