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veganimae
May 21, 2007 8:34 AM   Subscribe

Death by Veganism. "I was once a vegan. But well before I became pregnant, I concluded that a vegan pregnancy was irresponsible. You cannot create and nourish a robust baby merely on foods from plants.

Indigenous cuisines offer clues about what humans, naturally omnivorous, need to survive, reproduce and grow: traditional vegetarian diets, as in India, invariably include dairy and eggs for complete protein, essential fats and vitamins. There are no vegan societies for a simple reason: a vegan diet is not adequate in the long run."
posted by four panels (312 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
I think this is going to turn out like a circumcision/religion post.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:39 AM on May 21, 2007


Non-registration link.
posted by four panels at 8:41 AM on May 21, 2007


Whatever debate falls out of this, the article is lame (and the vegan diet link is broken). It's no more than an opinion piece which feigns scientific support.

Yes, being a vegan requires more responsibility than many are aware, but I know a lot of very healthy vegans. I could be convinced that veganism isn't healthy, but I'd want a lot of significant studies first.
posted by Alex404 at 8:44 AM on May 21, 2007 [3 favorites]


I will only eat circumcised, declawed vegans.
posted by everichon at 8:44 AM on May 21, 2007 [15 favorites]


I think you're right, Pollomacho. I think I'm going to skip the "granola" mommy lists today.
posted by lysdexic at 8:45 AM on May 21, 2007


At least she's not fat.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:45 AM on May 21, 2007


Yeah... I think it is difficult to go vegan healthfully, but if you really put some effort into it, you won't necessarily become emaciated and malnourished. There are some grains, like quinoa, that are apparently complete proteins, though I'll admit I don't know anyone who eats the pounds and pounds of quinoa it would take to get enough of all the relevant amino acids.

But the parents from the first link fed their kid "mainly soy milk and apple juice," which just sounds like "bad parenting" period, not "bad vegan parenting."
posted by rkent at 8:46 AM on May 21, 2007


THe biggest problem I see with veganism, from a strictly nutritional perspective, is that there is no reliable vegan source of vitamin B12. You can pretty much cover everything else, but of course you'll have to get some of your chow shipped from afar, which is a whole other issue.

Death by veganism is a needlessly inflammatory headline though; the poor infant was killed by neglect and ignorance.
posted by Mister_A at 8:47 AM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


So does anyone who pretends to know anything about nutrition care to offer some thoughts about the advisability of raising a child as a vegan from birth?

... Or should we just do a round and round pee fight about how delicious horse sashimi is?
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:47 AM on May 21, 2007


That Crown Shakur story is tragic, but he did not die because his parents kept him on a vegan diet, he died because they only gave him soy milk and apple juice and clearly had no concept of how to take care of another living being. In fact, they don't know how to take care of themselves, being as the apple juice & soy milk were the *only* foods in the house. His parents also never took him to see a doctor in his life, and are just plain clearly psychotic and/or total imbeciles.

The typical vegan diet contains a much wider variety of foods than apple juice & soy milk can provide. A great example of how diverse the options for a vegan child can be is the site Vegan Lunchbox.

I know enough vegans who are healthy and fit and who have raised healthy and robust children to believe that if you are smart about nutrition, you can be just as healthy on a vegan diet than on an omnivorous diet. Disclaimer: IANAV
posted by tastybrains at 8:48 AM on May 21, 2007 [9 favorites]


I'm not a vegan, though I am interested in vegetarianism. I'm sure there are people out there who are vegans because they think that's what's "natural" (though even if true, that wouldn't make it good). But I think the majority do it because they either don't like how food animals are treated or because cutting out the cattle middle man on the way from sun to plant to humans increases efficiency and is more sustainable. By those criteria, there is no shame in being vegan when possible and eating meat (or whatever) when pregnant or even feeling a little rundown.

Criticizing vegetarians for eating meat sometimes is like criticizing the guy with solar panels on his roof and a hybrid in his driveway for taking hot showers. He's doing what he can and it's probably more than you.
posted by DU at 8:49 AM on May 21, 2007 [16 favorites]


Divine_Wino, there is no way to raise a child as vegan from birth. The best food for an infant is mother's milk; barring that, you must use formula. There is no question about this. Perhaps a vegan formula can be devised, but I rather doubt it. At this time, your options are breast milk, formula, or killing your baby.
posted by Mister_A at 8:50 AM on May 21, 2007


This is an issue of bad parenting, not an issue of diet. Is that really so hard to see?
posted by dead_ at 8:51 AM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Mister_A: breast milk is vegan.
posted by dead_ at 8:53 AM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Mister_A, I don't think many vegans consider voluntarily given human breast milk to be non-vegan.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 8:54 AM on May 21, 2007


Mister_A: veganism includes breast-feeding and I have a number of friends raised vegan from birth now healthily into their thirties.
posted by Abiezer at 8:55 AM on May 21, 2007


Is there an echo in here?
posted by dead_ at 8:55 AM on May 21, 2007


Hey, Mister_A!
posted by Abiezer at 8:55 AM on May 21, 2007


Honestly, even though breast milk is technically not vegan, I doubt most vegans would have a problem with it, since the reasoning behind most vegans I know is that they do it to prevent exploitation of animals and to avoid the hormones / crap that are in animal based products. These issues would not apply to breast milk.

Also, there are plenty of soy-based baby formulas on the market. Just Googling for it sent me to this product, which appears to be vegan. I am sure there are others as well.
posted by tastybrains at 8:56 AM on May 21, 2007


Sorry, but this post has to go. It's not about whether I agree with you or not, it's that this would work better in a blog.
posted by serazin at 8:56 AM on May 21, 2007


Wait--baby formula uses animal products?
posted by DU at 8:56 AM on May 21, 2007


Mister_A: I was going to point this out, but I could not remember where I heard it. Do you have a source?
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 8:56 AM on May 21, 2007


Well it is meant to be an echo chamber, right? Right?
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 8:57 AM on May 21, 2007


I'm raising my baby on a diet of prayer, Guinness extra cold, Mormon tea and fried chicken and one day she is going to be double president of the United States, so watch out vegan weirdos.
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:57 AM on May 21, 2007 [14 favorites]


Again, breast milk is vegan. Repeat after me, breast milk is vegan. Breast milk is made by a mother's body for one thing and one thing only: to feed a human infant. Breast milk is vegan.
posted by dead_ at 8:57 AM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Somebody should've told the Shakurs, eh? It's a semantic point. The common definition of vegan is "not containing animal products, or produced by animals".

Are boogers vegan? What about your own toenails?
posted by Mister_A at 8:58 AM on May 21, 2007


Re: the B12 issue.

B12 is found in the stomachs of animals, including our own stomachs. The animals get it there by eating unwashed plants and sea-vegetables like nori, for example. We also can get it from these same sources, and what's great about B12 is that you only need a few micrograms a day to be healthy.

So the choice is, don't wash all your produce and eat some bacteria, eat some sea vegetables, eat some fortified foods, or simply supplement it.
posted by dead_ at 8:59 AM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


How about breast milk from caged mothers?
posted by RokkitNite at 8:59 AM on May 21, 2007 [8 favorites]


If you're going to take B12 supplements, you'd better do your homework, as most of these come from animals.

Also: This is really annoying.
posted by Mister_A at 9:02 AM on May 21, 2007


Human faeces can contain significant B12. A study has shown that a group of Iranian vegans obtained adequate B12 from unwashed vegetables which had been fertilised with human manure. Faecal contamination of vegetables and other plant foods can make a significant contribution to dietary needs, particularly in areas where hygiene standards may be low. This may be responsible for the lack of aneamia due to B12 deficiency in vegan communities in developing countries.

Good sources of vitamin B12 for vegetarians are dairy products or free-range eggs. ½ pint of milk (full fat or semi skimmed) contains 1.2 µg. A slice of vegetarian cheddar cheese (40g) contains 0.5 µg. A boiled egg contains 0.7 µg. Fermentation in the manufacture of yoghurt destroys much of the B12 present. Boiling milk can also destroy much of the B12.

Yummy!
posted by Mister_A at 9:04 AM on May 21, 2007


Of course kids can be raised on soy milk. What happens if it a newborn has an extreme dairy allergy? You just have to do better than "soy milk and apple juice" and keep a close eye on health.

Personally, I can't imagine a life where I don't consume tasty flesh, but that child's death is the fault of stupidity, not vegan diet.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 9:04 AM on May 21, 2007


Mister_A, speaking of annoying, how about baseless, ignorant statements like this one:

there is no way to raise a child as vegan from birth
posted by dead_ at 9:05 AM on May 21, 2007


Kids can be raised on soy milk, infants can not be. Breast milk is the best milk, baby.
posted by Mister_A at 9:05 AM on May 21, 2007


Mister_A: veganism includes breast-feeding and I have a number of friends raised vegan from birth now healthily into their thirties.

Dude, if they're still breastfeeding at thirty I don't think that's healthy at all. You granola hippies are fucked up.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:07 AM on May 21, 2007 [5 favorites]


The infant mortality rate in the United States is more than double that in Sweden or Japan. I never knew it was because of the vegans. I mean, why else would the NY Times devote so much page valuable space to it?
posted by Staggering Jack at 9:07 AM on May 21, 2007


I plan to have to have twins, so the stronger child can sustain himself on the flesh of the weaker.
posted by jonmc at 9:11 AM on May 21, 2007 [4 favorites]


Cows are nature's way of turning vegetables into real food.
posted by Malor at 9:12 AM on May 21, 2007 [14 favorites]


I'm fairly naive on this subject, but I would hope that -- if it is indeed safe to raise an infant on a vegan diet -- some reputable* pediatrician(s) has/have provided literature on how best to do so. (Literature with which these two complete idiots were obviously not familiar.)

(*i.e., with real medical degrees from real universities)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:13 AM on May 21, 2007


Vegans eat Marmite for their B12. Much tastier than human faeces.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 9:13 AM on May 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


The literature is out there, but as with all segments of the population--vegan or not--idiots exist, and they will do astoundingly idiotic things.
posted by dead_ at 9:14 AM on May 21, 2007


Yeah, Mister_A, I hate to break it to you, but just as most meat-eaters don't actually kill their cattle to make a burger, vegans don't eat shit to get B12. But keep on with the slander.
posted by dead_ at 9:16 AM on May 21, 2007


Would you consider reading the whole thread and not acting like a douchebag, dead_? How about looking at the question I was answering? My answer specifically addresses the needs of infants. In your official big book of veganism, breast milk, the product of an animal, is an exception to the commonly understood vegan rule - no animal products. I do not have a current copy of the updated big book of veganism, and I understood divine_wino's question to be, "can you raise a kid without ever giving him/her any sort of animal products, including breast milk?" I believe the answer is no. I also believe that divine_wino's question is theoretical, not a real-world consideration of any rational person. My belief is not baseless, but I feel no compulsion to discuss my qualifications for making this assessment.

Your dogmatic hectoring ignores the spirit of the question and the answer, and speaks volumes about your insecurity and reflexive defensiveness on this subject.

Anyway, go ahead and eat shit, it's a great source of B12, and vegan to boot (apparently).
posted by Mister_A at 9:16 AM on May 21, 2007 [4 favorites]


Literature with which these two complete idiots were obviously not familiar.

That's where it all went wrong with these two. Being a vegan requires time, effort, money and a minimum IQ. Well, maybe you could get away with just three out of four, but not everybody has even that.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 9:16 AM on May 21, 2007


I find it strange that the Atlanta Journal has to explain what veganism is.
posted by altolinguistic at 9:17 AM on May 21, 2007


I guess breast milk would be torture for the human mother, and the milk would technically be coming from an animal.

Bleh. Vegans.
posted by triolus at 9:18 AM on May 21, 2007


Vegans eat Marmite for their B12.

Won't somebody think of the yeast?!?
posted by Pollomacho at 9:18 AM on May 21, 2007 [3 favorites]


So, so far we have learned that four panels won't be raising vegan kids; Mister_A knows fuck all about what veganism is or isn't; and XQUZYPHYR can't parse a perfectly decent sentence. Bastard.
posted by Abiezer at 9:18 AM on May 21, 2007


Mister_A, apologies for missing the theoretical nature of divine_who's question. It wasn't my intention for my comments to come off as a personal attack on you. Honestly.

And I get my B12 from yeast, not poop.
posted by dead_ at 9:20 AM on May 21, 2007


OK then. Sorry 'bout the douchebag thing. Friends?
posted by Mister_A at 9:21 AM on May 21, 2007


Here's a vegan/veg question I always had: if nanotechnology ever progresses to the Diamond Age level where you can use a 'food compiler,' would it be morally OK (health concerns aside) to eat nano-engineered meat? I mean no animals were harmed, but it's still meat.
posted by jonmc at 9:22 AM on May 21, 2007


Bugger, and I just got in with the personal attacks as the lovin' was starting. T-t-t-timing!
posted by Abiezer at 9:22 AM on May 21, 2007


Of course, just try not to spray any blood on me when you're slaughtering a cow for your burger, and I'll promise not to smear any feces on you when I'm rooting around for B12 ;)
posted by dead_ at 9:23 AM on May 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm really glad you guys worked this out. Group hug?
posted by tastybrains at 9:24 AM on May 21, 2007


Anyway, go ahead and eat shit, it's a great source of B12, and vegan to boot (apparently).

LOL. Thanks Mister_A for saving this thread with that meaty and satisfying comment.
posted by three blind mice at 9:26 AM on May 21, 2007


How about breast milk from caged mothers?

I get my kid's milk from cage-free genetically modified mothers (NSFW).
posted by peeedro at 9:28 AM on May 21, 2007


Actually just for the sake of history I was assuming breast milk from a vegan mother in my question, which was theoretical. I mean, is it possible to raise a child as a vegan from birth, assuming the child is breastfed by a vegan mother and have that child get proper nutrition? The op-ed says no, I don't necessarily believe that, so I am curious to see what the dissent consists of.

Nobody need worry that I will deprive my baby of proper nutrients, for I have no baby and if I did have a baby she would eat her fill of seal liver and the various mulched organ pies that are necessary to sustain human life.
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:29 AM on May 21, 2007


Oh wow. This will surely wendell.

I've got the longboat stocked with popcorn. Buttery delicious popcorn. Mmmm. Smell the buuuuttttteeeeeeerrrrr. It comes from cows. Sweet sweet cows.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:29 AM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Here's a vegan/veg question I always had: if nanotechnology ever progresses to the Diamond Age level where you can use a 'food compiler,' would it be morally OK (health concerns aside) to eat nano-engineered meat? I mean no animals were harmed, but it's still meat.

That sounds similar to computer generated child-porn...
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 9:31 AM on May 21, 2007


Not to derail the . . whatever is going on here -- but my question would really be about the NYT article's statement that vegan breastmilk may be deficient. Doctor in the house? Someone who has access to actual medical data? Because, all the vegan jokes aside, I think this is actually pretty fascinating.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:31 AM on May 21, 2007


Are there vegan zombies?

"Toofuuuu, Toooofu..." They'd still kill people of course, 'cause that's part of being a zombie, but the vombies would do it to drink the bone marrow or something. Or maybe just attack health food stores. Or health food nuts, which would be much cooler.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:32 AM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Divine_Wino: here's one place with information.
posted by Abiezer at 9:33 AM on May 21, 2007


BB: Surely you meant... graaaaaaaains?
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 9:34 AM on May 21, 2007 [31 favorites]


If breast milk is vegan because a human isn't an "animal," what about cannibalism? Is that vegan? If you say "no" because the human in that case isn't willingly allowing himself to be eaten - let me remind you of that nutcase in Germany who did, in fact, allow himself to be eaten by some other wacko. Apparently, he was delicious.

[There is a tiny shred of seriousness here: Where do you draw the line. Yeast? They're alive. What about bacteria? Do you take antibiotics if you're a vegan?]
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:34 AM on May 21, 2007


Ah, so to address the true intent of your question, divine_wino, yes, I am certain you can raise a kid vegan as you describe, provided you have a very good grasp of how to satisfy his/her nutritional requirements.
posted by Mister_A at 9:34 AM on May 21, 2007


...if I did have a baby she would eat her fill of seal liver...

That might be irresponsible parenting as well.
posted by peeedro at 9:35 AM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Compare:

"food is more important than fashion"

"babies are built from protein, calcium, cholesterol and fish oil"

Now, I'm not suggesting that fish oils do not have measurable health benefits, but the current idea that they are the foundations of all wellbeing and genius smacks of.....what's the word...ah yes, "fashion".

Another "nutritionist" jumping on the diet obsessed bandwagon of a decadent culture.
posted by howfar at 9:35 AM on May 21, 2007


I'll be back for the show after I go slaughter my lunch.

Mmmm Lunch.
posted by spitbull at 9:36 AM on May 21, 2007


Vegans eat Marmite for their B12. Much tastier than human faeces.

Not by much. That stuff tastes like how I imagine cat shit tastes. Just the smell makes me gag.

I think that breast milk is ethical, and smart to feed your baby, whether or not you are vegan. But it isn't "vegan" in the sense of "not coming from animals."

And that is the real problem with veganism -- not health concerns (it's not that hard for relatively well-off people to put together extremely healthy vegan diets, although I do worry about babies and toddlers being fed this way, because their dietary needs are so much more urgent than are adults') but rather the way it is endlessly parsed. Lettuce is vegan, but what about lettuce grown using blood and bone fertilizer? Back when I was a vegan, we were totally reliant on what were not much better than oral legends to figure out what was ok and what was not ok, and I think we made some pretty wacky choices as a result. (There are definitely non-crazy ways to be vegan, but not many of the vegans I know take those paths; I'd go so far as to say that the parsing and controlling of food into categories is for many people the secret pleasure of veganism.)
posted by Forktine at 9:36 AM on May 21, 2007


So grapefruit moon, I have no doubt the popcorn is "buttery" but what are the odds of being able to find some anywhere with actual butter on it?

Unless you made it yourself. Hippie.
posted by hermitosis at 9:38 AM on May 21, 2007


grapefruitmoon, yes, voluntary cannibalism is perfectly vegan! And I think the vegan party line on yeast and bacteria is that it's OK to kill them, because they're not animals. But yeah, there's a line drawing problem because that argument is analogous to a meat-eater saying "Well then, I eat cows because cows are not human!"
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 9:38 AM on May 21, 2007


I am now RTFA.

The fact remains, though, that humans prefer animal proteins and fats to cereals and tubers, because they contain all the essential amino acids needed for life in the right ratio.

Um. I also prefer animal fats to tubers because they're a lot tastier. YMMV.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:38 AM on May 21, 2007


grapefruitmoon: it's different for every vegan, and many differ on the point where they draw the line--and there is considerable argument within the various vegan communities. However, yeast is not a point of contention, as yeast isn't an animal, it's a fungi!

I personally draw the line at suffering--that is, if it can suffer, I can't eat it. A lot of vegans disagree with this and adopt a much more blanket idea involving exploitation and biological definitions to define their eating habits. I think it just depends a lot on the person, which is why labels like "vegan" don't do much other than pigeonhole the entire animal-rights movement itslef.
posted by dead_ at 9:40 AM on May 21, 2007


This is way better than TFA anyway grapefruitmoon.
posted by Mister_A at 9:42 AM on May 21, 2007


Forktine, I believe that says less about the insanity of veganism and more about the insanity of a consumer marketplace in which we know next to nothing about the journey our food has made from its origin to our mouths. The reason I almost never eat meat (though I certainly enjoy it) is that I rarely am provided with any information about where it came from etc., and simply refuse at this point to blindly trust purveyors to care what I'm ingesting as long as I don't die on the spot and tip well.
posted by hermitosis at 9:44 AM on May 21, 2007


hoverboards dont work on water:Vegans eat Marmite for their B12. Much tastier than human faeces.

By what margin?
posted by dr_dank at 9:44 AM on May 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


I have earned the right to say:

MetaFilter: Much tastier than human faeces.
posted by Mister_A at 9:45 AM on May 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


I give my kids beer and cigarettes to complement their vegan diets. They're also allowed to drink the blood from any meat-eating kids they beat up at school.
posted by Abiezer at 9:46 AM on May 21, 2007 [3 favorites]


Veganism is an ethos, not a diet. And that's what pisses me off about vegans that mock others for not understanding the supposed "vegan diet".

I have lived in a very crunchy co-op housing system for the last four years and have lived with many self-declared vegans during that time. Among the significant groups of vegans I have lived with are groups that believe:

1. Only locally grown organic vegetables can be considered vegan, so no meat, no dairy, nothing from the supermarket, and no citrus fruit or cane sugar of any kind.

2. Meat and dairy are considered vegan if they're "dumpstered", i.e. the food would go to waste otherwise.

3. Human bodily fluids (breast milk, semen) are vegan if given voluntarily.

4. Human bodily fluids are never vegan under any circumstances.

Frankly, most of these groups of vegans cared more about forming political factions and rallying against the meat-eaters in their midst than they did about eating a healthful diet, building a community, or enacting positive change on any level anywhere.
posted by rockabilly_pete at 9:46 AM on May 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


I was vegetarian for years in my 20s. One day, after I had been feeling weak for a bit, I suddenly started sneezing blood. Freaked out, I went to the doctor. I had some kind of bacterial infection & had become anemic. So under doctor's orders I had to go out and order myself a freaking steak.

