What’s So Natural about Butchery?: The Artifice of Eating Animals

One of the most common justifications for eating animals is that it’s “natural.” It’s considered natural, in part, because animals eat animals in the wild. Why should humans, as confirmed omnivores, be exempt from this struggle for survival? If it’s natural for a lion to hunt down and kill a gazelle, why is not equally natural for a human being to hunt down and kill a gazelle?

Standard objections to this argument stress the fact that humans are the only species with a moral compass. We are the only species that can design and promote plans explicitly intended to make the world a more peaceful place. We should therefore not eat animals. Such a response seems perfectly reasonable.

The practical problem with it, though, is that defenders of the “red in tooth and claw” viewpoint use the moral distinction to make the wrong case. Instead of  interpreting our moral capacity as a reason to avoid unnecessary animal suffering, they argue that it makes humans so superior to other species that we can justifiably transform them into sausage and cook them on a grill. I don’t in any way agree with this claim, but I hear it so often that I’m wondering if it might make more sense to confront the “animals do it too” argument from another perspective.

Of course, animals do a lot of things in the wild that humans have, thankfully, chosen to avoid. But what strikes me as potentially important is the way animals eat other animals in nature. Essentially, they kill them with their own claws or fangs and devour them raw. As far as I can tell, no non-human animals in any way significantly prepares the meat he kills (although I would not be surprised if insects did something insanely sophisticated). The blood and flesh are unprocessed. That’s generally how it works in nature.

For humans, however, eating animals is mediated by layer upon layer of artifice–and, I would argue, all of these layers require human inventions designed to protect us from the hard reality that we’re eating products from sentient animals. We butcher, process, and cook; sterilize, package, and ship. An array of synthetic devices never found in the nature–guns, arrows, traps, knives, ovens, stoves, etc.–make the experience of comfortable alienation possible. None of this is natural in the way that animals eating animals is natural. Not at all. If we had to obtain our animal products through the same natural mechanisms as animals in the wild do it, we’d likely end up a) eaten, b) so disgusted we could not swallow our catch, or c) sickened by zoonotic disease.  It is here, I think, where the “animals do it” argument is seriously weakened.

Indeed, maybe it’s through this angle that vegans might make the case that eating for humans–and humans alone– is a choice. It’s moral choice that–no matter how assiduously we compare our experience to those of non-human animals–reflects well on humanity when we choose to leave animals out of our diet. Compassion, I would venture, is natural, too.

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About James McWilliams
I'm a historian and writer based in Austin, Texas. This blog is dedicated to exploring the ethics of eating animals and animal-based products.

19 Responses to What’s So Natural about Butchery?: The Artifice of Eating Animals

  1. CQ says:

    Certainly worth a try.

    I have a hunch, though, that the pretzel-like verbal contortionists who crave sirloin steak and Swiss cheese, omelets and ice cream, will dream up a comeback. Something like:

    ~ It’s natural for humans to use their big brains to invent time-saving, labor-saving devices for hunting, breeding, slaughtering, preparing, selling, cooking, and eating our food.
    ~ It’s natural for superior humans to compete with and outwit their inferiors.
    ~ I don’t care what you say; it’s natural for me to enjoy eating animals, and I can, so I will.

    Of course, there’s nothing natural about being a self-serving, hedonistic excuse-maker who denies his true nature — his innate compassion and desire to be just to all. As you pointed out in your last sentence, James.

    • CQ,
      I agree, the distinction will be fogged out in rhetorical blather. Still, at some point we can only hope that, as the fog clears, what’s left standing are solid and logical arguments for eating plants and plants alone. May take hundreds of years, but the arguments must be there to provide a foundation when real change happens.

      What’s at stake in my post is the idea of “natural.” If we can somehow reveal the looseness of that concept, we can also weaken its use as a justification for an act that, from the perspective of pre-human nature at least, looks pretty artificial.

      Thanks for all your excellent comments.

      -jm

  2. Jo Tyler says:

    Another brilliant (and helpful!) post…thank you.

  3. Keith Akers says:

    To summarize your argument: The “eating animals is natural” argument doesn’t justify factory farming or even animal agriculture. It justifies hunting.

