The purpose of this post is to help those who are unfamiliar with veganism or those who are interested in the ideology.
This post is in the "Serious Discussions" forum because I would love to have an open discussion about veganism.
Also, I will be editing this post with responses to any question you guys ask.
Tagging people who I think would appreciate the read: @Travesty @Ordinarygamer96 @MistaChang
What is veganism?
According to The Vegan Society, veganism is "... is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose."
In other words, someone who considers themselves a vegan is a person who refrains from using any animal product/services (even if it does not cause harm to the animal), unless dire circumstances arise. The most common things a vegan will avoid are:
Dairy (milk, butter, cheese, etc.) and eggs
Clothing made from fur, silk, wool, etc.
Cosmetics or medicines tested on animals
Visiting zoos and circuses
Why go vegan?
The reason people go vegan varies from person to person, however, most people who go vegan do so for ethical, environmental, or health reasons.
In this post, I will primarily be addressing the ethical beliefs behind veganism, but I will gladly answer any non-troll question regarding veganism.
A vegan who follows the ideology for ethical reasons is most likely aware of the fact that all animals are sentient; they are capable of perceiving and feeling things, such as emotion and pain. Therefore, because an animal (primarily cows, pigs, and chicken) can feel pain, they should not be subjected to systematic torture, exploitation, and ultimately slaughter for relatively inconsequential appetite. Simply put, a vegan does not believe our taste buds are worth more than the life of an animal, and that animals should be able to live a life as free of unnecessary pain and suffering as possible.
Common fallacies and arguments made against veganism (arguments and responses mainly provided by "Your Vegan Fallacy Is")
"Animals are not intelligent enough to matter and humans are at the top of the food chain"
My Response: This argument is based on the idea of speciesism, which is defined as a prejudice similar to racism or sexism, in that the treatment of individuals is predicated on group membership and morally irrelevant physical differences. By following this train of thought, it would seem reasonable that any non-human animals are subject to our will, including dogs, cats, and other animals that we adore and call family. However, I believe a majority of Americans would be appalled at the thought of people harming and killing a dog, in fact, it is seen as a crime and the offender can serve jail time depending on the state. By picking and choosing which animals are allowed to live a relatively happy life, you are displaying speciesism. The matter of the fact is, ALL animals are smart enough to be able to feel pain and to feel a sense of suffering. While the degree of which they suffer is arguably lesser than what a human would go through, it is suffering nonetheless.
YVFI Response: All animals are intellectually and emotionally sophisticated relative to their own species, and many have thoughts and emotions more complex than those of young human children or the mentally disabled. Even so, it is not logical or equitable to withhold ethical considerations from individuals whom we imagine think or feel differently than we do. We uphold the basic rights of humans who do not reach certain intellectual and emotional benchmarks, so it is only logical that we should uphold these rights for all sentient beings. Denying them to non-human animals is base speciesism and, therefore, ethically indefensible. Further, it is problematic to assert that intelligence and emotional capacity exist on a linear scale where insects occupy one end and humans occupy the other. For example, bees are experts in the language of dance and communicate all sorts of things with it. Should humans who cannot communicate through interpretive dance be considered less intelligent than bees? Finally, even if an intellectual or emotional benchmark were justification for killing a sentient being, there is no scientific support for the claim that a capacity for intelligence or emotion equals a capacity for suffering. In fact, there is a great deal of scientific support for just the opposite; that because non-human animals do not possess the ability to contextualize their suffering as humans do, that suffering is much greater.
Cont': The terms 'food chain' and 'food web' refer to a natural ecological system whereby producers in a specific habitat are eaten by consumers in that same habitat. The term 'circle of life' has no scientific meaning at all. In neither case do the terms refer to the human consumption of animals, since humans do not exist as consumers in a natural ecological system where cows, pigs, cats, dogs, fish and other food animals are producers. The only use of the terms 'food chain' or 'circle of life' in the context of human food choices is to legitimize the slaughter of sentient individuals by calling that slaughter a necessary and natural part of human life, which means the apex predator justification for eating animals is a failure on two fronts. First, the terms themselves either do not apply to the ecological relationship we have with animals or they have no meaning at all. Second, we do not need to eat animals in order to survive, so the underlying moral imperative of 'might makes right' is not ethically defensible. By analogy, a bank robber might claim to be at the top of the corporate ladder since he had the ability to take what belonged to others and chose to do so.
