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Why are some thoughtful people vegetarian and others not?

This forum is set aside for the BHA Humanist Vegetarian Group. All of Think Humanism's registered users are welcome to participate. If you wish to receive news and announcements from this group, please register with the HVG user group. See instructions near the top of the HVG forum.

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tom
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Why are some thoughtful people vegetarian and others not?

#1 Post by tom » July 21st, 2008, 6:40 pm

People who are vegetarian because of ethical reasons are usually thoughtful and compassionate.

So why are other people who are also thoughtful and compassionate not vegetarian?

Vegetarianism is a subject that is common and there are many opportunities to prompt thought or concern or debate.

Why are you vegetarian and others you know not? :puzzled:

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Alan C.
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Re: Why are some thoughtful people vegetarian and others not?

#2 Post by Alan C. » July 21st, 2008, 8:57 pm

I think this has been more or less covered in other threads, but for the newcomers.
Mary and myself are both thoughtful and compassionate but at the same time we do eat meat, what we don't do, is eat meat that has been "factory farmed" We know the provenance of all the meat we buy (or are given) The only meat we buy that is not from Shetland is beef from Orkney.

There are always going to be farm animals (I hope) it would be a strange world if there were no cows, sheep et al in our fields, as Nick said in another thread "as long as we eat meat these animals will have a life, albeit a shortened one, if we didn't eat meat they would have no life at all" (paraphrasing Nick, apologies if not exactly correct)
So no, I don't have a problem eating meat if I know it has been ethically reared and humanely dispatched. And I don't think it makes me any less thoughtful or compassionate.
Abstinence Makes the Church Grow Fondlers.

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Hot Thought
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Re: Why are some thoughtful people vegetarian and others not?

#3 Post by Hot Thought » July 22nd, 2008, 6:12 pm

tom wrote:People who are vegetarian because of ethical reasons are usually thoughtful and compassionate.

So why are other people who are also thoughtful and compassionate not vegetarian?

Vegetarianism is a subject that is common and there are many opportunities to prompt thought or concern or debate.

Why are you vegetarian and others you know not? :puzzled:
Greetings Tom :-)

If thoughtful and compassionate consists in aiming to reduce the amount of suffering in world then many ways thoughtful and compassionate to be oh wise one :D

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jaywhat
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Re: Why are some thoughtful people vegetarian and others not?

#4 Post by jaywhat » July 23rd, 2008, 6:09 am

It may be worth considering that there are all sorts of 'thoughtful and compassionate' people. Some are vegetarian and some are not.
What is meant by 'thoughtful and compassionate'?
Some people may be 'thoughtful and compassionate' to some extent - for example, towards animals, whilst being shits towards fellow human beings.
Is it 'thoughtful and compassionate' to be a vegetarian and leave all your worldy goods to the RSPCA?
I do not eat meat (other than fish), but I would say that of all the people I know who eat meat there is no connection between that and being thoughtful and compassionate.

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tom
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Re: Why are some thoughtful people vegetarian and others not?

#5 Post by tom » July 25th, 2008, 12:17 pm

I was more wondering why aren't vegetarians more widely thoughtful and compassionate and why aren't thoughtful and compassionate people not vegetarian? Why limit compassion and thoughtfulness?

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Why are some thoughtful people vegetarian and others not?

#6 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » July 25th, 2008, 1:28 pm

tom wrote:I was more wondering why aren't vegetarians more widely thoughtful and compassionate and why aren't thoughtful and compassionate people not vegetarian? Why limit compassion and thoughtfulness?
I think the second half of your first question has already been answered. Looking at the second question, "Why limit compassion and thoughtfulness?", I'd have thought the answer was obvious. The world is too big. There's too much suffering going on in it for us to spread our compassion and thoughtfulness to cover it all. We can't possibly even know about it all. We have to select, or we'd do nothing but think and emote and rant and campaign. We wouldn't have any time or energy or money left over for ordinary everyday concerns or joys. Our life experiences tend to pull us towards particular issues. But that's not to say that we don't care about the issues we don't focus on.

The advantage (and disadvantage) of vegetarianism is that it is not merely an issue, a cause to follow, or a charity or campaigning organisation to support. It is, to state the obvious, a lifestyle change. All we have to do is become vegetarian or vegan, and we can tell ourselves we're doing our little bit. Once we've got the hang of it, it doesn't actually take much thought or compassion to sustain it [---][/---] at least, it doesn't for me. To be perfectly frank, until I joined this forum, I hadn't talked about my veganism for years (beyond mundane practical concerns, like which restaurant to go to), and I rarely thought about the philosophy behind it. It was just a part of my identity. A small part, at that. My concerns about the world are certainly much, much broader.

