What to Tell Vegetarians Who Say Eating Meat is Immoral

Cooking our own food from ingredients we raised ourselves is a sort of sacrament no amount of purchased "gourmet" food can offer.

Cooking our own food from ingredients we raised ourselves is a sort of sacrament no amount of purchased "gourmet" food can offer.

Eating Meat: The Moral Question

by Harvey Ussery, The Modern Homestead

In an online discussion group in which I participate, I recently made some comments about sourcing all my meats either in my backyard or locally, from farmers I know personally, in order to avoid supporting the feeding of antibiotics to the animals I eat. Someone, perhaps a die hard vegan, challenged me regarding the legitimacy of eating meat at all. The following meditation expands on what I replied to her question:

Have you ever killed and butchered an animal so you could eat it?  Ever looked into its eyes as it died so you could eat meat?   ~JB

Ah, yes, this one is supposed to be the showstopper, isn’t it? I’m supposed to hang my head and admit, that, no, I’ve never killed an animal whose flesh I’m going to eat—I hire that out with the dollar bill I plunk down at the supermarket check-out, but I’d rather not think that shrink-wrapped package has anything to do with a once-living animal. Or I’m supposed to shuffle my feet in embarrassment and admit that, yes, I’ve slaughtered animals, and I’m ashamed of it, because obviously avoiding so would be the morally superior thing to do.

When we slaughter our own animals for the table, we come face to face with the facts of life and death.

When we slaughter our own animals for the table, we come face to face with the facts of life and death.

So be advised first of all who you’re talking to, friend: I’m a homesteader with chickenshit on his boots and decades of experience putting much of his own food on his table. Yes, I have killed and butchered many animals who have graced my table (couple of thousand fowl of all types, many kid goats, a few lambs, squirrels, and groundhogs). And yes, I always make it a point to look in the eyes of that dying animal—I do not want to hide from the painful tragedy of what I am doing: killing a beautiful animal for food.

And no, I do not cede the moral high ground to anyone who assumes she is more completely avoiding unnecessary suffering of living beings because she does not wield a butcher knife.

Where you and I probably disagree most is this: While no one would claim that the wolf is being immoral when he catches and eats the rabbit, you probably assume that for me, a human being, eating meat is merely an option which I (selfishly) choose by preference—and I could just as easily satisfy my dietary needs with a strictly plant-based diet. Well, I do not see my eating of animals as merely optional. Based on extensive research on the matter, I believe that animal proteins, and especially high quality fats (and the fat-soluble vitamins they either contain or enhance), are essential for optimal health. Thus “kill and eat” is as imperative for me as for the wolf.

It is unfortunate that my vegan friends focus so exclusively (and morbidly?) on the death of the animals in my care. For me, the life those animals live is the crux of the moral issue. Thus I do not shoe-horn my laying hens eight per cage the size of a pet crate, stacked one above the other in long, multiple tiers; nor do I raise my broilers from hatch to slaughter shoulder to shoulder with tens of thousands of their fellows, never seeing the direct light of the sun, nor eating a grasshopper or fresh blade of grass.

And yes, these are moral choices for me.  I despise the morally debased system we use to produce most meat in our supermarkets—the CAFO (confined animal feeding operation)—and our reckless disregard of its consequences not only for the welfare of other beings but of our own. (And I do practice what I preach: I have several times had to eat lunch in a local restaurant recently, and I ordered vegetarian fare rather than eat the flesh of animals—pigs, cattle, chickens—who have been shamelessly abused.)

We receive the unmediated gift of food from our animals with profound gratitude.

We receive the unmediated gift of food from our animals with profound gratitude.

Slitting the throat of a  chicken destined for the table is a life necessity for me, but I do so within the context of partnership, gratitude, and respect—as profound, meaningful, and essential as my relationship with the microbes that create soil fertility in my garden, the bees that pollinate my crops, the decomposer organisms that keep my world clean and sweet, rather than a wasteland of putrid corpses. As long as my partnership with my birds is one of mutual support for a life of contentment and natural fulfillment, their nourishment of me is in balance with my nourishment of them.

Though our disagreement is clear, surely we can agree on this proposition: The food dollar we spend—whether at a supermarket, fast-food restaurant, farmer’s market, or CSA—is, first and foremost, a vote—for more of the same. In that context, let me return your personal question with one for you: What is the percentage of the food on your table, year round, that you produce yourself, or that you buy face to face from producers you know personally, so you also know how that food was produced, and at what cost to living beings? My estimate is 85% for my own table. If you have not a clue where your vegetarian fare was produced, by whom, at what cost to other players in the local ecology, including economically oppressed humans—then do not dare presume a moral superiority based on the fact that I do indeed kill animals in my backyard, in the context of a way of food production which is most of all about regeneration, about healing, about ensuring an agricultural base “unto the seventh generation.”

