Astrophysicist and author Neil deGrasse Tyson has publicly criticized vegans and their “hypocritical” beliefs while appearing on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast.
Released on November 30, the episode covered a number of topics, but focused largely on deGrasse Tyson’s new book, Starry Messenger: Cosmic Perspectives on Civilization.
In the book, the lauded scientist includes a chapter called “Meatarians & Vegetarians.” He uses it to launch his theory that vegans are “species bigots” and cherry-pick which animals to advocate for.
Speaking about the chapter, Joe Rogan agreed. This spurred on conversation about how hypocritical vegans are for not appearing interested in the lives of bugs or parasites. According to the two, vegans only prioritize “cute” animal species.
“If you’re really into animals and don’t want to kill them. If you heard that ticks were endangered, would you start a movement to protect ticks?” deGrasse Tyson asked. He then suggested that most vegans wouldn’t.
His comments have led to ridicule from the vegan community, with some questioning if he really understands the definition of veganism as a movement and belief system.
Ryan Lum from the Happy Healthy Vegan blog posted a reaction video to the podcast. In it, he explained that the astrophysicist appears to be confusing protesting against animal exploitation with protecting endangered species.
Neil DeGrasse Tyson on sentience
In the increasingly bizarre conversation with Rogan, deGrasse Tyson starts comparing mice to trees. He states that the latter are more essential to our world, but vegans prioritize mice because they have a heartbeat.
Lum retorted that this indicates a lack of understanding surrounding sentience as a driving motivation for plant-based food choices. Animals can feel pain and experience suffering, whereas plants cannot, hence plants are eaten, he says.
The YouTuber confirmed that he had never heard the heartbeat explanation used as a justification for choosing a vegan lifestyle.
The podcast spiraled into a discussion of how viruses, as well as animals, want to live, and deGrasse Tyson’s perceived hypocrisy of humane rodent traps and more. Rogan happily encouraged his guest to make increasingly outlandish statements.
‘Kindness is a virtue’
Previously, deGrasse Tyson has talked about the validity of expressing empathy towards non-human animals and how humans underestimate their intelligence. This led to suggestions that he saw value in veganism, despite being a meat-eater himself.
In a 2011 interview with animal rights organization PETA, the scientist said: “Humans aren’t as good as we should be in our capacity to empathize with feelings and thoughts of others, be they humans or other animals on Earth.”
He went on to be featured on a PETA poster that included the strapline “you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that kindness is a virtue.”