Nutrition, Ethics, & Animals


"Very little of the great cruelty shown by men can really be attributed to cruel instinct.  Most of it comes from thoughtlessness or inherited habit.  The roots of cruelty, therefore, are not so much strong as widespread.  But the time must come wherein humanity protected by custom and thoughtlessness will succumb before humanity championed by thought.  Let us work that this time may come.  The quiet conscience is an invention of the devil.  Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace.  It is man's sympathy with all creatures that first makes him truly a man."   - Albert Schweitzer

[updated May 13th, 2017]

By Colin Denny Donoghue 

Most of us, including myself, grew up with families and in a society in which the eating of certain animals was completely normal, it was just “the way things are,” it was “natural” and “necessary.”  These beliefs are backed by constant advertising assuring us that foods like hamburgers, bacon and eggs, and chicken “nuggets” are copacetic; we are told that we need to eat the flesh of cows, pigs, fish, turkeys and chickens in order to get the protein and iron we need, along with drink the milk of cows to get calcium for strong bones. 

And so, to meet the demand fueled by these beliefs, massively destructive and Matrix-movie-like exploitation of enslaved beings, known simply as factory-farming, became a large part of global society.  With this widespread normalization of violence many people go their whole lives never really considering what the experience of a cow, chicken, goose, or pig is like for them at factory-farms; it's out of sight and out of mind.  But it doesn't need to be this way.

Most of us humans are not very violent creatures, usually not intentionally hurting or oppressing other people, and we actually have a tendency to show compassion for others, despite the lack of encouragement for such behavior by this current socioeconomic system, a system that corrupts human nature to fit a for-profit, money-dependent “dog-eat-dog” worldview.

Speaking of dog-eat-dog, or cannibalism, most humans would find the idea of eating another human extremely grotesque, and why is that?  Common answers would probably include: “It's not natural,” “It's unethical” and “It's completely unnecessary.”  Interestingly, these are the same answers given by many people, now including myself, as to why they have stopped eating animal products.  “But that's totally different,” you may immediately object.  And in the past, I would have agreed with you.  Yet now I know that the daily massive violence towards other animals that are sentient, have emotions, suffer and feel pain, and want to live, is really no different from eating another human, from an ethical perspective.  If you don't need to exploit or kill another sentient creature for your survival, does how many legs s/he has, or how smart s/he is have any ethical relevance?  No.  If it did, then we would find no objection to enslaving or murdering the mentally handicapped.  All that is relevant is that they can suffer, feel pain and they want to live.  The ethical imperative is to respect the right of all sentient creatures to a life free from violence and slavery.  To love your dog or cat but pay for people to enslave and murder pigs, chickens and cows so you can eat them is a moral contradiction.  

“He who kills a bull is as if he slays a man; he who sacrifices a lamb, as if he breaks a dogs neck.”  ~ Isaiah 66:3

In most people's minds this contradiction is resolved by the belief that eating animal products is needed for optimum health.  Now how can that be if there are vegan Olympic athlete champions like Carl Lewis, and vegan Ultimate Fighting champions?  How can someone (Dave Scott) become an Ironman competition world-champion 6 years in a row on a vegan diet if it is somehow deficient in nutrients?  Or how about vegan athlete Juliana Sproles who was crowned the "toughest woman on the planet," or Guinness Book of World Record-breaking vegan weightlifter Patrik Baboumian, or the amazing 78-year-old vegan body builder Jim Morris?  Certainly these individuals (and many other vegan athletes like them) have bodies in optimum health don't they?  

Nutrition

Nutrition science shows that we don't need to eat animal products for optimum health and strength (demonstrated by the aforementioned vegan athletes, and millions of other healthy vegans), yet still some people keep searching for some nutritional necessity for animal products.

