Re: Joyless Vegan

Thanks for offering to block me. I don’t know what to make of that really, usually people block someone because they’re blatantly abusing them. I’ve been discussing the subject matter of your writing, I haven’t outright or plainly sworn at you, even if I have offended you with my opinion. It’s up to you, though. Both of us are guilty of some snarky and unnecessarily below the belt jibes, so on my part I apologise for that. It’s easy to just roll your eyes and go off on someone online who’s a stranger and however many hundreds of miles away, but it’s worth keeping it civil, so I’ll keep that in mind and if I don’t and you call me out on it, I put my hands up.

You said my point isn’t getting made, and even if my perspective hasn’t changed you’re probably right about that, so it’s probably best to start anew. You’re clearly not a fan of Ricky Gervais. I like Ricky Gervais, but you gave your reasons, so mine, if I can put them a little better were twofold.

First of all, speciesism. The majority of vegans base their view around opposing it. The reason I don’t think it’s a solid foundation hinges on multiple factors. Firstly, it’s possible to be ‘speciesist’ and be either vegan or vegetarian. Those who think that their connection to their own species takes on a significance that simply is not there with other species are not forced to eat, kill or harm anything. Anti-speciesist vegans are simply worried that as long as humans put humans first, the premise is there and so we will murder just for the sake of it. This is a red herring, and it strikes me as somewhat ironic that you understood from me that speciesist intuition equates to default, mindless violence. I probably lost you babbling on about the rest of the animal kingdom. Point taken. All I meant is that every species on the planet, carnivore, omnivore, herbivore, puts its own species first (unless we engineered them not to… dogs etc.) If there’s one universal truth about all life on this planet, it’s speciesism. And that’s hardly a surprise, the nature of evolution determined it that way. As colossal as consciousness is for us, it’s unlikely that it changed this fact. Either way, the fallacy is that because someone is speciesist they somehow unavoidably have to want animals to be slaughtered, as much as possible. They might. But they certainly don’t have to. Being human and being speciesist means nothing more than feeling a logical affinity towards homo sapiens because you are one yourself. Beyond that, you can afford as many (or few) rights to other species as you want.

Secondly, opposition to speciesism struggles to hurdle the problem of sentience. Gary Francione got through the issue of his dog having ticks (and killing them, for the comfort of the dog) by identifying sentience as the critical factor. It’s phenomenally difficult to ascertain sentience in animals. But all the same I agree with this, it is the fairest solution. But who are we kidding? Modulating opposition to speciesism in line with sentience creates a very clear gradient of lesser and higher animals (with us unavoidably at the top). I mean, a gradient!? That is speciesism. Call it what you want, ethical speciesism, pragmatic speciesism, nature’s moral benchmark, whatever. But Francione and anyone else, as adequate as the reasoning itself is, cannot classify that position as being anti-speciesist, because it isn’t. All anyone is doing beyond that is drawing their line at a certain point on the gradient and acting accordingly. You argue that as Gervais draws it just above fish, and therefore affords ethical consideration to things above it, but not below it, that makes him a callous person. He, like you, should simply draw it at the bottom and afford ethical consideration to everything. That’s not as simple as it sounds in reality, and Francione’s conundrum is just the tip of the iceberg.

Hypothetical 1. A bear is attacking a person, in the rockies or somewhere similar, there’s a pistol a few yards away from you and you can either pick it up and save the person, or not. To pre-empt your likely issue with this, I know that cows and things that we slaughter for food aren’t a threat to us, but this scenario isn’t to prove that we should have free reign to kill anything at anytime, or about food per se, it’s just about ascertaining whether or not you/we are inherently speciesist. If you are speciesist, you help the person and kill the bear. No brainer. If you are truly anti-speciesist, why would you help them? Anything, absolutely anything other than letting nature take its course in that situation would be to afford one species higher consideration than the other and would therefore be speciesist. If you’re feeling scrupulously principled switch positions with the attacked person and consider what you would expect of the other person and how you would feel if they abstained from getting involved.

That’s a hypothetical to see if we are speciesist when we really think about it. But there are a million other real examples. You are speciesist. So is everyone and every vegan, even the hardcore. Yes I am going to mention the ways vegans have a negative impact on nature, and yes I do expect that the “we don’t have to be perfect – gotta live my life” retort will be the instinctive return. But that excuse is enormously inadequate. I notice that your strand of veganism really doesn’t tolerate anything remotely animal based, for food, or for any other use in life. It’s the latter that catapults veganism into fantasy. Every kilowatt of electricity you use comes from fossil fuels (or likely most, either way I doubt you or any other vegan bothers to check), which has an unimaginably large impact on the environment, possibly moreso than food habits. Every mineral and crystal required by all your electronic devices destroyed habitats through mining and damaged the environment through the chemical engineering required to process them. Same with plastic. Everything you own in which adhesives were used required a horse or other animal’s hooves and bones to produce it. Every wooden product required the loss of a tree. Nearly all paints and ceramics required animal fat. You’re going to tell me that you have to live, right? Well, that would be true if we were strictly talking about things you really need to live your life. You’ll notice I didn’t mention fertilizers, insulators or the conversion of billions of acres of land into homogenous agricultural areas to suit our needs. This was deliberate; those things, fair enough, you could just about argue we need. In the true sense of the word. But I mentioned electronics. Removing yourself from an acclimatisation to considerable privilege for a moment, actually, you don’t need the bulk of your electronics and the electricity needed to power them. You almost certainly don’t need all the things you own made of plastic, or that required glue. Are you telling me you would die if your walls weren’t painted, or that every ceramic or wooden item you own is literally vital to your existence?

You and probably many other vegans cry pedantry to this. If you really think it is then you’re actually cheapening your own convictions, but I’ll explain why it isn’t pedantic either. There are people who for the same principles relating to animals do away with these luxuries. Jains are the obvious example. You haven’t (you’re writing to me from a laptop or PC after all) done so, because not having a fridge, smartphone, TV, laptop or anything made of plastic is deemed, by you, too much to ask. You’ve drawn a line between what’s ethical and what’s convenient or what you think should reasonably be expected of you.

A Jain would have every right to level against you the things you level against Gervais and others:

if we care about animals, vegetarianism (Jain: using computers, televisions, cars and plastics) simply is not good enough.


Indeed, he himself is a perpetrator of “cruel practice” by paying others to kill the animals he eats. He does not NEED to eat them; he just LIKES to. (Jain: She herself is a perpetrator of cruel practice by paying others to produce and supply the things that use animal body parts and require the destruction of their habitats. She does not NEED to have them; she just LIKES to.


Well, his cheese eating habits only result in some suffering and death (Jain: her dependence on electricity, electronics, plastics and manufactured goods only result in some suffering and death), and less is better!…..please.


There is a big, I mean HUGE, difference between accidentally harming some animals while trying to live, and intentionally bringing billions of sentient beings into existence for no other reason than to kill and eat them, needlessly. We do not need to eat—or wear, or otherwise use—animals. Do you understand that, nonvegans or misguided vegans? (Jain: There is a HUGE difference between renouncing unnecessary modern conveniences, and having them despite their need for animal body parts and detriment to the environment for no other reason than a more comfortable and entertaining life. We do not need to have these things that conceal animal products. Do you understand that, non-Jains?)

Perhaps the problem is that vegans are operating under the illusion that, even if they’re not perfect, their sacrifice still ethically trumps everyone else’s. But when someone calls your bluff, where does that leave you? With all due respect, vegans are just half-assed Jains (and ‘half’ is probably too generous). And personally, that’s fine. But if that’s what you are, a sort of Jain who’s half-assing it, it seems an inappropriate thing to do to get all judgmental about Ricky Gervais. You can’t spend half your time scathing that someone else’s ideological convictions don’t quite meet your standards, and the other half using the disingenuous “well I need some things to live my life” excuse for all the creature comforts that you enjoy which use animal products and require the destruction of natural habitats.

