Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ambivalent vegetarians

There’s an article today in MSNBC’s health section on one semi-vegetarian’s quest to reconcile her craving for meat with her knowledge that the animals who become that meat suffer terror and pain in the process.

Of course, that’s a conundrum, and no doubt it’s an issue that every human who gives this any thought at all faces every time s/he picks up a fork, especially if you’re someone who struggles with the need for some meat despite the desire to be “purely” vegetarian. (As a vegan who has utterly no desire or craving for meat myself, I nonetheless struggle with this too, somewhat, because of the meat I feed my kits.)

But, here’s the thing (and I know this may likely offend some people at first, so bear with me for a moment). I don’t doubt that we would not question a natural predator’s need to kill a gazelle, for example, be it feline or canine, in the necessary pursuit of food. That gazelle may very well experience some pain and terror in the process, but short of exterminating the predator, it’s something that has to happen in the natural order of things.

Now, arguably, we’re a rung or several up the predatory ladder, and we have the means and intelligence to refine the process so that that “predatory target” experiences as little pain and terror as possible – but I would argue that for some of us, we still have to pursue that food source and be the “predator,” for lack of a better term, as the natural order of things. Hence my position that while those of us who still must nosh on a bit of meat may do so with a bit of guilt, it might just be the way things have to be – and we can use that “guilty energy” as a catalyst to make needed changes in the meat production industry. I don’t believe the guilt can ever go away entirely (mine certainly won’t), but we can live with it knowing we’re doing the best we can.


  1. Hi Kim,

    Thanks for posting about this. I have visited the MSNBC article and will read it when I have some time to really concentrate on it. This is something I'm facing now. I really love the taste of meat. But I abhor how its obtained. Just the thought of breaking the pact I've made with myself by eating meat again makes me feel tremendous guilt. I've even had dreams about sneaking chicken nuggets behind my vegan boyfriend's back (he's much easier on me than I am anyway)!

  2. Sure, Joselle. :-) And I wouldn't doubt Brian's a lot easier on you than you are. Just the fact that you give this a lot of thought is a big plus. If only everyone would!

  3. Although I'm an unabashed meat eater, my oldest son (age 7) has been having some qualms about nomming his "animal friends". I'll be stopping by regularly! Great blog you have going on here!

  4. Thanks, Mrs. P! Tell your little guy there's lots of room for vegetarians (even part-time ones, yep) if he wants to try this out.

    I myself have an aversion to noshing our animal friends, too, but I fully understand that there are some folks who need to eat meat for physical reasons; my thought is that we weren't all built exactly alike. IMO, while some of us can live a vegetarian or even vegan lifestyle perfectly healthfully and even prefer it because it makes us feel healthier (I'm one), I know there are folks who can't. I just want people to realize this, get along from both camps (omnivore and vegetarian/vegan) and not be pointing fingers at each other. My boyfriend eats meat and I have no intentions of trying to make him stop; I think he was very surprised at that when we first began to date, but I do try to get him to eat healthier by eating a little bit less meat, more veggies, cut down on the refined carbohydrates and up the complex ones.

    Thanks for posting!

  5. Good points all around, although I don't think the meat industry is the only problem in this equation, though. I'm not saying that concerned parties shouldn't try to make changes to how animals are processed on the way to our table. I just believe that part of the problem is that a lot of people tend to take more than they need. I think that a large reason that the industries work as they do is because it's the easiest way to meet the demands of people's carnivorous consumptions.

    If more people were aware of what truly constituted a balanced diet, and practiced restraint accordingly, I believe that less meat would be eaten overall. Does that make sense?

  6. Good points; I do understand what you're saying and I think that less meat consumption overall is as necessary as the meat industry changes are (which would of course be easier if consumption would go down). But I don't think the meat industry itself will make those changes as a matter of course just because of a drop in consumption. It's still "cheaper" (in the short term) to do the mass production methods, and I think (unfortunately) that bottom line profits are still the driving force, and will be. It's going to take legislative intervention to make those changes happen, and I think the path of least resistance to that is probably going to be the focus on environmental advantages rather than lessening animal cruelty practices.