Feeling better nowadays. I owe it all to carne asada burritos. YUMMMMM.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:47 AM on May 21, 2007


Forktine, I think you have a point about the controlling and categorisation of food. I've often wondered if the higher prevalence of vegetarianism and veganism among women is linked less to feminine compassion for animals than to the female tendency toward eating disorders. This is not to suggest that vegetarianism is an eating disorder, but the two phenomena seem to tick a lot of the same boxes in certain people.

I once knew a girl who became vegetarian after she "realised [she] had only eaten tomato soup for a week". An extreme example, certainly, and mere anecdotal, but it did set me to wondering.

This line of enquiry seems to have particular potential if one accepts the argument that eating disorders are more about personal control than simple slimness.

One could fairly easily construct a piece of research into this, now that I come to think about it.
posted by howfar at 9:47 AM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh, I almost forgot... LOLVEGANZ.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:48 AM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


howfar: that's a very astute comment, and there's actually some research to back up the link between vegetarianism/veganism and eating disorders, as the highly-restrictive dietary guidelines they provide give people a sort of camouflage for their (lack of) eating habits. I've known more than a few people who adopted those diets to mask their much bigger issues with food.
posted by dead_ at 9:51 AM on May 21, 2007


I know loads of vegan kids - breastmilk aside, which their parents consider vegan. They seem damn healthy to me.

I expect their parents spend more time ensuring that they get a balanced diet than most of the local chav scum existing on pie and chips, anyway.
posted by handee at 9:57 AM on May 21, 2007


hoverboards, that's just about the most perfect thing ever.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:07 AM on May 21, 2007


The opinion piece is right. It's on the money.

We all know about vegan or vegetarian children who are mentally or physically retarded... Don't we? I mean, you read about it all the time in newspapers... Don't we? All the children's charities are campaigning against vegetarian and vegan parents because their diet choices are cruel to kids... Aren't they?

I know a lot of stupid vegan and vegetarian people, but I don't think that's caused by their diet. That was present before they switched their eating habits.

Vegetarianism and veganism are perfectly healthy choices, provided you know what you're doing (I speak as a failed vegan but current non-egg eating vegetarian). But you do have to pay more attention to what you eat. It's not as "automatic" as being a meat eater.

Eating meat is savage. There's no two ways about it. Technology has advanced enough so that we can choose not to. We're lucky.

This article is nonsense. It shows the failings of opinion pieces when applied to a topic like this.
posted by humblepigeon at 10:07 AM on May 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


The reason I almost never eat meat (though I certainly enjoy it) is that I rarely am provided with any information about where it came from etc., and simply refuse at this point to blindly trust purveyors to care what I'm ingesting as long as I don't die on the spot and tip well.

One of the nice impacts of the mad cow scandal, combined with the growing "buy local" and organic food industries, is that it is increasingly easy in most US and European cities to buy meat where you do in fact know its path from birth to steak. At the fancier end you can buy pasture raised, grass-fed, organic meat; at the cheap end you can buy meat from 4-H kids and hobby farmers who put little ads in the classified section of the local paper. Either way, you are getting fairly believable assurances of ethical treatment and post-slaughter hygiene. For me, the ethical problems with factory farming are pretty significant, but I don't have an ethical problem with eating meat per se, so buying meat from small-scale local producers solves the problem.

This is a lot of what I was responding to when I had my vegan period in my late teens/early twenties, as well as just trying to exert control over one part of my life when so much was controlled by others. So now I can scratch that control itch, while eating really good steaks and sausages and roast chicken. And I'm happy to cook vegan food when vegan friends come over (although the strictest vegans I know are kind of like very observant Jews, and won't eat food prepared in pots that have been rendered dietarily impure (such as by being used to cook meat)).
posted by Forktine at 10:10 AM on May 21, 2007


Yeast? They're alive. What about bacteria?

Yeast and bacteria are not animals. Thus, eating them is vegan, just like eating plants (which are also alive) is.
posted by tastybrains at 10:12 AM on May 21, 2007


THe biggest problem I see with veganism, from a strictly nutritional perspective, is that there is no reliable vegan source of vitamin B12.

Think again. It can be harvested from certain bacteria. This is "reliable" enough for people like me to be able to buy tablets from our local health-food shop.
posted by humblepigeon at 10:13 AM on May 21, 2007


The very fact that there has been any thought given as to whether human breast milk is "vegan" or not brings the entire idea into question. Seriously.

And these parents are criminals, pure and simple.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:16 AM on May 21, 2007


What a uselessly inflamatory post.

The very fact that there has been any thought given as to whether human breast milk is "vegan" or not brings the entire idea into question. Seriously.

Responsible vegans aren't the ones wondering about whether or not breastmilk is vegan, we all know it is and happily give our kids breastmilk. It's the dumbfuck carnivores who don't actually understand veganism that are questioning whether or not it is. And that's hardly a damning indictment of the vegan diet.
posted by cmonkey at 10:19 AM on May 21, 2007 [4 favorites]


I mean, is it possible to raise a child as a vegan from birth, assuming the child is breastfed by a vegan mother and have that child get proper nutrition?

Yes, of course. A friend of mine is a second-generation vegan, and her son -- a four-year-old lifelong vegan -- is doing fine. My friend is interested in nutrition and enjoys cooking, so their family eats well. (If my family became vegans, on the other hand, we'd be living on peanut butter sandwiches and Clif Bars. Which is awfully close to what my four-year-old lifelong omnivore does live on, come to think of it...)
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:21 AM on May 21, 2007


Who needs meat when you can have beer? Plenty of B12. If only they would have raised that baby on hefeweizen instead of apple juice.
posted by team lowkey at 10:26 AM on May 21, 2007


Yeast and bacteria are not animals.

So I just made this "Monostat is Murder" picket sign for nothing?
posted by dr_dank at 10:26 AM on May 21, 2007 [8 favorites]


I did indeed make the popcorn myself. Over the campfire where I lovingly roasted it. I also made the butter myself from the milk of the cow that I keep in my backyard.

This is what happens when you don't have a microwave.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:26 AM on May 21, 2007


Vegans are pussies; Jainists are hardcore.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:35 AM on May 21, 2007


I personally draw the line at suffering--that is, if it can suffer, I can't eat it.

It's a good thing you never ate a meal with me when I was seven years old. Not only would I act out the suffering of my bunny-shaped pancakes, but for some reason, I did the same for broccoli. Yep, anytime anyone cut up some broccoli I would scream in fake agony.

Steak though? I was down with that. Cut all the steak you want, I'm not gonna complain.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:36 AM on May 21, 2007


adult veganism is different from child veganism in one important respect: the adult has made a conscious decision after presumably considering the drawbacks. there are no child vegans in this sense, but merely subjects of their parents' food philosophy, for better or worse.
posted by bruce at 10:38 AM on May 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


there are no child vegans in this sense, but merely subjects of their parents' food philosophy, for better or worse.

One could apply the exact same logic to child omnivores.

Either way, it's invalid.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:45 AM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yeah, cmgonzalez beat me to it. Same argument for pretty much any adult behavior imposed on children.
posted by dead_ at 10:47 AM on May 21, 2007


Where do you draw the line. Yeast? They're alive.

*looks at beer*

I can hear the Silence of The Yeast....
posted by jonmc at 10:48 AM on May 21, 2007


yes, one could apply the exact same logic to child omnivores, but it isn't invalid. human omnivorism is the norm. for the last million years, our ancestors have been clubbing, spearing and lately shooting other animals and eating their meat. if you're over eighteen and want to take on malnutrition, be my guest. i don't tell you what to eat, and you better not tell me what to eat. i am not a nutrition expert, so i can't tell you if an all-vegan diet is safe for young children, but i can tell you that the law places the onus on you, the parent, to supply adequate nutrition to your child, and i support this law.
posted by bruce at 10:55 AM on May 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


veganomie?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 11:00 AM on May 21, 2007


...and, um, Yeasts are a growth form of eukaryotic microorganisms classified in the kingdom Fungi.

As a brewer, one must know this stuff.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 11:03 AM on May 21, 2007


But bruce, it is invalid. Even if humans have been omnivores for millions of years, "the adult has made a conscious decision after presumably considering the drawbacks" of that food philosophy--regardless of it's historical prevalence in one culture or another. That goes for vegans, omnivores, carnivores, fruitarians, cannibals, whatever. As you say, the children are still "subjects of their parents' food philosophy, for better or worse." What is or isn't "the norm" has nothing to do with infants being helpless to accept their parents' food philosophy.
posted by dead_ at 11:07 AM on May 21, 2007


It's the dumbfuck carnivores who don't actually understand veganism that are questioning whether or not it is. And that's hardly a damning indictment of the vegan diet.
posted by cmonkey at 12:19 PM on May 21


Actually, no it's not carnivores, and yes it is a damning indictment, but thanks for trying.

The story is about vegan parents who enforced their strict interpretation to their infant's diet. They were not carnivores, and yet were clearly dumbfucks. Also, eating meat does not, in and of itself, make one a dumbfuck so consider that the next time you want to accuse someone of being "uselessly inflammatory".

The problem is that veganism is not a science, it is a philosophy. As demonstrated above, even its adherents cannot adequately describe or define it. Where that becomes a problem is parents who, due to their ignorance, harm their children through pursuit of this philosophy.

Note I take the same stance with parents who deny their children medical care when needed due to a religious philosophy.

One could apply the exact same logic to child omnivores.

Either way, it's invalid.
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:45 PM on May 21


No, it's not the same thing.

There are well demonstrated groups of objects in this world that have been shown to be safe, and beneficial, for human consumption.

In the absence of being told otherwise, children will (eventually) probably eat these items if presented the opportunity.

Veganism excludes objects that are perfectly nutritious from a child's diet based on, as seen above, often on wildly varying and completely arbitrary criteria.

Humans are omnivores by nature. We are biologically able to break down, process, and extract nutrition from both meat and vegetable food items, and some minerals. Astounding really.

But humans are not "taught" to be omnivores, we are omnivores by our very nature. If you don't like it, take it up with the enzymes in your body, not me.
posted by Ynoxas at 11:08 AM on May 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


Ynoxas - parents choose which values to instill in their children.

If a child is raised vegetarian or vegan based on a value decision by parents, that's as perfectly valid an upbringing as more traditional values.

A child might grow up and change his or her lifestyle, but that happens with other values as well (see: religion).

Humans are natural omnivores, but if raised vegetarian or vegan, those foods won't seem natural to that particular person. We're an adaptable species.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:16 AM on May 21, 2007


Veganism excludes objects that are perfectly nutritious from a child's diet based on, as seen above, often on wildly varying and completely arbitrary criteria.

I'm not sure I'd call it wildly varying. Most vegans agree on the major tenets of the philosophy: that one shouldn't eat animals or exploit them for food. It's just that, as with most subcultures (across any discipline, religion, belief, whatever) the devil's in the details, and people will quibble over those details (such as honey, breastmilk, etc). Hardly arbitrary--just a process of refinement that all intelligent groups go through when formulating a coherent position on anything really.

Humans are omnivores by nature. We are biologically able to break down, process, and extract nutrition from both meat and vegetable food items, and some minerals. Astounding really.

I don't really want to get sucked into the "omnivores by nature" argument, but I would mention something truly astounding: the efficiency of a digestive system full of nothing but plants versus a digestive system full of rotting flesh. Something that really has to be experienced to understand.
posted by dead_ at 11:18 AM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


this thread has made me grateful that my mother was an omnivore as i sit here recalling her best dishes, the ham in her thick green split pea soup, the magic pork chops with tomatoes, cheese and rice, the prime ribs, fried chicken and coquilles st. jacques. what dishes will a vegan child remember when he gets to be my age, the flaxseed oil on quinoa granules with no butter, yogurt or hollandaise sauce? many of us who love cooking and eating regard vegan children as intentionally impoverished.
posted by bruce at 11:20 AM on May 21, 2007


And that is a culturally insensitive position to take, bruce, much akin to looking at an Amazonian tribe as scientifically and technologically impoverished because they don't have TV or cars. Fortunately for them, and for vegans, the value judgments of others are irrelevant to their lives, and they will undoubtedly look back on their mother's cooking as delicious, just like you look back on your mom's meals.
posted by dead_ at 11:23 AM on May 21, 2007


Humans are omnivores by nature.

The only time people ever seem to care about nature is when it helps them rationalize whatever they were going to do anyway.
posted by hermitosis at 11:24 AM on May 21, 2007 [17 favorites]


Actually, no it's not carnivores, and yes it is a damning indictment, but thanks for trying.

How is a crazy person starving their kid a damning indictment of veganism? It's a damning indictment of being crazy, but not much else.

Also, eating meat does not, in and of itself, make one a dumbfuck so consider that the next time you want to accuse someone of being "uselessly inflammatory".

I wasn't saying that it did. There is, however, a small subgroup of carnivores, like the ones claiming that breast milk is not vegan or that crazy people are indicative of the beliefs and motives of a larger group, who are demonstratably ignorant dumbfucks.
posted by cmonkey at 11:26 AM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ynoxas: Humans are omnivores by nature.

It would be easier to take any argument you have to make seriously if you didn't resort to nonsensical standbys like this. Are bodies are the way they are because of the evolutionarily success of an omnivorous diet. We don't eat meat because we are built that way. We are built that way because we eat meat. You may as well say "Look, we have fingernails. It's in our nature to pick bugs out of trees. Anyone who doesn't think so is just fighting their nature."

Yes, there have been "well demonstrated groups of objects in this world that have been shown to be safe, and beneficial", but that has nothing to do with the choices we make now. We're a little beyond the hunter/gatherer phase of humanity. We know a lot more about what our bodies need, and can make different choices about how to provide those things. The "wildly varying and completely arbitrary criteria" you see are just different people making different choices. No need to feel threatened.
posted by team lowkey at 11:30 AM on May 21, 2007


My only worry about raising kids vegan is denying them the pleasures of ice cream, birthday cakes, and other treats they might encounter playing at a friend's house. Same with Jehovah Witnesses with Halloween, Birthdays, and threesomes.
posted by yeti at 11:31 AM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


You may as well say "Look, we have fingernails. It's in our nature to pick bugs out of trees."

It's so we can pick our noses.
posted by yeti at 11:33 AM on May 21, 2007


yeti, you raise a very important point about vegan children, and actually one of the most important points and arguments against raising children vegan--in my opinion (as a vegan).

It's clear that infants can be raised as vegans, and remain so for their entire lives, however in the current American climate, that has some heavy social consequences. It is hard to escape childhood rites of passage, like birthdays, where abiding by ethical dietary guidelines will undoubtedly exclude vegan kids from participating socially with their peers, and I'm unsure if this is an appropriate trade-off (behaving morally at a time when one doesn't understand morals vs. socializing and adapting oneself to the overall mainstream culture).

I've seen this borne out time and time again with vegan children, and the overall hostile attitude in America against vegans is much more of a threat to vegan infants (in terms of their growth as a social being) than any nutrition problems that might exist because of moronic parents.
posted by dead_ at 11:40 AM on May 21, 2007


Also, I'm finally glad someone hit on the real issue of raising children vegan, which has nothing to do with nutrition.
posted by dead_ at 11:42 AM on May 21, 2007


Yeah, but there are worse ways to screw up a child emotionally than depriving them of mac'n'cheese. If you make it to adulthood without being somewhat screwed up in the head, then you're probably a fictional character on an ABC sitcom.
posted by tastybrains at 11:59 AM on May 21, 2007


the efficiency of a digestive system full of nothing but plants versus a digestive system full of rotting flesh.

Hey dead_, I'm not one of those cats who thinks veganism is crazy or stupid or anything. I'm wildly pro-choice across the board. I'm saying that to preface this comment because I don't want to have a fight with you:

That's an urban legend pal.
posted by Divine_Wino at 12:04 PM on May 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


Not a vegan myself, but the people here implying than vegans can only be eating lentils and hardtack (and flaxseed) are being ignorant or disingenuous. I have had delicious vegan cake, brownies, etc, to say nothing of non-dessert food. Yeah, I prefer my cake to have eggs-n-butter, but I am constantly surprised by what food-loving vegan cooks can come up with.

To me, the issue of raising a kid vegan is a delicate one, but I'm neither a parent nor a vegan, and I am happy not to even touch that discussion. That said, the judgment I'm sensing even for plain-old grown-up vegans in this thread is irritating. Sure, I've known some weirdly penitential, ascetic vegans, but I know more who get off on good food as much as I do.
posted by everichon at 12:05 PM on May 21, 2007


Not so much the efficiency part (as a measure of frequency of pooping, I guess, fiber does help with pooping) but the rotting meat in the digestive system part.
posted by Divine_Wino at 12:07 PM on May 21, 2007


Personal anecdote time: I've raised 3 perfectly healthy children without the benefit of meat. I'm the only one in the family that eats meat, as I was raised that way (i.e. old dog, new tricks, etc).
posted by thanotopsis at 12:09 PM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Anecdotal it may be, but the change in my digestive system was pronounced when I switched from an omnivorous diet to a vegetarian one, and even more pronounced when I went vegan. In fact, I could hardly believe the difference in smells (both sweat and feces) after going vegetarian->vegan, as well as the reduction in bloating that was in my intestines from decades of dairy eating.

The changes were truly remarkable in the way I felt (when in the bathroom, and out), as well as the way in which food passed through my body.

Anecdotal, yes. An urban legend, no way. As with everything, YMMV.
posted by dead_ at 12:10 PM on May 21, 2007


yeti: My only worry about raising kids vegan is denying them the pleasures of ice cream, birthday cakes, and other treats they might encounter playing at a friend's house.

Soy is your friend. Check out the dessert menu at the Cheese Factory next time you're in the Wisconsin Dells.
posted by thanotopsis at 12:12 PM on May 21, 2007


Metafilter: much more of a threat to vegan infants
posted by IronLizard at 12:15 PM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


dead_ I meant the part about the "rotting meat", if you are pooping then everything not absorbed by your body is leaving your body, nobody with a functioning digestive system has quantities of any food hanging around in their colon.
posted by Divine_Wino at 12:16 PM on May 21, 2007


We're a little beyond the hunter/gatherer phase of humanity. We know a lot more about what our bodies need, and can make different choices about how to provide those things.

Well said. It's also completely natural to be dead by 25, but I don't see anybody making that argument.

(omnivore by choice, but supportive of lifestyle choices)
posted by lumpenprole at 12:16 PM on May 21, 2007


Yeah; growing up vegan/vegetarian also sucks because of all the "dumbfuck carnivores" (thanks, cmonkey) who are convinced that you're just dying to try a bite of meat and take every possibly opportunity to wave it around you, assuming that you can hardly avoid drooling. Guess what, carnivores: meat looks and smells disgusting, and I don't want to eat it, thank you very much. Keep your meat to yourself.

It's a lot like the evangelical Christians who just know you secretly want to worship Jesus, and surely if they bother you enough you'll realize you were making a giant mistake as an atheist. Carnivores seem to have this burning desire to expose some fatal flaw in the logic of veganism and vegetarianism, and if they repeat these old tired arguments (we're "naturally" omnivorous, carrots scream when you cut them, eggs are animals because OMG THEY TURN INTO CHICKENS, yeast is alive, oh noes you'll die of malnutrition, etc.) enough times, we will see the light and join them in chowing down on DELICIOUS ANIMAL FLESH. Right.
posted by smably at 12:17 PM on May 21, 2007


Hey, thanks for all the stereotyping, smably. Tell, me how do you feel about being called a turd eater? Since, you know, if those Iranian vegans mentioned above eat food contaminated with feces, you must too.
posted by IronLizard at 12:20 PM on May 21, 2007


Divine_Who: Ah, I got it.
posted by dead_ at 12:21 PM on May 21, 2007


As long as the dietary requirements are being met, and as most people here have said that is more a function of parental ability than a specific dietary belief, then who gives a fuck what exactly it entails.

We could just as easily have a conversation about parents who allow their children to become diabetic or grossly overweight and say it was the fault of meat in the kid's diet. And it would be just as stupid. You can be equally idiotic no matter what diet you follow.
posted by edgeways at 12:27 PM on May 21, 2007


I'm not saying all carnivores are like this, IronLizard. There are plenty of classy carnivores, just as there are annoying, militant, evangelical vegans. I'm just saying that, in my personal experience, growing up as a vegetarian means dealing with a lot of people who act like this.

