Those who think we should not eat meat because all life is sacred are naive. Would they be happy allowing mosquitoes to spread malaria, or having rats run loose in their home? Not all creatures are equal. There are natural hierarchies in the food chain.
No, I do not want to infect everyone with malaria because I dont like to kill mosquitoes. There are different degrees along the bloodthirst continuum from the strict carnivores, to vegetarians and vegans, all the way through to the Jains, who brush the ground they walk in front of them to avoid accidentally stepping on insects, and wear muslin cloth over their nose and mouth to avoid accidentally inhaling them. Admitedly, you occupy a somewhat ambivalent position when you're a vegetarian and these are issues I have to struggle with almost daily. But I try to work out a fairly consistent, coherent philosophy given my circumstances. Better to try than abandon the issue entirely as contradictory and doomed to failure.
I'm not a vegetarian because of what I hope to accomplish through being a vegetarian - it's more a principled stand against something I disagree with. It's the same as not shopping at Gap because you might disagee with their child labor policies, or not voting for a certain candidate because of their position on taxes. I don't recall so much vehement opposition to the idea of someone sticking up for their principles on these other subjects - why insist on putting vegetarians down for sticking up for theirs?
I suppose I take issue most with this point because probably my strongest reason for being vegetarian is the life angle. I like the Buddhist philosophy and one of the central tenets is indeed that all life is sacred. I don't think this makes me naive. Buddhist philosophy is based upon acting rationally based on what you see and observe in the world around you. I know from observation that most of the meat that ends up on our plates didn't want to be there and that a tremendous degree of suffering is involved in the process. It actually stumps me how anyone with an ounce of compassion could condone this sort of treatment, unless you're in the habit of naively turning a blind eye. Which leads me to the writer's next point:
People should be allowed to make their own choices and not be bullied or frightened into giving up meat. In the US recently, children in a secondary school were taken by their teachers to a slaughterhouse to show them how animals are killed for food. This tactic is a form of mind control, as unethical as discouraging young girls from having sex by making them watch a difficult childbirth.You have every right to make your own choices, but only if those choices are well-informed. What took place isn't mind control. Mind control would imply that you're attempting to pervert the mind to believe in something that has little correlation with reality. To try to pretend there is no suffering, cruelty or bloodshed involved in eating meat is the height of naivety. Admitedly, we want to protect our children from some realities until they are old enough to understand the implications, but if you eat meat, at any time in your life, you should understand where it comes from because of the tremendous debt invovled. It doesn't just show up in shiny pink cubes at the supermarket - something had to suffer and then die for you to enjoy that filet mignon. And death is never pretty, no matter which way you dress it, or try to hide it out of view, no matter how old you are when you realize it. I've always said that if you can't raise and kill a cow yourself, you have no right eating it. In modern society where we have division of labor and butchers to carry out the killing for us, this doesn't make it right.
Many would take issue with putting pigs and people on a par. But finally this difference in outlook is behind most of the argument. I'm not suggesting that a pig's life is worth a human's life and strongly condemn animals activists who harm human beings in their struggles, after all, it goes against my principle of preventing suffering. However, where I might think that animals deserve to be treated with some measure of equality, dignity and respect, you might be pretty indifferent to their fate, as long as you can eat bacon. Which is fine by me - no amount of back and forth can change that because it's pretty fundamental. I'm not looking to convert, merely justify, while not coming across as one of those holier-than-thou, moral high ground hogging preachy types.