Veganism: against

Criticism: general
Criticism: people
       Joanne Stepaniak: 'Being Vegan'

       Dr Lisa Kemmerer, feminist vegan
      Louise Haigh MP

See also the pages

Animal welfare and activism

Ethics: theory and practice

See also my discussion of other ideologies

Green ideology
Feminist ideology
Irish nationalist ideology
Palestinian ideology

Criticism: general

I've been a vegetarian for decades and active in the field of animal welfare for a significant part of that time. (My page Animal welfare and activism  gives more information.) A significant number of vegans are prominent in the field of animal welfare. Why is it that I've never become a vegan? Is it weakness? A defective understanding of animal welfare? An inability to follow vegan reasoning? When vegans explain this reasoning, you often sense that this is their moment, their chance to impart superior insights, obviously the insights of superior people. I don't take their claims at face value.

Here, I give arguments against veganism, an ideology which distorts and falsifies in so many ways, but, as in the case of  other ideologies, religious and non-religious, I make allowances. Individual believers can be respected and admired. There are outstanding vegans, just as there are outstanding Christians. There are vegans I've known or know of who are impressive, able and likeable. For example, Martin Balluch's page 'A brief history of Austria's current campaign to ban battery cages' on the United Poultry Concerns site is a  record of persistent, determined, altogether admirable humane work by an outstanding vegan and his fellow-activists.

But the dedication of many, many vegans is misdirected and shouldn't be respected or admired at all. I give a great deal of space to one representative vegan viewpoint, the book 'Being Vegan' by Joanne Stepaniak, shallow and disastrously misguided in its muddled thinking.

I know of one vegan who  attended an interview for a job. As he doesn't have anything to do with leather, he declined the invitation from the interviewer to sit on a leather sofa. He claimed that he'd hurt his leg and remained standing during the interview. He didn't get the job. The vegan who gave me this information about his vegan lodger is himself no paragon. Faced by the clear need to help his mother, facing great problems and in her eighties, he told her that he wouldn't be visiting until some unrelated problems had ended. He refused to visit his father in hospital, except on one occasion. What does it matter, to some vegans, if they evade family duties and responsibilities? The meat and dairy industry tend to monopolize their attention, and the problems of family, the problems of people in this country and in far-away countries, no matter how atrocious, are often regarded as insignificant.

If many vegans show dedication in working to reduce animal cruelty, many vegans show absolutely no interest in specific reforms. My page on bullfighting includes a section on foie gras and the cruelties inflicted on ducks and geese in its production, with a link to a harrowing film on the subject. The  narrator is the actor Roger Moore. He writes about the subject in a piece in 'The Daily Mail,' ' ...  after I had done a little research into the methods of foie gras production, I knew I had to find time to try to stop this barbaric trade which shames everyone who connives to keep it going, by eating the stuff, serving it or stocking it in their grocery shops.' 

The first comment after the piece comes from a vegan called 'Ged:'

'It is bizarre logic to complain about cruelty to animals whilst eating meat and wearing animal skins. The only consistent way is to be vegan.'

It's Ged's opinion which is bizarre. The chances of the world becoming vegan in a matter of decades or centuries or longer are vanishingly small - surely, non-existent. In the meantime, whilst vegans like Ged are waiting for the vegan utopia, is it a matter of indifference if specific abuses of animals go unreformed? Is it a matter of indifference if specific shops and restaurants go on selling foie gras or not?

Similarly, there are vegans whose response to bullfighting isn't to take part in action to abolish the bullfight but simply to repeat the mantra 'Go vegan!' As long as animals are slaughtered for food (and leather) then slaughter methods have to be as humane as possible. By a set of comprehensive regulations and enforcement of the regulations. The European Union has been working to achieve this objective. Vegans who don't care if slaughter methods are regulated or unregulated, if animals are slaughtered instantaneously or by long-drawn out and painful methods, because animals shouldn't be slaughtered at all, are living in an unreal world.

Vegan reasoning, which distinguishes vegans from lesser beings such as non-vegan vegetarians, has some force. Dairy products - cream, butter, cheese - can only be obtained if the cows or other female animals are made pregnant again and again. The calves or other offspring are removed so that humans can make use of the milk. These animals usually come to a bad end, such as the short and unenviable life of a veal calf, or the male calves which are killed soon after birth. Chickens don't go on laying eggs in quantity until the end of their natural lives. After not much more than a year, egg production drops and the chicken goes to slaughter. So, allegedly, vegetarians who eat dairy products and eggs are no better than meat-eaters, or not much better.

But already, there are difficulties for the vegan. There's the notorious difficulty of vitamin B12. This vitamin, essential for health, is found in more than adequate amounts in animal products (including dairy products and eggs) but not in plant products. In practice, vegans take supplements, the products of chemical factories, or should do. Many don't. The advice given in 'The Vegan Cookbook' is irresponsible: '...if you plan to be exclusively vegan on a permanent basis, it's probably better to be safe than sorry and take a vitamin B12 supplement. Even though you probably won't actually need it, it won't do you any harm!'

Tom Sanders, Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics at King's College, London:

'Despite being warned that the lack of vitamin B12 is a problem, it seems that many vegans don’t heed the dietary advice seriously and follow their own pet nostrum, thinking they will adapt to a diet deficient in vitamin B12. Our research has shown that about one third of vegans have worryingly low intakes of vitamin B12, which puts them at an increased risk of damaging their spinal cord and brain as well as increasing the risk of stroke and cancer. Vegan mothers who do not take vitamin B12 risk causing brain damage in the babies they breastfeed.'

Any notion of veganism as a 'natural diet' is out of the question. A vegan diet requires supplements, and is only possible with the aid of scientific and technological advance.

Each of the human senses can be given richer, more complex, more rewarding, more significant experiences or ones which are much poorer. The ears can be given a piece with rhythmic subtlety or rhythmic intensity or a monotonously repeated rhythm, rich or subtle or varied harmony rather than hackneyed harmony.

