I think I’d pass. Following the lead of the daughter, Mikhaila Peterson, she and her father, Jordan, eat a diet that consists entirely of “beef, salt, and water”, and they never, ever cheat. Well, not exactly. Mikhaila admits
I can also, strangely enough, tolerate vodka and bourbon, which is nice — one does wonder what else she can tolerate.
Jordan Peterson admits to also drinking club soda, which, after being told is just water, he feels compelled to clarify.
“Well, when you’re down to that level, no, it’s not, Joe. There’s club soda, which is really bubbly. There’s Perrier, which is sort of bubbly. There’s flat water, and there’s hot water. Those distinctions start to become important.”
Context! Speaking precisely! It’s all very important! What you eat, not so much.
The author of the article asked an expert about the consequences of an all-beef diet.
“Physiologically, it would just be an immensely bad idea,” Jack Gilbert, the faculty director at the University of Chicago’s Microbiome Center and a professor of surgery, told me during a recent visit to his lab. “A terribly, terribly bad idea.”
Gilbert has done extensive research on how the trillions of microbes in our guts digest food, and the look on his face when I told him about the all-beef diet was unamused. He began rattling off the expected ramifications: “Your body would start to have severe dysregulation, within six months, of the majority of the processes that deal with metabolism; you would have no short-chain fatty acids in your cells; most of the by-products of gastrointestinal polysaccharide fermentation would shut down, so you wouldn’t be able to regulate your hormone levels; you’d enter into cardiac issues due to alterations in cell receptors; your microbiota would just be devastated.”
While much of the internet has been following this story in a somewhat snide way, Gilbert appeared genuinely concerned and saddened: “If she does not die of colon cancer or some other severe cardiometabolic disease, the life—I can’t imagine.”
I’m also thinking of the consequences of a lack of fiber, and the strain on your kidneys, and of a 26 year old with severe gout. Beef and alcohol, that’s what you’re going to get. Unless, of course, you’re just like the Breatharians, who claim to live on air and sunlight, yet have regularly been caught cheating.
But he says he never ever cheats! Well, that’s exactly what a cheater would say, and isn’t it odd that he asserted that when no one had accused him of doing so?
I thought this was the meat of the article, the real conflict in what they’re promoting:
The popularity of Peterson’s narrative is explained by more than its timeless tropes; it has also been amplified by the fact that her father has occasionally cast his spotlight onto her story. Jordan Peterson’s recent book, Twelve Rules for Life, includes the story of his daughter’s health trials. The elder Peterson, a psychologist at the University of Toronto, could at first seem an unlikely face for acceptance of personal, subjective truth, as he regularly professes the importance of acting as purely as possible according to rigorous analysis of data. He argued in a recent video that American universities are the home toideologues who claim that all truth is subjective, that all sex differences are socially constructed, and that Western imperialism is the sole source of all Third World problems.In his book, he writes that academic institutions are teaching children to bebrainwashed victims,and thatthe rigorous critical theoretician is morally obligated to set them straight.
He demands adherence to an objective truth, but happily wanders off into the weeds on the basis of anecdotes. Actually, if you ever listen to his lectures, all he’s got are subjective opinions that spring out of the twisty morass of his brain, so it shouldn’t be surprising that he’s endorsing dietary quackery. What he says has an extraordinarily tenuous connection to what he does.
My daughter is roughly the same age as Mikhaila Peterson. I’m proud of how Skatje turned out sensible and reasonable and living a well-balanced life, although she’s probably not going to get as rich off bunkum with as little work as Mikhaila.
Also, my daughter is a vegetarian, which kind of makes her the anti-Mikhaila.
A. Noyd says
But they have the work of Dr. James Henry Salisbury to back them up. He was recommending the all-beef diet more than 150 years ago!
Either they’re cheating, or they’re taking a mountain of dietary supplements (including fiber pills). Even then, that’s such a depressing diet, and so monotonous.
I suppose there are people like that, though. I vaguely remember one of the vox.com writers talking about how he hated eating, and hated having to eat – and that’s why he was a big fan of stuff like Soylent.
Owsley Stanley – LSD supplier and soundman to the Grateful Dead for many years – supposedly followed an all-beef diet for almost half a century and claimed to be very healthy. When he died at 76 it was in a car accident, nothing to do with diet. There’s plenty of stuff about him if you want to look for it, I’m not going to link because I haven’t found anything that seems conclusive,but perhaps there’s somebody here who knows more about that story than I.
I have a harder time eating meat myself in recent years, especially beef, though I do still crave it. PZ’s tofu curry recipe (in which I substituted almond for peanut butter) is more my style these days, at least as a daily thing.
Another problem: a classmate of mine (at MIT – ! – many years ago) was on an “all meat” diet and developed bleeding around his gums and eyes. At the local medical center the doctors were delighted to treat him, as they hadn’t seen a case of scurvy for forty years or more.
Unless someone has GLUT1 (1 in 14,000,000), a meat-only diet is hard to justify. I read about Amy Paterson and Lee Jones’s diets a few years ago and would be horrified if I had to eat what they eat. But for them, it’s the only way to stay alive.
One of the many things about the book Alive that stuck with me for years was the graphic descriptions of the digestive results of the (human) meat-only diet that the Andes plane crash survivors subsisted on. Turns out that fibre is really necessary to keep things moving along. They had to resort to using sticks to remove feces.
Jordan is an ass hole, and his “diet” claims are bunk, but the claims of Jack Gilbert (interviewed in the article PZ quotes) are equally incorrect and ignorant. There are a number of human populations whose traditional diets are comprised mostly of meat. The Mongolians and Inuit in particular receive most of their calories from meat, and eat meat (plus milk, in the case of Mongolians) near-exclusively for a significant portion of the year. They don’t gain magical health benefits from it as Jordan’s claims suggest they should, nor do they experience the metabolic meltdown Gilbert claims would be a product of their diet.
In fact, Gilbert makes some astoundingly ignorant comments regarding carbohydrate availability, especially given his background. Meat contains a fair amount of carbohydrates (especially when consumed raw) in the form of glycogen. Many of the carbohydrate-consuming organisms in our microbiota have no issue metabolising glycogen, and the glucose that is liberated from glycogen during digestion has the same effect on our insulin (which I assume is the “hormones” Gilbert is referring too) as does plant-based glucose. Likewise, proteins in the meat can be converted to sugars via gluconeogenesis.
The real effect of the near all-meat diet of the Inuit and Mongolians is mostly that they pee more – in order to rid themselves of the higher levels of urea that results from their diet – and some minor alterations to liver function. In otherwords, an all-meat diet can be “healthy” (in that it won’t kill you or significantly alter your health)…but only if you eat most of the meat fresh & uncooked, and that you eat organ meat (to get the vitamins stored there – e.g. Vit C and D) in substantial quantities.
Wow, this is the first thing I’ve read about Peterson that made me understand the origin of his philosophy–he’s so constipated, it’s putting pressure on his brain!
I really doubt that Peterson is eating raw liver as part of his supposed all-beef diet.
You never know; there is a “raw meat diet” movement out there, and given his perchance for all things “manly”, he may very well be taking that on.
Many years ago I had the luck of working in the far north and got to try a few traditional Inuit foods. I liked most of it…the raw liver (from fish, BTW, not mammals) definitely fell into the “acquired taste” category.
