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Omnivores: Tell The New York Times Magazine Why It’s Ethical to Eat Meat

Some days back I got wind of this contest in The New York Times Magazine.

Ethically speaking, vegetables get all the glory. In recent years, vegetarians — and to an even greater degree vegans, their hard-core inner circle — have dominated the discussion about the ethics of eating. From the philosopher Peter Singer, whose 1975 volume “Animal Liberation” galvanized an international movement, to the novelist Jonathan Safran Foer, who wrote the 2009 best seller “Eating Animals,” those who forswear meat have made the case that what we eat is a crucial ethical decision. To be just, they say, we must put down our cheeseburgers and join their ranks.

In response, those who love meat have had surprisingly little to say. They say, of course, that, well, they love meat or that meat is deeply ingrained in our habit or culture or cuisine or that it’s nutritious or that it’s just part of the natural order. Some of the more conscientious carnivores have devoted themselves to enhancing the lives of livestock, by improving what those animals eat, how they live and how they are killed. But few have tried to answer the fundamental ethical issue: Whether it is right to eat animals in the first place, at least when human survival is not at stake.

So today we announce a nationwide contest for the omnivorous readers of The New York Times. We invite you to make the strongest possible case for this most basic of daily practices.

Here’s the panel of judges: Peter Singer, Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, Jonathan Safran Foer and Andrew Light.

I went back & forth with myself as to whether to tender an entry at all and if so, in what style; i.e., serious, rant, ironic, humorous, or some combination. I’ve decided to go ahead with it, and to do it most sober & serious. So here goes. 600 words or less.

~~~

In words Dickens would revive some 200 years later in Oliver Twist, this, from the 1654 George Chapman play, Revenge for Honour:

Ere he shall lose an eye for such a trifle… For doing deeds of nature! I’m ashamed. The law is such an ass.

The point is, what good are ethics or laws if they don’t fundamentally contemplate the human being qua animal? Notions of ethics—the right or wrong of things—must logically begin by asking the question “what kind of animal is the human being?”

We know a lot about that question from paleo-anthropology. Humans are meat eaters. From Kleiber’s Law—the chief metabolic difference between humans and primate ancestors is the tradeoff between brain and gut size—to archeological digs with piles of scavenged bones, to isotope analysis of fossilized teeth: everything points to an evolution where the hunting and eating of nutritionally dense animals was key in human survival and its ultimate success in becoming a generalist, able to migrate to and thrive from equator to arctic and sea level to 16,000 feet during spring, summer, winter and fall.

Rather than approach the question from the unsupportable notion that humans are somehow biologically herbivorous, but with an insatiable taste for meat that may be unnatural, we must acknowledge that humans evolved eating meat and other animal nutrition, that it was key to their survival and ability to thrive and grow; and given all that, it’s more likely that natural animal products are beneficial to human health rather than harmful.

At what point can it be said that behavior wholly subsumed in the nature of a species of animal can be wrong, unethical to practice? To even ask the question requires an introspective, intelligent conscience—the qualitative aspect of our being that differentiates us from other animals. Because otherwise, the question we’re asking demands first that we identify and explain how ethics could arise external to our own natural experience, from some super-existent realm sporting an external authority that trumps our own individual authority over our own behavior. In simpler terms: we are ethical beings. Ethics, a sense of right and wrong, is as much a part of what makes us human as the consumption of other animals along the way made us human. It’s all baked into the cake: meat gave us the nutritional density to evolve big brains, big brains gave us the intelligence to introspect, and conscious introspection gave us ethics. Eating meat made us ethical beings. As such, eating the flesh of non-ethical beings can’t logically be unethical.

At base, one might begin with the notion that the proscription of certain human behaviors start with a logical principle: The Golden Rule. Because otherwise, who gets to decide which rules are Golden and which aren’t? It’s at least logically consistent to hold that to the extent some act is permissible or proscribed for you, the same goes for every other human being.

Perhaps once we evolve enough to get The Golden Rule squared away—i.e., to the extent that humans mind their own business first, setting aside the desire to impose their personal values and choices upon others via the guilt or force-backed machinery of church & state that harms other human beings in the millions—we’ll be in a better position to tackle some of the more egregious harm that befalls other animals.

…Suppose the big cats suddenly got a conscience? Would that conscience demand that by virtue of its existence, they are now ethically bound to violate their own nature, desire, pursuit of life?

~~~

Alright, that’s 596 words out of 600 allowed. Any comments, criticisms, suggestions?

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

250 Comments

  1. Melissa McEwen on April 1, 2012 at 12:54

    If anyone wants to delve into opposing Singer, I recommend Peter Carruther’s book, which is available for free online

  2. Nance on April 1, 2012 at 12:45

    (applause) I loved it, but of course that’s preaching to the choir. Seriously, the only edit I’d even consider is that one paragraph seems (possibly) superfluous. The one that begins with “At base” and ends with “human being.” Otherwise, I’m so comfortable I’ll say, “Thanks for representing me in the contest.”

  3. Sarah Madden on April 1, 2012 at 12:50

    I can do it with fewer:

    Asking if humans have an ethical obligation to change their fundamental biology (ask a biologist if humans are omnivores or not – there is no debate whatsoever) is like asking whether humans have a right to exist. That to me is a far more interesting philosophical question. than this pandering side-show.

    • g on April 8, 2012 at 08:10

      The problem with that argument, is that there is overwhelming research which suggests we have a variety of diets on which we can thrive. So that is why this questions have come to the forefront. If you can thrive on an alternative diet, how is it ethical to intentional mistreat other animals?



    • Martin Levac on April 8, 2012 at 13:02

      That’s true. But none of these diets are completely devoid of meat and animal products.



    • g on April 27, 2012 at 07:16

      just wondering, how you would explain athletes who thrive on a vegan diet devoid of all animal products, as you are certain that no one is thriving on a plant based diet.



    • g on April 27, 2012 at 06:25

      what would you say if our fundamental biology was not the only way in which we could be healthy? how then would you choose the path of the most suffering and still be ethical?



  4. Jeff on April 1, 2012 at 13:42

    Well said.

  5. Jerry on April 1, 2012 at 14:10

    Great essay.

  6. Greg on April 1, 2012 at 14:50

    “At base, one might begin with the notion that the proscription of certain human behaviors start with a logical principle: The Golden Rule. Because otherwise, who gets to decide which rules are Golden and which aren’t? It’s at least logically consistent to hold that to the extent some act is permissible or proscribed for you, the same goes for every other human being.

    Perhaps once we evolve enough to get The Golden Rule squared away—i.e., to the extent that humans mind their own business first, setting aside the desire to impose their personal values and choices upon others via the guilt or force-backed machinery of church & state that harms other human beings in the millions—we’ll be in a better position to tackle some of the more egregious harm that befalls other animals.”

    These two paragraphs do not seem to fit in with the rest of the essay. It was like you suddenly took a different route and didn’t give yourself enough road to develop the idea. At least that is my opinion.

    Overall I love the direction you went and it seems pretty logically consistent given the length restriction.

    • Kristin on April 1, 2012 at 20:57

      I LOVE IT. It’s beautifully encapsulated by “Eating meat made us ethical beings.” That’s a real punch in the gut.

      I agree with Greg that these two paragraphs seem to be off-trajectory and more abstract than the rest of the piece. I would almost rather see the last paragraph about the big cats developed in place of these paragraphs.

      Thank you for putting yourself out there. I think this essay will turn heads!



    • Paul Verizzo on April 3, 2012 at 06:29

      I agree on those two paragraphs. They deflate and confuse what was a strong argument to that point.

      Otherwise, superb!

      (And kudos for the NYT for letting readers stir this – meaty? – pot.)



  7. Gene on April 1, 2012 at 15:46

    I really liked this post, especially the final paragraph. I’m not sure if the “church & state” reference was necessary, however.

    • Richard Nikoley on April 1, 2012 at 15:51

      Well one or the other would be required to enforce a prohibitin against eating meat.



    • Matt Brody on April 2, 2012 at 06:49

      True, but perhaps the “church & state” phrase could be modified a touch so that your point isn’t glossed over by readers/reviewers. Even a quick flop to “state and church” might be enough.



  8. Jim on April 1, 2012 at 15:50

    Great stuff, although I was hoping you were going to go with an expletive filled rant. These guys throw all reason and logic out, and I was hoping you would just rip into them. You got my hopes up when you commented in an earlier post of yours about a rant and an April 8 deadline. Regardless, what you have is much better than anything I could have written, good job Richard.

  9. random philosophy student on April 1, 2012 at 16:00

    A little nitpicking:

    – The opposition might say that your point is fine, but meat could be seen as a ladder which humanity used to step up to its current height and which is not needed any more and can be discarded.

    – overall i would say, to focus on one strong point is the best approach. i guess yours is the concept of nature as in the nature of the human being as a meat eating animal. you should spend time to make it as sound as possible. right now, its not clearly defined and by this easily targetable by counterarguments. For example, a vegetarian could say it is not our nature and leave it on you to make an argument why it should be, and who is it to decide? according to the opposition, the occurence of meat eating in our past does make us natural meat eaters. after all, humans also fly since airplanes were invented. is that now our nature?

    – “eating the flesh of non-ethical being” struck me as a potential hazard point, as the definition of ethical/nonethical isnt totally clear cut. Animals care for their own kind, form herds etc, which could be interpreted as some sort of marality codex. Also, it sounds somehow “racist”, which could be used to the detriment of your intention. Additionally, your conclusion in this point isnt valid. Eating meat was necessary to become ethical, but it is not a necessity to keep it up in order to remain ethical.

    – the part about the golden rule isnt clear. i didnt know the rule or if i could get it from your text. it kept me guessing.

    Anyway, nice text 🙂

  10. random philosophy student on April 1, 2012 at 16:02

    EDIT: “according to the opposition, the occurence of meat eating in our past does _NOT_ make us natural meat eaters.”

  11. marie on April 1, 2012 at 16:13

    Chapman, Dickens, Kieber, “The Golden Rule” (!) and “church and state” all in one place, and you so “sober and serious” ….c’est pour ca que je t’adore toujours Richard! 😉

  12. Miki Ben Dor on April 1, 2012 at 17:59

    Vegetarians’ belief that humans should be held to a different moral standard than animals smells of anthropocentrism – humans as the central reason for the existence of the universe. This kind of notion is very strong in little children who see themselves as the center of the universe. In other words, vegetarianism is really quite childish.

    • g on April 8, 2012 at 08:04

      “humans should be held to a different moral standard “, so because animals commit rape, infanticide, we as humans shouldn’t have moral stances against these? of course we have different morals to other animals, there is nothing childish about that.



  13. jim on April 1, 2012 at 18:27

    Richard,
    Bravo for considering taking this on. Everyone else seems to be passing.
    Re:
    1) “Eating meat made us ethical beings.” 2) “As such, eating the flesh of non-ethical beings can’t logically be unethical.”
    I liked point 1), but do not fully understand point 2). Also, the 600 word cap appears to be too limiting for this topic.

    • Dangph on April 1, 2012 at 21:02

      “Eating meat made us ethical beings. As such, eating the flesh of non-ethical beings can’t logically be unethical.”

      That jumped out at me too. The conclusion doesn’t logically follow from the premise, or at least it hasn’t been demonstrated properly. It looks like the logical fallacy “appeal to nature” to me (that which is natural is morally right).

      It seems to me that the ethics of eating meat is independent to how we got here. It can be argued that meat gave us the capacity to ask ethical questions, but now that we can, we can see how unethical we are being. I don’t see any logical contradiction there.

      (For the record, I eat animals, but I believe we should treat then humanely.)



    • Joseph Fetz on April 2, 2012 at 07:05

      “the 600 word cap appears to be too limiting for this topic.”

      I am pretty sure that that was deliberate. We *are* talking about the NYT, after all.



  14. Jeff on April 1, 2012 at 19:33

    Excellent post. I would only make two changes: lose the bold and italics – that statement doesn’t need it; take out the last sentence.

  15. Martin Levac on April 1, 2012 at 20:48

    @random philosophy student

    The idea that the deeds that caused a change is not needed once that change has occurred is flawed by virtue of the laws of homeostasis. As it is with obesity that requires one to continue to eat carbs to maintain it, once he ceases to eat carbs, his obesity will disappear. Thus, as meat allowed us to reach a point where we ask if it’s ethical to eat meat, ceasing that behavior will cause us to return to a point where our capacity to ask the question disappears. Perhaps that’s the ultimate goal of anti-meat people, to erase their ability to ask the question, to make the problem go away. Ironic that they should do it by asking the question.

    Richard, I like your essay. It mirrors my own thoughts on the subject.

    • g on April 8, 2012 at 08:00

      “ceasing that behavior will cause us to return to a point where our capacity to ask the question disappears” there is no science in that statement Martin. Indian people have they lost the ability to reason? Again not an ethical argument to continue.



    • Martin Levac on April 8, 2012 at 13:14

      Are you suggesting that Indian people do not eat meat nor animal products? Did you know ghee is an Indian invention? Do you know what ghee is? Though I could argue that Indian people did lose the ability to reason. They now have access to technology that makes their original reason for a sacred cow moot, yet continue with this absurd tradition anyway. Why would anybody just up and go “this cow is sacred”? The only reasonable explanation is that the cow was needed to plow the fields. Since they can plow their fields with tractors now, the proscription against killing the cow is now gone. There is no such proscription on chicken and pigs. They couldn’t use either of those for work. But the proscription extended to those as well apparently since now all life is sacred in India.

      You’re smart. You can come up with a reasonable explanation why it was forbidden to kill cows originally in India. I’m all ears. But bear in mind, Europeans also used cows to plow their fields, and basically all colonies, but they didn’t turn this into a religion.



