Is Eating Meat Compatible with Humanism? March 18, 2011

Is Eating Meat Compatible with Humanism?

There’s a debate on whether veganism is truly Humanistic taking place at the Humanist Network News.

I’m betting none of you have an opinion on this.

Jason Torpy presents Team Vegan:

Humanist values, as I understand them, put a premium on health, animals, and the environment. Humanists should be able to suffer some inconvenience to reduce their carbon footprint and their cruelty footprint. Doing the right thing can sometimes be difficult, but it shouldn’t be in this case. When wondering how you will give up that turkey sandwich you love, remember that taste is not your top priority. But also remember that five or six different meats pale in comparison to a plethora of fruits, nuts, beans, vegetables, and spices that can make absolutely delicious and nutritious meals. Aside from an infrequent B12 requirement, no animal products are necessary for human diet.

Eating meat is bad for you, the environment, and especially the animals. It’s certainly worse than not eating meat. Don’t subordinate important values for things like taste and convenience. Humanism should be about being the best humans we can be, not asserting our human dominance by breeding, exploiting, torturing, and slaughtering animals. Go veg.

Fred Edwords reasons that you can be both a Humanist and an omnivore:

So if anyone has the idea that humanity somehow took a moral wrong turn when it started eating other members of the animal kingdom and wearing their skins, feathers, and scales then they’re effectively declaring that a conflict exists between righteousness and survival. Which, from a humanist moral perspective, makes no sense.

Where does this leave the moral argument for a meatless diet (not to mention a lifestyle without leather and other animal materials, and even one without house pets)? Only here: that because animals suffer as we do, then our sense of empathy might well be extended to them in a manner that would reduce or end needless suffering.

That’s the key: needless suffering. Our prehistoric and historic ancestors had survival issues that made animal use needful. And even today populations living in certain climates, such as the Inuit in the arctic, simply can’t survive without hunting and fishing. (Moreover, ethical animal experimentation is a current necessity of our modern survival and thriving, and psychologists tell us that certain house pets are good for our emotional well-being.) But it’s often easy enough in many cities and farms today to live vegetarian or vegan so as to reduce that suffering by contributing as little to it as possible.

Fred also suggests that we could reduce needless animal suffering by reducing the human population… so bring on the birth control!

I still have a hard time accepting that there’s such a thing as “humanely killed” meat. I’ve heard your responses but it still sounds like an oxymoron to me.

I’ve already spoken my mind on the issue so I’ll just leave you with this video:

(***Update***: A lot of commenters say this video isn’t a fair representation of what goes on in most cases and it was unfair of me to include it in this post. Reading through the comments, I have to agree with them. My apologies; I’ll try to be more fair next time. Instead of removing the link, I’ll keep the video here for the sake of context.)

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  • CanadianNihilist

    I have no opinion on this.

  • The Other Tom

    I grew up in farm country. I always understood that the meat I ate was animals, that they’d been raised and killed so I could eat them. I don’t have a problem with this. If you have a problem with this, don’t eat meat. I’ll think you’re foolish, but it’s your life.

    I do not at all agree that eating meat is inherently bad for people. It’s my opinion based on the evidence I’ve seen plus my own anecdotal experience that veganism is unhealthy (often in very small ways, sometimes in larger ways) to most (not all, but most) people – probably because they don’t do it right, and probably because they have no idea how difficult it is to get a balanced diet with appropriate nutrition from plants alone.

  • Erik

    Suffering is part of life, I have never heard of a life that didn’t include some fear and pain.. especially at the beginning and at the end. Why is a painless death that you don’t see coming better than one with fear and pain? Why are those feelings negative? I see that as being about as silly as saying certain words are ‘bad’. Sensation is how we know we are alive… yes I prefer not to inflict undue suffering. But do you think that when other animals hunt and kill other animals for food that they are LESS cruel about it than we are? That they give more care to ensure their prey doesn’t suffer? No. As often as not they begin eating while the thing is still alive.

  • Douglas Kirk

    I think the only sensible humanist solution to this to let each human decide for themselves whether or not they choose to eat meat. And to not disparage those that choose differently.

  • What team Omnivore says doesn’t seem to address team Vegan’s core argument, “about being the best humans we can be”.

    Edwords writes about when humans “started eating other members of the animal kingdom and wearing their skins, feathers, and scales”. Surely we can hold modern day people to a higher standard than cavemen.

    As for “populations living in certain climates”, it seems they are being the best humans they can be, in terms of meat consumption. But that’s no excuse for the rest of us. If every Inuit jumped of a bridge, would you jump off one too?

    How many vegans are saying we shouldn’t have housepets?

    Edwords last sentence seems to sum up the argument for the other side.

    I remember a commercial for some fast food chain a while ago where a man claimed to be a meatatarian; he only ate meat. This was clearly a joke because obviously meat eaters are not fanatical about meat to the point where they will eat nothing else.

    But it seems that often non-meat eaters are seen as all-or-nothing when it comes to animals. “Being the best humans we can be” is interpreted as every person on the planet refraining from using any animal for any purpose ever.

    Team Veg asks people to make something other taste their top priority. Team Omnivore flops around and eventually agrees with the other side. They both conclude that we should be the best humans that we can be and so do I.

    For the record, I eat a wide range of meat products. It is my goal to eat less of them.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Is Eating Meat Compatible with Humanism?

    Sure. Vegetarianism is eating vegetables. Humanism must mean eating humans. Humans are made of meat. It makes sense to me.

  • earl

    You should study the difference between European and American reality, it is huge.

    Many in America (and in Europes past) common treatments of animals are illegal. It isn’t even allowed any more to put chickens in cages for egg production.

  • Veritas

    Och, I say to ye, men of the highlands and women o’ the lowlands, that there be only one true humanist: they what eat naught of the sheep and the goat and the cow, but yea, it be those who eat potato, and wheat, and even the bloody tofu.

    And if ye eat meat, ye might as well be English!

  • Claudia

    That’s the key: needless suffering. Our prehistoric and historic ancestors had survival issues that made animal use needful. And even today populations living in certain climates, such as the Inuit in the arctic, simply can’t survive without hunting and fishing. (Moreover, ethical animal experimentation is a current necessity of our modern survival and thriving, and psychologists tell us that certain house pets are good for our emotional well-being.) But it’s often easy enough in many cities and farms today to live vegetarian or vegan so as to reduce that suffering by contributing as little to it as possible.

    That’s my opinion almost exactly, and probably the reason I will eventually get off my ass and make the transition to a meatless diet.

    I think that though we may never separate ourselves from the use of animals completely (or at least we’re a pretty long way off) increasing civilization will enable human societies to minimize the use of animals to such a degree that the current treatment of animals will be looked back on will the bemused horror with which we look back on other historical barbarisms.

    I think a mistake that is often made is that if you are not 100% pure in your following of a certain ethical principle, you are a hypocrite and might as well give it up. If you are a vegetarain but wear leather shoes or use medicines tested on animals (which is to say you use medicines, full stop) your existence is still less harmful to animals than an omnivore of otherwise identical habits. If you are a meat-eater but only eat meat of free-range animals with guarantees on their treatment, you are likewise doing more than the meat-eater who doesn’t care to know whether the animal they are eating ever saw the light of day or was given enough room to turn around in in their cage. There are degrees in these matters, and I think striving towards ideals that cause less general suffering is worthwhile, even if some people are always going to be further down the road than others.

  • I second the motion of Douglas Kirk.

    I also add- just because there seems to be a good number of humanists who are veggies and vegans means very little- one could also argue that both of these systems trend high among the liberal folks, and college attendees and that would explain your correlation.

    Your food choice is a whole different argument and needs to be left up to the individual. It seems to me proselytizing happens more in this world than in the religious one. You can say all you want about animal rights, and meat will still be yummy to me. I can say all I want about the awesomeness of bacon, and you will still find the act to be deplorable. Instead, why don’t you eat your food, and I’ll eat mine, and we’ll live together without bothering each other.

    Oh, and showing the decapitation of a cow is hardly an unbiased way to present an interesting debate..

  • Meyli

    Living things (unless you can use photosynthesis which would be SO COOL) must kill other living things to survive. I know I’m in a minority here, but killing a plant or animal is very similar to me. They are both living and thriving.

    While I don’t see the sense in not eating meat just because its killing animals, I think its rather disgusting to raise livestock for slaughter. The best situation would be if we individually hunted our own food. Its healthier for you, and you know where it came from!
    Being a humanist means being the best human being you can be. Personally, that means living in balance with the world around me.

  • Dan

    I think the suffering argument has little to do with the general practice of killing animals for food. The way animals die “naturally” often involves much more suffering than the way a responsible farmer would kill them. Similarly, we would probably all call it wrong for me to kill a terminal cancer patient against their wishes, even if my killing alleviated their physical pain.

    The objection to murder then seems to be based more on our expectations and imaginations of our lives in the future, as well as our families. Some animals may have such strong familial connections and some sort of hopes for their future, but for instance I highly doubt that shrimp do.

    I think we can all agree that many factory farming practices are immoral and harmful in a variety of ways, but again that does not necessarily indict the related practice of eating meat. Furthermore, it seems that pressure from meat consumers is likely to affect significantly more change in this industry than vegetarians.

    In summary, the issue for me is not so clear-cut as a choice of whether or not to eat meat. Both sides offer an overly simplistic view of the moral and ethical implications.

  • Nordog

    Salad is murder.

  • Eating meat is bad for you, the environment, and especially the animals

    eating animals is bad for them.. never would have guessed 😉
    and i dont see any problem with humanism and eating meat.. i LOVE meat 😛

  • cat

    The scene at the beginning of the video where the cow is touched with the baton and falls down the chute is the normal slaughter method by law in the country of this video’s origin (see the in video text), the rest of the video depicts less regulated religious slaughter methods (hence the Halal in the title). The whole point of the making of this video seems to be removal of the religious exception to bring these Halal slaughter houses into conformity. I am surprised to see so many spread this video around without those obvious disclaimers.

    Also, the vegan’s weird distincton between plants and animals cracks me up. What, is it cell walls that determine morality of eating it? And do you really think a cockroach suffers when killed equivalently to a chimp, for example? No, there is a heirarchy here, even when discussing in terms of suffering.

  • Karen

    I’m with Reginald… I eat meat – it’s good for human animals – after all, the species evolved on it. What’s not good for human animals is man made foods like flour, sugar, pasta, candy, soda, crackers, etc. Stick to what has worked for thousands of years and eat your meat!

  • Thus we engage in the debate of the trivial. Unless we begin to understand how our emotions and motivation work, we will always seek an absolute morality that does not exist.

    Here is the key to all debates of morality. 1) Good ethical choices are utilitarian. Most ethical decisions do not have an absolute right or wrong answer, but are textured by circumstances. 2) Everything is about satisfying the self.

    Wow… so now half of you call me a narcissist. Let me clarify. When we act in a compassionate way we do so because it is satisfying. It is our feelings of joy, and fellowships etc. that motivate our “good” acts. These feelings are textured by our personal experience and are a bit different for everyone.

    To me, eating some meat is very satisfying. I have tried a veggi diet and was unhappy with the result including digestive, energy, and other issues. Perhaps I will try again some day, but for now I am fit, and healthy, and satisfied with my diet.

    Is my eating meat a bit wasteful and does it promote some suffering in animals? Of course it does. But… almost everything I do has a negative impact on others. This is the constant compromise that makes up ethical decisions. It is the me vs. the we.

    We all have circle of empathy. Most of us place our family and friends in the closest circle. Next we may include our neighbors in the town or city or state or country. Next we may place animals etc. No one (not even the Dalai Lama) is equally compassionate to everyone and everything. It is not possible.

    I realized the other day that I am willing to spend time and effort to watch my fiends pet dog. I feed it and walk it and we have a sort of bond. But, I also realize that there are over 1 million children who die from starvation related illness every year. I do give some money to charity, but I really spend much more effort on my friend’s dog. So… what does this mean? It really means I care more about a dog than about a starving human in a distant land. Hmmmmmmmm. I guess I have to live with that.

    So, I challenge anyone to try to pass the starving stranger test. I guarantee that almost everyone reading this will have a similar result to me. My real point is that it is mighty pretentious for a vegan to claim I can’t be considered a humanist just becasue I eat meat. I can make a similar claim that a pet owner should not be a humanist because they spend money on an animal rather than a starving human.

    Humanists can be so fricken pretentious it makes me wince.

  • Min

    The thing I don’t get is: why is it bad to kill animals but ok to kill plants?

    Is it because animal resemble us — you can look into their faces and see them scream? That’s a purely emotional argument. Plants have nervous systems, they can feel pain, and they can react to external stimuli, even if it’s not in a way that mimics our own. Is it more morally acceptable to kill something because its death throes don’t make us feel sympathy? I hope the first intelligent alien species we encounter is vaguely mammalian…

    What about the numbers or lengths of lives? A cow can live a long time, but a single cow can feed a family for a long time, too. A salad for just a single person requires the deaths of many vegetables, but those individual vegetables usually have very short life spans. All of them required the deaths of other organisms in order to grow.

    I have accepted that, whether I eat meat or not, things are going to do so that I can live. I’m ok with eating meat as long as the animals are raised and killed in a humane manner (well, as humane as killing can be).

  • Bill Williams

    Thanks for starting this conversation. This issue is why I am a lukewarm humanist at best. From a species perspective, the very name of the movement places humans at the center of the universe, which is a very natural egotistical assumption that is well articulated in the bible.

    Granted the principles of humanism are overwhelmingly more moral than the dogma of Christianity, but we really drop the ball when it comes to compassion for other sentient creatures.