These failed searches and claims include the idea that without eating meat "we wouldn't be as intelligent as we are," because, according to a much-cited-by-meat-eaters lackluster article by NPR: "Meat is packed with lots of calories and fat.  Our brain — which uses about 20 times as much energy as the equivalent amount of muscle — piped up and said, "Please, sir, I want some more.""  This misleading pseudo-science gives no valid reason to eat animal products, since there are no needed fats, or any other needed nutrient, that can't be received without harming animals (e.g. Flaxseeds and Hempseeds are a good source of Omega Fatty Acids, and Chia-seeds can provide plenty of ALA Omega-3 Fatty Acid that the body then converts to EPA & DHA types as well).  And as for calorie-intake, a vegan diet (which in case you don't yet know simply means a diet free of all animal products) can very easily meet your calorie needs; suggesting otherwise is pure absurdity.  Additionally the fats we get from plants (like avocados and coconuts) are healthier as part of a balanced vegan diet, not leading to clogged arteries that lead to heart-attacks, something unfortunately common today with the Standard American Diet (SAD); diets high in animal fat have been linked to Gestational Diabetes as well.

There are a few other more common anti-vegan arguments I will later address, but the crucial truth is always this:

Humans don't need to eat animal products for optimum health.  Therefore the enslavement and murder of feeling/conscious beings for food is unethical, unjustifiable and uncaring.

“Vegans can't get all the protein they need.”  If you are thinking that, then you are probably unfamiliar with vegan body-building, and only considering the 2 sources of protein you normally ingest: flesh and cow's milk.  Yet there are many more than 2 sources of protein in a vegan diet!  You can easily get all the complete protein your body needs from the large variety of beans (including complete-protein soybeans, as long as they are organic, and preferably fermented), grains (like super-healthy complete-protein locally-grown quinoa, but not including non-organic chemical covered wheat), legumes, nuts and seeds (like super-nutritious complete-protein hemp seeds!), vegetables like broccoli, peas, sweet potatoes and spinach, among many others.  A variety of plant-foods can easily supply all the essential amino-acids the body needs, you don't need to eat a complete-protein plant food to get complete protein, our body combines the different amino-acids by itself.

“But wait! What about vitamin B12?”  B12 is produced by bacteria and other microorganisms, not animals, fungi or plants; these microorganisms aren't limited to exist only on the flesh of dead animals, think about it, how could they be?  That makes no scientific sense at all, and indeed there is no science supporting that B12 microorganisms only exist on the flesh of dead animals; this is a point overlooked by a lot of people.  The truth is that these microorganisms are normally found in the soil, and in/on plants too, however today in modern industrial society there may not be enough B12 due to things like massive use of chemical fertilizers in cobalt-deficient soil (cobalt is key for B12 growth), pesticides and herbicides used on plants, along with the use of antibiotic-contaminated chlorinated water (chlorine also kills good & bad bacteria).  So, because of all this, we may have to find other sources; here's what Dr. McDougall says about Nori as a B12 source: "Nori—the dried green and purple lavers commonly used to make sushi—has been tested and found to have substantial amounts of active vitamin B12 and has been recommended a "most excellent source of vitamin B12 among edible seaweeds, especially for strict vegetarians." (Nori obtains its B12 from symbiotic bacteria that live on it. However, there is still some uncertainty about nori as a reliable B12 source; therefore, I suggest if you do choose this seaweed that you should monitor your B12 levels by blood tests now, and if adequate, every 3 years."  Also there are many B12 fortified foods (e.g. Nutritional Yeast) & beverages (e.g. Hemp-milk), and of course there is the B12 supplement you can take (methylcobalamin being better than the cyancobalamin version).  However, the possible need for B12 fortified foods or a supplement is a not a major fault of veganism as some proclaim it to be.  If we were still living in a natural society we would get the bacteria/B12 just as other herbivorous animals can, from our natural environment; and so if we return to a more natural/less toxic way of life, there will obviously be more B12 producing microorganisms in the soil and on our food; in an artificial techno-industrial society with chemical-filled soil and chemical-covered plants, widely used anti-bacterial soaps, chlorinated drinking water, antibiotics in the water and food supplies, and machine-washing of food from factories, the natural amounts of the microorganism are destroyed.  One thing that comes with a natural lifestyle, especially an ideal veganic homesteading one, is the composting of "humanure," which is used to give the plants nutrients, just as animal manure is often used for that purpose (why assume the former is necessarily unhealthy but trust the latter?).  Studies have shown that having trace amounts of humanure in the diet cures B12 deficiency (because human colon bacteria produce enough B12 to cure a deficiency, but the B12 is excreted rather than absorbed by the body), and this naturally happens when growing your own food and composting your own manure safely for your garden (which is only consistently safe if you don't eat animal products because decomposing animal flesh, eggs, etc. often contain pathogens).  "In a 1959 study, when a community of vegans living in Iran was found to have no B12 deficiency despite the fact that none of them took a B12 supplement, researchers were confounded until it was discovered that the villagers grew their vegetables in “night soil” — that is, soil heavily composted with human manure."(1)  Also many doctors and nutrition-scientists teach that B12-deficiency can be just as common with meat-eaters, because of  a problem with what's called "intrinsic factor," which has to do with the absorbability of the vitamin by your digestive-tract, which can be damaged from pharmaceutical drug use and other unnatural/unhealthy habits.  So again, ultimately B12 deficiency, if it does occur, is mainly the fault of the toxins put out by social-systems and the unnatural/unethical lifestyle they pressure us to live, not a vegan diet.  The same is true for the now common

