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11:14 AM on 10/29/2009
Empathy

One's degree of empathy seems to me to be central to the morality of eating meat.

I really enjoyed Michel Faber's sci fi/fantasy book "Under the Skin" on this theme. http://www.amazon.com/Under-Skin-Novel-Michel-Faber/dp/0156011603
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LCRover001
11:23 AM on 10/29/2009
And yet you have none for the plants whose life you take to sustain your own.

Every animal and plant's life I take I apologize to for their sacrifice.
12:31 PM on 10/29/2009
Excusitarian.
03:25 PM on 10/29/2009
I do have a certain empathy for wild mushrooms.

But I get over it and eat them anyway.
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hark
01:27 PM on 10/29/2009
I do agree that it is human empathy that drives us away from cruelty to animals. Nature itself is cruel and savage, totally without mercy or kindness for its progeny. When it comes to animals, only the fittest and luckiest survive, and for only short periods, while in their prime. Most suffer pain, hunger, thirst, fear and extreme weather without shelter throughout their lives, only to die long before their time, if they were given the comforts of our pets. And many fall prey to terrifying and brutal attacks from predators. I often marvel that people can believe in a god that designed the world this way. And what must it have been like for human beings 50,000 or 100,000 years ago? Or even 10,000 years ago? And even today, billions suffer. leading lives of squalor and misery, with little hope for the future.
03:51 PM on 10/30/2009
You should read "The Noble Wilds". Nature is not all "eat or be eaten". There is a lot of harmony, helpfulness and sensitivity with natural animals. A lot of beauty, too.

Even so...let's say your premise is right. We have a choice. We can either just jump in and be like all the so called violent creatures or decide to be different. We have wisdom, we can choose good.

You are not without freedom in this. Use it wisely.
11:11 AM on 10/29/2009
I have vacillated between meat eater & not eating meat at all. I now eat meat occasionally.
As a weight lifter I can see that meat makes me more aggressive.
A vegetarian world would not be so warlike.
As the empire continues on it's inexorable implosion, the vast availability of meat,( along with the mountains of non foods that we ingest daily ), will change dramatically, many pets will be eaten,
and Americans will cease being fat.

I am a great eater of beef, and I believe that it does harm to my wit....Shakespeare
11:34 AM on 10/29/2009
As an occasional non-vegetarian surrounded by "pure" vegetarians, I'd have to say that people are mean and aggressive and even hypocritical when they are "pure" vegetarians. Also, the empathy level seems to be on par with those who have no problem with clubbing their meal to death shortly before consuming it.
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hark
01:32 PM on 10/29/2009
Vegetarians are mean and aggressive and lack empathy? Is that what you said? More so than the rest of us? Kindly provide sources for these claims.
12:24 PM on 10/29/2009
As a former power lifter and current daily weight lifter and meat eater I am very passive. Your comment is rediculous and based on zero fact.
10:40 AM on 10/29/2009
I attempted vegetarianism over the last 20 years but really finally was able to make it stick using logic similar to Foer's. Basically, I realized my hypocrisy in condemning the consumption of dogs and cats when in those cultures where it's accepted, there's no distinction made between dogs, cats, chickens, cows, etc. I gave up all meat and stopped purchasing any products made of leather including shoes three years ago. I feel better than ever and have a much better appreciation for life (the lives of other animals including my own) in general.
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KIVPossum
Moldova Marsupial
10:39 AM on 10/29/2009
I don't want to eat my pet because I'd have to kill it first. YOUR pet is a different matter entirely.

Once you decide to eat meat, what animal you slaughter doesn't matter - something dies for you dinner.
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LCRover001
10:53 AM on 10/29/2009
If it comes down to it my pet will go into the pot. My ancestors had dogs to hunt with, protect their villages and when times got tough eat, and I will do the same. The life of my child and my own mean more to me than that of my pet.

In a way I do eat my pets I raise beef and chicken. I care for them as I would my own child but in the end they are food. The only mistreatment they, in somes eyes, receive is when the time comes to provide what they were raised for.

