Comment author: Paul_Christiano 09 October 2014 05:42:18AM *  8 points [-]

(I apologize in advance for a downer of a comment, especially for the parts that are poorly argued.)

In general, I think the risk of important but unknown nutrient deficiencies from cutting out a whole class of foods is probably much more important than the animal welfare benefits if you are spending much of your life working on good projects. This is a concern with vegetarianism, but it seems much more severe for veganism.

I haven't looked into the literature in creatine in any depth (largely because my diet is long on creatine), but the evidence for material cognitive effects looks weighty enough that I would want to be careful before considering returning to a low-creatine vegetarian diet. It seems like this should probably get more weight, unless everyone else knows something I don't.

Based on rough estimates it seems like being a vegan is not going to be worth it on consequentialist grounds, at least for those who would e.g. be willing to pay an additional factor of 2 premium to eat meat periodically. For such people the question is: if raising an animal generates $X of economic value, can you generate a welfare offset for a small multiple of $X? It would be quite surprising to me if this weren't possible (e.g. just subsidizing the creation of a small number of more humanely raised substitutes should work, which I would guess is orders of magnitude less effective than realistic approaches). I haven't thought about this at too much length, largely because I think that the effects on animal welfare today are not too important either on contractarian grounds nor on utilitarian grounds (since they seem to have a minimal long-term impact, and the direct impacts are small compared to long-term considerations). But I do think that given the basic economic logic the burden of argument rests with the vegetarian advocate.

If it's a bad idea on consequentialist grounds, I'm not convinced it's a useful signaling exercise. Alternatives like "cut out the worst offenders," "reduce consumption by 90%," and "buy humanely produced products" seem much better both on consequentialist grounds and (consequently) also signaling grounds.

I second the recommendations for powersmoothies elsewhere (though I drink mine with milk, which I find more delicious and seems probably better health-wise).

Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 09 October 2014 10:30:16AM 5 points [-]

Creatine is cheap and readily available as a supplement. Ultimately, foods are made up of chemical building blocks, and it seems arbitrary to consider the division "animal/non-animal" as especially nutritionally salient.

Also, "caring about lesser minds" is a good meme to promote, especially considering FAI, CEV etc.

In response to Open Thread 2
Comment author: [deleted] 07 October 2014 04:58:09PM *  1 point [-]

Could giving good vegan food to poor people compete with other effective charity?

The idea: A charity develops or purchases nutrition-complete vegan food, ships it to areas of global poverty, and distributes it to the poorest for free.

The positive impact would be: Improved practical knowledge and demand to make nutrition-complete affordable vegan food, improved nutrition and purchasing power for the poor, reduced farm animal use without appeals to values or emotions toward animals (because the incentive is in-built into the wealth transfer).

It might be less effective in pure wealth transfer than, say, GiveDirectly, but the other upsides could make up for that.

I didn't see a charity quite like this listed. (A Well-Fed World advocates an approach like this, but supports a diversity of groups and it's not clear how homogenous and scalable they are.)

In response to comment by [deleted] on Open Thread 2
Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 08 October 2014 12:16:14AM 1 point [-]

There's also a charity called Vegfam - http://www.vegfamcharity.org.uk/ - not sure how effective they are though.

Comment author: Jess_Whittlestone 07 October 2014 07:38:50AM 4 points [-]

Thanks for posting this Topher. When I was vegan, my diet was very similar to the one you described, and all in all I didn't find it that difficult. You'll notice the "was" in that sentence though - the thing that got me was eating out or eating socially with friends - I found it very difficult to maintain a vegan diet then, and so I found myself slipping. I'd be interested in how you deal with this - do you stick to a vegan diet even when eating out or going to friends houses, and if so, how difficult do you find it?

My solution for a while was to have a strict rule that I am entirely vegan in what I cook and by for myself, and vegetarian in other situations - like eating out - where being vegan is very difficult or inconvenient. This worked pretty well for a while. It's harder now because I'm living in a house with people who frequently cook together - which has a lot of benefits of saved time, money, and being more enjoyable and sociable - but aren't vegan. So I've slipped back to just being vegetarian across the board, but I feel somewhat uncomfortable about it.

Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 08 October 2014 12:05:14AM 1 point [-]

For eating out, it's nearly always possible to get a vegan version of a non-vegan dish, even when there isn't anything vegan listed on the menu (e.g. pizza without cheese). However, it does perhaps take a bit of effort/practice to get over the "I'm being difficult" feeling - keep in mind that veganism is a positive thing, not something to feel guilty about. Failing that, chips and salad is a fallback option :-) As for eating at friends houses, I guess it's similar: you have to feel comfortable with requesting vegan food (or otherwise limiting your options). I've never been that into food, so these things don't bother me that much.

Comment author: Pablo_Stafforini 06 October 2014 07:37:14PM 3 points [-]

Protein, which will take more effort

Vegans can easily get arbitrarily high levels of protein by supplementing with pea or soy protein isolate.

Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 06 October 2014 11:29:29PM 2 points [-]

As long as you aren't feeling hungry most of the time, you're probably getting enough protein. So I would say it doesn't really take any extra effort. e.g. If all you eat was bread, you'd be getting enough protein. I think most people in the west probably eat more protein than they need.

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