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Thread: Vegans and the "natural" argument

  1. #1
    V for Veganica Sarabi's Avatar
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    Default Vegans and the "natural" argument

    I don't really know the history of rape, but my guess is that it's about as "natural" as is veganism. Nonhumans rape each other, if I understand correctly. Yet, it is a universal human right not to be raped. So why isn't it a universal nonhuman right not to be raped? Or tortured? Or slaughtered for human pleasure? No, outlawing it won't just make it go away, but it will be a start. In the same way, rape of humans goes on and on and on to this day. There are sex slaves who are raped ten times a day. For human pleasure.

    "It's natural." I am happy that my European Civ professor said she really disliked the use of the "natural" argument because throughout history it has been used to justify every unjust tradition or habit. I noticed this, too. Homosexuality is "unnatural" or "disordered." Independent women are "unnatural" and removed from their "natural" duty as childbearers and childrearers and homemakers. Birth control is "unnatural." Blacks are the "natural" inferiors of whites, "naturally" made to toil physically due to their "natural" brute strength and dim wits, as slaves. Eating meat is "natural," look at your teeth, everyone does it, that's why it's so tasty, we were hunters and gatherers, animals have been bred for the purpose of being killing by humans for so many millennia that they'd lose their "natural" purpose if we stopped, it's the "food chain," the circle of life, etc.

    Yet, is an adult drinking a cow's milk natural? Is hooking animals up to machines natural? Are cookies and cake natural? Are chips and dip natural? Is coffee natural? Is shipping your food 12,000 miles natural? Is spending 5 hours a day sitting at a computer natural? Dying your hair? Taking a daily shower? Ruling the world?

    What is natural?

    Last night I told a guy that it's possible to feed a cat a vegan diet, after he told me he'd just shared a piece of "organic" and "local" cheese with the cat. He went berzerks on me, calling me an "extremist" who would dare put a cat at risk with "experimental" food because no one *he* knows would ever recommend a vegan cat diet. After all, it's "not natural"!

    But, of course, "organic" and "local" cheese is completely and utterly natural.
    "To become vegetarian is to step into the stream which leads to nirvana." - Buddha

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    robb's Avatar
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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    Well, I think you could have picked a better example to open with!

    But I think "natural" in nonsense. Is it "natural" to ride bicycles, surf the internet, watch TV, use deodorant, go to work, go to the pub...? No. So should we stop doing these things. No, of course not.

    I can understand that natural ingredients may present a positive alternative to artificially manufactured chemicals (with unknown side effects) when added to things such as food or cosmetics.

    But the cry of "it's unnatural" is irrelevant, unhelpful and misleading in many (most?) other contexts.

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    missbettie's Avatar
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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    ^ i agree, the whole rape thing is kinda screwy the way you put it, not to mention -we are the only animals that have sex for pleasure (besides dolphins) and for intimacy, which is why rape is such a horrible thing, you are destroying someone's sense of intimacy and their idea of associating sex with pleasure...

    but i guess thats a topic for another thread
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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    Quote missbettie View Post
    -we are the only animals that have sex for pleasure (besides dolphins) and for intimacy...
    Just a quick correction. There are hundreds--maybe thousands--of non-human animal species that engage in sex for pleasure. Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_sexuality . We're not so special!

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    missbettie's Avatar
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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    i stand corrected, so just intimacy then, sex is something as a society that for the most part and in many cases creates a bond, while many animals have that bond, they don't sit there and cry in a corner after another animal comes and humps them without their consent.
    "i'm rejecting my reflection, cause i hate the way it judges me."

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    Buddha Belly
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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    The use of natural products is tantamount to creationism. It denies there is any evolution or changes in available products then buries it head in the sand.

    Some of the things quoted as unnatural are only unnatural to parts of society that has not developed with the changing world. Most of them are only given titles by a white male dominated heirachy that should be remembered with shame. eg female roles, sexuality, slavery.

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    cobweb
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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    Quote missbettie View Post
    i stand corrected, so just intimacy then, sex is something as a society that for the most part and in many cases creates a bond, while many animals have that bond, they don't sit there and cry in a corner after another animal comes and humps them without their consent.

    ha-ha we humans are a bit 'precious' about it all, aren't we?

  8. #8
    Buddha Belly
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    Quote celebrant View Post
    Just a quick correction. There are hundreds--maybe thousands--of non-human animal species that engage in sex for pleasure. Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_sexuality . We're not so special!
    I remember a Bill Bailey sketch about Bonobos....

