Apr 30 2009

What It Should Really Mean To Be Libertarian (*Ahem,* Jan Narveson)

by Lindsey

We all know that people have many different motivations for being veg*n, such as concern for animals and/or the environment or health reasons. But I know few who become vegan, citing political beliefs as their main motivation. So I’d like to post my friend’s reason for being vegan.

Leafy recently posted a debate between animals-as-property abolitionist Gary Francione and libertarian philosopher Jan Narveson. I was appalled at Narveson’s stance that if it is in humans’ interests (even in the trivial interests of entertainment or fashion), it is entirely morally acceptable to torture an animal in any conceivable way. To him, it’s “weird,” but we shouldn’t ever stop anyone from doing it. I presume his reasoning is that he wouldn’t want to interfere with a person’s “freedom” to torture another feeling being.

For context, my friend originally posted the following on a private forum with about twenty (non-veg*n) members.

The longer I remain vegan and think about my motivations for being so, I’ve realized that they stem from larger societal issues. This is the point where this post might start offending people, and I truly do not mean it to. Any examples I provide or situations I describe are not directly pointed at anyone, least of all anyone here. I don’t know anyone here very well (or even decently well), so this is just a statement of how I feel. (More direct disclaimer: Every thing said in this post is directly from my point of view. The topics herein contained are stated as facts. Their factness may remain debatable to some, but from my point of view, they are fact. I believe wholeheartedly that there is no such thing as objective/absolute truth so read what I say with that lens. )

I don’t much like labels, but one of the most fitting labels for me is Libertarian. While I will not completely identify myself with that political party, I agree with basically all of their tenets. To me, it all means one thing – freedom. You should be free to do whatever you want to do, however you want to do it, for as long as you want to do it so long as you don’t infringe on another’s right to do the same. Any restriction on this is an outside party/force trying to control behavior for his/her/its/their own purposes. Manipulation of a population is a heinous crime and is the antithesis of freedom. That being said, if humans are guaranteed this (and I know they aren’t but ultimately, that is what I hope for), why are animals not?

The answer to that question boils down to one simple belief. Humans are superior to animals. If one believes this, I counter with a simple, “why?” If it is because we possess greater mental capacity, I might remind you (generic you, not the reader) that the one (and practically only) advanced ability that humans have over animals is the ability to recognize “complex” patterns. Yet, I find it disheartening that this ability receives very little reward in our society. The people who make the most money are not the ones who have mastered this defining characteristic of our species, but are the ones who have mastered their physical bodies to play games. We are “superior” to animals yet our largest forms of entertainment of at the same level of the entertainment of animals. If we are that similar to animals, then perhaps a higher authority has deemed humans as a “superior” species. Regardless of one’s belief in said higher power, I personally must go back to what I said in the last paragraph – manipulation of a population is a heinous crime and is the antithesis of freedom. If this “higher power” has decreed that we are “superior” that that power is manipulating us by infusing an alien belief structure into us. While it is generally easier to remain ignorant of this lack of self-definition, I do not feel that I can accept that.

So, all of that being said, I feel that animals are neither superior nor inferior to humans. Humans are animals. In that light, the meat industry is akin to slavery in that a group of people are restricting the life of other individuals to make a significant gain from the life of that individual whereas on the other side of the coin, the individual is not allowed to live a natural life. This is a grave injustice. It is sickening to me the more I think about it. I cannot support something which betrays my most base moral code…the prevalence of justice (what can I say, I’m a Libra).

I sincerely hope that this post was not taken as a sermon. I have no right to tell you that what you feel/believe is wrong. In fact, I am a moral relativist, but that does not quell the fire of my own beliefs. There are about a billion other related topics about which I have an unyielding blaze of criticism/commentary, and I hope that I can one day discuss these things rationally with rational people such as are here. I welcome any critiques of my post/thoughts and would love to start a dia/tria/more-alogue about the subjects and any related (or non-related) ones.

