Are Vegetarians And Vegans Biased Against Plants?

This might sound like a bit of a needling post, but that is not the intention at all. I see it more as provoking a sense of wonder.

Dr. E recently put up a Guest Voice article by Elijah Sweete, entitled “Interview With A Vegan” in which Marybeth Wosko argued passionately about how killing animals for food was inherently immoral. While I agreed with some of her practical points about the industrialization of food, I was struck most by this exchange:

ES: Please distinguish between animal rights and animal welfare and why you emphasize rights.

MBW: The distinction between animal rights and animal welfare may best be explained by an analogy to human slavery. In the abolitionist movement, a rightist would say “emancipate” whereas the welfarist would say “loosen the shackles and limit the number of whips in a beating.” Most animal rights groups adopt a welfare approach, but only because they feel it is the best way to minimize suffering in the face of a largely apathetic and, frankly, sociopathic public. It is better to reduce suffering if nothing else is likely to happen by way of change anytime soon. Rightists want immediate change today. Welfarists espouse the “pushing the peanut” approach because we have an ethically and morally retarded society. By retarded I mean slow to change. Yet I believe most welfarists are simply practical rightists. They concede to minimize suffering because people won’t stop eating turkey simply because they don’t want to, never mind the turkey’s position. So let’s make the turkey’s brief life as good as possible while he or she is alive because we are dealing with a sociopathic mentality which does not reason properly.

Well I could best be described as a “welfarist” I suppose, but it doesn’t have anything to do with practical rights, it’s more fundamental than that.

Last weekend I went to make breakfast and pulled out a potato that had sprouted. I discarded the sprouts and proceeded to cut it up of course. In the middle of the butchering I thought back to Wosko’s argument for some strange reason — perhaps just random neuronal firings triggered the memory — and then about the potato. Why should she give the potato less rights than an animal, surely they are both alive? The common argument is that plants can’t feel pain or think, but I thought about how there is increasing scientific evidence that they do respond strongly to stimuli and communicate. They actively engage in defenses to try to maximize their chance of survival and show obvious responses to physical harm. Sure they don’t have nervous systems, but neither do a lot of non-vertebrates. Plus, a nervous system is just a means, the actual aims are pretty similar.

I decided that there was a strong possibility that we just have a time and sensory bias. Unlike animals, plants don’t react in a short time and they are more about chemicals than noises or movement. On a fundamental philosophical level I had a hard time determining what was fundamentally different between plants and animals that would justify different treatment.

The next day I went to see Avatar and in that fictional environment the plants do react quickly and do have a nervous system that is global in nature. The natives (and humans that understand the nature of the lifeforms) treat the plants on the same footing and importance and focus not on a dichotomy of animal/plant but on the balance of the ecosystem in its entirety. If earth plants were like that, I think we would too.

It looks like I’m not the only one to think about this. A recent NYT article makes precisely the same point, and has a myriad of specific examples as supporting evidence.

I’m sure there will be some kneejerk reactions that it is ridiculous to count those responses the same as animals, but it wasn’t all that long ago that people dismissed that animals had any emotional or communicative capacity at all, simply because they weren’t human. Francis Lam at Salon writes:

Plants don’t have agency. They don’t feel, think, decide. They have coded, systematic reactions to stimuli — as Angier points out, way more sophisticated reactions to way more subtle stimuli than we knew — but in the end these are still just really neat systems.

To which a commenter replies:

One could compellingly argue that humans [or animals have been described as such in the past] do not “feel, think, decide”, and instead that most, if not all, of our behavior is “coded, systematic reactions to stimuli”. And in the end, we are “still just really neat systems”.

Ironically Lam excoriates the NYT author for anthropomorphizing, when the entire point of the article was that perhaps vegetarians and vegans that argue from a moral perspective are undertaking selective anthropomorphizing. Lam does conclude:

a commenter named Malcolm C gets to the heart of the issue for me: “Folks… all this is why we offer grace at the table before eating. Humility and gratitude. It works for beans, bass, or beef. Enjoy the gift of life, and be grateful.”

