Tuesday, 20 September 2016

A reply to Bloomfield: Towards a completely empirical foundation for veganism



Josef Bloomfield's essay [1] is a well written exposition of why one doesn't have a sound case to logically intertwine 'spiritualism', say asserting the existence of metaphysical souls of animals e.g., with veganism: the standpoint which has at its core the principle that manipulating animals for our sole benefit is inherently wrong. I want to almost push his arguments to their proper intended logical conclusion, which he doesn't quite get round to since the piece lacks the clear-cut empiricism and rationalism found only in the sciences.

One point that I would like to make is that whilst reading the piece which continually states how veganism cannot be conflated with spirituality, I was almost dumbfounded to find this in the conclusive paragraph:

To conclude, if spirituality and veganism exist in a symbiotic relationship, this can only be a good thing. If a spiritual or religious person feels motivated by their spiritual beliefs to become vegan, we should embrace them. - Josef Bloomfield
which, to me, contradicts the whole previous build up. Obviously this probably wasn't intentional, but it is slightly confusing since the penultimate paragraph reads:

This approach has to be secular. Secular abolitionist vegan moral philosophy does not require one to reject any other beliefs, other than that animals are ours to use. The audience will not react against secular justice in the way they would against spiritual. A spiritual argument can quickly descend into religious debate, which is an area of debate that would be best to avoid. - Josef Bloomfield
So which way is it?  I believe the apparent contradiction and confusion arises intrinsically from the way many vegans justify their adherence to the principle(s) of  veganism.

Jo asserts that it is so easy and so blindingly obvious that the use of animals for food and other products is 'morally wrong';

It doesn’t take much coherent thought to realise that the use of animals is morally wrong. - Josef Bloomfield
but this is a logical fallacy. He is justifying the statement: 'the use of animals is morally wrong' because.. well...  isn't it obvious!?  It is similar to justifying that the objects we see are a superposition of quantum states in the classical limit because... well..  isn't it so darn obvious!?

He doesn't provide a logical or scientific justification for the main premise of veganism. This is very dangerous, it means that any vegan who thinks the same way cannot adequately defend the core of their beliefs. It is also harder to convert non-vegans who may be logically inclined (quite a lot of people) because they may just think that veganism is based on a lifestyle choice which won't necessarily, at face value, improve their lives.

One could argue that, on some animal inclusive happiness principle, it is morally justified. Since reducing the animals un-happiness and pain equates to a greater score of total happiness for all animal kind. The happiness principle has its shortcomings...  what counts as happiness? Different animals, including us, experience mental states of pain and pleasure differently so how can we derive an averaged happiness measure?  Also all seemingly sophisticated moral philosophies around justifying veganism are actually just sugar coated expressions of empathy.

Humans (some more so than others) are programmed genetically to experience empathy when our young are in pain, so that we take better care of them so that our genes are more likely to live on. This empathy facility affects us when animals are in pain too, this is because there has been no selection pressure to distinguish specific human pain from animals...  any pain like behaviour is sufficient to induce empathy.  So, my argument continues, moral stances of veganism reduce to this empathy facility. Many vegans are vegan because they feel empathy when they are shown terrible (and believe me they are terrible) videos of slaughtering, chicks being blended etc.

However this is not a valid logical justification to accept a moral ideology. As heart warming as it is to stand alongside those who base their moral actions on empathy, it is primitive and contradictory to our modern secular system. It is primitive because in this time we understand that to live a in a free, healthy and progressive society we must advocate science, not because it feels right, but because it works. Our emotions are prone to error and we have much more refined and rigorous tools of reasoning at our feet to use.

Towards a valid foundation

I would openly claim that veganism is irrational because it is spiritual, and therefore I would never be vegan. - Josef Bloomfield

Replace 'spiritual' with 'emotional' and, from the preceding arguments, you can see how some people would still reject veganism because they may see that at the heart of all the moral 'stuff' is irrational emotion. Before anyone shouts 'how can emotion be irrational?' you must remember that anything rational can either be a system of logical axioms (maths) or based on experimental induction. Emotion by its very nature precedes sophisticated language and is built up from instincts ingrained within our brains from billions of years of natural selection.

So where are we now?  We need to place veganism on a foundation where, like Josef rightly says, it appeals to the rational faculty within us. Since veganism involves the real world, the only area that can help us is the realm of science. We must base veganism on facts.

What will change if we base veganism on facts and what type of facts anyhow?

 Well there is vast evidence pointing towards the hypothesis that eating meat will greatly increase your risks for chronic diseases which of course include the cardiovascular form [2]. It has been shown that dietary choices  account for 30% of factors leading to cancer in Western societies, a study concluded that vegan diets lowered the risk of getting cancer by a significant amount [2 - cancer]. Veganism is a form of food restriction, you are avoiding meat cuisines, which isn't all so bad since any form of food restriction (not leading to nutritional deficiency) and increase in antioxidants from increased veg intake actually increases health [2 - vegetarian].


Grazing animals consumes huge amounts of food and land. There are many future problems which could affect you, your children... but mainly YOU in the future. Global warming is a prevailing issue which is serious and the meat industry plays a bigger role than you would have thought in ruining this planet. There will come a time when we have to invest in technologies which remove carbon from the atmosphere, this will be when you are still alive. The countries you live in will have to pay for this, this means you will via tax. So by reducing your meat consumption you will inevitably save money in the future and preserve that fresh(ish) air you love to breathe in when you wake up. By freeing up land used by animals after there population dwindles due to humans not forcing increased rates of birth, this land can be used for green urban areas which will help the growing population find living space but still make the world greener. Plus less methane being produced!!!  For articles and papers for veganism and the environment see [3].

It is facts like these and growing evidence that a plant based diet will help you live a healthier, happier life, internally and externally in terms of the environment you live in. So since denying scientific fact is a sign of insanity, which not many people are(?), and actually realising that by accepting these facts and adapting to them, via veganism or even just reduced meat consumption for starters, you will help yourself. This is pretty much the empirical foundation for modern veganism, or what it should be.

It works because the facts align with our genetic disposition to survive, to procreate and live healthy lives but also due to the pressures of becoming successful in modern day living. To become successful in any field of note requires alertness, clear thinking and energy...  all this emulates from a properly functioning brain and body. Plus having a scientific mindset, which respects facts when they are properly established, will enable you to adapt quickly to the ever complex realm of technology, medicine and society.

So now we see that veganism is not based on spirituality or emotional empathy (or moral philosophy you say?) but it is based on impartial fact. Facts do not require belief, they will remain a fact even if people do not take to it.. but those who deny will be at a disadvantage for it. People who accept facts and adapt to them will most likely thrive and become successful... with the propensity to do so happens to be installed in our genes and within Western culture.

So will you dine with the carnivores or take your first steps to a healthier, greener and scientifically literate you?



[1] http://www.ecorazzi.com/2016/09/20/spirituality-and-veganism-may-co-exist-but-cannot-be-conflated/
[2] Science for plant based diets:

http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/29/8/1777.short - diabetes
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23169929 - cancer
http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/19166134 - vegetarianism- food restriction

[3]Science for plant based diets and the environment:

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/89/5/1699S.short

http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/global-warming/ - PETA