Yummy Vegan Food is My Mission in Life

Hi again Charles, My mission in life is to make yummy vegan food, because taste is usually the main complaint of people who see the ethical reasoning for veganism but can’t give up their old foods. I don’t usually debate … Read More

By / May 16, 2007
Jewcy loves trees! Please don't print!

Hi again Charles, My mission in life is to make yummy vegan food, because taste is usually the main complaint of people who see the ethical reasoning for veganism but can’t give up their old foods. I don’t usually debate these things because people get defensive. Even the mere thought of veganism seems to provoke some people.

I am vegan because it is an easy way to make a difference. I hate oppression. I hate racism and sexism and homophobia, and I want to see an end to the war in Iraq. All struggle is interconnected. I realized this at a fairly young age, mostly from participating in feminist and anti-racist activism. It made me look at my own life, and the changes I could make to create the world I want to live in. And no one has ever given me a good reason to believe that non-human animals should be exempt from this. People know it would be wrong to kill a dog, yet don't extend their empathy to a cow. I don’t subscribe to the same spirituality as you, so your reasoning has no sway on me. I guess we are trying to persuade the audience and not each other. Maybe some people will become ethical omnivores and others will become vegans. More likely, people will just decide that we are both wingnuts. And of course someone will post something like “IF goD dint want Us to eat animalz Y did he Make them oUt of Meet??! ROFL!!!11111” Your main point seems to be: “I feel in my heart that it is right to kill animals and so it is right to kill animals.” But ethical systems don’t work that way. If they did, one could say, “We should all be listening to Neil Diamond, shooting heroin, and playing Dungeons & Dragons all day because my heart tells me it is right.” And even more to the point, how come my heart tells me not to eat animals and yours tells you that you should? You ask if your personal eating habits are relevant to the discussion. Of course they are! Isn’t that the point of this debate? I think the only ethical issues worth tackling are ones that we can actually apply to our lives. I am curious what happens to the male calves where you get your dairy or the male chicks where you get your eggs. Also, how many eggs do the hens lay a year? Is the cow forcibly impregnated? Are her babies taken from her? Many times people hear the word “free range” and what they think they are getting is far removed from reality. People claiming to be ethical meat eaters do not always eat the way they would ethically prefer, because the ideas that govern ethical meat eating are arbitrary. Why not eat “unethical” meat when you see no inherent flaw with eating meat? Factory farming is cheaper because the full cost is not reflected in the price of the final product. As Michael Pollan points out in Omnivore’s Dilemma, factory farming is directly and indirectly subsidized, and externalities like aquifer depletion and animal welfare just don’t get priced at all. As long as this remains true, the cost of your idyllic farming techniques will also be unknown, since it’s a niche market that exists in the shadow of—and must compete with—industrial agriculture. If it becomes common farming practice, we will need to find cheaper protein sources to feed the people who can’t afford steak, and cheaper vegetable crops again become attractive. But the fundamental vegetarian concern is still not being addressed here: Why kill the animal that we do not need to kill? Why not allow the chicken a pleasant and long life, instead of a pleasant and short one?

If we see all creatures on the farm as equivalent contributors to the ecosystem, would we shrink from killing the farmer who is too old to farm any longer, or the child born with a deformity that would prevent her from contributing to the ecosystem? If not, then how are you not creating a hierarchy of needs with humans at the top? Why not run the farm for the benefit of the chickens, who would live long and happy lives, regardless of whether they contribute, while everyone else lives or dies in order to accommodate their needs? Unless you embrace the idea of a chicken-centered farm, it seems like you fail to avoid the human-centric morality that you disdain. In response to your claim about the ten-calories-per-each-meat-calorie argument, that’s nice but I wasn’t addressing the pasture land in terms of environmental impact. I was addressing your notion that plants have feelings. So regardless of what is grown on this land, if plants do indeed have feelings on par with our own (again, your thoughts on the subject, not mine) then you would be killing x amount more plants to produce your meat, and creating however many times more pain and suffering. But while on the subject, the less land we use for our meals, the more land that reverts back to wilderness, which would be more efficient and sustainable.
I have stood in awe of the redwoods. But I didn’t find myself in the presence of a great and wise spirit. I found myself in awe of a fucking amazing tree. I would say that for me it is up there among the most wonderful experiences of my life, and I’ve met Huey Lewis, so that is saying a lot. I would never say it’s “just wood," so I am not really sure who you are arguing with here. I can’t help but notice that you avoided the choice I presented you with, between the redwood and the child, and instead inserted your preference for the redwood over your own life. I mentioned the child because she is more directly analogous than you or me: I am asking you if you would take your ethical foundation to its logical conclusion and kill the redwood, the seat of ancient and wise life, or the child. I assume you avoided answering this because the answer you would have provided was sociopathic.

“Shall we dismiss millennia of shamanic experience that says that plants have the ‘necessary hardware’ for sentience?” My immediate and emphatic response is yes. If to do otherwise would lead us to destroy the planet, then how is it that I, with absolutely no ties to shamanic beliefs, am doing my best not to destroy the planet? There are many ways to be an environmentalist, and they're not all spiritual. This is a fallacious appeal to tradition. Stating that something has been done for thousands of years doesn’t justify doing it.

Even if plants do indeed have some level of consciousness (or if rocks or air do, for that matter), with animals there is not the slightest doubt. Animals’ suffering is profound and intense. We don’t need shamans to detect it, it is easily recognizable. Animals’ joy is palpable and infectious. Most six-year-olds can see and feel these things.

It is not my desire to live in a natural world. That was a stated desire of yours, and so I was asking you how you reconcile your want for a natural world of beauty with doing things that are unnatural and unbeautiful, like taking calves away from their mothers and drinking the milk that was intended for them. Instead of answering my question you turned the argument around into something else.
Animals generally do not choose to become Buddhists and are not capable of detaching themselves from suffering in the way you describe. If I have endured discomfort for something important, then it has been by choice. No animal is willing to endure discomfort or pain so that they can become our dinner. You focus on your feelings, but never consider the will of the cow, the chicken, the pig, and so on.

Death and pain may very well be part of life, but that doesn’t make causing death and pain acceptable. With that line of logic, you could justify everything from bullying a child in grade school to the torture or prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Of course animals are going to die whether or not we kill them. I am going to die, you are going to die. We’re all going to die. That is another reason why I usually don’t participate in these conversations. I would rather be bird-watching or dancing or baking or writing letters to my senator. If you pay attention to what I'm saying, you'll see that my protest is not against death. It's against killing. Love, Isa

NEXT: Stop, for the love of the Earth!

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