    As an evolved predator, Homo Sapiens are naturally callous toward the suffering of other creatures (except our doggies and kitties), just as we’re prone to superstitious belief. If you were raised in a meat eating home, then your brain was strongly wired for that preference during the critical period of plasticity, i.e., the time when it’s so easy to turn ignorant little children into god-fearing Christians. Add a lifetime of reinforcement and the logic-twisting acrobatics that the human mind displays to protect deeply rooted belief, and you’ve probably got a callous meat-eater for life – an otherwise good person who is indifferent to the suffering they cause by financing the industries of cruelty.

    To any meat eater who has a hard time understanding why religious believers are so blind to logic, reason and evidence, look no further than the mirror. Before we criticize Christians for immoral behavior, let’s clean up our own shop first.

    Meat production in a capitalistic society is exceptionally cruel, because profits come first and animals are mere commodities toward that end. To humanists who don’t care about this issue, I submit that you’re engaging in immoral behavior that rivals the immorality of Christianity.

    I’m sure I’ll get an earful for this post. Let the cognitive dissonance begin.

  • My becoming a vegetarian was a direct result of my move from being a Christian to becoming an atheist. I will admit that I didn’t do a ton of research on both sides. Basically I think I’d always had it in the back of my mind but as a Christian you just think – well God provided the animals for our use so I guess it must be ok. After becoming an atheist I read one article promoting the idea of vegetarianism and I had a lightbulb moment – why not? I had been studying morality – and I figured why shouldn’t that morality extend to animals? They often recommend easing into a vegetarian lifestyle but I just jumped in and almost 4 months later I’ve had no regrets. I did some basic research about nutrition and just recently my doc checked my blood and all was great. It seems it’s not as hard as I thought. I can’t see going back now. I feel so good about not harming animals and it’s been much easier than I thought.

    Having said all that – I try not to be an in-your-face vegetarian. I still cook meat for my meat-eating hubby and five kids. I don’t try to make them feel bad for their choice – I figure my example is enough. The same goes for other humanists/atheists. I would never want to bully someone into making the choice that I have made. The only message I would like to send to them is that it is not as hard to give up meat as some people lead you to believe. You could always try going meatless and go back if you feel like it. Nothing is carved in stone here.

  • Thegoodman

    I disagree with this on many levels. My primary disagreement is the guilt moral tactics employed by the vegan movement (and how closely they resemble similar tactics used by the religious right).

    Vegans often take a platform of moral superiority of us lowly uneducated meat eating neanderthals. As if they are enlightened because they read about it on the internet and they have this deep seeded passion for the well being of animals that we “just don’t understand”. No thank you, i will not agree to feeling guilty because my morals are not in-line with your own.

    My secondary disagreement is that humanists must also respect the well being of animals. If you take one look at a cow or chicken, you will instantly see that this species of animal exists to provide humans with nourishment. If we suddenly set them free, they would starve or be killed off in a matter of years by predators and more opportunistic animals than ourselves. Their species lives on (and flourishes) solely because we allow and encourage it to do so.

    Humans are omnivores and will be until the end of time. I eat very little meat. I don’t insist on devouring 1lb of flesh at every meal. However, if I have a hankering to eat the meat of an animal, I will do so guilt free. We are in fact the superior species in this circle of life on earth and there is no reason why we should deny this superiority that was hard earned via millions of years of evolution. To deny our role as omnivores is to deny the success of our species, which is akin to pulling the wool over your eyes.

    If you choose not to eat meat because you dont like it, or for health reasons, all the power to you. If you insist that everyone else do it because they should feel guilty about the hard life and times of the cow/chicken/pig/sheep; take your propaganda elsewhere. I’m not buying it.

  • Michael

    “Eating meat is bad for you…” [citation needed]

  • tim

    Every vegetarian I know shares one annoying trait – they tell you they are a vegetarian. And they seem obsessed over telling you how animals suffer and then find silly excuses about “eating healthy” to rationalize their lifestyle when they are the most unhealthy looking people I know.

  • Matt H.

    “Eating meat is bad for you…”

    I don’t believe this statement.

  • @cat,

    “…there is a hierarchy here, even when discussing in terms of suffering.”

    I agree.

  • lauren

    most vegans I know, including myself, are ok with the idea that personal survival pretty much trumps everything else. Vegans take life saving medication that is not vegan, or in life and death situations hurt others. So I don’t really see how the second post is promoting carnism (the belief that it is morally ok to use some animals for food). In fact he seems to be promoting vegan values.

    The point is for most people, it IS needless to eat meat, hence being vegan.

    What annoys me is that people do not seem to really evaluate what is needed for survival and what is not. it seems enough to say, “well, Some people HAVE to kill animals to survive, therefore its OK for me to do it too.” Even though the context and situations are not the same, and no evaluation of one’s own life has taken place.

    veganism does not necessarily reduce suffering. it is the active non-involvement in that suffering. An analogy is that I cannot as an individual stop horrible working conditions of many people around the world, but I can avoid giving money to companies who exploit workers. I am not solving the problem by doing that, but I am removing my support of it. While this may not be satisfying, it is better than being complicit.

    Of course, MANY vegans (including myself when I am not struggling only to survive) are also activists who try to reduce suffering of both nonhuman and human animals.

  • Noel

    Intrinsicism is not humanism.

    Putting animals’ interests above or equal to men is incompatible with any meaningful expression of humanism, whose underpinning is a life based on reason. Emergent reasons such as supply, price, and diseases may present reasons to avoid consuming certain animals, or your personal medical condition may present reasons for you to avoid them, but there are no rational grounds to elevate the existence of animals to our level.

    By all means, minimize suffering; respect your food as point of hygiene and kindness. But using animals for food is the natural order of reality. Nature isn’t a protected park in the universe, and man is not a cancer, contrary to what the PETA idiots think. Nature is the whole of existence. To stand apart from it is impossible (which is why, too, God is impossible).

    Animals will fight for their own survival by instinct, tooth and claw, and they are our game and sustenance by our tools and minds. It is an eminently natural thing.

  • So, Edwords’s argument in favor of eating meat is that, while it’s necessary in some parts of the world, it isn’t necessary for (presumably) anyone reading this, and that it causes needless suffering? Well, that’s a big part of my reason for being vegan! For me, and for probably everyone I will ever meet in my life, eating meat is thoroughly unnecessary, and since it causes great harm, we should refrain from doing so.

    I see atheism and veganism as being inextricably linked: I’m both an atheist and a vegan because I want to look at the world for myself, see how it works, and draw conclusions based on logic, rationality, and observation, rather than believing whatever someone else tells me. I find it hard to believe that anyone could look at how we raise animals for meat in this country (not in some hypothetical utopia) and find it anything other than a hideous atrocity. So, why should we support it, especially when we can easily be happy as vegans? (The latter turns out to be surprisingly easy.)

  • Claudia

    Erm, to those wondering aloud why the distinction between plants and animals, I find it a little hard to believe that you’ve never heard that the difference is the ability to feel pain.

    In itself, muscle tissue is no different from any other tissue. If we could grow meat in the absence of a living, breathing and most important, feeling animal, I would say that there would be no moral problem attached. In fact, this is being actively worked on in the lab, though the results are apparently thus far not very appealing.

    Ethics are tied to beings that can suffer, which is why we have no moral obligations with rocks. There’s a reason we react differently to the burning of a live dog than to the burning of a live tree.

  • PrettyButterfly

    I’m just doing my part to prevent the over-population of cows, chickens, bison, and pigs. 😉

  • Anonymous
  • This seem to confusing Humanism with another philosophy that equates animals (or some animals) with humans. This just wouldn’t be Humanism, and that’s not criticizing it in any way. I’m not sure exactly what it would be: animalism? Sentientism? It may be different for different vegetarians. I may accept into Primatism, or at least Great Ape-ism, but can’t see clear to including all animals into the same category other than just being animals.

  • Lady Copper

    For me personally, I eat meat and have no qualms of conscience over it. I do try to buy grassfed (humanely raised and as healthy as wild salmon) meat when possible and most of the time when I buy and eat meat I do so imagining that I raised it.

    As a kid, my family raised meat rabbits and ducks for a while. We eventually stopped, partly because it was so difficult to kill them, and one thing about raising your own is that you definitely eat less meat, voluntarily. I intend to raise much of my own meat eventually, when I’m in a better situation to do so.

    We did have some problems with predation (no matter how good a barn/fence you have, you really cannot keep out bears, for example, and sometimes raccoons or coyotes got in) and I will just say that if you compare the suffering animals inflict on each other at death with the suffering humans inflict on animals, it becomes clear there is a very large difference. My main concern is the happy and healthy lives of the animals until their death and then a quick death and a conscious appreciation of the gift that meat represents to my life.

    Also, it’s practically blasphemy to say so, but I consider veganism implemented on a large scale to be a terrible idea, as far as the environment is concerned. Meat and dairy animals can and should be raised on land that is marginal, i.e., not suitable for raising grain, vegetables, or fruit. However, if a whole society switched to veganism, you would have no animal manure for fertilization, none of the almost magical interaections between animals and the land – cows and grass, for example (even the breath and stepping of cows is good for grass, apparently), and there would be massive fossil-fuel, unsustainable inputs to keep good AND marginal land producing. Good land would start to degrade rapidly. It already has in so many monoculture, grain only areas.

    Has there ever been a healthy landscape with only insects, birds, and one kind of large animal, i.e., humans?

    Besides, a world without any pets (necessary if pure veganism/nonexploitation is embraced) and without any companionship of animals would be much the poorer and bleaker. I feel that it would be a disservice to many animal species as well as us.

    I have no quarrel with anyone who cannot stand the idea of eating meat, but I do not accept being made to feel guilt over my own choice to eat meat.

    For anyone still reading this comment, here is a very long link I found a couple months ago.

    Over and out 🙂

  • Noel

    Hello Lauren,

    RE the ‘needlessness’ of eating meat:

    Applying the same implied objective context (i.e., in order to survive), it is also needless to exclusively eat vegetables.

    What you meant was, ‘killing animals is needless suffering.’ But we need to kill animals so we can eat them. So their suffering IS necessary.

    So what you meant was, ‘making animals suffer is morally wrong.’

    No, it’s not. There is no moral dilemma. You are welcome to prove its existence on rational grounds.

    The question ultimately is, what is the proper morality for a rational being? I won’t proselytize.

    But one based on intrinsicism is not it.

  • Just as an anecdotal counter-factual to Jason Torpy’s emotional plea: Every year near St John’s University in central Minnesota, a deer cull is necessary to prevent the overpopulation of deer there. If the deer population there were to grow out of control, not only would they over-eat and starve their own population, they would also kill off the population of animals that eat the same things deer eat.

    Some of these deer have to be killed. They cannot be relocated or put in zoos or any other alternative. There is no alternative.

    Should humans not eat these dead deer? That would seem to be the best and highest use of them.

  • Daniel Dunér

    cat, vegans do not use that distinction; you’re fighting a straw man. The word “animal” is just a semantic simplification, most commonly used to denote “individuals with the ability to feel/experience/think”.

    Most vegans recognize that there are differences between individuals, when it comes to the ability to feel and experience things. But the assumption that all humans are superior to all animals, in that regard, is factually wrong.

    The key is to consider the abilities of individuals rather than groups. We know that some animals are better than some humans at solving logical puzzles, socializing, showing empathy, feeling pain and joy, using tools and so on.

    If we were to assign rights to individuals based on their individual abilities, we would have to do one of two things:

    1. Remove the rights of some humans
    2. Assign rights to many animals

    Personally, I prefer the second choice.

  • Noel

    Ethics are tied to beings that can suffer, which is why we have no moral obligations with rocks. There’s a reason we react differently to the burning of a live dog than to the burning of a live tree.

    Which says nothing about the moral status of killing animals. We can kill without inflicting pain.

  • I tend to agree with Edwords, and not with Torpy (and apparently the fine host of this website). Eating animal carcasses was essential to the evolutionary pathways which resulted in the development of our large brains and moral consciousness. Protein allowed our big brains to grow so big. So there seems to be a Catch-22 in the question at hand. If we had not been carnivores we would not have evolved a brain big enough to even ask the question. To become a vegetarian at this stage would seem to be a denial of who we really are and where we came from.

    Also, the big scary machine in the video may be disturbing, but it does not represent the range of methods available for killing animals for consumption. One of my FB friends posted this video about a turkey hunt in Wisconsin. This method is not nearly as scary as the machine, and seems a lot more fair, in terms of the skill and effort needed to succeed.

    We should not connect the issue of animal rights with humanism. Humanism is a big tent that means a lot of things, and while some humanists may be vegetarians, we should not say that all of them must be vegetarians. Also, it seems reasonable to me that humanism be focused on human values, not animal values. We can’t begin asking the honeybees if stealing their honey is right. Having said that I do try to reduce my meat consuption for health and environmental reasons. Thanks.


  • JD

    I would say the issue of animals is orthogonal to humanism, humanism would seem to me to worry about humans, not non-humans. I don’t think it makes sense to conflate animalism (or mammalism or whatever you might call it) with humanism.

  • Michael D

    I’m not really sure what the point of the hallal video at the end is, since i don’t know that most meat eaters would be in favor of it?

    Seems almost like a non sequitur to me…

  • L.Long

    I try to eat venison (by definition it is ANY wild meat-not just deer) as much as possible.
    Primarily because it is not ‘crowd raised’ which means lots of antibiotics to prevent disease and the chems (ie HDL) in wild meet at better then farm raised. Also the hunters I know all try to kill quick, clean, and minimum suffering.
    Question to all vegans…how do you get B12 into your diet? With no B12 you are dead in one year(could be as long as 2yr).
    If you take pills you are eating an animal, if you are using bacteria cultures, you are eating an animal that you can hear scream.
    And just cuz you can’t hear them scream does not mean you are not killing!

  • Noel

    The irony is that the meaningful discussion to have is, ‘Is Veganism compatible with Humanism?’

  • TychaBrahe

    First of all, humans didn’t “start eating meat.” Humans evolved from other animals that ate meat. Humans invented animal husbandry. There’s a difference.

