Myths of The Vegetarian Myth

I feel the need to respond to The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith, a horrendous piece of pseudoscience advocating the abandonment of modern agriculture and apparently modern ethics.

It should also be noted that despite her claimed to have been a vegan, Lierre Keith stated in an interview “I never cheated on beef, but I certainly binged on eggs and dairy every chance I got.”

Having lived on a small farm in Amish country and seeing modern and less modern ways of farming and raising animals I simply don’t think that small scale farming is sustainable for our population or is significantly more humane to animals than industrial scale farming. Setting aside my objection to animals being used as tools & resources leading to their unnecessary and untimely deaths, the living conditions and way animals are slaughtered on small family farms rarely differs significantly from slaughter methods on other larger farms. While I cant say that there is statistically no difference at all between small farms and large corporate farms, I do assert that the degree of difference especially in regards to animal use and treatment is practically meaningless especially to animal rightists and abolitionists.

So this book offends me on two fronts, it offends my ethical sensibilities by justifying exploiting and killing animals unnecessarily and by having a flippant attitude toward human starvation.
Secondly it offends my rationality and love for science by cherry picking data and twisting the science to justify an abandonment of modern agriculture without any viable alternative to feed our population or reduce it. The psychology claims she makes are laughable and are made extra offensive by using bad science to question the mental health of all vegans.

Until I can write my own rebuttal* I’m going to re-post a flier from Vegans for Sustainable Agriculture. I read it over and it seems to be pretty rational. They now have website here.

The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith
Corrections to Some of the Many Errors and Misconceptions

The Claim: Lierre claims that grazed animal farming/polyculture can feed nine people per ten acres. (P. 101)
In Reality: Lierre lists the food produced on a ten acre perennial polyculture. Her numbers are based on Michael Pollan’s exposition of Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and are arrived at by dividing the numbers for Salatin’s 100 acres of grass by ten. But Pollan explains at great length (P. 222-225) that the 100 acres of grass is actually 550 acres because the adjacent 450 acres of forest are essential to the health and productivity of the farm. Accordingly, ten acres of land actually feeds about two people rather than her estimate of nine. Lierre says that if you live in New England you should eat what grows there. However, with this level of productivity, you couldn’t feed all of New England on all the land in New England.

The Claim: “I built my whole identity on the idea that my life did not require death…Did the lives of nematodes and fungi matter? Why not? Because they were too small for me to see?” (P. 18)
In Reality: This straw man argument permeates throughout the book. These views are not held by most vegans nor any animal advocacy groups. The goal of veganism is to eliminate direct, unnecessary suffering at the hands of humans—not to magically end all death. Why shouldn’t the cow with its undeniable ability to feel pain, experience emotions and form relationships take precedence over plants and organisms with limited or non-existent nervous systems such as the nematodes Keith frets about in this book?

The Claim: Lierre claims that sustainable farming is not possible without domesticated livestock. “I would need domesticated animals—their labor and the products of their bodies—to farm sustainably. I needed their manure and their unspeakable bones, their inconceivable blood.” (P. 58)
In Reality: How then does she explain the success of vegan organic agriculture in the UK and US, where no animal inputs are used? How does she explain that the most successful organic CSA in the country actually uses no animal products on their fields (Honey Brook Farm in New Jersey)?

The Claim: “Understand: agriculture was the beginning of global warming. Ten thousand years of destroying the carbon sinks of perennial polycultures has added almost as much carbon to the atmosphere as industrialization, an indictment that you, vegetarians, need to answer. No one has told you this before, but that is what your food—those oh so eco-peaceful grains and beans—has done.” (P. 250)
The Reality: Much of Lierre’s book is borrowed from Richard Manning, a well-respected environmentalist and author. Manning understands that human dependence on grain monoculture is not the fault of the small percentage of concerned people who decided to be vegetarian, but is rather a historical mistake of which we all share the burden of repairing. Despite Lierre’s insistence, vegans do not need to eat grains nor any sort of annual monocrop. Why did she target vegans when compared to average corn-fed Americans, vegans consume much less grain?
On the topic of climate change, Lierre fails to address that regardless of type of feed or forage, ruminant animals emit an abundance of methane, a greenhouse gas up to 72-times more potent than carbon-dioxide. She, along with other grass-fed proponents, point out that growing pasture sequesters carbon in the subsoil and claim that farms like Polyface are carbon-neutral. However, she ignores the fact that soil can only retain a limited quantity of carbon—once pasture is healthy, the soil is carbon stable. Meat from pasture-based livestock contributes at least as much to climate change as meat from CAFOs—an indictment that you, Lierre, need to answer.

The Claim: “We’ve been doing what we’ve been endlessly badgered to do since the 1960s. We’ve eaten, according to the USDA, less fat, less meat, fewer eggs. Our dietary fat has fallen 10 percent, hypertension has dropped 40 percent and the number of us with chronically high cholesterol has declined 28 percent.” (P. 203)

In Reality: Americans eat more meat now than in the 1960s according to the USDA (http://tinyurl.com/USDAstats1). While the average percentage of calories from dietary fat consumption has decreased, dietary fat intake increased from 135 g to 178 g from 1960 to 2006 (http://tinyurl.com/USDAstats2).

The Claim: “We owe our bodies what we owe the world; we must inhabit both and, in the act of inhabiting, nourish both. This food must also be an apology for what my kind has done, and part of the repair. It must protect this land, and extract from me the promise of more. My food is those things, all of them. It’s based on the forests and grasses that nestle this planet in soil and air.” (P. 271)
In Reality: Lierre’s own blog posts demonstrate that she can’t stick to her own ideals. She has posted entries where she raves about the perfection of grain-fed pork and happily offers a bucket of mass-produced, processed chocolate laden with factory-farmed dairy to trick-or-treaters last Halloween. If this is what she’ll post on her own blog, what other unsustainable foods is she eating? (http://tinyurl.com/lierre1, http://tinyurl.com/lierre2)

The Claim: “…there are no good plant sources of tryptophan. On top of that, all the tryptophan in the world won’t do you any good without saturated fat.” And later Keith blames the lack of tryptophan in vegetarian diets for depression, insomnia, panic, anger, bulimia and chemical dependency. (P. 10)
In Reality: A cup of roasted soybeans contains nearly three times the adult RDA of tryptophan and a cup of pretty much any other bean will get you between 50-60% of the RDA. Two tablespoons of coconut oil more than meet the adult saturated fat RDA. Nuts, dark chocolate and avocado are all rich in saturated fat.

The Claim: “Sixty grams of soy protein—that’s one cup of soy milk—contains 45 mg of isoflavones.” (P. 215)

In Reality: The soy milks available in supermarkets have about 6 to 11 grams of soy protein per cup. According to Lierre’s often-cited Weston A. Price Foundation, a cup of soy milk contains only 20 mg of isoflavones.

The Claim: “I am of this world, carbon and breath like my parents, my siblings, the creatures great and small, single-celled or green, that create the miracle the rest of us consume. They gave me this body and the air it needs, the food it eats. All they ask is that I take my place, a predator, dependent and beholden, until I am prey.” (p. 271)
In Reality: The animals humans consume are quite literally prey, but unless Keith intends to be eaten by a wild animal, her claim of being “prey” is a specious one based on her decomposition. She considers this a repayment to the biosphere for its kindness in feeding her, but that same repayment is unacceptable from edible animals.

The Claim: Lierre claims that “Researchers from Cornell showed that E. Coli 0157:H7 could be stopped by a very simple action: feeding cows hay for the last five days of their lives.” (P. 99)
In Reality: In the study Lierre refers to, the researchers showed that overall E. Coli levels (i.e. including strains other than 0157:H7) in three cows were decreased by feeding the cows hay for five days. They conjectured that 0157:H7 levels would be similar. However, subsequent research suggests that grass-fed beef does not have lower levels of 0157:H7 (http://www.slate.com/id/2242290/pagenum/all/).

The Claim: “The pursuit of a just, sustainable, and local economy will eventually lead us to the grim conclusion that there are simply too many of us. The world population is supposed to reach 8.9 billion by 2050. Meanwhile the oceans will be fished empty by 2050, the aquifers and water tables will be well out of reach, and the last trace of topsoil rendered dust. We are already living on fossil fuel and this—right now—is the historical moment when oil will peak. It will never be this cheap or accessible again. What then?” (P. 120)
Counterpoint: Keith has no answer to “What then?” The only answer one can deduce from the book is that she advocates nothing short of the elimination of agriculture and civilization and a drastic reduction of population to some level that she considers sustainable. Simultaneously, she believes that civilization’s doom (and consequently, an enormous loss of human life) will soon be upon us, so maybe it makes sense that her ideas are not solutions.

The only thing worth taking from The Vegetarian Myth is Lierre’s condemnation of the idea that the simple act of going vegan automatically solves all problems with our food production. True, some vegans and organizations do exaggerate the ecological benefits of eating highly processed, conventionally-grown vegan food. That said, it is still the easiest and most substantial immediate action a person can take on the path to a sustainable lifestyle. Into the future, a balanced plant-based diet of mixed perennial and annual fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes grown in veganic** permaculture settings is our only hope for feeding an increasing population.

*for a little followup please see the post on cholesterol skeptics

**Im personally skeptical of the ability of organic foods to feed our whole population in a  resource efficient manner, though I certainly think too many potentially harmful substances are used in both conventional and organic agriculture. I would like to support organic farming, given the popular perception that it is pesticide-free but that’s not really true, nor is it necessarily “greener”, the list of permissible “organic” farming inputs is quite large and some of the included items might shock certain people. While I oppose the needless killing of insects and other “pests” and have an interest in the growing veganic movement, I feel that realistically a vegan diet using the most efficient farming methods (often non-organic and using hybrid or genetically modified crops when superior) is currently our best bet to reduce the impact of agriculture on the non-human world.

Further Reading:
PaleoVeganology – Paleofantasies and The Vegetarian Myth

Vegan Logic- The Vegetarian Myth – More to Take Away Than I Expected

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119 Responses to “Myths of The Vegetarian Myth”

  1. Someone Says:

    Hey,

    Thanks for reposting that flyer! The people who made it + a few others have started http://www.vegetarianmyth.com, so if you’d like to contribute your ideas, get in touch. Also, if you hyperlink “the vegetarian myth” to that site when you mention it on your blog, it will help get the site higher in search rankings.

    Thanks

  2. Jordan Says:

    Great post about a pretty fallacy packed book. Yes, agribusiness is bad for the environment, but eating meat just makes that problem worse.

    • the_anus Says:

      as a skeptical vegetarian (who eats cheese (less non-vegetarian cheeses) and farm raised eggs) it’s not the “act of eating meat” that makes this worse. It’s this sort of mentality that makes people so antagonistic towards some vegans (due to some of the ragers)….and has no basis in reason.The problem lies with eating meat from animals born into the industrial system. If you are, for instance, sourcing meat from the dude in Food Inc (grass fed beef dude who open air slaughters his cattle with empathy and reverence). You are supporting alternate agriculture practices, and thus, the act of eating meat is not inherently unethical, from a reasoned based perspective….it’s actually more radical than the diets of MANY vegans (the fashion vegans, lets call them….on the fad train). This is what leaves room for the market in the niche of which this book occupies.

      this, of course, does not account for emotional concerns- of the terror and trauma suffered by domesticated animals used as meat sources. Historically, it is evident such concerns have not gone ignored, though, as there are policies (though not always followed, obviously) like Halal, and Kosher….even that weird autistic cow lady from Texas. This is a concern on a number of levels though- which differ from person to person: some people are concerned via emotional attachment; others via an uncomfortable adversity to death (also an emotional reaction); while others still are concerned about the taste and nature of the meat produced, as scared and traumatized animals will produce chemical responses which will influence the nature of the end product.

      either way, while the sentiment of the book is fair, if does have a lot of flaws..and this list has pointed out many fair examples.

      but this anti-manifesto is itself flawed, as to argue that falling back on the argument that adopting a vegan based diet is THE BEST way to be a food revolutionary…is simply untrue. if you go vegan and just eat corporate processed foods, chock full of GMO corn soy and their derivatives…you are NOT IN ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM more radical than someone who sources their meat from outside the industrial system. (ie indigenous hunters, sustainable farmers)

      the world is full of death. everything dies. it is an illusion to believe that all animals living symbiotically (ie domesticated) with humans are entitled to the right to live unfettered until death at old age- that is just an absurd ideal, that lacks a basis in reality, unfortunately (as utopia would be awesome). of course there is going to be a working relationship, whether that be labour or sacrifice in the end. this is how the material world operates…this is why it is the realm of suffering.

      what this DOESNT mean, is that our animal brethern, with whom we share a spark of the divine, need to be exploited as a commodity. they must be loved and cared for in life, and- if death is required (in old age, or to feed other)- killed with compassion, empathy, and reverence.

      1 more thing id like to add. fuck the argument that a modern agricultural system is required to sustain rampant overpopulation. food isnt the planet’s fucking issue….too many goddamn humans is. so mind your procreational quota. let’s not forget this, as this central axis around which all this other bullshit revolves.

  3. tld Says:

    did any of you read her book about the depletion of soil? do you know about the dangers of soy to your thyroid? like any book, there may be inaccuracies but open your minds abit… nature is nature,…killing to eat is how we evolved… the plant eaters died out a long time ago… we have incisors for a reason. at least consider it.

    • skepticalvegan Says:

      “is” does NOT dictate “ought”
      basically your argument is a naturalistic fallacy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naturalistic_fallacy

      Keith’s soy/thyroid claim is not supported by the current scientific consensus, it was from cherry picked data and likely can’t be replicated.
      Most first world nation citizens have the physical ability to survive their whole life with out resorting to killing an animal for meat, if someone is presented with the choice between eating perfectly good veggies and legumes or a steak and they choose the steak then they are killing WITHOUT ANY NECESSITY. If they have no daily choice in what to eat then I’m not opposed to them eating what it takes to survive but as intelligent animals we can realize that meat is not a daily necessity, that we have more than enough resources to supply a vegan diet for the entire population, that animal slaughter involves causing pain, mental anguish, and robbing a sentient individual of their autonomy and right to life, and that we can avoid being responsible for unnecessary suffering and death…if we can avoid it, we should. If we can avoid it and we dont we are guilty of callousness and selfishness and should have no expectation that our personal autonomy be respected if we refuse to respect the autonomy of other beings

      • Ian Says:

        You do realize that plants can feel pain. There are numerous studies that show plants will give off toxins when attacked or kill off parts of itself that have been attacked. Why do you think only animals should be saved? Is it because they are more similar to humans than plants? You have your ideals and I have mine, what makes you any more right than me?

        • skepticalvegan Says:

          Ive already addressed this elsewhere but… The idea that plants feel pain is simply false and based on outdated and debunked research, it is not supported by modern biologists.
          The idea of plant perception stems from a study in the 60s by a Cleve Backster, he used a galvanic skin response meter which measure electrical conductivity, it has nothing to do with the perception of pain just how electrical conductive object is. The paper which was looking for ESP effects was published in a PARAPSYCHOLOGY journal, not a legitimate or respected journal or field of research.
          Backster also had no legitimate degree in science and was a general enthusiast of the paranormal and various pseudosciences.

          Immune system reactions are different and separate from the reaction of nerve cells which carry pain. Plants lack all the mechanisms of pain and perception, even a rudimentary nervous system. Plants also don’t have an evolutionary reason to have pain perception. Not all biological reactions are forms of pain or perception, to say otherwise is to misunderstand or ignore what biologists actually mean when they say “pain”.

          “what makes you any more right than me?”
          The fact that the idea that plants feel pain is simply false. The original experiment was extremely flawed and unreproducible and subsequent experiments in the area have failed. The idea that plants feel pain is one rejected by the scientific community, and is primarily promoted by fringe cranks. This argument will get you nowhere.

      • Ebuse Says:

        I agree with you on the point that plants don’t feel “pain” and I really did appreciate your article. I’m not trying to take sides but I want to press for clarification. Is “pain” the defining characteristic of something that matters? Plants can be killed because they don’t feel pain, have no nervous system, etc?

        Also, I must point out as well (not that it matters much for the argument) that the immune system and nerve cells that carry pain are closely related. So much so that in a study conducted by Besedovsky and del Rey in 1992 suggested that the immune system acts as a kind of sensory system.

        Lastly, I must point out the the naturalistic fallacy, more specifically the is-ought problem, is not entirely accepted. I am working on my philosophy major and can tell you that we still debate very much concerning the is-ought problem in ethics.

        • skepticalvegan Says:

          “Is “pain” the defining characteristic of something that matters? Plants can be killed because they don’t feel pain, have no nervous system, etc?”
          Not so much “pain” as “suffering” of which physical pain is one aspect, but the lack of a nervous system, especially a centralized one, would seem to indicate a lack of ability to experience other forms of suffering such as psychological distress. The lack of nociceptors or any conceivable mechanism for plant sentience leaves us in the position of not knowing for sure whether they can suffer but with enough experimental evidence and evolutionary theories about pain to say we have very little reason to assume plants feel pain and no evidence that they do. To leap from this position to the position that “animals feel pain and plants may too, so harming either one is ethically equivalent” would be quite irrational such as the recent piece in the NY Times seemed to say. I personally think the more rational position in this question given evolutionary theory and our current evidence is to accept the null hypothesis (plants are not sentient), at least until convincing evidence is presented. That being said, yes it is the fact that something is sentient that would make harming it wrong, if it was non-sentient then it simply isn’t an ethical subject, at least in regards to suffering. I’m not really sure I agree with the position of inanimate objects, non-sentient life, land masses, and even abstract concepts and constructions have inherent rights (a position taken by the likes of Derrick Jensen), it is not the river that has rights but rather all the sentient beings that rely on the river.

      • Esd Says:

        “Most first world nation citizens have the physical ability to survive their whole life with out resorting to killing an animal for meat, if someone is presented with the choice between eating perfectly good veggies and legumes or a steak and they choose the steak then they are killing WITHOUT ANY NECESSITY. If they have no daily choice in what to eat then I’m not opposed to them eating what it takes to survive but as intelligent animals we can realize that meat is not a daily necessity, that we have more than enough resources to supply a vegan diet for the entire population, that animal slaughter involves causing pain, mental anguish, and robbing a sentient individual of their autonomy and right to life, and that we can avoid being responsible for unnecessary suffering and death…if we can avoid it, we should. If we can avoid it and we dont we are guilty of callousness and selfishness and should have no expectation that our personal autonomy be respected if we refuse to respect the autonomy of other beings”

        First off how does whether something is necessary or not dictate it being right or wrong? I could easily say the same thing about plants, since you don’t need to eat plants if you are presented with the choice between eating perfectly good meat or a veggie. also either way they are killing, as plants are life just as animals. And depending on where they get the veggies they may be killing animals anyway.
        and again why does whether it being a choice or not change whether its necessary or moral?

        we are omnivores so how does are eating of animals be any more immoral then other omnivores who are sentient and making a choice to eat?
        why is it we humans are always targeted because of our intelligence and freewill? how does that dictate anything about eating other species? its like you totally ignore thousands of other species that eat meat, even when its not necessary.

        and scratch that, when is it NOT necessary to eat meat and plants alike?
        the thing about your bias towards humans just because you are one, is based solely on fallacies and weak reasons. You have a bias towards animals suffering (which happens all the time even without humans) and eating plants (which is not always death free).
        We would never be here if there was no struggle. nature is a violent place and just because we are the top of the food chain doesn’t dictate whats moral to eat.

        • skepticalvegan Says:

          “First off how does whether something is necessary or not dictate it being right or wrong?”

