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Vegetarian, vegan

"What do you think about becoming vegetarian or vegan?" - I was asked this question recently. OK, I have a university degree in philosophy, so this should be an easy question for me; just state my opinion and provide some argumentation to back my conclusions, right? Not quite, as for me all philosophy starts with asking questions, and indeed the way I see it, questioning is the essence of philosophy. So, let's see some philosophy in action, I try to track my process of thought;

The first question is, what exactly is the question. Does it mean "What does Erkka think about Erkka possibly becoming vegetarian or vegan?". Or does it mean "What does Erkka think about someone else becoming vegetarian or vegan?" Or, maybe the question is intended to be more general, like "What does Erkka think, on theoretical level, about the moral issues of eating animals? Is it morally acceptable to kill animals for food, or not? And if yes / no, why?". Now, I'm not sure but I'm under the impression that many people think that there isn't an essential difference between these three versions of the question, as anyway one picks a diet according to a certain set of moral beliefs, and moral judgements are supposed to be universal so it doesn't make a difference if it is Erkka or someone else killing animals for food - if it is morally wrong, then it is wrong no matter who does it, yes? But, alas, I'm not quite convinced that such universal moral truths exists at all, so no doubt I will fail to answer if being asked what is my opinion on this or that universal moral judgement. (For me, it is bit like someone asked me 'what do you think, what colour of curtains do they have in their living rooms in Kepler-452b?' - obviously, my answer would plainly be 'I don't know, and at the moment I have no way of knowing.') Hehe, well, but instead of merely dodging the question with meta-philosophical evasive maneuvers, I'll go on examining it more closely.

So, the next question is, what do the terms vegetarian and vegan mean?. Again, obviously, a vegetarian is a person who doesn't eat meat. And a vegan is a person who takes it one step further, and doesn't use any product which has ingredients from killed animals. Simple as that? Well, suppose we have a family living in a besieged city in a war-zone. The family has run out of fresh food supplies, and all they have to eat is canned beans and sugar. Canned beans and sugar aren't made out of killed animals, so the family is vegetarian? Possibly also vegan, despite one of them wearing leather boots, but he originally bought those boots from a second-hand store, so that doesn't count. But sure the family would eat meat if they had access to it. So, their not eating meat because of circumstances doesn't make them vegan proper. We have to refine our definition, adding a clause that 'vegetarians and vegans have their behaviour based on moral judgements which they aim to live by.'

So, I'd guess this takes us to the moral judgements. Vegetarianism seems to be based on judgement 'it is morally wrong to kill animals for food'. And vegan says 'why limit it to food only? How is it moral to restrain from eating meat, while washing your face with a cream brutally tested on tortured animals? - it is morally wrong to utilize animals in any way, and therefore it is our moral obligation to avoid using any products which involve killing or torturing animals'. Now, of course, we could still draw further distinctions, pointing out that there might be vegetarians who don't have strict moral stances, but simply go vegetarian because they believe it to be a healthy diet. Or, there could be a vegan who goes vegan purely for tribal reasons; all of his friends are vegan, and he doesn't want to be different, so he goes vegan just to feel an accepted member of the tribe. But, somehow, I'd guess that the person who asked my thoughts on becoming vegetarian or vegan didn't have this kind of versions in mind. So let's try to stay philosophical, setting aside all the other possible variants of diet / lifestyle choices.

So far so good. Maybe we now can have our question in a distilled philosophical form: Is it morally acceptable to kill animals and to utilize them as raw materials (for food, or for other supplies of human consumption)? Since the common sense says that there are things which are morally wrong, and that any sane adult is able to tell right from wrong, so there must be some sort of philosophical clarification, a sound theory which clearly explicates what makes bad things bad and good things good, yes? For example, we could examine rights, saying that humans have a right to choose, and then the question is that to which extent the animals have a right to live, and how to balance the possible animal rights with human rights. Or, we could pick some seemingly self-evident moral principle like 'it is wrong to cause pain and suffering to others', and then it would be a question of empirical research to prove which animals are capable of experiencing pain, and then we would need some logical reasoning to determine what animals (if any) are ok to eat? Or, we could assume any supranatural deity or authority, who has given us certain rights and obligations, which serve as a basis of universal moral rules - in which case we only need to know that which transcription of the divine message is the correct one, as we have that many religious traditions each claiming to deliver the divine truth. There are probably several other ways of embarking into the moral questions of utilizing animals - but, if my personal opinion is being asked, I don't have one.

