The vegan movement is similar to other social justice movements – the civil rights movement, women’s rights movement, Black Lives Matter, the LGBTQ movement and more – in that the truth is on our side. Justice is on our side. And future generations will look back on what we have done to animals in horror and disbelief. Knowing this helps instill vegan advocates with confidence. So, let’s get started on the ultimate guide to arguments against veganism debunked.
- Logical Fallacies
- 1. “I eat meat because it tastes good.”
- 2. “I could never give up cheese.”
- 3. “I only eat fish and seafood.”
- 4. “I only buy local, ethical eggs.”
- 5. “I have a medical condition that prevents me from being vegan.”
- 6. “I can’t get enough calories on a vegan diet.”
- 7. “Vegan diets don’t have B12, iron, calcium or omega-3s.”
- 8. “You can’t get enough protein on a vegan diet.” or “You need ‘high quality’ protein from animals.”
- 9. “Soy is bad for you.”
- 10. “My body craves animal products.”
- 11. “My doctor said I need to eat meat.”
- 12. “But the food pyramid recommends animal products.”
- 13. “But God put animals on earth for us to eat.”
- 14. “Animals are not as smart as humans.”
- 15. “You can’t be 100% vegan. Sometimes small animals and insects are killed in the production of crops.”
- 16. “The chocolate, coffee, quinoa and avocados you eat harm the communities they come from.”
- 17. “Our ancestors were hunter-gatherers who ate meat, so we should, too.”
- 18. “Humans developed big brains because of eating meat.”
- 19. “But it’s cultural.”
- 20. “Plants are alive, too.”
- 21. “I don’t eat my dog because my dog is a pet. Pigs are food.”
- 22. “But it’s legal.”
- 23. “There are just too many problems in the world. I don’t have time to be vegan.”
- 24. “Nature is cruel. In nature, animals kill and eat other animals. So we can, too.”
- 25. “But animals would eat you if given the chance. Why not eat them first?”
- 26. “Humans are omnivores. We have canine teeth.”
- 27. “What about those who have to hunt or fish to survive?”
- 28. “I honor the animals I eat with my hunting or farming practices.”
- 29.”It’s the food chain.”
- 30. “It’s the circle of life.”
- 31. “It’s a personal choice. Let’s just live and let live.”
- 32. “Valuing animals over plants just because they’re more similar to us is anthropocentric.”
- 33. “So you expect lions and tigers to be vegan too? This is ridiculous.”
- 34. “If everyone stops eating animals, then all the animals will take over human society and start subjugating us.”
- 35. “I have a friend who is vegan, and she says she’s tired all the time.”
- 36. “We need animal manure to fertilize plants.”
- 37. “Vegans are preachy and force their beliefs on others.”
- 38. “But most people eat meat and animal products.”
- 39. “Being vegan is impossible if you live in a food desert.”
- 40. “What would happen to all the farmed animals if everyone suddenly went vegan?”
- 41. “What if you were on a desert island and had to survive?”
- 42. “Why focus on animal rights when there are more important human rights issues?”
- 43. “It’s too expensive to be vegan.”
- 44. “Veganism is a white people thing.”
- 45. “If everyone went vegan, farmers and meatpacking workers would lose their jobs.”
- 46. “I only eat humanely slaughtered animals.”
- 47. “I only eat local animal products from small farms.”
- 48. “How do you know animals can feel and experience suffering?”
- 49. “Why do vegans have pets if it’s not okay to own and use animals? Do you make your cats and dogs be vegan, too?”
- 50. “The world will never go vegan.”
- All arguments against veganism can be debunked
People tend to offer the same set of arguments against veganism, yet not a single argument can logically stand its ground. There is no sound argument against veganism. The philosophy of veganism posits that insofar as we have a choice, we are morally compelled to reduce harm to all life forms as far as possible. Each and every counterpoint crumbles when analyzed.
Most people participate in the destructive system of carnism because they are simply on autopilot. They are unconscious. In attempting to justify the use of animals, people typically repeat clichés without questioning them.
Many arguments against veganism rely on some type of logical fallacy, which vegans need to be able to recognize. Fallacies are errors in reasoning that make an argument illogical. They often lack evidence to support their claim. By naming these arguments for what they are, we can point out that they are not logically sound justifications.
1. “I eat meat because it tastes good.”
This argument relies on the “appeal to pleasure” logical fallacy. It claims that an action is acceptable because it feels good. The basic question here is: do taste buds have higher value than the entire life of an animal? In other words, is sensory pleasure morally justified despite causing harm? If you say yes, then this principle must apply to all other situations to hold true as a moral standard. Otherwise, it becomes a double standard. With this line of reasoning, sexually exploiting an animal or even a human becomes morally justifiable. Because sensory pleasure cannot ethically justify all actions, it cannot justify any.
2. “I could never give up cheese.”
Environmentally speaking, the production of cheese produces an enormous amount of carbon emissions, destroys forests, and contaminates vast amounts of land and water. From a health standpoint, cheese is an addictive substance that promotes cancers, weight gain, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, and multiple sclerosis, among other diseases.
From a human rights rights perspective, cheese is the end result of an industry that exploits farm workers, who endure poor working conditions, low wages, debt, and high rates of physical and mental illness, often without access to health care or legal protection.
Finally, from an animal rights point of view, cheese is the product of an unbelievably exploitative industry that uses the reproductive systems of cows for human profit and takes baby calves from their mothers. The dairy industry causes cows physical pain from mastitis, lameness, susceptibility to disease and decreased lifespan. Dairy cows endure severe emotional and cognitive distress, including widespread abuse from workers. They will ultimately be killed for meat, and their male babies will be killed for veal after a short, miserable life.
For the climate crisis, for your health, for human rights, for animal rights – let’s ditch the dairy.
3. “I only eat fish and seafood.”
Avoiding fish, shrimp and other aquatic life protects the ocean’s ecosystem, preserves wildlife like dolphins and whales, promotes your health, avoids supporting human rights violations, and acknowledges that fish are conscious, feeling creatures. At the individual level, as consumers who do not need to eat fish to survive, how can we justify needlessly buying it and perpetuating these systems?
It’s time we reframe how we view fish: not as seafood, but as wildlife. Let’s keep fish in the ocean, where they belong. To learn more about the vast environmental and human rights concerns with eating fish in an entertaining and inspiring way, check out the Netflix documentary Seaspiracy.
Both farmed and wild caught shrimp are tangled up in a damaging web of problems, including mangrove destruction, air and water pollution, biodiversity loss, antimicrobial resistance, and human rights concerns, including slave labor and endangering coastal communities. They also pose health risks and are subject to misleading labeling. That’s a lot of compelling reasons to consider opting for a vegan shrimp brand or alternative recipes!
4. “I only buy local, ethical eggs.”
Firstly, eggs cannot legally be labeled “healthy,” “good for you” or even “safe” and promote cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Federal Dietary Guidelines don’t publicize this because they are industry-influenced.
Secondly, egg production is environmentally irresponsible. It contributes to high carbon emissions, significant pandemic risk, dangerous working conditions and compromises the health and wellbeing of nearby communities.
