On Unconscious Omnivores
In "Why Vegetarians are Eating Meat," by Christine Lennon in August’s Food and Wine, we learn that, thanks to Michael Pollan and his ilk, vegetarians are being persuaded to revert to meat-eating. It seems some people are just waiting for the okay from an expert who provides them with reasons why eating certain kinds of meat ("sustainable meat") is good for the planet, farmers, you, and even the cows.
This is what happens as a result of concentrating on the (very legitimate) horrors of factory farming. When the discussion is all about the cruelty and the massive environmental degradation, there is a built-in solution that is a win-win: less cruelty and environmental degradation. We must ask ourselves: Is the cruelty the heart of the matter, or is the idea that we have no right to use nonhuman animals as food (or anything else) the core concept?
For people who have deluded themselves into believing that there is such a thing as humane slaughter, cruelty can actually be removed from the equation and they can enjoy their animal products, guilt-free. But all they’re really doing is choosing to believe in humane slaughter, probably subconciously, because without that belief, their desire to eat animals would be a nonstarter. It’s a matter of survival. We delude ourselves so that we can continue behaviors that would otherwise be unacceptable.
Lennon’s article mentions several well-known people who have reverted back to eating meat, including chef Mollie Katzen, "author of the vegetarian bible Moosewood Cookbook," who evidently was never against eating meat and has always eaten dairy. She hits the nail on the head when she says: "For people who are against eating meat because it’s wrong or offensive to eat animals, even the cleanest grass-fed beef won’t be good enough." Lennon concludes: "Convincing those people that eating meat can improve the welfare of the entire livestock population is a tough sell. But we’ll keep trying. What we’ve discovered is that you can hover pretty close to the bottom of the food chain and still make a difference, quietly. We’ve found a healthy balance somewhere between the two extremes—which, come to think of it, is also a good way to approach a marriage."
I’d rather base my life, and my marriage, on nonviolence, which includes not taking the lives of nonhuman animals simply because I enjoy the taste of their flesh or because someone has told me that eating animals can help the environment. I know that the best way to curb global warming is to be a vegan. And I know that we use animals because we can, and that’s nothing to be proud of. A "healthy balance somewhere between the two extremes" is like "humane slaughter:" we tell ourselves what we need to go get through the day.