Joanne Donovan


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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 22 2012: No. It is meat that is the fetish of the rich. Meat is a small part of the diet among the poor because feeding animals is an inefficient way of getting nutrients to humans. Much of the energy is used up by the animal before it is slaughtered rather than passed on to those who feed upon the animals.

    So, even if you are not a pure vegatarian, every time you replace meat with beans or other high protien plant matter, you are reducing your part of our agricultural foot print on the planet, leaving room and nutrients for other sentient beings (animals and people) and for future generations.
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      Apr 23 2012: Good point. Meat IS a food fetish for the rich, and one that is extremely damaging to the environment. Agreed. Is beging vegetarian the answer? In my opinion, no.

      The solutions lie somewhere else. The answer to me lies in establishing permaculture, holistic principles in farming and limiting the size of all food production, to move away from an industrial scale. There are other important factors to consider to do with the way food is transported globally and how we exploit our fellow man, who does not happen to reside beneath our own flag pole. Its a holistic approach.
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        Apr 23 2012: I guess I am confused. I would think that weaning ourselves from high consumption of meat is a very important step toward establishing a permanently sustainable agriculture if that is what you mean by "permaculture". Working toward establishing a permanently sustainable agriculture, better health, and preventing the cruelty to animals on factory farms seems to be the three main arguments for becoming more vegetarian.

        As to whether small scale will get you permaculture when there are going to be 9 billion people on this planet, I doubt it. Small scale would work with small populations. Are you planning on famine, war, etc. to get us there? I hope we could find a sustainable agriculture solution that does not involve mass death and the end of civilization.
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          Apr 23 2012: @Inthegarden beyond the cave: Weaning ourselves off high consumption of meat does not mean vegetarianism. It might also mean eating less meat. Or even little meat. I do not think one can apply ones dietry values to other people. Do you? If you do, then I take issue with that.

          Are you really trying to be credible here? 'Small scale would work with small populations. Are you planning on famine, war, etc. to get us there? I hope we could find a sustainable agriculture solution that does not involve mass death and the end of civilization.' You seem to be saying that the possible way we can feed 9 billion (we are not currently feeding 7 billion, may I remind you) is through industrial scale farming AND vegetarianism? Is this really your standpoint or would you like to qualify this before I reply?
        • Apr 23 2012: In Australia we farm cattle in semi-arid areas that are unsiutable for crop farming. Cattle convert the dry grass that we can't eat into meat that we can eat. Dry countries like Australia wouldn't be able to feed their population without meat.
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        Apr 24 2012: Peter, I was intrigued by your description of Australian cattle farming so I did a little research. While it is true that Australian cattle farming is unique in that it is the last region to make the change from range fed cattle to breeder operations that sell calfs to feedlots, that transition is now well underway in Australia. Basically, the way it is going to work is that the pasture land will be used to keep cows who will be used as breeders. The weaned calfs will then be sold to feedlot opperations that will feed them with grain or corn until they reach slaughtering weight. The beef you eat on your table will be grain fed steers for the most part. Much of the nutrients present in the grain the steers eat will never make it to your table. The feed lots waste grain producing land that could have been used to feed peple or animals living more fulfilling, natural lives. Vegetarians avoid encouraging that waste of farm land.
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          Apr 25 2012: I think to a large extent the grain fed beef is intended for export. The Australian palate leans toward lower fat levels than you get from grain fed beasts. The process for the local market starts with the breed stock you mention but the weaners are sent to holding properties until they are large enough to fatten up back on the coast. If you grain fed them the whole time the meat would be too expensive for domestic use. The Japanese however are prepared to spend a fortune on well marbled beef. In Australia we are used to cheep meat, anything over $20 per kilogram is a tough sell. Grain fed beef is more like $50 per kilo so will never be a big seller domestically.( $20AUS per kilo is about $10US per pound)
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        Apr 24 2012: Joanne, How are you going to get people to support permaculture if people do not buy in to dietary values that are compatible with the foods produced by the permaculture?

        You do not seem to be thinking about the ways that different elements of food production and consumption systems effect each other.

        You cannot have small scale production unless you have small numbers of people consuming food. If you have large numbers of food consumers, you are going to have to have large scale production .

        If you want us to move toward a permaculture that will feed large numbers of people, you have to accept that you cannot just do anything you want. You have to get rational. You have to do what is necessary to acheive your purpose.

        Those who are vegetarians for ethical reasons understand that their purchasing decisions effect the way food is produced. If you want permaculture, vegetarians are your allies, not your enemy. The current level of consumption of meat is not sustainable.
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          Apr 25 2012: Hi Inthegardentbeyondthecave; permaculture is a set of principles, nothing more. Scale is an issue though, as monocultural agricultural methods are very productive in one area, but extremely destructive. It is possible to design a system using permaculture principles, that is both productive and ecologically sustainable.