Thirdly, chickens have been selectively bred to produce about 23 times more eggs than they naturally would (300 rather than about 13 annually) and suffer painful health consequences as a result. They benefit from eating their eggs to regain lost nutrients. The egg industry also kills newborn male chicks of laying hens within hours of birth in macerators because they will not produce eggs and will not grow fast enough to be profitable for meat. Even if you eggs came from your neighbor’s backyard, those chickens came from this same system.
Taking their eggs compromises their health, deprives them of a natural behavior and of what is theirs, supports a system that exploits them in the first place and continues to view them as a resource rather than beings in their own right.
To learn how to cook without eggs, check out this podcast from the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine and these egg replacement tips and egg recipes, as well as our savory oatmeal recipe and easy tofu scrambled eggs.
5. “I have a medical condition that prevents me from being vegan.”
While some medical conditions or food allergies may make it harder to be vegan, no medical condition is known to prevent being vegan and no one needs to eat meat or animal products. Not even kidney stones, chronic kidney disease or osteoporosis. If you have epilepsy and use a keto diet to manage it, it’s even possible to do a vegan keto diet. However, for the vast majority of people, a whole-foods plant-based diet is most health-promoting and disease-preventing. If you want to become vegan, there is a way.
6. “I can’t get enough calories on a vegan diet.”
7. “Vegan diets don’t have B12, iron, calcium or omega-3s.”
All vitamin B12 is actually made by bacteria in the soil. In the past, humans were able to get more B12 from plants, but due to sanitation practices and modern industrial farming today, we no longer do. Animals raised on factory farms must also be given B12 supplements because their feed doesn’t contain much, either.
Firstly, animal-based sources of iron are heme iron. The problem with this is that your body can’t regulate how much heme iron you absorb. Excess iron is stored in one’s organs, especially in the liver, heart and pancreas. This can cause liver disease, heart problems, diabetes, and certain types of cancers.
Plant-based sources of iron are non-heme iron, which your body can regulate. If you consume too much, your body just excretes it. Good plant sources of iron include lentils, chickpeas, beans, tofu, cashew nuts, chia seeds, ground linseed, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, kale, dried apricots and figs, raisins, quinoa and fortified breakfast cereal, as well as cashews, sunflower seeds, tahini, quinoa, whole wheat pasta.
To improve absorption of non-heme iron, avoid consuming these foods at the same time as large amounts of calcium or vitamin C. Studies have shown vegan populations to have a higher intake of iron than other dietary patterns Furthermore, vegans are at no higher risk of developing iron-deficiency anaemia than the general population.
Cow’s milk is not the wholesome product we’ve been led to believe it is. Because it is meant to make a baby calf grow into a 400 pound cow in several months, it is full of growth hormones (IGF). It contains an addictive hormone called casomorphin, designed to generate a feeling of euphoria and attachment so that baby calves continue drinking their mothers’ milk.
Cow’s milk actually acidifies our blood and pulls calcium from our bones to neutralize the acid. We then excrete more calcium, which increases our risk of osteoporosis. It’s not just dairy with added hormones causes these issues. All cow’s milk is full of hormones because it is the breastmilk of a lactating cow who makes it to feed her baby.
As Dr. Michael Kleper puts it, “Cow’s milk is the lactation secretions of a large bovine animal who just had a baby. If you’re not a baby calf, you shouldn’t be eating baby calf fluid.” With this in mind, it makes sense that the majority (65%) of the global population is lactose intolerant. Why would humans naturally have the enzymes needed to digest the milk of other animals?
Additionally, the insulin-like growth factor (IGF) in cow’s milk promotes cancer growth, especially prostate cancer and breast cancer. It is linked to the development of type 1 diabetes, and worsened symptoms in arthritis and multiple sclerosis due to inflammation. Furthermore, the antibiotics and natural and artificial hormones in cow’s milk increase propensity for acne.
Soy foods, beans, peas, lentils, some nuts, seeds, grains, leafy grens, and cruciferous vegetables are good vegan sources of calcium.
Although fish have been marketed for their supposed health benefits, fish contain saturated fat and cholesterol and often contain microplastics and mercury. While some people switch from red meat to fish in an effort to lower cholesterol, numerous studies indicate that the impact of beef consumption on cholesterol levels is similar to that of poultry and fish.
While industry-sponsored studies may claim otherwise, this is because they often compare their products to an even worse one to try to make theirs look better. In contrast, switching people from meat to tofu does lower cholesterol levels. Those on vegan diets dropped their cholesterol by 15-25%. Those on healthier vegan diets dropped their cholesterol levels up to 61% within a matter of weeks.
Microplastic pollution in our water doesn’t just threaten our environment, but our health. Microplastics found in seafood are linked to cancer development. An average portion of mussels (250g wet weight) contains about 90 particles and six oysters (100 grams wet weight) has 50 particles. Studies found microplastics in 1 in 5 cans of sardines and in 100% of mussel samples.
Although fish and fish oil have been hyped for supposed cardiovascular protection, omega-3s and treating depression, systematic reviews have found no benefit for reducing risk of depression, suicide, cognitive decline, or dementia among healthy adults. Actually, it may even make things worse. Higher fish consumption predicted worse cognitive performance, likely due to neurotoxic contaminants in fish, like mercury.
8. “You can’t get enough protein on a vegan diet.” or “You need ‘high quality’ protein from animals.”
As often the number one question people have about veganism, this nutrient deserves its own point. The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the British Dietetic Association, the UK’s National Health Service, and Australia’s government-funded health service Health Direct, all state that well-planned vegan diets are nutritionally adequate across the lifespan and can help prevent disease.
People are so concerned about protein over all other essential aspects of food because we have been sold the “the protein myth.” For decades, the animal agriculture industry has pushed the misinformation that we need to consume more protein. With their lobbying power, these myths have even weaseled their way into national dietary guidelines.
Furthermore, if you’re getting enough calories, you’re getting enough protein. You may have heard the idea that you need to combine plants at each meal to form “complete proteins.” That belief persists despite being dispelled decades ago. Although most plant proteins lack one or more of the 20 essential amino acids, vegans do not need to combine foods to form complete proteins. As long as you are getting enough calories, you will obtain all the essential amino acids naturally from the various plants you eat each day.
For all the evidence you need to demonstrate that plants have more than enough nutrients to for fitness, check out The Gamechangers documentary. Still not sure you can get enough protein on a vegan diet? Consider this: Some of the strongest animals, like elephants, rhinos, hippos and gorillas, maintain their muscle mass on an herbivorous diet. Humans can, too.
9. “Soy is bad for you.”
While you don’t have to eat soy to be vegan, soy is actually very health-promoting. Meat and dairy industries have spread propaganda about soy because it’s an excellent alternative. Both clinical trials and geographic rates of disease indicate that soy is health-promoting. The phytoestrogens (plant estrogens) in soy actually help protect against breast and prostate cancer.
The phytoestrogen in plants is similar in structure to animal estrogen. So, it attaches to the estrogen receptors in our bodies before estrogen the hormone can, thus reducing our risk of cancers. Soy can reduce the risk of breast, prostate and color cancers and dementia. Consuming soy after diagnosis also reduces risk of recurrence. Organic soy is best to avoid consuming herbicides. (If you think you have an allergy to soy, you might try organic, as you may just be reacting to the pesticides.) Finally, rather than promoting calcium excretion like dairy, soy has been shown to help decrease calcium excretion.
