Hello. A while ago, I participated in an extended discussion on various aspects of vegetarianism on a free public forum. I have seen some indications that this forum will be withdrawn soon, so I am transferring a lot of my own writings to this blog.
There are many more postings by other people on the thread that I will not be copying here. Its not to make my arguments sound stronger, but mainly for lack of time and because its not my writing and I can't identify the other posters to get their permission to copy their words. I might copy a few just to clarify why I wrote what I wrote because most of the time I am responding to other people, not creating a new discussion thread.
To see the entire thread, you can go to:
Thread Title: Hypothetical dilemma for Vegans/PETA...
This thread spans the dates 1/13/2009 -- 12/5/2009.
The debate on this thread became quite intense at times, which made it interesting to read, and I didn't participate that often. I was suprised to find so many intense feelings surrounding the topic considering it is just about food and what people eat or don't eat...
I really appreciated reading and reasoning with all the people on the thread who took the time to make a thoughtful or empassioned post. It helped me to clarify my thoughts, which I had never had the chance, the inclination, or the audience to express them to. Personal beliefs are so important, that to leave them un-considered, un-conscious, un-examined, and un-expressed, is to live life half asleep.
Note: I have changed my views on vegetarianism over time with experience and input from discussion with others and information I have learned, and from new research. I explain some of this in my postings.
Currently, I follow a similar diet to that recommended by Dr. Mercola, but I began this style of nutrition years before I found his site.
For an interesting take on health and nutrition go to Dr. Mercola's site:
"Here is a hypothetical situation for those who prescribe to the somewhat extreme
vegan and PETA philosophy concerning the use of animals.
If you were stranded on a desert island, that had nothing but water supply, inedible trees and nothing to to eat but fish and seals, would you eat the animals or
strave to death.
The reason I ask is that I have some friends that are into the PETA
and vegan philosopy, and I have wondered how deep their conviction is.
From what I can understand it is based on the assertion that animals have the same
inherent rights as humans, and therefore it is immoral to eat or exploit them just as it would be to do the same to a human.
If I were in a situation where the only option for survival was to eat another human, I wouldnt do it. I would rather die than cross that line. A civilized man I have lived, and I would prefer to die as one.
So how about it PETAN's and vegans, honestly, what would you do?"
NOTE: Italics indicate postings by other people.
Ideoform's (Me) Postings:
Hi, I am not a member of PETA. And I am not a vegetarian currently. But I can answer your hypothetical question from the position of a vegetarian because I was one for 15 years, (ovo-lacto) and vegan (no dairy or eggs) for a year.
I currently eat fish, (but not seals.) Fish aren't really considered animals, but seals are. Some vegetarians, like Mr. Roger's, say they won't eat anything with eyes, so fish end up in that category.
Vegetarians live longer (Seventh Day Adventists live about 9 years longer than average, I think.) So if you are a person who became vegetarian for your health, you would live longer if you switched to eating fish (seals, being mamals would be a last resort, then) on the island while you are waiting to be rescued, and then you could go back to being a vegetarian again. (I have heard that people can survive quite well on just coconuts for a very long time, though, and most (desert = tropical) islands have them, since coconuts float to almost any location.)
I became a vegetarian after taking a philosophy class where we were required to read the book "Animal Liberation" by philosopher Peter Singer, which had just been published back then and was causing a lot of discussion among ethicists. This is the book that later became the foundation for the creation of the animal rights movement, even though Peter Singer doesn't say that animals have rights per say, but that they can and do suffer, and that morally it is important to minimise suffering. His position was the greatest good for the greatest number (Utilitarianism.)
Most food animals are not caught in the wild, and in the process of domesticating animals for food and in their upkeep, many animals suffer greatly from the conditions in which they are required to live until they are used for food.
There are several other arguments for not eating animals, including fish, and one is that it is a very inefficient way of producing food for humans. A lot food that could be consumed by humans is wasted in the process of feeding it to the animals while they are being raised. You could feed many more starving people with the food and water we use to produce one cow, for instance, which would feed a limited number of people--and usually those are not starving, since the starving can seldom afford to eat meat.
