Waiter, There’s a Bug in my Frappuccino

This headline…may be a bit of an overstatement:  "Soy Strawberry Frappuccinos are the latest threat to the vegan community."  Vegans are feeling threatened(?) by the revelation that Starbucks Soy Frappuccinos contain insect juice. Specifically, cochineal insect extract used as a reddish food coloring.

Is there really "bug juice" in your Strawberry Frappuccino? Yes! 

The Seattle Times has some good reporting on the story:

"The strawberry base for our Strawberries & Crème Frappuccino does contain cochineal extract, a common natural dye that is used in the food industry, and it helps us move away from artificial ingredients," said [Starbucks] spokesman Jim Olson.  The base also is used in Starbucks' strawberry smoothies, he said, and the insect-derived extract is in some other foods and drinks the chain sells, including its red velvet whoopie pies.

Cochineal extract and a similar ingredient called carmine, also made from the insects, are bright red and can be found in fruit juices, gelatins and other foods, as well as many makeup products. ….Tropicana's website lists carmine as a colorant in its non-refrigerated ruby red grapefruit juice, and Dole lists cochineal extract as an ingredient in some of its fruit-in-gel products."

For entomologists, this isn't news.  I explained the biology of cochineal insects in 2009, the last time that the public "discovered" that there were insect extracts in their food and lipstick.  For non-entomologists, it may be slightly less obvious why Starbucks chose to use a dye made from squashed insects in their food.

Cochineal, or carmine, is a red dye produced from an insect (Dactylopius coccus) about the size of a lentil that spends her life sucking the juice of prickly pear cacti.  When squished, her guts release a bright, intense red.  This color has the ability to remain incredibly stable over time, is stable at high and low pH, and is non-toxic. In other words, it's perfect for processed food or makeup that needs to be colored pink or red.

The alternative to using cochineal is mostly Red 40, which is made from coal tar.  
No, seriously. It's made from coal tar.
Or it used to be; looks like it's mostly made from petroleum these days.  So, you can see why Starbucks might be looking for an alternative to an artificial dye.

Cochineal has been used by humans for hundreds of years, and provides an important source of cash for a lot of rural Central and South American people.  There is some evidence the culture and sale of cochineal leads to more independence and higher female literacy in Mexico.  It's entirely consistent with Starbucks' policy to sustainably source their products to use a natural product like cochineal.

Example of freaking out. A tarantula???There is a petition condemming Starbucks for using insect dyes; I'm tempted to start one to praise them for it!  The market for cochineal has been declining steadily, as more Western people discover what it is and freak the fuck out about insects in their food. That means less income traveling to our southern neighbors in the Americas.

I am a bit puzzled that people who willingly eat something called a Soy Strawberry Frappuccino, or [*shudder*] a Starbucks "Red Velvet Whoopie Moon Pie", are concerned about a tiny amount of insect extract. The reality is that anytime you eat processed food–including coffee and chocolate–you ARE eating insects. They may not be on the label, but parts of them are in there. 

Americans (both vegans and omnivores) like processed foods, and foods that are fast and convenient. There is a price for having someone else process stuff in bulk–some things will fall in that you might not want to know about.  (You SOOO do not ever want to go to a pickle factory. Trust me.)

We also like our food PERFECT–which means that producers have to use chemicals to make fruit perfectly shaped and unblemished, as well as using lots of preservatives to make things last in their packages, and artificial colors to make them match our expectations.  This is the cost of convenience.
Sadly, as Americans become more and more disconnected from nature and the production of our food, we seem to become more convinced that the world should be made sterile and safe. (Don't even get me started on "Chemical-free." URGH).
Insects happen. Why not embrace them as value-added, rather than being grossed out? Insects are eaten regularly in all parts of the world outside the US, and some folks are trying to re-introduce this staple of indigenous Americans back into our diet.

The only thing that I would criticize Starbucks about in this episode is they need to be more open about the ingredients in their foods in general. Allergies to cochineal are very rare, but they do happen. Many people also want to limit their consumption of certain foods for religious or ethical reasons. (Some insects are considered kosher, but cochineals are not.)

I applaud Starbucks for choosing a sustainable, low-impact food-coloring source!
Now, how about selling bird-friendly coffee, too?

Additional Reading:


Bug_girl has a PhD in Entomology, and is a pointy-headed former academic living in Ohio. She is obsessed with insects, but otherwise perfectly normal. Really! If you want a daily stream of cool info about bugs, follow her Facebook page or find her on Twitter.

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    1. It is not used in pink slime, although some people have tried to suggest it. 
      Cochineal is actually kind of expensive–it's just not profitable to put it in a product that is already low quality/low price.  Also, meat tends to be pink on it's own :)

      1. I didn’t think it was. And even if they used it I wouldn’t have a problem with eating pink slime. It’s what pate’ and meat loaf have been made of for hundreds of years; and not using the trimmings from the butchering process would be very wasteful.

        1. You actually think that for hundreds of years meatloaf has been made from heat and mechanically separated scrap beef that has been treated with ammonia gas or ammonium hydroxide to reduce the salmonella? Really?
          You don't think that that material used to be used for pet food? Despite claims to the contrary?
          Fine. I don't eat store-ground meat or any fast-food ground, processed meat, so I don't actually care what is put in it. You can eat ground anus all you want. For those who care, buy primal cuts and grind yourself or, you know, eat actual pieces of known meat.

  1. I'll support your petition!  but, if you're vegan (which I am not), and really passionate about no (or no known amount) of animal product in your diet, they have a right to know.  Hopefully your posts makes the rounds, maybe some won't be so opposed to it.  personally, I'm ready for more insects in our food, or even as our food!

  2. Interesting. I didn't know any of this. 
    I'm not personally bothered by eating bugs (I've done it once or twice), but I don't think it's unreasonable for vegans to be annoyed about this. (Most) vegans don't consume any animal products at all. They don't eat them, they don't wear them, they don't use them in cosmetics, etc. 
    So, while I agree that it doesn't make sense to use petroleum and coal tar based dye (ick), I can see why they're mad. I think your point about disclosure of ingredients is what needs to be made here.
    I guess what I'm saying is that vegans protesting this is not analogous to the general population being icked out by eating bugs or wanting their food to be perfect.

      1. There is a difference between eating bugs by accident and doing it on purpose. If I drive my bike through a lot of flies and swallow some by accident I am not too bothered (though my throat doesn't like it), but going out to kill insects to use them for a product is different to me. So yes, I avoid carmine. 
        That old "you can't keep ALL animal products out of your life, so why oppose them at all" is tiring. 

        1. You're also already eating bugs in your food.
          And it's not like bugs are animals.
          I just don't get it, I guess.  I get wanting full disclosure, but the idea that bugs are on the same level as animals is, to me, crazy.

          1. How do you mean, bugs are not animals? In what way? They are animals by definition. They are also highly fascinating, they have instincts, physical sensations, hunger, thirst, sex drive. So in what way are they not animals? 

          2. See, my problem is that your argument is "But but … they *might* feel pain!  So I won't eat them!"

            Well, plants might feel pain, too!

            It's just a silly, pointless argument to make against eating bugs.
            I get a lot of why veg*ns don't eat non-bug animals, but bugs?  Most (and I know there are exceptions) are not in any danger whatsoever of becoming extinct.  Most bugs are pretty resilliant, *especially* the types of bugs discussed here.  The ethical reasons not to eat animals just … aren't there when it comes to bugs.

          3. Insects are most definitely included in the kingdom Animalia.
            And the whole "plant perception" thing is pseudoscience at worst, pure speculation at best. And if you were to find some kind of a "shit non-vegans say" Bingo card, that argument about plants would be right on there with "Where do you get your protein?" It's a pretty tiring argument that's not based in any kind of good evidence.
            I'm vegan because I have very good evidence that organisms with central nervous systems can experience suffering. Full stop. I don't have good evidence that other organisms can experience suffering, and I'm certainly not going to starve to death by not eating fungi, plants, algae, and bacteria based on mere speculation.

          4. //Well, plants might feel pain, too!//
            lol, pseudoscience.
            //And it's not like bugs are animals.//
            ORLY… read a biology book lately?
            //It's just a silly, pointless argument to make against eating bugs.//
            It's a moral argument "don't purposely kill members of the animal Kingdom", and it's not anymore silly/pointless a cause than feminism to us.  You're certainly one that doesn't like it when people disrespect your causes blindly, so don't disrespect ours.
            //I just can't get that bothered by people making light-hearted jokes about a very priviliged group of people.  (If you can live a vegan lifestyle, you are indeed priviliged.)//
            This coming from a privleged American white woman.  Dude, my extended relatives back in India live a vegan lifestyle (for religious reasons). Their roof is made out of mud and they sell spices at street markets for a living.  You can go buy a big pack of meat for $5 whenever you want a Wally World.  Who's the priveleged one here?

        2. COMPLETELY agree with this. I've been vegan for more than 15 years. Yes, I know I eat all kinds of animal products without my knowledge (like insects in produce). Yes, I know that tilling the ground results in the deaths of rodents. Blah, blah, blah. To me it's an ethical position, not constant pressure to be perfect. I will do everything in my power to avoid foods made with animal products, so of course that includes something made with cochineal extract.
          Also, I really dislike food dyes to begin with. I've had dye-free relish, for example, and it is only SLIGHTLY more muted in color than other relishes. Having slightly brighter food isn't worth it to me.

  3. As a former kosher eater, I must dispute your idea that some insects are kosher. There are currently no kosher insects because the one insect mentioned in the Bible as being kosher, a type of locust, is unidentifiable to modern folks.

    1. Well, your rabbi needs to talk to my rabbi, then.  I'm assuming you are referring to Leviticus?
      The locust is widely considered to be a grasshopper.  I don't really understand your argument–it's like saying since we don't know for sure what "kine" are, we can't eat any livestock.

      1. Hmm. I suppose its a case of "interpretation". I.e., only one grasshopper is "kosher", not all of them. Though, by that standard, the same rabbi should be apposed to the wrong sort of *anything* if it can't be identified, or is a different species, from what they had in the Bible, which wouldn't leave them with a whole lot they could eat. But, yeah, the difference between 'locust' and 'grasshopper' tends to be swarms. Some never increase to sufficient population sizes to create swarms, so never transition into locust. Others, in the right conditions, will, and it triggers a physiological change in the insect, causing them to take on behaviors that they don't normally exhibit, such as eating everything in sight, including each other.