          The issue at hand is large scale violence against animals. If its not actually necessary then eating meat would simply be imposing suffering on others for ones taste preference.
          Think of it this way, violence against fellow humans is generally not justified unless made necessary by the situation such as self-defense. If a unnecessary violent, non-defensive, act is performed against a fellow human would you not consider it “wrong”. Kinda how cannibalism has been justified in very extreme situations while still being considered unimaginably wrong in any normal circumstance. If you find no ethical difference between consuming flesh whether its necessary or not then what about consuming human flesh, a human limb is “meat” as much as a pork chop is “meat” after all…?
          If we can avoid unnecessary violence when less violent options are available then we should.

          “also either way they are killing, as plants are life just as animals. “

          This issue has been brought up multiple times, including in the the comments immediately preceding your comment and you seem to add nothing new. I know the comments are long but it helps to read them cause Ive answer many of these questions a few times now and most of them are strawman arguments to begin with, they are distorted or incorrect representations of what vegan believe.
          It not whether something is alive or not, its whether it can suffer that vegans care about. Meat eaters make this straw-man argument all the time as if they aren’t actually listening to vegans. I myself have clarified this point a few times on this blog alone. Plants do not posses a nervous system and we have no good evidence to make use believe they are sentient in any way. We have no good evidence that they can suffer nor experience life, so technically it not possible to “harm” a plant in that it can never experience the harm.
          So again, I never argued that we shouldn’t kill animals “because they are alive” I argue that we should not exploit them and/or kill them because that are able to experience suffering and killing them ends a conscious experience of life.

          “its like you totally ignore thousands of other species that eat meat, even when its not necessary.”

          This is an issue already addressed a couple times as well. I’m just gonna re-post a previous answer I gave to this same question.

          “I think you argument may represent the “predation reductio” fallacy
          I think the issue of the suffering of wildlife is certainly a valid area to explore and we should do something about it. The question is how much can we realistically do to reduce suffering in the natural world without causing undue disruption resulting in more suffering. I like Peter Singer’s response to this issue, “Judging by our past record, any attempt to change ecological systems on a large scale is going to do far more harm than good. For that reason, if for no other, it is true to say that, except in a few very limited cases, we cannot and should not try to police all of nature.” We need to be realistic, have a proper understanding of evolution, and recognize the difference between realistically unavoidable suffering and cases of imposition of unnecessary suffering or cases where direct assistance can be offered. We need to recognize our technological and other limitations. The elimination of natural predation is not something we should expect to ever be able to achieve, the best we can do is provide some assistance for sick and injured wildlife.”

          “how does are eating of animals be any more immoral then other omnivores who are sentient and making a choice to eat?”

          The difference here is that sentience does not equal moral agency, the ability to reason ethically and therefore be held responsible for such decisions. Very young children while being sentient are not moral agents. Dogs are sentient but not moral agents. Adult humans with no significant brain damage are both sentient and moral agents. That’s the difference, you can’t hold someone morally responsible for an action when they don’t posses the mental faculties to understand the full effects of the action or reason in an ethical sense. This is why we generally don’t send toddlers to prison or punish the in the same way we would do to a more aware older child. I would also note that its not so much that one beings action is “more immoral” than the same action taken by a different being, rather the difference is more practical, one being can be held responsible for the action while the other cant be held responsible for actions it was not fully aware of. Consider this illustration, a toddler who finds his parents gun and accidentally shoots his sister has caused the same harm that the father would have if he was the one who shot the young girl (knowingly or accidentally)…but only the father can be realistically held responsible for his actions.

          “and eating plants (which is not always death free).”

          Another issue that been brought up and answered few times previously on this blog. In agriculture some field deaths(animals killed in harvest) will be inevitable. I never argued that we will ever be perfect or pure, I just argue that we should make major efforts to reduce suffering. Its naive and utopian to believe we could every eliminate all suffering but this fact does not give us free reign to exploit our fellow humans any more than other animals nor a free pass to ignore thing we could do to reduce suffering an improve the quality of life for other sentient beings.
          According to our current evidence if we wish to reduce both intentional slaughter AND field deaths a plant-based diet is that way to go. The average meat eater contributes far more to field deaths than the average vegan. Vegansism ultimately reduces field deaths. I highly suggest you look at this interactive graph, it lists the “Number of Animals Killed to Produce One Million Calories in Eight Food Categories” which compares both slaughter numbers with field deaths.
          http://www.animalvisuals.org/p/1mc/swf/1mc.swf

          “nature is a violent place and just because we are the top of the food chain doesn’t dictate whats moral to eat.”

          Interesting, not sure Ive heard a meat-eater say it this way. Carnists usually say “we are at the top of the food chain THEREFOR its moral to eat animals”
          I would just like to point out either way that in both cases the premise itself is flawed. There is no “food chain”, its more properly understood as a food web. There is no hierarchy there, like evolution it is less like a ladder and more like a branching bush.

      • the_anus Says:

        slightly ironic you would post the naturallist fallacy argument, as vegans often rely on fallacious appeals to nature (ALL THE TIME in their arguments against milk).

        • skepticalvegan Says:

          and I’m not one of those vegans, this blog was started in part to call out fallacious junk on both sides, from both carnists and vegans. Actually the majority of the posts here are directed at junk coming from woo-woo and new agey vegans. I’ve probably made more enemies among vegans here than anything.

  4. ZeroCool Says:

    Great… I am glad someone wrote on this I work at a elite gym where I am the only vegan. I saw that someone bought this book. I did not read it but feel compelled to read it because it is a disservice to what everyone is doing on a continuous basis for veganism. I think we need to also make it clear that because many vegans don’t research their diet and eat junk often they will come down with illnesses. The thing that is interesting to me she claims on her site how veganism is dangerous. Well with the population as sick, and overweight as they are I would say there is more evidence showing that not being vegan is much more dangerous. Anyway I am glad you shed some light on the book. This book should be turned into compost for good sustainable farming.

  5. Ex-Vegans and Cholesterol Skeptics « Skeptical Vegan Says:

    […] numerous ex-vegans mention reading the likes of Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith(discussed earlier), or even the long de-bunked Secret Life of Plants just prior to their conversion makes me a bit […]

  6. elina_k Says:

    “…using hybrid or genetically modified crops) is the best way to reduce the impact of agriculture on the non-human world.”

    *sigh* have you ever even heard of monsanto? roundup-ready? “food inc.”?

    http://www.responsibletechnology.org/blog/664

    you essentially undid the validity of the rest of the jargon you *borrowed* from someone else with that one line.

    i think the point of this book is this: stop being a lazy, shovel-fed, whatever-you-eat-ian sheeple and make some informed decisions about what you put in your body; more importantly, don’t let the party ‘line’ prevent you from listening to your body’s needs. i tend to think if we can stop attacking each others’ food choices in the process, so much the better.

    (btw i am a longtime pescatarian and i am willing to kill (and have killed) whatever animal i’m willing to eat. let’s not forget that when we eat a plant, or a seed (nut, bean, spore, genetic-package-of-choice) or a root, there’s a life cycle being interrupted therein, too)

    • skepticalvegan Says:

      While Food Inc. has some good information, especially about animals, it also has a good deal of scaremongering and inaccuracy including promoting an unsupported link between pesticides and autism.

      I am aware of Monsanto and their corporate underhandedness , I’m also not equating all potential applications of GE technology with that corporation and I’m not ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The problem isn’t the tools of genetic engineering and synthetic chemistry it is how and why those tools are used.

      I support the judicious use of synthetic inputs and GM crops when and where they are more resource efficient, nutritious, or animal friendly than the organic option…and when the organic option fits the situation I support people using it.

      Lets also not equate the suffering of conscious beings with a non-sentient being such as a plant, plant sentience was debunked quite a while ago.

      And yes that *borrowed* material (whats the problem?) is posted with permission, the source cited and in hopes of promoting what I think is a pretty good project. I may not agree with everyone there on every single point such as synthetic inputs or GE technology but they did a good job on the flier and the website has been fleshing out nicely since then.

      ps- No matter how many times folks use the word “sheeple” it doesn’t make their argument sound rational, just more like a conspiracy crank.

      • Yawn Says:

        No matter how many times folks need to start every point they make with a wikipedia link to lame 101 fallacies, it doesn’t make them sound smart or make their argument any more worthwhile, it just makes them sound like an insufferable philosophy minor. Discussing ethics within lame little man-made academic frameworks is rather pointless ultimately since it assumes that they are fundamentally and naturally correct, and therefore everyone must necessarily agree to them. Congrats. We all went to college. You can go back to reading Nicomachean Ethics for the 38th time. We’re all so interested.

        • skepticalvegan Says:

          You seem to be replying to a different comment here as the two preceding comments don’t contain links to wikipedia. When address specific items please put it directly below the comment you are commenting on or provide links to the particular comment if unable to comment on a specific comment. As you can see this comment thread has gotten quite long and even repetitive at times, so it helps both me and others to keep the conversation on track.
          Also if your not interested in this blog you are more than welcome read something else.

  7. Princey Says:

    I’m about 3/4 through the book, and I am finding it very, very interesting. It does not appear to me that Lierre Keith has been “cherry-picking” scientific studies… in fact I recall her saying something like “don’t just take one study as proof, no matter how good it looks. Research as many sources as possible”.
    As much as I’d love to live in a sane society where we didn’t have to kill for food, we just aren’t there yet.
    If someone can direct me to some scientific studies that are contrary to Keith’s message in her book, I would be very interested and appreciative.

    • skepticalvegan Says:

      “It does not appear to me that Lierre Keith has been “cherry-picking” scientific studies…”
      Then you should check out the footnotes and references, its fairly clear
      http://vegetarianmythmyth.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/chapter-4-resource-analysis/

      If you specify a particular claim I will research contrary studies, but comparing one study to another still isn’t the way to get at the truth. The overall scientific consensus is more important than the results of individual studies and Keith makes claims about things such as cholesterol that are contrary to the scientific consensus and cites know pseudo-scientific sources such as the WAPF.

      you should check out http://www.vegetarianmyth.com/node/37
      they have provided some rebuttals to various claims in the book

      I also don’t think we need to achieve utopia before we ourselves make major personal effort to reduce animal suffering. Its not an all or nothing game. Keith should not excuse unnecessary killing with necessary death.

      • Princey Says:

        Wow, this just points out to me that it is virtually impossible for us to know what is “true” (or as close to truth as possible) in society today.
        With particular notions such as “profit” being a guiding factor in many so called “scientific studies”, I truly cannot know what I “should” believe when it comes to this type of thing.
        All I can say is that we DO need to transcend our current economic system for countless reasons, the pursuit of “truth” being one reason. Watch this film if you have not already, it is incredibly important:
        [Link to the movie Zeitgeist]

        • skepticalvegan Says:

          Wow, not sure where to start. Ive seen that movie a few times now. Zeitgiest and the follow-up movies are highly inaccurate and misleading. Peter Joseph, the films creator is not a qualified expert in any of the fields discussed nor are much of his conclusions supported by the evidence or scientific consensus. I don’t find that film a compelling argument for anything other than that many people need to be a bit more skeptical.
          I highly suggest you examine the criticisms of the various claims: http://conspiracyscience.com/articles/zeitgeist/part-one/
          Other than that I think Peter Joseph is just utopian and totally unrealistic.

          • CarlSaganIsDead Says:

            Hey Moron, if you really think being a “qualified expert” is the only way to make a statement or discover something, then you are truly narrow minded. You may throw some references here and there, but the ugly truth is, you are just a moron who thinks he is a smart ass emphasizing your pathetic views on everyone here.
            you wanna be realistic? Shove your arguments up yours.. !

  8. stacey Says:

    WOW is all I can say. You can actually say that it’s wrong to kill an animal for food, but killing the planet is ok? GMO’s ok? Conventional agriculture ok? Fossil fuels ok? Increased population ok? And plants non-sentient? Find yourself an herbalist and try that one on them. You are obviously quite removed from the real world and the environment. Take a walk in the woods, hug a tree, and slap a big hunk of raw organic grass-fed butter on your soyburger – could improve your brain function. Get off your high-horse and go work on a small farm and then on a conventional one – the amount of animals horrifically “murdered” while harvesting your precious corn and soy fields , the environments destroyed, the animals and plants displaced for your GE monocrops, THAT compared to a self-sufficient, closed loop farm where all your food can be grown/raised/wild harvested in an ethical way? I know – I have a farm. I live it. You have no clue. Your ideals are twisted and elitist. Vegans with your attitude are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

    • skepticalvegan Says:

      Did you even read the beginning of the post? I have lived and worked on a small farm in Oklahoma, where the animal welfare was horrendous, also worked on an organic farm in Alabama.

      “GMO’s ok?”

      Yes, when directed toward making agriculture more resource efficient, nutritious, or toward more humane “pest” control. I also advocate INDEPENDENT testing of GMOs to avoid corporate bias. GMOs are not by any objective measure “killing the planet”. Despite potential economic and political impact their existence has prevented millions of people from starving to death. Are you aware that the B12 used to fortify foods, nutritional yeast, and in vitamins comes from genetically engineered bacteria? Are you also aware the insulin for diabetics no longer requires the deaths of pigs as we now make human insulin from genetically modified microbes? Would you really have us go back to killing pigs for insulin? It’s a useful tool when used judiciously for the benefit of sentient beings. Simply put GMOs have directly saved lives!

      “Conventional agriculture ok?”
      When that particular crop can be grown more efficiently by conventional methods then yes! There are parts of conventional farming to criticize and probably certain input we should ideally reduce usage of but in the end there is no good argument for a strictly 100% organic model.

      “Fossil fuels ok?”
      Well society is based around them, but we should find alternatives wherever possible and avoid their use when practical. This is one reason I don’t own or drive a car, its an unnecessary use for me. But I also recognize that both of us are involved in some way in fossil fuel consumption, it is a part of our lives whether we like it or not, for now. Other than that I’m not sure what you’re getting at unless you are talking about the production of ammonia for fertilizer using natural gas (or sometimes coal or oil), I would personally like to see us move toward an alternative such as urine and waste reclamation but this will realistically take time and consumer or political demand. The validity of strictly non-organic farming does not rise or fall on one component of it, we should examine the factors individually

      “Increased population ok?”
      I dont think I ever said it was ok, rather that it may be inevitable in the short run. I advocate every possible humane measure to reduce our population, free or cheap birth control, voluntary sterilization, adoption, and economic incentives. I think its unrealistic to expect it to happen quickly and in the mean time we should make sure we can feed people. This is a lot better than starving people out which is the implications of some of Keith’s and other anti-civ writings.

      “And plants non-sentient?”

      The experiments that started this myth (that plants are sentient) we preformed back in the 60’s using a galvanic skin response meter, better known as a lie detector. This device measures electrical conductivity not consciousness or perception. Attempts to replicate the study with good methodology have a resulted in failure. It was poor science to begin with and has been rejected by the scientific community since. Plants simply lack the biological mechanisms (mainly nerves) for sentience. An understanding of the function of nervous systems, their evolutionary history and that of plants makes why this is so fairly clear.


      “Find yourself an herbalist”

      this might come as a shock but Im a bit skeptical of much of herbalism

      “could improve your brain function”
      Keep it civil, I didn’t go out of my way to insult you or your intelligence. Keep in mind further comments containing blatant insults will not be approved. Plus it’s not a rational argument at all, it’s just childish and gets us nowhere, lets stick to the issues. Also it seems you might believe some medical myths about cholesterol, you should read my post on Cholesterol Skeptics.

      “Get off your high-horse” You are the one here moralizing and promoting your anti-GMO organic crunchy lifestyle as ethically superior. Your horse is just as high as mine.

      “animals horrifically “murdered” while harvesting your precious corn and soy fields”
      I have addressed this issue before on the blog. Animal deaths will be present in any mechanized harvesting operation and we should take steps to reduce or eliminate such deaths if possible. Mechanization is used on many organic farms not just conventional farms, especially for grain, unless they grow and hand pick all their own food organic-only eaters still have the blood of field mice on their hands. In principle I support a form of not-entirely-organic-veganic agriculture as the humane option, I just don’t believe the infrastructure exists yet to make it practical on a large scale, so in the mean time folks have to make do.

      “animals and plants displaced for your GE monocrops”

      That crop land was going to be used either way, choosing a GE wheat that can produce the same amount in 50% less acreage might help free up some land. Im also not sure what your getting as animals are displace and environments disrupted for all kinds of agriculture including for organic veggies and pasture for cows.

      “THAT compared to a self-sufficient, closed loop farm where all your food can be grown/raised/wild harvested in an ethical way? “
      It sounds nice but it is simply not an option for that majority of the populace and the land use required to provide food in this way for our current populace would be ridiculous. Modern agriculture has been made to be efficient and feed as many people on as few acres, I’m not willing to convert even more land to crop land just to have organic veggies just yet.

      “Your ideals are twisted and elitist”
      the idea that everyone could live on a farm like yours is pretty naive and elitist, I just try to apply rationalism and realism to the ideal of anti-speciesism. Denouncing the Green Revolution that has resulted in millions of saved lives in poor countries is also pretty elitist.

  9. Daisy Says:

    I haven’t seen you address the small animals that die in the fields for the grains and veggies that make up the entirety of the veg*n diet. Researchers can and do make a good case that fewer animals will die if EVERYONE added some pasture rasied beef (or other ruminant animal) to their diet.

    But then who’s concerned about the bunny rabbits, field mice, moles, ground nesting birds that no one sees? Let them be crushed by the farming equipment that produces the veg*n food….as long as no one notices.

    And, no, it’s they are not accidental deaths. You know they’re there, I know they’re there, and certainly the farmer knows they’re there. How will you feed the population without the deaths of these animals?

    “Animals of the field are killed by several factors, including:

    1. Tractors and farm implements run over them.
    2. Plows and cultivators destroy underground burrows and kill animals.
    3. Removal of the crops (harvest) removes ground cover allowing animals on the surface to be killed by predators.
    4. Application of pesticides.”

    Something is going to die so each of us can eat. Being judgmental about which animals are ok to kill and which are not appears to be a veg*n thing. I’m very content with the fact the animals that die for my diet are killed in a humane manner under the watchful eye of the USDA. You may or may not be so comfortable with the idea of babby rabbits being smashed up in their nest by a plow. To each their own…..

    • skepticalvegan Says:

      Keep reading, I have addressed that issue in other comments.

      I know of the research you are citing and it was quickly refuted in the same journal as flawed on multiple counts, it also makes assumptions of numbers without supporting evidence. Check it out here: http://homepage.uab.edu/nnobis/papers/least-harm.pdf

      In principle I do believe we should avoid intentionally causing suffering at all times and avoid as far as practical causing suffering unintentionally, this would include possibly making changes to the way crops are grown and harvested to minimize this impact, inefficient growing methods don’t help matters either, but it’s naive or utopian to believe we can ever be perfect, that does not excuses us from outright acts of selfish murder such as the slaughter of cows for flesh. We should refrain from intentionally causing harm while at the same time working to reduce instances of unintentional harm, not eating, wearing, or using animals is the first step toward this goal.

  10. Logan Says:

    Just discovered this blog and Vegan Skeptic today. Very interesting, very awesome stuff. It echoes a lot of my own thoughts.

    I’m not surprised that a favorable mention of GMOs provoked a negative response. There are the bane of all committed eco-foodies, vegan and omni alike. That GM crops need not necessarily be monocultures, nor be funded by biotech corporations with conflicts of interest, does not occur to them.

    I read an excellent and thought-provoking book on this subject a while back called “Tomorrow’s Table” by Pam Ronald and Raoul Adamchak. Ronald is a plant geneticist and Adamchak is an organic farmer, and the thesis of the book is that GE and organic need not be enemies, and could indeed be complimentary.