Geographic rates of disease also support this evidence. Soy has been a staple across Asia for thousands of years, and until Western foods were brought over, there was virtually no breast cancer there.
10. “My body craves animal products.”
We experience cravings for two reasons: 1) because we evolved to desire calorie dense foods to survive and 2) to satisfy emotional needs. Eating fat and sugar in particular has been found to have a calming effect, with the brain producing fewer stress hormones after eating fat and sugar.
Furthermore, some substances in animals products (like casomorphin in dairy) are actually addictive, which may contribute to your cravings. Finally, there is nothing nutritious in animal products that we can’t get from plants. Since food is plentiful today, what we need is colorful plant foods that are full of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals. If you transition to vegan eating, your taste buds will change and you’ll stop craving animal products.
11. “My doctor said I need to eat meat.”
Relies on the “appeal to false authority” logical fallacy, which assumes a position is true because of the authority figure who said so without questioning that authority.
Doctors have virtually no training in nutrition its relation to chronic disease. Medical school training can even bias doctors against the power of nutrition and push pills and procedures. Furthermore, medical schools provide biased nutrition information from food industry giants such as the Egg Nutrition Board, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and National Dairy Council (The China Study, p 373).
12. “But the food pyramid recommends animal products.”
Relies on the “appeal to false authority” logical fallacy, which assumes a position is true because of the authority figure who said so without questioning that authority.
Unfortunately, the powerful animal agriculture industry has successfully influenced dietary guidelines for decades. Thankfully, professional groups such as the Dieticians for Professional Integrity are working to eliminate the influence of food lobbyists from government dietary recommendations.
Nonprofits such as the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine are also working to correct public understanding of nutrition. They conduct research to provide extensive evidence of the benefits of a whole-foods plant-based diet for preventing and treating disease. Many reputable organizations support a well-planned vegan diet as nutritionally adequate for all stages of life, like the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and British Dietetic Association.
13. “But God put animals on earth for us to eat.”
Simply referencing religion or the Bible is an “appeal to authority” logical fallacy that fails to provide a logically unsound justification for eating meat and animal products. Different authors of the Bible imply different messages about veganism. The Bible contains contradictory messages about eating meat; the concept of “dominion” refers to stewardship, not exploitation; eating meat was a matter of necessity in ancient times; and the “spirit of the law” encourages compassion.
As I learned as a religious studies major in college, the Bible is full of contradictory messages like these about eating meat because it is a collection of books written by many different authors and edited by countless others. Various councils decided which books to include and which to reject based on their beliefs.
As Rabbi Rami Shapiro observed, “Often, people prefer knowing Biblical passages that reinforce their preexisting beliefs. People memorize parts of texts that they can string together to provide the Biblical basis for whatever it is they believe in, but ignore the vast majority of the text.” In other words, people can reference parts of the Bible to make the case for or against veganism. Given this, why not take the approach that references the “spirit of the law”?
Actually, in the story of the Garden of Eden, God only gave permission for humans to eat vegetation. There was no violence in the Garden of Eden. It was only after the Fall and the Flood that a disappointed God lowered the standards for human behavior, making some concessions to our baser instincts.
The permission to eat meat comes with a curse. The animals, who were created to be Adam’s companions, will now “fear and dread” humans. Before “The Fall,” Adam and Eve were given the wealth and abundance of plants to eat. After sin entered the world, they were told they could eat animals, and that those animals would live in fear of them.
According to Christian Vegetarians and Vegans UK, “From a biblical perspective the concept of eating anything but plants by any animal – human or otherwise – only entered the world after The Fall. That surely should tell the reader something.”
Furthermore, Psalms, Proverbs and the Gospels speak of compassion towards animals. What most spiritual people take from the Bible to apply to their lives are the values of love, compassion, peace, gentleness, kindness, and selflessness. When using the Bible to determine whether it is acceptable to eat meat and animal products, consider these foundational values.
Let us reason here for a moment: does it not seem morally preferable to eat food that does not first have to be killed? Does it not seem that avoiding killing God’s creation for dinner shows more honor than killing it?
So, rather than asking, “What does the Bible say about veganism?” consider what seems consistent with the teachings of this prophet of compassion and peace. Would Jesus participate in or radically oppose a system that degrades the Earth and violates human rights and animal rights? Never mind what Jesus and his disciples did thousands of years ago when eating meat was a matter of survival – what would Jesus do today?
14. “Animals are not as smart as humans.”
Statements like this rely on the “might makes right” logical fallacy, which is the belief we are morally justified in doing something because we are physically and intellectually dominant. Best known as the basis of the philosophy of the Nazis.
We do not apply consistently apply intelligence as a metric to justify exploitation. Cats and dogs are not as smart as humans, but we don’t kill and eat them. Farmed animals have been shown to have thoughts and emotions more complex than young children, some people with severe mental disabilities, and even our pet dogs. Yet, we of course do not find exploiting these groups morally justifiable.
We don’t eat farmed animals because they’re less intelligent. We want to think they’re less intelligent because we eat them. All farmed animals – including cows, pigs, chickens, sheep, goats, and fish – have been shown to have individual personalities and remarkable intelligence suited to their environments
What qualities do humans have that make us worthy of avoiding suffering and non-human animals not? The more we understand about the animals we farm, the more we realize that what matters is what we have in common: the ability to think, feel, experience pain and suffering, play, and care for one another.
15. “You can’t be 100% vegan. Sometimes small animals and insects are killed in the production of crops.”
This argument relies on the appeal to futility or nirvana fallacies. These very similar fallacies refer to rejecting a solution because it is not perfect or because it is impossible to live in complete consistency with that position.
The difference here is harming intentionally versus accidentally. Is it morally equivalent to accidentally run over an animal with your car and to intentionally do so? Of course not. The philosophy of veganism posits that we are responsible for doing all that is in our control to avoid causing harm.
16. “The chocolate, coffee, quinoa and avocados you eat harm the communities they come from.”
This argument relies on the appeal to futility or nirvana fallacies. These very similar fallacies refer to rejecting a solution because it is not perfect or because it is impossible to live in complete consistency with that position.
Firstly, it’s not only vegans who consume these foods. Secondly, it’s true that the Mexican avocado industry has been connected to violence and deforestation. Many chocolate brands acquire their cocoa from sources linked to child slave labor and deforestation, and many coffee brands pay farmers poorly and lack sustainable practices. It feels impossible to be a 100% ethical consumer, as we are just individuals at the end of a long supply chain. Although we can’t be perfectly ethical consumers, we can do what is in our control.
“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”Edward Everett Hale, author
17. “Our ancestors were hunter-gatherers who ate meat, so we should, too.”
This argument relies on the “appeal to tradition” logical fallacy. History and tradition do not create moral justification. Is rape and murder justified because our primitive ancestors used to do those things, too? Furthermore, while it may have been necessary for our ancestors to eat meat to survive, it is no longer necessary for us in our modern society.
18. “Humans developed big brains because of eating meat.”
