February 14

Should We Eat Meat?

Sustainable Living

26  comments

Over the past few years since I got the food and soil bug, I guess I’ve been pondering one big, central, hairy-arsed question:

How can we feed 8 billion (or 10 billion, etc.) people in a way that’s sustainable, healthy, and ethical?

And it seems to keep coming back to one equally big, difficult, and hairy crux question…

Should we eat meat?

I thought I’d publish one post that summarises the arguments on all sides, and where I currently stand.

In an attempt to make the issue easier to tackle, we can probably agree it all comes down to three criteria:

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  1. What’s healthy (and natural) for humans?
  2. What’s good for animals?
  3. What’s good for the environment?

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First, let me be clear that practically all of us, whatever our diet, would do better with more fruit and veg, particularly leafy greens. Most of our diet should consist of fresh, green veggies, with some complex carbohydrates, fruit, berries, and nuts.

Also, there’s a huge difference between industrial/intensive meat farming and the more natural alternative. Most people who eat meat eat bad meat, which has been grown too fast, fed only on grains for their last months, often given a lot of antibiotics, and in some countries hormones, lived an unhappy life, and slaughtered at the most economically profitable time at the lowest cost.

Bad meat pretty much correlates to cheap meat, which has been produced for volume and profit alone. And I am convinced that cheap meat is detrimental to human health, very bad for the animals, and very destructive for the planet. So bad meat fails all three tests, and therefore is not a sustainable option for humanity.

1. What’s Healthy for Humans?

The typical plant-based diet can be better all-round (for health, animal welfare, and environmentally) than the typical omnivore diet. Many people whose diet contains a lot of “bad meat” and refined carbs would probably be better off going vegetarian or vegan. But that fact does not logically extend to make plant-based ideal!

Of course, even an entirely plant-based diet can be full of crap. You could fill yourself up with too much processed food, and relatively empty foodstuffs like white bread, pasta, corn, sugar, and palm oil. It’s still a “plant-based” diet but a very unhealthy one.

The health risks associated with even a pretty complete vegan diet are well documented (I’m putting together a list of bookmarks to people’s personal stories of giving up veganism here), as are the health risks of eating too much, or the wrong kind of, meat. It has to be said that some people manage very well on a vegan diet whereas others do not do well at all. It’s possibly down to each individual’s own biological make-up.

Some people look to technology for answers. We are now seeing lab-grown fake meat entering the market, and burger or bacon substitutes that can apparently taste as good as the real thing. I am skeptical about how sustainable and healthy these foodstuffs can be, compared to a more natural product that we have clearly evolved eating for many thousands of years.

A diet that contains high-quality meat (entirely free-range, pasture-fed, heritage breeds, happy life, humane slaughter) or wild fish avoids the deficiencies associated with a pure plant-based diet. But I believe it has to be good meat, the kind that we evolved eating, and probably has a very different effect on the body than the majority of “meat” that’s sold and consumed today.

I do believe that the optimum diet for human health is one that’s rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, and also some very-high-quality meat.

Further reading on human health…

  • Anticancer — written by a doctor who survived brain cancer with the help of heavy research into diet. Dr. David Servan-Schreiber draws a clear distinction between good and bad meat, and lists good meat as being positively beneficial for helping prevent cancer, whereas bad meat can contribute to the conditions that can cause cancer. Also note that he says that even good, organic, grass-fed meat should be eaten a maximum of three times per week.
  • 5 Risks of a Raw Vegan Diet — a concise introduction to some of the issues.

2. What’s Good for Animals?

Now we get into the real emotional core of the problem. Even if meat is good for us, it inevitably means killing an animal that anyone would agree does not want to die (unless we choose to eat animals that have died either by natural causes or in accidents). Nobody who’s healthy wants to die, it is our instinct to survive.

So can it be okay to take the life of another animal, just to use its body as food? Perhaps it’s easier if we break the question down into three parts:

  • Is it natural?
  • Is it necessary?
  • Is it ethical?

Is it Natural?

This is a nice easy one to start with. Yes, science shows that we have evolved for an omnivorous diet. I can’t see how homo sapiens would have survived an ice age without meat.

Of course there are plenty of videos and memes that claim the human physiology is actually vegetarian or frugivorous (primarily fruit-eating) by selectively comparing various physiological attributes to other animals. See, for example, “Shattering the Meat Myth: Humans Are Natural Vegetarians”.

