Arguments About Vegetarianism

From Nicholas Fitz Roy-Dale’s blog at


I like reading arguments on They’re very rarely rational, but that’s fine because most things aren’t rational, and it’s pretty interesting to see how people try to make their points known when nobody actually cares about making a coherent argument.

Most recently, I enjoyed a Fark flamewar on vegetarianism as part of the comments thread on this intriguing article (I recommend the article link, but not the flamewar link, unless you share my taste for the perverse). Someone brought up the point that always comes up in Fark flamewars on vegetarianism, which is that humans have canine teeth and other instruments of destruction which wouldn’t be necessary if we didn’t evolve to eat meat. Ergo eating meat is natural, ergo we should be doing it. You will note that not one of these points follows from the other. This is perfectly acceptable in a Fark flamewar and in fact adds to the fun because the opposing side gets to attack each assertion, rather than just the first one.

Anyway, usually at this point someone whines that the argument doesn’t make any sense, and they are promptly ignored, having violated the unwritten Fark flamewar rule of not being boring. This time events played out differently and more interestingly: someone pointed out that “meat-capable teeth = carnivore” wasn’t actually always true in nature, and even troubled themselves to give an example: gorillas have similar teeth to ours, but they are strict vegetarians.

This was much better Fark flamewar fare, because it accepted the cracked-out “natural = better” premise and ran with it. Adding to its appeal was the fact that it also happened to be wrong, if you took it literally: gorillas aren’t strict vegetarians, since a small percentage of their diet consists of grubs. The “it’s natural, so do it” poster gleefully pointed this out, and the game was on.

Multiple people replied that having to eat the occasional grub was unlikely to have imposed the sorts of evolutionary pressures that would have resulted in gorillas developing canine teeth, and they were promptly ignored, as per the “don’t be boring” rule I outlined above. The “strictly vegetarian” poster insisted that gorillas were strict vegetarians in any reasonable sense of the word and if they ate grubs it was only because they couldn’t be bothered cleaning them off the plants. The “it’s natural” guy then took the fight to the next level:

You are wrong. Gorillas are OMNIVORES.

Faced with this damning evidence (over 22 000 pages containing both the words “gorilla” and “omnivore”) the opposition had to step up in response:

That will get you 22,400 matches.

Gorilla + vegetarian gets 283,000.

By this point the argument had completely devolved into Google fights. Someone pointed out that “gorilla + herbivore” got more results than “gorilla + vegetarian”. Someone else pointed out that “gorilla + carnivore” returned more results than “gorilla + herbivore” and that therefore bananas were made of meat. Strangely, nobody pointed out that Google ignores plus signs, but I stopped reading after Farker “shadowself”, to my mind at least, won the argument:

gorilla + sigourney + weaver = 31,500 results

gorilla + herbivore = 24,000 results

Therefore, gorillas are not herbivores. They are Sigourney Weaver.

This fits naturally with all my beliefs and expectations. Also, I will now have a far more interesting answer the next time someone asks me why I am vegetarian.