    Secondly, eating animals may be bad for individual animals, but it of great benefit for the animals as a species. Elk and moose are ungulates similar to cows, and while they are hunted, they are not farmed. There are about 1 million elk in the US. There are about 1 million moose in Canada. There are about 100 million cows in the US. “Allowing themselves” to be bred for meat has certainly been a boon to cattle as a species.

  • L.Long

    I try to eat venison (by definition it is ANY wild meat-not just deer) as much as possible.
    Primarily because it is not ‘crowd raised’ which means lots of antibiotics to prevent disease and the chems (ie HDL) in wild meet at better then farm raised. Also the hunters I know all try to kill quick, clean, and minimum suffering.
    Question to all vegans…how do you get B12 into your diet? With no B12 you are dead in one year(could be as long as 2yr).
    If you take pills you are eating an animal, if you are using bacteria cultures, you are eating an animal that you can’t hear scream.
    And just cuz you can’t hear them scream does not mean you are not killing!

  • Silent Service

    It is unnecessary to watch movies, read fiction, and play video games in order to survive. We aren’t giving those up to be more humanistic. The argument that you don’t need to do it to survive is a total failure. We do lots of things that we don’t need to do to survive.

    It is a requirement that we eat and we haven’t developed Star Trek style replication devices yet so I’m going to go right on eating organic matter. Plant or Animal, doesn’t matter to me. I’ll draw the line at my own species and those closely related to us to have many cross disease issues (primates) as there are real health issues with cannibalism. Any other issue is just your squeamishness about having to listen to a cow cry when it becomes my next serving of steak.

    Beyond that, I’ve looked right into the eyes of a cow and all I saw staring back was hamburger. Get off your high horse vegans. Most of the meat we eat was raised to be meat and wouldn’t ever have a chance to live except that it’s steak for my dinner one day. What are we going to do with all the livestock alive today if we all go vegan? These animals can’t survive in the wild on their own. Oh you want a massive petting zoo? Now you’re stuck feeding them and they’re going to go right on producing waist. So your argument of reducing animal waste just failed.

    And are you going to deny them mating to reduce their population long term? You like sex but don’t need it for your own personal survival. If you deny it to them, you have to deny it to yourself. Oh, you’ll impose contraception on the animals. Nice moral quagmire there. Don’t they have the right to make that choice? I’d say no, they’re hamburger, but if you’re giving them rights equivalent to people you can’t draw lines convenient to your argument. What then, segregation to keep them from breeding? That seems kind of cruel. I doubt you’d segregate yourself from your preferred sexual partners.

    So now we’re stuck caring for all this livestock, and the numbers keep going up because we aren’t eating meat anymore. Takes even more to feed them and they create even more waste product. And we can’t stop them from reproducing without imposing some level of cruelty on them that we wouldn’t impose on ourselves without being a religious fundamentalist bashing the LGBT community and demanding abstinence only education. Get over yourselves radical anti-meat vegans; you aren’t morally superior, you’re just assholes.

  • I will not comment on this aside from the fact I agree I eat too much meat and should cut it back a bit more, however I will say that you did a lovely appeal to emotion there, Hemant. Aren’t rationalists supposed to avoid logical fallacies?

  • Rollingforest

    I haven’t had time to read through the entire comment thread yet, but I think it should be pointed out that if it weren’t for the meat industry, there wouldn’t be nearly as many cows or chickens alive today. In fact, the ancestor of the cow, the Auroch, is extinct. Cows might have been driven to extinction too if they hadn’t been domesticated.

  • This is an interesting debate, and for full disclosure, I am an omnivore.

    I think that most people approach this topic from the wrong direction.
    Humans evolved as omnivores; this doesn’t mean that we can’t survive as herbivores, nor does it mean that carnivory is ethically justified, it simply means that a diet with some meat is one in which we get our total nutrition far more easily. Think about it, most hunter/gatherers eat primarily plants, but supplement their diet with meat. If we make the consumption of meat (or more generally, the use of animal products) an ethical position, rather than a practical one, are we saying that the few remaining hunter/gatherer societies should be immediately converted to “modern” living in order to stop their unethical meat use? Is this different from the patronizing and colonialistic view that that those silly heathens should be converted to Christianity because it too is the only morally proper way to live?

    First, I’ll try to get the emotional considerations out of the way. Emotional positions pack a lot a power, but they are not necessarily rational positions; I think that everyone who embraces skepticism can agree with that. I can agree that animals obviously feel pain and can experience suffering, and watching the suffering of another being can be a heart-wrenching experience. I agree that pain and suffering should be minimized in any being. However, emotionalism can also get in the way of sound policy. I agree that halal slaughter as depicted in the video is cruel and unnecessary, but it is also derived from stone-age religious beliefs. I’m sorry Hemant, but posting that video as if it were representative of slaughter techniques in the developed world was very misleading. The very first scene, in which the animal is killed with a pressure bolt to the back of the head is much closer to a modern technique (though the procedure in the film was still done in a sloppy manner). Death is instantaneous if the bolt-gun is used properly. If there is no pain and suffering, then what is the problem? Anti-abortionists use similar emotionally intense “arguments” to back their position, does this mean that they are right about outlawing abortion? Or maybe an emotional appeal from the other side of this debate would be better: some people are actually unwilling to give up taste to save some animals. Eating is a primary human function and making it less than pleasant simply makes the humans suffer rather than the animals. It’s true that “good-tasting” food is not necessary for survival, but then again neither is sex. Maybe we should simply all be celebate and procreate in a limited way only through IVF so that both human suffering and animal suffering (from overpopulation and ecosystem destruction) could be reduced. Of course, a lifetime of bad food and no sex may not be a life that most people are willing to live. Keep in mind that I don’t necessarily subscribe to this counter “argument” that I just gave, but if we’re appealing to emotionalism, then we can appeal to one side as easily to another. Maybe we would be better off trying to eschew emotional appeals and go to rational arguments.

    From an efficiency point of view, it is often pointed out that if farmland were devoted to the production of plant products for direct human consumption, rather than for the raising of animal feed, then far more calories for human consumption could be raised. This is true, but with caveats. The calories needed to support a human and the balanced nutrition needed to support a human are two different things. If I plant a field full of enough different plant to create a healthy diet, that field will support fewer people than if I were just counting calories (to be fair however, it would still support more people than using the land for pasture). This would seem to be a good reason to support vegetarianism. However, many people are ignorant of agriculture to an almost ridiculous level. In all but the best land, it would be very difficult to grow all of the crops need for a healthy diet. This means that the various crops would need to be grown in the areas that they grow best and transported to the areas where they are needed. Thus the inefficiency of tranport would not be eliminated.
    We must also understand that livestock are raised to be consumed, if we ceased consuming them, it would be idiotically inefficient to continue raising them, thus most varieties of food animals would go extinct. I understand that this may seem like an emotional appeal, but I mean it as a simple statement of fact: if people don’t raise livestock, there will be no livestock.
    Also we must consider that there is much grassland that is suitable for grazing but no planting. Free-range animal could be raised on this land to provide more nutritious food without reducing cropland, shouldn’t this option be considered. Similarly, I’ve known many farmers that will have a crop failure due to weather; these farmer will then allow livestock to graze on the remains of the destoyed grain so that food products can still be produced; should we instead allow these destoyed field to remain fallow? Further, allowing a field to remain fallow from time to time is a good practice, especially in those areas where irrigation can cause the buildup of minerals in the soil; livestock are often allowed to graze on such fields so that they can remain somewhat productive even while fallow.

    Growing crops specifically for feed is obviously inefficient. Likewise, devoting most farmland to meat production is also ineffcient. However, allowing no meat production also neglects the chance to provide needed human nutrition from areas and situations that can be productive no other way. I think that a balanced approach of a plant heavy diet supplemented with occasional meat products is a sane, and reasonable policy.

    tl;dr Too much meat or nothing but veggies: not a good use of land. Mostly veggies, with a little meat products: good.

  • Greg

    I don’t plan to get involved in this discussion for a few reasons – one of which is that I don’t necessarily consider myself a humanist, even if my beliefs coincide with humanism in a number of ways. However, I will get involved just to say this much: I clicked through to watch this video on YouTube, and found the following in the description box.

    “This video starts by showing the Western humane “Bolt Gun” method of instant slaughter. The remainder of the video then shows the Islamic Halal method of slaughter. Halal is the Sharia Law prescribed method of ritual killing involving the cutting of animals throats and letting them bleed to death. Halal killed animal products are being pushed into the mainstream consumer production of animal stuffs and taken up by the likes of Mc Donnalds and other well known fast food outlets. Are you eating according to Islam’s Sharia without your knowledge? Contains graphic and upsetting content. Please don’t let children watch.”

    If you knew about this, Hemant, I think it is slightly dishonest to post the video without this information, for I’m sure all would agree it gives a totally different view on the matter.

  • Bill Williams

    >Kev Quondam said, “I will say that you did a lovely appeal to emotion, Hemant.”

    On this issue the truth is inherently emotional. That doesn’t make it a logical fallacy. Try effectively arguing against the cruelty imposed during the holocaust without invoking emotion – it’s called telling the truth.

    As demonstrated by the preceding posts, humanists are prone to the same cognitive errors that Christians make. This discussion is a perfect example.

    To better understand what I mean, read my post from 11:19 a.m.

  • Mike G.

    Oh wow, no cognitive dissonance in here at all.

    I am an omnivore, but vegetarian leaning in the dietary spectrum.

    Skimming through the posts there have been some equivocation of killing animals for food and eating plants.

    Well, no. Plants are not sentient wheras animals are. Plants can be harvested without killing them. I grew up on a farm, and like other posters, have been very aware of where our meat came from. In my younger years (say around age 15) I slaughtered cows, pigs, and sheep; and have had the best lamb chops around. At the time it was unsettling, and now it seems surreal. Raising animals for slaughter, speaking from experience, is fucking sick. For years I would feed them every day. For the explicit purpose of killing them.

    We kept our animals in pristine condition, and they had it made. The way we killed them wasn’t by mass slaughter, but as efficiently as possible. Not once can I remember an animal going down easily.

    That is why I keep my meat consumption to a minimum.

    Animals do feel pain, and the impact that giant food farms/ factories have on our environment leads me away from meat more and more.

    I have to agree, though, if you want to eat meat and only meat, day after day, I respect that. If you want to be the most hardcore vegan, I respect that too. Being the best possible human precludes judgement, no?

  • Simon – you state “I find it hard to believe that anyone could look at how we raise animals for meat in this country (not in some hypothetical utopia) and find it anything other than a hideous atrocity.”

    You may find it hard to believe, but it is true. I have no emotional concern over killing animals. Just because it is hard for you to believe doesn’t mean it is not true.

    Pity and magnanimity are feelings. Can’t you accept that my feelings are different than yours?

  • If livestock live healthy, happy lives ignorant of the fact they were brought into the world for the purpose of being killed and eaten, this would seem permissible from a utilitarian perspective.

    Likewise, it would seem preferable to bring a human into the world to live a healthy, happy life ignorant of the fact she will be killed and her organs harvested…than for her not to exist at all because of a prohibition on this practice.

  • Nik

    From an evolutionary and biological standpoint, the human body is omnivorous. Even in vegetarian or vegan cultures, prior to modern agriculture, there was a fair amount of insect parts in the food, adding protein and other nutrients.

    Biologically, the human digestive system has more in common with the chimpanzee, which is an omnivore. It is also our closest genetic relative.

    The archaeological record also shows humans as omnivores, from the hunter-gatherer period through domestication of plants and animals.

    In addition, there are several nutrients that are necessary to human survival, and are more difficult to obtain through a vegan diet than through a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet or an omnivore diet. Those include zinc, B-12, iodine, calcium.

    To be fair, the typical western diet is heavier on meat and animal products than it probably should be. It would make more sense to call for a reduction in the amount of meat we eat, rather than elminating all meat.

    It makes as much sense to be vegan because of humanism, as to not use birth control because of catholicism. Neither decision is based on logic – only belief and emotion.

    To make a long story short, let’s not let the label of “humanism” get in the way of logic and fact-based decision making.

  • AxeGrrl

    Brenda wrote:

    After becoming an atheist I read one article promoting the idea of vegetarianism and I had a lightbulb moment – why not? I had been studying morality – and I figured why shouldn’t that morality extend to animals? They often recommend easing into a vegetarian lifestyle but I just jumped in and almost 4 months later I’ve had no regrets. I did some basic research about nutrition and just recently my doc checked my blood and all was great. It seems it’s not as hard as I thought. I can’t see going back now. I feel so good about not harming animals and it’s been much easier than I thought.

    Having said all that – I try not to be an in-your-face vegetarian. I still cook meat for my meat-eating hubby and five kids. I don’t try to make them feel bad for their choice – I figure my example is enough. The same goes for other humanists/atheists. I would never want to bully someone into making the choice that I have made. The only message I would like to send to them is that it is not as hard to give up meat as some people lead you to believe. You could always try going meatless and go back if you feel like it. Nothing is carved in stone here

    Nicely said Brenda 🙂 and you exhibit the kind of attitude that most resembles my own on this issue.

  • @Bill Williams:

    I’d be much more willing to discuss the problems and benefits of veganism / vegetarianism with a person who did not try to appeal to my emotional side with pictures or videos of gruesome slaughter. You can discuss cruelty towards animals without purposefully evoking an emotional response. It’s possible to have that kind of rational discourse with a person. I rarely see this from animal rights advocates, though. It may be a part of the argument, but I don’t need to see that sort of stuff to make a decision.

    Edit: In other words, I’d rather discuss this with a person like Brenda than I would a person like Hemant.

  • Mike G.

    Also, I find that “good-tasting” is highly subjective. For example, ravatheist said that to deprive humans of the tasty animal flesh to relieve their suffering ultimaltely brings suffering onto the humans.

