Nature is an ecoterrorist!

“The fruit tree gives me my food and I give back the seeds to nature so other seeds can grow,” writes one vegetarian. Yes, but he isn’t giving back the seeds to nature.

Keith displays here a kind of tunnel vision I find absolutely repugnant, and it’s almost universal among the evo-psych set: nothing in life matters unless it’s reproduction. Quality of life doesn’t matter, only quantity; makin’ babies and spreading your genes. Taken from a primitivist viewpoint—even a viewpoint that does not surgically remove emotion, inner health, empathy and community from nature—this is a horrifying ideology, and it is fundamentally sociopathic: people—again, those who experience their life—are important to nature only in how they can create more.

For someone like us, Aslan and I, who have lived as far outside of civilization as is possible right now in a region humans aren’t native to, it’s obvious. Outside of a system that obsesses over and is terrified of death and will do anything to forestay its touch—exterminating predators, medical intervention, legislation against suicide, assisted euthanasia and abortion—happiness is vital to health and survival. Unhappy animals do not thrive. They get sick; they are slow and unaware of their surroundings from depression; they don’t eat properly and become weak; they may even die straight off in a “failure to thrive.” That unhappy animals have so much stacked against them suggests that happiness, community and joy are a fucking powerful evolutionary imperative.

Keith’s beliefs also portray a profound misunderstanding of nature and life, despite her claims to the contrary. One can understand how the drive towards continuity is embedded in ecosystems and DNA: they are, after all, still here, which after so much time suggests that the tactics employed by these systems are significantly successful.

But continuity is not served by rapaciousness. This is why plague species pass through; they don’t stay stuck in one place forever, or they’d end up killing everything. Overpopulation runs directly counter to the interests of any species—it destroys their ecosystem, and ain’t a species in the world that can live without an ecosystem, not even you. In fact, Keith’s own criticism of that uncited and unnamed vegan’s post points this out:

On the ruminant side of the fence, the wildebeests and friends will reproduce as effectively as ever. … The animals will outstrip their food source, eat the plants down to the ground, and then starve to death, leaving behind a seriously degraded landscape.

I can do it more succinctly. In two words, in fact, without any fuss: “dung beetles.” WHERE IS YOUR PREDATOR/PREY DICHOTOMY NOW?

This is something that many people who fancy themselves scientifically-minded don’t grasp: the ecosystem can only function as a whole. A community is made up of individuals, but the community only functions with the input of all those individuals—democrats will definitely find this true. At the same time, the consideration demanded of all those individuals by the community doesn’t diminish in importance or scope their quality of life.

An ecosystem belongs to all animals who live within it; at the same time, those animals belong to the ecosystem, bound not just by their need for it but for other animals’ need for the same. Keith speaks of kas-limaal, “mutual indebtedness, mutual insparkedness,” but she never seems to understand just how unspeakably complicated that is; she just uses it as an excuse to insult vegans and rationalize what she has always been doing, just to a greater degree: the real fucking harm to real fucking people really fucking experiencing that harm.

One more thing before the next paragraph. An obsession with propagation is colonialist, because that is what Keith’s suggesting here: that for every fruit that’s eaten, six or more (!) trees should be planted to “pay back” the deal. And again, that’s unsustainable even without human interference. Colonization of the entire fucking Earth is not something anything but a sociopath—or an uncritical follower of the ideology of human supremecism—ever thinks of as realistic.

Why are humans allowed to take without giving?

Because humans like to believe they’re fucking superior to everything in the world; we’ve even designed most of our religions off of it. Keith definitely did, complete with “High Priest” Joel Salatin. The idea that humans are superior to nature and other animals is a fucking poison just like other prejudices that justify the subjugation and property status of others. Oh, wait. She was being rhetorical. I see.

Too bad. Keith has an absolutely warped idea of “giving” in the first place—her idea of “giving” to farmed animals (because, again, she is not advocating for a return to nature; she is advocating for “nice” and “sustainable” animal farming) is food and shelter. For that, she will take their lives, their children, their health, their freedom, their right to live naturally in their own territory and their right to live and die by their own means: the right for immediate death to not be an inevitability.

No matter what, the animals Keith supposedly respects as equals are treated as property. She doesn’t intend for them to ever be able to like, resist her and not end up dead or milked—that’s counter to the way she runs her game. It’s the same reason supposedly “respecting-nature” hunters use high powered rifles and high-tech bows: they don’t want to actually, you know, live naturally as predators, including getting your jaw broken from the prey you’re trying to take down. Keith knows what she wants and she wants the whole thing rigged.