I do not own a factory farm I raise what I can for my family with what I have. What we can not provide for our selves we buy from the store or local farmers market.
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socalcde
My micro-bio is empty.
11:04 AM on 10/29/2009
Like meat is the only thing that would keep you and your child alive if you were starving?
12:33 PM on 10/29/2009
That's such an original comment.

"But if I was starving ... If my kid was starving ...

Why not add something like just as plausible like, "if aliens landed and they forced me to eat my dog or my kid would starve ... BLAH BLAH BLAH"
10:25 AM on 10/29/2009
My soon to be daughter-in-law is a vegan; I could easily be a vegetarian, but my husband is a carnivore to the core. He brings up an interesting point any time we discuss food choices. If no one ate meat or, as with vegans, the other products from farm animals, those animals would die out. We'd have none left to worry about. No cows, no chickens, no pigs. . .people aren't going to keep them around for pets.

Thoughts??? Should we live in a world where these animals no longer exist? Period?

Just asking.
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CintiBlue
10:45 AM on 10/29/2009
You ask a good question, lars2.

All the "matter" other than meat is integral to our stuff.
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StValentine
10:48 AM on 10/29/2009
Die out? Really? That's based on the assumption that thse animals serve no other purpose except to be for food for humans - I'm sorry, but that carries no substance...
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11:31 AM on 10/29/2009
Breeds currently being used in farming have been selectively bred for tameness, size, quality of meat and resistence to disease caused by close confinement. They wouldn't stand a chance in the wild now (check out "The World without Us") The wild forms of a few farm animals have become extinct.
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CigarGod
What is your process?
10:19 AM on 10/29/2009
Great article.
Gave me much more to consider.

Since the beginning of my awareness, I have moved from all factory meat, to virtually none. My freezer contains only wild game...except for a couple pot pies. I rarely eat out.

This may not seem like a lot to non-meat eaters, but it is my own process. I'm still in process as my reaction to this article indicates.
I have no idea where I am in my personal process. I may be near the end of it...or not.
I think the important thing is that one be in an ethical and thoughtful process.

Two things motivated me: The heavy chemicals and the h@rror of factory farm existence.
I have chemical concerns about vegetables and fruits, but the extent of my action is to raise a small garden and buy some items from the farmers market.
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Chem is she
Something pithy and biting
10:23 AM on 10/29/2009
I think that is a great way to go. When I first gave up meat 10 years ago, I thought, if i don't have the guts to kill something, I don't deserve to eat it. And I don't have the guts to kill anything, so I don't.
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Gover
11:08 AM on 10/29/2009
But that's not true at all. You have the guts to kill something and I can prove it.

Let me lock you in a room for a month with:

A stove.
A knife.
Some chickens.

I'm going to call your bluff and and say that there won't be any chickens in that room in a month. But you'll be there. It's fine if you want to not eat meat I could care less but don't deny what you are. You're a predator and a meat eater even if you deny that part of yourself. The only reason you get to deny that part is because thousands of generations killed and ate meat to fuel their bodies and minds to create a modern world where that isn't a requirement for you. But don't make the mistake of thinking you're somehow built differently. You aren't a special snowflake.

I guarantee you have the guts to kill.
10:13 AM on 10/29/2009
It is odd, that we favor certain animals yet kill others. I guess the cuter and furrier it is, the more sympathy it gets as an animal. I also find it odd that someone who eats, say, bacon and beef and chicken, find it unconscionable to eat dog meat, snake, and other such meats. If you eat one animal, then it should not gross you out to eat another. Eat them all, or don't eat any of them. I choose the latter.

Even more ironic is that hunters take an animal - a dog - to help them kill other animals!
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jessicadevyn
Danger Zone
10:24 AM on 10/29/2009
So Native Americans, Africans, and pre Christian Europe were all wrong? Would you have gone on a ship and pedantically converted them to vegetarianism because it's the right thing to do?

And not everyone is against the eating of cats and dogs. I am not and I also understand not everyone in the world is Western. I identify very little with Western "culture".
12:46 PM on 10/29/2009
Yes, because "culture" is defined purely by the type of animals you kill and eat.

That's real culture, alright.
10:46 AM on 10/29/2009
Other people in other countries eat dog as well as cat. Also even people in this country eat snake.

