Is Veganism About Morality?

veganismVeganism is almost a religion for some. They evangelize and try to convert others. Like atheists, they are opposed by those who prefer the status quo. I’m going to examine their counter arguments, as compiled in The Complete Anti-Vegan Arguments Guide.

Disclaimer: I have nothing against vegans who aren’t trying to impose their preferences on others.

1. Animals eat other animals

We should not base our ethics as a society on what animals do in nature.

I agree. This is a weak argument

2. Top of the food chain / Circle of life

Scientist have proven that we are in fact not at the top of the food chain. This study by the National Academy of Sciences of the United States concluded that “humans are similar to anchovy or pigs and cannot be considered apex predators”.

This is a bullshit appeal to authority. The study referenced classified species based on the percentage of their diet that was vegetable. By that measure, you would classify a wolf or a cougar as higher on the food chain than a grizzly bear. Clearly, we are not like pigs or anchovies in terms of our position on the food chain. The definition of an apex predator is that there is no other animal that preys on it in nature. There is no other species that claims humans as part of their natural diet.

This means that everyone that uses the “circle of life” or “we’re at the top of the food chain” argument should be fine with being violently eaten by other animals higher in the food chain like lions or bears. In fact, they should be fine with having the same treatment as pigs since we are at their same level.

Humans hunt and eat more bears than vice versa. Just because one believes that some animals are OK to eat doesn’t mean one thinks all animals should be eaten.

But we are superior to pigs!?


3. Eating animals is necessary

It’s not.

I agree. The question is not whether it is necessary, but whether it is preferable.

4. Eating animals is natural

It doesn’t matter if it is, because something being natural doesn’t mean it’s ethical or good. This is an “appeal to nature fallacy”. You don’t do things solely because they’re natural.

Who said solely? When something is a natural behavior, it has the weight of millions of years of evolution backing it up as a survival tactic. That means that, all things being equal, natural is better. So its up to you to show why we should go against nature.

You use planes, cars, medicine, operations, doors, buildings, clothing, cutlery, cups, and an array of things that are not natural. Some diseases and health problems are natural, but you do whatever you can to unnaturally get better.

And all of these things have clear benefits for survival.

There are other natural things you avoid, such as killing members of your own species and forcibly impregnating females, because nature is a violent place.

At a tribal level, killing members of your own species is not a natural behavior. I would argue that morality evolved as a survival trait, so in a sense, not murdering or raping is natural behavior for humans.

Our civilisation is based largely on focusing on reducing suffering rather than in staying aligned with nature. In many cases, we strive to avoid the perils of nature.

Our civilization is based almost entirely on survival, not on reducing suffering. We avoid the perils of nature to improve our chances of survival, a natural behavior.

You should do what’s ethical, not what is natural. Abusing and killing animals when you don’t need to is unethical, regardless of it being natural.

I agree that you should do what is ethical, and that abusing animals is immoral. Killing some animals is not so clear cut. For example, I don’t have any moral qualms about eating shellfish or arthropods.

5. Humans are omnivores

There is still a debate about whether or not we are omnivores.

Again, a bullshit appeal to authority. People eat both meat and vegetables. Hence, we are omnivores.

Having the ability to do something doesn’t mean it’s right to do so. Human beings can carry out many atrocities, and some do, but those that do face punishment because their actions are wrong. Having canine teeth or the ability to digest meat doesn’t justify eating animals in the same way having a fist doesn’t justify beating someone up.

Having the ability to eat and digest meat is evolved, meaning that these are (or at least were) survival traits. Traits that evolved for survival are not inherently right, but the onus is on you to show that they are wrong due to changes in the environment.

6. Most people eat meat

So what? This is an “appeal to popularity” fallacy and holds no true logical value. Most people in the past thought slavery was acceptable and that women shouldn’t vote. Most people usually agree with a certain oppression and it is a small group of people that fight to change the status quo.

Most people think murder is wrong. If you believe that we should all start murdering, the burden of proof falls on you.

7. Our ancestors ate meat

Our ancestors did many things that you would find disturbing, including killing each other, and don’t do many things you do today that improve your life. Basing your ethics on cavemen is not going to take you very far. Our knowledge has improved, and our ethical behaviour should improve accordingly.

