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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Seeing as how omnis (or, as I like to call them, Meatarians) like to argue how veganism is ""wrong" and "dangerous", I think we should all compile a list of well reasoned (preferable cited where applicable and unbiased) defenses against such arguments.

For example, the argument that "meat is the reason why humans' brains were able to evolve".

My rebuttal is: It was not meat, but the discovery of cooking. Cooking allowed us a much larger and more reliable source of foods. For example, dark leafy greens which are normally too bitter for most people to eat raw, are much tastier when cooked. Another example are onions, garlic, and ginger. Those are all extremely healthy foods that we would not be able to eat raw. Many herbs, which might be dangerous when eaten improperly prepared, can be used to make medicines, and so on. My source would be Micheal Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" (which is passive aggressively unvegetarian), who then cites HIS source as "The Raw and the Stolen: Cooking and the Ecology of Human Origins" by Richard Wrangham.

Speaking of which, said book states that farmers have a symbiotic relationship with animals in order to use sustainable farming methods (and indeed, the Polyface Farms explored in the book does so brilliantly). My rebuttal to THAT would be that we can still have a symbiotic relationship with said animals WITHOUT eating them: the species that we have domesticated to unable to survive on their own can have a safe, open place to live on the farms, where food is provided, and in turn they help us grow OUR food. It can all be done even if we cut out the slaughtering process (which is definitely NOT symbiotic).
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
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Originally Posted by Blobbenstein View Post

I think that humans probably took advantage of the cooking process after the brain had become larger.
really??? o_O Where did you hear that from???
 

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well I just sort of assumed it...I don't think chimps or even more evolved versions of chimps would be able to light fires and cook.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blobbenstein View Post

well I just sort of assumed it...I don't think chimps or even more evolved versions of chimps would be able to light fires and cook.
That is more of a logical deduction than it is an assumption, I think.

Humans are not capable of eating raw meat in any significant quantity.

To eat meat in any significant quantity humans have to cook it.

The use and control of fire to cook food requires that a big brain already exists.

The human brain must therefore have become big before humans could cook and eat any significant quantities of meat.
 

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Another logical deduction ..

If eating meat causes a large brain to grow then the obligate carnivores and carrion eaters would have the biggest brains in the animal world.

No cat or vulture, to the best of my knowledge, has ever been a grandmaster of chess.
 

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And another!

You need a big brain to cook and eat meat.

You need a slightly bigger brain still in order to stop.

That one being based on the very simple observation that people tend to go veg*an when their brain becomes capable of processing, retaining and linking relatively simple facts.

The counter observation being that humans who stick stoicaly to eating meat quite obvioulsy find the processing, retention and linking of certain simple facts intellectualy impossible to do.
 

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Originally Posted by AKTF View Post

Speaking of which, said book states that farmers have a symbiotic relationship with animals in order to use sustainable farming methods (and indeed, the Polyface Farms explored in the book does so brilliantly). My rebuttal to THAT would be that we can still have a symbiotic relationship with said animals WITHOUT eating them: the species that we have domesticated to unable to survive on their own can have a safe, open place to live on the farms, where food is provided, and in turn they help us grow OUR food. It can all be done even if we cut out the slaughtering process (which is definitely NOT symbiotic).
You might be onto something, though it doesn't follow naturally from the Polyface Farms model. That model succeeds because their pigs, cattle and chicken all have a function besides meat production, not instead of meat production. I know some organic vegetable farmers who keep chickens, and to an extent their chickens might be helping fertilize the produce fields before planting season and after harvest. But it's hard to get it just right, because different vegetables grow at different times of the year, so there's usually something growing the chickens can't be allowed near. And if the growers weren't also taking meat and eggs from those birds, the birds wouldn't be yielding back what it costs to keep them.