It seems obvious enough that the sense of taste can be given richer and more complex tastes, such as the farmhouse cheeses of England and other countries - or something which is is lacking in interesting and complex taste that it amounts to a debased product. The method of production is very often linked with taste. The product of a chemical factory, where hydrogenation of oils is achieved by chemical engineering and not traditional skills, has a taste inferior to the traditional product. Nobody with any taste which is even slightly developed could maintain, I think, that vegan margarine offers anything like the same taste as butter. So, a product which is 'ethically pure' is inferior in taste.

Vegans have their substitute for butter, margarine, a substitute for milk, soya milk, and a substitute too for eggs in many recipes, such as powdered soya products. Vegans tend to attach very great importance to soya products. This is fine if the vegan lives in a hot climate, such as the southern United States, but the soya bean isn't a practical crop in this country. It's possible to grow one or two varieties when summers are hotter than average, but otherwise no. Very many vegans rely on imported soya beans and soya bean products, products that consume many, many 'food miles.'

I grow a large proportion of the vegetables and fruit that I eat, within a very short distance of the house. The page of gardening photographs gives links to my other pages on fruit and vegetable growing and other gardening subjects. I don't keep chickens, but eggs are available from hens kept very near to here. Dairy cows are kept not much further away, and milk from those cows is readily available. For me, a non-vegan diet makes use of local products, which make no excessive demands on the earth's resources. A vegan diet would be dependent on factories and on crops grown at a very great distance. A gain in terms of animal welfare would be contrasted with severe disadvantages. As a general principle, people should feed themselves from sources which are near at hand rather than very distant. I accept this principle voluntarily, just as most African villagers accept it by force of necessity.

It's perfectly true, as vegans maintain, that a plant-based diet generally makes far less demands than a diet based upon meat, dairy products and eggs, but vegans rarely address the complication that marginal land which it would be difficult or impossible to use for crops can be used for animal products.

This page gives a sustained criticism of vegans and veganism by a vegetarian. I have some respect for veganism - their rejection of dairy products has some validity - but my dislike for the limitations of vegans is greater. Veganism turns out to have the most extensive ramifications - linkages - and to involve matters of intellectual integrity, of survival and defence.

An adequate ((survey)) of eating would include, I think, these factors. The numbering of these factors has nothing to do with {ordering}, from most important to least important.

(1) Nutritional adequacy. A diet should provide all the components needed for health (such as vitamin B12) in adequate amounts.
(2) Taste. Eating is, or should be, one of the pleasurable activities of life. It can provide richer, more interesting, more complex or more interesting experiences or ones which are bland or even unpleasant. Vitamins can be obtained by means of supplements, which are devoid of pleasure, or obtained in full as part of an enjoyable experience.
(3) Sustainability. Eating should not make excessive demands on fossil fuels and other resources which are limited in supply.
(4) Cost. This is a factor which is crucial for many people, less so or of no account to others.
(5) Human welfare. Eating should not cause avoidable suffering to humans, such as slavery or child labour.
(6) Animal welfare. Eating should not cause avoidable suffering to animals.

Veganism is at its strongest as regards animal welfare. Some forms of cookery give this factor little consideration or none at all. Traditional French cookery is an example, generally giving  Factor (2), taste, overwhelming importance and if animal welfare is considered, it is only because poor welfare standards may lead to a product with inferior taste. Traditional French cookery is surely based on a defective survey.

Hence products such as foie gras, the production of which ignores any suffering of the ducks or geese. A shocking example of an {ordering} giving vastly more importance to (2) than (6) from the Southwest of France: 'it was discovered that the birds [ortolans] could be fattened faster if they were blinded so that their attention did not wander from the matter in hand.' (From 'French Regional Cooking' by Anne Willan.)

There are wider ((surveys)) than ((surveys)) which simply list the factors involved in cooking and eating, such as surveys which list cooking and eating as one factor in the many factors which are involved in human life. Cooking and eating can be given disproportionate importance. People who are single-mindedly making original contributions to quantum mechanics, pure mathematics or literature may reduce eating to a very simple level. People who are devoted to fine cooking and eating may be deficient in other areas of sensibility.

Eating and cooking, whilst very important, should not be disproportionate in importance. Time given to cooking and eating is time not given to other activities. Two hours devoted to the exacting application of French cooking techniques - and these do interest me - is two hours not devoted to - to give an incomplete list, obviously - humanitarian activism, gardening, helping and sympathizing with someone, attempting to help oneself, watching the exultant swooping of swifts in the summer sky, listening to Mozart opera. (Although it would be possible to listen to the opera and to cook at the same time, doing justice to the opera demands concentration which should be as complete as possible.) To treat cooking and eating, simple-mindedly, as all-important is to ignore factorization and to practise factor isolation.

The books 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking,'  written by Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle and Julia Child (Volume 1) and Beck and Child (Volume 2) are books on ambitious French cooking technique which I own, and  are wonderfully thorough, and I've learnt a great deal from them, for their thoroughness and attention to detail in explaining technique rather than for most of their recipes. (A large proportion of the recipes are non-vegetarian.) Jonathan Meades, in his delightful 'Incest and Morris Dancing' (which is largely made up of restaurant reviews and incisive observations on cooking) praises them highly: 'a technical manual which should be the set text of every British catering college but isn't because it demands rigour and discipline and fanatical attention.'

'Fanatical' isn't too wide of the mark. The thoroughness of these two volumes is wonderful but over-the-top all too often. They give to cooking and eating disproportionate time and importance. The instructions for 'Plain French Bread' seem more appropriate for Advanced French Bread: 'Count on a minimum of 6 1/2 hours to 7 hours from the time you start the dough to the time it is ready for the oven...' Perhaps this isn't the best example of the books' extreme approach - a large proportion of the 7 hours is waiting time, and can be used for any number of other activities. All the same, there are so many instances in the books of unnecessary complication and of a disregard of time. Even people whose main interest lies in cooking have other claims upon their attention, very compelling and forceful claims. This is to give thought to the importance of a single area of life in life as a whole.