TLDR: Animals are intelligent enough to feel pain and suffer, therefore it is immoral to depend on them for food when we can live and thrive on a plant-based diet
The life of a pig in a U.K. slaughterhouse (NSFW): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o67mK42zgOU
"I have canines, therefore I should eat meat"
YVFI Response: Using dentition as an indicator of diet is a hard case to make. Domestic cats and dogs have similar dental structures, but cats are obligate carnivores and dogs can be vegan. Gorillas are herbivores with long canines. Our own teeth are closer to those of herbivores than carnivores, but we are capable of digesting the flesh and secretions of other species, which means that we can choose to eat plants, animals or both. So it's clear that a species' teeth are not a reliable determinant of its dietary requirements.
My add-on: We have pathetic ass canine teeth, meanwhile hippos are running around with their gigantic canines eating mostly plants.
"Animals eat other animals, therefore it's okay if I do it"
YVFI Response: Non-human animals do many things we find unethical; they steal, rape, eat their children and engage in other activities that do not and should not provide a logical foundation for our behavior. This means it is illogical to claim that we should eat the same diet certain non-human animals do. So it is probably not useful to consider the behavior of stoats, alligators and other predators when making decisions about our own behavior.
My response: I have found a great video that I think I would more or less just copy in text, so I'd rather just share the short video for you to watch (See below).
"Plants can feel pain, so it's immoral and hypocritical for you to eat them"
My response: Plants lack a brain, nerves, and a central nervous system altogether, so scientifically they cannot feel pain. Plants do in fact react to their environment, however, this is not a conscious decision made by the plants (they cannot make conscious decisions).
YFVI add-on: Regardless, each pound of animal flesh requires between four and thirteen pounds of plant matter to produce, depending upon species and conditions. Given that amount of plant death, a belief in the sentience of plants makes a strong pro-vegan argument.
"A vegan diet isn't healthy"
Quick video by Earthling Ed explaining the benefits of a vegan diet.
TLDW: The American Dietetic Association and British Dietetic Association have stated that a vegan diet is healthy and adequate for all stages of life, including pregnancy. All nutrients that we need to survive are available in plant-based forms, and can also be found in supplements if you have trouble reaching the needed daily amounts. Furthermore, some of the largest animals, such as gorillas and elephants, are purely herbivorous and manage to get enough protein in them to keep their strong physique through plants. Also, there are many athletes and bodybuilders who thrive on plant-based diets. Things like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's, certain cancers, and more are preventable/reduced by eliminating animals products that are high in saturated fat (red meats, whole milk, certain cheese, etc.)
"My religion says it's okay to eat animals"
YVFI Response: There are many religions with many diverse teachings on the topic of eating meat. In some, there are prohibitions against eating certain animals. In others, it is permissible to both sacrifice animals and eat them. However, it is important to remember that religious permission is not the same as religious imperative. In other words, simply because your religion permits you to eat meat, that does not mean it requires you to do so.
My response: As with any of these arguments, there is a lot to cover, and with religion, I feel it is best to discuss it on a case-by-case basis. However, my response would follow the response given above. Most, if not all major religions call for the compassion of their believers, and while it may have been necessary for people to survive on animals hundreds and thousands of years ago, it is not necessary now. Therefore, I believe it is correct to assume that an all-loving God, who created these animals to feel emotions and potentially suffering, would prefer his followers to choose a plant-based diet because it is now clearly shown that humans can thrive on the diet. Again, I believe that if two plates of food were put in front of you, one plant-based, then other made with animals, your God would be happier with you choosing the meal where no animals had to die.