Isn’t that called exploitation?

YOU ARE WEARING LEATHER SHOES?!?!?!?!?!!1eleventy

Fruit isn’t, as claimed, “the only freely given food.”

I’ll note that Keith has one citation here for the quote, but nothing for her outrageous claim that trees “want” all their seeds to germinate and grow—a logical impossibility in more than one way. This also makes her claim of a supposed “vegan” on a “vegan message board” who posted about putting up a fence in the Serengeti more conspicuously without citation.

She can provide a citation for an obvious claim, but not a dubious one. That’s… backwards.

Keith continues going on about how the entire point of a tree’s life is reproduction, yawn, like I haven’t heard that from pro-rape evo psychs. I’ll point out that the sprout ratio of a tree’s fruit is extremely low in nature, again. Oh hey, I found something hilarious:

And we take that offspring, in its swaddling of sweetness, and kill it.

AHAHAHAHAHA there is just nothing I can say about this. Next she’ll start going on about how carrots scream when I chop them up but I’m just too callous and not drunk enough meanhearted to hear it! This is especially glaring when she’s talking about killing individuals with actual nervous systems who can actually feel and actually object to what she wants to do with them.

im in ur orchard eetin ur bebbeez, sweet dlishus swaddlez n all

This is not what vegetarians want to hear, at least not the ones I’m calling moral vegetarians.

Well, it’s not what anyone who hasn’t starved themselves for decades would call an argument, so yeah, I wouldn’t want to see this kind of crap come up in any kind of non-comedy book. But other than that, no, please keep going—this is gold!

But the moral argument is the clarion call that rallies most vegetarians to the cause. It’s what kept me unable to examine or even question my vegan diet, despite all evidence that my health was failing.

No, Lierre. It’s not the ethical considerations that kept you from questioning your vegan diet—it’s that you don’t question things. I’ve questioned the diet I was eating when I’ve run into health problems; it’s why I won’t eat candy with artificial coloring, or artificial sweeteners, and why I decided to limit myself to one bowl of ramen a day if I eat any ramen. Artificial coloring spikes my anxiety/agitation level; artificial sweeteners give me crippling stomach pain; more than one bowl of ramen makes me exude salt, or something salty, from my pores and also makes my skin unmanageably papery—though not flaky.

People who don’t question their behavior when something is going wrong are not very smart people. Lierre Keith just compounded the problem by starving her brain of the carbohydrates it needed to effectively process and question information. She still is, actually, which is why this is such a trainwreck.

I wanted to believe that my life—my physical existence—was possible without killing, without death.

So Keith believed a really stupid ideological facet of civilization—that death is bad, terrifying, horrible. To counteract that, she started actively pursuing the other side of that myth—that because death is bad, terrifying and horrible, you have to inflict it on as many other people as possible to protect yourself from it.

No, seriously. Brown rice and soy (and bingeing on eggs and dairy) didn’t work for her, so her obvious solution is instead to eat a diet comprised almost entirely of animal products. What’s missing here? Would it be, perhaps, the questioning of beliefs?

These lead right to the second problem: there are no apples in nature. Apples are domesticated. Apples started as Malus sieversii, in the mountains of Kazakhstan and, once upon a time, they were bitter.

… This is true of most domestic fruits. Their progenitors are almost inedible by humans.

… Um… okay. That’s not actually true; apples have existed all over the world, similar to potatoes, because the fact of the matter is just that they are very good at serving the ecosystems they live within. It is an exercise in navel-gazing to find out where a food “came from” because, ultimately, nature doesn’t work like that—and Keith has proven once again that she doesn’t understand nature.

Hell, she doesn’t even provide a citation. Again, the Keith method of citation: provide them for obvious claims, but not for the most egregious and least credulous ones.

Furthermore, she seems to be suggesting the argument that if apples were selectively bred by humans from this state (which is a big fucking assumption, because why would humans bother with such an unappetizing food in the first place?), all other fruits must therefore have undergone the same process. And I would like to point to a vast continuum of individual “heirloom” varieties of fruits and nature present even in nature—including, especially, crabapples, which are fucking amazingly tasty (if a bit tough) when picked at ripeness. Bananas are a hybrid of two trees not native to human habitat; I never claimed otherwise. I am also not claiming that because bananas were, then all others were. That’s stupid.