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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    Quote cobweb View Post
    ha-ha we humans are a bit 'precious' about it all, aren't we?
    yerp, i wonder how it turned into that...i guess thats not natural (the way we are about it)...hmm this is a very interesting topic...

    but we are a part of nature and if we do something or change something isn't that not nature taking its course?

    sometimes cobby i just want to pinch you!
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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    Quote missbettie View Post
    i stand corrected, so just intimacy then, sex is something as a society that for the most part and in many cases creates a bond, while many animals have that bond, they don't sit there and cry in a corner after another animal comes and humps them without their consent.
    I think maybe some great apes actually do use sex for intimacy (bonobos, for example), but I don't have that info readily available. Anyway... soooo off topic... oops.

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    cobweb
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    Quote missbettie View Post
    yerp, i wonder how it turned into that...i guess thats not natural (the way we are about it)...hmm this is a very interesting topic...

    but we are a part of nature and if we do something or change something isn't that not nature taking its course?

    sometimes cobby i just want to pinch you!

    ha-ha
    ouch!

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    Buddha Belly
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    Quote celebrant View Post
    I think maybe some great apes actually do use sex for intimacy (bonobos, for example), but I don't have that info readily available. Anyway... soooo off topic... oops.
    Some chimps use food to buy sex.

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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    Quote missbettie View Post

    but we are a part of nature and if we do something or change something isn't that not nature taking its course?
    Oh yes! The natural argument does break down in so many ways and for so many things. We think we know what that word means, but it is quite elusive when you try to break it down.

    And the 'natural' argument in favor of eating anything you want logically extends to being able to do anything you want. Of course, people who make that argument would (probably) never advocate eating people. I think it comes from a 'survival of the fittest,' 'we're at the top of the food chain,' 'animals were put here for us to dominate,' yada yada... kind of mentality.

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    missbettie's Avatar
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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    ^ which starts to go into ethics...

    ya you better watch out Cobby
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    Slightly Crazy 1gentlemaorispirit's Avatar
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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    Even as humans at the 'top' of the food chain tribal people eat/have eaten each other. Tribes of the Amazon, some African tribes and some Maori tribes have been known too. (I hasten to add that my Maori tribal family were not Cannibals, as the spiritual, path was prefered).

    So what is natural? Of nature or of our perspective of life as natural? Isn't it natural to explore, create and invent that which is not seen as natural?
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    missbettie's Avatar
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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    ^ and in the same breath isn't it natural, all of the horrible things that we have done to nature because we are in fact part of nature?
    "i'm rejecting my reflection, cause i hate the way it judges me."

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    cobweb
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    Quote missbettie View Post
    ^ and in the same breath isn't it natural, all of the horrible things that we have done to nature because we are in fact part of nature?

    but are we?

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    missbettie's Avatar
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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    why wouldn't we be?
    "i'm rejecting my reflection, cause i hate the way it judges me."

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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    Quote missbettie View Post
    ^ and in the same breath isn't it natural, all of the horrible things that we have done to nature because we are in fact part of nature?
    Exactly, missbettie. I believe that's where so many of our problems come from. We have divorced ourselves from our place in and connection with the rest of Creation. We have set ourselves apart as somehow superior to the rest of Existence and we use and abuse everything we can. Human beings have been on a path of destruction for so long. The more we see ourselves as part of instead of apart from, the more vegetarians and vegans we'll see, the more environmentalists we'll see, the more social justice work we'll see being done... and the more loving and compassionate this world will be. *stepping off soap box*

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    Ex-admin Korn's Avatar
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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    and in the same breath isn't it natural, all of the horrible things that we have done to nature because we are in fact part of nature?
    The more we see ourselves as part of instead of apart from, the more vegetarians and vegans we'll see, the more environmentalists we'll see, the more social justice work we'll see being done... and the more loving and compassionate this world will be.

    "as part of instead of apart from"... If we see ourselves as a part of nature instead of apart from nature, humans wouldn't destroy the environment the way we do, kill other animals the way we do (because we don't need it, unlike carnivores), and the more social justice we'd see. If that's what you mean, I agree, but all that is actually - the way I see it - rooted in deep respect for nature, which is what you may call Existence/Creation.

    Quote Sarabi View Post
    I don't really know the history of rape, but my guess is that it's about as "natural" as is veganism. Nonhumans rape each other, if I understand correctly.
    Lots of people mix up natural with normal, but if you look at how many people that are involved in rape compared with how many that are raped, it can't even be considered normal. Humans are very different, physically, when it comes to catching and killing animals. We are very different from hunting and meat eating animals, so the problem with claiming that 'non-veganism' is natural is that it's very hard to back that statement up.



    Blacks are the "natural" inferiors of whites
    I know this isn't your own "argument", but please don't make this more confusing than some people think it already is...


    Eating meat is "natural," look at your teeth
    People who claim this normally go quiet when they actually do compare our teeth with the teeth of meat eaters. Take a look at the last post in this thread...


    everyone does it
    Not really relevant, because the term "everyone" has to do with how normal - and not how natural - a given action or "thing" is. Normal is based on culture is based (on where you live, when you live - and so on) - not nature.