Rich Woods says
A better use might have been to strip the sticks to get at the cambium layer and to supplement their diet with that.
I suppose I’m assuming that sticks refers to twigs and not bits of wood stripped out of the aircraft frame.
If the linked article reports their claims correctly, and hasn’t missed out anything important (e.g. raw liver) the fact that they don’t have scurvy is proof that they are lying.
RE: everything Jack Gilbert said
Oh bullshit. I don’t think the all-beef diet is a good idea, but this kind of ‘it’ll be a fate worse than death!’ fearmongering is why I pretty much always disregard it when a “scientist” starts giving out nutritional advice. Their biases are so blatant, and they never listen to people who try to explain that, no, not everyone can eat exactly the way they do. The reason I put “scientist” in quotes is that they always seem to start with the same conclusion- that the only correct way to eat is the way they eat, and everyone else deserves to die a horrible death for considering anything else- and work backwards to find data that justifies it.
The only remarkable thing about Peterson in this is that he manages to be even less credible than the average nutritionist, which is indeed impressive.
These are three poorly made Peterson strawpeople right there.
No they don’t.
That leaves Peterson out.
He occupies the moral high ground around where Hell would be, if Hell existed.
On the bright side, Jordan Peterson who?
He’s really faded back into where he came from.
The lunatic fringes.
As soon as people started looking at his large body of writing and videos, he was done for.
It’s a mish mash of lies, logical fallacies, and crackpottery held together with huge helpings of hate.
cysyajads mf says
Ian King says
How on earth do you get scurvy eating beef? Cows have vitamin C too… unless the meat has been through something remarkably traumatic.
More generally, isn’t Peterson the one who’s on record saying that Truth is whatever leads you to act properly, which is why god is real?
Saganite, a haunter of demons says
Urgh. Aside from the health-issues, it just sounds incredibly samey and unbearably boring. Forget the beef specifically. But just in general: Who wants to eat basically the same thing each day, every day?
Not a lot, once killed and cooked.
It’s even worse, when one becomes obsessed with someone else’s obsession with someone.
Jack Gilbert is not a “nutritionist”. In the UK and most of the US at least, many “nutritionists” are pseudoscientific cranks, because the title is not legally protected – anyone can call themselves one. But Gilbert is not a dietician (the legally protected title) either. He’s a microbiologist, with an impressive list of publications. But it’s not clear why James Hamblin of The Atlantic thought he was the right person to ask about the implications of an all-beef diet.
What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says
Yeah, you’d think they’d at least splurge on the occasional bison burger or lamb chop (I assume poultry and seafood are verboten).
Ice Swimmer says
I looked at the article and my bullshit detector is beeping uncontrollably. I think instead of being on a beef-only diet, Petersons are trying just how much bullshit they can get away with.
Obsessiveness, and who cares….? Are you kidding me? PZ links to a The Atlantic article, a magazine that reached 43 million people in May. Peterson makes a boat-load of money (reputedly, $80k) every month from social media subscriptions. The Atlantic article’s author treats the subject with borderline reverence. Lots of people care.
Scientists and skeptics must and should wade into these discussions. I appreciate that nutritionists often find correlations and causality without sufficient evidence, but these can be challenged (see comments above). It’s hard to challenge Peterson’s claim that “apple cider made him not sleep for 28 days in a row,” so, ergo, no more apple cider or anything else other than meat and water.
I’ll add a little bit just for fun about an all meat diet.
It probably won’t kill you quickly as the Mongolians, Inuit, and Masai are still around.
It’s probably not all that healthy either though.
Those populations on closer study have the usual medical problems that we have.
I tried to find a mainstream source. Read it yourself below.
Interesting. Even so, none of the three go in for actual all-meat diets, Inuit eat (or ate – nowadays most eat a lot of imported food) a lot of fish, getting vitamin C chiefly from raw fish liver. All pastoralist cultures, AFAIK, trade with farmers to supplement their diet.
The Petersons are clearly trying for a Darwin Award for maladaptive behaviour.
Marcus Ranum says
Maybe his attitude is a consequence of his only pooping once a year?
Marcus Ranum says
Didn’t Shackleton’s expedition subsist on a diet of penguin for a ridiculously long time?
… and then there was The Diet of Worms.
The big studies on meat eating show that it’s not great for mortality. the IARC classed processed meat as a group 1 carcinogen, the same group as cigarettes. I’d encourage people to take a look at these studies.
Meat is bad on an animal welfare level, bad for climate, bad for water contamination, bad for antibiotic resistance, and bad for your health. Maybe just consider going vegan, it’s seriously not that hard.
cysyajads mf says
The other problem with their advice is they claim this diet cured their depression. So if their meat diet doesn’t kill you, the untreated depression could kill you sooner if it is severe enough to cause suicide.
johnson catman says
No, thank you. Unless it becomes illegal to eat meat, I will not change my ways. And maybe not even then. Just because you believe it is “seriously not that hard” does not mean that others wouldn’t find it either difficult or extremely unpleasant to go vegan.
Ian King @17: “More generally, isn’t Peterson the one who’s on record saying that Truth is whatever leads you to act properly, which is why god is real?”
I hope it is understandable that, in the context where this sentence appeared, I at first read its last word as “veal”.
Ed Seedhouse says
1. All meat != all beef. Fish are meat. The Inuit ate a lot of fish if I recall rightly. Also I doubt that ate only meat since plants do grow in their territories during the summer months. 24 hours of sunlight!!
Isolated populations in isolated conditions tend to have adaptations that the general run of humanity don’t. For instance, the people of Tibet are well adapted for high altitude.
I forget 3. Whadaya want I’m 74…
johnson catman @ 31: Defensive and reactions like yours are frequent in these discussions, there’s no need for you to break the law, that’s hyperbolic and over the top, and my suggestion that people go vegan was not an attack on you. I think that people get defensive in these discussions because it’s psychologically difficult to accept that you unnecessarily kill animals for pleasure. I’d just ask you to put the defensive feeling aside, and consider the real world impact on the environment, the animals, and your health. If going 100% vegan is impossible in your case then just reducing meat consumption is great too.
@ KG, #19
I am aware of his credentials. They’re right there in the article. I’m saying that any respect I might have had for the man and his opinions in this matter has been washed away in a tide of overheated alarmism and, as far as I’m concerned, he gets to sit at the same table as nutritionists and “wellness experts.”
It’s nice that he’s published well-regarded papers, but it doesn’t really change my opinion of him. Reading his quotes gives me flashbacks to movie Body Melt as much as anything else (I recommend caution looking that up if you’re unfamiliar, as the movie is about exactly what it says on the tin). While that paints a vaguely amusing picture with regard to Ol’ Slappy, it’s also rather ridiculous for a serious scientist to go on and on about what will amount to stomach pains, constipation, and an increased risk of cancer with the sort of horror one would typically reserve for describing war crimes, certain parasitic infestations, or the RNC.
Oh, I’m also saying I have even less respect for Peterson than I do for nutritionists. That’s low bar, and he slides right under it.
Sorry if I was unclear.
It’s always seemed odd to me that a human has to maintain a complex diet, and even scientific attempts at “meal replacement bars” can’t do it all.
