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#1 Old 06-02-2016, 11:18 PM
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Question Ethical conundrum with vegan protein sources

Hi all,

I don't have any vegan friends, so I'm turning to the internet for some (hopefully) honest and throught provoking discussion.

When I became vegan, I felt a huge weight had lifted off my shoulders - I was doing the best thing I could for the world, and knew that every bite I took was causing minimal harm. I'm vegan for ethical and environmental reasons. I believe the senseless brutality of factory farming is abhorrent, however - and here is where my opinion becomes decidedly un-vegan - I don't believe the consumption and use of animal products is inherently unethical.

So a few months back, I removed my smug head from my arse and started looking hard at my food choices. Mainly, my protein sources - beans and pulses, tofu, home made seitan, and vegan protein powder to top it up a little. All of these food items require packaging, transport, monocultures, deforestation, wage exploitation, and generally don't make me feel warm and fuzzy.

Now what if I had a pastured cow on my property, slaughtered it on site with as little trauma as possible, and fed myself for the next 6 months with the flesh? No food miles, minimal packaging, some methane emissions, and the death of a single animal.

There's no question this doesn't help the cow, and I understand the majority of you are repulsed by the thought of killing an animal just to consume its flesh - but is the slaughter of a sustainably-raised animal worse than the chain of exploitation and unnecessary resource usage inherent in so many of our beloved vegan staples?

Have any of you ever had this conundrum? How do you reconcile it? I would love to hear opinions!
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#2 Old 06-02-2016, 11:41 PM
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Hello there, welcome to the boards. To be honest, I haven't really thought of this before, although I have thought about the damage a vegan diet can do, which like you said, is a lot. Unfortunately, there's always going to be a con in all diets. In this modern world however, I don't think most people will be able to raise the cow themselves, remember, you have to have the backyard for it, the water, care for the cow if she gets sick, etc, it's time-consuming and for many, impossible. I say most people because for something to truly take into effect and for something to change, I believe there has to be substantial number of people doing it. With that being said, there are vegan foods such as palm oil that I try to avoid as much as possible because of exploitation. Overall, it really depends on an individual's ethics: is killing an animal worse than allowing for this type of exploitation to happen? Where do you draw the line? Thanks for asking this question by the way, it really made me think.
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#3 Old 06-03-2016, 12:02 AM
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Thanks for your thoughts! I tend to agree with you, I guess it comes down to your own gut feeling and what is important to *you*. It would be hard to extrapolate my little scenario into a system that could feed the world, this is true.

It's impossible to be alive without directly or indirectly causing harm to something or someone - but on the other hand, it's impossible to not be responsible for a lot of good, as well
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#4 Old 06-03-2016, 02:22 AM
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What ever will you eat while you fatten the cow for slaughter? What about the methane from your cow's burps causing damage? What will you do with all the polluting manure she produces? In the winter, where will your cow go?, and what will she eat? Hay grown on farms and trucked to your destination? The water a cow needs is an unbelievable amount. And after you kill her and cut her up and freeze her body parts, that is all you are going to eat for six months? No beans, veggies, fruits, grains? Not very healthy.

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#5 Old 06-03-2016, 02:26 AM
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Deforestation has far more to do with meat production, particularly cows, than any plant grown for humans to eat.
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#6 Old 06-03-2016, 03:23 AM
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Originally Posted by LedBoots View Post
What ever will you eat while you fatten the cow for slaughter? What about the methane from your cow's burps causing damage? What will you do with all the polluting manure she produces? In the winter, where will your cow go?, and what will she eat? Hay grown on farms and trucked to your destination? The water a cow needs is an unbelievable amount. And after you kill her and cut her up and freeze her body parts, that is all you are going to eat for six months? No beans, veggies, fruits, grains? Not very healthy.
In addition to this, grass fed cows need a LOT of space to roam, space that is taken from wildlife. A number of wild animals are hunted down due to encroaching on space used for farm animals.

Water consumption of farmed animals, even a single cow, is much greater than water needs for most plants. Even almonds, which use a lot of water, need less than cows. Consider one cow per person if we were all to depend on cows for our protein source, compared to a handful of plants per person. The plants are always more sustainable.

And not all plant sources of protein are dependent on monoculture, wage exploitation etc. Some would also argue that packing and transport of food miles is actually less costly (to the environment and us) than local animal agriculture. http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-...limate-change/
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#7 Old 06-03-2016, 04:17 AM
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Your example is exactly why factory farming exist. People arent' willing to give up meat, and the raising of animals in your best example take up far too many resources and is too cost prohibitive.
You'll need land and water for your own crops. All those crops, all that water, that could directly go towards plant foods are instead going to an animal who pixxes and chits them out,and whose bones, tendons and blood will one day need to proceesed.