Again, the adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies. If you want to change something with historical precedent, you need to show that your change is an improvement.

8. Eating meat helped us evolve

It doesn’t matter if it did, because we live in a very different world and different things today will make us evolve other than eating meat. Also, that something helped us evolve doesn’t mean that such behaviour is ethical or acceptable today.

But is eating meat unethical?

Early homo sapiens used rape as a strategy for gene-promotion when they could not get access to consensual sex. This helped the human species evolve to where we are today, but I don’t see anyone justifying rape because it might have helped us evolve.

What evidence is there that rape was used as a strategy for gene-promotion in early humans?

In addition, most scientists agree that it wasn’t meat, but cooking foods, that made our brains evolve.

If you read the linked article, it doesn’t address brain evolution and doesn’t argue that the food being cooked was not meat. The article actually argues that eating (cooked) meat made us human.

9. Eating meat is healthy

You can be completely healthy eating a non-vegan diet, as long as you limit your intake of meats with high saturated fat and cholesterol and eat enough fruits and vegetables to get essential micronutrients. Many meat eaters live long and healthy lives. The vegan argument doesn’t say that veganism is right because you can’t be healthy otherwise, it merely states that given the choice of being healthy as a vegan or a non-vegan, you should choose the former since it is more ethical.

Good answer. If the claim was that eating meat is more healthy, you might be in trouble. For example, iron is more easily absorbed from red meat that it is from spinach.

10. Farmed animals are bred to be killed

Bringing any animal into existence for the purpose of abusing, using them and harming them is not ethical under any circumstance. If you breed a dog for dogfighting, the harm inflicted on the dog by the fight is not ethical. If you breed bulls for bullfighting, the harm inflicted on them is never justified.

Farm animals should not be abused or harmed. Using animals is not unethical. If you breed a dog for herding and it is injured by a cow, you have done nothing wrong.

The animals that are being used and killed do not care about why they were bred, they just want to live and avoid suffering. It is not our right to go against those interest just because we brought them into existence.

Legally, we are not allowed to make them suffer. We have the right to own domestic animals, and there is no law against killing them. Therefore, I have the right to kill my chickens (assuming I actually owned chickens) because they are my property. Whether this is ethical is another question.

11. Farmed animals would go extinct

Livestock animals have been selectively bred and modified by humans to be profitable. They suffer all kinds of health problems because they are bred to be much bigger than their natural ancestors. Continuing to breed them serves no purpose, even if everybody was vegan there would be no logical reason to keep breeding these animals, knowing they will suffer health problems due to the manner of their selective breeding.

I would say this only makes sense if there was no demand for meat. The fact that turkeys suffer health problems due to being bred to be bigger doesn’t compel me to stop breeding them.

But if we really wanted to keep pigs, chickens, cows and the animals we eat alive, we can conserve them in the same way endangered species are, i.e. not by slitting their throats. There are many animal sanctuaries that exist today where farmed animals are rescued and live their entire lives, so they wouldn’t go extinct.

Seems like a waste of resources.

12. Farmed animals would overpopulate

The animals we eat, wear and experiment on have been artificially bred to meet the demand for their bodies and their secretions. If the demand for animal products decreases, the number of animals brought into existence will decrease too. There was no problem with overpopulation of cows, chickens and pigs before humans started messing with their bodies and altering them for profit. If we stop breeding them out of control, they wouldn’t overpopulate.

This is a dumb argument for the most part, but there are some domestic species that would go wild and have to have their populations controlled. This could likely taken care of by predatory species.

13. Farmed animals would be killed in the wild

Vegans don’t want all domesticated animals to be released into the wild. You can’t do that because those animals are domesticated, and are not natural breeds, they were selectively bred. So it would be releasing billions of animals into ecosystems which would cause so many unknown problems. What vegans want is for animals to stop being bred. It isn’t a question of either they get eaten by wild animals, or by us. We don’t need to be breeding them and eating them at all.

So they would have to be phased out. This is how it is already happening.

14. Animals don’t understand morality

Most animals do have at least a basic understanding of right and wrong, because this is an evolutionary advantage. Altruism often results in something positive in return, and bad actions usually result in negativity. If a dog doesn’t kill other dogs, you’re less likely to be killed by a dog.

