Every living thing, from mammals, birds, and fish to plants, fungi, and bacteria, eats other living things. Humans are part of the food web; but for the artifices of cremation and tightly sealed caskets, all of us would eventually be recycled into other life forms. It is natural for people, like other omnivores, to participate in this web by eating animals. And it is ethically defensible — provided we refrain from causing gratuitous suffering.
Noting that “only about three percent of Americans are vegetarian and 0.5 percent are vegan” and that about three-quarters of those who try vegetarianism or veganism return to eating meat, Niman suggests that, rather than exhorting people only to eat plants, ”doesn’t it make more sense to encourage them to eat an omnivorous diet that is healthy, ethical, and ecologically sound?”‘
Eating Isn’t Always Based on Rational Arguments
I can see how these arguments make sense. We are all part of a food web, an ecosystem, fellow denizens on this planet.
But we don’t make our choices about food and eating entirely based on reason; eating is a topic that is highly emotional. Our reasons for choosing what foods we prefer to eat are very much (whether we know it or not) based on ineffables like habit, preference for taste and texture, memories and associations. We may conclude that our decision not to eat meat is based on ethical, philosophical principles and, just as much, on a squeamish feeling in our stomach in knowing that the lamb chop on our plate was once an actual lamb’s leg. Eating meat may simply neither taste nor feel right. If more than three percent of the population was vegetarian and demand for chicken and pork and such dramatically decreased, could industrial-scale animal raising be made obsolete? Is it possible that so much of the population is eating meat because it is readily available?
What do you think of Niman’s, Cerulli’s and Applestone’s arguments?
For myself, I’m looking forward to a Christmas meal that’s heavy on the vegetables and grains.
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