(Second post today.)
Last night I watched "Never Let Me Go", which disturbed me so much, I considered becoming vegetarian. Or partially vegetarian. Like many British people, B.A. and I are so disgusted by factory farming, that we do not eat battery hens or buy battery eggs. We won't eat anything we are reasonable sure had a horrible existence. But I am feeling a bit queasy about potential sentience.
A vegetarian reader took issue with my characterization of meat as a harmless pleasure that one can give up in Lent. I remembered several Biblical verses that not only assume but command meat-eating. Indeed, Saint Peter was offered in a vision all kinds of animals that Jews of his day did not eat and told to kill and eat them (Acts 10:28). He was not, of course, told to practice factory farming. I am sure that Saint Peter would have been just as astonished by what farming has become today as he was by God's directive to give up his Jewish dietary practices.
One argument carnivores give vegetarians is that we are the only people who can improve the living conditions of livestock. As vegetarians don't usually buy meat, the livestock industry don't give a damn what they think. But when British carnivore Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall cried over his dead experimental battery chicks, there was a British carnivore revolution on behalf of chickens.
But chickens are not very smart. Sheep are pretty smart, though, as are pigs. I very much like pigs to look at. They look friendly and apparently "a middle-aged pig can be as smart as a three-year-old [human] child." I am fond of pigs, but I also like to eat pigs. Pigs are yummy.
All the same, I am troubled. Would it be better for humans to keep eating pigs, which means that pigs will continue to thrive in large numbers, or to stop eating pigs, as a recognition that sentient beings should not be subordinate to other sentient beings' desires, even if this means there would no longer be domestic pigs at all. Is eating only well-raised pigs a satisfactory ethical choice, a recognition that pigs should at least be comfortable before I eat them?
Readers are invited to make rational, well-tempered arguments for and against the eating of pigs. RATIONAL and WELL-TEMPERED. This is a serious ethical question, and there is nothing in the New Testament to suggest human beings should not eat the meat of fish, birds and beasts. The taboos of the Old Testament suggest that pigs, etc., are somehow ontologically unclean, but I do not believe pigs are unclean--I believe they are delightful. I also believe you can both hunt, kill, eat and respect non-human animals all at once; in Canada we are frequently told it was the practice of First Nations people to pray to the spirits of the animals they killed.
I think I will put up a poll. Incidentally none of this is binding on poor B.A., who can make up his own mind on what is okay to eat. We have long since decided that it is not okay to use human beings for selfish or health reasons, except where the humans--adult humans--have freely, without economic pressure, donated parts of themselves, like blood.