We Are Peculiar People (Regarding Food)
August 27, 2009 6:47 PM   Subscribe

Getting Real About The High Price of Cheap Food. Why the food we're eating is hurting us, the animals we eat, our world, and what people are trying to do about it.
posted by Askiba (205 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
feeding an American addiction to meat that has contributed to an obesity epidemic currently afflicting more than two-thirds of the population.

Ok, first off, meat does not get you fat. At all. Let's talk about the American addiction to wheat, corn and soy. That glorious triumvirate that makes up almost all of our processed foods.
posted by scrutiny at 7:03 PM on August 27, 2009 [15 favorites]


But, I agree with article when it says animals shouldn't be raised in the current manner used for cheap meat, dosed on antibiotics and fed federally subsidized corn. If the meat isn't healthy when it's alive, it stands to reason that it won't be terribly healthy when you eat it either.
posted by scrutiny at 7:06 PM on August 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


an obesity epidemic currently afflicting more than two-thirds of the population

First of all, that's false. "More than two thirds" of the US population are not "afflicted" by an "obesity epidemic."

Slightly less than two thirds of the US population is classified as over the "healthy weight range" by BMI measurements. This includes people classified as "obese", but the majority of the people above the healthy weight range are people classified as "overweight." (And the "overweight" BMI category is the one with the lowest statistical risk, as a group, of morbidity/mortality events.)

Anyone who says "obesity epidemic" and "two thirds of the population" is someone who hasn't done the most basic research about the public health demographic data. Of course "overweight epidemic" isn't cool and headline-grabbing, but facts so rarely are.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:25 PM on August 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


Nothing in and of itself makes you fat. It's all about how much of it you eat, how it is prepared and what you eat in combination with it. Gigantic slabs of meat and fried hamburgers make you fat. And that's what most people eat in the way of meat. I say without citation.
posted by jeffamaphone at 7:25 PM on August 27, 2009


That Gulf of Mexico dead zone thing freaks me out every time I read about it.
posted by limeonaire at 7:30 PM on August 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Time's web page is grossly obese. I think my brower needs a colonic.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:32 PM on August 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mmm.
Cheap burgers.
Can we turn on the grill now?
posted by davebarnes at 7:41 PM on August 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Tax sugar and fat, and pay for the public option.
posted by Brian B. at 7:43 PM on August 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


Much as Brian Dunning's smug condescension annoys me, he made a reasonable argument a few weeks back that locally grown, organic food may not be sustainable either. I hate that guy.

Slightly less than two thirds of the US population is classified as over the "healthy weight range" by BMI measurements. This includes people classified as "obese", but the majority of the people above the healthy weight range are people classified as "overweight." (And the "overweight" BMI category is the one with the lowest statistical risk, as a group, of morbidity/mortality events.)

So "overweight" is now the "healthy weight range" and "healthy weight range" is now an unhealthy "underweight range" or something? Why is science so goddam confusing?
posted by Camofrog at 7:47 PM on August 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


We could all eat a lot, lot less of everything. How much food do you need to survive? Or how about Cary Grant's advice to a young actor on how to keep a lifelong trim figure: "Stop thinking of food as pleasure."
posted by Faze at 8:02 PM on August 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


There is an emerging correllation between expanding waistlines and shrinking brain size. Although what this means, actually, is currently unknown.
posted by hippybear at 8:14 PM on August 27, 2009


Or how about Cary Grant's advice to a young actor on how to keep a lifelong trim figure: "Stop thinking of food as pleasure."

France. Hard to think of a country that views food as more of a pleasure than France, yet obesity there doesn't seem to be a problem. Taking pleasure in food is one of life's great joys, but what kind of food and in what amounts is key.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:27 PM on August 27, 2009 [20 favorites]


We could all eat a lot, lot less of everything.

No, no, I really can't. That's a gross generalization. In my case, it's medically related, but millions of Americans are just too poor to eat enough. I know this is a tangent, but despite the stereotypes and media hype, we're not all middle-class couch potatoes stuffing our face.
posted by desjardins at 8:30 PM on August 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


It is absolutely bizarre that calorie-dense foods are cheaper than calorie-sparse foods. With non-food energy transport systems, energy-dense is hard to do and costs more.

It does, however, explain why poor people run fat.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 8:30 PM on August 27, 2009


I was gonna snark about how this just another article in the great compendium of why the SAD diet is not only killing Americans but the entire planet. But then I decided to say something else.

I was born and raised in the great state of Iowa. Every one of my uncles holds a PhD in swine nutrition and works for major pork producing companies researching ways to make pigs fatter and more 'delicious.' We had a freezer in our garage growing up dedicated to only beef, which we filled to the brim annually with half of the whole cow we bought and slaughtered and split with the family of our church's pastor. We ate meat at least two meals a day, and sometimes for a snack.

I am now a vegan. Let me tell you why. And before you start snarking about the self-righteous vegan, ask yourself if you'd snark about, say, a volunteer at your local hospital or any of the other millions of people who use their free time to save lives.

First, I am not a vegan because of animal rights. Sure, the way we treat farm animals is fucked up, and I'm happy not to be complicit in the mass slaughter institution, but its merely a side benefit. We're humans, we are sort of at the top of the food chain, usually, barring the occasional consumption of a man by a bear and whatnot, but for all intensive purposes we rule the food world. And that's simply part of evolution. Survival of the fittest and all of that.

Secondly, I am not a vegan for health reasons. I know as many fat vegans as I do fat carnivores. I mean, french fries are vegan, no? Almost any food eaten in excess has side effects on your health, with maybe the exception of fresh kale and the like. Too much meat isn't good, but too much tofu isn't good either.

I am a vegan because I'm a humanist, and because I'm not a selfish asshole. This probably isn't news to anyone, but I'll say it anyway: cheap meat production ZAPS resources: land, food, money, time, air, water, etc. The actual amount of food produced through cheap, en masse meat production, when weighed against the amount of food which could be produced if the resources consumed to raise animals was instead simply given to humans, could easily solve the hunger crisis in the entire world times approximately ten. Some 90 percent of all produce grown in Iowa is consumed not by humans, but by cows and pigs, which will feed an disgustingly small number of people, compared to the potential yield from the resources currently grown there, mostly corn and soy.

In essence, every time you eat a fucking burger, you're killing not only the cow, but also a person.

And I won't even get into the environmental ramifications of ethanol, but suffice it to say that ethanol, mostly from cow farts and shit, produces something like 100 times more hazardous gas than vehicles do.

Imagine this situation: you are standing in front of three things 1) a plate of corn, tofu, some chard, maybe an apple; 2) a big juicy cheeseburger; 3) a starving child. You can choose the cheeseburger, but if you do the child will die. You can choose number 1, and the child will live. And no, as a rule of this little thought experiment, you can't simply give the other meal to the starving child. So which do you choose?

DO YOU REALLY LOVE MEAT THAT MUCH?

If you do, well, there are a lot of assholes in the world, so way to go.

Why don't I just eat LESS meat you ask? Because I'm compensating for all of the meat x 3 meals a day people out there.

And this is why I am a self-righteous vegan. Go ahead, snark away. Just be aware of the ramifications of your food choices.

Yeah, lots of aspects of how we live negatively affect others. But eating vegan is actually really, really, really easy. And if you cook your own food, it takes no more effort than eating meat.

There are houses in Iowa that are painted white but, by day, appear to be black because they are buried in so many flies because of the swine factory a few acres over. In Africa - and indeed all over the world - millions of people starve to death or die of thirst - while our cows and pigs feast and slake themselves. In the ozone, there's a big fucking hole that's slowly boiling the earth to death like a frog because as a cultural we value gluttony of animal muscle about our planet.

DO YOU REALLY LIKE MEAT THAT MUCH? REALLY?

For me, its not even a question.

I recently told my grandparents, life-long pig farmers and 4H enthusiasts, that I didn't eat meat or dairy. They stared blankly at me as if I were crazy. I understand that this was their way of life. Before McDonalds. Before plastic-packed beef jerky and lunchables and string cheese. I don't expect them to change, and I don't fault them for it.

But for the rest of us? Not changing one's views when presented with new information is a symptom of true ignorance. I'd argue with you, but it'd be like arguing with a dining room table.

So go braise that pork. Enjoy it. I hope its worth the cost.
posted by Lutoslawski at 8:49 PM on August 27, 2009 [37 favorites]


Farmland? Pffft.

When I get rich I'm going to build a 50 floor vertical farm in my city.
posted by Talez at 8:58 PM on August 27, 2009


That would have been more convincing if it wasn't quite so assuming of hostility on behalf of the readership.
posted by hippybear at 8:59 PM on August 27, 2009 [27 favorites]


(meaning Lutoslawski's piece)
posted by hippybear at 9:00 PM on August 27, 2009


That would have been more convincing if it wasn't quite so assuming of hostility on behalf of the readership.

ah, you're right. sorry, mefi defense mode...that and I tend to get worked up about this issue. sorry, premature grrr grrrness.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:01 PM on August 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


You want more independent small-scale farms? Pass a public health care bill. (No thread derailment intended.)

Independent American farmers that don't have an off-farm job to subsidize their farming habit often have to buy very expensive coverage on the open market -- from private insurers who know that farming is dangerous work. It seems to be one of the larger issues facing independent farmers today.
posted by parudox at 9:04 PM on August 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


and sorry about the typos. geez. egregious.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:05 PM on August 27, 2009


The Cary Grant quote on keeping slim I heard was --
"Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper."
posted by vronsky at 9:06 PM on August 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Independent American farmers that don't have an off-farm job to subsidize their farming habit often have to buy very expensive coverage on the open market

Yes, so true. I didn't mean my little rant to be in any way antagonistic to indie farmers. I'm from Iowa, these are many of my friends (the ones that have lasted the buy-outs). These people are simply trying to make a living, and they shouldn't be run out of business or anything - they should just switch what they produce (and quite frankly, this would probably expand their market, at least internationally...no evidence of this though, just speculation).

I disagree with my senator, the honorable Chuck Grassley, on almost everthing - except his fight for the small-time farmer.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:09 PM on August 27, 2009


Imagine this situation: you are standing in front of three things 1) a plate of corn, tofu, some chard, maybe an apple; 2) a big juicy cheeseburger; 3) a starving child. You can choose the cheeseburger, but if you do the child will die. You can choose number 1, and the child will live. And no, as a rule of this little thought experiment, you can't simply give the other meal to the starving child. So which do you choose?

Well I wouldn't play your silly zero-sum game in the first place if it involves the possible death of a starving child.

Oh you were trying to oversimplify a very complicated problem to make a silly point and make everyone else feel guilty?

People over in Africa can't afford food. How the fuck are they supposed to pay for the boat to ship this excess corn over from Iowa?

There's a fundamental problem with the world's food supply and it needs to be attacked locally. These people who are starving over in the third world need stable political regimes, infrastructure, equipment, expertise and other tools to make them self sufficient. What they don't need is the snarking of self-indignant fuckwits who can't look at the problem other than to use it for their own self-interest.

I really wish Metafilter had a "this is stupid comment" button next to the favourite button.
posted by Talez at 9:11 PM on August 27, 2009 [36 favorites]


I think anyone who calls anyone else a "fuckwit" deserves the "this is a stupid comment" button also.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:13 PM on August 27, 2009 [17 favorites]


I think in many ways it's less about food being about pleasure, and more about food being about filling the empty hole in our souls that most American seem to feel. I can't even begin to count the number of adults (let alone children) I know who pick up food when they are 1) bored, 2) anxious, 3) celebrating, 4) not even conscious of doing so. Our culture of want has led to the "paradox of choice" where it is impossible to make any "correct" choice because there are always 40 other varieties of ketchup to choose from. Couple this with a basically hollow pop culture and advertising which is designed to make every individual feel like they have no self-worth, and then toss in all the constant messages which insist that Eating Is Fun And Fulfilling... It's a perfect storm wherein idle hands reach for a bag of potato chips instead of, say, the knitting needles or the jigsaw puzzle pieces, and where more people seek out fat, salt, and sugar as a method of feeling good because most other avenues toward making the brain buzz are closed to them. Then you add in the "supersize" culture, or the inability to figure out what an actual serving of Doritos is (so you eat the whole bag)...

Really, as a culture in general, we turn to food because it is one of the few avenues we have open to us to satisfy our animal urges. In small measures, this is fine. But as a culture, it is all we seem to think about (sex is bad, killing is celebrated but bad, thinking and intellectualism are frowned upon), and we're left with a population with poor impulse control when it comes to their diet.

There are reasons why a lot of the monastic forms of devotion control what you consume. Practicing a bit of that kind of willpower in daily life without having the Mother Superior tell you that you must is not a bad thing. Believe me -- as a nearly 30 year pot smoker, I had to learn early on that eating just because your brain tells you to is NOT the best strategy for physical health.
posted by hippybear at 9:17 PM on August 27, 2009 [16 favorites]


And I won't even get into the environmental ramifications of ethanol, but suffice it to say that ethanol, mostly from cow farts and shit, produces something like 100 times more hazardous gas than vehicles do.

Do you mean methane here? because ethanol is not made from farts and shit, It's made from corn usually.

I am now a vegan. Let me tell you why.

You will anyway, vegans usually do.

you can't simply give the other meal to the starving child. So which do you choose?

DO YOU REALLY LOVE MEAT THAT MUCH?


While you were hitting the caps lock I gave the meal to the starving child anyway.

I recently told my grandparents, life-long pig farmers and 4H enthusiasts, that I didn't eat meat or dairy. ... I don't expect them to change, and I don't fault them for it.

But for the rest of us? Not changing one's views when presented with new information is a symptom of true ignorance.


Oh sure, your family gets a pass but mine are child killing assholes!
posted by longsleeves at 9:20 PM on August 27, 2009 [38 favorites]


Our culture of want has led to the "paradox of choice" where it is impossible to make any "correct" choice because there are always 40 other varieties of ketchup to choose from.

Not to nitpick, but ketchup is a bad example.

posted by parudox at 9:21 PM on August 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well I wouldn't play your silly zero-sum game in the first place if it involves the possible death of a starving child.

Wow...someone who has never engaged in a thought experiment. That explains a lot about you, actually.