I get your idea of looking back to the old log farmhouse days, but it just doesn't hold water.

If your issue is with environmental concerns of processing, why aren't you looking for sustainable year round gardening?
http://veganslivingofftheland.blogspot.com/
http://www.off-grid.net/vegan-off-grid-community/

Even without growing your own food, a plant based diet is easily maintained locally in most places--certainly anywhere you could raise a cow!

Why haven't you considered living in the woods in a cave, wearing a loincloth, and eating small animals yu could catch on your own? That's a far more naturally friendly proposition than the captive cow
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#8 Old 06-03-2016, 05:17 AM
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Originally Posted by LedBoots View Post
Deforestation has far more to do with meat production, particularly cows, than any plant grown for humans to eat.
You're absolutely right. But until we're a meat-free society, and we aren't tilling vast tracts of land to feed animals, the soy products and grains I eat are *also* contributing to deforestation.
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#9 Old 06-03-2016, 05:20 AM
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Originally Posted by LedBoots View Post
What ever will you eat while you fatten the cow for slaughter? What about the methane from your cow's burps causing damage? What will you do with all the polluting manure she produces? In the winter, where will your cow go?, and what will she eat? Hay grown on farms and trucked to your destination? The water a cow needs is an unbelievable amount. And after you kill her and cut her up and freeze her body parts, that is all you are going to eat for six months? No beans, veggies, fruits, grains? Not very healthy.
Heh, I possibly should have been clearer here - I'm talking about typical vegan protein sources. Locally grown veggies are easy to get hold of, heck I can grow them myself - it's things like beans and lentils and soy and vital wheat gluten that are giving me a conundrum.
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#10 Old 06-03-2016, 05:40 AM
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Your example is exactly why factory farming exist. People arent' willing to give up meat, and the raising of animals in your best example take up far too many resources and is too cost prohibitive.
You'll need land and water for your own crops. All those crops, all that water, that could directly go towards plant foods are instead going to an animal who pixxes and chits them out,and whose bones, tendons and blood will one day need to proceesed.

I get your idea of looking back to the old log farmhouse days, but it just doesn't hold water.

If your issue is with environmental concerns of processing, why aren't you looking for sustainable year round gardening?


Even without growing your own food, a plant based diet is easily maintained locally in most places--certainly anywhere you could raise a cow!

Why haven't you considered living in the woods in a cave, wearing a loincloth, and eating small animals yu could catch on your own? That's a far more naturally friendly proposition than the captive cow


I absolutely agree that a plant-based diet is really easy to maintain. My problem is with the environmental costs of the items I (and most vegans) currently buy, and the notion that being animal-free absolves us from examining the production of our food. As I mentioned above, it's easy to find veggies at farmers markets or grow them yourself...but I'm struggling to source protein items that have been ethically produced, like quinoa, chickpeas, tofu. When I buy them off the shelf, I feel like I'm just feeding a different kind of monster.

Btw, I would LOVE to prance around the woods in a loincloth!

Last edited by IngaDinga; 06-03-2016 at 05:49 AM. Reason: Edit: Just realised it was Naturebound above who posed the Suzuki link.
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#11 Old 06-03-2016, 05:46 AM
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And not all plant sources of protein are dependent on monoculture, wage exploitation etc. /[/url]
Could you give me an example?
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#12 Old 06-03-2016, 05:48 AM
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If you are willing to keep your own cow, why not just grow your own food? It seems like you are very focused on protein, which is actually present in all plant foods. We don't need to eat protein rich foods as much as we think. Carbs and fiber are much more important to our health. Protein deficiencies never occur unless they are accompanied by a calorie deficiency. I would suggest you research a high carb low fat vegan diet, and you will find that it is very sustainable! Eat whole plant foods, and you can eliminate that unnecessary packaging!

Also, animal protein is especially unhealthy for our bodies - takes longer to digest, has been linked to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, hormone imbalance... Since we have this knowledge and access to healthy plant foods, it is unnecessary to eat meat!

So in my opinion, there is no reason to keep a cow in captivity and cut its life short to consume its body parts.
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#13 Old 06-03-2016, 05:52 AM
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I agree that soybean farming, corn farming, wheat farming, how bout the building of houses, is man's changing the face of the natural world for his own needs. This would be the same for lettuce, strawberries,rice paddies, or orange groves. In one sense we all cannot have our own farm. In the end, organic or not, Vegetarian or not, we all have to eat, and there are billions of human beings on the earth.