Humans are herbivores… if you move the goalposts.

The proponents of exclusively plant-based fad diets have lamentably managed to scrawl pseudo-science all over blogs and websites everywhere, examining human biology and cherry picking the bits they like, and claiming that we are (or that we should be) herbivores. Here are their common arguments for us humans being herbivorous, and subsequently, why they’re plainly wrong. Disclaimer: I may have to repeat myself, because many of the arguments simply stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of human history, anatomy and critical thinking in general.

1. Teeth! And raw meat.

We don’t have carnivore teeth, like lions’, ours are weak, and more like herbivores’. The only reason we can manage meat is that we can cook it.

This vein of argument comes up a lot. So we can, uniquely among species on this planet, cook meat… So? What excludes our human innovation of cooking from evolutionary relevance?

If we ate raw meat, like carnivores, we’d be extremely unwell.

Many meats do make us unwell if we eat them raw, but incidentally it is worth noting that this is by no means categorical. We are able to eat kinds of pork and beef and venison raw, as well as some shellfish and many kinds of fish. On the other hand, we can’t (shouldn’t) eat kidney beans, broccoli, potatoes or a whole host of other vegetables and legumes raw. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t eat them. Meat wasn’t the only thing we evolved to eat cooked. No-one eats raw rice. And why stop at cooking? If the vegan pivotal criteria is that we can only eat something exactly as it appears in nature, then it’s see you later to wheat and all sorts of other common cereals. No bread, no pasta, no anything that is made with any raw food by doing anything to it at all. Yes, we cook our meat today, just as we did 125,000 years ago by safe scientific consensus(α), and quite probably even earlier(β).

flour

What hardcore-vegans and plant-based advocates fail to understand is that evolution is often shaped by constraints, and defined by the ways in which species overcome them and often gain evolutionary advantages. Our use of tools and fire is an evolutionary adaptation in just the same way that a giraffe’s long neck is an evolutionary adaptation. It is absurd to suggest that we are not omnivores because we wouldn’t be able to eat meat if we didn’t cook it. A giraffe wouldn’t be able to eat leaves from tall trees if it didn’t have a long neck. But it does. So it’s here. And we can cook it, our species always has.

One vegan activist, who I must candidly admit I plainly and strongly dislike on a number of levels, writes in an “essay” that:

“Before tools, weapons, and fire, there was no meat-eating. Humans were gatherers (vegans) long before we started hunting, and consuming dismembered corpses.” (source)

I enjoy this statement because it epitomises the arrogance of this line of argument. No sources are provided to back up either of these statements. Quite possibly there aren’t any. Here’s why: “Before tools, weapons and fire there was no meat eating.” We are homo sapiens. Homo sapiens has always, since we appeared around 200,000 years ago(γ), used tools and fire. We inherited this from species from which we are descended, which also used tools and fire, homo heidelbergensis, homo antecessor and homo ergaster(δ). Notably, not just homo sapiens but all of the homo genera just mentioned, stretching back 1.8 million years, are known to have eaten meat as part of various omnivorous diets(ε, ζ, η). So the problem is, if we go back “before tools, weapons and fire” we are going back, not just before modern humans, but even before our early human ancestors. Humans were not “gatherers (vegans)” before we started hunting and using tools and fire; there were no humans before we started hunting and using tools and fire. But that didn’t stop the buffoon who wrote the above quote from taking a stab in the dark, by speculating that we inherited an herbivorous anatomy and simply hoping that somewhere along our recent evolutionary timeline, early humans were entirely herbivorous. Then he hoped no-one who knows enough about this field would call him out if it turned out that his uneducated guess was wrong. Well it is wrong. And I am calling it out. It is categorical that the genera closest to us were omnivorous. If our ancestors before them (and even this is a big if) were herbivorous, then it wouldn’t matter as far as our diet is concerned because these genera and species, who predate even our closest genera of ancestors by hundreds of thousands of years and, as mentioned simply cannot be called anything remotely close to human at all, ate ferns and rough woody materials as part of their diet! Should we, then?

2. Intestines. The fallacy of binary choices.

This argument hinges around the length of our intestines.

“Herbivores have very long intestines, carnivores very short. Ours are closer to those of herbivores. Therefore we must be herbivores.”

Obviously, the plant-based argument can only succeed when it constructs for no good reason a scenario in which the nuanced reality of middle ground and uniqueness between species doesn’t exist, and we instead subject only to some bizarre and childish choice that equates to “What are we more like: a. A cow. b. A lion?” The vegan activists proceed to tell us, due to any similarity with their predetermined “correct answer” and disregarding any with the latter, that we are more like our token herbivore. Unless you are a 6 year old you have probably noticed that we have both similarities and differences with both herbivores and carnivores.

Our intestines are indeed longer than carnivores’. They are also a little shorter than most herbivores. We also lack multiple stomachs like most herbivores. Our stomach contains hydrochloric acid, unlike herbivores. We produce a wide range of enzymes for breaking down a number of materials some plant and some exclusively not, as carnivores do and as herbivores do not. John McArdle, a vegetarian anatomist and primatologist states “Our physiology definitely indicates a mixed feeder.”(θ) Logically minded people are able not just to separate fact from fiction but also to accept facts as just that and not discard them because they don’t fit their preconceptions. We accept that, as many vegans point out, we are not carnivores because this is factually accurate. We never claimed that we are. We see from the evidence that we are omnivores. But on the other side of the spectrum, vegans do not accept the fact that we are clearly not exclusively herbivorous. Unfortunately for the militant vegan, good science is not about accepting the facts that suit you best and ignoring the others.

3. Humans don’t have claws etc.

This is a favourite and, as predicted, I’m going to have to repeat myself. To quote again from that deluded, conspiracy nut’s essay that I quoted earlier:

To prove beyond a reasonable doubt that humans are herbivores, allow me to paraphrase author Harvey Diamond’s challenge: Place a two-year old child in a crib with a bunny rabbit and an apple. If the child eats the rabbit and plays with the apple, then I’ll eat a steak sandwich that’s been dipped in ice cream!

and a hilarious one from a different essay:

I invite you to try this experiment. Drive out into a mountainous area sometime, and make sure it is a place inhabited by mountain lions. Strip yourself naked, and lie down in the dirt. Or enjoy a nice ocean swim in a region known to be infested with sharks. Afterward, when you contemplate that hungry pack of mountain lions licking their chops at the sight of your naked body, or that swarm of sharks eager to taste and smell your blood, tell me whether you’ve had some time to reconsider your puerile—nay, infantile—notion that the strong should be allowed to prey upon the weak.

Firstly, position on the food chain has little to do with a species’ status as anything. Plenty of carnivores and omnivores are also prey for other predators. That doesn’t stop them from being carni/omnivorous. But again, we see the goalposts moving, just like when you’re “not allowed to include fire and tools” when we’re talking about our diet. We can apparently only prove that we are carnivores if we… strip and deliberately invite lions to eat us… What? How about these conundrums:

Strap a concrete slap to your foot and jump into a swimming pool and tell me whether you’ve had some time to reconsider your puerile—nay, infantile—notion that you can swim.

Tie your shoelaces together, Usain Bolt and tell me whether you’ve had some time to reconsider your puerile—nay, infantile—notion that you are faster than me.

Obviously these things, like the original proposition, are preposterous. This idiocy suggests that trying to get eaten by something else, is our natural state. It isn’t. It isn’t now. It wasn’t when Gavrilo Princip shot Franz Ferdinand. It wasn’t when the ancient Chinese pioneered using gunpowder. It wasn’t during the agricultural revolution. In fact, I’m going to stick my neck out here. It never was.