  4. This was posted over at Consumerist and omg people were freaking out.  "EW EW EW!"
    People, we eat bugs all the time.  It's normal.
    I am not bothered by this at all and in fact this drink sounds delicious.

    1. Well despite being vegan, I am with you that the public is rife with retardation over this issue.  Most aren't disgusted because they're vegan, most are disgusted because they're idiots.  They'll bitch and moan about this but go on to happily eat and wear tons of other things with insect products, poo, blood, skunk spray and other "gross" things in them.
      In fact, these type of emotional reactions are exactly what campaigns and marketers target.  There are  strategists working night and day to push the public's buttons like this in order to sell shit or sway opinions.

      1. Most aren't disgusted because they're vegan, most are disgusted because they're idiots.  They'll bitch and moan about this but go on to happily eat and wear tons of other things with insect products, poo, blood, skunk spray and other "gross" things in them.
        That's my experience at well. When someone says "I would NEVER eat insects/horses/rabbits" I always ask them why they feel it's so "obvious" that this is gross, but pig, cow and chickens is just "normal".

  5. A good alternative is beet juice. Or not using a dye. Or, my personal favorite, not going to Starbucks.

    1. I had a roasted beet margarita the other day in Sedona. It was fantastic. Or was that the taste of tequila?

  6. I'm kind of ashamed of how eating bugs makes me feel. The crunch of chitin gives me chills. Knowing that it's just the fear/disgust training I recieved when I was younger and has no basis in anything reasonable bugs me.

  7. It also has the added benefit of being flavourless.  Supertasters–self included–can tell you that the red M&Ms really do taste different!  To me, red tastes bitter.  My mom is a retired cake decorator, and she used to have food dyes called both red–the usual Red #40–and flavourless red–the carmine.  More expensive, but useful when she had to do a large portion of the cake in red.

      1. Frosting tinted red definitely tastes worse than frosting tinted other colors, at least when you dabble about in the Wilton's gels like I do (I'm no cake decorator). I'd just written off red altogether, and didn't know about alternatives. I don't think you need a blind taste test for this; it's not subtle at all. But I will definitely participate in a frosting-off if scientists really want to make sure.

        1. I admit to having lacking taste, can barely taste the difference between whole and skim milk, no difference in diet sodas, etc.  so, I may not have the best personal experience, but I've never noticed a difference in color (of the same thing, like M&Ms or icing dyed different colors).

        2. Actually, I think you do need a double-blind test for this.
          I've never noticed any difference between red M&Ms and other colors (and I've specifically tried to taste this), and that seems to be true of lots of other people.   It could be there is no difference in taste, or that some people can taste it and others can't, or it depends on the quantity of food coloring, or the sugar and chocolate in the M&Ms masks the flavor.  There are way to many possibilities for anything other than a double-blind test , including subjects who think they can detect it (such as you and Erin W), subjects who think they can't (such as me), and subjects who have no idea one way or the other.
          A second reason for a double-blind test is that cognitive biases, especially about something as important as food, are incredibly strong, much stronger than most people assume, and need to be eliminated.
          A third reason is SCIENCE!
          And finally, the most compelling fourth reason, we get to eat M&Ms.  Lots and lots of M&Ms!  Sugar!  Candy!  Chocolate!!!!

  8. Re "Chemical-free," I recently found a product in the herbicide aisle that boasted, "Contains iron, a natural element."  As opposed to what, I wondered?  Man-made elements such as plutonium perhaps.
    Is there a market for a specialty bread that contains the natural elements, carbon, hydrogen and oxygen?

    1. What about natural non-elements?  I think dark matter based food wout be chemical-free.  A couple of friends and I once tried to work out a new diet/health fad based on string theory.  It mostly involved eating long, thin foods, like spaghetti, to make yourself take on the attributes of length and thinness.  But all the foods were made of conventional baryonic matter.
      I agree if you are ethically opposed to eating animals, including insects, and thus want to avoid them ( though it is virtually impossible to do so) it is a defensible position, even if I don't subscribe to it.
      However, objections based on ickiness or some variation of the naturalistic fallacy are completely irrational, so it's ethically okay to mock them.  :-)
      P.S. for some reason my browser's speel-checker doesn't seem to be working in the new edit box.  :-(

  9. I understand your point but as a vegan I wish to *avoid* all animal derived ingredients as far as possible. I'm not obssessed with super clean or perfect food (I buy organic veg through a local box scheme and that's far from sanitised but I believe doing so to be the path of least harm to myself, animals and our environment), I just find it frustrating when an otherwise vegan friendly product includes "hidden" ingredients that are not. Why not just leave the colouring out altogether? For me there is a difference between purposely adding the ingredient and it ending up in there naturally.

    1. Um. And that is why at the end of this post I said Starbucks should have been more transparent with the ingredients, so those that don't want to eat insects (or other animal products, or non-halal foods) can be informed and avoid what they don't want.

      1. I know, it's just you seemed to be saying that as bugs find their way into our food anyway there was no point in trying to avoid ingredients derived from them.

  10. For those suggesting going dye free, I absolutely agree with you, and think we should.  BUT, I can understand companies wanting to put dye in, because our vision does influence our taste.  That's why I asked Erin W above about the blind taste test, because color of products do influence how we taste them, as well as our others senses; our brain uses all available senses when tasting (as discussed not too long ago on The Skeptics Guide).  I'd prefer to go dye free, because it just seems to keep us in this cycle.  Eventually we'd be used to things not always being one certain color and it wouldn't make a difference on taste (I'm sure at first things would taste differently, but eventually you would get used to things not being so colorful).  That is why companies often don't go dye free, they've tried it and it doesn't sell because people associate colors with taste.

  11. As far as I can tell, carmine is also listed as "Crimson Lake", "Natural Red 4", "E120', "Natural Coloring". Pretty much everything else is Red 40 (E129, Allura Red, Food Red 17).  Bug juice or oil juice. Take your pick.

  12. I'd rather have the bug based dyes too, and my friend V would MUCH rather have the bug based dyes, she had an allergic reaction starting in her teens, it took forever and lots of tests to figure out what she is allergic to: Red Dye #40!   And you would not believe how many things its in.  I once special ordered some green gummy bears for her for St Paddys Day,  I checked the ingreidients before I gave them to her…yup Red dye #40. 
    Funny story, when they were treating V's symptoms before they figured out what she was allergic to they gave her Benedryl for the rash/itching….guess what dye regular Bededryl (the pink capsules) has in it…

    1. Funny thing about that: Non-prescription sleeping pills (Nytol, Sominex) are the same thing as Bedadryl (25mg diphenhydramine) but they're usually dyed blue.

      1. Yeah, the anti-hystemines in them aren't so much sleeping pills so much as a drowsy-enducing pills.
        Man I hate that crap.  They give me night terrors, dry me out, and cause me to sleep WORSE.  Terrrriiiiible.

    2. I've had an allergic reaction to Benadryl because of the red dye, too.  I think I'm over that allergy, though, considering how much Kool-Aid I drink.  (A lot.)

    1. Um, well, it isn't like this isn't something that Vegans *aren't* getting all upset about, so I'm not sure why I am picking up some "tsk, tsking" iny our comment.
      I don't think it's Skepchick making Vegans "seem" crazy; the hard-core Vegans are pretty good about doing that on their own.

      1. What I fail to see is is what's crazy about being disturbed by the fact that they were consuming non-vegan food they believed to be vegan.

        1. But how is it non-vegan?  Bugs aren't animals.  It's not an animal by-product.  Most vegans I know would agree with me here.

          1. I am really puzzled as to why you keep saying bugs aren't animals. They are animals. Insects are, as well as spiders and crabs, Ecdysozoa. They are defined as such, I don't make that up. Animals and plants function very differently (but I don't think you were trying to say insects are like plants). 

          2. Well, what I mean, is that not everyone puts them on the same levels as most other animals.  Sorry I wasn't clear about that.

            Not all vegans feel the way you do about bugs.  Vegans are not all the same.  Some vegans will eat honey, for instance.  That's what I mean.
            Additionally, once again, no one called anyone crazy.  That's all on you.

            You have a tendancy to do that.  Just like Jacob's makeup joke the other day.  Your sarcastic "crazy vegan" comment here was basically the same comment you left jacob yesterday ("Oh thanks for stereotyping!"). 
            No one is calling anyone crazy.

          3. Honey isn't vegan, by definition. Eating honey as a vegan is like eating fish as a vegetarian. Sure, you're free to call yourself a vegan and eat unvegan food, but I think it's rather confusing. 

            Not all vegans feel the way you do about bugs. 
            I know, but the principle of veganism is pretty straight forward: to avoid animal products. You can twist that and adjust it to your own beliefs and lifestyle and call yourself vegan still, especially for reasons of simplicity, but it still doesn't make eating bugs vegan. 

            You have a tendancy to do that.
            That is true. I'm highly sensitive in general (funny that they actually give you that as a mental disorder stamp, I can put "hypersensitivity" on a list, wheee), but more so in regards to things I have a lot of experience being mocked for and having people attack me for it. And in the sceptical community there is a HUGE bias against animal rights as such. Not everyone, not always, but it's often thrown in with pseudoscience and woo. And if someone does that as a joke, I do get uncomfortable. 

          4. Yeah so basically:  *I* am a true vegan!  This is the *ONLY* way!  Everyone else are terrible, terrible vegans!
            Aaand this is why we think vegans are crazy.

          5. And honestly, I just can't get that bothered by people making light-hearted jokes about a very priviliged group of people.  (If you can live a vegan lifestyle, you are indeed priviliged.)
            No one was calling you crazy.  And jacob was not stereotyping yesterday.  He was joking.
            Your tendancy to leave sarcastic comments when someone makes a light-hearted joke is … well, it's getting old.  And I'm not exactly known to be NON-sensitive, myself.  So I get it.  But you take things WAY personally a LOT.