Oh you were trying to oversimplify a very complicated problem to make a silly point and make everyone else feel guilty?

I never said eating vegan was a panacea...but to make this comment as some kind of defense of meat eating? The point is not silly. And quite frankly, I'm so fucking sick of dickwads like you who refuse to take small steps toward change, claiming, 'oh, its a systemic issue and its so huge and we need major changes and there's all these other problems..."

Of course we do and of course there are. But that's hardly an excuse to do nothing. Well, maybe for you, it is. And I hope you do feel guilty, carnivore.

these people who are starving over in the third world need stable political regimes, infrastructure, equipment, expertise

Oh, sorry, I forgot about that part of my argument where I said eating vegan will solve the entire world's political issues. You're kidding, right?

There's a fundamental problem with the world's food supply and it needs to be attacked locally.

There are very few things about food production in the midwest of the US that are local. And wait, didn't you just say we needed global change??

I really wish Metafilter had a "this is stupid comment" button next to the favourite button.

Yeah, me too (and, btw, that's very original [pats talez on the back].
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:21 PM on August 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think anyone who calls anyone else a "fuckwit" deserves the "this is a stupid comment" button also.

At least it wasn't "fucktard". That would merit a 400-comment MeTa thread.

posted by hippybear at 9:22 PM on August 27, 2009 [3 favorites]



Some 90 percent of all produce grown in Iowa is consumed not by humans, but by cows and pigs, which will feed an disgustingly small number of people, compared to the potential yield from the resources currently grown there, mostly corn and soy.

In essence, every time you eat a fucking burger, you're killing not only the cow, but also a person.


Actually, no, not my burger at least. You see, people can't eat what my cows eat, which is a bunch of grass. If it was a buffalo burger, my favorite, buffalo are even better stewards of the grass ecosystem. I don't eat much meat because it's very expensive though, which is perhaps the way it should be.

Besides that, we already grow enough food to feed the entire world human population + livestock. For a variety of reasons it just doesn't get to the people who need it. If PETA devoted its resources to developing agriculture and rebuilding soil resources in Africa that would be a ten million times better idea than trying to convince Americans to go veg.

Veganism as a band-aid for these food problems is entirely ridiculous and leads to lots of self righteousness. The food system is more complex than that. A diet founded on a local grass-fed ecosystem could definitely be more sustainable than a vegan diet consisting of industrial food.
posted by melissam at 9:22 PM on August 27, 2009 [47 favorites]


Well, I'm not giving up meat, but I did give up having children. Whatever amount of meat I eat is completely made up for in the carbon footprint that my children won't exert on the planet, the resources they won't use (or their children, or their children's children, etc, etc). You offset the meat-eaters like me, Lutoslawski, and I'll offset (somewhat) an Octomom. We all have our parts to play in the game of life.
posted by jamstigator at 9:22 PM on August 27, 2009 [11 favorites]


parudox: perhaps, but did you grasp my meaning, or do I need to recompose the entire post and substitute "spaghetti sauce" before you get the point?
posted by hippybear at 9:23 PM on August 27, 2009


yes, sorry I meant methane. I'm not a chemistry expert.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:23 PM on August 27, 2009


Let's please not make this a vegans vs. non-vegans thread. I think we've learned by now that this leads to no good.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:24 PM on August 27, 2009 [8 favorites]


hippybear: The meaning was clear.
posted by parudox at 9:30 PM on August 27, 2009


Veganism as a band-aid for these food problems is entirely ridiculous and leads to lots of self righteousness. The food system is more complex than that. A diet founded on a local grass-fed ecosystem could definitely be more sustainable than a vegan diet consisting of industrial food.

Yes, good points. While I don't agree with all of the facts you claim, lots of this is true. I forgot to mention that I'm also a localvore (as much as I can), and eating local is just as important as being careful about the actual food items you eat, not only environmentally but also economically, etc...

I don't really think its a battle of one over the other, however. Like I said, for me its a humanist thing. I'm not against eating animals philosophically or ethically or whatever, I'm just trying to compensate for the Burger King crowd.

PETA is crazy. That's not what I'm saying at all.

But, as veganism is not a panacea, neither is eating local, partially because eating 100% local has become impossible in most parts of the world these days, as ag and meat production has turned the globe into a sort of assembly line.

The big problem is people eat food they think tastes good. There are very few other things we do in this life just because we want to. But food is one of them, and I find it strange.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:31 PM on August 27, 2009


I don't want to turn this into another mefi civil war thread, turning a complex issue into a black and white one. That'd be a Bushism.

I like the points made by both hippybear regarding food as a sort of entertainment and melissam's comments about food waste and consuming local foods.

Man, I really hate to be one of those 'ah, everything in the past was right,' but to a certain degree, this is one of those cases. Eating local (because you had to), eating for nutrition and not out of boredom or novelty, when did we lose sight of these things?

Food has become mass market entertainment. And that, I think, is a very sad thing indeed. There are those, I'm afraid, who would favor, say, a piece of candy made out of nothing but synthetics over something delicious grown from your garden.

I'm still a vegan, and I still defend it. And as for the people who don't like vegans because they are vocal about their beliefs? Do you hide all of yours? Wait...aren't you commenting on mefi?
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:39 PM on August 27, 2009


No, the big problem is that the price of our food does not include its full cost.
posted by parudox at 9:39 PM on August 27, 2009 [7 favorites]


Lutoslawski, is there any reason you don't eat cheese or eggs (you said you were a vegan)? That generally doesn't kill the producer and can be done humanely (free range eggs, hand-milking, etc.).

What about fish, farmed or otherwise? Crustaceans? Molluscs? There are plenty of ways to obtain animal protein without killing something as advanced or as resource-intensive as a cow, pig, or chicken.
posted by armage at 9:39 PM on August 27, 2009


One year at the Rainbow National Gathering, I was staying at Faerie Camp (as I am wont to do). We were a big kitchen that year, apparently as the result of a particularly harrowing year previously with an individual going out of his way to make life has hard for that particular kitchen and camp as possible. Despite being very far out of the way and WAY uphill, we had a good 50-60 people at the kitchen for dinner every evening, sometimes more. We were working hard to feed everyone who was there (as is the Rainbow way), and were priding ourselves on providing quality meals for all who were there during serving time.

As is typical, we were gathered together in a circle before the serving of the food took place, in order to facilitate announcements, do some basic community organization, and perform whatever spiritual blessing ritual was demanded by those who required it. During that circle time, this very thin and unhealthy man stepped forward to speak his peace to the circle.

"Brothers and sisters, we thank you for the meal you have prepared. Your hard work has not gone unnoticed. However, we do have one request: would it be possible for you to prepare a vegan meal, so that my family can partake of everything you offer rather than having to question and pick and choose? We would greatly appreciate it."

One of the big, beautiful, strong faeries from Short Mountain stepped forward and said in response, "Brother, we hear your words, and we have just one request in return. Perhaps you can take the evening meal tomorrow and teach us all how to prepare the sort of meal you require. We are working with the ingredients we have, and are making food to feed a lot of people with not a lot to begin with. If you can instruct us, we will all be better suited to face the world on a daily basis."

The man and his family left camp shortly after the meal was served, and we never saw them again for the week I was there.

(This is an anecdote only shared to amuse, and is not intended as an insult or generalization about vegans.)
posted by hippybear at 9:39 PM on August 27, 2009 [8 favorites]


I'll make this simple.

Dear Lutoslawski,

Please explain in detail how my stopping of eating meat will move hundreds of thousands of tons of corn and soy from Iowa to Africa and ensure that each member of the oppressed, permanent underclasses of third world societies will receive a reasonable proportion of this food.

Love,
Talez

Seriously. You said "some 90 percent of all produce grown in Iowa is consumed not by humans, but by cows and pigs, which will feed an disgustingly small number of people, compared to the potential yield from the resources currently grown there, mostly corn and soy." I will personally stop eating meat the rest of my life if you can find a way to move this produce for next to nothing and distribute it to the truly needy.

Why fight for actual change in the world when you can stop eating meat! That way the produce can sit in a warehouse! Then consumption of corn and soy by animals can all but cease and send the thousands of American farmers who produce the corn in the first place to the poor house by freefalling prices! And they'll stop producing corn and soy!

Which just brings us back to square 1. Except now we have much less produce, a bunch of farmers driven to breaking point or just plain committing suicide and to top it all off people are still starving in Africa!

If we could get in there, start getting idiot despots out that try to do dumb things like make inflation illegal to fix their massive commodity shortages, get people back to basics and just reboot the agricultural industries over there I reckon we could have food shortages in Africa licked in a generation.

Making food into some sort of zero sum game is silly because the agriculture industry in third world countries is typically in shambles and there's so much more give left in the system. That's not to say that meat isn't harming the developing world. The razing of the Amazon in Brazil for cheap farmland for McDonalds burgers is one of the ecological tragedies of Generation X. But being misleading and giving people a false sense of complacency regarding veganism being a way to fight against world hunger is just plain wrong.
posted by Talez at 9:51 PM on August 27, 2009 [13 favorites]


Lutoslawski, is there any reason you don't eat cheese or eggs (you said you were a vegan)? That generally doesn't kill the producer and can be done humanely (free range eggs, hand-milking, etc.).

These are good questions. I defer in part to melissam. part of it is because most dairy/eggs are produced on factory farms, where these animals consume a lot of input for little output.

If I had the space to keep chickens in my backyard, i'd have many less issues about eggs.

the fish issue is a whole other story, and a tough one. i'm the first to admit i love sushi, and i'm also the first to admit part of my vegan thing is a political statement. but to be fair, the ocean's wildlife resources are depleted, and here in oregon where i know live, we have major issues with salmon harvesting and maintaining their population.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:52 PM on August 27, 2009


Please explain in detail how my stopping of eating meat will move hundreds of thousands of tons of corn and soy from Iowa to Africa and ensure that each member of the oppressed, permanent underclasses of third world societies will receive a reasonable proportion of this food.

Um...it is. Are you kidding? You've never heard of, say, USAID and the myriad of other similar programs?? No, moving the food isn't a systemic solution, but I don't see why moving more food to Africa than we already do while Africans get on their feet is a bad thing.

You make a lot of weird logical leeps. Obviously fighting for real, large scale change is essential also. But like I said before, eating vegan is easy and can be done by you starting tomorrow if you wish. I hardly see why this is a bad thing.

I don't think I'm being misleading. Did you not read my earlier comment? Never did I say veganism is some kind of panacea. In truth, you're being much more reductionist than I.

I dunno man, I guess I don't get why you hate vegans so much. None of us think its THE solution. Its a simple life-style change that's helpful. Are you an extremely influential lobbyist or something that can call up Obama and fix all of Africa in a day? Its like bike riding. It's not the answer, surely, but at least it reduces the harm.

Wow man, I dunno what else to say to you. You're a dining room table.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:59 PM on August 27, 2009


The big problem is people eat food they think tastes good.

Humans are animals who have been genetically programmed by evolution to find high calorie foods and high quality (animal) protein delicious because such food was hard to come by for all but the most recent period of human existence. This is something that will not change.

I was going to say something about how that's not the big problem, but I guess in a way it is.
posted by longsleeves at 10:02 PM on August 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Hippybear -

Good story. I don't think this is an anti-vegan anecdote at all. Like I said, for some vegans its an ethical thing - which is completely respectable. I think you and I agree on the point, though, that's its about human interest. If meat is what you got, meat is what you eat. Absolutely.

What I'm against is the incredible demand for unnecessary meat products. Just like, say, wall street greed, meat greed is robbing a lot from a lot of people, indirectly of course, much like the credit market.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:02 PM on August 27, 2009


Lutoslawski: There are houses in Iowa that are painted white but, by day, appear to be black because they are buried in so many flies because of the swine factory a few acres over.

I recommend Nicolette Hahn Niman's Righteous Porkchop for getting acquainted with this and other effects of industrial hog farming on communities, small farmers, and the environment. Among many other issues. She's even got a chapter on fish, because (IIRC) fish meal made from wild fish is fed to pigs, chickens, and cattle, and slaughterhouse wastes and chicken poop are fed to farmed fish.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 10:05 PM on August 27, 2009


Humans are animals who have been genetically programmed by evolution to find high calorie foods and high quality (animal) protein delicious because such food was hard to come by for all but the most recent period of human existence. This is something that will not change.

I agree with you up until the 'will not change' bit. Humans evolved into humans because we sucked bone marrow from dead carcasses. That's what we needed to do. But that time has past. Lots of non-meat foods are really, really delicious.

The brilliance of the human species is our ability to go against many of our evolutionary urges. We want to do a lot of things we don't actually do for moral, social, intellectual reasons. I don't see why eating should be any different.

Eating whatever you want does not equal freedom.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:05 PM on August 27, 2009


Why don't I just eat LESS meat you ask? Because I'm compensating for all of the meat x 3 meals a day people out there.

Well shit! Thanks.

You know I really don't have a problem with facing hard facts about cause and effect, but I'd like a solution that involves me having a steak once and a while. If you're really concerned with the real life cause and effect of people eating meat than I would suggest coming up with a solution that everyone can live with, meat eater or not.
posted by nola at 10:06 PM on August 27, 2009


Um...it is. Are you kidding? You've never heard of, say, USAID and the myriad of other similar programs?? No, moving the food isn't a systemic solution, but I don't see why moving more food to Africa than we already do while Africans get on their feet is a bad thing.

So Africa is to depend on the benevolence of other countries not to mention these aid programs so far have not been able to scale to the point where poverty is disappearing. It's a bit like fighting a wildfire by getting out there and using a fire extinguisher on the nearest burning bush.

Africa's not getting on its feet. We systematically ignore each genocide and dictator in turn while we worry more about how our animal chumleys get treated before they're slaughtered.

You make a lot of weird logical leeps. Obviously fighting for real, large scale change is essential also. But like I said before, eating vegan is easy and can be done by you starting tomorrow if you wish. I hardly see why this is a bad thing.

I don't think I'm being misleading. Did you not read my earlier comment? Never did I say veganism is some kind of panacea. In truth, you're being much more reductionist than I.


You don't seem to get it. I don't care that you're vegan. I don't care that you want other people to be vegan.