It is really not an option to reduce the population of the earth down to 20,000 hunter gatherers. Being old, and not a scientist, I will not be sent a ticket to the "re-colonization of a far planet," either. We just have to live with our circumstances, and do the best we can, and try to live an ethical life.

By the way, the USA is not innocent, or immune to wage exploitation. Many industries go to countries where people expect less wages because on their economies, it is good money.
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Last edited by Gita; 06-03-2016 at 05:57 AM.
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#14 Old 06-03-2016, 06:31 AM
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Originally Posted by IngaDinga View Post
I absolutely agree that a plant-based diet is really easy to maintain. My problem is with the environmental costs of the items I (and most vegans) currently buy, and the notion that being animal-free absolves us from examining the production of our food. As I mentioned above, it's easy to find veggies at farmers markets or grow them yourself...but I'm struggling to source protein items that have been ethically produced, like quinoa, chickpeas, tofu. When I buy them off the shelf, I feel like I'm just feeding a different kind of monster.

Btw, I would LOVE to prance around the woods in a loincloth!
Your ethics here are questioned
You're doing nothing but skirting what's already been answered.
Just where is the hypothetical cow you consider raising on free growing pastuered land coming from? Can you duplicate this scenario, so everyone can live with that diet?
Funny, a plant based diet can be duplicated by the vast majority of civilization.
Your concept of killing animals doesn't hold water. As I've pointed out, anywhere that a cow can be raised where they can consume pastuered grass (which is a hell of a large area BTW), you can grown beans, quinoa etc.
So if you're truly concerned about "a different kind of monster", why not simply stop purchasing mass produced foods?
You're sounding very insincere
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Last edited by silva; 06-03-2016 at 06:45 AM.
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#15 Old 06-03-2016, 09:43 AM
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I'm an ethical realist, and the fact of the matter most people in the first world aren't confronted with desert islands or even subsistence farming (subsistence farmers actually ate a lot of eggs and goats milk back in the day, not much meat, ftr) ...so I get heartily sick of their dumb excuses. I never thought I would be that person, but they really are dumb excuses that parallel addicts rationalizations. What is seen, can't be unseen, and it's hard not to see American people in particular as first world wealthy colonial oppressors who whine about meat the way a child of a millionaire would whine about not getting the color of car they wanted.

That being said, I do think it's difficult for homeless people and subsistence farmers to go further than lacto/ovo vegetarian diets.
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#16 Old 06-03-2016, 09:49 AM
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I agree that soybean farming, corn farming, wheat farming, how bout the building of houses, is man's changing the face of the natural world for his own needs. This would be the same for lettuce, strawberries,rice paddies, or orange groves. In one sense we all cannot have our own farm. In the end, organic or not, Vegetarian or not, we all have to eat, and there are billions of human beings on the earth.

It is really not an option to reduce the population of the earth down to 20,000 hunter gatherers. Being old, and not a scientist, I will not be sent a ticket to the "re-colonization of a far planet," either. We just have to live with our circumstances, and do the best we can, and try to live an ethical life.

By the way, the USA is not innocent, or immune to wage exploitation. Many industries go to countries where people expect less wages because on their economies, it is good money.

The USA is far from innocent. Has everyone heard about the Perdue chicken scandals?

Also, colonization of Mars might not happen for 300 years. Just goes to show many people are getting their science from video games and fantasy novels. An entire atmosphere has to be cultivated there first.
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#17 Old 06-03-2016, 10:46 AM
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Now what if I had a pastured cow on my property, slaughtered it on site with as little trauma as possible, and fed myself for the next 6 months with the flesh? No food miles, minimal packaging, some methane emissions, and the death of a single animal.
By that logic, if everyone in the world thought like you, we would essentially have delocalized factory farming.

It doesn't work.

As a business owner, I will tell you that careful manufacturing processes are significantly less damaging to the environment. The solution is to correct the "chain exploitation" that you speak of, not to use it as an excuse to commit an ethical crime.
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#18 Old 06-03-2016, 11:15 AM
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I was in to environmental stuff long before I went vegan. I know how you feel. Is it better to get a vegan product that was shipped across the ocean spilling toxic waste all over or buy something made where you live even if it has a little milk in it?

My solution was to find products made where I live without milk in them. They exist, but you need to look for them.

