Exploiting Human Behavior

It’s hard for people to swallow the truth about how their diet effects them. It’s especially hard for people to grasp the reality about meat being harmful on every level; from our personal health, to the animals we mistreat and kill, to the impact it has on the environment

Smoking, on the other hand, has already become way more taboo and illegal in most public environments. So, these days it’s easy for people to understand how smoking is just plain stupid. Unfortunately, meat is even worse on every level.

The Perfect Analogy

Humans eat meat for most of the same reasons people smoke. And because in this day and time it is so easy to understand how bad smoking is, I think it’s a great analogy to understanding why people eat meat in light of all the harm it does.

I quit smoking over a decade ago. It was hard at first and anyone who’s ever been there knows exactly what I mean. So, the other day I was sharing with an omnivorous friend, who used to smoke also, why eating meat is so much like smoking. I realized, it’s a perfect analogy.

I started smoking for the same reasons that virtually all of us do. Growing up I would see family doing it, friends, people on TV and so on. And, while it may be insidiously subtle, the marketing, I’m sure, had an influence as well. Smoking just seemed omnipresent. Cigarettes are readily available behind almost every cash register. At work, at home, at friends houses, every corner I’d turn there would be a smoker. The packaging, the billboards, the ads, it was everywhere! Then one day a “friend” gave me a cigarette, so now, a little peer pressure was all it took for me to light up.

Guess what, animal products are no different. In fact, animal products are even more pervasive.


I hated smoking at first. It made me cough, it royally reeked, and tasted horrible. But, before I could even realize it, my body became desensitized to the experience. Almost immediately I was addicted.

Like virtually all of us, I was too young to recall the first time I consumed any animal products. But, here again we are desensitized to something that is totally foul. After becoming vegan, just being around animal products is unbearable. I don’t even want to touch it much less have it anywhere near my mouth.

Burn to Consume

Eating meat obviously is not natural. I mean, think about it, just like smoking, you have to burn it before you consume it. The government recently banned the smoking industry from adding any flavors to cigarettes. Imagine eating meat without smoking it or adding anything to it. Most of a vegan diet on the other hand if innately safe and delicious raw.

It’s all in Your Mind

We’ve all heard of how the smoking industry incorporates addictive properties to enhance the physiological addiction. However, I was way more psychologically hooked when I tried to quit.

Smoking gave me something to do when hanging out, when waiting places, when driving, after eating, during work breaks, etc… . Smoking became a reward for almost every situation.

Psychologically I had to overcome every scenario I had trained myself to smoke in. I had to make getting through that moment in the most natural way the new reward.

Wake Up Call

Other smokers had no problem ensuring I continued. Ever out of cigarettes? Just bum one! And nobody was saying anything negative about it. In fact, we all had an arsenal of false rewards we told ourselves; like needing it to relax. Even people that wanted to quit conjured up reasons to relapse. No one was capable of getting real with me about it. That is, not until the day I actually asked someone who was able to keep it real what they thought.

When I was 19 I was passing through Asheville, North Carolina on my way to California. I stopped in to see my all time most powerful mentor, Dr. Myles Joyce. As I was saying goodbye, for some reason I asked him “What do you think of smoking?” and, without hesitation, he said “I think it is stupid!”

His comment struck me hard and stuck with me since. The power of this truth most vividly surfaced after trying to quick for a couple of years in my early thirties. I was a casual smoker, only a few a day, maybe a pack a week. I think this occasional use made me more sensitive and aware of its negative effects. Finally one day I decided to apply all I knew about behavior modification toward quitting. Cognitively I realized smoking is not just stupid, it’s entirely stupid. There is absolutely nothing good that comes out of it.

Even if it’s Deadly

How is it that something so disgusting, deadly, and stupid is so pervasive throughout our world? How can so many people fall victim to becoming a smoker to the point of dying from it and enabling loved ones to die from it. I know of several family members that have died from smoking related causes. My father lives with sever emphysema. To make matters worse, he smokes in his house making it intolerable for him to have family visit with him, inside anyways. Furthermore, there’s the cost of the cigarettes and the cost of medical treatment.