There seems to me to be a strong linkage between veganism and views of the world which are bizarre, ridiculous, indefensible and completely impractical. If the world were to become almost vegan, there would be gain for dairy calves but a catastrophic loss for human rationality and the elementary instinct of self preservation. Robustness, strength, toughness, sometimes ruthlessness - these will always be needed to defend important values. The pretence that civilized values require only the gentlest and most peaceable people to protect them is surely an untruth.

It's wrong to think of vegans as pure and unsullied, even if ineffectual. Many vegans may be ineffectual, but they can be dishonest when it comes to promoting veganism or defending veganism - or so limited as to be unaware of what they're doing.

The more I consider vegans and veganism, the more I'm convinced that an important and unexpected factor has to be considered: the people eating the diet, their view of the world. It needs explanation, of course, one which will make it even more clear that cooking and eating are not at all simple activities but have complex linkages with our values: cooking and eating should not have very strong linkages with views of the world which are based on dishonesty or laziness.

Veganism is heavily dependent on advanced industrial methods. Leather and wool are replaced with synthetic materials, manufactured from crude oil products. There seems to be no awareness of this dependence amongst vegans and certainly no gratitude for the people who manufacture and operate the advanced drilling equipment, the oil refinery equipment, the oil tankers, the chemical engineers, mechanical engineers and organic chemists without whom vegans would have to go barefoot or face winter wearing only footwear made of plant products. The soya products which many or most vegans eat in this country are from a plant which is completely marginal in the climate of this  country and which can't be grown commercially. They have to be imported, requiring  transportation which depends upon different oil products and the complex facilities of modern ports. These few references do no justice at all, of course, to the complexity of modern technology.

Non-vegans are just as dependent upon modern technology as vegans, but the attitude of non-vegans to technology is more likely to be an honest one than that of vegans. To vegans, the worth of a person is heavily bound up with veganism. Is the organic chemist or the oil refinery worker a vegan? No? Then the typical vegan feeling of superiority is the likely response.

 A main reason for including a page on Veganism and other approaches to cooking and eating, such as French cookery, which I also criticize here, is that they offer interesting illustrations of {theme} theory. (These are explained on other pages, such as the Introduction to {theme} theory and the General Glossary.)

By using {theme} theory, we can avoid partial approaches. We try to use approaches which are systematic and which exclude no factors which are relevant, so that we are more likely to be fair-minded. An adequate ((survey)) includes all the factors which are relevant and significant to an issue. Before going on, I give a ((survey)) of human diet, as I see it, giving the factors which should be included. . Later, there can be {ordering}, the attempt to distinguish the more important from the less important. What should be included in the ((survey)) is contentious but {ordering} is more contentious still.

Vegans tend to use factor isolation, concentrating attention on one factor, or a very few factors. It's necessary to apply {restriction} as sparingly as possible. Vegans concentrate attention particularly on the ethical factors involved in eating, such as the ethical objections to using dairy products. They minimize another factor, the nutritional inadequacy of a vegan diet (the issue of vitamin B12).



















Criticism: people

Joanne Stepaniak: 'Being Vegan'

Being Vegan' is subtitled 'Living with Conscience, Conviction and Compassion.' The dedication: 'This book is dedicated to all seekers of the compassionate way of life and to everyone who entrusted to me their questions and concerns about vegan living. I wish all of you goodness and peace as you travel the compassionate path.'

Conscience. Conviction. Compassion. Goodness. Peace. Who can resist such wonderful words? But distinguishing words from underlying realities is essential.

 The book has one advantage: vegan lunacy is expressed in a clear and concise form. Some examples. 'Q' refers to the original question, 'A' to the answer of Ms Stepaniak.

The vegan objections of Ms Stepaniak to 'Guide Dogs for the Blind' (Great Britain) or 'Seeing-Eye Dogs' (United States):

A. Utilizing animals to fulfil human needs is in conflict with basic vegan tenets. Despite the benefit to certain groups of people, from a vegan perspective, the use of seeing-eye dogs would appear to be insupportable. Nevertheless, because seeing-eye dogs present a unique solution to a challenging problem for which no alternatives presently exist, a conclusive vegan opinion may be impossible.'

Comment: I would think that no 'seeing-eye' dogs [in this country, 'guide dogs] are mistreated, except in very rare cases. How dare you make the blind and partially sighted feel guilty! There are ethical objections which are vanishingly small or non-existent. This is surely one of them. It would have been far better if you'd never so much as mentioned this issue.

Q. I invited my friend to the movies, but he says he can't go because he is strictly vegan...

A. Photographic film and movie film contain several layers of gelatin, which are an integral part of the film's chemistry. Gelaptin is the protein derived from the bones, cartilage, tendons, skin, and other tissue of steer, calves, or pigs. Film is not the other communication medium that uses animal products. For instance, book glue is manufactured from collacenous materials made from animal hides or bones. Therefore the vast majority of books are not vegan.

The rest of the answer is surprisingly conciliatory: working towards 'ending the source of materials for the by-products market' rather than an outright boycott of films and most books. Stradivarius and the other makers of violins, violas, cellos and double basses who used animal-based glue and gut strings, made from the intestines of sheep, at a time when there were no alternatives at all, are people who have contributed immeasurably to civilization. Similarly for book-makers. To treat their work with disdain is shocking.

Q. Should vegans have children?
A. ...there can be no definitive answer to this question. [the answer is long but many, many objections are made to having children and there's a stress upon the alternatives to having children. As often in the book, it's not only the answer which is deranged but the question.]

Q. I am a vegetarian and want to know why, in the Bible, God tells people to make animal sacrifices and that animals are for them to eat.

