Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

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Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby King Author » Tue Jul 28, 2009 10:33 am UTC

My stance on vegetarianism and veganism has always been this; if that's how you want to live your life, good for you, but it's a personal choice and that's the end of it. Eating meat has nothing to do with morality, no one but an extremist could convince themselves that eating meat is morally objectionable. So if you don't eat meat, that's fine, but don't go around telling other people not to because it has nothing to do with morality, and even if it did, who are you to impose your morality on someone else?

However, recently, I spotted a spider crawling on the wall of my apartment and normally I'd just squish it under a tissue and throw it away; I've done that all my life. But for some reason, I couldn't bring myself to do it. It seemed...heartless. I've since lost the will to kill; I've been catching any bugs I spot indoors and releasing them outdoors, and I haven't eaten meat in a month. It's strange to explain; if I were living in the bush, I wouldn't hesitate to grab a spear or bow and go out and kill something to feed me and my family, but since I live in relative luxury in an industrialized nation and it's entirely and easily within my power to not eat meat, I feel like somehow, it's the right thing to do.

I don't know, I've spent my whole life insisting that eating meat isn't a matter of morality, but now I'm not so sure. I don't think any reasonable person would say it's wrong to kill an animal and eat it if it were a matter of survival, but in the Western world in modern day, where it's entirely unnecessary to eat animals, where our agricultural technology and abundance of food is such that we can easily go without eating meat, is it still okay to? Maybe not. I still maintain that eating meat is, in and of itself, not "wrong," but if you don't have to eat meat to survive, then not eating meat seems the better thing to do. More...I dunno...humane? Noble? Evolved? Human?

What do you think, and why?

I've bolded that part because it's important. If this becomes a sharing circle of who is or isn't vegetarian, it'll get locked just like the last one. -Az

Please note that this topic is asking whether you personally think it's okay to eat meat and why. We're not here to debate the arguments vegetarians come up with for their lifestyle, nor has anyone said it's wrong to eat meat because it makes animals suffer. Please keep this in mind.
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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby zipper-chan » Tue Jul 28, 2009 10:42 am UTC

King Author wrote:I don't think any reasonable person would say it's wrong to kill an animal and eat it if it were a matter of survival, but in the Western world in modern day, where it's entirely unnecessary to eat animals, where our agricultural technology and abundance of food is such that we can easily go without eating meat, is it still okay to? Maybe not. I still maintain that eating meat is, in and of itself, not "wrong," but if you don't have to eat meat to survive, then not eating meat seems the better thing to do.




Well, that really makes a lot of sense to me. It is very, very true what you are saying.


I myself? I eat meat. It's bred into my culture, Australian, to have BBQs all the time in summer, and to have bangers and mash for dinner.

But when I have actually thought of it, I think something similar to you, something along the lines of that I understand that we as a species used to have to eat meat because it was what supplied us with the energy we need to live, right? But these days, there is a multitude of other products that give us the vitamins and minerals we need to be healthy without needing to butcher an animal. It sounds a tad (maybe a lot) hypocritical for me to say that I don't think we need to eat meat at all any more, but the fact of the matter is I have grown up eating it and I still live with my parents, who would stop speaking to me if I stopped eating meat. So, while I live under this roof, I guess I will keep eating it, but my plan was to stop eating it anyway after I leave home. Did that make sense?

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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby TheGuyWithTheHat » Tue Jul 28, 2009 11:14 am UTC

I personally believe that keeping animals in huge horrible "farms" so they can then be killed, cut up and eaten by us even though we can live fine off of other foods which don't involve slaughter is horrible.

Even with free range, it's still horrible. If I told you I'd give you a huge mansion, a nice car, money, everything else you wanted, but after a week I'd kill you, cut you up and eat your insides, it still wouldn't be right.
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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby Winter Man » Tue Jul 28, 2009 12:22 pm UTC

We don't really need meat, just a large portion of us just really like the taste. Now, if they could grow it in a lab to the same quality, taste & texture as we're used to from farmed animals, I'd pretty much instantly switch to it.
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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby zipper-chan » Tue Jul 28, 2009 12:45 pm UTC

.
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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby King Author » Tue Jul 28, 2009 12:58 pm UTC

zipper-chan wrote:Well, that really makes a lot of sense to me. It is very, very true what you are saying.


I myself? I eat meat. It's bred into my culture, Australian, to have BBQs all the time in summer, and to have bangers and mash for dinner.

But when I have actually thought of it, I think something similar to you, something along the lines of that I understand that we as a species used to have to eat meat because it was what supplied us with the energy we need to live, right? But these days, there is a multitude of other products that give us the vitamins and minerals we need to be healthy without needing to butcher an animal. It sounds a tad (maybe a lot) hypocritical for me to say that I don't think we need to eat meat at all any more, but the fact of the matter is I have grown up eating it and I still live with my parents, who would stop speaking to me if I stopped eating meat. So, while I live under this roof, I guess I will keep eating it, but my plan was to stop eating it anyway after I leave home. Did that make sense?

Yeah, that makes sense, not that compromising your ideals for the sake of avoiding potential conflict with your relatives is a very good reason to do anything (though I'm guilty of doing the same). And though I haven't been eating meat for awhile now and have no intentions to start again anytime in the future, if I were a guest in someone's house and they served me meat, I wouldn't refuse it. Meat tastes good, refusing hospitality is against my nature, and the animal's already dead anyway. Not eating meat doesn't prevent the death of an animal; not buying meat does, so since it's already dead, no reason to refuse hospitality.

Man, I just realized what hostile territory I've gotten myself into. Any hard-line vegetarian or vegan would look at what I say and tell me I'm half-assing it (especially the not refusing meat when offered it thing), but since I'm bringing up the question of whether it's okay to eat meat in the first place, I'm also alienating the vast majority of people who don't even think about it and are uncomfortable talking about it.

@TheGuyWithTheHat: "Free range" is a bogus term, there's no government regulation on how much time the animals have to spend "free" nor how big an area constitutes a "range," so that "free range" chicken could likely spend its life exactly like non-free range chickens, except that it's allowed to walk around outside for five minutes a day.