See in countries eating dogs and cats is considered socially acceptable they had times of famine in which after all the crops were eaten the people had to eat something else and rather see themselves as well as the pets starve to death they decided to eat the pets in order to live.

That is also how canniblism became a social custom in certain cultures. Canniblism in these cultrues was to eat the members of the tribe you were at war with since food was often scarce and why waste the meat. Other cultures put as part of the death ritual so that when a relative died the pregnant women and any children would eat their dead relative to honor them.
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Gover
11:21 AM on 10/29/2009
Well, lets not forget the best reason to eat other people: to take their power.

That's why I eat people.
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jessicadevyn
Danger Zone
10:08 AM on 10/29/2009
I am personally against factory farming for all the reasons that you listed. That is why I only consume animals that I have killed myself or one by a close friend or family member. I do believe humans are omnivores but eating meat was a rather rare occurance in the past. Humans are animals and there are other animals that eat animals so I am not against eating them entirely. I do believe most humans were meant to have a mostly plant based diet.

I probably wouldn't eat a cat or dog. My issue isn't so much the emotional bond, (which I do have but one I understand is fostered by our culture), but the fact that cats and dogs are clearly predators. I only eat animals that are clearly prey animals, such as rabbits, deer, and certain birds. (Animals with eyes on the side of their head etc.) I feel that predatory animals are not meant to be eaten and humans have killed and made extinct far too many predators.
10:17 AM on 10/29/2009
I want to believe you, I really do.
Do you really not eat any meat in any restaurant, ever? And you don't eat meat when you go to someone's house? Because that would be factory farmed. Is it not difficult to only eat meat you have killed?
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jessicadevyn
Danger Zone
10:35 AM on 10/29/2009
I haven't had any meat since this summer. Currently, you could not tell that I am any different than a Vegan by current practices. Many of my friends are rural and kill their own game. I am ok with eating meat in their homes. I rarely go to resturants because I can't really trust what they used. I don't drink milk because I hate how dairy cows are treated and I think drinking the milk of another animal, especially when you're grown is pretty freaky.
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ottabox
What would coyote do?
10:07 AM on 10/29/2009
Foer writes from the perspective of a man beginning fatherhood. What choices will he make to assure the best for his child. Think about it. A child raised without the meat worldview is not going to "suffer" from the notion of meatlessness. True, meat eating parents will have to take a bullet, but Foer writes compellingly that it would be worth it.
My children grew up without meat. My son as a teen has chosen to try meat here and there. That's to be expected. However, both have all the resources they need to live a vegetarian lifestyle without the trials and tribulations an adult would have in making a switch to this lifestyle.

I hope this series on Foer's book will have an essay on the subject of parenting.
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Chem is she
Something pithy and biting
10:19 AM on 10/29/2009
Thanks for the post. I'm a vegetarian and my husband took it on full time once we were married. We hope to raise our children that way.
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edva
Capitalism vs Humanity
09:54 AM on 10/29/2009
God, after reading this, I am SO glad I am vegetarian.
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Chem is she
Something pithy and biting
10:23 AM on 10/29/2009
Hear hear.
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mgbgt95
10:35 AM on 10/29/2009
ditto
09:47 AM on 10/29/2009
I am a vegetarian by choice, having been one by background in my earlier years and, later, having "lapsed" from that. But I do not revolt at the thought of others eating meat but do applaud efforts to treat animals grown for food as humanely as possible.
About the special place of dogs and horses. Cole Porter, who was thrown by his horse and paralyzed for life, commented bitterly, "Millions of Frenchmen can't be wrong. They eat horses." Though I have read of many dogs which are movingly loyal, as in disconsolately haunting the grave of the departed master, I was horrified to read a few years ago that the Frenchwoman whose face was reconstructed (the first surgery of its kind) may have had parts of her face chewn off by her pet dog, which mistook her coma for death. There was the suggeastion, however, that he dog may have tried to awaken her from the coma.
10:48 AM on 10/29/2009
Dogs have been well known to eat human corpses. It is why the cadaver dogs are pulled quickly away from the bodies they find.
09:41 AM on 10/29/2009
I should think the answer to that question is obvious... Humans don't eat pets because a mutually beneficial relationship that has evoloved over thousands upon thousands of years since man domesticated animals. Kind of a dumb question really.
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liberalNmoderation
We've only got the one planet, don't screw it up.
10:05 AM on 10/29/2009
That's exactly what I thought.
12:54 PM on 10/29/2009
If it's such a dumb question, and we have this wonderful mutual beneficial relationship, why are we euthanizing these animals left and right? We're not eating them, but we're killing them by the millions, each year.

