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Are Vegan's, a help or a hindrance to, our future?


dimreepr
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Your posting name seems apt, given that the Fabians promoted vegetarianism.  I agree the flexitarian approach seems most viable for an omnivore species like ours.  I think smart vegans can see flexitarians (especially the "eat meat rarely" sort) as allies in the movement towards humane treatment and away from factory farming.  

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13 hours ago, Ken Fabian said:

In the sense that extremists imposing their will on everyone else - veganism would be a hindrance. But I think true of pretty much every kind of extreme ideology that is uncompromising.

The best outcomes look to be in the compromises - the reduced meat eating for health, supply chains that are more environmentally sustainable, minimising animal suffering . I haven't been impressed enough to want to learn more - I rarely eat meat because I don't like it much and I don't like cruel animal husbandry but I eat eggs and milk products regularly. I don't think food proscriptions work - and I am personally familiar with a common human failing; knowing better but doing it anyway.

I don't know much about the practicalities of proposed Vegan food production and have tended to be tolerant of Vegan activism that exposes cruel farming practices and promotes eating plant based diets, without any in-depth understanding of their deeper beliefs and aims. Studiot makes a good point that it isn't possible to grow food naturally and exclude animal life.

I am more familiar with Permaculture ideas, that use animals and incorporates them systematically. I once heard a then unknown Bill Mollison speak about incorporating chickens into gardening systems around the time the first Permaculture books were published; the final tally of potential useful functions was impressive, as were the practical means of designing gardens, pens and runs to support those uses. It all seemed very practical - a synthesis of existing ideas being the principle "out of the box" idea. He didn't strike me as unthinking and uncompromising (although there are now Permaculture extremists too) and use of the products of science and industry were not rejected - their use was minimised but not excluded.

I agree with Peterkin that Vegans are not a major influence; even the promoting of plant based foods doesn't depend on them.

Another well balanced post. +1

 

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One (minor) problem with veganism - as I understand it, the vegan diet is not instinctive - it requires education (especially for vegan parents). Implemented wrongly, vegan diet might cause some individual suffering and increased medical cost for society.

One (minor) note about ecological footprint - while in rich societies using freezers is probably more eco-friendly way to deal with crop surpluses, in other parts of world there are still families that cannot afford freezers. Storing surpluses into animals (pigs) would then be more eco-friendly than letting the crop rot on the field.

One (minor) note about animal welfare - while unnecessary animal suffering is a very unnecessary thing, it is not clear to me if responsible animal farming is that much immoral. I wouldn't be surprised if average life span of some farm animals is greater than closely related wild species. Some of most successful animal species are domestic animals. Some of them are so aggressively selected that they cannot live outside of the farm-machine - one could argue that for these beings, being eaten is the life destiny and they can only succeed in farming environment.

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1 hour ago, Danijel Gorupec said:

One (minor) problem with veganism - as I understand it, the vegan diet is not instinctive - it requires education (especially for vegan parents). Implemented wrongly, vegan diet might cause some individual suffering and increased medical cost for society.

I appreciate that you said 'minor' problems, but I'd like to address them anyway.

Almost everything in modern human life is a long way from 'instinctive'. We spend our formative 18 or so years, learning to control and suppress our instincts, learning to live in high-rise cities, wear neckties and high-heeled shoes, stare at computer screens for a living and go to a dentist with a toothache. Learning to choose and prepare one's food is part of every child's education. I won't go hunting for the statistics, but it seems obvious to me that a diet of fast and manufactured foods causes considerably more medical cost than ignorant vegans.

1 hour ago, Danijel Gorupec said:

while in rich societies using freezers is probably more eco-friendly way to deal with crop surpluses, in other parts of world there are still families that cannot afford freezers.

It's meat that requires freezing; meat and dairy that require refrigeration and have limited shelf-life. Other crops can be preserved by the traditional methods: in grain vaults, oil jars, barrels: fruit and soft vegetables are preserved by canning; nuts and pulses, and even fruits can be dried and stored almost indefinitely. Apples, root crops, squash and cabbage last several months if stored properly. That's exactly what people in poor countries do and have done for about 6000 years.

1 hour ago, Danijel Gorupec said:

Storing surpluses into animals (pigs) would then be more eco-friendly than letting the crop rot on the field.

Only, in order to keep the storage pigs alive through a winter, you have to preserve the surplus crops in some way. Then you must butcher the pigs as soon as the surplus runs  out, and the only way to preserve all that surplus meat would be rendering the fat and smoke-drying the flesh - which people have also been doing long before artificial refrigeration.   

 

2 hours ago, Danijel Gorupec said:

I wouldn't be surprised if average life span of some farm animals is greater than closely related wild species.

