I didn’t think I would have to explain my choice to be a vegetarian living in California, but over the last several months, I have actually been confronted several times about it. And oddly, I had little defense in those moments. I didn’t responded well, partly, because I hadn’t sorted out all my own reasons yet, (which is actually fairly odd for me,) and the questions blindsided me each time they came up.
In those moments of confrontation, I responded by being polite, and giving easy answers, “I’ve never really liked meat anyway,” and “It’s cheaper not buying meet,” and the good ‘ole, “I just want to see if I can do it.” It all felt pretty lame. Not only was I being questioned and judged by people who should know better, and really shouldn’t be judging me, but I didn’t even put up a fight.
What I wanted to say when some people asked, “So why are you a vegetarian? Human’s have always eaten meat!” was “BECAUSE IT MAKES ME BETTER THAN YOU!” And they wouldn’t have just been fightin’ words either. Sure, there are people who, for various considerations need to eat meat, and plenty of people who just don’t have the educational or informational resources to make any decisions about it, but for the most part, being a vegetarian makes me better than meat-eaters.
Let me explain! The reasoning is actually a fairly simple ethical principal. If a person knows what they are doing is wrong, and they continue to do it, they are complicit in the wrong doing. Doing right is better than doing wrong. Furthermore, the judgment of right and wrong needn’t be determined by anyone other than the one doing “it” in the first place. The rights and wrongs don’t need to line up. The argument is about whether a person is trying to do right instead of wrong.
Setting one’s own boundary and then passing it results from weakness, or some sort of compulsive disorder. I am not passing judgement, these are just the logical consequences. Furthermore, if a disorder is recognized in the self, and nothing is done about it, again, what can I conclude? Anyway, that’s not the point, since all of that lies outside the general argument I am making.
Going back to food, I claim that it is almost impossible to be a food consumer in this country and not know about the health, social, and environmental problems associated with the contemporary packaged nutrition we call “food.” Let me list some in case you haven’t caught on yet. These products: have too many chemical additives, too much unnatural sugar, modified fats, modified charbs, too many calories, are made with GMO’s, are produced using horrible toxins, take too much energy and water to produce, produced with ultra low wages and unsafe working conditions, are inhumane, are backed by corrupted officials, use ingredients that are unstudied, rely on monopolies and other unethical business practices, decrease biodiversity, are draining the natural fertility of the land, are generating super pests, lead to unhealthy populations, cause cancer in field and packaging workers, are shipped too many miles, spread plant, animal and human diseases, squeeze farmers out of reliable incomes and livelihoods, and are generally just bad for our health, communities, nation, and planet. Those are just a few, but again it doesn’t matter for the argument to work. For my claim to be valid only a small set of problems needs to be accepted.
What I am getting at is that the modern nutrient system which alludes itself to be food production fails on ethical and moral grounds. It treats people poorly, animals even worse, and the earth like an open pit mine to be exploited for all its worth and then left dead. All the world’s human moral compasses consider those things wrong. It is not loving, accepting, steward-like, or abiding to God’s/god’s/gods’/Gaia’s laws. If you eat food or any food-like product that has been produced immorally, YOU are complicit in that immorality, right?
At least that is the challenge of human morality. If it is not that clear cut, at least it SHOULD be a struggle. Being “good,” whatever that means, is a struggle, because human nature compels us against our will into what we exactly consider inhuman behavior. Ethics and morality are our inherent traits that allow us to determine who we are. We are not a sum of instincts alone, but choosing beings who can determine which instincts to fulfill. Accepting behaviors because they are in “our nature” isn’t valid, because ethics and morality are also in our nature.
Our instincts drive us for blood, but when it is wrong, we are obliged to deny those instincts.
Okay, did you follow any of that? If not, don’t worry, in the next part I’ll take a different tack. I will discuss the meat of the issue, meat in human culture, and our biology. The ethics plays itself out pretty easily when we start to consider actual food.
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