I’m not sure that is true. Dogs are pack animals, and will kill members of rival packs. Though they may have a limited sense of morality, I don’t believe they understand it (i.e. are able to reason about it).

But regardless, animals aren’t morally valuable because of their ability to understand morality, they’re valuable because of their sentience (ability to experience pain and pleasure). Some humans, like babies and mentally disabled adults, sometimes cannot discern right from wrong, but they still have a right to life because they’re sentient.

The ability to reason (about morality, among other things) is what makes humans uniquely valuable. Babies are human because they will grow into reasoning. If someone has a severe disability, they are not valued to the same degree. For example, they are not allowed to vote, thought they do have the right to life.

15. Animals would eat you if they could

This is not even an argument, it is a far-fetched hypothetical situation.

Yeah, this is a dumb one.

16. Humans are superior to animals

In some ways, yes. We’re superior in intelligence. We’re not superior in our ability to fly or see in the dark. But remember that some humans are superior to other humans in similar ways to animals. Some humans are smarter, faster, stronger, better looking and so on. By this logic, the “superior” humans could in theory abuse and kill the inferior humans. This is why the “might makes right” argument is a logical fallacy; it can justify several unethical behaviours and the measure of “superiority” is completely arbitrary.

Intelligence exists on a scale. We all (hopefully) agree that it is immoral to kill humans. Many of us agree that dogs, dolphins, and whales should not be killed. On the other end of the spectrum, Buddhists wouldn’t kill a fly, but very few would argue it’s immoral to eat shellfish. Almost everyone would agree that killing malaria carrying mosquitoes is moral.

Superiority doesn’t grant you a right to abuse other sentient beings. In fact, this line of thinking is what justified many atrocities in the past, like The Holocaust, black segregation, disenfranchisement of women, and so on. “They’re less than us, so they can be killed or their rights can be taken away”. Of course, nobody wants animals to have the same rights as humans, like the right to vote, because it doesn’t make sense. What does make sense, however, is to grant them the right to life because their sentience means they have an interest to live, just like us.

Most of society does not agree with this.

17. The animals are already dead

Yes. But veganism is not about saving the dead animals in the supermarket, it is about reducing the demand for animal products to prevent further animals from being tortured and killed.

Agreed. Another staggeringly dumb argument.

18. I eat every part of the animal so they don’t go to waste

The animals don’t care what you do with their bodies after their death, they care about their throats being slit. If you’ve already committed the unethical, unnecessary action of killing an animal, what you do after doesn’t make it any better. By this logic, American cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer should have received a shorter sentence, because he used nearly every part of his victims’ bodies. He ate various parts of them and even turned some body parts into household items.

Most people don’t agree that killing domesticated food animals is unethical. It’s hard to say that killing an animal for food isn’t more righteous that killing one for sport. Jeffrey Dahmer killed people, not animals bred to be eaten.

19. God put animals here to eat

No religion mandates meat-eating. You don’t have to eat animal products to be a devout Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, etc.

Judaism mandates meat eating. All Jews are commanded to eat the flesh of the Paschal [lamb] sacrifice on the night of the fifteenth of Nissan (Ex. 12:8).

Regardless of what it says in the Bible, Koran or Torah, you should do what is right today. Ancient religious texts should never be used to justify our behaviour, because they include an array of terrible things like slavery and misogyny.

This is an atheist point of view. Reasonable people believe that religious texts can provide useful information about what is right today. Only fundamentalists believe that everything written in (their chosen) religious texts is right.

Plus, don’t you think if God is wise and omniscient, that he wouldn’t give pain receptors to animals and then tell you to kill them? Surely God would approve of you being vegan, therefore causing the least amount of harm possible to animals and the environment, both of which are God’s creations.

No, I don’t. Regardless of whether there is a God who created the earth, doubtless pain receptors were evolved to allow animals to survive. How would you have any idea of whether an omniscient being would disapprove of humans eating animals? Clearly the Jews at least think you are wrong.

20. The dairy industry doesn’t harm animals

Cows in the dairy industry, arguably, live more miserable lives than cows raised for meat.

I agree that industrial farming is unpleasant. Is it immoral? Do the benefits of nutrition from milk outweigh the burden on the animals? On a small farm, the life of a dairy cow doesn’t seem too onerous, IMO.

