SO torn between vegan/paleo... (ethical issues) please help :(

by (5)
Asked on August 23, 2014
Created August 23, 2014 at 5:54 PM

Hi everyone, going through a moral quandary here. So followed paleo for 2 years, absolutely LOVED IT, finally felt healthy and energised and strong...was really really great. Even began my own health/nutrition blog and health and fitness is now probably going to become my future career should everything fall together well! Except that recently I have had some issues. Ethical ones. It dawned on me, as someone who LOVES animals and being kind to every living thing (I do lots of yoga and holistic living), I could not fathom how I could 'love' animals...yet eat them at the same time. Even 'humane' slaughter i.e. grassfed beef, makes me feel so guiltyu at the thought of eating it - after all, that cow could feel pain, wanted to live a long life, had a family...all of this comes into the fore-fray of my mind, and thus I became vegan, and thrived for a month or two. However, recently I've been feeling uneasy with my dietary choice. Despite getting regular green smoothies, spirulina, chlorella, B12 supplements, making sure I get high protein in my plants, my body is SCREAMING for what I used to eat in my diet. Last night I had a bit of wild caught salmon, felt MILES better, then went to bed crying as I realised I had been a part of animal abuse and pain. This is so difficult and driving me insane. I want to feel good and strong again - veganism really gave me energy and increased my run time and speed, don't get me wrong, but I feel as if SOMETHING's missing, it's very peculiar - but at the same time the idea of me being so selfish and inconsiderate to nature and animals' livelihood is causing me so much emotional conflict. My family are urging me to go at least pescatarian, and my body is screaming for 'yes', but my mind and heart are making me feel so distressed and guilty. Has any ex-vegans managed to overcome either this dietary-related 'iffy' feeling, or transitioned back to paleo without any emotional misgiving? EDITED TO ADD: I really really hope I don't come across as obnoxious or 'righteous', really really not I think all humans are awesome and we all have different views and journeys, I mean no disrespect to people's opinions etc :) Just trying to worm my own thoughts and feelings out!

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8 Answers

41752 · August 23, 2014 at 9:20 PM

Is it ethical to inflict harm via a deficient diet to one's self? 

5 · August 23, 2014 at 9:32 PM

This is the issue I'mcurrently grappling with! I've always been a 'giver' in all of life's aspects - putting others before myself - and it applies to thi s too, but I'mbeginning to realise I think I must meet my own needs to be able to thrive for others.

41752 · August 24, 2014 at 2:40 AM

You can't "give" if you're sick or dead. Society has suffered for the last few decades by folks demonizing self-interest. 

26207 · August 24, 2014 at 1:27 AM

Rather than asking whether it is ethical to eat meat, you should consider whether ignoring conscientious carnivory pratices are ethical.  


What is clear is that commerical agriculture factories are not ethical.  Whatis also clear is that the vast majority of soy monocrop farms is also not ethical.  



The ethical choice lies not in the end product, but rather the process.  Ignoring conscientious farming practices reduces the demand for plants and animals who were raised ethically which will (in turn) reduce the supply and increase factory farming.  I try to aviod these products whether animal or plant because I believe that the farms are causing major enviornmental harm.  


On the pro-omnivore side.  Our bodies, by their biology, require meat of optimal health.  Is a lion unethical when it consumes a zebra?  No, it's simply part of the world in which we live.  Our ethical obligation, is to ourselves and to ensure the health of our planet.  We can do this through promoting ethical and humane farming practices.


To put it another way.  We (most of us at least) believe that it is unethical to feed a cow grains, or chickens a vegetarian diet, or to force elephants to eat meat.  Those are sub-optimal diets for those species.  Why is it ethical to serve ourselves a sub-optimal diet?



41752 · August 24, 2014 at 2:43 AM

I totally agree that not voting with your dollar doesn't help change industry practices. If the 5-10% of vegetarians instead of eskewing meat bought animals raised in a better manner, they'd have the attention of producers. As a vegetarian, they're simply written off as "lost causes."

26207 · August 24, 2014 at 12:22 PM

Vegetarians like to gloss over the unethical farming practices that are leaching the earth of its nutrients. 

2064 · August 23, 2014 at 6:11 PM

The way I look at it is that the animals we rear for food woould not exist if we didn't want to eat them. I am happy that the animals I eat, which I get from a local farmer, may have a short life but it is a good one and they would not have had that if I was not wanting to eat them.

Respect your physiology and respect the food you need.

5 · August 23, 2014 at 6:13 PM

Yes I am trying to see it in this light too! Thank you for such a thoughtful, helpful comment :)

1717 · August 23, 2014 at 9:05 PM

If you don't like to eat anything with a face, eat insects! I can never tell which side is the face in a earthworm or insect larva. Also, eat oysters, and eat parts of animals that get discarded (through bone broth). That, and an otherwise vegan diet, will keep you in good shape. I have tried once the kombucha mother, I am waiting for a batch of apple vinegar to finish and then I am going to try vinegar mother, those are also things that are meat-like nutritionally.

