Eating greens

By Legal Eagle

Okay, I’m probably going to get in trouble for putting my oar in here. But I’m cranky about this suggestion by Lord Stern that we should all go vegetarian to stop global warming. Ken Neilsen has already done a good post at the Cat on how climate change politics seems to cause some people’s brains to fall out of their ears.

I noted somewhat maliciously that Al Gore hedged a little bit at Lord Stern’s suggestion, and admitted he was not vegetarian himself:

Climate change campaigner Al Gore believes turning vegetarian could aid the battle against global warming.

But he’s stopped short of asking everyone to turn their back on meat, acknowledging getting a global agreement on fighting climate change is already hard enough.

The former US vice-president turned environmental campaigner said on Wednesday he agreed with the UK’s Nicholas Stern that meat eaters have contributed greatly to increased global carbon emissions.

“I’m not a vegetarian, but I have cut back sharply on the meat that I eat,” he told ABC Television from New York.

I am a liberal person. I don’t mind what eating habits other people have, as long as they don’t eat other people or endangered species. If people want to eat snails or civets or dogs, that’s okay by me (as long as I don’t have to eat them). If other people want to be fruitarians, and eat only fruit which has dropped off trees, and not eat anything which has been harvested, that’s also okay by me (again, as long as I don’t have to follow that diet). If some others want to cut pork out of their diet, that’s also fine. In fact, I did not eat pork for a number of years, but the lapse started with dumplings, and it has been a slow downhill slide from there. Oh Xiao Long Bao, how I love you.

I have always tried to cater to the food habits of others, and be respectful of religious or cultural precepts. Sometimes it’s hard. My Indian friends and I have had some difficult meals due to contradictory eating requirements. The  Muslims must eat halal meat, the Sikhs must not eat halal meat, some of the Hindus are vegetarian or vegan, some of the Hindus do not eat beef. Finally someone found a vegetable noodle dish which they thought would be acceptable to all…I looked at it. It had cashews in it. I have an anaphylactic reaction to nuts. Nope, that wouldn’t do either. (Really, when you get to that point, you have to laugh).

I really don’t mind what diet people choose to follow. Although, as an aside, I should say that when self-conscious, high achieving teenage girls announce they are vegetarian, I do get suspicious. That’s not because I have a problem with vegetarianism per se. It’s just that I’ve known a lot of girls with eating disorders, and my observation is that vegetarianism or veganism can be used by a girl with an eating disorder an excuse as to why she has stopped eating anything, or will no longer eat with her family and friends. I’ve seen it in action a few times. If my teenage daughter announced she was vegetarian, I’d watch her like a hawk to check that she ate healthily.

I’m a meat eater. Why? Well, I like meat. More than that, I would not be able to be vegetarian even if I wanted to be. Because I am very allergic to nuts, I would not be able to have the necessary proteins I need. In fact, my sister and I often have problems at vegetarian or vegan restaurants for this reason. So much vegetarian food has nuts in it. I tend to avoid vegetarian restaurants for this reason, or question them very closely about whether the food has come into contact with nuts. By contrast, I have some vegetarian friends who are fantastic cooks. They know about me and the nuts, so I have no hesitation in eating what they cook.

What really annoys me is the moral judgment which sometimes comes with vegetarianism or veganism. I had some friends who used to hassle me, “Do you know you’re eating a cow? How can you do that?” So I took to moo-o-oing as I ate, saying, “This is a delicious leg of cow.” Yes, I know I am eating another animal. I’m a fairly reflective human being. I’ve thought about that. Yes, it doesn’t seem very fair to eat another sentient being, but nature is not fair. One flinches at the killer whales eating the baby seals, but if I were hungry and had to fend for myself, I’d eat them too. Another friend once asked me accusingly, “Would you kill a baby sheep?” Yes, I would if I needed to do so. I’d be sad, but I’d do it.

It’s all a question of where you draw the line. Some people don’t eat animals. Some people don’t eat animal products. Some people don’t wear products made from animal hide (although I’ve always wondered exactly where the line is drawn here – do strict vegans wear wool? silk? I presume not). A friend is vegan, and got attacked by an acquaintance for her choices – personally, I think that is totally out of line. It’s her choice what she puts into her body, and as long as she’s healthy and happy, that’s what’s important to me.

But this vegetarianism-stops-global-warming adds a whole new layer of piety to the whole vegetarian thing. I just think it’s a crock. How many rainforests would we have to cut down to feed everyone on vegetables? Think of the rainforests in Indonesia which are being felled so that people can harvest palm-oil for so-called “green fuel”. And we’d have to get our protein from somewhere, even if it was from tofu – so we’d need lots of soy beans. As this article in the Huffington Post illustrates, it’s an incredibly complex thing to work out what actions will have a greater impact on CO2 emissions, and the author (a vegetarian and environmentalist himself) cautions people against pious grandstanding about the benefits of vegetarianism vis a vis climate change. If only there were more like him.

