As a left-of-center civil libertarian, I have enjoyed and celebrated the appearance of outlets such as Quillette and Areo magazines, which counter the right-wing and regressive left follies at the same time; and are as scientifically informed as I like my regular readings to be. They’re a bulwark of modernism, and I really hope many more outlets like these will come.
So imagine my distress when I came across a post by Andrew Gripp in which he calls for the end of animal slaughter by way of slouching towards a State-sanctioned prohibition of meat inspired, no less, by a religiously-motivated similar ban in the Indian city of Palitana.
To his credit, Gripp avoided most of the regular veg arguments, including the speciesism canard — he even pointed out some fallacies people responding to veg claims usually fall into.
His argument, nonetheless, is fallacious as well. In short, he makes the following claims:
1. Killing animals unnecessarily is wrong
2. The government ought to intervene to protect animals from being killed in the name of feeding human beings
3. The Humane Slaughter Act (HSA) is not being enforced (and that, somehow, is supposed to be an argument for prohibition).
4. There’s no difference between the meat industry and our neighbors sadistically killing their dogs (or rather, that there is no difference in quality, but only in quantity)
5. There are culturally and morally arbitrary reasons why anti-cruelty laws explicitly exclude farm animals from the protections afforded to pets, and that this allows farmers to kill and mistreat animals.
6. He quotes an NYT blogger who thinks the meat industry is morally equivalent with sadistically kicking a dog or a hamster.
7. He argues there is a moral and legal hypocrisy in treating both activities with such a double standard.
8. Eating meat by choice is morally wrong.
9. He advocates once again for the government to provide protection to all animals in the care of human owners.
The central part of his argument relies on a misunderstanding or, rather, the omission of a pesky fact: veg diets cause animal suffering as well. Every single time we put anything in our mouths, be that lettuce, onion, carrots, potatoes or bacon, animals died. Put another way: just like eating meat, veg diets rely on the killing of animals for food.
In the comments section of his article, Gripp summarizes his thesis like this: “we should not tolerate the killing of animals for food”. Now, he has four options: to recant and rethink his authoritarian stance, to advocate for the banning of both meat and veg diets at the same time, to go into some kind of special pleading and do more mental gymnastics to explain why his preferred diets are exempt from his self-righteous position and how his diet choices are an acceptable “indifference toward the suffering of animals“, or just ignore the whole thing and pretend he has thoroughly demonstrated why his opinion should be made into the law.
Onto his other claims. Regarding the HSA, I’m sorry but I can’t follow the logic here. There is a systematic failure to enforce the regulation that mandates animals be rendered insensible to pain before being killed so… instead of calling for said regulation to be actively and vigorously enforced, for laws to make sure meat production is done in a more humanely way, you instrumentalize that failure to ban all meat production? How convenient for you that all those animals suffered, so you could weaponize that suffering to advocate enforcing your morals on other people.
Let’s take Gripp’s argument to its logical conclusion: people over-speeds and goes through red lights, so I guess cars have to go too! And we will end up getting rid of the Internet as well, since some people use it to commit cyber-fraud, porn-revenge and bully people with opinions. And you know what? Given most religious leaders challenge secularism by way of making political comments and endorsing candidates, I guess we’ll have to ban religion altogether! (Please note that I am making a reductio ad absurdum; yes, all religions are dangerous bullshit, and despite I am an ardent secularist, not even in my wildest dreams would I entertain the idea of having Government tell people what they can think or not, no matter how stupid or childish those beliefs are.)
Regarding the mental exercise of our neighbor killing his dog, I wouldn’t mind — a long time ago I learned that whatever my morals are, my rights end where other people’s rights begin, so it’s not my place to dictate what other people can or cannot do with their animals and stuff, as long as they’re not hurting any other human being without their consent. If the dog(s) didn’t feel any pain, what my neighbor does on his property, with his animal(s), and without unnecessary suffering is pretty much his problem.
Gripp’s example is flawed in yet another way: history turned out in such a way that we ended up farming pigs and cows for meat, while having dogs as pets and horses to ride. And, from a public safety point of view, since neither dog nor horse meat are typically farmed, their histories cannot be traced, and that’s a serious cause for concern, for they could be contaminated and not suitable for consumption. That’s why we had that whole horsemeat scandal a few years ago. So killing a dog isn’t really the same than killing a pig for human consumption. It just ain’t so.
Regarding the NYT blogger and his claim that sadistically kicking dogs and hamsters is morally equivalent with the meat industry, that’s just plain wrong. Reducing business owners to blood-thirsty depraved men is just an ad hominem fallacy. Yes, the intellectual dishonesty of animal advocates never seizes to amaze, I will give them that.
Now, I could be wrong, I don’t know, but I’m willing to bet most farmers don’t get a hard on just by turning the grinders on, or with animal blood-spills. But apparently, according to Gripp and Mark Bittman, selling food so your fellow human beings can meet their biological needs is not morally different to having an adrenaline rush when you cause pain gratuitously. Go figure! And, once again, considering agriculture also causes animal suffering and kills animals, there’s no reason why the indictment shouldn’t be extended to veggie peddlers!
So no, there is no double standard when it comes to the moral and legal considerations we give to pets and those we give to farm animals. They are different, so we treat them differently.
