A thought on Vegetarianism vs Paleo

I was thinking that vegetarians and paleo folk might not as far apart as it might look like on the face of it.

Simplifying, there are two types of vegetarians: those who do it for health reasons, and those who do it for moral reasons. It seems to me that the bridge between the health crowd and the paleo crowd might be inseparable – either meat is healthy, or it isnt.

However – for the moral crowd this looks slightly different. Let us assume we live in a world where all livestock is held under appropriate conditions. Of course this is not currently the case, but this is certainly the “grass-fed” ideal of the paleo folk. Now given that mankind dominates the globe it is fair to assume that there will be no herds of free-roaming animals that just exist – this period is over. All those “roaming” animals will have to live in a human-provided and human-controlled habitat. This comes at a cost, and this cost will only be met in scale if there is a tangible benefit for it.

So my conclusion: the choice is between animals having a good life, then being killed and eaten, or animals being denied a chance of ever been born in the first place. What is better? You decide for yourself…

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3 thoughts on “A thought on Vegetarianism vs Paleo

  1. My best friend since high school has been vegan most of that time. Even if she accepted the fact that eating vegan wasn’t as healthy as an omnivorous/paleo/whatever diet, she would continue eating vegan because her convictions are that strong that eating meat is not just unhealthy, but an immoral and unethical act that she refuses to engage in. On the other hand, vegans who eat that way to improve their health might be swayed by rational arguments and good science, or their own personal experience (see all the interviews with ex-vegans on Let Them Eat Meat).

  2. Hey hey. Like you’re blog. I just started eating a Paleo type diet (love it so far) and have been surfing around the net reading everything I can.

    I was a vegetarian for about 5 years and on my way to being Vegan. That stopped about 6 years ago when I experience some health issues that cleared up when I ate some meat again.

    Just a few comments from my experience. I went veggie for a combination of ethical/moral, health and environmental reasons. When I found out more about industrial meat farming practices it was both the ethical and environmental impacts that spoke to me. Health or what I thought I new about health at the time was also a big one. I’d say for me they all measured about equal on the ‘why’ scale. I did really well for a few years and was really conscious about the nutritional aspects of my diet. So when I started getting health issues it really threw all three ‘whys’ up in the air. I tried for many months to fix my diet because at the time I didn’t want to change because by that time it wasn’t just moral concerns about how animals are treated but the general ‘we don’t need to kill animals for our food because we have the choice. And if the choice is there then why do it?” However when I finally broke down and ate meat again and it helped immensely I went through a lot of rethinking. The ‘health’ part was the easier one to get a grip on and it ended up affecting my moral and ethical viewpoint in a big way.

    One day as I was struggling with the moral questions and arguments the question popped into my head. “If I have difficultly or can’t be healthy without eating meat and animal products then how can it not be moral to do so?” It definitely helped that during that time I was studying ecology and grew to know more about natural systems and how nature worked. Also that we are all part of that natural system.

    So in my case questions about the ‘health’ part of it led to questions about the moral part of it and my view on the morality of killing for food changed regardless of how it was produced.

    Many vegetarians and vegans tend to focus on factory farming, cruelty and suffering as one of their persuasive arguments and I am still with them on that. However they just as opposed to killing a pastured raised animal that runs around free and lives a decent life because killing is equal to suffering in their moral worldview. So even if we scrap the factory system it’s still not going to matter. Killing is the crux of the issue and in terms of eggs and dairy it’s oppression. I know a couple of vegans who have told me that my chickens are nothing but slaves and I’m stealing their eggs when I take them. Doesn’t matter in the slightest that the range around free on grass. I of course disagree now but years ago because of where my morals were I was on my way to agreeing with them.

    So you might get some to change their mind if the inappropriate conditions were scrapped but only the ones who are only doing it because of being disgusted with that system but in my experience, especially with vegans those types are few. And as the previous commenter gave an example of ‘moral’ vegans and veggies tend to really hold onto that conviction even if health arguments would not go their way.

    For me and a few others I know it was the ‘health’ reasons that made me change but it was because I personally was unhealthy and experienced some bad things. I did end up changing my moral stance but it was difficult. This is one of the reasons I think that some veggies and particularly vegans detest ex vegans and veggies who change claiming health reasons as it does or can undermine the ‘moral’ arguments. At it’s foundation it’s based on the idea that humans can live and function healthily without killing and eating animals and for the more strident ones that means everyone. No exceptions. Since we can. We should because it’s the moral thing to do. The idea or possibility that not all people can serves to undermine that foundational belief. So you get a lot of responses like ‘well you weren’t doing it right. You weren’t truly veggie vegan in the first place. Or it’s all in your head and you’re just looking for an excuse to eat meat again because you like it etc etc. I got all of those in various forms and it was difficult.

    Now I think a lot differently. I do think that many people can do well and thrive on a veggie or vegan diet. I know some that have for many years. Kudos to them. I don’t however think that it’s universial and that everyone could. Sure I was surviving but I sure as heck wasn’t thriving.

    Because of that I changed my moral mind. I still hold many moral ideas about meat. I don’t think it should be cruel and that it should be produced in the best way possible for the animal. To me the moral crux is about respect. They are giving their lives to feed mine and I don’t treat that as nothing.

    Anyways babbling a bit. So I’ll stop. 🙂

    Thanks for the blog!

    • I believe the “moral” aspect of veganism / vegatarianism is indeed the hardest. Thank you very much for writing such a long post about your personal journey in this respect!

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