Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Ten Signs that You’re Grasping at Straws When Arguing with a Vegan…


1. When you say that plants feel pain, you are grasping at straws. You know that one YouTube video that defensive meat-eaters post as incontrovertible proof that plants feel pain? The one where it proves simply that plants respond to stimuli in order to maximize favorable conditions and decrease unfavorable conditions just as any living thing would? Your opinion that plants feel pain does not merit equal consideration with the proven fact that animals feel pain as animals possess brains, central nervous systems, pain receptors and a demonstrable fight-or-flight response, not plants, and stating so creates a specious false equivalency that we are somehow expected to accept. Claiming that plants feel pain - an opinion - and that this is analogous to animals feeling pain - a fact - brings to mind those who insist that creationism must be given equal time to evolution in high school science curriculums. You’re allowed to have your beliefs and your speculation but should they be given equal consideration side-by-side with actual facts? Um, no.

2. When you say that your ancestry or your ethnic background makes it necessary for you to eat animals, you are grasping at straws. Your ancestors were meat-eaters? Well, what do you know: so were mine. In fact, so were pretty much all of our ancestors with rare exception. The great thing about evolution is, you know, a capacity to evolve. As someone whose ancestors were discriminated against and largely wiped out due to their heritage, I find ethnicity to be a very problematic source of personal pride or stable ground for anchoring excuses.

3. When you say that you give thanks for the animals you eat, you are grasping at straws. If you want to know how patently absurd it is to think that we can erase a senseless act of violence by “giving thanks,” I wonder what you’d think of it in different scenarios. “That arsonist set fire to my house but before he did, he gave thanks, so I guess I don’t really have anything to complain about.” “At first I was pretty bummed out I was robbed at gunpoint but the thanks I was given by the robber made all that unpleasantness disappear.” “My son was pushed out a window by his roommate but it gave his roommate pleasure and, most important, his roommate gave thanks, so I feel a sense of peace with everything.” I could go on and on. This reminds me of that old thought experiment that asks if a tree falls in a forest but there’s no one to hear it, does it still make a sound? Here we have the quasi-spiritual meat-eater’s equivalent: if an animal’s life is taken but thanks was given, was the animal still killed? Allow me to meditate on that for a moment: Yes.   

4. When you try to justify eating animals today because you were raised eating them, you are grasping at straws. Similar to blaming your choices on your ethnic background, saying that you grew up eating animals should be a no-brainer as almost all of us did but instead people repeat this inanity as though it is something that confers onto them a Special Snowflake status. In reality, I grew up eating meat. So did Robert Grillo. So did Carol Adams. So did Gene Baur. So did Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. So did Nathan Runkle. So did Melanie Joy. So did Alex Hershaft. So did Jenny Brown. So did Donald Watson, the man who co-founded the first freaking Vegan Society. My point? Ancestry is not destiny, thank goodness, and neither is personal history. I grew up on the standard American diet of the 1970s, which meant bologna sandwiches, Kraft singles and Hostess cupcakes; contrary to common assumptions, those who grow up to be vegan were not necessarily raised by health-minded parents who prepared us for our future lives with miso soup, mung beans and kale. Keep trying to work that angle, though!

5. When you say that eating animals is okay because vegans are big meanies, you are grasping at straws. You had a roommate once who was vegan and, whoa, she was such a pill! Or your cousin was vegan and so controlling. Or once you worked with a vegan and he was so judgmental. Or you just had a negative experience with a vegan on Facebook when you shared that bacon meme. These interactions might have led you to announce with great flourish that you are going to go off and eat a big steak because that’ll show those mean vegans. This is akin to telling an anti-domestic violence activist that you are going to beat your partner because you have a bad impression of him or her. It’s sad for the ones you’ve harmed but at the end of the day, your actions are solely your responsibility. Trying to pin the responsibility of your actions on someone else is admitting that you are not in control of your own decisions.  

