The NY Times, Meat Eaters, Ethical Eating, Lazy Thinking

Let's chat about this contest in the NY Times Magazine, asking entrants to reason out the strongest ethical argument for meat eating.

As someone who is currently embroiled in a battle with myself to make it okay to eat anything (steak, macaroni & cheese, oatmeal, whatever), I read this from a very specific point of view.  Short version: "Animals are sentient beings and I try to eat ones that I know have been treated well.  However, right now, I have to pay most attention to eating protein in appropriate amounts and to getting re-attuned to my own intuitive eating cues."  (You should know by now that this is what passes for a "short version" with me.)

So from that somewhat specific yet hardly unique standpoint, how do I read this contest?  (Literally read and figuratively "read.")    First, I kinda dig the winning entry.  I particularly appreciate what many vegetarians and vegans I've known tend to ignore in chat (with me, at least): soy production is not necessarily much less stressful to the earth than some forms of meat production.  A soy farm using petrochemical fertilizer is above and beyond a small or mid-size organic, cage-free poultry operation, in terms of damage to the local ecosystem.

Unfortunately, the winning essay doesn't actually correlate with the real world most U.S. citizens live in today.  If you're living in the Sonora Desert in a yurt, then yes, you presumably have access to the ethical options the author describes.  But if you're living in a Sonora Desert in an adobe ranch house with your Honda Civic taking you back and forth to Whole Foods, then going out and hunting lizards is not for you.

Let's skip back to the contest wrap-up piece itself. (Emphasis mine.)
Some critics insisted that even contemplating a life without meat was an indulgent luxury, a silly game for a wealthy first-worlder. I found this puzzling — as if the poor feast nightly on roast suckling pig and only the 1 percent eat boiled tubers. Over all, rich nations eat much more meat than poor ones, and raising animals for food takes more agricultural resources than raising crops. In any case, a vast number of the world’s ethical vegetarians live in India. Caviar is a luxury. Ethical discussion is not.
Problematic statement is problematic.  Actually, Ariel Kaminer, what the poor in the U.S. do is cut high-fat hamburger meat with rice and vegetables to stretch the protein farther, whereas the middle class and rich buy the 90% lean ground beef and mix in free-range eggs when making their Italian meatballs.

What the poor do is buy ham and bologna cold cuts that are such a high percentage water and sodium that their texture resembles rubber more closely than pig or cow flesh, whereas the middle class and rich get the stuff sliced at the deli counter that's antibiotic free, fresh roasted in the store, etc.  Ethical discussion is, at some point, a luxury.  Deal with it.  Moving on.

A few months ago Mark Bittman (I think it was him - he's a heavyweight in the NYT Dining section, and one of the judges here) noted that McDonald's has requested that its pork suppliers phase out their gestation crates, and he rightly pointed out that this was, as the kids say, kind of a big deal.  McDonald's is a huge buyer of animal products of all kinds, and what they say essentially goes.  People can rant and rave against the ethical evils of McDonald's, but their new policy on gestation crates will create huge, forward-moving waves in the hog and pig farming industry.

Having said that, this was an interesting snark inclusion:
The contest is anti-pig-istI don’t get why the contest graphics failed to include a pig. Pork is a more popular meat than goat, lamb or veal. Lobster, fish and squid are not meats. Since there was no pig shown in the graphics, it made me feel people who eat pork were not welcomed to participate. BLASMAIC, WASHINGTON, ON THE 6TH FLOOR BLOG
Honestly, it is strange that a pig isn't included, since gestation crates are one of the better-known ethical violations going on in factory farming, and this is a discussion on the ethics of meat eating.  I'm not sure where the writer jumped from "no pig" to "pork eaters not welcome," but the point stands.

People saw conspiracy in this contest, and misogyny, and racism, and more. Honestly, all I see is lazy thinking.