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Many veg*ns are interested in advocating veg*nism effectively, and almost all are at least interested in being able to defend their choice from critical meat-eaters. Therefore questions which will help readers in such discussions are probably of great interest to many members of this community, and I think they should be on-topic. However there seems to be very few questions like what I have in mind, so I'm hesitant. Here are some examples of questions I want to ask, along with justifications:

  1. What percentage of chickens labeled 'free range' have their beaks cut off?

    • It's common for non-vegans to be against animal cruelty but fine with eating animal products in general, based on the assumption that cruelty is not common and/or cruelty is not involved in the products they eat. Answers to this question would help determine the probability that someone who is not researching their food sources carefully is participating in a system they would object to. They would also give insight into the feasibility of a utopia where animal products are still eaten in high volumes but all the animals are treated kindly.
  2. How much meat, dairy, and eggs could be produced without using land that could be used to grow crops for human consumption?

    • When discussing the environmental impact of eating animal products, particularly in terms of land use and deforestation, a common counter-argument is that a lot of land is not fertile enough to grow crops for humans: it can only be used to grow lower quality crops for animals, or for direct grazing. Answers to this question would indicate how significant this counter-argument is.
  3. Can chickens suffer?

    • I've been in an argument where someone insisted that chickens do not have sufficiently advanced brains to suffer, i.e. experience negative emotions. They only accepted that chickens feel 'pain' but with a naive understanding of what pain means (they were thinking of nociception). I found this hard to counter because all of my initial sources were dismissed as not being credible. I did eventually find a good source which I intend to include in my own answer to this question.

I'm not looking to ask questions that will lead to philosophical discussions or anything of the sort. They should still be specific and answerable with concrete facts.

The questions are not necessarily meant to promote veg*nism, but rather to help find the truth that both sides seek. Sometimes such questions may lead to answers that are in favour of eating animal products.

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TL;DR: yes they are on-topic, though we should probably consider some guidelines for answers and require reputable sources.

To add to Zanna's answer (though I completely agree with it):

These are absolutely about veganism, and thus are on-topic by that count.

However, in answering these we need to be fairly careful to make them objective and non-inflammatory.

I don't care if we all agree about animal cruelty, we need to be somewhat unbiased about that. I'm not saying we gloss over it, but we should aim to be polite.

Instead of saying "What percentage of free-range chickens are mutilated when slaughtered for food", we say "What percentage of chickens labeled 'free range' have their beaks cut off?". We might even want to change "Do chickens suffer" into "Do chickens feel pain", but that's more personal opinion.


Also, I think we should consider implementing a (possible unofficial) policy on these types of questions, requiring scientific studies/proof as evidence. I'm not saying they need to be published in a journal, but we should be pretty strict about that IMHO.

In the example of that last question, "Do chickens suffer?", I can think of 3 possible answers:

Yes, chickens can feel pain. The National Chicken Foundation conducted a trial about this, and they concluded chickens feel many sensations, such as pain, true love, and chronic migraines.

And:

Yes, chickens feel pain. I am the proud owner of 27 free-range chickens, and they are very aware of sensations and emotions. For example, if I pull a feather out while wearing a bright red jacket, the chicken will not let me come near while wearing the jacket next time.

And finally:

Yes, chickens feel pain. According to this post on chickenlivesmatter.tumblr.co.uk.edu.xyz, "chickens are my bffs and by mentally communing with them I can ascertain they do feel pain".

The first answer is a pretty good one IMO, it cites a study performed by a more-or-less reputable source. The second is also nice, personal experience is important. IMO it's a fine answer, but you can vote on it as you like.

The last one is not a good one. Setting aside the part about mental communing (because I made that up and it has almost no bearing), the source just isn't very reputable. Anybody can set up a tumblr that says that, and nobody can really stop them. If they cite a good source, just use that.

Note: Wikipedia is a bit of a special case here, see Wikipedia's own article for citing Wikipedia. (tl;dr: it's mostly good but double check everything)

  • As a small example (fair warning: it's my own answer), I cited The Guardian here, in an attempt to cite a reputable source. – Riker Feb 7 '17 at 19:42
  • I think you make good points here about what answers should be like (I'm especially glad to see you agree that personal experience is an important and valid source of knowledge) but, I am not sure that we need to pre-police answers, since we have editing and votes and flags to deal with them? This question is about questions, so here I think it may be more important to think about how to ensure questions are phrased in a way that encourages good quality responses. – Zanna Feb 7 '17 at 20:02
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I think those questions are answerable and on topic. Maybe [2.] is very difficult, but we already have questions discussing it, for example:

Which one promotes the most deforestation: raising crops or animal husbandry?

In general I think if questions can receive good quality answers and relate to veg*nism then we should be welcoming them. That seems to apply to this type of question.

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