    Fuck. That.

    Eating pineapple green curry, or some seitan wings is not suffering in the least bit 😉

  • KeithLM

    Patrick Oden,

    The answer to culling deer, and other wild animal populations, is to let their natural predators come back. If we had more wolves and mountain lions in the US deer populations would be under control. Now granted, this might mean the occasional group of children would get eaten by a pack of wolves, but that is only natural. To interfere with the predator’s food chain is not being a good human.

  • Mihangel apYrs

    If we gave up meat then there would be no farms for cows, sheep, pigs, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese, etc, etc. That is, domestic animals would become effectively extinct because they would serve no purpose, and would be unlikely to survive in the wild.

    There would also be a massive shift in plant cultivation, with the potential problems that could bring.

    Be very careful making decisions based on sentiment

  • So – Some people start a discussion about meat eating and killing animals with a video of a slaughter.

    And… some people start a conversation about abortion with a picture of a bloody extracted fetus.

    Are these two debating techniques the same?

    Please discuss.

  • AxeGrrl

    Tim wrote:

    Every vegetarian I know shares one annoying trait – they tell you they are a vegetarian.

    *buzzer sound* Sorry Tim, but I’m proof that your generalization is wrong 🙂

    When I was a strict vegetarian, I didn’t mention it to anyone. It was something i just implemented on my own and I did absolutely nothing that could be described as proselytizing/lecturing……

    The really interesting thing is that a few people ‘took me to task’ about it simply when they discovered I was vegetarian! Just my existence as a vegetarian was enough to inspire defensiveness in these people. Psychologically fascinating 🙂

  • @John D:

    Yes. (Although the latter may be a Photoshop.)

  • Mike G.

    Another question to throw in the mix, what is being the best human you can be? Does this include an emphasis on personal health? That seems like it would be morally responsible, would it not?

    I guess I also really value health, and yes I know vegetarians can be unhealthy too. But I think it is highly immoral to lead a life of overconsumption of animal products that result in much higher chances of having serious health defects that burden not only you but your surrounding community.

    Any thought on this?

  • NewEnglandBob

    NOT eating meat is unhealthy. Our bodies have evolved to eat meat and the last 10,000 years of agriculture just harms the human body.

  • I’m a vegetarian primarily for ethical reasons. However, I do not care so much about animal suffering. I believe it is less wrong to kill an animal than a human, in much the same way I believe it is less wrong to kill a fetus than an adult, so therefore I don’t find the argument about animal suffering too compelling, although it certainly isn’t a completely bankrupt argument. I’m mainly concerned about the environmental impact of eating meat. When I did eat meat, I tried to eat as little as possible, which is pretty easy to do. Now I will eat cheese and things made with eggs and milk, and while I acknowledge these also contribute to environmental problems, I am working on reducing my intake. In general, if everyone worked to at least reduce the amount of meat and dairy they ate, it would help a lot. Personally, though, I think it is a much more pragmatic approach to seek a political solution to this problem (regulation of factory farms, for example), rather than trying to appeal to each individual to change his or her lifestyle.

  • Bill Williams

    @ Kev Quovdan said, “I’d be much more willing to discuss the problems and benefits of veganism / vegetarianism with a person who did not try to appeal to my emotional side with pictures or videos of gruesome slaughter.”

    The irony here is that humans resist looking at pictures or videos of animal cruelty, because the truth is too horrible to watch. Instead, they watch something less disturbing while eating a ham sandwich.

    Would you say then that pictures of the holocaust should not have been posted because they are an appeal to emotion?

    This is the very reason that G.W. Bush wouldn’t allow the media to photograph caskets being returned from Iraq. If we don’t look truth in the face, our cognitive biases have much more latitude to protect our immoral and irrational behavior.

  • Mike G.

    John D.

    Are they? How is this a false analogy?

    *sentience, which fetuses do not have.

    *nobody is harvesting babies for other uses(Oh wait, this is an atheist blog… mmmm).

    * anti- choice crowds are exactly that. Removing a woman’s ability to choose. (Whereas, I suppose some staunch vegetarians fall in here)

    Also your post makes me realize:



  • Nik

    Hey, apparently plants have feelings too!

    An excerpt:

    “Just because we humans can’t hear them doesn’t mean plants don’t howl. Some of the compounds that plants generate in response to insect mastication — their feedback, you might say — are volatile chemicals that serve as cries for help. Such airborne alarm calls have been shown to attract both large predatory insects like dragon flies, which delight in caterpillar meat, and tiny parasitic insects, which can infect a caterpillar and destroy it from within.

    Enemies of the plant’s enemies are not the only ones to tune into the emergency broadcast. “Some of these cues, some of these volatiles that are released when a focal plant is damaged,” said Richard Karban of the University of California, Davis, “cause other plants of the same species, or even of another species, to likewise become more resistant to herbivores.” “

  • Keri

    @ Lady Copper,

    Your post says eloquently and precisely what I was thinking the whole time I was reading this post and the subsequent comments. Ruminants like cows and sheep are stewards to the grasslands they graze, and a well managed ranch is actually good for the environment. A totally vegan food system would be unsustainable. Not only that, but domesticated species rely on humans’ continued use of them in order to survive. So the final outcome of an ideally vegan world would be a world where domesticated livestock are extinct: in the hopes of alleviating animal suffering it dooms entire species to non-existence.

    For the record, I abhor industrialized farming practices, both for animal and vegetable production. I often wonder if folks who are vegan take into account the suffering of the thousands upon thousands of small mammals and birds that are killed during the large scale harvest of grains and soy? Little field mice torn asunder by threshers probably die a pretty agonizing death. Or maybe collateral damage doesn’t count.

    My philosophy is very similar to yours, Copper: be respectful and appreciative of everything you eat, plants and animals, and understand as much as you can the impact of their production on the environment, health, and society. Make choices based on a desire to minimizing negative impact and maximizing positive ones.

    By the way, this is my first post here; I’ve been a lurker for a long time, but this topic is something I am very interested in and so thought I’d put myself out there. Hi Hemant! Love your blog! 🙂

  • What really pisses me off are the vegan atheists who try to push their beliefs onto others. Not that you’re doing this, Hemant, but there are those that do. And the irony of that is lost upon them: that they’re the same kind of annoying preachers trying to force their beliefs on others, which most atheists detest.

    Until I hear cows and chickens fighting for equal rights, they are not entitled to them. Sure, I’m against torturing them needlessly and killing them for fun. But if it’s for food, then I’m 100% OK with it.

    Besides, aren’t plants alive, too? Who’s to say they don’t feel pain? Maybe it’s torture for them when they’re cut off, or uprooted. It’s highly hypocritical to only care about the organisms that are close enough to our species.

    If we atheists and humanists are going to say that humanity isn’t any more evolved than animals (meaning self-awareness isn’t any more special than flight or night vision, abilities humans lack), then how is it not hypocritical to only abstain from animals, opting for vegetation instead? Does that mean plants are so far removed from us on an evolutionary scale that it’s OK to eat plants and fruits and vegetables, but not animals?

    What is the justification for veganism anyway? Cruelty to animals and animal rights, right? Who’s fighting for plants’ rights? I’m serious about this one. We can’t move the cognitive dissonance from humans/animals down to animals/vegatables. It still exists.

    Humans eat organic material. And until we can synthesize it like they do on Star Trek, everything we eat was alive at some point. If you want to be a vegan, fine. But don’t claim that all humanists and atheists should to be vegans. That makes you no better than religious people who use their dogmatic beliefs to tell people how to live.

  • Okay, John D: you claim you have no emotional concern over killing animals. Are you willing to put this claim to the test? Would you go to a factory farm and observe the conditions and watch someone kill a bunch of animals? If you’d really be willing to do that, and you’re being truly honest, then I accept your claim. And there are probably a few others like you who would be completely unaffected by it. But for the vast majority of people here, I suspect that seeing it would be horrifying.

  • Aimee

    I have gone back and forth with vegetarianism. I never embraced it “religiously” as I ate fish and seafood at times (pescatarian – I know). I tend to loose quite a bit of weight when I stop eating meat which is actually not so much of a good thing for me. I suppose I’m not doing it right, but I really do try.

    For me its more about the environment than the morality of eating animals itself. I do think most of the ways we raise and kill our meat is pretty terrible, but I had no compunction about buying free range meat once a week. Its also why I still ate fish, especially farmed fish. I stopped eating beef and pork easily, but chicken is the hardest to give up.

    I have the privilege to choose what to eat and I feel like I should use that privilege to make my environmental impact as small as it can be.

  • @Bill Williams:

    I don’t look at pictures or videos of animal slaughter because the sight would make me violently ill, not because it’s cruel, but because it’s a life being ended. I had to avoid the news during the execution of Saddam Hussein because I couldn’t watch them hang him. Yes, life being ended makes me upset. That’s the point of the videos and pictures! It’s to make me and people like me upset.

    And why bring up war? The Holocaust was terrible, I agree. We should never have gone into Iraq, I agree. What is the point? War is not animal husbandry.

  • Nordog

    Also your post makes me realize:



    ROFL! Now THAT’S funny!

  • Riccardo

    I am a proud omnivore. I try to eat less meat (usually once a week or less), because I think we’ve been brought up to eat too much of it, and I think it’s unhealthy, but that’s my personal opinion. On the other hand, I’m not a biologist, but I think that if human beings suddenly stopped eating meat, they would bring about what could possibly be the worst environmental disaster since the dinosaurs went extinct. Think about it: nature has essentially three methods for keeping a species’ population in check: predators, famine and pestilence. Animals like cows, pigs and chicken have man as their sole predator. If he is eliminated, their population would grow out of control, and the other two more drastic solutions to overpopulation would kick in. Soon, all herbivores packed in a small area would consume all of its food sources, and they would starve to death, not to speak of the ilnessess brought forth by the extreme levels of overpopulation. And humans would feel the blow, too. Imagine: instead of mice, we’d have cow infestations, eating our precious crops till the land is barren, and the illnessess of the crowded animals could mutate and adapt to human beings, as the Black Death did in the 1300s. In short, by not killing them for food, we could drive these poor animals to extinction and we could seriously compromise our environment.
    I repeat I am not a biologist, so I realize I may have just said a load of dingdong, but that’s how I understand it.

    Also, attributing human feelings, emotions and behaviours to animals is one of the most anthropocentric things to do, as it assumes that every living being works as a human being.

  • JoshBA

    I always saw humanism as just being “human-centric”; whatever that means. I don’t see how “being the best human you can be” is anymore correct than “humans shall have dominion over Earth”. At least not without a few adjectives attached.

    On the issue of eating meat I have a few rules that work for me and I see as at least reasonable:

    1: I don’t eat anything shown to be self-aware or shown to have the capacity to learn, apply knowledge in unfamiliar settings, invent, and reason (I will admit this one is easy because I had no desire to eat these in the first place).

    2: I don’t eat anything endangered.

    3: I don’t eat anything that, in becoming a non-exceptional food source, would likely become extinct. (i.e. something that if a lot of people were to eat it would become endangered or extinct)

    4: I don’t eat anything I consider to be unnecessarily cruelly prepared (including raising).

    I’m not saying these rules should work for everyone but I don’t think they are particularly egregious in any way.

    On moral veganism/vegetarianism I do have some questions as to where the limits are and what the reasoning for them are (serious ones. I am curious). Is eating all animals off the table? What about insects or mindless ones like sponges, jellyfish, single celled animals, etc? Fungi are more closely related to animals than plants, are they okay to eat? Why? What would a plant have to do for you to consider eating it morally wrong the way eating an animal is? Do you follow the same conditions when it comes to animals? If not, why do animals get special treatment? If so, would it not be more intellectually honest then to describe yourself as having a moral code when it comes to food consisting of <insert-reasoning-here> than the shown to be incomplete/incorrect label of vegan or vegetarian?

  • Phil Bear

    Meat and veg only! Paleo-diet is the way to go, 100%. So according to some humanists, eating animals is wrong. What about animal testing? Not the biggest fan of that, BUT I understand the necessity for it. Just like the necessity for animal protein in our diet.

  • Cortex

    What is the rational justification for the idea that suffering always matters?

    If I’m trying to make something die and become food for me, why should I care what events happen in its brain before it stops functioning?

    The whole thing just reeks of Cartesian dualism (extended to non-humans, of course. Descartes didn’t care about animals’ feelings).

  • @ Simon – I suspect most people here would get used to killing animals just like surgeons get used to cutting people. The initial revulsion is usually temporary. You can learn a behavior and get used to situations.

    Now – don’t get me wrong. I believe animals feel pain and there is no need to be needlessly cruel.

    My point was simply to state that your personal feelings of disgust do not match that of others and you should keep this in mind. The same can be said for all kinds of foods and cleaning rituals and sexual activity. Plenty of people do plenty of things that cause others to be put off. This is not usually a very good test of ethics.

  • Liz

    As a (practically) life-long vegetarian, It is also hard for me to comprehend what ‘humanely’ killing something is.
    What does it take to be humane? Do the animals need to live a happy life before they’re slaughtered? Should it be as quick as possible? Or slow and painless? Should we sneak up behind them leaving them oblivious or have a ceremony thanking them for their meat?

    I do however find that people should have the right to hunt for meat as long as the specific animals populations are flourishing (deer not pandas). I’ll continue to respect animals by not eating them, but hey is a bear gonna think twice about my feelings before he mauls me? Not so much.

    These videos are the worst of the worst in factory farming. What about the healthy pasture raised cattle and the wild deer people hunt? I think compared to factory farms their deaths are VERY humane, more respectable at the least.

  • Evie

    I know my meat. I work at the farms where it’s raised. There are many little farms around where I live, and that’s the only place that my family gets meat and eggs. The animals are treated extremely well, and aren’t sent off to slaughterhouses but killed by the farmer himself and butchered by another local. The vast majority of the cows were rescued males that were going to be veal calves. If that’s not humane meat eating, I don’t know what is.

