Wording Is Everything

I am delighted that my post has generated so much cogitation.  As the debate continues, though, I want my position clearly understood.  What I said was that vegans and omnivores alike must examine their roles in the industrial food apparatus and in that context stated that it is intellectually inconsistent to decry animal cruelty while eating a cafeteria cheeseburger.  I did not intend to condemn meat-eating — that’s a discussion for a different day.  What I did try to do is point to the hypocrisy of eating factory-farmed food (meat and dairy) while simultaneously criticizing the behavior that created it.  To do so is intellectually inconsistent.  Mariann (in her comment below) is quite right that I do not exclude intellectually inconsistent people from the debate.  My view is that we are all intellectually inconsistent in our way.  My goal is to incorporate our collective/respective inconsistencies into the debate, rather than pretending they do not exist.

–David Cassuto

It Depends on the Cheeseburger

David’s post on the morality of food choices is generating an important debate. What spurred the discussion was David’s assertion that “[a]s a matter of intellectual consistency, it makes no more sense to decry animal cruelty while eating a cafeteria cheeseburger than to condemn racism while attending a lynching”.

I also find it problematic to condemn animal cruelty while feasting on a Big Mac. The problem is one of hypocrisy. It reminds me of Larry Craig and Ted Haggard arguing against gay rights while simultaneously engaging in homosexual behavior. If expressions of moral condemnation are going to carry weight, they ought to not only be uttered but also lived by. Thus, people who truly believe that factory farming is morally unjustifiable should  stop eating factory farmed products. Otherwise, they’re complicit in the very behavior they’re condemning. This is both morally objectionable and strategically ineffective.

On the other hand, whether it’s objectionable to decry animal cruelty while eating a cheeseburger may very well depend on the cheeseburger. Many animal advocates believe that it’s possible to be a responsible omnivore. It’s unclear, for example, whether eating non-factory farmed meat that was humanely raised is morally objectionable. Thus, I’m not ready to state that David’s hypothetical cheeseburger eating animal advocate is being hypocritical if the meat he was eating was humanely raised.

This is not a minor quibble. If I’m right, a person may justifiably decry the horrors of factory farming while simultaneously arguing that his willingness to eat a (humanely raised) cheeseburger should not be dismissed as mere hipocrisy. One must not forget that that although there seems to be a growing consensus regarding the wrongfulness of factory farming, there is no such consensus with regard to the wrongfulness of eating humanely raised meat (putting aside, of course, the thorny problem of defining what counts as “humanely raised meat”).

– Luis Chiesa