For me, the main idea behind refusing to eat animals for so many years was NOT that I wasn't prepared to go out and hunt, kill, dress, cook and eat an animal myself, since I had never had to do that in my life, anyway. It was to prevent unnecessary suffering in a creature that I felt, could feel pain and experience suffering. If I could survive just fine on food that cattle, pigs and fish eat, then why shouldn't I spare them the problem of processing my food for me?
If an elephant, whale or rhinocerous can grow and thrive and be extremely strong and vital without eating meat or eggs, or drinking another mammal's milk, then why couldn't I?
Humans evolved so well because we are adaptable. We originally seem to have existed mainly on fruit grown high up in trees (where we were safe from other predators) and on vegetables we could forage, with a few insects thrown in for protein. When times got tough and the fruit was gone, we ventured out of the trees and were able to also eat and digest some meat. However, too much meat--in the sense that cats, dogs, (Cheetas and Wolves) sharks and crocodiles eat meat--is not good for our long-term health. Eating meat is a good way to get vital nutrients in a concentrated form for survival. I do not exist at a survival level, so I have many more choices that I can make, and my brain allows me to even make moral choices about how I prepare, kill and eat my food.
Even carnivores don't usually kill food for sport or over-kill a species. That would remove the source of their food, and they are less adaptable than an omnivore is.
Quote from earlier discussion:
"The reason I ask is that I have some friends that are into the PETA
and vegan philosopy, and I have wondered how deep their conviction is."
and vegan philosopy, and I have wondered how deep their conviction is."
If you are interested in how deep your friend's conviction is so that you can try to change it, then you have to consider what their individual reasoning is in becoming vegetarian in the first place, and if in doing so, they have benefited from it in some way.
If they have benefited from being vegetarian, by feeling better, having better health, having something in common with other people in the nature of a club, or feel more passion in their lives for having a higher purpose beyond their own survival, then it would be ethically wrong of you to try to convince them to give up their convictions simply for your own comfort level.
If they are battering you over the head with their belief system, and are trying to change you/convert you against your will, then you can read this book and try to use some of their arguments against them. Perhaps by suggesting that it is unethical of them to cause you undo suffering because you don't share their personal convictions.
Posted by another member:
Ideoform, you say: "If they have benefited from being vegetarian, by feeling better, having better health, having something in common with other people in the nature of a club, or feel more passion in their lives for having a higher purpose beyond satisfying cravings, then it would be ethically wrong of you to try to convince them to give up their convictions simply for your own comfort level"
I changed one tiny part of your post. I know 2 vegans and there take on it all, is that animals are more a necessity to each other and the environment, than they are to civilized humanity now.
They also said they would eat meat during any situation where it became a necessity to survive.
I suppose there are many reasons people choose not to eat meat.
Eating meat is more than satisfying a craving. Men, in particular and many older people need more protein in their diets. Meat is an efficient way to get more protein, and sometimes this feels like a CRAVING, but it might also be a signal your body is sending you that you are missing key nutrients you need for your health.
A vegan diet, one that eliminates dairy and eggs, does not supply a vital nutrient, vitamin B12. B12 is stored in the liver, and you can survive for many years without a source of it. But a B12 deficiency is serious, looks like anemia, and can cause dementia and memory loss, among other things. A diet of junk food can cause this, too.
When a person is able to live at a level where physical survival is not a daily concern, then eating meat is generally available to almost anyone on the planet unless you are in a religious group that prohibits it for religious reasons, like many people in India. There is the feeling that if you have the money you can eat meat, then. This is what I mean by having the luxury of being able to choose to have a higher purpose with regard to what you eat. If you are starving on a desert island, then you don't have this luxury.
Ethics/morality might be something that is a luxury, too. And the OP's question goes to that...
A more extreme question might be, if everyone on the planet who didn't eat meat now for whatever reason, began to eat meat, would it put a huge strain on the food supply? People in poor countries survive on vegetable food sources because it is more economical and more of their country's population can survive on less total food. These people survive amazingly in very difficult circumstances, and often when they have adopted a Western diet, which is very meat-based, they also get diseases they didn't get before, like colon cancer, and sometimes live shorter lives.
