Criticising the Belgian Royal Academy of Health

The Belgian Ministry of Public Health released a statement made by the Royal Academy of Medicine related to plant-based diets. [1]. In short, the statement describes the health risks of adopting a plant-based diet by infants or adolescents. The statement was responded to in a letter by the Physicians committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) [2]. However, critics of the statement also responded in a more aggressive manner.

criticism by PCRM

The PCRM criticised the publication by referring to the evidence-based, peer-reviewed publication made by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) [3]. Their publication ultimately concluded that vegan diets are “appropriate, and they satisfy the nutrient needs and promote normal growth at all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy and lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes.”

The PCRM continue to refute all claims made by the Belgian Royal Academy of Medicine which include, but are not limited to claims about vitamin B12 and D: Letter to Belgian Academie

criticism by the public

Maggie de Bock, Belgian Minister of Public Health

Instead of only attacking the claims made in the publication by the Royal Academy of Health, the public has also publicly shamed the Belgian Minister of Public Health for her appearance.
Such notions completely undermine the factual evidence that one can present to disprove the claims brought forward by the Royal Academy of Health.
Moreover, body/fat shaming is ultimately nothing but harmful and reduces someone to being judged only in regard to their physical appearance. It is completely irrelevant to the contents of the publication of the Royal Academy of Health.

Whether or not Maggie de Bock is a fitting candidate for the position of Minister of Public Health is a discussion that has nothing to do with veganism and thus should not be brought forward in this context.

relevant criticism

When criticising a formal document such as the publication by the Royal Academy of Health, one should focus on its contents rather than the people who promote it or adorned it. Personally attacking people and shaming them may enforce ideas about opponents of such documents that we ultimately would want to disprove.


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The usefulness of Name The Trait

Name The Trait (NTT) is an argument that aims to show a contradiction in the attribution of moral value requiring only logical consistency and a personal belief in human moral value to be convincing. It is very similar to the argument of marginal cases [5], which may be more well-known. To illustrate the argument, briefly think of the following question: What is true of an animal that if true of a human would justify murdering them for a hamburger?

Introduction

The NTT argument is of the form ‘P1 and P2 implies C’, as P1, P2 and C are presented in the image below. That is to say, if we equalize all traits of a human to all traits of an animal, we should still ascribe moral value to both and not just one of them as that would produce a contradiction.

The central argument of Name The Trait [1]

Using the NTT argument to come to the conclusion that animals have moral value would go as follows:
P1 – Humans are of moral value.
P2 – There is no trait absent in animals which if absent in humans would cause us to deem ourselves as having no moral value.
C – Therefore without establishing the absence of such a trait in animals, we contradict ourselves by deeming animals as having no moral value.

To then arrive at veganism:
P1 – Animals are of moral value.
P2 – There is no trait absent in animals which if absent in humans would cause us to consider anything short of non-exploitation to be an adequate expression of respect for human moral value.
C – Therefore without establishing the absence of such a trait in animals, we contradict ourselves by considering anything short of non-exploitation (veganism) to be an adequate expression of respect for animal moral value.

It should be noted here that any number of traits may be mentioned according to the argument, not just standalone traits.

For example, if you were to say that level of intelligence is what causes us to ascribe moral value to a human and not ascribe moral value to a pig, we should equalize the intelligence of a pig to that of a human and see if the human, in that case, still has moral value.
This can either be done by giving a hypothetical or taking a real-life example (which shows the similarity of NTT and the argument of marginal cases [1]). To take a real-life example, it has been shown that pigs are as smart as three-year-old children [2]. Consequently, we should ask the question of whether it is okay to murder three-year-old children. Clearly, it is not. Accordingly, we would show that there is a contradiction in the attribution of moral value.

usefulness and applicability

I personally adopt the NTT argument during outreach conversations. I do this when I feel that the person to whom I am talking does not immediately see the injustice in the way that we treat livestock. The goal of adopting the NTT argument is then to make them think about how they ascribe moral value.
Ultimately, people I speak to during outreach run out of traits that they can mention, causing them to take one of two steps:
1. Find a trait which is present among all humans according to which we ascribe moral value.
2. Go vegan.
Note that in the case of 1, other arguments may still lead these people to adopt veganism, which would warrant a whole other blog post.

An adaptation of the NTT argument that I find works well is equalizing traits of animals that are often kept as pets with livestock. For example, by asking the question: What is true of a cow that if true of a dog would justify murdering them for a hamburger?
By asking this question, a clear distinction is drawn between pets and farm animals. This distinction is helpful as it already forebodes the speciesist nature of the argument*. To illustrate this, most often people mention the difference is being able to have a relationship with the dog. The follow-up question would then be: Is it morally justifiable to kill a dog if it has no relationship with any human being? To which most people would answer that it is not.

* I often append this question, when I feel it is needed, by stating that arguments against slaughtering dogs (which, for instance, is done during the Yulin Lychee and Dog Meat Festival [3]) become less convincing when eating meat from other species. More nuanced is the sanctity of cows in Hinduism [4], in which case a similar argument can be presented.


Sources:

Useful links:

Ask Yourself
vegan22.com/

Feel free to ask any questions about NTT or similar arguments!

Mission: Mars base #139

Writing prompt:
It seems this is it. Your Spacecraft is torn in half, for unknown reasons. Just as you slip out of consciousness, an old man in a spacesuit, holding a roll of tape, yells “I SAWED THE SPACESHIP IN HALF!!!”

