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Food Fights! Online Posters Beware...

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Wanna start an internet brawl? Mention the V-words (vegan or vegetarian) and all hell will break loose.

And it's not just the rip-snorting steak lovers who are shouting, defending their right to eat meat without guilt and harassment. Normally-peaceful vegans who decry any violence against food animals will rip you a new one if you say nature intends us to eat meat with our veggies.

Logic flies out the window as soon as the combatants engage. But a deeper problem that quickly shows up in the incendiary social media threads is that people on both sides are actually shouting about 4 different issues at once, leading to endless confusion.

1. What's best for our bodies? Nutrition is a hotly contested science at present. Some say our teeth tell us that humans evolved to be omnivores. Medical experts weigh in (often incorrectly as it turns out) on the optimal diet for good health, which may or may not involve eating meat, dairy and animal fat, depending on the dietary religion of the moment. And it feels like a religious war when Paleos duke it out with vegans, raw foodists or anti-gluten faddists. Scientists argue about what causes obesity and why the body refuses to let go of fat after a diet. Doctors who've never taken a nutrition class prescribe specific diets for particular health conditions -- and that advice is often contradictory if the patient has more than one health condition to deal with. Nutritionists too often tout already-disproven regimes like calorie counting. In other words, the science is in chaos, and we've reverted to religious fervor.

2. What's good for the planet? Will Meatless Mondays cut down on methane gases that disrupt the global climate? Will we all need to go veggie or vegan to feed all the masses of overpopulating humans on the planet? Is manufactured meat the answer? Is commercial cattle raising bad for the environment? Does going green mean going meatless? Standing between a human and his or her meat is a perilous proposition, as many online posters have discovered.

3. What's best for the animals? Ethical vegans and vegetarians are highly focused on the shocking violence and cruelty happening every day on factory farms and in slaughterhouses. Just watching a few documentaries or videos on these practices is enough to put you off your Big Mac permanently. Some meat eaters don't want to think about how that pink slab got onto their plate. Other more thoughtful omnivores promote the emerging "free range," grass-fed animal systems -- which may even be good for the soil according to permaculturists and restorative agrarians -- as a solution, but there's still that "one bad day" for every animal who becomes dinner for humans or our favored flesh-eating pets. Meat eaters point out that in wild nature animals are killed and eaten every day so it's just nature's way, but that doesn't appease the V folks. Huge arguments break out over whether growing vegetables or fruit means that no animals are killed or harmed in that process. Don't farmers have to kill the gophers, rats and even birds that want to eat your veggie lunch? What about the animal manures fertilizing those plants you eat? And what about disappearing fish and the contaminated oceans? Don't they have rights too? The endless comments continue...

4. Is food political? (You bet). Who says we have the right to eat other animals? Isn't that anthropocentric fascism? The M crowd retort: Don't plants have feelings too -- you eat them! What about the starving millions around the planet and the obese Americans who are eating up the planet's food? And since we've now devolved into Blue and Red camps, isn't it wrong to turn raising and killing other animals into a capitalist enterprise? Surely Trump and Bernie will weigh in on this? Yadda yadda...

The food wars continue, with no end in sight. Hopefully at some point enough settled science will emerge to prove or disprove at least some of the propositions and "solutions" so passionately espoused in cybercomments. And we can pray that human awareness and compassion will advance to the point where we decide to improve the health and humane treatment of humans, other animals and the land we all live on. We might even hope that a significant number of meat eaters will be able to moderate their hunger for daily flesh and return to flesh as special treat or condiment rather than the hunks of animal served up in 1950s American steak houses. We might even dream that if this happened, the animal lovers might moderate the decibel level of their protests.

But serious questions remain: Can we humans have our animal friends and eat them too? Are we eating our species into oblivion? Are we boring our readers? Comments welcome on a site near you -- but be prepared for the angry responses...