A. One of the earliest passages in the Bible that censures the eating of animal flesh is in the following excerpt from Genesis 1:29:

And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

['Meat' is an old translation for the Hebrew word, referring not  to the flesh of an animal but to anything which can be eaten. Modern translations have 'food.' To interpret this as God's 'censuring' of the eating of animal flesh is breathtaking in its audacity and intellectual shamelessness.] Ms Stepaniak makes no attempt to answer the question: why did God (allegedly) tell people to make animal sacrifices, and on so many occasions?

A similar irresponsible use of a text:

'The Vegan Cookbook' by Alan Wakeman and Gordon Baskerville is at first sight a book with a straightforward aim, to present vegan cooking and recipes for vegan cooking. It's published by Faber and Faber, a company with an immense (and thoroughly deserved) reputation. In Appendix 2, 'Seven Reasons to be Vegan,' we find that Reason No. 7, the so-called 'Spiritual' gives arguments which may be 'spiritual' but are otherwise beneath contempt.

The Vegan Cookbook quotes from an extraordinary, and extraordinarily obscure, apocryphal gospel in a desperate attempt to claim Jesus as a vegan. They quote from the so-called 'The Gospel of the Holy Twelve:' 'The fruit of the trees and the seeds and of the herbs alone do I partake, and these are changed by the spirit into my flesh and blood.' They make the comment 'It would seem that the Jesus in this apocryphal gospel is advocating veganism.' If so, why, in the much less obscure New Testament, did Jesus (allegedly) feed the people with fish? The authors of The Vegan Cookbook saw fit to evade this obvious difficulty. In the New Testament, Jesus gives not the least sign of advocating veganism or vegetarianism either.

There are two 'Feeding Miracles' in the New Testament.  The Feeding of the 5,000 is described (or rather claimed) by all four canonical Gospels. Matthew's account is at 14:13 - 21. The second miracle, "The Feeding of the 4,000" with seven loaves of bread and fish is reported by Matthew 15: 32 - 16.10 and Mark 8: 1-9.

Few groups make as much mention of compassion as vegans. Their are obvious benefits for their sense of self-esteem: the highest beings are the compassionate beings. More quotes from Joanne Stepaniak's 'Being Vegan,' which is subtitled 'Living with Conscience, Conviction, and Compassion' and dedicated to 'all seekers of the compassionate way of life...'

'...the gift of veganism. It is a guide for compassionate living. It is the path of honoring our roots, our planet, all life, and ourselves.'

'As a guide for vegan living, the American Vegan Society delineates six pillars of the compassionate way.

'Not taking care of oneself is not fully practicing compassion, which in turn means not truly honoring the aim of vegan principles.' [This is part of an answer to a question about a woman with 'a number of serious medical conditions' and who 'adamantly refuses even to consult with a physician because she is certain that all medications contain animal products or have been tested on animals.]

The title of Chapter 2, 'Relationships,' has the sub-title 'Sowing seeds of compassion.'

'...since vegan principles strongly advocate lifting the social veils of oppression, there is more incentive and opportunity for vegans to grow in their compassion.'

One more quotation:

'Compassion, according to vegan principles, accords no hierarchy of lesser or greater value to any living being. To vegans, all life is equally precious...Essentially all the problems facing both humans and animals today have been created by people. In addressing these concerns, vegans choose to help the most needy and defenseless, those who have no resources to counter our assaults.'

The view espoused in the quotation above is sometimes given in the form 'All species are equal.' The life of the vegan Joanne Stepaniak is no more important than the bacillus which could end the life of Joanne Stepaniak or the rat which carries the fleas or the fleas which are the vector of the bacillus which could end the life of Joanne Stepaniak.

 Consistent following of this view would make continued human life impossible. Crops can only be grown by killing the weed species which compete with them. Without favouring some species, such as wheat and potato, and killing others, such as weeds, there would be no crop and humanity would starve. The charitable explanation is that this can't possibly be intended. Killing weeds must surely be excluded.

Are pests to be included or excluded? Given the devastating attacks of pests on crops, winch may leave the grower with nothing, is it permissible to use only barrier methods of protecting crops against slugs, rabbits, deer, pigeons, caterpillars and the rest? Are mice and rats to be prevented from eating grain? What if the mice and rats and the other pests go hungry and even starve to death? As the mice and rats are our equals, according to this view, this is as shocking as the death of human famine victims.

This vegan does argue - well, not argue, but state dogmatically - that all life is equally precious, and the conclusion which can be drawn from that is that humans have no more right to survive than weeds, slugs, rats, tapeworms, malaria parasites, all the parasites that make the tropics so deadly, or even the T.B. bacillus. The compassionate vegan, according to these principles, has to be just as compassionate to tapeworms, malaria parasites and the T.B. bacillus as to the patient. This is surely deranged thinking.

Fortunately, Joanne Stepaniak's deranged views are modified,  although not very much, by some welcome contradictions and hypocrisy. 'Infrequently, it is necessary to eradicate insects to preserve our health or safety...' and to eradicate fleas, 'humane solutions are often insufficient and more forceful methods must be employed.' This means, I think, killing, although she wouldn't like readers to think that she's advocating killing. By using this phrasing, she thinks that her reputation for complete non-violence towards animals, all animals, will be preserved intact.

The word 'infrequently' is worrying. This is someone, obviously, who can only view reality from the perspective of life in modern America where most but not all threats from other species have already been eliminated (by forceful measures against those species.) This leads me to a general statement, which applies to other viewpoints, and not just this vegan one:

This view, like some other views, originates in the pampered life which many people enjoy in a prosperous modern society. In a harsher context, the ridiculousness of these views would be obvious at once. Depressingly, in harsher societies, ridiculous views of reality, of a different kind, are common too.

This is far from doing justice to the ridiculousness of the quotation from Ms Stepaniak in the quotation above. There's also this: 'Essentially all the problems facing both humans and animals today have been created by people.' (My emphasis.)

