The Strong Oppress the Weak

Many people say that in nature the strong oppress the weak. For example, a lion will kill other animals and eat them. They argue that this is justification for them, as humans, killing animals and eating them.

It is true that the strong oppress the weak. However, although many people use this to justify themselves oppressing beings weaker than themselves, they are not too enthusiastic when they themselves are oppressed by stronger beings.

For example, one of my friends argues that he is justified in killing animals because they are weaker beings. However, he also complains about the government, banks, or rich people in general oppressing him.

Most people will point to the law of the jungle when it benefits them, but when it doesn’t benefit them they will argue against the law of the jungle.

In my opinion, it is best to try to stay away from these people. If they don’t care about others, why should you care about them?

The strong will oppress the weak. Some will help the strong while some will help the weak.

Oppression is all around us. We see it not only in domination of one species by another species (e.g. humans dominating cows) but we also see it within species. That is, humans oppress their fellow humans. When a billionaire owns a factory and a wage slave must work in this factory to feed his family and pay the mortgage, this is oppression.

Oppression is everywhere and will likely endure for as long as humans exist. However, this does not mean we should throw our hands in the air and give up. We can all play our role in reducing oppression.

As I said, when there is oppression, there are those who will help the strong and there are those who will help the weak. Usually those who choose to help the strong are doing so for self-interest. For example, if you work for a slave owner and you are paid an income for helping to oppress slaves, you’d likely want to make excuses for doing what you’re doing. If you’re eating meat and you enjoy it (or you find it convenient), likewise you will tend to make excuses for doing what you’re doing.

Reacting to oppression with more oppression

There are those who, when they are angry at being oppressed, react not by attacking their oppressors, but they react by oppressing those weaker than themselves. For example, if a manager at a factory shouts at a worker, the worker may come home feeling angry and depressed, and and he may take his anger out on his child who may, in turn, take out his anger on the family dog.

Then there are groups that have been oppressed. Much is being said in the media today about the so-called “losers of globalization”:

In a nutshell, the thesis holds that “globalization” has led to profound economic changes, which have transformed and divided societies. The ones who profit from these changes, mostly better educated and mobile (upper) middle classes that work in the service sector, are the “winners” of globalizations, and support the mainstream parties that have implemented neoliberal policies. The ones who suffer because of these policies, mostly lower educated men in the industrial sector, are the “losers” of globalization and support populist parties.

It is interesting then that these “losers of globalization,” rather than channel their anger at their oppressors, are attacking Muslims or migrants or other weak groups.

There is a natural desire for those who are oppressed to seek easily available victims on whom to unload aggression. A junior manager being bullied by senior managers may take his anger out on his workers because he can safely do so. If a working man is being oppressed by his boss, he cannot easily hit back at his boss but he can easily kick those around him who are already downtrodden. A father or mother dissatisfied with life can take their anger out on their children because children are small, weak, vulnerable, and, more importantly, they are easily accessible and available to be oppressed.

This is why it is important to protect yourself from others. Never put yourself in a position where you hand power to someone else to control your life, even if initially they seem nice. Aggression can be triggered easily in a human simply through oppression, and oppression is everywhere in the world.

Protecting the weak is a natural instinct

Many of those who seek to help the oppressed do so not through self-interest. They do so because they care about others.

The instinct to help the weak is natural. It is stronger in some than in others. If we see a puppy being beaten on the streets, we are likely to want to intervene if we can or if we have the courage to do so, but the level of compassion people have for the puppy will vary.

Just as I cannot save all men I cannot save all animals. Oppression is likely to endure for as long as humanity exists. But for me, it is easy to replace animal products with plant-based equivalents and reduce demand for animal products thereby reducing animal suffering. I’m not saying everyone needs to do what I am doing, but this is what I am doing.

Firstly, protect yourself from oppression. Once you are free and shielded from oppression, help those who were once oppressed like you were.

Review of Aussielent Body (Australian Soylent)

Many years ago, a Californian software engineer named Rob Rhinehart invented a product called Soylent, which was a powder that contains every nutrient needed to survive and thrive. Soylent is not only available in powdered form but also in bottled form, food bar form, and there is a coffee-flavoured version as well.

The idea behind Soylent is that you do not need to bother with cooking or cleaning. You just eat (or drink) Soylent, throw away the packaging, and get on with life. You save time not having to cook or clean.

Soylent is unfortunately not available in Australia. However, different businesses in different countries have similar products: Huel in the UK, Joylent in the EU, and Aussielent in Australia.

As of writing this, Aussielent has one vegan product called Aussielent Body (it is also low-FODMAP as well, if anyone has irritable bowel syndrome). You can buy a week’s supply for A$82 (US$61) but if you buy a month’s supply you pay A$320 (US$240). To me this seems extremely cheap.

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The Aussielent came in transparent resealable bags (see image above). Each bag contains four servings and each serve provides about 25% of your RDI.