          6. There is a difference between a vegan product and a vegan person. Veganism is defined as the practice of abstaining from animal products. If people want to call themselves vegan while not adhering to this, it's fine, but it means a change in the terminology. This is not about being a "good" or "bad" vegan. 
            It would be nice if you didn't twist my words. 

          7. The idea that "If you can live a vegan lifestyle, you are indeed priviliged" is one that I hear a lot, and it has no basis in reality. Sure, a lot of the mock meats, fake ice cream, etc., are more expensive. But beans and rice are not expensive. Produce is not expensive. And remember that omnivores eat grains, legumes, and produce as well, in addition to more expensive animal products.
            Some people think vegans can only eat premium, organically grown produce, but that is also a separate issue from veganism. Maybe you are talking about incredibly extreme cases in which people are working two full-time minimum-wage jobs and literally only have time to eat fast food. But there are a lot of non-privileged people who have the time to cook their own food, and eating vegan food costs much less money. Seriously, what do you think we are spending our money on? I buy few vegan analogues and conventionally grown produce, it's not a fancy lifestyle.

          8. "The idea that "If you can live a vegan lifestyle, you are indeed priviliged" is one that I hear a lot, and it has no basis in reality. Sure, a lot of the mock meats, fake ice cream, etc., are more expensive. But beans and rice are not expensive. Produce is not expensive."
            If you live in a third world country you eat what you can get.  Beans and rice may not be expensive to us, but they may not even be available to many.  That you even have to option of saying "I don't eat that because it's made with animal products" is a privilage.

          9. //(If you can live a vegan lifestyle, you are indeed priviliged.)//
            You imply someone who's vegan is neccisarily more priveleged than a first world person who eats meat.  Prove to me HOW. 
            When I was poor in the early days of my startup I ate beans and rice, canned greens, and whatever vegetables were cheap at the local wally world.  I just chose not to buy meat or dairy, and somehow I'm more priveleged than someone who did?  I didn't go and buy $8 seitan and granola at whole foods :P.
            Trust me, there are poor vegans and vegetarians out there, and no, not all of them are white hipsters raised in rich white America.

          10. Well, bugs/insects are living beings with complex social lives, instincts and importance to our ecosystems. I avoid killing at all costs – if I can. I don't think I've ever even killed a spider on purpose (mostly as a child I was deathly afraid of them).  I know my dietary choices aren't perfect, and sure, at times I may eat a hidden ingredient that is non-vegan, that isn't the point to me. I chose to eat this way because I view all other living beings as members of my non-human family.  Some point down the line – I share a common ancestor with my cats. I share 70% of my DNA with chickens. I don't see a difference in the value of life between a mouse and myself or other humans – and I will not purposefully contribute in the violence and abuse targeted at other creatures. 

          11. You also share 50% of your DNA with a banana.

            I’m not saying that to make fun of you, but to point out that the genetic distinction is fairly arbitrary, since we are related to EVERYTHING alive at some point.

          12. "//(If you can live a vegan lifestyle, you are indeed priviliged.)//
            You imply someone who's vegan is neccisarily more priveleged than a first world person who eats meat. Prove to me HOW."
            No, I didn't.  I simply pointed that you're priviliged to live in a place and time where you can actually say no to some foods.
            But even in a first world country I've known people who lived out of the trash can or the food line, or poached game.  You take what you can get.  There are people who live far enough away from civilization that the trip to the local market is a trek.  And if that market doesn't carry much spinach or another source of iron, tough luck.  No good source of plant protein?  too bad.
            As a tween I lived on the Navajo Rez in northern Arizona.  My mom was trying to supoort 3 kids alone on a teachers salary.  The local store just didn't cater to such needs.  Gallup was 40 miles down NM 666, and probably didn't have anything, either.

      1. Where are the crazy vegans here? The people who say "what a shame, the drink I used to enjoy isn't vegan anymore, so I can't enjoy it anymore" ? 

        1. "Where are the crazy vegans here? "
          See, the thing is, NO ONE called anyone crazy.  That's all on you.  You are the one that brought that up, and you are the one that is trying to make it seem like someone here called them crazy.  No one has!

          1. I said "making vegans sound insane", jacob said vegans do that themselves, making them sound insane, and I questioned that this is the case in regards to the topic and the article linked. 
            The article clearly says that she is confused as to why anyone would not embrace karmine, when it's pretty obvious why vegans wouldn't. 

          2. It's actually not that obvious because every vegan I personally know eats honey, so what would maket his any different?

            But, I kind of agree with Jacob.  Vegans have a tendancy to be pretty evangelical.  And you're not helping.

          3. Honey is not a vegan product, though, again "by definition". I am not telling people they need to cut out honey, I am saying honey = animal product. 

            Vegans have a tendancy to be pretty evangelical.
            Yeah, not like that's a new stereotype. I believe in Animal Rights in the same way I believe in human rights and feminism. And I react in similar fashion when people say me I take gender problems "too seriously" and am too sensitive about sexist jokes. If it's "evangelical" to react with my opinions on animal rights under an topical article, then the word really doesn't mean much. I thought it meant not being open to discussion and not having opinions that differ from the norm. 

          4. But you didn't leave a constructive comment.  You just left an eye-rolling, sarcastic comment, with no actual substance.  Again.  You do that a lot.

    2. I gotta go with Marilove here–you are projecting a bit ihatemusic.
      I agree with you (and it's in the post) that Starbucks should label their products clearly, which would solve the problem for vegans. (Frankly, I also think "threatening" really is overstating the situation.)   The vast majority of the reaction to this has been regular omnivores freaking out. Notice that I use the word Americans–not vegans–when I am talking about that freakout in this post.  

  13. It's not hard to understand. Using animals to make products is unethical to vegans. The accidental inclusion of bugs is unavoidable. Vegans have to eat, so I don't know why all the smugness about the plant eating.
    I can't believe you're trying to reclassify bugs as plants to justify your (fabricated) bafflement. The ethical difference is between what is necessary and what is avoidable. Like any ethical dilemma or harm reduction strategy, you do the best you can. Vegans feel the most ethical course for them is staying away from animals that were intentionally killed to make product.
    Please stop with the mockery. You guys understand the difference, you're too smart not to.

          1. I agree, and I don't think the OP made vegans out to be 'crazy'. 
            But the sudden decision that insects are, in fact, plants, just BLEW MY MIND. :D

    1. Yes, exactly. I think everyone here agrees that companies should be transparent about what ingredients are used in their foods. I agree with the original poster that the "ick factor" motivating many omnivores isn't very rational when you look at food dyes in context, and also agree that insect-derived ingredients are an issue for vegans. I don't understand the constant claim that "bugs aren't animals," along with other weird myths about vegans or veganism in general. And I'm a bit uncomfortable with the "militant vegan" stereotype when honestly … I've met WAY more militant omnivores than militant vegans.

      1. I don't understand the constant claim that "bugs aren't animals," along with other weird myths about vegans or veganism in general. And I'm a bit uncomfortable with the "militant vegan" stereotype when honestly … I've met WAY more militant omnivores than militant vegans.
        I think that's why I freaked out a bit and got so defensive. Hearing the same stereotyped attacks over and over again makes me defensive, I guess.

        1. That's purely anecdotal, and when you think about it, it would make sense that most omnivores (who are still a majority in this country) are going to encounter more militant veg*ns than militant omnivores in the same way that Christians are more likely to encounter militant Atheists than most Atheists are.  And that's because when you run into someone who disagrees with your point of view, you guys may have an argument, during which one or both of you may say militant bullshit.  Many omnivores will hear a "militant omnivore" say something sort of shitty about/to vegans (like bugs aren't animals, or where will you get your protein) and it doesn't register as "militant" so they won't think "Ah, I just saw an example of a militant omnivore."  Part of that may come from the fact that the observing omnivore thinks veg*nism is weird or hard to understand or relate to, or isn't educated about it, so some of those shitty comments make a sort of sense.  Confirmation bias of facts within questions, I guess.
          Similarly, veg*ns will say militant bullshit when they find out someone is an omnivore as well.  An observing veg*n may see some of those crappy remarks and think "Yes.  Meat is GROSS.  And there's nothing wrong with telling someone the meat they just put in their mouth is gross and it's disgusing to even think about it." becaus they relate to that feeling, but aren't educating themselves on the effect that has, which is the omnivore thinking "Holy fucksticks, you're such a tool."  Then you have the veg*ns who trot out the pseudoscience, just like some omnivores have in this thread, like "Milk gives you cancer".
          And my favorite from both sides: trying to point out how UNHEALTHY the other person's diet is, while they smoke a cigarette.  Irony meter explosion.
          Anyway, I think it's great for everyone to share CALMLY and RESPECTFULLY about their dietary choices, and this should be a safe space for all of us to point out when someone makes a pseudoscientific argument.  I'm just dismayed it was "my side" doing so this time.

  14. I think it's perfectly normal for people to have a gross reaction to eating bugs.  We all have reactions and of course they're not always perfectly rational.  The problem comes in when people can't take a step back and assess their own feelings.
    It is supremely ironic though that people who love the appeal to nature fallacy don't like it so much when they find out what natural ingredients are actually derived from.

  15. I think vegans should be forced to eat meat, and also bathe occasionally… effing hippies! 
    Honestly though, it is first world problems heaped on first world problems. I mean, I get it but I don't get it. It would be a giant "meh" for me and I wouldn't have bothered posting "fuck hippies, fuck people who drink crap overpriced coffee" at all… except for the bit about our cultural disconnect from nature and a sort of sane relationship with food, and the obvious class issues involved in getting there. Or, to put it another way… there are days when I'm convinced my pets are eating better than I am and certainly better than many schoolchildren in the Land of the Free, and a little bug-based food dye that corrupts a vegan's pure self-image seems so very petty.
    First world problems. 

    1. Yeah it's a first world problem the whole dye thing and the whole pink slime thing too.
      But I'd like to dispel your and marilove's misconception that vegans are somehow priveleged.  If they're in rich nations in North America or Europe, they're just as priveleged as someone who eats meat :P.  Secondly, veganism/vegatarianism is hardly limited to the first world.
      In India most estimates place 1/4-1/3 of people in India as either vegetarian or vegan, if the # is closer to 1/3, then there are more vegetarians in India than there are people in the United States.  So it's pretty ridiculous to think of it as just some fancy first world thing.