Also: thanks to respectful carnivores. The world needs more of you.
posted by smably at 12:31 PM on May 21, 2007


Unless you have held a 1 year old as she has painful abdominal gas because her mother fed her beans her digestive system can't handle yet...Shut the Fuck up about Veganism

Unless you have lied to a 3 year old and told her that you are feeding her "tofu hot dogs" or "veggie lunch meat" in order to get some protien in the poor malnourished kid...Shut the Fuck up about Veganism

Unless you can guarentee that nobody should try to raise their child as Vegan without the knowledge that is requried to properly do so...Shut the Fuck up about Veganism

Most people are stupid. when you advocate a course of action that required a greater than average knowlege and learning capability you are condemning their children to suffering and pain or death.
posted by Megafly at 12:35 PM on May 21, 2007


The only time people ever seem to care about nature is when it helps them rationalize whatever they were going to do anyway.

I favorited this comment because it's so very true and arguments from nature for a moral principle are inherently flawed. People who make such naturalistic arguments always conveniently overlook the vast number of human behaviors which are natural yet which they nevertheless condemn. It's incredibly annoying.

And yet you find almost everyone doing it at one time or another. It's too tempting to restrain, apparently. So you'll find both those defending the human omnivore status quo and vegetarians using naturalistic arguments.

That said, there is the equally false and ideologically-motivated view, an anti-naturalistic argument that sees humans independent from the natural world in which it evolved. In this context, it can manifest as either an ignorant or a willful denial of the essential omnivorous nature of the requirements of the human diet. Those practical requirements aren't an argument for the inclusion of anything which essentially omnivorous, just that it requires some informed choices for a true vegetarian diet to meet the needs of a metabolism that is omnivorous.

Are bodies are the way they are because of the evolutionarily success of an omnivorous diet. We don't eat meat because we are built that way. We are built that way because we eat meat.

I'm ambivalent about your point here. I think I agree with the sentiment and implicit criticism driving it, but I think it's exactly as fallacious as the argument it's refuting. Specifically, both assertions ("our bodies are built the way they are because..." and "we eat the way we do because...") are implicitly teleological and evolution is not teleological. Our human point-of-view when answering any "why" question is always teleological and because of this, in thinking about the natural world we often start off on the wrong foot. This is contemporarily never more true than it is with regard to popular discussions of evolution.

The truth of the matter with regard to the two statements in your quote is that, as far as it goes and removing teleology as much as possible from the premise, it's the case that we are omnivores because our individual bodies require us to be and our individual bodies require us to be because its predecessors were omnivores. Both are true, in a sense, and neither is true, in a sense.

Does it matter? The naturalism of it matters in the sense I describe above only to the extent that our behavior in relation to this is constrained to remain within a naturalistic, and not wholly artificial, world. The context of this discussion is historically naturalistic and it remains, to some degree, naturalistic. It is not necessarily naturalistic and thus you're right: in theory the naturalistic context is irrelevant.

As in so many things, part of the chart of Man's moral progress is how we've moved the context for our moral behavior out of naturalism and into abstraction. We've done this culturally and, often, via technology. There is no good reason that we should allow our moral compass to either be guided by, nor at the very least constrained by, a naturalistic context. There are a great number of strong ethical arguments against eating meat and the more ways in which we take this debate out of the naturalistic context, the better. (And, in this sense, the vegetarians that make naturalistic arguments are misguided and working against their goal. But, also, in this sense a certain number of vegetarians are revealed as an odd sort of conservative who long for a stronger naturalistic context that defines morality. It's an alternative morality to the conservative, naturalistic morality of traditional conservatives, but a naturalistic, conservative morality nevertheless.)
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:38 PM on May 21, 2007 [4 favorites]


So, is your career tending to malnourished vegan babies? Is this your area of expertise? Or are you just using this as an opportunity to bitch about an isolated incident spurred by a particularly stupid and irresponsible parent? Because that's kinda what it sounds like, Megafly.

Everyone seriously needs to calm down, take a few deep breaths. At least 50% of the world's population is stupid and does stupid things. You can probably do things better and more intelligently than those people. It's infuriating. But it doesn't mean that all vegans are inept parents, ok?

I do have to say it really pisses me off when people make wild generalizations based on extreme & rare cases.

Also humans are pretty much never carnivores. They are omnivores. All you vegans & vegetarians who like to use "carnivores" as a derogatory slur - grow up.
posted by tastybrains at 12:40 PM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Megafly: 'Cause clearly tofu dogs have no protein in them...
posted by smably at 12:41 PM on May 21, 2007


I've been rich and I've been poor. And being rich is whole lot better. Likewise: I've been vegan and I've been omnivorous. And being omnivorous is whole lot... easier. Especially when it comes to traveling the world.

Other than that this thread is idiotic. People can be perfectly healthy eating meat. And most can be pretty darn healthy NOT eating meat (though I am not one).

If the issue is values? People raise their kids with idiotic and dangerous values every day.

In our culture it seems perfectly fine to raise your children on Big Macs, hot dogs, Kraft Mac & Cheese, Koolaid, Coke, Cheetos and Tater Tots. Plop them in front of the Xbox for five hours and let them consume their fat asses off. And lo when the little fuckers turn into obese turds with diabetes and heart disease we sue the food manufacturers and fast food restaurants.

THIS is the problem. Not some mom feeding her kids macrobiotic grain paste and carrots.
posted by tkchrist at 12:42 PM on May 21, 2007 [3 favorites]


dead_: ... the efficiency of a digestive system full of nothing but plants versus a digestive system full of rotting flesh.

As I've said before in another vegetarian/vegan vs. omnivore ragefest... Eating meat =/= Eating ONLY meat. These clogged-up bowels full of "rotting meat" only exist in people who aren't eating a balanced diet in the first place.

smably: ["Carnivores" are] a lot like the evangelical Christians who just know you secretly want to worship Jesus, and surely if they bother you enough you'll realize you were making a giant mistake as an atheist. Carnivores seem to have this burning desire to expose some fatal flaw in the logic of veganism and vegetarianism...

Or, conversely, it's the "Grazers" who are like evangelical Christians who just know you secretly want to be freed from the cold, evil claws of Rotting Flesh. And just as some evangelicals would take challenges to their proselytizing as attacks and atheists' "burning desires to expose some fatal flaw in the logic" of evangelical Christianity, perhaps it's just the "Carnivores" telling the "Grazers" to back off.
posted by CKmtl at 12:42 PM on May 21, 2007


In fact, I could hardly believe the difference in smells (both sweat and feces) after going vegetarian->vegan, as well as the reduction in bloating that was in my intestines from decades of dairy eating.

Ok, for counterpoint, and I am TOTALLY 100% not kidding here, I was raised by hippies and was vegetarian for about half my life.

When I started eating meat again, I lost a significant amount of weight and looked and smelled a hell of a lot better. I was less bloated, probably because I was eating fewer salty starches and more straight up protein, and life was much more pleasant.

Some people's digestive systems can't tolerate animal products. I fully believe this. And I fully believe that mine deals with one meat-based meal a day and several snacks (usually fruit-esque) better than it does three meals of well-rounded vegetarian goodness. It's just been the case that when I've eliminated meat from my diet, I'm more sluggish and less happy. And it's not just because veggie burgers don't taste as good.

(Seriously, for all the "vegetarians taste better" nonsense, I had to throw in my experience to the contrary. Again, YMMV.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:42 PM on May 21, 2007


We're a little beyond the hunter/gatherer phase of humanity

Surely you mean those of us lucky enough to be in the first world. Humanity, as a whole, is a LONG FUCKING WAY from being beyond the hunter/gatherer phase. The problem is in some places there is nothing left to even hunt or gather.

I'm not making an argument, I feel like I'm doing the opposite. But the endless "veganism is the one true way plebian" and calling meat eaters dumbfucks is tiresome. And I agree with your evolutionary explanation in theory, although I don't see what it has to do with our current situation... we are talking about today, as the Homo sapien exists right now.

Today, Homo sapiens have the ability to ingest, and extract nutrients from most meats, many plant materials, and some minerals.

Discussion outside of that simple fact means what I was saying before, that you then get on a philosophical path. If you want to then further talk about which of those meats, plants, and minerals one should consume, then that's fine, and your own business (see below), but call it what it is. It is a belief, a philosophy, a religion, a superstition. There are no "facts" that you can bring to a discussion about whether you should eat a cow or not, except "human beings can digest beef". Outside of that one fact, the rest is merely philosophy, preference, taste.

And there's nothing in the world wrong with it, and I'm not "anti-vegan" or anything of the sort. I don't know why anything other than enthusiastic cheering for veganism is construed as an attack. I think veganism is fine. I, personally, think it is a bit silly, just as vegans think it is disgusting for me to eat meat. Que sera sera.

In fact, just Friday, I had a discussion with a woman who has an 11 year old daughter who, of her own will, pursued veganism with no prompting or encouragement (or discouragement) from the parents. I think that's neat, and as long as she's healthy, more power to her.

But, the very notion of denying a (truly helpless) infant milk due to hyper-narrowly defined veganism makes me angry, yeah.

This is PRECISELY like the gun enthusiasts who talk about how the problem isn't guns, the problem is crazy people with guns. When a child gets shot, the gun lobby rushes to defend the right to have guns, it was just a problem in this one specific circumstance, and the fault of the individuals. There certainly could be no flaw in the philosophy of gun ownership itself, could there?

And it is, on its own, a somewhat compelling argument. The exact one being made here. I just think the parallels are interesting, that's all. I don't think veganism is bad or evil or any of that nonsense.

Also, I agree with Wanda Sykes that there is no such thing as "soy milk", there is "soy juice".
posted by Ynoxas at 12:43 PM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Tell, me how do you feel about being called a turd eater?

My dog eats turds, but I love her anyway.
posted by COBRA! at 12:44 PM on May 21, 2007


Ah, Megafly. Can I tell you to shut the fuck up about EVERYTHING because you personally can't guarantee the safety of it? Car driving? McDonald's hamburgers? Swimming? Eating? OMG the kid may asphyxiate on that lump of bread and butter!

you where saying something about people being stupid?
posted by edgeways at 12:46 PM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


At least 50% of the world's population is stupid and does stupid things.

Wow. That was CHARITABLE. Closer to 88%.
posted by tkchrist at 12:46 PM on May 21, 2007


grapefruitmoon: that's fascinating, thanks for sharing that with me. I've heard a lot of stories like my own, about transitioning from omnivore to vegetarian/vegan, but never the reverse. Interesting how people's bodies can respond to things so incredibly differently.
posted by dead_ at 12:46 PM on May 21, 2007


But, the very notion of denying a (truly helpless) infant milk due to hyper-narrowly defined veganism makes me angry, yeah.

Wait...so you think cow's milk is good for infants? It's not good for anybody. If you want to discuss what is "natural" for humans to eat, meat might fit in there, but other animals' milk does not.

That said I am an admitted omnivore and I like milk and I love cheese, but hell, I'm not going to pretend that it's good for me.
posted by tastybrains at 12:47 PM on May 21, 2007


Wow. That was CHARITABLE. Closer to 88%.

I was trying to cut the good-hearted idiots some slack. A for effort, right? ;-)
posted by tastybrains at 12:48 PM on May 21, 2007


yeah.. drinking other animal's milk is just weird... I do it, but it still seems whacked.
posted by edgeways at 12:49 PM on May 21, 2007


In fact, I could hardly believe the difference in smells (both sweat and feces) after going vegetarian->vegan...

Yeah, but why are you equating that with either "better" or "more efficient"? Smelling bad doesn't necessarily indicate that there's something wrong with your digestion. Or, perhaps better put conversely, that a vegetarian diet produces better smelling poop and sweat than an omnivorous diet doesn't at all mean that a vegeterian diet is more healthy.

...as well as the reduction in bloating that was in my intestines from decades of dairy eating.

This is a separate issue. Humans didn't evolve to eat cow's milk and we're not that efficient in digesting it. Eggs are a different matter and it should be noted that "dairy" is not a very rigorously justified dietary category. Anyway, most of the reduction of the digestive problems you associate with eating dairy products have to do with mild-product consumption which, as I said, is not a food source which poses no problems for human digestion. That this is the case doesn't demonstrate the "natural" superiority of vegetarianism.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:51 PM on May 21, 2007


This is PRECISELY like the gun enthusiasts who talk about how the problem isn't guns, the problem is crazy people with guns.

When carrot eaters are criminals only criminals will eat carrots.
posted by tkchrist at 12:51 PM on May 21, 2007 [3 favorites]


EB: True, "more efficient" was probably the incorrect way to phrase that. However, I would add, that I'm not simply extrapolating this "efficiency" from smells and lack of bloating alone, I am also drawing conclusions based on how many times I go to the restroom as well as consistency and other factors related to *ahem* pooping. That, and the scientific facts that plant materials pass through the digestive system faster than animals (though that says nothing--as you point out--of the digestive system "working" any better).

Anyway, I'm sure no one really cares to hear about my bathroom habits, as I don't know that they really prove much other than I'm not constipated. So I'll stop there, unless you have any specific questions :)
posted by dead_ at 12:58 PM on May 21, 2007


Anyway, I'm sure no one really cares to hear about my bathroom habits, as I don't know that they really prove much other than I'm not constipated. So I'll stop there, unless you have any specific questions

Do you use too much toilet paper? How many squares?
posted by tastybrains at 12:59 PM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


A bit of a derail, but I've long wondered if it is possible to be vegan outside of the developed world, particularly North America and Western European countries. I grew up in various third world countries. In my experience the range of substitutes for animal products and nutritional supplements available in the developed world just did not exist. I did not encounter vegans until I moved to the U.S. The only vegetarians I had encountered prior to that were Buddhist monks. Veganism just seems to be very much a "first world" thing to me.
posted by needled at 1:02 PM on May 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


'Cause clearly tofu dogs have no protein in them...

Assuming that was sarcasm, I'm a little surprised that a tofu dog has more protein, vitamins, and minerals than a similarly sized Oscar Meyer wiener.
posted by peeedro at 1:04 PM on May 21, 2007


tastybrains: Hang on a sec, I'm about to head to the bathroom now. I'll count and get back to you on this.
posted by dead_ at 1:05 PM on May 21, 2007


A bit of a derail, but I've long wondered if it is possible to be vegan outside of the developed world, particularly North America and Western European countries.

I would think that veganism wouldn't be unheard of in Buddhist and Hindu cultures. I know dairy is used in some recipes, but I wonder how common that is. Maybe someone more informed can chime in on this. I would think where there is vegetarianism, there is probably some veganism.
posted by tastybrains at 1:07 PM on May 21, 2007


Needled, that's because in other "worlds" the degrees of spearation between someone's livestock and someone else's plate are a lot fewer in number. Veganism is (in my experience, though IANAV) a response to an economic system that's tortures animals and spreads pestilince. It's not necessarily the killing, it's the flagrant disregard for life that gets people upseet enough to inconveniently, and often expensively, change their whole lifestyle.
posted by hermitosis at 1:07 PM on May 21, 2007 [4 favorites]


I ate poop once, I tasted teh B12.
posted by trueluk at 1:08 PM on May 21, 2007


Also semi O/T, but how did "carnivore" turn into a dirty word? It just means meat-eater; i.e., it's a way of distinguishing those omnivores who eat meat from those who eat only eggs and dairy. I'm a non-carnivorous omnivore; or, equivalently, a vegetarian. (Never meant it as a slur, I promise!) :)
posted by smably at 1:09 PM on May 21, 2007


When I was vegetarian (and for a time vegan) I developed terrible allergies and was tired and sick all the time. My skin was terrible. I could not sustain any kind of athletic performance. It was awful. This could be totally coincidental. However, when the Doctor recommended I introduce fish and eggs back into my diet it was like night and day.

At that time I lived with a food nazi and we were exceedingly careful about nutritional balance (it was a drag let me tell you) - so it wasn't poor vegan nutrition.

Meat was what my body needed. When I started eating meat again I felt like an athlete.

I am with out a doubt measurably healthier now. By orders of magnitude.

But other people seem to thrive as vegans. But not everybody can.
posted by tkchrist at 1:12 PM on May 21, 2007


I'm vegan in China needled, and it's never been easier for me to eat, particularly out. Home of tofu, dairy only a recent addition to the diet of most Chinese. Even many traditional dishes used only a little meat (too pricey) and the way cooking is here you can have it left out. Culturally, there was a vegetarian tradition and its making a comeback.
posted by Abiezer at 1:15 PM on May 21, 2007


tastybrains, Buddhism is a large component of the culture I come from, and vegetarianism was restricted to Buddhist monks. Vegetarianism and veganism were not part of the larger culture. Buddhist monks where I come from sworn to celibacy, so it's not exactly a self-perpetuating group.
posted by needled at 1:15 PM on May 21, 2007



If you have the patience and smarts and desire to raise your kid vegan, go to it. But how do you handle the "why can't I have a hamburger?" question. I don't mean literally, so much as... well, you kind of have to pony up to the kid how you are raising them differently and so on and so forth... Or?

I ask this sincerely as a vegetarian married to a omnivore raising omnivorous children.

'Cause that, it seems to me is the sticky wicket.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:15 PM on May 21, 2007


Veganism just seems to be very much a "first world" thing to me.

Same with Bulimia and Anorexia.

And Obesity.
posted by tkchrist at 1:16 PM on May 21, 2007 [3 favorites]


NEWSFLASH: People have different nutritional needs. Oh, and poo stinks regardless of diet.
posted by NationalKato at 1:17 PM on May 21, 2007


Also semi O/T, but how did "carnivore" turn into a dirty word? It just means meat-eater; i.e., it's a way of distinguishing those omnivores who eat meat from those who eat only eggs and dairy.

I guess it just implies that the person eats NOTHING but meat or at least primarily meat. The majority of people don't live like that, except when they try the Atkins diet. ;-) We're omnivores for the most part.

It just sounded like it was meant as an insult, I'm sorry if I misinterpreted.
posted by tastybrains at 1:18 PM on May 21, 2007


You know this is all completely irrelevant since we're actually in the Matrix and we're all just being fed liquefied babies anyway
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:19 PM on May 21, 2007 [3 favorites]


Oh, and I always just refered to lacto-ovo vegetarians as just that...or just "vegetarians". I don't call vegans vegetarians, I call them vegans. So everyone else who eats meat & eggs & dairy is an omnivore.

I don't know what you'd call someone who eats meat but not eggs & dairy, though.
posted by tastybrains at 1:21 PM on May 21, 2007


Carnivores seem to have this burning desire to expose some fatal flaw in the logic of veganism and vegetarianism...

It's the dumbfuck carnivores...

Guess what, carnivores: meat looks and smells disgusting...

thanks to respectful carnivores


I really wish the "carnivore" comments would stop. I'm no carnivore. I'm an omnivore. I have canine teeth and molars. I eat meat. I eat vegetables. Each group has its own pros and cons.

If I were to only vegatables, and I'd have a B12 deficiency; only meat, I'd get scurvy. Humans are naturally omnivorous for that precise reason. You get the best (and the worst, I suppose) of both worlds. Bonus is it doesn't require any extra thought, any extra planning.

I don't see what the controversy over the "naturally omnivorous" statement is, although I suppose that depends on your interpretation of the word "naturally." For over two million years, humans lived as hunter/gatherers. About 12,000 years ago, they began farming (note: taking up agriculture =/= vegetarian diet). Given over two million years of prior behavior, coupled with our obvious ability to ingest both plants and animals, I think it is safe to say that we are naturally omnivorous. I didn't have to take a pill to be able to eat both plants and animals.

Furthermore, I find it personally insulting to suggest that we are not naturally omnivorous after I underwent two procedures; one to fix a chip in my upper right canine tooth (yay meat!), the other to remove my wisdom teeth, which our ancestors used to chew/grind plants (yay plants!).

I can tell you that nobody is naturally vegan. That is a choice you made or one that was made for you. Perhaps you were raised vegan, in which case veganism may be considered "the norm" in your eyes, but it is certainly not "natural." Veganism is only possible with modern technology (ie, B12 and other vitamin supplements).

However, I would like to point out that I am [NOT VEGETARIANIST]. Just because something is biologically "natural" doesn't make it good, as seen in my prior example of the extraction of my wisdom teeth. If you can live happily and, most importantly, healthily with a vegan diet/ethos, then more power to you. But please, don't tell us omnivores that our diet isn't natural, please don't call me a carnivore because I enjoy steak, as I often have a salad right alongside.

Lastly:
the efficiency of a digestive system full of nothing but plants versus a digestive system full of rotting flesh.

Let's be fair: a digestive system full of nothing but rotting plants (after all, that's what digestion is...). The same experience could be had with any diet with adequate levels of fiber, although many western omnivores do not get enough fiber in their diets (giving us the omnivore equivalent to B12 supplements: Fiber supplements!). All the same, happy pooping.

carrots scream when you cut them

That is the only reason I eat them.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 1:25 PM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Give us this day our daily troll.
posted by Fupped Duck at 1:31 PM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Everything seems pretty well sussed out here without me fanning flames, so I'll just note that it's always nice to see who the other vegetarians are (veggie since birth, me).
posted by klangklangston at 1:33 PM on May 21, 2007


Assuming that was sarcasm, I'm a little surprised that a tofu dog has more protein, vitamins, and minerals than a similarly sized Oscar Meyer wiener.