To understand how we let smoking become such a part of our culture we need to understand human behavior and the power of big industry. I’ve already spoke on some of the psychology behind it; peer pressure, marketing, availability, physical/mental addiction, etc… One thing worth adding is that the physiological addiction is said to wear off within 48 hours. Yet, the psychological addiction is so much more powerful that it can last for weeks, months, or even years for some after quitting. And businesses take advantage of human behavior to make a profit.

Exploiting Learned Behavior

When we’re young and naive we tend to trust too much of the world. It’s hard to disconnect ourselves from all the lies in our environment. Businesses do everything they can to surround us and become a part of our world in every way possible. We think the police and government is here to protect us. And, that all this stuff around us is therefore safe, otherwise someone would stop them. You probably already know, big industry is in the government persuading laws and maintaining subsidies.

With all the money the smoking industry has, they can effect laws, fight lawsuits, market in the most vastly powerful and deceptive ways, and advance at streamlining as much as possible. They are indifferent to the effects of it, they only care to make a profit. So, it’s ultimately the consumers, what we buy, that determines where they invest.

Founded on the Dollar, not Integrity

So, how could smoking, something entirely bad, become so pervasively sought after? For settlers in the early 1600’s, North America was the “ultimate land of opportunity” for many reasons; like gold, oil, and lots of new land. But tobacco was our first major commodity.

John Rolfe was one of the original settlers of the “New World” in the 1600’s. He brought South American tobacco seeds to the Chesapeake Bay area.

John’s first harvest was worth more than a million dollars in today’s money. In just a couple of years tobacco crops where in gardens all over Jamestown. Life here went from a “living hell” to becoming America’s “first boomtown”. 30 Years later  over 20,000 people settled in Virginia. America was founded on tobacco.

For over a century tobacco remained our biggest export. It wasn’t until almost 4 centuries later that the use of tobacco has become significantly taboo. As of 2015, it is still only publicly banned in 28 states.

If people knew how bad smoking is before they started, would they ever start? As a child growing up in a world where the bad wasn’t talked about, you’re left to only assume and associate it with being good. There are still too many people who smoke, but at least nowadays it’s easier for a child to know the truth.

We’re Out of Time

The thing about meat is we don’t have decades to waste in litigation with deep pockets. In just one generation of industrialized meat production, animal agriculture has already destroyed too much of the ocean, killed billions upon billions of ocean species, and has destroyed over a hundred million acres of rain forests. Meanwhile the industry is currently using and degrading over 30 percent of the land and is expanding to keep up with unprecedented, exponential population growth.

For the sake of everything that is real about this world we must change. Our planet could thrive off of diverse crops. A vegan diet is capable of changing it all.

Which is going to be harder, convincing people to quit smoking? Or convincing people to cease use of all animal products? We know so much now about the effects of animal agriculture on our health. We know that animals do not deserve to die and even go extinct because of us.  It’s so saddening knowing the truth and watching others not care, and knowing that we’ve most likely gone too far. But at least I didn’t live this way. At least I can die with integrity knowing that my life did not depend on killing tens of thousands of animals to sustain. I know that my lifestyle enabled more starving people across the world to have food and water. And that my impact on the environment fostered a healthier world on every level.

When Nobody Cares, You Must!

When I realized I was lied to by the smoking industry, my family, my friends, and even strangers I finally quit. I realized that none of these people cared about me, my health or the health of others. The industry only wanted to make money. My family and friends only wanted to live in denial despite its deadly grip on them and influence on me. The food industry is no different nor are you as a meat eater any different.

Like the smoking industry, big money is of course behind the meat industry. Big money drags on litigation, delays laws needed for change, deters activism, stifles science, and the inhibits the truth in media.

The Power of One

While the reality of the situation is very dim, you can still make a difference. More vegan options and educational opportunities are available than ever before. We can demand through our buying power even more vegan options, inspire more restaurateurs and grocery stores to become vegan, and help others around us understand the truth.

Live now with respect for all life.

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