      1. You're so wrong that its not even funny. Do you think a family of five with the median household income of ~$50,000 pre-tax can afford to eat a vegan diet? Really? Do they have the time to deal with hunting for vegan deals that they can actually afford? Maybe India is set up to feed people a varied vegan diet, but in America poor people are stuck with poor people food the vast majority of the time. Privileged folks, always blind to their privilege. 

        1. I actually had some info on "food deserts" in the original draft of this post, but removed it to keep things short.
          There is a difference between "people that buy food at starbucks"  (who have disposable income) and "people that try to buy food, if they can, and if they have money."
          The choices for those two groups are very different. If you live in Detroit, you may only have a liquor store and a quickie mart for food choices.  That is getting better, but still a reality for a LOT of people.

          1. Thanks bug_girl… I live in one of those neighborhoods. There's a difference between living in a rich nation and actually sharing in that wealth. Let's break it down into two categories and keep it simple: cost and availability. Soy milk costs double what cow's milk does, and WIC and other food programs don't necessarily cover it. Even if soy milk was the same price, if you're on foot and the choice is between a 15-20 minute round trip walk to the local store that doesn't carry soy milk, and an two-hour round trip walk in the summer with arms full of groceries quickly getting warmer and warmer, and your kids are waiting at home? What are you really going to do?
            Being vegan is a privilege for the privileged, which is why it is no surprised that so many of them act like arrogant, entitled snobs. 

          2. Yep living in a food desert is a horrible situation and doesn't lend itself to being vegetarian at all, I agree with this.  If you live next to a decently stocked grocery store (even if it's not huge), and you decide to be vegan/vegetarian, it's definitely not more expensive to be vegan than to eat meat.

          3. Yep I agree, you're definitely SOL in a food desert.  And just because you could take a bus to a bigger grocery store, doesn't mean you have the time/inclination to.  Food Deserts are a MAJOR problem in America and a pretty good reason why just "letting the free market take care of things" for every facet of life isn't the best idea.

          4. Being vegan is a privilege for the privileged//
            Yep priveleged people have more ability to choose this lifestyle, but poor vegans/vegetarians certainly do exist.  I'm not sure why you're so angry about people being vegan/vegetarian.
            I think this what most people here who are vegan/vegetarian are pissed about is that people get pissed off at us just for being vegan/vegetarian.  I can't tell you how many times I've had people berate me after finding out I'm vegetarian.  I mean Christ, I was raised by a hindu woman.. it's part of my god damned culture you assholes. 
            Also, I'd like to point out that most posters on Skepchick are likely from priveleged backgrounds and are able to afford starbucks, you can tell by the way we talk about things here.  But when a vegan/vegatarian makes a point about their beliefs, they get the finger pointed at them going "you're priveleged/stupid".  That's the pot calling the kettle black. 
            //which is why it is no surprised that so many of them act like arrogant, entitled snobs.//
            Do we?  Or is this just your preconceived notion?

        2. //Privileged folks, always blind to their privilege.//
          You're telling me you're not a priveleged folk yourself?  And you're speaking on behalf of all the non-priveleged folk you know SO much about?
          //Do you think a family of five with the median household income of ~$50,000 pre-tax can afford to eat a vegan diet?//
          How em, unskeptical of you.  The key to being skeptic is to first investigate all sides with rigor before coming to a conclusion, which you did not do.  You seem to have this idea that if you're a vegan, you have to buy super expensive vegan products and shop only organic.  And that's the part that makes you unskeptical.  All a vegan diet means is that you don't buy animal products.  You can still shop at Wal-Mart and Aldi and be vegan.
          For instance
          – Dried Beans, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Canned Vegetables, Rice, Cornmeal, Peas, Corn, etc. <– These are somehow "expensive" items?  Not hardly, these are things that these "non-priveleged" people who eat meat buy.   So yes, it's quite possible on small budget. 
          However, the monetary concern is not really the issue here, what makes it hard to be vegan are the following things
          – It takes work to get a well-rounded diet, so you have to make sure you eat a correct balance of things.  You can do it cheaply, but it takes some knowledge and some cooking skill to do.  Children are fickle, so in the US at least, it may be hard to get them to accept eating a well rounded diet.  However, in India, vegetarianism is common, and families that earn less in their lives than a westerner earns in a year (you for instance) manage to do so for families much larger than 5.  However, the culture makes it much easier there to do so.  People know how to cook healthy and complex vegetable dishes (i.e. non-meat main courses) are the norm rather than the exception, so they manage it quite well despite living in mud shacks.  In America, it's not in our culture at all to make vegetable dishes as our staples, so a lot of people would simply not know how to cook a well rounded vegetarian or vegan diet.  This is more a disadvantage here than in India.
          Basically the privelege lies not so much in the cost of food but in education.  If someone with a large family decides for moral reason to feed their family a vegan or vegetarian diet then they can do so just as affordably if they have access to a proper grocery store (like wal-mart) and don't live in a food desert.  So who are vegan more likely to be priveleged?  Yes, but saying vegan/vegatarian==priveleged (especially if you're implying that it's because it's too expensive) is bullshit.
          – You definitely have to take your children's health into account, you may have to break the vegan/vegetarian diet in some cases.
          //Really? Do they have the time to deal with hunting for vegan deals that they can actually afford? Maybe India is set up to feed people a varied vegan diet, but in America poor people are stuck with poor people food the vast majority of the time.//
          What's poor people food, can you clarify?  I wonder if anyone who really grew up in poverty would resent that comment or not?
          Vegan deals?  What, like pre-packaged dinners?  Vegans means = doesn't eat meat.  Last I checked common vegetables are cheap and people who eat meat also buy them.  If you know how to cook main courses out of vegetables, your budget is similar to any meat eater.
          If they live in a food desert, yes of course, it's very hard to be healthy at all, much less vegetarian.  However, if someone lives live near a well stocked grocery store (say K-Mart) and conciously decide to be vegan or vegetarian, it's not more expensive or difficult for them if they know how to cook.  You can easily make a vegan or vegetarian diet out of what you get at a common grocery store.  They would need to decide this first however.  I don't expect anybody to just go vegan or vegetarian because I say so, I'd prefer they make their own decision about that.
          Anywho my core point is that making the claim that "If you're a vegan or vegetarian, you're necessarily priveleged" is bullshit and definitely an unskeptical thing to say.  I think it's funny how people who count themselves as skeptic resort to pseudoscientific arguments like "single celled eukaryotes are animals", "bugs aren't animals", "plants feel pain", etc in an effort to find a reason why veganism/vegetarianism is somehow bad.  If you're going to make an argument, do your research like a good skeptic and make an honest fucking argument, not some pseudo-scientific one that validates your emotions.

          1. Wow… No True Skeptic much? As if education and free time and access to the Internet aren't all privilege? The cost is only the beginning, but you're so desperate to back up your earlier idiotic statement about meat-eaters being equally privileged that you're just digging deeper and deeper, even while you're otherwise making good points about the very privilege that you're willing to dismiss with a "yes, but" attitude. 

          2. I didn't have to eat meat while relying on food stamps and food banks to feed my family. Wasn't any harder on me than the omnivores.

          3. //idiotic statement about meat-eaters being equally privileged//
            Whether you do/dont eat meat has nothing to do with your privelege, that's false.  It's the choice we're talking about.  And yes, having that education does indeed make you priveleged which is why vegetarians and vegans often come from well-off backgrounds.  And yes, many people don't have much choice when they live in a desert.  However being vegetarian or vegan doesn't automatically make you priveleged which is what you're saying.  And you're definitely wrong there.  There certainly are poor people who choose to be vegetarians and they don't somehow need to pay more for food, see punchdrunk's reply for more details.
            P.S. I'm not bashing anyone for not being vegetarian.  What most of us however don't understand is why people respond so angrily to us.

        3. @Improbable Joe: //Do you think a family of five with the median household income of ~$50,000 pre-tax can afford to eat a vegan diet?//
          Well, I certainly think so, since my vegan family of five with a pre-tax income of ~$15,000 can.
          I don't give a crap about Starbucks though, as we certainly can't afford that. :)

  16. Vegans make a point of avoiding animals and animal by-products in their food. Insects ARE animals, but the average vegan is probably consuming a lot more of them than they realize. Here's a link to the Wikipage on "Food Defect Action Levels".
    There's no real way to completely eradicate insects from food. If you eat unprocessed grains, you're probably eating eggs along with them. There's no requirement to list that information on the package. Processed (milled) grains may include whole insects that have been processed right along with the grain. You'll never know, and they won't do you any harm. Most insects are mostly protein. For those of you who are vegans, you've now been told – you're eating tiny animals that died against their will and are providing you valuable foodstuffs. You can no longer claim ignorance. If insects ARE animals, and you DON'T eat animals EVER, well then – don't we have a problem?
    If I wanted to be really snarky, I could even take this argument down to the microscopic level, and ask how our vegans feel about protozoans – which are normally considered single-cell animals and sometimes considered plants – and are swilled down whole with tap water. The fact is, you are a machine that eats life. Learn to live with it, and try not to destroy the planet by feeding yourself. 
    If, instead, you're just concerned about "hidden" ingredients, then the term "natural flavoring" appearing on a package should worry you a lot more than an identified natural coloring agent. Here's a link to an article about just a few of the things that you may not realize are in your food. (Carmine is included in the article.)“natural”-can-run-the-gamut-from-bugs-to-beaver-butts/

    1. The issue of bugs in processed foof was raised in a post above. And as was said above, there is a difference (to us) in accidentally eating an insect that was never intended to be part of the food, and intentionally breeding insects for the sole purpose of killing them to make food pretty.  So, that isn't really an issue for most vegans I would think.  Sure, if we could somehow avoid the insects in processed food, we would, but we can't – avoiding cochineal can be avoided though, so we try to when we can.

