How Sapiens convinced me to eat 80% vegan

In a recent article, I talked about how I could train myself to eat healthy on a consistent and effortless basis as it made me feel and perform better both physically and intellectually. I won’t expand on this here.

How Sapiens convinced me rationally

What leads me to eat 80% vegan is quite different from what led me to eat healthy. It is linked to ethics and how we treat animals.

I have always been aware of how we treat animals in our consumption society, there has been numerous documentaries showing the horrific conditions in which we treat and kills animals. I’m sure you are aware of this too. I just thought it was how it was meant to be.

I have just finished probably the most mind-opening book I have ever read: Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. It is often cited by successful people as their most recommended book, which convinced me to give it a go. It has really challenged my certitudes on what I considered as “normal” in our societies and made me realise the way we treat animals is not.

I tried to let go of my certitudes, of my education. I tried — and it’s not easy — to forget all the beliefs our modern society of consumption implanted deep into my head and I tried to have a fresh look. It became quite disturbing. I was supporting a system that tortures animals simply for the pleasure of what I was eating, and it didn’t sound right.

The parallel with slavery

Yuval Noah Harari draws a very interesting point. How we treat animals Today is very similar to slavery. The very bad treatment does not come from hatred, as it does with a genocide for example. We don’t torture a chicken because we want to, but simply because we see them as nothing more than a part of the production system.

"They live and die as cogs in the wheels of industrial agriculture”. — Yuval Noah Harari

The same used to apply with slaves. Slaves were considered as an asset, a cog in the machine. Of course, I understand that it is very different because slaves were human beings, but at the time, the masters did not consider them as such. Mammals also have emotional needs and pain.

One of the worst crimes in History?

I put myself in the shoes of a white man owning a cotton field in 1750 in the US. I would probably think according to my education and see slaves are cogs in my cotton production industry. If one dies, I replace it. I do the minimum to keep them working, but if they have a defect, I remove them. What are the odds that I would have started to feel it was wrong? Almost none, because this is how society would have conditioned me.

I can’t predict the future, but I think in 100 years, people will look at how we treated animals with the same judgement as we think about slavery Today. They will think “how could the whole world bear such a large-scale and established cruelty?”. Maybe they will see it as one of the worst crimes in History.

Why vegan and not vegetarian?

I am not really against the fact that we kill animals to eat them. This is how nature and the food chain is. What I condemn is the way we industrialised it excessively in our society of extreme consumption. So I have a similar opinion on eating meats than I have on drinking cow’s milk. I find it as unbearable to separate the cow from its calves as it is to slaughter a cow. It’s the conception of them as cogs that shocks me.

Why only 80%? For two reasons

The first 10% is that what shocks me is more the cruelty of the current system, so I will still allow some consumption of meat, fish, eggs and dairies, according to my own subjectivity of what is ethical. Pure vegans would argue that it is not enough, maybe a bit hypocritical and we could end on an endless debate. I may keep evolving, but I feel like it’s already a major step for the moment.

The other 10% is because I want to inspire people and look at the end result. I know that if I look too extreme when I discuss with non-vegans, which are 95% of the people around me, it will create a rejection. I’ll be the annoying guy you don’t want to invite to dinner. The guy that doesn’t eat anything, or that guy that judges you every time you have a piece of chicken. Having to come with my Tupperware at a wedding or a family Christmas dinner will only reinforce the opinion that eating vegan is super hard.

If I can have rational discussions and have people understand why I promote a moderate veganism and how you can change your behaviour slowly and easily, I believe I can convince 10 people to become 80% vegan.

I did the maths. If I become 100% vegan and cannot inspire anyone, that’s just -1 supporting the current system. If I am just 80%, but inspire 10 people to become 80% vegan, that’s -8.8…

Let me know your thoughts and bon appétit!


Update: I'm now almost always eating vegan, keeping just a few exceptions. The documentary What the Health? was quite convincing.