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Even More Things Meat-Eaters Say

Posted by at 3:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (22)


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I’ve posted a couple of times before about things that meat-eaters like to say to vegetarians and vegans. But there’s no end to the arguments that some people use in an attempt to defend their dietary choices.

‘If every person in the world went vegan, what would we do with all those billions of chickens, pigs, and cows?’

When meat-eaters ask this question, they’re really saying: “You’ll never get everyone to go veg because then we’d be stuck for years feeding all those animals!”

It would be wonderful indeed if everyone went vegan overnight, but given that it’s likely to be a more gradual process, this “problem” takes care of itself. The market for animal-derived products works just like any other market: as demand decreases, farmers will reduce the number of animals that they raise. This works even if demand drops very quickly, because most farmed animals are slaughtered when they are very young. Most cattle intended for beef are sent to slaughter at around 1 year of age. Pigs are killed at just 6 months old, and chickens at as young as 7 weeks. Cows who are used for milk production are often killed at 4 or 5 years of age, and egg-laying hens at just 2 years.

‘But if everyone went vegan, farmed-animal species would go extinct!’

The threat of human-caused extinction looms for many species, such as tigers, polar bears, and many species of whales and sharks. The disappearance of these animals destabilizes ecosystems and creates ripple effects that put even more species at risk.

But domesticated animals are a different story. The role of cows, pigs, and chickens in the ecosystem can best be described as destructive. Just think of overgrazed grasslands in the American West or lagoons of pig manure polluting rivers and groundwater. In addition, many domesticated animals have been so genetically altered for fast growth and high productivity that their very existence is nonstop misery. Modern pigs, unlike their wild ancestors, grow so large that they can suffer crippling leg and foot problems if they are not slaughtered at a young age. Cows used by the dairy industry produce so much milk that their depleted bodies break down after only a few years. And many chickens succumb to heart problems and broken bones before they even make it to the slaughterhouse. Surely, the “extinction” of a human-created species whose members have been designed to suffer is no tragedy.

Meat-eaters who claim that they eat animal-derived products because they are concerned about extinction might be running out of justifications for their choice to support a cruel industry.

‘I’ve thought about going vegan, but I could never give up barbecued ribs/cheesecake/fried chicken/[insert favorite animal product here].’

I call this one the “all or nothing” argument: “I can’t possibly be 100 percent vegan, so what’s the point of making any changes to my diet?” My answer: “Who says it has to be all or nothing?”

One of the biggest benefits of a vegan diet is that it reduces demand for animal-derived products, which in turn reduces the number of cows, pigs, and chickens who live short and miserable lives to be slaughtered for food. Anything that reduces the demand helps these animals.

So, if you can’t go vegan because of your lifelong love of barbecued ribs, fine. Give up some other kinds of meat instead and at least you will be sparing some chickens and fish. Is cheese your favorite food? Maybe you can start helping animals by giving up beef, chicken, or eggs. Is the very idea of a vegetarian diet daunting because you just like the taste of meat? How about committing to meatless Mondays and trying some tasty plant-based recipes once a week? Even a small change in your diet is very much worth doing. Don’t let perfectionism get in the way of helping as many animals as you can!

 

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    Alicia says...

    June 22nd, 2011, 4:54 pm

    Good & informative article. The only thing about it that I didn’t like was this part:

    ‘I call this one the “all or nothing” argument: “I can’t possibly be 100 percent vegan, so what’s the point of making any changes to my diet?” My answer: “Who says it has to be all or nothing?”‘

    I absolutely agree with the idea of “make at least some change, even if you refuse to go vegan”, but I don’t like the answer “who says it has to be all or nothing?” This implies a sort of “permission” being given to those who refuse to give up animal products – & that refusal is ALWAYS a selfish act, since we know that humans can, have, & do survive without any animal products at all (me being one of those humans).

    So if someone said to me that they couldn’t go vegan (I hate the term “100% vegan”, as if there is such a thing as less than 100% vegan; you either are or you aren’t), I’d encourage them to at least have some part of their diet be cruelty-free. But I would NEVER say to them that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Because for the animals’ sake, it does.

    -Alicia

    paul says...

    June 22nd, 2011, 6:21 pm

    meat eaters=cannibalism.

    Heather says...