    2. Protozoa are not in the animal kingdom. Vegans could eat protozoa just as they can eat the bacteria that have been cultured in their soy yogurt. Veganism is just about avoiding animal products. We're talking about the animal kingdom here — not protozoa, not bacteria, not plants, not fungi, etc.
      You're setting up a strawman argument in which all vegans claim to be 100 percent "pure," when in reality they are doing what they can to mitigate harm. Most of us are very well aware that animals die in food production; we don't need people constantly pointing that out to us as if it's some chocking factoid.
      What I do know for sure, however, is that I'm not directly fueling industries that profit from slaughtering cattle or confining chickens. I don't think slaughterhouses and chicken farms are making too much money off of the fact that some insects or ground-dwelling mammals died so I could eat produce. Besides, meat eaters create a far bigger demand for produce because the animals they eat themselves must be fed so much corn, soy, etc. It's about harm reduction, not impossible-to-attain purity.

      1. Most of us are very well aware that animals die in food production; we don't need people constantly pointing that out to us as if it's some chocking factoid.
        What I do know for sure, however, is that I'm not directly fueling industries that profit from slaughtering cattle or confining chickens.

        Very well-put. Thanks.

    Loved the article! 
    Anyway, bugs are an unavoidable part of life. My family has always grown food in our backyard (mostly fruits, chile peppers, and herbs),  and bugs are just going to happen. Usually, I just rinse the fruit off and flick off any remainders and eat, but I'm sure I've unintentionally ingested a few creepy crawlies. Meh.

    Also, bug eating is pretty common in many places, especially Mexico where my family and a good portion of cochineal is from , and it's no big deal. However, I do think that ingredients lists should be made readily available where everyone can find them. 
    Also, watch Salma Hayek eat a taco de grillos (crickets). Yummy ;) 

  18. Very interesting discussion! I've been vegan for almost a decade. Being 100% vegan is probably impossible. Heck, the glue holding my vegan cookbooks together probably has animal byproducts in it. Therefore, different vegans draw "the line" at different places. Some vegans are fine with honey and cochineal. Other vegans are way stricter. I knew a vegan who was so strict that he wouldn't even go to the theater because there are animal byproducts in celluloid, apparently. As for me, I generally avoid honey and cochineal, but it wouldn't bother me at all if I accidentally ate some. (Nor would it bother me to eat coal tar derived dye. It's just molecules to me.) I don't have a problem with Starbucks using cochineal. I wouldn't drink it, but if they want to use it, then that's their prerogative. I also don't think they have an obligation to announe when they reformulate their products. As a vegan, it's my responsibility to check ingredients. But if vegans want to petition Starbucks then that's their right. If nonvegans want to start a counter-petition, then that's cool too. The whole issue doesn't seem like such a big deal to me. But I really enjoyed the post, and all the discussion it stimulated!!!

  19. I had noticed you didn't seem to be around, and I'm glad you're back.  Hope you're better.
    I had rather hoped you might have something to say about the recent studies pointing to particular insecticides in bee colony colapse.
    I personally questioned the idea that a pesticide might cause bee colony colapse, when I believe it was seen in areas away from agriculture, where theoretically there wouldn't be alot of pesticide use.

  20. Bug_Girl,
    I find this bug juice in your frappucino to be disgusting, and I'm not vegan or a vegitarian.  I don't even like Coffee.

      1. Otoki,
        It doesn't?  I'm surprised.  I thought Frappuccino was a type of coffee.

        1. Nope.  A Frappuccino was Starbuck's frozen coffee drink, but the Strawberry is in the "Creme Frap" category, which is just like a vanilla milkshake type flavor, rather than coffee.  I think the created it for those who wanted cold smoothie coffee drinks without the caffeine, because it would give them kid-friendly frozen drinks like cookies-and-creme and strawberry flavor.

  21. Wow.  I'm actually kind of shocked at some of the ridiculously non-scientific claims being made here to make veganism look, what?  Stupid?  Hypocritical?  I don't know.  I'm not a vegan or even a vegetarian, but I agree that a lot of the arguments being used here about vegans are present on the "shit people say to vegans" bingo card.  I sort of expected a more skeptical, science-based response to vegans in general on this board.
    Anyway, I think that so long as Starbucks isn't labeling their drink as vegan there's fuckall that vegans should be complaining about in this case.  It's not like most of starbucks' shit is vegan.  They should be looking at the damned ingredients to make sure they fit their diet rather than bitching a the company for using non-vegan ingredients.  I DO agree that Starbucks should have made an announcement  just in case people for whom it would be a major health issue (allergies etc) wouldn't have otherwise known about it.

    1. This isn't really about vegans just complaining about a random drink on a starbucks menu though, the reason this particular drink is an issue is because until a short while ago it *was* vegan. I think it's pretty reasonable to assume that if a drink is vegan one day, then it will still be vegan the next.  

    2. Anyway, I think that so long as Starbucks isn't labeling their drink as vegan there's fuckall that vegans should be complaining about in this case.
      I think this is the main point, that it was vegan before and Starbucks used to call it vegan, too. I don't think they are obliged to tell us when they made it unvegan, but I guess it would have been nice to know. Not for me personally, I hate the artifical strawberry taste in general.

  22. My dislike of bugs has everything to do with the chitin.  If I could take the meat out, I'd be fine (and honestly probably quite enjoy it, given how much I like crustaceans).  So food dye made from insects, sure, sounds fine to me.  As long as it doesn't crunch, I don't care.

  23. Hello again :) I wasn't trying to incite earlier. I brought up the full amount of insect content allowed in food because there are a suprising number of people (both vegan and non) who honestly have no knowledge about what it is they're consuming when they sit down to a bowl of corn flakes. 

    I brought up protozoa because, while they are not classified as a part of the true "animal kingdom" (which would require them to be mutli-cellular), they meet most standards for biological animal classification (unlike the active bacteria present in yogurt), and are typically described as "animal-like". They, and their plant-like counterparts, the protophyta, defy definition and are consumed by all. The smaller life gets, the more alien it is to us, and the harder it is for us to identify with it. That's why someone will insist that insects aren't animals – because "normal" animals just don't look like that – or have oddly-colored blood.
    The fact is, if someone is genuinely concerned about their footprint on the planet and mitigating harm, the consumption of insects is one of the most positive actions they can take. They often reproduce faster than the plants they consume! By harvesting an insect crop along with a plant crop, you can increase your output from one source, and produce much needed protein-rich foods to serve with your greens. You might surprised at just how good for you creepy crawlies are!
    I'm speaking from experience, not just to prove a point. I worked for a university Entomology Outreach department, and I've eaten insects. I don't mean accidentally, or as food coloring either. I did it as part of a yearly celebration of all things "buggy." Honestly, they're not unpalatable if prepared correctly.
    Otoki, I agree with you completely that Starbucks should have made an announcement about their coloring change. Allergies to carmine DO exist and can be life-threatening. Since carmine falls under that food labelling category I mentioned earlier as concern ("natural" color or flavor), they're not required to report the change at all.

    1. The fact is, if someone is genuinely concerned about their footprint on the planet and mitigating harm, the consumption of insects is one of the most positive actions they can take.
      I wouldn't consume insects from a animal rights point of view, but as an enviormentalists if people stopped farming animals and only ate insects, it would be a good step. But I don't see how that is more likely than people just not consuming animal products altogether.

      1. Because for a lot of people going vegan is simply not something they can do while staying healthy.  This is NOT to say that being vegan in general is unhealthy.  It can be very healthy when done right and when the people doing it can handle it.  But there are many people who have food intolerances that make a vegan lifestyle impossible, and that's where having an omnivorous diet but replacing meat with insects can be a great, realistic option.
        As an omnivore who sources most of my meat from small local farms that raise their animals humanely and healthily (pasture, no antibiotics, no eating corn if they're supposed to eat grass, etc) I think eating insects would be a great way for people to have access to cheap, humanely raised, EFFICIENT sources of protein and other nutrients.

      2. Internationally, people eat all kinds of insects, and you don't need to eat them whole. Mealworms, which can be raised in your own kitchen, can be dried and then ground into flour. That flour, when added to baked goods and smoothies provides a whole protein source that simply can't be replaced by a vegetable source. Cricket lollypops, while an odd sight, are a good introduction to the idea of insects as food, and often sell out at stores in the U.S. and online! Eating insects isn't as strange as you may think.
        Otoki replied that most vegans couldn't stop eating meat without doing so unhealthfully, and she's right. There may be an example of that on this very page. Hotmesssundae wrote about a soy smoothie made with carrot and fruit. If that smoothie was made with dried beans, not a protein powder, s/he was making an error in food quality. Only soy protein powders, which include supplements to make up for missing amino acids in soy, are enough to meet your requirements as a "full protein" source. The problem could also have been corrected by the addition of just a teaspoon of mealworm flour. Here's an article about the many missing amino acids in beans that most vegans don't know about.
        My discussion here certainly isn't an attack on conservation or efforts to be kind to animals. I simply look at our bodies and, in my opinion, recognize that we're designed to consume some meat. I only eat a small portion of meat with meals, and I vary my sources. (When I travel, I sometimes am fortunate enough to be near friends who raise their own.) I also get some of my meat proteins from egg consumption. I even carry a card in purse from the Monterey Bay Aquarium website which tells me what seafood is best to buy for reducing ocean impact.

  24. My initial reaction to this was "Ew! Ugh! Strawberry frappucinos?!?"
    Come on!
    So, there's some dye in it that's derived from bugs. So what? If there's coffee in there (please tell me there isn't – coffe and strawberry together?) that probably contains more bug parts. And I can't see it should matter if these arent put in there "intentionally" as an ingredient – their inevitable presence in the coffee beans is certainly known to the people who make the coffee and accepted, so they might just as well be.
    (I didn't know you were on medical leave, Bug Girl. I'd noticed a lack of posts but just assumed you were busy. Hopefully, you're all better now.)

  25. Why can't we advocate for no extra coloring in a smoothie? 
    I'm vegan. And a skeptic. So.. I don't prefer a pro-bug killing petition, but petroleum base food-dye isn't a great idea either. So why not just have the strawberries do all the work?

  26. Freak out about insects?  How about we stop freaking out if our food is not technicolor instead?
    Dyes are entirely unnecessary.  Therefore there is no need to culture, kill, import, and add insects to our food.

    1. Hotmesssundae (and others)
      On top of bug girl's reply, I addressed the companies need to add dye way at the top.  Color (more specifically vision) goes into how we taste things. 

