Friday, July 31, 2009

Vegetarianism is Immoral

That's the stand that Mark Kirkorian takes in this confusing post at the National Review's flagship blog. Among the vegetarian arguments that he addresses is that animal husbandry is often cruel in is methods of slaughter:

The practical reasons are invalid to buttress such a principle because none is categorical. For instance, if our modern methods of animal husbandry are cruel and inhumane and unsafe, refusing to consume meat whose provenance is unclear is a perfectly sound decision. But it's not vegetarianism, because it leaves open the possibility of buying meat at the farmer's market or straight from the farm from a man who raised and slaughtered his livestock humanely, something that's actually quite easy nowadays.

Except that this is a moral argument. To say "I will not support cruel slaughter methods" is a moral stance, even if it incomplete by more radical vegetarian positions.

I'm an omnivore, but I was once a a vegetarian years ago for the most important reason of all: to impress a girl. I had practical reasons, but if Kirkorian hasn't heard a vegetarian make moral arguments against eating meat, then he should get out of his bubble a little more.

And even if you accept his odd arguments, all he had done is prove that vegetarianism is amoral, not immoral; that is, a moral wrong.


jockeystreet said...

His post is idiotic. I followed his link back to his original post, the one he was supposedly trying to clarify here, and that was idiotic too, the clarification did nothing to help it.

I don't have the energy to say any more than that about it right now. Probably not enough meat in my diet.

bob said...

People could argue either way on the health benefits but this is a morally null issue.

jockeystreet said...

People could argue either way... but I think the general consensus among those who are informed is that the average vegan/vegetarian diet is much, much healthier than the Standard American Diet. Strict, strict veganism is not necessarily the healthiest, and certainly not the ONLY healthy, diet possible, but it is I think beyond debate that it is much healthier than a diet centered around the consumption of meat.

Many, including myself, would disagree that it is a "morally null" issue. I think that it should be taken for granted that there is a moral dimension to how we treat other living things. This is true whether or not the moral question leads one to leap into a strict vegan diet. For me, it lead to that leap. I can accept that for others it leads to something else, and that for many, life is such that one can not spend too much time asking the question (I have served chicken legs to homeless people in soup kitchens in the past, and did not feel that this was in any way a violation of my high vegan standards).

bob said...

It seems like every one I know who is vegetarian doesn't seem to get enough protein. Completely centered on meat would be equally insufficient I like to keep a balance trying to avoid really fatty meats.

jockeystreet said...

I always hear about the vegetarian who doesn't get enough protein, and I believe that that person exists, somewhere, but in 15 years of being vegan/vegetarian, with a family that is almost entirely vegetarian, hanging out with vegans at hardcore shows and farm sanctuaries, with lots of vegetarian friends, etc, I've never, ever met (to my knowledge) a vegetarian who doesn't get enough protein.

The nutritional problem I see most in vegans and vegetarians is the nutritional problem I see most in the general public... to much. Of everything. I would be much healthier if I could drop 15 or 20 pounds, and many of my friends are in the same category. But none of us get too little of anything.

But then... I think this might be regional, to some extent. Where I am, it's very, very easy to be a vegan. There are lots of vegan friendly Indian, Mexican, Chinese, and Mediterranean restaurants everywhere, as well as little vegan delis and cafes and whatnot, health food stores, co-ops, etc. I imagine that in some places the vegans have to order the side salad everywhere they go, and I imagine that that, over time, gets to be a little unhealthy.

bob said...

Maybe it's an educational issue with the vegetarians I know. While not a large group they tend to either be rather young or not the most mentally stable. They avoid the meat but compensate mostly with sweets and breads.

jockeystreet said...

I had the luxury of working in a hospital kitchen as a dishwasher during college breaks (and beyond). While not the most glorious job, it did give me lots of access to friendly nutritionists in the department when I went vegetarian. That, and I like to read... so reading veg nutrition is fun.