Good morning all!
I had promised, whilst in a somewhat inebriated state, to discuss the ethics surrounding the consumption of delicious delicious meat. So that’s what todays blog is going to be about. This topic is one that I could go on and on about for absolutely ages. Indeed, it deserves to be gone on and on about for absolutely ages. Food is important shit, yo.
The premise of vegetarianism, as I understand it, runs thus: animals have the right to exist, and therefore killing them unnecessarily (ie. outside of some desert island scenario where you have to kill it in order to survive) is wrong. Let’s be real; once you’ve accepted that premise, there’s no escaping the conclusion: eating meat is unjustifiable.
But that doesn’t stop us eating it. Meat tastes good. It just does. This is the double standard that any carnivore with pretensions at being ethical needs to rationalise out of existence. When considering the question, I came up with a little chart:
|It is wrong to kill a living thing in order to sustain yourself.||Meat tastes good.|
|It is wrong to treat animals poorly in order to sustain yourself, or pay others to do it on your behalf.|
|Livestock requires a great deal of food which could be used to directly feed people.|
|Global warming – livestock produces a lot of methane. More than planes, trains and automobiles combined.|
Alright. I could have padded the rightmost column a little further. But, let’s be real, any other entry I could have made would have been bullshit. If meat weren’t so goddam delicious then this issue would be a no-brainer, no matter how nutritious it was. No-one would defend slaughtering an animal that tasted terrible. It would be regarded as an obvious barbarism, akin to dogfighting, or the Grand National.
Vegetarians tend to have to suffer being challenged by non-vegetarians. I’ve witnessed this phenomenon – I’ve even perpetrated it. There’s a certain sense of duty about it, as though the carnivore must attempt to recruit the herbivore back into the fold, and the most effective way to do this is to abuse them. Why do we do this? Is this one of those cruel-to-be-kind thingys? I suspect the real reason is guilt. We all know really that the vegetarian is right. Therefore, it’s only appropriate that they be made to feel like dicks about it. How dare these goddam do-gooders take this ethical action, and in doing so highlight my lack of similar action? Goddam do-gooders!
So it’s only reasonable to offer an objection: “You don’t eat meat, eh? Are you mad? Don’t you know about PROTEIN!?”
Right. Here’s the thing: does anyone reading this know what protein actually is? Do you really? I’m sure I don’t have that many scientists reading this. So what is protein? I don’t know, really. Some sort of stringy stuff? Strands of amino acids? I’m quite sure that’s right. But then I’ve begged a question, there: what the hell is an amino acid? Something you need to live, apparently. Whatever it is, you can get it from beans and pulses and eggs and lots of other non-meaty places, so I’m sure that this objection is as unsustainable as a vegetarian’s protein-deprived brain.
Whenever I try to imagine a life without meat, I tend to imagine the tastiest meat imaginable: a fourteen ounce fillet steak, juice streaming from the side as the knife glides through. A piece of beef impacts the tongue. It’s tender – my God. Ave Maria gratia plena Dominus tecum – it’s tender. Juices spread to every corner of the mouth. The parts of the brain in charge of making life worth living light up. Mmmmm.
The sensation borders on the erotic. Who but a masochist could willingly forgo that for a lifetime? Such an existence would be a poorer one, to be sure.
But obviously, there’s a cost to that steak. It looks something like this:
So, if you watched that and found it uncomfortable I’d suggest it’s time to get off the whole meat-eating train now, because that’s as humane as it gets. This is the best case scenario: the cow is confused for a few seconds before being stunned, then the throat is sliced open which kills it. Presumably up until that point it’s had a great life going about its bovine business, who knows. Whenever I cut into a steak, this is the manner I like to imagine that steak was made: from a cow that is raised out in the open, fed with the sorts of food its stomach had evolved to digest (grass, in the case of cows), before being slaughtered using the most humane methods available.
Unfortunately, this is the exception rather than the rule. The reason for this is one of simple economics: we consume an absolute fuckload of animal meat, we want it cheap as fuck and aren’t particularly discerning about how the animal is treated. In fact, most of the time we don’t want to know. Most people are a little squeamish about it. They’d prefer their menu as opaque as possible. It’s this squeamishness that leads to those other sorts of slaughter videos you sometimes see, where Alec Baldwin narrates fuzzy hidden-camera footage of some factory worker raping a chicken.
There’s always a lingering fear that something unpleasant has happened to your food. And no matter where you get it from, unless you personally oversaw every stage of the meat’s production, some doubt will always remain as to whether the animal was mistreated somewhere along the way. There is only one cast-iron guarantee against this concern, and that’s vegetarianism.
But I’m not a vegetarian. Like most people, I don’t want to abstain from meat-eating entirely. I don’t want to make a pledge. I want flexibility. I want to be able to make exceptions. When eating out at a restaurant or whatever, you eat meat, or else you eat badly (at least, relatively speaking). I’d prefer not going to consign myself to a lifetime of menu-scouring.
But I can compromise. I’ve already done so, actually; over the last year I’ve become a little more discerning about the things I eat. Fast food has been a casualty; not through any conscious effort, mind, just out of simple snobbery. I don’t eat McDonalds, Burger King, KFC or any of that shit. The stuff is atrocious. It tastes like crap, has negligible nutritional value (indeed, it’s arguably poisonous) and you can absolutely guarantee the animals used to produce it were all miserable. I can’t see myself looking back. That’s one pledge I’m willing to make.
But, further than that, I intend to eat less meat full stop. Not religiously, not even particularly noticeably – but I’ll be doing it. Meatless Monday? Yeah, I can get behind that. Maybe I could even push it to a few more days of the week. And, let’s be honest, aside from the occasional amazing steak, most of the time it’s something a bit – well – boring. You’ll throw in a bit of ham to a lunchtime sandwich; dinner will probably contain meat, but it won’t be a transcendent experience in the same way that a steak is. Can we lose that? Sure. Can we make similar cuts across the board? I guess. Maybe.
So, if I have a point, it’s this: The pleasure you get from eating meat must outweigh the pleasure the animal would have taken from – well – continuing to live, and also the suffering it endured in its final moments. If you’re going to eat meat, you sure as fuck better enjoy doing it. And I fully intend to do so, when I tuck into my bacon-topped ½ pound cheeseburger later this evening.
Until next week!
PS. Here’s some food porn for you all. Awwwww, yeah.