Common Anti-Vegan Arguments (How to quickly refute the same lame excuses that are always trotted out by a meat-eater)
by Michael VeganVeg de Vere
Sunday, October 10, 2010
: This is the result of my being rather tired of hearing the same old excuses from so many meat-eaters and typing all the same responses over and over. It's now so much easier to cut and paste from here! Much of this was lifted from other sources without permission. My apologies to those authors. This was done "for the animals" and not for any profit on my part.
COMMON ANTI-VEGAN ARGUMENTS
(How to quickly refute the same lame excuses that are always trotted out by a meat-eater)
A. Biology and Nature
A1. "Nature is brutal.
After all, lions kill their food and even house cats will torture a mouse before eating it." (The old "I am a troglodyte, hear me rawr." argument.)
Yes, nature is brutal. Cats (and other animals, such as orcas) who "play" with their food do so as training and reflex-sharpening in their repertoire of hunting skills. However, as humans, we have risen above this and other animal behaviors. Furthermore, we don't judge our behavior and morals against animals in other contexts, so why should we do it with regard to eating? After all, male geese gang-rape female geese too. Does that justify such behavior in humans? Should we roll on a rotting animal and eat excrement? Dogs do this, after all.A2. "We evolved to eat meat."
(The old "Science allows me to be cruel to animals because it's in my genes to do so." argument.)
It is natural to eat meat and to crave it. We have evolved as an omnivorous species to eat all sorts of things to maximize our survival. This is in line with many other generalist traits we evolved (such as our dentition) which helped us maximize reproduction within a dangerous and often changing environment. However, we never had any biological requirement to include meat as part of our diet, and certainly less so in contemporary times with modern knowledge about nutrition. See Note 1 for a large list of comparisons between biological features involved in eating.
A3. "Our teeth (or other feature) prove we are carnivores."
(The old "Look at my pointy fangs! grrr... grrr... rawr!" argument.)
Our teeth prove that we are opportunistic omnivores. Nothing more. In fact, there are many features of our bodies that show we evolved to eat far less meat than most other omnivores. This is in line with our nearest neighbor, the chimpanzee, which will only eat meat occasionally, despite large sharp canines. See Note #1 for a large list of comparisons between biological features. Also see "We evolved to eat meat".
B. Nutrition and Health
B1. "Being a vegan is unhealthy"
(The old "My cheeseburger, peperoni pizza, and fried chicken diet is so good for me." argument.)
Simply eating vegan is not going to ensure you are eating healthy food because there is so much junk food available nowadays that have no animal products in it (in other words, thriving on french fries and onion rings is not going to cut it). However, if you eat a healthy vegan diet, you are undoubtedly going to be healthier than a person eating a "regular" diet. Many studies show that vegans have lower rates of diseases such as high blood cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, cancers, and heart disease. Furthermore, by not eating hormones and antibiotics that have been pumped into the animals, vegans are much less prone to all the problems that those compounds bring forth.A healthy vegan diet is based around whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruits, and legumes. This diet is low in fat, has no cholesterol, and provides plenty of protein, calcium, fiber, and other nutrients for optimal nutrition. Healthy vegan diets are great for everyone. The American Dietetic Association agrees. ADA’s position, published in the July 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, represents the Association’s official stance on vegetarian diets:
“It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life-cycle including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood and adolescence and for athletes.”
B2. "Where do you get your protein?"
(The old "I've been indoctrinated from birth to think meat is required for me to survive." argument.)
Whole grains, vegetables, and beans provide more than enough protein to stay healthy. Most people actually eat too much protein, and when the body has more than it needs, it excretes the rest in our urine. Animal protein also leads to increased risk for several illnesses (see health argument).
Protein is made up of 20 amino acids, and meat, eggs, and dairy have all 20 of them. There are also complete proteins in plants, such as grains and beans, but some of them have smaller amounts of one or two of the 20. Because of this, they aren't popularly recognized as great sources of protein, even though they have tons of vegan protein. Of the 20 amino acids, humans create 11 in their bodies and get the other 9 from foods. Someone with a protein deficiency is not getting enough of one or all of those extra 9 amino acids. An old misconception about being a vegan was that in order to get enough protein, you had to combine the foods that were missing amino acids with a food that had that exact amino acid, the old "red beans and rice is a required meal" argument. That is a fallacy. As long as you eat a wide variety of grains, beans, nuts, and seeds, you will absolutely get enough vegan protein.
