Tuesday, July 11, 2006

More on "surf or turf"

As someone who rarely if ever eats meat, and has done research on how vegetarian diets are better for the environment, I'm often expected to be a staunch defender of animal rights.

I’m not. The “surf or turf” study I mention below offers a utilitarian argument for reducing beef consumption. Most of the beef available in North America is grain fed, and less efficient, in terms on energy required and pollution created, to produce.

I have no problem eating well-produced grass-fed beef or wild game (in fact I would not complain if someone culled the flocks of geese that ruin the grass behind my apartment)… though having only eaten a few morsels of meat in the last year, my stomach might protest.

If you’re interested in the different sides of these and other issues, I suggest reading this old interview with Peter Singer, an ethicist and writer at Princeton, in Salon about his book “The way we eat”.

While I don’t agree with many of Singer’s arguments equating animal and human rights - you can probably guess which ones – they are always good for inspiring a lively debate. At a dinner/debate a few months ago, I made an inflammatory comment about the hypocrisy of one of the ethicists’ criticism of meat eating that drew the ire of the room (along the lines of “you oppose eating meat only because you can see it, the steak is there on the plate; no one is complaining about the building we’re in replacing the habitat of many species, nor how the road you drove in on interrupts wildlife corridors; it’s not a pure argument for animals rights, it’s a way of assuaging misplaced guilt”). Thankfully ethicists tend to be non-violent.

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