          The issue of population growth is a separate one.
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    Apr 22 2012: "Fetish" comes from the Portuguese for "charm" or "sorcery". It is generally taken to mean an abnormal and irrational obsession with an inanimate object, sometimes accompanying a belief in magical powers or spiritual possession; sexual attraction can also be a part of the definition.

    Do you mean "fad"? I've never heard of vegan diets as a fetish under any conventional definition. If you mean fetish, can you please elaborate? Sometimes the ways people talk about meat, the (sometimes sexual) way it's advertised, and the "special powers" you get from meat (you can only be strong and healthful eating meat) that individuals and industry profess, seem to fit the definition of a fetish. I've never seen plant food spoken of and represented this way.

    If you're vegan because you don't want to give money to factory farmed meat, dairy, and egg suppliers (supermarkets, restaurants, etc.) because of the environmental destruction and animal torture they cause, it's a challenge to see how this is born out of selfishness and ego.

    Joanne and I have already touched on this debate in Jonathan Foley's talk, but I couldn't help but respond to such an inflammatory conversation heading :)
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      Apr 23 2012: Hi Warren, please don't be upset but I think 'abnormal and irrational obsession' fits for many people. As does 'fad'. I think if you find my opinion 'inflammatory' you might want to ask yourself 'why'. Perhaps you will then have an answer to my question.

      You are preaching to the converted when it comes to the meat industry. Its often disgusting, usually rampantly exploitative and sometimes even tragic. This is not the subject I have put up for debate.

      When you say this ' you don't want to give money to factory farmed meat, dairy, and egg suppliers (supermarkets, restaurants, etc.) because of the environmental destruction and animal torture they cause, it's a challenge to see how this is born out of selfishness and ego', I can see you wish to make the 'individual protest' point. I think this is a valid point of view and I applaud you for it. Who do you give your money to instead?

      Thanks for your heartfelt contributions.
      • Apr 23 2012: Another thing is that there are farm subsidies that go into certain crops that are used as animal feed, and sometimes to raising meat itself. In order words, meat eaters are stealing money from vegitarians as taxes, and by reducing the price you increase quantity demanded. Vote Ron Paul...
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          Apr 23 2012: Alexis, vote Ron Paul at your peril. Thanks for your comment
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        Apr 24 2012: Joanne,

        I agree that many vegans are so because of irrational reasons. However, your question wasn't "are some veggie movements fetishes but the rich?" but "are the veggie movements fetishes..." You've implied all are, when clearly this is untrue. And inflammatory because you are inaccurately generalizing an entire movement.

        Glad to see you acknowledged that many nonvegan diets are actually fetishized, especially meat. Also, vegan and vegetarian diets are not fads; they've existed formally declared in western culture since the late 1800s, are recognized and advised by registered dieticians worldwide (which paleo, raw, Atkins, etc. diets are not), and have existed for thousands of years in other parts of the world.

        "[Nonvegan industries are] often disgusting, usually rampantly exploitative and sometimes even tragic. This is not the subject I have put up for debate." It actually is the subject up for debate, because you've clearly implied in your question that veggie movements are irrational fetishes. What is the alternative to vegan? Nonvegan, meaning meat, eggs, and dairy. This is why I brought these industries up, this is why it is relevant to do so.

        I give my money to growers of Canadian organic soy, organic dried beans, organic hemp, and nut butters for protein. Please tell me if there is something worrying about these industries so I can adjust my dollar voting. Who do you give your money to?

        My diet is not a fetish because I have rational reasons for choosing it, many of which you are acknowledging, and it is not based in spirits, charms, sexual urges, or magical powers. Do you still think all vegan diets are fetishes? If so, please explain clearly.
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          Apr 24 2012: You realise the term organic is completely meaningless. From a scientific point of view. If you take an aspirin or chew willow bark your body can't tell the difference. Organic is the biggest fetish of them all. You can add evil chemicals like ammonium nitrate or you can use chicken poo the plants can't tell the difference.
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          Apr 24 2012: I think vegans should be lobed in with athiests.

          Each has their own personal reasons individually,not as a group.
    • Apr 23 2012: In reality there is no clear distinction between plants and animals. You are lamenting the torturous methods of meat farming but don't mention the fact that most consumption of plants involves eating the unborn offspring of another organism. Is it more of a crime to eat veal or to cut the reproductive organ from a whole field of corn plants? If you are more concerned about the veal I would guess that it is becuase you are genetically closer to it. That seems to be how this whole vegetarian thing works.
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        Apr 23 2012: Peter, I was wondering if someone would present this standpoint so thank you! I always wonder at the dominating moral heirarchy with which we view the animal world. If we were a great deal smaller, we might value a preying mantis with the same devotion as a white tiger. Its to do with proximity, and is the same process we use to have empathy for our fellow humans. If we could hear a stalk of corn's scream as it is harvested, would we mind eating corn? I think the same law of proximity govern the amount of empathy we can have for our fellow humans. For example, if the crew of the Enola Gay had eaten breakfast with a Japanese family, on the day of the Hiroshima bombing, would they have opened the hatch and dropped the bomb? Promximity is too often the way we decide to care for something or not. Its not logical or reasonable.
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          Apr 23 2012: Hi Joanne and Peter

          While I agree with both of your concerns about the moral hierarchies of animals, I think there is something we have to keep in mind.