Regardless, ours is not a world of ideals, and although I'm growing to dislike the idea of raising animals for slaughter at all (Joe Bushman going out and hunting to feed his family is one thing, but artificially inseminating millions of cows so we can slaughter them down the line?), I think it's more worth the while to try and get humane practices introduced to slaughterhouses than it is to try and convince other people to stop eating meat altogether. You can't take away all the guns in the world, but you can improve a person's life to the point that they wouldn't want to use one.
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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby TheSkyMovesSideways » Tue Jul 28, 2009 1:01 pm UTC

zipper-chan wrote:So, It's ok to end the life of another organism because we like eating it. Couldn't an axe murderer say the say thing? 'I don't really need to kill, i just like watching the blood spatter everywhere.' Same principle.

Kind of different. A serial killer is causing significant harm to his own species, a meat eater is not. And if you don't put the well being of your own species above that of other species, Darwin will almost certainly catch up with you and remedy that. :wink:

(This coming from someone who is almost entirely vegetarian.)
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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby EnderSword » Tue Jul 28, 2009 2:08 pm UTC

I don't make any moral distinction between an animal or a plant.

I've probably killed a few million lifeforms just by taking a shower this morning.

Animals being in a form that is easier to empathize with doesn't really make any difference to me, I don't see why I'd draw some moral line between ending the life of a Cow, Plant or Bacteria.
I'd really only be concerned with ending Human life at this point.

Exceptions being a pet I own or someone else owns with an emotional attachment to it, because then you're really just hurting that human.

A lot of vegetarianism just starts as empathy for a specific animal life and then expands to cover everything.
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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby Oculus Vespertilionis » Tue Jul 28, 2009 2:24 pm UTC

EnderSword wrote:Animals being in a form that is easier to empathize with doesn't really make any difference to me, I don't see why I'd draw some moral line between ending the life of a Cow, Plant or Bacteria.

I think a reasonable line to draw here is sentience -- the ability to register an experience such as suffering. A creature that is capable of feeling pain or suffering, or inversely to feel desire or satisfaction or frustration, is often a creature that many people believe we have some responsibility to.
Many people consider suffering to be Bad, and inflicting suffering to be generally immoral (usually with lots of caveats). Bacteria aren't sentient, and plants usually aren't thought to be sentient either. But cows are. So, under this model, cows have protections against being needlessly harmed that plants, bacteria, and rocks do not have.
That's how I understand vegetarian morality to proceed, and since I'm not a vegetarian, I may be wholly mistaken.
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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby EnderSword » Tue Jul 28, 2009 2:41 pm UTC

I think that's how they get there....or more accurately how they justify getting to where they already are....but I don't think a cow is Sentient.

Suffering is a grey area to me, I wouldn't be on board with just torturing a duck with a burning poker for no reason for 5 years, but killing it in a way that hurts it doesn't bug me, nor does stacking chickens on top of each other in little coops. I don't think they can really appreciate the conditions, and its really more my own empathy that wouldn't want to see them tortured, not a real belief that they appreciate it.

I think there's a seemingly logical path that leads you to either conclusion, and it comes down to 'Do you feel bad about it?' and I just don't, and can't forsee any situation in which I would.

This is one of only 3 issues I can really think of which doesn't have a 'Historically Inevitable' type of conclusion. 200 years from now I'm not sure if we'll be eating meat or not.
Both directions seem wrong given human development...on one side we tend to give more rights to everything and everyone and we dont 'Need' to eat it.
On the other hand we done 'Need' 2,000 flavours of coffee and tea either but we always expand our options outward, we never seem to cut off forms of variety...ever. There's enough people fanatical about food to counter those fanatical about animals.
So it doesn't have a clean resolution to me.
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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby Oculus Vespertilionis » Tue Jul 28, 2009 2:44 pm UTC

EnderSword wrote:I think that's how they get there....or more accurately how they justify getting to where they already are....but I don't think a cow is Sentient.

I think you're confusing sentient and sapient. A cow is obviously sentient, in that it can experience sensations such as pain and desire. A cow is almost certainly not sapient, because it does not have higher brian functions capable of abstract thought, long-term planning, etc.
The typical pro-animal-rights position is that all sentient creatures, not just sapient ones, should be respected so as not to cause unnecessary suffering or otherwise create very negative experiences.
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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby eds01 » Tue Jul 28, 2009 2:45 pm UTC

EnderSword wrote:I don't make any moral distinction between an animal or a plant.

Animals being in a form that is easier to empathize with doesn't really make any difference to me, I don't see why I'd draw some moral line between ending the life of a Cow, Plant or Bacteria.
I'd really only be concerned with ending Human life at this point.


Plants and bacteria have no central nervous systems. They don't think. They feel no pain. Now, while obviously a cow isn't very intelligent (cephalopods, dolphins and pigs are all more intelligent), it can still think, and it can still feel pain. If the reason why it's wrong to kill or hurt other humans is that people are intelligent and can feel pain, well, then it logically follows that it's more wrong to kill a cow than to kill a strawberry, or a colony of E. Coli.

King Author wrote:Eating meat has nothing to do with morality, no one but an extremist could convince themselves that eating meat is morally objectionable. So if you don't eat meat, that's fine, but don't go around telling other people not to because it has nothing to do with morality, and even if it did, who are you to impose your morality on someone else?


Suppose I were to take a cow, and then torture it for a few months, and sell it's meat to subsidize the torture. If torturing the cow is wrong, then surly it must follow that subsidizing the torture of the cow is wrong, and therefore that eating the meat of the cow is wrong, since it continues the cycle of cow torture. It isn't the act of eating the meat in-and-of-itself which is wrong, it's the way that the act contributes to the torture of cows.

Obviously, there are farms that treat the cows well, and slaughterhouses that treat the cows well. Even at the worst slaughterhouse, there are cows that die in a less painful manner. However, there are some cows that undergo what must be tremendous pain at the slaughter house.

