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Joanne Donovan

TEDCRED 30+

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Are the western vegetarian and vegan movements food fetishes for the rich?

'LET THEM EAT CAKE'. These words, attributed to Marie Antoinette just prior to her execution, enraged the struggling masses during the French Revolution. To people who had few daily food choices, most subsisted on low grade bread and little else, these words seemed so callous, and so bereft of compassion.

Why do we, in today's wealthy western countries, place such a high degree of importance over our individual diet? Is it just selfishness and ego born out of having too many choices each day? Do we claim self esteem and identity this way? Are we detached from the real meaning of food and nutrition, of survival?

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    Apr 20 2012: Mother Nature loves you. Scratch her belly with your plows, grow your soja, but leave the beasts alone. Humans have done enough harm as it is.

    It's modern religion. Have a chat with a vegetarian, you'll see it all simmers up to belief in the supernatural.
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      Apr 21 2012: Is it morally right to chuck a massive industrial plough over a field and murder god knows how much animal life? I agree with protecting animial life but does that begin and end with diet? Roads for example terminate a great deal of animal life, some of it endangered. And, I hate to say it, so do wind farms. The point is there is no such thing as a free lunch. We have to look at the big picture. (Nice to see you again Gerald, I hope your wife is well)
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        Apr 21 2012: no such thing as a free lunch
        nice to see you too
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      Apr 22 2012: Gerald,

      I'm vegan and materialist. There's nothing supernatural about my reasons to not give my money to factory farms and other industries that abuse animals and our environment.
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        Apr 22 2012: "abuse animals"?

        And what does that mean?
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          Apr 22 2012: It means treating them in a way that shows absolutely no empathy for their suffering.
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        Apr 22 2012: These animals wouldn't be alive in the first place without industrial farms.
        What is the idea? To have minimal impact on the environment? Why?
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          Apr 22 2012: We have the choice between acting in a way that leads to (1) a world where those who live will suffer less, or (2) a world where a different group of persons and animals will live, but they will suffer more (and where there will ultimately be fewer of them because of unsustainable practices that will eventually curtail their numbers signficantly).

          The "idea" is to leave the world better for our co-inhabitants of this planet, now and in the future.

          The mere fact that most of us would not be alive except that Hitler started World War two does not make Hitler a good person who made the world a better place. Hitler's presence on this planet changed almost everyone's activities at the time and thus radically changed which sperm and eggs would get together. The fact that you and I would not exist except for his heinous behavior does not make him a hero. He's still the villian.

          He is the villian because he caused more suffering than happiness.

          That is how we measure good and evil.
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          Apr 24 2012: Never seen a video of animals being abused by food, research, fashion, and entertainment industries?

          You and I can talk when you take the time to do 5 minutes of research.

          Slaves wouldn't exist in some cases without their masters having raped their mothers; but at least they were born, right? So they can be treated as their father pleases.

          And if I bring a child into being, I get to treat her as I see fit, because she would not exist were it not for me and my partner's allowing.

          Animals, including humans, do not deserve abuse. Ever. Even if the abusers brought them into being.
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        Apr 23 2012: I have no idea how you mesure a better world.
        I hate the desert. There's nothing there, really. Very few species. Everything there is nasty and poisonous, making life miserable for every other thing. But that's the way it is, in the desert.
        Yet snakes like it there. And vultures too. They are the villains. They've destroyed rival species until they were the only ones around.
        I would gladly get rid of the desert.

        I'm just saying. We have no way to mesure what's right and what's wrong in the impact we have on this world. We may decide that certain species should be protected, for the beauty of it. Or for scientific research, or because that species is an important piece of our environment.
        Species go extinct all the time, with or without our help.
        This is the point of any animal's existence : destroying other animals. Welcome to the jungle.
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          Apr 24 2012: Just because absolute accuracy is unacheivable does not mean that a reasonable estimate is also unacheivable. Furthermore, just because a reasonable estimate is difficult to acheive does not mean it is impossible.

          Your hatred of the desert will be one of umpteen trillion factors that matter in determining what is best. It is not any more or any less important in the initial analysis than the cares and concerns of any other sentient being.

          Your hatred of the desert is not entirely insignificant beause you count as much as anyone else. But, it is also not an overriding consideration because everyone else counts, too.

          Value only exists because there are beings who have evolved that have cares and concerns. Value just is the relation of reality to our cares and concerns. It is the degree of conformity of reality to the preferences of our cares and concerns..

          The objective truth about value is what you have when you take all cares and concerns that have ever existed and that will ever exist into the account.

          The selfish "I" cannot objectively estimate value because it refuses to accept the fundamental gound of objectivity: that everyone matters, and therefore every perspective has to be incorporated into the determination of what is true.
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        Apr 24 2012: "everyone matters, and therefore every perspective has to be incorporated into the determination of what is true."

        This is another debate, but "what is true" has nothing to do with the incorporation of every perspective. And what does truth have to do with environmental ethics?

        If industrial farms raised delicious and healthfull pigs, I don't understand why their suffering should be our concern. I suspect there is some kind of superstition behind all of this.
        What is suffering? Neuronal activity + magic?
        What's a pig? Atoms + soul?
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        Apr 24 2012: Warren,
        This is not my point.

        My point is that there is nothing else than superstition, so far, to tell us that it's not ok to cause the suffering of non-human animals. I'm not saying I'm comfortable torturing cute animals.
        But I'm wondering whether there are valuable philosophical arguments in favor of what you're deffending.
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          Apr 26 2012: Gerald,

          I can suffer. Other humans, other mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish do similar things that I do when I suffer, like moan, scream, writhe, run away, tend to a body part, cry, or otherwise become agitated. When I see this, I can empathize, because I don't like suffering, and I assume they are.

          For your argument to get off the ground, you need to tell me why it's not "nothing else than superstition" that tells us it's unacceptable to cause the suffering of humans. Otherwise you are arbitrarily assigning worth to perceived human suffering and not nonhuman animal suffering when it is clear they can suffer like we do.

          Empathy, and the reasonable extension of it to sensitive beings beyond our family, clan, tribe, village, nation, gender, race, and even species, is not superstitious.

          And what wasn't your point, exactly? You implied it's acceptable to abuse animals because we are the direct cause of their existence, and I told you why that callous argument is false.
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          Apr 26 2012: Once again Warren you limit your definition of animal to a tiny sub-phylum called vertebrata. Can I eat animals that don't have a back bone?
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        Apr 26 2012: Warren, I'll explain.
        Causing the suffering of humans is wrong for very practical reasons. Humans are trying to build a global tribe and we need rules and tools for that.
        But there is nothing wrong with torture outside of our institutions. There is no "right and wrong" in nature. There's just nature and NO ONE CARES.

        i'll just make it clear that I believe in this global tribe project. I'm a good citizen, I love my neighbour and I believe human torture should be punished by law.... BECAUSE this is the system in which I want to raise my kids.

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