  16. Hugh Anderson on April 1, 2012 at 21:07

    I think it’s as well-argued and well-written as one could hope for in 600 words. Certainly the New York Times would have trouble justifying in 600 words the ethics behind ushering in an unprovoked war with a sovereign nation, so I don’t know how they expect us to mount an irrefutable defense of meat eating in one single-spaced page.

    That aside, I can already hear the cheap retorts that would be mounted in response, like “there have been vegetarian cultures for 2,000 years, so evolution schmevolution”. Unfortunately, to cut off such arguments at the pass, 600 words does not suffice. But they knew this and that’s precisely why they built that limit into their cheap little game, fucking fuckers that they are.

    Plus their panel is so cognitively biased that they are likely to toss out the best argument anyways. It’s like asking a bunch of blind guys to judge a wet t-shirt contest. Their ignorance is so strong they even say “those who love meat have had surprisingly little to say.” Oh yeah? Maybe in their little pseudo-intellectual circle jerk that’s the case, where perusing the New Yorks Times best seller list is considered deep research into the relevant discussion on the subject. “I think our book club read a Barbara Kingsolver novel that sorta defended meat eating….fuck it, let’s just run a contest giving people 17 words and 6 seconds to defend 2 million years of meat eating.”

    Really though, to have a real conversation first requires an almost never-ending meta-conversation about the underlying problems and limitations behind crowd-sourcing ethical behavior. And perhaps more importantly a conversation about the limits human biology places on the range of answers applicable to the real world.

    But all that is a bit too much trouble for the fifth-grade level of our nation’s newspaper of record.

    • Richard Nikoley on April 1, 2012 at 21:28

      Hugh, that is like the best, nicely ranty but not over top comment I’ve read on my blog in a long while.

      Thank you. I’m gonna read it again in an hour.



    • Hugh Anderson on April 3, 2012 at 19:35

      Thanks…it felt good to release the pressure valve.



    • jake3_14 on April 2, 2012 at 12:58

      I concur. Participating in a contest with the “murderer’s row” of judges they’ve assembled is an intellectual trap. Best to carry on this debate in places with space enough to make real arguments and with people who are more open to them.



    • jake3_14 on April 2, 2012 at 13:05

      Or you could just submit Rob’s argument (below).



    • g on April 8, 2012 at 07:55

      Your real arguments are biased by an addiction to the texture and added taste of meat, the panel are philosophers, who will debate using theories of rights and sentience, they will need more arguments than “it’s natural” or “we have always done it”. They will put to you, that if you can be healthy without slaughtering and mistreating animals, how is it ethical to continue?



    • Martin Levac on April 8, 2012 at 13:16

      And your arguments are biased by your anthropomorphism toward animals who look just a little bit like you. You do know that anthropomorphism isn’t an argument either, yes?



    • g on April 27, 2012 at 06:30

      my argument is based on minimising suffering to sentient beings whilst maintaining exceptional health! sentience is not exclusively a human attribute.



    • Martin Levac on April 27, 2012 at 09:46

      But sapience is.

      Edwin Locke, PhD:

      “How do the animal “rights” advocates try to justify their position? As someone who has debated them for years on college campuses and in the media, I know firsthand that the whole movement is based on a single – invalid – syllogism, namely: men feel pain and have rights; animals feel pain; therefore, animals have rights. This argument is entirely specious, because man’s rights do not depend on his ability to feel pain; they depend on his ability to think.”



    • Richard Nikoley on April 27, 2012 at 09:53

      Martin:

      I’ve used that Locke quote many times over the years.



    • g on April 29, 2012 at 02:05

      “because man’s rights do not depend on his ability to feel pain; they depend on his ability to think” not all humans are sapient, but enjoy full rights as a human. those who are permanently severely neurologically damaged/disabled with no hope of recovery. these humans are protected legally.

      one author i read supported the sapience argument who also supported taking away rights from humans who are not sapient in order to be consistent with this theory. whether you support sapience or sentience you need to be consistent.

      sentient beings suffer on a pain level, that is why sentience is a yardstick. why should we not legalise torture of non humans if we don’t recognise their rights. quasi rights/welfare?



    • Martin Levac on April 29, 2012 at 10:03

      Sapience is always the yardstick. Without sapience, this discussion would not be. Ironic that you would argue that sentience should be the yardstick when you use your own sapience to determine this.

      A little thought-experiment. Don’t use your sapience. Then see if you can come up with a solution to this problem.

      No, I don’t need to be consistent. But if I did, so would you. And between you and me, it’s pretty clear who’s really consistent.

      The real reason you say sentience is the yardstick is because you suffer through proxy, not because the animals suffer. You anthropomorphize. And you don’t want to suffer. It’s understandable. I don’t want to suffer either. But you will sacrifice your own health to avoid this suffering, and ultimately suffer worse in the end. This stinks of religious idiocy. Self-flagellation, penitence, repentance. Are you sure you’re really using your sapience to think this through? Your mind sits in your brain, your brain sits in your body, and your body needs food to work right, therefore your mind needs food to work right. You sure it’s food you’re eating?



    • g on May 10, 2012 at 22:54

      “Sapience is always the yardstick.”yes the concept of rights arose due to sapience however this doesn’t have to be the reason on which we base rights going forward. The right to vote would be useless to a non-sapient being but the right to not feel pain and live one’s life would decrease suffering and therefore is morally preferable.

      Why should we not legalise torture of non humans if we don’t recognise their rights? You have not address this point. Incosistency and cherry picking to suit our desire to exploit and mistreat.

      Not using my sapience would mean opening the door to non-human behaviour like rape, infanticide and other behaviours, are you advocating this? or saying that this is favourable?

      “No, I don’t need to be consistent.” a discussion on rights and philosophy in fact any belief system needs to be consistent, otherwise it’s flawed.

      that’s funny, so you haven’t explained my previous comment about non sapient humans and why they are given rights. Also why do we currently recognise animal welfare laws if you are suggesting that animals don’t suffer on any level?

      And between you and me, it’s pretty clear who’s really consistent.” exactly which specific point have I been inconsistent and I will address it.

      “The real reason you say sentience is the yardstick is because you suffer through proxy, not because the animals suffer. You anthropomorphize.” surely you are not suggesting animals don’t suffer??? There is a whole scientific field cataloging the maternal instinct, physical pain, altruism, empathy and physical pain in a range of species. Your suggestion doesn’t even agree with current scientific thought.

      ” But you will sacrifice your own health to avoid this suffering”, I will post you my blood test to prove I am healthy as are millions of people on a plant based diet.



    • Martin Levac on May 11, 2012 at 03:55

      There’s no such thing as the right to not feel pain. Au contraire, all humans have the right to feel pain. In fact, you exercise this right already by sacrificing your own welfare for the benefit of non-sapient animals, for the sole purpose of obeying your personal moral code. But then your personal moral code allows you to inflict pain on others by imposing your personal moral code on others, specifically the part that says you should sacrifice your own welfare for the benefit of non-sapient animals.

      Consistency? There you have it. Screw your personal moral code.



    • g on May 11, 2012 at 08:08

      I reiterate I have not sacrificed my welfare, actually I am in top health.



    • g on May 11, 2012 at 08:25

      Our ability to think enables us to recognise the rights of non-sapient beings, as they cannot make claim to their own.

      Those humans who cannot think, if they are neurologically damaged or in a permanent coma still have rights based on the pure fact they are human.



    • T on December 6, 2012 at 20:33

      G, I admire your knowledge and your contribution here against animal cruelty and injustice. Im also a vegan and really want to get to know you. Please contact me by search “tapeav facebook” on google. I use the name “Tape Anunthorn” on facebook. 🙂 U r awesome! Keep it up!



    • Hugh Anderson on April 21, 2012 at 07:27

      I’m not addicted to the taste & texture of meat. I prefer sugary desserts and carbs over meat every day, all day. If I cared nothing for my health, I could (and have) go years without eating meat. In fact just picked up the vegetarian cookbook Plenty from the library and am looking forward to trying many of the dishes. You do vegetarianism a disservice when you rattle off idiotic argument #17a, a variation of the “meat-eaters are lustful hedonists.” Yawn. More evidence that vegetarians are a form of self-righteous Puritans, and given slightly different life circumstances would be preaching against sex, masturbation, alcohol and other sins of the flesh.

      “if you can be healthy” – notice how you start your argument with the word IF. I am still stuck on that word, when these “philosophers” have already accepted the premise. I don’t care for arguments based upon false or unproven premises.



    • g on April 27, 2012 at 06:16

      that’s good u have a varied diet, however i have spoken to many meateaters who ARE addicted to the added taste and texture of meat. you also display the same diservice by painting the entire veg populace with the word self-righteous, when maybe you are also self righteous. the accepted premise is that there are many atheletes who are healthy without flesh so that bypasses any biased scientific reports.



    • Martin Levac on April 27, 2012 at 09:46

      If food was not addictive to humans, humans would be extinct.



    • Richard Nikoley on April 27, 2012 at 09:54

      Or air, or water or, ….gasp….SEX



  17. Calvin on April 1, 2012 at 21:50

    I really like this essay, but I’m not sure it’s quite airtight enough. Like “random philosophy student” pointed out, saying that meat eating made us ethical does not require that we keep eating meat to remain ethical.

    I think a more compelling argument could be made in a utilitarian fashion. If the point being made by the vegetarians is that eating meat causes needless, avoidable death, then bring up the perils of agriculture. What about the millions of acres of natural habitat leveled and ripped of biodiversity to make way for our grains, vegetables, legumes, nuts, fruits, cotton, tobacco, etc.? Where is the outrage at the sheer volume of life that is decimated and displaced at the hands of farmers? Then you could bring up how one of the solutions to barren, over-harvested earth is to herd large ruminants through the area to restore life to the land, and how Salatin-esque methods actually enhance the biodiversity/quantity of life of natural habitats. One of the advantages of this argument is that it doesn’t shelter CAFOs under the “meat is good” clause. I suppose you would need to mention how it is totally possible to feed the world with those methods, as I’m sure that would come up.

    Also, an argument could be made about how we value life. There are some extreme hypotheticals that outline a nice point here. If forced to choose, would you save from a burning building a stranger or your child? Two strangers or your child? A stranger or your dog? A serial rapist or your dog? The point here is that there is more to a life’s value than simply being alive. We seem, generally, to give more value to some lives than to others for largely qualitative reasons. To make a point about length of life as well, if you were forced to choose between dying now painlessly or living one more day but being subjected to torture the whole day, which would you pick? I accept that, since our omnivorous nature necessitates meat eating for health, I value the quality and longevity of my life, and of humanity’s in general, over the shortened lifespan of the animals we breed ourselves. While I don’t endorse the mistreatment of animals, I’m not ashamed of this, and I think there are plenty of humans who would agree.

    Anyways, just spitballlin’. Maybe my options are riddled with fallacies up with which I haven’t come. I’m sure whatever you submit will kick ass!

    • Galina L. on April 3, 2012 at 15:02

      I agree with the bringing environment into the discussion. Why is it more ethical to destroy habitats with agriculture than to use that land for raising animals?



    • g on April 8, 2012 at 07:42

      Because plant protein feeds more humans and is more efficient than the ever destructive cow. Water use, animal feed, methane, slurry, more destructive and less efficicent.



    • Martin Levac on April 8, 2012 at 13:17

      Prove it. Prove that humans can digest the plant fiber within which the plant protein is contained.



    • g on April 27, 2012 at 06:17

      I already digest this fibre.



    • Martin Levac on April 27, 2012 at 09:47

      Are you sure you have the ability to think?



    • Galina L. on April 27, 2012 at 17:03

      Probably G is some rare individual with GI track identical to a goat, or at least an orangutan?



    • Galina L. on April 9, 2012 at 08:02

      So, you think that grazing animals destroy land while agricultural crops protect land? Tell it to the people in sub-Sahara Africa. . Good luck with the removing cattle from farming practices. Sure, we can rely on chemically produced fertilizers for the sake of living in some utopia because we are humans. Lets teach the rest of the world that the natural order of things is the wrong one just because somebody has abstract ideas about the life on Earth.



    • g on April 27, 2012 at 06:33

      environmental damage is not caused by sub saharan african communities. mass livestock production driven by the west’s over consumption of meat will be the cause of future water shortage and pollution in the future. check out the report published by the UN, detailing the consequences of animal agriculture.



    • Galina L. on April 27, 2012 at 18:01

      The UN which praised the Zimbabwe project. Just read the difference the cattle made

      “Maize harvested in the animal-treated crop field in Monde was 2 tons per hectare, while the field which was not animal-treated produced 0.1 tons per hectare,” she says. “In Mabale, the animal-treated field yielded 5.5 tons per hectare, while the control field produced 0.4 tons per hectare.”
      Also, “The water table has risen, and villagers may soon be having more water close to their village.”
      Plant crops are even more destructive without grazing animals you want to eliminate for their on good.



    • Richard Nikoley on April 27, 2012 at 22:39

      Galiana L

      You are casting pearls before swine, yknow?



    • Galina L. on April 28, 2012 at 11:16

      You are right, of course. Sorry for being unreasonable. Got carried away.



    • g on May 10, 2012 at 23:14

      If you are a Zimbawean villager then hats off to you, but this model is not relevant for 7 billion humans who all want to eat free range animal flesh at every meal. Collectively the Zimbawean model is not the current model. Check out this report by the UN catalogue degregation of pastures and pasture expansion for the global flesh industry, not to mention water consumtion and other resources.

      ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/010/a0701e/a0701e.pdf



    • g on April 8, 2012 at 07:51

      Every meateater claims that they are against mistreatment of animals, but how do you define mistreatment? Is it a beating? is it castration without anaesthetic? is it severe confinement? Whenever you pay someone to raise an animal that is exactly what you are paying for. So I think it’s important to be honest with yourself and accept that animal production does involve a substantial amount of mistreatment.

      Have you seen the report published by the UN, which catalogues the damage to the environment of animal agriculture? It details how plant agriculture is many times more efficient at feeding the human population. Water shortage will be a serious concern with a few years, again driven by cattle.

      every method of food production causes death, however the ethical argument is to minimise suffering. We ate meat in the past, it’s not a reason to continue so long as we have viable alternatives.



    • Martin Levac on April 8, 2012 at 13:21

      Every plant eater claims the same, yet they accept the fact that many more animals are killed both accidentally by the harvesting machines, and intentionally by the farmers to protect their crops. And none of that meat goes on anybody’s plate. If you ask me, I think plant eaters are in favor of wasting perfectly good food. Meat eaters at least eat what they kill. Waste not want not.



    • g on April 27, 2012 at 06:40

      a large proportion of farm animals die due to disease from living in stressful and filthy conditions, large amounts of meat is wasted by supermarkets and to top it all not all of the animal is eaten, not exactly waste not want not. meat eaters today bear no ressemblance to meat eaters during paleo times. sustainability, composition of meat, frequency of consumption and welfare mean that you cannot compare yourself to a paleo human.

      in order to minimise suffering and death a detailed comparison of numbers of lives lost, chances of escape and quality of their lives would need to be analysed over plant based vs animal based diet.



    • Martin Levac on April 27, 2012 at 09:52

      Death and suffering is inevitable. Might as well try to produce food that creates the least amount of death and suffering by eating large animals instead of killing many more times smaller animals that we do not eat.



    • Galina L. on April 9, 2012 at 08:03

      Please, read the link .



    • Galina L. on April 27, 2012 at 18:07

      Viable alternatives you offer are not universally viable especially from the point of view of people who don’t want to eat sub-optimal food.



    • g on May 10, 2012 at 23:00

      Sub optimal in which way? blood tests show that a plant based diet can be healthy.



  18. Dawn on April 1, 2012 at 22:02

    My first thought is to commend you for making the effort at all. When Melissa did her post explaining the heavy bias of the “judges” and that this contest is just a stunt with a stacked deck, I could see why people like her, Chris Kresser and Dr. Harris wouldn’t bother to submit an entry.

    My second thought is that, if your word count is accurate, you have room for four more. I tried to think of something to fill in there for you, but “F**k off, vegan fascists” doesn’t seem appropriate to your overall tone.

    • g on April 27, 2012 at 06:43

      how about f** off meat and dairy propaganda and kentucky fried cruelty. oh and i could never eat dog or cat cries the meat eater, it’s so cruel… as meat refers to all animals in this essay. oh and i could never kill an animal myself… that should make up the 600 words or so..



    • Martin Levac on April 27, 2012 at 09:53

      How about fuck off animal rights propaganda because you just hate yourself and your fellow man?



    • g on May 11, 2012 at 08:21

      “hate yourself and your fellow man?” for your info half of the human population are female.

      Many of my colleagues who are AR activists are also human rights activists as well, we campaign against female trafficking maybe that’s something in which you would be interested?

      Propaganda is everywhere from KFC to climate change denial.



    • Martin Levac on May 11, 2012 at 20:22

      I agree, propaganda is everywhere, from KFC to veganism.



  19. Lars on April 1, 2012 at 22:25

    “Eating meat made us ethical beings.” – That’s bloody brilliant, as is the “mind their own business first”.

    I’d go for less latin, and less difficult words. Keep it simple.

  20. ICG on April 2, 2012 at 12:36

    Once you work out the ethics, just pay your $597 to these guys and you’ll know it all:

    I don’t know much about these folks (except Peat), but this has every trapping of an Internet marketing ploy. That doesn’t mean it’s all bad, but it makes me suspicious…

    • Zach on April 2, 2012 at 13:22

      What does that have to do with this post?



  21. Martin Levac on April 2, 2012 at 13:23

    My entry on my blog:

    Basically, I’m putting the burden of proof back where it belongs: On the accuser. That’s what the contest really is: An accusation of unethical behavior. A discussion of ethics is a discussion of rights. We’ve already established the basic human right of being deemed innocent until proven guilty, therefore we’ve already established the right to eat meat until proven otherwise. And before that is done, we first have to prove that the alternative, avoiding meat entirely, is itself ethical, i.e. if we have the right to deprive somebody of that. And since not all rights are absolute – rights compete with each other – we have to prove that the right to deprive somebody of meat is more “right” than the right to eat meat. The only way I see to do this is to compare the consequences of depriving somebody entirely of meat against the consequences of eating meat, both on the individual himself and on the group.

    Let them pay the price of their own convictions before we allow them to make us pay for ours.

    • lei on April 2, 2012 at 17:33

      people do get supplements on a regular basis, supplements of iodine. so, a person who is considering to live for a year according to your rules, must not take iodine? hm….i don’t think so. iodine here is added to salt so everyone can get enough because practically everyone uses salts, even the “alternative” salts, like NaCl/KCl.
      the same way B12 can be added (and maybe it should!) to some food that everyone uses because lack of B12 is rather common in older people, no matter what they ate through their lives (vegan, non-vegans…)

      so…i can’t imagine your test in a country where I live…

      also, you are putting some condition that is valid only according to you and in reality it can be easily bypassed… people can imagine many conditions and think of any kind of excuses when in the end you can not just erase millions of people who live healthy and strong lives on veg(etari)an diets 😉



    • Martin Levac on April 2, 2012 at 19:20

      The rules I set forth are valid to whomever wishes them to be. Just like the rules set forth by the NYTimes panel of judges are valid for whomever wishes them to be. If you don’t like them, make up your own rules, why don’t you.

      If you believe that iodine supplementation is required, then you’ve already failed my challenge, because you’ve already failed to prove that avoiding meat entirely is feasible. Yet many historical accounts demonstrate that iodine supplementation is not required to maintain good health. Before the existence of iodine supplements, where did the Plains Indians get their iodine? The answer will tell you where you should get yours too, and it won’t be from a pill. The various supplements we use today are merely required by people who eat a deficient diet aka the standard American diet. If you believe a diet totally devoid of meat and animal products is nutritionally adequate to maintain good health, then supplements are superfluous and my challenge is precisely intended to prove that. If you believe that a diet devoid of concentrated forms of foods like vegetable oils or plant extracts is adequate to maintain good health, then those are also superfluous and my challenge is intended to prove that too. I don’t need to prove any of that myself, but anybody who accuses me of unethical conduct just because I eat meat does need to prove all of that. Failing that, their accusation is without merit because there is no equivalent alternative I can turn to just to satisfy their ethical values. They couldn’t possibly want me to sacrifice my health, now would they? Would you?

      As for the presumed millions of people who live healthy and strong on a vegetarian or vegan diet, I don’t believe a word of it. All of them without exception ate meat at some point in their life, so did their mothers when they were pregnant with them. And all of them continue to eat meat and animal products but lie about it. They lie because for them, it’s not about health, but about image. However, I’ll give you a chance to support your statement. Provide just one solid piece of evidence that shows just one human who can maintain good health for one year by forgoing all meat and animal products, all concentrated and refined forms of foods, and all supplements. Surely you can do this, yes?



    • ICG on April 3, 2012 at 08:18

      “And all of them continue to eat meat and animal products but lie about it.” So everyone at the 30 Bananas a Day site is lying? Are you sure? How about spending a year with them and finding out?

      I’m an omnivore, BTW, but if I’ve learned anything, it’s that humans can survive and even thrive on many different diets. This is especially true if diet is based on whole foods (be it grass-fed beef, raw fruits/veggies, eggs, etc.) if refined/processed junk and bad oils are avoided. I mean, I can say that Mark Sisson and the rest of the primal crowd secretly drink fruit smoothies all day. That’s no more invalid than you claming that vegans secretly eat meat.



    • Martin Levac on April 3, 2012 at 11:34

      Everybody lies. I could make the case that lying is a defense mechanism, a survival imperative. Prove me wrong.

      Let’s take that bunch at 30B and see what’s really going on there. Would you say they all tell the truth, all the truth, and nothing but the truth on their tax returns? To their spouses? To their children? To their bosses? To their friends? To their doctors? To complete strangers on the internet? About their finances? About their love life? About their past? About their friends?

      So what makes you think they’ll tell the truth, all the truth and nothing but the truth about their diet? What makes their diet so special that it deserves more truthfulness, nay _absolute_ truthfulness over any other part of their lives?

      Consider the sad moment in vegan history when three masked humans attacked defenseless Lierre Keith in public armed with whipped cream pies laced with cayenne pepper. This is what happens when you turn your back on that group, when you eat meat again, and announce it proudly. I wouldn’t want to be attacked like that. Would you? And so that kind of behavior from that group is incentive enough not to fuck with them, or to lie about it if I had fucked with them by eating meat again. And the crowd cheered. Nobody tried to help Lierre. How about the ethics of that, huh.

      A cayenne pepper spray gun is considered a weapon by law. A mask is lying about your identity. A mask is also a way to hide your cowardice. Criminals. Liars. Cowards.

      For vegetarians and vegans, it’s all about public image. And if the perfect image of health means they have to eat meat to maintain it, then so be it. Everybody lies. Prove me wrong.



    • ICG on April 3, 2012 at 11:49

      Wow, someone needs a course in logic. To wit,

      All people lie at some point in their lives,
      Vegans are people,
      Therefore, all vegans lie about their diets and are secretly rabid, meat-and-dairy eating machines

      This only applies to vegans, though. Not primal/paleo/low-carb or anyone else.

      I already said I’m not a vegan. And I agree, there’s a contingent of unruly, obnoxious PETA types who take things too far. But that doesn’t mean that all vegans lie (specifically) about their diets. And it doesn’t mean we can throw out every vegan success story (there are some, particularly in sports).

      In your absurd world, DurianRider is probably rockin’ a prime rib right now while Dr. Eades and his wife are having a mango-eating contest. Everybody lies, right? There’s no reason to believe what anyone eats since most everyone has told a white lie or cheated on their taxes. I am the egg man, I am the walrus, goo-goo a joob.



    • Martin Levac on April 3, 2012 at 12:50

      And someone needs a course in fallacious argumentative. To wit,

      “Therefore, all vegans lie about their diets and are secretly rabid, meat-and-dairy eating machines”

      The above is called a reductio ad absurdum. You reduce your argument to the most absurd you can muster, probably in an attempt to make my arguments look absurd. Yeah, I know, I’m being pedantic. But you’re being ridiculous. If that’s all you got, I don’t need to rebut. If you really have a serious argument, you can certainly do better than that.

      The logic of my argument is as follows:

      Everybody lies
      Vegans are people (doubts on this one but I digress)
      Therefore vegans lie

      In fact, one of the most reliable variable in dietary studies is that everybody lies about their food intake on food questionnaires. Whether they lie intentionally, unintentionally or by omission is irrelevant. What is relevant here is that vegans and vegetarians consider their public image more important than lying, therefore if they have to lie to maintain their image, they will. And even if it they didn’t have to, they would still lie. That logic is valid for everybody who’s public image is important; Politicians, elite athletes, public representatives, salespeople, etc.

      In practical terms, the diet of vegans and vegetarians has nothing to do with what they eat, but everything to do with what they _say_ they eat.

      Let’s go with another aspect of vegetarianism and veganism. The recruitment process. Ever watched Earthlings? It’s fucking horrible. Shocking images with a droning narrative about how it’s better to eat only plants. Classic brainwashing technique. Classic advertisement technique. Make the brain more receptive to the message, deliver the message when the brain is in its most receptive state. Voila! Instant vegan. Who in their right mind is gonna switch if the message was “If you eat only plants, you’re gonna risk deficiencies, so you’ll have to take tons of supplements to compensate, and it might not be enough anyway. But do it for the animals, please.”? Everybody lies. Especially when their reputation is on the line.



    • ICG on April 3, 2012 at 13:03

      You’re the one who missed the reductio ad absurdum in my post. Again, in your world of idiocy, no one (and no study) should ever be believed since 100% of the population lies about their diet. Maybe all vegans are paleos and all paleos are vegans.

      Wow, please tell me you’re trolling….or very drunk. No one can be that stupid. And don’t even try your own hand at syllogisms or logical fallacies. That was pathetic.



    • Martin Levac on April 3, 2012 at 13:17

      I digressed because I thought it was funny. What’s your excuse?



    • Richard Nikoley on April 3, 2012 at 14:22

      Hmm, I took Martin in context. I dindn’t imagine he meant it open ended.



    • g on April 8, 2012 at 07:08

      yep lived more than a year without animal products, supplements etc what then?



    • Martin Levac on April 8, 2012 at 13:34

      I don’t believe you. Your name here is “g”. Who the fuck knows who you are and who can prove your words? Did you keep a record of your experiment, did you have a doctor look you up, did you make it public, can I read them, what are your experiment protocols?



    • g on May 27, 2012 at 15:22

      “I don’t believe you. Your name here is “g”. Who the fuck knows who you are and who can prove your words? Did you keep a record of your experiment, did you have a doctor look you up, did you make it public, can I read them, what are your experiment protocols?

      Who knows who YOU are? YOUR name could be fake. What difference would it make if you knew my entire name!!!!! I guess every single muslim eats pork, following through on your logic. Every man who is straight is actually having gay sex.

      Yes I have recently had a blood test, 4 years with no animal products, me and my doctor know this, if you refuse to believe this, then that is your choice. Durianrider has also posted his blood work publically. I get the feeling that even if you saw my blood work, you would still be angry and deny the evidence. Why do you find it so threatening that people can be healthy on a vegan diet? If you are open minded like you say you are then you should accept that just like the post said above there are many different diets we can eat to be healthy.



