I have had this one mulling around in my brain for quite some time, but it's such a big one that I really haven't has any concrete idea as to how to approach the subject in a coherent fashion. I guess I'll just have to wing it.
I have many mixed feelings about this, and I suppose that the reason why I wound up feeling so strongly about it is because of something that is going to sound controversial and a little polemic on my part: Veganism has become something like a fundamentalist religion.
OOOH no how can you say such a thing!! Well, for two main reasons:
1. The obnoxious conviction that their way of living is the only sane and rational way of living and that anyone who does not agree is either sorely misguided or just plain evil
2. The use of faux science to support their extreme lifestyle
--> If you are a vegan that does not fit one of these two points then relax, take a deep breath, I'm not talking about you.
I call it an extreme lifestyle because let's face it, it is. It goes against a person's biology and nature. That is not to say that it can't be done, and if an adult makes the choice and becomes a vegan I have absolutely zero problems with that, to each his own. I am an unabashed believer in personal freedom. I loathe people who randomly harass strangers for smoking thinking that they're doing them a favor, and yet if they see a morbidly obese person waddling down the cookie aisle have nothing but kind words for them. Let other people do whatever they like.
When you start trying to convert people to your way of life, whether you're a Jehovah's Witness or a Vegan, I might raise an eyebrow and find you annoying, but generally speaking I will remain quite unphased.
However the moment you start spouting made-up facts and faux science in order to support your own lifestyle and convince others that your beliefs are inerrant, I will rip in to you just like I would any young-earth creationist or holocaust denier. Making shit up is just disrespectful, and using fake science to convince other people to change their lifes is dishonest and cruel. So this is my ripping apart some common talking points that I have heard in favor of vegetarianism and veganism so far:
1. Humans are not meant to eat meat. That's why we cook it. We can't digest it, because we were never meant to eat it.
Grade-A Bullshit. Haven't you ever heard of sushi?!
But that's fish that's not meat
This is one thing that annoys the crap out of me. An animal's habitat does not make it any less of an animal. Animal flesh is animal flesh, whether it lives on land, in the sea or underground. Of course there are differences between different animals, but the difference between a chicken and a pig is really no greater than the difference between a chicken and a tuna. Animals are animals and meat is meat.
Anyway even disregarding the immaginary distictions between land animals and water-dwelling ones, ever heard of steak tartare? My grandmother regularly eats minced, spiced and raw pork, she is eighty-eight years old and she digests it just fine. The reason cooked meat is better for us than raw meat is simply a hygeine one. Raw meat can contain parasites that can infect us, and cooking it kills them, therefore rendering that meat safer and healthier to eat. And yes, other animals get infected regularly from their food as well. Considering that parasitic species outnumber non-parasitic species 4:1, that should hardly be surprising.
Of course humans were "meant" to eat meat. That's why we don't have fermenting bacteria in a ceacum like plant-eating animals do. That's why we have canines and incisors for ripping and tearing our food. That is why one of the essential vitamins we need to survive is B-12, which is only found in animal products. We are omnivores by nature, like it or not.
2. Deforestation happens to create pastures for livestock, so it's wrong to support that
OK, well deforestation also happens to create fields for agricultural purposes too. Do you ever hear anyone decide to not eat vegetables for that reason alone? If you're against farming that's fine, be against it. However that means that you should not have any moral objections against eating a duck you shot in the woods, or a trout you fished with a line from the stream. You should also be growing all of your own vegetables and be completely self-sufficient. Great. But most of the people who pull out this argument are not, which I call hypocrisy.
3. Meat is high in fat and cholesterol and low in vitamins, so it's healthier not to eat it
Um so what? When did the argument become either eat ONLY meat or eat ONLY vegetables? We are omnivores, not carnivores, we're supposed to eat a healthy balance of both. Of course there are people who eat way too much meat and are unhealthy because of it, but that's hardly an argument for cutting out an enormous portion of your diet entirely. Some people eat way too many carbs and become enromously fat and sick and even develop diabetes, but that is an extremely poor argument in support of choosing a carb-free diet.
4. I can't be a meat-eater because I support animal rights
Guess what: so do I. I find making an extremism distiction between supporting animal rights and eating meat one of the great hindrances to legislation for the protection of animals. Personally, I try to always eat organic and free-range meat because I believe that, just because we eat meat, it does not mean we should cause animals to needlessly suffer. I understand that we are all animals, and humanely killing a cow for food is no more evil to me than when any other animal kills to feed itself or its family. However that does not mean that we should grow chickens in cages that are smaller than they are, or slaughter pigs en masse as they spend their last moments in terror. We have the capabilities to avoid such unneccessary cruelty, and I think we should take steps to do so. But I think that the only way that certain countries will get up-to-date with regulations against these acts of cruelty is if the people start seeing it as something that most people are in favor of, not just a handful of extremists that want to ban the killing of animals anyway so what difference does it make if the conditions they're kept in are repulsive.
Well this is an extremely long subject and I only managed to touch on a tiny fraction of it, but if there are other veins of this ongoing debate that you will like to adress just start a thread!