Actually, scientists aren’t positive about what helped humans develop bigger brains. According to molecular archaeologist Christina Warinner, “For human ancestors to efficiently grow a bigger brain, they needed energy dense foods containing glucose. Meat is not a good source of glucose.” Studies of Neaderthal teeth indicate that they ate many starchy plants like roots, nuts, tubers and cooked barley. Regardless, the fact that our ancestors may have needed to eat meat to survive has no bearing on what we should do today.
19. “But it’s cultural.”
This argument relies on the “appeal to tradition” logical fallacy. If being cultural justifies consuming animals, that means that every action and traditional practice must be considered morally justifiable. A principle must apply to all situations or none for moral consistency.
20. “Plants are alive, too.”
This is a red herring logical fallacy. It brings up a different topic as a distraction from the real question at hand. Plants lack central nervous systems and pain receptors. They cannot feel pain or respond to circumstances in a conscious way (although they do show non-conscious reactions). Plants do not have a detectable ability to think and feel. Regardless, even if your intent is to harm fewer plants, eating vegan is still most in line with this value, because it takes far more plants to feed livestock who are then fed to humans than for humans to eat plants directly.
21. “I don’t eat my dog because my dog is a pet. Pigs are food.”
This is a “descriptive argument” logical fallacy. Just describing how something is perceived rather than providing moral justification for why that is so. Such statements do not describe facts because they cannot be empirically verified. What makes dogs inherently “pets” and pigs inherently “food”? These categories are merely human constructs. This concept is further challenged by the fact that many people now keep traditionally farmed animals as companion animals.
22. “But it’s legal.”
The “appeal to legality” logical fallacy. An action being legal does not morally justify it. Many immoral things have been legal at various times, such as slavery. Take female genital mutilation and dog fighting. Are these ethical in countries where they’re legal?
23. “There are just too many problems in the world. I don’t have time to be vegan.”
The “appeal to other problems” logical fallacy. This one dismisses the argument because there are other problems going on in the world. This is a defeatist attitude. Although much is not in our control, we still have a responsibility to act on what is in our control. Of course, there are many issues in the world. Adopting veganism is only one of the actions we should take.
24. “Nature is cruel. In nature, animals kill and eat other animals. So we can, too.”
In what other areas do we justify our actions by the actions of wild animals? In contrast to lions, when we see an injured animal, we typically feel a pang of sympathy and repulsion towards the carcass. So, it follows that we cannot justify our diets by the diets of other animals.
Because we are human, we have the power to evaluate the morality of our actions. When it is not necessary for us to exploit, kill and eat animals, it is not moral in our modern society.
Where there is no need, there is no justification. Ultimately, what happens in the natural world does not provide moral justification for humans to perpetrate violence. Because we have the moral agency to choose, how could we justify causing unnecessary harm?
25. “But animals would eat you if given the chance. Why not eat them first?”
Firstly, the sad irony in this argument was not lost on French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who observed, “The animals you eat are not those who devour others; you do not eat the carnivorous beasts, you take them as your pattern. You only hunger for the sweet and gentle creatures which harm no one, which follow you, serve you, and are devoured by you as the reward of their service.” Secondly, see the “nature is cruel” argument (#24).
26. “Humans are omnivores. We have canine teeth.”
Many herbivorous animals have canines, such as gorillas and the saber-toothed deer. Humans’ incisor teeth (canines) are actually broad and flattened compared to the sharp incisors of carnivores. Humans share about forty total anatomical features with other herbivores, such as an acute jaw angle, a dexterous jaw that moves side-to-side and front-to-back, a small mouth opening to head size ratio; flattened molars; carbohydrate digesting enzymes in our saliva; long, winding colons; and flattened nails, rather than sharp claws.
27. “What about those who have to hunt or fish to survive?”
Although another animal in the wild may have killed the creatures humans hunt, humans are not justified in killing them ourselves. The morality of killing animals always boils down to one of necessity and moral agency. Unless you have to kill animals to survive, this is irrelevant.
In modern society, we can thrive without animal products. Secondly, unlike wild animals who must kill animals to survive, we have the ability to evaluate our actions. If we can live well without doing harm, why would we choose to harm?
28. “I honor the animals I eat with my hunting or farming practices.”
Some modern day hunters make the case that “honoring” the animals they kill makes it morally right. The problem is that the animals did not willingly give up their lives. There is no spiritual contract between two parties when one is not in agreement.
Animals do not sacrifice themselves for humans to eat. They do not agree to be pulled out of the water to suffocate, forcibly bred, mutilated, confined in tiny spaces, and slaughtered while often still conscious. We forcibly take their lives from them in spite of their desire to live. There is no honor or respect in this. People make this claim to avoid the guilt they would feel if they truly introspected.
29.”It’s the food chain.”
Firstly, this is an appeal to biological determinism. It ignores the fact that we now have the moral agency to choose. Secondly, humans do not exist in a natural ecological system where cows, pigs, chickens and fish are producers. Modern humans are no longer hunter-gatherers living in the wild and competing with other animals for food. While our hunter-gatherer ancestors had to eat what was available to survive, we now have many options.
The food chain is a scientific concept that refers to the transfer of energy from organism to organism in ecosystems. The Britannica encyclopedia itself describes how eating plants directly is much more resource-efficient. Energy is lost at each step and humans can have more food available (to feed the growing population and avoid global food scarcity) by consuming plants ourselves and cutting out the “middleman” (animals).
Humans aren’t even at the “top of the food chain.”
Although it is a popular notion that humans are on the “top of the food chain,” science says otherwise. In a 2013 report from the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences, the study ranked species’ trophic level (rank in a food chain) on a scale of 1-5 based on their diets. Humans scored 2.21, about the same as a pig or anchovy. Below us are primary producers (plants) and above us are apex predators (tigers, crocodiles).
30. “It’s the circle of life.”
The “circle of life” is simply a concept that refers to the fact that life begins with birth and ends with death. The argument is essentially, “Unnecessary killing is justified because every creature must eventually die one day anyway.” With this logic, we would be justified murdering any animal or human simply because they are mortal.
31. “It’s a personal choice. Let’s just live and let live.”
This is a common “thought-terminating cliché” logical fallacy. It uses superficial phrases that discourage critical thought and meaningful discussion in an effort to end the conversation and protect one’s ego.
It’s a personal choice to kick a dog, but that choice has a victim. Every action is a choice, so we cannot justify an action morally by saying that we have the freedom to make a choice. As with other ethical concerns, we aren’t able to use personal choice as a justification when our choices inflict harm on others. While exploiting animals is still legal and broadly accepted, it is not morally justified.
Furthermore, farmed animals are denied personal choice. They are forcefully exploited and slaughtered. Animals have a right to life, and if our dietary choices violate their rights and choices, they are not justified. Although humans’ desire for sensory pleasure via taste is defended as freedom, that choice denies freedom to the animals. Animals would not choose to walk into a slaughterhouse. Some say the animals are bred for that purpose. Yet is it really a gift to be bred into a life of misery? How does breeding them justify what we do to them?
Precisely because it’s a choice, why would we choose to be cruel?