a) Magnesium deficiency in the population, caused by demineralization of soil by modern agriculture, 

b) Vitamin D3 deficiency, the "sunshine vitamin," sunshine that is reduced by indoor working/living (and chemtrails).  Vitamin D3 is actually considered a hormone, so all the hormone-disrupting chemicals we are now exposed to support the deficiency too.  If you are living in a very cloudy place, you can get vitamin D3 from a lichen-based supplement.  

c) Iodine deficiency, also from depleted soil (yay for modern industrialized agriculture!), and exposure to Bromine (found in plastics, and modern bread!), Fluoride (in the water supply, "for your health"!) and the Rocket Fuel/"Flavor Enhancer" chemical Perchlorate (hooray for "advanced" civilization!).  But we don't want to "go backwards" to a natural way of life right?  Avoiding those toxins and eating a good amount of kelp, kombu, kale, broccoli, cabbage, peanuts, Brussels sprouts, turnips and kohlrabi or taking a supplement can cure this.  

"The Iodine deficiency we get is partly a result of toxicity from fluoride and bromine. Bread has ten times more bromine in it than it used to and the sources of fluoride are nearly ubiquitous today [added to water and salt]. So who does not need iodine? I find that nearly everyone needs more than they are getting."  - Dr. Garry F. Gordon

d) Probiotic deficiency, undermining critically important healthy amounts of gut flora, linked to the mass-consumption and exposure to antibiotics and chlorinated water (yay again for such "advances"!), among other factors also linked to money-slave artificial society.

e) Zinc deficiency, which is connected to many zinc-depleting pharmaceuticals people now take, can be solved by getting off those toxic drugs and  eating zinc-rich foods like pumpkin seeds, and various beans and greens.

All of these deficiencies are linked to many modern day illnesses and diseases, and all of these are mainly the result of living in an unnatural way on Earth.  These illnesses are feedback that we have become misaligned with Nature.  There would be no need for probiotics or magnesium, vitamin B12 or D3 supplementation if we were all still living as we were clearly intended to, in a garden.  There we could have our food coming from soil rich in beneficial bacteria (B12 & probiotics) and magnesium, be out in the sun much more, as well as be surrounded by the extremely medicinal essential oils of countless plants, and not exposed to all the toxic chemicals we are now in "advanced" society.  The so-called "primitive" lifestyle of veganic homesteading would far exceed the minimal benefits of for-profit modern medicine (and industrial civilization as a whole), which oftentimes just does more damage to the patient (e.g. chemotherapy).