6. When you use the fact that vegans cannot be perfect as a justification for you to keep eating animals, you are grasping at straws. Please have a seat. I have to break some bad news to you. Are you ready? Okay. We live in an imperfect world. A wildly messed up world, in fact. Vegans are actually trying to fix this. Vegans aren’t saying, “Be like us. We’re perfect.” We’re saying that despite this very flawed world, we are still doing to do our best to reduce harm and keep it from, you know, getting worse. Yes, there is evidence of animal exploitation all around us, in everything from bicycle tires to asphalt. Does the fact that vegans cannot be perfect point to hypocrisy or simply the pervasiveness of animal agribusiness and their profiting off of every last bit extracted from an animal’s corpse? I’m thinking the latter. Any guess who is actually trying to change the status quo altogether? That would be the vegans.

7. When you say that it’s your personal choice to eat animals, you are grasping at straws. Saying that eating animals is your “personal choice” while not acknowledging the senseless violence against those with no personal choices to exercise for themselves – and endure things like forcible impregnations, stolen babies, mutilations, and a short, misery-laden lifetime of confinement – is the ultimate in myopia. It shows what a poor grasp you have on the practice of extending empathy to others and it’s not a good look.

8. When you say that there are bigger issues to worry about, you are grasping at straws. Can you name one change we could all adopt that would have a positive, wide-ranging effect on world hunger, water scarcity, water pollution, land use, climate change, worker exploitation and the well-being of billions of sentient lives in one fell swoop? This is by no means an exhaustive list, either. Going vegan is the best bang for your buck in terms of a ripple effect of creating positive, meaningful and lasting change. What were you saying again?

9. When you say that you only eat “humane meat/animal products,” you are grasping at straws
. 1. Vegans don’t believe that such items can be humanely acquired so we are already at an impasse. 2. Anyone who has researched the industries with an open and rational mind would also not believe this. 3. You really don’t exclusively eat these products, either, unless you don’t ever dine out at places that don’t meet your exacting standards. 4. How is it that a niche market that actually serves a very small percentage of the market somehow also reflects the purchasing habits 99% of defensive meat-eaters? 5. Welcome to the mystical fantasyland that is Magical Thinking, where free-range unicorns knowingly (and painlessly) sacrifice themselves for our palates. It looks like you have your passport ready! 6. Did you remember to give thanks?  

10. Saying that vegans eat “fake foods” is grasping at straws. We eat vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and spices. The animals people eat have heads, bones, feathers, appendages, gills, organs and more removed; they have been artificially (and forcibly) impregnated, they’ve been mutilated, castrated, and selectively bred and manipulated for production. Please don’t try to pull this card on us unless you are prepared to hear about how “naturally produced” the things you eat are.

We get that you don’t like being wrong. We get that you’re feeling defensive. We get that this pisses you off.
Still, you've got to improve your game, people. You being uncomfortable with accepting the consequences of your actions is not our fault. If grasping at straws had made you feel like a fraud, maybe it’s time to accept the truth: there is no justification for being complicit in another’s needless death. Whether knowing this inspires you to embrace veganism or simply stop engaging in logical fallacies is up to you.


  1. Really really excellent! Love your blog posts

  2. This is perfect and true.

  3. Ugh Marla. Now you are making me choose between the ex-vegan and this for my favorite blog post ever. You are a horrible human being, but I adore you anyway.

  4. Excellent. We've heard them all. Great, concise answers. Even though we know people are just grabbing at straws (that don't exist) it's important to be able to answer their (silly defensive) questions.

  5. Awesomeness. You wrote so eloquently and addressed all of these nonsensical arguments.

  6. Hahaha! Thank you, Green Cooking, and same back at you!

  7. So in bagging on non-vegans you have to call people who believe in intelligent design morons. GUESS WHAT? Just because someone is a vegan doesn't mean they are an atheist and just because someone believes that the precise nature of the universe isn't a random occurrence, they are not stupid and shouldn't be lumped in with people who think plants feel pain. I am a vegan who believes in God and I am extremely disappointed in this blog as I used to really love coming here for the blog and to read the daily memes, now I will no longer be visiting your website, because I believe that all beings deserve rights and deserve to be treated like intelligent beings. Shame on you!

  8. Did I miss something? Anonymous, look for the Good things. Thank you for sharpening my arguments to those stupid excuses they have for exploiting our sweet fellow beings: the animals.

  9. wow!!! really excellent :)
    I love your post. Keep writing and sharing with us. Thank you so much :)

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