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12:28pm on Saturday, 13th August, 2005:
There's an article in The Independent today about a process whereby meat might be able to be grown in labs, so people can have chicken nuggets without worrying that a chicken has suffered to make it. This is presented as an ethical dilemma for vegetarians.
People are vegetarians for one of three reasons:
1) Medical. They can't eat meat because it has some physical effect on them, eg. they don't like the taste.
2) Moral. They won't eat meat because animals have feelings too.
3) Social. They won't eat meat because they want to have sex with someone of type 2).
The first of these is fair enough. I eat meat, but I don't like the taste of poultry or fish so I won't eat it unless I can't taste it.
The third is also fair enough, if a little cynical. People will change religions on this basis, too.
The second would be fair enough if it were true. I strongly suspect, however, that many of the people who profess not to eat meat for holier-than-thou reasons actually don't eat it because of one of the other two reasons (or they just want to bug their parents).
An example of this is a woman ("Jessica from East Finchley") interviewed in The Independent who has been a vegetarian for 8 years, since she was 12. She said she was a vegetarian because she was concerned about animal welfare, and didn't like the way the Amazon rainforest was being cleared for cattle ranching. She wouldn't eat meat grown in a laboratory because "It sounds unnatural. It makes me feel ill just thinking about it." and she didn't like the sound of that. She'd rather have a cheese omelette.
OK, well first, the Amazon rain forest isn't being cleared for cattle ranches, it's being cleared for soya bean production. OK, so the soya beans are being used to feed cattle, but you'd have thought that someone who changed their lifestyle in a major way on the basis of such facts would have made sure they got the right ones.
Secondly, killing animals for food is just the final stage of animal welfare. Prior to that, they're alive. Is she complaining about the methods of slaughter, or is she complaining about the way they're kept? Well, given that she likes cheese (from cows) omelettes (from hens), I guess it must be that she only objects to the way the animals are killed, not the way they're treated prior to being killed. Some proponent of animal welfare she is...
No, the real reason Jessica from East Finchley is a vegetarian is that she's squeamish. She just doesn't like the thought of it. If she just came out and said she was carnophobic, that would be perfectly reasonable. I don't particularly like the idea of eating spiders because of the thought of the legs coming off in my mouth and hiding in my gum line.
She doesn't say that, though. She makes up these moral reasons for not eating meat that have no relevance whatsoever, because when they're removed (lab meat) she still won't eat the stuff. They're just a smokescreen to make her seem ethically superior to the rest of us, thereby boosting her self-esteem. Really, it's just that she has an aversion to it.
Such is the logic of 12-year-old girls.
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Copyright © 2005 Richard Bartle (firstname.lastname@example.org).