Don't Eat Anything With A Face

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Food FinalCleanWeb Illustration by Thomas James

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

According to a 2009 poll, around 1% of American adults reported eating no animal products. In 2011 that number rose to 2.5%--more than double, but still dwarfed by the 48% who reported eating meat, fish or poultry at all of their meals. In this country, most of us are blessed with an abundance of food and food choices. So taking into account our health, the environment and ethical concerns, which diet is best? Are we or aren't we meant to be carnivores?

  • Barnard 90


    Dr. Neal Barnard

    Clinical Researcher & Author, 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart

  • Gene Baur official 90px final


    Gene Baur

    President and Co-Founder, Farm Sanctuary

  • Masterjohn official 90


    Chris Masterjohn

    Nutritional Sciences Researcher & Blogger, The Daily Lipid

  • Salatin 90


    Joel Salatin

    Farmer & Author

    • Moderator Image


      John Donvan

      Author & Correspondent for ABC News

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Barnard 90

For The Motion

Dr. Neal Barnard

Clinical Researcher & Author, 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart

Neal Barnard, M.D., is Adjunct Associate Professor of Medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., who guides numerous clinical trials investigating the effects of diet on body weight, chronic pain, and diabetes. Barnard’s most recent study of dietary interventions in type 2 diabetes was funded by the National Institutes of Health. He has authored dozens of scientific publications, 15 books for lay readers, and has hosted three PBS television programs on nutrition and health, ranging from weight loss to Alzheimer’s prevention. As President and Founder of the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Barnard has been instrumental in efforts to reform federal dietary guidelines. He also leads programs advocating for preventive medicine, good nutrition, and higher ethical standards in research.

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Gene Baur official 90px final

For The Motion

Gene Baur

President and Co-Founder, Farm Sanctuary

Gene Baur, President and Co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, has been hailed as “the conscience of the food movement” by Time magazine. Since the mid-1980s, Gene has traveled extensively, campaigning to raise awareness about the abuses of industrialized factory farming and our system of cheap food production. His book, Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food (2008), a national bestseller, is a thought-provoking investigation of the ethical questions surrounding beef, poultry, pork, milk, and egg production. It describes what each of us can do to promote compassion and help stop the systematic mistreatment of the billions of farm animals who are exploited for food in the United States every year.

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Masterjohn official 90

Against The Motion

Chris Masterjohn

Nutritional Sciences Researcher & Blogger, The Daily Lipid

Chris Masterjohn pursued a career in health and nutrition after recovering from health problems he developed as a vegan by including high-quality, nutrient-dense animal foods in his diet. He earned a PhD in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Connecticut in 2012 and currently researches the physiological interactions between fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He has published six peer-reviewed publications and has submitted one manuscript for review. He also writes two blogs. The first, The Daily Lipid, is hosted on his web site, Cholesterol-And-Health.Com. The second, Mother Nature Obeyed, is hosted by the Weston A. Price Foundation at The opinions expressed in this debate are his own and do not necessarily represent the positions of the University of Illinois.

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Salatin 90

Against The Motion

Joel Salatin

Farmer & Author

Joel Salatin is a full-time farmer in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. A third generation alternative farmer, he returned to the farm full-time in 1982 and continued refining and adding to his parents’ ideas. The farm services more than 5,000 families, 10 retail outlets, and 50 restaurants through on-farm sales and metropolitan buying clubs with salad bar beef, pastured poultry, eggmobile eggs, pigaerator pork, forage-based rabbits, pastured turkey, and forestry products, using relationship marketing. Salatin holds a BA degree in English and writes extensively in magazines such as Stockman Grass Farmer, Acres USA, and Foodshed. He is the author of eight books, including Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World (2012). The family’s farm, Polyface Inc., achieved iconic status as the grass farm featured in the new New York Times bestseller The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by food writer guru Michael Pollan, and the award-winning documentary film Food Inc.

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Declared Winner: For The Motion

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Voting Breakdown:

59% voted the same way in BOTH pre- and post-debate votes (19% voted FOR twice, 36% voted AGAINST twice, 5% voted UNDECIDED twice). 41% changed their minds (2% voted FOR then changed to AGAINST, 3% voted FOR then changed to UNDECIDED, 12% voted AGAINST then changed to FOR, 4% voted AGAINST then changed to UNDECIDED, 15% voted UNDECIDED then changed to FOR, 5% voted UNDECIDED then changed to AGAINST)*breakdown for those voting the same way twice adds to 60% due to rounding | Breakdown Graphic

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    • Comment Link Kimberly Wednesday, 04 December 2013 18:45 posted by Kimberly

      There is no ecologically sustainable way to raise enough animals for food given the current demand. Not possible.