May I recommend Lierre Keith’s The Vegetarian Myth—it is most instructive regarding this thorny question. Keith was a 20-year vegan who came to understand that an agriculture based on both plants and animals is a more compassionate way of producing our food than any other available. That is, in the context of a sane and nurturing husbandry it minimizes the suffering of living beings, considered from broader perspectives than the simple question of whether I am righteously eschewing the killing of animals for food.

Harvey Ussery

Harvey Ussery

Harvey Ussery writes for Backyard Poultry, Countryside, and Mother Earth News; and is currently writing a book, The Modern Homestead Poultry Flock. He and his wife Ellen are Weston A. Price Foundation chapter leaders; and produce their own food on their homestead in northern Virginia. Visit their website: www.themodernhomestead.us


  1. Wow. Great rebuttal. Thank you for your response to such a common complaint heard throughout the foodie world. I for one, feel a sense of contentment knowing that I take the time and effort to visit local farms and to get to know the producers in which I buy my food from. To me, I gain a sense of pride knowing who raised my food and trusting them in the process. Lierre Keith’s book is profound and one that I feel will be referenced for years to come. Great, great post.


  2. Vegans are usually also environmental activists. Believe what you want about global warming, but if anthropogenic global warming is taking place by the mechanisms claimed, then vegans contribute more to global warming because the foods they eat require the clear-cutting of forest. You can’t grow soybeans under tree cover. Nor grains. Nor most mainstream food plants, for that matter.

    Also, you have to kill animals to raise crops. Insects are animals; so are rodents. I’ve actually seen vegans or advocates of veganism dismiss the insect question by saying their nervous systems are not as well-developed. Say what? It’s still an animal. These people avoid honey because it involves “exploiting” bees. They want to have their (egg-free, dairy-free) cake and eat it too.

    I found out the hard way that I can’t get by getting my vitamin A from beta carotene. I can NOT go vegan. Period. They don’t want to hear that, though.

  3. Christine Kennedy says:

    What an excellent, excellent post. I am sharing this one!

  4. Awesome post! As a family that raises and hunts for all of our own meat sources, I totally understand the killing for the food thing. However, for us, it is more humane to raise our animals kindly, in the way they were created to live, and butcher in an equally humane manner, than to buy any animal raised by the CAFO at the supermarket. It is not whether to be vegetarian or not, it is whether the animals we will eat were humanely treated. I say that it’s a free country and I support anyone’s desire to be vegetarian, but I also expect to be granted the same right to be a meat eater. I refuse to feel bad about eating meat!
    .-= Barb´s last blog ..Quote of the Day =-.

  5. @Dana: So vegans are the only ones eating the soy and grain responsible for the clear-cutting of forest and global warming? Quite the opposite- most of these crops are grown specifically to feed your meat animals. Might want to reconsider your argument about who is more environmentally friendly.

  6. I love how this is stated, and a very level headed approach to the idea of eating animals. I agree with you completely that there is nothing immoral about eating for our optimal health. Thank you for making the point that when eating out we have to be choosey to not support the cruelty of how that meat is produced…something to really consider.

  7. To echo a little bit what Barb said,
    Vegetarians/vegans are not the enemy here. Factory farming is. Let’s please remember that in our discussions.
    Many vegetarians/vegans make sure to eat local, sustainably grown foods. Some people, like myself, find they can be healthy (& healthier!) by eating a plant-based diet. It takes a little effort and research (just like it takes effort/research to make sure your meat is humane and local), but it’s possible. All required nutrients can be found in plant sources, including Vitamin B12.
    I highly recommend the book, “Eating Animals”, by Jonathan Safran Foer. The ethical question of eating animals is still a worthwhile discussion. In the mean time, I want to thank and commend omnivores who ensure their meat is humanely raised and slaughtered.

  8. Katherine, grass-finished beef, lamb and goat eat no soy or grain. So, she avoids that problem by raising her own meat or by purchasing it from others who grass-finish their livestock.

  9. That’s just how we do our chickens. I haven’t decided which I like less-doing dozens of chickens, or a small number of sheep. They both go down hard, sometimes.
    .-= dt´s last blog ..Redacted =-.

  10. @Tammy Thanks for your comment. But who is the “she” you are referring to? My 1st comment was only in response to Dana’s comment. Does Dana practice what you described? Perhaps you are referring to Lierre Keith?

