Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Plague on Evangelical Vegetarians

vegetarianism: the higher taste
Image by robpurdie via Flickr
I appreciate that almost all of us have things we believe in, or traditions we have carried on for years, or political or social goals that we believe, deep down, if the rest of the world thought and did the same the same as us then the rest of the world would be a far better place. Personally, I would like to see a much broader appreciation of hard rock music, the introduction of Neal Gaiman's Sandman as a compulsory part of all English literature courses and the police to be allowed to arrest any adult caught wearing a tracksuit in public when the wearing of said clothing is not immediately related to a sporting event. But that's just me.

I know a lot of people get upset at people who have faith, they hate proselytizing. The very worst single belief people though are the ardent vegetarians and associated animal rights folk. Theirs is the one and only true path, they have achieved perfection and nirvana in their views and all others, meat eaters and leather weathers in particular, are unthinking souls lost in the limbo of uncaring and harmful ways. Yet, they can be saved, especially if you bang on about it for long enough.

My views on vegetarianism and its ultra orthodox relative veganism are the same as my views on religion. I am quite happy for you to hold whatever view you want, but once you have stated your view and someone else has stated they are not in agreement you should not persevere with explaining your viewpoint until the cows come home – of their own accord, only if they wish to spend the night in a barn, and not to be cruelly exploited for the purposes of extracting the precious gift that is mother’s milk.

Militant vegetarians always try to claim a moral high ground by continually pointing out the various cruelties involved in meat production. They do so though by always taking the most extreme examples they can find. Whilst engaged in a rather one sided ‘discussion’ recently I was repeatedly informed that if I would only watch a particular YouTube video showing chicken factory workers being cruel to their flock then I would never want to eat chicken again. This is false and fuzzy logic, I have in fact seen the footage in question and what I desire after seeing it is for nasty people to stop being unnecessarily cruel to chickens and using them as footballs. Not for a moment does this sort of thing turn me off from being a meat eater; a ‘lovely roast hen with Yorkshires and gravy’ is still on the menu for me.

If you wanted to show the health and farming benefits of being wholly or partly vegetarianism I would be much more willing to listen. I think the Meat Free Monday movement is quite a decent idea, there are lots of us who should perhaps eat less meat and less extensive and intensive animal rearing would be beneficial in parts of the world. Perhaps the idea could be extended into Fish Only Friday and Tofu Thursday, but only if people want to join in.

I dislike the way some vegetarians try to demonise meat eating, the whole Meat Is Murder moral high ground thinking is rubbish. People are not evil because they enjoy a bacon butty or Big Mac. They might not be particularly well educated about the meat they eat though, so there is always room for education.

People should be allowed to eat meat, meat is wonderful. Last night chef Rob and myself made some slow honey and chilli slow braised belly pork with crackling and it was truly wonderful. As some fundamentalist vegans would have it though, this was the act of two evil men; an innocent animal lost its life just to provide a family with a meal.

I will be quite honest here, and this is the bit that might upset some people. I hold that animals and people are two different things. Animals are not people, they do not have to be accorded the same rights and respect that I would grant to any human. However, I see no reason at all why any food animal should be put to any unnecessary suffering. Beasts farmed for food should live decent lives free from pain and suffering and the killing should be accomplished in the most humane manner possible.

Many of us should perhaps eat less meat, bought from less intensive farming styles. Yorkshire Dales lamb would be an example of a good choice due to its non-intensive farming methods, while artificially fattened beef is less good. Neither of these, nor hardly any other meat choice is evil. The moral high ground claimed by the militant vegetarians is not a high ground at all; they have taken a value judgement and made a decision based on their own moral standards, as I have done. Neither of us stands above the other in moral terms, it only looks that way from your narrow point of view.

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  1. Squirt9:16 am

    Holiday reading for number one Godson xx

  2. If I come across a fundamentalist vegetarian I usually immediately go on the attack and accuse them of being pro-abortion. When they look puzzled I accuse them of eating fruit and vegetables before they have the chance to reproduce and continue the lifecycle and what right do they have to cruelly interrupt such lifecycle. Basis for arguments being there is no more evidence that fish feel any more pain than vegetables ripped from their roots. They "kill" fruit/vegetables for more non-food reasons than meat eaters "kill" animals, such as for decoration. Because they are so used to arguing a point they immediately switch from attacking your meat eating to defending their veg/fruit eating. It's simple to keep them going. If you know what their arguments normally are you just replace meat with fruit/veg, the more weird the better. Protect Bears, Fundamentalist Vegetarian Baiting, the sport for the 2010s.

  3. Paul TGM11:09 am

    I agree with many of the views of what you call 'militant' vegetarians. However, I would never try to force my views on anyone - it is for each person to settle with their own conscience (or not) as they wish. The only time I get angry is when meat eaters go on the attack towards me and my choices (and this happens suprisingly often, without any provocation). There are an awful lot of very agressive meat eaters out there who seem to be really bothered by my vegetarianism (which is utterly puzzling to me). I just wish there could be more civility on all 'sides'. I forgive vegetarians more - because I feel great sympathy for their intentions - but I do think it's still inappropriate for ANYone to hassle anyone else about what they put in their mouths... whether it be a carrot or, er, a sausage.

  4. 100% agree with this. I've known quite a few reasonable vegetarians and a couple of nutty ones. The problem is that if someone feels so strongly about an issue to be vegan, there is not a whole lot you can do to moderate their views on the omnivores.

  5. Paddy5:14 pm

    Any belief system produces, at it's extremes, people who's behaviour towards others outside their group is objectionable at best and dangerous at worst (hello animal liberationists).
    I'd posit the theory that some peoples reaction to vegetarians (described by Paul) might come from a belief that all vegetarians are of the extreme persuasion. The silent majority, as usual, isn't the public face of vegetarianism.

    Replace vegetarianism with any other belief system and the results are pretty much the same.