So, for a moment, let's not bother us with different theories of moral philosophy. Instead, let's use the standard tool of philosophical inquiry; the thought experiment. In our experiment, we first assume that a way or another we have concluded that it is morally wrong to kill animals. "Meat is murder!" So, next we need to examine what that means in better detail. After successfully not consuming animal-based food, I drink a glass of water. At my house the water comes from a local well, so there probably is some microbial life in the water. Some of these microbes get killed in my gut. So I have committed a murder? Or the bacteria don't count as animals, since they are not visible? Good, I go outdoors, and accidentally step over two spiders, instantly killing the one and leaving the one lethally injured. I should probably put it out of its misery, by smashing it with a hammer. One murder or two murders, or no murder? Do the spiders count? Or should we conclude that the universal moral thruth of 'it is wrong to kill an animal' only applies to animals which we can see and which are cute and resemble us? Ugly little creepers don't count? But sure, moral principles can't be based on mere likeability. So maybe we need to rephrase it so that 'since it is not possible to completely avoid killing any animal, there still is a moral obligation to avoid any foreseeable unnecessary killing of any animal'.. Which leaves us with the tricky adjective 'unnecessary'. Who gets to define what is necessary and what is not?

In case you have been wondering, we are now approaching one of the themes I had in mind when writing the story of Vince and Hule. There are several layers of metaphors in the story, so let us look at some of them. Vince believes that a car has high and low speed, and that any odd gears in between are going to mess up things. That, generally speaking, is a metaphor of human tendency to think in binary opposites; beliefs are either true or false, good or bad. And there's no question of compromising moral values. If meat is murder, it doesn't make a difference if one just reduces the consumption of meat - either you are a killer or not, right? Like, if you had a habit of killing an unknown child twice a week, and then you'd go to reduce your habit to merely killing a child once a month, it doesn't make you a better person - you are still a child-killer, and a serial killer, a terrible horrible evil person. So why would killing animals be any different? Either you violate a moral norm or not, there aren't any shades of grey in between! (please remember here I'm not quite stating my personal opinions, but just trying to follow the ordinary logic of moral reasoning, and then voice the traditional point of view.)

Well, at this point I'm starting to think that beliefs like 'meat is murder' tap on the concepts of 'impure things' and 'taboos'. Like, the idea that there are impure entities, and to stay clean one should avoid any contact with impure things, animals, deeds and persons. Sounds primitive? But to me it seems that this way of thinking is alive and well, and rather commonly found also in modern western societies. Some time ago in Finland we had the debate if gay marriage should be legal or not. One of the arguments on the 'not' side was that they felt that the value of straight marriages is somehow eroded if gays are allowed to marry. I never quite understood what is that supposed to mean, and for me the only way to make sense of the argument is this: "Gay sex is impure. If gays are allowed to marry, impurity touches the institution of marriage, thus contaminating all the existing straight marriages, too." To take the debate on that level, we should first talk about if there are such things as taboos and impurities, and if yes, are they really capable of inducing a group-wide contamination? Well but here we are not talking about gay marriages, we are talking about the morals of killing animals. And the way I see it, some vegans (I stress 'some', I'm not saying 'every', I'm not saying 'majority' nor 'many'. I'm only saying 'some') take death as a taboo, and they want to be not touched by the taboo. But, if you ask me, no matter how you try to avoid touching death, one day the death will touch you. And, if bacteria and ugly spiders are considered, you are anyway causing a mass of deaths on daily basis, there is no escaping it. Like it or not, we are all food. One day some other form of life will consume us. I mean, for me it is essentially about shades of grey - the question is not 'yes or no', but merely 'how much, how many, how often'.

Remember, we are still running our thought experiment. We still suppose that killing animals is not morally good. So far we have concluded that it is not practically possible to avoid all killing, so the question becomes gradual - a question of amount and degree. Hold on - does that, after all, mean that if I kill less animals, I become a better person? Here we are back to the oddities of primitive moral thought. Namely, what does it mean to be a better person in the moral sense of the word? As we saw in the story of Hule and Vince, claims about moral superiority / inferiority quickly lead to a heated debate. "Don't you try to judge me by your twisted moral standards, don't you try to pose yourself as morally superior to me! My moral standards are better than yours! Or at least I pack more fire-power to back my moral superiority!" Personally, I'm not so interested in anything like that. If you ask me, we could pretty much just ditch the whole idea of moral superiority / inferiority, and merely be concerned with the consequences of our actions. That's one of the key metaphors in the story of Hule and Vince - there is a practical consequence; the car breaking down, and both Hule and Vince agree that it is not a desirable outcome. But instead of seeing it as a purely practical question to be solved, Vince draws in traditions, morals, binary thinking and a handgun. That's all so very typical of human thought. (This is another layer of metaphors in the story. Vince refers to the old traditions. The belief that there are only low and high speeds was once true, it once worked well. So what Vince fails to notice is that the modern cars aren't any more like the old ones, and if he wants to drive a modern car he needs to update some elements of the tradition. Well, I think that ideas like 'moral superiority / inferiority' once helped us to organize society, back when we were tribal bands of hunter-gatherers. But if you try to stubbornly apply the primitive intuitions to the modern world, you are bound to run into problems. You either have to go back to stone-age circumstances, or you have to update your mental machinery which helps you to make sense of the world. I count moral thought as one key element that needs to be updated.)