32. “Valuing animals over plants just because they’re more similar to us is anthropocentric.”
A “straw man” logical fallacy that misrepresents the other person’s position. Neil Degrasse Tyson made a series of straw man arguments against veganism like this, which vegan activist Ed Winters debunks. He implies that veganism gives higher moral worth to animals than plants because they are closer to humans on the “tree of life.” However, veganism holds that animals have higher moral worth than plants not because they are closer to humans but because they also experience pain and suffering.
Tyson claims that because everything is alive, we are morally justified in killing anything. With this line of logic, it is morally equal to mow the lawn and to cut an animal’s throat. Using the same logic, a cannibal could justify eating a human over eating a chickpea. Yet Neil himself would argue that this is wrong because humans suffer and chickpeas do not. Applying this logic consistently, we are morally compelled to eat the chickpea over eating a non-human animal.
33. “So you expect lions and tigers to be vegan too? This is ridiculous.”
The “appeal to ridicule” logical fallacy. This argument presents the opposing argument in a way that it seems ridiculous, usually by exaggeration or a straw man argument (misrepresentation). Veganism acknowledges that some animals must eat other animals to survive, so their actions are justified by necessity.
34. “If everyone stops eating animals, then all the animals will take over human society and start subjugating us.”
An example of the “slippery slope” logical fallacy. In this flawed argument, the person insists that a course of action will lead to a negative chain of events without evidence that this will happen.
35. “I have a friend who is vegan, and she says she’s tired all the time.”
An example of an “anecdotal” fallacy. Meaning: Relying on an anecdote rather than science as the basis for a conclusion. One person’s experience does not provide scientific evidence to draw a conclusion.
36. “We need animal manure to fertilize plants.”
Actually, we don’t! “Vegan organic” or “veganic” farming shows that it’s possible to organically cultivate and produce food crops with minimal or zero harm to animals, the environment and human health. It avoids chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers made from confined animals. Veganic farming is not a new idea. In Mesoamerica and Mexican indigenous agriculture, people used farming systems that did not rely on domesticated animals.
This way of farming uses mulch, vegetable compost, green manure, crop rotation and composted organic matter like grass clippings. In doing so, it increases soil fertility and provides a sustainable solution that frees farmers from depending on industrial fertilizer and pesticide manufacturers. Veganic farming avoids using animal products like blood meal and bone meal used in organic farming that come from animals in slaughterhouses and release huge amounts of greenhouse gases.
Vertical farming is another eco-friendly, sustainable option, which grows produce in a fully controlled environment. It grows crops year round, with no pesticides or herbicides, uses less water, creates less food waste, requires no transport, has more efficient production, increased taste control and better shelf life. Leaders of the movement view it as “a step evolution in food production.”
37. “Vegans are preachy and force their beliefs on others.”
Ad hominem logical fallacies like this one criticize one’s conversation partner rather than making a logical argument about the topic.
If this happens, it may be best to take a step back and reassure your conversation partner that you’re not criticizing them as people. Gently remind them that your intention is to reflect thoughtfully on a belief that society has conditioned in all of us.
Remember, if we can learn how to identify the logical fallacies in arguments arguments against veganism, we can become more effective advocates.
38. “But most people eat meat and animal products.”
This statement relies on the appeal to popularity logical fallacy. It posits that something is just because most people agree with it.
Most people eat meat because most people eat meat. The majority of societies operate under an invisible belief system called carnism, which conditions rational, compassionate people to support a violent system of exploiting and killing certain animals. In other times and places it has been popular to kill and eat dogs, cats, dolphins, whales and other animals we do not categorize as “food animals.” In other times and places, it has been common practice to own slaves and to perform female genital mutilation. Are actions ethical merely when they are popular?
39. “Being vegan is impossible if you live in a food desert.”
What about you? Do you live in a food desert? If eating animal products is your only option because you live in a food desert, than that doesn’t go against the vegan ethos. If you don’t, then you have the choice not to.
40. “What would happen to all the farmed animals if everyone suddenly went vegan?”
The world will not go vegan overnight, so there will not be a sudden depletion of demand for animal products. As more people become vegan, demand will steadily diminish. As a result, fewer and fewer farmed animals will be bred into existence. Those that remain could be allowed to live on sanctuaries.
41. “What if you were on a desert island and had to survive?”
Veganism is simply about what is practical and possible. Since we’re not on a desert island and don’t have to eat animal products to survive, this means that we are making a choice to harm animals when we eat animal products.
42. “Why focus on animal rights when there are more important human rights issues?”
An “appeal to other problems” logical fallacy. The fact the other problems exist does not absolve us from addressing this one, which is exceptionally more in our power than many other issues. Importantly, veganism does address human rights issues through combating systems that fuel environmental racism, harmful working conditions for laborers, and world hunger.
43. “It’s too expensive to be vegan.”
Studies indicate whole-foods, plant-based diets cost less
In a 2022 study from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Economics, the authors write, “Considering that price is a major factor when purchasing food, it is vital that these healthier and more sustainable diets are also affordable.” With data from 1,040 participants, the study concluded that “plant-based consumers do not spend more but in fact less than any consumer assessed. This could be a promising feature for the promotion of plant-based diets, with particular interest for consumers with lower incomes by ensuring food security.”
A 2021 Oxford University study found that in Western countries, vegan diets were the more affordable option in high-income countries, reducing food costs by up to one-third. The study used food prices from the World Bank’s International Comparison Program and was published in The Lancet Planetary Health. The data refers to costs of whole foods, like legumes, fruits and vegetables. It did not include ready-made meals or highly processed foods like plant-based burgers.
In lower income countries, eating a plant-based diet would be up to a quarter cheaper than a typical Western diet, but at least a third more costly than current diets. Making healthy, sustainable diets affordable everywhere, especially in lower income countries, requires political will to reduce food waste and adjust prices of healthful foods. Reducing demand for resource-intensive animal-based food is key to expanding access to healthful, plant-based foods for lower income countries, reducing food loss and food insecurity.
A 2020 study performed in the UK found that plant-based meals cost 40% less than meat and fish based meals and required one-third less time to prepare. In this study, only 3.7% of all vegan household expenditure went towards meat substitutes. In Ecological Economics, a 2016 study found that “true vegetarians spend less money on food than meat eaters.” A 2015 study in the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition demonstrated that whole foods plant-based diets cost, on average, $750 less a year. Finally, in a survey of 1,072 Americans, it was found that people on meatless diets spent an average of $23 less on food weekly.
Being vegan can save you thousands in health care costs
Of course, the cost of our diets isn’t reflected in the grocery store bill alone. Looking at the bigger picture of healthcare costs associated with consumption of animal products gives us a more realistic picture.
If we take the long view, plant-based diets also protect us against costly chronic diseases like obesity, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes, and breast, prostate and colorectal cancer. These diseases can easily cost you tens of thousands of dollars over years of medical care. A 2015 study by University of Oxford researchers published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimated that if Americans moved away from animal products all together, the country would save $250 billion dollars in healthcare costs.
