08 April 2010

Vegetarian Progression

March 8th, 2008.
I have been struggling with the issue of animal rights for literally months now. Specifically: is it morally wrong to raise and consume animals?
This is a very hard issue. I love meat. I LOVE it. The best meal is a thick, juicy steak, only seared on the sides. Every meal is incomplete without meat, I consider it the entree and main affair of a meal. It is seriously at the heart of my daily approach to food.
So when I say that I am wrestling with this matter, I mean I am wrestling. I don't want to come to the conclusion that it is wrong to eat meat, because I enjoy it so much. But I'll be goddamned if I am not coming inevitably down in that direction, no matter how much I read and think about it.
The conflict comes when I consider that this seems inherently flawed on a gut level. The reducto ad absurdum is a situation wherein someone tortures a puppy to death. If animals don't matter, this is not wrong at all. No mitigation, it's just not wrong. It has the same moral consideration as eating a tomato.
But I'll be damned if that seems right.
I sat down to reevaluate morality from the ground-up, beginning with the beginning: Plato. Moving forward, I retackled Kant, Marx, and Locke, addressing their major works with an eye for an answer to the problem or some new fundamental of thinking. I read several of the works of Peter Singer, the seminal animal rights philosopher.
But I must reluctantly admit I am little closer to the source of the problem and understanding how the conflict can be resolved. It is maddening... I am driven to seek the answer I dread, but can't just forget about it because how could I live every day knowing my actions were morally untenable.

March 20th, 2008.
Well, still unable to come to a conclusion on animal rights, I have settled for the time being on a diet of greatly-reduced meat. The past few nights, I have made a tofu stir-fry (surprisingly really tasty), a ginger-soy chicken dish from a single chicken breast, and veggieburgers (pretty lousy). If anyone has any tasty vegetarian recipes to share, it would be swell.

May 1st, 2008.
Okay, after much difficulty I am settling down to a compromise: fish and chicken, but no pork or beef. Pork and beef are both the most destructive to the environment (obscenely so by a wide margin), and both the most intelligent animals (and accordingly most capable of suffering). I really just don't think I can manage to be full vegetarian, as it has been making me goddamn miserable. This is a compromise between my conscience and practicality.

June 25th, 2008.
Rolling Stone has a story about one of the biggest pork producers, whose behavior is entirely typical. Even aside from the ethical consideration (it is not moral to cause pain and death to a sentient creature if it is so easily avoidable), read about the hideous destruction to the environment.

December 4th, 2009.
In the wake of an enlightening and difficult debate about the morality of eating meat, I found myself wanting to explain more clearly my reasons for my vegetarianism and how I did it.
I would go to the store and see the slabs of beef laid out on crisp paper. If I could have, I would have happily seized one and gulped it raw in big chunks. And pork ribs at a barbecue, glistening with grease and emerging steaming and savory from the smoker. And chicken wing contests when I was out with the boys - I had give that up, too! And I was great at eating the spiciest wings... I was always the only one who could handle Wing Hut's "atomic" wings, delectable little bits of meat that were so spicy I would have reddened contact burns around my mouth the rest of the day. Going out to eat became a pain, and going to dinner parties was a nightmare. It is very awkward to be unable to eat the succulent centerpiece dish at a dinner party. Everyone notices and you have to explain yourself and then defend your beliefs and it's just terrible.
But I could have done it. I know this, because eventually I did. And I finally managed to find a way to make it easy. Meals became a pleasure again. Cooking became fun. And the agony of constant yearning went away.

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