    • Comment Link DESPINA HANDOLIAS Wednesday, 04 December 2013 18:23 posted by DESPINA HANDOLIAS

      It is quite disturbing and perverse to read the number of excuses humans use to justify their consumption of animal flesh and secretions. Eating animals is not only NOT sustainable based on the sheer amount of space and crop/feed production needed and environmental degradation and pollution and emissions produced, it is unhealthy especially given that any nutritional benefit from these products can be gained by plants alone without the added saturated fat, cholesterol and cancer promoting proteins. How anyone could say breeding and raising animals to be slaughtered (all within a fraction of their normal lives) is "humane" would be beyond any rational person. And oppression breeds violence, we have seen plenty of examples of that in human history and none more so that this this archaic "industry". To also state that the animal agri-business is important in order to preserve or create jobs is again irrational. Do you think drug dealers, arms dealers and those who are employed by the slave trade would say the same thing? Would anyone be worried if those that are employed in the health industries lost their jobs because we were able to "cure" chronic disease...I don't think so. The nature of humans is that they evolve, and for farmers/ranchers the production line must change. The premise that humans are "superior" is outdated, arrogant and vile and is not a basis for enslavement and taking of innocent lives. All animals have an inherent will to live and rear their newborns and live free from harm all of which humans deny them of on a staggering scale. The very definition of humanity is the way we treat and our attitude to those most vulnerable. Those of you who are against the motion really need to re-consider based on logic, ethics and morality and not because "thats the way it has always been done".

    • Comment Link Bob DiBenedetto Wednesday, 04 December 2013 17:57 posted by Bob DiBenedetto

      The question is simple. Do we want to keep killing for pleasure, convenience or for fun, when it's scientifically unnecessary. I and a growing number of thoughtful humans are saying "No"...

      We can travel on all kinds of philosophical tangents, but the issue is simple. Intentionally kill when it's not necessary, or just say no?

      Those who feel it's OK to kill for no reason, ought to just step right up and say it.

      Looking forward to this debate, and a great night to all!

    • Comment Link Ryan Walker Wednesday, 04 December 2013 16:58 posted by Ryan Walker

      I think the last question of the teaser should be "Are we or aren't we meant to be omnivores"?... not carnivores. Simply looking at things from a biological standpoint, why do humans have canine teeth? Why are we able to digest meat? Why are we designed to eat both meat and plants? Look at all other animal life on earth and read the anatomical clues - whether you believe we were created by a higher power or evolved from microbes, nature doesn't lie. Oh yea... and there are the thousands of years of historical evidence that humans have been fine eating both.

      From an ethical standpoint, should we tell lions in the wild not to hunt? How about bears, insects, fish, and birds... good luck getting them to turn vegan. To each their own, but I'll keep putting meat on my salad. The fact that a small group of people are even questioning this seems silly to me.

    • Comment Link Claire Wednesday, 04 December 2013 16:46 posted by Claire

      Wow. How about we stop debating and start finding some common ground to work towards? There are lots of intelligent comments on here both for and against. You guys could actually all work together to stop GMO foods and mass agribusiness. It doesn't seem like anyone thinks eating mass produced meat full of antibiotics and chemicals is a good idea. If meat was produced on a smaller scale, organic, grass fed and to the highest possible ethical standard everyone, omnivore or vegan would be moving toward more common ground. There would be gains for everyone. There would be much less meat produced and consumed and therefore the potential for everyone to consume more fruits and veggies and see meat as more of a side than the many event two or three times a day. Meat would be better quality, far fewer animals in the system, and a much more sustainable system on many levels. Having opposing polarized views only serves the big agribusinesses that are screwing over animals, consumers and the planet, while we are all busy fighting and defending our entrenched views. Come closer together and start solving some of the issues.

    • Comment Link Maria Wednesday, 04 December 2013 16:41 posted by Maria

      Total Cholesterol Level = 247
      Sugar Fasting Level = 104

      Total Cholesterol Level = 168
      Sugar Fasting Level = 80

      TO ME, FOR ME... I am being compassionate to the only animal I can truly take care of - ME.

