There's an interesting discussion about cruelty to animals developing at, of all places, National Review's The Corner, not usually my go-to site for barnyard ethics.
I almost didn't read the lengthy essay by Matthew Scully that opened up the discussion, because he disclosed within the first few paragraphs that he's a vegan, and vegans are among the most annoying people on the planet. But once I got over the notion that he thinks I'm morally defective for eating meat, I decided to see what he had to say.
And there is, naturally, the usual hyperbolic diatribes about humankind's cruelty and hypocrisy:
You don’t really know your fellow man until you’ve pondered the fact that most people say they love animals, professing admiration and sympathy, and most people eat them. The great masses of creatures in our industrial farms today would be entitled to conclude, if they could do any pondering themselves, that our love is not worth much. Judging by the fruits, it more resembles hatred. They come and go knowing nothing of existence but misery. No season of gentleness anymore before the blade. No glimpse of earth’s comforts or of life’s goodness. It’s all just pain, courtesy of a world filled with self-described animal lovers. Cruelty to animals, and to farm animals in particular, may not be humanity’s worst offense. It has no rival, however, for the title of humanity’s worst hypocrisy.
Yeah, rough. Told you.
But then he gets into some things I think most of can agree to, even if we don't give up eating (to quote Arlo Guthrie) "burnt, dead animals." He even quotes the likes of Charles Krauthammer, who says future generations might look back in horror, finding it "difficult to believe that we actually raised, herded and slaughtered them on an industrial scale — for the eating."
He cites several other examples such as the confinement and shackling of circus elephants (“a reproach to both their nobility and our humanity”), some of our shabbier zoos, and entertainment spectacles involving captive marine mammals. We are finally realizing that such practices are unnecessary, writes Krauthammer, and “it’s good that these are being rethought.” As for meat, an abundance of substitutes will be available — many already are — “produced at infinitely less cost and effort.” Our successors will see the day when the flesh of slaughtered animals “will become a kind of exotic indulgence, what the cigar (of Cigar Aficionado) is to the dying tobacco culture of today.”
I don't have to stop eating hamburgers to worry about the treatment of elephants. I don't have to give up on the McNuggets to ask that the critters that provide those tasty treats be treated better while they're stil alive. I don't have to be a vegetarian to think bullfighting is over-the-top cruel and should be stopped, or to wonder if rodeos should be somewhere on the list of things a more mature morality would make us question. I doubt Scully would agree to this, of course, since his clear aim is to shame us out of our sinful ways, but I think it is possible to find a middle ground where the rabbit food eater and the rabbit eater can agree on some things.
The response at The Corner came a few days later from Jim Geraghty, who calls Scully's brand of militant veganism "The culinary cult." He quotes a friend who notes the hard truth that we all eat to survive, "and that means that something had to die in order for you to live. Chances are, even if you’re the most committed vegan you know, animals died in the making of your last, and next, meal."
Knowing this and recognizing this doesn’t make you a monster. It makes you mature. It gives you a greater understanding of your place in the world, and the responsibilities we all have to treat the creatures we eat with care and concern. Yes, we should be concerned about wanton cruelty to animals. We should actively work to stop it where we find it. But we shouldn’t define animal cruelty down to the point that eating free-range chicken is comparable to mass murder, nor should we casually condemn millions of Americans for being “trophy hunters” without considering the benefit that their hunting provides.
We each have our own diets, developed for our own reasons. You don't have to like what I eat, and I don't have to like what you eat:
Why is it so hard to choose a dietary set of ethics that’s right for you… and just stop there? Why must everyone turn into an evangelist for the One True Dietary Faith? You’ve heard the joke: “A vegan, an atheist, and a cross-fitter walked into a bar… we all knew because they all chose to announce it to everyone else within the first two minutes.” Yes, we know, you’ve figured out which combination of super-foods will give you a better memory at age 98. I congratulate you on enjoying what will be, probably literally, the last laugh.
Lots of good discussion in the comments section. Should give you some good food for thought as you get ready for that big Christmas dinner. And it will give you something to argue about that isn't politics. (Unless, of course, you want to imagine the vegans as being the anti-Trumpers, which they most certainly will be.)
Oh, and this just in: New study insists that larger portions of beef and pork can actually be GOOD for your blood pressure:
The recommendations to limit red meat from the diet come mainly from studies that look at the dietary habits of people with cardiovascular disease.
Although these studies showed these people typically ate red meat, they were not designed to show that red meat caused cardiovascular disease.
I'll have a New York strip with a side of por chops, please! Sorry, Babe.