Friday, December 19, 2014

Kill and eat. The deeply unnatural, and rather odd, nature of vegetarianism.

I suppose its indicative or our general desire to be polite, even in print while commenting, but rarely does anyone bother to take on the topic of vegetarianism, how rare it is in the historic examples in the true sense, and how unnatural it is.

 Bean field, New Jersey.  Only in a society with highly developed row crop agriculture is an unnatural diet like vegetarianism possible.

But every now and then, it's worth noting something like this, particularly when those advocating a certain position have become so irrational and aggressive about their position, as vegetarians and their extremist adherents, vegans, have become.  Indeed, I suppose it might be further indicative that we have arrived at this point in that not only I'm now commenting on it, but Stephen Pastis, who previously limited his satiric wit in a class sense to fanatic bicyclist, has now added an equally fanatic irritating character to poke fun at, that being a vegan.

So, let's start with a simple set of truths.

First of all, vegetarianism in any form is a deeply unnatural diet. Human beings aren't designed to eat a strictly vegetable diet, and those who do are engaging in a deeply unnatural act.

Secondly, only in very advanced societies where a human's protein requirements can be made up in other ways, with considerable effort on the part of the eater, or on the part of society at large, can such a diet even be contemplated.

Thirdly, there aren't any well established religions of any antiquity, anywhere, which hold to the concept that a vegetarian diet is somehow morally superior to a diet featuring meat.  And to suggest it comports with Christianity is just fooling yourself in the extreme.

Oh, I know that vegetarians are now rolling in their tofu in anger, but these are the simple facts. And, if arguments work the way they usually do, anyone contesting these simple facts is busy building a straw man to argue against, raising arguments to defeat that I haven't brought up.

No, I'm going with history and nature on this one, and frankly any rational eater ought to as well.

And before I go on to state those facts in greater detail, let me add one more thing.

Everything, and everybody, dies.  You will dear reader, and so will I.  That's obvious, but as with much in contemporary Western society, we're busy ignoring that, and that figures into this topic. In our contemporary society, much effort is expended by many trying to fool ourselves that death is unnatural and can be wholly avoided.  It can't be, and for each of us, it won't be.

The diet a human being is evolved to eat is phenomenally well established.  Indeed, a recent National Geographic article detailed it well.  In a state of nature, human's eat meat, and crave it.

Now, in a state of nature, they also hunt it.  Before any person tries to qualify this by noting that they restrict their meat intake to fish alone, and they are therefore somehow superior, fishing is merely fish hunting.  The only distinction between fishing and hunting is that we've named it differently if it regards fish.  Not that this is wholly unique to fishing, students of language will note that taking frogs is sometimes referred to frogging or frog gigging, and hunters of waterfowl are sometimes claimed to engage in waterfowling, or just fowling.

 Antelope hunter, 19th Century Wyoming. Antelope hunting, including what amounts to a type of subsistence hunting, is very common in Wyoming to this day and very lean antelope makes a dinner entry on a lot of regional tables.  In  terms of what you're evolved to eat, this is it.

And in a state of nature, that's what people eat, and how they get it.  Animals, birds and fish.

 Trout hunters, i.e., trout fisherman, Colorado high country 1946. With such an nice looking stream such as this, why does every single Colorado fisherman seem to be fishing in Wyoming?  Also, given as trout fishing is trout hunting, isn't there something a little weird about "catch and release". We fish to eat, after all.

Now, for the most part, in any such society, people still eat more vegetable matter than meat, and for some simple reasons. One is that we're evolved to eat that as well, not exclusively, but in addition. Secondly, getting meat is pretty tough work, even where its plentiful, and even today when hunted.  Calories are expended getting it, as well as time. So, it's quite true that even in hunting societies, of any type, more vegetative matter is eaten than meat.  It's also true that in such societies meat is strongly craved, and vegetative food often disdained, but they are both consumed, with considerably more plant life consumed than meat.

Elk hunters, 19th Century. This hunters work has only just begun, given that he has a bull in the woods.

That's the basic human diet and the only natural one.  A person can try to theorize their way around it, but that is it. That's the scientific, biologic, and historic fact. And that's what your body wants to eat.

Now, the only reason that anyone eats in any different fashion is due to agriculture, and agriculture alone. The irony of that is that it really take fairly advanced, if not fully modern, production agriculture to eat in any other fashion, and its of note that generally farmers, who are pretty attuned to nature, aren't vegetarians.  Only the very modern production agriculture we have in the Western world can allow something like veganism to exist.