I've found a shop where I can bring in my own containers and buy in bulk to reduce packaging.

All of the potatoes I eat(which is a lot) are grown right here in my own province. My lentils come from the province next to me. When in season I can buy tomatoes and other veggies from my province as well.

As to the exploitation of humans on farms that solution can come from within your own country. If you're buying foods grown at home democracy gives you the chance to fix it.

Anyways what I want to say is the solution is out there and you can work towards your goal. I am still working on it. I am certainly not perfect, but I am doing way better than I used to and by the end of the year I hope to be doing even better.
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#19 Old 06-03-2016, 11:29 AM
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Finding sources of fresh responsibly grown food can be tough, and sometimes expensive. To complicate things more, I also try to reduce the amount of packaging I consume, since I hate the idea of my trash sitting forever in a landfill. I've found square foot gardening to be a great way to grow a lot of food in a small space. Beans are actually super easy to grow and I make sure to include several varieties every year. I could probably feed the entire neighborhood with the amount of space it would take to responsibilty raise a cow. Much easier to just grow some beans
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#20 Old 06-03-2016, 11:32 AM
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Originally Posted by IngaDinga View Post
You're absolutely right. But until we're a meat-free society, and we aren't tilling vast tracts of land to feed animals, the soy products and grains I eat are *also* contributing to deforestation.
The majority of soybeans grown are fed to animals. Tons and tons of corn, same thing. Feed the crops to animals, get far less protein out (the dead cow) than you put protein in (soy and corn). If you feed the crops grown for animals to humans instead, the world human starvation problem ends.

Grow your own soy and corn. If you have enough land to grass feed a cow, you have enough to grow soybeans. If you live in a cold area, plant in pots or move somewhere warmer, where you can get fresh local produce nearly year round.

Lentils are more hardy and easier to grow than soybeans. You can also likely find local lentils and dal if you hook up with organic farmers in your area.

What else were you concerned about? Avocados? Plant 2 trees. Tofu? Make your own.
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#21 Old 06-03-2016, 12:32 PM
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Hi IngaDinga,

Your proposed grass-fed cow idea is popular within the modern "Paleo" movement. The Paleo movement is a meat-centered diet community, but they oppose agricultural systems that are based on livestock animals fed on monoculture-grown corn and soy.

However, even the founder of the modern Paleo movement, Dr. Loren Cordain, has stated that the world doesn't have enough resources to supply a grass-fed meat diet to large numbers of people. In fact, Dr. Cordain (and many others) has stated that the survival of the world's current population is dependent on high-yield starchy crops. I quote from Dr. Cordain's book, The Paleo Diet:

“Without them [grains, legumes, and tubers], the world could probably support one-tenth or less of our present population; without agriculture’s cheap starchy staples, it is no exaggeration to say that billions of people worldwide would starve.”


IngaDinga, although grass-fed beef diets are interesting to ponder, they cannot be a mainstream nutrition solution. If you would like to read more information about this, there are many good textbooks on agronomy that you can study.

This forum serves to support those who have chosen a vegetarian or vegan diet. This forum does not serve to promote (directly or indirectly) the consumption of meat.


.
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Specific recommendations for a healthy diet include: eating more fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and grains; cutting down on salt, sugar and fats. It is also advisable to choose unsaturated fats, instead of saturated fats and towards the elimination of trans-fatty acids."
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#22 Old 06-03-2016, 02:00 PM
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I second @David3 , it can never be a mainstream solution.

@IngaDinga Eating a cow wastes valuable energy that could feed people. The pyramid of energy is an ecological concept that states that, due to the laws of thermodynamics, energy is lost to the surrounding environment from metabolic work as heat. In fact, roughly only 10% of the energy is transferred from each trophic level to the next.

So, if you were to eat plants directly, you're harnessing 10% of the energy and biomass captured by autotrophs. If you feed the plants to cows, the cow utilizes utilizes 10% percent, and when you eat the cow you're harnessing 10% of that, so essentially 1%. One freakin percent of the energy.

By eating cows you're wasting food (land that could otherwise feed people) and energy.

Eat plants, end world hunger.