Update:

Now when we talk of vegetarian piety, let’s have a look at this little gem from Natalie Portman, talking about Jonathan Safran Foer’s new book Eating Animals:

I say that Foer’s ethical charge against animal eating is brave because not only is it unpopular, it has also been characterized as unmanly, inconsiderate, and juvenile. But he reminds us that being a man, and a human, takes more thought than just “This is tasty, and that’s why I do it.” He posits that consideration, as promoted by Michael Pollan in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which has more to do with being polite to your tablemates than sticking to your own ideals, would be absurd if applied to any other belief (e.g., I don’t believe in rape, but if it’s what it takes to please my dinner hosts, then so be it).

A trifle melodramatic?

8 Comments

  1. Flower
    Posted November 10, 2009 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    #99 Legal Eagle

    “Flower @ 97, Armagny did try to address your points and to point out where there are clear arguments to the contrary.”

    With respect Legal Eagle – that point was raised by Bling bling , not me: “ Are we or are we not, by natural selection, carnivores? Have I missed something.”

    The issue I have raised is animal abuse which, throughout a hundred posts, has not been acknowledged but we do have a few grim reapers here who prefer to cherry pick!

    Now we have the moderator throwing in the red herring of cockroaches. If a cockroach invades my house, or threatens my health, I step on it – instant death, which is a far more humane than an Australian rouseabout incarcerating a bellowing cow in a steel crush and hacking off its ovaries.

    Behold – in post 99, you finally alluded to animal abuse. I would advise those (including yourself) who condescend to criticize my “argumentative technique” that I am not here to make an impression but to provide information so perhaps you all need to take your hand off it.

    And what a revelation Legal Eagle that you have seen all the footage before. So what are you doing about it while you raise a thread to criticize those who have become vegetarians (which I am not) for the very reasons I have raised?

    Perhaps you could do your bit for the environment and the hapless food animals by becoming a member of the Barristers’ Animal Welfare Panel, a Victorian Bar committee which, I believe, comprises of 90 Victorian barristers including 25 silks.

    You might even manage to make a buck or two representing a few of the animal abusers.

  2. jc
    Posted November 10, 2009 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    Flower:

    You really are a pretentious, moralizing, sermonizing git and you would not convince anyone with your attitude, in fact you would turn people further away.

    First it was the big bad corporations and then we find we’re not worthy of you.

    Seriously, get lost with your attitude. We’ll eat what we want to eat and that’s just the way it is, you grandstanding, know-nothing git.

  3. Posted November 10, 2009 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    Flower,

    Your arguments are dreary and unconvincing. Most farmed animals live the lives of kings. A farmed sheep, such as those across the road from my acreage, never have to fear hunger or thirst, they are treated for worms and diseases and even though in the end they are slaughtered for food they probably still live longer and better lives than their wild ancestors.

    Life in nature is nasty, brutish and short. Hunger, thirst, the possibility of being viciously ripped to shreds by a predator, disease and infestation by parasites ensure many, possibly even most, wild animals lead miserable lives.

    Having said that, some industrial farming practices, such the battery hen system, are undoubtedly cruel. But frankly my dear I don’t give a shit. Mother Nature is a callous bitch and I cheerfully accept my place her pecking order 🙂

  4. Russell
    Posted November 10, 2009 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    Well, just to prove that not all vegetarians are quick with the ‘moral judgment’ thing …. I’ve been a vegetarian my whole life, dearly wish I wasn’t, and am the one my siblings call on to lecture to their teenage girls who start the vegetarian/vegan thing!

    One amusing thing I read recently referred to the famous study that showed that rats fed on half rations lived longer: oh yes, they lived longer, but not reported was that they were bad tempered and hard to handle, unlike the well fed ones. The semi-starving rats liked to bite!

  5. Posted November 11, 2009 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    “Aw…….quit ya sookin’ Amagny- nor were my points acknowledged – predominantly because this forum is for the human club of “me, mine and myself.” ”

    I can’t believe I had the grace to retract my own, entirely reasonable but nonetheless impolite, bit of ad hominim. I wasn’t sooking at all. I came to continue the debate, noted that you’d avoided everything I said, I moved on to another site.

    Linking me in with ‘this site’ is an extraordinary narcissistic piece of exceptionalism. I’m one of the more left wing visitors here, others above could affirm that. In my particular response I acknowledged the potential value in meat eaters being reasonable and considering lowering their consumption and showing a preference for more human sources.

    But I suppose if you want to feel special it’s easy to just write everyone else off as a single voice, a single narrative against which you can construct your own pillar of wisdom.

    Feel special. You are. You can ignore those unnatural Kalahari bushmen and they, not being special, can’t even get on the internet to explain to you why they might disagree.

    And don’t shy away from using generalisations and personal ridicule to make a point!

  6. Posted November 11, 2009 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    “more human sources. ”

    =) Freudian slip?!

    Humane…

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