 Farmer, late 1930s.  This farmer, engaged in a pretty natural act with animal assistance, is doing something that early agriculturalist would have recognized.  With this heavy labor, he also was certainly not a vegetarian.

The reason for that is that is is only through production agriculture can sufficient protein supplying crops be grown in order to allow for such diets to exist in society. And because of that, ironically, vegetarianism in any form actually cuts not only against the natural order, but it actually destroys it.

Now, I don't mean to dump on farmers here, and indeed I'm a species of farmer myself. But the plant life that has sufficient protein in order to substitute for animal life is crop agriculture, not grass, and that means that it has to be put in, and it supplants, more natural crops. That's neither good nor bad, in a moral sense, it just is. But as something that is, a person should be aware of it. And the irony of any type of crop farming is that when it becomes intensive, like row crop agriculture of any kind, it involves the killing of animals, which farmers well know and accept.  It isn't possible to plow, plant or harvest without killing something, and it further isn't possible to get any crop to market without something also being killed occasionally in the process.  And it involves the supplanting of animals from their preexisting habitat.  Deer and elk don't naturally occur in soybean fields. So, vegans, you're killing, by proxy, and driving things off their habitat. And that is just as true if you go all organic and free trade as if you do not.  And, as you are basing your entire diet on crop agriculture, you are actually more destructive in a way, as people who obtain protein from meat at least can obtain that from meat that came from an animal that lived in a fairly natural way, and which didn't destroy its econiche.  Indeed, some forms of meat, which come in for frequent attacks form those who are ignorant of the realities, comes from animals that can live and usually do live pretty close to their natural state. Beef is the best example, in domestic animals, as they're a large ungulate and large ungulates usually just hand around eating grass, which is what beef cattle pretty much do for most of their lives.

Of course, you can also hunt for your mean, in part or whole, which not only doesn't impact wildlands, but which has been demonstrated to be their most effective protector.  Its hunters who have been the main drivers for the protection of any type of wildland, followed, in the United States, by ranchers who require what most people would regard as wiildlands, even if they don't, large acreages for grazing.

Moreover, the natural diet is the one that's best for you.  That's the one you are evolved to eat.

Now, note here I didn't say that the contemporary fast food American diet is best for you. That wouldn't be true at all. And I'm not saying any diet that incorporates meat is ipso facto a good one for you.  Any diet that departs from a natural one, and that includes the one you get at the burger joint and the one you get at the vegan cafe, can be harmful.  So, a person who is sitting there eating the all meat and cheese pizza or the Double Triple Burger Supreme can't take comfort at this either.  Ideally, you ought to be eating meat that's pretty lean in proportion to a reasonable percentage of vegetables. Better yet, you ought to participate in getting that meat yourself in some fashion, in part if not in whole.

But let's bring up another point here before its missed, which is the simple one that either way look at it, you're going to die anyway.  Oh yes, that again.

There seems to be a general belief in western society now that if you eat the correct odd diet, no matter how far from nature it may be, get the same holistic philosophy that some actor advances, or take the right pills, you're going to live on forever. Well, you aren't.

Eating a sane diet may extend your life, that's for sure, just as eating an unhealthy one may shorten it.  Or more accurately, a sane diet may help keep you from dieing prematurely, maybe. Getting exercise, not smoking, not drinking too much, proper medicine, and avoiding excessive stress also all contribute to that. But anyway you look at it, you are going to pass on, and imagining that if you pass up on the roast beef, or even the hamburger, avoid the offered glass of beer, and just suck down some concoction called a "smoothie" that has the consistency of pooh will make you live forever is delusional.  Just something people should keep in mind, before going whole hog into some peculiar philosophy of diet.  Make yourself miserable if you want to, but the grim reaper is going to stop by anyhow.  Of course, don't invite him early by your conduct either.

On this, by the way, as the boosters of vegetarianism are fond of citing examples of somebody they claim to be vegetarians (although those examples aren't always so clear, and omit some interesting examples of clearly vegetarian historic figures, like Adolf Hitler*) consider that Chief Washakie, the most significant figure of the Shoshone in the 19th Century, lived to be 101 years old, and he definitely wasn't a vegetarian.  He's not the only Native American figure of that period to live to that age either.  That would suggest an outdoor life, getting plenty of exercise, might be the real key to having a long life, outside of course of fortunate genetics.

Monument to famous centenarian and meat eater, Chief Washakie, in Laramie Wyoming.