    June 23rd, 2011, 3:24 pm

    so the extinction of human created species’ would be ” no tragedy” ? well i happen to like cows, chickens, sheep, pigs, goats, turkeys, and i think to make them extinct would be a tragedy. and no, i don’t eat them. ALL animals have a right to life regardless of how they got here.

    Cheyenne says...

    June 24th, 2011, 5:10 pm

    I am 14 and am vegetarian. I can’t be vegan but at least I don’t eat meat. That saves more that meat eaters any day. Anyway, I live with my family who eats meat and I don’t judge them. I won’t even try to convert them to vegetarianism because I don’t think my dad or brother could handle it and my mom could but she doesn’t want to right now. So I love them the way they are. I love this article. :)

    Michael says...

    June 24th, 2011, 6:17 pm

    I think your article is amazing. Of course none of us wants any animal to suffer but telling people that they don’t have to be 100% vegan helps them to understand that every little bit helps and might just open up their minds and get them started.

    Once long ago I had asked a colleague if he had signed a non-whaling petition that someone else had put up on the board. For some strange reason he ripped my head off asking me if my shoes were made of leather. What on earth does that have to do with the whales? But he is an example of someone who wrongly thought that either you fight for animals all the way or you don’t at all. I don’t know why people have decided that animal rights activists should be perfect. They love to ‘catch’ us on some sort of overlooked cruelty that we ourselves are causing.

    I always want to say this – imagine if there were one hundred CHILDREN that were going to be killed. If you were able to save three of those children only – would you still do it? Or would you say – ah forget it – if I can’t save all one hundred why bother?

    And to Heather – I believe Lisa said it wouldn’t be a tragedy if animals who were suffering because of forced growth would become extinct. These animals live in pain etc. Lisa obviously loves animals and I believe you misunderstood her.

    Quite honestly though I sometimes find myself wishing that animals didn’t exist at all. Then they would never have to suffer. I love them so much but I don’t consider that reason enough for them to have to be here serving selfish humans. I would rather them be free. Would it really be a tragedy if we never see a cow again but we know that no cow anywhere is in agony? I believe in the afterlife and I know animals go there and are free.

    Thank you LIsa for this informative and helpful and intelligent article.

    Ganapati S. Durgadas says...

    June 24th, 2011, 7:03 pm

    I’m a vegetarian who often goes vegan, but I still use dairy such as yogurt, kefir, and rennetless cheeses. As a Hindu I look upon the cow as a holy animal, so I buy dairy products from producers who treat these beings humanely. The cow is also a symbol of the Divine Mother, so I often find the holier than thou attitudes of 100 percent vegans offensive. The so-called ‘sacred cow’ became so in ancient India because all of her products: her milk could become various food products, her dung served as vegetable and grain producing fertilizer, and as a fire-fuel. And when the cow died a natural death, not slaughtered, her skin was used for necessary leather. Killing her and eating her for her flesh was and is still considered a shameful waste of all-giving life support…

    Stephen says...

    June 24th, 2011, 7:55 pm

    This barely scratches the surface of all the moronic cliches defensive meat eaters come out with. I suggest people search for the Defensive Omnivore Bingo game (image) and you’ll find a lot more of the cliches on that. It’s pretty funny.

    Justin Prater says...

    June 24th, 2011, 10:17 pm

    I know how you feel. I have had similar aguments with people.

    Stacy says...

    June 24th, 2011, 10:24 pm

    This is a very common-sense approach to having constructive conversations with meat-eaters. And if all carnivores just reduced their meat consumption, it would make a much bigger difference than trying to “convert” people to what seems to them like an inconceivably strict diet.

    Since many mainstream websites and magazines promote meatless Mondays as a way to save money and “go green,” cutting back on meat is even more palatable and less foreign to meat eaters. They might even find they want to go veggie more often than once a week.

    Vicky Slay says...

    June 24th, 2011, 10:50 pm

    I loved this article and look forward to future ones. I have slowely stopped eating meat although I do not know how to become vegitarian. My mother is 88 years old and put on a diet mainly of vegetables. She is spry now and ready to live again. Has began walking with the help of a walker but has a lot of spunk to her walk. She doesn’t eat much meat. I keep wanting to change and have slowly done things to limit my intake of dairy, eggs, meat, but do not know the proper way so as not to become ill. I love animals of all kinds and so would love to make the change but I am sure my husband won’t. That is a problem not an excuse. I thank you for your article as it gives me some insight on making the change.

