Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Sometimes Reading Opinion Pieces is Hard on the Head

Keith Burgess-Jackson of the Animal Ethics blog posted a link to a little opinion piece by Mark Krikorian that appeared in the National Review Online last Wednesday about the "longstanding lefty argument that eating meat is evil". In it, Krikorian dissected another article (from the Washington Post) whose author, Ezra Klein, had attempted to make an argument for vegetarianism--i.e. not eschewing all animal products--for environmental reasons. Never mind my taking a kick at Klein's presentation of animal consumption as no more than a certain amount of pollution output / resource depletion, statements like the following would have been enough to get this vegan to discount most of what Klein had to say:

I've not had the willpower to eliminate bacon from my life entirely, and so I eliminated it from breakfast and lunch, and when that grew easier, pulled back further to allow myself five meat-based meals a month. And believe me, I enjoy the hell out of those five meals.
That said, Klein actually indirectly refers to veganism as a "perfectly virtuous diet" in his original Washington Post piece, and it is with this that Krikorian takes issue in his criticism of it, so that he ends his opinion piece by writing:
Just so you know, I think we do eat too much meat, and salt, sugar, and fat, because our species evolved to crave these once rare elements of our diet which are now abundant. But vegetarianism and veganism are not only not virtuous, they're immoral, based as they are on the principle that animals are morally equivalent to humans. Likewise, meat probably should cost more than it does, but not because we need a global-warming tax on it but because animals, while lacking "rights," are not inanimate objects we can use with impunity as industrial inputs — and their humane treatment will almost certainly raise the price of hamburgers.
Reading this made my head hurt a little. So, veganism would be immoral because it is "based [...] on the principle that [nonhumans] are morally equivalent to humans," but according to the author "meat" should be more expensive since "animals, while lacking 'rights,' are not inanimate objects we can use with impunit as industrial inputs" and their (continued usage and) "humane treatment will almost certainly raise the price of hamburgers". Krikorian is obviously for the continuation of the consumption of nonhumans, but I'm really not certain of what he's trying to say while on the one hand calling veganism "immoral" yet seemingly acknowledging that it is indeed morally problematic to continue using animals as things.

Maybe I'm just under-caffeinated? To echo Burgess-Jackson's
own comment on it, though: "How sad, that such bad reasoning as this man's should see the light of day in a prominent place".


Ben said...

It's like "gay marriage." Fine! Let the gays have their marriage—just don't call it that! Animals have the civil union version of rights. We shouldn't be entitled to do with animals what we want because they have… well, not "rights," exactly, but right-like qualities.

kelly g. said...

To be fair, I would hardly call 'National Review Online' "prominent"; this sort of drivel is about what I'd expect from NR/NRO.

Mylène Ouellet said...

It's no academic journal by any stretch, I agree.

Sarah said...

Ben - your analogy - perfect.