Monday, April 27, 2009

Are the Anti-Meat Folks Just Neurotic?


From a recent article about scientists studying people who are meat-averse (not that this makes them all crazy, of course):

Robinson-O’Brien and her team, who reported the findings in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, said about 20-25% of current and former vegetarians in the study displayed unhealthy weight-control behaviors such as taking diet pills, vomiting, using laxatives and diuretics, and binge eating.

Might a lot of people — especially women — be adopting vegetarian and vegan philosophies as a means of rationalizing deeper problems, making a system of virtue of (what they imagine to be) necessity, as it were?  It is not without reason that so many meat ads (from Manwich to the Burger King meat-eater-rallies spots) cater directly to males, who are more prone to enjoy the carnivorous life.

Of course, noting a gender imbalance — or even associated emotional problems — no more settles or explains away the moral issue of veganism than gender imbalances and emotional problems among prostitutes truly settled the question at last week’s Intelligence Squared U.S. debate of whether it’s wrong to pay for sex.  But at next week’s Debate at Lolita Bar, of course, we’ll delve into all sorts of animal welfare conundrums and get to the bottom of all this.


Christopher said...

I think you may be going one step further than you need to here with the notion of deeper “problems” per se. It is my sense that a lot of women (and certainly some men) become vegetarians at some point in their life as a partial form of weight control. Eliminating a large category of generally high calorie foods would obviously make dieting seem easier (though I’ve know many fat vegetarians). Of course, as women have substantially more economic and social incentives to stay thin than do men (as studies of patterns of responses to personal ads have clearly shown), I’m not sure this counts as rationalizing deeper problems so much as a reasonable response to social and economic reality.

Turning this into a moral notion is not that different from how most of our moral notions evolve, right? It’s a post-facto rationalization of largely unthinking biological or psychological reactions developed through evolution.

Todd Seavey said...

This, of course, is why we (and when I say we, I mean even the robots) need the cold-blooded calculations of utilitarianism — including the awareness that neural patterns in a complex enough arrangement, such as Shakespeare contemplating _Hamlet_ upon completion, may well create a subjective experience of pleasure far more profound than anything achievable by a sleepy kitten using the same number of neurons to roll over onto its other side, lest we fall prey to the de facto “a neuron is a neuron is a neuron” form of animal-utilitarian egalitarianism catching on (and even displacing older rights-oriented thinking) in some pro-animal quarters.

Diana said...

Just realized in addition to having no evidence that the experience of pleasure is greater in complex neuronal arrangements than in simple ones you also have no evidence that eating animals or animal products produces more pleasure than eating food not derived from animals.

FYI, there are some fluffy vegans but by and large it’s a much healthier way to eat in terms of heart disease and cholesterol

see for instance

Wouldn’t the pleasurable experience of living a few extra years instead of having a heart attack and a bypass outweigh the momentary pleasure of eating the saturated fats in meat?

Person for person (and I’m sure pound for pound) the health ramifications of obesity and high cholesterol epidemic are much more serious and widespread than some adolescent vegetarians with unhealthy weight control behaviors.

Todd Seavey said...

Weight is essentially just a matter of calories in vs. calories (burned through movement) out, and there’s no reason you can’t be a thin carnivore or fat vegan. Watch later this year for more on meat’s valuable role in the diet.

I think we’ve all noticed the profound qualitative difference between Shakespeare appreciation and, say, chewing a blanket. Let’s take another look at that recent Onion piece, then leave the rest to our May 6 debaters:

Gerard said...

…you also have no evidence that eating animals or animal products produces more pleasure than eating food not derived from animals.

You’ve apparently never tried bacon.

Mabel said...

Now this is a subject I can’t resist…while I truly respect the ethical concerns of vegetarians for avoiding meat, a lot of women are becoming vegetarians for pure vanity…PETA tells us that vegetarians are sexier…look better naked (Alicia Silverstone) and therefore exploit women’s self image issues and insecurities just as much as Vogue…that doesn’t seem very ethical to me.

Todd Seavey said...

On a related note, I’ll link again in tomorrow’s entry (4/30) to my article about seeing _Watchmen_, in which I briefly allude to seeing a PETA event at a strip club earlier the same day (thanks again, conservative porn expert and entertainment reporter J.R. Taylor).

Hints of bestiality would seem the next logical step — and I’m not saying that as a criticism, I’m just thinking dialectically/aesthetically here, as a former advertising guy.

Diana said...

Lots of people do good things for the wrong reasons. Some people donate to charity so they can look generous, others live a life of virtue because they are afraid of the punishment of hell. I for one would never recommend that all charitable donations be anonymous or that punishment never be used to keep people’s behavior in line.

The book “Skinny Bitch” is a bestseller because it lures women in with the promise of being thin and shows them the ethical dilemmas of consuming animal flesh along the way. Many young women don’t care about their health but only exercise to they can look better naked. Is that exploiting their insecurities? Although Todd and ACSH apparently will dispute this but a vegan/vegetarian diet is on average lower in saturated fat and higher in many essential nutrients (which I will not rattle off in this small space) than an ominovore’s diet and certainly than the standard American diet. It’s better for the animals if women try a vegetarian diet than the Atkins diet. I don’t think PETA is exploiting any self image issues but simply using something that women naturally care about to get their message across. Besides, obesity and high cholesterol kill many more people than poor body image.