Vegans are Not Perfect

This is a common argument people use against veganism. People claim that no one is perfect and therefore vegans cannot be telling others not to eat meat because they too are not perfect. For example, when plants are grown, insects are harmed when tractors harvest the plants.

Vegans seek to minimize the pain and suffering inflicted on other beings. No vegan is perfect as you could argue even just breathing can harm a living being due to the butterfly effect, but most people would agree that just because it’s impossible to never harm living beings, there should still be attempts to mitigate harm e.g. animal cruelty laws and laws that protect humans e.g. laws prohibiting murder, rape, etc.

Many people justify eating meat saying no one is perfect therefore they should be allowed to kill animals, but do any of these people use the same argument to justify abolishing murder legislation?

The definition of veganism as provided by the Vegan Society is as follows: “Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”

The way I see it, animals are today’s slaves. Only hundreds of years ago there were groups of humans deemed subhuman and subjugating them was seen as natural by social darwinists. Today humans widely believe in a social darwinism applied to animals, that animals are lesser beings. My hope is that as humans evolve animals will gain rights as did slaves, women, etc.

Inefficiency of meat production

Something else I should point out is that it is true that growing plants can kill insects, but plants grown are used to not only feed humans but also livestock. Growing plants kills insects, but keep in mind that livestock, in order to grow, are fed plants. Figures vary, but it takes between 2kg to 7kg of plant feed (mostly soy and corn) to produce 1kg of meat. Hence more plants must be grown to feed meat eaters than to feed vegans due to energy lost. The greatest energy loss is found in warm-blooded animals like cows as the chemical energy in plants must be converted into heat to keep the animals’ blood warm. In cold-blooded animals such as fish and even insects the feed to meat ratio is lower. Nevertheless, it is never as efficient than if the “middleman” is cut and the human consumes the plant directly.

Is Evil Innate in Humans?

When I ate meat, I remember I ate meat very freely. I may have known that what I was doing was exploitative and that I was oppressing weaker beings, but people, when they are in the habit of doing something that they are addicted to or that benefits them, when it takes effort to change, they will naturally just rationalize it away.

If you were born into a family that owned and benefited from the slave trade, do you think you’d be likely to grow up and have moral qualms about it? No, if the opportunity is there for easy gain, people will usually take it and they will justify it after to themselves or to others.

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.

How to Explain Why You’re Vegan Without Offending Anyone

Everyone is different, but I find that there are people I feel more comfortable talking about veganism to than others. For example, talking to close friends and family about veganism is not too difficult, but talking to work colleagues is more difficult, probably because I feel like I am under more scrutiny at work whereas among close family and friends I am accepted for who I am.

It is great for someone to have the courage to defend his vegan beliefs to others, but not everyone is always confident to all people. I will talk in this post about ways that you can explain your vegan diet to others in a way that is unlikely to offend them.

More science, less ethics

Personally, I find that when you’re among people you don’t want to offend much, it is best to not talk about ethics. Talking about ethics (i.e. what is right and what is wrong) is like talking about politics or religion. Talking about politics and religion is a good recipe for tension and offence.

Rather than talk about ethics, it is best to talk about health and science. If you talk about ethics, people will think that you are trying to force your beliefs on them, but if you talk about health and science, people will think you are just trying to be be healthy.

For example, when ordering an almond latte, someone might ask you why you’re ordering an almond latte rather than a latte with dairy milk. You can then explain that one cup of dairy milk contains 9 grams of sugar and about 150 calories compared to one cup of almond milk that contains 2 grams of sugar and about 60 calories. You can then explain how dairy milk has high levels of estrogen. Dairy milk has also been shown to decrease testosterone levels in men.

Suppose you go to a restaurant and ask that any fish be replaced with tofu. Someone then asks you why you did this. You explain that our oceans are polluted and fish contains high levels of mercury, cadmium, flame retardants, PCBs, and other waterborne contaminants.

