Pinker’s Reducetarianism of Mind

Imagine the puzzlement when this Tweet popped up from Pinker. Was he serious? What is he on about? Judging by the response by others, they weren’t too sure either. Some were certain it was criticism of vegetarianism, so they sprouted typical defensive omnivore fallacies that don’t bear repeating. But most found it hard to interpret.

The website Pinker was referring to is simply a site for those who want to reduce their meat intake, going by the name of Reducetarian. Many people have trouble adjusting to a vegetarian diet or some might just want to reduce their meat intake. The site gives reasons why reducing meat is beneficial on the front page:

  • Eat more fruits and veggies to live longer, healthier, and happier lives.
  • Set manageable and therefore actionable goals to gradually eat less meat.
  • Eating less meat is good for the well-being of animals and the environment.

Why should Pinker begrudge it?

Two fallacies make up the content of Pinker’s tweet. The first is that no one said reducing meat will save a cow. Nonetheless, over time the amount of meat you will not have eaten will indeed add up to a whole animal. Will it impact the meat industry? If enough people engage in it, then of course—that’s supply-and-demand logic. The second fallacy is the reference to reduced meat eating as being “like a religion.” Not only is this nonsense, it really is quite insulting. When vegans encounter this cliche, the person issuing it is generally regarded as an ignoramus. It is obvious they know nothing about veganism and ethical eating issues. This is how Pinker comes across such a silly statement.

The Reducetarian site had nothing to do with religion, just as most other meat-reducing movements have nothing to do with religion. Meatless Mondays is a well-known movement designed to do exactly the same thing—reduce meat intake—and for the same beneficial reasons:

Because going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. And going meatless once a week can also help reduce our carbon footprint and save precious resources like fossil fuels and fresh water.

For Your Health:

  • Reduce Heart Disease and Stroke
  • Limit Cancer Risk
  • Fight Diabetes
  • Curb Obesity
  • Live Longer
  • Improve The Nutritional Quality of Your Diet

For Your Wallet:

  • Curb Healthcare Spending
  • Cut Weekly Budget

For the Environment:

  • Minimize Water Usage
  • Reduce Greenhouse Gases
  • Reduce Fuel Dependence

And then there is Mark Bateman’s VB6 idea, whereby you eat like a vegan before 6 pm and then eat whatever you want afterwards. He wrote a book on it. Here’s his explanation of how it started, on his Amazon page:

Six years ago, the man I most trusted with my health said to me, “You should probably become a vegan.”

Not exactly the words I’d wanted to hear, and certainly not what I was expecting. But I’d asked Sid Baker, my doctor of thirty years, what he recommended, given that he’d just told me that at age 57, I had developed the pre-diabetic, pre-heart-disease symptoms typical of a middle-aged man who’d spent his life eating without discipline.

He’d laid out the depressing facts for me: “Your blood numbers have always been fine but now they’re not. You weigh 40 pounds more than you should. You’re complaining of sleep apnea. You’re talking about knee surgery, which is a direct result of your being overweight. Your cholesterol, which has always been normal up until now, isn’t. Same with your blood sugar; it’s moved into the danger zone.”

A more conventional doc would’ve simply put me on a drug like Lipitor, and maybe a low-fat diet. But Lipitor, one of the statin drugs that lowers cholesterol, is a permanent drug: Once you start taking it, you don’t stop. I didn’t like the idea of that. Furthermore, its effectiveness in healthy people has never been established, and it’s also been implicated in memory loss and other cognitive complications; I didn’t like the idea of any of that, either. And at this point, low-fat and low-carbohydrate diets have essentially been discredited: They might help you lose weight, but they’re not effective for maintaining that loss in the long term, and they may even wreak havoc on your system.

But becoming a vegan? A person who eats no animal products at all? Calling that a radical change to my lifestyle was more than a bit of an understatement. Yet it was clear that something had to be done. I asked Sid, “Is a compromise possible? Any other ideas?”

“You’re a smart guy,” he said. “Figure something out.”

And so he did, he went vegan for half a day each day. As the book’s title says, VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health . . . for Good.

No, didn’t detect anything religious about it.

The folks running Meatless Mondays and Mark Bateman and others with similar meat-reducing programs would be rather puzzled at being called “quasi-religious.” More than that, they would also look at the person making that claim as, well, a you-know-what.

The internet is full of “quasi-intellectual” observations, but you expect better from people like Professor Pinker. His flippant tweet makes you question where he really stands on vegan issues and the ethical treatment of animals. It makes you wonder where his head is at. Maybe he’d been quaffing down a little too much Chianti Classico D’Annata over dinner.

Vegetarian/Vegan Starter PDFs

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