  11. Beautiful post. Thank you for standing strong in (and for) the cycle of life. And I’m honored that my book got a mention.

  12. Stanley Fishman says:

    Magnificent post. We are what we are, and animals must die if we are to live and be healthy. This is very sad but absolutely true. I suspect that more animals are killed in the growing of crops than in the processing of meat.

    That said, there is no excuse for CAFOS, and no justification for unecessary cruelty. I make a point out of eating only grassfed and grassfinished meat, where the animals are raised out in the open, treated well, and slaughtered humanely.

  13. I was vegan for a while as a teen. Not long after I regained my senses, a vegan friend asked if the chicken on my plate had personally consented to be my dinner. I said “No, did the lettuce on yours?” If life is life, and taking life to feed ourselves is wrong, then taking any life to feed ourselves is wrong. It just doesn’t pan out in the long view.
    .-= Local Nourishment´s last blog ..Recall: Chicken broth. Why buy it? =-.

  14. “We receive the unmediated gift of food from our animals with profound gratitude.”

    Not hardly… A gift comes from consent. Surely these animals did not “give” their lives for you to munch on their bodies?

    BTW - I have chicken shit on my boots too - By way of a small flock of rescued hens. Some from factory farms, some from school egg hatching projects and some from feed stores about to destroy the injured. The “broiler” chick has now reached an enormous size! To some folks who see her as “food” I’m sure she’d be done for by now. But happily, there is no “need” to shorten her life. I have a thousand alternative, healthy plant based foods to sustain me.

    What I don’t get is - why is it immoral for M Vick to abuse/kill animals for pleasure… But if the “pleasure” is for “taste” - Society sees it as perfectly normal? I think that’s called moral dissonance.

    Joyful to be Vegan!

  15. Thank you for this post. It would seem that vegans are trying to hijack morality much the same way some conservatives believe they have an edge on family values. As a long time practitioner and member of many mothering groups, I can’t help but find that it is cruel and immoral to feed children vegan diets despite disproportionate rising cases of autism and illness in this population. I think that once we all take the ego out of the way we eat, we will all be better for it. Thanks again.
    .-= Food for Fertility´s last blog ..What’s your beef? =-.

  16. Woohoooooo, this post made me want to stand up and cheer! JB’s comments to you (in the beginning of this post) remind me of the Art exhibit I saw here in town recently, “Meet your Meat”. It featured all the evils of factory farms, and showed the ways vegetarians are “saving the earth”, but gave NO mention of sustainable farms and what a perfect alternative THEY are! I wrote about it here and included in my post the letter I sent to the artist: http://kellythekitchenkop.com/2009/11/are-meat-eaters-ruining-the-earth.html
    .-= Kelly the Kitchen Kop´s last blog ..Help for Cellulite with Real Food =-.

  17. Blast off
    .-= jeff´s last blog ..October Newsletter =-.

  18. Absolutely love this post, Kimberly! Thanks so much for sharing it. I really think it makes so many valid and intellectually supported points about eating sustainable meat and why it makes sense both to the ecology and to our health (as well as our consciences).

    I wrote a post not too long ago about the effect of Industrial farming on our health - and referred to a young 22-year-old girl who became ill from eating hamburger at her parent’s home and now is more or less paralyzed for life, but the focus of the writing is about how vegetarians and vegans claim moral high ground and then support industrial agriculture to obtain their “health foods” like processed, GMO-laden grain products and heavily sprayed conventional produce. It’s really quite a hypocritical stance in so many ways that upon closer examination yields some astonishing results about what they are really defending. http://agriculturesociety.com/2009/10/04/people-for-the-unethical-treament-of-animals-and-humans/

    Thanks again for this well-supported piece! 🙂
    .-= Raine Saunders´s last blog ..Support the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund – And Buy a T-Shirt! =-.

  19. Bea,

    What you don’t get is that the “pleasure is for taste” is not the issue. It goes far beyond taste to long term health.

    Our taste buds guide us to foods we need for health, but sometimes they can be deceptive as well. That first drink tastes great to the alcoholic, that first bite of cake tastes great to the carbaholic, but what is their long term health? That is the question that must be addressed.

    I myself loved my big bowls of brown rice and beans in my macrobiotic days. I loved feeling virtuous. I loved the weight loss, I loved the fact that my kitchen was not greasy. But after two years I started gaining weight and feeling awful.

    Fortunately for me I took the hint and added back meat. I was lucky I did not wait too long to repair the damage. Lierre is one of many who cannot fix their bodies.

    What do you say to them?