    What’s inhumane is the kosher and halal slaughter of animals. My mother was a biochem major, and she went to kosher slaughterhouses to collect blood from the cows. They were hung upside down and their throats were slit, not enough to kill them but enough for it to drain slowly out of their bodies. Needless to say, it isn’t eating meat that’s the problem.

  • Liz

    I also agree with JoshBA, I never really understood ‘humanism’ because to me it sounded like the people involved didn’t give a fuck about the earth, just the people on it. That they had some idea that humans were ‘special’ in some way. That just seems way to egotistical and religious to me.

  • Liz


    When I was -really- little I thought that Kosher meant the animals were treated well, because it was explained to me as being ‘clean’ and ‘holy’ (I’m not Jewish, just got the explanation from someone). When I found out it was quite the opposite and more or less torture of the animals before they died it sickened and saddened me =[

  • Bill Williams

    @Yet Another Atheist said, “What really pisses me off are the vegan atheists who try to push their beliefs onto others.”

    Now you know how Christians feel when their deeply held beliefs are challenged. You get the same irrational responses we have here – denial, rationalization, twisted logic, ignorance about the issue, and yes, anger.

    The anger is your monkey brain attempting to protect your deeply held beliefs. When I say monkey brain I’m referring to myself too, and yes, I know that we’re apes.

    Whether the issue is talking snakes or the threat of giving up your yummy food preferences, our brains rely on the same defense mechanism. It’s called cognitive dissonance – making things that are so wrong seem so right.

  • Rich Wilson

    still have a hard time accepting that there’s such a thing as “humanely killed” meat.

    Yes, the industrial farming complex is horrid. No argument, I think, from any of us.

    But all ‘meat’ dies. It’s a matter of when and how. I said this on the last thread, but I have trouble accepting that ten years of one cow’s life somehow trumps five years each of two cows’ lives. If it’s two deaths rather than one, then we should reduce all populations, no?

    Would it be acceptable to eat a cow that has dropped to the ground of old age? Is it acceptable to not rescue a mouse from a cat? Or would that be “asserting our human dominance”? Is there any way we can NOT assert our human dominance, other than voluntarily destroying the human species?

    And as for pushy vegetarians, none of my vegetarian friends are pushy. In fact the ones who are also religious are a lot less pushy about religious issues than I am.

  • It is really hypocritical of some (not all) vegetarians to claim they are not pushy with their beliefs. I mean… look at the title of this post. There is actually a bunch of a-holes who think I don’t belong in their little Humanist club becasue I eat meat. Sorry… but if this is not being pushy with you beliefs I don’t know what is.

    How about I make some arbitrary ethical rules of my own. Let’s say it is only ethical if you give all but life’s bare essentials to the needy. Doesn’t this make you “the best person you can be?” Doesn’t it? Oh… I think so. And if this is your new standard you are all screwed and have to join a new club. For most of us this would include sacrificing on the size of our home, the security of a good neighborhood, the taste of a good drink or a treat. Yes people… the only way to be a “true” humanist is to pretend you are some kind of atheist Dalai Lama. Shit….

    I don’t want to claim there is no value in discussing this topic and I agree that there is value in reducing meat consumption… but… The whole idea that eating meat can exclude you from being a “humanist” is bigoted BS.

  • Matt H.

    I am very conflicted, because I love veal, but I find the process of achieving it to be abhorrent. We really need to get crackin’ on those Star Trek food replicators.

  • Bill Williams: It’s like you didn’t even read my post. Perhaps you could answer some of my questions. Why is it OK to eat vegetation and fruit, but not animals? What separates the two?

    If animals have “rights”, then why don’t plants? I’d really like to know.

    The cognitive dissonance isn’t with me and my food preferences. Trust me, when challenged with anything, I think about it in a rational manner, considering all points of view. I just don’t find anything morally superior about veganism. It’s a lifestyle choice.

    And comparing Christians to non-vegans is just dishonest. You basically took my point, turned it around without any thought process behind it, and turned it into your own argument.

  • Mihangel apYrs

    The only consistent alternative to being an omnivore is to be a frutctivore.

    In honesty you can’t eat dairy products because of all the male calves that are disposed of to sustain milk production. Eggs are out because you are killing a potential chicken, or at least psychologically harming the hen (same true for dairy cows btw).

    You also shouldn’t kill vegetative growth, since you’re destroying a living thing: the only things left are nuts and fruits that are potential life without emotional connections.

    Thing about it

  • Nordog

    All I know is that I can’t wait to visit Texas again so I can have a double Whataburger with cheese.

  • “Infrequent” need for B12?

    I’m sorry, but what the hell planet are those veg-heads living on? B12 is absolutely VITAL, especially for women who are (or plan on becoming) pregnant!

  • Mihangel: Exactly my point. If we stop ourselves from eating anything that at one point was a living being, then what’s left to eat? Seeds and nuts? Sorry, but no thanks.

    If I can eat plants and fruit, then I can eat meat as well. Until cows and chickens start picketing for equal rights and for us to stop killing them, I’m in support of it.

    And I’ll thank those vegans who are pushy to the point of religious dogma, to stay out of my life and leave me alone about it. I get a message on Twitter every so often saying how it’s wrong for me to eat meat.

    I despise religion in all forms. Pushy Veganism is no exception.

  • cat

    “. We know that some animals are better than some humans at solving logical puzzles, socializing, showing empathy, feeling pain and joy, using tools and so on.” Not true, at least certainly not on the cognitive scaled. An average human four year old has as great of a vocabulary as the “miraculous” gorilla that learned to sign, and can do massive amounts of tool use, including replication of letters and drawing simple shapes. We only think of things like “the IQ of a four year old” as low because we compare it to the working knowledge of a human adult and because we fail to take into account just how much our babies learn and just how fast they learn it. We would consider the prime examples adult ape’s pinacle of skills (Koko, who signed, for example) to be called severe developmental disorder in a five year old. And chimps are far above things like chickens and cows on the brains scale. You underestimate the cognitive functioning of people with disabilities by a wide margin.

  • Rollingforest

    In case no one else has pointed this out, Min, from above, is wrong. Plants do not have nervous systems and do not, as far as we know, feel pain.

  • Rich Wilson

    There are some specific cognitive skills that chimps are better at than humans, but I don’t think that invalidates what you’re saying at all.
    (e.g. briefly shown a sequence of numbers randomly placed on a grid, chimps can recreate the sequence. That is, they can remember where all the numbers are, and recall them in sequence, after seeing them for only a couple of seconds. Humans are horrible at the same task.)

  • ECSchmidt

    People who dismiss arguments because of perceived tone or pushiness or “evangelism” should not call themselves critical thinkers.

    People who justify their choices by pointing to evolution should not call themselves critical thinkers.

    People who don’t understand that less suffering is better than more suffering should not call themselves critical thinkers.

    People who look to reasonless animal predators as moral guides should not call themselves critical thinkers.

    People who think that there are some issues too personal and cultural to be argued about should not call themselves critical thinkers.

    People who respond to argument with a list of things that give them pleasure should not call themselves critical thinkers.

    People who don’t understand the difference between plants and animals should not call themselves critical thinkers.

    People who think that animals (including humans) exist in order to fulfill some ultimate purpose should not call themselves critical thinkers.

    People who confuse “is” with “ought to be” or should not call themselves critical thinkers.

    People who use anecdotes to make a case should not call themselves critical thinkers.

    People who think that aggressive breeding keeps animal populations down should not call themselves critical thinkers.

    People who don’t understand the role of empathy in moral debates should not call themselves critical thinkers.

    People who think that calling humans “omnivores” is a prescription should not call themselves critical thinkers.

  • Joan

    Some people do well on a vegan diet. That’s great. Others don’t. Here’s a link to a blog by an ex-vegan. It’s a long read, but very interesting, and well-worth it if the topic is of interest to you:

    I know personally that I get faint if I don’t have at least a little animal protein each day. (Can be fish or poultry, and I hardly ever eat beef anymore.) But if I’m choosing between my own well-being and the that of the animal’s, I’m choosing me.

  • Brandon Lawler

    I am not at all upset with the consumption of meat that has been raised for that purpose. That video was awful on an emotional level, but taking the simple step of rendering an animal instantly unconscious resolves the problem in my eyes. I understand and respect the decisions of individuals who disagree, but ask that they acknowledge that humans evolved as an omnivorous species. In the same way that we are social creatures, we eat meat.

    Taking reasonable steps to ensure that the animal passes in and out of life with minimal stress serves to make their lives make their lives similar, or even better, than they would have been had they lived in the wild. Nature is characterized by organisms living at the limit of survival, generally under duress with not enough to eat. Generally, this is not the case with farm animals, although there will certainly be unfortunate exceptions.

    Having lived on a farm for periods of my childhood when visiting family, I understand the process by which animals are raised and cared for. The medical and nutritional needs that must be met to maintain a healthy herd ensured that our cattle, at the very least, lived long and, dare I say, happy lives. At the end of their lives, their bodies went on to fed human beings. Not a bad system for either human or bovine.

    Practices can be I proved and limitations imposed, but at the end of the day, animals provide a healthy meal to sustain human lives. I do not find that fundamental idea objectionable.

  • Digitus Impudicus

    I eat chicken most often when I eat meat, and I do it because I used to raise them, and I have a personal vendetta against those dirty violent little turds.
    Every time I have a chicken leg I think “This is for that time you attacker me while I was trying to feed you, you little shit!”
    I have a friend who was raised on a cattle ranch and feels the same way about cows.

  • @Cortex
    “What is the rational justification for the idea that suffering always matters?”

    Simple. It always matters to the sentient being who suffers. It is a contradiction in concept to say suffering does not to matter.

    “If I’m trying to make something die and become food for me, why should I care what events happen in its brain before it stops functioning?”

    You may or may not care about the suffering of others, but it is inconsistent to care a lot about the suffering of humans and not at all about the suffering of other animals.

  • Bill Williams

    Well said Garren.

    A serious study of human-on-human violence and conflict leads to the highly probable conclusion that we are more cruel toward other species than our own. We treat them as prey, game for “sport,” property, profit making commodities, etc. etc. Yet the truth is so ugly we can’t stomach watching it.

    In this light, the comment:

    “What is the rational justification for the idea that suffering always matters?”

    is a sad testament to the callous nature of our species and our inability to see past the folly of our ways.

  • keystothekid

    I usually try to avoid the vegetarian arguments, mostly because of the lunacy that always seems to rear it’s head (on both sides).

    1) If you think there is no difference between killing and consuming a plant and killing and consuming an animal, how do you draw a distinction between killing and consuming said animal and killing and consuming a human being? Higher levels of conciousness? Intelligence? Well, there you go.

    2 A.) You are not a caveman. The argument that eating meat is the diet that humans evolved on is silly. Why do the people who choose this to defend their diet always forget that early humans were hunters and gatherers?

    2 B.) Do you honestly think the meat most people consume in the present time has such a great similarity to the meat consumed by our ancestors? It doesn’t. Early humans hunted wild animals who lived free, ate their natural diets, and weren’t pumped full of antibiotics and hormones.

    2 C.) The lifestyle of the early human is nothing like the lifestyle of the average first world human living today. You are not getting everywhere you wish to go on foot. You are not exerting the same amount of energy just to survive. You’re not starving.

    3) Meat consumption is bad for the environment. It’s an extremely inefficient system with a lot of waste. It takes approximately 2,500 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef (Dr. Borgstrom). It’s also been estimated that about half of the water consumed in America is used for livestock. Anywhere from 12-16+ pounds of grain are needed to produce 1 pound of beef.
    Of course the numbers will vary (based on location/quality of the beef [cow]/style of beef-grass fed/traditionally fed).

    4) If you think it’s all about the animals, you’re wrong. The workers that are often employed in slaughterhouses are illegal immigrants because only they are willing to work in such unsafe conditions for such low compensation. If an illegal alien is hurt on the job, you can fire him. What’s he going to do? He cannot report you for unsafe practices, he’ll be deported. There are tons of first person accounts by slaughterhouse workers talking about how terribly they’re treated, how unsafe their working conditions are, and how, if hurt, they’re often let go instead of compensated. I saved this point for last because it is the least factual, at this time, in the argument to cut meat from your diet. I know that I prefer points based on facts and science instead of those that pander to emotions.

    Meat consumption does not align with the Humanist idea. That being said, I do not think you should all rush out and stop eating meat. Defining oneself as a Humanist means that you’re willing to examine yourself and your life and the impact you’re making in this world. You’re willing to change for the better. Being a Humanist is a dynamic thing, we should all be constantly shifting and striving to become better people and cutting down on our meat consumption is a nice step in the right direction.

  • Tom

    Yet Another Atheist says:

    What really pisses me off are the vegan atheists who try to push their beliefs onto others. Not that you’re doing this, Hemant, but there are those that do. And the irony of that is lost upon them: that they’re the same kind of annoying preachers trying to force their beliefs on others, which most atheists detest.

    I find it sad (and a bit below the belt considering the forum) that a few omnivores have equated veganism/vegetarianism with religious fundamentalism in this thread. I actually find being an atheist very similar to being a vegetarian. For example, we are the minority, we are openly mocked without consequence, if anyone dares speaks out we are deemed “preachy” and “intolerant” of different viewpoints, we are told it’s just a “phase” and so on.

    One more thing – just because I don’t eat meat does not mean I do not think it’s ok to eat it in certain circumstances. Just the other day, I was actually defending someone who wanted to hunt deer. Everyone was getting on his case about “killing Bambi” and so forth. I pointed out that the hypothetical deer killed in the woods probably would have a far better life and quicker death than the cows that made up their hamburgers and that pretty much ended that.