And cows eat grass.
Good grief, go read somewhere else, if you don’t like it, or, better yet, write about something you really, really care about, post it on your own blog, and go away.
A. Noyd says
Traditional “all meat” indigenous diets aren’t actually as meat-intensive as they tend to be portrayed. Seasonal foraging does play a significant part. And in addition to the raw meat and organ meat consumption you mention, people also tend to eat the vegetable matter from the digestive track of herbivores.
Ed Seedhouse: yeah, the berries are out right about now: blueberries (blue, sweet), crowberries (black, tastes like a minuscule apple), bearberries (red, tasteless), and cranberries (red, sour). Last year the harvest was great, this year not so much — it rained too much. Also sour sorrel, and some teas (labrador tea and some other plants). But those are only in summer, seaweed is available year-round if you duck in through the rough ice. Laminaria is prized; I don’t know why rockweed isn’t. Keep track of the tide, or you’ll be stuck down there.
Mushrooms are abundant in the summer as well, but I get mixed information about whether Inuit ate them or not. Milk-caps, boletes, and puffballs around Iqaluit; we had some on the weekend. Near Pangnirtung we saw some Amanita, which are deadly.
Regardless, the vast bulk of the traditional foods are meats, mostly raw. Char (a salmonid), rockfish, seal, caribou, walrus, beluga, narwhal, bowhead, clams, musk ox. Kids will eat copepods as a quick snack, but they’re too much effort for a real food source.
A.Noyd: the traditional Inuit diet is extremely meat-intensive, and they’d easily go 6 months without seeing a herbivore (you eat what you see). In winter, the bulk of the traditional food is char and seal. There might be some supplementing with Laminaria harvested from under the sea ice (jump in a hole at low tide, make sure you get out before the tide goes up… and hopefully the ice doesn’t cave in). Caribou hunting starts back up in the spring.
Summer is basically the month of August. Sour sorrel, labrador tea, a couple other teas, blueberries, crowberries, cranberries, bearberries, maybe some mushrooms (I’ve gotten inconsistent information about whether they traditionally ate them at all).
Of course, nowadays in winter I walk down to the store and buy kale and some Driscoll’s raspberries.
As absurd as the diet in the OP is, going vegan based on this is just as absurd. The IARC takes a look at various things, and puts them into five groups:
1 – Definitely carcinogenic to humans.
2A – Probably carcinogenic to humans
2B – Possibly carcinogenic to humans
3 – Not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans
4 – Probably not carcinogenic to humans
So far, it has looked at over 1000 different agents. You want to know how many it has placed in group 4? ONE – a component of nylon. The reason for this is that IARC does not assess the risk of these agents causing cancer, it simply tries to identify whether they do. What this means is that eating processed meat very slightly increases the chances of getting one of the 250+ types of cancer (colorectal cancer), but it is placed in the same group as smoking, which increases the chances of getting one or more of multiple forms of cancer anywhere from 1500-3000%. Considering that another thing in group 1 is sunlight, as it is a proven causative factor for skin cancer, avoiding everything in group 1 because it ‘gives you cancer’ not only totally misunderstands what this classification system actually classifies, but is actually difficult to the point of absurdity.
@ gjpetch, #34
I can understand veganism as a personal dietary choice. It’s not one I can make, not when so many foods make me sick, but I can understand being vegan for any number of reasons. It’s your body, how you choose to feed it is your business.
It’s the scolds who affect an air of unassailable moral superiority who baffle me:
Are you so sure that plants don’t suffer? That they can’t? I’m not. True, that don’t have cute little faces with soulful eyes, or mouths to cry out in pain, but I look at a row tomato plants sagging in the blistering summer heat and I wonder.
The argument that plants lack nervous systems, and are therefore incapable of suffering, is almost convincing. Except that the argument used to be made that animals didn’t have souls, and therefore they were incapable of truly suffering. That was obviously bullshit.
Certainly plants aren’t aware in the way humans are. They’re probably not even as aware as a fish. But how about on the level of an insect? Insects don’t think, but we know they can suffer. We can accept that it’s wrong to pull the wings off a fly, but no one really considers that it might be just as cruel to strip stalks of corn, or to rip carrots out of the ground.
Just because plants are alien to us doesn’t mean they aren’t aware, in some way, that we rip off their reproductive organs and consume them. Take potatoes, for example: if you bury a potato in the ground, it will grow a whole new plant. It’s very much alive, yet we think nothing of chopping it into pieces and throwing them in boiling water.
I have accepted that surviving as a human being means I must destroy and consume life. I hope that the suffering this causes to other life is minimal, and I know there are things I can do help make that a reality. But all of us who live do so at the cost of a certain amount of suffering, animal and plant.
Also: I hope one day to be eaten. Preferably after I am quite dead. Ideally, I’d like to be eaten by vultures, because vultures are cool. Even I can’t be eaten by vultures, however, I know I will one day be eaten by something. That’s just the way life works, and the only way I could avoid it is if things have gone very wrong indeed.
I’d even be ok with being eaten by people in certain circumstances. I’m quite tender; hardly any gristle. Cook me in a pot! Make me a stew! Roast my rump and smoke my ribs! Grind me, sear me, and have vucodlak tartare!
In other words: eat me.
vucodlak, yep, plants don’t have nervous systems, & nervous systems are the only mechanisms we know of for sensations. Besides, the animals are fed plants on a massive scale, due to feed ratios. So, even assuming that plants have some special undetectable equivalent of nervous systems, then eschewing meat would be a good way to minimize that suffering.
Mark Jacobson says
vucodlak, you can admit to not having the energy to reduce suffering in more ways than you already are. Doing mental gymnastics to try and justify why eating a pig causes no more suffering than eating a pile of vegetable matter isn’t healthy, and it reflects poorly on you when your goofy argument is so easily countered based on its own premise, as gjpetch demonstrated.
A. Noyd says
I’m not saying it’s not. Just that its usually portrayed as even more extreme than the reality.
cysyajads mf @29. Enough people are swayed by this crank that it is important to push back on his proclamations. They are harmful.
The popularity of the website indicates the possibility of lots of people being reached by his message. That’s the evidence that its worth noting and rebutting.
@ Mark Jacobson, #43
I neither eat pigs, nor do I say that plants are capable of suffering as much as a pig. I said plants may be capable of suffering. We don’t actually understand their reactions well enough to say definitively one or the other. Most people who make arguments like gjpetch’s don’t care to acknowledge it. I’ll be nice and not speculate as to why that is. Mostly they blow it off, as you just did.
Plants react to different stimuli. Insects do little more than that; we accept that they can suffer. I understand why people would rather dismiss the idea that plants might also be capable of suffering, but I have yet to see anyone offer up anything that gives me reason to do the same. Don’t think I didn’t notice your attempted dodge here:
That’s a lovely bit of distancing language, used in exactly the same spirit as a meat eater says “well they’re only animals after all.” You know that “pile of vegetable matter” used to be alive as well as I do, and you have yet to present any real argument against the possibility that plants can suffer. The best you and gjpetch have offered is defensive deflection.