    • Galina L. on May 27, 2012 at 19:15

      Listen, G, there is something wrong with your conviction skill, the more of your comments I read the more I feel like eating animals. Actually, you inspired me to skin and cut , then put in a stew a killed squirrel. Nutcases can’t be right. Probably, I need a shirt with such motto.



    • Martin Levac on May 27, 2012 at 19:18

      Here’s how it works.

      A scientist pokes and prods a human subject in a dietary experiment. He feeds this subject only plants, or very little animal products. Finds that the subject suffers from all kinds of ills because of it. Writes a paper on it, gets it reviewed by his peers, and establishes the facts about that experiment. Then you come along and say that you are human, your name is “g”, you don’t suffer those same ills, you’re doing just fine on the same diet, but you got no proof of anything you say.

      These references below are not for your benefit but for the benefit of everybody else so they can see as I see that you are in fact lying about everything.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minnesota_experiment
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biosphere_2
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No-carbohydrate_diet

      In the Minnesota and Biosphere experiments, the subjects suffered emaciation and neurosis. This is typical of a semi-starvation diet, i.e. a diet that lacks certain qualities that would otherwise keep a human in good health. In the Bellevue experiment, the subjects did not suffer any of those ills. This shows that those same qualities that are not found in semi-starvation diets are found in an all-meat diet. It doesn’t take a genius – and I’m not a genius – to figure out that everything you say about your personal experience with a meat-less diet is a lie.

      It’s important to note that in the Biosphere experiment, the subjects still suffered emaciation and neurosis – albeit less so than in the Minnesota experiment – in spite of being given the full RDA in a daily supplement. This suggests two things. First, that supplements of the full RDA is not enough to palliate the deficiencies that inevitably occur with such a diet. Second, that it’s possible to give enough supplement – many times the full RDA – to palliate those same deficiencies but then in this case it’s not a plant-only diet, it’s a plant+heavy supplementation diet, i.e. a heavily processed and industrialized diet.

      You are in fact lying twice over. Once on the actual performance of a plan-only diet, and a second time on the actual nature of that same diet – it’s not in fact a plant-only diet if ever it could keep a human in good health.

      You’re lying.



    • g on May 28, 2012 at 11:49

      Time and time again I have merely put forward certain philosphies and asked you to elaborate on inconsistences, which is what happens in an adult debate, not argument. You fail to specify exactly what you are sure that I am being dishonest about. Without being specific it’s a childish argument.
      “severe and prolonged dietary restriction” “emaciation, neurosis”. hmm, google vegan and vegetarian athletes. You’re sounding dramatic now. I think I would know if I was emaciated Martin………and so would my Doctor. If doesn’t matter how many times you arrogantly accuse me of lying, I know my own state of health, I am also physically active which I could not sustain if I were in starvation mode(logical really). Even a fellow omnivore has called you out on your negative and closed minded attitude. Even he knew that there are vegan success stories. Have you checked Durianrider’s blood work I wonder? But then you would probably accuse him of secretly drinking dog or pig’s blood, following your current logic.
      You preach about being open minded but you spout nothing but aggression. Repeat, what do you find so threatening about a healthy vegan?? If I took your stance I could continually call you a liar, but that would be pathetic. If you choose to not believe me that’s your choice, I repeat that again, but don’t carry on with your offensive.
      Inuit, what is their average life span???? Sustainability, protein quality and confinement of the animal, nothing like the flesh that you eat. It’s a bit of a joke to compare yourself to their lifestyle.
      In fact I used to be paleo myself, so relating to your previous comment about trying different solutions, perhaps it is YOU that should be more agnostic and less hateful.
      g, most definitely, human….



    • Martin Levac on May 28, 2012 at 14:43

      I said “if you can provide me with just one piece of solid research that proves a meat-free diet is just as good as a diet that contains meat to keep me in good health, I’m willing to read it.” on April 8, 2012 at 13:39. I’m still saying that today.

      Your answer please?



    • g on June 11, 2012 at 12:24

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22561673

      Oxidatively damaged DNA and its repair in colon carcinogenesis.

      Have you googled vegan athletes?



    • Martin Levac on June 11, 2012 at 13:57

      From the abstract:
      “This review highlights mechanisms underlying such deregulation, which is the driving force to colon carcinogenesis.”

      This review…

      It’s not an experimental study. That is not a piece of solid research that proves a meat-free diet is just as good as a diet that contains meat to keep me in good health. I have googled vegan athletes and their performance doesn’t even approach the performance of athletes who eat meat. Furthermore, I already know of instances of top-level athletes who have cut wheat from their diet – therefore eat less plants and more meat as a result – and improved their performance due to improved gut function. Google that.

      OK, since you don’t seem to understand what “solid research” means, I’ll lay it out for you in plain terms exactly what that is. It must be experimental. It must be done on humans. It must compare at least two diets, one with meat, one without. It must measure everything that we normally consider indicators of health like cholesterol, blood glucose, insulin, blood pressure, etc. And the full text must be available for free.



    • g on August 13, 2012 at 13:30

      “stew a killed squirrel”, would it be you yourself killing a squirrel galina?? animals don’t just conveniently end up on the supermarket shelf. sincere question, do you think you could kill an animal yourself? and decapitate, cut the legs off and disembowel, and stick to mature responses”nutcase”, unless I can also be childish and call u a nutcase?



    • Galina L on August 14, 2012 at 19:58

      Here is the whole story. Actually, the squirrel was not killed by me, guys were sharp-shooting in my backyard, and one of people killed the animal without trying to do so, they started to discuss what to do with it, I don’t like any waste, if animal was killed, it would be absolutely senseless to through it away. So, I cut the head out myself, skinned the squirell, cut into pieces, removed guts and made a stew. Partially I was inspired by the discussion about meat eating, partially it was a culinary challenge. I love to cook. Never before in my life did I deal with a killed wild animal. However ,I used to buy in my native country many years ago chickens from the store which were only killed and plucked, with heads, guts, feet, so I knew how to disembowel an animal and cut it into pieces. It is not a mental or emotional challenge for me, it used to be a normal routine , part of food preparation. It is more convenient to get meat from a supermarket, hunting is not easy , shooting is not very reliable, it requires skills, but I would rather kill animals myself than go to a meat-free diet. It is natural for humans to hunt and eat meat, most people nowadays see meat only wrapped into a plastic and do not consider eating organ meats. I experienced periodic food shortages in a past, I know how it is to be challenged with finding food for a family. Only people in affluent countries who are spoiled with huge selection of all types of food on store shelves are so detached from the reality to allow themselves to preach about “ethic” of meat eating and request the justification of it. I try to do best choices with money I have, and usually buy some grass-fed meat, organ meats, eggs, butter, veggies and fruits . I don’t buy packaged food. I think people who eat too many packaged foods unethically create too much garbage. I also think that agriculture destroys environment.



    • g on April 8, 2012 at 07:25

      You assume that not eating meat is deprivation therefore it’s unethical. The competition is focused on you, how is it ethical to slaughter without need? The question is open ended. If an individual can be healthy and minimise suffering when there is an abundance of research to show this is the case, then a meat free diet has just been proven to be ethical. justify why you continue to slaughter. The right to eat meat, is assumed to be a right only in a survival situation , as with other animals. You are entitled to start your own debate with your own rules, but answer the question first.



    • Martin Levac on April 8, 2012 at 13:39

      I make no assumption. I simply know what the question means. Do you? It doesn’t look like you do. You still want an answer to the question before we know if the obvious alternative is even feasible. And that’s why I wrote my essay like I did. I want proof that the alternative is not only feasible, but just as good to keep me in good health. Your word is not enough. Though if you can provide me with just one piece of solid research that proves a meat-free diet is just as good as a diet that contains meat to keep me in good health, I’m willing to read it.



    • g on April 27, 2012 at 07:00

      ah what are the consequences of depriving someone of meat? maybe i could be your test subject as i have been “depriving” myself of meat along with millions of other humans. so far really healthy. if you want any info for this study i would be happy to oblige.



    • Martin Levac on April 27, 2012 at 10:07

      Then oblige. I want to see the info you have. Right now all I got from you is bullshit.



  22. Glenn Whitney on April 2, 2012 at 03:08

    This is great – nice job Richard.

    The only other thing I would suggest addressing is the fact that many of these judges (or people like them) are sincerely convinced that a diet derived mostly from soy, corn and other grains and seeds is optimal for human health.

    They are largely ignorant of the latest science, and are sure – for example – that taking flax seed oil capsules is (nearly) as healthy as eating fresh wild salmon…

    • g on April 8, 2012 at 07:40

      You are obviously very priviledged to have access to fresh wild salmon, most of us only have access to factory farmed meats including fish, which according to science is unhealthy. It is unethical to feed a human a product which makes them sick. There are many different kinds of animal free diet, without soy and grains.



    • Martin Levac on April 8, 2012 at 13:24

      And you are equally privileged to have access to plants from all over the world to satisfy your ethical values. Try a diet only composed of plants grow locally and seasonally and see how far you get with that. There is not a single meat-free diet on this planet, not for humans anyway, not one that can maintain a human in good health. Prove it.



    • g on April 27, 2012 at 06:19

      that’s rubbish, check out durianrider there are millions of people who are presently healthy on a plant based diet.



    • Martin Levac on April 27, 2012 at 09:55

      Durianriders is not millions of people. Nor does he know millions of people either. Nor do you know millions of people. Stick to the facts. Stick to what you know.



  23. human on April 2, 2012 at 03:52

    I adore paleo diet. it is composed mostly out of many nuts and seeds and many greens, sometimes fruit, without meat and animal fat, and of course, without grains. i’ve lived like this for many years. therefore, i can say that no meat is necessary to be paleo; nuts and fatty seeds are very nutritious, they have high fat and protein content. in this perspective I really don’t see the necessity of eating meat. i live a healthy life and i live ethically at the same time.
    “Eating meat made us ethical beings” is an interesting argument but what follows is non sequitur. I and my friends prove it. we don’t consume animals. we find this to be unethical. we are healthy. and we are paleo – not in a common way, but a vegan way…

    • Nick on April 2, 2012 at 10:28

      ““Eating meat made us ethical beings” is an interesting argument but what follows is non sequitur. I and my friends prove it. we don’t consume animals. we find this to be unethical. we are healthy. and we are paleo”

      So your relatively short existense as a vegan somehow stackes up against the over 200,000 years of Homo Sapien existence?

      I personally am glad that your diet works for you. For me? Not so much.



    • human on April 2, 2012 at 16:57

      “So your relatively short existense as a vegan somehow stackes up against the over 200,000 years of Homo Sapien existence?”
      obviously, so thanks for pointing that out! 🙂

      “For me? Not so much.”
      try a different one. no need to kill a sentient being 😉



    • FrankG on April 3, 2012 at 05:20

      Hmmm… so how do you define “sentient”?

      Do you really think that you can live without eating another form of life?

      ALL life on Earth is part of the same genome… same tree… all descended from the same earliest cells. We are not at the top of that tree either… just at the end of one of its myriad branches… just like every other form of life on this planet.

      Do you value humans above the giant Sequoia perhaps? Surely that is ONLY a plant? That kind of thinking smacks of class/caste distinction and racism.

      Is an ant sentient? How many of these are killed or displaced in order to grow your vegetables? What about the birds, rabbits, foxes, deer etc… that used to live in what is now a field where your vegetables are grown? Sentient or not? Life or not?

      What about all the insects and bacteria that die so yo can eat your vegetables? Don’t care about them? No respect for life?



    • mark on April 3, 2012 at 05:20

      you are killing living breathing vegetation that lives off of the dead you murderer.



    • g on April 8, 2012 at 07:36

      “200,000 years of Homo Sapien existence” we will not exist for more than 50 years longer unless we seriously consider our addiction to flesh, yes it served us well in the past, but we are no longer cave people. The planet cannot sustain a meat eating diet in it’s current form.



    • Martin Levac on April 8, 2012 at 13:26

      Pure speculation. In which form can a carnivore diet sustain the planet?



    • g on April 27, 2012 at 06:22

      check out the UN report into animal agriculture, it highlights the worrying environmental consequences of 8 million people all wanting to mass consume meat.



    • Martin Levac on April 27, 2012 at 09:57

      You didn’t answer the question.



    • Galina L. on April 3, 2012 at 15:06

      I am sure adding couple grubs and some grasshoppers will make your diet even more paleo.



  24. FrankG on April 2, 2012 at 04:17

    Nicely done Richard. All life on this planet is part of the same genome… as Lierre Kieth explains in the The Vegetarian Myth the ideal of living without eating another form of life is not possible… we may as well ask if it is ethical to eat lettuce.

    This offering is from the British comedy duo Mitchell and Webb… an interesting take on eating meat:

    YouTube ~ Mitchell and Webb – Dinner Party…

    It contains such zingers as “it’s an ethical thing, I don’t think humans should be treated this way”

    and “…there might be a few polar bears left if more people wanted one for breakfast”

    On a side note I have eaten polar bear meat, and it did NOT taste like chicken 😉

    • Galina L. on April 3, 2012 at 15:11

      How does it taste then? I am a culinary nut, here is my interest to such detail.



    • FrankG on April 4, 2012 at 01:13

      It had it’s own distinctive taste but if anything I’d say it was like a milder flavoured beef.

      BTW it was a hungry bear that had wandered into the small Inuit town where I was staying, and as such it was a danger… it was treated with the utmost respect, and none of it went to waste.

      Polar bears are one of only maybe an handful of other animals which view humans as “food”.