Apr 28 2009

Raw Vegan Corn Chips

by gunnard

I love chips and salsa, but the chips are the devil. Here is a simple recipe for raw corn chips that taste like 100% corn and won’t make you feel bad about eating the whole bowl.
raw corn chips
6 ears of corn
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup flax meal (optional)

Cut the corn to remove the kernels. Place them into a food processor and blend until most of the chunks are gone. Add the salt cumin and flax. Mix some more. Spread the mixture onto a teflex sheet or solid plastic sheet for your dehydrator and start it up. After about 20 minutes, sprinkle some salt across the top. Keep dehydrating until nice and crisp, about 24 hours.
raw corn chips
raw corn chips

Apr 28 2009

The Moral Imperative to Eat Meat

by Leafy

This essay attempts to answer age-old questions about how the consumption of animals fits into our moral framework. Do animals suffer, and if so, does their suffering have any moral relevance? Is it immoral to eat meat, or immoral not to? What is the religious significance of butter? Should we be eating other primates?

Perhaps Rene Descartes was right when he made the compelling argument that animals don’t feel pain. After all, he was right about a lot of other stuff.

Descartes was a vegetarian for health reasons. He, did, however, skin dogs and rabbits alive for research purposes. He reasoned that if the animals felt pain then what was done to them would be so horrific that God would never allow it. Since God did, in fact, allow it, then it follows logically that dogs and rabbits don’t feel pain. There is no reason to think any other animals do, either. As Descartes went on to argue, animals don’t have souls, and without a soul, you can’t feel pain. Continue reading

Apr 27 2009

What every vegan should know about B12

by gunnard

First, What is vitamin b12?

Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin with a key role in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system, and for the formation of blood. It is one of the eight B vitamins. It is normally involved in the metabolism of every cell of the body, especially affecting DNA synthesis and regulation, but also fatty acid synthesis and energy production. –wikipedia

Ok, so that sounds important. Why do vegans need to pay attention to this?

Vitamin B12 is naturally found in meat (especially liver and shellfish), milk and eggs. Animals, in turn, must obtain it directly or indirectly from bacteria, and these bacteria may inhabit a section of the gut which is posterior to the section where B12 is absorbed. Thus, herbivorous animals must either obtain B12 from bacteria in their rumens, or (if fermenting plant material in the hindgut) by reingestion of cecotrope fæces. Eggs are often mentioned as a good B12 source, but they also contain a factor that blocks absorption.[27] Certain insects such as termites contain B12 produced by their gut bacteria, in a manner analogous to ruminant animals.[28] An NIH Fact Sheet lists a variety of food sources of vitamin B12.

According to the U.K. Vegan Society, the present consensus is that any B12 present in plant foods is likely to be unavailable to humans and so these foods should not be relied upon as safe sources, as the B12 analogues can compete with B12 and inhibit metabolism. Also, vegan humans who eat only plant based foods must ordinarily take special care to supplement their diets accordingly. The only reliable vegan sources of B12 are foods fortified with B12 (including some soy products and some breakfast cereals), and B12 supplements.[29]

While lacto-ovo vegetarians usually get enough B12 through consuming dairy products, vitamin B12 may be found to be lacking in those practicing vegan diets who do not use multivitamin supplements or eat B12 fortified foods. Examples of fortified foods often consumed include fortified breakfast cereals, fortified soy-based products, and fortified energy bars. Claimed sources of B12 that have been shown through direct studies[30] of vegans to be inadequate or unreliable include, laver (a seaweed), barley grass, and human gut bacteria. People on a vegan raw food diet are also susceptible to B12 deficiency if no supplementation is used[31].

The Vegan Society, the Vegetarian Resource Group, and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, among others, recommend that vegans either consistently eat foods fortified with B12 or take a daily or weekly B12 supplement.[29][43][44] Fortified breakfast cereals are a particularly valuable source of vitamin B12 for vegetarians and vegans. In addition, adults age 51 and older are recommended to consume B12 fortified food or supplements to meet the RDA, because they are a population at an increased risk of deficiency [45].

