Becoming a vegetarian — sort of
Posted on March 2, 2012
It seems the ethical arguments for a vegetarian diet have finally taken hold of philosopher Massimo Pigliucci.
Well, sort of. Pigliucci still doesn’t think it is necessarily wrong to use most non-human animals for food, but he does believe that animals used for food ought to be treated humanely. Unfortunately, the modern meat industry tends not to do that. As such, Pigliucci concludes that a form of vegetarianism is the most reasonable dietary choice:
If I am okay with using animals, including possibly as food, as long as the good treatment criterion holds, what sort of diet should I then follow? At a minimum, a vegetarian diet (as opposed to vegan), if I take care to check that my eggs and dairy products come from free ranging animals. Indeed, one can consistently (from an ethical perspective) go further and include some meat, beginning with fish, as long as it is not the result of the type of large scale industrial practices that are so horrifically depicted in Earthlings (and as long as one also doesn’t run into environmental problems, such as the possibility of over exploitation of fisheries leading to the near extinction of some species).
If the above makes sense, or is at least more coherent than my previous fundamentally omnivorous attitude, then in practice I would have to make vegetables and fruits the larger base of my diet, followed by eggs and dairy, if I’m reasonably sure of the benign treatment of the animals involved (possibly easier for an upper middle class person living in New York around the corner from a large Whole Foods store, more difficult for others), occasionally by poultry (again, assuming free ranging etc.), and by fish (once I check out the advisability of eating a particular species based on ecological criteria — for instance using the excellent iPhone / Android app out out by the Monterey Aquarium). Pretty much all red meat will be out, and so too will be poultry, fish, eggs and dairy in the many cases in which I will not be able to ascertain that my minimal conditions for humane treatment have been met. To complicate things further, I have decided that there simply is no justification for eating animals that are capable of sophisticated cognitive processes, which includes humans — there goes my chance for cannibalism — whales, dolphins and, alas, squid and octopi. Oh well.