          To understand that all the biotic communities are equally significant and to understand that the biosphere is essentially holistic as opposed to hierarchical I think takes a higher level of awareness.

          The reason why this is the case is because, as humans, we have a natural tendency to be concerned about those organisms that have a higher range of suffering and pleasure; a higher range of experience and interest as opposed to those who don't:

          I don't think its by accident that people would be concerned about the slaughter of a chicken as opposed to, as Peter puts it, "cut the reproductive organ from a whole field of corn plants? "..the reason for this is because we tend not to think that plants suffer and therefore we see nothing wrong with doing such a thing.

          In spite of this, the question remains, is any of this justifiable? perhaps not being that we have the capacity to understand that every part of the biosphere serves a purpose in regards to the worlds eco-system..

          nonetheless, I do have to agree that this line of thinking is what gives way to the whole issue of moral hierarchies.

          which I am sure you, Peter and Natasha are well aware of
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          Apr 24 2012: Hi Orlando. Your comment is precisely the reason why even though I am a small v vegetarian I don't claim to do it for moral reasons. I eat very little meat purely because I feel healthier if I limit the amount of meat I eat.
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          Apr 26 2012: Joanne,

          I agree we don't know with 100% certainty if plants can feel pain. Or most invertebrates for that matter. But given what we know about experience, there is no reason to think it.

          It is a terrible error in reason and judgment to argue that because we don't have complete certainty in "plant consciousness" that therefore we may kill or use any living thing we like. We don't have complete certainty in gravity or evolution—you don't even have complete certainty that humans other than you are conscious—yet all the evidence we currently have points to these explanations of the natural world. Any other way of thinking disregards the evidence we have of how the natural world functions. It is unreasonable.

          It wasn't until the 80s that the governing body of US veterinarians declared that nonhuman animals could feel pain. Prior to that, they were engaging in nothing else but an assault on reason and evidence. There has been lots of evidence throughout human history that many nonhuman animals are conscious, sensitive beings. Not so with plants. There is no evidence for it, only convenient speculation when challenged to abstain from killing and hurting those sensitive nonhumans.

          And if plants could feel? If all the evidence is wrong, and the lack of it sprung up? Eating meat, eggs, and dairy uses more plants that a strictly plant-based diet, anyway.
      • Apr 23 2012: What reality do you inhabit, Peter ?
        In Meta-Reality there is no clear distinction between 'dust' and 'man'.
        So what ?
        • Apr 23 2012: Please classify these as plant or animal. Euglena, Trachelomonus, Diatoms. What about a sponge that derives 80% of its oxygen and nutrition from algal cells within its body. The one thing that most identifies plants is the presence of chloroplasts, but these probably started as cyano-bacteria that were engulfed by early single celled organisms. Essentially plants are animals that took cyano-bacteria hostage much as sponges, corals and giant clams now take algae hostage. If you look at the development of life on earth the seperation into plants animals and fungi is very recent, thats why we still share the majority of basic cell structure. Male plants make sperm and females make ova just like people.
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        Apr 24 2012: Peter,

        This argument is so disingenuous. Reflect honestly for one moment, without thinking of "debating vegans" and ask yourself if you truly believe plants feel pain, if you have no preference for seeing a head of lettuce go into a blender or a mouse go into a blender.

        There is zero evidence for plants feeling pain.

        1) No brain.
        2) No centrally organized nervous system.
        3) No nociceptor cells.
        4) No evolutionary function.

        Can plants react to stimuli? Definitely. So can my thermostat. Reaction does not mean feeling or experiencing psychological, conscious phenomena like pain and pleasure. Human bodies in comas react to pathogens constantly. Do these people feel anything?

        People call veganism irrational, and yet this kind of arrogant sophism gets a platform. Comparing the suffering of young calves confined in crates barely wide enough for their bodies, deprived of iron such that they lick rusted nails, separated from their mothers in a hostile environment where some have their heads caved in by the heels of brutalized workers... to corn in a field?

        Is it any wonder people genuinely concern with animal suffering and environmental destruction get angry?
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          Apr 24 2012: You realise your four points of identification also apply to half the animals in the world. In fact the vast majority of animals don't have a brain or central nervous system. You seem to be limiting your definition of animal to chordates, a very small fraction. And no I don't know if plants feel pain, but I also don't know if jellyfish feel pain or snails or ants as they don't have the part of the mammalian brain that perceives pain.
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          Apr 24 2012: Warren, no one is saying, well I am not saying your concerns for animal welfare are not valid, of course they are and I too am concerned about such things. I think Peter makes a great argument about the broad spectrum of animal and plant life that is trampled beneath our jack boot.