Nutritionists also once believed that plant proteins were of a poorer quality than animal proteins. Even now, plant proteins are sometimes called 'second class' proteins while animal proteins are elevated to the 'first class' department. This belief centered on early research on the poor laboratory rat which showed that giving extra amino acids of weanling rats reared on a plant-protein diet improved their growth. The same was assumed to be true for humans. However, the parameters of the experiments were set in such a way that differences in the quality of plant and animal proteins were exaggerated. Also, rats and humans have different nutritional requirements, since weanling rats grow at a much faster rate, relatively, than human infants and therefore need more protein. A comparison of rat and human milk makes the difference quite clear: protein comprises only 7% of the calorie content of human milk, while rat milk contains 20% protein. If weanling rats were fed only human milk, they would not thrive. These tests over-estimated the value of some animal proteins while under-estimating the value of some vegetable proteins and The World Health Organization has now abandoned this inadequate method of assessing the value of proteins to the human body.
The USDA's Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein for a non-athlete or non-pregnant/breastfeeding adult is only 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. If you want to figure out how many grams you should be eating daily, here is the calculation:
Body weight (in pounds) X 0.36 = recommended protein intake. Note that this is considered by many to be far more than is actually necessary to maintain health.
See Note #2 for details on studies linking consumption of animal protein to calcium leeching from our bones.
B3. "Where do you get your calcium?"
(The old "I've been indoctrinated from birth to think milk is required for me to survive." argument.)
Although calcium is present in animal milk, it isn't the only source of the mineral, nor is it the best source. The dairy industry just wants us to think it's the best calcium. As long as you eat a varied diet, getting enough vegan calcium is easy. Dark leafy green vegetables like kale, mustard and collard greens, broccoli, bok choy and chinese cabbage, and okra contain tons of calcium. Even grains, beans, blackstrap molasses, and other fruits and vegetables supply vegan calcium to our bodies. In less than a cup of collard greens, there is as much calcium as in a cup of cow's milk. A good number of vegan foods are fortified with calcium, especially soy milks and tofus. There is as much calcium in four ounces of tofu as in a cup of cow's milk. Even orange juice companies are now adding calcium to their products.Calcium is necessary for humans as it helps keep the firmness in our bones, helps our blood clot, and energizes our muscle function. Adults should take in about 1000 mg of calcium per day, and that slightly increases past the age of 50. Some studies show that eating animal protein, especially casein in milk, will actually increase calcium losses in the bones. This suggests that although cow's milk has a good amount of calcium, your body is actually absorbing less of it than it does with vegan calcium sources. See Note #2.
B4. "Where do you get your Iron / B-12 / D?"
(The old "I'm grasping at any nutritional excuse I can think of to avoid giving up meat." argument.)
Vegans have a high dietary iron intake and although iron from plant sources is less well absorbed than that from meat, naturally high levels of vitamin C in the vegan diet enhances iron absorption. Studies show that the iron status of vegans is usually normal, and iron deficiency is no more common than in the general population.Vitamine B-12 encompasses a group of related substances known as cobalamins. It is commonly but inaccurately believed that animal foods are the only source. In fact, active B-12 is thought to be unique among vitamins in being made only by bacteria. The B-12 found in meat, eggs and dairy milk derives from the activity of bacteria living within the animals. Despite the notoriety of this vitamin, dietary B-12 deficiency in adult vegans is rare: some 15 cases have been recorded in the medical press worldwide since the 1980s. Not all cases will be published but it is significant that B-12 deficiency is so uncommon that single case reports are still thought worthy of publication in medical journals.
Adult vegans obtain adequate vitamin D if they regularly spend time outdoors in spring, summer and autumn. A dietary intake of the vitamin can be ensured by taking fortified products, such as soy milk.
C. Factory Farming
C1. "Factory farming doesn't hurt animals. Laws ensure they are humane."
(The old "I'm sticking my fingers in my ears and yelling LA LA LA really loudly whenever you talk about this." argument.)
Either you are incredibly ill-informed or you are in deep denial of the facts. We have all been deceived about how farm animals are treated. Go to any library or bookstore and search the children's section for books about farms. You will see idyllic settings with tons of grass and pasture, families of chickens pecking about for seeds and worms, ducks and geese swimming with their babies, cows roaming all around, and pigs rolling about in mud baths.