It would be cool if deer scat turned out to be a high-quality natural fertilizer. For a perfect symbiotic relationship between animals and planted fields, maybe instead of domestic cattle and chickens a farm could attract and exploit deer manure, sterilized of its maggots by wild turkeys or guinea fowl. But the farmer would have to be able to manipulate just when those animals would have access to those acres, so the wild critters would be fertilizing the land but not devouring the crops. Very high fencing with the gates closed between planting and harvest, but wide-open the rest of the year? I guess if it were that easy, farmers wouldn't work so hard to repel whatever deer they already attract.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blobbenstein \t\t\t\t\t \t\t\t\t
\t\t\t\tI think that humans probably took advantage of the cooking process after the brain had become larger.
Quote:
Originally Posted by AKTF View Post

really??? o_O Where did you hear that from???
I heard that too. The earliest evidence of hearths is believed to be in homo erectus or homo ergaster settlements. They were late hominids and had pretty big brains. So late that some of them co-existed into the same time line as Neanderthals and early Cro Magnons.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
so, what WAS the thing that made our brains grow? And what would be a trustworthy, unbiased citation?
 

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Originally Posted by Joan Kennedy View Post

I know some organic vegetable farmers who keep chickens, and to an extent their chickens might be helping fertilize the produce fields before planting season and after harvest.
I'm 90 % sure the reason some organic farmers have chickens isn't for their fertilizer value, but their bug eating value.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by AKTF View Post

so, what WAS the thing that made our brains grow? And what would be a trustworthy, unbiased citation?
Evolution, those with the big brains were better able to adapt and pass on their genes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
@ Joan Kennedy

Well, in the book, the method is that the cows, graze on the pasture (of which there is a very meticulously planned cycle to prevent overgrazing). Then, they poop. After the cows move on, the chickens come in. As they scratch at and pick apart the manure (therefore, spreading the fertilizer FOR the farmer), they eat the bugs in the poop, which is where they get their food (and if they need more nutrition, the chickens can eat the unfertilized eggs as the ones do in nature).

The pasture rotation mentioned above is so that when the cows eat the upper part of the grass, the grass immediately compensates by shedding their deeper roots, which then decomposes to support a continuous layer of humus. But it must be after the FIRST bite, or else the grass can't keep up, therefore resulting in desertification. The food required to sustain the animals is already there; the farmer doesn't need to buy anything. All he or she needs to do is provide the place, and the organization of moving them around. The Polyface farmer mentioned that it is only possible on a small scale, and that to grow too big means to let the whole system utterly collapse. He also refuses to truck/fly them long distances...so he is strictly for local food.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by AKTF View Post

@ Joan Kennedy

Well, in the book, the method is that the cows, graze on the pasture (of which there is a very meticulously planned cycle to prevent overgrazing). Then, they poop. After the cows move on, the chickens come in. As they scratch at and pick apart the manure (therefore, spreading the fertilizer FOR the farmer), they eat the bugs in the poop, which is where they get their food (and if they need more nutrition, the chickens can eat the unfertilized eggs as the ones do in nature).

The pasture rotation mentioned above is so that when the cows eat the upper part of the grass, the grass immediately compensates by shedding their deeper roots, which then decomposes to support a continuous layer of humus. But it must be after the FIRST bite, or else the grass can't keep up, therefore resulting in desertification. The food required to sustain the animals is already there; the farmer doesn't need to buy anything. All he or she needs to do is provide the place, and the organization of moving them around. The Polyface farmer mentioned that it is only possible on a small scale, and that to grow too big means to let the whole system utterly collapse. He also refuses to truck/fly them long distances...so he is strictly for local food.
I've seen the three extensive videos on youtube where Joel Salatin demonstrates the interactions between the pastures, cattle and birds, as well as the pigs keeping his forest floor cleared. The cattle are moved from pasture to pasture on a daily basis. It's only on the day before the maggots would be hatching that his egg-laying hens are set upon the cowpies. His cows don't fertilize cropland, but only pasture grass.