To which I would add that we should be concerned with stewardship in all forms, for our own sake.

To me the issue isn’t about being “right” on a moral level, I am not sure what that even is. We’re all just grasping for straws and fumbling through knowledge, instinct and tradition. The more pressing issue is how amazingly complex and wonderful life — all life — is and that honoring that is an active process. That sense of wonder and respect is what defines our relationship with earth, and the emphasis of how one lives should be on what it means. I know plenty of hunters that have that quality and plenty of vegetarians that wouldn’t know how to grow peas if their life depended on it.

Author: MIKKEL FISHMAN, Economics Editor

36 Comments

  1. Great post Mikkel. As one who hunts and who grows peas, I concur with your observation about how “amazingly complex and wonderful” life is, and how it is important for us to understand our relationship with and responsibility to it . Of cousre there are a great many folks who are chowing down at their favorite fast food trough and are fairly oblivious to any such awareness, as they are primarily interested in filling their faces. The difference in the two approaches is pretty much a metaphor for the difference between those who recognize the responsibility of stewardship and those who neither have, nor want to have, a clue.

  2. “plenty of vegetarians that wouldn’t know how to grow peas if their life depended on it”

    Actually, it's not just vegetarians that would benefit from gardening, and raising their own food (locally, it can be added) need never be done only to satisfy some trendy contemporary PC fad. (When I grew up in California, not only did our family raise food crops, but our junior high school had a garden, too.)

    It's amazing to see people grow something (usually food, or whatever else they may appreciate being helped to grow and harvest) and to appreciate how plants function and grow. Supplementary lighting, carbon dioxide, use of greenhouses, a trip beyond the magnifier to a microscope, and introduction to chemicals in addition to fertilizers and pesticides then becomes more intriguing as well as probable.

  3. Hmmm…I'm reminded of a conversation I witnessed a few years ago at a dinner party. A friend of mine was telling about his hobby of bonsai, the art of which he had been taught by his grandmother before she died. Someone in the group tried to argue — in earnest — that bonsai was just man trying to impose its will upon plants. The big line that came out of that conversation between my friend and me was this: “make sure your mind isn't so open that your brain falls out.”

    On the other hand, of course it's an interesting point that the post makes. My philosophy has always been to do more good than harm. So I'm a vegetarian. Eating nothing would make me — and all other creatures — pretty hard up to do any good…

  4. I dunno, Roro, sounds like one of those the-ends-justify-the-means arguments.

    IMHO, you deserve to thrive no matter what the inconvenience to plants.

  5. DLS: how come no matter how much I disagree with your blanket assertions about the world in general you're always so sensible about personal attitudes and living.

  6. Well, yes. I guess when the “ends” are me not dying of starvation, I take those means necessary. If I were put into some place where such ends would require my eating animals, you'd better bet I'd be right there eating those animals.

  7. Thanks.  I try to be sensible (which includes having a small “footprint” and leaving things better than how I found it, picking up litter, helping little old ladies, all that stuff — better than I found it, though some might have reservations about that here on TMV).

    They aren't blanket assertions of the world, Mikkel.  I just have a low tolerance for silly, destructive politics.  Time and experience have worn down my tolerance, I guess while removing (after exposing) a lot of youthful idealism and illusions (like weathering of our terrain, those Applachians and Ozarks).  I've also come to prefer simplification of prose, speaking or writing more plainly.  (My favorite lefty talker is straightforward Ed Schultz, followed by angry but often-good Thom Hartmann.)  “Blanket assertions”?  Okay, so I risk over-generalization — I've been warned about that before.  [grin]