We have ample evidence that a) plant types rarely occur solely in one region and b) all species, whether animal or plant, show enormous “breed” variation with relatively minor geographic/weather variations. One only needs to look at humans to see this intense geographic differentiation, even!

And on top of that, hi, all farmed animals are domesticated. Can’t use the “it’s domesticated” argument just for plants; it’s not reasonable or coherent.

“The fruit tree gives me my food and I give back the seeds to nature so other trees can grow.” Really? Dare you. Because most trees that produce edible fruit—and definitely apples—don’t come from seeds. If you actually were to plant the seeds, most of the wildlings that sprouted would be unpalatable to humans. Fruit trees are grafted, not sprouted.

1. This is the second time she’s cited one sentence from one article—she’s seriously padding her citations to make this book look “intensively researched.”

2. THEN WHY THE FUCK WERE YOU GOING ON ABOUT HOW NOT PLANTING SEEDS MEANS YOU’RE “FAILING” THE TREE? THE FUCK, LADY. STOP WITH THE RED HERRING AND GET TO THE POINT ALREADY.

Doing those drawn-out bait-and-switch arguments make you look less credible, not moreso. If seeds are unimportant to a tree, then you shouldn’t construct an entire argument on how you need to plant the seeds—you can’t just compost them—to not be, I don’t know, ripping off the tree or whatever. An argument constructed off an irrelevant premise isn’t an “argument,” it’s a distraction.

FYI, the proper way to use that kind of argument is to give the refutation of the original, then say, “And even if that were true…” Even then, though, it wouldn’t save Keith’s argument—it’s just not really “rooted” in reality. *ducks*

3. If trees don’t come from seeds, then how do they spread in nature? (Some, like blackberries, grapes and raspberries, spread in a similar way to aspens—via root systems that may eventually split into two whole plants. But apples are not capable of this.)

4. “The wildlings wouldn’t be edible”? She doesn’t give a citation for this—she simply expects you to accept it and not question it. What a crock. Fortunately, I have absolute proof that she’s wrong.

Aslan’s raw vegan cousin came, like most of the rest of zeir family, from the southern U.S. And he grew peach trees, a humid-weather fruit more likely to appear in our native habitat than apples. Point of fact, actually, Robin [not his real name] grew peaches everywhere—they were an heirloom variety (most apples are not) and he would collect the seeds and bring them with him to hand out to neighbors and grow them wherever he landed to live.

That’s right, he grew peaches from seed, without grafting. And they were edible. So, Keith: come again?

This is why Keith shouldn’t talk in absolutes and dichotomies. She isn’t curious or honest enough to go looking for information that would give her an actual grasp on the subject, so she’s constantly asserting these ignorant, arrogant inaccuracies. It’s not hard to disprove an absolute, especially when so much of Keith’s argument is just banking on the fact that very few people will actually know better, or enough to question her.

5. Keith is right that most commercial fruit trees are grafted, but again, she’s making an argument from omission—either she doesn’t know herself why fruit trees are largely grafted, or she’s hoping you don’t. However, I am actually interested in plants and plant life and I love learning, so I know a bit on the topic.

Commercial fruit trees are grafted for many reasons.

First, it’s quicker and easier to get a fully-grown fruit tree from a graft—you won’t have to wait for it to grow from a seed, which is much more complicated.

Second, it’s less risky. Often, the host root—what the intended fruit-bearing plant is grafted onto—is already “established,” making it more stable and less likely to up and die. It’s also likely to be of a “sturdy” species and variety to add some extra stability and disease-resistance to a grafted plant. This is why graftings are done for many plants—roses, for example. My mother once bought a rose bush and the grafted-on part died after a few years; underneath was a peony, so it comes up peony every year now.

Third, often commercial fruit (and other plant) varieties are hybridized—meaning that two or more varieties were cross-bred. Hybrid seeds don’t “breed true” if they’re planted—they come up as one of the parents. Only grafting will produce a still-hybridized fruit. However, this should not be taken as evidence that all fruits are hybridized—for example, “heirloom” seeds come up true every time, which is why they’re so highly valued in some circles.

