Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Sacred Diet? and Other Matters

Recently there was a comment over on the funniest vegan cooking blog about the justification for a vegan diet. First up came admiring vegans' willpower, and then questioning why it's OK to kill a plant but not an animal: both reproduce, react to external stimuli, either all life is sacred or none, etc.

First up for me, I'm quite content being a near-vegan; the reasons for my choices would be a long and different topic but they have nothing to do with willpower. This notion that it takes great willpower to be a vegan, that we're constantly fighting the urge to kill a cow and it's tearing us up inside is just plain wrong. To believe that's what's going on indicates a complete lack of understanding of why people become vegans.

On to the more interesting questions of plants and animals and sacredness. Depending on my mood and the tone of the conversation, I'd be inclined to agree with both the all and the none are sacred theories. Yes, everything's connected and of value; no, it's not because of a magic being in the sky.

But the issue for most vegans is that they want to reduce suffering, not that they think they can eliminate it. I agree with a recent discussion I read that use of the term vegan implies an ethical choice on that basis, rather than a diet choice based on health or environmental reasons.

Possibly it's a sign of my own speciesism (I guess it would be kingdomism actually) or
lack of understanding, but I believe a cow or a pig is more aware of existing and more capable of emotional and physical pain than a green bean or a pea. So since humans have a choice of which to eat, choosing the plant reduces the suffering.

I do vaguely remember reading an article about trees sending warning signals to nearby trees, and suspect that plants probably are much more complex than most people give them credit for. I once had but never read a copy of The Secret Life of Plants. If anyone knows of a more recent book on the subject of plant awareness or communication which falls somewhere between New Age woo woo and a botany dissertation, please let me know.
Before attending the weekly planetarium show, I stopped by the university library to check out the moose-wolf display leading up to next month's events celebrating 50 years of study on Isle Royale. There are skeletons of each species, posters, and possible evidence of evolution via the length of the metatarsus of moose on the island. Very interesting.
Creepy as it is, ya gotta love this article from today's New York Times about the men supporting Sarah Palin because she kills animals and well, to put it bluntly, they want to fuck her.


Lindy Loo said...

Dammit. I wish I would've read this first before responding to the plant comment on my blog, because I would've just linked to you and said: "Yeah, what he said."

greentangle said...

Ha. And when I was reading yours, I was thinking, "Yeah, that's pretty much what I said." Thanks for stopping by.

Stephanie E. said...

Major eye roll. (Re: NYT article)

And I love this: "To believe that's what's going on indicates a complete lack of understanding of why people become vegans." But I do have to say that I've witnessed some people struggle with the no-dairy aspect of veganism. I don't know any vegan who struggles with wanting to grill up a steak, but I do know vegans for whom a certain amount of willpower is involved when it comes to turning down, for example, foods with dairy or eggs in them (e.g., such as cakes or breads, in which cases they can't actually see or discern the animal product).

Sorry I've been gone so long. I'm trying to get back into the swing of things now. :)

greentangle said...

If you read his later comment on YTVS he apparently wasn't even talking about what I assumed he was because I've seen the comment so often. Not outright eating animals, but keeping track of all the ingredients in products. Willpower doesn't seem like exactly the right term for that, but I can't think of a better objective one. At that point I don't worry about it too much, which is one of the reasons I'm a near-vegan.

Anyway, your comments are always welcome, but no worries, I acknowledge that the real world takes precedence over my blog. :)

Lisa J. said...

Where have I BEEN?!!! Yikes...

"Yeah, what he said." And what Stephanie said, too. I don't struggle with "willpower" being vegan. It's not like avoiding eating the plate of cookies - I don't look at the cold tray and think "Dammit! If only I could eat just one tiny little bite of pepperoni, my life would be happier." Ick. It's not willpower at all, you really hit the nail on the head "To believe that's what's going on indicates a complete lack of understanding of why people become vegans."