So, for me, this is where our philosophical thought experiment takes us. My conclusion is that 'moral principles' make only limited sense, and in many cases we might be better off by just evaluating the real consequences of our choices, actions, institutions, habits and traditions. Let's elaborate further.

If it was merely a question of 'avoiding meat is good' it would say nothing of other consequences. Say, I go to a supermarket and instead of meat I pick carrots and canned beans. Where are the beans produced, were they transported from the other side of the globe to my local supermarket? In which kind of conditions were the beans produced, did they use forced labour, child slaves or something? How was the farming land, did they grow it on an illegal slash-and-burn plantation in a jungle? (I think we should avoid destroying more jungle, as a healthy biosphere is based on necessary amount of rainforest on the globe. I think global warming is a real phenomenon, what we have seen until now is just a beginning and if things keep developing this way, we will run in serious trouble in 50 years or so, and if we want to avoid that we'd better reduce our carbon emissions. Therefore buying locally produced food often is ecologically better than supporting carbon-based transport. Where did the tin of the can come from, how was it mined? And further, I do believe that no matter where you are on the globe, a worker should be paid a proper wage enough to sustain decent life - things like slavery and forced labour are bound to cause a backlash, sooner or later there will be unrest and popular uprising. To build a sustainable society we need to pay workers a decent wage, globally. Now, these are my personal opinions, plain and honest.) Then what about the carrots? Sure they are more nice than buying a piece of dead animal? Well but again, where are the carrots farmed and how? Did they use some methods which yield good harvest for five years but then lead to severe soil erosion? Believe it or not, but without a decent layer of fertile top-soil we are all doomed. If we'd go back to the traditional moral language, I'd say that causing irreversible soil erosion is a bigger sin than rearing sheep for food, especially if the animal rearing is organized in a sustainable and more or less animal-friendly way. (What are the farming methods possibly causing irreversible soil erosion, I leave that question outside of this blog entry. But, just as a side-note, I'm afraid there are other potential long-term problems hidden in some aspects of modern agro-bussiness. Seed and genome ownership, and dependency on commercially produced pesticides and fertilizers, just to name few. There are megacorporations seeking to make insanely high profits on grabbing more and more elements of global food production under their business empire. This, again, is not necessarily bad in itself, but again I'm slightly worried about the possible long-term sustainability, both socially and ecologically.)

So do we have an answer now? Erkka has no opinion on moral principles, he is primarily interested in practical consequences, each unique situation evaluated in detail. Sure, of course we can develop some general rules of thumb, instead of having to calculate the possible outcomes of each and every decision. For the sake of simplicity, let us again assume that there is something like 'undesirable ecological and social consequences'. (Yes, I know, different people might heavily disagree on what are the real consequences, and are they undesirable or not. I don't claim that my beliefs are the universal truth. But for me, it is enough to know that I'm measuring my personal choices against my personal judgement of consequences and their desirability.) So, for me the rules of thumb are something like 'locally grown is often better than long transportations', 'the less packaging materials the better', 'freshly caught local fish is often better than anything commercially produced', 'home-grown meat is often better than any product by a multinational mega-company.' And, these are the rules of thumb I apply to my own decision-making, I'm not going to evaluate any kind of moral superiority / inferiority of the choices the other people make.

Well, since the topic isn't exactly so very simple, let us again give a voice to the traditional moral thinking. I try to adopt the point of view of a hard-line meat is murder vegan, countering my own argumentation. Like this: 'Okay so you say that since we can't 100% avoid accidentally killing ugly spiders, you think it is okay to intentionally keep animals in captivity and then kill them for food? If you see it that way, where does it end? If it is okay to eat cute sheep and cows, is it also okay to eat dogs, cats, bears, dolphins, apes, gorillas, chimps, humans? - Surely you need to draw a line somewhere, and then you need some principles to back that line! So state your principles, otherwise I'll conclude that you are a filthy relativist who has no balls to condemn moral wrong-doing!'. What would Erkka say to that? Well, again, since the question is framed in the terminology of classical philosophy, let Erkka answer with another thought experiment - yes the classic tool of theoretical philosophy.

