It ain't pretty being easy... (soopageek) wrote,
It ain't pretty being easy...

thoughts on vegetarianism....

I'm gonna go for a record on how many posts I can make in one day, methinks. But I have a really nice connection here in Ohio and not on much of a time table. As long as I make it to New Jersey by 8am Monday morning, it's all good.

But anyway, the topic is vegetarians. This is something I've had on my mind for sometime and I've been stewing and collecting my thoughts on it. Let me preface this by saying that I know there are some vegetarians of differeing stripes who read my journal, so I'd like to point out that I'm a firm believer that people should do what makes them comfortable. So long as it doesn't interefere with any one else's choices and liberties, everything is fair game in my opinion. Don't take any of this as some sort of slam on your lifestyle choices. This is merely me collecting thoughts on something and pointing out the fallacies I see. I welcome any dissent, particularly from you vegetarians of the political variety, to offer a slant I may not have considered. It's safe to say my opinion won't be swayed, as I'm sure neither will yours upon reading this. That is not the intent. Just some musings. For those of you who don't give a flying fuck one way or the other and think I'm off my rocker from writing too friggin' much today, it'll all be behind a cut.

I understand that there are many health benefits to vegetarian living, particularly in the areas of lower fat/calorie/cholesterol intake, increased fiber, etc. But there are plenty of omnivores who eat plenty of the green stuff to beneift from these things. There are certainly health beneifts from partaking of animal sustenance, protein being an obvious one (although I heard one vegan refer to this as propaganda, heh). People's personal choices to only eat non-animal foodstuffs is their business, but I guess what bothers me is some of the politics and personal reasons for doing so. I've never been able to understand any of them, at least, not enough to convince me that their choice is based in any sound logic, other than it's just what they feel. And feelings are certainly valid, but when it comes down to heated debates on the politics of one's choices - a simple feeling needs to be identified as just that and left at that. Crusades to convert us meat-eating heathens based on someone's feelings are offensive and repugnant. It's no different than right-to-lifers who seek to persuade (and in their case, affect change of law) people making a personal choice for their life based on a conviction rooted in emotion and ethics. I've never heard of any vegetarian groups attempting to change laws which would prohibit meat eating, however, it wouldn't surprise me if there were.

That said, I'd like to address a few of the politics I've heard supporting vegetarian living and to systematically debunk them with my astounding powers of logic and reasoning, because, well, it is all about me. These will range from the run-of-the-mill arguments to some of the cornball ones.

1. We as human beings have an ethical responsibility to discontinue meat-eating and live in harmony with our fellow animals.
Right, like a lion on the plains of the Serengeti would show you the same courtsey. I guess there is some argument to be made for being the paragon of the animal kingdom who thanks to our opposable thumb and knack for weapon building has been able to essentially rid our species of any natural predators. We don't need to kill or be killed any longer. We have enough choices in natural/synthetic materials for fabric and materials and vegetables provide ample nutrition that the continuance of meat-eating isn't necessary. What bothers me about this argument is why a distinction is made between animals and any form of life. Why would someone think it morally acceptable to eat the remains of any living thing over another. I'm reminded of hearing once that Hare Krishna practitioners would apologize to the grass before treading upon it. Why is raising a crop of soybean for the sole purpose of mowing it down for our benefit any more ethical than raising chickens for our consumption? What about the subsets of the animal kingdom, like insects? Do hardcore animal ethicists believe in not eradicating their homes of termites or stomping the big nasty cockroach that scurries across the floor? What about fungus and bacteria? Mushrooms are a fungus. Bacteria is regularly exploited for medicinal purposes, pennicillin being an obvious one. How man vegetarians smoke tobacco, cloves, or otherwise? What is the defining difference? Is it because they're vertebrates? Is it because they have a face? I just don't get the distinction. All living things experience negative and positive stimuli - pain and pleasure. Not just animals. I read an article in Discovery magazine years ago about a forest made largely of one species of trees. Scientists observed that the trees had the ability to communicate with each other when a potentially harmful swarm of insects was invading the forest. The trees on the side first exposed to the infestation somehow communicated this threat acorss the distance of the foerst so that the other trees could take immediate defensive action (storing additional nutrients and water at levels much higher than they ordinarily would). They weren't sure how this was done, wether it was airborne or ground borne through root systems, but the fact remains that plants are just as capable of being "afraid" of negative stimuli. Other than the instinct to survive which all living things possess, do some people believe that non-human animals somehow have a greater concept of its own mortality? Is it because aniamls have a nervous system with a brain? Maybe it's because they can move and make noises that makes it so unappealing. Being an animal ourselves, there is a certain sort of empathy which comes with our version of mortality. If this is the case, then fine, that is your opinion, but don't hoist it as some ethical responsibility. Besides, suppose we banned the meat industry. What would become of the billions of currently living domesticated animals newly emancipated? Euthanasia would be the only solution. Consider your ethical responsibilty the next time your are sitting on the lawn and mindlessly plucking blades of grass from the ground because you're bored, or adorn your house with "fresh flowers" because you like the smell. As a comedian so succinctly put it: "My sister is a vegetarian, which basically means she eats things that can't run away." I look at being an omnivore as accepting the fact that I live in a world built on symbiosis, and I don't discriminate ;-).