1717 · August 23, 2014 at 10:02 PM

they are far more nutritious than meat.

5 · August 23, 2014 at 9:27 PM

This actually sounds like a great idea, I might have to give it a try :)

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167 · August 24, 2014 at 4:52 PM

It's important to feel a connection with your food - it's something that many other cultures have, which we have lost. Kudos for respecting what's on your plate.

I read an interesting article about the environmental burden of vegetarianism. Throughout the process of growing and harvesting soybeans, tons of small animals can be killed by tractors and other machinery, and by the pesticides sprayed in the fields if it's not organic. Then you figure in the pollution from the farm machinery, and from the gas for the truck that transports the soybeans from the farm to the processing facility, which also pumps chemicals and crap into the environment. Then the finished tofu is sent on another truck, where it leaves a trail of exhaust to grocery stores across the country (and also affecting countless birds, rodents, and other animals).

If you compare that to the environmental footprint of a grass-fed cow (a few cow farts)and the fuel cost of transporting meat from a local farm to a local store, you're probably killing fewer animals by eating the one humanely-raised cow.


102 · August 24, 2014 at 12:54 PM

I have a few animals on my small farm (chickens, goats, hopefully a pig and a cow one day) and I do grow attached to them. The goats I wouldn't kill for meat, it would be like eating the family dog. When I started raising animals it was with the intention of having my own meat, but now I've even grown attached to some of the chickens (as annoying as they are sometimes haha)

I think my animals are more valuable giving eggs and milk (lots of paleo people don't drink milk, but I have goats so I'm not about to stop, and I like it). These 2 things, although not vegan, are also not meat and if you were to still eat eggs and and drink milk, you wouldn't need to eat meat. Even just the eggs would cover the micro-nutrients, although you may be low on quality protein unless you ate a dozen or so. If you threw oysters in the mix you'd be set (apparently some vegans eat oysters I've heard?)

My point? I understand not wanting to kill animals, but maybe you can still use animals products without killing any of them. 

10 · August 24, 2014 at 3:25 AM

Yes, this is an unfortunate time in our world when it comes to dietary choices. I will only speak for myself, so won't use 'we' or 'us'. I can't find any way to eat that doesn't hurt something, doesn't cause harm, and I, like you, am very sensitive to that. I was a vegan for 5 years, vegetarian for 7. I went from morbidly obese to fit; became a personal trainer, etc you've heard the story. My health did decline, but not until I got a parasite while traveling, in addition to a couple viruses, which really floored me two years ago. Up until then, I outperformed most of my peers, as a vegan. 

But I was a whole foods vegan. If I ate grains or legumes, I properly prepared and fermented them. To be honest, some of the most vital and long lived cultures that exist today eat properly prepared grains and legumes, tons of plant matter, etc. The whole carnivore or high protein thing works for some because of gut and immune issues, but it's not optimal for overall health and longevity with most, and especially not optimal for ethical concerns. Anyway, the cultures I mentioned also eat animal products of some sort to a varying degree. Whether you're talking about yogurt and cheese (which I think is more ethically reprehensible than eating meat) or small amounts of fish and shellfish, with occasional pork (Pacific islanders), for healthy humans there has always been some sort of animal or insect portion of a diet.

Even bonobos and chimpanzees, which the 80/10/10ers and Raw Vegans model for health as 'fruitarians', ate tons of fruit (majority of calories) - and termites, insects, small birds, other monkeys occasionally. Fruitarian I think is great. Fruitarian is paleo, 100%. But in reality it includes bugs, fowl and in some cases eating other primates in small amounts.

As for the agricultural side of things, as I said - there is nothing we can do that does not cause harm, because as someone already mentioned, that is what commercial agriculture does. Fields are cleared and leveled for vegetable crops (destroying wildlife such as birds, rodents, insects, small mammals) which vegans and vegetarians enjoy - meaning there is blood on their hands. Fields are used or cleared for grass-fed animals, which can cause loss fo habitat for other creatures in addition to the obvious fact of killing those grass-fed animals for food. The ocean is in a very, very sorry state with overfishing, with the possibility of reef and total ecosystem collapse due to our interference. 

So where does a conscientious person go? I'm still trying to figure it out. 

What I've decided is that if I personally want to live, love myself, care for myself and be healthy (and therefore continue spreading my compassion and love for other beings in the world), I need to include some animal products in my life. If it were up to me (rather than my digestive health) I would eat mostly plant matter with very small amounts of animal protein, because plants make me feel GOOD. And a little bit of salmon makes me feel GOOD. But a lot doesn't, ethically and physically. If that's what you can do, I'd say go for it. You just have to decide what you want to go for in terms of what that animal protein is.


Just remember that just because you eat vegan or vegetarian doesn't mean that you're not causing harm to animals; you are certainly doing so, it's just not as direct as stuffing a bloody steak into your mouth. It's one step removed. 

If you really want to feel good about what you're eating, grow your own food, do your own fishing/clamming etc, that way you KNOW exactly what's happened and have personal responsibility and accountability for what continues to give you life.

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