Feb 28, 2011

Arguments against vegetarianism

A couple days ago I asked you via Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to send me the best (or worst) arguments against vegetarianism that you either use yourself in debates on this subject, or you've heard other people use. And I specifically said I am talking about vegetarianism as a concept (idea), and not about your own personal preference to eat meat or not.

As I promised, I'm now going to address your arguments, but please keep in mind that this is NOT an attempt to convince YOU to become vegetarians. My goal with this particular post is simply to demonstrate that trying to argue against OTHER people being vegetarians is nonsensical, and maybe (hopefully) convince some of you to stop doing it. This is probably going to be a mile long, so feel free to just scroll down to the argument you personally find the most compelling. I will also appreciate it if you could spare a minute to read my request at the end. So here is what you've sent me, along with my rebuttals:

  • Meat is tasty. 

Fine. I understand that most of you like it. But what you're basically saying here is "I personally like the taste of meat, therefor everyone else should eat it too". Can you see the logical flaw in that ? I started off with this argument because it is at the same time the most common and the most irrational of all. I know that for some of you it is virtually impossible to stop eating meat. I am the same way with sugar. I crave it everyday, even several times a day.I know it would be a permanent struggle for me to live without icecream, chocolate and so on. But this does not constitute in any way a basis for me arguing that everybody else should eat what I eat, just because I personally like it and crave it.

  • Humans are omnivores. Vegetarianism is unnatural.

This is the first of what I categorize as "arguments from nature". I know that some vegetarian and vegan activists claim the opposite, that it is unnatural for humans to eat meat. Both positions annoy me to no end. Yes, humans are omnivores, since we can eat and get nutrients from both plants and animals.

But why should we derive an "ought" from an "is" ? Just because we are naturally omnivores it doesn't mean we also MUST be omnivores. News flash people: biology is not destiny. Something being "natural" doesn't automatically make it mandatory, or even desirable for that matter.

People may not be "naturally" monogamous, but this shouldn't stop one from making the decision of having only one partner, if this is what they wish to do. Nature is not some sort of God who makes rules about what's right or wrong. That's why we have airplanes even if it's "unnatural" for humans to fly, and we have contraception even if it's "unnatural" to have sex without the purpose of reproduction, and why some of us are monogamous and why some of us are vegetarians and so on.

  • Humans have canines. 

This is a variation of the same claim discussed above, and I'm not gonna dwell on it for long because - and I'm sorry if I offend anyone - this argument is just plain dumb. Horses have canine teeth too. So what ? If you really find this argument compelling you should try ripping a dead cow (I mean a carcass, uncooked) with your bare teeth, see how successful you are.

  • Meat-eating is evolutionary advantageous because, without meat, it would have been unlikely for proto-humans to get enough energy and nutrition from the plants available in their African environment. A high-protein diet was essential in developing our large brain.
I'm not the one to deny this. However, this argument is absolutely irrelevant to people living today in developed countries, where we have access to protein-rich vegetarian diets that simply render meat-eating unnecessary. You have to acknowledge the simple fact that you don't eat meat because you NEED it to survive, you eat it because you LIKE the taste of it. Which brings me to the next point:

  • Vegetarian diets are unhealthy. 
 This is pure bollox, as anyone who has the interest to do some basic 5 minutes research can find out. All (ALL!) the necessary proteins, nutrients and amino acids can be found in vegetables, nuts, grains, eggs and dairy. In fact, vegetarian diets contain lower levels of saturated fat, cholesterol and animal protein (that's why vegetarians are at much lower risks of heart disease, cancers of the esophagus, colon or liver, renal disease, cerebro-vascular disease and so on) and higher levels of carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, minerals (especially magnesium and potassium) and antioxidants.

The benefits of vegetarian diets and the health risks of meat-consumption abuse are basically non-debatable in the fields of nutrition and food science. Not to mention that anyone falling for this argument must ignore all the people who are living perfectly healthy lives on vegetarian diets, whether they do it for religious reasons (nearly half a billion vegetarians living in India alone), for health reasons, or out of concern for animal welfare (which is my reason for being a vegetarian for some 8 years now).

The "risks" most of you elaborated on are not relevant to vegetarian diets, but vegan diets. For those of you who may not know the difference, vegetarians don't eat meat, while vegans don't consume anything that came from an animal (no diary, eggs, honey, etc).

It is true that as a vegan you may have to be more careful with your food and some vegans will need to take supplements (vitamin and mineral pills). Personally, I tried being a vegan for some 6 months and it didn't work out (apparently, my body cannot assimilate synthetic supplements that well, plus I'm not a very organized eater). Which is not to say that other people cannot manage to do it, there are millions of vegans worldwide and some of the spokespersons include athletes and bodybuilders.

