Vegetarianism

iBrian

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In trying to avoid products derived from dead animals, are vegetarians therefore morally superior to people who eat meat?

Or are they actually blinkered to the issues of animal welfare, especially where they are still contributing (such as eating cheese of battery eggs, or wearing leather, etc).

We are biologically built as omnivores, and live in a natural world where animal death is simply a natural part of the order of life. We as a species have eaten of other animals since our beginnings.

So is there really any true moral dimension to vegetarianism? How about in comparison to eating meat only from organic and non-factory produced sources?

If there is a moral dimension is it just a personal moral decision - or is there an Objective Truth that humans eating animals is morally wrong?

A discussion point...
 

gluadys

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I am not vegetarian myself, but both my kids are. They are very aware of the factory farm issues you raise and for that reason try to use no animal products at all. In other words they are not just vegetarian but vegan. And it is precisely the moral issues involved in the treatment of farm animals that led them to that choice.

While I have not joined them in avoiding meat and animal products per se, we all aim to use organic food for the same reason. It is simply a healthier way to raise both animal and vegetable food for ourselves, the plants and animals and the soil.

One of the problems with a vegan diet is the need to rely on soy products as an alternate protein source. And that raises the problems of genetic modification. Much of the soya grown in the US is genetically modified and goes into thousands of common edible products.

Getting organic when we can helps alleviate that assault on the ecosystem.

I don't think vegetarianism or veganism or going organic makes one a "morallly superior" person.

Perhaps what it really indicates is that they are examining their life and taking responsibility for how it impacts the world around them. I think such examination is healthy even though one's conclusions as to what to include in one's diet will vary from person to person.
 

Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine

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Sometimes vegetarianism isn't a matter of ethics, but a matter of economics. For example, at a local supermarket here in Milwaukee, a 6 oz. tin of chunk light tuna (either in oil or water) is $.68, while a 1# bag of dried beans is $.83.

I'm not saying that this is always the case (I mean, a 12 oz. "chub" of imitation ground beef is $3.13, while non-kosher ground beef is $1.79/lb.) but when one has to count every penny (especially if one tries to keep kosher) vegetarianism (or as close to vegetarianism as is economically feasible) is the better way to go, rather than hungry.

Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine
 

Vajradhara

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Namaste all,

interesting topic, Brian. i am curious to see the various responses.

Buddhism, depending on what Vehicle you practice, does not preclude meat from being eaten. of course, the rules that govern meat consumption are a bit stringent and, in the modern context, probably couldn't be fulfilled.

of course, some schools of Buddhism adopt a strictly vegetarian diet... whilst others, depending of one is a layperson or monsatic, have few restrictions.

in my own case... i choose not to eat meat because i can taste the suffering, pain and confusion of the animal that was killed.... suffering, pain and death tastes bad, in my opinion.

though... i have no issue drinking milk or eating eggs or other dairy products. my ethical concerns have to do more with the treatment of animals on farms and so forth.. as such, i try to only buy free range, unfertilized eggs, free range, organic milk and that sort of thing. yes, i'm aware of the controversy surrounding "free range" and all of that.

that's why i don't eat meat.

now.. i am concerned that i will lose access to vitamin b12, as such, i take a daily multivitamin to ensure that i get all the b12 that i need. as for protein.. i'm a bean eating fool... which... can pose it's own, unique, problems :)
 

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Great topic. Being a vegetarian myself, my answers may be predictable. I avoid eating meat for both ethical and health reasons. To me, it's not an issue of moral superiority as much as a personal decision to soothe my conscience. Morals encompass too many areas for me to feel superior to other people just because I'm vegetarian. So I may not eat as much meat as my Burger-King breakfasting co-worker, but I know for a fact that she does a whole lot more service than I do. My point is that vegetarianism is one pixel in a much larger picture, as far as morals go.