So, to return to the first part of your first question, "Why aren't vegetarians more widely thoughtful and compassionate?", could you explain why you're assuming that vegetarians are not thoughtful and compassionate about anything other than the issue of eating animals? Because I've yet to meet a vegetarian of whom that's true. It wasn't even true of the animal-rights campaigners I knew twenty years ago. And it's not true of me, or any of the other vegetarians I've "met" on this forum. So perhaps you could rephrase the question in a less "When did you stop poisoning your husband?" kind of way. :D

Emma

gregory
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Re: Why are some thoughtful people vegetarian and others not?

#7 Post by gregory » July 26th, 2008, 12:18 pm

Hello Tom

You got here then.

Actually there is no need to not have some animals about the place even if they are not used for meat. We don't usually eat horses these days and there are charities to look after them so there could be parks and things for sheep etc.

That is not to say that Alan C isn't doing a good job in his way.

I think Emma is right in that she says that we have only so much energy so people fighting crime or supporting victims of crime although I think they might be better not to eat meat their job makes it such that looking for good vegetarian food is just another task. But if you want to campaign for more vegetarians on the force and in hostels for victims don't let me stop you.
There'll be blue birds over
The white cliffs of Dover

Nick
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Re: Why are some thoughtful people vegetarian and others not?

#8 Post by Nick » July 27th, 2008, 8:46 am

tom wrote:
why are other people who are also thoughtful and compassionate not vegetarian?
Because their compassion and thought has convinced them that vegetarianism is not the answer.

clayto
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Re: Why are some thoughtful people vegetarian and others not?

#9 Post by clayto » July 27th, 2008, 2:34 pm

Or because they have not thought about it at all, or extensively, just as the rest of us have not thought about a vast array of issues / practices at all / sufficiently to take a stance or engage in action. Which is one reason why we need bodies like HVG to bring the issues to peoples attention. At one time most compassionate and thoughtful people saw little or nothing wrong with slavery and the slave trade.

Chris
clayto

Nick
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Re: Why are some thoughtful people vegetarian and others not?

#10 Post by Nick » July 28th, 2008, 10:43 am

clayto wrote:Or because they have not thought about it at all, or extensively
Welcome back, Chris. And straight in with an ad hominem. It really is disgraceful that you should accuse anyone who disagrees with you of such a thing.
Which is one reason why we need bodies like HVG to bring the issues to peoples attention.
No it isn't. As previously discussed. If you continue to assert this through a humanist forum, I will continue to disagree.
At one time most compassionate and thoughtful people saw little or nothing wrong with slavery and the slave trade.
This has absolutely no bearing on whether veggiedom (as distinct from ethical farming) is or is not a good thing, any more than accepting Newton's theory of gravity means we are more compassionate.

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Re: Why are some thoughtful people vegetarian and others not?

#11 Post by Maria Mac » July 28th, 2008, 12:33 pm

Nick wrote:
clayto wrote:Or because they have not thought about it at all, or extensively
Welcome back, Chris. And straight in with an ad hominem. It really is disgraceful that you should accuse anyone who disagrees with you of such a thing.
You seemed to have taken Chris's remark personally, Nick. It doesn't look like an ad hominem or an accusation to me. It simply looks like an observation that a lot of thoughtful and compassionate people haven't thought about vegetarianism.

I don't mind putting my hand up and admitting that I haven't given it much thought myself.

:shrug:

clayto
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Re: Why are some thoughtful people vegetarian and others not?

#12 Post by clayto » July 28th, 2008, 12:56 pm

Thank you Maria, you have saved me from having to struggle again to avoid responding to Nick's outburst, which I am trying to do in order not to add further to what I feel is an inappropriate argument for this Forum.

One point for information, my comparison with slavery is derived from Richard Dawkins 'The God Delusion' page 271 where he says of Peter Singer's argument about speciesism "It would be a natural extrapolation of earlier reforms like the abolition of slavery and the emancipation of women." This Forum is of course inspired by claims such as that of Singer who says "vegetarianism is the most effective way in which ordinary people can reduce animal suffering", a quote relevant to this thread I think.

Chris
clayto

Nick
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Re: Why are some thoughtful people vegetarian and others not?

#13 Post by Nick » July 28th, 2008, 3:58 pm

Hmmm. Let’s have a look at the thread as a whole. Tom initially wrote:
People who are vegetarian because of ethical reasons are usually thoughtful and compassionate.

So why are other people who are also thoughtful and compassionate not vegetarian?

Vegetarianism is a subject that is common and there are many opportunities to prompt thought or concern or debate.

Why are you vegetarian and others you know not?
The clear implication, it seems to me, is that it is Tom's reasoning that leads him to veggiedom. He wonders why those who have thought about it, and are compassionate, do not reach the same conclusion. The essence of his question excludes those who have not given it much thought. He is not asking why some people do not think about it (which may be an interesting question, but is different).