    Yet, is an adult drinking a cow's milk natural?
    Not even people who drink cow's milk would claim that.



    Last night I told a guy that it's possible to feed a cat a vegan diet
    That's not a natural diet for a cat, so if a meat eater would claim that, I'd say that I totally agree. But of course - it's not natural to feed cats with "pet food" made out of cow meat (etc) from factory farms either.


    But, of course, "organic" and "local" cheese is completely and utterly natural.
    ....which actually is true.... not the cheese part of course, but "organic" (and "local").


    Quote celebrant View Post
    The natural argument does break down in so many ways and for so many things. We think we know what that word means, but it is quite elusive when you try to break it down.
    There are basically two meanings of natural, one is about responses/reactions ("if a human stranded on a desert island and the only way to survive was to drink milk from the only animal on the island") and the other one is the one you get if you sum up the various definitions I found on Google when I searched for the definition of natural (look here).

    To make it simple, one could divide both "actions" and "products" into two basic groups - natural and cultural, and also acknowledge that there are food and other "products" that are made by humans (and animals) that are natural-cultural... eg. as in "made by humans, but in accordance with nature".

    When you look at it this way, the argument pro "natural" (and "natural-cultural") becomes a quite strong argument... against eating meat/killing animals, and pro a vegan lifestyle.

    An essential part of all this is of course that animals are a part of nature, and part of the environment (or "Existence"/"Creation", as celebrant calls it), so if we want respect and not damage nature/existence, it makes no sense for humans to kill, harm or eat animals.
    I will not eat anything that walks, swims, flies, runs, skips, hops or crawls.

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    Eeeeediot! Shrapnel's Avatar
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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    Quote 1gentlemaorispirit View Post
    Even as humans at the 'top' of the food chain tribal people eat/have eaten each other. Tribes of the Amazon, some African tribes and some Maori tribes have been known too. (I hasten to add that my Maori tribal family were not Cannibals, as the spiritual, path was prefered).

    So what is natural? Of nature or of our perspective of life as natural? Isn't it natural to explore, create and invent that which is not seen as natural?
    The "Top of the food chain" argument doesn't really hold up. It's an attempt to put a scientific backing to the "might makes right" argument. It just says that since we can kill whatever other species we want to, then it's alright for us. The problem is the logical extension of that argument. Country A has a bigger and more advanced army than country B, so therefore A is higher on the food chain than B, and should be allowed to invade B and kill all who resist. Or even on the personal level, that's simply a justification of bullying (one kid beats up on another because the bully is stronger than the victim).

    And I agree that the natural argument is highly flawed. Yes, humans have eaten meat for tens of thousands of years, but we've done a lot of other horrible things for ages. If someone claims that meat eating is ok because it's part of our history, then they should explain why, for instance, murder is not ok, when that's been around for centuries and looks like it won't be gone any time soon. When the argument is that other animals do it, then they are ignoring the fact that humans have the ability to make the decision what to eat, which most other animals don't, and we can understand the pain and suffering we cause (for the most part, since not all humans have that mental ability, such as babies and small children). Most other animals don't kill if they don't feel the need to for their own survival, and those who do, lack the mental ability to understand their actions the way most adult humans can.
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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    I get so annoyed at the "naturalistic fallacy".

    Somethings maybe natural, but that isn't the same as "good" or "ethical" or "worthwhile" or "safe".

    Uranium 239 is natural. It isn't safe. Nudity is natural, but it isn't "good" in all context. Some human habits may have "natural" roots, but that doesn't mean that those habits are worth keeping when the choice to do otherwise is possible.

    What is "natural" is no support for a human habit that otherwise has no merits. What is "natural" isn't the same as what is "good" or "right".

    People often make that mistake on all sides of discussion. Natural has nothing to do with anything about current human ethics.
    context is everything

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    Ex-admin Korn's Avatar
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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    What is "natural" isn't the same as what is "good" or "right".
    Sure - but we still need to deal with questions people have. Also, we need to deal with the fact that most of us would prefer the 'natural' taste of an apple over something with a synthesized Apple taste, most of us prefer to look at real, natural trees in the forest instead of plastic trees, and we need to deal with the fact that while lots of synthetic medicine used in normal amounts have unwanted side effects, one would normally avoid these problems using 'natural' alternatives - and so on. If I see a colorful sunset, I'd definitely definitely less happy if someone would tell me that the red and orange colors would come from pollution from a chemical factory near by. If someone would say that I'd never have to was or cut be hair if I'd transplant synthetic hair onto my head, I's say no thanks. And so on.

    People will be asking questions about the B12 issues ("if we eat meat, we'll get all the B12 we need from our dinner, and vegans are obsessed with supplements") - which is both wrong, based on lack of knowledge at least one misunderstanding.