As to gjpetch’s deflection in #42:
Yes, animals eat plants. They will do so whether we eat those animals or not. We can kill the animals, or we can continue to keep them and feed them. The plants and animals die either way. Or we could sterilize the animals and allow them to live out their lives, until they go extinct. Or we could just kill the plants and allow the animals to starve. On and on we could go with this, and whatever choice we make, there will be a great deal of suffering. That much is unavoidable.
It is true, as you imply, that I am a lazy creature and so much worse besides. You can insult me as much as want, and I’ll admit it’s mostly true. I’m a monster and a coward, but I have a pretty good idea of how much blood is on my hands and where it came from. I made the mistake of growing a conscience, so the harm I have done and continue to do has become an important question to me. I strive to fully comprehend the dimensions of my guilt, and I do not shy away from the possibility that it is greater than I’ll ever be able to grapple with.
If that means asking whether the grass hurts when I go tromping across it in my big stompy-boots, then I have to ask the question, and it also means that I have to admit that I don’t know the answer. Neither, apparently, do you. The difference between us is that you believe that inconclusive evidence of harm is the same as the absence of harm, and I do not. So you can call that goofy and lazy, accuse me of mental gymnastics, and I’ll have to admit that I have been guilty of all those things in my life, but when our leafy overlords finally rise up to turn us into fertilizer for our crimes against mango-kind, I’ll be there to say “I told you so.”
I am not sure that suffering is the same as pain.
I can bash my thumb with a hammer and I feel a very ‘loud” pain others will likely hear a lot of noise. I can suffer from the loss of a lover. What makes them different?
can one a have pain and not suffer? I can feel the pain of a tooth ache but I may not suffer from it true?
for health it seems to be really eat what you like but just not too much and do not for get no one gets out of here alive regardless.
John Morales says
Or, it is not a proven impossibility, any more than Russell’s teapot. But that’s a weak claim, minimal even.
Shades of Supernature.
So what? Not being able to definitively exclude the possibility is in itself hardly a compelling basis.
Philosophically, it depends on how one defines ‘suffering’, and whether one distinguishes between sentience and sapience. Homeostatic reactions to external stimuli are a physical process, suffering is a mental one, and we have an inkling about the neurobiological basis of consciousness in known examples (vertebrates for sure). There is no analogical basis for plants.
(I remember the Seagull)
John Morales says
Hm. As I noted, the distinction is between sentience and sapience.
Torture is deliberate infliction of pain — and it is supposed to cause suffering.
Please consider, therefore, whether the concept of pain that causes no suffering is coherent.
Suffering seems to require awareness that the current situation is painful and chronic. Knowledge that it could change is probably part of it. Rules plants out.
Pain requires a nervous system and a brain to take action when a pain signals is received. Also probably rules plants out. However they do react to some stimuli so not out of the question.
John Morales says
DanDare, how is pain that causes no suffering supposedly different from, say, proprioception?
Just another sensation, eh?
(Did you post without reading my previous?)
call me mark says
People do love to tell each other off about their food choices, don’t they?
(Contemplating the philosophy of food whilst idly consuming a serve of lasagna and steamed veg.)
Yes, it is. People given morphine or heroin (“diamorphine”) after serious and agonising injury often say they can still feel the pain – they recognise the sensation they are having as pain – but they no longer mind it. Philosophers of mind, when they claim some concept or other is “incoherent”, often fail to take account of what our mental life is actually like.
I think this is claiming too much. I think it’s biased towards animal consciousness. Basically, you’re defining consciousness as “the thing that animals have” and then conclude that plants can’t have it.
Plants are certainly capable of responding to their environment. That implies some kind of sensation. Since their responses vary depending on stimulus, that means there’s some evaluation going on; good or bad, grow towards or away. Now, does that mean “conscious”? I have no idea. But it certainly doesn’t mean “definitely not conscious”.
There’s nothing magical about neurons. They’re just cells that transmit signals in an organized way. Neurons are effective because the signals travel very fast and you can have very complicated networks, but there’s no reason to think that other signals couldn’t fulfill the same basic function. I don’t see how you can jump from “no neurons” to “no consciousness”.
John Morales says
I composed lengthy comments to KG and to LykeX, but then realised it’s pointless.
Whoever believes plants experience suffering, fine.
(But then, the corollary is that plants have experiences…)
This whole digression was due to the not-quite-explicit claim that there is no qualitative difference between the experience of, say a grain of corn and a sheep.
(In passing, the issue of live sheep exports is not insignificant here in Oz. Not the best experience for the sheep, but then we have no (political) problem with children in detention self-harming. Both seem to me to be at a similar level of remove)
Saganite, a haunter of demons says
Regarding your answer to gjpetch point (not deflection) in #42:
No. For the simple fact that we also need to take into account the scale of consumption.
When we are growing animals, we specifically create a far greater need for plant consumption, because animals take a lot of food to grow before being slaughtered.
If we accept the notion that plants might suffer, then increasing that need for plant consumption to feed the animals for meat production exponentially increases suffering compared to just producing enough plants to consume directly.
Now, I’m not a vegan. I am willing to pay more money for less meat of higher quality and raised in better circumstances but I wouldn’t want to miss meat products (and especially dairy) in their entirety. It’s entirely clear that animal farming is extremely inefficient when it comes to the volume of available food.
If you want to reduce plants’ suffering, you’d still need to be opposed to animal farming, because it takes just so much plant matter to grow one animal for consumption.
Scaling back meat production would reduce both animal and plant suffering; obviously, far fewer animals would be slaughtered, but also far less plants would need to be torn apart to feed the population.
Even if you are 100% vegan, animals still die to feed you.
It seems neither peterson made claims of magical health benefits of their diet, rather that most foods make them ill.
Studies showing om average impact of foods on a population says very little of the impact on a specific individual. Some people die from peanuts, most don’t.
John Morales says
In the sense that their constituents eventually decay and make their way into the food chain, sure. Plants can then incorporate those constituents, and if they are in turn consumed then those constituents can be said to feed the consumer.
Point being, vegans deliberately and definitionally do not directly consume animal matter, that being the very point.
Depends of the hierarchical scale of the description; you might as well claim that on average impact of smoking on a population says very little of the impact on a specific individual.
(Sure, not everyone who smokes will get emphysema (never mind cancer) before they die)
Ideological veganism is often just a way for mediocre people to feel superior to others somehow. No wonder why it’s so popular among white supremacists.
In a way, they do.
I’m very much in favour of getting people to eat less meat, if not complete abstention, but equally I am always wary of ideologies.
I was talking about veganism with some friends at the weekend, after I had been picking wild field mushrooms to turn into various forms of deliciousness (soup, dried, sauteed with garlic). They informed me that they wouldn’t risk the mushrooms in case they inadvertantly ate a little maggot\grub – not ‘cos if the yuck factor but because bacuse it is an animal. I was also told they rejected honey, because of expoitation of bees.
Do vegans decry the death of microscopic organisms in the vegetable matter they eat? Or is it only naked eye “higher” organisms that matter? Microscopes can reveal all sorts of interesting wildlife lurking in your kale.
cysyajads mf says
John Morales says
Kreator, in what way? In the same way that a lump of coal experiences burning, I suppose so.
But then, it’s no less stupid to contend that coal is aware of its burning.
Seems to me that this premise presupposes the conclusion; I can certainly conceive of sessile life that must accept what conditions exist. Since such life actually exists, that premise is clearly false.