Ok, Now I see that as vegans we need to really monitor the intake of our B12 as it is not really found in our natural diet.  What are some recommendations?

Brewer’s and Nutritional Yeasts

Brewer’s and nutritional yeasts do not contain B12 unless they are fortified with it. At least two vegan B12-fortified yeasts are currently on the market: Red Star Vegetarian Support Formula and Twinlab Natural Nutritional Yeast (verified to be fortified with B12 via personal communication with Twinlab June 3, 2003). Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks to relying solely on B12-fortified nutritional yeast for B12:

  • Nutritional yeast often comes from bins in health food stores. If not careful, it would be easy for a store employee to order the wrong nutritional yeast out of the distributor catalogs which often list many yeasts. It would also be easy to accidentally put the wrong yeast into the Vegetarian Support Formula bin.
  • B12 is light sensitive. Nutritional yeast is likely to be exposed to the light because it is often stored in clear bins or plastic bags.
  • At least one vegan who thought he was getting B12 from nutritional yeast developed B12 deficiency symptoms that cleared up upon taking a B12 supplement. — Vegansource

Personally I use nutritional yeast all of the time, but now I will look into vegan b12/bcomplex options.

Apr 26 2009

Animal Rights vs. Human Rights – A Brief Debate – Part 2

by Lindsey

Here is Part 2, as promised. (Part 1 here) Friend posted this a couple weeks later, and then I commented on it. Let me know if my arguments make any sense!


Let me start by assuring you that I never come to conclusions on an issue–never toe a moral line–without an almost excessive amount of deliberation, and even then, my mind is never fully made up. That is why I love discourse like this between two people who can civilly debate in the hope that both will come out better than they started.

It is for this reason that I’ve decided against my original idea of posting a contiguous essay (the first draft of which clocked in–unfinished–at over 11 pages), because I do not simply want to be seen as trying to bury the issue in words. I’d much rather argue fairly brief, focused points that I hope will garner response, which, in turn, can be responded to.

I also have to say that, though we disagree, I have incredible respect for your position. It really is nothing short of courageous to be empathetic beyond the realm of your species. I consider myself an extremely open-minded person and have always found it easy to empathize with those of other genders, races, cultures and religions, but the extra-species gap is one I haven’t bridged.

I do want to state that my perspective of our species is not grounded in any sort of us-and-them morality. I very much understand your closing point–that we as humans are animals. But at the same time, we both know that we as humans are far removed from anything else in the animal kingdom. Which is how I’d like to begin. Continue reading

Apr 26 2009

Animal Rights vs. Human Rights – A Brief Debate – Part 1

by Lindsey

I posted the following as a note on Facebook a while ago.  It was around the time that in California, Prop 2, a VERY modest farm animal welfare reform passed, but Prop 8, a ban on gay marriage passed as well.  It’s not the most well-designed and thought out piece on the issue. It was really just a quick expression of my feelings, so please pardon any incoherence. Here it is…

November 6, 2008 –

My friend, whom I have known since I was about 3 or 4 years old, sparked quite a bit of conversation this morning with his status….


And don’t get me started on how, in California, animal rights apparently outweigh human civil rights.via Twitter


I wouldn’t call what those animals got in return for the passing of that proposition “rights.” Just a BIT less horror and discomfort in their short, tortured lives for the overfed gluttons of this country. Even if you do endorse the exploitation of animals, don’t you believe that they somehow deserve at least a little less inhumane treatment?
Perhaps you aren’t implying you are against what Prop 2 did, but I don’t think you can compare the two propositions – since Prop 2 really didn’t give those animals any rights. They are still innocent, emotional, sentient beings who remain prisoners and cannot live their lives as they will.
But I do think that’s crazy that the human civil right to which you refer got overturned.
I guess as we treat our animals, so we treat our people we feel are sub-humans.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not for more animal rights and less human rights. I am for more human AND animal rights equally.