21. The egg industry doesn’t harm animals

Males are considered useless so they are killed at the hatchery, either by being macerated alive, or by being gassed, drowned, or suffocated in a sack.

And in nature, males kill each other, since roosters are territorial. Gassing them seems more humane.

Females are painfully de-beaked and sent off to the farm, where they will lay a painful 300+ eggs per year due to genetic manipulation (as opposed to a wild chickens 20 or so per year). After the egg-laying hens stop producing a profitable amount of eggs, they are sent to slaughter, which involves being thrown into an electric bath to be ineffectively stunned, then hoisted up upside down and going along a conveyor belt to have her throat slit. Many chickens will remain fully conscious after their throats are slit and will be boiled alive in the de-feathering tank afterwards. Their slaughter happens at around two years of age. The natural lifespan of a chicken is eight years.

Yes, industrial farming is unpleasant. Same argument as for milk: do the health benefits outweigh the burden on the animals?

This process happens in any farm, regardless of it being free-range, organic or whatever.

Not true. Small farms the world over do not de-beak hens or genetically manipulate them.

22. People would lose their jobs

Yes, this is a sad reality. But as consumers, we aren’t responsible for keeping all industries in business. When you go to the supermarket, you don’t buy every single product they sell to make sure nobody goes out of business. As consumers we choose where our money goes and we pay for the products and services we want to see more of, and we don’t buy those we dislike. We all understand this, which is why when someone quits smoking or drinking alcohol, people don’t tell them they’re putting people in the tobacco and alcohol industries out of jobs.

It will happen gradually.

However, it is important to realise that jobs aren’t lost, only displaced. If you’re not buying milk, therefore funding the dairy industry, you’re buying soy milk, therefore creating jobs in that industry. While it is true that dairy farmers will have a tough time, for example, it is also true that there is a growing demand for other crops like rice, soy and oats which is putting more people into jobs in those industries, which is only for the best.

This is true, but it will still be disruptive to farmers.

23. It’s legal to eat animal products, there are laws to protect animals

Just because something is legal doesn’t make it right. Less than 200 years ago, slavery was legal in the United States.

While what is legal isn’t the same as what is moral, it is a good approximation. If something is not illegal, the burden of proof is on you to show why it is immoral.

The laws in place to “protect” farmed animals still allow significant harm to be inflicted to these animals. Organisations like the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA) claim to work to prevent unnecessary harm to animals. But since we know that eating animal products is unnecessary, isn’t all the harm caused in the meat, dairy and egg industries unnecessary?

Just because something is unnecessary doesn’t mean it’s undesirable. If I believe eating meat, dairy, and eggs is aesthetically pleasing and not immoral, then you will need more than this argument to pursued me.

There is nothing humane about the way we treat and kill animals. In UK law, chickens can still be debeaked, pigs and male calves can be castrated, pigs can have their teeth pulled out, and more. Needless to say, the best way to stop all animal abuse from happening is to end animal agriculture altogether.

Farming is not abuse. Most farmers I know treat and kill their animals humanely. Castration applies to pets as well as food animals, and is seen as humane. Pigs teeth are pulled out because they are dangerous.

24. You buy products from sweatshops

The fact that I have a computer made with components that were produced in sweatshops but am vegan is no different than you having one and being against human slavery or racism. Having a laptop does not invalidate the ideologies of gender/race equality, in the same way it does not invalidate veganism. The fact that anybody funds sweat shops doesn’t mean you must also pay for animal abuse.

Claiming that people who eat meat, which was produced without harming any humans, are equivalent to people who knowingly consume products produced with child labor, is not going to win you any converts.

If I say it is wrong to kill animals for food, but I cause harm elsewhere by buying from sweatshops, that doesn’t make killing animals right.


25. You can’t be 100% vegan

This is also an “al tu quoque” fallacy. If a vegan says “it is wrong to mutilate pigs”, the argument tries to say “well you step on ants and use cars with tyres that have animal products, so who are you to speak?” This argument tries to invalidate veganism by suggesting that there is no difference between a vegan contributing 1% to animal abuse and a meat-eater contributing 100%.

Totally agree. It’s like suggesting there is no difference between murdering a human and slaughtering a pig.

