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OT: What would it take to get you to stop eating meat?
With the new David Foster Wallace movie coming out, there's been a lot of internet chattering about it and him. I am not very familiar with his work, only having watched the YouTube video of his brilliant graduation speech at Kenyon College. Curious to learn more, I decided to read his well known 2004 essay Consider the Lobster. In it, he doesn't explicitly argue that eating lobster as it is traditionally prepared (as fresh as possible, often boiled alive) is inhumane, but asks the reader to contemplate the possibility and to confront how we ignore the question or justify our behavior. It's a good read if you haven't read it, and not too long.

I love meat. I can hardly imagine my life without eating it. And I also happen to love some of the more morally questionable food choices. Lobster is my favorite food, foie gras is also high on the list. And of course, given what I know about the meat industry in the United States, almost all meat options seems rather morally questionable. I've faced these questions in moments of introspection, and I come up with some justifications. The ample suffering that would exist for animals even if humans weren't involved, like being hunted and eaten or, on the other side, starving to death. But usually I just resolve not to think about it any longer and go about my way.

In general, I try not to act morally superior to people (although perhaps some on this board will dispute that). Go back to any time in history and you'll find average, seemingly not-evil people who allowed, approved of, or even participated in actions that we now recognize as barbaric. I am not so proud to believe that I could never be seen as one such person centuries from now. In Consider the Lobster, Wallace raises the possibility that eating lobster and other meat could be looked back on in the future like human sacrifices of the Aztecs or Roman gladiator matches.

I can certainly imagine such a future. But what would it take to make that future happen, perhaps even in my lifetime? The first possible catalyst that comes to mind is some sort of advancements in understanding animal minds. Imagine if there were developed a way to communicate with animals and we were able to learn someway or another first hand from animals that their suffering was substantial and similar enough to what we understand as human suffering that we couldn't hide behind the fact that we don't really know if lobsters experience pain like we do.

Another catalyst could be a replacement for meat, some sort of genetic creation perhaps, that tastes exactly the same as meat but doesn't require killing a sentient being. People are quite suspicious of GMOs and would certainly be suspicious of this, but if it was thoroughly tested and tasted close enough that any difference could be attributed to the now ingrained suggestion that natural is better, I certainly think I would be on board and would stop eating the real thing.

Without something like that happening though, I'm afraid I don't have it in me to give it up or even to wrestle hard enough with the moral implications until I either come up with a satisfactory justification or just accept my behavior as immoral.

For meat-eaters like me, what's your thoughts? Could some development stop you or are you all in? For those vegetarians or vegans among us, what was it that pushed over the edge, assuming you weren't raised to not eat meat from birth?

Note: Let's try not to condemn each other's views. I think we can do it.

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Posted: 08/18/15, 08:18:39  - Edited by 
 on: 08/18/15, 08:18:51
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I don't know. Ethically I like to consider giving it up sometimes, but I feel like I'm already reallyyyyyy tired and bad at consistent, well thought out eating plans, which i think are necessary to give up meat and keep getting proteins and such.
Posted: 08/18/15, 08:29:57
I suppose the discovery that animals are sentient would be the thing for me. Even then, I don't know if I'd stop, since if they're gonna die anyway then me continuing to eat them isn't going to change that. But proof of sentience would be the first step. Even non-sentient animals don't deserve to be in pain, though, so it'd be nice if we could treat them better either way.

Here's a controversial, kind of barbaric opinion: to me, the only inherent value in sentient life is its impact on other sentient life. If, hypothetically, nobody in the entire world knew who I was or cared about me, and I had no potential to ever do anything to greatly influence someone's life in a positive way, and I randomly died one day... well, as someone who doesn't believe in the afterlife, I don't think I'd personally mind being dead since I wouldn't be thinking anything at all, and with no one else to miss me, what's the loss? If there's no such thing as a soul, why is it so morally important to place a value on something just because it's biologically considered to be alive?

Also, this isn't some veiled cry for help or anything, I love my life. I'm just using myself as an example to beat around the giant euthanasia/abortion bush. But if I got hit by a car tomorrow and died... that'd suck for my loved ones and everyone who's looking forward to the Steam version of Shapes of Gray, but I'd be cool with it unless hell exists.
Posted: 08/18/15, 08:52:05
I actually kind of wonder what would be considered proof of sentience. I'd wager a LOT of powerful people would push for a stricter definition than necessary for a long time, such that meat eating would continue long after we kind of sort of know it's eating sentient beings.
Posted: 08/18/15, 09:33:29
Over the last year or two my position in regards to vegetarianism and what I think of it has changed significantly. I could well be wrong but to me it seems that most people are vegetarian for the wrong reasons. Most people argue that harming and or eating other animals is morally wrong at face value, however we could go into a whole debate about morality within the context of the wider American culture. This is of course not taking into account cultures that don't have the luxury of wondering whether or not eating animals is wrong. That is because sometimes that is all (we) that is available, and even seldom at that.

