Frequent questions on why I became a vegetarian

There are 5 months since I became a vegetarian. I don’t eat any type of meat but I do eat other type of animal products (like eggs or milk). This was a surprise for many of my friends who question my motives all the time. And they get really, really surprised to find out that I am not doing this just for health reasons, but also for moral reasons.

Here are the most common questions and my responses to all of them:

1. There are animals who eat other animals. We are animals so why shouldn’t we eat other animals? We are at the top of the food chain after all. 

Just because there are carnivore animals doesn’t mean we should do it. There are many natural behaviors of animals that we consider appalling when exhibited by humans. Things like rape (very popular with monkeys) or cannibalism (monkeys, birds and spiders).

In fact I believe as long as we consider ourselves above animals at an intellectual and moral level we shouldn’t permit killing just for the sake of our taste buds and old habits. Should we look at the world as a food chain? If so how can we claim we are better than animals? As Matthew Scully, a former speechwriter for George Bush, once said, ‘If reason and morality are what set humans apart from animals, then reason and morality must always guide us in how we treat them.’

2. Animals don’t have feelings or consciousness. Killing them is like breaking a rock. So why shouldn’t we eat them?

It is true that there is little research on what animals feel during their existence. If they do have feelings or not is still something to be decided. So it all comes to personal decisions and other influences in our lives. But…. there is a big BUT here:

As long as we don’t have a lot of scientific experience to guide us, we should let our common sense guide us. I think Carl Sagan’s Principle of Mediocrity should also be applied to humans (and their feelings). From a purely anatomic perspective we share a lot with animals: nervous system, respiratory system, circulatory system etc… You could infer from these non-debatable observations that animals should also poses some sort of feelings. After all they do show signs of joy (ever seen a female dog playing with her puppies) or pain (the look on a cow’s face when she’s separated from her calves). Again we can not be 100% sure that those signs are not just some dumb reflexes but we should trust our common sense. And if common sense is not enough ….

Remember the inquisitors? Or the Nazis? Or the slave owners? Ever wondered how an Auschwitz soldier could go home, hug his kid, have soup with his family after a long working day (I do believe killing thousand of Jews a day was an exhausting task)? He did it because for him a Jew was nothing more than a dog or a plant. The same as protestants and atheist were for Catholic torturers or black people for all the white people in the past. Boy were they wrong you may say. And it is not like we now have scientific evidence that an atheist is indeed a living thing who deserves to be saved even because he doesn’t believe in God or that a black person is indeed on the same level as we do in spite of his color. We stopped doing all those horrible things because we evolved morally and intellectually. Why not go one step further? 

After all why is cruelty to a puppy appalling and cruelty to livestock by the billions a matter of social indifference? There cannot be any intrinsic difference of worth between a puppy and a pig. …Only if you don’t want to think about this. But please think about it.

3. If you are against killing animals why aren’t you also against killing plants? Plants are also living things. Right?

This is somehow related to the previous question.  As I believe we should use our common sense and many other arguments to treat animals as emotional living things we should use our common sense against the plants. Plans are not animals. Animals  have strong emotions. Animals respond because they can not just feel, but they can see, hear, etc and possess the same senses as humans do. Plants have no nerve tissue. I eat plants because I don’t think I provoke them any pain or any other sentiment or feeling. I would argue that animals are a more highly organized form of life, with greater sentience and greater capacity for suffering.

4. How are you getting your protein then? We have to kill animals. You know….. for proteins.

I don’t want to get to deep into the subject of nutrition but:

  • We eat to many proteins anyway
  • Eating many proteins is a myth anyway
  • We can get all the proteins we need from plants I understand we couldn’t have done that in the past and killing was imperative, but now we have supermarkets and stuff: we can buy all the plants we want for a healthy diet.

5. I like eating meat! It’s tasty!

I call this "I don’t give a shit" argument. And most of the time is what all the people are in fact saying and only ask the above questions to show that have given a thought to this and found a justification for eating meat.  And what I usually say: "Maybe you don’t give a shit about a cow. Or a dog. I understand that a stake is that important to you. But think about other people too!"