Food tribes

When most people hear you explain that you want to reduce intake of mercury, estrogen, or cholesterol, they will likely just shrug and move on with their lives. However, this is not always the case. Diet has become almost like a religion, so if you refuse to eat, say, fish, and fish makes up a very important part of someone else’s diet, e.g. because he is following the paleo diet, he or she may be offended and start attacking you.

For example, if you claim that fish contains high levels of mercury, someone following the paleo diet may criticize you for being a vegan or may claim that paleolithic men ate fish.

The solution to this problem is never talk about specific diets (Paleo, vegan, gluten free, etc) but to always talk about specific food.

Never say that the vegan diet is healthier than the paleo diet because a vegan diet can be healthy or unhealthy depending on what you eat. If you are eating french fries and Diet Coke all day, that is classified as a vegan diet, but the acrylamide in french fries will increase your risk of cancer.

Instead, talk about specific food. Don’t criticize the paleo diet or the vegan diet or the vegetarian diet. Criticize specific food such as fish due to the risk of heavy metal contamination or dairy milk for its estrogen levels or eggs for its cholesterol.

What if someone disputes the science?

If you are going to use science to back up why you are eating tofu or beans rather than meat or almond milk rather than dairy milk, you need to do your research. That is obvious. Be prepared to send papers from medical journals to people to back up your arguments. Always be willing to email the studies to them via your smartphone.

Like I said, usually people just accept that you want to be healthy, but this is not always the case. There are many people who will dispute your food decisions and may even provide you with studies of their own.

The way to resolve this is to simply explain that this is based on the research that you have done and that you are willing to hear the other person’s arguments, and you can even request that they send you the papers that they based their arguments on so you can reevaluate the evidence and, if necessary, alter your position or policy. The scientific method involves evaluating the evidence and reaching a conclusion based on the evidence. The conclusion reached will vary depending on the evidence. A good scientist is always willing to change his conclusion as the evidence changes. In the field of nutrition, the evidence is always changing as more and more studies come out, so it is not a black and white field of study.

For example, suppose you are eating tofu rather than fish. You explain that fish has high levels of mercury. Someone then claims that there is no mercury in fish and that our oceans are clean. A paleo person may say, “Our ancestors ate fish! Therefore it is healthy and our oceans are clean and there is no pollution in our oceans.” If this is the case, you can politely say, “That is interesting. I just want to be healthy. Based on my research, fish is heavily polluted with mercury and other heavy metals, but if you don’t think so, then please could you email me the evidence that this is not the case.”

When you get home, you can evaluate the evidence and decide for yourself.

What if there is overwhelming evidence against a vegan diet?

There are many arguments against a vegan diet, but based on my experience, there is no valid scientific argument to prove that a vegan diet is unhealthy and that you must go off a vegan diet in order to be healthy.

There is no chemical or nutrient that we know of that the body needs that we cannot get from non-animal sources or that is already produced from within our own bodies.

I am open to evidence that suggests otherwise, but based on what I a have seen, science supports the vegan diet.

If you know of any scientific argument against the vegan diet, write it in the comments section below.

Am I Vegan Enough?

I’ve run out of almond milk. It’s night and I’m about to go to bed. At night, I always drink milk because I cannot sleep with an empty stomach, and my tummy rumbles in the middle of the night.

I used to drink dairy milk at night, but since I’ve become vegan I now drink almond milk, and I don’t drink unsweetened almond milk because I like to drink something sweet (sweetened almond milk still contains less sugar than dairy milk). I really don’t like the taste of soy milk by itself, so even though there’s plenty of soy milk in the house, I didn’t want to drink it, so I decided to just put on some jeans, walk out of the house, and go to the local Woolworths to buy some almond milk.

It takes me less than five minutes to drive to my local Woolworths, so it wasn’t a big deal. While there, I saw many people doing late night grocery shopping, and many of them were buying dairy milk, which disappointed me. I hate the dairy industry. I wish I could destroy all dairy farms on earth.

While at the supermarket, I not only purchased two cartons of almond milk but also purchased two boxes of Linda McCartney vegan sausage rolls, which were discounted. I love these sausage rolls! They are super delicious.