      Chef Maria

    • Comment Link Lucy Muller Wednesday, 04 December 2013 15:58 posted by Lucy Muller

      Humans do not require animal products to be healthy. This is obvious from the millions of vegetarians around the world. If you are worried, as someone wrote above, that we will not have animal manure for plants, horses and other companion vegetarian animals can be kept for that purpose as well as for joy. It would create a huge new industry without the cruelty.

    • Comment Link Jill Wednesday, 04 December 2013 15:12 posted by Jill

      @Ted - Veganism will never remove animals from the food chain. They will continue to be a part of it in every corner of the world, naturally. And a lot of people are indeed using compost containing human waste. If you hear the term "biosolids" and buy compost from a municipality or made with a municipality's waste, those biosolids are generally from wastewater treatment plans that process waste from sewer systems.

    • Comment Link liz Wednesday, 04 December 2013 14:23 posted by liz

      I've been vegetarian for 31 years and vegan for 17. I am the oldest of 3 women and am 64. Both my younger siblings have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and one is diabetic (on insulin). I have none of their health problems - am on no medications.
      For me, however, the larger issue is the horrible treatment of animals just to provide a moments pleasure, or to entertain us, or to wrap their once living skins around us. None of that is necessary. For some reason we have always felt entitled to do what we wish over those we have power. It's slavery and it's wrong - whether human animal or non human animal.

    • Comment Link Bob Gronewold Wednesday, 04 December 2013 14:21 posted by Bob Gronewold

      The fully-formed herbivore of 10,000 years ago, that through scavenging discovers a (cooked/select/fetishistic) taste for "animal" flesh, mind-programs many subsequent generations of itself that it's actually omnivorous by nature; The great victim in this colossal misunderstanding of nature/biology?; ..all the other living things on its little planet. If there's a more profound or bizarre story in the history of the universe..?.. I'd like to hear it.. (or perhaps might actually better not).. Tell ya what; put a 2-year-old child in a playpen, and then put in there with him an apple.. and a live bunny.. if he eats the bunny and plays with the apple?.. be sure and let us all know right away ok?.. Thanks..

    • Comment Link Ted Wednesday, 04 December 2013 12:09 posted by Ted

      The food chain does not have a beginning or an end. It is a connected cycle. If anything should be considered the “top” of the chain, it is certainly not humans - it is the soil, the earth – containing all of the materials that are the building blocks for living things.

      We are all made of these recycled materials. The “billion year old Carbon” atom that makes up part of an amino acid that is part of your hair structure – it has been part of the soil, part of a plant, part of an animal, over and over and over again – and it’s now part of you. It’s the same re-used material, regardless of how it’s obtained.

      Plants need these materials too. Plants obtain their nutrients - including essential minerals which are crucial to all life forms – from the soil. Healthy, biodynamic soil is made of decomposing life forms (animals, animal by-products such as manure, or other plants). Unhealthy soil is sterile, fertilized with synthetic chemicals and mined mineral sources which can and will be depleted. Unhealthy soil = unhealthy plants and animals = unhealthy humans = death and disease.

      So thinking forward – how could a vegan lifestyle successfully sustain the world’s population? If animals and animal bi-products are removed from the food cycle, leaving humans to consume most of the plants, how are the nutrients then recycled back into the soil?

      Vegans – once you take animals and animal by-products out of the cycle, are you comfortable eating plants grown from soil fertilized with human manure, or…. worse?

      Compassion should not come without understanding.

      Understanding of what you are. What you are made of. Why the food cycle has been designed (or has evolved) into what it is. Understanding of our place in the food cycle, as omnivores.

      And most of all, understanding the implications of changing the food cycle to satisfy our conscious-driven compassions.

    • Comment Link Mary Jo Wednesday, 04 December 2013 11:55 posted by Mary Jo

      I believe that in the future humans will look at the meat industry with similar disgust and revulsion that we now look at slavery.

    • Comment Link John Wednesday, 04 December 2013 11:24 posted by John

      The premise for this debate is tricky (at best). The introduction of the inhumane animal treatment issue is a proverbial red herring. The same can be said for the supposition that animal products are necessary for optimal physical and mental well-being.

      Rather, the issues should be:
      * The ecological effects of industrialized meat production: fossil fuel dependency, greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, pollution, water consumption, etc.

      * The health effects of meat consumption--so-called lifestyle illnesses.

      * Local and sustainable practices for meat production for those who opt out of a plant-based, whole foods diet.

      * Education for the populace, as well as medical professionals, and legislative representatives, about the advantages of a plant-based, whole foods diet.

      * Legislative reform (farm subsidies, etc.)