    I am honestly flabbergasted to see plural comments on the sensitivity of plants. Are you sh**ing me? And do rocks never forget a smell? As Peter Singer (and I’m sure others) have pointed out, even if plants could feel pain, veganism would still be the lesser of two evils (lessest of three evils?) because omnivores indirectly would cause much more plant suffering to feed the livestock they raise for meat.

  11. Marcin Says:

    I am not sure what pain has got to do with killing. Whether plants can feel pain or not is irrelevant, whether they are sapient or not is also of no relevance. If this is what you base your argument fo not killing animal on then just shove them full of morphine and they will not feel any pain nor be in any way capable of thinking. The issue is not suffering but sustainability. In nature the offspring dies before it’s parent in the vast majority of cases. We are the only ones to whom this does not apply and that is only for the last 50 years or so. As a result our numbers boomed- it took us about 150000 years to get to 2 billion and then 50 years to triple that. I am not saying we should start killing off our offspring, before some clever D..k suggests that, but we do need to learn how to control our breeding.
    The bottom line is, if you are an enviromentalist, you should act in unison with environment. We are part of it, no more and no less important than any other mammal, although a heck of a lot less important to it than “simple” bacteria. We evolved through millions of years to the form we have now which happens to be based on an omnivorus diet. Not a vegetarian one, although predominantly so. Eating animals does not make the environment any better or worse- how we breed them and abuse the environment in the process is the problem, the same applies to the plant food. It is complete rubbish to claim that plants are more sustainable, neither is when the world population is abut 3-4 times that which our planet can feed without destroyng the current eco system in a long run.
    What we need to figure out is how to reduce our numbers so that we can become sustainable and in the mean time how to reduce our appetites so that we do not destroy the ecosystem, and therefore us, in the mean time. How many people can live off land is largely dependant on how much those people want to eat and we tend to eat way too much in the western society.
    There is a theory of Earth being a complex organism- the Gaia theory. An interesting concept which has certain merrits. If you consider our planet as such and all the different species of lifeforms upon it an organ then one of the organs has managed how to spread all over the parent organism, destroying the local organs in the process- there is a name for this process it is called cancer, the name of the organ is Homo Sapiens. The ony differnce is I do not believe we can kill the Earth, but we can destroy it enough for us not to survive.

    • skepticalvegan Says:

      “I am not sure what pain has got to do with killing. Whether plants can feel pain or not is irrelevant, whether they are sapient or not is also of no relevance. If this is what you base your argument fo not killing animal on then just shove them full of morphine and they will not feel any pain nor be in any way capable of thinking.”

      That would be a violation of autonomy and the ending of a “experience of life” (a sentient life), thats what I have a problem with, not killing per se (Im am unconcerned with killing things that are alive but non-sentient beings such as plants and bacteria). The issue of suffering doesn’t a have direct relevance to the act of killing, the injustice of imposing suffering is separate from the issue ending anothers experience of life

      “The issue is not suffering but sustainability.” Sustainability is a tangential but important issue as far as it bears on the wellbeing (issue of suffering) of sentient beings. I think we should care about sustainability precisely because of the issue of suffering.

  12. Marcin Says:

    Well yes that’s when it becomes a bit ricky and purely subjective. Just because we do not interpret plants as having a thought process or a “feeling” of pain does not mean they do not have one which we do not understand. As the phrase goes “it’s life Jim but not as we know it”, it may well be “it’s thought Jim but not as we know it”.
    By propagating purely vegetarian form of sustainability you do not end the “experience of life”, as you put it, because they never get a chance to have one. If we do not eat animals, we will not breed them, therefore they do not live so you can not kill them. Where is the “eperience of life” in there then. In nature virtually all living things die at the hands of another- the old, the young and the sick get killed by the predators in a way which to you and I is much more barbaric than a hammer blow to the head. Basically what you are saying is that YOU do not want to be responsible for the death of an animal, but if another animal kills it that’s fine. So the bottom line is that you are not concerned with what the animal feels but what you feel when it is being killed.
    Unless of course your aim is to have no animals except for humans living off the land in a purely vegan way.

    • skepticalvegan Says:

      “they never get a chance to have one.”
      I dont see that as a problem, you can not wrong a non-existent being. My choice to wear a condom does not harm every potential baby I might make by denying them an “experience of life”.

      “Basically what you are saying is that YOU do not want to be responsible for the death of an animal, but if another animal kills it that’s fine. So the bottom line is that you are not concerned with what the animal feels but what you feel when it is being killed.
      Unless of course your aim is to have no animals except for humans living off the land in a purely vegan way.”

      I think you argument may represent the “predation reductio” fallacy
      I think the issue of the suffering of wildlife is certainly a valid area to explore and we should do something about it. The question is how much can we realistically do to reduce suffering in the natural world without causing undue disruption resulting in more suffering. I like Peter Singer’s response to this issue, “Judging by our past record, any attempt to change ecological systems on a large scale is going to do far more harm than good. For that reason, if for no other, it is true to say that, except in a few very limited cases, we cannot and should not try to police all of nature.” We need to be realistic, have a proper understanding of evolution, and recognize the difference between realistically unavoidable suffering and cases of imposition of unnecessary suffering or cases where direct assistance can be offered. We need to recognize our technological and other limitations. The elimination of natural predation is not something we should expect to ever be able to achieve, the best we can do is provide assistance for sick and injured wildlife.

      “Just because we do not interpret plants as having a thought process or a “feeling” of pain does not mean they do not have one which we do not understand. As the phrase goes “it’s life Jim but not as we know it”, it may well be “it’s thought Jim but not as we know it””

      Plants evolved here on earth from our common ancestor (they arnt alien life), we have a pretty good understanding of the biology of plants down to the molecular level, we also have a pretty good understand of their evolutionary history and current ways of life. All this has lead all competent scientists to conclude plants are not sentient or aware in any meaningful way. There is a complete lack of a biological mechanism for perception or even the presence of a biological mechanism for which we dont understand the purpose of but which maybe a type of “nervous system”.

      We simply have no reason to believe they are sentient, to insist that they are and that we alter our lifestyle in accordance is just silly and unsupported by the evidence or consensus.

      While the question of animal sentience is not considered fringe or even debated. Everyone including the scientists that experiment on animals freely admit animals feel pain.

  13. Marcin Sosnowski Says:

    I am sorry are you really comparing altering the whole habitats and eco-systems to suit your idea of what suffering is or is not, to wearing a condom? You want to create a planet which suits a single single species mentality and you really do not think the other species will not be harmed?
    Death is part of life it always has been and always will be. For millions of years, sorry make that billions, animals have been killing each other by simply ripping each other apart. A bunch of self centered, ego inflated monkeys come along for a few thousand years and think they can do it better?
    I think we need to learn to be a bit more humble when it comes to nature and instead of constantly trying to “understand it” and “do something about it”, to try and accept it as it is. A hundred years ago we knew that chopping down forests was the right thing to do, we knew that since we introduced rabbits to New Zealand and they bred out of proportion, we should bring the stoats and foxes and cats to cull them. Now we know that was wrong. I wander what our grand children will be crying over when they look at what we are doing now. We only know what we know and we can not predict that which we do not know. We are part of this planet, we evolved to eat meat and vegetables. If someone does not want to eat meat that’s fine, I just wish they would stop telling everyone how wonderful they are for not killing animals. As I said if we do not kill them something else will and we can not stop that, further more, as you yourself admitted quoting Peter Singer, we should not stop that. So let’s just be part of it, the way nature intended. Forcing something to stay alive might be just as bad as letting it die. This planet has found a balance to keep the whole life thing going so let’s not interfere by simply being moralistic about it and thinking we are better than anything else here.

    • skepticalvegan Says:

      “I am sorry are you really comparing altering the whole habitats and eco-systems to suit your idea of what suffering is or is not, to wearing a condom?”

      The quote I was responding to, a snippet of which I gave for context, was: “By propagating purely vegetarian form of sustainability you do not end the “experience of life”, as you put it, because they never get a chance to have one. If we do not eat animals, we will not breed them, therefore they do not live so you can not kill them.”

      This quote was specifically about domesticated animals which humans breed for consumption. Its the old “if we don’t eat cow, they will go extinct” argument.
      I responded that you are not harming hypothetical future domesticated animals by refusing to breed their progenitors because no being actually exist to be harmed and compared that to condom usage a denying existence to a hypothetical child.

      I also said clearly that I did NOT agree with “altering the whole habitats and eco-systems” as you put it. I think trying to alter predator-prey relationships

        would be ecologically disastrous

      , which would cause far more suffering overall. I said I agreed with Peter Singer, I’ll give that quote again.
      “Judging by our past record, any attempt to change ecological systems on a large scale is going to do far more harm than good. For that reason, if for no other, it is true to say that, except in a few very limited cases, we cannot and should not try to police all of nature.”

      I feel like your just making a strawman here, I don’t want to drastically alter the natural world and changing our agricultural focus toward a vegan diet would not constitute a drastic upset of the natural world. Purchasing animal products is not being a “part of it, the way nature intended.” Its not “natural”, its not “in balance”, it’s modern consumerism in the context civilization.

      Human beings changing their current agricultural focus toward a vegan diet would not constitute any more of a “altering [of] the whole habitats and eco-systems” than current animal based agriculture has already done.

      I by no means intend to get rid of death, of course everything must die one day, but that does not give me license to needlessly kill sentient beings for mere taste preference. Nor do I think it is anywhere near possible to mitigate all forms of suffering in the world, but that does not give me license to inflict suffering needlessly or not offer assistance if I happen upon a being in need.

      “I think we need to learn to be a bit more humble when it comes to nature and instead of constantly trying to “understand it” and “do something about it”, to try and accept it as it is.”

      So we shouldn’t try to understand bacteria and viruses, just accept the fact of deadly diseases?
      Understanding nature is what science is about, and promoting science is what this blog is about.

      My point in saying “do something about it” was to say that while its a complex problem with no real solutions, we can not entirely ignore it by not offering wildlife rescue and medical care. We have to do at least something, even a small as rescuing a squirrel with a broken leg. This is something many people, animal protection organizations and govt departments already do to a degree.

      Marcin, are you perhaps pare of the anti-civilization/primitivism crowd? Some of your comments sound like it.

  14. Marcin Says:

    As for the “thinking plants” thread. I do not really wish to continue it as I do not think it is of any relevance to the issue of what you eat. But your argument is very poor. Simply knowing the molecular structure of the plant does not mean we understand it. We do not know how WE think. You can cut our brains down to a sting level and you will not find any sign of a molecule of “pleasure” or “fear”. We know that release of certain hormones gives us the sensation of pleasure but how they do that we do not know. As for “awareness of being” of “experience of life” no one has a clue how we know that so we should not expect to know whether a plant has it. Just because the scientists say something does not make it right. That is the difference between science and religion- science changes in the face of new facts. WE can only say for certain that we have no evidence of plants being aware of their existence or of feeling pain/fear/pleasure etc. It may well be that in 100 years we will suddenly discover that the way the fluids flow through the xylem or phloem, gives the plant a sensation of existing, of eating or drinking. It might be that as leaves turn to the sun the plant gets a sensation of wellbeing because of some changes in the electromagnetic field around it. Do not presume to know everything, we have made that mistake too often and are starting to pay the price for it. You are absolutely correct in saying that we have no reason to believe they are sentient, but how many times have we been wrong in the past?
    But as I said I do not think this is an issue, the same as whether animals feel pain is not an issue.

  15. Marcin Says:

    Hmmm, never heard of anti civilisation crowd- would be a bit odd to claim that and use a computer. Please do not try to call me names that will not persuade me or anyone else in the blog and just means that you are running short of arguments.
    The problem is that although veganism can sustain more people it is at a cost of other animals. As Lirre Keith rightly points out we can not digest cellulose. Our appendix is no longer big enough and even if it was I am not sure how many of us would want to eat the results of its action. Therefore to create a world where we can sustain ourselves purely from vegetarian diet we would have to use plants which we can digest, and a lot of them. This means that we would be destroying the natural balance. I was not only referring to the domesticated animals but also to those whose habitat we would have to take over to sustain our needs. Since the earth is does not have an infinite surface we will keep on destroying, just as fast as with grazing lands- even more so because grazing pastures are part of natural balance while cabbage fields or soy plantations are not. We can sustain ourselves much more in line with nature if we use all the resources available to us. Mostly vegetables, with some animal thrown in- a little of everything rather than a lot of one thing. There is only one way to keep that balance and that is to reduce our numbers. You can use all the science in the world you want but 7 billion people (and rising) is NOT sustainable.
    The problem is that you keep focusing on the fate of an individual- one animal suffers and gets killed so that another can survive. If you want to be truly scientific and biologically correct then you need to focus on the needs of the species and even wider eco systems as a whole. Biology is an extremely complicated science and if you affect one part of it, no matter how small, another will be affected to some extent. Creating fields of crops to sustain human needs is a recipe for disaster. As I mentioned before, if we all go vegan, the animals will carry on hurting each other and causing suffering a lot more than you would so it is a completely pointless argument unless you get rid of all animals, which I believe you said you did not want to.
    On one hand you are saying you do not want to interfere with the animal kingdom but then you say ” I think the issue of the suffering of wildlife is certainly a valid area to explore and we should do something about it.” I am no exactly clear how you do that without interfering. I do not think we can teach a lion how to shoot a gazelle humanely.
    As for bacteria and viruses that is a nice example, which being a doctor I know a bit about. We keep studying it and so far we managed to create a whole load of new strains by inappropriately using antibiotics. We keep buying some weird and wonderful cleaners which “kill 99.9% of all known germs”. The problem is, that 99.9% of all known germs are beneficial to humans. That’s the whole problem we keep acting on what we think we understand and straight away it turns out that there was something we did not know about which is a new issue, possibly bigger than before.
    “promoting science is what this blog is about.” I am glad to hear it because I consider myself as having a very scientific approach to life, a lot of my friends claim too much so. Unfortunately your arguments are not really based on science but emotion. :
    “but that does not give me license to needlessly kill sentient beings for mere taste preference”
    Not exactly a scientific argument. You are trying to find scientific evidence for what your emotions tell you is wrong. You do not consider the bigger picture of the repercussions of the “no killing” policy just so you can happily go to bed knowing the YOU did not kill anything although the animal you did not kill is still being killed in a painful way. In the UK for example there are no longer any natural predators to speak off. There is practically no natural widerness there and humans are not allowed to hunt. The few animals left over from the old days- mainly a few species deer, are now about ½ the size of what they used to be ad are largely sick and deformed. They suffer all their lives and not for a few seconds when being killed by a predator, be it a human one. The danger of introducing vegan diet worldwide is exactly the same. If we have some deer running around in the forest and we kill one or 2 off to feed ourselves it will hardly be a crime but letting them suffer all their lives from malnutrition, lack of space and disease sure as hell is.
    As to “doing something about it” what would you do if you found a young tiger or cheetah dying from hunger? A very real issue and a lot more important than a squirrel’s broken leg. It’s easy to think of wild animal as cute and cuddly. Unfortunately nature is cruel and harsh and we are part of it, whether you like it or not. That is what evolution is based on- remember “survival of the fittest” not “survival of the cutest”.

    • skepticalvegan Says:

      “Hmmm, never heard of anti civilisation crowd- would be a bit odd to claim that and use a computer. Please do not try to call me names that will not persuade me or anyone else in the blog and just means that you are running short of arguments.”

      I wasn’t calling you names, I was merely asking about your ideological alignment to help me better understand were your argument is coming from. Lierre Keith has aligned herself with primitivist and anti-civ authors, so I thought perhaps you were such a follower. I have my disagreements with anti-civ theory but i do not consider it an insult. What make it appear to me that you sympathize with the anti-civ folk is that you have made statements that seem out right anti-science, “I think we need to learn to be a bit more humble when it comes to nature and instead of constantly trying to “understand it” “ and anti-agriculture ,”Creating fields of crops to sustain human needs is a recipe for disaster. “
      So you don’t eat food grown in fields? And should humans abandon agriculture?

      I think you are simply misinformed on land usage in a vegan diet. For now here is some suggested reading: http://veganskeptic.blogspot.com/2010/11/being-vegan-is-worse-for-environment.html

      “You can use all the science in the world you want but 7 billion people (and rising) is NOT sustainable.”

      Many vegans want to stop the growth of or reduce human populations. That doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen anytime soon. Resisting the technology that might help reduce suffering in the mean time will not help matters.

      “Not exactly a scientific argument.”

      it wasnt meant to be, it was an ethical argument. Science bears on questions of fact such as whether plants can feel pain while ethics bears on questions of value, we can only reason about ethics, not prove them. This blog is about promoting science (and logical debate) within a particular ethical community (vegans) and promoting the ethics of vegans to rationalists and skeptics. Sorry I should have been more clear

      “As to “doing something about it” what would you do if you found a young tiger or cheetah dying from hunger?”
      I would call a wildlife sanctuary or someone qualified to help. I work in feral cat t-n-r and rescue, I have no major qualms with feeding obligate carnivorous meat when its a necessity. But humans are not obligate carnivorous, we are omnivorous, and we can survive just fine on a decent vegan diet. Raising animals specifically so we can kill them and consume them merely adds to the suffering that would be taking place regardless in the wild. Why add so much unnecessarily to the suffering? We cant eliminate it all but we can reduce it by not going out of our way to eat animals. Its not about utopia or perfectionism, it about doing what we can to make an impact on individual lives.

  16. Marcin Says:

    OK, thanks for the explanation about the anti civ what not. 🙂
    You see my point is that your ethical dilemma :
    “ Why add so much unnecessarily to the suffering?” is basically faulty. We do not ADD to the suffering we REPLACE it. What I have been trying to tell you is that you will not reduce the suffering by being a vegan. If we allow the animals to simply breed themselves in the fields we have been using they will continue to be killed by predators. If, however you simply want to change those fields to grow purely vegetarian food source for humans you will be altering the eco-systems so that herbivores do not have enough space to live properly.
    To me, what Lierre Keith’s book was about (and I have quite a few issues with the book myself), was to try and use the natural world as a food source as much as possible. Obviously she tended to use the examples which support her theories and not those which deny it, everybody does that and as annoying as it can be that’s just a fact of life . You see: cows can grow on meadows, together with other animals such as rabbits and hairs etc, kangaroos are an excellent source of healthy meat and they require minimal grazing and do not produce methane, sheep, esp merino, goats, geese and other birds can be grown in very natural and often rugged environment where you have no chance of growing anything useful for human consumption. Deer and some horses can be bread in forests, fish grow in lakes, rivers and seas etc etc. The rest of the food required by humans can be grown in fields, I have no problem with that, it is only when you concentrate on the fields as being the ONLY food source it starts becoming an issue. This means that the area of environment needed to feed human population is greater than if we use differing food sources.
    In her book Lierre Keith gives a few, in my opinion, rather poor reasons as to why we abandoned hunter gatherer status- the main reason was that we were able to live longer and did not keep getting killed by the charging rhino we were trying to kill. Yes we may well have been sicker etc but were able to reproduce more effectively. Now that reason is pretty much gone. We are rather unlikely to get killed while hunting and there is no reason why we should, PARTIALLY, return to that form of obtaining animal protein. This is happening to some extent- people are starting to breed animals which traditionally were not of the house hold stock- deer, ostriches, emu, kangaroos etc. We need to relearn to utilise the environment lightly by taking a little from many sources. This was what we evolved to be- omnivorous opportunist hunters, rather than concentrating on one single type of food source which will impact greatly on the world around us.
    So my main point against your “unnecessary suffering” argument is this: Yes you might reduce the suffering of other animals but only by reducing their numbers (although still 99.999% of them will be killed by a predator or die of hunger or in an accident or prolonged disease- there really are very few ways to die nicely in nature), if you have the same number of animals then they will still be killed, except not by you, but in a more painful way. Your choice.