    How much meat each individual needs will vary. But there is an abundance of evidence that for long term health of the individual and the species, we need animal protein and animal fat.

    While it is true that a number of people can coast for a good long time without these precious foods, eventually, they or their unfortunate offspring, who did not consent to this way of eating will pay the price.

    Ellen Ussery

    PS: your comment has inspired Harvy to write another post about the issue of domestication. Look for it. Thank you.

  20. Great post! As a meat eater and animal lover, who has only recently watched the film “Food Inc.”, I salute those who have the decency to raise their/my food in a humane way. I wept during that film, not only for the atrocious way factory farms produce our food and the high cost of this cheap food, but for my unwillingness to watch the scenes where local farmers process their free range chickens. I struggle with whether I would be able to kill my own food, but I imagine under the right circumstances I and most of us would. We would all be a lot better off if we did or were a lot more aware and connected to how our food gets to our tables and where our food comes from. Right now I don’t have to make that choice. I can buy the right meat from local farmers with the integrity and courage to produce it. Thank you.

  21. Kimberly, this was a very important post. The fallacy that I see in the argument that we should never kill a living thing to eat is that it goes against nature. All of nature is about the cycle and circle of life. Yes, our eating the animal may shorten it’s life-but is it natural for all members of a certain species to life the maximum lifespan? This is particularly true of those animals that we raised and domesticated over the centuries to be our food.

    There is an increasing sense that quantity of life is better than quality. I have seen too many people who have health issues, many of which are life threatening. These people have always come back and looked at me and said it is quality of life, not quantity that counts (and they inevitably have a lot of time to think about it).

    I haven’t killed a chicken in my life. I live in an area where I can’t keep the in the backyard (and my husband would probably pass out if I did). However, I remember plucking the freshly killed birds when I was a child on my Grandmother’s farm. I have the privilege of being able to visit my farmers and see where the animals are kept. The man who raises our beef drives farther than he needs to for butchering because he believe the butcher he uses is more humane. I give thanks for the life that was given to me-and yes it was given-coerced or as a gift, it was given and I take that as a gift, if not directly from my cow (who I did meet) then from the Farmer and the Creator who allowed me the ability to find this wonderful meat to sustain my life and all those who come to me for food.

    There can be no life without death. It is a natural part of life. We all make our choices and draw lines. I would rather more people become aware of the suffering of the animals, environment and even the humans involved in CAFOs and make a much greater movement towards a more humane way of life. However, a way of life exists only with a way of death. Meat is a sacred food — not just for the health benefits as Sally spoke about — but because of the sacrifice of the life given to us by the animal.
    .-= Bonnie´s last blog ..Illness and Gratitude =-.

  22. You set forth a persuavie argument against others’ moral judgment of your food choices.

    Then you took a contradictory postion and effectively conceded defeat when you wrote, “I despise the morally debased system we use to produce most meat in our supermarkets—the CAFO (confined animal feeding operation)—and our reckless disregard of its consequences not only for the welfare of other beings but of our own.”

    If you object to being judged by vegans, by what logic can you question those who make choices different from yours?

  23. Stanley Fishman says:

    Mr. Ussery absolutely did not concede defeat when he criticized CAFOs. Just about everybody who is willing to eat CAFO raised meat has never seen one, or been struck by the horrible stench of one. Mr. O’Connell, I suggest you visit a CAFO before you pass judgment. Then I suggest you follow it up with a visit to a farm or ranch where they raise meat animals the traditional way, out in the open, eating the grass they were designed to eat.

    I think you’ll have a better understanding of what Mr. Ussery is saying after you’ve done that.

    Stanley Fishman, author of Tender Grassfed Meat

  24. Betsy Davenport says:

    Thank you for this article. As a child, I raised my own Jersey cow, and when my father retired from farming, she was the one he kept for milk at home until she became too old to conceive and produce milk, anymore.

    He asked me — no longer living at home — what I wanted him to do: sell her to the local butcher, or have her slaughtered and butchered and brought, as meat, to where I was living on a small farm/school in Vermont?

    I chose the latter, because I loved her and felt that sending her off to someone else’s plate was like throwing pearls before swine. (All due respect for the swine I eat.)

    While over the years many people have been shocked and horrified by this story, it still makes sense to me, and aligns with your position about honoring the animals nature has made psssible so that we can eat what is best for our bodies.

  25. I wrote a response to Ussery’s short essay, on my website. I don’t think his position is as strong as he thinks it is, but I think what he is doing is perfectly okay. But he is not the typical omnivore either.
    .-= Wayne Yuen´s last blog ..What to Tell Vegetarians: A response =-.