This is the end of the original post, there are many areas and arguments I did not cover for the sake of my personal time. However, I am more than happy to answer any serious questions you bring up. I will post my response as a comment and add it to this post below as an edit! Also, I'll share some great videos/documentaries that I highly suggest everybody watches!
Earthlings (2005 documentary): http://www.nationearth.com/
Speech given by Earthling Ed (HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3u7hXpOm58
More by Earthling Ed:
1. I am not well-based on animal testing, so I cannot give a great answer. However, I think the important thing to note is that we should always seek alternatives if they are available. I will definitely look more into this and comment back if I find anything.
2. I think most vegans are in agreement that a vegan diet was incredibly difficult to follow through about 30 years back, and I would agree that humans might not be where we are today if we didn't rely on it. However, that is not a justification to eat meat NOW. Before, it could have been argued that animal consumption was necessary, but we have advanced so much where we don't need to eat animal flesh or any products they produce. No rational vegan would say that we are herbivores, we are indeed carnivores; we have the capability to consume (albeit pretty poorly in some cases) animal products like meat and milk. But the idea behind veganism in today's society is that we have a choice to choose between a purely plant-based diet and a nonplant-based diet. Because we have that choice, it means there is not a necessity for animal consumption, so what becomes the moral justification for eating the animals?
3. Vegan diets have recently received more attention and is being studied more now. There is no definite proof on long-term benefits of a purely plant-based diet, however, it is shown that diets high in saturated fats are associated with heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, Alzheimer's, high cholesterol, etc. Vegan diets are typically very low in saturated fats, while a typical omnivore diet has to watch out because of the saturated fats in dairy and certain meats. It is true that B12 is not naturally found in plant-based foods, but there are a plethora of B12 fortified cereals, plant-based milk, and more. Personally, I take an iron supplement and a B12 supplement just because I know I won't be able to meet my requirements everyday (It should be noted that non-vegan also have a high rate of B12 deficiency, it is not only a "vegan issue"). Overall though, studies have shown that vegans have lower BMIs compared to humans who eat meat and also to vegetarians.
4. Vegan sometime are split on the issue of insects, I personally still kill spiders in my apartment (I have caught and released a few), because I am terrified of them. I know I shouldn't kill them, and it's something I work on, but no one can be perfect. Regardless. I think its safe to say that vegans generally agrees killing mosquitos are okay, they present a threat to you (they can carry diseases). Also, it's not that species are created equal or have to be treated equally to humans. It's that we believe that they deserve the basic right that we humans get to enjoy, the freedom of life and the choices that come with it. In regards to natural carnivores, I suggest you watch the 3-minute video I posted about animals eating other animals. It talks about something called moral agency, and why we cannot really blame wild animals for their actions.
Because you like the taste of their flesh, eggs, or milk is not a moral justification to increase the demand for their products. Something I brought up in the original post was that vegans believe that our taste buds and those 15 minutes where we enjoy the taste of an animal's carcass is not worth their only life being taken away from them.
Do you think your taste buds are worth more than their life?
If not, then what is your moral justification for doing that?
In regards to zoos and aquariums, vegans attempt to not contribute to the exploitation of animals. While it may be cool for a class to see whales, fish, zebras, etc. it is not okay to keep them captive in an exhibit for what I assume to be the rest of their life. I know of few cases where the animals are rescues and they would not be able to survive alone in the wild, and that I believe can be argued to be a valid exception. However, as far as I know, most animals in zoos and aquariums do not fall into that category. As with animal testing, I am not the most well-versed so I would love to hear more about AZA institution via PM or here.
Thanks for the response!
1. Chicken's do lay eggs naturally, however, they are kept in awful conditions, even when labeled "free-range". Free-range eggs are more or less a marketing ploy used to make consumers feel better about where their eggs are coming from. The hens still are debeaked without anesthesia and like I said, the conditions are still shit. Furthermore, male chicks are killed extremely young because they do not get as big as female chickens and they obviously cannot lay eggs themselves. By supporting (buying) eggs from even local farmers, you are supporting all the consequences of it. Unless you yourself have seen the conditions of the chickens, you cannot simply trust your local farmer, because chances are, they don't treat them well (especially the male chicks).
