Letter writer: Vegan activists’ attacks are misguided

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Dear Concerned Animal Rights Activist:

It’s great to see you weighing in so strongly on this issue. At the very least, we can all get to see the deep passion that runs beneath your activism, and at best, we can have this public dialog that may open minds.

What stands out for me the most in your letter is the heartbreak. And your desire for a saner, safer world, specifically in your desire for the reduction of harm and suffering of living creatures. That kind of empathy for living beings is very moving and important. May none of us lose touch with deep feeling.

And yet I do believe there is a need for some additional context.

First of all, small farmers, animal welfare activists and conscious meat eaters are natural allies. The same values that many vegans espouse: less ecological abuse, less violence toward animals, less exploitation of humans and less insanity in the food system are also values shared by small farmers and ethical meat eaters. We all seem to want regenerative, life-giving, holistic and healing agricultural practices instead of violent, oppressive and destructive industrial systems.

Maybe there’s a premise here that no one should ever eat meat. But that’s a hard sell, and most vegans and vegan activists know that to be true. We can argue all day long about the health benefits of meat versus vegan diets or of grain agriculture versus animal agriculture. All sides have valid points, even amid the endless variables and facts. But this truth is this: The vast majority of humans are still going to eat meat.

So if we’re not getting rid of meat eaters any time soon, can we support, inspire and educate them to choose systems that are humane, sane, life-giving and holistic? I believe we can. We can encourage folks to grow their own or buy from local farmers. We can encourage the use of organic principles and integrated systems that improve the land, soil and water. And we can encourage them to harvest and give death to their animals in a mindful way.

For every sheep raised on a pasture and killed on the farm, it’s one less sheep living and dying in the horrors of an industrial system where overcrowding, disease, illness, toxic food and violence is a daily and lifelong experience.

As a farmer myself, I had to learn about the cycles of life in regard to raising animals. There is a reproduction phase, a birthing phase, a development phase and a harvesting phase. All of these phases require hard work, planning and management. And in order to continue farming, we must cull. We must harvest, or the farm will be overrun, and the ecosystems and farm systems will be out of balance. There wouldn’t be enough food for the flock; there would be parasites and illnesses; the carrying capacity would be thrown off; and general breakdown would ensue.

So by saying you don’t want killing on small farms, you’re saying you don’t want small farms raising animals. Because death is part of that process. And death, contrary to popular belief, is not the same as violence. In our death-denying culture, we don’t have many models for conscious dying, even on a human level. But other cultures and conscious dying activist groups are pioneering a movement and opening our eyes to the possibility that a person’s death and dying process can be more integrated and present a journey than we could have imagined.

The same is true for the death of an animal on the farm. In the case of farming for meat, the reason animals are born is because they will one day die and provide food. That’s their role. As sustainable-minded farmers and stewards, we can choose to make every part of that life cycle, including their deaths, as healthy and sane as possible. Few farmers I know take actual “pleasure” in the killing of an animal. But we can make it as quick and pain-free as possible. And we can honor the animal by using all parts in service to our own continued existence. In animal farming, there is no greater reverence.

So while I’m glad that the vegan activists are sharing their minds, I do believe your attacks are misguided. Meredith Leigh, author of The Ethical Meat Handbook, is actually supporting folks to take the ultimate level of responsibility for their meat consumption by raising their own. And a special weight of responsibility falls on those who will take a life of an animal they’ve raised. It’s the kind of weight we want. Because with that weight, never again will they take it lightly. And never again will they pick up a package of meat without knowing the context. And always and forever, they will know the value.

For the activists holding a protest and vigil against this local workshop, please know that these folks are your allies. It might seem that industrial agriculture is the beast that no one can tackle, but rest assured, it’s the one that’s causing all your heartache. For example, according to a recent USDA report on US Livestock Slaughter, 193,300 sheep were killed in September of 2016 alone. If you’d like to reduce that number, let’s get more folks growing locally so those animals can have healthier lives and deaths. Please bring your passion and add to the mix, vision, strategy and context so that we can join together to build the world we want. But first, let’s stop fighting among ourselves.

— Lee Warren
Executive Director
Organic Growers School
Asheville

Editor’s note: This letter is a response to the letter, “Join Me in Asking to Stop Sheep Slaughter.” Although Xpress contacted Meredith Leigh (who had originally planned to conduct the Wild Abundance workshop) for a response, Warren offered her letter above in support of Leigh.

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114 thoughts on “Letter writer: Vegan activists’ attacks are misguided

  1. Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

    I suspect that most of the intolerant voices coming out of the Westboro Vegan Church are arm-chair ethicists who have no real-life experience raising farm animals. It’s entirely different than raising a dog or cat. For the most part, non-industrial farms provide the absolutely best life these animals could ever have. And once born, they all eventually die. That is never pleasant. Would intolerant vegan zealots be happier to see these animals die naturally in pain and misery when they become infirm through disease or old age?

    • Trying to justify unnecessary killing on the basis of the innocent victim already having had a good life doesn’t work. Try arguing that in court on a murder trial.

      Also, it’s unnecessary to breed animals into existence for exploitation, no matter how “nice” the exploitation is. It’s a false dilemma to worry about how the victim will die when they never had to be bred into exploitation in the first place.

      • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

        Fallacious false equivalence. You guys are so hung up on this logical fallacy. Animals are not human.

        • And white people are not black people. And men are not women. Racism, sexism and speciesism are all the same fallacy of elevating morally irrelevant characteristics, such as group membership, and ignoring relevant characteristics, such as an interest in not being exploited or killed.

          • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

            Specieism. There it is. The insanity behind this movement.

          • Speciesism is the insanity behind animal exploitation, just like racism was the insanity behind American slavery. Of course, speciesist and racists don’t see speciesism and racism (respectively) as a problem, and are both notoriously difficult to persuade otherwise.

          • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

            “…racism was the insanity behind American slavery”

            Uh no it wasn’t. Economic benefit was the motivation, just like it was in every other part of the world for thousands of prior years.

          • Sure, it had a benefit to white slave owners, even more so than animal slavery has a benefit to animal exploiters, but the institution was based on and “justified” by racism, just as animal exploitation is based on and “justified” by speciesism.

          • Aaron T Garner

            What about broccoli slavery and carrot exploitation? How far are you planning on taking this nonsense?

          • Aaron T Garner: I wouldn’t try to explain algebra to anyone who insisted that 1+1=3. Just so, I won’t try to explain speciesism to you. You have to demostrate that you’re sane, and have the mental and emotional development of at least a 7 year old, before I’ll take anything you write seriously.

      • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

        And btw, the assertion that farm animals are unnecessary is absurd because they provide the essential benefit of natural, sustainable fertilizer for plant-based food. Your whole argument is self-defeating.

        • Nope, plant compost (veganic farming) is a much better way than manure. I personally know farmers who farm veganicly.

          One can also strongly argue that synthetic fertilizers are necessary to feed billions of people, and that applying manure or organic (even veganic) cannot effectively or efficiently feed 7 billion humans.

          • Sorry no where near the mineral content or the number of soil microbes solely with plant compost as there are with farming systems that incorporate animal manures. Plus much harder to do solely plant compost in dryer less humid environment. In such environment you have to grow, collect, compost, and re-apply this compost…you also have to import minerals….Whereas with well managed livestock, particularly ruminants, they do it all in the field, mow, compost, and spread manure without any fuel required…and animal manure contain minerals.. …also no tillage for cover crops. So veganics only can be used in small scale on arable land….but doesn’t build much SOM…especially on non-arable land.

          • Fine. None of this matters for purposes of a vegan world, which is really the main topic of this comment section.

            Seven billion is a huge number of people to feed. The truth is, no matter how much I may dislike it, synthetic fertilizers are probably required to sustainably feed that magnitude of population. That’s probably true even adding indoor farming to the mix.

            But for argument’s sake, let’s say ruminants are required, or too effective and efficient not to use for soil management in a vegan food system. It still doesn’t require us to slaughter the ruminants. Vegan animal sanctuaries have better soil because of the dozens of rescued ruminants who sustainably graze on it, and no one kills those animals. They die of old age. Ruminant population could be managed with birth control or selective sterilization with anesthetics.

            Although I’m not proposing it, the only herd it would be sustainable to cull would be the human herd of 7 billion, soon to be 9 billion. I do propose the education of women (which is very strongly correlated with lower birth rates), strong promotion of birth control, and even, in some cases, incentivized, informed and voluntary sterilization of men and women.

          • Sorry animal sanctuaries are small, few and far between and have to beg for money to support themselves unless they have a wealthy benefactor. Unless one lives in your fantasy world., you can’t cover or restore very very much land with such systems. The economics simply don’t work. Considering how much land has been degraded across the world due to 10,000 years of tilled farming, that’s a huge amount of crowdfunding campaigns. So sorry, some of us live in the real world, rather than this fantasy where all the piggies get to die of old age. Plus you’re happy world without death requires even more human intervention for birth control. This too deprives animals from having fulfilled lives. Why? Rearing offspring is a huge part of any animal’s life especially pigs . Oh, but only for your moral conscience’s convenience, because you can’t handle death, you’re depriving all animals this natural behavior and instinct. Again why? Because you’re afraid of the whole concept of death. Not every pig or rabbit that is born was intended to live it’s entire lifespan. That’s why these animals have large litters. On a farm the best of the species reproduce and become breeding stock, while the less desirable animals become meat. This parallels nature where the strongest continue the species. Cattle also breed every year. The best of the species are retained as replacement heifers and bulls. How do ranchers pay their own taxes, labor or leases to manage and RESTORE million of acres of land with well managed cattle? With crowd funding campaigns? Um, no. They do this by harvesting the animals off of land that is NOT suitable for crops.

            This is a really excellent article featuring Sonoma County “grass farmers.” http://madelocalmagazine.com/2016/11/betting-on-herbavores/ Too often people think that Holistic Management is just another way to move cattle akin to rotational grazing. But as this article illustrates, Holistic Management, first and foremost, is a process to restore and regenerate land taking a total or holistic view. HM is currently being done on over 50 million hectares of land on five continents with a lot more land being added. How many hectares of sanctuaries are there? Less than a million?

            With HM, the existing condition of the land is assessed, goals are determined, a plan is implemented, and then that plan is constantly re-assessed and modified to achieve the plan’s goals. Goals include improved soil health, greater plant and wildlife diversity, improved forage, improved animal welfare, improved hydrology, etc.

            Ruminants are an essential tool for achieving these restorative and regenerative goals. In this capacity, ruminants are “all-in-one” tools. They are mowers, seed pushers, ground “indentors”, composters, and fertilizer spreaders. Plus they don’t require any fossil fuels (while improving the carbon cycle when managed properly).