One 'problem' which hasn't been caused by 'people:' the problem of disease organisms. From Paul Harrison's 'Inside the third world:' The incidence of illness in the poor countries is on a scaled quite unimaginable to the ...westerner. Threadworms infest one billion people, trachoma and hookworms afflict half a billion each. One survey in Tanzania found less than one person in a hundred who was free of parasites...' The list of tropical parasites and tropical diseases is very long, of course. It would include leprosy, bilharzia, sleeping sickness and the biggest source of sickness and premature death, malaria, also spread by a parasite. And later, 'Disease organisms have evolved side by side with human beings. In their fight for survival they have adapted themselves to the ecology of their chosen prey, Man.' The 'problems' caused by parasites are to do with the evolution of parasites, not people. There has been success in reducing the problem but not eliminating it. In the case of malaria, by the manufacture of drugs (which has required immense scientific creativity and technological skill), by the manufacture of mosquito nets, and other measures.

And another 'problem,' which has a linkage with the previous one, since water contains so many pathogens and drinking unsafe water is still the largest avoidable source of ill-health and death. Again, reduced, and often solved, by humans. Again, the provision of clean drinking water has made immense demands on human ingenuity, often requiring large-scale works of civil engineering, not just to make reservoirs but to construct the sewers which take away human waste. I'm completely familiar with other ways of dealing with human waste, such as composting and reed beds, and completely familiar too with their difficulties, their impracticality for large populations.

Another 'problem' which hasn't been created by 'people:' the harsh Malthusian laws which dictate that in nature, there are many births but far fewer can survive, as a result of starvation, diseases or other causes, still apply to a large extent in the third world. It's 'people' who have solved it in America and other societies, again by the exercise of immense scientific and technological ingenuity, by artificial methods of contraception.

And other problems too which owe nothing to people, such as hurricanes and earthquakes. It isn't possible to prevent these, but people are able to forecast hurricanes, by sophisticated monitoring and computer techniques, so that populations can be moved away from the path of a hurricane (by vehicles designed and manufactured by human ingenuity). In the wake of a disaster, helicopters will often be essential, and other vehicles always essential, to transport the injured, to transport emergency food and hospital supplies. These, of course, are further products of human ingenuity and include anaesthetics, antibiotics, bandages - there is such a thing as 'natural healing,' but, to say the least, it requires supplementing.

Of the problems facing humanity, or which have faced humanity, war is one of the worst, and humanity's responsibility for war is total. There is no evading this.

What of the problems of pollution from vehicles and industry? Vehicles are needed to service industry, and for many other purposes. The example above, the use of vehicles for relief operations after a natural disaster, is just one example of the benefits of polluting vehicles. As for industry, vegans of all people have perhaps most cause to be grateful to modern industry. Vegans are very dependent on industry, particularly the petro-chemical industry. I haven't come across a single instance of a vegan showing any gratitude at all for the industrial products which allow vegans to maintain their feeling of moral superiority. This ingratitude I really do consider beyond the pale. Just consider the facts. I return to Joanne Stepaniak's book for a formulation of the vegan position, but her formulation is completely representative.

'The leather industry is virtually reliant on the meat and dairy industries for a continual supply of animal parts for its raw materials.' So, vegans should not use leather for footwear and other purposes.

'The purchase of wool supports the annual slaughter of millions of lambs and sheep for meat. Essentially all wool is a slaughterhouse product.'

Other products which should also be rejected by vegans include silk (discussed in the book) and down, as a filling for sleeping bags and insulated clothing (which isn't discussed.)

It may be possible to wear sandals made from plant material in a hot climate, but not in cold conditions. In general, the vegan substitutes for these materials, artificial fibres and other materials, require, necessarily, the most complex industrial processes - necessarily polluting processes - with crude oil as the starting material in most cases.

Evidence that avoidance of leather can have a cost. From Paul Harrison's 'Inside the Third World:' Buying western technology with little thought for its effects on employment has been a bad deal for the Third World...The International Labour Office economist Keith Marsden quotes the appalling but characteristic case of a country where a new plastic shoe industry was set up. Two expensive plastic injection machines were set up. The PVC material for the shoes also had to be imported. The factory employed a total of forty workers, who turned out some one and a half million pairs of plastic sandals a year. They sold well, because at 2 dollars a pair they were no dearer than cheap leather ones, but lasted much longer. They soon supplanted leather shoes on the market, and made a fat profit for the manufacturer and decent wages for the workers. Meanwhile the five thousand artisans who used to make the leather shoes found their business drying up and were finally flung onto the human scrapheap, together with their suppliers of leather, hand tools, eyelets, lining, laces and lasts. Overall result: forty jobs gained, perhaps eight thousand jobs lost. Import bills increased (the leather used to be supplied locally). Inequality and poverty given another boost.' And, it could be added, a sustainable resource replaced by materials from a non-renewable resource. Vegans, of course, will give more weighting to the replacement of a slaughterhouse product than to any of these considerations.

It was impossible to be a vegan before the advent of modern science and technology, at least in a temperate or cold climate. There was no substitute for wool (or furs) for insulation, or leather for footwear - and for many other uses. The springs of coaches were made of leather, the primitive hoses used for fire-fighting were made out of leather. Non-vegan products were essential for any life other than one which was 'nasty, brutish and short.'

There's a tendency only to examine closely and to criticize systems of belief where there's a danger of the believer causing death and destruction, as in the case of some Moslem fundamentalists. I'd suggest as a worthy model to be emulated the best intellectual achievements of ancient Athens, and the ethos of 'The unexamined life is not worth living.' Critical, fair-minded examination of beliefs and views of the world is desirable, whether the beliefs and views are those of violent or non-violent people. Vegans are generally non-violent and pose no threat at all to the physical safety of a society, although not all. The killer of the Dutch politician P. Fortune was a vegan.