Unfortunately, that's just not the way it is. I'm not going to go into it here. There are many sources to find out the graphic truth about factory farms. You don't have to look very far on the web to see the gory details. Try a YouTube search or any number of animal rights or vegan sites. If only you would. But I doubt you will, if you are in denial. Why avoid the flat-out truth about how our meat is made, if it's not true? Take a look. No watering-down of the facts, just the truth. I can understand why you don't wish to see or hear it. It's not pleasant at all. But how can you be a denier if you don't know exactly what it is that you're denying? Bottom line, as Paul McCartney said, "If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian."
It's time to take a (relatively mild) look through the window (in increasing levels of graphic imagery):
Full descriptions of conditions for most species in factory farms (few small pictures): http://www.vegan-nutritionista.com/factory-farms.html
Pamphlet with some graphic imagery of "normal" abuses: http://www.veganoutreach.org/whyvegan/WhyVegan.pdf
Details and videos of "normal" abuses: http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/campaigns/factory_farming/
I think you can find many more, if you care to look. If not, you have to ask yourself "why not?" If it's too much to bear to see, then perhaps eating meat/eggs/milk is too much for the animals to bear. I'm just sayin'...
C2. "I know farmer Brown and he never mistreats his animals."
(The old "Old McDonald had a farm, EIEIO" argument.)
So, let me get this straight, his cows have led a long happy life (20 years is the natural lifespan), foraging on the food they evolved for (forest leaves and bushes, not grass and grains), frolicking with other members of the herd (both male and female), mating and giving birth several times and bonding and raising their offspring through weaning. Then Farmer Brown captures one of these nearly-wild animals in a way that doesn't scare it at all, calmly walks it alone (no scary truck rides) to a location where no other cow will hear, smell, or see the killing and butchering (it cannot be the same place each time, as the smell of blood doesn't soon go away) and cleanly and perfectly kills it with the first shot and butchers it without any other members of the heard knowing. He then sells this tough and stringy 20 year old meat to you. Why do I find this hard to believe? Anything less than it's natural life in it's natural environment would be the human mistreatment of an animal for your pleasure. And unacceptable.
Sorry, "I pat it on the head and scratch it behind the ears before I kill it" just isn't a good enough excuse to eat meat.
C3. "I only eat 'free-range' chickens and eggs."
(The old "I believe every cheerful little lie the industry feeds me." argument.)
Sorry Charlie. Poultry meat may be labeled “free-range” if the birds were provided an opportunity to access the outdoors. No other requirements—such as the stocking density, the amount of time spent outdoors, or the quality and size of the outdoor area—are specified by the USDA. As a result, free-range conditions may amount to 20,000 birds crowded inside a shed with a single exit leading to a muddy strip, saturated with droppings.
The free-range label applies only to birds raised for meat, not eggs. There is a cage-free label for eggs; but it is not regulated by the USDA, nor does it guarantee that the hens were provided access to the outdoors. Neither label requires third-party certification. Even for USDA Organic, the most extensively regulated label, minimum levels of outdoor access have not been set and specific rules do not apply to stocking density or flock size. I wonder if a profit-driven industry will decide of it's own accord to do the right thing at the expense of profit?
C4. "Ok, meat is bad, so I'll just eat eggs and milk and be a happy vegetarian instead of a vegan!"
(The old "A half-hearted half-assed attempt is good enough." argument.)
Honestly, all snarkyness aside, I'm thrilled that you're willing to take a big step and every step (even small ones) do make a difference in the lives of animals. BUT in case you haven't learned, this really isn't far enough yet and hopefully, you'll take that last step. Here's why you should:
Cows produce milk in the same way that humans do - when they have a baby. In nature, the calf would drink his mother's milk and then she would no longer have a supply of milk. On factory farms, dairy cows are artificially inseminated so that they constantly have milk. They also have their calf taken away from them immediately after birth, which are made into either tightly confined veal cows (males to be slaughtered in a month or so) or future dairy cows (females). Additionally, dairy cows are given growth hormones so that they produce much more milk than they would have in nature. Those hormones cause their udders to be engorged with milk, which leads to infection and intense pain for the cow. When her udders are attached to the milking machines, the udders grow external infections, fill with cuts and puss, and hurt her. Once they are no longer able to produce a large amount of milk, they are slaughtered. Needless to say, milking a cow does hurt the cow.