Also, while it's not too terrible for the cow, feeding my food soylent green (or soylent cow) is something I find incredibly unappetizing. Personally, since it's impossible to tell at a store what meat would or wouldn't pass my harm-quotient (i.e. the meat that I wouldn't eat because the cow was harmed to an unnecessary degree), I eat meat incredibly rarely, and when I do, I know exactly where it's coming from.

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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby Oculus Vespertilionis » Tue Jul 28, 2009 2:48 pm UTC

eds01 wrote:Also, while it's not too terrible for the cow, feeding my food soylent green (or soylent cow) is something I find incredibly unappetizing. Personally, since it's impossible to tell at a store what meat would or wouldn't pass my harm-quotient (i.e. the meat that I wouldn't eat because the cow was harmed to an unnecessary degree), I eat meat incredibly rarely, and when I do, I know exactly where it's coming from.

My understanding is that certain high grades of meat are, by definition of those grades, from animals that were grain-fed and pasture-kept. If this is accurate, then it would be possible to find meat that you know was not mistreated.
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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby King Author » Tue Jul 28, 2009 2:51 pm UTC

Read the SB rules at your earliest convenience. -Az

@Endersword: I think I'm misunderstanding you, maybe you can try saying things a different way -- it sounded like you dismissed empathy as a reason for vegetarianism (which is the word I'll use from here on in the topic to refer to "not eating meat for whatever reason") and then used it as a justification for not eating your pet. Am I wrong?

Also, do you think it's a bad thing that vegetarianism starts as specific empathy then expands?

As for the future, I'm fairly certain that humans will still be eating meat 200 years from now, for one simple reason; vegetarianism flourishes in highly economically and industrially developed areas, where, as I said, people don't need meat in order to survive. Being realistic, the whole world won't be at that point in 200 years. I can see a specific part of the planet or a specific culture going vegetarian 200 years from now, but until the whole world is developed and there's abundant food for everyone, ours cannot be a vegetarian species.

@Oculus Vespertilionis: To minimize suffering is the more rational vegetarian stance, yes. I don't consider myself a vegetarian, though, so I can't really say, either. Not that there's any vegetarian orthodoxy or authority, so no one can really speak for the whole.

@eds01: I've often envisioned a system where many small, independently-owned farms raising livestock in humane conditions replace the few massive corporation-owned farms currently used in America. In these small farms, you could simply pass by and see how the animals are being treated. Economically, I'm not sure how feasible this is, but it's a nice thought.
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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby EnderSword » Tue Jul 28, 2009 3:18 pm UTC

@Endersword: I think I'm misunderstanding you, maybe you can try saying things a different way -- it sounded like you dismissed empathy as a reason for vegetarianism (which is the word I'll use from here on in the topic to refer to "not eating meat for whatever reason") and then used it as a justification for not eating your pet. Am I wrong?

Also, do you think it's a bad thing that vegetarianism starts as specific empathy then expands?


I'm not rally dismissing it, so much as saying it's just a human nature thing.

But no, I'm not using empathy as a justification for not eating a pet. If someone killed my pet i'd feel bad 'cause its my pet...If I killed a little girl's puppy I'd feel bad because I hurt HER. Empathy for the child, not for the doggy.

I don't think its necessarily bad that peopel develop that empathy, but the 'bad' part often comes in that those people then begin to believe that the other people who don't feel it simply don't understand, or can be educated into having a similar feeling. They can develop a negative attitude towards those not abandonning meat and feelingl ike its a moralhigh ground when others don't view it as a moral issue at all.

I understand for instance the physical difference between bacteria, plants and animals. I make no Moral distinction.
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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby BlackSails » Tue Jul 28, 2009 4:21 pm UTC


Plants and bacteria have no central nervous systems. They don't think. They feel no pain. Now, while obviously a cow isn't very intelligent (cephalopods, dolphins and pigs are all more intelligent), it can still think, and it can still feel pain. If the reason why it's wrong to kill or hurt other humans is that people are intelligent and can feel pain, well, then it logically follows that it's more wrong to kill a cow than to kill a strawberry, or a colony of E. Coli.


So if I started raising cows that were engineered to be brain dead from birth, it would be ok to raise them in cages and eat them?

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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby Oculus Vespertilionis » Tue Jul 28, 2009 4:26 pm UTC

People have been trying to develop vat-grown meat for just this reason. My understanding is that by divorcing meat production from suffering, a lot (not all, just a lot) of vegetarians would cease to have an issue with it.
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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby fynthase » Tue Jul 28, 2009 4:30 pm UTC

When you look at a food web and how under consumption and over consumption of some animals affects others, being a vegetarian for the reason of lessening animal suffering makes less sense.

When people don't eat meat, there is a surplus of chicken, pigs, and cows. Chicken eat mice and lizards--more mice and lizards that wouldn't have experienced the suffering of being eaten alive had the chicken been consumed. Pigs eat just about anything that's smaller than them, and cows feed on vegetation. If humans don't eat cows, there will be more of them to limit the amount of vegetation so more animals will starve.

Also, the biggest ecological side effect of people becoming vegetarians is that the producer class becomes diminished, which results in starvation for omnivores and herbivores who rely on producers for nutrients.

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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby natraj » Tue Jul 28, 2009 6:07 pm UTC

fynthase wrote:When people don't eat meat, there is a surplus of chicken, pigs, and cows. Chicken eat mice and lizards--more mice and lizards that wouldn't have experienced the suffering of being eaten alive had the chicken been consumed. Pigs eat just about anything that's smaller than them, and cows feed on vegetation. If humans don't eat cows, there will be more of them to limit the amount of vegetation so more animals will starve.


That doesn't make sense. There's only a surplus of those animals because we're farming them for food. If, over time (because it wouldn't be realistic anyway for the entire society to turn vegetarian overnight) people started phasing out/lessening their meat consumption, there would be less demand for those food-animals, and we wouldn't breed them in such large numbers, so their surplus would start to dwindle in keeping with their demand as products.
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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby fynthase » Tue Jul 28, 2009 6:18 pm UTC

natraj wrote:
fynthase wrote:When people don't eat meat, there is a surplus of chicken, pigs, and cows. Chicken eat mice and lizards--more mice and lizards that wouldn't have experienced the suffering of being eaten alive had the chicken been consumed. Pigs eat just about anything that's smaller than them, and cows feed on vegetation. If humans don't eat cows, there will be more of them to limit the amount of vegetation so more animals will starve.


