When I realized what was going on, though, I started paying attention to my diet. More to the point, with how much I was eating, not what I was eating, since I have always eaten well. Living on Kraft Dinner and potato chips has never been my style.
That said, the quality of my diet has changed in a couple of significant ways since I stopped cooking for two. On the one hand, I've been eating a lot more fruits and vegetables, along with such things as granola, nuts and cheese, while on the other, I have been eating much less meat, largely because - used to cooking for two people - what I would cook would far too often go bad in the fridge.
I have by no means become a vegetarian (let alone a vegan), but having now often gone days in a row without the flesh of an animal passing through my gullet, I have come to the gut-level realization that vegetarianism is not an impossibility for me.
A couple of weeks ago, fadefromnothing posted an impassioned rant about the evils of carnivorism. From a strictly pragmatic point-of-view, I thought her piece was poor propaganda - too easy to dismiss it as "emotional" (that the argument, that basing a belief on one's feelings is "irrational" is bogus is an argument for another time) - but I had a hard time rebutting the rational arguments that underlay her feelings. In fact, I found it impossible to do so.
I don't care how good murder tastes. It is archaic, brutal, unecessary, and unethical. By supporting the industry, you are supporting the unecessary torture and death of innocent beings...STOP LYING TO YOURSELF. STOP KILLING PEOPLE AND ANIMALS. (fadefromnothing)
Getting away from the anger underlying that post, I find three basic points to Sidra's argument:
- (Other) animals are thinking and feeling beings;
- We in the rich world have no necessity to consume animal protein; and so,
- It is morally wrong to butcher (other) animals, whether for food, clothing or (presumably especially) for sport.
(Sidra further compared our modern willingness to torture and slaughter our fellow (thinking and feeling) animals to women's rights, slavery and concentration camps. And, though the comparisons may seem over-the-top to you, when you think about it, the idea is hard (impossible?) to rebut.)
Last Saturday, after my friend Vernski and I had talked ourselves out about Borat, I paraphrased Sidra's post, and described my discomfort in the fact I had been unable to argue against it.
Now Vernski, despite his long-term co-habitation with a vegetarian, is to my mind notoriously carnivorous. Where I make stir-fries, he broils thick, bloody steaks.
And so I was more than a little surprised when he agreed with me (and with Sidra).
Yes, he said, there is no justification for eating meat, no more than there was for the slave trade in the 18th century, or than there is now for sex tours of daycare centres in Thailand.
And yet, we both acknowledged, that this intellectual understanding of a moral fact was not going to stop either of us from frying up some bacon in the morning.
I like to think that I am a pretty good human being. I try not to lie, I make a point of not taking advantage of the weak or vulnerable and on at least a couple of occasions I have fought down fear and put my face on the line to protect a stranger from possible violence by people who could most likely have easily broken my body the way a child smashes her grand-mother's antique china tea-cup.
Long story short, Vernski and I agreed that eating meat is wrong. And yet we also agreed we will both continue to consume the flesh of what were once living, thinking and feeling creatures, into the foreseable future.
If you grant (as I do) that he and I are at the very least reasonably good people, how do you explain our willingness to engage in a practice we both agree is - in a word - evil? How is it that I am not emotionally tortured by the dichotomy between what I think and what I feel?
[Edit: According to this month's Harper's, "The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization warned that livestock such as cows, pigs, sheep and chickens are among the world's top three environmental threats:the agency said that livestock production, largely driven by the demand for meat, pollutes water, destroys biodiversity, and, when the entire production cycle is taken into account, produces more greenhouse gases than the transportation sector."]