The Vegetarian Dilemma

by Bert Jackson on January 23, 2011

Are you a vegetarian? Vegan? At this point in my life I am a self-described “flexitarian”. What does that mean? It leaves the door open to just about anything but I think it puts on airs of perhaps eating meat consciously. I’ve had bouts in my life of pure vegetarianism, almost to the point of veganism. On the one hand I have to say I felt very healthy. On the other, at some point there was the craving that took me over the edge to carnivorism again.

Biologically, we seem to be designed for omnivorism. Our teeth have incisors for tearing meat as well as crushing vegetables. Our digestive system can process just about anything. This is used as an argument in favor of eating meat. Since we were built that way, that in itself justifies it. There is also the argument that we need to eat meat in order to have a balanced diet. I don’t see this as a black and white issue. We have a great deal of diversity in our species, and it may well be that some can exist on a vegetarian diet without issue, while others may be more biologically inclined to require animal protein.

While it may seem that we have evolved to be omnivorous, a case could also be made that we have also evolved in consciousness that allows us to make choices about our sustenance that goes beyond simply biology. We can make informed choices about a vegetarian diet and supplements that supply the nutrients we need. Is this not also an argument? That we have evolved to the point where we are capable of making that decision?

No discussion of vegetarianism would be complete without a discussion of the ethics of killing animals for food. As a society, we put quite a bit of energy into convincing ourselves that this is OK. “It’s OK if the animals are treated humanely.” “It’s OK if they are raised organically.” “It’s OK because we have always been meat eaters.” “Nature has predators who eat meat, it is simply part of the natural order.”

At some point in our lives most of us have had a relationship with an animal, be it a dog, cat or other pet. Most of the animals we eat, especially mammals, have the capacity to have some kind of relationship with us as humans. Granted some have a deeper connection than others. Though I have known people with a pig as a pet that was like another dog in the family?

So could you eat your dog or cat for dinner? Probably not, even in an extreme case. Because of our disconnect with the “processing” of animals we don’t make the association that the sausage on our breakfast plate once was part of a living creature capable of being your kid’s pet. But isn’t this simply part of nature? Predation occurs all the time.

Non-human predators are hard-wired to hunt, kill and eat other animals. They are not capable of making a conscious decision to do otherwise. We are capable. And we are capable of establishing relationships with other species, one being to another. At that crossroad, what does that say about our traditional approach to consuming animals? I have real questions about this. For some, there is no question. It is clear, one way or the other. Or perhaps it appears clear because the question of awareness and relationship has not been posed?

One last thought. If we assume that eating animals is acceptable, and we acknowledge that we can have relationships with animals as beings, then does that make carnivorism simply a broader interpretation of cannibalism?

Image courtesy of FreeFoto

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Neto September 4, 2015 at 3:40 am

Hey FR folks thanks for the kind words. I was horneod when our publisher decided to put that recipe on the cover it was one of my faves, if not THE fave. AJ and I and the families will definitely swing by for a tour. Shoot me an email sometime to let us know how to set it up .Cheers, Jeremy

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