While shopping, I kept thinking about veganism. Veganism is always on my mind. I think I’ve become absolutely obsessive about it. I think about it all the time. It’s the only thing that gives me any meaning in life now. I have nothing else to live for. Nothing else matters when there’s a holocaust happening. The scale of animals being killed is so enormous that it eclipses any possible trivial issue I as an individual may have, whether it’s me caring about what other people think of my clothes or my car or whether I should get married or not. Veganism gives you perspective on what really is trivial in your life. 

I need to do everything I can, which of course means I should be a good vegan and consume lots of vegan products, from vegan food to vegan clothes. I need to boycott the industries that exploit animals.

But is this enough? What else can I do? Should I do something political? Should I start a vegan business? If something matters so much to me, I want to do it to the extreme. If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing to the extreme.

Aldi Sells Cage Eggs in Australia

Update May 2016: Aldi has listened to customers and has now phased out cage eggs.

In Australia, supermarkets are normally a duopoly between Australian retailers Coles and Woolworths. However, things are changing. I have been shopping at Coles and Woolworths for many decades and suddenly there are foreign discount retailers like Costco and Aldi.

I remember visiting Aldi maybe a year ago and was shocked at how plain the place was. I admit I was a bit of an elitist and was turned off by the sort of people who shopped at Aldi. They seemed to do all their shopping on the weekend and when they shopped they purchased everything in bulk whereas I was there to just buy one box of tea.

My father also didn’t seem to be a fan of Aldi, saying they didn’t offer good brands. He also claims that whenever there are discounts offered at Coles and Woolworths, the prices are often cheaper than that found in Aldi or Costco.

Nevertheless, I decided to give Aldi a try. I went there and purchased almond milk and soy milk. I was surprised at the cost. One liter of almond milk was A$2.19 and and one liter of soy milk was A$1.09. This was about two to three times cheaper than the almond and soy milks in Coles and Woolworths.

Aldi also seems to be vegetarian and vegan friendly. Virtually all their products had vegetarian or vegan labeling on them, making them easy to identify.

I don’t drink much soy milk. I used to believe that soy was filled with estrogen and would give me manboobs, but after looking deeply into the soy and estrogen issue, I started to believe that soy was safe (see Does Soy Phytoestrogen Give You Manboobs?).

So I was a convert. I started buying almond milk from Aldi. I was annoyed that Aldi applied a surcharge if you used PayPass as I am effectively cashless nowadays and I was unhappy with withdrawing cash, handling dirty notes, and keeping coins in my pocket (Coles and Woolworths do not charge a surcharge for use of PayPass). However, I have since found that if you buy products carefully, the surcharge on PayPass or other credit card transactions can actually be less than the rounding up, so if you really want to save money, you need to make sure you pay in cash and make sure that you purchase an amount that ensures there is rounding down. I may write a separate post on this topic as I don’t want to go into too much detail here.

Recently, Aldi has been criticized for using cage eggs rather than free range eggs and not committing to reduce or phase out cage eggs at all. In fact, Coles and Woolworths have made commitments to reduce or phase out cage eggs. This issue has blown up on the media.

So this presents me with a tricky situation. I love Aldi, and they have lots of vegan options. They also have good prices on products. I don’t eat eggs at all, even free range eggs. However, animal welfare is amount making incremental improvements, so moving from cage eggs to free range eggs is a step in the right direction, but even in farms with free range eggs, male chicks are thrown into blenders alive because they don’t lay eggs.

Ever since this issue came up, I have not purchased any milk from Aldi, but I have set up a Google Alert to keep me updated on the issue because I will go back to Aldi if they commit to improving animal welfare. Whenever I go to Coles or Woolworth and look at the price of soy milk or almond milk, it seems as if the prices have gone up even higher. My guess is that I am not the only one suddenly buying vegan milk from Coles and Woolworths rather than Aldi, and Coles and Woolworth see an opportunity to raise prices because customers who buy for ethics are often very willing to pay extra.