    Vegans can stubbornly claim that 'natural doesn't matter' until the end of time, I prefer to face the fact that 'natural' is important for lots of people, and in many contexts, for myself as well. And I'm saying as a person who both agree in your statement - and as a person who don't think eg. that music is bad, but birdsong is good (since music is "unnatural", or manmade).

    I think it's important to remind meat eaters about a couple of facts:

    Even if surviving by killing wild animals would be possible in the past, there aren't enough wild animals in nature to feed humans anymore (partially because we have killed them). Therefore, a meat based diet isn't a natural solution today.

    The naturalness of humans' ability to kill cows, sheep etc is also just a myth - it's a 100% "cultural", manmade thing, and not something we are equipped to do from nature's side (unlike all carnivorous animals).

    There was a story on the news last year about some people who have stranded on an island with only wild animals, and in spite of all the 'bragging' about humans having evolved to be able to catch and kill animals, all they could do was to use stone age methods - throwing stones to protect themselves. We are just as useless against carnivorous animals - as individuals - now as we were ages ago. A few of us know how to make guns, but is that number really higher - percent-wise - than the number of chimps that have a vocabulary of, say 200 words? I doubt it - so...


    We are surviving by being able to accumulate knowledge and by communicating with each other, and by using our ability to create. We can create in more advanced ways than other animals, and- we can choose what we want to create. That's where our strength is, and the difference between vegans and others, I guess, is that we want a lifestyle that harms others (including animals and other 'elements' in the environment) as little as possible...it's not a natural vs. non-natural conflict.

    Sometimes I prefer 'natural', and sometimes I prefer 'manmade', but I do understand non-vegans who ask questions if they assume that vegans are the only ones who need to supplement with eg. B12 while people on other diets don't need to supplement with anything. It's a misunderstanding, but it's a relevant misunderstanding. The whole thing about murder and rape being 'natural' because it humans have killed/raped in the past is an even bigger misunderstanding, and one that at best only serves to create confusing around the word 'natural'.
    I will not eat anything that walks, swims, flies, runs, skips, hops or crawls.

  24. #24

    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    Quote Korn View Post
    Sure - but we still need to deal with questions people have.
    I agree. We have to deal with the question that people actually have.

    In practice, I've found that clarifying what a person means: that natural isn't the same as good, but something different (like beautiful isn't the same as "good", etc.), makes conversation a lot easier.

    I just parse out the specifics, and things go well from there.

    I think that while it can be nice to not have to parse out that difference, it really does a larger disservice to NOT separate "natural" from "good".

    [QUOTE=Korn;568490]Also, we need to deal with the fact that most of us would prefer the 'natural' taste of an apple over something with a synthesized Apple taste, most of us prefer to look at real, natural trees in the forest instead of plastic trees, and we need to deal with the fact that while lots of synthetic medicine used in normal amounts have unwanted side effects, one would normally avoid these problems using 'natural' alternatives - and so on. [quote]

    I think that you and I are agreeing, but differ on what we've seen that works.

    Of course I agree that sometimes natural is the same as "good" or "better".
    Same as for beauty. I love beauty, but not at the expense of ethics.

    Quote Korn View Post
    People will be asking questions about the B12 issues ("if we eat meat, we'll get all the B12 we need from our dinner, and vegans are obsessed with supplements") - which is both wrong, based on lack of knowledge at least one misunderstanding.
    Yes! But where is the connection with "natural"? That somehow eating meat is "natural" due to ease of b12? If that argument is brought up, I tend to bring up that vitamin D is mostly aquired synthetically for omnivores due to fortified milk. Same for iron (most omnivores don't eat the requisite blood sausage, liver, or green veggies to make up for iron). They get their iron from fortified breads and pastas.

    Quote Korn View Post
    Vegans can stubbornly claim that 'natural doesn't matter' until the end of time, I prefer to face the fact that 'natural' is important for lots of people, and in many contexts, for myself as well. And I'm saying as a person who both agree in your statement - and as a person who don't think eg. that music is bad, but birdsong is good (since music is "unnatural", or manmade).
    I see the value of pushing "naturalness", but I see it as eventually being useless, because veganism should be done regardless of "natural" or "synthetic", just as stopping the death penalty should be done regardless of whether killing is "natural" or "synthetic", just as markets need to be fettered even though markets may be "natural". I see many limitation in pushing "naturalness" at all.

    In my personal discussion and talks with people (usually as part of vegan campaigns) I've found much more results and much more success parsing out the difference between natural/beauty/synthetic and good. I've found that practically, this makes much more sense to omnivores, even those that have huge hang-ups about what is "natural".

    That's what I've found in practice. However, that's just me. It might work differently for others.