We have three people on a lifeboat, floating in the middle of ocean, with no means of contacting the civilized world for help. They have already ran out of supplies, drinking occasional raindrops they have managed to stay barely hydrated, but starvation is beginning to set it. Now, what should they do? The question arises, if they aim to maximize their chances of survival, would it be morally okay to sacrifice the weakest of them, so that the remaining two could drink his blood and eat his meat, hoping to stay alive long enough to be rescued? To kill a human for food - morally acceptable or not? Earlier Erkka said that he is not fond of strict moral principles, but favours to consider practical consequences. That sounds a lot like classical utilitarianism, which is notorious for appearing to say 'in the given conditions, it is okay to kill and consume a fellow human for food, as that leads to greater happiness to the maximum number of people. If the options are all three die or one is killed, two survives then the moral thing to do is to save the two'. Let me stress that this IS NOT the way I think - again, this is me just trying to express what classical utilitarianism is sometimes thought to mean. So, what is wrong with 'kill one, save two'? If you ask me, a lot hangs on how we see the consequences. So let's continue our (admittedly ugly) thought experiment. What would happen if the two kill the one and eat him? Now, the remaining two would know that they are capable of such things, and the question looms 'okay so which one of us is next'? Distrust would be in the air, they would both know that it is not safe to fall asleep while the other is awake, otherwise you'd just get killed and consumed for food. Are we sure that this kind of situation increases their chances of survival? Extra food for a few days (before it spoils in the heat), and a chilly atmosphere of distrust where the remaining two are likely to kill each other in the stale-mate. Now, the way I see is that to maximize their chances of survival, the best thing the three can do is to nurture their team-spirit and not to violate the unspoken trust on basic decency. While there are three of them, they can better scan the horizon for signs of distant vessels, they can take turns keeping guard, they have more hands to try to catch unlucky fish or aquatic birds coming too close, and so on. If you ask me, the foreseeable practical consequences favour the three staying together trying to keep each other alive as long as possible. (Woah, doesn't sound like a horrible lowly non-moral relativism? Yup, this is plain reasoning, which seemingly leads to rather reasonable consequences. That's the way I like to think.)

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A final note: My first thought was to name this post 'trade-offs', as I thought to write about how I think there aren't purely 'good' nor purely 'evil' things, but that everything comes with pros and cons, and with every decision we have to weight trade-offs. The way I see it, there is no way to stay 'morally pure', so it is of little use to believe oneself as being morally pure, nor morally superior. Our hands are dirty, always. There are different ways of evaluating and weighing trade-offs, but that doesn't mean that each different way is equally good. There are different consequences to different lines of thinking and acting. Oh well. My neighbours decided to clear-cut a small area of forest right next to my yard. Seen from my front door, the clearing is to the south-east, which is approximately from where the sun rises in the winter. I'm not a big fan of clear-cutting forest, but this particular area is so small that I can live with it. The forest will regrow, although that will probably take longer than the rest of my lifetime. The edge of forest is now some 50 - 100 metres farther away from my yard, which also means that in the winter morning I will get more sunlight, as there aren't any more those treetops blocking the sunlight. So, their clear-cutting that particular area of forest was neither totally good nor totally bad thing. Considering the desirable and non-desirable consequences, the way I see it, the outcome is about 50/50. Something changed in my immediate physical surroundings, and I have no opinion if the change was towards better or worse. Things today are different than they were a month ago.

Ah, and in case the original question, after all, was 'What does Erkka think about someone else becoming vegetarian or vegan?' the answer is: sure, if you feel like it and consider it a good decision for you, then go for it!

A winter morning sunrise
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Comments

Socrates would have been proud of you :)

Hehe =) But now I'm thinking about a blog entry about education. As, I think education should be less about 'what to think', and more about 'how to think'. Things like rational reasoning and examining ones own judgements - they are skills, and learning skills requires practice. And the way I see it, it would be better if these skills were common basic skills of everyone, just like reading / writing and basic maths.

Although, this is the theme which earned Socrates the death penalty. They accused him of spoiling the youth, by encouraging the young generation to question the gods and traditions. Curiously enough, in 20th century USA philosopher Richard Rorty was accused pretty much along the same lines - only that this time the accusations were more informal and not a binding legal case leading to actual death penalty =) So, what I mean, the philosophy of education is a great philosophical theme in itself. And a lot of people seem to think that the fundamental goal of education is to raise the next generation to sustain the tribe - to honor the flag and the central traditions of the tribe. Too much questioning, and the growing generation might begin to rebel, or defect to competing tribes. So, I'm afraid that there are many people who actually don't want the skills of critical thinking being taught in the elementary school ...

Oh well. But when I have time, I might write a separate entry about education =)

You know, basically I agree with you on practically everything you say. People here and there continue to surprise me with their lack on basic critical thinking.

Speaking of questioning everything -- whilst I've no doubts in general benefits of it -- I believe, it should be used with a great caution to prevent getting understood wrongly. Let me explain myself.