Chickens are slaughtered at 6-8 weeks. Cattle, between one and two years - except veal and obviously not lamb. The average life expectancy of dairy cows is five years. It's probable that a small family farm with a greater proportion of its investment of money and effort in each animal they keep would extend the useful life of those animals - eg. not eat the chickens that still lay eggs; not eat cows as long as they give milk - but of course, the majority of roosters and bull calves have no function to justify their keep beyond the moment they attain maximum size.

Livestock can't be compared in any realistic way to either wild animals, because they have been painstakingly bred to fill our needs, rather than their own, or to pets, which we feed, cherish and protect, but do not slaughter (except the surplus).   

2 hours ago, Danijel Gorupec said:

one could argue that for these beings, being eaten is the life destiny and they can only succeed in farming environment.

It's a destiny assigned to them by man. Man giveth, man taketh away - and not usually in the kindest manner.

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@Peterkin, I basically agree with everything you say.

But why would you think that it is a problem if man creates an environment where a special kind of animals (farm animals) would thrive? Is it wrong to create a new type of ecological niche and populate it with adapted animals? I agree that in practice animal framing often turns into a horror story, but here I am asking purely theoretical 'in-principle' question... In my opinion, animal farming is not inherently morally problematic.

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27 minutes ago, Danijel Gorupec said:

But why would you think that it is a problem if man creates an environment where a special kind of animals (farm animals) would thrive?

That depends on what you mean by 'thrive'?

 

27 minutes ago, Danijel Gorupec said:

Is it wrong to create a new type of ecological niche and populate it with adapted animals?

If it destroys the ecology that was there before, it's not only wrong, but eventually fatal.

28 minutes ago, Danijel Gorupec said:

I agree that in practice animal framing often turns into a horror story, but here I am asking purely theoretical 'in-principle' question... In my opinion, animal farming is not inherently morally problematic.

Two things: 1. Distinguish types of 'farm animal'. I have no problem with horses kept for riding or pulling; sheep and llamas kept for wool, cows and goats kept for milk, hens or geese for the eggs. (The male offspring would still have to be killed young because of the feed, tending and grazing, as well as the rivalry among them, so they wouldn't have much to thriving time.) I'm not sure old cows and sheep would be very palatable, but I suppose you could eat them once they've had a long and happy life. I do have a problem with animals bred and kept for no other reason than to be killed young, for their flesh: pigs, steers, waterfowl, turkeys. 

But my aesthetic objection to breeding and raising animals in order to be killed, even if humanely, is the lesser of the problems. 

2. Keeping farm animals in conditions that I could describe as "a good life" is a whole lot less economical than factory farming. It's just not commercially feasible in the world as we find it. (I can imagine changes that would make it feasible, including wide-spread permaculture, but the current economic structure does not encourage alternative methods. I think the movement started half a century too late.)

The biggest obstacle of all is the sheer number of humans demanding a meat-heavy diet. To meet that demand, you need to produce on a scale that's impossible to sustain through humane and ecologically sound farming practices. If the demand were reduced by 90%, we could manage.  (Though there still remains the problem of all those billions of carnivorous pets.)    

I had not previously made a moral argument. I do have convictions on the matter, and do grapple with compromise. I have not found a way to live in the world without compromises, some of which are uncomfortable.

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  • 1 month later...

There are no nonvegetarians who don't feel some guilt, even if only momentarily, for their love of meat. Just about 30 minutes ago, while I was driving, I asked myself, "have I eaten babies?". The answer, to my dismay, is "yes"; I've eaten lamb and eggs. I'm sure I'm not the only one who's had this realization at some point in their lives. Believe me you, it's not a pleasant experience. Given how frequently and intensely reality assaults our sensibilities, we get used to all the pain and suffering that's around - desensitized, we think nothing of eating babies; ok animals, still babies.

Ethics, the issue at the heart of veganism/vegetarianism/non-vegetarianism, is, for me, one of the many ways humans have exposed nature's deep flaws - it's red in tooth and claw, carnivory is essential for a balanced ecosystem, and so on - but we've begun to doubt that logic for a long time and things are coming to a head. This is not, as Leibniz believed, the best of all possible worlds! We can do better! Is this bad/good? Is veganism/vegetarianism a hindrance/help? 🤔

Edited by Agent Smith
Missing word
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1 hour ago, Agent Smith said:

There are no nonvegetarians who don't feel some guilt, even if only momentarily, for their love of meat.

!

Moderator Note

Evidence for this?

And relevance to the subject?

 
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2 hours ago, swansont said:
!

Moderator Note

Evidence for this?

And relevance to the subject?

 

1. Evidence for this?

Indirect. If I can, with the briefest of reflection, feel remorse, why not others too? I'm an average Joe, not a saint.

2. And relevance to the subject?

Vegetarianism vs. nonvegetarianism is, at the end of the day, about ethics. The former a step forward (in the right direction), the latter just inertia (it takes time to pick up momentum).

