There has not been a single decision I have made in my life that I feel better about than becoming vegetarian. And yet I have not been able to enjoy my decision. I have to contend with how I am perceived - I don't want to appear too radical or intense and I certainly don't want to appear smug or superior. I also have not been able to rest with my own apparent hypocrisy. As I have noted before, it is inconsistent for me to abstain from meat for moral reasons while still eating eggs and dairy products and wearing leather.
The decision to become vegetarian was not an easy one, although it was always the obvious choice. It was just easier to ignore the pressing guilt. I know that I am not alone - in my conversations about vegetarianisms with others I invariably hear "Good for you! I could never do that." Meat is just too delicious and the source is too easy to ignore. That's a real shame, because I have become convinced that meat is an obvious and objective cruelty. This is rapidly becoming a very important cause for me.
Eating meat in itself is not cruel. Although I will never eat meat again, I acknowledge that the consumption of animal flesh is not inherently wrong. However, in our modern society, 99% of all meat (this includes beef, pork and poultry) is produced on factory farms. These are absolutely cruel places and there is no moral justification I can think of that would mitigate the consumption of these creatures. I have to imagine that people who eat meat do not know how cruel and inhumane (an odd word) factory farms actually are. I have to imagine that if people knew, then they would stop eating meat instantly. If I thought that people knew what the farms were like and continued to eat meat, continued to support this viciously cruel industry without so much as a blink, then I would be forced to dismiss their "morality" with contempt.
I realize that this makes me an asshole. I realize that this means I think fully educated carnivores are bad people. I am truly sorry for that. Please believe me when I say that although I see a vegetarian diet as morally superior in every aspect, there is no sense of competition for status with carnivores. I would like nothing more than to be a friend to all humans, but I simply cannot. This is too big of a problem for me to ignore, too big for any of us to ignore. The welfare of animals is more important to me than the possible hurt feelings of humans.
This is a link to a film titled Meet your Meat. It is vicious and hard to watch. It isn't slaughter - it is deliberate, intentional and unnecessary cruelty toward animals that are obviously suffering. If you are unable to watch (as I am), if you are unwilling to see what goes into the making of your food because you know what you will see then you should follow the obvious moral path and change your eating habits.
As I said at the top, the implications of all of this are not easy, even for me. It was easy to give up meat and leather, but not so easy to give up dairy - I am still working through the logistics of that. It is also difficult for me, as a dog owner. I have no illusions about the source of the food and treats we provide our pets. I honestly don't know where this leaves me. Although the cruelty of the food source is undeniable, there are no health issues associated with a vegetarian diet for humans - in all the research I have read, a vegetarian diet is healthier. But dogs are carnivores. Meat is essential to their diet. I can't deny them what they require, but is the relative health of my pampered pets worth the life and happiness that other animals are forced to give up? I don't have an answer right now.
I have just finished reading Jonathan Safran Foer's fantastic book Eating Animals. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in the subject. I feel so strongly about it, in fact, that I am willing to purchase a copy and send it to you if you are unable to procure it for yourself. I promise that it is less abrasive than I have been in this post. And I really am sorry for the terse tone. I don't want to come off as a morally superior asshole, but I am motivated by the plight of billions of beings who are suffering for the sake of industry. I am certainly not blameless, I am not proud of myself, but I strongly believe that eating meat is morally indefensible. I would like nothing more than for all of my readers to become vegetarians.
I welcome all comments, as well as ideas for dog food.