For obvious reasons, we can't afford using Socrates' method on everyday basis, mainly because of other people's denial to use it as well. I could remember being a kid and asking my mother some serious (for me at that point) questions, only to hear something like 'just because, stop asking silly things' in return. More, imagine yourself in a group of people, say, university fellow-students or colleagues at work. Let's assume they raise money for somebody's birthday. And then you come up with a question:

- 'Why do you raise these money?'
- 'Because we want to make a present.'
- 'And what is, by your thinking, a present? Enlighten me, I'm very ignorant at this point. Does it have to be a pleasure by itself, or does a pleasure have to cost anything--'
- 'Oh come on, you greedy reindeer! We always knew we couldn't count on you'.

Just that, your interlocutor denies to continue. Well.. asking questions is nice, but interacting with people assumes that you accept some social presets as well. So, I think, general familiarity of people is crucial to a good upbringing. Socrates' method may be postponed until some good occasion :)

Note, I could only speak of my own childhood/growing-up thoughts, while you could also speak of your son's. It's probably (and certainly) a whole new level of understanding upbringing and how schooling should be organized.

A short note: yes, it makes a difference if we are questioning because we want to block or prevent something - or if we are genuinely questioning to seek to better understand something. This is reflected how often, if we ask someone else 'why are you doing that?' it gets interpreted as 'I think you shouldn't be doing that, and I'm going to blame you for doing that silly thing, but now is your time to give an explanation, and that explanation better be good if you want to avoid being mocked by me!'. Uh oh, why can't the word 'why' mean mere 'why' - that would make neutral civilized friendly discussion just that much easier.

Also, it is necessary to question also questioning. 'To question everything' doesn't automatically mean to 'always criticize everything on every occasion' - we might find out that in some situations we get better consequences by going with the familiar social patterns, or rules of thumb. And, indeed, I think the ability to question ones own beliefs is far more useful than the habit of questioning what the others do. Questioning others while being dogmatic oneself is bound to lead into similar issues like 'assuming moral superiority' in the story of Hule and Vince. But examining ones own beliefs, that tends to lead to improved self-understanding, which also often leads to improved benevolence and improved ability to understand others.

As for me, I tried being vegetarian, and it didn't work. I started getting ill because of it. Yes, I did take vitamin supplements, but it didn't help much, it seems. I also ate stuff with lots of iron and proteins, among other healthy things. After a few months, I started getting tired easily and I noticed my drawing/art skills were disappearing. Then there was a day when I caught a flu and I was feeling very weak, so I decided to eat some meat for lunch. On the other day, my art skills suddenly improved a lot, and I was surprised. After a week or two, I noticed my skills fading away once again, so I decided to stop being vegetarian, and since then I never again had a problem with my art skills fading away. Well, I don't have any solid medical evidence on how eating meat or not affects my body, but for me, feeling better is evidence enough against being full vegetarian.

I pretty much agree with you, Erkka, I don't know if I can say that killing an animal eating it's meat is good/bad and my reasoning for becoming vegetarian was based on these things:

First, we city dwellers buy meat (and everything) from the supermarket, and it usually comes from a farm far away. This, plus the fact that massive cattle herding helps to increase greenhouse effect, and the fact that big forest areas are destroyed for herding, makes eating meat a bad thing for the environment.

Second, most big farm owners don't care for the well-being of animals during their lifetime, and most of these animals life in very small spaces from the day they are born until the day they die. So, eating meat from big farms is usually bad for the animals.

Last, most of these animals on big farms are fed all kinds of unhealthy stuff, just to make them fat, so they have more meat, and we don't really know how that affects our bodies. So I think is better to be safe than sorry.

Now you're probably thinking, "well, all those things you said only apply to eating meat from big farms". Well, yeah =) That's because I live in a reasonably big city. I'm okay with hunting or herding animals in a small farm where they have a lot of space, where no forest is destroyed and all of that. It's just that where I live I can't do that, cause there's very little space, so I decided to stop eating meat. But it seems I can't live well without meat, so I'll have to keep eating meat from the local supermarket until I live in a place with enough space to herd animals. I don't eat that much meat, so I think it's okay.

Hey everyone. :) I think I may have a somewhat different perspective on the vegetarian vs. meat-eater thing. I want to say, before I continue, that I don't mean to be disagreeable, or to belittle anyone's beliefs or anything like that. I think it's cool that we all have the freedom to come to our own conclusion about whatever we want, even if I might disagree with some of the conclusions, or with the thought process along the way. And that's what really matters, the fact that we CAN disagree, without anyone being oppressed because of it.

I was going to just be silent, and not spam the internet with my stupid opinions. But now I have had a little more booze than usual (thank goodness for the still we found in my grandpa's attic after he died; which explains a lot of things about my dearly departed grandpa, hehe), so it would seem that here I am typing my silly opinions to a world that has probably moved on beyond them lol.

