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Please become a vegan

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Nick
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Re: Please become a vegan

#41 Postby Nick » May 12th, 2009, 4:10 pm

Latest post of the previous page:

Paolo wrote:Maybe we should practise cannibalism so people can have children, eat meat and still keep the population down?

*smacks forehead*

Why didn't I think of that?

As the late, great Michael Flanders said "If the great Ju-Ju had not wanted us to eat people, why did he make them of meat?"

Can we have a TH cannibalism section...? :)

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Nick
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Re: Please become a vegan

#42 Postby Nick » May 12th, 2009, 4:22 pm

Compassionist wrote:I know plenty of people in Bangladesh who live a minimalist lifestyle (because they are poor) but are happy. I don't think things are required for happiness. As long as one is not in pain from injury or disease and has the basics such as adequate food and shelter and has people to love and are loved by other people that is enough. Fulfilling life = being mindful + grateful + optimistic + compassionate + constructive + balanced.


I think there is a lot to be said for the idea that we have evolved (as an animal as well as economically, socially, scientifically etc.,) to a degree that we have to apply ourselves to making ourselves happy (or ,if you prefer, fulfilled). There is also evidence that happiness is affected by how affluent one is compared to one's peers (which is a thought a lot of people would find unappealing). Or more accurately perhaps, how unhappy one is. Though affluence may not improve your happiness, poverty in the light of others' affluence will generally make you unhappy. This has huge implications for economic and social policy.

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Paolo
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Re: Please become a vegan

#43 Postby Paolo » May 12th, 2009, 4:47 pm

Nick wrote:There is also evidence that happiness is affected by how affluent one is compared to one's peers (which is a thought a lot of people would find unappealing). Or more accurately perhaps, how unhappy one is. Though affluence may not improve your happiness, poverty in the light of others' affluence will generally make you unhappy. This has huge implications for economic and social policy.
So if everyone was made equally poor (but not poverty stricken) we'd all be happy? I personally laugh in the face of other's affluence - they never seem to be doing anything useful or particularly fun with it and mostly they're doing hateful jobs to pay for it. I love my possession-sparse hapiness-rich life!

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Re: Please become a vegan

#44 Postby Compassionist » May 12th, 2009, 7:21 pm

Paolo wrote:
Nick wrote:There is also evidence that happiness is affected by how affluent one is compared to one's peers (which is a thought a lot of people would find unappealing). Or more accurately perhaps, how unhappy one is. Though affluence may not improve your happiness, poverty in the light of others' affluence will generally make you unhappy. This has huge implications for economic and social policy.
So if everyone was made equally poor (but not poverty stricken) we'd all be happy? I personally laugh in the face of other's affluence - they never seem to be doing anything useful or particularly fun with it and mostly they're doing hateful jobs to pay for it. I love my possession-sparse hapiness-rich life!


I would say that if everyone was equally 'poor' but had the basic necessities of food, shelter, etc. and were engaged in activities that matched their abilities e.g. a singer getting to sing and a writer getting to write and a cook getting to cook, etc. they would all be happy.

People have a predisposition to compare themselves with others - I suspect it has evolved so you don't deviate from the standards of your tribe which could land you into trouble.

viewtopic.php?f=41&t=3115&p=54063

Incidentally, have you viewed the above thread on how to live a fulfilling life? Please feel free to post comments on that thread. Thank you.

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Re: Please become a vegan

#45 Postby Ron Webb » May 13th, 2009, 2:19 am

Compassionist wrote:I know plenty of people in Bangladesh who live a minimalist lifestyle (because they are poor) but are happy. I don't think things are required for happiness. As long as one is not in pain from injury or disease and has the basics such as adequate food and shelter and has people to love and are loved by other people that is enough. Fulfilling life = being mindful + grateful + optimistic + compassionate + constructive + balanced.

I am surprised to hear that someone living in Aberdeen knows plenty of people in Bangladesh. I am more surprised that having a life expectancy of around sixty years is not cause for considerable unhappiness. It is possible that Bangladeshis do not know that a better life is possible and therefore judge themselves to be relatively happy; however, I think that if you or I had to live as a typical Bangladeshi, we would consider ourselves less happy than we are now.

I agree that beyond a certain limit, more things do not make one happier. However, that "certain limit" is apparently somewhat higher for me than for you. I do not need a lot of meat, but a diverse diet that includes some meat definitely makes me happier.

