Monday, November 17, 2008


This picture got me thinking a bit about vegetarianism. Some claim there are as many as 20 million vegetarians in the US,[1] though I've seen numbers of about 5-7 million being more widely quoted. Either way, that's a lot of people, but still a fairly small number when given the whole population of the country. One of the most enjoyable (and competent) articles I've read against committing to a vegetarian lifestyle (as the most reasonable life-choice) is by Craig Fitzroy, titled "The Great Fallacies of Vegetarianism." Perhaps I should cite an enjoyable and competent article for vegetarianism, but I can't say I've ever run across one.



[1] This 20 million stat is apparently from the San Francisco Vegetarian Society.


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At 10:54 PM, Blogger The Wanderer said...

Oh, those crazy vegetarians. Omnivorous I was born, and Omnivorous I will remain.

At 4:31 PM, Blogger Guy Gadbois said...

Vegetarians are a very kind bunch. By their culinary choice, they're allowing me to eat from a wider selection of meats & for that, I am grateful. So thanks to you, wieners, for allowing me to eat more meat.

At 10:21 AM, Blogger wiggy said...

If you're looking for a good argument for vegetarianism, Peter Singer is the place to go.

At 3:11 PM, Blogger brinticus said...

I have read a few Singer articles where he argues for vegetarianism. I don't find them convincing. He seems to hold that since it causes animals pain for us to raise them (industrial farming) and fear for us to kill them (industrial meat processing), we are are therefore committing a moral wrong. But I don't share Singer's intuitions about pain in animals, and that's where most of his argument would gain its traction.

At 4:16 PM, Blogger wiggy said...

I've also heard him give detailed arguments concerning the ecology/sustainability of subsidizing the equine (and other meat producing animal) population(s) in the way that the developed world does. Beef cattle produce tons of green house gasses. Plus animals that we use to produce meat consume more energy and agricultural resources per mass unit of food than plants by about an order of magnitude. If the developed world didn't subsidize these populations of animals we'd be able to produce more food for the world's increasing population. Plus if the developed world didn't pay for the luxury of meat, we'd be able to save more people from low standard of living and untimely deaths that result from easily preventable factors such as limited access to water, malaria and diarrhea. Rice and beans turn out to be the ethical meal from that standpoint.

At 6:56 PM, Blogger Matt Flaherty said...

The author of the article says:

"I would never use the above arguments to support, say, ... factory farming, veal crates, the long-distance transportation of livestock..."

These are the sorts of arguments that Singer presents. He doesn't argue about the morality of killing the creatures at all (which as the article points out, effectively, only ends in absurdity). He just argues that the practice of factory farming (how we happen to currently get the majority of our meat) should be eliminated and the best way to eliminate these practices is to not consume meat.

I think our accepting the cruelty thrust of the utilitarian's argument (over and above the wasteful part that Wiggy explains helpfully) may hinge on our response to a very odd hypothetical question -- "would an animal choose to exist if it knew of the conditions of factory farming?" Human beings have very adjustable psychological mechanisms to what can seem to be alarming material conditions to those outside of those circumstances; In the case of chickens, if conditions like extremely cramped living spaces and growth hormones that regularly causes excessive obesity leading to the inability to walk without being in pain lead to a psychological state (could we call it this?) that is adjusted or normalized (i.e., preferable to oblivion) perhaps we're all in the clear for eating chicken wings.

And I really like chicken wings, so that would be good news.

Clearly a complex issue, though, so I'm glad we're talking about it.


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