Practical Veganism- FAQs

A couple of months ago I wrote a piece called “Practical Veganism”.

I didn’t choose the title. I don’t think anyone likes “the v word: but it was a bit of a tongue in cheek title from the editors. It has led to many assumptions about the case I make- that I was simply advocating veganism. Also, I’ll point out that a couple of other people have made a similar case to the one I make in Practical Veganism. Julia Galef wrote an article saying that if you want to reduce suffering you should eat fewer eggs and and there is this Slate Star Codex blog “vegetarianism for meat eaters” which also discusses offsetting.

In summary, Practical Veganism was about what animal foods cause more and less suffering- information that people very rarely consider when they’re deciding what to eat. The “suffering footprint” is a way of quantifying the amount of suffering caused when you buy animal products. 53% of people in a nationally representative US survey said they were trying to consumer fewer animal based foods (and 63% thought everyone else should consume fewer animal based foods!). But when people reduce their consumption of animal products they usually shift from eating pigs and cows to eating fish, chicken and eggs. The claim I make in the piece is that this shift actually increases the suffering footprint relative to something like a diet of only red meat. This is because chickens and fish are much smaller than pigs and cows, which means there is more suffering per calorie and chickens and fish have worse lives on average than cows and maybe pigs. There were some criticisms of the piece that I’ll unpack further here. See for example some interesting critique on Reddit and on Twitter. See answers to questions about the environment, fish sentience, whether domesticated animals actually have it really good, aliens and human farming after the jump.

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Animal Ethics and Evolutionary Psychology- 10 ideas

I have a chapter coming out on animal ethics and evolutionary psychology for the third volume of the SAGE Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology edited by Todd Shackelford. This volume on applications of evolutionary psychology will cover a wide range of topics that are rarely tackled from this perspective, like artificial intelligence, climate change, dangerous driving behavior, incarceration, meditation and cyberwarfare.

Animal Ethics and Evolutionary Psychology (read the whole chapter here) attempts to untangle some of the evolutionary reasons why have such inconsistent attitudes towards animals. Below I quote parts of the chapter- for full references, check out the original.

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Will Clean Meat Become Cruelty Free? (Repost)

This is a reblog from a Sentientist.org blog from August 2013.

Will In Vitro meat become cruelty free?

Today in London there was the first public tasting of in vitro meat (although it seems a bit silly that the fate of such a potentially gamechanging technology would be influenced by the initial reaction of a couple of gourmands). The Guardian has dubbed Post’s in vitro patty as “the world’s first cruelty free hamburger” although Peter Singer, who actually wrote the piece knows enough to steer clear of this misnomer. This is a milestone for sure but how much difference will in vitro meat make to actual animal cruelty or the number of animals used for food? I previously explored how lab meat is created and whether in vitro meat would help animals in this podcast, including an interview with David Pearce where I asked (around minute 7), what market forces might move lab meat to involve the least amount of animal suffering.

In this blog, I first discuss the aspects of in vitro meat that are still potentially unethical. Then I talk a bit about how disgust, and the groups that are most disgust sensitive, may reduce the impact that in vitro meat will have on the reduction of animal suffering.

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The Vegan Option – Blogs and Interviews

From September 2011 to early 2013  I was cohost and blogger at the Vegan Option. 

I also produced the podcast on lab meat now known as “clean meat”.

After the jump is a collection of links and descriptions of all the blogs and shows I helped to produce there or you can just click here to see all the blogs and shows tagged.

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Understanding Evolution made me Vegan

Pleistocene hominins at Happisburgh
Ahh, the good old days- Illustration by John Sibbick

This is a reblog of a 2013 blog from Sentientist.org. 

I’m very often sent news stories that come out showing that meat (or other calorie dense foods seldom mentioned), helped expand human brain growth and reduce the interbirth interval in our species (enabling us to outcompete other nonhuman primates) or that the skeleton of a boy was found who died of apparent b-12 deficiency (because his mama was feeding him vegan, obviously). If eating meat is something humans evolved to do how can I argue against it from an evolutionary perspective? Here’s are my abbreviated arguments for being vegan.

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The Ethical Case for Eating Oysters and Mussels- Part 2

pearl oyster

This is a reblog of a post I first published in  2013. 

In the last blog, I made the case that there really wasn’t a good ethical reason not to eat mussels and oysters. As an astute commenter noted, I wasn’t really making a case FOR eating mussels and oysters so much as saying that the argument against lacked sufficient evidence from the perspective of reducing suffering. In this blog, I’m going to remedy that by outlining some positive effects that might result from the acceptance of oysters and mussels as ethical to eat if not defined as “vegan”. Specifically, I think that eating oysters and mussels 1) undermines the case that vegans are motivated by disgust and purity 2) offers some nutritional benefits that might make people more likely to eat (or continue eating) in a way that causes the least suffering.

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The Ethical Case for Eating Oysters and Mussels- Part 1

This is a post I first wrote in May of 2013. This was the most popular post on Sentientist.org.

oysters.jpg
Oysters aren’t really this cute

In May of 2008 I became vegan or…well, ostrovegan. In this blog I officially come out of the closet, err, shell.  I am almost sure that cultivated mussels and oysters are ethical to eat. I argue eating these animals is completely consistent with the spirit if not the letter of ethical veganism and the tenet of causing less harm with our consumer choices1. This blog is on bivalve sentience/ability to suffer; for further arguments, including nutrition arguments, see this second blog.

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