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Re: Please become a vegan

#46 Postby Emma Woolgatherer » May 13th, 2009, 4:37 pm

Ron Webb wrote:In my experience large families are a cultural and often a religious thing, and I don't see those things changing because of reduced poverty. I know several people who would have more children if they thought they could afford it. I know of nobody for whom the opposite is true.
Well, I think you might be looking in the wrong place, then, Ron. Try Kerala. It seems that if you're poor, in a poor country, you're more likely to feel that you need children to help raise food, fetch water, earn some money and support you in your old age. And you're more likely to try to have as many as you can because you know that some of them are going to die. And you're less likely to have access to contraception. If you're poor even in a rich country, especially if you're a girl, you may not feel you have many options open to you other than having children. If you are poorly educated, and don't have any hope of developing a satisfying career, you're more likely to start having children young. And if you start having them young you're more likely to have more of them.
Ron Webb wrote:I don't think that individual lifestyle choices are ever going to solve anything. This is a collective problem, and it requires a collective (government-imposed) solution. I will vote for any measure that requires all citizens to change their lifestyles, but I will not voluntarily reduce my standard of living while most of the population, and in particular those without a social conscience, get a free ride. In my opinion, that is morally and practically untenable, because it rewards the wrongdoers and punishes the virtuous, and because it just won't work.
I have some sympathy with this argument. But you're not going to get a collective (government-imposed) solution unless a government is elected on a manifesto that makes it clear that such a solution is going to be imposed. So you still have to persuade individuals of the merits of the arguments. Just so you get them to the point where they say, "OK, I'll do it if everyone else does; I'll vote for this."
Ron Webb wrote:I don't see public opinion changing fast enough. Who was it who said, "Civilisation is becoming more and more a race between education and catastrophe?" I think catastrophe is winning. [But] I'm not suggesting we should give up. I'm saying that we should do what works (collective action) and not what doesn't work (individual action). And I'm saying that whatever solution we adopt should leave us with a minimally acceptable lifestyle (and that in my opinion includes meat), and we should adjust our target population to ensure that.
How? How would you reduce the population of the UK or the USA, for example? How would a government impose such a thing? And if you did reduce the population, as fast as you seem to think we need to, what would happen to the lifestyles of those of us who are getting on a bit? Where will we get our pensions from? Who will look after us? Or does quality of life not matter once you're past seventy?
Ron Webb wrote:Achieving sustainability at the cost of an enjoyable life would be a Pyrrhic victory at best.
Whose life? How enjoyable are most people's lives now? What evidence do you have that people would, on average, have less enjoyable lives if they cut down on meat? Just your own personal preferences? What about the preferences of those people who think that having lots of children is what makes their lives enjoyable? Don't they count?

Emma

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Re: Please become a vegan

#47 Postby Emma Woolgatherer » May 13th, 2009, 4:45 pm

Paolo wrote:Meat is less of a problem than people, so please don't have children and make a genuine and permanent difference. If you can't force people to not eat meat you can at least ensure that you fill the world with fewer greedy mouths that need feeding.
Sheesh! You sound like Boris Johnson. Except that he's got four children, the hypocritical git. And I think in his case the subtext is: you can't force people in the developed world not to eat meat; it's much better to force people in the developing world to have fewer children ...

But it doesn't matter if meat is less of a problem than children (though I'd like to see the supporting evidence for that, Paolo). We don't have to choose. We can eat less meat and have fewer children. Both choices would make a genuine difference. How many times do I have to say "multi-pronged approach"?
:deadhorse:

(tenderising the meat, perhaps?)

Emma

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Re: Please become a vegan

#48 Postby Compassionist » May 13th, 2009, 10:51 pm

Ron Webb wrote:
Compassionist wrote:I know plenty of people in Bangladesh who live a minimalist lifestyle (because they are poor) but are happy. I don't think things are required for happiness. As long as one is not in pain from injury or disease and has the basics such as adequate food and shelter and has people to love and are loved by other people that is enough. Fulfilling life = being mindful + grateful + optimistic + compassionate + constructive + balanced.

I am surprised to hear that someone living in Aberdeen knows plenty of people in Bangladesh. I am more surprised that having a life expectancy of around sixty years is not cause for considerable unhappiness. It is possible that Bangladeshis do not know that a better life is possible and therefore judge themselves to be relatively happy; however, I think that if you or I had to live as a typical Bangladeshi, we would consider ourselves less happy than we are now.

I agree that beyond a certain limit, more things do not make one happier. However, that "certain limit" is apparently somewhat higher for me than for you. I do not need a lot of meat, but a diverse diet that includes some meat definitely makes me happier.