26. Going vegan doesn’t make a difference

If you want a large number of vegans to have an impact in the world, then you need to begin by becoming part of the group.

Agreed. This is the “my vote won’t make a difference” argument.

27. The whole world will never go vegan

Having people in the world doing something unethical is no reason for you to copy them. You have control over your decisions and you can choose to be ethical regardless of what others do.

The question is, is eating animals immoral?

28. I only buy locally grown, free-range, organic meat

In all farms, regardless of how the lives of animals are before slaughter, the animals die at a fraction of their lifespan. Animals get killed as soon as their purpose is served, or as soon as they reach a profitable size.

But if you believe it is moral to eat animals, how does this matter? Besides, you argued earlier that these animals were genetically modified to make them suitable for eating. Modifying their lifespan doesn’t seem any worse then breeding them to be better for eating.

29. Humane slaughter

You can, in theory (and not at the large scale required to feed 7 billion humans), kill an animal without any pain. However, this does not make the killing morally acceptable. Killing animals, thus depriving them from their right to life, for no necessity, is wrong.

Is it, or is it merely aesthetically unpleasing? If it is wrong, why haven’t we made it illegal?

The definition of “humane”is “having or showing compassion or benevolence.” Synonyms include compassionate, kind and considerate. Therefore, “humane” and shooting animals, are not compatible. No humane person would want to take the lives away from animals for no necessity.

Killing animals in a way that causes less pain is considerate. Therefore, it does fit your definition.

30. Animal products are tasty

Animal products are the result of suffering and killing of animals. If you justify eating animals and their secretions by saying that you like the taste, this means you believe that unethical actions can be justified by the personal pleasure you derive from such action. This is clearly problematic.

What if you don’t believe that eating animals is immoral? How do you weigh the aesthetic value of not killing animals against the aesthetic value of a pleasant meal? Aesthetics are in the eye of the beholder.

Using this line of thinking you can justify stealing because it feels good to have more money, or raping because you enjoy it.  Harming another sentient being for your own pleasure is morally despicable.

No you can’t. Stealing and rape are immoral, as agreed on by (western) society. Unless you convince me that killing an animal is immoral, you don’t have an argument.

31. Vegan food is tasteless

Most of the food humans eat is vegan. Fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, pasta, bread, potatoes and soy. You enjoy these foods every day and you don’t think they’re unpalatable. The food your prepare is as good as you make it. There are award winning vegan food products and restaurants all over the world. You can easily find online recipes to veganise your favourite meals. There are plenty of dairy milk alternatives in the market. If you don’t like soy milk, try oat, rice, coconut, hazelnut or almond milk.

Ever had chana masala? Aloo mutter? I make a mean veggie chili. But this is an aesthetic argument. You can’t convince someone that their tastes are wrong.

And even if vegan food was tasteless, morality trumps personal pleasure. An animal’s desire to live will always be greater than your desire to eat a steak, and deep down you know this.

Is it immoral? Does an animal raised to be eaten’s desire to live outweigh a person’s desire to eat a steak?

32. It’s a personal choice

Personal choices, by definition, only affect the individual making the choice. With eating animal products, there are other sentient beings involved. It is not a personal choice to harm animals for trivial and unnecessary pleasures. Your personal choice ends where someone else’s choices begin.

This is absolutely untrue. I can make a personal choice to be an asshole to someone, and their feelings may be hurt. This argument only sticks if you convince me that eating an animal is immoral. If I eat an animal, I haven’t taken away anyone’s choice, because animals don’t have the right to choose not to be eaten.

33. Vegans are so judgmental

Some vegans are. There are idiots in every movement, and veganism isn’t an exception. But adherents to a movement don’t represent the validity of the ideology behind it. If you’re against animal abuse, you should be vegan. If you don’t like judgmental vegans, become a vegan and be the counter-example.

Making the judgment that eating animals is immoral, when society as a whole doesn’t agree, is pretty judgmental.

34. Morality is subjective

People are fast to use subjective morality to justify things they do when it’s convenient, but wouldn’t tolerate this argument if they were the victims.

Moral relativists are generally opportunists. Not worth addressing.

35. Not everyone can be vegan

That’s true, but you can.