I fall into line with the ideas already presented by Vaj and Glaudys. I think the point about buying organic is an important one; it may be more expensive in most cases, but I'm willing to pay the extra money, knowing that the animals that produced that cheese or milk were treated humanely. Where it becomes a sticky issue is in buying pre-processed foods or even bread that is made with eggs (just two examples right now; I'm sure there are more foods). Often there is no guarantee or even way to know that the animals were treated with respect and love. Sometimes, there is an alternative, for example buying something like Annie's Homegrown Totally Natural Mac and Cheese rather than Kraft... even though Kraft may indisputably be the cheesiest :D .

I said:
We are biologically built as omnivores, and live in a natural world where animal death is simply a natural part of the order of life. We as a species have eaten of other animals since our beginnings.
I'm not a biologist, so I'm not sure about this, but I have read something that contradicts what Brian is saying. I don't think the person that wrote it is a scientist either, and I'm not sure where they get their information from, so admittedly this is not the most reliable quote. But, I'll share it nonetheless, and maybe someone who is more scientifically minded can verify or contradict the following:

"'Isn't it natural for human beings to eat meat?'
No! The diet of any animal corresponds to its physiological structure. Human physiology, bodily functions, and digestive systems are completely different from those of carnivourous animals. Animals can be divided into three dietary groups: meat eaters, grass-and-leaf eaters, and fruit eaters.

...

Human Beings
Human characteristics are in every way like the fruit eaters, very similar to the grass eaters, and very unlike the meat eaters. The human digestive system, tooth and jaw structure, and bodily functins are completely different from carnivorous animals. As in the case of the anthropoid ape, the human digestive system is twelve times the length of the body; our skin has millions of tiny pours to evaporate water and cool the body by sweating; we drink water by suction like all other vegetarian animals; our tooth and jaw structure is vegetarian; and our saliva is alkaline and contains ptyalin for predigestion of grains. Human beings clearly are not carnivores by physiology--our anatomy and digestive system show that we must have evolved for millions of years living on fruits, nuts, grains, and vegetables."

Excerpted from Food For Thought: the Vegetarian Philosophy by Avadhútiká Ananda Mitrá
As far as animal death being a natural part of the order of life, I find that shakey ground as an argument for eating meat. Looking more closely, I don't know of many places selling steak cut from a cow that has died of natural causes ;) . In all meat production, animals are slaughtered, and although this may be the accepted order of life as humans have come to dominate nature, I would hesitate to call it natural. Simalarly, human death is a natural part of the order of life, yet the vast majority of people are not cannibals.

Just my thoughts on the subject.
 

gluadys

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Pathless said:
I said:
We are biologically built as omnivores, and live in a natural world where animal death is simply a natural part of the order of life. We as a species have eaten of other animals since our beginnings.

I'm not a biologist, so I'm not sure about this, but I have read something that contradicts what Brian is saying. I don't think the person that wrote it is a scientist either, and I'm not sure where they get their information from, so admittedly this is not the most reliable quote. But, I'll share it nonetheless, and maybe someone who is more scientifically minded can verify or contradict the following:

"'Isn't it natural for human beings to eat meat?'
No! The diet of any animal corresponds to its physiological structure. Human physiology, bodily functions, and digestive systems are completely different from those of carnivourous animals. Animals can be divided into three dietary groups: meat eaters, grass-and-leaf eaters, and fruit eaters.

...

Human Beings
Human characteristics are in every way like the fruit eaters, very similar to the grass eaters, and very unlike the meat eaters. The human digestive system, tooth and jaw structure, and bodily functins are completely different from carnivorous animals. As in the case of the anthropoid ape, the human digestive system is twelve times the length of the body; our skin has millions of tiny pours to evaporate water and cool the body by sweating; we drink water by suction like all other vegetarian animals; our tooth and jaw structure is vegetarian; and our saliva is alkaline and contains ptyalin for predigestion of grains. Human beings clearly are not carnivores by physiology--our anatomy and digestive system show that we must have evolved for millions of years living on fruits, nuts, grains, and vegetables."

Excerpted from Food For Thought: the Vegetarian Philosophy by Avadhútiká Ananda Mitrá

There is some good and some erroneous information in the quote.

