Defending Diet Defensively

Interesting piece in today’s NYT about Jeffrey Masson and his path to veganism.  It’s heartening that in the space of a couple of weeks the Gray Lady featured Kristof’s piece (mentioned below) and this one, both of which deal with diet and animal rights.  Overall, I see articles like these as an enormous net positive so the following cavil should be taken in that context.

My quibble involves the ubiquitous need of (non-animal activist) people who write about animal rights and diet to trumpet the challenges of a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle.  Kristof felt compelled to avow his bona fides as a meat eater and Eric Konigsberg, who wrote the Masson piece, had to open with a joke about the tastelessness of vegan food and to focus on Masson’s nostalgia for and occasional indulgences in dairy products.

It seems to me that non-animal based diets need no longer be treated as fringe behavior (if indeed they should ever have been) and it’s time to move the discourse toward examining the normative issues underlying the American diet.  For my part, I believe that all of us (from vegans to omnivores) need to inspect the way our lives interweave with industrial agriculture and to cry from the rooftops about how corn subsidies as well as confinement pens link directly to animal brutalization.  If we keep the focus on the horrific wrongs of factory farming, then it will become harder and harder for people to shrug good naturedly and chalk up their willingness to eat cruelty to a philosophical disagreement about whether or not to eat meat.  As 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.

David Cassuto