Considering the main lifestyle change is between that of status quo and vegetarianism, rather than that of changing between vegetarianism and veganism, I shall focus on the former and the relevant arguments.
- Animals are of some value
- Killing things of some value is morally objectionable. (Therefore, killing animals is morally objectionable)
- It is more morally objectionable to kill animals than it is to not eat meat.
- We should not do things which are more morally objectionable than other options.
- Therefore, we should not kill animals
It’s quite difficult to simplify it (because of 3 being necessary) perfectly accurately, but I hope this is a sufficient argument. Quite a few of these need clarification, though.
- Animals are of some value. Can this reasonably be denied? I don’t think so. If you disagree with this you would have a clean conscience abusing animals at will, perhaps even enjoying it, which is likely not what we want our position to imply.
- Killing things of some value is morally objectionable. I think this almost true by definition.
- It is more morally objectionable to kill things of some value than the costs of not eating meat. This is the crucial point, the others are formal. I’ll address this under counter-criticisms below
I’m going to now try and reply to some counterarguments. I’ve tried to filter through poor ones but I may have missed some, and definitely haven’t exhausted every argument with my research.
- Environmental effects of vegetarianism. I admit to not knowing all that much about this, but perhaps it could be compensated by other action. On an individual level, this is fair, so I realistically ought to go into actual facts. On seeing this talk (it might be in the Q&A), it asserts that 30-50000 lbs of vegetables (e.g. carrots, tomatoes) can be farmed in place of 250 animals. Also, between 70-98% of wheat/corn etc. is used to feed animals. It does seem difficult to suggest that raising things which require more space, food to feed them and more time to get their resources are somehow more efficient.
- Plants should also be considered. I struggle to see how they possess anything similar in conscious or sentient capacities, or at least in anywhere near the extent of that of animals. Even if we do consider this, when comparing animals to plants it’d still be the case that we come down in favour of protecting animals.There’s actually some interesting ideas as to what makes consciousness, like reacting to stimuli, which plants would come under. But I’ll leave this to some other time, if ever.
- Vegetarianism is too expensive. It’s not too much for sustenance, if you look at the third world and their food supplies. The talk linked earlier (in the following Q&A) referenced how it’s actually cheaper, which does make sense in relation to key foods (rice, beans, lentils, etc.) being cheaper. The cheapest vegetarian diet would surely be cheaper than one which included one with meat.
- Life in the wild isn’t better for animals. Considering the widespread and well-documented abuse of animals in farms, the poor quality of life in factory farms, raping and child abduction of cows for milk production and so on, it is difficult to see how life could really be much worse. What is required for a good animal life? Perhaps similar to humans – freedom in some sense, company/community, without fear. Maybe there are others I’m missing at a quick glance, but in the case of factory farming/slaughterhouses or, let’s say, a very substantial proportion of farms I don’t think it can be argued. This does, however, leave open some farms where this isn’t true, where animals are very well looked after.If the animal has a good quality of life in the farm, then we should leave it there. What impact does demand of such animals have on the supply? It’s too difficult to tell on an individual level. Maybe it’d save more animals from the wild. But on the basis of uncertainty and rarity of such farms, and that if we guarantee the extinction of factory farming and the like, then I’ll move from a (delayed) vegetarian lifestyle. I think this argument does have a lot of merit, though, should perfect information about where animals are raised be available.
- Where do we draw the line? I’m not sure. But let’s do our best, or at the very least better than this current state.
- Overpopulation of animals. But on an individual level becoming a vegetarian slowly reduces the amount of animals as less are raised to supply the demand. If we all stopped eating meat immediately, this argument has merit, though.
I’m interested to hear more counterarguments (I can’t be bothered to continue to research through a lot of silly arguments to find a good one – I’ll be honest about my laziness), as with any issue. But I think, on balance, eating meat is not the most rational position to take.