2. Milk, in my opinion, is crueler than what happens to chickens. Female cows are artificially inseminated (a human fist is shoved into their reproductive tract, where they will put the sperm). A few hours after the birth the calf will be permanently (in most cases) separated from the mother. The female calves will grow up to live the same fate as their mother, whereas the male calves will generally be chained up and ultimately slaughtered at around 14 weeks old for veal. These calves never get to drink their mother's milk, we take it away from them. My numbers might be a bit off, but the average dairy cow is supposed to be able to live up to 12 years, but because of the constant stress put on the mother (constant milkings and births) they die around the age of 3 or 4. Again, by demanding milk, you require a farmer to forcefully impregnate a cow, separate the mother of their newborn, then deprive that newborn of its mother's milk. By supporting the dairy industry, you are supporting the consequences.
3. This is from YVFI: "In commercial honey operations, queens are purchased after having been artificially inseminated with crushed males. The wings of these queens are ripped off to prevent them from flying away, and while they would normally live to four years old, they are killed at age two to make room for younger queens. Further, commercial hives are often left to die by starvation and exposure or killed as a means of controlling stock. Even in smaller honey operations where bees are treated gently, some are crushed to death when their hives are disturbed. Beekeepers in these environments often replace honey with sugar or corn syrup to maximize profits, but these are not a bee’s natural food, and they are not sufficient to sustain an entire hive through the winter. Ultimately, wild hives create living conditions and food stores ideally suited to sustain themselves, but human intervention results in starvation, suffering and death for bees. So since humans do not need honey to survive, eating it is indeed unethical."
4. Sorry for not responding in my own words, but it's getting a bit late and this website does a great job of explaining things: "Essentially all wool comes from sheep sheared on industrial farms, which often involves very rough handling of the sheep and is a process which inflicts painful nicks and cuts on the sheep's skin. These injuries attract flies and promote "flystrike", especially around their tail where the skin bunches up. To combat this, so two strips of wool-bearing skin from around either side of the sheep's buttocks are removed, without using anesthetics, in order to create a scarred area of flesh that's less susceptible to infestations. This process is called "mulesing". It is also important to remember that there are no "old-animals" homes for animals that are no longer profitable to industry, and sheep are no exception. When they age and no longer produce as much wool they are shipped to the slaughter house, and this happens long before their natural lifespan. It's clear that sheep are very much hurt by all of this. Like any animal used by agribusiness, the abuses of sheep has many different facets. Sheep in the wool industry are selectively bred specifically to have more wrinkled skin so that they produce more wool, and this makes them more vulnerable to injuries during sheering and consequently causing more incidents of "flystrike". This creates greater profits for the industry while imposing negative consequences on the sheep themselves, which makes wool production a very typical example of how animal exploitation industries take advantage of the vulnerabilities of others in ethically indefensible ways. Put differently, in order to use wool for ourselves, we must decide that the satisfaction of our own desires is somehow more important than the rights and needs of others. By contrast, the philosophy of veganism denies the validity of any line of thinking which seeks to justify abusing others for our own gain."
5. Read my response about zoos, unless the animal was a rescue, I see no reason as to why it should be subjected to live its life in a cage as an exhibit for our entertainment.
While theoretically, you can get eggs from chickens without *you* causing them to suffer (the selectively breeding chickens and many other animals went through puts continuous stress on their body as they were not meant to produce so much produce), I truly believe you cannot ever get milk without their species to suffer. The milk is made for the newborn, just like any other mammal. By giving us humans milk, we are taking away not only the nutritional substance that will be used to help a cow become healthy, we take them away from bonding. Just like humans, cows have been observed to be maternal creatures. You put stress on the mother and the calf by separating them and not allowing her to feed her child.
