©2019 C. Henry Martens
It seems that veganism and animal rights/welfare advocates are presently getting more attention paid to them. In some ways this is good, and a positive result to some justified concerns. But there are some serious omissions in much of the information they use, especially as it applies to domesticated livestock.
I have no problem at all with people making choices for themselves. In fact, I consider the ability to make choices a very American thing to do.
But advocacy demands truth.
So here are a few thoughts on some of the context missing in vegan claims.
HEALTH: There may be some health benefits to a plant-based diet… for some people. Individual humans vary quite a bit, mostly because certain genotypes have evolved in different environments with different nutritional needs supplied by their particular environment. Perhaps Pacific Islanders might stay healthier with plant and fish in their diets, but Inuit peoples would certainly be healthier with higher concentrations of seal and whale meat and fat proteins. Some people do well if they study diligently, and others don’t in the long term. Some of the people most fervent and supportive of veganism are likely to be unwell and ultimately may have to modify their diets.
ENVIRONMENT: Most of the claims made by vegans regarding the environment were adopted because they made it easy to vilify eating animals. As time goes on, the early claims have not held up. Large animals produce methane, yes, that is true. Methane is a greenhouse gas. But context is missing. Large animals have always been a part of the natural environment and the animals living today closely approximate historical populations of ungulates. In the early part of the 19th century there were upwards of 90 million bison in two large herds on the central plains and they kept the grasslands healthy. The animals were essential to the health of their forage. Grasslands have been found to sequester carbon and greenhouse gasses better than forests.
There has been a lot of noise about the amount of plant agriculture, and the resultant pollution, being done to support animals. I’ve heard people claim that 85% of plant agriculture is intended for animal uses. Again, context is missing in these arguments. Most of the crops grown, by far, is done for human uses. For instance, 50% of corn today is grown to make ethanol for fuel purposes, and 25% is grown for corn syrup, and there are smaller percentages grown for other human uses. About 12–18% of the corn crop is grown for direct consumption by animals. But after the human usage crop is harvested, the waste product, the stalks, are used to make silage to feed cows or are used as forage in the field. So the entire crop is claimed by vegans to be “grown for animals.” Even citrus is claimed by vegans to be grown for animal uses because after the orange crop is harvested and the juice is squeezed for human use… the waste pulp is fed to livestock.
ETHICS/MORALITY: Certainly, there have been abuses in the past, and there are abuses today. But because of public outcry, livestock producers have improved their practices. Vegans often claim animals are being abused, and in the same breath they claim that it is because farmers make more money by abusing their animals. Somehow, vegans conflate profit with abuse, as though the two provide motive for bad animal treatment. Context, again, is missing. In fact, livestock owners have always known that animals gain weight faster on less feed, lay more eggs, give more milk, and breed more easily if animals are healthy and comfortable.
Another fact that eludes the vegan agenda is that the world works by natural processes. That includes life and death. Farm animals live longer on average than animals in the wild. The deaths wild animals suffer in the wild are much more gruesome and are often prolonged, while domestic animal deaths are swift and painless.
I know some reading this are jumping automatically to defense of their already made conclusions… but please, think about what I’m saying here. If you disagree legitimately, it is most likely by a matter of degrees rather than that you don’t understand the context involved, or that you can’t see the logic involved.
Vegans have some legitimate claims in each of these arguments… but most are inflated or sensationalized to some degree… to sell the anti-meat agenda. The truths involved are often a hundred and eighty degrees from what vegans claim.
We are evolved, natural omnivores. The cycle of life and death, including the food chain that animals raised as food are a part of, mimics the natural food chain to a great degree. Trying to upset a natural system that has worked since time began is counter to reason.