Vegetarianism and Religion

Seth Freedman posts a bolshy defence of vegetarianism, railing against fellow veggies who meekly apologise for their choice.  He takes no prisoners:

While vegetarianism is, of course, good for humanity in purely selfish terms (the land required to feed cattle bred for meat can be used to feed far more humans per square foot), the bare bones of the matter is that there is a serious moral deficiency in anyone who has no problem taking a creature’s life in order to fill their own stomach.

(Via Sunny on Twitter).
Hilariously, the article has gleaned a total of 648 comments and counting, with many a proud carnivore taking issue with Seth’s uncomprimising moral stance.
Their responses, while valid, stumble into a pitfall that is common in the bloggy landscape, that of a failure to ask the question who is the article for? Freedman makes it clear that he is complaining about the timidity of his fellow vegetarians, Hadley Freeman in particular, for whom calling meat-eating a “serious moral deficiency” is a persuasive and motivating argument.
One a separate note, is there not an analogy between arguments for carnivorism, and for religion? Carnivores often accept Freedman’s argument that the land required to feed cattle bred for meat can be used to feed far more humans per square foot, yet they still assert that they have a right to eat meat due to historical and cultural reasons: its always been this way, why should we change? Similarly, social conservatives give historical and cultural reasons to argue that religion should play a part, and have a moral claim over society, even though it is accepted that there are actually no factual basis for these claims: its always been this way, why should we change?
What’s interesting here is that the ‘no-nonsense’ types who scoff at vegetarians are often the same atheists who condescend to religious folk.  In one case, they think that the historical and cultural argument holds water; while in the other case they call it invalid.
I have to admit that I am an infuriating agnostic in both cases!  For domestic reasons, I’m a de facto veggie, without having actually made a firm and binding committment to myself!  And while I also consider myself an aetheist, offended and afraid of organised religion, I still think that faith, spirituality and even tradition serve a valuable purpose.

Picky Eaters

Dear Clarice, regular commenter here, is a self-confessed Picky Eater, and has inaugurated adultpickyeaters.co.uk in order to seek out others like her. There is also a blog.

I can eat pizza if it is margherita, I can eat some pasta, scrambled eggs, peanuts, bagels, fajitas (depending what’s inside), even smoked salmon. But I’ve still never eaten or even tasted a fruit or a vegetable (though I can eat potatoes in all their forms).

So, yellow and brown stuff, then.
Although I am very much not a picky eater, I can certainly understand how someone could not like certain foods. I don’t care for liver at all, at all, so the possibility of someone feeling that way about curry or sweet-corn is an easy concept to grasp. But for someone to have never tasted any fruit or vegetables seems quite improbable and extraordinary. How is it possible to know that you dislike a particular food, without trying it? Just as I am annoyed by people who refuse to listen to new music, so picky eaters are frustrating characters. They seem to be sealing themselves off from vast tracts of sensation, human experience… life.
Of course, one might say there are many practices and activities that I am unlikely to try. I am reminded of a character in Salman Rushdie’s first novel, Grimus. The man says he tries everything twice. The first to see if he likes it, and the second to see if he was right the first time. He ends up fucking a donkey. However, I think act of just ‘tasting’ something differs from, say, art or sex, in that it is even more primative, instinctive. We do not approach the taste of a strawberry with the same cultural baggage and preconceptions that we approach a piece of music, or an act of intimacy… Do we? Clarice suggests that maybe we do. I shall watch out for more thoughts on this.