Vegetarians Are More Empathetic

I find this article oddly interesting.  A recent study has shown that vegetarians are more empathetic than meat eaters.  The study reflects brain activity of vegetarian/vegans being higher when shown pictures of animals suffering.  In a completely non scientific way I have to agree with this theory.  I abstain from meat for moral and ethical reasons.  I don’t want to be responsible for any animals death.  When I mention this to my carnivorous friends they scoff at me regaling their beliefs in the circle of life etc etc.  Some meat eaters are quite gleeful at the thought of an animal suffering on their behalf, especially hunters.  Most often I am appalled by this.

Here’s the part I don’t understand.  Every vegetarian has their own reason for being meat free.  I chose a veg lifestyle for ethical reasons while my son basis his choice on environmental ethics.  (That may explain his 9 week sabbatical while traveling in Europe this summer! )  Personally I see a potential conflict of results based on one’s reasons behind their choice to go veg.

Here’s the article, see what you think.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolved-primate/201005/empathy-is-what-really-sets-vegetarians-apart-least-neurologically-speak

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    • Nanci E
    • June 6th, 2010

    I can definitely see this being a sort of general truth, but as varying. I definitely think there is so much more out there.

    As an omnivore who cares, I don’t know if I like this study too much. I have issues that it’s so small and full of many holes. I love animals and so do my parents, but with growing up poor and having to work all the time, eating meat and cheese was just the easiest way to make food that tasted good and provided the nutrients we needed. We are working on minimizing our meat intake because of environmental purposes (and to a lesser extent, moral/ethics).

    And trust me when I say that I have unfortunately met vegans and vegetarians who are so adamant about caring about animals because they don’t care about people. So for me it’s hard to think about this article and not think about those people who clearly don’t fit into it. Although I have some lovely friends who are vegans, I’m still working on moving away from those people who put a bad face on it. And I say put a bad face on it for me, because I have a deep hope/love for humanity.

    Hope this doesn’t come out as being on the defense, it’s not suppose to.

    • Nanci,
      I don’t think you sound defensive at all. I have a huge pet peeve with most studies because most often they sound as if someone were trying to make the results fit their needs. I often look to see who sponsored a study and what their gain is from the results. I absolutely agree that not all vegetarians are empathetic and all omnivores are definitely not lacking empathy.

      I ate meat when my kids were younger and we had many meals with either ground beef or chicken as the main course due to the fact that it’s cheap and filling. I think this is a huge issue with our entire food system. The meat farmers are given so many benefits from the govt while organic farmers mostly fend for themselves. The system needs a major overhaul and lobbyists need to have some power taken away from them.

      I hope that I don’t come across as an extremist. Personally I feel they do more harm than good. If you notice, a few of my recipes have options for chicken. The reason I offer this is because this is how I truly cook. My husband still eats meat so many of our veg main courses are his side dishes. When we eat out we are careful to choose restaurants with options we’ll both enjoy. My only caveat to occasionally cooking meat is that I want it grilled outside as the smell makes me a bit nauseous. For the same reason I don’t think I want to step into a steakhouse ever again. I did it as a favor while on vacation but I think that was the last time. If he wants steak, he’ll have to take someone else!

    • Jessica
    • June 7th, 2010

    Just curious what you mean by this: “my son basis his choice on environmental ethics. (That may explain his 9 week sabbatical while traveling in Europe this summer! )” Not clear if you’re trying to point out that a 9 week vacation is environmentally unfriendly as compared to staying home or what.

    I am mostly vegetarian for environmental reasons, not for animal rights reasons.

    • Jessica,
      It’s a very good question. I am thrilled that he’s in Europe for the summer. It’s an opportunity I never had, or took advantage of. I believe his trip is reasonably environmentally friendly since all of his travel is using public transportation etc.

      I think the difference is that as a person who doesn’t eat meat for ethical reasons I couldn’t decide that it was ok to kill animals for 9 weeks of my life and then go back to feeling this way when the trip is over. I think when you’re doing it for environmental reasons it’s easier to consider that the environmental ramifications of eating a few meat based meals over 9 weeks of your life isn’t going to have a huge impact. Does that make sense? Personally I’m at a point where I don’t even kill bugs in my house unless it’s the type of bug that will multiply quickly or it’s trying to feed off one of my dogs.

      With that said, my poor son ate chicken and fish once prior to leaving the states and was mildly ill. On his 1st or 2nd day in Copenhagen he ate a hamburger and was violently ill for several days. I am hoping by today he is completely over the illness. I believe he might also be completely over eating meat!

    • Nanci E
    • June 8th, 2010

    No. you don’t come off as extreme. Well not to me because I feel we need the same overhaul as well. I get so upset when my vegan friend was like ‘well, they are practically vegans and don’t have much money. They just eat rice and beans and it’s so good’. All I could think was, it’s not that easy, and eating rice and beans (I’m hispanic so they are a big staple) is not that easy, no matter how good it tastes. I believe in government taking away some of it’s support from meat companies and putting it towards healthy/organic food.

    I think that it’s a huge failure of the government when McDonald’s can sell a dollar hamburger, which people will buy because it’s cheap, but they can’t afford healthy food.

    And I totally understand about wanting meat to be cooked outside, it’s quite suffocating for me. I’ll be sure to check out your recipes, I’m interested in moving away from red meat (and chicken).

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