Vegans versus Foodies: Moral High Ground

Vegans have lost their moral high ground to the foodies. For those vegans who say they are opposed to animal cruelty as a rational to live the whole plant lifestyle, they have missed out on the market  of raising animals in an eco-friendly and caring manner. Don’t tell me that you regularly protest against foie gras (yawn) because you love these ducks – lets just be honest, that is just lazy. And do not humanize the animal. To quote Simon Mujumdar “Anyone who uses phrase ‘inhumane treatment of birds’ is by definition a cretin.”

So, if you are a vegan because you are opposed to animal cruelty here is the catch: by eating vegetables you are not supporting the ranches and farms that are working hard trying to make a living treating animals fairly.  But foodies didn’t miss that, and foodies are the ones that pointed out such places, as Michael Pollen did with  Polyface Farms,  or Thomas Keller with Pure Bred Lamb, and in Arizona there is Aschbacher Acres as well as  Aravaipa’s Painted Cave Cattle Company – all of whom raise the animals in an eco-friendly manner. Foodies are bringing the message that food can be managed in a sustainable manner, earth friendly, without being cruel to animals.

Vegans missed the chance to truly impact the market and meat eaters choices.Yes, it is a market economy out there- and if you just eat plants, you have opted out of the animal market in a very lazy way. Imagine if instead you supported those who raise cattle on ranches, or those whose chickens roam freely (not in a cage) – whose market do you think you would impact the most? Those who enjoy meat are not in favor of cruelty, imagine if instead of wanting to get rid of all carnivores you spent your efforts educating them about the places that raise animals well, treat them well, and provide an ecologically friendly environment. Vegans have for years held the moral high ground, pointing out animal cruelty, but by opting out of the system entirely have lost their voice.

It is a lot more work and trouble to find those places, then to personally inspect them, and when you find those that raise the animals to freely range, to support them by buying from them.  Foodies delight in finding the next great sustainable farm, with grain fed cattle, and true free-range chicken. Your market force isn’t as effective if you opt out of that market and tell the world how you are doing something by shopping for vegetables. Do you raise your own vegetables – great, hope you do it in an eco-friendly manner, or purchase from those who do.

To quote foodie Alton Brown, “Animals don’t have rights, but we have an obligation to care for them” – and by avoiding that whole small farm market and eating plants, vegans opt out of that obligation, and are not supporting those who are raising the animals in a manner that gives them a longer life, a healthier life. You may never want to eat meat, but chances are you are not going to change the mind of those of us who do – but you can impact it in a positive manner. But vegans missed the opportunity, and in missing have been relegated to a fringe.

Its Mother Earth
Earth is an ecosystem, and the best system is to keep a balance. The big cattle feed lots are not a balance, but neither is the large soy bean production.  Foodies don’t support those feedlots, but  foodies were the first to support farms that raise animals as a part of an ecosystem.  Foodies understand that a sustainable ecosystem involves animals – not just plants.  If vegans are worried about the ethics of eating meat because of what happens to mother-earth then they haven’t learned what foodies have: it is more ethical to have an ecosystem that is built with animals in it. In any proper eco system there is a balance and  if you do not eat those animals then  their lives will be shorter, and more cruel than those raised in a pasture system. That is sustainable – using oil-based fertilizer for raising plants is not sustainable.

Mother nature is a balance. Try to convince this bear to be a vegan

Foodies were the first to point out how salmon are a part of the ecosystem also. Wild salmon,  90% of salmon sold in the US are from fish farms) is another example of supporting the eco-system.  We need farm raised salmon as a part of the sustainable planet, it is what we need to feed a hungry world. While I enjoy catching salmon, it is a part of an ecological cycle, and the salmon that are caught have a less cruel death than going up a stream to spawn and die. Finding wild salmon isn’t always easy (even if you are fishing for them), but the taste is worth it. But eating sustainable farm-raised salmon provides a lot of health benefits – high omega-3 fatty acids (humans need omega-3 fatty acids and salmon are a great source). Salmon – farmed or wild, healthy, delicious and sustainable.

From Arizona to Mongolia, pastures provide a part of the ecology that provide a balance to a delicate ecosystem. Without the cattle, the grass would grow too much. The cattle graze on the grass, allowing it to not overgrow. The chickens pick out the insects from the cattle dung, and help replace nitrogen in the soil. If the cattle are not harvested by humans they would be hunted down by the coyotes, or starve from over population. Man is a part of the balance of some great ecosystems. But instead you would over populate the world with vegetables, thinking this will reduce greenhouse gases, when the production of them requires more of a carbon footprint than a proper ecosystem. Foodies who left the restaurants to see where the food came from, chefs who wanted to have local food – or even those like Thomas Keller who would point out that having lamb raised in another state is worth getting to the table.