  8. Dear Mikkel, thanks for an interesting article. I've scoured so many translations of Genesis trying to understand, and I see that 'stewardship' may not be the best translation of the Hebrew, as in 'manage'. Nor may the phrase 'dominion over' be accurate in hebrew to Greek to Latinm, to English. Rather something more like 'be wise with and for…' along with some isolated tribal points of view here and there

    a lot of us continue to try to understand how to live lightly. I thini we're making progress. Blessed Holiday Mikkel.

    dr.e

  9. Dear Mikkel, thanks for an interesting article. I've scoured so many translations of Genesis trying to understand, and I see that 'stewardship' may not be the best translation of the Hebrew, as in 'manage'. Nor may the phrase 'dominion over' be accurate in Hebrew to Greek to Latin, to English. Rather something more like 'be wise with and for…' along with some isolated tribal points of view here and there

    a lot of us continue to try to understand how to live lightly. I think we're making progress. Blessed Holiday Mikkel.

    dr.e

  10. “My philosophy has always been to do more good than harm. So I'm a vegetarian.”

    Vegetarianism (and veganism — my DC friend is vegan) is old, and is based on a lot of philosophy, as well as politics and economics that reach all the way to today. My equally-age-old view (old because the world for most of history has been poorer than it is today in some of our countries) of meat as a premium food is related to vegetarianism, and shares numerous reasons why, but is much more lightweight and “subtle.” (I have health reasons for it, too, but these are specific, not general, and aren't imperative. Again, lightweight, at least for now.)

  11. I like the word stewardship because it implies responsibility but not necessarily control. It has a sense of humility built in, which I guess is the essence of wisdom. To me dominion implies total control.

    Hope this finds you well too.

  12. As I understand it, the biggest difficulty with translating Hebrew in the Bible and other ancient texts is that Hebrew and English are such hugely different kinds of languages. English has many, many, many, more words than Hebrew. In Hebrew, words carry multiple meanings and shades of meanings, and unless you know the language fluently, it's very difficult to be sure that a translation is accurate, even if you do compare different editions.

    Having said this, word meaning is not the only way to find support for a “living light” philosophy. I once asked my rabbi about this very issue, and he said that the fact that in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were only given fruits and vegetables and plant life to eat — that it was only after Noah and the Flood that meat becomes a part of the human diet in the Bible — indicates that vegetarianism is the ideal.

  13. I dunno, Roro, sounds like one of those the-ends-justify-the-means arguments.

    I take it more as a “Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good” argument.

  14. It is obvious all bodies must have energy to sustain life. Plants are lower on the food chain, most of the animal's humans eat are sustained by plant based diets. Thus the higher up the food chain the more layered. To place meat on the table many more plants have been consumed by the animal than would of been needed to sustain a person's life directly from a more plant based diet.

    Eating low on the food chain uses much less energy and natural resources than that of a meat-based diet. Where people choose to eat on the food chain determines the amount of resources necessary to sustain ones diet.

    The either/or of plant vs. animal diet seems rather one dimensional as there are so many complex interactions that are worthy of consideration. Maybe the consideration is not so much a plant vs.animal issue but rather do the least harm.

    “Why Eat Low On the Food Chain?”

    ” Eating low on the food chain significantly reduces the threat of pesticide residues. Tests in Britain have shown the pesticide residue levels to be highest in meat eaters, lower in lacto-vegetarians, and lowest in total vegetarians.

    This is due to the concentrating factor as the contaminant goes through the additional link in the ecological chain, and the animal concentrates the pollutant in its body. The meat eater may eat in a few minutes the pesticides that an animal has accumulated over a lifetime.

    A study by the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Defense Fund revealed that breast milk of vegetarian women contained significantly lower levels of pesticide residues than that of meat-eating women.

    Further research by author Nat Altman disclosed that vegetables and nuts contain about 1/7 the pesticide residues of flesh foods; fruits and legumes about 1/8 as much; and grains about 1/24 as much.””

    “Frances Moore Lappé notes in her book, “Diet For A Small Planet” that for every 8-ounce steak consumed there could be a roomful of people fed on grain. According to the British world hunger group VegFam, a 10-acre farm could support 60 people if they grew soybeans; 24 people if they grew wheat; 10 growing corn — and only two if they used the land to raise cattle.”