I was born in Bangladesh. I came to Scotland in 1993 when I was 14 years old. My original plan was to return to Bangladesh as a doctor. Due to the severity of my bipolar disorder (diagnosed at the age of 18 years and 9 months in March 1998 when I was a first year medical student) I eventually ended up staying here. My wife is from Northern Ireland and is a white British person. Almost all of my relatives from my side live in Bangladesh. I have many friends there. They are content with living 60 years. It is much better to live happily for 60 years than live miserably for 120 years. I have many happy memories of my life in Bangladesh. I still hope that oneday I will be able to return to live there for good. I have a full-time job in Aberdeen but I don't have any job in Bangladesh - that is one of the main reasons behind our living in Aberdeen.

I am not insisting that you or anyone else must reset your "certain limit" to match mine. I suspect that what one considers to be adequate depends largely on what one is used to. I am happy with mine and I am happy to live and help live.

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Re: Please become a vegan

#49 Postby Compassionist » May 13th, 2009, 11:06 pm

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Ron Webb wrote:In my experience large families are a cultural and often a religious thing, and I don't see those things changing because of reduced poverty. I know several people who would have more children if they thought they could afford it. I know of nobody for whom the opposite is true.
Well, I think you might be looking in the wrong place, then, Ron. Try Kerala. It seems that if you're poor, in a poor country, you're more likely to feel that you need children to help raise food, fetch water, earn some money and support you in your old age. And you're more likely to try to have as many as you can because you know that some of them are going to die. And you're less likely to have access to contraception. If you're poor even in a rich country, especially if you're a girl, you may not feel you have many options open to you other than having children. If you are poorly educated, and don't have any hope of developing a satisfying career, you're more likely to start having children young. And if you start having them young you're more likely to have more of them.
Ron Webb wrote:I don't think that individual lifestyle choices are ever going to solve anything. This is a collective problem, and it requires a collective (government-imposed) solution. I will vote for any measure that requires all citizens to change their lifestyles, but I will not voluntarily reduce my standard of living while most of the population, and in particular those without a social conscience, get a free ride. In my opinion, that is morally and practically untenable, because it rewards the wrongdoers and punishes the virtuous, and because it just won't work.
I have some sympathy with this argument. But you're not going to get a collective (government-imposed) solution unless a government is elected on a manifesto that makes it clear that such a solution is going to be imposed. So you still have to persuade individuals of the merits of the arguments. Just so you get them to the point where they say, "OK, I'll do it if everyone else does; I'll vote for this."
Ron Webb wrote:I don't see public opinion changing fast enough. Who was it who said, "Civilisation is becoming more and more a race between education and catastrophe?" I think catastrophe is winning. [But] I'm not suggesting we should give up. I'm saying that we should do what works (collective action) and not what doesn't work (individual action). And I'm saying that whatever solution we adopt should leave us with a minimally acceptable lifestyle (and that in my opinion includes meat), and we should adjust our target population to ensure that.
How? How would you reduce the population of the UK or the USA, for example? How would a government impose such a thing? And if you did reduce the population, as fast as you seem to think we need to, what would happen to the lifestyles of those of us who are getting on a bit? Where will we get our pensions from? Who will look after us? Or does quality of life not matter once you're past seventy?
Ron Webb wrote:Achieving sustainability at the cost of an enjoyable life would be a Pyrrhic victory at best.
Whose life? How enjoyable are most people's lives now? What evidence do you have that people would, on average, have less enjoyable lives if they cut down on meat? Just your own personal preferences? What about the preferences of those people who think that having lots of children is what makes their lives enjoyable? Don't they count?

Emma


I agree with you Emma and couldn't have put it better! Isn't 6.77 billion happy people 6.77 times better than 1 billion happy people? I know this could be stretched to become ridiculous and having 200 billion people crammed on Earth would not be a good idea. Surely, there must be an optimum middle ground?

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Re: Please become a vegan

#50 Postby Ron Webb » May 14th, 2009, 2:15 am

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:Well, I think you might be looking in the wrong place, then, Ron. Try Kerala. It seems that if you're poor, in a poor country, you're more likely to feel that you need children to help raise food, fetch water, earn some money and support you in your old age. And you're more likely to try to have as many as you can because you know that some of them are going to die. And you're less likely to have access to contraception. If you're poor even in a rich country, especially if you're a girl, you may not feel you have many options open to you other than having children. If you are poorly educated, and don't have any hope of developing a satisfying career, you're more likely to start having children young. And if you start having them young you're more likely to have more of them.

There is some truth in all of that, but I still think family size is more strongly determined culturally than individually. Children who grow up in and surrounded by large families tend to have large families of their own. What you have described above explains how and why the tendency to large families gradually develops in a culture of poverty; but I think it takes many generations before such tendencies can be reversed.