    Quote Korn View Post
    Sometimes I prefer 'natural', and sometimes I prefer 'manmade', but I do understand non-vegans who ask questions if they assume that vegans are the only ones who need to supplement with eg. B12 while people on other diets don't need to supplement with anything. It's a misunderstanding, but it's a relevant misunderstanding. The whole thing about murder and rape being 'natural' because it humans have killed/raped in the past is an even bigger misunderstanding, and one that at best only serves to create confusing around the word 'natural'.
    The confusing nature of the word "nature" is part of the reason I've found very little success in using that approach in discussions about veganism. Instead of a discussion about what what we humans can do to avoid animal suffering, the discussion becomes about defining what is natural, and about the newest research on "naturalness", and some strange ideas of what is "natural", without ever divorcing the obvious natural-good pairing that people most often make. In the end, I've rarely seen those discussion work.

    However, by making things clearer for everyone by divorcing natural from good, I've found that people do ask more of themselves and people do go vegan.

    That might be my limited sample size, but I've seen people go vegan right before my eyes after letting go of the "natural" argument once it was parsed away from "good", but I've never seen a person go vegan (at least before my eyes) due to thoughts about what is "natural".

    I've found that the "natural" argument is just too complicated, and even then it is not that strong. When it is healthy and easy to go vegan, I think that it is even less relevant and the issue of choice is most salient.
    context is everything

  25. #25
    leedsveg
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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    Re the 'it's natural to eat meat' argument:


    • How would an omni fare, if they jumped on the back of a cow and tried to eat it? Not very well I would imagine.
    • How many carnivorous animals cook their meat, prior to eating it?
    • How many carnivorous animals need a sharp knife to cut up meat?


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    V for Veganica Sarabi's Avatar
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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    Quote leedsveg View Post
    Re the 'it's natural to eat meat' argument:


    • How would an omni fare, if they jumped on the back of a cow and tried to eat it? Not very well I would imagine.
    • How many carnivorous animals cook their meat, prior to eating it?
    • How many carnivorous animals need a sharp knife to cut up meat?

    People would just say that human nature is different. We use tools instead of our bodies directly. That's what makes us so powerful. But you're right, this just shows that we don't really have a clue what "natural" means. You've just flipped the natural argument on its head by implying that it's more natural not to use tools than to use them. It's the same argument, however. It's commonly thought that using less tools is more "natural," at least to a point. Biotic tools are especially "unnatural."
    "To become vegetarian is to step into the stream which leads to nirvana." - Buddha

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    Ex-admin Korn's Avatar
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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    Quote Sarabi View Post
    People would just say that human nature is different. We use tools instead of our bodies directly.
    But being able to use tool isn't anyway bear being a valid argument for using tools that kill other living beings, so the 'tool argument' isn't even an argument the way I see it.

    You've just flipped the natural argument on its head by implying that it's more natural not to use tools than to use them.
    What do you mean by 'natural', Sarabi?
    I will not eat anything that walks, swims, flies, runs, skips, hops or crawls.

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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    I am confronted by the argument that it is the "natural" order of things to eat meat. We are part of a food chain and it is what we are made to do. However, our teeth are more shaped for vegetarian consumption, correct? Rather than meat eating? I know we have incisors, but for the most part our teeth are flattened, like little squares, not like a Lion's sharp edges.

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    Quote xrodolfox View Post
    I've found that the "natural" argument is just too complicated, and even then it is not that strong. When it is healthy and easy to go vegan, I think that it is even less relevant and the issue of choice is most salient.
    I agree that the main thing is that we'd all avoid harming animals as much as possible whether someone would define that as natural or not, but in my experience... while it's easy to remind anyone that the 'natural' argument pro eating meat is very weak (read: non-existent), the next thing that will happen is that they combine the focus on natural with misinformation about how nutritious vegan food is compared with food with animal products...

    I think it's relevant and good and natural to make tools, and I simply want to use my human ability to make and use tools in a way that makes as much sense as possible (and not only for humans).

    I don't think the 'natural' thing is complicated, not even confusing, and I find it to make a lot of sense also for non-vegans once they think about all humans use and eat that is cultivated/cultural. In order to kill a cow, tigers and lions don't need tools... we do. It's natural for them (they are equipped from nature with what it takes to kill a cow), we have to 'cultivate' nature, and there are no reasons to combine "culture" with "killing".

    After having read everything I've come across about B12 and vegan food for longer than you can imagine, I'm 99% convinced that "nature" (in it's original form, without chlorinated water and poor soil) would provide us with all the B12 we need from plants without even having to think for a second about supplements, but some meat eaters use B12 as a way to 'document' that they don't need supplements/that vegans do.