According to the instructions, you mix the powder with water in a protein shaker. I have tried this and personally find the taste to be boring. It tastes a little bit like oatmeal. Having read reviews about Soylent all over the internet, I know that this bland oatmeal taste is a common complaint given to Soylent, but supposedly Soylent is meant to be bland because it is meant to be a staple like rice. You can add flavoring to the product if you like. As such, I like to mix my Aussielent in a mug with coffee or cocoa powder, soy milk, and hot water. I sometimes even mix in chocolate flavoured protein powder (Earth Protein) if I have run out of cocoa powder. I find Aussielent Body is tastiest when mixed with instant coffee.

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Aussielent Body mixed with instant coffee and soy milk in a mug just before boiling water was added.

I do not live off Aussielent. I don’t even bring it into work because it is simply too much hassle to mix powders at work. I am afraid of the mess I’d be creating. Having powders flying everywhere is not something you want at the office. There is a bottled Aussielent available but unfortunately the vitamin D in this bottled Aussielent is not vegan yet. Vegan vitamin D is supposedly difficult to source in Australia. I have seen other companies struggle to find vegan vitamin D, so I don’t blame Aussielent. Vitasoy unfortunately was unable to make their Calci-Plus soy milk vegan because they were unable to find a vegan vitamin D source. Soylent in America was able to easily procure vegan vitamin D from the Dutch biotech company DSM (see Vitamin D – Soylent FAQ).

Aussielent was able to find vegan vitamin D for Aussielent Body in the form of “high vitamin D mushroom powder,” but this form of vitamin D cannot be put into an aseptic container for the ready-to-drink Aussielent.

Nevertheless, I am confident that Aussielent will deliver a vegan bottled Aussielent soon as I would happily bring bottled Aussielent to work to drink for lunch, which will save me from the hassle of making a sandwich every night.

Something that I find puzzling about Aussielent is whether there is any omega 3 in the product. Soylent in America makes a big deal about the algae oil in its product. There is an interesting Vice article about Soylent’s plans to replace all food with algae. The reasoning is that algae is a highly efficient and sustainable way to produce fats. Algae can be grown cleanly and quickly in bioreactors in factories. Omega 3 DHA and EPA in Soylent comes from algae oil. However, the ingredient list of Aussielent Body (as well as the non-vegan Aussielents) make no mention of any algae nor is there any mention of any animal omega 3 source (i.e. fish oil).

 

Is Almond Milk Unhealthy? Sustainability of Milk and Chemophobia

When I googled “almond milk,” near the top was a Sydney Morning Herald article titled The Unhealthy Truth about Almond Milkwhich would make anyone think that almond milk is bad for you. When I read through the article, I realized that the article mainly focuses on the environmental problems with almond milk production. Growing almonds uses a considerable amount of water. That being said, dairy milk production results in significant water use as well, and all the deforestation issues linked with soy production also apply to dairy milk because dairy cows eat soybeans, and most soy is grown not for human consumption but for the meat and dairy industry:

Another impact of the dairy industry on the Australian environment is by its massive use of water and land area. In 2004-2005 the dairy industry was responsible for 19% of all the water used in Australian agriculture. This is more than 12% of all the water used in Australia. Cows need a lot of land to graze on (if they get the opportunity) and the production of their feed also takes up a lot of land area. The production of cattle feed is a major reason for deforestation and is putting pressure on nature both in Australia and overseas.

In terms of the environment, dairy milk is not ideal not only due to water and land use but also due to methane and manure produced by cows. Cows consume a considerable amount of feed (soybeans). A more sustainable option includes eating insects (e.g. Exo cricket bar) because, unlike cows, insects are cold-blooded and therefore don’t require energy to keep their blood warm. Insects can also be stored in trays that can be piled vertically making it more space efficient. Another option is algae (e.g. Thrive algae oil), which is being used considerably now in Soylent. The latest Soylent iterations use algal oil or algal flour. Algae is a very efficient converter of simple sugars into protein and fat. Unlike animal products that convert plant sugar and plant protein into animal protein and animal fat, algae plants are clean and sterile areas where bioreactors convert simple plant sugars into algae protein and algae fat. There is no need to kill animals or wipe away their blood and manure.

Focusing back on the Sydney Morning Herald article, the article mainly discusses the environmental issues facing almond milk. It does, however, briefly mention health issues:

Even the watery carton version can be a good source of vitamin E, which helps with cell regeneration in the body. It’s also full of omega 3 fats, which are handy helpers for balanced mental health and cholesterol levels. That’s about it, though.

Some brands only contain 2 per cent almonds, while the other 98 per cent of your expensive “milk” is water with some emulsifiers, and sometimes the odd sweetener thrown in, along with nutrients such as vitamin A and D that have been artificially added. Nutritious.