I think it is morally unethical of us to disregard the need for very tiny additions to a person's diet that can make a huge difference in their health, like the problem of vitamin A deficiency in children in developing countries. A very tiny amount of vitamin A can prevent blindness in children, (the dose required costs two cents) yet we somehow don't have the resources to provide the single dose required to prevent blindness. Perhaps if we all gave up (a nutritionally unnecessary, but more expensive serving) of meat on a few Thursday's, we could afford to prevent the blindness of 250,000 to 500,000 children each year.
Original Poster's Response:
"I will have to ask them where they get their B12 from then, as they look healthier than I do.
But then my diet is savoury pies, double stacked subs, and pizza.
I think the reason one of them does it is spiritual. She is a very conscious, and caring person.
As for my other friend, he is a pompous **** So I think part of the incentive is it is something he can feel proud about.
And he brags about it/pushes it on everyone too."
Maybe he has some dementia and memory loss, then. :)
There is a big difference between how some people adopt a vegetarian lifestyle and how others do. If you just take the typical American diet and eliminate all meat, you have a sub-standard, unhealthy diet, that can leave you feeling depleted and irritable from a lack of nutrients for your brain. B12 is a brain nutrient.
If you are going to eliminate an entire food group, you have to eat more consciously, and the remaining food you eat needs to be even more nutritious. (That usually means, fresher, less processed, and well-rounded.)
Many vegans know about B12 and take a supplement for this. But any person can benefit from taking B12 for their health and brain functioning. Just be sure to tell your Doctor about it if you are feeling unwell, because taking B12 can mask anemia that is caused by other diseases.
B12 is being used to treat memory loss, dementia, autism, ADD and is in supplements for people trying to enhance their intelligence.
The religious/spiritual reason for being vegetarian is based on observations by spiritual people for centuries. I think it has a lot to do with the hormones in the meat at the time the animal is killed for food. If the animal is unduly stressed at the time of death, or is unhealthy (and thus has inflammation, or immune system activity) then these hormones are in its body tissues when they are removed to become food.
The adrenaline (the fight or flight hormone) that is in the fearful animal is in the food you eat. We can produce all our own hormones ourselves, in our own bodies. We don't need them from animals. So if you are eating animal flesh, the hormones from the animal (and also any hormones that are given to the animal by the farmer, such as bovine growth hormone) are going to enter your body, and your body will have to adjust its hormones to that. If you are trying to meditate or are trying to hear "that still, small voice" they call the conscience, any hormones you have injested might interfere with that process of going within to seek a quiet source, or of seeing the subtle mysteries of life.
In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with trying to find a purpose in life beyond your own self-interest. Paradoxically, our species' ability to do this has helped us to survive because of our ability to cooperate with others in the same survival group. And expanding this to include those in the entire ecosystem could also help our species to survive long term. But trying to gain moral superiority by just claiming to be vegetarian is annoying, not spiritual.
Posted by another member (Jiperly)
>>>Vegetarians live longer
They don't live longer because of their diet, but rather because they observe their diet better than the average person- that they eat certain plants because it helps them balance their nutrients, as opposed to the average person who simply eats.
>>>I have heard that people can survive quite well on just coconuts for a very long time, though, and most (desert = tropical) islands have them, since coconuts float to almost any location.)
Don't twist the hypothetical to suit your needs. It wasn't a question of "would you survive on coconuts rather than eating meat"- it was "would you die for your ideals, or would you eat meat"
>>>I became a vegetarian after taking a philosophy class where we were required to read the book "Animal Liberation" by philosopher Peter Singer
I think thats horrible that your professor, in order for you to pass your philosophy class, forced you to be exposed to their politics. I think, in the effort to expose you to some ethics, your professor acted unethically.
>>>in the process of domesticating animals for food and in their upkeep, many animals suffer greatly from the conditions in which they are required to live until they are used for food.
And I believe that that is a message not against animal domestication, but rather a message against animal abuse. And alot has changed in the 35 years since that book has been written, too.
>>>A lot food that could be consumed by humans is wasted in the process of feeding it to the animals while they are being raised.
Thats a misconception spread by animal liberationists in an attempt to gain support by essentially maniplulating people- for instance, alot of the food fed to animals are completely inedible by humans.
