A Desperate Position?
Vegetarianism seems to be backed up by a wealth of reasons, despite the difficulties in its formulation. At the same time, most people do not practice a vegetarian diet. It might well be, of course, that they are immoral – after all, who ever said that the majority of people is morally blameless? However, there may be also considerations leading to defend a non-vegetarian diet. In this article we shall review the main ones.
First of all, a non-vegetarian should remind the vegetarian that a diet based on animals in no way implies the existence of large animal farms or that meat be consumed at each and every meal. On the contrary, the non-vegetarian will remark – in the style of an ancient Greek philosopher – moderation is key in any diet whatsoever. Eating responsibly will be the goal of the carnivore as much as of the vegetarian, one would hope. This move will erase those arguments against a non-vegetarian diet that rest on environmental as well as health-related considerations.
Secondly, a non-vegetarian will remark that eating is an ecological relationship: it can hardly be argued that in every possible scenario the most ethical choice will be not eating meat; what if, in order to do that, we shall risk the extinction of some plants, while we have meat in abundance? Although this may seem a far-fetched scenario, in a way it is not. In several States of the United States, the deer population has skyrocketed to such high values that the equilibrium of the forest vegetation is threatened (and, with it, of course, the existence of numerous other species, including animal species). Now, we now that statistically a great percentage of the deer population will starve each year: wouldn’t it make more sense to hunt some deer and eat it, rather than threaten the forest ad eat vegetables whose growth required extra natural resources (water, gas, labor) in order to be produced?
Again, the argument is not that in every context eating meat makes more sense; but that in some contexts it might. And that is sufficient to claim that vegetarianism cannot be defended on the basis of some universal principle, true in virtue of sole rational considerations. The specific ecological conditions shall be factored as well.
The vegetarian diet can provide great pleasure, both to a gastronomic hedonist and to a gastronomic purist. But that is not to say that a non-vegetarian diet cannot do the same. Indeed, a carnivorous who will indulge in moderation in the pleasures of meat that has been procured in accordance to some admissible ethical standards (for instance by hunting overpopulated species) may both rejoice in sensual as well as mental pleasures.
A Creative Choice
To choose between a vegetarian and a non-vegetarian diet seems thus quite a complicated matter. At the same time, one should be reminded of the existentialist creed according to which to lead an ethical life is an exercise in creativity. One shall not approach one’s own diet in the same way as you try to solve an equation from a given prompt. Applying general rules that inspire our conduct to our everyday business requires a good dose of interpretation; in this sense, eating is a great philosophical exercise, imposing – at least implicitly – a good dose of thinking on the part of the eater.
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