Cycle of Life
The death of a creature that might have a conscious is what bothers many.  Foodies don’t make ethics simple by dividing the world into plants and animals and only eating plants, because plants have no conscious. Some divide the world that way- it is a simplistic and rather lazy way to do it, and does not alter the deeper depths of philosophy (it is a Jr. High school level of  philosophy).

Foodies learn from aboriginals, whether it be from Alaska Natives still eat seal, whale, reindeer, halibut, and a variety of other creatures, or Lap-Landers who raise and sustain reindeer. For them it is a matter of being a part of the ecosystem called earth. Their sense of morality does not come from Judeo-Christian religions, and many modern aboriginals are simply atheist. But there is still a profound sense of thankfulness to the universe that they were able to sustain, and are themselves a part of something bigger. To recognize the brevity of life, to honor creatures, is simple and yet a far more profound ethic – it is also sustainable.

The Sum of it
Foodies oppose cruelty to animals, and the large business of bringing the animals to feed lots and treating them cruelly. But that means eating food from those farms that treat the animals well, and we are profoundly thankful for their care of the animal, as we are aware that an animal died so that we might eat. Foodies by using their dollars to support those who work hard to raise animals in an eco-friendly manner, are being a part of the solution.

Eat your vegetables-we need to eat more in the United States. But if you care about animals and how they live- then spend your dollars on well sourced creatures..

Dr. Terry Simpson About Dr. Terry Simpson
Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. He found he liked people more than petri dishes, and received his MD. Dr. Simpson, then became a renowned weight loss surgeon, and a leading advocate of culinary medicine. The first surgeon to become certified in Culinary Medicine, he advocates teaching people to improve their health through their food. On the other side of the world, he has been a leading advocate of changing health care to make it more "relationship based," and his efforts awarded his team the Malcom Baldrige award for healthcare in 2011 for the NUKA system of care in Alaska. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.” For media inquiries, please visit www.terrysimpson.com.

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  1. Lindsay says:

    You’re an idiot. Like, really an idiot. This post makes no sense. I’m stunned that you’re a doctor. SERIOUSLY? What’s wrong with you? Vegans are LAZY? You’re an idiot. I’m embarrassed I stumbled onto this website. I’m mostly embarrassed for myself, but also for humanity. Because you are (you guessed it) an idiot. Find another line of work. For the love of God. Please. And lap band? Seriously? Who in your life trusts you? I mean, really? You should really reexamine, like, everything dude. Everything. EVERYTHING. Because… DUN DUN DUN… you are an idiot.

  2. The Doc says:

    Always good to have an articulate response outlining specific issues and commentary for debate

  3. Lindsay says:

    First of all, this article used to be called “Vegans Are Lazy.” What’s up with that? Second of all, I can’t engage in debate with someone whose arguments are unfounded, insanely biased, and untruthful. I don’t even like debating or commenting or engaging in online arguments of any kind usually, but this is wrong dude. You went to school to honor a code of ethics, and you’re sitting around on a computer trashing someone else’s ethics. You have no idea what you’re talking about in terms of eating or living vegan. You’re just bunching a whole group of people together, making limited assumptions, and stating them as your truth on here. It’s disappointing to me. To see someone who is supposed to be helping us find greater health and well being in our lives completely trash talk a way of living that also seeks that. I’ve been living vegan for three years, an active participant in helping animals through volunteer work, sharing info with friends and family, and honoring animals every single day by abstaining from the practices that exploit them. You may not agree with my choices, and that’s fine. But why trash my way of living on the same site where you want people to respect you as a doctor?

    I have a feeling you’re going to come back at me on here with a long laundry list of “proof” of why we aren’t meant to be vegans (yawn), why animals should be raised for food (yawn), why it’s “natural” to eat them (yawn), why after reading everything I’ve written you still think vegans are lazy (again, the ORIGINAL TITLE of this article), and any other limited opinions you’d like to spout as truth. But I can’t imagine it will be any less disappointing than the article above, or your site in general. It’s selfish, sad, and a really backwards way of living your life, dude. Please find another cause to rail against, and stop taking whatever insecurities you have about the way you live out on the vast majority of vegans who work actively, not lazily, to treat animals and humans with the least amount of cruelty possible.

  4. The Doc says:

    Surprised you came back to the site then. Glad you put your real email address in.
    I don’t see how I “trash talk a way of living,” and the point of this was that Vegans, by opting out of animal eating because of cruelty to animals have used their dollars ineffectively. It doesn’t trash the vegan way of life at all. It is also not putting a whole bunch of people together.