 Now back to vegetarianism, I am sure you can name a couple of rare diseases or conditions where the person actually needs meat in their diet to be healthy.  But you can't possibly consider this a proper argument against vegetarianism overall.

  • Denying your own nature (being a vegetarian) is a psychological disorder.
I know some of you may gasp right now, but yes, some people did actually make this argument (as you can see on my facebook page). I find this too absurd to even try to debunk it, so you can just remember all the people saying that homosexuality is against nature and a mental disorder, and apply the refutations to this case as well.

  • Animals kill and eat other animals all the time, so why shouldn't we do it too?
This basically makes the transition from the "arguments from nature" to the "arguments from morality". Yes, animals kill eachother all the time. Animals also often kill eachother's youngs in order to eliminate the competition. We have laws against that. And unlike animals, we have healthcare systems, protection for minorities, social help for the disabled, laws against abuse at the work place, laws against sexual harassment, and so on. I'm sure you'll agree all of it is good stuff.

We even have laws against animal cruelty. But ofcourse, those laws are meant for our pets and for the pretty wildlife. But they don't really apply to cows or pigs or other animals that we use for meat consumption. Why is that ? Why should the torturing of a dog make one feel sick but the torturing of a pig should make one feel nothing ? And if you want to deny that most "meat animals" are, in fact, subjected to torture, you can watch THIS and the related videos on the right (warning: it's graphic).

This argument basically translates to "animals suffer in the wild anyway, so there's nothing wrong with them also suffering in our care". In making this claim you are deliberately ignoring the fact that along with our big brains which produced this thing called "civilization", we also developed compassion, empathy, what we refer to as "humanity". So why do we apply it so arbitrarily ? Why are people outraged when they see images with puppy dogs being drowned or dolphins being slaughtered, but yet manage to ignore all the horrors that the "meat animals" go through ? This is not an appeal to emotions. This is plea for you to acknowledge that it is inhumane to subject other sentient creatures to a life of torment for our mere comfort.

  • But if we all stopped eating these animals, they would go extinct. 
 First of all, the scenario where everybody will suddenly become vegetarian over night is impossible. But to answer a more likely hypothetical situation, if more and more people become vegetarians, the farmers will breed the animals less and less due to the decreasing demand for meat. I doubt people will ever completely give up using animal products such as eggs and diary, but since most vegetarians are against animal abuse, the meat companies will need to adjust to the rules imposed by the majority. This is starting to happen in the European Union for instance, where there are more and more people spreading awareness about the meat industry, and the laws regarding animal welfare are much stricter than in US (and keep on improving).

But leaving all that aside ... as a general thought, since this argument is coming from people who obviously oppose vegetarianism, allow me to wonder why would they be so concerned about an animal going extinct, while at the same time being perfectly ok with the idea of that animal being created with the sole purpose of being killed. Where's the logic in this ?

  • But you do eat plants. Plants are alive and feel pain too. You're a hypocrite. 

There are some studies out there which tested how plants react to different stimuli, some people interpreting these reactions as feelings of pain or fright (no reputable study claims this, mind you).  But this is all there is to it: an interpretation. Yes, a plant can respond to stimuli, but there is no scientific evidence of any kind demonstrating how something can perceive fear or pain without having a brain and a nervous system.Pain is not just a reaction, but a SENSATION generated by the brain. Fear is a product of consciousness, which again is generated by the brain. Plants. Don't. Have. Brains.

And since I know most of my readers have at least some basic knowledge of evolutionary biology, I have a question for y'all: keeping in mind that the evolutionary advantage of pain is to increase the chances of survival by trying to avoid being harmed (i.e.: being eaten alive hurts, therefor you have the incentive to run from predators), what would be the advantage of a carrot or a potato feeling pain, since they cannot escape predators by running, and, generally speaking, they cannot defend themselves from harm? I'd love to know how you reason this out.

As a personal opinion, I consider this argument to be dishonest if the person making it doesn't also believe that cutting the leaf of a plant is the same with cutting the leg of a cat.

  • Animals are dumb so they don't matter. 

This is a simplification of the idea that the value of life lies within the abilities of the brain, and since animal intelligence is nowhere near comparable with the complexity of the human brain, their lives have simply no value outside of us profiting from them.

Again, let me answer with a question: would you have a problem if a human being was treated the way a cow in a factory farm is, provided that human being is mentally retarded to the point where the functionality of his brain is similar to that of a cow?