    • skepticalvegan Says:

      “If we allow the animals to simply breed themselves in the fields we have been using they will continue to be killed by predators.”

      Its far too simplistic to assume it will be there same number of animals, there are too many variables. Current cattle grazing land will likely support an equal, slightly smaller, or possibly slightly higher number of bison, while current land used for intensive animal agriculture (ie factory farms) will support nowhere near that same number. The local climate and geography are major variables also along with the animal & crop “species” in question. I have no doubt a vegan diet for some areas will require a higher amount of land to be used for farming in some places such as arid regions, I also have no doubt for some areas land use will stay the same or be reduced, the studies done on land usage basically bear this out, they are mixed but the variation is generally pretty small in either direction. Globalization of food trade can help matters here, in fact we already ship produce from efficient growing areas to less efficient ones, this helps reduce the overall environmental impact and land usage, the local food movement which Lierre Keith also aligns with can often result in buying less efficiently grown produce shipped in a manner that puts out more greenhouse gases. As far as land usage goes I have yet to see a solid body of evidence that has convinced me that a vegan diet would require much larger amounts of land overall. I don’t think we have good evidence or reason to believe that eliminating the breeding of billions of domestic animals will result in large increase of wildlife killed or excessive land usage, keep in mind how much land already in agricultural use for raising animals or animal feed would be freed up for grow food for humans and other uses.

  17. Marcin Says:

    Now you are picking at the straws- the actual numbers are not significant. Your main issue is to do with suffering. As I explained to you over and over again vegan diet will not reduce the suffering, in fact it is likely to increase it. We can argue to what extent- i.e. whether there will be more or less wild animals out there, (personally I think there would be less- it’s down to simple maths more than biology in this case but it’s very hard to prove without doing it as small scale experiments do not necessarily translate on to a global scale- see the example below) but the animals will keep dying in much more severe way than being killed by a human. Being killed is a natural and the most common way for an animal to die and in fact one which produces the least suffering- the only alternatives are; starvation, disease or accident all of which which take a lot longer. This is what I am trying to get you to understand.
    As to land usage- you are absolutely correct vegan diet needs a lot less land to be USED but it does needs a lot more land to be FARMED. Omnivorous diet gives an opportunity to utilise the natural resources a lot more efficiently. You cannot grow cabbages in the sea; you will not be able to get any meaningful yield if you try to grow apples in a forest, you have to alter the land substantially for those crops to be farmed effectively. If you try to feed the people using this method you will need to farm a lot more land than if you allowed them to get food from other sources as well. Simple maths- you do not need any evidence for it. If you have 80 people living off a land in a vegan way, you can probably double it if you tell them to catch some fish and kill a few rabbits in the nearby forest, ergo you can feed the same 80 people if you reduce the size of the farm by say 30% (and therefore increase the size of the forest) and allow them to get meat and fish. By the way those figures are only an example they are not based on any experiment they are meant to just give a representative figure of what I am trying to explain.

    Oh and I am not in favour of the current way of farming so you do not need to quote me those as an example of how to do it badly and I agree about the globalisation of food trade- although for that to happen the whole world needs to be efficient and not rely on one or 2 areas to grow for everyone else ewho can’t be bothered or does not have the necessary knowledge. First people need to be educated esp Africa and Asia, the 2 biggest and most populous continents.

    But the animals will keep being killed no matter what you do. So your argument regarding their suffering is pointless. All you will achieve is stopping us from harming animals but not stopping animals from being harmed, in fact ou are likely to make them suffer more. I really do not know how many different ways I can put it to make you realise it.

    • skepticalvegan Says:

      “Now you are picking at the straws- the actual numbers are not significant. Your main issue is to do with suffering.”

      The numbers ARE significant, Ive said a few times that it is the well-being of the individual that is the focus of my concern not the well-being of abstract concepts such as “species”. Preventing the captivity and early slaughter of even a single individual is worth the whole world to that particular individual.

      I simply think you are mistaken about suffering increasing individually or overall. Regardless of what we do animals in the wild will continue to die, eliminating animal agriculture itself would not directly affect the interactions of that wildlife rather land conversion in either direction might affect wildlife, it could either give them more space and allow their number to increase in numbers or if land use increases it could reduce their habitat, both may result in some suffering, so there will be a cost-benefit analysis involved but as we already established we don’t have enough solid evidence to say with certainty which direction land use will go in over all under a vegan diet at the moment. I’m not sure how much we should allow a hypothetical situation in the distant future affect the way we interact with animals that currently exist. Personally going vegan and working to provide direct aid to animals in need such as shelter/sanctuary work, feral cat rescue & T-N-R, emergency veterinary care, ect and generally respecting the interest of animal around you are things we can do right now that have direct impacts on the suffering of individuals. There is no good reason to believe we will see society go vegan all at once, any necessary shifts in agricultural focus will likely come in small steps overtime as market demand and eventually legislation is changed. As with past scaremongering issue such as the belief that everyone would stave by the 1980 (then we have the Green Revolution) and that peak oil will destroy civilization we have or are overcoming through that advent of new unforeseen conditions and technologies. I have hope that humanity can rational direct society in a more compassionate direction, it’ll take time, but maybe we can do it

  18. Gopiballava Says:

    Numbers matter. At least to me. A factory farm full of confined chickens vs. a field of however many creatures eventually end up there? Hard to imagine that the numbers are comparable. I think that a small number of animals being predated is preferable to a large number in a factory farm.

    I’m still working out where I personally stand on the ethics of this; I am not a vegetarian. However, I think that a pasture-raised and carefully slaughtered cow providing meat for ~4 years is probably ethically preferable to eating factory farmed eggs every day.

  19. Marcin Sosnowski Says:

    To Gopiballava- Agreed. I am not in favour of continuing the current form of farming, I try and buy free range meat whenever possible.
    When I said numbers I was referring to the sizes of the farms not the actual numbers of animals, although in a greater scheme of things individuals are of little significance, the collective is the issue, but that’s an ethical issue.
    The point was that it does not matter whether we have more land for wild life or less- if we have more then more of them will be killed by predators, if we have less they are more likely to be malnourished and sick. Which ever way you turn the animals will keep suffering and somebody trying to quote me “lack of evidence” is just lack of common sense. There is no “hypothetical” what will happen if we do this- animal WILL keep being killed by other animals, you do not need any experimental evidence for this.
    As to saving feral cats- one of the most vicious killers on earth and only in existence because humans find them cute and cuddly just makes my blood boil. “In 1894, a cat named Tibbles killed all the wrens on Stephens Island, New Zealand. Unfortunately, they were the last of their species, Xenicus lyalli.”
    Everything needs to be in moderation- simply stopping humans from killing animals is not an answer to any problem and is more likely to create even more problems.
    I am sorry to say but this blog has less and less with science the more I hear. Simply quoting scientific research does not make up science. You need to have a scientific, and therefore unbiased approach to the problem and interpret the research in a logical fashion and not emotional one.

  20. Gopiballava Says:

    Are you arguing that having fewer animals being mistreated is not an improvement because there will still be animals suffering?

    Are you arguing that unused land will have greater animal suffering than factory farming on the same land?

  21. Marcin Says:

    No- when did you ever see me mention factory farming? I am arguing agains Veganism.
    I am arguing that simply reducing the animal numbers is not going to reduce the suffering, unless you get rid of them all.
    I am arguing that feeding humans by utilising natural resources, as well as agricultural methods, is better for the environment than just agriculture alone.
    I am arguing that stoping humans from killing animals will not reduce animal suffering. Stopping factory farming will, you are right there, but that was not part of the discussion at any stage. I think wee need to change the way we farm animals and not the way we eat to have a positive effect.
    My personnal issue is not so much the animal suffering as the effect the farming has on the environment. Factory farming is pretty bad for the environment, the quality of meat is poor and the utilisation of anitbiotics and artificial enhancers is way too big so I am not in favour of it at all. The animal suffering is also and issue, but I consider it a secondary one and not the primary problem.

  22. Bryan Vestal Says:

    Such a controversial topic. In the meantime everyone should plant a few fruit trees in their backyard to help with the problems that are upon us. Pears good!!!!

  23. Jason Says:

    Our brain size (over the course of evolution) is due to the availability of large amounts of available protein that was afforded by adopting a diet that included meat (insects, carrion, and kills). With this large amount of protein, we were able to fuel our brain (which has a very large footprint in terms of our caloric and nutritional intake) and brain development. For these reasons we have needs that are hardwired to the nutrition of our past. While at some point we may evolve away from it, for the time being, omnivorous diets seem to make the most sense. Also, look at it this way, should society end right now – what would you eat as a vegetarian and how sustainable would that be for your body from a nutritional standpoint?

    • skepticalvegan Says:

      I’m sorry but hypothetical situations have nothing to do with how sentient creature should be treated in the here and now. Give the right emergency Id eat human flesh, but that certainly wouldn’t justify cannibalism right now.

      How does contributing to tremendous amounts of avoidable suffering and death “make the most sense”. Keep in mind that based on the scientific evidence the consensus among dietitians is that vegetarian and vegan diets are appropriate and healthful for individuals in all stages of life.
      http://www.eatright.org/About/Content.aspx?id=8357

      • Gopiballava Says:

        I’m with skepticalvegan on this one: what I would do if society ended right now is irrelevant. Our past nutritional needs, especially on an evolutionary timescale, do not have any real bearing on morality. If it could be demonstrated that our brains would not have developed without eating human brains every so often, I would not thus consider it moral to crack open a skull and dig in. It would be a somewhat more challenging problem if it was still necessary.

        Looking at our historical diet can be useful from a scientific standpoint to understand what we may or may not need, but only the present necessity fits into the moral equation.

        To draw an analogy: if it were demonstrated that slavery were necessary for society to get where it is, I would not support continued slavery. For that matter, I’m not sure I would support slavery if you could prove that it was needed to prevent the extinction of homo sapiens. Skepticalvegan will recognize my speciesism here (I’m not a vegan)

      • Marcin Says:

        I am sorry but the scientific consensus, from medical point of view, does NOT support vegan diet at all ages. Most adults, but not all, will get away with it, most children, esp babies, will not. You might find the evidence collected by the protagonists of the diet to try and tell you otherwise but those studies are flawed and usualy biast to give you the result they want to achieve. I have seen the evidence against it on paediatric wards with my own eyes.
        The problem with science nowadays, and I know this from my medical perspective, is that 50-75% of researchers will alter their studies 1/2 way through or design it in a way to obtain the result they want.
        As for the current requirements comparing to the past the slavery argument is completely off- on those basis we might as wel just manufacture all the necessary amino acids and fatty acids and sugars from oil, mix them up in a nourishing pulp and swallow it up. That way we will not interfere with the animals or plants. The reason you do not agree with slavery is because that is the way we were brought up and that is what our society currently believs to be the case. If you asked the Egiptians a few thousand years ago they would have laughed at you, what people will think in 3000 years we will never know (that is iff we are still here as a species).
        The issue is that if we try to break away from our roots and break away from nature by thinking we are something better and do not need to rely on it any more because we do not need to we end up hurting it and ourselves even more.
        The current overal concensus is that the mediterranesan diet- mainly vegetables with fish and some meat is the healthiest. THe problem is that we eat way too much meat in the western diet but that does not mean that it is better to eat none.

        • skepticalvegan Says:

          “I am sorry but the scientific consensus, from medical point of view, does NOT support vegan diet at all ages.”

          Well it is your word against the majority of dietitians in the US & Canada. Both The American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada, the largest bodies of such professionals, have made positive statements that Well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life-cycle including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence.”
          Dietitians as a whole are not vegan propagandists, though a few individual dietitians are vegan themselves, they are health care professional that specialize in nutrition.

          The evidence isn’t collected by vegan advocates, its on pubmed. Your anecdotes don’t stack up against the clinical evidence.

          • Yawn Says:

            Aren’t those the same people that supported us eating up to 11 servings of bread/grains a day to be “healthy”?

            Um, yeah. ZO naturalz!!!

            Remember how they just redid the food pyramid into the food plate, altering their suggested balance?

            Um, yeah. Just ’cause it’s an acronym with an A-for-Association in front doesn’t give them scientific omniscience. Certainly not when they are funded through lobbyists and federal governments, lol. Not exactly an argument. And how odd to utilize the ‘legitimacy’ of a meat-promoting org when it suits your needs but to denigrate it when others have attempted to use it to offer you counterpoints. You can’t have it both ways, not even ensconced in the comfortably specific little fort of ethical opinions you’ve erected around yourself. It’s almost to the point that you’re not even arguing anything anymore other than “I am right, I care about INDIVIDUAL SUFFERING.” Maybe you should enter a convent and leave the science/pseudoscience to people who have something to stand on other than their inalienable blind beliefs.

            • skepticalvegan Says:

              Yes the eating guidelines have been modified, that’s how science works, its changes with the evidence.
              I cite the American Dietetic Association not because they are just an association but because they are the largest body of dieticians in the world and their joint statement with Dietitians of Canada represents the strongest consensus based on decades of clinical and epidemiological evidence.

      • carlos Says:

        i’ll have to agree with sv on this one. where do people get this information from? going against an opinion is one thing, but when clinical evidence is overwhelmingly clear and convincing, and marcin says otherwise, i’m just not buying it. where are his references? scientists are not going to alter their studies! it is hard enough to get a job in a scientific field, and the education required; then to throw away your career to change the findings on one study… you’d never be able to work again! and if you got away with it, for what gain? to get a paper published? again, as soon as you’re found out, you’re done. besides, the experiment will need to be replicated and scrutinized by other independent scientists, especially if it is of any significant consequence.

        …and you’re saying that the pediatric wards have babies in them from vegan parents and it is due to malnutrition? if that was the case, protective services across the country would be pulling children out homes on a regular basis, or screening parents for veganism, like they do for substance addiction.

        ok, so you also say that vegan babies are actually a different species from which their parents came from? perhaps not even from this planet? proteins, carbohydrates, fats, sugars, calories, vitamins, minerals, and water are the foundation of adequate sustenance. while babies may be sensitive to certain foods, certain tastes, certain additives, babies are not sensitive to amino acids. without the nine essential amino acids, one could not live. the body can synthesize the others, but the nine have to come from food sources. the source can be plant or animal, some may have more or less of one or many, but it is the amino acid that is the building block of protein, not the source of where it comes from… if all the essential amino acids are consumed in the quantity required for health, no matter where they come from, life goes on. (sorry for the hyperbole at the beginning of the paragraph — i had to be ludicrous for a moment).

        there are doctors out there that don’t specialize in nutrition, i can concede that. therefore, just because one is a doctor, doesn’t mean that they are a expert, let alone know what they are talking about. i also know, that just like us lay-people, doctors make things up all the time or just say the first thing that comes to mind. that is ego, not science! i’ll go with the consensus.

    • The Geologizer Says:

      I know I’m chiming in a bit late on this one, but I think my post on the expensive tissue hypothesis is probably relevant.

  24. carlos Says:

    I absolutely love your site! You are articulate, cogent and insightful. I came across your site while investigating the book, “The Vegetarian Myth.” I eat a vegetarian diet and am an advocate for it. While there are a lot of people that might not agree with it, make excuses one way or the other, the similarity I find is that they fail to investigate the information they believe in or use as evidence. As you mentioned, “…comparing one study to another still isn’t the way to get at the truth. The overall scientific consensus is more important than the results of individual studies…” Yes!

    Could you imagine what would happen if the scientific method was reduced to one study, writing about one difference, forming one new perspective, and then not bothering to try to replicate the findings or do more research? I encourage others to live a better, healthier life though diet, exercise, mediation, relaxation, and other things that promote wellness. The biggest part of that is that things changes. Information changes. Research continues, science discovers new perspectives and continues to challenge our understanding of how everything works. How could anything ever remain the same? I am constantly looking for new information, more information and asking myself if what I’ve learned is still true, today. Our small and limited lives have such an minimal impact on the next million years. Collectively we make progress, learn from our mistakes, AND find new ways of doing things. But one diet, one perspective, one unsubstaniated article is often enough for someone to convince themselves to uproot prudence, common sense, scientific consensus, and peer review.

    I consistently find information based on pseudo-science, misinformation, half-truths, and for lack of a better description — voodoo practices. Many of these people are not doctors and the advice they are giving comes from “holistic” healers and practioners of crazy “health center” clinics… They quote extensive trainings and credentials as: “holistic lifestyle coaches,” “corrective exercises specialists,” “metabolic typing advisors,” “body balance counselors,” and promote “emotional freedom cleansing.” Their education comes from a weekend of seminars. These aren’t the ancient traditions of the east, like: yoga, meditation, the martial arts, and accupuncture… practices that were once misunderstood but have undergone the the tests of time and the scrutiny of science.

    They claim that doctors are in league with pharmaceutic companies and their goal is to keep you sick. Good thing I didn’t spend four years in medical school, then four years in a specialty, then time in a residency, tens/hundreds of thousands of dollars on my education for then only to learn that I have to now lie to my friends, family, patients and colleagues. While I figuratively slap myself and shake my head, I really do care about the bigger picture and the people who are lead astray and hurt themselves. I know I can’t fight all the battles, but the ones I can I will. The truth can’t be pushed aside when people are hurting themselves. I know, it’s their choice, nonetheless, its a sad day when one follows blindly and just drinks the kool-aid.

    I used to argue just to argue because my motivation was based solely on feeling and wasn’t justified. I couldn’t prove myself, but came to realize that in order to discuss a concept and debate the argument, I had to learn, read, listen, admit my mistakes, and ask others for help when I couldn’t be confident in the information that I had been given.

    Anyway, just my thoughts and will continue looking at your site!