    In terms of “why we aren’t meant to be vegans” – humans are built to be flexible, and you have a choice to be a vegan, which works for you. So, for a 68 year old movement of Veganism, it isn’t something that is meant – it is a choice.

    “Why animals should be raised for food (yawn), why its “natural” to eat them (yawn)..” For my friends who are foodies that choose to eat meat, it is their choice, but they choose where they buy the product from. You choose to eat a vegetable- fine. But foodies are leading the charge to support those places that raise animals for human consumption in a manner that isn’t cruel. Animals that are raised in such a manner have a good life, and are not killed in terror. Any hunter will tell you that meat tastes a lot worse if the animal was in pain prior to its death. So it is the foodies that are putting their marketing dollars into places, while the Vegans have sat on the sidelines advocating their position, to opt out of the animal market entirely, and that position is being relegated more and more to the fringe.

    Here is the problem: as the basic research continues to come out we find that being a Vegan isn’t healthier than someone who consumes meat raised on a pasture, or fish caught in the wild. The research continues to show that people who eat those foods live quite healthy and long lives because of that balanced diet. Foodies are leading the way to show that tastier food is raised and killed, in a manner that befits the animal.

    Somehow you either missed the point because I didn’t communicate it well, or you just can’t take a bit of humor.

    One more thing, a physician doesn’t go “..to school to honor a code of ethics..” A physician goes to school to treat humans. We have a basis of ethics, four pillars, as we see them today. Is it ethical for a physician to praise those who are on the frontiers of research for animals, and recognize them– yes. Is it ok to point out that Vegans have missed an opportunity- oh yes.

  5. Greg says:

    As a foodie and former vegan (7 years), I respect where you’re coming from in pointing out that foodies (by nature of the demand they have created) have done much to advance the welfare of animals raised for consumption. However, arguing that vegans have a responsibility to change a system that runs counter to everything they believe in is much like making a case that Christians/Jews/Buddhists/Taoists haven’t done enough to counter Muslim extremists. Sure, those groups working together could make some progress, but at it’s core it is the responsibility of Muslims to handle their own affairs in a way that is aligned with their beliefs. Foodies have a responsibility to change the system to one that fits their needs and ethics, just as vegans are focused on, uh… NOT USING ANOTHER ANIMAL…. FOR ANY REASON.

    Obviously vegans and foodies have very different priorities. Calling one group lazy completely misses the point. Calling one group lazy is lazy. We live in a market economy. Barring monopolies, those who purchase drive demand for the manner is which the product is created. Vegans don’t buy meat. Therefore they can’t effectively change the methods in which the meat they don’t buy is raised.

    Back to Muslim extremism: we actually don’t want other religions to figure out a solution for that. When you come at a problem with a lack of understanding and ownership you end up with the worst of humanity. Similarly, foodies don’t want vegans to deal with this issue. Thinking about the solutions that would be brought, I don’t think I need to expand on that one…

    Your comment that foodies oppose cruelty to animals is only half true. Foodies primarily care about the quality and taste of ingredients. It so happens that generally animals raised in humane environments taste better, but not always. Veal and foie gras are two examples that run counter to this argument. While I agree that foie should not be banned in CA, there is no justifiable argument you can use to say that force feeding an animal is a natural process. It may not harm them much, they may be treated better than factory farmed animals, but it’s still a questionable practice from an ethical stance, and one that foodies pursue only because of taste. The banning of veal crates in the US is now only beginning to go into effect after decades of attention on the issue. If you want to call someone lazy, how about calling veal producers lazy for failing to improve conditions even after decades of drastically reduced demand for their product.

    Final thought: the foodie movement has benefited tremendously from the work that vegans and PETA have done over the last 30+ years. Nobody has publicized the horrible conditions of factory farmed animals more than they have. You have to recognize the tremendous effect they have had on creating foodies, who in turn created the demand for more consciously raised animals.

  6. thedoc says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments. But let me address a few issues:
    I was not lumping all Vegans in this group or calling them lazy- the sole group I meant to call lazy, and perhaps I was not clear- were those who stated their reason for not eating meat was because of animal cruelty. If that was not clear, I hope it is now. I don’t expect Vegans to be responsible for animal welfare for consumption- that is absurd. What I do state is that if your reason for being a vegan is because of animal cruelty, then you have missed the market place. If, as a vegan, you think the message of animal cruelty provides us with awareness – then you are not understanding this: foodies don’t listen to Vegans about this issue.

    Probably Michael Pollan did more in a single book than any Vegan or Vegetarian book out there to point out how animals can be raised well, treated well, and provide great food. He did that in a popular book for America – for foodies, we knew this already.