  • With agriculture, the life of many animals is ended (i.e. mice that get accidentally killed in the harvests). There is massive deforestation because of vegetarians who consume soy products & many animals die that way. In short, vegetarians are harming the earth and other animals.

 I acknowledge the fact that human existence, as a rule, is sustainable at the expense of other life. I know I am harming other creatures simply because I live. However, why should this stop me or others from trying to minimize the damage? And what is the logic in you opposing this attempt ?

As for your claims, it might interest you to find that the meat industry is one of the top contributors to environmental degradation worldwide (land degradation, air and water pollution, loss of biodiversity, emissions of greenhouse gases). Also, over 90% of the soy-meal harvest is used to feed animals.

And ...this is it :/ Out of 250+ comments on facebook, 15 pages worth of comments on my YouTube channel, plus countless twitter replies, this is pretty much all I could find, with a couple variations. Plus some overly ridiculous ones which I assume (hope?) were posted as a joke. Stuff like :

  • If you like animals so much, why are you eating all their food ? 
I don't think there's any point in waiting for someone to provide relevant studies that show how farm animals are endangered because of people eating their food .

  • Hitler was a vegetarian. 
And he had a mustache.


Having all this said, I think (apologies if I'm mistaken) that the reason most people get vocal against vegetarianism is not because of the arguments  above, but more as a reaction to vegan and vegetarian activists who sometimes push this idea that if you are a meat-eater it means you are a shit human-being. You know, accusing you of cannibalism, of promoting animal holocaust, of being a murderer and so on. Maybe these PETA-type tactics work on some people, personally I find them annoying and counter-productive since in my opinion, these aggressive approaches are what trigger people into "fighting back" against vegetarianism. When people are being attacked, they tend to react and defend themselves.

If you are one of the people who get so enraged by these accusations that you feel you have to "strike back", please just consider the motivation behind what you stand for. Is that really worth it ? Because at the end of the day, as annoying as they sometimes can get, vegan and vegetarian activists are acting out of genuine concern for the life of animals and because they want to stop the abuse. You are reacting because they piss you off. Is that a good enough reason to basically militate AGAINST animal welfare ? Because this is what the anti-vegetarian stance ends up being, if you are willing to consider the bigger picture.

I am not here to pass judgment on anyone. You like meat. You want to keep eating it. Ok. I can understand that. And you know that no one will take that away from you by force. But please stop opposing the people who are willing to give it up by choice. That's pretty much all I am asking you to consider.

Feb 19, 2011

Some bad news and some drama..


Yesterday I was thinking about writing a blog on this trivial drama that's been bothering me in the last few days, mainly because some of you asked me to address it. But then my mom called and re-defined what the word "bothered" means. I will still deal with what you want me to, but first please bare with me because I simply need to write about what's going on with me.

I did try talking to a friend over the phone today but when I got to what I wanted to say the words would just not come out. So maybe writing is a better idea. For those of you who don’t know, yesterday I found out that my brother (who lives in Germany with my mother since 3 years ago ) has just been diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, better known as Hashimoto's disease.

To put it simply, my brother’s body decided to destroy his thyroid gland. It's an autoimmune disease. There is no cure for it, only treatment. My brother has another medical condition which I will not mention here because of the stigma attached to these types of illnesses. I know people can be ruthless and I don’t want anyone bringing that up at any point in any circumstances. I can say that it is a temporary condition for which he will only need treatment until he's in his late teens. For Hashimoto’s disease, he will need treatment his entire life.

I very often heard people say “how could this happen to ME?!”. And the response I always had in my mind was “life sucks, sometimes things happen”. But I never understood the depth of this feeling until yesterday. You see, I know that bad things happen. I know these things are unpredictable. But still, my brain cannot stop from asking “Why him?!”. He’s just a kid. He’s just 13. He is my brother. Why him ?! I can now understand what all those people felt. When it hits you, it is almost psychologically impossible to accept it.

Since yesterday I’ve been reading virtually non stop about Hashimoto’s. Almost all of it was encouraging. With treatment, my brother can still have a manageable and relatively normal life. I’m trying to think positively. He has been diagnosed early. He has great doctors. The treatment is free. If he was still living in Romania, none of this would be possible for him. I am trying to think he is actually lucky. But I’m failing. I will probably be able to convince myself of that at some point ... eventually.

So you can imagine that right now I have little patience for trivial stuff but I know that if I don't address this other issue it will keep nagging at me. I don't want to subject 60K+ youtube subscribers to a video that would basically be drama and nothing more, not to mention that I'm not up for making a video anyway. So I may as well get this over with now. This is what I said a couple days ago in a twitter post:

“The sexual assault of Lara Logan is yet another painful reminder of Egypt's attitude towards women.”