Ethics is crucial to the future of humanity and all life, for it is, all said and done, concerned with beautifying nature (bloody claws and fangs are ugly, oui?) and by "beautifying nature", I mean improving it, morally.

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5 minutes ago, Agent Smith said:

1. Evidence for this?

Indirect. If I can, with the briefest of reflection, feel remorse, why not others too? I'm an average Joe, not a saint.

!

Moderator Note

So you don't have evidence. "Can feel remorse" is a much weaker position than your original claim

 
5 minutes ago, Agent Smith said:

2. And relevance to the subject?

Vegetarianism vs. nonvegetarianism is, at the end of the day, about ethics. The former a step forward (in the right direction), the latter just inertia (it takes time to pick up momentum).

Ethics is crucial to the future of humanity and all life, for it is, all said and done, concerned with beautifying nature (bloody claws and fangs are ugly, oui?) and by "beautifying nature", I mean improving it, morally.

!

Moderator Note

The topic is "Are Vegan's, a help or a hindrance to, our future?" so the question is about vegans, not vegetarians, and while the question is vague, you have not made a case for it being about ethics.

Please make a better effort to be on topic.

 
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7 hours ago, Agent Smith said:

Ethics, the issue at the heart of veganism/vegetarianism/non-vegetarianism, is, for me, one of the many ways humans have exposed nature's deep flaws

I think this is to the point: an ethical guidepost toward the future might well be a help. I actually think it is some help, though not one with any great force behind it. Vegans may elicit a great deal of hostility, but even in that very hostility, the kernel of an intellectual reflection persists; a tiny spark of doubt - a question begins to form. I can never see something that engenders thought as a hindrance.

7 hours ago, Agent Smith said:

carnivory is essential for a balanced ecosystem, and so on - but we've begun to doubt that logic for a long time and things are coming to a head.

Mankind has already disrupted every ecological balance that ever existed. We control the world and have the power of life and death over everything else. Nature no longer has a decisive role to play: the future, if there is to be a future, is in our hands.  

Edited by Peterkin
little words
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Yes, a lot of the positives that veganism (which surely represents a range of perspectives, as most Isms do) offers the future is just the capacity to spark conversations and reflections on multiple issues:  carbon footprint (and arable acres per person), human health from a nutritional angle, the ethics of using animals, the question of whether or not we NEED to use animals given the techniques of modern food science, and so on.  A lot of veganism seems to settle around two major loci: human effect on the planet as a whole, and human effect on the lives of animals as sentient creatures.  IOW, either the focus is on planetary ecological engineering and control of greenhouse gases, and the other is the deeper ethical concerns with animal rights and what suffering is imposed.   They both address the ethics of how personal choices ripple outward through the world.  

I know there are now enough vegans in the world that when I go to the egg section of the supermarket, there are now cartons that contain a faux egg mix composed of plant proteins.  This means there are enough people who are either outright vegans or think veganism is cool enough to try some vegan options, to merit production and distribution of the stuff.  Personally, my digestion always does well with more fiber, so the plant-based options are usually a plus for me (if palatable).  

 

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46 minutes ago, TheVat said:

veganism (which surely represents a range of perspectives, as most Isms do)

That is an interesting aspect. Sometimes a diet is just a diet. If you cut out sugar because of your family history predisposes you to diabetes, you're not labelled a antisweetist; avoidance of pork products is not necessarily religious or political but simply to keep your weight down; you may stop drinking alcohol for reasons other  alcoholism or puritanism. A choice of meat-free or animal-free diet doesn't automatically mean it's a comprehensive ideology. A person may follow a vegan regime during a course of treatment, or as an experiment, or as a change, or as a preference - it doesn't need to be an ism. Even when it's mandated by a religion, the diet isn't the central tenet of the religion; it's just part of a bigger ism. 

So, as a concerted movement, I don't see vegans having an effect on the future. As individuals making choices for our personal reasons, we each have some effect, however undetectable. When many people take up an idea or habit, it becomes a fad, then a trend .... and then it begins to change something in the world. (Like the stock on supermarket shelves - truckers permitting - the assigned challenges in cooking contests and the food articles in popular magazines. What that means to the future isn't clear yet, but so far I can't see any harm.  

Edited by Peterkin
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I'm not a vegan, but I like the fact that they are there. In the same way that I'm not an astronaut, but I like that people have been to the Moon. The existence of vegans will develop the non-meat food industry, and eventually, it will reach a point where it's edible and maybe even pleasant. I'm happy to give it a go, so long as it's nice, and is just as complete a diet. 

The quality of vegan food that I've tried up to now has been a bit varied. Some is sadly tasteless and unsatisfying, but some of it has been surprisingly good. The more people go for it, the better it will get. But I'm too lazy to do the research myself, so I'm happy to wait till other people have done all the work.

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