This kinda struck me. Who the hell thinks hot dogs are in any way nutritious? Snouts & hooves, anyone?

I think all processed crap should be banned from this discussion since whether it's vegan "cheezwiz" or omni bologna, it's all crap. Tasty, tasty crap.
posted by tastybrains at 1:34 PM on May 21, 2007


Also semi O/T, but how did "carnivore" turn into a dirty word? It just means meat-eater; i.e., it's a way of distinguishing those omnivores who eat meat from those who eat only eggs and dairy.

No, it's a way for holier-than-thou vegans to "distinguish" omnivores with terms that aren't real. There isn't a single "carnivore" on this site because carnivores by definition eat almost entirely meat, usually because their biology does not process plants correctly. Your cat throws up after eating plants because they can't process them; that's because they are carnivores. I had a tasty chicken Caeser the other day because I'm an omnivore. I have no idea what people who only eat eggs and dairy are called, but the scientific term for vegans who call omnivores carnivores is "asshole."

"Carnivore" doesn't get to mean any person who eats more meat than you just because you don't eat any. It's an incorrect and condescending term meant to suggest anyone who eats meat is a caveman or even a sub-human as if they haven't reached the level of obvious enlightenment necessary to eat bricks of compressed soybeans that have the exact texture and consistency of manatee ejaculate, and when I hear PETA asshats call people that all I want to do is throw raw chicken at them.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:35 PM on May 21, 2007 [6 favorites]


I really wish the "carnivore" comments would stop.

Eh, I use it as easy shorthand for "people who eat meat". Sorry if that gets your trousers in a twist, but there's no intended disrespect.
posted by cmonkey at 1:36 PM on May 21, 2007


smably: Also semi O/T, but how did "carnivore" turn into a dirty word?

When bandied about by vegetarians/vegans, in a discussion involving a bit of locking horns, it comes off like an attempt at an obnoxious slur. The same way that calling bipedal herbivores "Grazers" would, or GLBT folk calling heteros "Breeders" does.

And what tastybrains said.
posted by CKmtl at 1:38 PM on May 21, 2007


OK. I just had to get in on this, mainly because I practice vegetarianism. Most days.

dead_: transitioning back from vegan to omnivore is easy. Just go eat an organic-free range chicken. Much tastier than a scatalogical entree.

Maybe this was linked earlier, but authorities on veganism pretty much seem to agree it can be done.

Nina Planck seems to disagree.

It's almost like someone's discussing Scientology, when this topic comes up. Or vegetarianism. Or mormonism, or Bush. All seem to evoke the visceral response of fanaticism. On both sides.

What we know: this episode has nothing to do with veganism. These people are bad people.

The press coverage is about holding something up for ridicule. It's about ridiculing somthing different from you to show your superiority. Looks like the MSM achieved it's quota of feeling superior again this month. And provoking a pointless debate about veganism that the vegans will never win.

This message brought to you by beefalo. Declicious and an excellent source of vitamin B12. It's what does a body good.
posted by valentinepig at 1:39 PM on May 21, 2007


would it be morally OK (health concerns aside) to eat nano-engineered meat? I mean no animals were harmed, but it's still meat.

I'd be fine with it. I hope we get there soon, so I can eat steak again & bbq again. I'd also eat that meat-grown-in-a-vat stuff they keep experimenting with but never actually produce because it grosses everybody out.
posted by treepour at 1:39 PM on May 21, 2007


Vegetarian with a partner that still eats meat (though not at home) raising vegetarian kids. The kids can decide if they want to eat meat when they're old enough to really understand where meat comes from. My partner is fully in agreement with this plan. In fact he advocates the meatless eating to other people way more than I do. I do not feel I am depriving my children. Part of being a parent is raising your children according to your values; I don't want to cook meat or have meat in my house; that's my choice and I happen to have the role of food gatekeeper in our family.

We eat a balanced diet. Healthy vegetarianism is no different than a healthy diet that includes meat; you're still getting animal-sourced protein. Veganism is harder; I tried to go vegan at one point and my body simply couldn't hack it. But responsible vegans know how to balance their diet well for their kids. I know people that feel better when they eat whatever flavor of veg*n, I know people that feel better when they have meat in their diet; everyone is different. The most important thing, I think, is knowing where your food comes from and making the best choices you can (sourcing local and/or small-farm for meat, dairy, and eggs to avoid many of the problems with mass production).

In my experience, people that eat meat are way more likely to harass people who don't than the other way around. Most veg*ns are not OMG PETA or out to judge meat eaters; but a lot of people that eat meat certainly seem pretty misinformed or threatened by people that don't.
posted by Melinika at 1:40 PM on May 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


From dead: the efficiency of a digestive system full of nothing but plants versus a digestive system full of rotting flesh.

I think what he's getting at here is that those rotting plants take only 12 hours to fully digest. Rotting flesh, on the other hand, is in your digestive tract for 2-3 days.
posted by trueluk at 1:41 PM on May 21, 2007


Cmonkey: see XQUZYPHYR's comment for a more "spirited" gist of what I was going for.
He hits the nail on the head. It's factually incorrect and comes off as condescending.

"Omnivore" also happens to be one letter shorter than "carnivore." ;)
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 1:42 PM on May 21, 2007


I think what he's getting at here is that those rotting plants take only 12 hours to fully digest. Rotting flesh, on the other hand, is in your digestive tract for 2-3 days.

Could you please explain how the meat is seperated from the plants and point out on this diagram where it is stored for those 2-3 days? Thanks.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 1:45 PM on May 21, 2007


Gross misspellings and simplifications aside, my only real point was a refutation of the idea that our bodies are somehow "designed" to eat certain things, and that is a valid basis for what we should eat. Saying things like "it's in our nature" and "talk to the enzymes" are along the same lines as the tired "we have canine teeth, so it's obvious we should eat meat".

I'm not making any naturalistic argument for vegetarianism. Our species wouldn't exist as it does now if our ancestors weren't omnivores. Just because our bodies can digest meat is not a valid reason why we should or should not eat meat now.
posted by team lowkey at 1:47 PM on May 21, 2007


In my experience, people that eat meat are way more likely to harass people who don't than the other way around. Most veg*ns are not OMG PETA or out to judge meat eaters; but a lot of people that eat meat certainly seem pretty misinformed or threatened by people that don't.

Like so many similar things, you really need to specify the particular cultural context you have in mind because, otherwise, you're probably either saying something untrue or setting up a strawman.

My own experience is that within a developed-world subculture that is predominately vegetarian for ethical reasons, there's a lot of judgment and harassment of meat-eaters. In contrast, the larger context which is US culture in general sees vegetarians relentless and near-universally mocked and harassed.

My ex-wife was vegetarian and, after our divorce, became a vegan (reportedly). I was constantly amazed, dismayed, and angered by how conventional North American cultural omnivores reacted to her vegetarianism (including her parents). I was amazed at the constant, usually passive-aggressive, attempts to convert her back to meat-eating. It was damn annoying, and I'm not, and wasn't, vegetarian.

My ex and I were very congenial about our dietary habits and the ethics that underlied them. For my part, I think that vegetarianism is ethically superior, but not sufficiently so to justify altering my lifestyle in a way that would be very unpleasant to me (I greatly prefer meat to vegetables—frankly, I hate vegetables and am notorious among family and friends for this). So I respected my ex's choice. She, in turn, understood how my dietary lifestyle was important to me and more difficult for me to change than it is for most people, and that I was both thoughtful and openminded on the matter. The result was that, in this regard, we lived in near-perfect harmony. Sometimes our separate diets were serendipitous; most other times we simply ate different things.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:56 PM on May 21, 2007


Mmmmm...marmite.
posted by jb at 2:06 PM on May 21, 2007


Cmonkey: see XQUZYPHYR's comment for a more "spirited" gist of what I was going for.
He hits the nail on the head. It's factually incorrect and comes off as condescending.


Ah. Well, I'm a vegan who doesn't care if you eat meat or no meat or only meat on the second through fifth days of odd numbered months, so I didn't know it was such an offensive term. Learn something new every day, etc. etc.

And obviously this thread is short on factual accuracy and long on trolling from the original post onwards.
posted by cmonkey at 2:08 PM on May 21, 2007


And obviously this thread is short on factual accuracy and long on trolling from the original post onwards.

At least we have eachother, cmonkey.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 2:11 PM on May 21, 2007


I do not think I can add much substantive to this fairly insane discussion, but I will try.

I am vegan. I am well aware that:

1) It is my own choice,

2) That being vegan is my own responsibility and no one else's,

3) That it is a philosophy rather than being inarguably The Best Way To Eat,

4) That other people have made different decisions and choices about their diet and lifestyle, and that many of these decisions have been made after careful thought,

5) That I don't have to be an asshole about being vegan in general, and I am not better than anyone else because of these choices,

6) That while I am free to campaign for animal rights, against factory farming, and for whatever political agenda I happen to believe in, I don't have to be an asshole about that either and people will either agree with me or they won't,

7) That any diet choice should be undertaken with careful investigation into current nutritional knowledge,

8) That any being, child or animal, under my care should be given the best nutritional options available to them, whatever my personal beliefs, and that these options are not necessarily vegan, although they are not necessarily not vegan, either,

9) That it is pretty much impossible to be "completely vegan", and that trying to be vegan is therefore a matter of making sensible choices, necessary compromises, and hopefully well-thought out decisions about where the line should be drawn,

and finally, that

10) There are lots of parents who make bad decisions regarding their children, including vegans, but people who make such decisions are not vegans, and many vegans are fine parents.

Can we all play nice now?
posted by kyrademon at 2:13 PM on May 21, 2007 [9 favorites]


Kyrademon, that should be the Vegan Code of Ethics, if it isn't already.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 2:16 PM on May 21, 2007


kyrademon, awesome. I'd gladly break bread manatee ejaculate with you.
posted by CKmtl at 2:24 PM on May 21, 2007


Argh. Okay, physiologically, we are all omnivores. We are all capable of digesting animal products as well as plant products.

Some of us eat meat, dairy products, and plants. Those people are dietary omnivores.

Some of us eat dairy products and plants, but not meat. Those people are also dietary omnivores. They're called vegetarians.

Some of us eat plants, but not meat or dairy products. Those people are dietary herbivores, I guess. They're called vegans.

So how do you distinguish between vegetarians and the rest of the dietary omnivores – the ones who do eat meat? I call the meat-eating ones carnivores. But I guess that just makes me a condescending vegetarian asshole. (???)

[On preview: kyrademon, that is great!]
posted by smably at 2:28 PM on May 21, 2007


A. Whitney Brown said it best: "I am not a vegetarian because I love animals; I am a vegetarian because I hate plants"
posted by bruceo at 2:36 PM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Some of us eat meat, dairy products, and plants. Those people are dietary omnivores.

Some of us eat dairy products and plants, but not meat. Those people are also dietary omnivores. They're called vegetarians.


So how do you distinguish between vegetarians and the rest of the dietary omnivores – the ones who do eat meat?

You did it already, see the bold. Without resorting to what comes off, intentionally or not, as condescension.
posted by CKmtl at 2:39 PM on May 21, 2007


I've noticed something which I hope one day to publish in some kind of psychological journal.

People often conflate two groups of people when they're arguing. The two groups of people that are often conflated are always [whoever they're arguing against] and [assholes.]

For instance, here are paraphrases of some of the general arguments I've seen tossed around this thread:

"Vegans/Vegetarians are always getting on my case about eating meat."

What someone making a statement like this means to say, but is somehow psychologically blocked from saying, is:

"Assholes are always getting on my case about eating meat."

Another example:

"Meat-eaters feel compelled to bitch out a vegan or vegetarian whenever they meet one."

Adjusted for psychological conflation, the phrase reads this way:

Assholes feel compelled to bitch out a vegan or vegetarian whenever they meet one.

The origin of this psychological conflation is mysterious, indeed. Clearly, it's patently absurd to believe that people who eat one way or the other, or vote one way or the other, or drive one way or the other, or dress one way or the other must all be assholes, and yet somewhere in the brain a switch gets flipped or a neuron misfires and the two become totally interchangable for varying lengths of time ranging from the duration of an argument to an entire lifetime. I intend to do some intensive study of this phenomenon, preferably involving invasive surgery (lack of medical credentials be damned!) to determine the root of this problem and discover a way to cure it.

Oh, and anyone who disagrees with me is an asshole.
posted by shmegegge at 2:39 PM on May 21, 2007 [6 favorites]


I don't care what you eat. I've gone through every phase under the moon, and while I'm not a big meat eater, I do eat locally raised beef, chicken and lamb. I'd eat pork if it were locally raised, but I generally avoid factory meat farming, if at all avoidable.

My only issues with vegans is that they often don't give hostesses fair warning about their special dietary needs...then show up to dinner parties or events and sniff at all the food with the "I can't eat this", "do you have anything not murdered?", yadda yadda yadda.

That's just annoying. If you have special dietary needs, and you're going somewhere where someone else is expected to shop and prepare food...then tell them your needs in advance.
posted by dejah420 at 2:56 PM on May 21, 2007


I eat Vogons. There, I've said it.
posted by swift at 3:09 PM on May 21, 2007


ok, perhaps I overreacted. I get a little touchy about this subject because I have seen the mistakes an otherwise intelligent college graduate and loving parent can make with their child when they let ideology trump their knowldge of nutrition.
posted by Megafly at 3:29 PM on May 21, 2007


Okay, so breast milk is vegan - but what do parents who want to raise their newborn feed their child if, for whatever reason, the mother is unable to produce milk? Are there vegan formula-alternatives that have been proven to be as effective/safe as animal based ones? Do the vegan parents have to rely on wet nurses (a whole other sticky moral issue) ?
posted by fermezporte at 3:37 PM on May 21, 2007


Surprised no one's mentioned the "biological similarities between humans and herbivores" argument. You know, carnivores don't have digestive enzymes, humans and herbivores do; carnivores have a short intenstine/body length ratio, humans and herbivores have a long one, etc. There are a lot of those similarities. Biology isn't destiny, as feminists like to say, but that's certainly compelling information that deserves a serious answer from those who'd casually dismiss arguments for vegetarianism.
posted by mediareport at 4:11 PM on May 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


I think the point I wanted to make has been made by many others (equating those parents with all of veganism is like saying Pat Robertson represents all Christians, so stop with the axe-grindy piling on already).

I will say that I could never be a pure vegetarian/vegan for the same reason I could never convert to Islam or Judaism:

Bacon.
posted by dw at 4:17 PM on May 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


But I think the majority do it because they either don't like how food animals are treated or because cutting out the cattle middle man on the way from sun to plant to humans increases efficiency and is more sustainable.

I'm not picking on you for saying this, but I wonder how accurate this belief is.

It's entirely possible (and, I'd argue, common) to eat strictly vegan and to consume far more production than an omnivorous diet - by eating vegan desserts, complex simulated meats, and other processed foods.

Getting all humans to subsist on raw grains, seaweeds, and legumes might be an economically efficient system, but our present vegan cuisine - and indeed, all world cuisine - is built on huge economic cost. People spend production to mix, grind, powder, fry, and otherwise prepare ingredients in a more palatable way. They transport exotic ingredients that can't grow in local climes or temperatures. Highly expensive additives with little nutritional value - such as various spices and sugars - are used to enhance flavor. And all cultures eat dessert - processed meals that exist for the sake of taste alone, and not nutrition. Look at the various vegan foods at the grocery store and compare costs - there's an immense amount of production you pay for in every bite.

From the standpoint of simply delivering nutrition from sun to human, this is all wasted production. But what culture, except for the most impoverished, would not waste production on making food taste better, the same way they "waste" production on music, art, entertainment, and all other things that are not necessary for survival but are necessary for happiness?
posted by kid ichorous at 4:18 PM on May 21, 2007


MetaFilter: the exact texture and consistency of manatee ejaculate.
posted by rdone at 4:25 PM on May 21, 2007


The same way that calling bipedal herbivores "Grazers" would, or GLBT folk calling heteros "Breeders" does.

No, we've gotten over the whole "breeders" thing. Because we no longer really believe there's such thing as a straight man anymore, and we like to call women more specifically derogatory terms like "seed-thief" instead.
posted by hermitosis at 4:42 PM on May 21, 2007


Because we no longer really believe there's such thing as a straight man anymore, and we like to call women more specifically derogatory terms like "seed-thief" instead.

That's offensive. As a woman, I prefer "essence-stealer."
posted by piratebowling at 4:51 PM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yeah, there is vegan formula. Why they didn't use it is beyond me...
posted by chuckdarwin at 4:52 PM on May 21, 2007


Veganism isn't entirely a first-world thing, I know quite a few Hindus who are vegan (and a LOT who are vegetarian, of course). Indians are one of the few groups in America who generally look at vegans/vegetarians positively, even if they themselves are not (as in, they consider it a good or ideal thing but don't follow it themselves). I'm often the only non-Indian vegetarian at company events (I work in the software industry, naturally).

The whole natural argument is pretty irrelevant. If we all wanted to be natural we wouldn't be arguing on the freaking internet. When you're living on an off-the-grid commune raising your own cattle / growing your own food, then worry about what's natural. Most of humanity would rather have what is beneficial and comfortable than what is natural, thats the whole idea of technology and society is to improve upon our natural state. (In other words, regardless of whether you think vegetarianism/veganism is a step up or down, all that matters is the nutritional arguments, which don't have much to do with what we ate 10000 years ago - science has allowed us to understand this far better than our ancestors, who ate whatever they had).

(I was vegan for 4 years, been vegetarian for 13. Stopped being vegan because my willpower didn't hold up, vegetarian (lcato/ovo) is comparatively easy. And just like people 10,000 years ago, I'd eat whatever I had to if it was a survival situation. Including humans :) )
posted by wildcrdj at 4:56 PM on May 21, 2007



Surprised no one's mentioned the "biological similarities between humans and herbivores" argument. You know, carnivores don't have digestive enzymes, humans and herbivores do; carnivores have a short intenstine/body length ratio, humans and herbivores have a long one, etc.


Er, did you read the thread? The point was made repeatedly that humans have a mix of carnivore and herbivore characteristics, placing us in omnivore territory.
posted by TungstenChef at 4:57 PM on May 21, 2007


Oh, and on the "vegan" parents who starved their kid... thats just neglect. No sane person could ignore starvation that long. They were no different than any other drug/mental disease ridden person who allows their baby to starve. It happens unfortunately often, but only unusual circumstances like this make the papers.

If they'd fed their kid cows milk and apple juice, or even steak and apple juice, they'd have gotten the same result.
posted by wildcrdj at 4:58 PM on May 21, 2007


GRAAAIIIIIINS!!
posted by Espoo2 at 4:59 PM on May 21, 2007 [3 favorites]


Wait, I'm half Vegan--my father's Spock's third cousin--am I going to die?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:07 PM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


This article is so bad, I am very surprised that it got so much attention. I am also afraid that it may do much harm, because people may get the idea that it was just the soy milk and apple juice that was the problem. As if it would have been totally okay to feed a six week old baby cows milk and apple juice.

For those who are really interested: a good site about vegan nutrition and health is veganhealth.org. It is not THAT difficult to be a healthy vegan, and it is not necessary to rely on lots of supplements and processed foods. The only supplement that is absolutely necessary in our clean environments is vitamin B12. Even though it is not difficult, eating healthy as a vegan is very different from a standard American diet. I would recommend that aspiring vegan parents do read a book about healthy vegan pregnancies and child raising.
posted by davar at 5:13 PM on May 21, 2007


Oh, I almost forgot... LOLVEGANZ.

Don't neglect the all-important Hurf durf soy-butter eaters!
posted by Forktine at 5:18 PM on May 21, 2007


Er, did you read the thread?

Yes, that's how I know no one mentioned intestine/body length ratio, digestive enzymes, etc. For example, carnivores like dogs and cats do not have amylase, a starch-dissolving enzyme, in their salive.

Herbivores and humans do.

There are a lot of biological features like that, including intestine length-to-body-length ratio, that (so I've read) clearly place humans near the herbivorous end of the continuum. I remain surprised that no one's addressed those arguments here.
posted by mediareport at 5:20 PM on May 21, 2007


It's entirely possible (and, I'd argue, common) to eat strictly vegan and to consume far more production than an omnivorous diet - by eating vegan desserts, complex simulated meats, and other processed foods.

Indeed, the argument for veganism using less resources and being more efficient than meat falls down when you consider agricultural practices, and where all our food comes from.

That organically grown grain you're eating - how many small mammals living in the field did the harvester kill when it harvested it?

Indeed, the field itself is occupying land that would otherwise be habitat for animals. Forests and grasslands were destroyed so that crop could be planted and grown, I don't care how pesticide-free and macrobiotic it is.

So the solution? Survive on food that hasn't destroyed habitat and killed animals, indeed, an entire ecosystem. Head to the forest and live on nuts and berries. Oh shit - birds also survive on those nuts and berries. You're removing massive quantities of their resources to feed yourself, reducing their survivorship and fecundity, and killing them.

