Many non-vegetarians get severely offended and defensive over being compared to rapists.
It’s understandable why. But what’s usually neglected during the defense is understanding the initial argument.
Have you ever encountered this argument before? If you’ve been in discussions with vegans then you’ve likely come across the comparison.
There are two main arguments commonly used comparing eating meat to rape. The first is in relation specifically and literally to the meat and dairy industry. The second is an analogy in relation to emotional reasoning.
1. Literal Rape of Bovines
In order to impregnate cows to give birth to new cattle — either for producing meat or initiating milk production — a cow must be artificially inseminated.
This is usually performed by physically inserting bull semen into the vagina of a cow. It’s reasonable to assume this is against the will of the cow. Hence non-consensual physical penetration occurs. A pregnant cow is the result.
Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration perpetrated against a person without that person’s consent. — Wikipedia
This falls under the basic definition of rape, justifying a comparison of those supporting the meat and dairy industry (i.e. meat eaters) to rapists.
Usually this turns into a battle over semantics. Language is not set in stone and is up to subjective interpretation. Some argue that artificial insemination and rape are two separate and distinct concepts. Arguing over semantics however doesn’t discredit the original point of concern.
Consuming meat and dairy means that at some point a cow was impregnated, most likely against her will.
2. Rape as a Metaphor
General reasoning behind rape is that it brings pleasure to the rapist.
And who can deny? Sex feels pretty damn good.
Problem is, rape is conducted against the will of another being. A usual case being a female human. By much of developed society, this is deemed morally wrong.
General reasoning behind eating meat is that it brings pleasure to the meat eater.
And who can deny? Many people really like the taste of meat.
Problem is, slaughter is conducted against the will of another being. A usual case being a specimen of cattle. By a subset of society (i.e. vegetarians), this is deemed morally wrong.
See the similarities?
Argument from analogy is a special type of inductive argument, whereby perceived similarities are used as a basis to infer some further similarity that has yet to be observed. Analogical reasoning is one of the most common methods by which human beings attempt to understand the world and make decisions. — Wikipedia
Using argument by analogy, a comparison between rape and meat eating can justly be made.
Of course, there are differences between the two cases — raping human women and slaughtering non-human animals. This doesn’t discredit the argument however because argument by analogy isn’t intended to be an exact comparison.
- Other than rape, there are options available to experience pleasurable sex. Rape is unnecessary.
- Other than eating meat, there are options available to experience pleasurable eating. Eating meat is unnecessary.
Maybe a rapist really enjoys the act of rape. In which case, role playing can be a viable option.
Maybe a meat eater really enjoys the taste of meat. In which case, mock meats can be a viable option.
A rapist may argue that rape is better than role play. A meat eater may argue that meat is better than mock meats. Even if true, it’s not sufficient justification to commit such acts.
Weighing up the Evidence
While there’s already more than enough reason to stop consuming animal products based on health alone — a plant-based diet is adequate for health, if not superior — ethical concerns should be considered too.
Hopefully this clears the air and explains why sometimes the comparison is made by proponents of veganism. Rape can be a strong word that holds very emotionally strong definitions for some people. The comparison can lead to very heated arguments.
What do you think? Is the comparison justified?
Responses to criticism
- But humans evolved as omnivores
- Are vegans against breastfeeding also?
- This is unjust like the holocaust analogy
- This is False Equivalence
- Cows don’t experience rape like women do
An addict will rationalise any amount of crazy excuses for why they behave the way they do. Many addicts fail to even acknowledge they’re addicted.
When I encounter potential addictions I may suffer, I analyse and self assess. I maintain rationality by continuously questioning, even questioning why I’m questioning.
When I cannot rationally support behaviour, I alter behaviour to maintain rationality. An irrational mind does the opposite; they continue to rationalise to maintain held beliefs, keeping behaviour unaltered.
A substance doesn’t have to be physically addictive to be addictive, nor does it even have to be physical. Take gambling addiction as an example. Methamphetamine may be physically addictive, but the rationalisations addicts use as justification of their substance abuse is not greatly different to rationalisations formed by other addicts.
It seems that when some people come across posts like this (critiquing behaviour that they’ve internalised as normal), they behave like addicts. Why do so many people struggle to go without animal products, even temporarily? Some people struggle even going a single meal without animal products. That is a sign that there may be a problem needing to be addressed. Clear scientific evidence demonstrates humans can be more than adequately healthy without consuming animal products.
If you’re offended by this post, ask yourself why.
Why is this offensive to you? Why are you defensive?
I try to be consistent. I love sex, but I wouldn’t rape a women to obtain it. Pleasure cannot justify the exploitation of another being.
Below are responses to some criticism received.
But humans evolved as omnivores
What relevancy does this have?
This isn’t even an argument. Whether or not we evolved as omnivores is irrelevant.
Because my ancestors raped, I should rape too?
Because my ancestors ate literally anything in order to survive, including other humans, I should eat literally anything as well?
Heck, slavery was acceptable in the past, so I should enslave you!
I have a choice:
- exploit animals unnecessarily;
- not exploit animals unnecessarily.
