Right.. since no one else opened up this discussion (That I know of.. and if this is a double up, please let me know so I can delete this) I thought I'd throw down on it.
Someone (I can't remember who) had a blog post on the subject, but it is a lot easier to debate things in the forums as opposed to blogs because we have the direct reply-to ability here.

So......Are humans carnivores, herbivores or omnivores?
For me, I think the answer is pretty simple.
I eat plants. I eat animals. I do so liberally, with no digestive issues. My parents did likewise. My grandparents did, too. As far back as recorded history goes, we've eaten both plants and animals. I've traveled the world, and can't think of a single culture that has ever survived as vegans.
I also eat raw meat without any trouble.
I love sashimi. I love all forms of carpaccio. It has never made me sick.

I'm a pretty green person, and I freely admit that meat eating is a huge burden on the earth. I try to balance it out by doing other things, such as walking to work every day instead of driving, ect.
I believe in buying the most responsible animal products possible. I do not condone entire lives lived in cages to produce eggs. The pork I buy comes from a creature that ran around on a farm during it's life. I hunt. I hunt only during hunting season. I don't waste food. It isn't financially or environmentally intelligent.
I don't eat as much meat as I used to, because I realize it is better for me and the entire earth to consume less.
I think that Jonathan Safran is a dick:
Jonathan Safran posits that consideration, as promoted by Michael Pollan in The Omnivore's Dilemma, which has more to do with being polite to your tablemates than sticking to your own ideals, would be absurd if applied to any other belief (e.g., I don't believe in rape, but if it's what it takes to please my dinner hosts, then so be it). (Taken from Natalie Portman's contribution to Huffington Post.)
I think he is a dick because he just compared my cheeseburger eating habits to a woman (or man) being sexually assaulted. For anyone that has ever been sexually assaulted, I'm sure it helps your healing to know that some dipshit out there just found your assailant on par with a kid that loves beef stew. He didn't vilify meat. He shushed down RAPE.
I've lived briefly as a vegetarian while visiting friends and didn't mind it. I feel a lot of respect for people that are willing and able to.
I've had blood tests done, and have absolutely no allergies to any dairy at all.
I like soy milk more than cow milk, and goat milk more than cow (unless it is with brownies, then I like cow milk better than the others.)
Saying humans are the only creatures to drink milk past childhood is laughable to anyone that has ever owned a cat. Lots of animals happily drink milk. We are just the only ones with thumbs to get it without nursing.
I wouldn't be opposed to cannibalism if it wasn't for diseases or law breaking. In fact, I think eating convicts would be a lot cheaper than a costly funeral after execution. (I'm also not strictly pro-death penalty, but only because it costs the state more to get such a punishment as opposed to life imprisonment.)
I've eaten dog.
Twice.
And liked it both times.
I am very opposed to trawl fishing.
I helped write a textbook on scuba diving spear fishing.
I do not hunt for sport, only food. (If it was a 'sport' then I'd expect the doe to have a fucking gun, too.)


Um... ok. That is all I can think of now!

Put on your gloves and go to town!

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Yes, a pound of meat requires more resources to raise than a pound of grain. However, that pound of meat provides much more sustenance and a much broader spectrum of necessary nutrients than the pound of grain.

But the argument becomes circular when talking about the typical grain-fed livestock of the meat industry; I want to clarify that I am talking about pasture-raised cattle. Domesticated cattle are descended from wild bovine species that ate wild grasses. Like humans, the introduction of processed grains into their diets results in poorer health. Of concern to the consumer, the meat of grain-fed cows often has a horrible Omega3:Omega6 ratio.

I cannot argue that this idyllic pasture-raised fantasy is sustainable for the entire world. But can anyone truly assert that their lifestyle is sustainable for the entire world? How many cars do most families have? Televisions? Computers? Clothes? Shoes? Could the world sustain every single member of the human population owning the same? No. One would have to be an extreme ascetic to actively live a life that could be sustained by the entire world population. Does this mean we should do it? I don't know.
Thanks, Shine!
That is completely bogus. 90% of calories are lost in feeding our grains to animals for meat production. 12 pounds of wheat will make twelve loafs of bread or only 1 pound of hamburger. Which do you think will feed more people? One pound of meat requires 2500 gallons of water to produce. A pound of wheat takes 25 gallons to produce. Both land and water are unsubstainable resources. A vegan uses between 16 to 20 times less resources than a meat eater. It is just simple math as to whether humanity can afford to keep animal products in our diets as the population continues to grow.
Dennis, do you have sources for these stats? I'm not being catty, it's just that I like to know where numbers are coming from.