Again we find this dumbfounding lunacy suggesting that we cannot be omnivorous, because we don’t have claws and we don’t roar… “we’re nothing like bears!” No. We’re not. Do you know why? Because we’re not bears. We’re homo sapiens. And from the very beginning of our emergence as a species we have continued our existence as omnivores by innovating in our uniquely homo sapiens way. It’s not somehow cheating, it’s exactly what shaped us and defined us. A badger, a piranha, a wolf, a centipede, a raven and a venus freaking fly-trap don’t have a lot in common either, yet they are all carni/omnivores.

4. Could prehistoric man have thrived on a vegan diet?

This counters an argument not explicitly used but certain vegans should realise is implied when they even enter this discussion at all. Why we are supposed to emulate the diet of our ancestors, going back so incredibly far is dangerous territory in the first place. There’s a vague logical premise to the idea that we should eat what we are physiologically programmed to eat. But this is obfuscated by some plant-based advocates’ claims that our ancestors must have been herbivores, despite the fossil record and mountains of research showing otherwise, which to be fair, many vegans accept without issue. Those marginal voices who claim not just that we should be herbivores now, but that we always were, have another issue to contend with. Though vegans now are able (if they are careful and informed) to supply their bodies with the various nutrients they need, this is really down to the variety of diverse foods available to them within the comfortable driving distances between themselves and umpteen different stores in western urbia-suburbia, or online delivery services. Prehistoric man had none of this. If something was out of season? Couldn’t get it. If something was rare in that part of the world? Couldn’t get it regularly. If something was physically hard to reach? Probably wouldn’t get it. If something didn’t grow at all in that part of the world? Couldn’t get it. Coupled with the reality that prehistoric man simply didn’t know the value of not eating the same thing every day, it’s unsurprising that every fossil and site examined for the genus homo contained very clear indications that our ancestors ate both meat and fruit and vegetables. For environmental reasons they only lived in places where they clearly were able to find enough to survive, but they certainly could not afford to be picky. Ruling out what was then a valuable food source because it sounds better within a modern ideological agenda does not add up.

5. It’s a conspiracy!

If you’ve ever challenged any of the previous arguments with facts and empirical evidence, one of the last resorts of the plant-based warrior is what amounts to putting their hands over their ears and singing “la-la-la I can’t hear you”. You might be told that you’re “just stuck in the meat-eater mindset… you’ve been indoctrinated and you can’t think outside the box.” It’s plainly obvious that this old chestnut is just another way of saying “I can’t respond to facts and evidence, so I’m just going to be condescending towards you and make myself feel cool and enlightened instead.” And they’ll even do it to scientists. Who cares if their research has been peer reviewed and their findings checked, double checked and supported by other independent research? Not vegans. With absolutely zero proof, any source of factual information that contradicts the plant-based message “must be funded by the meat industry”!

Talk to any critical thinker or skeptic that has the temerity to challenge the coherence of the plant-based fad and you will probably find that they are glad this last argument comes up. Without needing to do anything more than rolling their eyes and giving the ultra-vegan a look of pity, the latter condemns themself to the basement beneath sincere academic discourse, with the flat-earthers and 9-11 was an inside job crusaders for company.

We are omnivores. The argument coming from marginal vegan voices telling people that we are herbivores is temporarily persistent only because people on the internet get excited too quickly, and vegans impress themselves too easily. In reality this view is analogous to the flat earth movement; up against mountains of impartial scientific research, and held up by a mere pseudo-scientific misunderstanding.

A 44 year old with teenage angst

bad-ass-g

Yourofsky on diet of plants, testosterone and rage

A rant to the audience of Gary Yourofsky the “animal liberation activist”, and to him I suppose.

Gary Yourofsky says “fuck human rights” because animal rights need sorting first and we can’t do them at the same time or we’ll self-combust. His demeanour especially in his most recent videos makes me lose faith in humanity. Oh wait, that’s stupid, it only makes me lose faith in Gary Yourofsky.

Gary Yourofsky subscribes to an outdated perspective of speciesism that even Peter Singer and the academics who coined the term have long since qualified and revisited. Gary Yourofsky repeatedly fails to understand that the entire concept of anti-speciesism is grounded in the fact that humans are animals (and not better than other animals). His asinine view repeated over and again that humans are somehow separate from the rest of nature contradicts the very idea of anti-speciesism and is ironically, as Val Plumwood put it “subtly human-centred”. This version of anti-speciesism, while touted as unprecedented by those who know no better in the vegan community, is so easily dissected that it is used in first year ethics courses at UK universities to introduce students to the different ways to deconstruct and critically analyse philosophical and ethical arguments. On the other hand Gary Yourofsky seems to think a pun is intellectual high ground. Gary Yourofsky is not an expert on anything. He has no formal qualifications in the fields of nutrition, human biology, history, behavioural ecology or ethics. But he volunteers his contentious opinions on these often complex subjects anyway. This has included a number of ill-informed and inaccurate statements about issues in all of these areas, and nutritional advice that is so wrong that it is irresponsible insofar as it could affect the health of others.

Gary conducts himself like a petulant child, getting so angry when pondering his own views that he cannot help himself from wishing death upon anyone who isn’t vegan. This has explicitly (i.e. he has said this directly on more than one occasion) included children. Gary Yourofsky’s parameters for his favourite word “hypocrite” simply encompass anyone who doesn’t agree with him, and he cannot refrain from including the word in every speech he makes, because to do so would be to refrain from trying to assert his perceived superiority. Here’s something hypocritical: Misanthropy = the hatred of the human species. Speciesism = Favour/Prejudice for or against a species (even if it’s your own, Gary). Gary Yourofsky preaches compassion, but even when pondering a scenario in which we actually do sort out animal rights, still cannot bring himself to say anything more polite or sincere than “human rights shit” when talking about the human species. Gary Yourofsky is narcissistic to the point that he is creating a dangerous persona which has the characteristics and potential to radicalise vulnerable people who simply want to get involved with animal welfare in a positive way. He quotes a caption from an image of himself as “the human mind at its best”, bizarre not just because he’s saying this about himself, but because this accolade to the human mind comes from Gary, who quite possibly has the lowest opinion of the human mind on the planet. Yourofsky latently encourages a bullying, vindictive and emotionally blackmailing form of veganism which has prompted complaints from many vegans who feel harassed, threatened and personally attacked instead of intellectually engaged by Yourofsky and his hardcore fans.

Both vegans and non-vegans report simply being blocked by Yourofsky on various platforms after questioning his ideology. Other complaints include having been threatened by Gary, having death (or worse) wished upon them, and even allegations of extortion which, after failing, was followed by the deliberate spreading of false information about the other party.

