All Mothers Deserve Respect, Of Course!
Here is a discussion initiated by L, which he claims to be robust, which isn’t, IMHO… At least, not from his side. But I’ll leave whether this is really so for readers to decide. If you are already pro-vegan, you might just wish to skip his parts, though they do seem to represent typical skewed views, which are in that sense interesting to note. Please feel free to forward this to friends with similar misperceptions on the merits of veganism. Our choice of diet and lifestyle can indeed be kinder and wiser. Our choices are not of arbitrary impact. This is what veganism is about. Look out here, for my book on Buddhist perspectives on vegetarianism and veganism soon, with research materials based on the Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana teachings. Final edit is underway.
Lee Yue Heng (L): [Commenting on above picture posted in Facebook by S] Then shall we say that all insects deserve respect and therefore we shouldn’t eat vegetables? After all, every vegetarian meal is a result of a holocaust for insects when insecticide is used to clear land for farming…
Shen Shi’an (S): Organic produce kill less. And behind every pound of flesh, the animal has to consume much much more crops to fatten up.
‘I have love for the footless,for the bipeds too I have love; I have love for those with four feet,for the many-footed I have love.’ – The Buddha (Anguttara Nikaya II, 72)
‘About 10 kg of food is fed to cows to produce 1 kg of beef.’ : http://www.vegetarian-society.org/WorldHunger
More on respect for cows and chickens: ‘Cattle reared for milk production are exploited and made to suffer, just like animals reared for meat. They suffer from lameness, mastitis (inflammation of the udders) and other illnesses and – worst of all – they are forcibly separated from their calves just days after they are born so that humans can drink their milk. Cows are not some kind of special animal that produces milk automatically: just like every other animal, including us, they only produce milk to nurse their young. Male dairy calves, meanwhile, are useless to the dairy industry and are usually shot at birth. Meanwhile, egg-laying hens may be crammed into battery cages or disgusting, disease ridden percheries and forced to produce twenty times the number of eggs as are natural to them. Even free range and organic layers face disease and parasites – and are slaughtered for cheap meat as soon as their productivity falls below the level that the egg business will accept. Male chicks are as useless to the industry as male dairy calves and all are killed – including those on free-range and organic systems.’ : http://www.viva.org.uk/goingvegan/index.php
More on respect for Mothers:
‘A being who has not been your mother
at one time in the past is not easy to find.
A being who has not been your father
at one time in the past is not easy to find.
A being who has not been your brother
at one time in the past is not easy to find.
A being who has not been your sister
at one time in the past is not easy to find.
A being who has not been your son
at one time in the past is not easy to find.
A being who has not been your daughter
at one time in the past is not easy to find.
Why is that? From an unfathomable beginning comes rebirth.’
[Hence, there are many ways which all have been related.]
- The Buddha (Mata Sutta)
L: ‘Monks, I allow you fish and meat that are quite pure in three respects: if they are not seen, heard or suspected to have been killed on purpose for a monk. But, you should not knowingly make use of meat killed on purpose for you.’ – The Buddha (Book of Vinaya, Chapter 4)
The fact remains that just like meat-eaters, the diet of vegans requires millions of insects to be killed and damage to the environment. So vegans actually should not be so self-righteous. Our existence is sustained by the death of countless sentient beings. Of course we should try to minimize killing, but to say that vegans are more moralistic is simplistic. Which is also why the Buddha, in his infinite wisdom, refused to ban meat-eating or make vegetarianism compulsory for the monks.
S: [The above quote refers to random alms-seeking monastics, not consumers with the power of choice, whose choices obviously feed or starve the supply-demand cycle for murder of animals. It's simple economics] On real suspect meat (that the Buddha could be referring to as well): http://www.4ui.com/eart/214eart1.htm (The Invisible Conveyor Belt of Meat & Murder) Who are the usual suspects? Based on this fact: ‘About 10 kg of food is fed to cows to produce 1 kg of beef.’ This means meat-consumption requires the deaths of at least 10 times more sentient beings. No worries, have not come across vegans who imagine they don’t cause any deaths at all. Vegans just try to minimise killing. Vegans are just folks who try to speak up for voiceless animals and against those who are self-righteous about eating animals
L: We can keep trading links or quotes till the cows come home (pun intended). But at the end of the day, your vegatarian meal is the result of millions of insects being killed and damage to the environment. My non-vegetarian meal is the result of animals being slaughtered. This is life. Our exisence is predicated on the lives of other beings. Vegans who speak up for ‘voiceless animals’ by banging the morality drum while consuming food that is the result of regular holocausts for insects…is there some inconsistency? When you eat your vegetarian meal, do you feel guilty about the millions of insects who have died via insecticide?