I object that you equate being vegan to not killing a starving child because you sow the belief that veganism does fight world hunger with statements like these. And when people listen to BS like that thinking "oh I'll do my part by not eating meat" and they're actually doing little to no good.

Go ahead and argue that KFC is evil because they treat their chickens like shit. Go ahead and profess your love for fuzzy animals and that you don't want to eat them. I'll let you be all kooky and lovey dovey as you want and I'll let you be.

But stop leveraging liberal guilt for your personal cause when it doesn't really help people who really need it.
posted by Talez at 10:09 PM on August 27, 2009 [9 favorites]


I recommend Nicolette Hahn Niman's Righteous Porkchop for getting acquainted with this and other effects of industrial hog farming on communities

Good recommendation. I am absolutely the last person to recommend anything by Singer, but the Ethics of What We Eat, if only for it's anecdotal information, is also a pretty good read.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:10 PM on August 27, 2009


When you stop buying meat (or other foodstuff), the market thinks "sales are down for whatever reason". However, when you instead choose to buy sustainably-produced meat (and perhaps less of it), the market can grasp the intention and can shift production. I think shifting production to sustainable methods (and not just reducing it) is a worthy goal.
posted by parudox at 10:11 PM on August 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


I am now a vegan. Let me tell you why. And before you start snarking about the self-righteous vegan

I am prepared to listen to your viewpoint but Jesus Christ you're making it difficult to hear you do us a favour and turn it down from 11 cheers
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 10:12 PM on August 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


No, moving the food isn't a systemic solution, but I don't see why moving more food to Africa than we already do while Africans get on their feet is a bad thing.

Giving sub-Saharan Africa a supply of free or heavily-subsidized American corn and soy is a great way to destroy its ability and willingness to farm.
posted by parudox at 10:15 PM on August 27, 2009 [10 favorites]


But stop leveraging liberal guilt for your personal cause when it doesn't really help people who really need it.

Whoa whoa Mr. Dining Room table. I was explicit in my first comment that I don't really care about the fuzziness of animals or anything of the sort.

The killing the child scenario was what we call a 'thought experiment.' It's a reductionist scenario created to dissect a difficult topic by reducing it to a simpler situation. Its a common philosophical practice. Its not meant to reflect the complexity of actual reality.

I guess I'll say it one more time (why am I still responding?) - being a vegan is NOT, nor did I ever say it WAS, a solution to the mass political, social and economic disparity in Africa. Jesu Christo. Get off it. Never did I say Africa was getting on its feet, nor did I say it should depend on our benevolence. I simply suggest giving starving Africans some of the extra food we could save by not eating so much meat to at least keep them alive while they, with our help, sort out a helluva lot of other issues.

Man, you're such a hater dude. I'm not trying to get into the notorious 'fuck you, no fuck you...' metafilter thing. give it a rest. I don't see why what you're saying is in anyway antithetical to what I'm saying.

Good god. The great Mefi derail.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:18 PM on August 27, 2009


if GOD hadn't wanted man to eat animals, he wouldn't have made them out of MEAT
posted by philip-random at 10:19 PM on August 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Giving sub-Saharan Africa a supply of free or heavily-subsidized American corn and soy is a great way to destroy its ability and willingness to farm.

I don't know about you, but from my experience, starving people are generally too weak and desperate to make a good attempt at building sustainable agriculture.

And no, I never said corn and soy are the two and only two things we should give them.

Someone please tell me why mefi always puts words in mefite's comments?
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:21 PM on August 27, 2009


The great derail in this thread was when someone stated that eating meat kills children.
posted by sien at 10:23 PM on August 27, 2009 [23 favorites]


When you stop buying meat (or other foodstuff), the market thinks "sales are down for whatever reason". However, when you instead choose to buy sustainably-produced meat (and perhaps less of it), the market can grasp the intention and can shift production. I think shifting production to sustainable methods (and not just reducing it) is a worthy goal.

This, however, is a worthy point.

So let me clarify once again what I've said before: I am not, philosophically, against eating animals in any way. I've just decided that this is something I can do to catalyze this market shift a bit faster.

If everyone shifted to eating locally raised, sustainable meat - and not so damn much of it - well, power to it. I'd love to see that.

In the mean time, I will eat vegan for good measure.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:24 PM on August 27, 2009


The great derail in this thread was when someone stated that eating meat kills children.

You're joking, right? I mean, because you don't honestly believe that the only ramifications of your actions are the most immediate ones, right? You're not that dense, right?

I mean, a butterfly flaps its wings in Tokyo...
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:25 PM on August 27, 2009


ask yourself if you'd snark about, say, a volunteer at your local hospital
Probably not, but none of the people I know who do volunteer work use that work as an excuse to dream up child-killing thought experiments designed to make non-volunteers feel bad about themselves. You've got some really, really good points, man, but, Jesus, ease up a little.
posted by bunglin jones at 10:27 PM on August 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


Well, I'm not giving up meat, but I did give up having children.

Why? Children are delicious!
posted by stargell at 10:29 PM on August 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


You've got some really, really good points, man, but, Jesus, ease up a little.

Yeah, I apologized earlier for being a bit too heavy-handed. The thought experiment was hyperbole, but unless we start thinking of our actions this way??

But alas, I don't disagree that I probably went a little over the deep end. I'm just trying to make people think a little beyond their stomachs.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:30 PM on August 27, 2009


Lutaslawski, I thought I made it clear that I agreed with your point. I was just saying that genetics predisposes people to go to Burger King three or four times a week. Of course people are capable of using their highly evolved brains to make wiser choices for themselves and for humankind. (And for the planet.)

The frontal lobes were the last part of the brain to evolve, however, and they must deal with some very shrill and insistent backseat drivers.
posted by longsleeves at 10:34 PM on August 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


The whole 'it takes so much food to feed a cow, no wonder there is starvation in the world' argument has one major difficulty: There is enough food produced to feed everyone alive. Ultimately, the cause of starvation and hunger isn't the global scarcity of food - they tend to be caused by local scarcity due to poor economic conditions or political action (a depressing number of famines have been intentionally engineered by governments, but good old-fashioned stupidity and ignorance play their role as well.)

Would more food help? Maybe, but maybe not. More food makes food cheaper, sure, but what is the main economic activity in poor areas? Often, it's farming. Cheap food makes it cheaper to feed the poor, but it also can make it more difficult for them to raise money. Whether greater global food availability helps fight hunger or perpetuates it is a complex and difficult argument that demands study and can't be answered with simple platitudes about not eating meat.

Realistically, if everyone stopped eating meat in the US, that grain and corn wouldn't go overseas to feed the poor - the growers would simply stop producing it, as it would no longer be economically viable to do so.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:36 PM on August 27, 2009 [16 favorites]


The frontal lobes were the last part of the brain to evolve, however, and they must deal with some very shrill and insistent backseat drivers.

Oh man, don't I know it. Yeah, you're totally right. It's not simple. I feel like I just heard a radio story about this - on radiolab maybe? Anyone remember the recent show?

But yeah, the interchange between our primal instincts and our logical frontal lobes is like an irritable married couple.

In any case, you're point is well taken. The evolutionary and cognitive basis for our meat consumption, and how hard it is to stop it, is a whole interesting conversation in itself (as is the whole 'we can think' vs. 'i want sex and food' issue in general).

Yeah no you're totally on.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:41 PM on August 27, 2009


There is enough food produced to feed everyone alive. Ultimately, the cause of starvation and hunger isn't the global scarcity of food - they tend to be caused by local scarcity due to poor economic conditions or political action (a depressing number of famines have been intentionally engineered by governments, but good old-fashioned stupidity and ignorance play their role as well.

Hey Mirovarr, I appreciate you making the point I think Talez was trying to make, but much more judiciously and intelligently.

I don't disagree with you at all. Food waste and importation red tape and the fuel costs of shipping food overseas and the actual logistics and politics and whatnot - yeah, your guess is as good as mine, and in the end it may not matter. I guess I'm vegan in wishful thinking that - not only by ending mass cheap meat consumption - but also to get people to start thinking about what they're eating is incredibly important. And like I said, I'm the first to admit the modicum of political statement in my veganism. Hey, its easier than living in a tree, right?

But you're right - and I'm not preaching veganism as a necessarily pragmatic, political move to end world starvation and war, etc., but I do believe thinking a little bit about how the resources you consume affect people - and yes people around the world - is something we could all benefit quite a bit from.

Food is so strange. Just yesterday Lobster was the food of the pauper. Grits was what is now called Polenta in fancy places. Its just that meals, much like our recent wars, are not thought through very well before diving in.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:48 PM on August 27, 2009


I mean, a butterfly flaps its wings in Tokyo...

Oops, sorry about that.

::crushes butterfly::

As you were, entropy.
posted by armage at 10:56 PM on August 27, 2009 [7 favorites]


I'm vegan. I attempt to eat/live as sustainably as possible.

Nevertheless, I don't think my actions are going to change anything.

But I view our treatment of the humans, animals and land involved with factory farming to be disastrously short-sighted on numerous levels [economically, socially, environmentally].

I'm sure most of you agree even if you eat meat.

In fifty years when our intensive farming has destroyed the ecosystem completely I'll be able to look future generations in the eyes without feeling like shit. That is why I am vegan.
posted by cloeburner at 11:02 PM on August 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Just yesterday Lobster was the food of the pauper.
"[Lobster, often considered 'poverty food ' in previous times], was so commonly used as a food for servants and prisoners that Massachusetts passed a law forbidding its use more than twice a week -- a daily lobster dinner was considered cruel and unusual punishment!"*
posted by ericb at 11:04 PM on August 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Number of "I", "I'm", "I'd", "I'll"'s etc. in Lutoslawski posts this thread: 81

Food and agriculture politics aside, you might give that "I" key a little breather, buddy.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 11:04 PM on August 27, 2009


Lutoslawski: I dunno man, I guess I don't get why you hate vegans so much.

I can't speak for everyone, of course, but I'll try and explain why you've rubbed me a bit the wrong way in this thread.

Let me preface by saying that I'm very much a lefty. A good number of my friends are vegetarian or vegan, and I have myself been vegetarian for a period for more or less the reasons you cite (it was purposefully non-permanent, as a method to ease into eating a lot less meat than before).

But here's the thing - you tried to convince us all to go vegan. That ticks people off. Now, I suspect you'll probably respond with something akin to this:

as for the people who don't like vegans because they are vocal about their beliefs? Do you hide all of yours? Wait...aren't you commenting on mefi?

There's a difference between saying "I'm a vegan" and saying "DO YOU REALLY LIKE MEAT THAT MUCH? REALLY?" with some analogy meant to insinuate that meat-eaters are repsonsible for killing starving children.

...at the end of the day, I agree that we do eat too much meat, yes. We should all eat less meat. We don't all need to go vegan, though.
posted by Dysk at 11:04 PM on August 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


Lutoslawski: But you're right - and I'm not preaching veganism as a necessarily pragmatic, political move to end world starvation and war, etc., but I do believe thinking a little bit about how the resources you consume affect people - and yes people around the world - is something we could all benefit quite a bit from.

The problem is, this avenue of thought doesn't seem to lead to solutions that would actually prevent world hunger. Realistically, you seem to understand that the underlying problems that cause starvation are extremely complex and not at all as simple as 'eating cows is bad', but you seem to be pushing a token gesture that doesn't address the ultimate root of the problem - which is global poverty - much at all.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that while what you are trying to accomplish with your veganism is noble, realistically you'd probably accomplishing a lot more by eating a hamburger and then sending five bucks to help establish some local business in Africa. Or something along those lines - one of the worst aspects of world hunger is that the problem of establishing effective, non-exploitive local economies is actually an extremely difficult one, and it is very hard to figure out what actually helps.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:05 PM on August 27, 2009 [6 favorites]


France. Hard to think of a country that views food as more of a pleasure than France, yet obesity there doesn't seem to be a problem.

"Roubaix is an economically depressed industrial town in northern France, the fattest region in the country. Fifty-one percent of the population here is overweight or obese, compared with the national average of 42 percent, according to the most recent national figures in 2003.

The trend line is most significant among children. While adult obesity is rising about 6 percent annually, among children the national rate of growth is 17 percent. At that rate, the French could be - quelle horreur - as fat as Americans by 2020. (More than 65 percent of the population in the United States is considered overweight or obese.)"

posted by cmgonzalez at 11:07 PM on August 27, 2009


Can you circumsize plants?
posted by porpoise at 11:09 PM on August 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Lutoslawksi: Its [sic] just that meals, much like our recent wars, are not thought through very well before diving in.

That statement is false.

How can I categorically say that? Well, it's incredibly easy to disprove a universal assertion - come up with one example that contradicts it. I may not always think quite as hard as a I want to about where my food is being sourced (though I do try, in as far as is realistically possible for me, given where I live, the limited options avaliable to me, and the fact that I don't want to subsist entirely on meat, which the only food I can source properly locally) but I know several people who do.
posted by Dysk at 11:10 PM on August 27, 2009


I guess what I'm trying to say is that while what you are trying to accomplish with your veganism is noble, realistically you'd probably accomplishing a lot more by eating a hamburger and then sending five bucks to help establish some local business in Africa. Or something along those lines - one of the worst aspects of world hunger is that the problem of establishing effective, non-exploitive local economies is actually an extremely difficult one, and it is very hard to figure out what actually helps.

[sigh] there is truth here. however, I still stand by the horrific effects of mass - emphasis on the mass - meat consumption, especially here in the states. Yes, veganism is partially a political gesture - I certainly don't disagree with that - but it is also not merely a gesture, either.

It's a very sensible thing you said in your last line there. And of course I know this to be true. But what I get upset about is that this huge problem, this daunting task that IS very hard to figure out - you're totally right - makes a lot of people simply become the deer in the headlights, and go about their business status quo. Obviously this is a much larger discussion and problem, I realize. Eating vegan, supporting local business, riding my bike to work - these are the things I do to try and contribute.

I realize not everyone can ride their bike to work. I don't hate them for that...you do what you gotta do. I realize not everyone wants to or can eat vegan...ok. But I get very frustrated, as do a lot of vegans, by those who simply write us off, mocking us for not joining in in the revelry of the American pastime of meat eating. It's ubiquitous, and many, I have found, are so quick to come to the defense of their meat eating, and I don't understand why. I don't think that eating meat is absolutely and necessarily a bad thing, or that people who eat meat are evil or malicious, but I hardly think that eating meat is beneficial in any way - and veganism I think is.