2. The meat industry is cruel. I don't eat meat or meat by-products as a political protest to the inhumane treatment of animals in the meat/dairy/poultry industry.
This correspond's closely to the previous argument and therefore the fallacies are closely related. We raise crops of corn in closely planted rows then mow them down for their seed. We don't give them the freedom to propagate freely, unmolested. We artifically create hybrid varieities to achieve different textures, flavors, and colors much like the meat industriy's tinkering of genetics and breeding practices. We blast them with chemical pesticides to ward off insect infestations and set traps or poison baits to keep woodland critters from eating the goodies. I'm sure that untold millions of crows have been perpetually traumatized by the presence of strawmen posted on sticks in the fields where they could otherwise have fed. But seriosuly, there is ample collateral damage to animal populations due to production agriculture., from pest eradication to chemicals leaked into natural water supplies. Choosing to not eat meat based on this premise is simply choosing the lesser of two evils. Some vegetarians will claim they only eat products that are grown "all-natural" and they don't utilize peticides, etc etc. This is commendable, but it leads to another problem. Which is discussed in the next section.

3. In this world of poverty and starvation it is unconcionable to continue the meat industry. Many more tons of food can be raised per acre of land than it takes to raise cattle/chickens/hogs, etc. There are also the other environmental issues of the plight of deforestation to make fields for cattle raising.
While there is certainly a great nugget of truth here, the fact remains that the result is production agriculture. You can be as PC as you want with your naturally grown products, but to grow large quantities of vegetables, the practice of production agriculture is a reality. Short of learning to make corn or a pork chop synthetically from it's component molecules and in great quantities, there are no other options. Affluent people with the luxury of buying over-priced food to satisfy their ethics is fine and dandy, but this practice won't feed the hungry of the world. In reality, if you're serious about feeding the hungry, stop encouraging the "all natural" industry and support production agriculture. More pounds of food are generated per acre of "big business" farming than the boutique variety which caters to the specialty niche of healthier living. Growing food without the benefit of traditional pest protection results in much higher losses of food to the pests, hence, more space is required to grow the same amount of food as would otherwise be required in production agriculture and the resulting higher price tag. This includes the meat industry. Free-range chicken is more expensive for a reason, it takes a lot more land and resouces to do so. At least in production agriculture, the surplus generated during bumper crop years end up in the mouths of our own impoverished through government programs and distributed as humantiarian aid in impoverished nations. This is one of the advantages to government subsidization of agriculture in our country. Could we do more to benefit the poor of the world than we currently do? Certainly, but buying into the concept of politically correct production of foodstuffs is contradictory to doing so. What is needed is better and more generous distribution of what is produced, not less of it per acre. As for the issue of deforestation, this is happening regardless of the meat industry. The need for lumber, urban encroachment, and drought are also key factors. If you wanna hug trees, hug the trees. But don't just blame McDonald's for it.

4. The sexual politics of meat. Meat eating is an extension of patriarchal values when men were relied upon to hunt and fish to provide for the clan. Eating meat further inforces patriarchal values whereas a vegetarian lifestyle promotes the concepts of nurturing and cultivation, more matriarchal values.
Yeah, this is the cornball one. I almost fell over laughing when I heard this. I'm down with feminism. I am a proponent of equal rights for all persons, but I find radical feminism, actually, radical anything, to be just too much fun. Don't get me wrong, radicalism is necessary to push the envelope of thought and philosophy in culture, but some of the ideas that come flying out of both right and left field are damn entertaining. Hunting, husbandry, and horticulture are all products of patriarchal societies, because, with few exceptions, this has been the history of mankind - most certainly in our culture. I suppose there is something to be said for promoting a lifestyle which encourages nurturing and cultivation rather than slaughter and enslavement, but to pin this to feminism is one of the more absurd things I've ever heard. Like, you can't be a feminist in good conscience if you eat meat. Please.

These are the ones with which I'm most familiar. I'm sure their are others. Again, I don't care if you choose to be vegetarian or not. I just thought I'd point out the fallacies I see with some of the arguments given for adopting the lifestyle as a choice. It all comes down to what works for you. If you want to gnaw on your celery stick while I chow down on my porterhouse, go right ahead. I won't bug you about it if you don't bug me.
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