    Tina says...

    June 25th, 2011, 12:06 am

    Great article! Some of my friends & family choose not to hear or know about all the cruelty & abuse animals suffer because they want to continue to eat animal products, including meat. This article helped me to realize that I can encourage my family/friends to make some small changes if going vegan is out for them. Anything they can do to help reduce the suffering of animals, even if it’s going meatless on Mondays, is worth it in my book! Thanks for the article!

    Dawn says...

    June 25th, 2011, 1:55 am

    I’m vegetarian aiming for vegan.The problem with the last point,all-or-nothing,is there are some vegans who will give you a hard time for not being 100% perfect.Try explaining to them that something is better than nothing. (And I know that not all vegans are like that,but some are,and they can make you feel lousy.)

    Holland says...

    June 25th, 2011, 1:56 am

    I’m all for persuading friends to make incremental improvements that save animals lives, if they are not ready to plunge into a vegan life (and most aren’t.) It’s far more effective to praise their steps rather than be strident about being pure.

    Food writer Mark Bittman is using the term flexitarian, which I’ve found can be appealing to people who shrink from the veg* words. A flexitarian may be vegan till 6 pm, vegan at home/vegetarian at restaurants, however one wants to slice it.

    My former boss, the great Gretchen Wyler, used to talk about drawing the line — and then moving it to more and more compassionate changes. Her point was, first get the line drawn-! Most people don’t have one when it comes to eating humanely. Just getting them to add that consideration is the most important step.

    Michael says...

    June 25th, 2011, 3:11 am

    @Ganapati S. Durgadas

    I’ve spent some time in India and cows are NOT treated as the holy beings you say they are. I’ve watched on numerous occassions Hindus hitting, pushing, and abusing them as well having no problem watching them eat plastic and other forms of inedable garbage while grazing through dump sites. Your so-called ‘sacred cow’ is a myth.

    Lorraine Greyvenstein says...

    June 25th, 2011, 3:22 am

    If the reality of livestock farming pratice and slaughter houses were brought more into the public awareness via the media it may help to change attitudes towards the consumption of animal and animal derived products. I would like to see CNN, BBC world, Animal planet and Sky news for example air Sir Paul MaCartneys latest video on abbatoirs/slaughter .houses

    Ingrid says...

    June 25th, 2011, 9:51 am

    Like Heather, I love cows, pigs, etc. and would never want them to go extinct. No doubt the human-created variations the author refers to wouldn’t be able to survive on their own, but I don’t see why over the course of time some of those farm animals couldn’t evolve to live off the land. Perhaps at first it would necessitate human assistance but it seems that’s the least we could do after all the years of abuse we’ve heaped on them. And I like what Michael said except for loving animals so much that he’d be fine with them all being gone. Animals are part of this earth, part of us, and as beautiful as a field of wild flowers.

    Adam says...

    June 25th, 2011, 10:41 am

    Interesting article, but I want to point out a few things:
    If everyone went vegan, farm animals wouldn´t became extinct, or at least not all of them, as there would be a few that people would have as pets and breed them to have more pets, and some would go wild and ocuppy their old “niche” in Nature, like cows might occupy their old European ancestor cattle (Aurochs) in the hills and mountains and natural pastures.
    Other animals would also naturalize as you can see today in Australia, were goats and domestic camels are surviving in th¡e wild.
    Another good thing to say to meat-eaters is to change to organic, at least the farm animals live a bit better, some more than others, but it´s a good chnage, also because it´s better for the enviroment.
    Adam from Catalunya.

    Breanna says...

    June 27th, 2011, 3:07 am

    I WISH WISH WISH more ppl would become vegan, or even vegetarian!!! Ahhh…this world would be a paradise.

    Alicia says...

    June 29th, 2011, 10:19 pm

    Michael said:
    “Once long ago I had asked a colleague if he had signed a non-whaling petition that someone else had put up on the board. For some strange reason he ripped my head off asking me if my shoes were made of leather. What on earth does that have to do with the whales? But he is an example of someone who wrongly thought that either you fight for animals all the way or you don’t at all. I don’t know why people have decided that animal rights activists should be perfect. They love to ‘catch’ us on some sort of overlooked cruelty that we ourselves are causing.”