  25. Txomin on April 2, 2012 at 04:41

    I wonder.

    The way in which the “contest” is formulated is disingenuous. Militant vegetarians follow dogmas akin to religion. Omnivores simply make a choice. None of this is an ethical issue except when trying to forbid others from eating as they please, meat or no meat.

    • g on April 8, 2012 at 07:32

      omnivores make a choice which compromises the well being of others, this is an ethical issue. if I forbid you from mistreating an animal is this unethical, no.



    • Martin Levac on April 8, 2012 at 13:28

      Yes, it is unethical for you to forbid me from eating meat. A discussion of ethics is a discussion of rights. What gives you the right to abrogate my rights? But maybe you believe animals have rights too. OK, I’ll bite. Can you point me to the Universal Declaration Of Animal Rights, and which Article says animals have the right to “life, liberty, etc”?



    • g on April 27, 2012 at 06:51

      you can be healthy without mistreating animals, when your rights compromise the rights of others then yes you forfeit your right.

      200 years ago i could have asked the same question about human rights declaration. which is what a supporter of slavery would have asked as well. rights evolve with a changing moral stance in a population. in fact there are draft declarations for animal rights, for cetaceans, primates. don’t forget non existence of a rights charter does not mean that, that in itself is the ethical standard.

      a philosphy student responded to the proposed essay with some really good criticisms of the argument.



    • Martin Levac on April 27, 2012 at 10:01

      All rights are imaginary until we write them down and agree to them by signing the document. I did not sign any document that gives rights to the animals I eat. Did you? If yes, can you show me please? Thank you.



    • g on May 11, 2012 at 00:05

      “All rights are imaginary until we write them down and agree to them by signing the document.”

      200 years ago approximately, the same argument was made for pro-human slavery. Slowly public opinion and economic forces shifted so that it is now a universally accepted right that the human cannot be the property of another. This process took hundreds, if not thousands of years.

      “I did not sign any document that gives rights to the animals I eat. Did you? If yes, can you show me please?”

      Not signing a rights document does not mean that the right should not be recognised. Progress on animal rights declaration is also slowly being made, quasi-rights for the so called higher animals are currently recognised and this will in future generations be extended to all species.

      If you eat animals purely for pleasure rather than survival then this is nothing but abuse.



    • Martin Levac on May 11, 2012 at 04:15

      Let’s give the same rights we have to non-sapient animals. What are you going to do when the lion tries to eat the zebra? The zebra has the right to life now. The lion doesn’t have the right to eat it anymore. How are you going to work this out?

      OK, maybe you’d argue that those rights we’d give to non-sapient animals only apply to the interaction between humans and non-sapient animals, not between non-sapient animals. Why is that? Well, maybe it’s because we can’t very well expect non-sapient animals to obey those rights, rather to obey the restrictions that those rights impose. And so only sapient animals – humans – have the ability to obey the restrictions implied by those rights, and so only humans are reduced by those rights.

      Edwin Locke was right, you fucking hate humans. Go hate yourself.



    • g on May 11, 2012 at 08:37

      “What are you going to do when the lion tries to eat the zebra? The zebra has the right to life now. The lion doesn’t have the right to eat it anymore. How are you going to work this out?”

      Killing for survival is the only ethical reason to take a life and that’s what non sapient beings do.

      I reiterate I campaign for human rights simultaneously, women’s causes and the homeless, what human campaigns are you currently involved in?

      “you fucking hate humans. Go hate yourself” sounds like you are the one who is showing hatred and aggression.



    • Martin Levac on May 11, 2012 at 21:08

      Has it ever occurred to you that you face so much opposition because the premise you argue could be wrong? If not, then doesn’t that mean that you are absolutely convinced that it could never be wrong? And if it did occur, how many times, and how far did you go in questioning that premise? Did you dismiss the thought quickly for fear that your belief would be shaken? Or did you thoroughly analyze it and compare it to as many other ideas as you could find, all the while keeping an open mind in case the premise was indeed wrong?

      Do you keep an open mind right now at this very moment?
      Do you know everything you need to know?
      Did you learn anything from this discussion?
      If yes, did it cause you to change your mind?
      If not, you should review the first question.



    • g on May 27, 2012 at 15:07

      “Has it ever occurred to you that you face so much opposition because the premise you argue could be wrong?”
      An idea that faces opposition is not proof that an idea is wrong.
      1. Majority support for race based eugenics and human slavery including the Church.
      2. Sexist ideas about women also condoned by the Church.
      3. Victimisation of homosexuals and transexuals.
      These kinds of views were all supported by the majority, those who anti, faced violent suppression. Living together before one is married did at one stage face opposition but is an accepted practice now. Ethics are constantly changing.
      “If not, then doesn’t that mean that you are absolutely convinced that it could never be wrong?”
      Which ideas in particular are you asking me that are wrong? The reason why I arrived at recognising rights for sentient beings was because I questioned the status quo. I do also compare current moral schizophrenia that we have towards some animals and not others. I have questioned the quasi welfare position of animals. That’s why when I follow through the logic of denying animals rights I find inconsistencies, because I question. There is nothing to question as to whether they suffer.
      The premise that animals suffer, so we should minimise their suffering even if they don’t understand the concept of rights. Nobody would want to see their dog maliciously mistreated. I feel empathy for their physical and emotional suffering. Science has long since proven their compacity to suffer. There is a lot more to loose from me being wrong, that is what I have questioned. I don’t know to what extent insects are sentient, so even if I am wrong I err on the side of caution and avoid killing them. But the consequences of being selfish and mistreating animals are far more damaging. As long as we deny legal rights to animals and in fact the earth, there will always be humans who deny other humans their rights and continue to rape the planet. Until all are free, none are free.

      So your saying that if I don’t come around to your way of thinking I am not open minded!!! I do not state that you should automatically believe what I think, but I have asked for answers to inconsistencies in whom we give rights to. There was even a philospher who said that if we deny animals rights because they are not sapient, we should deny certain humans with irreversible conditions rights. At least he was consistent and followed through his logic to its conclusion, which although I don’t agree with him I respect, rather than cherry picking.



  26. rob on April 2, 2012 at 04:50

    There are certain universal and near-universal taboos among humans that exist among all tribes and despite the passage of time … eating human flesh, having sex with your mother (Oedipus gave it a try and look how that turned out) … eating the flesh of other animals is not one of them … you would be hard put to find a single tribe that has existed at any time that had a taboo against eating the flesh of other animals (though of course there are sects within tribes that consider eating meat to be taboo, such as the vegans … there have also been a few that considered eating the flesh of their enemies to be fine and dandy).

    So my position is it’s a false premise, since humans started walking on two legs there have been tens of thousands of different cultures and in 99.999% of them eating meat was not an ethical concern … now it is all of a sudden an ethical concern cause a few people have their panties in a wad? I don’t think so.

    • g on April 8, 2012 at 07:29

      That is absolute rubbish, cannibalism is not taboo in times of survival, check china and even the uk during history. would you say the same about rape? as it’s only relatively recently that it has become taboo. Ethics change over the course of history, it’s pointless to compare tribal ethics with modern ethics. You still have answered the question, why is it ethical to choose to eat meat?



    • Martin Levac on April 8, 2012 at 13:31

      Ah so you believe that survival is important enough to warrant killing another human being. Well, for the purpose of survival, do you also believe that killing a non-human is less wrong then? It makes sense to me.



    • g on April 27, 2012 at 06:54

      every animal has a right to survive, in times of survival humans have eaten other animals and also humans. survival is different to eating flesh out of pure pleasure.



    • Martin Levac on April 27, 2012 at 10:05

      If eating food did not bring pleasure to humans, humans would be extinct.



    • g on April 27, 2012 at 06:57

      an overall majority practice is not a conclusion of its ethical crudentials. up until 200 years ago 99.9% of humans saw nothing wrong with owning other humans as slaves or beating a working animal.



  27. Samantha Moore on April 2, 2012 at 06:26

    Thank you thank you thank you!

  28. jake on April 2, 2012 at 09:06

    richard, you’re fun when you’re ‘angry dick,’ but this is profoundly better, and just superbly well though-out.

  29. Jarick on April 2, 2012 at 10:16

    I really like the bit about lions developing a conscience. When someone asks if eating meat is ethical, it’s similar to asking what if green was red? It just makes no sense.

  30. Jesrad on April 2, 2012 at 14:45

    Here’s my entry. Thoughts, criticisms, praises, heck even non-sequiturs welcome !

    Judging the morality of meat consumption requires the broadest of views: one has to consider Life as a whole, not on an individual level, but in its entirety of interacting species of all kinds, animal, vegetal, fungal and microbial. Every life form is sustained by some other life form, and sustains yet other forms in its turn. To state it simply, every life form is but a temporary vessel for the dynamic phenomenon we call Life. Even the earth itself, as fertile soil, is a living compound of millions if not billions of minuscule lives, which feed plants, which themselves feed animals, which themselves feed another and ultimately feed the soil back. To single out the eating of animals from this immense and complex web of superposed, cycling fluxes of Life, is unjustifiable. When animals eat other animals they do nothing more and nothing less than what every life form does: they participate, as prey and predator, in the immense machinery of Life. In doing so, they add to the amazing, growing complexity of Life. And that is moral, for it is both natural – part of the nature of any life form – and impossible to seperate from Life.

    Moreover, by considering Life in its entirety, one can see why eating – including the eating of meat, among all forms of life sustaining life – is instrinsic to Life. To oppose it, is to oppose Life perpetuating itself and complexifying itself: it cuts out entire cycles from Life and reduces its diversity. Refusing to participate means refusing to be part of Life, it means opposing the progression of Life from simplicity to complexity. That is denying Life as a self-perpetuating, self-growing dynamic process, therefore it is immoral.

    On a more pragmatic level, to oppose consumption of meat personally, as an objection to the mistreatment of animals, is miguided: ultimately, banning meat consumption also bans cattle breeding, and cattle survival as a species. Without need for beefsteak and milk, there is no more room for cows in our farms, in our barns or in our crop fields, anywhere… meaning the eventual extinction of cows. The same applies to every species domesticated by Man, and also concerns every species that directly or indirectly relies on the perpetuation of these domestic species. The simplistic vegetarian reasoning equates removing pain with removing existence: that is a criminal fallacy. As a meat-eater, I individually improve animal condition by buying meat from those who would treat animals kindly, and not buying from those who wouldn’t. This accomplishes a lot more, morally, than any vegetarian will ever do for animals by just abstaining from eating meat.

    • Richard Nikoley on April 2, 2012 at 15:28

      Jasrad

      Love the approach, polish it up and go with it.



    • g on April 8, 2012 at 06:21

      No slaughter house treats animals kindly!!! Try moving a pig or cow who refuses to walk to slaughter you’ll see what methods are used. no matter how the animal lived, the chain of production is segmented, welfare is not sufficiently policed. A slaughterhouse near me has just prosecuted workers for cruelty, it previously had recommendations of high welfare. By bringing a slave into the world, you are encouraging the need for mistreatment. Abstaining in large numbers would prevent cruelty of these unfortunate objects. It’s like saying if I treat my slave well I do more morally than those who believe in abolition.



    • Martin Levac on April 8, 2012 at 13:42

      The term slave only applies to humans. When we keep animals locked up, the term that applies is cattle or livestock or food. If you want to change the applicability of the term slave, I suggest you make animals equal to humans first. Good luck with that.



    • g on April 27, 2012 at 07:04

      when we keep animals locked up , mistreat them we are treating them like slaves. does the term he or she only apply to humans? we are all part of the animal kingdom and can make whoever we wish our slave.



    • Martin Levac on April 27, 2012 at 10:14

      He or she only applies to humans. When it’s an animal, it’s “it”. The term “slave” only applies to humans as well. When it’s an animal, it’s “livestock” or “workhorse” or “lab rat” or “cattle” or “food”.

      We are all part of the animal kingdom. Therefore we are bound by the same rules of survival. Kill or be killed. Eat or be eaten.



    • g on May 10, 2012 at 23:56

      “He or she only applies to humans. When it’s an animal, it’s “it”. The term “slave” only applies to humans as well. When it’s an animal, it’s “livestock” or “workhorse” or “lab rat” or “cattle” or “food”.

      “ONLY” as you say, not strictly true, carers of non-human animals, wildlife documentaries and veterinarians all use the correct sex of other animals. The term IT is used selectively to describe animals we wish to objectify, exploit and mistreat. Again current usage does not suggest that it’s ethical. The way in which animals are legal property and recognised as inanimate objects and exploited is a system of slavery.



    • Martin Levac on May 11, 2012 at 04:01

      Animals are things under the law. Go ahead, argue the law.



    • g on May 11, 2012 at 08:04

      I think you have misunderstood. I have not disputed the law. Human slaves were once also things under the law and abolitionist sucessfully contributed to changing the law. I repeat again the law does not mean ethical and is subject to change.



    • g on April 8, 2012 at 07:13

      Cows are a human modified animal, they would never have survived in the wild. cows do not form part of an ecosystem, read about factory farming and it’s effect on our ecosystems. to bring an individual into the world to suffer at your request is not moral. collective suffering just to justify the existence of a species does also not form part of a moral argument.



    • Martin Levac on April 8, 2012 at 13:43

      Pure speculation. You can’t possibly know if cows could have survived in the wild. Stick to the facts please. There’s enough noise already.



    • g on April 27, 2012 at 07:30

      dairy cows did not evolve but were genetically manipulated against natural selection. the argument about the extinction of a species justifying mistreatment is flawed. an individual suffers not an entire species.

      if that were really the case there are many farm animal sanctuaries which keep neglected and abused ex farm animals to the end of their natural lives.



