This essay was one I wrote for psychology class on weight and dietary lifestyle.
Feel Free to read it, to share it, but do NOT use it for school work! You may use the article referenced in the beginning, but my words are my words, and I take no responsibility for anyone's blatant, idiotic, theivery.
Filippi, M., Riccitelli, G., Falini, A., Di Salle, F., Vuilleumier. P., et al. (2010) The brain functional networks associated to human and animal suffering differ among omnivores, vegans and vegetarians. PLoS ONE 5(5): e10847.
Empathy for other humans is a large part of human society, although there are many humans who feel empathy for nonhuman animals as well. Studies show that humans who eat plant based diets for ethical reasons have different responses during viewings of mutilated humans than those with omnivorous diets.
The study consisted of 21 ethical vegans, 19 ethical vegetarians, and 20 omnivores whom were matched for sex and age to ensure balanced and accurate results. The ethical vegans and vegetarians were vegan and vegetarian for ethical reasons, not for health. The participants were tested for brain activity via the method of fMRI which is Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging which shows brain activity. The participants were gauged for an Empathy Quotient. They were also shown alternating images of mutilated humans, mutilated animals and natural scenery. The animal images were of a different category than the human images. Vegetarians scored the highest Empathy Quotient, 49.5, followed by vegans, whom scored 44.6, and omnivores who scored 38.8.
The fMRI scanned several areas of the brain which are involved in emotion such as the thalami, basal ganglia, anterior insula, as well as several other places. During the neutral condition, all of the groups were essentially identical. During viewings of negative human valence, omnivores had the highest activation of the bilateral middle temporal gyrus, while vegans and vegetarians had a higher activation of the left inferior frontal gyrus and the anterior cingulate cortex.
When shown negative valence viewings of animals, omnivores had more active bilateral
MTG, while vegans and vegetarians had more bilateral IFG, left cuneus, left middle frontal gyrus, bilateral lingual gyrus, posterior cingulate cortex, and the anterior cingulate cortex.
Vegans and vegetarians had less activation of the right amygdala than omnivores. After the study was concluded, there was no linkage found between the Empathy Quotients and the fMRI results; however the study found some common structure of emotional processing in those who eliminate meat for ethical reasons including that vegans and vegetarians have higher activation in the empathy related parts of the brain while viewing negative images, regardless of the species shown. Vegans and vegetarians also had higher empathy towards animals rather than humans, however.
Overall, the study shows that those with vegetarian or vegan diets have distinct brain responses. Vegans and vegetarians appear to have the highest empathy towards suffering animals, while omnivores seem to be more selective in their empathy, mainly directed towards humans. Is there a way in which these findings could be utilized in a more helpful manner than evidence for a vegan or vegetarian to prove that they don't care about animal suffering more than humans? I believe that these findings can help make the world a better place for all species, human and nonhuman, by encouraging humans to reduce the amount of suffering that they contribute to in their daily life, such as choosing to not buy sweatshop clothing or factory farmed products.