You can't do it. Humans can't eat without killing, directly or indirectly, animals. Veganism is just drawing a convenient, arbitrary moral line in the sand. It's convenient because it continues to hide the true death and environmental destruction behind is, as surely as shrink-wrapped meat in the supermarket hides the true killing that produced it.

I've learned to stop worrying and love the beef.
posted by Jimbob at 5:29 PM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


(Oh I should note that organic, pesticide-free crops generally take up more land, and have a larger ecological footprint than standard crops to produce the same amount of food, due to their lower production efficiency.)
posted by Jimbob at 5:30 PM on May 21, 2007


mediareport, you may wish to Google around and check the validity of some of your assertions. Intestine length, for instance, is less relevant than the distribution of cell types, crypts and whatnot. Whilst we share with herbivores the ability to digest starch, we share with carnivores the inability to digest cellulose. Our closest relatives, the chimps, are omnivorous. We have evolved with the ability to survive to breeding age on a largely carnivorous or herbivorous diet, as the existence of Inuit groups and various vegan peoples amply demonstrate. Although you say biology is not destiny, it's pretty clear that Nature has equipped us with the ability choose our own dietary fates, and that's as far as the evolution argument can take us.
posted by nowonmai at 5:44 PM on May 21, 2007


.
posted by rdone at 5:47 PM on May 21, 2007


Fair enough, nowonmai; that's exactly what I was looking for. Not sure why I never checked with Straight Dope before. Midway it is on the digestive tract, and on digesting plant matter.
posted by mediareport at 5:52 PM on May 21, 2007


"Indeed, the argument for veganism using less resources and being more efficient than meat falls down when you consider agricultural practices, and where all our food comes from.

That organically grown grain you're eating - how many small mammals living in the field did the harvester kill when it harvested it?"

Really? So you're arguing from utility that farming livestock kills fewer animals? What have you got to back that up? Where's your numbers? Especially when you wanna toss out some unsupported horseshit about petro-agriculture taking less resources.

I mean, I understand the point that there's nothing that can be done without some environmental impact, but what have you got aside from a tortured tu quoque fallacy?
posted by klangklangston at 6:03 PM on May 21, 2007


Petro-agriculture uses massive amounts of resources. But if every human being currently alive on the planet had to survive on organically-certified foodstuffs, we wouldn't have much native habitat left, for all the additional land area required.

Organic production of certain crops, such as potatoes, fruits, grapes is more efficient in terms of resource use, because necessary advances in efficiency for "standard' growth of these crops hasn't been great. However, in the case of production output, for potatoes for example, it can be 30-40% lower than for conventional agriculture. A number of organic crops require extremely high "certified" inputs, greatly increasing the cost in both materials in labor. The frequent plouging required by organic crops can be extremely damaging to soils, particularly in tropical and sub-tropical regions (compared to conventional agriculture, which is tending towards no-till systems).

See here:

Cooper, J.M.; Schmidt, C.S.; Lueck, L.; Shotton, P.N.; Turnbull, C. & Leifert, C. 2007. Effect of organic, low-input and conventional production systems on yield and diseases in winter barley. In: Niggli, U.; Leifert, C.; Alföldi, T.; Lück, L. and Willer, H, Eds. 2007. Improving Sustainability in Organic Low Input Food Production Systems. Proceedings of the 3rd International Congress of the European Integrated Project Quality Low Input Food (QLIF). University of Hohenheim, Germany, March 20 – 23, 2007. Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL, CH-Frick, 335 - 338.

Bos, J.F.F.P.; de Haan, J.J.; Sukkel, W. & Schils, R.L.M. (2007) Comparing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in organic and conventional farming systems in the Netherlands. In: Niggli, U.; Leifert, C.; Alföldi, T.; Lück, L. and Willer, H, Eds. 2007. Improving Sustainability in Organic and Low Input Food Production Systems. Proceedings of the 3rd International Congress of the European Integrated Project Quality Low Input Food (QLIF). University of Hohenheim, Germany, March 20 – 23, 2007. Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL, CH-Frick, 439 - 442. Burdick, B. 1994. Klimaänderung und Landbau - Die Agrarwirtschaft als Täter und Opfer. Ökologische Konzepte, Vol. 85, Bad Dürkheim

Forster, C.; Green, K.; Bleda, M.; Dewick, P.; Evans, B.; Flynn, A. & Mylan, J. 2006. Environmental Impacts of Food Production and Consumption: A report to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Manchester Business School. DEFRA, London, 198 pages


My argument is not that organic agriculture / a vegan diet is worse for the environment than conventional agriculture. My argument is that vegans are kidding themselves if they think they're not murdering animals.

And the two systems damage different "aspects" of the environment. You use the term "petro-agriculture" to emphasize the oil and other chemical inputs to conventional agriculture. That's one environmental concern - in fact, it's also an economic concern. From my point of view, I'm much more interested in habitat destruction, and I would have thought vegans, in their efforts not to harm animals, would also be interested in preserving habitat. Conventional agriculture can be summed up as an effort to produce the most food from the least land in the quickest time. Organic agriculture doesn't have this aim, and if we look at non-animal-based production, uses more land to produce the same amount of food, hence greater habitat destruction.

Vegans are quick to bring up the argument that it's more efficient to eat the soybeans yourself, than to feed them to cows then eat the cows. Fair enough, but that's a dishonest argument. In large parts of the world, animals for meat production don't graze on improved pasture or are kept in feedlots eating crowp - they graze in native vegatation, on rangelands or native pastures. This has some environmental impact, but no-where near as much as bulldozing the native vegetation completely to grow soybeans, particularly when the stocking rate is carefully managed.
posted by Jimbob at 6:24 PM on May 21, 2007


"My argument is that vegans are kidding themselves if they think they're not murdering animals. "

And your argument is bullshit.

First off, implicit in your argument is this bizarro sense of moral purity. If, as you seem to be granting, killing animals unnecessarily is bad, then it would seem that there's no rational way you can argue that veganism kills more animals. Even granting the red herring of the poor field mice, livestock requires more grain (unless we're traipsing into a fantasy land where all cattle graze).
So, that underpinning of arguing against the good for some fanciful hypocrisy charge is fallacious on its face.

Then we've got a false (and undemonstrated) metric for environmental damage based purely on acreage. When you start looking at water table damage or at a total environmental cost per acre (which would include the petrochemical cost). But while many vegans may care about habitat preservation, your ascription of concern is irrelevant, and only tangential to the overall goal of "not harming animals."

Then you're comparing bulldozing habitats for soybeans against carefully managed cattle stocks? False equivalency.

And after all of that, it still reeks of hollow rationalization. If you don't care about killing animals, fine, eat meat. If you do, stop trying to pretend that some sort of field mouse holocaust places the moral onus on vegetarians. You eat meat— that's between you and your conscience. That you seem to feel guilty about it is still your problem.
posted by klangklangston at 7:01 PM on May 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


You eat meat— that's between you and your conscience. That you seem to feel guilty about it is still your problem.

Aaah, but I don't feel guilty about it. Vegans clearly do feel guilt about killing animals, and attempt to avoid that guilt by telling themselves that their diet doesn't kill animals.

Or, in your case, you argue that it kills less animals. Which is a point I addressed - an arbitrary line in the sand, proclaiming a certain amount of death that vegans are willing to accept (or dismiss), in order to proclaim moral superiority over those who accept a greater amount.

As for the "field mice holocaust" you dismiss, it's interesting to note that you appear more concerned about the lives of introduced, bred bovines, than about less charismatic or visible native wildlife.

Further facts from an interesting study cited above, I believe. More relevant to organics than veganism, but still worth noting. posted by Jimbob at 7:22 PM on May 21, 2007


Once again, that's a 19% energy saving. Hardly cutting yourself out of the carbon cycle...
posted by Jimbob at 7:23 PM on May 21, 2007


Oh snap.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 7:53 PM on May 21, 2007


Since this is quite possibly the most retarded thread I have ever read on metafilter (and I mean that in the classic sense that it hasn't grown mentally or physically), I'm going to cross-pollinate it with the other stupid thread from today. So here's a lolcat for the omnivores and here's one for the vegans. Now please, everyone, go eat something for christ's sake.
posted by sleepy pete at 7:53 PM on May 21, 2007


Was vegetarian. Then vegan. Then rawfoodist. Got the sickest I have ever been, requiring nasty ass-shots of hemoglobin, iron, and B12. Ow, ow ow ow.

I went to a few nutritionists (M.D's, in order to have a co-pay visit) and found out from a nice Indian woman that some people just can't give up meat. Keep it light, she said, and I would be fine.

And, I am.

Vegan sucked for me. But, I'm not everyone, and I know vegans that are healthy.

I did look up the intestinal length of herbivores (10x body length), omnivores (5x body length), and carnivores (2.5x body length).

Average human intestine is 8.5 metres. Average height of a human is 1.5 metres. Ratio is just over 5x, giving us an omnivore rating with herbivore tendencies. Which is my diet, so I'm cool with that.

And, I have to side with a great many people and argue that Marmite cannot be said to be tastier than human faeces. DO NOT WANT.
posted by dwivian at 8:09 PM on May 21, 2007


You're copying from Reason? An amalgam of libertarian ideology and hyperlink fakery?

I mean, you could at least bother to cite things like the Cornell 22-year study on organic farming in the US, which didn't do things like rely on idiotic Steiner assumptions for organics, and found that yeilds were 22 percent HIGHER in organic farms, especially over time, and that pollution to water and soil was greatly decreased by organic farming, and that nitrogen levels were INCREASED by responsible crop rotation (and had a benefit over conventional crops). Or hey, about 15 to 28 percent more carbon stored in the soil.

Oh, and lest you do a dance about the credibility— the study was published in the same peer-reviewed journal that the study Reason cites was.

But this is all pretty irrelevant.

"Aaah, but I don't feel guilty about it. Vegans clearly do feel guilt about killing animals, and attempt to avoid that guilt by telling themselves that their diet doesn't kill animals."

This is still straw man bullshit, as is the ascription of some sense of moral superiority. And yes, the line is somewhat arbitrary, but I assume that you don't eat people, even if they're retards. That's an arbitrary line as well, though I might make an offhand quip that your desire to keep those making facile arguments off dinner plates might be borne of self-preservation instinct.
Yes, I tend to care more about animals by a broad metric of neural complexity, and I don't feel that I need to contribute to MORE death and suffering, so I don't. You either lack that moral compass, or have justified it to yourself, and whatever the case, you're the one who came to this thread and posted defensive fallacies to justify your diet.

I don't care what you eat, yet you seem greatly concerned with the moral shortcomings of people who choose differently. Why?
posted by klangklangston at 8:26 PM on May 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


I just chowed down on a delicious hand sandwich and a side of locally-grown heirloom swwet potato fries.
posted by breezeway at 8:30 PM on May 21, 2007


I'd just like to say that I never read the articles in the OP. But this thread was probably so, so much better.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 8:32 PM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Fair enough, nowonmai; that's exactly what I was looking for.

You know, I like mediareport a lot. Good on you for being open minded and civil in a festering discussion. mefi is a nice place sometimes.
posted by shmegegge at 9:08 PM on May 21, 2007


Just for posterity's sake, I feel it's worth pointing out that we, and the NYT for that matter, have addressed this very issue before (apologies if that's been linked, didn't see it but skimmed some comments...).

As for the particular issue, I am vegetarian, and don't know that I'll ever have kids, but I have vaguely wondered how I'd handle their diets if I did. It does seem an odd thing to impose on a child, to me, as one who regards it as a complicated ethical choice and not an absolute truth. I feel as if I would certainly not stop them from eating meat at other people's houses if they wanted to, though I would feel like I had to help them understand the whole process. In this sense growing up on a farm or something would be a better method.

Even some people who really feel connected to and ethically ambivalent about killing animals, find that they really don't feel healthy without meat in their diets. I personally can hardly stomach the thought of meat, though I don't know whether it would be nutritionally positive or negative. But I absolutely and honestly far prefer the notion of quinoa with fresh vegetables to some kind of ham and pea soup, which just sounds revolting. So: tastes really do differ. Some of us really like tahini and bragg's aminos and sprouted things and fresh leafy things more than greasy fatty processed things...

So there are multiple issues: your level of understanding, your short term sensory experience, the long term experiential consequences, your ethical assumptions & conclusions, and your own freedom.

Providing your kid with information is part of being a parent. Their sensory experience, both in terms of what food tastes like, and how their body processes it, is probably mostly beyond your control, though perhaps what you start them out on will have some impact... it's hard to say, there. The ethical implications are not that simple, and many people go through multiple stages in their life on this issue, although many more just avoid thinking about it altogether and just experience a vague sense of unresolved guilt. It will probably take them a while to reach a conclusion here, and I would think as a parent that I'd be flexible, want them to reach their own perspective, not just adopt a doctrine like an unquestioned religion. Still, it's tough to work out how you handle that in the formative years when they have no perspective to speak of...

As for an earlier question about whether vegetarians consider consensual cannibalism ok, let me just say to me it is clearly less morally questionable than eating animals, and only slightly more discomfiting. Eating flesh is eating flesh, and it has taken me a very long time to get used to the fact that people tear skin & muscle off of bones with their teeth without a second thought, as they chatter about the weather or the game. Eating humans would be a little weirder, especially if they were people you knew, but if it had been okayed by them, the thought itself doesn't disgust me because I've already adapted to something which naturally strikes me as pretty disgusting. (and the line / connection between disgust and moral reprimand is interesting - but I've rambled on enough for one thread, so we can just leave it there...)
posted by mdn at 9:18 PM on May 21, 2007


As if it would have been totally okay to feed a six week old baby cows milk and apple juice.

Well, it would have been totally okay in the sense that the baby would most likely be ALIVE as opposed to dead.

It is not the best of all possibilities by any stretch of the imagination, but an infant would quite likely SURVIVE on a diet of cow's milk.

But, the real crime is in not using breast milk or formula. It is a crime of idiocy, yes, but a crime of idiocy DRIVEN by the parent's vegan philosophy. There's no way to sidestep this.

(Again, not anti-vegetarian or anti-vegan. In fact, I think vegetarianism in girls is a bit of a turn on, for reasons I can't explain, and might not be totally comfortable with if I ever did understand. But vegans need not apply, as watching a girl eat yogurt is one of my favorite things... especially when they turn the spoon upside down... great.. another fetish I didn't need or have time for.)
posted by Ynoxas at 10:05 PM on May 21, 2007


Of course kids can be raised on soy milk. What happens if it a newborn has an extreme dairy allergy?

Kids can be raised on soy milk, infants can not be. Breast milk is the best milk, baby.


When my mom was born she was allergic to all dairy, human or animal, and couldn't digest other foods properly so she was slowly starving to death until my grandparents found a pediatrician who knew what to do. He put her on a soy milk and banana diet & she lived on that alone until she was 18 months old (when her allergy disappeared) and was a perfectly healthy child who grew to be a perfectly healthy adult. She never developed a big taste for meat (xmas turkey, that's about it), and she loathes bananas, but damn, that woman can put away the dairy products like nobody's biz, she hogs all the ice cream and you gotta fight her for your share of the cheddar.
posted by zarah at 10:51 PM on May 21, 2007


Or, in your case, you argue that it kills less animals. Which is a point I addressed - an arbitrary line in the sand, proclaiming a certain amount of death that vegans are willing to accept (or dismiss), in order to proclaim moral superiority over those who accept a greater amount.

It blows my mind that you think this isn't perfectly rational and that you're successfully arguing against it. Of course killing fewer animals is better than killing more if you believe that it is wrong to kill animals.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:06 PM on May 21, 2007


Yanno, Ynoxas, spending as much time fetishizing vegetarian women as you do explaining your soy vs. dairy argument instantly makes you look like a sleaze. Just for future reference.

I've been veggie, and veggie for about 11 years now, with minimal problems. My health declines when I eat shitty processed food, and it improves when I homecook things from scratch. Somedays my dinners are no better than a bowl of beany gruel, pass muster only because of their nutritionally useful content, others they are healthful culinary masterworks that have my omnivorous friends coming back for more, and the recipie to boot. My dietary experience is not that different from more conventional people I have lived with over the years, who feel like crap if they live on burgers for too long, and who sometimes eat unnappealing meals made of mince and whatnot, and who sometimes create culinary masterworks that have others coming back for more. The usefulness of a foodstuff isn't just in the physical item itself, but in how it's interpreted and prepared. "Meat" means both a oven roasted chook raised at home and physically reclaimed burger patties shipped in from the other side of the country. Cutting any part of a diet out arbitrarily based on the widest category it can be put it is foolish to my mind.

The "human natural diet = whatever" argument is also inherently flawed simply because we have cut so much of what is "natural" out of our lives that we need to take a long hard look at what the word means. It's natural to die of malnutrition, disease and poor hygiene. It's natural for our population to be culled by these things, and it certainly isn't natural for one species to be so proliferant that they are forced to work out complicated food production and transportation regimes to prevent themselves from starving. I think we're well past the point where that argument, either for or against either position, is of use to anyone. Human beings are not natural and they haven't been since the advent of agriculture.

Food is, at the end of the day, food. Some people will need meat. Others manage just fine without it. Some people are too moronic to manage their diets without some detrimental effect, others can find ways to live on a meticulously refined shortlist of foods without hassles. The trick is finding what works. And if anything, being vegetarian or vegan for any amount of time can bring an increased awareness of what exactly is going into your body and what it's doing once it gets there. All the vegan-to-omni omni-to-vegan stories share a the same vein of personal physical awareness. They reflect a noteworthy awareness of body and the impact of diet. Of course, so does anorexia nervosa.

Incidentally, I have enjoyed this thread. It could have been so much fierier.

In conclusion, your favourite dietary habits suck.
posted by Jilder at 11:46 PM on May 21, 2007


I'm a vegetarian, but I don't eat eggs. There is one reason for my dietary choices: I'm squeamish. I cannot wrap my head around the idea of eating the once-living flesh (or menstrual discharge) of an animal. I'm not very healthy as it is, and I'm quite anemic, but I don't think I could ever work through it and stomach a hamburger. I have no idea why my mind works this way.
posted by tehloki at 1:48 AM on May 22, 2007


And what do vegans think of soap?

(Watches the B12 hit the fan and ducks).
posted by Skeptic at 3:04 AM on May 22, 2007


an infant would quite likely SURVIVE on a diet of cow's milk. That was not my argument. An infant would quite possibly not survive on a diet of cow's milk and APPLE JUICE. The analogy still stands. Also: many infants survive on soy milk just fine (see zarah's comment). Babies can certainly die if they are fed only cow's milk too. It is fundamentally different from human milk.
posted by davar at 3:15 AM on May 22, 2007


Skeptic: we use soap made from vegetable oils.
posted by davar at 3:20 AM on May 22, 2007


But I think the majority do it because they either don't like how food animals are treated or because cutting out the cattle middle man on the way from sun to plant to humans increases efficiency and is more sustainable.

Historically, or at least in the medieval/early modern and earlier, cows weren't given the best land - that went to grains (which produced more, generated more rent, etc). Cows were put on land to eat plants we couldn't consume, and thus to produce things we could. Just like how pigs always ate what we couldn't/wouldn't - even in the middle of the twentieth century, rural people in Britain would have a pig and feed it on scraps and other waste products. It wasn't using any resources except what would have been thrown out.

Today, in many places cattle do use land which could be put to other uses. In some cases those uses - like growing soy in the reclaimed rainforest in Brazil, is just as bad for the environment and sustainability as cattle would be. But in many other cases, we have cattle grazing many places which are too dry or too wet for other crops. (I'm actually researching a thesis on a place in Britain which was always too wet for crops and had lots of cattle -- it has now been drained and has lots of arable farming, but this has been very environmentally damaging. The cows got by for centuries; in just 200 years of arable farming, much of the soil has blown away).

I don't think that the current western diet is sustainable - it is a very heavy burden on the planet. But I think that some vegans are maybe a little too narrow in their ideas of what is or is not sustainable - there are many sustainable ways to eat meat, and in many environments herding may be more suitable and sustainable than crops, and certainly using local produce (whether meat or crop) is much more sustainable than any kind of produce which must be shipped.
posted by jb at 3:20 AM on May 22, 2007


Marmite cannot be said to be tastier than human faeces

You know they can ban you from entering Britain for saying stuff like that.
posted by jb at 3:45 AM on May 22, 2007


Skip one day of Internettiness and you miss one of your favorite discussions.

Many interesting and insane arguments on here. The moral posturing, for example, is fascinating. And there does seem to be a preponderance of self-described omnivores trying to poke holes in the vegan diet. Note the first dozen or so responses to the post pointing out how veganism is not a good diet. I think it's pretty common to see that in posts here (or on Digg, which has very intense debates on this). People just have alot of personal investment in the validity or morality of what they eat. I find it amazing to see such emotion over something as simple as our food choices. What's most surprising is that our diets are a happenstance of our birthplace...had we been born somewhere else, we'd be vehemently arguing for THAT diet.