    • Galina L. on April 27, 2012 at 18:21

      There is some mess already made with the ban on killing horses. . Ya, lets just add cows to the picture.



    • Martin Levac on April 27, 2012 at 10:16

      Shame. That would make some fine meat for eating.



    • Lukas on April 9, 2012 at 05:32

      Did you know that many vegetarians and vegans (including Peter Singer, one of the judges) don’t consider it wrong to kill animals, but consider it wrong to inflict them with unnecessary suffering? Your first paragraphs only address “death”; not suffering. There also seems to be a tendency towards the naturalistic fallacy.
      The argument in your last paragraph is intriguing and definitely something vegans should think about. But I think it’s problematic in several aspects. If it’s bad if a lot of cows go extinct, wouldn’t it be good if there were even more cows? Does that mean we have an ethical obligation to bring the maximum amount of beings (with lives worth living) into life? This would have very counterintuitive consequences, are you prepared to accept them all? Why should it matter that the species “cow” goes extinct; a species doesn’t have feelings, shouldn’t it be about the individuals? If humans artificially produced some hominid slave species with poor mental capacities, let’s name that slave species “Epsilons”, would it be a valid defense for the practice of enslaving them to say that “otherwise Epsilons wouldn’t exist, and while they do suffer the way we treat them, it’s not like their lives aren’t (barely) worth living!” I don’t think so.



  31. EF on April 2, 2012 at 15:50

    I think it can be summed up in way less than 600 words and a short and powerful message is the most persuasive.

    Eating meat made us into ethical beings because meat gave us the nutritional density to evolve big brains, big brains gave us the intelligence to introspect, and introspection gave us the ability to even debate the issue (and the ability to type this response). So even if you don’t eat meat, you need to thank your ancestors who did.

    • Richard Nikoley on April 2, 2012 at 15:59

      There is a alluring elegance to that, EF.



    • Txomin on April 2, 2012 at 17:01

      It is hypothesized that eating meat lead to bigger brains.



    • g on April 8, 2012 at 06:24

      Not a justification to continue the slaughter, castration, severe confinement though. The ability to type this response because of evolution would suggest that we continue to evolve and drop the flesh addiction.



    • Galina L. on April 9, 2012 at 08:25

      I am afraid I am addicted to walking. It is an outdated non-modern activity. We all (who read Richard’s blog and type our comments) live in a such advanced society that we are evolving not to walk at all, most of us can move around in wheelchairs and cars with only minimal walking that is necessary when we use a shower or a toilet. The luck of movements will sure cause some muscular atrophy, and as a result we will need less protein of all kinds and less food in general, and then we can finally achieve a moral meaningful life. It would be shorter, but it is better for our planet.



  32. Claudia Cahalane on April 2, 2012 at 17:46

    The argument doesn’t do much for me. Eating meat might have been in our nature at one point, but who said it lead to bigger or better brains?? What’s not to say that a plant diet would have lead to humans being better people all around?

    • Richard Nikoley on April 2, 2012 at 18:12

      Claudia Cahalane:

      Oh, thank you very much. It’s so very important to me to know that an argument doesn’t do much for a silly, ignorant moron fuck.

      K?

      Listen. Make a fucking argument or sit your ass down, shut the fuck up, and listen to a thing or two.

      “who said it lead to bigger or better brains?”

      Oh what a stupid, stupid ignorant ignoramus you are. Paleo Archeology? Much? Obviously not, dubmshit fuck, who wants to comment anyway—like a dumbshit fuck. I love it. Thanks though, as an object lesson for those who don’t want to look fucking stupid and ignorant. All in a day’s work, silly.

      Thank you very much, dumbass.



    • EF on April 2, 2012 at 19:54

      It appears that Claudia’s ancestors did not eat meat.



    • Joseph Fetz on April 3, 2012 at 11:23

      “It appears that Claudia’s ancestors did not eat meat.”

      Now that was an absolutely hilarious comment, EF.

      I can certainly understand why Richard got so pissed at Claudia’s comment, she not only disregarded ton’s of science with her ignorant comment, but she also didn’t even propose a counter argument. It is akin to all of the scientists spending years of their lives showing that the Earth revolves around the sun, only to have some dipshit say, “well, I still don’t believe you” or “the idea that the Earth revolves around the sun doesn’t make me feel happy inside”. I certainly would have reacted quite similarly as Richard did if confronted with such stupidity.



    • Joseph Fetz on April 3, 2012 at 11:24

      P.S. don’t ask why I put an apostrophe between the n and s, I just did. LOL



    • Richard Nikoley on April 3, 2012 at 12:01

      Joseph

      It really goes go deeper than that.

      I’m fucking offended that a person like Claudia doesn”t just die in the street. I mean it. If it weren’t for the theft perpetuated on smart people, so they can just nosh, live and spew idiocy,, ameaboe like her would simply perish and everyone would be better off.

      I’m so sick of moron in such flagrant context.



    • Joseph Fetz on April 3, 2012 at 15:22

      I am with ya, man. I don’t typically post comments regarding nutrition even though it is a subject that I like to study, but I do often get into politic0-economic debates and boy is the idiocy baffling. I often wonder how some of these people make it through life, but then I remember that it is the driven and intelligent people who create a better and easier world (through the market, no less) which allows the stupid people the freedom from being eaten by large animals.

      If I were a dictatorial person I would say kill the power for a year to thin the herd. LOL Could you imagine how many of the people that surround us simply wouldn’t make it through that relatively short period of time. They sure as shit wouldn’t make it through the winter.



    • Galina L. on April 27, 2012 at 18:32

      What about the argument that vegan diet of parents is damaging for babies, in France a baby died because of B12 deficiency



    • g on April 27, 2012 at 07:40

      “silly, ignorant moron fuck” nice show of agression, merely pointing out that bigger brains and meat eating is a hypothesis which also has counter hypothesis and that if if were indeed true it clearly isn’t an argument going forward into the future. so you will have to think of a different argument.

      the essay doesn’t ask why we used to eat meat, it refers to the present day.



  33. tim on April 2, 2012 at 17:49

    Richard you have some smart folks up there you have offered you some wonderful suggestions for cleaning up your argument.

  34. V on April 2, 2012 at 20:32

    It’s pointless.

    The New York Times has turned into some weird vegan organ.

    And a small, rather flaccid one at that. 🙂

  35. Rob on April 2, 2012 at 22:24

    HOW DO YOU EXPECT TO GET ANY PUDDING IF YOU DON’T EAT YOUR MEAT??!!

    • marie on April 3, 2012 at 19:41

      Best. Response. Ever!
      We don’t need no thought control 🙂



  36. Ajr on April 2, 2012 at 22:27

    Out of all the things we do these days that are ethically or morally questionable, why pick one that actually matches our natural behavior? Why not question the ethics of modern industrialized farming practices instead of the consumption of something we ate long before vegans were able to pick and choose what they eat due to agricultural surplus and technology?

    Is eating meat wrong? No. In most cases, the real problem is all that shit that happens to that meat before it reaches your plate.

    • g on April 8, 2012 at 07:02

      “agricultural surplus and technology” you wouldn’t be able to eat the quantity of flesh without mechanized slaughterhouses, killing is not our natural behaviour, most people could not kill an animal for their dinner, ask the average jo. The ethical argument is, if we can be healthy on plant food, regardless of how we got here, what argument would support intentional slaughter? We’ve evolved in harsh environments obligating meat, but what about now, why is it still necessary??? A different argument is needed than “we’ve done it for a long time”…….



    • Martin Levac on April 8, 2012 at 14:14

      So you ask “why is it still necessary?” That’s a very good question. Do you know what natural selection is? Do you understand its principle, how it works? If not, allow me to give you a short explanation. The basic principle is eat, survive, reproduce.

      The cheetah and its prey. The cheetah must run down and catch its prey before it can kill and eat it, therefore survive. The faster the cheetah, the better chance to survive. Between a fast and a slow cheetah, the fast one will tend to catch more prey, and eat more and survive. The prey must run away from the cheetah to survive. The faster the prey, the better chance for survival. And so this dynamic works on both the predator and the prey such that the slowest of both are sieved out of existence, and only the fastest specimens survive and reproduce.

      The above is the first part of natural selection – the interaction between predator and prey. The second part is genetic mutation. When a gene comes along that makes this cheetah faster than another, it will have a better chance at survival. His genes will reproduce, and we’ll end up with ever faster cheetahs. Cheetahs are the fastest land animal on this planet. So is its natural prey, the gazelle.

      The same is true for every single species on this planet. The interaction between predator and prey is ever on-going. So are the genetic mutations. Natural selection is a fact of existence on this planet.

      Apply this to humans. And induce a recurring famine over several million years and a couple hundred thousand generations. Famine always starts with plants. Plants disappear and all that’s left to eat is meat. Those who are already capable of eating meat survive and reproduce, those who aren’t extinguish. There’s solid evidence that early humans used tools to break open bones and skull of carcasses left over by other predators, to get the marrow and brains for food. And so those early humans who were already adapted to this diet survived and reproduced. Those who weren’t died off, sorry. Now apply this interaction between early humans and their food, as well as genetic mutations that favor that diet, for millions of years and we end up with what we are today. Big brains and small guts. Read up on the Expensive Tissue Hypothesis. Early humans had no choice in this matter. We are a product of natural selection. We are fully adapted to a diet that consists mostly of meat.

      What this means for our choice in diet is that we are so far removed from early man before the original famine that forced us to eat marrow and brains that returning to a diet devoid of meat will cause us harm. It will cause us harm just like it will cause the cheetah harm if it returned to a diet devoid of meat. So that’s why it’s still necessary.



    • Jack LaBear on April 11, 2012 at 11:45

      Sorry, I accidentally already posted this comment, but in the wrong place below. May I try again?

      Indeed, much behavior on the part of members of PETA is so unethical that it appears that maintainence of ethical behavior requires ongoing meat eating, and the reversal of our ethical nature doesn’t need evolutionary time scales 😉



    • Jack LaBear on April 11, 2012 at 11:59

      Mechanized slauterhouses?
      A few hundred years ago, the Plains Indians had all the bison that they could (respectfully) use.
      Then the white man came along, built railroads across the land, and killed millions of the bison by shooting them from trains and leaving the carcasses to rot.
      Who the fuck are these descendents of those Europeans to criticize mechanized slaughter?
      Oh, I guess it’s only OK when the purpose is genocide!



  37. Steve on April 2, 2012 at 23:51

    “Claudia Cahalane:

    Oh, thank you very much. It’s so very important to me to know that an argument doesn’t do much for a silly, ignorant moron fuck.

    K?

    Listen. Make a fucking argument or sit your ass down, shut the fuck up, and listen to a thing or two.

    “who said it lead to bigger or better brains?”

    Oh what a stupid, stupid ignorant ignoramus you are. Paleo Archeology? Much? Obviously not, dubmshit fuck, who wants to comment anyway—like a dumbshit fuck. I love it. Thanks though, as an object lesson for those who don’t want to look fucking stupid and ignorant. All in a day’s work, silly.

    Thank you very much, dumbass.”

    Nikoley- You are such a dumb fucking douche- wow.

    • Paul Verizzo on April 3, 2012 at 06:45

      So dumb that you put it all up there again for him? Who is the dumb one?

      I’m going to guess you didn’t like his style in the response, which has little to do with the accuracy of his comments.

      Claudia definitely is ignorant.



    • Richard Nikoley on April 3, 2012 at 09:29

      Hey Steve, I guess you didn’t see the reply button, such that your complete quoting of my entire comment could be threaded below. Check into it for next time.

      Do you have an actual argument to support Claudia’s implied assertion, that it’s not the nutritional density of animal flesh that spurred the evolution of our big brains relative to gut, or do you merely have your pink panties in a bunch over my vitriol over ignorant idiocy?



    • Richard Nikoley on April 3, 2012 at 12:02

      Oh, Steve, you’re a little pussy, by the way.



  38. Neal Matheson on April 3, 2012 at 01:01

    The endless list of bad vegan political science whether health or environment should be enough to convince anyone that eating meat is fine. Was the selection presentation of material in “forks over knives” or the china study” in any way ethical.
    It’s not our question to answer and I wonder whether it would be better to answer with silence. As I said to a particularly proselytising vegetable I know “I’ll base my dietary decisions on science not ethics”.
    That said I have know manyu many vegetarians and vegans and all of them bar none have been unhealthy in mind if not in body. The question is irrelevant ask any wolf.
    (but I like what you wrote, central place provisioning and sharing as a universal and unique human activity most certainly come from meat eating too )

  39. mark on April 3, 2012 at 05:00

    Vegans – Like we need another ridiculous example of trying to make humans more special than other animals. You beileve in God because you were forced too – you don’t eat meat because you… ?

  40. VIlma on April 3, 2012 at 07:38

    You’ll never get a fair hearing from the New York Times.

    • Richard Nikoley on April 3, 2012 at 08:58

      No way I’m expecting that Vilma. Actually, I wrote it more for the blog than anything else.



  41. rob on April 3, 2012 at 13:16

    This is a deal where a minority of the population gets to bask in their supposed ethicality … it’s really more of an issue for psychologists than for anthropologists or philosophers.

    The real question: Why do they go to so much trouble, to the point where they avoid a food source that has been vitally important to humans throughout our history, in order to enjoy this sense of “eating ethically”?

    I think the answer probably is that it somehow alters their brain chemistry in a manner similar to opiates (the feeling of ethicality, not the diet in and of itself) … not eating meat gives them a sense of self-worth that they otherwise lack, and it’s like a drug, they need to go back to it again and again, even if it adversely effects their health … probably not very different than cocaine … or to put it in a food context, not very different from anorexia nervosa (substitute the sense of self-worth from being thin for the sense of self-worth from “eating ethically”).