Perhaps this is not what Chris meant, but given that that the non-thoughtful have been effectively excluded, it does seem a personal attack (I didn't mean specifically against me) on those who have given it thought, to imply that they can't have thought enough about it or they would have reached a different conclusion. It's also a pretty weak argument. If that's not what he meant, then he has not addressed Tom's question, nor my answer to it.

I am also unimpressed with any argument made as 'an argument from authority'. Just because Singer or Dawkins (or I) say something, doesn't make it right, any more than Mark's gospel is right, and I happen to think Dawkins is wrong on this point, though I daresay he would have a much fuller, more nuanced, argument if it were more than a passing reference.

In any case, Singer has been quoted as follows: (my bold)
Though Singer argued that pain is bad for all species, he did not argue that premature death is a similar loss for all species. Instead, he explained that premature death is a greater or lesser loss, depending on factors such as a being's awareness of its existence over time and its ability to plan for the future.

Though he is a vegan and has been a vegetarian since 1971, Singer does not condemn all meat eating absolutely. He presented Rodger Scruton's view of 'Conscientious Omnivorism', similar to the ideas of Michael Pollan, and noted that eating meat could be justified in some cases.

"You could argue that people give animals a good life and existence if they raise them for meat," Singer said. "This could be a justification for eating meat and animal products if people are very conscious about where they are getting their meat from."

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Re: Why are some thoughtful people vegetarian and others not?

#14 Post by clayto » July 28th, 2008, 4:04 pm

I hope it wll be fully understood why I am not going to be tempted to respond (again) to Nick's postings. Others may wish to do so.

Chris
clayto

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Why are some thoughtful people vegetarian and others not?

#15 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » July 28th, 2008, 5:28 pm

Nick wrote:The clear implication, it seems to me, is that it is Tom's reasoning that leads him to veggiedom.
That's not at all clear to me. I can't even tell whether Tom is vegetarian. Although I had guessed that he wasn't, because of his question, "why aren't vegetarians more widely thoughtful and compassionate ...?" I hope he returns to the thread and clarifies that for us.
Nick wrote:Perhaps this is not what Chris meant, but given that that the non-thoughtful have been effectively excluded, it does seem a personal attack (I didn't mean specifically against me) on those who have given it thought, to imply that they can't have thought enough about it or they would have reached a different conclusion.
First, note that Chris's comment, "Or because they have not thought about it at all, or extensively" followed your own comment "Because their compassion and thought has convinced them that vegetarianism is not the answer." And it began with the word "Or". Chris did not say, "No, you're wrong, Nick. It's because they have not thought about it at all ..." That would have been a personal attack, since the implication would be that you yourself haven't really thought about it. But Chris said, "Or ..." He was presenting an alternative possibility, for at least some thoughtful and compassionate people who aren't vegetarians. And in my view it's one that is compatible with Tom's question. Because there are thoughtful and compassionate people, like Maria, who have thought about all sorts of things, but not vegetarianism. Nobody is thoughtful and compassionate enough that they've thought about every single ethical issue. So Chris's comment was not even remotely an ad hominem.

However, I do agree with you, Nick, that there are plenty of thoughtful and compassionate people who have thought about vegetarianism, maybe even practised it for a while, and concluded that it is not something they want to do. I think there are numerous reasons for this, just as there are numerous reasons for people becoming vegetarian. I don't think there are any nice, neat little answers to Tom's questions. Any more than there would be nice, neat little answers to other questions, such as "Why do some thoughtful, compassionate people travel by plane and some not?" Or "Why do some thoughtful, compassionate people join Amnesty International or other human rights organisations and some not?" Or "Why do some thoughtful, compassionate people do voluntary work and some not?" Or a host of other questions. Decision-making about personal behaviour is complex. I have trouble working out my own motivations half the time, let alone trying to ascertain other people's.

Emma

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Re: Why are some thoughtful people vegetarian and others not?

#16 Post by clayto » July 28th, 2008, 5:50 pm

Thank you Emma for confirming my thought that my posting was clear and reasonable. In fact at the time I wrote it I was thinking not of vegetarianism but of euthanasia ----- and Dignity in Dying which both myself and my wife are members of. Why are 'thoughtful compassionate' people not also members (and for example a part of the current campaign for reforms in the law relating to 'assisted suicide' for those who are suffering and terminally ill)? The answers (plural) seemed to be many. They include not only those who have given serious thought, including from a humanist perspective as well as religious ones, and who have rejected the idea for a host of reasons ------- but also the many (who I have encountered) who have really not thought about it at all and may never do so, or will do so when something happens to directly involve them, or who really 'don't want to' think about it for quite understandable reasons. Plainly this is true for any number of ethical, caring, compassion centered issues of which vegetarianism is just one.