I've been a vegetarian for 16 years (giving up my family's cherished meat cuisine to their dismay) and vegan for half of that. I wont debate the health aspects of this choice though for those who found doctors telling them to go back to a little meat for the sake of their health should look into what they were eating in their attempt at vegetarianism. Humans do not NEED meat, but we do need certain nutrients that meat, as well as non-meat sources, contain. I'm an active endurance athlete and haven't touched any animal food in a long time. Plenty of healthy, active people are vegans or vegetarians. No diet is wrong, as long as you consume sources of nutrients your body needs to be healthy. FWIW.

I will say this...I am not part of any group that confronts meat eaters over their diets. As my family enjoys inviting me to Ruth's Chris', it's normally the other way around. I'll ignore my meat-eating friend's jokes when serving me vegan food but secretly sticking ground beef in it, but this culture does not condone those who do not choose to be part of the culture of meat eating. Time and time again, I'm confronted, harassed, made fun of, and argued against when I do nothing more than ask for a dish with no meat. "But beef broth is okay right?", I'm asked incredulously.

For many meat-eaters, vegans can be a proselytizing group to deal with. I sympathize. Any person coming to a moral decision about something as core as one's diet can respond with pleas and arguments to show others what a great thing they've discovered. But I assure you that the effort to be vegan in Western Culture is as much an effort socially as coming out Gay is now, or marrying interracially was 50 years ago. The support system for vegetarians is growing (my Publix has so much more vegetarian options than it did 10 years ago) but the overwhelming lack of sympathy, support, or understanding from meat-eaters is, IN MY EXPERIENCE, to be shocking.

Eat what you want. Take FULL responsibility for the health of your body and mind. No diet is wrong, morally or otherwise. But attacking your fellow man/woman for making a lifestyle choice they find important is not only cruel but also opens the door to have your own choices attacked.

And lastly, to echo the above (since i came in so late), if a person goes vegan to minimize animal suffering, and you point out that there is still some suffering as part of the diet (in field mice or whatever) as an argument against vegans being cruelty-free, you are making a poor argument. To a vegan, it's like a mass murderer pointing to a police officer and going "you are no better than me, you shot my mass-murderer buddy!". Truth is, it's about lessening harm as much as possible. And that is a far better moral position to try to take than to continue to cause harm and point out the flaws in other's attempt not to do so.
posted by Dantien at 3:52 AM on May 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


That fantasy land where all (or at least most) cattle graze: Jimbob and I both live in it, and it's actually a fairly significant meat exporter. Just throwing that in there. Soybean farm incursion into the Amazon rainforest is a real issue, too, for what that's worth.

I'm not vegan. It has seemed to me for a long time that the elephant in the living room in all of these "stark moral choice" discussions was sheer weight of human numbers; thirteen years ago, I got sterilized. I figure my personal eating choices are going to make much less difference than ensuring that no descendants of mine will ever eat anything.
posted by flabdablet at 4:26 AM on May 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


But I assure you that the effort to be vegan in Western Culture is as much an effort socially as coming out Gay is now, or marrying interracially was 50 years ago. The support system for vegetarians is growing (my Publix has so much more vegetarian options than it did 10 years ago) but the overwhelming lack of sympathy, support, or understanding from meat-eaters is, IN MY EXPERIENCE, to be shocking.

Vegetarians (and even more so vegans) do, as you note, face misunderstanding, criticism, and are the butt of jokes. But the social stigma of being vegie or vegan does not begin to approach that of being gay, or of interracial marriages in the 1950s. Are vegans routinely lynched, run out of towns by enraged mobs, and face federal and state laws declaring their private choices illegal and immoral? Are they denied access to housing and other services? Do prominent political, community, and religious leaders blame them for epidemics, terrorism, and other crises?

Your basic point is good, but your rhetorical overreach serves you poorly. I've been vegetarian (and even vegan, for a short while), and the "ha ha how about some meat?" people get old fast. But I have family members who are gay, and I am in an interracial marriage, and it is not hard to say which is harder to deal with socially. Being laughed at is no fun, but it is a lot better than having to face actual bigotry and racism.
posted by Forktine at 5:27 AM on May 22, 2007


I found hardly any social stigma to being a vegetarian, and not much more when I went vegan, in the UK. Certainly nothing even remotely comparable to some of the shite gay friends put up with.
I worked in some rufty-tufty manual trades for some years in my youth, with the kind of blokes who liked the "full train smash" (mixed grill) for breakfast washed down with a pint of lard, and there was some piss-taking at the brown bread sandwiches and the like, but that was about it.
posted by Abiezer at 6:02 AM on May 22, 2007


101 reasons why I'm vegetarian
posted by hazyjane at 6:16 AM on May 22, 2007


You either lack that moral compass, or have justified it to yourself, and whatever the case, you're the one who came to this thread and posted defensive fallacies to justify your diet.

I don't care what you eat, yet you seem greatly concerned with the moral shortcomings of people who choose differently. Why?


The indignant nature of your replies doesn't gel with your claim that vegans don't claim any moral high ground. Look at people in this thread. A bunch of vegans jumping up, claiming their dietary choices put them on par with gays or minority races in times of oppression.

and that nitrogen levels were INCREASED by responsible crop rotation

You reveal your ignorance about both agriculture and ecology if you think "crop rotation" is something relevant only to organic farming.

Yes, I tend to care more about animals by a broad metric of neural complexity, and I don't feel that I need to contribute to MORE death and suffering, so I don't.

So you admit your "moral compas" is tuned to anthropomorphism, rather than any scientifically justifiable idea of envrionmental sustainability - the "smarter" an animal is, the more close to human, the less you want to kill them. So tell me, how many field mice are worth a cow, exactly?

It blows my mind that you think this isn't perfectly rational and that you're successfully arguing against it. Of course killing fewer animals is better than killing more if you believe that it is wrong to kill animals.

EB. We're talking about people who sometimes won't share a knife that's touched butter. That indicates to me a sense of absolute purity - Jainism, almost, a sense that their lives are innocent and have in no way harmed or killed any living creature. This is bullshit - the average vegan has killed plenty of animals, and should quit worrying about their meals being polluted with a few splatters of dairy and started thinking about the real impacts of the agricultural practices that support their diet.
posted by Jimbob at 6:28 AM on May 22, 2007


Oh, Forkline, thank you for clarifying. I *IN NO WAY* compare the abuse suffered by a vegetarian in society to the abuse homosexuals, minorities, or women suffered throughout any part of history. If I did, i misspoke. I just meant to point out that it is not easy being a vegetarian in a society that not only consumes meat, but considers it to be a staple of the national diet. Here in America, I've actually been accused of not being American for not eating meat! But heavens no, I am not equating the two. I would never and am embarrassed to have possibly made that error.
posted by Dantien at 6:29 AM on May 22, 2007


To add though, it does seem strange that people would be pro-equal-rights but care nothing for the rights of animals. ...as if there is some hard line drawn between the two.
posted by Dantien at 6:32 AM on May 22, 2007


To add though, it does seem strange that people would be pro-equal-rights but care nothing for the rights of animals. ...as if there is some hard line drawn between the two.

To address this, firstly you're being shrill if you claim meat eaters care nothing for the rights of animals - plenty of meat eaters care a lot for the lives of animals, wanting to ensure no cruelty takes place, wanting to make sure animals are not "wasted" and killed without need.

Secondly, one can easy argue that there is a hard line - it's called the species barrier.
posted by Jimbob at 6:36 AM on May 22, 2007


We're talking about people who sometimes won't share a knife that's touched butter.

And as someone has already pointed out, their eating habits are bothering you why? Some people don't like their peas touching their mashed potatoes. Other people just don't eat dairy. When they say "don't eat," they don't mean "the butter on the knife is okay because it's a small amount," they mean what they say: they don't eat it. There's no sense in pretending this is an odd dietary quirk that only vegans have, thus giving you a chance to act condescending ("we're talking about people who..."). No, the truth is, most of us have idiosyncratic rules for what goes into our mouths.

the average vegan has killed plenty of animals, and should quit worrying about their meals being polluted with a few splatters of dairy

Again... other people's perfectly healthy eating habits are bothering you, why? Why should I, as a vegan, quit worrying about my food being polluted? Do you not understand that I--for whatever reason, should I choose to reveal to you or not--do not eat animal products? I don't. So what am I supposed to quit worrying about again, and why?

Besides that, an argument that "the average vegan has killed plenty of animals" is not an argument against veganism. Certainly field mice die in the production of crops, and that is something I am concerned about reducing. However, as a living, breathing carbon-based life form, I need to consume some form of fuel to keep me going (as living is, in fact, in my self-interest), and so the food I consume is coming from the place that does the least damage to other living organisms. That is, the food I eat isn't flesh from one of the 28+ billion animals slaughtered worldwide every year. You said something about a field mice Holocaust? Take a look inside a slaughterhouse if you'd like to see a more apt application of the word. But anyway, these are my choices, and simply because animals are still dying in the production of my food does not make my philosophy on preventing suffering any less valid, and does not mean that I am doing nothing to curb suffering.

There are oh-so-many reasons for going vegan and being vegan, that it's hard to articulate them in what is often the very dark room of non-vegan chatter. I'll outline mine briefly, just to simply show you that not all vegans are proselytizing snobs.

I'd like to mention what I usually say to people who try and attack my eating habits. I know that most of these people are doing it as a sort of defense mechanism because it may feel as though vegans are trying to highlight the inadequacies (morally, health, or otherwise) of an omnivorous diet. Trust me: I'm not. You can eat what you want and I will not judge you, but I'll pass on the roast beef, thanks.

No, what I usually say is that, I think most of us are committed to making the world a better place. Some of us recycle, some of us bike to work, and some of us give money to homeless shelters. Some here are volunteers and some are teachers. Some of us are vegan. It makes me no better or no worse than the next man, but it is how I contribute, in my own small way, to making the world a better place. For me, being vegan means less animal suffering (undoubtedly) and also aids in water conservation as well as a more egalitarian distribution of grains (i.e.: not wastefully funneling grain into cattle). This is what I do, and you are doing something else in your own way to help the world, I'm sure. No need to attack me, I'm not out to get you either.
posted by dead_ at 7:00 AM on May 22, 2007


I'm vegan because it's a discipline of compassion.
Like writing poetry against a metre can help find the right words, so a life lived to such a rule can bring out the best in you.
posted by Abiezer at 7:20 AM on May 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


"But I think that some vegans are maybe a little too narrow in their ideas of what is or is not sustainable - there are many sustainable ways to eat meat, and in many environments herding may be more suitable and sustainable than crops, and certainly using local produce (whether meat or crop) is much more sustainable than any kind of produce which must be shipped."

Now, that I agree with entirely.
posted by klangklangston at 7:27 AM on May 22, 2007


and certainly using local produce (whether meat or crop) is much more sustainable than any kind of produce which must be shipped

This is actually somewhat of a myth. See Peter Singer's latest book, "The Way We Eat," which breaks down the logic behind the "buy local" argument and discusses the true repercussions we would see were everyone to buy local. They actually conclude that having food shipped is--in most cases--the most ethical way to eat. Interesting reading, completely changed my ideas on the matter (prior to reading it I had been staunchly "buy local!" where now I see it isn't always the best way to go).
posted by dead_ at 7:33 AM on May 22, 2007


"The indignant nature of your replies doesn't gel with your claim that vegans don't claim any moral high ground. "

Do you think that by being wrong twice, they cancel out? 1) I'm not vegan, so trying to use my personal moral views as a brush to tar all vegans is retarded; 2) You're misreading frustration at the idiocy of your arguments for indignation.

"So you admit your "moral compas" is tuned to anthropomorphism, rather than any scientifically justifiable idea of envrionmental sustainability - the "smarter" an animal is, the more close to human, the less you want to kill them. So tell me, how many field mice are worth a cow, exactly?"

Anthropomorphism would imply that it's not justified. Do you disagree that animals can suffer, or that different animals have different capacities for suffering? Or would you kill humans in order to assure the lives of these field mice? I mean, as long as we're in for bullshit, your moral system should argue for the extermination of humans in order to preserve natural habitat, and any line you draw is essentially arbitrary.

"You reveal your ignorance about both agriculture and ecology if you think "crop rotation" is something relevant only to organic farming."

Jimbob, did you bother to read the study? Given responsible levels of crop rotation, both conventional and organic, organic crops tended to return more nutrients to the soil. So, y'know, I don't think that crop rotation is something just involved with organics, and you reveal YOUR ignorance by trying to posit such in any serious fashion.

"EB. We're talking about people who sometimes won't share a knife that's touched butter. That indicates to me a sense of absolute purity - Jainism, almost, a sense that their lives are innocent and have in no way harmed or killed any living creature. This is bullshit - the average vegan has killed plenty of animals, and should quit worrying about their meals being polluted with a few splatters of dairy and started thinking about the real impacts of the agricultural practices that support their diet."

Oh, I see your problem: You're arguing against a straw man, not me. That's why your arguments are on the level of "HITLER WUZ VEGETARIAN! LOLOCAUST!" You go, Jimbob, you have that vegan boogieman on the ropes! No one's gonna sneak into people's homes and drown them in soy carob pudding with you on the job!
But perhaps, and I don't want to presume on any nuanced thinking from you, so tell me if I'm out of line, perhaps some of us choose to mitigate our diets in some ways in order to decrease the amount of needless suffering we cause in the world (or in order to make an environmental difference, or to argue for animal rights, or any other myriad reasons to choose vegetarianism or veganism, which all have their separate positives, negatives and value judgments).

"To address this, firstly you're being shrill if you claim meat eaters care nothing for the rights of animals - plenty of meat eaters care a lot for the lives of animals, wanting to ensure no cruelty takes place, wanting to make sure animals are not "wasted" and killed without need."

Really? I would wager the vast majority of people who believe that animals shouldn't be wasted or killed without need are already vegetarian or vegan, unless they subscribe to a particularly blinkered view of necessity, especially in the first world.

"Secondly, one can easy argue that there is a hard line - it's called the species barrier."

What is this, like, the third flavor in your neopolitan of bullshit? Talk about arbitrary lines!
posted by klangklangston at 7:45 AM on May 22, 2007


For me, being vegan means less animal suffering (undoubtedly) and also aids in water conservation as well as a more egalitarian distribution of grains (i.e.: not wastefully funneling grain into cattle).

I'm not so sure this is undoubtable... Are you saying that these animals would have never existed, and thus wouldn't be said to suffer? Else, they could be suffering from prolonged life in a world that doesn't want them. I have worked on a farm that processed meat, and one of the biggest issues for the farmers was the killing the cow/chicken quickly, to minimize suffering (rabbinical law, and all that). Just wanting to be clear where you were going.

As well, the grain cattle tend to be fed is not something we eat, so it isn't a wasteful funneling of the food. You can argue that the production of feed corn is wasteful, but that would require that the corn fields be useful for some other produce that we WOULD want to use, and that may not be valid, either.

The biggest problem with teaching agriculture is finally getting students to realize that one acre of land cannot produce one acre of EVERY food, but merely some subset (that could include NOTHING). Once you get past that, you can focus on crop rotation, developing plans for land recovery, and create a focus on best utilization of existing structures rather than terraforming that results in a loss (from jb's comment).

As to less water -- irrigation of human consumable crops takes significantly more water than those used for animal consumption, which means less water loss to the environment. The savings are important. Or, are you considering a start-to-finish production, which includes the requirements for abbatoir cleanliness, rinsing down of waste products, etc?

And, back to jb: if my thoughts on Marmite keep me out of Britain, I can't be at all upset. The Irishman in me finds that to be something to celebrate with a shank of lamb and a pint of porter.
posted by dwivian at 8:03 AM on May 22, 2007


klang: what is your definition of necessity, then? Are you refusing to accept that eating meat is a necessity for some, like me?

I want animals to suffer as little as possible, and don't want slaughter without need. I also eat meat. Most of the omnivores I know feel similarly. I'd be willing to do an informal survey of people here at work (making it a completely invalid study, but hey...) but I'd bet that the results would reveal the majority are omnivorous, and the majority are also opposed to needless suffering. Fortunately, Venn and his diagrams come to my aid to see that there is going to be a significant overlap in those two groups.
posted by dwivian at 8:10 AM on May 22, 2007


dwivian, it's one thing to say you are opposed to needless suffering, it's another thing entirely to put your money where your mouth is.
posted by dead_ at 8:12 AM on May 22, 2007


perhaps some of us choose to mitigate our diets in some ways in order to decrease the amount of needless suffering we cause in the world

I'm genuinely curious about this, and the mental processes involved. My upcoming question isn't an attack on your shopping / dietary habits, or vegetarianism / veganism in general...

So, assuming a shopper believes that there's suffering inherent to the production of supermarket meat, or milk, or eggs, or whatever*... How does not buying that steak, or that pack of chicken breasts, or gallon of milk, or carton of eggs decrease the amount of 'needless suffering'?

Not buying them doesn't undo the animal's killing / bondage. That cow and chicken are already dead, that milk's already been suctioned out, etc. I can see how not purchasing them would make the shopper feel like they aren't contributing to 'needless suffering', but howso lessening?

*Not all shoppers believe this, I for one don't. No need to start flooding footage of chicken farms, or slaughterhouses.
posted by CKmtl at 8:13 AM on May 22, 2007


Yanno, Ynoxas, spending as much time fetishizing vegetarian women as you do explaining your soy vs. dairy argument instantly makes you look like a sleaze. Just for future reference.

Not sure I'm following here. My little addenda at the end of my post was mostly tongue in cheek, but even if it were sincere, I'm not sure why that makes me a sleaze. I like girls that wear glasses and read books. And don't get me started on the nouveau knitting thing. Does that make me a sleaze too?

Or are you saying that I can't like girls that eat yogurt and argue against giving an infant soy "milk" at the same time?

Not being snarky, I just honestly don't understand. *shrug*

Back to the matter at hand, I do have to admit that it is very interesting that both sides claim loudly to have to suffer proselytizing while I doubt anyone in this thread on either side of the issue has done any of that.

(Note, the following is a discussion of my personal experience. Those that are not able to abstract out or take offense at ever speaking of anything in the aggregate please skip to the end of this post. Feel free to put "many" or "some" in front of anything you do not agree with. Thank you.)

I've never tried to talk a herbivore into eating meat. I have STRONG eating preferences, and it annoys me to no end when people try to talk me into eating something, so I make a point to NEVER EVER do it. For instance, I detest seafood in all its variety. I will eat nothing that comes from the water, ever. And every time this issue arises I have to suffer 10 minutes of people trying to convince me that shrimp and lobster are better than sex and anyone who doesn't eat crab simply isn't living a life worth living, and on and on. Every. Time. So, again, I never ever ever try to talk anyone into or out of eating anything.

But about 50% of the vegetarians and 75% of the vegans I've met have tried to evangelize their lifestyle choice to me, to varying degrees. Vegetarians usually take a soft line, a "meat is gross, try some couscous". Vegans start in with the "you know you're killing baby cows" and stuff like that. There is very often this air of superiority, of moral authority and justification, and of instant expectation of accommodation.

I have very odd eating preferences. I know this about myself, and I never expect anyone else to cater to those preferences. I make do with what is presented, or I politely decline or claim to be full from eating earlier, and get something later. However, I never try to make a host feel badly or expect them to anticipate my weird preferences. In fact, I apologize for my eating habits, because I realize it is not mainstream, and it genuinely makes many people feel badly by not being able to provide basic sustenance to their guests.

So, yes, I feel justified in pointing out absurdities and contradictions against a lifestyle that, in my experience, has no qualms at all about pointing out parts of my lifestyle they do not agree with.

You buy ice cream for the office, and one person says "Oh, no thanks". That's no big deal. You might conclude the person doesn't like ice cream, doesn't want any today, is lactose intolerant, or is a non-dairy consumer.

But, you buy ice cream for the office, and one person says "Oh, I don't eat dairy, because unlike you I don't support the industrial torture and slaughter of dairy cows". Bit of a difference there.

If there were more of the first and less of the second, frankly, I don't think ANYONE would care about other's eating habits.

Put another way, the herbivores are the ones making their eating habits prominent and an issue of discussion. Us omnivores rarely ask if someone else is an omnivore or not. We usually, you know, just assume.

Again, my experience. Anecdotal only. YMMV. Lots of vegans and vegetarians are great people and don't browbeat us omnivores. Just not many live around here.

I wonder if that also would greatly influence the aggressiveness of non-meat eaters... where they live? See, less than 2 miles from my office is a field with cattle being raised for slaughter. Vegetarians in this environment possibly could be more militant than those in a more accepting and more common environment.

Hmm. Interesting.
posted by Ynoxas at 8:20 AM on May 22, 2007


CKmtrl: It reduces demand (incredibly marginally) and absolves the shopper from any real moral connection to the death of the animals involved in the production of those products.
posted by dead_ at 8:34 AM on May 22, 2007


dead_: Right, I can totally see how the shopper would feel absolved of death or not contributing to it and all that. But that's not really decreasing anything. Generally, I try to not go around burgling and raping, but that doesn't unburgle or unrape those who have been burgled or raped. That's a bit of a wonky analogy, but I haven't had enough coffee.