Some of you may choose option 1 then rationalise validity of such behaviour. I cannot rationally support such behaviour, so I choose the other remaining rational option.
Let’s ignore the fact that evolution isn’t directional, and assume humans did evolve as omnivores. So what?
If there was a scientifically proven dependency for consuming animal products, it’d be a different matter entirely. If we were obligate carnivores, there wouldn’t be much of a discussion here; we’d either have to eat other animals, or be forced to sacrifice our own lives. However, if technology advanced enough to the point where we could technologically meet our health requirements (i.e. through artificially formulated meat), then we’d need to have this discussion.
I’m a human, not a lion
I’m not making any sacrifices. My health is not in jeopardy. I’m not at risk for nutrient deficiencies or diet related illnesses.
Explain to me rationally: why should I eat animal products? Why should I exploit animals? Why should I condone their slavery and slaughter?
Let’s not forget that just about every world health authority classes a diet free from animal products to be more than adequate. Even better, some claim that an animal product free diet is optimal for health.
Please don’t argue fallaciously with unbacked nutritional claims you’ve fabricated in your head. And let’s keep discussion relevant. If you don’t have a rational relevant argument: instead of rationalising, how about changing your behaviour so that it aligns with rational thinking?
To see how to live healthfully as a vegan, refer to: The Rainbow Plate – Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Living.
Are vegans against breastfeeding also?
No, of course not.
Human breast milk is vegan because there’s no exploitation involved (so long as it’s from your own mother).
A better question is: why do some people continue to drink milk beyond lactation?
Cow’s milk is intended for calves. As I’m no longer a child lactating, I opt to not consume milk. As I’m not a calf, I especially opt to not exploit cows in order to drink their secretions.
I wouldn’t rape a woman, kill their child and force them into a lifetime of slavery (only to then be slaughtered for food at the end of their miserable life). This is common practice in the dairy industry and is why vegans are typically against consumption of dairy. If this was how human breast milk was obtained, it wouldn’t be classed as vegan either.
To see more on the health detriments of dairy, see: Is dairy milk bad for human health?
This is unjust like the holocaust analogy
This argument is similar to that used in the animal holocaust analogy. But is the holocaust analogy really unjust?
Let’s take a look at a few definitions for the word:
n. “destruction or slaughter on a mass scale, especially caused by fire or nuclear war” — Oxford Dictionaries
n. “any mass slaughter or reckless destruction of life” — Dictionary.com
It’s reasonable to assert that a slaughterhouse fits within this definition. Over 56 billion animals are slaughtered each year. Comparatively, only six million Jews were killed during the historical event known as The Holocaust.
It can be a little confusing mixing up the noun, holocaust, with the historical event, The Holocaust. Like with the rape metaphor, this usually comes down to an argument over semantics. It’s not really worth getting into because it distracts from the main issue at hand.
This is False Equivalence
Argument by analogy is different than describing two concepts as equivalent.
If one scenario was compared with a different scenario, and both were asserted to be equal, then it’d be false equivalence. That’d be a fallicious argument.
Actual examples of false equivalence include:
They’re both soft, cuddly pets. There’s no difference between a cat and a dog.
We’re all born naked. We’re all no different from each other.
Consider the statements: meat is murder or dairy is rape. If we’re to take these arguments literally, it’d be false equivalence. Meat is the flesh of an animal. Murder is the unlawful premeditated killing. Obviously the two concepts are not equal. But these arguments are intended to be argument by analogy.
The intention of the dairy is rape argument is not to assert that dairy and rape are synonyms. Rape is used as a metaphor. It has a deeper hidden meaning. Dairy production often involves the raping (or artificial insemination) of cows.
As equivalency is not being argued, it cannot be claimed that this is false equivalence. I’m not arguing that an apple is an orange, but I will assert they’re both fruits with similarities.
Cows don’t experience rape like women do
Humans live in a dual reality of physical and imaginary realms.
Many other animals live solely in the physical realm or in a more limited form of an imaginary realm.
Consequently for humans this means greater emotional suffering is possible.
Being neutered can be physically disturbing, but for humans it can also cause emotional discomfort. We can tie such concepts to our identity, thus lowering self worth.
While we may feel emotionally strong towards the state of our self worth, self worth is inherently a part of the imaginary realm. This is different to physical pain that we know we share with most other animals.
Raping humans can cause long lasting traumatic stress, whereas non-human animals like cattle may not be as emotionally scarred.
There are different degrees of harm experienced within individual humans. Rape may affect one woman more than another simply because of how one handles their internal feelings or what ideologies they hold. Likewise there’d be differences experienced between individuals of cows, and probably an even greater generalised difference between humans and cattle.
Okay, so now that we’ve established that there are differences between raping a woman and raping a cow, what’s the point? This statement is not an argument. Humans and cattle alike still experience pain and emotions.
If one person experiences rape differently than another person, but in both cases it’d be a negative and painful experience, would rape be justifiable in either case?
I honestly don’t know how a cow would feel if they were raped. I honestly don’t know how a woman would feel if they were raped. Luckily for them, I’m not going to rape them despite that I don’t know exactly what they’d experience.