How? How would you reduce the population of the UK or the USA, for example? How would a government impose such a thing? And if you did reduce the population, as fast as you seem to think we need to, what would happen to the lifestyles of those of us who are getting on a bit? Where will we get our pensions from? Who will look after us? Or does quality of life not matter once you're past seventy?

Whoa, easy there! :D I'm not claiming to have all the answers. No, I have no idea how we could reduce the population. I frankly doubt that it's even possible, let alone politically viable. But then I doubt that it's possible or politically viable to convert us all to vegans either. I'm just saying if a had a magic wand that I could wave to make such things happen, I would rather see fewer people on this planet living better lives, rather than more people whose lifestyle choices are constrained by lack of resources.

Whose life? How enjoyable are most people's lives now? What evidence do you have that people would, on average, have less enjoyable lives if they cut down on meat? Just your own personal preferences? What about the preferences of those people who think that having lots of children is what makes their lives enjoyable? Don't they count?

(So many questions!) Yes, I'm talking about my own personal preferences, just as Compassionist is talking about his and you are talking about yours. I see one difference, however: the preference for lots of children, as in more than the replacement rate of reproduction, is unsustainable.

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Re: Please become a vegan

#51 Postby Ron Webb » May 14th, 2009, 2:44 am

Compassionist wrote:I was born in Bangladesh. I came to Scotland in 1993 when I was 14 years old. My original plan was to return to Bangladesh as a doctor. Due to the severity of my bipolar disorder (diagnosed at the age of 18 years and 9 months in March 1998 when I was a first year medical student) I eventually ended up staying here. My wife is from Northern Ireland and is a white British person. Almost all of my relatives from my side live in Bangladesh. I have many friends there. They are content with living 60 years. It is much better to live happily for 60 years than live miserably for 120 years. I have many happy memories of my life in Bangladesh. I still hope that oneday I will be able to return to live there for good. I have a full-time job in Aberdeen but I don't have any job in Bangladesh - that is one of the main reasons behind our living in Aberdeen.

Thanks for telling me a bit about yourself, Compassionist. Our different life histories (I was born and raised in a middle-class family in Canada) probably account for our different perspectives on what makes for a good life.

I am not insisting that you or anyone else must reset your "certain limit" to match mine. I suspect that what one considers to be adequate depends largely on what one is used to. I am happy with mine and I am happy to live and help live.

Your comments remind me of a conversation I had with an optician when I was buying my latest pair of eyeglasses. I remarked that the fashion trend seems to be toward smaller and smaller lenses -- each pair of glasses I have bought over my life seems to give me a smaller field of view than the pair before it. He said, "Yeah, it's true, lenses are getting smaller, but it's not really a problem. Just wear them for a while, and you'll get used to it." My response was, "I know, but I don't want to get used to it! I could get used to glaucoma too, but that doesn't mean that glaucoma is not a problem!"

It just seems to me that there must be some absolute sense in which it is better to live eighty years than sixty years, better to have more diversity in one's diet than less, better to have more land per person than less. No, I can't measure it, and I can't deny that it is possible to be happy in just about any life circumstance. I just think that having more lifestyle choices is always a good thing, regardless of which one(s) we actually choose.

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Re: Please become a vegan

#52 Postby gorleo » May 14th, 2009, 6:17 am

no

why is this topic in a humanism forum?

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Re: Please become a vegan

#53 Postby jaywhat » May 14th, 2009, 6:31 am

Why not?
It is under the 'Special interest' category, where you might find things like 'How to get your huskeys to run faster' or 'Do the Mounties always get their woman as well?'

