Opinions we all have them. Many of our opinions are formed as we are growing up from the things were taught as a child. Good or bad we also now live in an age where information and misinformation is available at our fingertips. We are under the influence of clever advertising and self-proclaimed experts. All of this influences our thinking and it is our responsibility to sort through hype and hopefully find the truth. Sometimes this can be hard. No matter what the topic there will always be someone with a different viewpoint and argument and veganism is no different with anti-vegan arguments often put to us.
One of the things you will find as a vegan is that you are regularly questioned about its merits and values. From family worrying about your health to friends telling you “it’s just not normal” we often find ourselves having to explain why we have chosen this lifestyle and why it is beneficial. The most important thing we can do is educate ourselves and answer any questions, calmly, factually and articulately.
See these questions as an opportunity to promote veganism rather than feel someone is attacking your choices. As we said in our article on how to promote veganism, be a lighthouse and help guide people with information rather than a tugboat and try to drag them to your way of thinking. So, from those who have read an article that says cows will explode if they’re not milked, to somebody raised to believe meat is necessary for protein let’s look at ten of the classic anti-vegan arguments.
Humans have always eaten meat
Well actually we will never know exactly what humans have eaten as our diet has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years. What we do know is it would have differed depending on what part of the world we were and that primarily it would have been plant based. Eating meat would have been secondary and was for survival when other food sources were scarce.
This has been proven looking at ancient bone DNA as well as human biology. Anthropologist Christina Warriner discusses this in her TED talk where she makes it clear that humans have “no know anatomical, physiological or genetic adaptations to meat consumption”. Meat has never been eaten in the quantity it is today and is just not necessary in our diet. And even if we have always done something it doesn’t mean we should always do it. Humans have done some terrible things in the past and considered them normal that, is the beauty of evolution!
Vegans aren’t healthy
Well actually you could very well be vegan and be unhealthy. If you choose to have a diet consisting of crisps, fries, bread and vegan fast food then the likelihood is that you won’t be very healthy. On the other hand, a whole food plant based vegan diet has been repeatedly shown to be the optimum diet for health span, that is longevity plus health.
A whole food plant base diet will not only supply all the micro and macro nutrients required but also the additional benefits of fibre, phytonutrients and antioxidants. All of these come without the saturated fat, dietary cholesterol, IGF-1 and heme-iron that is found in animal products and that is detrimental to our health.
In fact, the American Dietetic Association states that overall vegans have lower cholesterol levels, blood pressure, rates of hypertension and type 2 diabetes than meat eaters. They also have lower BMI’s, a lower risk of death from heart disease and lower cancer rates.
We have canine teeth so we are made to eat meat
This, along with, you need meat for protein, is one of the first anti-vegan arguments you are likely to hear. There are many reasons why this just isn’t true. The first is that apart from rodents and rabbits virtually all mammals have canine teeth. Of these some of the largest belong to herbivores and primary plant-eaters.
Good examples are gorillas and baboons who apart from the occasional termite or ant are almost exclusively herbivorous. Then of course the is the animal with the largest canines on earth the hippo who is completely herbivorous. In virtually every respect our anatomy resembles that of herbivorous animals more than carnivorous or omnivorous species.
Our mouth opening is small, our teeth are not particularly sharp and our jaw allows the side-to-side motion that gives our large molars (our primary teeth) the ability to shred plant fibres.
We need to eat animals or where would they go?
I sometimes wonder if people are serious when they ask this question. I really hope they aren’t because if they are I wonder about their common sense. But then most of the time anti-vegan arguments don’t make any sense! Either way the answer is easy because we are not suggesting that everyone become vegan overnight.
We know that this just won’t happen but that gradually people will transition to eating a plant-based diet and purchase less animal based products. As the demand for animal products decreases fewer animals will be bred until we reach to a point where we can let nature do her job in keeping the animal population to a sustainable number.
Plants feel pain
When I am told this I wonder do you really think that chopping up some spinach is the same as slaughtering a pig an animal that is proven to be sentient, can have the intelligence of a 3-year-old child and who experiences joy, loneliness, frustration, fear. But just in case someone really does believe this let’s look at the differences.
First do plants feel pain? We do know that plants can respond to stimuli and studies have suggested that they know when they are under attack. However, since they have no central nervous systems, nerve endings, or brains they do not feel pain in the way that sentient animals do.
Even if plants were to feel pain a vegan diet is still the best option because the majority of plants grown are fed to livestock. By eating plants directly instead of feeding them to livestock much fewer would be needed. It actually requires on average 16 kilos of grain in order to produce 1 kilo of meat.