            As mowers, ruminants “mow” grasses that would otherwise oxidize as well as potentially fuel fires. As seed pushers, ruminants hoof action press seeds down into the soil. As ground “indentors”, hooves again create indentations for puddles which allows for greater water infiltration. As composters, especially in brittle environments, ruminants quickly breakdown cellulose (grasses) through their rumen via bacteria. As fertilizer spreaders, the resulting manure (and pee) builds soil organic matter plus increases the amount and diversity of soil microbes which improves soil fertility. With more organic matter and microbes, there’s greater soil health. Greater soil health, in turn, improves carbon sequestration, water infiltration, methane oxidation and above ground biodiversity.

            Ruminants also finance the land improvement goals through leases with land owners, and through the sale of meat. And meat (sorry vegetarians and vegans) is the best way to get nutrient dense food off of land that isn’t suitable (arable) for crops. (Integrated livestock on crop land is good too for a number of reasons, but that’s a different discussion). Consequently Holistic Management also rebuilds and regenerate local economies especially rural ones (see White Oak Pastures? as a brilliant example of this).

            Or, in other words, many ranchers today- utilizing holistic management methods- are also ecologists and conservationists as well as entrepreneurs rebuilding local economies…..sorry sanctuaries don’t do any of this.

          • And no, humans can’t digest cellulose so they’re useless in grassland ecosystems plus would require massive transport of such manure for spreading on fields where ruminants already are, and where ruminants historically were. How much energy (CO2) is required for that treatment, compose, collection, transport, and spreading on fields? A HUGE amount, where ruminants on fields have none of these associated issues. Again, you’re living in a make believe world.

          • Oooh, it seems I hit a nerve, Stephan. You mixed quite an irrelevant rant (with more than a few pissy and sarcastic “apologies”) with, as you wrote it, Holistic Management (which, when capitalized, reads like your religion) based on your herding culture and your preconceived notions of how the world must be, creating a large, if inedible, word salad that didn’t address my argument at all. Is your conscience bothering you? If it is, I totally understand.

            Regardless of your sincerity or lack there of, please don’t apologize to me or any other vegans. We’re not the ones confined, tortured, or getting our throats slit. If you want to sincerely apologize, please direct it at someone, like a “little piggy,” who, unlike us, is in a completely unnecessary state of terror or intolerable agony.

            That said, let me point out your mistakes once again:

            First, I never claimed sanctuaries would fill the role of manure producers or the conduit of Holy Holistic Management. (I actually do regret bringing up the utopian setting of a sanctuary as an example, since it could be reasonably assumed to be “the method,” which I did not intend.) All I claimed –correctly — was that IF we need to use ruminants for manure to feed 7 billion people vegan food (using, of course, Holy Holistic Management), it would be easy to do it WITHOUT INTENTIONALLY slaughtering them. Sure, many ruminants may die of various unintentional causes, such as wild predators and illness. And a vegan society would use vets to painlessly euthanize noticeably sick animals and perhaps fences, where feasible, to keep out predators. But the vegan vision, contrary to the confusion perpetuated by anti-abolitionists, is not utopian or unrealistic, just as human rights are generally not presumed to be utopian or unrealistic. After all, we predictably and knowingly kill over 30,000 humans annually on our highways, and engine governors limiting speed limits to non-lethal levels are not even thought about, much less considered or debated. And that’s not to mention the noncombatants, including children, knowingly and predictably killed in wars.

            Second, you assume I’m (and vegans generally are) irrationally opposed to death, per se. While none of us is fond of death, or more specifically, the dying process, especially to the extent it’s violent or horrific (as the death of 60 billion land animals and probably even more water animals, annually, is as a result of unnecessary human exploitation), we realize that life is harsh, and that we, and our animal friends, will certainly die, sometimes quite painfully. The difference between you and us is that we don’t want to UNNECESSARILY AND INTENTIONALLY INFLICT DEATH on innocent and vulnerable others, while you insist on doing so.

            Now, if you would please spare me your irrelevant insistence on ruminant soil management and either actually address my argument in my previous comment with intellectual honesty or remain silent, I would appreciate it. I’ve already assumed, for argument’s sake, that we would need your Holy Holistic Management involving ruminants. I just don’t see why we need slaughterhouses as part of the process.

          • One aspect of your argument that is more relevant than soil management, but still not terribly relevant to the question of whether animal exploitation is necessary to feed large populations, is whether Holy Holistic Management is economically feasible without slaughter.

            Of course, just as human chattel and wage slavery were economically far superior from the purely self-interested perspective of those who didn’t value slave lives on the basis of racism, so slaughter of ruminants is economically superior from the purely self-interested perspective of those who don’t value animal lives on the basis of speciesism. In a deeply racist society, slavery is economically required. Just so, in a deeply speciesist culture, Holy Holistic Management is not economically feasible without slaughter.

            But this comes down to values, which is why I consider your argument from economics irrelevant. If we eventually change our values, as Americans did over several decades regarding chattel slavery, Holy Holistic Management is economically feasible without slaughter. We need to start somewhere. Where vegans rightly start is in challenging speciesism, challenging the notion that just because they were born a different species, animals’ interests are irrelevant.

  2. The Real World

    What a tremendous letter! Thank you Lee Warren for providing such a reasoned, pragmatic, informative viewpoint.

    I feel a sense of relief on the relatively rare occasions that I read such a sane presentation in the Letters section. There are far too many hysterical, self-righteous, brow-beating types in this town and, I doubt, their rhetoric changes anyone’s mind. Lee makes a persuasive argument. I’m not referring specifically to what he is saying but how he is saying it. That’s how you reach people.

    • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

      That’s how you reach some people.

      • The Real World

        “That’s how you reach some people.”

        How fun: a statement of the obvious, O Chief Hairsplitter.

        • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

          Guilty as charged. Maybe I should change my name to Split Hair Splitter.

    • Richard B.

      Agree with Real World. Great letter, Lee Warren. Fair, balanced…and smart. I learned something.

  3. Animal agriculture, small or large, involves unnecessarily breeding animals into existence, confining them, and unnecessarily killing them. Most people agree that inflicting unnecessary harm on innocent beings is wrong.

    Of course, it’s better to treat slaves wonderfully than to beat them or overwork them, but that doesn’t justify slavery. The institution is inherently wrong.

    Whether or not, or how soon society will get over its prejudice against nonhuman animals is ultimately irrelevant to the fact that animal agriculture in an advanced society in which it is clearly unnecessary will always be wrong.

    • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

      “Animal agriculture, small or large, involves unnecessarily breeding animals into existence, ”

      The LTE author was right – “So by saying you don’t want killing on small farms, you’re saying you don’t want small farms raising animals”.

      • Exactly. Animal agriculture is wrong as an institution. Good treatment of slaves doesn’t justify slavery. I’d rather not be born than to be born a slave or for the purpose of being someone’s future meal.

        • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

          Self-defeating argument. Farm animals provide natural, sustainable fertilizer for plant-based food.

          • Nope, see my comment above. Veganic and synthetic are better ways, depending on context (feeding small human populations v large human populations of several bullion).

          • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

            I wonder how many sustainable-minded folk agree with your extremist, unrealistic, oil-dependent (synthetic fertilizers) view? It’s hard for me to believe a vegan is actually arguing for oil dependency. Hilarious.

          • Fine, try feeding 7 billion people on a manure based system instead of veganic or synthetic. Let me know how that works for you over a decade! The answer: manure based can’t work for 7 billion people without severe pollution.

            Educate yourself, Snowflake.

          • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

            Your ideology is extremely regressive to the whole sustainable agriculture movement. You sound like an oil industry plant who’s trying to subvert that movement.

          • Animal agriculture is extremely regressive to a feasible sustainability movement. Any so-called “sustainability movement” that includes animal agriculture playing any significant role is ignorant and delusional.

          • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

            Agriculture is not sustainable if it is dependent upon the oil industry, which your model requires. Furthermore, your “solution” will get rid of dairy and poultry products which do not require the death of an animal and many people depend on to survive.

          • Bodily secretions do require the death of animals in any commercial production.

            And animal agriculture depends far more on the oil industry than a vegan agriculture system using synthetic fertilizers. Think of all the additional transportation of industrial animal agriculture: breeding facilities to feed lots and sheds; extra crop production; crops to feed lots and sheds; animals to slaughter; slaughter products to warehouses. Animal agriculture uses up to 20 times more oil than a vegan system using synthetic fertilizers.

            Educate yourself, Snowflake.

          • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

            I think we can all agree that industrial farming, for the most part, is pretty evil. However, you’ve gone far beyond that to say that farm animals shouldn’t be raised on a private scale.

          • Yes, and running a gas guzzling truck all day long when a small hybrid car will suffice, by itself, is sustainable. But when hundreds of millions of people do it, it’s unsustainable. Similarly, my point is that, to feed large human populations, animal agriculture is inefficient and unsustainable.

            But mostly, I object to ALL (even small scale) animal agriculture, or any unnecessary use, on moral grounds. I respect animals enough to leave them alone as far as is practicable, so I oppose any and all animal agriculture in developed countries. And even in developing countries, I oppose it to the extent there are alternatives. If we progress as a global civilization, instead of self destruct, we can eventually lower human birth rates and population, rely on vegan food systems, and greatly reduce reliance on fossil fuels in all countries.

          • Unfortunately in many developing countries on many continents, most of the land is NOT suitable for crops..wheres more land is suitable for grazing…So all you do when you eliminate animal Ag is drastically REDUCE land that can be used to feed people.. Plus you put more pressure on the arable land because it gets depleted of minerals and nutrients. Additionally soil microbial diversity drops with synthetic inputs , tillage and veganics. There is no fertile basin that evolved without animals including decaying or pooped fish, large herbivores and or ruminants. Animals are actually ESSENTIAL for sustainable regenerative systems: https://youtu.be/UK7vXwIOlGk

            Furthermore, the whole anthropocentric specieism/racism argument is not analogous because other animals don’t care about human moral qualms. The animal Kingdom is largely based on predator/prey relationships so chicken will eat mice, pigs chickens, bears pigs, etc. Animals are other animals food, even humans…what we eat feeds our gut microbes, and when we die, if we’re not cremated, we feed soil microbes.

          • As I wrote above, none of this matters for purposes of a vegan world, which is really the main topic of this comment section.

            But for argument’s sake, let’s say ruminants are required, or too effective and efficient not to use for soil management in a vegan food system. It still doesn’t require us to slaughter the ruminants. Vegan animal sanctuaries have better soil because of the dozens of rescued ruminants who sustainably graze on it, and no one kills those animals. They die of old age. Ruminant population could be managed with birth control or selective sterilization with anesthetics.