But I think those arguments are comprehensively dispelled in this excellent article by a vegan PhD evolutionary biologist: Humans are Not Herbivores

Also check out the excerpt of Vaclav Smil’s book “Should Humans Eat Meat?”

Some people will argue that the biological factor trumps the moral factor: if it is natural for homo sapiens to kill and eat meat, then morality doesn’t come into it. (Would we insist that all dogs – primarily carnivores who can also eat vegetable food – eat a plant-based diet?)

Of course, even if we evolved eating meat, that fact alone is not enough reason to continue to do it. I’m sure we could stop eating meat today if an alternative were shown to be healthy for us, good for the animals, and good for the planet.

Another angle on this is to ask whether it’s natural for animals to be eaten. There’s clearly a case to say that there is, at least in their natural state. Cattle, pigs, sheep, and poultry are food for predators in the wild.

But you might then argue that we are now living in a more evolved or advanced world, where advanced technological or cognitive development means we no longer have to be bound by the old natural ways. That’s an argument I’m prepared to run with… but only if all the criteria are met.

Is it Necessary?

Is it necessary for us to eat meat? Not in every case. I think it’s quite obvious that some people thrive on a totally plant-based diet. Clearly, many others do less well and are practically driven by their bodies to go back to meat. Can everyone thrive permanently on a diet with no meat? I am not convinced they can.

I would say this question comes down to the individual. If you are moved to adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet, fair play to you. I wish you health and happiness for as long as your choice works for you.

Is it Ethical?

I have had vegans tell me that eating the “dead, decaying bodies” of animals is harmful to the soul. My first issue would be to ask, how can that be the case, if it’s natural? But perhaps you might argue we can evolve to a higher state of being, away from our pack-hunting ancestors. That is an idea that I’m open to adopting, but again only if all the criteria are met.

Check out this interesting post written by a former vegan, “3 Spiritual Reasons to Eat Meat“, and this excellent short essay by Charles Eisenstein, “The Ethics of Eating Meat“.

Let’s be honest. No matter if you’re the most bloodthirsty carnivore, there is a part of all of us that gets what’s unpleasant about killing for food. I hate to see videos of animals going through slaughterhouses. Of course it is upsetting.

But what is the alternative? Should we release all the cows, pigs, and sheep into the wild to make their own way in the world? I think, if we did that, many of them would end up in traffic collisions, or possibly shot as pests or safety risks. If they were to breed in large numbers, do they get to wander the fields and eat whatever they can find?

Or should we look down the road where there are very few of these large animals, just a handful left in zoos and sanctuaries run by nice, well-meaning, middle-class folk? In my heart, that would be as much of a tragedy as seeing animals in the fields and knowing that one day they will be harvested for meat.

There’s an old Italian saying I like…

Every animal deserves a good life, a good death, a good butcher, and a good chef.

This brings to mind a deeper reverence for the fact that life and death are inextricably linked.

I constantly find myself turning over the various facets of the problem: kindness, health, nature, biological destiny, and the vision of a world without large animals. There is a constant tension between the unpleasantness of death and the truth that it’s part of the cycle of life.

Maybe, with all our technological achievements, we have strayed so far from nature’s ways that we have lost sight of that beautiful, awful tension? Maybe our fear of our own mortality can leak out so that we become afraid of all death, seeing it as a bad thing, as though we think we can cling on to immortality ourselves?

Without death, there can be no life. And, like it or not, we humans are pretty much in control of all the land and what happens on it. So what kind of life and death do we, as masters of Nature, choose?

Is it better for an animal to have a life that’s destined to end quickly by someone else’s decision, or never to have a life at all?

And the more I study soil science and permaculture, the more I realise that Nature is far from vegan! Healthy soil is literally teeming with an unimaginable number of little animals and other wondrous creatures, all dancing the dance of life (and death) as part of what is known as “the soil food web”.

Plants partner with specialised fungi, trading nutrients for energy. Roots exude organic sugars to feed bacteria, which in turn help feed the plants. And practically everything is either eating something else or trying not to get eaten. All the poop and dead bodies of microorganisms is actually what builds our soil. Everything from the tiniest bacteria and archaea to nematodes to earthworms to moles… it’s all part of the life of soil, which in turn is the source of most life and most of the food we eat.

The idea that there is any diet without death is absurd, as we’ll explore further below.