And Mitrocarr - I do agree with you. But why not eat something vegan that uses a lot less resources and then also donating five bucks to a local charity? Like I said, I don't think vegans will save the world, but it is something.

Yes, it is complicated. And I am guilty of my own pet peeve of reductionism in this thread. Your points are well taken. I will continue to eat my tempeh and tofu. And I do not look down upon you for eating your beef and chicken. Just please don't buy it from wal-mart, or McDonald's, if you can (my family was raised on wal-mart chicken, btw, which is all we could afford and all that was available. so I sympathize).
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:20 PM on August 27, 2009


Sheesh. I feel like I stumbled into a chatroom populated by Lutoslawski, Talez and an unwitting peanut gallery.
posted by Partario at 11:22 PM on August 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


Brother Dysk -

Points well taken. Yes, I realize I was a bit heavy handed with the 'now you must all be vegan' thing. But then again, aren't many of us like that in some respects? (i.e. stop the war in Iraq NOW, end rape in the DRC NOW) - yes, of course this is hyperbole here, but do you see my point? What I'm trying to say is that what we eat is just as important an issue as many other 'major' political and social issues of our time...and I have a hard time figuring out why people are so very defensive of their meat. This again is slight hyperbole, but it honestly feels to me like Glenn Beck fans being so very indignant about anti-public option health care for reasons that don't make much sense other than they cling to their status quo.

And yes, my statement comparing war to meals is certainly without context, but that doesn't make it false. I stand by that statement. In war as in dinner, people tend to defend whatever ideology they have already decided on, no matter what evidence and truth should reveal.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:28 PM on August 27, 2009


What about fish, farmed or otherwise? Crustaceans? Molluscs? There are plenty of ways to obtain animal protein without killing something as advanced or as resource-intensive as a cow, pig, or chicken.

Errr - while fish are a good converter of input to flesh, rabbits then chickens are some of the next best converters.

Now, if you have free-range chickens in your garden - the chickens are busy eating the insects that attack your foodcrop and are thus not that resource intensive as fall arrives the need for bug patrol in the garden drops off.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:30 PM on August 27, 2009


Can you circumsize plants?

that's big of you. congratulations. what an interesting thing to say. glad you could contribute significantly to the discourse.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:30 PM on August 27, 2009


What really gets my goat, here (no pun intended) is that there have been an overwhelming number of comments regarding why veganism is not very effective.

but I've yet to see a convincing argument regarding why mass meat consumption is helping the environment, the global economy, or social welfare?

Arguments requested, please (not being snarky).
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:32 PM on August 27, 2009


Sorry to interrupt the vegan derail...
Camofrog writes: Much as Brian Dunning's smug condescension annoys me, he made a reasonable argument a few weeks back that locally grown, organic food may not be sustainable either. I hate that guy.

When he takes on the efficiency of Salatin and Polyface farm, he just gets it wrong. He writes:
The elephant in the room on Joel Salatin's farm is that his near-total self-sufficiency methods require an outrageous 550 acres to support only 100 head of cattle and a herd of pigs, plus some turkeys and chickens. Most of the acres are used to grow the feed and raw materials the animals require. I didn't find any valid defense of this, and Pollan's book simply avoids the issue. Typically, pasture-fed cows require half an acre each, so Salatin is using about ten times as much land as he should. Such wasteful land usage might work well in the case of a high-end boutique retailer like Joel Salatin, but it's clearly well beyond the limits of practicality for the world's real food needs.
First he uses an unsourced wikianswers post to back up his claim of how many acres are needed for grazing (wikianswers, really? Try calling the local ag extension next time). He's comparing apples to oranges, as Salatin raises cattle for beef, not dairy. Besides, pasture productivity is pretty variable, depending on location and climate (rainfall, soil quality, length of growing season, etc.) If anything, I'd bet that Salatin is producing more pounds of meat per acre of pasture than other farms by using his management intensive grazing system.

But something looks fishy, why is Salatin only running 100 head of cattle on 550 acres of pasture? He's not, the farm only has a small portion of its land cleared for pasture. I was there in the spring to buy eggs and chicken; they are pretty happy to let you walk anywhere you want to go to see the farm and it's not 550 acres of pasture (but don't take my word, see second paragraph here). 450 acres is used for a sustainable logging operation (scroll to bottom). 30,000 pastured chickens is a pretty substantial as just a sideline of a family farm, so it's pretty lame to dismiss that as "some chickens."

So Brian Dunning's argument might seem reasonable, but only because his evidence is fabricated. You should continue to hate that guy.
...aaaaand now back to your vegan derail.
posted by peeedro at 11:39 PM on August 27, 2009 [12 favorites]


Also I would like to add:

there has been a deluge of people saying, 'but being vegan doesn't solve world hunger.'

But I never said it did. It just doesn't make it worse to the same degree that mass meat consumption does. I feel this aspect has been largely and ridiculously misinterpreted and misrepresented.

A pretty large and egregious logical leap has been made in this respect.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:41 PM on August 27, 2009


Points well taken. Yes, I realize I was a bit heavy handed with the 'now you must all be vegan' thing. But then again, aren't many of us like that in some respects? (i.e. stop the war in Iraq NOW, end rape in the DRC NOW)

The difference here being that in demanding an end to the Iraq war, you are not implicitly calling everyone who has made a different lifestyle choice to you (and let's be honest, it does boil down to nothing more than a lifestyle choice) a murderer.

- yes, of course this is hyperbole here, but do you see my point? What I'm trying to say is that what we eat is just as important an issue as many other 'major' political and social issues of our time

Gods, did you read my comment? Here, I'll quote a choice cut of it for you:
"I have myself been vegetarian for a period for more or less the reasons you cite"
Yes, I understand the issues you're trying to raise. I'm not thick.

...and I have a hard time figuring out why people are so very defensive of their meat.

I think it might have something to do with the fact that you're so violently attacking everyone who does right from your very first post in the thread. That, and that your reasons for going vegan don't require us all to give up meat, just eat less of it (and much less processed food especially).

This again is slight hyperbole, but it honestly feels to me like Glenn Beck fans being so very indignant about anti-public option health care for reasons that don't make much sense other than they cling to their status quo.

Hey, here's a position that differs from yours that does make sense: we all ought to eat less meat, less processed food, more local produce, and farm in a less industrialised, chemical-and-petroleum based way. Doing that is expensive as fuck, though, since intensively farmed and processed food is MUCH cheaper than local organic produce, so expecting it of everyone as of RIGHT NOW is not realistic. Massive systemic changes are needed, but most of us probably could make more of an effort than we are now.

And yes, my statement comparing war to meals is certainly without context, but that doesn't make it false. I stand by that statement. In war as in dinner, people tend to defend whatever ideology they have already decided on, no matter what evidence and truth should reveal.

Something of which you seem to me to be a perfect example.

Look, you're not entirely wrong, just stupendously overzealous, which it does nothing to help your cause. You yourself say that you're vegan partially to compensate for some who eat far too much meat. That's very noble of you (seriously, no sarcasm intended here) but more than you can expect of everyone. It's also more than you need to expect of everyone, by definition.
posted by Dysk at 11:41 PM on August 27, 2009 [1 favorite]



Sorry to interrupt the vegan derail...


Please interrupt the vegan derail, which I cause but never intended to come to this, for the sake of metafilter.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:42 PM on August 27, 2009


but I've yet to see a convincing argument regarding why mass meat consumption is helping the environment, the global economy, or social welfare?

That's a strawman argument if ever I saw one. "Not actively doing the harm you attribute to it" is not the same as "utterly beneficial and helping everyone everywhere". Nobody is saying that it's helping, just that it isn't hurting to anything like the extent you seemed to be claiming initially.
posted by Dysk at 11:43 PM on August 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Lutoslawski: Arguments requested, please (not being snarky).

Lots of things don't help the environment, the global economy, or social welfare (although it's pretty easy to argue that meat eating helps the global economy, because tons of meat is bought, sold, produced, and shipped internationally.) Most forms of entertainment don't. To argue against any particular one, you have to prove that it is particularly bad, unsustainable, and unnecessary - and I don't know that it has been done for meat. I mean, sure, it produces some ecological damage, but compare it to SUVs or something and I bet it looks downright trivial. Plus, you could easily scale meat consumption down and make it totally sustainable - the US has tons of rangeland ideally suited for grazing animals and we could probably grow more corn that we need even without ravaging the Earth while we're doing it.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:47 PM on August 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Something of which you seem to me to be a perfect example.

Well, I disagree with this statement, but fuck, arguing it would turn quickly into its turtles all the way down.

Hey, here's a position that differs from yours that does make sense: we all ought to eat less meat, less processed food, more local produce, and farm in a less industrialised, chemical-and-petroleum based way. Doing that is expensive as fuck, though, since intensively farmed and processed food is MUCH cheaper than local organic produce, so expecting it of everyone as of RIGHT NOW is not realistic. Massive systemic changes are needed, but most of us probably could make more of an effort than we are now.

Yes, this is a sensible position. I don't disagree, and I'm probably too forthright. But I disagree on too major points:

- Obviously this differs greatly depending on where you live, but where I live, eating locally, buying cheap, bulk, whole foods and making completely raw foods into delicious meals, while more work, is cheaper. The whole organic certification is (in a lot of cases) a big crock. But raw produce, raw grains, cook them yourself - i've found this to be significantly cheaper. YMMV.

No. Expecting real and immediate change from people is only unrealistic because people are stubborn, generally lazy, and unwilling. I do expect this kind of immediate change. i did it. i'm not fucking super-hero. i'm a dude with a drone job. i struggle to pay my bills, etc, etc. i just up and decided to start eating vegan - among other things - as just a start. People are incredibly adaptable - they just have to have a bit of will, a couple balls, and get over themselves.

I appreciate the interesting convo (no snark), but I also stand by the aforementioned. I'm no one special, but I'm not passive, either.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:53 PM on August 27, 2009


I mean, sure, it produces some ecological damage, but compare it to SUVs or something and I bet it looks downright trivial.

You might have bet wrong.
posted by peeedro at 11:55 PM on August 27, 2009


wow. its getting late...and my grammer is getting downright embarrassing.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:55 PM on August 27, 2009


I mean, sure, it produces some ecological damage, but compare it to SUVs or something and I bet it looks downright trivial.

You might have bet wrong.


Yeah, i rest my case. drive your hummer if you must, but don't drive it to the steak house.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:57 PM on August 27, 2009


Lutoslawski, you don't even NEED to expect everyone to go vegan. It's not necessary, since you yourself say that you're vegan (rather than just eating less meat) to compensate for masive meateaters. Well, it's unnecessary to expect everyone to start compensating for massive meateaters, because there won't be any left.

Much like it'd be a worthy thing to give away so much wealth to the poor that you're only just above the breadline, but you can't expect everyone to do it, as there is enough wealth for everyone to be more than just above the breadline. You can, however, make a legitimate argument for expecting everyone to give away enough wealth that they're left with exactly the world average wealth.

(Note: the above analogy requires the assumption of an egalitarian ideal. Even if you disagree with it, please entertain it for the purposes of the analogy. Thank you for your co-operation.)
posted by Dysk at 12:05 AM on August 28, 2009


You know I really don't have a problem with facing hard facts about cause and effect, but I'd like a solution that involves me having a steak once and a while. If you're really concerned with the real life cause and effect of people eating meat than I would suggest coming up with a solution that everyone can live with, meat eater or not.

You're right (and now I'm being just downright snarky). Let's find solutions that everyone can live with. Ok, so to appease the anti-semites, we'll just get rid of half the jews...

Are you fucking kidding me? Jesus Christ.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:07 AM on August 28, 2009


Obviously this differs greatly depending on where you live, but where I live, eating locally, buying cheap, bulk, whole foods and making completely raw foods into delicious meals, while more work, is cheaper.

You're right, it does differ based on where you live. I happen not to live in Oregon, and so probably don't have the local options you do.

And also, cheaper than what? Buying ready meals? Certainly. But is it cheaper than buying bulk, whole foods from the local supermarket?

Let me tell you that that is not the case where I live, at all.
posted by Dysk at 12:09 AM on August 28, 2009


you don't even NEED to expect everyone to go vegan. It's not necessary, since you yourself say that you're vegan (rather than just eating less meat) to compensate for masive meateaters. Well, it's unnecessary to expect everyone to start compensating for massive meateaters, because there won't be any left.

I'm assuming this is tongue in the cheek.

I do entertain your analogy. We must agree to disagree here, I'm afraid. I have to hold humanity to a higher standard, or I have nothing left to believe in.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:12 AM on August 28, 2009


Let's find solutions that everyone can live with. Ok, so to appease the anti-semites, we'll just get rid of half the jews...

Are you fucking kidding me? Jesus Christ.


Do you have any idea how ludicrous you come across? It's perfectly possible to have a sustainable diet and lifestyle that involves the occasional steak. Nobody says we have to please everyone (and I really don't know where you got that idea from), and having the occasional steak is hardly genocide.

Thread officially Godwinned for me.
posted by Dysk at 12:13 AM on August 28, 2009 [16 favorites]


I have to hold humanity to a higher standard

A higher standard than what? Than what's necessary? That's just silly. We should be free to do exactly as we please, so long as we don't negatively impact others. So we should be free to be as hedonistic as we desire with food, up to the point where we start harming the environment, or reducing food production beyond what is needed to feed the human population.

Well, we already produce more than enough food to feed the human population, and if we stopped farming livestock intensively, and went to grazing our livestock, we would negate practically all the negative environmental impact meat has.
posted by Dysk at 12:17 AM on August 28, 2009


and having the occasional steak is hardly genocide.

Do you have ANY idea how ludicrous YOU come across? No, I guess you don't.

You have absolutely no idea about the agricultural/economic system from whence your steak comes from.

Fuck, that better be a fucking incredible steak.

Meat eaters are nuts. I stand by my question: eating vegan, while not a solution, at least reduces harm. Please enlighten me on the benefits of meat eating with regard to the economy, the hunger crisis, the environment and social welfare.