Now, having already noted that if you are a vegetarian or a vegan, you're participating whole scale in killing animals, let's also note that vegetarians have no claim to moral or religious superiority, and these positions are not in keeping with any accepted religious or moral position of antiquity.  We've already basically disposed of the moral superiority claim, but to restate it, if you are a vegan or vegetarian, you're relying whole scale on a row crop system of agriculture that depends on fairly destructive farming practices combined with international transportation, both of which kill things right and left.  Relying on killing by proxy is, if anything, dishonest and less philosophically sound than accepting that the killing occurs.  The only intellectually honest approach is to do some of it  yourself for your diet.

And no pre modern religion every held to vegetarianism.

Hinduism, which is sometimes cited in these regards, does not, or at least the majority of Hindus are not in sects which require vegetarianism. We've already addressed this in the thread on myths, but the vast majority of Hindus do in fact eat meat. The Dali Lama eats meat.  And while I'm not an expert on Hinduism, as with Christianity, we need to be careful to distinguish a discipline from a religious tenant.  Now, it is true that a minority of Hindus, for some reason, are vegetarians, but the percentage of them that are is a minority percentage, and I don't know the origin of their practice. That most Hindus do eat meat, but have dietary practices that restrict the intake of some forms of meat, seems to be wholly lost in the west. But then the nature of Central Asian religions, such as Hinduism and its reform, Buddhism, seem to be nearly completely lost on westerns in general, including those who claim to embrace those religions.**

Indeed, while I can already sense the hackles on this being raised, let's be blunt about the major Monotheistic religions. None of them, none whatsoever, have any religious tenant that supports even vaguely vegetarianism.***  Indeed, the contrary would be quite true.

Judaism certainly does not.  Indeed, we learn from the Old Testament that Issac sent Esau "out into the field to hunt game for me and make me savory meat."  Genesis Chapter 27.  And we know further that God instructed Moses to have lambs slaughtered for the first Passover, with the blood placed on the door mantels so that the Angel of Death would pass those house holds over.  I have no doubt that there are vegetarian Jews today, but there's no support for that practice in the texts of the religion itself.

Indeed Jesus, who of course was a Jew, also wasn't a vegetarian (as indeed nobody in that region of the world would have been, and indeed hardly anyone on earth would have been).  Jesus called more than one fisherman to his discipleship and, as already explored, the fish they were taking were killed and eaten.  And Jesus undoubtedly ate more than one Passover meal, a feature of which, from the very first Passover, is lamb.  At the Last Supper, lamb was undoubtedly consumed.

Indeed, given this, it's really odd that some contemporary Christians will cite their Christianity as a basis for their vegetarianism. When they do so, they're largely just flat out rationalizing a practice that has no basis in Christian theology at all. Some will point towards certain historic Christian figures or communities, but when they do so, they fail to understand that its largely the case that those examples had that practice as a discipline, rather than a doctrine. That is, these examples largely gave up eating meat as a sacrifice for their Faith, and therefore they didn't give it up because God had implicitly prohibited eating meat, but rather he'd allowed.  In this sense, this example is not only poorly understood by those who cited it, but if the example of the same people is to be followed, there's a lot of other things that would likewise be given up, one of which is the blaring headline on nearly every magazine a person has the misfortune to observe in the grocery store line.  Funny, indeed, that a practice that was one of discipline by select groups who abstained from other things that our society loudly proclaims as necessary would be cited here, or that a practice which every Catholic and Orthodox faithful still practices at least during the Friday's of lent would be so misunderstood.

 Orthodox monk.  Some, but certainly not all, monks in various monastic orders observe meatless regulations.  Of course, they also fast as well, and fasting and abstaining from meat on certain days are features of Catholic and Orthodox faiths for reasons that have nothing to do with diet whatsoever.

And misunderstood indeed is the Christian relationship to food in this context.  Not only is there no proclamation in the New Testament against eating meat, Christians were given license in the New Testament to eat meats that Jews had heretofore not been allowed to.
On the next day, as they were on their way and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!”
Kill and eat.  Not even close to what those who imagine themselves to be following in terms of Christianity in the context of vegetarianism, like to cite.

And of course Moslems also  have a history of eating meat.  I'm much less familiar with the tenants of Islam in this context, but basically Islamic practices and laws concerning diet are fairly similar to Jewish ones, with the addition that Moslems are not supposed to drink alcohol.  Like the Jews, Moslems have a least one yearly observance with requires the slaughtering of a lamb, so the religion doesn't square with vegetarianism at all. However, being a faith that's much more centered in the non Westernized regions of the globe up until very recently, I also do not think I've ever heard anyone claim to be a Moslem vegetarian either.

Okay, so where does this take us, where, to here.