  26. Mr. Ussery,

    You spend a lot of time telling us how bad CAFOs are, but why are you so mad at vegetarians? We are not the ones pulling out our wallets and voting for factory meat at Wendy’s or the supermarket! I agree with @katherine, this article should be pointed at irresponsible omnivores that power the CAFO economy, not vegetarians.

    (I just wanted to eat an acorn squash, how does that make me the bad guy?)
    .-= ILikeYourNewHaircut´s last blog ..Photo =-.

  27. “As an animal lover and a meat lover”… are you serious?? It doesn’t matter if you put your animals up in the Ritz Carlton, there is no love in unnecessary killing. I wonder… if I tried to popularize free-range dog and cat meat, what would be your reaction? I sure hope you’d be all for it, because if not you are all blazing hypocrites.

  28. And as for the health argument, stop kidding yourselves. Veg*ns have lower rates of every non-genetic disease, including osteoporosis (guess dairy doesn’t help much with bone density after all). If you didn’t like the taste of meat so much, would you truly fight so valiantly for your right to eat it, despite all of the evidence gathered that humans can lead just as healthy, and usually healthier lives as veg*ns? I highly doubt it. I’m not demanding that you stop eating meat (though I certainly would like it), I’m just so sick of this happy meat bullshit omnivores eat up in order to make themselves feel moral. The fact that you must justify your actions so heavily is proof of your awareness that they are morally questionable. Please stop criticizing others just because they have the willpower to follow through in their beliefs. Just admit that you don’t want to go veg*n because you like the taste of animals, and then shut up.

  29. Great posts Annie! Except while i can’t demand anyone give up meat, it’s a moral imperative.

    ‘an agriculture based on both plants and animals is a more compassionate way of producing our food’ - more compassionate for the plants maybe!

    To Dana, why can’t you get Vitamin A from beta carotene?

  30. damaged justice says:

    Annie: Since I don’t have a problem with cows, sheep, etc., being killed to provide food for humans, I don’t have a problem with any other type of animal being used for the same purpose.

    Rico: Dana may be one of the 47% of women genetically incapable of converting carotenes to retinol:


  31. Bravo!

  32. Hey, don’t have a cow man! 😉
    Everyone has a choice. An the better informed you are, the better your choice becomes. We’re all in this together. And everything will die. I choose not to eat animal flesh, but I won’t dis you if you do. Please don’t get down on me for my individual choice that doesn’t harm anything.

  33. Wow, the amount of heat in these posts could fry an egg, or grill a steak, or toast some tofu, or…well, you get the drift. I have an idea…what if we all just eat the way we think is right, whatever our reasons, and leave our neighbors alone. How about that?

    Stop making food choices a political/moral/environmental issue. This is FOOD we’re talking about, no matter if it has a face or not. We all have to eat and after we eat we all excrete and once that happens there really is no difference. Except some of you excreted all over this site and it sort of stinks.

    Happy New Year everybody!

  34. Maybe I am missing something, but it seems to me that the author’s sole reason for eating meat is: “[b]ased on extensive research on the matter, I believe that animal proteins, and especially high quality fats (and the fat-soluble vitamins they either contain or enhance), are essential for optimal health. Thus ‘kill and eat’ is as imperative for me as for the wolf.” I fail to see the logic behind this for so many reasons that I’m not sure where to begin, but I’ll try to explain my thoughts on why it falls so short in my view. The idea that “optimal health” can be controlled to such a fine point seems arrogant and naive to me. Most of us know people who eat and drink and smoke the most unhealthy things imaginable and live to a very old age with no major problems (such as my grandmother, who smoked 2 packs of unfiltered cigarettes per day right up until just a few weeks before she died at 92), and, likewise, people who live by a relatively strict asceticism and fall ill or drop dead for reasons entirely outside of their control. Now, no one would suggest that people ought to take up a life of cigarettes and beer and cheeseburgers for health, but how can you say that the differences between the health of someone eating a well-thought-out vegetarian diet and someone eating a carnivorous diet are SO stark as to make killing animals “necessary”? In other words, in my view “optimal health” is something that retains an element of imperfection no matter how carefully planned out, and the difference in degrees between a healthy vegetarian and a healthy carnivore (assuming that both avoid processed junk foods, foods with antibiotics, etc.) are not so stark as to make killing animals an ideological imperative. You could spend your whole life eating only the most pristinely-raised animals that you slaughter yourself and still be diagnosed with a lethal cancer or some other fatal condition. The idea that you can get so, so much closer to avoiding that sort of end than a thoughtful vegetarian ever could seems to me to be a very strange and self-serving sort of wishful thinking. Second — and I think this of lesser importance, but since you brought it up — why do you find it relevant to compare yourself to a wolf eating a rabbit? I understand it provides a nice tidy little comparison for intellectually lazy people, but those sort of people aren’t worth addressing at length. Wolves don’t have hands, and, for that and other reasons, are incapable of planning and preparing well-balanced vegetarian meals. We, however, have a wide range of choices available to us. And, since I agree it is important, please understand that I say these things as a vegetarian who does buy most of my food “face to face from producers [I] know personally” — it is a lot easier for me than for others because I happen to live very close to a spectacular farmers’ market, and I can (and do) buy just about everything except things like dried pasta there. I do agree that vegetarians who are smug about living off of canned beans from industrial mega producers haven’t got much to be smug about.