In regards to an animal living the good life, at the end of the day, they are on that farm to make money for the farmers. They are being exploited for financial gain against their will. Furthermore, having shitty conditions is how most farms are operated, local or not. The severity of the conditions obviously varies, however at the end of the day, in order to get milk you are depriving a mother and calf of bonding, and giving that newborn a dietary substitute, just because of our taste preference. To wrap it up - Most farms practice undeniably cruel practices and beyond awful conditions for their cows. There are some that can do a better job, like giving them big open fields to roam. But the matter of the fact is, a dairy farmer is going to send a male calf to the slaughterhouse for veal, and the female calf will have to go through the same hardships that her mother went through (artificial semination, constant milkings, being separated from her children). Like I said to Jodas, there are consequences that happen when we begin to consume milk, and we are responsible for those consequences as well.
On topic is bees, obviously the degree to which they suffer is lesser than that of cows and chickens, however, some bee farms are not cared for at all. Regardless, the reason I personally don't consume honey is that it's incredibly easy to avoid, and also that it always falls into the category of exploitation for me, even when done as humanely as possible.
Lastly, I don't think any reasonable vegan wants everyone to become vegan overnight. I'd assume a majority understand changes need to be made step-by-step to ensure there is no dramatic shift that causes an economic crisis or something like that. While obviously, I don't know the perfect plan to prevent that, what I do know is that people can begin to reduce their dairy and meat consumption and begin to purchase alternatives.
I 100% agree with you that it is in the vegan's interest to reduce suffering as much as possible, not necessarily completely, because no one can be a perfect vegan.
I don't see how your comparison really fits into this whole idea of veganism. We know that animals have a central nervous system, we know that they can feel pain, we know that they can suffer, and depending on the species they can feel a wide range of emotions, similar to that of a human. We also know that we as humans can live our entire lives eating solely plant-based foods. So, because we can live a healthy life without animals being involved, and because animals suffer and feel pain when we slaughter them, debeak/dehorn them, etc. we would need to find a moral justification for their suffering. Maybe I didn't specify the premises enough in the original post, but I don't see how our lines of logic are similar.
Veganism is about denying any nutritious claims of non-vegan foods. I and any other reasonable vegan could agree with you that eggs are a great source of protein, B12, and GOOD cholesterol. While their mercury count is something to be wary of, some fish high in fat are also great for their omega 3s. It's not about denying that it has nutrition, because obviously it does, just look at the nutrition facts. But the point is, we can find our nutrients in other foods, so it goes back to the point I made in the last paragraph - when we can find the nutrients in other sources, and because animals feel pain and suffering, we would need to find a moral justification for choosing their nutrients, rather than a plant-based one.
Side note, I didn't become vegan to be seen as a more ethical person to my peers and random strangers on the internet; The reason why I went vegan was so that I could be the voice for the voiceless. I realized that billions of animals every year are being used against their will and I realized I could do something about it. I hope what I'm about to say makes sense and I don't seem like an idiot, but -- I am vegan not because it makes me a more ethical person, but because following veganism is an ethical thing to do.
Thank you for sharing the video, it definitely helps show the cruelty of slaughterhouses.
Something I and probably most other vegans went through before adopting this lifestyle was something called cognitive dissonance, maybe you know what it is, so sorry if I seem like a jackass for explaining this. Your morals/beliefs (animals should not be treated like this) do not line up with your actions (eating animals/animal products). Because of the inconsistency, you being to feel "uncomfortable" whenever you think of the subject, so you either choose to change your morals/beliefs or your actions. In most cases when the situation (vegan and non-vegan topics alike) is not ambiguous and seen as more important, people choose to change their beliefs rather than their actions. We (Me included) would come up with excuses to please our mind as to why we were okay with animals suffering, even if we knew that the beliefs weren't really true. Again, I am afraid I might come off as an ass for explaining this and that is not my intention, but I thought maybe this was something you were going through too.