I’ll admit there are good arguments that some (perhaps most) of us can live healthy lives without meat in our diets, which could get more feasible over time as technology advances. And obviously the question of whether it’s better for animals to live and die at our hands than never live at all is a knotty one.

Taking an optimistic stance, the stage could be set for a plant-based diet to win the day. But, perhaps surprisingly, the final of the three essential criteria could prove to be its biggest stumbling block.

3. What’s Good for the Environment?

Everybody knows that meat farming is dreadful for the environment… right?

Well, again we have to draw a very clear line between good and bad meat. It turns out that farming good meat is at least very beneficial for sustainable food production, and possibly absolutely essential!

It is extremely important when looking at the science that we should not lump bad meat farming in with the progressive, more natural systems that are in practice around the world.

Farmers and scientists in many countries are rediscovering that pasture grazing of animals – from chickens to pigs to cows – can be excellent for the environment.

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One of the biggest threats facing the survival of the human species is actually soil depletion. Current estimates point to there being between 40 and 100 years of growing left before we have literally lost our topsoil, that magical, essential life-giving medium that allows us to grow our food.

Mechanical ploughing and tilling make it easier to grow crops on large scales by chopping up or burying weeds and their seeds, leaving a standardised surface for planting our desired seeds. However, this mutilation brings dire consequences. When you break up soil and leave it open to the air, the carbon it holds oxidises, literally turns into the greenhouse gas CO2 and floats up into the atmosphere.

Plus, when soil is left open to the air and sun after mechanical mutilation, it goes hard and further loses its ability to store water. The water can only collect and run off, taking precious topsoil with it, often combined with an excess of fertiliser. This is what has causes the giant dead zones in rivers and seas, including the Gulf of Mexico.

So let’s be really clear. The vast majority of plant farming today is unsustainable.

Farmers are finding they have to apply more and more inputs such as fertilisers (which are derived from oil), which drives up their costs, which squeezes their profits, which means they have to consolidate farms into ever-bigger megafarms, massive fields with nothing but corn (or soy or wheat or whatever single crop they grow) as far as the eye can see, which they manage using bigger and more destructive machines.

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And because there’s only one crop growing at a time (monoculture), there is a huge lack of biodiversity. The beneficial insects and birds are absent, which means that when a virus or insect arrives that could destroy the crop, there’s nothing in Nature’s toolbox to keep it at bay.

When I say “nothing as far as the eye can see” I really mean “nothing”! If you can, take a trip to your nearest “conventional” farm, walk onto a field and just look. What life can you see? Birds, small mammals, rabbits? What about insects? What about earthworms?

Our fields are turning into bio-deserts, and they’re doing it at a frightening rate. And I would extrapolate that the majority of plant-based diet models are completely unsustainable. The simple fact is that, whether you’re growing crops to feed to animals (which is stupid) or to feed to humans, the way we’re going, there are only a few decades left before it all grinds to a halt.

What has all this to do with animals?

Large grazing animals are an essential component of nature’s model. When you remove them from the system, the system breaks down.

Intensive grazing appears to be one of the key factors, not only for sustainable farming, but actually to restoring our topsoil.

Pioneers like Allan Savory have watched and learned from nature and developed methods that can be applied to many different climates, based around modelling the movements of grazing herds that emulates their original natural patterns.

In their natural state, grazing animals like buffalo or sheep would keep together in tight herds, which gives them protection from predators. That means they would intensively graze one area, while dropping dung and urine, and would very soon have to move on to the next area. And that model is actually perfect for building healthy grasslands with healthy soil.

Moderate grazing stimulates perennial grasses and other plants to grow more vigourously, pulling down more carbon from the atmosphere and into the soil through root exudates. Plus, as any gardener knows, manure is the perfect natural fertiliser.

Is it possible to achieve similar results without using animals? Well, yes, you can get something similar, but not in a way that can sustain our growing population. There are veganic farmers who don’t use any animal help and instead use compost derived from green manures or plants grown specifically to be composted. However, the down side is that – at any time – around two thirds of all the growing land have to be dedicated to “crops” that are not going to be eaten. They are just for compost. To me, that makes as much sense as growing fields of grains just to feed to cows!