    They are addicted to the warm glow of self-worth they get from “eating ethically.”

    • Martin Levac on April 3, 2012 at 13:42

      I forget where I read this. There’s the idea that militants are a special group, a typical group. They will fight for a cause, any cause, as long as they fight. The cause must be just and right, at least superficially. In this case, it would be the welfare of animals. They will go to great lengths for that cause, even harming themselves. They are not above harming other humans either, and probably will do that before they harm themselves. As long as their cause is just and right, and they get public recognition. But if the cause is exposed as a fallacy, they will jump ship right-quick. And look for another cause, that’s right and just, superficially at least. Interestingly, they won’t fight for their own personal gain, only for ideas or things external to themselves, like animals in this case. Yet they welcome the recognition it brings them. They’re sort of crusaders, fighting for what’s right, for what’s good, fighting against evil.

      Like you say, it gives them purpose, it gives them worth.

      I think it’s called The Militant Mind or something (no relation to the musical group, at least I don’t think so). Anyway, vegetarians and vegans fit that description to the letter.



    • Galina L. on April 3, 2012 at 15:44

      There are always some groups of self-harming people through human history, they feel like the more they are in a war with their flesh, the more spiritual they are. They were even self-castrating religious groups. They died-out for an obvious reason. Compare to other masochists vegetarians don’t look that bad. I don’t think it is ethical to push normal members of the population to sacrifice their health .



    • g on April 8, 2012 at 06:47

      No one is sacrificing their health, galina, try your health statistics for your country, more unethical to encourage people to get diabetes, heart disease, stroke is it not???



    • Martin Levac on April 8, 2012 at 14:18

      Are you suggesting that diabetes, heart disease, and stroke are caused by eating meat? Perhaps you should review the research. On this page below, there’s a list of 16 low carb studies that show a low carb diet is best for all things measured, including weight loss:

      http://www.dietdoctor.com/weight-loss-time-to-stop-denying-the-science

      It’s reasonable to assume that low carb diets contain more meat than low fat diets. Therefore it’s reasonable to assume that meat doesn’t cause all our diseases.



    • Galina L. on April 9, 2012 at 08:44

      I think that people in my native country (Russia) eat more bread that is good for them, they also drink and smoke too much.
      They also experienced first-hand have some Utopian fantasies could be destructive when tried to be brought in to real life. Sure , the people who dreamed about better life for all and suffered from the viewing of the existing injustice had a very high moral standards. However, the result of the Revolution in 1918 was not the creating of the perfect state, but human suffering, distraction and chaos. I think the attempt the build a communism in a society could teach one thing or two to anyone who is interested in the experimentation with something unnatural in global scale.



    • g on April 8, 2012 at 06:52

      “They’re sort of crusaders, fighting for what’s right, for what’s good, fighting against evil.” how is this different to women suffragettes who committed arson to get the vote for women, or black people who killed countless white people to get their freedom? No human has been killed for the animal cause. Youre thinking of pro-life supporters who kill. Struggles for liberation and ethical progress have progressed since we left the wilderness.



    • Martin Levac on April 8, 2012 at 14:23

      Are you condoning the attack on Lierre Keith?



    • g on April 8, 2012 at 06:26

      No it’s called empathy, the same way in which everyone gets offended when a dog is mistreated. Vegans are consistent about all animal treatment.



    • Martin Levac on April 8, 2012 at 14:25

      No, it’s called anthropomorphism. Empathy applies to humans. Vegans are also consistent about human treatment. The don’t give a fuck if a human has to suffer just so they can push their agenda.



    • g on April 27, 2012 at 07:59

      empathy can apply to non humans as well. we are both animals and share common attributes. i can empathise with a dog in pain as we both share a central nervous system, whilst at the same time being aware that the dog is a different species. pain is not exclusive to humans but to all animals so maybe it is animalmorphism.

      more vegans are involved in human rights campaiging as a percentage of their group compared to the mainstream %. oppression is a cross cutting theme. if you join a feminist or enviornmental group statistically more will live without flesh.

      “The don’t give a fuck if a human has to suffer just so they can push their agenda”, this would be inconsistent with veganism for a human to suffer. what examples do u have of humans suffering?



    • Martin Levac on April 27, 2012 at 10:24

      Lierre Keith.



    • g on April 8, 2012 at 06:54

      By bashing the other side, that does not provide an ethical argument for meat, as the competition requests.



    • Martin Levac on April 8, 2012 at 14:30

      By putting meat eaters on the defensive, they argue that it is unethical to eat meat a priori. They argue that animals have rights that trump the rights of humans. The challenge is an accusation that implies the standard practice is to not eat meat. That’s why we accuse humans. We accuse humans because we suspect they did something wrong, because the standard practice is the opposite of what we accuse them of. The standard practice, if you haven’t noticed yet, is that all humans on this planet eat some form of meat or animal product.

      Why would we accuse humans of doing the right thing?



    • Jack LaBear on April 11, 2012 at 11:27

      Indeed, much behavior on the part of members of PETA is so unethical that it appears that maintainence of ethical behavior requires ongoing meat eating, and the reversal of our ethical nature doesn’t need evolutionary time scales 😉



    • g on April 27, 2012 at 08:02

      funny joke, peta is fighting industrial scale factory farms who perform brutal cruelty, women sufragettes and african slaves also performed unethical actions in order to obtain rights.



    • g on April 27, 2012 at 08:04

      “it appears that maintainence of ethical behavior requires ongoing meat eating” continiued consumption of flesh does not guarantee ethical behaviour either. hello rapists, paedos, murderers….



    • Martin Levac on April 27, 2012 at 10:26


    • g on April 27, 2012 at 07:09

      “vitally important to humans throughout our history”, not important now though, which is why the debate arises.



    • Martin Levac on April 27, 2012 at 10:27

      Prove it.



  42. Aaron on April 3, 2012 at 14:01

    As I was finally falling asleep at 3:30 this morning this question crossed my mind… Are humans essentially the only animal to draw from all levels of the trophic pyramid, or can that be said of all omnivores? Okay, lets say all omnivores draw from all/most levels of the trophic pyramid. (That seems like a potential evolutionary advantage to me, c.f. Richard’s point about how humans are generalists.) It also seems reasonable to me to assume we are at the top of the food chain/web… From an evolutionary standpoint why would we choose to intentionally give up one of our strengths (i.e. the eating of both plants and animals which permits or rather strengths our generalist abilities) and potentially be demoted down the chain/web?

    As I said, that was all spawned out of trying to fall asleep 6 hours later than usual, so I won’t claim it to be my best thoughts on the subject. However, it might have a place in the discussion.

    Gracia y paz,

    Aaron

    P.S. I like just about anything that will make Peter Singer look a little foolish… Remember a health dog has greater value than a elderly and sickly human… Until it is Peter Singer’s mother he is talking about.

    • g on April 8, 2012 at 06:31

      Peter Singer’s mother would take precedence over another human who is a stranger, so that’s a useless comparison. Value is subjective, your family is more important to you than me, but we both have the same rights. We would loose nothing if we cut out a historical food source and would still be in control of the planet, so that is not an ethical argument. Have you thought about the practicalities of feeding 8 billion humans on animals into the future, not possible.



    • Martin Levac on April 8, 2012 at 14:34

      No, it’s not a useless comparison. That’s the crux of the matter. A discussion of ethics is impossible without making a comparison. It is ethical to eat meat compared to what? That’s the real question. Yourself stated many times there’s a viable alternative so you know that a comparison is inevitable. However, you haven’t made much progress in proving the existence of this viable alternative.



    • g on April 27, 2012 at 07:12

      the comparison of a dog to someone’s own family is a ridiculous, as family would trump even another human. this in itself is not an argument for or against considering the value of non-human life.

      the viable alternative is practiced by myself and millions on this planet.



    • Martin Levac on April 27, 2012 at 10:27

      You’re lying.



  43. marie on April 3, 2012 at 16:32

    It’s a great argument Richard, and literarily witty as I commented earlier. However, it addresses a premise that, as presented by the NYT editors, is simply wrong.
    (this is what happens when only one side sets-up any debate, they frame the argument, intentionally or not).

    The question cannot be whether it is ethical to eat animals.
    Ethics arise when there is choice.
    That question implies a choice in whether or not to kill animals to produce food.

    However there is no choice, because even if we don’t kill animals directly for meat, we kill massive amounts of animals through the agricultural practices that raise plants for food (especially raising grains).
    At a minimum, we can consider harvesting, which shreds mice, moles, bird nestlings and other small animals.
    So vegetarianism per se is not at all benign to animal life (not even to mammalian animal life, for those who try to argue a life hierarchy).

    The question therefore should be : given that humans have to eat in order to live, is there any method of sourcing food that is ethical?

    **In this context, the context of survival, we are left to define what is ethical as being that which produces the least possible damage, because degree of damage is the only choice we have.**

    This damage is in the form of pain, suffering and death to food animals and to other animals in both animal and grain habitats, and is in the form of wider ecological damage (sewage, water depletion, pesticide contamination, soil exhaustion etc).

    Our only known methods of sourcing food, up to now, have been from wild sources (hunting/fishing and gathering) and from domesticated sources (agriculture).

    Accordingly, hunting/fishing-gathering is at the top of the ‘least damage’ scale (minimum damage), then come pastured meat and organically grown vegetables and then everything else, including organically grown but machine-harvested grains and very last comes industrial grain and meat production.

    A scale of damage, with least damage being the ethical choice, is all we can define for eating, since the notion that killing animals is a choice is false. We only have two food types, plants and animals and raising either of them results in killing animals (a nice corollary to the fact that raising either of them results in killing plants :-))

    • Richard Nikoley on April 3, 2012 at 18:05

      I didn’t address choice because choice is subsumed in the idea of ethics. It’s the whole point of the matter.



    • marie on April 3, 2012 at 19:24

      Yes, exactly. So if there’s no choice, there is no ethics involved and therefore the question “why it’s ethical to eat meat” isn’t a valid question….aka the NYT editors made a logical boo-boo (yes, o.k. it’s completely intentional).
      What is the lack of choice? It’s that whether we eat meat or domesticated plants, especially grains, we kill animals Either way, and just as horribly in the case of industrial harvesting. So unless we think we can survive on wild ‘gathered’ plants alone, then no matter what we eat, we have no choice regarding killing animals.
      If choosing to eat plants has the same result as eating meat, in that it kills both animals and plants, then there is no ethics involved in eating meat or plants.
      There is no ethical choice because they are logically equivalent in terms of their end effect on animals and plants.

      So trying to argue about how ethical it is to eat animals is like trying to argue about eating food, period. Whichever food group we eat, plants or animals, we kill both animals and plants in EACH case.

      The second part was not necessary, I just went on to frame the only question I can think of regarding food that does involve ethics, that is, that does involve an ethical choice : how is the food sourced? Wild/domesticated, pastured/not, organic/not etc – this is the only thing we have a choice about. That’s the only food ethics we can define, as far as I can see, but of course I’m open to suggestions 🙂



    • g on April 8, 2012 at 06:32

      Not when your choice conflicts with the wellbeing of another. The choice to rape or abuse another in another way for pleasure alone.



    • marie on April 8, 2012 at 09:28

      Rather slippery that. So yes, production of both plants and animal food causes death of animals, but now the difference is the quality of life of the animals slated for food?
      O.k. I’m game : That means that how we raise the animals matters. I won’t touch the “for pleasure alone”, that’s a science issue and in my mind well resolved, but I can’t argue with faith.
      How we raise the animals t is my point exactly. Please bank the rhetoric on rape and abuse – that’s only in CAFO, and again, that’s my point, how we raise them matters.
      Here’s a real example : My mother in-law is a traditional farmer in Greece. She’s 92 and still manages the mountain-valley farm herself. Them sheep are happy, witnessed by their daily frolicking on the hillsides (any ‘rape’ is, well, between them, they’re not bred, no need), the goats clear the land, preventing brush-fires and weed overgrowth which helps her olive trees and cherry trees flourish, the chickens all have names (!), come when they are called individually and of course produce amazing eggs….and I could go on. None of these animals would exist otherwise, nor have a short or long well-provided happy life with it’s attendant pleasures. It is sustainable, feeds more people than grain production (yes, we can count calories per acre), causes no collateral damage to other wild animals, no water issues, renews the soil etc. Sustainable agriculture requires animals. – it’s an ecosystem. She is not alone, this is the DEFAULT in many countries.
      Please take off the blinkers american profiteering-style capitalism has imposed on us with ‘cheap’ meat from CAFO, there are alternatives.



    • g on May 10, 2012 at 23:22

      Your real example is not the current global western model. Most people do not buy their flesh or breast milk from grandma’s cow or aunty’s sheep. Factory farming methods involve high levels of abuse, anti-biotics, growth hormones and damage to the surrounding area and water supply.

      “Please take off the blinkers american profiteering-style capitalism has imposed on us with ‘cheap’ meat from CAFO, there are alternatives.”

      Not for 7 billion people and rising on this planet. Do you suggest that there is enough pasture for free range animals to feed our rising human population?



    • Martin Levac on May 11, 2012 at 04:00

      It is entirely relevant. It shows a plant-only diet is unsustainable without cattle. See, without cattle, where do the plants you eat get the shit they eat?



    • g on May 11, 2012 at 08:07

      A plant based diet would not require factory farming, but veganic and verticle plant farming.



  44. FrankG on April 4, 2012 at 01:26

    So unless we think we can survive on wild ‘gathered’ plants alone, then no matter what we eat, we have no choice regarding killing animals.”