Ludicrous? Jesus. Some people have no idea how to follow an action to its logical conclusion.

Think outside you're own damn stomach and your greedy stomach. And don't hate me because I'm committed and disciplined. The weak of the world disgust me. Have the 15 minutes of pleasure from your goddamn steak. This we will never agree upon.

I see no motivation to meat eating but pure self indulgent pleasure. Please someone construct an incredible argument to the contrary.

Thread officially un-interesting.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:22 AM on August 28, 2009


A higher standard than what? Than what's necessary? That's just silly. We should be free to do exactly as we please, so long as we don't negatively impact others.

You're serious? I mean, I'm all about the utilitarian blah blah blah...but if you really think eating meat isn't negatively affecting others...

I mean, you guys have really got to think a bit broader.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:24 AM on August 28, 2009


Here, let me spell it out for you:

Having an occasional steak from a pasture-reared cow does not negatively impact the environment. Having a steak from an industrially farmed cow obviously does, but then so does having bread made with industrially farmed wheat or soy.
posted by Dysk at 12:29 AM on August 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


I mean, I'm all about the utilitarian blah blah blah...

Please, enlighten me as to where I have used utilitarian principles in my post. Basic principles of freedom and liberty, sure, but utility-maximising ethics? Er...
posted by Dysk at 12:30 AM on August 28, 2009


Well, we already produce more than enough food to feed the human population

and cite please!

This is nuts. Defend you're consumption. You're right. The 'everyone do whatever the fuck they want' model is a good one. Burn shit tons of gas driving! Its cool! You're happy, right? Eat tons of meat that wastes natural resources! You're happy, right? Eat local meat, even if its still a waste or resources, but you got it from the coop so it must be helping everyone, right?

Fuck that shit. I will preach vegansim. Its my right, dammit. You get to eat meat everyday and I get to tell you you're a fool. Its the American way.

Eh. I quit. I'm trying hard here to create a life that at least does no harm - and hopefully does good. That is how I seek happiness. If you seek yours through the fleeting pleasure of meat eating, and the defense thereof, well, to each his own, I guess.

America - where people can do whatever ever the fuck they want, as long as the short-term effects don't seem to bad.

God help us all.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:32 AM on August 28, 2009


Please, enlighten me as to where I have used utilitarian principles in my post. Basic principles of freedom and liberty, sure, but utility-maximising ethics? Er...

Wait, you're joking, right? I mean, you did nearly directly quote Mr. Mill...

eh. I'm sleepy. no, baking your own bread from wheat you grow yourself is not nearly as bad as growing tons of feed to feed a cow - even if its local - that farts methane into the air just so after years you can kill it and enjoy its muscle.

This has gone awry. Thank you, everyone. I'm exhausted.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:35 AM on August 28, 2009


and in the meantime, if anyone can come up with not a defense of meat eating, but an argument which genuinely proves the benefits of world-wide meat consumption, I'd be very interested.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:37 AM on August 28, 2009


Plenty of methane being produced in this thread.
posted by Wolof at 12:53 AM on August 28, 2009 [13 favorites]


John Stuart Mill wrote more than one book. The Harm Principle comes from On Liberty, not Utilitarianism.

This is nuts. Defend you're [sic]consumption. You're right. The 'everyone do whatever the fuck they want' model is a good one. Burn shit tons of gas driving! Its cool! You're happy, right? Eat tons of meat that wastes natural resources! You're happy, right? Eat local meat, even if its [sic] still a waste or [sic] resources, but you got it from the coop so it must be helping everyone, right?

No, because in burning "shit tons of gas driving" we are negatively impacting others, due to the damage we cause to the environment.

I didn't say that intensively farmed wheat was as bad as intensively farmed meat. It is still worse than anything not intensively farmed, though.

Fuck that shit. I will preach vegansim. Its my right, dammit. You get to eat meat everyday and I get to tell you you're a fool. Its [sic] the American way.

I'm not American.

Nobody is saying that the current situation is sustainable. Nobody is saying that eating kilos and kilos of meat each month is good for the world. However, eating a small amount of pasture-reared meat has no negative impact. We need to move to a system of much less intensive farming, with fewer chemical and petroleum based fertilisers and so on. There does still remain a lot of grassland, however, that is unsuitable for growing crops, which can quite happily sustain livestock without the need for external feed, fertiliser, or just about anything other than a fence around the pasture. This does not hurt the environment. As somebody pointed out, several centuries ago the American plains were full of buffalo - I'm talking about raising livestock that'd live in pretty much the same way (but maybe with some fences). Please, explain to me how you think this negatively impacts anyone.
posted by Dysk at 12:57 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, we already produce more than enough food to feed the human population

and cite please!


Okay.
posted by Dysk at 1:06 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I see no motivation to meat eating but pure self indulgent pleasure. Please someone construct an incredible argument to the contrary.

Any particular reason you've decided to draw the line at the pleasure of eating while still owning all sorts of expensive electronics which are at least as bad for the environment? Or is it just that you make excuses for the things you like while decrying the things other people like? 'Cause that's the sense I'm getting.
posted by Justinian at 1:11 AM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


STOP POINTING OUT THE RAMIFICATIONS OF MY ACTIONS THAT I DON'T WANT TO THINK ABOUT

I HAVE A RIGHT TO NOT FEEL GUILTY ABOUT ANYTHING I DO
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:22 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah! Nobody has the right to ever do any elective activities ever again because they hurt the environment in some quantifiable way.

You know if reductio ad absurdum that argument you should probably just go ahead and top yourself right now because your digestive system produces methane and therefore you should feel guilty about merely existing.

Drawing up boundaries for other people is ever so much fun!
posted by Talez at 1:38 AM on August 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


DO YOU REALLY LIKE CAPITALIST CONSUMERIST GOODS THAT MUCH? REALLY?

Is your computer powered solely by renewable energy? I hope you don't have a cell phone, it probably has tantalum in it. It is extracted from Coltan, a mineral responsible in part for the cause of the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo that has killed millions of people in a few years. Never mind anything that you own that may have been manufactured in a 'developing country' by poor humans working in appalling conditions for miniscule wages.

DO YOU REALLY LIKE AMERICA THAT MUCH? REALLY??

It's been calculated that even the best conserving American consumes more than twice the global average of energy. That is completely unsustainable. Thanks for destroying the environment, you selfish American! You should move to another country that is less environmentally damaging, but you'd better not fly... try walking or something.

There's nothing wrong with veganism, but you're making yourself look like a total arse.

Get off your high horse.
posted by knapah at 1:43 AM on August 28, 2009 [8 favorites]


I'm not vegan, but I'm also not a stupid asshole who lashes out at people for reminding him that the things he does has consequences he'd rather not think about.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:59 AM on August 28, 2009


You can eat meat and reduce your carbon footprint at the same time. It's called cannibalism. (DON'T YOU DARE JUDGE ME!)

I always thought arguments over food were supposed to be about what dish/cuisine/restaurant is more delicious than which, not the kind of self-righteous and vicious argumentation found in this thread. Leave it to Americans to politicize and ruin even the simplest pleasures in life.

Maybe it's just me, but I'm more likely to eat vegetarian or vegan when presented with a good recipe or restaurant recommendation. Presenting the moral implications of one food choice over another can be very helpful if presented in a compelling and sympathetic tone; counter-productive if presented in a self-righteous or condescending tone. You'd think that would be manifestly obvious to everyone, and yet here we are.

If dispassionate advocacy in favor of eating healthier and consuming less red meat doesn't work, there's always this approach:

http://thisiswhyyourefat.com/
posted by Davenhill at 2:06 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Some of us are well aware that things we do have consequences. I'm well aware that living here in the EU means that I'm fucking over Africa simply by virtue of taking their minerals for our consumer goods, getting them to grow flowers instead of food because it's more economical for the landowners there, allowing famines in Tanzania because they export food to Europe and the US instead of eating it themselves.

Eating meat has many arguments going against it, the best ones are probably environmental. It results in shitloads of greenhouse gases being produced, and rainforests cut down in Brazil etc. Arguing that stopping eating meat will save Africa is just such a ridiculous argument that I can't quite believe I'm hearing it.

Do you really think that under the capitalist mode of production, in which we exist, that if forbidden to raise livestock, American farmers will start growing masses of corn to then give to Africa? Hah. They'll be subsidised to grow uneconomical grains that will then be stored in warehouses because Africans can't afford it. Deciding to give it as aid is a rather optimistic viewpoint that assumes that the US government and others, e.g. Europe, are going to pay farmers to farm grains so that they can then pay to send them to Africa.

Suffice to say I don't think that is a likely outcome.

Encourage people to stop eating meat all you want, I'm all for vegetarians/vegans voicing their opinions, but comparing eating meat to killing an African child is total hyperbole that has practically no basis in reality. Especially considering the millions of people around the world suffering as a result of the structural violence imposed upon them by our economic system.
posted by knapah at 2:09 AM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


And the arguments against eating meat for environmental reasons only apply particularly well to intensive/industrial meat production.
posted by knapah at 2:14 AM on August 28, 2009


America sucks more everyday.
posted by iamck at 2:16 AM on August 28, 2009


One thing I wonder about veganism is how it works in the cold, hard, practical realities of households with children and long commutes. I'd kind of like to explore it, but I just ran through the mental scenarios of how much it would cost and how much time it would take and just the logistics of running it through my kitchen, and I just started wondering about the demographics of veganism.

I wonder what percentage of vegans lives the lifestyle above, or if it's the purview of younger people, without children, with apartments, with jobs that are near to them, etc. etc.

I am absolutely not snarking by saying this.

I was just thinking of what we do each night to get the dog out, the baby to bed, dinner on the table.

We're not a heavy meat consuming household, btw, maybe a couple of times a week. We're neither of us that into it.

I don't know -- I'm just musing. Also, before anyone says no one has to have a long commute, etc., etc.,--I drive an hour to work because it's literally the only grown up job I could find in a fifty mile radius. It's the pits, but I have a child and as much as I'd like to do something cool and local, I really have to make more money than anything I could do in town.

So, anybody in the stage of life I'm talking about above, a vegan? I'm curious about what it's like, and how it works, and if it's much harder.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:30 AM on August 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Pope Guilty, you're right that a lot of what we do has consequences. My issue, however, was with the fact that starving Africans and harming the environment were portrayed as consequences of eating meat, and all meat eaters (including myself) portrayed as little better than murderers. There's two reasons I take issue with this:

1) There is no mechanism by which eating meat leads to Africans starving. We already produce enough food to feed everyone. The problem is greed, wastage, economic disenfranchisement, and poor distribution.

2) Environmental damage is not a consequence of eating meat. Environmental damage is a consequence of eating intensively and industrially farmed food of any sort, though especially intensively farmed livestock. Sustainably farmed food does not damage the environment, and it is very much possible to raise sustainable livestock. Thus, so long as you properly source your meat, it is possible to dine upon the flesh of beasts without it having the consequences that Lutoslawski claimed.

I'm not saying you should eat meat. I'm not saying you shouldn't eat meat. I'm saying that you should be free to do what you please, so long as you don't harm others (the Harm Principle*) and that this does not necessarily mean giving up meat entirely.

I have no problem with people being vegans. I have no problem with people encouraging others to adopt this diet, either. I do, however, take issue with being called a "selfish asshole" or "dickwad" (or even having my beliefs implicitly equated with anti-semitic genocide) based on a misunderstanding of the implications of my diet.

I tried initially to be polite (well, I tried all the way through) and believe I have shown reasonable restraint given the insults I have had baselessly flung at me. Having my views misrepresented, assumptions made about my knowledge of the food I eat and where I get it from, and consistently having the same strawmen put up again and again does get frustrating. I apologise for participating so enthusiastically in this derail, but it just got well and truly under my skin.


*(Yes, the Harm Principle comes from J. S. Mill's On Liberty, but it is not a utilitarian principle. If it were, it might read something like 'you should be free to do what you please, so long as the the negative impacts of it are offset by an equal or greater increase in utility' which is quite different.)
posted by Dysk at 2:37 AM on August 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


Gah! I meant to throw a link into 2) so here goes again:

2) Environmental damage is not a consequence of eating meat. Environmental damage is a consequence of eating intensively and industrially farmed food of any sort, though especially intensively farmed livestock. Sustainably farmed food does not damage the environment, and it is very much possible to raise sustainable livestock.
posted by Dysk at 2:39 AM on August 28, 2009


partially because eating 100% local has become impossible in most parts of the world these days

Huh?

I only eat local because that's pretty much all they sell here. So do the vast majority of people of Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Pacific, and central and eastern Europe - I'd say a good 75% of the world's population eats overwhelmingly locally almost all the time.

Do we have supermarkets? Yes. Do they sell Canadian maple syrup and Tunisian olive oil? Yes. But do they really, truly, overwhelmingly, sell things from Poland and our neighbors? Yes.

My in-season strawberries are from 10 kilometers away. Is that local enough, or are they drenched in the blood of innocent children since chemical fertilizers were used to raise them, funding the work of Big Ag? How about my carrots, which are from some old lady's allotment she sells for a pittance in the market to make ends meet since her pension is so meager? Since she's contributing to the popularity of what is, honestly, a non-native species if you go back fare enough, and since I can just as easily get carrots at Tesco (I have no shame!), and those carrots are from Peru (the horror!), I guess she's also implicated in the massacre. And what about the eggs from the guy across the street? Or are those bathed in death as well, in the oil used in the paint on the cardboard box I'm reusing to transport them?

While it was nice to know your righteous screed above had a little room for the 6,471,365,993 Earthlings who don't live in the US, you should come visit us and see what life is actually like here, in the lands of reality, far beyond your very fertile imagination.
posted by mdonley at 2:57 AM on August 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


Lutoslawski: You have absolutely no idea about the agricultural/economic system from whence your steak comes from [sic].

I buy wild rabbits from my local butcher - a friend of his shoots them on nearby fields, as the wild rabbits are practically a pest here. This meat eating has none of the negative environmental or food stock depletion consequences that have been claimed to hold universally true for meat. In fact, it's downright good for the environment and food stocks:

1) Rabbits produce methane. By hunting them, we turn remove a source of greenhouse gas from the world.

