Monday, August 27, 2007

Taste for Meat Marches On

Tim Flannery writes in the June 28 New York Review of Books:
Many readers will doubtless ask whether vegetarianism is better still. [Michael] Pollan [The Omnivore's Dilemma] tells us that even vegan lifestyles result in animal cruelty. Just think of the the thousands of field mice shredded by harvesters, the woodchucks crushed in their burrows by tractors, and the songbirds poisoned by pesticides when farmers grow the wheat for our bread. Pollan's message seems to be that to live we must kill, and the best we can do is both treat animals decently while they live and kill them humanely.
This is moral argument?!

Your ethical vegan practices ahimsa, or "do the least harm". Choosing organically grown food eliminates the harm from pesticides. Choosing food from small farmers reduces the harm done to animals in the fields. Growing one's own food reduces it yet more.

Michael Pollan, apparently with Tim Flannery's agreement, goes in the other direction. In recognizing that our sustenance does harm to the sustenance of other creatures, he justifies willful harm beyond unavoidable necessity.

His premise is that we must eat the corpses of other animals, and it is commendable that he would like to reduce the brutality of that practice. But that premise is invalid and based only on his unquestioned appetite.

The fact is, most of us do not need to eat the corpses of animals to survive. Many people live very well without eating flesh. So to continue eating flesh is a choice to kill unnecessarily. All the coddling of your "meal" while it is alive doesn't change the brutal fact of that choice. One can raise them and kill them less brutally, but the practice can never be called humane. The result of the feedlot is the same as that for the "happy" grass-grazing beef cow.

Flannery also reviews Bill McKibben's Deep Economy, in which we learn that McKibben is a corpse-eater, too. Has the pre-eminent voice about the dangers of global warming not heard that raising animals for food is responsible for more greenhouse gas effect than transport? Let alone the inexcusable pollution and waste of water, energy, land, and other resources.

How can anyone take these men seriously?

environment, environmentalism, animal rights, vegetarianism

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