    Humans made the transition from hunter-gatherers to agriculturalists when the world human population was about 3 million. We did it out of necessity: there weren’t enough wild animals to sustain the human population on hunter-gatherer “technology.” This is a population less than 0.1% of today’s population.

  4. Interesting.

    So vegans get to take the moral high ground to convince me that I shouldn’t eat meat because predators don’t use firearms and butchering equipment? Then do I get to take the same moral high ground and convince them to give up their plant based diet because true herbivores don’t get to use farm equipment, save and propagate seeds or build the complex nutrient and water delivery systems required to grow all those vegetables? Morality is an interesting thing indeed.

    • I’m afraid you don’t understand my analysis–which is perhaps my fault. Both plant and animal agriculture are artificial. Those who eat plants, unlike those who eat plants and animals, tend not to justify their diet on the basis of nature. Within the realm of the “non-natural” acquisition of food, eating animals causes intentional harm. Eating plants does not. One is no more natural than the other. But one is definitely more compassionate than the other.

      • I understand your analysis, I just don’t agree that it’s accurate. I do agree with your statement that those who eat plants don’t justify their diet on the basis of nature. My experience is that the first thing a vegan must do is ignore several obvious facts of nature in order to eat the way they do without the same guilt they try to place on omnivores. The simple fact of the matter is that if you eat, you intentionally cause harm. The plants you eat either displace wild animals (agriculture) or are taken from wild animals (random browsing of nature’s bounty). I have yet to meet a vegan who puts any effort into investigating the dirty deeds required to bring their food from field to plate. The most compassionate act vegans can do for the animals is to stop eating, I don’t see that happening any time soon so I’m not convinced that the movement is as dedicated to it’s cause at it claims.

        The difference between us is that not only am I fully aware of the harm necessary to sustain my life but I’m willing to face it in broad daylight and participate in the often difficult work of feeding myself. I don’t willfully overlook the wild animals that are displaced or destroyed by the 1,000 acre monoculture of soy beans so I can have a cereal additive that quenches my real desire for proper milk. I don’t ignore the rodents and other pests who have to be “controlled” so they won’t get into the grain silos and eat “my” future whole wheat bread. I don’t ignore the fact that simply being alive on this planet means that some creature must, at some point, suffer so I can have the food required for life.

        The other enormous difference between us is that I have no desire to deny you the food lifestyle you chose.

  5. CQ says:

    Only someone who has no problem killing in broad daylight would conclude that living on this planet must always involve one inhabitant either wittingly or unwittingly taking the life of another. What a pessimistic, deadening view of life that is!

    No ethical vegan I know justifies killing as a natural, normal result of his everyday actions. No ethical vegan I know supports monoculture crops, eats huge amounts of soy beans, covets “their” whole wheat bread, or pretends that rats and rabbits (and other sweet little ones) never get inadvertently slain to support their diet. Indeed, every ethical vegan I know is constantly seeking ways to reduce whatever harm and death they inadvertently cause.

    Why is that? Because the basis of ethical veganism is love. Respect. Justice. Equality. Sharing. Brotherhood. And when one has such noble motives at the forefront of one’s thoughts and deeds, one gradually attains those goals. The ideal becomes the real, step by step. In fact, the ideal is the only real the entire time; it’s simply obscured from the materialist’s view.

    I think we as a society need to get beyond this limiting belief that we’re merely biological beings hard-wired to hurt one another in order to survive. Life is grander than that puny perspective! Those who seem to have more power, more advantages, more capacities aren’t put here to battle it out and prove their superiority, their supremacy. No! They’re meant to defend and protect those with the least power, advantages and capacities. That spiritual quality of giving, sharing, loving, serving others is, I believe, the true substance of the “very good” creation of a completely good Creator.

    Nuclear families whose members care for one another don’t compete with one another and seek to eliminate one another. Instead, they do their best to support one another, work side by side, share freely with one another, and treat one another with selfless compassion. Earth’s family, consisting of humans and other-than-humans, is simply an enlarged version of the nuclear family. Ethical veganism sees all members of earth’s family as one.