          Only a generation ago people said farm animals felt no pain, or mourned or felt emotion. Most people today do not accept this. Whales where not considered to have a family life, or a language or even much intelligence until relatively recently. The point is, we do not know, and we are notoriously arrogant and anthropocentric.
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        Apr 25 2012: Peter,

        True. Those points do apply to most animals on earth, since most animals on earth are invertebrates. I have little to no reason to think most invertebrates (like arthropods and molluscs) experience pain or pleasure. Given this, I happen to think insect and oyster farming would be a great humane food source (with likely little environmental impact).

        I don't think "vegan" should be "don't eat animals or their by-products", but rather "don't do things that hurt sensitive beings".

        Also, respond to my comments of your comparison of veal and corn suffering. You don't get off that easy for making such callous, empty arguments.
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          Apr 26 2012: Your question about the blender isn't a fair one as I assume you are taking about a live mouse. If the mouse is already dead like the lettuce I dont have a problem with either. To put you at ease though I would feel uncomfortable about blending a live mouse, but I also feel uncomfortable if I pick fruit. I feel like I am stealing something another organism has gone to a lot of trouble to create. Its not that I don't feel guilty for taking the life of an animal so I can eat it, I just feel equally guilty for taking the life of any organism. The problem is in order to eat you have to kill something.
  • Apr 22 2012: Well I think that in the modern western world people place such a high degree of importance over individual diet because there has been an increasing awareness over time regarding health issues. I'm sure selfishness and self esteem do creep into modern 'healthy eating' and I'm also sure that quite a lot of people if not the vast majority of people are detached from the real meaning of food and nutrition as you state.

    Onto to vegetarian and vegan diets. While there are people that adopt those diets for health reasons and there are bound to be people that stop eating meat to follow some sort of fashion, the majority of people who adopt vegetarian/vegan diets do so for ethical reasons of one form or another. Seeing as you mentioned western society in particular, the origins of vegetarianism stretches back to ancient Greece, particularly Pythagorus. During classical antiquity the vegetarian diet was called 'abstinence from beings with a soul'. Make of that what you will. So clearly the roots of western vegetarianism are based on ethical deiscions rather than simply following of a fad.

    Vegetarianism fell out of favour after the christianisation of Europe, maybe because it was seen as some unwholesome hangover from ancient Greek paganism, just like the banning of the original Olympic games. Though there is very little evidence about how widespread it actually was prior to the Christianisation of the late Roman Empire.

    It resurfaced again in the renassiance, interestingly enough with the re-birth of interest in all things ancient. At that time it might be fair to say it was a fad or a fashion but in Victorian times it was popularised by Christian groups as a form of temperance. Moving on to the 20th century and after, it is more closely linked with animal welfare/rights issues and lately environmental concerns than fashion, especially with the explosion in meat availability due largely to factory farming.
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    Apr 22 2012: Wow Joanne, excellent point and one I think about daily, although I never thought I had a great argument for it....

    I would have to say that the answer to your question is yes. I think it is fetishes for the rich.

    I've noticed this when I go to the store. I realized that all the places that sell healthy, green food, such as a place like Fresh and Easy (I'm not sure if they have this store in N.Z), is very expensive, while places like Walmart sells stuff for really cheap (but not as healthy). I myself never really understood why the healthy food in the U.S. is twice as expensive and not as abundant, as the unhealthy food? Then again, this is the U.S. and this is capitalism so I shouldn't expect anything less.

    Also Joanne, think about the health care system. Those at the higher levels of the social ladder, have better access to medical care than those who cannot afford it. I do not think its a coincidence that poor people have less opportunity for getting health insurance and having more access to Junk/unhealthy food.

    If you ask me, the reason why there is a focus on diet is because people are aware of their food intake and realize the health risk (obesity, calories, diabetes, etc). Upon typing all this to you, a thought just stuck my mind:

    Don't you think its a major issue that countries would talk about the health risk people should look out for but nonetheless is unwilling to do anything to change this....

    If the government wants people to be healthy, shouldn't they think about investing in maximizing the well-being of as many people as they can and focus less on corporate interest?

    In a nutshell:
    lower class+little or no health insurance+bad health +debt= pharmaceuticals company making profits and Power Maintained by the few.
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      Apr 22 2012: Hi Orlando, I think you highlight two aspects of an interesting point; that special diets ARE a luxury item often denied to the many in favour of the few, and that food is an essential aspect of the politics of poverty. Thanks.