            Also, as I wrote in reply to you above, Composted biosolids (i.e. human manure) are also a plausible solution for the future, although more testing appears to be required before there is a widespread consensus that it is properly treated.

            http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2013/05/07/182010827/is-it-safe-to-use-compost-made-from-treated-human-waste

            Finally, the speciesism-racism analogy is excellent. Your argument is fallacious in a number of ways:

            First, your argument assumes predator animals have a choice in whether to kill. Your unstated assumption is wrong. Predator animals must kill and eat other animals to survive.

            Second, your argument assumes humans don’t have a choice; that we must breed, exploit, hunt, or kill to survive in our modern world. This unstated assumption is also wrong. We don’t need to exploit or kill. If we had to kill and eat other animals, I wouldn’t be vegan or promoting it.

            Third, your argument assumes animals don’t care if they’re confined, tortured, or slaughtered. This assumption is also wrong. Animals experience pain, fear, and horror in the face of violence. They articulate this very clearly in their actions and vocalizations. You wouldn’t want to trade places with them in their experience of violence.

            Fourth, your argument assumes we should look to nature in all its violence for moral guidance. This is astoundingly misguided. If we applied it consistently, we ought to promote social Darwinism, let the poor starve to death, and kill people whenever we feel the urge. Screw bogus, made up “social contracts.”

            The truth is that most of us agree that inflicting unnecessary harm or death on innocent and vulnerable others is wrong. It’s clearly unnecessary to harm, exploit and kill animals. The only way we justify it is to ignore the morally relevant similarities between us and other animals, and promote morally irrelevant differences. That’s EXACTLY what racism is. Racism=speciesism=sexism — a perfect analogy.

          • Sorry animal sanctuaries are small, few and far between and have to beg for money to support themselves unless they have a wealthy benefactor. Unless one lives in your fantasy world., you can’t cover or restore very very much land with such systems. The economics simply don’t work. Considering how much land has been degraded across the world due to 10,000 years of tilled farming, that’s a huge amount of crowdfunding campaigns. So sorry, some of us live in the real world, rather than this fantasy where all the piggies get to die of old age. Plus you’re happy world without death requires even more human intervention for birth control. This too deprives animals from having fulfilled lives. Why? Rearing offspring is a huge part of any animal’s life especially pigs . Oh, but only for your moral conscience’s convenience, because you can’t handle death, you’re depriving all animals this natural behavior and instinct. Again why? Because you’re afraid of the whole concept of death. Not every pig or rabbit that is born was intended to live it’s entire lifespan. That’s why these animals have large litters. On a farm the best of the species reproduce and become breeding stock, while the less desirable animals become meat. This parallels nature where the strongest continue the species. Cattle also breed every year. The best of the species are retained as replacement heifers and bulls. How do ranchers pay their own taxes, labor or leases to manage and RESTORE million of acres of land with well managed cattle? With crowd funding campaigns? Um, no. They do this by harvesting the animals off of land that is NOT suitable for crops.

            This is a really excellent article featuring Sonoma County “grass farmers.” http://madelocalmagazine.com/2016/11/betting-on-herbavores/ Too often people think that Holistic Management is just another way to move cattle akin to rotational grazing. But as this article illustrates, Holistic Management, first and foremost, is a process to restore and regenerate land taking a total or holistic view. HM is currently being done on over 50 million hectares of land on five continents with a lot more land being added. How many hectares of sanctuaries are there? Less than a million?

            With HM, the existing condition of the land is assessed, goals are determined, a plan is implemented, and then that plan is constantly re-assessed and modified to achieve the plan’s goals. Goals include improved soil health, greater plant and wildlife diversity, improved forage, improved animal welfare, improved hydrology, etc.

            Ruminants are an essential tool for achieving these restorative and regenerative goals. In this capacity, ruminants are “all-in-one” tools. They are mowers, seed pushers, ground “indentors”, composters, and fertilizer spreaders. Plus they don’t require any fossil fuels (while improving the carbon cycle when managed properly).

            As mowers, ruminants “mow” grasses that would otherwise oxidize as well as potentially fuel fires. As seed pushers, ruminants hoof action press seeds down into the soil. As ground “indentors”, hooves again create indentations for puddles which allows for greater water infiltration. As composters, especially in brittle environments, ruminants quickly breakdown cellulose (grasses) through their rumen via bacteria. As fertilizer spreaders, the resulting manure (and pee) builds soil organic matter plus increases the amount and diversity of soil microbes which improves soil fertility. With more organic matter and microbes, there’s greater soil health. Greater soil health, in turn, improves carbon sequestration, water infiltration, methane oxidation and above ground biodiversity.

            Ruminants also finance the land improvement goals through leases with land owners, and through the sale of meat. And meat (sorry vegetarians and vegans) is the best way to get nutrient dense food off of land that isn’t suitable (arable) for crops. (Integrated livestock on crop land is good too for a number of reasons, but that’s a different discussion). Consequently Holistic Management also rebuilds and regenerate local economies especially rural ones (see White Oak Pastures? as a brilliant example of this).

            Or, in other words, many ranchers today- utilizing holistic management methods- are also ecologists and conservationists as well as entrepreneurs rebuilding local economies…..sorry sanctuaries don’t do any of this.

          • And no, humans can digest cellulose so they’re useless in grassland ecosystems plus would require massive transport of such manure for spreading on fields where ruminants already are, and where ruminants historically were. How much energy (CO2) is required for that treatment, compose, collection, transport, and spreading on fields? A HUGE amount, where ruminants on fields have none of these associated issues. Again, you’re living in a make believe world.

          • (oops typo) And no, humans can NOT digest cellulose so they’re useless in grassland ecosystems plus would require massive transport of such manure for spreading on fields where ruminants already are, and where ruminants historically were. How much energy (CO2) is required for that treatment, compose, collection, transport, and spreading of human manure on fields? A HUGE amount, where ruminants on fields have none of these associated issues. Again, you’re living in a make believe world.

          • Oooh, it seems I hit a nerve, Stephan. You mixed quite an irrelevant rant (with more than a few pissy and sarcastic “apologies”) with, as you wrote it, Holistic Management (which, when capitalized, reads like your religion) based on your herding culture and your preconceived notions of how the world must be, creating a large, if inedible, word salad that didn’t address my argument at all. Is your conscience bothering you? If it is, I totally understand.

            Regardless of your sincerity or lack there of, please don’t apologize to me or any other vegans. We’re not the ones confined, tortured, or getting our throats slit. If you want to sincerely apologize, please direct it at someone, like a “little piggy,” who, unlike us, is in a completely unnecessary state of terror or intolerable agony.

            That said, let me point out your mistakes once again:

            First, I never claimed sanctuaries would fill the role of manure producers or the conduit of Holy Holistic Management. (I actually do regret bringing up the utopian setting of a sanctuary as an example, since it could be reasonably assumed to be “the method,” which I did not intend.) All I claimed –correctly — was that IF we need to use ruminants for manure to feed 7 billion people vegan food (using, of course, Holy Holistic Management), it would be easy to do it WITHOUT INTENTIONALLY slaughtering them. Sure, many ruminants may die of various unintentional causes, such as wild predators and illness. And a vegan society would use vets to painlessly euthanize noticeably sick animals and perhaps fences, where feasible, to keep out predators. But the vegan vision, contrary to the confusion perpetuated by anti-abolitionists, is not utopian or unrealistic, just as human rights are generally not presumed to be utopian or unrealistic. After all, we predictably and knowingly kill over 30,000 humans annually on our highways, and engine governors limiting speed limits to non-lethal levels are not even thought about, much less considered or debated. And that’s not to mention the noncombatants, including children, knowingly and predictably killed in wars.

            Second, you assume I’m (and vegans generally are) irrationally opposed to death, per se. While none of us is fond of death, or more specifically, the dying process, especially to the extent it’s violent or horrific (as the death of 60 billion land animals and probably even more water animals, annually, is as a result of unnecessary human exploitation), we realize that life is harsh, and that we, and our animal friends, will certainly die, sometimes quite painfully. The difference between you and us is that we don’t want to UNNECESSARILY AND INTENTIONALLY INFLICT DEATH on innocent and vulnerable others, while you insist on doing so.

            Now, if you would please spare me your irrelevant insistence on ruminant soil management and either actually address my argument in my previous comment with intellectual honesty or remain silent. I’ve already assumed, for argument’s sake, that we would need your Holy Holistic Management involving ruminants. I just don’t see why we need slaughterhouses as part of the process.

          • One aspect of your argument that is more relevant than soil management, but still not terribly relevant to the question of whether animal exploitation is necessary to feed large populations, is whether Holy Holistic Management is economically feasible without slaughter.

            Of course, just as human chattel and wage slavery were economically far superior from the purely self-interested perspective of those who didn’t value slave lives on the basis of racism, so slaughter of ruminants is economically superior from the purely self-interested perspective of those who don’t value animal lives on the basis of speciesism. In a deeply racist society, slavery is economically required. Just so, in a deeply speciesist culture, Holy Holistic Management is not economically feasible without slaughter.

            But this comes down to values, which is why I consider your argument from economics irrelevant. If we eventually change our values, as Americans did over several decades regarding chattel slavery, Holy Holistic Management is economically feasible without slaughter. We need to start somewhere. Where vegans rightly start is in challenging speciesism, challenging the notion that just because they were born a different species, animals’ interests are irrelevant.

    • The Real World

      Please explain further: “its prejudice against nonhuman animals”. Prejudice? I don’t follow.

      And “animal agriculture in an advanced society in which it is clearly unnecessary will always be wrong.” — who deems it unnecessary? How can any individual claim to understand the needs or limitations of all other people in our country?

      • 1) I already explained how it is prejudiced in another comment in this thread, so I won’t repeat it here.

        2) There are no nutrients in animal products that cannot be easily obtained from nonanimal sources. In developed countries, wonderful vegan alternatives to animal products are being introduced to the general public. Being vegan in today’s developed nations is easy. Animal agriculture is clearly unnecessary.

        • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

          It’s easy to make lofty claims. Why don’t you do a letter to the editor detailing such practices so that we can evaluate their realistic, practical worth? I’m a bit skeptical.

        • The Real World

          Dan – Wasn’t very nice of you to not at least copy/paste the ‘prejudice’ text you refer to because I don’t see it.

          “wonderful vegan alternatives” — and would the cost of these fit the budget of a low income family?

          “Being vegan in today’s developed nations is easy” — a completely untrue statement. Being vegetarian isn’t terribly difficult if you are also able to consume dairy and wheat (and don’t mind almost always eating just salads at restaurants). But, vegan? Please be real, it involves a complete diet change with much more time devoted to preparing your own foods. You are making sweeping assertions that indicate a lack of awareness outside your circle.