Some striking and serious parallels between Gary Yourofsky and fundamentalist Islamic militants:

  1. Gary’s misanthropy essentially urges humans to commit suicide for his cause, but like the top ranking militant leaders, he exempts himself from this because of his self-perceived importance to the cause.
  2. Misanthropy is arguably contradictory to the central tenets of veganism, is outright rejected and dismissed by more intelligent academics (who founded the animal rights movement) and the general consensus of vegans, and considered a misguided and extremist extension of veganism, much like most Muslims reject both the mindset and internal incoherence of fundamentalist Islam.
  3. Gary creates a cult of self, making veganism and himself inseparable. This is ultimately the root of intolerance whereby he gives only ultimate, binary choices to the audience who must subscribe to his ideology to the letter, whereas those leaning to towards a variant or nuance of the same ideology are, by rejecting his views, rejecting true veganism, often “hypocrites”. Much like extremist Islamic groups for whom other types of Muslims are “unbelievers”.
  4. In line with the last point, Gary never really defends veganism, defending only critique directed against himself. What he sees as defending his ideology generally involves a very specific counter to something said about him. He has never engaged, nor probably even noticed, the fact that mountains of material has been published in the last decades in critique of Singer’s utilitarian views and of other prominent animal liberation philosophers like Tom Regan and Gary Francione. As such, you notice that Gary is much more abrasive and hostile than other vegan activists because he often filters his focus to external challenges to his interaction with his ideology. Fans excuse this as ‘passion’. In the same way, Islamic militants never bother to defend their underlying ideology, often ignorant of the comprehensive details, and preach only about why they are permitted to commit atrocities because of it.
  5. Gary has clear psychological issues. The amount of genuine suffering that Gary has seen underpins his misanthropy. When a person subjects themselves to witnessing the horrors that occur in the world, it shapes them. It is quite clear that obsession has overtaken and obscured any logical loyalty to the central ideas of veganism. Gary is irritable, angry and often expresses being “sick and tired” or “fed up” of animal cruelty. This has influenced his general outlook on the world, and Gary condemns humanity in entirety with often anecdotal examples of the bad things humans have done, while also using gains made in the animal rights movements as propaganda for the vegan cause, failing to recognise that the latter corrodes his outlook that is disproportionately moulded by the former. Gary has fantasised scenarios in which “evil” humans are punished by harm coming to innocent humans. Islamic fundamentalism is rife in war torn parts of the world and often stems from groups who are “sick and tired” of Western aggression or oppression by the national dictator and often witnessed awful things. It often does not bother such people that innocent people suffer in the way in which they choose to combat their opposition.
fuck the lions save the zebras1

“Go read where I condemn the killer animals.”

Gary Yourofsky, it should now be told, is not a vegan. Complimenting his problematic view that humans are the arbiters of nature and not within it, Gary has expressed both knowingly and perhaps unknowingly that he prefers herbivores to carnivores. This is not veganism. Vegans forward the idea that it is not our business in nature to kill animals. Beyond that is not our affair. Yourofsky surpasses veganism and, at dumbfounding length, hypothesises about forcing nature to be herbivorous. This is an alarming concept from a delusional man who thinks, and he’s really not joking by the way, that he ought not just to ensure that man does not kill other animals, but that natural carnivores should be arrested, forced to have vegetarian diets and therefore, presumably, just die out at some point. That is not veganism. That is herbivore activism, and a psychotic war cry against… nature?!

 

If you are interested in animal welfare, vegan ideology or ethics, it is wise to steer clear of Gary Yourofsky. He is a deplorable ambassador for veganism, a tremendously ill-informed proponent of a set of principles which require its advocates to be well informed, and a vicious and aloof dilettante. He is ideologically all over the place, and staggeringly arrogant concerning his moral standing, despite his applied ethics being comparable to brutal Old Testament righteousness. Gary Yourofsky is what happens when a nasty egomaniac comes across a congenial social ideology. Increasingly bitter with the passage of time, Gary Yourofsky’s ideology will not bring out the best in you, will not make you a happier person, will not help make the world a better place and will not engage you intellectually. Preaching compassion as viciously and sneeringly as possible is a paradox if there ever was one. Gary Yourofsky is full of hate, and doesn’t bother to deny it anymore. If you feel like it is cheap and obtuse to dismiss the connection we feel to other humans, and with the things that we pioneer like music and art, and you feel no reason to be abashed about the positive relationships you have with other human beings, don’t let Gary Yourofsky’s miserable malice and unsound reasoning sway you. He is a delusional hate preacher and a fascist, quick to throw a tantrum when it is even suggested that kindness can occur outside the framework of his own ideology. Animal advocacy is great. But get involved in the right way.

IFAW

Friends of Animals

Vets for Change

VIVA

Pertinent vegan conundrums

Veganism contains other ideological implications by extension. Have many vegans considered them?

Electricity

Where does it come from? Fossil fuels? Have fossil fuels had a negative impact on the natural world?

https://i1.wp.com/www.worldpress.org/images/20100608-oil-spill.jpg

Little bit.

If you’re vegan and you don’t buy animal products because procuring them explicitly involves the suffering of animals, then anything which requires electricity fits the same pattern.

Your electric guitar, your HD TV, your laptop or PC, your mobile phone, your refrigerator full of compassionate snacks and every light in your home –> Electricity –> Power Plant –> Oil/Uranium/Coal/Gas [spills and drilling, radiation, mining and air pollution, use of chemicals in extraction]. Unless you know your electricity comes from a solar plant or wind farm (even the latter is pushing it) then it hurt animals, clearly, like in an oil spill, or less so, like destroying their natural habitat. Accepting one product and not another when they both contradict an ethical virtue you claim to uphold is nothing more than cognitive dissonance (you’re noble enough to give up a ham for a yam, but staying hooked up to facebook is a matter of life and death, right?)

Transport

The logic of this is twofold.

1. You certainly end up hitting loads of bugs. Yeah, yeah I know you vegans only have a problem with murder and allow yourselves manslaughter. You have to be able to live your life, right? Well, you could be Jain > just sayin’ (but by no means joking; it’s extreme, but they still manage, why can’t you?).

2. Exactly the same argument as Electricity – the way we get petroleum is pretty devastating to the natural world.

Pets

Not all vegans (or people) have pets, but some do. You as an individual might treat your pet well, but the industry you support when you bought your furry companion often does not. Gary Francione is aware of this, and writes at length about it. Gary has dogs, but they are from a shelter, so that’s okay. Or is it?

This is where the nuance that begins to partially undermine vegan doctrine begins. We don’t doubt that Gary (and other vegan pet owners) treats his dogs well, nor that he got them without contributing to the cruel pet industry. But what is a dog? Can owning one go hand in hand with vegan lifestyle? Yes, you’ve pre-empted me, a dog is a natural (non-obligate) carnivore. Surely then it cannot do to have one as a vegan. I am aware that there are new vegan dog foods available. And that, I’m sorry, is ethical bedlam. It’s tentative already as to whether we are naturally omnivorous or herbivorous. But dogs are not even on the same level as us; their physiology as carnivores is categorical. Experimenting with a carnivore’s diet is ethically dubious as it is. And research results showing that dogs can be healthy on vegan pet food is preliminary and only sidesteps, and fails to hurdle, the main issue. Regardless of its viability why should a natural carnivore have to be subjected to limitations on its diet based on a human’s ideological persuasion? The dog isn’t vegan? This argument only increases in pertinence when we move away from dogs to cats, and other naturally carnivorous pets whose dietary adaptability is not as versatile as dogs.

Not just food

You may have heard many vegans declaring with chest puffed out that they were staggeringly intelligent enough to be wary of things other than food which contain animal products. Cosmetics and clothing are the main culprits. This is more widespread than many people, vegan or otherwise, realise. A picture created by a vegan to help raise awareness illustrates this:

there-is-no-such-thing-as-vegan

Granted this was supposed to help vegans navigate what they should and shouldn’t be wary of. But wow, look at that list – and that’s just about one animal. I’m afraid saying “No, I got my make up from a special vegan shop online.” really is a bit of a joke. One of those little “V” stickers can’t and won’t come on everything. You can’t possibly not have an “animal product” somewhere in your home. It could literally be in keyboard that you’re typing with, your mobile phone case, the windows, the matches you use to light your vegan candles, the insulation band on, again, your refrigerator full of compassionate snacks, the paint on your walls, the brushes you used for them, the tray on your printer, the roof of your house and … and … need I go on? During the thousands of production processes that lead to the existence of everything in your house.

