Frantic rationalizer alert! »
[Ed. note: please also read this lighter-on-the-swears response from Vegansaurus pal Tim.]
Hey guys! You’ll never guess what! Didja know? Plants have feelings!!! Yet another New York Times fuckface has come out of the woodwork this holiday season to rationalize her lack of dietary ethics and consistency. Citing many of the admittedly complex and impressive defense mechanisms plants possess, the author makes the case that because plants have impressive and complicated defense mechanisms, they somehow have a desire on par with that of animals in possession of central nervous systems and pain receptors to remain alive.
Now, before I begin, just let me say that I don’t think all meat eaters are fuckfaces. I’m not some crazy vegan fascist who only associates with other vegans and would force my unholy lifestyle on everyone against their will given the slightest chance. No. The problem I have is when people frantically try to dress up their lack of giving a shit as some kind of perfectly rational and justifiable ethical framework. It’s kind of like Sarah Palin’s “common-sense conservatism;” that is, it’s all just a bunch of bullshit made up by people who are too stupid or too lazy to get a real clue and actually change things, or at least own up to the fact that they just are kind of assholes. Now that I’ve got that off my chest, here’s why even if I concede to Ms. Fuckface that plants have just as much of a legitimate interest in keeping their “lives” as animals do (which, um, they don’t), being vegan is STILL the only ethical choice.
We got to eat. Don’t ask me to cite where I’m getting this from, but human beings have to eat to stay alive. Given that the only food sources we have on the planet right now are either plant or animal derived, we’ve got an un-opt-out-able situation. Until we develop those things they have on Star Trek (you know, “tea, Earl Grey, hot,” those things), either the plants get it or the animals do, or some combination of both.
If we concede that all living beings, plant and animal, have an equal interest in staying alive and that we should consider those interests equally when deciding what we should eat, we need to consider not just what we eat directly, but what is consumed in the production of what we eat. That is to say, that duck you’re munching on? It sure as shit ate something to stay alive long enough for you to eat it. What it ate was most likely plant matter of some kind. To trot out the tired old John Robbins statistic that every thinking person who ever talks about food and how mean the vegans are to plants should know by now, it takes about 16 pounds of edible grain to produce a pound of edible beef flesh. So even if you needed to eat twice as much grain as beef to meet your nutritional needs and fill you up, you’re still killing eight times less plant volume if you just eat the plants and not the meat that eats the plants. If you conservatively estimate that it takes 10 plants to make a pound of grain, then that means you’re killing 80 plants to produce that pound of flesh.
Of course, this is assuming that the animals we’re killing and eating are being fed only natural, plant-based foods. In today’s agriculture, most food animals are actually fed ground up bits of other animals mixed in with their plant-based food. Take a minute to figure out how many pounds of plant matter it takes to raise a pound of beef if the cow it’s coming from is eating feed composed of three-quarters plant matter and one-quarter ground-up cow, assuming, charitably, that the dead-cow matter decreases me amount of food necessary for producing a pound of edible cow flesh from 16:1 to 10:1. That’s right—if you’re getting a pound of beef from a cow eating feed of three parts plant matter for every one part animal matter, and that animal matter comes from cows who ate a similar diet, that pound of beef cost the lives of 26.25 pounds of plants (1:26 beef-to-plants ratio). That means that if you’re eating meat, you’re not just killing the one animal you consume. You’re also ending the lives of the countless plants required to feed that animal.
Now, before someone pipes up and tells me that the 16:1 figure is inaccurate and blah blah blah, I looked up the pounds of grain per pounds of beef figure on some pro-animal-agriculture websites too. The lowest figure I found listed a pound of beef being produced at a cost of 2.6 pounds of grain (the grain feed, according to this website, being supplemented with “animal matter”). Even if you leave out the plants killed to feed the “animal matter” fed to these cows to reduce their plant intake, you’re still killing a whole lot more plants to produce the meat than you would be if you just cut out the middle man and ate the plants—even if you look at the “feel good” statistics generated by the meat industry. Oh, and all this goes for chicken and all that shit as well. Chicken is about 5 pounds of grain per pound of chicken flesh, per John Robbins in Diet For a New America.
In addition to all that, the author also seems to have forgotten that until humans evolve titanium kidneys and much abbreviated digestive systems, even if we do eat meat, we will also need to eat plants to meet our nutritional needs, so really, all that fussing about the lives of poor plants is pretty disingenuous, considering that next to that duck à l’Orange will inevitably be some murdered onions or dismembered celery, which brings the total death toll even higher.
There simply is no reality in which it spares more plants lives to eat meat than to be vegan , so if you’re really and truly concerned with the welfare of Brussels sprouts, you’d best go vegan.