          • I’m all about being nice and fair, which is why I’m vegan. From post above;

            “Racism, sexism and speciesism are all the same fallacy of elevating morally irrelevant characteristics, such as group membership, and ignoring relevant characteristics, such as an interest in not being exploited or killed.”

            There are at least tens of thousands of low income vegans. You’re the one lacking awareness.

          • The Real World

            By your indirect reply I believe we got an answer. It would not be feasible for a poor family to be vegan.

            “There are at least tens of thousands of low income vegans” — ok, seriously? Between the USA, Canada and Europe (Western Industrialized nations) there are over 1 Billion people and in that mix are 10’s of thousands of low income vegans? That’s like a single freckle on an entire body.

            I’m not against your issue, btw. But both from practical life experience and several decades in marketing, I’ll attest that most vegans have a lousy pitch. They tend to be brow-beaters rather than persuaders and they often front arguments that can be easily pulled apart. Just sayin’

          • Caitlin

            The reason plant-based foods are less available in many parts of the country, and particularly in communities described as “food deserts,” is because, as the Lee Warren stated, our food system is broken.

            According to The Food Empowerment Project, “food deserts can be described as geographic areas where residents’ access to affordable, healthy food options (especially fresh fruits and vegetables) is restricted or nonexistent due to the absence of grocery stores within convenient traveling distance.”

            There are many reasons for this, one being the massive amount of subsidies the federal government gives to animal ag and processed food industries.

            There are challenges with low-income persons receiving any degree of fresh, healthy food, period. This isn’t contingent on whether an individual is trying to source fresh produce and staples such as beans and rice only, or whether they are also trying to source animal products.

            The truth is there are vegans in all walks of life, and lower income vegans are presented with unique challenges.

          • Thank you, Caitlin. The most significant point in your comment is the huge government subsidies given to animal agriculture, without which the institution would not be economically viable. In the US alone, animal agriculture is given US$80 billion annually by government, mostly federal, but significant state and local subsidies as well.

  4. boatrocker

    Funny, I have yet to see one vegan poster condemn the various social media death threats against employees of the school.
    Vegans making death threats against school employees- yes,you read that right. I know, the irony is overwhelming.

    Maybe they’re too busy demonstrating compassion for living beings and posting quotes from the PETA handbook and posting exact verbatim copies of their posts on multiple LTE forums.

    • Caitlin

      It’s important to know that out of the thousands of vegans aware of the class and petition, a very small handful of them have actually done something misguided by threatening the teachers of the class. This is inexcusable and should never have happened, but as with any movement, you will find there are people on the fringes ruining the peaceful work the majority are doing. Most people have simply signed a petition and started a discussion asking that the sheep be brought to a sanctuary waiting to accept her, rather than be killed this weekend.

      • boatrocker

        Wow, you came soooo close to condemning it after calling it inexcusable (which it is) before adding ‘buuuut’.
        I suppose threatening someone’s life is still ‘the ends justifying the means’. You sound like the GOP condemning a certain orange haired dictator one week then voting and working for him the next.

        Yes, I think we readers are becoming much more educated in ‘fringe’ poster from the altright and the veganites and how they give everyone a bad name.

        For those who have not simply signed a petition, as far as anybody knows, have any legal charges been brought up against those that would threaten an educator’s life, or would that be too much to ask?

  5. Caitlin

    Dear Lee,

    I am the writer of the letter published just prior to yours– the one you’ve chosen to respond to. Thank you for your heartfelt response. As a mother and an active member of the community, I truly appreciate your calls for calm and open dialogue.

    I still feel, however, that there is a disconnect in the ways we talk of animals. I can see that this is getting under the skin of so many because the conversations transpiring are about whether we have the fundamental right to claim the lives of others. You insist that we do have that right, and that the world will never go vegan, so raising and killing animals outside of “factory farms” is the best possible way to eat meat. I am an activist for many social and environmental issues, and I’m familiar with the opposition demoralizing efforts on the basis of what is and is not realistic. The truth is, vegans and vegetarians are growing in numbers everyday, especially amongst millennials. I am asking you, and many others, to consider a paradigm shift. I am asking you to extend your circles of compassion, and to stop considering the breeding and “harvesting” of animals to be a just, normal activity.

    Underlying your message to me is a conflation of “death” and animal agriculture. I do not consider the breeding, manipulating, and killing of animals by humans to be a natural part of death; I consider it murder and a normalization of violence. And while I do fully grasp the distinction between factory farmed and pasture-raised conditions, since when did the treatment of an individual justify her planned murder?

    We live in 2016. We have no rhyme or reason to eat animals. To claim it is more sustainable or healthier is a simple fallacy (see one of many, many mainstream, academic studies reported on here: http://time.com/4266874/vegetarian-diet-climate-change/). Raising animals for meat, whether in factory-farmed or open pasture conditions, pollutes water, erodes topsoil, and destroys wildlife more than any other form of land use (according to Western Watershed Projects, and many other environmental groups). I’m asking the community to seek out, use, and teach the least harmful way of farming local foods by using veganic (vegan, organic) methods. This is a low-impact, closed system style of agriculture that is self-sustaining. I’ve learned and practiced these methods myself; they are wholesome, considerate, and fully attainable.

    Eating animals is a causeless, harmful, and violent cornerstone of our culture. We’ve outlived its usefulness and we need to stop. If anyone is interested in continuing a nuanced, sophisticated conversation about why any animal agriculture is problematic, please consider joining a discussion about the “humane myth” tonight at 6 PM at the Block Off Biltmore in Asheville. The talk will be led by my friend Justin Van Kleeck of Triangle Chance for All Microsanctuary.

    Thank you,
    Caitlin Campbell

    • Lee Warren

      Hi Caitlin & Others,

      I too appreciate the ongoing dialog. I think it helps us all go deeper, form our thoughts more clearly, and articulate our perspectives.

      I believe if we are to have any constructive discussion or outcome to these debates, we are going to need some measurables. Otherwise we just keep winding around the axle of emotion, which gets us in a right-messy tangle right-quick. So to that end, I will attempt.

      As I read these threads, I continuous hear about five major arguments for veganism and I will respond to them separately.

      1. The Spiritual Question. Underlying much of this entire argument are two significant spiritual or existential questions. “

      a. Do we, as humans, have the right for supremacy or sovereignty over other sentient beings, to determine their lives or deaths?

      b. How can we minimize the impact and harm we cause because of our desire for continued existence?

      These are excellent questions. And to my mind best answered in the realms of the poets. I wouldn’t trust these questions to religion, although that’s been their domain since the dawn of civilization, because we’ve seen how they handle things. But in essence it’s about cosmology. How we got here? Why are we here? Best practices for being here? How best to ease the perennial anxiety of existence? How to do more good and less harm?

      For folks who have found a clear, resounding, irrefutable answer to these questions, who am I to argue? Who is anyone to argue? For the vegans who feel that humans do NOT have sovereignty over other beings or that eating vegan is the best way to minimize the impact of our very existence, I’m actually thrilled that you’ve found something to ease your heart and soul in the sometimes despairing journey of the human endeavor.

      But that’s for you. And for you and your mother/father god to work out together. The desire for a one-world order on any topic is tricky. And trying to convince others that they must see it your way is slippery business. We can look through history and around at our world and see how that goes. The adamant conviction that everyone must come to the same cosmological conclusions as you is called fundamentalism, and is often unpleasant for everyone involved: the believers and the non-believers.

      But I do think that you bringing up these spiritual questions for us to ponder and consider is a very good thing. For most us though, our answers and our process to find those answers are deep, personal, and often complex. Much more suited to a one-on-one conversation.

      Catilin and others, I invite you on a walk sometime and I can share mine. The cosmology that I’ve worked on for decades, the existential clarities and doubts that run through my heart, life, and service in the world. And I would love to hear yours. What a wonderful experience that would be. Sort of like all the religious leaders of different faiths coming together for an interfaith convention. Yes, deep down, most of us believe in goodness.

      2. The Health Question. Just as you probably know many folks who got healthy after leaving the Standard American Diet (SAD) for a vegan diet, I know many folks who, after years of eating vegan, returned to a meat-eating diet to overcome the extreme deterioration and chronic illness that resulted from them trying to eat in a way that didn’t work for their bodies. When we hear these stories, on both sides, we are moved. And rightfully so. We all desire health and wellbeing for ourselves and the ones we love. We want to thrive. And are excited when folks find a way to do so.

      But, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, there are a 1001+ books and methods and diets out there all claiming to be the solution. So here we are again, as modern peoples, who don’t have a common cosmology to turn to for how, what, when, and why to eat. We are grasping in every direction because our land-based life is in tatters and we don’t know the basic idea of how to keep ourselves alive in a good way with our own hands in our own communities. One of the sufferings of civilization. Tribal peoples don’t have these issues. Their cosmology and their food systems are woven together in an intricate tapestry of origin story, caring for the land, and caring for the people.

      So coming to a conclusion here is impossible. Much as it is in the spiritual question. And we should set this aside and mark it off to personal preference. Whatever makes your engine hum is what you should do. And in the mean-time, our best advice for each other is this: Find some meaning in food. Find some community around food. Because that will infuse it with connectedness. And that is good.

      3. The Agriculture Question. You will have no argument from me that industrial animal agriculture is a disaster. None-at-all. Just as you will have no argument from me that industrial grain and vegetable production is a disaster. And let’s not forget the processed food industry. We can go on and on about the ills and evils of all that. And there, I believe, we will be aligned.

      But we do know some things for certain. We know that small to medium scale sustainable agriculture can feed the world. And we know that the best way to build soil AND to increase diversity, yield, and health is integrated animal agriculture. Why? Because it mimics nature. And nature has been growing topsoil for a very long time. There is plenty of research to this end, from the Alan Savory institute (and his famous TED talk) and Rodale Institute.

      Building soil is a measurable thing. So instead of arguing, let’s measure. If, in your research, you find a farming system using veganic practices that can build as much soil and produce as much yield, diversity, and health, then we have a conversation to have. If not, then we don’t.

      4. The Ecological Impact Question. The ecological footprint calculator is a real thing. Lots of smart and caring people have put in lots of time, energy, and brains into being able to measure the impact of each of our lives on global resources. So let’s stop arguing and do some measuring.

      I will happily volunteer. I will put my whole foods, meat-based, self-grown, local, packaging-free, and supplement-free diet up on the scale to be compared with any vegan you can find. We will calculate food and supplements only, so no points taken off for other lifestyle factors such as driving, flying, electricity usage, etc. Mostly because I live completely off-the-grid and it would be an unfair comparison.