  • voxam

    I really think this is a more complicated topic than most people on either side treat it as. To address the initial topic, I personally believe that non-human life is worth less than human life, but not by enough to automatically justify infinite animal suffering for human benefit. For me it boils down to a question of reasonable alternatives; if there is one for any given animal product, I use it in lieu of the animal product. Of course what is reasonable for me may not be reasonable for any other given person, but it seems like for most people the default assumption is that there are no alternatives when it comes to many things, including diet.

    We like to gloat about these big, intelligent brains that eating meat got us, so why can’t we use them to figure out friendlier alternatives?

  • Don Rose

    I’m starting to feel about vegans, the same way christians probably feel about us atheists.

    Eat what you want, and leave me the fuck alone. I eat plenty of meat, and can probably kick your under-nourished ass.

  • fucking PETA douchebag. I’m really sick of you vegetarians thinking you’re so much better than everyone else and spreading pure lies like “eating meat is bad for you”

    Hemant is absolutely pushing his beliefs on others. That video is the trademark PETA move, and it’s the same move that Pro-lifers use. Scare people with disgusting videos/pictures until they join your side.

    Good job, Hemant. I hope you’re proud of yourself for using scare tactics to convince people.

  • Delcycer

    I’m sorry, but I must say I consider this question a waste of time and intellectual energy. If that says something about my priorities, so be it.

    There will be time for these discussions. When they are relevant. We still have to stop the humans from butchering one another over fairy tales and figure out how to feed 10 billion of us by the middle of this century.

    You seem like smart folks. Invest that capital in female genital mutilation, or starvation, or suicide bombing. Let’s figure out solutions for those things.

    Then we’ll have the moral luxury of debating the ethics of being at the top of the food chain.

  • vexorian

    I think that once we take the term humanism and start to add arbitrary moral values to it just because a subset of those who call themselves humanists like that moral value, it gets closer to a religion than it optimally should.

    And yeah, Veganism is an arbitrary moral value. As mentioned, meat-eating isn’t a human invention, we know evidence that our ancestors ate other animals, and also those species closest genetically to human are omnivores.

  • Ben

    I have to disagree with the footage presented in that video as it doesn’t represent modern, western slaughtering techniques. I think you’ll find most western countries are fairly strict on the way to kill animals for food. The important restriction (here in Australia at least) that wasn’t presented in the video, is that the animals must first be rendered unconscious, usually via high-voltage electrical shock to the brain.

    What’s presented in the video is either before these regulations were put in place, or are of Halal or the most common form of Kosher slaughter, which forbids knocking the animal out first.

    I don’t agree with Halal or Kosher standards, but I agree with western standards. What we do to kill our food is a hell of a lot better than the death they’d suffer in the wild, either naturally or at the claws of a predator.

    P.S. One of the images is being prevented from it’s host. This is why you should always copy images (not that you should that either) and re-upload them on your own host.

  • Justin

    I really will not add anything to this conversation since it’s over 100 comments in already but I will say this. That video at the end is probably one of the worst, most depressing, and horrible things I’ve ever seen.

  • Jachra

    I would like proof about this statement that eating meat is bad for you. That’s my primary contribution to this discussion: Burden of proof is on those making the assertion.

  • Alex

    Kill all crocodiles!

    Humanely, of course.

  • Rollingforest

    Eating meat is an ethical issue. Ethics are probably caused by our biology and our culture. It is unlikely that ethics are like physical laws, locked in place for everyone. There is no scientific way to test to see which ethics system is right. In the end, it is all about what “feels” right to you, which is ridiculously subjective. We are never going to agree on the right answer because there might not be a right answer on this or any other moral issue.

  • Kaileyverse

    I’m a vegan – for personal reasons, and I think that this lifestyle choice is right for me because of my OWN values. As a kid – my dad used to get us beef from cows that his co-worker raised, I knew that these specific creatures were being grass fed and roaming around like cows should do. Though, after I visited the farm and met “Taco” – I wasn’t a big beef eater after that. Something about looking him in the eyes made beef really really hard to eat. I certainly don’t think that people shouldn’t be allowed to raise animals for food, and I believe that some people who hunt for food are some of the most environmentally conscious people out there. I just couldn’t do it myself.

    I recognize that a vegan diet or lifestyle is NOT right for everyone, and certainly there are vegans that are uber preachy – and they SUUUUCK. Yes many vegans/veggies do it for the trend, because it is the “in thing” to do – and eat really crappy and unbalanced diets. However, a lot of us do it right – and I don’t need omnivores to be preachy to me either. I know what my body needs, and I know where I can get those nutrients. I am not superior to you, and you are not superior to me – if you want to eat meat/dairy/eggs – that is O.K. but it doesn’t mean it is right for me.

  • AtomJack

    Lurid examples of “inhumane” slaughter phase me not at all. I know how my protein gets to me. The halal (and kosher, for that matter, the slaughter methods are the same) issue is emotive for those with empathy for the creature being slain. Know that in US culture, the commercially slain animals are rendered unconscious (cows, pigs, sheep I know for certain) prior to slaughter. Nope, it ain’t pretty. Those of you who were raised differently, you have different views on it. In this particular case I consider a presentation of slaughter methods not generally used in the US as disingenuous. Yes, this is practiced elsewhere. But I’m not guilty of consuming that meat.

    A couple of points- killing your own isn’t necessarily kinder. If you hunt, you are going to miss the “clean shot” periodically, that’s the nature of shooting. I’m an expert marksman, which means I don’t put EVERY bullet in the ten spot. If you grew up on a farm and haven’t learned quick-kill methods, I’m also not impressed with your disgust. You want to raise your own, with the expected consequences, learn how to kill it right.

    You want cruel? Most predators eat their kill while it’s still kicking.

    I’m eating meat, a lot less than maybe it sounds like. But I’m also not taking any guilt for it.

    Oh, BTW, if you don’t want your meat to scream when you kill it, slice below the larynx. This also works on adversaries in combat.

  • I’m going to have a big juicy steak tonight. Gunna slide it on the grill and watch the blood drain as it becomes the perfect tender pink consistency that I love to dig my carnivorously evolved teeth into.

    Enjoy your brussel sprouts and peaches, but don’t look over at me as you gulp down your protein vitamin and tell me I’m disgusting before you take a good hard look in a mirror.

  • Cortex


    Simple. It always matters to the sentient being who suffers. It is a contradiction in concept to say suffering does not to matter.

    Why should I care what matters to a cow?

    “You may or may not care about the suffering of others, but it is inconsistent to care a lot about the suffering of humans and not at all about the suffering of other animals.”

    Not at all. The suffering of other animals can matter to other animals all day long. The suffering of humans matters to me because I am human.

  • Chris

    The best way to Save The Whales would be to start eating (farming) them.. heard that somewhere…

    I cannot eat gluten. I can’t eat soy. Or corn. Or tomatoes or onions.. I do eat meat daily because it is one of the few things that does not cause an upset to my system- especially if it is not conventionally raised meat. I can tell if it is corn fed beef..
    It would be cruel to force people with food intolerances into a diet that causes them pain and harm to their body..

  • @Cortex
    “Not at all. The suffering of other animals can matter to other animals all day long. The suffering of humans matters to me because I am human.”

    You could take the same stance about any ‘outsider’ group of humans. This has historically been a very common attitude.

    Once you care about anyone besides yourself, it’s hard to make a principled justification for stopping before your moral concern encompasses all sentient beings your actions may affect.

  • It had better be compatible or I would risk being unethical or putting my self at extreme risk of death. Due to my food allergies I have to completely avoid quite a few fruits and nuts and minimize my exposure to others. As a result it would not be possible for me to safely have a balanced vegetarian diet.

  • Cortex


    Right. It’s totally the same thing. Because a cow could become integrated into my family or group of friends. Give me a break.

    2 more –

    1. Why stop at sentient beings? The ability to experience pain seems so arbitrary. Why should we not extend rights to all organisms?

    2. Why not afford other rights to non-humans? Should interspecies marriage be recognized by the government? Should we give voting rights to every sentient being?

  • ckitching

    I see we have an infestation of both groups who tend to turn discussions like this into pissing matches. We have the self-righteous vegans in one corner and the indignant anti-vegs in the other. Both will complain the other is acting religiously. Both insist that they way they choose to live is the only True Path. Both insist the other does not care about suffering, only ideological purity. Both take any point ceded as proof that their opponents are completely wrong about everything.

    To the less dogmatic who are trying to hold a conversation, good luck. The passionate seem to dominate this particular topic and drown out everyone else.

  • Rollingforest

    200 years ago, if you had said that a black man could be president, they’d laugh you out the door. “Yeah, what’s next? We gonna elect a chimp?” They “knew” that whites were superior based on their technological successes. Anyone who wanted to end slavery was a whiny hippy bastard, according to them (though they didn’t have those terms at the time).

    I’m not saying that I totally agree with the vegans (see my last post), but this cavalier attitude that several people on this thread have that they “know” that animals have no moral worth is filled with the same kind of arrogance.

  • Josh

    My personal opinion would be that Humanism is a bunch of new-age, hippy bullshit.

    But who gives a shit what I think? If you are willing and able to eat meat and feel comfortable with yourself, do it. If not, don’t. Who made us the judges of what Humanism (or whatever) should be?

  • Jiji

    >>Who made us the judges of what Humanism (or whatever) should be?

    Considering what’s been said here will not affect the definition of “Humanism” in any way, I’ll be surprised if anybody’s living under the delusion they are “the judges” of anything. It’s a blog, and this is a discussion.

    I’m a carnivore myself (it’s the sort of diet that I feel most energized and efficient on, and that’s a statement I’m making from the position of someone who’s tried to be vegetarian, then vegan, the experiment having lasted over a year). Knowing how it makes me feel, I have no plans to switch over to that lifestyle permanently but will, thanks to the points the other camp made, do what I can to only get meat, eggs and milk from farms where animals are cared for properly. (I don’t do fish so at least that’s a non-issue.)

    Having said the above: Some of the things select meat eaters have said here, to / about vegans and about how much we should care about the wellbeing of non-human species, range from juvenile to borderline sociopathic. Never before have I found myself in a position where I’m reading an argument I’ve missed, and am actually rooting for the other side to kick serious verbal ass because some of the people on mine are going out of their way to be idiotic, disrespectful, and proud of it. I’m done with this thread, I’ve lost what respect I had (or may have eventually had) for the pathologically arrogant people in question, and will take anything they say from now on, on any subject, with a rock of salt – if I bother to read it in the first place.

  • Samiimas

    I’m glad someone else pointed out that vegans and pro-lifers share the same argument: Showing gross images and calling you an evil person for not agreeing with them.

  • I won’t be switching to vegetarianism anytime soon because I am a picky eater and don’t think there a moral dilemma here (sure it might be self-rationalization… but I’m sticking with it for now). I hope this becomes a non-issue in the next 10 years when we can just grow meat without the rest of the animal.

    I disagree that you are a better humanist for not eating meat. My perception of humanism is that it is deriving one’s morals and ethics without religious influence or doctrine. In that sense, both vegetarian/vegans and meat eaters can be considered self-consistent humanists. The debate is important though, because having a well-reasoned and consistent position is all we have to go on.

    With that out of the way, I am not vegetarian because I don’t think humans and animals are the same. I don’t think selfishness and killing animals is detrimental to our society, and thus wouldn’t consider them immoral acts. If alternatives arise that give us the same/more benefits and less of the cons then I would say it would become morally reprehensible to continue killing animals. I know several people would argue we are already at that point, but I honestly don’t think so. Again, I wouldn’t mind for this to become a non-issue.

    As a side issue, the number of logical fallacies presented in the comments is on the level of absurdity. From slippery slopes to hasty generalizations… it’s got them all.

  • Bill Williams

    @Samiimas said, “I’m glad someone else pointed out that vegans and pro-lifers share the same argument: Showing gross images and calling you an evil person for not agreeing with them.”

    This is a faulty analogy. Pro-lifers are making the logical fallacy of appealing to emotion in an effort to overcome their unsupported and irrational belief in some undetectable mysterious property that they claim magically appears at conception.

    People who are trying to reduce the suffering of other sentient beings are trying to show you reality – the cruelty that you finance when you buy flesh, especially when it’s produced by unethical profit-motivated corporations.

    These are two very different approaches – the former is an irrational attempt to promote irrational beliefs. The latter is an accurate window into the reality of factory farming. Pretending that both approaches are equally irrational is an excellent strategy to protect your deeply rooted beliefs.

    P.S. I’m not calling anyone “evil.” You’re human, and you’re doing what humans naturally do. In this case, you’re behavior is immoral and will likely continue because you’re keeping your head in the sand, i.e., refusing to look at the truth.

  • keystothekid

    It’s funny how people are equivocating vegetarians and the religious, when I see it the other way. I would say that most meat eaters, at least those exposed to the idea of vegetarianism, who say it’s not healthier, are more like the religious. Why? Because they’re ignoring scientific evidence to uphold tradition, emotional connections to meat, and simply because it’s easier to keep the status quo.

    If you do not want to be a vegetarian, that’s fine. Most vegetarians or vegans are not on a crusade. In fact, there are plenty of us who feel PETA is going too far and they resort to silly gimmicks and ridiculous tactics, cheapening and hurting the argument for vegetarianism/veganism.

    The burden of proof falls to those who make the assumptions, very true. And while I’m not going to dig up and cite every source that I’d like to/that I would if this post was more pertinent to the blog itself, I will do a little of the research for you. (Honestly, did you not research religion before becoming an Atheist? Did you actually rely on only the religious to prove God to you? Do you disbelieve everything until someone on the other side converts you, or are you willing to do some of the work yourself?) Either way, here is some info.

    The British Medical Association (BMA) was first to shed light on the many benefits of a vegetarian diet in a 1986 report. Based on a large volume of research, it concluded that vegetarians not only tend to have lower cholesterol, but also significantly reduced instances of coronary heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, certain types of cancers, gall stones and large intestine disorders.