    Cheers,

    –carlos

  25. Marcin Says:

    In answer to Carlos and, to some extent, SV.
    It is always useful to get constructive criticism. It makes me go and look for the evidence of the statements being made- so thatnks guys.
    As you said yourself you were being ludicrous for a while with the outer space thingy. As we all know we are designed to be omnivores and to eat anything. Some of us are better at digesting and absorbing plant stuffs than others- that’s how evolution works, by selecting the ones with a more favourable trait for the correct niche. So some kids will be worst off at digesting plant foods (which are harder to digest than animal). Those ones are more likely to get into trouble.
    OK regarding “scientific evidence” Here is the most recent study I found:
    Source American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 89(5):1627S-1633S, 2009 May.
    “Recently, vegetarian diets have experienced an increase in popularity. A vegetarian diet is associated with many health benefits because of its higher content of fiber, folic acid, vitamins C and E, potassium, magnesium, and many phytochemicals and a fat content that is more unsaturated. Compared with other vegetarian diets, vegan diets tend to contain less saturated fat and cholesterol and more dietary fiber. Vegans tend to be thinner, have lower serum cholesterol, and lower blood pressure, reducing their risk of heart disease. However, eliminating all animal products from the diet increases the risk of certain nutritional deficiencies. Micronutrients of special concern for the vegan include vitamins B-12 and D, calcium, and long-chain n-3 (omega-3) fatty acids. Unless vegans regularly consume foods that are fortified with these nutrients, appropriate supplements should be consumed. In some cases, iron and zinc status of vegans may also be of concern because of the limited bioavailability of these minerals. [References: 109]”
    The problem with scientific evidence is how it is arrived at the answer. Simply reading some articles and taking in a concensus is not the truly unbiast way of doing it. There are 2 factors which strongly influence our dabate- the bias (i.e. the way the research is designed tends to point it towards a specific anser). Recent publication looked at the way the medical studies get affected by this. Before you statrt a research in medicine you need to supply an abstract of what and why you are researching, outlining you goals and methods, before it gets accepted. No one ever looked at those until recently- 30% of the primary goals and 60% of the secondary goals were changed during the course of the research to obtain a more +ve study. (a bit worrying is it not?) No one looses their licence to publish….
    Another publication looked at how the authors interpret the results and what they found was that more than 50% of studies interpret -ve results as +ve (this is usually to do with manufacturer sponsorship). Basically the authors tend to set out with a specific theory to prove something and will try their darned hardest to do so- sometimes with out conciously realising this.
    The other factor- and this probably the most important one her is the confounding- i.e. there are factors other than the ones being investigated which alter the results. Now if you take the current evidence of vegan diet, being compared with the “normal” the studies tend to look at one of the 2- either a group of vegans vs others, or a group of people in an institution being tried on a vegan diet vs “normal” with a view of investigating certain factors (e.g. likelyhood of developing anaemia). The second one is obviously difficult to apply iin real life as it is done in very controlled environment, not necessarily applicable in real life. The second one however is less obviously but just as significantly flawed- they compare a group of self selected individuals who decided to follow a certain “unusual” diet. This goup tends to be much better educated, tend to have much more awareness of what they eat and why and tend to be very careful they eat the “right stuff”. And we compare it to a bunch of overweight, processed food gobbling bunch whose diet, on average, is pretty crap. Vegan diet is fine providing you do all the right things all the time. It is a bit like saying meat is bad for you based on comparing people eating BigMacs 7 days a week.
    Unfortunately if you were to get “everybody” to eat vegan you are likely to run into trouble. You are correct in sayng a lot of the evidence is anegdotal. That is because vegan diet is not very common, but most of the anegdotes come form the families who were vegan either for religious reasons or were simply led to believe that it was better for them without really looking into the potential side effects. The worry is that if more people were to become vegan we would start seeing more of those kids on the wards and wthey would stop being “anegdotal cases”

  26. carlos Says:

    i definitely agree with you that adaptation has its limitations and some do not process food as well as others. i think while there is an overwhelming consensus that the vegetarian diet has significant health benefits, i think a lot of the conflicts come out of misinformation and the concept of veganism. there are a lot of people that think that veganism is about protests, freeing monkeys, save the whales, etc… but its not about the activities per say, but about a commitment to discourage the ABUSE that comes from the use of these animals. it’s probably other things to other people too, but if our culture had grown up like what we see in the movie, “avatar,” it is more than likely that killing the animals for the food and using them as a commodity wouldn’t even be up for discussion.

    take for example this part of the document:

    “…However, eliminating all animal products from the diet increases the risk of certain nutritional deficiencies. Micronutrients of special concern for the vegan include vitamins B-12 and D, calcium, and long-chain n-3 (omega-3) fatty acids….”

    it is written as, “increases the risk” and that is furtherest from the truth. this is where non-vegans or those that try to be vegans get information that ends up hurting themselves and makes veganism look like a fad or hobby. now, if they said, “may increase the risk” then again, we wouldn’t be having the discussion. in a few sentences previously, the author uses the subjective word, “tend,” showing the potential, but a sentence or two later, its a positive conclusion that is drawn. i can understand where they are coming from. those that undertake a vegan diet for “fun” to be with the “in” crowd are not committed to being vegan. its concepts, fundamentals, and foundation is based on truth, evidence, and science. vegans are healthy because we know what to eat, are very aware of our bodies, and we understand nutrition. we understand about protein, carbohydrates, fats, and calories. the article then continues:

    “…Unless vegans regularly consume foods that are fortified with these nutrients, appropriate supplements should be consumed. In some cases, iron and zinc status of vegans may also be of concern because of the limited bioavailability of these minerals…”

    i guess it’s possible that one would want to become vegan and not want to eat a balanced and nutritious diet, but why? wouldn’t one just stay a meat eater, then? as far as the limited bioavailability of certain minerals, while it is important to consume enough vitamins and minerals for a properly functioning body, just because some vitamins and minerals may not be absorbed by the body as efficiently, doesn’t guarantee that more of them will be absorbed in a meat-based diet. in fact, meats have very little vitamins and minerals. one could say they even have little nutrition as a food product in its entirety. meat has protein, but as we well know by now, finding sufficient protein for a vegan is not an issue. leafy green vegetables are far superior to meats in vitamins, minerals and nutrients.

    “…The problem with scientific evidence is how it is arrived at the answer. Simply reading some articles and taking in a concensus is not the truly unbiast way of doing it….”

    again, i’ll include information about the collection and utilization of data. scientific investigation is not done the way just mentioned. in using the scientific method one doesn’t just “read articles” but a consensus can reinforce that similar case studies met with similar results when performed by other independent scientists. they make it sound like a high-school biology project. LOL.

    i’m sorry, but i’m having trouble understanding what you are trying to say from this point on. i think it is your thoughts, not the article’s, but the spelling and grammatical errors are blocking my ability to comprehend
    what you are trying to say…

    i’m not sure which cases you are referring to as anecdotal. as far as having to eat a perfect vegan diet, i don’t think most vegans do. i think they look for special treats that would be considered “junk food” in the mainstream, but the ingredients are not animal based. i’m not clear on what would happen if everyone became vegan, too. i would think this would be a good thing. the evidence supports that agriculture could maintain enough food for everyone to consume. eliminating hunger world wide sounds like a pretty good reason to encourage more to become vegan. oh, if you didn’t know, india, a country with over a billion people has more vegetarians and vegans that the united states does and they’ve been doing it for several thousand years.

    well, i’ll end this discussion for now.

    thanks,

    –carlos

  27. carlos Says:

    marcin,

    i’m posting this information so you can see how information is gather and how to judge if what you’re reading is logical.

    SCIENTIFIC CONCENSUS

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_consensus

    Scientific consensus is the collective judgment, position, and opinion of the community of scientists in a particular field of study. Consensus implies general agreement, though not necessarily unanimity. Scientific consensus is not by itself a scientific argument, and it is not part of the scientific method. Nevertheless, consensus may be based on both scientific arguments and the scientific method.

    Consensus is normally achieved through communication at conferences, the publication process, replication (reproducible results by others) and peer review. These lead to a situation in which those within the discipline can often recognize such a consensus where it exists, but communicating to outsiders that consensus has been reached can be difficult, because the ‘normal’ debates through which science progresses may seem to outsiders as contestation. On occasion, scientific institutes issue position statements intended to communicate a summary of the science from the “inside” to the “outside” of the scientific community. In cases where there is little controversy regarding the subject under study, establishing what the consensus is can be quite straightforward.

    Scientific consensus may be invoked in popular or political debate on subjects that are controversial within the public sphere but which may not be controversial within the scientific community, such as evolution or the claimed linkage of MMR vaccinations and autism.

    How consensus can change over time.

    There are many philosophical and historical theories as to how scientific consensus changes over time. Because the history of scientific change is extremely complicated, and because there is a tendency to project “winners” and “losers” onto the past in relation to our current scientific consensus, it is very difficult to come up with accurate and rigorous models for scientific change. This is made exceedingly difficult also in part because each of the various branches of science functions in somewhat different ways with different forms of evidence and experimental approaches.

    Most models of scientific change rely on new data produced by scientific experiment. The philosopher Karl Popper proposed that since no amount of experiments could ever prove a scientific theory, but a single experiment could disprove one, all scientific progress should be based on a process of falsification, where experiments are designed with the hope of finding empirical data that the current theory could not account for, indicating its falseness and the requirement for a new theory.

    Among the most influential challengers of this approach was the historian Thomas Kuhn, who argued instead that experimental data always provide some data which cannot fit completely into a theory, and that falsification alone did not result in scientific change or an undermining of scientific consensus. He proposed that scientific consensus worked in the form of “paradigms”, which were interconnected theories and underlying assumptions about the nature of the theory itself which connected various researchers in a given field. Kuhn argued that only after the accumulation of many “significant” anomalies would scientific consensus enter a period of “crisis”. At this point, new theories would be sought out, and eventually one paradigm would triumph over the old one — a cycle of paradigm shifts rather than a linear progression towards truth. Kuhn’s model also emphasized more clearly the social and personal aspects of theory change, demonstrating through historical examples that scientific consensus was never truly a matter of pure logic or pure facts. However, these periods of ‘normal’ and ‘crisis’ science are not mutually exclusive. Research shows that these are different modes of practice, more than different historical periods.

    Lastly, some more radical philosophers, such as Paul Feyerabend, have maintained that scientific consensus is purely idiosyncratic and maintains no relationship to any outside truth. These points of view, while provoking much discussion, have generally not caught on, even with philosophers.

    CASE STUDY

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Case_study

    A case study is a research method common in social science. It is based on an in-depth investigation of a single individual, group, or event. Case studies may be descriptive or explanatory. The latter type is used to explore causation in order to find underlying principles. They may be prospective, in which criteria are established and cases fitting the criteria are included as they become available, or retrospective, in which criteria are established for selecting cases from historical records for inclusion in the study.

    Rather than using samples and following a rigid protocol (strict set of rules) to examine limited number of variables, case study methods involve an in-depth, longitudinal (over a long period of time) examination of a single instance or event: a case. They provide a systematic way of looking at events, collecting data, analyzing information, and reporting the results.
    As a result the researcher may gain a sharpened understanding of why the instance happened as it did, and what might become important to look at more extensively in future research. Case studies lend themselves to both generating and testing hypotheses.

    Another suggestion is that case study should be defined as a research strategy, an empirical inquiry that investigates a phenomenon within its real-life context. Case study research means single and multiple case studies, can include quantitative evidence, relies on multiple sources of evidence and benefits from the prior development of theoretical propositions. Case studies should not be confused with qualitative research and they can be based on any mix of quantitative and qualitative evidence. Single-subject research provides the statistical framework for making inferences from quantitative case-study data.

    Case selection and structure of the case study.

    An average, or typical, case is often not the richest in information. In clarifying lines of history and causation it is more useful to select subjects that offer an interesting, unusual or particularly revealing set of circumstances. A case selection that is based on representativeness will seldom be able to produce these kinds of insights. When selecting a subject for a case study, researchers will therefore use information-oriented sampling, as opposed to random sampling. Outlier cases (that is, those which are extreme, deviant or atypical) reveal more information than the putatively representative case.

    Alternatively, a case may be selected as a key case, chosen because of the inherent interest of the case or the circumstances surrounding it. Or it may be chosen because of researchers’ in-depth local knowledge; where researchers have this local knowledge they are in a position to “soak and poke” as Fenno puts it, and thereby to offer reasoned lines of explanation based on this rich knowledge of setting and circumstances.

    Three types of cases may thus be distinguished:
    Key cases
    Outlier cases
    Local knowledge cases

    Generalizing from case studies

    A critical case can be defined as having strategic importance in relation to the general problem. A critical case allows the following type of generalization, ‘If it is valid for this case, it is valid for all (or many) cases.’ In its negative form, the generalization would be, ‘If it is not valid for this case, then it is not valid for any (or only few) cases.’

    The case study is also effective for generalizing using the type of test that Karl Popper called falsification, which forms part of critical reflexivity. Falsification is one of the most rigorous tests to which a scientific proposition can be subjected: if just one observation does not fit with the proposition it is considered not valid generally and must therefore be either revised or rejected. Popper himself used the now famous example of, “All swans are white,” and proposed that just one observation of a single black swan would falsify this proposition and in this way have general significance and stimulate further investigations and theory-building. The case study is well suited for identifying “black swans” because of its in-depth approach: what appears to be “white” often turns out on closer examination to be “black.”

    STATISTICS

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statistics

    Statistics is the science of the collection, organization, and interpretation of data. It deals with all aspects of this, including the planning of data collection in terms of the design of surveys and experiments. A statistician is someone who is particularly well versed in the ways of thinking necessary for the successful application of statistical analysis. Such people have often gained this experience through working in any of a wide number of fields. There is also a discipline called mathematical statistics, which is concerned with the theoretical basis of the subject.

    The word statistics, when referring to the scientific discipline, is singular, as in “Statistics is an art.” This should not be confused with the word statistic, referring to a quantity (such as mean or median) calculated from a set of data, whose plural is statistics (“this statistic seems wrong” or “these statistics are misleading”).

    Some consider statistics to be a mathematical science pertaining to the collection, analysis, interpretation or explanation, and presentation of data, while others consider it a branch of mathematics concerned with collecting and interpreting data. Because of its empirical roots and its focus on applications, statistics is usually considered to be a distinct mathematical science rather than a branch of mathematics.

    Statisticians improve the quality of data with the design of experiments and survey sampling. Statistics also provides tools for prediction and forecasting using data and statistical models. Statistics is applicable to a wide variety of academic disciplines, including natural and social sciences, government, and business. Statistical consultants are available to provide help for organizations and companies without direct access to expertise relevant to their particular problems.

    Statistical methods can be used to summarize or describe a collection of data; this is called descriptive statistics. This is useful in research, when communicating the results of experiments. In addition, patterns in the data may be modeled in a way that accounts for randomness and uncertainty in the observations, and are then used to draw inferences about the process or population being studied; this is called inferential statistics. Inference is a vital element of scientific advance, since it provides a prediction (based in data) for where a theory logically leads.

    To prove the guiding theory further, these predictions are tested as well, as part of the scientific method. If the inference holds true, then the descriptive statistics of the new data increase the soundness of that hypothesis. Descriptive statistics and inferential statistics (a.k.a., predictive statistics) together comprise applied statistics.

    Statistics is closely related to probability theory, with which it is often grouped; the difference is roughly that in probability theory, one starts from the given parameters of a total population to deduce probabilities pertaining to samples, but statistical inference moves in the opposite direction, inductive inference from samples to the parameters of a larger or total population.

    SCIENTIFIC METHOD

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method

    Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. The Oxford English Dictionary says that scientific method is: “a method of procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.”

    Although procedures vary from one field of inquiry to another, identifiable features distinguish scientific inquiry from other methods of obtaining knowledge. Scientific researchers propose hypotheses as explanations of phenomena, and design experimental studies to test these hypotheses. These steps must be repeatable, to predict future results. Theories that encompass wider domains of inquiry may bind many independently derived hypotheses together in a coherent, supportive structure. Theories, in turn, may help form new hypotheses or place groups of hypotheses into context.

    Scientific inquiry is generally intended to be as objective as possible, to reduce biased interpretations of results. Another basic expectation is to document, archive and share all data and methodology so they are available for careful scrutiny by other scientists, giving them the opportunity to verify results by attempting to reproduce them. This practice, called full disclosure, also allows statistical measures of the reliability of these data to be established.

    Elements of scientific method

    There are different ways of outlining the basic method used for scientific inquiry. The scientific community and philosophers of science generally agree on the following classification of method components. These methodological elements and organization of procedures tend to be more characteristic of natural sciences than social sciences. Nonetheless, the cycle of formulating hypotheses, testing and analyzing the results, and formulating new hypotheses, will resemble the cycle described below.

    Four essential elements of a scientific method are iterations, recursions, interleavings, or orderings of the following:

    Characterizations (observations,definitions, and measurements of the subject of inquiry)

    Hypotheses (theoretical, hypothetical explanations of observations and measurements of the subject)

    Predictions (reasoning including logical deduction from the hypothesis or theory)

    Experiments (tests of all of the above)

    Each element of a scientific method is subject to peer review for possible mistakes. These activities do not describe all that scientists do (see below) but apply mostly to experimental sciences (e.g., physics, chemistry, and biology). The elements above are often taught in the educational system.

    Scientific method is not a recipe: it requires intelligence, imagination, and creativity. In this sense, it is not a mindless set of standards and procedures to follow, but is rather an ongoing cycle, constantly developing more useful, accurate and comprehensive models and methods. For example, when Einstein developed the Special and General Theories of Relativity, he did not in any way refute or discount Newton’s Principia. On the contrary, if the astronomically large, the vanishingly small, and the extremely fast are reduced out from Einstein’s theories — all phenomena that Newton could not have observed — Newton’s equations remain. Einstein’s theories are expansions and refinements of Newton’s theories and, thus, increase our confidence in Newton’s work.
    A linearized, pragmatic scheme of the four points above is sometimes offered as a guideline for proceeding:

    Define the question
    Gather information and resources (observe)
    Form hypothesis
    Perform experiment and collect data
    Analyze data
    Interpret data and draw conclusions that serve as a starting point for new hypothesis
    Publish results
    Retest (frequently done by other scientists)

    The iterative cycle inherent in this step-by-step methodology goes from point 3 to 6 back to 3 again.
    While this schema outlines a typical hypothesis/testing method, it should also be noted that a number of philosophers, historians and sociologists of science (perhaps most notably Paul Feyerabend) claim that such descriptions of scientific method have little relation to the ways science is actually practiced.

    The “operational” paradigm combines the concepts of operational definition, instrumentalism, and utility:

    The essential elements of a scientific method are operations, observations, models, and a utility function for evaluating models.

    Operation – Some action done to the system being investigated

    Observation – What happens when the operation is done to the system

    Model – A fact, hypothesis, theory, or the phenomenon itself at a certain moment

    Utility Function – A measure of the usefulness of the model to explain, predict, and control, and of the cost of use of it. One of the elements of any scientific utility function is the refutability of the model. Another is its simplicity, on the Principle of Parsimony also known as Occam’s Razor.

    REASONING

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reasoning

    he faculty of reason, rationality, or the faculty of discursive reason (in opposition to “intuitive reason”) is a mental ability found in human beings and normally considered to be a definitive characteristic of human nature. It is closely associated with such human activities as language, science, art, mathematics and philosophy.

    Reason, like habit or intuition, is a means by which thinking comes from one idea to a related idea. But more specifically, it is the way rational beings propose and consider explanations concerning cause and effect, true and false, and what is good or bad. In contrast to reason as an abstract noun, a reason is a consideration which explains or justifies some event, phenomenon or behaviour. The ways in which human beings reason through an argument are the subject of inquiries in the field of logic.

    Reason is closely identified with the ability to self-consciously change beliefs, attitudes, traditions, and institutions, and therefore with the capacity for freedom and self-determination.

    Psychologists and cognitive scientists have attempted to study and explain how people reason, e.g. which cognitive and neural processes are engaged, and how cultural factors affect the inferences that people draw. The field of automated reasoning studies how reasoning may or may not be modeled computationally. Animal psychology considers the controversial question of whether animals can reason.

    According to Jürgen Habermas, the “substantive unity” of reason has dissolved in modern times, such that it can no longer answer the question “How should I live?” Instead, the unity of reason has to be strictly formal, or “procedural.” He thus described reason as a group of three autonomous spheres (on the model of Kant’s three critiques):

    Cognitive-instrumental reason is the kind of reason employed by the sciences. It is used to observe events, to predict and control outcomes, and to intervene in the world on the basis of its hypotheses; Moral-practical reason is what we use to deliberate and discuss issues in the moral and political realm, according to universalizable procedures (similar to Kant’s categorical imperative); and Aesthetic reason is typically found in works of art and literature, and encompasses the novel ways of seeing the world and interpreting things that those practices embody.

    For Habermas, these three spheres are the domain of experts, and therefore need to be mediated with the “lifeworld” by philosophers. In drawing such a picture of reason, Habermas hoped to demonstrate that the substantive unity of reason, which in pre-modern societies had been able to answer questions about the good life, could be made up for by the unity of reason’s formalizable procedures.

    Deductive reasoning.

    Reasoning in an argument is valid if the argument’s conclusion must be true when the premises (the reasons given to support that conclusion) are true. One classic example of deductive reasoning is that found in syllogisms like the following:

    Premise 1: All humans are mortal.
    Premise 2: Socrates is a human.
    Conclusion: Socrates is mortal.

    The reasoning in this argument is valid, because there is no way in which the premises, 1 and 2, could be true and the conclusion, 3, be false.

    Inductive reasoning.