That doesn't make sense. There's only a surplus of those animals because we're farming them for food. If, over time (because it wouldn't be realistic anyway for the entire society to turn vegetarian overnight) people started phasing out/lessening their meat consumption, there would be less demand for those food-animals, and we wouldn't breed them in such large numbers, so their surplus would start to dwindle in keeping with their demand as products.

You're right but still there would be decreased vegetation.

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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby natraj » Tue Jul 28, 2009 6:38 pm UTC

fynthase wrote:You're right but still there would be decreased vegetation.


I don't see how that follows, if your point was that there will be cow-overpopulation and therefore overgrazing. And my point (that you just agreed with in the first two words of that sentence) is that in the long run, there wouldn't be, since we're producing the cows specifically for eating.

Anyway, the vast bulk (not all, but the overwhelming majority) of meat-cattle in America (sorry for being America-centric, but I'm unfamiliar with farming practices anywhere else.) don't feed through grazing, anyway. They're fed on corn/grains that are farmed specifically to feed them. If the demand for cattle goes down, so would the demand for needing to use so much land up on monocrop farming just to feed all the cattle, and then that land could be used for other things, like farming other food-crops and feeding more people on it than it would take to feed the cattle.
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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby Savarin » Tue Jul 28, 2009 6:45 pm UTC

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/972951/posts

It basically comes down to "Why should a field mouse have more life value than a cow?"

Even with a vegan diet, you're killing animals.

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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby natraj » Tue Jul 28, 2009 6:55 pm UTC

Savarin wrote:http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/972951/posts

It basically comes down to "Why should a field mouse have more life value than a cow?"

Even with a vegan diet, you're killing animals.


Well, yes, it's impossible to eliminate all possible harm ever. But that's a false comparison, anyway since it takes more farming (of grains) to feed animals and then feed people than it does to just feed people straight with vegetables. Basically, if you take an equal area of land and farm it for a vegetarian diet or a meat-based diet, you'll feed more people on the vegetables than you would for an omnivorous diet. So, even if you set up this false dichotomy where clearly vegetarians value cows more than field mice, you're still killing fewer field mice in the long run, since we don't have to also harvest all that grain for cattle-feed.
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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby Oculus Vespertilionis » Tue Jul 28, 2009 7:00 pm UTC

natraj wrote:
Savarin wrote:http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/972951/posts

It basically comes down to "Why should a field mouse have more life value than a cow?"

Even with a vegan diet, you're killing animals.


Well, yes, it's impossible to eliminate all possible harm ever. But that's a false comparison, anyway since it takes more farming (of grains) to feed animals and then feed people than it does to just feed people straight with vegetables. Basically, if you take an equal area of land and farm it for a vegetarian diet or a meat-based diet, you'll feed more people on the vegetables than you would for an omnivorous diet. So, even if you set up this false dichotomy where clearly vegetarians value cows more than field mice, you're still killing fewer field mice in the long run, since we don't have to also harvest all that grain for cattle-feed.

The article assumes that forage farming for cattle is less intrusive than crop farming for beans. It's not a question of raw acreage as I understand it, but rather a more nuanced question about what we're doing to the land in question.
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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby natraj » Tue Jul 28, 2009 7:05 pm UTC

Well, that's true -- to an extent. It still is somewhat disingenuous (not that that is particularly surprising, coming from the freerepublic) in that that forage-feeding is not generally the way we farm meat, so it's silly to set it up as if, well, if we were farming meat in an ideal fashion it would have less impact than the way we farm soybeans now.

That's true. But if we were doing all our farming in a minimal-impact-to-the-environment sustainable way, then the impact of farming vegetables would also be reduced. Basically, almost all industrialized farming does terrible things to the earth it farms. It's not really fair to compare idealized meat farming to non-idealized vegetable farming, which is what that article does. Either idealize it all, or compare it all in the way we currently do it.
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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby invisibl » Wed Jul 29, 2009 12:25 am UTC

“If God didn’t want us to eat animals, why did he make them out of meat?”


I hear arguments that say "if you could not kill the animal,What right have you to eat it"
I am unsure

If an animal suffers through poor farming and husbandry I am not amused.

I know that A tiger or shark would have no compunction in eating me (Nor an earth worm ultimately)

I say its fine and will continue to do so.

I imagine that it would be disrespectful to my canines not to do so.

BTW: My 5 year old occasionally might argue: Vegetables. Eating them. Is it alright to?

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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby Xeio » Wed Jul 29, 2009 3:57 am UTC

As soon as meat isn't as delicious as it is, and/or animals aren't made of that delicious meat, I'll not eat it. I really can't feel any attachment to a random animal, especially one I've never met, and I don't think it makes sense to consider all animal life as important as human life.
Winter Man wrote:We don't really need meat, just a large portion of us just really like the taste. Now, if they could grow it in a lab to the same quality, taste & texture as we're used to from farmed animals, I'd pretty much instantly switch to it.
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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby Lysias » Wed Jul 29, 2009 5:42 am UTC

Oculus Vespertilionis wrote:I think a reasonable line to draw here is sentience -- the ability to register an experience such as suffering. A creature that is capable of feeling pain or suffering, or inversely to feel desire or satisfaction or frustration, is often a creature that many people believe we have some responsibility to.
Many people consider suffering to be Bad, and inflicting suffering to be generally immoral (usually with lots of caveats). Bacteria aren't sentient, and plants usually aren't thought to be sentient either. But cows are. So, under this model, cows have protections against being needlessly harmed that plants, bacteria, and rocks do not have.
That's how I understand vegetarian morality to proceed, and since I'm not a vegetarian, I may be wholly mistaken.
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I have a huge problem with this argument, because it's clearly based in utilitarianism(suffering is bad, so reducing suffering is good), but it fails as a utilitarian argument in the first place.