    Anyone who loves their neighbors, as ethical vegans love their animal (and hopefully human) neighbors, makes every effort to protect those neighbors’ lives. If you want to call that “denying you the food lifestyle you chose,” quarteracreofcrazy, go right ahead. I call it defending the meek and the weak from their would-be killers — and protecting the would-be killers from their own merciless (and mercenary) thoughts and acts.

    By the way, the best “proper milk” is “the milk of human kindness.” Oh, and a little almond milk, rice milk, hemp milk, coconut milk (I don’t care for soy milk).

    What it comes down to, for me, is that we each deserve to be free. Free of the fear of lack. Free of the false belief that we gain good by depriving another of her right to happiness and life. Free of the bondage of sensual appetites, self-justifying habits, stubborn conventions, stupid greed. Yes, we’re each entitled to freedom — the freedom to be good and do good to all.

  6. CQ: Beautiful speech, you almost had me with the visions of rainbows and unicorns.Throwing out terms like brotherhood, equality, sharing, etc. may make it easier for “ethical vegans” to live with a self-righteous attitude but it doesn’t fool the rest of the world. If you eat you cause harm. It’s really a pretty simple thing to comprehend. Denying that your need for food wittingly or unwittingly harms other creatures doesn’t suddenly make that fact disappear. And spending your energy “seeking ways to reduce whatever harm and death they inadvertently cause” by trying to guilt the omnivores of the world into thinking that your point of view is the only correct one does not mitigate the harm that you, personally, cause by eating. What right do you have to deny a head of broccoli, a wonderful creation of a completely good Creator, it’s destiny to go to seed to propagate itself?? Because it doesn’t have big brown eyes and a fuzzy tail it’s OK? And don’t get me started on all of the other things that vegans (and the rest of us) do every day that cause harm to animals.

    What I would like to know is what DO you eat? If animal and plant agriculture is bad, hunting is bad and anyone with even a dusting of common sense can figure out that every form of food requires some amount of harm to a living creature I can only assume “ethical vegans” survive on air alone. If not then I’m impressed at how well you manage to overlook the harm you do while pointing out the harm omnivores do.

    I really, and truly, don’t care what vegans eat. And I’m not interested in trying to convince a vegan to eat meat if they don’t want to, that’s their business. But I have no problem pointing out a hypocrite, especially when said hypocrite is trying to convince (or guilt or shame or whatever) me to change while proclaiming the wonders of equality and brotherhood and freedom… just not for me because I choose to eat the food my body was designed to consume.

    Thanks for the comment, it was entertaining.

  7. Provoked says:

    Hi quarteracreofcrazy – I think that once again the ideal virtues of veganism is being misunderstood. Every ethical vegan I know will admit to the obvious – That living a completely “cruelty free” life isn’t feasible. But that’s not the reason for not trying to live as kind, as compassionate and as thoughtful of others as one can.

    For me it was the comparison of being behind the wheel of a car and deliberately choosing a road where there were countless victims in my path – Or the choice to drive a different route where I might avoid causing as much harm as practical. Knowingly taking the course that would cause death to others is murder… Choosing the other route – Well, even law says it’s accidental homicide, or “manslaughter”. If we have degrees of killing humans that are tolerated or “acceptable” by society – Why wouldn’t ethical vegans allow themselves with the same “forgiveness” to causing harm? Deliberate, frivolous killing is not the same as unavoidable and necessary harm.

    It seems to me it is always the confirmed meat eater that wants to throw away the whole concept of causing less harm because it’s imperfect. I’m not concerned with being “perfect”. I think you’ll find most vegans aren’t either. It’s simply a matter of causing as little harm as possible. And yes, there are always choices. Surely not participating in a system that raises and kills billions of animals is a major step in that direction.

    If we start off with a code of causing minimal damage to others – There’s no telling what food systems might develop that eventually lead to causing even lesser still. I’m all for working towards that end. That seems like social progress and a worthy goal for a species that wishes to evolve.

    Finally, I’m certain you weren’t serious when you suggested that the head of broccoli had cognitive interests in continuing it’s existence. That was an attempt at sarcasm – Yes?

