Duh: Of course I don’t think it’s cool to torture and kill animals

| Staff Columnist

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.

  • Anonymous

    excellent article…well done!!!

  • Anonymous

    Vegetarianism is a perfectly valid and (when done right) healthy way to eat. I don’t necessarily disagree with it as a moral standpoint – slaughterhouses are pretty awful – but, to echo the point above, maybe there are more important issues to be dealt with. According to http://www.childhelp.org, over 3 million reports of child abuse are filed every year, and yet one rarely hears people complaining about that awful statistic.

  • Bob Boland

    You’ve certainly taken the moral high ground regarding what you eat and I fully support your right to live your life as you wish. There’s an awful lot of suffering going on at the top of the food chain too, however. I hope you are as enthusiastic and supportive of feeding, clothing, and supporting those humans that are in need.

  • http://www.facebook.com/imosley Ian August Mosley

    BTW, Lorraine, I’ve eaten raw meat. Buffalo to be precise. It has a certain zing to it but I think I prefer it cooked.

  • http://www.facebook.com/imosley Ian August Mosley

    For someone named “Rationalist,” you don’t make a very persuasive case.

    Lorraine: Do I need an excuse? I think I would need an excuse (or at least an explanation) to begin treating animals as if they had the dignity that human life possesses.

  • http://facebook lorraine

    Abroad Omnivore: how come you can’t eat that tasty meat raw, like all the other carnivores do? Is it too real, too disgusting for you?

    Ian: God might not appreciate you using him for an excuse.

  • Lizzy Kate Gray

    This is a wonderful, concise article, and so well done! I will link to it. Don’t let the negative responses get you down! You are an inspiration to this fellow vegetarian.

  • Rationalist

    Ian,

    God doesn’t exist.

    Now go back to living your life without worrying about it.

  • Abroad Omnivore

    I don’t pretend to know much about the research about slaughterhouses or the effects of production on the environment. However, what I do know is very simple: Meat is delicious. That being said (or typed rather), I would like to raise a couple of considerations that you seem to have left out of your article.

    First, forget the ridiculous argument you included from your friends at the end of the article about carrots…that’s just silly. Instead consider the argument that most animals EAT other animals (including humans if they can get their grubby little paws on us). I’m fairly certain that if we stop eating animals, they won’t stop eating each other. It seems that this is just part of life.

    Second, what about humane ways to go about obtaining meat? Hunting is an activity that I have never participated in. Yet, there seems to be something completely justified in going out into the wilderness and obtaining your own deer (let’s say) to feast upon for the coming weeks. These animals have grown up in the wild without the influence of business and the human world. And let’s also think about several cultures where hunting is still a large part of survival. Let’s ask them to give up a large part of their livelihood and culture!

    Those are just a couple of issues I would like to point out when it comes to the consumption of delicious, juicy, and mouthwatering meat. Turning back to your article, it seems the biggest problem is with us and not the actual institution of meat eating. In your article you go to great lengths to villainize every person that puts a burger to their mouth. Perhaps we are implicit when we eat meat manufactured through immoral means. However, let’s fix the actual problem, which incidentally is NOT eating meat.

    Cheers.

  • http://www.facebook.com/imosley Ian August Mosley

    “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. ”

    Then I hope you don’t care much for tea; every time you boil water you commit a microscopic holocaust of tiny lifeforms. Or are you going to arbitrarily draw a moral distinction between those creatures we can see and those we can’t? Or is it OK because they (probably) can’t feel themselves being instantly incinerated? Then would killing someone who can’t feel anything be OK?

    This is the kind of madness we come to when we forget that humans have a peculiar dignity because we are made in the image of God.