If a large portion of the population converted to utilitarianism, yes, it would certainly decrease the suffering of animals that currently suffer in slaughterhouses. But wouldn't there be a correlating increase in human suffering, as the meat industry would be completely ruined? And while, over time, the demands of a vegetarian market would increase to fill that gap, it still seems to not take into account the increased cost of rounding out the diet of all the vegetarians with not-always-cheap supplements and workarounds. Basically, there's no way to be certain that, on a large scale, switching to a vegetarian diet will reduce suffering in any way. It could create massive famines. The long-term effects of the argument are too unpredictable to make any real decision. That's one of the biggest problems with utilitarianism- it's easy to say, "Animals are suffering because I eat meat, so if I don't eat meat, I'll reduce suffering." It's not so easy to predict what happens when that logic is applied en masse. It could go either way.

Of course, that's assuming the validity of the utilitarian moral system, which is a terrible assumption. As far as I know, the utilitarian argument is the only moral argument for vegetarianism. That's hardly enough to convince the non-utilitarians of the world, who don't equate suffering with immorality.

So, overall, it seems that a weak philosophical position in the first place, backed by a mistaken argument that can't be rationally universalized, is the only real argument against eating meat. So, it's probably alright to eat meat.

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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby natraj » Wed Jul 29, 2009 5:52 am UTC

Lysias wrote:If a large portion of the population converted to utilitarianism, yes, it would certainly decrease the suffering of animals that currently suffer in slaughterhouses. But wouldn't there be a correlating increase in human suffering, as the meat industry would be completely ruined? And while, over time, the demands of a vegetarian market would increase to fill that gap, it still seems to not take into account the increased cost of rounding out the diet of all the vegetarians with not-always-cheap supplements and workarounds.


If you're eating a balanced vegetarian diet, you don't nead expensive supplements and workarounds. Huge portions of the Indian population have been vegetarian for ages and do just fine. If there were a gradual transition in society from an omnivorous to a vegetarian diet, I don't see why the death of the meat industry would necessarily equal disaster; other farming would expand to fill the [total jobs] gap, and if you are starting from the premise that purposefully inflicting suffering on animals is a wrong, it doesn't make sense to use "but we'll lose the jobs in which we pay people do to $wrongthing" as an argument against it. I mean, if you are perfectly okay with inflicting that suffering, that's one thing, but "we'll lose those jobs" isn't a good argument if those jobs are doing something not-okay to begin with.
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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby Lysias » Wed Jul 29, 2009 6:01 am UTC

natraj wrote:If you're eating a balanced vegetarian diet, you don't nead expensive supplements and workarounds. Huge portions of the Indian population have been vegetarian for ages and do just fine. If there were a gradual transition in society from an omnivorous to a vegetarian diet, I don't see why the death of the meat industry would necessarily equal disaster; other farming would expand to fill the [total jobs] gap, and if you are starting from the premise that purposefully inflicting suffering on animals is a wrong, it doesn't make sense to use "but we'll lose the jobs in which we pay people do to $wrongthing" as an argument against it. I mean, if you are perfectly okay with inflicting that suffering, that's one thing, but "we'll lose those jobs" isn't a good argument if those jobs are doing something not-okay to begin with.

But that argument doesn't fit the original premise of the argument, which is that not eating meat is good because it leads to less suffering. If not eating meat leads to more suffering, it's wrong, under the terms of the argument. If losing the jobs causes more suffering than their continued existence, the utilitarian would agree that the jobs, despite the suffering they inflict, reduce more suffering than they cause, and so are morally acceptable.

And of course, a gradual change to a vegetarian diet would solve the problem of losing an entire industry, but my point is that the long-term effects of that change cannot be measured. I don't know how much it takes in terms of land or resources to grow plants as opposed to raising cattle, but, say, if it takes more, it could lead to increased suffering through lack of resources elsewhere. And even if it takes less, that still doesn't mean that the change would necessarily lead to less suffering. It seems to me that changing to a vegetarian diet is not necessarily an increase in utility overall, and that perhaps efforts to improve conditions in slaughterhouses would be much more effective.

However, that's not the point. The point is that there is absolutely no reason to believe that a vegetarian diet is more or less moral than an omnivorous diet, other than the claim that vegetarian diets result in less suffering overall, which is completely unsubstantiated.

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Postby cerbie » Wed Jul 29, 2009 6:38 am UTC

We should be eating much less, eventually phasing it out. We can get good enough nutrition without meat, and have been able to reliably do so for a good while, now. Vegetarian does not mean bella burgers, either--that and TVP are for vegetarians that don't like food :). An all vegetarian diet would use fewer resources than an all-meat diet, or an omnivorous diet. It is also a step that could be taken to reduce resources used, and thus environmental impact of farming grains (feed matters), that is controllable by the demand side of things (us).

Insofar as morality goes, I think the only argument I've seen that doesn't fail is that we are creating additional suffering for animals than is necessary for our survival, and harming the land more-so than is needed by the mass growing of feed grain, and heavy use of medications in the animals.

Lysias wrote:But that argument doesn't fit the original premise of the argument, which is that not eating meat is good because it leads to less suffering. If not eating meat leads to more suffering, it's wrong, under the terms of the argument. If losing the jobs causes more suffering than their continued existence, the utilitarian would agree that the jobs, despite the suffering they inflict, reduce more suffering than they cause, and so are morally acceptable.
Yet, you are making debatable assumptions that an industry deserves to survive without enough demand for it, and that gradual loss of jobs from a legitimately failing industry (failing because of reduced consumer demand) should be included in 'suffering'.
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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby King Author » Wed Jul 29, 2009 10:33 am UTC

EnderSword wrote:I'm not rally dismissing it, so much as saying it's just a human nature thing.

But no, I'm not using empathy as a justification for not eating a pet. If someone killed my pet i'd feel bad 'cause its my pet...If I killed a little girl's puppy I'd feel bad because I hurt HER. Empathy for the child, not for the doggy.

