Saturday, October 28, 2006

About eating animals

I have been a vegetarian for a bit more than 15 years. I became one because I couldn't escape how easy it is to eat without eating animals and I had the vague idea that it was a small good thing not to eat them. I didn't go much deeper than that (that shallow thinking is quite enough to end meat-eating) so I still drank milk and ate eggs. It's not so much that animals suffer, although of course that concerns me, but that they die.

On reflection, three things have occurred to me. First, the suffering is possibly worse than the dying. Killing something to eat it is not so bad. It's natural that those that are able dispatch what they can and eat it. Lions do not stop to think whether they should rather eat carrots than gazelles. Of course I am being facetious. I consider myself more capable of ethical consideration than a lion. What I have a problem with these days is that that consideration lacks foundation. I find it harder to think of myself as anything different from any other animal. There is something speciesist in being vegetarian: I consider myself better than the brutes that simply eat other animals at the same time as I claim to be considering them my equals by caring about them enough not to eat them. But being kept in a factory farm is a bad fate for an animal, and I feel worse that I am in some small way complicit in their suffering in this way. I eat free range eggs but I don't buy organic milk. I have my doubts that it is "free range" in any case.

Second, I have reason to doubt my compassion for animals. Perhaps it was only ever squeamishness, which is not quite so noble. I simply don't feel all that compassionate though. I have had the yard treated for ants and I bombard my children's hair with lice medicine (which doesn't seem to work; no surprise, Brisbane is chockers with tough insects that bite weigh above their weight). I sprayed the outside of the house with creepy-crawly killer. This is just to avoid discomfort, not even because insects pose a threat to me. So I can't really claim to feel compassion for all living things, although I am sorry to think about the dead ants and so on.

Third, I find that it is conceptually difficult to distinguish a cow from a carrot. Both are living things and I struggle to work out why I should care more about the cow. Most reasons that I can come up with are fairly anthropomorphic. The best of a bad bunch is that cows feel and carrots don't. Which is true but surely one need only avoid allowing the cow to suffer?

I am left with a faint revulsion, which as I say is not much more than plain squeamishness, or a feeling that those nice cows should be allowed to live.

I suppose I could start eating meat again. Philosophically I could and it would improve my eating habits no end (it's hard to be a veggie in a place that is entirely meat-oriented). But the thought of meat makes me sick, so it's quite moot. I doubt I'll ever eat it again.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home