Nevertheless the most convincing case for stop eating meat, or at least meat from an animal that you didn't kill yourself comes from the fact (or at least that is what I've been led to believe) is that because of mass farming, animals are put under a great deal of stress and are subject to a lot of contamination which we in turn ingest resulting in sickness for us as humans.

If you think about it like that, it does sound selfish. I'm sure if there was a way for mass farming to work without subjecting animals to what is essentially torture which is reflected on the quality of meat and thus our health, less people would probably be vegetarian since there probably wouldn't be a health benefit. But then again I'm pretty sure if gravity didn't exist we would all be Superman, but reality doesn't work like that now does it.

So there you go folks, short answer, you probably shouldn't eat animals that have been mass farmed like pigs, cows, chickens, etc. Seafood is farmed sometimes but often less so, so it is not as dangerous to consume. With that said, there is also the risk of mercury poisoning because of all the crap we collectively dump into the ocean but that is another story. Plants on the other hand don't have a nervous system so they don't suffer in the same way animals do, so in turn the food isn't hazardous to consume.
Posted: 08/18/15, 09:38:19  - Edited by 
 on: 08/18/15, 10:16:39
I love meat, but I don't love the idea of eating it. I don't need any proof of sentience to feel bad about killing (or supporting killing) and eating animals, 'cause I'm already convinced they're sentient, feeling creatures, and equally convinced we can lead great lives without meat. But, my self discipline is absolute shite. Just can't stop eating meat. Not without a big motivator, anyway. If I had to care for, say, a cow and a pig, I'd never be able to eat meat again 'cause I'd feel so guilty about it. My last girlfriend was a vegetarian/aspiring vegan, and when we dated I gave up meat most of the time, so if I find myself in a similar situation again I could probably pull it off.
Posted: 08/18/15, 09:44:00
@r_hjort See my girlfriend was mostly a vegetarian when we met and... my bad habits got to her, not the reverse. She still eats way less meat than I do, but we both eat it fairly regularly now.
Posted: 08/18/15, 10:09:45
Been a vegetarian for almost 18 years. It's not really a moral thing with me, and I think eating meat is obviously totally natural. That said, I really wish people would at least stop eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It's terrible for the environment, it's terrible for your health, and the industry has the animals living in some hellishly cruel conditions to keep up to the insane demand. Why not reduce it to once a day? That is way more than your body needs and there are countless other delicious, healthy things to eat.

As to why I originally became a vegetarian? Well, it was a challenge from my brother and his friend, both of whom were going through a 90's punk animal rights phase and giving me a hard time at a BBQ... "I think I see a vein in your food!" I went a week, then a month, then a year, and now a life. Really, I was a fat ass, but the weight melted off when I stopped eating meat (and drinking soda). I decided I didn't want it to ever come back.
Posted: 08/18/15, 10:14:01  - Edited by 
 on: 08/18/15, 10:15:06
Waking up and finding out I'm suddenly deathly allergic to the stuff.

Until that happens, I just remember that if a cow got the chance he'd eat me and everyone I care about.

Posted: 08/18/15, 10:51:10
I really don't know. I eat meat because of the inertia behind it. I have always eaten meat and even though I am aware of the horrible situations that result in these products it doesn't impact me enough to change something that I've always done. It's kind of like buying merchandise made in sweatshops. I could research and change buying habits but ultimately I don't. Part of it comes from a feeling of futility of knowing that these problems are so big that my actions alone won't change anything. The other big part of it is how divorced the product we buy is from the conditions it came from. When I prepare chicken I'm not actively thinking that this was at one point a living animal or how it was treated before death. I kind of treat it the same way as a vegetable or grain product. It's just an ingredient I don't think about. I know it is from an animal and if I stop to think about it that animal probably had a pretty miserable life but I just don't think about that while I am preparing and eating the food.

The other issue is being a vegetarian isn't necessarily an ethically clear practice either. You still have animal abuse happening to make things like milk, eggs, yogurt, cheese, and butter. Then you add to that the whole issue of considering where the produce you eat is coming from. What are the working conditions like there? People in some parts of the world are made to work in some pretty miserable conditions and supporting companies complicit in that concern me just as much the treatment of animals.
Posted: 08/18/15, 11:51:53
Won't happen. My teeth were developed to consume both plant and animal, and for the rest of my life, I shall devour both.
Posted: 08/18/15, 12:19:28

That quote coupled with your avatar made me laugh quite a bit. You have lightened up my day.

