A previous post was somewhat along the same vein (Smoking and Meat–What a Vegan Said and What I Say). It is because I want to give the counter-vegetarian perspective from someone who didn’t (in this order) (1) always eat meat/not really think twice or care, (2) go Paleo, and (3) use Paleo as a justification for hating on vegetarians after reading Lierre Keith, who is really writing to vegetarians, not trying to get current omnivores (or carnivores) to justify their practices.
Vegetarians are noble people. Let me first say this: I respect and admire vegetarians. I used to be one for years. I know that it is a heart-centric lifestyle in its intentions. I understand them. The problem lies when new information you come to know may change your approach to compassion, convictions, and spirituality-as it did for me. Sometimes you come to a crossroads where you can practice cognitive dissonance so that you can fit in with your vegetarian friends/avoid them judging you, or you can follow the direction your heart is taking you after the study of new information coupled with a gut reaction. The information may be given to you or made available to you–if you do not take it, digest it, and come out anew with a new (or renewed belief) I do not believe that you are practicing right compassion in the strictest sense. This goes for everything.
“Humans and animals are equal and sentient. They are on equal moral ground. Killing animals and taking life infringes on that moral ground.”
Life feeds on life.This took me a long time to accept.
The idea of speciesism that Peter Singer, a great vegetarian thinker and philosopher, introduced us with is the basis of how I used to think, and ironically continue to think, except for one big part. People.
Speciesism is the concept that we treat some species better than others simply based upon our attitudes toward said species. A pure speciesist would see humans on equal footing with trees and plants and other gorgeous parts of God’s Effect. I do prefer humans over other species. If it came down to me choosing a child’s life over a kitten’s, though it makes me sick to think of it, I believe that I would choose the human. Here’s an example excluding humans: endangered species. These are species determined by the Fish and Wildlife Service in the United States to be on different levels of danger with regards to extinction. Have you ever heard of a polar bear? Have you noticed that polar bears and our love for them seem to often be the rallying cry for climate change?
Are polar bears the only species affected by climate change (note that species include almost every organism with common traits)? No. Have you ever heard of any of these? Poor poor Galium buxifolium. Poor little Bedstraw. I haven’t seen folks in Washington, DC recently dressing up as Bedstraw protesting the War on Oil.
Speciesism. It’s real. It’s the reason that politicians target “charismatic megafauna” like the polar bear over little scrubby chums like the Bedstraw in Southern California.
Expanding out and including humans as a species in speciesist theory, the Jains are the best example of a people that try and literally take this idea to the extreme–all life is sentient, or conscious in its right, they will literally pick all of the worms out of the dirt in a construction site and regularly wear masks so that they do not accidentally inhale bugs.
This is exactly what so many vegans and vegetarians try and emanate. At least for me, I tried to achieve this by adopting Singer’s utilitarian philosophy that I had to consume life, yes, but I just had to try and consume the least amount possible in order to free myself from speciesism. You must consume plants, yes, but by not consuming meat you are minimizing not only the animals that have to die for you through free market economics, but by also reducing the amount of plants (animals do not convert grains they are fed like soy and corn with that much efficiency). Again, this is assuming industrial meats. This is also operating under the assumption that (1) you want a healthy life where you are not constantly sick/uncomfortable and (2) you can maintain that life through the vegetarian way of eating.
Fail, fail. For me personally, over a matter of years, what I saw happening after striving to free myself from speciesism and the accompanying diet was rampant acne (livable), pale ashen skin at times (livable), weight gain (livable), fatigue (livable), flaky nails (livable), cavities (livable, yet expensive), increased anger and mood swings (barely livable because of how I was treating people) and depression (barely livable). What tipped the scales was my entry into the local food movement. I found that just by being a healthy and livable vegetarian my carbon footprint was much bigger than I would like to believe. Whilst some of my friends were thriving off of meats and dairy from my local Appalachian region (not from feedlots), I was shipping organic soy from across the world or the country (even when processed locally) that was grown in monocultures causing soil erosion and being grown in a way that would not be sustainable into the future, even with organic fertilizers (yes, organic food can also be unsustainable in certain monocultural settings; educate yourself). Buying local, I came to realize, is really the only way that we are going to feed our children, because we quite frankly have failed at feeding the world the way we’re going and we aren’t even going to be able to keep it up.
With this came the realization that I was indeed a speciesist and didn’t think this was wrong. I love people. All people. I loved people with all my heart and mind, and they had to come first. I also loved plants and animals and fungi but there was a ranking there. How could I refuse a person a cool cup of water over a horse? Again, hard to think of but true. If I were stuck in a desert with two people and a horse would I eat the person or the horse or starve? First, we’d share the horse, then we would starve together. God’s Effect for the most part includes camaraderie within a species. That’s beautiful. That is life.
I also realized that environmentalism and love of people are not seperate but they are one in the same, with many instances where we have to cause destruction in order to pave a path to good. I eat some things I would not consider 100% perfect in order to sustain myself as I spend 50 hours a week working toward a better food system. I turn on my computer and my lights even though it burns coal so that I can live and work. The question is not what are the tiny things I am doing every day that are wrong, the better question is what am I doing to minimize them and make them better for future people?
I feel the moral imperative to take care of people. With all other species, I see them as equal and sentient. With people, they are my sisters and my brothers, no matter who they are. I want to feed them. In addition, I need to feed and nourish myself. I need to feed on life in order to do that. Cows and pigs and chickens die for the benefit of my breathing, and grass had to die for them. However, for the greatest extent I can live, they do not travel far at all and their carbon footprint is minimized.My vegetarian friends eat soy from Asia sometimes in winter; I am eating an animal fed by grass fed by the sun, shipped only in a beat up pick-up truck from down the road.
Death and non-violence in life are inevitable; suicide is the only way out and I don’t believe in that; not for me. Life feeds on life. Rather, the deaths should be selected, cultivated, utilized in a way that is beautiful and reflects the glory of God and if it can in some way help future people and sentient beings so be it. Do that as best you can. Cut out the guilt; as long as your heart is good guilt does no one any good. Ask for forgiveness and move on with improving your life and habits. No regrets.
That’s what I do. That means I eat meat.