It is true that "the diet of any animal corresponds to its physiological structure. " and that the human digestive physiology is similar to that of our evolutionary cousins, the hominids (which she calls by the earlier term "anthropoid apes".)

However, she doesn't mention that apes are omnivorous. In addition to plants, they eat insects and sometimes small rodents or other game. Humans eat more meat than apes, and our adaptation to getting a larger share of our diet from meat is shown in the differences in dentition between the two groups. Apes have retained more massive grinding molars for their more heavily vegetarian diet. Indeed, one of the reasons we can still accommodate grains and vegetable matter in our diet is that we cook our food. If we did not, we would have a much more difficult time with a strictly vegetarian diet.

She is also incorrect in saying our digestive system is "very similar to the grass eaters". It most certainly is not, and neither is that of the apes. Apes live in arboreal jungle environments and their diets certainly include fruit, nuts, seeds and leaves, but not a lot of grasses. Animals which do depend primarily on grasses have quite different digestive systems to cope with the high proportion of cellulose (such as the four-chambered stomach of ruminants, the fore-stomach of elephants and the enlarged cecum of rabbits).

The confusion comes, perhaps, from the fact that we do rely heavily on grains i.e. the seeds of grasses. But we do not generally eat the grass stalks and our physiology is not suited for that. Even with grains, we generally make them more digestible by soaking and cooking them.

The best conclusion, both from the eating habits of our nearest animal relatives, those of the most primitive human societies and from our physiology is that we are natural omnivores. We are not true carnivores, and a purely meat diet tends to be harmful. We are not true herbivores either, but can adjust to a mostly or even fully vegetarian diet.

With the exception of B12 we can derive all needed nutrients from vegetable sources, including protein and calcium.
 

iBrian

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gluadys said:
However, she doesn't mention that apes are omnivorous. In addition to plants, they eat insects and sometimes small rodents or other game.
Of course, it is hopefully not simply people in the UK who have been shown that now rather famous footage of chimps hunting gibbons through the treetops, and in an organised manner - then eating alive the one they capture and sharing the remains across the troupe.
 

Avinash

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I said:
If there is a moral dimension is it just a personal moral decision - or is there an Objective Truth that humans eating animals is morally wrong?

I think there is a definite moral dimension to not wanting to unnecessarily cut short the lives of higher lifeforms (with more consciousness).

I would say taking the life of an animal with a less developed consciousness has less of a moral dimension to it.

How you relate to any being with a consciousness depends on how you connect with your higher Self. So the more people get involved with spirituality, the less they will be inclined to harm other sentient beings.

I was a (semi-vegan) vegetarian for a few years, but after I developed a B12 deficiency started eating small amounts of yoghurt again. Chimps will eat their excrements for the B12 in it. I'm now considering taking supplements instead. ;)
 

suanni

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A personal perspective on vegetarianism.