So, anything that follows from it is unsound.
I put it to you that the concept of choice does not apply to a simple feedback system (eg. a centrifugal governor or a cell membrane) — they are conceptually stochastic state machines.
Not to get into the free will discussion, but to be able to choose, one must have agency, and I cannot personally conceive of the concept of agency being applicable to a non-conscious entity.
Anyway, why has the discussion veered towards spurious ethics?
The argument that plants suffer is… not compelling.
Point is, it’s a stupid claim and an unhealthy diet.
I do not kill animals.
I do not get pleasure for animals being killed, whatever the reason.
I do eat animals (broadly defined).
I find the unsupported accusation I kill animals, and / or do so for pleasure, or am comfortable with them dying, very highly offensive.
John Morales says
You should be. He clearly is not; were he so doing it would be evident.
Yes, yes. As KG noted, you are evidently obsessing over PZ’s purported obsession.
(You want to contend you are not, after lo so many snipes?)
So, you either condone that and therefore are insincere, or you don’t, whererupon you are hypocritical.
(not an exclusive ‘or’)
consciousness razor says
There’s no one thing that all vegans decry. You can ask about some of them, and a specific answer can tell you about some of them.
There’s no need for them to be visible to the naked eye, nor is there any need for a concept like “higher organisms.”
We don’t even need to be talking about organisms, or life-as-we-know-it on Earth. Something that is sentient matters, morally speaking. If it’s a sentient robot from an alien planet, for example, then it matters how we treat it. You wouldn’t strictly speaking need to be a vegan to accept this relatively simple point about morality (namely, what kind of entities it’s about, which need not be confined only to human beings). I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of “accepting” it in the abstract while acting against it in practice — people do not always have consistent sets of ideas (or “ideologies,” if you want to make “sets of ideas” sound like a scary thing).
The idea that plants are sentient is just ludicrous, and I won’t even bother with it here. But notice how these are naked-eye visible and are quite complex multicellular organisms, yet they are not the meeting the standard of sentience.
Other things, like bees for example, do not seem to be sentient, at least not with the kind or degree of sentience such that we should be concerned about how it affects them if we “exploit” them for honey, pollination, research, and so forth. Nonetheless, protecting bees as important contributors to their environment is obviously another matter. Anyway, putting them into the category of “animals” (for instance) is not putting them into the same type of category as “sentient things.” This should give you some clues as to why it’s important that we use appropriate concepts.
If you had ever bothered to learn anything about it (or if you did and were honest), you wouldn’t be asking such silly rhetorical questions to make such pointless “arguments.” So, yeah, no fucking shit: people don’t care that there are microorganisms in kale, and for good reason. What would make you think this has any relevance at all?
Eating raw animal meat comes with risks and hazards. The Nazis learnt that from being stationed on Alexandra Land.
SC (Salty Current) says
blf @ #65, are you being intentionally dense?
I remember seeing something a little while ago on a blog page about all-beef diets, the fans said it sharpened their alertness, better sex life etc. And because of those effects it was becoming increasingly popular among Silicon Valley types because they could stay focused so much longer…sounds like another stupid fad to me
SC@69, No: gjpetch@34 seemed to accuse omnivores of. That is nonsense.
PZ Myers says
A recommendation for trolls: keep a low profile. Don’t post too much. Avoid getting into heated arguments with other commenters. (I know, that defeats the whole point of trolling).
The thing is that when someone starts repeatedly saying stupid things, I check to see if this is a new pseudonym for someone previously banned, and then I ban them again.
cysyajads mf, you’ve been caught.
Or should I say, cysyajads mf, Rat Master, Chuck Stanley, and Stephen Mills, You’ve been caught. And banned. And I’m going to kill all your comments.
chigau (違う) says
vucodlac, replying to Mark Jacobson: “You know that ‘pile of vegetable matter’ used to be alive as well as I do”. Then he, and you, know more than I do. Even at a market, much more so at many “farmers markets”, and most certainly in the near presence of an active gardener (as I was for 40 years)—even in the winter—much of “that ‘pile of vegetable matter'” is quite alive (and what’s furthest from alive is likely not to be something you want to eat if it hasn’t been cooked, frozen, or properly preserved). Potatoes sprouting in a sack or root cellar are probably the most familiar example; other root vegetables (carrots, turnips, onions…) are similar. Other fruits and vegetables aren’t going to be alive in such an active manner as those vegetables are—you can’t expect to set out a harvested head of lettuce and have it survive all that much longer, and planting a picked peach only may lead to a peach tree sprouting from its pit the following spring. But the lettuce and the peach are still alive.
No woo was consumed or produced during the confection of this comment, and it contains no ingredients known to the State of California to cause cancer.
SC (Salty Current) says
They weren’t saying you personally kill animals for the pleasure of killing them (although thousands of “sport” hunters do this every day). The quote was: “I think that people get defensive in these discussions because it’s psychologically difficult to accept that you unnecessarily kill animals for pleasure.” The animals you eat were killed, even if not by your hands, for that purpose. Eating animals isn’t necessary for you – you do it for pleasure. Animals are killed unnecessarily for your pleasure.
SC@76, Rubbish. The statement was (emboldening added). Ergo, that was a direct accusation about me. And a lie. In my case, an absolute lie (I cannot speak for other omnivores).
My objection is strictly to the unevidenced allegation I getfrom killing. That is so fecking insulting — not so say simply absurd — I do not understand why you accuse me of being . I have not denied anything else about the (human) consumption of animals (broadly defined) — my only denial is that I somehow “enjoy” their deaths.
SC (Salty Current) says
I’m thinking now that this is a language issue. What they meant, undoubtedly, was that animals are killed unnecessarily for your pleasure (the pleasure you derive from eating them). They weren’t saying you get pleasure from killing animals, but that you get pleasure from eating animals, which is the reason they’re being killed.
SC@78, Yes, the same-ish thought occurred to me during dinner — a confusion between the act of killing and some of the results. I myself am very uncomfortable with the act, but do “enjoy” some of the results…
(At the moment, I am “enjoying” a selection of fin digestifs and so am haWin trible tiping…)
I’m very sorry that you feel insulted blf, not my intention. If I can elucidate my point a little more: paying money for meat is a support the meat industry, and compels the production to increase. In that sense, buying meat is very directly killing animals. The meat industry doesn’t exist for no reason, it exists for profit. As for it being about pleasure, (with the exclusion of some rare medical conditions) meat eating isn’t necessary for a healthy diet, it’s rather eaten for enjoyment. Hence my “animals are killed unnecessarily for pleasure” comment that bothered you. I think my point that it’s psychologically difficult to hear these ideas is kind of validated by a lot of the responses here.
Following the lead of her father, or the direction of her father? He doesn’t strike me as a man willing to offer suggestions. Especially not to mere women.
Pierce R. Butler says
That our esteemed host, and numerous other progressives, criticize The Peterson Diet® strikes me as a regrettable violation of Natpoleon’s rule.
Pierce R. Butler says
Uhhh, kindly skip over that superfluous “t” in my erroneous # 82…
The Evil Twin says
Rich Woods (#11)
I read the same book in high school. There were no plants around the crash site, other than thin lichen on some rocks (which they found inediable). The ‘sticks’ that were referred to were indeed pieces of the aircraft (extracted from some of the interior walls as I recall). Aircraft these days use fiberglass and/or carbon fiber for that, but apparently back then wood was involved.
gjpetch@80, Thanks for clarifying! Yes, I obviously misinterpreted your remark. And I also broadly concur with what you had intended.