Also, this concept assumes WAY too much- like in order for the feed to be given to the starving, that everyone would have to have equal ownership of the food to decide such a thing- otherwise, it would be left up to the farmer- and the farmer would offset the cost of feeding the animals to the increased profit they would make. Equally, alot of the land used for livestock isn't able to handle crops, and to convert these farms would costs hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars- and if the world rejects meat on that same day, the farmer would have no way to regain their losses. So what you are arguing would, in fact, create more starvation and malnuitrition, since both meat would become a rare commedity and less food would be able to be produced.
>>>We originally seem to have existed mainly on fruit grown high up in trees (where we were safe from other predators) and on vegetables we could forage, with a few insects thrown in for protein.
If what you're stating is our ancestors didn't eat meat, you're wrong. We are onmivores, and evolved from onmivores.
>>>Even carnivores don't usually kill food for sport or over-kill a species. That would remove the source of their food, and they are less adaptable than an omnivore is.
Neither morality nor concious thought has anything to do with that- they don't spare some animals and eat others to ensure there will be food next year- they do it because they are full, and content. Some animals, though, still hunt for sport- esspeically in their youth. And if given the chance, yes, animals will hunt other animals to extinction. This is nothing humanity is unique in doing. Hell, even herbivores will eat their plantlife to extinction if the opportunity arrises- thats why we have hunts, to keep the herbivore population in check with the plantlife population
>>>If they have benefited from being vegetarian, by feeling better, having better health, having something in common with other people in the nature of a club, or feel more passion in their lives for having a higher purpose beyond their own survival, then it would be ethically wrong of you to try to convince them to give up their convictions simply for your own comfort level.
Except for the health, couldn't the same results be achieved if they take up Heroin?
>>>In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with trying to find a purpose in life beyond your own self-interest.
I agree- but equally, I find nothing wrong with trying to living a life with your own interests in mind. Hell, I imagine that living for your own happiness rather than living through the happiness of others is a far greater moral action.
Also, I didn't post this earlier although someone mentioned it, but what the hell- this has already diverged into a general "Vegans suck" thread, so here is the Bullshit video that someone mentioned earlier;
Re: Post 28 Jiperly
Vegetarians outlast the general population by perhaps as much as ten healthy years."
--Michael Greger M.D.
The most data arises from a study of 1904 vegetarians over 21 years by the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsche Krebsforschungszentrum). The study's results:
Vegetarian men reduced their risk of early death by 50%
Women vegetarians benefit from a 30% reduction in mortality.
Research a Vegetarian diet
Medical research demonstrates that a Vegetarian diet provides protection against several diseases and the top three fatal problems in the United States; heart disease, strokes, and cancer. Those who follow a Vegetarian diet have fewer instances of death from heart disease. According to the latest medical research, Vegetarians run a risk that is 50% lower than that of meat eaters of developing heart disease. Generally Vegetarians have healthy cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and are less at risk for developing hypertension, diabetes (type 2), and colon and prostate cancer. Similarly, Vegetarians are at a 40% lower risk of developing cancer. Meat eaters are also 9 times more likely to have weight or obesity problems as compared to Vegetarians.
I put the reference to coconuts into parenthesis because it was intended a side-comment, not a twist.
Peter Singer's book was used in our Philosophy class as an up-to-date issue in ethics, not a way to promote politics---because at the time, PETA did not exist. PETA was founded in 1980. So I became a vegetarian before PETA existed, and so I was also not doing it for political reasons.
It simply wasn't a political issue at the time, it was more of a "lets adopt Eastern practices" kind of thing at the time. The health benefits had been well-known for decades before that in America because of the Seventh Day Adventists. And it had been promoted as a cure for mental illnesses in Sweden and Denmark before that, and was a spiritual-based practice in India for long before that.
Peter Singer is a Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, and laureate professor at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, University of Melbourne. He specializes in applied ethics, approaching ethical issues from a secular preference utilitarian perspective.
In an article for the online publication chinadialogue Singer called Western-style meat production cruel, unhealthy and damaging to the ecology. He rejects the idea that the method was necessary to meet the population’s increasing demand, explaining that animals in factory farms have to eat food grown explicitly for them, and they burn up most of the food’s energy just to breathe and keep their bodies warm. That loss of total energy has been verified in multiple studies, and the Nov. 2006 UN FAO Report states as much.
If cows were still fed grass and hay then your "inedible by humans" would be true, but cows are given a lot of corn and grain--human food--because it makes them grow faster, and get to market quicker--so they don't have to be fed and watered as long, which is expensive.