I don't think it is morally wrong to kill animals for nutrition. What is morally wrong is to hunt merely for the sport without ever having the intention to eat what you kill. What is also morally wrong is to mistreat the animals that is farmed for food; they are sentient beings, they are aware of what is going on.
At the same time, those animals that we farm for food could well now be extinct if man hadn't decided to farm them. They would also be killed in the wild by other animals for food. Man whether he likes it or not is also an animal, an omnivore and requires both animal and vegetable nutrients in order to live to his full capacity. A diet that reduces his capacity for living is just also reducing his capacity to live to his life to its fullest. I discovered that a vegetarian diet reduced my capacity to live life to its fullest.
For both moral and dietary reasons I became vegetarian for quite some time, it wasn't the thought of killing animals to feed me more for the way factory farmed animals are treated. I was also under the notion that this was probably closer to the diet that man was meant to eat. I am unable to eat eggs so I became what is termed a lacto vegetarian. Took the necessary vitamins to ensure I got a steady supply of B vitamins.
Now at the same time I'm also into body building/sculpting and couldn't understand despite ensuring I had an adequate supply of protein why I seemed to gain more fat and the muscle that I had gained over the years just seemed to be dwindling away. I was also permanently tired and didn't have the 'fight' that I normally had. Because the exercise was more for sculpting I didn't take any body builder's supplements (and anyway I was under the belief they would make me massive. Don't want that) I became so conscientious ensuring that for every lb in weight I would be eating the required grams of protein.
It was by chance that I came across an advertisement for a new supplement for vegetarians that seemed to address the sluggishness, the weight gain and the drop in muscle. It was very expensive for what it was and I checked out the supplements, creatine monohydrate, vitamin B-12 and L-Carnitine. Vitamin B-12 I was getting an adequate supply of, the other 2 could only be obtained from meat, which is rich in these amino acids or from body building supplements.
Because I didn't want to drop my vegetarian diet and was cautious about taking these other supplements I read about the amino acids, the effect on the body, how the body utilised these and more. I read every piece of research on them at the time and the more I read the more I came to the only conclusion that I could draw.
If these 3 vital components from my diet were missing then the only deduction could be that the vegetarian diet was not natural for man. They can't be obtained from any other natural source other than meat. Whilst it may have salved my conscience for a while about making a personal stand against the way factory farmed animals are treated it really did nothing to address the situation overall.
I did buy some creatine monohydrate and L-Carnitine and the moment I began taking them with caution, still unwilling to give up the vegetarian diet. But the moment I started taking them I felt less sluggish and the muscle began to pack on again and the body fat melt. It felt like I'd been in a dream like state for a long time and just woken up. I dropped the vegetarian diet shortly afterwards.The energy I had was unbelievable as soon as I began to eat meat again.
 

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I often fantasize about being a vegetarian. First, the cruelty associated with the farmed animals [anyone ever see the movie Babe, where Mama pig goes off to Pig heaven on the meat truck and all the others can't wait to go on to that next better world?] Second, wasteful, it doesn't make sense to feed an animal so much food and then kill it to get much less energy out than was put in. Third, diseases related to eating too much meat. I read something once about bowels packed with partly digested meat.

But in the end I've never even been able to try it for a week. Partly to do with being married to hungry hard-working guy who would wither away on vegetarian diet, but also I do like the taste of meat (cringe cringe).

Having said that, I do think I could eat much less meat and I hope that some day I am actually able to do this. I need to lower my cholesterol and reducing saturated fats is the best way to do this, I think. I did try a low sat fat diet for a few weeks earlier this year, and I eventually had to stop because it took too much time checking and keeping track of the fat grams and calories. I had a hard time getting enough of the "right kind" of fat on that diet. But feeding a family and not just myself, plus chasing two preschooers around all day, it just came down to not having the time or energy to make the adaptation. I do plan to try again. So, perhaps the middle way, less meat but not no meat, will be the goal.
 

iBrian

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I went veggie when I was 18 - about 14 years ago - and it definitely had a moral domension to it at first. It was actually a response to an NDE, where I had seen all life as having some degree of "soul", and therefore I didn't feel right about being involved in the institutional release of animal souls. :)

However, someone put a conundrum to me, that I couldn't answer, and that effectively killed the morality aspect, and turned it into a life-style choice. The conundrum postured was about denying an animal life in the first place. I certainly couldn't resolve it at the time.

I went through a stage in my life when I desired to only eat fruit, but could only managed being a vegan for a period of time, but then slipped back into vegetarianism.

Nowadays, though, my entire life is undergoing something of a paradigm shift. And because there is no moral dimension to myself from being veggie, I am suddenly questioning as to whether I should remain one. I would certainly keep away from the chemically injected factory crap if I ate meat again - but the whole issue is something I'll have to resolve in time, and in relation to my general changing life-view.
 

suanni

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I said:
I went through a stage in my life when I desired to only eat fruit, but could only managed being a vegan for a period of time, but then slipped back into vegetarianism.
That sounds incredibly unhealthy. Eating only fruit?:eek:

If after such a long time of being veggie and you go back to eating meat, I would take it very slowly. The first mouthful of meat I ate after being veggie for almost 3 years I felt like I was going to puke. The next mouthful I couldn't get enough. It doesn't lie easily in the digestive system after such a long time and I suppose without going into details it will be a bit like leaping into the Atkins diet for someone who eats meat occaisionally.
 