Vegans may speculate, in their unrealistic moments - or their even more unrealistic moments - about what life would be like if vegans became the majority, or if everyone became vegan. They would regard it as the beginning of an era of compassion, peace and harmony. I don't think so. This is to overlook the need for specific skills and expertise, in such areas as finance and public health. Vegan views are at variance with some of the skills needed for the survival of a state and there could never be such a thing as a vegan utopia.

In various places in this site, I argue that to focus attention on matters such as survival, economic factors and health is to give an inadequate survey of human life and that the most remarkable thing about human life is the human mind, which includes the capacity for intellectual achievement, artistry, the achievements of human personality such as compassion. Vegans, of course, have no monopoly of compassion and their compassion has a very strong tendency to exclude - in many cases, a tendency to exclude people. 

The sixth of the 'pillars of the compassionate way' put forward by the American Vegan Society (quoted in Ms Stepaniak's book) is 'Advancement of understanding and truth.'

On paper, by spinning out words, anything can be proposed and almost anything can be achieved, but a respect for reality - often harsh - makes so many claims impossible. Vegans, like many other victims of an ideology, are adept at wishful thinking, are more at home in the world of illusions than of reality. Whether this view is accepted or not, if you disagree with the next claim, please contact me, giving names and supporting evidence:

There have been, and are, no very great vegan scientists, engineers, mathematicians, poets, novelists, composers, dramatists, philosophers. There have been very few vegetarian ones either. There are obviously vegans who can recognize the emotional depth and the astonishing skill of Beethoven, Schubert, Mozart, Rembrandt and many vegans who assume that they must be very much superior to such people, because they weren't vegan.

In general, veganism tends to encourage complacency and laziness. The vegan has to be conscientious only to a very limited extent (in a sense with pronounced {restriction}.) The vegan sometimes has to scrutinize labels of food products carefully, to make sure that there are no obscure non-vegan ingredients (but even that is unnecessary when the vegan is eating certified vegan products, such as the kind of vegan food which is squeezed out of a tube like toothpaste), the vegan has to recognize and avoid problems which non-vegans in their ignorance often overlook, such as beer and wine which have used non-vegan finings for clearing - but may often feel no particular need to recognize personal failings as a husband, wife, father, mother, son or daughter. The problems of other people have become less important. As a generalization, making full allowance for exceptions, anyone  with such intense problems as to feel suicidal would probably not be wise to seek help from a vegan. Is the love between non-vegans a lesser thing than the love of vegans? Non-vegans are important to many vegans mainly as potential converts to veganism, just as non-Christians are mainly important as potential converts to many evangelical Christians. . As for vegan deficiencies on the personal level, so for the social level. The virtues of public-spiritedness, all the demanding skills and virtues needed if a society is to continue, tend to be discounted. Veganism is far from offering hope to humanity.

The virtues of self-defence, which will always be needed if a society is to continue, are nowhere to be found. Joanne Stepaniak has a Website, 'Grassroots veganism with Jo Stepaniak.' In a long article, she makes it clear than vegans shouldn't eat honey:

'Vegans consciously strive to do no harm to any sentient life, including insects ... Even though humans inadvertently benefit, the bees do not pollinate plants in order to serve human needs; it is simply a secondary aspect of their nectar collecting. The honey that bees produce is stored in their hives for their own purposes. When humans remove honey from the hive, they take something that is not rightfully theirs ... the vegan position on honey is definitive. Honey was prohibited for use by vegans according to the 1944 manifesto of the British Vegan Society (veganism's founding organization), a position consistent with the requirement for full (vegan) membership in the American Vegan Society since its inception in 1960.'

Any vegan who reads the article appreciatively may well have the good fortune to live in a country which is being defended by non-vegans. If the vegan is living in a country where hostile forces of a totalitarian dictatorship are massing on the border about to invade, the situation of France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Greece, Yugoslavia, Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia and other countries at various times in the late 1930's and early 1940's, then the vegan minority can either continue to dwell on the importance of doing 'no harm to any sentient life, including insects,' or recognize that displays of vegan compassion are not enough and that the time has come to consider the necessity of doing some harm to the invaders. Vegans and non-vegans would do well to look at the Wikipedia List of Invasions, which makes it clear that throughout history, invasion has been common, not at all rare.  The German invasion of so many countries is simply the best known example. There are invasions intended to liberate as well as invasions intended to subject, punish or enslave. The allied invasion of Europe was intended to liberate the conquered nations, and did liberate them, although vegans may well be unlikely to take much interest in such matters.

This image, from the Wikipedia page Forced labour under German rule during World War II  shows 'Street round-up ... of random civilians to be deported to Germany for forced labour.' The location was Warsaw.

From the Wikipedia page, omitting links and references:

'The use of forced labour in Nazi Germany and throughout German-occupied Europe during World War II  took place on an unprecedented scale. It was a vital part of the German economic exploitation of conquered territories. It also contributed to the mass extermination of populations in German-occupied Europe. The Nazi Germans abducted approximately 12 million people from almost twenty European countries; about two thirds of whom came from Eastern Europe.  Many workers died as a result of their living conditions, mistreatment, malnutrition, or became civilian casualties of war.  At its peak the forced labourers comprised 20% of the German work force. Counting deaths and turnover, about 15 million men and women were forced labourers at one point or another during the war.

'The liberation of Germany in 1945 freed 11 million foreigners, called "displaced persons" – chiefly forced labourers and POWs ...'

Forced labour was far from being the only risk in these countries. There was also the risk of torture, summary execution, transport to a concentration camp or an extermination camp. Following a vegan diet and following vegan non-dietary rules was far from being the most important matter, in these circumstances.

There are other ways in which a vegan may not be able to live the fulfilled vegan life without an external invasion, of course. The states in which massive repression takes place often interfere with the quiet vegan life.