  27. PS, I have a soy smoothie for breakfast almost every morning, made of fruit and a carrot.  Right now in fact I am drinking one.  It's a pretty color all on its own.  I couldn't imagine adding food coloring to it–such a silly concept. 
    If the public is that superficial then Starbucks could serve them in opaque cups.

      People ARE that superficial, alas.
      When fruits have been cut for a while, they loose their “fresh” colors–think about how an apple turns brown.   Our expectation is that fruit is a certain color, and people tend to reject food that is brownish as “off” or spoiled.  Bananas that are black are rejected–even though that is when they taste the best, and the black on the skin has no relationship to the fruite inside.
      Meat is another good example–there is a ton of data that suggests that meat that is browning is undetectable from “fresh” red meat in taste tests, and is perfectly safe. But….I still have a bias against meat with brown patches when I see it in the grocery.
      That bias–multiplied over a big US population–is what is driving the use of artificial coloring and preservatives in a wide range of food.

      1. What's even more distressing is that the food you buy in the grocery store is lying to you. Here's an example:

        Tomatoes are artificially reddened by gassing them with ethylene to cause a color change on a not-yet-ripe fruit. That's why grocery tomatoes have so little flavor. They're picked well before they should be. It's done so the fruit will be tough enough to withstand shipping, and ethylene is the natural chemical that causes color change on the fruit, so they don't have to tell you that they added anything. If you want good produce, hit up a local farmer's market or go out and pick your own (and take some of the bruised ones!). You'll get much better quality, because you'll get it closer to being truly ripe!

      2. Bug girl, it's not that we are superficial but our brains. Our brain takes all available senses to form taste, so what we see influences our taste, including color.  As I said way up top in my comment, I also think we should get rid of the dye, but it has been done and studied, and people associate different tastes with the color (crystal Pepsi anyone?).  Keeping the dye in just keeps us in the cycle, but there is a reason it's done.

  28. Although, I gotta say, some of the comments here have been shockinly unskeptical. :/  I'm not a vegan, but I used to be vegetarian.  I also wonder if non-vegetarians/vegans can see how evangelical they can be sometimes. As someone said, by very virtue of living where you are, you're in a privileged position.  You can choose to eat whatever you want.  I don't get why people have to be so fucking judgemental about a person's diet.  We're all chosing to be here to fight the good fight for skepticism and feminism.  How do you not see that you're incorporating some of the dismissive attitudes that are rife in the community [towards veganism]? I haven't seen a single 'crazy hippie' here advocating for the movement, and yet… we all jump on the bandwagon and dismiss their platform? Sounds awfully similar to Richard Dawkins's attitude to Rebecca after elevatorgate.

  29. Nice article, Bug Girl. I would be interested to see a comparison of the environmental impacts of cochineal dye versus petroleum-based dye.
    Re: some of the comments, I think it's really crappy to point out someone's privilege merely as a way of discrediting their opinion or experience. I'm an omnivore, but I don't doubt that in the US and in other countries (third world, even), a vegan diet is less expensive that one with animal products. This doesn't include imitation animal products, and it may be that in less-privileged countries it's harder to get sufficient nutrition on a strictly vegan diet. Historically, a diet rich in animal products has been a privilege, at least in western society.
    Even if the mention of privilege doesn't technically boil down to an ad hominem, I think it is purposely inflammatory and adds nothing to the discussion.
    I personally believe that the distinction between animals and non-animals is to some degree arbitrary; not all members if the kingdom possess the traits that most of us empathize with in familiar animals. A jellyfish is an animal, and possesses only a rudimentary nervous system; it's unlikely that it feels pain, and given its lifestyle (free-floating, limited to no directional mobility) it's hard to see how pain would benefit it evolutionarily. However, people who want to abstain from animal products would prefer to err on the side of caution, so I won't fault them for avoiding all members of the kingdom. Veganism/vegetarianism are value judgements, and there is a level at which we cannot rationally argue against them, but simply agree to disagree. I think there are situations where animal products are "greener" than alternatives, but my beliefs are different than those of most veg*ns. They value the lives of animals over some other considerations, and I can't rationally argue them out of that position.

    1. People automatically assume that farmed plants have less of an environmental impact than farmed animals. That depends on how great the demand is, and whether or not the plants are being grown in an area they should be. Sugar cane is a terrific example of a plant that is sometimes considered an eco-disaster. Here in the U.S., it's done terrific damage to the Everglades. That damage may equal permanent change.

      As I mentioned earlier, insects present a good ecological option partially because of their rate of reproduction. I read a bit about the exact scale insects used to create carmine, and their life cycle allows for four harvests in one plot per year (3 months to maturity with year round accessibility). Most sweet corn takes 60 to 90 days, but can only be grown part of the the year (one harvest). The insects may be a better crop, especially for water conservation as they feed on cacti. I have no way to immediately compare them to petroleum products except to say that they are both a renewable resource and other than allergy (for which I already noted labelling should be required) present little health threat. Meanwhile, petroleum products contain many known carcinogens and are an accepted health threat.
      Even multicellular creatures can bend the rules on "what is a plant or animal"? Sea slugs are capable of photosynthesis, but we readily accept them into the Animal Kingdom. Here's a fantastic article article in defence of the plants, and giving them voice which they cannot do for themselves, or can they?
      Acacia trees in Africa were found to communicate with one another via ethylene (yes, again, ethylene) gas. They can't speak to us, but they apparently spoke to each other, and it ended up killing antelopes! We assume that plants are passive, but that simply isn't so. Plants don't function the way we do, but when we tear into one, it responds.

  30. Here's an amusing blog by a vegan that expresses how many people (including the vegan author) feel about vegans and how they obsess and perseverate over their choice to be a vegan. In my opinion some vegans are very deserving of the mocking and jokes made at their expense. And if you're going to be strident and confrontive about your ideas you will have a very hard time if you have thin skin. Clearly the militant and obnoxious vegans make it more difficault for the rational and reasonable vegans to get a fair hearing when the topic comes up.

    1. I haven't seen any militant vegans in this thread at all.  I have, on the other hand, seen some militant omnivores.
      I have to agree with others that some of the comments in this thread are disappointing in their lack of skepticism and their judgmental tone. It's like there needs to be a vegetarian/vegan equivalent to "mansplaining." The use of privilege as a "shut-up word" is quite bothersome, too. I think many of you need to take a step back and look at some of the cognitive biases you have going on with this topic.
      (BTW, I'm not currently vegetarian or vegan, though I have been thinking more about it lately.)

      1. The link just reminds me too much of these "How do me a feminist guys still want to fuck!" columns that crop up now and then. 

          1. Also a lot of 'How dare you worry about animal suffering when there are starving people in the world!', which sounds a lot like 'How dare you worry about sexual harrassment when women are being stoned to death!'

    2. Strident? That's the same kind of terminology that I hear aimed 'feminazis'.  How do you not the see the same pattern of behavior geared towards women or vegans? 

      1. “Strident? That's the same kind of terminology that I hear aimed (at) 'feminazis'.”

        Not from me.

        “ How do you not the see the same pattern of behavior geared towards women or vegans?” 

        I used the term strident (“: characterized by harsh, insistent, and discordant sound <a strident voice>; also : commanding attention by a loud or obtrusive quality <strident slogans>) because it’s a great word and provides an accurate description of how some people behave. I’m not sure how my use of that word can reasonably be construed to mean that I'm similarly dismissive, as some certainly are, of feminist issues. Eating meat is a choice, however misogyny and the hatred and discounting of women is an endemic social problem deeply rooted in most cultures that harms everyone. Apples and oranges, no?  I would never try to talk someone out of being a vegan or a vegetarian, and I respect most choices people make as part of a rational and ethical lifestyle. However if someone’s veganism means that they’re going to get in my/your face or behave in an obnoxious or criminal manner to further their agenda…, strident is the least of what I might call them. When it comes to misogyny, and the subjugation/discrimination of women I'm all for not being respectful of people’s narrow, ignorant and harmful opinions.

  31. I am a little late to the conversation, and most of my concerns have been addressed, but I just wanted to add my voice to those that are concerned about the vegan bashing.  I am an omnivore, but I understand the ethical concerns of vegans.  I think the people that have posted here need to reflect on their posts and analyze them critically.  I wonder if any of the Skepchicks are vegetarian and would be willing to write a post about this.  
    In the meanwhile:

    1. Actually, Rebecca is a vegetarian, and may also be a vegan–I haven't checked lately. I think at least 1 or 2 other skepchicks are vegetarian/vegans.
      I'm obviously an omnivore, but I try to eat low on the food chain/local as much as possible for carbon footprint/water conservation reasons. I maybe eat meat 1 or two times a month, max. And that includes counting insects as meat :)
      They definately are animals.

      1. Okay, you've made me curious, so you must tell me: what bugs do you eat and what cuisine do you make from them?

  32. One more thing: Food CHOICE is a privilege. Not vegetarianism. not meat-eating, but the ability to choose one or the other.

    1. Definitely. I am greatful that I am this priviliged to be able to chose to be vegan. Most of the "you are privilidged!" comments aren't meant matter-of-factly, though. It implies more than that. That I'm more priviliged than other people in this thread, in my country, etc, who choose not to be vegan. I hardly think you will find many people who want to beat up starving children for eating meat when they get a chance to eat it. 
      I was actually just thinking that while watching Hunger Games. I would definitely eat birds and fish if I had to. But then again, I also think I'd eat human flesh if it was the only source of nutrients available to me. 

          1. @ihatemusic I'm agreeing. There's no argument that people who have choices are privileged, and no argument that global hunger has anything to do with being vegan or vegetarian.
            This whole thing went down the rabbit hole pretty fast.

    2. Food CHOICE is a privilege. Not vegetarianism. not meat-eating, but the ability to choose one or the other.

      That's the point I was trying to make, less than successfully it seems. I'm more privileged than many of my neighbors, but I see how they live. I know how close it is to the nearest fresh fruits and veggies, the closest good quality meat and poultry and seafood. It isn't just that they can't choose to be vegan, they often don't have any really good food choices at all. Most of us here don't bat an eye at spending $3 on a coffee or $4 on a sandwich, but there are people who have to figure out how to make a meal for the whole family of five on that $7. So the Starbucks customers whining about having an insect-based food die in their $7 worth of frappie-crappie and pie come off as entitled asshats to me. 
      I don't know how much a balanced vegan meal costs per head, but I know you can feed your whole family for $7 worth of mac and cheese, a couple of cans of tuna, and a can of peas. For a lot of people, and more and more people every day in the current economy, that's just the best they can do. I'm privileged because I can replace most of the day's calories with beer and ramen. :)

      1. Yeah, and someone mentioned that it was cheap eating produce.  I don't know where they're shopping, but where I'm from, produce is actually the providence of the more middle-class. If you're piss poor, the best you can hope for is frozen or canned. 

