Saturday, September 25, 2004

Barbarism or Cuisine?

Writer's note: This turned into an incredibly long post - I intended it to be only a few paragraphs. The logic is no doubt flawed, the philosophy is soda-can-and-pop-tart at best, and the conviction is as honest as it gets. Feel free to send me any comments you like, but please keep in mind - this is not meant to go up against strong debate. This is just my thoughts on it. Good reading to you.... Thanks to our good friend, the AnalPhilosopher, the moral argument for vegetarianism is making its rounds. Bill Keezer at Bill's Comments has weighted in on it, and has made reference to an interesting post by the SoDaMonk. So, what the hey, I'll post my thoughts as well. One, I am a vegetarian. Technically, I'm a lacto-ovo-vegetarian. I still consume some egg and dairy products. In my neck of the woods, dairy cows are very well cared for and roam the fields as is their wont. As for chickens....when possible, I try to buy free-range products. I find the treatment of chickens on factory farms absolutely offensive - take a look inside the next time you see a truck full of chickens barreling down the highway. They are squashed next to each other, with no protection from the wind or elements, their feathers flying. I don't care if you believe in equal rights for animals or not, that is inhumane. I do not eat any animal flesh. No meat, no pork, no chicken, no lamb, no veal, etc. My only source of protein outside of the non-conscious variety is fish. I've yet to have it proven that they experience pain the same way other animals do - and quite honestly, I need to get protein from somewhere, so hopefully what I abstain from makes enough of a difference to justify my consumption of fish. Why did I become vegetarian? Keith Burgess-Jackson got me thinking early this year about the food I consume. Why do we inhale such large amounts of protein? What damage do we cause by doing so? We now have to create steroid-laden animals that are kept alive by drugs, just so we can have all the meat we desire. These animals have no life, no appreciation for their sacrifice. I once read a book that talked about how Native Americans would bless the spirit of the animals they killed for food, sending it back into the earth. This might be a load of poppycock for all I know, but the concept is worth examining. Whether or not you see animals as equal to humans or not (I do not), they sacrifice their lives so that we can survive. Every bite you take of your steak is of the flesh of animal that lived. It had things it enjoyed - like grazing, laying down, walking to fresh grass, waiting for the food call. Anyone who has been around farm animals knows, they each have a unique personality with certain preferences and dislikes. It may not be sentient in the same way you and I are, but it still lived and deserved to be treated with respect. Yet we waste animal flesh all the time, overeat it, and generally misuse it without a care. I think showing respect to those which provide us with ongoing sustenance is part of what makes us morally superior. If we cannot show them a good life, feed them well, and when we take their lives, do it without undue suffering and make full use of every bit of them, we do ourselves an injustice, not to mention the animal. Two, do I have a problem with people eating meat? No, I don't. Anyone can eat animal flesh around me, and I do not say anything. I do not think anything askance of people who do. I do ask that it not be put on my plate, as I find it offensive. I never, NEVER, would have imagined I would feel that way, but it literally turns my stomach. So I do ask that it not be put in front of me. I have no problem with people raising their cattle and slaughtering them, so long as the slaughter is clean, quick, and done with respect to the animal. If I ever desire to eat meat again, I would purchase from small farmers with whom I am familiar and whose practices of which I approve. I see no need to eat meat, as there are too many things out there that are just as good without it, so I abstain. Simple as that. Our over-abundance of flesh brought on by 'roided-up, unnatural, engineered animals is gross and has been shown to damage our health. Part of the reason I do not have a problem with the humane consumption of meat is that it is the natural order of things. We have survived on the food chain, the survival of the fittest. Animals eat each other and must to survive. If they did not, disease, overpopulation, and anarchy would rule the animal world. As it is, they govern themselves without our input. We had to eat animals in order to survive as a species. To demand that it should cease would be against the natural order. Not to mention, cows, chickens, goats, etc. have no other role than to provide sustenance for those around them. That is part of their existence. If the world stopped consuming them, they would cease to exist. Cows make lousy house pets. Three, I must agree with the SoDaMonk in that animal suffering is not equal to human suffering. When given the choice between saving my dog or a complete stranger from death, I will save the stranger. I love Cairo more than I can express - I do not have children, so to me, she is my child. But she is still a dog, and she falls lower on the "importance of life" list. That is not to say that animals should be made to suffer or that they are not important. In many ways, we are their guardians, and especially in this day and age, many of them depend on us to care for their needs. We have made it that way, and we must be responsible for it. Four, I disagree with Engel's supposition that "[unnecessary] suffering is intrinsically bad and that the world would be better off without it." Suffering, necessary or unnecessary, is part of life. I do not believe the world would be better off without it. What about unnecessary happiness or joy? Do we believe that we would be better off without that as well? I should think not. Without suffering, even the unnecessary brand, we would not appreciate the good things in life. For example, if not for my unnecessary suffering as a child, I would not be who I am. Was my suffering necessary? Should it have happened? Absolutely not. Should someone have protect me? Of course they should have. But they did not. That being said, I was once asked if I would change my childhood. The little girl inside me jumps up and down and screams angrily, YES! I WOULD! By my adult side, the side that sees my personality flaws and how my life has sculpted who I have become, says no. Without that unnecessary suffering, I would not have become the decent person I am. I may very well have become that which I loathe - ungrateful, arrogant, irresponsible, and inhumane. So suffering has its place, whether or not we like it. To encourage it or not do what we can to prevent it - I believe this is morally wrong. But to say that it is "intrinsically bad and that the world would be better off without it" is much too global a statement. This has turned into quite the little rant. I am not even sure if I have a cogent point anymore. Then again, it is my blog, so if you read this far, you are either exceptionally intelligent, or really avoiding doing the dishes. ;) My point, I suppose, is this. We are a world that is symbiotic. We live off of each other. Our survival depends on each other. To not respect that which helps us to survive is wrong. It is our responsibility to care for and respect our food sources - we made ourselves the stewards of it (unless you believe in God, and then it is all His fault), and we must take up the burden. It comes down to personal responsibility. Do I eat meat? No. Do I want to? Sometimes. Not very often, but every now and again, I get a twinge for my favorite dill chicken salad or some down-home chipped beef. My needs are easily satiated with other foods, and my conscience would eat ME for breakfast if I broke down. That is my choice in life, and not anything I put on anyone else. Would I encourage you to examine your food choices? Yes, if only for your health. Do you need to eat a burger several times a week? Probably not. Should you cut it out of your diet completely? That is up to you. But I think any contribution in the right direction, even if it is wasting less animal flesh and consuming it in more moderation, is a good step.