Another piece of human cruelty -- we made these animals so that they needed us (try abandoning a poodle and see how long he can last in the wild) -- but then we kill them when nobody adopts them.
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Chem is she
Something pithy and biting
10:21 AM on 10/29/2009
What you are saying doesn't make sense. Some people keep pigs as pets. And how do people not have a beneficial relationship with cows. What you are saying is completely arbitrary.
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Gover
11:02 AM on 10/29/2009
What you're saying doesn't make sense.

By beneficial relationship he's talking about what the animal gives us besides companionship.

I've never seen a seeing eye pig. I've never herd of a sheep-herding pig. I've never heard of a guard pig. I've never seen a pig catch that mouse that's eating through the cereal boxes or pin down a bat that got in. Now it's true cats hunt for selfish reasons but they'll bring you back gifts: they know you can't hunt, and they can, and they want to please you by doing what they do best for you. Now there are truffle hunting pigs for instance but really they're not really trying to please you they're trying to eat truffles. A pig won't bring you a truffle.

The point is, most animals didn't have much to offer us besides meat. Also, cats and dogs aren't very good eating. They're scrawny, small, probably kind of tough, furry...carnivores don't a good meal make. A pig on the other hand...just a fur-less pink sack of deliciousness.

What you're saying is just plain stupid. Dogs, cats and horses provide real benefits (or at least did in the past). Other animals didn't. That's why they are the chosen ones that don't get eaten (as much).
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kladinvt
09:35 AM on 10/29/2009
Among the things that some meat eaters ignore besides the unnecessarily cruel treatment of farm/food animals, is that those same animals, like most animals, will release "stress hormones" when subjected to fear and pain. So when a carnivore is munching on some juicy meaty morsel, they are literally eating that animals' "fear"; which on some level or another can not be a good thing for the consumer.
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Gover
11:13 AM on 10/29/2009
Fear is an emotion. You can not eat fear. "On some level or another..." is secret code for "I have no idea what I'm talking about."
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01:36 AM on 10/30/2009
Actually, all emotion releases chemicals and hormones throughout the body... human and nonhuman alike. In the case of fear the "pork" industry is desperately trying to reduce and eliminate this fear chemical through genetic modification and through drugs. It's called "stress gene endorphins". It is what triggers the "fight or flee" response. All animals at transport and at slaughter have elevated levels of this stress endorphin - along with an extremely high amount of adrenaline running through their bodies. Of course this remains in the flesh after "processing", but since no one considers it a "health" risk, there's no reason for research on it... or at least no reason for disclosure to the public about it. So when someone says that when you eat meat you're consuming pain, fear and suffering, they are actually quite correct.
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CintiBlue
09:35 AM on 10/29/2009
I don't eat pets cuz with my present dog, who chose me, I was hot sweaty, wanting a shower, sad about my other dog having cancer and took her out for one last tink for the night - she started chasing lightening bugs and that all melted away.
09:17 AM on 10/29/2009
I grew up in and around History-ical FredricksBurg Va watching the train-ing of Bird Dogs with my Grand father and my father, who also worked in a Old famers country butcher Shop that my grand an Mother ran working Side by Side for many years. My Father and Grand Father a "Korean War Veteran" took me hunting, fishing an traping. I grew up understanding you never take the life of anything unless your going to eat it or defend it "Life". I am sure if it came down to my life or my Best "friend". It would be no different for me. I understand to Bow my head and Say I Thank you for the live they gave its life So I may better Live mine.

I was raised to understand that The Uncreated One the one that is creation lives to be a living sacrifice unto its self...Just always remember to Stop and Say Thank You In Jesus "Yeshua's" name before you Eat.
11:12 PM on 10/30/2009
I do not recall reading that jesus ate any animals... (well, there is the infamous fish story) and definitely not killing any animals...