        1. That was me, because I ate canned produce, rice & beans, cornmeal, and any produce on sale in the few years that I was piss poor.  I'm still not sure how meat is somehow cheaper than that?

          1. It isn't.  I wasn't trying to make that point. I was trying to say that there's [dietary] privilege all around us. And it's not just in the providence of vegan/vegetarianism. I agree with you.

        2. Frozen veg are better than canned – and in some cases better than  fresh. Usually frozen stuff is picked, then flash frozen, saving nutrients from decomposition and exposure to other stuff. Truth be told frozen veg do degrade over time, but any vegetable/fruit whether canned/frozen or fresh is better than none at all.

  33. Can I please ask everyone to:
    A. Name names so it's clear who you are responding to; and
    B. Take a step back and stop calling each other names over FOOD.  You are better than this. 

    1. It's not really about food only, if it were it would be much easier. It's tied in with morality and philosophical convictions. 

        1. :) Well, I hope I haven't said anything rude. Was never my intent.

          I've been continuing the discussion of insect-food/dye production because it's actually big business for some countries, and you'd probably be surprised at how much of it gets used. It's not bad ecologically, especially in desert climates, where produce crops are hard to grow and use execessive water. In my most recent hunting around, I found something interesting. Starbucks SHOULD have labelled their product to include the information that carmine was included in the drink. In 2009, a new U.S. law was passed requiring labelling for carmine (due to allergies) and it became active 24 months after January 5, 2009. So, if they released the drink with the new formula, they were supposed to update their nutritional guide, and should have posted an allergy warning.
          As far as the plant v. animal discussion goes: I think it's important whenever someone makes a purely moral decision that impacts their life, that they understand just what that moral decision means. Science more and more finds that plants and animals aren't as disalike as people want to believe. Especially in the ocean and microscopically, there's quite a bit of crossover and confusion. Plants are alien to us, but they are still living entities that respond to attack, can communicate, evolve, and some even work with animals for defense and success. To assume that always eating a plant is taking the moral highground is, in my opinion, a bit closedminded.

          1. That's the thing, nobody was claiming any moral high ground. Nobody was trying to convince anyone to give up meat. It was like a pre-emptive omnivore strike to try and make vegans and vegetarians look stupid. There are rude, holier-than-thou types of every concievable stripe, but assuming that all vegans are self-important moralizers is just plain insulting. Atheists get a little defensive when those types of preconceptions about preachy, smug atheists get spread around, too.

          2. Technically, the cochineal labeling rule only went into effect in 2010–long story.
            Anyway,  Starbucks did have it labeled clearly on the jug that the baristas used that cochineal was used. They just didn't tell anyone else.
            Like the customers that were expecting it to be vegan.
            That is a major issue.

  34. Plus, for me it was the smug-intersect of Vegan and Starbucks, which acts like a smug multiplier. Put a vegan with a cup of Starbucks in some hemp pants and driving a Prius to the farmer's market, and I start losing my cool even worse than normal… 

  35. Looks like reciting "first-world problems" is the new "straw man" or "you're priviliged" — a way to try to shut down somebody's argument preemtively without having to do any work. Glancing over Skepchick, I see all kinds of "first-world problems," like whether women can play at the Augusta golf course. Guess what? The first world is where most of the commenters here live!
    I'm a vegetarian. Obviously it's impossible to live without harming SOME suffering to other organisms. However, I found this statement to be convincing: "It is a Good Thing, ethically speaking, for us to go through life causing as little suffering among fellow creatures as we can without undermining our own comfort and happiness."  In other words, whenever we act, we should seek to balance any pain and suffering which our action may cause, against what ease and comfort in our own lives we would sacrifice if we chose NOT to perform this act.
    That philosophy gibed so closely with what I already believed about ethics that I couldn't see how NOT to begin applying it my meals.  If I was driving down the road at ten miles an hour, and a cat walked in front of my car in such a way that I could easily avoid it, it was clearly ethical to avoid hitting it. How was not eating meat when perfectly good alternatives were available any different? 
    With this as my position, I didn't have to feel guilty about the bugs that splatted on my window as I drove down the highway.  But I had to ask myself was whether the comfort and happiness which I had from eating part of a particular animal was worth the pain and suffering which my act of participating in its killing caused. With plenty of alternatives available, the answer was, clearly not.

    1. Do you really feel silenced? Do you think anyone here has been silenced? You typed a whole lot of words for someone who can't get a word in edgewise… :)
      More importantly, when I (just me, I can't speak for anyone else) say "first world problems" I am only mocking the level of complaint, while I acknowledge that there is room for complaint. And I also complain because although "the first world is where most of us live" it isn't true that we have a homogenized existence. Half of the households in the USA live on less than $50,000 a year pre-tax. Frankly, I don't care about a country club, or Starbucks' menu, or even the corporate "glass ceiling." If you can afford to join a country club, if you consume enough Starbucks for you to care one way or the other, or make so much money and have gotten so many raises that you're butting up against the "glass ceiling"… well, congrats, you're rich and lucky enough and we'll get to your problems when we've dealt with the life and death issues.  
      If you're vegan by choice in the USA, you've probably got every possible dietary choice available in the world today. If you accidentally eat a non-vegan food, you're getting more-or-less exactly the same calories and nutrients and you're just violating a voluntary and arbitrary self-imposed rule. That's just one step away from complaining about the casting of the Hunger Games movies or that The Walking Dead TV show sort of sucks. 

      1. Actually, most of the US lives on less than $28,000/year. I know a lot of folks that would be excited to make $50K, including me.
        Edited to add–oh, sorry–you mean median. I was going with average.

        1. No, that's cool… :) I was going for median household, and I think you're going on median per person maybe?
          Median black household income is under $32000. Let's see some Starbucks vegan tell that household how to plan their diet?

          1. That's the thing. None of the vegetarian or vegan people have tried to tell anyone else how to eat in this thread. Talk about a straw argument.

          2. Also, I take issue with the whole "starbucks vegan" thing.  I was raised vegatarian as an effect of having an Indian parent who valued her culture and she imparted the love and respect of Indian culture to me as well, so it's not some trendy thing for me dude, it's part of my heritage.  And punchdrunk aparently was on foodstamps at one point in her life.  So yeah, forgive us if we get a little fresh with you for labeling us all as trendy "starbucks vegans".  I find it pretty insulting that you think that it's okay to throw some blanket stereotype on a group of people like that. 

      2. Dude, we're not telling a poor black family how to plan their diet, that's a strawman.  And secondly, I don't think most vegans are complainingly passionately about whether or not Starbucks uses bugs, we're complaining about people going to special lengths to bash us.
        //saying "you're priviliged" is a way to try to shut down somebody's argument preemtively without having to do any work. Glancing over Skepchick, I see all kinds of "first-world problems,"
        This is more what we're concerned about.  Frankly, I've seen you personally Joe rant and rave passionately about all kinds of first world problems (ones that aren't feminism related), but suddenly when its vegan, it's more priveleged & more of a first world problem than other things you seem to care about?  The problem we have with your arguments is that you're being pretty selective in who you're singling out to call priveleged and "first-world".  It's the priveleged calling out the priveleged.

        1. We cross-posted each other. I agree except that I don't think it's really about privilege. It's about using the concept of privilege to try to shut people up.
          Joe, the thing that makes me think that this is not a good faith argument on your part is that you say you agree with the person above that food choice is a privilege, but then you continue to talk about vegans as if they're the only ones with privilege. You're arguing against straw vegans in this thread.

      3. I don't know any rich vegans myself, for what it's worth. I always assumed the priviliged part was supposed to be because we have a chance to be educated enough to choose not not buy animal products. At least here in Berlin Soy Milk costs the same as other shops. I shop only in discounters. I live on 7200 Euros a year (thats, 9600 us dollars?), that's from working next to university and 170 euros child support. I pay 400 euros rent so that leaves me 200 euros a month for everything. So again, I am priviliged that I can chose these things, but that doesn't mean I go to an Co-op everyday and buy tons of raw chocolate. 

  36. Posted by annabolic: "I'm vegan because I have very good evidence that organisms with central nervous systems can experience suffering. Full stop."
    They suffer more than being boiled alive or eaten alive as you do with plants? And you have non-subjective proof? And this is worse than milking a cow? Because most vegans I know would not consume milk or butter. Because the cows suffer being milked? How about eggs? What is the moral objection to fresh eggs from my neighbor's hen coops? That does not kill the chicken, but my brocolli stir-fry sure as heck kills the broccoli.
    Perhaps people get upset with vegans because they pull a bogus mantle of superiority over themselves?

    1.  I wonder, quite seriously, is it ok for annabolic to eat jellyfish? 
      Arguments like the one about central nervous systems making a difference to suffering is why I posted the story about the acacia trees in Africa. It's not pseudoscience. Clearly they repsonded to the threat of being over-nibbled during a massive drought. They even communicated with one another about it. We really don't understand plants as well as we like to think we do. They may be alien to us, and they may not feel pain in the way we do, but they are living organisms that respond to attack, and we eat them without remorse. The Guardian asked its readers the question "Do Plants Feel Pain?" Here are the responses.,,-83446,00.html

      1. Seriously "Plants Feel Pain"??  That IS psuedoscience and bullshit of the highest order.
        I will leave you the burden of proof to give me a sceintific consesus somewhere that plants actually do feel pain (a single study is NOT scientific consensus).  The current science is on our side, and I seriously can't believe a bunch of skeptics are using pseudoscience (Namely: PLANTS FEEL PAIN) to validate their cognitive bias.