As far as reducing demand... I don't know if that incredibly marginal decrease in sales actually saves a cow or chicken from being made into meat.
posted by CKmtl at 8:47 AM on May 22, 2007


Right CKmtl, I see what you're saying. I suppose that perhaps it's a lead by example kind of thing, that is working as can be seen by the emergence of health food stores and the incorporation of vegetarian products into standard supermarkets.
posted by dead_ at 8:49 AM on May 22, 2007


But about 50% of the vegetarians and 75% of the vegans I've met have tried to evangelize their lifestyle choice to me, to varying degrees.

Well, 75% of the people I meet who have never been a vegetarian make it a point to offer me meat after they discover I'm a vegan. Then they start in on the "HURR, BACON IS A VEGETABLE" shit and don't stop until they realize that I'm not listening to them. Congratulations, you've just discovered that the majority of human beings are annoying jerks.
posted by cmonkey at 8:57 AM on May 22, 2007


It's 262 comments later, have all of us MeFi vegans crawled out of the woodwork yet?
posted by dead_ at 8:59 AM on May 22, 2007


No, I can think of several more who, wisely, stay out of these shitfests.
posted by cmonkey at 9:33 AM on May 22, 2007


I really aree with you, cmonkey. Anytime I simply decline to eat something, I'm usually asked whether I'm a vegetarian, and I've rarely answered a simple "yes" to this question without the asker either regaling me with why they just could never do it (explanations usually cite bacon), offering me rationalizations and generalizations aplenty. All this displays to me is that people are nosy, and generally insecure when they find themselves to be in the company of someone who they perceive to be acting on some sort of "higher" moral principle.

Unfortunately what they have done by bringing up and then continuing the subject is start a conversation, at which point I feel comfortable explaining why I chose to eat what I eat, etc. Which of course they aren't really interested in, because by then I'm PROSELYTIZING or trying to make them feel guilty.

Or, yeah, people feint to cover that insecurity by making some joke about how rare they like their steak or something, hoping I'll cringe. What they don't know is that as the son of a butcher and the grandchild of cattle ranchers, I could probably draw dotted lines all over them showing what cuts come from where and explain what would come out if I sliced them there, without being the least bit squeamish.
posted by hermitosis at 9:33 AM on May 22, 2007


Yeah, hermitosis, I'm at the point where I don't tell new friends or coworkers for months that I'm a vegan, to avoid having to lose respect for them if they turn out to be one of those kinds of people. It's a lot easier to claim to have eaten a large breakfast than it is to get shit for a personal choice.
posted by cmonkey at 9:52 AM on May 22, 2007


"As far as reducing demand... I don't know if that incredibly marginal decrease in sales actually saves a cow or chicken from being made into meat."

Right. Because my not murdering someone isn't, really, going to have more than a marginal reduction in the murder rate of my state, so I should go ahead and do it.

Likewise, my vote is incredibly unlikely to be THE vote that sways an election. Therefore, I shouldn't vote.

I tend to believe that the one-three-millionth of a percent that I contribute to decreasing the demand for meat is enough of a justification for me to not eat meat (which takes no special effort, really). Others disagree, and that's fine. But I also vote and recycle, no matter how much the libertarians would argue against those activities too.

I mean, really, is your beef (so to speak) with the semantic distance between "decrease" and "not increase," even if the decrease is more visible here than in your rape and murder analogy?
posted by klangklangston at 10:05 AM on May 22, 2007


As to Dead_ and Cmonkey, since I've been a vegetarian my whole life (which is why there might be a certain curtness to my tone, after having this argument for years), I've largely gotten used to telling people that I'm just not eating meat. The only time it's gotten weird is when I'm dealing with other cultures, who often see the vegetarianism as representative of imperialist American views (I'd largely put down the defensiveness of "omnivores," to a cultural disjunction too— and I put "omnivore" in quotes because I've had far more people tell me, with pride, that they're carnivores than omnivores). I used to go round and round with my uncle, who was a sheep farmer (and felt personally slighted by the thought that I'd never eat lamb) until he got cancer and turned all beatific toward accepting others. But I also find it hard to believe that anyone who's ever spent significant time on a livestock farm wouldn't understand that there is needless suffering there, especially on a smaller, family farm. Not to say that it doesn't trouble them, but there is a very clear cultural difference in how I value animals to how they do.

I think part of why I don't get a lot of shit is because I'm a robust, hairy, loud beer drinker. The macho card tends to stay in the deck or get trumped.
posted by klangklangston at 10:14 AM on May 22, 2007


cmonkey: I guess it is hard to understand what other people go through. So you're saying that people routinely try to shove a hamburger in your face if you tell them you do not eat meat? Jesus, that's rude.

I myself couldn't imagine trying to force meat on someone who says or implies that meat nauseates them, because I can get squicked out to the point of not being able to eat over certain CONDIMENTS.

And believe me I get shit all the time about it, so i try to be sensitive to other people's food intake regiments.

If you don't want to drink milk, hey, more for me, and I love the stuff. But this all started due to an angry reaction against people who starved their baby, and understand THEY are they ones who tied the veganism into it.

I guess where I am not able to relate is that my peculiar eating is not tied to a philosophy, it is simply a matter of taste. I think artichokes are disgusting, so I'm not going to eat them. I'm neither pro nor anti green vegetable, and I have nothing to say about the environmental impact of artichoke growing or harvesting. I just think they are gross.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:25 AM on May 22, 2007


All this displays to me is that people are nosy, and generally insecure when they find themselves to be in the company of someone who they perceive to be acting on some sort of "higher" moral principle.

I doubt they regard it as morally superior (that might be a projection of attitude), but people do have a funny way of perceiving abstenance from any common activity as a failure to reinforce and share in normative tastes. If you've ever refused alcohol at a party you know just as well what I mean. It annoys people that you're not willing to eat off the same plate, or drink from the same cup, so to speak. The ribbings are a way of punishing you for deviating, so that the group can save face. Just like, you know, a vegan might well tease someone else for abstaining from alcohol, or for not caring what local-sports-team-du-joir is up to.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:31 AM on May 22, 2007


klangklangston: I should go ahead and [murder]. ... Therefore, I shouldn't vote. ... no matter how much the libertarians would argue against those activities too.

I never said anything about reaching a "therefore I/you should or shouldn't do X" conclusion. Nor did I ever claim to be a libertarian. What I did do was express confusion at a train of thought that I've encountered before, but never discussed with those who espouse it or might espouse it. You're reading a bit too much into it, or projecting, or both.

I mean, really, is your beef (so to speak) with the semantic distance between "decrease" and "not increase,"

I wouldn't call it having a beef with... But, yeah, that's the point of confusion for me.

even if the decrease is more visible here than in your rape and murder burglary analogy?

The sentence you objected to was "I don't know if that incredibly marginal decrease in sales actually saves a cow or chicken from being made into meat".

Are you saying that it's more likely that (as a result of you and others not buying steaks) a farmer/rancher somewhere will say 'Sales are down a tiny bit. Screw all the time and effort I put into raising this cow. I'll just open this gate and set it free instead of taking it to market'? More likely than a rapist deciding (as a result of me and others not raping) not to rape, because it's an unpopular form of interpersonal conduct? Both scenarios seem equally unlikely to me. That, and what I said about steaks already being dead / having experienced suffering, is what confuses me about the decreasing-suffering thing.
posted by CKmtl at 11:21 AM on May 22, 2007


But I also vote and recycle, no matter how much the libertarians would argue against those activities too.

I don't know where you live, but most libertarians I've met are pleading for more people to get off their asses and vote.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:30 AM on May 22, 2007


I have noticed some people in this thread are not responding to any of the actual vegans talking, but apparently to some imaginary vegans they have made up in their heads. I, too, hate those smug imaginary vegans who think it's morally wrong to give their babies breast milk while stealing other people's hamburgers RIGHT OUT OF THEIR HANDS!

Since I think it's a tragedy that none of these imaginary vegans have materialized to prove that they exist, I have created a special straw-vegan just for people who want to yell at them. Anyone who likes, please feel free to argue with this little ditty:

(A-one, a-two, a-one, two, three!)

I’m the straw-vegan vegetarian
And thus better than you –
No meat, no eggs, no dairy, and
No tact or humor, too.

I deeply care about your diet
’Cause you’re not like me.
I’ll follow you and make you try it
Until you agree.

I don’t know ’bout nutrition,
Though I know meat makes you die –
For that is my position,
So I’ve never wondered why.

I’m right, ’cause I know more
Than any doctor or agrarian.
You must agree with your
Local straw-vegan vegetarian!

Everybody with me?
LET’S GET CRAZY!

Now, as for yeast and breast milk? Why,
They contradict my theses.
I don’t know why my babies die –
They get B12 from feces!

I’ve never killed a being;
And in fact, I don’t breathe air.
But you kill bugs, not seeing
Them, as if you just don’t care!

For choices are a lie
If they are slightly inconsistent –
All life is good, so I make my
Diseases drug-resistant.

I feel so very persecuted
Here on Metafilter.
Guess who else had us executed?
That’s right ... Hitler!

I’m morally superior;
You’re just humanitarian
And that makes you inferior
To straw-vegan vegetarians.
posted by kyrademon at 11:35 AM on May 22, 2007 [3 favorites]


so we've got comparisons of meat eating to rape and murder, comparisons of veganism to jainism, anecdotes about vegans and meat eaters trotted out as evidence and both straw man arguments AND mislabeling of arguments as straw man arguments. whee! i think i saw a fair bit of name calling in there, too.
posted by shmegegge at 11:46 AM on May 22, 2007


Ynoxas: But about 50% of the vegetarians and 75% of the vegans I've met have tried to evangelize their lifestyle choice to me

That's the problem with evangalizers of any stripe. They become the face of their cause, and never in a good way. I could just as easily say that 75% of Christians I've met tried to convert me to Christianity. Of course, I just didn't know that all of the other Christians I've met were Christians. They didn't bring it up, and I didn't ask. I only identified the the evangelizers. That's how we end up with people railing against these strawmen.

I never bring bring up my vegetarianism, and it takes a long time before I'll talk about my reasons for it at all. I learned this from my vegan girlfriend, who lead me to vegetarianism. Most people did just want to make bacon jokes and proclaim their own love of meat. Very few had any real interest in what it was about. The way she was not defensive or evangelizing made me really respect her and her position and made me want to find out more about it. Eventually I made a list of reasons to eat meat, and reasons not to. I can tell you the plus side ended up being a pretty short list. "1. It tastes good."

So I stopped eating meat. Mainly for environmental reasons. (I used to live in North Carolina, and half of the state has been destroyed by pig farmers. You can't swim in the river behind my house any more. And, yeah, those clear cut rain forests? Those soy beans are for animal feed. And does a cow need to die for me to live? No? Then why should it?). I really don't have much of an issue with someone raising their own animals for food, or even for their local communities. That's their choice to make. It's just the heavily industrialized meat production that I can't support. People don't realize they are making a choice at all. People have always eaten meat, but never like this.

I know my choice has very little impact. But it is the least I can do. Literally. It hasn't affected my lifestyle in any way. I just eat different things. It's still hard not to get defensive when people say "Vegetarians are like this. That makes them hypocrites, so I don't have to listen to them". But IRL, I try to live and let live. Maybe someone will get curious about my choices, or just see that it's not a big deal, and take a closer look at vegetarianism themselves.
posted by team lowkey at 11:48 AM on May 22, 2007


here's what I think we need:

someone to scour the thread, and collect all the points, with links, where someone said "I think it's wrong for someone to eat meat" or "I think it's wrong/stupid/whatever for someone to be a vegan." Then, we should all, in orderly fashion, ask each of those people to explain why they believe they should be telling someone else what to do. but most importantly we should make note of who is NOT included in that list and lay off them a bit and take a deep breath before accusing them of anything further.
posted by shmegegge at 11:48 AM on May 22, 2007


Here's another warning about the pitfalls of vegetarianism.
posted by Dave Faris at 12:05 PM on May 22, 2007


Speaking of straw man arguments, klang, who said anything about Hitler being a vegetarian? I think, and I believe this is what jimbob was trying to say, that it is silly to think that by refusing to use a knife that someone used to butter their potato I will "decrease the amount of needless suffering we cause in the world," or "make an environmental difference, or to argue for animal rights." How does my refusal to use a buttery knife affect any of that? There are plenty of things about vegetarianism that I agree with, and I think it makes a positive impact just like I think that riding my bike more and using my car less does.

But a buttery knife?

That has zero impact on the environment or animal rights. What I'm trying to get across here is that it strays from the logical realm of "I am doing my part to make a difference, whether it is an environmental concern or an animal rights issue or what have you," and into the realm of religious dogma, of maintaining "purity" as jimbob put it. "I refuse to use this knife as it has been soiled with fermented cream." Leviticus 5:2, much?? The refusal to use a buttery knife achieves nothing concrete, nothing actual, other than the preservation of the individual's perceived "purity."

I would wager the vast majority of people who believe that animals shouldn't be wasted or killed without need are already vegetarian or vegan, unless they subscribe to a particularly blinkered view of necessity, especially in the first world.

I believe that animals should not be "wasted or killed without need." I'm not a vegetarian. The cow is being killed because I am going to eat him. I eat what I buy, all of it. How is that wasteful?

Or would you kill humans in order to assure the lives of these field mice? I mean, as long as we're in for bullshit, your moral system should argue for the extermination of humans in order to preserve natural habitat, and any line you draw is essentially arbitrary.

Well. That's a bit extreme, klangklangston. Again this is my take on it, but I think jimbob was using an argumentum ad absurdum approach on the vegan issue. I believe it would be something similar to this:
1. Vegans eat only vegetables because they do not want to harm animals in order to get their sustenance.
2. However, in the process of growing vegetables, x number of field mice lose their lives.
3. Animals are harmed by the vegan's eating habits.
4. Thus, the belief that vegans are not harming animals by choosing to eat only vegetables is absurd.
5. Therefore, veganism is absurd.
What if equal numbers of both mice and cattle were being killed (hypothetically, of course)? Would eating vegetables rather than cows be any 'better?" I understand a lot of the points jimbob is making, and I think it would be nice if you could take a moment to calmly consider his reasoning instead of completely misquoting it as "HITLER WUZ VEGETARIAN LOLOCAUST."

The point at which jimbob and I diverge is that I'm not making any final judgement on whether veganism is bs or not. I don't have any hard facts on whether riding my bike is making a bit of difference for the environment, but I'll go ahead and keep doing it all the same. Vegetarianism is good in my book, but like most good things, especially religion, it can be taken up by assholes who think that by exercising it they possess the moral high ground and focus more on practicing unconstructive dogma rather than it's original intentions.

That's about all I have to say, I think.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 12:15 PM on May 22, 2007


dead_: dwivian, it's one thing to say you are opposed to needless suffering, it's another thing entirely to put your money where your mouth is.

Not really -- I can be opposed to needless suffering, including my own. If my income provides for the cheapest of foods only, that may necessitate meat to get the nutrition I would lack with a cheap veggie diet. I can't live on soy milk and apple juice, myself, so I may have to get whatever the government certificates allow. The suffering of the chickens that give me cheap eggs may be troubling to me, but when MY stomach growls, it becomes less an issue.

Once we get to the point where it is reasonable to make decisions based on philosophy, then money should follow. I don't buy my meat from the massive industrial farms, but from vendors that follow my goals for limited suffering, animal care, and quality of life before being made into nuggets. Since I, by biology, REQUIRE meat to get some nutrients (I've discovered that B12 in most forms is not as bioavailable to me as my system requires, for instance), I see the amount of suffering that remains to be necessary, but I work to limit it.

As such I don't get $1.99/lb chicken breasts, but $4.99/lb free range late-life hens (which taste really good, and not at all flavorless in the 'tastes like chicken' model). My red meat is bison, and I eat high-grade open net tuna for sushi (my local chef is a bit of an eco person about his fish). Yeah, that means it costs more, but I get better quality, and I feel better about what I buy.

50% of the American population, though, can't make that kind of choice about their entire diet. That's how entrenched the system is.

CKmtl: [questions about reduced suffering]

The general idea is not that me not buying the steak in the case un-kills the cow, but that the farmer decides not to buy as many calves next season. Fewer calves, fewer steaks, less suffering all around. That's the concept, at least.
posted by dwivian at 12:25 PM on May 22, 2007


Did anybody in this thread refuse to take a buttery knife? Oh wait, yeah, that strawman guy. Get him.

My aforementioned vegan girlfriend, when out at a restaurant and accidentally served a dish with cheese on it, eats the food she is given. So there's your anecdotal rebuttal.
posted by team lowkey at 12:28 PM on May 22, 2007


My aforementioned vegan girlfriend, when out at a restaurant and accidentally served a dish with cheese on it, eats the food she is given. So there's your anecdotal rebuttal.

And thank god for rational people like your girlfriend. I should have clarified that in my opinion, buttery-knife-refusers are the exception, not the rule.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 12:34 PM on May 22, 2007


The problem with many of the arguments going on here is, frankly, that many people are, I think unfairly, attempting to reduce the fairly complex philosophy of veganism to a simple sound-bite, and then complaining that the sound-bite is simplistic.

So, when you talk about a vegan who won't touch use a buttery knife (something I, incidentally, don't have a lot of problem with), and say it's absurb to argue that this somehow prevents animal suffering, you are correct ... but that isn't the argument in that case, so you're arguing with a made-up person.

Many vegans:

1) Think milk, egg, and meat products are *gross* (and hence won't use a buttery knife), while also -

2) Are trying to economically *boycott* many varieties of animal products, and so won't buy them in a store, while also -

3) Would prefer to be *personally responsible* for as little animal death as is reasonably possible, and so wouldn't buy them, raise and slaughter their own animals, etc., while also -

4) Do not want to *indirectly encourage* the practice of eating meat, and so will turn down a meat, egg, or dairy filled dish if offered, even if it's going to be eaten anyway by other people, while also -

5) May have opinions about subjects such as environmental practices, agricultural use, diet and nutrition, etc. , which affect what they will or will not eat and why ...

Etc.

This is why the "killing fieldmice" arguments and the "buttery knife" arguments and the "logical inconsistency" arguments are pretty much causing rolled eyes. We are not stupid. We are aware of all of this, thank you. The reasons for going vegan are many and varied, and even the list I posted above is a vast oversimplification, not really even getting at the ethical underpinnings of the practice (and why the "so! you're just anthropomorphosizing" argument also causes rolled eyes.)

Seriously. Don't act like we haven't thought things through just because *you* have created a reason for *our* veganism which is absurb.
posted by kyrademon at 12:42 PM on May 22, 2007


Vegans eat only vegetables because they do not want to harm animals in order to get their sustenance.
There's the straw vegan again (thanks kyrademon! That was great). Every vegan I know has heard this argument over and over again, yet somehow omnivores always seem to think they know something we don't. We know that killing animals is inevitable. I try to avoid trapping ladybugs, but I know I will kill one every once in a while. Such is life. Does that make me a hypocrite? Should I just torture dogs and support bull fights because I inevitably kill a bug sometimes and mice could get killed during the harvest of chickpeas?
posted by davar at 12:56 PM on May 22, 2007


dwivian: ... the farmer decides not to buy as many calves next season. Fewer calves, fewer steaks, less suffering all around. That's the concept, at least.

Ah. I suppose that chain (shopper -> store -> wholesaler -> farmer) would have to extend to the person from whom the farmer buys calves as well. I mean, what would they do with the unsold surplus calves?

I still think it's all a bit iffy, but the gist has been gotten.
posted by CKmtl at 1:13 PM on May 22, 2007


I think the deviate-from-the-norm-punishment theory in a comment above is an important reference point for this discussion. It doesn't excuse intolerance, of course, but it's helpful, I think, to remember that the impulse to intolerance isn't always, or perhaps even usually, really about the particular activity or characteristic that's not being tolerated.

I do think I can explain, though, why vegetarians experience a certain pointed and strong (though usually not virulent as in homosexuality) intolerance—and why they sometimes are equally intolerant, as well.

Vegetarians experience this pervasive and strong intolerance because, to the non-vegetarians who are simply blind to the ethical or other arguments favoring vegetarianism, it is a senseless choice that seems only to be deviant, a thumbing of the nose at the dominant culture. To them, it's like an outre body modification. (I'll leave aside the possibility that a portion of vegetarians are such for exactly this reason.)

I can't completely condemn this impulse because I feel it myself. Depending upon the context, I can find myself on either side of the fence. There are ways I don't conform to the majority standard in which I am motivated by mostly the desire to not conform. On the other hand, non-conformism for its own sake in other people annoys me. I doubt that in this mixture of responses and its apparent hypocrisy I'm unique.