Mus Zibii

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I've been vegan since I was 15 (25 now, ten years, wow), though I've slipped out of civility when I'm eating with people I don't want to offend. I've seen vegans go off the deep end on several occasions claiming that certain vetables have feelings, etc. So I think, like a lot of the habits you find in culture, its borne more of out being contrary and hoping to distinguish yourself somehow.

For myself, I don't claim moral victory, I just try to alleviate guilt.

As for the health issue, I'm struggling to keep a gut off, so the myth that all vegans are smelly anorexic hippies is just that. Also, I'm a 9/11-Christopher-Hitchens conservative, so that dispells another myth about vegans.
 

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short post im about to crash out ,i also didnt read all above for same reason

Anyhoo heres my 2 cents worth :p

Ive not eaten meat or meat products for about 13 years , Not because of the fluffy animals and how cute they are . If we didnt eat cows then cows , like wolves would not exsist in modern countries .

Its for the same reason most people dont eat humans . its alot easier for disease to spred inside one species and not much harder to travel across species if in same family group . Bse and vcjd are the proof of this .

Also the fact that burger and pies are made from lips and arse and are not appatising to me

Its also legal to inject the animal with drugs just before death and not mention these on the food label as these are not additives .

Also as all cows are killed before there 3 years old in the UK as this is b4 the BSE symtoms show , i have no faith in the system that hides disease in animals rather than tackle the problem .

As for morals , In some way for sure its culturally superior as more thought has gone into the decision not to eat meat than it has to eat it .

How many meat eater have you heard say "dont mention cows when im eating a burger ?

ignorence must be bliss .

Tell a meat eater he/she is eating lips and arse and they will be blinded by the seseme bun . "Dont be stupid" they say , but all you have to do is look at the price of a side of beef and then wonder how 20 burgers can cost £2 when the main ingredent is beef products .

mcdonalds own recipie lists "beef paste" as the main ingredient . How can anyone believe this "paste" not to be genitals ?
 

Mus Zibii

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On that note, I'll add that I grew up in the south and around farms. If people (in America) had to slaughter their own livestock, obesity wouldn't be an issue. And to be honest, sickness resulting from meat-eating is MOSTLY due to the 'processing' of cattle and pigs. That excludes heart disease and cancer, of course.
 

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hmmm, firstly, animals do get killed in vegetable production through the use of harvester and pesticide. Lot of field animas like snake, rabbit or rodden get flushed from havester. If you buy anything, you are likely to have contributed to loss of life in some way. Only reason emotion get invoked in meat eating while not so much about A4 papers used in office is that eating meat has symbolic significance to taking life. Jain monks, for example, have none of this kind of hypocracy and take avoidance of indirectly harming life to logical conclusion. Many of them don't go out to avoid stepping on things like ants and very few go as far as not eating, consequently starving themselves to death to purify themselves from karmatic impurity.

Worrying about what type of food to eat or what type of prouct one should purchase, would only get you in morally ambiguous ground. Rather, you might eat and consume only what you need. Not gauging on food, turning light off when you leave room and so on.

I once had a chat with a guy who follow this new age buddhist group which encourage veganism. I asked him how he make sure to get all the necessarily neutritions while being vegan. His answer was "You have to eat a lot". That, I thought was slightly missing the point.
 

iBrian

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Thanks, Vapour - you've made some good points on diet and vegetarianism in general. :)
 

Vajradhara

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Namaste Vapour,

thank you for the post.


Vapour said:
I once had a chat with a guy who follow this new age buddhist group which encourage veganism. I asked him how he make sure to get all the necessarily neutritions while being vegan. His answer was "You have to eat a lot". That, I thought was slightly missing the point.
heh. the only thing that you can't get from a strictly vegetarian diet is B12.. so you just take a multivitamin and be done with it :)

it has no bearing on how much you eat if what you eat doesn't contain the nutrients that are required.

generally speaking, the prohibitions in Buddhism regarding diet are particular the the yana that one is practicing.
 
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