S: The Buddha taught vegetarianism as a Bodhisattva precept in the Brahma Net Sutra. And it makes sense, because how can one be an active animal-eater when one has the choice not to feed the supply-demand cycle of meat-murder, which runs counter to the wish for all beings to be well and happy.
‘A disciple of the Buddha must not deliberately eat meat. He should not eat the flesh of any sentient being. The meat-eater forfeits the seed of Great Compassion, severs the seed of the Buddha-nature and causes [animals and transcendental] beings to avoid him. Those who do so are guilty of countless offenses. Therefore, Bodhisattvas should not eat the flesh of any sentient beings whatsoever. If instead, he deliberately eats meat, he commits a secondary offense.’
L: Then should it not be the case that Bodhisattvas should also not be vegans by feeding the supply-demand cycle for vegetables which causes the mass murder of insects by insecticide?
S: If you reread the above, it’s you who use words like ‘self-righteous’ and banging the morality drum’. Me dont’ use harsh words :-] There has never been denial that we all harm beings indirectly, even if vegans. As stats clearly show, vegans harm less. May all beings harm less, whether they are vegans or not. Not another link trade, but for my other friends to see too: http://www.ted.com/talks/graham_hill_weekday_vegetarian.html There is no need to draw a firm line between meat-eaters and vegans. Everyone can do what they can to slant to the kinder side. It’s not all or nothing.
L: You have mistaken directness for harshness. The fact remains that whatever you eat, some life has to be sacrificed. So the pot should not be calling the kettle black. Not being harsh.
W: Such old school argument. Vegetarians or vegans, we did not say our diet is void of killing but certainly much less than meat-eater. U mentioned “holocaust for insects”, but a huge percentage of the crops grown on earth goes to feed the intensively breeding farmed animals which in the end feed human. If we use that percentage of crops to feed human instead, there will probably be no starving people. Self-righteous? We never say that vegetarians or vegans are the perfect. It can never be perfect but certainly less harmful and more compassion than meat-eating. We encourage our friends and family to go for a more compassionate diet but we never force feed anyone. Choice is always theirs.
S: In case some don’t get this chat, the gise of it is this, meat-eating is not just mass-murder of animals, but mass-murder of about 10 times more sentient beings as these animals need to eat much more crops. It’s thus kinder to consume lower on food chain by direct consumption of crops. Here are some undeniable good reasons to go vegan: http://viva.org.uk/goingvegan/index.php
Apologies, L, for hearing words like ‘banging the morality drum’ as an actual drumming sound when they are read. As above, ‘There has never been denial that we all harm beings indirectly, even if vegans. As stats clearly show, vegans harm less. May all beings harm less, whether they are vegans or not.’
L: I apologize if I sound abrasive. My writing is simple and straightforward. I used to believe that a vegetarian diet is inherently more ethical. After having examined the facts on both sides, I no longer think so. It is not what we eat that makes us pure or moral. It’s really the state of mind. Of course one can argue that compassionate people will not eat the flesh of animals, but the counter argument would be that compassionate people should not sponsor the genocide of millions of insects. It goes on and on…
S: I used to believe that a vegetarian diet is inherently more ethical. After examining the facts, I no longer think that is enough. That’s why I became vegan. It’s not what we eat that makes us more pure or moral, but how we eat – with more greed and delusion or with less. Have realised that veganism involves less greed and delusion for humankind. (Er…. not my personal point of view only, but that of millions of vegans worldwide.) If we truly wish to be more compassionate, we should consume as low and little on the food chain as possible. This just happens to be called veganism. It’s the path of least murders.