I’m sympathetic to this last one. That’s not any vegan’s fault, nor does it undermine the virtue of compassion towards animals. But in all, veganism as an ideology is simply Jainism or you’re not taking it seriously. And if it seems like an exaggeration, I want to know to what extent it is an exaggeration. Are vegans serious about saving the natural world? Or are they serious about weighing up the extent to which they can ‘do their bit’ without giving up the conveniences that our horrible, brutal ancestors developed for us?

Speciesism

Why should we be vegan or vegetarians? Speciesism. If you think you are permitted to eat meat, that’s speciesist; your needs don’t come before those of a chicken or a fish simply because you are human and they are not.

Speciesism is the pivotal ethical argument for vegans. Is it a good one?


Speciesism is

As coined by psychologist Richard Ryder

I use the word ‘speciesism’ to describe the widespread discrimination that is practised by man against other species … Speciesism is discrimination, and like all discrimination it overlooks or underestimates the similarities between the discriminator and those discriminated against.

And Wikipedia summarises it as

Speciesism (/ˈspʃˌzɪzəm, sˌzɪz/) involves the assignment of different values, rights, or special consideration to individuals solely on the basis of their species membership. The term is mostly used by animal rights advocates, who argue that speciesism is a prejudice similar to racism or sexism, in that the treatment of individuals is predicated on group membership and morally irrelevant physical differences. The argument is that species membership has no moral significance.

Proponents of anti-speciesism claim that speciesism is analogous to racism and sexism. The term was coined as a deliberate pejorative, to engage your capacity for guilt before you can engage your critical thinking skills and actually analyse the internal consistency of anti-speciesism and the ideologies (i.e. veganism) which it compliments. This article will bypass the partiality of those who coined and championed the term and offer, noting scholars who can probably engage and elaborate better than I can, what I believe is a more accurate view of speciesism and its implications.

Speciesism and racism and sexism are allegedly analogous because, as Peter Singer puts it

Racists violate the principle of equality by giving greater weight to the interests of members of their own race when there is a clash between their interests and the interests of those of another race. Sexists violate the principle of equality by favouring the interests of their own sex. Similarly, speciesists allow the interests of their own species to override the greater interests of members of other species. The pattern is identical in each case.

Race and sex, it is widely understood are not morally relevant criteria for someone to either favour, or condemn another person. Species, it is said, in the same way, is not a morally relevant criterion. The problem with this is where we draw the line between what is and is not morally relevant criteria. Peter Staudenmaier, a history professor and green activist explains the problem with Singer’s logic:

The central analogy to the civil rights movement and the women’s movement is trivializing and ahistorical. Both of those social movements were initiated and driven by members of the dispossessed and excluded groups themselves, not by benevolent men or white people acting on their behalf. Both movements were built precisely around the idea of reclaiming and reasserting a shared humanity in the face of a society that had deprived it and denied it. No civil rights activist or feminist ever argued, “We’re sentient beings too!” They argued, “We’re fully human too!” Animal liberation doctrine, far from extending this humanist impulse, directly undermines it.

Feminist philosopher Nel Noddings elaborates further on why the connection is disingenuous and in her view “too simplistic”

What is speciesism? Peter Singer gives too simplistic a definition.’ He says that racism, sexism, or speciesism amounts to preferring one’s own race, sex, or species over others. But surely one can give preference to one’s own race, sex, or species for many purposes without being racist, sexist, or speciesist. We have to examine the preference and see how it is acted upon. If we draw a conclusion or act on characteristics of race or color that have nothing to do with the matter at hand, we are guilty of racism or sexism. For example, if I were a white landlord who refused to rent my house to a black family because they are black (or for any reason that boils down to this) I should certainly be charged with racism. In contrast, if I were a white physician and regularly checked my black patients more closely than whites for sickle-cell anemia, I would be acting responsibly, not as a racist. Further, there may be many, more cogent reasons for preferring our species than for preferring our race or sex. Our species is the group within which we reproduce, live our daily lives, communicate in speech, and build a culture.
By virtue of this necessary association (without which we could not be human), members of our species have claims on us that others do not.

Natura non contristatur
In other words, the counter claim is not that we are not speciesist, but that we are and we have every right to be. Vegans and so called animal liberation activists often claim that we are only animals too, and it is only taxonomy (as well as the absence of evolutionary intermediaries) which holds up the species construct that many of us allegedly (usually unconsciously) use to “discriminate” against animals. They are right to say that we are animals. If you look at the rest of the animal kingdom incidentally, you see pure and unbridled speciesism. It is not an understatement to say that speciesism is basically what nature is! Every species acts for the good of its own, even in cases of symbiotic relationships, both animals enter that relationship for the benefit of its own species, not the other. Anomalies exist (i.e. spontaneous altruism, documented [but rare] in a handful of carnivores) but what drives nature and evolution is the survival and forwarding of one’s own. Humans, as just another part of nature, have no obligation to be different and have instinctively followed the pattern for as long as we have existed. The instinct that drives us to favour other human beings is natural. Allison Hills in Do Animals Have Rights puts it succinctly in this short section:
Friends, Family and Species
Must we think only about an individual animal’s needs and wants when we decide how to treat it? When we consider how to treat other humans, it is obvious that we take many other things into account. In particular, we spend a lot more time on our friends and family than we do on strangers. We think it important to pay them more attention than strangers, for if we did not, we could not have meaningful relationships with them at all. We don’t accuse people who have friends of ‘friendism’, of a prejudice of treating people who happen to be their own friends disproportionately better than strangers. We think that it is natural and good to have friendships, and it is right to look out for your friends. Of course, this does not mean that you should entirely neglect everyone else, treat strangers really badly or favour your friends and family in every circumstance, but sometimes it is perfectly acceptable to give them extra consideration. We feel a natural bond towards members of our own species, other humans, particularly when they are under threat. We feel that they are our kin, if a more distant kin than our friends and family. Imagine that you are passing a burning house. You manage to go in to check whether anyone is still inside, and see a baby and a parrot in a cage. Suppose that you can only carry one of them out. Which do you save? Of course, you save the baby. It would be odd if you even had to think about your answer. When a human and a non-human are under threat, you choose to save the human: it is natural to feel most concern for the member of your own species. This bias is not unique to humans: a special concern for their own species seems to be natural for many animals.
A further prescriptive analogy could be drawn using sexual orientation. Condemning someone because of their sexual preference, lets say the person is gay, would be homophobic. But you would not say that a straight person is homophobic simply because they prefer members of the opposite sex. You recognise that it is entirely natural. A gay person is not heterophobic, they simply have a natural preference for people of the same sex. Speciesism is an instinctive and natural impulse, just like sexual orientation. It should not be misinterpreted as active discrimination. It should be noticed that Hills, in line with many skeptics of vegan doctrine and anti-speciesism, qualifies the implications of this view:
Even if we do care for humans much more than for other animals, we can ask ourselves whether we are right to do so, just as we can ask ourselves whether we are right to benefit our friends and family over strangers. If we decide that we favour our friends too much, we can take steps to change the way we act towards them, showing more consideration for the basic needs of strangers, and less for the whims of our friends. Similarly, if we decide that it is wrong to treat humans better than animals, or at least that it is wrong to treat them so much better than we treat animals, we can at least try to pay greater attention to the needs of animals, and less to the minor concerns of humans.
Just because we favour our own species, as is natural, does not mean we have an automatic disregard for other species. Speciesism does not support cruelty or senseless violence. It need not even discourage the fervent animal liberation activist. Tzachi Zamir recognises the fallacy of the vegan argument based on anti-speciesism and explains in his book Ethics and the Beast that “reforming our attitude toward nonhuman animals need not involve abandoning widely shared speciesist intuition.”
As a result, a middle ground opens up in which those who do not subscribe to vegan ideology can enter, hopefully without vindication, the discussion surrounding the ethical treatment of animals and what practices we ought to abolish or reform, in our modern world that urgently needs to address these issues.