    But where is the connection with "natural"? That somehow eating meat is "natural" due to ease of b12? If that argument is brought up, I tend to bring up that vitamin D is mostly aquired synthetically for omnivores due to fortified milk. Same for iron (most omnivores don't eat the requisite blood sausage, liver, or green veggies to make up for iron). They get their iron from fortified breads and pastas.
    If we would live closer to where humans apparently originated from, we'd get all the vitamin D we needed from sunlight. We can also (vegans and non-vegans) also get all the iron we need from our diet. Both vegans and non-vegans need to pay extra attention to B12, vegans tend to get too little (due to reasons discussed in the B12 forums we have), while non-vegans tend to both get either little or too much, since a non-vegan diet can consist of pretty much anything.

    When we discuss 'natural', I don't think iron or vot. D are relevant, that's all... but B12 is often coming up from people (even vegans) who don't know a lot about B12. This is why I wrote what I did about B12 in the earlier post (and in B12: How natural is the vegan diet?).
    I will not eat anything that walks, swims, flies, runs, skips, hops or crawls.

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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    I think a big problem with the "natural argument" is that "natural" and "artificial" are arbitrary. It comes from the view that humans are somehow apart from nature, and therefore what we do is unnatural. Humans are animals. Why should human tools be any different than the tools of any other animal, like gorillas or chimpanzees? A beaver dam and human dam are both buildings created by mammals. Calling one natural and another unnatural is a creation of our language. When you look at humans as part of nature, then anything we do can be natural; an apple picked off the tree is no more a natural food than a box of Cocoa Puffs (less processed, though technically still processed, just processed by the tree).
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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    It comes from the view that humans are somehow apart from nature, and therefore what we do is unnatural.
    We are apart from nature, they we currently live.


    When you look at humans as part of nature, then anything we do can be natural; an apple picked off the tree is no more a natural food than a box of Cocoa Puffs (less processed, though technically still processed, just processed by the tree).
    If anything we do would be natural, we should just erase the word from all dictionaries. Natural definitely means something else than 'anything we do/produce/consume'.
    I will not eat anything that walks, swims, flies, runs, skips, hops or crawls.

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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    Quote Shrapnel View Post
    I think a big problem with the "natural argument" is that "natural" and "artificial" are arbitrary.
    I agree.

    I am currently writing a philosophy paper about how freedom (a word similar to "natural") is a matter of degree. I think that may be the thing. It's a matter of degree as well as kind. "Free" can mean just about anything. Free to eat an apple, free to kill an animal, free to pursue happiness, free to do whatever the hell you want... etc. But then you may differentiate between material and spiritual freedom, inner and outer freedom.

    Meditation looks at it like this... you observe your mind in order to know your mind. But isn't it mind observing mind? Yes. If you just act and don't reflect by observing your mind, then your mind is not free, you become more and more distant from yourself. But how does mind run away from mind? Can nature run away from nature? It's like that. Mind runs away from mind by conjuring up all these thoughts about things external to mind, until the raw experience is just spread so thin as to be suffocating. Mind comes home when mind recognizes mind.

    Can nature come home? Can we develop a meditative understanding of nature as a society? Or is "nature" too different from "mind"?
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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    Quote Korn View Post
    We are apart from nature, they we currently live.



    If anything we do would be natural, we should just erase the word from all dictionaries. Natural definitely means something else than 'anything we do/produce/consume'.
    But how are we apart from nature? If we are apart from nature, it's only in our view, only if we view humans as somehow unnatural. I think it's more a construct of our society (and language). It's like how we say, "Humans and animals." Humans are animals, but we develop the concept that we aren't, which is reinforced through language (I did a paper in my Literary Criticism class last semester about the use of language for othering. The class was mostly on deconstructionism, so a lot on how language shapes thought. Bleh, I wish I could explain better, but I'm kinda getting at how using language like "natural" and "artificial" creates the idea that they actually exist, when they are really inventions). I don't know, but would wager, that other languages could very well not have the same words as we use to describe "natural" and "artificial" or might even not have such concepts of "natural" or "artificial." My point (I swear I do have one, somewhere in that rambling) is that there isn't a universal concept of what is and what isn't natural, and ironically, "artificial" is in a way, an artificial concept we create.
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    Quote Sarabi View Post
    I agree.