Yep, another dumb one. Not everyone can vote, therefore I won’t.

36. Focus on more important issues / Human rights are more important

Veganism is a non-action. In other words, you don’t need to actively do anything to be vegan, so it doesn’t take more of your time. As such, you can continue to fight for human rights issues or other “more important” causes while eating a veggie burger or stir fry instead of a steak. You don’t need to harm animals while you fight against human oppression. Plus, if we wait until all human rights issues are solved before addressing animal suffering, we would never get there since there will always be human conflict.

To focus on more important issues does not address the act of being vegan, but the advocacy for it. No one worries about personally respecting others human rights either, but there are only so many issues you can spend your time on. Time spent on actual human rights issues is time better spent than time spent on animal rights, in my opinion. And since where you spend your time is up to you, everyone gets to choose.

It is also worth putting the animal suffering problem into perspective. Worldwide, 56 billion land animals are killed every year for food. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and Amazon deforestation. Nowhere in the world are humans being exploited in the magnitude and severity as non-human animals are. If they were, there would be a global uproar and the issue would be solved immediately.

The environmental impact of animal agriculture is a winning issue. Why sandwich it between the number of animals being killed and exploitation? If someone thinks that raising animals for food is moral, they won’t care about those arguments.

Animal abuse is interlinked with human suffering, too. High meat and dairy diets are responsible for some of the United States’ leading killers, like heart disease and strokes.

Another winning issue. The “animal abuse” lead in make the point less effective.

In areas where slaughterhouses are set up, the rates of domestic violence and crime go up. Many human rights violations occur in factory farms because of the high production rate required to meet the demand for meat. Some US factory farm workers wear diapers to work because of lack of bathroom breaks.

These are problems with factory farming specifically. The mistreatment of workers is a human issue, and is not specific to this industry.

Don’t you think the animal rights issue is at least as important as some human rights issues?

No. I may have a very different idea of what human rights are inalienable. For example, I don’t think killing an animal is the same as murdering a person. Animals don’t have property rights, so they can’t be stolen from.

37. Plants feel pain

But let’s be reasonable. Plants lack brains, a Central Nervous System, and anything else that neuroscientists know to cause sentience. Some studies show plants to have input / output reactions to certain stimulation, but no study suggests sentience or an ability to feel emotions or pain. You can clearly understand the difference between a blade of grass and a pig. Comparisons between the two are completely absurd.

OK, what about shellfish? Why not eat them? You have made this a black and white issue by saying all animals. Personally, I don’t believe fish have feelings. Even birds seem merely clever. Until something reaches the intelligence of a dog, it doesn’t show signs of even minimal self-awareness.

38. Animals die in crop harvesting

This is true, and no vegan claims to cause no harm to animals.

This is another dumb one.

39. You take medication that has been tested on animals

It is not practicable and possible to die or get ill because you don’t take a medication you need. It is the law in the US, the UK and Europe that all medicine must be tested on animals before being released to the market, so as vegans we cannot practically avoid this since there aren’t any non-tested medicines.

Well, you could refuse the medicine. Christian scientists do. If you feel that harming animals is truly immoral, why are you putting your health before their lives? It’s tough not to see this as hypocritical.

But this is entirely different to eating meat, dairy and eggs for pleasure and convenience when there are thousands of other options available in the supermarket, many times in the next shelf. If the option is between dying or taking medicine tested on animals, you take the medicine. You’re not in this situation when you buy animal products and this argument is a complete cop-out.

So if its convenient, its immoral to kill animals, but if its not, its moral? That’s not the way it works. If the only way to test a medicine was to kill a person, I wouldn’t take that medicine, even if it meant I would die.

Also it is worth mentioning that buying the medicine is not actually increasing demand for animal testing, since the medicine was tested before entering the market and never again, whereas animal products require animal deaths every time.

Above, you argued against the “its already dead” argument. Now, your making it.

40. Hitler was a vegetarian

Godwin’s law: they lose.

41. Veganism is expensive

Not true. As a matter of fact, veganism can be as expensive or inexpensive as you want it to be. But pound for pound, a plant-based diet is by far the least expensive one on the planet, given that the staple foods of the most poverty-stricken societies worldwide are rice, beans, lentils, potatoes, bread, and so forth. For much of the world, meat and animal products are a luxury item.