It is also worth noting that animals (even multiple herds of different species) can be raised in a rotation (leader-follower system) on the same area, because they eat differently. AND, you can also grow perennial food for humans from trees and bushes on the same land – at the same time. And all that diversity is natural, healthy, and resilient. The reductionist approach – growing just one thing in one large space – could be the biggest failure of the way we farm today.

So, if grazing herds are the key to restoring our life-giving soil, what do we do? There are few or no natural predators for the herds left in most countries, so humans have to replicate the conditions and force the herd to bunch together and move on frequently, usually using either fencing or dogs.

I strongly recommend you watch Allan Savory’s landmark TED talk, “How to Fight Desertification and Reverse Climate Change”.

And what do we do with these animals? Do we allow them to breed? But if there are no predators, how do we control that? The simplest answer has to be that we are the predators.

I honestly don’t see any other way of sustainably feeding 8 million-plus people.

Summary

  • Do we need to eat meat to be healthy? It appears that today some don’t, some do, and new technology may soon mean that nobody needs to.
  • Is eating meat good for animals? I would prefer a world where there are animals, following Nature’s model, than to banish them from our fields.
  • Is eating meat good for the environment? Mostly, the Western CAFO model is very very bad for the environment. But good meat can be very positive. So it’s a mixed answer. I don’t believe you can feed 8 billion people without animal products. But you could by incorporating well-farmed animals on a wider scale.

Overall, then, for me, and at this point in time, a top-quality animal and plant diet is the ideal: for our own health, for the animals, and for a sustainable future on this planet. So let’s return to the original question…

How can we feed 8 billion (or 10 billion, etc.) people in a way that’s sustainable, healthy, and ethical?

Leaving the issue of ethical killing aside for now, there are two main problems:

1. Can ALL 8 billion+ humans thrive on a plant-based diet?

I answer “no”, for two reasons.

First, there are lots of very serious vegetarians and vegans who have been forced to abandon the diet for health reasons. I may do some research and compile a list.

And second, many regions cannot support enough plant farming to support the people who live there. Places that are very cold or very dry, mainly.

Of course, we could just tell everyone to leave those regions and that point would be nullified. Still, all the human life in Earth today cannot live vegan. It’s a middle-class arrogance to say they could, when we can but avocados and quinoa flown in from all around the world.

2. Can Planet Earth support all humans on a plant-based diet?

Most plant production in the West particularly is unsustainable. Combined plant/animal rotation is more natural and positively sustainable. It doesn’t necessarily follow you have to kill and eat those animals, you could just keep them for grazing and for their manure, but then again, we’ll be looking at a human population reduction (and using animals at all goes against strict vegan philosophy).

So it really does come down to ethics in the end. It’s us or them. Or us and them? Or is it? It’s not a case of animals have to die so that humans can live. It’s a case of animals live and die along with humans who live and die. Natural, rich, interwoven systems.

The alternative is for us to abandon large areas of the world back to the wild, which I confess I do find romantic. “The lion shall lie down with the lamb.”

But which is the more natural? In general, I’ll always turn to Nature for guidance. Nature has figured out a model that has worked beautifully for millions of years.

If Yes, Then How?

In my opinion, CAFOs should be consigned to history, along with industrial-scale slaughterhouses. Farms should raise both animals and plant food together, and the animals should ideally be killed right there on the farm perhaps using mobile slaughterhouses.

Eat the best-quality meat that has been lovingly raised and slaughtered in the least distressing way possible, even if it means you can afford to buy less.

Where possible, grow your own (plants, eggs, or meat).

What you can’t grow, buy locally, preferably direct from farmers you know.

Buy and eat what’s in season. That will mean you get more local food that’s in keeping with your body’s rhythm.

And, ideally, all plant foods should be grown in a way that minimises damage to the environment, and unnecessary loss of animal life. So we need to find ways to grow food without digging, ploughing or tilling the soil. We need to stop using petrochemical fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides, and instead look to more natural solutions, which inevitably leads to permaculture and regenerative agriculture, and a world where humans thrive living in a way that is more closely entwined with Nature’s cycles.

More

In this very sensible video, Niall Doherty explains why he gave up veganism (also blog post here).

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About the author 

Ben Hunt

My job is to look at the world and wonder... "How can we make things better?"

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  1. Carnivores, vegetarians and vegans alike, need to have a read of this very balanced piece….there are no simplistic answers, it seems to me, when we honestly address the difficult question of how to feed everyone on the planet in such times as these when it’s becoming very urgent indeed we mend the damage we’ve been causing for so long.