2) Rabbits don't eat feed. They eat grass and weeds, mostly. Thus, they aren't depleting food stocks in the way that intensively farmed livestock operations are.

3) By shooting an cooking a rabbit, we see a net gain in the amount of food in the world.

4) If we didn't hunt rabbits at all, their population would be likely to grow to a problematic size.

5) If we shot and killed the rabbits, but didn't eat them, they would rot, releasing greenhouse gases. By eating them, we reduce the harm to the environment.

In fact, this generalises to any (non-farmed) game. Cows (or other livestock) reared organically on local pasture don't do much of the damage universally claimed for meat, either.

So find a good butcher with an ethical sourcing policy, and you can be a guilt-free omnivore.
posted by Dysk at 3:18 AM on August 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


But eating vegan is actually really, really, really easy

Yes, but it's expensive. If I have no lunch and need to buy something while I'm out, the cheapest option is McDonalds. If a poorer family wants to stop for food while they're in town, they can choose a cheeseburger (99p) or a 'slim sandwich' (one slice of bread, cut in half, with something between it) from Pret for £1.50. One of those will fill up a hungry kid for longer and cheaper. Sure, it's more nutritious to eat nuts, fruit and veg, but it's difficult to do cheaply (and if you would care to argue with me on this I'd be interested because I find it hard to stay healthy on a budget). I have to keep my iron levels up - eating enough spinach to do this, while tasty tasty, is more expensive than meat. There is also a rise in allergies - my other half has a legume allergy and cannot eat in many vegetarian restaurants even if he chooses carefully, because of cross-contamination.

I don't care whether someone is vegetarian, vegan, or not - in my experience it is meat-eaters who are most judgemental about the diets of others. (NB. Don't do this, people - whichever side of the fence you're on, preaching on the diet choices that others SHOULD follow rather than explaing why YOU follow it makes the listener switch off like *that*.) I eat meat rarely, but am not fully vegetarian because, while I'm aware of the arguments around it, I feel no strong personal conviction to make that change.
posted by mippy at 3:33 AM on August 28, 2009


I am now a vegan. Let me tell you why. And before you start snarking about the self-righteous vegan, ask yourself if you'd snark about, say, a volunteer at your local hospital or any of the other millions of people who use their free time to save lives.

As much as I was interested in the reasoning behind adopting a vegan diet, this kind of phrasing made me want to not listen to the rest of your argument. Not because I feel guilty (I often do for doing things I enjoy that harm the environment). Because it's very, very whiny and a complete value judgement on those who choose not to care about things in the same way as yourself.
posted by mippy at 3:36 AM on August 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


but I'm also not a stupid asshole who lashes out at people

"STOP POINTING OUT THE RAMIFICATIONS OF MY ACTIONS THAT I DON'T WANT TO THINK ABOUT

I HAVE A RIGHT TO NOT FEEL GUILTY ABOUT ANYTHING I DO"

Great way to prove it.
posted by Cyrano at 3:49 AM on August 28, 2009


I think that is what they call 'heavy irony', De Bergerac.
posted by mippy at 3:55 AM on August 28, 2009


From this thread, I've learned that eating vegan makes you nuts.

"and in the meantime, if anyone can come up with not a defense of meat eating, but an argument which genuinely proves the benefits of world-wide meat consumption, I'd be very interested."
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:37 AM on August 28

Hardees Food Systems, Inc. has: I give you Padma. She's the best argument for eating meat I've ever seen.
posted by paulsc at 4:20 AM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Great way to prove it.

Yes, by cutting off part of the quote, you can totally change its meaning! And it doesn't make you an asshole at all!
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:24 AM on August 28, 2009


Yes, it doesn't make you an asshole at all
posted by Elmore at 4:43 AM on August 28, 2009


Thanks for the post. I was thrilled to see the budding discussion about improving food culture. Metafilter has given me a bunch of neat facts and ideas about this in the past: Please keep going.
posted by yoHighness at 4:59 AM on August 28, 2009


Luckily, there is a growing group of people out there dedicated to solving the problem of speedy delivery of locally grown food.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:30 AM on August 28, 2009


Personal lifestyle choices are unassailable. Choosing to eat/live/consume in a certain way, in a rich culture like ours has personal rewards and personal consequences but only minor effects on the larger system. Motivation can be political, or health-based, or educational, any number of things. You can choose to see it in a larger context, you can join with others to make it a wider movement or statement. What personal choices are NOT, in and of themselves, is significant in a global sense. You can eat "vegan" or "sustainable" or "local" but it is only a personal choice with no consequence beyond your own satisfaction unless you combine your choice with voting habits, political action, frequent and direct contact with elected officials, media campaigns, education, organization of social action like boycotts, etc.

If you believe your personal choices are the way to save the planet, AND you feel that you have a right to assail others who have not made the same choice, or who have made that choice for bad reasons, you have an obligation, as a member of a free society, to take political and social action to make the world better for everyone, and not just for yourself. If you do not take these actions, you forfeit your right to criticize.
posted by nax at 6:21 AM on August 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Eat deer.

No, seriously, in some parts, they're a pest.

Plus they're tasty.
posted by kldickson at 6:43 AM on August 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Lutoslawski, if there was an overpopulation of rabbits or deer in your area and some person was going to sell you a big slab of venison or a bit of rabbit, would you eat it to save the environment?
posted by kldickson at 6:44 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, dickhead vegans are dickheads. I can understand why some people eat vegan and that some vegans aren't dickheads, but most vegans I've run into are.
posted by kldickson at 6:45 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I HAVE A RIGHT TO NOT FEEL GUILTY ABOUT ANYTHING I DO
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:22 AM on August 28


Er, um... do I even have to say it?

Starts with an "epon..."
posted by hippybear at 6:50 AM on August 28, 2009


I eat meat to stop food from going to the third world. Otherwise, they'd just breed themselves to an even more unsustainable population level. When the system crashes, I will have saved lives, while vegans will have doomed people to starvation and cannibalism.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 6:59 AM on August 28, 2009


[NOT UN-CAPITALISER]
posted by Balisong at 7:09 AM on August 28, 2009


I'm a pretty left-leaning guy myself, and I eat much less meat than I used to, but y'know what?

I'm going to eat the tofu and the cheeseburger, and then I'm driving the starving African kid to a McDonald's five hundred miles away in a leather-upholstered Hummer with wheels made out of meat to feed him another cheeseburger, just to piss you off.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 7:19 AM on August 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


Well, at least now there's a post people can link to provide support for the "all vegans are assholes" meme.
posted by electroboy at 7:23 AM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Peeedro, I can't believe you're making me defend Skeptoid, but you kinda cherrypicked one fuzzy stat to dismiss his whole argument, which is that just because something is produced locally does not necessarily mean it has a rock-bottom carbon footprint. I still hate him, but that doesn't mean we should dismiss his entire premise out of hand. It seems worth considering that locally grown food might not always be the greenest.
posted by Camofrog at 7:55 AM on August 28, 2009


Meatfilter.
posted by toastchee at 8:07 AM on August 28, 2009


Eating meat is preparation for the end of civilization. My stomach will be able to acclimatize to a diet of fried people much easier than a vegan stomach will be able to adapt to that diet. In fact, the first people I eat will BE vegans, so they don't scarf up all the remaining veggies. Grass-fed people probably taste better than McMeal-fed people too, now that I think about it.
posted by jamstigator at 8:13 AM on August 28, 2009


We could all eat a lot, lot less of everything.

What you mean, "we", kemosabe?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:36 AM on August 28, 2009


The frontal lobes were the last part of the brain to evolve, however, and they must deal with some very shrill and insistent backseat drivers.

Oh man, don't I know it. Yeah, you're totally right. It's not simple. I feel like I just heard a radio story about this - on radiolab maybe? Anyone remember the recent show?


Bob Edwards Weekend, August 8-9, Hour 2
posted by Camofrog at 8:40 AM on August 28, 2009


Regarding the green-ness of locally-grown food:

Step 1: Support local farmers (and help new ones start) so that there actually is a local food system to make green.
Step 2: Optimize the local food system so that it is greener. Co-operatively owned delivery trucks making the rounds to multiple farms and stores; freight bicycles; electric vans; permaculture. People are innovative.

I know that the farmers at my local farmers' market have to drive to get there, and that small trucks might be currently less efficient than shipping containers, etc. But it is one of the few ways available to support a system that includes local production at all -- which is a prerequisite to a low-footprint local production system. Delivery of local produce is going to get a lot greener (and already is doing so, e.g. CSA's), but the same cannot be said convincingly of the global food system.
posted by parudox at 8:50 AM on August 28, 2009


Heh, I love how flapjax' quip about France gets 12 favorites, while I completely debunked it and get not even a response. No offense to flapjax meant, it just shows the scale of the derail in here and how many people it's turned off.
posted by cmgonzalez at 8:54 AM on August 28, 2009


Yeah, but flapjax has the best diet here, if his name is anything to go by.
posted by nax at 9:07 AM on August 28, 2009


Debunked? Hardly. As your linked article suggests, obesity wasn't a problem in France until it started adopting the American fast-food culture of eating. That in no way invalidates flapjax at midnite's point.
posted by parudox at 9:12 AM on August 28, 2009


One meal a day consisting mostly of flour paste cooked and coated with boiled tree sap? Eaten late at night right before bed? Sounds like a horrible diet to me. ;)
posted by hippybear at 9:21 AM on August 28, 2009


I eat meat, and I am not ashamed of it. Hell, at least it's real food. Honestly, given a choice I would prefer to eat meat over anything else. And concerning the food/obesity/feed the world issues, growing more corn and soybeans isn't the answer. It doesn't even come close. Those two crops are convenient because you can cycle them one after another (corn depletes nitrogen in the soil, soybeans replenish it), they're federally subsidized, and they're super easy to process, flavor, and put in a box. You want it to taste like chicken? Done. How about making a refreshing sugar bevarage out of it? No problem. Growing more corn and soybeans would basically lead to more fat people.

Seriously, what about nutrition? It's not just feeding people calories here. What's in a McDonald's burger? Wheat, grain-fed beef, high-fructose corn syrup sauce (oh wait, I mean ketchup, no I mean the vegetable serving). You know what these things have in common? Virtually no nutritive value at all. What do you eat with that? Potatoes. Without the skin. Huh, no real nutritive value there either. Honestly, it's a good thing people eat their fries with ketchup or they wouldn't get their daily allotment of vegetables at all!

Ack, the whole thing just makes me upset. Honestly, buy local if you can, but if not, at least buy real food. You know, tomatoes, eggplant, cauliflower. Use some delightful spices. Add some meat. We are omnivores people. You are not going to be healthy if you limit yourself to one group of food (the processed corn, soy and wheat group).
posted by scrutiny at 9:55 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Lutoslawski, it's "for all intents and purposes," not "for all intensive purposes." That's not a spelling error, that's just more proof of your stupidity.

Do you have any idea, any at all, how utterly and completely insane you have come across in this thread, from beginning to end? I'm serious; this is going to be a thread people point to like the portobello (portabello, portabella, tomato potato) mushroom thread as an example of how a single person can send a thread spinning off into WTF-land. It's like really awful street theater in here--you're some kind of mime/juggler/fire-eater/breakdancer/street-preacher all wrapped up into one Tofu-Covered Crazy Homeless Guy, standing on a busy street corner, and your head is spinning around spewing pea soup (vegan!) all over the stunned and bewildered crowd.

Jesus Christ.

shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up
posted by tzikeh at 9:55 AM on August 28, 2009 [9 favorites]


One thing I wonder about veganism is how it works in the cold, hard, practical realities of households with children and long commutes. I'd kind of like to explore it, but I just ran through the mental scenarios of how much it would cost and how much time it would take and just the logistics of running it through my kitchen, and I just started wondering about the demographics of veganism.

Well, I can't speak for veganism per se; we eat products that have eggs in them (if they were baked) and use cheese, though not much milk. But my child is a self-decided 99% vegetarian; he refuses meat, except for the very occasional chicken nugget, which isn't something that he is often offered anyway.

So he eats: toasted frozen waffles stuck together with organic jam (homemade Pop Tart, very portable for breakfast), peanut butter sandwiches, grilled cheese sandwiches, cheese quesadillas, pasta with or without cheese, personal pizzas (you can buy the little crusts cheap at the grocery, store, add spaghetti sauce and cheese, bam: dinner). And a metric ton of blueberries, grapes, apples, bananas, and almost any other fruits we keep for him. He will also eat rice and corn, although he is not really keen on lots of veggies yet. But all of those things are super easy and quick to make, and not expensive. The varieties of things you can do with noodles and sauces alone can make up many inexpensive meals.

Fast food really isn't as cheap as that; a kids McMeal is about what, 4-5 dollars? For a burger he won't eat, fries full of salt that make him thirsty, and overpriced apple slices with caramel sauce.

Fruit is not inexpensive, but in terms of how much it actually fills him up vs. a bag of Cheetos, not a bad bargain.

Some of the food he eats is obviously processed, but he's a long way from living on Froot Loops and Coca-Cola, without much effort on my part.
posted by emjaybee at 10:09 AM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


See, like you, we're pretty close to vegetarian anyway. I serve meat occasionally only because Mr. Llama's a really picky eater and needs some kind of protein source.

But we do eat cheese, butter or milk, and even though I really do cook a lot of vegetables (pasta is my best blank canvas) the cheese plays a not insignificant role, never mind the ubiquity of eggs in baked products, etc.

It's not that we don't eat healthy or don't buy unprocessed food, in fact, that's 95% of what we buy. I'll occasionally buy a frozen dinner for the desperate moment, but that's it.

But it's the logistics of veganism, specifically, that I'm wondering about. We're borderline vegetarian as it is. I can't think of a time when we've had meat for either breakfast or lunch, I don't use it in soups, etc. etc.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:52 AM on August 28, 2009


It strikes me that vegans are kind of like American Christians. The majority of them are cool people, doing their own thing, trying to make the world a better place, not the kind to shove their beliefs down your throat but they'd be more than happy to share those same beliefs with you if you ask.