I call bullshit. My daughter was a vegan for more than a year. It was very expensive.

42. Veganism is unsustainable

In fact, we could feed more people with less land, water and resource usage if everyone was vegan than if people ate meat. A Cornell University article states that the US alone could feed about 800 million more people “if all the grain currently fed to livestock in the United States were consumed directly by people”.

This is a truly winning argument.

43. Protein

Protein is an incredibly bio-available nutrient.

There are plenty of soy products and other meat substitutes.

44. Calcium

Good vegan sources of calcium include: dried herbs, sesame seeds, figs, tofu, almonds, flax seeds, Brazil nuts and kale. Most vegan milks are fortified with calcium, so you could just consume those as you would do any cow milk.

Also, milk sucks.

45. Iron

Vegans and vegetarians don’t have a greater incidence of anemia than meat-eaters.

When my vegan daughter became anemic, my doctor suggested she eat red meat occasionally.

46. B12, 47. Omega-3, 48. Vitamin D

Vegans have to supplement B12 by an oral supplement or by eating fortified foods, but this doesn’t invalidate veganism. If you think you can’t get enough omega-3 or your body can’t absorb it, an algae-based DHA supplement will have you covered. The UK government recommends that everyone should take a vitamin D supplement.

It is a pain in the ass having to take supplements though. Vitamin D in particular comes from fish and eggs, things that I have few moral qualms about eating.

49. Iodine

The best sources of iodine are sea vegetables (seaweed, kelp, and dulse). Be careful not to eat too much, though, as your iodine levels might be too high if you do. If you don’t like or can’t find sea vegetables, you can consume iodised salt or take a supplement.

Who doesn’t get enough salt?

There are a few solid health and environmental arguments in this guide. Unfortunately, it is far to heavily reliant on the premise that killing animals for food is immoral. That may become the majority opinion in the future, but currently, it isn’t. The preachy language around these arguments further weakens them. If someone doesn’t believe that killing animals for food is immoral, calling them immoral is not going to convince them.

I have no issue with people becoming vegan. If I wanted to convince people to convert to veganism, I would appeal to their own self interest. I think that tank grown animal proteins and processed plant proteins would be great alternatives that could solve most of the issues with eating animal protein. To make them the preferred alternative, they need to be cheaper than meat. Why does veggie ground round cost more than hamburger? If soy beans are so much more sustainable than beef, why isn’t it cheaper?

About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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8 Responses to Is Veganism About Morality?

  1. dailynegativity says:

    So I take it that your main contention is that nonhuman animals are not equal to humans.

    Here’s something I think we can both agree on: In order to demonstrate that humans are, in some sense, superior to (or matter more than) other animals, we need to identify some morally relevant difference between them.

    So what is this difference? Well, perhaps it’s intelligence, or capacity to engage in abstract reasoning; or maybe it’s moral agency (something you alluded to). Here’s the problem: whatever capacities or characteristics we appeal to in order to distinguish humans from other animals, there will always be some number of humans who don’t have these capacities. Human infants, of course, lack them, but there are also humans who will never develop these characteristics. We do not, however, regard these humans as having a lesser moral status on the basis of this difference. So the question is, why do we regard other animals as lesser beings when many of them clearly possess all the same relevant capacities? It’s fairly clear that their lives matter to them, just as our lives matter to us. So equality for other (conscious) animals seems to make perfect sense.

    • jimbelton says:

      Non human animals are not equal to humans. Conciousness is the defining difference, IMO. Yes, there are humans who are not concious (infants, people in comas, some severely retarded people). There are also animals that come close enough that I personally wouldn’t kill one (e.g. dogs). Pigs are a very grey area IMO. We do give children and the mentally retard less moral status. For example, children don’t get tried in adult courts, and mental deficiency is a criminal defense. I leave children and those in comas or with treatable conditions out, because they have the potential to become fully conscious. Are there some mentally retarded people who are less conscious than a dog? Probably. I don’t advocate mistreating or killing the severely mentally retarded, but I also don’t think they are as morally valuable as others.
      Here’s a question for you: which animals do you consider (close enough to) equal to humans? Where do you draw the line. Currently, most people seem to agree dogs, apes, and cetaceans should not be killed without reason. How far would you go?