We did evolve from omnivores (if you believe in evolution) that ate mostly fruit and vegetables. Apes were considered omnivores because they ate a small amount of insects. Not much meat.
You say animals will eat other animals to extinction. Well, they don't. They would have all killed each other off long ago, then, way before we even got here. Animal predators don't generally kill any more than they can eat in one session. If you mess with their ecosystem, like say, a volcano erupts and their hunting grounds shrink to almost nothing, well then, yes they might.
Heroin will not improve your health. Trust me.
And generally heroin will not be a valid higher purpose for someone. Unless you call addiction a higher purpose. Or you call selling addicting illegal drugs a higher purpose.
"Hell, I imagine that living for your own happiness rather than living through the happiness of others is a far greater moral action."
Living for your own happiness--by itself-- is not a moral action. It is usually just called survival. Morality generally implies at least the consciousness of other's existence and well-being. Living for your own happiness, is however, an economic principle of capitalism based on the concept of greed being used for the common good. Greed is generally considered a bad thing, morally, but is being utilized by a political system for its own purposes.
It is interesting to note that you started your sentence about living for your own happiness with the word "Hell."
(After much debate by other posters that veered off-track...)
The OP's question is whether vegetarians are willing to let themselves go extinct to allow for fish and seals to survive.
If every vegetarian were to be faced with this dillema, and they were the type of vegetarian that became that way for moral reasons, (not just health reasons) then this philosophy--or rather--constraint, would succeed in doing what you want to be done to PETA. Vegetarians would go extinct. It is a non-survival based strategy. That only a human can or would do.
A scientist would say that any strategy that does not have survival as its most basic tenet is an un-truth. The mere existence of even one human who would give up their life for an animal is antithetical to that. And yet, in our city, someone just died last month going back into their burning home to rescue their cat.
Ok. I think that the OP's question was a good one for people to get started on the ethics of what people eat. But it seems as if many subsequent posters are really interested in debating with/refuting claims of PETA members. No one posting has so far admitted to being a PETA member, so I decided to represent their case, just for fun. I have to say though, that I am currently not a vegetarian or a member of PETA. But I suppose I could join and infiltrate their camp and get some inside information...then again, no.
I think the reason so many vegetarians don't organize to try to get PETA to be more mainstream-friendly, is that it is already accomplishing something for vegetarians. It is getting them publicity, perhaps some recognition, and even some information about what they are doing. It makes it a little easier to be a vegetarian when you aren't always having to explain what a vegetarian is to everyone.
There is a reason you have only heard of PETA and not much about the many other vegetarian organizations. They seem to be organized specifically to get media attention to their concerns. They take a reasonable issue, which admittedly is rather bland--i.e, not eating something--and push the edges out until it looks a little extreme, and then take some outrageous action or make some outrageous claim or create some way-out advertisement to get attention. This works.
In the dating scene, this is called "drama." And if drama didn't work for people, then no one would do it. In the newsroom they have a saying; "If it doesn't bleed, it doesn't lead."
When I first became a vegetarian 25 years ago, I was worried about looking too weird so I didn't talk about it to other people much, unless they asked me. And people did react funny to me at times, (remember PETA didn't exist yet, there was this "Anti-Vivisection Society" at my University), but the main reactions were religious in nature. Which is funny to me, because a lot of vegetarians are so because of ethical reasons.
I will share with you an interesting story from 25 years ago about what it was like back then to be a vegetarian. I was hired to work for our local utility company to be their "Executive Waitress" which included planning menus and cooking and creating a big buffet for the top exec.'s every week, as well as personally serving them in a special dining room on Wegewood china every lunchtime.
This worked out fine for a while, until when I was eating, the woman who hired me made a comment that she had noticed I never ate any meat when I was eating my own lunch. She wanted to know why (I guess perhaps she thought I didn't think the meat was good enough or something like that) and she sort of challenged me to tell me why in a confrontational kind of way--like I was making some kind of passive-aggressive statement or something. Maybe since I had very long hair she thought I was a hippie or something (I wasn't.)
And I told her I was a vegetarian. She then got very preachy with me and even got a little angry about it, even though I was trying to minimise my personal investment and interest in vegetarianism (I wanted to stay working there!) She acted like I had given her a personal affront. She said God had put meat on the planet for us to consume and it was a slap in the face to God that I was throwing His food back in His face by rejecting it!