    • Hi Provoked,

      Thanks for an intelligent and reasonably balanced response. The only thing that I don’t particularly agree with is your take that confirmed meat eaters want to throw out the concept of doing less harm. The problem that I see is that meat eaters often feel the same (or similar) as vegans about the poor way food animals are raised. (That happens to be one of the reasons I hunt.) But because choosing to eat meat means doing more harm than vegans are happy with all too many vegans feel some twisted obligation to convince meat eaters that they are evil killers for not adopting a level of harm that they, the vegans, can live with. Some vegans also seem to relish in their distaste of hunters, going so far as to not only ignore the hunters perspective of the world of food but making it their life’s mission to convince us, and everyone else that we are simple minded murderers. What’s the point in having a conversation with someone who considers my desire to be responsible for my own food as frivolous killing?

      I work with a couple of vegetarians and vegans and we get along just fine. One doesn’t like the way meat animals are raised and the other finds being vegan healthier for her (with the various required supplements). I also used to work with a guy who didn’t eat meat from “factory farms” but had no problem with wild game. The kind of food you eat is a personal choice (as proven by the various types of vegetarianism I’ve seen), as it should be. But vegans have no more right to try to shame/guilt/force omnivores to become vegan (for whatever reason) than an omnivore would have trying to convince a vegan to have a hamburger.

      And finally, I was only *half* serious about the broccoli. Of course a plant (as far as we know) has no cognitive ability but one could, in all seriousness, argue that it has, by natural design, a predetermined goal to reproduce. What right do we have to interrupt that process by eating a plant before it has gone to seed? Or even to eat those seeds? Isn’t that a selfish and needless act of destruction merely to feed ourselves??

      As far as I know meat eaters aren’t joining hands, waving banners, preaching “facts” or calling vegans murderers based on that sort of idea, although I suppose they could. We would simply appreciate the same consideration from the vegans.

      • CQ says:

        James weighed in on the “personal choice” argument yesterday, so in case you didn’t see his take: https://eatingplantsdotorg.wordpress.com/2012/03/11/is-eating-a-personal-choice-hardly

        I’ll try not to give a rainbow-and-unicorns speech again 🙂 — but I would like to say that as far as I know, the motive of vegan activists is not to shame or guilt anyone. It’s to awaken hearts and minds.

        While most humans wince at the notion of comparing the abolition of human slavery to the abolition of animal slavery, I’ll use the analogy here in order to say this: William Lloyd Garrison and Harriet Beecher Stowe weren’t out to “shame” the Southern slaveholders. They were impelled by the noble goal of freeing the slaves. That may seem like an obviously worthy endeavor today, but back then it was controversial in many circles, as you know.

        Since plantation owners and slave traders and auctioneers hated (and feared) the idea that that their free laborers would disappear, they accused the reformers of butting into their affairs and told them to mind their own business.

        But the abolitionists could no more walk way than they could make themselves stop breathing. They were committed with every fiber of their being to fighting for equality and emancipation, and they were willing to endure the slings and arrows from those who wanted to keep the status quo.

        Can’t you just hear the pro-slavery argument: “What do you mean I can’t keep my own property? I bought my cotton pickers fair and square, and nobody’s going to take them away from me. Don’t call me an oppressor and exploiter — don’t tell me I’m being immoral. I’m not telling you off just because you don’t own slaves. Besides, I don’t hurt my slaves. I treat them well as they deserve to be treated, and they are happy on my plantation. This is America, land of the free. It’s my personal choice to keep slaves. And my survival depends on it.”

        What I don’t get is why so many animal-eaters don’t understand that ethical vegans cannot bear to see animals captured or confined or killed — especially for no justifiable reason. It pains me in the same way it pains me if a human is hurt or killed. I can’t help feeling compassion for them and can’t help being impelled to defend them from harm. Just as you would not hesitate to save your human child and your canine companion if either of them were drowning, I don’t hesitate to try to save, in my own way, the animals that I know are being killed. It’s not an intellectual exercise. It’s a deep-seated desire to help the helpless, protect the powerless.

        So, quarteracreofcrazy, you and others who eat animals may think it’s ridiculous that I care so much, and you may feel upset that I speak out, but, truly, my crusade isn’t directed at anyone personally.