  35. Kimberly Hartke says:

    RE: Huh?

    You might like to take the Vegetarian Tour of the Westonaprice.org site. It will let you know more where Harvey is coming from on this. Here is the link:


  36. Thank you for following up Kimberly but that tour seems to be a very extended way of making the same argument that I was responding to above. For example, it begins with the premise that “[v]egetarianism that includes eggs and raw (unpasteurized) dairy products, organic vegetables and fruits, properly prepared whole grains, legumes, and nuts, and excludes unfermented soy products and processed foods, can be a healthy option for some people. However, some people have difficulty assimilating vitamins, minerals, protein, and other factors from plant foods. . . .” I wasn’t claiming to speak for people with strange nutritional deficiencies, and I didn’t think the blog post above by Mr. Ussery — which I was responding to — was either. His writing above states that he finds it necessary to eat animals for “optimal health,” without explaining that he has any sort of nutritional deficiency that prevents him from absorbing (or processing, etc.) the vitamins and minerals and so forth that he would be consuming on a well-balanced vegetarian diet. That may be the case, or it may not be, I really wouldn’t know, and I doubt most people reading this blog post by him ought to be expected to consider his personal health situation in such great detail. I still maintain that most people, if they have a reasonably developed intellect to the point that they are capable of putting some thought and energy into balancing their diet, can live in reasonably good health (or “optimal health,” if that’s the preferred phrase) without eating animals. And I don’t think it helps your arguments against vegetarianism — at least, not in the tour you linked to — to so frequently target specific vegetarian organizations and publications. I haven’t read the 1999 issue of Vegetarian Times that the tour devotes space to refuting, and if some rather idiotic people tend to forward it to each other in emails rather than seeking out more up-to-date and intellectually or scientifically well-developed publications, there’s no reason to assume that they are or should be the face of the entire vegetarian movement. Likewise, none of the vegetarians I know are devotees of the bizarre and antiquated ideas of people like Sylvester Graham or John Harvey Kellogg. To pick those sort of people as your opposition just because some of the dietary principles they believed in are not inconsistent with the type of vegetarian diet that people like me are in favor of (one that includes whole grains, for example) is a little silly. In any case, the tour you linked to provides a ton of very interesting information about nutrition but so much of it comes down to what I see as being very fine points — for example, one of the pages says: “The annual all-cause death rate of vegetarian men is slightly more than that of non-vegetarian men (.93% vs .89%); the annual all-cause death rate of vegetarian women is significantly more than that of non-vegetarian women (.86% vs .54%).” There are many studies showing many things but the bottom line is that none of us are going to get to control our own individual “death rate” unless we opt to check out early intentionally. You have a lot of information you cite as to why you find it necessary to take the lives of animals in order to edge closer and closer to living longer and living healthier but I just don’t see how this heap of data from various studies, a tenth of a percent here and a tenth of a percent there, much of it burdened with shoddy and/or outdated assumptions (e.g., that people who are eating a vegetarian diet are eating margarine instead of butter, and people who are eating a carnivorous diet are eating antibiotic-free grass-fed cows instead of Big Macs), makes the killing of animals for food an imperative duty.

