Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Privilege of "Happy Cows"

The Ethicist Contest Winner: Give Thanks for Meat  For me, eating meat is ethical when one does three things. First, you accept the biological reality that death begets life on this planet and that all life (including us!) is really just solar energy temporarily stored in an impermanent form. Second, you combine this realization with that cherished human trait of compassion and choose ethically raised food, vegetable, grain and/or meat. And third, you give thanks.

Good news! You can eat meat as long as you place yourself in a very particularly privileged position above the rest of the planet and ignore how most people won't ever have accesses to the same resources and choices that you do!

What, there's no way that we can find enough land to produce enough of this sort of ethical meat to feed the entire planet, and even less of a way to make it affordable? Oh, well you should have thought of that before you chose to be born as someone less privileged as myself.

Give thanks to me, for I am to be praised for finding a way to wrap my privilege-denial in self-aggrandizement!
McGoats says "Do you realize the privileged position one must be in, in order to be vegan?"
Oh yes, no doubt of that. It wasn't at all what I was responding to, but I agree with you. Getting to eat ethically in any way is a privilege, be it "happy cows" [aka expensive cows] or no cows [aka food considered too "specialty" for regular grocery marts]. Like yesterday, my friend had pizza, and I could either eat what he offered or go hungry. And back to the guy whose privilege-denial I was criticizing, I couldn't just eat only happy cow meat even if I wanted to, since that stuff is damn expensive.

My concern is that if the people who control the food production process were to somehow manage to overhaul the entire system and produce only low-impact sustainable ethical food, we simply won't have enough to feed the entire planet that way if we insist upon a high-animal-protein diet. I can see a future in which some people do eat some meat, but it would be at a greatly reduced rate of consumption than what is typical (at least in the USA where I am). And those of us who are able to sustain ourselves without meat are welcome to continue to do so.

People who insist that a more ethical food supply must come from the bottom-up are speaking from a place of privilege. The people at the bottom of society cannot bear the brunt of the blame for the less ethical choices we make, because more ethical choices do often come at too great a cost, precisely because ethics itself is not built into the system.

Does that mean my decisions are magically more ethical because the most ethical option was not available to me? Nope, I still acted less ethically. All it means is that I'm not to blame for my less-ethical non-choice. The sooner I accept that there are better options being denied me and the more I demand more ethical options (at less cost) available to myself and others like me, the sooner (hopefully) we can overhaul the entire system to make ethical decisions less privileged. But even still, it's not our fault if our demands fall on hardened hearts (those of us who are willing and able to take the time and effort out of our busy lives to make such demands).

But seriously, assholes like that "let's all just eat happy cows, yay!" bro aren't doing anything but helping privileged people like him feel better about themselves.

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