Perhaps I should explain what is perhaps the main reason I took such an objection to my unintentional misinterpretation. History, mostly. There have been two occasions were well-intentioned people made claims broadly analogous to my original (mis-)interpretation… The first was so long ago T. rex still stomped about the place… University, where some students were committed vegetarians (which is Ok, no problem!). One day, one of them decided to berate the omnivores with the claim (paraphrasing from memory)
Rather obviously a specious claim. Whilst it is probably true I couldn’t kill the animal, one important reason is I simply don’t know how to do so without causing it to suffer. And I also (as it turns out) lack the skills to grow plants, so by that individual’s “logic” I presumably should also not eat (farmed) vegetation. Whilst the idea of wandering around eating wild berries and nuts is appealing — up to a point (about the first bee sting) — it’s not exactly practical. And would support only a handful of people. (As a side note, at the time, I tried the “plants also feel pain” counterpoint, which I’ve never used since because I immediately afterwards realised that claim was highly dubious and unevidenced.)
The other case was years later, when T. rex was mostly only found in the frozen-food section of specialist food shops… One such shop I then frequented — which had a strong policy of local, usually organic, producers / suppliers — regularly invited its customers to meetings for feedback, suggestions, and a sense of community. (Yes, it was a really great shop!) At one meeting, another individual said (also paraphrasing from memory),
Not quite a specious argument, but simplistic. As an example, I myself have been to organic farms, and talked to those (and other) farmers, and one of the themes which keeps coming through is an intense concern for the welfare of the animals. Not because healthy animals are easier to sell (albeit that’s obviously a factor), but because it’s the correct, proper, sustainable, thing to do. (I’ve never been to a factory farm, or knowingly spoken to such a “farmer”, but from what little I do know about such places, that concern there seems to have mutated into something which is horrific and not sustainable.)
Anyways, those two examples — a specious argument and a simplistic one — predisposed me to object to (what turned out to be incorrect) my interpretation of the comment. I totally agree there are numerous sensible and valid reasons to limit or eliminate eating animals, but the three-ish† arguments summarised here are none of them.
† Just to be absolutely clear: By “three” I mean the two old paraphrases plus my original, albeit incorrect, interpretation.
John Morales says
Really? How so?†
I myself have slaughtered roosters for our kitchen, each time more carefully and practiced.
I assure you, for me it was not the mode, but the deed.
I have had recourse to euthanise various animals over the years, and ever more onerous does it become. At least I can do it, do I care to, but no longer do.
You eat meat, you do not eat roadkill or scavenged corpses.
You eat creatures, including sentient creatures, that were slaughtered purely so such as you could consume their flesh.
(Me too, omnivore I)
Thing is, I grok what is being said. I am a moral coward. I let others kill, and pay them to feast on the corpses of their victims.
† You do not get to hide behind the fact that you don’t commit the actus reus, any more than I.
(Difference is, I own it. Just like my wife owns her Catholicism is irrational)
Yes I eat meat. And no, I don’t kill the animals I eat. So because I don’t kill the animals I am not supposed to ever eat meat? That is a specious, illogical, completely absurd.
An analogy would be: I have absolutely no idea how to build a house. Therefore I must never live in a building. Doing so would be hypocritical.
Ever hear of specializing? For instance, continuing with the analogy, there are people who know how to, and do, build houses. They built the building I am living in.
I don’t build buildings, and I don’t kill animals. Declaring from that I should not live in one or eat the other (or wear leather or…) is specious (“superficially plausible, but actually wrong”).
But the thing about eating meat that is being objected to in this thread is not that you didn’t kill the cow yourself.
Nobody is saying eating that cow is only wrong since you didn’t kill it yourself.
Just to note, my #55 was purely a response to your implicit claim that “pain without suffering” is an incoherent concept. I do of course agree that the idea that plants feel pain, or suffer, is absurd: they clearly lack both the kinds of sensory organs that would enable them to do so, and the capability for intentional action that would produce selective pressure for the capability for suffering or enjoyment (although they do turn out to have more ability to sense and respond to actual or potential injury than used to be thought plausible).
SC (Salty Current) says
They’re killing the animals. Intense concern for someone’s welfare and killing them are fundamentally incompatible (outside of very specific cases which aren’t relevant here).
What? That’s not remotely an appropriate analogy. Here are a couple: I have absolutely no idea how to run a slave plantation, but I enjoy the products of slave labor. I’m not in the military, but I’ve put in a request to adopt one of the babies they’re planning to take from murdered activists. Unlike in your example, these activities involve people doing harm to sentient beings to provide you with something you want. As John Morales put it, “Thing is, I grok what is being said. I am a moral coward. I let others kill, and pay them to feast on the corpses of their victims.”
This suggests to me that at some level you’re aware that you’re deploying weak, defensive arguments because you’re emotionally conflicted but don’t want to change how you eat. I’ve been there. One thing I’ll say is that being a vegan can be difficult, especially when traveling or going out with friends, but it’s psychologically, emotionally, and intellectually liberating.
SC (Salty Current) @#90:
Aaand there we go, it didn’t take long: comparing the suffering of animals to that of oppressed classes of human beings. Weird that you didn’t bring up Holocaust comparisons as well, as some vegans often do. There goes confirmation that some vegans aren’t so much pro-animal as anti-human, and obliviously racist to boot.
SC (Salty Current) says
What are you babbling about? Some of the people who have talked about the Holocaust in relation to the oppression and of non-human animals are Holocaust survivors or their descendants. Some of the people who’ve talked about slavery in relation to the oppression of non-human animals are the descendants of slaves. Some of the people who’ve talked about the oppression of women in relation to the oppression of non-human animals are women (including myself). All of these involve harm done to sentient beings; moreover, the practices, systems, rhetoric and ideologies of all of these forms of oppression are related and overlapping both historically and in the present. It’s inconsistent and intellectually dishonest to exclude some subset of sentient beings from one’s compassion or concern or recognition, and even more so to accuse those who refuse to exclude them of being antagonistic to those you choose to include.
Historically, expanding the circle of recognition, compassion, and rights to those previously excluded has advanced and not obstructed social justice for previously oppressed groups. Having solidarity with women doesn’t hurt gay men, having solidarity with trans women doesn’t hurt cis women, and so on. I’m perfectly comfortable as a woman expressing solidarity with exploited cows and hens, and I think indignation at drawing out these relationships is fundamentally harmful and counterproductive to all progressive movements.
SC (Salty Current) @#90:
And all of them are fools and/or self-hating assholes with deep internalized bigotry. To ascribe the same degree of sentience to us than to non-human animals is ridiculous and insulting.
SC (Salty Current) says
I think we’re done here.
Yes, indeed. I never liked you before anyway.
SC (Salty Current) says
I had no previous opinion of you, since I don’t have the slightest idea who you are. Not a high opinion of you after this brief interaction, but it’s already fading into memory.
Rob Grigjanis says
Another Internet Diagnostician whose wisdom is worth every penny we pay for it. With deep internalized nastiness thrown in for free!
