29 December 2003

Red Meat

The following was posted as a comment on my blog entry, "Becoming a Vegetarian (or Demi-Vegetarian)":
I happened upon your blog from the blogger main page and have been fascinated ever since. I very much enjoy the issues brought up and discussed. This post in particular has really gotten me to think. To be honest, I very much enjoy the taste of beef. I do not enjoy the way in which beef is a[c]quired—the farming or the slaughtering. But I find it interesting when people give up red-meat, but not other meats. Chickens and turkey[s] are raised in terrible environments and treated just as badly with practices such as debeaking and layering. Perhaps you can shed some light on why red-meat is usually the first meat to go from diets and not other meats. I can think of many reasons myself, but I enjoy your thoughts and writings and would love to hear what you have to say especially considering that you have the actual experience. Personally, I'm not a big fan of poultry and would give that up before beef, must [much] to the dismay of our fellow [?] bovine mammals.
Let me say, first of all, that I appreciate the feedback. Mylan, Angus, Nathan, and I hope that this site becomes a worldwide forum for philosophical discussion of the moral status of nonhuman animals. This means give and take, not lecturing. Please spread the word about the blog. And please—all of you—keep the questions coming. We will do our best to respond to them. Right, guys? Guys? Are you there?

You say you enjoy the taste of beef but do not enjoy the farming or the slaughtering. Have you tried various soy-based beef substitutes? One common reaction to this suggestion is, "Yuck!" But seriously, I eat hamburgers, hot dogs, and lunch meat—all made with vegetables. They're delicious. The technology is amazing. Even the texture is mimicked. But suppose you conclude that these items aren't as tasty as the real thing; isn't that a reasonable price to pay to avoid contributing to the suffering and death that you say bothers you? I don't mean to be censorious, but you did ask me. Try the soy products. They're available even in traditional grocery stores such as Kroger and Albertson's. If you have specialty stores such as Whole Foods Market in your area, you will find an amazing assortment of vegetarian foods. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. Perhaps other readers can make recommendations as to brand and so forth.

As for why some people "give up" red meat but not other meats, it probably varies by person. One reason that springs to mind is that beef is less healthy than, say, poultry. If you're wondering about me in particular, red meat (beef and pork) was just the first meat to go from my diet. I didn't want to go whole hog (or quit cold turkey). I was chicken, sheepish, cowed. I don't know why I started with red meat; maybe it was because cows and pigs are bigger and more humanlike. Have you ever looked into a cow's eyes? I don't think I saw any moral difference between the various meats (or animals); nor is there, in my judgment. One reader of this blog pointed out a while back that, other things being equal, it's worse (morally) to eat chickens than cows or pigs. His reasoning was that the same amount eaten would require more deaths, and also that cows and pigs aren't (in general) treated as badly as chickens.

By the way, I have always considered pork red meat, despite the pork industry's slogan, "The other white meat." What do you suppose explains that slogan? Think like a rhetorician.