  2. Excellent, balanced and very well written article. Summarises a lot of complex issues very well indeed. I have an environmental background, and farm in Britain with a small number of grass fed beef cattle, in a high welfare system. The situation here is a little different from the US – smaller scale, but the issues are similar. Thank you Ben for writing this.

  3. I appreciate your calm and clear discussion of the three aspects of this issue.

    It seemed odd that you started with personal health, but then I realized that the discussion builds toward the most important issue, overall health of the environment.

    I did appreciate that you spoke of the people who had to stop being vegetarian or vegan for health reasons. As one of them, I’ve gotten quite tired of trying to explain this to militant vegans who are determined that everyone can be vegan just because they can. (It took 20 years as vegetarian to find this out. It still feels odd to eat meat, but my body lets me know if I go too long without it.)

    Thanks for writing it.

  4. There are no ex-vegans. Being vegan is a moral position and requires basic understanding of why we cannot justify using animals. If someone did not comprehend this and “goes back” to funding animal abuse, then he never was a vegan in the first place. To the people who say that there are no “simple solutions”: Of course there are. If slavery is wrong, then we should not engage in it. If domestic violence is wrong, people should not beat their kids. And if animal abuse is wrong, then we ought not support it, i.e. live vegan.

    1. It sounds like what you’re saying is the veganism is a kind of moral absolutism. The fact is, though, that many people try to live an animal-free lifestyle – as I see it, dropping out of Nature’s cycle of life – and fail because their bodies compel them to return to the natural state. This is the kind of fundamentalist claptrap that kills people, quite honestly, and I find it disgusting.

      Yes, killing is violence. And it’s not bad per se. Every single thing that enjoys life is in the business of eating and avoiding being eaten for as long as possible. To think otherwise is childish and delusional.

      1. The so-called farmed animals whom non-vegans kill after a short life are not part of any “cycle”. Since there are no nutrients found in animal corpses and secretions that you could not get in a vegan way as well, no-one is “compelled” to return to any imaginary “natural state”. “Ex-vegans”, like every other non-vegan, eat animals and their fluids out of convenience, habit, tradition and social norms, none of which is a valid justification for harming the vulnerable.

        “And [killing] is not bad per se”
        It’s bad for the animals you kill.

        “My job is to look at the world and wonder… ‘How can we make things better?'”
        You can make things better for the animals if you stop breeding them into an existence of imprisonment and abuse and go vegan. At the same time you’ll make things better for the environment, since animal agriculture is an ecological disaster, apart from being morally unjustifiable.

        1. You’re right that the reductionist-capitalist treatment of animals is not a natural cycle. That’s why we end up with poisoned croplands and a waste “problem” with CAFOs. But a rich rotation of crops & animals (the way we used to farm here in Britain and in many other places) certainly *is* a cycle, and it’s what we need for the environment, health, and welfare.

          I disagree that keeping farm animals counts as “imprisonment and abuse”. Sure, industrial farming certainly is, but free-range pasturing of animals is not.

          If you think that stopping breeding animals (i.e. into extinction) would be better, we’re not going to have much common ground. Much better to focus on improving welfare, by promoting outdoor-rearing and campaigning against factory farming. If your belief system won’t let you do that, it’s a huge shame.

          1. My “belief system” is based on a very simple thought: If animals are conscious beings, it’s wrong to use them if we don’t have to. Yes, it’s better not to breed animals. They don’t necessarily have to go extinct, since there are sanctuaries even today where humans and non-humans live in peaceful coexistence and obviously there would be more places like this in a vegan society. But even if “farmed” species would go extinct, that would still be better. It’s better to let one generation of animals die than to breed infinite generations and kill them all. There is no inherent benefit in the existence of so-called farmed animals, most of which suffer from genetic disease anyway and wouldn’t be able to have a decent life even if they were not exploited by non-vegans.

          2. It’s wrong to use animals because we’d oppose humans being used in the same way and there is no morally relevant criterion that separates us human from every other non-human animal.
            Breeding animals to extract their secretions and kill them when they’ve reached profitable size is not symbiosis. It’s parasitism.

          3. Okay, in that you’re saying that animals have equal rights to humans, i.e. animals have “human rights”. But I don’t think you really believe that. If you did, you would ensure that every single thing you ate was produced by no-till methods. And you don’t, do you? You’d be sure that every ingredient was not from cleared rainforests.