      This is a challenge to you all. Let’s find an ecological footprint expert and publish our results. I think it would be good journalism and fabulous fodder for our ongoing dialog. I’m happy to be wrong, but I’m betting I’m not. My premise is this: that even as a meat eater, due to my specific choices, I have less ecological impact than the average vegan.

      5. The Sentient-Being Suffering Index. I’m curious if something like this exists. Because I’m guessing it could be measurable. Plants release suffering hormones at threat and death much like animals do. And maybe there is or could be a decibel measuring device to help us figure out our impact.

      Let’s assume we’re not talking about industrial agriculture so the comparison is fair across the board. If all other things are equal, and I am responsible for the death of the equivalent of one cow in a given year, and a vegan is responsible for the death of 100,000+ plants, what’s the relative sentient-being suffering? Do we subtract out the positive impact of that animal or plants on other microorganisms during their lifetime or is that already included in the calculator?

      This is not meant to be tongue in cheek but an actual request for some kind of measure here. I would be infinitely helpful for those us wanting to have real facts on this.

      I believe I’ve touched on all the components. And I can only hope, at the very least, this adds no harm to the dialog. I understand, that for some, eating animals is, as Caitlin says, “a causeless, harmful, and violent cornerstone of our culture.” Given that perspective, I can understand the uproar. And I can also understand the impasse.

      • The Real World

        Lee – you are a kind, very articulate person and I appreciate both your views and how you present them.

        I believe this is the crux for many of us: “The adamant conviction that everyone must come to the same cosmological conclusions as you is called fundamentalism” — Yes! I was thinking about all this yesterday and decided that the aspect that grates on many of us is the absolutism presented by so many. Previously, commenter Snowflake stated that this topic has become a religion for some. So, some of us seem to agree about the strident, unyielding perspective by many plant-based acolytes.

        And yesterday, I also concluded similar to this: “For most of us though, our answers and our process to find those answers are deep, personal, and often complex.” — the veggie/vegans don’t seem to grasp that you can’t brow-beat or guilt people into those choices. (If you manage to, it will only be for a short while because the person didn’t really choose it themselves). We all deserve to be able to come to our decisions on our own and we will accept more responsibility for them if they occur that way.

      • Lee: Your wordy assurances we’re all trying our very best to see through the alleged heavy fog of alleged extremely complicated questions rings very hollow to my ears.

        Unlike real moral dilemmas, such as the trolley car problem (google it), the topic of our disagreement is not complicated at all. It really boils down to two questions: 1) how much you care about yourself versus how much you care about others? (or, is morality important to you or not?); and 2) what are the differences between human animals and nonhuman animals?

        Regarding question 1), slavery proponents in the 1800s were generally happy to admit that they didn’t give a damn about slaves or morality. This is actually the best, most rational answer to give. Serious vegans can see right through the excuses, rationalizations, and bad arguments offered. In fact, we vegans have a humorous roulette wheel with almost all the excuses, rationalizations and bad arguments anti-vegans give. You offered some of them here: But plants feel pain too! But some people did vegan wrong and got sick! But we’re all on our own spiritual journeys! But (very limited) animal exploitation is sustainable, too!

        So, you either genuinely care about others enough to leave them alone, even if it costs you personal inconveniences and old habits and traditions, or you care more about your personal inconveniences and old habits and traditions than you do about others. If it’s the former, you’ll become vegan for life. If it’s the latter, I’ll at least respect your honesty, even if I consider the attitude and belief tragic. But don’t offer up disingenuous and plainly silly arguments to camouflage the real issue.

        Regarding question 2), there are no characteristics (intelligence, emotion, sentience, consciousness) that ALL and ONLY humans have that nonhuman animals don’t also have. There is an overlapping continuum in every morally relevant characteristic we can think of on which to base respect for the interests of the other. Having functioning eyes necessarily involves an interest in seeing. Having functioning ears necessarily involves an interest in hearing. Just so, having sentience – the ability to have one’s life go well or poorly for one—necessarily involves an interest in not being confined, exploited, harmed, or killed. There are NO morally relevant differences between human and nonhuman animals when it comes to an interest in not being bred for exploitation, exploited, confined, harmed, or killed.

        A common pro-slavery argument in the 1800s was that chattel slaves are often treated much better than wages slaves, since when slaves are purchased property, their owner takes good care of them as an investment; whereas industrialists who rent their slaves don’t care about their slaves if they get injured or sick; they toss them aside and hire new ones; ergo, chattel slavery is morally far superior to wage slavery in factories. Some chattel slaves had lives well worth living; many wage slaves did not. All we need to do is REGULATE slavery and promote NICE slavery.

        Of course, today, we reject that impassioned argument made by slavery advocates. We realize that the INSTITUTION of slavery is wrong, as an institution. The same is true of animal exploitation as an institution. Even if you’re a very nice slave owner to your animals, it’s still wrong to kill them during their healthy years (i.e. not painlessly euthanizing them in very poor health or old age), or breed them into existence for the purpose of exploiting or killing them. The institution of animal ownership, like human ownership, is unnecessary, harmful, and wrong.

        Finally, a word about the accusations of “fundamentalism.” Anti-vegans are every bit as fundamentalist and absolutist as vegan abolitionists are. Anti-vegans are adamant that they have an absolute, fundamental right to exploit and kill innocent, vulnerable others, “justifying” it by the morally irrelevant difference of species membership (just like human slavers justified theirs by race membership), while ignoring the morally relevant similarities noted above. Vegans strongly disagree. We fought a horrific war over human slavery in the United States because both sides were such “fundamentalists” over the issue. Guess what? People disagree, often passionately, especially when it comes to their perceived “right” to exploit or oppress innocent, vulnerable others. Calling the side that doesn’t see the exploitation as justified “fundamentalist” is nothing more than handwaving and foot stomping. Call me fundamentalist? Fine. If I’m a fundamentalist, so are you. At least I admit it and avoid the hypocrisy of thinking that I somehow avoid the charge in taking a strong stand on an issue.

        • The Real World

          “Anti-vegans” — what are those? I’ve never met one and rather doubt that they exist. Nice attempt at wordsmithing but, it doesn’t fly. No one minds at all what you choose to consume.

          Let me go ahead and ask something here I’ve been wondering about. Given that there are vegetarians, pescetarians, vegans and probably some other styles I’m not aware of, I figure the answers will vary like the eating choices do.

          What is your view of human abortion? (When the life or health of mother or baby is not a factor.) I’d be interested in answers from anyone reading who does not eat meat. Thank you.

          • Fair enough point regarding the word “anti-vegan.” What I really mean, in clearer language, is anti-abolitionist. Serious vegans are almost always pro-abolitionist, however, so arguments against abolition are almost always also anti-vegan. (So-called vegans who don’t care what others do to animals stray far from the meaning of the word vegan as it was coined by Donald Watson in the 1940s, which strongly implied abolition.) To be clearer in the future, I’ll use the word anti-abolitionist.

            The abortion debate is a much different, and incomparably more difficult, moral issue than abolition and veganism. The abortion debate pits the right of a fetus against the right of a woman to her own body and decisions regarding it. One can be a pro-life or pro-choice vegan abolitionist (and I know of pro-life vegans, although most are pro-choice). My view on the issue is complicated and uncommon and generally annoys both pro-life and pro-choice advocates. My view annoys pro-life advocates because I end up siding, mainly because we live in a sexist, male-dominated patriarchal society, with women on choice, especially poor and oppressed women. My view annoys many pro-choice advocates because I view the fetus as morally far more significant than snot in someone’s nose (as one pro-choice advocate described a fetus to me) and the more developed the fetus, the more morally significant the fetus is. I belief life starts at conception, but for probability-of-unique-birth reasons, not for religious or metaphysical (e.g. the existence of souls) reasons. Therefore, I believe there are strong reasons to avoid abortion. But I also believe there are, in many circumstances, strong reasons to have an abortion. And if I were going to be born an unwanted child, especially to a poor, abused, or oppressed woman, I’d much rather be aborted. There are also social and overpopulation issues to be considered.

            Anyway, I’ve never had an abortion or caused an abortion (by inadvertently impregnating a woman), and never will. Non-vegans cannot say the same when I ask if they’re contributing to an unnecessary institution of exploitation, harm and killing of innocent and vulnerable others. In fact, most do the equivalent of me getting an abortion every day.

          • The Real World

            Now I understand where you’re coming from with these labels. But, I must share that I don’t like them. No has the right to call me an anti-anything or pro-anything unless I’ve specifically designated myself as such.

            I largely agree with rest of what you stated. However, I think it provides a good illustration of what irritates non-vegans about all of the evangelizing from vegans. Within your ranks (and yourself, as you stated) you have ranges of exceptions that you apply to what constitutes life and suffering. So, in fact, you are not absolutist yet appear to insist that no animal consumption is the only moral way to go.

            Therefore, it seems utterly hypocritical if you do not understand a range of exceptions to exist for non-vegans. Here’s an example: Me – I have a particular health issue plus both diet and time restrictions that would make it very difficult to consume purely a vegan diet. (I happen to skew towards fruit and veggies because I like them more so my meat/fish eating is moderate.) My unique life circumstances are something I would expect anyone to understand and respect. I’m sure there are others with situations that aren’t simple or conducive to veganism.

            So therein lies the rub; you allow exceptions for yourself but seem unwilling to realize that you do not, remotely, have enough info about other people’s lives to infer that they are less than moral if they choose a non-vegan diet. That attitude is a problem.

          • TRW: Since you’ve stated, or at least implied, you don’t like the label “anti-abolitionist,” I must ask, are you for abolition? That is, would you prefer to live in a world: where it was very easy to be vegan (or very difficult not to be vegan), regardless of health issues or time constraints; where all nutrition and health care professions were very knowledgeable about vegan health and nutrition; where all food sold was vegan and, like cow’s milk is supplemented with vitamin D, certain commonly-consumed vegan foods were supplemented with B12 and whatever else professional dietitians found were beneficial to a vegan general public, if any; where restaurant menus had incredibly delicious vegan food, and only vegan food; where there were no breeding facilities, feedlots, slaughterhouses, zoos (replaced by sanctuaries and related education centers), animal circuses (replaced by voluntary human entertainers, such as in Cirque du Soleil), and other unnecessarily exploitive and violent places and events? If you would prefer this, then you’re for abolition. If you would not, then you’re against abolition, or dare I say “anti-abolitionist.” I only label people if the label makes sense based on what they’ve said or done.

