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 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.

    • Comment Link Lana Salant Wednesday, 04 December 2013 02:07 posted by Lana Salant

      Well you can Vegangelize all you want but the simple fact is we are Omnivores since the beginning of time. Since we could call ourselves human beings. This is a wonderful study if you take the time to read it.. which you won't but I do feel the need to educate anyway. Another good site is the blog of former vegan and "The China Study" famous debunker's blog Denise Minger

      I run a Face book page with some help from some very smart and PRAGMATICALLY COMPASSIONATE Ethical Omnivores called "EOM - Ethical Omnivore Movement. Upcoming website

      One of my favorite EOMers Katherine Mixie Kubicek says "The thing about your total non-sequitur about grain-fed meat is that it does not apply to the thoughtful choice of biologically-appropriately-fed livestock animals. Pointing to the waste, inefficacy, and horrific injustices of one industrial diet does not excuse the waste, inefficacy, and horrific injustice of your own choices.

      Instead of attempting to distance yourself from the responsibility of those choices by eating a horrifically inefficient, biologically inappropriate diet that demands a far higher volume of petroleum-fed, monocultured industrial crops which cost an unbelievable number of lives at EVERY step along the way, you could choose the nutrition and calories in one cow, or the milk and eggs provided by happy, pasture-living animals that comfortably share their corner of planet ...
      Earth with a glorious array of flora and fauna.

      If you object to the body count, I suspect you have never at any point had any exposure to agriculture. I know you vegans imagine that plant foods spring forth from the Earth in a magic, "cruelty-free" fairyland, but in reality... animals die in horrific ways at every. single. step. From defending the seed grain in storage from hungry rodents, to defending crops in the field, to the heavy equipment used all throughout the cultivation process, to the harvesting and processing, drying, shipping, storing for the factory, protecting the factory from infestation, transporting your factory foods, protecting them at the store.

      At every single stop in that chain, animals die, for the sake of grain-foods that we cannot properly digest and which do not contain a single necessary nutrient not found in higher, more readily bioavailable amounts in animal foods and veggies.

      Imagine if, instead of an endless sea of useless grain foods, you chose one ethically-reared cow over all those "insignificant" lives. You'd have helped provide a home for innumerable small animals, birds, reptiles, bugs, and a riot of greenery. You'd have helped defend our Earth from the scourge of industrial grain and soy farming. You'd have saved a lot of rodents from glue traps--and I imagine that if you had the same image stamped in your mind of a denuded animal with four broken legs and its guts spilling out, one eye stuck to the glue pad and shrieking its life away... you wouldn't dismiss those concerns so lightly.

      I don't take it lightly. The cost of every life that goes to feed my family weighs heavily on me. You too could choose food that occupys a natural place in the food chain that welcomes all other life on this beautiful, complex Earth, instead of fighting an endless, horrifically wasteful and unnecessary battle against it.

      And while the cowards who defend their horrifically murderous, inefficient diets stand tall to defend Monsanto and the hundreds of millions of acres currently in use for corn and soy and wheat, hundreds of millions of acres which must be poisoned and torn up and fed by petroleum and defended against all manner of life... those of us in the Ethical Omnivory world wish to see our Great Plains restored, with hundreds of millions of acres of natural prairie and meadow which welcomes all.
      There is no consequence-free choice. The best we can do is to minimize our impact. We don't do that by moving further from the natural world. Every effort we humans make to cheat our way around that reality only results in more death and destruction"

      Lana Joe Salant
      EOM - Ethical Omnivore Movement

    • Comment Link Jennifer Wednesday, 04 December 2013 01:40 posted by Jennifer

      As someone who raises ( and yes eats) her own animals, I just wanted to say it is possible to humanely raise and humanely kill an animal. We do everything in our power to see that our animals have the best life they possibly can and when their life has come to an end we then make sure that their death is as painless with as little suffering as we can provide. I would probably go so far as to say that our animals have better lives and probably suffer way less than the majority of Americans and Canadians right now. I am not trying to feed the world, I am just trying to make sure that I know where my food and my children's food is coming from and that it is safe and healthy to eat.

