(This post is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project. Start here!)
Last week’s topic was fairly philosophical and abstract, so this week I’ll offer up something concrete and practical. We make food choices and encounter other peoples’ fanaticism, so what could be more useful than discussing food and meat?
Lifestyles of the Rich and the Blameless
In third world countries, vegetarianism is widespread because meat is very expensive. As the world’s poor earn more money, they eat more meat. (Economist, May 4th 2019)
Meanwhile in the first-world, meat is plentiful and inexpensive while whole foods and organic produce are expensive. As people become richer in the West, it becomes a badge of honor to eat less meat. (Economist, October 13th 2018)
(Nearly) Fifty Shades
Vegetarianism – avoiding animal products except dairy and eggs
Veganism – strictly avoiding all animal products (sometimes including honey)
Meatatarianism – like Jordan Peterson’s daughter, who eats only beef!
Pescatarianism – avoiding meats except fish
Fruititarianism – eating only fruits
Animals: Meat? Or Greet?
Vegetarians sometimes cite health concerns as their primary reason for avoiding animal products, but more often than not, they are primarily concerned with animal welfare or environmental concerns. Here are a few arguments from each side of the issue.
An argument for vegetarianism from animal rights:
- An animal can feel pain. It is a sentient thing, meaning that it has some level of self-awareness (“somebody’s home”).
- The ability to feel pain is a basic threshold for human beings having rights. After all, we don’t harm helpless babies even though we could – this is because we don’t want to hurt them.
- If the ability to feel pain gives human beings certain rights, then an animal who feels pain should also have these rights.
- Therefore, animals have rights not to have pain inflicted upon them.
- Eating meat violates animal rights, and therefore, we should not eat meat.
(And perhaps they add the following additional conclusion.)
- The meat industry is an industry built on animal pain – therefore, it’s unethical to support the meat industry
An argument for eating meat from human biology:
- It is ethically permissible for any natural animal to perform his natural behavior.
- A human being is an animal endowed with properties such as canine teeth that indicate his evolution as a meat-eater.
- It is natural for a human being to consume meat.
- Therefore, human beings are not committing ethical wrongs by consuming meat.
An argument for eating meat from the principle of efficiency:
- Human beings are nourished more efficiently and effectively by meat.
- Efficiency and effectiveness are important principles (or decision-making criteria) by which to live.
- If we always do what is most efficient and effective, we will become ethical consumers by consuming less overall.
- Therefore, it is good for human beings to consume meat.
This Week’s Journal Questions:
- Have you ever tried being vegetarian (of some variety) and how was your experience?
- What do you think is the most convincing reason to become a vegetarian?
- What do you think is the most convincing reason to eat meat?
- Do you think that parents have a right to raise vegan or vegetarian children? (Bonus: What if the children want to eat meat?)
- The world’s poor want to eat more meat because it greatly improves their health. Chickens easily nourish many poor families. Choose: increase the IQ of a malnourished child or save a chicken.
- Do you think that we should try to convince other people how to eat? Or is it none of your business? But what if they are hurting “others”?
- Make a decision. What choice can you make after this week’s reflections to make better choices for yourself and based on your own thoughts/reasoning?
How to get the most out of Know Thyself 2019
Don’t rush through the questions. Try to do only one question every morning, leaving space to add thoughts that might come up later during the day. The journal is designed to help you develop a consistent, daily practice of self-reflection.
If you liked this week’s post, please like or comment! I appreciate the feedback and use it to choose future topics. If you want to see more posts like this one, let me know!