It's natural for chickens to lay eggs, so why is it bad to eat eggs? The egg laying hens go through some of the worst abuse of any factory-farmed animal. These hens are roughly packed into cages with numerous other hens (only 6 inches of space each), and those cages are stacked several layers high. As the hens on the top defecate, the crap falls into the cages below. The hens are unable to stretch their wings or legs, and often develop severe bone disorders. When the chickens weaken or die, they are often left in the cages where the other hens trample them. Of the eggs allowed to hatch, the females become laying hens. The males are useless, so they thrown into a trash heap where they suffocate or are crushed, all to be ground up dead or alive. These are not abnormal exceptions; this is the normal, legal, and accepted practice of egg production.
D1. "If we didn't grow crops for animals, we would have to grow them for people, so there would be more intensive agriculture, not less."
(The old "I'd eat more corn than a cow if I couldn't eat a cow." argument.)
Sorry, this argument is flat-out silly on the face of it. Depending on the crop and the animal, one can get up to 20 times the number of calories per acre growing human foodstuffs than grain for animals. According to the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) 1999 Animal Agriculture and Global Food Supply Report, an average of 8 pounds of grain is used to produce a pound of beef in developed countries. It takes about 2 pounds of grain to produce one pound of chicken meat, about 4 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of pork. This does not take into account the additional fuels and other resources required to keep, transport, and slaughter the animals.D2. "Factory farming really doesn't impact the environment"
(The old "I don't like science and numbers confuse me, so I'll call them wrong." argument.)
It is impossible for any rational person to intelligently deny the negative ecological fallout of industrial farming. The arguments are sound and incontrovertible: three quarters of the US's nitrous oxide (296 times more polluting than carbon dioxide) comes from meat agriculture; pigs and cattle excrete almost three times as much waste nitrogen than humans globally (in the US it is 130 times more); toxic chemical and animal runoff from factory farms has poisoned 173,000 miles of rivers and streams; land the size of seven football fields (often precious forested areas) is razed every minute to create room for farmed animals; 40 percent of all grain produced worldwide goes to feed livestock, not humans. The list of insults to the environment goes on and on and on.
And the causal links are straightforward: nitrous oxide, along with methane and carbon dioxide, is a greenhouse gas which contributes to climate change; the waste products from irresponsible farming practices pollute water sources and damage ecosystems; rainforests act as carbon sinks - natural and vital temperature regulators to keep the planet healthy - we need them. Global climate change deniers are like meat-eaters who try to use this argument: In denial.
D3. "You'll just kill more wild animals when you harvest plants for humans to eat."
(The old "I'll continue to support the torture of cows, pigs, and chickens because your tofu farm kills field mice." argument.)
Yes, wild animals die in the machine harvesting of all crops. This is unfortunate, but it also happens with the grains grown for livestock, which constitutes 40 percent of all grain produced worldwide. Given that there would actually be far less crops grown to supply human vegan diets, the numbers of these kinds of wildlife deaths would fall dramatically. For an incredibly in-depth analysis on this issue, please reference: http://www.animalvisuals.org/data/1mc/
D4. "Animal sources (meat) are the only way for people to eat in the extreme arctic and desert climates, where no plants grow."
(The old "I'll continue to eat meat I bought at Wallmart because I think Nanook still lives in an igloo 100 years after that lifestyle was actually abandoned." argument.)
Yes, if you are one of the VERY FEW number of individuals who must scrape out an existence in such an extreme environment, I suppose you may have a point and I suppose the only thing I could say is "bon appetite" (assuming you killed your meal in a humane way). Since you are not one of those rare individuals, I'll suggest you come back to the reality of where your food is derived and what your options to reduce suffering really are.
E. Behavior and Morality
E1. "I like meat."
(The old "Bacon is tasty and I want to rub it in your face." argument.)
So do I. So do most people. It's natural to crave meat. What vegans don't like is the needless suffering animals endure in order for me to eat that meat. See the "We evolved to eat meat" argument.
E2. "I don't like veggies."
(The old "I don't like veggies." argument.)
This one is actually understandable. It does take a bit of willful determination (for many people) to make the transition to vegan. After a lifetime of being given the choice between broccoli and cheeseburgers, guess which one we crave when it's up to us to decide? We evolved to crave fat, sugar, and salt, as those items are generally harder to come by in nature and are calorie-dense for our optimum survival when we do acquire them. It's little wonder that society has been happy to meet our natural cravings with an endless supply and selection any time we get the urge to eat. This is not about meeting the needs of your tastebuds, however. This is about the humanity we show other creatures.