Yeah I had to make it big. But it captured your attention, didn't it? Consider the amount of land needed to maintain the livestock: "In all, livestock production accounts for 70 percent of all agricultural land and 30 percent of the land surface of the planet" (source: Livestock's Long Shadows). 70 flippin percent. Now consider: there are about 805 million people suffering from chronic undernourishment in the world (source: worldhunger.org). If just the U.S. were to give the grain that livestock eat to people instead, it can feed 800 million people (source: Cornell University).
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#23 Old 06-03-2016, 02:46 PM
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As I said:

My usual answer: I have never heard a convincing reason to eat meat.
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#24 Old 06-05-2016, 10:46 PM
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Originally Posted by wildflowerliz View Post
If you are willing to keep your own cow, why not just grow your own food? It seems like you are very focused on protein, which is actually present in all plant foods. We don't need to eat protein rich foods as much as we think. Carbs and fiber are much more important to our health. Protein deficiencies never occur unless they are accompanied by a calorie deficiency. I would suggest you research a high carb low fat vegan diet, and you will find that it is very sustainable! Eat whole plant foods, and you can eliminate that unnecessary packaging!

Also, animal protein is especially unhealthy for our bodies - takes longer to digest, has been linked to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, hormone imbalance... Since we have this knowledge and access to healthy plant foods, it is unnecessary to eat meat!

So in my opinion, there is no reason to keep a cow in captivity and cut its life short to consume its body parts.
It would make my life so much easier if I could cut down on the protein, but I love weight training!
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#25 Old 06-05-2016, 10:55 PM
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I was in to environmental stuff long before I went vegan. I know how you feel. Is it better to get a vegan product that was shipped across the ocean spilling toxic waste all over or buy something made where you live even if it has a little milk in it?

My solution was to find products made where I live without milk in them. They exist, but you need to look for them.

I've found a shop where I can bring in my own containers and buy in bulk to reduce packaging.

All of the potatoes I eat(which is a lot) are grown right here in my own province. My lentils come from the province next to me. When in season I can buy tomatoes and other veggies from my province as well.

As to the exploitation of humans on farms that solution can come from within your own country. If you're buying foods grown at home democracy gives you the chance to fix it.

Anyways what I want to say is the solution is out there and you can work towards your goal. I am still working on it. I am certainly not perfect, but I am doing way better than I used to and by the end of the year I hope to be doing even better.
I really like everything here. Thank you. I fall over every day on this journey, but I also learn something every day!
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#26 Old 06-05-2016, 11:01 PM
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Also, colonization of Mars might not happen for 300 years. Just goes to show many people are getting their science from video games and fantasy novels. An entire atmosphere has to be cultivated there first.
They're planning the first permanent settlement within 10 years! I don't particularly agree with humans colonising Mars, but it's terribly interesting science.
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#27 Old 06-05-2016, 11:12 PM
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They're planning the first permanent settlement within 10 years! I don't particularly agree with humans colonising Mars, but it's terribly interesting science.
Anyone going over there is just going to die anyways. I'd love to see it succeed but it just won't.

Why don't you agree with spreading beyond our home planet BTW? Spreading beyond a single planet is the only viable long term survival strategy I think.
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#28 Old 06-05-2016, 11:18 PM
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Your ethics here are questioned
You're doing nothing but skirting what's already been answered.
Just where is the hypothetical cow you consider raising on free growing pastuered land coming from? Can you duplicate this scenario, so everyone can live with that diet?
Funny, a plant based diet can be duplicated by the vast majority of civilization.
Your concept of killing animals doesn't hold water. As I've pointed out, anywhere that a cow can be raised where they can consume pastuered grass (which is a hell of a large area BTW), you can grown beans, quinoa etc.
So if you're truly concerned about "a different kind of monster", why not simply stop purchasing mass produced foods?
You're sounding very insincere
I'm sorry that you're reading me as insincere - this is a question I've had difficulty with over the last several months, and I came here to find out other people's thoughts, and whether their journey through vegan-dom came with similar dilemmas.
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#29 Old 06-05-2016, 11:29 PM
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Anyone going over there is just going to die anyways. I'd love to see it succeed but it just won't.

Why don't you agree with spreading beyond our home planet BTW? Spreading beyond a single planet is the only viable long term survival strategy I think.
Well, we haven't got it right on Earth yet, so I hate to see us ruining another planet when we haven't learnt any of the lessons. If there is microbial life on Mars, it won't stand a chance once we get there.
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#30 Old 06-05-2016, 11:58 PM
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Some really good info here, thank you all who replied!

So my cow example is obviously not sustainable on a global level. One of the big reasons I went vegan, but thanks for re-enforcing that for me guys. I suppose I just wanted to know if anyone else ever probes the ethical and environmental aspects of many vegan foods - I feel that just because it's plant-based, it's not beyond reproach on an ethical level. I don't see many vegans discussing that kind of thing online.
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