In some cases, ridiculous and insulting to non-human animals.
Rob Grigjanis @#98:
…I actually agree. Anyway, was the [sic] ironic or did I actually make a grammatical mistake? English is not my first language.
SC (Salty Current) says
Should have been “as.” In general, “as” is used for similarity/comparison, and “than” for difference/contrast.
“as happy as”
@SC: Aha, thanks. Now that I’ve cooled off I actually feel terrible for my previous posts, and I apologize. Not that anyone should care, but what actually set off my inappropriate reaction was the following from #90:
I actually sympathize with what blf said @#85 because plenty of my friends and family are (non-industrial) farmers, and I agree: they love their animals and often actually feel bad for killing them (even bitterly regretting it sometimes, as it happened with a friend of mine and an ox they had) but it’s their livelihood and all they have.
It seems to me that the discussions here about veganism miss a certain vital point – evolution has led us to be beings that, by necessity, require the death of other living organisms for our own survival. This is the case not just for humans, but just about every single living organism bar trees and plants – and even some of them eat other organisms (the Venus Flytrap, for example). Humans in particular have evolved to be omnivores with a wide ranging diet, which includes meat. You can accept this, and not get too bent out of shape at the idea of actually eating another living being (regardless of whether the eater has personally killed said organism or not), or you can arbitrarily decide to draw a certain line and say that the organisms on one side are acceptable and the organisms on the other are not. If you decide to draw such a line for yourself, that’s your prerogative, but, outside of extreme cases, such as someone murdering and eating fellow humans, the idea that anyone is somehow morally superior because of their dietary choices is questionable at best and totally absurd at worst – especially when you take into account things like the fact that most breeds of modern cow, as found on any dairy or beef farm, only exists as a result of a great deal of selective breeding by humans, and would not exist in nature but for that, nor likely survive for very long if returned to it.
Mark Jacobson says
But you just arbitrarily decided to draw a line at humans murdering and eating fellow humans. Are you really suggesting you’re morally superior to murderous cannibals? Sounds questionable at best, and totally absurd at worst.
Fine, if you really want to get absurd about it, I won’t draw that line – it isn’t morally superior to not eat fellow humans. After all, we don’t know the circumstances. It could be, taking inspiration from up the thread, a plane crash in a very remote area with no food, where one human is forced into eating the other in order to survive, and they mutually agree which of them would be killed.
Zmidponk, I don’t see the relevance of the fact that modern cows were bred by humans with the intent to farm them and use them for food. If more people find the suffering of cows morally relevant they will buy less beef and less dairy. Farmers will breed cows less than they do today, until eventually perhaps they will stop breeding them altogether. And yes, this will involve along the way death of cows that will not be eaten but instead wasted. But with the reduction in the breeding of cows the total number of cows being killed will be less than are killed now. Which means there will be fewer cows raised for the purpose of being killed. Some of the land being used to produce food for cows will be used for growing plant food for humans, the rest will be let to go wild. What are the downsides (assuming people shifting from consumption of cattle to consumption of plant food of their own choice)? I don’t believe the correct conclusion to seeking to increase human happiness is to increase the number of humans, and I don’t see why reducing the number of cows (even to zero) is morally problematic for people who care about the suffering of cows.
Mark Jacobson says
I’m still seeing arbitrary lines about “circumstances” and “agreement.”
Now excuse me while I go eat some of my own selectively bred infants. Not like they’d exist in nature without me, or survive long if returned to it.
Well, then you have to take into account what is actually meant by ‘suffering’. In any decently run reputable farm, animals don’t suffer, in any meaningful sense of the word. They are given a decent life, well looked after, not abused or mistreated in any way, and even when it comes time to get the meat, it’s usually done in a manner that highly unlikely to cause any suffering at all – it’s just a case of BAM and the animal is dead before it even hits the ground. If anything, a well run farm actually increases the number of contented and happy organisms in the world, until they die.
And all of this still ignores the initial point – humans, by necessity, require the deaths of other living organisms to survive, as do a great many other living beings. The only question is whether you accept this or not.
Then you missed that I gave an example of why it might not be in any way morally superior to not eat a fellow human. I did not say that was the only one. And that I am chasing your rather absurd argument.
On the one hand, I do care about the suffering of cows. On the other, I don’t have a problem with killing and eating them. It should be done in such a way as to cause the least amount of suffering possible over the life of the cow, but beyond that? I really don’t see anything immoral about killing, on its face. It’s a requirement for human survival- if you want to live, you will have to kill. The how and why is what makes the act right or wrong, not the mere fact that you commit the act.
My point about plants is that we kill them without a thought. It’s ludicrous to most people here to consider whether plants can suffer; fine, I don’t accept that that as a given, but let’s say they don’t. Do plants possess no right to live? Why not?
At what point do we draw the line, then? Sentience seems to be the answer, but that’s a very fuzzy concept. Which animals are sentient? It seems to be taken for granted by some here that cows are sentient. Maybe they are. What about chickens? Maybe. Fish? Maybe. I might be willing to accept some or all of those creatures as sentient. But if you’re going to argue that, say, muscles are sentient and therefore should not be eaten, then as far as I’m concerned you’ve rendered the concept of sentience meaningless.
Some may dismiss this as me just trying to justify eating meat without feeling guilty, but that’s not the case. I feel some guilt about eating meat, yes, but it’s not because the animals have died. I feel guilty because I know the animals likely suffered unnecessarily before they died, and because it’s not great for the environment. But for the mere fact that they were killed for me, I feel very little at all.
I regularly kill for reasons that are far less defensible than fulfilling a biological imperative. I kill most spiders that get inside my house, even though they’re probably harmless. Sure, I got very sick after one spider bite, but most probably wouldn’t cause serious illness. I kill insects that damage the plants I grow for food, even though I don’t actually need my garden to survive. I also kill plants that compete with my plants. I’d kill the rabbits that got into my garden too, if I really needed the food. And the deer. The reasons I don’t have more to do with laziness, squeamishness, and legality than any feeling that it would be wrong to do so.
I feel very little guilt about any of that. Some regret for the loss of life, but I’ve done far worse things in my time than those (and some of those things I feel little guilt about either). And yes, I really do wonder about the plants. Their biology is such that I can’t give them a mercifully brief death like I can for an insect, or a higher animal. I wonder if they “suffer,” for want of a better word, when I leave them on to a slow death on hot stone. I hope not, but I can’t completely disregard the possibility.
If I had to rely strictly on myself for food I’d likely eat very little flesh, but not because I believe it’s wrong to kill. Meat is simply a pain in the ass when it doesn’t come in neat little packages. I feel far guiltier for using products made by slaves, but that’s another discussion.
SC (Salty Current) says
Kreator @ #101:
Thanks. Apology accepted.
I’m not saying they’re fundamentally bad people. There are of course concerns – including economic ones, in their case – that make other options difficult to choose.
But the argument, I’m sorry, is plainly bunk. And I think even the people making it don’t entirely believe it. Almost everyone loves and is intensely concerned with the welfare of some others – humans and/or other animals. We have a general understanding of what loving someone and being intensely concerned about their welfare means. In no case does it include killing them to sell their body, much less breeding and growing them to be killed so we can sell them. I’m not saying they don’t come to feel affection for some of the animals or to regret killing them, but come on. If you exploit and kill someone, you don’t love them and you aren’t intensely concerned with their welfare. I’ve been to a sanctuary for farmed animals, where everything they do shows their love and concern for the animals. A business where they farm and kill animals is not anywhere near the same thing.
