9 Reasons To Reject Vegetarianism
Letâs be honest: eating meat is an objectively bad idea. Itâs expensive, has been linked to cancer and causes devastating crises in the developing world. Yet, for all the rational arguments against it, some of us just canât give our carnivorous habits up. Show us a cross-section of our disease-ridden gut and weâll show you a juicy steak just begging to be eaten. Show us a slaughterhouse and weâll ask for a knife and fork. It may sound callous, but weâll only give up our bacon when you pry it from our cold, dead handsâand hereâs why:
Thanks to the miracles of evolution, we humans can survive just fine on a meat-free diet. But that doesnât mean weâre natural vegetarians. Far from it: as far back as 2003, scientists had established our ancestors were eating meat up to 2.5 million years ago. In other words, that juicy slab of barbecue isnât some icon of modern decadence; itâs part of our traditional diet, and there are plenty of other clues too. First, our bodies lack most of the equipment youâd associate with herbivores. For instance, we donât have four stomachs, any ability to break down cellulose, or the sort of complex intestinal tracts most leaf-eaters possess. Second, our teeth are obviously designed to handle both meat and non-meat diets. And a good job too, becauseâŚ
From a strictly logical perspective, there are a number of oddities about us humans. For starters, our brains seemingly shouldnât be this big. If you look across most primate species, brain size increases with body size: humans are noticeable outliers. Then thereâs the added complexity of our brains, which are so stuffed full of neurons theyâre likely capable of holding more individual thoughts than there are stars in the universe. So what makes us so special? Well, according to one 2011 study, itâs our appetite for meat.
Seriously: researchers from Spain identified signs of malnutrition in a childâs skull dating from 1.5 million years ago, consistent with a meat-deficient diet. Whatâs interesting about this is it suggests we were so used to eating meat back then our brains couldnât develop without itâa theory supported by other evidence that links primate brain complexity to the number of calories consumed per day. Since we didnât begin cooking our food until long after our brains went supernova, the only likely candidate for our calorific diets is meat. Meaning weâre only capable of making logical choices like vegetarianism because we originally ate other animals.
One argument often put forward for going vegetarian is that humans are the only primates to eat meat. Ergo, it must be unnatural: like using the internet to moan about steakhouses. But guess what? Itâs not just untrue; itâs about as scientific as punching biology in the face.
Back in 1960, Jane Goodall observed chimps hunting and eating other animals in the wild. In the years since, itâs been shown that certain chimp communities eat as much as one ton of meat annually. In other words, theyâre less indulging occasional cravings than they are taking part in the chimpanzee equivalent of Man V. Food. Not only that, but they apparently use the slaughtered meat to gain a reproductive and âpoliticalâ advantage over one another. So, to recap: our evolutionary cousins love a good steak so much; theyâll literally whore themselves out to get it.
One of the big reasons for giving up meat is the devastating environmental impact of shipping, say, a chunk of dead cow halfway across the world. So if youâre into environmentalism, dropping meat should be a no-brainer, right?
Not quite. While our current model of shipping is about as environmentally-friendly as a forest fire, it doesnât have to be this way. See, livestockâmanaged properlyâcan be used to do a lot of stuff that would otherwise require a heck-load of fossil fuel. For example, grazing animals can help cycle nutrients and aid in land management: while also requiring little in the way of chemicals and pesticides to grow to an edible size. Not only that, but a lone cow slaughtered on a small farm can feed its owners for ages, which is why we got into agriculture in the first place. So itâs not meat itself which is the issue, so much as our current supply chain.
In our modern age, itâs taken as read that eating meat is a bigger planet killer than chowing down on tofu. But thatâs not always the case. For example, compare organically reared animals with industrially produced tofu. The quantities of land needed are greater, the treatment and harvesting of the soya involves more fossil fuels, and the end product often has to be shipped great distances if you live somewhere like Britainâwhere the climate is really, really bad for growing meat substitutes. Simply put: that tasteless tofu burger youâre forcing down to preserve our planetâs future may actually be more atmosphere-frying than the delicious hunk of beef being eaten by that smug bastard across the table from you.
There are certain psychological traits among humans that seem so obvious we shouldnât need a study to prove them. One is that exposure to weapons triggers violence. Another is that meat-eaters are more aggressive than vegetarians. However, a group of scientists decided to look into the meat/aggression issue anywayâand what they found turns common sense on its head.
By exposing men to pictures of red meat then placing them in a position of power over another subject, researchers discovered that thinking about steak might actually reduce aggression in humans. No-oneâs really got any idea whyâbeyond hazily linking it to âevolutionââbut the conclusion seems valid. So, while we may imagine a rabid steak-eater to be more violence-prone than a guy who lives off soy beans and lentils; the opposite may well be true.
Of course, one of the âbigâ arguments against eating meat is that itâs cruel. However you look at it, cramming a bunch of chickens together in a cage and feeding them until theyâre too fat to stand isnât a particularly pleasant thing to do. Even if you give the animal the best life possible, thereâs no getting around the fact youâre killing a sentient creature for no better reason than âdinnerâ. So itâs easy to see why some people just flat-out refuse to eat meat.
Only thatâs about to change. Thanks to Dutch scientist Willem van Eelen, weâre now at the stage where we can grow burgers in a lab. Slow down and read that again: weâre now so advanced as a species we can grow a hunk of cow in a lab without ever actually involving a living cow. Currently, the technology is too expensive for mass-productionâthe first lab-grown burger cost $300,000 to make and tasted only âreasonably goodâ. But weâre conceivably only a decade or two away from a world where steak, sausages, bacon and even veal cutlets can be created without harming a single animal.
Go for a walk in the countryside and chances areâunless you live near a National Parkâthat the ânaturalâ landscape youâre seeing is nothing like how nature intended it. For thousands of years, animals belonging to our ancestors grazed dense natural forests to destruction, resulting in the great big open spaces we now associate with âbeing outdoorsâ. And while it may seem kinda sad, this slow-motion deforestation is actually just what we need. See, if the country ever gets its act together and decides to âgo greenâ, weâre gonna need as much open space for wind farms and solar panels as we can get. Know the most eco-friendly way for maintaining such places? Yep: grazing livestock. This isnât just me speculating either, British âeco warriorâ Simon Fairlie famously argued that rearing livestock is essential for increasing biodiversity and creating a truly-sustainable world. And what do we ultimately do with all this necessary livestock? Thatâs right: we eat it.
OKâI admit this isnât much of a point. But letâs be honest: a huge amount of the vegetarian v. carnivore internet war comes down to this simple fact. For all we talk about protein and write long list articles defending our choices, most of us meat-eaters just basically like the taste. Does that make us callous, immoral people? Well, maybe kinda. But we live in a world thatâs an ethical minefieldâevery single day we log onto computers manufactured by tax-dodging multinationals using sweatshop labor; wear clothes made by virtual slaves in third world countries; give a big chunk of our paychecks to a sociopathic government; and generally reap the rewards of living in a nation subsidized by the unethical treatment of most of the rest of the planet. If eating a hunk of bacon each day is what it takes to get me through this headache-inducing liberal guilt-trip, then so be it.