      This is good too; 'lower class+little or no health insurance+bad health +debt= pharmaceuticals company making profits and Power Maintained by the few.'. . in fact, we can see obesity, depressive illness associateced with inertia and obesity, smoking related diseases, obesity related diseases are extremely profitable to the pharmeceutical companies hence the lack of impetus to facilitate access to health. Control over this un-wellness process is exerted in subtle but ever powerful ways. Access to good food at school, advertising, laws around food controls. Education factors into this, and so again introduces a politcal element into my question; people who are more educated are more likely to see through the advertising propaganda designed to lure them into a pattern of unhealthy food choices, and avoid it. Health for the elite once again.

      Everything always boils down to one thing. Equality. With it everything works out fine, without it, the human bus ends up with big square lumpy wheels and we all get a rough ride.

      Have you read The Turning Point by Fritzjop Capra? It has a great chapter on our modern medical system and how it facilitates un-wellness.
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        Apr 22 2012: Hi Joanne and no problem and great post.

        I never thought about the educational aspect of food. I like the connection you made with that as well so I find it very interesting that you mentioned that. But your right, many children across the world are not getting good meals at school, which of course only contributes to the problem.

        no I have never heard of that book or author so I'll have to go check that out. thanks for the reference.
      • Apr 22 2012: Joanne !

        Everything always boils down to one thing. Equality.

        I think ' equality 'has little to do with the choice in question. The 'ability to do without 'is not a virtue any more, and it is the core of the problem. The economy we've created pushes us to buy stuff. The direct or hidden massage of almost every commercial is -'you deserve it ! ' My God , I think I deserve much more and can be just fine without this stuff.
        I am vegetarian and no 'isms' or even big conscious decisions on how to save the planet are involved. It has nothing to do with diet. Simply. I think it's a right thing to do.
        Animals are cute loving creatures and my neighbours on this planet; they are not my food.
        I can do without meat, and have plenty of affordable options. There are so many interesting things to do in this life to occupy our mind that much with what we eat :)
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          Apr 23 2012: Hi Natasha, thanks for your input. My comment regarding equality, was really in reference to Orlando's contribution.

          Do you recognise that the mere fact you are able to make such a noble choice, to be vegetrarian, is an extremely privileged position to be in? One not shared by the majority of people on the planet? Do you see that the fact that you are in a position to make such choices is the result of our highly industrialised societies with an exhaustive range of consumer choices. It is this affluence and the productive waste attached to it, that is the problem in the first place. In this context, where is the nobility of being vegetarian? Because animals are 'cuddly' and 'our friends'?

          What about less cuddly animals that are on the endangered list because of soya production? What about insect biodiversty and loss of habitat? These things affect animal life too, perhaps more so than hunting, or some kinds of farming.

          I am not trying to belittle your choices, only bring some perspective. When we do something because it allows us to think we are better than other people, its called 'religion'.
      • Apr 23 2012: You can't belittle my choice, for i don't define it as a great or noble one or something that can be written with a capital letter. It's simply a common sense with a healthy potion of 'devine reverence ' ( I don't practice any religion, don't take me wrong :)
        I live in Ukraine, is it an extremely privileged place to be ? Maybe you are right, my government is in hard labour 24/7 to make me a philosopher, eventually it is not that bad:) My consumer choices : cabbage, potato...milk, cheese ..came into being long before the industrial age so I hope i don't contribute to much to the productive waste.
        Do you really think that people who cut rain forests and plant soya there, care about vegetarians ? It's all about money. I agree with you, what they do with biodiversity and wild life is really awful, they cut the branch of the tree we are all sitting on. Let's skip the moral issue, what they do is not reasonable, again lack of common sense. As somebody aptly said : common sense is not that common.

        But still it's only the surface... there are a lot of meaningful layers that can deepen this issue, but it's a long talk for the frame of the current conversation.

        OK, Joanne, thank you for responding !
        Have a nice day !
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          Apr 23 2012: Hi Natasha, I do not think you belong to the group I am critical of in my debate. I think we, including myself in extremely wealthy countries need to look at our overall attitude to food and over consumption, and we cannot expect to avoid or lessen that by being vegetarian.

          Your choices seem brave and thoughtful to me, and I agree with you, its still only on the surface. Thanks for contributing.
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    Apr 26 2012: Is there any point being vegan for the "good of the earth" if you live in a city?
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    Apr 22 2012: I did not read everyone's comments but, here is my 2 cents worth.

    I believe that a veg diet (vegetarian or vegan) is better for the planets health issues and for the peoples current health issues.
    I agree that a veg diet in the US and even in China where I live now is becoming less realistic for poorer individuals "in cities".
    If you add the complexity of saying Organic Veg then it changes the game completely.
    If you add Rural farms it also changes.
    From my perspective the reason the price of a veg diet is going up has to do with the privatization of agriculture/food over the last 50-70 years.
    The simplest explanation is that capitalism creates inequity due the fact that economy is created by scarcity.
    Is there economic growth in the industry of water if the government makes water public ?
    No, the price is stable or goes down.
    If everything is privatized then the price will go up due to scarcity.
    If food, housing, clothing, education and other basic needs on Maslows hierarchy were all met by government then what would happen to private businesses?
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      Apr 23 2012: Hi Jeff, 'the reason the price of a veg diet is going up has to do with the privatization of agriculture/food over the last 50-70 years.'. And therein lies the rub. I think this is the real problem, and we need to address it.
  • Apr 22 2012: I would strongly disagree. As far as I know a vegetarian diet (vegan, I think, is going a bit too far) is a lot healthier than a diet containing meat. I reduces the risk of getting many cancers and cardiovascular diseases. If this is the case, It is not a food fetish for the rich, it is the choice of the smart. It can also be really inexpensive.