            If you’re for abolition, then, in accordance with your own values, it makes sense to be as vegan as you can be by doing research on your specific dietary needs and ways you might be able to overcome at least some, if not all of the time or health constraints you’ve mentioned. Also, if you’re for abolition, it doesn’t make sense to criticize outspoken vegan abolitionists as “evangelical,” “strident,” or “fundamentalist.” (It is also hypocritical to be so [evangelically, stridently, and fundamentally] outspoken against such [evangelically, stridently, and fundamentally] outspoken vegans.)

            To clear up some obvious misunderstanding of my views, you should know that I’d gladly defend anyone who was as vegan as they could reasonably be under their particular circumstances AND had the attitude and belief that everyone else ought to be as vegan as they can reasonably be. After all, the definition of the word vegan, as Donald Watson coined it, included the phrase “as much as is practicable,” which is a non-absolutist phrase that I agree with. I’m what ethicists call a “moral particularist,” not to be confused with a moral relativist. That is, for me, surrounding facts and circumstances matter, and one cannot make judgments without knowing significant and relevant facts and circumstances.

            Ought entails can. It wouldn’t make sense for me to advocate, much less insist, that anyone do something they are incapable of doing, or that I wouldn’t do in their situation. And I can think of situations where I might be forced to do things I find abhorrent, such as killing someone (human or nonhuman). But I would not change my attitudes and beliefs to accommodate my actions under undesirable circumstances. Making an exception in a tough situation or real dilemma doesn’t mean I make exceptions in reasonable situations or abandon my values.

            So, there’s nothing hypocritical in what I’m proposing. I’m not asking you or anyone else to do something I wouldn’t do in your or someone else’s circumstances. If I found it exceedingly difficult two years from now to be as vegan as I am now, I would simply adjust to my new situation by being as vegan as I could under the circumstances. My attitudes and beliefs, however, wouldn’t change at all.

      • Caitlin

        Dear Lee,

        I posted a response to this comment about 2 weeks ago, earlier down on the page. I am unsure if you saw that comment, so I am re-posting it here. I was having a difficult time publishing this response, given the many links it contained. I’ll follow up with links in an additional post.

        To respond to your 5 points of discussion:

        1. Thank you for the offer to go on a walk and talk about our spirituality. I wouldn’t mind an opportunity to converse in person, but truthfully, I am not a very spiritual person. My worldview can be summed up in very few words: do as little harm as possible. Though I am not religious, there are many religions that speak to this guiding principle. In Judeo-Christianity, it’s called The Golden Rule, and states simply to “do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” In Jainism, an ancient religion predating Buddhism and Hinduism, this philosophy is Ahimsa, the principle of nonviolence toward all sentient beings (and indeed, many Jains and Buddhists are vegan).

        You say that “deep down, most people believe in goodness.” I agree that the majority of people living on earth intend to be kind and fair (the qualities I assume you ascribe to “goodness”). While intending to live kindly and fairly, however, humans have an ancient history of cognitive dissonance; we mean well and do harm over and over again. To think you can push a knife into another mammal’s throat when you can chose not to do so without any hardship to yourself is a profound example of this cognitive dissonance.

        You are absolutely right that I cannot make decisions for anyone but myself. I don’t wish to force a world view on you, or anybody else, but I will continue to educate, to be a voice for the oppressed all over the world, and to lead by example. This is not “fundamentalist” or “extreme” thinking. It’s an essential function of morality.

        2. There is no scientific evidence to support your claim of variable nutritional requirements amongst human beings. In fact, this assertion flies in the face of a basic fact about nutritional needs, which is that they are species wide and species specific: that is, all members of a species require the exact same nutrients to meet health needs. This is true of all species, not just human beings. And human beings, as a species, can eat a whole-foods plant-based (vegan) diet and thrive. To quote nutritional epidemiologist Micaela Karlsen, “Human beings are one species; we are all the same animal, with the same digestive physiology. And, as is true of all species, we do not require personalized nutritional programs unless we are dealing with a specific disease or some other very unusual condition… Where nutrition is concerned, it’s helpful to ask yourself, “Where in nature can I find an example of this?” And in this example of a very wide variation of nutrient intake, the answer is “nowhere.”

        My friend and author Ashley Capps wrote a fascinating and in depth research editorial on this subject, and I encourage you to read it: (link 1)

        As far as your friends benefiting from the reintroduction of animal products into their diets: there are many ways to eat a vegan diet, just as there are many dietary choices available that exploit animals. One can eat a high-quality vegan diet, and one can also eat a vegan diet containing processed, low-fiber junk foods, with many of the same unfortunate choices that are available to those eating animal foods. It is also possible to eat a healthful plant-based diet and get sick for nutritional reasons that have nothing to do with eating only plants. See Sayward Rebhal’s “Facing Failing Health on a Vegan Diet”: (link 2)

        Plant-based diets may require fine tuning for some to get right, but they do not create deficiencies that categorically require the reincorporation of animal products for good health.

        3. Lee, I think we do have a conversation regarding the use of veganic agriculture as a viable means of building soil. It is done commercially and by individuals. By employing such techniques as composting, green manure, and mulching, veganic agriculture is a low impact, responsible method of farming. On the other hand, Allan Savory’s argument that we actually need to increase the amount of grazing domesticated animals is dangerous. Savory is a man who virtually stands alone in the scientific community by claiming that adding MORE domesticated animals to deforested and desertified land will somehow rehabilitate land! It’s quite clear that deforestation and desertification are happening almost single-handedly BECAUSE of animal agriculture. Dr. Richard Oppenlander, author of Food Choice and Sustainability: Why Buying Local, Eating Less Meat, and Taking Baby Steps Won’t Work, published an excellent article debunking Savory’s arguments. It can be read here: (link 3)

        4. At this point, it’s a widely accepted fact that animals require more food than they produce. The level of resource consumption, waste production, and greenhouse gas impact per unit of animal products created is going to be in the same catastrophic range regardless of whether an animal is raised in a factory farm or in a pasture, according to a recent United Nations study (link 4). Simply put, growing vegetables requires far less resource input than growing mammals. To suggest that your meat-based diet is lower impact than the choice to eat locally, organically grown plant-foods is injudicious, to say the least. It is not simply factory farmed animals, but all farmed animals, that contribute to land and water consumption and degradation. Empirical data already exists that proves this, so we don’t need to hire a scientist to compare your diet against mine.

        5. You claim to seriously question whether plants are sentient. Besides the fact that this seems disingenuous considering all of the harm that meat, dairy, and egg consumption causes to animals known to have virtually the same nervous systems and pain responses as us; raising animals for food also requires far more plants to be consumed than does growing crops for direct human consumption— so, to minimize harm to plants, one would naturally have to exclude the most plant-intensive foods (i.e., meat).

        If your arguments supporting meat consumption rely on Savory’s controversial, oft-debunked work, and unscientific ideas that some human beings require meat for health, I’m afraid I’m at a loss. Mainstream science confirms time and again that meat-eating is destructive on a variety of levels. In spite of this, you may continue to characterize me as fundamental and extreme, but at the end of the day, I advocate against the needless slitting of throats, and you advocate for it.

        After this exchange, and others I’ve observed in the community, it’s become readily apparent to me that the world needs more progressive, innovative, justice-seeking land stewardship that speaks out against the dominant cultural narrative of exploiting and consuming animals. I am working with friends to develop an Asheville-based veganic organization that will provide resources, classes, and animal-free food grown sustainably for our community.

        Caitlin Campbell

        • Caitlin

          The Mountain Xpress website has been disallowing responses that contain links to post to the site.

          Here are the titles of the 4 online articles that I’ve been trying to reference:

          Link 1: Catching Up With Science: Burying the “Humans Need Meat” Argument” by Ashley Capps

          Link 2: Facing Failing Health As A Vegan by Bonzai Aphrodite

          Link 3: “Saving the World With Livestock? The Allan Savory Approach Examined” by Richard Oppenlander

          Link 4: “Rearing cattle produces more greenhouse gases than driving cars, UN report warns”

  6. What is truly misguided is perpetuating the fiction that not harming animals for profit and palate pleasure is so “hard” and “unrealistic” and unobtainable in an age when in fact most of us could easily make those choices, in an age when the market for alternative animal products is surging. There’s just no escaping this simple fact and reality which farmers like this author devote so much energy into denying. Instead of honestly considering the idea that we have the choice to spare a life or take a life (and we could easily choose the latter), they resort to humanewashing tactics intended to delude people even further, this time promoting the idea that animals don’t mind being bred, raised and killed against their will and that there is a “humane” form of violence and exploitation against infant age animals. Of course, we know this is just another desperate attempt to avoid the truth. The truth is we wouldn’t wish the fate of these sheep on our own worst enemies. The truth is they don’t want to die and they don’t want to sacrifice their lives for some greater human good. These are just stone age fictions, not progressive thinking on an evolved relationship with other animals.

    • The Real World

      “The truth is they don’t want to die and they don’t want to sacrifice their lives for some greater human good. ” — that is an interesting sentence. Sure sounds like assigning human cognitive capacity to animals. What’s your view on how fish feel?

      • Your comment is disingenuous. Animals need not formulate their interests in language or thought any more than a child or unsophisticated adult need understand a complicated legal contract to have an interest in not getting exploited by its content.

          • And your comment is even far more disingenuous. We vegans know we won the debate when anti-vegans are desperate enough to claim plant sentience. If the difference between a chicken and a vegetable is negligible, then so is the difference between a human ape and a vegetable negligible. Why not cannibalism for the flesh eaters among us? Cannibals report that we taste just like pigs. Every time I’m hit by the smell of flesh, especially pig flesh, I think, gee, that’s just what humans smell like when cooked.

          • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

            ” We vegans know we won the debate when anti-vegans are desperate enough to claim plant sentience”

            Sentience is an artificial contrivance that has relative meaning to vegans. It has no absolute moral worth. That is why your arguments are vain and simply proselytizing.

          • Without sentience, torture and murder would be completely meaningless words. You apparently have no grasp of even the easiest to understand moral concepts. Wow.

          • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

            Like a true progressive you deflect from the issue by stating your opinion as absolutism and then resort to ad hominum marginalization. Playbook…

          • No deflection or ad hominem from me, just reporting a relevant observation regarding your last comment.

          • Grace

            Unfortunately for you, Snowflake, scientists disagree with you that sentience a) is an artificial contrivance and b) has no moral worth. (And let me just say that I find it utterly embarrassing that some humans demand this kind of proof of pleasure, pain and emotional awareness in animals other than ourselves.) In addition to physiological and behavioral evidence of animal sentience, evolutionary theories increasingly conclude that animals are neurologically “wired” similarly to humans, due to our shared evolutionary history. Charles Darwin recognized sentience as “an essential feature of evolutionary fitness and believed it to be widespread in the animal world,” observing that the process of natural selection inherently selects for sentient beings. For example, the ability to feel pain helps motile animals flee from disadvantageous or dangerous experiences, and help them avoid them in the future. Pleasure help reinforce beneficial behaviors, and thus sentience was/is an evolutionarily advantageous trait.
            More recently with respect to scientists on sentience, the 2012 Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness is a great place to start. http://fcmconference.org/img/CambridgeDeclarationOnConsciousness.pdf

  7. The real “attacks” are not from vegan activists but from those who perpetrate violence against infant or adolescent age animals for no good reason. Don’t shoot the vegan messenger for coming to the defense of the innocent victims.

    • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

      Of course the attacks are coming from extremist, intolerant vegans. They attack those who don’t subscribe to their religion.

      • Love the irony of your comment. Extreme: You kill unnecessarily. Intolerant: You’re intolerant of vegans and our commitment to avoid unnecessary harm as far as practicable. Religion: The notion of human supremacy over nonhumans is common to all 5 major world religions. Veganism is based on the evolutionary fact that no characteristics of humans are unique to humans, but overlap with those of nonhumans, and that there are no morally relevant characteristics humans have that nonhumans don’t also have when it comes to an interest in not being exploited. Indeed, a majority of vegans are agnostic or atheist, largely because of the scientific worldview most of us have.

        • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

          I don’t care what vegans choose to do or not do. That is their business. What other people choose to do is not their business. Furthermore, dairy (milk, cheese) and poultry (eggs) products, that your extremist movement wants to get rid of, don’t require the death of an animal. Devolutionary, to say the least

          • Bodily secretions such as eggs and cow milk do require animal deaths in large numbers in any feasible commercial exploitation.

            And I don’t care what people do until they start unnecessarily harming others. I’m all for harmless freedom; but will speak up for the innocent and vulnerable every chance I get.

          • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

            I think we can all agree that industrial farming, for the most part, is pretty evil. However, you’ve gone far beyond that to say that farm animals shouldn’t be raised on a private scale.

        • Lulz

          LOL, what scientific worldview? That’s a pretty pompous assertion considering that merely 4 decades ago, a new ice age was being called for by scientist lulz.

          People that had scientific worldviews, which I’m sure you find fascinating, include Mengele and Rascher lulz. They thought of themselves as you do LOL.

          Humans are supreme over every animal on the planet. They have the ability to create tools that kill from long distances. They need not strength or stamina to kill. Only the ability to LEARN the use of the tools.

          • First, the scientific worldview that god claims explain nothing about the world, and modern physics and biology explain a great deal about the world, relevant to this thread being that humans are nothing more than tool making apes with unique ability in creating mental abstractions and speaking, enabling language and education to be passed down and accumulated over generations, all of which is morally irrelevant to whether we ought to use our capacities to inflict harm and hell on innocent and vulnerable others when it’s unnecessary.

            Second, humans are technological geniuses and moral imbeciles, which is why we overbreed, unnecessarily exploit and murder tens of billions of innocents annually, pollute our planet way beyond sustainable levels, kill each other’s children in unnecessary wars, and threaten our so-called civilization with global thermonuclear weapons. We are supreme moral idiots as a species. That’s the only thing supreme about us.

          • The Real World

            Hooo wheeee — I sure do agree with your second paragraph!

            It’s part of the reason I think convincing large numbers of people to live as vegans (even vegetarians) isn’t going to happen until humans are more evolved intellectually, emotionally, morally, etc.

            It also needs to become easier to live as a veggie/vegan. We have a good long way to go on both of those aspects.

  8. boatrocker

    I have concluded that vegans hurt their own cause much like Jill Stein singing on youtube hurt her cause.
    Both mean well, but…

  9. think critically

    Revised Preface to Old MacDonald’s Factory Farm by C. David Coates

    Aren’t humans amazing Animals? They kill wildlife – birds, deer, all kinds of cats, coyotes, beavers, groundhogs, mice and foxes by the millions in order to protect their domestic animals and their feed.

    Then they kill domestic animals by the billions and eat them.

    This in turn kills people by the millions, because eating all those animals leads to degenerative – and fatal – – health conditions like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and cancer.

    So then humans spend billions of dollars torturing and killing millions of more animals to look for cures for these diseases.

    Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being used to fatten domestic animals.

    Meanwhile, few people recognize the absurdity of humans, who kill so easily and violently, and once a year send out cards praying for “Peace on Earth.”

    • boatrocker

      And it continually amuses me when vegans claim humans torture animals that they eat.
      Torture implies keeping someone or an animal alive in order to inflict pain or suffering upon it.

      For having to kill an animal to eat it, I fail to see how the torture label comes into play. Yes, Virginia, the critter has to be dead
      in order to eat it. Same as a plant, fruit, vegetable, grain, etc.

      Observation #422- I notice that those who use words like ‘think’, ‘real’, ‘truth’ and such in their names here usually are the
      most rabid in their sincere cult-like devotion to extreme wacky worldviews.

      • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

        It was interesting to read Justin Van Kleeck’s (mentioned above) website. On it he advocates keeping chickens (abandoned or whatever, but eating them or their eggs is verboten). Somehow in vegans’ minds them keeping chickens is not torturing or enslaving them, but when (humane) farmers do so, it is. I guess they keep those chickens until they get sick or old and die a slow, painful death, rather than put them to death quickly like farmers do. Yet somehow they think that they are more moral or ethical.

        • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

          And get this… On that same website, feeding chickens’ their own eggs is good, but humans eating eggs is bad.

          • boatrocker

            According to Jeffery Dahmer’s website (and corresponding cookbook), vegetarians and vegans actually do not taste better as the sustenance they provide has a taste described as “bitter, with a delicate soucaint of equal part bile and fervid cult-like sanctimony”.

          • Justin Van Kleeck

            So you are saying you see no difference between a SANCTUARY for chickens, where they get the absolute best vet and other care possible and are treated as companions, from a farm where they are little egg machines? You can call it “keeping” chickens if you wish, but every one of our rescues has been RESCUED from the happy farms you pretend to run. I.e., they are victims of neglect, abandonment, and improper care. And for every happy hen you think you have, there is a dead rooster somewhere who died so you could eat hens’ eggs.

            Humans get old and sick and die of natural causes, as do other animals we consider companions. Would it be “humane,” then, to kill dogs or cats or people after a few years while they are “in their prime” so they avoid all that. Your argument is fallacious because it somehow suggests that chickens (and other food animals) have less of a desire to live. That is why we give hospice care and, when needed, euthanasia but based on THEIR desire to live. You assume that we just leave them there to suffer and die BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT FARMERS DO. We don’t.

            And yes, feeding eggs back to hens is perfectly acceptable because 1) the eggs are theirs, not yours (as soon as you start laying eggs, you are welcome to eat them), and they didn’t give you permission to eat them; 2) by eating their eggs, you are perpetuating the horrible genetic manipulation done to them by selective breeding, which has increased their laying rates to nearly 20 times what their wild ancestors lay (10-15 eggs per year vs. 250-300), a process that is the primary reason they die well before their natural lifespan (google “Laying hens and human ovarian cancer models”); and 3) the nutrients that comprise eggs are leached from the bodies of the hens, their bones and muscles especially, and that nutrient loss over time leads to osteoporosis and many other deadly health problems, so feeding the eggs back returns many of those lost nutrients back to the hens, who actually need it (unlike us).

          • Justin Van Kleeck

            The only reason you find this so amusing is because to you, chickens (and sheep or goats or cows) are nothing more little more than food. It shows a profound ignorance of who they are as individuals. You all like to deride vegans for having no clue about farmed animals, yet when someone who devotes their lives to saving them chimes in, “LULZ bacon.” Please.

          • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

            Mr Van Kleeck,

            Lest you think you are a special case, I suggest that you go to backyardchickens.com and read what those folks say. I’d almost swear that some of them love their chickens so much that they sleep in the chicken coop and let their chickens sleep in their beds. And they all eat their chickens’ eggs, and many eat their chickens. A lot of them probably take better care of their chickens than you do because they have lots of money and are not shy about spending on their chickens.

            As far as it being wrong for humans to eat eggs because they don’t belong to us, you don’t own the vegetables that you kill and eat. You didn’t create and subsequently own that life, yet you took it.

            As far as osteoporosis, anyone who has the slightest idea about raising chickens knows that supplying free choice oyster shells and crushed egg shells prevents that problem.

          • Justin Van Kleeck

            Backyardchickens.com is a horror show. Count the times “cull” shows up there. And if you want to know how to neuter a rooster in your kitchen, BYC is your place–because any responsible bird vet will refuse to do it considering how dangerous it is FOR THE ROOSTERS.

            Yes, go to BYC to learn how many roosters end up in freezers and how many chickens die because of horribly inadequate housing and shelter.

            Your version of love has prematurely dead chickens everywhere.

          • Justin Van Kleeck

            How much money did you spend on vet care for your chickens from a CERTIFIED AVIAN VET? I’m guessing none. But yes, the community forums at BYC are the place to go, much as Wikipedia is your primary source for a college research paper….

          • Justin Van Kleeck

            And plant Sentience, really? You’re going there now?

          • Justin Van Kleeck

            If you’re that concerned about plant feelings, look up conversion ratios for flesh proteins. Your animals are eating way more plants than the products you get from them–including their dead flesh.

        • Justin Van Kleeck

          Wait, oyster shells? So your answer as a pro-homesteader to hen osteoporosis is a product requiring massive amounts of infrastructure and decimation of the environment? JUST FEED THEM BACK THEIR EGGS!!!

  10. boatrocker

    I considered becoming a vegan, but as a compassionate being who honors all life and who abhors the thought of taking of an animal or plant based life, I found a diet that works even better.

    I merely absorb sunlight and convert it to energy. I call it Compassionate Photosynthesis.

    My health has improved, I’m not part of any ecological disasters brought on my meat or agriculture and best of all, my farts don’t smell!

    Top that,vegans.

  11. Justin Van Kleeck

    One of the most common rejoinders to vegans’ criticisms of “humane” animal farming I encounter is the argument that vegans actually kill MORE animals by eating available plant-based products than a homesteader, because apparently vegans are all junk food addicts who don’t know how to grow a cucumber. But there are a few crucial fallacies there:

    1. Vegans didn’t create our broken food system. Vegans are as much victims of corporatized agriculture as everybody else. So own what the food companies, agribusiness lobbyists, and politicians created as a COMMON problem.

    2. We vegans start from the premise that exploitation and killing of other beings for our own ends is unacceptable, and we seek solutions to #1 that will be beneficial for all involved. Husbandry starts from the premise that other animals are here for us to use and consume, and all we have to do is be nice. So vegans seek harmonious coexistence without holding a knife to anyone’s threat.

