Most vegetarians on Earth abstain from meat because of the treatment of animals as a result of mass proceessing. However in a universe with replicators, there is no ill treatment. A replicator simply aligns the molecules in such a way as to create a version of the food.

No animals were harmed in the replication of this cheese burger.

The proliferation of replicator technology has probably made the use of real livestock all but extinct. Additionally given the nutritional advantage of meats being a complete protein, it doesn't seem logical to arbitrarily deny that source of food.

Why are Vulcans (or anyone) vegetarians in the Star Trek universe?

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    Not quite true, as the piece of beef or chicken (or whatever animal) that was originally scanned to crete the pattern, that had to be killed. But it's true that this would be distributed throughout many, many meals. Interesting question! Nov 3, 2011 at 19:09
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    Could you not replicate a road-killed chicken, to avoid unnecessary harm?
    – Flimzy
    Nov 3, 2011 at 22:59
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    @Flimzy - Then you'd get into a kashrut/hallal-type system of material origins for Vulcans. Detail-loving trekkers everywhere, rejoice! :) Nov 4, 2011 at 0:09
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    There was this Enterprise episode with the replicating dry dock. It served some fish to the crew and T'Pol said that this came to no surprise, because the computers of the space station scanned the Enterprise and knows the DNA of the fish. Hence the DNA alone is necessary, which can be taken without killing the animal.
    – Till B
    Dec 15, 2011 at 14:16
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    Would eating replicated human flesh be considered cannibalism?
    – Joe L.
    Sep 17, 2014 at 23:08

8 Answers 8


Pre-continuity split, 'Star Trek' (2009), Vulcans were culturally vegetarians. This was not a religious choice; it was a cultural one. The move toward a vegan lifestyle was part of their overall tenet of abstaining from acts of violence and the embrace of logic as a preeminent lifestyle.

  • The leader and creator of the logical tenets Surak (as presented in Diane Duane's Spock's World) which states: "Ideally, do no harm... As far as possible, do not kill. Can you return life to what you kill?"

  • While Spock was seen to eat meat when he was trapped with Zarabeth, 5,000 years in the past in the TOS episode, All Our Yesterdays, his choices for food were both limited and in this case, it was logical that he eat meat if he were to survive.

  • He indicated there was a change in his mental state when processed into the past, which might have accounted for his desire to eat meat and enjoy it. It was mentioned the device would transform the participants into being suited for survival in the periods they were sent to.

As far as replicated meat goes, I suspect each culture's approach to the status of eating meat would be based on how or why that culture chooses not to eat meat in the first place.

  • Many of Earth's religious cultures forbade the eating of certain meats because they were potentially unclean or dangerous if not properly cooked. After a time, the reason may be lost to antiquity and simply be part of the religion.

  • If a space-faring culture found itself presented with meat that was made from the replicator's transformation of biomass, free of contaminants, it would have to decide if this would violate its tenets of meat consumption and the rationales for not eating meat in the first place.

  • If human religions were any indication, I would suspect religious reasons for not eating meat would continue even in an era where meat was nothing more than a synthetically created, mathematically modeled, series of constructed proteins designed to resemble meat.

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    Does it count as pork if it's "uncontaminated biomass"? I love the questions nerds come up with.
    – WernerCD
    Nov 3, 2011 at 21:55
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    Almost all of the Abrahamic religions had issues around pork in particular, but the idea of kosher living was based in the idea of health issues regarding the preparation and origins of the foods. Considering the area and the issues with quality control and foods in the early centuries of these religions, these were likely to be life-sustaining choices. Without refrigeration, food quality was always suspect. One of the reasons the religions may have gained adherents was the survival of its members due to their restrictive diets! Nov 4, 2011 at 0:28
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    Relevant: i.snag.gy/kdu77.jpg Nov 4, 2011 at 16:59
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    If dairy and meat come from the same replicator, is it Kosher?
    – AncientSwordRage
    Apr 5, 2012 at 8:59
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    Maybe, due to their prior cultural avoidance of meat, they just find the taste/texture odd since they aren't used to it; and if they don't biologically need it, they'd have no reason to eat it. Most human cultures eat insects, but most Westerners don't. It takes no effort of will for Westerners to avoid eating insects; it's just not something that they normally consider when deciding what to eat. Even if you could create artificial insects that look and taste like real insects, would you eat the fake insects?
    – Wolfie Inu
    Oct 27, 2015 at 9:25

In people who have been long-term vegetarians studies have found that they actually lose the ability to digest meat - eating meat will then give them no nutrition, and can cause some mild to moderate gastrointestinal issues.

It is certainly possible that, after centuries of dietary restrictions, Vulcans as a species are generally unable to tolerate meat in their diet, or are unable to get much nutrition from it. It would therefore be very logical to abstain from meat when practical.