    Regarding foodies- like Vegans, they cannot be lumped together- but it is certainly from foodies pointing out that:
    (a) Grass fed beef has a wide variety of tastes and textures that corn fed beef does not have
    (b) Hunters will tell you, and foodies learned from them, that animals that are killed quickly and without suffering, taste much better than those who are not
    (c) Foie Gras will have to be a point of disagreement with us. Having been to several places where this is produced, I have no issue with how these animals are handled- at those places.
    (d) Veal is how you define it- for the cattle industry they will call veal anything that is 18 months old- which is when most cattle are killed. If you have seen a veal chop- it is the size of most T-bones, and difficult for most to imagine this came from a small calf. Arizona has banned crates, as have a several other states – including California, Colorado, Maine, and Michigan. My veal comes from Arizona, from farms where they are treated well.

    I would disagree that the foodie movement benefited from the Vegan movement. While the Vegans were founded in 1944 because of animal abuse- there have been people for years discussing it. But when you opt out of the system of animals then you opt out. Foodies never opted out. Foodies make a difference because they use their economic power to address the marketplace; second, people will probably listen to a foodie talk about purchase of meat from better sources, because they would never hear that from a Vegan. Ask any great foodie where they get their chickens- they will tell you, and their chicken is so much better than the chicken from the local supermarket.

    PETA and Vegans who become militant, are ignored like the crazy cat lady – where a meat eater will listen to where to get a better veal chop and why. Vegans who are foodies, and not militant, are also listened to- if Vegans want an outreach program to meat eaters it should be to be accepted for those views, not to state that our brand of eating is wrong.

  7. Murali says:

    Speaking as a (mostly vegan) vegetarian … I agree with you.

    I will not eat meat because I don’t want to. But I have no problems with raising animals for meat IF they live outdoors, walk on dirt, eat their natural foods, etc. And animal that does this is on par with its counterparts in the wild. I can’t say it’s wrong to kill the animal, but it is morally wrong to torture it or make it live unnaturally.

    I have no problem with hunting either as the animal lives a normal life, and it dies a remarkably natural death.

    But back to your point, I don’t try to convert my meat eating friends to vegetarianism, but rather I like to promote to humane meat. Even though we pay less for food than ever, factory farming still produces the lowest cost “product” and a large percentage of people will only buy the lowest price.

    Naturally raised meat is not “more expensive”, it is the natural and correct cost. Rather, factory farmed meat is “cheaper”, and that is unfortunate for the animals, the environment, and the cuisine.

  8. CaptainSakonna says:

    Many, if not most ethical vegans (including myself) did not become vegan merely because they had a problem with cruel methods of raising animals. They became vegan because they did not want animals KILLED. Killing when you don’t need to is inherently cruel, no matter how nice you are to the animal before you slash his or her throat open. Some vegans aren’t interested in influencing the market toward “humane meat” because that doesn’t satisfy us; we believe that, until someone figures out how to make meat without killing animals, there is no such thing as “humane meat.”

  9. thedoc says:

    But no problem killing plants, no problem with animals killing other animals – and so somewhere there is logic lost. To make energy, we have to kill something. Its ok, your belief isn’t logical, nor is your understanding of an eco-system. It is just a belief, and a failure to connect reality with it

  10. Eristae says:

    This morning when I got out of bed, I had a bowl of Shredded Wheat for breakfast (chocolate Shredded Wheat, actually, but we’ll ignore that and pretend I ate something healthier). I also put some milk on it. But just before I did this, I got something else out of my fridge: two little tins cans. One of these cans had a label that branded it “Gourmet Beef” while the other boasted “Gourmet Turkey.” Picking up a fork, I spooned some of the minced meat into two bowls.

    Then I put the bowls on the floor. This made my cats very happy and they excitedly ate their breakfast before I ate my own.

    When people start talking about how it’s wrong to kill animals (for whatever reason that they’ve come up with), I look at my cats. They’re tiny little things, these little factories of death. They don’t kill for themselves, of course; a human must do it for them. And so I dig money out of my purse and pay someone to slash the throat of animals for their benefit.

    Now, maybe you’ll say that this is okay because my cats are obligate carnivores (i.e. they have to eat meat). But that doesn’t change the fact that my cats don’t have to live. If I was so inclined, I could kill my cats in the name of saving cows and turkeys. If I did that, two animals (my cats) would die, but then they turkeys and cows that they would otherwise eat would not be killed for their benefit. It isn’t like my cats are in some way important to the well being of the animals that die for them (like apex predictors are). Instead, my cats do little to nothing more than make me happy as I perpetuate slaughter on their behalf.

    But I don’t kill them. I choose two little domesticated animals over the lives of many other domesticated animals.

    I can’t get around that. Nature doesn’t allow for it. The world isn’t built to avoid death . That’s just the way things are.

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