Duh: Of course I don’t think it’s cool to torture and kill animals
Casually commenting that a baby burger would be a tasty accompaniment to your french fries would instigate squirming in most people, with the possible exception of Hannibal Lecter. But when my friends smack their lips over a still-red slab of steak, I’m the protesting minority, the outraged vegetarian. I don’t eat cows, pigs, chickens, fish or humans. My friends tend to think it’s hilarious, and I’m maligned as the squeamish hippie girl, easily overpowered by normal meat-eating people.
Not only am I overtly vegetarian, but I’m one of those irritating ones who believe that everyone else should choose to become vegetarian as well. Like all moral questions, there happens to be a correct course of action with regard to whether people should deliberately kill animals to eat their meat.
That being said, I believe everything is up for intellectual discourse. Molotov cocktails and shotguns aren’t my style, although intimidating and/or shooting everyone who currently eats meat would probably be the most expeditious method of eliminating omnivores. I have reasons why I adhere to vegetarianism, and I’m not afraid to expose them to challenge through debate. Hopefully, I’ll complicate or change a few people’s views about their diets.
For me, becoming a vegetarian was a personal choice—I was not indoctrinated by Neo-Hippie parents or brainwashed by a commune. My main reason for becoming a vegetarian was purely moral—I simply don’t believe it is correct to arbitrarily draw a line between which lives to respect and which to take based on the distinctions among species. Animals think and, more importantly, feel. Although they may not share mental capabilities with humans, they process pain and pleasure. Depriving them of their lives, and making miserable what limited time they have, is wrong. Arguments that animals are mentally inferior and therefore unworthy of moral consideration could just as easily be applied to the mentally disabled. This reasoning seems to be a cover-up for moral standing based on tastiness. Most people would not condone the torture and killing of a kitten; but the same behavior, applied to animals we find tasty and not as adorable, is accepted and institutionalized. Forget happy cows in verdant pastures; factory farm-raised animals are treated abominably before they are slaughtered. Chickens are fed and drugged to grow fat at the quickest possible rate. As a result, their lungs and limbs often can’t keep up, crippling them. To keep costs down, animals are crammed into the smallest possible spaces. Pigs are confined in cages that are so inhibiting that they can’t turn around or lie down. Bulls are castrated and have their horns ripped out of their heads.
My awareness for environmental concerns represents another important reason I became a vegetarian. According to a 2006 report by the United Nations, the meat industry is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to global warming.” The industry as a whole produces more greenhouse gases “than all the SUVs, cars, trucks, planes and ships around the world combined” (H. Steinfeld et al., “Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options, Livestock, Environment and Development” (2006)). Not only do the animals produce large amounts of carbon dioxide but also methane (a byproduct of digestion and animal feces) and nitrous oxide, which are both more potent than carbon dioxide. Producing meat also takes up massive amounts of energy. According to a 2002 study by E Magazine, one-third of all the energy in the U.S. goes toward producing meat.
At about this point in the discussion, my friends generally come up with irrefutable examples of logical reasoning. Their brilliant refutations often include, “What if carrots have feelings too?” When carrots wail in agony when I munch them, I will go out and rip apart a deer with my bare hands. In the meantime, I refuse to contribute to the culture of meat munching, and hope others will as well.