Unfortunately, both groups have a loud, vocal minority that use any opportunity to preach their gospel to you, look down their noses at people who haven't seen the light, and claim that non-believers want to kill children.

It's a shame that this segment is so loud and shrill that their behavior essentially defines society's negative stereotype of the groups as a whole.
posted by turaho at 11:15 AM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sorry I'm late. My ISP was freaking out last night.

*whacks the big gong marked OVERPOPULATION with enough force to make up for his tardiness, then leaves*
posted by adipocere at 11:16 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is your computer powered solely by renewable energy? I hope you don't have a cell phone, it probably has tantalum in it. It is extracted from Coltan, a mineral responsible in part for the cause of the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo that has killed millions of people in a few years. Never mind anything that you own that may have been manufactured in a 'developing country' by poor humans working in appalling conditions for miniscule wages.

In my own defense:

My house is powered by wind. I don't use a cell-phone. I own no clothing made outside of the United States. I ride a bicycle.

No, i'm not perfect and I don't have a negative carbon footprint, but I'm doing my best.

Complacency is a weird thing to be proud of.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:40 AM on August 28, 2009


Any particular reason you've decided to draw the line at the pleasure of eating while still owning all sorts of expensive electronics which are at least as bad for the environment? Or is it just that you make excuses for the things you like while decrying the things other people like? 'Cause that's the sense I'm getting.

I don't own many electronics. I have a computer. I volunteer for an organization that recycles used computer parts to make new computers so people don't buy new ones.

When did I make an excuse for things I like?

People are so quick to defend their bad habits. Meat isn't crack. I don't get why people are so attached to it and insist on calling me an asshole or a dickwad or whatever for point to some hard truths about our food consumption.

The other really strange thing about this thread: lots of comments saying something to the effect of, 'oh sure, you're vegan, but that's not going to save the world so why are you doing it?' and similar comments to the effect of 'not eating meat would make such a small difference that its not even worth it.'

I dunno. I guess I find those arguments to be, well, rather sad. Change won't happen unless everyone changes the way they live, and that starts in small ways like eating less or no meat, driving less, using less electricity. I mean, really people? This is your attitude?

And I've yet to see a good argument for why eating meat is actually saving the environment, the economy and social justice.

Only on mefi would one get so much slack for trying to do something positive in the world while being very vocal about why its important.

And no, the analogy to Christianity is completely insane. I don't care what the fuck you believe about existence or the afterlife or the validity of Jesus. I do care about how your diet is affecting the world in the now.

If you think vegans are assholes, well, that's likely because you have carnivore guilt.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:49 AM on August 28, 2009


Lutoslawski, since you're back, I wanted to thank you for helping to create the conditions that often turn people immediately hostile whenever they learn for one reason or another that I do not eat meat.

I don't particularly care what others eat; I don't consider it to be any of my business. I don't tell people what to eat and I don't expect them to tell me what to eat. But I am not kidding that people often get peremptorily hostile when they find out I'm a vegetarian. As far as I can tell, most of them do this because they have come to expect a hyperbolic rant about how their eating habits are WRONG, WRONG, WRONG and mine are RIGHT.

Last night, you said: Meat eaters are nuts.

In response to the statement, "and having the occasional steak is hardly genocide," you said: Do you have ANY idea how ludicrous YOU come across? No, I guess you don't.

In a comparison of meat eating with the holocaust, you said: Ok, so to appease the anti-semites, we'll just get rid of half the jews...

Well? Do you have any idea how ludicrous you sound and what a ludicrous picture of vegetarians and vegans you paint in others' minds when you say things like this? Do you think that this mode of discourse encourages people to stop eating meat or in any way helps whatever your cause may be? I encourage you to seriously consider this. And please keep in mind that this comment comes from a person who has not eaten meat for approximately twenty years.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 11:56 AM on August 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


I love meat, but threads like this make me wish we could all photosynthesize.
posted by emeiji at 11:59 AM on August 28, 2009


Lutoslawski: I don't get why people are so attached to it and insist on calling me an asshole or a dickwad or whatever for point to some hard truths about our food consumption.

First off, I know others have, but I have not used terms such as asshole or dickwad, and have tried (insofar as I have been able) to attack your arguments rather than you.

Secondly, I'd like to point out that the general consensus (amongst omnivores, vegetarians, lefties, righties, environmentalists, and just regular folk) seems to be taht you've presented some hard falsehoods about our food consumption, rather than some hard truths...

And I've yet to see a good argument for why eating meat is actually saving the environment, the economy and social justice.

You keep putting up this strawman. Nobody is saying that eating meat is good for the environment, the economy, or social justice*. We're just saying that meat doesn't have to be bad for the environment, the economy, or social justice. And if it doesn't have to be bad, so long as we engage with it responsibly (in a way where we do no damage) we should be allowed to continue eating meat if we so desire.

If you think vegans are assholes, well, that's likely because you have carnivore guilt.

I don't, and if I did, it would probably be because of the rather aggresive, almost militant, stance you've taken in this thread, and you unwillingness to accept reasoned argument. Please, we've provided many points that we agree debunk your argument that eating meat is inherently harmful to the environment, and if you disagree, it would be helpful if you could point out why you don't think the issues we've raised represent a challenge to your position. Otherwise this debate will get nowhere.


*(Actually, I did provide a slightly tongue-in-cheek, but still valid, reasoning for why eating game can benefit the environment.)
posted by Dysk at 12:04 PM on August 28, 2009


In my own defense:

My house is powered by wind. I don't use a cell-phone. I own no clothing made outside of the United States. I ride a bicycle.

I volunteer for an organization that recycles used computer parts to make new computers so people don't buy new ones.


Crap! It's getting harder to not like you!
posted by toastchee at 12:07 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


That in no way invalidates flapjax at midnite's point.

flapjax said "yet obesity there doesn't seem to be a problem"

Which was debunked by the article quote I posted and the rest linked to. That said, cultural shifts occur, but the point stands that obesity is indeed a problem in France.
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:10 PM on August 28, 2009


Oh man. I was getting all nostalgic about going back to Portland...but now, no, fuck it, back to Africa, where veganism equals poverty and this kind of spiraling thought experiment is confined to Peace Corp regional socials.
posted by iamck at 12:16 PM on August 28, 2009


Lutoslawski - Complacency is a weird thing to be proud of.

Who's proud of it?

My general point, when not ranting on about the terrible cost of global capitalism, is that militant veganism is going beyond what is necessary. Meat can be eaten sustainably, yes it should probably be eaten less, but the fact is that eating some meat is not enough to make you a baby killer.

The other really strange thing about this thread: lots of comments saying something to the effect of, 'oh sure, you're vegan, but that's not going to save the world so why are you doing it?' and similar comments to the effect of 'not eating meat would make such a small difference that its not even worth it.'

The point isn't to say that being vegan won't save the world, it's that ardently preaching veganism and condemning those who are not vegan to eternal damnation is 1) unhelpful, and 2) unnecessary.

People should cut down on meat intake (to zero if they want), eat locally and sustainably where possible (and that can include meat), and do what they can to pressure governments to reform the global economic system that causes infinitely more tragedy in Africa than my having a slice of bacon. Just don't be a dick about it.

People tend to have reactions to militancy. I get fed up listening to fundamentalist christians, I also get fed up listening to fundamentalist atheists. You are being an extremist when all that is needed is some sensible readjustments.
posted by knapah at 12:19 PM on August 28, 2009


I love meat, but threads like this make me wish we could all photosynthesize.

Me too, provided it was as wonderful an experience as eating a delicious meal. But I'm guessing that eating is a better way to grow brains or we'd be doing that already.
posted by emjaybee at 12:20 PM on August 28, 2009


MetaFilter: Premature grrr grrrness
posted by Floydd at 12:42 PM on August 28, 2009


He's back....
posted by flummox at 12:43 PM on August 28, 2009


It seems like "food" should be added to the old saying about politics, sex and religion.
posted by flummox at 12:45 PM on August 28, 2009


No true Frenchman has problems with obesity.
posted by electroboy at 1:07 PM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you think vegans are assholes, well, that's likely because you have carnivore guilt.

And if you think carnivores are assholes, well, that's likely because you have carnivore envy.

Oh, wait, no--you think carnivores are assholes because OMG THEY DON'T LIVE PERFECT PURE AND SELFLESS LIVES THAT WOULD END WORLD HUNGER AND POVERTY LIKE YOU DO!

You still don't seem to understand that not everyone has to stop eating meat to achieve... whatever-the-hell it is you want to achieve. Utopia. Shangri-La. Veggie Tales. Whatever. Complete abstinence is entirely unnecessary. That "moderation in all things" idea? Maybe try espousing that for a while, instead of screeching at people right out of the gate. They might listen to you.

By the way, meat doesn't make you fat. Plenty of carnivores are thin.

Mmmmm. Meat.
posted by tzikeh at 1:10 PM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, regardless of how France got to where it is today, Americans didn't get fatter in a bubble either.

In both cases, cultural and socioeconomic shifts have contributed to the increases. Yes, traditionally, France is quite mindful of portions and specializes in decadence served small, but that's the tradition and this is the now: 42% overweight/obese at that article's date in 2006 (using data from 2003) and goodness knows what higher number now. Not in a bubble.
posted by cmgonzalez at 1:23 PM on August 28, 2009


In related news:
America’s War on the Overweight -- "Anti-fat rhetoric is getting nastier than ever. Why our overweight nation hates overweight people."

Who Says Americans Are Too Fat? -- "Overselling the obesity epidemic isn't getting us anywhere. You can be big and healthy at the same time."
posted by ericb at 1:29 PM on August 28, 2009


And no, the analogy to Christianity is completely insane. I don't care what the fuck you believe about existence or the afterlife or the validity of Jesus.

I'm starting to think you don't know what the word "analogy" means.
posted by turaho at 1:43 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Brother Dysk -

You're right. You have remained judicious and I appreciate that. And I admit I have not (it's not an excuse, but a did have a couple glasses of bourbon last night, which tends to make me riled up...and make lots of embarrassing grammatical errors...)

The comments about how I have come across as overbearing and mean and my militant tone have not been lost on me. In my experience in having this debate, it often gets extremely frustrating as I have found meat eaters 1) make fun of vegans...a lot...for really no reason at all in many cases, and 2) laugh off our arguments and philosophies and say something to the effect of 'mmm. i love meat. i don't care about who it hurts.'

Many of you were not making those arguments, and I'm sorry for being a jerk - though I did try to point out the arguments I thought were good, and a lot of what I said I felt was misrepresented or I was given credit for things I never said at all.

Lutoslawski, since you're back, I wanted to thank you for helping to create the conditions that often turn people immediately hostile whenever they learn for one reason or another that I do not eat meat.

Point well taken. But I think its a two way street. When people find out I'm a vegan, they become immediately hostile and defensive. And so I get hostile and defensive. Its probably not the best reaction, but I don't thinks its the case that vegans are the hostile ones and everyone else is simply reacting. Part of the reason this happens, I really do believe, is that there not a lot of great defenses of meat eating other than that it tastes good (which is not an invalid argument, I realize), and they have come to expect some preachy political rant against which they can't defend themselves and which they've already heard anyway. Well, I'm totally guilty as charged. And you are right - we vegans get on our high horse, and so no one listens.

It gives us a bad name, you're right, and thank you for that good point. I will be more conscious about this in the future.

We're just saying that meat doesn't have to be bad for the environment, the economy, or social justice.

I agree with you - I don't think meat has to be bad for these things, but at the moment it largely is. I really did try to make clear that I'm not a vegan because I find anything inherently wrong with meat eating, because I don't. Veganism for me is a political and economic choice. Lots of people on this thread have explained ways in which they eat meat and dairy responsibly, ethically and with the effects of eating such things in mind. I think that's great, but I also think you guys are in the minority. Like I said earlier, if you can raise some chickens in your back yard and eat their eggs (and I know many who do) - I'm completely down with that. In fact, you've got yourself a source of a lot of nutrition with very little detrimental effects, and this would be much better than, say, eating kale grown in southern California. Most meat and egg production, however, isn't like that. It is changing, which is good - but there is a really, really long way to go.

Knapah -

I was a dick about it. Sometimes I can be a real dick and I'm the first to admit that - and I get pissed off at people who are overly ardent about things as well. And of course my hyperbole was in fact hyperbole. I used far fetched examples with the purpose of trying to get people to think a little bit beyond their pocket book, their freezer and their stomach. But alas, point well taken.

This is an extremely important issue to me - because food should be talked about along with politics, policy and other major social and environmental issues. People shouldn't be able to eat anything they want - for their own health, if nothing else, but also for the earth and for others. I like the harm principle as well, and while eating meat is not seemingly doing any direct harm, there is a point in which consumption of that burger (like a McDonald's burger) is doing harm. Its like driving - should we be able to drive as much as we want wherever we want? At what point does excessive driving, while not immediately harmful to anyone, become harmful to the global population, to future generations, etc. Oil comes with an extremely high cost - I think we all get this. So does food.

To those who weren't just being mean, apologies.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:06 PM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Lutoslawski: hey, I have very strong feelings myself about people reproducing. The way I see it, our environment is going to collapse from overpopulation more than anything else. If I promise not to eat meat, will you promise not to have children?
posted by thisperon at 2:13 PM on August 28, 2009


Lutoslawski: hey, I have very strong feelings myself about people reproducing. The way I see it, our environment is going to collapse from overpopulation more than anything else. If I promise not to eat meat, will you promise not to have children?

Deal. (i've never planned on having children anyway...but let's not go there).

And you're right - somebody brought up the overpopulation problem earlier. I don't disagree that overpopulation is probably the biggest crisis we face, what with the predicted 12(?) billion in the next several decades?

But let's not start that up.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:15 PM on August 28, 2009


I see no motivation to meat eating but pure self indulgent pleasure. Please someone construct an incredible argument to the contrary.

Try being a diabetic on a vegan diet. I know there are a few out there but it is extremely hard to do. Especially when you have other health issues to balance with it. I tried to eat mainly vegetarian for a year or so and my blood glucose was much higher than it is on a mixed diet.

Too high of blood glucose destroys your body. I have to keep my diet balanced as possible due to not only having diabetes but only one kidney (I have kidney cancer and had one removed 10 months ago.) I'm sorry but I am not risking my health to make a vegan with issues happy.