L: Who are we to say that the life of insects is not as worthy as the life of animals? That’s just the projection of human beings. Try telling the insects killed to produce your vegetarian meal: ‘It’s okay for you to die because you are lower on the food chain.’ Btw, the statement that vegans are less greedy and delusional is a completely subjective assertion which cannot be proven. It’s like saying that people who appreciate music are more cultured than those who don’t. It’s an unfalsifiable statement. This type of holier-than -thou statements made by vegetarians that I have a problem with. Rhetoric like this is probably designed to bolster the egos of the vegans, to assume moral superiority over the meat-eaters.
S: I think I finally know where you are missing the point… Let me spell out the maths…. ‘About 10 kg of food is fed to cows to produce 1 kg of beef.’ What this means is that the cows consume 10 times more crops than vegans, which means 10 times more insect genocides are needed for meat. This is why the insect genocide argument doesn’t hold. Vegans are linked to at least 10 times LESS insect genocides. Vegans practise non-speciesism towards insects and all. On the ‘greed and delusion’, was referring to matters such as these, not others. It’s nothing personal; just facts.
Seriously, having been vegetarian and then vegan for together about 18 years, and knowing many vege friends, plus some from Vegetarian Society, I’ve not come across a single holier-than-thou vegetarian yet. They are kindly folks. (Sincerely hope I fall in this category.) Maybe you are reading tones of your perception into rhetoric and such? E.g. this post is a kindly cartoon picture, but it urged you to write words like ‘self-righteous’ and ‘banging the morality drum’. Frankly, quite little taken aback, because I can’t see anything bad with not treating cows like milk machines and chickens as egg machines… Just for your consideration. But of course, it’s my deluded perception at play too, according to your explanation. May all beings big and small be well and happy.
W: L’s logic has flaws. As mentioned before, there’s no perfect diet yet. We know it’s not okay for insects to die for human. If there’s a way to avoid killing the insects we would, just like the way we avoid meat. Just because we can’t avoid killing insects so it’s good to eat meat? That just don’t make sense. I have no idea where u get the holier-than-thou statements and moral superiority? Just because we advocate a kinder diet doesn’t mean we are holier or morally superior. It’s really just choice and nothing else.
L: I can also say that there are non-vegetarians who can be just as kind or compassionate as your vegetarian friends. My inference of the cartoon is that those who eat cows and chicken are not respectful of mothers. It’s strongly implied, isn’t it? Furthermore, you can quote “facts”, but there is also a lot of research which indicates that the cost of a vegetarian lifestyle is tremendous damage to the environment. I don’t feel like trading links. You can Google ‘Vegetarianism Damages Environment’. There is a lot of information there. [Not true] Btw, the assertion that vegetarians are less greedy and delusional is quintessential self-righteousness. One swallow does not make a summer. To take one aspect of a person’s life (dietary preference) and judge that life as being less compassionate/more delusional is simplistic.
S: Yes indeed, of course, there are kind non-vegetarians too. It’s also wonderful to be kind vegans. I hope to be a kinder vegan, who is mindful of more sentient beings. Your inference is interesting. From United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organisation’s report: Livestock a major threat to environment:
http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000448/index.html Have never come across any vegan who judges anyone to be compassionate/delusional on the whole based only on diet. That would be delusional and self-righteous indeed. However, for informed vegans, they are indeed less greedy and delusional, as mentioned, in those aspects; not necessarily other aspects of life. On the other hand, there are self-righteous meat-eaters, but let’s not go into that. May all beings be well and happy, and may all tread the path of least harm.
