S

Stijn

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Bio

PhD in physics (thermodynamics of ecosystems) and in moral philosophy (animal rights), master in economics, researcher in health and welfare economics at KULeuven, president of EABelgium, environmental footprint analyst at Ecolife

Comments
68

Hi Laura

"In fact, one of our welfare range models (the undiluted experiences mode) that feeds into the aggregate estimates tends to produce sentience-adjusted welfare range estimates greater than 1 under the theory that less cognitively complex organisms may not be able to dampen negative experiences by contextualizing them." -> I'm not sure if this is correct. I'd think that the welfare range remains equally large if someone's 'suffering dampening capacity' increases. That dampening capacity is like a painkiller, but someone who has more access to painkillers does not have a smaller pain range. If a person simply decides not to take a painkiller, or not to dampen suffering, that person's suffering remains large. Furthermore, this dampening capacity argument violates the valence symmetry assumption, unless someone with a large suffering dampening capacity also has a large happiness dampening capacity and cannot help but to dampen his happiness just like he cannot help but to dampen his suffering. But why would a person dampen happiness? 

I have some concerns about animal-welfare labelled meat, that it could be counterproductive. See this study: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/21606544.2024.2330552

Most non-vegans don't take vegan B12 supplements. That means this vegan product is excluded from the non-vegan's diet. The reason why non-vegans exclude it (whether they don't like it, consider it as immoral...), is not important because reasons are not health related. Whether or not someone who doesn't take the B12 supplement categorically refuses to take it, has no impact on that person's health.

I was pointing at a non-vegan bias in the way how you framed your argument: that a vegan diet is restrictive. But non-vegans also eat a restrictive diet, as they don't eat (and often refuse to eat) vegan foods. Vegans don't eat non-vegan sources of B12, and non-vegans don't eat vegan sources of B12. 

Your bias is comparable to a native English speaker who has an English bias and claims that French is a difficult language because the French people don't use those simple words like "door" and "table". So when you want to speak French, you first have to learn new words. But the fact that the French language doesn't use the words that you use, doesn't make it a difficult language. For native French people, French is an easy language.

So the crux is: a vegan diet is not difficult, but changing diet is difficult. For vegans (who learned how to eat vegan), a vegan diet is easy, just like a non-vegan diet is easy for non-vegans (who learned how to eat non-vegan).

I agree with your two sentences, but the first one is very ambiguous. You mention someone with a B12 deficiency. The way I see it, both vegans and omnivores remove sources of B12 from their diet: the vegan doesn't eat animal products that contain B12, the omnivore doesn't eat B12 supplements (or B12-enriched products that are suitable for vegans). Many omnivores even refuse to eat those vegan B12 supplements, just like vegans refuse to eat meat. Now you have someone who doesn't eat either of those B12 sources: no meat and no vegan supplement. You can call it a too restrictive, unhealthy vegan diet (because the diet doesn't contain meat), but you can equally call it a too restrictive, unhealthy omnivorous diet (because the diet doesn't contain vegan B12-sources). There is a kind of symmetry.

I'd say a healthy vegan diet is roughly as difficult as a healthy omnivorous diet, and a convenient vegan diet is roughly as easy as a convenient omnivorous diet.

Someone who is highly productive in reducing X-risks, is first highly intelligent, which means intelligent enough to know how to eat a healthy vegan diet, and second, most likely living in a wealthy environment with good access of healthy vegan food, which means able to follow the knowledge about healthy vegan diets. So that means if a person still has adverse health effects from the vegan diet, while following all knowledge about healthy vegan diets, it must be because of unknown reasons. And that seems very unlikely to me. We know so much about healthy food...

It seems that you make nothing but a very trivial claim, that if you are used to A, a change from A to B is difficult. But then you frame it like B being difficult. But it is the transition which is difficult, not B itself. As an analogy, let's discuss whether Chinese is difficult. You would say yes, because it is not your native language. It will take some effort for you to learn Chinese. But a Chinese person thinks Chinese is easy, and English is difficult. Who is right? In the end, once you have learned to speak Chinese, it is as easy as most other languages that you have learned. Some languages are objectively more difficult than others (like Dutch is probably more difficult than Afrikaans, and English is more difficult than Esperanto), and for the same reason, some diets are objectively more difficult than others. But you make it look like veganism is objectively more difficult than other diets. I disagree with that: just see how much you have to learn for a healthy diet with meat. I think a healthy vegan diet is as difficult as a healthy omnivorous diet, and an unhealthy vegan diet is as easy as an unhealthy omnivorous diet. Transitions may be difficult, but they involve one time transition costs, which become negligible in the long run. Once you have learned a foreign language, the cost of learning drops to zero, and the new language becomes easy for the rest of your life.

Stijn
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My major concern is that this article is too one-sided: it mentions the difficulties/trade-offs of vegan diets, without mentioning difficulties/trade-offs of non-vegan diets. Eating a non-vegan diet is also not easy. Some examples of what you have to tell to people who want to eat animal products:

  • Don’t eat too much meat, that is unhealthy. You can look on some websites how much gram per day is too much, according to your age and bodily needs.
  • Fry the meat well enough, because (almost all) meat can contain harmful bacteria. Also wash well enough all the cutlery, the knife, the chopping board and everything that was in contact with the meat, because of contamination risks.
  • But don’t fry your meat too much. Frying meat can produce carcinogenic substances. Especially when there is a dark or black crust visible, the meat was fried too much. For the same reason, avoid barbeque and flambé. Heating up meat in the microwave oven is not good enough to kill the bacteria. If you don’t know how to cook your meals properly, you can eat vegan meat alternatives: they can be safely eaten even uncooked (or used in the microwave oven).
  • Don’t drink unpasteurized milk.
  • Animal products don’t contain dietary fiber, so make sure to eat a proper source of dietary fiber. 
  • Meat doesn’t contain vitamin C, so make sure to eat a proper source of vitamin C. There are websites that tell you which products contain vitamin C. 
  • Avoid processed meat: that is unhealthy. You can look on some websites what counts as processed meat. I think bacon and ham also count as processed.
  • Many meat products, especially fresh products, don’t show an expiration date on the package. You can look for some information on the internet how to learn to detect when your meat is expired. If you don’t know how to smell expired meat, don’t keep your meat too long in the fridge, or eat plant-based meat alternatives as they show a best before date on the package.
  • In many cases, cheaper meat products may be unhealthier than more expensive meat products. There is often a trade-off between price and health/quality of the meat product. Consult a nutritionist to figure out the best diet according to your budget. 
  • Almost none of the meat eaters had a recent blood test to check if they have for example too much bad cholesterol that could be the result of eating too much animal products. They also don’t know if their bodies can properly absorb for example the iron in the meat. It is recommended to visit a nutritionist and ask for a blood test. 
  • Some people are allergic to milk, fish, and other animal products. You can consult your doctor if you don’t know about your potential allergies.

These examples should be enough to show that eating animal products is equally difficult as eating vegan. My worry is that focusing too much on vegan nutrition issues (telling people a lot about how to eat a healthy vegan diet), might give people the impression that veganism is difficult, and then they continue eating animal products and causing harm to animals. But focusing too little might be counterproductive as well, because then people don’t eat enough healthy vegan diets, they become ill and revert back to animal products. 

So I recommend that when you tell potential vegans how to eat a healthy vegan diet, you also mention the health concerns related to animal products, to make clear that eating a healthy non-vegan diet is equally difficult or easy. 

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