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Uploaded:2016-01-22
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In which Hank delves into the meme of the annoying vegetarian, where it comes from, why it annoys us, and what's really at the root of it all.

In researching this video, I found that a lot of the numbers we throw around when talking about how bad meat eating is for the environment are really confusing and occasionally just wrong.

The most damning report (which I have quoted before) from WorldWatch turns out to have a bunch of obvious problems. Like, it counts the exhalations of livestock as a carbon emission. This isn't accurate as all carbon exhaled by livestock was recently extracted from the environment by the plants that the animals eat. I was pretty frustrated to find that WorldWatch had made this mistake (or worse, stuck by it intentionally.)

It's all further complicated by the fact that making a cow in America is actually far more efficient than making it other places. Often times we'll talk about how the food being eaten by animals could be eaten by people, but that's not always the case. Raising corn for animal consumption is much easier and cheaper and requires less resources and can be done on less-fertile land than raising it for human consumption.

So, I came out of this video with a more nuanced view, but nonetheless knowing more than ever that less meat eating means more food for more people with less impact, which is what we need most of all in this world right now.

I hope this video isn't too controversial. The number one thing I wanted to say is that I wish I were better, and I will keep working toward that, but that it is also OK to be an imperfect person in an imperfect world. And so it is possible to agree with all arguments in favor of vegetarianism and remain an omnivore.

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Good morning John, let's have this conversation.

I feel like (all of a sudden?) I decided that I just wanna have lots of really tough conversations on vlogbrothers, let's take these-- let's face it head on.

John, I have a problem and its name is meat.

Let's get this out of the way: there is definitely some conflict going on between the vegetarians/vegans of the world and the rest of the world. I'm gonna talk about why I think that is in this video and I'm gonna start with the fact that vegetarians are right.

Yes, animals raised for food do not have nice lives and even if they did, they would still be killed in the prime of their lives so that I could have a tasty snack.

Yes, the amount of food eaten by animals who will later be eaten is massive and so, as more people eat meat, more land has to be put under cultivation.

Yes, livestock contribute massively to climate change and are a primary reason for deforestation, and yes, most people don't need to eat meat to be healthy.

And there are reasons both ways, like, more than a billion people make at least some of their living from livestock. You don't want to take all of those peoples livelihoods away all at once.

But as the global population grows, as the global economy grows, it is very difficult to argue that vegetarianism is not a good thing.

Basically, the important thing here is vegetarianism allows more people to have more food with less impact. It's good. And so, when somebody tells me that I should be a vegetarian or leaves a comment on a video asking me how do I justify eating meat, I have no recourse but to say that they are right and that I am wrong but that I will continue eating meat because I'm the kind of person who has a hard time controlling myself and it's hard enough not to eat a half a bag of Oreos for breakfast.

Now, my personal willpower aside, there's a fundamental conflict going on here. I live in a society where eating meat is normal and being a vegetarian is not.

It's Montana, you guys. Like, there are places in America where vegetarianism is very normal. This is not one of them.

But there's a difference between acting in accordance with society's expectations, which will very rarely get you criticized and is definitely the easy thing to do, and actually living in a way that is best for the future and for people and for all of the organisms on the planet.

And that's the reality of meat eating. It is a thing that I don't need to do, but I do, despite the fact that it makes the world worse for current animals and future people.

This is a big one for our society, but there are lots of examples of this. Like, I've always found it a little bit immoral that I spend money on things that are not necessary, like Coca-Cola and flying to San Francisco and that fifth ticket to The Force Awakens when there are people dying of preventable diseases.

I do those things instead of giving that money to save the children for the same reasons that I eat meat. Because it's easier, it's simpler, I like them, and I'm not perfect. But it's also more than that. Like, acting in accordance with society, to a certain extent, isn't just the easy thing to do, it's also kinda the only thing to do.

I've experienced this. You can only do so much breaking with culture before you become extremely uncomfortable. It's very hard to find self-worth, it's very hard to find connection...

Like, imagine if every time I saw someone buy a Coca-Cola, I, like, mumbled under my breath, like, "You know, there are people dying of preventable diseases." I would not have a lot of friends.

So, why are people annoyed by vegetarians? Because they have the audacity to work extremely hard to live in accordance with their values. And because those values conflict with the values of society at large.

People don't want to be told that the way they live their lives and the things that they enjoy are making the world less good. Especially when you got other stuff to worry about.

But, look, as frustrating as I'm sure both sides can find this at times, this cultural conflict is not a bad thing. I honestly believe that we are on our way to a better, brighter future and 200 years from now, people will think it's ridiculous that we ate meat the way that we do.

There's no reason not to appreciate vegetarians for working very hard to live in accordance with their values. And I completely understand their desire to convert me and other people to their cause, to have us eat less or no meat.

So I am thankful for you, all of you people who tell me to not eat meat. And yet... I am going to continue eating less... but not no meat. Because it's easier. It's simple. I like it and I'm not perfect.

John, I'll see you on Tuesday.