Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Vegetarianism: A genuine offense

Okay, just to be clear, I'm going to promise not to let this post turn into a hilarious Maddoxesque haranguing of vegetarians and/or vegans. In fact, the word "veganazi" will not even appear in this post. Starting now.

Attacking vegetarianism has achieved the same taboo status as religion. I am of the Sam Harris/Richard Dawkins/Christopher Hitchens school of thought where when someone acts based on preposterous views that it's my duty and my right to call them out. And that's what I intend to do with this post.

I am aware of really only 2 different claims of justification for the ridiculous behavior that is vegetarianism. The first is easily dismissed, so I'd like to deal with it first and get it out of the way. The claim that it's somehow healthier not to eat other animals is such a biologically unlikely hypothesis, given what we know about man's history on earth that it hardly need be addressed to be dismissed. It's like claiming that it would be healthier for people to live nocturnal lives and sleep during the day. It's not how we evolved, you see. The likelihood of us evolving as largely meat-eating omnivores for 3 million years but somehow coincidentally being more adapted to an all-plant diet is about on the magnitude of a hurricane blowing through a scrap metal yard and assembling a 747. (Let's not quibble over the date. That's a largely accepted estimate for the birthdate of the genus homo, but even if you want to use 1 million years, the point still stands).

Of course, I can point any detractors to gobs and gobs of research confirming this point. Talk to a local vegan and see what kind of hoops they jump through to get vital nutrients (B12 and iron, to name a few) without animal food sources in their diet. That alone negates the idea that eating vegetables and fungi only is a more healthful choice for humans. Not to mention the mounting evidence that saturated fat is good for you and a necessary major component of a proper diet.

Now, on to frying bigger fish. The second justification for veganism and its watered down forms (like lacto-ovo-vegetarianism) is that it's morally superior to eating animals. First and foremost, this is an act of overt kingdomism. To suggest that it's somehow more evil to eat a kangaroo than a stalk of broccoli is simply baseless and stems from an anthropocentric view of the world. There is nothing inherently superior about either life form. Both have found a niche over the course of millions of years that they can fulfill better than any of their competitors (for the moment, anyway).

But broccoli doesn't suffer, you might say. I think this is why we get all namby-pamby when it comes to putting our foot down and declaring vegetarianism a form of lunacy. But here's where the logic falls short: If a cheetah catches a gazelle, the gazelle suffers, but the cheetah gets his need satisfied. If the gazelle escapes, the cheetah suffers. He goes hungry. Over the course of the cheetah's life, many gazelles will suffer so that he doesn't. But we don't outlaw meat-eating in the jungle because we realize that's the way life works, and it's beyond our control.

So the self-righteous vegan chooses to suffer in the lamb's stead. It sounds noble, on the face of it. But it's truly more pretentious than anything. The vegan is saying "I know better than the laws of nature what the order of things should be." He's basically trying to lay claim to a kind of knowledge he is incapable of possessing. It's like when a sportscaster describes a basketball player as "defying gravity." We all know he's just saying that the player is so athletic that he appears to be able to defy gravity. He is, by jumping, by pushing off the earth, working 100% within the law of gravity. We all know this without it having to be explained. We know this as surely as we know that members of the genus homo eat a diet that largely consists of animal fat and muscle tissue.

And that, in a nutshell, is why I am personally offended by vegetarianism. Because by choosing to forgo meat, the vegetarian is saying that he intellectually knows better how to be a human than the DNA that makes me one. I'm made to want certain things. Among those things are meat, sex, and a human support structure. To apologize for these facts, to propose that you can and do know better than biology is truly an affront to humanity. And we should all be offended.

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