Anyway, I think that a lot of people are really, like super-really, disconnected from where their food comes from, in this day and age. I think that is a shame. And when we combine that with the anthropomorphism of animals that seems to be a product of the modern era, it turns into a double-bad sort of disconnect.

I am a relatively poor Appalachian man. A farmer, raising cattle. I have been hungry, and (due to the wildly fluctuating price of beef) unable to buy a nicely disconnected processed packaged food from a corner market in a town where everything one needs is just a short walk away sometimes, despite being surrounded by food that is still on the hoof (one cannot live on beef alone, lol). When a man becomes hungry, truly hungry, the good-times fat easy outlook on food that characterizes modern society changes. And further, when a man lives among the food that he raises, even when he is not hungry, I believe that his perspective on the order of the world develops in a way that is fundamentally different than that of a man who has lived a life that is insulated from the source of his food.

Much, dare I say most, of the anti-farm propaganda that we see is just that: Propaganda. As a man who raises beef, I could show you a picture in the late spring, of happy calves playing in a field of clover, surrounded by wild-flowers and butterflies. On the other hand, I could show you a picture of some old cows, unhealty-looking just because of their old age (cattle tend to be sorted into herds by age, so that the older cattle don't bully the younger cattle too much and hurt them), in the middle of winter after a big snow-thaw, standing in mud up to their knees, covered in mud and shit, and looking terrible.

The people that agitate against the farmer, saying that they abuse the animals, they have an agenda (as I am sure I do too, and the reality is probably somewhere in the middle, but I digress), and one cannot blindly digest this sort of propaganda and become too much of an ideologue, especially if one is so disconnected from the source of one's food to begin with. There is a vast cultural divide, at least here in the US, between the people, between the city/suburban and the rural folk. Even though we all look the same, it's there. It's real, and it's causing a lot of trouble, in my opinion, when one side (whichever side that happens to be) ignorantly decides that it needs to control the other, for the "common good".

(I should interject that I don't mean "ignorant" as an insult in any way. We are all, every one of us, ignorant about many things, no matter our background, and what matters is that we are willing to listen, consider, and learn, rather than that we are/were ignorant of something to begin with.)

Oh jeez, I have lost my track of thought. A pox upon thee, liquor of the corn. LOL.

Anyway, I think that the world would be a very different place if people still had to be responsible for the basic procurement of their own food. It's easy to say that society has evolved beyond that, but it really hasn't. Food still has to come from somewhere, and a balance of food is needed to be healthy, both mentally and physically. The only thing that has /really/ changed is that in the industrialized modern era, only 1% of the people have to be farmers, instead of 99%. The cold, hard reality of the human need to kill to live is still here (just as it is with every other creature/animal). We just abstract it away, to a place where we don't have to think about it. We let others deal with it, instead of doing it ourselves. And I personally believe that our society and culture is lesser because of it. It makes a bubble that people can live in, that is in a way separated from the basic order of the world, the underlying harsh reality, from which the basic necessities of life still come.

I apologize again if I have been at all disagreeable. I respect everyone, every single one of you, even if I disagree with anyone's conclusions, or have fault with the thought process that led there. This sort of thing seems to be one of those topics that is difficult to have a rational and non-emotional conversation about, sometimes. Hehe. :)

I especially apologize, if an apology is needed, to Erkka. For spamming your blog with my own silly opinions, taking up space that would be better served for you to share yours. I have the utmost respect for you, and for the Finnish people (indeed, I often feel like Finland is the "West Virginia [my home state] of Europe", hehe). If you have any issue with anything I've had the poor judgement to open my yap about, please let me know so that I can moderate myself better in the future. :)

And I also apologize for drunk-posting. I am sure I will feel super-stupid in the morning, LOL.

In closing, something that is primarily intended to be humorous, but I think has a certain interesting underlying philosophical bugaboo: If we're not supposed to eat animals, then why are they made of meat? :3

Should I press "save", or just close the window and not make a fool of myself? Hmm. Well, I will just press "save" before I can think thrice about it. Lol. Again, apologies where any are due, if I am being too outspoken in my opinions.

Yes, yes, I pretty much agree with you, and you're very coherent here, I wouldn't be able to tell you're drunk if you didn't tell us yourself ;) But mind you that I'm not from the US, but from Brazil. I live in a city on the southern part of the country, with some 300 thousand people, for me it's a big city, but for our country's standards it's a pretty small city. Also, most of my relatives live in rural areas where there was no access to electricity until recently, and some of them raise cattle. Most of my childhood consisted of going to these places with my family during vacations and holidays, sometimes I'd go fishing with my cousins, and several times I saw my relatives kill chickens, pigs and other animals for dinner or lunch. For me, that never was a problem.

