You might remember an argument for veganism. That’s the strong version of vegetarianism that says not only shouldn’t we eat meat, but we shouldn’t eat any animal products– milk, honey, eggs. We used it to illustrate how to put arguments in standard form. We’ve made a version of the argument, reenacted to protect the identity of the original people. I’m sure you’ve seen lots of similar clips. What we’re interested in is whether the arguments and reasons you’re given in this sort of exchange are good or bad and why. So here’s the clip. Remember, this is taken more or less verbatim from actual arguments. We’re not making this up. Hi. I’m Justin, and I’m the author of the book Living a Better Life.
And I’m here to tell you my top three reasons for going vegan. Animals from factory farming spend their entire lives in miserable conditions, until the day they are slaughtered. Most won’t ever feel the warmth of the sun on their backs or breathe fresh air until the day they are loaded onto trucks, bound for the slaughter houses. Their suffering is unimaginable. Animals from factory farming are treated cruelly. [SNAP] OK, I just need to interrupt here to tell you a story. where I can see that it just doesn’t matter. I was in a class once, and I had to do an experiment with the extracts of a cow’s rumen. For that, I had to reach inside the cow’s stomach.
The cow was living, and it had a rubber plug in its side. I pulled out the rubber plug, and put my hand in the cow’s stomach. The whole time I’m doing this, I’m thinking, oh man, this cow is gonna hate this. It’s gonna be torture for the cow. But it wasn’t like that. The cow was just eating food. It didn’t even seem to notice it. It wasn’t on painkillers or anything like that. The point is– if I can put my hand through a hole in the cow’s stomach and take stuff out and it’s not going to react, then I have a hard time believing that it notices what kind of treatment we subject it to.
I don’t think it cares about that. I mean if you could show me something– anything– of some sort that I am wrong, I’ll admit you’re right. Do you know what I mean? Now, you might think that eggs are OK to eat because, after all, you don’t need to slaughter chickens to eat their eggs. Wrong. Chickens get their beaks cut off with a burning hot blade and with no painkillers. And half of the chickens on farms, the cockerels are slaughtered. The fact is eggs come from hens that are treated cruelly. All that so that you can enjoy bacon and eggs. So what?
Can you provide me with some sort of proof that chickens fear death or that they’re conscious of being alive? That they understand the situation they’re in at all? Maybe then you’d have a point. But until then, sorry. I just don’t care. The same thing goes for plants. If you can prove to me that plants care about being alive, I will stop eating plants. And another thing, even if it’s true that some chickens are treated cruelly, that will only be reason not to eat eggs produced by those chickens. My friends’ chickens just wander around the place, laying eggs wherever they feel like. And my friends find the eggs. That’s gotta be OK, doesn’t it? Do you know what I mean?
But I only eat fish, some people say. Well, that won’t cut it either. The problem is that commercial fishing is destroying and emptying our oceans. As a result of commercial fishing, 90% of large fish populations have been exterminated in the past 50 years. Sure, but most fish in supermarkets and restaurants come from fish farms now. Instead of going vegan, maybe we should regulate fishing and apply science to help preserve and replenish the fish population. That would actually be useful. If I go vegan, it won’t be to save the oceans, you know? Perhaps If we all went vegan, but that’s ludicrous. You can’t seriously expect everyone on Earth to stop eating meat and fish. How are we going to survive?
How are we going to feed 7 billion people on tofu? If I go vegan, all it will achieve is to deprive me of the good taste of fish and meat. Do you know what I mean? [BONES CRACKING] Let’s not forget the arguments from the other side. How about some arguments for eating meat? Vegans and vegetarians talk as though they’re trying to get us to live as one with nature. Guess what. Eating meat is natural. What do you think these are for? And if I were that cow, I’d show you that you only have one stomach. That’s because I don’t have to digest grass. Our food has already processed the grass for us. Go cows.
And so is using the things animals produce. Even the Bible tells us that. Let us make mankind in our image, so they can rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals. That’s Genesis 1.26. And don’t just give me the Genesis 1.29 response. I know God has also meant to have said, I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole Earth and every tree that has fruit with seeds in it. They will be yours for food. But even if he did give us the fruit and the seeds, it doesn’t mean he didn’t also give us the animals.
And another thing, we’ve probably all heard of cases where babies got really sick because of their diet. It’s common. Vegetarians and vegans are at higher risk of getting vitamin B12 deficiency. And where do you get B12? From animals and animal products. Look, I want to be fair. Maybe veganism is right for some cultures. But it’s not right for most of us. Do you know what I mean? Wow. That was pretty rough. But that’s the way arguments often are in the real world. And now it’s time for you to get your hands dirty. We’ll get you to look at the argument and the response more closely. And we’ve devised a couple of assignments for you.