The intolerance displayed by some vegetarians is explained either by the previous when they are the dominant (sub)culture; or, more usually, it's because they are motivated by strong ethical arguments and, for them, non-vegetarians are either willfully acting badly or are willfully ignorant of the fact that they are acting badly.

Here again, I know that when I feel this way about, say, racism, I am outspokenly intolerant, too.

I've said this before here and many people disagree with me, but I think that real tolerance (and the best kind of tolerance) is not to force yourself to accept things you don't like in other people but, rather, to mostly allow that other people are very likely not much more and not much less well-intentioned as yourself and that their beliefs and actions (which you dislike) are not specifically to piss you off and are not the actions of an evil movie-villain. In short, I think you can let people be wrong, or very different, without thinking them villainous or forcing on yourself an extreme relativism that eliminates the idea of others being "wrong" altogether.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:16 PM on May 22, 2007


"That's a bit extreme, klangklangston. Again this is my take on it, but I think jimbob was using an argumentum ad absurdum approach on the vegan issue. "

Look, I think you're a decent guy. And I don't want to get all mean or anything, but when you're dismissing my statement as taken to an unwarranted extreme while congratulating him on an argumentum ad absurdum, you make my head hurt. This is no doubt compounded by my personal failings, which are aggrevated by the lack of B12, and lead me to a mocking approach toward your comments.
I mean, unless you didn't think I was seriously summarizing (rather than making a broad and offhand ironic straw man attack of my own) when I said "HITLER WAS A VEGETARIAN. LOLOCAUST." If you were merely delving into the depths of further conversational irony, then I tip my hat to you, sir. Well played.
posted by klangklangston at 1:19 PM on May 22, 2007


As such I don't get $1.99/lb chicken breasts, but $4.99/lb free range late-life hens (which taste really good, and not at all flavorless in the 'tastes like chicken' model).

First off, where are you getting $1.99/lb chicken breasts? Chicken is atrociously expensive in Seattle. Secondly, where are you getting late-life hens? I've wanted to make coq au vin with an older bird for a while, but they're just as hard to find in Seattle as a $1.99 chicken breast.
posted by dw at 1:30 PM on May 22, 2007


Klang, I apologize. It's evident that I have not been very clear in my comments.

The problem is, I saw the reasoning behind jimbobs comments, instead of taking them at face value. Where jimbob made a crazy argumentum ad absurdum, I still saw his original comment of "Veganism is just drawing a convenient, arbitrary moral line in the sand." One I can identify with, the other is an invalid argument. Unfortunately my brain failed to seperate the two.

The fault, klang, is entirely my own.

Disregard everything between "Or would you kill humans in order to assure the lives of these field mice?" and "LOLOCAUST." Strangely enough I added that stuff after everything else, and it seems I would have been better off leaving it out.

As for the "buttery knife" being a strawman, I'm not so sure it was a straw man so much as it was an example to further jimbobs point. I could, of course, be mistaken. But I took it as an example and responded to it as such. I chose to comment on the buttery knife example because it is similar to something I have seen done by some vegetarians I know personally, on more than one occasion. Such behavior is, as I said before, the exception and not the rule.

Sorry about that klang.

Seriously. Don't act like we haven't thought things through just because *you* have created a reason for *our* veganism which is absurb.

Refusing to use a buttery knife is not a reason to become a vegetarian. It is absurd however. Like I said to klangklangston, I chose to comment on the buttery knife example because it is similar to something I have seen done by some vegetarians I know personally, on more than one occasion. And again, as I said before, such actions are the exception, not the rule, although I should have clarified this in my original comment. I don't know if you actually read my comment (not snarking, I'm serious), because you would see that I addressed that most vegetarians/vegans are such for sound reasons (environmental or animal rights concerns), so I'm aware of the different reasons one might make such a decision for themselves, and would not need to create one in the first place. I apologize for the misunderstanding.

I'm bowing out now, as it is clear my brain is not very good at making the points I would like it to make.

Happy pooping.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 1:43 PM on May 22, 2007


To many many of you (of note: Kyrademon, KlangKlangston, Ethereal Bligh, Team Lowkey), I just need to say that I love you. Alot. As a vegetarian/vegan living in a remarkably non-supportive area of the US (the quintessential South), I'm pleased to hear that the explanations, ideas, and memes that I have worked out on my own have manifested in you all. You have, for a moment, made me feel less alone.

And to those of you who dont understand vegans (and particularly those in the world who try to "convince" me that Broccoli can scream, for example), there is more meat and dairy for you now. Go stock up. Leave our choices alone. Please.
posted by Dantien at 2:34 PM on May 22, 2007


I see where you're coming from CitrusFreak12, and apologies if we were dismissive. As kyrademon said, it's not that we think you're necessarily being being facetious or anything, it's just that we've heard these arguments so many times, that it's hard to take it seriously. Especially when it usually isn't meant to be taken seriously; it is just a JimBob job to dismiss vegetarianism out of hand.

And at the end of the day, there's really not much to respond to. I don't know why the butter-knifer draws that line. Maybe their system can't handle butter and they will get sick. Maybe it is actually a religious thing. Or maybe they're so sick of being called a hypocrite that they draw too hard of a line to try deflect that criticism. Maybe if they take the buttery knife, they think someone will jump down their throats saying "Ah-hah! You're not a real vegan. You're just a hypocrite like the rest of your field mouse killing ilk!"

But I can't really say. Everyone just tries to do the best they can. Any argument trying to point out the absurdity or hypocrisy of a person's choices isn't really going to make much difference. It's not like you calling me out on wearing a leather belt is going to make all the reasons I don't eat meat go away, or make your meat-eating position any stronger. It's just a distraction from the issues.
posted by team lowkey at 2:55 PM on May 22, 2007


Dantien, as I wrote, having been married to a vegetarian and deeply respecting her beliefs and decision, it upset me a great deal when other people would give her a hard time about it. Besides, I agree with some of the reasoning (though, also as I said, I don't place it as a high priority). So, no, you're not alone and I'm sorry you have to deal with intolerance.

I should say, though, that all this seemed to bother me more than it did my ex-wife. She took it in stride. Also, she was not an evangelistic vegetarian and, instead, just let her actions speak louder than words...which I respect a great deal. She never made non-vegetarians uncomfortable (other than perhaps making them think twice about their choices because of the example of hers).

When we'd eat out I'd always scan the menu for vegetarian choices. I seemed to worry about it more than she did, which she found amusing.

Someone else mentioned something similar, but probably my sensitivity has a lot to do with my own food choices and how I've been pressured by other people about them. I really hate vegetables. My mother says this manifested immediately with baby food. And while my parents were relatively cool about things, my father's family (with whom we ate with at holiday gatherings and then many other occasions) all made a big deal about me not eating vegetables and would force them on me and/or ridicule me. And I'd gag, which they then would claim was theatrics (it wasn't, I still will sometimes gag if I force myself to eat something that I really don't like). Of course, it should be mentioned that these siblings all grew up very, very poor. As grown, middle-class families, they had some weird neurotic things regarding food as a result. The irony is that they sort of created an inverse neuroticism in me.

This all pushed me into a corner, so to speak. And I've always been a very stubborn person, anyway. The more pushed, the more I resist. I had a babysitter before I started school who would make me sit at the table from lunch until my mother finally arrived to pick me up at 5:30 because I wouldn't eat the beans she served me. Other people tried the "sit at the table thing". If any of you have read The Corrections, there's a memorable scene of this. And the line "if you sit at the table refusing to eat the cold food for too long, you will always be sitting at that table" (paraphrase). Man, that line really hit home with me.

To this day I have a sort of phobia about eating at other people's houses. So I avoid it.

Anyway, with my family it's become kind of a running (and good-natured) joke about how much I hate vegetables. And my friends and all previous SOs have been cool about letting me eat what I want to eat.

Even so, I think this has made me pretty sensitive and sympathetic to other people's choices about what they eat. It's too bad more people aren't tolerant about this sort of thing.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:18 PM on May 22, 2007


Dantien -

If you (or anyone else, for that matter) have been brow-beaten and ridiculed for not eating meat, that sucks. However, the 'if you don't understand, bugger off' attitude doesn't help relations between the dietarily different anymore than it would help between those of different cultures, sexualities, political POVs, or what have you. Just like the Two Solitudes here, it's not very conducive to positive intergroup relations.

Go stock up. Leave our choices alone. Please.

If that's an indication that you've changed a bit since the last vegan vs. meat-eater dust-up, awesome. 'Cause you did your own share of brow-beating and ridiculing non-vegan choices then.
posted by CKmtl at 4:12 PM on May 22, 2007


They actually conclude that having food shipped is--in most cases--the most ethical way to eat.

I didn't actually say ethical - I said that local is often the most sustainable, especially considering the carbon burden of shipping things. Ethical is another question entirely - it's a much more personal choice. Do you support local farmers or developing countries? Both are equally "ethical", and I personally happily buy things from developing countries, especially if the value-added processing (like the roasting of coffee) is done there as well. But that's not really the most environmentally sustainable option.
posted by jb at 4:33 PM on May 22, 2007


I'm not suggesting that buying local is the total answer to everything, just that it's just as environmentally good for me to eat some nice English cheese in England as it would be to eat tofu made from soy beans from Canada or Brazil. Probably more environmentally sound.

I also don't like to eat fruit flown in from other countries - it's just way too much carbon use. I can wait until May for English strawberries, just as in Canada I wait until June for Canadian. I know I'm "hurting" the Californian/Spanish farmer, but I'd rather have a planet.

But I would like to find some African roasted coffee. I'm addicted anyways, so I figure I might as well purchase something where most of the profit will stay in the country of origin. (Raw coffee sells for very little, most of the profit is in roasting.)
posted by jb at 4:42 PM on May 22, 2007


The point at which jimbob and I diverge is that I'm not making any final judgement on whether veganism is bs or not.

I apologise if I've come across that way - the nastyness of my comments was mainly a response to kk's reactionary approach. kk's attitude has been coloured by being a life-long vegetarian. My attitude has been coloured by the scientific discipline I'm trained in, that tends to place greater value on environmental communities and biodiversity than the lives of individual animals.

I actually think sensible vegetarianism is a reasonable choice - browse my history of Ask Metafilter questions to observe that I have seriously considered it. I think veganism is bullshit. But hey, I think Christianity is bullshit, and I think jazz-fusion is bullshit too. I'm allowed to argue that point. Doesn't mean I'm saying people have to stop doing it.

I don't think I made any claim in my comments that veganism was worse for the environment than omnivorism. Just that the certainty of ethical purity I've been shown by so many vegans (many of them now lapsed) doesn't gel with the actual, unavoidable costs of being a living human.

I also apologise for linking to Reason magazine - definately something I wouldn't normally do, but in this case it seemed a fairly honest, reasonable summary of a legitimate scientific study.
posted by Jimbob at 5:49 PM on May 22, 2007


Refusing to use a buttery knife is not a reason to become a vegetarian. It is absurd however.

I had a suitemate in college who asked that I *please* not use her dishtowel to dry my clean dishes, because she's a VEGAN and blah blah blah. This will always be the story I think about when I think of vegans.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:52 PM on May 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


"I apologise if I've come across that way - the nastyness of my comments was mainly a response to kk's reactionary approach. kk's attitude has been coloured by being a life-long vegetarian. My attitude has been coloured by the scientific discipline I'm trained in, that tends to place greater value on environmental communities and biodiversity than the lives of individual animals."

My attitude has been "coloured" by hearing these same tired arguments made over and over my entire life. And your attitude has been colored by your lifelong omnivorism. If it was entirely based on a scientific or philosophical stance, I'd have more respect for your attitude, as opposed to the ad hoc jumble of defensiveness and inconsistent (and incoherent) rationalization.

But hey, attempting to compare biases with that last shot was just another example of your affinity toward false equivalencies.
posted by klangklangston at 6:54 PM on May 22, 2007


This will always be the story I think about when I think of vegans.

I always think the of the vegan girl I was dating as she was about to give me head she stopped and asked if I was a meat eater.

"Why?"
"Because they taste terrible. Are you?"
"No."


I lied.

She didn't seem notice. We ended up living together for four years.
posted by tkchrist at 6:57 PM on May 22, 2007


False equivalencies? I guess you're the expert on that, given your stated belief that the life of a mouse isn't equivalent to the life of a cow, but the life of a cow is somehow comparable to the life of a human. You seem to be big on the school-debating-club rhetoric - I'm not big on the terminology involved, but could you let me know what it's called when you declare two things to be opposites when they aren't, like your apparent belief that "petro-agriculture" is directly contrastable with "veganism"?
posted by Jimbob at 7:22 PM on May 22, 2007


(And quoting statistics on rotation cropping in a discussion about organic farming as if they are the same thing - what's that called in debate club?)
posted by Jimbob at 7:27 PM on May 22, 2007


"False equivalencies? I guess you're the expert on that, given your stated belief that the life of a mouse isn't equivalent to the life of a cow, but the life of a cow is somehow comparable to the life of a human. You seem to be big on the school-debating-club rhetoric - I'm not big on the terminology involved, but could you let me know what it's called when you declare two things to be opposites when they aren't, like your apparent belief that "petro-agriculture" is directly contrastable with "veganism"?"

God, were you born retarded, or was it some sort of industrial accident that left you this stupid?

I mean, let's go through this— Yes, I don't believe that a mouse's suffering is "worth" as much concern as a cow, and I do believe that a life of a cow is comparable. Do I believe that the life of a cow is equivalent to that of a human? No. Do I believe that there are many metrics under which they could be compared? Yes. Do you realize that trying to trump that up as an indictment of my logic is moronic? I mean, even someone as obviously gibbering as you should be able to see some ways that a cow and a human could be compared, especially when I already mentioned a rough metric by which I do.
And where, exactly, did I say that veganism should be directly contrasted with petro-agriculture? I mean, it wasn't in this thread, Jimbob. Feel free to give me a quote. You started making a specious argument about harvester killing and I asked you to back up the idea that the greater utility is served by killing both cows and mice as opposed to just mice. You were unable to do so, and now, what, cite that as some evidence of false equivalence? Again, Jimbob, I'm afraid that my fancy debate skills come down to recognizing that you're full of shit and sputtering.
The statistics on rotation cropping came up from your organic farming derailment, which you would have remembered had you the memory of a teenage gas huffer.

So, in debate club, that's called pwnage. I hope you're not as shitty at science within your field as you are at ethics, agriculture, rhetoric, vegetarianism, or 11th-grade reading comprehension. If you were any more wrong or stupid here, Bush would make you Secretary of this Thread.
posted by klangklangston at 8:03 PM on May 22, 2007


klangklangston, Jimbob made an effort to be more civil and understanding and even apologized. I don't agree with some of the things he's said and I think some of them are risible, but it was nice for a moment to have the thread back in a place where people were trying to be nicer and find common ground. You're enthusiastically taking it back to insults.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:07 PM on May 22, 2007


AS a former vegan that ALSO tried to eat only locally produced food (like I said I lived with a food Nazi)...

... all I can say is winter vegetables that can grow in the North West get frigg'n tiring quick my friend.

nit pick: As for who ever said you "don't NEED to eat meat" implying that nutrients can be universally found in the plant world? Only if you can digest those plants properly. Which due to allergies, allerigies I acquired becuase of trying the vegan lifestyle, I couldn't. So my only other choice was ultra processed proteins or Soy. And soy interfered with gains in strength training. So. Sorry. Some people, like me, actually DO need to eat meat.
posted by tkchrist at 8:13 PM on May 22, 2007


Y'know, EB, you're right. I over-reacted to what I perceived to be an ongoing hostility from Jimbob, which, when combined with fundamental and (to my mind) insulting misrepresentations of my position and the fact that I've dealt with the exact same strain of bullshit over and over for years, led me to comport myself in an ugly manner.
I do disagree with you over the ultimate sincerity and worth of Jimbob's apology, but (to go with the theme) that's both something on which reasonable people may differ and no excuse for my own lack of control over my frustration.
I think it's time for some nerve-calming scotch.
posted by klangklangston at 8:45 PM on May 22, 2007


"So my only other choice was ultra processed proteins or Soy. And soy interfered with gains in strength training. So. Sorry. Some people, like me, actually DO need to eat meat."

Well, no, you chose strength training over not eating meat. While there are, no doubt, some people who do need to eat meat, I can't think of a single one who I've ever encountered.

To this I will add two things— I do know of people who have allergies to artificial insulin, and need shots from animal pancreases. The second thing, and this is much more important— your choosing to eat meat was, I assume, informed and based on your personal value system. As such, I don't have a problem with it (though I don't presume to speak for every vegetarian). You decided that the amount of suffering you cause was outweighed by the benefits to you and your life. I've decided that killing ants is something I can do with relative impunity, and I've decided that killing mice is something that I can do (though with some distaste).
posted by klangklangston at 8:55 PM on May 22, 2007


I do disagree with you over the ultimate sincerity and worth of Jimbob's apology, but (to go with the theme) that's both something on which reasonable people may differ and no excuse for my own lack of control over my frustration.
I think it's time for some nerve-calming scotch.


Good on ya'. And I say that sincerely.

But about sincerity...

There's good pragmatic reasons to respond to the superficiality of what people literally say and not to what you think they meant...when you suspect they are not being sincere when being nice or apologetic. Conversely, there's good pragmatic reasons to respond to what you hope people really meant and would have said if they weren't being careless...when you fear they are being sincere when being angry or rude.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:24 PM on May 22, 2007


tkchrist, anecdotally from personal experience, going down on a vegetarian often does taste better, although (1) it seems to be a stronger effect in women than in men, (2) it doesn't always hold true for every person, and (3) it can be trumped by other factors that affect the taste more strongly, such as consumption of a lot of pineapple, smoking, etc. In those people who are affected strongly by diet, men tend to taste quite a bit more sour if they are meat eaters, but some women can get pretty yucky tasting on a high-meat diet. YMMV.
posted by kyrademon at 10:55 PM on May 22, 2007


There are probably some people that need animal products indeed. I think most people just THINK they need meat, and when their problems go away after eating meat, they conclude that they do indeed need meat. They do not realize that a different vegetarian diet could also have worked. There are very, very few doctors that specialize in vegan nutrition and meat often is the easy way out to compensate for the failures of a standard western diet. If your diet contains lots of sugar and fat, you do need some high protein foods such as meat to compensate.

See also this story from Carl Lewis:

In the spring of 1991 – eight months after beginning to eat vegan – I was feeling listless and thought I might need to add protein from meat to my diet. Dr. McDougall, however, explained that my listlessness was due to my needing more calories because I was training so many hours each day, not because I needed more animal-based protein. When I increased my calorie intake, I regained my energy. I was drinking 24 to 32 ounces of juice a day. I ate no dairy products. And I had my best year as an athlete ever!
posted by davar at 2:03 AM on May 23, 2007


dw: cheap chicken comes from living in a chicken processing state, I guess. $2/lb for breasts on sale is common, if you don't mind buying the commercial chicken from the local megamart.

Older chickens come from free-range egg farms, and I've found that I can occasionally get a 2-yr bird if they were good producers. Organic markets and natural food places often have a connection you can ask about. It's worth the difference!

klang: While there are, no doubt, some people who do need to eat meat, I can't think of a single one who I've ever encountered.

Hi! Now you've encountered me! Doctor (Indian Woman, vegetarian, MD, nutritionist) did the tests and told me I could not sustain on plants only. I needed a food supply that included light meat content. I've thus taken quite an interest in the source of the meat, so I can minimize suffering and not promote the massive agri-complex. Even so, I can't get B12 from plant sources. I also don't do that well with iron, either. I do my best with brocolli, but if I cook it enough to get the iron to release, I change the sulfur levels to something I can't digest at all.
posted by dwivian at 6:04 AM on May 23, 2007


dw: cheap chicken comes from living in a chicken processing state, I guess. $2/lb for breasts on sale is common, if you don't mind buying the commercial chicken from the local megamart.

Problem is, I *am* buying commerical chicken from the local megamart, and a whole chicken is $2/lb to start, breasts $4/lb with bone, $6/lb without.

And the one farmer's market place that sold chicken wanted, I'm not making this up, $16/lb for a whole chicken. The organic, humane farm's stall next door had bacon for $8/lb. That doesn't make any sense to me, since pork isn't half the cost per pound of chicken at the megamart.

Older chickens come from free-range egg farms, and I've found that I can occasionally get a 2-yr bird if they were good producers. Organic markets and natural food places often have a connection you can ask about. It's worth the difference!

Maybe I should just haul this over to AskMe to see who to go to in Seattle.
posted by dw at 10:50 AM on May 23, 2007


John McDougall's response to the article.
posted by team lowkey at 3:41 PM on May 23, 2007


Alleged Death by Veganism: Why a False Story Has Legs
posted by homunculus at 4:42 PM on May 30, 2007


It is reassuring to read the two responses directly above. Unfortunately, many will only ever remember the scaremongering headlines.

nb: I've been 100% vegan for 7 years, and incredibly healthy for it.
posted by polaroid at 5:16 AM on May 31, 2007


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