    • Comment Link Julie Wednesday, 04 December 2013 00:58 posted by Julie

      A Sustainable and compassionate world must prevail for animals people and the planet. The only way this will be achieved is by a vegan lifestyle . There are no negatives to a plant based diet, it is the most natural diet we can consume and the positive evidence is overwhelming. It is a wake up call for all. Our planet is in rapid decline and if the population do not act it will no longer be an option. The meat, dairy and pharmaceutical companies are getting richer, continuity indoctrinating people with their lies, people are getting sicker and our health service has been stretched to its limits and will continue to decline. The immense and unspeakable cruelty of sentient animal beings for peoples' pleasure can never be justified. They are no different to us, have the same right to life and value their lives as much as we do. In years to come people will look back in horror at the atrocities caused by their ingrained and selfish lifestyles. Imagine a compassionate, healthy and sustainable world for all, it is that simple and we all have a part to play. Becoming a vegan and raising vegan children has been the most positive action I have taken .Children have a right not to be deceived and to know where their food comes and to make the right and informed choices. Don't we all want to make history and see a kinder compassionate and healthier world ?

    • Comment Link Rick Bradley Wednesday, 04 December 2013 00:14 posted by Rick Bradley

      I hope that all of you who have chosen the vegan or vegetarian path live well and prosper.
      I also hope that you lose the 'I'm on the HIGH ROAD' schtick.
      Everything which we consume to live was once vested with a life force by our creator. To sustain you it was deprived of that force. That we only relate this to other mammals is an expression of the breadth of our ignorance.
      Say a few words of thanks to the deity of your choosing and stop trying to act like one.

    • Comment Link Michelle Kosik MD Wednesday, 04 December 2013 00:11 posted by Michelle Kosik MD

      The data linking consumption of animal products to a myriad of diseases and premature death is overwhelming. Diseases such as cancer, heart disease, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, obesity (and its intendant comorbidities such as arthritis, degenerative joint disease, reflux, sleep apnea, diabetes, COPD etc.), peripheral vascular disease (including stroke, kidney failure, limb loss, vision loss, impotence, etc.) ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, etc., is well documented in the medical literature. The data confirming health benefits of vegan diet are also clear. When we physicians consider the enormous and detrimental health, environment, and animal cruelty implications of continuing to enable the consumption of animal products, we have no other ethical choice but to endorse, promote and embrace plant based diets.

    • Comment Link Stans Tuesday, 03 December 2013 23:34 posted by Stans

      I've eaten a whole foods plant-based diet for almost a year now and feel better than ever. The planet's health, my health, and the prevention of the cruel slaughter of animals are equally important to me. I am 55 and although I never ate a lot of meat, I don't know how I could have been blind to the horrors of factory farming for so long. Now, the blinders are off and there is NO going back to eating animals, ever! It's truly a no-brainer and if people knew how amazing they would feel, how much better their health would be, and how easy it is to go plant-based, they would do it in a heartbeat!

      If we stopped subsidizing unhealthy foods pushed by big ag, milk, chicken and dairy, and focused on prevention, we would all be so much healthier and happier and we'd balance the budget in no time!

      There is a ton of science behind the health benefits of plant-based eating, but how great you feel says it all!

    • Comment Link Carole Tuesday, 03 December 2013 22:58 posted by Carole

      Have been a vegetarian for 20 years but became a vegan after milking a cow and seeing the life process of the pregnancy and then subsequent need for "disposal" of the calf as an inconvenience, as well as seeing the milking done while the cow was pregnant. And this was an apparently loved cow! Also, I have been studying in depth our current climate crisis and k ow that the actions we need to take require a change of heart, spirit, and lifestyles now more than ever.

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