First, I am not talking about grain-fed cattle. I mentioned that in my reply above by referring to aurochs, the ancestor of domesticated cattle.

Secondly, bread cannot sustain a human body on its own for an extended period of time. The body needs fat and protein, neither of which is available from grain products. (I know that quinoa and other grains have some protein; however, these are incomplete protein sources because they do not contain all nine essential amino acids.) This was my primary point: an acre of grain may produce more food in bulk, but not necessarily in value. How long can you survive on bread? The twelve loaves that you mentioned may feed more people, but how long can they sustain those people? I would argue that the pound of hamburger and some leafy green vegetables would sustain a group longer.

Finally, my last point was to wonder at the application of it all. Can you truly say that every aspect of your life is sustainable for the entire global population? How many articles of clothing do you own? How often do you bathe? How many pieces of electronic equipment do you own? My point is that no part of the developed world's lifestyle is sustainable at a global scale. Does this mean we should change our overall way of life? I don't know, but I think that it is the underlying issue; meat consumption is only a tiny facet of the problem.
The human being is not constructed to eat meat. - Blatantly, demonstratively, dishonestly wrong. Humans eat meat. We do not get sick and die from eating meat. Thus, we can eat meat. Denying self-evident fact is no way to make a point, much less calling in 'constructed' which smacks of creationism and (non-)intelligent design. We are not constructed to do anything.

We do not have the jaw structure or stomach acids of a true carnivore. - No, we don't. That's because we are omnivores. The carnivore/herbivore false dichotomy was dealt with pages back.

Lactose tolerance/intolerance is dependent on what part of the planet a person's ancestors are from. Northern Europeans, for example, tend to be lactose tolerant due to a useful little mutation that cropped up a few thousand years ago. People from China tend to be lactose-intolerant due to a lack of a similar mutation. As the alleles spread, lactose tolerance will likely become more common, as it provides a benefit to survival over intolerance. Nothing whatsoever to do with greed, everything to do with evolution.

Trying to fake biological constraints (or worse, 'design') in order to put forth an ethical argument is not going to work. All it does is make you look ill-informed, ignorant, or dishonest.
you said that you wouldn't be opposed to canabalism if it weren't for the diseases and legal reasons. what would you think of your meat if you knew that the cow you were eating had cancerous sores? i don't think they would that on the package, but those cows are killed for human consumption. yuck!

i've mainly become a veggie due to the way that factory farmed animals are treated. i'm not really opposed to the killing of animals for meat, but some of the ways its done is just too horrendous to think about.

anywho, i think you have a pretty balance view on the whole eating meat thing. if i were able to selectively pick when to eat meat from where, i would probably do that, but i think its easier for me to just avoid it all together.
I understand what you are saying, but I do not think that it is fair to draw a parallel between the past moral transgressions of slavery and the biological history of meat consumption in the human race. The former was an unconscionable result of greed and conquest, whereas the latter was born out of necessity and survival.

I guess that this begs the question as to whether meat consumption is ethical now that it is not a matter of survival. If the question is whether it is ethically wrong to kill an animal for food, why is it any less wrong to kill a plant for food?


I don't think the drawing of a parallel between the subjugation and enslavement of other humans and the domestication, enslavement and slaughter of non-human animals is entirely unwarranted. It took a long time for us to recognise enough commonality between the various peoples (ethnic, cultural, religious, linguistic) inhabiting this planet, a recognition by no means complete yet, to realize that the subjugation and enslavement of other humans is unethical (some forms of human slavery and subjugation also continue to this day).

I think a time will come when we realize that our current treatment of non-human animals is also unethical. While primitive hunter-gatherers may not have hunted out of greed, but rather for survival, the modern system of intensive animal husbandry, factory farming and mass slaughter (billions every year) of non-human animals is certainly nothing but greed and conquest.