            Here’s the thing. As a global society we have agreed a set of universal human rights that set the bottom line for how we should (ideally) relate to each other. Other animals are not humans, and we have not agreed to extend the same rights to them, we have agreed different and lesser rights.

            But that’s a legal argument. Something being legal obviously doesn’t make it ethical.

            Your argument only makes sense if, for whatever reason, I view all animals as equal to humans. As neither of us does, your argument is pointless.

            What I see as symbiosis, a win-win situation, you see as parasitism, and that’s okay. I can acknowledge your point of view, although I don’t share it. Perhaps you think that farm animals have a worse life than wild animals. I disagree. I also think that many farm animals have a better quality of life than many human beings.

            I do get the feeling that the vegan movement is largely driven by a background misanthropy, which comes through every now and again. It’s like you’re ashamed of being human, ashamed of being an apex predator, ashamed of the place that Nature has made for us in her great scheme. It’s not that you actually love animals, it’s that you don’t love humans enough. That’s why you (and I’m speculating generally here, not just to you as an individual) choose to drop out and hide away in a Disney fantasy world where you can pretend you’re living in a way that causes minimal harm. Of course that’s total bullshit, but you persist anyway, even to and beyond the point of self-harm.

            I believe a better way is to focus positively on how to source food in a way that’s actually sustainable, ethical, and healthy. To campaign against the cruelty of factory farming, and to work out how we can coexist with animals in a healthier and happier world.

            That’s why I produce much of my own nourishment right here at home. It’s why I keep dozens of happy birds. It’s why I forage for seasonal, local food. And it’s why I refuse to accept that we are the same as the animals in our care.

          4. For the sake of not being treated as property, every sentient being is equal. I did not say that humans and non-human animals are the same. But there is no morally relevant difference between us and them.

            In the 19th century one might have argued that the lives of most black slaves were better in the USA than those of their countrymen who stayed in Africa. But slavery is still wrong. That’s why it does not matter how “good” the lives of “farmed animals” are compared to wild animals. Owning animals to kill and eat them is wrong.

            I don’t love animals nor do I love humans. But I respect the right to live and be free from harm of humans and non-humans alike.
            Also I find it ironic that you say I live in a Disney fantasy world when you yourself assume that there might be such a thing as “symbiosis” when we kill animals for our taste pleasure.

            Nature has not made anything. Nature is a dynamic situation and as we are part of nature, we also can choose how to form it.

          5. I agree that we’re part of Nature, and yes, I stand by my view that good farming is symbiotic.

            Is it about being treated as property, or is it about minimising harm? If it’s about preserving life and minimising harm, then my previous points about industrial arable farming must be answered. If your problem is about owning animals, I don’t think that will stand, because many people (vegans included) “own” pets.

            Re “the right to live and be free from harm”… what does that mean? Life means death, and life very often includes suffering. Where does this right to live free from harm originate?

  5. It’s not about minimising harm, it’s about justice. We could minimise harm among people by killing healthy humans to save several others by transplanting their organs. But we know that’s wrong. In the same way it’s wrong to kill animals.

    As much as vegans are against breeding animals so they can be “pets”, we have to look after those who are here already so some vegans adopt animals from a shelter and save them from being euthanised.

    “Life means death, and life very often includes suffering.”
    That does not justify murder, rape, child abuse etc., neither does it justify killing animals for your taste pleasure.

    1. We’re going round in circles now, aren’t we?

      Okay, so it’s about justice… let’s revisit the lion and gazelle. Is it unjust for the lion to kill the gazelle? Is it wrong, in your view?

      If it is not unjust/wrong per se for a lion to kill to eat, then it’s not wrong, irrespective of necessity. Lions don’t necessarily have to kill, because they could theoretically survive on carrion from animals that have died of natural causes.

      1. As we already discussed, something being wrong or not can indeed depend on necessity. If people have to be cannibals to survive after a plane crash in the mountains, then that’s their only option and cannot be considered wrong. Of course it would be better for the gazelle if lions ate carrion instead. But I cannot reason with lions. However, you are not a lion, you can reflect your actions and choose not to harm animals, that’s why you should do so.

        1. I’m not actually sure it would be better for gazelles not to have predators. It’s a very complex world, but herd animals with no predators will usually overbreed, destroy their food source and die from starvation. Nature’s got it pretty much worked out. Nature needs large herbivores and therefore needs predators. In many parts of the world, humans are the only significant predator.