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Please become a vegan

#54 Postby Emma Woolgatherer » May 14th, 2009, 10:48 am

Ron Webb wrote:There is some truth in all of that, but I still think family size is more strongly determined culturally than individually. Children who grow up in and surrounded by large families tend to have large families of their own. What you have described above explains how and why the tendency to large families gradually develops in a culture of poverty; but I think it takes many generations before such tendencies can be reversed.
I say again: look at Kerala. That's not the experience there. The birth rate has slowed significantly (it's now the lowest in India) following the implementation of poverty-reducing policies, including a focus on education, particularly the education of women. There are still huge problems, precisely because there hasn't been sufficient cultural change to reflect the social and political change, but the birth rate has gone down rapidly.
Ron Webb wrote:Whoa, easy there! :D I'm not claiming to have all the answers. No, I have no idea how we could reduce the population. I frankly doubt that it's even possible, let alone politically viable. But then I doubt that it's possible or politically viable to convert us all to vegans either.
But I'm not suggesting that, and neither is Compassionist. What I would like is for people to reduce their consumption of meat and dairy products voluntarily, because they recognise the environmental impact of them. What I think is more likely to happen is that eventually there will be a mechanism for adding the costs of carbon emissions, water usage and pollution onto the costs of foodstuffs. Then meat and dairy products will become much more expensive than they are now, and people in developed countries will eat less of them. That could cause health problems if they don't replaced them with high-protein plant foods like pulses, seeds and nuts. If people start changing their diets gradually now, before they actually have to, then the transition will be much easier.
Ron Webb wrote:I'm just saying if a had a magic wand that I could wave to make such things happen, I would rather see fewer people on this planet living better lives, rather than more people whose lifestyle choices are constrained by lack of resources.
I, too, would rather see fewer people on this planet living better lives. But failing that, I would rather see a world where everyone's lifestyle choices are constrained by limits to resources and by global justice than one where a minority of the global population are using much, much more than their fair share of those limited resources, and around half the population is so severely constrained by lack of resources that they have to suffer widespread hardship, ill health, illiteracy, cultural stagnation, conflict, etc. To say, "Well, I'm not going to cut down on meat and dairy products because what we really need to do is to reduce the population" is a cop-out. We're not going to reduce the population. (Not in the near future, anyway. Unless there's some kind of global catastrophe that kills off a significant proportion of us. And that's certainly not something I wish for.) It is possible for voluntary individual choices about diet to add up to significant trends that make feeding the existing population more sustainable. Get over your concerns about freeloaders; we're already freeloaders, taking more than our fair share of the earth's resources, dumping our waste on poor countries rather than dealing with it ourselves. Rather than waiting until we're forced to eat less meat because of rising prices, we can do it now, and maybe, just maybe, we'll find it won't impact on our quality of life one jot.
Ron Webb wrote:Yes, I'm talking about my own personal preferences, just as Compassionist is talking about his and you are talking about yours.
But I haven't mentioned my personal preferences at all.
Ron Webb wrote:I see one difference, however: the preference for lots of children, as in more than the replacement rate of reproduction, is unsustainable.
The preference for lots of meat and dairy is also unsustainable, as the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation has made clear ("Livestock's Long Shadow - Environmental Issues and Options"). I can't find the figures for dairy consumption, which obviously would change the picture, but in 2002, in India, the average person ate 5.2 kg of meat a year, up from 4.7 kg in 1992. Compare that with Botswana: 27.3 kg in 1992, up to 33.3 kg in 2002. China: 30.4 kg in 1992, up to 52.4 kg in 2002. The UK: 75.4 in 1992, up to 79.6 kg in 2002. Germany: 88 kg in 1992, down to 82.1 kg in 2002. Brazil: 61.7 kg in 1992, up to 82.4 kg in 2002. France: 98.8 in 1992, up to 101.0 kg in 2002. Canada: 96.5 kg in 1992, up to 108.1 kg in 2002. The United States: 117.2 kg in 1992, up to 124.8 kg in 2002. Denmark 145.9 kg in 1992, down to 120.7 kg in 2002. Overall, the average person in a high-income country ate 93.5 kg of meat in 2002, up from 86.7 kg in 1992. The average person in a low-income country ate 8.8 kg of meat in 2002, up from 8.1 kg in 1992. We can't go on like this. The only reason we Westerners are able to buy such cheap meat (and other animal products) now is that we're not taking into account the true environmental costs of producing it — environmental costs that the whole world has to pay. If we can't change our ways out of a sense of fairness, then we need to internalise the externalities, as the jargon goes, and then if we choose too eat meat (and other animal products) we'll be more aware of the opportunity costs of doing so. And maybe then it won't seem so necessary to our enjoyment of life.

Emma

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Re: Please become a vegan

#55 Postby Paolo » May 14th, 2009, 12:18 pm

Yes, livestock are resource depleting, but it's not just meat and dairy Emma. All food stuffs grown and distributed are a problem for the environment. Crops require land, water and nutrients - all of which have to come from somewhere. To feed large human populations requires a huge amount of resource investment. There is a certain element of needing to draw a line at how much you are willing to give up to make things less damaging - you are willing to give up meat and dairy, most people are not. Cutting down on meat and dairy is a reasonable goal that people are probably more open to than becoming vegan. Lots of small victories count.

