Off the deep end

I have been following the comments on yesterday’s post, and I think Lisa and Manooh have both made very thoughtful points – but from completely different philosophical perspectives. It was interesting for me to watch Lisa work through this difficult terrain, trying to be thoughful and intellectually honest about it, while wrestling with points of view that clearly seemed very foreign to her. The only aspect of Lisa’s comments that I didn’t follow was the connection between admiring red poll cows and eating red poll cows. These seem to be two quite separate issues – if you find something beautiful, that’s reason enough to work to preserve its existence, isn’t it? For example, we like having squirrels in our parks, and we don’t need to justify their existence by eating them.

I was completely thrown for a loop by Sally’s comment that I am going off the deep end. I’m not sure what it means to be off the deep end in this context. My opinion is simple: I don’t want to kill any fellow being that has a subjective experience of existence, so given the choice, I choose not to. I understand that this is a minority opinion, but so is being Jewish or Quaker.

I don’t tell people that they are off the deep end because they kill to eat. My objection to The Times editorial was that it implied that there is some kind of mutual sentimental bond between people and the creatures that people kill – a sort of pleasant inter-species friendship. On the face of it isn’t that a contradction? Clearly I am not the friend of what I kill. It might be in my self interest, but it is never in the interest of the other. The fact that The Times felt the need to say something so inherently self-contradictory seemed interesting and worth talking about. If pointing this out constitutes being off the deep end, then what doesn’t?

6 thoughts on “Off the deep end”

  1. You say “I don’t want to kill any fellow being that has a subjective experience of existence” but you eat steack, chicken, pork … I think those animals know they exist and can think and so on …. maybe not chicken though… 🙂 I once met a crazy girl who was making a difference at this level between chicken and cow I think. So she would eat one but not the other one. She was sort of half vegetarian and for sure crazy 🙂

    And I agree with Lisa… you can eat animals and still give them a better life to enjoy, because for sure there is a difference…

    And I know, this has almost nothing to do with the discussion 🙂

    Cheers !

  2. Sorry, I didn’t provide enough context here. Since last August I’ve stopped eating anything that had once been a sentient being. That includes cows, pigs, chickens, fish, etc. I understand that not everyone comes to the same conclusions, but that’s where I am now anyway.

    Interestingly, The Times printed three letters in response to its editorial. All three of those letters seem to be in agreement with my point – that the “bond” between humans and the animals they eat is a sentimental illusion. The third letter concluded pretty much the same way I did:

    You argue that we must treasure a “cultural and historical bond” between us and those we eat. But that bond is based on exploitation and abuse.

    If domesticated animals “exist only because of the uses we have found for them,” let me ask you: Would you have recommended 150 years ago that we preserve and treasure the bond between whites and their black slaves — and develop a more humane slave trade?

  3. I find broccoli quite beautiful, but I still eat it. 🙂

    I also find cattle, sheep, pigs, fish, chickens and other domesticated animals beautiful and I respect them and their right to a happy life. I also respect and appreciate the sustenance they provide and when I eat meat and fish I like to think I do so respectfully. I do not buy intensively-farmed meat – only free-range – nor fish from unsustainable sources. I eat free-range, woodland eggs and avoid cheese where possible as it’s difficult to track its source. I also only eat local meat and dairy products as well as local produce where possible. When it’s not possible to do so, I choose produce that has travelled the least distance. This means that I pay more for my food (and my shopping trips take a lot longer as well!) and, in fact, probably only eat meat 2 or three times a week as a result.

    I understand your choice, and I respect it. I like to think I have made my choice in accordance with my own beliefs and ethical standpoint as well. At this point, I’m simply unwilling to give up eating meat, or utilising wool or leather products, for that matter. I’m not a big proponent of the “better living through chemicals” approach either, so I have kind of drawn two lines in the sand – one on either side. 🙂

  4. Oh, sorry – the point about the cattle on the common is that, without a viable market for their meat, they would not live there. They would not exist at all, in fact – they’re not there because they look pretty for the tourists. They’re there because common land is freely available to stockman to graze livestock and the grass is quite good there.

  5. i apologize if i caused offense. that was not my intent.
    i do not see how substituting the word “slave” furthers your point in that article.

  6. Sally, please don’t worry about that, I was not offended at all. I guess you are thinking that I was making a grand rhetorical gesture for effect – that I was deliberately conflating two issues that are wildly different. But I think that’s exactly the place where we all hit that vegan/non-vegan split in thinking, which probably no amount of well-meaning discussion will bridge.

    For me the suffering is significant, even when the sentient sufferer is not human. I’ve noticed that most people disagree with me, and many even think I can’t be serious to be saying such nutty things. So whereas substituting the word “slave” elicits a response in other vegans of “Of course – that’s so obviously true it may not even be worth saying”, to non-vegans it looks like over-the-top rhetorical overreaching.

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