You don't have to go vegan in order to protest corporate farming or cruelty towards animals
I am not a vegetarian, let alone a vegan. It is strange that I feel the need to write this, but somehow there is a burning within me to articulate my opinions on abstaining meat from one’s diet. While I am supportive of those with the time and courage to live the clean and healthier lifestyle, I often find myself having to defend my personal morality in debates with some more hardcore vegans/vegetarians that I know. Let me explain why they are wrong.
Before I list my points, let me say that the vegans I am replying to in no way represent the entirety of those who live the lifestyle. I’ve known a few vegetarians and vegans (as a progressive) and I would say that 90% cared less about me eating meat. They were normal people, like myself, who simply chose what they felt were better lifestyles for their own selves. I have no issue with that, I respect it, actually.
The vegans I am replying to are people who, perhaps, are just unpleasant people in general. Yet, they made some rather ridiculous arguments against me and in favor of a strict form of veganism. I feel I have to address them.
The first argument made against my habit of eating meat was that I was propagating murder and suffering on animals because of the meat industry. Granted, yes, the Factory Farms and Meat Packing Industries are known for cruel treatment of animals. As someone who has two dogs, I feel strongly that something must be done to address it.
I often go farther than some progressives on the issue of animal cruelty, even far enough to say sport hunting should be banned entirely and the large Farm Monopolies should be broken down. My approach, however, to animal cruelty is different than the vegans I debated. Their solution was to abandon meat and all animal product all-together. According to them, this was the only way to end the cruelty and sickness of our corporate farm system. I disagree, of course.
The problem is, the vegans I debated, could not separate the issue between animal cruelty and biology. While it is true the Factory Farming system does have reputations for unnecessary cruelty, there are ways to fix that issue without abandoning an aspect of your biological character: Pass a Law.
If you want to end animal cruelty in the farming industry, spreading awareness to pass laws in favor of ending the cruelty would be more effective than trying to convince people to stop eating meat all-together. One reason, I believe, vegan awareness campaigns against Factory Farms are never completely successful is because it takes a logical issue and leads it to an illogical conclusion.
Let us address the biology of it, then. Humans (Homo-Sapien) are omnivores by biological diet. Yes, your diet is determined by biology, not necessarily by personal choice. While it is true that our earliest simian ancestors and cousins were primarily herbivores, around the time of our earliest up-right ancestor (Australopithecines) meat became a more active part of the diet.
Consumption of meat became more active during the dry seasons in Africa, as the lush and softer fruits and leaves were not available, and our teeth are too weak to grind the tough roots and vegetation that was available during those seasons.
Eating meat began as scavenging, and then developed into a more dominant aspect of the diet when the more human-like hominid species arose. In essence, meat has always been part of the human diet, and in fact has been a very active part. In fact, early human groups that ate more meat in their diet thrived while the more vegetarian groups died out.
I make this point mainly because I was told that humans, by nature, were meant to be strict herbivores. While Biology and Anthropology tend to dispute this, many hardcore vegan types are adamant in their position that abstaining from all meat and animal product is the only moral way to live.
While, on the one hand, I do not resent the lifestyle of the vegans that debate me, they seemed to resent mine greatly. To them, it was a moral imperative that I stopped eating meat and using animal product. Eating meat, as a general principle, is not something to lose sleep over. To do so is to force one to lose sleep over all the cruelties our existence brings.
Life and the universe are unfair, and there is no guiding hand of moral nature. Bad things happen all the time, good things happen all the time. Some we can control, most we cannot. Organisms consuming other organisms to survive is not a human creation, nor will it end with humans. Oh, and yes, humans are animals too. We are not a special race of taxa, we are animals related to all other animals in the family tree of life. Therefore, we tend to behave like it.
I feel no guilt for eating a steak or chicken. Nor should I. I feel guilty for the cruelty of man, not the cruelty of nature. Eating meat is not man’s cruelty-cross to bear. As idealistic as I can me, I also realize that not all life in nature will be treated equally. Civilization (whatever that is) can possibly mitigate this, but civilization is also artificial. It can disappear easily, in the grand-scheme of things.
I mention this, because one argument I heard was that “all life is precious and equal and must be respected.” While I appreciate the sentiment, it misses something fundamental: We are consumers. We have to eat to live. Fruits and veggies were once alive before we cut them down to eat. So, even for the hardcore vegan, is all life really equal?
While I appreciate the idealism of many vegans and vegetarians, I simply do not have the personality for that lifestyle. This is not a moral offense, even though I agree that there is cruelty that can be stopped. However, I recognize that ending such cruel practices in corporate farms are more important than pursuing a utopic goal that dilutes the main problem.
I am not a vegan, and I don’t feel ashamed. I applaud those who have the tenacity to live the non-meat lifestyle, and wish them all the best of success. Yet, as a meat-eater, I can’t help but feel strange having to defend the moral position of biology.