As I said, I don't have a problem with small farms, where cattle roams free and all of that. It's just that here in Brazil, a lot of the Amazon Rainforest was deforested (according to Wikipedia, some 15% of forest was clear-cut from 1970 to 2015), mostly for this industrial-level cattle raising. Also, the biggest cities are far away from the states where are the big farms which feed these people, so here goes the fossil fuel transport. We don't have may trains here, so the gross of goods transport is made by truck.

Then comes the more controversial stuff, which is the well-being of animals. I don't think we should go to extremes and treat animals like humans, but it's nice to give them space and avoid hurting them, as they aren't plants an certainly feel pain, in the biological sense of the word.

So yeah, I don't think you were attacking my argument, and said that as a more general warning about anti-farm arguments/propaganda. For me, the problem lies deeper down, especially on this philosophy of endless growth we humans live by. I think it's ok to pursue well-being, but there should be a limit somewhere, probably where well-being turns into selfishness, and people star having much more than they actually need, for the sake of "well-being".

And finally, I actually want to live in a farm and get my hands dirty. My boyfriend also likes hunting, and we plan to move to a place where it's easier to get a hunting permit and buy guns/weapons. Right now, we don't have a single penny, so it will take time. But we are still young so its ok...

FWIW, I wish I knew more about philosophy, lol. I often feel like there are some really interesting conversations that I am just barely missing because of my stupidness, haha.

I studied computer science, but ended up going back to the family farm, after working in the city for a while and discovering that I didn't want to live in urban society after all. I should have studied agricultural science instead. But it is too late to go back. Oh well.

Ok, I promise that this is my last stupid moonshine late-night post, lol. But I want to learn about stuff, so a question...

I have a very close internet-friend, who is a "swedish-speaking Finn." She sometimes talks in passing of some sort of divide between the "swedish-speaking Finns" and the "Finnish speaking Finns". She seems maybe even almost fearful, but she never goes into much detail, despite my probing. But maybe I am reading too much into it, or maybe there is something else that I don't understand that is going on.

So my question for you is, what is the deal with all that?

Ok, cool. Thanks man.

Last post for tonight, I promise. Haha.

Hehe, good discussion, everybody - I'm glad to see people participating and interacting! =)

A handful of short comments:

Yes, generally speaking I also agree that a bit too much of 'anti-farming propaganda' is biased (ie. some nasty examples cases are used to generalize a conclusion like 'all animal farming is bad because some animal farms are bad'). In Finland, on structural level I think most 'problematic' examples are standard pig and chicken farms - both are raised in smallish cages, and packing too many animals in too small a space makes them develop stress-behaviour like biting / pecking others. Well, but of course, giving more space per individual animal leads to higher expenses, so the farmer should get higher prices for improving the conditions of animals - and then we get a crowd of angry customers complaining that mince in supermarket costs too much. Which takes us back into the political-economical questions (where I believe that every worker should be paid a decent salary. Which, in my opinion, also means that the city-dwelling worker should have enough money to spend on ethically raised food, and the farmer should be paid enough for producing the food in such a way that it doesn't involve things like clear-cutting vast forest areas for pastures, nor packing too many animals in too small cages never letting them roam in the pasture). Hehe, questions like these, they can hardly be tackled in isolation, as every questions tends to be connected to all the other questions =)

Mr. Polecat, most of the time when I comment on Mariska's or Clemetine's blog, I also have that same kind of feeling - 'maybe what I write is, despite my good intentions, somehow annoying. Maybe I'd better not post this'. And sometimes that feeling hits me instantly after sending a comment. I'd guess there isn't that much a rational argument to counter the feeling - and probably the feeling is there after facing too much flaming etc =) Hehe, well, but at least here in the comment section of my own blog I'd like to encourage people to express their views without fear - the only condition is that people need to be ready to face the differing views without hate and flaming. And, again, this alone is a big and complex topic =)

Hey, thanks for the question about "Swedish speaking Finns vs Finnish speaking Finns". I'll try to examine the theme in better detail in the near-future. But, apart from the all-around generic tribalism, I think the tensions date back to history, and come down to the general 'people vs elite' theme. A lot of finnish-speaking Finns have a prejudice towards Swedish-speaking Finns, because they are thought to be arrogant elite, 'the swedish-speaking better people', as the saying goes. (Also, in post-war period a lot of Finnish people migrated to Sweden, because there were a lot of work opportunities and in Swedish factories they paid good salaries. Now, many of those people were traumatized by the war, and sometimes caused trouble by over-drinking and fighting. So, in Sweden they say 'A Finn, again' when there is news about alcohol-related crimes of Finnish-speaking people. I'd guess some of these attitudes are shared by the Swedish-speaking people living in Finland.) Well, but again, there's more to this theme, so I'll return to this in some future blog post =)

Ah, and finally, Murtaugh; for your diet, have you tried adding a lot of fish? Sure, of course fish is meat, as fish are animals, too. I'm under the impression that fish oil and fat contain vitamins and ingredient which the brain needs. Although, here we also come to the details. For example, according to scientific studies farmed salmon has only half the amount of healthy oils compared to wild salmon. So we face questions of balancing fish farming and sustainable fishing...