[personal comments removed]

Continue reading

Apr 25 2009

World’s Greatest Drug

by Edward

Worlds Greatest Drug from Adam Sacks on Vimeo.

Apr 25 2009

Inside the Mind of an Anti-Animal Rights Philosopher

by Leafy

Listen to the full debate

Gary Francione: I would suggest that our use of animals for the production of food involves torture.

Jan Narveson: I want to claim that the torture is justified. You want to claim it’s not.

The question is, is our interest in the taste of animal flesh such as to justify doing the things we do to them to get them into the frying pan? My answer is, yes.

Last month libertarian philosopher Jan Narveson debated vegan abolitionist Gary Francione about animal rights. Narveson’s view is that humans have no moral obligation to animals. He argues that it is morally acceptable for animals to suffer, even horribly, as long as it in is in our interests to use them. He also claims that torturing animals pointlessly or for entertainment is “weird” but of trivial significance morally.

For those who have been following the Twitter debates with @mattbramanti, his views seem to be quite similar to Narveson’s.

I thought there were two encouraging things that came out of this. One is that Francione said that there are still many people who honestly believe it is necessary for human health to eat meat. It makes me hopeful that, for some omnivores at least, changing their minds about that could lead to them considering a vegan lifestyle. The other thing Francione said was that the abolitionist position hasn’t “really hit the radar screen yet of a lot of people. But there is clearly a change occurring. It’s happening here in North America. It’s happening in Europe. The thinking about this issue is clearly in transition.” Continue reading

Apr 24 2009

Chickpea Curry

by Leafy

Serves 4-6


4 cups cooked chickpeas
3 tomatoes
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
1 inch piece of ginger
¾ cup coconut milk
1 TBS curry powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
sea salt, to taste


1. Dice the onion and tomatoes.

2. Peel and finely chop the garlic or press it through a garlic press.

3. Wash and grate the ginger.

4. Put a large saucepan on medium heat, and add the tomatoes, onions, ginger and garlic.

5. When it starts to gently boil, turn down the heat a little and cover. Simmer for 30 minutes to several hours. The longer you cook the tomatoes the richer the flavor will be, but 30 minutes is sufficient. If the mixture starts to brown or stick to the pan, turn down the heat.

6. Add the coconut milk and stir in the spices and 1 tsp. sea salt. Stir the mixture well.

7. Add the cooked chickpeas and stir well. Adjust the salt and seasonings to taste. Turn down the heat to low, cover, and cook for 10-30 minutes to let the flavors blend.

8. Serve hot. Goes well with cooked greens and radishes, both of which help the body process the relatively high fat content of the coconut milk.

Apr 23 2009

Veggie Cats & Dogs

by Edward

This article was imported from the International Vegetarian Union website:  http://www.ivu.org/faq/animals.html

It is probably one of the best arguments I’ve read for feeding your pets a cruel free diet.

Both cats and dogs can be fed a vegetarian diet, although neither is a vegan by nature — dogs are omnivores, and cats are carnivores. While both dogs and cats belong to the class carnivora, this doesn’t mean a lot, so does the panda bear which is near vegan.

By nature cats and dogs wouldn’t eat anything like what is commonly found in a can of pet food either. Special diets must be provided for cats, as they require an amino acid called taurine — found in the muscles of animals.

Synthetic taurine has been developed, and is used in commercial (non vegetarian) cat foods. Vegetarian cats should be fed it as a supplement. Taurine deficiency can result in blindness and even death. Cats also require pre-formed vitamin A and arachidonic acid.

All known vegan cat foods contain these essential ingredients and the companies listed below provide them in their cat foods. Ask your vet about changing your pet’s diet if concerned.

Not only is it POSSIBLE to feed most cats and dogs a non-meat diet, it is also DESIRABLE. Buying “normal” pet food is supporting the same meat industry with its attendant cruelty, exploitation, waste, and environmental damage that veganism is so opposed to. Continue reading