  37. This is a great post. I just found the blog & will be reading back posts.

    It seems that most readers here aren’t congnicent of the many ways of raising livestock &/ plants. I’ve been a rabid organic gardener (that’s a little the other side of avid) since the last 70’s. I found out how horribly filthy & inhumane the commercial food production (fruit/veggie/meat) system is that I bought a farm in the midwest to combine w/ my 1/2 acre near Los Angeles where I raise our fruits & veggies. I have 17 cattle (bull, cows & calves), sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys & pigs. Each eats just what it would eat if it were ‘wild’. My herbavioues eat plants from the pastures. My poultry & pigs eat whole grains, but NO soy. They are all pastured, eating very little store bought feed. The storebought feed is used to overwinter them, because I overwinter more numbers than could survive the winter.
    I don’t allow anything to eat soy. Monsteranto now owns soy. They’ve Contaminated the soy genome to the point that there is no non GMO soy or corn to be found. Nearly all the soy commercially grown is GMO. Corn & Canola aren’t far behind. Over 60% of the supermarket shelves are filled w/ GMO products. (It’s the answer to that commercial on TV that asks, “What’s wrong w/ High Fructose Corn Syrup?”) I do grow corn from Baker Seeds, which is as close as you’ll get to non GMO. Monsteranto has also bought up as many seed companies as they can & are still buying. The seeds you plant in your garden are most likely ordered from a Monsteranto owned company.) Most of the food grown commercially is now GMO & the government has decided that you & I are not smart enough to be able to understand the facts. So, it is illegal (in this country) to label a food product as Non-GMO. Monsteranto decided that they are the same, so the USDA decided that the consumer shouldn’t be given the choice.

    It makes me so glad that I raise so much of my own food. I don’t support Monsteranto, CAFOs, feedlots, Cargill, Tyson, Smithfield or any of the other participants of the commercial food chain. They are destroying our world, our ecosystem (Ecology being the study of the ecosystem; not the system itself.)

    Someone said that Vegans are environmental activists. I think of environmental activists as people who protest & demand governmental action to force the citizenry to change to do as the activists believe is right. I prefer to think of myself as an active environmentalist. I do what I believe is right. If others see my example & wish to learn…. I enthusiastically teach them. So far, I’d guess I’ve had nearly 100 people ask me to help them learn about various things. I taught them as much as they wished, w/ no strings. Some stuck w/ it, some decided it was too much work & went back to the easy, “throw money at it”, large carbon footprint life that so many lead & steals our children’s future.

    I can only be grateful for the help I’ve been able to give the planet my children will inherit, & hope I can be of such service to her in the future. Judging others & feeling morally superior to others because of choices; believing & acting in a morally superior way doesn’t do anything to ingratiate one’s cause to others. We each do as we can, & what we believe we must. A leader leads, the way. You have to be ahead to lead & behind to push, you can’t lead if your pushing.

    In addition to Food, Inc.. might I also recommend Fresh, & The Future of Farming. They are great & more movies like them are being made.

    Oh, one thing I didn’t see here, welllll two things.
    If we did not ‘use’ animals… wouldn’t our selfish species have eradicated them? True, there are cattle wanding wild & sick in India…. eating cardboard in the garbage dumps. But, have you ever wandered why? Many moons ago, the people were eating them all. They were heading toward a point that there would be no animals to plow the fields. So, they were declared off limits. Now, when an Indian farmer needs a animal to plow a field, he simply harnesses up the nearest one. They are ‘used’, if not eaten (and cared for.) If the human race has no use for a large animal, it won’t survive for long.

    Second, no one has discussed the horrible end met by those poor creatures who suffer thru the commercial food system. Their wretched lives end in terror. When it comes time to harvest our animals, they go to a spot where they’ve always had a treat. Their end is swift. They get their treat & their last thought is, “Life is so wonde…”. They are killed & field dressed on our farm, so I can ensure that they never know fear. I also supervise the in-plant processing, so I know that my family gets our own meat back & that it’s done the way I want my families meat done.

    Thanks for the post & all the great replies.

  38. Well, I read this blog and wanted to stand up and applaud. There have been countless times where I had been asked or told that eating the meat was immoral. I am kind of tired of being pointed to feeling guilty. It isn’t as if we are acting in cruelty. I think it is much more on the level of survival in our somewhat more advanced society. If we were stranded with nothing to eat or if it were desperatation due to scarcity, I wonder how many “don’t eat its” would we get. I do not condone cruelty but we must have the right nutrition and eat for health.
    .-= Phillip Gold´s last blog ..The Beauty of Dollar-Cost-Averaging! =-.

  39. The healthiest human cultures on the face of the planet eat very little meat if any. Chimpanzees, who share 99% identical DNA to Human Beings, are vegetarians. They are also 5 - 10 times stronger than human beings, yet they eat low protein, plant based diets.