I had no idea people felt that strongly about what I chose to eat or did not choose to eat. I had never mentioned it to anyone at work. I had no idea people were actually interested enough to WATCH what I was eating or not eating during my own personal lunch time and break time. And also to take so much interest as to even lecture me about it....I thought that it was none of her business.
So, I guess, I kind of like PETA for throwing it back in their faces a bit. That intolerance. That meddlesomness in people's private lives. That "I know best what is good for you" kind of attitude.
If you do anything against the norm, you are asking for people to push you back to the middle again. Perhaps if all of you non-vegetarians were to become vegetarian for a while (come on, it won't kill you) then you would see what we are talking about. You would get what we get from people and you would know why we aren't stopping PETA, even though we would individually never go that far or be that outrageous.
Now, if I were organizing a vegetarian group, I would run it differently myself. And this is not a frivolous statement coming from me because I already am a trained political grassroots organizer, and have done organizing for many years. I just haven't organized around the issue of what I eat. I feel there are many other more important issues to organize around than that.
My favorite methods of organizing people are those promoted by Martin Luther King, who advocated a policy of non-violent political action. This is what inspired me to post this today, on his birthday. Dr. King was a student of the political action style of Ghandi, Leo Tolstoy, and in America Henry David Thoreau's essay on Civil Disobedience (Thoreau was mainly a vegetarian.)
Boycotting is one of the non-violent methods of changing things. So perhaps some people think of vegetarians as people who are boycotting meat. I used to work for an Economist at my University. He told me that people in capitalist countries "vote with their dollars." In other words, whatever you pay for you get more of, and whatever you don't spend money on goes away--or there is less of it produced. Its "the invisible hand" of economics.
If you don't like Coke, you buy Pepsi. It isn't passive-aggressive, it isn't a boycott of Coke. Its the American Way.
If you don't like Coke because they get all their high fructose corn syrup from a communist country, then that's a political statement (if you TELL someone.) If you don't buy Coke because you like the taste of Pepsi better, then that is a personal preference. But the economy doesn't know WHY you aren't buying Coke unless you tell someone, or organize/influence others around your choice. If you personally want to vote with your dollars for whatever you like or don't like and never tell a soul, then the economy still works just as well as before. They just sell a little less of one thing and a little more of something else.
So I guess there will be a lot fewer cows around if a lot of vegetarians organized to try to influence other people to stop eating meat. This would be sad for the cows, if you think that living to only be one year old is living much. Is this better for the cow? If he/she/it is never born because it isn't being bred, then I guess there just will be fewer cows, but those that are still around won't have much of a change, unless people who EAT MEAT organize to make their year-long stay here more pleasant, or longer. It is people who pay for meat that will have the say in that.
This is what I currently do. I buy meat from farms that raise cattle differently. I like that my food is treated well before I eat it. (Is it too silly to say I like to eat only happy food?)
Well, actually, the energy I get is from the sun. This energy gets captured by very industrious plants and converted into chemical energy. Then a hard-working farmer feeds it to the hopefully happy cow, or buffalo, that kindly processes my plant food for me, by digesting it really well through two stomachs, creating muscles that I can get really good concentrated protein from. Hopefully, its death is quick and relatively painless, so I don't injest tons of andrenaline from the terrified dying animal.
I hear that if you buy Kosher products, there is some religious person who periodically inspects slaughter houses to make sure the animals are killed relatively humanely.
I have no reason to stop eating to save the earth. To live here on Earth, something must die, be it a plant or an animal. The only question is if we have the luxury of deciding how the food is produced, cared for and dispatched. I don't even get to decide when I will die.
Have you noticed that carnivores don't make good eating? That is because you are eating too high on the food chain. The solar energy degrades too much, the contaminants get more concentrated after being condenced by an animal. So almost no carnivores are eaten on a regular basis. I know people say crocodile and bear taste good, though. So, this means that I will make a bad food choice for a predator. Vegetarians, on the other hand, are what every carnivore usually eats.
Food is a good topic for a discussion of ethics and economics because A. Everybody eats, and B. A large part of most people's spending is on food. So your food budget influences people around the world.