If somehow you never heard about the incident, please watch THIS before continuing reading.

Some people said that my statement was bigoted, that I blamed this one incident on an entire nation and that my words were “an indictment on ALL Egyptians”. Which is a strawman bigger than a cornfield. First of all let me explain what I meant by “Egypt’s attitude towards women”. I was talking about the fact that over 90% of Egyptian girls are subjected to genital mutilation, that women are subjected to sexual harassment and domestic violence at alarming rates, that they cannot leave the country without their husbands’ permission, that the law is biased against them and they are often ignored when asking for help and so on. If you want to read more about it you can click HERE or read THIS blog or watch THIS video or research it yourself .

Now back to Lara Logan. Did I judge an entire nation based on ONE incident ?! Hell no! I said the incident is a REMINDER of an ongoing problem within that nation. Not an indicator of it. Not evidence for it. I know my English is far from perfect but at least I understand the meaning of words. If Viktória Mohácsi would come to Romania and got brutalized by a mob, I could say the incident is a reminder of Romania’s attitude towards the Roma people, who are generally discriminated by the law and vastly by the citizens. This does NOT mean that all Romanians are racists. Or that all Egyptians are misogynists. Recognizing there was  problem and a prevailing attitude in Egypt that made the sexual assault on Logan more likely to happen, does NOT equal bigotry.

I know there are people who genuinely misunderstood what I meant, and to them I apologize for not being more clear. But there are also people who intentionally twisted my words and continue to do so.

Another thing I want to address is the accusation of being “a graduate from the university of wikipedia”, uttered by the same person who called me a bigot. For everyone who didn’t know, I am a college drop-out. Not by choice. I simply couldn’t afford it anymore after 2 years. So I am the first to admit that most of my knowledge does come from independent study, weather it is independent reading, lectures, audio books and so on. But should this invalidate my points or damage my credibility ? There have been times when people (who can testify to this) asked me to make a video on one topic or another and I simply told them that I am not sufficiently informed to talk about it. I see no shame in that. This is why most of my informative-type videos are on subjects I thought about and researched for years. You don't need a PhD to learn about things you are interested in.

That being said, I will probably not make a new video soon. I usually talk about things I am invested in and feel strongly about, and at this point I am too drained by what’s going on in my family to focus on anything else. I know this post is long. Thank you if you managed to read all of it. And please excuse the eventual typos and bad phrasing.

Feb 6, 2011

What's wrong with me ?!

I know I haven’t written here in ages (I should rename this blog to “CristinaRadCantWriteForShit”) and you are probably expecting something on Egypt or a post about the US bill that tries to redefine rape (did you know that there’s a thing called "forcible rape" ? Because in my naivety I thought EVERY rape is about forcing someone into sex. Silly me!) in an attempt to prevent abortions being funded by taxpayer money, because free abortions would obviously trigger what is now known as “The 2012 New World Order Zombie Apocalypse”. True story.

But I'm not gonna write about none of that (double negatives rock!) because I’m in a bad mood and just not up to it. So instead I thought I could vent about my week. I hope you don’t mind. Oh…you do? That’s too bad cos here it comes:

So first I drop my phone into my glass of wine. How did that happen, you ask ? Well, I pick up my phone and then IT’S IN MY DAMN GLASS. Gone. Dead. Killed by wine. Which btw, it’s how I wanna go too.

Then there was this creepy ass jerk in the bus. He most likely recognized me from YouTube. Because he kept staring at me for the entire freaking ride, which was around 15 minutes. No, he wasn’t checking me out. And he wasn’t looking at me in that “Hm, I think I know her from somewhere” type of way. Oh no! He was looking at me like I was dog shit on his shoe. The kind of look you'd have if someone offered you to smell a fish that died two weeks ago. Creepiness!

And then I walked into my kitchen wall. And hurt my shoulder. Quite bad. It’s still aching. If you have a reasonable explanation for how someone can walk into their own damn wall, please enlighten me. Because since I’m not blind, I can only assume that around here shit be moving! Oh, did I mention that I also apologized to the wall ?

And then there was the bug. Though “bug” is a gross understatement. A big ass fucking roach (possibly bigger than your penis) was chilling on my floor, all casual like it’s nobody’s business. It wold be way to embarrassing to tell how this worked out, but it involved a neighbor and everyone survived (besides my dignity).

And then I put salt in my coffee instead of sugar. And obviously I didn’t realize it UNTIL I took a nice good sip. If you never tried it, you should drop your curiosity and consider yourself lucky because that's just nasty!

I seriously don’t know what’s wrong with me. One of these days you should expect to hear that I died by drowning in my bowl of soup.