Wednesday, February 13, 2008

It's the end, friend of mine.

It's been fun, but the time has come to end it. Vegetarianism is not for me. Not that I was a perfect vegetarian anyway, but I stuck to at least 99% of the time. My reason for becoming a vegetarian was ethical in nature: the treatment of animals in factory farms is horrid, and the resulting pollution is disgraceful. I've never had any moral reservations regarding the slaughter and eating of animals. I've never thought eating meat was gross. But I am under no illusions that my refraining from eating meat made any impact whatsoever to the treatment of animals or that I was reducing levels of pollution. Americans eat too much meat, it is true, but my refraining from eating meat has no effect on whether or not other Americans eat too much meat (and shit quality meat at that).

My reason for going back to being an omnivore is basically culinary in nature. I love to cook. I love food. All kinds of food. I'm an antipode to the finicky eater, for whom I have little patience. Preparing and eating new foods excites me. Knowing that there is so much good food out there for me to eat and to bring me great pleasure and denying myself of it is dumb. I am bored with vegetarian food. I'm ready for bigger, better and tastier things! Steaks! Hamburgers! Lamb korma! Seafood! Kebabs! Bacon! Paté! Jerk chicken! Arroz con pollo! Demi-glace! Scrapple! Barbecue! Pork chops! Chitlins! Civet de lapin!

I'm beaming. And hungry.


Jake said...

i sympathize with the feeling that one's own vegetarianism is having no impact, but i view vegetarianism not as an end in itself but a first step that makes it possible to begin educating other people. i've had a hand in convincing around ten people to give up meat, and they'll have an influence on the people around them. this is how all political movements must grow, and is particularly urgent now that we know the livestock industry causes more greenhouse gas emissions than cars, planes, and other forms of transportation combined.

but beyond that, i think we also have to think carefully about whether killing animals itself can be justified. looking thru your blog, it seems clear that you sympathize with the long tradition of emancipatory politics. in that context, i find it hard to ignore the striking similarities between justifications for the killing of animals and past justifications for slavery, colonialism, patriarchy, and other forms of oppression and exploitation. whenever violence seems so natural, we should be concerned.

what exactly is the difference between humans and other animals that leaves us free to kill and abuse animals while we are obligated to protect humans? the simple fact of difference is hardly sufficient, or the myriad differences among humans would also suffice as justification for oppression. i don't know your thinking on this, but i find it impossible to support equality across the vast diversity of humanity while casually setting aside the suffering and intense desire to live of other animals as inconsequential.

Matthew said...

I have a feeling I'm giving the impression that I'm going to go out and buy factory-farmed meat and give up on struggling against an unethical livestock industry. If that is the impression I am giving, I assure you that it was not intended. I should have been more clear.

While I certainly see the striking similarities between the oppression of non-human animals and the oppression of humans. But I do not see all of the treatment and slaughter of animals intended for consumption to be oppressive. Not all animals are raised on factory farms in horrible conditions.

My grandparents, for example, raise cattle to be slaughtered for beef. Their cattle are extremely well taken care of, they are well-loved, they are healthy, happy animals. I have no issue with this and do not see it as oppressive in the slightest.

There are many carnivorous animals in the world and humans (to a very large extent) happen to be one of them. Again, I have no issue with this, unless of course the animals are not being raised and slaughtered in an ethical and environmentally sound manner.

I see no contradiction between eating meat and fighting against the livestock industry.

Thanks for the comment, Jake. We don't get too many of those around these parts.

Jake said...

your concern that animals be "raised and slaughtered in an ethical and environmentally sound manner" certainly makes you more sensitive than most everyone else. but i'm not sure why you separate the issue of killing from the issue of poor living conditions. i think we can agree that horribly abusing a person is a form of oppression, and killing that person for your own ends would also be a form of oppression. why then is abusing an animal wrong but killing it perfectly fine? the animal itself wants to keep living at least as much as it wants to avoid pain, so if we really do want to respect the animal, we can't kill it for no good reason.

Matthew said...

I separate the issues because I haven't been convinced in the least by any arguments that claim killing animals in itself is wrong, and because I do not separate humans out of the animal kingdom, where much amoral killing and eating takes place. Needing to eat is reason enough for me, just as it is for a cat eating a bird.