Only got ten minutes to save the world...

Between the new baby and the Ph.D., this grad student only has ten minutes a day to philosophize culture. Bear with me as I tell you how to think...

all within a ten-minute writing limit.



Vegetarians: They Don't Eat Humans

Of the culinary cruelty inflicted upon lobsters, Anthony Bourdain once said, "Anything that you can chop into four pieces and those four pieces still move, you don't have to feel bad about eating."

One level beneath vegetarianism on the scale of food-based ideological dedication resides pescatarianism. Pescatarians, of course, eat only fish--and vegetables. I suppose pescatarians feel okay devouring salmon because, as the late-great Kurt D. Cobain once sang, "It's okay to eat fish 'cause they don't have any feelings."

Besides insects, fish are the animals least like humans, and therefore, I contend, the animals that nearly-vegetarians are willing to eat.

Because, at the heart of the matter, what's the problem with eating animals? They have faces; they have feelings. In short, they remind us of people. The choice not to eat an animal is an empathetic one. So the animal has a face; so the animal has feelings--why do these qualities, specifically, make the animal inedible? 

I am not, mind you, suggesting that I can't understand the empathy. I understand the empathy. Personally I don't eat mammals. Why? Because mammals are friends. Why? Because mammals are human-like. Have you seen the sad eyes on the cow, for Christ's sakes? 

I am, however, suggesting that the choice not to eat animals stems not simply from love for the animals; the love for the animal stems from love for the self.

What's worse to eat--an oyster or a chimp?

Why does even the most passionate carnivore cringe at chimp-eating? We eat chickens happily--but not apes. The ape reminds us too much of ourselves. The closer the creature gets to human, the more disgusting it gets to eat it.

When we value an animal's face, an animal's feelings, we privilege the qualities that we value most in ourselves. Yet a fundamental element of vegetarianism seems to be a respect for all life, equally--that is to say, the chicken's life is not worth less than mine. 

But what about the carrot? Is the carrot's life less than mine? What about the cries of the carrots on harvest day?

The carrot doesn't feel happy or embarrassed--does that render its life expendable?  

The closer the creature gets to human, the less edible it becomes. When we choose not to eat chimps, we choose not to eat humans. When vegetarians don't eat chickens, they don't eat people. This empathy, like all empathy, proves to be self-love.

<minute ten.>


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