Dr Lisa Kemmerer, feminist vegan  

Dr Lisa Kemmerer, a feminist vegan at Montana State University Billings is another vegan whose superficiality is omnipresent. Superficiality, of course, can co-exist with talk of 'spiritual values' and 'moral imperatives,' as in this extract from her Website,

'Myths carry spiritual values and moral imperatives across generations. Native American spiritual values respect the natural world, including nonhuman animals. So why do people sometimes turn to Native Americans in order to argue for a flesh-based diet? Through ancient myths, Native Americans and the Vegan Imperative exposes key spiritual and philosophical teachings that speak against contemporary hunting and fishing.'

This is completely inadequate. The subject is discussed at length in Shepard Krech III's 'The Ecological Indian: Myth and History.' This is from the review of the book by David Rothenburg, 'The Old Ways and the New Problems: Two Views on Indians as Ecologists.' (He also reviews Calvin Luther Martin's 'The Way of Human Being.')

'It's become an article of faith among environmentalists, the idea of the Ecological Indian. Did Native Americans live in gracious harmony with their natural environment, woven into the fabric of their surroundings, until we white people showed up to destroy everything?  This is like that Catch-22 of feminists, who sometimes say proudly that women are closer to nature than men, and at other times say that the idea of women being nearer to nature is just another male stereotype used to put women in a prejudiced place.  Identity politics always has its pitfalls of generalization, as real people act so differently than the way studies expect.  We're all individuals, free to deviate from how we're supposed to behave.  The question is: What ideas keep us in line?  How do we know when it's time to change?


'Krech begins and ends with an image familiar to anyone who watched TV or read magazines in the early seventies: Iron Eyes Cody as the Crying Indian, with the legend beneath his sad face: "People Start Pollution.  People Can Stop It."  Fifteen billion people impressions, say the ad guys.  Nearly three times the world population!  No wonder the image is familiar.  We've trashed the planet, thus the "noble savage" has much to cry about.  Madison Avenue invented the image, but it resonated easily with worldwide consciousness.  But is this image the truth?

'With a historian's careful eye for detail, Krech concludes what any honest historian who delves into the facts must say things are too complicated.  You cannot generalize.  This approach makes its own secret kind of generalization, resisting any interpretation of the data that even suggests that Indians might have any intuitive grasp of ecological limits.  Krech's basic view is that sure, Indians have known the land well for centuries, and what looked like wilderness to persecuted pilgrims was in many cases a carefully managed landscape.  But his view is that there simply never were enough Native Americans to discover scarcity at a total scale.  Whether cautious or exploitative, there were never too many Indians for the resources of the continent to be overburdened.

'Did Indians know controlled burning, how to use fire to tend the overgrowth of forests and prairies?  Did they kill just the buffalo they need or send hundreds plummeting needlessly to their deaths over cliffs?  If you check the records, as Krech has done, you will find the obvious answer: both.  Did they use every single part of the beaver, or leave scores of rotting caribou corpses taking only the tongues?  Both, of course.  This book wants you to question, not to tell you the answer.


'Probably the best part of this inconclusive book is the epilogue, which reminds us to be careful of how we generalize about natives as ecologists or balanced dwellers in the land.  The very idea of conservation comes from scarcity, and on a global scale, ours is the culture that has most become aware of this state of being.  Modern environmentalism may have been the root of the resuscitation of ancient Indian ideas about the Great Spirit and the noble way of living within it, not the other way around.  Does it matter who thought of what first?  Some Indian tribes want to get back to whaling, others want to store nuclear waste on their reservations, and argue that they ought to have sovereignty to be in charge of their own destiny.  There are no exceptions or rules here, just a mixed historical record and a global problem that we all ought to do something about, that all of our religious principles and high ideas support doing something about, but our greed and pragmatism prevent us from looking far enough ahead.  All of us, indigenous or expatriate, gringo and hick.

'One valuable lesson to learn from this book is that no ideas should be defended or put forth because they supposedly belong to one ethnic group or another.  Environmentalism is no place for identity politics.  We should follow an idea because it works in a particular situation, for the diverse kinds of people affected, not because it is native or Indian or scientific or sacred.  We should do things because they work, one small step at a time.'

Both the author and the reviewer here are very different from the vegan Dr Kemmerer, on the evidence of her Website at least a dogmatist with a disdain for evidence and a fondness for illusions. How native American hunters can be a model for vegans is a mysterious matter.

For further discussion of feminist delusions concerning native North Americans, see the section of my page 'Feminist ideology,' A feminist excuse for torture.

The vegan feminist Dr Kemmerer writes, ''Myths carry spiritual values and moral imperatives across generations. Native American spiritual values respect the natural world, including nonhuman animals.' It's likely that she'd been in full agreement with this view of Native American belief systems:

She seems to regard native Americans as intrinsically virtuous. My page on Feminist ideology includes this account of hideous torture carried out by Iroquois women (in the section Felicity Donohoe (gender theorist) on torturing to death:

Constructing the Native American Woman

'So the wretch was handed over at once to the women who, like so many Furies, seized him and tied him to a tree trunk with his legs bound together. They built a very hot fire in front of and very near him and, seizing branches, they applied them to the sole of his feet which they had stretched out to the fire ... taking live coals and putting them on the most sensitive part of his body ... using their knives to cut him deeply ... plunging his charred feet and legs into a cauldron of boiling water, and then scalping him. They were unable to make him suffer more, because he died after the last torture. Buy they did cut out his tongue, even though he was dead, planning to force another English prisoner ... to eat it.

'The Abbé Maillard on the Mi'kmaq, c. 1740.

'Their punishment is always left to the women ... The victim's arms are fast pinioned, and a strong grape-vine is tied around his neck, to the top of the war pole, allowing him to track around, about fifteen yards. They fix some tough clay on his head, to secure the scalp from the blazing torches ... The women make a furious onset with their burning torches ... But he is sure to be overpowered by numbers, and after some time the fire affects his tender parts. They pour over a quantity of cold water, and allow him a proper time of respite, till his spirits recover and he is capable of suffering new tortures. Then the like cruelties are repeated until he falls down, and happily becomes insensible of pain. Now they scalp him ... dismember, and carry off all exteriors branches of the body (pudendis non exceptis), in shameful and savage triumph.'

