Wednesday, February 28, 2007

When I went to college in Berkeley, I met my first vegetarian. It seemed like a difficult way to live, but I understood the rationale behind it. (Frankly, it wouldn't surprise me if one day in the future meat-eating was viewed the way that we view slave-owning today.) As the years went by, I met more and more people in my social circle and work life that voluntarily restricted their diet for moral reasons. Meanwhile, I happily ate any animal I could find on a menu. Most of them are scrumptious.

At one point I decided to ask myself if there were any animals that I wouldn't eat, for moral reasons. I'm not talking about if I were starving on a desert island, but were there any animals that I'd avoid eating given other available food sources? I started to make a list:
  • Humans
  • Dolphins
  • Monkeys/apes/gorillas/etc
Those seemed pretty obvious to me. Even if the special at a restaurant was a surf and turf delight featuring monkey filet in a savory dolphin sauce, I'd have to refuse. Furthermore, I'd bet that 90% of the people I know would include these animals on their don't-eat list.

So, what was special about these animals? Well, for me, it was their intelligence. It just seemed wrong to eat an animal that had a level of smarts in the ballpark of human intelligence. Then, of course, I was forced to figure out where exactly I was going to draw the line. Was it right there at monkey?

Eventually I considered dogs. Were they too smart to eat? I decided they were, although JUST BARELY. I was going to draw the moral high-ground line at Dog. Any animal as smart as or smarter than a dog was going to be given a virtual Get Out Of Mike's Stomach card, free of charge. Sadly, this included pigs. My understanding is that they're probably a bit smarter than dogs. This is a big drag because pigs are really delicious. Bacon. Pepperoni. Pot stickers. Damn.

But I drew the line there about a decade ago and I've stuck to it.

Actually, that's not exactly true. My rule is that I don't wish to be the cause of any more pigs (or smarter animals) to be served up as food. However, if my wife or daughter orders some bacon and then leaves some on their plate? Well, I mean, it's not like I could plant the bacon in the ground and re-grow the pig. There's no use in throwing away delicious bacon!

I think most people who claim to be omnivores probably have a similar internal rule for what they will and won't eat, but they may not have taken the time to articulate it or examine exactly which animals are on or off it. If anyone wanted to argue that I've drawn the line in an arbitrary place, I'd agree one hundred percent, but it's the place that seemed natural to me.

Note, however, that since my rule is intelligence based, if I could find a pig farmer who raised an especially stupid breed of pig, then maybe I could enjoy some pork. Similarly if I meet some annoying person who is a total freakin' idiot, and is covered with a spicy garlic sauce, then bon appetit.


The 4th Sister said...

You’ve drawn the line mike, it’s just a wavy line…

Mike said...

4th Sister, I think I'd argue that it's not a wavy line, but I'd be prepared to agree that it's drawn in a stupid place.

Sara said...

A friend of mine refuses to eat meat on pizza. He says you can't taste its inherent meatiness; it just gets overwelmed by the cheese and sauce.

My thoughts?

Bacon is good. Ham is good. Pork Sausage rules. Why deny yourself happiness?

Mike said...

Your friend is right about sausage on pizza, but pepperoni has enough zing to stand on it's own.

As for denying myself happiness, we do that all the time right? We balance our need for happiness against what's right. I don't steal apples from my neighbor's tree because that's not the right way to behave.

Similarly, if you suddenly discovered that homeless people were absolutely delicious, would you eat them? Would you deny yourself the happiness that comes from eating a perfectly aged and seasoned hobo?

Sara said...

Okay, okay...I'll draw the line at humans. Maybe apes. But pork? They aren't that smart.

Mike said...

Sara, agreed, they'd be stupid enough to eat if I drew my line about 5 IQ points away. Or, I could base my rule on likability instead of IQ. That would be pretty handy.

Mike Duffy said...

Posts like this one are the reason I subscribe to this blog. You're channeling Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) in this one, Mike.

And yes, bacon is very, very good. When pigs can do sign language like Koko, maybe I'll give it up.

Mike said...

Mike, I'm flattered by the comparison to the brilliant Scott Adams. Once I quit my day job to take up blogging full time, and my family starves, we'll have you to blame.