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Re: Please become a vegan

#56 Postby Emma Woolgatherer » May 14th, 2009, 1:54 pm

Paolo wrote:Yes, livestock are resource depleting, but it's not just meat and dairy Emma. All food stuffs grown and distributed are a problem for the environment. Crops require land, water and nutrients - all of which have to come from somewhere. To feed large human populations requires a huge amount of resource investment.
Absolutely. That's why it's particularly galling that such a large proportion of those crops go to feed lifestock. (In the US and Canada, around 70 per cent of grain goes to feed animals, apparently.) It's so blinking inefficient! But you're right: agriculture generally is energy-intensive, carbon-intensive and polluting. Still, we have to eat something! Surely it makes sense to eat food that minimises resource-depletion, GHG emissions and pollution while still being nutritious. For some of us, it may be possible to do that while still eating a fair bit of meat. Not all meat production is unsustainable, just as not all vegetable production is sustainable. Alan C's Shetland mutton will have a much lower carbon footprint than, say, cherry tomatoes on the vine grown in greenhouses heated by fossil fuels. So yes, it's not just about meat. But meat, particularly beef, and dairy do seem to be the biggest culprits.
Paolo wrote: There is a certain element of needing to draw a line at how much you are willing to give up to make things less damaging - you are willing to give up meat and dairy, most people are not. Cutting down on meat and dairy is a reasonable goal that people are probably more open to than becoming vegan. Lots of small victories count.
Yes, quite. That's what I've been saying, innit? :)

Emma

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Re: Please become a vegan

#57 Postby Ron Webb » May 15th, 2009, 2:28 am

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Paolo wrote:There is a certain element of needing to draw a line at how much you are willing to give up to make things less damaging - you are willing to give up meat and dairy, most people are not. Cutting down on meat and dairy is a reasonable goal that people are probably more open to than becoming vegan. Lots of small victories count.

Yes, quite. That's what I've been saying, innit? :)

If that's what you've been saying, then you and I aren't that far apart. If the title of this discussion had been "Please cut down on meat and dairy" I probably would not have raised any objection. To me, "Please become a vegan" is on a par with "Please don't have children". It's personal option, certainly, but it's too much to expect from most people.

For the record, I have already cut down on meat and dairy, and probably will reduce it further as prices continue to rise (and I think we agree that the best way to achieve reductions is by charging the real cost of meat production, including passing on the environmental costs to consumers).

Having said that, there are a couple points to which I would like to respond:

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:I say again: look at Kerala. That's not the experience there. The birth rate has slowed significantly (it's now the lowest in India) following the implementation of poverty-reducing policies, including a focus on education, particularly the education of women. There are still huge problems, precisely because there hasn't been sufficient cultural change to reflect the social and political change, but the birth rate has gone down rapidly.

I did take a look, and what I have seen suggests that Kerala's low birth rate is a consequence of education, particularly women's education (as you said), and a strong social welfare system which reduces social and economic inequality. On average the economy is no better than elsewhere in the country. In fact, Kerala's official Web site says that "In terms of per capita income and production Kerala is lagging behind many of the Indian States." (http://kerala.gov.in/economy/index.htm)

So we can agree that education and social/economic justice are key to reducing the birth rate of poor countries; but I still am not convinced that overall improvement in Third World economies will necessarily result in lower birth rates or smaller families.


Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Ron Webb wrote:I see one difference, however: the preference for lots of children, as in more than the replacement rate of reproduction, is unsustainable.
The preference for lots of meat and dairy is also unsustainable, as the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation has made clear ("Livestock's Long Shadow - Environmental Issues and Options").

The report does not exactly say that. What it says is that current practices are unsustainable given the present and predicted world population. The whole purpose of the report is to outline ways in which practices can be made sustainable. Certainly it can be sustainable as long as the population is stable and small enough. By contrast, a constantly increasing population is always unsustainable in the long run.

By the way, I had to chuckle when I came across this item while learning about Kerala (italics added):
"The livestock sector plays a vital role in the economy of Kerala, and offers great potential for alleviating poverty and unemployment in rural areas. The majority of livestock owning farmers are small and/or marginal or even landless. In view of its suitability for combination with the crop sub-sector and its sustainability as a household enterprise with the active involvement of the farm women, livestock rearing is emerging as a very popular supplementary vocation in the small farm segment."

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Re: Please become a vegan

#58 Postby Compassionist » May 15th, 2009, 7:30 am

Ron Webb wrote:Our different life histories (I was born and raised in a middle-class family in Canada) probably account for our different perspectives on what makes for a good life.


I agree. We are all prisoners of causality. If I had your genes, environments, nutrients and experiences I would be you and live like you and vice versa. This applies for all living things. If a tiger had the genes, environments, nutrients and experiences of the deer it hunts it would be the deer and would not hunt itself.