    From the global perspective it may also ba a smart choice as a leading diet for the mankind. Meat production requires enormous amounts of water and energy (which in turns leads to higher carbon emissions) comparing to production of vegetables or dairy products. Meat storage and transport requires refrigeration - further energy intake.

    Apparently, if most of population was vegetarian there would be no hunger on this planet.
  • Ian Ker

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    Apr 21 2012: Human settlements started where there was good land and water for producing food. When these settlements grew, they started to consume this good land/water. So our towns, cities and suburbs occupy the best food-producing land and do so by covering much of it in bitumen and concrete. We can't turn the clock back, but we can do two things. First, stop the continued growth of urban sprawl (yes, I know that's not easy - the extra 3 billion people need to live somewhere) and use currently unproductive land (literally our own backyards very often) to grow some of our own food.

    As to whether vegetarian and vegan movements are food fetishes for the rich - does it really matter. If vegetarian/vegan diet places less stress on land, water and the environment, what does it matter whether those who choose them are rich or not? In fact, it might even be better that way - if these 'rich' people were carnivores, they might well be buying the 'best' meat (eg corn-fed rather than pasture-fed), which has the highest energy/land/water/greenhouse impacts.
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    R H

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    Apr 21 2012: I would say no and disagree with your supposition. I see the 'vegan' and 'vegetarian' movements as outgrowths of a general protest against the 'machine' of the industrial revolution. Along with unions, human rights, environmental concerns, civil rights, and modern art, these food choice 'movements' are borne from the neglect and crap that has been 'fed' (sic) to people by conglomerate special interests seeking control of our quality of life and availability of choice for over a hundred years. People basically said 'we're not gonna take it anymore' and created these types of viable food products and created the market which has exploded in breadth and options. This is freedom and individual self-destiny expressed and demanded and has been game-changing. Thank goodness.
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      Apr 21 2012: RH you represent a valid perspective, in my opinion and I have to give this idea some serious thought.

      Vegetarianims/veganism as a protest movement against the establishment, against the status quo? I guess it depends on the individual. If as Douglas points out, someone decides for such a diet, pats themselves on th eback for healing the planet and continues to overconsume then what is it other than an empty gesture?
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        R H

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        Apr 21 2012: Thank you for responding and considering the point of view. I will go a step further and say we're talking about two different things. One is a consumption choice, or 'movement', in society; and the other is an individual's personal character or lack therof. And also, not to be critical, but let's be very careful how we judge each other. Life can be very difficult, and it can be difficult to be 'pure' and still survive and live day to day. Sometimes all we can do is make little steps, and we have to choose what those steps will be. But again, these comments are strictly conversational. I'm not trying to criticize anyone's view.
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          Apr 21 2012: RH

          You're a brilliant written orator,i like reading your comments,they are free flowing and thoughtful,it takes me ages to tap out what i want to say but naturals like yourself and Joanne and millions worldwide should not worry about clashing,sometimes the clash can bring so much knowledge to the front and others can learn from it.
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          Apr 21 2012: RH, I find myself almost loathe to criticise a movement which is clearly a subset to the movement I feel I belong to, one that cares for the earth, one that seeks to join with others to arrive at solutions, one that seeks to return to a better, more holistic relationship with community and nature.

          And yet....some of the evangelism around diet seems so purely narcissisitic and so out of touch with how food is produced and how comunities around the world gain nutrition, it often seems more like part of the problem for the solution.

          I spent one year living in India, and during that time, ate no meat. I learned a lot about diet, and about the way food culture evolves from necessity and what the local land can produce. These are good and valuable lessons which I have carried with me.

          Yet the modern city based vegetarian and especially vegan movements, sometimes seem to have a social identity complex as the driving force behind them. They seem to represent a 'trend' rather than a thoughtful response to overconsumption. I find this 'ego' element particularily offensive, given the importance and sensitivity of food issues world wide. It is the rich picking around their plate again. In my view. AND I am at times vegetarian myself.