Back to Dr Kemmerer:

'To Native Americans, health is a continual process of staying strong spiritually, mentally, and physically. This strength keeps away or overcomes the forces that cause illness. People must stay in harmony with themselves, other people, their natural environment, and their Creator. Adhering to traditional beliefs and obeying tribal religious tenets is another part of staying healthy.Native Americans believe in a Supreme Creator; most tribes also have lesserdeities like Mary or Jesus figures and mediators between the spirit world andthe earth (similar to saints in Christianity). They believe that people should try to maintain constant, daily harmony and contact with the Creator, follow all sacred teachings, and treat all life (animals, plants, rocks, rivers,rainbows, etc., along with people) with respect. Native Americans believe that violating tribal tenets or laws has consequences like physical or mental illness, disability, ongoing bad luck, or trauma. The violation must be set right before harmony and health can be restored. They believe that most illnesses are related to a spiritual cause, which creates an imbalance between the body, mind, and spirit. It is bad spirits that cause the harm.

'The body is an expression of the spirit to Native Americans. Each person is responsible for his/her own health. All thoughts and actions have consequences, creating harmony or disharmony. Disharmony can cause illness.

'Native American medicine includes a variety of rituals and practices; the use of herbal remedies gathered from the surrounding environment and sometimes traded over long distances; and healing by medicine people who use naturalistic personalistic healing. Rituals and practices bring participants into harmony with themselves, their tribe, and all of life. They include the use of sweat baths, usually in a "sweat lodge," to purify and heal; wearing medicine bags and charms; and the use of ancient healing rituals and ceremonies. When a medicine person helps a person heal him/herself, this is considered to be a private, doctor/patient relationship. Ceremonies are used to help groups of people return to harmony, but they are not used for individual healing.'

In fact, native Americans lived in Malthusian conditions: they were decimated by disease and famine. Their attitude to the bio-material world was not such as to make in the least likely the development of patient empirical methods, the kind of methods employed by Jenner and later investigators in the field of smallpox research and the application of their research. This was dramatically successful: smallpox, the disease which caused huge losses in American Indian societies, as in so many others, has been entirely eradicated. So far as I know, Dr Kemmerer has no interest in the subject.

More detail is called for. Here, I focus attention on smallpox. This is a good introduction to the disease which mentions its devastating effect on North American Indian populations:

For more detailed information, I make no apologies for quoting from the Wikipedia page 'History of Smallpox,'

There's no guarantee, of course, that a named academic (such as Dr Kemmerer) will give a detailed, fair-minded exposition, one which is necessarily superior to a Wikipedia entry.

'During the 18th century the disease killed an estimated 400,000 Europeans each year, including five reigning monarchs, and was responsible for a third of all blindness. Between 20 and 60% of all those infected—and over 80% of infected children—died from the disease.

'During the 20th century, it is estimated that smallpox was responsible for 300–500 million deaths. In the early 1950s an estimated 50 million cases of smallpox occurred in the world each year. As recently as 1967, the World Health Organization estimated that 15 million people contracted the disease and that two million died in that year. After successful vaccination campaigns throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the WHO certified the eradication of smallpox in December 1979.To this day, smallpox is the only human infectious disease to have been completely eradicated.

On 'Epidemics in the Americas:'

'After first contacts with Europeans and Africans, some believe that the death of 90–95% of the native population of the New World was caused by Old World diseases.  It is suspected that smallpox was the chief culprit and responsible for killing nearly all of the native inhabitants of the Americas. For more than 200 years, this disease affected all new world populations, mostly without intentional European transmission, from contact in the early 16th century to until possibly as late as the French and Indian Wars (1754–1767).'

And this very significant fact:

'By 1832, the federal government of the United States established a smallpox vaccination program for Native Americans.'

 Louise Haigh MP

is  another feminist vegan. Here, though, I concentrate not on her feminism but her anti-Israel pro-Palestinian views. She's a member, like Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott and John McDonnell, of the organization 'Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East.' ('Labour Enemies of Israel') This is a copy of a letter of mine which was published in the Sheffield newspaper 'The Star' (9 December 2014.) If Louise Haigh thinks I'm mistaken,then I hope she'll supply the arguments and evidence. I'd be glad to receive them and to publish them here.

 I share the concern of Michael Maas for the plight of circus animals.

I travelled to Cheshire to take part in a peaceful, good-humoured protest against the ill-treatment of Annie, an elderly circus elephant with arthritis who had been beaten repeatedly. The protests were successful, Annie was rehomed, but circus animals continue to lead lives of acute deprivation in this country, as in so many others.

There are many, many arguments in defence of Israel and against boycotts of Israel. People with an interest in animal welfare might like to consider these facts.

Israel was one of the first countries to ban the use of wild animals in circuses, in 1995. Israeli society strongly opposes the fur trade.

People in Israel have been working to introduce the most-far reaching anti-fur trade laws in the world. Israel used to be the world’s fourth largest producer of foie gras, but production was banned for ethical reasons. Israel has even banned the dissection of animals in primary and secondary schools. Vegan members of the Defence Force are given vouchers for vegan food and can have boots made with synthetic material.

Israel is the only country in the Middle East where there’s intense concern for animal rights/animal welfare. Israel is the only democratic country in the Middle East, with a free press and free media. In Israel, homosexuality is legal. In Gaza, homosexuality is illegal, punished with imprisonment for up to ten years. In Gaza, an unmarried woman who has a child can be imprisoned for six years. The Pew Research Center carried out extensive surveys of Palestinian opinion in 2013. Some of the very disturbing results: 84% support for stoning to death for adultery, 87% support for the view that ‘a wife must always obey her husband.’

Paul Hurt