I don't think its necessarily bad that peopel develop that empathy, but the 'bad' part often comes in that those people then begin to believe that the other people who don't feel it simply don't understand, or can be educated into having a similar feeling. They can develop a negative attitude towards those not abandonning meat and feelingl ike its a moralhigh ground when others don't view it as a moral issue at all.


Well that's a danger with any opinion or lifestyle that isn't the norm, isn't it? People start thinking they're the only ones who've got it right and get all high and mighty and trying to convert people over all sorts of things; religion, politics, etc. I think it's an unfair stereotype of vegetarianism to assume that if a person doesn't eat meat, they're going to end up all preachy.

Savarin wrote:http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/972951/posts

It basically comes down to "Why should a field mouse have more life value than a cow?"

Even with a vegan diet, you're killing animals.


First off, I hope you know that FreeRepublic is a right-wing website that rarely adheres to the rigors of logic. Second, posting an article and leaving it at that is no way to engage in a discussion. I'm not going to waste my time pointing out all fallicious arguments in that article (a few others have already pointed out a few). The fact that they they think vegans are operating under the delusion that their lifestyle causes no harm to any animals is a tip-off from the very first that it's just apologetic right-wing nonsense.

Anything you want to say, I'll be happy to discuss, but posting an article and leaving it at that? No thanks.

invisibl wrote:“If God didn’t want us to eat animals, why did he make them out of meat?”

I hear arguments that say "if you could not kill the animal,What right have you to eat it"
I am unsure

If an animal suffers through poor farming and husbandry I am not amused.

I know that A tiger or shark would have no compunction in eating me (Nor an earth worm ultimately)

I say its fine and will continue to do so.

I imagine that it would be disrespectful to my canines not to do so.

BTW: My 5 year old occasionally might argue: Vegetables. Eating them. Is it alright to?


I'm coming from that second position -- I can't personally do the deed, so I really have no right as an individual to be buying meat and adding to the demand for it. Heh, my nephew would make the same argument about vegetables.

Xeio wrote:As soon as meat isn't as delicious as it is, and/or animals aren't made of that delicious meat, I'll not eat it. I really can't feel any attachment to a random animal, especially one I've never met, and I don't think it makes sense to consider all animal life as important as human life.


Could you elaborate on why it doesn't make sense to consider animal and human life to be of equal importance?

Lysias wrote:I have a huge problem with this argument, because it's clearly based in utilitarianism(suffering is bad, so reducing suffering is good), but it fails as a utilitarian argument in the first place.

If a large portion of the population converted to utilitarianism, yes, it would certainly decrease the suffering of animals that currently suffer in slaughterhouses. But wouldn't there be a correlating increase in human suffering, as the meat industry would be completely ruined? And while, over time, the demands of a vegetarian market would increase to fill that gap, it still seems to not take into account the increased cost of rounding out the diet of all the vegetarians with not-always-cheap supplements and workarounds. Basically, there's no way to be certain that, on a large scale, switching to a vegetarian diet will reduce suffering in any way. It could create massive famines. The long-term effects of the argument are too unpredictable to make any real decision. That's one of the biggest problems with utilitarianism- it's easy to say, "Animals are suffering because I eat meat, so if I don't eat meat, I'll reduce suffering." It's not so easy to predict what happens when that logic is applied en masse. It could go either way.

Of course, that's assuming the validity of the utilitarian moral system, which is a terrible assumption. As far as I know, the utilitarian argument is the only moral argument for vegetarianism. That's hardly enough to convince the non-utilitarians of the world, who don't equate suffering with immorality.

So, overall, it seems that a weak philosophical position in the first place, backed by a mistaken argument that can't be rationally universalized, is the only real argument against eating meat. So, it's probably alright to eat meat.


First off, just to reiterate, this topic is asking whether you personally think it's okay to eat meat and why. This topic is most definitely not intended to debate every vegan and vegetarian rationalization. We are not here to debate the merits of the "not eating meat is better because it leads to less suffering" argument, which I didn't bring up in the first place (and which I don't believe is the default vegetarian/vegan credo anyway, so you'd still be arguing against a straw man). That being the case, you've told us why you think vegetarianism logic is faulty, but why do you personally think it's okay to eat meat?

Also, it seems you don't know this, but many cultures throughout the world, especially in the Indian subcontinent, are vegan and have been for millenia. As a matter of fact, no, veganism doesn't increase the chances of famine and you don't need expensive nutritional supplements to "work around" to a vegan diet.

Also, saying that a moral argument against veganism is it would destroy the meat industry is just plain silly; if you had invented a machine that completely eliminates all sickness and disease from someone, would you think it morally questionable to introduce this machine to the world, just because it would completely destroy the medical industry? If you invented teleportation technology would you think it morally questionable to sell teleporters because you'd decimate the automotive industry?
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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby myoxisbroken » Wed Jul 29, 2009 10:56 am UTC

King Author wrote:Also, it seems you don't know this, but many cultures throughout the world, especially in the Indian subcontinent, are vegan and have been for millenia. As a matter of fact, no, veganism doesn't increase the chances of famine and you don't need expensive nutritional supplements to "work around" to a vegan diet.

(This is not meant to be an argument with you specifically, but another point about culture and diet:)

On the reverse end of the spectrum, what of pastoralists such as the Tuvans, the Tuareg, and the Maasai, for whom animal husbandry is absolutely vital? These peoples live in marginal areas of land where conventional farming is absolutely unsustainable and impractical. If we are to assume that meat-eating is inherently immoral because of the suffering it causes to animals, what do you suggest we do with pastoralists? We can't have them switch to vegan or even vegetarian diets (they can't farm enough vegetables for this to be practical), it seems extremely immoral, at least from my perspective, to make them move elsewhere, (especially when they largely have already environmentally sustainable lifestyles), and it is definitely immoral to just let them starve.

I will add that none of this excuses me from the fact that as a privileged American with basically equal access to vegetables and meat, I probably should not be eating as much meat as I do.