    To name a few reasons why eating low on the food chain benefits all life. . . reduction of pesticides and chemicals in environment, reduction of oil based energy in farming. reduction of dependency on oil and wars created because of natural resources, health benefits, reduction of animal destruction, reduction of animal destruction, reduction of water usage, reduction of global warming, and on and on. . ..

    I am not for sure rights and welfare can be separated in clear cut compartments.

  15. Aren’t humans amazing Animals? They kill wildlife – birds, deer, all kinds of cats, coyotes, beavers, groundhogs, mice and foxes by the million in order to protect their domestic animals and their feed.

    Then they kill domestic animals by the billion and eat them. This in turn kills people by the million, because eating all those animals leads to degenerative – and fatal – - health conditions like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and cancer.

    So then humans spend billions of dollars torturing and killing millions of more animals to look for cures for these diseases.

    Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being used to fatten domestic animals.

    Meanwhile, few people recognize the absurdity of humans, who kill so easily and violently, and once a year send out cards praying for “Peace on Earth.”

    ~Revised Preface to Old MacDonald’s Factory Farm by C. David Coates~

    Check out this informative and inspiring video on why people choose vegan: http://veganvideo.org/

    Also see Gary Yourofsky: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bagt5L9wXGo

  16. Eating low on the food chain benefits all life

    Except, of course, cattle ranchers. And fishermen, and poultry and dairy farmers. And chefs. And anyone who can benefit from a higher-protein diet. And everyone who enjoys a good steak.

    To do the least harm, you need to be able to calculate how much harm all your options would do. IMHO, that's not feasible in a case like this. A better principle: make peace with your inner omnivore, and eat what works for you.

  17. “To do the least harm, you need to be able to calculate how much harm all your options would do. IMHO, that's not feasible in a case like this.”

    Actually, it is a pretty simple calculation. It will always take more plants to feed animals to feed people than it will to feed people with plants directly. It's basic thermodynamic law. Read any basic biology textbook and it will tell you about how energy is lost as you move from a lower trophic level (plants) to higher trophic levels (herbivores and then carnivores). It is always less efficient to eat at higher trophic levels. So, if you really care about the feelings of plants, then you should know that you harm more plants by eating animals than you do by eating plants directly. But I have come to realize that most people who make the “but plants feel pain too” argument don't care about the feelings of either plants or animals. They just use it as an excuse to justify eating meat in the face of so many compelling reasons not to. But, to those of us who understand the profound difference between mowing our lawns and sawing the legs off of kittens, this argument just makes meat eaters seem really stupid.

  18. At this time of year, many are inclined to think more gently and focus more on that which is moral and ethical than at other times. For all our complaints about commercialization of the season, something of the peaceful intention of the season breaks through. I see that in many of these comments. There is a tone of understanding and respect that is, I think, worthy of the discussion.

    Like others, I was fascinated by Ms. Wosko's responses in the prior article as well as Mikkel's treatment of the subject here…though I am not yet convinced that one should endow carrots with sensient status.

    Perhaps there is common thread upon which many of us might agree: we, meaning American society, too often fail to reflect upon our reliance on fast food, prepared food and the inherent health risks, environmental damage and unnecessary cruelty brought about by the factory meat production industry which lurks behind our too easy, too selfish, taste driven habits. To the extent that we put convenience ahead of health, environment and cruelity, we would do well to re-examine. In that regard, I take some exception with Mikkel, though perhaps the difference is more semantic than substantive. Health, environmental stewardship and unnecessary cruelty are, in my view, moral issues.

  19. Yes, I understand the thermodynamics. But that's not a “do the least harm” calculation, that's a “use the least energy” calculation. It certainly doesn't take into account the welfare of struggling cattle ranchers.