Your comments remind me of a conversation I had with an optician when I was buying my latest pair of eyeglasses. I remarked that the fashion trend seems to be toward smaller and smaller lenses -- each pair of glasses I have bought over my life seems to give me a smaller field of view than the pair before it. He said, "Yeah, it's true, lenses are getting smaller, but it's not really a problem. Just wear them for a while, and you'll get used to it." My response was, "I know, but I don't want to get used to it! I could get used to glaucoma too, but that doesn't mean that glaucoma is not a problem!"


I understand what you mean. I certainly wouldn't want you or anyone to just get used to glaucoma and people should be able to get glass sizes that suit them. Of course, cost might get in the way.

It just seems to me that there must be some absolute sense in which it is better to live eighty years than sixty years, better to have more diversity in one's diet than less, better to have more land per person than less. No, I can't measure it, and I can't deny that it is possible to be happy in just about any life circumstance. I just think that having more lifestyle choices is always a good thing, regardless of which one(s) we actually choose.


I suppose for someone who is happy and healthy, even 200 years may be preferable to 80 or 60. The more the merrier might apply. Unfortunately, life is a ruthless rat race where the able enough survive and reproduce and the unable die out. People living longer and indulging in a lavish lifestyle would conflict with the interests of new generations. Morality is the balancing of competing interests. If one has enough power, one can always ensure one's interests and get away with anything. Without the power to balance competing interests, morality cannot be ensured. Might is right. Even though might is right is wrong.

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Please become a vegan

#59 Postby Emma Woolgatherer » May 16th, 2009, 2:18 am

Ron Webb wrote:If that's what you've been saying, then you and I aren't that far apart. If the title of this discussion had been "Please cut down on meat and dairy" I probably would not have raised any objection. To me, "Please become a vegan" is on a par with "Please don't have children". It's personal option, certainly, but it's too much to expect from most people.
If? If? Of course that's what I've been saying. I could hardly have put it any clearer. On March 10 last year I said in this thread: “Not that I think it's likely that large numbers of people will become vegan, and I'm not proselytising for veganism. I would, however, encourage people to eat less meat, dairy and eggs ...” On March 13 I added: “Still, as I said, I'm not proselytising for complete veganism. If people reduced their consumption of meat, dairy and eggs to the extent that only land that is not suitable for growing crops is used for grazing, then that would be a Good Thing, in my view.” Later the same day I said: “I'm not anticipating or advocating pure veganism for all anyway, so I'm not suggesting that all grazing animals should or could be done away with. I'd be more than happy if demand for meat dropped significantly, and meat-eaters were more willing to eat mutton and rabbit, and intensive, grain-fed livestock rearing stopped altogether.” Then this year, on May 11, to you, Ron, I said: “Actually, I am opposed to urging everyone to become vegan. I would rather urge people to eat much less meat, less fish, and less dairy produce.” The same day, to Compassionist, I said: “Becoming a vegan is not easy … Reducing your consumption of meat, fish, eggs and dairy is much easier, both to do and to encourage others to do.” And finally, on Thursday, in response to your comment: “But then I doubt that it's possible or politically viable to convert us all to vegans either”, I wrote: “But I'm not suggesting that, and neither is Compassionist. What I would like is for people to reduce their consumption of meat and dairy products voluntarily, because they recognise the environmental impact of them.” Pretty unambiguous, isn't it? If ... er ... somewhat repetitive. :)