    Beginning in 1983, the China study, looked at 6,500 participants over the course of several years, documenting their dietary habits, lifestyles and health. This comprehensive study was a combined effort of the Chinese, United Kingdom and United States. The first results were made public in 1989, and were unequivocal. The less meat consumed, the lower the risk of developing common chronic diseases as noted above. The study also debunked the Western myth of promoting meat as a necessary source of iron. Among the largely vegetarian-based diets of the Chinese, the average vegetarian had twice the iron intake of the average U.S. citizen.

    The highly respected World Health Organization (WHO) offered their own findings on vegetarian and vegan diets in a 1991 report. WHO not only confirmed the results of the BMA and the China study, but also found that meat and dairy-rich diets promote other diseases as well, including osteoporosis or low bone density, and kidney failure. WHO went so far as to predict the cancer crisis the world now faces, based on the meat-rich dietary trends of Western nations. The report candidly faulted governments for public Dietary Guidelines that promote meat and dairy as necessary foods, urging more vegetarian-based policies where animal products are relegated to optional status.

    Now, I know nothing of this wise geek website, but it’s a great little block quote discussing the reputable sources that have conducted the research and crunched the data.

    If you want to eat meat, I’m not trying to stop you. However, I’m not going to allow you to lie about the research and science so that you can remain an omnivore.

    I’d also like to make a note that being vegetarian isn’t always healthier for everyone. It takes work. I’ve seen quite a few silly people quit eating meat only to replace it with potato chips and other snack foods.

  • Mike G.

    Lol. If you seriously think there are no health risks with consumption of meat, I have bad news, and that is Google=> search => “health risks red meat”. Colonic, pancreatic cancers on top of the elevated risks for heart attacks.

    I totally agree with Jiji, my side is looking like a bunch of idiots.

    It has been reduced to “watch as I kick your undernourished ass”.


  • Bill Williams – you actually scare me a bit. How can you say that vegans showing the slaughter of an animal is any different from anti-abortionists showing a bloody fetus? They are both appeals to emotion.

    They are both real images. They are both intended to appeal to our sense of disgust. You just think different things are disgusting than I do. Using the sense of disgust to make a moral argument is pretty weak. It is part of the idea that we should seek purity. Right wingers seek purity through rituals and pretending a soul exists in a fetus. Left wingers seek purity through pretend food preference rituals (such as organics, no meat, no dairy, no gluten… blah blah blah). Same bull-shit… just a different side of the political spectrum.

    Humanism does not belong to the “sentient being” worshipers. I will not roll-over to accepting this bigotry.

  • If we point the finger at Christians for using scare tactics to recruit people into converting for Jesus as they use images and ideas about hell, then how is it okay for you to use a video of gore of a Halal slaughterhouse?

    I understand this video is mostly just flat shooting, which gives off this impression of “this is just reality”. But I figured you had a higher priority for using “friendly” techniques. I know you’ve written out a fair logic for going veg, but simply reverting to handing out this video of gore in this post is just hypocritical. I come to this blog for well-written arguments, not scare tactics and videos of gore.

  • JohnD said:

    Left wingers seek purity through pretend food preference rituals (such as organics, no meat, no dairy, no gluten… blah blah blah).

    I’m currently doing elder-care for a man who most likely had gluten intolerance all of his life. He only recently discovered it because this disorder has only received attention in the US during the last decade.

    He has osteoporosis—which is quite rare in men—most likely because his digestive tract stopped absorbing nutrients properly because it was damaged by an ever-present reaction to gluten. He has since fractured his back in several places during the course of one misstep down a flight of stairs. He is in constant pain and has been for over seven months.

    He also has diabetes, which also tends to be a byproduct of gluten intolerance.

    This isn’t a left wing issue. It’s a health issue that can effect anyone who has inherited this disorder. To try to politicize gluten intolerance is supremely asinine.

  • Bill Williams

    @John D. said, “How can you say that vegans showing the slaughter of an animal is any different from anti-abortionists showing a bloody fetus? They are both appeals to emotion.”

    This issue is not whether a particular form of argument appeals to emotion – we are emotional animals and our emotions are easily triggered. The issue is whether the emotions are being manipulated to promote an irrational agenda. That’s what anti-abortionists do and it’s what makes their emotional appeals a logical fallacy.

    As previously noted, asking people to look truth in the face is not fallacious. Reality can generate powerful emotions because the truth is so ugly. You’re brain is just framing this issue in a particular way so you don’t have to look at the truth.

    As for your comment that “Humanism does not belong to the “sentient being” worshipers,” I don’t think it belongs to anyone. We are all more or less moral in many different realms. This is an opportunity to adjust your thoughts and behaviors to be more moral in a particular realm. If you keep your eyes closed, you’ll maintain the status quo, and you’ll continue living in a state of denial and self-deception.

    If you want to know the truth, you have to look at it, and closely study the issue so you can use that information to make better decisions.

  • Greg

    Keystothekid – are those articles comparing all meat eaters to all vegetarians? If so, it is hardly a fair comparison when you are lumping in people who are obese due to over eating (and more especially over eating of meat products) to one side.

    As a comparison:

    Drinking far too much wine is very bad for you (or eating too much chocolate), and yet there have been studies suggesting that a small regular amount may very well be good for you.

    Too much of anything is bad for you.

    Too much of water is bad for you.

  • @timber – hey man… I’m not an idiot. I have a friend who has siliac disease. I know some people need a gluten free diet. Hell… some people even do well with meat in their diet.

    My point is that lots of people make false claims about the heath benefits of a certain diet.

    The whole deal with many diet preference is the idea of purity. Many people have unfounded beliefs that certain types of diet are cleansing and pure and organic… and lots of BS. It’s the left wing way to find purity.

  • chanda

    i became vegan for many of the same reasons i became atheist. the questioning of the eating habits i was raised with was very similar to the questioning of the religion i was raised with. in both instances i determined that they way i was raised, my culture, family, whatever, did not necessarily mean that was how i should continue to live my adult life. two of the best and easiest changes i have ever made.

    i’m not sure how it’s relevant but i was also raised on a dairy farm and ate animals my family had raised.

    the american dietetic association holds the position that vegan diets are healthy and safe for every stage of life.

    you kill more plants by eating animals than just plants because the animals you eat also eat plants. cut out the middle man.

    just trying to address a few of the faulty logical arguments i read in the comments, not that i read them all. i became atheist for logical reasons. i became vegan for logical reasons. that’s it.

  • Deepak Shetty

    then they’re effectively declaring that a conflict exists between righteousness and survival.

    And really this is the most frustrating part of this argument. if you are starving in the desert and all you have is a chicken , go ahead and eat it. It looks like just because someone can conceive of scenarios where it might be moral to eat meat for survival makes it ok for every scenario.

    The point is today most of us don’t need to eat meat to survive or be healthy or to earn our livelihood(those who do need not be vegetarian).

  • keystothekid

    Greg, that would be a good point, although if they ARE comparing random meat eaters and random vegetarians and one side contains more over-eaters, could you not make an educated guess that maybe there is a correspondence between said diet and the habit of over eating?

    Also, if I over dose on vegetables, it’s not nearly the same as over eating meat. The idea that everything is bad for you once you throw moderation out the window is true, but it’s also a false equivalence. The ratio of vegetable consumption to meat consumption would have to be skewed radically to compare the dangers of overeating both.

    Consider that in the U.S. 4 ounces of meat is a serving. That’s a quarter of a pound. Now, how many restaurants serve half pound burgers, 12 ounce (3/4 pound) steaks, etc? Overeating, especially when it comes to animal protein, seems to be fairly synonymous with the average American’s diet.

    Yes, moderation is a great thing. I love beer. Madly. Deeply. Passionately. I. Love. Beer. However, while drinking a couple beers might not necessarily be enough to cause any problems, drinking a couple glasses of water is not only a safer bet, but it has more positive factors too.

    While moderation is necessary, if you’re eating something that is inherently bad for you, the good goes out the window. There are very few vitamins/minerals that (healthy) vegetarians have trouble acquiring due to a lack of meat. B12 is a big one. I’m happier taking a b12 supplement and not eating meat than ditching the vitamin, consuming animals and facing the much more dangerous risks that go along with that (heart disease, colon cancer, high cholesterol, intestinal problems, etc).

  • Whit

    However, the vegan/vegetarian argument assumes eating veggies has no moral issues when compared to meat. This isn’t entirely true, for example, to grow fruit bearing and vegetative plants to an edible maturity, on a scale large enough to support a huge population, well, you need land. Land that has to be deforested, cleared of competitive herbivores, and fertilized. This can also lead to issues of erosion, farm runoff that gets into streams and harms fish and water quality. You may need plants that have to be genetically engineered for higher output, plants that may get into the wild and out compete wild populations, reducing biodiversity, and harming whole ecosystems. You also need to protect these plants from insects, and large scale pesticide use is still a big problem. Pesticides that can harm us and the environment it runs off into.

    There is also a human issue of harvesting, either with large, polluting machinery or workers who work long hours, are underprivileged, and also exposed to the previously mentioned pesticides. On top of that you have pollution issues of transporting plants form fertile areas to infertile ones.

    Also, please don’t forget that while many countries have vegan areas available on the shelf, not everyone can financially afford to buy them for everyday consumption. Processed foods and lower quality meats may be more affordable in some areas.

    I also have not seen any proof that eating meat in healthy quantities is a determent to human health.

    I am not saying these issues can’t be solved, or aren’t improving, but I just want to point out that plants have moral problems as well.

    Honestly I think the real issue is our overpopulation as human beings, and how we often have to exploit the environment to sustain our own needs.

  • Greg


    Greg, that would be a good point, although if they ARE comparing random meat eaters and random vegetarians and one side contains more over-eaters, could you not make an educated guess that maybe there is a correspondence between said diet and the habit of over eating?

    Actually, my first thought was that people who put thought into what their diet should be are more likely to look after both their diet and their fitness (whether veg or omni). Or put another way – if you care about your body, you care about what you put in it. That wouldn’t mean that if you care about your body you are a vegan/vegetarian, it would just mean the people who consider becoming a vegetarian are also more likely to look after their bodies. (And conversely, if you don’t care to think about what you put in your body, you aren’t as likely to worry about being a vegan or not.)

    If that were so, then all those meat eaters that take care of their bodies are being weighed down by the meat eaters that don’t, whilst the vegetarians don’t have the same percentage weighing down their statistics.

    I guess all I see here is a correlation, rather than any causation (which the claim that eating meat is unhealthy would require to back it up.)

    Also, if I over dose on vegetables, it’s not nearly the same as over eating meat. The idea that everything is bad for you once you throw moderation out the window is true, but it’s also a false equivalence. The ratio of vegetable consumption to meat consumption would have to be skewed radically to compare the dangers of overeating both.

    Sorry, I don’t see the false equivalence. I’m not claiming overeating is going to be just as dangerous for both meat eaters and non-meat eaters. Rather, I’m saying that as overeating is dangerous at some point for everything, it is not fair to claim that all meat eating is unhealthy whilst using statistics including people who have clearly overeaten.

    That’s why I used the wine analogy – if a small amount of something is healthy (or neutral) then that thing is not intrinsically unhealthy (which is the claim about meat eating).

    If we can cut out the clear overconsumption in statistics then we might gain a better understanding as to whether it is healthy or not, but if we don’t or can’t, then the figures are going to be unfairly skewed against meat eating, and should not be used to claim that meat eating is intrinsically bad for you.

    As for the rest – I’m afraid I’m not an American, so it’s hard for me to comment on anything in the US. =/ I am aware that pretty much everyone I know that has gone to the US is amazed by the size of the portions, but as I said, it’s hard for me to comment.

    One thing I would say, however, is that diet isn’t something that stays the same for every person. Some of the fittest people I know consume what would be far too much for other people (of meat and in general), because they have demanding exercise routines of one sort or another in which they burn off all those calories.

    (I speak feelingly, as a sportsman, who was put on the shelf (so to speak) for a few years, and has only started getting back to a decent exercise regime after an op and rehab now. I’ve probably gone from ‘overeating’ to ‘under-eating’ to ‘overeating’ again, and all because the amount of exercise I do changes the amount of things that it is healthy for me to eat!)

    Anyway, I’ll finish with:

    While moderation is necessary, if you’re eating something that is inherently bad for you, the good goes out the window.

    And that is the point: the bolded part is the bit that needs to be shown to be the case. Is meat bad for you, or is it just the overeating of meat that is bad?

    Also, I think there is a valid point to be made that people are willing to weigh up the risks and still choose to do something ‘dangerous’.

    Rock climbing, parachuting, going in pretty much any vehicle at a high speed, smoking, there are plenty of things people do that are dangerous for them, and yet people do it any way. Even if meat is somehow intrinsically unhealthy, then why should meat eaters not be able to choose that the thrill they get from the taste is worth it?

    P.S. I said early on I wasn’t going to get into a discussion on this – bah! Damn you, it’s all your fault! 🙂 😉 I just wanted to raise the issue I had with what you had said, so that people could see why people might be sceptical of its results (at least without more info).

  • Deepak Shetty


    but I just want to point out that plants have moral problems as well.

    True. for e.g. the till-kill argument also argues that the number of animals that need to be “harmed” for a population to survive on vegetables is more than the number needed if you consider a vegetable plus animal diet. The accuracy of that claim aside that’s a good argument.

    However these problems are a side effect and are in theory solvable with progress.
    Most humans answer moral questions related to side effects in the same way (you can divert the train to kill a person to save more but you cannot push a person into the path of the train to save the people on it)

    Killing animals for food has an unsolvable harm problem (till you can viably grow “meat”).

  • Deepak Shetty

    Is Eating Meat Compatible with Humanism?