    3. “Veganic” models of agriculture/permaculture exist, and along with being more sustainable are also workable in a variety of settings–veganic urban gardens and food networks EXIST, but husbandry does not make sense for all communities. Remember: “If it isn’t accessible by the poor, it is neither radical nor revolutionary.”

    We do not need to exploit non-humans to create some mock-primitive homestead OR sustainable food system. Let’s accept that murder is not conducive to harmonious coexistence and go from there, okay?

    • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

      “Let’s accept that murder is not conducive to harmonious coexistence and go from there, okay?”

      Uh no. Killing an animal is not murder. That is your “religious” belief.

      • Justin Van Kleeck

        Hmm. How would you define murder then? Isn’t forcibly taking the life of someone who doesn’t want to die…murder?

        Do the animals throw themselves on the knives that slit their throats? Please, take my life and eat me, please, they say?

        • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

          Murder only applies to humans, and not all killings of humans are murder, eg, .self defense.

        • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

          Murder is the unlawful premeditated killing of another human being.

    • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

      btw, do you believe, as one commenter here does, that unsustainable synthetic fertilizers are good and sustainable animal waste fertilizers are bad? And if you do, do you teach that openly in the classes/gatherings you teach?

      • Justin Van Kleeck

        Look up veganic agriculture. Manure is actually not the best fertilIzer. Mulching with hay or straw or leaves is much more nutritious, is composting. Manure as fertilIzer is a way for farmers to use all the shit their animals produce. I’ve watched as power companies concoct schemes to build poultry litter power plants in order to deal with the shit coming out of poultry farms, for example.

        Synthetic fertilizers are petroleum based and are tantamount to chemical warfare. I wouldn’t touch them.

      • Ashley

        It seems you have never heard of a thing called “green manure”? Compost? These are sustainable, long-practiced plant-based methods of fertilizer production that may even be old enough to qualify as “primitive”! (And we all know what that means in this cringe-worthy shell game of misplaced nostalgia for all things primitive = ethics. )

  12. Justin Van Kleeck

    And I’ve been healthfully vegan for almost 18 years without massive supplementation, addiction to packaged garbage, or a delusion about where my food comes from. A “vegan diet” isn’t a monolithic thing, but it’s been proven to work for all humans became humans don’t vary in their basic nutritional needs.

  13. Justin Van Kleeck

    Sorry to cut this short but I have to rush out and try to save a stray malnourished pig. Because his life is important to me.

  14. Deplorable Infidel

    Thank you Justin for your tolerance and compassion for pigs and the humans that devour them …

  15. Caitlin

    Dear Lee,

    I apologize that it’s taken a week to get back to you. I’ve been posting this response in the comment fields here, and each time I attempt to submit my comments, they will not publish to the site. I’m trouble shooting ways to publish this, and have attempted to remove the links. If this posts successfully, I’ll follow up with the links in additional comments.

    To respond to your 5 points of discussion:

    1. Thank you for the offer to go on a walk and talk about our spirituality. I wouldn’t mind an opportunity to converse in person, but truthfully, I am not a very spiritual person. My worldview can be summed up in very few words: do as little harm as possible. Though I am not religious, there are many religions that speak to this guiding principle. In Judeo-Christianity, it’s called The Golden Rule, and states simply to “do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” In Jainism, an ancient religion predating Buddhism and Hinduism, this philosophy is Ahimsa, the principle of nonviolence toward all sentient beings (and indeed, many Jains and Buddhists are vegan).

    You say that “deep down, most people believe in goodness.” I agree that the majority of people living on earth intend to be kind and fair (the qualities I assume you ascribe to “goodness”). While intending to live kindly and fairly, however, humans have an ancient history of cognitive dissonance; we mean well and do harm over and over again. To think you can push a knife into another mammal’s throat when you can chose not to do so without any hardship to yourself is a profound example of this cognitive dissonance.

    You are absolutely right that I cannot make decisions for anyone but myself. I don’t wish to force a world view on you, or anybody else, but I will continue to educate, to be a voice for the oppressed all over the world, and to lead by example. This is not “fundamentalist” or “extreme” thinking. It’s an essential function of morality.

    2. There is no scientific evidence to support your claim of variable nutritional requirements amongst human beings. In fact, this assertion flies in the face of a basic fact about nutritional needs, which is that they are species wide and species specific: that is, all members of a species require the exact same nutrients to meet health needs. This is true of all species, not just human beings. And human beings, as a species, can eat a whole-foods plant-based (vegan) diet and thrive. To quote nutritional epidemiologist Micaela Karlsen, “Human beings are one species; we are all the same animal, with the same digestive physiology. And, as is true of all species, we do not require personalized nutritional programs unless we are dealing with a specific disease or some other very unusual condition… Where nutrition is concerned, it’s helpful to ask yourself, “Where in nature can I find an example of this?” And in this example of a very wide variation of nutrient intake, the answer is “nowhere.”

    My friend and author Ashley Capps wrote a fascinating and in depth research editorial on this subject, and I encourage you to read it: (link 1)

    As far as your friends benefiting from the reintroduction of animal products into their diets: there are many ways to eat a vegan diet, just as there are many dietary choices available that exploit animals. One can eat a high-quality vegan diet, and one can also eat a vegan diet containing processed, low-fiber junk foods, with many of the same unfortunate choices that are available to those eating animal foods. It is also possible to eat a healthful plant-based diet and get sick for nutritional reasons that have nothing to do with eating only plants. See Sayward Rebhal’s “Facing Failing Health on a Vegan Diet”: (link 2)

    Plant-based diets may require fine tuning for some to get right, but they do not create deficiencies that categorically require the reincorporation of animal products for good health.

    3. Lee, I think we do have a conversation regarding the use of veganic agriculture as a viable means of building soil. It is done commercially and by individuals. By employing such techniques as composting, green manure, and mulching, veganic agriculture is a low impact, responsible method of farming. On the other hand, Allan Savory’s argument that we actually need to increase the amount of grazing domesticated animals is dangerous. Savory is a man who virtually stands alone in the scientific community by claiming that adding MORE domesticated animals to deforested and desertified land will somehow rehabilitate land! It’s quite clear that deforestation and desertification are happening almost single-handedly BECAUSE of animal agriculture. Dr. Richard Oppenlander, author of Food Choice and Sustainability: Why Buying Local, Eating Less Meat, and Taking Baby Steps Won’t Work, published an excellent article debunking Savory’s arguments. It can be read here: (link 3)

    4. At this point, it’s a widely accepted fact that animals require more food than they produce. The level of resource consumption, waste production, and greenhouse gas impact per unit of animal products created is going to be in the same catastrophic range regardless of whether an animal is raised in a factory farm or in a pasture, according to a recent United Nations study (link 4). Simply put, growing vegetables requires far less resource input than growing mammals. To suggest that your meat-based diet is lower impact than the choice to eat locally, organically grown plant-foods is injudicious, to say the least. It is not simply factory farmed animals, but all farmed animals, that contribute to land and water consumption and degradation. Empirical data already exists that proves this, so we don’t need to hire a scientist to compare your diet against mine.

    5. You claim to seriously question whether plants are sentient. Besides the fact that this seems disingenuous considering all of the harm that meat, dairy, and egg consumption causes to animals known to have virtually the same nervous systems and pain responses as us; raising animals for food also requires far more plants to be consumed than does growing crops for direct human consumption— so, to minimize harm to plants, one would naturally have to exclude the most plant-intensive foods (i.e., meat).

    If your arguments supporting meat consumption rely on Savory’s controversial, oft-debunked work, and unscientific ideas that some human beings require meat for health, I’m afraid I’m at a loss. Mainstream science confirms time and again that meat-eating is destructive on a variety of levels. In spite of this, you may continue to characterize me as fundamental and extreme, but at the end of the day, I advocate against the needless slitting of throats, and you advocate for it.

    After this exchange, and others I’ve observed in the community, it’s become readily apparent to me that the world needs more progressive, innovative, justice-seeking land stewardship that speaks out against the dominant cultural narrative of exploiting and consuming animals. I am working with friends to develop an Asheville-based veganic organization that will provide resources, classes, and animal-free food grown sustainably for our community.

    Caitlin Campbell

  16. Caitlin

    The Mountain Xpress website has been disallowing responses that contain links to post to the site.

    Here are the titles of the 4 online articles that I’ve been trying to reference:

    Link 1: Catching Up With Science: Burying the “Humans Need Meat” Argument” by Ashley Capps

    Link 2: Facing Failing Health As A Vegan by Bonzai Aphrodite

    Link 3: “Saving the World With Livestock? The Allan Savory Approach Examined” by Richard Oppenlander

    Link 4: “Rearing cattle produces more greenhouse gases than driving cars, UN report warns”

  17. Roberta Reed

    Let-Live Coalition has been reckless!!

    The entire point is that thousands (See the change.org petition) of vegans should not be given a single woman’s home address and phone number simply because she is not a vegan and she chooses to teach skills essential to many marginalized individuals. Let-live published this information on their website and refused to remove it even though they were instructed that they were targeting one person and her newborn child instead of a “business” and they were causing harm,

    Apparently , they did not care that they were attacking one person nor that they were causing a new mother and newborn duress.

    Their comments on FB and on the change,org and their websites wrongfully represented food preparation as slaughter for entertainment, including pictures of lambs, and an assortment of other lies which incited violence precipitating threats of violence, including losing her livelihood, and her and her child’s life. Any responsible person or organization would reevaluate what they were doing and curtail the attack.

    Instead, let-live coalition removed the link to their contact page from their website. Their facebook page blocks all comments contrary to their cause. They use fake names and their website has no board members listed, nor organizations named that are part of the Coalition. There is no accountability, just a blind rage that they refuse to stop. I have requested this information several times and have not received a reply.

    She needs to be protected from such onslaught no matter the reasons. Vegan or No vegan ; it is immaterial when human life is threatened, This they don’t understand. They do not see the damage they have done. The threats continue to be posted on their Social media page. The group that decided to pick on her is responsible for any harm that befalls her and her newborn child. They claim it is not bullying. I could not call it anything but bullying.

    These individuals she helps are not even on the activist vegan’s radar. Vegans claim they don’t exist. They are not being addressed in the above arguments. These are those who have no time to debate philosophical or scientific points of view when they are only trying to get enough calories to stay alive. They are the homeless, subsistence farmers, those that live in the food deserts, students with no support, and those working 3 jobs to make ends meet. Being a vegan is a luxury they do not have. Knowing how to hunt, fish and gather are essential. I have been there, trying to assess if the road kill was edible or not. Will the fish I catch have too much mercury? What plants can I gather in the dead of winter? it was lean years. Luckily I had a friend like Natalie.

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