To be honest with you, I am not that well-versed in regards to hunting, however, I can specify my beliefs and I'm sure your knowledge of hunting would be able to pinpoint where I would stand. I believe all animals, even dangerous ones such as bear, wolves, snakes, etc. have a right to live their life with as little unnecessary suffering as possible. If a potentially dangerous animal is wandering about your yard and chances are it will leave on its own after an hour or so, you should just let it be. If an animal is KNOWN to disrupt the natural ecosystem and cause the potential for endangerment and extinction, then I would leave it up to a non-bias organization to come up with a proper plan to handle the situation. It's still a bit early in the day and I know there is a word for what I'm about to describe, so help would be appreciated - As predator X hunts and kills prey Y, prey Y population decreases, when prey Y population decreases, predator X begins to die off from starvation, because of a lower population in predator X, prey Y population increases, so on so forth. In those cases, it is not okay to disrupt that cycle. Also, I strongly believe that ending any species life early, even if every single component of the body was used, is cruel.
If money permits, I plan on having a sanctuary for farm animals when I get older. I would provide them with the best care I could give them, including quality food and large fields to roam, as well as other animal friends to play with so they won't get bored. Like you brought up, I would never kill them early unless they were suffering from a chronic disease that was causing their everyday life to become a struggle. Would I eat the eggs? Maybe, I really don't know how I feel about it yet. Personally, if you yourself raised chickens, didn't kill them early, and didn't breed them, then I don't believe there is anything wrong with it. Also, I would NEVER sell the eggs and never let the eggs leave my property. I do not want to increase a demand outside of the sanctuary. In regards to meat, the same thing applies to eggs, I don't kow how I feel about it yet. But if you follow what I said above, I don't think there is anything wrong with eating their meat after they naturally run their course in life. But again, I think it becomes an issue when people begin to sell these eggs and meats even if they were treated as nicely as possible and were not prematurely killed. What I described was probably the most humane way to consume eggs and meat, but if you begin to increase the demand in your city, it becomes a problem.
1. I really don't believe it's extreme to say most, if not all farms are bad. Farms are maintained and run by profit, and ultimately every animal there dies an early death. The standard practice for meat and dairy are abhorrent.
2. I don't think it's circular. I think exploitation of animals is wrong because they gain little to nothing for pleasing our taste. They have no say in what to do and because of that, I find it wrong. Bees are no exception to this exploitation. Also, the average farmer just living his life gets to live his life while the cattle he raises gets ultimately shipped off to a slaughterhouse. The farmer itself can give the cow a great life, but once the cow stops producing milk, the farmer ships her off to be slaughtered. To add on, local farmers are just as susceptible to cruel treatment of animals.
I posted his stuff a lot, but I find his videos great. It's a short video showing one of the dairy farms in the UK.
In all, even if the farmer gives the dairy cow a great life, her calf will be taken away (This is what happens, the farmers don't want the calf to drink the milk made for them), if she gives birth to a male, he will be separated and killed at young age for veal, and if it is a female, the calf will be separated from its mother and eventually begin her life as a dairy cow. When the mother becomes unable to produce milk, she will then be slaughtered.
In your hypothetical, if the female was not forcefully inseminated, the calves never been separated, the males don't get slaughtered for veal, the calves get priority for the milk (I don't know how we would know what excess or not tbh), and the cows are never sent to a slaughterhouse. Then sure you can begin to make an argument that this is cruelty-free. Just let me know when you can find that.
Also, I think we can both agree that a large majority (I would guess at least 75%) of dairy production is done in some of the worse ways legally possible. You can find ol' Mac, and kudos to him, but the majority of dairy farms are not that. There is no money in that process. At that point, I don't know why Mac just doesn't grow crops and non-dairy milk.
On your off-topic scenario -- I don't think there's a right answer, but I would have to lean more towards eliminating the foreign species.
To address your anecdote about seeing cows with their calf. I am just speculating, but I would assume those cows have stopped producing milk so there is no financial risk for the mother and calf to be together.
I've heard great things about the beyond burger, have yet to try it though. I'm only scared because I heard its incredibly unhealthy for you and I'm afraid I might feel sick afterward, but yolo I guess.
You bring up great environmental points, I talked about in discord and because of laziness, I didn't bring it up here. Thank you for sharing and saving me the time of doing it myself