Basically this says nothing. The first paragraph states that almond milk contains vitamin E and omega 3 fats and then says “that’s about it, though” suggesting that almond milk has very little nutrition. But this is not a huge problem. For example, pure filtered water contains no vitamins in it. It just contains water. But is this a problem? No, water is important. Furthermore, if we are to eat or drink based on nutrient density, we wouldn’t drink milk because all milk has little nutrient density as measures by the aggregate nutrient density index (ANDI). Almond milk’s ANDI score is 19 and soy milk is 31. Simply put, green vegetables have the highest nutrient density as measured by the ANDI score. Green vegetables have ANDI scores of around 900 or more whereas all milks have ANDI scores below 50. The bottom line is that if we wanted high nutrient density we’d drink a green smoothie. However, most people who drink coffee do so to get caffeine, and the milk is designed to mask the bitterness of the espresso and to cool the beverage down. Dairy milk, soy milk, almond milk, and coconut milk all achieve this.

The second paragraph about how almond milk contains only 2 per cent almond is, in my opinion, not a big issue. If you put a handful of almonds into a blender and only put in a little bit of water, the resulting mixture will be extremely thick and creamy. It would not mix well with coffee and would be very high in calories. The almond milk content in almond milk varies from 2 to around 15 per cent, but the bottom line is that you cannot put too much almonds in almond milk otherwise it would cease to be an almond milk and would become almond butter.

When the article states that almond milk is mostly water with emulsifiers, sweeteners, and vitamins artificially added it, it is appealing to chemophobia. RationalWiki defines Chemophobia as follows: “Chemophobia is the fear, distrust, or dislike of anything seen as ‘chemical.’ Like various other ‘phobias,’ its use is non-clinical as it is not recognised as an actual irrational fear, but rather describes a set of prejudices against chemicals.” Basically everything is made up of chemicals, and adding emulsifiers, sweeteners, and vitamins to almond milk doesn’t make it unhealthy. To read out the ingredient list of almond milk and announce that it contains many complicated sounding chemicals is completely irrational and appeals to the prejudice that many hold against science and scientists.

The Aeon article aptly titled ‘Chemophobia’ is irrational, harmful – and hard to break describes it best:

[E]ven as much of the world became cleaner, the anti-chemical movement became so polarised that all artificial chemicals are now considered tainted. This false assumption has led to a popular demand for products that are ‘natural’ or even ‘chemical-free’.

In reality, ‘natural’ products are usually more chemically complicated than anything we can create in the lab. To demonstrate, I broke down the components in an ordinary banana. (For brevity’s sake, I omitted the thousands of minority ingredients, including DNA.) Here is the result:

INGREDIENTS:

WATER (75%), SUGARS (12%) (GLUCOSE (48%), FRUCTOSE (40%), SUCROSE (2%), MALTOSE (<1%)), STARCH (5%), FIBRE E460 (3%), AMINO ACIDS (<1%) (GLUTAMIC ACID (19%), ASPARTIC ACID (16%), HISTIDINE (11%), LEUCINE (7%), LYSINE (5%), PHENYLALANINE (4%), ARGININE (4%), VALINE (4%), ALANINE (4%), SERINE (4%), GLYCINE (3%), THREONINE (3%), ISOLEUCINE (3%), PROLINE (3%), TRYPTOPHAN (1%), CYSTINE (1%), TYROSINE (1%), METHIONINE (1%)), FATTY ACIDS (1%) (PALMITIC ACID (30%), OMEGA-6 FATTY ACID: LINOLEIC ACID (14%), OMEGA-3 FATTY ACID: LINOLENIC ACID (8%), OLEIC ACID (7%), PALMITOLEIC ACID (3%), STEARIC ACID (2%), LAURIC ACID (1%), MYRISTIC ACID (1%), CAPRIC ACID (<1%)), ASH (<1%), PHYTOSTEROLS, E515, OXALIC ACID, E300, E306 (TOCOPHEROL), PHYLLOQUINONE, THIAMIN, COLOURS (YELLOW-ORANGE E101 (RIBOFLAVIN), YELLOW-BROWN E160a), FLAVOURS (3-METHYLBUT-1-YL ETHANOATE, 2-METHYLBUTYL ETHANOATE, 2-METHYLPROPAN-1-OL, 3-METHYLBUTYL-1-OL, 2-HYDROXY-3-METHYLETHYL BUTANOATE, 3-METHYLBUTANAL, ETHYL HEXANOATE, ETHYL BUTANOATE, PENTYL ACETATE), 1510, NATURAL RIPENING AGENT (ETHENE GAS).

This exercise illustrates a larger point. The distinction between natural and synthetic chemicals is not merely ambiguous, it is non-existent. The fact that an ingredient is synthetic does not automatically make it dangerous, and the fact that it is natural doesn’t make it safe. Botulinum, produced by bacteria that grow in honey, is more than 1.3 billion times as toxic as lead and is the reason why infants should never eat honey. A cup of apple seeds contains enough natural cyanide to kill an adult human. Natural chemicals can be beneficial, neutral or harmful depending on the dosage and on how they are used, just like synthetic chemicals. Whether a chemical is ‘natural’ should never be a factor when assessing its safety.