Chris
clayto

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Why are some thoughtful people vegetarian and others not?

#17 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » July 29th, 2008, 3:37 pm

Yes. However, it might be worth acknowledging that there are plenty of unthinking vegetarians (and probably a few unthinking supporters of assisted dying, as well). One can adopt a particular position for all sorts of reasons [---][/---] such as through being influenced by particular people one admires, especially when one is young [---][/---] and never actually engage with the arguments, or subsequently stop engaging with them and keeping up to date with new evidence. In fact, I think that happens a hell of a lot. The problem of 'not wanting to think about' certain things can also affect people on both sides of an issue. A lot of the time, we don't actually think about these issues at all; we just feel about them. Issues like killing animals for food, abortion, assisted dying and capital punishment can be decided on in very emotive ways. I have found myself struggling to argue the case against capital punishment in the past, to the point where I've ended up helplessly stuttering, 'But ... but ... it's just ... wrong!' And I've seen that mirrored in other people when I've been arguing with them about, say, abortion, or voluntary euthanasia.

It does seem likely that a larger proportion of vegetarians than meat-eaters will have thought about issues concerning livestock rearing and slaughter, to some degree, at some point. But it does not follow that 'thinking about it' is a significant reason for staying vegetarian. I think emotions play a much larger part. And not just the obvious emotion: compassion. I'm thinking of emotions like fear, shame, anger, disgust, smugness, pride. For example, I wouldn't want to stop being a vegan, partly because it is now part of my identity. I've only just admitted this to myself, though it's probably obvious to other people, but I'm proud of having been a vegan for twenty-three years. It feels like an achievement, a display of commitment, of staying power. Giving it up would make me feel like a failure. Pathetic, I know, but there it is. I can only comfort myself with the thought that I'm probably not the only one ... Or am I?

If anyone feels the urge to make a similar confession, that would be very reassuring ... :D

Emma

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Re: Why are some thoughtful people vegetarian and others not?

#18 Post by gregory » August 2nd, 2008, 11:04 am

Yes

I started vegetarianism because I was poor then it became something to see if I could keep it up. I have read some of Singer and liked him at the time of reading but perhaps it was because I like the name Singer. I could confess even more but I wouldn't want to bore anyone.

To be personal Nick had started to respect those of us who were sticking to our diets probably those of us who were not saying that we were absolutely right.

Nick and Chris seem to rub each other up the wrong way. I suggest it may be the clash of the alpha males and like stags at certain times of the year they will continue to do this. However we are humans and maybe they can eventually come to a way of communicating with each other which doesn't get them so riled up.

As this is Chirs's site it will be natural for him to be the boss to a certain extent althought the best boss has a way of speaking to his subjects in a way which does not offend. I wonder if Nick would speak to the Queen in the same way as he speaks to Chris. Unfortunately Chris cannot chop off Nick's head he hasn't the power and he's a vegetarian so wouldn't do it anyway. I do not know of the ages of the two protagonists but if Nick is older than Chris he will eventually have to give way to the younger stonger alpha male. If the alpha males are vegetarian hopefully Nick will be looked after properly in his nursing home. I expect he would be too bony and grisly to eat even to give to the nursing home cat.

I think we all need some happy pills.

Since Maria is the boss of the whole site I was pleased that she intervened with her comment which I interpreted as being wise.
There'll be blue birds over
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LilacHamster
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Re: Why are some thoughtful people vegetarian and others not?

#19 Post by LilacHamster » August 2nd, 2008, 1:30 pm

Personally I find Singer to be a bit "old hat", Gary Francione makes more sense to me these days when it comes to animal rights/veganism. I've no idea if he is a humanist or a religious person, I just mean about AR he makes more sense than Singer and goes a lot further, makes Singer seem wishy-washy, which I always did find him just a bit.

clayto
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Re: Why are some thoughtful people vegetarian and others not?

#20 Post by clayto » August 2nd, 2008, 3:15 pm

Thanks LilacHamster, I have only just discovered Gary Francione and find the websites (see below) interesting and challenging. From a quick look I have not yet been able to establish the basis of Francione's ethical stance in the context of secularism / humanism /religion but am awaiting a reply to my enquiry.

HVG's 'official line' in so far as there is such a thing is that it is open to all forms and degrees of vegetarianism, insofar as they are not only not inconsistent with humanism but can also be reasonably argued to be for some people an expression of humanist principles in practice.


http://www.abolitionistapproach.com ------ official site

http://www.gary-francione.com ----- unofficial site

Chris
clayto

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