A Bone to Pick: Vegetarian/Vegan Proselytizers

I’’ve grown weary of the growing number of proselytizing tirades from vegetarians and vegans; especially when they try to make eating meat a moral issue. Vegetarianism is a dietary preference . . . that’s all it is. Veganism takes vegetarianism to its illogical extreme and invariably attempts to make it a moral issue. They conflate their arguments with quote mining and statistics mining which ignores anything that contradicts their arguments. More likely than not, if you press them for sources, you’ll be referred to a vegetarian or vegan propaganda site, article or video. One such source, which I ‘ve seen cited more than any other, is the 2005 movie, ‘Earthlings’. According to Wikipedia, the movie is “about humanity’s use of animals as pets, food, clothing, entertainment, and for scientific research. The film is narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, features music by Moby, was directed by Shaun Monson, and was co-produced by Maggie Q, all of whom are practicing vegans.” Let’s see: a movie about man’s use of animals . . . made by a bunch of vegans. A one-sided propaganda movie is not exactly an authoritative (or unbiased) source!

Let’s deal with practical issues first, then move on to more abstract issues.

Go ahead and cite all the reasons why we are herbivores. Yeah, list them to your heart’s content. Done? Now, get in your car, drive around, open your eyes and mind, then soak in the reality: McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King, Wendy’s, Sizzler, and other chain restaurants that purvey meat. How many chain restaurants DON’T purvey meat? Barbeque, Chinese, Mexican, Italian, Japanese, Thai, French, Cuban, whatever: they all prominently feature meat. It’s even hard to find an Indian restaurant that doesn’t begrudge meat on their menu. Now don’t you feel silly, standing there with your list of reasons why we’re herbivores? There’s no denying we’re omnivores. Period.

Another argument that flies in the face of reality is the “vegetarian diets are healthier for you” claim. I will concede that it is possible to eat a strictly vegetarian diet and remain healthy. But the fact is, you need to eat a wide variety of plants to meet your minimum dietary requirements. And that means you need access to those plants – the full complement of which are only available in well-stocked grocery stores. Even then, doctors recommend dietary supplements to make sure vegetarians get all the nutrients they need. If you’re in the U.S., then you can likely find everything you need at the grocery store (assuming you can afford it). But if you’re in the third world somewhere, you might not be able to sustain a healthy vegetarian diet.

I did try a vegetarian diet, many years ago, when I was young. I never felt satisfied and my jaws frequently ached from chewing, chewing, chewing. Soon meat became too tempting and I quit after about a month or so. There was no sense in denying what I am: an omnivore.

So much for the practical side of this issue.

Many vegetarians started eating a veggie diet because they were turned off by the sight or experience of eating meat. The grease and juices and sinew; the idea that it was alive just recently. Not much can be said about these subjective reasons. If that’s the way you feel, that’s the way you feel. I don’t begrudge you your vegetarian dietary preference.

Most vegetarians believe it is wrong – as in, immoral – to kill animals for food. This reasoning suffers from the is/ought fallacy. What is, is. It’s reality. What ought to be is, by definition, not (yet) reality. If it ought to be, it would be, but it’s not. Yet.

Many human concerns and conflicts experience this tension between is and ought. Throughout history we have many examples of what ought to be finally becoming what is. Slavery ought to be abolished. It was. Women and minorities ought to have equal rights. Now they do. These shifts occurred only when and where we, as human beings, were collectively ready for them. You believe we ought to all be herbivores? That’s clearly not the case at the present time but, maybe, it will eventually happen. I hope not. Because I love meat. And I don’t feel the least bit sorry for cattle and livestock.

Mother nature is a zombie. She’s red in tooth and claw. Life can be ugly and survival is, more often than not, violent. I don’t feel sorry for cattle and livestock because they’ve filled an evolutionary niche, in service to humanity, that has guaranteed their genes will be passed on indefinitely. Cattle and livestock are prolific because of animal husbandry – which dates back to the first domestication of animals. Not only are their large populations assured . . . they no longer have to face predators, draughts or famines. When slaughtered legally, a sheep, cow, pig or chicken led to slaughter dies without the panic and adrenaline terror that accompanies the pursuit, capture and tearing of live flesh, by predators. You think the slaughtering of livestock is inhumane? It’s immensely preferable to what Mother Zombie has in store: death by starvation, dehydration or predator.

Then there’s the “primates are herbivores” argument. It’s hard to tell if those who make this argument are ignorant, stupid or lying. The fact is: some primates are herbivores and some are omnivores. Chimps, for instance, will eat meat. More to the point, we are evolved from a primate species who began supplementing their diets with meat. Homo sapiens have ALWAYS eaten meat: we’ve always been omnivores. It’s part of our job description.

Morality is subjective. It’s a human construct exclusively for humans. Collectively, much of morality is informally codified into ‘social norms’ or formally codified into laws. There is no objective moral standard in nature – only a prime directive: survive. We, as atheists, don’t believe in God, so there is no supernatural being available to hand down an objective moral standard to us. If there’s no objective standard in the natural or the supernatural realms, that pretty much rules out any possibility for an objective moral standard.

The vegetarian/vegan claim that it’s immoral to eat meat is merely their opinion. That’s all. For now, their opinion is in the minority. That doesn’t mean they’re wrong . . . only that eating meat is a social norm and is entirely legal in every society on this planet. For now, they’re on the wrong side of the is/ought fallacy. Maybe someday they’ll prevail. But I wouldn’t hold my breath.

And finally, there’s the “toxic to the environment” argument. Well, insecticides, fungicides and synthetic fertilizers are also toxic to the environment. They are necessary to protect harvests and feed the world’s 7 billion mouths. It would be more accurate (and less biased) to say that food production – both veggies and meat – is toxic to the environment. But of all the environmentally harmful factors we must deal with, it ranks well below vehicular and industrial pollution (not that this means we can safely ignore the problem). ‘Green’ farming is a nice idea but can’t yet achieve the production levels necessary to meet world-wide demand.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot . . . the reason our predecessor species suddenly developed bigger brains is because they began supplementing their fruit, veggies, grains, legumes, tubers, nuts and seeds with meat. It wasn’t just our brains that got bigger; so did our bodies. Vegetarians and vegans need to ask themselves, if a vegetarian diet is so good for us, why did it take meat to make the difference in our intellectual capacity and physique? The switch from herbivore to omnivore is a major milestone in our evolution.

Vegetarianism/veganism is not a proper topic for proselytizing. If you prefer to just eat veggies, then good for you. Implying we are less moral or less humane because we eat meat is simply ignoring the facts in a futile attempt to foist your personal preferences on us. We don’t appreciate it. Humans are omnivores: we eat meat and most of us love it. That’s not going to change any time soon.


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