The same land to grow meat for 20 meat eaters can feed 240 vegetarians. So with a vegetarian diet we could feed more that 12X than number of people we are feeding now. 40,000 children die of hunger every day. Horrible I know! And do you know what most of the poor countries do to support their economy? They export "the plants" for western counties cows and chicken. If we would be vegetarians there will be no global food problem anymore.

And it is not just the food.  The toll on water resources is equally grim: the meat industry accounts for half of US water consumption - 2500 gallons per pound of beef, compared to 25 gallons per pound of wheat. Polluting fossil fuels are another major input into meat production. As for the output, 1.6 million tons of livestock manure pollutes the drinking water. A vegetarian diet requires 300 gallons of water per day. A meat diet requires 4,000 gallons. That’s a difference of 3,700 gallons a day or 26,000 gallons a week. For each person that would move to a vegetarian diet. How many children die because lack of water?

This is it. Long post I know. I leave you with a few interesting quotes that I found on the web:

" I know I could not kill an animal with my own hands – so why would I eat an animal just because someone else does it for me? Linda McCartney once said, "if slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian." What do you think she meant by this? My interpretation of this is that we simply would cease support our current treatment of animals if we had to participate more fully in the process."

“…there’s no way to treat animals well when you’re killing 10,000,000,000 of them a year… That’s just the United States” from  Mark Bittman at TED  video bellow:

" Humans proclaim to maintain a deep respect for life and I do believe, for the most part, this is true. But for some reason our stomachs seem to get in the way, and we use their likes and dislikes as our means for determining right and wrong. I say cannibalism and you say gross. Therefore we can clearly and quite easily place it in the "wrong" column. I say "dog meat" or "horse meat" and most of us have the same reaction. "Yuck" becomes equivalent to "wrong."

I say ribs, bacon cheeseburger, or tandoori chicken, and our reaction is completely different. Our moral opposition drains away in direct proportion to our salivation levels. And while I presume the majority of us do not want animals to suffer, it seems we have an internal on/off switch that allows us to detach from reality when the subject at hand has anything to do with our appetites." from Progressive Cogitation

A guide to mind mapping

I heard of mind mapping 3 years ago when it was a very fashionable buzz-word. Web 2.0 was at its peak and all the blogs were talking about it. Not to mention  there were some very appealing browser based mind mapping tools and some amazing desktop versions. I tried them all but somehow I never got hooked and got back to taking notes on pieces of paper. Some years passed, won Seedcamp, moved to London and I met a great team of designers who used mind-mapping techniques to lay ideas and structure them in a very attractive manner. I got hooked this time and now I use mind-mapping every day.

What is mind-mapping?

A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea. Mind maps are used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, and writing. According  to Wikipedia

So it’s a way to express your thoughts and ideas while using drawings, pictures, colors etc….  The concept of mind maps developed from the idea that traditional linear note taking methods stifle creative thought. By laying out ideas in a linear way (i.e., arranging concepts in a structured method) our minds are limited to left-brain thinking (logical, ordered, detail oriented). Mind mapping ostensibly encourages right-brain thinking (stream-of-consciousness, symbolic, ‘big picture’ oriented). Sounds silly but it’s freakin’ awesome. 

  1. You start with a pen and a blank sheet of paper by writing or drawing the idea you intend to develop.
  2. Draw the related subtopics around this central topic, connecting each of them to the center with a line.
  3. Repeat for sub-sub-topics and so on.

How do I use it?

If mind mapping is so great why did I stop using them years ago. From one simple reason: Software mind-mapping solutions don’t work. For me at least. And I think that if you are the type of person that’s used to a pen and a sheet of paper when you are thinking going offline is the way to do it. So what I do now is:

  • I use a pen and paper. And I strongly recommend having some colored pencils or markers to make your drawing more beautiful. It’s like the first grade I know… but bare with me.
  • I only use blank sheets of paper. I hate ruled notebooks but maybe this is just a matter of taste. Rules are for bullet lists not drawings :)
  • I got a notebook. With thick blank squared sheets of papers. Don’t get a small Moleskin notebook because you can not draw anything on them. A notebook is great because it can store all your drawings in one place. No more lost papers.
  • I draw things, I use colors etc… I am creative (I hate this word so much… but it works in this context)

Why is it working?