And here's the thing: It costs money to properly care for farm animals, even pastured ones that live on grass. Besides vast quantities of potable water, vet care, winter haybales, foul-weather shelters, etc., there's the cost of the land itself, there's lost income from every field that's not under the plow. If fertilizer is all you're getting back from your animals, the cost of producing that fertilizer is too high, way higher than if you grew crops and just bought commercial fertilizer. And if you were keeping cattle and chickens through their natural lifespans on pastured acres, that would tie up too much acreage unless all you mean to grow is hay. And if all you're growing is hay for your own livestock, all you're doing is keeping a bunch of "lawn ornament" animals that do not benefit you economically. The model could theoretically work for an animal sanctuary that receives donations, but it doesn't generate income from actual desired products the way Polyface does. Can you come up with a method of rotating pasture with farmed crops that uses animals and doesn't cost much to keep the animals? That would be key. I haven't come across a business model for keeping animals that give you back fertilizer but nothing else. Doesn't mean there couldn't be, but for the Polyface operation, profit from their meat and eggs is what keeps them in business.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
so what would be a good way to counteract the argument of "we need animals" etc.? Because that was my reason, so far, as to why people don't have to eat meat...
 

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Originally Posted by Forster View Post

I'm 90 % sure the reason some organic farmers have chickens isn't for their fertilizer value, but their bug eating value.
True that. If you have a horse ranch, you might keep wild guinea fowl to control the tick population. But for produce farmers, the ones I know keep the chickens away from the crops during growing season, which is the high point of concern about bugs, or else the chickens will ravage the produce.
 

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Originally Posted by AKTF View Post

so what would be a good way to counteract the argument of "we need animals" etc.? Because that was my reason, so far, as to why people don't have to eat meat...
You'll run into a lot of opinion that some people need meat, or that they themselves need it, because they had tried going without it and it made them sick. If you get into "you must have been doing it wrong" the conversation will just go downhill from there. Even though they were probably doing it wrong. But if you're talking to someone who thinks everyone needs meat, the counter is your own good health, and the great results heart patients, diabetics and the obese get when they give up meat and fat (and sugar, and refined carbs). The environmental argument is that it's wasteful to grow all that grain and feed most of it to livestock, when if we just eat the grain directly it's far more efficient. Uses less land, less fertilizer, less water. And of course if you're talking to someone who is currently in poor health and is looking for a change, and you're all healthy, the health argument almost makes itself. It certainly counters the "People need meat" stance. I weighed too much and had high blood pressure and cholesterol before giving up meat and most eggs and dairy. I'm well over 50 years old, so a lot of my friends and relatives are starting to have health issues. People saw me shedding weight and wanted to know what I was doing different.
 

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I've got to make a comment on the whole brain size issue and some apparent misconceptions about how evolution actually works.

You've got two elements that comprise evolution - Natural Selection and Random Genetic Mutation/Gene Drift. These two work very much in tandem, but the former often follows the latter when a mutation if beneficial.

It's not so much that an early hominid discovered fire and then his brain magically grew three sizes that day. It's far more likely that, quite by accident and devoid of any higher purpose, a few apes were born with brains slightly more advanced than their parents. This was not a negative mutation, or even a neutral one - this was a positive mutation. The slight boost in brainpower likely enabled these creatures to survive better in their own habitat, so they successfully lived to mating age and passed their genes on. As with any gene, it would have been more or less prominent throughout the biological population in certain individuals. As time went on, the more intelligent apes in whom the mutation was most pronounced had more children than their rivals because they were better able to provide for the tribe.

I'd say it's far more likely that the advanced brain development of the apes who eventually became Homo Sapiens actually started before fire was tamed or meat became a big part of the human diet. Again, assuming the opposite is an argument for directed or goal oriented evolution, which the majority of anthropologists do not believe in at all. All of the strong evidence for evolution points towards random mutations. I'd say it's more like the brain came before the fire or the meat. The brain is what enabled beings like Homo Erectus to devise tools to help him manage his environment and do things like hunt animals which he could not possibly bring down with his own body.