    Before this gets proffered as the purer cleaner, healthier vegetarian way, I’d just remind folks as to where those wild plants gets their nutrients to grow… in large part it is from the death of other plants and animals.

    Nature is the great “recycler”. Earth to earth, dust to stardust.

    “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” ~ Carl Sagan

    • g on April 8, 2012 at 06:36

      Animals and plants have no choice to live from the death of others, the ethical argument you will find is that humans now have the means to minimise the amount of suffering we inflict for our food consumption. Therefore intentionally slaughtering, beating, castrating and severely confining is unecessary in our western civilisation.



    • Martin Levac on April 8, 2012 at 14:42

      Your argument doesn’t follow. There’s a missing step in the middle. We do have the means to reduce suffering by way of stunning the animal with a stun gun. But we’re still killing the animal. So This particular argument doesn’t logically lead to “intentional killing is unnecessary”. Maybe you mean there’s a viable alternative like a meat-free diet? You still haven’t made that argument yet. You still haven’t made the argument that such a diet does not cause harm to ourselves.



    • Galina L. on April 9, 2012 at 08:52

      I tried several eating regiments during my life. The worst health condition in I achieved during the time when I limited, not eliminated, animal products in my diet. I have been on a LC version of paleo for 4.5 years, got read of most of my health issues, lost weight and feel and look better. It is enough of proof for me. I don’t need any research at that point.



  45. marie on April 4, 2012 at 05:03

    Thanks for that catch FrankG, and that’s also a separate, independent argument right there.
    But really, I’d like to see someone try to do that in a temperate environment! It would go a long way towards dropping the most offensive morons from existence as Richard would like 🙂

    • FrankG on April 4, 2012 at 05:51

      Thanks marie. I wanted to stop that one in it’s tracks 😉 I’ve nothing against wild gathered greens and I understand there are even folks who “forage” in towns for what would otherwise be seen as weeds.

      But just because some try to put distance (real or delusional) between what they put in their mouth and where it ultimately comes from, does not change the fact that we are all part of the same cycle of life and death. In that respect, my philosophy is very much the same as Jesrad lays out so well above… we are all part of the same system and I wholeheartedly agree with him that the first step to showing an ethical respect to that system,is to recognise that we ARE part of it and not somehow separate or “above” the rest of it.

      I grew up the the UK where by and large, folks seems to have a rosy view of animals that is more akin to a petting zoo than real life — big-eyed baby fur seals, puppies, kittens, widdle bunny wabbits etc… Later I came to Canada where the first place I lived was the Labrador coast… among people who don’t hunt and fish for fun but rather to put food the table for their families. In that context can you imagine how bizarre it is to watch a TV show where a man spends tens of thousands on a bass boat and carbon-fiber fishing equipment, just to release anything that he catches?!? Which is more respectful of life… feeding your family or playing with fish?

      It annoys me and I think it is ultimately dishonest and possibly hypocritical to think it possible to have life without death. Life and death are interdependent… can’t have one without the other. When I am done with this body it will go back into the system… I daresay (although it seems to gross others out) that we are already being recycled: as we shed skin cells, hair, mucus and all our other bodily excretions and emanations… other forms of life are already feeding off us 😉

      I am convinced that humans are opportunistic omnivores — we can and do eat pretty much anything that is alive… so if some of us choose not to directly eat some classes of animals then that is up to them… just so long as they don’t try to convince me that it is somehow better for me or the planet if I do the same.

      I am very much in favour of the ethical/respectful treatment of all forms of life (including humans) and like Jesrad I vote with my dollars, by sourcing my food from local sustainable farmers. My butcher is also the livestock farmer.

      My favourite delusional vegetarian idea was one I recall described by Lierre Kieth as a serious suggestion on a vegetarian forum: erect a fence across the plains in Africa to separate the prey animals on one side from their predators on the other. Completely ignoring the complex interdependence of the prey on their predators to keep the herd healthy.

      YouTube ~ Futurama – Vegetarian Lion…



    • g on April 8, 2012 at 06:39

      A comparison between a carnivore and a technological human is useless, if a lion doesn’t kill, he or she will die. If humans do not slaughter animals in factory farms they will not die, simple.



    • Martin Levac on April 8, 2012 at 14:43

      Alright, that’s enough. Put up or shut up.



    • g on August 13, 2012 at 14:06

      “just so long as they don’t try to convince me that it is somehow better for me or the planet if I do the same.”

      knowledge is changing all the time, surely if it does come to light that we can’t feed 6 billion humans on meat and dairy without severe consequences on this and future generations we should take heed, unless you fit into the climate change denier camp. also what do the millions of people do who can’t buy from local farms.

      even on a small farm you cannot respect life, they are still castrated, confined and go to the same slaughterhouses which constantly fall short of even minimal welfare standards, animals often conscious into the rendering process and pigs beaten to death on the killing floor, when they panic. Recently in the UK, an RSPCA approved farm was exposed for neglect, government bodies refused to prosecute. these are not a few bad cases they are standard practice. ask your local farm what they do with their male chicks(a few days old). you won’t find the answer respectful or humane.



    • FrankG on April 4, 2012 at 06:00

      Correction… “to put food on the table for their families”

      Also to add that when I wrote “I am very much in favour of the ethical/respectful treatment of all forms of life (including humans)…” it was not based on some airy-fairy ideal but rather the pragmatic view that I think the best ways we have of surviving as a species are first and foremost by recognising our part in the ecosystem and then by treating that whole system with respect… polluting the air we breathe and the water we drink, destroying the top soil, factory farming etc… these are most likely to lead to the demise of humans — this planet and its “nature” will continue just fine without us 😉



    • g on April 8, 2012 at 06:41

      Do you think that human rights are based on airy-fairy ideals? anti-slavery, violence against women. Maybe you think Jesus or Buddha also have airy-fairy ideals.



    • Martin Levac on April 8, 2012 at 14:45

      And what are animals rights based on? Enlighten me, please. Where can I find out what rights animals have anyway?



  46. LXV on April 4, 2012 at 12:32

    My only criticism is that you’re writing at too high a grade level. I’d say this reads about mid high-school level. It’s the way you naturally write, but for maximum comprehension in the masses writing really should be aimed at the middle-school level. This is not to say the content should be dumbed down; mostly the compound sentences should be broken up into shorter sentences. For instance:

    “Rather than approach the question from the unsupportable notion that humans are somehow biologically herbivorous, but with an insatiable taste for meat that may be unnatural, we must acknowledge that humans evolved eating meat and other animal nutrition, that it was key to their survival and ability to thrive and grow; and given all that, it’s more likely that natural animal products are beneficial to human health rather than harmful.”

    ^^^ that is a perfectly grammatical construction, but it has a lot of separate ideas to hold in your head at once. Rewritten for the sixth-grade reading level:

    “The question shouldn’t be asked with the assumption that we are herbivores with an unnatural taste for meat. Humans evolved eating animal nutrition, including meat. It was key to early man’s survival and helped us thrive. It is more likely that animal products are far more likely to be beneficial instead of harmful.”

    Think Dan Brown and Dean Koontz, and not Charles Dickens and Charles Darwin. As a bonus, using fewer clauses and prepositional phrases means more room in the word count for arguing.

    I’d also take a tip from journalists and lead with the argument, saving the quote for later. So start with something more explosive and very relevant that will make people want to keep reading if only so they can argue with you. I’m partial to “Eating meat made us ethical beings.” It really seems to be the hard hitting core of what you’re saying and we shouldn’t have to wait six whole paragraphs to get to it.

    • LXV on April 4, 2012 at 12:37

      I guess that wasn’t my only criticism. Too much blood in my caffiene stream……..



    • Richard Nikoley on April 4, 2012 at 13:19

      Thanks LXV, as always.



  47. Donald on April 4, 2012 at 18:02

    Some people are claiming that the idea that eating meat gave us big brains has been refuted, based on this recent article in Nature:
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v480/n7375/full/nature10629.html

    If the Nature article were true, wouldn’t that imply that we all ought to be vegan? And that inference just goes against common sense. I don’t have the scientific background to figure out what’s wrong with the article. Can someone help me out?

    • Martin Levac on April 4, 2012 at 20:23

      The relevant part is this: “controlling for fat-free body mass”, i.e. ignoring lean tissue mass. That’s how they could refute the ETH. Otherwise the ETH stands. Paradoxically, they state: “size of brains and adipose depots are negatively correlated in mammals” thereby ignoring lean tissue mass, and seem to confirm the ETH.

      In the first instance, they ignore lean tissue mass first, and consider fat mass second. In the second instance, they consider fat mass first, and ignore lean tissue mass second. Both instances are logically equivalent, yet their conclusions from each are contradictory. Not too surprisingly, they conclude with an absurdly ridiculously convoluted hypothesis:

      “We propose that human encephalization was made possible by a combination of stabilization of energy inputs and a redirection of energy from locomotion, growth and reproduction.”

      WTF does that mean? Energy inputs from what? Redirection to where? If they can’t explain where the energy comes from, they can’t actually refute the ETH because the ETH says the factor that allowed encephalization is the energy source – fat meat. But if they claim to refute the ETH, then we can assume they mean that the energy source is not fat meat, therefore it must be something else, probably starchy tubers or something. The problem here is that when modern humans eat enough starchy tubers to power their fuel-hungry brains (30% of total energy inputs), it messes with the hormones that regulate fat tissue, making them fatter. Therefore if they state that fat tissue mass is negatively correlated with brain size (big brain – small fat mass), they are in fact stating that starchy tubers can’t be the factor that allowed encephalization, which leaves the ETH intact.

      Finally, before they can prove anything about the energy utilization of unrefined plant energy sources, they must first show humans’ ability to digest plant fiber, within which the energy – starch – is contained. And if they invoke fire and cooking, that’s two more hurdle for them: Loss of nutrition due to cooking of plant matter sufficient for proper digestion and absorption, and lack of proof of fire utilization for early man.

      Somebody correct me. I can barely understand Labcoat.



  48. Greg on April 6, 2012 at 10:15

    I think it’s a non-sequitur that just because eating animals gave us big brains we logically are entailed to eat them. Without the brains necessary for ethical decision making we couldn’t be held responsible for eating them even if we did eat them.

    Kind of akin to saying that raising a child gave you for the first time in your life a moral consideration towards the well being of someone else other than yourself. It wouldn’t be permissible to then beat your child because they gave birth to a moral consideration of others for the first time.

  49. Louise on April 6, 2012 at 19:51

    Well said! Good luck – I hope you win!

  50. Ian on April 7, 2012 at 17:49

    On the original subject of cold thermogenesis, I remember specifically during Kruse’s interview on underground wellness with Sean Croxton that he asserted it’s absolutely impossible to gain fat through repeated exposure to extreme cold. That notion kind of flies in the face of the assumption that people gain a thin layer of subcutaneous fat as an adaptation to the bitter cold.

    Lalonde commented on the issue in a recent podcast with Jimmy Moore, stating that the latter assumption is true. Where does everybody stand on this?

    • Ian on April 7, 2012 at 17:50

      Crap, clicked on the wrong blog post. Will relocate. . . .



  51. Weekly Roundup #16 | The 21 Convention on April 8, 2012 at 13:15

    […] Richard Nikoley also took a jab at the New York Times essay contest. […]

  52. Lukas on April 8, 2012 at 20:52

    Well written, but philosophically the argument is terrible. Look up “naturalistic fallacy”. Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s good. This is a mistake that’s made all the time, the jury won’t be very impressed by that argument.
    Humans are xenophobic by nature, and evolution favors in-group mentality at cost of out-groups. Does that make racism okay? I don’t think so.

    • Richard Nikoley on April 8, 2012 at 21:30

      Lucas

      The problem with the naturalistic fallacy is that all ethics or morality must ultimately have some basis in nature or their an ass.



  53. g on April 27, 2012 at 07:45

    ethical reasons for killing another animal.

    living in an environment where killing is the only means of survival.
    having a rare disorder which facilitates the consumption of flesh over plant food.

    i agree with lukas the essay is a good attempt, but philosophically it doesn’t cut it.

    • Martin Levac on April 27, 2012 at 10:29

      Killing is the only means of survival for every single living thing on this planet.



    • Martin Levac on April 27, 2012 at 10:50

      The winning essay is the one that says it’s ethical to eat meat if it’s made in a lab. Would you eat lab meat?



    • Richard Nikoley on April 27, 2012 at 11:17

      OMG. Are you serious, Martin? I read all of the six and that one was the worst.

      Well, glad I decided not to participate in the circus after all. I did not ultimately submit.



    • Martin Levac on April 27, 2012 at 11:41

      Don’t get me wrong, Richard. I submitted but I didn’t vote. None of the 6 essays were worthy. None answered the question directly. All were sort of apologetic. The fact that the winning essay comes from an admitted vegetarian of 40 years, and that the most ethical “meat” is made in a lab shows just how ridiculous the whole thing is.

      It’s one big giant misrepresentation of everything. The question, the judges, the top essays, the winning essay therefore the readership. I want to see all of the 3,000 thousand essays that were submitted so I can see the whole truth and not just the “truth” the judges want me to see. They don’t really want to find out what we think. They want to tell us what to think. And the column is called “The Ethicist”. What a joke.



    • Richard Nikoley on April 27, 2012 at 14:02

      Gotcha, Martin.

      And thanks for holding down the fort because I didn’t have time but was not about to censor g, who is not a troll. Let folks decide on their own.

      I figure that in the end, the contest was worth a blog post, my thoughts and a comment thread that’s probably more open, honest, objective and mix up thananythingout there, and with the help of my Lord and Savior, Google, perhaps it will rank high in the searches. 🙂



    • Martin Levac on April 27, 2012 at 18:54

      I’m always up for a good word fight!

      Ding Ding! TYPE!



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