Gary Yourofsky’s excuses speech

Militant veganism


Vegans have given societies, local and global, a lot to think about. Facts and figures about our diet, and the affect it has on our health and the environment are food for thought, and we owe it to vegans among others for being a barrier to inertia and making us scrutinise our nutritional predispositions.

But facts are facts, and conclusions are conclusions. Are vegans drawing the right conclusions from the facts? That is a question almost impossible to answer, given that vegans, of course, have differing opinions amongst themselves ranging from outright disagreement to individual nuance, regarding a plethora of issues within the ideology itself. One issue is how to recruit. Like most ideologies, veganism will be more effective, the more people actively subscribe to it. Plenty of vegans lead by example. The subject of discussion today is militant veganism, in which recruitment takes an arguably more underhand form. Our example is a speech by Gary Yourofsky, a passionate vegan activist toeing the fine line between educating and proselytizing. Lets take a look.

Or for a link to the speech on YouTube, click here.

This is a speech that Gary presumably has made a number of times to try to spread the word of veganism and for the same reason, recorded and posted it online. It starts with a video. We’re shown an anonymous video of a lion attacking a zebra, as Gary tells us that we’re going to be looking at the circle of life from the victim’s point of view, which apparently, “nobody ever does”. He tells us the zebra doesn’t want to be eaten, just like farm animals do not want to be eaten by us, and that the zebra has a chance to escape, unlike farm animals, whom we should perhaps be giving chances to escape. Next comes a scene in which a hippo displays altruism towards an impala caught by a crocodile, charging the latter and allowing the former to be released, whereupon the hippo attempts to give it “CPR”. Finally we see buffalo returning in numbers to stop lions from killing a young buffalo that was moments before isolated and brought down.

Although it seems like it is bordering on a waste of time to analyse this first part, it is prudent to do so for the sake of comprehensively addressing the rest of the content or the speech as a whole, at all. Firstly the ‘victims’ do not want to be eaten. That seems to be the point Gary is making. It seems obvious. Why say it at all? Perhaps there are a few token meat eaters under the illusion that our meat animals somehow want to be eaten, so that was the reason for this stating of the obvious. The hippo scene raises more questions. Documented does not make something common. Do hippos regularly and actively rescue animals from crocodiles, or was this an exception to prove the rule? Does proving that animals can ostensibly show compassion actually support veganism anyway? Was the hippo really performing CPR (Yourofsky notes that ‘they’ are much “brighter than we give them credit for”)? It would be nice to have that (the ‘CPR’ matter) confirmed by someone qualified to do more than speculate. Most noteworthy is Gary’s language during this introduction. Remember that we are looking at scenes in nature completely detached from humans here. Most vegans logically accept that the human situation cannot possibly be compared to other animals (who, after all, need meat to survive), which is why we are not excused for eating meat simply because “lions and bears do it too”. Yet here Gary simply cannot contain his preference for “vegan” animals. He praises the herbivores and uses charged language like “violent thugs” to describe natural carnivores.

Gary wants nature aside from us to be vegan too. He may claim to have been creating analogies, but consciously or not he is nonetheless displaying a bizarre bias against nature taking its course. Consider that Gary fails to mention, probably because he failed to recognize, that the lion is attacking the zebra (and the crocodile the impala etc.) for the same reason that the zebra is trying to get away. Simply to survive. If the zebra doesn’t manage to escape from the lion, it dies. If the lion doesn’t manage to kill the zebra, it might die. But Gary is rooting for the zebra, and the impala and buffalo, whether he knows it or not, hoping for the death of the lions and crocodiles of this world, who are also simply a (critical) part of nature. The intended point of the video was to show that animals essentially don’t want to be prey, and therefore none deserve to be. This is far from the only time that Gary has explicitly expressed a desire for nature in its entirety to be herbivorous, which, if you are even vaguely familiar with ecology you will realise is quite mad. After this, Gary introduces himself and his lifestyle, and the link between “prey not wanting to be prey” and this supporting the human ideology that is veganism, remains unmade.

Onto emotional blackmail and furtive use of language. Gary does not eat anything “with a face” (because it’s faces and appearances that exempt something from the food chain, obviously) and only eats “normal food” that wasn’t “covered in blood and guts”. Blood and guts are in fact food if you simply take the word food at face value, as is anything that you can eat, but Gary is pursuing the ethical side of the debate so lets continue. He now misdefines speciesism as “believing that the human species can do whatever it wants to any animal species”. Actually, it is defined as:

speciesism, in applied ethics and the philosophy of animal rights, the practice of treating members of one species as morally more important than members of other species; also, the belief that this practice is justified.” (Encyclopaedia Britannica) for more information click here.

The term is really the central tenet of veganism and has various ramifications, but either way, Gary’s definition is not accurate; it does not mean that the human species can “do whatever it wants to any animal species”. He then claims that the result of speciesism has more victims than all other forms of discrimination combined. The number quoted is 150 billion animals worldwide per year, which are being “tortured … to satisfy our meat, dairy and egg addictions”. The source of this figure is not given. Though many probably are, evidence that all of these animals are subject to “torture” is not provided. Red mist notwithstanding, Gary should at least be able source his information and refrain from throwing around strictly defined words, as well as from (“and billions more for clothing and entertainment”) speculating. But what if we were the victims of something like this? We now apparently “have to examine injustice from the victim’s point of view”, Gary asks what it would feel like if we were commodified, and thus “don’t you think the animals … feel the same way?”. He trips up continuously on this red herring, and not just in this speech. Gary is assuming that the way animals perceive and experience the world must be comparable to ours, to his. But Gary is not a cow, a chicken, a salmon, a crab, a bee or anything else. He has nothing to offer in this speech but conjecture and assumption on what animals “feel”. Plenty of research and study can confirm basic things such as that most mammals have a basically similar nervous system to us and probably have a roughly similar capacity for physical pain. We can somewhat ascertain what some animals “like” or “dislike” in a basic sense. But to claim to know what they “feel” is childish and foolish. You would expect even the animal welfare novice to have read and absorbed something from Alison Hills’ Do Animals Have Rights.

Do they have an inner mental life? We see things as coloured, as bright or dark; we hear and taste things; we have pleasant and painful experiences. We assume that Felix and Rover have experiences too, perhaps rather different from ours because their ways of sensing the world are not like ours, but we think that there is something it is like to be Felix or Rover, just as there is something it is like to be you or me. We are less confident that there is something it is like to be an ant, slug or bacterium.

This is amplified by the fact that Gary only manages to specify “the animals”, of which of course there are many. Many whose capacities for reasoning, physical ‘feeling’ and mental ‘feeling’ vary extraordinarily. Of course, many animals, including farm animals, can feel physical pain and science has taken cautious steps into observing and understanding emotions in some animals. If you would like to learn more about that area I would not suggest closing your eyes and pretending to be an animal, but perhaps reading these articles in parentheses (Can animals feel pain? Animal Rights, Anthropomorphism and Traumatized Fish)

Nearly all the external signs that lead us to infer pain in other humans can be seen in other species, especially the species most closely related to us–the species of mammals and birds. (Principle of Analogy)
In addition, we know that these animals have nervous systems very like ours, which respond physiologically like ours do when the animal is in circumstances in which we would feel pain: an initial rise of blood pressure, dilated pupils, perspiration, an increased pulse rate, and, if the stimulus continues, a fall in blood pressure: […] (entire article here)

Next we endure a barrage of attacks against our own reputation as humans, and rightly so. We are indeed just animals as well and have no right to call other animals dirty, considering our environment and the effect we have had on it. We are just animals, stepping out of our own box to look at ourselves impartially for a second could well give us cause to label ourselves “dirty”. Remember that this is, if we’re being cynical, a guilt trip, and if we’re not, a reality check. In itself it does not support the ideology of veganism (unless you continue to infer a number of other things). Gary says that despite being technologically brilliant, ethically “we’re on a par with parasites”. Again this is a bizarre connection. And again, you would think that someone who dedicates their life to animals would know more about how to approach the subject. This statement suggests that parasites have ethics, could choose to act ethically, but don’t. If it’s okay to improve your argument Gary, we’re not on a par with parasites. If we were, we would be off the hook. You would be the first to agree that we certainly are not off the hook.