L: Vegetarianism can also be a major threat to the environment too. So it really works both ways. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/climatechange/7219223/Becoming-vegetarian-can-harm-the-environment.html And the above linked study was commisioned by the WWF, not the meat industry. ’But if you want to minimise animal suffering and promote more sustainable agriculture, adopting a vegetarian diet might be the worst possible thing you could do.’ http://theconversation.edu.au/ordering-the-vegetarian-meal-theres-more-animal-blood-on-your-hands-4659 ’The truth is that agriculture is the most destructive thing humans have done to the planet, and more of the same won’t save us. The truth is that agriculture requires the wholesale destruction of entire ecosystems. The truth is also that life isn’t possible without death, that no matter what you eat, someone has to die to feed you.; http://lierrekeith.com/vegmyth.htm
S: From the Telegraph article, the study claims that some meat substitutes are less green if imported into Britain from elsewhere. This means it is not necessarily less green if there is less importing. Many meats are imported to many countries, including Singapore, which in this sense makes it even less green, and with more killing. (Recall genocide times 10 or more.) The study seems lopsided in not calculating the feed needed for the meat animals, which is as above, 10 times or more, thus requiring that amount of land. The study is based ONLY on UK’s context. If highly processed meat substitutes require more energy, we should consume less processed food – including process meat. (Me going towards less processed vegan food.)
As the article says, ‘Simply eating more bread, pasta and potatoes instead of meat is more environmentally friendly… Lord Stern of Bradford, the climate change economist, claimed last October that a vegetarian diet was beneficial to the planet. He told a newspaper: “Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the world’s resources. A vegetarian diet is better.: Liz O’Neill, spokeswoman for the Vegetarian Society, told The Times: “The figures used in the report are based on a number of questionable assumptions about how vegetarians balance their diet and how the food industry might respond to increased demand. If you’re aiming to reduce your environmental impact by going vegetarian then it’s obviously not a good idea to rely on highly processed products, but that doesn’t undermine the fact that the livestock industry causes enormous damage.’
Review of Lierre Keith’s inadequate book by a vegan PhD doctor : http://www.theveganrd.com/2010/09/review-of-the-vegetarian-myth.html : ‘It’s next to impossible to review this book; it is so packed with misinformation and confusion that refuting the claims could be another book itself.’ UN’s FAO or Lierre Keith? Hmmmm… UN any time. Unfortunately, as am an untrained scientist, I have to take a side. May all make peace with their choices of diet, while being as mindful as they can on these as food for thought (pun intended): http://www.moonpointer.com/vege/10.htm May all beings be well and happy.
There is an updated pro-vegan WWF article – ‘New WWF Report Recommends Lowering Meat and Dairy Consumption’: http://www.onegreenplanet.org/news/new-wwf-report-recommends-lowering-meat-and-dairy-consumption
L: I think we have both stated our cases robustly and I apologize if I have offended you in any way. Whether vegan or not, the world is big enough to accomodate people of different persuasions.
S: On the Oz article, here is why it is inadequate:
(1) ‘It takes somewhere between two to ten kilos of plants, depending on the type of plants involved, to produce one kilo of animal. Given the limited amount of productive land in the world, it would seem to some to make more sense to focus our culinary attentions on plants, because we would arguably get more energy per hectare for human consumption. Theoretically this should also mean fewer sentient animals would be killed to feed the ravenous appetites of ever more humans.’
(2) Would like to know good estimated figures for how many insects (not just bigger animals) killed for crops to create per kilo of useable protein as meat worldwide (not just based in Oz). This is neglected because most studies don’t exactly see insects as sentient beings significant enough to quantify. This number is likely to be much much more than if humans consume crops directly, instead of, as in (1), feeding 10 parts to meat animals to create just 1 part.
(3) Sadly, agriculture to produce crops in terms of clearing new land can lead to deaths of some bigger animals, but such deaths is one-time per plot of land cleared and fenced properly. This is versus currently INCREASING land cleared today for grazing and planting crops only for fattening animals for meat-eaters. Mono-culture is of course not a good idea. Vegans don’t demand it. In fact, crop rotation is wonderful for balanced nutrition. Use of pesticides is a problem, which is why organic produce should be encouraged in production and consumption, challenging as it is.
(4) The article is in the context of Oz only, where, if true, as it says, ‘Australian cattle eat mostly pasture’ but cattle elsewhere live tortured lives as milk, meat and leather machines in congested farm factories before slaughter. See www.meat.org for what this is like. If Oz lacks grain, import is a solution, though there are green issues too, as with everything we do. Careful calculation should be done to minimise harm. In Singapore, almost every food is imported, meat or not. The Oz context definitely does not apply to Singapore totally, if even closely enough.