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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby slacks » Wed Jul 29, 2009 3:18 pm UTC

I think the main dividing line for what is considered meat has been:
Is the animal good for food? Is it tasty? How much meat does it provide? Is it hard to kill? etc.
What is the opportunity cost of killing said animal? Does the animal have better uses alive?

Over time I think some of these driving forces remain, but there is now an element of culture and tradition as well (and inertia).


Morally speaking, I think it is okay to kill animals for meat.
It's not okay to cause pain to animals for the purpose of causing pain.
The dividing line on "what is meat" is strictly sapience (IMO).

Of course proving (or disproving) sapience is extremely difficult and practically means "is human."

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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby mosc » Wed Jul 29, 2009 6:03 pm UTC

What it came down to me was drawing a line between things I'd eat and things I wouldn't. Everyone has things they won't eat. Most of us won't eat human, for example. Even those who would likely wouldn't eat close friends and family. I guess I just worked in an ever expanding circle from myself until I found a line I was comfortable with... ethically.

I do think it's an ethical decision. I'm not going to debate what makes a cow's life fulfilling or not (I don't buy the anthropomorphizing going on here), I don't think that's really understandable anyway. We do have to kill to eat. It's fundamental in or species and many others. I don't feel bad about it. However, I have a great deal of choice and can be much more selective about what I kill to eat. This lets ethics wander in.

I think that those who don't have ethics in their food selection just end up eating what's convenient and/or tasty but for those that do have ethics, it almost always leads to substantial restrictions.

For me, my restrictions lead to excluding all mammals. That's the line I was comfortable with and still had plenty of available products (mostly chicken and turkey) to be healthy and feel satisfied.
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Re:

Postby Lysias » Wed Jul 29, 2009 6:10 pm UTC

cerbie wrote:
Lysias wrote:But that argument doesn't fit the original premise of the argument, which is that not eating meat is good because it leads to less suffering. If not eating meat leads to more suffering, it's wrong, under the terms of the argument. If losing the jobs causes more suffering than their continued existence, the utilitarian would agree that the jobs, despite the suffering they inflict, reduce more suffering than they cause, and so are morally acceptable.
Yet, you are making debatable assumptions that an industry deserves to survive without enough demand for it, and that gradual loss of jobs from a legitimately failing industry (failing because of reduced consumer demand) should be included in 'suffering'.

Gradual loss of jobs in a legitimately failing industry that causes suffering counts as suffering. I'm merely applying the utilitarian ethics to the question. The only question of concern to utilitarianism is- Does it increase utility?(the same as "Does it reduce suffering?" essentially). It doesn't matter whether it's legitimate or not, if an action increases utility, it's ethical, and if an action increases suffering, it's unethical. If you're seeking to reduce suffering by not eating meat, you have to take into account all suffering that might result from your actions, not just the suffering that you happen to care about.
King Author wrote:First off, just to reiterate, this topic is asking whether you personally think it's okay to eat meat and why. This topic is most definitely not intended to debate every vegan and vegetarian rationalization. We are not here to debate the merits of the "not eating meat is better because it leads to less suffering" argument, which I didn't bring up in the first place (and which I don't believe is the default vegetarian/vegan credo anyway, so you'd still be arguing against a straw man). That being the case, you've told us why you think vegetarianism logic is faulty, but why do you personally think it's okay to eat meat?

You asked a question about ethics(is it right to eat meat). I responded to that question. Ethical questions aren't a matter of opinion. I explained why the arguments against eating meat are poor arguments, that's why I think eating meat is OK. Since there is no reason to think that eating meat is unethical, one concludes that it is ethically acceptable. It's kind of like asking whether or not picking up a pencil is ethical or not. I don't have to provide ethical justification for picking up a pencil, since there's no reason to think that doing so is unethical. If someone came up with an argument claiming the picking up pencils is unethical, then I would have to negate that argument in order to continue to pick up pencils. Ethics is exclusionary; certain actions are unethical, all others are ethically acceptable. One doesn't need to justify every action. Since there are no valid reasons to think that eating meat is unethical, it seems that it is acceptable.

And, actually, the utilitarian argument IS the default ethical position of vegetarians/vegans, or at least the ones who seek to philosophically justify their diet. Many don't seek to do that, but that doesn't change the fact that reducing suffering is the primary ethical argument for vegetarianism.

Also, it seems you don't know this, but many cultures throughout the world, especially in the Indian subcontinent, are vegan and have been for millenia. As a matter of fact, no, veganism doesn't increase the chances of famine and you don't need expensive nutritional supplements to "work around" to a vegan diet.

That's rather irrelevant to my argument. Just because a completely different culture is capable of maintaining a vegan diet without increasing suffering does not mean that ours is capable of it.

Also, your argument is false, as the Indian subcontinent experienced serious famines on a regular basis for thousands of years due to their severe reliance on agriculture. Perhaps additional sources of food would have prevented some of that suffering.

Also, saying that a moral argument against veganism is it would destroy the meat industry is just plain silly; if you had invented a machine that completely eliminates all sickness and disease from someone, would you think it morally questionable to introduce this machine to the world, just because it would completely destroy the medical industry? If you invented teleportation technology would you think it morally questionable to sell teleporters because you'd decimate the automotive industry?

I think utilitarians would say that the benefit of eliminating all sickness and disease would so far outweigh the destruction of the medical industry, and I think any sane person would have to agree. The teleportation argument is a much greater wildcard. I have no idea how the introduction of teleportation would transform society. The point is that you can't argue for decreasing suffering while advocating a viewpoint that increases suffering.

Let me also note that I do not agree with these arguments. I'm against utilitarianism, but it's a stronger argument to point out the contradictions in utilitarian arguments than it is to just say, "Utilitarianism is wrong, it doesn't matter if cows suffer because I eat steak," even if that happens to be my position. I don't see a particular need to offer an argument for eating meat, for the same reason I don't see a particular need to offer an argument for using two pillows instead of one when I sleep. It's a personal choice that has nothing to do with right and wrong.