          1. Humans do not have physique of a predator, it is our minds that make all other beings being at our disposal.
            There is something really wrong with the way humans treat other beings.
            I think it is because we are not here to dominate, which is becoming obvious with the results of our domination driven doings. I think we are here to care, to support, to use the mind with curiosity, observe and be.
            Since we are not in line with our purpose, our actions are also not.
            Eating meat has its history. Humans ate about 10% of it until the meat industry (of torture, small farms included) started developing.
            I think meat eaters have a sort of blinders put by the upbringing and society. I know I did. I did not like to be wrong about it so I made excuses, and the other thing is that the very topic of questioning our eating habits brings immediately a hard push back from family and friends and you get instant punishment for not choosing like they choose.
            There is much more to this topic than a person can stand to look at for long enough. No kid ever was happy to eat it’s animal friend when the time came, unless they were indoctrinated with domination early on.

          2. Hi Jasmina, thank you for taking the time to comment. I’d like to address each of your points in turn.

            1) “Humans do not have physique of a predator, it is our minds that make all other beings being at our disposal.”

            We know that we evolved from an ancestor that ate mostly plants and fruit. There is no one physical trait of a predator, though. However our digestive system is closer to a dog’s or a cat’s than it is to any herbivore.

            I think that all animals, and plants and fungi and microbes for that matter, treat all other beings as at their disposal. Even when working symbiotically, the selfish gene simply drives us to survive and procreate. Humans are no different, however our intelligence and technology have enabled us to run riot with that dominion, utterly destroying the equilibrium of our environment in a way that no other animal could possibly do.

            2) “There is something really wrong with the way humans treat other beings.”

            I totally agree, although I do not include eating eggs, dairy, or meat.

            3) “I think it is because we are not here to dominate, which is becoming obvious with the results of our domination driven doings. I think we are here to care, to support, to use the mind with curiosity, observe and be. Since we are not in line with our purpose, our actions are also not.”

            I don’t disagree with you. I think that the Judeo-Christian tradition of God granting dominion to Man doesn’t help matters much.

            4) “Eating meat has its history. Humans ate about 10% of it until the meat industry (of torture, small farms included) started developing.”

            I think you’re wrong here, but it obviously varies by location. You simply cannot survive on plants at extreme latitudes, like the Inuit, Sami, Mongols, etc. If you live in a tropical climate, there is a lot more choice. Seasonality also makes a difference. Even here in Britain, I don’t know if it would be possible to survive long winters on a 100% plant diet, never mind the last Ice Age.

            We know that every society in our evolution (with the exclusion of some recent religious groups) ate meat as a significant proportion of their diet, though obviously the ratio will vary.

            I would add that eating plants has undergone no less of a transition. The plants we ate before settling into agricultural communities were foraged, and would bear very little resemblance to any plant you can buy in the supermarket today (apart from some nuts and berries). We started selecting and breeding vegetables and fruit to enhance certain properties, and we have not benefitted from that. It has been shown that humans after settling into agriculture were shorter and suffered more disease than their predecessors.

            5) “I think meat eaters have a sort of blinders put by the upbringing and society. I know I did. I did not like to be wrong about it so I made excuses, and the other thing is that the very topic of questioning our eating habits brings immediately a hard push back from family and friends and you get instant punishment for not choosing like they choose.”

            You could be talking about the vegan movement here, too, particularly seeing how viciously vegans turn on those who are forced to abandon the lifetyle. Sure, we have cultural traditions around food and eating, it’s absolutely fundamental to culture. This seems to be a kind of carnism conspiracy, to be honest.

            6) “There is much more to this topic than a person can stand to look at for long enough. No kid ever was happy to eat it’s animal friend when the time came, unless they were indoctrinated with domination early on.”

            You don’t think children have it in their natures to hunt and kill, in the same way that kittens and puppies clearly practice their skills from a young age? I’m not so sure. Of course, you wouldn’t have taken small children on a hunt in primitive times, but the desire to hunt seems to be a clear trait in human nature. Many kids show a natural interest in weapons and fighting.