Come back here in 10 years when you're a bit older and reread all of this and tell us if you still believe in it all. It is easy to be so adamant about a lifestyle choice when you're in your early 20s. Real life tends to make you realize that no one, nor any lifestyle, is perfect and we all have to do what we can do to help the world around us.


(Now, before you blame my diabetes on diet, it is genetics, as both my parents, all 4 grandparents, and beyond are diabetic. And, the cancer is also hereditary as normally 33 year olds aren't diagnosed with kidney cancer.)
posted by SuzySmith at 2:16 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


My house is powered by wind. I don't use a cell-phone. I own no clothing made outside of the United States. I ride a bicycle.

Well, except when you drive out into the woods to go camping. Or fly to Florida on vacation or to visit relatives. And so on. Taking a couple round trip flights to Florida is a lot more damaging than eating meat now and then.

So you'd rather get on that airplane and murder an African child instead of refraining from visiting relatives? You'd rather drive out of Portland for a couple hours and murder an African child rather than give up easy weekend camping trips?

See how it works? I don't really care that you drive or fly to Florida. But it's extraordinarily hypocritical of you to accuse others of essentially murdering people because they aren't vegans while prioritizing yourself over the environment whenever it seems like it would inconvenience you too much. The truth is that eating meat doesn't mean much to you and giving it up gives you a nice feeling of self-satisfaction. Giving up travelling, on the other hand, would be hard for you and, well, so much the African children.

It's not that you don't eat meat. That's great. It's the obnoxious and hypocritical air of self-satisfaction that is problematic. You're focusing on the mote in your brother's eye while ignoring the beam in your own. And calling people murderers in the process.
posted by Justinian at 2:18 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I barely eat meat as it is nowadays, so it shouldn't be too difficult! Though milk and eggs is gonna be harder.

Thanks for not being one of those people who preach about environmental effects and then proceed to pop out a couple of kids.

That really irks me.
posted by thisperon at 2:19 PM on August 28, 2009


Suzy -

No, I would never suggest someone with medical conditions that require meat consumption be vegan, or try, or feel bad about eating meat. Yours is a totally different situation with different factors.

and like I said before: eating vegan does not equal eating nutritious anymore than eating meat equals eating non-nutritious. You could have a grilled chicken salad for lunch, and I could have french fries, mambas, and vegetable shortening. veganism is not at all about health - in fact I have to do a lot because I don't get certain vital nutrients - vitamin B, iron (which is even harder if you are a vegan female), etc...

And I'm really sorry about your medical situation. I hope you are well.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:22 PM on August 28, 2009


Though milk and eggs is gonna be harder.


Cheese is the hardest. Hands down. Meat was easy. Giving up cheese was not.

And I get irked by tree hugger types that have kids as well.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:25 PM on August 28, 2009


Lutoslawski, glad to see you've calmed down some. Hopefully you can see that you've been doing neither yourself nor your cause much good so far.

I like the harm principle as well, and while eating meat is not seemingly doing any direct harm, there is a point in which consumption of that burger (like a McDonald's burger) is doing harm.

You're edging toward your strawman again. Nobody here disagrees with you that a McDonald's burger is bad for the environment. Nobody ever did. But a McDonald's burger being bad for the environment does not mean that all meat is bad for the environment, and the fact that not all meat has negative externalities means that we don't all need to be vegan to achieve what it is you want achieve. In saying that we should all be free to eat meat, I'm not saying that in my ideal world McDonald's would exist. I think the Harm Principle forbids McDonald's (at least with the way they source their produce and meat at the moment).

I agree that intensively farmed meat is harmful to the environment, but that is also true of intensively farmed crops. I strongly disagree that our meat production is in any way to blame for world hunger, as we already produce enough food to feed everyone. You asked for a cite for this, and I provided one - an acknowledgement of this would be appreciated.

Eating meat isn't necessarily bad (though it often is, and you need to make an effort to eat meat without producing negative externalities) and eating vegetables doesn't necessarily mean that you aren't producing negative externalities (chemical and petroleum-based fertiliser, industrial harvesting and processing, etc). Thus, being vegan doesn't automatically mean that you aren't harming the environment (though it's possibly easier, and many vegans do also tend to emphasise local produce and organic or traditional farming methods) and being an omnivore doesn't automatically make you one of the great unwashed (though most are).

In summary, I don't think veganism solves any problems at all. A sensible attitude to farming and food (which more than likely involves eating less meat than the average Westerner) however, does.
posted by Dysk at 2:26 PM on August 28, 2009


Lutoslawski: I was a dick about it. Sometimes I can be a real dick and I'm the first to admit that

Actually, in this particular instance, I think you might've been the last one to admit it ;-)
posted by Dysk at 2:33 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow, didn't expect that.

Thanks for your thoughtful response.
posted by knapah at 2:33 PM on August 28, 2009


Lutoslawski, I would suggest, if you REALLY want to help the carbon footprint, that if you want to eat vegan, that's okay. But occasionally, tuck into a rabbit or venison steak. These animals are seriously overpopulated, and it's most ethical, I think, that if they're going to be culled, to eat them and enjoy the massive nutritional benefits (much healthier for you than beef or pork or chicken or turkey) while knowing that you're helping control their population. It's better than just piling up carcasses. And right now, it costs way too much money to sterilize enough of them.

I hate the idea of hunting in general, but if it's to control animal populations that have gotten too big to be sustainable, I have no problem with eating the excess.
posted by kldickson at 2:46 PM on August 28, 2009


Also, I hear kangaroo meat is good.
posted by kldickson at 2:48 PM on August 28, 2009


Actually, in this particular instance, I think you might've been the last one to admit it ;-)

Ha! Touche.

I am quick to jump to my defense when the first comment after I ranted a bit was really rather incredibly cruel, mean and kinda crazy - and I sort of spiraled out of control from there.

I agree that intensively farmed meat is harmful to the environment, but that is also true of intensively farmed crops. I strongly disagree that our meat production is in any way to blame for world hunger, as we already produce enough food to feed everyone. You asked for a cite for this, and I provided one - an acknowledgement [sic] of this would be appreciated.

Acknowledged. And no, I don't think meat production is to blame for world hunger either. I do, think, however, that reallocating some of the resources we use to produce so much unnecessary meat - land, money, man-power, water, etc... - and reallocating them not just for food production but for, say, I dunno wind turbine fields (and let's not start in on that) - would behoove us all greatly.

Eating meat isn't necessarily bad (though it often is, and you need to make an effort to eat meat without producing negative externalities) and eating vegetables doesn't necessarily mean that you aren't producing negative externalities (chemical and petroleum-based fertiliser, industrial harvesting and processing, etc). Thus, being vegan doesn't automatically mean that you aren't harming the environment (though it's possibly easier, and many vegans do also tend to emphasise local produce and organic or traditional farming methods) and being an omnivore doesn't automatically make you one of the great unwashed (though most are).

Ok, I find that paragraph to be a very good and sensible summation (Damn you Aristotle and your middle road!!...[sigh]). I'll stay a vegan, but you all have done a very good job of bringing me off my soap box with many good points, and I stand corrected on many things.

I will now try and be less of a hater on the meat eaters (I will instead focus my anger solely on Glenn Beck, using my anger mind waves).
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:50 PM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was a dick about it. Sometimes I can be a real dick and I'm the first to admit that

It's understandable. Many of us, me included, get easily irritated and frustrated when we haven't had any real food to eat for a while.
posted by JeNeSaisQuoi at 2:52 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Lutoslawski: (I will instead focus my anger solely on Glenn Beck, using my anger mind waves).

This is a message I can well and truly get behind.
posted by Dysk at 2:52 PM on August 28, 2009


kldickson-

you don't have to tell me about the dear population problem...like I said I'm an Iowan and deer are freaking rampant. I don't have any problems with eating those deer (and oh man...venison is delicious - i never said I was a vegan because i didn't like meat...). But eating those deer has largely no ill effect on anything, and like you pointed out, is probably a good form of population control. I think if we could all switch to this sort of model, we'd be better off. The eat what's available model (always having whatever meat you want - or fruit or anything for that matter - whenever you want is a really recent thing). I know in Missouri there's been an uprising in raccoon consumption, which, while I'm sorta freaked out by that, also makes a lot of sense to me.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:54 PM on August 28, 2009


Askiba posted this surprisingly well researched and judicious Time article, not The Derailers! Well done and thanks--I'd stopped reading their articles and this nths all my studies in the environmental sciences (I chose this summary in particular for the three trophic pyramids towards the bottom of the page--love them for positioning # of organisms next to energy available and energy lost as heat).

More food available is a good start, but redistribution is the key, to which I say Folla' the Dolla' and don't be a sucker to your reptilian brain: they pray on your mortal cortex (heh).

Number of times Lutoslawski used the word panacea in this thread: 3.
One word, compound: streamline.

Number of omni's who went out and ate a burger they weren't even hungry for out of spite?
Ditto who were reasonably made hungry by the occurence of the word burger?

..Did you know the amount of energy it takes to perform 2 google searches could boil a kettle of tea? Could someone convert these kinds of stats to posting--better, commenting on MF?

I consider myself a super-delicious-local-organic-delicious-vegan-flexitarian (with emphasis on the tasty). I cannot believe this term hasn't yet come up!

Here, 'slawski. If it makes you feel better, the tiger ate that guy right after. If it makes Talez feel better, that guy was Lutoslawski.
posted by JaiMahodara at 3:00 PM on August 28, 2009


Jai -

Damn you! You're not allowed to make fun of me on here! You can give me hell about it later.

And I made shit tons of ridiculous editing (non-editing) errors. I've been shamed enough by this already. I blame it on the bourbon. And hey, panacea is a perfectly find word to use many times! I was being accused I thought veganism was a...uh...p-cea.

No more sneaking meat for you! You will eat nothing but wilted spinach and veganise from now on.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:07 PM on August 28, 2009


Also (damn that "streamline") Witold, darling, 'slawski, thank you for going to work so I can finally see what's new on the blue. (I'm finishing the bourbon. ::burp::)

That's right. Share electronics to reduce footprint. Hi Justinian!
Burning fossil fuels are bad, wrath of the Jewish grandmothers is ___. I am human, just like all of you. Who aren't complex programs designed to support the views of your primary username.
Still on the fence about taking that trip..for the very reasons you cited, actually.

GirlfriendFilter. I'm outing you. If I knew how to do that cool trick of linking to a specific comment on the thread, I'd draw your attention more effectively to the words 10.1 and cepholopod.



--------cute/gross--------

Crossed. I'm out.
posted by JaiMahodara at 3:13 PM on August 28, 2009


My life is impure.
posted by everichon at 3:15 PM on August 28, 2009


JaiMahodara: If I knew how to do that cool trick of linking to a specific comment on the thread

Just right click on the timestamp (bolded and underlined below) after the comment, and click copy link location (that's what it says in firefox anyway), and you'll have a direct link to it.

posted by JaiMahodara at 11:13 PM on August 28 [+] [!]
posted by knapah at 5:15 PM on August 28, 2009


Just right click on the timestamp (bolded and underlined below) after the comment, and click copy link location (that's what it says in firefox anyway), and you'll have a direct link to it.

Or you could do what I did upthread and copy then modify the source code from when somebody else did it, but this way easier...thanks for the tip!
posted by Camofrog at 5:27 PM on August 28, 2009



In my own defense:

My house is powered by wind.

posted by nola at 11:12 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


For those of you who are claiming that your waste and the meat you eat has no impact on the lack of nutrition for those in other countries, I suggest you get yourself a copy of 'Waste' by Tristram Stuart and read it. Then come back and try and argue your corner. Fact is, it does make a difference, a big difference.
posted by Megami at 10:07 AM on August 29, 2009


Megami, go back, read the thread, and then tell me how eating local wild rabbits or venison from areas with overpopulations of wild deer is harmful to anyone, anywhere.
posted by Dysk at 10:12 AM on August 29, 2009


Our societal waste problem has more of an impact on the lack of nutrition on the poor in Western countries than those in others. Undoubtedly there is an impact on 'developing' countries when we buy up their food supplies to feed us (e.g. fish from tanzania) so they starve, but this is rather a lot more to do with the economics of global capitalism than with eating locally sourced meat.

If I have some roast lamb from an English sheep, I'm not impacting on other countries at all. If I buy 10 kilos of English potatoes and then let them rot, I'm not impacting on other countries either to any significant extent. I am impacting on people here who can't afford to buy their own. However, if I start buying Brazilian beef, Tanzanian fish, flowers grown on fertile land in Kenya, or one of the numerous other examples of cash crops, then I am directly impacting their nutrition. 'We' are obviously 'compensating' the producers by paying them, although how often this 'compensation' is sufficient is rather debatable, but we are making them produce food for export rather than subsistence and forcing them to engage in the global capitalist trading system rather than feeding themselves.

Eating meat is not inherently problematic. Waste is often bad for poor countries nutrition, but not always, arguably not even most of the time.

In other words, yes, we should cut down on waste. We should eat locally when possible, and we should seek to stop forcing countries to become our serfs.
posted by knapah at 10:40 AM on August 29, 2009


There's no problem with eating meat. Our species ate meat for thousands of years, without many problems at all. The real problem is simply that there are too many people now, each one with a large and growing carbon footprint and a desire for resources. We should be working to reduce the global population to, I dunno, two billion? We seemed to be doing okay, not screwing up stuff TOO bad, when that was the global population. Of course, that's way easier said than done; it's apparently pretty hard to convince people to have zero or one child instead of two or three or four. The positive effects of giving up eating meat are trivial compared to giving up reproduction, in terms of the global good. If you're going to only do one of the two, give up having kids and eat all the meat you want.
posted by jamstigator at 9:35 AM on August 30, 2009


jamstigator, can we please stop throwing intensively farmed imported beef into the same category as local game? "Giving up meat" does NOTHING unless you were eating a particular type of meat to begin with.
posted by Dysk at 9:42 AM on August 30, 2009


Chicks ground up alive, caught on video
posted by homunculus at 8:22 PM on September 1, 2009


Pain-free animals could take suffering out of farming
posted by homunculus at 3:17 PM on September 3, 2009


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