        Perhaps you could think of it in this way: Animals are my friends. I don’t need to know them or even see a photo or video of them to regard them this way. I embrace them all in the same way the sun shines on all (not saying I am some saint, ‘cuz I’m far from that, nor am I saying I worship them; rather, I respect and admire them as the beautiful evidence of a grand Creator who I believe fashions and adores them). I can’t order my heart to stop caring about them. I can’t make myself distinguish between species according to cultural stereotypes: pig = food, dog = friend. I can’t force myself to shut up when they are being wronged. That would be cowardly. Am I making any sense here?

        When I get into these discussions, I sometimes think it’d be a lot easier to go back to my old, pre-awakened self. It would save me the heartache of knowing what happens to these innocent creatures, and the pain of listening to the world justify its premeditated violence against them. But, then again, I would rather know what I know and feel as I feel than return to a state of ignorance and apathy.

        I’m truly sorry (and I mean that) if my caring — and my acting upon my caring — disturbs you or anyone else. I don’t intend that. I try to speak in kind, thoughtful, respectful ways, though I don’t always succeed, by a long shot. I wish you could share with me the feeling of tenderly loving every deer and every bear and every fish and every bird and every frog and every other beautifully created fellow-being: not dead, but alive! Maybe some day….

  8. CQ: Thanks for the link, it was pretty much what I expected.

    Don’t apologize for what you feel or what you believe. I’m the first guy that will stand up and defend your right to do what you think is right, even if I don’t agree.

    Although I doubt James would agree I actually do get what you guys are saying, and, in part, I agree with you. My problem boils down to the tactics used by too many vegans to spread their message. When labels like ‘hunter’ and ‘meat eater’ are used, of which I am both, it’s difficult to not take the accompanying labels of ‘killer’ or ‘murderer’ personally. Too many of the tactics are purposefully over the top and, not surprising to me, fall on deaf ears. People are tired of those kinds of tactics, we get enough of that nonsense from politicians and activists of every genre. You can’t actually change the mind of someone who isn’t already moving in that direction so a lot of the rhetoric is simply wasted effort.

    I’m disappointed that you made the analogy between eating and slavery. It’s disrespectful of the human suffering that occurred (and still does in some parts of the world). You may be surprised to know that what most of us hear when that analogy is made is that you are diminishing human slave suffering and equating it to the pigs and chickens we eat. It’s disturbing, but not in the ‘shock value gets my message across’ way. (And if I can’t say that humans and animals are on different levels (for lack of a better word) then you can’t say my broccoli comment before is silly. Maybe I think plants and animals are on the same level also and that you have no right to eat something that can’t even run away.)

    The other thing that really disappoints me is that (some) vegans must think that because I eat meat that I’m incapable of the compassion and respect you feel for animals. I must be somehow emotionally inferior to you? (And James wonders in his article why other people find vegans to be self-righteous.) You said “I would rather know what I know and feel as I feel than return to a state of ignorance and apathy. “. That is a perfection description of why I choose to hunt. I have first hand experience with everything it takes to put meat on the table. Every dirty detail. I doubt that many vegans can say the same about their food.

    Like I said before, I have no problem with “veganism”, but sometimes vegans rub me the wrong way. Just because I eat meat doesn’t mean I’m not doing the ‘less harm’ that works for me.

    Thanks for the debate, I’m enjoying the conversation even knowing that neither of us will change the others mind. I like seeing how other people see things, even if I don’t share the same view.

    • CQ says:

      You’re welcome, QAOC (you have two of my initials, though not in the same order — and my CQ hardly means the same thing as your C and Q, though I’m sure many would beg to differ!).

      Thank you, too. I appreciate your civility, considerateness, and willingness to share your feelings.

      I can see, based on how you think about the divide between humans and animals, that the human slavery analogy would not sit well with you, though my purpose in using it wasn’t to agitate. I, too, would’ve found it an illegitimate comparison a few years ago. But it seems totally sane to me now.

      Why is that? Because, I can no longer see any merit to the argument that one species or one race suffers “more” than another. I think that’s a form of tribalism — the belief that our own family or tribe or country or ethnicity or religion is superior to the “other,” the “outsider.”

      Violence to one is violence to all, oppression of one is oppression of all, injustice toward one is injustice toward all. That’s my current sense of it. There are no “degrees of” or “levels of” these wrongs, as I see it today. Yes, of course, nonhumans have different capacities and purposes than humans. But, if anything, the fact that they are the “weaker” ones should mean that the “stronger” are even more obligated to ensure their safety and happiness and peace (oh, no, here we go with the rainbows again! 🙂 ).