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Some other people try a vegan diet but then say, very ambiguously, that their particular body "just wasn't right for it," or that they "don't feel as strong and energetic" without eating meat.  From what I've seen this is always because they were eating an exceedingly poor version of a vegan diet, lacking basic nutrients like iron (perhaps to subconsciously "prove" that veganism doesn't work for them?).  Again, since there is no nutrient the body needs that must come from animals, these "my body and/or blood-type aren't right for a vegan diet" objections are from people doing the vegan diet wrong, it's not that the vegan diet itself is wrong.  Instead of investigating what nutrients their bodies are lacking and what plant-foods can provide them (or what bacteria or fortified food/drink in the case of vitamin B12), they just uncaringly murder animals (or pay for their murder), the animal's life worth less to them than taking some time to look into nutrition.  You don't have to be extremely careful and weary to make sure your body is getting the nutrients it needs on an animal/planet-saving vegan diet, you just need to do a little research and food planning to balance a variety of plant-foods; for example nutrients like iron are easily available from plant-foods (e.g. 1 oz. of pistachios contain as much iron as a 6 oz. steak!), and a quick study on plant-based ("non-heme") iron  shows that this type of iron is most readily absorbed when there is adequate levels of vitamin C in the diet as well, which for most vegans is the case.  Because most vegans are getting ample vitamin C that assists in absorption of iron, they can easily be getting more iron than meat-eaters.  And the heme type iron has been linked to serious health problems while the non-heme has not.  But if you don't ever eat iron-rich plant foods (like white beans, spirulina, tomato-paste, spinach, quinoa, dried apricot/peaches/prunes/raisins, lentils, oatmeal, pistachios, tofu,  dark chocolate, blackstrap molasses, sesame seeds, tahini, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and cashews, etc.) or vitamin C rich foods (broccoli and bok choy, bell peppers, tomatoes, plus various fruits, etc.) or combinations like tomato sauce with beans, then of course you will show signs of deficiency; and also if you're eating solely nutrient/mineral-deprived chemically grown/sprayed plants and GMO plant-foods, then you are going to be getting less nutrients than those plants naturally produce organically; it's not that your body is "just different, and can't be healthy on a vegan diet" as some pro-carnists claim, it's simply that you aren't getting the nutrients your body needs even though you easily can through better food choices.  

While it's true there are bodily differences like some people having allergies to things that others do not, or people effected by certain herbs differently than others, nutritional requirements for everyone can be met by non-animal sources.  Just as you would need to make sure you're getting all the nutrients your body needs on a meat-based diet, we do the same on a vegan one, it's just a change of nutrient sources:

Vegan-Food-Pyramid-New

[click above image for enlargement]

Making sure your body is not deficient in any needed nutrient for optimum health is of course very important, but none of these needed nutrients must come from the slavery and murder of animals. 

Human physiology clearly matches that of herbivores, though of course we can digest meat too and have the enzymes needed for that, but it is definitely not needed for our optimum health.  The ingestion of animal products today is in fact directly linked to the leading cause of death, heart disease.  Also there have been countless examples of people suffering from type II Diabetes who became completely cured by simply adopting a balanced vegan diet.  When considering the physiological characteristics of herbivores, and how we have those same characteristics (intestine length, jaw structure, etc.) it is also good to consider the absurdity of the claim (that may still be impressed on your subconscious via conditioning) that you need to eat meat to be strong.  If champion Olympians and body-builders aren't enough to convince you otherwise, how about a rhinoceros?  A guerrilla?  Or a horse?  Do you associate such animals with weakness?  Aren't they in fact immensely muscular and powerful when in good health?  And guess what, they're herbivores too.  Henry David Thoreau put it this way in his book Walden:

"One farmer says to me, "You cannot live on vegetable food solely, for it furnishes nothing to make the bones with", and so he religiously devotes a part of his day to supplying himself with the raw material of bones; walking all the while he talks behind his oxen, which, with vegetable-made bones, jerk him and his lumbering plow along in spite of every obstacle."

Not only are there more of the nutrients we need available in a solely vegan diet, they are also much, much healthier than animal-derived sources.  Dairy protein for example, known as casein, has been directly linked to cancer growth.  And, revealing the advertising deceptions by the cruel dairy industry, the countries that have the highest intake of dairy products also have the highest rate of osteoporosis; that's because the calcium in dairy products goes mostly unabsorbed by humans (it's meant for calves, not humans!) and becomes acidic during digestion, so our bodies reportedly respond by leaching out calcium from our bones in order to re-balance our pH level.

I could go on with examples of the health benefits of a vegan diet but these should be enough to open your eyes and start to do more research yourself (while being alert for industry-backed misinformation and clearly bunk studies).  One book I highly recommend is The Food Revolution by John Robbins, and this article.

Again there is no nutrient that you must get from enslaved, tortured and murdered animals, none.