  20. No I agree fully. I only meant “moral” in regards to killing individual creatures. For instance I think that our current way of producing food is highly immoral as it is unsustainable, cruel and unhealthy. I agree that one should try to do the “least harm” and hopefully I will be able to live that way sometime in the future. However I personally think of least harm in terms of what you listed, which doesn't preclude eating meat. Yes cows are huge environmental stressors and don't make sense except as luxury meat, but other animals aren't nearly as bad. Chickens, ducks, goats, pigs, sheep, fish and shellfish are examples of animals that do have a low food and environmental footprint — especially if you recycle wastes through them — and if not raised in an industrial setting I have a hard time thinking of it as causing “harm.”

  21. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that plants could indeed feel pain and suffering, the same as animals. When we eat flesh, a tremendous volume of plants are killed in order to generate that flesh. When we eat plants directly, far fewer plants are killed. If plants can feel, then our moral duty would be to inflict the minimal harm necessary for our survival, which leads us, again, to a plant-based diet, because far fewer plants are killed in a plant-based diet than a flesh-based diet.

  22. “reduction [...] reduction [...] reduction [...] reduction [...] reduction [...] reduction [...] reduction [...]“

    There are many ways in which the term I used, which is an old view, applies — meat is a premium food — and you illustrate the rational basis for in, in listing the benefits we would realize by reducing all that's associated with meat as well as with consumption of meat itself in our diet.

    It also is amusing to note a related starting point that addresses some of these things. No, not banning meat or laying ridiculous sin taxes on it. No perverse “food policy” idiocy and totalitarianism need apply. Rather, why not consider something that's festered in the background? Why not at least reduce (pun not intended) subsidies and government promotion in other ways of meat production? Now many may say that subsidies are neither good nor bad, but depend on their objects and their objectives. (Those who view health care as desireable or as a fundamental “right,” or at least see benefits in healthy, more-productive people have no problem with subsidizing the affordability of health care, for example, as they view education, say.) But many of us view subsidies as inherently bad in and of themselves because of their distortive effects, and their facility for abuse of power and trying to make people behave unnaturally or wrongly just to satisfy others' desires or whims. While it is too extreme (and un-American) to ban meat or treat it in a punitive manner (in fact, that is mentally ill as well as wrongful), there's certainly nothing wrong with abolishing subsidies and other means by which government promotes meat production beyond that which is voluntarily supported and sought (i.e., in the “free market,” true economic democracy). Perhaps pricing it right would at least treat things in an economically (and morally) transparent and honest manner. (The same goes for water, for example!)

  23. Dr.J.,

    I don't believe in rash measures, but there are two sides to this. No, I'm not a hard-core meat-basher or ALF inductee, but I understand a bit of both sides to the story.

    “struggling ranchers”:

    Many would look at it the other way –

    I've already been visiting used book stores (gold mines) around here, and I got a copy of this:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-media/product

    (I may be sending this to someone who finds the West awful because it is arid, relatively lifeless, as well as far too conservative for her to withstand — kind of like going south of DC into Virginia or other Red Nation foreign territory.)

    Now, in addition to ending agricultural subsidies, I also look at those public lands, but it should make you feel better to know that I would want first and foremost for Washington to end its colonialism in the West (even if the arbitrary remote-colonialist-style straight-line Western state boundaries might be harder to resolve) in the form of locking up so much land in its hands. There's no excuse for lockup of so much vast territory in the West by the federal government.

  24. “cattle ranchers. And fishermen, and poultry and dairy farmers. And chefs”

    Add loggers and you have the reality that advocates need to face about the dream of Cascadia.

    It still makes sense, but you need to face the rest of the people who live there and will live there.

    (Chefs in the liberal cities, at least)

  25. Geez DLS, must I really head into this festive weekend agreeing with you? OK, I do agree that subsidies, for meat as well as generically, are pernicious. There, I said it. Must be the holiday spirit. :-)

    Merry Christmas or whatever you may celebrate. Best to you and those you love.