Notable resources specifically designed to support affordable vegan cooking include: Vegan Budget Bytes, Plant Based on a Budget and Forks Over Knives budget meal plan. Be sure to check out the tips from Nutritiously, Vegan Society, I Love Vegan and Jessica in the Kitchen as well. You can find a list of Top 50 Vegan Blogs here with a short description of the types of recipes they offer.
Sure, it may be less convenient at times. But at what point is convenience no longer worth the cost of compassion, your health and our planet? Being vegan continues to win on the most meaningful fronts – a lifestyle that is more healthful, more sustainable, more compassionate, and now, more economical.
44. “Veganism is a white people thing.”
There are many organizations led by vegans of color, such as Black Vegan Everything, Afro Vegan Society, Black VegSociety, Black Vegans Rock, Obhoyaronno led by a Bhangli vegan activist, Veggie Mijas, Vegan Activist Alliance, the Food Empowerment Project founded by a woman of color, Chilis on Wheels and Casa Vegana de la Comunidad led by a Puerto Rican activist and Plant Based on a Budget founded by a Japanese-Mexican activist, among many others.
News articles have featured vegans of various ethnicities in the news, such as indigenous vegans, Latin American vegans, and more. There are vegan Lao recipes, vegan Filipino recipes, vegan Japanese recipes, vegan Caribbean recipes and many more. Saying it’s a “white people thing” ignores the important contributions of vegans of color.
45. “If everyone went vegan, farmers and meatpacking workers would lose their jobs.”
Progress involves creating new and better jobs
Firstly, we don’t determine ethics based on economics. War, the prison industry, and the tobacco industry all create jobs. That doesn’t mean that we should fire missiles, imprison people unfairly and promote smoking in order to create jobs. Progress always involves doing away with outdated tools, such as how horseback couriers were replaced with telegraphs, then with landline phones, then with the internet and cellphones. At each step, some people lost jobs, but others were created so society could benefit.
Animal agriculture exploits farm workers, too
Secondly, workers endure poor working conditions, low wages and debt, and higher rates of physical and mental illness. Because they are often undocumented, they typically lack access to adequate health care and legal protection as well.
Poor working conditions
Slaughterhouse workers especially are primarily people of color and immigrants who live in low-income areas. They are often afraid to report safety concerns, injuries, illnesses and animal abuse out of fear of being fired or deported. Most dairy workers receive no holidays, overtime, sick pay, or workers’ comp. Dairy farms are often exempt from paying overtime even with 70-90 hour workweeks, as federal employment laws often don’t apply to them.
In 2016, workers at an Illinois egg production facility went on strike over complaints of unclean and unsafe working conditions; unfair pay, especially for women; lack of pay for holidays or vacations; sexual harassment and excessively long hours.
Farmers typically must take on about $1 million in debt to start a new poultry or pig farm. Because of this, 90 to 95 percent of these farmers must sign contracts to raise animals for large companies like Tyson Foods and Smithfield Foods. As there is often only one company in the area, farmers usually do not have a say in who their employer is.
Physical injury and illness
Farm workers frequently face vile, dangerous conditions. They wade through the noxious-smelling warehouses laden with the much of manure and urine, even sink and get stuck. When cows get scared, such as during storms, they may run at workers and kick them. Having received little to no training and being pressured to move the cows quickly, workers often resort to violent strategies.
Slaughterhouses have some of the highest reported injury rates in manufacturing: 20-36 percent annually. Shifts are long, cold and damp. The repetitive movements lead to injuries like carpal tunnel, “trigger finger,” back problems, tendonitis, and arthritis. This is due in part to how fast assembly lines are expected to move, coupled with a lack of safety training in using dangerous slaughtering and processing machines.
Surveys have found that two thirds of dairy workers have been injured on the job. Then, they are either forced to work through injury or illness. If they don’t, they are often fired for getting injured and being unable to work. Farm workers also have increased rates of respiratory ailments, gastrointestinal ailments, and skin infections.
Higher rates of mental illness
Slaughterhouse workers are at particularly high risk of adverse psychological health outcomes. The work is physically exhausting, monotonous, and requires managing dangerous equipment at high speeds in a cold, blood and smelly environment. Most new workers feel shocked, disturbed and repulsed initially. At the beginning, nightmares are common. After some time, they start to feel emotionally callused by the work.
The work is inherently violent, which damages their psychological well-being and can lead to cumulative trauma disorder. Violence against animals has been demonstrably linked to psychological issues in humans, namely, substance abuse, imitate partner violence and increased crime rates.
Slaughterhouse workers also are more likely to suffer poor interpersonal relations, as they fear social rejection and are more likely to emotionally withdraw or act out. Further exacerbating the issue, most slaughterhouse employees are of low socioeconomic background and lack the resources to cope with this stressful environment. Rates of depression and suicide are elevated among dairy farmers compared with other occupational groups.
Stress of cognitive dissonance
Furthermore, many farmers and workers hold contradictory attitudes of saying they love and care for their animals, yet ultimately send them off to slaughter. This creates the weight of cognitive dissonance, which is often hard for them to handle.
Infrastructure to allow farmers to transition to plant agriculture
Finally, if we are truly concerned with farmers’ livelihoods, we should advocate for policy change rather than supporting the status quo. Transitioning the world to plant agriculture will create new and better jobs. Farmers produce what consumers demand, so they will adapt to shifting market demand.
Currently, the government provides enormous subsidies and bail outs for the animal agriculture industry. We must push for policy change to redirect government subsidies that allow the industry to produce meat cheaply. They can instead be used to transition farmers into a sustainable, ethical, health-promoting plant-based market.
We need to create infrastructure to scale-up the production of plant-based products. Firstly, government must provide institutional support, such as providing subsidies for producing plants rather than animal products and creating avenues to increase public demand for the products, such as school lunch programs.
Secondly, organizations and companies must support infrastructure to help farmers transition, including training and financial support. For instance, the Swedish oat milk company Oatly launched a pilot program in 2019 to support farmers in growing oats. Dairy-free cheesemaker Miyoko’s Creamery also created an initiative to help struggling dairy farmers shift to growing plants.
More money in plant agriculture
Organizations like Farm Transformers, the Farm Transformation Institute, and Plant-Based Protein Exchange are also helping farmers transition from animal agriculture to plant agriculture. Farmers stand to benefit economically, too. As an example, the average profit per acre for pea farming in 2015 in North Dakota was $14.03 more per acre than smaller herd dairy farming.
Plant agriculture also creates about 1.5 trillion more pounds of “product” to sell than animal agriculture. Additionally, it does so more efficiently by using 115 million acres less land. Although animal agriculture yields about $35 billion more than plant agriculture, it has about $55.8 billion more in expenses. As the report states, “plant-based agriculture grows 512% more pounds of food than animal-based agriculture on 69% of the mass of land that animal-based agriculture uses.”
But by supporting the transition to plant agriculture, we help move farm workers away from an industry that exploits both human and nonhuman animals. We support the move to a more compassionate food production system better facilitates the mental and physical health of farmers. Importantly, we also contribute to market demand for products that yield higher profits for farm workers.
Let’s direct our dollars to plant agriculture, instead – for our future and for the farmers.
46. “I only eat humanely slaughtered animals.”
Say you’re at a restaurant and saw the following on the menu: “Golden retriever burger. Certified humane killing.” How would you feel? Would you consider it humane for someone to kill a happy, healthy dog for food?
