Inter Symbol Interference

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

RE: ground up animals

by Louie Fakes

Finally, a chance to engage Charlie on the issues! Except, I mostly agree with him on this one. The way we treat animals is pretty shitty. Thinking about it too hard or too often will ruin your life. I mean, drive you to veganism. Or, if you've got a thing for principle, fructarianism. Not only do you not kill animals for food, but veggies are spared as well! Only eat things that let the larger organism live on -- fruits, nuts, etc. They fall naturally, you see; it is as if they are being offered unto us. I wonder, though, if a fructarian would drink gin or wine (beer's right out, as are vodka & whisky, what with needing to KILL to get the base mash) -- does the exploitation of the fermenting protozoans cross the line?

I used to think fructarianism was making fools of those hypocritical vegans, but then I started thinking more about the Property M meme. Eating stupid, brain dead carrots is clearly a different act, morally superior to chowing down on Mr. Fluffywuffycloudywouds. The key is sentience! This is why some of us feel shitty about eating meat (or veggies); the flip side to not caring about week-old foetuses or frozen zygotes.

Let's not even get into the more asinine sides of the subject. Salami slicing and slippery slopes have no place on this blog, let me make that clear right now. The perfect is not the enemy of the good: Yeah, innocent animals die, but at a way lower ratio of casualties to calories than with meat eating. It's not even close. Veganism and vegetarians aren't full of shit just because they run the same cost-benefit analyses as everyone else (albeit with different values on each side). I do want one of those shirts, though, because I think it's clever, and would irritate in a clever manner those ruder vegetarians, like that girl Charlie mentioned.

Time to address Charlie's questions:
...somehow in History it was decided that my evening-time hunger as a human being overruled his lifelong dream of living...
There's no mystery. "Somehow"? "Decided"? BAH! You eat meat because your parents did, and I'm talking genetics here. I paraphrase the Simpsons when I point out that given half a chance, a cow would eat you and everyone you love. They just weren't bright enough to pick the right genes, the ones that let them play Carnivore. It really is the natural thing, eating meat. Cramming animals in little cages for seven years, without daylight, because that is how one generates 3 cents of additional profit is nnnooottt quite so natural.
Does eating fake meat undermine not eating real meat?
Even if eating real meat is a sin, there's no chance eating fake meat is. There's nothing wrong with hiring a maid to spruce up your house just because it dovetails with the olden days of slavery-driven cleanliness. I cannot imagine how exactly I would treat someone who berated me for choosing a vegan option that wasn't vegan enough. I think Harshly would be close.
If a vegetarian loves animals so much, why isn't he a vegan?
I can imagine a situation where veganism is viewed as a bridge too far. I don't think Amish Country butter is such a bad deal. It's not the same as factory-farmed butter -- the cow gets a pretty sweet life. Think of domestication as a form of symbiosis (interesting and LF-discreting fact from seventh grade: parasitism is also a form of symbiosis). The cow is born, nurtured, and raised to a substantially cushier degree than if it were fending for itself "naturally." Veganism would foresake that foodstuff for no good reason. So maybe we have vegetarians who buy organic. The vegetarian who eats Kraft Singles, though: that guy either has to admit he hates thinking through the ethical ramifications of his cuisine as much as the rest of us, or that his vegetarianism is a healthy-lifestyle thing.

In conclusion, it's pretty rough to both eat meat and think about how exactly it is you've come to sit at a table and eat that meat. It's maybe cognitive dissonance, the feeling? I don't use that term too often to know if I used it right there.

You could take an absolutist approach and recognize that cows aren't people, and people therefore get to treat them worse -- as worse as we want. If pigs had got their shit together and invented useful tools of enslavement like the lasso and the invoice before we had, maybe the situation would be reversed, and God only knows how much mercy they'd be willing to show us. It's a cruel, biodiverse world out there, and we're only gonna make it if we run our game as us vs. them. Like how we take on infectious disease! There's no Ethical dilemma there. But now we're just back to property M -- lambs can be reasoned with enough (I'm thinking as an example of barbed wire reminders to keep them off our lawns) that they can be contained without commiting a wholesale extermination of their lot.

The best way I've seen meat-eater seek to overcome our wanting to eat meat with feeling bad about murdering & abusing animals is through the lab-grown-meat movement. But that feels a little too techno-futurist-utopian to me. I would certainly sign up to chow down as soon as it were cheap enough. I feel like it's exactly the same as my Gardenburgers and Silk: animal-free ways of getting me my favorite foods.

But "real meat" will always be on the menu, I think. Our best bet would be to hope that the in-vitro solutions become so overwhelmingly cheap that factory farms can't operate any longer out of a mismatch between how many "real" burgers people want and how many their infrastructure has to produce to break even on maintenance, etc. Then maybe they get closed down, and there will be much rejoicing amongst the public-health and labor-liberal and animal-rights sets. We'll get back to less intense operations, where the animals we eventually slaughter are first provided decent lives. Real ranching, the way America always wanted it! And we'll stay that way, because I would certainly continue buying murdered animal flesh, especially at fine restaurants or to celebrate special occaissions like Sunday dinner. It'll be a less everyday thing, but it'll still be there. (I should say that I think even this scenario is too generous by far to the "fake" meat industry.)

This will leave us with no resolution to many of the cognitive-dissonance issues we currently grapple with vis a vis our furry friends (no, I do not mean the cosplayers. They don't have friends, that's why they're cosplaying furries). Right now, it's against the law to rape a dog, because it's immoral and unethical. "The dog can't consent! It's rights are therefore unduly violated," say the objecting moralists who don't want to rely on the "ick factor" complaint. I think it's illegal, or at least Frowned Upon, to rape a cow, for exactly the same reasons. But -- I mean, if we're gonna kill the cow the next day anyways, without its consent, how much can we really say the cow has violatable rights in the first place?

Douglas Adams solved all of this in The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe: we need to breed cows that want you to eat them, and say as much at the dinner table.


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