Well for one thing, the fact that there are so many vegetarians and even vegans says something about our society and the the times we live in, and not in a good way, for the most part. Societies that live close to nature live close to reality, and that a lot of people are electing for this deeply unnatural, and even anti-natural, diet shows how far from a sense of reality we now live. That a lot of these same people are very well meaning and also deeply believe that their acting in accordance with nature, or in accordance with some species of philosophical high mindedness, shows how badly we now fail to understand basic nature and have even a remote grasp on philosophical matters.  This doesn't mean that these people are "bad" people, but it does mean that a huge number of these people are acting in accordance with a set of beliefs that can only exist if a person has very little exposure to the natural order and even a misconstruction of it, with some certain exceptions existing for people who have taken this up for other thought out reasons.

Additionally, a set of summations about this can be made, those being:

1. Be a vegetarian if you wish, but don't fool yourself that its an ethically superior choice, or an environmentally benign one.  It's neither, save for the sole example of somebody giving up meat as a species of intentional moral self sacrifice, which is very rare in this day and age. But even at that, unless that sacrifice is based in religion, it isn't really going towards any point.

2.  Don't fool yourself that its the healthiest choice going.  Reason would stand to dictate that the diet you should eat is the one you are evolved to eat, and that's not a vegetarian diet by any stretch of the imagination. Don't make false comparisons here either, and note that a diet of Big Macs isn't good for you.  Of course it isn't, but two unnatural choices doesn't mean that those are the only choices that exist.

3.  Let's not pretend that its the "natural" diet, that's a western world hallucination only capable of being believed in a highly industrialized society that can supply protein in some other fashion.  Nowhere else is that fantasy believed and its scientifically invalid.

4.  Don't argue that its religiously mandated by religions of antiquity, that just isn't so and any argument to that effect is demonstrably false.

Does this mean you shouldn't be a vegetarian? Well, frankly it does.  As a diet its not supported by our evolution and that pretty much means you're having to make huge adjustments somewhere. Does that mean you ought to eat bacon burgers three times a day?  Of course not, that's not supported by our evolution either.  It does mean that the folks in the western world who take some of their own meat in the field or streams, and there are those who take all of their meat that way, are dieting closest to what nature would have for us, but it otherwise means that a person ought to simply use their heads a bit and not buy into dietary fantasy, something that's particularly common in our flighty and overweight society.  Perhaps it would be simply best if people bought a fly rod or a shotgun and headed out to the field every now and then.


*One of the most amusing, or maddening, arguments made by vegetarians is that every single historical figure of consequence was a vegetarian.  This sort of argument is actually common for any sort of social movement, which is what vegetarianism really is, and they all tend to go back towards figures of antiquity on occasion as the further back you go, the more difficult any assertion you might make is to disprove.  Rarely are the claims for any one person analyzed in depth.  For example, I've seen it cited for Benjamin Franklin, but its rarely noted that he switched back and forth on his diet over time making him inconsistent in these regards, and as brilliant of man as he was, he also had other practices most of us wouldn't feel that we were compelled to take up.  And in this instance, the most famous of all modern vegetarians, the gassy murderous Adolph Hitler, is always omitted, which he should not be as, after all, he's a really well known example whose habits are very well known.

**Most westerners have real misunderstanding of religions of the East and frequently misunderstand their basic tenants. For one thing, a lot of westerners don't grasp that monotheistic religions are as common in the East as any others and that a person can't really discuss Eastern religions without including them. For example, there are Catholic populations in Indian that date to the Apostolic age and Christians are quite numerous in South Korea and China, and of course the Philippines, where they are the majority.  Islam is a major Asian religion in China, Central Asia, Indonesia, the Philippines and parts of Southeast Asia.  Animist religions, based on the worship of departed souls, is common in much of China and Korea, and retains a following in Japan.  In Korea, Japan and China, that type of devotion far exceeds the number of people who adhere to Buddhism and none of those countries can be regarded as "Buddhist".  Buddhism itself, being sort of a philosophy in certain ways, sometimes accommodates itself to other native religions so that there are people who combine an animist religion with it.   The mainland Southeast Asian countries are, or were, Buddhist, but all of them have had significant Christian or Moslem minorities for a very long time.  The nature and practice of Buddhism itself is often quite misunderstood in the west, and its rarely grasped that it was a reform of Hinduism.

***I do realize in typing this out that there are some contemporary Monotheistic religions that hold to vegetarianism as part of their beliefs, but none of them date to antiquity.  Some that are sometimes cited as being vegetarians are, additionally, not although some of their members may be as a form of observance, which is once again different from the practice being a tenant of their Faith.

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