          Your thoughts?
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        R H

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        Apr 22 2012: (in response to 'loathe to criticize':) I understand what you're saying. I live in a big metro area and am aware - first hand - of 'modern city based' views and opinions. I would have to agree that many project an 'elitist' attitude about many things. This is why I say we're talking about two different things, and this is where the 'personal character' part comes in. I would love to see a socio/cultural anthropologist's report or dissertation on 'trendiness' in major metro areas. What makes people 'grab' onto a trend and adapt it to their own lifestyle? How do people sieze a particular facet of a trend and re-interpret the whole trend? I think we could spend hours speculating on that. Possibly we're also beginning to generalize here a bit. I believe there are thousands, if not millions, of people in western society who have adapted vegetarianism as a wholistic view of the planet, not just a 'watch me be a vegan everybody!' mentality. Possibly we need to broaden our view. Thanks again for responding to my comments.
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          Apr 22 2012: Ultimately the question do we consider it a negative or positive trend? I consider it no different than having to have a pair of Nike trainers or a Gucci handbag. A designer diet. No impact or relationship to environmental pressure. I guess you disagree.
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    Apr 21 2012: I think I see what you mean, so I will try to address your statement. Please correct me if I don't quite answer the question. (I'm tired and its 3:30am here).

    Isms. In general I try not to categorize anything under the guise of an ism due to the dangers of over generalization. This is one of many things that I acknowledge my hypocrisy. However, I think vegetarianism in general isnt as much as an "ism" as such things as liberalism/conservatism. I know that these are not what in specific you are talking about, but I think there are minor differences between the two sets.
    I don't know what I am trying to say here, so I will end that point. :) Sorry..

    I think that by someone, myself included, removing themself from the issue at hand by saying, "I don't do it, so I am not the problem" is very unhelpful. This is reminicent of the proverb, "evil thrives when good men do nothing". I may have misquoted that, but you know what I mean.

    By being a vegetarian/vegan and not working towards reducing the general over consumption and waste, we are equally liable as those who do. Not equally I guess, but not absolved of blame. In general, I think the question posed is very important to get people talking and discussing their availavle influence on the subject.

    For example, I believe that society is learning that being apart of an organization, lets say PETA or Green Peace, and not contributing anything other than membership is unhelpful. In fact, I believe that being an "ism" or a member without contributing to overall society causes a negative impact.

    The vast majority of fellow ACLU members and *aspiring* vegetarians are not active in any community other than membership. I myself should be more active and am slowly returning to my activity.

    My saying we are helping and actually not, especially in issues such as overconsumption, we are a detrimental force.

    I feel like I am not saying what I want to express. I will return here tomorrow. :)
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    Apr 21 2012: IMHO the cafe's are starting to pickup on the vegan trend and some promote quite silly prices for something you can make at home if not better,considering i'm a carnivore we will have to move over to a heavier vegetable diet if it is found that a dairy industry is too damaging,which would also mean going back to having a garden in our backyards like we did in the 70's.

    There's just one hitch that a few see,not all land is growing land and conversion leads to fertilizers and insecticide use which is the short path but there is an older path that is longer but yields are considerably better though i don't know much on the subject it's potential is amazing.
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      Apr 21 2012: Ken; such thing as a free lunch. Precisely. We cannot take a 'knee jerk' approach to this. Permaculture principles kept the chinese fed and in a stable sustainable environment for 10 000 years while civilisations rose and fell around them. We need to get with THAT program. (and convince the chinese not to abandon in favour of 52 kinds of ketchup and a mountain of plastic)
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      Apr 21 2012: We have gotten ourselves into a catch 22 situation; We need to go back to growing our own food at home, many of us live in cities and in inaerable places, we work so many hours and commute so time is limited, insecticide and long life-herbicide use have made this tough too. We have lost the common knowledge about taking care of animals. And we have killed God and religion which have been social glue for so many generation holding families and value communities together. I don't know how long it will take but we have doomed ourselves. The question is; what kind of time capsule do we leave for the survivors?
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        Apr 21 2012: Yes

        The cities,what to do about them?especially the the big pushed up mega-cities that the future will bring.How about greenhousing the tops of our apartment buildings or turning parts of central park NY into greenzones where food is grown via permaculture tech and sold throughout the city at extremely low prices?

        Joy,in the place you live where can like minded people can use land that is city owned and not in use but is pollution free and close to you? Why not band together and start a neighborhood cabbage patch on the land and if the city says you can't, pull out the old protest signs and megaphones and start walking.
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          Apr 23 2012: I live in the middle of the high short0grass plains in New Mexico. I am 7 miles from a town. I have 8 close neighbors each of whom are elderly and over and acre away (at least a city block). I rarely go to town to save gas. Farmers and ranchers own this place, they spray pesticides and herbicides all summer and many wells have gone dry, I believe because of farm irrigation. It seems to me that all the problems in the world are focused in places like this; illegal immigration,pollution, litter, apathy, corruption, social breakdown. I don't hold out any hope for a future for humans. I'm just waiting for the other shoe to fall.
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        Apr 23 2012: Gee, that's sad,for the farmers.