Gary has done his research on the meat industry (especially the American one, presumably due to the audience, though the focus need not be restricted). There is plenty that the general public should not overlook regarding the meat industry, and some of those things he raises in this section of the speech. It could be pointed out that the meat industry varies considerably across the world, but it is worth not getting too hung up on that to take a moment to weed out real issues in intensive farming.

If the next point about where eggs come from really sways you, there’s not a lot any reasonable person can do to help you.

Caught up in his own fantasy, we come to the “Bear vs Hiker” conundrum. A common problem. Gary tells the class and us the viewer that when a bear kills a hiker we label that bear a “homicidal maniac”. May I just plain and simply disagree? No, we don’t label bears homicidal maniacs. We’re smart enough to know that bears are bears and can do that sort of thing. Gary exposes a hypocrisy that he made up, or at best grossly exaggerated.

If the opening video wasn’t enough exceptions proving rules for you, and you still haven’t had your fill of his unique and dumbfounding ability to know what animals think and feel, then Gary has another piece of carefully selected evidence for you. Of the apparently ubiquitous practice of leopards going vegan. On his website, Gary can show you video footage of carnivores having a heart and refusing to eat another animal. If you think this is poignant, consider these questions. Do you think all or even most of the other leopards (or lions etc.) act this way? Regularly? Do you think even that particular leopard in the footage had an epiphany? Did it never kill again? A few days, or weeks later, what do you think it had been eating after the cameras stopped rolling? Salad? Mediterranean vegetables? And again it has to be asked, does a video of a time when a leopard exhibited kind behavior specifically support human, vegan ideology? It’s a jungle out there, and even if for some weird reason that leopard, or even all leopards, changed their ways, essentially committing their entire species to mass suicide, nature would still be harsh and unforgiving just as it has been overwhelmingly documented as being.

The most mind-boggling part of the speech arrives. Gary second guesses our question at this point. He knows what animals are thinking so I’m sure this will be accurate. What does he think we’re thinking? “‘Yeah Gary, but if animals want to be treated equally to us, and treated fairly, then the animals who eat other animals need to be arrested and charged with murder’ … you are missing my point completely.” [silence] Were any of you thinking that? No of course you weren’t. A scenario where anyone would logically think we might have to arrest a shark for eating a fish is beyond stupid. But Gary continues “But, I support that.” [more silence] What? Why? Leave nature alone. You want to arrest carnivorous animals for being… carnivorous animals? Gary clarifies “as long as all the humans who eat animals turn themselves in to face the same consequences. [smug face, hands in pockets] Be careful about throwing stones in your glass house.” Ohhh, so we can’t be hypocritical, of course. We have to hold ourselves up to the same standards before we’re allowed to… arrest animals for being animals. “Because if you want to arrest animals and charge them with crimes, they actually need equal rights.” Again? Okay. Let’s not arrest animals and charge them with crimes. Once animals have equal rights and can therefore enjoy life and liberty like us, Gary will “call the cops on the next dog I see for killing a squirrel.” Aside from ethics, consider that forwarding veganism might cost a lot of tax dollars in expanding policing enough to arrest every natural carnivore ever and somehow giving it a trial (Gary’s not a tyrant, he would give them a trial). I’m sure nature will function fine with herbivores only.

Now we get to more issues, such as fishing on TV, hot dog eating contests on ESPN while people are starving and agribusiness diverting grains and foods fit for human consumption to livestock. Genuine issues. Remember that if you disagree with fishing and think a hot dog eating contest is boorish first world bravado, you have to also be vegan. If you try to write a letter of complaint as a non-vegan, your hands will seize up, and if you try to cancel the fishing channel on your cable, you’ll turn into a fish before you can do it. It’s just not possible. For a more in-depth, impartial, comprehensive and accurate look at the injustices, disadvantages as well as myth-busting and general facts about agriculture and the meat industry, Simon Farlie’s Meat, a Benign Extravagence is essential reading. Remember that Gary is only able to produce facts about the USA’s food industry, and that plenty of commentators (vegans and non) have put forward well-thought out counter proposals to the destructive state of the modern meat industry.

Next you are told that if you eat meat and are only concerned with the welfare of the animals before they are killed, you may as well condone child rape. This emotionally charged argument hinges on whether you agree with the highly contentious issue of speciesism. This is too lengthy a topic to discuss within the framework of this commentary, essentially his argument is deliberately and misleadingly reductive, but see my post dedicated to this matter here, as well as these informative sources.

The video Gary shows now contains some disturbing images that no-one should dismiss out of hand. It would have been prudent to replace the unnecessary captions appearing in each scene with important information like the exact place and time of recording, and information about how widespread the practices shown are. Since he dismisses free range, organic and cage free operations too, Gary should have included these in the montage instead of deliberately choosing the most provocative images. This is mentioned not as a challenge to the overall point but genuinely to highlight the fact that at least some such operations have been shown after investigation to be almost as bad as battery and industrial farming formats. The skeptical viewer should be aware that many of these middle ground operations have not paved the way for any real change.

We are asked to ponder in the wake of that video, since beheadings in the middle east are making the headlines at the time “Is beheading evil, or does it matter whose head is being cut off?” You, the reader, can think about that for yourself.

“I will forever be embarrassed to be a human being.” Is it petty here to mention Gary’s clear swagger, hands-in-pockets cavalier self righteousness and penchant for rhetorical questions, condescension and second guessing your (not to mention animals’) opinions? Did he fool you too? Would a humble human being be about to tell you that “you’ve been programmed not to care” and “brainwashed to be good little life-long consumers of animal body parts” but “I can un-brainwash and deprogram you for free”? He also states “I am the ethics police” who will defend animals from you, so just in case you thought your opinions were equal, they’re not, his are, thanks to his self appointed position, above yours.

Interestingly, Gary says that “a symbiotic relationship between humans and animals is not happening”. Perhaps he’s changing the meaning to mean animals as a whole or being selective about which species falls under his definition, but if we are talking about there being individual symbiotic relationships between humans and animals, that is categorically untrue. There are many.

Now religion is in the spotlight. God is no good reason to kill animals. This is reasonable in the sense that God is not a good reason to do anything.

Gary has by this point forgotten that he said he wasn’t the “health police” a few minutes earlier, and is now moving away from the ethical side of the argument, to the practical. Veganism’s strongest and weakest point simultaneously. Strong because it is based upon many accurate and noteworthy facts (though Gary doesn’t mention very many). Weakest because these facts don’t exclusively back up veganism. We are told “all vitamins and all nutrients come from plants”. This is misleading, the full picture is more complicated than this because nominally identical nutrients are not actually the same in plant/meat sources. Protein is the example often used (see here and here), but don’t dwell too much on that one example; it’s now more or less unanimously accepted that protein in general is quite overstated in its dietary importance to us (we need it, but in most balanced diets you’re probably getting enough without any extra efforts required). The point is, nutrients are different depending on whether they come from meat or plants. As you might logically expect, a balanced diet should contain some of both. More in this vein later.

