An article by Jeffrey Kluger published in Time last Tuesday caught my eye with the provocative headline, “Don’t Feel Guilty About Eating Animals.” As an intellectually honest person, I’m always interested to read a compelling opposing view, but unfortunately this one was pretty weak and made its point mostly with circular logic. What a disappointment.
It’s not that there aren’t some legitimate arguments for eating animal products. I have to admit, there are. The threat of overpopulation is one of them, and “invasivores” use this argument to justify eating only invasive species of animals that threaten the natural balance in an ecosystem. In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, author Michael Pollan points out that humans give livestock food and shelter, without which they couldn’t survive, and in exchange it’s fair to take their eggs, dairy products, and even their lives. I’m not condoning any of the above, but they’re examples of arguments that have made me think and wonder if things would go out of whack for the human race if animal populations were left unchecked.
The Kluger article starts out with some cliche arguments that every vegetarian is sick to death of hearing. First is the old chestnut, “If a cow could eat you, it would.” How about that old taunt? It’s the sort of thing I would expect from a school kid heckling his classmate about the weird vegan meal he brought for lunch, not a man writing an editorial for Time magazine. Next, Kluger points out that meat tastes good, and we can digest it, so animals are “goin’ down.” So will he be chowing down on dogs or horses later on? Those are pretty popular eating in various parts of the world, and just as easy to digest as any other meat.
No, Kluger will not be eating those animals, because he — along with most everyone else in our culture — would feel guilty about it. The rest of his article outlines a new study in Current Directions in Psychological Science that shows that humans conveniently eat animals they decide are “dumb,” and consider charismatic and companion animals to be smarter than those they eat. Of course, this mindfulness scale is based on cultural factors, not real intelligence, otherwise Americans would favor cat meat over pork. Kluger then goes on to disclaim that “gratuitously subjecting animals to suffering” — as with factory farm battery cages and gestation crages — “is a bad thing.”
I have to agree on that last point, but what’s the main argument in Kluger’s article, exactly? That people shouldn’t feel guilty about eating animals because they can talk themselves out of feeling guilty about eating animals? Well, they don’t need Kluger to tell them that, but they say most people only read the headlines these days, so I bet plenty of Time-subscribing omnivores are feeling pretty validated right now.
What do you think about Kluger’s arguments? Did you expect better from Time?