Pragmatic Vegetarianism and More Ethical Meat Eating
I follow some farmers on Twitter (you should follow ZwartblesIE at the very least!). Being more connected to our food is almost certainly a good thing, and farmers being able to show us the entire cycle, from birth, to death, is extremely valuable.
The flip-side to this newly-discovered interaction is I often see retweets about vegetarians that are either quite misguided or wilfully ignorant. The same goes for posts I regularly see from fellow veg*ns.
This blog post is to document some of my thoughts on finding a better middle-ground.
Clearing The Air
Vegetarians are not “frenchie owning city-dwellers”. For example, I grew up in the countryside and still knew little about the ins and outs of farming because I didn’t need to know about it. I decided to learn more about it and made a calculated and informed decision to try vegetarianism for a month, and it’s stuck for more than a decade now.
Similarly, though it might feel validating, echoing Gordon Ramsay in his asinine style of vegetarian bashing makes me want to mute, block and all the rest.
There is a huge overlap between animal lovers and farmers. Western civilisation has eaten meat for literal ages, and the industrial revolution did not flip a switch that turned farmers from the backbone of society to murderers. The argument is nuanced and the middle-ground is, necessarily, a shade of grey.
Organisations like PETA, to me, are the mirror image of Ramsay. Though sometimes reasonable in goals, they appear to care more about espousing fundamentalist views and practicing publicity stunts than actually improving the lives of animals. They regularly and wilfully alienate the people on the front-lines of animals’ lives, as well as painting a false picture of us, and that’s extremely dangerous.
We’re in a particularly transformative period in society. In the next century, it might be technologically feasible to eat meat without killing anything (and there’s an argument to be had about whether that should happen). The improvements in the last century alone make vegetarianism extremely easy and safe with a small amount of research.
Finding the balance between ethics that underpin your existence, and pragmatism that makes the world a better place, is difficult. But it’s certainly worth devoting time to.
Despite strict vegetarianism being right for me, it is not the only path to improving the lives of animals. If you don’t have ethical objections to eating meat, make a point of eating less than the average westerner. Spend more to buy locally, or from producers that truly care about the welfare of their animals. View buying the meat from both the perspective of the farmer that produced it, and the animal that it came from, and pay accordingly. The same applies to you if you consume anything produced using animals.
I think it’s entirely possible for animals to have a life filled with dignity and compassion, and that isn’t necessarily negated by the act of killing them at the end. Surely an animal living a happy life and being killed is ethically favourable to being miserable and then being killed?
If you’re considering vegetarianism, what worked for me was going “cold turkey” and simply replacing the meat with an alternative like Quorn for a short time. Be sure to do some research beforehand - as with any diet, it’s possible to miss out on something important!
If you’re considering veganism (and have no prior experience) - don’t make that particular jump in one go. Veganism is considerably more difficult and likely requires a lot more time and planning. If you’re devoted, it’s similarly possible to live a healthy vegan life, but it is necessarily a lot harder.
Listen to people, understand their viewpoints, and don’t promote two-dimensional representations of them to further your own argument.