Welcome to our second set of common arguments against veganism – and how to prove them wrong. Of course, you don’t want to be a know it all or insult people. That kind of discussion will never foster good dialogue or help anyone towards eating less (or no) meat. However, gently pointing people towards new ideas and evidence may help change hearts and minds. If not, well don’t sweat it – the world will never be completely vegan, so move on and pick a more likely debate next time. For now, these are three more common arguments you might come up against and the best facts to counter them.
1. You still kill plants to survive, didn’t research show they were sentient too?
No, it hasn’t. This is a common misconception. Plants are definitely smarter than we give them credit for – with many possessing the ability to react in response to stimuli in complex ways, that sometimes involve making predictions about the future and recognising changes in their environment. However, there is no evidence to suggest that these are anything other than unordered mechanical processes. Computers can also react to stimuli and adapt to new information, but we don’t call them sentient – yet at least. AI networks can even choose the optimal order for responses to a variety of stimuli, which there is zero evidence that plants can do. Intelligent? Sure, in a way. Sentient? The science seems to suggest not so, even if clickbait headlines might want you to believe otherwise.
2. Eating meat is natural.
Yes – early humans were natural omnivores, eating a mixed diet which has included meat when it was available. What is not natural, is the industrialisation of meat farming. This is most definitely a recent phenomenon, as for our earliest ancestors hunting was a calorically intensive activity that didn’t always get results. Not so today, when meat can literally be ordered to your house at an hours’ notice almost any time of the day (if you live in a city). Industrial meat farming also creates dozens of other problems such as antibiotic resistance, methane emissions and more.
This argument also hinges upon one’s personal definition of ‘natural’. Our ancestors would have participated in forced marriages and other forms of violence on a much more regular basis than we experience today – should we go back to doing that too? Eating meat may once have been natural yes. However, our intelligence has allowed us all to evolve above the natural order of things and so the ‘its natural’ argument doesn’t invalidate the dietary choices of those who decide to look critically at it.
3. Why should I care about animals? I like the taste of meat.
Fair enough. Many vegans and vegetarians enjoy the taste of meat too – but the environmental, dietary and moral consequences were too much for them to continue enjoying it. This is quite a self-centred argument whether you agree with it or not. Secondly, most Westerners wouldn’t eat a cat or a dog unless they were starving. But studies have shown, time and time again, that pigs are smarter and just as capable of bonding as dogs. So why would you eat one and not the other?