Last, but not least, Gripp ends with the whole thing that informs and drives his essay: the belief that eating meat by choice is morally wrong. No, it isn’t. I understand some people have an emotional need for a holier-than-thou narrative, but eating meat is not morally worse (or better) than eating vegetables.
We do what we need to survive. So far, we haven’t come up with widely available and cost-effective ways to feed ourselves without causing suffering to animals (or killing them). I do hope we get there eventually, but we’re not there yet. I don’t like this fact, but that doesn’t make it any less true: everything we do has an impact on our environment — and this fixation on meat-eating is unhealthy: there are many other human activities that benefit from animals, and sometimes cost animals their lives, from research to booze distillation (isinglass from fish bladder and sea shells are used while filtering alcohol prior to bottling). The fact that we can see the meat while not considering the wildlife lost to kale farming is just incidental but doesn’t change the fact that animals died in both cases.
To me, focusing on meat is just nit-picking. I’ll go out on a limb and take a guess as to why this happens: with the New Age, some people adopted yoga, others went with meditation, some others with pseudo-scientific quackery like the so-called ‘Traditional’ Chinese ‘Medicine’ (TCM), and it is quite possible some others were guilt-tripped into quitting meat. Have you ever wondered why veg propaganda (Cowspiracy, Earthlings, Vegucated, Live and Let Live, Peacable Kingdom, Forks over Knives, Simply Raw, Specisism, etc) is awash with appeals to emotion and won’t let those pesky facts get in the way? They’re to diet and nutrition what The World According to Monsanto is to GMOs and Monsanto, or what Gasland is to fracking: intellectually lazy appeals to emotion to advance an ideological agenda, and have mobs with torches and pitchforks try to impose their morals on others.
And that’s pretty much what Gripp is advocating for in his piece. He just thinks his stance is civilized because he’s summoning the coercive power of the State instead of a mob, which is a distinction without a difference: his goal is to tell other people how to live our lives just because he was gullible enough to be guilt-tripped by an old and foreign puritanism.
On Twitter, when I pointed out how ridiculous it is to instrumentalize the failure to enforce the HSA regulations to advance State-sponsored prohibitions and how taken aback I was because such a piece ended up being posted in Areo magazine —of all places—, Gripp retorted that Malhar Mali (Areo‘s founder and editor) eats meat… which had nothing to do with my point, namely that, if it were up to him, Gripp would do anything within his power to keep Mali (and anyone else) from eating meat.
There are several other problems with prohibitionism, starting with the fact that nutritionally complete veg diets can be expensive and even in rich countries, meat can be the only way for poor people to fight chronic malnutrition. And, we know the horrors of prohibition as well: the absurd war against drugs and the criminalization of prostitution are two of the most egregious examples — prohibition leads to more suffering and illegal markets which, in turn, foster violence.
I don’t think Gripp or anyone else advocating the government to curtail our liberties has taken just one minute to ponder the effects their beloved ban would have. Or they don’t care. Who gives a rats ass if chronic malnutrition starts soaring? Or if people start killing each other over turf wars? Or if people start dying because the black market couldn’t care less about sanitary regulations? Or if we increase the population of the already overpopulated prison system just because people did with their body what they saw fit? Yeah, I’ve seen what prohibition can do (blood shedding and jailing non-violent people) and I’m not impressed.
In his Twitter response, Andrew Gripp told me Areo magazine was a platform for exploring ideas. The thing is prohibition and authoritarianism run contrary to that ideal; and that’s why Areo doesn’t publish post-moderninst absurdities. (Or at least, I like to think that’s why.) Hence my surprise to see the magazine giving voice to ideas expressed in a self-righteous way that dangerously mirrors that of many assorted intellectual thugs, such as SJWs and Evergreen State College students.
In previous posts I have stated that I suspect veg-animalism is a misanthropic movement more interested in policing human behavior and amputating people’s rights than in actually improving animals’ lives and diminishing their suffering. Sadly, Andrew Gripp’s article confirms my suspicion. Even sadder: Areo lent itself for that.
I am, by no means, an animals advocate; worthy cause and lots of house-cleaning to do, but I got bigger fish to fry — first, we ensure all human beings have their Human Rights and civil liberties respected, then we can all focus on how to improve our treatment of animals. There are, nonetheless, some activities that would seem an obvious go-to for people who has the animal cause as their top priority, instead of using it as a disguise to advance their totalitarian wet dreams.
I’m thinking of things such as lobbying for the HSA to be as robustly enforced as possible; raising the level of debate by refusing to appeal to emotions and demonize meat-eating and, instead, trying to convince people giving them all the facts and being as accurate as possible; expanding education and fighting pseudoscience, so people won’t buy potions made with rhino’s horns or miraculous stews cooked with brown spider monkey broth.
I have no reason to believe my words won’t fall on deaf ears. Most probably, Andrew Gripp and other animals advocates will keep their zealously policing of human eating habits up until they can enforce on everyone of us the prohibition they are so desperately calling for. I hope I’m wrong, but then again, when it comes to human lives (and the enjoyment of rights), animals advocates track record sucks.
As per usual in with this topic, I am bound to say this: choosing a veg diet is as respectable as choosing an omnivorous one, and any properly fed and informed person who is over 18 years old should decide which one they prefer — there’s no right or wrong answer, and no diet is morally superior to others. Bon appétit!