Vegans are not Vegetarians.
Vegetarianism stems from religious origins Buddhism, Jainism, Catharism, Hinduism to name a few ism’s. With these religions the idea was to not harm another creature “My thought has wandered in all directions throughout the world. I have never yet met with anything that was dearer to anyone than his own self. Since to others, to each one for himself, the self is dear, therefore let him who desires his own advantage not harm another.” (Cited in Buddhism) Also of course this is coupled with the idea of reincarnation; you wouldn’t want to be seen eating your ancestors. These days of course Vegetarians come in various shades and hues, most of which are lame attempts to be righteous like ‘Pescetarianism’ which allows the user to eat fish or flexitarianism which offers a ‘get out of jail free card’ whenever you have a craving for a big Mac; a semi virtuous diet then. I’d like to point out that I’m avoiding ‘the raw food diet’ and ‘sproutarianism’ and their ilk because they are just silly…end of. Anyhow all modern versions of vegetarianism are easy to embrace compared to Veganism, compared to veganism; vegetarianism is a walk in the park!
The Vegan must avoid buying or condoning by proxy any product that has been made by exploiting animals. They have to abstain from eating meat, fish, cheese – my god no Roquefort, no camembert and no stinking bishop – or any dairy product or honey for that matter! The Vegan also has to tread carefully when buying any other product, obviously no leather, certain soaps and cosmetics, candles and even condoms! They believe that animals are sentient, as in living, conscious beings that experience the same kaleidoscope of emotions people do. Therefore when we eat or abuse an animal we are guilty of speciesism.
Perhaps Vegans are to be admired; they are without doubt the only group of people including those that subscribe to various religious, superstitious and political ideologies that are in the true sense holier than thou. They are human plus one, evolutionary superior beings. Vegans occupy a place in the social pecking order which is unique in society; they are the vanguard of what we may all eventually become; harmonious with nature, surviving without exploiting animals as commodities, politically idealistic and ethical. Ethereal creatures, angelic goody two shoes that levitate rather than walk, float on jasmine infused clouds, eat soya and knit their own socks from lentils. It’s pretty pointless trying to argue against it, as a carnivore your arguments for eating carrion are few and lame.
1/ it tastes good
2/ traditional recipes and practices will be lost for ever
3/Livelihoods would be lost and children would go hungry as a result.
4/ Omega 3, iron and B12.
5/It’s our heritage – without becoming carnivores our brains would never have evolved.
6/ Good Animal husbandry is all that’s required – no one believes in animal cruelty.
7/ Meat has its place in a well balanced diet.
8/It’s possible that the western world could at a push adapt but so many hungry people out there will eat whatever they can find, they can’t afford to be fussy.
These are our main arguments for eating and enjoying meat all of which can be adequately and eloquently argued by the Vegan. The real and only reason we eat meat is twofold; one, we like it and two, it’s always been that way.
I want to come up with a valiant and coherent argument for not only why I like to eat meat but why the world should continue to do so. It’s not that easy, I’ve trawled the net looking for support but as of this moment there are a billion people in my corner and yet they seem to be shuffling their feet and whistling nonchalantly to themselves. It could just be that Vegans are on a mission whereas the rest of us don’t feel the need to justify our lifestyle?
Vegans are modern day disciples, evangelists spreading the gospel, passionately defending their ideas and beliefs against a tide of indifference. There is of course a militant wing to this, ‘the animal liberation’ groups which have seen some members jailed for economic persecution and property damage but as far as I know they have never physically hurt anyone. Even so posting bloodied tampons though employee’s doors isn’t very nice especially when you allege it to be HIV positive! Vegans have fought valiantly for animal rights over the years, they have brought to our attention the horrors of factory farming, fox hunting, battery hens and veal crates, bear baiting, whaling, cock fighting, dog fighting and trophy hunting. All of which any rational person would agree now –once educated on the matter – is bloody shocking!! Undeniably we should link the recent trend in eco products, green farming and free range meat partially at least to the efforts of vegan groups. And yet even though some of us would like to believe that we shop conscientiously as a result, it’s just not, it seems, good enough! The vegans are not satisfied and won’t be until we see the error of our ways. On one internet chat room Vegans considered themselves to be trailblazers and compared themselves to female rights activists. It makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up, what if I’m on the wrong side? What if I’m no better than some 19th century stuffy right wing conformist? Give women the vote, whatever next, abolish slavery?
Maybe there’s just to greater gulf between Virtuous Vegans and hunter gatherers like me, I’m still crawling out of the primeval swamp whereas Vegans are chaste and noble creatures far more evolved. Or are they? I recently went to a vegan chat page on the net and found some very hateful comments about ‘fucking meat eaters’ and how ‘I fucking hate them’. Shocking stuff, I’m sure who ever wrote it didn’t expect a ‘fucking meat eater’ to visit the site but even so hatred is without doubt the worst of all human attributes. Hatred and intolerance is what’s wrong with our world. I’m sure it was an isolated case, no one championed or for that matter condemned the comment. But I have to ad that after surfing vegan sites there does exist an us and them mentality, a line in the sand has been drawn, which I don’t believe to be healthy in terms of continuing debate.