    I am currently writing a philosophy paper about how freedom (a word similar to "natural") is a matter of degree. I think that may be the thing. It's a matter of degree as well as kind. "Free" can mean just about anything. Free to eat an apple, free to kill an animal, free to pursue happiness, free to do whatever the hell you want... etc. But then you may differentiate between material and spiritual freedom, inner and outer freedom.
    Exactly. What I think of as natural, may not be what you think of as natural. Or free, for that matter. What you think of when you hear the term "civil rights" most likely would be vastly different from what an English peasant living the 10th century would think of (which would probably be confusion at such an alien concept).
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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    Quote Shrapnel View Post
    But how are we apart from nature? If we are apart from nature, it's only in our view, only if we view humans as somehow unnatural. I think it's more a construct of our society (and language). It's like how we say, "Humans and animals." Humans are animals, but we develop the concept that we aren't, which is reinforced through language (I did a paper in my Literary Criticism class last semester about the use of language for othering. The class was mostly on deconstructionism, so a lot on how language shapes thought. Bleh, I wish I could explain better, but I'm kinda getting at how using language like "natural" and "artificial" creates the idea that they actually exist, when they are really inventions). I don't know, but would wager, that other languages could very well not have the same words as we use to describe "natural" and "artificial" or might even not have such concepts of "natural" or "artificial." My point (I swear I do have one, somewhere in that rambling) is that there isn't a universal concept of what is and what isn't natural, and ironically, "artificial" is in a way, an artificial concept we create.
    My response to all that is only that if you insist that if all humans do is natural, go ahead and use the word that way, but if you do, the word has no meaning.

    If a bomb is as 'natural' as a blueberry, we simply need a new word that will cover what most people use 'natural' for today, and I can't see why we should erase one meaningless word from our dictionary and replace it with another.

    Here are some examples of common ways to use the word 'natural':

    http://veganforum.com/forums/showpos...2&postcount=47
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    Ex-admin Korn's Avatar
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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    Quote Shrapnel View Post
    I think a big problem with the "natural argument" is that "natural" and "artificial" are arbitrary. It comes from the view that humans are somehow apart from nature
    No, it comes from the view that some of our creations are somehow apart from nature.


    'Nature' has a meaning. If someone invites you for 'nature walk', you don't expect that he will take you to a nuclear plant.

    'Natural' is derived from 'nature'. It can't be that complicated....
    Last edited by Korn; Apr 22nd, 2009 at 08:37 AM.
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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    Quote Korn View Post
    No, it comes from the view that some of our creations are somehow apart from nature.


    'Nature' has a meaning. If someone invites you for 'nature walk', you don't expect that he will take you to a nuclear plant.

    'Natural' is derived from 'nature'. It can't be that complicated....

    totally agree
    i think most things that humans do are totally unnatural

  38. #38
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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    Quote Sarabi View Post
    People would just say that human nature is different. We use tools instead of our bodies directly. That's what makes us so powerful. But you're right, this just shows that we don't really have a clue what "natural" means. You've just flipped the natural argument on its head by implying that it's more natural not to use tools than to use them. It's the same argument, however. It's commonly thought that using less tools is more "natural," at least to a point. Biotic tools are especially "unnatural."
    Perhaps instead of saying 'it's natural to eat meat argument', I had said the following:

    Sometimes in the past, people who hear that I am a vegan have said something like 'I can understand some of the reasons why you are vegan. But surely the fact that humans, as with carnivores, have some 'pointy teeth' means that humans, as with carnivores, are 'programmed by evolution/nature' to eat meat?' And that's when I've come back with my 'jumping on a cow's back etc, comments. May not be a sophisticated argument, but it seems to have worked for me.

    leedsveg

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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    Of course "nature" has a meaning, but that doesn't mean it's not a really f***ed up meaning. I find the argument that it's "natural" for humans to use tools, whatever the tools may be, to be as valid as the argument that it's "natural" for animals to hunt with their bare bodies. In fact, my first thought would be that it's totally natural for humans to wear clothes instead of growing lots of fur/hair. Obviously, that's precisely why we don't grow fur/hair on an evolutionary level.

    Furthermore, no one's first thought would be that it's "natural" for humans to type away at computers several hours per day... if you talk about "nature," this is no one's first thought. I would argue that "nature" could be exchanged for so many other words that make more sense both across eons and in the immediate, like health, balance, tendency, etc. Meat-eaters ask me ironically, "What is suffering?" as if that's some totally arbitrary concept, yet they turn around and act as though nature is the most, well, natural concept in existence. I want to ask them, "What is nature?" "Nature" for many people is more of a way of saying, "As we were meant to be," but what the heck does that mean?
    "To become vegetarian is to step into the stream which leads to nirvana." - Buddha

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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    Quote Sarabi View Post
    Of course "nature" has a meaning, but that doesn't mean it's not a really f***ed up meaning. I find the argument that it's "natural" for humans to use tools, whatever the tools may be, to be as valid as the argument that it's "natural" for animals to hunt with their bare bodies.
    I don't remember which thread I mentioned this in /e have many thread about 'natural' now), but if we skip all possible theories and look at how 'natural' normally is used, it's pretty much used along the lines of the definitions I quoted from Google. There's IMO nothing f***ed up by saying that a product may have only natural flavors (the taste comes from source that are found in nature and exposed to very little "processing"), while another product don't, eg. if the taste comes from a synthetic substance produced in a factory, with known or unknown side effects.