The question of whether meat consumption is ethical now, when we have the technologies to survive, even thrive without meat, anywhere in the world, is definitely a good starting point. If it is no longer a matter of necessity and survival, it comes down to taste, habit, tradition and ultimately greed. The point is not, I think, whether it is unethical to kill another being for our own survival. We know that all life feeds necessarily upon other life, which is one of the cruellest facts of life and one I would take exception to were there a loving creator god.

As to the question of whether there is an ethical difference between the taking of animal life and plant life, I see no definitive answer, though philosophers and ethicists continue to try. Gary L. Francione, for example, with whose views I largely agree, draws the line at sentience:

"Sentient beings are those who are conscious of pain and pleasure; those with some sort of mind and some sense of self. The harm of death to a sentient being is that she or he will no longer be able to have conscious experiences... And our experience of sentient beings other than humans reasonably supports the position that all sentient beings share in common an interest in continuing to live–sentience is merely a means to the continued existence of organisms who are able to have mental experiences of pleasure and pain."

And directly to the question of animals versus plants:

"No one really thinks that plants are the same as sentient nonhumans. If I ate your tomato and your dog, you would not regard those as similar acts. As far as we know, plants are not sentient. They are not conscious and able to experience pain. Plants do not have central nervous systems, endorphins, receptors for benzodiazepines, or any of the other indicia of sentience. Plants do no have interests; animals do."

I am not willing to make pronouncements with quite such certainty about plants--we may yet discover more about plants, their functioning and their experience (or not) of pain, etc. However, what helps me draw the line is this: deriving our energy from animals is extremely inefficient; that is, we need to feed the animal--a cow to provide an example--about 7 pounds of plant life for every pound of flesh we wish to derive. Add to that all the clear-cutting being done so grain can be grown for livestock feed, rather than for human consumption, as well as the other harmful environmental effects and the treatment of animals. So on the one hand I know I can survive perfectly well, even thrive, without the taking of animal life--I've been vegetarian for 16 years now and vegan almost 10. (Aside: adherents of Jainism, esp. members of their monastic order, have been vegan at least since Jainism's inception about 500 B.C.E., while many millions of Hindus and Buddhists have been vegetarian for just as long.) On the other hand I have to kill something, in my case plants, to survive, but in so doing I am responsible for the death of much less life as a vegan than a meat eater. I endeavour to do the least harm necessary. That's it.

(Sorry about the length of this reply.)
While primitive hunter-gatherers may not have hunted out of greed, but rather for survival, the modern system of intensive animal husbandry, factory farming and mass slaughter (billions every year) of non-human animals is certainly nothing but greed and conquest.

I am in complete agreement that factory farming is a disgusting operation fueled by greed and profit. Food, Inc. is a recent documentary that highlights the detrimental effects of corporate agriculture, both plant and animal.

However, what helps me draw the line is this: deriving our energy from animals is extremely inefficient; that is, we need to feed the animal--a cow to provide an example--about 7 pounds of plant life for every pound of flesh we wish to derive.

The only problem with the equation is that the resultant pound of animal flesh is a much more nutrient-dense food source; a pound of meat can sustain a human body much longer than a pound of plant material, in regards to both caloric and macronutrient requirements.

Add to that all the clear-cutting being done so grain can be grown for livestock feed, rather than for human consumption, as well as the other harmful environmental effects and the treatment of animals.

Grains are not part of the natural bovine diet, and grain-fed cattle result in a poorer quality of meat with an unhealthy ratio of O3:O6. It is sad that "grass-fed beef" is such a novel concept; the ancestors of modern cattle, the aurochs, survived by grazing on wild grasses. Pastured cattle that are allowed to graze are able to be raised on land that is unsuitable for grain agriculture; animal herding not reliant upon grains as a foodsource is able to make use of land that cannot be farmed for whatever reason.
Don't forget environmental consequences of animal agriculture. The pollutive side effects and resource waste of that industry are among the most compelling reasons to eat low on the food chain.
The mass production of corn and soy are also ecologically detrimental. The problem is not what the industries produce, but the overwhelming size of the industries. Industrial agriculture is horrible invasive and destructive on the surrounding land, regardless of the end product. I completely agree with you that CAFOs and mass meat production are horrible. However, not all meat consumed is produced in this way.
And let's also not forget the hundreds of thousands of field mice, rabbits, and other small animals that are violently torn apart each year by combines and other harvesting equipment. WHEAT IS MURDER!
Bunny Apocalypse?

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