Fourth, seeds from fruit trees just don’t sprout very well. This is what I was talking about earlier—most seeds from fruit trees just aren’t fertile, because they were never all supposed to sprout. This is something that apparently goes way over Keith’s head—it’s sort of like hearing someone claim that your body intends for you to get pregnant every single time you have sex. Not according to the human body, no—given how low our sex:fertility:implantation:birth ratio is.

The “natural” food of humans doesn’t exist in nature. If we are now lost (and starving) in the inedible forest, maybe it’s because our moral map was wrong.

What is this unexplodey crap?

1. Even if apples don’t exist in a human-edible form naturally—which she hasn’t provided any evidence for—that doesn’t necessarily apply to the, literally, hundreds of fucking thousands of other fruit species in the world. Just because something is true for one thing doesn’t mean it’s true for everything else. I know this is an officially-recognized logical fallacy—I just can’t think of it off the top of my head.

In other words, apples and oranges, Keith.

*ducks*

2. If we’re lost and wandering in an inedible forest, it’s probably because we were stupid enough to move out of humans’ native habitat.

3. Or, alternately, that we followed Keith’s map. Sorry, but I seriously can’t trust anyone whose experience with veganism is “brown rice and soy” on how to eat.

To say there is a “freely given food” implies there is a giver—the tree, the cane, the stalk of wheat.

I agree with Keith here. I think that saying fruit is a “freely given food” is a bit over-the-top because, obviously, plants don’t have a nervous system to make any decisions with, much less with the ability to choose to give away food.

Instead, I prefer saying that naturally, eating fruits are a lot less energy-intensive than eating either grain, cane or animal product—the first two require farming for any significant amount and the third requires hunting, which we’d have to make weapons for since we haven’t actually evolved to be hunters, or we’d have to train ourselves for a long-ass time like the Masai.

So instead of saying that fruit is a “freely given food,” I can say that fruit is “a food that won’t require you to farm and/or step on you and kill you.” That makes more sense than the statement she keeps quoting, but it definitely makes more sense than Keith’s false equalization.

To believe in food that requires “No killing or theft from animal or plant” is to fail to recognize that the deaths of animals and plants are not equal and to be as dull and simplistic as I am.

No, sorry. She didn’t actually write that—I just couldn’t help myself. This is what she actually wrote:

To believe in food that requires “No killing or theft from animal or plant” is to recognize that plants and animals love their lives, and their body parts, whether fibrous or muscular.

Plants do not love their lives. They have no ability to feel because they have no nervous system. As such, they cannot love their body parts, either. I am unsure whether animals love their body parts, because that seems very odd and disordered to me, but I am quite sure that they don’t want to lose those body parts.

I am getting seriously irritated with how Keith keeps equating these two things without justifying it more than carnism-excusing spiritualistic mumbo-jumbo. And I am a fucking animist, here—I believe plants have souls, for the love of sweet potatoes!

She just keeps asserting that plants and animals are exactly the same—the same way she just asserted that humans were not ruminants and were therefore predatory carnivores like lions and hyenas. Just asserting this crap doesn’t make it true, but Keith seems to be hoping we’ll just ignore it—hoping that the fallacious combination of her sob story and the offered promise that you won’t be as stupid as those stupid childish vegans if you agree with her will make you uncritical enough to simply accept what she’s saying. We’ve been given this long-ass buildup of ad hominem to assure the reader that vegans are stupid so that said reader will eagerly side with Keith when she “debunks” the “vegan claims.”

I haven’t even covered the additional fact that eating animal products therefore kills many, many more plants than simply eating the plants themselves. Since we’ve already killed so much of the ecosphere, why not just convert all of that to farmland and completely abandon animal farming? Keith doesn’t offer an argument against this, because her argument isn’t against agriculture—it’s against plant agriculture and plant-based diets. She’s repeatedly supported animal farming, using animals that are not native to most of the world and destroy those ecosystems regardless.

But not their offspring? The argument fails right here. If we believe in their sentience, why not in the sentience of their babies?

Ugh.

Despite the royal “we,” I don’t believe in plant sentience, and I don’t know many vegans or fruitarians who do. This is like reading The Never-Ending Fallacy. Will it ever break into reasonableness? Who knows!? But probably not, because Lierre Keith is clearly trying very hard not to exit the realm of “complete fucking bullhonky.”

Keith’s argument failed a long time ago.

I’m done for today. All my Sanity Watchers points have been used up. Have at, folks.

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