On missing the point
I know some people who are vegans because they don’t want to hurt animals.
I don’t like to tell people that choices they have made are meaningless. Also I enjoy cooking, so I have learned to make a great many vegan meals for my guests who are vegans.
But, as a person who gardens and has raised animals, it seems to me that veganism for kindness to animals shows a profound lack of understanding of how agriculture works. And how biology works.
In order for me to live, something’s gotta die. I don’t see any ethical superiority in limiting the deaths to things that don’t have blood.
Anyway, on a small scale, my vegetable garden causes a great many animal deaths. Every slug I displace or kill so my cabbages thrive is a death I caused. In a larger scale, I took the habitat of the rabbit in order to make my garden.
Vegans often point to the wasteful practices of the meat industry as a reason not to eat meat. But that’s silly to the point of crazy—there’s nothing more wasteful than a field of wheat or corn, which destroyed natural habitats of countless animals for an annual crop. Wasteful practices of the meat industry may mean you should avoid mass produced meat. But then, you should also avoid mass produced wheat, corn, and rice. Good luck with that.
Being vegan to protect animals has a Henry II and Thomas Becket feel to it: You are not bloodying your hands yourself, but you are causing the hurt. You are still hurting animals if you eat only plants. Going vegan to protect animals is a lot like giving money to the World Wildlife Fund—it helps a lot less than you think.
This is to a large extent OK, because biology says something has to die for you to live.
I suppose you’d be less culpable for animal and plant deaths if you lived by foraging. However, there are few areas of the world where foraging for fallen fruit and for already dead animals will provide you with good nutrition.
But, having said that, I do not like waste. I used to attribute that to my Scottish ancestry but now I am not so sure. The large scale meat industry IS cruel and wasteful.
My choices for not wasting either animals and plants, my choice for being aware of all living things that die for my life, include walking to work, buying chicken at the farmers’ market, (where I know little is wasted in its production), having a rain barrel and composter, growing as much as I can myself, even though I live in a city.
Every once in a while a trope appears on FB about what’s in your hot dog, and tells us about the bad or disgusting cuts of meat that go into it. It’s supposed to make us not want to eat sausages.
This trope has the opposite effect on me: Pork (in an area with ample water) is a marvelously efficient food. Little is wasted. Everything can be used. This is not true for large scale crops, such as corn and wheat, and efforts to make it so have failed.
There’s also the niggling problem that the best fertilizers are natural ones. There remains nothing better to fertilize a crop than animal droppings. For animal droppings to fertilize your crops, you need animals. If you refuse to use animal droppings, you use chemical fertilizers, which kinda defeats the purpose of being kind to animals.
There’s a book called The Myth of Vegetarianism, which addresses some of the things I talked about here. It’s also the author’s memoirs, so, in my opinion, it gets bogged down in anecdotes. It’s still worth checking out.
But even if I don’t think veganism and vegetarianism are as helpful as their practitioners would like, I support a person’s right to eat the way he or she wants to. So whether you want beefalo or hummus, come on over. I love to cook.