    If you want to know what the Human body is designed to eat, one has to look no further than to the Chimps. Ancient Human beings would have looked and ate just like them. In fact, the only reason our ancestors began eating animals at all was because they left the tropical climates of Africa and migrated to colder, less hospitable lands (Asia & Europe), most likely due to overcrowding/increased competition for resources. To make matters worse for these unfortunate nomads, the Earth fell into one of the most devastating Ice ages ever known to planet Earth. When fruits and other edible vegetation became almost non-existent in these frigid northern climates, ancient humans began eating whatever they could find to keep from starving; mammoths and other slow moving, grazing animals. Again, this wasn’t because they enjoyed killing and eating animals, it was merely for survival. Keep in mind, these Neanderthals were basically rejects of the Ancient human race, pushed away by the more dominant ancient humans inhabiting the native lands of central Africa. It’s a wonder they survived at all, but it didn’t really matter since they went extinct anyway.

    Bottom line, anatomically speaking, Human beings, and all great apes for that matter, are designed to thrive on plant based diets. The consumption of meat leads to nothing positive: heart attacks, strokes, cancer, diabetes, gout… bad health in general. Also, meat production is the second leading cause of water and air pollution, surpassed only by the burning of fossil fuels.

    I encourage anyone reading this to be conscious of what they decide to eat from now on. I gave up eating red meat back when I was in middle school after reading “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair. It changed my life. I have been vegetarian now for over 11 years and have never felt better/cleaner. If you are willing to make a change in your life for the better, you will be rewarded in the long run.

  40. Kimberly Hartke says:

    Ryan, I know any number of vegetarians who are not thriving on such a diet. I think your history of human eating habits is revisionist and a little bit misleading.

    Meat tastes good to humans, because it is good for us.

    Once upon a time, I was a vegetarian. I am glad I keep researching, instead of getting stuck in a doctrine of deprivation. I take the same dim view of raw foodism. Yes raw food can be good for you, just like vegetables. But, not at the exclusion of all cooked food.

    Variety is the spice of life. Exclude whole food groups to your peril. Many long term vegetarians suffer terribly from damage caused by nutrient deficiencies. I only hope you are not one of them.

    Please see the vegetarian tour on the Weston A. Price website:


    See also:


    Your future health may depend on looking deeper.

    With that said, I am a firm believer in humane treatment of livestock. Even meat eaters can do so with respect and compassion for other creatures. I do not approve of factory farms and junk food being fed to our meat producing animals.

  41. George Simmonds says:

    Perhaps you’ve killed the animal yourself, but by no means have you hunted it fairy, as a wolf would. The animals you have killed to uphold your ‘optimum health’ (I’ll get to that later) had no chance of escape - no way of using their natural means of survival. You’re not a wolf, you’re a cowardly prison guard who has no qualms about killing the weak.

    Optimum health? I see no proof for this. No diet is perfect - but vegetarians and vegans always come out on top of the health-hierarchy. Enjoy your high-blood-sugar, cholesterol and heart issues, obesity and various cancers.

  42. George, if no one raised chickens, we wouldn’t have any chickens. They would be hunted and killed by other predators. The whole point of animal husbandry is to tend, care and protect these animals, including protecting them from predators in the wild. Far from being captive, they are being sheltered by love of the human who cares for them.

    And in return, the chicken provides food for his caretaker. What is wrong with eating them if they are indeed our species appropriate diet?

    By the way, you do come across as very arrogant and even hateful, wishing someone ill health because they choose a more diverse diet than yourself. Quite unkind.

    What good is veganism for the sake of kindness to animals if it turns you against humankind. Your fellow humans deserve as least as much respect.

    Typically, I would delete such a mean comment, but will allow it to remain for the sake of revealing the tone of voice of those who would attack people who chose a more traditional diet from humane sources.

  43. Aman Behal says:

    What a way to justify killing of animals for food. Your way of seeing this relationship of mutual respect doesn’t go well for your food, well offcourse when it was alive! Pathetic!
    Brother, I don’t want to get into the religion thing, but tell me what makes us humans “human” ? We can think and make choices. We can tell right from wrong. Killing an animal for food is a choice, not a necessity. If it wasn’t a choice, most of the Hindus, jains and Buddhists would have died long ago or must have devolved something else by now.
    The real relationship of mutual respect is the one where you live your own way and respect the right to live of the other party as long as it has nothing to do with your safety.
    Just because a goat or hen can’t argue with you in your language and ask for its right to live, doesn’t mean you should kill it and justify it on internet later.
    Love for all the creations of the god and pity for those who can’t defend themselves is what makes us humans different from wilderness. Think about it. You won’t call it a relationship of mutual respect when a wild lion gets his hands on one of your loved ones. Lion can’t think and tell right from wrong but you and I surely can?

  44. I’m just here to point out is that the reason I am currently eating vegetarian is that I have neither the patience nor the discipline to raise my own animals (nor the possibility, currently) - I am very much going vegetarian to combat the inhumane conditions under which most animals are kept.


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