    But again: this is simple. If natural has no meaning for someone (because 'everything is natural') - they shouldn't use that word. Others will use it.



    IMO the most important part isn't natural or non-natural, but good or bad. In addition, I think that if we actually do look at the validity of naturalness of living on an animal-based or vegan diet, the arguments would go in favor of a vegan diet (for humans). Not because tools are used, but due to what they are used for, and because humans are very different from carnivorous animals (claws, teeth, speed and all that).

    Maybe anti-natural is a better word than un-natural. If something causes damage to the environment, to animals or humans - all of which seen as part of nature - that action is an anti-nature action.

    It's all about degrees, I guess, about how much damage we cause, and to which degree it can be avoided, which is also reflected in some of the definitions I found:

    (used especially of commodities) being unprocessed or manufactured using only simple or minimal processes

    A substance that is derived from mineral, plant, or animal matter and does not undergo a synthetic process

    "In accordance with nature" was also mentioned, and that definition is different from 'identical to unaltered nature'. If I pick some bananas and crush them. I wouldn't say that the result is unnatural or synthetic. If someone makes a bread spread that doesn't contain any traces of bananas, but uses some substance made to imitate the taste of a banana, I'd say it's an artificial, and not natural flavor.

    I guess we all agree that the argument pro eating animal products because it's 'natural' is invalid anyway, so I'm starting to wonder why we discuss all these details...
    I will not eat anything that walks, swims, flies, runs, skips, hops or crawls.

  41. #41

    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    I just realized that the reason the "natural" argument has so much power is that by citing something as "natural", besides also meaning "good", the idea of "natural" has a way of absolving responsibility and personal/societal agency and CHOICE.

    If something is "natural", then it is assumed that it has no choice. Thus, a beaver dam is "natural" since the beavers acted on instinct and not on choice. A human dam is unnatural because there was a choice. It is natural for humans to want to have sex, but unnatural for humans to want to save animals because to some, that is a choice.

    That's why the division between synthetic and "natural" is about human choice. A human making sucrose from carbohydrates is an activity that occurs without will or choice. It just happens in a person. Thus, that is "natural". Synthetic sucrose is sucrose that a person had a choice to make or not make; thus it is outside the body. But the body boundary isn't even as concise as the boundary of whether choice was involved.

    I *just* realized this!

    Natural isn't just a sloppy de facto synonym for "good" in ethical arguments, it is also an appeal to lack of free will! That's why that argument so often angers me so much.

    I can see how some folks, like Korn, use the "natural" argument without resorting to either making it unequivical synonyms with "good", and without implying that "natural" means no choice. However, I think that it is too difficult a line to toe for most practical arguments with omnivores, and I think that unless that fine line is toed, it also can result in absurdities in pro-vegan arguments.

    I'm not so savvy as to be able to do that.

    So that's why even more, I'm going to split up and clarify what people mean by "natural". Do they mean that "natural" is "good"? If something is "natural", does that mean that there is less personal agency and choice? Most of the time, the answer to both those questions is "no", and the discussion can continue without the shadow of "natural" making arguments impossible to understand and parse out.

    That's how I'm going to now deal with the "natural" argument; I'm going to make the person pushing that point to define what they mean with the rubric of choice and "good" as part of that.
    context is everything

  42. #42
    leedsveg
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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    Quote Sarabi View Post
    Of course "nature" has a meaning, but that doesn't mean it's not a really f***ed up meaning. I find the argument that it's "natural" for humans to use tools, whatever the tools may be, to be as valid as the argument that it's "natural" for animals to hunt with their bare bodies. In fact, my first thought would be that it's totally natural for humans to wear clothes instead of growing lots of fur/hair. Obviously, that's precisely why we don't grow fur/hair on an evolutionary level.

    Furthermore, no one's first thought would be that it's "natural" for humans to type away at computers several hours per day... if you talk about "nature," this is no one's first thought. I would argue that "nature" could be exchanged for so many other words that make more sense both across eons and in the immediate, like health, balance, tendency, etc. Meat-eaters ask me ironically, "What is suffering?" as if that's some totally arbitrary concept, yet they turn around and act as though nature is the most, well, natural concept in existence. I want to ask them, "What is nature?" "Nature" for many people is more of a way of saying, "As we were meant to be," but what the heck does that mean?
    As I say, the words I have used to relatively unsophisticated omnis (in the UK) seem to have worked fine for me and so far I have not been diverted into the meanings of the words 'nature' and 'natural'. If it works, I 'aint going to change it.

    leedsveg

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    Default Re: the "natural" argument

    According to Gary Francione, "Isn't meat natural?" is the most frequent question he has heard in the past 30 years:

    http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/no-its-not-natural/
    "To become vegetarian is to step into the stream which leads to nirvana." - Buddha

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