Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Guadalajara, panorama

Panorama de Guadalajara (Mexico) que hice hace unas semanas del techo de un amigo. Panorama of Guadalajara (Mexico) taken for a friend's rooftop a couple of weeks ago.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Refuting the food-chain argument against vegetarianism

While visiting my home town of Los Angeles, I passed a fairly well-known burger joint and noticed a sign/ad that was hanging in their window. I can’t remember the exact wording, but it was something like “man did not claw his way to the top of the food chain to eat soy”. This is actually a fairly common argument against vegetarianism, though, as with pretty much every other argument that I’ve heard, one that's not difficult to refute.

This argument falls apart on several different levels. First, it assumes that we are still cavemen. It assumes that we still walk around with spears in our hands, looking for animals to kill, less we die of hunger. We do not. We generally walk over to our local supermarket and buy meat that was killed for us. We choose to buy meat even though there are more and more tasty, healthy, ethical vegetarian and vegan choices right in front of us, often right in the same supermarket. This is a luxury cavemen didn’t have. This, my friends, is called evolution. For those of us who have accepted that it is time to evolve to a higher plane of empathy, eating meat can be clumped in with other behavior of our prehistoric ancestors that we now almost uniformly call “barbaric”. We, unlike our primitive brethren, have been given a choice – to move forward and to continue diminishing levels of violence in the world, or to continue our harmful dietary habits. I suggest we embrace the former in order to make the world a better place for both ourselves and the animals with whom we share it.

But isn’t the fact that we have eaten meat for centuries, even millennia, a sign that this is, indeed, the natural way to eat? Once again, to the limited prehistoric man (and even to some of our more recent ancestors), meat was the most readily available form of sustenance, so it, indeed, seemed both natural and necessary. (That said, let's not forget that the above statement doesn’t even apply to all societies. Much of the Indian subcontinent, for example, has a very long history of vegetarianism, and there have been pockets of empathetic groups throughout history that have said no to the consumption of animals.) As I mentioned in the first paragraph, leaving behind harmful behavior is progress. Doing so helps us to become better people, to grow as human beings, and to pass on these new, positive, life-affirming values to future generations. We have already said no to many things that once seemed “natural”: slavery, child labor, certain blood sports, torture, and many others. Many of us have added animal suffering and the killing of animals to the list of things to eradicate, and not eating meat is a great step to take toward this end.

It is important to contemplate how we are similar to other animals in order to grow our compassion and empathy. It is also important to realize how we are different, especially when it comes to our diets. Carnivorous animals do not have a choice when they (kill and) eat their food. These animals are pretty much slaves to their instincts. In the wild, they have to be part of a food chain. A lion cannot go to a supermarket and buy an ethical plant-based product, instead of killing a gazelle. We can. The fact that we have this wonderful ability to choose a less harmful path is crucial, and we should not squander it in order to feed our bad habits. There are more and more people choosing a less violent path, and hopefully this trend will continue, despite short-sighted advertising campaigns.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Can someone eat meat and still be a good person?

Some have accused me of taking too hard a line against people who still consume meat, and especially insinuating (or sometimes even outright stating) that those who eat meat are somehow inferior to those who have adopted a plant-based diet, or that just by eating meat, one automatically disqualifies oneself from the realm of "good people".

I have indeed been very critical of people, including my own friends, who continue to consume the flesh of innocent animals. I only do this, however, to counteract those vehemently opposed to cutting down on meat, those who have heard the pleas of compassion and have ignored them, focusing instead on their own needs, ones that unfortunately will continue to cause countless animals to suffer and be killed in their name. I would never be critical of anyone who realizes that how we treat other animals is wrong, and is trying, step by step, to remedy this in his/her life. I really do believe that "any step in the right direction is a good step", and try to incorporate this into my perception of the world.

But let's get back to the unrepentant carnivores. Obviously, these people are a sad lot, ignoring the very unambiguous and ubiquitous suffering endured by millions of sentient beings just because they don't want to give up their beloved steaks, fried chicken, fish fillets, etc.; These are the same people who keep eating meat because plant-based products "don't taste the same", or for a variety of other reasons that, for any truly ethical person, would take a back seat to the respect for other creatures' lives.

The unrepentant carnivore is like the unrepentant slave owner, who, instead of trying to transition to a slave-free system, goes to war in order to maintain the status quo; or like the unrepentant child molester, who, instead of going into therapy, simply finds new ways to go doing his thing undetected; or like a proponent of forced genital mutilation, who uses "local culture" to explain away inhumane atrocities. All of these people, including the carnivore, are an active part of a system that causes a lot of suffering (and in some cases death). Many of the people described above could be perceived as "good people" by some of their peers, and many of the things they do in this life could indeed be positive. Still, wouldn't they all be better people if they left the negative actions described above behind? The only reason that the majority of people don't clump the unapologetic carnivores in with these other wrongdoers, is that society has not evolved to the ethical realization that taking the lives of other animals and making them suffer is up there with the rest of these ethical no-nos.

So can carnivores be good people? Of course, but their goodness will be a whole lot more complete when they stop making choices that implicate them in the death and suffering of so many animals. Any move that frees you from the weight of so much suffering is a good move.