E3. "You kill plants to survive, how is that any different?"
(The old "Screaming carrots!" argument.)
Plants do not have nervous systems or anything structural that perceives pain. The fanciful research of 19th century pseudoscience and any amount of wishful thinking will not change that fact. Additionally, more plants are cut down to feed farm animals than to feed humans, so by being a vegan, you are still killing fewer plants than as a meat-eater.
E4. "You care more about animal suffering than that of humans!"
(The old "People are only able to care about one thing at a time." argument.)
Human suffering and animal suffering are actually related more than one would assume. You cannot be concerned about one without concern about the other. Much worldwide human suffering is linked to humans not having access to vital resources like food, water, and shelter. The animal industry leeches these resources from humans, especially food and water. By spending so much money and resources on feeding and watering animals for human consumption (mostly in Western countries), we are stealing it from people who need it most.Also, assuming humans are of more importance than animals is speciesm, a prejudice toward one animal over another. A speciest believes that a human's suffering is more significant than another species' suffering, and disregards the fact that "pain is pain."
E5. "Why should I care about eating animals? That's what they're there for. Why should they have rights?"
(The old "Animals aren't people, so their suffering doesn't matter to me." argument.)
Most people would feel bad upon seeing a domestic animal like a cat or dog suffer, and would never consider harming one themselves, but they don't stop to think twice about eating an animal. Farm animals feel pain and emotional stress the same as humans, and certainly as much as domesticated pets do. Their suffering is no less intense just because they don't speak English or walk on their hind legs or live in our house with us. Just because we enjoy the taste of some animals doesn't mean that we should be freely allowed to eat them whenever we please. People who believe in "animal rights" believe that all animals have worth, regardless of what need they can serve for humans. It's the belief that every being has the right to life without suffering or pain. Animals were not "put here" for any purpose. They share the planet with us and we have no right to cause them to suffer for our pleasure.
E6. "It's impossible to completely avoid every molecule of animals product, so why bother trying?"
(The old "Whenever the bathwater is dirty, I throw the baby out with it." argument.)
It IS impossible to be an absolutely "pure" vegan. That is setting oneself up for failure (would you no longer drive a car for fear of hitting insects?) But being a "pure" vegan is not really the goal for most of us. The goal is to reduce suffering for as many animals as possible. A vegan diet, followed as much as possible, is simply one (important) tool towards that end. If a person wishes to start helping to reduce suffering by having a "Meatless Monday" or by just cutting out pork or beef entirely, that is a wonderful first step! Then, perhaps after a while, another meatless day per week or abstaining from an additional species. This slow method works for many people and it may work for you. I found it easiest to go vegan all at once, but that was after having a good experience with being an egg/dairy eating vegetarian first. I knew I could go vegan without any more difficulty.
E7. "Vegans have a holier-than-thou attitude. It's a cult-like religion. You cram morality down our throats."
(The old "I don't like the messenger, so I'll ignore the message." argument.)
Yes, vegans are passionate about the choice we made. We feel it is truly a moral and ethical imperative that animals come to no harm through willful or negligent actions on the part of humans. Animals must never suffer for our vanity or pleasure. Period. When another person challenges something that we believe to be a moral imperative, we stand up and say that it's wrong. Remember, it's the behavior we detest, not the person. We are frustrated when we see people who choose to look the other way when they know the truth. When we see how they pamper their pet dog and would never allow any harm to come to it, yet wolf down a ham that was cut from an animal that is smarter and more sensitive than any dog. Some of us get angry about this hypocrisy and choose to raise the awareness in meat-eaters.
Contrary to what you might think, though, most vegans are not loud about their food, and on occasion may simply try to educate meat-eaters about the choices they make. This can be touching a sensitive nerve in the meat-eater, most likely due to the fact that the meat-eater wishes to remain ignorant about the awful truth of their meat. As long as they can buy chunks of muscle pre-wrapped far away, and don't have to face the truth or know how much pain was actually involved, they can continue to satisfy their addicted tastebuds. Vegans see this as selfish and immoral behavior. How can we NOT say anything? It's our absolute obligation to speak out on behalf of the animals. To us, this is the same as if we saw a dog being abused by children on the sidewalk. We will not simply walk by as if it's no concern of ours and we expect that other civilized people would intervene against such obvious cruelty as well.