These are stories basically decent people tell ourselves to justify our participation in systems of oppression. We care. Most of them are treated well. They like being in their own schools. They’re fulfilled in the roles assigned to them. If they were suffering, they would protest more. It’s a special relationship you couldn’t understand. We’re doing what’s best for them. It’s our personal choice. They’ve consented to this. This is the way things are destined to be. They’re content…. I think we’re at a sort of inflection point, in which overtly speciesist arguments are less and less accepted (though still very much present), and people are struggling to rationalize these practices with whatever they can find.
Some of the arguments in this thread are embarrassingly bad. Case in point:
This is well suited to this thread, because it’s as pathetic as any other Evo Psych claptrap. Obviously we’re not obligate carnivores, and can choose not to eat other animals. (Here I am, a vegan. Still alive.) And obviously eating plants is not morally equivalent to eating animals. Take some responsibility, FFS.
I might just be overly optimistic, but I think most of us here would mock these arguments if they were used to justify human oppression, and few honestly think they hold up to serious scrutiny. But as I said, I’ve been there. Several years ago, I made similar arguments (Including, at my blog, ones like blf’s, but in defense of fishing communities, which I should write more about, come to think of it…). Mostly, though, I avoided these discussions because I didn’t, deep down, believe the arguments people were making and it clashed with my sense of intellectual honesty. Then I started to read about the reality, including of cheese, which I loved, and I changed. (By the way, I can recommend some great vegan cheeses.)
SC (Salty Current) says
If anyone doubts my story, I can trace a moment of transition to Monday, February 27, 2012. :)
How much I’ve learned and grown since then…
Given that your three ’embarrassingly bad’ arguments are mine, I feel obligated to respond.
For the first, unless you think ‘omnivore’ and ‘carnivore’ are the same thing, what you’ve said in reponse simply fails to refute, in any way, this ’embarrasingly bad’ argument. Yes, you can choose not to eat meat – in fact, I even say so in the very section you’ve quoted, so I don’t quite know how you’ve missed that. However, even doing so still means you are causing living organisms to die. The only way to avoid this is simply not to eat. At all. I can only guess that you think these organisms don’t count because, as far as we can tell, they aren’t aware, on any level, of being alive, and therefore being killed. It would be a much kinder world if it was populated exclusively by photosynthesising organisms, and therefore no organism ever killed another in order to eat it and stay alive, but that is not the world we actually live in. For us to live, other things have to die, and we are far from the only organism that is true of.
As for the other two, you seem to be trying to show how they’re ’embarassingly bad’ by taking them and quite blatently applying them to a different context. I find that embarrassingly bad.
To get back to Jordie the P for a moment he claimed in an interview with Joe Rogan that after drinking some apple cider he didn’t sleep for 25 days.
Please do. Of course those available to you may not be available in the UK, but possibly I could recommend them to relevant shops. Most of those I’ve found on sale here smell and taste like vomit, apart from those that emulate feta. Ones that cook well would be particularly welcome. (I’m not vegan, but have greatly reduced my cheese consumption, largely for environmental reasons.)
Why the fuck do you claim you “can only guess” that, when it’s absolutely bleedin’ obvious that that is indeed morally relevant? And of course, is not the only type of suffering animals undergo in being raised for food.
SC (Salty Current) says
My favorite is the Treeline cracked pepper aged nut cheese. (Which is weird, since I’ve always hated pepper, but I love it on this cheese.) I guess you can cook with their hard cheeses, since I just noticed a recipe I now want to try. I’ve had their soft scallion cheese, and it’s good, but the hard cheese is at another level. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be available outside the US yet. Would be great if they could start exporting.
I’m not a big fan of Kite Hill, but I do like their chive cream cheese (style spread). Very good on a bagel. Doesn’t have a long enough shelf life. I’ve also heard good things about their ricotta, but I make my own with this great recipe from Chloe Coscarelli. I don’t think it’s available there.
At the…lower end of the market, I find most Daiya cheeses all but inedible, but really enjoy their Jalapeño Havarti Style Block. Not especially havarti-y, but nice for sandwiches or on crackers. I’d even put it on a cheese board or cube it.
When I was looking into UK availability, I came across this Tyne Chease. Don’t know if it’s one you’ve tried and disliked, but they seem to have a number of artisanal varieties. Says they have it at Hanover Healthfoods in Edinburgh.
It’s still hit or miss, and mostly miss, at the moment, but as more artisans get into vegan production I don’t think it’ll be long until there are a lot of high quality alternatives. I’m still hoping for a vegan manchego someday… I’ve never found one that successfully emulates feta (or even purports to, IIRC) – which do you have there?
If you want to decide, morally speaking, what organisms are OK to eat based on whether or not they suffer, you are basically saying it is perfectly OK to kill and/or eat another living organism, as long as there is no suffering involved. Leaving aside the simple fact that it is perfectly possible to run animal farms in a manner where the animals do not suffer, up to and including the point where they are killed, I would say that being the basis of any moral system would result in a seriously warped one. I would argue that there should always be moral qualms at the death of any living creature. However, I am also aware that this world is not a perfect one, and one sign of that is the simple fact that there are many instances where moral qualms have to give way to practical considerations. The issue of food consumption is one such instance.
For someone who hates academia so much, Peterson doesn’t seem to understand what’s taught at universities.
“All truth is subjective”: No college course teaches that. At most, they try to teach students to differentiate between objective reality and subjective cultural values.
“All sex differences are cultural constructs”: Again, no one teaches that. College professors are perfectly willing to talk about sex differences in humans. The problem is that Peterson’s ideas about “traditional” gender roles and male dominance are bullshit that don’t reflect actual sex differences in humans.
“Colonialism is to blame for all the problems developing countries have”: Once again, no one says that. Colonial interference is responsible for a significant number of problems in developing nations, but no one claims that it’s the sole cause of their problems. Peterson is projecting here; he thinks that colonizers are blameless and wants to blame all of the problems in developing countries on people not adhering to “Western culture”.
It’s laughable for Peterson to claim that he can set anyone straight when he doesn’t even understand what his ideological opponents are arguing.
John Morales says
Actually, Peterson is the one laughing… all the way to the bank.
(Sometimes, stupidity — or more kindly, naivety — is a better explanation than malice or even opportunistic expedience. But sometimes not)
John Morales says
Ahem. There’s a philosophical distinction between ‘necessary’ and ‘sufficient’ causes — but either can truthfully be said to be ‘responsible’ for a given outcome.
(But yes, that old trick of explicitly making a defensible claim while connoting a non-defensible one is in operation there)
John Morales says
You would, would you?
(PS bacteria are living ‘creatures’*)
‘Creatures’, ‘creation’ — such embedded teleological language!
John Morales says
And, to throw out an weird idea — coprophagia can be nutritious.
Read the sentence following the one you quoted.
John Morales says
relax, Zmidponk. I was having a dig at your pompous use of the subjunctive mood.
I get you. One should have qualms, but practicality matters more.