The Earth

Speaking of the problems with industrial civilization, some try to use modern large-scale agriculture as a reason not to be vegan, as spouted in the fallacious book The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith.  She claims that veganism is not sustainable, citing the problems with modern large-scale mono-crop/industrialized/chemical/GMO agriculture, as if that's the only way to grow food!  Has that author never heard of small veganic farms or an organic home vegetable garden and orchard?!  So thick-witted, and destructively misleading.  Small-scale veganic food production is the most sustainable, while the livestock industry remains the least sustainable.  Human carnism is going hand in hand with ecocide; it's a leading contributor to: global warming gases, desertification, rainforests being cut down (for cattle ranches), and massive water pollution caused by factory-farms.  And, last but definitely not least, over-fishing is destroying the health of the Earth's oceans, driving fish populations to extinction and with them the plankton and blue-green algae (that live off fish waste) that produce the majority of oxygen on Earth (yes, more than rainforests!).  The author also claims that you can't get complete proteins from plants, and that we need to ingest cholesterol to be healthy, more barefaced lies.  The lies actually begin on page one of this book wherein Lierre says "I was a vegan for almost 20 years," but in a subsequent radio interview she admits she was never actually vegan as she claimed, but in fact "binged on eggs and dairy every chance I got."  This book is a very faulty (to put it lightly) resource for those seeking to undermine the facts and ethics of veganism.

Another counter-argument I hear often is that eating meat is "part of the cycle of life," or part of "ecological balance."  This quasi-spiritual and intellectual perspective doesn't hold up to analysis either.  Firstly, the focus is completely on carnivores and omnivores, completely ignoring herbivores, as if they are completely irrelevant.  They aren't irrelevant, and humans promote ecological harmony most when adopting a natural herbivore diet.  Secondly, to think that human carnism contributes to ecological balance is ridiculousthe truth is the complete opposite, as also I pointed out earlier in this essay.

Compassion

Another objection to veganism is "plants feel pain too, so there is no ethical difference with which you eat."  These people claim that because of the responses of plants to light and other energetics, that's "proof" they can feel like an animal does, so there is no difference between biting into an apple or a live pig! 


People who are in denial and very defensive of their false beliefs often take a narrowly ignorant viewpoint, repeatedly saying things that are untrue, irrational and uncaring (the "toxic trio" to look out for).  They run the risk of irrational nihilism wherein everything becomes a sea of amoral meaninglessness, an intellectual dead-end, often thought by them to be some kind of post-modern higher understanding.  If we were to follow their "logic," nonviolence has no meaning!  A truly deranged mindset.  The reality is animals clearly have emotions, feel pain and suffer, and want to live.  Plants on the other hand, do not clearly feel pain and suffer, and back to the apple, it obviously "wants" to be eaten to spread its seed!  And regardless, if these objectors to veganism really cared about plants just as much as animals (which is obviously not the case, their short-sighted objections being just an invalid excuse to try and justify their behavior), they should still be vegan: when people eat animal products they consume more plants indirectly than if they just ate those plants directly, because the animals used for food eat most of the grains and seeds produced (as their farm-feed).

Again there is no consideration or empathy for what the experience of the factory-farmed animal is like, an experience that is clearly terrible on a daily basis.  "Free-range" farming where the animals have some more space to move around in, although better than factory-farms, is still completely unethical; would you be okay with being fenced in somewhere, your whole life controlled by others, until the day they decide to murder and eat you?  Even having back-yard chickens that are just used for their eggs is not at all a harmless endeavor.  Additionally "humane farms" often harbor many cruelties that disprove the nice-sounding label.  The word humane is defined as "having or showing compassion or benevolence"; to treat an animal with care for years to the point of them building trust and becoming friendly with you, and then suddenly murdering and eating them, is hardly humane, it's really more aptly called "the ultimate betrayal." Ultimately it really comes down to trying to make slavery and violence good, which can never be accomplished.  The Golden Rule is not complicated, yet people will make exceptions to it for reasons that don't hold up to even slight analysis.  