    Edit: Now that I've seen your other two posts, I guess we still have one or two items to discuss after the New Year.

  26. I think it is the holiday spirit, Tidbits, or “stopped clocks can be correct sometimes” good luck for me.

    Note: Happy holidays to all of you.  That includes all libs and Dems who can Savor (hiya, Peggy Noonan) their health care victory, no matter how hard-won.  That's your Christmas present this year, even if final passage isn't until next.

  27. Good grief DLS, you can actually be pretty awesome when you aren't so focused on throwing rocks at “liberals” (which are usually only moderates anyway).

    Happy Holidays to you too! (and everyone else here of course :-)

  28. Thanks, J. Spencer. Happy Holidays — likewise.

  29. I don't believe in rash measures, but there are two sides to this.

    Although I'm sure there must be at least one struggling cattle rancher out there, I have no love for agricultural subsidies, which inevitably bleed the middle class and fatten mostly big agribusiness. So if we eat less meat, are those subsidies likely to go up or down? Is that good or bad?

    There aren't two sides, there are surely dozens of sides amid the complexities of our food supply chain, our metabolisms, our ecosystem, our energy economics, and the other issues tied into what we eat. Anyone decrying the wicked drumstick and exalting the righteous salad oversimplifies.

    When it comes to food, Dr. J prescribes a diet low in moralizing.

  30. Sorry, Dr. J.,

    “There aren't two sides, there are surely dozens of sides [...]“

    I wasn't trying to present a false dichotomy or make any other kind of mistaken argument (such as that anybody who defends subsidies is against ranching on public lands, or against ranching, or meat).  Just showing (using an extreme example) land (ab)use (as described by a lefty activist ranching critic — you'd like the cartoon in the book of someone using bolt cutters on fencing — he's no ranching fan).

    “Anyone decrying the wicked drumstick and exalting the righteous salad oversimplifies.”

    Yes, as with coal and substituting wind and solar power for it to generate electricity for us.

    * * *

    A diet low in moralizing”

    Actually, there are moral, logical, environmental, financial issues of all kinds associated with meat production and with vegetarianism.  I'm not writing this as a lefty, but as an interested observer (and moral, logical, environmental, financial-minded guy).

  31. It certainly doesn't take into account the welfare of struggling cattle ranchers.

    One assumes that struggling cattle ranchers will have to do what other economically displaced populations in the U.S. have had to do: accept that this is how life is, and adapt their skill set to the new economic climate.

  32. When we eat flesh, a tremendous volume of plants are killed in order to generate that flesh.

    Oh my god, Marybeth. That is an incredibly smart and elegant argument, and I never thought of it before. I am grateful to you for giving it to us.

  33. Just something for Dr. J to think about. . . I have followed ranching for years and what once was ranch has nowadays become ” industry”. The changes are astounding.

    Dr. J i come from a ranching family and many of my family continue to ranch and run feedlots.

    I can only wish that modern day rancher are thinking as deeply and sincerely about your good will as you are for them.

    Here are some random considerations;

    Range Fed Cattle to Industrial Grain Feed lots is less than 5%. It is very unlikely that you are not eating much Range fed beef. . .

    Industrial productions systems differ from (Range) grazing systems by the great increase of various substances such as veterinary drugs, growth hormones, feed additives or nutraceuticals to improve livestock production effectiveness.

    Use of growth stimulants:
    Antibiotics are routinely added to grain feed as a growth stimulant. Cattle consume 70% of the antibiotics in the United States.[6] This practice widely contributes to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

    Implantation of Growth Hormones which is highly controversial.
    The benefits of using growth hormones includes improved feed efficiency, carcass quality, and rate of muscle development. It is argued that with the use of growth hormones, more plentiful quality meats can be sold for affordable prices. Recent studies have also found elevated levels of synthetic growth hormones in feedlot wastes; these persistent chemicals eventually wind up in the waterways downstream of feedlots, where scientists have found fish exhibiting abnormal sex characteristics.[8]

    The F.D.A. is opening an inquiry into the problem, but for now, implanting hormones in beef cattle is legal and financially irresistible: an implant costs $1.50 and adds between 40 and 50 pounds to the weight of a steer at slaughter, for a return of at least $25.”