I know personally several vegetarians and one vegan. Only the one Vegan has been consistent, to my knowledge, which poses the question: is it even natural to abstain from meat? In stipulating where we are evolutionarily, probably not; evidence suggests that mankind has been carnivorous for some two and a half million years! It’s not reasonable to expect evolution to make a sudden dash to the finish line because of a marginal trend in human history. Evolution needs good reason to adapt and reason can only be applied after compelling evidence suggests the survival of the species depends upon it!
Environmental arguments for not eating meat are, it has to said, worth considering, methane produced by pig farming alone has, it appears, a detrimental effect on the environment. Clearing woodland for grazing also has its problems, but then again, if all we consumed were vegetables and grain then just as much land if not more would be needed to grow it. As James Lovelocks Gaia hypothesis argues; why use so much land to grow lettuce when lettuce has so little nutritional value to offer? Isn’t it worth campaigning against the large scale farming of salad, how many trees are cut down and woodland destroyed to grow something of so little use?
So what about ethical reasons? The subject of ethics is a philosophical nightmare; it really depends on your point of view. First we have to consider the metaethical question of whether or not ethics themselves are a universal truth – morality independent of man – laid down by God or some other divine power or whether they are purely a social tool devised by man to control man. Most I hope will go with the later here in which case we have to look at normative and applied ethics, welcome to the mine field! Are all our ethical responses emotional or rational? Do animals have ethics, do they have a conscience or is that – get ready – anthropomorphism? Should we treat others how we would expect to be treated and does that extend to animal life? Are ethics, as Nietzsche suggested parameters designed by the individual for the individual or perhaps they boil down to property? It’s wrong to kill another’s spouse or siblings or take/ destroy their property/livestock because this will ultimately have severe consequences for you. Is any act purely altruistic or do we do good things because it makes us feel better, we get pleasure from giving, from avoiding meat; the act is about us not the chicken in the slaughter house.
I think there’s a cornucopia of ethical options to choose from, rather like a pick and mix; you take what you like and leave the rest. Even Peter Singer, who has been very vocal about moral equality for animals, suggests that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with rearing livestock for food, as long as the animals in question have been allowed a happy life and granted a painless death. As long as one happy cow is replaced with another happy cow the balance is intact. Albeit Singer doesn’t assume that all these circumstances will ever be met by all and I have to agree with him on that one.
I have come to a conclusion, my ponderings, my soul searching and my gut lead me to my passion my ‘raison d’être’: cooking. I believe that food should play an enormous part in one’s life, eating is one of the few things we need to do to survive, so let’s enjoy it. Not only that but cooking has helped ‘civilise’ men –and women – it’s arguably the first art form. People are defined culturally by what they eat, it’s given us choice, diversity, quality and art; quite simply it’s not to be scoffed at!
A manifesto if you will and it’s this; people should eat a wide range of foods including meat. Hurray! Chant the carnivores, but wait there’s more, carnivores have an obligation to try cooking and experimenting with ‘veggie food’. Get to love your vegetables and pulses; you don’t need to eat meat every day, twice a day. When you shop for meat, shop ethically, spend a little more on the good stuff; make it a treat not a habit! Think about how that chicken lived and died. Be respectful, don’t waste anything, and try the less sought after cuts. Don’t buy cosmetics that have been tested on animals, it’s senseless and cruel and if you want a dog or cat as a pet get it from a shelter. Don’t buy fur. Hunt if you like but only kill for the pot and not for the count and if you are thinking of killing a tiger for its penis or an elephant for its tusks don’t, that’s unredeemably cruel and thoughtless. If you can’t kill it yourself don’t eat it. Harsh I know but them’s the rules, I’m a moderate through and through.
So where does that leave me? I like meat, I don’t eat it every day, I enjoy eating vegetables and pulses too. I’m not an animal lover; I wouldn’t hurt one or cause it discomfort either! I know for a fact that if I witnessed an act of animal cruelty I would physically intervene! I would rather eat free range not just to ease my conscience but because it tastes better. I understand the psychology of ‘distancing’ oneself from the origin and or the reality of what we eat, the pre-wrapped, packaged meats on supermarket shelves is a far cry from the slaughter house machine. If I were to now go over to the hen house in my garden and kill a bird for my dinner I’d dispatch it quickly with the least amount of stress to the animal. Because I ultimately took its life – a happy free range life spent under the shade of a fig tree – I would prepare it carefully, I would waste nothing and do it honor in the pot. I wouldn’t feel bad about it either; I’d be happy and proud that I fed my family well! Does that make me evil, perhaps to some! But then I think anyone who forces too strict a belief system upon their children is guilty of child abuse. Anyone who purposely inhibits the mind of a child and throttles their natural curiosity, impeding their freedom to explore, nipping them in the bud like that….well it’s unprintable. I digress; I’ll save that subject for a rant in the future.
We can all learn a thing or two from Vegans, yes they are like a nagging aunt but they are our conscience, few of us will ever reach the dizzying heights of righteousness they have achieved but they have a place. We need people like vegans to bring the cruel reality of the world to our attention; they carry the load, we should at least listen. We should also treat a vegan dinner guest with respect, make them feel welcome and showcase your vegetarian cookery skills. The worst thing is to ostracize someone for their beliefs, they won’t change their minds but you should ask yourself why?
Anthropomorphism: to betroth human characteristics to animals where none exist.