Society

Other objectors to veganism, usually self-identified as having a more radical perspective, claim that veganism is "elitist" or even "racist," both being ridiculous notions.  How is saying that we should treat other sentient beings with equal respect elitist?  Obviously it isn't elitist toward animals, so that leaves whether it can be toward humans.  There is indeed the problem of people living in "food-deserts" where they have very limited access to healthy food, and/or people in deep poverty who, although they may rather not, feed their families with animal-product dominant fast-food, certainly not being able to afford meals at a fancy all-organic vegan restaurant.  It's key to recognize that this situation of restricted access to quality food is fundamentally caused by the root injustice of being forced into social-systems of monetary slavery that say you have to pay for land and water, rather than have them both cost/tax-free as your birthright for growing your own food with family, friends and community.  Until we have that root evil removed however, this will remain a problem that poor people must contend with (often coinciding with the problem of environmental racism), but this doesn't make veganism itself elitist or racist, it makes the system we live in a supportive platform for elitism and racism.  As long as someone is truly doing what they can to consider animals in their dietary and product choices, and not using their poverty as an excuse to not consider them at all, they certainly shouldn't be judged as bad people.  Instead, as said on the above linked-to food-desert page, "Discussing different options, such as growing your own food, working with local retailers to sell healthy, vegan foods, etc. is a good place to start." And since growing most of your own food in a wonderful personal homestead garden/orchard is the best of those options, but is usually not possible due to monetary-slavery and lack of land/water access, to have that "start" go toward a real permanent solution, claiming land and water as a birthright of sovereign women & men needs to be a part of the discussion.  Back to a less revolutionary level, additionally there are many articles and websites you can look up on eating vegan on a food-stamp budget, plus the great book Eat Vegan on $4 a Day (vegan foods can still be inexpensive at supermarkets, especially when bought in bulk, and sometimes you can barter or work-exchange for organic produce from local farms).  All considered, showing compassion for another species still does not automatically by itself equate to neglect of humans (e.g. racism/elitism); implying so is irrational, it's an example of false equivalency. 

Then there is the similar "racist" claim, which usually goes something like "Their culture has traditionally eaten meat, so you are disrespecting their heritage," or "You are trying to control and dominate people that are victims of racist control and domination."  First of all eating meat has been done within every culture I know of, so you can't discriminate one from the other in that context, no one can rightly claim cultural/racial superiority for advocating veganism (which isn't something I've ever heard anyone try and do anyway, so the whole idea doesn't hold up at all).  Races, by the way, i.e. the idea that distinct biological grouping of humans exist, is a lie used to divide humanity.  Racism of course does exist, it is a doubly ignorant mindset, believing in something that doesn't exist (races) and then believing that some of these so-called races are better than others.  Back to the nonsense implied against a vegan diet, extending respect to other species and advocating on their behalf doesn't mean you are then disrespecting humans or trying to control and dominate them; this is again an example of the common false equivalency phenomenon that comes up in debate, i.e. bringing up a separate injustice and equating it with what you are advocating (as Lierre did in focusing on industrial agriculture as a supposed reason not to adopt veganism).  Of course there is intersection between various social-justice movements, but that intersection is qualitatively the promotion of principles like nonviolence, compassion, sustainability, health and freedom.  This is really about making a value judgment: what's more important, an unnecessary tradition that adds nothing substantial to a culture, or the right to life and freedom of sentient beings?  If you believe the former is, then you are practicing an illegitimate superiority complex, which is the same mindset that racism is based on.  That's why this attitude toward animals is given a similar name to racism, i.e. speciesism.  Oh the irony, for that so-called "radical" perspective.

Related to this, I've heard of cases wherein someone was vegan, but then married or otherwise became committed to someone who was not vegan, and then abandoned veganism because they didn't want to "inconvenience their partner."  This weak morality shows again the faulty value judgment at work; what's more important, the life of a sentient being, or a minor inconvenience to someone who doesn't care about animals as much as you do?  If your partner doesn't accept your level of commitment/compassion toward animals, maybe you should look for another partner to commit to that does!  (Also to so easily abandon your ethics not only indicates that animals can't trust you, but humans probably can't either, hence the saying found on buttons: "Never Trust an Ex-Vegan."Similarly some people will say that they gave up their vegetarianism or veganism when traveling because they "didn't want to be disrespectful" to the families they were staying with.  Letting people know (in advance whenever possible) that you don't eat animal products doesn't automatically equate to disrespect of humans, and even if it does bother them a little that you don't eat all their food, what about the suffering, slavery and murder of a sentient being?  Shouldn't that outweigh some minor thing like that?  Of course it should, and also by abstaining you may actually be introducing something that could be beneficial to those you're visiting as well, so altogether this other version of the so-called "disrespect" excuse doesn't hold up to scrutiny either. 