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    I have been a vegetarian for 20 years, and would probably find meat rathe indigestible these days. So this makes sense. Nov 3, 2011 at 22:12
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    vegetarian cats, what will they think of next :)
    – jwenting
    Nov 4, 2011 at 6:57
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    And maybe Vulcans evolved from a species of herbivores, not (like humans and presumably Klingons) carnivores or omnivores. While herbivores typically can consume meat, it's not a normal part of their diet (they'll accidentally ingest it as part of their regular food intake, no more) and they won't seek it out.
    – jwenting
    Nov 4, 2011 at 7:00
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    @jwenting: Like needing fake ears for every actor playing a Vulcan? Nov 8, 2011 at 18:14
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    @SchroedingersCat - This is not necessarily true. It is true that the body will lower the enzymes, but they return in a day or two and the only effect is that meat may stay in the stomach a few hours longer than normal. It is this that can cause the gastro upset, but the body doesn't "lose the ability".
    – JohnP
    Sep 17, 2014 at 17:34

Probably for the same reason people wouldn't eat human meat even if it were to be produced, say, by cell cloning and other non-violent methods. Culture and tradition matters. I suppose, given no other choice for nutrition, they (vulcans) would eat meat - as confirmed in other answer - but in the presence of replicators there's ample choice of culturally appropriate food, so it makes sense to prefer it. Having preferences does not contradict logic per se - you can not eat all food at once, so you have to choose which food you eat, and your culture is as good base for the choice as any.


Maybe they just don't like meat ?

I mean, there's no ethic, nutrition, or health reason prohibiting me from eating, say, Natto , I just find it revolting. For others, it's a delicacy.

I don't find it too unlikely that there can be a culture, especially an alien one, that simply doesn't find meat or animal products appetizing.


In DS9 it was implied that replicated food wasn't designed, rather real food was cooked, then scanned into the computer as a pattern. Then anytime that food was replicated, it was duplicating the original, non-replicated version. So for a Vulcan to eat replicated meat, this means some animal needed to die, which still goes against their desire to not kill for food.

  • DS9 also used Cardassian technology, which in many ways was different from Federation tech.
    – user11521
    Feb 27, 2015 at 19:58

Most vegetarians on Earth abstain from meat because of the treatment of animals as a result of mass proceessing

While I think this is true, it is not the only reason for being a vegetarian. Some are because of religious beliefs, that eating animals is wrong. This comes from the argument that he life is in the blood - nothing to do with the treatment. So I can see see that there would be religious reasons for still abstaining. And because the Vulcans are very "religious", that would make sense.

  • but they are also very logical and its not logical to exclude a possible source of sustenance, especially when animals taste good. to quote Worf's brother Kurn, "I'll try some of your burned replicated bird meat."
    – Xantec
    Nov 3, 2011 at 19:45
  • But you are not eating a real chicken, it was materialized out of nothing. Nov 3, 2011 at 19:56
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    @Xantec Do Vulcans tend to think that animals taste good? People tend to be rebuked by the texture and taste of types of food that they're not used to.
    – user56
    Nov 3, 2011 at 20:10
  • @Gilles conceivably you could make "meat" have any taste and texture with a replicator
    – Xantec
    Nov 3, 2011 at 20:36
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    @Xantec You could also have lettuce that tastes like bacon - so why does anyone ever eat meat?
    – Random832
    Nov 4, 2011 at 4:38

The replicator gives you the food you want, and most people probably order their traditional foods. It is safe to say the replicator produces nutritionally enhanced food and that it makes food that tastes very good.

So most Vulcans would continue to eat their traditional foods, and if they could benefit from more amino acids, the replicator just adds amino acids.

Two more issues, the show has never shown a Vulcan refusing a replicator hamburger, they might be willing to eat them in the right circumstances. Also, their physiology might not benefit from more meat. As others have touched on, they might have lost some ability to digest meat and their bodies might not really need meat anyway.


The "nutritional advantage" of meat may be more protein and iron but besides that there are also disadvantages: High cholesterol, saturated fats, hormones and -presuming factory meat is used- antibiotics and other medication. Not exactly healthy. But the "lack" of protein by not consuming meat can be easily corrected, think of beans for example. (Humans nowadays in the western world consume twice as much protein as they'd need to, by the way.) A lack of protein is quite hard to achieve, as long as you eat enough.

Plus, we're talking about Vulcans here. Sure, they're humanoid but do we know they have the same dietary requirements as we do? Vulcan blood is not based on iron, but copper which means there's no need to eat meat for the iron. Which is one "argument" why some humans refuse to be vegetarian.

If you'd like a non-health-reason, the tradition-and-taste seems quite reasonable. But it might also be ethical: I know vegans who don't eat soy-yogurt because the cultures which it is made with were originally (years ago) taken from cow's milk. It is following the principles very strictly. (Which is the same with Vulcans and tradition. Not necessary logical, if you'd ask me...)

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