|The slippery slope.|
Echoing a New York Times contest in March asking readers to defend meat consumption in 600 words or less (which, not surprisingly, the big food industry/factory farm shill Temple Grandin entered), the Star published a litany of familiar excuses justifying the act of killing animals and then devouring them.
Author and New Yorker contributor Adam Gopnik led the charge: "All animals die. The choice for a pig is not between painful death and perpetual life, but between one death and some other. If we ate only animals that died naturally, then could there be any rational objection to our eating them - to eating their flesh in celebration of their life rather than burying it to rot or merely burning it?"
Toronto butcher Stephen Alexander, a big supporter of buying local, "humanely" raised meat, is clearly wrestling with the ethics of meat eating when he tells the Star: "You're killing them to live, you're killing them because you enjoy meat and it's good for you. But at the end of the day, there is the cold, hard truth that you're killing animals to eat their meat.... You have to justify it to yourself and that's all there is to it."
"Ethics are an individual choice," reasoned Heather Travis, who handles public relations for Canada Beef Inc., which represents 83,000 farming families here in Canada. Travis said her organization "strongly advocates beef as part of a balanced diet," and warned that staying healthy on a meat-free diet "can be trickier if you eliminate animal protein sources from your diet."
The temptation is great to pick apart these arguments one by one, and most intelligent vegans would be able to dance circles around these people in a debate.
But to me the most interesting element of all of these defenses of meat eating is the extent to which omnivores feel the need these days to justify the act. Five years ago, when I was an omnivore, I never felt any need to defend my choices. I liked meat. I ate it. End of story.
Today, five years later, more and more people are either going vegan, or feeling the need to justify and explain their food choices. I run into thoughtful omnivores all the time who are really - really - struggling with consuming animal products. Increasingly, it's getting so only an over-the-top fruit loop like Ted Nugent gives absolutely no thought whatsoever to chowing down on the flesh of sentient beings.
|Famous food journalist Mark Bittman.|
A decade ago, the renowned and widely respected New York Times food journalist Mark Bittman gave little or no thought to the animals he was cooking (by his own admission). But in recent years, Bittman has developed profound misgivings about eating animals. These days, he believes that "20 or at most 50 years from now, those of us still alive will express incredulity at the way we once treated animals destined to become food." (Source)
|Gordon Ramsay and friend.|
Bittman has been much more aggressive in moving away from cooking animal products than Ramsay. In fact, Bittman gained fame for his Vegan Until 6 diet, spotlighted in his book Food Matters, that advocated going vegan before dinnertime for improved health. Yet what began for Bittman as a health issue keeps coming back to the more significant matter of animals and their suffering. He can't get away from the issue. These days, in fact, he keeps bringing it up. It haunts him, just as it haunts any thoughtful omnivore. And this trend is working its way into corporate America. Burger King made headlines in late April when the chain announced it will switch to cage-free eggs and pork by 2017. Other fast food restaurants are likely follow.
|Pigs in a factory farm. Many omnivores are troubled|
by what's happening in the food industry.
A growing number of omnivores are troubled by their actions, and the increasing defensiveness of some is an outgrowth of a moment in history when the animal rights movement is gaining traction around the world. For those of us who feel passionately about animals and their rights, this shift may seem too slow and way overdue in coming. But it is happening, little by little, and it offers a glimmer of hope.