I shook myself awake, immediately regretting doing so, having discovered I had a splitting headache. The maniacal cackling of my crewmate still reverberating in my eardrums did not help either.
I tried to assess my surrounds. Yep, Jeff must have blown us straight out of the airlock into outer space.
Jeff was at a distance of about ten meters from me, floating seemingly peacefully through space. That is if you weren’t able to hear him descent into madness.
“I got us good, huh buddy?! I got us real good! We are free now! Take me! TAKE ME LORD!” he yelled at the top of his lungs.

I let out a sigh and decided to give Jeff a thumbs up, causing his laughter to gain in volume. Another one bit the dust – meaning that there would be no base on Mars. Not yet, anyway.
At this point, my system told me that the oxygen tank was at half of its capacity. Conveniently, this meant that I could take the right compartment off and throw it off of me to gain some momentum. This was an unorthodox but helpful mechanism that I decided to implement this time around, would I be floating through space again.
Scanning my surroundings, I spotted a satellite roughly fifty meters from my current position. Jeff, however, is blocking my path.
I flung the empty oxygen container in the opposite direction, causing me to gain momentum toward Jeff. It was very little, but I would definitely reach him within three minutes, if not less.

“Yes, buddy! Why don’t you come over here? Join me in my ascension! He wills it!” Jeff shouted. His gibberish continued for two minutes and twenty-three seconds – the exact time in which I was able to reach him.
“Come to papa!” he managed to utter.
I flipped my body, causing my legs to face him. I planted my boots onto his chest after which he stared at me quizzically.
“Later, Jeff,” I said, as the expressive look on his face changed dramatically. He looked extremely betrayed at this point. I couldn’t help but snort at the sight.
I focussed all the strength that I could muster onto my legs and kicked Jeff away from me, propelling myself toward the satellite.
“Weeeeee!” he yelled as he approached the void.

This is what Jeff must have looked like after some time. I wouldn’t know though, as I didn’t look back.

Thirteen minutes and forty-nine seconds had passed when I finally reached the satellite. I stretched out my hand as far as I could and barely reached the handle, causing my body to fling itself around the satellite.
Holding on to the handle, I managed to get a grip of the satellite. I plugged a chord from my spacesuit into the communications port of the satellite and waited for the familiar tune to play.
The satellite grunted in approval. I was connected to the moonbase. Although I had made it once more, I would admit that this one was quite the journey.

“Another fucker’s done it now,” I told whoever was on the other end.
“I apologise, sir,” the other end told me in a raspy voice.
“You’d better send a more stable one with me next time,” I told the other end.
“Yes, Elon, we will make sure of it,” the raspy voice ensured me.

The role of the EU in animal agriculture

On the 23rd of May 2019, Dutch residents of the European Union (EU) are allowed to vote representatives into the European Parliament to form EU legislation. The elections will be finished on May 26th, at which point citizens of all EU countries have had the opportunity to vote. One of the most pressing matters the EU currently faces is reaching their climate goals. Accordingly, this post serves as an introduction to the role of the EU in animal agriculture and its impact.

Current situation

On February 12th 2019, Greenpeace released a report showcasing the funding of the EU in animal agriculture. This report showed that the EU spends between €28.5bn and €32.6bn on animal agriculture annually [1]. This translates to approximately 18%-20% of the annual budget of the EU. Moreover, the report showed that approximately 71% of EU farmland is devoted to animal agriculture [2]. This includes land on which animal feed is produced.

Credit: Greenpeace

The question becomes why these numbers are relevant for voters in the upcoming European Parliament election.
The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is the EU policy which formulates how taxpayers’ money is spent on agriculture [3]. The next CAP, which covers the years 2021 till 2027, is currently being negotiated between national governments and the European Parliament. The results of the upcoming election will have a considerable impact on the reform of the CAP [4].

what to vote

The ultimate goal of the EU is to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 [5]. Ideally, this goal will be reached before then. To illustrate the scope of the problem, animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than the combined exhaust from all forms of transportation [6]. Accordingly, to achieve climate neutrality in the EU as soon as possible, it is of the utmost importance that parties who focus on sustainable solutions in agriculture are elected.

Partij voor de Dieren logo

In the Netherlands, the first and foremost party which adopts sustainable solutions in agriculture is the Partij voor de Dieren (translated: Party for the Animals). Besides adopting sustainable energy solutions, the Partij voor de Dieren aims to increase animal welfare. Ultimately, they hope to achieve this by abolishing animal agriculture and increasing the availability of plant-based foods through government subsidies [7].

Other actions to take

Seeing as we live in a capitalist society, EU markets are driven by demand. Consequently, increasing the demand of plant-based products, in turn, increases their production. This is precisely how you as an individual can have an effect on animal welfare and the amount of greenhouse gas emitted within the EU. Accordingly, the takeaway message of this post is to inform people about the CAP, vote for a green party and adopt a plant-based diet.


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Useful links:

Hello World!

It’s me!

As I am a Computer Science graduate, it seems most appropriate to title my first post as “Hello World!”. Now, if this were a blog related to Computer Science, I may have called it “print(“Hello World”)” or “system.out.println(“Hello World!”)“. Thankfully, it is not that.

Instead, this blog is about anything that interests me. As you will notice, this will translate into a blog being mostly about politics, philosophy and veganism. I plan to post short stories and my replies on writing prompts (reddit.com/r/writingprompts) on here as well.

This mission statement (a formal way to describe it, though apt) will at some point, hopefully, be at the bottom of the pile of posts for no one to be seen again. Alas, at least it provides meaning at this point in time.