Well, I thought about eating fish, but since I live in a city far from the sea or any big rivers, fish is expensive here, and only sold in big supermarkets, which are far from my home, so we cannot buy it. Well, maybe someday I could try my luck and go fish in one of the local dams or rivers...

Ah, the cultural differences! In my nearest village (population around 2500) we have two supermarkets, both selling fish in various forms; fish from Finnish lakes and Baltic Sea, fresh, smoked, frozen, canned, etc. Farmed Norwegian salmon and bulk-imported canned tuna. Many of these are cheaper than most of meat. So I just stupidly assumed that eating fish is a mere question of what one chooses in the supermarket - simply because that's how it is in Finland, where we have thousand lakes and fish is a traditional part of typical diet.

Basically, I really admire how you managed to answer the question. That's the kind of explanation I like to get when someone is talking about his or her attitude towards vegetarians and vegans. But there are just two things that I think should also be taken under consideration while thinking about eating animals.

1. 50% of air pollution comes from food industry. So, if you decide to become a vegetarian or, even better, vegan, you actually help the environment get better. Showing "not eating meat" and "not eating carrots that don't come from ecological farming" as two different things is an omission. Eating meat is, in general, bad for the planet (and so is eating dairy products, of course). But eating non-eco vegetables and fruits is bad for it, too. It's the same thing. I know people that became vegan only for ecological reasons.

2. "Locally grown is often better than long transportations" - yes, because long transportation means wasting more fuel, and this is not a good thing. But that sentence is only partially true. The fact that we live in Europe and not on the other side of the globe does not mean that there is no slavery involved in the food production in here. Local products you buy in the nearest store may also come from slavery work. Check this out: http://www.globalslaveryindex.org/ - I live in Europe and the number of people enslaved in my country, as they say there, is pretty high. It's actually higher than in Brasil, China and a few of African countries. Slavery is not only a problem in Africa or Asia. It's a different type of slavery, but still counts.

Please excuse my poor English, I haven't been writing in this language for over a year now and it got a little bit rusty. :)

1. I mostly agree on that. But since the blog post was already long and winding, I didn't want to burden it by going into each and every exact details of impact / consequences of different forms of food production. I thought about it on more general philosophical level, trying to show why I don't consider 'moral principles' very interesting, and how I prefer considering practical consequences. Now, of course, it would make a series of posts to go through the major consequences, ranging from economical to social and ecological ones.

2. When I said "Locally grown is often better than long transportations" I didn't mean it as any kind of universal truth. It was just an example of my own rule of thumb - so here 'locally' means literally that; places Erkka has visited, farms he knows the people and how they treat the soil and animals and workers. People living in different areas have to develop their own local rules of thumb.

Modern slavery is a big, complex, interesting and important topic. Curiously enough, at the moment I'm reading about the history of iron-age / medieval slavery in Finland. A historical examination always opens up interesting perspectives on the contemporary society, too...

1. Fine. I just had an impression that you divide it into two problems. I'm glad that you don't. And I really like how you focused on practical issues - that's a new point of view for me, different than the ones that I've seen before. Nice to find a fresh idea for a change.

2. Nothing to add here, I'm happy that you made that clear.

But you are right - often my writing is bit obscure and all too easy to misunderstand =) So I'm happy to see people using the comment section to discuss clarifications.

Obs: How about mosquitos? They do not bring any good to anyone (what purpose do they serve other than spread disease?), so should we get rid of them? (question from my hubby!)

Now that is a good question =) Again, I won't be able to reply shortly, since it involves the concept of 'purpose' which is both interesting and tricky. I try to examine this question in a blog post to come, when I have more time to concentrate on writing in a clear and logical way =)

Thanks! Happy 2017! Wish I was celebrating in the frozen woods too. I love snow and woods!

Hehe, instead of a formal or theoretical answer to the question about mosquitoes, I ended up writing a silly sci-fi comedy named Gnat Fiction. It doesn't aim at providing a final answer to the question, for my aim was to spark further thought. So, if the text leaves one feeling uneasy or confused, then I hope the reader goes on reflecting the line of thinking, trying to figure out what went wrong and where =)

To answer your question: What purpose do we serve? None, should we be rid of too? We don't own earth or animals, and that includes insects. Nothing has purpose other than to exist, including us. When you think about your question you may realize that it is kinda "evil" and selfish, but I am sure you meant no harm.

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