Mar 20, 12
Dear Ariel Kaminer,
I am writing in response to your contest, “Calling All Carnivores.”
Why must the NY Times encourage readers to eat meat? Why was the contest not called, ”Ethical Reasons to Stop Eating Meat?”
Those two are rhetorical questions. The answers are because the NY Times does not want to award people for insisting eating meat is unethical. On the contrary, this contest is strong evidence the NY Times wants to reward people for insisting eating meat is ethical.
In your article, you assert that “those who love meat have had surprisingly little to say.” How can you make this assertion and live in the United States, where every meal is pig, chicken, fish or cow, and where bookshelves are crammed with titles encouraging popular but illogical “compassionate carnivorism?”
My complaint is not that you believe meat fans are silent, or under-represented. As a meat eater, you are likely as unshaken by Turduckens and bacon as the rest of America, so your belief that meat-eaters have “had surprisingly little to say” is understandable.
My complaint is about the end goal. The result of this contest, intentional or not, is an article which causes readers to think, “Ah-hah. So that why eating meat is ethical. I knew I was right for doing it.”
The world does not need more reasons to eat meat, much less a contest recruiting the most convincing and popular logical fallacy. The world is not better for increased demand of dead or dying animals.
The world needs people who, as you said in another article, feel crummy when unnecessarily ending the life of another, and it needs articles from those people saying why they refuse to repeat the act.
Whose "personal choice" are we talking about? Pictured above: a calf roping at a rodeo.
The act of exploiting animals is often justified as a “personal choice,” but personal choices stop being personal when they affect others.
When we eat a vegan diet, when we refuse to attend rodeos and zoos, when we pass up leather jackets, wallets and shoes in favor of synthetic or plant-based goods, we are practicing peace. We are behaving consistently in a manner that directly fosters justice.
It is ironic to hear people use their power of choice (typically, only as consumers) in and of itself to justify harming animals. “It’s my choice to eat or not eat animals,” they assert. But this directly violates the freedom and choices of another living being who has every right not to suffer.
Only the aggressor, or the more powerful, can choose to inflict misery and death upon others. By definition, victims are victims, they do not have a choice in the matter of being used.
What about crimes against our fellow humans? We do not say that rape is permissible because rapists are “making a personal choice,” yet rape is absolutely what is done to female cows to force them into pregnancy and thus eventual lactation. We do not say thieves and murderers are excused of their crimes because they chose to commit them. Yet what is more theft and murder than stealing breast milk and killing the children, then their mother when her body is too worn out to produce milk at a profitable rate?
The aggressors want to wiggle out of the truth of using words like “rape” and “murder,” because of a simple speciesist view that only rape and murder can be done to humans.
One fact which cannot be wiggled out of is by enslaving others, we strip them of their most basic choice: to be free. Actions we take are only a “personal choice” until they infringe upon the freedoms of others. Freedom to move about, freedom to avoid pain, freedom to reproduce (or not) at will: these are all choices denied to enslaved animals who would naturally make them if left alone. When we confine and eventually kill our powerless captives, we deliberately and irreversibly engage in violence that annihilates all of their choices.
We all have the capacity to inflict harm. We all have the capacity for enormous good, as well. Abraham Lincoln put it perfectly when he said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
The one on the left will be ground up with about a thousand siblings so you can eat his mother's eggs.
Is it immoral to cut a dog’s throat because we like the sound of the blood gurgling onto the soil? To stomp on a box of kittens because the squishing under our feet is lovely and refined? To sever a lizard’s tail and legs, leaving her to bleed to death, because the trail of blood she leaves behind makes interesting patterns?
Most of us would say yes, these acts are immoral. Would they be any better if the aggressor was paid to do it? If a young man is paid ten dollars every time he crushes a kitten to death, is the act then acceptable? How about ten thousand dollars? Of course not.
We agree that receiving pleasure from the sound, sight or feel of bloodshed is immoral (if not downright creepy), as is profit.
What if the pleasure is taste?
If the pleasures on our ears, under our feet, or upon our eyes are unacceptable reasons to inflict harm, why do we make exceptions for the pleasures of the tongue? It is just another organ.
Eye, nose and skin pleasure may be seen as entertainment. If we agree that killing for mere entertainment is bad, then certainly crushing kittens to death is bad. Stabbing a cow to death for entertainment, then, is also bad because a cow is no different a moral specimen than a kitten is.
The difficult part of talking to meat and dairy consumers is helping them understand that eating flesh and non-human milk are unnecessary. Because these food items are not necessary, they are entertainment. Buying steak at a grocery store which also sells beans and fresh vegetables is no more defensible than stomping on a box of kittens.
We must reject killing not just kittens, but also cows, chickens and all living beings, in pursuit of the specific sensations given to our tongues and noses.
There is no magic morality purifier device built into our taste buds. Criminals are not released on the condition that they greatly enjoyed the crime. And, despite what the bacon advertisements tell us, pigs are not happy to die today because a plate will hold their body parts tonight.
Our enjoyment is as irrelevant as profit. The price paid per kitten squished has no effect on the immorality of the act. Be it ten dollars or ten thousand dollars, funding murder is funding murder. In the same way, a tickle or a taste does not change the exploitation.
Let us be consistent with our beliefs. Being so is much easier than trying to explain to our children why assaulting kittens is bad, but assaulting pigs is okay, provided we eventually eat them, too.
Summary: Do not blame being an asshole on this organ.