  2. dailynegativity says:

    I realize (after looking again at your post) that you’ve already addressed this point. What’s not clear to me is, why, having more or less accepted this argument, you do not acknowledge a moral problem with exploiting other animals (e.g., pigs and cows).

    Maybe I should first of all ask you, what exactly is your position on veganism? It’s not really clear from the post what your actual position is.


    • jimbelton says:

      First things first. My position on veganism is it is an individual choice. You have the right to choose it, and you have the right to choose otherwise. The eating of animals is not a black and white moral issue at all in my opinion. For example, I see zero merit in the argument that shellfish are sentient. Preventing someone (for example, a native person) from hunting is IMO a serious violation of their rights. Preventing a farmer from slaughtering (hopefully humanely) his cattle is a violation of his rights. You can see the consistency of this argument because if you steal a farmer’s cow, you are charged with theft of his property. What it comes down to is are there animals that we should not have the right to kill. Personally, I don’t have a moral problem with killing pigs and cows. I think the fact that producing food this way is bad for the environment is a more persuasive argument. I would like to see a better alternative to these products, and I think we are close to that.

  3. dailynegativity says:

    Thanks for writing back, Jim.

    You say you wouldn’t advocate mistreating or killing humans who lack certain cognitive capacities. So if I could show you somehow, that cows and pigs are just as conscious as these humans, then you would not want to advocate their mistreatment or killing either?

    I should say that veganism is an approximate moral position. As you correctly note, some animals may not be conscious at all, in which case there would be no interests, desires, or pains of any kind to attend to. If this is the case with some animals, I don’t see any moral issue with ‘exploiting’ them as such, or indeed eating them. Now, where to draw the line is basically an empirical question, and it’s difficult to know exactly where one might make it in actual practice. I do think there are pretty good indications, however, that fish are conscious and can feel pain. I think we also have very good reason to suppose all mammals are sentient beings. I agree with you though, that some animals (like shellfish) may not be conscious.

    So in abstract terms, I would say consciousness (in particular the capacity to feel pain) is the criterion on which to base a moral distinction.

    • jimbelton says:

      I think the bar for consciousness is higher than the bar for sentience (being able to feel pain); consciousness to me implies the ability to reason about one’s thoughts. That said, I hope that none of the animals I eat (and though I occasionally eat vegetarian, I do eat quite a lot of meat) are being mistreated, and that they are killed in the most humane way possible. Once there are grown animal proteins or better/cheaper vegetable meat substitutes, I will certainly be trying them out.
      What is moral does shift over time. There will probably always be grey areas, which is where pigs and cows currently fall. It’s only a recent phenomena that slavery is considered immoral and that contraception is not. There’s a good chance that eating meat will be seen by the majority as immoral in the future.

  4. dailynegativity says:


    Thanks for your polite and thoughtful responses.

    Just want to make two final comments:

    Today, as I’m sure you know, a considerable proportion of animal products (meat, dairy, eggs, etc.) are sourced from intensive farming units (factory farms). If you’ve ever seen footage of inside one of these, I think you will agree with me that these individual animals are not treated well, even by the most inhumane standard.

    Second, there are many plant-based alternatives out there now, though they can be, as you suggest, a bit pricey. In any case, thought you might be interested in this company (if you’re you’re not already familiar):
    (Milk is, I think, comparatively easy to substitute with soy, almond, rice, or some other plant-based milk.)

  5. jimbelton says:

    Factory farms are certainly wretched. I worked for a while in a chicken barn in the early 80’s. It was nothing near as bad as the big modern ones (no debeaking, e.g.), but it was still pretty bad. Factory farms often show the worst side of capitalism. This is why alternatives like beyondmeat need to get more affordable. Assuming beef and pork are not banned outright, they will likely become specialty “organic” (humane, free-range) products when there are cheaper alternatives. Then, instead of 100 feet of butchered meat and one end cap of meat substitutes in the grocery store, maybe it will be the other way around. I’m also interested in lab grown meat: I’m not a big fan of milk (soy or otherwise). For coffee, almond milk works just as well, IMO.

    Thanks as well for being polite. I love getting comments that I don’t have to delete, and actually add to the content.

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