    Induction is a form of inference producing propositions about unobserved objects or types, either specifically or generally, based on previous observation. It is used to ascribe properties or relations to objects or types based on previous observations or experiences, or to formulate general statements or laws based on limited observations of recurring phenomenal patterns.

    Inductive reasoning contrasts strongly with deductive reasoning in that, even in the best, or strongest, cases of inductive reasoning, the truth of the premises does not guarantee the truth of the conclusion. Instead, the conclusion of an inductive argument follows with some degree of probability. Relatedly, the conclusion of an inductive argument contains more information than is already contained in the premises. Thus, this method of reasoning is ampliative.
    A classic example of inductive reasoning comes from the empiricist David Hume:

    Premise: The sun has risen in the east every morning up until now.
    Conclusion: The sun will also rise in the east tomorrow.

    Abductive reasoning.

    Abductive reasoning, or argument to the best explanation, is a form of inductive reasoning, since the conclusion in an abductive argument does not follow with certainty from its premises and concerns something unobserved. What distinguishes abduction from the other forms of reasoning is an attempt to favour one conclusion above others, by attempting to falsify alternative explanations or by demonstrating the likelihood of the favoured conclusion, given a set of more or less disputable assumptions. For example, when a patient displays certain symptoms, there might be various possible causes, but one of these is preferred above others as being more probable.

    Analogical reasoning.

    Analogical reasoning is reasoning from the particular to the particular. An example follows:

    Premise 1: Socrates is human and Socrates died.
    Premise 2: Plato is human.
    Conclusion: Plato will die.

    Analogical reasoning can be viewed as a form of inductive reasoning, since the truth of the premises does not guarantee the truth of the conclusion. However, the traditional view is that inductive reasoning is reasoning from the particular to the general, and thus analogical reasoning is distinct from inductive reasoning.

    Fallacious reasoning.

    Flawed reasoning in arguments is known as fallacious reasoning. Reasoning within arguments can be bad because it commits either a formal fallacy or an informal fallacy.

    Formal fallacies occur when there is a problem with the form, or structure, of the argument. The word “formal” refers to this link to the form of the argument. An argument that contains a formal fallacy will always be invalid. Consider, for example, the following argument:

    If a drink is made with boiling water, it will be hot.
    This drink was not made with boiling water.
    This drink is not hot.

    An informal fallacy is an error in reasoning that occurs due to a problem with the content, rather than mere structure, of the argument.

  28. Marcin Says:

    I am sorry if I confused you with the science. My grammar etc was a bit off as I was in a hurry on a break. Probably not the best way to put my point across.
    The points I was making were not just my own thoughts. I was trying to quote you some papers which explain how and why “scientific evidence” usually does not give unbiast opinions. The researchers tend to alter their goals to fit with the research in up to 2/3 of cases (this was shown when they looked at what they proposed to do comparing to what they actually ended up doing). Since research is designed to look for certain events, if you change events you nullify the experiment but you make it sound better. Also the other thing that they do (this is also based on studies of research out there and if you wish I will give you the references) is that they tend to make the results sound good (it’s called giving it a spin) when it is not. The spin is often obvious but the first problem is not unless you have access to the data from the study- those doing a met analysis or review of literature. Hence the end results are skewed by the original research methodology.
    The other bit basically was to explain to you that the research is difficult to interpret as the people who are vegans tend to be much more aware of what they eat than the usual population.
    Making everybody vegan DOES NOT support bigger population and get rid of hunger as it will not allow you to utilise the waters which cover more than 70% of the earth’s surface. As far as I am aware no one has cultivated cabbages in the middle of the Pacific. Even on land if you allow people to eat the rodents and the like, which would be feeding on the grain you produce, you will be able to feed more people than on the grain alone. Even the organic, vegan farm which the SV keeps referring to as an example of not using animal products, is not true. The farmers do not kill animals, true- they have a dog which is their “pest control”. I assume that the dog kills the rats and mice in a humane and painless way. This is the whole problem- you will not get away with not killing animals unless you kill them all so that there are none left to be killed. Any other scenario- you will still be killing them one way or another and you will still not feed as many people as you would if you let them eat fish, birds, worms, grubs, rodents, deer, dogs, horses, goats etc etc., we do not have to eat chicken and cows.
    Normal diet does not have to mean bird cages, factory farming of cattle or hunting whales. It can mean subsidising vegetarian diet with some meat when needed. We need to eat and produce our food in the correct, environmentally friendly way to remain sustainable without damaging the eco system more than we already have. It is not just about how big a human population we can sustain but how we can sustain the life diversity which will allow humans to carry on as a species and I am afraid the Vegan option will not do that. It forces the human population to alter the Earth’s resources to fit just one species- Homo (often-not-so)Sapiens.
    As for India… well I’ll just ignore that as an example of environmentally friendly farming and I suggest you read up a little on the subject and none of the studies were based on vegans from India either. “Home”- a movie about the state of Earth on youtube might be a good place to start.

  29. carlos Says:

    not sure what you mean by, “confused me with the science.” i haven’t been confused by anything, i’ve only seen information that wasn’t correct.

    “The researchers tend to alter their goals to fit with the research in up to 2/3 of cases (this was shown when they looked at what they proposed to do comparing to what they actually ended up doing). Since research is designed to look for certain events, if you change events you nullify the experiment but you make it sound better. Also the other thing that they do (this is also based on studies of research out there and if you wish I will give you the references) is that they tend to make the results sound good (it’s called giving it a spin) when it is not. The spin is often obvious but the first problem is not unless you have access to the data from the study- those doing a met analysis or review of literature. Hence the end results are skewed by the original research methodology.”

    sorry, but that is not the way research is done… i’d like to see those resources and references.

    “The other bit basically was to explain to you that the research is difficult to interpret as the people who are vegans tend to be much more aware of what they eat than the usual population.”

    this is your opinion and unsubstantiated and not necessarily the case. just because someone is vegan doesn’t mean that they are more informed or care to watch what is going into their bodies. vegan means that they don’t eat animals or the products derived from animals… there are fat and unhealthy vegans among us!

    sorry marcin, but you jump all over the place and i can’t follow you. in order to have a valid argument or make a point, you have to focus on one issue at a time, defend or refute it, and then summarize what you found:

    ONE IDEA
    — summary of what you want to accomplish with this info
    –introduction
    –info + evidence and references
    –info + evidence and references
    –info + evidence and references
    — summary of the info you provided
    –conclusion

    i know you are trying to get your point across, but you have to be a little more specific.

  30. Marcin Says:

    OK Carlos I will try to stick to one point at a time. I was only trying to address all of the points you made which I did not believe to be correct.
    My point does not try to describe research methodology- “sorry, but that is not the way research is done” is rather misplaced. I did not try to describe problems with research methodology but with its interpretation. In medicine, the field I am most familiar with, the best designed research tends to be sponsored by the drug industry- they have the money to make it happen “properly”, unfortunately they expect an answer which endorses their product so they design the research in such a way as to make it happen- e.g. if they compare their pain killer with another they will use the lowest clinically effective dose of the other drug and the biggest one of their own, if they are looking at the side effect profile they will do the opposite. This is just an example, there are other ways.
    Your internet based definitions of what it takes to create a “scientific evidence” are very true and all scientists know them, they also know how to bend the rules to get their answer across. Theory does not always go hand in hand with practice and I amgetting an impression that you have never been involced in a scientific reserch yourself? (by the way I do not consider this to be a bad thing)
    In case of the vegan studies- you claim “the evidence supports that agriculture could maintain enough food for everyone to consume”- sure it does, as does non vegan agriculture. But can they support more? The problem is that, as far as I am aware, the studies are done on small scale examples where they calculated how much food can be produced for human consumption per surface area of land. It then compares it to the typical “western style” farming and food production to give an answer. To simplify- how many people can we feed with 100 hectares of beans vs 100 hectares of cattle farming (this is a gross oversimplification just to make it easier to picture). Yes this way you will feed more people but it does not take into account the rodents, the birds, the insects, the worms etc (all used as part of natural foodstuffs by most cultures on earth), the surrounding forests, lakes and seas also full of useful nutrients which are healthy and sometimes even tasty :-), all of which can be used to feed a few more humans.
    You do not need to have “scientific proof” to realise that if you utilise ALL of the nature’s available resources, but to a smaller degree, you will be able to support a much bigger population than if you concentrate on just one and use it up fully this is what our ancestors thrived on and why our species survived changes in habitats. Except that in the Western world we do not tend to consider hedgehogs , rats or dogs as a valid part of our diet, but maybe we should?
    Regarding your statement: “eliminating hunger world wide sounds like a pretty good reason to encourage more to become vegan”. Putting the vegan issue aside, the biggest problem at the moment is human overpopulation and we will never get rid of world hunger until we learn how to limit our numbers. Simply feeding more people, will achieve more being born, causing more people to starve in the next generation.
    Finally in answer to your request on how research can be misinterpreted, they tend to be based on medical literature but can just easily be applied to any form of scientific data gathering:
    1) HOW CITATION DISTORTIONS CREATE UNFOUNDED AUTHORITY: ANALYSIS OF A CITATION NETWORK
    Greenberg, S.A., et al, Br Med J 339:b2680, July 20, 2009
    BACKGROUND: Scientific belief systems are generally based on a body of supportive evidence.

    METHODS: The author, from Harvard University, examined the validity of the evidence supporting a widely held belief that beta-amyloid plays a role in the development of inclusion body myositis through an analysis of supportive citations in the medical literature.
    RESULTS: A search identified 242 published articles and 675 citations that addressed this belief, resulting in 220,609 “citation paths” (chains of citations flowing from one paper to another). Based on citation traffic patterns, the ten most “authoritative” papers were identified, all of which supported the belief. All four papers that provided experimental data in support of the claim were from the same laboratory, and two were most likely based on the same data. Over the subsequent twelve years, papers that supported the belief received 94% of the citations referring to primary data while six primary data papers that refuted or weakened the claim received only 6% of the citations. Nearly two-thirds of all citation paths (63%) flowed through a single review paper, and 95% of paths flowed through four review papers published by the same research group. This citation bias against papers that did not support the belief served to establish unfounded authority in the validity of the belief. Support of the initial claim grew exponentially from 1996 to 2007, when there was a 7-fold increase in the number of supportive citations and a 777-fold increase in the number of citation paths. During that same time period, critical data were virtually ignored (growing to only 21 citations and 28 citation paths). Some authors distorted the content of previous work, cited papers that contained no data addressing the belief, and/or presented as fact concepts put forth as mere hypothesis.
    CONCLUSIONS: This author demonstrates the pathway by which citation distortion may be used as a tool for creating broad acceptance of unfounded claims in medical practice. 321 references

    2) FREQUENCY AND REASONS FOR OUTCOME REPORTING BIAS IN CLINICAL TRIALS: INTERVIEWS WITH TRIALISTS
    Smyth, R.M.D., et al, Br Med J 342:c7153, January 6, 2011
    BACKGROUND: Complete and transparent reporting of trial results is essential to the integrity of the evidence base for medical practice. Outcome reporting bias refers to the selection for publication of a subset of prespecified outcomes based on trial results.
    METHODS: These British authors compared the trial protocols and subsequent published results of studies published between 2002 and 2008 to identify possible outcome reporting bias, and interviewed the trial researchers to ascertain their reasons for such bias.
    RESULTS: Of 268 trials identified for possible inclusion in this study, only 59 trialists ultimately agreed to be interviewed. Analyzed outcomes were not reported in the primary trial publication for 16 of the studies, 17 trialists acknowledged that they did not analyze all outcome data that were collected, and a prespecified outcome was not measured over the course of five studies. In all but one trial in which prespecified outcomes were analyzed but not reported (94%), this practice resulted in bias. In 24% of the trials in which prespecified outcomes were measured but not analyzed (4/17), this decision was influenced by the “direction” of the principle findings. In two-thirds of a subset of 21 trials randomly selected in PubMed, at least one efficacy or harm outcome was not reported, and outcome reporting bias was identified in 29% of these trials (6/21). An analysis of the reported reasons for deficient reporting was generally reflective of a poor understanding of the role played by individual trials in the general evidence base, but intentional withholding of data regarding a statistically significant increase in harm was identified in one of the trials.
    CONCLUSIONS: Incomplete outcome reporting appears to be relatively common in published clinical trials. 28 references

    3) THE NEED TO CONSIDER THE WIDER AGENDA IN SYSTEMATIC REVIEWS AND META-ANALYSES
    Ioannidis, J., et al, Br Med J 341:762, October 9, 2010
    Drugs are sometimes approved and prescribed on the basis of very limited evidence, with subsequent observations indicating that the drug is less effective than initially believed or, even totally ineffective. These Greek authors comment on possible explanations for this occurrence. They note that if an ineffective drug is tested for 20 indications, by chance it is likely to demonstrate a significant effect for at least one of these indications. Furthermore, if ten outcomes are tested for each indication, it might be anticipated that a statistically significant effect will be observed for at least one outcome for nearly half of the indications. As such, perceptions about a drug can be influenced by multiplicity of analyses. A second pitfall involves inflated estimates of a drug’s treatment effect due to early discontinuation of clinical trials based on perceived effectiveness. In one evaluation of 91 trials that were discontinued early, the true effect was, on average, only 70% of that suggested by the trials and less than 50% of the perceived effect when the trials were discontinued after the occurrence of fewer than 200 events. The authors note the limitations of systematic reviews and meta-analyses that fail to consider the entire body of evidence, to include data from published and unpublished trials as well as ongoing trials, and they cite the importance of assessment of the breadth, timing and depth of the evidence when making decisions about the use of newer drugs and devices. They provide the example of studies of anti-TNF agents for immune-mediated inflammatory disorders, noting that the published trials represent only 34% of the total body of evidence and concluding that decisions about treatment should not be made without consideration of the totality of available information. 25 references

    4) REPORTING AND INTERPRETATION OF RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIALS WITH STATISTICALLY NONSIGNIFICANT RESULTS FOR PRIMARY OUTCOMES
    Boutron, I., et al, JAMA 303(20):2058, May 26, 2010
    BACKGROUND: The randomized, controlled trial (RCT) often serves as the basis for formulation of treatment decisions, so inaccurate or biased reporting of the results of RCTs can have important negative effects on clinical practice..
    METHODS: These European authors analyzed the reporting of 72 RCTs published in December 2006, in which the primary outcome was not statistically significant, in order to determine the presence and extent of “spin,” defined as the use of reporting strategies to highlight a beneficial effect of treatment despite absence of statistical difference.
    RESULTS: For-profit funding was identified for one-third of the trials, and the funding source was not stated for 38%. “Spin” was identified in at least one section for 68% of the abstracts and 61% of the main texts. “Spin” was observed in 18% of the titles, 38% and 58% of the Results and Conclusions sections of published abstracts, and 43% and 50% of the Results and Conclusions sections of the main text. Various “spin” strategies were identified, including a focus on within-group comparisons and subgroup analyses, statistically significant effects in non-primary outcomes, and presumed equivalence of treatments.
    CONCLUSIONS: Various “spin” strategies were common in the published reports of these randomized, controlled trials in which primary outcomes failed to achieve statistical significance, and were particularly apparent in the Conclusions section of both the abstract and the main text of many papers. 46 references
    Please let me know if you need more, I will try and find some for you. The bottom line is researchers have their own agenda to fry and will do their best to get their beliefs across- sometimes subconsciously.

    • carlos Says:

      your conclusion that pharmaceutical companies support a lot of the studies is probably true. i have never researched this so i don’t have numbers or data. but i can say that making a jump to the conclusion that they are willing to skew the data in order find favor for the placement of their product is hyperbole. while there may isolated incidents, if this was the case, the pharmaceutical companies would have a lot more medicines on the market. it is reasonable to assume that the days of “snake oil salesmen” would still be with us. i can concede that there is much about the human body that we do not know, and until a drug has been used for a while in a human population, the entire range of effects to the body can be unknown. but with that said, only a conspiracy theory mentality would believe that a company is holding back evidence or manipulating it, and i won’t prescribe to that.

      most people do not know, but 75% of the grains that are grown are to feed livestock. while there is cattle that graze on the “open range” that is so that they may grow into maturity. once the animals are at maturity, they are brought into what is called a “feed lot” in order to fatten them up. i personally know this because of the part of the country i live in. i drive by cattle every day walking in this open range and i drive by several feed lots. i can see the grains that are put in the feed troughs from my truck. the areas of the country that don’t produce cattle that way are left to confine them on ranches or cattle areas where they are not allowed to graze. it would be impossible to have an opening grazing area with more than just a few head as they would deplete their food supply almost instantly. if you consider the size of cattle as well, there is no question who can eat more grain. a 1,000 to 2,000 pound steer or a 175 pound man. you do the math! furthermore, this same are that i live has numerous dairy farms. the cows are closely packed and only exist on locally grow hay, typically alfalfa. cows are not designed to only eat one plant and are not specialized eaters. koalas of australia only eat eucalyptus leaves. that is a specialized eater.

      i can see that the information you provided about studies makes sense, but again, while a study may be performed like that, or may be manipulated, it is then not a legitimate scientific study. you can probably agree that at some point, the drug or industry or business that comes out of unsubstantiated will fall apart. no one can keep a lie like that going forever. just look at the tobacco industry. once powerhouses of the world, have been radically changed to glimmers of what they were. it may have take 50 years for all the evidence of their manipulation to come out, if not sooner, but the evidence was already in question before the tobacco industry created it’s own research evidence. many already knew that smoking was bad, and even when the tobacco sponsored studies of tobaccos benefits were published, they were met with skepticism.

      the point of all this is that a scientific consensus always points to the truth. one cannot hide behind studies, research, and money. imagine where the world would be if money was the driving factor knowledge. most explorations were paid for by kings and queens or the church… the ones with the greatest resources. it is the ones that confronted them and challenged that authority and proved them wrong! newton, galileo, coppernicus, martin luther…. all went against the establishment of their day and incredible reform came out of it.

  31. carlos Says:

    i’m done anyway… i feel like a victim of the borg…

  32. Marcin Says:

    Thank you SV
    You see my point, when it comes to the research in vegetarian/vegan diets, is that it consistently compares one type of food production- the vegan one, with another- the American or very western style.
    Carlos you make the same mistake- “75% of the grains that are grown are to feed livestock”. That is true in America but not so in, e.g. New Zealand or Africa. It was one of the points Lerrie Keith was trying to make. We do not need to, nor should we be feeding our livestock this way. What you are arguing against Carlos, is not the type of diet but the way we produce our foods and this has been my point all along. Just because something is done in the US does not mean that this is the only, or even the best, way of doing it. Try telling the Inuit to go vegan- they would starve, try growing corn in the mountains of Afghanistan and you will not get very far. In both of those areas you can grow animals- fish, seals, birds and caribou in Greenland while goats and sheep survive happily in the arid areas of mountainous regions, camels will thrive in a desert on minimal foods not available to humans. You simply cannot extrapolate a farm in the middle of US and apply it to the rest of the world. In fact you should not use it as a comparison to other forms of farming as it introduces both bias and confounding- bias is that you use the most destructive and environmentally damaging form of animal farming and compare it to the best form of vegan/vegetarian (oddly enough the results suggest the latter is much better). Confounding is that you use a certain geographical area and type of soil which makes vegan/vegetarian farming possible and then try to suggest that this form of farming should be universal.
    Bottom line is- we should not be feeding our cattle grain, it is not good for them, nor for the environment. It just produces a “quick buck” return for investment. Cattle can grow happily on natural grass lands. We can farm deer in natural forests, kangaroos (bloody good meat by the way and they do not produce methane) can grow in arid Australian conditions etc. Our food should be mainly vegetarian with meat/fish supplements and not the other way around- this is what our organisms have evolved to thrive on but no longer practice. But I do understand that this is not a valid argument for the “moral” vegans. Unfortunately by growing purely vegan foodstuffs we will destroy a much larger percentage of natural habitats (which can be utilised to grow animals instead of farming human digestible plants) to grow crops for human consumption, than if we try to live more in balance with nature. This way we would end up eliminating more species of animals out there by taking over their habitat for our consumption. Killing a few deer to eat is fine with me but ploughing a whole forest to grow wheat or cabbage is not.
    OK a couple of other points- tobacco industries still are the powerhouses of the world. They just moved their business to the 3rd world countries. In Bangladesh an average man spends a lot more money on their cigarettes than on their children’s education. Once again you are making the mistake of thinking that US and the western world are “the world”. The population of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan (only 3 countries) is 1.5 billion, add China and you are getting close to 50% of the worlds population. You might not see the Marlborough adverts, but they do.
    Also- “a scientific consensus always points to the truth” is more often wrong than correct. Our “truth” is limited by our knowledge. The vast majority of “scientific consensus” has been proven wrong over the centuries as new data arrived- the sun does not go around the earth, DNA is the code for life, letting blood is not a useful form of medical intervention, when you are sick temperature IS good for you etc., etc.

