Frequent questions on why I became a vegetarian
Posted in Personal, Thoughts

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

10 Responses to “Frequent questions on why I became a vegetarian”

  1. Scott Rafer Says:

    The article you point too doesn’t make this point.

    “Eating many proteins is a myth anyway.”

  2. vladimir.oane Says:

    Fixed

  3. Scott Rafer Says:

    Your description (and nutrition101’s) is incomplete. Keeping weight down allows you to die/suffer from these other conditions as your heart is less likely to give out before they get a chance to appear.

    But yes, any veg diet with a lot of beans, greens, and whole grains and not a lot of rice, sugar, and flour can be perfectly healthy.

    I’m going to leave the spiritual arguments alone, as I’m not qualified to comment, but there are mid-way solutions on the eco ones. Most of the problem is the factory-farming of animals. To the extent more and more people limit themselves to organic, NON-CORNFED beef, the problems decrease radically. Price and scarcity will also increase, but that’s part of the point.

  4. vladimir.oane Says:

    Indeed. Moderation and limiting to eco-products are a good start.

  5. Daniel ION Says:

    How about fish?

  6. Vladimir Oane Says:

    Fish are animals too.

  7. Daniel ION Says:

    lol
    I knew that. Anyway, that’s a very succint answer. Check for those Omega-3 fats anyway… They’re essential.

  8. Scott Rafer Says:

    flax seed oil or ground flax seed.

  9. Dora Says:

    I understand and respect one’s decision to embrace the world of vegetarianism, therefore I have only one question: are you trying to convince other people that they should quit eating meat?
    Don’t take any offense, I’m just curious. :-)

  10. vladimir.oane Says:

    No. They must realize that themselves :)

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