Hi all! Today I have something a bit different in store for you, and I hope you enjoy. I am going to share a short essay my brother wrote in regards to why he became a vegetarian. As you may or may not know, I too am a vegetarian, and that is why the focus of my blog is on plant-based meals.
In today’s day and age there are a lot of different reasons that individuals decide to stop eating meat. Some abstain because of the moral and ethical issues involved, some abstain because of the environmental impact the meat industry has on the planet, and for others, they choose not to consume animal products in order to better their personal health. And these are only a few of the most common reasons for leading a vegetarian lifestyle among many others. So when my brother proposed sharing his essay on becoming vegetarian with my blog, I thought it was a great idea! Without further ado, here is the essay:
Here are two facts that you already know. 1. Thomas Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence, which included the epic line “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal.” 2. Thomas Jefferson lived at Monticello, which he had constructed and maintained over the course of his life by hundreds of enslaved Africans. The combination of these two facts often leads modern and morally sensible people to arrive at the following conclusion: “What a jerk! Jefferson was clearly a glaring moral hypocrite!”
Frustratingly, me and you and everyone we know probably all have more in common with Jefferson than we care to admit or even consider. As manifestly unethical as the practice of slavery was and is, in Jefferson’s time and place, it was also painfully normal. Without letting Jefferson off the moral hook for consciously engaging in the sordid practice of slave owning, it seems fair to ask ourselves the following question: Is there something that we in 2013 are all doing or believing that, despite being completely normal, might also be completely unethical? I think if we are honest with ourselves, we, like Jefferson, are able to sleep at night not because we all live in a flawless, ethically consistent manner, but because we allow ourselves certain moral blind spots that relieve us of the burden of having to justify some of the more questionable elements of our everyday habits and actions.
By way of example, consider the possibility that some 200 years from now, people might look back at President Obama and say, “Here was a man who won the Nobel Peace Prize, a man who was thought to represent all of the values that honor was meant to embody. Yet, here was a man who, at the end of day, went back to the White House for dinner with his family and chewed and swallowed the flesh of other living beings. Obama was a meat-eater! AND he won the Nobel Peace Prize! What a glaring moral hypocrite this man must have been!”
Well, now. That’s a bit of a stretch, you may fairly be thinking. But try to also realize how much of a stretch the 13th Amendment (ending slavery in the US) would have been for Jefferson in his time, to say nothing of the fact that an African-American is now occupying his former post in the White House.
In general, it is wrong to harm or kill a living being, if unnecessary. I would hazard a guess that most people wouldn’t strongly object to the previous sentence. We all have a natural moral compass inside us that recognizes the fact that living beings feel pain and suffering. There is a reason why we cringe at the thought of someone kicking a dog in the face. We know what pain and suffering feels like ourselves, and our gut tells us that it is wrong to inflict pain and suffering upon others. It is wrong to injure, it is wrong to kill. That shouldn’t be too controversial.
Now consider an additional sentence: Eating meat is not necessary. Some humans do live in isolated, indigenous communities for which consuming meat is perhaps the only viable source of survival. However, if you are reading this right now, it is highly improbable that this describes your life. The reality is that the consumption of meat for us in the developed, industrialized world is, in fact, a choice. Meat consumption is deeply rooted in our traditions and cultural customs, but it is unarguably, a choice.
Even if it is conducted in the most “humane” way possible, the fact is, in order for us to consume meat, another living being’s life was intentionally ended before it would have naturally ended. Most cows raised for beef in the US are stunned by means of a bolt shot into their brain. Then their throats are slit. These acts are committed by humans not out of necessity, but simply in order to satisfy our personal taste preferences.
I started researching vegetarianism when I realized that I, like Thomas Jefferson, had been living my life with two contradictory views in my head. Jefferson was writing about how all men were created equal. Then he went home to a place filled with other human beings which he “owned” and used as products. I, like most Americans, was living my life believing that of course it is wrong to kick a dog in the face because that is abusive and unnecessary. Then I was going home and eating chicken wings.
Although I became skeptical of meat consumption for moral reasons, I made the decision to fully convert to vegetarianism once I became educated on how the lifestyle change would positively impact my health and that of the planet as a whole. Eliminating meat in your diet is simply one of the best things you can do for your personal health. The number one cause of death in the US is heart disease. Heart disease, and a host of other top cancer killers in the US, are diet-related illnesses. These diseases are caused in large part by the disproportionately high ratio of animal products that the typical American consumes in a lifetime.
Eliminating meat from your diet is also one of the best things you can do to help save our earth. Astoundingly, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has classified the global meat production industry as a greater threat to the environment than the entire global transportation industry. In other words, if you are serious about living a lifestyle that is sustainable for the earth, you will have a far greater impact by switching from a hamburger to a veggie burger than you would by switching from a Hummer to a Hybrid.
Like countless others of his profile in time and space, Thomas Jefferson was a slave-owner. The mere fact that the practice was so normal was exactly what made its moral bankruptcy so easy to ignore. Today, we continue to kill healthy and vital animals, bolting their heads and slitting their throats, because we like the taste of their flesh. It is easy to do something you know is wrong, if everyone you know is doing it too. So if you now find yourself on the defense, compelled to justify the killing of animals because you enjoy eating them, then fine, such a reaction is as natural as it is legal. However, please do take the time to ask yourself, “Do I eat animals which have been killed for my enjoyment because I have reflected on it and concluded that the practice is ethical? Or am I just backtracking, trying to logically justify a sub-conscious decision I have already made because I am emotionally attached to maintaining my current, meat-eating lifestyle?” These types of questions are not easy to answer. But hopefully, unlike Jefferson, at least you might have the courage to give them a try.
I hope you enjoyed reading this essay, and if you want to read more of my brother’s thought-provoking and inspirational work visit his blog called Both Halves of the Glass. Feel free to leave comments, as always, and I will have my brother respond as soon as possible.
Have a wonderful weekend,