non-violenter

I was thinking about food in terms of how “natural” it is for us to eat it. That can be defined in lots of ways, but in this case I want to look at it in terms of how much of a loss it is to the thing being eaten, or how violent it is on our part. I suppose I’m also making the assumption that consciousness is continuumy, and that more of it is more important. Behold! (from least “natural/non-violent” to most “natural/non-violent”)


“Red” meat – mammals (octopus and squid should also be here for consciousness)

“white” meat – birds, reptiles, amphibians

“seafood” – fish, shark, most mollusks

insects

eggs/fetuses of above animals (eggs, caviar, etc)

bi products of above animals (milk, honey)

plant roots — harvesting is devastating to plant (potatoes, carrots, ginger, etc)

plant shoots — harvesting is very impacting to plant (celery, rhubarb, sugarcane, wood, etc. Probably put fungus, such as mushrooms, around here. Maybe single celled organisms, like spirulina and yeast, too.)

plant seeds — harvesting is very annoying to plant (nuts, seeds, grains)

plant leaves — harvesting is annoying to plant (lettuce, mint, spinach, basil, etc)

plant fruit — harvesting is exactly what the plant wants us to do, provided we spread that seed far and wide! (tomatoes, avocados, peppers, cucumbers, squash, etc, as well as all the things we correctly call fruit)

water, sunlight, heat, minerals, etc.

Of course, this is highly fuzzy, and exact locations of these categories depend on individual species and each person’s values. But this is just a more detailed description of the typical continuum that ranges from omnivore to vegetarian to vegan to fruitarian to sun gazing and breatharianism etc.

Regarding meat, another aspect to consider is their position in the food chain, since toxins, ecological importance, and energy inefficiency tend to increase exponentially as you move from producers (plants, algae) to herbivores (most fish, insects, birds, and mollusks) to primary and secondary carnivores (larger fish, larger birds, things with sharp teeth, etc.). For these reasons too it would make more sense to eat lower on the food chain.

It would also make more sense for us to eat lower down on the plant continuum, because less devastating harvesting should be more sustainable and energy efficient, and because we would expect the plant to have evolved more defences to protect the parts that are more devastating if eaten. So we would expect shoots to be more toxic and more inefficient than leaves, for instance. Of course, this is a gross generalization, and incredibly complicated by local natural history and ecology, as well as hugely modified by thousands of years of artificial selection mostly through farming, which made many things edible that wouldn’t have been before our meddling.

Another interesting point here is that apes and other primates, our closest relatives, tended to eat mostly fruit, with occasional seeds and other plant parts. Even less frequently did they eat insects and animal bi-products like honey, and probably almost never ate other animals. So our closest relatives were mostly “vegetarian/vegans,” though I bet they wouldn’t refuse a nice steak if you offered them one. But the main idea here is that our closest relatives naturally ate quite “non-violently.”

So all this sort of leads me to the conclusion that the ideal diet for humans should be things that are lower down on this continuum, sticking to fruits and elements as much as possible.

This is where all the counter arguments come in, such as:

“But meat tastes good.”

“I don’t care.”

“Humans need protein.”

“God made the animals for us.”

“Vegetarians are so annoying because they force their eating habits onto their hosts”

The only one I really want to respond to here is the protein thing. Protein is fundamental to life. If what you are eating is not a rock, it has protein, in roughly the same proportions that you do. Further, our body can produce most of the 22 amino acids that make up protein as long as it has nitrogen (ubiquitous) and an energy source. As for the 9 “essential” amino acids that we can’t produce ourselves, they are widely available, and it is difficult to not get all of them if you eat more than one fruit. While people can easily suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies (not if they eat fruit though), it is very difficult to suffer from a protein deficiency without also suffering from malnourishment as well. Meaning, people usually suffer from protein deficiencies because they are not eating much of anything at all, so they have other problems. Protein deficiency is mostly a myth that was encouraged by the meat industry.

But in general, I would respond to these counter arguments by saying: We are omnivores in the sense that we can eat a lot of different types of things, and we get to choose. This is a continuum that suggests that it is better for both you and the world if you choose lower down on the continuum. Since this is a continuum, hard and fast rules, like “I am a vegetarian” have no real use other than psychological encouragement and ego stroking. Instead, I would argue that in whatever way we move our diet towards the bottom of this continuum, we are our benefiting our selves and the world. If you move from meat 7 days a week to 6, that is a benefit and an accomplishment, an accomplishment that we can always improve upon in our lives as we move naturally towards less and less violence.

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~ by lukewarming on June 20, 2008.

One Response to “non-violenter”

  1. I suppose if you helped define violence and annoyance towards our plant/food sources some more would be further enlightening… thanks,
    Fanzi

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