    • Debby Says:

      Brazil is possibly the worlds second largest exporter of beef and in recent years, their own use of chickens and pigs has passed their beef production, leaving it in the dust. 93% of the corn and soy that Brazil grows is used for animal feed. What is more, the largest user of ‘cleared’ land is for beef and animal feed in that country. It is not only the US that is screwing with the environment in the pursuit of meat. I think that it can easily be said that if, and this is a big if that I don’t expect to see in my lifetime or even my grandson’s lifetime, if meat production did end, the land that is currently harvested for animal feeds could be turned over to production of human foods. It is entirely likely that much land could then be turned back over to nature as it takes less land per person to feed a veg. diet than to feed the hordes of cattle that humanity insists on eating. So your suggestion that to feed the world a vegan diet would require that more forests be brought down is fallacious.

      • Marcin Says:

        You are absolutely correct Debby, in saying that US is not the only one growing beef in a non-environmentally friendly fashion and you are correct in saying that if we were to stop that way of farming and went on to a vegetarian farms it would feed more people off the same amount of land- especially in areas like Brazil. However you misunderstood my point. Vegetarian way IS better than what we do but it is not the BEST. 1st of all we need to reduce the amount of meet in our diet (in particular beef) and secondly we need to change the way we farm the meat that we eat as well as the type of meat we eat. You see you keep giving examples of beef production but there are other types of meat out there- fish, rabbit, goat, kangaroo, deer etc. etc. You need to stop getting fixated on beef as the main way of producing meat for human consumption and in particular using soy and corn as the only way of feeding the animals.
        According to the last National Geographic humans cosume:
        1) 53 billion chickens
        2) 2.6 billion ducks
        3) 1.3 billion pigs
        4) 1.1 billion rabbits
        5) 633 million turkeys
        6) 518 million sheep
        7) 398 million goats
        8) 293 million cows
        9) 24 million water buffalo
        10) 1.7 million camels
        We all agree that changing the way we farm food would be better, what we disagree on is what would be the best way, but purely vegan or even vegetarian DIETS are not the answer. I have nothing against “vegan” way of farming, although it is never truly vegan, as long as we also eat some meat and other animal products as well. Those can often be farmed iin forests, natural meadows, mountains, water etc.

  33. Ivan Says:

    Hi,

    Quite the passionate discussion forum you have enabled here SV, thanks. I’ve been mostly vegan for 10 years (the occasional milk product every few weeks, organic/wild few times a year).

    I’ve read parts of the book and I believe it raises good many points. However, I think it’s meant for those who have shifted too dogmatically vegan. I think there’s careful choices of wholesome foods and lifestyle that can sustain a vegan should you choose to be one for the right reasons.

    My main point for vegans to consider is that they suggest a plant-based diet can support more humans than an animal-based diet. Let’s assume it’s true. Now to argue the benefit of a lower ecological footprint taken from another perspective is actually advocating human overpopulation. The ecological footprint of a vegan human is probably at least ten times a vegan cattle (that weighs ten times the vegan). More humans means a lot more havoc on the earth, and depriving habitat for pasture/wild spaces for animals.

    I believe it is important to fight to protect the wildness that supports a land/seabase for a variety of animals to live.

    Which brings me to the moral vegans. Yes meat is murder, but what isn’t? (yes right… anything you can’t see such as lost habitat or oil dependency) I’m sorry to say but we’re all animals and regardless of whether you’re a vegan or not we’re all in the web of life and something’s got to give to let live.

  34. carlos Says:

    how can one shift TOO dogmatically vegan? you either eat animals or don’t. there is no, kind of eat animals? unless you mean you chew it up and then spit is out.

    wholesome foods are whole grains, vegetables, fruits, mushrooms legumes, nuts, seeds, and water. animal products have conclusively been found to be unwholesome and cause various diseases.

    are you living on a smaller planet? there is plenty of room even for more people, it’s just that everyone wants to live in the city! there are 789,437,786 square miles on the surface of the earth… sure, there are places that many choose not to live, and some places that they don’t want to live, but the gross number is 8.87 people per square mile. and there are plenty of people living on the sea, living in the mountains, deserts, etc… it’s just my point that space isn’t the issue, it’s location.

    what isn’t murder? aaaaahhhh? a vegan diet and lifestyle! something has got to give to let live? what? so, i have to give up my truck because i’m vegan? where is the logic in that? if i stop using animals how is that going to change the world for the worse? we don’t need to use them, that’s the point of being vegan. our health doesn’t require them, our psyche doesn’t require them, and they don’t require us.

  35. Marcin Says:

    Carlos show me this research which “conclusively found meat to be unwholesome and cause diseases”. The latest and the biggest study done last year has “conclusively” shown that red meat does NOT cause harm the artificial additives in it do.
    Here is the reference for your perusal:
    Micha R, Wallace SK, and Mozaffarian D. Red and processed meat consumption and risk of incidence coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes mellitus. A systematic review and meta-analysis. Circulation 2010; DOI:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.109.924977. Available at: http://circ.ahajournals.org.
    I am please to see that you accepted the fact that sometimes you can not do without meat, I am a little surprised however that you are using cultures living largely off animal foods as arguments FOR veganism (the desert and sea folks).

  36. carlos Says:

    http://personaldietingmentor.com/facts/comparative-anatomy-of-eating.htm

    Increased risk of breast cancer for women who eat meat daily compared to less than once a week: 3.8 times
    For women who eat eggs daily compared to once a week: 2.8 times
    For women who eat butter and cheese 2-4 times a week: 3.25 times
    Increased risk of fatal ovarian cancer for women who eat eggs 3 or more times a week vs. less than once a week: 3 times
    Increased risk of fatal prostate cancer for men who consume meat, cheese, eggs and milk daily vs. sparingly or not at all: 3.6 times.

    Number of U.S. medical schools: 125
    Number requiring a course in nutrition: 30
    Nutrition training received by average U.S. physician during four years in medical school: 2.5 hours
    Most common cause of death in the U.S.: heart attack
    How frequently a heart attack kills in the U.S.: every 45 seconds
    Average U.S. man’s risk of death from heart attack: 50 percent
    Risk of average U.S. man who eats no meat: 15 percent
    Risk of average U.S. man who eats no meat, dairy or eggs: 4 percent
    Amount you reduce risk of heart attack if you reduce consumption of meat, dairy and eggs by 10 percent: 9 percent
    Amount you reduce risk of heart attack if you reduce consumption by 50 percent: 45 percent
    Amount you reduce risk if you eliminate meat, dairy and eggs from your diet: 90 percent
    Average cholesterol level of people eating meat-centered-diet: 210 mg/dl
    Chance of dying from heart disease if you are male and your blood cholesterol level is 210 mg/dl: greater than 50 percent

    DID YOU PAY FOR ACCESS TO THE FULL TEXT OR ARE YOU GETTING YOUR INFORMATION FROM THE ABSTRACT?

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110217151445.htm
    http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-full-story/index.html
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110411121539.htm
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110413133026.htm
    http://www.vegsource.com/news/2011/04/study-fish-oil-increases-aggressive-prostate-cancer.html
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110406131814.htm
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080201085625.htm (150 STUDIES)

    http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/121/21/2271

    Methods and Results— We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of evidence for relationships of red (unprocessed), processed, and total meat consumption with incident CHD, stroke, and diabetes mellitus. We searched for any cohort study, case-control study, or randomized trial that assessed these exposures and outcomes in generally healthy adults.

    Of 1598 identified abstracts, 20 studies met inclusion criteria, including 17 prospective cohorts and 3 case-control studies. All data were abstracted independently in duplicate. NO… NOT 20 STUDIES, 20 ABSTRACTS!

    THIS IS A REVIEW OF ABSTRACTS! NOT A SCIENTIFIC STUDY OR RESEARCH… IT’S A BOOK REPORT. IF I FIND 10,000 ABSTRACTS SAYING THAT THE EARTH IS FLAT, MY RESULTS WILL BE THAT THE EARTH IS FLAT. THIS ISN’T SCIENCE, IT’S BULLSHIT! STOP WASTING MY TIME!

    Random-effects generalized least squares models for trend estimation were used to derive pooled dose-response estimates. The 20 studies included 1 218 380 individuals and 23 889 CHD, 2280 stroke, and 10 797 diabetes mellitus cases. Red meat intake was not associated with CHD (n=4 studies; relative risk per 100-g serving per day=1.00; 95% confidence interval, 0.81 to 1.23; P for heterogeneity=0.36) or diabetes mellitus (n=5; relative risk=1.16; 95% confidence interval, 0.92 to 1.46; P=0.25). Conversely, processed meat intake was associated with 42% higher risk of CHD (n=5; relative risk per 50-g serving per day=1.42; 95% confidence interval, 1.07 to 1.89; P=0.04) and 19% higher risk of diabetes mellitus (n=7; relative risk=1.19; 95% confidence interval, 1.11 to 1.27; P OUT OF 1598 ABSTRACTS IDENTIFIED, 20 STUDIES MET INCLUSION CRITERIA, 4 ***ABSTRACTS*** SHOWED NO RISK OF CHD AND 5 ***ABSTRACTS*** SHOWED NO DM, ETC, ETC, ETC. YOU CAN USE “ABSTRACT” AND THEN ARBITRARILY USE “STUDIES” WHEN TALKING ABOUT THIS RESEARCH! THIS IS HOW LYING WITH STATISTICS IS DONE! I’VE TAKEN STATISTICS CLASSES AND I HAVE A DEGREE IN MATH.

    I’M NOT RESPONDING TO THESE ANYMORE.

  37. Ivan Says:

    What I meant (and I’m exaggerating here) is that a dogmatic vegan will use their personal veganic pride as the sole measure and fail to consider the other worldly considerations.

    Hardcore vegans will see one side of the picture, and the book points out another side of the picture. As I suggested, both have points to show for but are unfairly biased because of it.

    I’m just inviting people to approach this with an open mind and consider the fact that vegans have an impact on the earth that includes habitat displacement, fossil fuel use,… that may or may not increase as a result of certain vegan choices. Marcin spoke to some other points too.

    A lot of vegans’ moral arguments involve an anthropomorphic projection of a moral order to the web of life: because animals are more similar to humans (feelings, suffering,…) let’s leave them alone and kill plants instead, and humans are intelligent beings so there can always be more of us.

    • skepticalvegan Says:

      I’m not advocating increased population, merely stating that it may be inevitable in the short run. Failing to prepare for such an increase by not developing agriculture that can grow much more food on the same or less amount of land, something which GE technology and certain chemical inputs show promise in doing and something which strictly organic agriculture can’t do, is akin to allowing people to starve. The distribution of food aid and storage of food surpluses is another issue which should be addressed to free up food, but it is still a separate issue and alone will not be adequate.
      Sure population is an issue and folks have been trying to slow population growth but UNTIL there is a significant impact in that area we have an ethical obligation to alleviate the suffering of starving peoples. When foodie activists complain that plentiful & cheap food drives population growth what they are really saying is that they don’t mind if poor women are kept in a state of amenorrhea from lack of nutrition.

      • Marcin Says:

        Sorry- further to my reply below (I put it in the wrong place).
        I think your method has been tried, on a smaller scale with e.g. North American Indian reservations and, recently, the Aboriginies in Australia. If you simply make people reliant on external food sources all you end up doing is destroying their identities and ways of life.

      • Debby Says:

        I’m always amazed at the efforts of those who are advocating against veganism, who point out that if we were to shift to a vegan diet and subsequently have more food available to ship to the starving masses, that there would be a population explosion. These are in a sense two separate battles that must be fought in tandem. It would seem that some argue that meat consumption is good because it deprives the poor of the (grain/food) that they need to fend off starvation and as a result they die and thus we have a form of population control. I always wonder if they would feel that way if they were one of those people whose life is hanging on by a thread instead of reclining on their couches with their laptops available to proffer this tragic arguement?

        Whether we choose to alleviate the suffering of the impoverished is the measure of who we are as people. I can only hope that if those same ‘food activists’ that SV alludes to ever find themselves without a job, a home or their next meal, that they will keep their own words in mind and not take advantage of a food bank or someone’s kindness and compassion. It would be only fair. If it’s good enough for the poor folks in third world countries (to starve to death), than it must be good enough for the average American or ? who used to have money but now must number themselves among the worlds poor.

  38. Marcin Says:

    O Dear Carlos, so that is your source of the unbiast, scientific and reliable information??!!- http://personaldietingmentor.com/???
    I am sorry to say Carlos you are simply loosing it, it seems that you might be one of the dogmatic vegans Ivan is referring to. Until the last couple of entries I thought you had a thoughtful and relatively thorough approach to your case but the way you are starting to react and the sources of your information are somewhat odd. Calm down a little and try to look at the problem from a different angle. That is if you are still capable of doing so.
    (Beautifully put Ivan in the last entry, by the way.)
    In answer to your criticism, you are once again showing lack of understanding research and data gathering. They IDENTIFIED the 20 studies on the basis of abstracts. This is standard procedure- you enter several key words to try and identify the correct types of studies (e.g. non processed meat or processed meat and heart disease etc). You then take out the studies which do not look at the issue you are interested in- e.g. “Man dies of an MI after eating a sandwich of processed meat- case report”. Most can be thrown out as soon as you read the title. What is left you check the ABSTRACTS as to how the study was carried out, possibly to report the individual results, and identify the ones which appear to be scientifically pure and the most thorough and discard the ones which do not fit the criteria. You then combine the results of the remaining STUDIES to get the final metanalisis. That is why they quote abstracts or studies depending on which they used in different parts of the study.
    I really am not certain what the links are supposed to mean- those are only relatively small studies which, on their own are relatively meaningless and can only be used as hypothesis generating papers. The problem nowadays is that to become anyone you need to publish. The dogma “publish or perish” has resulted in a logarithmic increase in publications, most of which are just for the sake of being noticed. I know because I have to search through all the crap on fairly regular basis when looking for an answer to a specific problem. Positive studies are much more likely to be flawed because of the different ways authors can skewer the methodology to get the results. E.g. there was a study a few years ago concluding we should eat boiled vegies as that helps to release vit B complexes which are very good for you. Great but if they looked at vit C they would get completely the opposite effect.
    Most of the results are clinically meaningless associations- resulted in reduced waist sizes, decreased cholesterol levels, increased this and decreased that. What we really need to know- how often did these diets result in hospitalisation, death, stroke, dementia, life expectancy. The rest often means nothing- it is an indicator the author chose to get the most significant answer.
    The last study you quoted: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080201085625.htm (150 STUDIES)
    Concludes, amongst other recommendations:
    “Includes fat-free/low-fat DAIRY foods and/or other calcium/vitamin D-rich sources;”
    Not exactly vegan.
    The diet Ivan is advocating sounds very sensible to me and, I believe, is the most natural for humans- mostly plant based with occasional meat and dairy supplements. The exact balance probably depends on an individual with some needing more meat and others more plant based foods. Evolution works in a way as to give a species a way of continuing if environment should change. Our species evolved from apes capable of surviving in very different ways, we are the “jacks of all trade and masters of none”. Super specialisation tends to result in an evolutionary dead end, that’s what happened to the majority of hominids.
    If you think that we are well past that and can control our future you dead wrong- 8.87 people per square mile (which includes mountains, deserts, swamps, glaciers and tundra) is way too many. Especially if we want to have a few elephants, rhinos, lions, tigers, camels etc. etc. etc., to share it with.
    All in all indeed thanks SV for giving some people an opportunity to express their views. Some people might read with interest and draw their own conclusions.

  39. Marcin Says:

    Well yes SV. You are absolutely right there, however thee is the other side of the coin. Unless people learn how to control their populations growth, and currently this is only a significant issue in the 3rd world countries- Africa and Asia in particular, all that will happen as a result is more children surviving to procreate and need to be fed. Within 20 years you are back to square one with the need for further enlargement of the fields and even more people starving.
    It took western civilisation over 1000 years to reach the state we are in. It will take a few generations for the Africans to change their attitudes and stop having 8 children+. What we need to concentrate on is EDUCATION to speed up that process and teach ALL people how to be self-sufficient and live in balance with nature. As I explained before vegan diets will not be the answer, the cultivation you are referring to is only possible in a small percentage of the world’s soils- USA happens to have a lot of them but Siberia does not, and even there you will feed more people if they eat fish, rodents etc.
    I believe we have destroyed enough natural resources as it is and further destruction of forests for human consumption will lead to environmental changes which are likely to threaten human population as a whole.
    At the end of the day people have to make their own minds up which is more moral or immoral in their minds- the current starvation of some or potential demise of all. I appreciate that my issue is only a potential one and no one can prove it until it happens so yes it is a matter of faith. Faith in what the current scientific projections are.
    Personally I am not prepared to take the risk. I love the natural environment I travelled around a few places and I would love for my grandchildren to be able to do the same and see the sort of sights that I have. This is getting harder and harder. We are getting further and further from natural sustainability and I do not believe that science is powerful to overcome that. This happened before, on a smaller scale, to e.g. Mayas.

  40. Mr. Parker Says:

    I couldn’t get through your flyer, I’m sorry to say. I started reading it but the first point the author made was so ridiculous I had to stop. Yes it is true that you can feed nine people on ten acres of grassland. The cows on Salatin’s farm do not graze in the forest, they graze on the grass. So adding the forested acreage into your calculation is extremely dishonest.

    • skepticalvegan Says:

      I think you missed the point. They were not saying the cows grazed in the forest rather that the acres of forest must be calculated in because they are necessary to maintain the productivity of the grassland on which the cows depend.
      What is dishonest or possibly just uninformed is only accounting for the land directly used and not factoring in the many acres of surrounding land that must remain undeveloped to maintain the health of the cultivated land.
      Also, it wasn’t my calculation, it was Michel Pollens.

      • Marcin Says:

        Very good point SV but you need to apply it to the other side of the argument- did they include those forests in the vegan farms calculations?

        • skepticalvegan Says:

          The calculations on land usage under a vegan diet Ive seen are generally based on acreage of land currently in cultivation rather than a simple measure of total square miles of land, this would seem to account for the water sheds and such.
          A calculation that doesn’t take forest and non-cultivatable land into account would be one based on humans per square mile. I don’t think that would be a useful way to examine the question.

          But as Ive said before with the variety of crops available, variety of climates, and current and future technology (such as GMOS and vertical and sea farming), these calculations are quite loose and will be constantly open to debate and updating as new data and technology emerges.

  41. Marcin Says:

    So the answer is no 🙂
    Which means that they take it into account calculating the animal farming but not when doing the vegetarian farming and yet you still need the birds to keep the insect population down, you still need the insects to polynate etc etc. They have to come from somewhere.
    Not a fair comparison really?