If you always scribble things on paper when you’re speaking with someone or when you’re thinking about something than you will love mind mapping. It just gives you a structure of putting your ideas to paper. There are some smart people out there with amazing semi-scientific explanations on why is this working. I came up with my own explanations. I think that having a method to draw and collect your ideas on paper gives you time to really think things through. You don’t need to jump to the next bullet…. but you take your time to draw a plane next to an idea about flying to a conference. I notice that I then have more ideas related to this because I am still thinking about it while a draw a silly plane. 

Also having a notebook with all your drawings in one one place allows me to go back to a brain-storming session that I had weeks ago. Without a notebook to hold them all together I would’ve lost the papers  and even if that wouldn’t have happened understanding some bullets with no connection would’ve been impossible.

What to do with it?

Use it to:

  • Organize your thoughts
  • Take notes during a conference
  • Explore some ideas (brainstorming)
  • Research a subject

Give it a try.

The Techcrunch thing
Image representing TechCrunch as depicted in C...

As you probably know we were featured on Techcrunch last week. We visited Michael Arrington’s home and office, demoed our product to Michael and he wrote a very nice review afterwards (except the fact he wrote Backtype, which is another company, instead of uberVU).

But some people were very very pissed off that in that article Michael said that uberVU is a London based company, when the founders and all the employees are in fact Romanians. I can totally understand your frustration but here are the facts:

  1. uberVU is a technically a London based company. We are registered in London, our HQ is in London etc. And this helps a lot from a business perspective. Not a lot of people will invest in a Romanian company. Ask Alexis!
  2. We never bragged or even mentioned London to Michael or any other journalist/investor etc. We always say that we are from Romania. We have nothing to be ashamed! Whoever said that is an idiot! In fact we found that mentioning Romania is one way to grab some attention: “Haaaaaa…. Romania. Cool!” But Michael wrote the article and he probably checked where are we incorporated.

So again: sorry we have disappoint you! But it is not something we did on purpose!

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Despre respect si alte prostii

Ma amuza in liceu cum toti profesorii ne cereau respect. Ma amuza pentru ca tot timpul am considerat ca respectul se castiga si nu se cere. Multi ani dupa si lucrurile stau la fel caci, din pacate, prea putini din cei cu care interactionez incearca sa-si castige respectul. Cel mai usor mod: respectati-va angajamentele!

  • Nu intarziati la intalniri. Stiu: e mult de munca, traficul e infernal etc. Dar daca eu ajung astept acelasi lucru de la voi! Iar daca intarziati pentru ca ceva mega-super important a intervenit, ma astept sa primesc scuze si explicatii. Cu 15 minute inante sa ora stabilita.
  • Faceti ceea ce ati promis! Se leaga de punctul anterior dar legatura cu angajamentele mai mari. Daca promiteti ca faceti ceva…. pls do! In intervalul de timp promis ar fi ideal! Iar daca se intampla ceva nemaipomenit care va impiedica sa va tineti de cuvant… anuntati!
  • Stop the bullshit! Better underpromise and overdeliver! Cum naiba se face ca la noi e tot timpul invers?

PS: Post scris la nervi dupa o saptamana-jumate plina de tepe!

PS2: Partea cea mai nasoala cand iei o teapa (cineva intarzie la o intalnire sau nu mai apare deloc sau promite ca face ceva pana la o anumita data si-si baga picioarele) este ca te pune pe tine in situatia penibila de ati cere scuze fata de alta persoana ca nu ti-ai putut respecta angajamentele. Jenant! Si trist totdata!

Pete Sampras in devenire

Ieri am fost la tenis cu Dragos si Daniel. Eu cu Dragos mai mult sa-i facem galerie lui Daniel, care juca in campionat. Nu am poze cu maestru’ Daniel dar am cu mine :). Si ce le dau la fileu!

PS: Nu-i asa ca prima poza e buna de Hi5?