Vegans vs. carnivores #5
An unemotional attempt to list the pros and cons of eating animal products
Welcome to Future Potentialis #5
I’m Andreas Freund. I’m exploring pressing issues in tech, science, and society with sources and inspirations to let you dig deeper.
With my girlfriends being vegan and me thus naturally eating almost no animal products, I noticed that I find myself in the same conversations about the pros and cons of being vegan over and over. So here I want to try to remove the emotional attachment that tends to rise quickly in such discussions and present a collection of arguments for both sides.
Let first inspect the pro arguments:
That humans evolved to eat animal products and that it was important in the past for humanity’s survival is irrelevant for our present time, where it is easy to survive on a purely plant-based diet for the vast majority of people. Due to availability, price, and passed down recipes, traditions (religious or otherwise), most people grew up with and are accustomed to eating meat. As with most societal progress, we changed our traditions many times in the past and none of this is an inherent argument for eating animal products. As traditions change, meat will also stop being the default option and thus one will have to refuse a meal less often. But of course, in a sense there are fewer options available: all vegan + all non-vegan recipes > all vegan recipes alone. When we want to eat meat, we are mostly craving Umami taste, for which there are many plant-based options. Meat does not taste as unique as one might think, so relinquishing it does not mean giving up well-tasting food in general at all. The body absorbs iron from animals more easily than from plants but a conscious diet can remedy that. The same goes for obtaining essential nutrients, a plant-based diet, does not lead to nutritional deficiencies, however, the intake of Vitamin B12 is recommended. (B12 supplements are also often fed to animals) People in poverty have no choice over what they eat and chicken can be an additional food source, but being poor is obviously not a desirable condition.
The contra arguments
While there is still some debate on the moral issue of eating animals, and surely not all 72 billion necessarily had a bad life but about 90% lived on factory farms where they suffered immensely. There is a quite convincing argument that it is ethical to eat oysters and to consider them the same as plants. I tried to cite as objective and unbiased numbers as possible but of course, you will be able to find different numbers in either direction. Especially the health aspect is widely debated, there are even doctors who live on a carnivore diet, but they solely rely on anecdotal evidence. However, what gets lost in typical criticisms of the validity of specific numbers is that there is no debate on the general direction, as the statistics speak so drastically for themselves, even if you allow for a generous margin of error. So let’s recap:
However, I think it does not mean one has to renounce animal products completely, rather it should make us more conscious about what we consume and the consequences of our consumption. As a first step, one could make easy sacrifices and just stop having animal products as their default choice. If everybody ate 10% fewer animal products that would already have an enormous positive impact on the world. And possibly many will be like me and notice that eating vegan is much easier than initially assumed and hardly involves any real sacrifices. For example, I could never relinquish the milk in my coffee, and even though soy or rice milk has a strong taste of their own, one gets accustomed very quickly to it. The same goes for cooking. I highly value eating well and equipped with one or two good cookbooks it is easy to have delicious vegan meals. Eating out is more difficult, and there I make exceptions once in a while (mostly for pizza and sushi), but as the number of vegans increases so will their food options.
Thank you for reading,