    2. Cows can and do suffer from being milked – and factory farmed milk production leads right into veal. Many cows used for milk in factory farm situations (where most purchased milk probaby comes from) – are artificially inseminated (over and over) and have their calves taken from them so they produce milk for human consumption.  Cows "raised" in this industry have 1/5 of the lifespan they would if raised by a small local farm or if living in the wild.

      1. I am not actually sure how cows are relevant here.
        I can tell you that as someone who has worked at a dairy, it is SAFER for the cows to be artificially inseminated than to use a bull.   
        Most male calves born do go to feeder farms to become beef, but rarely veal, mainly because veal is usually a different breed of cow.  I won't defend veal at all, nor will I defend feedlots.  They are not sustainable, nor kind to the animal.
        But dairy–you have some misconceptions there.
        In general, small dairy farms are switching to a much more sustainable pasture model, and also letting cows keep their calves for longer periods. I encourage everyone to support their local small dairy!

    3. //"I'm vegan because I have very good evidence that organisms with central nervous systems can experience suffering. Full stop."//
      Why does this threaten you SO much?  It's our choice of food for our own reasons, is there some reason why you feel the need to rage against us for it?

  37. dr. dr. professeor posts that, "In India most estimates place 1/4-1/3 of people in India as either vegetarian or vegan, if the # is closer to 1/3, then there are more vegetarians in India than there are people in the United States.  So it's pretty ridiculous to think of it as just some fancy first world thing."
    Without noting that A) there are religious objections for many Indians against eating meat and, B) there is a lot of poverty in India and meat is relatively expensive because it is not as efficient a nutrient source as plants. It is just possible that vegetarianism in India is driven by economic reality combined with made-up religious injunctions that might have *their* origins in economic reality.
    Well, you know, that or they are good and people in the USA are bad… whatever.

    1. @ FinnMcR  I don't see a 'bogus mantle of superiority' in annabolic's comment.
      And I don't see where dr. dr. professor was making a moral comparison between people in India and people in the USA. You seem to have missed the point of that comment rather badly.

    2. I agree with punchdrunk. And I would like to see what evidence you have that Hindu views about eating meat are based on economics and not religion.

      1. Will, I think the point they were trying to make is that the Hindu religion evolved to reflect economic and environmental constraints.
        I can see that happening in the Middle eastern Jewish/Muslim bans on pork, which contains tapeworms and some other fairly nasty human parasites.

        1. Yeah I can see how that makes sense to white people who have never been there.  Grrr.. so much talk about challenging privelege here, and then we switch issues and all of a sudden people lose their sense of it (and now I'm talking about making blind assumptions about Indian culture, not vegetarianism).

        2. I mean seriously guys, saying "vegetarianism happens because Indians are poor" sounds to me like "Black people like fried chicken because there are so many KFCs in the hood".  I'm literally hearing "if they could afford meat, they'd act like us".
          It just smacks so much of cultural superiority. 

        3. I know exactly what point they were trying to make, and I am asking them to provide evidence to back up that claim. It sounds like a "just-so" story to me. How can you possibly demonstrate that the Hindu religion "evolved" to reflect economic constraints? Ecological influences are only a little more understandable, but that was not part of hir original point and is something you've tacked on.
          The thing is, these arguments have been mostly dismissed in anthropology. Marvin Harris basically argued the same thing above back in the 1970s: that taboos against cattle in India and pork in the Middle East arose as cultural ecological responses, not out of religious beliefs. Yet, he never visited India or the Middle East, never talked to people who live there about what they're doing and why they're doing it, and he built his argument on assumptions about those places–much as people in this thread are doing. There's plenty of criticism out there against this line of thinking.
          Really what we are talking about here is food taboos. The idea that these taboos arise primarily out of economics seems to me to be quite absurd. Do you really believe our own taboos against eating horses, dogs, and bugs arise primarily out of economics or ecology? If so, you're going to have to do a better job explaining how and provide some evidence to back that claim up.

          1. I agree with you that it is entirely a just-so story, Will.
            I was trying to get this "discussion" to be a bit less about people yelling by pulling out one point that I thought we could discuss without name calling.
            I give up. 

          2. I don't think it's fair to call pointed challenges to people's unsubstantiated claims "name-calling" (though I certainly do see a fair share of name-calling going on elsewhere in the thread).

    3. //It is just possible that vegetarianism in India is driven by economic reality combined with made-up religious injunctions that might have *their* origins in economic reality.//
      I'm sorry, but excuse me white man?  Are you really pretending that you know better than Indians why people in India are vegetarian? 
      I mean do get what you're saying, they're vegetarian because they're a bunch poor brown people.  I can see how that makes total sense from a white American's perspective.

    4. //A) there are religious objections for many Indians against eating meat//
      Oh I certainly did not note it as the primary factory.
      //It is just possible that vegetarianism in India is driven by economic reality combined with made-up religious injunctions that might have *their* origins in economic reality.//
      I love your tone here.  You're citing your own randomly conceived possibility as the most probable cause.   And basically saying.
      – "If they didn't believe in make-believe, they'd eat meat just like us westerners"
      – These religious beliefs arose cause they are so poor.
      Pretty racist stuff.

  38. I'm stunned, this story has close to two hundred comments already.  Who thought bug juice was so interesting!

  39. "//It is just possible that vegetarianism in India is driven by economic reality combined with made-up religious injunctions that might have *their* origins in economic reality.//

    I'm sorry, but excuse me white man? Are you really pretending that you know better than Indians why people in India are vegetarian?

    I mean do get what you're saying, they're vegetarian because they're a bunch poor brown people. I can see how that makes total sense from a white American's perspective."
    Well, the first thing I'd ask is are the upper class vegetarian?  Are the common people vegetarian because the upper class take all the meat for themselves like they traditionally have almost everywhere else? 
    And maybe India is not a good example anyway as they're vegetarianism is due to their religion much of the time? 

  40. OK, I actually caught up with part of the thread ans see that alot of my last statement is off topic and already addressed.  Sorry 'bout that.

  41. As for Hinduism evolving to not eat cows; The current theory on the Jewish prohibition against eating pork is it was adopted to separate themselves from the other surrounding Cannanite peoples.  I think they adopted the other Kosher prohibitions from their contact with Zoroastrianism, but that's a another debate.   
    The Amish men don't grow mustaches or wear buttons to separate themselves from the military officers and  aristocracy who oppresed them in the old country.
    I could easily see the Hindu refusing to eat cows to separate themselves from the Aryan conquerers.

    1. //I could easily see the Hindu refusing to eat cows to separate themselves from the Aryan conquerers.//
      Aryan Conquerers….?  Hindus separating themselves? *Facepalm*.
      Okay, I give up talking with people who make wild generalizations about cultures they know nothing about.  I leave it at the fact that I think it's pretty insulting to think that just if they were rich, they'd act like Westerners.  Pretty west-o-centric views people seem to have here.

      1. OK, someone brought up the question of whether a culture could evolve to be vegetarian for religious reasons.  I sited a couple examples.  Please take a deep breath and correct me.  I may have been raised in Indian culture but I know some basics. 

        1. Well the correct way to investigate something like that would to do some significant research on it instead of wildly guessing based on your limited, secondhand experience of the culture.  Also, the whole argument was brought up to try and counter claims of vegetarians that you and others disagree with.  Investigating your postulate of scientific curiosity would be the correct way to go about it, investigating it to prove an agenda would probably lead to a highly biased interpretation. 
          The Indian religion is quite complex.  When Heina says Islam contains a variety of beliefs, Hinduism probably has 20 times more different beliefs and traditions.  Some sects eat meat and some do not, it all depends on what particular piece of the many Indian religious texts they follow and how they interpret it.  It's kind of complex how it arose and I'll try to find a good article that gives a clear picture of how/why it did.  In short though, before a certain point in Indian history, there was not a lot of religious law against meat eating and it's believed vegetarianism in this period was not widely practiced.  However, around 500BCE or so Buhhdism and Jainism (both Indian born religions) started to have massive influence on the population (in part because Hinduism had a structure that was not kind to the common people) and both religions stressed nonviolence to animals as a major tenent of their beliefs. As a result a lot of Hindus actually incorporated this into their own religion and two religious epics arose afterwards which coded these fairly new beliefs into new scripture (the most important being the Bhavgavat-gita, a book of the Mahabarata).  So a very large number of sects follow this scripture that prescribes non-violence towards animals, but of course, because of the extremely complex history of Hinduism, certainly not all do.  You can find people who believe wildly different things (like vastly more different than the differences in Mormon and Evangelical theology) and still be considered Hindu.
          So basically vegetarianism didn't arise out of poverity as people here tried to insinuate, but instead because other religions which preached vegetarianism became popular and stuck in Hindu theology.  Compassion for animals literally became encoded into scripture and people went more vegetarian.  So ya, this is why I'm aggrivated when without doing any research on Indian culture, people try to project their own culture as the natural way people would do things if they just weren't so poor.
          It's insulting.

          1. dr. dr. professor: Thank you for that info. 
            I still have some disagreements with your arguments but this probably isn't the right place for that.

  42. The comments in this post are a huge disappointment. I'm a longtime lurking reader and I registered just to say that the bias against vegans/vegetarians, and the application of ridiculous arguments against the lifestyle and against vegans themselves is upsetting and not what I would expect to see from skeptics. I am glad that there are a number of people who posted in response with reasoned positions.

  43. I rhink the place where you create a username lets you link a web site to your name.  Lots of people use this to link their blogs to every post..  I think this is SOP and no one will mind at all.

  44. The comments here are so depressing. It baffles me why there seems to be so much outrage that vegans/vegetarians want to be able to make a choice about which animal products they want to eat or not eat based on their own preferences/beliefs (religious or non-religious). Recently some omnivores wanted to decide whether they were OK with eating pink slime. I certainly hope they were not expected to explain the origins of a world religion and the scientific classification of living organisms in order to obtain information on which products contain pink slime.
    It all seems pretty simple to me – there should be sufficient labeling on products to allow people to make up their own minds about whether they want to consume a product or not (for whatever reason). Starbucks should probably have been more pro-active in informing their customers about a change of an ingredient that potentially made the product unacceptable for some customers.
    To me the real question seems to be: how much information about ingredients do we want and what is the responsibility of the manufacturer/supplier when ingredients change?

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