As for eating meat, I had a bit of a morality crisis about it a few weeks back and stopped eating meat for about a month. Then old habits started creeping in and I became a weekday vegetarian, now I am back to eating it everyday. It's very tough.
Posted: 08/18/15, 12:56:00

Yup. This is why I'll never get on a moral high horse. I really love quinoa, for example. It's a very healthy complete protein source, and I eat it almost every day of my life. It's pretty new to Westerners, however, and now that it has befome a big trend and we are importing so much of it, the people who have been relying on it as a staple crop since ancient times are being deprived of it. That's horrible, but is it stopping me from buying it? Nope. It's healthy, tasty, and one less box of the stuff per week wouldn't make a difference.

Maybe future technology will put an end to the suffering of animals and people alike. I imagine it will someday be affordable to grow animal protein without slaughtering animals and that automation can remove the human suffering from growing other crops and allow us to do so in abundance. It's just an energy problem.

What do you guys think of insect protein? I have read that it might be an important foodsource in the coming decades. Really, I'm sure that if we were born eating it, there wouldn't be that psychological block and we wouldn't think anything weird about it. People say crickets, for example, taste quite good, and they can be prepared in a way that is more appealing to the eye.
Posted: 08/18/15, 12:56:38

I ate chilli flavoured grasshoppers and ants the other day and they tasted quite good.
Posted: 08/18/15, 13:03:24

I've never tried any insect since I became a vegetarian at such a young age, but I have a very open mind about the idea. In the event that I go back to eating meat, I think I'd be fine with it. It's protein, and humans have been eating bugs forever.

I, quite frankly, also don't understand what the big deal was about the horse meat in that fast food chain a couple years back (hey, nobody knew the difference) or how people can condemn others for raising dogs for slaughter while eating pigs. They're all pretty damn likable animals in their own ways. I guess that's all just a cultural thing.
Posted: 08/18/15, 13:26:08  - Edited by 
 on: 08/18/15, 13:27:07
Hinph said:
automation can remove the human suffering from growing other crops

Of course, that will just lead to people having no jobs instead of shitty jobs and higher profits for those who control the means of production
Posted: 08/18/15, 13:27:52  - Edited by 
 on: 08/18/15, 13:29:22

Yeah. Automation of many jobs (maybe even most) is inevitable whether we like it or not, and it is likely going to be a terrifying transition. A world where people are free from having to perform undesirable labor and can pursue activities that truly make them happy can be something of a utopia, but we know the rulers of this planet aren't going to want to give up their power so easily.

Things might get very bad before they get better... and there's no guarantee that they will. Who knows, maybe we'll blow ourselves up or be destroyed by an artificial super intelligence before we have to worry about any of this too much.
Posted: 08/18/15, 13:39:06  - Edited by 
 on: 08/18/15, 13:40:17
I first started out as being vegetarian, as when I was a kid I was pretty environmentally conscious for some reason. I couldn't with good conscious eat another living being. As I became more educated in the unethical treatment of animals, I really started to become more aware of why it was important to become totally vegan. And I mean totally - no dairy, no leather, no hidden ingredients in food or household/bath and body products. Nothing. It became my thing to research the heck out of companies and their products. I can't tell you how many letters and emails I've written inquiring and reprimanding. Being vegan started to define me, and I was okay with that.

But, I don't preach or even tell people unless asked. The old joke - "How do you know if there's a vegan in the room?" "They'll tell you." - doesn't apply to me.

Being vegan is also one of the best things one can do for the environment. The amount of energy and water and the like used in the cattle and dairy industry is staggering. Far more than in the agricultural one. Not to mention the amount the carbon emissions from the beef/dairy industry, and the crooked lobbying from these "big business." Of course, I'm also all organic, too, as I'm hyper conscious about the potential over use of the land/soil in traditional farming, not to mention the pesticide use in traditional farming (though organic farming uses some). And supporting organic farming and supporting organic foods/practices keeps money out of the pockets of one of the most evil organizations in all the world... Monsanto.

So, to answer the thread's question, it wouldn't take much for me to stop eating meat.
Posted: 08/18/15, 14:15:56  - Edited by 
 on: 08/22/15, 16:41:22
For every animal you don't eat, I'm going to eat three.
Posted: 08/18/15, 15:35:52
Ah, that's a possibility too. Maybe I need to make sure I find someone really dominant next time, to prevent them from adopting all my bad habits. Otherwise I might end up dating a carbon copy of myself, and I've got enough of myself as it is!
Posted: 08/18/15, 15:38:01
On a related topic I have always bought free range eggs and have never deviated from it, I've always found caged hens just too cruel a practice. This week however I've had to buy a lot of eggs for a diets I am on so opted for the cheap ones. I will never bother again, I feel terribly guilty for each egg cracked and the colour of the yolk is so light in colour compared to the beautiful orange colour of the free range eggs that I will never buy them again. I actually feel ashamed.
Posted: 08/18/15, 16:11:05
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