The moral/ethical side of this equation, of course, is that regardless of what our very early ancestors did - especially the ones who were not fully anatomically Homo Sapiens - this is not an instruction manual for how a modern person should live or behave. You could present strong anthropological evidence that things like rape or infanticide were very much a part of pre-history as well. There's lots of fossil evidence for cannibalism, too. In fact, it's entirely plausible that one or all of these things may have actually helped humans survive in the very early days. Does that mean that we should practice them in the modern world? I never hear anybody say "Well, other animals kill the babies of their rivals" or "Well, other animals rape." Why should "Well, other animals eat meat" be any different?
 

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To the first matter of good rebuttals to common omni arguments against-veganism, here are some very useful links:
Animal Rights Frequently Asked Questions: http://animal-rights.com/
ADAPTT's All About Veganism: http://www.adaptt.org/veganism.html
Some of my notes from AR 2011, the presentation titled "Debating Animal Rights": http://www.vegansoapbox.com/common-q...bout-veganism/
Vegan Outreach "Why Vegan": http://www.veganoutreach.org/whyvegan/

In regards to the development of the human brain and whether it was due to consumption of meat or just coincided with that, here is a detailed article on the subject: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal...ture10629.html
and here's a bit of a summary with commentary (in case you don't want to buy the article): http://paleovegan.blogspot.com/2011/...ve-tissue.html
Here's a snippet:
Quote:
After assessing the cost and importance of various tissues within modern humans, Aiello & Wheeler concluded that the human tissue most reduced in comparison to other primates was the GI tract. As our brains got bigger, our guts got smaller. As a result, we had to become dependent on more high-quality, nutrient-dense, easily-digested food than other primates to maintain the high cost of our brains, since our reduced guts could no longer handle the sorts of food on which our ancestors had subsisted for millions of years. They proposed that the most likely reliable source of such calories was meat and other animal products. A dramatic increase in animal matter in the hominin diet eased the energy constraints imposed by nature on big brains, and allowed our brains to grow to massive proportions without violating Kleiber's law.

In the popular press and later, in the blogosphere, the short hand version of the ETH became, "meat made us smart," or "meat-eating made us human." But that's not precisely what Aiello & Wheeler were claiming, and the difference between what they claimed and what carnists who cite them claim is crucial to understanding what Navarrete, et. al., have accomplished with their new paper.

For the ETH, meat itself wasn't really the point. Though Aiello & Wheeler proposed it as the probable source of the necessary calories, they hinted that other high-quality foods, like sugary fruits, tubers, or oil-rich nuts and seeds, could also have done the job. A close reading shows that the ETH was fundamentally about total calories, not specific calorie sources. Even so, the prominence of meat-eating in the paper supplied de facto legitimacy to several paleofantasies about the necessity of meat to the human diet, one of which would become the modern paleo-diet movement.

But more fundamental to the ETH than meat-eating -- indeed, the whole point of the paper -- was the claim that Kleiber's law is maintained through a necessary trade-off between expensive tissues within a given organism, in this case Homo sapiens. Increased meat-eating was merely a consequence of this claim, not the foundation of it. And for the last 15 years or so, the argument over whether meat was important to our evolution has obscured the more fundamental -- and eminently more testable -- claim of an expensive tissue trade-off.
He explains how this entire concept was a hypothesis, not confirmed theory. Other scientists, the ones who wrote the article in Nature, tested the hypothesis and blew the idea out of the water. It's faulty reasoning because it's based on wrong assumptions. Read the entire article to understand exactly why.
 

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Catching Fire is a fairly recent (and non-specialist) book on the cooking/fire and human evolution hypothesis. Hearing the book reviewed on NPR was my introduction to the hypothesis. On Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Catching-Fire-...1099090&sr=1-1

The 'brain building' is argued to have followed, not preceded the skill of cooking.
 
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