    Artificial Hormone Use in Cattle

    “Recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST) or recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) is an artificial growth hormone produced using recombinant DNA technology (biotechnology) . When injected into cows, rBGH increases milk production 10-15 percent and even up to 40 percent in some cases . It is approved in the United States since 1993; however, its use has been controversial since farmers have started using it. Recent studies have shown that rBGH use in animal production cause problems including an alarming rise in the number of deformed calves and dramatic increases in mastitis, a painful bacterial infection of the udder which causes inflammation, swelling, and pus and blood secretions into milk. Studies have also shown that the presence of rBGH in the cow's blood stimulates production of Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) in the cow. An increase level of IGF-1 in human has been linked to colon and breast cancer . The European Union, Japan, Australia and Canada have all outlawed the use of rBST in animal production due to the animal and human health concerns.”

    BLV

    Bovine Leukemia virus is insect-borne and found in 20% of US cows, and 60% of US herds. Studies in Sweden and the Soviet Union have linked BLV outbreaks and increases in human leukemia. BLV and HTLV-1 share a common gene, HTLV-1 is the first human retrovirus ever shown to cause cancer.

    E. Coli
    Feeding grain to cattle makes their digestive tract abnormally acidic; over time, the pathogenic E. coli becomes acid-resistant.[24] If humans ingest this acid-resistant E. coli via grain-feed beef, a large number of them may survive past the stomach, causing an infection.[25] A study by the USDA Meat and Animal Research Center in Lincoln Nebraska (2000) has confirmed the Cornell research

    Mad Cow Disease

    Meat and bone meal can be a risk factor for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), when healthy animals consume tainted tissues from infected animals. People concerned about Creutzfeld-Jacob disease (CJD), which is also a spongiform encephalopathy, may favor grass-fed cattle for this reason. In the United States, this risk is relatively low as feeding of protein sources from any ruminant to another ruminant has been banned since 1997. But many other countries do not have the restriction of not feeding other animal parts to cattle.

    Dr. J this one may look like good news, but recently i heard on NPR that one hamburger patty from MacDonalds can contain meat product from up to 60 different cattle from all over the world.

    Dr. J when was the last time you took a trip to a Feed lot? Where it would not be unusual for there can be as many as one-hundred cattle, weighing from 700-1200 pounds, living in one pen the size of a basketball court.

    Greenpeace Brazil has released a report at the World Social Forum in Belém showing that up to 80 percent of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest is due to an increase in raising cattle for human consumption.

    “Brazil has quickly become the largest exporter of beef in the world, but they are not satisfied with their current market share and plan to increase production. The plan flies in the face of their supposed commitment to tackle climate change. The country is currently the fourth biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, 75% of which stem from deforestation.”

    These are just a few considerations to ponder Dr. J.

    And DLS i have really appreciated your comments on agricultural subsidizes for that one truly has world impact.

  34. The question should be “are meat eaters biased against plants” because it takes anywhere from 12 to 20 pounds of vegetable matter to get back 1 pound of meat.

    But, please don't let the facts get in the way.

  35. I am happy you find the argument insightful! Best wishes -

  36. I have never really understood the argument that “plants have feelings too, therefore we should be able to eat whatever we want”. The people who make this argument are not genuinely concerned about the well-being of plants. How do I know this? Because if they were, they would go vegetarian, as it requires between 12-16 pounds of plants (as animal feed) to produce a single pound of meat.

    I'm not a big fan of the “everything is so complicated, therefore lets just forget the whole thing and do what we want” approach, which is what your argument aims at. Becoming vegetarian is kindest to living creatures (plants, animals, & humans) and kindest to the environment. Period.

Submit a Comment