The reason we would not is because we have been socialized into an invisible belief system called carnism that teaches to view certain animals as companion animals and others as objects. This kind of thinking justifies killing non-human animals for food as “normal, natural and necessary.” Through it, we are desensitized to the reality of what we do to animals.
“Humane” means compassionate
To see through the fog of our conditioning, we must ask ourselves what “humane” really means. Synonyms include compassionate, kind, unselfish, gentle and merciful. It means lovingly. What about on a small family farm, where animals enjoy free reign outside until their final day?
If someone gave their dog several years of life like this, but then killed the dog for meat, would this be humane killing? We hold a double standard for companion animals versus farmed animals. They do not differ in any way but our perception of them.
Let’s put ourselves in their shoes. If a more intelligent being raised us with the intent of eventually killing eating us, would we think they loved us? Thus, we cannot humanely kill farmed animals unnecessarily any more than we can humanely kill our pets unnecessarily.
Many people believe that non-human animals can be “humanely” raised for slaughter. They trust the marketing gimmicks that label the meat, dairy or egg products “cage free,” “grass-fed,” or “American Humane Certified.” The labels merely indicate less suffering, as even the labels with the highest standards still permit acts of cruelty, such as debeaking, ear notching, and castration without painkillers. Even these certifications still allow for killing the types of animals who are not useful to the industry, such as male chicks and male dairy cows.
As activist Ed Winters puts it, “If cruelty is defined as causing unnecessary and intentional physical or mental harm, what we do to animals must constitute acts of cruelty. We cut off their tails, we castrate them, we forcibly impregnate them, we take their babies away from them, we lock them in cages where they can’t turn around. We load them into trucks and take them to slaughterhouses where we cut their throats or force them into gas chambers – and these are just the standard, legal practices.”
Even if animals were treated humanely throughout their lives, the actual slaughtering of the animals is often very painful. Although factory farms attempt to stun the animals with a stun gun, the terrified animal is often thrashing about so much that it is ineffective. Regardless of whether they are conscious or not, cows, pigs and chickens continue in the slaughter line: hung up by their legs, bled out alive, skinned alive, sent into gas chambers, burned in scalding water alive.
Baby male chicks, useless to the egg industry, meet a slightly different fate. They are sent through pipes into electrified plates and wood chippers alive, as they not useful for the egg industry. On commercial fishing boats, fish are hooked on lines for hours and left to suffocate for several minutes.
Animals as individuals
We are also often unaware of the irony between our natural appreciation of animals and our eating habits. Parents take their kids to the petting zoo, then out to eat hamburgers. Families root for the animals in movies like Chicken Run and Finding Nemo, then eat chicken sandwiches and fish tacos. We are conditioned to view animals as one indistinguishable mass.
But what happens when one individual animal breaks away from a slaughterhouse? This very scenario occurred in England in 2019 with a cow the public nicknamed “Daisy.” The same people who would have eaten her in a burger pulled for her to escape. Most people wouldn’t want to have an animal they know individually killed for food, but can distance themselves from that reality when the animal is simply part of a nameless mass.
Animals are “someones,” not “somethings”
Many of us have rarely, if ever, interacted with farmed animals up close. But when we do so reflectively, we might question why we find it acceptable to kill them. As activist Ed Winters describes, “There is something profoundly moving about looking into the eyes of an animal. You recognize that behind those eyes is someone who is having an experience and through that recognition you can empathize with that experience.”
Because animals have subjective experiences, they are “someones.” Because they are not objects, they are not “somethings.” The more we know about individual animals, the more we recognize their individuality. Justifying why we kill them then becomes harder and harder. We realize that labeling what we do “humane killing” is just lying to ourselves to make ourselves feel better about it.
Are we against animal cruelty?
At the end of the day, we need to ask ourselves these four questions that Ed Winters poses:
- Am I against animal cruelty? (Everyone says yes.)
- What constitutes animal cruelty? Do you agree that it is causing *unnecessary* harm?
- Do we need to eat animal products to survive and thrive? (According to the World Health Organization, American and British Dietetic Associations, the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine, Dieticians for Professional Integrity and numerous academic journals – we don’t.)
- So, does eating animals constitute animal cruelty?
I’ll offer three thoughts on this one:
First, the social psychologist Melanie Joy wrote a book called Why Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows. She explains how society conditions us to see animals differently based on their species, yet they do not differ in any way but our perception of them.
Have you ever noticed that we see our pets as individuals with personalities, but that society has conditioned us to view the animals we raise for food as one indistinguishable mass? Yet all animals have individual differences. Is there such thing as humane killing of an animal who does not wish to die?
Second, the philosopher Jeremy Bentham said, “The question is not, ‘Can they reason? Nor, Can they talk? But, ‘Can they suffer?”
Third, as Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “However scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.” To resolve this tension, we either have to change our beliefs or change our behaviors. We cannot honestly say we’re against animal cruelty while personally funding an industry antithetical to this value.
47. “I only eat local animal products from small farms.”
Despite the common misperception that buying local meat from small farms will solve the environmental, public health and ethical issues of the industry, this is false. It’s something people wish to be true to continue justifying eating meat and animal products.
Yet buying local meat does not significantly reduce its environmental impact, and it is still much more damaging than buying plant foods from across the globe. Buying local meat continues to pose a threat of pandemic emergence. The earth simply cannot feed everyone on an animal-based diet; thus, pushing for more small-scale farming is a classist, colonialist argument. Finally, the end result is the same: killing unnecessarily.
48. “How do you know animals can feel and experience suffering?”
Those who interact personally with farmed animals find it obvious that they feel and can suffer. If we knew farmed animals as individuals, like we know our dogs and cats, we would find it harder and harder to justify killing them needlessly. We would be outraged by what happens to them. So, let’s get to know these species of animals a little better and take a closer look at some of the standard commercial farming practices for each species.
Regardless of whether we exploit cows for milk or for meat, these gentle, playful giants suffer greatly. Although cow’s milk has been marketed as a wholesome product, it is anything but. Dairy production is cruel to the animals and workers and devastating to the environment and human health.
Cows are like human females in that they only lactate after giving birth. So to make them give birth, workers artificially inseminate them by putting their hand up the cow’s vagina with forcibly taken bull sperm. When the cow gives birth, the baby is taken away in under a day. The mother is then hooked up to machines to sell the milk that her body made for her baby. Male calves are sold to the veal industry and female calves are raised for the same cycle.
While cows naturally live about twenty years, dairy cows’ bodies are so abused that they only live to be about four to five years old. After cows’ bodies are spent from continual impregnation and lactation, they are killed for beef. So, dairy is arguably even worse than meat, because a cow suffers her whole life before being sent to slaughter.
Although the cows suffer the most, they aren’t the only ones who suffer. Many farmers themselves feel great remorse about what they do to these creatures to earn a living.
Pigs are among the most intelligent animals in the world, sharing many cognitive abilities with chimps, elephants and dolphins. In the wild, they are very sociable and active, traveling about 30 miles a day in groups and making communal nests to sleep in at night. They are curious and playful. Yet they are prevented from engaging in any of these natural behaviors in the factory farming system. As farmed animals, they suffer severe physical and psychological trauma. They are confined to metal crates without bedding that are small they cannot turn around. Farmers castrate piglets and dock their tails, ears, and teeth without anesthesia.