    After thinking about this I’d say it is compatible in the same sense that being religious is compatible with being a spectic.

    You have to twist or bend some principles or compartmentalize to do both.

  • keystothekid

    Whit, the majority of issues you bring up with vegetable/fruit farming are also present with the farming of animals. Can we not say they cancel each other out, at least, hypothetically in this argument?

    However, you do bring up a really good point, that the food system in America is really out of whack. The way we do all of our farming, meatless or not, has become overly industrialized. No way am I saying there haven’t been great improvements in farming that are definitely a plus, however, it’s the change in the politics and ethics of farming that have really thrown us off kilter.

    Also, why are processed foods and meats cheaper? Sure, processed foods last a lifetime, but it seems like all of the labor put into the food should make the cost rise. I’m guessing though, that instead of making processed foods out of things that work, (why process them in the first place?) the business of making processed foods begins with making the cheapest ingredients do what you want it to do, not what it should be doing (corn).

    I would argue that studies showing the effects of eating meat in healthy quantities don’t exist because hardly anyone eats meat in healthy quantities. Like I said earlier, in the U.S. a serving of meat is 4 ounces. I grew up in the south and consumed my fair share of meat at each meal, much more than 4 ounces at a time. Also, I’ve spent plenty of time working in food service and watching what the average Jane/Joe eats. It’s always meat heavy and vegetable light.

    The studies showing that eating a vegetarian diet is healthier than a meaty diet don’t pick omnivores who over eat on purpose. I think for most meat eaters it comes with the territory. And I don’t think that’s entirely of their own fault. Once studies started to show that meat was unhealthy for you the meat farming associations in the U.S. started to push meat with advertisements on tv, billboards, radio, etc.

    Remember the egg shenanigans? First it’s good, then bad, then good…

    And, as for you discussing the negative effects of vegetable/fruit farming, you must realize it takes a lot of grain to grow beef cattle. It takes anywhere from 12-16lbs of grain and soybeans to raise approximately 1lb of beef.

    As for overpopulation, we agree there. That’s a whole different argument though. I think most of us realize (at least in the back of our minds) that the world is growing too fast. That being said, we’ve still all gotta eat. So why not do it the better way?
    As far as gmo’s go, there is a little science out there supporting them, but like the new version of Windows, I’d rather wait until all the bugs are fixed before purchasing my copy. It’s a myth (perpetuated by Agribusiness-Monsanto), that GMO’s are needed to provide enough food for the worlds hungry. The number of human beings that could be fed on the grain and soybeans eaten by U.S. livestock has been approximated as high as 1,300,000,000. Yeah, 1.3 Billion.

    As for the vegan shelf space, most vegans don’t need much of a vegan shelf space. Eating a healthy vegetarian/vegan diet is about doing without meat/dairy, not substituting it. If the grocery store you shop at doesn’t have at least a tiny produce section, I’d say you need to start shopping somewhere else for sure!

    I’m starting to wear out my welcome here, sorry guys. My last point, since you’re bringing up the idea that farming anything has negative affects on the environment, is to buy local. Shop at farmer’s markets. Contact fruit orchards. And if you’re going to eat meat, try and find local meat. Not only is it more likely that you’ll meet and talk to someone who actually sees the meat they’re selling you, they’ll treat their cattle/chickens/hogs better, they’ll feed them better food, and you’ll most likely get a better product in return. Plus, you’re helping a fellow human being make a living, not padding the wallets of corporate fat cats.

  • Lauren
  • MDSD

    Wow, I can’t believe so many people who otherwise consider themselves rational are so intimidated and reactionary about the “v” word.

    If you believe science, read the reports saying that meat and dairy consumption are responsible for at least 19% (UN) and up to 51% (WorldWatch) of global warming emissions worldwide – more than the entire transportation sector (even at the low end).

    And even if you have doubts about plants (which I doubt!), you can’t possibly argue that animals don’t suffer terribly in our factory farm system – which produces the very large part of the meat and dairy and eggs consumed in the US.

    Amazing that you got past the god thing but can operate in full denial on this.

    You don’t have to become vegan overnight, but to think there is no problem and to belittle those who took this brave step is just insanity.

  • AxeGrrl

    keystothekid, thanks for your contributions to the thread 🙂

  • AxeGrrl

    Lauren wrote:

    End of Discussion.

    Uhm, no.

    If you’d said ‘this is pertinent reading’, sure. But ‘end of discussion’? you’ve got to be kidding.

    Overstating your case doesn’t usually help it.

  • GaR

    If being a humanist means not eating meat, then I’m not a humanist. And I don’t want to be.

  • Greg

    This is going to be my last post here (for real this time, promise) but I do find it curious how many people are declaring themselves the winners, and that the people on the other side are not rational, without providing any real arguments to back themselves up. So much for the claim I’ve always found curious (and rather trivially false) that all atheists are somehow more rational than other groups of people.

    For the veg(etari)ans amongst you who aren’t pushy and self righteous about not eating meat, you really do just have to read this thread (and others here) to understand why vegetarians can be viewed that way. Some of the posts simply beggar belief.

    Take for example that post somewhere up the thread which thought that by listing some statements which were almost axiomatic and also hiding in statements which clearly weren’t (not to mention the occasional strawman) they could arrogantly label all meat eaters as not being critical thinkers.

    Whilst I understand completely that the people this post addresses are not one of these people, this is why vegetarians can get labelled as arrogant, sanctimonious, etc. It sucks – I know… it happens to everyone, especially people who fall into some kind of label, but I’ve seen some vegetarians opine that it is completely (or even mainly) made up, and hopefully now you will see it isn’t, merely by reading posts in this thread.

    (And yes, this was provoked by reading a post near the end of this thread, but seeing as I’ve said I’m going to stay out of it after this post, I thought I wouldn’t name names. I highly doubt that the person I did allude to will return to the thread to see me name them, so I hope it won’t be seen as me claiming something about someone and then running away.)

  • SeekerLancer

    If humanism has dogma that’s incompatible with living the way you choose to then it’s just another religion and I want no part of that.

  • I haven’t read all the comments, as there are far too many of them and most of them I’m sure are full of appeals to emotion, misinformation and spin. However, I have to agree with this comment: “That video is the trademark PETA move, and it’s the same move that Pro-lifers use. Scare people with disgusting videos/pictures until they join your side.”

    Absolutely. That video is of halal slaughter, a small fringe method used by religious groups and is not representative of modern slaughter techniques in the slightest. What you’ve done here is the equivalent of a pro-lifer taking photos of late term aborted fetuses with their mangled, fully-formed body parts and making them representative of all abortions.

    I hope you’re proud, Hemant. I am disappoint.

    As for the rest, as someone with a degree in Animal Science who has spent far too much time on farms evaluating housing conditions, body scores, expression of natural behavior and yes, slaughter methods, and as a vet student, I have to say that killing can absolutely be separate from suffering. You can kill without fear or pain and to pretend otherwise is just plain ignorant.

  • Whit

    Thanks for the responses, though, I wasn’t talking about shelf space, more about the simple, current fact that not everyone’s neighborhood and/or price range can eat vegan.

    Also, yes, herds of beef cows do consume plants, and the tropic level argument, but they don’t have to eat the same quality or specific plant species that we do, and I have never heard of pesticides/herbicides being used on grazing lands to the same scale they are used on farm land. Grazing land is not the same as farmed land.

    What happens if the animal dies naturally, can we eat it?
    Or for hunting, in many areas selective hunting is needed to keep wild game populations at sustainable levels because we have eliminated the natural mega-predators, is it wrong to eat meat then?

    Also, we use animals for more then just food, what about animal products, everything from fertilizer, fabric softeners (fat), medicines, hormones, instrument strings, some plastics, cosmetics, animal science uses, and so on.

    What mainly bothers me is how meat eating is currently seen without gradients. You can eat meat, but not eat the meat from factory produced sources, an example being my family keeping chickens and eating their eggs, but if one got hit by a truck on the road, well, we had chicken that night. Or some people keep rabbits for pets, fur products, and even lawn grazing, but eat them when they age and die. There have been commentators here who eat wild game animals, who are hunted regardless to control populations because we have demonized and eliminated natural predators. I know these are not mainstream or common approaches, but eating meat can also be on a gradient, it isn’t just, you eat mass amounts of butchered animals or you go vegetarian.

  • Deepak Shetty

    What happens if the animal dies naturally, can we eat it?

    I’d say yes (Im vegetarian by choice).
    The fact that a gradient exists is however used to justify the meat eating at the extreme ends of the gradient. It is ok to eat meat to survive is taken to mean it is ok to eat meat period.

  • I like mud

    I think in our modern ways of life many of us are completely ignorant of animals. Someone earlier in this thread suggested that a hen is psychologically damaged by egg gathering. I can’t say that I have seen that. But I can not claim that I would recognize this sort of distress unless the signs were overt. Very often the hens here lay their eggs any old where and don’t seem to mind my taking them as they have forgotten all about them. My birds are free range and well cared for.
    I raise several types of animals . Some are humanely killed for human use and some are humanely killed just to end suffering.
    How often does the vegetarian think of the animal suffering caused by his or her diet? Poisons are used extensively in agriculture. Harvesting machinery also kills many animals. Is this any better or worse than humane farm slaughter?
    There is realistically no way to eat that will result in no animal death and suffering. But I do think some deaths are better than others.
    I raise sheep on marginal land and they are not grained. No farming practice is perfect but we still all need to eat.

  • The message seems to be that aside from one vitamin a Vegan diet is great. Unfortunately vitamins aren’t optional, the clue is the in the “vital” part of the derivation of the name.

    Whilst Vegans do have less of some common diseases, it is unclear that it is simply better for you. B12 deficiencies are common, and bone mineral density is often lower due to lower calcium intake. These can be addressed, but clearly if they are shown in the statistics a proportion of Vegans fail to do so.

    Vegans whilst healthier than the average are not demonstrably healthier than health conscious meat eaters.

    Most of the problems with Vegans diets are avoided in vegetarian diets, so if you feel the case has been made just add milk (or as in ovo-vegetarians) eggs. However the ethical problems around animals remain around milk and egg production (i.e. when production ceases the chicken, cow (or her calve) are usually killed).

  • Nick Andrew

    I’m fairly against the idea of eating humans. At the risk of sounding speciesist, I can’t say that opposition applies to the meat of other genera.

  • matt

    I don’t believe animals are more important or better than plants. Hence I am an omnivore. My wife thinks animals suffer and plants don’t, hence she draws the line at things with a backbone.

    Yet we live together happily, and I have become a hella good vegetarian cook. I still eat meat, but a lot less than before marriage.

  • DaveB

    I have a very small farm and a high percentage of the meat I eat comes from my land. I don’t like being lumped in with huge, factory farms. A lot of people do not take the time to find out where their meat (and the rest of their food) comes from and by doing that are only adding to the problem. We treat our animals very well. If you can’t be sure that the animal was treated well, then don’t buy the meat. I think everyone should get to know their farmer, and underestand what you are eating (veg and meat).

    Lumping small farmers who respect their animals in with factory farms and slaughter houses is ignorant and slanderous. It’s no different than lumping all people of one religion together and stereotyping them.

  • The veg is humanist argument is a bold claim especially when it makes zero references to the history of Humanism. Vegetarianism may share values with Humanism. But I’ve been coming to the impression that Humanists like knowing their history.

    These vegetarians probably think they know what Humanism is because the word human is in it. I don’t know. I think they are stealing a concept that isn’t theirs.

  • Brent B

    As disturbing as the video was, Humanist != Bovinist. I don’t think that the love for or care of animals is directly related to the concept of humanism so I think someone may have their wires crossed.

  • Kelly

    Firstly, I don’t agree that this discussion is necessarily related to humanism. Humanism is a very broad category, and whether humanist ethics extend to non-human animals is questionable.

    Secondly, assuming for the purpose of debate that it is relevant, my opinion as an omnivore that eats very little meat:

    -Eating meat is NOT bad for you. Eating too much meat is bad for you as is eating too much of anything else.

    -Eating meat is NOT NECESSARILY bad for the environment. Modern farming practices tend to be very bad for the environment, however meat can be sustainably farmed or hunted in smaller quantities. Eating a grass fed cow from your local small farmer is probably not as bad for the environment as eating intensively farmed corn or eating out of season veggies trucked/flown from hundreds/thousands of miles away. It is more an issue of how/where than what.

    -Eating meat is in a way bad for the animals in that it ends their life, however, there is a difference between thinking an animal has a right to life and a that it has a right to a life with minimal suffering. I agree with the latter but not the former. Is a deer that is shot and dies quickly from a skilled hunter’s gun suffering more than a deer that starves to death due to overpopulation or is hit by a car? I don’t think so. (Yes overpopulation is probably a result of humans taking over habitats and killing predators, but that isn’t really relevant to this part of the question.) Is a humanely, pasture raised cow that is humanely slaughtered cruel? I don’t think it is. I don’t believe cows have a right to life, only a right to a life with minimal suffering.

    “Humanism should be about being the best humans we can be”. I agree to a certain extent, but also feel that it should be about enjoying the one life you have. Every time you buy a book, go see a movie, eat in a restaurant, buy anything that you don’t absolutely need to survive, you are using money that you could have donated to charity to alleviate the suffering of some person (or animal) who is worse off than you. Does that mean you are being unethical every time you do anything for yourself that goes beyond your basic survival needs? I don’t think so. I also don’t think eating meat once in a while is any better or worse than say buying yourself some new clothes when your old ones are faded or enjoying a night out with friends instead of donating every spare dime to charity. It’s all about balance.

    -And as an end-note: as others have said the video is a bit of a non-sequitur, I bet most of us here, vegetarian or not would agree that the halal slaughter depicted is inhumane.

  • wasooej

    Hello people, this is not about being a vegan. It is about animal cruelty!

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