      In the end, consumers require education in order to make informed decisions. The more important the decision, the more critical the need for information becomes.

      As a vegan of almost three years now, I understand the impact of diet, exercise and rest on overall health and vitality. I also appreciate the ecological and ethical benefits of this lifestyle choice.

      We should all understand, and be tolerant of, the fact that the attitude to diet, and all the systems supporting it, will take a very long time to change. In the meantime, education should be stressed, as well as "the power of one".

      Much more is caught than taught. Therefore, we all have influence by virtue of the example of the lives we lead. Remember, people pay much more attention to what we do, rather than what we say.

    • Comment Link Niloofar Asgharian Wednesday, 04 December 2013 11:18 posted by Niloofar Asgharian

      Veganism is the only morally acceptable baseline, period.

    • Comment Link markgil Wednesday, 04 December 2013 11:00 posted by markgil

      the only reason people think it is OK to kill and consume the remains of helpless, brutalized farmed animals is because they themselves are not the victims of the violence. what is considered "humane" when one is not the victim drastically changes when you or someone you are close to is forced to endure similar treatment. the basis of all morals is the Golden Rule and until we start treating all others regardless of species the way we ourselves wish to be treated, there will be no peace or justice for any of us.

    • Comment Link maggiemoo Wednesday, 04 December 2013 10:44 posted by maggiemoo

      Veganism is not sustainable. It is nearly impossible for one region to grow the variety of foods required to fully nourish a human without trucking in other foods or supplements which are needed by the vegan to get all the proper nutrients. CAFO's are not sustainable. Both (veganism and CAFO livestock) require a lot of cropland that uses (in various amounts and types) fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides which are applied using a lot of fuel in the many trips across the crops with tractors. CAFO's also pollute the land on which they stand. On the other hand, livestock which is raised as they are designed, are able to graze on land that is otherwise not suitable for crops, all the while fertilizing that ground. On a homestead, one could conceivably grow all the food needed to fully nourish his (omnivore) family by raising pastured livestock (meat, milk, eggs) and growing a garden (which could be kept fertilized by said livestock.)

    • Comment Link Jeff Wednesday, 04 December 2013 08:57 posted by Jeff

      Have not been eating "anything with a face" for 12 years. We live on a road where our closest neighbors are cows. We now have a 10 year old "pet" steer that we rescued at just a few days old. It nauseates me to even walk past the meat counters in the supermarket. No amount of camouflage can conceal the fact that a hamburger started out as a new born calf or chicken fingers began as cute little chicks. If you know better, you do better.

    • Comment Link GregWoolhouse Wednesday, 04 December 2013 08:54 posted by GregWoolhouse

      I have a farm, where I raise both animal and vegetable products. I actually make more money on the plant end, so I say this without rancor: Producing plant food kills more animals than producing meat. Ever see a disk harrow? It kills every living thing in the top 12 inches of soil. Considering my farm can support 1000/rabbits / acre, and considering I am harrowing 30 acres for squash, how many dead animals does that equal? I once read that a SINGLE grain elevator in Nebaraska once trapped out over 4 million rodents in a single season. Just over the last 2 weeks: I put in an acre of blueberries, to make use of a swampy, acidic spot near the pond. The blueberries did all right for a couple years, until the deer found them. They nearly wiped out the plot. ,I had to advertise for hunters to come up from the city. They shot 27 deer. Twenty-seven deer, to produce a measly 200 lbs of blueberries. In contrast a single dead cow can produce up to a half-ton! You aren't saving any animals, you are just insulating yourself psychologically from the fact of their death.

    • Comment Link Linda Coom Wednesday, 04 December 2013 03:37 posted by Linda Coom

      I live in England but became much more aware of the need to change to a vegan diet through the information provided by PCRM.
      I gave up meat years ago but this year I stopped eating dairy because I didn't want to be part of the suffering of the animals.
      I was surprised to find that I now feel so much better than ever before, I have more energy and am gradually losing weight, which is a huge bonus for me.
      Now I would recommend becoming vegan for purely selfish reasons, it still reduces suffering and the stress on the planet almost as a bonus.

    • Comment Link Dave Wednesday, 04 December 2013 03:10 posted by Dave

      The more I read these debates, the more I want to move to Europe where meat-consumption is not condemned, and government-policy is backed by publicly-funded science.

      Like how Sweden recently denounced high-carbohydrate diet as well as veganism in order to cut healthcare cost due to rising obesity.

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