Chickens raised for meat have been selectively bred to reach slaughter weight at only six weeks old, such that they grow 300 times faster and become four times heavier than they did around 1960. Because of this, many cannot even stand up, experience organ failure, and often break their bones due to the stress of unnatural growth.
The ancestor of the egg-laying hens laid only about thirteen eggs per year. But today’s chickens have been bred to lay about an egg a day. Not only is it a painful process for the chicken, but they lose vital nutrients through laying the eggs that weaken their bones. If you break open an egg and give it back to them, they will eat it because their bodies need the nutrients.
Living in factory farming conditions is so stressful for chickens that they will peck violently at each other. Because of this, farmers cut off their beaks and toes.
The only time most people think of turkeys is at the U.S. “presidential pardon” at Thanksgiving. Yet that 13 of the 16 turkeys 2010-2017 were euthanized due to or died from health conditions within the next two years, anyway. This is because modern day turkeys have been selectively bred so grotesquely that they suffer from extreme health problems.
Commercial turkeys suffer from broken bones, weak legs and heart failure. Most are no longer physically capable of flying. They have been bred to grow so enormous that most can no longer naturally breed. Instead, workers artificially inseminate females. When chicks are born, they huddle by artificial heaters and will never meet their parents. Finally, they are slaughtered between 12-19 weeks old.
Like chickens, farmed turkeys are debeaked and de-toed, almost always without painkillers. The feces that they’re forced to live creates toxic gas, which then harms their eyes and lungs. Packed in beak to feather, they are prevented from engaging in all of their natural behaviors.
In nature, they fly at fast speeds, roam a mile or two each day, roost in trees, run and even swim. Mothers care for their young for at least five months. Wild turkeys even like to play with each other and other species. Yet factory farming deprives these social, intelligent birds of all their physical, mental and social needs.
Fish have feelings, too. Seriously. Humans often have a hard time experiencing empathy for fish because their faces cannot show emotion and they cannot cry out in pain when we pull them from the water. But fish, too, know fear and pain. Like humans, other mammals and reptiles, fishes have conscious awareness, or “sentience.” Because of this ability, they experience pain, have personalities, are intelligent in ways that optimize their survival, recognize individual humans, have memory, communicate, and even have preferred fish companions. Some even enjoy being petted.
But fishes suffer greatly because of humans. Commercial fishing operations kill typically kill over 2 trillion fishes annually in painful ways, often through suffocation. In addition to this, huge numbers of fishes are caught recreationally, as bycatch, or to be fed to farmed fish. To maximize profits, farm fisheries pack thousands of fish into troughs and cages, with hardly enough room to breathe, and certainly not enough to swim. These conditions are so foul they become cannibalistic, their eyes bleed, sea lice eat off their faces, and they can become riddled with anemia, infectious disease, chlamydia, and heart disease.
In light of this knowledge, we are compelled to include fishes in our circle of compassion. As Jonathan Balcome, author of What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins, puts it, “When you purchase a product, you tell the manufacturer to do it again, and we really don’t want that happening.”
Whether we drink cow’s milk or goat’s milk, we’re still paying for farmers to take her baby away so we can drink the milk she made for her young. Whichever the species, we’re still paying for repeated, forced impregnation. Farmers also cut off young goats’ horns, which causes immediate pain from tissue damage, chronic pain from nerve damage and stress.
Most goat milk farms keep the animals inside year round. They prevent them from roaming, climbing, and being the curious and joyful creatures they are. Furthermore, as much undercover footage has documented, it is not uncommon for farm workers to violently abuse goats. The industry drains every last bit of profit from the goats’ bodies, sending the female goats to be killed for meat after exhausting their milk-producing abilities.
Lambs and sheep
Among the gentlest of the animals commonly eaten in the West, lambs are killed at six to eight months of age, when they could naturally live up to twelve years old. Lambs are taken from their mothers within a few days of birth and raised and slaughtered in a manner like that of cows and pigs.
Lambs and sheep have individual personalities, can learn complex mazes, form long-term friendships, and stick up for one another in fights. They can remember up to fifty faces of other sheep and have well formed spatial memories.
Naturally, sheep don’t need to be sheared, as they make just enough wool to keep themselves warm. But humans have selectively bred them to overproduce wool. Consequences for the sheep include heat exhaustion and flies eating the sheep alive. Sometimes, farmers with cut patches of skin off (often without anesthetic) in an effort to prevent flies from breeding their their skin. This leads to painful open wounds. After their wool production declines, they too are sold for meat.
When we get to know the animals we have been socialized to eat, we can see past the fog of our conditioning. Once we step out of the fog, we often wonder how it is that we ever believed in eating animals at all.
49. “Why do vegans have pets if it’s not okay to own and use animals? Do you make your cats and dogs be vegan, too?”
Owning pets is actually a debated topic among vegans. Most vegans consider it ethical to adopt rescued animals and treat them as valued individuals. However, most vegans do not view it as ethical to purchase them from breeders, as doing so commodifies them.
As far as feeding your pets goes, most people don’t know that cats, dogs and all species require specific dietary nutrients, not ingredients. According to Andrew Knight, a professor of Animal Welfare and Ethics at the University of Winchester, “There is no scientific reason why a diet comprised only of plant, mineral, and synthetically-based ingredients cannot be formulated to meet all of the palatability, nutritional, and bioavailability needs of the species for which they are intended.”
Cats can be fed synthetic vegan cat food or must be fed food that contains meat. This is due to a lack of amino acids like taurine. If you change your cat’s diet, however, it should be gradual. Dogs, on the other hand, are omnivores. Even without synthetic dog food, we can meet their nutritional needs with a balanced vegan diet.
50. “The world will never go vegan.”
According to a United Nations report, “a global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, fuel poverty, and the worst impacts of climate change.” The report warns that meat- and dairy-heavy diets are “unsustainable,” especially as the population is expected to grow to 9.1 billion by 2050.
Indeed, the world must go vegan.
All arguments against veganism can be debunked
As we have seen, none of these top twenty-five arguments against veganism stands its ground. Sensory pleasure, physical and intellectual dominance, authority figures, popularity, tradition, culture, legality, description, the existence of other problems and being an imperfect solution all fail to ethically justify the exploitation of non-human animals.
All arguments against veganism can be debunked because the philosophy of veganism – avoiding harm as far as practical and possible – makes an iron-clad ethical case. The next time you hear someone make one of these arguments, simply refer them to this ultimate guide to arguments against veganism debunked.
As inspiration for advocacy, I’ll leave you with the words of vegan activist Kerry McCarthy, who said, “When you exercise that muscle of empathy towards a voiceless group – animals – it means that every time you sit down to eat a meal, you’re forcing yourself to look beyond your own selfish wants out to the bigger picture. And as the wider world emerges to you, you can see that it’s something worth your attention… The vegan revolution is a cultural revolution… This is a battle we can fight and win in our own homes, with our own knives and forks.”