I disagree that meat eating and vegetarianism are truly lifestyle "choices" for reasons that follow.
Choice implies freedom
of choice. Would anybody suggest that we have the freedom and choice
to drown a puppy in scalding water or hack the limbs off of a kitten while she is still fully conscious? I would hope not. So torturing other animals - the flesh of which we happen to like to eat - can't be justified on the grounds of freedom of choice any more
than can the torture of puppies and kittens. The only difference between a pig and a puppy is the way humans treat them. I should even get more specific here and say that the way North Americans and Europeans treat them. IN many Asian countries, dog flesh is as fair a game as pig meat. And a "might makes right" philosophy should not be confused with the principle of "freedom of choice" as meat eaters do. We have the ability
to set our pets on fire - just like we have the ability to scald chickens alive for our tasting pleasure - but that does not mean we have the freedom of choice
to do so.
Furthermore, as pointed out, there are so many injustices and tragedies occuring right now in the world. Child labour in China is one, so is child labour in India and other countries. Even in North America today there are slaves - young women brought over from third world countries on the promise of an education but instead they wind up as slaves for rich white folks. It happens in the most affluent communities in America and Canada.
Kids are trained to kill other kids starting from age 7 in Somalia and other countries in Africa and the Middle East.
The amount of homeless people in Toronto seems to increase with each passing year while the number of brand new condos being built also increases.
So yes, there are many causes out there and many injustices and tragedies that need our attention NOW
. Meat eaters will often throw this fact in the face of animal rights activists, stating with unconcealed contempt things like "Why don't you work on human causes first?" or "get your priorities right you freaks!" But as one animal rights activist has stated, I fail to see what it is these people think they are doing for human kind that compels them to support the wasteful and ruthless exploitation of farm animals. Furthermore, the plain truth is that adopting a healthy vegetarian diet requires little extra time or commitment and can improve one's sense of well-being. Anyone can choose the diet while still continuing to work on the same "human" issues they deem of paramount importance. The diet itself will be assisting "human" causes that people think should be a priority anyway.
Furthermore, the realization and acknowledgment that "there are other crucial causes that require our attention NOW" only further strengthens
the position that vegetarianism/veganism is NOT a lifestyle choice at all, but rather, a moral imperative
So in my view, if one is truly a humanitarian and is concerned about there fellow human beings that are starving in other parts of the world, then one would be wise to go at least vegetarian. While tens of millions die annually from starvation related causes and close to one billion people suffer from malnutrition, 37 percent of the world's harvested grain is fed to animals being raised for slaughter; in the United States, the figure is 66 percent. Converting grains to meat wastes up to 90% of grains' proteins, 96 percent of calories, and all their fiber. Since it takes far more grains to feed a meat eater, worldwide meat consumption greatly increases demand for grains. As demand grows, cost increases and the world's poor become increasingly unable to afford food of any kind.
Frances Moore Lappe, in her book Diet for a Small Planet
, powerfully and insightfully asserted that we could help end world hunger by redistributing our wealth and respurces to the poorer people of the world, cutting back on militarism, and becoming vegetarians. She pointed out that more and more of our basic grains around the world, instead of going to local communities of malnourished people, are grown and given to animals who are used for their milk, eggs and later slaughtered or who are raised only to be slaughtered for meat. In both instances, the animal products are consumed by the poeple of the developed "First" world, rather than by the starving masses.
As Rev. John Dear has highlighted, ten years ago, China was a net grain exporter, and it seemed certain that it would continue to export grain. But instead, as a direct result of increasing consumption of animal products, primarily pigs, China is now one of the world's top grain importers. The practical effect on people is only just starting to be felt in China. According to groups like Worldwatch Institute, all developing countries that rely on animal agriculture will experience similar consequences and the resulting increase in starvation and misery as well.
It is profoundly disheartening, as John Dear reminds us, to note that during the famine in Ethiopia in the mid - 1980s and during the famine in Somalia in the early 1990s, those countries continued to export grains to Europe to feed its cows, pigs and chickens so that First World people could indulge their selfish lust for animal flesh. Likewise, while people suffer and die in central and south America, the countries there ship their grains to the US and Canada to feed our cows, pigs and chickens so that people like my ex-'s mother and most of my friends can satisfy their desire for animal flesh.
In short, my view differs from yours in that i do not think that a meat eating "choice" can be defended on the grounds of freedom of choice at all. Freedom of choice, from an ethical perspective, ends when one's alleged "choice" has such pervasive consequences for billions of animals annually, for billions of starving people and for the survival of the earth. Put alternatively, while we have the right do do as we please and eat what we want, we do NOT have the right to hurt other beings who are morally innocent and utterly at our mercy, especially when the reasons for doing so are gluttony
I am by NO MEANS a perfect person, woman, activist, vegan, vegetarian, or anything. And I will be the first one to admit that such degrees of self-discipline and altruism is a real challenge for most humans - it certainly is for me. IN fact, I am sure most of you are more perfect and conscious vegans than am I, which is why I have the ultimate respect for all of you. All vegans truly qualify for a nobel peace prize. BUt what really pisses me off with meat eating adults is when they try to justify their diet and lifestyles on such untenable and implausible grounds as "freedom of choice". I also hate to hear things like "well, you probably didn't love meat as much as I do and do you do not understand that I am a carnivore through and through and could never give up eating meat". Like I said in an earlier post in this string, NOBODY I REPEAT NOBODY was the "ultimate" carnivore as I was. If I can go veg, anybody can go veg. A refusal to do so in this day and age and where we live is simply weakness and, more than that, selfishness. Meat eaters should at least have the guts do admit this instead of trying to justify their diet on the grounds of freedom of choice. When one considers the direct link between meat eating, world hunger, environmental degradation and animal cruelty, it is difficult to take arguments of "freedom of choice" seriously.
So that is my two cents anyway. I am sure many of you will disagree and I think the disagreement may rise due to the fact that my premises, my starting point, is that I reject speciesm as a self-evident truth. But, maybe that is why many of you are married and I am currently single...
And I do agree that the best way to change people is to NOT be confrontational and judgmental, but rather patient and have a little more tolerance. It's just that when millions of children are starving and dying and animals are being skinned and de-limbed alive DAILY worldwide, it is difficult to be patient and to wait for people to have that light bulb moment - sometimes I just want to shake them until they get it!!!