When adopting a cruelty-free diet we should of course try to be as aware as possible of other injustices that exist even with some vegan foods, like terrible conditions for farm workers, chocolate being harvested by children in west Africa, or palm oil being connected to massive deforestation and destruction of orangutan habitat) but none of that takes away from the fact that veganism, done rightly, is the way to go.  (For more on what a comprehensively cruelty-free vegan diet would look like, see the excellent work of The Food Empowerment Project). 

On the level of absolute root solution to all these issues, I've come to see the crucial truth is this: as we get closer to sovereign veganic homestead food production, all major cruelties and injustices, from social (including racist power structures) to environmental, will be eliminated.  Fair-trade goods are in the right the direction, but nothing is more fair in the context of food justice & sovereignty than humans having their birthright to a fair share of cost/tax-free land and water so they can grow their own organic plant foods, living more self/community-sufficiently and sustainably.  Again, the restrictions to this ideal are mainly due to socioeconomic systems/nation-states, a.k.a. human farms, so therefore the ultimate solution is necessarily a form of veganarchism.

As for those that choose to live in areas where soil can not be enriched for horticulture (mainly the arctic), that's their choice, but it's not an ideal one, being that it requires violence and is in a habitat not really suitable to the human body.  Besides, do you currently live in the arctic or some other place you can't purchase or grow your own plant foods?  I doubt it, that's not true for the vast majority of humans on this planet; so cultural tradition becomes just another excuse made by people that don't really have to participate in the massive unnecessary slavery and murder of sentient beings.  Uncaring and unethical behavior cloaked in the value of tradition is still uncaring and unethical.

This leads to another one I hear a lot, which is said in more general terms: "Humans have historically always eaten meat, so it's natural."  First of all, just because something was done in the past (like human slavery) does not automatically make it a moral and justified action!  Secondly, the idea that all of our ancestors relied on killing animals as their main food source has no basis in science, the anthropological record does not support it, but rather shows early humans subsisted largely on wild vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds:

"Now it is widely accepted that gathering of plant foods, once thought to be the exclusive domain of women and of secondary importance to hunting by males, constituted the main food source [in the Paleolithic diet]. ... Electron microscope studies of fossil teeth found in East Africa suggest a diet composed primarily of fruit, while a similar examination of stone tools from a 1.5 million year-old site at Koobi Fora in Kenya shows that they were used on plant materials. ... [There was a] small amount of meat in the early Paleolitic diet... The 'natural' condition of the species was evidently a diet made up largely of vegetables rich in fiber, as opposed to the modern high fat and animal protein diet with its attendant chronic disorders."

- John Zerzan, Future Primitive, p. 18-19

Many people I meet who hunt animals today don't need to (they could be growing/eating protein-rich Hempseed instead for example!), and from what I've seen here in the U.S., it's usually either because they see it as "honoring/preserving their cultural tradition" if they have Native ancestry (while hunting isn't what makes any culture unique), or if from a non-Native American background, because it's an ego-boost for them to identify with a more "Native" lifestyle (which is superficial, and again ignoring that hunting was not as dominant in those cultures as widely believed.)  If you really think animals are "sacred" then shouldn't you not unnecessarily murder them?  And an animal certainly isn't "sacrificing itself" as she or he clearly tries to escape your attempts to kill them.  This comes back to the value judgment previously mentioned: Shouldn't the fact that these animals feel pain, suffer and want to live take precedence over these interests?  Some may say no, but common-sense morality says otherwise.

Religion

Finally there is the "God says it's okay to eat animals and Jesus ate fish" argument, and  I could go on at length about how this isn't a strong argument at all and is more a form of idol-worship of the Bible than an actual rational morality, but for now I will just remind the reader that the Golden Rule is not complicated, and link to a few good articles on the topic of God, Jesus, and animals:

http://freefromharm.org/veganism/christian-basis-veganism/

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http://www.compassionatespirit.com/wpblog/2015/12/01/was-jesus-a-vegetarian/

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https://christianityandveganism.wordpress.com/Vegano Cristiano 


Conclusion

As I tweeted in the past, "the arguments against #veganism are so weak only a person with a weak morality would give them any esteem."

