For several years now, I’ve been what is now commonly known as a ‘flexitarian’ – basically mostly eating vegetables with occasional meat. I’ve chosen this way of eating for several reasons. In the order of personal relevance;
- Worldwide, half of man-made C02 emissions are related to animal agriculture. You can cut down your personal C02 footprint by a quarter just by reducing your meat intake.
- Factory farming that disregards subjective well-being of animals may come to be seen in the same way we, in the modern Western societies look back at slavery – with utter bewilderment and disgust.
- There is now plenty of evidence to back up claims that hormones and antibiotics used in factory farming is affecting our health and the overuse is accelerating the spread of antibiotic resistant super bugs.
- Ethically produced meat is expensive and I do not have the skills to hunt my own meat yet.
- If someone made a meaty dish for me, I’d rather be thankful and be flexible.
Leaning towards vegetarianism was pretty difficult to do when my local supermarket only stocked the same veg all year round. Summer vegetables such as cucumbers, aubergines, courgettes and tomatoes in January is not only odd but taste far inferior since most are shipped or flown in from warmer regions and have taken weeks or months to reach the store shelf. But for me, I found that without seasonal changes in the veg line up, I would get bored of them rather quickly. Month after month, year after year of a tiny selection of predictable non-seasonal veg.
In France, where I am currently, there still remains a healthy market culture where organic seasonal produce is easily accessible. If not, growing your own is a super fun way to get your vegetables. I will be writing a separate post on this at some point.
Morality of Meat Consumption
Note on the list above that I don’t have any moral issues with killing animals. I would and have cut off heads of happy chickens with the same appreciation as when I slice some spring onions. From evolutionary perspective, we are – no doubt – omnivores and our high functioning brain probably developed as a result of early homo-sapiens ability to cook meat.
To further complicate the matter, recent studies showed that trees and other plants may be social creatures, feel pain and have intelligence that we are only beginning to understand in more detail. This fact renders the moral ethics of veganism pointless since eating plants may be as equally hurtful as eating meat. It is safe to say that we must consume living sentient things to sustain ourselves.
In addition, when we begin to consider our wider impacts to the environment, strict moral veganism begins to break down under cognitive dissonance. Our cities, houses and road networks destroy animal habitats. Our cars are made of metals extracted from massive open mines which destroys large swathes of habitats. Every plastic we use and discard may consequently kill sea animals. Each bin bag that fills the landfill takes away that space from animals. The cotton in our clothing were grown in massive mono culture fields that may have been a thriving ecologically diverse forest before. Just through existence, we intentionally or unintentionally, directly or indirectly kill animals.
So how do we go about it? As aforementioned, we obviously have massive environmental and health incentives to reduce meat consumption. Current methods of livestock production treats animals as commodity to maximise profit rather than sentient beings with needs and desires. So where is that fine line of rock solid ethics sustainable for a further 10,000 years?
After some thought, I came to a conclusion that minimising our environmental foot print through;
- reusing and fixing everything,
- buying only things that I really need that lasts a long time,
- choosing ethically sourced materials and ingredients where we can and when we can afford it,
- increase bio-diversity in our immediate environment,
probably had greater ecological impact as well as increased well being of animals than pursuing strict veganism and still living a normal life of high consumption.
Moreover, as mentioned in my previous post, the population of some animals are so out of wack after we’ve eliminated the top predators that it is now our ethical responsibility to either bring back the predators, or to take on that roll and control the numbers. In the latter case, I think it is highly unethical and immoral NOT to eat the meat.
So here’s where I stand at the moment.
- I’m a flexitarian when invited for dinner
- I don’t personally buy factory farmed meat anymore
- I try to buy organic and eat mostly local, seasonal veg, grains, fruits and nuts
- I am prepared to kill animals I eat, if they have had a good life
- I would eventually like to hunt over-populated game occasionally and learn to use every scrap of the carcass
My choices and ethics seems to relate closely to the banner of ‘ethical omnivorism’. Or as I would like to call it ‘Evolutionary Common Sense’ diet… It’s similar to a paleo diet but it takes into account 12,000 years of evolution alongside agriculture, indiscriminately omnivorous as our ancestors would have been and environmentally mindful. Think about it. We evolved for hundreds of thousands of years mostly eating seasonal nuts, berries, roots and leaves of edible plants with the occasional wild game. More recently grains too. Those who performed well with these foods had higher rate of survival and more chances to procreate. Repeat this tens of thousands of times over and we have me and you.
This post came as a response to a BBC article about cognitive dissonance in meat eating and other human behaviours. It made me re-examine my current stance objectively and I’m happy to say I think it’s free of dissonance, pretty easy to sustain and socially acceptable. Or am I under self-illusion….
Hypocrisy can flourish in certain social and cultural environments. Social habits can cast a veil over our moral conflicts, by normalising behaviours and making them invisible and resistant to change.http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20190206-what-the-meat-paradox-reveals-about-moral-decision-making