            Finally, I disagree with your theory of “indoctrination of domination” when it comes to animals. Of course, many people really don’t care, but many people really don’t think about much. But many others realise that eating something doesn’t make you superior or it inferior. Are you in a position of domination when you eat a banana? No. It’s an endless cycle of energy moving round and round, that’s all. And each of us will be food for other organisms when our time comes. So you don’t necessarily have to have a mindset of domination in order to coexist with animals in the role of predator.

          3. Thank you for taking the time to answer, Ben.
            1. How is our digestive tract more similar to that of a dog or a cat than herbivore?
            As I observed, cats chew mice to drink their blood and spit them out. Eat intestines and leave the rest. Sometimes they would swallow it whole. Dogs eat decaying corpses, besides hunting.
            We have the most traits of a frugivore, especially teeth. When we smell or taste a fruit, our mouth get watery. It is not the case with blood or intestines or other raw flesh.
            We lack bacteria in our gut to digest meat and to keep us safe from its decay. Cats and dogs have short intestines, we have much longer. Food stays in us for up to two days, which is too much for bacteria following meat diet.
            *Selfish gene is not there in nature. It is only there in human civilization and its power structure. Natural world cooperates. Fungi help trees communicate and transfer nutrients. They get other things in return. Nature works in solidarity.

            So, you confirm humans are rioting with our dominion and are ruining environment. I am additionally saying, animal agriculture is a big part of that and I choose not to support them. Besides, I think animal products are not healthy. Now you can hear WHO saying the same, and Canadian government did a study and confirmed.
            I do not have a belief. I found scientific proof. Besides this, I have experience of not consuming animal products and I know how I healed my body just by eating fresh plants.

            2. So, if eating dairy, eggs and meat is not what is wrong in the world, does that mean it is OK that all animals killed are babies, and those left alive are stuffed with growth hormones? Or is it OK that all male chicks are minced alive in what they call macerator and than fed back to chickens laying eggs? Is it OK that almost all male cows are killed as newborn babies and females are left to live confined, giving birth to babies which are always taken away from them, so that humans get the milk and cheese and cream and yogurt?
            I know this is provocative. It is not my intention. It is the subject.

            3. Add Islam, they are all following the same line and much more similar than not. Male dominance is another topic that catches fire.

            4. I disagree that we know all cultures ate a lot of meat. The majority of the world still eats mostly plants (third world countries).
            One can not use traditional communities and their way or life to excuse modern humans living in urban areas. They hunt, we buy. Anyhow, there is almost none of them with us anymore, we assimilated them.

            I’d say plants did not loose their nutrition once domesticated, and there is still plenty of varieties of plant foods. Pesticides are problem, but there are far more found in meat than plants.

            Settling into agriculture made us shorter, yes, and as we started to domesticate animals, we got illnesses from them, like chicken pox came with birds. It has to do with housing also and many other factors.

            5. Carnism conspiracy? Vegans turned violent to who and how?
            I am sorry, I do not understand you here and need clarification.

            6. I think all children given and apple and a bunny would eat the apple and play/cuddle with the bunny. Adults as well. I agree kids can say they enjoy hunting a dear, but only if they are taught to. Natives did not enjoy hunting. They did it with respect. Again, no parallel here.
            I think our bodies like movement, it makes us feel good. We like to be provoked to run fast, hide and seek and such, when healthy. Hunting animals is such an activity, but it does not make it OK in today’s world.

            Yes, many people do not think much nor care. It came with modern life that took us away from us, as I see it. People are worried or in a rush, thinking too much about things that are not important.
            I am not superior to a banana. Fruit is not a child of a tree. Tree does not die when I eat its fruits. I help it with taking its seeds to a new place.
            I restrain from making any parallels between plants we call food and animals we call food. Plants are not born, do not scream and have no mother. You just pick them up and slice.
            One needs to put an effort in killing an animal. All of them want to live and will not give themselves to us without a fight. Domination is evidently present here, not with plants.

  6. It got me when you said that a plant-based diet is not enough and that eating high-quality meat will ensure that the things lacking from a plant diet are filled. if that is the case, then Iw ill encourage my brother to eat more meat. He has been eating nothing but fruits and vegetables but for some reason, he looks a little lethargic. Maybe it is because he needs meat.

    1. Hi Tatiana. I can’t speak for any other person, but it’s clear that, while many people can experience short-term benefits from eating plants alone (detoxing), it can turn into long-term harm. We’re all different, and need to pay attention to the real effects. It definitely sounds like a good idea for you to share your concerns with your brother.

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