I didn't choose the subject title of this thread. Having said that, saying "Please become vegan" isn't quite the same as saying "Everyone in the world should become vegan." It's a plea that was made in a vegetarian humanist forum. For people who have already given up meat for ethical reasons (i.e. related to animal welfare and the environment), the arguments against eating dairy products and eggs are pretty powerful. I don't think Compassionist, when he made the plea, was anticipating any kind of positive response from meat-eaters. Just as well, really. :D
Ron Webb wrote:For the record, I have already cut down on meat and dairy, and probably will reduce it further as prices continue to rise (and I think we agree that the best way to achieve reductions is by charging the real cost of meat production, including passing on the environmental costs to consumers).
:thumbsup:
Ron Webb wrote:I did take a look, and what I have seen suggests that Kerala's low birth rate is a consequence of education, particularly women's education (as you said), and a strong social welfare system which reduces social and economic inequality. On average the economy is no better than elsewhere in the country. In fact, Kerala's official Web site says that "In terms of per capita income and production Kerala is lagging behind many of the Indian States." (http://kerala.gov.in/economy/index.htm)
Yes, that's what makes it so impressive, I think. The focus of most development policies (especially as advocated by the World Bank and the IMF) has always been on economic growth, and Kerala has shown that you can improve human welfare without increasing GDP. I think that's where the focus needs to be. Economic growth also tends to reduce the birth rate — precisely because it tends to lead to better health care and education and greater opportunities for women, I assume — but it also leads to higher consumption of scarce resources.
Ron Webb wrote:So we can agree that education and social/economic justice are key to reducing the birth rate of poor countries; but I still am not convinced that overall improvement in Third World economies will necessarily result in lower birth rates or smaller families.
Not necessarily, no. If the benefits of economic growth go to a small minority of the population, leaving the majority in poverty and creating greater inequality, then things might even get worse. That's why I referred to poverty-reducing policies rather than growth-stimulating policies. I do agree that welfare and equality are key.
Ron Webb wrote:
Emma Woolgatherer wrote:The preference for lots of meat and dairy is also unsustainable, as the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation has made clear ("Livestock's Long Shadow - Environmental Issues and Options").
The report does not exactly say that. What it says is that current practices are unsustainable given the present and predicted world population. The whole purpose of the report is to outline ways in which practices can be made sustainable. Certainly it can be sustainable as long as the population is stable and small enough. By contrast, a constantly increasing population is always unsustainable in the long run.
We've already established, I think, that it is not going to be possible to reduce the global population in the short term. Even if it were possible to keep the population at current levels, a preference for lots of meat and dairy would not be sustainable even in the short run, if it were shared by everyone. Some meat and dairy, yes; lots of meat and dairy (i.e. the amounts eaten by the average Canadian, say), no. Just as the population would be sustainable if families had one or two children on average, but not if they had lots of children.
Ron Webb wrote:By the way, I had to chuckle when I came across this item while learning about Kerala (italics added):
"The livestock sector plays a vital role in the economy of Kerala, and offers great potential for alleviating poverty and unemployment in rural areas. The majority of livestock owning farmers are small and/or marginal or even landless. In view of its suitability for combination with the crop sub-sector and its sustainability as a household enterprise with the active involvement of the farm women, livestock rearing is emerging as a very popular supplementary vocation in the small farm segment."
Hmmm. Interesting. The only trouble with that is that there has actually been a declining trend in the livestock population in Kerala since 1996 (Virtual University for Agricultural Trade). Meat consumption is still pretty high in Kerala, compared to other Indian states, but nearly 65 per cent of the meat required is met from animals of neighbouring states (Livestock Kerala).
The last two Census periods witnessed a drastic decline in the livestock and poultry population in the State. It is assumed that the factors attributed to the decline are scarcity of cheap and quality fodder, rapid increase in the price of feed and feed ingredients, inflow of cheap and low quality livestock products from neighbouring states, indiscriminate slaughter of animals, under exploitation of production potential of animals, non availability of good germplasm and threat from contagious diseases like FMD etc.
So I'm not convinced that small-scale livestock farming is a particularly sustainable way of alleviating poverty and unemployment. I'm more hopeful about amaranth. :D

Emma

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Alan H
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Re: Please become a vegan

#60 Postby Alan H » May 16th, 2009, 1:14 pm

Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

Ron Webb
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Re: Please become a vegan

#61 Postby Ron Webb » May 16th, 2009, 4:39 pm

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:If? If? Of course that's what I've been saying. I could hardly have put it any clearer. ... Pretty unambiguous, isn't it? If ... er ... somewhat repetitive. :)

:D Yep, that much was pretty clear, I agree. I think what confused me was the context. I was writing in opposition to the original Hawting article, in particular to what I saw as his assumption that we should simply accept continued population growth and reduce our consumption accordingly. Your responses, in (apparent) opposition to what I was saying, gave me the impression that you too accepted population growth as inevitable and/or self-limiting, and that large families are simply a lifestyle choice with no ethical implications.

We've already established, I think, that it is not going to be possible to reduce the global population in the short term. Even if it were possible to keep the population at current levels, a preference for lots of meat and dairy would not be sustainable even in the short run, if it were shared by everyone. Some meat and dairy, yes; lots of meat and dairy (i.e. the amounts eaten by the average Canadian, say), no. Just as the population would be sustainable if families had one or two children on average, but not if they had lots of children.

There is probably no humane and democratic way to reduce global population rapidly; but in my opinion, there is no humane and democratic way to reduce meat and dairy consumption rapidly either. (Hence my concern that population may ultimately be reduced drastically and in some inhumane or undemocratic way.) As individuals, we should try to do whatever we can, so that at least we can claim to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem; but there are limits to how far I am willing to go as in individual. I suppose the most ecologically friendly thing I could do would be to kill myself, and that too is a "lifestyle choice" that in my opinion I should have the right to make; but it's too much to ask of myself, let alone anyone else.

I'm more hopeful about amaranth.

Interesting. I'll take a closer look when I have more time.


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