Food for Thought

A Response to “Eating our Friends” by Roger Scruton

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As a food-educated vegan, I disagree with this article on many points, excluding that Western cultures need to make a change in the way they eat. Before I dive into my opinion, here are some guidelines to my points:

  • Individuals who live in third world countries often cannot afford to be vegan/vegetarian. These individuals eat for need, not for pleasure. Therefore they are obviously excluded.
  • However, for those who eat for pleasure, not for need, this article is for you.
  • “About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.” Source
    • Why? Apart from family history and medical conditions, diet is the main causer of heart disease. (moo)
  • “About 260 million acres of U.S. forest have been cleared to create cropland to produce feed for animals raised for food. The meat industry is directly responsible for 85 percent of all soil erosion in the U.S.” Source

 

Daily dose of facts:

“…the 1984 famine in Ethiopia didn’t happen because local agriculture didn’t produce food but because this food was exported to Europe to be fed to ‘farm animals’. It was during this famine – which cost tens of thousands of people their lives – that European countries even imported grain from Ethiopia to feed chickens, pigs and cows. Had the grain been used to feed the Ethiopian people, there wouldn’t have been a famine after all. In Guatemala, about 75 per cent of children under the age of 5 are malnourished. But still, more than 17,000 tons of meat are produced every year to be exported to the US.” Source

So what’s this article about?

In few words, this article focuses on highlighting the morality behind ethical farming and the human-animal relationship. He urges people to eat meals with each other instead of eating fast-food. He states that, “the lifestyle associated with the Sunday roast involves sacrifices that those brought up on fast food are unused to making — mealtimes, manners, dinner-table conversation, and the art of cookery itself” (Scruton). This, obviously, is true. With phones and busy lifestyles, some families never find the time to eat together. However, why can’t an awesome meal with family involve healthier vegan options? And how could the human-animal relationship be improved even further?

So what do I think?

Specifically, I take issue with this statement: “When animals raised for their meat are properly looked after, when all duties of care are fulfilled, and when the demands of sympathy and piety are respected, the practice cannot be criticized except from a premise — the premise of animal rights — which I believe to be incoherent” (Scruton). The fact is, animals can take care of themselves.

Stating that they benefit from us is like saying we helped the Native Americans. Native Americans had their own lifestyle and it worked for them. Westerners infiltrated their lands, killed them, and took them off their land and put them somewhere else. We did not make their lives better by educating them or giving them new religion, they were already self-sustaining. This relates to our current situation regarding livestock. If meat-eaters want to defend the raising of livestock with nutritional facts, that is different from proclaiming that humans make animals live better and longer. In reality, milk cows live, on average, 20 years in the wild and 4-5 years in captivity. So how does this promote animal rights?

The article also states that there are “ecological benefits of small-scale live-stock farming.” Although this is true, vegetarianism and veganism is even better for the environment. The fact is that of all raw materials and fossil fuels used in the U.S., more than one-third are devoted to raising animals for food.

I do, for obvious cognitive reasons, agree that we are at the top of the food chain. However, I disagree completely that we need meat to sustain life. We do not, in the modern world, need to eat meat. So we definitely do not need to eat it every day. Those who eat meat in the Western world, who are economically sound, eat for pleasure, not for sustenance and nutrition. If we ate for nutrition and ecological reasons, we would all be vegan.  The fact is, meat is unnecessary and have come to the point in technological advancement that scientists understand the nutrients that humans need, and most, almost all, can come from plants.

Regarding a sit-down Sunday dinner, why can’t that dinner contain delicious roasted vegetables, pasta with red sauce, and dairy-free desserts (my favorite). We can become the type of society that reverts back to eating as a family without eating the foods we have always eaten. Let’s eat like a family while eating the right way: for the environment and for animal rights!

So what should I do about this?

THINK:

Try to think about how you eat and how the world works. Organize your thoughts before you make any lifestyle changes. Can I afford to be vegan/vegetarian? Can I limit my meat intake each week to reduce my carbon footprint? Can I benefit from lowering my heart-disease related health risks?

Think about how you justify the way you eat and analyze if your reasonings are sound. If your diet relies on bacon and cheese, chances are you are doing something wrong. If you are the type to buy local and organic animal-products, think about how you can reduce your carbon footprint even more by limiting your intake of meat.

STAND UP:

Do you care about the environment and your personal health but are a closet burger-eater?It’s okay, no one’s perfect! However, it wouldn’t hurt to practice what you preach and emphasize your own values in your daily life. Start by making small goals to cut out meat, even dairy products. Replace those meals with vegetables and legumes.

Are you an advocate for animal rights? Join an animal rights community either online, on your college campus, or in your community. Ask how you can make a difference by standing up.