      I also understand why you say that if I equate human and animal suffering then by the same logic you can equate animal and plant suffering. I guess the difference, to my sense, is that biologists have delineated an animal kingdom and a vegetable kingdom and a mineral kingdom on earth (don’t know about other planets). According to biology, I’ve correctly placed humans and animals in the animal kingdom, wherein all members (or should I hedge and say “most” or “many” or how about “all mammals”?) have identifiable, individual sapience and sentience, not to mention similar physical organs and functions. We know, thanks to biology, that plants don’t have the same components and characteristics, even though they, too, express beauty, order, harmony, aliveness, growth — in their own flora-like way.

      Yeah, I wouldn’t like being called a murderer, either. It would get my hackles up. I would rise up in self-defense. So I understand your sentiment. I can also see why frustrated, ex-smoker-type vegans feel they must speak what they newly see as the unvarnished truth.

      How many of us are truly willing to ask ourselves — rather than rely upon or denounce another person’s opinion of us — whether we are uncompassionate to some animals and not to others? Whether we are prejudiced? Prideful? Speciesist for no legitimate reason? (Racists don’t want to admit their racism, nor sexists their sexism.) Are we examining our motives? Our belief systems? Our behaviors? Our effect upon others? Are we desirous of growing? Are we unintentionally going along with the crowd and the norms of our times? Are we embedded in a rut? If I can ask myself these questions, and demand honest answers of myself, I gather everyone can. I confess, when it comes to motives, I too often try to prove myself right (implying that the other guy is wrong). Yuck! The better, kinder, humbler thing would be for me to be determined to DO right toward everyone, and not worry if I’m perceived by everyone as being in the right! 🙂

      As you say, QAOC (what DOES that mean?), it’s good that a discussion like this forces us to think through what we believe, and why we believe it. I trust we’re all staying open to the possibilities for progress in our own thinking and actions. Speaking for myself, I know deep down inside when I’m moving forward. When I compare my present self with my previous self on this subject, my slight progress gives me hope that society as a whole is also improving, throwing off its contentment with and acceptance of the status quo.

      Peace out, as my equally rainbow-y sister would say…. 🙂

      • CQ,

        Sorry for the delay in responding. My daughter made it into the county science fair (she took second place in Physics/Astronomy, woohoo!) so I’ve been tied up for the last week.

        Speaking of science… As I replied to ‘Provoked’ below falling back on biology generally doesn’t favor the vegan argument. You certainly can’t rely on biology to claim that we animals are all the same (and thus equal) while at the same time ignoring our physical design as predators. And if it’s fair for the lion to use his God/Evolution (whichever you prefer) given features to hunt for food then why is it bad for me to do the same? I thought we were all the same?

        Thanks again for the engaging conversation, I’m going to ride off into the sunset now and check out some other blogs. Feel free to drop into my blog if you’d like. Oh yeah, the QAOC is a reference to the never ending craziness of family/life/work/play that happens at our quarter acre sized bit of land on the farm where I work. Take care!

  9. Provoked says:

    Hi quarteracreofcrazy – Sorry for the delay in a reply but here it is.

    I don’t agree that it’s a twisted obligation to defend innocent victims. And yes, I do see other animals as victims to our very “frivolous” killing. We don’t “need” their bodies. I’m not blind that harm is done to procure plant based foods but this vegetation-part of the food chain IS a necessity for survival. The deliberate taking of life for meat consumption is frivolous because it is excessive in relation to our essential physical requirements.

    Sorry, I don’t see taking the lives of others as a personal choice. One cannot accept a shame or guilt without acknowledgment that it is earned. No one can be “forced” to have a new and clearer way of thinking. And omnivores do “force” their agenda on plant eaters – All the time! Or at least the social structure and supports for meat-eating prevails.