Apparently “Those who eat milk, cheese, meat, eggs and honey don’t get proper nutrition.” The problem with this vegan marketing should be obvious. Does that statement make sense? Remember that if you are an omnivore, you can eat everything in theory. That is what the omni in omnivore means. There is nothing stopping you from eating all the nutritious plant based foods that vegans eat, even if you eat milk, cheese etc. as well. If what Gary just said was true, then you could eat exactly the same meals as Gary all day (full of vitamins and everything you need, no doubt) and differ only in that you had an additional few cubes of cheese in your salad, and a drizzle of honey on your cereal, but because of those couple of little extras… well, you’re not getting proper nutrition. Make sense? Of course not.

“You’re getting a secondary and depleted dose of vitamins and minerals when you eat animal products.” The aforementioned point applies again. This is a generalization and partially true, but nutrients from meat and plants work in different ways and come with different advantages and disadvantages (e.g. plants don’t contain a complete set of amino acids and aren’t as readily utilized by the human body, but they do contain more vitamins and less fat).

Gary’s Vitamin b12 argument is really quite irresponsible. Studies have shown that vegans are ‘more likely’ to be deficient in vitamin b12, as well as creatine, carnosine and DHA (regardless of the overall tone, read through this article). That he personally was not deficient in vitamin b12 at one point in time when he took a test (which he may have known about in advance) proves nothing other than that he personally, at that specific time, was not deficient in vitamin b12. Some vegan activists have pointed out that there are vegan sources of vitamin b12 available (while some doctors, like Dr Stephen Byrnes, dispute this), but the study shows that, in practice, vegans as a group actually aren’t getting enough, and so perhaps they need to work those things (if they really are viable b12 sources) or supplements into their diet a little more actively, or else reconsider it more pragmatically. His statement that cholesterol is something that we “don’t need at all” is ill-informed too. Especially high cholesterol is bad, sure, but we do need cholesterol:

Cholesterol is both our friend and foe – at normal levels, it is an essential substance for the body’s normal functioning, but if levels in the blood get too high, it becomes a silent danger that puts us at risk of a heart attack.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is found in every cell of the body and has important natural functions. It is manufactured by the body but can also be taken in from food. It is waxy and fat-like in appearance.1-3 Cholesterol is oil-based and so does not mix with the blood, which is water-based. It is therefore carried around the body in the blood by lipoproteins.1-3 The parcels of cholesterol are carried by two types of lipoprotein:2

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL – cholesterol carried by this type is known as ‘bad’ cholesterol)

  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL – cholesterol carried by this type is known as ‘good’ cholesterol).

Cholesterol has four main functions, without which we could not live. It:1,3

  • Contributes to the structure of cell walls

  • Makes up digestive bile acids in the intestine

  • Allows the body to produce vitamin D

  • Enables the body to make certain hormones.

(source) The pharmaceutical industry’s success is apparently testament to the benefit of veganism… somehow. Why we are supposed to lament the success of the pharmaceutical industry is something that should at least be heavily qualified. But the purely commercial side of selling the public supplements they should not need, we can lament. A whole host of different diets and guidelines backed by hundreds of nutritionists all offer viable alternatives to this, many with confirmed successes. Veganism does not have a monopoly on the answer to this problem. We come to a point already addressed incidentally but repeated by Gary, not wrongly. He lists plenty of vegan foods that contain protein and mentions that you really do not need to go out of your way to get more of it.

We can sum up the next section of preaching by answering one specific question that Gary asks which was supposed to be rhetorical. “How come when vegans try to tell people how to treat or prevent a disease, everybody hates us?”

Answer: Because you’re not doctors, usually not qualified to offer advice on the matter, and when you do, it’s to forward your own ideology. And that is irresponsible. Gary is spot on with the price argument, although it might have been nice to offer something other than yet more anecdotal evidence. Apparently vegans can make their diet taste like almost anything else, too, if you were interested in that. Next, Gary directs us to his opinion, and I stress the word opinion piece on his website about humans being natural herbivores. He throws around phrases like “all the scientific evidence” with crass, unjustifiable flippancy. Dr. John McArdle, himself a vegetarian on ethical grounds, among others, argues that proponents of the belief that we are exclusively vegetarians jumped to conclusions from discerning that we are not exclusive carnivores. The points he raised have been addressed time and again. (More here and here)

“We obviously are not carnivores, but we are equally obviously not strict vegetarians, if you carefully examine the anatomical, physiological and fossil evidence,” says McArdle, executive director of the Alternatives Research and Development Foundation in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. According to a 1999 article in the journal The Ecologist, several of our physiological features “clearly indicate a design” for eating meat, including “our stomach’s production of hydrochloric acid, something not found in herbivores. Furthermore, the human pancreas manufactures a full range of digestive enzymes to handle a wide variety of foods, both animal and vegetable.

Why it is supposed to be convincing which animals we are like, and which we are unlike today is a strange sentiment. That our “closest” relatives are bonobos, which are herbivorous, has nothing to do with what we are ‘supposed’ to be (!it has come to my attention that even bonobos are not herbivorous 1,2). You can infer that this makes us more likely to have a similar diet, but that is a short-sighted precedent to set. Technically, the logical thing to do is to look back along our own evolutionary ancestry, if you are trying to infer what we are ‘supposed’ to be, not to a different modern day species which, despite sharing a common ancestor with us (as did all animals at some point), evolved along a different branch to us for however many thousands of years. This, notably, is what plenty of researchers and qualified scientists, including the ones I linked to above, have done. As far as impartial science is concerned, the view that humans are herbivores is up there with the lunatic conspiracy theories of recent times. The overwhelming consensus backed by masses of study and research is that we are omnivores. Recently, I addressed this here.

Now we are told to be wary of propaganda… fabulous dramatic irony. However, there is a rather silly argument against veganism stating that it must be cruel to murder innocent plants. Gary has every right to dispel that. Of course he comes at it from left-field. The horrendously distorted and oversimplified all our crops are going to animals argument comes up. This is one of veganism’s worst arguments and does not work on various levels. The diversion of so much grain and crops to livestock is an issue, and since many good nutritionists are now quite certain that we in the Western world should eat at most a third of the amount of meat that we currently (on average) eat, we could act on this problem (without the need to become vegan). But would that change how food is distributed? Remember that even with the wasteful nature of intense farming the Western world is actually already producing more than enough food to feed the world’s population. Technically we don’t have to change anything about our farming methods if that is the goal. The problem is distribution, we waste an unimaginable amount of our food, vegan and non, whether it is given to livestock or simply thrown into the kitchen bin of homes or restaurants. Food in the Western world goes to us. A profit needs to be made from it, and it either stays within our borders or ends up on the plate or in the bin of someone equally un-threatened by starvation as us, thousands of miles away from where it is more urgently needed. Veganism would not solve this problem.

If you are still not convinced by Gary yet, be aware that he has done this speech all over the place, he is in demand so he must be right. But yes, if you have smidgen of ability to think critically you certainly would not be impressed by an amateur preacher like Gary, the vegan movement’s televangelist. But at this point I want to tip the balance towards integrity, knowing that what I have done by writing this is essentially attack the lowest common denominator. But that does not mean I have refuted veganism, since Gary Yourofsky’s arguments often don’t support it in the first place. If people want to sincerely look at the viability of veganism, far better representatives exist who are well versed in ethics, nutrition and ecology, and put together coherent arguments. Tzachi Zamir’s brilliant mind surpassed the initial flaws of vegan doctrine and builds only on the rational aspects of animal liberation ideology. Youtuber Unnatural Vegan summarises a lot of his most relevant points. Blogger Speciesist Vegan powers through the cannon fodder arguments of veganism and shows how a person can have sound reasons to follow a vegan ideology without the nonsense. Essentially, if you’re looking for serious discussion about vegan ideology, you can skip the excuses speech, and Gary Yourofsky’s high school angst propaganda.