Animals eat other animals it’s natural.
Yes, without doubt in certain circumstances it is completely natural. There are animals that are obligate carnivores and that have to eat meat for their survival. However, when used as an argument against veganism it really doesn’t make sense. Let’s start with the fact that not all animals eat meat.
Some are omnivores and many of them are herbivores. Humans are not carnivores, which means that we don’t have to eat meat to be healthy. So, to compare ourselves with animals that are obligate carnivores doesn’t make any sense. If we are going to compare ourselves to animals, well lions have been known to kill and eat their own offspring.
My dog Nelo likes to smell other dog’s butts when he first meets them so by that logic both of these should be ok for humans to do. Obviously not, we are not looking to take our ethics from animals, it would be great to think we have evolved enough as a species to set our own morals.
Cows have to be milked, its healthy for them
It still amazes me that so many people know so little about the dairy industry. Let’s just answer this as briefly as we can. In order for a cow to produce milk, she must have a calf. I’ll say that again as for some reason people seem to have missed that fact. In order for a cow to produce milk, she must have a calf. Cows on dairy farms are impregnated so that they will become pregnant and produce milk.
Once the cow gives birth the babies are taken away almost immediately, often leaving the mothers crying for days. Depending on the sex of the calf one of two things will usually happen. If it is male it will usually be confined for around 16 weeks in a tiny veal crates often unable to turn around. Then these weak, 4-month-old youngsters are sent to the slaughterhouse. If it is female it will be raised to continue the same cycle as its mother.
After various births and milking cycles and once milk production rate becomes low and unprofitable the cow is killed. On average dairy cows are slaughtered at between 5 and 6 years of age. The natural lifespan of a cow is around twenty years. Cows do not need to be milked. They only produce milk for one reason, the same as humans and all other mammals and that is to feed their young.
You can’t be 100% vegan
Well actually you can because the definition of veganism is:
“A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”THE VEGAN SOCIETY
So, we can all do our best. Does that mean at some point we won’t either have a direct or indirect negative impact on an animal’s life? No of course not. It may be the field mouse that was killed in the harvesting of grain or an insect we accidently trod on. All we can do in life is our best and by following the philosophy quoted above we are doing just that.
Animal products are tasty and vegan food is tasteless
Honestly as an anti-vegan argument I find this one of the most petty. The funny thing is this tends to come from meat eaters who live on 2 or 3 of the same dishes week in week out without any variation. If we look at food overall the vast majority of non-processed natural foods are vegan. Be that fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, pasta, potatoes, herbs and spices.
It is these items that we use to season and flavour our dishes. The fact is there are thousands of wonderful flavoursome and healthy vegan dishes. A vegan sweet potato and butternut squash pie just won the top award at the annual British pie awards and award-winning vegan restaurants are appearing worldwide. It’s that people form an emotional bond with their food and are reluctant to change.
It’s these bonds that makes them think one food is tastier than another. The fact is that animal products are a result of the suffering of animals. If we can justify an animal suffering just because we like the taste, it suggests that personal pleasure is more important than ethics.
Going vegan will make people unemployed
We live in an ever-changing world. There are no more “jobs for life” and whatever industry we are in we have to look to evolve and adapt. For some reason, we are led to believe this shouldn’t apply to the farming industry and that we are responsible for their livelihood. Well there is good news and bad.
Of course, we don’t want to see anyone out of a job but as more people look to reduce their consumption of animal products it opens up many new possibilities for farmers to diversify. They have the opportunity to use their land to produce sustainable products that will be better in the long term for the environment, our health and most certainly the animals. Many farmers are already doing this.
A farmer in Sweden has replaced his livestock with growing oats. And recently we have seen the award-winning short film 73 cows about a dairy farmer who sent his cows to a sanctuary so he could change to vegan organic agriculture. So, no going vegan won’t make people unemployed but hopefully as more people embraced a vegan lifestyle farmers will look to adapt and embrace animal free suitable farming.
Anti-Vegan Arguments – You Will Hear More
So that was 10 anti vegan arguments that we regularly hear. To be honest there are many others we could have added but we didn’t want to make this read too long. If you are confronted with questions or arguments against being vegan take it as an opportunity to explain the benefits calmly. Don’t attack people’s choices as this very rarely has a positive outcome but look to guide and educate as much as possible.
And finally look after yourself and don’t let others negativity affect you. Remember that you are doing the best you can for animals, the planet, and your health. Have you heard and strange anti vegan arguments? Let us know in the comments below