(5) The Buddhist rationale for going vegan is sixfold, as in the earlier link, not just in terms of environmentalism. Until the day that it is proven that to be vegan in Singapore is against those six reasons, me will stay off eating animals and using animal produce.
No worries, no offence la :-] May all beings be well and happy. Amituofo
W: Refutation of Mike Archer’s article (Ordering the vegetarian meal? There’s more animal blood on your hands) – by Matthew Steven at http://joannasteven.blogspot.com/2012/02/is-meat-diet-less-bloody-than.html (If anyone have any comments on the below refutation, please click the above link, I would think Matthew Steven or his wife would be a better person to further comment.):
‘Mike Archer drops the provocative idea that going vegetarian will result in a net increase in animal deaths. This isn’t an environmental argument, because it’s impossible to make an environmental argument in favor of cattle production when you consider all aspects of production. Early on, his claim submits that nearly all cattle in Australia feed “solely on pasture” and for his argument to hold water, it must also be true that virtually none of the existing cattle pasture could be used as cropland or forage for human foods. Unlikely.
Before I get much further along on this, I should point out that this statistic does not apply to America or other countries where the majority of cattle are feedlot-fed rendering his argument irrelevant to the greater meat-consuming world. I aso have a strong hunch that it’s not really true, because later in his article he contradicts that assertion quite a bit, saying “In Australia 70% of the beef produced for human consumption comes from animals raised on grazing lands with very little or no grain supplements.” Later, he reinforces that, saying “Two-thirds of cattle slaughtered in Australia feed solely on pasture.” So what about the other 30%?
We can only draw the conclusion that they are produced outside grazing lands. In other words, on agricultural land. So, by simple math, less than 10% of that remaining 30% must be farmland, or his whole efficiency premise falls apart. Here’s why: If 30% of beef production on agricultural land is converted to grain production, based on the most conservative grain:beef efficiency ratios (I use 10:1, when some experts claim it’s as bad as 16:1) you will have at least ten times more (aka 1000%) usable food from that 30%. In other words, the “more food from the same land” argument made by vegetarians holds. I’ve never seen cows on anything but farmland or rangeland. Draw your own conclusions. I think that this says it’s totally possible for those who choose the vegetarian option to take cattle out of arable land and produce ten times the grain-based foods from the same land. So much for the logic of Archer’s argument.
Now, some would argue at this point that beef and grain are not equal because one has a higher protein ratio. But they are more equal than he thinks because human bodies require more than just protein, and indeed Australians already consume far more protein than they need.
Whichever of Archer’s statistics you choose, the fact is that cattle still require a lot of resources that come from the environment, including arable land, which could be more efficiently used for other things. Not to mention medications, fuel for transport, and the comforts and necessities of the humans who have to look after roaming herds. And since he’s framed his argument solely in terms of the number of animals dying, he gets to happily ignore the CO2 and methane emissions from cattle which are a surprisingly big factor in global warming.
Still, the largest problem with this argument is that it equates the natural death of a mouse, grasshopper, and worm in their natural environment and often to natural predators or illnesses with the premature and premeditated death of a large mammal. All of his cute facts about mice doesn’t change the fact that they live in freedom, and that their death is no more the result of a direct action by a human than the bug being snapped up by a bird is. Or an insect on a blade of grass being eaten by a ranging cow, or being trod upon, which he seems to have failed to account for.
Cows, by contrast, die by traveling at mind-boggling speeds (to a cow) in great discomfort on a filthy truck, being shoved down a ramp with other terrified and sometime screaming animals, followed by electrocution, a gunshot, or throat slice as it’s forced into a slaughterhouse where it will be hung up and sliced and diced. Few animals can match our “humanity” in efficient killing.
So, if you prefer to ignore the environmental cost of beef production, and you choose to eat beef based on population statistics of agricultural-related deaths of insects and other small life forms alone, this argument might make sense. Oh, and don’t forget, it only holds if you’re in Australia.’
No Laughing Matter For Animals