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AUGUST 22, 2010 1:47PM

Carnivory in Moderation

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The open call for "conflicted carnivore" couldn't have come at a more interesting time, because  I just finished Jonathan Safran Foer's book "Eating Animals".  It's all about how factory farms work, how they're different from family farms, and how even family farms aren't good, either.  He lays this all out as he decides whether he will raise his new son as a vegetarian, or vegan, or neither.

I came away convinced (or re-convinced) of one thing.  The problem is not meat.  It's moderation.   We as a species, and Americans in particular, consume way too much animal protein - meat, cheese, eggs.  But mostly meat.  And domesticated animals pay the price, living a life of suffering and cruelty.  

Before domestication, animals killed by humans for meat lived normal lives for their species.  They ate, slept, mate, raised young.  All in their own natural habitat.  Until one day a hunter came along and that was the end of that animal's life.  The rest of the herd moved on.  If only we were content with that life.

Now we raise large quantities of animals in small spaces, under unnatural conditions, and kill them in ways that we pretend are humane, but sometimes aren't.  Just so we can have beef and chicken and pork pretty much whenever we feel like it, several times a day, and pay so little for it that we don't even think about throwing away a half-eaten burger because at half a pound of ground beef and another several ounces of cheese, it's more than we even wanted.

Maybe one day vegetarians and omnivores and carnivores will all meet (ha ha!) in the middle and agree that maybe eating animal protein isn't so bad, when consumed in small quantities, like a treat, instead of in slabs so large they could feed a third world family for a week.  When chickens don't have to be de-beaked and cows don't have to be fed anti-biotics with their daily meal, and the death of a tuna doesn't also result in the death of several thousand other, smaller fish as by-catch, tossed back into the ocean.  It could happen.

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Comments

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Great Post. When I see parents order a meal for their kids in a fast food, and they eat half and throw the rest away it makes me sick. I remember we we're always told "Theres kids in Africa or someplace starving, eat what's on your plate." Now, they don't want to hear the crying or screams so they say nothing. Great Post.