    I have a few comments about that, & I’ll start at the end. :-) As a vegan, it annoys me to no end when people try to “catch” me in a non-vegan situation. Not only do I not go back on my beliefs, but until THEY go vegan they’ve got no right to question my actions on behalf of animals. That said – although I don’t believe that your friend was right to rip your head off, I understand where he was coming from. Yes, it’s better to help the whales than to not help the whales… but if you’re helping whales while you’re wearing the skin of a dead animal, you’re being somewhat of a hypocrite. Unless, of course, you only care about whales, & not all animals. I don’t believe that he thought wrongly that “you fight for animals all the way or you don’t at all”. Again, yes, it’s better to do something than nothing, but I feel that a person should do EVERYTHING they can on behalf of animals – which basically means GO VEGAN. Anything less IS hypocritical, if one says that one loves animals. You can’t call one animal a pet – a friend – & another animal dinner… or a pair of shoes. (For all I know, your shoes weren’t leather at all – I’m using the situation that happened to you as something that can be applied to so many of us here, so please don’t take this comment personally.)

    I don’t think that your comment about saving 3 out of 100 children applies here, though. There’s a difference between actively doing something to save as many children as you can (even if it’s only 3) and being vegan, which, although it saves many, many lives, is a rather passive action. You can do absolutely NOTHING & still save lives.

    Anyway, my point is that yes, it’s better to do something than to do nothing, but it’s best to do everything you can. And while I would never do what your friend did, Michael – I would never say to someone who signed a whaling petition, “Yeah, but your shoes are leather”- that very thought may cross my mind… because while they did do something, they could be doing more. And because to people who don’t really care about animals, it sends the message that some animals are worthy of our love while some are not – which makes US look like hypocrites. THAT’S why people are always trying to catch us doing something non-vegan.

    One last thing, repeated from my original post: the term “vegan” inherently contains the concept of “100%”. You are either vegan or you’re not; you can’t be less than 100% vegan. You can sometimes eat a vegan diet, & sometimes not – but being vegan is SO much more than just the diet that you eat.

    -Alicia

    Sharleen says...

    June 30th, 2011, 11:44 am

    I think it’s great that the meat free Monday type of idea is becoming so mainstream because let’s face it, as much as it pains me to say it, vegan is not mainstream (at least not in the UK). This is a step in the right direction and no-one should be made to feel bad for doing that. I also think that an even more important message than just “eat less meat” is “eat less bad meat”. Can’t afford organic, free range, responsibly reared meat all the time? Eat lentils then and have it once a month. I’m hoping that the trend of caring about where our food comes and how it’s produced will extend now to dairy. Certainly in this country no-one has any idea that dairy farming can also be very cruel.

    Sally says...

    July 8th, 2011, 3:43 am

    I tried to explain to a colleague why dairy is wrong. She was eating yoghurt and a banana at the time. I said that her choice to eat dairy meant a calf was deprived of his mother’s milk and killed.

    Her response: “yeah, and I suppose there is some monkey going hungry because I’m eating this banana!”

    I tried to explain to another colleague why dairy is wrong. I said, why would you want to keep drinking cow milk when you wouldn’t want to keep drinking your mother’s milk at age 50?

    His response: “no, that would be like cannabalism!”

    There is just no talking sense into these people, but I had a glimmer of hope when I fried them some fakin bacon. Agreement that it smelt and tasted just like bacon. Have to let the cooking do the talking.

    4mula1 says...

    August 26th, 2011, 9:08 pm

    what is it about some people.. why dont they want to hear both sides before making a disition, why defend the cave man diet.. would they defend or argue that the world is flat?… how far will they go… why cant people be open minded. why do people love to defend tradition? its (?) the perfect crime. just question nothing, milk is designed for baby cows. instead of getting soymilk they defent drinking the milk of a cow… its as if many people take human health lighty, supprisingly.. these same people cant wait to get there hands on the newest car… adam n eve were vegan, we did not evolve as carnivores, its the meat n dairy that lead to heart attack, stroke, pad, ed, ect.. (pcrm.org) do they support the flat earth society? hey sally, have em try a vegan burger…

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