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.
- Vegetarian diets are unhealthy.
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.
- Animals kill and eat other animals all the time, so why shouldn't we do it too?
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.
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 ?
- Hitler was a vegetarian.
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.