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Re: Re:

Postby cerbie » Wed Jul 29, 2009 6:56 pm UTC

Lysias wrote:
cerbie wrote:
Lysias wrote:But that argument doesn't fit the original premise of the argument, which is that not eating meat is good because it leads to less suffering. If not eating meat leads to more suffering, it's wrong, under the terms of the argument. If losing the jobs causes more suffering than their continued existence, the utilitarian would agree that the jobs, despite the suffering they inflict, reduce more suffering than they cause, and so are morally acceptable.
Yet, you are making debatable assumptions that an industry deserves to survive without enough demand for it, and that gradual loss of jobs from a legitimately failing industry (failing because of reduced consumer demand) should be included in 'suffering'.

Gradual loss of jobs in a legitimately failing industry that causes suffering counts as suffering. I'm merely applying the utilitarian ethics to the question.
No, you are also assuming that said job loss itself causes suffering.

The only question of concern to utilitarianism is- Does it increase utility?(the same as "Does it reduce suffering?" essentially). It doesn't matter whether it's legitimate or not, if an action increases utility, it's ethical, and if an action increases suffering, it's unethical. If you're seeking to reduce suffering by not eating meat, you have to take into account all suffering that might result from your actions, not just the suffering that you happen to care about.
So, is there also an assumption that no other jobs will exist?

If raising and slaughtering animals for meat were banned tomorrow (or everyone started eating the meager amounts of meat that I do--I'm up to ~1/8lb for this week!), I could see it causing suffering. All of a sudden, tons of people are out of work, most without good plan Bs (the economy's general situation doesn't help that, either), and often without the money needed to keep a roof over their heads, keep everyone fed, and also retrain. If demand for meat decreased over 20-50 years, though, I just see people needing to learn different trades, and everything generally going smoothly.
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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby fjafjan » Wed Jul 29, 2009 7:07 pm UTC

Well I see no ethical issue with eating meat in itself, in other words the act of devouring part of another somewhat intelligent mammal (like a cow, or even a human) or something I find unethical. Now I find the idea of eating a human repulsive, I imagine this is somewhat biological and I don't care about training it away.
The relevant part if that when you eat meat you do in pretty much all cirkumstances support the place that meat came from. So, ethically, I think it's a bad thing to eat factory farmed beef, because there is a lot of suffering caused by those methods. On the other hand, eating an 'organic cow', like the ones I saw a few weeks back who live their lives wandering around a large path of wild forest/grass and when they get old get a painless death, I think that's perfectly ethical. Those cows are as happy as cows can be, give or take (certainly happier than in nature where they would get attacked by predators, wounded etc).

So, eating meat, Yes it's alright. Realistically, a large portion of the meat that you eat is not ethically produced, and therefor not ethical to eat.

To be clear, I don't think it's a horrible thing, and have a generally pretty pragmatic/immoral stance on this, I can't afford to only eat ethically produced meat, seeing as how I am a student, but certainly I aspire to do so.
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Re: Re:

Postby Azrael » Wed Jul 29, 2009 8:23 pm UTC

Lysias wrote:
Also, it seems you don't know this, but many cultures throughout the world, especially in the Indian subcontinent, are vegan and have been for millenia.
Also, your argument is false, as the Indian subcontinent experienced serious famines on a regular basis for thousands of years due to their severe reliance on agriculture. Perhaps additional sources of food would have prevented some of that suffering.

You've missed a rather large point -- that feeding animals to produce food takes more agriculture than feeding people. No process is more than 100% efficient after all, and adding in the middle man inefficiencies of raising feed-animals only reduces the usable resources available to people. It only works to our benefit if the animals can be sustained on food sources that are not human edible (i.e. grass). However, we've returned to the earlier point that populations are now (and have been for a long time) too large to sustain strictly on grass fed animals.

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Re: Meat. Eating it. Is it alright to?

Postby Enuja » Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:40 pm UTC

King Author: don't worry about people morally looking down on you as a fleixitarian (mostly vegetarian, but flexible). As a flexitarian myself, I've found that vegetarians find me useful at parties (could you go eat that and check it for meat for me?) and I've found that even obnoxious omnivores who constantly make fun of vegetarians are very nice to me. It might be in part that I vomit when I've eaten too much meat (just because I'm not used to it), so omnivores who know me often steer me away from a second helping of meat at a party, but I honestly haven't been made fun of at all about it, even by people who know me well and haven't seen me vomit meat.

I am not a vegetarian for moral reasons: I am a flexitarian because I really like vegetables, stopped buying and cooking them so I'd actually eat vegetables instead of grabbing a chunk of meat and making an easy but not healthy meal, and just got used to it.

However, there is a clear moral argument for eating a lot less meat, and all but the moral axiom behind it already exists on this thread. Moral axiom: use the fewest possible resources. In cases were the native vegetation provides good human food, this moral axiom clearly indicates that we should eat vegetables instead of animals that eat the vegetables (an average of 10% of the energy is preserved as biomass between each trophic level - when one organism eats another). This moral axiom also clearly indicates that eating the flesh of grazing animals is better in some circumstances.

King Author wrote:Also, it seems you don't know this, but many cultures throughout the world, especially in the Indian subcontinent, are vegan and have been for millenia. As a matter of fact, no, veganism doesn't increase the chances of famine and you don't need expensive nutritional supplements to "work around" to a vegan diet.
Just FYI, most of the vegetarians on the Indian subcontinent are Lacto-vegetarian (eat dairy products but not eggs or meat).

Lysias wrote: That's rather irrelevant to my argument. Just because a completely different culture is capable of maintaining a vegan diet without increasing suffering does not mean that ours is capable of it.

Also, your argument is false, as the Indian subcontinent experienced serious famines on a regular basis for thousands of years due to their severe reliance on agriculture. Perhaps additional sources of food would have prevented some of that suffering.
Others have addressed this point, but where did you get this from? Do you have some sort of evidence that famine has been more common on the Indian subcontinent in the last 2,000 years than in places where people ate meat? And that this is due to eating milk but not meat?

That's another point for the eating grazing animals is better crowd: you can drink the milk of ruminants and get calories from grass from them without killing them.


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