You probably are already are eating some vegan meals (like oatmeal and fruit for a great and filling breakfast), and changing recipes to be vegan isn't hard.  For example flax-seeds blended up with water turn into a perfect gooey (and healthy) egg-replacer for baked goods and pancakes.  Look up some vegan recipes online, pick up one of the many great vegan cookbooks out there (check your local library to save $) and just get to it! 

It's key to actually commit to a vegan diet, and not just a vegetarian or "veganish" one, because to exclude the suffering and exploitation of fish, dairy cows & their calves, hens, and bees strays from the commitment to nonviolence and valuing of freedom, which is what's most important.  It is that full moral commitment that actually causes the food industry and the world at large to actually change for the better; half-measures produce inadequate positive change and represent a lacking morality; they should be progressed through toward the vegan goal, not maintained indefinitely. 

If you already see that eating meat is wrong and unnecessary, but not other animal-products (i.e. you're a vegetarian), just think, if another species ate the eggs and drank the milk of human females, wouldn't that bother you, wouldn't that be gross and fundamentally perverse?  So why do that with females of another species by eating chicken's eggs and drinking cow or goat's milk?  Dairy cows are imprisoned, repeatedly raped, and have their children torn away from them as they cry out in anguish; how would you like to experience that?  Again the ol' Golden Rule should be used.  Ingesting the eggs and milk of other species is disgusting and unhealthy; to not see that is to be in a mental state of conditioned denial.  There's a reason why eggs, milk gone sour (which does so quickly since we're not supposed to be storing it, but just drinking it from our own mother's breasts) and fish smell bad to us (hence idioms like "That smells fishy"), it's Nature (i.e. God's design) discouraging us from eating them!  We are given multiple avenues of feedback, from smells to ill health, environmental destruction to conscientious reactions when seeing animals suffering and in pain; to ignore all of it is to be out of touch with our inner nature and the natural world around us.

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The reason the animal welfare movement is not the answer is because it aims to only reduce the suffering of animals that are used for human desires, rather than questioning whether the fundamental property status of animals (which "justifies" the enslavement and mass-murder of animals) is wrong, which it certainly is.  Animals are not the property of humans, they are sentient beings that should not be harmed just to satisfy human desires of taste, whether that be in food, fashion, or entertainment; they are also not ours to torture in hellish scientific experiments, especially since those animal experiments have been almost completely worthless.  We need the abolition of this slavery and violence, not its "improvement" through welfare reforms.  Veganism is often labeled "extreme" and "fundamentalist" without  any other rational or fact-based argument to back up the derogatory name-calling; defensive non-vegans will often look for any excuse no matter how flawed (e.g. "plants feel too"), rather than critically and objectively think about the issue of human carnism.  This is an attractive option to many people because they a) don't want to face any ridicule or exclusion from social-circles for becoming vegan, and b) don't want to face the possibility that they've been doing something that is morally unjustifiable; the former is really just cowardice, and the latter is a defense-mechanism also based on fear and ego, and forgets that life is an evolutionary learning process.  I know it's troubling to contemplate the idea that you've been misled for most of your life and duped into supporting and participating in daily cruelty & violence, that also harms your health and the environment, not to mention the possible karmic consequences; but as Jesus said, the truth will set us free.  The truth about animal slavery, exploitation and murder can set us free from its dire health, environmental and possible spiritual consequences.  It's well-worth facing the facts, without getting defensive about our past actions, and just begin the process of eliminating animal products from our diet.

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If we collectively wake up to the fact that we've been deceived into supporting slavery and committing daily acts of unnatural violence, if we “eat the apple of the knowledge of good and evil” (which by the way, the idea of having such knowledge as being the cause of “the fall of Man” is another great deception), we can truly start progressing back towards Eden, i.e. a better, healthier, more sustainable and less violent world.  The first step toward progress/evolution is clearly seeing what's keeping one in a deplorable state; we must use our conscience and common sense and reject beliefs/propaganda that are false, irrational and immoral, degrading humanity physically, mentally and spiritually.  So if you have compassion for other sentient beings, and are not too stubborn to ignore face the facts and ethics, then you'll find transitioning to a vegan diet to be no problem, and one of the best choices you've ever made.