        Alot here will disagree with me but i put it down to teenage silliness,some say it's outgrowing a archaic idea that worked for a awhile,some don't even know god exists anymore, yet i still do because there are things that have been happening that are too similar in the broader sense that can't be explained away and those that are vehement in the books denial don't realize that their lifetime might not be the time it happens,all we can do is try to live as best as we can and keep reading the books.

        Heck i don't even watch those church programs anymore,they feel false and rehearsed except for maybe a few.

        Those poor farmers,they must be worried about the water?
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        Apr 23 2012: Take heart Joy. Fight back, remain vocal on forums like this and pass on your knowledge and wisdom to the people who come after you. Humans might surprise you yet. We need to find our empathy for each other and the world around us again. People like you are part of the process. Go well.
  • Apr 20 2012: It may be that a high degree of importance is placed on diet in the western world because there is so much food in the western world. People instinctually eat more when there is more food. Now fifty years of glut in our diet has caused the opposite of death by hunger. We must be more aware because our survival depends on it.
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      Apr 21 2012: ....and seem to get precious and choosey about it too Christopher. What do you make of dietry evangelism?
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    Apr 20 2012: luckily the first part has nothing to with the actual question. luckily, because it is false. marie antoinette never said such a thing, especially not before her execution, thus she did not enrage people with it. the actual source of the saying is unknown, if not completely fabricated.
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      Apr 20 2012: Must of been the paparazzi's during the french revolution who concocted such a ruse or rupert murdoch's ancestors.
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      Apr 20 2012: Krisztian, well you are sharp I will give you that. I was wondering if someone would pick up the fact that Marie Attoinette is not recorded as having said those words. Hence the word 'attributed'. Bravo.
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      Apr 21 2012: LET THEM EAT CAKE..almost certainly completely fabricated. Part of the smear campaign to justify the use of the guillotine against her divinely protected royal neck. Still relevant though....please stick to the point.
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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.
  • Apr 26 2012: Something to consider, I believe people generally have a great deal of difficulty being objective regarding diet. It is strongly conditioned from early childhood and culturally constrained as in "tell me what you eat and I'll tell you who you are" . Many of the pro meat posters present as angry or defensive. Unless you are willing to experiment at the individual level with your diet you probably have little to contribute to others. This is a touchstone issue and indicator of neophobe/neophile orientation. Personally I became a vegetarian thirty years ago as a runner because it allowed me shorter intervals between eating and training but the precept of causing no UNNECESSARY suffering has bolstered the diet over time and has worked well for me. It's worth reading Liere Keith's bookThe Vegetarian Myth if you want a concise compilation of the anti-vegitarian talking points espoused by Gerald O. and others.
  • Apr 26 2012: I respect plants as much as amimals so I eat them all.

    I think veganism is a pseudo-culture or a trend.
  • Apr 23 2012: Vote Ron Paul to get rid of agricultural subsidies...
  • Apr 22 2012: YES
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    Apr 20 2012: This question lends itself to be more than just vegetarian/veganism. It is also about diets in general, so I will write my viewpoint in two parts.

    1) Vegetarianism/Veganism:
    Morally and economically I believe that it is wrong to eat animals. (Not nessicarily milk/cheese, but I'll get into that later).
    Morally, I feel that it is wrong to eat animals, but not their milk/cheese, mainly due to the connection I've had with my cat. I feel that I can communicate on a level with my cat, more than just tricked. Animals show emotion, and emotion is the language of the soul. For those who don't agree with animals having a soul, I don't have an argument for you other than the idea of non-violence. Non-violence teaches that causing violence is morally wrong, I agree with this.
    Economically, we've all heard the arguments that it is more inexpensive to eat wheat and vegetables than beef and other meats. This says nothing of the vast amount of water resources spent to make beef.

    This being said, I eat meat. I act against my own morals, but am slowly removing myself from meat. I have tried to just quit and felt sick right away. I decided that it would be best to wean myself off of it. I have been fialing to become a vegetarian for more than a year.

    On diets in particular,
    I have hypothyriod, a metabolism disease that greatly reduces its production of hormones, that commonly leads to weight gain. I eat very poorly, and at this time have a jar of Nutella beside me. I do not eat well all of the time, and I do not excercise often. However, I do not eat more than 2000 calories a day, and weigh 200 pounds. (6' male). I am slightly overweight, and I blame that on my own laziness.

    There is no reason to diet for any physical reason.

    I believe that diets are bad, but not meant to be. Wealthy nations, such as my native United States, use diets because it is fashionable rather than effective.

    *I don't have an issue with milk/cheese because I don't see the harm in it.
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      Apr 21 2012: Hi Douglas, thanks for your thoughtful reply. I see you put a lot of careful consideration into your dietry choices, even if you do not always follow them. I do wonder though, are 'isms' just a kind of 'get out of jail free card' , a way to assuage our guilty conscience so that we do not have to face the real issues of over consumption and waste?