Two different podcasts that I subscribe to — The Humanist Hour and Rationally Speaking — dedicated their shows last week at least partially to the topic of vegetarianism, both of which came to the conclusion that it is better in the grand scheme of things to be a vegetarian or a vegan, compared with eating meat.
It may, in fact, be better, both on an individual and maybe even on a global level, not to eat meat. Whether it is or not, though, I will not stop eating meat. And there’s really a very simple reason for this. Two, actually. First, I like the taste of meat. Second, I really don’t like very many vegetables and the few that I do like, would not be sufficient to sustain me and, well, help me stay alive. They say that vegetarians live longer than omnivores. That wouldn’t be the case for me as I would likely starve to death if my diet did not contain steak, chicken, or related byproducts.
And before you ask, the only kinds of beans I like are green beans, so if it’s got a bean base, I will not eat it. If you need to, go back and listen to George Carlin’s old “Fussy eater” monologue from his A Place for My Stuff album or watch the clip below.
Yes, I was — and still am — a fussy eater. I don’t eat most vegetables, and those that I do eat often require me to season or garnish it so heavily, that any health benefits that I might have derived from the vegetables will have been lost.
Now, before we get into my full train of thought here, I wanted to underscore that there are quite a few meat products that I don’t eat, either. Veal. Fish. Pork products other than bacon. Eggs unless they’re used for baking a cake.
What this ultimately gets back to about me is something that I’ve known for the longest time. While there is an argument to be made for moderation in, well, just about anything, I do not believe that a person should ever be required or expected to completely eliminate something they enjoy from their life.
There are far too few pleasures in life as it is. You find what you like and you enjoy them. If cutting them out of your life (completely) will help you survive a little bit longer, I really don’t think it’s worth it. And this applies to anything you might consider pleasurable: food, drink, the touch of another person, even smoking. I do have to caveat that last item, by pointing out that if you enjoy doing something that will harm another person, you need to seek an alternate means of obtaining that pleasure. I’m sure Jeffrey Dahmer enjoyed what he did but it wasn’t right because he was harming others.
Now I’m not conflating smokers with Jeffrey Dahmer, but if you smoke, and you enjoy it, you’re probably better off enjoying it in the company of other smokers or when you’re completely alone, as opposed to when you’re in a place that would cause an unnecessary hardship on others.
But I wouldn’t tell you not to smoke. Not if, as I mentioned before (but it bears mentioning again), you enjoy that smoke.
I mentioned veal as one of the foods that I don’t eat. This is a true statement. I don’t like the taste of veal. Now I will be perfectly fair when I say this, but by the time I had my first taste of veal (I was 32 years old at the time), I also knew about the horrific conditions in which the calves are kept before they are slaughtered to make veal. Is it possible, then, that my opinion of the taste of veal is at least partially tempered by my knowledge beforehand? I’d be lying if I said the thought hadn’t crossed my mind. But regardless, after that one incident, I knew I didn’t like the veal.
The conditions of the so-called “factory farms” that are the source of a significant percentage of the meat we consume, are deplorable. There is no doubt in my mind that something should be done about them. One question neither of these podcasts addressed, is whether it would still be “better” not to eat meat if we got rid of the factory farms and provided more acceptable living conditions for the animals we raise to provide us with various foodstuffs.
The non-health-related argument for vegetarianism ultimately boils down to engaging in a boycott of meat in hopes of shutting down the factory farms. Even in this day and age, where the Internet affords us the ability to engage in a boycott on larger scales than anything consumers in past generations might have been able to hope for, boycotts aren’t anywhere near as effective as their organizers would have you believe. Whether you look at the evangelical groups who boycott Disney and other companies for offering benefits to the gay partners of their employees, or the more liberal groups who boycott oil companies for not taking more responsibility for spills, or even the countless groups who actively boycott WalMart, it’s been ages since a consumer boycott actually shut down a business completely.
In that regard, a more effective approach would be to lobby congress to do something about those factory farms. It’s not only an animal welfare issue. It’s also a public health issue and factory farms have been responsible for a large number of food recalls over the past decade alone.
Of course, this could and almost definitely will drive up prices, at least in the short term. But there are some things worth paying for and quality food is definitely one of them.
Of course, quality is a relative term. As a self-proclaimed fussy eater, I think about the taste of the food all the time. And there’s just too much food that I can’t palate, pure and simple.
Now, could someone please pass the hamburgers?