    • skepticalvegan Says:

      No, I said that many of the calculations are based on current land usage which DOES account for the current water sheds, forests, and surrounding animal populations required to keep that land productive. Its only taking into account converting currently cultivated land to growing calorie dense for human consumption rather than expanding into deserts and forests as a simple “humans per square mile” calculation might.
      “based on acreage of land currently in cultivation rather than a simple measure of total square miles of land”

      • Marcin Says:

        Ah- Ok sorry I misunderstood that.
        Although, as I mentioned before, those calculations are based on American soil and compare american style farming, for the consumption of western style diet. Neither of which are the best.

        • skepticalvegan Says:

          The ones Ive seen range from using data for areas in the US, Canada, or Europe to using stats from places such as Nepal or using data from many different countries. Its not all based on Cornells NY State study, the data is spread out there and again as I said I don’t think the picture is perfectly clear but we have little reason to really fear starving to death on a plant-based diet.

          At the very least the US and European based studies are still very relevant to the food choices and land use choices of Americans & Europeans (that majority of my blog readership) especially considering that that is where ethical veganism is strongest socially and politically and where large scale changes would be most likely to take hold first.

  42. Debby Says:

    I have waded through the comments here (after reading the article about Ms. Keith’s ‘bias’) and I love it! New bookmark now: Save: Veg/Meat Science. This page is my first listing, the page about bigger brains and meat is the second and I will be referencing these and others in upcoming discussions. Thanks so much for the wealth of information folks.

    I did read the article about bigger brains and meat and not being of a scientific bent, had a bit of trouble wrapping my so-called big brain around it. Is it possible for you to give it to me in a nut-shell, the laymen’s version? Then when I reread it, my comprehension will increase to match my brain size. Anyway, thanks very much.

    • Marcin Says:

      Well nobody else seems to be coming to your rescue 🙂

      The nut-shell is the brain tissue requires certain specific amino acids and fatty acids which can not be produced by the body- they need to be obtained via the diet. Plants contain relatively few of those materials and it would be very hard to produce a big brain with plant food only. Eating meat, fish in particular, helps the body to build the brain we need.

      That was in the past and is still true today but we can now cultivate the few plants relatively rich in the necessary nutrients so that we no longer need to eat meat to obtain the same result. It’s a bit harder and you need to make sure you eat all the right stuff, especially as a growing baby, but it can be done.
      You might find reading the “Aquatic Ape” theory, it tends to explain human evolution pretty well, although it has largely been disproven now as it is not supported by the archaeological evidence. Nevertheless it makes an interesting reading.

    • The Humane Hominid Says:

      Debby,

      I apologize for having overlooked your inquiry about my blog article. I hope you are still hanging around here so you can get the benefit of my “nut-shell.”

      The hypothesis that increased meat-eating empowered bigger brains in human ancestors depended on the assumption that there was a pair of dramatic and sudden increases in brain size over the last 2 million years. At the time this hypothesis was proposed, that assumption was justified, because it was consistent with the fossil record.

      But, we have more fossils now than we did then, and we’ve been able to put them in a more meaningful context. Bottom line is: there was no sudden jump in hominid brain-size. Instead, it’s a slow, steady, linear progression.

      So, if a fundamental assumption of the hypothesis now appears to be mistaken, there is good reason to re-examine the hypothesis.

  43. Jackitt Says:

    I just wanted to say that this article was a great read, and will be reading more from this site. I also stumbled upon it while looking up articles about the Vegetarian Myths book.

    I’m interested in politics and my general opinion is that people can eat whatever they want but ideally we should make informed decisions. It’s unfortunate that there is so much misinformation out there on both sides, and sites like yours really helps me make conscious decisions. I’m not a vegan but your perspective is quite refreshing from the mass amount of bad pseudo-science literature out there that is often propagated by people who don’t actually understand or live vegan. We are all tempted to consuming self-righteous justifications!

  44. Esd Says:

    Are you kidding me?

    “The issue at hand is large scale violence against animals. If its not actually necessary then eating meat would simply be imposing suffering on others for ones taste preference.”

    fallacy of necessity, ad humanitas, non sequitur, Appeal to emotion, appeal to ridicule, and Guilt by association.
    why is it so fallacious?
    because you say if its unnecessary it is wrong, it only goes for humans, eating meat would be imposing suffering (non sequitur & Appeal to emotion), implies anyone who eats meat is imposing suffering, and that it is all just for ones taste preference (appeal to ridicule).

    you ignore that its not always necessary when other omnivores eat meat. and how much is a animal suffering when they are just killed as opposed to being in the wild and eaten alive or in factory farms? and you also ignore that just because we eat meat doesn’t mean we support the stuff in factory farms not everyone tortures they’re food.
    and how is it unnecessary to eat meat? if it is then the same goes for plants. and for me its not a “taste preference” its the beneficial factors. and its always absolutely necessary to eat food thats healthy whether its meat or plant.
    when I meat, unless the case the animal was in unhealthy conditions and what not, it was completely necessary for me.

    thats like me saying this to you:
    “vegan-ism is not necessary it is only considerably a lifestyle, a choice of not to eating things. you don’t have to only eat a vegan diet to survive[…]”

    does that mean its wrong? NO! this is how your argument is that because humans don’t have to eat meat in our day and time to survive it is therefore wrong to eat meat.

    also if its a taste preference then why are vegans/vegetarians eating meat imitations? if its just a taste preference then wouldn’t that mean its some of the vegetarians taste preferences?

    Evasion
    “Top of the food chain” is just what we are considered, thats why I used it. why are you avoiding the question and nitpicking on my choice of words?? I’m sure you had an idea of what I meant

    Evasion
    “Another issue that been brought up and answered few times”
    maybe if you stop assuming what I’m talking about because I’m not talking about field deaths.

    “It not whether something is alive or not, its whether it can suffer that vegans care about.”

    its because you said, “they choose the steak then they are killing WITHOUT ANY NECESSITY.”
    and I was pointing out they are killing either way

    But whether it can suffer? how do you know plants can’t suffer?
    and don’t go on about how its under debate.
    the thing is it hasn’t been concluded.

    and just because an animal has the ability to suffer still doesn’t dictate its wrong to eat meat. they don’t have to suffer to die.

    and why is it about suffering now? wasn’t it just about “experience of life”?

    “what about consuming human flesh, a human limb is “meat” as much as a pork chop is “meat” after all…?”
    association fallacy, appeal to ridicule, and non sequitur.
    (a human limb is meat just like a pork chop is meat right? so it must be okay to eat) and (eating meat is equal to cannibalism)
    thats where you are going with this isn’t it?

    No because Cannibalism is the act of a species eating a member of its own kind. which is no good for the species overall in the majority of conditions, and even in starvation the usual case is the member has gone mad or in survival mode for food. heard of Mad Cow disease? its probably not even healthy for them to have a diet of themselves.
    also cannibalism is practically eating your self.
    as to eating other species is eating something foreign.

    “If a unnecessary violent, non-defensive, act is performed against a fellow human would you not consider it “wrong”.”
    yes but not simply because it is unnecessary its because of many other things like it being a fellow human.

    • Theo Says:

      Hi Esd,

      You draw attention to some valid logical fallacies in your post. You also use the last few paragraphs of your response to respond to some moral hypotheticals posed and defend your own ethical system.

      I am a bit puzzled by your assumption that defending one’s own species ought to be so sacrosanct. You state that eating a member of one’s own kind is “no good for the species overall” and that you would consider harming a fellow human wrong, “because of many other things like it being a fellow human.”

      Yet as Richard Dawkins is often so keen to point out, it is a mere accident of history that the intermediates between ourselves and chimpanzees, or ourselves and any other species happen to be extinct.

      Obviously it makes evolutionary sense for us to be equipped with genes that encourage us to favor and protect our own kind, but, as I’m sure you’re well aware, evolution is very useful for describing how things are and have come to be, but we cannot derive an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’.

      When we drop species as a defining circle for how our ethics ought to be determined, where then are we to draw the lines of justice, or must every stone be treated as if it does not want to be thrown?

      In the case above, it seems to make no sense to us to speak of a stone as “not wanting to be thrown”. We have no reason to believe that stones could “want” anything, and if they did, why should they be opposed to throwing any more than being in favor of it? When it comes to our own “wants” however, they seem to be based, not upon membership of a species, but upon the way we experience our lives. To speak in general terms, we want to avoid suffering, we want to enjoy happiness, fulfillment, pleasure.

      You seem quite keen to point out the uncertainty in our knowledge of the experiences of other creatures, plant and animal alike, and I’m sure you’ll gladly admit some level of uncertainty in our knowledge of the way our fellow humans experience their own lives as well. Yet, as you’ve already made clear, certain forms of treatment of fellow humans you would denounce as unethical for obvious reasons. As we move between species, that uncertainty will undoubtedly increase, but it remains safe to reason nonetheless that many of our most primitive and basic experiences and desires will still exist for many of our evolutionary cousins, particularly where similar mechanics behind how one experiences life exist (for us, our brains and nervous systems).

      For these reasons, I think it important to abandon the “species” as an important group for ethical consideration, and we should start looking more deeply at the “wants” or interests of the beings being effected by our decisions. You raise several good questions on the matter, what if plants could suffer, how do you feel we ought to act then? The question we’re addressing shouldn’t be whether we owe extra obligations to protect our own species, but how we can best fulfill the interests of all beings. You seem to raise many valid concerns on that point too, and I would be very interested to hear how you would do it differently.

    • Gopiballava Says:

      “because you say if its unnecessary it is wrong”

      No, he’s saying that it causes pain and discomfort, and that if the pain and discomfort it causes to animals is unnecessary, then it is wrong.

      “you ignore that its not always necessary when other omnivores eat meat”

      Ignoring the deep philosophical questions about whether humans can do something “unnatural” since we came from nature, on a purely practical level it is trivial for humans to adapt their own diets in significant ways. We do that every time we go to the grocery store. We choose our diets.

      Skepticalvegan is marking arguments for what humans should decide to do. Animals in the wild can not comprehend his arguments. Changing their diets would be a) An imposition by force, which I don’t think he supports generally. b) Extremely impractical

      From a philosophical standpoint, I think it’s reasonable to argue that actors who can understand morality have more responsibilities than those who don’t.

      “does that mean its wrong? NO! this is how your argument is that because humans don’t have to eat meat in our day and time to survive it is therefore wrong to eat meat.”

      I don’t think that it’s inconsistent to argue that eating meat was acceptable when we didn’t know enough about nutrition to have a vegan diet, but that it is now avoidable and thus there is a moral imperative to avoid meat.

      “But whether it can suffer? how do you know plants can’t suffer?
      and don’t go on about how its under debate.
      the thing is it hasn’t been concluded.”

      For somebody who throws out so many accusations of logical fallacies, your thinking sure seems muddled. You can only make decisions based upon the best information available. You can’t be perfect. We know a *lot* about the cognitive abilities of animals. We are certain that even supposedly lower animals have remarkable cognitive abilities compared to what people expect.

      There is much less evidence for plants having those abilities.

      So, we have definite pain and suffering, or so far probably no pain and suffering. But maybe that will change. Surely you can re-evaluate in the future when more information is known?

      “also if its a taste preference then why are vegans/vegetarians eating meat imitations? if its just a taste preference then wouldn’t that mean its some of the vegetarians taste preferences?”

      I’m very confused. I don’t really understand why whether vegans eat fake meat or not is relevant to anything. I don’t really care whether people eat fake meat that tastes like roasted toddler (well, other than wondering how they figured out if they got the flavor right…).

      When I look at what goes on in so many slaughterhouses, I can’t imagine flavor or taste as justification. Most omnivores have meat products that they won’t eat, such as foie gras very commonly, and often veal. Not universal, but common.

  45. kelsey Says:

    THANK YOU!

  46. MarilynK Says:

    Wow, thank you very much for the infomation. It sounds like a book I do not want to read after all. Thx for saving me some money.

  47. Julie Says:

    My head hurts what should I be eating?

  48. Vege108 Says:

    Unlike animals, plants do not secret dangerous chemicals when they die nor do they suffer when they are killed. Their nervous systems are not developed enough for that.

    But animals are actually aware of what’s going to happen to them, and they secret adrenaline and other chemicals that are toxic to those who consume them.

    When you opt for meat, you are opting for early heart Disease, Stroke, Cancer, Osteoporisis, Kidney Disease, Diabetes, and other degenerative diseases.

    So eating impacts the environment and everything in it, namely us. This is not rocket science or new age hoopla. These are the facts and they are backed by modern research and by thousands of years of vegetarian diet.

  49. Alex Riedel Says:

    I really need to simply say that your work on this page here is great! I have encountered the type of weak and fallacy prone arguments myself many times – especially upsetting are the ones that equate modern meat eating to the natural killing of antelopes by lions… etc. Like buying your meat from factory farming producers is not doing harm to nature…It’s mind-bending what some people do/say to avoid following a very clear ethical train of thought, in order justify their own habit and inertia. Keep up the great work, and your tremendous patience in responding clearly to the nonsense you are being faced with here.

  50. Fantastic organic! Says:

    Im very surprised and disappointed that you believe conventional agriculture and GM foods are acceptable. Apart from the significant negative health impacts and nutrient loss from eating non-organic foods there a plethora of negative environmental and social impacts. Regardless of your choices about being an omnivore, vegetarian, vegan etc you should always choose organic.

    Of course we can feed the world on organic food. We have for the vast majority of human history, until about 60 years ago. Yes we have a larger population now but we currently produce more food than we need, 1.5 times in fact. Organic systems build soil fertility, sequester carbon, increase resilience to disturbances (e.g. drought), negate the need for fossil fuel based inputs, produce food that is nutrient dense, removes dangerous chemicals from the food chain and maximize resource use, just to name a few benefits.

    If you honestly believe that the conventional agriculture is OK and more productive you simply have the facts wrong. Also very few, if any, GM foods have been proven safe. This is one of the biggest contradictions by people who claim to eat ethically but do not eat organically and GM free. We have a huge seed bank of food varieties which more than counter any possible new traits that GM creates, without the dangers of biodiversity loss and illness.

    There is clear evidence, one source being the Rodale Institute, that organic systems are more resilient and more sustainable than conventional. As well as being safer for human health as a work environment and producing safer food.

    I have not even begun to go into the impacts of conventional agriculture on the environment, including all plants, animals, water sources, air etc. Or the impacts on climate change from conventional agriculture.

    I have barely scratched the surface and could continue to spout fact after fact from source after source showing the superior results on all scales of organics. However I think the best thing would be to look into this more yourself. If you say that conventional agriculture and GM foods are OK then you are a hypocrite and flat out wrong. I seriously suggest that you do more research.

    Here are a few useful resources…..

    Books to read:
    “One Magic Square” by Lolo Houbein
    “Genetic engineering, food and our environment” by Luke Anderson
    “Permaculture: principles and pathways beyond sustainability” by David Holmgren

    Things to watch:
    Look up Geoff Lawton and watch his talks and dvds.
    “Dirt” the movie.
    “The real dirt on farmer John” – movie.

    Websites:
    http://www.rodaleinstitute.org
    http://www.soilassociation.org

  51. Ella Says:

    What always amazes me is the concept that livestock would somewhow be leading a different, better life if we left them to fulfil their ‘natural’ destinies. A. they wouldn’t exist at all: we breed them! B: leave domestic livestock (without predators) to themselves and they take over and destroy landmass. C: animals in the wild live under constant stress and fear from enemies and predators or perceived predators. Keith defines husbandry as it should be; carried out with love. How many vegans on this site live as close to animals as small holders or farmers? You anthropomorphisise as if you have some arcane understanding of what it is to be them. They don’t care for you or your morals, they care for their next meal that we provide. The nutitrional argument is increasingly failing as new evidence arises on the importance of animal fats and omega fats (I have studied it extensively). A high carbohydrate diet is the cause of most modern diseases, not the other way around. We have eaten animal for millenia: we have eaten processed carbs and proteins for a few hundred years. Keith is not the only one to have gone through what struck me as a painful and profound life experience; it has happened to many! The environmental argument straddles both arenas. Yes factory farming refers to both omnivore and vegan. I eat meat that grows down the road from me. The vegan down the road eats pulses that are flown half way around the world. Who is more the environmentalist? Animals die and their death will be the same however it comes to them! It is how they live that should matter!

  52. Vegans don’t magically want to end all death | Hail To The Nihilist Says:

    […] dialogue. Particularly the life of plants–which vegans must inevitable kill and eat. I found this pithy Q&A over at Skeptical Vegan. It relates to the strawman found in former-vegan, Lierre Keith’s, book, “The […]

  53. lizor Says:

    Just curious: what do you suppose circumpolar people/those who live north of the tree line should eat?

  54. J Says:

    Great little blog here, I salute your stamina in dealing with the same illogical questions…

    Like Ella’s question above: ‘what would happen to all the cows if we stopped eating them?’

    It’s called supply and demand, humans do both the supplying and demanding… and why pretend that everyone will become a vegan overnight? stop demanding and the supply will decrease, it’s all in the name LIVESTOCK after all.

  55. Paul Says:

    The fragment that you posted on your website is wrong and not backed that well.

    Some vegans and vegetarians are like some religious people.

    Children should not eat a Vegan or Vegetarian diet (they need milk and many other things). Nutritionists sometimes say a lot of bullshit.

    You also make claims that aren’t backed.

  56. Paul Says:

    Plants do feel “pain”. There have been a fwew studies that have shown it but the scientific community isn’t that much.

  57. aristoteles666 Says:

    Skeptical vegan “Ive already addressed this elsewhere but… The idea that plants feel pain is simply false and based on outdated and debunked research, it is not supported by modern biologists.”

    you are so wrong.

    http://www.nature-explored.com/acacia-info.htm

  58. aristoteles666 Says:

    even the last bits of earth will be destroyed if people would be vegan,
    is it really so hard to understand that agriculture has ruined earth.

    View story at Medium.com

    • Martin Says:

      You are absolutely correct Aristoteles, but the effect was indirect. Even before the advent of crop domestication people were responsible for mass extinctions of large animals, the most definitive case is of Moa in NZ, although they were a farming community, but archaeological evidence strongly suggests the same in North America and Australia. What agriculture allowed people to do is multiply beyond the natural controls. Oddly enough it also reduced our health- we have not actually regained our average heights until 20th century. It is described in more detail in Jarred Diamond books- “Guns, Germs and Steel” and “Collapse”.
      And this takes us to the biggest problem humanity faces- overpopulation. But that is a different story.
      What this blog really postulates is a very efficient way of farming (and there is nothing wrong with that), but that has nothing to do with our diets. What we really should be doing is trying to introduce virtually global birth control of some description and expand our food sources to include the sort of things we used to eat until very recently, like rabbits, ducks, gees, horses, esp fish etc etc. It is better to utilise many different resources to a smaller extent than to try and rely on a single one because we will simply end up turning Earth into some kind of human farm, which is environmentally and ecologically implausible and we will simply destroy the current climate and global ecosystem. With which we are well on our way.

  59. Margareth Says:

    Hi, I’ve spent an hour now reading the comments. Have lots more to go but I just want to say that I admire your level headed unemotional way of dealing with the many opposing , confrontational and some downright rude comments. Thank you for the wealth of information you’ve shared as result. I’ve learned a lot and your responses will help Mr articulate my view point more effectively.
    Again, thank you.

  60. Women's Health & Anti-Veg Propaganda (Re: The Scary Mental Health Risks of Going Meatless) — Follow, Index, Nofollow & Noindex Says:

    […] Myths of The Vegetarian Myth Myths of The Vegetarian Myth […]

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