I Lost an Argument with a Vegan. Here’s what I Learned.

Chris Newman
10 min readFeb 3, 2017
Image from The New Yorker

Backstory

As happens from time to time, I was presented with the accusation from a vegetarian about meat = murder and the ethics of the vegetarian diet. This accusation was made, as it usually is, in the form of a ghoulishly graphic shock video of industrial livestock slaughter. This happens so often that I’ve more or less developed a form letter as a response (a version of which you can see here), based on my own experience of the similarly graphic — but far less publicized — animal brutality that results from the vegan/vegetarian diet.

This particular response made its way to my farm’s Facebook page (the dialog is still there, you can scroll down to read it), where it was shared and eventually got into the hands of a vegan, who responded with three points.

  1. My response to PETA gore videos is full of nirvana fallacies.
  2. The vegan diet uses the least amount of land to feed everyone.
  3. Mimicking ecological patterns — including the use of animals to replicate their ecological function — is an unscientific appeal to nature.

We argued at length about each of these points. Here’s what I learned from each.

My response to PETA gore videos is full of nirvana fallacies

This one got resolved (relatively) quickly. The responder seemed to think I was bringing up animal deaths in vegan agriculture in order to convince people not to be vegan; in reality I was simply disabusing vegans of the oft-held belief that their diets don’t harm animals.

That led to a debate on whether or not these accidental deaths are more ethical than the deliberate deaths of the omnivore’s diet.

  • He argued it was the difference between deliberately shooting someone and killing them in a traffic accident.
  • I argued it was the difference between deliberately shooting someone and putting on a blindfold and shooting in the general direction of a crowd.

We agreed, in the end, that there’s still an ethical difference as concerns the…

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Chris Newman

Building a new, accessible, open, and democratic food economy in the Chesapeake Bay region @ Sylvanaqua Farms