    I can’t watch 10 minutes of t.v. without being reminded of the carnage… I open my mailbox to find flyers from grocery stores with bloody body parts “on sale”. I drive a few blocks and I’m assaulted by pop-ups advertising their 2 for $3.00 specials of stolen lives. It’s all over the billboards – It’s unavoidable when trying to shop for shoes, cosmetics, cleaners, etc. The fact is that this animals-as-commodities system has infested every area of MY life. And it’s not by MY choice – I consider the barrage of reminders of the violent, carnist systems of “choices” as a destructive and oppressive “force” on my life. When viewed through my lens can you see that there is unwanted, unwelcome reinforcements of a system I’m vehemently opposed to? For now, you can turn off 3 or 5 or 10% of the vegans in the world… I wish it were as easy to do concerning a culture that’s 90% pro “humane” killing.

    Finally, I’m sure you’d like consideration from vegans… I suppose like guilt/shame it can’t be faked either. It must be earned. It is difficult to extend respect to those who are causing harm to those I value. I’m not asking that anyone adopt a dozen homeless puppies. Not requesting that anyone stand in the rain to protest the circus or rodeo. Not suggesting anyone write letters to their representatives to ban fur or vivisection… No – Not anything so trying need be done to earn my respect… Simply leaving the animals be would do nicely. Just that – simply leaving them, their lives and their bodies- alone. That adherence to the Golden Rule is all that’s necessary to get kind treatment in return.

  10. Hi again Provoked,

    Be careful my friend, it’s been my experience that in conversations like this the realm of biology is no friend to vegans. With forward facing eyes for binocular vision and canine teeth our own physical form quickly destroys any notion that we are built for only plants or that we don’t require meat for food. Veganism is most certainly a choice based on emotions, not on facts of biology. You DO need meat, if you don’t eat it you’d better be taking supplements to make up for what you aren’t getting, especially fat and protein. Otherwise you are slowly starving yourself to death of some essential ingredients for survival. I don’t eat vegetables, at least not on purpose. I just don’t care for them. Maybe my tongue is broken but they all taste like grass to me. So I take a daily multivitamin to help make up for what I know I’m missing. So I can equally argue that the plant based portion of my existence is unnecessary, thanks to modern dietary supplements. Stick to the emotion based choice to not eat animals as your platform, I may not agree but I do respect the point of view.

    I can empathize with your feelings about the bombardment of advertising that you don’t like. In my county (and state in most places) I’m a political minority, I get tired of seeing and hearing the “other side” at every turn.

    Thanks for the conversation, I’m going to wander out of this thread and see what other blogs I can stick my nose into for a while.

    • “With forward facing eyes for binocular vision and canine teeth our own physical form quickly destroys any notion that we are built for only plants or that we don’t require meat for food.”

      The great paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould summed up the problem with this line of thinking quite succinctly: “current utility bears no necessary relationship with historical origin.” The fact you use your traits for a given purpose doesn’t mean they evolved for that purpose, or because of it.

      For instance, heterodonty is the ancestral condition of all mammals; as such, it’s actually evidence against your position (do horses’ “wolf teeth” imply that equines need meat?). That humans possess such an ancient trait as canine teeth is evidence not that we need meat, but that we, like most other mammals, retained the ancestral condition because of its great flexibility.

      Similarly, human stereoscopic vision has a different origin than that of classic predators like wolves and lions. Primate binocular vision is mediated primarly through the parvocellular neural pathway of the lateral geniculate nucleus, which governs fine-detail depth/color perception useful for close range manipulation of hand-held items, and only secondarily through the magnocellular pathway that’s used for resolving motion and course outlines. This condition is different from the system in most true predators, whose binocular vision developed mainly through the magnocellular pathway. That humans historically used our binocular vision to hunt prey does not mean it evolved for that purpose, or because of it.

      Personally, my veganism IS based on the facts of biology: sentience is homologous in vertebrates, and as such, I cannot ethically justify killing or exploiting them for food I do not need.

    • Provoked says:

      Just as a matter of clarifying fact – You’re wrong… I don’t “need meat”. Yes, I do take one supplement B12… But I also know that B12 is fed to “livestock” too – So the point is moot. As far as other supplements go, I actually took many more when I ate a SAD diet. I didn’t have the same energy and was frequently ill. The idea (animal killing aside) of returning to such negative physical health by replacing real food with flesh would be totally foolish on my part. Not going to happen.

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