Sunday, January 11, 2009
What is the Meatrix?
I just at a sandwich, made with some chicken breast. It was quite delicious with some lettuce, some mayonnaise, and served up warm. Once again I am rethinking my food choices. I was a vegetarian at least twice in the past. I had mindless rationales to justify my choice. But, I knew my decision was good for my body. I knew it was good for the environment. I knew it is good for the animal. Still, when the time arrived, I found I had no drive. My own motives lacked their own meat. I bore no commitment to live differently than society as a whole. Each reason to live mindful of the values I espoused drifted away in a haze as I was faced with the joy and comfort of joining the mainstream.
Still, I read from people who help me to think. Author Peter Singer has lectured on ethics for close to four decades. As a professor of philosophy, he was faced with an idea that animals are possessed of rights long since ignored or denied by society as a whole. His writing is vivid, and he is able to present a wealth of information dispassionately, but with a directness that makes indifference difficult for me. His most powerful work thus far, is a book called Animal Liberation. In it, he makes his case for the rights of animals.
The book opens with a discussion of the writing of Mary Wollstonecraft. It was her book in the late eighteenth century which set off a firestorm of criticism. She wrote a Vindication of the Rights of Woman. A powerful writing, it now stands as one of the most powerful writings predating the feminist movement in America by two centuries. Her efforts were not without notice. Criticism was widespread, and it was not long before an Oxford professor of philosophy, Thomas Taylor, wrote his satirical rebuttal Vindication of the Rights of Brutes.
Peter Singer writes of this piece with one point in mind. Taylor was writing to make humor of Wollstonecraft's book. Singer also wanted to clarify that as the rights of woman, the equality of woman is much more accepted fact today than it was in the late eighteenth century, when Wollstonecraft died. Now, he adds, while we accept the wrongness of Thomas to mock equal consideration for women it is likewise ridiculous to suggest animals are any less worthy of consideration or respect than human beings.
Eating on my chicken sandwich, I am not as easily inclined to accept the logic. But, when faced with basic ideas of my humanity, I have ask myself what is my job as a steward of this planet. How am I responsible to behave with regards non-human animals?
The question is not an easy one. I am part of a group that persists in eating meat. Singer, a vegetarian, has not compelled me to stop consuming flesh in my diet. Still, the argument I was given did not rest solely on whether or not to eat meat. More so, it was about how responsible am I in my individual decisions regarding meat. Each purchase of meat and animal products holds the weight of my lack of knowledge. I have to accept that with each purchase I am ignoring the bad behavior of an industry
Working in a health food store, I am asked many questions.
Many questions deal with social responsibility. People are interested in knowing if animals are harmed, if products came from a country with good trade policies, whether or not workers involved in harvesting crops are protected by fair trade. Each day people become more interested in the ethical handling of animals.
In this post I will not discuss the information I received on animal handling. Suffice to say, if you read Animal Liberation, you will learn plenty about the raising of animals for food. But, you will also be exposed to the world of animal experimentation. Having read the data I am provided there, I am able to say most animal testing is useless, and we can dispense with most or even all animal experimentation at no cost to science, medicine or humanity. So, I will finish my sandwich, and think about this a little more.
Thank you for reading.